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The Return of Apollo?

michael posted about 11 years ago | from the flyboy dept.

Space 653

hpulley writes "Bell bottoms are back, the Stones are still touring and Time has a piece on how NASA's _new_ space vehicle may actually be the return of a very old friend, a highly modified and modernized version of the Apollo Space Capsule. Manned spacecraft might actually leave low earth orbit again! Initially they'd fly with Delta and Atlas but more powerful boosters could be developed. We could go to the Moon again, and perhaps to Mars but I'm getting ahead of myself. Does that mean the last 30 years of space flight have been for naught? Expensive steps backward?"

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Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912269)



tds67 (670584) | about 11 years ago | (#6912392)


This is why we need to get Apollo going again...there is so much festering anger at the likes of RIAA, SCO, MPAA and the like (and justly so, IMHO). We need a distraction.

Another moonshot would be great. Hey, the technology worked, didn't it? I'm all for it. If we go back to the moon, we can show the we-didn't-go-to-the-moon crowd the error of their ways.

(By the way, you don't need to grease up Darl McBribe--he's greasy already.)

fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912271)

But which is better?

the return of apollo


sex with cmdrtaco and a mare?

Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912310)

Ewwwwww, CmdrTaco....

Are you kidding me? (1, Interesting)

wawannem (591061) | about 11 years ago | (#6912272)

Didn't they just come off of serious embarassment with the Columbia disaster and now they are going to re-instate 50-year-old technology?

Re:Are you kidding me? (5, Funny)

arth1 (260657) | about 11 years ago | (#6912289)

Didn't they just come off of serious embarassment with the Columbia disaster and now they are going to re-instate 50-year-old technology?

Just wait until you hear about their Icarus project.


Re:Are you kidding me? (3, Insightful)

(54)T-Dub (642521) | about 11 years ago | (#6912291)

At least they will be getting away from the concept that spacecraft need wings. The whole idea of the shuttle is rediculous because of this. The wings decrease the payload capacity dramatically and increase the propetency for failure even more.

Re:Are you kidding me? (0)

MTgeekMAN (700406) | about 11 years ago | (#6912460)

Yes it does decrease payload and also does a lot of other things. but it enables them to land on a long run way instead of opening a parachute over the ocean. which allows them to use the same ship more than once.

Re:Are you kidding me? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 11 years ago | (#6912295)

Oh come now, they're going to update the shit out of it, & you know this.


Re:Are you kidding me? (4, Informative)

mrtroy (640746) | about 11 years ago | (#6912312)

Basically its the TYPE of shuttle, not the level of technologoy

" a highly modified and modernized version of the Apollo Space Capsule"

I sure dont read that as being 50 year old technology. I see it as being a space capsule style shuttle opposed to the current shuttles.

Which would follow along with the seperation of cargo and passengers of previous recent news releases.

Re:Are you kidding me? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912374)

Don't call this new thing a "shuttle". It is a spacecraft.

Re:Are you kidding me? (0, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#6912495)

You mean it's a vehicle that takes people to and from some location? As in, it shuttles them back and forth?

If it's reusable, it's a shuttle.


Re:Are you kidding me? (2, Insightful)

RazzleDazzle (442937) | about 11 years ago | (#6912315)

If old technology is good, especially after it is modernized, like giving its computer RAM measured in MB instead of B, what is the big deal? Its not like NASA doesnt spend a lot of money on R&D on products they use, why is it bad just because it is old, it's probably still a very good design.

RTFA? (5, Insightful)

(54)T-Dub (642521) | about 11 years ago | (#6912318)

maybe you should RTFA first too

Beyond the general shape of the capsule, however, the report reveals that little else from the Apollo CM would be retained.

Re:RTFA? (1)

SirWhoopass (108232) | about 11 years ago | (#6912384)

That was my thought too. Did the poster read the article they submitted?

The new capsule would be of a different size, with different propulsion, different control systems, different internal atmosphere, etc.

Re:Are you kidding me? (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#6912453)

The old technology worked, even in the face of catstrophic disaster.

The new technology does not.

Me, I'll put my money on the most successful technology, rather than the merely most recent idiocy.


Re:Are you kidding me? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912536)

Just because Apollo is getting a little old doesn't mean he can't still box.

All this talk about the return of apollo has me wondering when we can finally get the return of Rocky.


FP!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912275)

First Post!!! I Roxor!!!

Re:FP!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912418)

Your right you do roxor!!!!

Re:FP!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912506)

no stoopid fuxor, you suxor my dixor!

I was at Kennedy a few years ago (1)

another misanthrope (688068) | about 11 years ago | (#6912286)

and I couldn't imagine living in the capsule for an extended period of time.. sure hope they make it bigger!

Re:I was at Kennedy a few years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912498)

I'm sure the gerbil feels the same way about you...

Yay! (5, Interesting)

PD (9577) | about 11 years ago | (#6912292)

I'm a big fan of capsules to go into space. There's no reason why a capsule can't be reusable. They sit on top of the rocket, the best place for a payload. A rocket can be attached to the top for an escape option. They are a lot cheaper. On and on. NASA can still work on reusable boosters, without having to change the basic capsule design.

Re-using capsules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912382)

"There's no reason why a capsule can't be reusable. "

Other than the cost of re-upholstering to get rid of those blood and puke stains. Or worse if you have a space program that still sends monkeys.

Re:Yay! (2, Interesting)

mrtroy (640746) | about 11 years ago | (#6912425)

"The most critical mistake: designing a spaceship to fly horizontally like an airplane but launching it vertically like a rocket. That one decision saved $5 billion in the 1970s but led directly to the loss of both the Challenger and Columbia. "

I agree with you, and the experts, why the hell does a spaceship need wings?
Launch the damn thing with a rocket, and once its space its ideal to have a capsule, not a shuttle.(which cant get above low orbit anyways).

Lets advance the space program instead of exploiting it for commercial satellites.
What happened to the lust for exploration? Lets go to Mars. There is a need for a president with ambition that will set a goal like that.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912459)

What happened to the lust for exploration? Lets go to Mars. There is a need for a president with ambition that will set a goal like that.

Too bad we have a president who lusts for empire, not exploration.

Re:Yay! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912530)

Unfortunately, religious fanatics and not alien tripods took out the WTC.

Re:Yay! (2, Insightful)

banzai51 (140396) | about 11 years ago | (#6912556)

Its a SHUTTLE, not a spacefaring craft. The point of the shuttle is to get into orbit and come back safely and reliably. How you you rather land back on Earth: parachuting into the ocean or landing smoothly like an airplane? The shuttle may not be the end all, be all for payload but it is a very good way to get HUMANS into and back from space. NASA invisioned taking a shuttle to a space station and from there boarding a SPACECRAFT to travel to the Moon or Mars or whatever.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912537)

aircraft style reentry vehicle has been stupid from day 1.

there have been many designs that are very different from the shuttle design that were better designs and choices...

Maybe this time we finally have some scientists in charge of NASA instead fo a bunch of morons.

to be prepared... (2, Funny)

yoshi1013 (674815) | about 11 years ago | (#6912307)

As long as they remember their inanimate carbon rod I think they'll do just fine.

The 70s weren't that great the first time around (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912311)


Retro is in.... (5, Funny)

banzai75 (310300) | about 11 years ago | (#6912314)

First we bring back the Apple I, now Apollo. Please tell me disco isn't coming back too.

Disco (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 11 years ago | (#6912355)

Disco never died - it always smelled that way.

T-shirt in 22nd century: "Disco _still_ sucks." (from an old Omni magazine contest)

Re:Disco (4, Funny)

Soko (17987) | about 11 years ago | (#6912501)


Can we embelish this a tad to add even more relevance, please?

T-shirt in 22nd century: "DiSCO _still_ sucks." (origionally from an old Omni magazine contest)


Re:Retro is in.... (1)

RazzleDazzle (442937) | about 11 years ago | (#6912367)

Disco []
is the pop music of tomorrow.

Re:Retro is in.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912390)

First we bring back the Apple I, now Apollo.
They brought back his buddy Starbuck, too, but this time as a CHICK!

Re:Retro is in.... (1)

Lane.exe (672783) | about 11 years ago | (#6912474)

Please tell me disco isn't coming back too.

It's called house music. Learn to despise it.

Only fools don't learn from failure (5, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#6912317)

Does that mean the last 30 years of space flight have been for naught?

No, it doesn't. We've learned a LOT about spaceflight in the last 30 years, from both successes and failures. The shuttle program had both hits and misses, and a lot of important research was conducted regardless.

And I don't think anyones going to mars in one of those little tin cans. Imagine a year in that thing?

What spaceflight? (4, Insightful)

AtariAmarok (451306) | about 11 years ago | (#6912353)

"No, it doesn't. We've learned a LOT about spaceflight in the last 30 years, from both successes and failures"

Have we really done spaceflight in the last 30 years? Certainly nothing manned, outside of low-earth orbit which is barely space at all. Sure, we've sent tin buckets with cameras to a few more planets, but we were already pretty good at that.

Re:Only fools don't learn from failure (2, Interesting)

RevMike (632002) | about 11 years ago | (#6912502)

I don't think anyones going to mars in one of those little tin cans.

Those tin cans are great for the few hours it takes to ride out of and back into the planet's gravity well. Any reasonable Mars mission profile would entail assembling an inter-planetary ship in earth orbit and then flying that ship to martian orbit.

Imagine, if you would, a few dozen Saturn V launches of equipment and supplies. The space station crew would assemble the pieces. Then a few capsules would bring the mars crew to their ship from earth.

Re:Only fools don't learn from failure (1)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#6912508)

More than that, and perhaps more importantly, it served as a placeholder. NASA and our space program still exists, however poorly.

Politically, socially, economically and technically it is much easier to reinvigorate an existing massive project than it is to ressurect a failed one.


Re:Only fools don't learn from failure (3, Insightful)

cybermage (112274) | about 11 years ago | (#6912552)

And I don't think anyones going to mars in one of those little tin cans. Imagine a year in that thing?

Cramped quarters would be the least of their concerns:

Getting back into space would be impossible with anything the size of the landers we used on the Moon. Anything like the Apollo hardware would be a one-way trip.

Spending a year weightless would probably be cripling without some kind of exercise.

I've read someplace that any Mars mission craft will need some sort of shielded "safe room" to protect the crew from bursts of radiation. That room alone would have to be atleast the size of an Apollo capsule. Also, while space is nearly empty, if you do hit something the damage to the hull could be massive, necessitating some sort of internal sealed room as well.

Then, of course, there's the issue of food. A year there and back would be quite a payload on its own.

Anything like the Apollo tech would make Mars impossible. Way too small.

Could someone please explain ... (2, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | about 11 years ago | (#6912319)

why this would be necessary when we already have the Eagles used on Moonbase Alpha? I mean, they were built more then four years ago and they're still going strong (though they do occasionally get blown up by marauding aliens and stored nuclear waste).

Left-wing racists attack Howard Dean campaign (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912322)

Looks like racists have attacked Howard Dean's campaign because of the skin color of some of his supporters.

See this article [] for more.

I am in no way a fan of Dean, but when he is attacked by "content of the skin, nor their character" bigots, it sure makes him look like a sympathetic figure.

Race matters....only to racists.

What? (4, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | about 11 years ago | (#6912323)

We've been to the moon? I thought Jonathan Frakes proved that it was a 40 billion dollar hoax!

The last 30 years haven't been for nothing... (2, Insightful)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 11 years ago | (#6912324)

One thing's been learnt (even if it was learnt the hard way), and that's that the risks associated with going into space shouldn't be taken lightly.

NASA beaurocrats got real complacent and lazy, perhaps not with Challenger but definitely so with Columbia. In future, they'll be less reluctant to listen to the advice of their engineering teams and will take fewer risks with the lives of their astronauts.

The lives lost on Challenger and Columbia won't be the last but, hopefully, they won't have been lost in vain.

mars + Apollo? (2, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | about 11 years ago | (#6912325)

I can't imagine spending 6 months in something as small as the apollo craft, get the mars, and then come back in the same soup-can-size thing. Anything we send to mars as to be a little bigger, for the crews sake.

Re:mars + Apollo? (3, Informative)

BobRooney (602821) | about 11 years ago | (#6912372)

I've posted responses to this effect before, but , yes I agree. Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars [] Outlines a plan for reaching the red planet using existing technology, including a modified skylab-like capsule that could be shot directly from earth and use gravity assist to fall out of earth's orbit into that of Mars. Great book, great ideas, very do-able plan for reaching Mars soon!

Here's the abstract (3, Informative)

freality (324306) | about 11 years ago | (#6912560)

"This paper investigates means for achieving human expeditions to Mars utilizing existing or near-term technology. Both mission plans described here, Mars Direct and Semi-Direct are accomplished with tandem direct launches of payloads to Mars using the upper stages of the heavy lift booster used to lift the payloads to orbit. No on-orbit assembly of large interplanetary spacecraft is required. In situ-propellant production of CH4/O2 and H2O on the Martian surface is used to reduce return propellant and surface consumable requirements, and thus total mission mass and cost. Chemical combustion powered ground vehicles are employed to afford the surface mission with the high degree of mobility required for an effective exploration program. Data is presented showing why medium-energy conjunction class trajectories are optimal for piloted missions, and mission analysis is given showing what technologies are optimal for each of the missions primary maneuvers. The optimal crew size and composition for initial piloted Mars missions is presented, along with a proposed surface systems payload manifest. The back-up plans and abort philosophy of the mission plans are described. An end to end point design for the Semi-Direct mission using either the Russian Energia B or a U.S. Saturn VII launch vehicle is presented and options for further evolution of the point design are discussed. It is concluded that both the Mars Direct and Semi-Direct plans offer viable options for robust piloted Mars missions employing near-term technology."

Read the whole thing here []

This is from 1993!

The Case for Mars is good, but perhaps even better is Zubrin's Entering Space.

Re:mars + Apollo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912486)

Yes and no. Anything we send to mars must include living quarters that are bigger. However once they arrive at/near mars we can send them down in a much smaller lander craft. (as was done for the moon landing) If we plan a head we can place the transport module so it will intersect with the orbit of Mars one year latter. (not sure what definition of year though as they need to be in the best position to get back to earth) I suspect the transport module would be too heavy to want to waste the energy needed to place it in a proper orbit, but we can surely find some way to get it positioned for the return trip to earth while someone is on mars. (A 10+ year mission with a slighshot off jupiter comes to mind, but I have no idea if that can work)

50 year old bandwidth (3, Funny)

mrtroy (640746) | about 11 years ago | (#6912336)

In other news, the website reporting this releases their 50 year old bandwidth. Which is really slow because well, there wasnt the internet then.

Voyage by Stephen Baxter (1)

jacobcaz (91509) | about 11 years ago | (#6912337)

There is an interesting piece of fiction by Stephen Baxter titled Voyage (ISBN 0061057088) which potrays a slightly different time-line where man makes it to Mars in 1986.

Worth checking out, not bad brain-candy and an interesting look at what "coulda' been"...

Amazon link for the lazy: Voyage []

a booster a day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912339)

a booster a day keeps the exploding space shuttles away: []

Why not? (2, Interesting)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | about 11 years ago | (#6912343)

It worked. Also a space craft with wings seems to complicate most flight operations as opposed to simplifying them. Is it really more efficient to have the shuttle land than to just fish a capsule out of the water? It seems that numberous take-off and flight issues are created by the addition of wings simply so the craft can land like a plane.

What is wrong with unmanned flight? (1)

xutopia (469129) | about 11 years ago | (#6912345)

Seriously with today's technology in robotics and computers why do we need to send humans out to space?

Re:What is wrong with unmanned flight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912369)

Because we got tired of sending monkeys and dogs.

Two words (4, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | about 11 years ago | (#6912401)

As long as it is a one-way ticket....two words:

Lance Bass.

Agreed, humans are ill-suited for space (2, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | about 11 years ago | (#6912427)

We always impose and anthropomorphic view on space. Our scifi depicts space travel as being safe for human physiology and amenable to our lifespans. Note that every futurist view of space travel seems to depend on some breakthrough that allows us to explore space in our expected lifespans.

Yet the reality is that all we know about space is that it is toxic to humans. And still we don't know of any way that we might travel anywhere meaningful in the two to three hundred years we might live as purely organic creatures under the best predictions of biotech (if we could even keep from going insane that long out there).

Face it, humans as they exist now are not getting off of this rock. It is likely we will have to merge with machinery to explore essence, stop being purely organic. It is likely that meaningful space travel will require tens of thousands of years of time out there. This means unmanned is the best way to go, and a hybrid model is likely in the future once you get past all the crap scifi feeds us about present day humans surviving for long periods of time (physically and mentally) in space.

Bad Decision (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912347)

Initially they'd fly with Delta

Bad decision. They should fly with Southwest or Jet Blue.

Avoid Delta. United too, for that matter.

Re:Bad Decision (1)

Wells2k (107114) | about 11 years ago | (#6912452)

Umm...I would think Qantas would be the best choice...they are the ones that have yet to crash.

Re:Bad Decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912481)

I hate Qantas.

Qantas never crashes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912549)

"Qantas": We never crash, but we do have disintegratory premature landings."

Re:Bad Decision (1)

TechnoVooDooDaddy (470187) | about 11 years ago | (#6912484)

ya, seriously avoid delta..


doubly true if you've ever flown delta thru atlanta...

We do it with the shuttle (1)

venom600 (527627) | about 11 years ago | (#6912350)

(sarcasm)Well, we're still using the space shuttle after some ungodly amount of time.....why not bring back Apollo too!(/sarcasm)

Why not? (3, Insightful)

pmz (462998) | about 11 years ago | (#6912352)

Shoot 'em up, let them drop like a rock. The inherent simplicity of Apollo is its virtue, IMO. The Shuttle is more like the government bureaucratic approch to space travel, while Apollo was designed by engineers back in the good-ol-days.

Re:Why not? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 11 years ago | (#6912544)

I dont think it's going to work there arent enough subcontrators to make overpriced parts as kickback to various senitors districts unlike the shuttle. Lets face it we got into the ugly monster because they wanted to spread a lock of kickbakcs around to various states to make the polititians happy. While a capsule could be built by a handfull of companies. I'm sure there is some plant smewhere churing out tiles for the shuttle at 10k a pop in an overglorified kiln.

Capsules work they dont even have to be reusable entirly. Get the shape down and center of gravity fixed and you could put whatever you want inside the cone. A standard instumentation, communications and envronmental package and your good. Look at the shuttle it has happy nice toilet, a pack of depends has to weight less than that and they bring them up for the EVA's anyway. They are astronaughts they can rough it for the few days at a time they are up there.

Build a Saturn VI to go with it? (5, Interesting)

chiph (523845) | about 11 years ago | (#6912368)

Atlas, etc. are good rockets, but they can't beat the sheer power and relatively low G forces of the Saturn V. Since they'll (mostly) be going to LEO, as well as building a capsule that is 5-8% larger to accomodate a 4th passenger, why not take another look at the Saturn series of rockets?

They could use the upper stage as a cargo hold -- arrive in orbit and unlock/unbolt the sides (can't use explosive bolts that close to the ISS) to remove your stuff. Anyone know the diameter of the Saturn V third stage compared to the shuttle's cargo bay?

Chip H.

Re:Build a Saturn VI to go with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912397)

Anyone know the diameter of the Saturn V third stage compared to the shuttle's cargo bay?

Wouldn't volume be a more useful spec? It's diameter could be 100 meters, but if its only 3 mm deep, it ain't much use.

Re:Build a Saturn VI to go with it? (2, Informative)

chiph (523845) | about 11 years ago | (#6912485)

Found my own answer [] (Google is Great)
6.6 meters in diameter. Don't know the length (still looking for it). The reason why the diameter is important is making sure the payloads for the shuttle still fit.

Chip H.

Everything old is new again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912373)

In an effort at budgetary restraint, NASA's new guidance computer is a highly modified and modernized version of the slide rule.

what would better: (2, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 11 years ago | (#6912385)

a more nuanced approach where both capsule and space planes work.

The capsules are fine for moving people, but space planes would be better as "trucks" hauling materials into space to build upon the ISS.

An active capsule system will also allow for better and more frequent moon visits and (wildly overdue) MOON BASES which could be visited by SPACE PLANES.

Then we'd be Rockin'... If we can build Moon bases, we can then look at Mars bases... We really need to rationalise this who space enterprise thing, and I think developing a multiplicity of space vehicles is a smart idea - capsule people movers, Spaceplane trucks, it all makes sense...


Re:what would better: (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | about 11 years ago | (#6912465)

"We really need to rationalise this who space enterprise thing"

I think we need to cancel it, as this new Trek show is like Voyager but without the shock value of an annoying alien with the head of a basketball with Ron Howard hair.

Apollo? Deltas? (4, Funny)

Cerberus9 (466562) | about 11 years ago | (#6912386)

Bell bottoms are back, the Stones are still touring and...

Oh, wait. For a minute there I was expecting this apollo [] .

Escape velocity (5, Insightful)

cybermace5 (446439) | about 11 years ago | (#6912391)

So, we still do things the way they were done 40 years ago. I refuse to believe that the best way to get into space is to fill a monstrous tube with combustibles and light it all up, just to get a few tons of gear in orbit. Before serious interplanetary exploration, we should establish a good moon base, and do vehicle construction and launches from there.

Re:Escape velocity (5, Interesting)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about 11 years ago | (#6912547)

I refuse to believe that the best way to get into space is to fill a monstrous tube with combustibles and light it all up, just to get a few tons of gear in orbit.

A few tonnes?

Saturn V could lift the best part of 100 tonnes into orbit. It could have lifted the whole ISS in 2-3 launches, pretty much. (Skylab was huge compared to the ISS, and was at a much higher altitude).

By way of contrast, the Shuttle has only just got up to 30 tonnes, and the Shuttle is more expensive per tonne; and can't achieve the same altitude, and certainly isn't capable of lunar missions.

So what's the point of the Shuttle anyway? Because it's partly reusable so therefore it's cheaper isn't it? Umm, actually...

The Return Of Apollo? (4, Funny)

redtail1 (603986) | about 11 years ago | (#6912393)

Great idea. The Rocky franchise bottomed out after Drago broke him in that exhibition. I foresee dozens of Rocky sequels featuring Apollo and other members of the undead...

One answer fits it all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912395)

America never went to the moon.

On the ride down, Hudson says... (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 11 years ago | (#6912407)

"Express elevator to Hell, goin' _DOWN_!"

Sounds like a fun ride. Screw bungee jumping!

The Shuttle wasn't a huge leap forward (5, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 11 years ago | (#6912409)

By the time the shuttle was designed, it became a tool that did a lot of things okay, but nothing all that great. It has always been more expensive than the rockets it replaced and now with no more Soviet Russia (no jokes) we may be able to co-develop better booster technology. Russia has always had more powerful rockets and seem to be able to hit orbits more accurately than the US.

Also, I honestly think this Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) idea is foolish and stupid. Most of what I have read seems to indicate that a dual stage system would lower the cost per pound from USD 100k to about $6k and one could have two pieces that are reusable. To me that makes a lot more sense and by all acounts more doable.

If we are serious about keeping the ISS up there, the next generation of space craft could save space to be a delivery and construction/repiar work on satelites and the ISS, then save expiraments for the ISS.

Not a step backwards (4, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | about 11 years ago | (#6912416)

Not at all. Look at how much we've learned. The experience we've gained has been enormous. We learned that building a reusable winged spaceship is doable, but doing so on less-than-shoestring budget isn't the smart way to go. Once we've established a real infrastructure in orbit, in another hundred years or so, I think a reusable shuttle will again make sense. Right now it doesn't. It was supposed to be cheap. It's not. It was supposed to be safe. It's not as good as it could be. When you think about it, both Challenger and Columbia were doomed by the Rube Goldberg contraption that boosts the orbiter into space. The original design called for a reusable flyback booster as well. That was scrapped early in the program to save money.

Space Elevators (1, Insightful)

Psychic Burrito (611532) | about 11 years ago | (#6912419)

I think NASA should start thinking about space elvators:
  • Cheap. Launch costs can drop down a factor of 1000. More programs to do. Makes space tourism possible!
  • Expansible. Create another elevator by running climbers up the first elevator.
  • Safer. You're not sitting on a dynamite box to get up. You don't rely on heat tiles to get down. Build a climber that uses two ropes for added security.

Re:Space Elevators (2, Insightful)

linzeal (197905) | about 11 years ago | (#6912468)

Can you name any process of making carbon nanotubes 300km high or more yet? I would presume the process may be easier in space but you will also have to contruct it through the ionosphere which may complicate things even further.

It could be worse... (1, Funny)

deep square leg (703399) | about 11 years ago | (#6912420)

... I had heard a rumour that they were going to use an Edsel.

Not built like it used to be (1)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | about 11 years ago | (#6912429)

We all know older stuff is better. (Except computers) Stuff was built tougher then. People put time, effort, and sweat into what they did, and they where proud of it. Now things are made for efficiency and low cost. Those things are good. But the low coast plastic parts now-a-days will never hold up like the higher-cost-but-oh-so-sturdy metal parts of the past.

Case in point 1:
Geo metros get excellent gas milage. But when a Geo crashes into a 30 year old Dodge brute, which car do you want to be riding in?

Case in point 2:
My furnace is older than my grandfather. It works just fine. It is not small, sleek, stylish, or 99% efficient. But it has lasted over 60 years! (our house inspector's book of heaters didn't even go back that far!)

There's lots of great things about new products and technology. But there's no replacing good OLD industrial strength.

Wow! Five years on the moon! (2, Funny)

mforbes (575538) | about 11 years ago | (#6912433)

Or at least according to the caption on the picture accompanying that article. It shows one of the capsules floating in an ocean, with the orange airbags around it, but says the photo is from 1974. Considering Apollo 12 landed on the moon on Nov. 14th, 1969, that's quite a feat!

Mod me funny or die, earthling scum.

Thanks !!!! Found at last!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912519)

Thank you! Were were wondering where that capsule from the 1969 mission was. Now we know it has been found somewhere. Time to send out the recovery mission, and I sure hope those boys in there had enough Tang to last them.

- NASA Capsule Recovery Crew.

Back to the Past? (5, Interesting)

ChuckDivine (221595) | about 11 years ago | (#6912438)

Not quite.

We're finally seeing an admission from the aerospace establishment that the shuttle has failed as an experiment. Wings on space craft are essentially a burden. Mercury-Gemini-Apollo demonstrated that you could come back to earth -- even in a controlled fashion -- without wings. Shuttle had wings to meet an Air Force requirement on cross range capability. Now the Air Force doesn't even use the shuttle.

So, the immediate future of vehicles intended to reach orbit looks like something that's been proven to work for both the United States and Russia. It's good to see people actually looking for something that works well.

In other ways, though, this development is a further criticism of the NASA culture. Much has been reported about the suppression of dissent in the safety culture. This is one aspect of a larger suppression of independent thinking in aerospace culture. The lack of new ideas shows another aspect. The unwillingness to examine things outside the industry (the "not invented here" syndrome) demonstrates still another.

New ideas and technologies thrive in free atmospheres. People are more willing to try new things. Good ideas get promoted. Faulty ones, even if held by people with power, are more likely to be challenged. For the aerospace industry to succeed, such a model must be embraced, not shunned.

Nothing new here, for the world overall... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912446)

oh right, forgot that for some people world = US

Manned spacecraft might actually leave low earth orbit again!

Again? What again? Soyuz is capable of this all the time (it was meant for moon missions initially)

The Russians figured this one out years ago ... (5, Informative)

s20451 (410424) | about 11 years ago | (#6912447)

The Russians have had to do space on the cheap for years, and their response was to stick with the Soyuz capsule, which has now been in service for nearly 40 years, and is one of the most reliable launch vehicles available, and certainly far less expensive than the shuttle.

The last fatal Soyuz accident was in 1971. In 1983, a Soyuz rocket exploded on the pad, but the crew was whisked to safety thanks to an escape rocket, which is lacking on the shuttle. Given the choice, I would fly to space on a Soyuz any day over the shuttle.

OT (kind of) Book recommendation (1)

AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) | about 11 years ago | (#6912470)

I just recently read a novel with with some interesting parallels to what's going on with today's space program. Titan by Stephen Baxter [] deals with using modern (Shuttle) and Apollo-era technology for a voyage to Titan. It was written in 1997 but most interestingly it all begins with the destruction of the Shuttle Columbia. It's kind of a depressing novel, but very good and worth the read.

Well look someone finally is thinking (1)

codepunk (167897) | about 11 years ago | (#6912476)

A space craft has absolutely no need for wings. When you are in space they are just useless weight. In flight the are a vulnerable and complex system not needed for reentry. To get x amount of weight into space you have to burn x amount of fuel. Get over the fact that most of the vehicle is not reusable with any degree of reliability. Plant a capsule on a huge solid rocket booster and light the candle. It just does not have to get any harder than that.

Well... (1)

big_groo (237634) | about 11 years ago | (#6912487)

It's likely that capsule reentry of any kind will be closely studied after this weekend's Soyuz TMA-1 landing, where an unspecified problem caused the capsule to land nearly 500 kilometers short of its landing site, delaying recovery of the crew by several hours.

At least we know the article is current.

More Prophetic than ever.... (3, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | about 11 years ago | (#6912504)

Now, a capsule alone might not make it to mars, but I doubt ANYTHING launched in one piece from earth would make it that far. Thus, the space station, the robotic arm - all that stuff is tech we needed (and still need) to prepare us. So what if we use a small capsule to go back and forth? You think we could have done what we did with Hubble using one of those lead kettles the FSU uses to shuttle people back and forth?

The capsule system was inherently "modular" thus the inspiration for this bit of classic SF [] . The only irony I find in all this is how accurate SF may have once again proven to be.

Just don't tell anyone in Hollywood. After seeing what they did with Lost In space, I don't want even a chance of them getting hold of my fave SF series for one of their ticky-tacky plotless rehashes.

Still thinking small... (5, Interesting)

gaijin99 (143693) | about 11 years ago | (#6912517)

The biggest problem with the US Space Program is that ever since we got to the moon they've been thinking small. Nothing really works well, or does much for you, until you scale it up to a decent level. Imagine if post-Columbus the various European nations had sent out a couple of row boats every few years...

As with so much in life an investment is necessary to get the returns. To really benefit from space we must spend tens of billions on basic infrastructure. The ROI will be worth it. Big projects. A catapult for bulk loads would be a good start and possible with off the shelf technology.

Even better would be a genuine attempt to build a space plane. All the half-assed three or four million dollar projects to date were nothing more than a waste of time.

Best would be to immediately begin work on an elevator. Current best estimates say that an elevator could be built in about ten years, with a budget of six billion. Considering that the US is spending more than $8 billion per month in Iraq, I'd say we obviously have $6 Billion to spend over the course of ten years...

When you think small, you get small results. I don't care if its NASA, or a private corporation, or a group of various space agencies and corporations, but we must begin thinking big or else nothing will ever happen.

Capsule =KISS (1)

nlinecomputers (602059) | about 11 years ago | (#6912535)

Shuttle from day one was over complicated and tries to do to much. Payloads should be on one rocket and people on a second rocket. The abilty to leave earth orbit in a capsule ISN'T a plus. An apollo style capsule is good for getting to orbit and back to the ground safely. Let a bigger rocket push parts of a large ship up to the space station which then can be sent to the moon or mars.

This is the solution (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912540)

Why have a shuttle of both men and equipment? Capsules have been historically safe. There are very few moving parts, a SMALL area of heating surface, and can be disposable (lower cost?).

Have a seperate vehical for taking materials up, that is unmanned.

Have the manned vehical go up seperate, and reduce RISKS.

Now, the final word: Why have astronaughts go up for such a short time? If they risk their lives, make them stay up their till they can't stand it anymore.

This issue is all about risk, and a capsule solution for taking people into space is the right answer.

Old Apollo capsule (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 11 years ago | (#6912541)

I have heard that Nixon issued an executive order to have all the blue prints related to the Apollo program be destroyed. So if true, is this but a replication in form only?

Anti-gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6912545)

Since a majority of the cost of going into space is generating the thrust and velocity required for earth orbit, why not just focus on anti-gravity ?

This way you could place your payload into some kind of anti-gravity capsule and have it "float" into orbit.

Late result (3, Funny)

GoneGaryT (637267) | about 11 years ago | (#6912554)

Saturn 5, Ariane 4.

Why not? (1)

anarcat (306985) | about 11 years ago | (#6912555)

And unlike the shuttle, it can venture beyond low Earth orbit, which means the U.S. could once again send astronauts to the moon.

Just wondering.. Why can't the shuttle venture beyond low orbit anyways?
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