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Shuttle May Fly Again In '04

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the prior-investment dept.

Space 186

giantsfan89 writes "A report from CNN says that a shuttle (possibly Atlantis) could fly again next fall. "The latest launch window is September 12 to October 10, NASA said Friday." A conference call referenced in the NY Times (free reg or via Google News) says it'll be an uphill battle (obviously) but that 'I'll also guarantee you that we're getting an awful lot smarter about this and we're going to come back stronger and safer as a result.'"

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ALL YOUR BASE BELONG TO US (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135658)

First post bitch! Muhahahahahahahahaha

Re:ALL YOUR BASE BELONG TO US (0, Troll)

kickball (713488) | about 11 years ago | (#7136057)

wow... i so wish i was you...

Stronger yes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135661)

But will it be able to withstand foam?

Come back smarter? (5, Insightful)

BizidyDizidy (689383) | about 11 years ago | (#7135664)

Doesn't it seem at this point that "coming back smarter" is getting away from the shuttle system in general?

I'd be much happier to hear that we could expect spaceflight based on rocket technology in 2004. Whatever happened to that article?

GREASED UP YODA THE ASS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135677)

Base your my us

And-err-I-can (-1, Flamebait)

michaeltoe (651785) | about 11 years ago | (#7135732)

The aura of idiocy that surrounds NASA is the single, most compelling argument to become a capitalist.

Re:Come back smarter? (1)

Tomorrowist (555372) | about 11 years ago | (#7135839)

I'd be much happier to hear that we could expect spaceflight based on rocket technology in 2004.

We can expect private parties to reach space in 9-12 months. [msnbc.com] : "In a race to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, rocket engineers are poised to compete for the $10 million X Prize by launching people to the edge of space and bringing them back safely twice within a two-week period. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, said he expects that a teams will launch within the next few months, using rockets and spacecraft that are already being tested and prepared for the daring venture."

Smarter is as smarter does, doesn't it? (0, Offtopic)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7135932)

Yeah, I know, I know. It's true that every time I jab myself with this pointy stick it hurts and I bleed, but I'm "coming back smarter" this time.

I've invented Fleshtone Band-Aids.

KFG

Re:Come back smarter? -- Disgusting (1, Insightful)

passthecrackpipe (598773) | about 11 years ago | (#7136082)

That would assume that the shuttle system is somehow deficient. It more or less serves its purposes, and it would be unwise to give up on it now. While I agree that a new method of spacetravel should be developed as fast as possible, realism dictates that this will take at the very least another 15 years, if not much longer then that.

what is truly disgusting though is the fact that this article, as well as almost all others written about the subject drive readers to the conclusion that the shuttle needs to be "fixed" somehow. That this was purely a technical issue. While it is true that at the end of the day, a hole in the wing caused the shuttle to disintegrate. While it is true that this is a mechenical issue that can be fixed, it is also true that this accident *may* have been avoidable, were it not for the utter, complete and total incompetence, dereliction of duty, mismanagement and criminal neglicence shown by NASA Shuttle management *during* the flight. While engineers *knew* the shuttle was in deep shit, continuous efforts by engineers to escalate the issue were consistently pushed down by NASA Shuttle management.

And rather then round up all of the incompetent management team that was at the heart of this tragedy, and sending them all to jail for a very long time for multiple manslaughter, if not murder, they were - in true PHB Politicking fashion - "relocated" to different positions within NASA. The fuckers were not even *fired*.

Typical......

frost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135665)

pist

slashdot girls (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135669)

a lot of these bitches on slashdot look like artie lange

Space Shuttle (2, Interesting)

DaBjork (575727) | about 11 years ago | (#7135673)

I'm glad they are keeping this program....IMHO the space shuttle is what has kept us from mars...too expensive and very not reusable.

n/s (-1, Flamebait)

U R TEH SUX (605335) | about 11 years ago | (#7135711)

n/m

Re:Space Shuttle (2, Insightful)

VanillaCoke420 (662576) | about 11 years ago | (#7135904)

And that is good in what way? In my opinion, they should keep the shuttle but complement it with another system. Here is my idea:
  • The Shuttle, for use when they need to launch a crew and cargo at the same time, or when they somehow need the land-like-an-aeroplane ability.
  • A Reusable Capsule, for about 5 people perhaps, when all they need is to ship people to and from orbit. This capsule should be modular in that they can attach, say, a modul underneath with heatshields and gasbags when they land on earth, and perhaps a module similar to the lower stage of the Apollo LEM, with legs and landing rocket if they want to launch people to the moon.
  • Cheap launch rockets, when they need to launch cargo only and a crew is not necessary.

Re:Space Shuttle (1)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7135937)

when they need to launch a crew and cargo at the same time

This is needed on every flight to the ISS, since the station wants lots of big thingies all the time (until it is built; then it will require lots of food and water instead.)

or when they somehow need the land-like-an-aeroplane ability.

I doubt this was ever needed. You want to land, and that's pretty much all. Only the most sensitive experiments could benefit from softer landing; I don't know if that was ever the case; and relatively hard capsule landings never stopped earlier spacefarers.

A Reusable Capsule, for about 5 people perhaps

NASA does not have a man-rated rocket for the capsule. Reliability of most cargo-rated rockets is about 95% - which is OK for satellites, but hardly sufficient for people. Soyuz rocket, for example, is man-rated; Proton is not.

Cheap launch rockets, when they need to launch cargo

Those are plentiful indeed.

Re:Space Shuttle (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135974)

This is needed on every flight to the ISS, since the station wants lots of big thingies all the time (until it is built; then it will require lots of food and water instead.)

One word: Progress

How do you think ISS survived without a problem half a year without a shuttle and will survive at least year to come? (and could survive...whole its life, just like Mir)
Of course you can say "but I meant assembly also". Well, there's nothing stopping us from using cargo rockets.

Re:Space Shuttle (1)

VanillaCoke420 (662576) | about 11 years ago | (#7135991)

when they need to launch a crew and cargo at the same time

--This is needed on every flight to the ISS, since the station wants lots of big thingies all the time (until it is built; then it will require lots of food and water instead.)--

That's probably true, yes. The food and water and other things they need could be launched with the to-be-built Automatic Transfer Vehicle by the ESA, which is an unmanned cargo ship for such things. It will also be able to adjust the ISS orbit.

A Reusable Capsule, for about 5 people perhaps

--NASA does not have a man-rated rocket for the capsule. Reliability of most cargo-rated rockets is about 95% - which is OK for satellites, but hardly sufficient for people. Soyuz rocket, for example, is man-rated; Proton is not.--

Hm, didn't know that. But I doubt that it would be too expensive to develop such a launch system? The Ariane 5, for example, was initially developed with the french shuttle Hermes in mind.

Re:Space Shuttle (3, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7136043)

But I doubt that it would be too expensive to develop such a launch system?

It would require redesign of a lot of systems. Soyuz, for example, is powered by kerosene + liquid oxygen, but Proton (designed by a different team) runs on dimethylhydrazine. The former is harmless; the latter is deadly. Guess which one would you choose for a manned flight? Then we would go into redundant, voting systems, crew ejection tower, and many other things that do not even exist on cargo rockets.

Some people would even say that you need to design the whole rocket from scratch. Imagine, for example, that you need to upgrade your Ford Taurus to win Indy or F-1 race. Where would you start? And consider that failure of any single part can doom the mission; so you need to go through *all* parts and improve them or make sure the failure will be contained.

It's not like NASA haven't done it before. The trick is that the old rocket scientists of Von Braun vintage all retired long ago, some are dead already. Nobody at NASA (or at Boeing, etc.) has a clue about where to begin. Design from scratch, and then testing, and then inevitable failures will take many years (say ten) to reach good reliability numbers.

If you compare this situation to Chinese, Russian and European efforts - which are up to date, and quite finely debugged by now, and for which trained technicians and engineers exist, then you will see that NASA painted itself into a corner. It has only Shuttle, and nothing but Shuttle. Today it can't operate anything else, and it can't develop anything else either (proof of that is in many canceled X-projects which were meant as a replacement or a companion for the Shuttle.)

The Ariane 5, for example, was initially developed with the french shuttle Hermes in mind.

Show me this Hermes thing in orbit, and then I will take it seriously :-)

Re:Space Shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136125)

Imagine, for example, that you need to upgrade your Ford Taurus to win Indy or F-1 race. Where would you start?

Monster Garage.

Flawed logic? (1)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 11 years ago | (#7136109)

So, let me get this straight, you say that the shuttle is the one thing that has kept us from going to Mars, the logical next "giant leap for mankind", and you're glad about it?

Sorry, when something as old and dangerous as the space shuttle stands in the way of change, and change for the better, then there's something seriously wrong. Especially so when you're cheering such a luddite view.

Do we need to be making real strides into space? Yes. Is the best way of doing that by clinging onto old technology that the best scientific minds (Feynman, etc) reckon has a 1 in 50 failure rate? No.

GREASED UP YODA DOLL IS ON TEH SPOKE!!!!1!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135679)

SC0/LUNIX is #1!

I'm all for exploration too, but... (3, Interesting)

sonnik (49704) | about 11 years ago | (#7135684)

...after seeing an article like this, it does seem that NASA is more reactive than proactive in fixes of this nature.

Granted, we're only going to hear about stuff like this after something happens...

However, I'm really wondering why we still spend a crapload of money more or less flying around in circles above the Earth.

How much more can we really learn from the shuttle? Put the money in some other form of space research...

Re:I'm all for exploration too, but... (2, Insightful)

SoIosoft (711513) | about 11 years ago | (#7135706)

For the work that goes on in the shuttle, it's probably the least expensive way to fly circles around the Earth. A lot of experiments are conducted in zero-gravity and a lot of worthwhile inventions and discoveries have come out of research conducted for and by the space program.

I think that NASA should have probably made sure to be better prepared for repairs to be conducted on the space shuttle. On the other hand, sometimes it takes a catastrophe like this to bring it to the attention of the rest of the government and the public. And that's about the only way to secure the funding that's needed to make improvements and reforms to the space program.

It's too bad that it takes the lives of seven astronauts to get government officials and Congress to wake up and figure out that they can't keep cutting funding to the space program and still expect it to still be successful.

Re:I'm all for exploration too, but... (1)

JVert (578547) | about 11 years ago | (#7135737)

About those discoveries in space and expermients. Seems like stuff like that in a controlled environment can be done without sending people? VNC anyone?

I work on computers all around the world. But I dont FLY there.

perseverence (1)

potpie (706881) | about 11 years ago | (#7135687)

I don't think there is any limit to how far mankind can progress... Labor omnia vincit. Labor overcomes all. The computers and hardware in most of the shuttles, however, is very outdated. While space travel seems at this stage to be inherently dangerous, perhaps giving the shuttles some new computer components and software would help. [insert pro-Linux comment here].

Re:perseverence (1)

wrmrxxx (696969) | about 11 years ago | (#7135969)

New computer hardware and software is the last thing they need. What they've got is highly reliable, very thoroughly designed for safety, and a very well known quantity. Sure its old, but so what? When was the last time we heard of a computer problem in the shuttle endangering the astronaut's lives? The big dangers are the propulsion system and the complexity of a horizontal landing vehicle that was designed to be (but fails to be) re-useable.

A change to hardware or software is a very big deal because it's all so complicated: there are so many potential points of failure that maintaining quality is very difficult and expensive. I'd hate to think what we would get now if we changed software just for the sake of change. We'd probably end up with something that was built to a budget, not a quality standard.

Re:perseverence (2, Insightful)

Kulic (122255) | about 11 years ago | (#7136066)

There is a reason for the shuttle using *outdated* technology. It is because of the need for rigorous testing of the systems intended for use in manned vehicles.

The shuttles use 486DX66 processors in their flight control systems. Actually, they use 4 processors which each perform the same calculations and then submit the results to a fifth processor. This processor then takes the (hopefully identical) results and control the shuttle in whatever it is doing. The reason for this is that any potential damage caused by radiation in space can cause anomalous results to be produced. If only three of the processors agree, then the extra result is discarded.

The other issue I mentioned earlier is testing. The 486 processor has been around for so long that its behaviour is extremely well known and it has had no flaws found in it (would you want to man rate a new processor every 6 months, with a real time OS which needs to react in sub-millisecond time frames, and verify that all of your code executes exactly the same)? Since essentially the same operations are performed today in getting the shuttle to orbit as were performed 20 years ago, the processing speed is still more than adequate.

Not everything in the shuttles is outdated though. Discovery (and maybe the other shuttles) had their cockpits upgraded in the early 90s to allow the pilots to interpret more information at once, and in a more intuitive fashion.

Of course, any new space vehicle development (eg OSP) will likely incorporate new computer hardware and software components.

Article Text (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135693)

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- NASA set a September 2004 target date for the next space shuttle launch, CNN has learned.

The space agency decided in recent weeks that it needed more time to develop systems for detecting and repairing damage to shuttles in orbit, forcing the agency to retreat from plans to launch in March or April.

The space shuttle fleet has been grounded since the Columbia disaster in February in which all seven crew members died. Insulation debris from the external fuel tank has been blamed with damaging the leading edge of the left wing soon after launch, which doomed the Columbia as it returned from space.

Modifications to the external tank design, development of a boom to inspect the shuttle's exterior during orbit and kits for repairing tile and wing damage are under way.

The latest launch window is September 12 to October 10, NASA said Friday.

If NASA sticks with its current rotation, the Atlantis would be next in line for space flight.

Keeping things in perspective... (3, Insightful)

reiggin (646111) | about 11 years ago | (#7135695)

There is a big difference between "smarter... safer" and "smart.... safe."

Go Space Program! (3, Interesting)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 11 years ago | (#7135696)

Maybe this is that eight-year old Trekkie in me, but I really believe we need another space race. Our overall progress in space during the first thirty years of the Cold War greatly overshadows anything since that time, and I wholly reject this apprehension towards more people going into space after tragic accidents. My condolences, of course, to the friends of family of those who've died in a space suit.

Let's see if we can dump some of that massive defense budget and sink that cash into a more active space program. Let's see if we can get to the moon. We already know we can blow up the world pretty good. We don't need to prove that we can, and if the situation actually arose where we needed to unleash our arsenal, then the world would be screwed anyways.

I bet I sound like a naive, idealistic fool...sue me.

Re:Go Space Program! (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 11 years ago | (#7135789)

Bah. What we need isn't another space race -- what we need is a better way to get out of our gravity well. Blowing ourselves into orbit with explosives isn't much safer or more practical for our astronauts than it was for Wiley Coyote. If NASA were to ask my opinion (and rest assured that they won't ;^)), I'd say take all the money from the space shuttle program and invest it into developing a nice Space Elevator [nasa.gov] .

Re:Go Space Program! (2, Insightful)

fingers1122 (636011) | about 11 years ago | (#7135801)

Your post is reminiscent of Adam Smith's free-market philosophy: Without competition, there is little progress. I agree. The only thing that will really stimulate our development of better space technology is competition from another government. It's sad, but true. Right now, there is no real incentive for our government to invest lots of money into improving a system that--at its most basic level--already works well. In short, we will not see big improvements in space technology from NASA until we see big improvements in space technology from other countries.

Re:Go Space Program! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135910)

I believe we need a competition on the private market. They want to do these things too, but at lower cost, and to make money out of it. And that is exactly what will truly make this species a space faring one.

Re:Go Space Program! (5, Interesting)

grozzie2 (698656) | about 11 years ago | (#7135971)

Maybe this is that eight-year old Trekkie in me, but I really believe we need another space race.

There's 2 factors that come into play, economics, and political will. Political will is generated by 'the masses', and the economics are generated by political will. The 60's were a wonderful time to grow up as a young boy interested in science and exploration. As a pre-teen i watched the first landing on the moon live, on a black and white tv. Even then, I knew, I was watching one of those historical moments that happens but once in a century.

The environment of the space race in the 60's was brought on by a political will to make it happen. The entire country was focussed on the space program as a point of national pride. It wasn't there to be efficient, it wasn't there to be 'cost justified', it was there so folks could watch with pride, wave the flag, and say 'we are the best'. It worked, and worked well, the focus of the entire country was on research, development, and 'do the impossible'. Nasa was the fledgling young organization tasked with 'do the impossible', and they did it with tremendous pride.

The political will does not exist today. The politics of today are focussed on military expenditures, and doing whatever it takes to contue justifying the existence of the military industrial complex. During the cold war, this wasn't to difficult, the percieved threat was real enough that everybody 'bought in', and life went on happily. Nasa got shovelled aside to play with shuttles, while the real expenditures went into the military.

Today, the achievements of Nasa are viewed by most as 'just a money pit' for tax dollars. National pride is focussed on the military invasions overseas. It will take time, but that tide will shift once again. Folks are already tired of hearing about body counts, and little things like 'we need another 87 billion dollars to keep this up'. it would have been easy to keep the momentum in this area, but, the politicians are finding, they have been called up on statements, and, cant back them with enough facts to convince folks anymore. The population is rapidly losing the political will to continue feeding the military industrial complex now that the price is measured in bodies as well as dollars.

Achievements in space have always been a big point of national pride in the USA, but it's something that is kind of taken for granted today, most americans believe that the USA is still the leader in space development and exploration, and this is something that goes without question, is taken for granted. But, one has to look at a few facts, to check this out carefully, the assumption is no longer valid.

As it sits today, the american space program consists of sending american astronauts to an international space station, riding up and down on soviet hardware. That's not much of a 'leadership' role. Now, look around, the Europeans are flight testing the next generation in space propulsion that is required to do longer range missions. The Chinese are launching rockets on a regular basis, and will have a manned mission in orbit before the year is out. They have a stated goal to reach the moon with a manned mission, while the european flight test hardware is already on it's way to the moon, to validate the new concepts in propulsion.

The ducks are starting to line up for a major shift in the cards of political will. Joe average on the street doesn't even realize that the Chinese are going to be launching people into space imminently. When it happens, it's going to be a wake up call to todays generation, similar to what sputnik was to mine. I dont believe Joe Average is willing to conceed the leadership as a space exploration nation, it's far to big a point of national pride.

It isn't going to happen for 2004, but, the ducks are lining up to create a groundswell of support for a 2008 campaign, one that is prepared to de-emphasize military conquest, and re-emphasize scientific achievement.

Then again, I could be wrong. America was happy to outsource the vast majority of it's industrial production to developing nations. Maybe americans are prepared to settle for outsourcing the exploration of space. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea got all the electronic manufacturing, India is in the process of getting all the software development. Maybe it is time to turn space exploration over to Europe and China.

Somehow, I think the american population is going to develop the political will to create the economics. I dont think they are prepared to accept the role of a second or third string player in this arena. The race is on, it's just that Joe Average doesn't realize it yet. The finish line is a permanent installation on the moon, and a year or two from now, we'll find out if there's more than one competitor in this race. China has already confirmed thier entry.

Re:Go Space Program! (2, Interesting)

sql*kitten (1359) | about 11 years ago | (#7136094)

The politics of today are focussed on military expenditures, and doing whatever it takes to contue justifying the existence of the military industrial complex.

You are forgetting where all the dollars spent on the space race actually went: into the so-called "military industrial complex". Saying that politics today is all about that is missing the point; the politics of the 1960s were all about that too!

The finish line is a permanent installation on the moon, and a year or two from now, we'll find out if there's more than one competitor in this race.

No, the finish line of this particular race is a permanent settlement on Mars. There's simply too little by way of resources to build a self-sustaining colony on the Moon, sure you've got a lot of silicon and oxygen, but it's all in a very hard to get at form, and there's no readily accessible carbon, hydrogen, etc etc. Dr Robert Zubrin has written extensively on the feasibility of colonizing Mars using present-day technology - there's surprisingly little that we'd need to do that we can't already do, if the will was there. His main idea is to do it in small stages - there is a proven process for generating rocket fuel from the Martian atmosphere, so the first thing to do is to send an automated fuel extraction plant, and set it running. Once it's up and running, the manned mission won't have to carry fuel for the return trip. Supplies such as food can also be sent in an unmanned module, and cached on the surface waiting for the astronauts to arrive.

According to Zubrin, however, NASA has too much ego tied up in using one vast spaceship to go there and come back, assembled in orbit. They'll never adopt an incremental strategy because too many managers have staked their careers on orbiting shipyards and the like. If NASA is left in charge, the US has already lost the space race.

Free Link (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135697)

Google Link [nytimes.com]

Shuttle Overlords (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135698)

I for one welcome our new space shuttle overlords.

Wait, old space shuttle overlords.

Ah, screw it. I am not funny. Please put me out of my misery. I volunteer for the Atlantis mission.

Re:Shuttle Overlords (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135785)

I for one welcome our new Austrian overlord.

--California voter

Re:Shuttle Overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135787)

Atlantis, eh? I hope you can tread water...

NYT Reg free link (2)

FannyMinstrel (656700) | about 11 years ago | (#7135699)

Here [nytimes.com]

Re:NYT Reg free link (1)

davidesh (316537) | about 11 years ago | (#7135723)

oh goody, two free google links in a row!

PARENT LINK IS GOATSE.CX !!!! DO NOT CLICK (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135741)

what a sicko is he

NO IT'S NOT... SHUT UP TROLL! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135758)

n/t

Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (3, Interesting)

thedillybar (677116) | about 11 years ago | (#7135700)

I think it's great that NASA can recover so quickly from such a tragic incident. I think it's very important that they launch another shuttle to show the public they're still hanging around.

However, I think the CAIB Report [streamos.com] released in August raises some very interesting points that need to be addressed (if they haven't already been). It mostly discusses long-term issues that will only be solved over the long term.

The last thing NASA wants to do is jump into anything to quickly. Let's face it: one more accident resulting in injury/death will destroy NASA's reputions for many, many years to come. Maybe they should elect to take some years off now, watching out for their own future? Let's just hope they've got 100 people thinking about this...and everyone else actually listening to them this time...

Re:Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (4, Insightful)

Ty (15982) | about 11 years ago | (#7135762)

Your horrid use of bold makes me NOT want to read your comment despite any insight you might actually have.

Re:Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (1)

zulux (112259) | about 11 years ago | (#7135827)

I'd like to use bold too, but they diden't cover that in my MCSE training. Where's that paperclip when you need him?

Re:Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136017)

You Bold Nazi

extremely limited launch windows (4, Insightful)

shams42 (562402) | about 11 years ago | (#7135701)

A more detailed version of the article [nytimes.com] can be found at the NY Times site. According to this article, the restrictions imposed by the new safety regulations constrain the shuttle to daylight launches, where adequate ascent video can be obtained. This unfortunately results in am extremely limited number of launch windows to reach the ISS. (It seems that there are only 4 between September 2004 and March 2005, and two of these are very narrow.)

Now I certainly want the thing to be as safe as possible, but is anyone else think that the level of acceptable risk has gotten too small? We should make the shuttle as safe as possible, but we shouldn't do this by compromising the shuttle's ability to fulfill its mission. Remember, we now have a space station up there that is going to need lots of maintenance, supplies, and fresh crews if it is going to be able to carry out any of the science work that are ostensibly the reason for its existence. Albatross or windfall, we put the thing up there, now we have to take care of it -- otherwise we've wasted a lot of money and political capital.

I wish I could believe it that easily (4, Insightful)

coolmacdude (640605) | about 11 years ago | (#7135704)

I'll also guarantee you that we're getting an awful lot smarter about this and we're going to come back stronger and safer as a result.

The same kind of stuff was said after Challenger. Then over the years everyone got complacent again and reverted to the old attitude. Maybe they've learned that lesson now and won't make the same mistake three times. It remains to be seen though.

Re:I wish I could believe it that easily (2, Interesting)

zulux (112259) | about 11 years ago | (#7135833)

Maybe they've learned that lesson now and won't make the same mistake three times.

If they make the mistake two more times, then there won't be *any* more problem to worry about.

Re:I wish I could believe it that easily (1)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7135944)

Actually, you can be sure that the Shuttle program will be scrapped in case of another catastrophe. There simply could be no "program" with only two vehicles remaining.

safer? (2, Insightful)

mOoZik (698544) | about 11 years ago | (#7135707)

C'mon now. The shuttles can't be safer because it takes a disaster for a potential problem to come to light. Challanger blew up. Columbia blew up. What's to keep from Atlantis or Enterprise from blowing up? I think they are fundamentally flawed and just making changes to them as disasters happen is a poor way of going about it. NASA needs to re-evaluate the way it conducts research and development and start from scratch.

Re:safer? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135756)

What's to keep from Atlantis or Enterprise from blowing up?

I don't know about the former but, for the latter, has NASA considered keeping a Vulcan in the warp chamber?

Re:safer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135812)

I can't speak for Atlantis, but Enterprise is probably pretty safe considering it was a test vehicle only and has not nor will it ever fly in space. I think it's in relatively little danger of exploding sitting in the Smithsonian. ;)

Re:safer? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136002)

NASA still got Endeavor, Atlantis and Discovery left. Enterprise was just a testbed and never flew into space.

Wher do I sign up? (0, Offtopic)

No_Weak_Heart (444982) | about 11 years ago | (#7135709)

Maybe they could give Hell on Earth a couple of seats.

Other Changes Needed (3, Insightful)

Omega037 (712939) | about 11 years ago | (#7135712)

I think there needs to be a lot more changes at NASA than just shuttle design before they try to go back to space. Repeated failures seems to be the norm for this agency, and the Columbia disaster, while tragic, should not have been that surprising. I feel the problem isn't jsut the technology, but the organization behind the program.

My best friend's father is actually an engineer at NASA and I would sometimes talk with him about some of the problems there. He said NASA has become too bureaucratic and that the management barely communicates with the engineers or with other managers. He also said that NASA was lacking an atmosphere where innovation would be welcomed and that there was no big goals for them to strive for.

I personally think that NASA either needs to completely recreate itself or it should be replaced with a new organization altogether.

Re:Other Changes Needed (1)

Le Marteau (206396) | about 11 years ago | (#7135763)

Flamebate follows. Mod me down, I don't care anymore.

He said NASA has become too bureaucratic and that the management barely communicates with the engineers or with other managers.

Well, there's a shock. Imagine that, a government buracracy, with management problems. Say it isn't so, Pa.

Would we be happy with government made shoes? How about if the government went and made cars. Would you want to ride in D.C. engineering? Why is it that most rational beings agree that when you want a good product, get private enterprise into it (rah rah capitalism and all that), but when we want to go to space, we employ socialism?

Get some profit motive in there. Some accountability, instead of the old 'gimme your taxes or you go to jail' bit followed by the tossing of money at thet issue. I can just imagine the heads that would roll if this happened in a real business, instead of the racket they've got going down at NASA.

What is flying already is (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135715)

Re:What is flying already is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135754)

lame

In Soviet Russia, Soyuz launches YOU (-1, Troll)

yerricde (125198) | about 11 years ago | (#7135719)

If the shuttle won't fly for another year, how are we going to get people down from the space station? I wondered that for a moment, did a Google search, found NASA's ISS web site [nasa.gov] , and learned that the ISS missions continue because in former Soviet Russia, Soyuz launches YOU...

...but only if you're an astronaut.

Soyuz safes money and lifes! (1)

axxackall (579006) | about 11 years ago | (#7135850)

Hey, jokes aside, THAT's the vehicle NASA should use: Soyuz. It safes money and lifes. Hmm can be used in a slogan :)

That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (3, Informative)

Y-Crate (540566) | about 11 years ago | (#7135721)

How many problems with the shuttle can we really hope to fix?

When the shuttle launches again, the current problems will still remain:

- There is still no viable crew escape system. During launch you theoretically have a chance to abort as long as the emergency doesn't involve the SRBs. In reality though, there is not much you can do. A mid-launch abort is more of a fantasy concocted to make astronauts and the public feel better. Once you're in space, hope that you can either get to the ISS (assuming all your navigational and propulsion systems are working properly), or that there is another shuttle almost ready to go...and you manage to survive the shuttle-to-shuttle transfer.

- Repairing the shuttle is still pretty iffy. NASA developed a substance that can be injected into small breaches in many parts of the shuttle to ensure the craft survives re-entry. Note I said *some* parts. The repair does not work on leading edge of the wing and you couldn't really hope to fix it in orbit even if you happened to have just the right spare part with you. (which is unlikely in of itself)

Repairing the shuttle can actually inflict more harm on the craft. There is a good chance anyone going over the side to look at the heat tiles will actually damage more in the course of the repair.

- The launch systems....mainly the SRBs are still horribly broken technologies that are absolutely not fault-tolerant whatsoever. Hundreds of things usually go wrong with the shuttle during the course of a mission. Little things here and there. If something goes wrong with the SRBs, you will probably die.

Re:That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (2, Informative)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7135771)

There is a good chance anyone going over the side to look at the heat tiles will actually damage more in the course of the repair.

That would be the case if an untrained spaceperson does that (like those on Columbia). However it is trivial now to establish means for safe inspection, and all astronauts can be trained to use them.

I don't work for NASA, but even I can think of soft rubber shoes and gloves that would allow you to touch the surface w/o damaging it. The spaceman would be weightless, so no static pressure would be applied; he only needs to keep his moment in check, which is easy as long as he is not in a hurry (and does not weigh a ton :-)

Re:That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (3, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | about 11 years ago | (#7135857)

However it is trivial now to establish means for safe inspection

I know this is /. home of the bland statement but come on. This is space we are talking about, not your garage. Nothing is trivial. If it was we would all have our own orbiters and I would be abducting Venusian women. Inspection is not easy and repairing any damage is considerably more than your average stroll in the park. Procedures must be designed and verified. Tooling must be designed and built to carry out repairs. The Austronauts must be trained. Then if things go pear shaped and a repair is required they must do all this in what is a very unforgiving environment. I dont see where trivial comes into this at all.

Re:That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (1)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7135892)

If it was we would all have our own orbiters and I would be abducting Venusian women.

Come on, abductions are not politically correct any more; don't give the Venus government the chance to blame Earth again :-)

Anyways, it is most definitely understood that anything involving space is a little bit more difficult than eating a pretzel. In this context (which is presumed to be blatantly obvious to /. readers) it _is_ trivial to equip an astronaut with soft gloves, compared to the much less trivial matter of launching him to the orbit in first place.

Re:That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135780)

When the shuttle launches again, the current problems will still remain:

Oh, you! Stop being such a Gloomy Gus! Turn that frown upside down!

This is the NEW NASA we're talkin' bout, beyatches! Fireballs over Texas... Homey don't play that game no mo! New and Improved! Now, with Flavor! Many will enter, few will win. Offer not valid where prohibited.

Re:That should be *somewhat* stronger and safer (1)

ottawanker (597020) | about 11 years ago | (#7136117)

NASA developed a substance that can be injected into small breaches in many parts of the shuttle to ensure the craft survives re-entry. Note I said *some* parts.
Actually, you said many parts.

Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135735)

"May" is the operative word when using "Shuttle" and "Fly" in the same sentance.

Ok, it shouldn't be a huge deal. (2, Insightful)

YahoKa (577942) | about 11 years ago | (#7135739)

Really, it shouldn't be a huge deal. We're launching ourselves into space and we expect it go problem free? Ok, no matter how great you are you'll make mistakes, people will die & money is lost. It happens, but it's not a good reason to stop doing it (although there may bemany other good reasons.) There are probably more people who die of starvation each minute than have ever died related to accidents in spacecraft (and the people in the spacecraft knowingly take a risk.) We probably spend as much on porn as we do in space research. So what's the big deal?

...Yeah... (2)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 11 years ago | (#7135747)

...And penguins will fly!

[Looks at a model of the space shuttle, thinks of what animal the shuttle most closely resembles.]

Um... never mind.

Ryan Fenton

Good ol' Nasa (3, Insightful)

Streiff (34269) | about 11 years ago | (#7135749)

I can't wait to see what happens to Nasa if China starts a new space race.

Re:Good ol' Nasa (2, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7135774)

Probably nothing will happen. NASA, that young sprinter of 70's, now looks like old Sumo wrestler, and is as agile as a snail. If China challenges NASA, it will take years for the bureaucracy to even comprehend the challenge!

As matter of fact, China already announced its intentions - to fly to the Moon and beyond. What transpired at NASA? You guessed it. Nothing. As if China does not exist.

On the other hand, NASA does not have resources to do anything even if the challenge is valid and immediate. Imagine that China establishes its Moon base in June 2004. What NASA can possibly do? It is even cut off of space at the moment, and its best chance to launch anyone would be ... in a Chinese capsule :-)

Well, it's one thing to "announce intentions" (1)

melted (227442) | about 11 years ago | (#7135992)

Well, it's one thing to "announce intentions", and another - to actually fly somewhere. There's substantial amount of science and "know how" involved and terrifying number of trial and error experiments must be performed to actually make their dreams a reality.

Right now they only have "intentions" and NASA is absolutely correct in not reacting to them. NASA has proven time after time they can fly whatever wherever given the right financial resources and prioritization of goals. Will they prove this again? You can be sure as heck they will.

Re:Good ol' Nasa (1)

RayBender (525745) | about 11 years ago | (#7135997)

It is even cut off of space at the moment, and its best chance to launch anyone would be ... in a Chinese capsule :-)

I for one welcome the prospect of going to sleep by the light of a Communist moon. :) Seriously, though - it's the only way we'd ever get people interested enough to do more than keep NASA barely on life support.

iuz o7sdfo h7se nifui (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135764)

sdor bhozsdcoloawb vlzdfh ;ozse izdfsv lzdgr

Who knew? (0, Offtopic)

akunkel (74144) | about 11 years ago | (#7135769)

Well, I take back everything I said about Rocket Scientists reading /.

Statistics (1)

benntop (449447) | about 11 years ago | (#7135777)

The report still doesn't address Richard Feynman's analysis after Challenger that even with good odds we are probably going to lose 1 in 50 shuttles.

I am all for a new launch system. But who do I write?
~CB

Shuttles are unnecessarily complex (3, Insightful)

melted (227442) | about 11 years ago | (#7135819)

And that's their main problem. In order for something to work reliably this something MUST be simple.

USSR had a superior shuttle program, "Buran" which got cancelled because of three simple reasons:
1. It was way more expensive than rocket-based space launches (which kinda defeated the purpose of having a reusable spacecraft).
2. It was less reliable than rocket-based stuff.
3. Russians had proven they can build a better shuttle than Americans (Russian shuttle flew its first flight unmanned and landed all by itself) which back then was a big thing.

Here's more info on Buran: http://www.buran.ru/htm/molniya5.htm

Shuttle alternative launch system unveiled... (0, Troll)

khenson (706671) | about 11 years ago | (#7135889)

NASA administration officials have determined that rocket fuel is "dumber and unsafer" and discontinued its use throughout the organization. When questioned about the decision, part of NASA's "smarter and safer" initiative, Patalie Nortman of NASA's alternative propulsion division had this to say:

"It was simply a matter of investing our money, well, YOUR money actually, in the right place. We opted for a launch system comprised of thousands of high strength polymer rubber bands to effectively 'sling' the shuttle into space. It was incredibly easy and inexpensive to implement. The real cost shifted to our computerized targeting system capable of aiming the shuttle into the proper orbital launch trajectory. Microsoft software was chosen for this critical system because system failure was simply not an option."

Further discussion was cut short as the final seconds of the launch arrived.

T MINUS 5 SECONDS AND COUNTING...
4...
3...
STOP 0x000000D1 DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL (0x0,0x0,0x0,0x0)
Gah...!
Thwiiiiip!!!

Re:Shuttles are unnecessarily complex (3, Interesting)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 11 years ago | (#7135998)

Buran was technically superior, mostly since the Russians got to see the US' attempt with the Space Shuttle before they designed their own.
USSR had a superior shuttle program, "Buran" which got cancelled because of three simple reasons
Your reasons are wrong. Buran was launched via a rocket-based system (Energia). It is essentially just one type of payload for the Energia system. It did not have significant expensive/reliability disadvantages compared to other rocket-based systems. Buran was cancelled because there was no clear, compelling role for the vehicle, and with the breakup of the USSR there was no money available to continue the project without a very strong reason.

Energia was the most expensive booster ever built (2, Informative)

melted (227442) | about 11 years ago | (#7136052)

Energia was the most expensive booster ever built by Russians (if the same thing was built by NASA it would be the most expensive booster ever built). Boosters required to propel equivalent payloads via more traditional technologies were almost an order of magnitude cheaper and did not require an insane number of subcontractors to build parts (Energia/Buran as far as I know required more than a thousand subcontractors).

At one launch per year (which was a tentative plan) it did not make financial sense to keep Buran around and that's in essence why it was canned and rocket-based stuff was not.

Re:Shuttles are unnecessarily complex (1)

melted (227442) | about 11 years ago | (#7136061)

>> Buran was technically superior, mostly since the Russians
>> got to see the US' attempt with the Space Shuttle
>> before they designed their own.

FYI, that's also why MiG and SU fighters are superior to their american counterparts. They started out as carbon copies but were then improved a lot, because American stuff in its original form didn't cut the mustard.

The newer MiGs and SUs are another story. I've seen an American military pilot's jaw drop when I showed him a video of SU-30 doing all those "impossible" aerobatic figures. And Russians can build something like this for a "mere" $30M a piece!

Re:Shuttles are unnecessarily complex (2, Informative)

tftp (111690) | about 11 years ago | (#7136097)

18 SU-30MKM were sold [iraqwar.ru] to Malaysia yesterday for $50M each. But the customer requested a lot of optional equipment.

Re:Shuttles are unnecessarily complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136024)

In Soviet Russia they build superior shuttles that never fly.

Try something new. less expensive. more reliable (1)

zymano (581466) | about 11 years ago | (#7135901)

I don't like the shuttle at all . Way too complex and too expensive.

Just scrap it and go with a capsule or lifting body concept.

Don't have any links but there was an article on slash 2 days ago(too lazy to search for it).

How about sticking an astronout on titanium carbide bucket and putting C4 underneath it ?

Re:Try something new. less expensive. more reliabl (1)

Simple-Simmian (710342) | about 11 years ago | (#7135952)

I think those are called single use rockets and capsules. They work really well. They still build them in Russia and ISS will be using them for ever I bet.

FYI (-1, Offtopic)

DownTheLongRoad (597665) | about 11 years ago | (#7135912)

I just came in from drinking all night and read slashdot. I'll be real happy when the shuttle flies again(as long as it doesnt explode). Just wanted everyone to know that!

Stanislaw Lem said... (2, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | about 11 years ago | (#7135921)

"If a chance of failure of one element in the device is one to billion, in a device with a billion components something HAS TO fail."

KISS, the more complex it is, the more it will cost. Reentry and horizontal landing cost fortune in development cost, fuel, payload capacity and quite a few other domains. Carrying all the life support space and devices on flights that could be perfectly performed by unmanned devices is plain stupid.

Re:Stanislaw Lem said... (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 11 years ago | (#7136020)

"If a chance of failure of one element in the device is one to billion, in a device with a billion components something HAS TO fail."

Reminds me of the improbability drive (in HHGG); with an improbability drive, even the most improbable things are very likely to happen as soon you turn it on. (or something to that effect).

Shuttle has no future (4, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | about 11 years ago | (#7135924)

Individuals inside NASA may be genuinely smart and caring, but NASA as an organization is a horrible morass of red tape. Nothing important will change. They will slap a bandage over the Shuttle's current problems and that will be that.

The Shuttle is only about 99% reliable. In other words, if you fly it 100 times it is pretty much certain to have a fatal failure. We have two Shuttle orbiters left; that's about 200 flights we have left. Maybe less.

My suggestions:

Make sure anyone who flies on the Shuttle is a volunteer. You will get volunteers who want to be in space so badly they are willing to risk a 1% chance of death, so that's okay.

Immediately start finding ways to ship people and supplies to the Space Station without using the Shuttle. Never again use the Shuttle for any mission that could be done by, say, a Russian rocket.

Immediately offer a large, tax-free, cash prize for the first company to put 1000 kilograms in the same orbit as the Space Station, and then do it again within three weeks. Offer another, almost as large prize for the second company to do this. Also offer contracts for delivery of supplies and people to the Space Station.
Something everyone needs to realize: there is no amount of money that anyone could spend that will buy another Shuttle orbiter. They are done. There are two left in the world, and that's all. When those two explode or whatever, there will be none left.

Something else everyone needs to realize: NASA is incapable, as an organization, of building any reasonable system for going to space. If we let NASA build a "Shuttle II", they will first spend billions of dollars, hire many people, and conduct many studies and write many documents. Perhaps even, someday, some hardware might fly. That hardware will be a haywire monstrosity almost as bad as the current Shuttle. Conclusion: don't give any additional money to NASA, and don't ask NASA to design any new spacecraft.

steveha

Re:Shuttle has no future (1)

bcombee (5301) | about 11 years ago | (#7136039)

Aren't there three shuttle orbiters left? I count Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour in the current fleet, with Challenger and Columbia destroyed and Enterprise never made spaceworthy.

Re:Shuttle has no future (1, Interesting)

sql*kitten (1359) | about 11 years ago | (#7136107)

Immediately start finding ways to ship people and supplies to the Space Station without using the Shuttle. Never again use the Shuttle for any mission that could be done by, say, a Russian rocket.

You know, the original plan for the ISS was to assemble the whole thing on Earth in a collapsible form, strap it to the back of a shuttle booster in place of the shuttle itself and launch the whole thing in one go, unmanned. NASA's engineers thought this was a good idea, Lockheed-Martin's engineers thought this was a good idea, the independant review board at MIT thought this was a good idea. NASA, however, felt the need to justify its great white elephant, the shuttle, so the idea was killed.

Conclusion: don't give any additional money to NASA, and don't ask NASA to design any new spacecraft.

Damn right. NASA is an obstacle to space exploration, the sooner it is disbanded the better for everyone - apart from useless career bureaucrats that is.

Wake me up... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7135929)

....when first mare lands successfully on Mars.

Good to see (2)

ScurvyDawg (98220) | about 11 years ago | (#7136004)

Good to see them get going again.

I look forward to seeing what they come up with for a replacement. The suttle design has worked out fairly well as a low earth orbit vehicle. If they can work out the catastrophic bugs, the next generation should be impressive.

I think we need to get back to the moon and create vehicles that are appropriate for moon travel. The where further inovation will gestate.

Smarter and safer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136033)

and more determined than ever! Fear the power of Spectra, puny....Oh, never mind.

I hope this is US grammar ... (3, Funny)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | about 11 years ago | (#7136047)

a shuttle (possibly Atlantis) could fly again next fall.

"Fall" is a comment on the reliability of the shuttle program, or the US for Autumn?

A sick joke... (3, Insightful)

nicodemus05 (688301) | about 11 years ago | (#7136074)

On July 28 a CNN.com Article posed the question, "Should we send a manned mission to Mars?",and gets the answer,

"We can go there after all the things wrong on Earth are fixed," said Betty Collatrella, a retiree from Caldwell, New Jersey. "I'm totally against any of it. It's a total waste of money we need for our kids, for illnesses, could put somebody's kids through college, could cure so many diseases."

And why don't we cure injustice and human suffering first as well? Bleh. We have heard those arguments for decades, but they scare the ever living hell out of me... What's the good of sending kids to college if we stagnate here doing nothing? What good is one more .com founding MBA if the taxes they pay aren't going towards something other than money for more kids to go to college and start more .coms?

Enthusiasm for the program of space exploration was greater among younger adults, those with more education and those with higher incomes. Whites were more likely than blacks and men were more likely than women to think the shuttle should continue to fly.

Let's all just stay home and knit sweaters. Liberal women and their damn social welfare concerns.

More than half, 56 percent, said they believe civilians should be allowed to participate in shuttle missions, while 38 percent said they should not.

This makes no sense to me... Should we send soldiers off into space against their will, or should we ask for volunteers? I think astronauts understand the risks involved pretty well. This article concerns me because the polls show ignorance and lack of ambition. There are also priceless lines like this:

"I think it's all bogus," said Claudette Davidson of Jonesboro, Georgia, who does accounting work for physicians. "I just do not believe they've gone to the moon. I saw Capricorn One," she said, referring to a 1978 movie that featured O.J. Simpson and included a faked trip to Mars. "That did it for me."

My head was about to explode after reading that.

Well, Claudette, do you believe in alien abductions? Maybe the extensive education necessary to perform your job doing 'accounting work for physicians' gives you a unique insight into the veracity of the government's claims regarding the space program. I've got to say, though, that I've seen Catch Me if You Can, and I feel fairly certain that your employer is not only a con artist, but that he is in fact Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's too bad that people like Claudette get to vote.

So the government isn't going to get us to Mars as long as people like Claudette and Betty have any choice in the matter. What we need is a private venture to take us there(see the X Prize) or a good scare provided by the Chinese (see the 100 Day Countdown until China puts a man in space, which may or may not be on hold or on target, I haven't checked) to jumpstart the government program. China is already talking of a moon base. Would that be enough to wake the government up?

Probably not. Claudette wouldn't believe that they had actually gotten there.

I call... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7136100)



Shotgun!

Meanwhile, Concorde goes out of service (3, Interesting)

panurge (573432) | about 11 years ago | (#7136134)

I guess the European equivalent of the Shuttle program was the Anglo-French Concord(e) aircraft. Loads of national pride involved, and basically no-one liking to admit that it was fast but cramped, low payload, expensive to maintain and never covered development costs (the weasel expression "operating profit" was a giveaway.)

Just as with the Shuttle, a fatal (and much more lethal -113 people were killed) crash occurred as the result of a known weakness - easy projectile rupturing of fuel tanks.

Despite attempts to bring it back, the thing is finally going out of service. It's old technology, and it is always expensive to maintain small volume old technologies. Of course, there is no replacement supersonic passenger air travel. But it hardly matters. Long haul flight is now cheaper and more fuel efficient than ever before for "normal" passengers, and the thing that did not exist when Concorde was first built - efficient video conferencing and around the world networking - is now commonplace for urgent communications.

I think the analogy is worth pushing. Why is the Shuttle needed? The Russians have shown that bread and butter manned flight can be done relatively cheaply and more reliably with non-reusable rockets. The things that didn't exist when the Shuttle was first launched - really sophisticated, small robotics systems - are now commonplace.Eyes, ears and other sensors can be put on other solar system bodies using increasingly sophisticated remote robots. The development of miniaturised electronics and ion drives gives the enabling technologies for really interesting long range missions that would not be possible in manned versions for many years to come. So why keep the Shuttle flying at vast expense rather than do something new? Inertia?

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