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Apollo Veteran: Skip Asteroid, Go To the Moon

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the left-his-jacket-there dept.

Moon 191

astroengine writes "It's 40 years to the day that the final mission to the moon launched. Discovery News speaks with Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt about where he thinks the Earth's only satellite came from and why he thinks a NASA manned asteroid mission is a mistake. 'I think an asteroid is a diversion,' said Schmitt. 'If the ultimate goal is to get to Mars, you have a satellite only three days away that has a great deal of science as well as resources. The science of the moon has just been scratched. We've hardly explored the moon.'" The National Research Council came out with a report a few days ago which found that the inability for the U.S. to find a consensus on where to go is damaging its ability to get there. Bill Nye spoke about the issue, saying, "I believe, as a country, we want to move NASA from [being] an engineering organization to a science organization, and this is going to take years, decades. Now, through investment, we have companies emerging that are exploring space on their own and will ultimately lower the cost of access to low-Earth orbit, which will free up NASA to go to these new and exciting places."

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Ralph says (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#42214483)

"Alice, yer not going to an asteroid, but to the Moon!

Re:Ralph says (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 years ago | (#42214507)

There's not much diff between landing on an asteroid or landing on the moon - they're both off our bucket list. Maybe NASA saw thT Bruce Willis asteroid movie? The one with Ben afflex? I say, keep exploring mars with robots, find some water there, and get some people the heck out there!

Re:Ralph says (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214641)

There is a huge difference. If you land on the moon, you'll have to go over 2000 meters/second to leave. Also, the moon has a 14-day light cycle and hundreds of times more resources. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect it to be possible to build solar-powered railguns that can sling processed materials to orbit for construction of ships or stations. It could also be an excellent place for large telescopes. The only down side to the moon is that it's not entirely stable. It has quakes [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Ralph says (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42215771)

The lunar light cycle provides a much bigger disadvantage. A huge thermal cycle and 14 days of serious cold (some things stop working when you can't keep them warm). There's also the lunar dust. An asteroid (of the pile of rubble consistency) might actually have some degree of internal movement which reduces the jaggedness of the dust. No such mechanism exists on the Moon.

Re:Ralph says (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#42216437)

"lunar dust"? You mean dirt? There's no air on the moon, so all ths "dust" will just stay on the ground unless it is disturbed (in which case it will drop back down just as fast as a hammer would because there's no air to keep it buoyant).

Re:Ralph says (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42216467)

so all ths "dust" will just stay on the ground unless it is disturbed

Which happens quite often, every two weeks due to electrostatic forces and the rising or setting of the Sun. And if you have anything moving around? More dust.

in which case it will drop back down just as fast as a hammer would

In lunar gravity. And dust bounces.

Re:Ralph says (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42215095)

By 2020, and it's a private venture. [newsday.com]

A team of former NASA executives will fly you to the moon in an out-of-this-world commercial venture combining the wizardry of Apollo and the marketing of Apple.

For a mere $1.5 billion, the business is offering countries the chance to send two people to the moon and back, either for research or national prestige. And if you are an individual with that kind of money to spare, you too can go the moon for a couple days.

Pull a few Billion... (4, Interesting)

Phrogman (80473) | about 2 years ago | (#42214503)

out of the defense budget, and go do both. The US is already the dominate military power on the planet, bar none, so I am sure they could trim the military budget by a tiny percentage without anyone who doesn't wear a brass hat noticing. Whats the saying? "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon your talking real money?"
Its nice to think that private enterprise will provide the means to get there (for whatever values of "there") but although its happening, its not happening overnight. NASA needs to continue doing it all themselves until business is established in orbit - otherwise we waste a few decades waiting for it. As well, think of all the scientific discoveries we might make during this moon mission series. The last one turned out pretty well didn't it?

Re:Pull a few Billion... (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42214645)

Politically speaking, about the only way to do that would be to get the defense contractors on board (since they all but own Congress outright). Unless Congress puts Northrop Grumman in charge of building the craft, Blackwater (or whatever they're calling themselves this week) in charge of moon security, and KBR in charge of moon logistics, you can forget diverting any money from defense.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

Phrogman (80473) | about 2 years ago | (#42214707)

And you can just bet that those contractors are giving the military the "best" deal they could too, not padding it any way. Trim those costs down a tad then :P
As for Blackwater, I am just fine if all of their employees get shipped to the moon - one way :) (I don't believe in private armies)

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214841)

As for Blackwater, I am just fine if all of their employees get shipped to the moon - one way :) (I don't believe in private armies)

Whoa, you need to rethink that one! Blackwater/Xe is the private army of a Christian Armageddonist, who believes fiercely that these are the final days and that Jesus will show up in person as soon as we kill enough Jews and bad people. You want those nuts to be standing miles over your head? I don't think so!

Re:Pull a few Billion... (3, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 2 years ago | (#42214959)

who said anything about sending air tanks along with them?

Re:Pull a few Billion... (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42215309)

Sure, put them miles above my head. There would be very little left of them if they tried to use that height advantage.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 2 years ago | (#42215781)

> (I don't believe in private armies)

Believe in them or not, they are allowed under the second amendment.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (5, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42214779)

and who is going to build these spaceships? Toyota?

The defense contractors were the ones who built apollo. Northrom Grumman built the moon lander outside of NYC

Correct... but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215415)

The defense contractors were the ones who built apollo.

The defense contractor giants (military-industrial complex) certainly are the ones with the technical know-how and R&D plus production resources to build the ships, no argument there... but they have a repeatedly proven track record of doing things the most expensive ways possibly, in order to stuff their own pockets the fullest they can, while doing such projects.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 2 years ago | (#42215831)

Yep. The Lunar module was built by Grumman (way before Northrop got involved with them) on Long Island, and the Command and Service modules were built by North American Aviation in Downey, CA. NAA was taken over by Rockwell, and eventually became part of Boeing.

The Saturn V rocket was built by Boeing, NAA, and Douglas, with the guidance computer being built by IBM.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214861)

Politically speaking, about the only way to do that would be to get the defense contractors on board (since they all but own Congress outright). Unless Congress puts Northrop Grumman in charge of building the craft, Blackwater (or whatever they're calling themselves this week) in charge of moon security, and KBR in charge of moon logistics, you can forget diverting any money from defense.

You forgot Halliburton. Got to have a carve-out for Halliburton.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 2 years ago | (#42215761)

Or, we can just stop being the world's police force, keep our defense budget up (note: I said defense, not police budget expenditures), and put those savings toward NASA. Additionally we can pull hundreds of billions in foreign aid and put that into our domestic scientific, engineering, and manufacturing base instead. Or, how about this: axe federal spending, slash taxes, and let the people keep their money, and allow unfettered private companies to develop this stuff commercially? I'm sure there are many willing tourists who would love to hitch a ride to the Moon and back.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#42214665)

The US would still be the world's dominant military power if we cut the defense budget in half. We should do this, and give it all to science.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215519)

I would love to see the citations on that reasoning.

Of course, I have no problem with giving lots of money to science. Unfortunately, the "peace dividend" is just going to be used for entitlements, so there's no point. Might as well leave it in defense, they do a lot more research than Obamacare is going to.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

blueturffan (867705) | about 2 years ago | (#42216223)

How about we just cut the budget 10% across the board for starters? With $16.3 Trillion in debt (and growing), we need to stop wasting money.

The whole "take from this and give to that" doesn't work long term. Back in 1972 when Project Apollo was canceled, the excuse was that we were "spending too much money in space". (Think about that for a minute -- I'm pretty sure all the money was actually spent on this planet.) Ultimately, the "why spend money in space when we have hungry people on Earth" crowd won out. Well, it's been 40 years Apollo XVII splashed down and we still have hungry people. We still have poverty, we currently have upwards of 45 Million people on some sort of federal food assistance.

Saturn V rockets that should have flown are now museum pieces. Apollo hardware was discarded like trash. The Space Shuttles are museum pieces. And we're hitching rides to the ISS with the Russians.

So much for sound governance and fiscal responsibility. And yes, both parties are guilty.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | about 2 years ago | (#42214777)

> The US is already the dominate military power on the planet, bar none, so I am sure they could trim the military budget by a tiny percentage

I'm not really disagreeing, but I do think there's an important point people overlook when discussing things like this: Military dominance is all about spending. It's quite like a bleeding edge computer. You spend thousands on the best of the best, and in a year's time anyone could have the same setup from a quarter the price. You're then either with the Joes or spending more to stay on top. You can't really step back and say 'okay, we spent enough'; it's literally an arms race and staying ahead is expensive.

> Its nice to think that private enterprise will provide the means to get there (for whatever values of "there") but although its happening, its not happening overnight.

I'd point out that NASA isn't exactly doing anything overnight either. As long as it's taking for private enterprise to enter the game, they seem to be moving faster once they're in it. Honestly, I wouldn't be too surprised if the next exploration mission is privately funded at this point.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#42215027)

The US also spends so much because it's allies do a fair amount of freeloading. The US spends so much on the military that countries friendly to it can spend less since they count on US power making up the difference. That means that the US military budget as a ratio to the rest of the world is even higher (not only does the US spend a lot, other parts of the world spend less than they would if the US wasn't doing so). Heck even unfriendly (to the US) nations benefit from the US military keeping things like trade churning.

Not that the US doesn't like that situation of course - there are benefits to being needed by others after all.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215897)

If either of you seriously believe that the ridiculous amount of human and financial capital your (I presume your American) country spends on the world is of benefit to anyone except your politicians and workers at the pentagon you are sorely mistaken.

Most of the wars in this world are made in the USA (your number 1 export now sadly) or are your proxies and the rest of the world would appreciate you getting your overwhelming force out of their affairs.

I don't blame the American people as we can all see from the outside that your country's government has been co-opted by fools and corrupt scum but please don't defend them.

There is no arms race. You spend 90% of the worlds military budget and if you devoted half of that to feeding the starving on this planet and not to war you would probably have no enemies either.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215945)

*I meant to say on spends on WAR not THE WORLD*

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#42216139)

Maybe try reading for comprehension next time.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42216299)

Most of the wars in this world are made in the USA

How did the US make the Second Congo War [wikipedia.org] which is the largest war since the Second World War? There are other big wars like the last stage of the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iran-Iraq war, where the US took sides, but didn't make the war.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42216371)

There is no arms race. You spend 90% of the worlds military budget and if you devoted half of that to feeding the starving on this planet and not to war you would probably have no enemies either.

And you would be wrong. No "probably" about it. There are two things to remember here. First, war isn't about food. Lack of food can be a trigger for a war, but the underlying cause is simply that someone thinks they can get away with doing or taking something via force.

Second, how is that money going to turn into fed people? The key problem now isn't that we don't have enough food or money spent on food, but rather that corrupt and failed governments are preventing people from getting enough food.

Re:Pull a few Billion... (0)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42215855)

Military dominance is all about spending. It's quite like a bleeding edge computer. You spend thousands on the best of the best, and in a year's time anyone could have the same setup from a quarter the price.

If you're talking about North vs South Korea, or USSR vs USA then yeah. But in the case of today's US military, we spend more on defense than the next ten big-spending countries combined. We could slash the military budget in half and still be untouchable by any nation on Earth.

The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214515)

is that all the Nazi scientists we hired to work at NASA have died off, hence no more innovation or progress.

Re:The real problem (0)

azadrozny (576352) | about 2 years ago | (#42214567)

Wow, Godwin's law in only 9 minutes!

-1 improper invocation of Godwin (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214609)

Wow, Godwin's law in only 9 minutes!

Oh, no,no,no. It would have been a Godwin if he said that "Going to the Moon is what Hitler would have done." or "NASA acts like a bunch of Nazis."

But by making an implicit Ad Hominem attack on the GP, you are acting just like Goebbels [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214621)

Doesn't count as Godwin's law since we actually had scientists who worked as volunteer and/or slave labor for the Nazi regime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun

Never happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214517)

We didn't go to the moon, and we never killed Bin Laden. Ye are fools!

You are wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214639)

I know for a fact we killed Bin Laden on the moon.

Re:Never happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42216611)

The notion that we never went to the moon is an unsustainable premise. Every so called "proof" that the expeditions were faked has an alternative explanation, leaving the argument entirely based on the notion that there was some sort of conspiracy, without an iota of any evidence beyond supposition. Coupled with the fact that the social engineering required to maintain a conspiracy of that magnitude would have posed an even greater challenge than the physical engineering to get to the moon anyways, occams razor applies, and suggests you are mistaken.

Consensus on where to go (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42214521)

I'm not sure there's any difficulties finding that consensus: People tell me where to go all the time!

It's not going to happen (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | about 2 years ago | (#42214555)

The ugly reality is that our society has shifted toward one focused on inward spending and care, not outward focus and exploration. This was inevitable with the radical demographics change that has happened in the last 15 years as the Baby Boomers, who are something like 1:1.5 with Generation X and Millennial put together got to the point where they need to start retiring. Aging societies become inward focused, with the focus being on domestic spending, not "young activities" like exploring new frontiers at tax payers expenses.

An elderly relative of mine was complaining about the cost overruns on the F35, and I pointed out to them that the whole federal R&D budget across all departments was likely less than the $112B in Medicare fraud that the OIG for Medicare uncovered about six months to a year ago. Many of those overruns aren't even "fraud" but rather are caused by things like different government "stakeholders" coming in at the 11th hour to add new requirements on projects (IIRC, the F35 was almost done, and the USMC nearly killed it by demanding that they get their VTOL piece come hell or high water even though it was ready for NATO naval forces).

It was disheartening for them to hear the plain and simple truth: we are an aging society that is cannibalizing its stored wealth to lavish retirement and health care benefits on the older citizens. It is absolutely true that we don't have money anymore for foreign wars and big military adventures. It's also true that at present budget projections we won't have a budget for NASA, the NSF, federal law enforcement, the US highway system, education subsidies and anything else that doesn't revolve around pure entitlement spending for the massive waves of retirees hitting and about to hit the system.

Re:It's not going to happen (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214743)

We've always known that the population was aging, and that the baby boomers were going to need the services they already paid for. It's been planned, and we've been paying in to it so we could feel as though we'd be taken care of in our retirement. With our own money.

If the government can't get their financial act together, then it shouldn't affect the people who pay their own way. It's got to come from other places.

Source? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214755)

An elderly relative of mine was complaining about the cost overruns on the F35, and I pointed out to them that the whole federal R&D budget across all departments was likely less than the $112B in Medicare fraud that the OIG for Medicare uncovered about six months to a year ago.

Likely less than the $112 Billion in Medicare fraud? Could you cite sources for this and also sources for the OIG Medicare fraud?

Re:Source? (1)

JoeSchmoe999 (782579) | about 2 years ago | (#42214969)

For some services, we have found pervasive documentation errors. For example, we found that 60 percent of Medicare claims for rehabilitation power wheelchairs did not meet all documentation requirements. These claims accounted for $112 million in improper Medicare payments over a 6-month period. We have also found significant rates of documentation error for certain types of pain management services. We recommended that CMS take actions to address these errors, including improving controls, educating providers, and clarifying guidance. From: http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/2011/07/t20110728a.html [hhs.gov]

Re:Source? (3, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | about 2 years ago | (#42215007)

the whole federal R&D budget across all departments was likely less than the $112B in Medicare fraud

Could you cite sources for this?

"These claims accounted for $112 million"

You know, your argument would be more persuasive if you knew the difference between a million and a billion.

Re:Source? (1)

GauteL (29207) | about 2 years ago | (#42215125)

"You know, your argument would be more persuasive if you knew the difference between a million and a billion."

Absolutely. The story makes a pretty big claim of $47.9 billion in improper payments reported in 2010 (*) so it seems unnecessary for the argument to inflate the $112 million in "improper payments" for rehabilitation wheel chairs over a 6-month period.

Also the testimony is very unclear as to what percentage of these "improper payments" were actually fraud or wrongly awarded. The numbers include documentation errors, so they may include a large portion of claims which were genuine and required, but poorly written and documented.

(*) It is a little unclear whether these were for cases from 2010 or simply found in 2010 due to a massive one-time investigation.

Re:It's not going to happen (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42214775)

We just need to combine these two things.
Space exploration using oldsters. Problem solved.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42215585)

It's not that crazy. Space activities, especially deep space activities, come with some degree of radiation exposure which can lead to cancer and other illnesses down the road. An older person won't be as affected as a younger person because they tend to die of something else first.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

willpb (1168125) | about 2 years ago | (#42215991)

We could just have our own cosmonaut zero program like the Soviets. People got medals for breaking their backs after being launched in catapults, spending hours in the centrifuge and other experiments designed to test the endurance of the human body to conditions required for space travel. I'm sure there are some not so young people with dementia who'd sign up for such a project if they were told that it was their patriotic duty.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42216463)

Hey, I'll go!!!

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 2 years ago | (#42214807)

If it is between space and keeping old people from dying, space is going to lose, every time. It's pretty stupid of you to frame it this way [wikipedia.org] .

Well, unless, of course, you don't give a fuck about space and just want to sneak your personal wharrgarbl into a thread that has nothing to do with it.

You're Lying About the Healthcare Fraud Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214821)

An elderly relative of mine was complaining about the cost overruns on the F35, and I pointed out to them that the whole federal R&D budget across all departments was likely less than the $112B in Medicare fraud that the OIG for Medicare uncovered about six months to a year ago.

This is a lie. Here is the OIG report [healthreformgps.org] and the years that they listed were from 2001 - 2010:

According to a study recently released by Office of the Inspector General (OIG), between 2001 and 2010, Medicare payments for Part B goods and services increased by 43 percent, from $77 billion to $110 billion. During this same time, Medicare payments for evaluation and management (E/M) services increased by 48 percent, from $22.7 billion to $33.5 billion. E/M services have been vulnerable to fraud and abuse. In 2009, two health care entities paid over $10 million to settle allegations that they fraudulently billed Medicare for E/M services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also found that certain types of E/M services had the most improper payments of all Medicare Part B service types in 2008. The OIG report is the first in a series of evaluations of E/M services.

$110 - $77 = $33 million and that's the delta surely not all of that was fraud and some was natural growth and baby boomer retiring? Can you cite your sources before spouting off such staggeringly wrong figures?

Re:You're Lying About the Healthcare Fraud Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214849)

33 billion* not million

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42215119)

...we are an aging society that is cannibalizing its stored wealth to lavish retirement and health care benefits on the older citizens.

What bullshit... We paid for those bennies. We are entitled to them. The fraud was committed by those who are now receiving lavish bailouts so they can continue committing more fraud.

Re:It's not going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215467)

No, we really did not pay for them. We paid a small percentage of the benefits we will receive and then stuck our kids with the rest of the bill.

Social Security was way underfunded from day 1 and we still only pay about 70% of the actual cost to the system.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42216041)

Yes we did. They were fully funded. Don't believe the propaganda from the people that are stealing the money.

Re:It's not going to happen (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42216203)

The AC replier is right. We didn't fully pay for those bennies. And we voted for or worked for the people who made those extravagant promises which are failing so hard now. At some point, you're going to have to take responsibility for your actions and those of your government.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42216321)

What we have to do is enforce the agreements. That is where we are failing now. They stole the money, and we should take it back. I agree that we are at fault for reelecting the thieves and not locking them up instead.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42216581)

What we have to do is enforce the agreements.

Can't squeeze blood from a stone.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

medcalf (68293) | about 2 years ago | (#42215169)

The way out is inevitable: default. I don't mean default on the debt, but default on the promises made to seniors. Effectively, what happened in that the people who are seniors now or about to become so, promised themselves (back when they were younger) that their children and grandchildren would pay them benefits premised on a rate of growth of both population and wealth that simply did not occur. Since the economic and human foundation does not exist for paying off those promises, they will not be paid off. The rest is simply details. (One of those details is that I am almost certainly in either the last generation that will get anything from Social Security, or the first that will get nothing.) Oh, we could have reformed the program earlier to a 401k like system, maybe even as late as the Bush administration, and double-charged my generation but saved the basic program. It's far from clear that we still have the time to do that. It's absolutely clear that we do not have that time past about 2020. So the likely result is that we will simply fail to sustain the program at all. What cannot be done, won't.

How are lies like this modded up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215371)

WTF Slashdot, he has no evidence of $112 Billion in Medicare fraud. None. And you mod him up? FFS I like how it was an "elderly relative" of his that he told off ... lol what horseshit this site has become.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42216205)

What you're saying is that the Baby Boomers' lives were used up making the rich richer, and have a lot less wealth for themselves to show for their enriching the rich... The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. When the employees make the companies rich, but the employees themselves see little increase in wealth proportionately, this means the wealth at the top has been leached from not just the employees, but also the public at large as customers. I see articles about Facebook, GM, Apple, etc paying a mere FRACTION of the taxes they should be paying, and I hear the public at large complaining that they need more "entitlement spending". To me, it is the rich who are exercising their entitlement to over capitalize on the less rich by way of leveraging disproportionate control...

My neighbor is a 75 year old Air Force mechanic. He broke his hip and had to dig deep into the small amount of savings he has left from his 30years of making the industrial war machine more powerful, and even had to settle for a cheaper operation that leaves him wheelchair bound and in constant pain. Fuck you.

Re:It's not going to happen (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42216275)

we are an aging society that is cannibalizing its stored wealth to lavish retirement and health care benefits on the older citizens

LAVISH retirements and health care benefits?? If I had to live on SS alone I would be in dire poverty, and anyone who lives on SS alone is dirt poor. LAVASH health care? If that were true, AARP wouldn't be selling medicare suppliment insurance.

Lavish, my ass. Compared to civilized nations like Sweden and Norway and Germany, the benefits geezers get are disgustingly niggling.

If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogether. (1, Troll)

nweaver (113078) | about 2 years ago | (#42214563)

I know I'm going to get -1 troll, but lets be honest here:

If NASA is about science, we need to leave the men on Earth. The science in NASA comes from the satellites in orbit, the probes through space, and the robotic landers. All the manned space flight does these days is suck up huge amounts of money, kill people, and produce scientific results that could either have been done by robots much more cheaply or are predicated on answering questions related to "what happens if you stick people in a 0-G environment for a long time..."

What could we learn about an asteroid from sending a person there that we wouldn't learn from sending a modern robot there? What could we learn from the moon or mars today that we couldn't learn from a robot?

For now, we should leave the manned space flight for rich tourists, and instead continue to develop our launchers and our robots.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (0)

axedog (991609) | about 2 years ago | (#42214655)

Tip of the day:
Stop people modding you down by starting your message with "I know I'm going to get -1 troll, but..."

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#42214787)

What could we learn about an asteroid from sending a person there that we wouldn't learn from sending a modern robot there? What could we learn from the moon or mars today that we couldn't learn from a robot?

Quite a lot actually. Now, part of that is simply the reality that a manned mission is going to be orders of magnitude larger and more complex, just by definition.

For instance, sample return is basically built into a manned mission. If you add a sample return objective to a robotic mission the cost numbers are suddenly much closer (still not close exactly, but closer). The rate of exploration is also much, much higher for a manned mission. The Mars rovers, for example, were designed to move just 600 meters over their lifespan. They've obviously exceeded that, Opportunity has driven 20km so far after all. Apollo 17, on the other hand, covered that distance in a matter of days. A prolonged human presence would allow us to explore a larger area in much more detail than would otherwise be possible. Not to mention the possibility of bringing a real chemistry lab along for the rid (as opposed to the 'lab on a single camera' setups that robotic missions use).

Yes, a lot of those advantages would disappear if you spent the same on a robotic mission as you did on a manned one. But you also have to remember the human factor. Humans can perform repairs, investigate problems, spot things in the terrain, cover more ground, look at things from different angles (in a matter of seconds), etc, etc. Designing a robot that can do everything that a human can do as well as a human can do it, even ignoring the light speed communication issues, would probably be more expensive than just sending the human in the first place.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42214997)

Quite a lot actually. Now, part of that is simply the reality that a manned mission is going to be orders of magnitude larger and more complex

You answered the question that was asked, but not the question that should have been asked: Which brings more benefit per dollar spent . The robots are the clear winners. We may learn twice as much from a manned mission that costs ten times a robotic mission, but for that price we could launch ten robotic missions.

Another standard defense of manned spaceflight is that it keeps the public engaged. But I think the opposite is true. Every Friday I help out at my son's elementary school, and sometimes we talk about space. The kids are way more interested in Curiosity [wikipedia.org] and New Horizons [wikipedia.org] than they are about the ISS [wikipedia.org] . If you ask these kids if they would rather see yet another manned mission to the Moon, or a robotic submarine in the oceans of Europa, I have little doubt which would win.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#42215165)

Every Friday I help out at my son's elementary school, and sometimes we talk about space. The kids are way more interested in Curiosity [wikipedia.org] and New Horizons [wikipedia.org] than they are about the ISS [wikipedia.org].

Of course, Curiousity is actually doing something other than just moving in a circle around the Earth.

Would the kids be more interested in Curiousity than they would be in six men on Mars?

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42215505)

Would the kids be more interested in Curiousity than they would be in six men on Mars?

Wrong question. Better question: Would the kids be more interested in six men on Mars, or dozens of robotic missions to all corners of the Solar System that we could afford for the same money.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (2)

GauteL (29207) | about 2 years ago | (#42215971)

"Better question: Would the kids be more interested in six men on Mars, or dozens of robotic missions to all corners of the Solar System that we could afford for the same money."

There's absolutely no question they would be more interested in six men on Mars. If not for the Science, it would basically be an amazing reality show, with real, proper heroes on a desolate and hostile planet, millions of miles from home. If done right, NASA would have several hundreds of millions (if not over a billion) of people across the globe tuning in to find out how their heroes were doing. I wouldn't be surprised if the total revenue (advertisement, DVD/Blueray sales, merchandising) went a long way towards actually paying for the mission.

Nobody is going to do that for a robotic rover.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42216527)

it would basically be an amazing reality show, with real, proper heroes

People said the same thing about the ISS. Sure people will tune in for the landing, but by the third day of watching rocks being analyzed, they will tune out. Everyone watched the Apollo 11 landing, but there was little interest in latter missions (except for 13, but only after it looked like they were going to die).

I wouldn't be surprised if the total revenue (advertisement, DVD/Blueray sales, merchandising) went a long way towards actually paying for the mission.

You need to get a grip on the costs involved. A one-way manned "go-to-Mars" mission (which the USA has ruled out) would cost more than $200B. A "go-and-return" mission would cost more than a trillion. Star Wars was the most profitable franchise in Hollywood history, and it has brought in less than 3% [statisticbrain.com] of that amount. This is leaving aside the question of whether we want the government copyrighting, trademarking and DRMing everything to do with space exploration.

Nobody is going to do that for a robotic rover.

Ask a kid about Curiosity, and you will usually get a meaningful answer. Tell the same kid that there are three people in space [howmanypeo...ghtnow.com] , and then ask him to name one of them. You will get a shrug.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#42215477)

The problem with low-cost, low-benefit science is decreasing returns. After a while, you've basically learned all you can without sending a manned mission.

Just look at Mars. Sojourner brought back a lot of data. Spirit and Opportunity sent back even more, but were also more expensive. Curiosity is sending back yet more, but at yet higher costs (the wheels on Curiosity are about the size of the entire Sojourner rover). Pretty soon we'll reach the point where sending people will be *cheaper* than sending a rover with similar capabilities. Arguably, we've reached it now.

PS: As a member of the "younger" generation, I can assure you that we would like plenty more manned missions. We just don't like things that have been done before. If you rephrase the question as "permanent moon base, or robotic submarine on Europa", we'd pretty much all pick the base.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 2 years ago | (#42215809)

They're more interested in Curiosity because Curiosity is on Mars. I can't speak for your kids, but I think I'd be a lot more psyched about *anything* we send to Mars over a bunch of guys in a tube in Earth orbit.

That said, I would be ten times more psyched to have men on Mars than rovers. If we had the money and the know-how to put men on Mars and we decided to put rovers instead, it would be very disappointing. Rovers are a great idea for recon and doing the necessary science, but I'd prefer to do more with Mars than use it as a really expensive geology lab.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 2 years ago | (#42215135)

The inevitable cost overruns of any human mission to Mars would pare down its science objectives to those now found on the ISS: attempt to do little more than keep the people on the mission alive. The main things such a mission would achieve would be to plant a flag, take postcard-worthy snapshots, and impede future science by contaminating Mars with a fecal microbes.

Most likely the other main benefit would be the gripping drama of the astronauts trying to avert disaster caused by one or more technical failures. It would be a government stimulus: Hollywood could make millions on an Apollo 13 sequel.

Automatic self-driving vehicle technology is currently advancing at an impressive rate. I'd bet a good amount of money that it we could have a robot on mars that drives as fast as the lunar rovers sooner and cheaper than a successful manned mission.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215975)

If the end goal is to drive rovers around on Mars and never actually, you know, go there, then they can feel free to shut down the Mars program, because I honestly don't give a shit if there is life elsewhere in the universe if I am never going to meet it.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 2 years ago | (#42216427)

If the end goal is to drive rovers around on Mars and never actually, you know, go there, then they can feel free to shut down the Mars program, because I honestly don't give a shit if there is life elsewhere in the universe if I am never going to meet it.

I've got a clue for you: With 99.999999% probability, you aren't ever going to another planet, whether NASA pays for a manned program or not.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (2)

wfolta (603698) | about 2 years ago | (#42215447)

I really think we should have a dual focus, neither of which involves Mars:

1. Permanent manned presence on the moon. It's ridiculous that we went there, poked around a little bit, and now we have folks saying we should basically forget about it and send manned missions to Mars? Huh? What a crazy waste of an opportunity to test out long-term space solutions nearby, where we can monitor things closely and have round-trip human travel.

2. Robotic exploration and mining of asteroids. It's silly to expect that every visit to every place in our solar system will have to involve people at all times. Asteroid mining may not be a way to get rich quick, but it's a big goal and realistic task that will further advance practical space exploration and travel.

Long-term, both of these tasks have to be privatized, just as airplane flight started primarily as government/military and became commercial. Once we've worked on long-term human habitation beyond earth orbit, and once we've been able to have industrial-scale machinery operating in conditions far from earth, then it would make sense to leave the moon and asteroids to companies and move on to Mars.

I think a lot of the Mars-or-bust folks took away the completely wrong lesson from the moon missions. The moon missions were one of the most inspirational things mankind has ever done, true. But we only half did it. I can't believe anyone alive at the time didn't believe that within 40 years, we'd have a permanent presence on the moon. That idea had been floating around for a century before the moon missions, and was foremost in most of our thinking.

But then, after poking around a bit and doing all kinds of circus tricks (drive a golfball, speed around in a vehicle, etc), we abandoned the moon and set our sights somewhere else. The resulting drop in achievements and public inspiration (including the desire for funding and the desire to enter science careers) is NOT because we didn't have humans going somewhere humans have never been before, risking their lives, it is because we didn't even try to achieve the expected and exciting goal of a permanent presence. We can't look up at the moon and know that people are living and working there.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (2)

Cid Highwind (9258) | about 2 years ago | (#42216263)

I think you've got your timeline of aviation backwards. It started as tinkerers in the back of their (private) bicycle shop, was pioneered by (private) individuals flying (private) planes in long-distance challenges to win (private) prize money. Now the two main builders of civilian aircraft are a huge conglomerate dependent on government contracts (Boeing) and an outright government-sponsored industry (Airbus).

here's how we solve the space budget allocation (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#42216393)

belters vs loonies
FIGHT!

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42215685)

Yes, a lot of those advantages would disappear if you spent the same on a robotic mission as you did on a manned one. But you also have to remember the human factor. Humans can perform repairs, investigate problems, spot things in the terrain, cover more ground, look at things from different angles (in a matter of seconds), etc, etc. Designing a robot that can do everything that a human can do as well as a human can do it, even ignoring the light speed communication issues, would probably be more expensive than just sending the human in the first place.

That's assuming the public allows such a robot to be deployed too. I think purely autonomous space missions are going to be among the first victims of a genuine AI scare. At least on Earth, one can unplug the computer or heat it to the point it ceases to function. When it's on Mars, there's no such controls. And that's going to be scary.

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 2 years ago | (#42214961)

In fact, why are we sending a clone of Curiosity to Mars, when we could send it to the Moon instead? About all that would be required is an extra retro rocket (to replace the parachute, not the skycrane), and preferably some different instruments. (Atmosphere samplers not required.)

Re:If Nasa is about Science, lose the men altogeth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215023)

What could we learn about an asteroid from sending a person there that we wouldn't learn from sending a modern robot there?

We would learn how to send men there. Robots don't need life support, closed- or nearly-closed biospheres, or velcro. It's a lot harder to do, so we would learn a lot more doing it than simply the science goals of the mission.

These things are capital-H Hard, and if we ever want to know if we can - for instance - colonise another world, or travel to a distant star, we're going to have to work them out sooner or later. There will always be more urgent priorities at home, right up until the point that it's too late to do anything... "now" is always the best time to start.

Slashdot Sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214579)

The moderation system totally sucks ass. With old people diarrhea.

The moon is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214649)

the perfect place to put an American military base. And then load it up with enough nuclear bombs to blow up the moon. When the moon is destroyed, the effect on the Earth would be catastrophic to human life, and the threat of that happening should be enough to force the non-American Untermensch into doing what we want them to do.

Just imagine how awesome it would be if every African-American could have at least 5 white slaves in their household. We wouldn't even need to bother with building androids to do our work for us when we could just use the slaves we are picking up from everywhere else in the world. Within 5 generations or less, they wouldn't even remember what it was like to be free.

We could even create farms for the sole purpose of harvesting them as food for Americans. It's not cannibalism because they wouldn't be considered human after a few laws were changed, erased, or passed. As it stands now, I don't really consider non-Americans to be human anyway, but if it were legal to treat them like the mindless animals that they are, that would be awesome.

I want to know what really happened that night (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214717)

"the upper horn [of the moon] split in two." ... "From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance"
- Shortly after sunset on June 18, 1178, (25 June on the proleptic Gregorian calendar)

(The Cosmic Winter, Clube and Napier. Blackwell Publishing, First Edition (May 1990))

Drive New Technology (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about 2 years ago | (#42214845)

forget going back to the moon as the purpose of NASA is to drive the development and use of new technology, which means the asteroid is the better choice. Heck it even gets us a foothold in space as the best way to build the vessel for that mission is in LEO (low earth orbit). Expand the god damn ISS into a proper space station folks and lets get working.

Moonopoly (4, Funny)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about 2 years ago | (#42214897)

Skip Asteroid, Go To the Moon

Do not pass the LaGrange point, do not collect $2bn.

Re:Moonopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215567)

THE LaGrange point?

Re:Moonopoly (1)

lxs (131946) | about 2 years ago | (#42215979)

Damn right! L5 4 lyfe yo!

Re:Moonopoly (1)

SteffenM (166724) | about 2 years ago | (#42216279)

When travelling from one body to the other in a LaGrange system, we're not really concerned about the other 4, are we?

we should totally build a whorehose at L5 (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#42216481)

They got a lot of nice girls there. AH!

And maybe a gambling house at L2. That should keep Bender busy. Just keep the stupids away from the flare guns.

Skip the Moon too..Mars and Beyond. (1, Interesting)

haplo21112 (184264) | about 2 years ago | (#42214925)

Just gear up and go to Mars, better yet concentrate and figuring out how to build the Fastest damn spaceship possible, something that can reach .5 the speed of light or faster, load some people on board for a one way trip and aim it at a nearby star. Lets stop wasting time looking at blurry pictures through telescopes and just get out there and see what we find.

Re:Skip the Moon too..Mars and Beyond. (1)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#42215041)

better yet concentrate and figuring out how to build the Fastest damn spaceship possible, something that can reach .5 the speed of light or faster,

Were you planning on fueling that with magic pixie dust? Seriously, accelerating large masses to those sorts of speeds, even in space where there's greatly reduced friction, is significantly beyond what we can do now. Going to the moon, or Mars, or even anywhere else in solar system, is simple by comparison.

Of course, if we ever figure it out then we can and should go to the stars, but it really isn't what you'd call a sane short-term or even medium-term plan. It requires the existence of things that we've got no idea how to try to do.

Re:Skip the Moon too..Mars and Beyond. (1)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#42215775)

Seriously, accelerating large masses to those sorts of speeds, even in space where there's greatly reduced friction, is significantly beyond what we can do now.

Don't forget about DEcelerating those large masses, too. I mean other than percussive deceleration, of course, since that's a bit too messy to be of much use.

Data Center on the Moon (1)

Mybrid (410232) | about 2 years ago | (#42215093)

Let's put a data center on the moon and get the whole world in on the project much as with the international space station.

Harrison Schmitt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215123)

also thinks climate change is not only a fraud, but a Soviet communist plot. No really. Just because he walked on the Moon doesn't make him a SPACE GENIUS. (tm)

Re:Harrison Schmitt (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 2 years ago | (#42216067)

Actually, it does make him pretty well versed in what is possible to do in space, it just means he's not a very good climatologist.

Re:Harrison Schmitt (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 2 years ago | (#42216127)

Actually, as a PhD geologist (the only scientist who ever went to the moon), he is eminently qualified to talk about the geological origins of the moon.

His positions on climatology and global warming... not so much. I think those just came along with getting involved in GOP politics. He was a republican senator from NM, and his wackier positions have all emerged since then. Apparently, he believes that environmentalism and global warming are not only "communist", but also "a stalking horse for Nazism". Maybe he breathed in too much moondust or something?

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

Re:Harrison Schmitt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42216441)

So you're saying you know Jack Schmitt? Ba-dum-bum. I had to. The Soviets made me.

Both Tea Party and Left would end NASA (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#42215575)

For different reasons- one wants to shrink government, the other focus on social problems. Unfortunately since both agree on the result, there will be continuing pressure to shrink.
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