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NASA To Propose Commercial Space Initiative

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the healthy-competition dept.

NASA 151

MarkWhittington writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that starting with the FY2011 budget request for NASA, the Obama administration intends to propose a new program to encourage the development of a commercial space flight industry. 'The controversial proposal, expected to be included in the Obama administration's next budget, would open a new chapter in the US space program. The goal is to set up a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying US astronauts into orbit—and eventually deeper into the solar system. Congress is likely to challenge the concept's safety and may balk at shifting dollars from existing National Aeronautics and Space Administration programs already hurting for funding to the new initiative. The White House's ultimate commitment to the initiative is murky, according to these people, because the budget isn't expected to outline a clear, long-term funding plan.'"

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151 comments

Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms! (2, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896872)

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars. What's next, private firms taking over the "service" of governing the country? Oh wait...

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (3, Insightful)

macintard (1270416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897068)

I make this post with the caveat that I usually fall more toward the left on the political spectrum. To me this seems like an area where the private sector could greatly assist this government program and possibly help reduce cost to the taxpayer. This also seems to comport with my belief that our President is really more of a middle of the road politician, as opposed to the "leftist" that we consistently hear. Let's give it a chance and see what happens.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (0, Troll)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897512)

First off, his actions speak louder than anything. He is a Marxist, in Moderartes clothing. Go look at the party platform of the United States Communist Party and compare it to what Obama is doing, they are one and the same. He likes to hide behind the people in Congress and let them take the heat but behind the scences via his advisors and even in person he fully supports what is happening. You can fool a lot of people once but you can't fool nearly as many twice.

If the market wants productst they'll buy it, we don't need Government "stimulus" to encourage them. Plus those "stimulus" contracts normally come with a lot of Government "red tape" which sucks 30-40% out for overhead. There is proof out there that the Government money is not vital as firms have done some great things with zero Government bucks (Spaceship 2).

Ferrying people to LEO or ISS is silly, by the time this stuff goes online ISS will be de-orbited. LEO hops to where, Space Dock?? Why should be go back to the Moon? Why, we've been there and know it pretty well, unless it's a long term presence it's wasted money. A better idea is funds to do some cool R&D like the Space Elevator or technology for a Misson to Mars. Warp Drive anyone? Or lets see if Quantam Entaglement might yield the equalivent of a Star Trek transporter.

Also consider that there are very few firms in the US who have the know-how to undertake such work, and they are the same ones who are working for NASA now. So the money goes to the same people, just from a different Government account.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (3, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899418)

LEO hops to where, Space Dock??

Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere.
Robert A. Heinlein

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (2, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901252)

Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere.

I'm guessing that GP's point is that our current space technologies are so awfully expensive that though technically we, as a society, can once in a lifetime do a stunt like trip to the Moon (or now Mars,) it has near-zero practical use.

It is my personal belief that we won't be flying to planets until we design a propulsion technology that is good enough for SSTO. Then it will be also good enough to move between orbits and land on planets and take off again. The current chemical rockets are not even close. Getting to the LEO is pointless if we have nowhere to go from there.

To offer an analogy, it is possible to cross the Atlantic ocean on a raft, or in a rubber boat - it had been done - but if Europeans were limited to those technologies we'd never see Americas.

IMO, the money should be spent primarily on fundamental science, and a smaller part of it - on good, complex robots that can be launched from time to time to other planets. We need to know how this Universe works. An antigravity-based propulsion [sciencedaily.com] would solve all our problems, for example. Teleportation or FTL would also come (or definitively not come) from the same pool of knowledge. I'd even settle on a Space Elevator that we will be able to put together out of new materials. We need to stop paddling our reed canoe across the Atlantic for a moment and instead think if there is a better way.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30900724)

I love it when people use words like "Marxist" without knowing what it means.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

LogicalError (1002490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901514)

Why do Americans (most? I don't know, that's my impression anyway) when they throw up socialism, communism, marxism and even with nazism, they usually seem to have absolutely no clue what they're talking about. Didn't they get this topic at school? (Horrible teachers?) Or is this is because of decades of anti-soviet propaganda? Not intended as flame bait, just honestly wondering why. disclaimer: I do not belong to any of the above political groups ;o)

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897102)

Yeah, given recent SCOTUS decisions, the government is now available to the highest bidder. Expect to see the power and privileges of multi-national corporations skyrocket, while the little guys get the shaft. I expect that Disney will buy up all our national parks. Everything will be privatized, and the uber-corps will make sure all public services are illegal. Private police forces, fire departments, roads: everything. And if you can't pay, don't expect help. Those who can't pay will be expected to starve to death, like stray dogs in the streets.

The funny thing is that some people on the right still think Obama is a socialist. He's the opposite of that. He's going to make sure health care reform dies a messy and painful death, and he's going to sell off the government to the highest bidders. He showed his real colors when he kowtowed to Wall Street.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897144)

I would love to see the world through you eye just for a day.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897218)

I would love to see the world through you eye just for a day.

No, you probably wouldn't.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901984)

If you saw the world through our eyes you'd probably commit suicide. It takes a special nerdy nutcase to see what we see and not off ourselves.

And I've been unfortunate enough to see some of it from the inside. Not pretty at all.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (4, Funny)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897296)

wow..thats all in this bill?

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897650)

No. That's all what I like to call 'encouraging a vigorous discussion,' but others usually refer to as 'trolling.'

Or, to put it another way, 'ha ha only serious.'

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899000)

The internet is, indeed, serious business.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (-1, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897320)

The "opposite" of Socialist? Who do you think you're kidding? Yourself maybe?

Government control of the financial industry: socialist.

Government control of "Health Care": socialist.

"Bailout" of the finance industry (not really the same thing as above): socialist. Even if it was started by the Republicans.

But really, while there are similarities, all these things are more fascist than socialist. Fascism as defined in the dictionary: "an unhealthy alliance between government and corporations."

To put it even more simply, there is no political left or right in this country anymore. They all want (and have pushed through) bigger government and more control. That is to say, "both sides" want more power over the people, and "both sides" have their hands in corporate pockets. They just tend to do it in somewhat different ways. The result: under Republicans we lose certain rights and privileges, under Democrats we lose other rights and privileges. Either way, we have been losing.

And really, it amounts to "both sides" bringing a kind of fascism, again just in somewhat different ways.

I put "both sides" in quotes because there really are more than just 2 options. Ron Paul would have had our economy working again by now. That is, if he could get any cooperation from Congress.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (0, Flamebait)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897628)

You answered your own question: Obama is more fascist than socialist. You want to see real socialism? Look at most of Europe. The EU is the biggest economy in the world. Get that? The biggest economy in the world runs under democratic socialism. You want to see real socialism here? Look at Dennis Kucinich. Not Obama.

But Ron Paul? He's an unrealistic idealist. His brand of libertarian deregulation amounts to handing the keys to the henhouse to the fox.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898466)

Yeah, given recent SCOTUS decisions, the government is now available to the highest bidder. Expect to see the power and privileges of multi-national corporations skyrocket, while the little guys get the shaft. I expect that Disney will buy up all our national parks. Everything will be privatized, and the uber-corps will make sure all public services are illegal. Private police forces, fire departments, roads: everything. And if you can't pay, don't expect help. Those who can't pay will be expected to starve to death, like stray dogs in the streets.

The funny thing is that some people on the right still think Obama is a socialist. He's the opposite of that. He's going to make sure health care reform dies a messy and painful death, and he's going to sell off the government to the highest bidders. He showed his real colors when he kowtowed to Wall Street.

Gawd I can't decide whether you missed out on the 60s or fully understand the separate but co-equal three branches of government where the US Congress just got told to get off it's collective ass and explicitly define language about Campaign reform if they truly want to be serious about it. They now have a shot at doing it correctly and not the bulls***, watered down crap called McCain/Feingold.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898630)

Yeah, well, after this, we will need a Constitutional amendment to keep money out of politics, and that's going to be a hard sell.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (2, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898560)

Yeah, given recent SCOTUS decisions, the government is now available to the highest bidder.

If the government wasn't so darn powerful then there wouldn't be as many or as high bids and yet the Libertarians here on Slashdot are always modded down for having the temerity to suggest that bigger government is not the answer. One cannot have lots of individual choice and freedom in a big government country; the desire to use the power of big government to limit choices, "manage" freedoms and control outcomes is simply too much for some to resist. The high-minded left often forgets or ignores the fact that not everyone is as altruistic or benevolent as they claim to be and that human nature absolutely will misuse the levers of power given the opportunity; so why magnify the damage by increasing the size and reach of those levers?

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898794)

As if government is the only source of power. Democratic government is a check on the power of powerful, nondemocratic groups. Just getting rid of government would allow the powerful to control everything. It would NOT magically balance a very unbalanced system. It would make things much worse.

Money is a VERY big lever of control. In fact, beyond a certain dollar amount, all money does is allow you to control others. The more money you have, the more power you have. The more power you have, the more money you can make. Money does not need to be funneled through government to be used to control others. If you are starving you aren't really free at all, and you can be controlled by anyone with a bite to eat. Without government, the powerless have NO recourse.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30900628)

Money is a source of power in this world that is true, but it is not the only one. The ultimate power is the power to destroy (which is also a power of the government via the military). Governments reserve both of these powers, the power to destroy and the power of money (the money supplies of the world are ultimately controlled by governments) onto themselves. However, please note that I did not say no government, but rather limited government...there is an important difference. It is wrong to frame the choice as, "big government OR no government whatsoever". The left often sets up that strawman; if you disagree with them then your position is exactly the opposite (whether it actually is or not). For recent example, anyone who disagreed with the proposed health care reform in the US was said, by the left, to be in favor of "let them die in the street"; as if that was the only possible alternative position. Getting back to the issue of big government, it is my own personal opinion that here in the US we are going too far in that direction: the bailouts, the stimulus, the health care bill, etc...(and that is not I think a minority sentiment). Big concentrations of power, particularly government power, attract those seeking to corrupt and direct those powers to their own best advantage (whether it is good for the nation or not). There is a balance to be struck, but that won't happen with a government takeover of the economy or sweeping government regulation. So perhaps now you can better understand my position with regard to limited government.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897150)

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars. What's next, private firms taking over the "service" of governing the country? Oh wait...

This one is the biggest one you've never heard of [serco.com] , operates in all western democracies, everything from prisons to nuclear weapons handling.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899546)

Please tell me, I mean whatthe? Dear sweet humanity, tell me that there isn't a single company with its hand monetarily so far up the govt's anus that they insinuate themselves at such crucial levels. This is some kind of joke, right? Have they slithered into the US system much? The level of profiteering on tax-payer dollars and the inherent feedback loop of control is staggering.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902266)

I'm not sure how far into the US system they are but this documentary [abc.net.au] might give you some idea.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30897152)

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars. What's next, private firms taking over the "service" of governing the country? Oh wait...

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars. What's next, private firms taking over the "service" of governing the country? Oh wait...

Yes! I like that. I can run this for hundreds of billions of dollars less than what the current Government charges! Imagine you just paying hundreds of dollars a year in income taxes! That's right! For just a dollar a day, you will have a Federal Government! Act Now!

Some restrictions may apply.

National Defense, Homeland Security, Aid to poor people are extra. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, will be canceled. Basically we'll take the money and run.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (4, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897574)

National Defense, Homeland Security, Aid to poor people are extra. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, will be canceled.

Sounds good to me. National defense should be provided primarily by the second amendment (the unorganized militia), with the state national guard forces (the organized militia) providing the framework and the sorts of expensive, high-tech weaponry that the people can't afford. The feds should provide a navy, per the constitution. An air force is debatable; it could be provided at either the state or federal level. The federal government is not supposed to maintain a standing army, only to create one when needed -- and if we'd stop trying to impose our will all over the world, we wouldn't need one very often. National defense should be national defense, meaning defending against incursions by foreign forces, not running around invading other countries.

As for the rest, the federal government has no business being involved in any of them. There is no constitutional basis for any of them (yeah, yeah "General Welfare Clause" -- that's been stretched even worse than the Commerce Clause). Those issues should be handled at the state level.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897330)

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars. What's next, private firms taking over the "service" of governing the country? Oh wait...

Then start voting for politicians that are actually interested in funding it. [american3p.org]

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897470)

Actually I would be all for it, to have competing governments in a country. Instead of the monopoly that it is now.
Then again, a “free” market never stays free, because freedom includes the freedom to stop it from being free... or not a monopoly. (And because the “free market” is essentially the law of the jungle. As opposed to democracy.)

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

SixAndFiftyThree (1020048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898246)

Actually I would be all for it, to have competing governments in a country.

It's not impossible. I even have an idea for how it might be done. Divide the country into thirteen geographic regions. (That would be for small countries; larger ones could go to as many as 50 regions.) Give each region its own capital city and allow the people who live in the region to elect a smallish government, which would have power over that region only. Maybe even allow these governments to send specially chosen officials to advise the national government, but no more than two per region, to avoid crowding. Lay down rules for what the national government can and can't force the regional governments to do. And (here's the kicker) forbid the regional governments to impose their own controls on immigration or emigration, so that anyone who didn't like the government in their region could transfer to one where they did like the government.

Pretty soon, some regions would have larger populations and their governments would have more money. Kinda like businesses that have developed a better product or service. Nifty, eh?

Now for the bad news: this has beep-all to do with NASA, and I'm sure someone will explain why it has no chance of working in real life.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

jimrthy (893116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899026)

That's pretty much been tried already. It's this little country called the United States. The national government promptly forgot completely about that whole set of rules that tells them what they can and can't do. :(

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899582)

*WHOOSH*

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

jimrthy (893116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30900034)

Yep. Hook, line, and sinker.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897510)

You know there are some things that Private Companies can do better then the government. Some things the government can do better. And then there are things that companies can do well with the correct regulations.

For some things the government does creates a lot of red-tape and a lot of trying to please the right person and a lot of compromises in order to get everyone happy or at least equally unhappy. Companies have a more direct approach to this, less politics and more getting the job done. So they can make a profit and complete the project under budget.

However... Private firms are focused a lot of keeping profits high and costs low, which could effect quality. For that case you will need government control or at least regulations/oversight to make sure that nothing critical is being cut or skimped on.

Then there are other tasks such as maintenance wich has a defined job this can run will with government control such as Trash,Water, Sewer etc...

So it is really the right organization for the right job. I personally hate the Politics of saying X is better then Y... It is about getting the right balance.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (2)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897692)

Not many commenters here seem to realize this, but private firms already handle space launches for the DOD and NRO, as well as all of NASA's unmanned science missions. This has been working well. The only new thing about the recent proposals is to have these same private launchers place people in orbit as well.

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (3, Funny)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898828)

This is just another step in the hollowing out of the state. Private firms already fight our wars.

And before you know it, we'll have private companies paving our roads, building our courthouses, driving our ambulances, uniforming our police, everything!

And they will be competing with each other to do this! It will be chaos!

Re:Gee, let's outsource governing to private firms (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899654)

And before you know it, we'll have private companies paving our roads, building our courthouses, driving our ambulances, uniforming our police, everything!

So you missed the bit about it being devil's advocate and such, interesting.

You may have also missed that paving our roads, building our courthouses and uniforming our police our not crucial tasks in servicing a community. Somewhat important in a voter way, but less than important in a real way. Bad roads, inadequate courthouse shacks and old uniforms are not the stuff of a crumbling government. On the other hand ambulances are very important and hence are usually contracted out to several companies within a municipality in order to spread the pain. Often contracted by the various hospitals and only licensed by the appropriate government agency. But then again that would be beneficent govt intrusion into civilian life, both by increasing customer service and ensuring that the private agencies have the necessary training, certification and infrastructure to handle public emergencies.

just let them do it? (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896878)

how about you just let private enterprise go to space or not, and just get out of their way? government $ is the last thing we need to give the private sector at this point.

Re:just let them do it? (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897074)

Yeah, as can be seen with the horrid, corrupt mess that constitutes the defense-contracting business, this approach gets you the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, you have no real market forces, because everything is funded by guaranteed government dollars--- in most cases, even cost overruns above the original contract amount get charged directly back to the government, not eaten by the company that generated the overruns, so there's no incentive not to generate them. On the other hand, you have none of the transparency and oversight that at least nominally you can get with government-run things; e.g. FOIA requests do not apply.

If the private sector wants to go to space, let the private sector go to space. If the government wants to go to space, let it go to space. But the government paying for the private sector to go to space makes no sense.

Re:just let them do it? (3, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897710)

Except that NASA's current modus operandi is already what DOD does. Apollo and STS were built by private contractors under cost-plus contracts, same as defense systems are.

When you hear 'commercial space' interpret it as 'fixed-price contracts.' Its not new in the fact that its giving money to private companies to do things the government wants, its new in saying "we'll pay you this much to do (blank)" instead of asking "how much can you do this for, and oh yeah, if you run over, we'll help cover that too."

Cost-plus has its place, in high-risk situations where final cost may be highly variable. However, getting to LEO has been done over and over again, so fixed-price makes much more sense, and will ultimately save money.

It's a good idea. (2, Informative)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898420)

My company has had a lot of trouble convincing our government clients to go with fixed firm pricing. Ultimately, it comes down to control. They like cost plus because it keeps them in charge, they continually approve additional work and ask for things to be redone particular way, and if it costs more it costs more. With fixed firm, they can't really micro-manage us because we will come back and say that it's not what were planning on doing and we can't afford to change it under the fixed firm price.

There's also the perception that companies can make a lot more profit on fixed firm (which is true, but the risk of losing money is greater also).

I think fixed firm is a better way to go for everyone involved, so it will be neat to see if this works out. On the other hand, I am skeptical that it will pass congress for the reasons I've mentioned above.

A lot of people seem to think that this will lead to corporate profit-taking, or that it will lead to less accountability for government contractors. That is simply not true, since the companies operating under such a contract are required to deliver. Companies failing to perform are still legally required to meet their obligations, so poor decision making would lead to bankruptcy. Likewise, there is a huge incentive to try to lower costs, because any cost savings will be profit at the end of the contract.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898586)

Paying the private sector to put things/people into space can make sense. It's like any other payed service, and could save money. Paying the private sector to become a space agency makes no sense and seems like defense contractors at their worst.

On one hand you pay a company for a service that they can compete freely on, on the other hand you pay a company to be a service where they have no competition. Seeing how this is Washington we are talking about, they are probably going to pay companies a lot of money and have nothing in return, then blame the private sector for the failure.

Re:just let them do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30900808)

But the government paying for the private sector to go to space makes no sense.

The government can't get to space efficiently. If it could, it wouldn't need contractors. They (NASA) have shed their engineers for managers since the space race ended. (Budget goes down, who do the managers cut? The non-managers, of course.)

Boeing and some other aerospace contractors have the same problem now (in some areas). They cut their low-level technical expertise and held onto some key systems folks to become "systems integrators." They are no longer vertically integrated. They buy all of the parts from other companies, and assemble them into a system, with the subcontractors' help.

NASA doesn't even do that. Their technical staff are scientists, who work to answer questions, not design spaceships. (There are exceptions of course...)

Re:just let them do it? (4, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897314)

Fine. Let them do it with their own astronauts, and with their own money. Nothing's stopping them.

What troubles me is when we decide to throw away a nearly 50 year tradition of manned space excellence with a better than average track record and replace it with contracts to commercial space companies who have been making more promises than results for the past 25 years.

Only Orbital and SpaceX have made it past the "Step 2" phase, and they both had to learn the hard way that the space biz is exceptionally technically challenging and extremely risky, both technically and financially.

When there's a real financial incentive to be in space (e.g., mineral rich asteroids or selling water on the moon) then for-profit companies will succeed. Until then, they're just a vehicle to privatize what is otherwise be a government research function.

I be educated... (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897358)

what is otherwise be a government research function

Correction: what should otherwise be a government research function.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897364)

Nonsense. Commercial, or at least semi-private space operations have been putting satellites in orbit for years now. And there is a profit in it.

Admittedly, there is a difference between putting a satellite in orbit and putting a man on the space station or the moon. But progress is being made.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897698)

or at least semi-private... there is a difference between putting a satellite in orbit and putting a man on the space station

It appears that you at least suspect you know what I meant.

Yes, lots of for-profit companies are successful at taking technology developed under government sponsorship and applying it to launching comm satellites or conducting the operations of government owned systems.

But what we're talking about now is letting these companies manage the development. Development of systems where prioritizing management needs over engineering advice [wikipedia.org] will sooner or later have disastrous [wikipedia.org] results [wikipedia.org] .

Pardon me if I don't have much confidence in the outcome.

Re:just let them do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30899566)

Um, all of those links are about problems with a government program. Are you trying to imply that those types of problems will be even worse with less bureaucracy?

I'll pardon you, if you'll pardon my corresponding skepticism about government-run projects. Or any large organization that starts to ossify, for that matter. The main difference I see is that ossifying private companies generally have a decent chance of dying off (if left without government intervention, go ahead an laugh about the chances for that happening these days).

Re:just let them do it? (4, Interesting)

Necron69 (35644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897806)

You do realize that virtual everyone with experience in developing a working launch vehicle at NASA retired years ago? Your 50 year legacy is dust or in the nursing home.

SpaceX has at least built a rocket that flies and is more than vaporware. Better yet, they did it with ZERO taxpayer dollars, and no government bureaucracy.

What the New Space industry needs right now is more customers, and for that, the gov't is perfect to help jump start the market.

Necron69

Re:just let them do it? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901498)

I was very impressed when SpaceX invented the turbopump. Oh, wait a second...

Re:just let them do it? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897938)

I think you should try launch something into space and then come back and tell me nothing was stopping you. the level of red tape involved would be astronomical.

Obligatory Von Braun quote (1)

ComputerInsultant (722520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898894)

“We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” - Wernher von Braun

Re:just let them do it? (1, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898660)

Until then, they're just a vehicle to privatize what is otherwise be a government research function.

Which raises the question: "What more is there to learned about manned space flight given our current limitations"? After all, you can only do the "study of weightlessness on human body" experiments so many times before nothing new or useful is learned by additional repetitions. Personally, I feel that we should shelve manned space flight, or at least place it on the back burner, until we have substantially better propulsion systems (aka interstellar drives) and somewhere interesting to go. As you have already stated, there are few compelling reasons (other than national pride or prestige) for continuing manned space flight at this time. If there were, then private companies would do it, provided that they could earn profits; except right now they really cannot earn much (if any) profit, with the possible exception of government contracts, with manned space flights.

Re:just let them do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898934)

After all, you can only do the "study of weightlessness on human body" experiments so many times before nothing new or useful is learned by additional repetitions.

Especially if...

Personally, I feel that we should shelve manned space flight, or at least place it on the back burner, until we have substantially better propulsion systems (aka interstellar drives) and somewhere interesting to go.

You're begging the question. If you don't think Mars, or the Moon, are interesting places to go, there's no need to study the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Unfortunately, the other side's also begging the question: if you can convince Congressmen that someone is going to Mars, you can get boatloads of grant money for "studying the effects of weightlnessness on the human body" even though it never happens.

The situation with manned interplanetary spaceflight is sorta like fusion power is always 30 years away. "Mars or bust" is hard enough; if it's Alpha Centauri or bust, nobody will never get there.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897366)

how about you just let private enterprise go to space or not, and just get out of their way? government $ is the last thing we need to give the private sector at this point.

Back in the late 80s, Reagan was pushing to get private industry up into space. A company called Space Industries Inc. put together a proposal to build a "private" space station in orbit and Reagan tried to force NASA to lease it for $700 million/5 years. In 1989, the recently retired NASA administrator opposed the program, a senior VP from Raytheon led a panel that concluded the private station was a bad idea, and ultimately Bush Sr. let it die.

I only give you this abbreviated story in order to show that private industry has been chasing government dollars to get into space over at least the last 30 years. Even the current "private" space-industrial complex would fall to pieces if the gov't stopped giving them money.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897500)

The FAA Office of Commercial Space (AST -- I don't understand their abbreviation scheme) is doing a good job of creating a regulatory environment that 'gets out of the way' as much as is responsible. The people working there are sharp minds and have their hearts in the right place, so I think this is a good sign.

However, I think there is a place for government involvement here as well. Don't forget that in the early days of aviation, startups got a big boost from the US Postal Service. The guaranteed market (not necessarily guaranteed contracts for a specific company) made it easier to justify a business case and get things off the ground. It was a chicken-and-egg problem, so guaranteed government contracts helped kick-start the process.

In this case, the government has a need for transportation to LEO (Ares 1 is in serious trouble), and ISS ferry service contracts are exactly the kind of thing these companies need to get off the ground. Despite right-wing rhetoric, the government is not always bad, and this is a case where they can help facilitate developing a market.

Re:just let them do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898370)

"government $ is the last thing we need to give the private sector at this point."

Agreed, but the private sector seems unable to survive without government $.

Re:just let them do it? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901272)

Exactly how is government in the way?

I don't exactly see private industry falling over themselves to get into space. (Not silly "space tourism" schemes, serious economically self-sustaining space travel.) And why should they? We're talking billions of dollars up front with no return for many, many years.

Government can help private ventures by providing incentives. That's how the transcontinental railroad got built [wikipedia.org] .

The choice isn't simply between unchecked government [systocracy.com] and unchecked business [al.com] ; both are recipes for disaster. True believers on both sides will often tell you otherwise, of course.

that's bogus (1, Insightful)

swschrad (312009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896888)

you don't have enough cash in the till to run NASA now, and there's going to be more shrinkage to give to private contractors? that's not change, that's more of the same!

Re:that's bogus (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897568)

The idea is that using fixed-price contracts (what this is actually referring to, s/c have always been built by contractors) will replace the need to build expensive vehicles like Ares 1, and ultimately leave more money for exploration.

Whether it actually happens is up for debate -- however, the concept is one of saving money.

Re:that's bogus (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899744)

Aries 1. Is already in process. Which is to say that they are testing to build the thing. If I recall correctly they are firing the test vehicle either this year or next. NASA is currently working at breakneck speed and cut-rate costs. They planning on firing a human with an Aries I by 2015. There is not a contractor available that can work on the scale and scope of the Constellation (Aries I & V) which will be the biggest lift system ever made (outdoing the Saturn V.)

Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (3, Interesting)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896974)

Gee - this is encouraging. Just a week ago, an expert panel warned NASA not to outsource manned space to commercial entities. [wsj.com]

Clearly, this panel was stacked with government bureaucrats, obviously biased against upstanding American businesses. The fact that commercial space has been 90% vaporware for the past three decades had nothing to do with it. And God forbid anyone suggest that for-profit organizations would cut corners for the sake of making more money.

And certainly corporate capture of NASA had nothing to do with today's announcement. Perish the thought.
 
/sarcasm

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897368)

Commercial space is 90% vaporware? You realize, of course, that almost all launches in the USA are commercial? Huge swaths of NASA's operations are already contracted out to private firms.

I don't know whether commercial is fully up to the challenge of what NASA wants, and maybe there'll have to be some form of technology transfer... but NASA has been running low-earth orbit operations for decades. Maybe it's time to admit that LEO isn't actually that hard, and fully commoditise that traffic. Let NASA refocus its efforts further out.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897572)

To clarify the statement you are quoting: commercial space =/= government contract space

Of the launch vehicles that are currently operating, only the Pegasus, Taurus and Falcon aren't built using motors designed under contract to (i.e. using the money of) either NASA or the DoD.

Not that lots of people haven't tried. But only Elias and Musk have met with any measurable success.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (2, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898802)

So? What's the problem with using motors designed originally under contract for the government? It's great that SpaceX have accomplished what they did, but would the expertise and knowledge that they relied upon exist, had the government not contracted for the development of rockets like Titan and Atlas?

The government is one of the biggest customers, and one of the few organizations able to front the enormous R&D cost of such items. But now that the R&D has been done, let the commercial sector do the boring work and let NASA start looking at grander ventures.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898914)

The point that you seemed to have missed is that "private" space companies aren't so "private". Nobody said anything was "wrong" about it, except that it's wrong to use "privacy" as a reason to support one method of production over another. They are not different, when they are in fact the same.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897540)

The fact that commercial space has been 90% vaporware for the past three decades had nothing to do with it. And God forbid anyone suggest that for-profit organizations would cut corners for the sake of making more money.

Commercial space is vaporware? During the past decade or so the DOD, NRO, and unmanned NASA missions have all been exclusively getting to orbit on commercial launchers. All those organizations seem to be perfectly happy using commercial vehicles for billion-plus dollar spacecraft. It's only manned NASA missions which are still being operated largely in-house.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897636)

Actually it is encouraging. And actually, the panel was stacked with long-time NASA contractors who benefit from the current cost-plus contracting methods. And corporate interests and petty politics already dominate NASA -- Ares 1 isn't being kept alive for its technical merits, its because ATK and the senators from Alabama are fighting hard to keep it alive.

As far as vaporware, though I must admit I can be a little optimistic about companies like SpaceX, I'd point out that NASA has become a master of vaporware, and hasn't managed to develop a new launch vehicle since the space shuttle.

Re:Last week NASA was urged not to outsource... (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897886)

NASA was urged not to outsource manned space... by "[a] key U.S. federal aerospace panel"? You don't say.

Almost anything's better than how we do it now (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896988)

How many shuttle successors have come and gone? And the whole Aeres thing looks like it's fixing to be another clusterfuck.

It seems like the current government agency/government contractor model of development and procurement is broken. The same boondoggles we see in the military are repeated pretty much across the board. I know they say not to ascribe to malice what can best be described by incompetence but it seems like there's usually malice and greed at work here. The government will sign a very lucrative contract with a company that will then have massive cost overruns, fail to deliver on time and thus draw even more funds to eventually deliver a poorly-designed piece of shit that cannot do what was requested of it.

Sometimes you can blame the government for screwing things up. The shuttle was promised to do too many things for too many people and the engineers were left with trying to make the best compromise they could. That was the government's bad. And the whole Ares bit, that sounds like a government bad, too. NASA got all turned on by the idea of reusing shuttle tech and saving bundles on false economies and it was the contractor's fault for not disabusing them of this notion. Engineers both at NASA and the contractor probably knew better but management would have been unwilling to listen, obviously, or else we wouldn't be in the situation we are now.

The thing that really kills me is the contractor's motivation as a business is maximizing revenue from the contracts and thus maximizing profits. It's not in their interest to be on-time and on-budget. And it's also not in their own interest to offer cheaper, better solutions. So we get this perpetual game where they promise the moon for low prices and NASA pretends to believe them and the costs spiral and until projects are canceled. I would see that as a complete failure but the business would regard that failure as a profitable venture and thus a success. Therefore, there's no incentive for them to do things any differently!!! Argh.

Re:Almost anything's better than how we do it now (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897612)

The thing that really kills me is the contractor's motivation as a business is maximizing revenue from the contracts and thus maximizing profits. It's not in their interest to be on-time and on-budget. And it's also not in their own interest to offer cheaper, better solutions. So we get this perpetual game where they promise the moon for low prices and NASA pretends to believe them and the costs spiral and until projects are canceled.

A large part of point of going commercial is that you use competitive fixed-price contracts instead of the cost-plus contracts typically used by NASA. With cost-plus, if your sole contractor goes over-budget, you just have to pay them more money as long as they fill out the proper paperwork. With fixed-price with multiple competitors, if a contractor goes over-budget they have to either eat the cost, or you cancel the contract and buy launch services from their competitor instead. This is pretty revolutionary for NASA, but opposed by many in Congress because payment is based on performance, rather than what congressional district a company has their employees in.

Re:Almost anything's better than how we do it now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30897662)

Your first statement raises a good point. Every time there is a change in power at the White House or in Congress, NASA is given new guidelines on what are and how to pursue long term goals. So while there have been plenty of bad decisions made, look at where these decisions were made - more often than not they're made at the congressional level, not within NASA. These short term goal changes not only hurts the manned space flight program, but all R&D done by NASA.

Re:Almost anything's better than how we do it now (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898786)

All the more reason, IMHO, to cut the budget for manned space flight and spend the money elsewhere in the Federal government or, gasp, return it to the taxpayers from whom we took it in the first place. I don't think that its too controversial to say that manned space flight is the highest cost and lowest value program that NASA is currently involved with. The International Space Station has become little more than an orbiting hotel for bored billionaires subsidized by ordinary taxpayers. There are virtually no experiments worth doing, at least as far as I am aware, that couldn't be done both better and more cheaply here on the ground.

Bureaucracy Fail (0, Troll)

Plugh (27537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30896990)

Government programs don't "encourage" free enterprise. At best, they steal from some people who would not have spent it The Right Way and give the money to the wonderful people who will use it the way the Bureaucracy feels is Much Better.

The way to actually encourage free enterprise, is to stop threatening violence against the people who practice it.

Stop stealing their money. End the "license raj". Let the people do business with anyone who will freely trade with them -- whether or not they have a government-granted "permit". Let the people do whatever they want on and with their own private property, as long as they're not harming anybody else.

Of course, all that will never happen. Not unless people who feel the same way concentrate their efforts in one place. Fortunately... we already are. See my sig

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897022)

Government programs don't "encourage" free enterprise. At best, they steal from some people who would not have spent it The Right Way and give the money to the wonderful people who will use it the way the Bureaucracy feels is Much Better.

The way to actually encourage free enterprise, is to stop threatening violence against the people who practice it.

I don't know of any aerospace engineering collectives out there, buddy. Last I checked, all the aerospace companies were firmly in the military-industrial complex which enjoys that nice, tight, cozy relationship with government. But don't worry, I'm sure the CEO's of those companies will promise you they are defenders of the free market.

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (0, Troll)

Plugh (27537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897230)

I'm sure the CEO's of those companies will promise you they are defenders of the free market.

A corporation is distinct from a business. The former are granted limited liability -- by the government -- in return for being the government's bitch. It is often the case that the people employed by that government-created entity do not make the mental connection between their enterprise and government-controlled, inherently non-free, enterprise.

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897286)

Maybe it would be more to the point to turn the space program back over to the DoD. As nearly as I can tell, they're the only ones who still have the kind of budget to finance that kind of thing. I'm all for the private sector, but the problem with that is that the private sector needs to make money, and space travel isn't likely to be profitable for a long, long time. Unless NASA is going to be the customer for those services, relying on the private sector is essentially saying, "fuggedaboutit, kid".

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897422)

Hmmm. You mean except for Scaled Composites and SpaceX and those other wholly-private enterprises that have been winning awards lately by doing things the big boys couldn't?

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898346)

Hmmm. You mean except for Scaled Composites and SpaceX

And how many vehicles have these guys put into orbit? I'm counting...two. 1 dummy payload, and a Malaysian sat.
Not saying that these guys have not done an outstanding job, but lets be careful about giving kudos for awards that repeat 40-50 year old achievements.

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898540)

I'm pretty sure Boeing makes most of their money selling commercial air liners. Just sayin.

Re:Bureaucracy Fail (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898402)

End the "license raj". Let the people do business with anyone who will freely trade with them -- whether or not they have a government-granted "permit".

I hear Iran and N. Korea are looking to buy some aluminum tubes [wikipedia.org] .
Or is that not what you meant by "freely trade"?

The right way (2, Insightful)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897004)

to go about it. Commercialising helps to drive costs down, as an goverment program, being the only one capable to do, without a drive to use commercial sector for it's operations, NASA is inherently flawed: No ultimate, inherent need to drive costs down. Businesses survive only by driving costs down, and down, further down. Businesses have to get their base cost down in order to be profitable, in order to survive.

Yes, definitely businesses will cut corners etc, but not at the expense of human lifes, as that would mean end of business for them. Space endeavours are really tight on safety, and despite a company being able to do way cheaper than anyone, if it's not safe, they will not gather good business.

Re:The right way (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897138)

Businesses in the private sector, selling actual products or services to actual end users, do indeed have incentives to drive costs down. But businesses contracting for the government do not, as can be seen by the money-pit that constitutes the defense-contracting business.

In fact, the opposite is true: businesses contracting for the government have a strong profit incentive to drive costs up.

Re:The right way (1)

assemblyronin (1719578) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897374)

In fact, the opposite is true: businesses contracting for the government have a strong profit incentive to drive costs up.

This is the truth. They'll get a cost plus contract and then throw as many fresh out of college graduates at the program to charge as many hours as possible. Quality doesn't go up at all, but the bill to the government does.

Re:The right way (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897664)

Businesses in the private sector, selling actual products or services to actual end users, do indeed have incentives to drive costs down. But businesses contracting for the government do not, as can be seen by the money-pit that constitutes the defense-contracting business.

In fact, the opposite is true: businesses contracting for the government have a strong profit incentive to drive costs up.

I think what you actually mean is "businesses selling actual products or services at a fixed-price to end users have incentives to drive costs down, but businesses performing cost-plus contracts for the government do not." A large part of the commercial spaceflight push is to use fixed-price contracts with multiple competitors instead of the sole-source cost-plus contracts typically used by the government. If one of the companies drives costs up, they have to either eat the extra cost themselves or lose their business to one of their competitors.

Re:The right way (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30897260)

PRICE is not same as COST.

Let's give a real-world example that's had time to play out. In California Proposition 13 was supposed to benefit renters because it would drive taxes down, and with lower property taxes well OF COURSE the landlords would pass this savings on to the customers. A lower COST would naturally result in lower PRICE right? BZZZT wrong the landlords pocketed the difference and kept rents aligned as always with incomes and WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR.

Also I recall this ame argument about the inherent self-interest in long-term profits would make for perfect financial markets. Didn't work out so well did it? Even Alan Greenspan had to admit in front of Congress that his "model was flawed" when it came to just the natural tendency of businessmen to build in quality. They in fact cut corners here and there, and over there.... until kaboom. The tendency in self-regulation of a market that is stable for a while is like the people on the top floor a building stealing wood from downstairs to burn in their fireplace. It works fine right up until the building collapses.

Re:The right way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30897340)

"Yes, definitely businesses will cut corners etc, but not at the expense of human lives"

The US healthcare system demonstrates otherwise.

Re:The right way (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899946)

Corners are not cut to the quick in the healthcare industry because of lawsuit pressure. Except that current experience has taught us that when such pressures aren't relieved by anti-malpractice legislation. Which hasn't actually affected any real change in consumer prices in the states that it has been implemented. The rule is that profit is downwardly inflexible.

That abbreviates to... (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897436)

Commercial Space Initiative abbreviates to CSI. Must... resist... urge to... make... a one-liner...


Okay. Urge suppressed. Well, back to topic. I think that when NASA goes commercial, average people will finally have enough... space.

Yeeeeeeeeeah!

Damn!

Just do it! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30897442)

I say let private companies explore space. Just make sure they get punished for leaving junk in earth orbit, or things will get messy(er) quick. Give them some approved launch lanes so their flops fall in the drink and not on some lawyer's condo.

And safety? Did the Wright brothers have a safety net? Screw safety. We sit around being "safe" way too much. With Earth rapidly turning into a big Easter Island we better get established in space. It's not going to be easy. People are going to die doing it. It needs to be done.

Re:Just do it! (1)

EmperorKagato (689705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897668)

+5 Renegade awarded.

Vehicle in development for commercial space flight (1)

spankey51 (804888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897524)

It's been mentioned on /. before, but worth mentioning in this context: A UK company called Reaction Engines Limited is developing a reusable single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spacecraft. It is intended for exactly what NASA wants: Commercialized operations with rapid 2-3 day turnaround times and a high degree of reliability when compared to something like the STS space shuttle. It uses a very interesting hybrid rocket engine that is capable of breathing air up to 26-ish kilometers and a speed of mach 5.5 before switching to an on-board O2 supply for the orbital insertion. Reaction Engines Limited has been working on the design for over 20 years, and the design is basically a modern rework of an older design called HOTOL from the 60's. If anyone has $10 Billion, I'd highly recommend giving it all to these friendly people: http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/skylon_overview.html [reactionengines.co.uk]

Noble Pursuits (4, Insightful)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897776)

I hope my American friends don't take this out of context but I really hope that one day the people of America regain control of their country from the vested interests that are controlling it.

What seems to be the state of the union at the moment is a parody of the original goals set down as the purpose of America for American people and indeed all freedom loving people. I don't mean a hippy commune where we all hold hands and sing kom-by-yah but real freedom as opposed to the image of freedom, real democracy instead of the lobbying for vested interests that occurs today and real capitalism instead of the propping up of the "Too big to fail"s. Somehow the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness has been converted to the pursuit of wealth because money must mean all those things, right?

I don't see it as a political issue anymore more but a series of structural issues designed to deceive and contrived to limit choices. Even Benjamin Franklin said the constitution, as it was framed, would not stop the U.S being a victim of despotism. Perhaps it's a day when Americans accept discomfort for things that are important and real. Noble pursuits.

I hope you don't think I'm a troll, because I'm sincere about missing the nice America who used to be a champion of freedom. It will be a truly awesome and frightening thing to watch a people finally regain control of their country.

Re:Noble Pursuits (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898876)

There is a core group of Americans who are all about "getting back basics" or restoring America to the "original formula"; we are called libertarians. Unfortunately, as you have already stated, most of our neighbors are more concerned about what goods or services the government can offer to them gratis or how the power of government can be used to enforce morality than they are about true freedom as the founding fathers envisioned it. They would rather "get theirs" (never mind how) than be free; sad but true.

Re:Noble Pursuits (1)

futuretechnology (1729752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899144)

I think it's a practical decision. I just read yesterday that because of financial difficulties NASA has to sell off some of its older Space Shuttles. Without private financing in the future there may be no NASA program to speak of.

If done right, this is ideal (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30897902)

For far too long, the West (esp. America) starts projects and then does not finish them; Too expensive, when the simple truth is, the next party does not have the fortitude to follow the vision. Clinton killed the Super Collider as well as the IFR. Both were short times away from being done. He started the X-33 as test craft to replace the shuttle. When it was headed towards testing, W/neo-cons killed it. Worse, when DOD BEGGED for multiple years to have the X-33, W/neo-con had the craft destroyed. So then, W starts a new program (constellation), but severely underfunded. In fact, all of the real money was pushed to be done NOW (which we can not really afford).
HOWEVER, if Obama gives the push for MULTIPLE LVs, a private space station, and ideally a tug/fuel depot, then we will see private space take over. Once the corps are making money on the private space station, they will certainly push for the moon. In fact, if done right, we could be back on the moon by 2017. Of course, that depends on BA going back to their old schedule (starting space station by 2011), rather than the new schedule (2014).

Re:If done right, this is ideal (1)

zifferent (656342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30900488)

An interesting an thoughtful take on the situation. Is this really Slashdot? Obviously, you are an outsider to the US and its space policy, or you would have nonsensical version of the current NASA. For those uninformed, NASA's budget has been cut beyond the quick and the unstaunched bleeding while crusting over is in the continual process of the scab being picked over and over again. As several admissions have substantiised NASA just needs to get beyond the political football and create something of value, and build upon that legacy.

Soon, none of this will matter (1)

rebelscience (1717928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898572)

There are excellent reasons to believe that having a correct foundational model of movement will unleash an age of free energy and extremely fast transportation. It will be an age where vehicles have no need of wheels, move silently at enormous speeds with no visible means of propulsion and negotiate right-angle turns without slowing down. An analysis of the causality of motion leads to the conclusion that we are immersed in an immense lattice of energetic particles. Soon, we will develop technologies to tap into this energy for propulsion and energy production. Placing satellites in orbit will be a thing of the past because we'll build legions of self-propelling vehicles that can maintain a fixed (or changing) position relative to the surface of the earth without having to be in orbit. Floating sky cities, New York to Beijing in minutes, Earth to Mars in hours. That's the future of energy and travel.

Physics: The Problem with Motion [blogspot.com]

This story has it wrong (1)

j0hnyquest (1571815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30899772)

This isn't a new initiative... NASA has been working with about 20 private organizations to promote private spaceflight for years.

Why so negative? (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30901040)

Not sure why all the negative responses. A great deal of space research is already private or semi private. University groups send up small satellites on refitted ICBMs, european rockets, whatever. SpaceX has a decent program, spaceship 2 is on the way. Given the way Ares is shaping up, I'd rather fly on something built by private industry. I know we're all space fans, but beyond the Air Force space program, which is clearly for defense, there is no reason for spaceflight to be a federal program. There is absolutely no reason for it to be a monopoly. Another side of this is that competition essentially multiplies investment. If I want to develop a rocket, I have to spend X dollars. If I say everyone who develops a rocket that does this gets Y dollars, I get a number of people Z each spending X dollars. As long as Z*X > Y, I got some free research. That's how the X-prize worked, and it turned out well. You all fly on EADS (Airbus) and Boeing products, Boeing and Lockheed martin are private and develop our military aircraft, private industry is really good at this stuff.
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