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Atlantis Blasts Off On Final Mission

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the to-boldly-go dept.

NASA 143

shuz writes "Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off today on its STS-132 mission to the International Space Station — the final flight for the venerable vehicle. The mission involves three spacewalks over 12 days (PDF), during which the team will replace six batteries on the port truss which store energy from solar panels on that truss, bolt on a spare space-to-ground Ku-band antenna, and attach a new tool platform to Canada's Dextre robotic arm." NASA has video of the historic launch and reader janek78 adds this quote from the mission summary: "Atlantis lifted off on its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985, on mission 51-J. Later missions included the launch of the Magellan probe to Venus on STS-30 in May 1989, Galileo interplanetary probe to Jupiter on STS-34 in October 1989, the first shuttle docking to the Mir Space Station on STS-71 in June1995, and the final Hubble servicing mission on STS-125 in May 2009."

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And one to go (1)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212430)

Well that means only one liftoff left to go. Sad day.

Re:And one to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212500)

Unless something bad happens to Atlantis and they need to launch a rescue shuttle, so there's still hope.

Re:And one to go (3, Insightful)

Admodieus (918728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212514)

I love the shuttle program, but I would never wish something to go wrong on a mission just so they can launch another shuttle.

Re:And one to go (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212720)

Tasteless bitch.

Re:And one to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213398)

It surprised me, too. But after reading it, I was perplexed. Where have I heard that comment before?

Oh, right:
"Unless something bad happens to the country and we can elect a new president, so there's still hope."

We've all heard that line. Even those of us who voted the losing party are disgusted by it.

I don't think this is a tasteless comment. I think this is the mindset of a tasteless person.

Re:And one to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213662)

It's dark humor, get over with it.

Re:And one to go (1)

CasualFriday (1804992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212520)

HAH, speak for yourself sir. I live in Titusville, FL, right across the river from the launchpad and the prime spot for watching each launch. The population is 40,000+, but there were literally hundreds of thousands of people here. Jerk tourists that leave Capri Sun and Little Debbie wrappers all over our river. It's not that bad that they're retiring the shuttle; it's running on 1980's technology, for God's sake.

Re:And one to go (5, Informative)

sh00z (206503) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212538)

Uh, actually two more [nasa.gov]

Re:And one to go (1)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212616)

Oh, my bad, I was under the impression that the delayed one was the last. But I'm still not able to go :(

Re:And one to go (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212890)

Any way you look at it, it's a colossal waste of money and expertise. The shuttles represent an existing viable launch platform with all the necessary manufacturing, engineering and logistical support already in place.

To me, it's like a successful national effort to paint the mona lisa, where once you finish the painting you simply burn it. All the work is wasted and we're left with nothing but memories.

It's mind boggling that this program will be simply dismantled when we don't have another launch platform ready to go.

Re:And one to go (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213344)

To me, it's like a successful national effort to paint the mona lisa, where once you finish the painting you simply burn it. All the work is wasted and we're left with nothing but memories.

Alas, shuttles are not pieces of art. If we'd built it and never flown it, just hung it on the wall for a quarter century, it'd be nearly as good as new today. OTOH, if you used the Mona Lisa for a dinner tray for a quarter of a century, it probably wouldn't be worth keeping afterward. Things that are built for using are not meant to last forever.

Re:And one to go (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212548)

actually, two. plus potentially another one for atlantis. Headline and summary deceiving.

Well done, Atlantis... (3, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212434)

Return home safely.

Obsolete ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212452)

Cool - 1970s tech is now almost obsolete. If only Musk could get his space launch vehicle upto speed - or even Rutan and his crew's could come up with some cheaper way to get to space it would be good.

Re:Obsolete ! (3, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212620)

Yeah, curse old technology. Why haven't we moved on from this 'wheel' shape, by the way? Surely, new = better...

Oblig, Futurama (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212726)

"We used to have a way to move things without robots. What was that again? - Ruth Gordon had one....Oh, The Wheel!"

Re:Obsolete ! (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212754)

Well, for some reason, there are improvements to that wheel thingy every year - the tire manufacturers keep inventing better tires, suspension gets improved, active dampening, etc, etc. You think we should have stuck with suspensionless carts with roughly circular wooden attachments? Surely, old = better....

If you get a nail in a wooden tire... (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213454)

If you get a nail in a wooden tire... ...it just holds it together better. If you get a nail in an inflated rubber tire, it's time to buy a new tire. Surely, new = better...

-- Terry

FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213028)

Surely, new == better

FTFY

Re:Obsolete ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213602)

Yea, but that doesn't mean we should stick to 1950' latex tires while our tires those days have lots of high tech in them. You are talking about the concept. Chemical rockets will always be a concept, as will wheels, but that doesn't mean we should stick to old models.

And by the way, we are not stupid, so yea,
new = better or, at least new = just as good as before, because anyone can do

develop_new() { /.../
    return better(new,old);
}

Re:Obsolete ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212858)

Or declassify the SR-71 replacement that can go to leo and back.

Why, oh why? (2, Insightful)

yog (19073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212454)

Will someone please explain to me why we can't keep the shuttles running for another few years while we figure out how to replace them? Now that Obama has canceled the Constellation manned booster, and he granted a stay of execution to the Orion capsule (but it's still basically on life support) doesn't this leave the United States with no means to get humans into orbit? For several years? How is this give the United States any kind of strategic advantage?

Granted, the Constellation project was controversial within Nasa, but it's a science and engineering project and as we all know, engineering involves risks, trials, and redesigns. That's the way we got where we are today. Simply canceling it because we don't like spending some $6 billion a year to keep it going is ludicrous, given our willingness to pour literally hundreds of billions of dollars into nebulous goals like "stimulating" the economy or propping up banks that deserve to fail.

Even General Motors got some $18 billion in relief, talking about an organization that deserves to fail. Without GM, we'll still have a domestic car industry--Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all operating in the U.S. and doing just fine--but without Constellation or the Shuttle, we'll have NO MANNED SPACE PROGRAM AT ALL. This seems like a strategic mistake in the extreme.

To make matters worse, we are planning to rely on our old sometime friends in Russia to get American astronauts into orbit, and we're hoping that private companies will take up the slack and, almost overnight, come out with systems that are certified for human space transport. Given that none of them has done even one manned flight so far, this seems rather premature.

Let's fund the Shuttle program for a few more years and restore Constellation to full funding. So, a few million people won't get free healthcare after all. Honestly, the economic benefits of the space program will more than make up for that. Eventually, tech spinoffs and the overall bigger economy will lift their boats--if they feel like working.

The U.S. can't just cede human space flight to other countries who are eager to take our place up there. We're not quitters; vote this fall and again in 2012 and throw out those who are.

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212534)

Because the supply chain for Shuttles has been disrupted some time ago (FYI - yes, "before Obama"). Trying to restart it now to keep those costly mistakes flying would be a task not that far from a new space programme.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213764)

In fact, the external tank is the pacing item. If they spun up manufacturing again, today, there would be a multi-year gap in after 2 or 3 more launches.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213932)

More than that. Other essential components of the Shuttle (from the top of my head I remember some high pressure tanks, inside the orbiter, crucial for the main propulsion system; I'm sure there's a lot more) are not produced even longer than ETs. Many of those parts actually got a life extension few years back, on the condition that they will not be used in more than x launches. Shuttles not only would be without parts in the future, they are on life support already and would need overhauls.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214724)

Yeah, I'm aware of that... I'm outside the problem working for a contractor that supplies unrelated tech. So, I only see what's published in the media. And based on that, I seem to recall there was an argument made that the shuttles could be safely extended for two launches per year for 4 or 5 years based on their last re-certification. There would be a lack of parts (some of which I acknowledge haven't been made for several years) but the most worrisome are the tanks (external and as you say, internal) and SSME's.

Re:Why, oh why? (5, Interesting)

CasualFriday (1804992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212550)

I'll say what I said in an earlier reply: 1980's tech. I had a class with some of the guys who work in the firing room, and they are honestly amazed the shuttle still flies. My dad used to install the thermal tiles, he says that the safety violations and corner-cutting out at the cape are horrendous. Pair that with the old tech, and it's seriously time to replace/upgrade.

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213428)

First of all the space shuttle is mostly 70's technology. Second of all there is no reason why "old" should be equated with "inferior". Soyuz is the most reliable manned spacecraft and it has direct roots all the way back to the start of the Soviet space program. Old can also mean simpler and less likely to suffer from mysterious technology failures. I have lab equipment older than you and it ticks along nicely and serves its purpose just as well as it ever did.

Re:Why, oh why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212576)

we need money to give to fat cat bankers, welfare for losers, massive wasteful projects to make congress critters happy, and to bomb brown people who live in oil rich countries... duh.

Re:Why, oh why? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212588)

Simple. Every government dollar not spent on social spending, re-addressing social injustices, is a wasted dollar in the eyes of the current administration. Who needs space exploration and exploitation when there is still racism and income inequity to conquer in the untamed fly-over country?

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212648)

When people post "Oh I'm posting as AC to preserve my karma." I usually think how idiotic it is because most of the time their post isn't nearly as much flaimbait as they think.

You sir have made a wise decision in going AC, your post is wrong in just about every detail.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212944)

And yet the GP is eating up that "interesting" mods and you get the "flamebait". Teabagger mod brigade on patrol again?

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212816)

If you think NASA's problems are entirely attributable to this administration, you have obviously been asleep for the last 40 years. Nixon slashed NASA's budget after Apollo and, for all their talk and hollow promises, no President since (Republican or Democrat) has ever restored it. Obama is just the latest in a long line of Presidents who've made NASA what it is today (i.e. a shell of what it was in the 60's).

Re:Why, oh why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212986)

Actually NASA's budget was first slashed during the Johnson administration, going from a peak of 1965's 5% of the federal budget or 33B in 2007 dollars to 1969's 2.1% & 21B.

Apparently the Pentagon was spending the money on in south east asia at the same time.

Re:Why, oh why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213984)

> Nixon slashed NASA's budget after Apollo

At least Nixon approved the Space Shuttle program in 1972 (years before most /. folks were born), and back then there was talk about firing all the astronauts and dumping HSF.

What is missing these days is a strong industrial infrastructure and ground facilities. Nowadays NASA is like Soviet Russia in 1960s. Meager test facilities, weak industrial base, lukewarm political support, lotsa great propaganda. I see NASA so much like what Korolev had to deal with when trying to develop the N1 to beat the Americans to the moon. But they did develop Soyuz that has outlived Korolev, Nixon, Apollo, and Shuttle.

Re:Why, oh why? (3, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213848)

This comment is very ignorant. As I look at the projected budget deficits for the next few years I'm struck by the fact that the vast majority of this deficit is really the war coming due. Things like the health bill don't even figure in (the CBO calculates the health bill is paid for from other budget savings). So basically the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which countries we now have a huge moral obligation to fix things, have cost us trillions of dollars, and continue to cost u, that we haven't really paid for yet, and can't afford to pay for.

The republicans are big on the idea of tax cuts, but they are traditionally the ones who run up spending and increase government size (goes back to Reagan). The hypocrisy coming out of that party is mind-blowing. Bush simultaneously decreased taxes, increased spending by a staggering amount, and increased the size of reach of government by an unprecedented amount, more than at any other time in recent history. The party of small government I think not.

Honestly, if we had plowed even some of the money we've wasted in Iraq over the years (IE if we'd not gone to war) into things like NASA, we could have paid for constellation several times over and covered social programs and other important things easily. Scientists are clamouring to send new robotic missions to the planets. As one scientist involved put it to me, 3 days of war in Iraq and Afghanistan could pay for an entire mission to Europa. Three days!

"...moral obligation to fix things..." (2, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214086)

So basically the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which countries we now have a huge moral obligation to fix things, have cost us trillions of dollars, and continue to cost u, that we haven't really paid for yet, and can't afford to pay for.

I'm pretty sure it was John Candy who said, in 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles', "I've never seen a man helped up by hist testicles before".

Given the kind of "help" we've given them so far, they would probably be better off without our "help" than with it.

-- Terry

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213954)

So, when Obama proposed to increase NASA's budget, what social injustice is he intending to redress?

Though I admit it makes sense if you use a broad enough definition, one more akin to "societal ills".

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214182)

You know, you'd have a really interesting point there, if what you wrote had any relation whatsoever to reality.

Re:Why, oh why? (1, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212670)

Because the Space Shuttles are old, decaying and really unfit. It takes a major disaster (Challenger, Columbia) before they fix basic design problems. I wouldn't trust an aging Commodore 64 as my primary computer, nor should we rely on the Shuttle. Really, Bush, Clinton and Obama should have all pressed for a new launch vehicle long ago. I find it quite funny that Obama apparently can trust the private sector with space flight which it hasn't really achieved, but can't trust it to run an organization without government support and can't trust it to run health care which businesses have had a proven track record of doing better than governments. In the end, we need to do one of two things

A) Sell NASA and give its research to taxpayers. Essentially everything owned by NASA would go to the highest bidder with the understanding of a few goals they must accomplish. The research would go to any American company wishing to deal in spaceflight.

or

B) Give NASA proper funding to do things.

We currently have a crippled private sector (taxpayer information being withheld) and crippled public sector (no funding) and it doesn't work.

Why is it that we can give tons of money to failing businesses that are going to fail eventually but can't give money to improve national defense and research (and yes, supremacy in space allows for supremacy in war as many of the technologies go hand in hand)?

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213264)

...health care which businesses have had a proven track record of doing better than governments...

So...where's your proof?

...Why is it that we can give tons of money to failing businesses that are going to fail eventually but can't give money to improve national defense and research (and yes, supremacy in space allows for supremacy in war as many of the technologies go hand in hand)?

Are...you...serious? You want to spend more on "defense" (nice newspeak, BTW) than what US already does? (hint: most than vast majority of countries in terms of "% of GDP", dwarfing all in absolute amounts). Is this just about more of a military dick-waving and funneling funds to very few "lucky" ones suddenly?

Re:Why, oh why? (0)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213464)

So...where's your proof?

Look at the UK, a chronic shortage of dentists, Canada, long wait times, etc. Even if you -have- the money you generally can't get speedy, efficient health care like in the US.

Are...you...serious? You want to spend more on "defense" (nice newspeak, BTW) than what US already does? (hint: most than vast majority of countries in terms of "% of GDP", dwarfing all in absolute amounts). Is this just about more of a military dick-waving and funneling funds to very few "lucky" ones suddenly?

I believe that the only 2 legitimate purposes of government is to protect their citizens from force and fraud. I disagree with our imperialistic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, it is very important to protect the US from invasion, nuclear, biological, and other threats. It is important to have a top-of-the-line missile shield to protect from ICBMs, aircraft to use in retaliatory strikes, etc. It is important that the US has the newest and best weaponry and defense systems available to protect its citizens.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213824)

OK, so looking at some singular failings (one of whics is of "maintainance" type) constitutes "the proof" to you, got it. People not trying to convince themsevles of something look at "life expectancy at birth" or "infant mortality".

In the first there are over 20 (UN list) countries ahead of you (including UK and Canada), vast majority of them with very social medical systems (maybe all, no time to check (probably not; "vast majority" is enough anyway))
Oh, CIA World Factbook list actually says there are 40 entities ahead of you, at least vast majority of them also with socialised medicine.

In infant mortality there are 30 countries ahead of you according to UN list (again, at least vast majority with socialised medicine), and over 40 ahead of you by the CIA World Factbook.

All of this while you spend, by far, the most in "healthcare cost per capita". That plus the above means your system is not only not the best, but also very inneficient.

As for "defense" justification...first you should ask yourself why the US supposedly needs such "defense" much more than anybody else. Secondly realise that, ultimately, governments are simply a reflection of their society.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213494)

...but can't trust it to run an organization without government support and can't trust it to run health care which businesses have had a proven track record of doing better than governments.

I'm sure the news didn't reach you in the right-wing fantasy land you live in, but the Obama health-care plan is entirely based on private-run health care, and was from day one. It ultimately amounts to a huge mandate to generate millions of new customers for private health-care companies, without even a public option. For the most part, it's Republican Mitt Romney's health care plan applied nationwide.

Why is it that we can give tons of money to failing businesses that are going to fail eventually but can't give money to improve national defense and research (and yes, supremacy in space allows for supremacy in war as many of the technologies go hand in hand)?

Um, we do. Get out of fantasy-land and read a real newspaper once in a while.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213900)

Because the Space Shuttles are old, decaying and really unfit. It takes a major disaster (Challenger, Columbia) before they fix basic design problems. I wouldn't trust an aging Commodore 64 as my primary computer, nor should we rely on the Shuttle. Really, Bush, Clinton and Obama should have all pressed for a new launch vehicle long ago.

Agreed. The Space Shuttle program was already extended well past when it should have been ended, and was continued only because of the OP's "but we have nothing else" logic. The failure to come up with any replacement doesn't change the facts about the Shuttle. Which is why the program was going to be terminated regardless of what Obama did or didn't change at NASA.

I find it quite funny that Obama apparently can trust the private sector with space flight which it hasn't really achieved, but can't trust it to run an organization without government support and can't trust it to run health care which businesses have had a proven track record of doing better than governments.

I find that statement funny because:

Different things are different.

The private sector "hasn't really achieved" space flight in the same way it "hasn't really achieved" jet fighter flight. As in, in reality, they're basically responsible for all of it. And that's just counting the things with NASA logos on them. There's tons of examples of successful private space flight.

The biggest change is in how the government is going to grant contracts to private companies: Instead of cost-plus contracts for things that don't exist yet they'll pay the lowest market rate for working solutions. That's bad only if you think the way defense contractors do business with the government is super-awesome (for your stock portfolio).

In the end, we need to do one of two things
A) Sell NASA and give its research to taxpayers.
B) Give NASA proper funding to do things.

Hey I'm all for giving NASA more funding to "do things", but not in the context of a Shuttle replacement. There is absolutely no reason why NASA needs to blow it's budget on building a new space truck for hauling cargo and people in and out of low earth orbit. That's exactly the kind of thing the private sector should be handling, allowing NASA to take advantage of market forces. Trying to build a shuttle replacement is what has been sapping NASA for the past few years, causing them to cancel projects of the kind they should be doing. So no, I don't think it's worth spending the political energy necessary to really beef up NASA's budget, just so they can waste most of it on a new space truck and have enough left over to do something actually useful and interesting.

Which is why your other suggestion is way worse. NASA still serves an important role doing the kinds of research and exploration that there is little motivation for the private sector to do. The private sector would have never launched Cassini or the Mars rovers, much less continued the program for 6 years, or tested ion drives in space just because in many years it might be useful to reach asteroids. The purpose of NASA (and other space agencies) should be to expand the reach of humanity. To push back the limits. To make things possible.

Save (and increase!) NASA's budget for that. Let private industry focus on today's realities and what should already be routine.

Falcon 9 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212680)

Speaking of that, the Falcon 9 [wikipedia.org] is scheduled to launch this Sunday (May 16th, 2010). This is one of the potential replacements of which you speak.

Re:Falcon 9 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213272)

Yea, and some people still want to plunge billions into old inefficient tech instead of lending space to _much_ more productive and forward-leading research. Whatever, who cares if the russians are doing a few flights, they are more cost effective then NASA, which both gives more money to other more interesting and opens space for any private guys who want to come in, leading to private space development, something that have been done ages ago.

Re:Falcon 9 (3, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213832)

Been pushed back to no earlier than May 23, according to this [spaceflightnow.com]

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212746)

There are a few safety issues with the shuttle, and when they fail, they fail spectacularly.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212924)

As tends to be the way with all rockets, and high-energy systems in general.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213604)

Yes, and no. There are certain classes of failures that are not preventable, sure, but in the case of both shuttle disasters, the accidents were entirely preventable. The first one was caused by NASA ignoring the thermal specifications for the SRBs and launching anyway. The second one was caused by NASA ignoring all the engineers screaming for inspection of the heat tiles and landing anyway. In both cases, the primary fault rests squarely on human error, and the secondary fault lies in design error---a single design error, in fact.

Both shuttle disasters were caused by a single design error. The shuttle is on the side of the stack instead of on top. Had the Challenger been on top of the stack, it would not been so severely damaged by the explosion, and the crew could have readily performed an abort-to-launch-site or similar. Had the Columbia been on top of the stack, it would not have gotten hit by flying chunks of foam. Sure, there's still the risk of bird impacts, but the risk is much, much lower than the near-inevitable foam impacts

There were, of course, other design flaws that contributed---insufficient metal shielding on the leading edge of the wing that makes the thermal tiles more critical than necessary, dubious lack of enough layers of O-rings in the SRBs, lack of an emergency capsule ejection system that activates automatically in the event of catastrophic failure, poor weight-to-surface-area ratio for landing in order to reduce drag during launch, the mere existence of foam on the outside of a tank instead of sealed inside it, and loads of other design decisions or oversights that in retrospect probably weren't the best idea, but ultimately it was the placement of the shuttle on the side of the stack that proved to be its undoing on two separate occasions. Such a fundamental mistake isn't easy to correct without throwing out the design completely and starting over.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213858)

It's not whether they're preventable so much as when stuff goes wrong with rockets it (tends) to go spectacularly wrong. Soft failures seem to be in the minority.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214216)

No, minor failures happen with regularity. It's just selective memory. Nobody remembers the minor ones. The last minor shuttle equipment failure was just five weeks ago [usatoday.com] .

Re:Why, oh why? (1, Insightful)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212764)

Even General Motors got some $18 billion in relief, talking about an organization that deserves to fail. Without GM, we'll still have a domestic car industry--Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all operating in the U.S. and doing just fine--

Minor nitpick, GM repaid the money already. I agree fully with the rest of your comment though, we should be pouring funding into NASA after all the things they have brought us in so many fields.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212956)

Even General Motors got some $18 billion in relief, talking about an organization that deserves to fail. Without GM, we'll still have a domestic car industry--Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all operating in the U.S. and doing just fine--

Minor nitpick, GM repaid the money already. I agree fully with the rest of your comment though, we should be pouring funding into NASA after all the things they have brought us in so many fields.

"...But the loan money is only a fraction of the cash that the federal government gave to GM over the past 12 months to stop it from going out of business. Overall, GM received $50 billion in federal help, with the government receiving $2 billion in preferred stock and 61% of the company's privately held common shares in return for the rest of the money..."

http://money.cnn.com/2009/12/15/news/companies/gm_repayment/index.htm [cnn.com]

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213560)

"...But the loan money is only a fraction of the cash that the federal government gave to GM over the past 12 months to stop it from going out of business. Overall, GM received $50 billion in federal help, with the government receiving $2 billion in preferred stock and 61% of the company's privately held common shares in return for the rest of the money..."

And do you consider money you pay to your investment plans or stock funds handouts to the companies you're giving money to? You're probably receiving nothing but common shares, not even any preferred stock at all.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213038)

they didn't repay everything - they repaid the part that wasn't interest free. they still owe a lot more money back to you and I in the form of tax money. I'll reiterate what other people have said. You cant spend $6 billion on space but you can spend money on people that are lazy, companies that cannot survive own their own and billions on programs that are used to feed socialized governments.

joke (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213746)

Repaid it with other borrowed/bailout money.

You really have to go beyond the headlines and look at the picky details

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/general-motors-commercial-complaint-bailout-ad-filed-ftc/story?id=10554206 [go.com]

http://cei.org/articles/2010/05/09/gm-deliberately-tried-deceive-americans-letter-editor [cei.org]

bah... I used to work for GM, and was in the UAW, and I *quit*. It was disgusting. Management sucks, those clueless investors suck (can't control their management) and the union sucks, buncha arrogant rednecks. For every one good employee with a clue, they have 50 who couldn't find their ass with a GPS and a map. They are the posterboy corporation that got so big they started believing their own BS. They should have been allowed to crash and burn same as those ripoff derivatives spewing casino banks.

Re:Why, oh why? (2, Interesting)

rijrunner (263757) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213198)

    They shutdown the Shuttle supply chain years ago. A lot of parts are now irreplaceable. The Shuttle was canceled by a Republican Administration and congress. The initial follow-on program with a lot of tested hardware (OSP and related programs were actually at the flight testing stage) was canceled by Griffin and turned into a jobs program.

    Also, on a somewhat bureaucratic side, but with real implications, the Shuttle's Certificate of Airworthiness needed recertification this year. It could not pass any real safety inspection. They would have had to waiver most of their certification criteria. And, at its current demonstrated safety level of around 98%, that amounts to a 50% chance of Shuttle loss over the next 30 launches. Nor is there any real expectation that Orion would have been ready in 2015. Constellation is not a good engineering design. You could pour money and get a marginally useful vehicle, but its not *necessary*. The O'Keefe plan of building manned capsule for existing launch vehicles is a much more compact realistic approach than concurrently building a manned capsule and launch vehicle.

    The funny thing is that there is actually no official "manned certification" in NASA. No set criteria. No testing procedure. Nothing. The closest thing to a certification is the FAA's certificate of airworthiness and that is a completely different creature. Man-rated is a political question usually used to get funding for another vehicle.

    Last point - there are very few, if any, people in NASA who have actually developed a working manned launch vehicle. The Shuttle was designed 40 years ago. And most of it was contracted out. Since Shuttle, NASA's development of vehicles has been good at the R&D level, but once ramped up to flight testing, it becomes just plain dismal.

    Look, the reality is that we would have had a working prototype flying now had they not brought Constellation into the picture. X-38 and the X-37 programs were concurrent and shared pretty much the same design concept and programs. (I would even go so far as argue they were the same program saved by the military after NASA dropped the ball). It is not out of the question that the X-37 could be adapted for manned use by keeping the shell and combining the forward section with the cargo bay. It would be tight, but so is Soyuz. Or, they could modify the X-37 to use the parasail used by X-38. Either modification would be a lot faster than anything NASA has proposed wrt Constellation.

Re:Why, oh why? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214674)

I guess I'm old. I remember that there was no human spaceflight between 1975 and 1981. Somehow our international standing survived.

It doesn't come soon enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212458)

I know it's an unpopular view here on Slashdot but with the expense incurred on maintenance, launch, etc; the NASA tendency to ignore problems in order to make lofty management-centered goals (which arguably lead to the most recent disaster); and the fact that space just should not be a priority when we cannot afford anything on Earth, it is a wonderful thing to see this dated fleet retired.

I just hope we can keep the space program close down long enough (along with many other ineffective members of the government) so as to get our country back in the black.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212580)

when we cannot afford anything on Earth

We can afford most everything on earth. We just simply can't pay billions of dollars that we don't have to failing businesses, ruin health care and do a million other things.

I just hope we can keep the space program close down long enough (along with many other ineffective members of the government) so as to get our country back in the black.

The problem is, how are we going to get ahead in technology then?

If the US government released all taxpayer-funded studies to the public to jump-start private businesses, that is one thing. But in reality everything is so classified that private businesses are starting from 1950s-era technology with very little funding.

The US needs to take a clear stand and do one thing or another.

A) Let a private company buy-out NASA and release all information for free to any US business or individual with an interest in producing spacecraft.
or
B) Continue to spend money developing new spacecraft and using taxpayer money to do great things.

We can't continue to have an under-funded NASA. If Obama wants to waste taxpayer money on bailouts and such thats one thing, however then let the taxpayers have their money spent in research fulfilled, let a private company take over all of NASA and release information to the public. We can't move on with a crippled NASA and a crippled private sector. It just doesn't work.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (2, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212772)

Information is classified to help slow down the development of weapons by countries we are not happy with such as Iran and North Korea.

If you can think of a way around that I'm sure someone would like to listen to you about it.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212948)

But eventually we have to realize that Iran and North Korea are going to get rockets. We need to diplomatically (or, if it hits a point, forcefully) make sure that they don't aim the rockets at us or any other country. Both Iran and North Korea have made getting WMDs and the launch vehicles needed to use them a top priority. Even though both countries are rather poor economically, they are not above starving their citizens to achieve their goals.

We already use a lot of scattered contractors for NASA, if we can consolidate them into one efficient company in essence, we could do great things. The information is already out there, it is just scattered throughout various offices. If we make a few requirements needed to get the information, we would be running at about the same risk we already are running at. Such as if we make sure that they don't disclose the information under an NDA (corporations are great for this because with competition comes closely guarded secrets, look at Apple, and an iPhone is a lot harder to conceal than large amounts of blueprints and such).

As a nation, we need to face the facts, assuming that Iran, North Korea and all other dictatorships don't get WMDs and launch vehicles is unreasonable. They will get them eventually. What is needed is to prevent unstable rulers from controlling nations. If Kim-Jung-Il wasn't ruling North Korea, there would be very little reason for us to be worried if there was a sane person ruling, but instead we have a cult of personality mixed with lack of reasoning and total isolation.

Would it be worth it to us if we had never started our space program so the Soviets could not gain the information? No, of course not. But we are still shooting ourselves in the foot by looking to countries who are going to get rockets and such no matter what we do.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (2, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213124)

Both Iran and North Korea have made getting WMDs and the launch vehicles needed to use them a top priority. Even though both countries are rather poor economically, they are not above starving their citizens to achieve their goals.

[citation needed], as they say? (sure, I will be the first to give you "starving" part with N.Korea, not really with Iran though; and "top priority" seems pulled out of your ass)

Also, did you just propose there forcing all assets into one legislated monopoly?...

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213642)

Also, did you just propose there forcing all assets into one legislated monopoly?...

Yes, he did. My apologies, Darkness404, for mistaking you for a right-wingnut in my previous post. I didn't realize your criticism of Obama was in fact coming from the extreme far left. I thought you were complaining about too much government, not that we're far short of the goal of centralized control that you Soviets prefer.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212864)

I know you have an anti-Obama slant, but you forgot to mention paying for a long, pointless war in Iraq.

I thought that I heard that Obama was increasing funding for NASA, just cutting manned space flight for awhile until we figure out how to do it right.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213326)

Don't forget Afghanistan too which is also a waste of funds.

I thought that I heard that Obama was increasing funding for NASA, just cutting manned space flight for awhile until we figure out how to do it right.

Increasing funding though doesn't mean much when there is so much to do. Myself, I'm not a huge fan of NASA, but unless private spaceflight increases dramatically in the next few years (which it won't until they get more research done which would be redundant to NASA's research).

Too little funding is worse than no funding. It leads to more taxpayer waste and unfinished programs.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214130)

What "redundant" research? That was the original point behind NASA/NACA, to direct research; results of which could be later used by others.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213060)

A) is what everybody in the world who wishes you to not "get ahead in technology" (why would you? I mean, why are you treating it, it seems, like a neccessity? If you have what it takes to be ahead, you will be; if you don't have it in our changing world, you won't be; simple as that)

B) will happen anyway, but in a more sensible manner - why duplicate LEO efforts being done right now by few independant private teams?

Also, the thing with bailouts was that you, your nation (and large part of the world, really) were being held ransom. By dynamics you yourself allowed to take place for some time now.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (4, Insightful)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212706)

It's so sad that some people think this way. The space program is not stopping the country from getting into the black. The money required to pay off all the debt and solve the counties problems is orders of magnitude greater than the money required to properly fund the space program to do great things. Complaining that we shouldn't be spending money on a space program is like complaining that some kid playing on the beach shouldn't remove a bucket full of water from the great lakes because global warming has lowered water levels. It is ridiculous.

Poverty will exist so long as mankind is mankind. There will always be good, hard working poor people so long as there is greed. There will be lazy poor people so long as there are people who are neither motivated to better their lives or crafty enough to cheat. There will be disease so long as there is life. There will be natural disasters so long as we live on a planet. To wait for humanity to solve all it's problems before expanding into the universe is to wait for extinction.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (2, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212970)

The money required to pay off all the debt and solve the counties problems is orders of magnitude greater than the money required to properly fund the space program to do great things

Just so - especially when you consider the trillion dollars going into defence spending every year. Some people may argue that defence spending stimulates economies and provides jobs but it strikes me as absurd that those same people couldn't be equally gainfully employed developing similarly advance technology for peaceful space exploration.

Re:It doesn't come soon enough (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213332)

The space program is not stopping the country from getting into the black. The money required to pay off all the debt and solve the counties problems is orders of magnitude greater than the money required to properly fund the space program to do great things. That's exactly the logic my wife uses, "Oh, the money I'm spending on new shoes won't make any difference to the thousands of dollars we owe!" And that's exactly the reason why she has $30,000 is credit card debt!

Amusingly .. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212480)

As I refresh /. rhythmbox is playing "The final countdown".

12 days? (3, Funny)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212542)

Replace six batteries, bolt on a spare antenna and attach a new tool platform? If only my honey do list for tomorrow was that easy.

Re:12 days? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212758)

Do it in an antique deep sea diving suit, upside down.

Re:12 days? (3, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212848)

More like "without up or down".

Re:12 days? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32212838)

Yeah, but try it in the equivalent of a snow suit worn over a wetsuit, with hockey gloves on, and goggles. While hanging from the ceiling.

If nothing else, you'll give your honey a good laugh.

Re:12 days? (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213952)

Not quite. That allows too much freedom of motion and visibility.

Try an arctic survival suit over a wetsuit with a full motorcycle helmet, faceplate down, wearing hockey gloves, carrying a hundred pound backpack, all while hanging upside down in the dark. Now begin by changing the batteries and...

I outlasted Atlantis (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212638)

I worked on mission 51J (first Atlantis flight) and now it's done. Man, I am old...

Re:I outlasted Atlantis (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212828)

All due respect but I must jest: Tell us a story grandpa!

What did you do for NASA? ./ is curious!

Re:I outlasted Atlantis (2, Funny)

Kozz (7764) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212868)

He installed the only remaining non-depleted Zero Point Module. (There's just not enough Naquadriah to go around.)

Re:I outlasted Atlantis (3, Informative)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32212978)

All due respect but I must jest: Tell us a story grandpa!

Are you one of those kids I chased off my lawn last night?!

What did you do for NASA? ./ is curious!

      I was an MCC console analyst on the mission control team for the payload. So I didn't work for NASA, but a contractor working for our governmental customer.

      A lot of people don't realize this, but NASA is not the biggest player in the space business. Some individual DOD and other government customer *programs* have budgets rivaling NASA, and there are a pretty good number of programs.

        Brett

Re:I outlasted Atlantis (2, Interesting)

powerlord (28156) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213242)

Time flies. I remember getting Chicken pox and being over-joyed because I got to stay home from school and watch all the coverage of the first Columbia mission, and then I was out at the cape (for most of the week), till Challenger went up (and blew up). Wish I could find the Kodak Disc Film (oooo trendy).

Here's hoping the next launch vehicle (Government or Commercial) helps gets us that much closer to a permanent place in space.

It's About Time! (1)

iced_tea (588173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213222)

I always hated that show. *ducks*

Re:It's About Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213358)

Every one knows SG-1 was better.

1960' and 2010's space flight equations (3, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213230)

60's: Country + Government + NASA = Man on the Moon

10': Country vs. Government vs. NASA = Bum a ride with the Russians

Re:1960' and 2010's space flight equations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213500)

There is no bumming, you have to pay the Russians a shitton of cash.

Perspective (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213268)

How many of us are still driving a 25 year old car?

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32213336)

better yet, how many of us drive a 25 year old car that is poorly maintained, and has been gutted multiple times

Re:Perspective (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213362)

Better yet, how many people are still driving a car with 115 million miles on the odometer?

Re:Perspective (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214058)

Al Bundy, but that's it.

Re:Perspective (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213972)

*Raises hand*

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32214080)

Me! Mine's 42 years old actually. It's not a daily driver, but a summer car now.

It's funny, when my brother-in-law first rode in it he remarked "Oooo, how Space Age!"
 

I've outlived Atlantis (1)

Cyclloid (948776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213276)

Born July 1985
Still living May 2010
A few months older than Atlantis and still ticking...

Would have been nice to say for every important mission/launch of Atlantis I had a milestone event in my life...oh well.

Re:I've outlived Atlantis (1)

slyborg (524607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213480)

How many times have you been in Earth orbit...? Atlantis wins.

So why not (2, Insightful)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213748)

It seems to me that one shuttle (even the Enterprise) is enough museum pieces. The shuttles are fully capable of autonomous flight. The horrendous expense of each flight is at least partly a function of maintaining the man-capable condition/reliability of the machine. So, strip out all the life support, all the seats, and the toilet, and use them as trucks at a greatly reduced cost until they blow-up or crash. Added benefit of greatly increased cargo capacity. Also can possibly use a more efficient launch profile as there would be no G force concerns for the passengers (not sure about this - just guessing). And if you ever need to send up people you can mount a life support module in the cargo bay.

too early to get teary eyed (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214024)

Let's not get all teary eyed just now. Atlantis isn't home yet. And Congress may still extend the program (I'm not holding my breath on that one though) -- they have not approved the new plan and budget.

Atlantis' First Last Flight (3, Informative)

TrekkieTechie (1265532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214510)

This is probably Atlantis' last flight. However:

When she lands later this month, Atlantis won't be mothballed. She'll be put back in the standard post-flight turnaround process to ready her for the Launch On Need (LON) mission STS-335, intended to provide rescue capability if necessary for the last currently scheduled shuttle mission, Endeavor's STS-134. It has been pointed out that, assuming all goes well on STS-134, there will be a bought-and-paid-for STS stack checked out and ready to go... why not use it? STS-335 would become STS-135, and would fly next year with a four-person crew to the ISS, delivering a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and extra supplies and equipment. Russian Soyuz ships would be used if rescue became necessary.

Source [spaceflightnow.com] .
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