×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

NASA Campaigns For Safer Launch Requirements

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the risk-is-not-our-business dept.

Government 193

NASA officials will speak before members of Congress this week in an effort to gain support for more stringent launch safety considerations for the space shuttle's successor. Crew safety remains a major concern for lawmakers while they debate NASA's future and the potential integration of private companies into US space flight plans. "The demonstrated probability of a shuttle launch disaster is 1 in 129. NASA's 83 astronauts think those odds can be improved to 1 in 1,000. Independent safety experts agree. 'None of us want to repeat the accident history of the shuttle,' said retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, a group organized to oversee NASA programs after three astronauts died in the 1967 Apollo 1 launch pad fire. ... NASA's Astronaut Office began a re-evaluation of next-generation launch vehicle safety after the loss of Columbia's crew. The guiding principles laid out in a May 2004 report remain current, astronauts said. Launching astronauts into low Earth orbit is dangerous. But an order-of-magnitude reduction of risk is achievable 'and should therefore represent a minimum safety benchmark for future systems,' the report says."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

193 comments

Wow... (4, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262210)

I can certainly appreciate that they want to do better, but it still amazes me that we send people into F'ING SPACE with less than 1% failure rate.

Re:Wow... (3, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262536)

It amazes me that this is a serious concern. There IS a price for manned spaceflight and if it goes too high, it's over. Astronauts know the risks and willingly take them.

If 1:1000 is achievable with the same budget as 1:129 then it'd be evil not to do it - but if it increases costs by even 2:1 it is stupid to even suggest it.

America's losing its balls.

Re:Wow... (1)

HenriPro (1365349) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262586)

This tis stupid what you don't understand is even if astronauts are willing to sacrifice them selfs, NASA is funned by taxes and no one wants to support people dieing in explosions.

Re:Wow... (-1, Offtopic)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262604)

I really hope English is your second language. Even so, the lack of thought behind your post is breathtaking.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262676)

Regardless of that, it is very disappointing to note the risk/benefit or even pure--dare I say it--romanticism of spaceflight. It's been nearly half a century since we went to the Moon, and our technology since then has advanced almost immeasurably. Yet--has our engineering talent, scientific motivation, and will to discover followed?

Re:Wow... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262748)

Don't expect it to be cheap to train astronauts. They have be intelligent, fit, and highly trained. Combined with the risks involved, I'd imagine astronauts be worth quite a bit in terms of money.

Also, the cost of a vehicle lost and everything else (normal launch cost that became pointless). The cost of failing a mission due to a lost space rocket could also be considered big though hard to quantify in dollars.

I'd imagine it be would be cheaper in the long run to reduce the risks. 1 out of 129 while is small odds for a single launch, it can hardly be safe for multiple flights over time.

Re:Wow... (3, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262782)

What complete idiocy! By the same rational if we could half costs in the space program in exchange for a 1:12 chance of disaster it would stupid not to do so?

There is a trade-off between risk and price. You are indicating a particular point on that continuum and claiming it is stupid to look anywhere else, but without any justification whatsoever.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

dmartin (235398) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262958)

Where does the number 2:1 come from (I take it we are just looking at the shuttle budget, not NASAs entire budget)?

As you rightly point out, if 1:1000 is achievable with the same budget as 1:129 then it would be evil not to do it.

What if it cost an extra $10 to go from 1:129 to 1:1000? How about $10,000? Or $10,000,000?

I agree that at some point it is no longer worth it, and that implicitly we do place value on a humans lives. But how much is it worth? That is maybe a better question than the ratio of "2:1", as I don't even know what quantity you are doubling.

(Possibilities are the entire NASA budget, the shuttle budget, or the actual budget for the launch. For the last of these, 2:1 does not seem particularly outrageous.)

Re:Wow... (1)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263044)

I pulled numbers from the same place I store my collection of flying monkeys, simply for the sake of argument. They weren't meant to be taken as absolutes based on expert research of the situation.

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263206)

agree that at some point it is no longer worth it, and that implicitly we do place value on a humans lives. But how much is it worth?

It is worth much more than it would cost to make the launch vehicle safe. The STS problem - and its death toll - is in deliberate design that made emergency escape impossible pretty much in any part of the launch or descent. Capsule based designs could survive both incidents if the capsule is strong enough to perform a ballistic reentry on its own. The problem is that you can't make such a capsule large enough to hold 7 people. STS design went for capacity and payload, at great risk to safety.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

santiagodraco (1254708) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263710)

I'm sure glad you are not designing or administering the security features of the cars I drive. Or the planes I fly in. Or the inspection proceedures for the food I eat. I can go on and on....

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#30264292)

If 1:1000 is achievable with the same budget as 1:129 then it'd be evil not to do it - but if it increases costs by even 2:1 it is stupid to even suggest it. America's losing its balls.

This insanity got modded +5 insightful. Luckily this is only slashdot, or I'd be worried for the future of humanity.

By your reasoning, why not remove any pretense of manned space flight being a return trip? Why not save a whole lot of dollars and leave the astronauts to die in space, or to burn up on reentry? It would make the engineering so much simpler and think of the weight savings to be made by not including heat shields and parachutes!

After all: It amazes me that this is a serious concern. There IS a price for manned spaceflight and if it goes too high, it's over. Astronauts know the risks and willingly take them.

I know you'd be first in line to volunteer, cowboy!

NASA Needs Permission? (5, Insightful)

jlgreer1 (888680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262250)

Why does NASA have to campaign for greater safety standards? Why can't they implement them without the "politicians" approval?

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (3, Informative)

illumastorm (172101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262398)

NASA needs some extra funding to implement the changes and therefore has to ask Congress very, very nicely.

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (1)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262534)

What's even more confusing is that the summary seems to be implying that there's some big debate going on. NASA wants more assurance of crew safety. Lawmakers want more assurance of crew safety. Where's the problem here?

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262622)

What's even more confusing is that the summary seems to be implying that there's some big debate going on. NASA wants more assurance of crew safety. Lawmakers want more assurance of crew safety. Where's the problem here?

The problem is that NASA is mentioning this so they can get a bigger budget.

Congress, on the other hand, is mentioning this so they can justify lowering the budget.

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262820)

Whatever. NASA is not the way forward, simple as that. Given a multi-billion organization filled with politicians and bureaucrats, pencil pushers, bean counters, technicians, and janitors, all designed to support an exceedingly small cadre who actually pursue the mission, NASA is just a dinosaur looking for a place to fossilize.

SpaceX and others will lead us onward, if we even go on.

Imagine the army, or the navy, organized like NASA is. We'd have 500 soldiers, 500 doctors, 1000 accountants, 1500 medics, 20,000 officer (with at least 1000 flag officers) and 500 hopeful politicians. Not to mention about 50 infiltrators from the competition. Oh, I forgot the 200 embedded journalists.

Fuck me running. Is it any wonder NASA has no balls?

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (3, Insightful)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262956)

Imagine the army, or the navy, organized like NASA is. We'd have 500 soldiers, 500 doctors, 1000 accountants, 1500 medics, 20,000 officer (with at least 1000 flag officers) and 500 hopeful politicians. Not to mention about 50 infiltrators from the competition. Oh, I forgot the 200 embedded journalists.

If war was run like space exploration, this would be an excellent point.

Mandatory safety standards will need to be codified whether the effort is undertaken by NASA or private enterprise. This is more or less a "put your money where your mouth is" test for Congress; they will have a hard time justifying tougher standards than they themselves were willing to pay for, after all.

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (2, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262972)

Why does NASA have to campaign for greater safety standards? Why can't they implement them without the "politicians" approval?

Perhaps they wish to hobble private competitors, like SpaceX, with so many onerous restrictions and regulations that they exit the launch business and leave NASA with a government funded monopoly. NASA doesn't really care about how much launches cost, up to a point, but they do care about having to compete with a private agency for their Raison d'être [wikipedia.org]. This is about using the power of government to eliminate or at least severely restrict the marketplace for private launches. One has to know how federal government bureaucrats think to understand this. Federal bureaucrats generally want three things:

  • Their first priority is to ensure that their budget is never cut or that if it is cut then it is cut as little as possible and increased again as soon as possible (generally during the next budget cycle).
  • Their second priority, if possible, is to have their budget increased in each budget cycle.
  • Finally, their third priority is to have the scope and powers of their agency increased so that the first two priorities become ever easier to achieve in subsequent budget cycles.

In this way the successful bureaucrat becomes lord of their of political fiefdom within the vast domain of government; protected from competition, indispensable, and mandated to exist for all eternity.

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (3, Insightful)

SteveWoz (152247) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263132)

The solution is to make it so that a politician's child has to ride on each trip.

Re:NASA Needs Permission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263782)

Perhaps they want a law to control the law safety of outside organizations. And isn't the launch failure rate 2 in 129 (since Columbia suffered its fatal damage on launch).

Unpopular (-1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262276)

I realize this view is mighty unpopular, yet I am going to express it. While science is very important, so are social issues. I would like to see the NASA budget considerably shrunk but for only a short period of time, say 12 - 18 months. We have to get our country healthy again and space flight really only effects a small sector of the economy. It will create jobs but only at the most educated levels. A healthy country is a more efficient and productive one. Now, you may feel free to mod me but are you willing to join the censors?

Re:Unpopular (5, Insightful)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262354)

I realize this view is mighty unpopular, yet I am going to express it. While science is very important, so are social issues. I would like to see the NASA budget considerably shrunk but for only a short period of time, say 12 - 18 months. We have to get our country healthy again and space flight really only effects a small sector of the economy. It will create jobs but only at the most educated levels. A healthy country is a more efficient and productive one. Now, you may feel free to mod me but are you willing to join the censors?

I don't have an opinion one way or another, but I am quite sure that it is infeasible to cut NASA's budget in half for 18 months and then expect them to continue as if nothing happened...

What does a "shrunk budget" mean? Firing reseachers, firing engineers, cancelling projects with industry... And if you as an engineer got fired, you would presumably look for another job with more security and better pay in the private sector and not come back after 18 months into a shitty job where they will eliminate your position at a whim... In short, they can't just mothball manpower, because it won't come back.

Re:Unpopular (NASA budget size) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30264316)

The NASA budget for 2009 was %0.55 of the full USA budget. The proposed size for 2010 is %0.52. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget [wikipedia.org] Do you think that we can make a meaningful dent in our social problems by reallocating %0.23 of the total budget?

For 2008, the percent of the budget for Social Security was %21, Medicare was %23 and the DOD was %21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007.png [wikipedia.org] That totals 65% of the total budget. Most people have no idea how small the NASA funding is compared to other programs. It just shows that NASA has a high profile for it's size.

Re:Unpopular (1)

Cousarr (1117563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262460)

NASA's budget is already pretty small, 17.2 billion [wikipedia.org]. The current stimulus plan is valued at 135.15 billion [recovery.org]. In other terms, NASA's budget would have covered 12.7% of the economic stimulus if allocated in that way. The type of reform you're talking about would require more than the entirety of NASA's budget. What is amazing to me is the number of jobs for our educated persons that are created with that 17.2 billion dollars and also the amount of technology we get back out of it. I understand you believe that we need to pump more into economic recovery but please look somewhere with deeper pockets than NASA for the money.

Re:Unpopular (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262990)

Yes, and anyway we've already run that experiment. Right after Apollo ended. So we got the Shuttle. And we know how that worked out.

NASA needs long term, consistent, reasonable funding. No dollar yo-yo games. However, since funding is a decision of Congress, and Congress is political and thinks in 4 year cycles (at best), this won't happen.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263278)

Congress is political and thinks in 4 year cycles (at best)

(off-topic) Except when it comes to pet pork projects where they think in "10 year terms" and game the system with shady budget financing - 8 years of pre-funding before spending kicks in and they call it "balanced" and "sustainable".

Re:Unpopular (2, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263308)

NASA's budget is already pretty small, 17.2 billion. The current stimulus plan is valued at 135.15 billion.

Which are both dwarfed by the money spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not trying to start a fight, I'm just sayin'...

According to this report [fas.org] (pdf) by the Congressional Research Service, the "official" expenditures to date are listed as about $944 Billion, the UK Times estimated [timesonline.co.uk] (in Feb 08) that including other things, like the cost of veteran's benefits, it has/will cost the US closer to $3 Trillion.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262470)

NASA's budget hovers at just over 0.5% of the federal budget. Redirecting that, especially given the drunken spending that's already occurred to stimulate the economy and the massive social entitlement programs currently in place, will have no noticeable impact.

Re:Unpopular (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262868)

Social issues? You're dreaming. Supposing that you solved every single social issue that mankind faces today. Just suppose. You get praises, and hossanahs, not to mention all the peace prizes for the next 50 years. Big deal. You will have gained nothing. Why, you ask?

Simple. Mankind thrives on issues. With all of today's issues solved, he will run right out to create yet more issues tomorrow. We WILL find a reason to fight, at any cost. We WILL disagree, even if we must take an obviously wrong position to do so. We WILL oppress the underprivileged, even if we have to CREATE an underprivileged class to do so.

Since we're going to piss the money away, no matter what, we might as well piss it away on something that MIGHT do mankind some good. Let NASA go on, until they are superseded by something better. That something may very well be SpaceX, or it might be a United Nations (don't hold your breath, the UN never accomplishes anything) Space Administration. Something will come along, that gives us more bang for the buck, I'm sure.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263084)

Why NASA? Why not reduce Defense which is $650B this year. Do you believe that money spent killing Iraqis is doing more good than money spent by NASA? Any good at all?

Re:Unpopular (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263162)

The problem with this is

A) We have such a large investment in space already (ISS anyone?) if we stop working on it for a few months it could become unusuable and all the money we spent on it would be for nothing

B) Private space flight is struggling because of dumping large amounts of money into classified government projects to improve government space flight (yes, the money that you and me spent on research is unavaliable to the average citizen)

C) Space flight creates new private industries. Space flight has goals, and new things need to made to meet these goals, so until we have good private space flight, government space flight is a good way to discover new things.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263302)

Cut their budget for 1-2 years and it'll never be uncut. That's the way the government works, which is why you have the 'we got it, we got to spend it or else' mentality.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263342)

What you suggest would effectively kill the United States civilian space program. The scientists and engineers put out of work by this broken idea would seek other jobs and not come back when the funding did. Some would likely emigrate to other countries with funded programs. And, I can guarantee that with the current 'leadership' in government in the United States, the funding would never come back anyway. And all this for a measly ~$15 billion.

As you suggest, it is truly an unpopular idea - for its sheer stupidity.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263524)

What an incredibly short sighted and uneducated statement! Your suggestion is akin to saying that your shrinking household budget requires changing how you spend your money, so you going to cut your food budget from $100 a week to $40 a week, BUT you will continue to burn a stack of $100 bills once an hour yo heat your house rather than use gas or electric heat. NASA's budget is miniscule compared to other portions of the budget. You could combine NASA's, NOAA's, NSF's and NIH's total budget for a year and it wouldn't equal what we spend in a month on bribes to the Taliban. Yet NASA's, NOAA's, NSF's and NIH's budgets contributes more to the economy and its continued health than any other portion of the budget.

Re:Unpopular (1)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263724)

I realize this view is mighty unpopular, yet I am going to express it. While science is very important, so are social issues. I would like to see the NASA budget considerably shrunk but for only a short period of time, say 12 - 18 months. We have to get our country healthy again and space flight really only effects a small sector of the economy. It will create jobs but only at the most educated levels. A healthy country is a more efficient and productive one. Now, you may feel free to mod me but are you willing to join the censors?

Cutting NASA's budget in half will do nothing to solve the numerous social issues faced by this country. Government spending needs to be adjusted, but there are many places spending much, MUCH more than NASA does on an annual basis.

Let's do some quick Googling to compare some annual budget figures here:

  • NASA FY09: $17.6 billion
  • US Military Operations FY09: $179.8 billion
  • US Military Personnel FY09: $125.2 billion
  • US Military Procurement FY09: $104.2 Billion
  • US Military Research, Development, Testing, & Evaluation FY09: $79.6 billion
  • US Welfare Spending FY09: $395.43 billion

Of special note are the Procurement and RDT&E budgets for FY09 totalling around $183.8 billion dollars. This is how much money the military spends buying and testing new equipment. Within those figures, you see a FY09 budget of $6.9 billion for the F-35 program, and $4.1 billion for the F-22. $11 billion dollars for two aircraft programs. The military spends 62% of what NASA uses to run its entire operation on TWO AIRCRAFT PROGRAMS.

To put it another way, for less than twice what the military spends on the next generation of combat aircraft, NASA has to fund; the remainder of the Space Shuttle Program, the Orion/Ares program, the ISS, Ames Research Center, JPL, The Goddard Institute, Dryden Flight Research Center, KSC, Johnson Space Center, White Sands Test Facility, Deep Space Network, and the United States Space & Rocket Center. This includes research on ozone depletion, energy management, and medicine, along with several Earth-science projects dedicated to improving severe weather prediction and environmental conservation. They do this on less than 1/4 of what the military spends on buying new equipment. As another poster said, cutting their budget would cost them manpower that they may never get back. You don't want to do that when you're operating on what is essentially a shoestring budget.

Finally, we come to the reason I included the welfare spending figures above. If you slash the budget for NASA (say by the 50% I threw around earlier), you're saving a grand total of $8.8 to $13.2 billion for the 12-18 months you suggested. That adds 2.2 to 3.3% to the bottom line for welfare spending, which is almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. And what happens at the end of that period? Do you take the money away from welfare? That puts us right back where we started. So no, cutting NASA's budget is NOT the answer. Honestly, I believe that NASA's mission is one of the places where we should INCREASE spending, along with better oversight into ALL areas of government. The more NASA is able to do (and remember, they do more than just send people into space), the better off we will ALL be in the long run.

And no, I'm not going to mod you down (I can't since I'm replying, obviously). But I also won't discourage anyone else from doing so. Modding you down for having a misguided and frankly wrong idea is NOT the same as censorship. If your argument carried any weight whatsoever, it would stand on its own merits. Suggesting that those who disagree with you are censoring your views is a myopic attempt to give them credibility where they would otherwise have none.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263816)

Without even addressing the infeasibility of simply shrinking NASA's already tiny budget, the most egregious issue here is the idea that shrinking NASA's budget will do anything at all to the economy as a whole. NASA consumes a whole 0.58% of the national budget. Even if you removed NASA entirely you've had effectively 0 on the economy as a whole. Of all the things to get rid of (and a reduction effectively would) in the US budget, NASA is one of the dumbest.

Re:Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263938)

Why don't you come back here after comparing the NASA budget with the defense budget and reconsidering which should be cut? Then we'll talk.

Looking for money in the wrong place (2, Insightful)

Esteanil (710082) | more than 4 years ago | (#30264170)

You know, of course, that the AIG bailout alone would pay for 10 years of running NASA at current budget levels?
That the Iraq war would pay for 41 years, and the Afghanistan one for an additional 17?

The 17.6 billion NASA got this year wouldn't pay for much, much less the 9 billion you want to take.
Removing NASA (as a halving of the budget effectively would do, as written by posters above) would reduce US prestige quite a bit, though.

Not very Agile (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262278)

Software processes have their heyday. The design up front strategy of Waterfall. The staged Incremental approach. The cowboy coding Big Bang approach (my personal favorite, if only to see watch the aftermath).

Nowadays, Agile development is the leading process du jour. With its short, incremental approach that relies on immediate feedback and rapid adaptation as well as well-scoped test points, Agile produces high quality software cheaply and quickly.

So to see NASA yearning for the days of design-heavy Waterfall with all risks supposedly identified up front, it's just a little bit disappointing. Years of actual practice have proven that Waterfall is one of the worst processes to follow, since it assumes that you can somehow know all necessary design points and risks at the outset.

Flight wasn't achieved overnight and certainly without tragedies. But we are where we are today because we took those accidents and tragedies and learned from them. NASA seems to think that they can bypass these failures by fiat. They are wrong, and this type of bad planning is going to cause huge budget overruns, delayed flight schedules, a loss of prestige, and worst of all less future funding.

Be Agile, NASA!

Re:Not very Agile (1)

aflag (941367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262308)

It's engineering, not software development. In engineering it's not very common to use agile development and it works. Perhaps, agile development is nothing but a hack around the fact that we suck at software development.

Re:Not very Agile (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262416)

The waterfall process is used in engineering for solving well known problems using well known technology. NASA does leading edge tech, so it is hardly surprising it doesn't work properly. When something is produced, components are rough fitting, and the whole is a mess. Spiral development processes are used in aerospace engineering as well. Spiral usually isn't used in those fields because it is perceived as expensive and wasteful, since you know beforehand you will produce prototypes which will be discarded. The thing is, it is cheaper to make errors in small scale prototypes than to introduce those errors in a larger project. Spiral reduces uncertainty in the early stages of a project, so it is essential in complex projects such as software engineering in general.

Re:Not very Agile (2, Informative)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262518)

PS: The aerospace industry doe use agile like methods on occasion. They usually call it a skunkworks project, from Lockheed Skunk Works, the guys who brought you the U-2 and SR-71. Read Kelly Johnson's 14 Rules of Management [wikipedia.org] and see if some of it sounds familiar...

Re:Not very Agile (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262390)

Agile works for software because it is cheap to redesign software and also cheap to do a few test runs. Building a rocket, filling it with fuel and then see whether it flies or explodes is expensive when you talk about the size needed for manned spacecraft. It is more or less the same for Boeing and Airbus who spend years and years designing before they start building their first full scale planes for test flights. We're talking planes that cost over $100 million each, not something you like to throw away on a test.

Re:Not very Agile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262816)

Agile works for software because it is cheap to redesign software and also cheap to do a few test runs. ....

I think not.

Agile software "works" only because its proponents define the meaning of "works". It is not cheap "to redesign software and do a few test runs". For non-trivial software projects, a well executed system analysis and design process is fundamental and necessary. Mentioning Agile development in the context of the manned space program is simply ludicrous. You need to do a bit of searching and read about the methodology behind the space shuttle software develpment - it is a far cry from the crap that proponents of Agile try to foist off as software development.

signed,
a comfortably retired software developer

Re:Not very Agile (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262900)

What do you think the early years of Flight were? Don't you think, in retrospect, it very much looked like "Agile" development? What about early attempts at rocketry/spaceflight?

Re:Not very Agile (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262908)

More specifically, Agile works well in situations where you expect the design requirements to change often. It's not worth spending too much time designing to solve a specific problem because the problem will have changed before you finish. It is worth focussing on writing understandable code, because then you will be able to evolve it in the direction it needs to go (which is where the pair programming part of of agile development really helps; you can't write incomprehensible code with someone forcing you to explain it all the time). This is the exact opposite of NASA's problem (and aerospace development in general). Agile has its uses, but high-reliability software is definitely not the right place for it.

We really need to get Commercial space going (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262286)

Seriously, Rutan had it right when he said that we are not killing enough. The simple fact is, that to be cutting edge WILL involve loss of life. Yet, NASA is talking all about safety rather than designing/building new rockets.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (4, Insightful)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262488)

NASA can not afford accidents, not because of the sanctity of human life or any nonsense like that, but because it will kill NASA and probably manned spaceflight in this country in general. Colombia very nearly killed the shuttle program entirely, before a successor was even on the drawing board. People are willing to accept that being an astronaut is dangerous, but a lot of people look up to them, and when a bunch of them explode in a ball of fire over Texas in an entirely preventable accident, the PR impact is catastrophic. Even privately funded spaceflight will get shut down (in this country at least) if it has too many high profile accidents. Even if in reality the cost in lives is minuscule compared to what we lose daily in car accidents or lung cancer from smoking, a few big accidents in a row and the politicians will see "stopping the reckles endangerment of human lives" as a way to score some cheap votes. If human beings were rational and logical, you'd have a point, but we aren't, and too many astronaut funerals on TV will inevitably cause a kneejerk reaction.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262672)

NASA can not afford accidents, not because of the sanctity of human life or any nonsense like that, but because it will kill NASA and probably manned spaceflight in this country in general.

Somewhat agree. The reality is that we continue in spite of the fact that we had 2 major loses on the shuttle system and one on the apollo.

Even privately funded spaceflight will get shut down (in this country at least) if it has too many high profile accidents. Even if in reality the cost in lives is minuscule compared to what we lose daily in car accidents or lung cancer from smoking, a few big accidents in a row and the politicians will see "stopping the reckles endangerment of human lives" as a way to score some cheap votes.

Somewhat true. The reality is that if we have MULTIPLE businesses in this, they will all try to be safer than the other. The reason is that it will be VERY VISIBLE for each and ever crash. But the private industry CAN afford to take more hits than NASA, IF they are cheaper.

If human beings were rational and logical, you'd have a point, but we aren't, and too many astronaut funerals on TV will inevitably cause a kneejerk reaction.

In spite of the fact that your reaction IS a kneejerk reaction, I think that America/World will do just fine even if we lose a few high profiles like Bill Gates.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

criptic08 (1255326) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262966)

Actually the GP was merely stating some facts, or should we call them inconvenient truths. You did nothing but criticize his point of view. Here is something to think about: ask an average joe what NASA should work on for the next gen, safer rockets or bigger rockets? This answer to this is fairly obvious and is why NASA is "campaigning" about safety.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263420)

First, I really was not criticizing him (though you might think so in the last line). In that last line, that is the same comment that I hear all over. It is one that prevents some of the NASA staff from moving forward
But to be honest, I doubt that the average joe cares one way or another. Heck, who many average joes know about the x-prize or who won it?
And that is a big part of the problem.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262764)

NASA can not afford accidents, not because of the sanctity of human life or any nonsense like that, but because it will kill NASA and probably manned spaceflight in this country in general.

Nasa can't afford accidents because Challenger cost about $2,000,000,000 to replace and Columbia was essentially impossible to replace; lose one more shuttle and there aren't enough left to get anything useful done.

Lose an Arse launch and it's just a matter of replacing a capsule and hiring a few more astronauts.

Of course if NASA really cared about making it safer, they wouldn't have built an expensive, complex and rarely flown new launcher of their own rather than using a cheap ELV whose reliability is already known combined with an escape system designed to cope with what accidents may occur.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262944)

Lose an Arse launch and it's just a matter of replacing a capsule and hiring a few more astronauts.

Don't forget the training costs. Astronauts cost between $25m and $1bn to train, depending on whose estimates you use. Less than the cost of replacing challenger, but still a large chunk of money.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (2, Funny)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#30264328)

Lose an Arse launch and ...

Is that anything like a Bombay bed-bath?

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (0)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263864)

That's why we should drop manned spaceflight as a priority and tackle that dangerous job with remotely operated systems.

Think about it. Why, precisely, should _NASA_ pursue manned spaceflight when we can get more benefit from focusing on (instead of neglecting) unmanned systems which can have much faster development cycles?

There are other ways than NASA to put people in space, machines should be developed to remove the necessity for (expensive) human physical labor, and this argues for dropping manned NASA programs.

   

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30264026)

NASA can not afford accidents, not because of the sanctity of human life or any nonsense like that, but because it will kill NASA and probably manned spaceflight in this country in general. Colombia very nearly killed the shuttle program entirely, before a successor was even on the drawing board. People are willing to accept that being an astronaut is dangerous, but a lot of people look up to them, and when a bunch of them explode in a ball of fire over Texas in an entirely preventable accident, the PR impact is catastrophic

Perhaps I am too cynical, but knowing morbidity of human nature, I'd wager accidents actually attracted more attention. People like seeing occasional catastrophes in the news, just as they pay to see "eXtreme" stunt shows: there is a non-zero chance of a daredevil having a very bad day, LIVE! Seeing other humans' suffering is apparently ... comforting. However, given the symbolic patriotic value of a National space program, you can't have it both ways simultaneously - enjoy watching space gladiators show AND witness how God blesses America - without lowering the stakes a bit. Enter private space entrepreneurs! You will entertain us and yet we will not get upset with your deaths as much as we are with our revered sacred heroes - the military. We'd still get to pat ourselves on our backs for achievements of our industry for each successful mission, while getting fair share of thrills and morbid satisfaction from inevitable disasters. It's a win-win.

PR is too important... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30264076)

We are stuck in two middle eastern countries, costing hundreds of billions, because of the PR from a major terrorist attack 8 years ago, even though only 20 days worth of car crash victims died.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (2, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262514)

How many people here would go on the shuttle today - given that failure rate - under 1%.

NASA is unfortunately not a results driven organisation,they are a welfare organisation.

Consider the last attempt to reduce the cost of launch.

This had three completely untried technologies that all had to work perfectly in the picked vehicle design. (x33/venturestar).

Conformal tanks (non-spherical or cylindrical tanks that are shaped to fit with the structure).

Metallic thermal protection system - replacing the 'tiles' with a metal scale based system.

Linear aerospike - which had never flown.

NASA is in love with complexity.

Everything must work 100%.

It must be the lightest shiniest most perfect thing that it can be.

Cost is not something you reduce after the design, it's a fundamental aspect of the process that NASA gets entirely backwards.

Take for example the shuttle.
In round numbers, the cost of the fuel for the shuttle is .1% of a launch cost.

A sizeable fraction is the standing army to service the thing.

A very simple three stage or so rocket with extremely large margins built in shipyards is not actually technically difficult.

Capsules are low tech - however they are extremely simple and reliable way to deorbit crew.
Soyuz has a better record of people not dying on the way down than shuttle, and is vastly cheaper.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262940)

How many people here would go on the shuttle today - given that failure rate - under 1%.

Me. In a hearbeat. I'd go to Mars if the odds were at least 4:1 in my favour (20% or lower chance of failure), and stay there as long as the odds were better than 50-50 in any given decade.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (4, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263340)

Me. In a heartbeat. I'd go to Mars if the odds were at least 4:1 in my favor...

Hell, I'd go even if I knew I'd probably die en-route. It would sure be more interesting than being a sysadmin/programmer for the next N years. Plus, you'd be in the history books as "the guy who died trying to get to Mars". OK, less of a "plus", but still...

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262530)

Likewise, Wall Street brokers say "if you haven't been sued yet, it's because you haven't been trying hard enough".

It's great to push the envelope in science and technology, but one shouldn't cut corners at the expense of human lives. It is possible to do responsible engineering -- it definitely is more expensive and slower, but it's the only option I find morally acceptable.

And besides, it has always been painfully obvious that one can only go so far using chemical rockets, and that there's only so much one can gain by improving this technology. It will require a more elegant solution to make space flight affordable and safe.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262722)

Not really true. Man has THOUSANDS of years of business experience to back up Wall Street. Rockets have less than 70 years. The reality is that rocket science is not science. It is still very much in an art form. This is more true due to the high costs to build these systems. Once we have a number of systems and have tried various things, THEN and ONLY THEN will you really see the death rate go down.

Now, you speak about 'Morally acceptable', but those that fly(actually ride) these vehicle KNOW THE SCORE. THEY ARE ALL VOLUNTEERS. These are ppl that are not going into this in a stupid fashion. They know what can and can not go wrong. Heck, If I can get a free ride on the shuttle, I will gladly take it right now. Why? Because I, like many ppl througout the world as well as all the astronauts, find it plenty safe and most certainly 'morally acceptable'.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263812)

Rockets have less than 70 years

You have to be more specific than that. The Chinese have had rockets for just shy of a thousand years.

This might be an attempt to kill commercial space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262606)

How do you show that your launcher has a 1/1000 failure rate? Launch it thousands of times without failures. Anything less and you risk fooling yourself. Recall Feynman's discussions with Shuttle management, who predicted a 1/100000 failure rate until events proved otherwise.

So how will NASA show that their own launcher has a 1/1000 failure rate? The same way they showed that the NASP and VentureStar were great ideas: viewgraphs. Although reality has a nasty habit of disagreeing with viewgraphs, that doesn't matter if you don't give reality a chance to have its say - and how can we justify buying thousands of launches on a commercial launcher when their viewgraphs clearly aren't up to spec?

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262762)

"Rutan had it right when he said that we are not killing enough"

That explains the economy "wing" seats on his commercial spacecraft.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262988)

I agree. I'm sure there are many astronauts who are willing to take even a 5% risk of dying just for the opportunity to go into space. The few million dollars of wasted training pale in comparison to the loss of the equipment, so there's really no reason why we (as in humanity as a whole, not as in a space organization which needs to maintain PR) should worry this much about safety.

Re:We really need to get Commercial space going (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263202)

Well, technically to be on the cutting edge is to be at the forefront of something. If nobody were risking any life in space exploration, then that would still be the cutting edge.

Why the need to campaign? (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262358)

Wouldn't NASA administrators have the power to require certain safety levels in any grants or contracts they award?

Re:Why the need to campaign? (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262938)

they are trying to set a high bar so that stupid ideas like Jupiter launch system and the delta launch system never become viable and also so commercial space flight remains small because they would have to follow the same requirements

reality (2, Insightful)

heptapod (243146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262364)

I sincerely hope that people understand such legislation has its foundations in the fact that launch vehicles are very expensive and nothing to do with the pilots and passengers.
Even taking into account the investment made in people while training astronauts can be sizeable it still pales in comparison to the expense of using a chemical rocket to boost a tiny payload into low earth orbit. $10,000 per pound in 2001 dollars.
Once the price of lobbing things into space becomes reasonable, there will be deaths, once again nobody will care in the same measure nobody other than relatives of the victims bats an eye when a plane crashes today.
What does NASA expect of all of the space programs? To have an unrealistic safety record which would put General Products to shame? Sometimes the tree of science needs to be watered with the blood of the brave and the bold.

Waaaaahhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262382)

OMG NASA call the WAAAAAAMBULANCE!

While the USA frets about crew safety, China will take the risks, spend the money, and colonize the Moon, Mars, Europa, the Lagrange points...

The future of space exploration is Made in China.

Re:Waaaaahhhh (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263146)

OMG NASA call the WAAAAAAMBULANCE!

While the USA frets about crew safety, China will take the risks, spend the money, and colonize the Moon, Mars, Europa, the Lagrange points...

The future of space exploration is Made in China.

Nope. India [wikipedia.org] put a satellite in Lunar orbit a year ago and has a mission planned to Mars. My money's on them.

Re:Waaaaahhhh (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263886)

Fine. Let them pay for it.
If they do it first that doesn't mean we won't eventually benefit.
The US has paid dearly for the burden of prideful leadership while others profit from our effort. Why not flip the situation and
let someone else foot the bill?

Launches would be "safer" minus a human crew. (0, Troll)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262516)

Their launches would be much "safer" if they concentrated on useful research instead of the absurd focus on sending people into space.
There is no reason to rush the process, and we need to improve robots (which are expendable and can serve us everywhere) more then we need to send tourists for a ride.

If there is something that an automaton cannnot currently do, it is better to improve the machine than send humans. Humans are delicate, burdensome to support, require excessive safety precautions because society overvalues them (compare to the vigorous level of Terran exploration that used expendable ships and crews) and are a limiting factor rather than an enhancement.

We should dump tourism on the for-profit commercial space community and on foreign countries. We don't have to lead to benefit from technology any more than did the current beneficiaries of OUR technology. The Cold War is over and the penis-waving that drove manned missions can end.

2/129? (1)

chennes (263526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262548)

Interesting that we're not counting Columbia as a "launch" disaster. The foam that broke off and hit the orbiter wing happened on launch, so in my mind we're at 2/129, not 1/129. That particular failure mode is directly attributable to the questionable decision to mount the orbiter to the side of the stack, rather than on top: switching back to the "astronauts at the top of the stack" seems like a clear way to remove a bunch of that type of failure modes.

Re:2/129? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262596)

That particular failure mode is directly attributable to the questionable decision to mount the orbiter to the side of the stack, rather than on top:

      Um, how else would it use its engines, if it wasn't at the side?

      Perhaps it was a questionable decision. But then again exactly how many more boosters would you need per launch to get it into orbit?

Re:2/129? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30262806)

They should have got congress to lower the force of gravity, making it possible for a single stage to orbit vehicle to just use its own engines instead of needing external boosters.

Re:2/129? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262906)

Um, how else would it use its engines, if it wasn't at the side?

It's not just on the side. It's on the side with critical heat shields and flight components situated *below* a bunch of loose coatings and chunks of ice. That wouldn't have happened if they had not been so focused on making a spacecraft that looks like an airplane.

10x safer = easy (2, Informative)

spikeham (324079) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262578)

Just switching from a fragile tile-covered aircraft strapped to the side of a flaking-foam-covered hydrogen tank to an inherently ballistically stable capsule placed as far from the flaming end of the rocket as possible (i.e., on top of it) will achieve the desired 10x safety factor improvement. NASA has been tied to its delta-winged boondoggle for several decades too long. If they would eliminate the segmented, non-throttleable solid rocket boosters (currently still in the plan thanks to Morton Thiokol's lobbyists) they could improve safety another 10x. And if they want to do all this at minimum cost, they could just buy Soyuz vehicles, the world's safest, most reliable manned space transportation system. Of course, national pride would allow this to happen only sometime after Putin declares his undying love for country music and Harley-Davidsons.

safer? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262710)

It's worth noting here that safer space flight is counterproductive. The reason Ares I won back in 2005 on safety grounds is because it was a paper rocket. Nobody ever died on a paper rocket because nobody ever got to space on a paper rocket. NASA has not demonstrated that it can build or purchase a rocket safer than the Shuttle. Odds are very good that any increased safety requirements will have to be loosened when NASA finally gets (if it does) a manned space vehicle again.

As an aside, will these safety rules apply to contracted launches through other countries? Will NASA stop flying people to the ISS because the only vehicles (namely, Soyuz) can't and won't bother to meet stringent safety requirements? I doubt it.

My view is that the safety requirements are solely intended to cull rivals to the Ares I. These rules will in turn be dispensed with (this is called a "bait and switch" BTW) when it is no longer convenient for the Ares I program.

1 in 129... it was avoidable (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262772)

if the managers had listened to the engineers and not had an attack of press-on-itis... in fact, if I'm not mistaken the other disaster was avoidable as well... they had evidence of serious tile damage on previous flights and should have re-engineered the critical areas so that hot gas ingress could not do so much damage.

Make it safer? (2, Insightful)

Theodore (13524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262792)

The whole history of launching stuff into space in basically strapping something onto a bomb, and trying to control the way it explodes.
Comparing the earliest manmade flights, basically using ICBMs, to... to....
I was going to say today's tech, but the shuttle is almost 30 years old, so it really isn't today's tech.
Soyuz? Proton? Ariane?
It's all still focusing a huge amount of volatile explosives to a constricted area, hoping it doesn't all go pear shaped.
Add to that environmental concerns (this bug that's 10,000 miles away won't fuck if it so much as smells rocket exhaust, so use something else),
it's a wonder we get up there as safely as we do.

Re:Make it safer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263032)

...this bug that's 10,000 miles away won't fuck if it so much as smells rocket exhaust, so use something else...

Thanks, man, you cheered me up after a really crappy day :-)

Incidentally, that's exactly the reason the Russians are wasting hundreds of millions on Angara development instead of keeping the Proton.
The government bought the "ecological" bullshit.

Weight reduction is the problem. (0)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30262902)

The real problem is the need for excessive weight reduction. This makes big spacecraft too fragile. If the Shuttle could afford the weight of a titanium skin, instead of fragile foam and tiles, it would be far less troublesome.

The best US spacecraft was probably the Gemini, which was Gus Grissom's baby, the Gusmobile. He designed the fighter pilot's spacecraft, the most maneuverable spacecraft to date. A Big Gemini [astronautix.com], a 9-passenger version, made it to the mockup stage. If that had been built, the US would have had something comparable to Soyuz. Better, probably. It's striking that the US hasn't had a little spacecraft to send to orbit since the 1960s.

Grissom died in the 1967 pad fire, and nobody else had the clout to push the Gemini program forward after that.

BS numbers (2, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263484)

The demonstrated failure rate is ABSOLUTELY meaningless with such a low rate of loss. The actual failure rate could be 1 in 10 or 1 in 10,000, but with only 129 samples and 1 failure, you've got no idea which one it really is. Maybe we're already at 1 in 1000.

I hate this probabilistic view anyway. If you know that the failure rate should be 1 in 1000, then you must know what will fail .1% of the time. Fix those flaws and now you should have a perfect vehicle. Of course, you don't have a perfect vehicle, because there are problems you don't know about. So when you think that you have a 1 in 1000 rate, you actually will have a lower one. So, if the goal is to get to a rate that is 1 in 1000, once we're there the unknowns might lower it to 1 in 129, which is where we are (demonstratively) at.

Put another way, think about how safe the space shuttle is now. In its service lifetime, we've seen two fatal flaws demonstrated: foam and O-rings. The O-rings have been fixed and the foam has been mitigated. Over 129 launches, every dangerous problem has been fixed, minimized, or mitigated. Now we're going to dump a vehicle that has had 30 years of improvements built in and hope to do better with a new design.

It would be like if we did a "rm -rdf ." on the kernel archives, stuck Linus and the kernel developers in a room, and let them start over. How long would it take to redevelop an OS that is as secure as Linux? Linux has 20 years of development and security fixes. Even with a better design plan and all of the combined experience, would it take them a year to duplicate the safety? Two years? Five? Ten?

Re:BS numbers (1, Offtopic)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263706)

It would be like if we did a "rm -rdf ." on the kernel archives, stuck Linus and the kernel developers in a room, and let them start over. How long would it take to redevelop an OS that is as secure as Linux?

Oh, the delicious irony.

That's exactly the series of events that gave us the abomination that is Linux - Linus sat down in his dorm room and reverse-engineered Unix. An OS that had a 20 year head start on development and security fixes and what not.

Safety third (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263652)

Dirty Jobs just aired a special episode that I think is on point. The episode introduced the mantra, "Safety third." This is not to say that Safety is unimportant, but that in every case, the safest course is to not engage in an activity with risk. If you put safety first, you won't get anything done at all.

Now, the reason Mike Rowe had safety 3rd was that first was getting the job done (or at least, making a decent attempt) and second was making entertaining television. In most cases, I dare say the 2nd qualification doesn't apply, so Safety coming in second is a better expectation. I actually think Mike was being cavalier by suggesting that Safety is always in the top ten and often the top five. I'd hesitate to keep it out of the top 3 on any occasion, but life wouldn't be worth living if safety truly always came first.

It's doubly ironic that I bring up Dirty Jobs in combination with a discussion about NASA. One of the segments in this very episode lambasted NASA for putting the Dirty Jobs crew through a safety briefing about confined space safety concerns that they were in no way going to actually encounter doing the work that they were going to film. Your tax dollars at work.

Just A Political Stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263776)

This is just political theater to
1) Stay the course on Ares I
2) Kill any other crew transfer methods (SpaceX, Orbital, EELVs...)

Of course, Ares I is quite unsafe since it uses a huge solid rocket that can explode very quickly AND that accelerates quickly low in the atmosphere, meaning escape is hard at places (you need a huge launch escape rocket). It also lacks performance and hence some safety features like redundancy have been removed in some places in Orion (the spacecraft) or Ares I. But most importantly, it doesn't have a demonstrated flight record, unlike the EELV:s which have been flying succesfully since 2002.
No launcher/spacecraft system probably fills all the demands from 2004. NASA can use the "man rating" to mean whatever it wants. It's not a defined or accepted science or engineering term

Isn't it "2 in 129"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263844)

They just finished Shuttle flight #129, and they've had two disasters. I think that would work out to "1 in 64.5"

Demonstrated failure rate is 2 in 129 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30263878)

The demonstrated failure rate is 2 in 129. Does no one remember Challenger?

Management (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30263974)

The CAIB report directly pointed it's finger at management "converting a memory of failure into a memory of success" and that Nasa management had learned nothing from the Challenger accident where poor management decisions led to the loss of both launch vehicles.

The U.S Navy criticised Nasa heavily, citing that it had assigned 5000 Navy staff to study the loss of the Challenger so it could improve practices in it Nuclear submarine fleet, Nasa assigned none. 14 of the 17 astronauts lost were due to management failure. Seems to me that to increase launch safety Nasa Management is a fairly obvious place to start.

1 in how many ? (0)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30264136)

According to the almighty Google, there have been 134 missions, 2 of which have resulted in fatal explosions (one on take off and one on re-entry).

2:134 = 1:67 ... or are they "tweaking" the figures based on number of astronauts dead / alive over the whole shuttle history ?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...