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NASA Rolls Out Space Exploration Roadmap

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the to-infinity-and-beyond dept.

NASA 128

MarkWhittington writes "NASA and the space agencies of a variety of countries, including members of the European Union, Canada, Japan, Russia, India, the Ukraine, and South Korea, have rolled out the latest version of a space exploration roadmap (PDF). NASA and its partners have created two scenarios, called 'Asteroid Next' and 'Moon Next.' This represents the continuing argument over which destination astronaut explorers should go to first. Should it be an Earth approaching asteroid, as President Obama insists? Or should it be the moon, as many people in Congress, NASA, and NASA's partner agencies suggest? In any event, all roads lead to Mars in the current plan. Both visits to an asteroid and to the moon are considered practice runs for what will be needed to go to Mars."

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128 comments

Should be (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495572)

called 'Asteroid NeXT' and 'Moon NeXT".

Re:Should be (1)

Marc Madness (2205586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495660)

Wouldn't that mean that when Apple acquires NASA, it will be changed to iAsteroid and iMoon?

Re:Should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496118)

And they would get a belt too. A very tight golden one with a big lock [travelblog.org] .

I want to be anstronaut again! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37495578)

First footprint!

The roadmap is nothing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37495624)

NASA needs guaranteed funding and a minimum of Congressional oversight.

Re:The roadmap is nothing (4, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495674)

Sadly AC has the truth of it. This plan should be labled "Current roadmap for the next 20-30 years... unless whoever is elected to congress and the presidency in the next couple of years change their mind. again."

The REAL Roadmap (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495956)

1. Adopt a plan
2. Spend a ton of money
3. Abandon achievements and the plan.
4. Repeat.

Re:The REAL Roadmap (3, Insightful)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496198)

That's the roadmap summary. Here's the detailed roadmap:

1. Adopt a plan.
2. Make the plan more ambitious at the insistence of the President and Congress.
3. Receive 30% of the required funding from congress, 25% of which is non mission-critical pork.
4. Overrun lowball funding by a factor of 3.
5. Congress cuts off funding before real accomplishments can be met.
6. Repeat

Hopeful (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495640)

Im glad to see the governments lack of interest in NASA and their groundbreaking work has not disheartened them from trying anyway. Kudos to them.

Why not both? (3, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495644)

How about we go to an asteroid that's landing on the moon?

Re:Why not both? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496228)

Because you didn't rise up and kicked your government in the ass so it stops throwing the amount of money that would suffice to end the debt at wars and a second time that amount at tax breaks for the wealthy.

Imagine NASA having 10-100 times the current budget. That would not even put a dent in the US budget with the above money holes gone.

I'm not blaming you. It seems that if one's problems cause too much stress, and fake news cause too much of a distraction, one stops having time and rage left over to fix the underlying causes (those mentioned above).

There's no shame in making an error.
The shame is realizing it, and not learning from and correcting it.

So: You can still do something! "Befriend" a powerful lobbyist/congressman today! Then brainwash him with his own game until you're in control.
I was rotating in my hamster wheel like you. But I'm doing it right now. (I'm not American though.) And so can you all!

In other words, ... (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497476)

... you're on the road to becoming part of the problem in your country.

The "American" problems which you so accurately point to are in no small part due to idealists turning into lobbyists.

Anybody can lobby, and, unfortunately, it's addictive.

That's Great but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37495692)

It's hard to get anywhere in space without spaceships. Where is their budget planning on coming from here?

Both human and robotic (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495710)

The first sentence of TFA says this is a plan for "coordinated human and robotic exploration." The summary makes it sound like this is a plan for manned exploration only.

Re:Both human and robotic (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37495854)

Why would we go anywhere and not bring some robots?

No Mention of the GLXP (1)

anzha (138288) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495734)

It's interesting that NASA doesn't mention the GLXP at all in there, not even in passing (or so shows my very fast scan of the document). That contrasts quite a bit with the fact that they generated the NASA Heritage Site rules and what they briefed and said to the GLXP teams in July.

cap in hand to the man (2)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497518)

When you go to the government for funding, you don't want to admit you have options.

That is, unless you really don't need the funding.

Mining already a success. (4, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495754)

The rovers were a success. Now it is time to test our ability to create a long term orbital platform. I'm for the asteroid. China has shown an interest in going to the moon. Let them perform those experiments.

Re:Mining already a success. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496202)

They have also shown an interest in mining asteroids. Now what?

Re:Mining already a success. (2)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497592)

There are some several good reasons to look at an asteroid as a first choice. Of course, the best reason to pick the moon is that its only 250,000 miles away, and if anything goes wrong you have even odds of getting home without it ending posthumously. That's why heavy, heavy robotic applications must be first. Build robots that can collect solar power, mine ore, sinter ceramics, build more robots, extract water, air, and organics. Most of all construct living spaces under enough material to protect from radiation and huge temperature extremes. Once you have a functioning self replicating robot swarm building safe habitats including rotation to simulate gravity, you now have an effective ferry, with a shallow gravity well, capable of transporting significant loads to and from mars and the asteroid belt, which contains riches beyond measure.

Every large asteroid in the inner solar system should have a human population on it.

International coordination? (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495780)

Somehow the idea of international cooperation seems to make sense in the modern era. Although we Americans rightly take pride in the Apollo program, the space race was really a product of the Cold War. It ruled out multilateral efforts because the whole point was a race to beat the Russians. That doesn't make sense today; nation-states don't have the same kind of rivalries. The spirit of "advancement of human civilization" I associate with space exploration does seem more fitting as an international enterprise. It gives me a warm fuzzy.

That said, the reality of international undertakings tends to fall short of what I consider ideal.

Re:International coordination? (2, Interesting)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495916)

Agreed. The Russians are the best at heavy lift, the Canadians are the best at robotics. There is no point in the US trying to reinvent the wheel. Leave those technologies to them and focus NASA funding elsewhere.

Re:International coordination? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496046)

Russians are not the best at heavy lift and Canadians are not nearly the best at robotics...

Re:International coordination? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496714)

thank you for your enlightening and comprehensive rebuttal. If writers had half of the prose writing ability as you seem to have we would all be in rapture before we could finish reading.

better rebuttal? (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497660)

The Russians have as many problems with the heavy lift as the Americans do. (Check the news recently?) They just have less problems with insurance companies.

Not sure why the Canadians should be seen as better than the Japanese at robotics. But robotics has a significantly wider field of application than heavy lift. (Not disjoint, even?) And even if the Japanese are better at some kinds of robotics and the Canadians are better at some kinds of robotics, cooperation does not mean just turning all of job X over to some other guy.

We're all in this mess together. The only good reason for space exploration is to give us more areas to keep pioneering in, to keep us from turning all of our technology over to making the next bigger and faster game console.

Re:International coordination? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496740)

u mad?

Re:International coordination? (4, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496286)

The Russians are the best at heavy lift, the Canadians are the best at robotics. There is no point in the US trying to reinvent the wheel. Leave those technologies to them and focus NASA funding elsewhere.

The catering?

Re:International coordination? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497816)

what with Cheese, beer and Mcdonalds? Ah American food at its finest!

Re:International coordination? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498990)

No. The video game.

Re:International coordination? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497016)

If the russians are the best at heavy lift, how come NASA has build the rockets [wikipedia.org] that can lift the most?

Re:International coordination? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497456)

The problem is, NASA can't build them anymore. And the ones they can build have a nasty habit of blowing up.

Re:International coordination? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498918)

The shuttle didn't have more problems than any other space launch system. That's saying a lot, because it is much more complicated than it needs to be. You are just being stupid.

Re:International coordination? (1)

Skywolfblue (1944674) | about 2 years ago | (#37499814)

And the ones they can build have a nasty habit of blowing up.

Well, the Russians had/have that problem too. They're just less squeamish about it.

Re:International coordination? (1)

BergZ (1680594) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497502)

I haven't crunched the numbers but I suspect the OP is using the phrase "best at heavy lift" in terms of $/Kg to put something into orbit.

Re:International coordination? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498620)

Nope, SpaceX clearly wins that one.

Re:International coordination? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496008)

Somehow the idea of international cooperation seems to make sense in the modern era. Although we Americans rightly take pride in the Apollo program, the space race was really a product of the Cold War. It ruled out multilateral efforts because the whole point was a race to beat the Russians. That doesn't make sense today; nation-states don't have the same kind of rivalries. The spirit of "advancement of human civilization" I associate with space exploration does seem more fitting as an international enterprise. It gives me a warm fuzzy.

That said, the reality of international undertakings tends to fall short of what I consider ideal.

International cooperation, as in the International Space Station aka cluster fuck #1 ?
No, if the US wants to go back in space it has all the means at its disposal. You just need a coherent political vision that doesn't change every day. Stop spending trillions of dollars in meaningless wars, in meaningless security state programs etc... Raise taxes, make americans feel proud of their country again and set your eyes on the moon and mars. One generation ought to be enough to send astronauts to mars, keep a fully inhabited moon base etc... And for god's sake, once you're there stay there. Don't dismantle yet again the space program once you achieve the goal. Its stupid that of all the apollo missions, only 3 were really scientific and only one carried a real scientist. Less pilots, more scientists in space.

Re:International coordination? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496232)

Its stupid that of all the apollo missions, only 3 were really scientific and only one carried a real scientist. Less pilots, more scientists in space.

I don't know that it's stupid in itself, given what the Apollo program was -- short-term landings involving lots of flight, and relatively little surface time. It's a mission profile very poorly suited to science, but it's a nearly-essential step on the path to a semi-permanent manned base, which is much better for science. The trouble is just that we stopped there.

For the same reason, I'm not a big fan of the asteroid plan -- it basically limits you to one or a few flags-and-footprints missions per target, with no realistic prospect of deeper science missions. A lot of the moon opponents (including asteroid proponents and the straight-to-Mars crowd) point out that establishing a moon base does little to prepare us, in a technological sense, for a Mars base, because they face completely different challenges. While true, the fact remains there's a whole lot of lunar science left to do, and a moon base lets us do much more science than an asteroid mission.

(Also, if we find out that lunar gravity is sustainable long-term for the human body, we can skip centrifuges on a long-term Mars mission. That's really the only big breakthrough a moon base might give us that would help with Mars, but it would be quite big if it does happen.)

Re:International coordination? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496338)

I don't know that it's stupid in itself, given what the Apollo program was -- short-term landings involving lots of flight, and relatively little surface time. It's a mission profile very poorly suited to science, but it's a nearly-essential step on the path to a semi-permanent manned base, which is much better for science. The trouble is just that we stopped there.

I agree and more is the pity, the Apollo 15/16 and 17 missions really showed what could be accomplished in terms of science and exploration. The US should have kept the Saturn V as a heavy lifting capability platform. It could launch payloads that were simply impossibile to carry with the Shuttle. Just look at the skylab missions. Launch 5 or 6 Saturn Vs and you could have built an entire space station bigger than the ISS, in much less time are for much less. Stop going to the moon was maybe poltically justified, dismantling on the other hand the Saturn V was just plain stupid, since its replacement The Shuttle in terms of weight/performance was so inferior.

For the same reason, I'm not a big fan of the asteroid plan -- it basically limits you to one or a few flags-and-footprints missions per target, with no realistic prospect of deeper science missions. A lot of the moon opponents (including asteroid proponents and the straight-to-Mars crowd) point out that establishing a moon base does little to prepare us, in a technological sense, for a Mars base, because they face completely different challenges. While true, the fact remains there's a whole lot of lunar science left to do, and a moon base lets us do much more science than an asteroid mission.

(Also, if we find out that lunar gravity is sustainable long-term for the human body, we can skip centrifuges on a long-term Mars mission. That's really the only big breakthrough a moon base might give us that would help with Mars, but it would be quite big if it does happen.)

Yep, going to an asteroid smells exactly like the space race. One shot, billions spent and then close everything down since their is nothing else to do. Much better is to go to the moon (again) but do it correctly. Build something permanent, carry out all of the experiments necessary to understand long term duration effects in space and then on to mars.

The space shuttle was an experiment. (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497772)

Sustaining the long haul with the Apollo was seen as too expensive.

It hasn't gotten less expensive, we have just become more willing to spend money. (Setting aside the question of whether we have the money to spend. Except, if we were willing to spend money on those big toys, why weren't we spending money fighting poverty? and there were too many people who couldn't see that space exploration was one essential part of the overall approach to fighting poverty.)

Where's China in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498646)

Interestingly the list of countries involved in the Global Exploration Roadmap doesn't include China. It includes all nations with a recognized capability to send a bucket of metal to outer space, such as Russia, the Europeans (counted as one), individual European states such as France and Germany, India, and Japan.

China, as the fourth or third greatest space power (after the US and Russia, and maybe Japan), is missing from the group. I can understand the absence of possible small space powers like Iran, Israel and North Korea, but China? Is there some mysterious reason behind China's go-it-alone attitude in space?

Roadmap? (3, Funny)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495822)

Roadmap? Why not a starchart?

Obama? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37495880)

How the hell does Obama's opinion even come into this? He's not a goddamn astroscientist.

Maybe because he's NASA's boss? (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496210)

The boss usually gets to express his opinion.

Re:Maybe because he's NASA's boss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496330)

funny, his name is not listed under NASA's executives.

Re:Maybe because he's NASA's boss? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496668)

And neither was JFK, what's your point?

Re:Maybe because he's NASA's boss? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497578)

that our presidents are not qualified to make these decisions?

Re:Maybe because he's not NASA's boss? (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497782)

The president is not supposed to be anybody's boss.

Well, except for the executive branch of the government, subject to restrictions set by the Constitution and Congress.

About the only group he is the boss of is his cabinet, and not really even that.

Sun (0)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495902)

I want to see manned exploration of our sun.

Re:Sun (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496470)

Okay, but we'll have to go at night, when it's cooler.

You first. (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497798)

You can go first.

I really (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495904)

Don't want to know how much that shiny PDF document cost. A billion? Two billion?

Re:I really (-1, Flamebait)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496200)

That's the whole point. To channel money to aerospace contractors and all other lobbyist-wielding gravy train rider wannabes. There is no useful scientific or engineering purpose to be served by manned space exploration. It is a worthless, purposeless enterprise, a mere excuse to loot money from national treasuries. This roadmap comprises a formal list of corrupt governments. Only true-believing sci fi space adventure magical religious cultists are gullible enough to swallow the "space exploration" excuse. Space should be explored by robotic devices only for the foreseeable future, i.e. the next century or two. The rest is just graft-driven government corruption.

Re:I really (4, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496316)

Many people don't give a shit about exploration if there is no human present.

Yea the rovers have been a great success and they have some more in the works, but if we don't land boots on the ground the thought is that we did nothing.

It's not graft-driven government corruption, it's a ratings gimmick. If the majority of Americans start giving a shit about exploration then there will be more pressure on congress to fund NASA better. At this time most people just plain don't give a shit so NASA's budget is getting diminished.

Re:I really (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496754)

I agree with your overall point, but graft is very much the driver of NASA's budget. The singular insistence on manned space exploration is because it is what costs the most and therefore what will make the most money for the government contractors that drive NASA. Most people don't give a shit about NASA just as they don't give a shit about NIH, NSF, National Endowment for the Arts, and the many, many institutions that are our true national treasures. Our fellow stereotypical American citizens care mainly about getting iPads and iPhones, watching videos, making sure they pump pop music through their earbuds at every available moment, making sure they are perceived as "cool," avoiding any and all undue effort, eating junk food, getting laid, getting wasted, etc, all the while reserving the right to whine, bitch, and moan about nearly everything. They also appear to fervently believe that Battlestar Galactica and the like are credible visualizations of the future. We are truly a sorry spectacle.

Re:I really (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496318)

manned space exploration [...] is a worthless, purposeless enterprise

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I truly pity you, sir. I'll get my grandchildren to send you a nice postcard from Alpha Centauri.

Re:I really (1, Flamebait)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496776)

Oh get off your high horse. You are nobody to pity anyone. Substantiate your superstitious beliefs with something other than pious horseshit.

Re:I really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37499762)

I'll ask you to do the same thing, without screaming " BOO, CORRUPTION, BOO, SPACE NUTTERS, LOLZ"
No really, I'm waiting. Provide some actual background of some sort, maybe something you read on online about how Nasa spent a a hojillion dollars developing a space pen.

Re:I really (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496464)

Only true-believing sci fi space adventure magical religious cultists are gullible enough to swallow the "space exploration" excuse.

Boy, you are brave. Dissing 98% of the Slashdot demographic.

And while you're correct on purely rational grounds, humans aren't purely rational and canning manned flight for just robotics leaves a lot of emotion on the ground. Given that space exploration really comprises a trivial amount of human and financial capital, all things considered, the added emotional involvement of human spaceflight is more than justified.

Re:I really (1, Interesting)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496838)

I don't think it leaves all that much emotion on the ground. As a poster above noted, most Americans probably don't give a crap about manned space exploration or NASA. The only people who are really invested are those that make money through NASA contracts.

I don't agree that it costs a trivial amount of money. That is the old argument based on comparing NASA's budget with the total Federal budget, a rather goofy comparison. That can be claimed about any government program, but sum them all up and sum them with our ridiculously evil military adventures and you bleed an extra trillion dollars a year that must be paid by incurring more debt. Manned space exploration is a corrupt waste, better to cut it and save the money, and do the same for every government program that is little more than pork for the lobbyist-wielding plutocracy.

Re:I really (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496946)

You're right about the dissenting view, though. I'm racking up those zero scores at quite a healthy clip.

Re:I really (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498470)

Given that space exploration really comprises a trivial amount of human and financial capital

Yeah... now, but that's because we aren't really going anywhere. What NASA is doing is talking about going to Mars, which is cheap.

All the realistic proposals I've seen for anything of interest involving humans in space such as a Moon base, a Mars colony, or interstellar travel required funds that are a substantial fraction of the world's GDP. Think tens of trillions of dollars.

So lets say that at some point in the future we do end up spending those trillions of dollars and end up with a Mars colony or whatever. What return will we get for that money? I don't mean some spin-off technology like Velcro or whatever giving back 0.01% of what was spent. I mean 110% return. Will we, as a human race, profit? Will we actually get a benefit from that money that we couldn't obtain, right here, on Earth?

The simple harsh answer is no. The entire project will be a giant money-sink that returns nothing of tangible value to anybody on Earth. Any scientific research done could have been done orders of magnitude cheaper with robots. Even a permanent base somewhere is pointless -- at best it will be a stepping-stone towards another pointless money-sink.

This is why congress doesn't fund human space exploration. It's just not worth spending trillions of dollars to make some geek's scifi adventure fantasies come true, when all of the tangible benefits like scientific research and pretty pictures can done by robots at orders of magnitude less cost.

Your dreams just aren't worth that much to the rest of the world.

Re:I really (1)

werepants (1912634) | about 2 years ago | (#37499614)

What return will we get for that money? I don't mean some spin-off technology like Velcro or whatever giving back 0.01% of what was spent. I mean 110% return. Will we, as a human race, profit? Will we actually get a benefit from that money that we couldn't obtain, right here, on Earth?

The simple harsh answer is no.

The idea that only profitable things are worth doing is utterly without merit. The problems with this position are so numerous that it is difficult to know where to begin addressing them.

Money is not an end. Profit is not an end. These things only have worth insofar as they allow us to obtain things that ARE actually valuable - food, shelter, safety, stability, education, entertainment. You've bought so completely into the consumerist propaganda that you apparently believe that life has no purpose outside of material gain. Education isn't profitable - let's axe it. Taking care of the disabled isn't profitable - let's stop. Providing assistance to Haiti or Japan isn't profitable - what the hell were we thinking?

The truth is, we have more labor available for diversionary pursuits than at any other time in history. How much of our economy is tied up in something that is in no way related to basic living necessities? How many of our labors only "help" humanity in the sense that they keep the distraction going for another 20 minutes? Maybe you can be satisfied to live in a generation that did nothing better with its free time than a couple new seasons of American Idol and a completely fleshed out Pokemon section on Wikipedia, but I for one dream of bringing back the days when we engaged in noble pursuits that would secure us a place in history. We are going to waste our time on something - why not waste it on a grand endeavor?

Re:I really (1)

bertok (226922) | about 2 years ago | (#37500082)

The idea that only profitable things are worth doing is utterly without merit.

I never said that! What I said that things that are entirely without profit ought to have sufficient merit to justify the expense. I'm perfectly fine with spending billions of dollars on, say, the James Webb Space Telescope. That thing is going to take awesome pictures! Spending trillions of dollars to send people to mars... huge waste of money with no hope of a useful return.

Money is not an end.

Of course not. But money can be directly exchanged for things that are 'ends'. Like... food, shelter, safety, stability, education, and entertainment.

Money isn't separate from those things, it's a generic placeholder for the labor required to obtain those things. You waste money, then you also waste the important things!

Education isn't profitable - let's axe it.

Actually, it's hugely profitable. That's why companies have internship programs, and governments spend a huge chunk of tax on education. The money invested into education is returned as profit when the next-generation applies their learned skills in performing useful labor.

Providing assistance to Haiti or Japan isn't profitable

You'd be surprised. Governments sending aid to each other is more or less an informal insurance system. One government has a disaster, everyone else helps to stop their economy from collapsing under the strain. The helpers benefit -- their international trading partners don't stop trading! Stability is very important to corporate profits.

why not waste it on a grand endeavor

Because exploring space (specifically with organic fleshy humans) isn't all that relevant to the vast, vast majority of people on Earth. Think about it like this: you will not get to go. Not ever. The vast majority of people currently alive will not get to go either. Neither will their children, or their grandchildren. Other than the lucky few dozen astronauts, the rest of us will get nothing other than pictures taken with cameras. The camera will be held either by a meat robot, or a metal robot. The pictures will look the same either way. The meat robot pictures will cost trillions, the metal robot pictures will cost merely billions.

Why should we all be taxed 999 billion more dollars for the knowledge that the exact same pictures were taken by the meat robots instead of the metal type? Or more importantly, why should we settle for one set of pictures in exchange for our trillion dollars of labor instead of a thousand sets of pictures of a thousand different places? Because you have some naive, childish dream? Because you have a fantasy?

Re:I really (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497836)

That's the whole point. To channel money to aerospace contractors and all other lobbyist-wielding gravy train rider wannabes. There is no useful scientific or engineering purpose to be served by manned space exploration. It is a worthless, purposeless enterprise, a mere excuse to loot money from national treasuries. This roadmap comprises a formal list of corrupt governments. Only true-believing sci fi space adventure magical religious cultists are gullible enough to swallow the "space exploration" excuse. Space should be explored by robotic devices only for the foreseeable future, i.e. the next century or two. The rest is just graft-driven government corruption.

Ah, but making space safe for robots only feeds corporate greed. Without a frontier, there's no place to go for further social experimentation to take place, and we all become just more drones plugged into the consumer system, the 'product' for the multinational coprorations. We wait a hundred years or so for human exploration/exploitation, it'll be way too late.

Besides, what's cheaper, a multibillion dollar robot or a tech with a 13 mm wrench when it's time to repair the other robots?

if only (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497934)

While I agree with you that Battlestar Galactica (sp?), Star Wars, et. al. are just cowboy movies shifted to space, and not realistic goals for our future as a race, I disagree with your assessment of the space program. As someone else pointed out already, the space program is a good place to sharpen the tools we call our technology.

Tools are usefull things, and keeping them in good working condition is important.

Promoting the worship of technology is bad, whether through space fantasy or game machines, but until we can teach the majority of people what true religion [lds.org] is, we can of have to let them get by on what they can believe in.

And, either way, space exploration is (or can be) a valid way to refine and add to our technological toolset.

get your ass to mars (2)

wasteoid (1897370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37495914)

- douglas quaid

Nobody called Zubrin - (5, Interesting)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496036)

Let me be the first one in this thread to advocate for THE CASE FOR MARS by Robert Zubrin. They should skip the asteroid and the moon, and start sending robotic missions to Mars today. When the robots have manufactured a liveable environment (e.g. caves or lava tubes) and enough fuel for an emergency return trip, then you send the astronauts.

Re:Nobody called Zubrin - (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496560)

The US is 14 trillion dollars in debt and growing.

Mars, the Moon and an asteroid mission will all never happen, until private industry sees a need for it... at least not by the US.

We only went to the moon as a political stunt, and an excuse for funding massive amounts of aerospace development during the cold war. That motivation does not exist now, nor does the will of the American people to pony up enough taxes to stop the bleeding and do things like that.

Its unfortunate, but NASA's just doing this to keep their jobs and relevance, and the various politicians supporting it are doing it for political reasons, largely the siphoning of tax money into their districts or the districts of those they owe favors to.

Re:Nobody called Zubrin - (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496968)

Hear, hear, Dude. Though I can't help but notice that the sci fi space adventure magical religious cultists that dominate this forum are making sure nobody will ever read your post.

Slash the defense budget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498512)

I agree with you up to the point where you fail to mention that the US has a defense budget over 20x greater than the amount funneled to NASA. Half the defense budget would be more than enough to set up a small Mars colony if you go by Zubrin's math.

Re:Nobody called Zubrin - (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499162)

What you don't understand is how the economy works. If a government invests in the science and technology for this, jobs will be created (in that country) and the valuation of that country will be higher.

Currently, the US is more bent on destroying other countries (effectively reverting education and science into the stone age) than advancing technologically and building an economy. Why do you think China is booming? Not because every business moved there because it was cheap but because the government actively funded schooling, infrastructure, healthcare etc. in order to accommodate businesses to move there. Off course, their ideology might not fit with yours and that might actually be holding them back more than it should but you can't deny that they haven't basically funded their own economy.

Say the US finds a viable, cost-effective way to get into space and travel long distances maybe even start returning resources. Don't you think China, Europe and other countries won't be interested in sending their own missions along.

Re:Nobody called Zubrin - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497832)

That book is what... 15 years old now? I read it when it was new, and it made sense to me then. It's too bad nobody has chosen to execute his vision. I'm starting to think I'll never get to mars :(

Third route (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496122)

The two routes are presented as exclusive, and only differ in the order of the targets. I say there's a third route: Moon, Mars+Asteroid, Beyond.

Landing on an asteroid is orders of magnitude more difficult than on the Moon or a planet: chances are a lot greater that you'll miss, and there's not a lot of possibilities for in-situ resource utilization, while return windows are possibly few and far between.
It would be safer and more profitable to go to an asteroid at the same time we're building presence on Mars. Hell, Mars has two asteroids for moons, perfect practice ground. The way I see this would be a hybrid of the two scenarios outlined: we deploy a deep space habitat, set up a permanently crewed base on the Moon as a 'pit stop', then take advantage of the lower gravity to launch towards Mars, and later, still from the Moon, towards an interesting asteroid. The first asteroid mission could even be the deployment of a thruster to send the asteroid into a more accessible and safer orbit as a starting point.

This would allow us the most time to test new technologies before plunging into the most dangerous missions during the exploration phase, then to leverage those technologies in the exploitation phase that inevitably (and rightly) follows.

Re:Third route (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496640)

In space you do not want to go down any unnecessary gravity wells. As such I would describe the moon base as a destination, not a place to prep for a trip to Mars. We can and should test out technology we plan to go to Mars with on the Moon, but we shouldn't build a craft on the moon to go to Mars.

Re:Third route (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496736)

Not build, although that's an option too (orbital assembly enables the construction of larger frames than possible to launch economically), rather just a refueling stop after breaking Earth orbit. After all, it takes a lot less delta-v to break orbit from Earth to Moon to Mars than it takes from Earth to Mars in one go...

Re:Third route (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496912)

We can and should test out technology we plan to go to Mars with on the Moon, but we shouldn't build a craft on the moon to go to Mars.

There's very little you can test on the Moon that would be useful on Mars; the environment is far, far too different for lunar experience to be of much use there.

Re:Third route (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497716)

Effects of long-term low-g (but not microgravity) existence on the human body is the one big problem/unknown they share. Both experiments (is 0.2g enough to survive long-term? If so, Mars's 0.4g will be fine, if not, Mars is still an unknown...), and testing the equipment to cope with it (centrifuge+exercise program) will benefit from moon-first -- but only if we establish a permanent or semipermanent base.

Other than that, yeah. The atmosphere makes the landers totally different, the day/night period makes thermal and solar power considerations totally different, and the geology makes any sort of mining & extraction (for water, oxygen, fuel, or metals) completely different. It's an exaggeration to say the only thing they have in common is the need for an air-tight habitat, but not by much.

Moon environment is not the point. (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498056)

We still don't have enough experience getting people through space in healthy condition. That's why we work on getting back to the moon.

That and all the science that remains to be done on the moon.

Also, while the environment-related tech for the moon and for Mars will be drastically different, learning how to deal with the moon's environment will only help learning how to deal with the environment on Mars. Seeing any of these options as mutually exclusive is missing the entire point of space exploration.

Panic programs to get us (back or otherwise) to X in Y time are not a particularly good idea, however.

Re:Moon environment is not the point. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498430)

We still don't have enough experience getting people through space in healthy condition. That's why we work on getting back to the moon.

The Moon is about three days away. Mars is months away. That's like saying that walking to the corner store will give you the experience you need to run a marathon.

Also, while the environment-related tech for the moon and for Mars will be drastically different, learning how to deal with the moon's environment will only help learning how to deal with the environment on Mars.

No it won't, because there's almost nothing in common between the two environments. Problems caused by the environment on Mars mostly won't happen on the Moon, and vice-versa.

You're assuming we have a lot more than we have. (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499404)

How many people have made that "walk to the corner drugstore"?

You're assuming we have a lot more experience in space than we have. Meaningful human activity on Mars is just not going to happen until we have a lot more experience in space.

Re:Moon environment is not the point. (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | about 2 years ago | (#37499816)

Did you only recently build yourself a set of legs? If so then yes, this walk to the corner store is a baby step towards your marathon. No? Well, I guess it's a silly analogy then, isn't it?

Re:Third route (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497508)

If you can get the material to build a craft (or fuel it) from the moon, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than lifting it all out of Earth's gravity well. It's all well and good not to go down any gravity wells, but that's where all the matter is.

Meanwhile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37496268)

China will be working towards Mars. If you are going to do it, AIM HIGH!

Re:Meanwhile (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496990)

China isn't stupid enough to waste money on such a boondoggle. Only we are.

Too little too late (for me) (4, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37496940)

I was eight years old when Neil Armstrong set boots on the Moon; I should have lived to see a thriving colony on Mars! I'm not dead yet, but these sickening roadmaps make it obvious that the chance of me living long enough to see ANY offworld colony is pretty slim. What the fuck happened?

I share Neil Armstrong's frustration, but I don't blame NASA; NASA isn't the problem. The problem is that the species is dominated by short-sighted, ignorant, isolationist fools... and that foolish majority is not only allowed to choose our leadership but is also the pool from which that leadership is chosen. WE collectively are the problem.

We've used NASA as a political football in a decades-long game of tug-of-war; how would you like to administer or work in an agency whose funding and priorities get temptingly dangled close enough to nibble one year but then yanked far out of reach the next, at the whim of Congressional purseholders beholden to public attitudes and corporate shareholders? NASA has been suffering from manic depression for decades because of it.

Neil needs to place the blame squarely where it belongs. How many more generations of visionaries will have their hopes and dreams crushed under the weight of an ignorant mob of billions?

Re:Too little too late (for me) (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497110)

I should have lived to see a thriving colony on Mars! I'm not dead yet, but these sickening roadmaps make it obvious that the chance of me living long enough to see ANY offworld colony is pretty slim. What the fuck happened?

For the benefit of your fellow sci fi space adventure magical religious cultists, please calculate the cost of the following:

Transport 100,000 people to an off-world location of your choosing
Make sure accommodations are built and ready for them
Make them go from 100% to 0% dependent on earth for their survival within 100 years
Explain who will pay for it, how, and why

That will fully answer your question.

Re:Too little too late (for me) (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497218)

That doesn't even partially answer it. If the resources expended on wars in the last 50 years had instead been redirected to expanding the frontier (and enabling future homesteading for misfits and malcontents), we would have several colonies on the Moon and in orbit by now and be poised to make the jump to Mars.

Re:Too little too late (for me) (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497568)

Who cares if you can transport 100,000 people and make them independent? We have bases in the antarctic and arctic that aren't even close to that, and we maintain them for scientific purposes. The moon would be a fantastic place to build some giant telescopes, for example.

Oh, and since you keep repeating yourself, let me tell you a little secret. Ready? There's nothing magical about space travel.

Re:Too little too late (for me) (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497888)

Transport 100,000 people to an off-world location of your choosing
Make sure accommodations are built and ready for them
Make them go from 100% to 0% dependent on earth for their survival within 100 years
Explain who will pay for it, how, and why

Oddly enough, when the Pilgrims went to Plymouth Rock, they took fewer than 100,000.

Their accomodations weren't built and waiting for their arrival.

And they didn't go from 100% to 0% dependent on Europe in 100 years, either.

Personally, I'd settle for 50-100 people (roughly comparable in number to the Pilgrims) in my lifetime, and aim to make them independent on Earth within 300 years.

And, of course, we make them independent on Earth in a sensible fashion - IC's are light, so it's not really all that important that they need to import them from Earth (as one example), but building houses/domes/whatever people live in is mass-intensive (and relatively simple), so it should have a high priority in the whole process of "becoming independent of Earth".

Not, mind you, that there's any chance of that happening in my lifetime. Kennedy made his speech after I was born, and Armstrong took his "small step for a man" when I was 10. But it doesn't look like even the optimistic assumption for going back to the Moon involve periods within my lifetime, much less getting to Mars.

Re:Too little too late (for me) (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498180)

I hate to be a pessimist. Except I am not. You'll probably call me an unreasoning optimist.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a space cowboy with my own rocket to ply the routes between earth and wherever. I wanted to see the stars in my lifetime. Asimov and Heinlein clued me in as to how hard that was going to be, and some pseudo-psychiatry stuff clued me in as to how my personal desire to go there was as much as an expression of my desire to escape from the public school system as it was a real desire to actually go places and do useful things there. Maybe more escapism than goals.

Disillusionment with science turned me to religion. Religion turned me to my fellow man. For the last six years or so, I've been (barely) making my living in the public school system that I used to hate. I find that I no longer need to escape.

But I can recognize the long-term need for space as one of the frontiers we need to keep challenging, to keep our technology advancing in ways other than designing cheaper, faster gaming consoles and entertainment systems.

Figuring out how to get into orbit without doing semi-permanent harm to the environment is one good project that could help us learn how to get around on the ground without doing so much damage.

Before any "next" (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497524)

Rather than make pie in the sky plans for moon missions or asteroid missions, how about a good, solid foundation of getting people the first 100 miles. Plan for that. Achieve that goal and THEN see about trying to get further out, based on an actual, sensible reason for going.

Every journey starts with a first step.

It should be something that can pay for itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497622)

It should be an astronomical body (moon, asteroid, etc) that has a potential payoff say in scarce minerals like lithium, platinium, uranium (unobtainium) or water. It should be something that would provide a raw resource to offset the costs associated with space travel or to make an aspect of space travel possible that would not have been possible without it.

Water as fuel when combined with solar energy. Water to produce breathable oxygen. Soil that could be used to support the growth of plants. Uranium oxide to refine into fuel ... in space. Something that we can use without having to bring it with us to help continue space exploration.

It should be both asteroids and moon (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497664)

The reason is that private space wants to go to the moon. We should take advantage of this. The X-prizes, and COTS approach is paying off with equipment being developed. Even the sub-orbitals, such as blue origin, will be interesting in that their equipment with some mods and MINIMAL amounts of ground set-up, will be capable of working on/off the moon. Basically, the moon is a good step for private space along with gov. help. But when going beyond the moon, that is where NASA should focus. Sending a small crew to an asteroid is a good first step to Mars. Well, that is the kind of things that private space will NOT do. Likewise, having NASA and others work on tugs esp. nuclear engines such as NERVA, makes good sense.

Private space is planning on being on the moon by 2020.
So, lets do both the moon and an asteroid.

Re:It should be both asteroids and moon (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498086)

I wondered how long it would take for 'private space flight' to be mentioned.

Private spaceflight is, right now, pathetic. And an ideologically motivated insistence on it has crippled NASA. Congratulations on handing Mars over to the Russians and the Chinese.

Re:It should be both asteroids and moon (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499214)

This is not about ideology. NASA has been stymed for 40 years under the likes of Nixon, reagan, and W. Under Clinton, he allow the neo-cons to gut NASA to which W then joined in. We NEED multiple launchers. That is a fact. Just look at SkyLab and now ISS. 2 space stations and we lost the first one because of Nixon and would have lost ISS had it not been for Russia. Congress and bad admins have gutted NASA to the point that they continue to lose important items

NOW, we will have TRUE redundancy in our systems for human launches. What will be missing will be SHLV redundancy. Thankfully, within 2 year, SLS will be dead. At that time, SpaceX will have Falcon Heavy at 54 tonnes to LEO. Within 1 year after (possibly at that time), they will have raptor second stage and will have 70 tonnes to LEO. That is the same as what SLS PROMISES. The difference is that SLS will cost 18 billion just to get it to their and cost another 1.5-2 billion to launch 70 tonnes. OTH, FH-raptor will cost less than 150 million. IOW, it will cost 1/10 of the price.

Now, so far what has kept us from going to Mars and the moon? Well, Poppa Bush wanted to go to Mars. Good plans. HOWEVER, the price was to be 50-100 billion. That got shot down. Then W/neo-cons gutted NASA and started Constellation, but seriously underfunded. So, instead of Safe-Simple-Soon, it became complex and 15 years out JUST FOR ARES I (not including Ares V). Worse, we spent 10 billion and lowest estimates were that it would be another 10 billion just to launch 24 tonnes to LEO and at a costs of .5-1 B. Pretty much useless.

If anyone hands mars and moon to Russia and China, that would be you commi-loving neo-cons who are more interested in gutting America and NASA, than in help America and the future.

Re:It should be both asteroids and moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498122)

Render on to JPL that which is robotics, render on to JSC that which is human.

Sigh....The Myth of Humans in Space still persists (0)

Xilinx_guy (551837) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498224)

I am constantly frustrated with Yet Another Plan for Humans In Space. When will the politicians finally recognize the folly and waste in trying to put Humans into an environment completely unsuited for them? Do we see bizarre unrealistic plans to colonize Antartica? or the bottom of the sea? Then why this fetish about putting humans in outer space? Because of the constant re-runs of Star Trek and Stargate on the Syfy channel? Who believes that crap? It's patently obvious that the future belongs to the machines.. and only the machines.. Machines designed and constructed to excel in their target environment. I speak not from random passion, but from actual experience. I'm a 10 year veteran of JPL. We built machines there that *worked*, that explored the outer planets, and returned vast amounts of serious data. We should not be wasting another dime on putting humans any higher than 50,000 feet. Everything above that should be done by machines, and the best AI we can muster. Money should be poured into radiation resistant computing, AI, and self repairing electronics with massive redundancy. We need to establish AI operated bases on the moon and near earth asteroids, in order to start using the matter for construction of space based observation and computing platforms. No question, the future of the human civilization is *in* space.... with the machines we create. Not with monkeys in space.

priorities all wrong (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498440)

NASA is full of bureaucratic morons trying to justify their fat government pay checks. unless they want to continue their slide in credibility and funding, they had better sort their shit out and get a clue.

How about for a first priority: MAKE ACCESS TO LOW EARTH ORBIT CHEAPER, SAFER, MORE RELIABLE AND MORE REGULAR

NASA can make whatever plans they want, but the cold war is over, Kennedy is dead, and they will never have the budget to go to the moon the same way again. Period.

They haven't even got an operational space shuttle any more for crap sake.

The only thing this useless waste of paper might achieve is offering some ideas to the Russians.

Hint to NASA morons: Voters don't give a shit about where astronauts go next if there is no immediate tangible benefit for them. It isn't greed, its just common sense. NASA is squandering millions in hard-earned tax payer dollars, and for what?

One apon a time NASA was doing great things and paving the way for technological progress. The people who could be making the difference are being drowned out by political and ommercial interests.

I predict that either the Russians will take the moon, or western society will eventually wake up and revolt to end the scurge of corrupttion and greed that is our capitalist economy. No I'm not advocating communism as the answer, rather what (in Australia) is called "non-trading cooperatives"
http://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/CA256EB5000644CE/page/Business+names-Co-operatives [vic.gov.au]

If I had to bet, I'd go with the Russians

We need an Earth Orbit Asteroid (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498630)

A VASIMR type plasma rocket can haul back 20x it's fuel weight in from a nearby asteroid. Since part of most rocks is Oxygen, you can extract that and use it for fuel for later trips, and keep hauling back more asteroid chunks. What do you do with all that asteroid stuff in Earth Orbit? Any metals can go to building living quarters and machines. Any carbon can be used to create space elevator cable. Some oxygen is good for breathing, some for fuel, and some to make water with. You still need to bring the Hydrogen from Earth, but that's only 11% by weight.

This approach does two things. The partial space elevator makes it easier to bring stuff up from Earth. The ability to bring back and use materials from asteroids cuts the percentage of stuff you need to bring from Earth. Those multiply together. For example, if launch costs are reduced to 20% of what they were before, and you can supply 80% of your materials from asteroids, then combined your cost to get something done is reduced by 25 times.

damn half-empty glass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498848)

Option 4: the whole world is fucked anyway, so lets nuke the whole planet from orbit.

"its the only way to be sure" - Ellen Ripley
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