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NASA Opens New Office For Space Missions

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the directorate-of-hot-air-balloons dept.

NASA 104

An anonymous reader writes "NASA has been tasked with landing astronauts on a space rock by 2025, and on the Red Planet by the mid 2030s. To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far, and a capsule to bring people safely there and back again. The new Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will be responsible for overseeing all this and more. 'America is opening a bold new chapter in human space exploration,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. 'By combining the resources of Space Operations and Exploration Systems, and creating the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, we are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come.'"

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104 comments

Meaningless (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100604)

There's no way that Congress will manage to focus on the same task for 15-20 years.

Within five years, they'll be trying to find someplace to cut to pay for some pork somewhere, and the project that's not due to deliver anything for a decade or more then will be first on the chopping block.

Re:Meaningless (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100654)

Weren't we given a goal of hitting the moon and mars again by 2020, like, a decade ago? Whatever happened to that?

I think our best hope is that maybe the Chinese will catch up and surpass and really start pushing space exploration and we'll all be able to watch in awe from the sidelines. I think something like that is going to happen long before we wait for commercial enterprises to build themselves up, get us into space, and then find a financially viable reason to explore the far reaches (none of that will happen in my life time - they're still trying to have successful, reliable, affordable trips to the ISS).

Re:Meaningless (2)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100682)

Didn't you RTFA? It's 2030. It's the same goal, just accounting for the progress made so far.

Re:Meaningless (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100752)

You mean the lack of progress made so far, don't you? We're supposed go feel energized and positive about losing an entire decade of progress and having to push the goal to reach the moon (again) back another decade? It's not exciting. It's depressing and sad. Where in the article does it suggest that it's the same goal? It says that Obama has set a goal. Not that he has changed the date on the existing goal (which was set by Bush eight years ago).

http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/39144/bush_calls_for_return_to_moon_by_2020/ [redorbit.com]

Re:Meaningless (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37100722)

Weren't we given a goal of hitting the moon and mars again by 2020, like, a decade ago? Whatever happened to that?

President Obama realized President Bush was full of shit, didn't fund anything, and didn't bother even researching the details, so he said "Oh that's full of shit, let's go with another plan, with a chance of working" which was spun by FoxNews as Obama deciding to let the Moon serve as a terrorist base where Osama would surely hide and plot another terrorist attack.

Or something.

Re:Meaningless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101224)

Weren't we given a goal of hitting the moon and mars again by 2020, like, a decade ago? Whatever happened to that?

President Obama realized President Bush was full of shit, didn't fund anything, and didn't bother even researching the details, so he said "Oh that's full of shit, let's go with another plan, with a chance of working" which was spun by FoxNews as Obama deciding to let the Moon serve as a terrorist base where Osama would surely hide and plot another terrorist attack.

Yes, but Obama's plan will be seen by the next (Republican; practically a certainty at this point, just whether they win in 2012 or 2016) President as full of shit, underfunded, and not researched, so he'll say "Oh, that's was buuullsheeit, let's do anuther plan that ain't socialist, and dad-gum get there before the Chinee beat us!". And so the cycle continues.

Really, every president since Kennedy has actually cared about NASA w/r/t space exploration, though some of them see it as a useful adjunct to DoD space projects. It sounds great, but when it comes to fighting Congress to expand NASA's budget (or just not cut it) instead of the adnimistration's pet military adventure or things to buy re-election (whether pork for industry, or direct benefits (health-care etc.) for people), they just can't seem to put any heart in it.

Re:Meaningless (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102192)

President Obama realized President Bush was full of shit, didn't fund anything

Note that Congress is responsible for funding things.

And, yes, the Republican Congress didn't fund it properly, and the replacement Democratic Congress didn't fund it properly.

So, anyone want to bet that any of the TEN Congresses between now and 2030 will fund this properly?

Republicans might, but I doubt it.

Democrats haven't even done a budget for two years (yes, we're still operating under continuing resolutions since 2009), so it's pretty sure they won't....

baseball (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37103574)

i know obama is gonna use old style skuds and pelt the moon and say see we hit the moon , hten use an apollo rocket and aim it at mars...BANG

Re:Meaningless (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107828)

More like President Obama, in a long Presidential tradition going back to Nixon, advanced his *own* pile of bullshit about how we're going to conquer space, which he also has no intention of ever funding. His successor will do the same.

Re:Meaningless (3, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100708)

That's why these "Get to X by Y!" plans are stupid.

And look at what it does: "To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far". Because that's the most direct way to meet the goal. But either the giant rocket will be canceled when the Mars mission is, or it'll sit around trying to find justifications for its existence, wasting money that could be spent on better things.

Right now is not the time for grandiose missions with long time lines. That's a way to just repeat the Constellation debacle over and over. Instead, we should be focusing on building up capabilities. Especially the ability to assemble and refuel craft in orbit.

Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion.

But by all means, Congress, demand a Pork Rocket and a legacy-that-will-never-happen Apollo-style Mars mission. Shooting yourself in the foot may seem like a bad idea, but it makes such a pleasing noise that it definitely sounds like you're doing something!

Re:Meaningless (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100788)

The problem is that other than "go land on this thing", we don't have any real goals. Goals are important. And not just quiet "inside the organization" goals. But goals we can all dream about and get behind (especially if you want funding). So let's set realistic goals. Like "land on the moon again and establish a base by XYZ". We've been to the moon. That's doable. building shit on it. That's doable. Instead, we get "we'll go to the moon again in 2020". And then a decade later, we're told "uh... well go to the moon again by 2030... yeah, that's it... 30".

The more time which passes, the greater our technological capacity. However, at some point, we have to stop and say "let's start doing things". So when is that point? It's like cryptography. A computer today could crack in a day what a computer in 1980 would take 40 years to crack. So you could spend 40 years (starting back in 1980) to crack it or you could wait 30 years, buy a new computer, then crack it.

So at what point do we say "okay, enough has advanced -- now let's start doing something"?

I obviously don't know the answer, either. It's just the obvious question we have to ask right now. And we also have to acknowledge how much of what we've advanced so far has come from setting the goal for space exploration in the first place. Without the space exploration to drive a lot of this advanced knowledge acquisition, will we still maintain the growth of our technical abilities to in-turn advance space exploration? Sort of doing it in reverse?

Re:Meaningless (2)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100854)

That's not really a valid comparison though.

While computer technology has increased dramatically since the space missions of the 1960s, rocket technology hasn't.

We still use the same basic equipment/principles/fuel/structures to get into space. Sure it might have a better computer/guidance system, but that doesn't really decrease the cost or complexity of getting into space.

So if we wanted to go to the moon again today, it would be a long and difficult undertaking just as it was in the 60s.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37103000)

And what's the reason for that? Basic physics! You've got it all correct. The *energy* required to flip a bit is quite low, for the last few decades we've been developping technology that goes *down* towards that ultimate theoretical limit. However, there is no technological "up" we can use for anything else. The energy requirements for moving mass are the same, how can they change? They can't. How can rocketry change? It's based on solid Newtonian physics. F=ma and all that jazz.

There's a reason a 747 from 1969 flies at the same height, at the same weight (give or take, yes I know there's like 8 variants), using the same fuel, the same Brayton cycle turbines, and takes the same time to get me to Frankfurt.

Hell, even the *shapes* of these aerodynamic marvels still inspires us today! What did I see a few months ago on Xilinx's latest FPGA dev kit? Why, an F-15 symbolizing speed and technology. F-15s first flew in 1971, a product of 1960s technology. They still fly as fast and as high today.

Didn't change. Unless we invent a new periodic table of elements with new materials, what we have now is *it*.

Also, space is uttely hostile and empty. There's simply nothing there to get or do. The manned stuff is all largely symbolic.

Re:Meaningless (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103324)

Also, space is uttely hostile and empty. There's simply nothing there to get or do. The manned stuff is all largely symbolic.

"Hostile and empty". There's merely the rest of the universe out there.

Re:Meaningless (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#37116054)

"Hostile and empty". There's merely the rest of the universe out there.

That's a little like a plankton saying "look, there's a whole another universe out there if we go 'up' from the top of the ocean! It's just like walking to the edge of the whelk shell, only bigger!"

Except the plankton is going to have a better time surviving in dry air than we currently do in microgravity and vacuum.

Yes there's a universe out there. No, it's not built on a scale compatible with human exploration. It's five years just to send a text message to the neighbour's cellphone, 50,000 to get to the drive-in. If you want to explore space, you'd better not have any pressing carbon-based biological business to attend to in this or the next dozen lifetimes.

Re:Meaningless (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106650)

And what's the reason for that?

Its called, "theory", and, "practice." In theory you have some idea of what you're talking about. In practice, you don't.

Re:Meaningless (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103212)

Keep in mind that we still have about two orders of magnitude in cost per kg of payload before we reach the limits of rockets.Then another order of magnitude before we reach the limit of current energy cost to space. Then if you can recover the energy of downmass (stuff brought down from space), you can go beyond even that limit.

So why aren't rockets achieving these sorts of limits? The big constraint is volume. Low launch frequency means your fixed costs, such as development or infrastructure, dominate the cost of the rocket. Nor is there as much opportunity for "learning curve" effects (build things cheaper because you've learned how to from building a lot of the things) or infrastructure leveraging (reusing launch vehicle components, for example).

Sure, it's the same basic technology and we've pretty much figured out how to milk the maximum from what we have, but there's a lot of economic factors that simply haven't appeared yet in the launch markets, particularly, the advantages from high launch volume.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101210)

So at what point do we say "okay, enough has advanced -- now let's start doing something"?

When we've established LEO as the starting point it should be: the gateway to the solar system. Not before.

Once any such "let's go to the moon" or "let's go to Mars" mandate can start with the assumption that the actual mission will begin from LEO, with all components and fuel lifted by as many commercial rockets as necessary, so we aren't constricted by the exponential bottleneck of what we can lift out of our gravity well in one shot.

That's when.

To put it in technology terms, it's like trying to build a modern microprocessor before you've invented CMOS. If you broke the bank, you might be able to pull it off, but the result is necessarily going to be vastly under-performing compared to what you could have done if you did things in the right order. Oh and because in this analogy Intel is run by Congress, it also gets canceled long before you even get to see even that mediocre result.

The right time to do all of these things is when we have the correct capabilities to be able to do them easier, faster, cheaper, and with a snowball's chance in hell of sneaking past the Congressional ADD.

Of course one should never underestimate Congress' ability to screw things up, as they demonstrate by mandating the Heavy Pork Distributor at the expense of developing these essential capabilities.

Re:Meaningless (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100968)

That's why these "Get to X by Y!" plans are stupid.

No, they aren't. If you don't have a clear goal and a clear timetable to accomplish it by, then you're not going to achieve the goal, or if you do it'll take far longer than it should.

Just look at the Apollo missions. JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

If we had this thinking today, there's no telling where we'd be: moon bases, space stations with artificial gravity, tourist trips to Titan, who knows. Sure, all this development requires lots of money, but if we hadn't wasted trillions on some stupid wars (plus a stupid drug war), we'd have that money.

Right now is not the time for grandiose missions with long time lines.

Grandiose missions require long time lines out of necessity. Not necessarily ridiculously long (Apollo got to the moon in less than a decade, though they continued with more missions for longer than that), but longer than a single President's term, and certainly longer than it takes for the House of Representatives to swing from one side to the other (2 years).

There's no way around this. Asking for anything meaningful to be finished within 2 years is fantasy, so if you're going to make that constraint, then you might as well just give up on doing anything great.

Instead, we should be focusing on building up capabilities. Especially the ability to assemble and refuel craft in orbit.

To build up capabilities, you need to have a clear mission. What's the mission for "assemble craft in orbit"? That's not a mission, there's no goal there. No non-technical person is going to see the need for that, or why it's even useful. What are these craft for? Where are they going? This is precisely why you need an over-arching goal, like "build a base on the moon", or "send a manned craft to an asteroid to land on it and collect samples". Remember, these "capabilities" you talk of cost a lot of money to develop, so you need a reason to develop them in the first place.

Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion.

Wrong (sorta). Yes, doing a Mars shot all-in-one is pretty stupid for the reasons you state. However, you still need "landing humans on Mars" as the overall goal of the mission, though the mission should include many smaller steps as you describe.

Basically, to make an analogy, you're talking about building a ship before you've come up with any ideas about where to sail it. Or building a car when there's no roads to drive it on.

So yes, better LEO (or other orbital) capabilities are important, but you're not going to sell the public, or really anyone outside of NASA, on "building capabilities". "Let's go to Mars!" however, has a much better chance of getting popular support, and then the details of the mission (e.g. developing the capabilities you talk of) can be hashed out later. Of course, with the way the American public is these days, wanting to cut all public spending that doesn't benefit billionaires and wanting to establish a fundamentalist theocracy, I don't have much hope that Americans would back anything that NASA might dream up. Heck, if astronomers found a planet-killer asteroid on a collision course with Earth, but determined that it's 75 years away and if we act now we can safely divert it, even then I don't think Americans would want to spend any money on that program.

Re:Meaningless (3, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101754)

No, they aren't. If you don't have a clear goal and a clear timetable to accomplish it by, then you're not going to achieve the goal, or if you do it'll take far longer than it should.

Oh yes they are, because they cripple the goal in the name of clarity of scope and timetable. These kinds of goals by necessity require an expedient and practical solution that gets us from point A to point B, where point B is much less ambitious than it could be if you bothered to increase your capabilities.

Goals are great. "Functional LEO assembly/refueling stations" is a clear goal, and you can have clear timetables and success criterion. "Go to Mars" is great as a general goal, something you have in mind when building the LEO shipyard, but yes it is stupid to get specific with time and scope until you've developed the capabilities because those parameters will drastically change.

There's a big difference between "a goal" as in a purpose, and this kind of goal. It seems like throughout your post you aren't distinguishing between them. If this is my fault I apologize, but let me be absolutely clear that I am distinguishing.

Just look at the Apollo missions. JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

Extremely impressive for its time, yet because we're still limited to launching things as a whole out of the deepest gravity well of any rocky body in the solar system, we aren't going to get much past it. Looking at Apollo is exactly what you'll think you're doing when you see astronauts leave bootprints, plant a flag, and leave because that's all the mission scope that could be launched in a monolithic rocket.

To build up capabilities, you need to have a clear mission. What's the mission for "assemble craft in orbit"? That's not a mission, there's no goal there. No non-technical person is going to see the need for that, or why it's even useful. What are these craft for? Where are they going?

But it's the technical people actually doing the work who are hamstrung by this "clear goal"! They're the ones who have to look at what they have, where they have to be, and the time they have to do it and decide what they have to do to meet the demand. Hint: It's never going to be running off and developing general-purpose capabilities even if they would eventually make the mission much easier, because to the ones watching the clock and purse strings they will always seem like an unnecessary distraction from the clear A-to-B goal.

As for everyone else, how hard is it to explain that the purpose of the orbiting shipyard is to enable a Mars mission with broader scope than would be possible otherwise? Oh wait, I just did!

A vague "We're doing it to go to Mars!" goal should be fine for the public, but having a specific goal is crippling to the people who actually have to work toward it!

Basically, to make an analogy, you're talking about building a ship before you've come up with any ideas about where to sail it. Or building a car when there's no roads to drive it on.

Noooooo, there's plenty of ideas for where to sail it, and the possibilities are vast. This mandate, on the other hand, is like suggesting that we sail to one specific island on a specific date before we've invented the ocean-worthy sailing vessel, and since there's no time to do that and meet the timetable we're going to have to use a canoe.

So yes, better LEO (or other orbital) capabilities are important, but you're not going to sell the public, or really anyone outside of NASA, on "building capabilities". "Let's go to Mars!" however, has a much better chance of getting popular support, and then the details of the mission (e.g. developing the capabilities you talk of) can be hashed out later.

Except that's not what's happened or happening. These mandates are killing development of the capabilities.

If developing LEO capabilities with "And let's use this to go to Mars!" as one of the specific applications we envision for it is what you're arguing for, then we're in complete agreement, as I have always advocated for that.

If you're for this or similar Congressional mandates, then we are in complete disagreement because this does not result in what you're suggesting in your last paragraph at all.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102208)

I see what you're getting at. I'm advocating for a general goal ("let's go to Mars"), but no, I don't think it should be so constrained as to cripple all the other things you could do in the process. Maybe they should come up with the detailed plan (which includes all the milestones for developing capabilities), and just warn that parts of the schedule might change as the situation changes and other ideas come up (e.g, "we should goto this other site instead, even though this will take a little more time, but it'll be better because of these benefits...").

If developing LEO capabilities with "And let's use this to go to Mars!" as one of the specific applications we envision for it is what you're arguing for, then we're in complete agreement, as I have always advocated for that.

Absolutely. I just think you need to have at least one of those specific applications spelled out a little to get people excited about it.

Re:Meaningless (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103366)

Grandiose missions require long time lines out of necessity. Not necessarily ridiculously long (Apollo got to the moon in less than a decade, though they continued with more missions for longer than that)

Apollo took much longer than most people think - there was a lot of tech in progress that NASA re-purposed. The F-1 engine for example, started development in 1956. The Saturn family of rockets started development in 1958, but was based on work that started as early as 1956. (The first hardware contracts for what would become the S-IVB were let in 1960.) Development of the Apollo CSM also started in 1960.
 
In fact, it was because all of this was in progress that Kennedy's science advisers recommended lunar landing to him as a goal, which he subsequently announced in his famous speech.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103652)

JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

just a wild tangent here, but this thread (combined with some stuff i read about assassinations) made me wonder how JFKs death affected the whole thing. What if JFK had served out the rest of his term normally, and in the end turned out to be a bit of a let-down (like say, the current guy in the white house isnt exactly living up to expectations, for whatever reason). What if in 1964, the repubs would have won the elections, and the race to the moon wasnt the legacy of a martyr?

Honestly, i dont know enough about US politics back then to be sure, but i think it must have played some part in it, if only a few guys saying "if we dont get to the moon like JFK said, the communists will have won!"

Re:Meaningless (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114402)

I've often heard this suggested wrt Johnson's Great Society programs, suggesting that guilt and sadness over JFK's death played a role in at least a few votes. No reason not to think the same would apply to NASA.

Re:Meaningless (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103258)

Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion.

Like so much else - it's just a wee bit more complicated by that. Smaller rockets probably won't shorten the time line because smaller rockets don't address the issue of doing all the engineering and development of the spacecraft, lander, etc... Smaller rockets will however make the mission more complicated and heavier because things that can be done simply on the ground now have to be done in orbit.
 
Smaller rockets also considerably increase mission risk - because the chance of loss increases with each launch added to the manifest. A three (huge rocket) launch mission, with a probability of success of .98 per launch (roughly currently the norm), has a total probability of success of .94 (.99*.99*.99). When you do the math for a ten or twelve (smaller rocket) with .98 probability... well, the chances of mission success start getting pretty slim indeed.

Re:Meaningless (1)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#37104532)

With smaller rockets and a modular approach it would be possible, for example, to put an unmanned lander/ascent stage or two on the Moon or Mars well before any manned crew capsule gets there, giving the crews redundancy as well as removing the need for them to fly their own ascent stage down to the surface. Similarly unamnned supply capsule flights could be pipelined with lots of smaller launch vehicles, and if one is lost then another can be rotated into the launch program to replace it.

With an Apollo-style "everything in one package" giant launcher you risk both a catastrophic failure to deliver a complete bundle of equipment to orbit killing the program for years (Ares V will be unmanned, a pure cargo carrier so no lives will be at risk) and also the possibility that a single equipment failure in flight as with Apollo 13 can also be a mission-kill.

The really good thing is that there is an existing range of small and medium-lift vehicles already in the catalogue off-the-shelf -- Delta, Ariane, Soyuz, H-2 and others all of which can do the job today without the eye-watering development costs and inevitable construction delays of building and qualifying a new heavy-lifter.

Re:Meaningless (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106858)

The really good thing is that there is an existing range of small and medium-lift vehicles already in the catalogue off-the-shelf -- Delta, Ariane, Soyuz, H-2 and others all of which can do the job today without the eye-watering development costs and inevitable construction delays of building and qualifying a new heavy-lifter.

The problem is your solution to the eye watering cost of a big booster is to replace it with the eye watering cost of building a complete backup set of mission hardware *and* procuring a complete backup set of boosters *and* preparing them for launch in parallel with the primary set...
 

With an Apollo-style "everything in one package" giant launcher you risk both a catastrophic failure to deliver a complete bundle of equipment to orbit killing the program for years

What you don't seem to realize is launching with smaller boosters is no better - because if you lose a single payload, the entire program is shut down until you replace that payload. (You've also failed to consider that launch windows to Mars only occur every 19 months of so.) Worse yet, with multiple launches the odds of losing a payload go up considerably.
 
You've also added considerably to the cost, weight, risk, and complexity of the mission because you've increased the amount of on orbit assembly and introduced components that must withstand the Martian environment for years rather than a few months. (In the case of say, an ascent stage launched in advance.) The need to operate autonomously instead as of part of a stack piles on yet more cost, weight, risk, and complexity. (I.E. your ascent stage will need it's own cruise phase support, EDL system, power supply, etc... etc....)
 
Or, in short, it's not at all clear that increasing the number or launches and spreading them out over years makes the mission any cheaper or safer once you consider all the factors. In fact, it seems to have quite the opposite effect.
 
TANSTAAFL.

Re:Meaningless (1)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#37108792)

I think that a Big Booster system is optimised for a "boots and banners" mission to, say, Mars. Fly four or five astronauts in a crowded capsule plus a lander/ascent vehicle to the Red Planet where they go down, plant a flag, take some pictures, grab some rocks and then come home after a couple of months max and then we (meaning the human race) never go back. See Apollo and the much-lauded Saturn V as an example of a just such a dead-end mission profile.

Everything in a single mission vehicle to Mars has to work perfectly for a year or more in space plus the landing and ascent. Testing all the hardware in a complete unmanned mission or two (or three) before we send the meatbags is going to take a long time and be very expensive.

Alternatively, doing it incrementally using modular launches on existing vehicles it is possible to get the bugs out part by part. Use the Moon as a testbed for landers and ascent vehicles; Mars gravity is double that of Lunar gravity but otherwise conditions aren't that much different. Send one or two manned missions to the Earth-Trojans etc. to test the vehicles and their extended life support using lessons learned from operating the space stations. Put several lander/ascent vehicles on the Martian surface and see if they degrade or take damage from the conditions before dispatching the fleet of well-tested manned capsules; four at a minimum, built by two different contractors to different designs just in case of a boo-boo that is only discovered later. The extra capsules can act as lifeboats for the twelve or fifteen Marsnauts in the fleet if something goes wrong in one or more of the vehicles.

At the same time supply landers are being launched from LEO, one every few months or so to keep the semi-permanent crew of explorers on the surface and in Mars orbit fed with air, food etc. Every 19 months or so when the transit time is minimal a new crew goes out and some of the older Mars hands come back. That sort of continuous exploration model doesn't work as well with a big single-stack launcher which has to do everything because it's the only thing that can get funded. Worst case the funding for its development gets pulled when it's half-finished and nothing ever flies operationally (see Ares 1). As I said before the Ariane, Delta, Soyuz etc. are already flying, there's no decades-long multi-billion dollar development programme required before the first metal flies. The costs of developing and building the assorted bits the launchers will carry is of course eye-wateringly high but they're on top of the cost of the Big Booster, not in place of it.

"Boots and banners" is of course a lot cheaper than supporting a semi-permanent manned presence on Mars but if that's the only reason you can think of to go to Mars then I'd say it isn't really worth going in the first place.

Re:Meaningless (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37115516)

Use the Moon as a testbed for landers and ascent vehicles

That's somewhat like testing wetsuits in the middle of the Sahara desert. The hard part of landing is the aerodynamic part... and guess which part can't be tested on the Moon?
 
The really sad part? The quote above is the most clue-full part of your reply.

Re:Meaningless (1)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#37117004)

Soft-landing on Mars takes retro-rockets as well as parachutes. There's no sea to splash-down in. The atmosphere is too thin to fly a Shuttle-style spaceplane hull to a runway touchdown and there isn't a runway to land on anyway. Small very rugged spacecraft can use balutes and cushions for surface contact but scaling them up as the lander size and mass increases is problematic; see the incredibly complex system of heatshield, parachutes and retrorockets the Curiosity rover is going to be using to put down on the Mars surface compared to the (failed) Beagle 2 lander.

All this sort of stuff can be tested on the Lunar surface, a convenient low-G laboratory near LEO. The final tests would be done on Mars using supply capsules and ascent stages before the Marsnauts ever reach LEO to start their journey.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37108572)

Smaller rockets probably won't shorten the time line because smaller rockets don't address the issue of doing all the engineering and development of the spacecraft, lander, etc...

Right, but you also don't have to engineer a new ultra-heavy lift launcher, which demands a massive amount of attention and resources, and essentially gates off the development of the other components, as in Constellation where because they were useless until the Big Rocket was built, capsule development was in its early stages while the Big Rocket continued to lag behind schedule.

So yes, total development time will likely be less since work can start immediately on the actual mission, not on escaping our gravity well.

if you're just talking "light" versus "heavy", where both are rockets that actually exist, and in the context of using LEO as a staging area, then fine, but either way those will be "smaller" than the non-existent ultra-heavy rocket needed for a single-launch direct-to-Mars mission. And it is that difference, not the particulars of exactly what rocket you use to assemble your mission in LEO, where the time savings and vastly increased scope come from.

Smaller rockets will however make the mission more complicated and heavier because things that can be done simply on the ground now have to be done in orbit. Smaller rockets also considerably increase mission risk - because the chance of loss increases with each launch added to the manifest.

Not all loss is the same, and not all missions are the same. The loss of a single component is less disastrous than losing the entire mission stack and the astronauts. Oh sure you might miss your launch window, but with only one component to replace the odds of getting back on schedule in time for the next one are increased, and the impetus to do so more likely to remain. Especially if the loss occurs on a launch that is only carrying fuel, water, or other supplies. Lose the whole mission -- and human lives -- to a failure and the odds of getting ready in time for the next window are nil, and the odds of the mission continuing at all rather slim.

And as far as the actual trip itself, you've increased the chance of success for the final step because you've decoupled it from the hardest part, the trip out of LEO.

Then there's the fact that the missions just aren't the same at all. You can have a lower probability of complete failure for a tiny "Yes we technically set foot on Mars" mission, or you can have a higher probability of partial failure for a mission of vastly expanded scope.

Re:Meaningless (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37115496)

And as far as the actual trip itself, you've increased the chance of success for the final step because you've decoupled it from the hardest part, the trip out of LEO.

ROTFLMAO. Are you actually so ignorant as to believe that? The issue isn't the success of the final step - but the odds of success of the entire mission.
 
The balance of your reply is equally clue free. You simply have no idea what you're talking about, and consistently confuse handwaving and wishful thinking for reality.

Re:Meaningless (3, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100712)

Congress managed to focus on the F-22 program for 21 years now, the JSF/F-35 program for 15 years now, the War on Drugs for 40 years, the Shuttle Program for 39 years, so it's obvious that Congress can say on the same task for a long period.

Re:Meaningless (3, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100798)

Congress managed to focus on the F-22 program for 21 years now, the JSF/F-35 program for 15 years now...

The F-22, the JSF, and the Shuttle all enjoyed wide popular support and provided jobs to powerful districts. The stupid drug war is also quite popular - I'm constantly arguing with people about it and I don't think I've ever gotten anyone to agree with me other than on marijuana. Congress is pretty agonizingly frustrating, but I can't fault them for doing what they were elected to do.

By the way, despite its warts, the JSF will save money overall. Of course, when it is grounded we will have no air force, no naval air protection, and no marine corp jet. Just some old national guard A-10s, a bunch of old bombers, and whatever the UAV fleet looks like at the time. There's some saying about putting all of your eggs somewhere or something... :)

Re:Meaningless (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100932)

I'm not a fan of the drug war, and I'm a Republican.

The F-35 program is a goddamned boondoggle to put it politely, it is one of the worst design by committee aviation programs since WW2. The costs are skyrocketing, the schedule is slipping.

On paper it's less effective than late block F-16s in the light fighter role. It's never going to be an effective replacement for the A-10 in that role, in the AV-8B role it's at least 300% more per plane, and in the F/A-18C/D role its at least 200% more per plane. Those prices are today, who knows what they will be when the plane actually enters service in large numbers.

No supercruise, so it's slower the F-22, less stealthy than the F-22, one engine so the things will be falling into the sea like A-4s, A-7s and F-8s did.

I guess it's a program to make the TFX look like a good idea in program management.

Re:Meaningless (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101746)

On paper it's less effective than late block F-16s in the light fighter role.

Yes, it is. But it's hard to beat the F-16 so long as you don't need range. Most countries can't afford an interceptor fighter and an attack fighter, and it's not surprising that we are making the same compromises.

It's never going to be an effective replacement for the A-10 in that role

The A-10 is a complicated story, but it's clear that the Air Force hates dedicated fixed-wing ground support. We've been fighting this fight since Vietnam. The F-16 was supposed to replaces the A-10, but that's also a joke. The A-10 isn't going anywhere, and no multi-purpose plane can ever take the role of a flying cannon with a titanium armored cockpit. (I like the A-10.)

in the AV-8B role it's at least 300% more per plane

More like 500%. But the Harrier II is out of production, and the earliest planes are 30 years old. It is subsonic and about as stealth-less as they come. Harriers also crash a lot - time will tell if the F-35B is safer, but that's certainly a design goal. The Marine Corp pushed very, very hard for this plane. They want it.

and in the F/A-18C/D role its at least 200% more per plane

Closer to 300% :). The navy has no stealth aircraft. The F-22 was not designed for carrier use. The F-18C/D was a boondoggle all its own. It lost a competition with the F-16 to be the joint services fighter, but the Navy pushed for it anyway because of the single engine on the F-16. Even after a serious redesign, the thing didn't have enough range. Then they had to keep screwing around with the floppy wings. Ironically (coincidentally?), the engine on the thing has turned out to be so reliable that there probably was no need to put two in :) Anyway, the C/D is no longer in production, and it's no match for a 5th generation fighter (or even an F-16).

No supercruise, so it's slower the F-22, less stealthy than the F-22

Those were all cost-cutting compromises. The F-22 was deemed too expensive and too delicate.

one engine so the things will be falling into the sea like A-4s, A-7s and F-8s did.

Time will tell, but if the engine is as good as the one on the F-18C/D (F404?) it will not have that fate.

The up-front cost IS staggering, and the program has been poorly run. But up-front cost is not as high as ongoing maintenance, and replacing the older planes will save money in the long run. Or, at least, that's the idea :)

Re:Meaningless (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114424)

How relevant are the performance characteristics relative to the F-16 when the latter cannot be delivered by carrier? How many operational theatres are there where the higher performance of the F-16 is relevant? (Not being argumentative, just curious)

Re:Meaningless (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102552)

That's not true, with regard to the JSF. Our current equipment is already the best in the world. The F-16, F-15, F-22, F/A-18, and A-10, along with all the drones and Apaches and Hellfires and AMRAAMs, not to mention the upgraded avionics and the ASRAAMs and the projected ramjet-enhanced AMRAAM gives us the technical edge with regard to air dominance for the foreseeable future, even if the JSF program falls completely on its ass.

Re:Meaningless (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107182)

But our Harrier II needs a replacement - they don't make it anymore and the existing airframes are getting old. And the F/A-18C/D is also not produced anymore, isn't really a match for other modern fighters, and is not at all stealthy.

Does the air force need them? Maybe not. At least not in the short term, since the F-16 and F-15 are still in production.

So does our country have the best equipment? Sure. But the airframes are getting older and our stuff won't be "best" forever. We could start all over again and design a new plane, but with the track record like the B-1B, F/A-18, F-22, and now the F-35, do you really think we can do it any cheaper? The money that has been spent is gone forever - I'm not sure how starting over again will help save money.

Re:Meaningless (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114448)

I'm not sure how starting over again will help save money.

Sunk cost fallacy [wikipedia.org]. It might. It's unlikely, but rejecting starting over out of hand is poor analysis.

Re:Meaningless (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37119452)

I wasn't rejecting it out of hand. I pointed out that the B-1B, F/A-18, and F-22 were also boondoggles. I have absolutely no reason to believe that the US government can develop a new 5th generation fighter that will have a lower cost going forward than the F-35. I'm not talking about sunk cost at all - that money is gone. I'm talking about cost of new aircraft, maintenance, and training.

Re:Meaningless (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101414)

My first reaction when I saw this story was, "It'll never happen". Apparently I'm in good company.

Not looking promising.

Re:Meaningless (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37104506)

landing astronauts on a space rock by 2025, and on the Red Planet by the mid 2030s

I am sorry, I am just not buying it.

Re:Meaningless (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37104934)

That's why it's part of NASA's job to not only present a coherent plan to Congress, but also preserve that plan despite the vagaries of politics. Sure it's tough, but long term plans have been done before in the US. The thing is that NASA hasn't had a serious plan since Apollo ended. So they long haven't had something that could withstand the forces of Congress.

Obviously, this isn't a responsibility of the rank and file, but it is an organizational failure that has damned much of what NASA does to irrelevance.

Re:Meaningless (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107788)

Ever notice how these promises are also far enough out that almost every NASA senior person involved will be long retired by then too? Pretty good way to ensure that you will never have to actually deliver on your bullshit promises (which will be long forgotten by then anyway).

We are a mere 30 years away from landing a man on Mars, and always will be.

Amazing. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100612)

From the moon to a rock in only around 60 years. Hopefully I'll have the same excitement and thrill when I'm in my 50s and we're doing something amazing in the late 30s as my mom felt when she was like 12 and we landed on the moon. And hopefully I'll still be alive when we hit Mars. Though . .. probably not. I was always excited that I was born in the generation after the moon landing, because it meant that I'd be alive to see way much more awesome space stuff happened that stirred everything about exploration and ambition of man in us as a species. Instead, I'm just hoping that something -- fucking anything -- happens in my life time.

mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 wa (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100646)

mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also planing for a 1 way / long term trip takes time as well or due you want to rush it and end up with people dead in space / on mars?

Re:mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100678)

mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also planing for a 1 way / long term trip takes time as well or due you want to rush it and end up with people dead in space / on mars?

If it's a one way trip, you're going to wind up with people dead in space / on Mars anyway.

Re:mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100716)

Of course it requires a lot of time and planning (and technical advancement), but we at least have to establish a plan and incentivize an effort. or we'll never get around to it (I'm a big fan of commercial-based exploration supplementing more "humanity based" exploration, but as much as that's the big talk right now, there really is no realistic financial incentive for businesses to do this just yet).

However, we went from riding horses to landing on the moon in less than 70 years and we've gone from landing on the moon to . . . landing on nothing (including the moon, again) in another 45 years. We have a low orbit space station, which is cool but nearing the end of its life and we've stuck an RC car on Mars (which is nearing the end of its surprisingly far out-performing life).

It seems that we peaked early and have coasted from there and the best we've received are some half-assed promises and goals that we all forget about a few months later and that are re-set a couple years later as if the first goals were never set to begin with. There's no sense of "oh boy, we're working toward this ultimate goal". There's just a general world-wide sense of "I don't know what's going on, but hopefully "someday" there will be "some awesome space stuff" that happens and hopefully we'll be around to witness it.

And of course I don't want people to die in the process, but it's fucking space exploration - of course it's going to happen and we need to stop being giant pussies about it and freaking out every time something goes wrong. We're completely fine with thousands of people going overseas and dying in military actions, but one brave soul bites it furthering the scientific exploration of all man-kind and we start pissing ourselves over it.

Re:mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101708)

However, we went from riding horses to landing on the moon in less than 70 years and we've gone from landing on the moon to . . . landing on nothing (including the moon, again) in another 45 years.

To be fair, we went from the *very end* of our reliance on horses for transport to the *very beginning* of our ability to land on the moon in less than 70 years. If you're going to use horses as a technological advancement metric you need to start from when we figured out how to ride horses, which was thousands of years ago. Compared to that, 45 or 100 or 200 years to go from intra-Earth-system travel to intra-Solar-system travel isn't that bad.

Re:mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101162)

People died getting to the moon. We can't be scared that we're rushing it when we're not doing anything.

Re:mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also 1 (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101408)

Might I add too, there is a huge line up of people that would love to go on a mission even if it only had half-assed safety planning. Its risky we get it, when do I fly? I mean people jump into test cars at high speed, and new fighter planes etc all the time. It's risky but I bet most test pilots would rather the same risk to be the first to land on mars versus the first person to do a high negative g turn on test plane 12 of the F35 program.

Re:Amazing. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100988)

I think hoping for the Americans to do anything great like that is folly. Our only hope for serious space exploration in the next 200 years is Europe or China. Europe doesn't seem to be doing so great managing its finances, however, and China seems to prefer building ghost cities to doing anything useful.

Illusory goals and non-existent funding (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100738)

I have little hope for NASA. Right now, they are scrapping exploration missions left and right and the missions they do have pay no attention to being cost-effective. They are building exactly one mars rover for $2.5bn and that's it. Are you kidding?

(Ok, in this case, they have a good excuse for building just one of them - NASA is running out of Plutonium-238, because Bill Clinton decided that nuclear research is a thing of the past and ordered all research reactors that could produce radioisotopes to be shut down. That includes vital isotopes for cancer diagnostics (Tc-99m) with 18hr half life that must now be imported from Canada ...)

And despite all that, the manned missions are underfunded - NASA's budget as a whole is being cut, at a time when they are supposed to do stuff that is much more ambitious than anything they did in the last 30 years. Sure, that's how you do that sort of stuff. Not.

That's a relief (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100746)

we are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come.

That's good, because I thought for a minute there you were presiding over a crumbling infrastructure and dying agency that left its best years in the rear view mirror 20 years ago.

Re:That's a relief (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101442)

That's good, because I thought for a minute there you were presiding over a crumbling infrastructure and dying agency that left its best years in the rear view mirror 40 years ago.

FTFY.

Yeah, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37100750)

With what money??? With the USA having some 14 trillion dollars in debt and massive budget cuts everywhere(read space program cuts), how is this going to be funded at all, much less over how many new administrations until the due date?

Re:Yeah, roxy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37100810)

That is the brilliant aspect of this plan. We fund it using deficit dollars that are owned by China. Then the Chinese space program is outsourced to the USA! It provides jobs here and scientific research all on China's dime!

Oink Oink Oink (1)

SpasticMutant (748828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100780)

More guvmint pork. Let those engineers work in the private sector for a change, so we begin to wean ourselves from H1B visas and get those good-paying jobs to US citizens. The money not spent on this pork can go towards reducing the deficit, or even more interestingly, stimulating american manufacturing to reduce dependence on foreign imports. I'd like to see a DVD player made in the US, for instance, as well as clothing, tools, and every other item packing WalMart.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100812)

Why lead the world in exploring the universe on behalf of all mankind when you can make shitty electronics for lazy fucking walmart shoppers. Brilliant.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

SpasticMutant (748828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100984)

That's a better idea- let the US unemployment rate skyrocket and let the US default on its debt so it can continue to lead the world in exploring the universe. We'll need a good place to hide from our creditors. Take care of the budget problems now. When the money is there, maybe these pork programs can come back. Until then, spending money on pork programs instead of dealing with the debt and unemployment problems is irresponsible.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101164)

Austerity won't help deal with the debt and unemployment problems at the same time.

It'll either make things worse, or make things even worse.

not a fan of pork (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101474)

But you do realize government spending hires people too right? Every dollar the government spends would go towards hiring people and buying equipment from other people who will have to hire people too, provided that they make reasonable efforts to do the project right. You give a dollar of tax breaks or incentives to companies and you'll only see a fraction of it back into employees pockets. The rest will go to shareholders pockets (while they earned it, still it isn't hiring anyone and unless it is spent it won't), raises/bonuses to people who already have jobs or worse sit in a cash account "just in case" a la Apples 76B horde.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101450)

Why lead the world in exploring the universe on behalf of all mankind when you can make shitty electronics for lazy fucking walmart shoppers. Brilliant.

Since at this point, we aren't exploring the universe or making shitty electronics, making shitty electronics would be a step up in the world.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101182)

The US spends more on air conditioning Afghanistan per year than NASA's entire budget.

If you want to reduce the deficit, maybe hand out some paper fans to the troops, or perhaps pull them out of the desert.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101358)

Why do you think paper fans for the troops will be cheaper than airconditioning the troops? With the nano-paper, the micro-motors to drive them, and the advanced cloaking device on the side facing the enemy, it may well cost more.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101334)

Cutting NASA's budget entirely would hardly make a statistical difference in the U.S. budget. It's a distraction. Entitlements and the Military are what need to be cut. I read somewhere that the U.S. spends $1,000,000 per troop. Meaning NASA's budget is equivalent to 1800 troops. It's like have a car payment and a house payment you can't afford and thinking if you cut McDonald's once a month you'll fix your problems. We could devote NASA's entire budget to the debt and would take ~750 years to pay the principal. If you're serious about anything you stated NASA would be far down the list of cuts that make a difference.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101400)

Let those engineers work in the private sector for a change, so we begin to wean ourselves from H1B visas and get those good-paying jobs to US citizens

I'm pretty sure a lot of the jobs involved are only available to US citizens anyway due to government-mandated security restrictions. In fact, I've seen this cited as something holding back American space efforts, as many otherwise qualified immigrants are unable to obtain these jobs.

Re:Oink Oink Oink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101644)

Who exactly do you think those engineers work for now? Most space money goes to the private sector and always has. Those firms are quite profitable, thank you very much. I'm curious, though, just exactly how many aerospace engineers does it take to make a DVD player? Put another way, you do realize that if you took a dollar of the federal budget, you'd have to cut a penny into pieces to get NASA's share--a share that's invented spacecraft, aircraft designs, new materials, and new concepts of all kinds that have been GIVEN to private industry. That used to result in nice good paying jobs, until the private sector (you know,the DVD player makers et al) decided to offshore everything--but of course they still want the free stuff.

Or you could just do like the rest of this country and wallow in ignorance nonsense.

How to get heavy payloads to Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37100792)

I stumbled across this link a few years ago:

http://www.universetoday.com/7024/the-mars-landing-approach-getting-large-payloads-to-the-surface-of-the-red-planet/

The author was reporting that getting large payloads to the Martian surface was a problem who solution was unknown (at the date of publication). Does anyone know if the issues have been worked out?

Re:How to get heavy payloads to Mars? (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101124)

To my knowledge, there is still no solution. But if you read it carefully, the article does leave one possibility open: assemble a large heat shield in space and use it to decelerate through atmospheric drag on Mars before opening a parachute. We don't currently have the capability to do it, but it seems technically feasible.

Space was all for military contractors (1)

get_your_guns (1380583) | more than 2 years ago | (#37100842)

If the Soviet Union was not pushing the US into space we would never of gotten there by now. All the large military contractors were also part the the moon race and they all benefited greatly by the US citizens thinking it was national pride to make it to the moon before the Soviet Union (oh and gave great amounts of money to make it happen). Now there is no great threat to get the US citizens all worked up about so it is hard for Joe or Jane politician to keep money in real science. I say we need to stage a war in outer space so that we can start spending our money on our future. Pretty soon someone will figure out how to blow the earth up so the sooner the better!

THEOMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37100924)

Sounds like a spin-off from the Cosby show.

"He walks in his fathers footsteps... THEO, MD. !!!"

Going No Where Fast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37101864)

We've seen this before. I love space exploration since i was a kid and to me, politics should not be allowed to mix in here unless there a real problem. Its public money for sure, but NASA should be asking people what they should concentrate its focus on doing with that money. A Heavy-Lift Rocket could be useful for other things, but problem I see with it is the politics. Its a revolving door, which always bring in new people in and out of control of the government. These folks come in, try make big splash to do something "differient" and sometimes mess up things. The fiscal conservatives will gain more power and then short change NASA eventually, cutting its budgets. I don't agree with all things President Obama wants to, but his decision to bring in commerial space companies could keep the manned space program if given right goals. The Space Shuttle was aging and was costing alot money keep going. Every government effort in the last three decades of manned space program ended in sad ends. I wish Congress would let companies like SpaceX build their Heavy-Lift rocket and see if it would be good fit instead of another wasted decade of development and cost over runs to be cancelled later. Even if they hate Presidency that came up with it.

NASA, please listen. . . (0)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 2 years ago | (#37101956)

GIVE UP ON MANNED MISSIONS ALREADY!

You do great work with automated probes and observation of planets, moons, the sun, and beyond. Keep that up!

But, please, divest yourself of the 1960's "manned space-race" mentality. It wastes lives and $$$$$$. Your congressional charter gives you the mission "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown." If a mission can be accomplished with probes, there is no reason to send humans. Only loft a human when it is necessary FOR THE MISSION.

Please, explore as you are intended to do, but quit insisting on sending a carcass along for the ride. It's holding you back.

Re:NASA, please listen. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37103068)

It's called "Space Nuttery" and is a serious mental disorder affecting a large number of pasty, middle-aged white males raised on Star Trek and other sci-fi dreck that totally ruins your sense of reality. You know how software people say things like "this language will cripple your mind!" and "goto considered harmful!" and yet they have no problems reading juvenile tripe about impossible materials, fantasy-levels of energy and completely delusional views that the universe is this giant Wal*Mart ready to be plundered.

So you have people foaming at the mouth about how we should mine asteroids (How? With what? WHY!?) and colonize the Moon, when we have plenty of materials on Earth and tons of super-hostile places to explore right here to quench even the most daring explorer's thirst.

The one thing that all Space Nutters have in common is that's it's never THEM who will be doing all the work, they are content to sit behind their keyboards mashing away like retards on pudding day.

Re:NASA, please listen. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37111388)

More men died in the one Chinook helicopter crash last week than have died in all NASA missions combined, ever. Get some perspective.

Cut manned spaceflight (0)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102302)

Given limited funding they can either do manned missions or do science stuff, but not both. If you're looking for a reason to spread the pork around congressional districts then build a national (gov owned and operated, last mile monopoly) telecommunications network based on fibre to the home. That would be an investment in your future instead of just throwing money away. As for a manned mission to mars: You haven't done a full search for life yet. If it's got life you'll either kill it or contaminate it (so you'll never find it) or bring it back. (finding out that "harmless" martian microbe eats glass/oil/aluminum would suck)

The return of Ares V? (1)

vought (160908) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102824)

Ares Five is alive! Or is it?

Re:The return of Ares V? (1)

mcswell (1102107) | more than 2 years ago | (#37103026)

Why not lift a bunch of modules with smaller rockets, and build the asteroid/ Mars spaceship there? I think that was von Braun's original idea.

And as for getting from Earth orbit to an asteroid or Mars, it seems like we'd do well to develop a non-chemical drive for manned exploration. Then the asteroids or Mars need not be the final destination. Whereas if you get there with chemical rockets, it's going to take forever to get to the next destination (Europa, say, or Titan).

on heavy lift (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37102826)

To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far

Or buy rides on future commercial heavy lift rockets. Part of the problem with these grandiose space plans is all the um, "little" details that have to be in place and which in hindsight suck up all the funding rather than the intended goal of the program. We have to have the big rocket, the crew vehicle, etc. But as it turns out, the more requirements you have, the less likely it is that you do real stuff, namely, actual space development, exploration, or science.

At some point, the US needs to decide whether it wants a space program that advances a US presence in space or a jobs program that occasionally does space stuff.

Re:on heavy lift (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37105934)

The thing is, NASA already knows (or should know) how to put people in space. They put a LOT of people on the moon they should be able to get to Mars (notwithstanding the human factor) with the current technological and scientific developments. Make the same rocket you had, the same vehicle you had, pack it with the more advanced version of the fuel you had before, add ion/nuclear thrusters or whatever (I'm not a rocket scientists, but it's not rocket science), use the gravity catapults of Earth, Moon or anything else in between and get your ass to Mars. The reverse trajectory needs less fuel to get off Mars and then gravity can do the rest.

We can get a robot there without much problems, maybe we can go dust it off too.

Alternatively develop a larger robot that can do more than scoot a few cm per day and pack it with tools like shovels and scientific gear (whatever an astronaut would bring) and can bring stuff back. A back and forth robotic mission shouldn't be too hard and is less dangerous and less expensive than moving meatbags that way.

mod do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37103568)

states that there Fucking confirmed: playing so it's Wh3ther you operating systems, won't be sta8ding development model Today. It's about to you by Penisbird

Heavy lift rockets is a bad idea in the long term. (2)

master_p (608214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37104512)

Heavy lift rockets that can only be used once is a bad idea economically. What NASA needs to build in space is a non-landing spaceship that is used for travelling between planetary bodies of our solar system. It will be more expensive than a heavy lift rocket, but once it is up there, the cost of space travel for humans will be greatly minimized.

The spaceship could harness power from external resources like the Sun, and therefore help avoid carrying all that fuel to orbit, as with heavy lift rockets.

Re:Heavy lift rockets is a bad idea in the long te (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37105348)

Strap a ion rocket on the ISS? :)

Worst (1)

k4f (2433858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37105292)

I agreed that the ISS is NOT built for space exploration. Usually I would say scrap the whole manned mission to Mars and fix the economy first but I will say this. If you're going to built a multi-purpose vehicle, make the ship BIGGER. [goo.gl] You have about (at least) six crew members riding in a giant tin can and if you're using a (FAILED) Orion space capsule, you won't have enough leg room, let alone privacy. Also you can't be weightless for the entire journey or your bones will become brittle. You need a ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY ROTATION DRIVE, similar to the ships from the 2010 and MISSION TO MARS movies. You can't go into deep space in a small (been there, done that) space capsule or otherwise you'll go cuckoo for coco puffs. If you're going to build a ship, think big and do it right. Also it wouldn't hurt to name the ship, ENTERPRISE :) Peace.

Not going to be the US in either case (2)

yt8znu35 (1202731) | more than 2 years ago | (#37105830)

We cannot afford any of this. By 2025 the middle class will have been finished off, and thus the tax base will have been erased, and we will have openly accepted our Third World status. The first words spoken on Mars will have to be translated into English for us as we shiver in our boxes amidst burning trash in America's favelas.

Re:Not going to be the US in either case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37106570)

do you even know what third world stands for? didn't think so.

Third-World nations don't go into space (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 2 years ago | (#37106544)

By 2025 we'll be lucky if we're not shooting each other in the streets to feed off each others flesh. Not only is this country doomed, we are well and truly fucked on a scale you cannot imagine.

So that a very fortunate few can become massively wealthy, enough to have them live like kings for 10 or 20 generations, the rest of us are going to be involved in a civil war that will have us shooting each other, and probably televisied for the wealthy to gamble on.

We have been robbed, and things are going to get really, really bad in short order. There isn't going to be any manned space missions coming out of the USA for maybe 100 or more years, because we're going to have rebuild after burning down the country, and things like surviving the winter will be a bit more important.

Re:Third-World nations don't go into space (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37107624)

since usa is now a 3rd world nation does that make the ex-3rd world nations 9th world or what? and what's 1st world? germany and france?

seriously, do a trip to russia and reconsider. usa's monetary troubles are just numbers on a computer display - usa's been buying china's assets against those numbers, that's a pretty sweet deal.

and the kings need peons too. if they only lived like kings, there would be less problems, but just sitting on the imaginary numbers while their assets go up in imaginary value makes things boring and stagnated.

who could say this better than charles bolden? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37107598)

"a bold new chapter"

Need all of the above. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37109864)

0) Goals are good (they do drive progress), but als need to start building craft in orbit to avoid gravitational penalties on long missions. We could now hire SpaceX or use minotaurs to put all the parts in orbit, assemble @ station, send up astronauts when done, then hit the moon and back to orbit. The use a VASMIR or similar mated with a capsule and cylenders to hit Mars, asteroids.
1) Want to get economic benefits? Land on an asteroid, process on site, park results at libration points or on moon (see #0). One metalic asteroid = $1T to $10T in rare earths and precious metals. At $2000/ounce this is very feasible. Use gravity well to bring down in ocean and retrieve.
2) long term purpose of all space programs should be to colonize. Science can be done on site, but it is far more important to get the human species multiple planetary homes. A species that does not continuously expand its range, will eventually become extinct due to statistically improbable events.

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