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Pentagon Sets Tone For Future Space Exploration

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the let's-bomb-the-moon-again dept.

NASA 79

coondoggie writes "It obviously leans heavily on the military's concerns for outer space exploration, but the National Security Space Strategy (PDF) released yesterday by the Department of Defense outlines concerns like protection from space junk and system security that all space travelers in theory would want addressed. The NSSS document emphasizes the Obama administration's desire to protect US space assets and to further commercialize space but also to ensure that the US and international partners have unfettered access to outer space."

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OK, fine (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113438)

Sounds perfectly reasonable. A couple of high sounding, moral high ground arguments (space is for everyone), a few sops to Boeing, et. al (need for continued government support for x,y,z), a sop to NASA and the inevitable "don't mess too much with our playground, we're bigger than you".

Now. Where's the money?

Re:OK, fine (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113484)

Now. Where's the money?

We gave that to the Wall Street bankers...

Re:OK, fine (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113576)

Who paid their debits to China...
... which actuall has a space program [wikipedia.org] . It involves things US can not do anymore (sending a man on the moon) and something the US never did (building a base on the moon)

Re:OK, fine (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113886)

Considering that the Chinese have yet to complete an in-orbit rendezvous and some have argued that the "space walks" conducted by the Chinese astronauts may have even been faked or staged, they have a long way to go before I need to worry about the Chinese joining up with a secret Nazi Moon base in an attempt to start world conquest.

This isn't to say that China is completely backward, but don't ascribe more to them than is really true. Furthermore, all China has been doing is to essentially copy the efforts of other nations. There is very little new or original being done by China as they are now up to about 1960's technology for what Russia and America were doing.

As for the "American" space program, I'd give it a decade before private individuals are walking on the Moon. SpaceX already sent a capsule into orbit and now merely needs FAA approval to put some people into the capsule to start its own manned spaceflight program. With Bigelow Aerospace supplying the space stations and Moon bases along with a dozen more private companies nipping at the heels of SpaceX to get into space, it is just a matter of time before the Moon and elsewhere is covered with people and human constructs. A whole lot is happening with regards to American spaceflight, it just isn't being done by the bankrupt government who doesn't care to go into space any more.

Re:OK, fine (3, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#35116646)

Please, don't indulge in conspiracy theories about the Chinese spacewalk. The same deal applies to this as to with the moon landings; if it were faked one of the countries competitors would've used that to score an immediate propaganda coup.

Unless you can account for the silence of the US, Japan and India on the matter, don't take this crap seriously. Shenzhou 7 happened, and there was a spacewalk.

You seem to not believe the evidence supplied for a Chinese spacewalk, accepted by nations with every reason to portray China as more backward than it is, yet you unquestioningly accept the vastly over-optimistic projections of private space companies that are yet to put a single human into orbit. Your skepticism is rather selective, betraying your bias.

If Shenzhou can be called 1960's technology because it looks like the Soyuz, then SpaceShipOne can be called 1950's technology because it's basically a nicely painted X-15.

Re:OK, fine (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117516)

Burt Rutan openly admits that SpaceShipOne is an advanced version of the X-15. That was also not a primitive vehicle but rather advanced and much of the development of the X-15 was contemporary with the Gemini and Apollo programs, with the final flight as late as 1970. Seriously, there is much to be gained by studying the technology developed for that program, and I wouldn't call it that "primitive", where it is unfortunate that more work wasn't done with that concept for potential spaceflight. I consider that a sort of compliment to Scaled Composites that you would claim that.

Mind you, I said nothing of a comparison to the Soyuz, as I know full well that Shenzhou represents a complete clean sheet spacecraft design even though it happens to look quite a bit like the Soyuz. My point is that an in-orbit rendezvous is nearly as complex and as large of a technological as getting into orbit in the first place, and could arguably be considered a much better technical milestone in terms of how advanced and capable a spaceflight system happens to be.

The Soviet Union didn't get an in-orbit rendezvous until early 1969, and that was one of the remarkable achievements of the Gemini program that was specifically required in order to be ready for the Apollo missions... done a mere couple of years earlier. It also very nearly cost the lives of a couple of astronauts when it was done.

As for the Chinese spacewalk of Shinzhou 7, it looks suspicious to me when I look at the footage as there are a number of things that don't look right in terms of what I would expect in a video of something from space. Still, what I'm trying to suggest here is that an EVA seems like a big deal, but doesn't really represent the technology necessary to go to the Moon... and even if you take the events as claimed by the Chinese at face value, what that astronaut did was little more than Ed White did in 1965. Heck, at least Ed White wasn't tied down to his spacecraft with the exception of the umbilical chord and he tested an early version of the MMU later used with the Shuttle program and accomplished much more with that spacewalk.

None of the accomplishments of the Chinese space program have done anything which wasn't already done by both the Soviet Union and the United States by 1970, which is why I said that they are still using 1960's technology. Perhaps the guidance computers for the Shinzhou spacecraft is more modern, but what else can you point to that is showing some groundbreaking technology? The Chinese have a long way to go, and their flight tempo isn't anywhere near what the Russian or American space programs were in the 1960's.... or for that matter aren't even at the current flight tempo of either NASA or the Russian Space Agency. Some of this stuff takes time and experience.... which is precisely why I do question the technical capabilities of the Chinese. I'd dare say that the ESA even has more experience with human spaceflight than China.

Re:OK, fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35115188)

The fact that the US doesn't do this anymore should be a sign that it's obsolete. It achieves nothing, it's a stunt. A moon base? Please, you're joking, right? I mean, no one gets bent out of shape that we don't fly the Kitty Hawk flyer anymore. Who cares? We don't go to the Moon because it's expensive, dangerous and achieves nothing at all. We're certainly not "exploring" space, what a concept. Explore what? A hard vacuum? A few lifeless rocks? SEND ROBOTS.

Here, scroll down to the Voyager link and LISTEN. [www.cbc.ca]

Spare 16 minutes out of your life.

Re:OK, fine (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117096)

You send robots. I want to go keep an eye on the robots. I'm human, I'm inquisitive, I'm in love with the idea of conquest. Your robots? Far more expensive than sending a man, and all they'll do is muddle about, waiting for you to tell them what to do. Phhht.

For certain values of "you" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113984)

http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/log2010.html

YEAR TO DATE LAUNCH SITE SUMMARY

Launch sites, ranked by number of year-to-date orbital
launch attempts.

Site: Overall Launches(Failures)

Baikonur, Kazakhstan: 24(1)
Cape Canaveral, Florida: 9(0)
XiChang, China: 8(0)
Kourou, French Guyana: 6(0)
Plesetsk, Russia: 6(0)
Jiuquan, China: 4(0)
Kennedy Space Center, Florida: 3(0)
Vandenberg AFB, California: 3(0)
Taiyaun, China: 3(0)
Sriharikota, India: 3(2)
Tanegashima, Japan: 2(0)
Dombarovsky, Russia: 1(0)
Palmachim, Israel: 1(0)
Naro Space Center, South Korea: 1(1)

In short, Russia performed twice as many successful launches as the U. S.

Re:For certain values of "you" (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114038)

It's not how many times you launch, it's how you launch and what you get out of it.

Re:For certain values of "you" (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114076)

In short, Russia performed twice as many successful launches as the U. S.

And that means exactly what? Other than commenting upon the decided lack of interest by the U.S. Congress in funding pork barrel spaceflight projects that do nothing but chew up tax dollars, what has been useful for putting up into space? Most of the private spaceflight efforts are still in development and issues like ITAR have mostly shot American companies in the foot on the off chance that Iran or North Korea might get American "missile technology", so therefore American companies are prohibited by law from supplying parts or even consulting expertise to anybody else... including Canada or the United Kingdom. Yeah those are real threats there I might add, as Canadian nukes rain down on American cities.

Re:For certain values of "you" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114124)

That list shows that Russia has 7 successful launches and the USA has 15...

Re:For certain values of "you" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114456)

Pedant. The pad is leased.

Re:OK, fine (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35115562)

Don't get your hopes up.

While it's possible that private industry could get us into space in my life time, I won't be surprised if I die before we've even mastered trips to the moon. It's depressing to think I'll have lived my entire life without having anything on the level of the experience my parents' generation had with the moon landing. And it won't be enough to just get back to the moon (which seems iffy, itself, currently). To me, minimal progress would be the ability to regularly travel from earth to the moon. Maybe not you and me, but at least astronauts in general. Feels like an entire generation of wasted space exploration.

On the other hand, advancements in science and technology have exponential impact. Therefore, it's quite likely that we could cease 95% of all NASA-related endeavors and while not making big jumps in the near future, combine the advances in the rest of the fields to make a significant leap farther in the future. Sort of like how you could have started a calculation with your computer in 1990 and just now be finishing it, while I could have waited until today to perform the same calculation with a modern computer and finish in two minutes.

So . . . maybe do get your hopes up.

God damn gemini.

Re:OK, fine (2)

trickyD1ck (1313117) | more than 3 years ago | (#35116848)

Maybe the Moon landing of your generation is called "The Internet." Or "Personal Genomics." I don't think that Space exploration is the only measure of human achievement.

Re:OK, fine (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117126)

Yes, the internet has precluded all sorts of threats to the existence of mankind. Putting men, and colonies, into space wouldn't help to ensure mankind's survival is the least, in the event of a cataclysmic impact, would it? Get your priorities. Playing with computers is exactly that - child's play for the most part. Putting a gene pool onto another planet is vastly more important, by many orders of magnitude.

Re:OK, fine (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35120894)

Putting men, and colonies, into space wouldn't help to ensure mankind's survival is the least, in the event of a cataclysmic impact, would it?.

No, it's not at all clear that space colonies would help ensure mankind's survival at all for the following reasons:

1. Current and near-future space colonies are nowhere near self-sufficient. They require constant shipping of oxygen, water, food and fuel from Earth. Anything that disrupts the space launch industry - let alone wider civilisation - will hit the colonies first, not last.

2. Sealed biodomes are really hard to pull off. Remember Biosphere II? Failed after two runs, and that was here on Earth with easy access to repairs. Turns out balancing closed ecosystems is very tricky, so they will be as fragile as shipping up food and fuel was. Without constant intervention, the domes in space will fall apart too when civilisation crumbles.

3. So while we're building our space colonies, we'll also be building a shipping network to support them. So what's about the most plausible Earth-extinction event? A plague of some sort. What will happen to that plague? It won't just be limited to Earth - it'll spread through everywhere humans have transport networks. Nine months after it hits earth, it'll be on Mars. We gain nothing from moving into space.

4. What's the next-most likely world-ender? A war. What are the chances that highly motivated humans with space capability are going to ignore the whole space infrastructure they spent decades building? Um, about zero. Expect nukes in your Martian biodomes on the same schedule as the plague - or within 20 minutes if the war is a civil war or revolution.

5. Okay, so say we crack the biodome problem and get plausible midfuture colonies on Mars which are totally self-supporting: no need for fuel, food or water or oxygen from Earth, no need for data or comms or any reliance on mission control specialists. And they have self-sufficient military defense, a unified and separate political culture, completely safe. When the apocalypse comes, we can completely pull up stakes and live on Luna or Mars. We'll be safe not just from plague and war but the more exotic world-enders that don't end the whole solar system - like, say, asteroids. Awesome!

6. Well yes, but you get there the hard way. See, an asteroid impact won't completely melt the Earth - if you can build sealed biodomes on Mars, you can for certain build sealed biodomes on Earth for cheaper. And they'll survive just fine. So... you could have skipped the whole Mars bit, just built some strongholds on Earth, and the human race is saved, on a budget.

7. But.... space!

Yes, space is cool, but the numbers don't seem to add up.

Re:OK, fine (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35118042)

I don't think that Space exploration is the only measure of human achievement.

But those aren't space-based achievements. There's a good reason to restrict our viewpoint to space (and it's not "habitat diversity"). If we're to ask ourselves "How are we doing?" and related questions like "Could we be doing more?", then it is worthwhile to consider progress restricted to a field.

After the high point of Apollo, one would expect a retrenchment. Apollo wasn't sustainable, but we could have done more with the money than we did. Glancing at the NASA budget over its history, I gather that through 2007, roughly 900 billion in 2007 dollars was spent. About a third to half, was spent on three projects: manned space flight leading up to and including Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS. Most of the NASA budget was spent after Apollo ended, BTW.

The problem with this is that we already knew, after Apollo, that future Apollo-like projects were going to be extremely difficult and drawn out. Rather than build projects and infrastructure that used available resources well, NASA pursued big projects at the expense both of lesser projects and the usability of the big project itself. Because the Shuttle and ISS cost so much, compromises in how these projects were used, had to be made.

In any case, we can ask. If we put people on the Moon in a space of roughly 12 years from first launch, then why did progress slow down greatly after 1975? Was it just money or something more? In my view, understanding what happened to US space efforts over the past 35 years is very important because it could foreshadow similar failure of progress in the US and elsewhere in decades to come.

Re:OK, fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35116634)

Sounds perfectly reasonable. A couple of high sounding, moral high ground arguments (space is for everyone), a few sops to Boeing, et. al (need for continued government support for x,y,z), a sop to NASA and the inevitable "don't mess too much with our playground, we're bigger than you".

Speaking of someone making a high sounding, moral high ground statement. Another slashdot savior correcting the evils he stands towering above. Why didn't savior Obama think of that?

Military = less affirmative action. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113442)

You can get more done when your primary job is to get shit done.

NASA must promote people based on race and gender, not on ability. NASAs primary mission is Muslim Outreach (really!).

In the DOD, "Muslim Outreach" has a whole different meaning.

which way is Mecca? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113552)

I don't know if there have been Muslim astronauts, but it must be tricky working out which direction to face for the (5 times per day) prayers when you are in low earth orbit.

Re:which way is Mecca? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113634)

I don't know if there have been Muslim astronauts, but it must be tricky working out which direction to face for the (5 times per day) prayers when you are in low earth orbit.

It's easy, all a muslim astronaut has to do is look down - Mecca is roughly in that direction.

Re:which way is Mecca? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113976)

Which direction to face is probably easier than on the Earth. Mecca is much easier to locate if you can see half the planet.

It seems to me the difficulty comes in determining just what 5 times a day exactly means when you are orbiting the earth. Is a day one 24 hour period? Is it the amount of time it takes for the spacecraft to rotate around the earth? The problem would solve itself at about 42,000 km, but on the ISS, a muslim may have to worship 5 times every hour and a half!

Re:which way is Mecca? (3, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114002)

That will be an interesting thing for a faithful Muslim to have to work out if they go to some extra-terrestrial location. Frederick Pohl mentioned the concept in one of his Gateway books where some group of Muslims landed on another planet and had to locate the Sun (Sol.... the Earth's Sun) in order to orient themselves properly to Mecca.

There have been a couple of Muslim astronauts [wikipedia.org] who have already been in space, so the idea isn't completely theoretical. I'm sure the idea was at least addressed, as at least a few astronauts have discussed their religious experiences in an extraterrestrial setting. I know that Catholic Mass was held on the Moon at one point (wine and wafer previously blessed by a priest), as was a Mormon sacrament service in the Space Shuttle. Why is some faithful Muslim considered weird in that respect?

Re:Military = less affirmative action. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114856)

What was Reagan thinking with that Muslim outreach? I'm sure Payload Specialist Prince Sultan was really good at what he did. Which was nothing but help Reagan make nice-nice with the mideast.

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/24268/sadly-obama-not-1st-to-use-nasa-for-islamo-outreach-reagan-bush-were/ [debbieschlussel.com]

You meant Obama. Oh, well then no one has ever done anything like this before. EVER! Bush didn't kiss and hold hands with the Saudi leader he was just trying to get his defenses down before he groped, I mean, destroyed the Muslim bastard using his superior American military fighting skills. Heeya! Kung-fu grip power go!

Face it, every government program is also outreach. Regan knew it, H.W. knew it, W. knew it, and Obama knows it. The issue isn't in the goal it's in the implementation. I'll be with you once Mahmoud is made Payload Specialist of a shuttle mission. Until then, Reagan used NASA to pander harder than Obama has. Unless you count Obama's foreign sounding name.

commercial space products (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113482)

A key conclusion is that the US military should purchase more commercial space products. In the overall economy, government contribution to GDP is something like 20%. In space-related industry, it is more like 50%.

If somehow we could instantly increase commercial activity in space so that it were 80% of the space-related GDP (that would be a factor of 4 increase in private space GDP contribution), that not only would result in a huge increase in global economic activity in space, but also at least 1% increase in US GDP (I estimate that it currently would be at least $200 billion per year), even in the absence of growth otherwise in space economic activity.

Similarly, a significant fraction of the US's economic activity in space would give the US an advantage over countries that don't have this. It's worth noting that the US is the only country with commercial oribtal launch businesses that aren't, even in part, owned by a government. Europe and the former Soviet countries have commercial launch businesses, but these have significant ownership (Arianespace, for example, has significant French and German ownership, Russia owns a share of all launch businesses that work out of the former USSR).

In conclusion, I think there is considerable room for improvement in US commercial space from the current, heavy reliance on US government expenditures and further that a large commercial space products sector would be beneficial to the US and to the world at large. This DOD report supports progress towards the goal of a larger commercial space products sector in the US.

Re:commercial space products (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113670)

While there is certainly a distinction to be made in structure and style between the US and countries with partial or total state ownership of launch businesses, I have to wonder how much is mere distinction and how much is actual difference...

A company's formal level of "privateness" is defined according to its ownership; but its de facto level of "privateness" is really a function of who owns it, and who it depends on for its business, and the process by which is solicits that business. A state-owned company is obviously not private. A privately owned company whose primary, or only, customer is the state is dubiously private. If it exists in a properly competitive market, with other suppliers; but just happens to focus on state contracts, it may be considered essentially fully private. If it exists in an incestuous revolving-door relationship with the state entities whose contracts it fulfills, it is less a "private" entity and more a sort of ideologically motivated "government laundering" arrangement where(in exchange for a cut for the shareholders) the state gets to keep part of its size off the books.

Obviously, a company doesn't instantly become "state" just because it has state customers(just because the state uses some Dells, dell isn't exactly turning into The People's Patriotic Whitebox x86 Manufactury). On the other hand, some of the defense/aerospace guys, and highly-evolved Beltway symbiote/parasite entities like SAIC are, de facto, state organs with shareholders.

It seems to me that that is the real trick with space-related business. It will be comparatively easy to make space "more private" by shifting the lofting of military and state scientific payloads to private entities; but, unless there is a substantial uptick in end-to-end-commercial uses for space, such a move will be basically cosmetic. This raises the question of what sorts of activities in space can pay for themselves without military or state-funded-astronomy justifications...

Re:commercial space products (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113726)

A privately owned company whose primary, or only, customer is the state is dubiously private.

I think ownership still matters because it gives privately owned businesses an additional degree of freedom.. It is worth noting that in the particular example of commercial launch companies, none have purely business with a particular government. So whether partly government owned or not, they all have private customers.

Re:commercial space products (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114028)

This is true to some extent, but fungi's point is interesting. Money spent in space is really due to three lines of business - communications satellites, monitor satellites (camera or multi mode) and whatever NASA and the Air Force are up to. Of the three areas, really only communications has a strong truly private sector. There are a couple of private imaging satellites but only a few.

SpaceX and Bigelow may be able to toss a few rich tourists into LEO but I don't see that keeping much of the space infrastructure busy - the money just isn't there.

The people that make the civilian communications satellites are the same people that make the military ones - again, it's a small, very capital and intellectual property intensive business.

So much of the posturing about the 'commercial sector' of space exploration is posturing. Mind you, it may well serve the excellent purpose of kicking the big boys out of their comfort zone and moving faster and cheaper. However, I don't see anyone but the various governments pulling off major space programs at least for the next several decades. IMHO, the best thing we can do is encourage China and India to push their programs. We do things best when we're 'scared' of something.

Re:commercial space products (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114134)

This is true to some extent, but fungi's point is interesting. Money spent in space is really due to three lines of business - communications satellites, monitor satellites (camera or multi mode) and whatever NASA and the Air Force are up to. Of the three areas, really only communications has a strong truly private sector. There are a couple of private imaging satellites but only a few.

First, communication satellites covers a lot of ground. You have satellite TV, internet, phone systems, etc, Several of these systems use or plan to use dozens of satellites. Commercial imaging satellites are a growing business. Where the market is a "few" now, it was "none" ten years ago.

SpaceX and Bigelow may be able to toss a few rich tourists into LEO but I don't see that keeping much of the space infrastructure busy - the money just isn't there.

Global tourism is on the order of a trillion dollars per year. The money is there. And once you have a vehicle that can put tourists into space, it can be used for other purposes, such as putting workers or researchers into space.

The people that make the civilian communications satellites are the same people that make the military ones - again, it's a small, very capital and intellectual property intensive business.

In other words, high fixed costs. Such businesses do much better with greater volume to spread those costs around.

So much of the posturing about the 'commercial sector' of space exploration is posturing. Mind you, it may well serve the excellent purpose of kicking the big boys out of their comfort zone and moving faster and cheaper. However, I don't see anyone but the various governments pulling off major space programs at least for the next several decades. IMHO, the best thing we can do is encourage China and India to push their programs. We do things best when we're 'scared' of something.

I said nothing about space exploration. There's a common myth that space activity is space exploration. I'm interested in space development, the creation of economic value in space through space activity and the development of appropriate infrastructure.

Re:commercial space products (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114306)

Global tourism is on the order of a trillion dollars per year. The money is there. And once you have a vehicle that can put tourists into space, it can be used for other purposes, such as putting workers or researchers into space.

Doing a quick search, I came up with a bunch of varying wild ass guestimates. Nobody was going to call it in the trillion dollar category, at least near term. Personally, I think that suborbital tourism flights would make enough money to keep them going, but purely tourism to LEO (as opposed to Moon / Mars / all sorts of neat stuff way in the future) using extent technologies (ie. no warp drive, no space elevator just stuff we can reasonably forsee using) isn't going to get you that far. There just aren't that many people with that much disposable income.

I suppose we shall see, but I rather doubt that I will be able to dock to anything resembling the space station in 2001 in my lifetime.

Re:commercial space products (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114784)

Nobody was going to call it in the trillion dollar category, at least near term.

The point is that the previous poster was claiming "money just isn't there". But space tourism is an extension of a trillion dollar a year economic sector. Glancing around, I gather it's almost as big a sector as telecommunications. And we have considerable space-related investment from that.

And once you have commercial infrastructure to fly people to LEO, you open the door to a lot of non-tourism activity that currently is out of reach of private enterprise and academia.

Will there be interesting destinations such as a 2001-style space station in your lifetime? I have no clue. But I do know that things look a lot better now than they did ten years ago. And that in turn is a lot better than 1990.

Re:commercial space products (3, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114812)

There certainly are enough billionaires building mega yachts [wikipedia.org] that have a price tag similar to a genuine spaceship, if put up by a private company like Bigelow Aerospace. It isn't nearly as unknown as you are saying and there are people who wouldn't mind grabbing some extra-terrestrial real estate for themselves in a provable way.

The trillion dollars was in reference to the whole tourism industry, not space tourism, but the point is still there that there is a market for people wanting to get into space, and the number of people willing to pay at least a million dollars for the opportunity is a bit higher than you would think.

The real advantage of space tourism is that it is one of the few areas of spaceflight where lower costs bring about a huge increase in revenue. Let me explain in perhaps another way:

Communications and weather satellites are pretty rare things, and generally not too many of them are needed at any given time. As a result, they are big but expensive things costing billions of dollars to make. Ditto for "spy satellites" and even probes to other planets. For most of the existing "proven" markets for spaceflight, the "customers" are willing to pay a premium for getting into space, but generally not too many flights are necessary to get everything up. That is one of the reasons why spaceflight is so expensive, and has been stuck at about $10,000/kg (give or take) for almost 50 years. Any "competition" getting into the market mostly shoots themselves in the foot (like SpaceX) by grabbing market share, but once they start to land the big projects and have a flight tested piece of equipment, they start raising launch prices to meet the market of seldom flying rockets to LEO. Other companies go out of business, but essentially the price stays the same. These companies and government agencies have a pretty fixed budget for launches into space, and as long as it is a fraction of the price of the vehicle they are sending up, the cost of the launch itself is meaningless.

Space tourism, on the other hand, responds very well with lower cost where a 50% drop in the price more than doubles the overall revenue received. That is the key thing here, and a missing ingredient in terms of spaceflight financial models. You might have a dozen potential astronauts at $20 million each going to LEO, but a thousand or more with a price of $2 million and hundreds of thousands of customers at $200,000 for the same trip (perhaps even more). Even at $200,000 each, the cost of paying for fuel and the crew is trivial compared to the costs of the vehicle itself. Fuel costs for spaceflight right now are so trivial that the cost of the press conference catering service is usually more on most launches. The ground crew is generally expensive because most of the time they are doing nothing but training.... not launching vehicle. If you change that equation, you can see the cost for access to orbit drop considerably and still make some serious money for those companies wanting to get involved. It can be done, but it takes rethinking the market.

If you take an historical analogy, it cost on average about $3,000-$10,000 in order to buy a Conestoga Wagon with a couple of pair of oxen, some sheep, chickens, food, ammunition, and other supplies in order to cross the western plains in order to get to Oregon or California. Considering that an average laborer earned about a dollar a day, that represented about 10-15 years worth of life savings in order to get that kind of money together, or about 5 years worth of savings for a skilled tradesman. If you start to think in that fashion, with a "skilled worker" today earning about $100k/year, a $200k ticket to space is quite comparable to a trip across the great plains of America from a century and a half ago in terms of effort needed to make the trip. Sure, no 3rd world citizen is going to make a trip like that, but it is in the realm of an ordinary person in a 1st world country. Give those folks a place to go and a reason to go there, and they'll find a way to get there at that price. It doesn't even have to be everybody, but mainly the adventurous and those wanting to get off this rock for whatever reason they may have. It doesn't have to be the filthy rich to make that kind of investment.

Re:commercial space products (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114560)

I agree that the two are not identical. I just wanted to emphasize that "stateness" and "privateness" can come from either the ownership side or the customer base side(and, in practice, generally comes from a mixture of both) and that one has to be careful, because of that, to examine an an entity's "state" or "private" status along the lines of those broader considerations.

There are also, neatly matching the Owner/Customer distinction, two distinct but often not that different ways in which a "state" and a "private" entity can grow together organizationally. On the one hand, you have "state capture", where the state entity uses some mixture of ownership, legal power, or good old fashioned violence to control the organization and activity of the private entity. State owned industries, regulated monopolies, nationalizing companies that piss you off, that sort of thing. On the other you have "regulatory capture"/"Revolving door", where a private entity will engage in a process of intense lobbying, typically culminating in heavy recruitment of ex-state officeholders for positions or financial stakes in the private entity and heavy penetration of ex-private position or financial interest holders into state positions.

Each of these processes is its own peculiar phenomenon, and none are identical; but they all tend to blur the lines between "state" and "private" and you can end up with situations where the de-facto situation is very different from what the ownership situation would suggest. This seems especially to be the case in industries that either have high barriers to entry(telcomms, say) and/or "national security" considerations(mil/aero, strategic minerals, etc.)

Re:commercial space products (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35118094)

It's also worth considering how things have changed. The first commercial launch vehicle business was Arianespace in 1980. Boeing and Lockheed Martin entered the field in the mid 80s. Orbital Sciences in the late 80s. In the 90s, Russia spun off several commercial space launch providers. Now we have SpaceX as well as several potential suborbital manned vehicles.

There has been a steady trend from government only launch to the current level of mixed business with governments still being the dominant customers. The US is at the forefront of this trend with several launch companies that happen to be privately owned. My view is that first, this trend will continue. Second, it makes the US particularly well positioned to move to a market where most of the customer business is private rather than public.

Re:commercial space products (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114234)

What wasn't said is how much of the activity of that company is dependent upon state spending and allocations from the head of state (or the appropriate top government authority over finances and fiscal appropriations) and how much of the spaceflight activity by that company comes from private sources.

The real trick is to define and identify that private spaceflight activity, of which there is considerable now. Some countries like China clearly are almost completely "owned" by the government (actually by the Chinese "People's Liberation" Army), yet have some very clear commercial spaceflight activity, yet some "private" companies like SpaceX have a considerable portion of their sales to government entities (which in the case of SpaceX includes NASA, the Department of Defense, and other government agencies).

America does have companies like Blue Origin which to the best of my knowledge has yet to receive any government funding or sales at all and is completely private investment, but then again Jeff Bezos sort of goes to the beat of a different drummer. They also have yet to make it into space, so I don't think that counts. Blue Origin is well financed and is likely to make it into space, so they are certainly a company to watch. Armadillo Aerospace was a company who sort of fit in the same category, but they are now accepting a fairly substantial amount of government money... although winning the Lunar Lander Challenge is something that may or may not fit the narrative here. Armadillo is trying to get sales to private users accomplished too, including an inked deal with Space Adventures to fly passengers on their spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic is the real interesting as most of the money spent on their behalf has not come from the U.S. federal government but rather the State of New Mexico. Does that count as "state financing"? It remains to be seen if the New Mexican financing is going to pay off for the taxpayers of that state, but it was certainly done as a pure business proposition with the idea that eventually the taxpayers of New Mexico will recover the money spent in this way through increased economic activity. The State of Virginia has been doing something similar with a spaceport they are running including some support for Orbital Sciences, and Florida has their own "spaceport authority" who has been trying to go after commercial users and organizing available spaceports near Cape Canaveral. California has a smaller effort to do the same thing, as does Alaska. If you are talking "state customers", that puts it into a completely different category I suppose.

Re:commercial space products (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114418)

I wasn't really thinking in terms of a "state"/"federal" distinction; but a "state"/"private" one. If the customer is spending tax dollars, they are probably "state". If not, "private"...

Re:commercial space products (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114492)

I get the point you were making, but I do think there should be a small but important distinction here: A government entity who has the fiat ability to create money can spend money and not care if there is any return on investment. State governments (as opposed to federal) generally do care when they spend money, especially for big ticket items like spaceports. They aren't doing that for vanity but to get something back for their voters or taxpayers. They also can't print their way out of a deficit but instead have to rely upon tax receipts in a more direct fashion.

The distinction gets even more fuzzy than the dichotomy that you are proposing here too, as some flights involve some subsidies or even mixed "ownership" that includes both private and public funding where it is sometimes hard to tell if something really is either public or private.

Re:commercial space products (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114738)

States, at least in the US context, certainly are subject to different financial constraints than is the federal government. There are some other differences as well. At least for stuff that can be stamped "national security" the feds have greater leverage over private sector actors: It is perfectly legal for Yoyodyne LLC. to say "Dear Florida, give us the land to build a spaceport, some cushy tax breaks, and exemption from certain local zoning restrictions, or we will take our precious, precious jobs to New Mexico". That is, in fact, entirely standard practice for corporations siting facilities. On the other hand, were Slaughtertek industries to say "Well, if you don't like the price of our proposed air-defense missile package, perhaps China will be more cooperative...", they would likely find themselves in legal hot water.

This tends to create a countervailing pressure on state governments: As you say, even if they are willing to take the macroecomic consequences, they cannot print money and are generally limited in their ability to run debts. On the other hand, state governments are often much easier to play against one another in competition for the most generous public/private "partnerships". In non-defense industries, some of the same stuff happens nation to nation; but there are still barriers like language, tariffs, currencies, etc. that states either are powerless to erect(interstate commerce is federal, so state x can't impose a tariff on goods from state y) or that don't exist(all states use USD and have high concentrations of available native English speakers, say). Unfortunately, there is some evidence from empirical economic study that this countervailing pressure often ends up with state governments being made into what amounts to a corporate booty call. Governors just cannot resist the electoral value of cutting the ribbon at some new plant with some shiny new jobs for their constituents; but often end up paying out alarming sums in taxpayer money per job, and long-term retention(once the goodies run out) can be surprisingly low. Apparently, southern states have it particularly bad [reason.com] ; but others are not immune(Municipalities that shell out to build stadiums for private sports teams are in a similar boat and that seems to be a universal vice...)

This isn't just a US phenomenon: Euro-zone nations, because of comparatively low borders, often face some of the same problems and national governments generally are not exempt, though they have somewhat stronger tools to work with.

Space Police (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113510)

Nice to see they are rolling back to just being space police [thisnext.com] and the delivery arm of the military.

To whom it may concern... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113512)

Please be advised that the Monroe Doctrine now applies to all commercially and/or militarily relevant earth orbits.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Re:To whom it may concern... (0)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113688)

Manifest Destiny... we we're getting to the rest of the Solar System eventually.

Re:To whom it may concern... (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35121062)

Please be advised that the Monroe Doctrine

I'm sorry sir, but I just don't see how the Spacecorps directive that "gentlemen prefer blondes" applies to polar-crossing Molniya orbits with a 63.5 degree inclina - oh, the other Monroe.

Of the people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113580)

I feel that space should be in the hands of the people and open to all. Guided by free market principles and approved donations of surplus GDP. Having a police in the future would be nice but the politics around such an origination would concern me.

Space racist (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113654)

Department of Defense outlines concerns like protection from space junk and system security

The People's Liberation Army is not amused. They released this in response to the Pentagon's announcement:

The attack of subtext which is in accordance with these words of the Chinese government space plan does not stand! We militarize the space already, that is not the junk, we grasp and as for thing that we do not want obtaining the copy are excellent protection on West, vis-a-vis the old and honorable satellite. We answer this clear hostility hostilitaly.

All your base are belong to us. (1)

Green Salad (705185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35125450)

Your lawyers we hired to foreclose on your national debt. All your base are belong to us.

Re:Space racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35129976)

Don' be ridicurus.

Good news for space buffs (4, Insightful)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113696)

Considering that the DoD's budget makes NASA's look like a rounding error, getting the military involved in the space program must be warming the hearts of space buffs everywhere. One thing's for sure, the DoD never lacks for funding.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113752)

It will certainly increase the excitement for the amateur satellite spotting hobbyists. Attempting to work out the orbital trajectory and purpose of satellites that were never launched and don't exist, but if they did would comply with all relevant US treaty obligations, must be much more interesting than pointing your telescope at satellites that NASA is more than happy to have a chance to talk about...

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113830)

Rumor is, once they realized just how deadly space is, they began development on a space gun. It's not a gun that shoots in space, but a weapon that actually *shoots space* as a projectile, exposing the target to the deadly cosmic rays, freezing temperatures, burning solar radiation and near-perfect vacuum of space. I could never pass a background check (I'm nuts), but I bought a prototype at a gun show.

Re:Good news for space buffs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35122054)

A gun that shoots "space" is called a vacuum cleaner.

Re:Good news for space buffs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113840)

Nuke the moon!

Re:Good news for space buffs (4, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114074)

DoD has always been intricately linked to NASA efforts. While, the separation of civilian and military space programs was an important policy decision by Eisenhower, it was never completely separated. Doing so, particularly at the infrastructure level, would have been unnecessarily expensive and inefficient.

DoD launch requirements are the reason we have robust and fairly reliable EELV services, which are great for NASA as they insulate NASA's unmanned programs from the drama associated with the shuttle program, and give the manned program a good option for the future of the manned program. However, they're also responsible for the huge wings on the shuttle (USAF wanted cross-track landing capability for military operations), and the continued use of solid rocket motors for the shuttle (since this subsidizes military missile production). Sometimes its good, and sometimes its bad, but having military concerns involved in NASA is nothing new.

What is new here is that DoD is getting behind the idea of encouraging competition and market-based reforms within the space-related portion of the defense industry. And this does warm my heart since these policies will enable a capable and flexible space program without Apollo-level funding.

Re:Good news for space buffs (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117242)

DoD launch requirements are the reason we have robust and fairly reliable EELV services, which are great for NASA as they insulate NASA's unmanned programs from the drama associated with the shuttle program, and give the manned program a good option for the future of the manned program. However, they're also responsible for the huge wings on the shuttle (USAF wanted cross-track landing capability for military operations), and the continued use of solid rocket motors for the shuttle (since this subsidizes military missile production).

With regards to the DoD and the Shuttle - you're absolutely wrong on both points, you're doing nothing but repeating urban legends.
 
If actually go back and study the evolution of the Shuttle - you'll find that wing steadily grew across the entire period. Why? Because wings allow greater cross track which allows for more re-entry and landing opportunities and greater abort margins. I.E. increased safety. Yeah, the DoD determined the final size and performance, but the difference between the DoD specs and NASA specs is much less than urban legend would have you believe.
 
Same thing for the SRB's. Liquid boosters were taken off the table long before the DoD came onboard because of their great expense and fragility.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117868)

And in the last 30 years, much of the manned civilian space budget has been designed as a corporate welfare program to keep engineers at important defense contractors employed between DoD contracts.

Thats how we ended up with a Space Station that provides virtually no value as compared to the massive amounts spent on it, and a Space Shuttle that continued flying primarily just to build the space station. One requires the other and the combination keeps a lot of people employed.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35118786)

EELV was based on competition, so there is absolutely nothing new. The premise of EELV is that L-Mart and Boeing were suppose to do launches as services.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114386)

We already convinced them and the media that illegal aliens are terrorists. (TSA and such) Now all we need to do is convince them they are coming from Mars [youtube.com] . We are at the eve of war. [stlyrics.com]

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35121092)

Pfft, the chances of that are a million to one.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114616)

They're also not very interested in sharing information, especially if it's useful.

Re:Good news for space buffs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114882)

One thing's for sure, the DoD never lacks for funding.

Yeah, tell that to my friend who was downsized from the shipyard in 'peace dividend' cutbacks in the early 90's. Or the friend who is only employed at the shipyard because she took a different job (with a pay cut) rather than being laid off. Or the friend who has been trying to cover three shifts with the personnel for two because of the interminable 'temporary hiring freeze'. Or the friend in a different shop who, because of the same 'freeze' has seen four experienced guys retired (that is, given the choice between retirement or being laid off), but has only seen two apprentices hired - while their workload has doubled.
 
Or the friend over at the weapons station whose nominal job is developing new instruments for the torpedo test range - but whose actual job is cannibalizing older gear to keep the range limping along.
 
Or the friend up at the sub base busily cannibalizing from submarines arriving from patrol in order to outfit boats ready to depart. (The spares in the rotating pool having been consumed a decade ago and never replaced...)
 
I don't know how you got the idea the DoD never lacks for funding, but knowing lots of guys down at the working troop level - and I can assure you that have no clue what you're talking about. I can't speak to the rest of the DoD, but the Navy is headed for the same meltdown it had in the late 70's, and for the same reason - endless cuts in budget, no cuts in mission requirements.

Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35115454)

Problem: the DoD has no interest beyond orbit.

Aside from spy sats, ICMBs, and "star wars" there's nothing useful for the war effort.

And I, for one, would like to see visits to Titan, Europa, Mars, and The Moon.
Unfortunately, none of them make a particularly good weapons platform.

Space junk... it's not just a DEVO song anymore! (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113922)

Here [youtube.com] is a video that shows what Lockheed Martin is doing about space junk.

Let's See ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113940)

The Obama Regime has:

1. Cancelled the Constilation Program

2. In the process of shutting down the Shuttle Program

3. Reniged on making available plutonium isotopes necessary for thermo-electricty generation for deep space probes; i.e. in the process of shutting down deep space exploration.

Given the Obama Regime's propencity for saying the opposite of what they do:

Guard civil and constitutional freedoms -- deny civil and constitutional freedoms (hebus corpus is still denied for US Citizens and anybody else),

Abide by Civil, Federal and Constitutional Laws --- ignore Civil, Federal and Constitutional Laws

Say they are for Transperency of Government --- That went out the door on day 2

Say there is too much secrecy in government --- now they demand employees to spy on each other (post Wikileaks directive), ....

ab infinitum.

This country does not need Barak Hussain Obama and neither his brood of beloved Oligarchs.

-308

Re:Let's See ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114222)

"1. Cancelled the Constilation Program"

That's the Constipation Program.

Re:Let's See ... (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114438)

The Constellation Program was doomed from the beginning and deserved to be shut down and replaced with something else. In the words of the Augustine Commission [wikipedia.org] , even if the spaceflight vehicles were ready to fly today, their first recommendation would be to cancel the program as too expensive and dangerous. On top of that, it was billions of dollars over budget and years behind in terms of getting anything done. The earliest that the Ares V would be ready is 2020 with a very optimistic timeline.

It is also a project that keeps coming back from the dead, but I'll leave that zombie where I can shoot it from time to time... like this thread.

As for shutting down the Shuttle program, that is something which was decided by the Bush administration following the destruction of the Columbia. Simply put, there aren't enough orbiters for a viable Shuttle program, and the loss of any future shuttle orbiter would be its termination anyway. Perhaps a "next generation" shuttle could have been made to continue the lessons learned, but the Shuttle program as has been flying for the past 30 years simply can't continue as it has been flying. The loss of two orbiters is bad enough, and some serious reconsideration for its design was desperately needed. The Constellation Program was not a shuttle replacement but rather a return to.... something else. I'm not even sure what. George W. Bush is the person to blame, not Obama.... not that Obama is helping out here either but that is besides the point.

As for radioisotopic generators (RTGs), the largest problem there is that the nuclear bomb factories have been mostly shut down as the number of warheads in the U.S. arsenal have been gradually reduced through attrition (getting old and having to be refurbished) and various treaties with several countries, including the SALT treaties and the START treaty negotiations with the former USSR. If you are going to blame a U.S. President, you can blame Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Both are indirectly responsible for the current situation with regards to RTGs, unless you are also blaming the anti-nuclear activists who have kept domestic nuclear reactors from getting built. Breeder reactors in particular as a major solution to both RTGs and to reducing or eliminating nuclear waste. There is no need for Yucca Mountain, but for the fact that nuclear engineering is all but a dead discipline now in America.

While I'm not a fan of Barak Obama, his problem has been mainly one of apathy and benign neglect of NASA and U.S. space policy. It took him nearly a year to appoint Charles Bolden as NASA administrator, and Obama certainly hasn't been reining in people like Gabrielle Giffords (when she chaired the sub-committee with oversight of NASA and federal spaceflight policy.... yes the same lady who has been in the news more recently) nor has he really given Charles Bolden the political support necessary to make some of the really tough changes needed at NASA to put everything back on track either. He had the chance and blew it, but the problems remain. He had the chance to set American space policy for the next several decades, but instead has half-heartily reinstated George W. Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" by setting NASA into auto-pilot.

As demonstrated by this policy directive by the Department of Defense, if NASA doesn't "boldly go", the DoD will. About bloody time I might add. At least somebody is showing some leadership in the area. Such leadership certainly isn't coming from the White House. Obama has been transparent with regards to NASA.... he just isn't doing anything worth caring about and thus doesn't matter if it was published or not on Wikileaks or anywhere else for that matter.

War, Sex and Religion (3, Funny)

The Cosmist (1990578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114214)

Given that two things drive human civilization above all others -- war and sex -- I have concluded that a new space race and space hotels offering the possibility of sex in zero g may be our best hopes of getting off this planet. The only other thing I can think of that could provide the right motivation is religion, which is why I'm in the process of founding a new cosmic religion to inspire new generations of cosmic missionaries to reach for the stars. See thecosmist.blogspot.com for more information.

space sharks (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114270)

Not allowing the military in space is annoying, I mean seriously. How are you going to defend the country without space sharks with freakin lasers attached to their heads?

Hegemony or Survival, indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35114356)

Spending billions on this space tech while other countries are busy producing an ever larger
proportion of the goods the US buys will mean the US will in the end be an insolvent
country. The only sector in which the US will remain dominant ( and even that is
open to question ) is the military sector. Can any of you guess where that might lead ?

( hint : not a happy place, unless your name is Buck Turgidson )

Obligatory Planetes Comment (2)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35114402)

Planetes [wikipedia.org] is a manga (and anime adaptation) about people in the not-so-distant future who clean up space debris. It prides itself on its realism and plausibility. Along with the issue of space junk itself, it has quite a few things to say about military presence in space.

I believe a comment about Planetes is required by law in any article that mentions space junk.

Re:Obligatory Planetes Comment (1)

Nebulious (1241096) | more than 3 years ago | (#35120728)

I've never heard of this anime before. I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. Thanks for the recommendation.

National Security, National Security!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35116480)

Well I guess every f**king arm & dept of the American govt can be brought under Pentagon & MD now!!

Space Junk is surely a cover story (2)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#35116684)

Random, often small, bits of metal flying around LEO are a hazard, so you want to get rid of them. The military kindly offers to develop a way to track and bring them down, whilst conveniently developing the capability to do the same to enemy ICBMs, re-entry vehicles, satellites etc..

I think the US wants to control all human access to space, tbh. The Russians and the Chinese will have to ask for 'clearance' to launch anything and won't be allowed to do military stuff up there (whilst the US will be free to).

Of course, there is the possibility that China gets there first.

Re:Space Junk is surely a cover story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35118974)

Random, often small, bits of metal flying around LEO are a hazard, so you want to get rid of them. The military kindly offers to develop a way to track and bring them down, whilst conveniently developing the capability to do the same to enemy ICBMs, re-entry vehicles, satellites etc..

I think the US wants to control all human access to space, tbh. The Russians and the Chinese will have to ask for 'clearance' to launch anything and won't be allowed to do military stuff up there (whilst the US will be free to).

Of course, there is the possibility that China gets there first.

Right idea, wrong countries. You don't pick fights with the big dogs if you want to live. You pick fights with the small up-and-coming dogs (Iran, North Korea, et al).

Is space junk a problem? (1)

olau (314197) | more than 3 years ago | (#35117352)

Is space junk really a problem? I know it flies around at high speed so impact is really bad, but it just seems to me that the probably of hitting something would still be so miniscule considering how big the space is that it's just not really worth worrying about?

Yes! (1)

Nebulious (1241096) | more than 3 years ago | (#35120698)

It's a very real concern. There are extensive regulations and procedures for having and disposing of assets in orbit. When you put something into space, you can't just choose any old path. Orbital trajectories, especially geosynchronous ones, are highly valued and some missions require very specific flight paths. If a unit becomes unresponsive in a critical orbit for a communications network, the entire system cannot as easily adjust it flight path because now there's a new hazard there.

Right now, the probability of hitting something is fairly low. But collisions do happen. Last year Iridium lost one of their satellites when it collided with a large deactivated Russian satellite, creating a very large and hazardous debris cloud. Crashes like that accelerate a scenario called Kessler Syndrome. This is when the amount of mass in space is high enough that large collisions begin happening. Those collisions create even more debris, increasing the amount of collisions at an exponential rate. We can track everything in space above 5 cm right now, but scrap even smaller than that can cut through just about anything we can put in space right now.

Confucius say (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35121146)

My other car is space junk.

It get many more miles per galleon.

Simlpe summary of American policy on X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35118486)

Tell everyone to do as we say
Try to kill those that disobey
Sue those that survive
Whinge about no one liking the US

Ironic (1)

Hasai (131313) | more than 3 years ago | (#35120220)

"The NSSS document emphasizes the Obama administration's desire to protect US space assets and to further commercialize space but also to ensure that the US and international partners have unfettered access to outer space." And yet, year after year, the politicians go after NASA's budget. Is it really any wonder the Pentagon's space projects look like the proverbial big fish in a constantly shrinking pond? America is fast becoming the Portugal of the Space Age.

Re:Ironic (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35121202)

America is fast becoming the Portugal of the Space Age.

We choose to go to the moon!
We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things *,
because, um... ... hey, a shiny thing! What was I saying?

* 'Doing' is hereinafter defined as 'blowing up real good'. 'The other things' include but are not limited to: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Panama, Challenger, Nicaragua, the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, subprime mortgages, and spam.

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