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Using Fuel Depots Instead of Giant Rockets

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the just-put-in-the-cheap-stuff dept.

NASA 202

EccentricAnomaly writes "The New York Times has a story about a leaked NASA study that showed it would cost $80 BIllion less and get astronauts to an asteroid sooner if NASA used fuel depots instead of developing a new rocket. According to the article, NASA's response to the leaked study is to start developing fuel depots in addition to continuing its new rocket program. Because, after all, who doesn't need more cool stuff."

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202 comments

More drool for the space fool (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809460)

There won't be an astronaut on an asteroid. Forget it, get over it. We no longer have the raw energy capacity to spare for these kinds of grandiose stunts. Besides, we already know what's out there, we have pictures. Technology keeps getting better and better, there's no reason to send a person when you can send thousands of probes instead.

Re:More drool for the space fool (5, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | about 2 years ago | (#37809502)

there's no reason to visit Italy, Australia, Hawaii, or wherever it is that may be interesting to visit, when you have pictures of the place on the internet? That's the same thing right?

Now human experience counts for nothing?

Yes yes, I know, robots are better than internet pictures, still though, a virtual experience isn't the same, any more than madden 2012 is the same as playing NFL football.

We -certainly- have the energy, money, and will to do human space exploration, we're just currently wasting all 3 on other endeavors.

Re:More drool for the space fool (4, Insightful)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 2 years ago | (#37809524)

So, we should pay multiple billions so that one or two people have "the human experience"?

Maybe when we have "Total Recall" and can experience other people's memories!

'till then, I'd rather send the robots, until we have a VIABLE strategy for actually exporting humans into permanent off-world colonies.

--PM

Re:More drool for the space fool (4, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | about 2 years ago | (#37809610)

yes, when humans have actually gone there, they can give firsthand accounts. robots can't. until we have sci-fi levels of virtual reality (which should never really happen with the transmission delay), sending a robot in place of a human is -not- the same. I'm not saying stop robot research, obviously that's beneficial. I'm saying that send robots first, to scout out for humanity.

Multiple billions of dollars spread across the economy of humanity is a drop in the bucket.

Re:More drool for the space fool (2, Insightful)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37809660)

What kind of worthwhile first hand accounts have we gotten from astronauts that went to the moon or to low earth orbit ?

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#37809852)

Seriously? All the astronauts from all countries have given first hand accounts of their reaction to space. The robotics program does a lot of science and gets a lot of people interested, but it's the first hand accounts that really capture people's imaginations. To watch the short film "Yuri" or talk to someone who watched the first moon landing live. Or read one of the ISS astronauts' blogs.

Re:More drool for the space fool (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#37809888)

Seriously? All the astronauts from all countries have given first hand accounts of their reaction to space.

The OP said worthwhile accounts. While a poetic statement about "beautiful desolation" or looking down on the Earth might sound nice, it doesn't advance our knowledge of space much.

It's the first hand accounts that really capture people's imaginations. To watch the short film "Yuri" or talk to someone who watched the first moon landing live.

Sure, the public watched the first moon landing and got fired up, but that enthusiasm dropped like a rock with subsequent landings. Human endeavours in space no longer interest the general population. As much as nerds like to talk about the importance of capturing people's imaginations, all the initiatives they launch fail.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#37810042)

The OP said worthwhile accounts. While a poetic statement about "beautiful desolation" or looking down on the Earth might sound nice, it doesn't advance our knowledge of space much.

Some people's definition of "worthwhile" expand beyond raw knowledge of what that person experienced. Is it not worthwhile to encourage people to be interested in what is out there? After all, without such interest even your robots wouldn't get any funding. Is it not worthwhile to provide roll models for kids and inspiration to all? But perhaps some of the most worthwhile things I've seen come out of the accounts of astronauts are even less tangible, their descriptions of the planet as seen from space go a long way to help causes such as environmental protection and world peace.

Human space travel has a lot of intangible benefits, and while it isn't the right answer for everything, stating that it has no merit at all is rather naive.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | about 2 years ago | (#37810006)

This might be cheating, "but..." [yimg.com]

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37810036)

The question was about manned vs robotic travel. While that's a beautiful picture, it could have been made just fine by an unmanned probe.

Re:More drool for the space fool (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37809750)

That is how aviation got off the ground. That is how large ships were created. That is how cars were create. That is how railroads were created. The rich started first and then as the price came down, the average person can go. It is about economics.

Re:More drool for the space fool (2, Insightful)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37809814)

All those things has a positive return on investment. People invested in railroads and ships because they could make money moving stuff around.

Manned space travel is just a useless money pit.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809828)

(overheard in Queen Isabella's court)

Sending that fool, Columbus, on a trip to find a new route to China is just a useless money pit.

Re:More drool for the space fool (2)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37809878)

Except that we know more about space than Columbus knew about the earth. We can be pretty sure that on our way to that asteroid, there's only a cold hard vacuum.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809920)

And, what do we have here? A cold, cruel world, where people kill each other. At least on the way to the asteroid belts, there won't be any murders!

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#37809902)

If Queen Isabella was developing robotics that could cheaply sail to the west and extract resources for her, then sending people would have been a useless money pit. That lame comparison just won't do any more.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809928)

And, if Isabella had balls, she would have been king. What's your point, exactly? Robotics are better than manned space flight? Hmmm - then why bother sending the damned bots? MY only justification for robots is, they can scout out the richest areas for men to go to. They can find potentially habitable places in space, or confirm that they can be made habitable.

Robots are a means to an end, and that end is to get mankind off of this one stupid rock that we can call our own.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#37809948)

mmm - then why bother sending the damned bots?

To bring, for example, rare minerals that allow us to produce more nice things on Earth.

MY only justification for robots is, they can scout out the richest areas for men to go to.

Everything's not you, bro...

Robots are a means to an end, and that end is to get mankind off of this one stupid rock that we can call our own.

...and so don't expect everyone to share your personal ends.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37810014)

ROFLMAO - I DON'T expect everyone to share my personal views. But, looking at your posts, it might seem that you expect as much!

And, BTW - as for robots mining the asteroids, to send nice stuff back to earth? Don't expect that in anyone's lifetime. Not unless men are sent to control and supervise the robots. And, if men are sent, they'll probably want women to be sent. And, if women are sent, you can expect some little people soon enough. Pretty soon - you'll have a colony, however official or unofficial that might be.

One question, though. What do you expect to find in space that is "nice" enough to ship back to earth? Iron? Gems? Heavy metals? I think that you're mostly going to find just plain old rocks, some ores, and a lot of ice.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#37810114)

Nope. A trade route to China was known to be worthwhile - that's why lots of people were trying to find one. The only resistance to Columbus came from people who pointed out that the diameter of the Earth had been measured accurately repeatedly since the greeks, and all of those measurements said that he'd run out of food and starve about half way to China.

He was very fortunate to find a habitable continent on the way. That is simply not going to happen in space. Maps of the ocean were astonishingly primitive then. You can only see a few miles in any direction from a ship and you could only make maps where ships had gone (and, even then, the position could easily be tens of miles off). In contrast, we have the ability to observe anywhere that we might consider sending manned explorers to.

More importantly though, robotic explorers, if they'd been available, could have done a much better job than Columbus. The first mapping satellites gave us detailed images of places deep in jungles and deserts that were difficult to get to. Humans were only needed when it came to settling, and we're a way away from having humans settle in space.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#37809866)

They didn't when they started.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37809904)

Of course they knew. It's pretty obvious that a railroad or a ship would be able to produce a profit pretty quickly.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#37810070)

So we shouldn't do anything that takes a longer term to produce a profit?

In actual fact, many railroads were built at government expense simply because private enterprise couldn't see a profit in doing so, had profit been the only motivator many long distance railways would never have been built, (or at least would have been built a lot later) (See for one example the history of Canadian Pacific Railways)

Sometimes things need to be worked on now that won't produce a profit "quickly", or that we may not be 100% sure how to fully monetize at all. That doesn't make the endeavour itself worthless or without merit.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37810158)

So we shouldn't do anything that takes a longer term to produce a profit?

What profit can we get from space, and what's the up-front investment going to be ?

If you're going to suggest mining asteroids, or something like that, please present a rough estimate on how to get the stuff back to earth for a price that can compete with earth mining.

Re:More drool for the space fool (4, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | about 2 years ago | (#37809762)

Somebody has to be the first.

I don't expect to go into space in my lifetime. But I'd like my kids to have a better chance than I did.

I want humans to venture forth from Earth in every direction towards every destination. We can work towards that goal even if we have no idea when we'll acheive it. And doing so is worthwhile even when we have so many other challenges closer to home.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how much time and money we spend, we will not "cure" hunger, poverty, and war. These attributes are baked into the human condition. So long as man has free will, some men will choose destructive ends.

Ultimately, humanity must escape the cradle of Earth and venture forth, to provide assurance that we will not be snuffed out by destruction -- self-made or otherwise.

Finally, the exploration of frontiers unknown brings out the best our kind has to offer. It is why we exist. When we navel gaze we are not fulfilling our purpose. We are not leaving the legacy our descandants deserve.

Re:More drool for the space fool (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#37809926)

Ultimately, humanity must escape the cradle of Earth and venture forth, to provide assurance that we will not be snuffed out by destruction -- self-made or otherwise.

Why? That narrative about it being humankind's destiny to expand and live forever just doesn't hold any more. Plenty of thinkers have speculated that the human race has other possible futures, such as voluntary extinction (declining birthrates in the wake of robots doing almost everything, for example), replacement by a new AI species, living on Earth inside a virtual reality instead of expanding outward, etc.

Finally, the exploration of frontiers unknown brings out the best our kind has to offer. It is why we exist. When we navel gaze we are not fulfilling our purpose.

The "purpose" you want to shackle people to is an accident of evolutionary biology. As a sentient species with (relative) free will, we can choose to enjoy this life we have before us and we are not obliged to propagate humanity unto the ages and fill the cosmos. We owe our descendants nothing if we choose not to have descendants.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

bmajik (96670) | about 2 years ago | (#37809950)

People who postulate voluntary extinction of the species do not count as "thinkers" in my book.

I have no inclination to shackle anyone.

If you choose not to have descendants that's a fine choice for you. If your basic POV is that you have no interest whatsoever in the descandants of humanity in general, then you are entirely useless to me. Enjoy playing shuffleboard or whatever.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 2 years ago | (#37810134)

I have no inclination to shackle anyone.

So then, tell us exactly how you intend to pay for sending people to "venture forth" into space? Because, last I checked, the vast majority of high-income taxpayers tend towards the belief that federal R&D, especially pie-in-the-sky projects with no return other than feel-good propaganda, should be eliminated and left to the voluntary spending of the private sector.

This is Slashdot. If you could make a compelling case for manned space exploration anywhere, it would be here. The fact is that there is far more benefit in unmanned space programs at the moment, and that private space companies are stepping up to make that a reality. I mean, have some perspective. My grandmother worked for NASA. I had teachers who worked at NASA. I'm sure Slashdotters reading this story currently work at NASA. When they tell you that they would rather see 100 unmanned missions that return real benefit rather than 5 manned missions that merely capture people's imagination, why wouldn't you listen to them? If you want to see anyone besides a few space cowboys leave the planet in your lifetime, you should support the development of more reliable, more automated space travel instead of more publicity stunts.

Re:More drool for the space fool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809528)

there's no reason to visit Italy, Australia, Hawaii, or wherever it is that may be interesting to visit, when you have pictures of the place on the internet? That's the same thing right?

Now human experience counts for nothing?

Yes yes, I know, robots are better than internet pictures, still though, a virtual experience isn't the same, any more than madden 2012 is the same as playing NFL football.

We -certainly- have the energy, money, and will to do human space exploration, we're just currently wasting all 3 on other endeavors.

While Australia and Hawaii are great to visit, I strongly recommend that pictures on the internet suffice for Italy. That way you can pretend the rapists are charming.

Re:More drool for the space fool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809676)

there's no reason to visit Italy, Australia, Hawaii, or wherever it is that may be interesting to visit, when you have pictures of the place on the internet? That's the same thing right?

Now human experience counts for nothing?

Yes yes, I know, robots are better than internet pictures, still though, a virtual experience isn't the same, any more than madden 2012 is the same as playing NFL football.

We -certainly- have the energy, money, and will to do human space exploration, we're just currently wasting all 3 on other endeavors.

While Australia and Hawaii are great to visit, I strongly recommend that pictures on the internet suffice for Italy. That way you can pretend the rapists are charming.

Why was this modded down? Italy is one of the few remaining chauvanist states. Women have something of a second class status there. If a woman is with her husband, father, brother, etc she is usually left alone. But any women alone in the streets are likely to get groped, fondled, possibly even raped with little or no recourse. It's like they don't matter. Same way a white Southerner in the 1800s wouldn't ever face trial for beating up a black person.

You can mod this down too if you think that makes the facts go away.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809848)

"Italy is one of the few remaining chauvanist states."

Perhaps you're unaware of all those theistic Islamic states, where a woman can be stoned to death for defending herself against being raped. Most Asian and Pacific nations are better - but not so much that it bears bragging about. In China, the biggest state in the world, it's customary for men to beat their wives when they feel frustrated, threatened, or just bored.

But, you go on believing that Italy is somehow one of the worst states in the world.

Re:More drool for the space fool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809996)

"Italy is one of the few remaining chauvanist states."

Perhaps you're unaware of all those theistic Islamic states, where a woman can be stoned to death for defending herself against being raped. Most Asian and Pacific nations are better - but not so much that it bears bragging about. In China, the biggest state in the world, it's customary for men to beat their wives when they feel frustrated, threatened, or just bored.

But, you go on believing that Italy is somehow one of the worst states in the world.

I meant to say "Western chauvanist states". But ok. Go team Italy. Defend that sore spot you obviously have. Yay!

I'll never understand the bullshit logic some of you easily offended types use to escape dealing with reality. "Person X murdered somebody, my gosh, how horrible!" "Nah, that's okay and you shouldn't say anything negative about it, because Person Y murdered ten people!"

Yes, what Unrelated Entity A does somehow excuses everything wrong about Unrelated Entity B. Yup. Uh huh. Feel better now?

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#37809598)

There's not much difference between pictures from Italy taken by a remote webcam, or pictures from Italy taken by an astronaut.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809742)

"there's no reason to visit Italy, Australia, Hawaii, or wherever it is that may be interesting to visit, "

Yes, but it doesn't require rockets the size of skyscrapers filled with so much fuel they're *this* close to being a nuclear bomb, they don't require years of astronaut training, they don't require 100% reliable life-support engineering, special food, and it won't cause dozens of "space-adaptation syndrome" diseases when you do decide to visit Italy. Also, once in Italy, you can interact with the surroundings without needing a space suit, there won't be hard radiation trying to kill you, you can breathe, the temperature is correct, there are people. (I know that "there are people" is not an important feature for the average Asperger's Space Nutter).

I mean seriously, you're comparing dead rocks floating in a vacuum to a country like Italy? Are you like twelve? You seriously can't see the difference?

"We -certainly- have the energy, money, and will to do human space exploration,"

I think you need to get in touch with reality. Everything you take for granted comes from oil. Unless you think this is an infinite resource, it's going to run out. Do you think on a world with 7 billion people that will be powered by windmills and solar, you're going to be able to pull an Apollo-style stunt?

If so, for what? So a handful of A-type personalities can take years of training to go on a rock? Seriously? That's all you think "human experience" can be?

Grow the fuck up. You can climb a mountain free-style right here on Earth. You can go hang-gliding, hot-air ballooning, skydiving, you name it.

Something tells me you don't. You prefer praying to the sky rocks while crying over your 40 year old space posters.

The Space Age is dead. Get over it. No one cries because they don't have a 1960s mainframe computer at home. Why? Because it makes no sense. It also makes no sense to expend vast amounts of resources and energy for a stunt that satisfies a handful of damaged people.

Re:More drool for the space fool (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809856)

Wow, you ARE a damaged person, aren't you?

Re:More drool for the space fool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37810102)

Awwww, did I crush an old man's Space Age fantasies? Boo fucking hoo. Do you realize that even the wildest, most lunatic Space Age prophets completely missed the computer revolution? Even the craziest futuristic sci-fi thought we'd have faster than light spacecraft... with computers so large they needed to be in building's basements.

Information requires very little energy and resources to work with. We're getting closer and closer to those fundamental limits but they're on the small side. On the other hand, we've hit the limits on material strength and propulsion technology early on, a 747 from 1969 really doesn't look or act very differently from the latest ones.

We expect instant porn from Brazil but flying there still takes 6 hours.

Simply put, there is no room in physics for the delusional fantasies of the Space Age. The progress curve flattened out very early, very fast on the physics side.

Sorry, unless you've been hiding some secret elements from the Periodic Table, what we have now is IT. There won't be flying cars, personal rockets, commuting to the office on the Moon and weekends at the Mars bungalow.

There never, ever will. Humanity is growing up, the dreams of childhood are behind us now. In front is REALITY. You can either stick your head up your own ass and continue to loudly proclaim the need to mine asteroids and land astronauts on Jupiter's core, but reality says we better get our shit together right here, right now, with real solutions made of practical materials.

Your call.

I think we need better pants (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#37809478)

Seriously. What is with this astronaut sh!t all the time and still my pants are forking ugly, and pants cost so much at the forking store and sh!t, plus it smells bad here and I'm hungry. NASA is such a waste of my valuabil time. Do you agree? YES!

Re:I think we need better pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809568)

Moderate Parent: +what

Re:I think we need better pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809664)

Your panth are ugly because you keep thitting in them, you thithead! Thath why it smelth bad there.

It costh too much to send Americanth into space becauthe they are too fat and PIG DITHGUTHTING. Do you want a pitha? A hamburder?!

Re:I think we need better pants (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809876)

Pants are ugly because an ugly person pours him/herself into them every morning. (Well, on the mornings that he/she hasn't just slept in those panst!) If you were to lose about 180 pounds, you might find that you can get some nice looking pants, and you won't have to pay Omar in excess of $200 and a goat for each pair!

Uhm... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#37809484)

I doubt that any current rocket could make use of an on orbit depot, because 90% of all current rockets are discarded before orbit is achieved, not to mention that none of them are designed to be refueled after use (most rockets are ignited externally for example). It might just be that a new rocket is needed as well...

Re:Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809506)

Sure, and the Space Station can't be re-fueled either.

Re:Uhm... (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#37809532)

Things that are designed to be refueled, can be refueled. Amazing what can happen with a little planning, isn't it?

Re:Uhm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809516)

Ah, reality and facts, the Kryptonite of Space Nutters.

Re:Uhm... (4, Informative)

Temkin (112574) | about 2 years ago | (#37809712)

The Apollo J-2 was designed to restarted way back in 1967, as was the Aerojet AJ-10 from the late 1950's.

AJ-10 variants were used for both the Apollo SM engine, and the Shuttle OMS pods. They were designed to remain fueled for long periods of time and be re-ignightable. This is a solvable problem.

Re:Uhm... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#37809792)

And that's my point - how many of those are integrated into the currently active generation of rockets? Just because it's a "solved" problem doesn't mean it's still available on current systems.

Re:Uhm... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#37809896)

Uhhhmmmm - didn't they shut down the engines, and restart them, on the shuttles? And, didn't they refuel those shuttles, and fling them back into space on new missions? DUHHH! I really can't remember hearing about the shuttle pilots going outside, so that they could strike a match, to start up the rocket engines, either.

Re:Uhm... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#37810056)

No, the main Shuttle engines were never shut down and restarted, once they were shut down that was it. Take a look at a shuttle launch video sometime - the main engines were started by sparks generated by systems on the ground, not onboard systems. The OMS engines were restarted, but they use a different type of fuel to that used for the launch.

Also, the Shuttles were never refueled in orbit. Infact, it's pretty hard to suggest they were ever refueled, because the fuel tanks were discarded and burned up. Only the sold fuel boosters were reused, and that isn't ever going to happen in space due to the logistics of that type of fuel.

So, none of your comment at all answers my comment.

Rockets are easy to refuel, here's an example (1)

DanDD (1857066) | about 2 years ago | (#37810186)

Rockets are easy to refuel. Here's a nice example of plans (well under way, lots of stuff already flying) to make a modern re-usable, re-fuelable rockets:

http://www.space.com/13139-space-fully-reusable-rockets-works.html [space.com]

Let's have both. (5, Insightful)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 2 years ago | (#37809522)

We could easily have both. Easily. Let me show you how:

NASA's budget: $18.724 billion (Fiscal Year 2011) (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA [wikipedia.org] )

Department of Defense's budget: $663.8

Which does NOT including Iraq and Afghanistan, which together are approximately $900 billion, and does NOT including the care for the approximately 33,000 wounded veterans those wars have produced... which is probably a few billion, but I couldn't find an easy source so let's just go with nothing. But remember it's there.

Adding those into DoD's budget gives: $1,563.8 billion. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org] )

That means that DOD gets 83 times as much as NASA gets. They could reduce their budget by 1/83rd and double Nasa's budget.

A country needs defense. I get it. But seriously -- NASA is one of those organizations that, if your pour money into it, does AMAZING things. Things that give so much back to the scientific community -- things like computers, insulation, search and rescue, navigation, everything. So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so many technologies can be traced back to the space program... and while DoD are great inventors too, especially in medical treatment, materials, transportation... NASA gives so much back too and no brown people have to die.

Can't we just have a couple less B2 Stealth Bombers (B-52's bomb brown people just fine) and a couple less F-22's (F-15 Eagles still have never been defeated in combat) and GET THE FUCK TO MARS?

Re:Let's have both. (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 2 years ago | (#37809546)

Yes, but they also study climate change which automatically negates all the good stuff they do to the smaller government lobby.

Re:Let's have both. (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#37809572)

Can't we just have a couple less B2 Stealth Bombers (B-52's bomb brown people just fine) and a couple less F-22's (F-15 Eagles still have never been defeated in combat) and GET THE FUCK TO MARS?

The B-2 is no longer produced, so nothing but sunk cost and amortised operating costs there, and the F-22s production is finishing very soon.

Re:Let's have both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809690)

How about we axe the JSF instead?

Re:Let's have both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809752)

Already axed the f22 because the jsf was going to have a cheaper unit cost.

Re:Let's have both. (1)

transami (202700) | about 2 years ago | (#37809632)

Oh, so you actually think THEY want to go to mars? Or any such thing.

The problem is that the people that tend to rise to power are megalomaniacs and control freaks. All they care about is maintaining power and exerting their ego on others. The have no vision beyond that. And worse still, most of them are just as happy to murder people in unjust wars as to do something good for humanity. And the murder thing pays better $, so there you are.

Re:Let's have both. (2, Interesting)

bmajik (96670) | about 2 years ago | (#37809650)

Here here!

The ENTIRE APOLLO PROGRAM cost 160 billion in ADJUSTED 2005 Dollars!!

That's all missions over the entire program, all support technologies that had to be invented for it, -- everything, the whole enchilada.

So, _every year_ we spend about 6 _APOLLO PROGRAMS_ blowing up people that don't even matter to us. We borrow 9 APOLLO PROGRAMS every _year_.

I recommend 1 "Apollo Program" as the new unit of measure of government stupidity. All things the federal government does should be measured in terms of Apollo programs and then the question should be asked, "was that as awesome as how many apollo programs it just cost us? No? then get rid of it"

I'm one of these irritating libertarian/anarchist types that hates government, but damn if I don't have a soft spot for the space program. If we're going to have a huge federal monster it might as well do things that pay dividends (unlike bombing foreign brown people -- or giving domestic brown people "free" iphones)

I don't know much about the modern difficultues within NASA. I'm sure that it is surrounded by a bunch of flagellate "private" corporations who bilk NASA and uncle sam for every penny they can and do substandard work. And I suspect it is filled internally with fiefdoms and micro-politicians who care much more about maintaing clout than working towards some overarching shared goal.

I want to understand what NASA was doing right in the 60s and re-institute that culture, environment, and most importantly, operational excellence. And I want to utilize the exiciting private work that has finally started happening in space exploration.

I don't care how it gets done, I want more American boots on foreign worlds instead of foreign battlefieds. If we need to call it the militarization of space to make it strictly constitutional, so be it. There was a different article about what to do with old satellites. Hell, blow them up. Develop our anti-satellite missile systems and space-based lasers to the point that we can safely dispose of satellites whenever cleanup would be most convenient. We can bill foreign entities to dispose of their stuff for them (at discount rates, since we're doing it to perfect our capabilities).

The point is, its embarassing that our national priorities seem to focus entirely on blowing up poor people abroad and creating a cycle of dependant poor people domestically.

Let's instead focus on growing the small fraction of people who still look towards the infinite skies and dream of what the human race can acheive.

Re:Let's have both. (2, Insightful)

DanDD (1857066) | about 2 years ago | (#37810236)

> So, _every year_ we spend about 6 _APOLLO PROGRAMS_ blowing up people that don't even matter to us. We borrow 9 APOLLO PROGRAMS every _year_.

Ahem. Please keep this kind of generalization to yourself. All humans matter to me, especially those that need blowing up. However, I do appreciate your sentiment that our priorities are severely skewed.

Re:Let's have both. (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#37809692)

Adding those into DoD's budget gives: $1,563.8 billion.

Umm, no.

You added eight years worth of supplemental and emergency appropriations ($900 B) onto last year's military budget.

The same article showed the correct amount to add for this year: $37 billion.

Which would make the correct value $700.3 billion, less than half what you asserted.

Re:Let's have both. (2)

jfengel (409917) | about 2 years ago | (#37809972)

Still, a goodly sum of money. And a lot of people are prepared to see it reduced.

The question is where you direct the reduction. There's a lot of demand to see it put into debt reduction; that is, reducing DoD spending AND not increasing NASA's spending, so that the deficit isn't quite so big.

There are good arguments to be made for either. I'll let you know if I ever hear anybody engaging in one, rather than spouting ideological and partisan talking points.

Re:Let's have both. (2)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 2 years ago | (#37810080)

You are correct, and I stand corrected.

It's still what I call a metric fucktonne of money, when the entire budget for NASA is a rounding error for the DoD.

Re:Let's have both. (2)

glodime (1015179) | about 2 years ago | (#37810148)

Mod Parent up. Thanks.

I'm still in favor of using some of that $700.3 billion to double NASA's Budget.

Re:Let's have both. (3, Insightful)

medcalf (68293) | about 2 years ago | (#37809698)

I'm all about getting to Mars. Heck, offer me a one way ticket and I'm off. But here's the deal: NASA is not going to get us there. Today's NASA is not the entrepreneurial NASA of the 1960s or even the 1970s. This is an Iron Law bureaucracy whose job is to keep working, which they do by spreading money across a lot of important Senators' districts. Note the important fact left out of the summary: this finding of getting there cheaper with fuel depots was buried by NASA for months because they didn't want to interfere with the SLS funding, which like Constellation before it is almost certain to never, ever fly. Consider that the last successful NASA development program for rockets was run in the 1970s, with the Shuttle. (And that was only successful if "success" means "getting people into space" as opposed to meeting cost or capability targets.) The only new rockets since then have been commercial, and NASA is in a love/hate relationship with those.

SLS makes zero sense (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37809710)

Space is no longer about access. It is about economics. The SLS is based on a design that was the best that we could nearly 50 years ago. Now, we can do much better.

Donate Here (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#37810106)

GET THE FUCK TO MARS?

Donate here [marssociety.org] . Convince your friends to donate also.

If they can't do it on donations, not enough people actually care about doing it.

Old idea that hopefully gets used. (2)

Graff (532189) | about 2 years ago | (#37809536)

This is an old idea that should have been implemented long ago. Fuel tanks can survive much higher g-forces and can be built and launched relatively cheaply compared to satellites and personnel.

In fact, fuel is just about the perfect candidate for a mass driver [wikipedia.org] where energy can be stored up and then released in a burst into a linear induction motor or similar technology. This means that much less expensive and less polluting energy sources can be used in the launch as opposed to most rocket fuels. It's also inherently safer since you don't have a 5000 degree F flame that you need to feed and control.

Once the fuel tanks are exhausted they can be converted into modules for space stations or spacecraft, probably much more efficient than building them to survive a re-entry to get re-used. Why waste all the energy it took to get them up there and the energy it would take to send up a pre-built module when you can design the tanks for re-use?

Yeah, there's a lot of complexity that I'm doing some hand-waving around but it's still a great concept that should be developed further.

Re:Old idea that hopefully gets used. (1)

Graff (532189) | about 2 years ago | (#37809578)

In fact, fuel is just about the perfect candidate for a mass driver where energy can be stored up and then released in a burst into a linear induction motor or similar technology.

To add to this, the energy doesn't have to be a massive amount used up in a quick burst. You can perform some of the acceleration over a period of time on a circular racetrack and then launch it once it has a good deal of its final energy. Obviously this will require a good deal of engineering to get right but there's already been a lot of work done on this topic.

Re:Old idea that hopefully gets used. (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 2 years ago | (#37809608)

Aha! Perhaps we can recycle the circle at Fermi...

Re:Old idea that hopefully gets used. (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 2 years ago | (#37809688)

I wonder if this has anything to do with JP Aerospace and their balloon space station.

You could float gaseous hydrogen up in balloons, collect oxygen from the upper atmosphere, use photovoltaics to compress it, and basically eliminate a huge chunk of the launch fuel requirements. Rockets could dock at your floating fuel depot on the way to orbit.

Not needed. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37809702)

We need chemicals for a short time. BUT, for moving around in space, Chemicals do not provide much promise long term. Instead, moving to using solar to move cargo around LEO makes good sense. For humans, we will use chemicals to move humans, but far safer, faster and cheaper to use nukes in the moderate haul on. And as to launch, today, we use rockets, but that is going to change. Scaled Composites launch of cargo will happen in about 3 years or less. It will be a fraction of the costs of SpaceX. Likewise, it is certain that Skylon will work. Once it does, all companies will quickly change. Why? ECONOMICS. Space is no longer about access, but economics (which is why SLS will be dead sooner, not later).

Re:Not needed. (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 2 years ago | (#37809776)

Why exactly is Skylon cheaper? It still looks like chemicals (H2, O2) to me, just in the form of a space plane instead of a vertical take-off rocket.

Re:Not needed. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#37809890)

Why exactly is Skylon cheaper? It still looks like chemicals (H2, O2) to me, just in the form of a space plane instead of a vertical take-off rocket.

It could be reused. It's SSTO (single stage to orbit) so no expensive Big Ugly Booster.

It also doesn't work just yet, they're making baby steps on the engine. It's a nice idea, but I wouldn't buy any tickets just yet.

Re:Not needed. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37810164)

Disregard the reusability issue for the moment. Where is the weight of a rocket? The actual METAL, and physical parts are less than 15% of the weight (IIRC, it is about5%, but I prefer to hedge). So, where is the weight? FUEL. A rocket is more than 80% fuel. So, lets look at HLOX's weight. H2O. What is the weight component of each? H = 2 x 1, while O is 16. That means that O2 is 8/9 of the weight of fuel. That would put O2 at more than 70% of the weight of a rocket. Now, getting to orbit is not about altitude, but about speed. You need 17K mph or so to hit the ISS. If Skylon makes this works and can hit say 3-7K mph, that will enable this craft to drop about 1/3 of their fuel weight (most in O2). That is HUGE. It allows the percentage of cargo that goes up to be higher (normally, a rocket launches around 5%). The reusability is just a major plus. So is the takeoff from a runway. Nothing complicated like our current rockets.

BTW, Once hypersonic becomes usable, then we will hit speeds of 10-12K at 100K'. Then it becomes DIRT cheap to launch cargo and humans. As in this will be the next major launcher after skylon. SpaceX is a good bet for the next 15-20 years. So is Blue Origin. Beyond that, HTHL will become the norm, and they will be CHEAP.

Re:Not needed. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#37809880)

Likewise, it is certain that Skylon will work.

Uh, no. It's not certain at all. They've been working on it for a long time. No plane just yet. They've made some progress but it is a long, long way from 'working'.

You have a funny idea about engineering. You seem to think if they build it, it will work. The current NASA missions are based on tech from the 1940's and 50's. It's taken them that long to be sure they work and to get the kinks out. Yes, the newer commercial companies can work off the shoulders of giants, but that does not imply or guarantee success.

You might want to see one of those projects actually achieve a significant fraction of their test program before getting all wound up.

Re:Old idea that hopefully gets used. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#37809872)

This is an old idea that should have been implemented long ago. Fuel tanks can survive much higher g-forces and can be built and launched relatively cheaply compared to satellites

Well, no. A booster doesn't care what's on top of it - it costs just the same regardless. Nor can the depot itself be built in any manner that can be construed as 'cheap'. It needs a GNC system, and an RCS system, and a power system, and insulation (and active cooling for cryogenics), and a docking system, and a propellant transfer system... It's actually quite a sophisticated system and in no way 'cheap'.
 

In fact, fuel is just about the perfect candidate for a mass driver where energy can be stored up and then released in a burst into a linear induction motor or similar technology.

If it weren't for the enourmous capital cost of a mass driver (10-20x that of a booster R&D) program, and the niggling fact that it requires something approaching unobtanium to build the capsules... (due to the launch speed producing conditions that essentially equal re-entering at ground level) you might be on to something.
 

Once the fuel tanks are exhausted they can be converted into modules for space stations or spacecraft, probably much more efficient than building them to survive a re-entry to get re-used.

Which obscures the fact that such conversion isn't at all efficient compared to launching purpose built spacecraft or modules - due to the enormous cost of boosting all the conversion kit and the men (man hours) required to do the conversion. It's actually cheaper to toss them and build new purpose built units and boost them instead.
 

Yeah, there's a lot of complexity that I'm doing some hand-waving around but it's still a great concept that should be developed further.

'Hand-waving' doesn't even begin to describe the situation.

Duh... (1)

calexontheroad66 (975611) | about 2 years ago | (#37809544)

You'll need to use less complex rockets and systems to haul fuel to depots, and since it's carrying only compact cargo costs by weight decrease also.

Big rocket systems are expensive and require lots of safeguards to handle human beings, or everyone would be killed or injured by the intense g-forces or by strong vibrations. Plus, space crafts that transport astronauts usually have lower density, so the cost by weight lifted increases.

The downside is, that there isn't that much experience in operating logistical infrastructure in space. Everything is a throwaway product, and the current space station is a joke as a science platform. And there is the nagging question of why maintaining such infrastructure just for human space flight if we don't have any other use for it?...

Re:Duh... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#37809678)

If the refueling process is automated, I don't see why it shouldn't be also used for unmanned missions. That of course assumes that sending fuel up separately is cheaper than sending fuel up together with e.g. a satellite or a space probe which will use it (possibly by using cheaper rockets because the fuel is much less expensive that a satellite, and therefore losing a single tank is not as bad as losing a satellite as long as those losses are not too frequent).

How do you get to fuel depots without a rocket? (1)

chispito (1870390) | about 2 years ago | (#37809548)

I don't get it. If you don't have a rocket to get astronauts to the fuel depot, what good is the depot? Can someone explain this to me?

Re:How do you get to fuel depots without a rocket? (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#37809590)

In increments. The idea is, it's cheaper to get the fuel up using lots of small rockets currently available than trying to build a giant one on Earth.

Re:How do you get to fuel depots without a rocket? (1)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | about 2 years ago | (#37809596)

You can launch fuel through a mass driver. Much safer and cheaper than a rocket. You could probably do same with food and other supplies, although depending on the cargo, medical might need a regular launch. Stick a couple guys on the fuel depot, fire up some food and air packs with the fuel, and replace them with a new crew every six months or so.

Re:How do you get to fuel depots without a rocket? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#37809900)

'Cept that we don't HAVE a mass driver yet. Let's build one (even a teeny little one) before we start using it as a mission critical bit of infrastructure.

Re:How do you get to fuel depots without a rocket? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37809648)

Private space has MANY rockets. They can take up fuel. Shortly, they will be taking up humans as well. Of course, a number of ppl in CONgress (hatch, hutchinson, shelby, coffman, wolf, etc) have worked hard to kill private space. In spite of those idiots, private space should win out.

Satellite better than Moon base regurgitated (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 2 years ago | (#37809574)

We are back to the discussion about if we should invest in a moon base or a satellite that sits between earth and the moon. IMHO a satellite would be a better investment.

Re:Satellite better than Moon base regurgitated (4, Funny)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 2 years ago | (#37809636)

What no one is saying is the real reason for the space efforts. As all slashdotters know, the tides are an important part of our ecosystem, and yet every day the moon moves further away, reducing the tides before our very eyes. The only practical solution is to put a stop to this disaster, by tying the moon to the earth with a stout cable. This will also provide an anchor at each end for the space elevator ( how all those nutters think a space elevator anchored at just one end is going to work is beyond me).

Re:Satellite better than Moon base regurgitated (1)

medcalf (68293) | about 2 years ago | (#37809722)

I cannot tell if this is brilliantly hilarious parody of idiocy or actual idiocy. Well done, sir.

Re:Satellite better than Moon base regurgitated (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 2 years ago | (#37809808)

Thank you ladies and germs. I'll be here all week.

Re:Satellite better than Moon base regurgitated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809820)

Why don't you ask those Texans living in poverty about what they think should be done with the money?

Fear Factor (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | about 2 years ago | (#37809614)

Picture one of these coming down to Earth, crashing onto a playground at the largest kindergarten in the world, deep frying ten thousand little tykes in a hellacious ball of fire. Sure, it will never happen -- cause it will never be built. Actually, it WILL be built, right after the government fixes the economy.

Re:Fear Factor (2)

medcalf (68293) | about 2 years ago | (#37809718)

Oh, please! First, it would be in active use, so it would be boosted as the orbit decays (by the rockets it's refueling, most likely). Second, fuel depots wouldn't be reentry shielded and fuel is highly flammable, by definition. So if one were allowed to deorbit, all that would hit the ground is a bit of metal, and not much of that. Satellites fall all the time with little risk on the ground.

2010 (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#37809634)

Say did Arthur C Clarke patent the idea of using Europa as a fuel depot?

(I don't really think we have to worry about large black monoliths telling us not to go there

NASA has no choice on SLS (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37809642)

CONgress, namely Shelby(R), Wolfe(R), Hatch(R), Hutchinson(R), Coffman(R), Nelson(D), and many others, are pushing this nightmare. The only reason is not because they believe that it is needed for the space program, but these slimes have turned NASA into a jobs bill.

The good news is that by 2014, SLS will be dead. The fact is, that once SpaceX launches FH, no president will support. It does not matter whom is in office. The project will be dead. Hopefully, we will then hold a COTS for 2 SHLV. At the same time, HOPEFULLY, these above slimes or whomever replaces them, will continue funding for NASA to support nuclear engines (not for launch on earth, but interplanetary travel and perhaps launch on the moon and mars), private space, ISS partners exploration of the moon, and NASA continuing their push for BEO.

Re:NASA has no choice on SLS (0)

damburger (981828) | about 2 years ago | (#37809784)

Even assuming Falcon Heavy is ready on time, SpaceX is still in business in 2014, and they haven't started multiplying their prices after they have gone public - even then, Falcon Heavy simply does not have the payload capability for manned, deep space flight.

Re:NASA has no choice on SLS (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#37810002)

Yet, it is cheaper to fly, then even the smallest Delta 4 or Atlas V. IOW, there may not be large cargo for it, but when it is cheaper to fly then other launchers that are much smaller, then it will become the norm to fly.

Bash.org hacked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809666)

Yes, Bash.org was hacked. Apparently they shouldn't use IIS.

It's not NASA's fault they're developing both... (2)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#37809672)

According to the article, NASA's response to the leaked study is to start developing fuel depots in addition to continuing its new rocket program. Because, after all, who doesn't need more cool stuff.

Undoubtedly NASA reacted this way because the US Congress has legislatively mandated development of a new heavy-lift rocket to preserve jobs in states with influential (Republican) senators, as a substitute for the cancelled Constellation program. It no longer matters what NASA itself thinks is the most efficient and technologically feasible solution. Even if the fuel depot plan would save twice as much, in practice it is ultimately subject to Congressional veto.

Threat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37809764)

US has to have a huge military budget. Otherwise Canadians will invade Washington! (Not to mention the Mexicans.)

Re:Threat? (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#37810168)

US has to have a huge military budget. Otherwise Canadians will invade Washington!

Just because we burned the White house down once doesn't mean we'll do it again... We mostly like our American neighbours now... (though we do wish they wouldn't meddle so much with our politicians)

Not buying this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37810028)

The fuel cost savings involved with inflight refueling are well documented and can run 40% to 60% in traditional military aircraft.

But we are not dealing with traditional gravity flow liquid fuels here and the logistical and safety issues combined with the costs of developing a safe LEO pressurized refueling system are staggering.

I wonder how well people are going to accept giant fuel bombs in LEO. I think the development of flying nuclear reactors might be easier to deal with.

It's a prurient hack (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | about 2 years ago | (#37810048)

It's an informational sabotage attack – the better question is, who's prurient interests are put in jeopardy in NASA if there is a staff military sheep dip of the type you do when performing manned space flight using missile technology. I'd back track the data if I was involved ...

"leaked" (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | about 2 years ago | (#37810176)

Is leaked the new catchy term?

I do

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