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U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars'

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the somebody-had-them-read-kim-stanley-robinson dept.

Mars 285

MarkWhittington writes "Politico reports in a June 18, 2013 story that House Republicans have added a Mars base to its demands for a lunar base in the draft 2013 NASA Authorization bill. Both the Bush-era Constellation program and President Obama space plan envisioned eventual human expeditions to Mars. But if Politico is correct, the new bill will be the first time an official piece of legislation will call for permanent habitation of the Red Planet. The actual legislative language states, 'The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars.'"

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All for it... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052849)

...if that presence is Joe Biden (moon) and Barrack Obama (Mars).

Re:All for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053033)

The want to make them the co-head office of Acorn.

It's the perfect governmental waste for an organization that doesn't even exist now.

Re:All for it... (4, Insightful)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year ago | (#44053143)

You're currently modded flaimbait but my first thought was let's do it now. Load up all politicians, attorneys, and used car salesmen and launch em!

Re:All for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053503)

That's plenty of fertilizer for the farms...

Cool, let's send Congress first. (5, Funny)

Uniquitous (1037394) | about a year ago | (#44052851)

The moon, Mars, deep space... just get them off this planet and out of our hair ASAP.

Re:Cool, let's send Congress first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052925)

Gawd, NO! Leave them here & let's the rest of us go!

Re:Cool, let's send Congress first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053089)

Gawd, NO! Leave them here & let's the rest of us go!

Don't worry, you can have Venus for the geeks, Jupiter for the nerds and Pluto all for yourself.

Re:Cool, let's send Congress first. (4, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about a year ago | (#44053405)

Well, the first few vehicles might have some glitches. We should probably use Congressmen and Senators until they stop exploding.

Re:Cool, let's send Congress first. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053603)

You mean, until we run out of Congressmen and Senators and finally decide to fix the faulty design...

Re:Cool, let's send Congress first. (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44053181)

Just don't send any of that expensive oxygen with them. We can save that for a second trip.

Unfunded mandate? (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about a year ago | (#44052861)

I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet? They just want NASA to stop everything else that they're doing and start making manned Mars rockets? Is it any wonder NASA struggles with long term projects, with Congress meddling every year with crazy ideas and budget uncertainty?

Re:Unfunded mandate? (5, Funny)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#44052899)

I'm surprised the House admits to the existence of Mars and the Moon as separate bodies in space rather than being lights in a crystal sphere around the Earth.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44053099)

rather than being lights in a crystal sphere around the Earth.

Around!? You do realize that in order to even conceive this notion, they'd first have to make a bold leap of thought regarding the sphericity of our humble middle realm of existence? There aren't many things I would put past them but I think you're too much of an optimist.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#44053123)

Does it? How do you know the lights "Moon" and "Mars" are not simply used as easily identifiable beacons in an attempt to colonize the inner surface of the sphere Dyson-style?

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

idji (984038) | about a year ago | (#44053361)

it's not a "crystal sphere" - that would be round, it is a FIRMAMENT - a flat roof.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052915)

I want a sustainable human presence on the earth before there's a sustained human presence on some other planet.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (3, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44053345)

That's a sure way of making the human race extinct.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052947)

Do you mean congress or Obama? Not much difference unless your a true believer? The US government thinks money grows on tax payers and Chinese lenders. Why not, we have an endless money pit the way business is conducted today. The universe is the limit for the US government.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (4, Insightful)

tpjunkie (911544) | about a year ago | (#44053001)

Not only that, but the funding level for NASA is actually lowered by 5% to boot. I suppose no one should be surprised that the people who seem to have difficulty with science also have difficulties with math. Unless they think going to Mars is going to be a cheap proposition.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44053295)

It all makes sense really. Since the Apollo landing, computer generated graphics have come a long way. It should not be hard nor expensive to "travel" to the Moon and Mars, Hollywood style. Would make an excellent reality show, one that was more true to life than most of them on the small screen these days. Hell, NASA could even make money from this. Works for Industrial Light and Magic, doesn't it?

You people are too literal sometimes.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053013)

I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet?

"The House" and "The Senate" don't pay for anything.

You and I do. ..

And I, Anonymous Coward, still don't see a valid reason to put humans in orbit, never mind the moon or Mars (other than it'd be cool). Let robots do the work.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (2)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year ago | (#44053085)

It doesn't say they're putting a permanent human colony on a different planet.

It says establish a program to develop. All they actually have to do is establish a program that's intended to develop such a program that will theoretically result in such a colony way off in the nebulous future. I can see that being done on not much money. Actually succeeding, of course, will require that enormous expense.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#44053117)

Of course not. They get the headlines by telling someone to do it, but don't want to have it said that they increased funding. Unless it can be linked to beating the terrorists. Then we'd be there next year.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44053139)

This isn't so much about the Moon and Mars as it is keeping some monies flowing into the hands of the several major aerospace consortiums. On the plus side, a number of talented, skilled people will be kept on the payroll, else all their expertise essentially vanish without handover. NASA itself will not see worthwhile funding to do little more than continual studies and reviews. Meanwhile it plays well to the constituencies and lets a few of more deluded stroke their egos.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1, Troll)

Graydyn Young (2835695) | about a year ago | (#44053213)

Apparently the House plans on using a rocket powered by wishes and rainbows.

Re: Unfunded mandate? (1)

Electric Monk (171640) | about a year ago | (#44053517)

Maybe they should call Jony Ive

Re:Unfunded mandate? (0)

ZeroPly (881915) | about a year ago | (#44053251)

I don't know what NASA actually does besides print shiny brochures and give tours to kids. We landed on the moon in 1969, before I was born. If we look at the progress made since that time, NASA has been a failure by any objective standard. In the 90's there was at least some marginal progress - Chandra, Mars rover, and so on. Now all they do is marketing. Oh wait, plus important "science" - like how fruit flies fuck in low earth orbit.

Money should go to Inspiration Mars or SpaceX. NASA is where dreams go to die.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44053351)

Actually, NASA has done a shitload of stuff since Apollo. They have been doing long term, small scale research on a whole raft of subjects including plain ol planes. They've organized some pretty impressive technology for the Mars / Jupiter / Saturn unmanned probes. They've kept the ISS up and running.

All of this isn't as sexy as the Shuttle or Apollo programs and NASA would be glad to ramp up it's efforts had it been given some decent long term funding and had Congress resisted the urge to micromanage everything. There have been setbacks of course. The James Webb Telescope/a) (successor to the Hubble) is over budget and over time. Sometimes rocket science is hard. [wikipedia.org]

Given the constraints they have had to work under, I'm surprised they get anything done.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (2, Interesting)

ZeroPly (881915) | about a year ago | (#44053493)

They're doing busy work. If you want to be in space exploration, you need to be bold. Their probe technology is from the 1970s, and the ISS is a solution in search of a problem. Look at a list of the last 500 experiments conducted there, and try to find one that someone will care about in 100 years. Now compare that with the massive balls it took to land people on the moon, when computers were still a novelty.

James Webb. Great. Another fucking telescope, like we don't have enough of those already. I guess it's a good way to spend a few billion if you're close to retirement and you don't want to risk anyone dying on your shift. But like I said, we need to keep those glossy color brochures coming, and that doesn't happen without good optics.

You want to know how you figure out how well people can survive in space? You don't build a $20 gazillion boondoggle and do experiments for 10 years. You send people into space and see what happens to them. Without typing up 2,000 pages of composite risk management paperwork.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (0)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#44053263)

I don't suppose the house is planning to actually pay for the enormous expense of putting a permanent human colony on a different planet?

Of course not. Don't be silly. What they do want to do is divert attention away from the real issues by making much noise about "cool stuff" like space programs.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year ago | (#44053575)

Yes, they want to rob from the highly successful unmanned missions to pay for the Houston manned missions which have been highly unsuccessful if you count astronaut deaths as non successful.

Re:Unfunded mandate? (1)

gtall (79522) | about a year ago | (#44053629)

You give the House not enough credit, or I should say the Republicans on the Science and Tech committee. The chairman is a bible thumping Sauropod from the Jurassic Period. He want no effort in research for how humans are affecting the earth, nor does he want any naughty asteroid capture technology to be developed 'cause if the Big One has our name on its ass, then it is G-d's will and all "deserving" souls will be raptured. Yet, the Republicans thought he'd be perfect for a committee that effects how we spend our science and tech budget.

I'm ashamed.

no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052869)

Stop changing the subject and fix the problems at home.

Re:no (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44053095)

Like...
Encouraging children to get into STEM Degrees. The moon landing back in the 1960's but a large boom into these careers. Although a small portion of them will be working on the space missions. The interest in these things as a kid will make them far more interested in the topics. Getting kids interested in Science Technology Engineering and Math, will help them get off their butts go to college and get in less serious trouble.

Our Environment. Sure launching a rocket into space take huge amounts of carbon. But to figure out how to get people to survive and thrive on the Moon and Mars (extremely harsh conditions, and little energy sources) will create technology that we can use here on earth. Hey that solar panel on the moon can keep a small city running with a half a month of darkness, means on earth we could at least get it to run half a small city. Plus it will need to be small and light to get there. Extracting Drinking water out of the brimy pools on mars, would help us get drinking water out of our oceans and deserts.

Agriculture, these people will need to be self sufficient, in a bubble, imagine what we could do with these ideas on earth.

Health Care. The people in colonies on the Moon and Mars can get sick, we will need to find new procedures to fix these problems. They can be transferred back to earth as a cheaper solution to many problems.

Those are just a few.

Gonna feed the anonymous troll (4, Insightful)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about a year ago | (#44053497)

Anonymous, you will NEVER solve the problems you are indirectly referring to. Poverty, war, crime, environmental pollution: those are inevitable byproducts of existence itself. Not to mention that you fail to take into account the greatest random factor of them all: human stupidity. Stopping our march to space and spending money to solve problems here at home is the most futile fallacial notion ever; because you will waste more money trying to correct for human stupidity and the inevitable results of existential chaos than you ever would in building capability to get into deep space. Those problems will never be solved--but putting permanent encampments of humans on the Moon and beyond CAN.

Meh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052885)

Although it calls for bases on the moon and Mars, the bill doesn’t set a specific timetable for any of this and opts for a “go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay” strategy.

In other words, "Yeah, this sounds good and makes us look like we want to excel, but we're not comitting to it financially or temporally so that we can move the goalposts whenever and however we like."

Re:Meh (2)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about a year ago | (#44053435)

Like everything else Congress does, this seems like nothing more than another reason for them to pat themselves on the back. What it actually accomplishments is irrelevant.

Fine, let's work the current goals into it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052911)

It's a crime to try to take away an achievable and useful goal, like bringing an asteroid back (or just landing on it), for a long term project that will disappear with the next Congressional whim.

Suggested adaptation: we're landing on an asteroid to use it to build a moon/Mars ship/base.

Not that this will pass anyway, I'm sure.

If ever there was a role for drones... (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#44052933)

...this is it. We've got drones on Mars already. They just don't fly yet.

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#44052953)

I honestly don't know if they can fly. Atmospheric density and all of that

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a year ago | (#44052967)

Anything of any shape can generate lift in a non-vacuum, assuming it has enough velocity.

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053029)

>enough velocity
WE NEED MORE ZEROES
lift != flight

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053467)

Of course, the atmospheric density is one of the deciding factors in how much lift you get. At the surface, Mars has ~169x less pressure than Earth- let's assume that the density scales more or less the same.

That means your drone will have to fly 169x as fast as on Earth to achieve the required lift. The power which drag is dissipating from your craft (F * v) will be 169x as much, and the kinetic energy it takes to assume that speed- even with 0 drag- is 28561x as much. So, not really desirable.

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (1)

lookingglass (2935519) | about a year ago | (#44052987)

Getting a bunch of comets (and heavy iron cores asteroids) to terraform Mars should be the goal. Then we can think, in a few thousand years or so, to populate it.

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about a year ago | (#44053015)

I honestly don't know if they can fly. Atmospheric density and all of that

<sarcasm> Especially with only 38% of our gravitational field to work with... </sarcasm>

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053063)

X-Plane actually has a mars mode.

Long story short, you require a ton of thrust, and there's poor handling. The aircraft is lighter than on earth, but flying on the surface of mars is comparable to flying at 70km here.

Re:If ever there was a role for drones... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053359)

http://what-if.xkcd.com/30/

You have your answer, and it is no.

A man on Mars is one thing.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052951)

Colonizing with a base on Mars is another. I can imagine trillions of dollars going into creating a permanent base on Mars. It's not like the New World with plenty of raw materials and resources to utilize- there is nothing to mine or harvest that can evenly slightly ease the dreadful costs.

It leads me to conclude that there is a hidden agenda for mandating NASA to create a base on Mars. Something Doom-like.

This is just a stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052955)

After they saw Gingrich's hail mary, I'm sure they'd simply love to have more pork-barrel spending in their districts. Meanwhile, they continue to mess with NASA's future, making planning projects impossible. [spacenews.com]

There has been a notable lack of enthusiasm for the asteroid mission among some of the Republicans who hold key NASA oversight roles in the House — including House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — since the mission was proposed. The mission would require development of a robotic spacecraft with solar-electric propulsion, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket NASA is developing.

There is no funding authorized for a crewed planetary lander or deep-space astronaut habitat in the bill.

Another provision of the draft authorization bill that originated with House Republicans is an overhaul of NASA’s leadership structure. The proposed changes would give Congress greater influence over the selection of the NASA administrator, and give the administrator a six-year term. The NASA administrator is currently a political appointee who serves at the president’s pleasure.

House Republicans led by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) included these changes in their Space Leadership Preservation Act (H.R. 823), which was introduced in February and has lingered in committee ever since. That bill was itself a rehash of a similar proposal introduced back in September 2012.

Oh, of course. The Texans are at it again.

Re:This is just a stunt (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about a year ago | (#44053347)

The only political goal NASA ever achieved was the Apollo project. Every other piece of political grandstanding is just noise in the background to the scientists and engineers on the ground who are trying to advance the state of the art. The only projects that NASA ever finishes these days are either small enough to fly under the radar (pun intended) or involve international agreements which if we break them would make us look bad to our allies. The unmanned Mars program and many climatological satellites are examples of the first, and the International Space Station and James Webb Space Telescope are prime examples of the second. But arms trafficking regulations and "national pride" prevent us from collaborating internationally on any new manned launch vehicles or habitats, so those projects inevitably get cancelled when every new batch of congresscritters try to put their names on something.

The only way for NASA to finish a big manned project is to contract it out to companies with capital to keep development going between political catfights, or somehow block the legislature from changing its priorities or funding levels more frequently than every 5 or 10 years. Or cut the politically-motivated crap entirely and just give more money to research and development projects so that maybe by the time humanity comes up with some real priorities, we'll know how to build a friggin' warp drive.

priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052971)

I'm more concerned about a sustained human presence on Earth.

Re:priorities (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about a year ago | (#44053373)

The technologies we develop to live in space have consistently made life better here on "Spaceship Earth". But using the space program as a legislative distraction and throwing a few billion dollars at it here and there with no real results certainly doesn't do anyone any good.

Rep. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) says (4, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44052975)

"Get your ass to Mars!"

Re:Rep. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053083)

You do realize he got hounded out of politics quite some time ago? Probably as his repeated infidelity was doing the rounds with illegitimate kids.

Re:Rep. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053217)

Probably as his repeated infidelity was doing the rounds with illegitimate kids.

Nope. It was a carefully crafted plan to avoid amendment of the Constitution for his inevitable run for President.

We have now safely avoided a Demolition Man future.

Re:Rep. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053299)

He can't run for US President snce he wasn't born in US soil.

Re:Rep. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) says (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053271)

DON'T SEND COHAGEN THERE!!!!!

now is the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052983)

Conspiracy theorists unite!

Floating Cities on Venus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44052997)

We need floating cities on Venus like in this [amazon.com] book.

I have an idea (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44053035)

Let's send the house (and senate) to live on the surface of the moon then and they'll finally have nothing left to distract them from doing their darn jobs! Then maybe something will get done in congress. Plus, Moon Congress sounds awesome.

Re:I have an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053301)

Congressman: You didn't give us ENOUGH FUEL TO GET BACK!!!!

oops

Re:I have an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053527)

We'll tie the oxygen refill shipments to them getting both houses to agree on a budget.

"Sorry, looks like the funding for another year's worth of oxygen got sequestered! Time for a round of special elections, I guess."

Insane (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a year ago | (#44053045)

Any astronaut would be crazy to do this. Congress would be just one internal squabble away from defunding the stream of resupply ships.

Re:Insane (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44053077)

you forget politicians have to do something when people get into an emotional snit over something; the miniscule amount of money spent on space will never impact the defense contract or entitlement spending so no worries for them.

and,there will be no lack of qualified and able volunteers

Re:Insane (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053249)

you seem to be under the misimpression that this ISN'T a defense contract.

Space has ALWAYS been about the military. Comm sats, Spy sats, Nav Sats, even boring Weather sats. All of it's used by the military. This is will be a wonderful platform for testing new rockets, improving gear for hazardous atmospheres, possibly even enhancing comms gear.

Re:Insane (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44053349)

sure, sure, but it doesn't have to be presented to those in emotional snit that way, and even the anti-mil folk can vote for it

we've seen this before on bullshit mountain (5, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#44053103)

1. insist the US Postal Service implement pension funding 75 years into the future with no known revenue source to do so, as we cannot directly defund it. pretend companies like UPS and FedEx actually want to deliver bulk mail in place of the postal service but are in fact incumbered by its existence.
2. insist NASA pursue permanent manned installations on the moon and mars despite the fact its orders of magnitude more expensive than current unmanned operations. pretend companies like SpaceX are somehow encumbered by the existence of NASA.

Do it... but do it right (5, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | about a year ago | (#44053113)

I want to see mankind spread out into the solar system, and ideally I'd like to see the USA at the head of it all. So I'm not unsympathetic toward the idea.

But I really want to see the space program get done correctly. So far, every trip to the moon has been via a single-use rocket, completely used up for the one trip. It made sense when we were trying to win a race, but it also meant we hadn't built out the infrastructure.

The right way to do things: build a truly reusable space vehicle, often called a "space pickup truck". Proposed heavy lift vehicles are more like a "space moving van", and they will have their uses, but what we need more than anything else is a spacecraft that can fly and fly and fly some more with minimal maintenance.

We want a craft that can fly to orbit, return, and then go again tomorrow. It might need some maintenance overnight but it should be as little as possible. The space shuttle needed man-centuries of work between flights... we can do far better than that.

Single-stage would be ideal, but two-stage might be easier to get going... just make sure both stages are reusable and don't need too much maintenance. Cargo capacity need not be huge... it would be cheaper to fly things up in multiple small loads on a truly reusable craft, than to build, launch, and use up a single heavy-lift vehicle.

Once we have the "space pickup truck" we need to build a transportation hub in Earth orbit. It would have emergency Earth return vehicles docked, would have lots of supplies (fuel, water, oxygen, food, etc.) and would have staff on board all the time.

Once you have all the above? The moon becomes trivial. Build a "moon shuttle" that could be basically a couple of fuel tanks and engines bolted to a frame, with some sort of shielded crew compartment and a lunar lander docked to it. It need not be pretty and it need not be tough because it will never land anywhere.

Ideally, also we should build a "space cannon" system that can shoot things into space. This would be the cheapest way to send up inert things like oxygen and fuel, or even dried food and tough electronics. And humans living in space will need serious radiation shielding... the cannon could possibly send up lots of shielding mass.

Imagine how expensive it would be to deliver cargo from America to Australia if we had to do it by building a single-use cargo missile. With modern aircraft the dominating factor is fuel costs. If we could get space travel costs down to chiefly the cost of fuel that would be a massive reduction in costs.

Re:Do it... but do it right (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053253)

Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40? This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years. FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

The rest of the ideas, like a proper transportation hub in orbit, and even to some extent a space cannon, make some sense. But realistically getting into earth orbit is easiest, fastest, and cheapest the same way they did it in the 1960's. One rocket at a time, work out the bugs, and get this shiz movin...

Re:Do it... but do it right (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#44053313)

Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40? This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years. FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

Uh, you do realise that SpaceX's plan to dramatically slash launch prices is... drum roll... reusing their rocket stages, right? I believe they're going to test a relight of the first stage engines for landing on one of the next Falcon 9 launches, though it will just hover before being dumped in the sea.

Re:Do it... but do it right (1)

turgid (580780) | about a year ago | (#44053487)

FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

Shall not! [reactionengines.co.uk]

But then, it is British, so the chances of one being built are pretty negligible...

Re:Do it... but do it right (1)

steveha (103154) | about a year ago | (#44053607)

Wow. Let me guess, you are under the age of, say 40?

I watched some of the Saturn V moon launches on live TV when I was a kid. I had a Space Shuttle poster when I was a teen. So, no, your guess is wrong.

This is the entire arguement for the Space Shuttle that derailed proper space development for over 20 years.

The Space Shuttle program promised many things but did not deliver. A vehicle that requires man-centuries of labor between flights does not meet my definition of "reusable". So, the Shuttle could haul a giant heavy load up to low Earth orbit... does that sound anything like what I said I want to see?

FORGET about the whole re-usability thing - it just costs too much.

Because the NASA of the 1970's was not able to do a proper job, it can't be done? I disagree.

Cheap(er), reliable, modular, expendable life vehicles... Like what SpaceX is doing now.

And I am cheering for SpaceX. They are carefully building their technology base... start with something simple, then keep figuring out how to improve it. They may develop a working a "space pickup truck" before NASA can finish the paperwork to start studying the problem.

But realistically getting into earth orbit is easiest, fastest, and cheapest the same way they did it in the 1960's. One rocket at a time, work out the bugs, and get this shiz movin...

Assume, for a moment, that we have the "space pickup truck". Surely that is "easiest, fastest and cheapest"... once you have the craft built, you get to use it over and over. With a single-use rocket, you have to be extra-careful when building it because the only way to really test it is to fly it and use it up. With the "space pickup truck" the work of building and debugging it can be amortized across multiple flights.

Re:Do it... but do it right (4, Insightful)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#44053335)

Fortunately, that's precisely what Elon Musk is building. The Falcon 9 will be partially reusable sometime next year, and fully reusable probably by 2016. (It's two stage.) A Falcon 9 launch is already an order of magnitude cheaper than a launch from the (illegal monopoly) United Launch Alliance. Once the Falcon 9 is even partially reusable, that price will fall another order of magnitude, making possible all sorts of on-orbit assembly of larger structures.

Nobody is likely to build a linear accelerator launch system this century. Building one at all is hard enough. Building one that doesn't result in smashing your payload into atmosphere at the end is even tougher.

Re:Do it... but do it right (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44053355)

Reusable Mars and moon trips require two craft - a lifter and an interplanetary. Also, a huge supply of fuel and/or ion propellant and air/water on orbit. Planetary Resources and NASA Dawn are working on this last bit.

Re:Do it... but do it right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053367)

I want to see mankind spread out into the solar system, and ideally I'd like to see the USA at the head of it all. So I'm not unsympathetic toward the idea.

But I really want to see the space program get done correctly. So far, every trip to the moon has been via a single-use rocket, completely used up for the one trip. It made sense when we were trying to win a race, but it also meant we hadn't built out the infrastructure.

The right way to do things: build a truly reusable space vehicle, often called a "space pickup truck".

Why? Making a reusable space vehicle requires huge investment. Space travel is not at all like Earth travel; a one-time vehicle doesn't make sense on Earth, but it makes a ton of sense for the foreseeable future for space. The distributions of wear on a launch/reentry vehicle are vastly different than those on a car or a plane. We don't have a solution for things like non-ablative heat shielding that can stand up to that kind of stress. A reusable vehicle makes sense once our baseline is Earth orbit, but until then, we'll probably get farther for cheaper just using one-shot rockets.

Re:Do it... but do it right (2)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#44053593)

I don't think your proposal is practical. The "space pickup truck" idea is nice, but the idea that it should descend to and lift off from a planetary mass is unfeasible, without controlled fusion, and perhaps even then. (You could do something similar with some sort of skyhook [the PinWheel is my favorite, as being the most practical in the near term].)

But FIRST you need to work on a nearly-closed eco-system. This "space pickup truck" will take a long time to make a long trip. It will probably be powered by solar cells and a ion-jet of sorme variety. This will let it move from orbit to orbit, carry things along, etc., even do interplanetary voyages. But it's SLOW. This means that it needs to be either robotic or a closed eco-systme. (Well, nearly closed. Really closed is impossible.) And if the people who are inhabiting it are going to remain sane, it needs to be large enough to live in. Larger, probably, than a hutment in Antarctica. (It's easier to go outside in Antarctica, and less expensive of habitability. In Antarctica that just means heat, in space it primarily means air and water...no matter how careful you are.) Also, if you design it for habitability you need to carry along significan radiation shielding. Water is probably a good choice for that. But that means weight.

If, OTOH, you only mean short interorbit transitions you still end up with a slow vehicle. And one that can't land on a planetary surface.

Please note that the same driver frame should be able to have several different cabins mounted on it, and should be able to haul cargo. But that's really tricky when you're using rocket/jet propulsion. You can't haul the stuff behind on a cable, unless it's WAY behind, and then the cable had better be able to stand being exposed to the wash of the exhaust. Probably better would be to have three or four main engines angled slightly outwards, and slightly manuverable, to allow hauling things on a cable, even though that would reduce the efficiency. But adjustable, so if you weren't hauling cargo you could eject straight backwards.

Please note that this approach won't work much beyond the orbit of Jupiter, as solar cells will become too weak to generate enough power. So you need some alternate power source. Fission reactors are the only thing that currently seems feasible. Fission reactors are probably enough to allow manuvering throughout the solar system, but for interstellar, even at slow speed, fusion may well be needed. (I suppose that one could build an anti-matter factory near the sun and power it off sunlight, and then store it as fuel...that seems only an engineering problem, with no theoretica breakthroughs required. But it's a HUGE engineering problem.)

Near term, though, to get from a planetary surface with an atmosphere, use a skyhook. (Some could be built now. They aren't all as difficult as an elevator.) If there's no atmosphere, use a catapult. Ion rockets to get from orbit to orbit. And human presence requires a nearly closed ecology. Which can be developed right down here. Siberia or Canada seem like good locales to do the development, with other locations if it needs to deal with excess heat rather than excess cold. (And note that right now the real requirement is cheap land that can be somewhat isolated, and funding. BioSphere & BioSphere II were examples of attempts that have failed, and in failing taught us something. But nobody's put serious effort into the development. And it needs to be done before anyone does any serious planning about a permanent human presence off the planet.

While I agree with most of the /. posts for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053163)

I would love to see Congress and the President really push for this. It would actually help the economy and the country regain movement forward instead of stagnating in this quagmire of squabbling and bitterness.

budget (2)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about a year ago | (#44053183)

You know guys, if you want these things you're probably going to have to stop slashing NASA's fucking budget every year.

Pork, Pork, Pork (4, Insightful)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year ago | (#44053195)

By US House, they mean TEXAS. This is just PORK for Houston and its rocket-to-nowhere--The Space Launch System (SLS). SLS has no mission, but it means money to Houston and therefor they dreamed up this ridiculous objective, And Houston will do anything to get the money, including poaching from the highly-successful unmanned mission from JPL such as Opportunity and Curiosity.

Re:Pork, Pork, Pork (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053333)

By US House, they mean TEXAS. This is just PORK for Houston and its rocket-to-nowhere--The Space Launch System (SLS). SLS has no mission, but it means money to Houston and therefor they dreamed up this ridiculous objective, And Houston will do anything to get the money, including poaching from the highly-successful unmanned mission from JPL such as Opportunity and Curiosity.

The article doesn't simply say US House, it says, "Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee". That committee is chaired by Lamar Smith (R), Texas. There are 50 members, 8 of which are from Texas. That's about 1 in 6.

Space President Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053211)

My eyes played an interesting trick on me and I read that as "Space President Obama."

So necessary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053239)

They better hurry and sustain human life on other worlds (men AND women). We need this just in case there is a global catastrophe.... the people on the moon or Mars could repopulate. DON'T send Indians or Chinese there. We don't want to repopulate with them. There are so many billions of them that the Earth is running out of resources. We don't want THAT happening again.

Just don't... (2)

johnkzin (917611) | about a year ago | (#44053269)

Just don't drink the glacier water...

Mars but no asteroids? (1)

wift (164108) | about a year ago | (#44053319)

Re:Mars but no asteroids? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about a year ago | (#44053403)

Right, because they know getting to Mars is impossible on the current budget. That way they don't have to worry about us actually doing anything at all.

All about voters (1, Funny)

T.E.D. (34228) | about a year ago | (#44053323)

It makes great electoral sense for them. A place where communications are so stretched that everybody is literally years behind the times would make for perfect Republican voters.

Army (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44053371)

Tell them there's oil on Mars and they'll be taking the funds from the army instead of NASA.

After all, there's always funds for the army, even when there's no funds to take care of things back home.

Re:Army (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44053561)

There is no way that Army rockets could hit a target as small as a planet.

Oooh look at this! *jingle jingle* (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#44053383)

Odd timing of this, it follows a stream of wacky distractions coming out of Washington since a whole bunch of skeletons spilled out of the closet in the last few months...

Who's paying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053385)

Nice! Apparently the US is just swimming in money now. Glad to hear the budget got balanced.
O_o

How fck'ed up is this (1)

cjjjer (530715) | about a year ago | (#44053389)

sustained human presence

When they cannot even sustain people in their own country properly...

Sustained human presence on the moon (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44053391)

Yeah, we all know how it's going to turn out [wikipedia.org] .

The GOP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053417)

I've always thought that they lived on another planet. Now they want to colonize the moon and mars. I'd say round them all up and send them there on a one way ticket.

What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44053475)

Why should we even bother with sending humans to other planets anymore? What is it that a human is going to do in a clunky space suit that we couldn't do with a good robot?

And screw Mars. We shouldn't even think about sending anything but exploratory bots to Mars until we have a robotic workforce stationed on the moon that can mine H3 and either ship it back to earth or convert it to some other form of microwave or laser energy we can beam back in order to solve our dependence on fossil fuels that are killing the very viable planet on which we currently inhabit vs. burning fuel and dropping space junk all round earth in order to send a few people to barley survive on another planet.

Just like Steven Hawking (1)

mknewman (557587) | about a year ago | (#44053523)

I think these House Republicans are a bunch of doomsday preppers who think that by getting to another planet/moon everything will be rosy for the human race. What they don't understand (because of their lack of science background) is that it's a lot easier to live in SPACE than on a body with a gravity well. We should be building ships to go to the asteroid belt and/or Jupiter and Saturn not wasting our time on cold dead planets/moons. Let's go somewhere interesting and easy not hard.

Nope. (1)

Arashi256 (1804688) | about a year ago | (#44053599)

And I want an ice cream. Doesn't mean it's going to happen any time soon. I suppose it's possible I'll see men on the moon in my lifetime, but I sort of doubt they'll be flying a US flag. Probably Chinese if I had to guess. And I don't think anyone will ever be going to Mars. Or if we do, it'll cost an obscene amount of money, probably fail on the first attempt, people will die and the public will lose their desire to see it happen. Depressing really.

And... (1)

bmk67 (971394) | about a year ago | (#44053631)

I want a pony.

The difference is, one of us has the power to make it happen.

Hint: It isn't the House.

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