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Draft NASA Funding Bill Cancels Asteroid Mission For Return To the Moon

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the flip-flop dept.

Space 237

MarkWhittington writes "A draft version of the 2013 NASA Authorization Bill nixes any funding for President Obama's asteroid retrieval mission and instead directs NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface as soon as possible, funding of course permitted. The NASA bill is currently working its way through the House Science Committee. Thus far the Senate has not taken up NASA authorization. However the cancellation of the asteroid retrieval mission and an insistence on returning to the moon, which both President Obama and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden have opposed, would place Congress on a collision course with the White House should that version of the bill be passed by both houses of Congress."

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237 comments

The important word is "should" (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#44014797)

...would place Congress on a collision course with the White House should that version of the bill be passed by both houses of Congress.

.

This will not get through the Senate.

Re:The important word is "should" (2)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44014809)

This will not get through the Senate.

Yeah, this does seem like political games just to make Obama look bad somehow. While I would love for this country to get back to the moon, we won't get there anytime soon. A mission to an asteroid seems like it would be much cheaper and quicker to accomplish. Let's get that done first. Worry about a lunar lander and re-launch vehicle later.

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015065)

> A mission to an asteroid seems like it would be much cheaper and quicker to accomplish.

Can you elaborate? It's farther. It's more dangerous (less is measured/known/visible, I believe). There's a lot more chance of well, getting his by micro meteorites up to big ones. Sample collection is going to have to be via new method(s)...I'm just trying to figure out what's the easier part. I agree it would give better return value. But if it was done quicker and cheaper, I'd be very pessimistic about anyone coming back.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44015235)

There's a lot more chance of well, getting his by micro meteorites up to big ones.

Not really. LEO is worse for that due to the higher relative velocity of LEO junk (and the considerable quantity up there). Now, if you blaze by a good sized asteroid at a few km/s, that could be a different story - though our unmanned probes have fared well when they do that.

Re:The important word is "should" (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#44015251)

> A mission to an asteroid seems like it would be much cheaper and quicker to accomplish.

Can you elaborate? It's farther. It's more dangerous (less is measured/known/visible, I believe). There's a lot more chance of well, getting his by micro meteorites up to big ones. Sample collection is going to have to be via new method(s)...I'm just trying to figure out what's the easier part. I agree it would give better return value. But if it was done quicker and cheaper, I'd be very pessimistic about anyone coming back.

OK, energetically, there are asteroids that we could could reach for roughly the same delta-V as going to the Moon, and coming back. (To put it another way, that Apollo could have reached with the Saturn V.) So, energetically, it's a wash, at least for the NEO we would be going to first.

In terms of technology, we are more or less there for an asteroid - we have demonstrated long duration flights on the ISS, and you don't land on a small asteroid, you dock with one, and that we have technology for. We just need a launch vehicle. For the Moon, we HAD the technology (the Lunar Module), but lost it, and estimates to get it back are in the billions of dollars. Advantage, asteroids. Plus, it turns out landing on the Moon and on Mars are rather difficult, so there is no synergy advantage in terms of going to Mars if we develop a Lunar Module first. Again, advantage, asteroids.

(I believe that avoiding that LM cost/development time was the "cheaper and quicker" the OP was referring to.)

Sample collection is well in hand, and not really a problem for either Moon or asteroid. That's a wash.

Now, going to an asteroid for 9 months is indeed more dangerous than going to the Moon for 9 days. No doubt. However

- if we are ever going to get to Mars, we have to develop the capability to do long duration deep space missions. Going to an asteroid is no more dangerous (or not much more dangerous) than just going out there and coming back, with much more return.

- When we do go back to the Moon, we are likely to go to stay. It is by no means clear that going to an asteroid for 9 months is more dangerous than going to the Moon for 9 months.

So, for the danger aspect, I regard as a wash, except that the asteroid mission would have real synergies.

So, IMHO, the advantages for the Moon are week and iffy, while the advantages / synergies for an asteroid are real and solid.

Also, there is a LONG history of commercial development riding the back of initial government investment. NASA going to an asteroid would jump-start commercial asteroid mining.

Re:The important word is "should" (3, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | about a year ago | (#44015255)

It's the Obama administration's idea, so it must be wrong. Just like when Obama has picked up old Republican ideas and tried to push them, they become wrong.

Sometimes I wonder it Obama's support of NSA domestic spying is just a clever way to get Republicans to come out in favor of personal privacy. It wasn't that long ago that the Republicans clearly stated that there was no right to privacy enumerated in the Constitution. Now because it's against Obama, they're thumping the privacy tub really hard. (Though I'll bet they still don't think any right to privacy applies to gay conduct, even in one's own home.)

But unfortunately I've lost sufficient faith to think that that's what he's doing, The "mini-me" cartoon seems scarily accurate, and makes today's Republican Congress-critters seem all the more buffoon-ish.

Re:The important word is "should" (-1, Flamebait)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year ago | (#44015551)

Sometimes I wonder it Obama's support of NSA domestic spying is just a clever way to get Republicans to come out in favor of personal privacy.
 
Gee, how much kool-aid did you drink?

You are part of the problem. You are comparing an idealized version of the best part of your side (and giving them every possible benefit of the doubt and making up excuses for them) with a cartoonishly exaggerated version of the worst of the other side. Let me guess, ALL your information comes from watching and reading liberal media?

The only party in favor of personal privacy are the Libertarians and a small but growing libertarian camp within the Republican party. Mainstream Republicans and Democrats don't even consider it an issue worth thinking about.

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

dpilot (134227) | about a year ago | (#44015659)

You're overgeneralizing and misplacing me. I'm a near-tin-hatter, myself. Remember that one of Obama's election issues was greater transparency in government, which is one of his biggest failings.

By the way, you guessed wrong. I get most of my news from mainstream media, along with some from Comedy Central, which I'll admit has some left leanings, but in case you didn't know, has been known to roast Obama, as well. I won't accuse you (yet) of making the argument that ALL mainstream media is liberal, and only Fox is fair an balanced.

Personally I believe Libertarians are naive and have a rather small, short-term world view. That doesn't mean that I like mainstream Republicans or Democrats, either. With increasing years I think I identify more with Goldwater Republicans.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#44015751)

You are part of the problem. You are comparing an idealized version of the best part of your side

I think the NSA part of his comment was suppose to be humorous due to the meat of his argument being:

It's the Obama administration's idea, so it must be wrong. Just like when Obama has picked up old Republican ideas and tried to push them, they become wrong.

Which couldn't be any more obvious.

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015771)

Too bad libertarians are insane.

So there is no sane party that also believes in individual liberty. Shame really.

Why the moon? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44015591)

Going back to the moon seems pretty pointless unless we're prepared to actually establish a colony/fuel refinery/etc.(which I believe that would run afoul of an international treaty) Otherwise it's just rehashing old territory for some new photo-ops that could be photoshopped much more cheaply. Capturing an asteroid on the other hand is a step towards harnessing the massive mineral wealth in asteroids and letting us actually start producing cost-effective infrastructure in space.

Re:Why the moon? (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | about a year ago | (#44015721)

>(which I believe that would run afoul of an international treaty) Not really. The Outer Space Treaty says anyone is allowed to settle other celestial bodies and use their natural resources, it just prohibits signatories from annexing or otherwise claiming sovereignty over extra-terrestrial territories. Signatories are also not allowed to drag nuclear weapons along, and that's the gist of it. It's for the best, really - why bother colonising space if we're just going to use it to prolong capitalism, nationalism and hate?

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44015977)

"Yeah, this does seem like political games just to make Obama look bad somehow."

I don't see how. He doesn't need any help. He does a fine job of looking bad all by himself. The "asteroid rendezvous" was a bonehead idea at this stage of the game.

"While I would love for this country to get back to the moon, we won't get there anytime soon."

We'd better. Both Russia and China are aimed at the moon, and it is strategically not just important, but essential. Whoever controls near-space controls Earth, period. Don't ever forget that. Far space can wait. (By the way: Russia pledged 17 times NASA's entire budget on space exploration and research for this fiscal year.)

"A mission to an asteroid seems like it would be much cheaper and quicker to accomplish."

And a skateboard is much cheaper and quicker to obtain than an automobile. What's your point?

"Worry about a lunar lander and re-launch vehicle later."

No.

Re:The important word is "should" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014819)

And it shouldn't. Going back to the moon is sexier and great for the ego, but working on capturing asteroids is more useful. But most Americans prefer things very simple. They think the moon is a planet and full of resources while an asteroid is a ball of sand like you see at the beach. It doesn't matter that that sentence contains many wrong things; it's simple and aligns with an ignorant masses level of common sense. The bottom line is people will say Republicans want to go back to the moon and reap the great benefits while Obama wants to visit a stupid rock. Never mind that "stupid rock" could contains trillions of dollars worth of resources and even some unknown/unavailable/rare materials.

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#44014953)

And it shouldn't. Going back to the moon is sexier and great for the ego, but working on capturing asteroids is more useful. But most Americans prefer things very simple. They think the moon is a planet and full of resources while an asteroid is a ball of sand like you see at the beach. It doesn't matter that that sentence contains many wrong things; it's simple and aligns with an ignorant masses level of common sense. The bottom line is people will say Republicans want to go back to the moon and reap the great benefits while Obama wants to visit a stupid rock. Never mind that "stupid rock" could contains trillions of dollars worth of resources and even some unknown/unavailable/rare materials.

+1

Mod this AC up.

Re:The important word is "should" (1, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44015013)

No, because it doesnt make sense. There is no way to cheaply get those "trillions of dollars" that an asteroid could contain into a low earth orbit, let alone down to the surface... that sort of delta-v for that sort of mass just doesnt come cheap.

The moon is a bad idea as well.. why trade one gravity well for another?

Space station technology is what they should be working on, in particular self-sustaining environments.

Re:The important word is "should" (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44015221)

Space station technology is what they should be working on, in particular self-sustaining environments.

Where are they going to get the mass for those "space stations" from? Asteroids remain one of the better sources of material for anything we do in space. Might as well figure out how to mine them.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015015)

If the stupid rock might contain trillions USD of rare earths (or rare whatever), then the private sector will step forward and fund the mission. It looks like some are organizing to do just that. Meanwhile, NASA should spend taxpayer money on broader goals (keeping in mind that the asteroid mining may be a failure), such as reducing the costs of human space travel and determining human capacity for travel to/living on planets w/o atmospheres.

Re:The important word is "should" (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44015373)

If it contains trillions of dollars worth of "rare Earths" we're going to need a new name for those elements.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44015391)

If the stupid rock might contain trillions USD of rare earths (or rare whatever), then the private sector will step forward and fund the mission. It looks like some are organizing to do just that. Meanwhile, NASA should spend taxpayer money on broader goals (keeping in mind that the asteroid mining may be a failure), such as reducing the costs of human space travel and determining human capacity for travel to/living on planets w/o atmospheres.

http://www.planetaryresources.com/ [planetaryresources.com] is one of them.

Re:The important word is "should" (3, Insightful)

deadhammer (576762) | about a year ago | (#44015823)

Asteroid capture and mining is potentially lucrative but completely unknown in terms of economy, safety, proper technique, etc. Generally what governments excel at is exploration of unknowns. You think there would BE private space flights and planned space stations if NASA and the USSR hadn't gone up first to see if, oh, people could even survive in zero-G, let alone get up there and back? Is it inefficient? Sure. But governments can take risks that private agencies, with shareholders that demand risk prevention, can't. Once the maps have been made, so to speak, then you can get the massive influx of private sector enterprise.

In other words, it's an investment.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44015049)

And, when it comes down to it, politicians do what maximizes their chances for re-election, not what has actual value for their country or districts. It is all about doing what the people you represent THINK is a good idea, not what some ivory tower domain expert (who has actually done the work) says would benefit.

Re:The important word is "should" (2)

Gamer_2k4 (1030634) | about a year ago | (#44015111)

But most Americans prefer things very simple. They think the moon is a planet and full of resources while an asteroid is a ball of sand like you see at the beach.

I don't think most Americans believe that at all. I think it just boils down to what you said in your second sentence - putting humans on the moon is way sexier. WE want to be the ones doing the exploring, not some computerized device.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44015231)

I find going to an asteroid to be far sexier. That's like catching a bird in flight, while going to the moon is just like catching a cow.

Re:The important word is "should" (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44015361)

How is that sexier? We put men on the moon in 1969. A repeat of that trip doesn't show new capability. Capturing an asteroid is much more ambitious. We're talking solar system engineering here.

Re: new capability (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a year ago | (#44015649)

Yes it does.

We put men on the moon in 1969 and it "almost killed us". Why isn't anyone tapping into Moore's Law for the moon? The MoonBase is the next "leap" in the process. That requires capability - but of a different kind. By now the math should be cake. Materials durability, etc is the next easiest part.

The *really scary* part is how we manage our "Terrorist Meme" when something like a MoonBase has to be protected! And no, don't tell me a MoonBase is "hard" - just haul a big rectangular metal/whatever allow box up there and plunk it down. Voila. Instant Moonbase. Then you can have a staging zone for all kinds of fun stuff.

But it's the social aspect that we have to really get a grip on, and I believe it will take some "doing stuff" for the social-political flashpoint to show up in actual conversation.

Re:The important word is "should" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015383)

Don't worry, the corporations will do it. With tax cuts from the government too.

Oink oink oink (3, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44014811)

Pork barrel for the 21st century
I'm sure the work will be spread out among every important congress person's districts

Re:Oink oink oink (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44015547)

China's making movements, so I'm sure they don't wanna get caught flat-footed...like they did 60 years ago with the Russians.

Yes, it is a waste of money. But not of domestic politics.

NASA's mission (4, Insightful)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about a year ago | (#44014821)

Not sure how any serious engineer or scientist works at NASA these days. NASA's mission changes quarterly (or more frequently), subject to political whim. I think our only real hope in the practical exploration of space lies with commercial enterprise. Which, truthfully, isn't that bad a deal. Of course, we still don't have any viable commercial enterprise working yet (lots of startups but nothing concrete at this point). A friend of mine is a scientist who worked at NASA for 12 years. He bailed about 10 years ago because of the political interference and now works at a university on the west coast. Smart man.

Re:NASA's mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014887)

When's the last time a commercial enterprise was about "exploration"? What can you explore in a mostly empty vacuum anyways? And how many times can you take pictures of desolate rocks that all look the same and still call it "exploration". I know what a beach looks like, I don't need to take a picture of every single grain of sand.

"Space exploration" is nothing more than a cargo cult at this point, where supposedly rational nerds gush over the romance and perceived benefits of what was nothing more than a political stunt back in the Space Age.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44015087)

What can you explore in a mostly empty vacuum anyways? And how many times can you take pictures of desolate rocks that all look the same and still call it "exploration".

If "space" is a mostly empty vacuum, then it doesn't have "desolate rocks" or even pictures of "desolate rocks". You can't keep your troll straight.

Re:NASA's mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015117)

Do you not understand the word "mostly"? And yes, space is mostly empty. Do the math yourself. Calculate the volume of the Solar System, don't weasel out on me now that there's no definite boundary, just pick something and go with it. Now calculate the amount of that volume that has something in it with the density of a rock or more. Overall, it's a fucking empty place, it is also very big, and it has a few specks of stuff here and there.

How is a grade-school understanding of physical reality a "troll"? Because it contradicts your personal narrative?

Re:NASA's mission (0)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44015283)

I didn't think you were using the genuine definition of "mostly" as in more than 50%. If you are, then that's a remarkably lame thing to say. For example, I could note that mostly the Earth's surface is devoid of humans and their infrastructure. Yet there's a lot of us on Earth just the same. Similarly, observing that space is "mostly empty vacuum" ignores that there's a lot of stuff in space other than empty vacuum.

Overall, it's a fucking empty place

Which is obviously wrong since there's plenty of stuff in space, contrary to your assertion. This is just a logical fallacy.

How is a grade-school understanding of physical reality a "troll"?

You probably have been corrected on this matter numerous times, Yet you still insist on repeating this fallacy.

Re:NASA's mission (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015333)

Did you have to work hard to get that stupid?

Re:NASA's mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015781)

You should read his other stuff. He's an off-the-scale delusional nutjob.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44015359)

The oceans are mostly water. Nothing of interest there, I'm sure.

Re:NASA's mission (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44015633)

Heck, all matter is mostly empty space. To scale, the vast empty reaches within an atom make the solar system look positively crowded. Cleary nothing of interest exists at all.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44014921)

the original space program was political as well
kennedy's made the speech because his poll numbers were dropping after the election. only after he was killed did congress really provide the funding. even then the work was split among so many congressional districts that it was the pork barrel of the decade. the economy was good and the government was spending it all

the last decade was spent on a lot of defense programs, but mostly data mining type software. once the war spending dies down all the people working for the NSA and other agencies will go into civilian life and we will have another huge tech boom

Re:NASA's mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014977)

Somehow or other I doubt that those people are the ones who could play any positive role in a tech boom. They are more likely to instigate activities that would, instead, divert money into various spook and military-related activities.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44015177)

the original space program was political as well

Yes. Yes, it was. And it achieved its goal of getting us to the moon in such an unsustainable fashion that we haven't been back in *forty years*.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44015657)

Don't forget the importent part - it let us show off the capabilties of our ICBM techology without actually starting a shooting war.

Re:NASA's mission (2)

jasnw (1913892) | about a year ago | (#44014999)

Simply put, they stick around because it's a good-paying job in an economy where there aren't that many available. Your friend bailed 10 years ago, back when jobs for people in these fields were a lot more plentiful. NASA became a giant jobs-and-pork operation years ago, and was one of the original "welfare for whitecoats" agencies (whitecoats as in lab coats). Any engineer or scientist with a NASA job these days hangs on as long as they can. Mortgages gotta be paid, and kids gotta be fed.

Re:NASA's mission (2)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year ago | (#44015567)

No kidding. I always figure these "why don't they just..." suggestions are from people without families. Seriously, that changes everything.

Re:NASA's mission (2)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | about a year ago | (#44015001)

I think our only real hope in the practical exploration of space lies with commercial enterprise. Which, truthfully, isn't that bad a deal.

Commercial R&D and exploration serves one purpose: to enrich the stockholders' portfolio. Yes, there's a trickle-down effect in that any technological or intellectual advances will become available to the public eventually, but at a cost whose primary concern is profit. That profit will be a margin applied to the research phase and the manufacture.

Public investment in R&D and exploration is to the direct benefit of the entire nation and its allies. Derivative products will eventually be sold for a profit but the profit margin will only be expected to cover the manufacture costs, not the research phase.

Ultimately we pay for everything we have, at the store or via taxes. The question is: do you want to pay profit mark-up on the research?

Re:NASA's mission (0)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44015193)

Commercial R&D and exploration serves one purpose: to enrich the stockholders' portfolio. Yes, there's a trickle-down effect in that any technological or intellectual advances will become available to the public eventually, but at a cost whose primary concern is profit. That profit will be a margin applied to the research phase and the manufacture.

In other words, commercial R&D has to be useful. And the profit "cost" yields a strong incentive to insure that the R&D has positive return on investment. These are huge advantages over government R&D which neither has to be useful or provide more benefit than cost.

Public investment in R&D and exploration is to the direct benefit of the entire nation and its allies. Derivative products will eventually be sold for a profit but the profit margin will only be expected to cover the manufacture costs, not the research phase.

In other words, tremendous costs, paltry returns, and the real R&D gets disguised as "derivative products".

Ultimately we pay for everything we have, at the store or via taxes. The question is: do you want to pay profit mark-up on the research?

Of course. The real question is why do you think public research has any advantages at all? For example, when I pay at the store, I pay directly for the R&D and other costs that go into the stuff that I use. If I pay taxes, then they get burned on whatever the elite who controls that spending happens to decide is most useful for themselves with a modest portion used for face-saving stuff like NASA's high profile missions.

I have no say on what NASA spends money on (or more accurately, I can say plenty, but no one in charge of the spending listens). I have plenty of say on what I buy at the store. My money there speaks louder than words. The store is far more democratic and responsive than the space-industrial complex fueled by unaccountable public funding can be.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44015743)

Public research has the advantage that it can explore areas that may have no obvious short-term economic benefits (and no company will be interested ininvesting in any research with only non-economic benefits), or that are simply too expensive for any single individual or corporation to fund, with many/most of the actual benefits being rather unexpected. There was no driving need for transistors on Earth, vacuum tubes had become pretty reliable, but were far too heavy and fragile to put in a space ship, so transistor research got a major incidental push from the space race. But computers as we know them could never have been built with vacuum tubes. Sure, we probaby would have moved to transistor-based computers eventually, but what do you suppose the economic value is of getting them a decade or three sooner. For that matter computational climate models are probably going to be a major factor in giving us a fighting chance to mitigate and adapt to climate change without civilisation completely collapsing, and if the Apple II was only now reaching the market we wouldn't be able to even begin to build those models until it was too late.

Re:NASA's mission (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44015089)

You should run it more like the EU runs projects like the LHC or ESA.

Re:NASA's mission (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44015665)

Who else got a chance to land a rover on Mars? Who gets first crack at data from those rovers?

Go for the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014831)

It's not boring to the American public, and we've lost a lot of the institutional knowledge from the Apollo missions. We can still learn a lot about humans adapting to living on an alien planet.

Re:Go for the moon (0)

SinisterRainbow (2572075) | about a year ago | (#44014857)

yah why don't we go there again and again and again and while we're at it, repeat all science experiments we did before, then show off our videos to China and Russia again and wave our flags and sing the national anthem and be gay. Or let's go do something more productive with today's budgets and do something new while we try to figure out how the hell to get to Mars.

Re:Go for the moon (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014937)

yah why don't we go there again and again and again and while we're at it, repeat all science experiments we did before, then show off our videos to China and Russia again and wave our flags and sing the national anthem and be gay.

Or let's go do something more productive with today's budgets and do something new while we try to figure out how
the hell to get to Mars.

Yes, because a planet that takes 6+ months just to get to is somehow so much more worthwhile and feasible to you...because it's a new fucking rock.

Don't worry. We keep throwing space junk in our atmosphere, you can kiss any space exploration goodbye. No one will be able to get a spacecraft through our new "asteroid" belt, let alone to another planet, but hey, let's not discuss the obvious things...ooooh, shiny new rock!

Re:Go for the moon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014979)

His point is that the technology to get to Mars (6 months is too long for manned travel we'll need something different) is the benefit you want. Going back to the moon doesn't net any new technology. As I recall, Republicans downed SpaceX for not doing anything different than NASA in the 60s (never mind the huge cut in costs, increase in reliability, dependability, and the chance for an actual fast turnaround time). But, for a reason that's obvious, Republicans in congress want to force NASA to go back to the moon just like NASA in the 60s! To summarize, SpaceX very bad even though they've made significant modernizations to the technology to make space travel more feasible, but the Republican plan for NASA is wonderful because they want to actually recreate the 60s cost and all!

If people had their priorities straight... (5, Insightful)

kk49 (829669) | about a year ago | (#44014851)

We would do both...

Re:If people had their priorities straight... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44014865)

Can't, all the available money is needed for more important things [talkingpointsmemo.com]

Re:If people had their priorities straight... (1)

kk49 (829669) | about a year ago | (#44014901)

Building Skynet is also a priority.

Re:If people had their priorities straight... (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44014991)

Given the current funding levels for science, our space programs are devolving into something akin to a bunch of hobos fighting over the last off-ramp.

Re:If people had their priorities straight... (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44015137)

I'm not sure we can do either. My feeling is we've been to the Moon. Time to move on.

Two celestial bodies at the same time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015375)

That's what I'd do with a million dollars.

Re:If people had their priorities straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015469)

You should hold a fundraiser. Then you can personally fund whatever missions you like.

Meh, SLS marches on (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44014903)

Looks like Congress continues to have myopic space policy. I can't tell how much the bill "authorizes" (authorization is a lot weaker than appropriation which actually allocates money) for the Space Launch System (SLS), but any positive amount is too much IMHO. The proposed (which the bill would cancel) asteroid recovery mission sounded very promising as a technology demonstration, but at least that is something that private enterprise can do on a relatively small budget at a future time.

COTS (the program to supply the International Space Station via private vendors) is still chugging along for now, but I expect a number of congresspeople consider the proper number of COTS participants to be zero (they've been steadily whittling the number down from four). I see that they're proposing here to make Orion (which is Lockheed Martin's vehicle these days) the "backup" vehicle in case COTS doesn't work out.

As to the science portion, I'm not particularly enthused. The asteroid mission would probably, despite its reliance on manned activity (and the fact that zillions of meteorites fall on Earth every day), been more substantial in terms of science produced than most of NASA's missions. Someone has to collect climate data from space (that seems by far the best quality large scale climatology data out there) and NASA seems to be the one in charge of that. The authorization bill would continue to authorize that.

Re:Meh, SLS marches on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014935)

We have to build the SLS. Nobody else is going to buy the solid-fuel rocket engines made in Utah and Alabama. None of the commercial companies are stupid enough to make the unreusable part of your rocket be the expensive part and the reusable part the cheap one. Republicans in congress are that stupid, though. The general public doesn't know any difference so you might as well secure your pork now.

This is not the way (5, Insightful)

ildon (413912) | about a year ago | (#44014905)

Scientific missions should not be determined by political whims.

Re:This is not the way (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44014945)

When were they not? This is why we can't have nice things.

Re:This is not the way (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014967)

"Political whims" as you call it, definitely do come into play when you're talking about tens of billions of dollars (at least) of taxpayer money used for discretionary spending. As it should.

Re:This is not the way (1)

StickyKeys (2825659) | about a year ago | (#44015027)

I agree. The government should have say over NASA's budget but not what it's spent on.

Re:This is not the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015425)

Then hold a fundraiser and pay for it yourself.

I don't understand the reasoning... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014911)

Why return to the moon surface? Developing asteroid mining technology could provide a new source of rare elements. Humans have already landed on the moon. Humans have not mined an asteroid. It seems like a simple decision to me. I am going to speculate that it is about somebody's ego/political advancement rather than scientific/economic reasons.

Re:I don't understand the reasoning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015007)

"Developing asteroid mining technology could provide a new source of rare elements."

What happened to the ones we had here? Did someone toss them into a black hole? It always amazes me that the same people that think that technology will find a replacement for anything, at the same time are very worried that we'll "run out" of some magical elements. If we can't recycle those elements right here, what makes you think "space mining" is the solution? There is no such technology, and if there were, why couldn't we just use that technology right here and skip that whole space bit?

"Humans have not mined an asteroid."

And no one will, ever.

"It seems like a simple decision to me. "

There's nothing to decide; the free market and the limits of our technology decided decades ago.

Are you talking about science or commercial mining here? You're mixing up two vastly different things here.

The whole idea that you think we should just mine space to keep feeding our appetites says a lot about your politics and your ego.

Re:I don't understand the reasoning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015291)

"What happened to the ones we had here? Did someone toss them into a black hole? It always amazes me that the same people that think that technology will find a replacement for anything, at the same time are very worried that we'll "run out" of some magical elements. If we can't recycle those elements right here, what makes you think "space mining" is the solution? There is no such technology, and if there were, why couldn't we just use that technology right here and skip that whole space bit?"

Because of growing demand and a finite supply that even recycling can't meet. If element X is required for technology Y that is very useful, a larger supply of X would make technology Y more widely available. Who knows what other useful technologies could arise from asteroid mining that could have other purposes.

"And no one will, ever."

People have said that about a lot of things. No one will ever need more than 640K of memory. A lot of people 2000 years ago would probably say the same thing about a lot of our technology today.

"There's nothing to decide; the free market and the limits of our technology decided decades ago."

It is a government funded organization. The U.S. Government != the free market.

"Are you talking about science or commercial mining here? You're mixing up two vastly different things here."

Both.

"The whole idea that you think we should just mine space to keep feeding our appetites says a lot about your politics and your ego."

You are implying that there is something wrong with this person's politics and ego. What does this have to do with anything in the comment? The comment you are replying to admitted to speculating the motive of the bill and asked for a reason why going to the moon is more important than asteroid mining. Did you successfully answer the question of why NASA should return to the surface of the moon? Get off my lawn!

Hmm (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#44014941)

Base on the moon for the 1%, virus on Earth, it all makes sense...

Wait for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014947)

And another draft cancels the return astronauts to the lunar surface.

It's pretty obvious we don't want to have NASA any more. Maybe we can turn the facilities into areas to research how much Snooki can drink or as 24/7 studios chronicling the comings and goings in the lives of the Kardashians.

The budget would have to be increased but I'm sure Americans can dig deep down and will find the investment to their liking.

The House Science Committee (-1, Flamebait)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year ago | (#44014971)

The House Science Committee is currently run by guys who think that evolution, climate science and bike lanes are all commie plots. I wouldn't expect too much from them.

Re:The House Science Committee (1)

baKanale (830108) | about a year ago | (#44015039)

What about fluoridation of water, the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we've ever had to face?

Re:The House Science Committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015107)

Your bodily fluids aren't nearly as precious as you make them out to be.

Re:The House Science Committee (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year ago | (#44015331)

The House Science Committee is currently run by guys who think that evolution, climate science and bike lanes are all commie plots.

You can be quite sure that they either don't actually think that or else they simply have no thoughts on those subjects whatsoever. However, they certainly know what their constituents want to hear and that definitely matters to them. Remember, these are politicians.

Re:The House Science Committee (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015389)

Yeah yeah yeah. It was the Rethuglicans. Except how Obama oppointed the nigger Charles Bolden as NASA chief, who said,

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he (Obama) charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering,"

You could look it up. Except you won't, of course, because does not suit your fucked up political agenda.

Re:The House Science Committee (1)

Kohath (38547) | about a year ago | (#44015441)

Names please? Exactly who on this committee holds these views? What have they specifically said?

Re:The House Science Committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015583)

I can understand laziness, but this comes up often [slashdot.org] right here on on this very site. [slashdot.org] You spent more time typing those questions than it would have taken to find the answers.

Re:The House Science Committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015639)

Nothing at those links indicates anyone thinks "that evolution, climate science and bike lanes are all commie plots". Please be specific and stop trying to smear people and slur people based on false innuendo. Thanks.

Re:The House Science Committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015779)

The problem with providing links to the demands of contards is that when you provide links justifying your own positions, they ignore them.

Re:The House Science Committee (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44015553)

> The House Science Committee is currently run by guys who think that evolution, climate science and bike lanes are all commie plots.

They should be replaced by libertarians. We only think the bike lanes are commie plots.

This is awful (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#44015031)

Going to the moon is one of the greatest things the United States ever did. The impact in terms of net benefits for science, technology and any number of things is amongst the best in history. However that has all been done decades ago and we have largely reaped the benefits from doing so. I'm not sure what real benefit we could gain by sending manned missions back to the moon at this time. Remember there are good reasons the Apollo program wrapped up.

Taking things to the next step, asteroids, and tackling everything involved, from science to mining needs to be the next great step. Working through the technological challenges involved in doing this would have tremendous benefit to society. The bottom line is there is far more to gain from taking things to the asteroids than the moon.

The moon, we've been there, nice place, time to move on to the next big thing.

Re:This is awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015543)

Okay, it's time for something completely different. How about a lunar stadium for the 2032 olympics? Imagine the records that could be set.

NASA needs 10 year goals that can't be changed. (2)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#44015071)

As much as I would love to see NASA establish a colony on the Moon or capture an asteroid and move it to Lunar orbit, Congress and the President are constantly changing NASAs goals every year or two or slashing funding, and thats hurting the agency. NASA needs goals and funding that is locked in and cant be altered until the primary objective is achieved. Take the Apollo program which lasted 10 years or so and got us to the moon. Ever since then every president or congress session has changed NASAs goals and slashed funding that it makes it impossible to get anything fruitful done like the SLS and returning to the Moon and the eventually Mars.

let me guess... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44015077)

This is supported by the same people who are outraged at wasteful government spending, right?

Realistic? (2)

mlookaba (2802163) | about a year ago | (#44015079)

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program#Program_cost [wikipedia.org] :

"The final cost of project Apollo was reported to Congress as $25.4 billion in 1973"

According to http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ [westegg.com] that would be $129.47 in 2012. Now obviously we have the benefit of relatively inexpensive technology to help offset that. However we also have the burden of stricter safety standards and more expensive "available" technology as opposed to "required" technology. Hopefully the government would be pragmatic enough to select the "appropriate" level of safety. That means quantifying the numeric value of a life (factoring in all the publicity involved, future projects, etc) which is something people don't seem willing to do. I suspect that NASA is very gunshy about repeating a shuttle type disaster, and would not be able to give an upper bound to that number.

All it all, it seems pretty farfetched that this will happen to me.

Re:Realistic? (1)

mlookaba (2802163) | about a year ago | (#44015093)

oops... $129.47 billion in 2012.

My ancestors apologize to you for birthing a pathetic moron who can't properly proofread.

Re:Realistic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015347)

I was all set to bid $140.

Seriously, from experience it's easy to make mistakes with a post that has multiple links. You've got several browser windows open and you're trying to proofread the links, and miss something else.

Lessons Learned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015199)

Lessons learned from working with asteroids seems to be more important than working on the moon. Asteroids can wipeout the entire human race. Lets develop techniques to protect us from that threat first. With that goal in mind we can go to the moon when it becomes necessary to support the asteroid mission.

I hope every body is clear on why we need to go asteroid hunting. Nothing else is more important right now.

Change is good (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44015445)

It's great that missions that take decades of planning change every few years - keeps those rocket scientists on their toes and ensures that they'll never make any progress! Besides, if anyone knows how to use non-political fair and balanced criteria to set scientific priorities, it's Congress!

AC Troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015471)

I think we have an AC troll that keeps posting negative things about everyone's comments. If all you are going to do is attack others' comments and be disrespectful and rude, please get a life and leave. Feel free to disagree and have a civil debate, but please check the attitude at ./'s NICs. You are ruining the discussion for everyone.

Re:AC Troll (0)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#44015961)

It happens all the time. Part of me wishes that ACs were forbidden. If somebody is going to speak up, then they should have the courage to at least use a single login, rather than be all over the place.

Next President After The Next One (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015545)

NASA has been suffering mission creep since the Challenger Disaster in 1986, and loss of DoD funding soon after.

NOAA has been struggling for credibility since its formation in 1972. NOAA only became a "global" operation when DoD farmed out the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operations and Control segment to it in 1998. NOAA is perhaps best known for their "National" land temperature cooperative network and its spurious and mostly useless "temperature data." Many of these stem from the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 funded cooperative extension services of the Department of Agriculture (established in 1862, elevated to Cabinet rank in 1889 by the Grover Cleveland Administration). [In many respects the Department of Agriculture is first department of science of the U.S.A.]

The U.S. Department of Energy. Ah the 'Walrus" was became "operational" in Oct. 1972 (same as NOAA) with the stewardship of 34 physics and engineering laboratories formerly administered by DoD. Unfortunately miss-management and politicalization have left DoE gasping for air and grasping at straws for years and which has been exasperated by the Obama Administration recently.

The next President after the next would to well to combining these bloated and largely ineffective governmental structures with a new re-combination of them all into a Department of Energy, Science Technology for Applications, Industry and Exploration (DESTAnE).

Why the next after the next President?

The next President is likely to enjoy a very 'lively' and old fashioned civil war that will leave much of northern Virginia, Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southeast New York state uninhabitable from the residue the thermonuclear detonations. :)

Moon should be first priority (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year ago | (#44015739)

If we need to get of this rock, we have to go to the moon first.
We are lucky that we have this great stepping stone that orbits our planet.
The moon will allow us to perform space explorations and missions at a much grater scale than if we had to build everything in space.
A permanent moon base is will allow us to study, thousands of asteroids that has been scattered all around the moons surface.
There is of course helium-3, vast amounts of solar energy and lots of building materials.
The idea of putting 3D printers on the moon is a great idea too.
Over time using solar power and robots plus 3D-printers it will be possible to build all kind of interesting structures like maglevs and rail-guns for cheap orbiting of spacecrafts and materials.
The moon is also a great place to bring down asteroids, perhaps in smaller pieces for analysis.
Or local mineral and metal mining that could lead to new moon structures or extraction and refining of materials into manageable portions that could be brought to Earth.
Having a rail-gun on the moon that could send materials into space using only solar power and magnets would be a great way to build huge space structures that could be used e.g. to fend of asteroids and lots of other missions. Not to mention the military prospects (that's just too mind boggling.. ohh) and a reason enough to go there.. first.
If this bill doesn't fly through congress then it will undoubtably hit us in a couple of decades, when the moon is closed i.e. off limits to westerners.

Space is Full of Energy (4, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about a year ago | (#44015745)

What hardly anyone understands is that space is full of abundant energy.

The world's fossil fuel (oil, coal, and natural gas) reserves are equal to 7 trillion barrels of oil, and one barrel contains 6 x 10^9 Joules. Thus we have 42 x 10^21 Joules of fossil fuel energy. The area within the Moon's orbit (384,000 km radius) has 38 x 10^21 Joules of sunlight passing through every minute, nearly as much....Every Minute!

Asteroids and the Moon are sources of raw materials, but the energy is what enables you to do something with it, and solar energy in space is easily extracted.

Logic: (2)

J05H (5625) | about a year ago | (#44015895)

Asteroid retrieval is about $1-2 Billion spread over a decade. Single moon landing is at an order of magnitude higher at $10-20 Billion with unknown duration. This is what happened with Shuttle and Station and appears to be happening with SLS: they eventually sucked cash out of other NASA programs while legislators direct even more resources into those single projects as if 10,000 people working together can't manage more than one task.

We should go back to the Moon but that should not prevent us from also snagging an asteroid. The funny thing is that the returned asteroid was planned to go into Lunar or very eccentric high orbit, either would have been a great shake-down cruise for Orion before going to the Moon.

We need to wipe out CONgress and restart (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#44015943)

First off, this nightmare that is ongoing with NASA, is NOT NASA's fault, but the fault, of the God Damn neo-cons that are running the house.
The majority of those shits are looking to keep NASA as a Job's bill. They do not care whether we go to the moon or not. THey want to spending our money on SLS which is mostly situated in neo-con districts( I note that a few dems back this as well, but they are pushing for both SLS and private space; spend, spend, spend).
So, what is insane about this? We will spend 20B for a launch vehicle that is mostly based on 60's/70's technology and design and will give us exactly ONE launch vehicle (though with several different designs). Since this vehicle will launch so infrequently, it will cost us 1.5-3B PER LAUNCH. Yes, it will cost as much or more than the shuttle did ( 1.5B per launch was the final price that we paid to send 7 ppl and 24.5 tonnes into LEO; that included the .750B per launch and then another .750B rebuilding the craft for another launch ). It is INSANE that we spend that kind of money.

So, what is the sane Alternative? The one that Obama, dems, and even the tea-party is pushing: We need PRIVATE SPACE.
If we spend less than 2B over the next 2-3 years, we can have 3 launchers that will carry 7 ppl into leo (dragon rider/f9, atlas V with either cst-100 or dreamchaser). With this, we are guaranteed that we will NEVER lose cargo or human access to space again.
BUT, it gets better. Bigelow Aerospace has a SSA with NASA that both are working on getting private space to the moon BY 2020. It will costs less than the 20B that neo-cons are trying to force on NASA. Most importantly, by allowing NASA to pursue the asteroid AND help private space, we gain:
1) multiple launch vehicles so that we never lose space access again.
2) multiple tugs/fuel depots, that will include electric tugs (suitable for moving equipment/sats) and chemical tugs (suitable for moving ppl, or starting missions to extra solar).
3) multiple space stations at various altitudes in orbit, along with friendly nations helping to fund this.
4) a lunar base by 2020, again, with friendly nations helping to fund this (by paying the private companies money to put ppl on the surface).
5) Man on Mars by 2025.
6) learning on how to move asteroids around, and hopefully, prevent a large impact on earth. In addition, this technology will then allow private space to mine other asteroids.

And if we do this smart, we will then create a COTS-SHLV, in which we hold a contest for 2 launch systems to carry a minimum of 150 tonnes to LEO, for which we give 5B each to develop it. In addition, later one, we offer up 2 competitive contracts in which company will carry a minimum of 150 tonnes to LEO for no more than .5B / launch, and they will get 2 launches/ year for 3 years. Also, whoever has the lower amount will get 3 launches/ year. IOW, you can get 50% more launches by being a GOOD low bidder (i.e. has to be realistic). You will note that we will spend 2.5B/year on sending up equipment for 3 years.

You will note that the above spends just about the same as what the neo-cons want to spend on just building a rocket. BUT, if we do the above correctly, we will have NASA focus on just going to an asteroid, but also helping private space get BEO, and hopefully, NASA will be able to R&D new tech, such as nuke engines (we lead the world on this and our tech from the 60s is STILL ahead of what everybody else has).

With above approach, we convert NASA back into what it was before neo-cons turned them into a jobs program for themselves, get private space from being a cost center into a taxable item, and get ourselves BEO.

BUT, these god-for-saken neo-cons need to be stopped.

Hopefully (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015979)

the cancellation of the asteroid retrieval mission would leave an asteroid on a collision course with Congress.

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