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NASA Gets $75 Million For Europa Mission

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Space 135

astroengine writes "It may not be a lander or an orbiter, but its something. Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons, has been the focus of much scrutiny over its potential life-bearing qualities. It has an icy crust over a liquid water ocean and now salts have been detected on its surface, suggesting a cycling of nutrients from the surface to the interior. This only amplifies the hypothesis that Europa not only could support basic life, it could support complex life. But how can we find out? The proposed Europa Clipper received interest at NASA HQ last year as it would optimize the science while keeping the mission budget under $2 billion. It would be a spacecraft that will be in orbit around Jupiter, but make multiple flybys of Europa to assess the moon for its habitable qualities. Now, in a bill signed by President Obama and approved by lawmakers, $75 million has been allocated (for the remainder of this fiscal year) for a 'Jupiter Europa mission.' Could it represent the seed money for the Europa Clipper? We'll have to wait and see."

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Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340215)

Clarke quote in five, three, two, one...

Re:Countdown (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340233)

Who?

Re:Countdown (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340423)

Arthur C. (2001)

Re:Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340741)

No, just the Doctor.

Re:Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43341451)

Wait, could you ask me that again?
I never realized how much I enjoy hearing that question

Re:Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340383)

Didn't even get to three.

Re:Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340477)

and skipped four :)

Re:Countdown (5, Funny)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340589)

Five is right out.

Re:Countdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43344103)

Five is right out.

Evidently not.
Well played.

Warning (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340239)

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there."

Re:Warning (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340265)

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there."

I knew I should have made that left turn at Albuquerque.

Over my head ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340389)

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there."

I knew I should have made that left turn at Albuquerque.

That last one went over my head.

Albuquerque?

Re:Over my head ... (1)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340473)

That last one went over my head.

Albuquerque?

Bugs Bunny

Re:Over my head ... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341077)

That last one went over my head.

Albuquerque?

lol, I know I'm getting older when...

Re:Over my head ... (3, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341125)

What a maroon.

Re:Over my head ... (1)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341173)

Get Off My Lawn.

Re:Warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43341019)

completely fucking lame and predictable.

In Before 2001 Space Odyssey References... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340255)

In Before 2001 Space Odyssey References...

Don't hide the truth NASA...you found a monolith on the moon didn't you?

Re:In Before 2001 Space Odyssey References... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43341575)

We really need HAL to teach us chess and compliment us on our sketches. *reaches for DVD* Ahh, thank you /.

Re:In Before 2001 Space Odyssey References... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43342255)

A real nerd would know it's from the movie 2010 [wikipedia.org] , not 2001.

All these worlds.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340271)

...are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there.

Slashbot groupthink... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43341323)

...in full effect. YAWN!

$75 Million huh? (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340433)

I'm sure that's what Congress spends on office supplies for a year.

Re:$75 Million huh? (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340559)

The bill authorizes: “That $75,000,000 shall be for pre-formulation and/or formulation activities for a mission that meets the science goals outlined for the Jupiter Europa mission in the most recent planetary decadal survey” – H.R. 933, p. 64

Also, reading the summary [loc.gov] , I stumbled across this gem in the bill (now law), funding for "former Soviet Union cooperative threat reduction".

Re:$75 Million huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340879)

Also, reading the summary [loc.gov] , I stumbled across this gem in the bill (now law), funding for "former Soviet Union cooperative threat reduction".

I think this is legal speak for saying that NASA can buy RTG fuel from Russia even though they are generally restricted from doing business with them due to other laws.

Re:$75 Million huh? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340597)

Europa is tough. It is theorized that there are several kilometers of ice above the liquid oceans. But they could be slushy instead, or who knows. So the first priority is doing a detailed survey to find out where the ocean begins. Once that is known, then ideas like cryobots [wikipedia.org] can be developed to penetrate into it. An orbiter might be able to use very large solar arrays, but an RTG is more likely. For a cryobot, a nuclear reactor will be needed. Both of these will cost billions, so the $75 million is just how to research how much is actually needed.

Re:$75 Million huh? (5, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340805)

Indeed. We're a long ways away from having the technical know-how to drill through several kilometers of ice (and lets' face it, we really have no idea how thick the ice "crust" may be), either by robot or even manned mission. First things first.

I think something like Cassini–Huygens is probably the way to go. If I was in charge and had a good budget, I'd probably have two probes; a lander that could attempt some surface measurements, perhaps land near where surface ice is the youngest for possible signs of biological activity, and a seismometer onboard. The other probe would just smash into the moon to try to ring it like a gong to get some good seismic readings that ought to reveal more about the thickness of the ice crust, the depth of the liquid ocean beneath and data on the core. You would also have the main spaceship which could fly around the Jovian system for several years, get some data on some of the other cool Jovian satellites.

At some point we'll be able to get a probe to the liquid ocean on Europa, but until then we can take some good initial steps like we've done with Titan.

Re:$75 Million huh? (4, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341629)

Indeed. We're a long ways away from having the technical know-how to drill through several kilometers of ice (and lets' face it, we really have no idea how thick the ice "crust" may be), either by robot or even manned mission.

I don't think it's technical know-how so much as the cost to get the drill payload there. Scientists drilled through a kilometer of antarctic ice sheet to explore the lake beneath, so we have the know-how.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342531)

But even drilling into the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets took considerable effort, and that was with manned crews who could be on site to manage the process. The best we can do right now is have a lander that can drill a few inches into the surface. While I think that might be valuable, particularly as it seems likely that at least some areas of Europa's surface are geologically active (and thus we might get some signature of any complex chemistry going on in the ocean deep underneath), I still think we are a long way from getting any kind of automated drilling rig through.

Re:$75 Million huh? (2)

OlRickDawson (648236) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341705)

The last version that I read about had them melting through the ice, instead of drilling. The probe would be hot enough to melt its way down, and leave just a wire for communications back to the surface, probably using a super hot radioactive component. It would be much lighter and easier to get there, if only they could get approval to make such a device.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342549)

I had read about that. I think there are concerns about contamination, not to mention launching a pretty powerful radioactive payload.

Sigh, things would be a lot easier if we had mining, refining and spaceship/probe assembly plants in orbit.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341911)

Impactor/penetrators were already developed for Mars (and then cancelled, repeatedly). It should not be all that difficult to adapt the plans for use on Europa. They had seismographs, mineral analysis tools, thermometers, I forget what else, and of course a transponder and antenna that would stick up above the surface so that the signal could be relayed by an orbiter back to Earth.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342507)

I think getting a good idea of the internal structure of Europa should be the first order of business, and that's where the whole seismograph-impactor idea comes from. Besides, if you can get a probe to smack into Europa at a reasonably decent speed you might be able to get some good spectrographic data from the ice cloud it produces.

wrong. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343311)

Red dragon FLOATs. Send it to europa, along with the clipper. Once on the surface a number of experiments can be done and the data sent to clipper or home.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343369)

And a CHEAP drilling from red dragon is simply a small heated ball using radiation for heat. Then have a FEW small experiments on board (ph; temp; salt; etc). As it drops, it sends a signal back to dragon that relays it back to home or clipper. Regardless, this would be relatively cheap to do. Note that the dragon could take samples above and do a lot more experiments on the ice/ground that it finds. The ball by sending back the small info would then confirm that it is similar composition or something different. Finally, it tells us how far we need to drill.

Re:$75 Million huh? (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343883)

An orbiter might be able to use very large solar arrays, but an RTG is more likely. For a cryobot, a nuclear reactor will be needed.

Wouldn't it be possible to generate power from the planet flying through the magnetic field of Jupiter?

Fhloston Paradise (1, Funny)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340483)

Fast forward a few billion years to when the sun explodes and everyone is gonna be all over this place for its tourism potential. Invest now, and get in on the ground floor!

75 Millions for Europa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340567)

I don't think that will help the Euro a lot

Captcha: historic

Why so expensive (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340587)

I am a huge fan of NASA and wish the budgets between the Pentagon and NASA were switched...more bombing runs on other planets, less on our own. But why is everythng a $2 billion (before inevitable overruns) project?

Each planetary mission is somehat different, but it really seems to me that they are re-inventing the wheel every time. What about standardizing on a vehicle platform, with some set instrumentation and a little room for customization if necessary. Make each one substantial enough (RTG's for power) And then start firing these off to Mercury, moons of Jupiter, Saturn, where-ever.

The launch cost of an Atlas V or Delta IV is somehere in the neighborhood of $150 million, so the other $1.8 billion is for mission development and support?

SpaceX, here's a tip...get into the science mission hardware game too.

Re:Why so expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340937)

Because you don't have the leg room to build crazy things like gps, or microwaves, or lasers, or cell phones, or all the other things we take for granted today because the NASA of 50 years ago was faced with a challenge and had the budget to over come it.

I'm be happy if 150 million goes into parts for the spacecraft and the other 1.85 billion goes into R&D into cool things that our grand kids will take for granted when we're dead.

Re:Why so expensive (1)

poly_pusher (1004145) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341053)

I'm sure glad we had the foresight to reinvent the wheel over and over again out of different materials after that first stone one arrived...

Re:Why so expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43343211)

Uh, if Toyota redesigned the Camry every year from they'd go bankrupt. I'm just saying use and reuse a platform over and over agian to save costs. Cassini has been pretty successful, dust off those blueprints and plug in the coordinates for Europa.

Re:Why so expensive (1)

poly_pusher (1004145) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343949)

As mentioned below, the requirements for different missions produce many different variables that require specific redesigns. We also learn a great deal from each mission and improve our methods. The purpose of these missions is to get information on specific topics but it is also to improve our ability to travel in space in general. If your thinking was employed 40 years ago would we have ever moved past Voyager?

There is no "dust of those blueprints and plug in the coordinates for Europa" The "blueprints" are a small portion of the overall costs. So to gain as much knowledge and advancement as possible, we need to redesign each time.

In reply to what you say about the Camry, there wouldn't be one if we hadn't reinvented the wheel in wood, metal, then rubber and so on. Something tells me the Camry wouldn't handle well with stone wheels...

Re:Why so expensive (2)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341201)

Maybe because it's fucking hard?

Re:Why so expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43343195)

Yes, its effing hard, but they've also been doing it for 40 effing years. Pretty much have that Newtonian physics part down to be able to get these things in orbit around most of the hevaenly bodies in the solar system. The cameras from Cassini are pretty nice, as is the data relay, power gen and so on. So why not re-use the cassin design and plug in new coordinates?

  If NASA keeps developing effing $2 billion projects they won't effing get any money from the effing congress. They don't have the effing "sex appeal" like the military has, and will be killed by every effing Red state Rep outside of FL and TX.

Re:Why so expensive (2)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341439)

Part of the cost is in the lengthy design, development, and testing process. Another huge chunk is the support of the craft during flight. A final huge chunk is the support of the mission once it arrives, and analyzing the data going forward. In other words, you are talking about thousands of man-years of highly skilled labor, which runs $100,000 - $200,000/yr in terms of salary, benefits, overhead, and support staff. $10^5/yr * 10^3 yrs * several gets you up to a decent fraction of a billion dollars in a hurry.

Expensive? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341595)

This is for meetings to select the Top Guys who will look into the challenges and opportunities, work up some papers on various potential solutions to investigate. Not to actually go anywhere yet. Except maybe DC and Florida. Pretty sure there will be some trips to DC and Florida.

We Come in Peace! (1)

reluctantjoiner (2486248) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342819)

Even better, make them self assemble from raw materials found in the Solar System.

Re:We Come in Peace! (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343205)

Even better, make them self assemble from raw materials found in the Solar System.

This is already being done.
I admit using the rather inefficient organic assemblers is currently slowing the process down a bit.
Things should speed up once we get the mechanical assemblers working on the problem.

Re:Why so expensive (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343125)

But why is everythng a $2 billion (before inevitable overruns) project?

Because building one-of-a-kind equipment designed to operate for years in extreme environments is hellishly expensive.
 

What about standardizing on a vehicle platform, with some set instrumentation and a little room for customization if necessary. Make each one substantial enough (RTG's for power) And then start firing these off to Mercury, moons of Jupiter, Saturn, where-ever.

That's like taking a submarine and giving it wheels so it can explore the Sahara desert (except being insulated to survive the cold of the depths means it overheats there) and wings so it can fly to the top of Mt Everest (except the pressure hull and wheels are too heavy) and then sending it to the bottom of the Atlantic (where the water pressure crushes the wheels and the dynamic pressure tears the wings off). Seriously, while I exaggerate a little for effect, then environment and propulsion requirements for different planets (and different missions for the same planet) vary radically. In the same way, a camera that can image at Saturn is mildly blinded by how bright Jupiter is, completely blinded at Mars, and totally fried (as in serious physical damage) at Mercury. (Making the ungrounded assumption we're even looking for the same things at the different potential destinations.)
 
And I haven't mentioned how the instruments evolve over time, not only due to changing technology but as we learn things at the planetary destination and need to either look more closely at something or look at something else instead.
 

SpaceX, here's a tip...get into the science mission hardware game too.

SpaceX's business model depends on (relatively) cheap "commodity" grade hardware where the costs of development and production can be amortized over a large number of missions (and crossing their fingers and hoping they don't lose too many while climbing up the learning curve). A model worse suited for mission hardware development can hardly be imagined.

Re:Why so expensive (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343359)

SpaceX wants to be the WalMart of surface-to-orbit transport. Fine for those things that you only need WalMart quality for, but sometimes you really do need a 4 meter titanium I-beam.

Re:Why so expensive (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343901)

Actually, there is very little that is commodity grade hardware with them. They use the same equipment in terms of strength, etc that NASA, L-MART, etc. use. They use the same Al-Li tanks, frames, etc. As far as that go, the dragon and the rest of their system is equal OR BETTER than anything coming our of L-Mart, Boeing, etc. And in fact, it makes perfectly GOOD sense to take the dragon, make a solid bus internally for equipment to hook to, add antenna on the outside, provide various forms of power (solar and nukes), and then you have a solid system to send to various destinations. They can send to Mars, or Europa. Heck, they can use this for a satellite to send to Jupiter, Saturn, etc. All on the cheap.

Re:Why so expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43343375)

You start comparing travel to Jupiter with what SpaceX does? There are many orders of magnitude between them.

Consider geostationary orbits are around 42,000 km away.

Jupiter is at least 630,000,000 km away.

The little pictures they draw in news articles are not to scale.

Re:Why so expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43344331)

Don't tease the puppy; it will remember to bite you one day.

SpaceX (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343389)

Look up Red Dragon.

Getting Through That Ice Cover (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340591)

It could be done in a two-stage process. First, find a modest asteroid and send it crashing down into Europa. Then send a probe through the hole the asteroid made in the ice, before the opening re-freezes.

Re:Getting Through That Ice Cover (5, Funny)

Punko (784684) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340681)

Oh, that's nice. Cause an extinction level event then send information back saying no live here.

Re:Getting Through That Ice Cover (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341857)

It would be like me sending high explosive shells on your house wall to see if you are home. Kinda pointless, don't you think?

Re:Getting Through That Ice Cover (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343363)

Not if you work for the Pentagon.

Not Getting My Hopes Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340593)

From the Article: "Perhaps the $75 million seed money is a strong sign that NASA headquarters wants to see the Clipper take flight in 2021?"

We'll have a new president and administration by then. Even if we didn't, that's plenty of time for our government to change their minds, even multiple times. I'm not getting my hopes up.

PREPOSTEROUS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340639)

This is absolutely scandalous! That money could be spent building bombs!

direct link (4, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340667)

Here is the actual link [loc.gov] to the bill (now law):

"For necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, in the conduct and support of science research and development activities, including research, development, operations, support, and services; maintenance and repair, facility planning and design; space flight, spacecraft control, and communications activities; program management; personnel and related costs, including uniforms or allowances therefor, as authorized by sections 5901 and 5902 of title 5, United States Code; travel expenses; purchase and hire of passenger motor vehicles; and purchase, lease, charter, maintenance, and operation of mission and administrative aircraft, $5,144,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2014, of which up to $14,500,000 shall be available for a reimbursable agreement with the Department of Energy for the purpose of re-establishing facilities to produce fuel required for radioisotope thermoelectric generators to enable future missions: Provided, That $75,000,000 shall be for pre-formulation and/or formulation activities for a mission that meets the science goals outlined for the Jupiter Europa mission in the most recent planetary science decadal survey: Provided further, That the formulation and development costs (with development cost as defined under section 30104 of title 51, United States Code) for the James Webb Space Telescope shall not exceed $8,000,000,000: Provided further, That should the individual identified under subsection (c)(2)(E) of section 30104 of title 51, United States Code, as responsible for the James Webb Space Telescope determine that the development cost of the program is likely to exceed that limitation, the individual shall immediately notify the Administrator and the increase shall be treated as if it meets the 30 percent threshold described in subsection (f) of section 30104."

Insignificant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43340727)

75 Million is a insignificant amount of money for them.

Why such a small amount?

Re:Insignificant (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342069)

You should learn to read, just writing is not enough sometime.

Re:Insignificant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43342323)

You should learn to write, because it is written sometime(s).

Re:Insignificant (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343357)

Now, go ahead and write that in french without a single mistake, and google translate is not allowed. Then we will be on a level playing field. You realise for the majority of the world english is a second or third language, right? And that this Internet thing goes far beyond the borders of USA, right?

Contamination (2, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340799)

At least they aren't planning on landing (yet).... If there's no life before we land a spacecraft on the Europa, there will be afterwards.

We should probably become better at sterilizing [nytimes.com] our spacecraft [highbeam.com] before we land one on a moon where water is known to exist, and seed its oceans with earth-based life.

Re:Contamination (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342643)

At least they aren't planning on landing (yet).... If there's no life before we land a spacecraft on the Europa, there will be afterwards.

We should probably become better at sterilizing [nytimes.com] our spacecraft [highbeam.com] before we land one on a moon where water is known to exist, and seed its oceans with earth-based life.

you know, that kind of philosophical statement needs to answer the question why the fuck would that be a problem, what do you know about how they're going to sterilize and do you propose we sterilize this planet first? and how would we know if we have sterilized well enough?

Re:Contamination (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342765)

It would be a problem because if we go looking for life we'll find the contaminations we brought, and it'll be difficult to tell if life arose on Europa or not.
As they're not landing I assume they won't be sterilizing the craft at all.
Why would we sterilize the planet?
The last question is interesting, we could use the same techniques we plan on using to find life on the planet to see if any show up on the spacecraft, although no matter how good you can do it, the possibility remains that in (some) years time better techniques will be developed and we'll want to try again. Then we'll have difficulty determining if the life we find grew there on its own, or came from the last lander.

Final step - Io Flyby? (1)

reluctantjoiner (2486248) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342841)

I wonder if flying the probe between Jupiter and Io would be enough to sterilize the probe? Of course, the radiation and magnetic field might be enough to ruin the probe as well...

Interesting cost comparison (4, Interesting)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340809)

$75 million will buy a little more than 3 F-16 Falcon fighter jets. [af.mil]

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341099)

I don't know what the current numbers are, but at one point we were spending almost on defense as the rest of the world...COMBINED! I think we accounted for 47% of world defense/intel spending.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (3, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342623)

The height of the cold war was a different time. We have far fewer, far older aircraft and ship hulls today. We now spend more than 3x as much in checks sent to the poor and the old (many of whom are not poor) as we do on defense and wars. What most people think of as government spending: freeways, NASA, federal court system, etc, all together is small in comparison.

Very round numbers in $Trillions:

2.2 - Mailing checks to old and poor people
0.7 - Defense and wars
0.2 - Interest on the debt (at record low interest rates)
0.5 - Everything else the government does

The tiny NASA budget is just a glimse into the problem: the federal government is a pension plan with a military, and everything else is a dwindling afterthought. Oh, and let's not forget:

2.5 - Total federal revenue - no amount of cutting that "everything else" bucket will make this balance.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343177)

Your first number, "Mailing checks to old and poor people", completely ignores the fact that most of that comes out of the Social Security Trust Fund, which they PAID INTO IN ADVANCE. They're not taking tax dollars, they're receiving the money that they already earned and which had been deducted from their paychecks during their working lives. The military (calling it 'defense' is ridiculous) is a direct leech on the national revenue, brings in nothing and saves nothing for the future.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

lgw (121541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343457)

Your first number, "Mailing checks to old and poor people", completely ignores the fact that most of that comes out of the Social Security Trust Fund,

By "most" do you mean "less than 1/3rd, if we pretend there really is a trust fund"?

There are no marketable securities in the trust fund any more, just an IOU where the money was spent from the Reagan-though-Bush2 presidencies. Any check that social security sends out going forward must be directly funded by taxes or borrowing by the general fund. The young pay the old, a direct transfer from the less-wealthy to the more-wealthy (on average). People seem OK with that.

But either way, Social Security is only about $0.7T of that $2.2T - a bit more than defense and wars, but less than medicare/caid.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343973)

it is a pension plan because most of the money came from Social Security taxes, etc.
What is needed is to return our taxes to sanity and make some other cuts, while doing some smart investments.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (4, Informative)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343047)

More than the rest of the world. Since we finally retreated from Iraq our spending has gone down slightly and China's has risen we're now 'only' 41 percent. As a percentage of GDP we're only after Israel and the various Arab countries that we sell weapons to defend themselves from Israel. We could reduce our military spending by 80 percent and still be the #1 spender. Reduce it by 70 percent and we're still spending more than China and Russia combined. Keep in mind that doesn't count the (entirely unconstitutional) Black Budget, the alphabet soup of intel agencies, the free weapons we give away, or the mercenaries we are paying. Nor does it count things like the State Department paying Blackwater (or whatever its name is this week) to guard the US embassies worldwide, or the other mercs that are supposed to guard the consulates (like Benghazi) or oil and gas pipelines in Colombia.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343957)

That stuff is total BS. The truth is that nations like China and Russia do NOT tell their full budget. In addition, it is already known that China is outspending us in terms of buying ability. Hell, even in terms of their % of GDP. And we had 2 wars going when they passed us in 2005.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343439)

And a lot less than one <a href=http://www.finance.hq.navy.mil/fmb/13pres/APN_BA1-4_BOOK.pdf>F-35 Lightning II fighter jet</a>. They're $107-238 million dollars each, depending on the variant.

Re:Interesting cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43343829)

and apparently a cost feasibility study, which is the first step in any major government program whether it be NASA, DoD, DoE, etc, and is exactly what the $75,000,000 is for. In fact, from my experience with DoD contracting, $75M is a really high number for a survey of technologies and cost numbers, so this is either heavily inflated or, more likely, they have a lot of development work to figure out how this will actually work.

To be honest, this seems like the fun part of the mission. This funding is for the project where the smartest guys in the room will brainstorm ideas about what science you need, how you build a probe to get said science, and how you launch the probe and get it there. Then they'll see the merits of each of those ideas. Probably the most innovative time in a project like this.

I want to see the fishies! (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year and a half ago | (#43340875)

Ever since I attended a SETI forum and panel of scientists discussing life on other planets, Cynthia Phillips said when looking for life, "go where the water is." And there's lots more water on Europa than on Mars. There are many challenges of a lander, drilling into the ice, launching a submarine, etc. Radiation is intense (until you get into the ice), Europa is much farther away, it hasn't been mapped extensively like Mars, navigation, time delay, etc, etc. But I cannot stop imagining of a submarine cruising in the waters below the ice taking video and pics of the little fishies swimming about (if any). However, I think finding microbes or plankton would be very exciting.

Re:I want to see the fishies! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341117)

I am not a scientist, but I don't get the wank fest with Mars. We can go there and hope to find fossils, or we can go to Europa or Encelaedus [sic] and *maybe* find a live specimen.

Re:I want to see the fishies! (2)

PlastikMissle (2498382) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341317)

Well Mars is a lot closer, and better understood.

Re:I want to see the fishies! (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343083)

Also has an atmosphere, which makes landing a lot easier and cheaper, and an average temperature that our equipment can deal with.

Re:I want to see the fishies! (2)

Strider- (39683) | about a year and a half ago | (#43344169)

Also has an atmosphere, which makes landing a lot easier and cheaper, and an average temperature that our equipment can deal with.

Actually, the Martian atmosphere is a huge hinderance, and one of the reasons why so many missions have failed. The fundamental problem is that Mars has just enough atmosphere that you need to deal with it (heat shields, atmospheric entry, etc...) but not enough to actually be useful for anything. This is how you end up with rube-goldbergesque landing systems like what MSL used.

Landing on a planetary body without an atmosphere is actually much simpler, as you can just do a pure rocket descent. May not be as efficient, but it is certainly easier, hell they landed the NEAR Shoemaker probe on the asteroid it was orbiting, and it wasn't even designed to land (of course, the gravity on an asteroid is weak enough that you could throw a baseball on an escape trajectory, but that's another matter). The most obvious example, of course, is the Moon landings. The moon has effectively no atmosphere of any kind, yet the incredibly lightweight and delicate LEM was able to land on the surface and return to orbit with aplomb.

“Cool, except it should be Enceladus!” (3, Informative)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341223)

- Carolyn Porco

To get good information on Europa, you really need a lander. You might not even need to drill - organics may flow up from the ocean and get frozen in the crust. But a lander is necessary to get actual samples. In fact, if they send that Curiosity clone they're planning to Europa instead of Mars again, it might get much more interesting results!

Enceladus, on the other hand, is like Soviet Russia: Because of its geysers, samples go to you.

Re:“Cool, except it should be Enceladus!&rdq (2)

Tim the Gecko (745081) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341557)

To get good information on Europa, you really need a lander. You might not even need to drill - organics may flow up from the ocean and get frozen in the crust. But a lander is necessary to get actual samples. In fact, if they send that Curiosity clone they're planning to Europa instead of Mars again, it might get much more interesting results!

There may be some fun 10 meter long ice blades [bbc.co.uk] ("penitentes") on the surface of Europa that would be amazing to see close up (though maybe not so great to land on). Dr Hobley: "We are expecting a band around the equator where it is spiky."

Re:“Cool, except it should be Enceladus!&rdq (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343149)

To get good information on Europa, you really need a lander.

But to get the answers the lander designers will need to know before they can design their equipment - you need flybys if not an orbiter. One step at a time, each building on the last.

Expensive for Europe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43341269)

What kind of hotels are they staying in for that budget!?!

Re:Expensive for Europe! (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43342251)

Its all about buying the right to cook with dynamite! It gets expensive after a couple places.

Why orbit Jupiter? (1)

LiavK (2867503) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341301)

Are the orbital dynamics harder if you orbit Europa?

Re:Why orbit Jupiter? (3, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341469)

You need to expend a whole lot more energy to get into Europa orbit compared to just Jupiter orbit. Plus, if you are spending all your time in the orbit of a Galilean satellite, you are spending all your time in Jupiter's radiation belts. As mentioned in the article, this would limit your spacecraft life to perhaps 100 days.

Meh.. (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43341783)

Could it represent the seed money for the Europa Clipper?

It'd be so much cooler if it represented the seed money for a full scale Panther Clipper. [alioth.net]

7.5E7$? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43342283)

That's just enough for a few CGI shots, some websites and maybe a lunch. But I guess the private space probe market will just jump in, right?

Dreams (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43342759)

NASA Dreams Small.

Red Dragon instead (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43343091)

It makes far more sense to send the red dragon. It can do it for a fraction of the price.

Don't turn the lights on (1)

kriston (7886) | about a year and a half ago | (#43344065)

Make sure they don't turn the lights on. Remember what happened to the Tsien when it landed on Europa.

Why flybys? (1)

Chance Phelps (2880963) | about a year and a half ago | (#43344189)

Does putting it in orbit around Europa cost more or something? Wouldn't that be a better solution than making flybys?

Re:Why flybys? (1)

Chance Phelps (2880963) | about a year and a half ago | (#43344199)

Oh got it, nvm.
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