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Panel Warns NASA On Commercial Astronaut Transport

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the let-me-carry-that-for-you dept.

Businesses 319

DesScorp writes "In a blow against the commercial space industry, a federal panel warned NASA not to use private companies to ferry astronauts into space. While the Obama Administration wants to outsource some NASA activities, insiders at the space agency are resisting any moves to use commercial alternatives. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel 'cautioned that the private space companies rely on "unsubstantiated claims" and need to overcome major technical hurdles before they can safely carry astronauts into orbit. The report urged NASA to stick with its current government-run manned space ventures, and said that switching to private alternatives now would be "unwise and probably not cost-effective." The findings are likely to provide a boost to NASA officials who want to keep nearly all manned space programs in house.' Private companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing argue that they're capable of human transport in space safely and at competitive costs."

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319 comments

NASA isn't good at listening (2, Informative)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858826)

Just trying readying Feynman's experience with them.

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (0, Troll)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859024)

NASA doesnt have a great safety track record any longer. Two shuttles have gone down killing everyone on board.

While the first one with the O-ring maybe was simply tragic, the second one with crappy environmentally friendly tile modifications was most definitely caused by NASA management listening to environmentalist dipshits instead of the experts.

Which of these private firms have the best scientists?

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859214)

the second one with crappy environmentally friendly tile modifications was most definitely caused by NASA management listening to environmentalist dipshits instead of the experts.

Damn environmentalists! Always wanting that clean air and water! And trying to preserve people's health! What a bunch of pinkos!

Business and industry comes first! And if a few weaklings die because of the polution, well, that's DARWIN at its finest! Old people should die and so should weak children!

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859242)

While the first one with the O-ring maybe was simply tragic, the second one with crappy environmentally friendly tile modifications was most definitely caused by NASA management listening to environmentalist dipshits instead of the experts.

First one was simply tragic? Wasn't the first one a result of NASA management ignoring what Morton Thiokol engineers said regarding launches in freezing temperatures? They had to get the first teacher into space and a delay would have been embarrassing. So they opted to not have a delay and they had a tragedy instead.

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859284)

Neither accident was simply tragic, both occured after multiple specific warnings by engineers were ignored.

"Which of these private firms have the best scientists?"

Privatized science is almost as bad as privatized armies and privatized intelligence agencies.

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (3, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859658)

Although I can see some benefit to keeping this under government control, here we are 40 years later, using the same basic technologies while lacking the same capabilities that put us on the moon. It seems that the only thing that's happened at NASA in the last 50 years is a lot of money has been spent. We have the shuttle, based on a hybrid of flight end propulsion technologies during that time, but it's old, dated, and long past it's prime. Is there any reason NASA can't certify the safety of such after it's submitted by the private sector?

I can't help but wonder if it's time to let the private sector in. Some competitiveness, innovation, and new blood are what's needed right now, not NASA.

Stop with the Limbaugh bullshit already..... (5, Informative)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859296)

the second one with crappy environmentally friendly tile modifications was most definitely caused by NASA management listening to environmentalist dipshits instead of the experts.

What exactly are these "tile modifications" you refer to? The fragile thermal tiles played no part in the Columbia accident, which involved a chunk of foam insulation from the external tank impacting the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edge of the orbiter's wing.

And before you try to backpedal, and trot out the old right-wing canard (originated by Rush Limbaugh) about the ET insulation foam having been reformulated without CFCs, try reading the CAIB report (volume 1, Page 51), which specifically states that the portion of the foam that broke loose was the OLD CFC-based formulation.

http://www.nasa.gov/columbia/caib/PDFS/VOL1/PART01.PDF [nasa.gov]
http://mediamatters.org/research/200508090007 [mediamatters.org]
http://www.sts107.info/kooks%20and%20myths/kooks.htm#EPA [sts107.info]

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (5, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859400)

Two major accidents in 30 years with an agency engaged in high risk activities. And you don't consider that a great safety record?

If anything people at NASA are almost definitely erring on the side of excessive caution knowing what kind of backlash they'll get from the ignorant masses if anything more goes wrong.

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859418)

Out of 129 flights 2 have gone wrong or a .003 percent failure rate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_space_shuttle_missions#List_of_shuttle_flights [wikipedia.org]

Of course when things go wrong for them it goes amazingly spectacularly. You cannt have that much LOX laying around and other major crazy flammable stuff and not have someone die once and awhile.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Right_Stuff_(film) [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_the_Earth_to_the_Moon_(TV_miniseries) [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13_movie [wikipedia.org]
While dramatized it shows why they do it.

These dudes are *IN* it because it is risky. They love the risk.... Just because you are risk adverse (it shows because you want a 0% fail rate) doesnt mean they are. These dudes are crazy...

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859602)

The shuttle accident had nothing to do with "environmentally friendly tile modifications", or environmentally friendly anything. It had to do with a chunk of ice and foam smashing into the wing. Ice and foam fall off of the External Tank on all launches, and the area of the bipod strut attachment has always been problematic in terms of foam loss. Many shuttles have flown with dozens of foam damaged tiles, some as many as 290. Now granted, NASA has changed the process by which the foam is applied to one that is more environmentally friendly. However, the foam on Columbia's tank was the older "unfriendly" variety.

The real problem is that you have the shuttle mounted on the side of the stack, smack dab in the path of falling debris, in the first place. The shuttle should have been at the top of the stack.

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (2, Insightful)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859230)

Those O-rings had a safety factor of three!

Re:NASA isn't good at listening (2, Insightful)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859482)

Those O-rings had a safety factor of three!

When used at the proper temperatures, which they weren't. A private company wouldn't have used them in the same situation because of the liability involved.

Bad bad idea (0, Troll)

DaemonKnightVS (1422157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858830)

Private companies with little experience vs all of NASA's experience??

They really need to rethink retiring the shuttles untill ares/constellation or whatever its called is running.

Re:Bad bad idea (4, Interesting)

joeyblades (785896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858934)

Do you think NASA invents all of the technology that goes into space exploration? A large portion of that technology already comes from third parties. NASA is more of a program management function than a developer.

Re:Bad bad idea (-1, Troll)

DaemonKnightVS (1422157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858986)

NASA will have loads of engineers who will blue print and decide exactly what they want before making others bid for it.

Other contractors won't be specifically developing any technology then going to pitch it to NASA. NASA decides what they want, and gives the designs to others to develop. So yeah I think what I said above holds.

Re:Bad bad idea (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859072)

FYI, the website sets its font a certain way for a reason. do you really have to fuck with it? why? to be "noticed"??? attention whore.

Re:Bad bad idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859256)

Do you want a dick in your ass? Do you? C'mon let me slide my cock up your tight little O ring. We'll make you forget ALL about the font.

Re:Bad bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859380)

oooh, internet tough guy.

i'm trembling.

Re:Bad bad idea (4, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859328)

Don't think that only NASA does design, and contractors just do manafacturing, the relationship is much more complex, with good engineers on both sides of the table. NASA does not have a monopoly on good engineers, or even a monopoly on engineers with a good track record.

Also, knock it off with the monospaced font. If people wanted to read things that way, they'd have configured their browsers that way. As it is, you just come off as an attention whore who feels the need to artificially attract attention to his posts.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859370)

No, I'm sorry what you said doesn't hold. NASA comes up with requirements and specifications. Words, sentences, numbers etc. Contractors then work from those and build the REAL stuff. Sure they review (ad nauseum) things with NASA along the way, but the Contractors are designing and building almost everything.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859662)

Spend some time at one of the space centers. Look at the names on the buildings in the area. Look at the company names on the majority of the badges. Sneak into a couple design meetings to see the ideas being presented.... and who is presenting them. Then you might rethink your position.

Hint: You'll find the civil servants are in the minority and the contractors are doing a lot of (most of?) the work. NASA takes a largely managerial role. Nothing special about them other than the color of their badge. Many get pulled into the ranks from the contractor pool.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

proslack (797189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859406)

The catch is that there are hundreds of third parties involved in the construction of any one spacecraft. No one company that I know of builds all the components of a spacecraft, or has the in-house expertise to handle that sort of design. There is a certain amount of institutional knowledge at NASA that doesn't exist in the private sector. Most people working in the space program are contractors anyway...United Space Alliance. Makes more sense to me to keep things as they are...government oversight, commercial construction. If you privatize the whole thing you'll lose control of classified technology, experience cost-overruns, and trade safety for cost even more than you do now.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858944)

The space shuttle orbiter is made by Rockwell and Boeing. The external tank is made by Lockheed. Boeing also made parts of the Saturn V and Delta rockets. Lockheed Martin are already designing and developing Orion.

I think a few private companies are reasonably experienced.

Re:Bad bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858990)

If that's true then they should have no trouble producing a vehicle capable of lauching a man into orbit, in-house, and commercially exploiting it in the free market, no?

If they require large amounts of government funding to do it, then it is neither cheap nor efficient.

AMIRITE?

Re:Bad bad idea (3, Insightful)

LUH 3418 (1429407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859090)

The problem is that there isn't much market for transporting humans to space. Even if they could do it at a third of the cost NASA can manage, it would still be too expensive for everyone but the richest of the richest. Practically, the only people with the interest and the budget right now are government agencies.

Beyond that, the rockets used to launch people into space are usually not the same as those used for satellite launches, limiting the usability of that equipment for other purposes.

Re:Bad bad idea (-1, Troll)

DaemonKnightVS (1422157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859048)

But all designed by NASA yeah?

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859196)

Well, more with substantial detailed design and specification requirements from NASA, with design and engineering from the private companies.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

Manfred Maccx (1365933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859198)

Not sure about that. I'm pretty sure that Nasa issue the specs, requirements and the scope of work but the engineering is done by those companies not by the Nasa.

Re:Bad bad idea (2, Informative)

hargrand (1301911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859282)

That's not the way it works. NASA specifies operational requirements. Engineers (many of whom may be NASA support contractors, not government employees) then translate those into technical requirements that are used as the basis for a competitive procurement. The winning bidder is responsible for the hard engineering, manufacturing, integration and initial testing. NASA from that point on acts, as has been mentioned here, as a program manager making sure that things like cost, schedule and performance risks are minimized.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859016)

If they are talking about companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, then yes I think this is a bad idea. but if they are talking about new unknown companies, then I can't blame them for being cautious. Going to space is no small endeavor, its not like just putting a sign on your car and creating a cab company.

Re:Bad bad idea (1, Troll)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859110)

Little experience?

Apollo CM/SM: North American Aviation, now part of Boeing.
Space Shuttle Orbiter: See above.
LEM: Grumman Aircraft Engineering, ackquired by Northrop to form Northrop Grumman.

Who do you think built the crafts that were used so far? NASA itself? Consider: They worked, mostly.

Re:Bad bad idea (-1, Troll)

DaemonKnightVS (1422157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859162)

But don't they just 'make' the equipment, opposed to NASA designing the crafts?

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

TnkMkr (666446) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859320)

Let me premise this with the statement that I am making an assumption, IF NASA has gone the way that most of the defence industry has,
then over last three to four decades they have been outsourcing more and more of their resources. This means the the agency itself has
probably shrunk to nothing more than the program managing guys who do the high level planning and review. The actual in the feild grunt
design engineers or manufacturing techs are all probably private industry contractors.

Its the direction the military has gone in, the government doesn't design or build anything, they don't even buy the designs anymore,
they just purchase the end products and use them. (and get trapped in years of upgrade funding, repair services, etc. because they
don't own any of the technical data for the systems).

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859366)

Nope. NASA decides what the craft has to do, then they ask for submissions. It works like most governmental projects, they don't care how, they just care that something is done. You have this kind of procedure in pretty much all governmental projects, from defense to spacecraft to databases. You get a (more or less...) detailed project description, what the finished product should do, what specs it has to comply with and then you're supposed to give them a study and a design. If they approve, you can start getting the big $$$ signs in your eyes.

That's basically why companies agree with this kind of projects. From a developer's point of view, they're about as horrible as it can get. You often get sketchy ideas which may or may not be possible in the first place and then have to make miracles happen. But they pay well. Really, really well.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859388)

But don't they just 'make' the equipment, opposed to NASA designing the crafts?

Nope. Companies submit proposals and NASA selects them, sometimes with modifications. It seems that Boeing and Lockheed are just trying to keep other entrants out of the market.

Re:Bad bad idea (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859448)

Dude, NASA doesn't design the craft then just issue requirements and specs. The contract companies then build the crafts.

You are wrong. Continuing to post over and over again how NASA designs everything and the private companies are just putting stuff together isn't going to make you correct.

How is it different (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858852)

than paying another country to take our astronauts into space?

I see no difference, other than we cannot truly hold other countries to the strictest standards that we all know we would impose on commercial endeavors

Re:How is it different (1)

ftobin (48814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859322)

One big difference between having a sovereign and a corporation do the task is that a corporation can much more easily fold if there is a problem. In other words, a corporation has much less to lose.

Re:How is it different (2, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859382)

Where is the profit motive? Human space travel, while it does involve engineering, is really pure science of the highest order. All we're doing is asking the question "What will happen if we send a person into space?" and doing it. It's simply too expensive to be a worthwhile commercial endeavor. As such, free enterprise doesn't make sense. It's something that a purely business attitude simply cannot understand.

Now, of course what we're talking about is separating those parts that business can understand and using business for that, but it still just seems wrong. You've got two different people talking totally different languages, one of "How can we do this?" and one of "What if we do this?"

Yeah, I'm a bit of an idealist, but I think the what if people should be holding the keys at the management levels. Someone needs to bring them down to Earth occasionally, but you need people who aren't afraid to waste money if you want to do anything interesting. Are such people in charge at NASA? I don't know, they're probably the same managerial types at the aerospace firms. But I don't see why shifting the managerial focus to commercial enterprise will do anything to advance pure science.

Unless of course your goal is to kill pure science in the aerospace field.

Re:How is it different (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859384)

...other than we cannot truly hold other countries to the strictest standards that we all know we would impose on commercial endeavors

Sarcasm and cynicism aside, I DO prefer the companies that have worked closely with NASA for decades successfully over national programs far younger and comparatively untested. And that isn't to even mention it's a lot easier to talk when there isn't an ocean or two between you and your outsourcee.

Re:How is it different (2, Insightful)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859408)

And the other country we are relying is Russia. They have the same experience as NASA.

This *IS* ROCKET SCIENCE. We should not be taking chances with private companies that will transport people at a "competitive cost."

They can't get plans to fly on-time, why do you think they can handle space travel!!

probably a bad idea (2, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858860)

Considering how crazy-careful nasa can be with things, and how any private company is going to cut every possible corner, yes it'll save a bundle, and kill a bunch of astronauts in the process.

All that money that nasa is spending is invested in making things as safe as possible. Rocket science really is rocket science. If you're not spending that money, you have to expect your safety to go to hell.

Re:probably a bad idea (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858930)

The Russians manage to save money, launch a lot of missions, AND they still have a safety record that dwarfs NASA's. Maybe we should ask them how to do it.

Re:probably a bad idea (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859134)

AND they still have a safety record that dwarfs NASA's.

No, they don't.

Shuttle has had 134 flights, two failures. About 1.6%.

Soyuz has had 104 flights, two failures. About 2%.

Note that in both cases, the "failures" were loss of crew accidents. If we also include failures that do not cause loss of crew, Soyuz looks even worse.

Re:probably a bad idea (5, Insightful)

joeyblades (785896) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859022)

You're kidding, right? Challenger, the worst space program disaster of all time, occured because NASA ignored all warnings from Morton Thiokol to postpone the launch. NASA's reasons for pressing on, in spite of these warnings, was entirely commercial.

Re:probably a bad idea (1, Insightful)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859050)

(because airplanes drop left and right because boeing wanted to save costs on wind materials ... not)

Faced with how much dead astronauts would cost em, they would definitelly not cut every possible corner.

One thing is saving few bucks by using X instead of Y, another having crash-reputation and having to pay-off families of deceased and/or cost of cargo.

Anyhow, being you, I would really reconsider "All that money that nasa is spending is invested in making things as safe as possible" statement anyway. They most certainly are not spending those money on that, that is given by fact that is is goverment agency responsible for quite nice funds, funds that friends of people who are in charge of them could do with even if they offer slightly wrose product.

Re:probably a bad idea (4, Informative)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859172)

Considering how crazy-careful nasa can be with things, and how any private company is going to cut every possible corner, yes it'll save a bundle, and kill a bunch of astronauts in the process.

For all of their "caution", the following two incidents happened and come immediately to mind:

The Challenger Disaster [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Columbia_disaster [wikipedia.org] >The Columbia Disaster

In the first, they launched in adverse conditions that aggravated a design flaw in the solid fuel booster's design that caused the Challenger to blow up as it ascended into orbit. The design flaw was approved by that "crazy-careful" NASA and the launch was approved by the same, over concerns about the design and the conditions by the subcontractor for the engines. If you saw the high-level design drawings for the sealing system they chose to use in the Space Shuttle booster (the most powerful solid fuel booster developed to date at that time...) when compared against the design they chose to use with the Titan II boosters they added to the Gemini program rockets, you'd see that they cheapened the design in the Shuttle booster- with a vastly more powerful booster. Couple that with conditions that would almost guarantee the failure we saw- and an insistence to launch when NASA knew there was a solid chance of this sort of failure- there's nothing "crazy-careful" in that mix.

In the second, they switched an insulation design for the central fuel tank from one that relied on CFCs (good thing...) without verifying that there might be a problem with it coming off on launch and damaging the fragile ceramic heat shield tiles on the shuttle (bad thing...). The testing applied to the new insulation foam wasn't given as extensive a run of verification as the old stuff was, which led to the eventual issue. No checks of potential damage on the critical heat shield were done- not that they could have repaired the damage or easily got the crew back in one piece if they'd found out that they were in trouble there. No major accounting for damaged heat shield sections or planning for a detected problem (in the form of another shuttle on a rescue mission...) had ever really been done. Again, there's nothing "crazy-careful" in that mix.

In the end, the only reason we've had the track record we have had with NASA in the Shuttle era of the agency has been that there've been few runs at things. Yes, in the past, NASA was crazy-careful, but that was more around the Apollo era of things. They're not so careful these days- else the two incidents wouldn't have transpired the way they did. In the first, they'd have scrubbed the mission for another day, which would have prevented the disaster altogether. In the second, had it happened with the people's attitudes during the Apollo 13 timeframe, they would've done a once-over of the shuttle visually either with monitoring gear or via EVA to ensure the integrity of the shuttle. They would have had contingencies for damage of the nature that happened- and had a backup plan for the crew if they couldn't repair the same. NASA's gotten to where they're probably only slightly better than the commercial interests in safety because they're well under budget (which is why they're trying desperately to keep it all in-house if possible; they can justify what they've got right now- if they outsource, the budget shrinks on them even further...) and they're operating more as a political org instead of an engineering driven one like it used to be. That's not to say they don't have good people and some of the best and brightest- but to characterize them as being vastly better on safety than the commercial interests because they're not going to cut corners, etc. is wrong and mistaken at best.

Re:probably a bad idea (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859266)

All that money that nasa is spending is invested in making things as safe as possible. Rocket science really is rocket science. If you're not spending that money, you have to expect your safety to go to hell.

Except the rocket scientists and engineers mostly work for Lockheed Martin and Boeing and other private corporations, who actually build the vehicles and subsystems.

Re:probably a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859374)

Considering how crazy-careful nasa can be with things, and how any private company is going to cut every possible corner, yes it'll save a bundle, and kill a bunch of astronauts in the process.

Considering how crazy-political NASA can be with things (Challenger launched in cold temperatures, against the advice of the engineers, so that there could be a "Teacher in Space" for the State of the Union address...), and someone's already pointed out that it was a "green" initiative that changed the coating on the external tank, and how any private company is going to realize that loss of a crew and vehicle means bankruptcy and unemployment for everyone from the CEO to the janitor, maybe the private company has a pretty solid incentive to do a better job.

All that money that nasa is spending is invested in making things as safe as possible. Rocket science really *is* rocket science. If you're not spending that money, you have to expect your safety to go to hell.

But it's not about how much money you spend, it's about how wisely you spend it.

Civilian jetliners are pretty damn safe, clean, and efficient these days. That's because private companies, in competition with each other for market share, have learned what corners can be safely cut. NASA (and while we're on it, the Pentagon) has no such incentive - its real customer is Congress, and Congress doesn't care if it's safe, or even if it flies at all, so long as each Congressional district gets at least one contract for a nut, bolt, or wire.

This is about Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and the other defense contractors keeping a stranglehold on Congressional dollars. If some young upstart proves he can safely put a man in orbit for $100M, and a satellite in orbit for $10M, Congress might change its mind about $500M shuttle launches and $100M satellite launches. If you're a defense contractor, that's bad for business - less pork thrown your way. If you're a Congressman, that's also bad for business - less pork to throw around. Defense contractors have bigger lobbying budgets than upstart private space companies, and this panel's warning is the entirely predictable result.

Re:probably a bad idea (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859390)

Yeah, NASA never cuts corners. They pay top dollar for their o-rings and take every risk seriously including silly things like supersonic foam.

We should stick with NASA (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858866)

Because their bureaucracy has done such an excellent job in the last 35 years of getting us back to the moon, to Mars, etc. and delivering on all the multitude of other promises they've made via decades of press releases and computer animation.

Re:We should stick with NASA (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858950)

Well, if it's so easy, then why hasn't some jumped-up John Galt character flown to the Moon on his own money yet?

Truth is, big plans cost money. The only reason why America went from suborbital flights to walking on the Moon in the space of a decade, is because it was given unlimited funding. Private business just doesn't do that sort of thing,

Re:We should stick with NASA (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859062)

Probably because big business didn't have a good enough REASON to go to the moon. The recent launch of SpaceShipOne and the Virgin Galactic enterprise was done because the combination of the X Prize and the money to be made on space tourism actually justifies the cost of the endeavor. If a company thought they could make trips to the moon worth the cost of developing and building the infrastructure to do it, you can bet they would pass a plodding and inefficient NASA in a New York minute.

Re:We should stick with NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859238)

Getting to the edge of the atmosphere and putting a spacecraft into LEO are two entirely different ball games. I'll withhold any praise for the private companies until they can do LEO.

Re:We should stick with NASA (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859352)

Because their bureaucracy has done such an excellent job in the last 35 years of getting us back to the moon, to Mars, etc

You must not have been paying attention. We have the Hubble, and now we have the new telescope that will put Hubble to shame. We have robots on Mars, which I would argue is far better than having human feet there. We have satellites around Mars, Venus, and iinm Mercury. We have the robot in space that looks for gamma ray bursts. We've had the Voyagers and myriad other deep space probes collecting treasure troves of data about our solar system.

NASA has done a fine job. Landing a man on the moon wasn't science, it was international politics; we were in a race with the Soviets, who orbited the first satellite, sent the first man into space, and orbited the first man. Putting a man on the moon served no purpose except to salve our national pride. Ever since we landed on the moon NASA has been about science, and it has advanced science greatly.

Re:We should stick with NASA (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859472)

You are aware that space travel costs money. When Congress doesn't fund space travel, it's very hard to go back to the moon and take a trip to Mars.

But hey if you want to see your taxes go up to pay space travel, then I urge you to write your senator and congressman and ask them increase your taxes to pay for this.

Moron.

This just in....Monopolies do not like competition (5, Insightful)

Ada_Rules (260218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858878)

Umm... NASA also relies on "unsubstantiated claims" and need to overcome major technical hurdles before they can safely carry astronauts into orbit. The shuttle has about a 1 in 65 chance of catastrophic failure resulting in loss of the crew. For all of its vaunted simplicity, the Apollo flights only flew 18 times and had one very very close loss of the crew in space (and of course one actual loss of crew on the ground). I honestly don't know if private companies will do better or not but it is not as if NASA's record in this area is all that great either. Having a somewhat adversarial relationship between private enterprise and the government as we have with airlines appears to have contributed to overall safe air travel. I think it is worth a shot to try it in space. When the government is both the provider of a service and the one auditing it, you end up with no independent evaluators except at the accident boards.

Re:This just in....Monopolies do not like competit (3, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859020)

And, considering NASA has been relying on private contractors to build their vehicles for years, it seems a little suspicious that they would suddenly come out against private contractors when they want to move to the next logical step and actually launch the vehicle they built (and hence steal NASA's big PR moment).

Re:This just in....Monopolies do not like competit (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859152)

I think it is worth a shot to try it in space.

Absolutely. You first.

Re:This just in....Monopolies do not like competit (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859290)

If I had to go to space, I would rather go with Boeing or Lockheed Martin that with NASA.

Re:This just in....Monopolies do not like competit (4, Informative)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859422)

Absolutely. You first.

Are you kidding me? I would pay to be first, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Re:This just in....Monopolies do not like competit (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859250)

It is just standard politics...

Government agencies doesn't like Companies doing what they do. They portrait a company as a greedy organization who will cut all the corners and create a product that is doomed to fail.

Companies doesn't like Government taking over what they do. They Portrait the government as a huge inefficient bureaucracy who will spend more then what they need and make compromise over compromise until you have a bad product which doesn't do anything well.

So in the end Your screwed both ways.

Space Shuttles retiring (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858896)

And with the Space Shuttles being retired, and no replacement available in the immediate future, what do they suggest? Maybe a giant slingshot?

Uhhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858922)

Aren't private companies like Boeing and Lockheed doing this for the Government now? They're the ones building the space flight systems.

Panel is blinkered... (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30858966)

private space companies rely on "unsubstantiated claims" and need to overcome major technical hurdles before they can safely carry astronauts into orbit.

That's true enough. Why let private companies blow your astronauts up when you can get the government to do it for you for many times the cost?

NASA: the best astronaut-killing rockets that money can buy!

Re:Panel is blinkered... (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859520)

You are a complete a$$-hole.

You have no idea about the complexities of space travel but you think that some bottom-dollar company can execute space travel without any problems.

Go back under the rock you crawled out from.

"Probably not cost effective" (1, Troll)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859014)

The report urged NASA to stick with its current government-run manned space ventures, and said that switching to private alternatives now would be "unwise and probably not cost-effective.

Because we all know a government run monopoly is the most cost effective means of doing something.

Re:"Probably not cost effective" (1)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859150)

Because we all know a government run monopoly is the most cost effective means of doing something.

I wouldn't exactly call it a government run monopoly. I mean, they aren't using unfair business practices to keep others from entering into the space arena. And I doubt you're factoring in the cost of training the astronauts. It's not cheap. Better to spend the extra money on transport and have a better understood risk than to go with a private company.

Hmmm (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859046)

I don't know enough about space flight to form a rational opinion for or against commercial ferrying.

The profit motive... (2, Insightful)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859058)

... is not really what I want people thinking about when I ride a limited-edition experimental craft into the most dangerous place there is. I want them thinking about keeping my ass alive and nothing else.

Re:The profit motive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859124)

Don't forget they will also be thinking about the huge cost of you dieing; especially when they can't point to years of succesfull launches it will likely cost them all future orders. Nasa can just start some commities to find out what went wrong this time, and then after telling everyone tons of times that they will change their ways launch again. when Nasa is using some commercial program they'll just change companies and restart again. almost no loss for Nasa but huge losses for the company.

Re:The profit motive... (1)

Known Nutter (988758) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859166)

When considering survival in a limited-edition experimental craft, the first step may be to avoid riding a limited-edition experimental craft into the most dangerous place there is.

Just sayin'...

Re:The profit motive... (1)

aliddell (1716018) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859168)

being known as a company that lets its passengers die is not likely to result in a whole lot of profits. Hell, I know this and I've never run a business in my life.

Re:The profit motive... (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859192)

... is not really what I want people thinking about when I ride a limited-edition experimental craft into the most dangerous place there is. I want them thinking about keeping my ass alive and nothing else.

Right, because it is so profitable to be known as a company that kills your passengers. On another note, who are you recommending to do it then, because it seems that the people at NASA are thinking about covering thier ass, not about keeping the astronauts alive.

Re:The profit motive... (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859392)

Then don't drive a car. FYI: They were made by for-profit companies.

Re:The profit motive... (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859588)

Fortunately for you, I don't think anyone is ever going to ask to go for the ride. And if cheap commercial space flight gets shoved in the attic, I don't think any of your children will get the chance to say no either.

But if we're going to let people try to climb Everest, go cave diving, and test experimental aircraft, I don't see why we need to go nuts with space safety, assuming there are plenty of people eager to take the risk. I mean, trying to be super careful hasn't even worked--to this day we still learn about our mistakes when the whole thing goes kablooey. Trying to overengineer it doesn't make it safe, what we really need is just to get through this first phase of space flight where we are still heavily experimenting, and the only way to do that is to just go for it.

Re:The profit motive... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859650)

If their failure rate is high, they won't get very many launches before NASA says enough and stops buying from them. The best way to maximize profit is with more launches, launches that will only take place if certain safety requirements are met. In the meantime, you do realize that NASA gets paid to put commercial satellites into orbit right? And that they have a limited budget, tight time-tables, and various government offices breathing down their necks?

Two words to the federal panel... (4, Informative)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859122)

Shut up.

Deregulating space travel is the only way we're ever going to make a dent there, for the time being and with the current political climate.

Please, just shut up. Yes, a few are going to die going up, but they know the risks.

Re:Two words to the federal panel... (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859394)

It's not really all that "regulated" you know. Relatively little regulation is stopping you from building a spacecraft on your own and flying yourself to the moon. The main regulations you have to follow are actually FAA regs for atmospheric flight. NASA actually uses private companies for some satellite launches.

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_spaceflight [wikipedia.org]

Re:Two words to the federal panel... (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859616)

Well, perhaps "regulating" was the incorrect word -- I guess I looking more for "decentralizing." I have nothing wrong with government projects -- I do have a problem with government-only projects.

Re:Two words to the federal panel... (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859466)

Just because there ARE risks doesn't mean we shouldn't try to lower them. From an institutional point of view, deaths put any operation on hold longer than almost anything else. If you want to get there, make it safe; ain't nobody gonna go to space if dying has to actually be considered.

Re:Two words to the federal panel... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859502)

"ain't nobody gonna go to space if dying has to actually be considered."

The people who deserve to go will brave the risk and move things forward, no one else matters. So what if the timid don't go early?

Cowards can stay on the ground.

Re:Two words to the federal panel... (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859550)

I think we need to start thinning out the heard and I nominate you as the prime candidate.

Oh and can we start storing nuclear waste in your backyard. Why should the government have a monopoly on storing nuclear waste.

Jackass!

Hooray for stating the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859190)

You mean capitalists lie and cut safety features to make a profit? Marx had that figured out over a hundred and fifty years ago. It sounds as if the authors of this report have some experience living in a capitalist society and the working brains to observe it instead of believing what ads tell them to.

easy : Allow it for the private citizens (1)

funkman (13736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859252)

Allow licenses for trips into space for private citizens via private corporations. Those who can afford it would fund the cost to get it done. In the quest to standardize and get more travelers, the cost would go down. Possibly low enough to be cost effective that NASA would then transition to the best provider.

Space Privateers (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859326)

Privatizing the other aerospace operations of the government, mainly war, has become so economical and reliable that we now have $billions extra for space exploration. Aerospace contractor corporations like Lockheed Martin [google.com] and Boeing [google.com] never overcharge the government. Their aircraft are more reliable than the NASA vehicles that crash once or twice every several thousand launches at the cutting edge of engineering.

What could possibly go wrong?

The same Boeing that 'built' the border fence?? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859362)

Boeing also said that they could build a virtual fence on the Mexican border in 3 years and for $1Billion. 5+ years later, the $1 Billion is gone, the virtual fence covers 26 miles, and it doesn't work! Defense contractors need to be held to higher standards, and not granted any cost-plus contracts,

NASA clingeth mightily to its rice bowl... (2, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30859462)

NASA clingeth mightily to its rice bowl...

IMO it's time to offload manned missions and stick to actually _exploring_ space with probes and rovers and other remote-manned tech. Manned missions have created a burden that sucked other programs dry, but the lust of those who want to play in space can make commercial outfits viable.

We don't _need_ people in space before we perfect exploring it with the remote-controlled systems we absolutely require anyway to interact with an utterly hostile environment. Development cycles for remotely-manned vehicles can be much shorter (avoids the decades-long burden of old Shuttle tech) allowing "launch early, launch often".

Repeat after me for the Nth Time: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859464)

N.A.S.A. should continue with a professional launch company [energia.ru] .

Yours In Minsk,
K. Trout

most readers don't know this but (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859610)

this report is political trash. lies.

you'll have to spend many hours getting up to speed on this topic, but suffice it to say NASA employs 10,000 people just to screw in a light bulb, and the political clout acting to keep them happy and working is significant.

NASA is no better than private companies or other countries.

No change if LMco or Boeing build it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30859656)

How many people at NASA are not LMco or Boeing contractors already? Most of my friends at JSC in Houston are employed by one of these companies, under contract to NASA. You really think this is not already a joint effort?

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