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Space Shuttle Atlantis Last Night In Space Orbit

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the end-of-an-era dept.

NASA 108

techtribune writes "Tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for the crew aboard the NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis as they begin their return home to Earth. This will be the last space shuttle re-entry, the last landing, and the very last crew to pilot the shuttle in U.S. history. The Atlantis Space Shuttle undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday after delivering a lot of supplies, batteries, and other hardware to the station. They are bringing a lot of trash and everything else that needs to be brought back to Earth, as it's the very last opportunity for NASA to do so on its own." In a related topic, MarkWhittington wrote in with a story about why we stopped going to the moon and why there are no plans to go back.

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Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827136)

Just a thought... they carefully cut out all excess weight for a shuttle launch because every extra pound is some $massive.amount. On the way down, however, is it really more of a "pack it all in" mentality?

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827200)

That's right, the cost to bring stuff back is negligible compared to the cost of taking it up.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827266)

That's right, the cost to bring stuff back is negligible compared to the cost of taking it up.

Depends on how you look at it. The shuttle has to take up heavy wings and heat shields in order to bring stuff down.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828058)

Depends on how you look at it. The shuttle has to take up heavy wings and heat shields in order to bring stuff down.

This is the only thing the Shuttle excels at: bringing things back from space intact. It's pretty much the only thing ever made (except for the Buran) that can accomplish such a task.

For every other task, it's horribly cost and fuel inefficient. Even for servicing large satellites it's not efficient. Replacing them is cheaper.

So what could we possibly want to bring back from space? There's no reason the US would want to safely deorbit the Hubble for repairs...it's much cheaper to build and launch a new one and crash the old one into the Pacific. The only thing worth bringing back from LEO intact is foreign satellites. The entire reason for the Space Shuttle was to force treaty compliance. If the Soviets put weapons in space, we could prove it, and we paid dearly for that privilege.

This is also why the Soviets were hell-bent on building the Buran. It didn't have to actually fly...they just had to make us think that it could fly. At least they never had to put lipstick on that pig and pretend it was a civilian tool for civilian use.

The whole Shuttle program was a Cold War espionage tool...just another U2 or SR71 with no other practical use. The whole thing should have been abandoned 20 years ago when the war ended. Rockets can lift things up for pennies on the dollar, and that's how the commercial satellites have been going up. The US is second-tier now for space tech because we've spent the last two decades polishing our war toys instead of building real, cost-effective, competitive launch vehicles.

It's pretty sad.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828844)

That sounds like an awful lot of aggravation and expense when you could just send a camera. It's not like we hadn't called BS on the Soviets with photos before.

But either way, at least we got a lot of use out of the thing... despite the price tag.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830288)

Actually it was much worse than that Mr AC. you see the original proposal had the Shuttle listed as a "space truck" which would have bay large enough that NASA, the military and civilian corps could all use it, be able to do quick turnarounds, basically making for a cheaper system that would fulfill many roles. It failed horribly at that mission.

It was too small for the military and most corps who stuck with the Delta series, had slow turnaround, it pretty much failed on everything that was in that original proposal. Sadly while it should have been replaced by the early 90s one can't get anything done here anymore without Sen Payola and Congressman Kickbackus getting in on it which is why there was so many places working on shuttle parts and why the Orion was gimped from the start by having the ship reuse many shuttle parts even when they made no sense.

Now that the shuttle is ending maybe we can finally worry about more probes like New Horizons instead of keeping the ancient shuttle going.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828302)

Those are... sorry: were already paid for.

Re:Expensive up... cheap down? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828638)

The point is that the design of the shuttle was influenced by the requirement to bring back heavy objects safely back to earth, and that design is pretty expensive going up.

Sure, after launching it, the cost of bringing it back down are small, but then again, a lot of things are cheap after they've already been paid for.

 

Obama winning debt ceiling battle (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827152)

Since June 29, Mr. Obama has had three press conferences, a Twitter town hall, multiple regional TV interviews, and numerous public remarks. On Friday, the day by which Obama hopes to reach agreement with Republicans on major deficit reduction, he will hold a regular town hall in College Park, Md.

Obama has used these opportunities to drive home his view that Congress must raise the ceiling on the federal debt, that a grand bargain on deficit reduction must include tax increases, and that hard-liners in both parties must compromise. It’s impossible to prove that Obama’s public relations blitz is directly responsible for shifting public opinion, but two major new polls show that Americans are indeed moving toward the president’s position, if not fully buying it.

In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday night, a growing percentage of Americans – now 38 percent – say that the debt ceiling should be raised, versus 31 percent who say it should not. A month ago, only 28 percent favored raising the debt ceiling and 39 percent said it shouldn’t. Obama, his administration, and most economists assert that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 would lead the nation to begin defaulting on its debt – or, alternatively, halt payments on other national obligations, such as Social Security checks and service members’ paychecks. Any of these nonpayments would be devastating to the US economy and the individuals affected.

Conservatives, including many tea party activists, say that raising the debt ceiling only enables the government to continue spending at irresponsibly high rates.

The WSJ/NBC poll also found that Obama’s proposal – $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years that combines spending cuts, including on Medicare, and tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy – beats the House Republican plan by 22 points (58 percent to 36 percent). The House GOP plan, called "Cut, Cap, and Balance," would cut and cap federal spending and require congressional approval of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the debt ceiling could be raised. Anything that could be construed as a tax increase – including the closing of tax loopholes and ending of corporate subsidies – is anathema to many congressional Republicans.

Another new poll also found signs that Obama is beating the Republicans in the debt/deficit showdown – though Obama comes in for scorn as well. According to Tuesday's Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republicans are increasingly dissatisfied with their representatives in Congress. Some 58 percent say they’re not doing enough to reach a deal, compared with 42 percent in March. And a majority of Republicans say they’re willing to see higher taxes on the wealthy.

last fauxking tango for man'kind'? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827176)

no gadgets required

should it not be considered that the domestic threats to all of us/our
freedoms be intervened on/removed, so we wouldn't be compelled to hide our
sentiments, &/or the truth, about ANYTHING, including the origins of the
hymenology council, & their sacred mission? with nothing left to hide,
there'd be room for so much more genuine quantifiable progress?

you call this 'weather'? much of our land masses world are going under
water, or burning up, as we fail to consider anything at all that really
matters, as we've been instructed that we must maintain our silence (our
last valid right?), to continue our 'safety' from... mounting terror.

meanwhile, back at the raunch; there are exceptions? the unmentionable
sociopath weapons peddlers are thriving in these times of worldwide
sufferance? the royals? our self appointed murderous neogod rulers? all
better than ok, thank..... us. their stipends/egos/disguises are secure,
so we'll all be ok/not killed by mistaken changes in the MANufactured
'weather', or being one of the unchosen 'too many' of us, etc...?

truth telling & disarming are the only mathematically & spiritually
correct options. read the teepeeleaks etchings. see you there?

diaperleaks group worldwide. thanks for your increasing awareness?

counting unhatched chickens (-1, Troll)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827178)

with unreliable history of that death trap, might be the last shuttle to burn up, the last crew to die

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827276)

If everyone wanted everything to be as "safe" as you, we would still be in caves.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828556)

My safety threshold isn't high at all, we're talking about 40% failure rate the way I count, five shuttles used for launches, two kill their crew. Would any model of airplane with those statistics be used to fly, regardless of number of flights?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829106)

My safety threshold isn't high at all, we're talking about 40% failure rate the way I count, five shuttles used for launches, two kill their crew. Would any model of airplane with those statistics be used to fly, regardless of number of flights?

Most airplanes don't fly into space. None of them fly into orbit. Space travel is more demanding, and has higher risks than air travel.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831322)

You suck at math.

If you're going to make such ridiculous statements then you could say given enough time, the failure rate would have been 100% ... eventually all of them would have some sort of accident happen, thats just the way it works.

You could also say that Columbia and Challenger had 100% failure rates, but Atlantis, Enterprise, Endevour and Discovery had 100% success rates.

You're also ignoring that no other airplane flies at 17-25 thousand miles an hour on average, very few pull the number of Gs the shuttle does, certainly no non-military craft, oh, and it flies for millions and millions of miles for weeks on end without so much as stopping for gas, no other aircraft has ever done anything like it in pretty much every statistic you can name.

Would any model of airplane with those statistics be used to fly, regardless of number of flights?

Yes, perhaps you need to take a look at aviation history? Experimental aircraft have been known to go boom on occasion.

To put it bluntly, the way you count is retarded.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831342)

Research the reasons for the catastrophic failures, if certain design and managerial blunders had not been made, all the crews and all the shuttles all would have returned safely. My math is fine, all those failed shuttles were designed for more successful missions than they had.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (-1, Offtopic)

phntm (723283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827278)

but there are no Israelite pilots on board, i think their safe.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827682)

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827298)

Home Depot called - said they needed their tool back. Crawl back in trollboy.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (2)

tommy2tone (2357022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827414)

with unreliable history of that death trap, might be the last shuttle to burn up, the last crew to die

2 Failures out of 135 launches makes it an unreliable death trap?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827532)

2 Failures out of 135 launches makes it an unreliable death trap?

If your car exploded once a month while driving to or from work, what would you call it?

NASA would laugh at SpaceX if they were offering a 'man-rated' transport to ISS which would kill the crew one time in sixty flights.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (4, Funny)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827840)

If your car exploded once a month while driving to or from work, what would you call it?

A Ford Taliban?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827906)

2 Failures out of 135 launches makes it an unreliable death trap?

If your car exploded once a month while driving to or from work, what would you call it?

NASA would laugh at SpaceX if they were offering a 'man-rated' transport to ISS which would kill the crew one time in sixty flights.

Talk to me when the car is being launched in to orbit or doing re-entry, THEN we will compare notes.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827950)

Talk to me when the car is being launched in to orbit or doing re-entry, THEN we will compare notes.

That's irrelevant. In what other mode of transportation would a 1 in 60 chance of losing the vehicle and crew on every use be considered acceptable?

And do you really tihnk that NASA would allow its astronauts to fly on a private spacecraft which had such an appalling casualty rate?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

acoustix (123925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828282)

Talk to me when the car is being launched in to orbit or doing re-entry, THEN we will compare notes.

That's irrelevant. In what other mode of transportation would a 1 in 60 chance of losing the vehicle and crew on every use be considered acceptable?

And do you really tihnk that NASA would allow its astronauts to fly on a private spacecraft which had such an appalling casualty rate?

If 1 in 60 causality is really an unacceptable number for dangerous travel then we wouldn't have populated the western half of the US. And that was on the ground.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828340)

If 1 in 60 causality is really an unacceptable number for dangerous travel then we wouldn't have populated the western half of the US. And that was on the ground.

Again utterly irrelevant because we're talking about now and not centuries ago. Nor are we talking about colonising space, we're talking about delivering pizza to the space station.

And again, do you really tihnk that NASA would allow its astronauts to fly on a private spacecraft which had such an appalling casualty rate?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827994)

Talk to me when the deathtrap of a shuttle can be driven on a highway at 60mph. THEN we will compare notes.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828180)

If my car did 17k miles an hour on average and my drive to work each day was several million miles, then I'd still be pretty fucking impressed with the car that blew up once a month. I'd certainly take the risk to drive it.

In one day the space shuttle has done more than every single car you'll ever own combined, by several orders of magnitude. Hell, in one orbit its already outlasted all of your cars by a massive amount.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828412)

Hell, in one orbit its already outlasted all of your cars by a massive amount.

One orbit? That's about 25,500 miles. Just how hard are you on your cars?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828258)

Just out of curiosity what is the loss of crew rate of the Soyuz?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828370)

Just out of curiosity what is the loss of crew rate of the Soyuz?

Zero over the time the space shuttle has been flying.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828912)

Zero over the time the space shuttle has been flying.

Well done on answering a different question. Just like the shuttle, two Soyuz capsules have been lost.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36830958)

Zero over the time the space shuttle has been flying.

Well done on answering a different question. Just like the shuttle, two Soyuz capsules have been lost.

That doesn't exactly answer the question either. Two crew losses over how many launches? 5, 50, 500? Over how many years?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831568)

A bit lower but the fatalities they had were very early in the program (both Soyuz and space flight in general). Since the craft has been redesigned over time one can argue, as someone else said, that the current iteration has a 0 crew loss rate.

There were many other non-fatal incidents but the Soyuz is basically absurdly sturdy.The rocket beneath it can explode on the pad and with a few second warning the crew can survive. It can begin reentry pointed utterly the wrong way and still survive. Hell, it can reenter still strapped to the service module, aimed the wrong way, let the heat of reentry burn off what's holding them together and still survive. The crew may never be fit to fly again but they'll survive. If the Space Shuttle program was run the same way as the Soyuz program there'd be no shuttles left.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828344)

NASA expected a 1-2% failure rate to begin with, based on the original design even before the flaw in the booster sealed was discovered (well, proven really, since "alarmist" engineers suspected a problem beforehand) thanks to a Challenger launch.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

i_b_don (1049110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828888)

I know, lets compare people deaths by miles traveled! I bet you this thing is safer than anything but a passenger jet.

(this is the stupidest conversation ever)

d

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828502)

There are not 135 shuttles. two out of five that went into space have killed their crew.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

totalg33k (970475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829226)

This. There have not been 135 separate vehicles, but five, which have each made an average of 27 flights. The average aside, losing 20% of your operating fleet due to mishaps like those don't bear well on the outlook of the fleet.

Lies, damn lies, and averages. (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829328)

There are not 135 shuttles. two out of five that went into space have killed their crew.

That's a silly way to rate the safety of the vehicle.

First, if there's some non-zero chance of a disaster on a given flight, then over a large enough number of flights, the chance of disaster approaches 1.0.
Second, in the case of Challenger, it wasn't the orbiter that failed, but the SRB's. How many SRB's did they build?
Third, suppose they had built a sixth shuttle to replace Columbia. Would the shuttle be any safer, by virtue of a sixth one having been built? Would the shuttle have been less safe if they hadn't built Endeavour?

It really makes no sense to rate the safety of STS that way. The only sensible metric is, how many launcher were attempted, and how many failed? I'll grant that even by those standards the average looks bad - but compare that to other space programs:

Apollo Program: two major failures in 20 flights (23 if you count the unmanned ones), one of which killed the crew
Soyuz: 66 flights (so far), two failures costing the lives of the cosmonauts on board.

So both Soyuz and Apollo have worse averages than STS. 1 in 20 for Apollo (1 in 10 if you count Apollo 13), 1 in 33 for Soyuz, vs. 1 in 62.5 for STS.

Re:Lies, damn lies, and averages. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829450)

I'm surprised there have been so few Soyuz flights, since it's been in service for so long.

The other thing missing from the aforementioned poor analysis is the actual cause of the mishaps.

The first one wasn't a design flaw--the engineers told them the O-rings weren't rated for those temperatures and they want anyway.

The second one is more of a design flaw because the tiles were damaged due to ice falling from the tank. However, it's only partially a design flaw because the deaths could have been prevented if procedures included an in-orbit tile inspection and provisions for emergency stays at the ISS. Perhaps a change in launch attitude could have prevented the ice from hitting the craft also. Ultimately though, this is a real problem because the only surefire way to keep ice off the tiles is to have the craft above the tank...

Re:Lies, damn lies, and averages. (2)

ToiletBomber (2269914) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830298)

It wasn't ice... it was a foam bi-pod ramp that detatched from the ET, and hitting the wing at high speed, creating a hole in one of the TPS tiles.

Re:counting unhatched chickens (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828368)

You again? I don't normally pay much attention to usernames here, but you're a real dork, aren't you?

Re:counting unhatched chickens (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828514)

I'm an engineer who can reason and point out truths that make wimpier people uncomfortable. 2/5 of all shuttles launched have killed people.

Apes (5, Funny)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827190)

I say we all put on ape costumes and greet them at the shuttle door just to screw with their heads.

Re:Apes (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827800)

I'm hoping they just say 'screw it', divert to the backup landing strip in the Azores, and head for the beach.

Re:Apes (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827942)

Don't forget to change the statues and monuments too. ;)

Re:Apes (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829356)

Don't forget to change the statues and monuments too. ;)

OK, we're gonna have to get the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand... Are the Ghostbusters available?

Re:Apes (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831024)

What about the pink slime? :)

why no moon? still don't know why (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827236)

Mr. Whittington's article is written with very little depth. He doesn't even answer his own question. Nixon siad it was too expensive... really? that's it?
Sure the space shuttle program ended up being truly massively expensive, but the entire world surrounding the space program also changed in the mean time and far more valuable things occured in science than "going to the moon"
Going back to the moon from then until say now... wouldn't have had half the scientific value of say Hubble or zero G experiments of the 80's.

It's exciting... yes. And we should go back. There's a pratical side to a moon base that would be extremely valuable in the future. Far less fatigue for atronauts, a fantastic opportunity at power and heat generation at the boundary between the near and far sides of the moon. the ability to use local building materials for some things. A grand opportunity indeed. I'm just scratching the surface.

Is any of this in his article? No. It's just whining.

Re:why no moon? still don't know why (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827496)

Mr. Whittington's article is written with very little depth. He doesn't even answer his own question. Nixon siad it was too expensive... really? that's it?

It was too expensive at billions of dollars per flight, and it was at the edge of what was technically feasible so the risk of losing a crew was substantial.

And the shuttle was supposed to be the cheap alternative. It just didn't work out that way.

We will go back to the moon when it's affordable. I believe SpaceX have been suggesting they could fly a Dragon around the Moon for $100,000,000 and change, so they could probably land some tourists there for a few hundred million.

Re:why no moon? still don't know why (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827698)

The article was very shallow and the links in it were to books he had written. Gee, I wonder what's up with that?

Why Apollo got dropped like a hot stone (0)

nido (102070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828032)

I have a copy of Art Bell (of coast-to-coast AM fame) interviewing Ingo Swann [biomindsuperpowers.com] , author of Penetration: The Question of Human and Extraterrestrial Telepathy.

Ingo was the creative genius behind the CIA's remote viewing program (which was shut down after 20 years because it "didn't work". Conveniently this was just after the soviet union fell apart). In the interview he talked about how he was asked to remote view the moon by an agency that didn't officially exist. "50% of what I know I put in my book, Penetration..."

The most memorable line of the whole interview:

Art: What's on the moon, Ingo?
Ingo: [hesitation] ... Stuff.
Art: Stuff?
Ingo: and THEM.

I found a copies of both the book and the mp3 on the torrents once.

Swann's books on "Secrets of Power" are very high level too... Policemen have "false power" because they lose whatever they've got when they lose the job. Presidents are in the same boat... Bankers are more powerful than Presidents because they control the money.

HTH. :)

Re:why no moon? still don't know why (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830834)

Mr. Whittington's article is written with very little depth. He doesn't even answer his own question. Nixon siad it was too expensive... really? that's it?

And even that statement, while widely believed, is wrong. Yes, three missions were canceled under the Nixon Administration - but all that did was move the final flight up from '73 or '74 to '72.
 
Apollo was actually killed in the bruising budget battles of '66 and '67 - when the production of Apollo hardware was suspended and the Apollo Applications program (a follow on to the moon landing program) was essentially canceled. (All that was left was what eventually became Skylab.)

Re:why no moon? still don't know why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831516)

Could be because Mark Whittington wrote in to mention the article that Mark Whittington wrote which links to books that Mark Whittington wrote that supposedly answer said questions.
They better question is why samzenpus included the link? At least point to a review written by someone other than the author.

no *US* plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827256)

In a related topic, MarkWhittington wrote in with a story about why we stopped going to the moon and why there are no plans to go back.

No plans for the US is what he laments. Next ones to go will be the Chinese and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens by the end of the decade.

Manned space flight is a bust (4, Insightful)

yoghurt (2090) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827294)

People stopped going to the moon and skylab because they ran out of useful things to do there.

The reason for people in space is because it makes for better marketing.

All the science is done by unmanned probes. The Mars rovers have been a huge success. Sure they are less capable than a human, but they are much cheaper, they can stay there a long time, you don't have to bring them back and if something goes wrong on Mars at least nobody gets hurt hence you can tolerate a modest risk of failure.

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827750)

I'd be willing to put money down on this: If we made the initial investment to set up a permanent presence on either the Moon or Mars we would more learn in the years it took to do the construction than we have since we first looked at either of them through a telescope. And then we would learn an order of magnitude more in the first month of permanent habitation. Manned exploration may be really expensive, but if we can do it right I think it would be far far more efficient than robotic probes.

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828612)

People don't "explore", they operate the systems which "explore".

Terrestrial example:
A Predator UAV is far more efficient than a manned aircraft, and can stay at "work" with a "crew" far larger than could be packed into the airframe itself.

If the Predator crashes, launch another, no problem and NO EXCESSIVE COST because not only don't you lose a crew, the Predator didn't have to have life support systems.

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (1)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829316)

Manned exploration may be really expensive, but if we can do it right I think it would be far far more efficient than robotic probes.

What about robotic probes that cost half or even about as much as manned exploration? The choice isn't just between tiny rovers and astronauts.

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828564)

"All the science is done by unmanned probes."

Space is utterly hostile, we MUST have superb probes, remote-manned systems, and robots to interact with it efficiently.

If something cannot now be done efficiently by a machine, that means "build a better machine" (the development and life cycles of systems without local crew can be much faster) not "send meat tourists NAO for teh tasty DRAMA!".

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36830218)

> Sure they are less capable than a human

They're a lot more capable than a corpse, which is what you'd have if you tried to send a human to Mars on anything less than a thousand times the budget of a robotic mission.

Re:Manned space flight is a bust (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830862)

if something goes wrong on Mars at least nobody gets hurt hence you can tolerate a modest risk of failure.

What the hell is wrong with somebody getting hurt?
 
And the reality is, neither Congress nor the general public is in the slightest bit tolerant of even the tiniest risk of failure, manned or unmanned.

And (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827296)

hopefully this will be the last story about the last shuttle and the last landing and the last parking and the last unloading and...

But I doubt it.

Has the last piss been recorded yet? (1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827344)

I just hope they get it on video for the Smithsonian. I cried last night at the last defecation.

Re:Has the last piss been recorded yet? (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827446)

I just hope they get it on video for the Smithsonian. I cried last night at the last defecation.

Why, what had you been eating? Oh, theirs

Re:Has the last piss been recorded yet? (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829380)

I just hope they get it on video for the Smithsonian. I cried last night at the last defecation.

Why, what had you been eating? Oh, theirs

Nice dig, but he'd have to be up in the shuttle with them if he were to eat their defecation.

Before landing, I mean.

I assume (1)

Nexzus (673421) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827382)

I assume the Commander is usually the last one out? I guess then... Christopher Ferguson will be the last astronaut to disembark from a space shuttle.

It's in "space orbit" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827408)

It's not in Low Earth Orbit?

Re:It's in "space orbit" (2)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829392)

It's not in Low Earth Orbit?

It's actually higher than that. Middle Earth Orbit.

Risk (4, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827454)

The reason that our space program is dead in the water is that we are pathologically afraid of the risk of anyone dying. If there's an accident, the entire program shuts down. Not for a couple of weeks, but for nearly a decade while congress has meeting after meeting, and even more bureacracy is put into place to hamper all programs. The solution is a lean, mean, risk taking NASA that can get a new vehicle out there flying every year to test out the technologies and toughen up the astronauts for the conquering of space, which will be the most difficult thing that the human race has done to date.

Re:Risk (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827512)

While you're correct that the agency does not like to take risk, you're pretty far off on the "nearly a decade" assessment. The flights after Challenger and Columbia were both on the order of 2.5 years after the accident.

With that said, if it was my money in that billion dollar vehicle, I'd probably err on the side of safety too. *shrug*

Re:Risk (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827558)

It IS your money in that billion dollar vehicle (if you're a US Citizen)...

Re:Risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829306)

s/Citizen/taxpayer/

We legal residents pay taxes too. (And not all citizens do.)

Re:Risk (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829408)

It IS your money in that billion dollar vehicle (if you're a US Citizen)...

That doesn't actually make it your money.

Re:Risk (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830310)

I'd also point out that, after the Apollo 1 accident, the manned phase of the Apollo missions was delayed for 20 months--close to 2 years. And that was during the supposed "guts & glory" phase of the American program.

Re:Risk (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827518)

The reason that our space program is dead in the water is that we are pathologically afraid of the risk of anyone dying. If there's an accident, the entire program shuts down.

There are shedloads of astronauts; if a crew was hit by a bus it would be replaced very quickly. What you can't afford is to lose a space shuttle when you only have three of them and can't make any more; that is why the program stops for years every time one is lost.

Re:Risk (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827674)

Don't rain on his ranting with logic, I was getting half a stiffy listening to his machismo.

Re:Risk (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828504)

The reason that our space program is dead in the water is that we are pathologically afraid of the risk of anyone dying. If there's an accident, the entire program shuts down.

There are shedloads of astronauts; if a crew was hit by a bus it would be replaced very quickly. What you can't afford is to lose a space shuttle when you only have three of them and can't make any more; that is why the program stops for years every time one is lost.

Agreed. Heck, just polling the slashdot readership, you could probably come up with enough qualified people to crew a couple of dozen flights at least (qualified = meeting basic health/skills requirements to complete astronaut training).

Remember, there are only so many astronauts because they only have so many spots, because they only have so many Orbiters to launch. The launch vehicle is the choke point in the chain.

On a slightly related note. Just happened on this:
http://filkertom-itom.blogspot.com/2007/07/bonus-track-hope-eyrie.html [blogspot.com] Hope Eyrie.

Sung by Tom Smith, (Originally by Leslie Fish)

Hope people give it a listen.

Hope Eyrie
Words and Music © 1975 by Leslie Fish
Copyright assigned to Random Factors
All rights reserved - used with permission

Worlds grow old and suns grow cold
And death we never can doubt.
Time's cold wind, wailing down the past,
Reminds us that all flesh is grass
And history's lamps blow out.

But the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

Cycles turn while the far stars burn,
And people and planets age.
Life's crown passes to younger lands,
Time brushes dust of hope from his hands
And turns another page.

But the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

But we who feel the weight of the wheel
When winter falls over our world
Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
To a silver moon in the opened skies
And a single flag unfurled.

For the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

We know well what Life can tell:
If you would not perish, then grow.
And today our fragile flesh and steel
Have laid our hands on a vaster wheel
With all of the stars to know

That the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

From all who tried out of history's tide,
Salute for the team that won.
And the old Earth smiles at her children's reach,
The wave that carried us up the beach
To reach for the shining sun.

For the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

Re:Risk (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828508)

we are pathologically afraid of the risk of extraordinarily brave and competent individuals dying on a PR junket

There's nothing the fuck up there. But let me know if you have a viable business model for harvesting cosmic rays with ugly bags of mostly water.

Meanwhile, the space program consumes many of the best and brightest who could be working on pressing problems down here. As for unmanned exploration, it's not like we're on some kind of short term deadline. Planets tend to hang for the long haul.

Or is Salo of Trafalmadore erecting his own personal Death Star out of robotic petulance?

rare afterthought (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828674)

I might add it seems to me that running a glitzy space program (on the back of a trillion dollars in debt) seems like entirely the wrong kind of venture for a world superpower mesmerized by the looming death-throes of the carbon economy.

Then again, nothing clears the mind like making a beeline for calamity when your your fate is welded to a fragile vessel surrounded by an infinity of not air.

so let's be like the USRR where they edited out (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828684)

so let's be like the USRR where they edited out a astronauts who died.

Re:so let's be like the USRR where they edited out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831240)

Which they never did, unless you believe in stupid conspiracy theories. There WERE some cosmonauts edited out of photos, but those weren't ones who died in a rocket explosion or similar, but rather more simply were booted from the cosmonaut program for bad bahaviour and the like.

Re:Risk (1)

Canth7 (520476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829578)

While I'm not certain that the risk of death is the cause of the manned space program's demise, this is certainly the reason we haven't planned any manned missions to Mars. There are other branches of the military where the risk of death and the consequences are well accepted. For example, mining, offshore fishing and armed conflict all accept a certain level of risk due to the nature of the job. If politicians and the public accepted the risks then we could easily organize a 1 way trip to Mars with a remote possibility of getting a team back to earth within 10 years, presuming advances in technology and supplies sent via unmanned capsules.

Come home safely (1)

Nkwe (604125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827632)

Come home safely. Enough said.

Good thing it's space orbit! (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827686)

Orbiting on land would probably make a huge mess.

Re:Good thing it's space orbit! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827754)

And "space alien" = somebody from out of town who smokes marijuana.

Last *night* in orbit (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36827976)

Actually the concept of the last night is rather flawed for an orbit too. Given the average orbital period is 90 minutes the title refers to the last 45 minutes in orbit.

Re:Good thing it's space orbit! (2)

david.given (6740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828052)

There's a special term used for orbiting on land. It's called 'lithobraking'. I believe that Mars Climate Orbiter was one of the most famous spacecraft that used this technique.

But we are going to the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36827714)

We just put two satellites in orbit around the moon this month. They're called Artemis.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713161826.htm

Space traven with chemical fuels is a dud (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828192)

Space travel with chemical fuels just barely works. Massive efforts on weight reduction have made it sort of work. But with all that weight reduction, everything is too fragile to be reliable. This hasn't gotten much better in the last 45 years.

There is no chemical fuel with a higher energy density than liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen, and the US has used that for almost half a century. Nuclear propulsion would work better. Nuclear rocket engines were built in the 1950s and 1960s. But they're so messy...

Re:Space traven with chemical fuels is a dud (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828646)

Specific Impulse is more important than energy density. Lithium/Flourine/Hydrogen liquid propellant is the best. No worries, once off earth better to burn "longer" than "harder" and we have other technologies with higher specific impulse, 8 to 25x that of liquid chemical

"The last deuce ever dropped (1)

bobdole2111 (1134689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828260)

on the shuttle Atlantis".

I sense this being a future article that will appear on Slashdot in the next few days!

Re:something in the subject line (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829432)

on the shuttle Atlantis".

Please don't put half your message in the subject line. Subject line for subject. Message body for message.

The editorial ignores the real reason... (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828266)

There was no reason to go back.

With the technologies available in the 1960s all the research done on the lunar samples and from orbit showed the Moon to be a dead, worthless rock in space.

The Mercury program was about increasing heavy lift to Low-Earth Orbit, the Gemini program was about working and maneuvering in Low-Earth Orbit while Apollo was about getting very large loads into Low-Earth Orbit and to the Moon.

Of all those programs, Gemini is the one we should have continued, an affordable and maneuverable system that could stay up for two weeks, more of a sports car in space while the Soyuz is a remote controlled car.

The current collapsed of NASA's manned space flight program isn't the fault of Bush, or Obama, it's the fault of NASA, since Challenger failed NASA has screwed up every attempt to make a successor to Shuttle. The day Scaled Composites flew to space, NASA should have sunk a billion dollars (one shuttle flight) into Scaled Composites to build an orbital space craft. But NASA didn't just like NASA never got a super-heavy lift rocket off the ground despite Congress telling them to in 1987 or NASA balling up two shuttle replacement programs in the 1990s.

Re:The editorial ignores the real reason... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828440)

Scaled Composites is an AIRCRAFT company. They have nothing that can get anywhere near into orbit. Wake me if they get anything up to Mach 10.

Re:The editorial ignores the real reason... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828604)

I never said they could go into orbit, I said NASA should have funded an orbital system. Scaled is already working on a suborbital spaceplane and Burt Rutan said he wants to build an orbital structure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipThree [wikipedia.org]

Boeing, Grumman, Northrop, Martin were all AIRCRAFT companies in 1961 yet all made bids on Apollo.

http://www.ehartwell.com/LM/SCATOrganization.htm [ehartwell.com]
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4205/app-f.html [nasa.gov]
http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4206/app-e.htm [nasa.gov]

McDonnell Aircraft was prime contractor for both Mercury and Gemini.

Scaled had already built a technology demonstrator for NASA in the 1990s, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_DC-X#Flight_testing [wikipedia.org]

Maybe you should work on learning about the history of commercial contractors and the US space program a little.

Re:The editorial ignores the real reason... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829150)

I understand all that, but if the goal is to build an orbital space craft, wouldn't NASA be better off investing that billion in a company that has already done that? [spacex.com] In 1961 there were no spacecraft manufacturers. Today the aerospace corporate landscape is different.

Re:The editorial ignores the real reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829820)

NASA management at Dryden and Burt Rutan don't get along, and by this time too many hurt feelings will prevent them from working together.
With Rutan's retirement, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/01/business/la-fi-rutan-retirement-20110401,
and the end of Shuttle service, maybe the two organizations can start to get along.

But I kind of doubt it: Scaled Composites will need to effectively replace NASA leadership to get movement into big projects, but the civil service has a good medical plan.

Chinese answer (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829572)

Not really an answer to this article but I met a couple (anchor and cameraman) with China Central TV in Titusville covering the STS-135 launch. I asked what they think that many Americans say it will be the Chinese that will walk the surface of the moon next. She said they hope to be as good as the Americans.

The reason we stopped going to the moon (0)

malarkey (514857) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830822)

The reason we stopped going to the moon was that the contract on that soundstage was up, and it was needed for filming The Six-Million-Dollar Man.

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