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House Passes NASA Authorization Bill

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the please-sir-can-i-have-some-more dept.

NASA 149

simonbp writes "The US House of Representatives has just passed the Senate version of the FY2011 NASA Authorization Act. This bill is a compromise between Obama's proposed budget and earlier House bills. It cancels Ares I in favor of commercially-operated crew transportation to ISS, adds technology development funds, and keeps a version of Orion and a new heavy-lift 'Space Launch System' to both be operational by 2016. The timing of this bill was crucial to keeping key NASA personnel and contractors from being laid off."

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149 comments

official member (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33746492)

official member of the tinsel town butt faggots

Budget or 'plan'? (3, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746510)

So does this bill include a realistic budget to actually accomplish these goals or is it just "oh yeah, we support NASA 100%" political pandering? Last version of the bill I read about included keeping the shuttle program going with no additional launches and no additional funding, just moving money from some other NASA program and pay people who won't be doing any real work.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (4, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746658)

Political pandering. However, sometimes they make mistakes in the bills and particularly resourceful people actually manage to get things done in spite of the best efforts of Congress.

Unfortunately, for something more complex than some unmanned missions and face-saving missions to the ISS, we're probably going to need a new enemy and a new Space Race, and the terrorists aren't going to cut it. That or a hundred more years of incremental improvement to the point that orbital flight is so cheap we can do it without the government. Sad.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746772)

Well, until someone in office has the vision to budget for the development of a non-chemical launch technology space travel isn't going to become routine anyway. Even massive funding into a new rocket isn't going to be the kind of game changer that you're looking for, we need a launch loop [wikipedia.org] , space elevator, laser rocket [wikipedia.org] , or at the very least a nuclear rocket [wikipedia.org] to finish the jump to being a truly spaceworthy species.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (4, Insightful)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746966)

ok. i need to put a end to this. a launch loop is fucking ridiculous. you dont realize how difficult a problem it is to have 1000km of cable flying around in magnetic suspension in a vacuum at mach 25. and cornering at mach 25. and then hanging things off it to launch. nothings impossible, but this is really fucking close. and will end up a hell of a lot more expensive than conventional rockets. the nuclear rocket would be nice, if people werent such pussies about nuclear material on a rocket. the laser rocket design that heats up hydrogen with lasers from the ground with a heat exchanger is quite the excellent idea. most of the advantages of the nuclear approach with none of the political queasiness. i personally like the idea of the rail launched scramjet first stage that flys back, with a reusable second stage that launches when the scramjet stage reaches the edge of the envelope.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747264)

Why not just beam up to an orbiting vessel powered by dilithium crystals?

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749304)

However, sometimes they make mistakes in the bills and particularly resourceful people actually manage to get things done in spite of the best efforts of Congress.

Not this time. The bill as written is basically a "fuck JSC, move everything to Florida" bill. It was written this way because JSC's in Clear Lake, TX, which is a solidly conservative district (thanks to the same Democrat gerrymandering that keeps Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee in "safe districts"), while KSC out in Florida is located in a district that's actually in-play, needs more jobs, and Obama wants to help Suzanne Kosmas (democrat, Florida 24th) get reelected.

Plain old political pandering, nothing more. I once bought into the "democrats are the party of science" lies, never will bother with that particular lie again.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (2, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746706)

Pretty much everything at this point is political pandering when NASA is involved. When was the last time you saw NASA have real support, either in the media or on capital hill?

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748074)

A lot of that has to do with what they're doing. The science is more important now than what they used to do, but it's seen as routine and boring. Which really is an amazing accomplishment, really. But it lacks the flash to really get people excited about it outside of science. And the experiments themselves are not particularly easy for lay people to understand.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (0, Troll)

mlong (160620) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748626)

I have very little support for NASA nowadays. They get some new goal, spend millions/billions on a project, cancel it, and have nothing to show for it. And they repeat this cycle over and over and over. Congress and presidents have certainly contributed to that too.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749400)

Well, I'd say Congress and presidents have *caused* it completely. The NASA administration have, at most, been the enablers, and as members of the executive branch that is their job. If Congress gave them a 10-year mandate and matching budget guarantee, the NASA we know could totally run with it and get something done (maybe after a few small management changes). But it is Congress that under-funds projects, causing them to under-perform and get canceled, and it is Congress that changes the mandate every fucking year to the latest and greatest political nonsense, causing last year's projects to get canceled, too. So please don't blame the organization for trying to follow the orders of their schizophrenic bosses.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (1)

MGROOP (926053) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746736)

This Bill includes one more shuttle launch. STS 135. Prior to this bill being passed, the last launch was going to occur in March. Now we will have one more in June (assuming no delays). Remember this is an authorization bill not a funding bill. NASA is funded under the Continuing Resolution, which had money in place for NASA, but no authorization. They already had the money in place, but now they have something to do with it.

On a side note, the main Rep against the authorization was Gabrielle Giffords, wife of STS-134 shuttle commander Mark Kelly.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (2, Informative)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747166)

It's an authorization bill, which defines mission, but does not provide funding. Funding is provided by an appropriation bill, which should come later. The OP is wrong about this bill preventing lay-offs, since a) there is no money in an authorization bill, and b) the lay-offs related to Constellation have already happened.

Re:Budget or 'plan'? (2, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747466)

It does help prevent layoffs. There is continued funding in the continuing resolution. The problem was that no one knew what that money was going to be used for until the authorization bill passed.

The layoff risk came not to NASA civil servants, but to contractors. While NASA could allocate CR funds to keep their employees even without knowing exactly what they should be doing, no contracting manager would have been able to keep people around without some indication of the direction of NASA, since NASA couldn't pay them and the company would have trouble justifying the risk to stockholders.

A constant problem in NASA (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746592)

The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

So presidents will announce some grand new space project that will take a decade. The next president, in the name of budget cuts, cuts the project. Then, in order to placate the pro-NASA folks, announces some other grand new space project that will take a decade. And of course the grand new space projects never get completed.

As far as the congressional representation, they're primary concern with NASA is directing as much of the activity as possible to their congressional districts. For instance, Ohio's representation will do their best to ensure that more work gets done at Glenn in Cleveland, while Texas's folks try to get the work done in Houston.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746712)

Hopefully private sector goals and plans will have a stronger impact on space exploration, than the 4 year political cycle of two steps forward, one step back. Go SpaceX and Co!

Re:A constant problem in NASA (4, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746754)

The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

The basic problem is that commercial (practical uses) and scientific (pure investigation) exploration shouldn't be tied. Furthermore, space exploration/investigation shouldn't be tied to a government.

NASA should separate into practical and scientific. Then, after the ESA and other space agencies have done the same, the scientific divisions should join in a United Space Agency (with a different name, but you know what I mean).

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33748868)

Then, after the ESA and other space agencies have done the same, the scientific divisions should join in a United Space Agency (with a different name, but you know what I mean).

I suppose we could call it: Starfleet.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746794)

I'm glad that the bill has been passed. Now, could someone enlighten me on how it differs from those goals announced on April 15th?

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp-space-conf-factsheet.pdf [whitehouse.gov]

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/04/15/obamas-space-speech-well-go-to-mars-in-this-lifetime/ [discovermagazine.com]

Re:A constant problem in NASA (4, Interesting)

JeffSpudrinski (1310127) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746876)

There were only two reasons that the USA reached the moon:

1) the president that announced the initiative had been popular and was assasinated. That happening made him a national hero and they did it for his legacy. Saying anything negative about JF Kennedy was politically unpopular in the 1960's, and no politician wanted to be the one accused of causing NASA to not reach the moon by 1970.
2) the "space race" against the Russians. Once the race had been "won", there wasn't any emphasis on continuing...no matter how valuable the science and research was.

The public lost interest. If it hadn't been for the drama of Apollo 13, the project would never have made it to 17 missions. It's a shame the program ended since those astronauts are/were among the bravest and smartest people alive.

Just my $0.02.

-JJS

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1, Flamebait)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747262)

You still can't talk shit about that womanizing, whore mongering, cheating entitled piece of shit.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749318)

2) the "space race" against the Russians. Once the race had been "won", there wasn't any emphasis on continuing...

I know that the goal at the time was to put a human on the moon, and we did that first. But the Russians did follow it up with a reasonably sophisticated rover only a year later. Rovers seem like the most (only?) viable way to conduct preliminary explorations of extra-terrestrial bodies. In hindsight, maybe they had the right idea.

p.s. Not trying to belittle the accomplishments of the Apollo crews and engineers. Putting a squishy meatbag on the moon was an incredible feat. Getting him back safely was (IMO) even more incredible.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33750326)

You forgot one other important thing- the point of the space race was to develop rocket technology- remember the "Missile Gap?" NASA was an excuse to spend massive amounts on missile research while having a public goal. Once we could lob rockets across the globe with accuracy, NASA had done its real job.

And to be honest, Space flight, particularly manned space flight, is a horrifically expensive way to conduct science.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (0)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746892)

If only there were some way to have some kind of "ownership" that wasn't connected to government, one that could make " long term investments" that weren't subject to political bullshit, and rather based on the long term benefits.

One day we'll invent this magical system of "getting things done outside of the government", but I guess until then, we'll be stuck with having the government run everything.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33746990)

Yes, privately held corporations are fantastic at long-term investment into basic research without any clear plan for a saleable product.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750186)

yeah, Bell labs & Xerox PARC never happened.

The bigger question, is what changed in our business environment since the 70's that made places like that no longer viable?

Re:A constant problem in NASA (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747020)

One day we'll invent this magical system of "getting things done outside of the government", but I guess until then, we'll be stuck with having the government run everything.

Doing things requires work. Work is made by people. People ask for money in exchange for their work. There are limited sources of money:

1 - Other people. Insufficient amounts unless you can make a very large number of individuals pay.

2 - Corporations. Wont't invest without a defined ROI, which isn't clear in pure space exploration.

3 - Governments.

So, as you sarcastically refer to non-government based financiation, are you implying you've got a ROI to offer to corporations? Or you have an idea to get a lot of people to donate money for space exploration.

If you have the answer to either of those, you're welcome to share it.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750378)

People need satellites in space. Geostationary is way up there. It's expensive to get to. As well, as some point, we'll need to start garbage collecting up there. Developing new propulsion technologies already has an ROI.

Getting rid of NASA and freeing up the engineering resources currently being diverted will actually get something accomplished in space exploration. The space shuttle was a massive waste, and so was the ISS.

Zipping around 150 miles up isn't "exploration" any more than "camping" in your own backyard is roughing it.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747038)

The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

So presidents will announce some grand new space project that will take a decade. The next president, in the name of budget cuts, cuts the project.

And the solution is to instead focus on small chunks of basic technology/capabilities rather than grand projects, so that they aren't vulnerable to being canceled, and make it easier to accomplish grand projects in the future without having to take a decade developing all the necessary technology because you already have it. I.e. Obama's plan.

Then Congress went and fucked it up. Oh well, on the plus side at least this shuttle derivative is unlikely to be killed for the same reasons it couldn't be completely killed this time. On the minus side, it is going to suck money out of the actually useful stuff NASA is trying to do, and even once it turns out to be extremely expensive to operate, there will mandatory launches where it's shoe-horned into things just to justify its continued existence, sucking out more money.

But hey, maybe it'll turn out to be useful, and it's certainly not as bad as I'd feared. Ares is dead; good riddance.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747112)

And of course the grand new space projects never get completed.

Solution: Stop with the grand new space projects. Private industry has become large enough and/or space flight has become cheap enough that they can actually undertake these things. Let NASA come up with the magical ideas and the critical how and wherefore that the private sector can't manage for whatever reason, and let private companies actually do the deeds. NASA seems to be making incremental progress with this model already.

NASA seems to be administration-heavy, so let's let all those managers manage something useful. In this case, the flow of data between government and enterprise, and between enterprises collaborating on space-related projects. The competition model can produce the actual solutions, but someone has to make sure that the needs of science are served if progress is to proceed.

If we finally get around to building a space elevator, it's not going to be in the USA anyway, unless we go into full empire mode and annex our way down to Ecuador.

Re:A constant problem in NASA (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748000)

Well, that's why it is good that this bill allocates some money to developing more commercial technologies to access space. Even if NASA can simply trick Congress into subsidizing the first few launches of companies like SpaceX, IOS, Armadillo, Orbital Sciences, and so on for the next couple years, that money could be spent to proof and test the new launch systems being developed by those companies. Once those commercial companies have a bit of a track record that they can point to and say, "See, we won't blow up your spacecraft..." then they should be able to charge customers directly for funding and Congress can stay the hell out of space exploration once and for all.

Personally, I would have liked to see even more money going to developing commercial launch capabilities in this bill, but at least there is something in there.

NASA is dead (1)

Shugart (598491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746600)

NASA is dead. Put a fork in it.

Re:NASA is dead (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746702)

I know that it's virtually impossible to shrink a government entity, but that is what I believe is needed. Unfortunately, the people which need to be removed most are managers, and they are the hardest kind to extricate from any bureaucracy. Let NASA get back to doing or at least enabling actual science. Let scientists decide what that science shall be and let the managers figure out how to sell it to the public.

Eliminating NASA would be a gigantic mistake. We need to be figuring out how to exploit the resources of space, hopefully with an eye to utilizing less of the resources here on the planet, not so much for fear of running out but because we can't seem to do it without awful secondary effects. We all have our pet NASA project that we'd like to see continued, I want them to continue advancing space elevator technology as I consider it to be so far the only really viable way of moving substantial mass in and out of the gravity well cleanly and safely. I think we would all like to see asteroid detection improved. Realistically, an agency is necessary for keeping our interest in such research moving through changes of administration. Ideally, it would be more consistently budgeted to assist with this...

Re:NASA is dead (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747186)

Putting the scientists in charge won't get you space elevators it will get you more robots.

Re:NASA is dead (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746728)

It's "Stick a fork in it, it's done". Why would you stick a fork in something that's dead? That's just weird. At least use your metaphors correctly.

Re:NASA is dead (1)

Shugart (598491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747380)

Thanks! Your right.

Re:NASA is dead (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746804)

You want to fork NASA? having two NASAs doesn't sound like a very good idea.

Or did you mean "NASA is done put a fork in it"? That would make sense if you understand what "put a fork in it" is all about. It's a cooking term, if you need a hint.

Please don't use phrases you are ignorant of the meaning of. It does nothing to further discussion and simply confuses people. "Put a fork in it" isn't a buzzphrase, and at any rate using buzzphrases is what the stupid do to convice people they're knowledgeable.

Re:NASA is dead (4, Interesting)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747134)

Pardon me, but from the timestamp on your comment its obvious that you didn't read shit about this bill before posting some inflammatory garbage that only helps bring down the SNR here.

The facts are the NASA was dying under Bush. Constellation was 100% unaffordable and on top of that falling behind with delays and budget overruns. Neither Clinton or Bush properly planned for the post space shuttle era. Obama is now tasked to keep NASA alive via privatization of easy launches to the ISS and building a new capsule and rocket for an asteroid mission 15 years from now. Its not 1967. Private industry can handle lofting meatbags to the ISS. Government should be doing what private industry can't.

This bill is a very interesting look into how our times have changed. Yes, it would be nice if it had more money attached to it, but we kinda spent our cash on tax cuts for the rich and two wars under Bush. You can't have nice things if you keep going into debt over war and cuts for people who don't need them.

Re:NASA is dead (1)

Shugart (598491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747462)

Your probably right. I'm just frustrated that NASA isn't doing any of the cool stuff I thought they'd be doing 40 years after going to the moon. I was so excited when I watched the moon landing as a child. Now I feel just plain sad.

Re:NASA is dead (2, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747756)

Huh? How is it dead? NASA has money, they have goals, and a start on an idea of how to make manned exploration affordable and sustainable.

Constellation was never going to fly. It had to get through a few more administration changes before getting to the moon, and if past performance is any indication, the budget was going to grow more, and the target dates were going to be pushed back. 2030 is a long way off.

In its place we get a competitive market for Gemini class vehicles to reduce the risk of ever facing a spaceflight gap again, a push for a more affordable heavy lift vehicle that while I think is misguided will keep the politicians happy, technology development to make BEO missions 5-year projects instead of 20-year projects, and most importantly, a restatement of the goal that NASA should always have had: To facilitate the settlement of space, through trying to reduce dependence on the Earth, building LEO infrastructure, and focusing on in-space resource utilizatoin.

As a spacecraft engineer who has been viscerally opposed to working on anything in the past NASA HSF environment, I'm looking forward to what comes up in the next few years.

Keep NASA personal (4, Insightful)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746616)

The timing of this bill was crucial to keeping key NASA personal and contractors from being laid off.

I've found that if you want to keep an organization personal, you can't have many contractors in it. Permanent employees tend to be more invested in the organization, which fosters a more personal culture. Contractors have a tendency to come and go, and act more like vendors than members.

Re:Keep NASA personal (1)

cycleflight (1811074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746722)

Furthermore, the timing of the bill didn't exactly stop layoffs. They're still letting go roughly 30% of the contractor workforce in Houston, largely due to contract changes with Constellation being canceled. I'm not sure whether it's just the author of the post or Congress that are touting this as a jobs success, but it really isn't.

Re:Keep NASA personal (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748746)

Layoffs today [ksl.com]
ATK makes the main SRM for the shuttle and the proposed Ares I rocket.

Re:Keep NASA personal (1)

joshdw4 (1083273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746918)

That may be true for the commercial sector. Switching contractors in NASA requires a LOT of paperwork and proving the new contractor can still build the same widgit to the same specifications. As a subcontractor, when we fail to meet specification, we don't get "Meet this or we switch vendors". What we hear is "Fix your processes and provide proof that this will never happen again." I imagine it's easier to demand a company to change their ways than to fully spin-up a new company to meet the stringent requirements. Because of the stringent requirements and amount of effort each widgit takes, we also take a lot of pride in those widgits. Each one feels like an accomplishment. We're pretty invested in the final product by the time it goes out the door. Launches are a celebration.

Re:Keep NASA personal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33747024)

Contractors (through contracts) do most of the detailed work at NASA. The space shuttles were built under contract by Orbital and Lockheed Martin. The Orion avionics were built under contract by Lockheed Martin. IT services are maintained under contract by Lockheed Martin.

NASA has tons of machine shops, prototypes, and test chambers for designing cool new things. But operations are usually under contract.

Re:Keep NASA personal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33747090)

I've got a friend who's one of the 30% of contractors being laid off in Houston mentioned in the earlier reply, and I'm gonna go ahead and disagree here. Thing is, this government. Many of those contractors have been contracting the same job at NASA for 10, 15 years or more. They are every bit as loyal to NASA as the employees and, frankly, there really isn't much difference othere than which accounting code their pay comes under and what a line and a couple characters on their security pass says. My friend, he's a contractor, but he's on duty in mission control every other or every 3rd shuttle flight...and has been since as long as Ive known him.

Maybe contractors at corporations work like that, but these are government contractors. They've got congressional level job security (until something the size of the *entire shuttle program* gets taken down). And most of these contractors are companies anyway, with the workers just long term employees of the company. As long as the boss keeps a hotline open to their local congressperson, they'll last longer as contractors than most companies internal divisions.

Re:Keep NASA personal (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747192)

This is less so at NASA, IME. I've been a contractor at NASA for just about 10 years. It's not abnormal for NASA contractor folk to move around between projects, but leaving the agency doesn't happen so much as I'd expect. When contracting companies change, generally all of the same people stay on board, but just get hired by the new contractor. Save, of course, for management.

The majority of the people who leave seem to do so out of disillusionment with NASA or better career opportunities. I'm finding myself more and more in the former category.

Re:Keep NASA personal (2, Insightful)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747452)

True - if you want to keep the organization personal that may be a good strategy. However, if you want results, better stick to the contractors. Permanent government employees become obsolete and absorb cash. Its much better to have an expensive, yet disposable expert who works extremely hard in fear of the contract ending (or the client being upset).

They deliver much better results than someone who is on payroll and going to get a paycheck and benefits regardless of their performance (sure they can be fired, but its a lot less common). Not only that, but contractors carry a bunch of experience under their belt. They need to get on the project and stay on the project. For example, a NASA contractor may have 10 years experience with the Air Force and 10 years with NASA doing a bunch of diverse projects. Whereas a government employee might only have 20 years doing the same old job and a couple years away from the comfy pension.

Life on Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33746654)

See? I knew it! Every time NASA claims to have found evidence of life on Mars, it's always right before budget approval time! NASA is just a bunch of scam artists and needs to be shut down!

Great (3, Interesting)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746672)

Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

Do you see the problem here?

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746704)

Nope. Different things cost different amounts of money. I don't see throwing 57% of the budget at NASA being a good idea either.

Re:Great (0, Flamebait)

Asshat_Nazi (946431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746744)

The OP takes it up the ass for quarters. Inquires welcome. Ask about his special group rate.

Re:Great (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746798)

Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

Do you see the problem here?

Is it that we don't have anything budgeted to actually pay down the debt?

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33748290)

Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

Do you see the problem here?

Is it that we don't have anything budgeted to actually pay down the debt?

It's not that type of debt. The US debt comes from selling treasury securities (i.e. bonds). These bonds pay a semiannual coupon (percentage of the face value) and at the end of its maturity period it pays off its face value. There is no provision for paying the bondholder earlier than the maturity date. It's a fixed schedule of payments that we're obligated to pay.

Unless we default on the payments of course. Russia did that in the 90s. Or we could print the money to pay off the payments. That would be very bad since it would cause massive inflation overnight, but it would not necessarily cause the collapse of our economic system.

If you wanted to accomplish the same thing as paying the debt off early, you would have to put the money into a sinking fund that accumulates interest so that you'll have the money ready to pay off the bondholders as it becomes due. The problem with this is that, you can't invest the money in the stock market or corporate bond market since there are a lot of people who would object to the US taking on risky investments and/or having the potential to influence the market by being the biggest participant in it.

It's worth noting that government debt is substantially cheaper, interest rate-wise, than individual or corporate debt. That means that there is some social utility in borrowing to finance some projects of common interest in the government layer of our society. Also, taking the national debt and dividing by the number of households doesn't really give you a number that's apples to apples with the average debt of American households.

Re:Great (2, Funny)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746844)

Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

Do you see the problem here?

Um... if the budget were 1% bigger, NASA would be free?

- RG>

Re:Great (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746858)

Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

Do you see the problem here?

Yes. Someone should've played more Civilization.

With 19% in Defense USA should've invaded at the very least his own continent. And 1% in research isn't going to get them to Alpha Centauri any time soon.

Lower research to 0%, lower all health to 5% (no need for so much pop anyway) move everything else to defense and go for the domination victory before the japanese start deploying giant robots.

Re:Great (3, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747348)

Oh come on. Clearly the US has been going for a culture victory since it built the Hollywood wonder.

Re:Great (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750490)

The Internet wonder seems to be conflicting with the Hollywood wonder in strange unpredictable ways :-)

Re:Great (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33746888)

Yeah, there is a problem in your stats... The largest expenditure in the US is military expenditures at 25.5%. Interest on debt is 13.6%. 39.7% of that interest payment is on military expenditures alone.

If the US was busy killing people and trying to be the police force for US corporations exploiting countries abroad, we would have a lot less debt and a lot more money for useful things.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746916)

>Do you see the problem here?

That we spend so much of our money killing brown people for no good reason? Seriously, Bush's decision to invade Iraq cost us Constellation. Blame him. At least we have all those WMDs to justify it. Oh wait.

Re:Great (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33747202)

Killing brown people is always for a good reason.

Re:Great (1, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747258)

That we spend so much of our money killing brown people for no good reason?

Strange. All the "brown people" you claim that we are killing were quite happy to see me when I was over there in camouflage. Maybe you should go over there and ask them if they think their lives and freedom fall under the "no good reason" category.

As for the money, the national debt has increased 4x in the past couple of years. I don't think the Iraq invasion was the problem. Maybe if they stopped spending money to reward groups that offer political support, they could easily triple NASA's funding and still come out ahead.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747404)

>I don't think the Iraq invasion was the problem.

Cost of Iraq war 750 BILLION dollars. NASA's annual budget floats a bit under 20 billion. That's 30+ years of NASA, genius.

>Strange. All the "brown people" you claim that we are killing were quite happy to see me when I was over there in camouflage.

Loss of life: over 100+k CIVILIANS. Yes, the people there were happy to see you because they're alive and are afraid to piss off the guy with the gun. The angry ones, alas, are dead. If a military from a powerful country which killed all your leaders and 100k of your pals waltzed into your town, you'd grinning ear to ear too.

Re:Great (0, Offtopic)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747612)

Cost of Iraq war 750 BILLION dollars. NASA's annual budget floats a bit under 20 billion. That's 30+ years of NASA, genius.

That's $750 billion over eight years, and it's still less than what the government wasted on a single "stimulus" bill. Also, Constellation was still being funded through the Iraq war. I think it would be more honest to say that "stimulus" killed Constellation.

Loss of life: over 100+k CIVILIANS. Yes, the people there were happy to see you because they're alive and are afraid to piss off the guy with the gun. The angry ones, alas, are dead. If a military from a powerful country which killed all your leaders and 100k of your pals waltzed into your town, you'd grinning ear to ear too.

Let's see, if my leaders had ruined my country and raped my daughters, I think I welcome those 100,000 waltzers.

Evidently, you were not there and have spent no time talking with these people. In other words, you know nothing of which you speak.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747696)

>That's $750 billion over eight years, and it's still less than what the government wasted on a single "stimulus" bill.

My point is that a war of lies cost us 750 billion dollars. That's a significant amount of money and the two wars as well as the tax cut have put this country into ruin. The stimulus is icing on the cake. Your Fox News talking points aren't convincing, sorry. Ignoring what was spent on these wars when discussing the federal budget is being disingenuous. It all comes from the same pool. I'm not even going to mention how defense spending, in general, is out of control and is why we can't have nice things.

>Constellation was still being funded through the Iraq war.

BECAUSE WE WERE DEFICIT SPENDING. It was not at all affordable. Can you grok the simple concept of not being able to spend money you don't have? Or what debt is? Constellation was a PR move by the Bush administration. If you can't pay for something without going deeply into debt you can't afford it.

>Let's see, if my leaders had ruined my country and raped my daughters, I think I welcome those 100,000 waltzers.

Because in this scenario you have the luxury of being alive. 100+ THOUSAND people died over Bush's cooked intelligence. This is something to be outraged about, not cavalierly justifying it as some kind of kindly humanitarian mission. I pity you if you believe that.

Re:Great (0, Troll)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748502)

That's a significant amount of money and the two wars as well as the tax cut have put this country into ruin.

Damn! You on on a roll! Tax cuts INCREASED government receipts, not decreased them. I understand that when you think one dimensionally this makes no sense, but look up "Laffer Curve" as to a possible explanation as to what really happened.

BECAUSE WE WERE DEFICIT SPENDING. It was not at all affordable.

And we're DEFICIT SPENDING MORE now. So suddenly, with 4x the deficit spending it's suddenly not affordable?

If you can't pay for something without going deeply into debt you can't afford it.

Hey! We agree on something. So tell me, why are still railing on Bush and not saying a word about the 4x increase in deficit spending AND NASA cuts?

I pity you if you believe that.

I pity anyone who will take the ill informed word of The Daily Kos or Democrat Underground over the word of someone who was there simply because it fit neatly into their preconceived notion of reality.

Re:Great (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33748754)

Not to point out the obvious, but those "smiling" people killed over 4000 of my countrymen and your friends.

Oh, and we can't bomb Iran because the Ayatollah can just dial up the violence anytime he wants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Laffer Curve has only two defined points, 100% taxes and 0% taxes. That anyone can believe that the US, with one of the lowest tax burdens of any nation is on the rightward slope shows either ignorance or deceit.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749314)

>Tax cuts INCREASED government receipts, not decreased them.

Unpaid tax cuts add to the deficit, period. You can theorize about external forces, but there's no proof that supply-side economics works. In fact, its highly controversial and assuming it does shows your bias.

>So tell me, why are still railing on Bush and not saying a word about the 4x increase in deficit spending AND NASA cuts?

Because they are 100% related. Constellation was never planned in an affordable way. Its a heavy spending Bush-era program that needed to be cut as its 100% unfeasible and the little progress that was made . The stimulus is outside the scope of criticism as I'm discussing Bush era programs and inhereted debt from the Bush years. Bush spent our surplus on a war of lies (no wmd's were found).

Don't think you conservatives can just get rid of the Bush years. You'll forever be wearing them as an albatross around your neck. His choice to enter the Iraq war and give out tax cuts he couldn't afford cost us a lot of nice things, not limited to NASA.

>I pity anyone who will take the ill informed word of The Daily Kos or Democrat Underground

I read neither site. I'm giving facts (deaths of civillians, real dollar cost) and you're giving me Bush-era propaganda "We freed them, dont ask about WMD" and Reagen-era supply-side economics bullshit. Again, I will reiterate my point. The Iraq war cost us 35 years of NASA's budget. We sold out future generations and current programs to pay for it.

Re:Great (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749974)

>Tax cuts INCREASED government receipts, not decreased them.

Unpaid tax cuts add to the deficit, period.

I don't think you read that right. Tax cuts made the government treasury LARGER. That means that even though taxes per individual were lower as a percentage, people were making more money, and therefor sending more dollars to Washington. It was the unpaid increases in spending that added to the deficit... uh... period.

I didn't read beyond that point. What's the point since you are either not reading or not capable of understanding what I post.

Re:Great (2, Insightful)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750124)

Hey! We agree on something. So tell me, why are still railing on Bush and not saying a word about the 4x increase in deficit spending AND NASA cuts?

Because the increased deficit is being used to fix the wrongs so that the country can get back on track and in the end reduce the deficit. Before you criticise other people, take a look at yourself!

Re:Great (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748822)

100+ THOUSAND people died over Bush's cooked intelligence.

Here is a little quote from a BBC [bbc.co.uk] article about a UNICEF study:

In what it describes as an "ongoing humanitarian emergency", it shows a dramatic rise in child mortality rates in central and southern Iraq - areas controlled by Baghdad.

Unicef estimates that over the last 10 years at least 500,000 child deaths could have been prevented.

However, the report says that in the northern Kurdish areas, where the UN runs a relief operation outside Baghdad's control, child fatalities have decreased by more than a fifth.

500,000 children died from preventable diseases between 1991 and 1999. I don't know how good you are at math, but 500000 is greater than 100000. Oh wait, are you saying that Bush controlled UNICEF? Or do half a million children still qualify as "no good reason"?

This is from BBC, by the way, not Fox News.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33748698)

Let's see, if my leaders had ruined my country and raped my daughters, I think I welcome those 100,000 waltzers.

Evidently, you were not there and have spent no time talking with these people. In other words, you know nothing of which you speak.

As somebody who has served in a previous conflict, I can smell bullshit a klick away.

The Iraq invasion was absolutely unnecessary, and it galls me when morons like you are heralded for "defending our freedom" against a threat that did not exist (except in Bush's cooked intel reports). If we'd have had 100k troops on the ground in Tora Bora we might have scored bin Laden, but instead we paid off tribal elders (who predictably took our money and fucked us) who then likely let the real enemy slip through.

I used to have sympathy for the soldiers and marines who were called to serve over there, until I see somebody as brainwashed as yourself. Make no mistake, the military industrial complex will be the downfall of this nation, and assholes like you are complicit. I'm still laughing at all of the conservatives who are bleating about the deficit under Obama. Yes, the stimulus bill was screwed up, but Bush's off-books handling of defense is even worse, because like most everything else his administration attempted, it was based on lies and half-truths. We haven't even seen the fallout from the VA expenses and medical retirements that will be coming our way over the coming years.

And guess what? In this day and age social spending is more important than defense spending. We can take care of the young and the old and defend our CONUS and OCONUS assets, or we can keep invading, lying, and conniving spending money on a military we don't really need. 350k in the Army, 100k Marines, and five carrier groups should do the trick nicely.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33747794)

Maybe you should stop being spoon fed your information from your favorite TV Channel and listen to someone that's actually been over there.

Frankly I've never been there so people like me (and likely YOU) should really stop trying to come across as some sort of expert. Cuz your not, your just someone that's watched a lot of TV or read a lot of thar Intarweb (and frankly, the Internet never lies right?!)

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33748276)

So, those WMDs turned out to be where exactly? Oh wait... That was an outright lie. "Imminent threat?" Also a lie. Perhaps you embraced some other rationalization that leads to an invasion of Iraq in order to get at a bunch of Saudis who were operating out of Afghanistan?

Didn't think so. "No good reason," sounds about right to me too. With all due respect for your service, the dipshit-in-chief sent you to the wrong country.

Re:Great (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747126)

Where the hell did you get those numbers, because they don't match reality Federal Budget Breakdown [wikipedia.org] .

Especially if you at the numbers analytically. That 23% defense spending is misleading in a lot of ways. All of the Veterans' programs aren't included in it(Dept. of Veteran's affairs). Nuclear weapon maintenance(Department of Energy) isn't included in it. Dept of Homeland Security isn't included in it. The deathandtaxes [wallstats.com] poster has a pretty good breakdown that shows this.

Re:Great (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747486)

That "death and taxes" poster is great! May have to order one.

A simpler representation of the true size of the "defense" budget is prepared every year by the War Resister's League. Their 2009 version is online at:

http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm [warresisters.org]

Re:Great (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747726)

Interesting that they include the trust funds of social security too. I didn't know that part.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33747346)

Yes.

You've left out silly walks.

Re:Great (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747392)

Social Security should not be included in the budget at all; it should have its own separate budget not tied to other Federal spending. I pay taxes specifically for Social Security, and they take those taxes and rather than using them to pay retirees as intended, they let the general fund "borrow" the cash interest-free, then bitch that it's not solvent.

As to "welfare", would you mind citing some sources, preferably from a web site with a .gov extension? I found this one [house.gov] which says $313b in 2002. Wikipedia says [wikipedia.org] the federal budget was $2.2 trillion in 2002. So I have no idea where your "welfare is 57% of the federal budget" comes from.

Re:Great (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748842)

See a problem? I do. You're lumping welfare and social security together. That makes no sense; not only are they very different programs, they are financially different animals.

It also misleadingly suggests that half our budget is going to welfare queens. That is simply not possible. The total budget of Administration for Families and Children (otherwise known as welfare) for 2011 is 17.48 billion, which is actually less than the 18.7 billion outlay in the fiscal year for NASA.

Medicaid is a big program, but still nowhere near 50% of the budget. For FY 2011, the Medicaid budget is 297 billion. Medicare is even bigger at 491 billion. If you added up Medicaid, Medicare and welfare, you still less than the money spent on defense, so these can hardly break the 50% of the budget mark.

To do that, you have to add social security into the mix, but that's inherently misleading from a budget balancing standpoint. Social Security brings in income. A *lot* of income. In fact it runs a surplus. To get an accurate picture, you have to look at both the expense *and* income side.

Here are the top sources of income in the US budget (in billions of dollars):

Individual Income Taxes: 1,121 or 43.7%.
Social Security(payroll) Taxes: 934 or 36.4%.
Corporate Income Taxes: 297 or 11.6%.
Excise Taxes: 80 or 3.12%.
Federal Reserve Deposits:79 or 3.08%.
Customs Duties:29 or 1.13%.
Estate Taxes: 24 or 0.94%.
Everything Else (roughly): 10 or 0.39%.

See the problem? Since Social Security expenditures are 730 billion, if you waved a magic wand and made that program disappear, you'd add 204 billion dollar to the budget deficit. That's on the same order of magnitude as *all corporate taxes* added up. It's fairly safe to say that without the Social Security surplus, there wouldn't be 18+ billion dollars lying around to spend on NASA.

If we had a sensible approach to this, we'd set social security to one side and offset the cash influx with the expected liability for future payments. Then we'd invest the surplus in an instrument that paid interest, the goal being to ensure the cash flow remains balanced over the lifetime of the bulk of the people in the system.

But we don't do that. Instead we wring our hands about an entirely foreseeable and manageable problem, then take the money that could deal with that problem, the working man's 204 billion dollar contribution to deficit reduction, and throw into things that don't benefit him. But to truthful if we did manage the social security surplus responsibly, there probably wouldn't be money for NASA under that scenario either.

Now it *is* a politically conceivable scenario to get rid of Social Security and Medicaid (the notion of Medicare going away is fantasy). The 200 billion in surplus lost would be more than offset by 297 reduction in outlays. But if you think that anything like a proportionate share of that 97 billion dollars is going back into your pocket, you're either dreaming, or a member of a very small group of very wealthy people. So in that scenario, the working guy loses the programs that provide him security against tough times, but the programs that benefit the wealthy aren't going anywhere.

Re:Great (1)

eriks (31863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750500)

That's one of the best explanations I've ever seen of the true picture of "government spending" in regards to social security (which is a complex and difficult subject to understand) and why the kind of statistics often quoted by the OP are so misleading, though sadly, I think many people quote those kinds of statistics actually believe they represent reality.

*sigh*

I wish I had mod points for you.

Congress Passes Obama's Plan for NASA's Future (1)

pickens (49171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746680)

AP reports that Congress has passed a bill [google.com] that extends the life of the space shuttle program for a year, extends the life of the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020, and backs President Barack Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to lift humans into near-Earth space while dismantling the Constellation program under which former President George W. Bush sought to return astronauts to the moon. Obama, in pushing for the end of the Constellation program, said it was implausible under current budget restraints and that NASA was siphoning off funds from other programs. Obama told NASA workers at Cape Canaveral in April that he was committed to manned space flight and envisioned sending astronauts to near-Earth asteroids in the near future as a prelude to trips to Mars in the coming decades. Obama's plan has met resistance from the space industry, former astronauts and lawmakers who say it is risky to put too much reliance on commercial flights while NASA develops a next-generation heavy-lift rocket to carry people to those asteroids and Mars.

NASA Personal? (1)

Barryke (772876) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746696)

I wonder what the personnel reads in that..
Misspelling personnel names has been proven to be harmful. [citation needles]

Re:NASA Personal? (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746774)

Citation Needles? Are those more like knitting needles or hypodermic needles?

Jobs bill (1)

edawstwin (242027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746756)

WhiIe it's better than the House version, it's basically a jobs bill, nothing more. You think Obama wants more people out of work right now?

Badastronomy blog on bill (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746782)

So, it looks like the GOP fought tooth and nail against privatizing spaceflight because they wanted to brink the pork home and more or less are dictating rocket design to NASA. Juicy bits here:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/09/30/congress-passes-nasa-authorization-bill-but-id-rather-watch-sausages-being-made/ [discovermagazine.com]

What really galled me, though, was that several Republicans blamed Obama for NASA's current mess, including Ralph Hall (R-TX, remember him?). This is grossly and demonstrably unfair and untrue. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) hammered over and again the idea that Obama is trying to kill the manned space program. That is not true, and in fact the current situation (including the five year gap between the Shuttle and any follow-on rocket system) started in the Bush Administration. Constellation has been in trouble for some time, behind schedule and over-budget. I'm of the opinion that Obama's plan to defund Constellation does not kill the manned space program as Culberson said it will. I have written about this repeatedly: far from killing it, this new direction may save NASA from the mess it finds itself in right now.

What's weird is how Culberson used the bogeyman of Obama to try to gain sympathy for the bill, saying that a yes vote on the bill would stop Obama's plan to dismantle NASA. I find that odd, as much of the bill aligns with Obama's plan for NASA, including defunding Constellation and promoting a new rocket system*. Moreover, I want to point out that Obama's plan, and this bill, funds private space concerns (like SpaceX, which is preparing to launch its Falcon 9 rocket which will be man-rated and capable of flights to the space station). You'd think Republicans would support this, as they have a mantra of privatizing health care, social security, and so many other government efforts. However, many Republicans don't like private space companies. An exception I must note was Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who spoke up about funding private space efforts and how important it is. On most issues he and I disagree strongly, but on this one we agree.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (2, Interesting)

cycleflight (1811074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747190)

Here's an analogy. Ask a kid if he can get supplies to wash a car and wash it for $5, and tell him to get it all done in an hour. He says he can do it. Now give him $2.50, and expect it to be done in an hour. When the kid doesn't deliver a clean car in an hour and says he needs more money, call him behind schedule and over budget.

Breaking with that analogy and stepping into the real world, now let's say that you tell a company that you can do an easier job for less money than one of their contractors that has a different outcome. You still are not accomplishing the original goal, just like SpaceX is making one hell of a low earth orbit vehicle, but it's not headed to the moon. So it doesn't save money, it changes the scope of the mission.

Obama has nothing to do with the originally planned 5 year gap, you are correct. However, the new plan has an undetermined gap in launch capability, let alone extra-low-earth-orbit capability. I'd take 5 years over undetermined, especially when considering Congress' tendency to not support things over status quo when it comes to space exploration.

I'm not agreeing with the bill to be sure... it seems like a jobs bill designed to build a rocket for the sake of busy work, then scrap it when there's nothing to put on top of it. However the lack of concrete goals in Obama's plan makes me leery of it, because it is so easy to say "we'll get to that tomorrow" if specific goals are not set to begin with.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (1)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747440)

Which would be true, except the the rocket that they were working on was for access to LEO only. They hadn't started on the Ares V yet because all the money was going into the shuttle. I think it's fair to change the scope of the mission, when the funded mission is not the same as the stated mission.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (1)

cycleflight (1811074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747700)

Again, the shuttle funding for the last (two?) year didn't exist until Congress said it should.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748484)

To continue with the car analogy.

You have a massive auto company that has been making cars, trucks, and motorbikes that go 17MPH for the last 40 years.
($10000/Kg launched into low-earth orbit).

They occasionally make noises that faster vehicles would be nice, but are impossible at the current state of technology.
They hold periodic excersizes to make a faster vehicle, which results in nothing, as they decide to make it from single-crystal diamond or similar materials, and they can't get the production running.

You have a requirement for a large cargo vehicle, and you can just about live with 17MPH.

Suddenly, a comparatively small company pops up with a motorbike that goes 84MPH - but they can't make cargo vehicles yet.

This kinda punctures the argument that vehicles that go >17MPH are impossible, and calls into question huge future orders from the big company.

SpaceX in this case is the small company with the faster (well - cheaper per pound) vehicle to low-earth-orbit. (they also plan geostationary orbit too)

If spacex's growth works well - they have incremental boostrers that can lift really quite large payloads at once.

The falcon 9 heavy has a comparable payload to the shuttle.

Cheap launches into low-earth-orbit basically enable a moon mission. Or indeed anything else.
32 ton modules - from falcon 9 heavy - are not too small to realistically assemble large craft that can head for the moon, or wherever.

Low earth orbit is halfway to anywhere, energetically. A Large fraction of the total energy you need to put into a spacecraft is just to get it to LEO.
This is the same if it's going to GEO, or to the moon.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (2, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748144)

Oh you stupid asshat! Will you stop with all the retarded, "My party is better than your party BS?" Both parties suck equally and you know it. You think only Republicans were trying to derail this bill? You're completely, totally, and utterly wrong. Here, take a look at this from the Spaceflightnow write up on this particular news bit:

Speaking on the House floor before the vote Wednesday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, said the legislation "lacks serious budgetary discipline" and includes an "unfunded mandate to keep the shuttle program going through all of fiscal year 2011 even after the shuttle is retired, which NASA estimates will cost the agency more than half a billion dollars."

-- Source [spaceflightnow.com] .

You see that? Right there a Democrat from Arizona was one of the prime champions of Constellation and derailing funding to commercial spaceflight development. Do you want more proof? Take a look at the article linked to in the summary.It goes into plenty of detail about how that bitch Giffords took up most of the debate time in the proceeds to complain about what a bad bill it was. Does that register to you? This bill, and most bills in Congress, are no longer about those darn Republicans vs. those darn Democrats.Both parties are corrupt, pandering, lip-servicing morons that can't tell their head from their ass. That doesn't change just because the bill involves NASA. Take your two-party political bickering elsewhere you misinformed douche.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748452)

The likes of Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Ron Paul are not people who want small government, they just want to make sure as much money as possible makes it into the pockets of themselves and their people. Reevaluating NASA is one of the small ways we could have made government smaller, but it would also require that these legislators lose a bit of their income. We have seen this before, for instance when Paul pushed through millions of dollars for his fishing buddies. Small government is not really the thing in Texas, where we have new laws that invade privacy by forcing adults to wear seat belts in the back seat, as if useless laws make government smaller. And we can't really blame Pete Olson. He is one of those Texas Republicans that, like Perry, really have no concept of small government or entrepreneurship. He has been on the government payroll his entire life, so he thinks that is the order of things. For the government to give you a job, and pay you to do nothing your entire life. It is no wonder that he has no idea that the people of Clear Lake could actually go out into the real world and get a private job, or start a small business, if and when they lose their government jobs.

Re:Badastronomy blog on bill (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749226)

I'm amused that Kay has been calling some of her own constituents incompetent during this fight.

Its like she didn't realize that SpaceX employs 100-200 people near Waco. Granted its not as many people as in Clear Lake, but her tactlessness here was surprising.

This is a good thing (2, Insightful)

Blackjax (98754) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746944)

The US space industry is at a critical juncture right now. The best crop of private space firms we've ever seen is out there now; from a funding standpoint, a technical maturity standpoint, and from a drive to make space routine & affordable standpoint. That being said, the government has the power to either foster them or chill the environment they are operating in and potentially kill them off (as has happened more than once in the past). For this industry to really take root and get strong enough to achieve routine & affordable space they need to get through this juncture where most people have difficulty seeing a future that is different from massive, expensive, apollo style nasa and to a place where they can see there is a realistic chance space can be more like the aircraft/airline industry. Investors don't invest significant money in long time horizon ventures that will pay back *if* the government doesn't compete with you *and* a market happens to materialize as expected. They want to see that someone else is already making money before the cash floodgates truly will open. These first few companies are crucial to demonstrating the business case for the rest.

Unfortunately, this means it is critical for the government to not directly compete with the fledgling industry (for things that industry can reasonably be expected to do) (the Ares and Orion programs for example) and for certain restrictions (like ITAR), which prevent the this industry from being competitive and being able to self fund things in the future, to be removed as impediments. If the government can also serve as an early anchor customer until the market demand for lower cost access to space kicks in, that is a bonus which helps to accelerate things. The president has already signalled his willingness to make sensible changes to ITAR, so now the other half of the equation needed for success is to kill the massive pork ridden constellation program and refocus nasa on doing real science and exploration again (and at the same time making it a customer for off the shelf industry provided products and services).

This bill does that. It's most significant contribution to a brighter future isn't what it funds (the Commercial Crew initiative for example) but what it does not fund (Constellation). Killing the most egregious pork siphon the NASA budget has ever seen is the first step in saner NASA budgets in future years. Did this budget do everything that should have been done to refocus NASA productively? Not by a long shot. You can read more about the downsides here:

http://restorethevision.blogspot.com/search/label/Not%20So%20Great%20Compromise [blogspot.com]

But it does do the one thing that sets the stage for a healthier trajectory going forward...it kills Constellation and clears the decks for a healthier trajectory to be set over the next few years. That much pork was not something congress wanted to part with lightly and had it managed to hang on to a significant portion of constellation, we may have been looking at another 30 years of nothing much happening just like the last 30, only in this case the impending budget crisis over social security would eventually squeeze the space program down to nothing.

So when evaluating this budget, look at it for what it will enable long term, not what the specific line items mean in the next year.

Space plane? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#33746974)

So whatever happened to the space plane that they were talking about? Is that completely off the table? Is anyone still fighting to get it built?

Re:Space plane? (1)

BZWingZero (1119881) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747778)

It was called the Space Transportation System, and has been circling around in LEO for nearly the past thirty years.

hurry before tea party faction wins (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#33747710)

NASA is considered the number one example of unnecessary government spending in many conservative-libetarian polls. Misinformed voters think NASA consumes as much as a quarter of federal budget in some polls.

Re:hurry before tea party faction wins (1)

edawstwin (242027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33748874)

Which polls, and what's the correlation to "conservative-libetarians"? Are all non-conservatives fully informed? I'm a pretty hard core fiscal Libertarian and I think some amount of money for NASA is a great thing, and I don't know anyone personally who thinks that they need less money. They just need more autonomy, and Congress needs to actually listen when experts say it must be done a certain way or it's crap. Congress directs too much effort into dictating exactly what NASA does with the money, down to how many jobs a program must have and other irrelevant issues.

Obama Philosophy Question (2, Insightful)

laing (303349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33749472)

Why does our president want to grow the size of our government in most other areas, but privatize our space launch capability? His argument that the private sector is more efficient is a valid one. If he truly believes that the private sector is more efficient, then why not reduce our government by also outsourcing most other functions? Education is a good example. Bush tried to do this with his school voucher system and the democrats shot it down. What gives?

The time for NASA is over (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33750228)

It's groaning under the weight of bureaucracy and petty empire builders. Since it's already run like a bad business, just can it and put all space exploitation and exploration out as commercial tenders. 25% on signing, 25% on launch, 50% on successful completion. Offer $3 billion to put a man on Mars and bring him safely home, and watch it just happen.
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