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Scientists Give NASA Planetary Marching Orders

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the cassini-mark-ii-please dept.

NASA 145

coondoggie writes "The community and team of scientists that help NASA prioritize space missions has come out with its exploration recommendations for the next decade: get to Mars, explore one of Jupiter's moons and study Uranus. From the report: 'The gas giants Jupiter and Saturn have been extensively studied by the Galileo and Cassini missions, respectively. But Uranus and Neptune represent a wholly distinct class of planet. While Jupiter and Saturn are made mostly of hydrogen, Uranus and Neptune have much smaller hydrogen envelopes. The bulk composition of these planets is dominated instead by heavier elements; oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur are the likely candidates. What little we know about the internal structure and composition of these "ice giant" planets comes from the brief flybys of Voyager 2. So the ice giants are one of the great remaining unknowns in the solar system: the only class of planet that has never been explored in detail.'"

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145 comments

Great (-1, Redundant)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35416924)

The TSA was bad enough. Now you want NASA to probe me as well?

Re:Great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35416940)

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun.
Supposedly inhabited by Klingons.

Ha'DIbaH

Re:Great (-1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418134)

That reminds me.

What do the "Enterprise" and toilet paper have in common?
They both orbit Ur anus and wipe out Kling ons.

Re:Great (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417638)

Sorry dude, your Dragon Droppings are too damn expensive.

Re:Great (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418378)

Well, what would you consider a fair price?

Re:Great (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35420624)

One perhaps slightly over scrap metal value?

To be serious though, I am afraid I was merely expressing a sentiment (as in 'too damn expensive for me'). I still think the $100+ series are -objectively now- a bit overpriced. I would suggest you try to expand to chain mails, and ladies purses (tricky, but you'll be rich if you manage to coat the inside somehow to guard their precious ladystuff)

Good idea though, best of luck!

Re:Great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417686)

Why should niggers never ever ride motorcycles? Their lips flapping in the wind would beat the shit out of them.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418204)

According to Nation of Islams Scientology-like belief system, There are spaceships on the dark side of the moon waiting to take all the negras home. I just wanna know what's the damn wait and how can I facilitate lift off?

somebody just has to say this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35416956)

[...] explore one of Jupiter's moons and study Uranus.

Re:somebody just has to say this (-1, Redundant)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417092)

What really surprised me was to learn that Uranus isn't considered a gas giant...

Re:somebody just has to say this (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417662)

Maybe not Uranus, but after eating Taco Bell last night my anus qualifies...

lol (0, Troll)

philmarcracken (1412453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417052)

Am i the only immature one to giggle at the request for them to study uranus

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417098)

I think your misread it as ur - anus.

Re:lol (0)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417140)

I suggest we rename Uranus to something that will to end that stupid joke once and for all.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417182)

Something along the lines of Urrectum?

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417368)

I wonder if there are any deities called...

Quitjoking
Yawnweretiredofit
Urboringus
Ohquitit
Stfup
Stfupffs

Re:lol (1)

Spugglefink (1041680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35421030)

After thinking about this seriously for a moment, it makes me realize that if they had followed the standard pattern up to that time, Uranus would have been named Caelus anyway.

I guess it's just as well they didn't, as millions of third graders (and Slashdotters) wouldn't have anything to make cheap jokes about if they had gone that route.

Develop spacefaring technology first (5, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417124)

Look, these orbiters and probes (yes to Uranus) are projected to cost in multiple billions EACH. As much as I love space exploration and think NASA's done a bang-up job (in their unmanned program at least), these planetary bodies aren't going anywhere and do not directly address any pressing problems (climate change is the one exception but for that we should be looking at the rocky terrestrial like inner planets like Venus and Mars and not the gas giants).

So why not put these programs on the slow track for a little while and spend a Billion developing some really good deep space propulsion systems? Finish VASIMIR, improve ion engines, develop high power nuclear reactors (not just wimpy RTGs), try laser beaming, solar sails or even magnetic bubbles! Anyway, if you can get a propulsion system that's 10x more efficient than our current chemical rockets you could send much more massive payloads quicker! This would substantially reduce the launch cost since it would "only" cost 10s of thousands of dollars to send a kg instead of 100s of thousands to the outer planets. This in turn would allow designers much more flexibilty to reduce cost/increase perfornance since they wouldn't be under such pressure to reduce weight. And by reducing or eliminating the need for time-consuming gravitational assists (6 years to Mercury!), it would likewise reduce support costs as well as increase science return (instruments won't be decades obsolete on arrival).

- The distance to the outer planets is great enough that it makes me think of some science fiction stories (like Arthur C. Clarke's "The Songs of Distant Earth"), where newly developed technology could allow spacecraft launched later to overtake the earlier more primitive ships. While the travel times here will be measured in years or decades not centuries or millennia it still gives me pause. Unless there is some extremely fortuituous occurrence like the planetary alignment that made the Grand Tour possible (Pioneer, Voyager) it is better to wait AS LONG AS you spend the time (and money) making things stronger, faster, better, cheaper.

(For some of these reasons, I support Obama's focus on developing new technologies before trying for the Moon (again) or Mars. We know we can do it, the question is can we do it affordably enough to SUSTAIN a manned presence?)

Let's become a spacefaring civilization!

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417170)

I support Obama's focus on developing new technologies before trying for the Moon (again) or Mars. We know we can do it, the question is can we do it affordably enough to SUSTAIN a manned presence?)

Mars may not be the best place for humans to go. Mercury for example looks positively inviting in comparison to Mars. It has energy to burn, and daytime temperatures are actually not much more than on the moon. It may have ice at the poles. Before we send humans we need to know more about the environment, so we send an unmanned probe. Likewise, Titan and Europa may both be targets for human exploration, but some ISRU [wikipedia.org] will be required in both cases so we need to explore the surface first.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Interesting)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417258)

from what i read on wikipedia, temperaturs vary between 100k and 700k, with the 100k representing the permanently dark side of the planet and the more common temperatures in the non-dark regions being around 400-500 K
Temperature wise, i would much prefer Mars, which is (once again, according to wikipedia) -85 (~200K) to -5 (268K) degrees centigrade
Both pretty much SUCK in terms of atmosphere, and mercury would win in terms of available (solar) energy, but i'd much rather bring some extra solar panels to mars (or a nuclear reactor..) then risk being boiled on mercury.

I agree though that we need to explore those rocks out there, titan and europa are interesting indeed, but as a first off-world settlement, i would think mars is a better place to start then mercury

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417340)

If ice is found at one pole of Mercury a mission could land there and use local water. Temperatures at the pole would not be too bad. Remember those are surface temperatures. They will affect gear left out in the sun, but the real problem will be solar heat soaked up by pressure suits and habitats. If you make them highly reflective your main heat problem will be from people and equipment inside. Apollo used open circuit cooling by sublimating ice. A mercury mission could work the same way.

The slow rotation of Mercury means that astronauts could explore the whole planet by following the terminator. Each traverse would start at one pole, cross the other and finish at the starting point.

The problem with Mars is that pressure suits would have to use a lot of energy keeping their occupants warm. Batteries have limited capacity so EVAs will have to be short. I reckon that gear used on Mercury could be directly derived from gear used on the moon.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Insightful)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417586)

i you set up your martian base somewhere in the -5 region, i reckon heating would hardly be needed. When it is minus 5 (centigrade) i can stay outside without much trouble in a pair of jeans and a good winter coat, and most of the heat loss then is from wind/air cooling, which would not be that big of a factor at 0.01 Bar atmospheric pressure. Hell, given that us meatbags produce a good amount of heat moving around, you could have bigger cooling needs then heating in those conditions.

As for the living space, humans need about 20 degrees centigrade to be comfortable, and while heating a place to 25 degrees above ambient isnt exactly a low energy demand, it seems more feasable then dealing with cooling it to ambient -100 or so, especially if you would like to spend longer times on site. Hell, give everyone a good thick sweater and lower the hab temperature to 10 degrees and you just eliminated half your heating bill.

You might be right about using apollo tech on mercury, and i would LOVE to see that mission go through (hell, if nasa gets going on a new moon mission, mercury can be done five years after the first second moon landing), but starting from scratch, the martian environment seems much easier to live in for us meatbags

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417924)

There is no such thing as 100% reflective. and if you do achieve that, dirt will accumulate and transfer heat via conduction. Any person in a suit standing on the surface of mercury that is in the light will cook lie they were in a rotisserie even wrapped in 100% effective mirrors. Its surface ranges in temperature from -270F to 800F (-168C to 427C) and it's day is insanely long, the poles do not matter. you need to be in a deep crater out of the sunlight. Here's another problem, the sun takes up much of the sky, it's not that tiny bright disk in the sky like we have here, you have a giant bright as hell 50% of the sky ball of fire. you are also within the sun's magnetosphere so good luck with electronics. How do you design solar panels that can not fry in that environment? Actually you do it differently, large black panels with thermocouples. use the temperature difference between light and dark.

Mariner 10 was designed for the high heat by giving it a high temperature heat shield to shadow the craft from the sun, it also had very hardened electronics and still had problems. The on-board computer experienced unscheduled resets occasionally, they had to reconfigure the thing several times to salvage the spacecraft. The attitude control systems also flaked out and used up a bulk of the fuel on-board. Operating that close to a star is highly difficult and dangerous even for robotic missions.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418988)

Your terminator-following scheme fails the back-of-the-envelope test:
2440km * pi / 187 days = 0.5m/s = 43.6 km/24h

That means when you're near the equator, you've gotta average 44 km longitude per Earth day, plus whatever latitude progress suits you. You hit difficult terrain, or stop to study an interesting location, and you drift away from the terminator; then you exceed your power budget on cooling or on heating & lighting (and you need plenty of light, because you're trying to make time). Do that a little too often in 8000 km of uncharted wasteland and you die out there.

The poles could be manageable, but I wouldn't send out even an equatorial terminator-riding mission without some form of rescue capability.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419214)

The problem with Mars is that pressure suits would have to use a lot of energy keeping their occupants warm.

No. Keep in mind that the occupants even when resting are 75 W heaters. Keeping the occupants cool is the real problem.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (2)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419868)

What permanently dark side of the planet? Contrary to beliefs in the '60s, Mercury is not tidelocked. It's rotational period is 59 days, making three complete rotations in two orbits.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35421024)

What permanently dark side of the planet? Contrary to beliefs in the '60s, Mercury is not tidelocked. It's rotational period is 59 days, making three complete rotations in two orbits.

You could get around this by having a mobile operating base for any manned mission to Mercury that stays out of direct sunlight to avoid frying its occupants. Its 3:2 spin-orbit resonance means that a single day on Mercury last exactly two Mercury years, or about 176 Earth days - so a single fixed point on the surface would be in daylight continuously for 88 days. Given that its radius is 2,439.7 ± 1.0 km, it has a circumference of 7667.6 km, so you'd only need to be able to move 87.1 km/day, or 3.63km/h.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (2)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417828)

I'd like to know what you're taking, you need to share. Mercury's daytime temperature gets above 750degF. The atmosphere (what there is of it) contains ionized iron atoms. Yes, gassous iron. The radiation flux is orders of magnitude higher. NOT a good place for humans.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (5, Interesting)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418234)

Mars may not be the best place for humans to go. Mercury for example looks positively inviting in comparison to Mars.

My apologies to throw in some facts on to your dreams, but I wouldn't call Mercury "more inviting".
Atmosphere - 1 nanoPascal (blown away by solar wind), a magnetic field at 1% the terrestrial one => very little protection against hard radiation [wikipedia.org] With an eccetric orbit, the Sun's radiation intensity is between 4.59 and 10.61 times the level on the Earth orbit (on the surface of Mercury, the Sun looks on average almost three times as big as it does from Earth).

Not having a significant atmosphere, there are no chances for aero-breaking. The delta-v between the orbital-speed is 18 km/s that need to be lost for reaching a transfer orbit. Even more, a space vehicle will fall into the Sun's gravitational well, requiring another huge delta-v to compensate if you want to avoid a crash-landing - a trip alone (not even landing) to Mercury requires more rocket fuel than to escape the solar system [wikipedia.org]. Solar-sails you say? Heck, how long can one afford to keep a maned space vehicle in a radiation 5-10 times more virulent than on Earth orbit. Bigger shields you say? Errr.... more rocket fuel to escape the Earth gravitation, I ask?

Heck, even if I would be to accept the idea of Mercury being more inviting, I wonder if we currently afford to give course to the invitation. Cost per kilogram of dead matter transported to:
1. the surface of Mars - US$309,000 [wikipedia.org]
2. a fly-by followed by orbiting Mercury (but not landing on it) - US$878,000 [nasa.gov] (Messenger mission cost/spacecraft mass).

BTW - the orbital insertion of the Messenger spacecraft around Mercury is expected in about 8 days from now (on March 17, 2011 after 6.5 years from its launch) - fingers crossed.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (5, Insightful)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417196)

I see two problems here.

Why cut back space programs instead of, say, military spending or bank bailouts? A fraction of either would put humans on Mars and probes on Jovian moons, and a little more cutbacks we'll have us solving climate change as well..

Also, there will always be a promising new propulsion system on the horizon. When you've built a VASIMIR engine, there will be antimatter propulsion, and then some space-bending engine, and then an Infinite Improbability Drive. When do you stop tinkering and simply get your ass to Mars?

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417582)

Could not agree more.
It's so sad to see that the US just cannot reduce its main costs (defense, banks), and then endlessly fights over the crumbs that are left.
But under the Patriot act it's probably not allowed to suggest that spending more money on warfare than all other countries combined is a bad thing?

cheers,
A peaceloving cheese-eating suddender monkey

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35420714)

You do realize that over 60% of the US budget is entitlement programs...Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security right? While I'm all for getting rid of most (if not all) of the 900+ overseas US military installations and was rabidly against bailouts of any kind, they aren't the only problem and source of wasteful spending.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418124)

get your ass to Mars? as in that gay vid "a rocket to Uranus"? ( see youtube)

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35420010)

Although the defense spending is huge, it's still less than that for health care. In the 2010 federal budget [wikipedia.org] there were $743 billion allocated for health care, compared to $663.7 billion for defense. Cutting defense costs would be great, but reducing health care costs would be even better.

Bank bailouts have a negligible cost compared to the others, because most of it was in the form of loans [wikipedia.org] that have been repaid.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (3, Interesting)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35421162)

Although the defense spending is huge, it's still less than that for health care.

I'd far rather see a country spent more money on healthcare than on killing people. If the US Government really wants to save money, they should build less aircraft carriers - the incoming Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier, will cost $14 billion including research and development, and the actual cost of the carrier itself would be $9 billion each [strategypage.com] - nearly $100 billion in total for a like-for-like replacement of the eleven Nimitz and Enterprise class carriers in active service.

By comparison, the UK spends two and a half times [wikipedia.org] as much on Health as it does on Defence.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35420408)

I see two problems here.

Why cut back space programs instead of, say, military spending or bank bailouts? A fraction of either would put humans on Mars and probes on Jovian moons, and a little more cutbacks we'll have us solving climate change as well..

At least military spending has a Constitutional basis to it (Article 1, Section 8), something neither bank bailouts or the space programs can claim. Personally, I say cut all three and leave me the hell alone - if you want it then you fund it.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417198)

Pretty much agreed right here.
Hell, even the huge railgun launcher could go better than boring old chemical.

The way i see it, 10 years research could be made up for in half the time.
Not an exact estimate, but considering all the great launching methods out there that just need the funds and time, methods that are significantly more efficient that it makes that phrase a potential reality.
Obviously it won't be an absolute 10 years pure research, maintenance would still be done.

With the gravity barrier less of an issue, we could even get an actual spaceport built, a reliable one, a permanent one.
If that idea doesn't send chills down the spines of space exploration, i don't know what will. (well, aliens might, but that is almost a given, we know life exists, it absolutely has to given the size of the universe and how easy, and very early, life came about on Earth)
Space port, construction area up there, infinite possibility.
We just need to defeat those damn gravities.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417216)

Mod parent up.

I feel I shouldn't just leave a three word comment, as the parent post cries out for an erudite supporting response, but there's little I can add that doesn't merely restate it.

I suppose 'brachistochrones for all!' will have to do.

Oh, and -

Get us off this rock!

CAPTCHA - worldly.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417600)

I hate Mars, it's so boring!!

Really I can't see any interest on going to a baron rock, all these people spin this hidden wonder under the surface and fail. Go to an exciting place where you have tangible mystery like neptune, uranus etc...

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35420174)

Would you prefer a Duke rock, or a Count rock, then? Or is a baron rock not good enough and you want to visit a King rock?

What have you got against Barons, anyway?

PS: Hint - all planets but Earth are, as far as we know, barren. Mars is the closest to Earth conditions, but it's gonna take a lot of refurb work before we stand a chance of growing any vegetation there.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417668)

Obama's focus on developing new technologies before trying for the Moon (again) or Mars.

What universe do you live in? The Fringe alternate one?

We know we can do it, the question is can we do it affordably enough to SUSTAIN a manned presence?

No, the question is still 'can you do it'.

Let's become a spacefaring civilization!

I like your points, but you are embarrassing yourself.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417816)

I agree, we should continue to spend money looking for bin-laden and bringing peace and harmony to the rest of the middle east.

You complain about NASA spending? Spending that goes DIRECTLY into the USA coffers via domestic construction and purchasing.. they are not buying rockets on ebay from china sellers...

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

NotAGoodNickname (1925512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419148)

1) Manned space exploration is much more expensive than unmanned
2) You can't do anything for a billion dollars at NASA/JPL
3) They are already working on alternative propulsion systems and a couple are being used today in real spacecrafts (ion drive/solar sail)

Unfortunately our country (and the West in general) is even more broke than usual so we should hope that Asia can manage something, otherwise we are going to be stuck here forever.

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35420306)

So, they did a bang-up job on Uranus, did they?

Mmmmmmm . . . what I wouldn't give to study Uranus. Are they taking any volunteers? My brother, Neil, and I would volunteer in a heartbeat.

Thanks,
Ben Dover

Re:Develop spacefaring technology first (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35420396)

So why not put these programs on the slow track for a little while and spend a Billion developing some really good deep space propulsion systems?

Because they really aren't needed for the forseeable future. Though they're really popular among the space fanboy set, they're actually solutions in search of a problem.
 

Anyway, if you can get a propulsion system that's 10x more efficient than our current chemical rockets you could send much more massive payloads quicker! This would substantially reduce the launch cost since it would "only" cost 10s of thousands of dollars to send a kg instead of 100s of thousands to the outer planets. This in turn would allow designers much more flexibilty to reduce cost/increase perfornance since they wouldn't be under such pressure to reduce weight.

Completely wrong on all three counts. For the first count: These deep space propulsion systems do not replace current chemical rockets which will still be used to boost the probes from the surface. For the second count: Since we'll still be using the same chemical rockets to boost the probe and propulsion system to orbit, launch costs remain the same. For the third count: Since we're still using the same chemical rockets, we're limited to the same payload mass - which means the pressure to reduce weight remains in place. (And in some ways it actually gets worse because every pound occupied by propulsion system is a pound taken from that available for other uses - like instruments.)
 

And by reducing or eliminating the need for time-consuming gravitational assists (6 years to Mercury!)

You'll never reduce the need for flybys - because until we're able to get to the planets as easily as we get to the local convenience store, you'll never significantly reduce the desire to maximize the bang-per-pound. No vehicle of land, sea, air, or space is immune to that. Not to mention that short of SF style propulsion, it's always going to be hard to get to Mercury. (One of the quirks of orbital mechanics is that it's harder to go 'down' towards the Sun than 'up' and away.)
 

The distance to the outer planets is great enough that it makes me think of some science fiction stories (like Arthur C. Clarke's "The Songs of Distant Earth"), where newly developed technology could allow spacecraft launched later to overtake the earlier more primitive ships.

That's a nice fantasy, but that's all it is. Unless you're talking significant increases in speed - older ships are unlikely to be overtaken by newer. (It's a stern chase, and the one that leaves sooner rapidly builds a significant lead.)
 

it would likewise reduce support costs as well as increase science return (instruments won't be decades obsolete on arrival).

It won't reduce support costs as much as you think - it's pretty much standard procedure to probes to only have a skeleton crew during cruise phase. Nor will it increase science notably... The problem isn't that the instruments are obsolescent (not obsolete) on arrival, it's that you really can't start designing new instruments until you have the data from the previous set to tell you what you need to look for with the next.
 

For some of these reasons, I support Obama's focus on developing new technologies before trying for the Moon (again) or Mars. We know we can do it, the question is can we do it affordably enough to SUSTAIN a manned presence?

We'll never learn how to do it affordably sitting on the ground 'developing the technology'. That path to disaster results in their always being another 'more affordable' technology/design/system waiting on the horizon. So we wait some more while it is developed, and in the meantime another new technology starts to be visible on the horizon... Lather, rinse, repeat.
 
Politicians love such open ended solutions because they put the need to actually accomplish the goal and to budget the big bucks off into the misty future sometime a few election cycles down the road. Scientists love such open ended solutions because it keeps the money flowing without burdening them with the need to actually meet a hard goal on budget and on time. Bureaucrats love such open ended solutions because it keeps the money flowing without the pesky need to be accountable for meeting a hard goal on budget and on time... Aerospace contractors love such open ended solutions because it keeps the pork flowing... Ditto for universities and research institutes.
 
But such open ended 'solutions' don't produce real hardware ready to fly. Endless cycles of research on ever shinier technologies never produce equipment that has been tested and debugged in the field. This path doesn't get us to the moon. (Though it does produce tons of pork and PR - something beloved of politicians and bureaucrats.)
 
Sustainable' and 'affordable' sound cool because right now, with the increasing focus on environmental concerns and the economy, they're high profile buzzwords. But that's all they are, meaningless buzzwords. Nobody has, or is even remotely willing to commit to, a hard definition because, as outlined above, hard definitions meaning being held to those definitions - and that's something that's not in anyone's interest.
 

Let's become a spacefaring civilization!

Yes, let's do. Let's set goals and the budget required to actually accomplish them - and then get out and actually do it. We won't become a spacefaring civilization by invoking shiny buzzwords in hopes they'll summon the Cargo [wikipedia.org] in some misty future.

after reading the warm&fuzzy geezers against n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417134)

it was suggested that rob obtain a copy of the plan for US authored by; wolfowitz, cheney, rumsfeld et al, as that's what is really taking place. mynutswon; leave us alone to ponder... almost nothing

don't forget that bolton guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417240)

he's like some kind of boot-licking lap-dog/suckytoad for unprecedented evile, butt, if total recall serves, he also helped write the plan to 'light 'em up' w/dick&paul etc.... quite a read, & it's non-fiction, which we don't see much of lately. why waste more time? scared? they sure are.

nefariously de-listed from goo-goo, business grows (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417202)

what a wwworld. there are folks with all kinds of positive intentions. see you there?

Marching orders? (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417380)

Scientists Give NASA Planetary Marching Orders

Seriously? Did they provide the budget as well?

Last time I heard about it, the scientists were having troubles themselves with a bunch of politicians promoting fact-free science [slashdot.org]... unless the said politicians will do nothing to adjust the law of gravitation, I don't see how NASA can mars to march and up Uranus (errrr.. whatever...) ... Newton, "the founding father", wrote that law pretty harsh... without relaxing it the gravitation well is deep enough to require some non-trivial budget.

Re:Marching orders? (0, Flamebait)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417418)

The unfunded mandate for Constellation worked well enough for the last administration. Get the public excited about a huge new space project, don't provide any money, and count on being out of office so that it's the new guy that has to cancel it and get yelled at for ruining everyone's dreams.

What happened to going to our Moon? (3)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417446)

We need to figure out what it takes to colonize the Moon. We need to build the infrastructure that can keep us there and commercialize the exploitation of the Moon and nearby asteroids. We have almost all of the materials and the technology to build a working Lunar space elevator now. Once we have that, getting supplies and raw materials on and off the Lunar surface is practically free.

There are so many great reasons [wikipedia.org] for tackling the Moon first as we venture out into space.

To me, going to Mars or Uranus with probes vs going to the Moon means that we don't want to build up the technology and infrastructure to become a space faring species. It says that we're more interested in satisfying a few scientific curiosities rather than figuring out how to live away from the Earth's surface.

I find their list to be extremely disappointing. I was hoping to see mankind take its first real steps toward the stars in my lifetime. Ah well...

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417560)

Don't worry - Mankind will be doing all those things. There just won't be USA stamped on the side of the rocket that took them there.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418296)

If your second premise is right, then you're wrong. If the US doesn't do it, no one will.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35419360)

lolwut? To my knowlege no agency other than NASA has ever put a man outside of low earth orbit, let alone anywhere near the moon.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (3, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417622)

Colonizing the Moon is an engineering task. We already know all the science we need. It's a vacuum, it has radiation, it has commonly used minerals.

We don't need new scientific knowledge to solve that problem. We need engineering knowledge to solve that problem, and while it might be difficult to realize, you cannot just reassign astrophysicists to solve your plumbing problems.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417714)

Does that mean Joe Sixpack has a chance to go to the Moon?

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417916)

, you cannot just reassign astrophysicists to solve your plumbing problems.

Well, it actually worked that way literally, throughout former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, after "communism" collapsed. Scientists lost their jobs and worked in gray economy as plumbers, mechanics, drivers, street salesmen ... elect libertarians to power and you'll witness it firsthand.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418492)

I don't disagree that it's mostly an engineering task.

The title of the linked article is "Scientists set NASA space priorities; can it carry them out?". I don't care if they're engineers, astrophysicists, or herpetologists... if they're setting the priorities for NASA, I want them to get their heads out of their asses and focus NASA on solving the engineering problems to get us to the Moon. Otherwise, we need more pragmatic folks setting NASA's priorities.

Personally, I think that if we're not moving primarily toward colonization of space, then we have better things we could be spending those billions of dollars on. Cut NASA's budget and shut it down. Restart it later when we're not in a worldwide depression.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418716)

NASA is a "science driven" organization.
But bear in mind that this decadal survey is just a "recommendation" and it provides justification for doing things.

You want to build a rocket to go to Mars. Someone says, "why do you need that rocket? don't we already have rockets?".. you say, "Ah, but the decadal survey identifies bringing samples back from Mars is important, and the rockets we have now can't do that" Bingo.. science justification for your technology development.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417690)

Trouble is, just when we start to get it right, the Loonies will start throwing rocks at us and declare their independence.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418168)

Going to the stars? I'd be satisfied if we went to the Moon in our lifetime. I was born after the last Moon landing. Since then, we've only gone into orbit. Low Earth orbit. I want to watch TV and see a live broadcast of a man stepping out of a lunar lander and walking on the Moon. We could do it 30 years ago, why can't we do it now? In fact, given how technology has advanced, why can't we do it better? First HD broadcast from the Moon. First Tweet from the Moon or FourSquare Moon check-in. Whatever it takes to get men walking on the Moon again and get people excited about Lunar travel again! Then, once we're going to the Moon on a semi-regular basis, we can discuss a more permanent settlement.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419314)

What happened to going to our Moon?

Even if you just focus on the science, it is shameful that the Moon is completely ignored. Here are a few things that can still be done:

1) Put up a permanent seismic network.
2) Drill baby drill! And return the cores to Earth.
3) Unmanned missions and sample returns for the polar regions. Find out what's really there.
4) Manned sortie missions to various interesting parts of the Moon.
5) Check out some of these suspected lava tubes.

Re:What happened to going to our Moon? (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419988)

To me, going to Mars or Uranus with probes vs going to the Moon means that we don't want to build up the technology and infrastructure to become a space faring species. It says that we're more interested in satisfying a few scientific curiosities rather than figuring out how to live away from the Earth's surface.

I find their list to be extremely disappointing. I was hoping to see mankind take its first real steps toward the stars in my lifetime. Ah well...

Developing technology and infrastructure is a big part of what NASA is focusing on, while letting commercial ventures focus on lowering cost to LEO. It's why I'm more enthusiastic than ever in my life about our prospects for going to the moon and staying there.

This report is not about that. This report is about -- and only about -- satisfying the scientific curiosities that is the other big part of what NASA is about. So of course it doesn't mention colonizing the moon.

So do not create, nor take this list to imply, a false dichotomy between human exploration of near-earth, and probe-based exploration of the rest of the solar system.

minions plead with the 'master' let there be nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35417540)

the 'audience', (electronically) glued to their seats. let his, & in turn our? will be done, they chant...... eot

could only be bad si-fi nonsense?

Mars missions are underfunded (0)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35417914)

The Mars missions have been slashed which is fairly scandalous. There should be a sample-return mission and more rovers; Mars is one of the best places to look for nascent life outside of Earth. The amount that the Administration spent on Obama's visit to India and SE Asia could have funded a sample return mission.

Re:Mars missions are underfunded (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419484)

Mars is one of the best places to look for nascent life outside of Earth.

Maybe, but whatever life may exist on Mars will be microscopic. IMHO, a far more interesting place to look for life is under Europa's ice [klx.com] where we might actually see things swimming.

Re:Mars missions are underfunded (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35421074)

The problems with Europa make it much more difficult to visit. I guess the worst problem will be trying to not contaminate it with earth life but you still have to get there and drill through kilometers of (possibly moving) ice, deal with lots of radiation, and do it all without RTGs (i.e. humongous solar panels and non-toxic batteries). Don't knock microbial life; if (huge if) it was found on Mars (or Europa) it would have large implications for the Drake Equation and the origin of life on Earth (if the biochemistry was fundamentally different). Even if the biochemistry was similar it would probably be a nice windows into ancient microbial life. Both planets are worthy of more investment. The cost of going there is trivial compared to waging endless wars, bailing about the rich on Wall Street or various pointless diplomatic missions

Planet Goat-C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418036)

All this talk of studying Uranus and touching the Moon is pointless. We should be aiming to reach-around at a big black hole.

I Really Don't want Nasa anywhere near my anus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418240)

Can't they study uranus instead? :P

To be serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418358)

I've heard that there's a giant spot on Uranus. This definitely warrants detailed study.

Science has returned to its rightful place. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35418386)

Good thing forward-looking Obama is in office now and has Returned Science To Its Rightful Place. Cutting space funding and all that. Not like that mongoloid Bush, who wanted to, what, go to the moon? What a moron.

Orbiting Satellites (2)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35418676)

Isn't it about time we committed to a plan to install at least one orbiting observatory satellite for each of the major bodies within our solar system? If we aren't ready to commit to further manned missions, then lets get our remote eyes and ears out there on a permanent basis, rather than the once-in-a-generation flyby mission.

Re:Orbiting Satellites (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35419630)

Do you actually pay any attention to space exploration? We've been putting out long duration orbiters over flybys for a couple of decades now.

Planetary Science, not Human Space Flight (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35419064)

Ok everyone, this is the Decadal Survey of PLANETARY SCIENCE. Read the report and the statement of task provided to them (not written by them!) and you see that human spaceflight has very little to do with this particular report. Your opinions are fine, but don't criticize the report for something it isn't. The Space Studies Board has several other decadal surveys addressing different branches of space science, this is just one of them. Also, for those wondering about budget considerations, look at Appendix C and E. Compared to other NASA activities planetary science missions provide A LOT of science and inspirational value for the money.

Probe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35420278)

"While Jupiter and Saturn are made mostly of hydrogen, Uranus and Neptune have much smaller hydrogen envelopes"

Smaller or not, somebody is going to have to stick a probe in Uranus.

Neptune or Uranus first? (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35420446)

Sounds like they are assuming Uranus and Neptune are similar enough, calling them both "ice giants", that we'll learn a lot about both by studying one of them. We'll want to study both, eventually, of course. In the meantime, why Uranus first?

The sunlight is a little brighter, and it's a little closer and so we can get a probe there sooner, cheaper, and with less fuel used. And Uranus has one characteristic that sets it apart from all the other planets-- it's tilted so far over that it is on its side. So perhaps that makes it more interesting.

But Neptune's largest moon is much more massive than Uranus' largest. Cassini used Titan's gravity to visit places in the Saturn system. Titan is massive enough to make that easy. Uranus' moons may be too small to make that trick workable, while Triton may be big enough. We'd also like to study the sort of extreme seasonal changes Uranus' tilt produces. To do that we'd want to view at least one entire Uranian year, which is 84 Earth years. But how? Multiple probes? Or increase the longevity of our current probes? Or we settle for a briefer view. If we do, I'd suppose we'd rather see Uranus nearer a solstice than an equinox. If so, then right now the timing may or may not be the best. The next solstice is in 2028. That's good for a leisurely preparation of 2 to 5 years to launch followed by a route of 6 or 8 so years for a probe that hopefully will last another 10 years after the trip. It's not so good if we can move faster, and want to. Also, as Neptune's year is even longer-- 164 Earth years, we may prefer to start on Neptune sooner as we will be able to catch up faster on the faster orbiting Uranus.

Seems like if the extra distance and time doesn't make it too costly, Neptune would be a better first choice.

Get to the planets? (0)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 3 years ago | (#35420520)

How about NASA figure out how to get to _orbit_ first? They've been fucking that part up for the past 30 years, and I don't understand why it needs to be pointed out to them that it is the first and most critical step to getting anywhere else.

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