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SpaceX's Dragon Module Successfully Re-Enters

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the go-go-spacex-crew dept.

Space 156

Zitchas writes "Following the news of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon module on-board, and its arrival on orbit, we now have the news that is has successfully re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific. As their website proudly claims, this is the first time a private corporation has recovered a spacecraft they orbited, joining the ranks of a few space nations and the EU space agency. A great step forward for space travel. Hopefully everything continues to go well for them."

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A great first step.. (1)

Glock27 (446276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513180)

I hope SpaceX eventually fields the first commercial nuclear propelled spaceship! :-)

Assumption proven (0)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513188)

Everything was coming to this. It's normal to assume that what was done by governments before will one day be done by commercial companies.

Re:Assumption proven (4, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513252)

It's normal to assume that what was done by governments before will one day be done by commercial companies.

Agree completely. Buchenwald, for example.

Re:Assumption proven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514830)

This! Just recently Ohio's governor-elect Kasich bragged about privatization of Ohio prisons as a cost-cutting measure. Facepalm.

Re:Assumption proven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515306)

Yeah, and if they get paid more for the number they take in then the number they *have* in...

Re:Assumption proven (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516198)

Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, (dog Latin for "reduction to Hitler" or "argument to Hitler," respectively) is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument, and is an informal fallacy. It is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. Hence this fallacy fails to examine the claim on its merit.

Re:Assumption proven (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513258)

Everything was coming to this. It's normal to assume that what was done by governments before will one day be done by commercial companies.

If you can get some ROI on it, there's obviously a decent market for satellite launches. And making deliveries to ISS, but that's demand all generated by the government. Maybe you can get some space hotels in LEO, but for everything else like sending out probes, going back to the Moon or to Mars there's not really been many realistic business plans, even if you count on playboy billionaires.

There's lots of services I don't see the private industry ever overtaking from the public like courts, police, CPS and so on. You might subcontrat specific things like ISS resupply missions, but not the overall thing. That I think will be fairly true for space exploration still.

Re:Assumption proven (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513330)

There's lots of services I don't see the private industry ever overtaking from the public like courts,

Private arbitration is common where courts are too slow and inept.

police, CPS and so on.

Private security is (or was as of a few years ago) one of the fastest-growing businesses in the world because in most cases they provide a much better service than government police.

No idea what 'CPS' is.

Re:Assumption proven (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513428)

I think 'CPS' is child protective services in this context.

Re:Assumption proven (0)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513470)

CPS may mean Child Protection Services - at least, it fits.

Re:Assumption proven (4, Informative)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513670)

Plus, they have the advantage that they are bound to protect you. In the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that police have no duty to protect any individual, only "society," a few special people, and those imprisoned by them. Even if you have a restraining order that commands the police to take action, you are not considered special enough. (See Warren vs. DC, Hartzler vs City of San Jose, Riss vs. New York, DeShaney vs. Winnebago County Department of Social Services; there are plenty of other)

CPS == crown prosecution service /nt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515168)

nt

Re:Assumption proven (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514640)

If you can get some ROI on it, there's obviously a decent market for satellite launches. And making deliveries to ISS, but that's demand all generated by the government. Maybe you can get some space hotels in LEO, but for everything else like sending out probes, going back to the Moon or to Mars there's not really been many realistic business plans, even if you count on playboy billionaires.

Today. What about tomorrow? Keep in mind that fifty years ago, a commercial market for satellites fell into the "not really many realistic business plans" realm. Things change even in the space industry. Just because it's not profitable today, doesn't mean that it'll always be unprofitable.

Re:Assumption proven (2)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515384)

Sure, but those future changes are going to result from non-profit oriented exploration. There's just nowhere near enough knowledge about the resources available or the costs of extracting/shipping them for a for-profit business to invest. The upfront costs are enormous, the expected payoffs are very hard to calculate, and the various risks are immense.

A good analogy is fusion research. The amounts of money required to make serious progress are immense (although probably small compared to what a manned mars mission would cost), but the potential payoffs if you were successful are huge and obvious. And while there are various companies dabbling in it, you don't see huge projects from big companies pouring money into figuring it out. Mostly because it's such a risky investment that corporations can't justify it.

And if fusion power research can't pull in that kind of funding, then what hope does interplanetary exploration have? The costs are higher, the risks are higher, and the payoffs are questionable. Any CEO who tried to shovel serious money towards it would be replaced faster than he could write the first check.

Re:Assumption proven (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515578)

Sure, but those future changes are going to result from non-profit oriented exploration. There's just nowhere near enough knowledge about the resources available or the costs of extracting/shipping them for a for-profit business to invest. The upfront costs are enormous, the expected payoffs are very hard to calculate, and the various risks are immense.

I have to disagree. I think we're entering a phase where commercial development will on its own be ample incentive for developments such as the above. It might not be as fast or convenient as using someone else's money to do the heavy lifting, but I think there's a pathway for incremental space development to give us space.

Re:Assumption proven (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515652)

A good analogy is fusion research. The amounts of money required to make serious progress are immense (although probably small compared to what a manned mars mission would cost), but the potential payoffs if you were successful are huge and obvious. And while there are various companies dabbling in it, you don't see huge projects from big companies pouring money into figuring it out. Mostly because it's such a risky investment that corporations can't justify it.

And if fusion power research can't pull in that kind of funding, then what hope does interplanetary exploration have? The costs are higher, the risks are higher, and the payoffs are questionable. Any CEO who tried to shovel serious money towards it would be replaced faster than he could write the first check.

Fusion research is a bad analogy. First, it's not profitable in any way and at least decades from that becoming true. OTOH, the satellite business is profitable now even in the absence of non-profits and government funds. There's also some obvious near future markets such as space tourism that are likely to be profitable.

Nor does one have to hope with spaceflight that not only does it become cost effective, but that it can beat the competitors. Fusion has other base load competitors such as fission power, intermittent sources plus storage, coal, and geothermal. Even some exotic ideas like space based solar power may be competitive with fusion in the long run. There is no competition for many of the services provided in space.

Re:Assumption proven (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515738)

... but for everything else like sending out probes, going back to the Moon or to Mars there's not really been many realistic business plans, even if you count on playboy billionaires.

It's possible that funding could come from traditional research centres, such as Universities with corporate goodwill backing- but you'd be talking about an awful lot of interested Uni's needing to club together to afford a decent interplanetary research project.

But then, there's no reason why the science shouldn't continue to be government funded. I know "small government" sentiment is scarily prevalent in some US political circles, but there's really nothing wrong with scientists (i.e., working on projects for the grater public good) shouldn't be tax-payer funded.

It's exciting that governments can start to take a back seat in terms of rocket development and manufacture, and it's exciting that we now have private technologies capable of launching manned orbitals of their own design, but there's no reason to be disappointed that tax-funded space agencies are going to be their biggest customer.

Re:Assumption proven (0)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514368)

I thought it was normal to assume that what was once done well by commercial companies will one day be taken over by an even better Government entity.

Government is capitalized in deference to the large number of people who believe it is a God. Mana from the Government please!

Re:Assumption proven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515680)

I thought it was normal to assume that what was once done well by commercial companies will one day be taken over by an even better Government entity.

That's just crazy-talk! The US government has determined that they are the only ones that can be trusted to own and/or control everything and so are taking over what the private sector does now like the auto industry, the airline industry, the healthcare industry, agriculture and food industries, and are positioning themselves to take over the media and internet industries currently.

What could possibly go wrong if a government controls nearly every aspect of people's lives from cradle to grave? It's not like history provides any examples where the results were not...optimum...for those citizens under similar systems, right?

not to rain on anyones parade.. (3, Insightful)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513194)

but wasnt this already reported in the launch thread? it only did two orbits, so the total flight time was a few hours.

Two days news turn-around is something one would expect from a news-paper in the good old telex days, not a website in 2010

Back on topic, awesome achievement! kudos to the SpaceX guys

Re:not to rain on anyones parade.. (3, Insightful)

MirthScout (247854) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513308)

I think it will take Slashdot at least 3 more days to report on the cheesey cargo in the Dragon capsule.

Re:not to rain on anyones parade.. (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515360)

For the next launch, the Dragon will carry a bazouki.

Re:not to rain on anyones parade.. (4, Informative)

Gruff1002 (717818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516766)

The cheesy cargo was a wheel of LeBrouere and was a nod to Monty Pythons skit "Cheese Shop".

Re:not to rain on anyones parade.. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514560)

Back on topic, awesome achievement! kudos to the SpaceX guys

If ever there was an achievement on Slashdot to deserve two stories, this would be it.

Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513202)

Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space? Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years?

Our scientific missions seemed a lot more important and interesting on the moon with Apollo 17 in 1972. [wikimedia.org]

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513274)

No, 'we' haven't proven much. Some governmental agencies around the world have proven that THEY can orbit the Earth, while you and I haven't done all that much to participate in that (buttefly effect does not count for much here.) SpaceX is a first here. Generalization - tool of choice of any critic.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513416)

I don't see how are we more part of a private company for which most of us don't work or hold shares of, compared to a public project paid by us all.

Not a criticism to SpaceX - I think achieving commercial viability is indispensable for future exploration, at least in our current economic system. But I'm not them.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513284)

Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space?

We're not competing for our "space superiority" against anyone like we did with the Soviets.

Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years

Fine by me if it includes unmanned probes. More than likely, space exploration will be a multi-national sort of thing - again fine by me. Having something that we all can work on may help bring humanity together as opposed to this tribalism and political boundaries.

Besides, a country such as the US that has an economy based upon medical and retail services just doesn't have the money to continue with space. We're in decline. An up and coming power will have to take the lead from us.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (2)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513290)

Well, as reported elsewhere... If SpaceX can secure the funding they will design and build a super heavy lift which would give them capability of 120mT - 140mT to orbit. They're floating a fixed price of $2.5B for development and building the initial flight hardware. That's cheap compared to the current proposals for heavy lift vehicles that NASA is floating. If they can arrange for the funding, that gives us a vehicle in the Saturn V class (again) and it's game on.

Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513316)

I was always wondering, do we need rockets of such a huge capacity, given the possibility (not yet, sure, but hopefully soon) of in-orbit assembly?

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513380)

You still need to get the raw materials into orbit for assembly. Which do you think is going to be the more efficient, cost effective, and (hopefully) less risky approach to an in-orbit assembly of a ~400mT space station like the ISS? Four launches of component parts at ~100mT apiece, or fourty launches at ~10mT?

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513906)

Multiple smaller launches is more efficient and less risky if you have a fully reusable launch system. The ratio of payload to fuel is higher with smaller launches, the stresses that need to be resisted safely by the vehicle are lower, and you gain a lot more experience with the launch vehicle over time. Would you rather fly on a commercial aircraft that has thousands of copies that have flown billions of miles, or as the first passenger on an experimental craft that is perhaps 50 times as large as the largest commercial craft ever made?

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (2)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514546)

Actually, I'd go with a "horses for courses" approach. If I wanted to lift low value, easy to replace and high mass raw materials for the superstructure into orbit I'd go for the heavy lift. Sensitive equipment with high value, long lead times and lower mass I'd want to spread across multiple smaller launches to minimise the impact of something going wrong. There's clearly a use for both approaches, so why not provide your prospective customers with a choice if you are in the business of commercial space launches?

As to the passenger plane question, is it made by Airbus and outfitted with Rolls Royce engines? :)

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514332)

milliTesla? I think ISS has a magnetic field much lower than 0.4 Tesla, which is quite large (earth is 0.1 mT)

I think you mean some other unit... perhaps tonne? kg?

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514462)

"mT" is usually used informally to imply use of metric tonnes when it might be unclear which measurement system is being used - i.e. mostly when talking to North Americans. Context should make it clear that milli-Tesla is not applicable.

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513430)

i think it all comes down to scale. even if we do in-orbit assembly (which would make sense for some stuff), we would need in-orbit fuel depots. It might well be more efficient to send up one ultra-heavy carrying 100 tons of fuel rather then three heavies each carrying 30 tons.

plus it would enable single launch moonshots and such. Doing in orbit assembly/staging with space stations and such might be slightly more versatile and economical, but it requires more infrastructure to be up there, most of which we dont have now (and the ISS, what we have, isnt exactly the utopia planetia shipyard either)

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513658)

I'm revoking your Trek card... The Utopia Planetia shipyards are on Mars, not in orbit. Are or will be anyway...

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513752)

well, i guess that's ok, i wasnt using it anyway, and it isnt required for the new rebooted movies anyway i guess..

(by the by, you didnt catch my initial spelling error, it is "utopia planitia", so better get studying for your yearly trek recertification)

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516630)

LOL... I copied your spelling assuming it was correct... Decided not to do the link to Memory Alpha (all things Trek)

Don't even get me started on the reboot. I generally sum it up by saying that if I wanted to watch young punks tool around in powerful star ships, I'd have rented Star Wars Episode IV

Re:Super Heavy Necessary? (2)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513838)

If we're going to do in orbit assembly way don't we just use a Verne Cannon to get the raw materials up into space, anything that's too fragile to be launched that way can be sent up in a more traditional method.

WOW, WHAT A BARGAIN! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513816)

a fixed price of $2.5B for development and building the initial flight hardware

I'm sure Paul Allen can scrape that much together. If he's not overly invested in Virgin Galactic.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (0)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514300)

Maybe the Obama administration and congress can funnel some of the remaining stimulus money to them instead of senting it to unions for "shovel ready jobs". Or, here's an idea.

SpaceX should sell a bunch of strangely concocted derivative investment vehicles and percipitate a financial crisis, then congress will give them hundreds of billions of dollars. Mission accomplished.

Not to get too political, but we were having a discussion about this very thing last night, and while I'm most definitely not for government bailouts of any kind, but can you imagine if only a small percentage of the bailout or stimulus went to companies like SpaceX (with performance requirements and conditions) instead of going to the people who caused the mess in the first place and have by all accounts not changed their business practices? Memo to government: The next time a relatively small group of people fuck up so badly by committing acts of fraud that they cost millions of people their life savings, you prosecute them and line them up against a wall and shoot them - you don't write them a check for $787 billion.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514860)

Portions of the bailout money could have gone to several different causes, doing far more good in the world than what it actually did, but the point is that it was called for by the mega-wealthy, to make themselves wealthier. The capitalist elite do not care about space exploration, world hunger, or any pressing social or scientific issues. They only care about themselves, and Congress has had a long-standing policy of trying to sate them, which is impossible to do.

Basically, forget about space exploration being commercially viable while we still the capitalist elite down here on Earth funneling funds orders of magnitude greater to themselves. It's a wealth gap that cannot be overcome by anything except public action.

Also, I don't think any significant ventures into space will happen until we start doing nuclear propulsion. Chemical compounds just aren't going to do the trick.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513366)

There is no money in getting back to the moon, at least at this point. The principle driving force of the commercial space program is the generation of profit... Perfecting the space "tour" is what seems to be the first goal so the commercial company can get a cash cow going. I believe that the commercial space program will eventually want to get to the moon (and beyond), but right now I think it is all about just getting into space in manner that provides profit potential.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513520)

There is plenty of money to be made on the moon. Tritium for example, is going to be the primary fuel source for Fusion Rectors in 30 years or so. The only place to get commercial quantities of it, is the Moon. The only way to get the Tritium to earth, is to build commercial spacecraft to ferry it back.

The ISS is doing research on humans in space for a time when we will NEED that tritium(in the near future) like we need oil now. Think Oil-Rigs-in-Space. This new spacecraft is able to make money for it builders/operators, and save us taxpayers billions in the process. Be patient, in 10 years there WILL be a base on the Moon.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (4, Informative)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513612)

Double-check your facts. It's helium-3 that's in abundance on the Moon, not tritium. Helium-3 is a byproduct of tritium decay. Tritium has a short halflife and doesn't accumulate over geological timescales.

Tritium can be manufactured on Earth. Future fusion reactors (at least the magnetic confinement type, like ITER), will almost certainly test or operate lithium breeding blankets that'll produce tritium in abundance, and it'll hardly be worth millions of dollars a kilogram to ship a bulky product all the way back to Earth.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515928)

Well then; just stick to whaling.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (2)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513802)

Oh yeah, and you need a reactor to burn it in too. Ignore all the stupid internet-crackpot garbage about Lew Rockwell, polywell, cold fusion and rubbish like that -- it's a super hard problem which will take billions of dollars and decades to solve.

Too bad the conservatives are doing their best to defund fusion research and limit the US' involvement in international fusion research.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514212)

The moon would make a great place for rich old geezers to retire. At 1/6th Earth's gravity, granny wouldn't need that walker.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (4, Insightful)

phrisbee98 (1956604) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513444)

The achievements themselves (launch, orbit, reentry) are not nearly as significant as the COST to perform these operations. Apollo and the shuttle cost many billions to develop. This company developed 2 rockets, a capsule, launch operations and production lines for roughly $600 Million. Barring a major Earth catastrophe, cost reduction is the only way to accelerate our reach into the stars.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514780)

Knowing something can already be done, and having some info and design from the original work makes it much easier to do stuff.

Voluntary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513680)

Um, this is a very different animal than government space programs. First and foremost, SpaceX achieved its funding through voluntary means, quite the opposite from how governments achieve their funding. Secondly, commercial space missions are driven by the interests of those who actually pay for them, again quite the opposite of government space missions which are inevitably driven by military and political interests.

What this proves is that people are ready to fund space exploration voluntarily, and that space is ready for commercial progress. And that's a very big milestone.

Re:Voluntary (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513846)

First and foremost, SpaceX achieved its funding through voluntary means, quite the opposite from how governments achieve their funding.

That's right: Investors voluntarily invest their money in SpaceX. But they do it mainly based on the expectation that SpaceX will win fat government contracts, so they can repay these same investors with a larger amount of money involuntarily extracted from the taxpayers.

Re:Voluntary (1)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516276)

Well, government contracts and private launch contracts. They need to position themselves as a viable, cheaper alternative to launches by the big boys like ULA.

Re:Voluntary (1)

BarefootClown (267581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516516)

First and foremost, SpaceX achieved its funding through voluntary means, quite the opposite from how governments achieve their funding.

That's right: Investors voluntarily invest their money in SpaceX. But they do it mainly based on the expectation that SpaceX will win fat government contracts, so they can repay these same investors with a larger amount of money involuntarily extracted from the taxpayers.

...in exchange for providing services to the government--services the government would have demanded anyway--and in competition with other entities, spurring innovation and driving down cost, while also offering to the same service to other entities the private sector.

Or are you saying that everybody who ever sold a product to a government is morally identical to that government creating that product itself?

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513784)

NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

Setting up shop on the moon I can relate to. Seems to me that the moon is the appropriate place to be building (and possibly launching) craft to further explore/exploit our star system, and probably our interstellar endeavours as well.

But Mars? I think robotic exploration of Mars is good enough; why, after spending all that effort to leave a gravity well, would we want to drop back down into one, again? It's not like we can terraform the planet into an Earth-like oasis. The simple fact that it lacks a natural magnetic field precludes anything but enclosed, artificially-controlled environment.

OTOH, going to Mars, in order to shape Phobos and Deimos into orbiting habitats (Mars space stations), using Mars as a gravity anchor, seems like a pragmatic choice. Perhaps, one day when we've got the science together, we can smash Mars into Venus and place the new body in counter-orbit to Earth around the sun, if we really want another planet surface to live on, but for now, it seems our technological limitations dictate we should pursue a persistent presence in space, once we are "out there". Dropping downinto a strong gravitational field feels like a step backward, to me. Let the robots do it.

what does "pioneering spirit" mean? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513862)

What does "pioneering spirit" mean? I think in the formation of the USA it meant overcoming hardship to get land and become rich?

If this is what you mean I am guessing the bankers, entrepreneurs etc reckon there's better promise on good returns to be made down here, possibly with the exception of Richard Branson who reckons sub orbital flight will make him some money.

As for science, that's maybe a different issue from pioneering? I am sure the scientists would like some more money to do more space science but I think they'll be split between whether to spend the money on manned or unmanned research.

Me, I am a romantic. I'd like to go to Mars and beyond because I am selfish and I want to go there and I think it would be really cool. I should imagine some scientists would like to join me to learn new science though, and probably some entrepreneurs in case there's money to be made out of it. I suppose the last group are the pioneering team?

Re:what does "pioneering spirit" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514712)

I think by "pioneering spirit" he meant the desire to be the first to venture into new lands just as European explorers ventured across the globe searching for new discoveries.

Re:what does "pioneering spirit" mean? (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514988)

That would be better stated, "... searching for trade routes, new products, and new land and resources to exploit."

The individual explorers were "adventurers". The people giving them ships and funding their explorations were looking for ROI. Guess which is harder to come by: pioneering spirit, or billions of dollars in investment capital to fund your pioneering adventures?

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513930)

Our scientific missions seemed a lot more important and interesting on the moon with Apollo 17 in 1972.

The moon landings weren't really about science, they were about engineering and national pride. The Russians launched the first satellite, the first man in space, and the first man in orbit; we needed to beat them to the moon and prove that we could keep going there.

We've gotten far more and better science with unmanned space missions.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514254)

We've gotten far more and better science with unmanned space missions.

Not necessarily from the moon. From Mars? Sure. Of course we've gotten more data from the unmanned missions because *that's the only thing that's been there*.

The rovers have been a wonderful success, and the data they've brought back is invaluable, but realistically, what they've accomplished in YEARS could have been done by a human on the ground in a day or two max.

Unmanned exploration should be seen as a forerunner to manned. Something we send out in advance of our arrival, not instead of it.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516218)

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for manned missions. I'm just pointing out that we can get a lot of science done without manning every mission. Here's [nasa.gov] the NASA page on moon science.

The rovers have been a wonderful success, and the data they've brought back is invaluable, but realistically, what they've accomplished in YEARS could have been done by a human on the ground in a day or two max.

It takes more than a day or two to return from Mars. AND, the rover mission was scheduled to last six months. A six month manned mission to another body couldn't have been extended like that.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516320)

Bingo. Lets the bots do the grunt work, so that why you finally have spaceboots on the ground, they have clear, well defined objectives, so they can do the maximum amount of science during their stay on the surface.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (4, Insightful)

Zitchas (713512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514050)

The point, I think, is to get the government institutions (who are the ones who don't have to make money at things) OUT of the business of doing repetitious, potentially profitable things. Like putting satellites into orbit, doing ISS supply runs, and other generic things that are pretty much routine these days.

If they are barred from doing easy stuff, maybe they will take their budget where it is supposed to go: into exploration and the development of new things, things that the the private industry won't do because there is no profit there yet.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514460)

Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.
Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space? Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years?

NASA/US Government, yes, done, out of the game. They'll say otherwise, but look at behaviors, not rhetoric.

Enter SpaceX... private industry will now make the manned advances. Elon Musk can now fund Moon R&D with revenues from commercial launches and government gigs.

Give the man his cookie, he earned it.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514570)

Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

SpaceX's current launch is a key step to regaining that capability that the US lost in the 70s.

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515480)

A big step - only two more launches and the capsule is man rated, and we have a seven person scaled up version of an Apollo atop a Saturn Ib, easily capable of reaching the ISS with a full crew. Then all we need is a new version of the Saturn V, and we have essentially all the capability we lost in the 70's and 80's, scaled by 7/3rds. (OK, to do an actual lunar mission, we need a LEM, but there, exact duplicates of the original, flawless design would do - let's hope the Gruman design sheets are still around).

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

simula (1032230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515110)

One of the goals of SpaceX is to not only put a human on Mars (Elon Musk is shooting for 2020), but to make space flight affordable enough to allow people to move to Mars.

“One of the long-term goals of SpaceX is, ultimately, to get the price of transporting people and product to Mars to be low enough and with a high enough reliability that if somebody wanted to sell all their belongings and move to a new planet and forge a new civilisation they could do so.”

Elon Musk: 'I'm planning to return to Mars' [thelonggoodread.com]

Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516434)

There's an island a few miles off the coast of New England that's a popular destination for sea kayakers. They have proven that we can perform a successful traversal to and from that island. NOW they have have to move on to going to Greenland and back.

See how extravagant that mode of argument is? It's not that the Greenland expedition isn't worth somebody's attention, but if it is ever done it will be done for entirely different reasons. And if those guys really need to go to Greenland, they have a more practical way of getting there than paddling.

The same goes for Mars. Earth orbit is way easier than Mars, and far more immediately rewarding. We sometimes forget, but the reason we as a species developed orbital capacity largely entailed being able to drop bombs on other members of our species. Once we'd got good at that, the Moon wasn't really that much of a stretch, well worth doing to show the world that capitalist America had the biggest pair in the Cold War.

I think we *should* explore space. That's why I'm not excited about bootprints on Mars being our top immediate priority. That will suck the money out robotic missions and near earth manned missions that would build fundamental knowledge and technological capabilities. There's no doubt we *can* put boots on Mars soon if we spend enough money on it, which is precisely why it's not an exciting enough basket to put all our space exploration eggs in.

There will inevitably come a time when landing people on Mars will be the best next project for us to do. That will come when the cost to stage the mission in orbit is a lot cheaper, when space propulsion systems and life support systems are a lot better than they are now, and we know enough about Mars to know where putting those boots is the best investment. A premature manned Mars program would be like the Apollo program in that it would be a spectacular feet that quickly loses public interest and support. A sustainable space exploration program is a better investment. That naturally involves maintaining our manned spaceflight capacity.

Old news (1)

jareth (124708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513210)

This was old news from a couple days ago, covered on some respectable media outlets

Congrats from the ISS (5, Interesting)

CompressedAir (682597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513280)

The POIC (and probably every other NASA center with a TV) had the launch up on the big screen. Scott Kelly, the USOS crew on the ISS right now, took a break and watched it live on the feed we sent up to him between LOS's.

Scott asked CAPCOM to give the SpaceX team his congratulations on a successful launch. We in the ISS community are doubly excited: not only is it great to see such a flawless launch, but the Dragon/Falcon 9 is key to our future logistics and science return!

Well done, SpaceX.

Re:Congrats from the ISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513818)

Amen to the return capability. We need it.

New name for Air Marshal (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513718)

Assuming we get to the point where we have private, commercial flights in space (for a hefty price), and on-board marshals are required, we absolutely have to call them Space Rangers and not Air (or Space) Marshals.

Brought Back Moon Cargo (2)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513822)

I heard that a wheel sized sample of the lunar surface was successfully recovered and delivered to earth.

Re:Brought Back Moon Cargo (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514262)

The cheese I saw wasn't green, so I think you're mistaken.

Re:Brought Back Moon Cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515264)

I dunno, lad. It's like no cheese I've ever tasted.

Re:Brought Back Moon Cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514406)

| I heard that a wheel sized sample of the lunar surface was successfully recovered and delivered to earth.

Correction: the sample was recovered from the Hollywood sound stage where they made the film of the first moon landings...

Re:Brought Back Moon Cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515504)

| I heard that a wheel sized sample of the lunar surface was successfully recovered and delivered to earth.

Correction: the sample was recovered from the Hollywood sound stage where they made the film of the first moon landings...

Go tell that to Buzz Aldrin. He'll gladly punch you.

I can't wait.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513856)

..to have a little "SpaceX" myself.

Spam in a can... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514110)

Not as much fun as it could be. But hey, they would have gotten a sample back for testing. Nice.

EU != ESA (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514160)

The summary seems to indicate that there is an European Union (EU) space agency. Although many members of EU are members of the ESA, not all EU members are members of ESA, and there are members of the ESA that are not members of the EU (Norway and Switzerland).

Re:EU != ESA (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515084)

Beat me to the punch. Lots of people mix up the EU and the ESA, same as the mix up the EU and the Eurozone.

What NASA, ESA and USSR/Russia have done that SpaceX thus far hasn't is automated docking. That's not a trivial step at all (the Chinese, for instance, haven't done it yet, and are taking their sweet time making sure they get it right). Presumably they've got plans in this regard if they want to resupply the ISS.

As impressive as it is, really these days its a question of time and money, and having a fair decent pool of engineering competence. Likely ESA would've moved on from the ATV to the ARV and then to a manned capsule if the UK stop being dickish about manned spaceflight and matched the French/German level of voluntary contributions. Its not a matter of SpaceX having some free-market spark of genius that enabled this, its a matter that they were lucky enough to be given the funds to make this happen. The question to ask then, is why isn't there more money out there for more groups to push for space capsules?

Re:EU != ESA (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515290)

It's both free-market genius AND luck of adequate funding, actually, because the funding they WERE given by the non-free market wouldn't be anywhere near enough for the same amount of progress if given to other agencies, and especially if given to NASA. Not to be unduly critical of NASA, but one thing they definitely are not is efficient.

P.S. Does anybody know why I can't copy and paste text from the comments into the reply box, in Chrome on Win7? They copy works - I can paste into e.g. Notepad, but pasting into the reply box doesn't work.

Re:EU != ESA (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515410)

I'm always skeptical of 'free market genius' because of externalities. A government agency, in a functioning democracy, has to account for itself pretty tightly, and the entire society its in are counted as stakeholders. A private corporation only really answers to its shareholders and can dump off its costs elsewhere.

In the case of SpaceX, the big externality is R&D cost. I find it amusing they boast of both being privately funded, whilst at the same time making a big deal of the super-reliable pintle injectors they sponged off the Apollo programme.

Oh, and the reason you can't copy and paste is likely because Windows 7 is shite :)

Re:EU != ESA (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515326)

Not only that, but the summary also suggests there are "Space Nations". All nationalities that have a presence in space are ones that originated--and remain based--on Earth.

- RG>

"SpaceX's Dragon Module Successfully Re-Enters ??? (1)

chaosdivine69 (1456649) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514854)

"SpaceX's Dragon Module Successfully Re-Enters..." WHAT? Damnit Slashdot, don't leave me hanging like that! Now I'm actually going to have to RTFA. Sheesh!

Elon Musk first private citizen to orbit earth (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515010)

This is my prediction: SpaceX will choose Elon to be the first private citizen of a private space flight to orbit the earth within the next 5 years.

Re:Elon Musk first private citizen to orbit earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515392)

He deserves it..

I don't get it. (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515316)

Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

People always give the line that corporations are more efficient, but I don't really see why. Not only are they likely to shell out big bucks to their execs, but they also have to get enough money selling products/services to the government to make a profit. NASA doesn't have to make a profit, so they're providing the service to the government at cost.

Saying that private entities are cheaper for the government to use because private entities need to make a profit seems backwards to me. Yes, the Shuttle was a bloated, expensive undertaking... but last time I checked Lockheed Martin wasn't giving us any sweet deals on the F-22 or F-35.

The quest for profit may spur innovation I suppose, but I think that's a stretch. Science isn't really pushed forward by individuals looking to make money. It's just like the argument you hear about medicine; that high health care costs leads to better doctors. I don't know about anyone else, but personally, I like for my MDs to be motivated by the desire to help people.

For a similar reason, I'd want the builders of a spacecraft I was riding in to be in it for reasons other than profit... I don't want them cutting corners to increase margins when my life is on the line.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

drotte (1487055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515750)

I want my M.D. to have the most knowledge and access to the best tools. If he or she got those via profit motivation, that's fine with me. People can be motivated by more than one thing at once.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516310)

For Boeing and Lockheed Martin they end up being part of the supply chain and because of that they have no incentive to build cheap and fly cheap, their goal is to create and sell high because someone else is going to pay for it and often deal with it. If SpaceX puts their own people in the air with their own hardware, they have the motivation to keep prices low and when it comes around to getting other people and things in orbit, sell high.

Odds are if you are looking for the lowest bidder between Lockheed Martin selling NASA the necessary hardware and NASA maintaining it/managing it/training/etc. and SpaceX contracted through NASA, it isn't hard to figure out who the winner is.

Currently it doesn't serve SpaceX to do a poor job, they are comparatively young. Ask me again when someone gives them a 15-25 year contract.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34516338)

I dunno either. The government already has corporations hired to make spacecraft, and they've been doing it for years. (You know, Lockheed, Boeing, Rockwell, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, etc. Pretty much all the aerospace companies involved in the defense industry.)

I think the new thing with Space-X is that they're making their spaceships first without all the pork-laden subcontracts spread out everywhere, and they aren't sponging off the government with contracts that make wasteful things like overruns profitable. So instead of running what is essentially really really expensive sale with a prolonged payment plan to the government on a spaceship, Space-X gets the spaceship built and ready first and then rents it. It just turns out that this way is a hell of a lot more price competitive than what the existing space industry corporations in the U.S. have been doing.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516468)

>Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

Because it has always been done (speaking of manned spacecraft) beginning with McDonnell building Mercury. I'm not sure if Explorer and Vanguard were built by companies but just about every satellite was built by private companies. There is no US Govt Rocket & Spacecraft Manufacturing Plant.

One exception is O/OREOS that was built by Ames and SCU.

> last time I checked Lockheed Martin wasn't giving us any sweet deals on the F-22 or F-35.

Interesting observation. F35 was introduced as CALF (common affordable lightweight fighter), it is now CLF.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516566)

Nasa doesn't build much. they have always had to use private companies to do the actual building. Due to the way those contracts work, the contractors have little motivation to do anything but maximize profit from that contract, where as a purely privately funded company has to answer to it's shareholders.

Space X saved a lot of money not by cutting corners, but by vertical integration. They build as much as they can in house, rather then having to buy and ship stuff form dozens of makers all over the nation/world. It's applying the same philosophy to building rockets that we use to build cars.

If you look at stuff like the F22/F35, they spread things out as much as possible, to as many congressional districts, to make the project uncancelable. that means billions over decades on the gravy train. It's one of the major problems in the MIC.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

BarefootClown (267581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516746)

Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

People always give the line that corporations are more efficient, but I don't really see why. Not only are they likely to shell out big bucks to their execs, but they also have to get enough money selling products/services to the government to make a profit. NASA doesn't have to make a profit, so they're providing the service to the government at cost.

Saying that private entities are cheaper for the government to use because private entities need to make a profit seems backwards to me.

How many private entities have the ability to either print money or seize money from others through force (taxes)?

That's why the private sector is more efficient: even with profits, private entities still have to work within budgets. Governments don't earn money, governments take money, and if they have cost overruns, they can just take more. Where's the incentive to be efficient?

CHEESE! (1)

Tmack (593755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515608)

Capacity to launch and recover 6600+lbs, so what do they send up?

Big wheel of Cheese [satnews.com]

No word on what type yet.

-tm

Gouda! (1)

Tmack (593755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515636)

La Brouere to be specific....

Pic [examiner.com]

-tm

Re:CHEESE! (1)

drotte (1487055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516020)

No doubt it will be on the appetizer tray at Space-X's holiday party this year.

Cheddar! (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516092)

It's the most popular cheese in the world - this world, and other worlds. ;)

Escape Tower? (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516570)

I read and hear all this talk that they are ready to pop in seats and have jump in that beauty. BUT what about abort systems? OK, so I have RTFA or all websites but I wonder if they need to manrate, then there will be additional weight penalty for an escape tower, additional tests (take a look at all the work NASA is doing design on abort rocket motors and tower).

Dragon has one advantage over Orion is the launch system does not have an "aggressive launch profile" like Ares rocket (which is a screamer in lower atmosphere and has really high dynamic Q). Oh, there is consideration of another launch vehicle but some have written "it has to be done with solid rocket technology!" (somebody needs to read up on what Goddard and Oberth worked on in the 20th century).

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