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NASA's New Shuttle

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the stuff-to-listen-too dept.

NASA 476

j0ugh writes "NASA releases plans for a new spacecraft (Audio stream contains the meat) that would replace the space shuttle. The vehicle is part of a system that will be capable of putting astronauts on the moon by 2018, laying the groundwork for space travel to Mars. NASA says the new system is designed to be 10 times safer than the space shuttle"

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Why fly... (3, Funny)

Knight Thrasher (766792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603916)

Why fly a spacecraft, when you can just take the elevator [] ?

Re:Why fly... (5, Interesting)

minginqunt (225413) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603960)

When you put a date of '2018' on something, being at least two US administrations away, isn't that akin to basically saying "maybe, one day, but I wouldn't count on it"?

I wish we could be honest. Nobody really can be bothered to put a man on the Moon or Mars. It's faster, cheaper and easier to have a little wheeled avatar nipping around for us, searching out prime real estate and letting us know that the nightlife in these places isn't a patch on Vauxhall, daahling.

I mean, I'd like it to happen, but we all know it won't, right?


Re:Why fly... (1)

RockOutlaw (801460) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604148)

While 2018 is fairly far off, even frustratingly so, we still have to be realistic. You can't design a set of new launch systems and associated spacecraft overnight.

Yes, they plan to re-use the SSMEs and SRBs, as well as significant elements of other components of the STS system, but don't think it doesn't entail a substantial degree of re-tooling and testing and training.

I think it's unfair that everyone so glibly points out that "before 2020" can be significantly after the current administration, cynically implying that the Vision is mere grandstanding and not something more substantive. (I'm making an assumption that this is the genesis of your first sentence, but if it's not, just call me paranoid.) More has been done for NASA and the space program than simply marking some nebulous area on a calendar and saying "Moon landing."

I'm very enthusiastic about the CEV program, and NASA's plans for it, and I think any other space exploration enthusiasts should be as well. Perhaps not unreservedly, but I'm certainly taking the benefit-of-the-doubt route.

Robots are all well and good, but contrary to the popular conceit, you can't explore with telescopes and probes. To do anything truly worth the effort, you need to send people there, and there'll never be a shortage of willing souls, so why not go for it?

NASA is on the right track and they're doing good things at a (so far) reasonable pace. And that makes me glad.

Re:Why fly... (1)

Viper Daimao (911947) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604151)

hey, you cant blame them for trying. if it doesnt happen, then its the fault of whichever administration that does stop it. and really, it doesnt seem like anyone from either party is really interested in cutting spending (hopes Im wrong), especially not justified spending like this (hopes Im right).

all and all, the timeframe came from NASA, and they judged it not to be wise to aim for 2008 or 2009. While I think they can be too risk-adverse a lot of the time, I'm going to defer to their judgement here. Especially with a brand new rocket design. See you on the moon!

Re:Why fly... (1)

Ganniterix (863430) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604202)

There is nothing wrong with "dreaming" ... The world's greatest inventors and discoverers were called dreamers of heretics ... Galileo, Newton, Marconi, Darwin, Einstein .... We all know what the current situation is. What looks impossible today can very much be what will happen in a couple of hundred of years. True it is like impossible for current generations since we will see nothing for it... but not for humanity!!

Re:Why fly... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603983)

Because you need spacecraft to put the elevator in orbit. Plus, perhaps you can put a smaller, trial version on the moon to test the technology and bring material from the surface -- and where hurricanes and terrorists have a hard time hitting it.

Re:Why fly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604118)

I am the poster of the A.C. comment above, and thinking about it a bit, isn't the Earth the equivalent of Luna-synchronous orbit (since we always hang at the same point in the sky in comparison)? That would make a Lunar space elevator a rather longer version.

Re:Why fly... (4, Informative)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604253)

I assume you mean a space elevator stretching from the Moon to the Earth? If you lived on the Moon, you'd see the Earth spinning about once per day, so a given point on the Earth's surface does not stay in the same place from the Moon's perspective.

A Moon based space elevator would reach almost halfway to the Earth since the Moon only rotates once per month. However, it wouldn't help get stuff from the Earth to the Moon, since the boost out of the Earth's gravitational field is 90% or more of the energy required. However, the combination of an Earth elevator, ion propulsion, and a Moon elevator would make it much cheaper. Look for this in about 50 years.

Re:Why fly... (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603995)

Because they are planning on going to the moon

Re:Why fly... (1)

spot35 (644375) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603999)

Because the new shuttle will go further than near earth orbit?

Re:Why fly... (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604091)

It's a long trip in an elevator and the muzak will drive you crazy.

Re:Why fly... (0)

ghukov (854181) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604128)

keep an eye out for Vermicious Knids...

Re:Why fly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604201)

.. I know why.
This feeling inside says it's time I was gone.
Clear head.
New life ahead.
It's time I was king not just one more pawn.

Re:Why fly... (2, Interesting)

orac2 (88688) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604205)

OT, but if you're interested in the elevator, you may want to check this feature by elevator guru Brad Edwards in last month's IEEE Spectrum magazine. []

Good Design (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603918)

FYI, there's a promotional video of the new rockets here. (flash required) []

The video and other information make several things quite clear:

  1. There will be two boosters, a Heavy Lifter Vehicle (HLV) and a smaller "man rated" booster for the crew capsule.

  2. Both rockets will be based on Space Shuttle technology.

  3. The CEV rocket appears to be a three stage deal. First stage is an SRB booster. Second stage is a single SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine). Third stage is a smaller booster for navigation. (It's unclear from what I've seen what type of rocket this will be and what type of fuel it will use.) The ET (external tank) will be inline in the stack. i.e. From bottom to top: SRB, SSME, ET, Nav Booster, Crew Capsule.

  4. There appears to be an Apollo age escape tower on the crew capsule. This doubles as a docking port.

  5. The HLV is five (!) SSMEs fueled by a large ET directly above. The cargo area is inlined above this, with a protective shell and nav rocket. Two SRBs are attached to the side of the rocket. Now the SRBs replace the F-1 engines used in the Saturn V first stage. The SSMEs replace the J-2 engines used in the Saturn V second and third stages. The modern engines are each twice as powerful as their S-V counterparts. One big change from the Sat-V is that ALL engines fire on launch. This gives a total thrust (using the numbers from the Space Shuttle) of (2x3,300,00lbf) + (5x400,000lbf) = 8,600,000 pounds of force! In comparison, the first stage of the Sat-V put out 7,500,000. However, this rocket will continue to put out 2,000,000 pounds of force until orbit is reached. In comparison, the second stage of the S-V put out exactly half that! In other words, this rocket will likely be significantly more powerful than the Saturn V.

  6. The mission plan given is basically the same one used on Apollo. We use big booster to light up millions of tonnes of mass, then bring back a mere 20 or so tonnes from the moon. The only difference is that the crew capsule and the lunar lander will be launched separately. Kind of pathetic, but we need to walk before we can run. And the HLV NASA is building is the PERFECT tool for getting space tugs and moon bases in place.

  7. The crew capsule will do its job of getting people up, but far less expensive than today.

  8. I'm a bit disappointed in the crew capsule. With all the experience we have with winged craft, I was hoping they'd take up Lockheed's capsule design [] and fit it with a full carbon-carbon heat shield that would never have to be replaced.

  9. The inline configuration of the small rocket ensures that debris from the rocket (such as foam) could never strike any heat shielding on the CEV.

  10. Screw the ISS. With this HLV booster, we could put a brand new space station whereever the hell we want it in just two to three launches! ROCK! :-D

Overall, this looks like good technology to me. Anyone who thinks NASA is taking a step back (except for the capsule configuration, I agree with you there) needs to pull his head out of his rear. This design will be inexpensive (NASA is merely redirecting the shuttle buget plus a little extra), reuse existing components/industry, will be more powerful than any rocket ever designed, and will finally give us back the ability to put USEFUL stuff into space. Good job, NASA!

P.S. On the capsule (again), I'm surprised they didn't even consider the Big Gemini [] design. The BG would have been a very large capsule (more crew than the Shuttle!) with a parawing [] for smooth touchdowns on Earth.

Re:Good Design (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603967)

"The HLV is five (!) SSMEs fueled by a large ET directly above"

Imagine a...

Oh never mind

SSME complications (5, Informative)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603978)

I expect the SSME on the second stage of the manned launcher will be replaced with a J-20S.

The reason: Restarting.

The SSME has never been restarted in flight, and there's a big cost associated with adding/certifying this capabillity. The J-2, on the other hand, was used by the Saturn V's third stage, and this restart is needed for trans lunar injection.

Re:SSME complications (4, Interesting)

mj_1903 (570130) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604062)

I don't think they will. The J-2 hasn't been built in years and while the J-2S (the more modern version) could have production restarted Thiokol believes [] it would take more than 4 years to restart production.

I suspect that development and certification of the SSME for orbital restarts would take significantly less time and money than the restarting of the entire J-2S program.

Re:SSME complications (1, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604078)

I did hear about this, but the last thing I heard was that the J-2S plan was scrapped. Since the J-2 is no longer in production, it would be costly to rebuild and recertify it. So costly that it seems easier for NASA to modify the SSMEs, of which they have a great deal of experience.

On the big launcher, there has been talk of using the RS-68 engines from the Delta IV instead of the SSMEs. Supposedly that would increase the payload capability of the craft. No idea if that's going to go anywhere.

Re:SSME complications (4, Informative)

orac2 (88688) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604176)

The fact sheet that accompanied the announcement, here [] , explictly states they'll be using the J2-S. [] notes that "It was estimated by ATK Thiokol in 2005 that restarting the J-2S program, including engine fabrication, design and reliability verification, certification, and production, would require four years." Looks like the ghost of the S-IVB (America's favourite stage!) will live on yet...

Re:Good Design (2, Informative)

mj_1903 (570130) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604085)

Just to make a minor correction to an otherwise good post, the 'Nav Booster' is actually the service module which has the same task as the one on Apollo.

Re:Good Design (1)

hplasm (576983) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604087)

"One big change from the Sat-V is that ALL engines fire on launch.

First stage engines only, I trust!! But seriously, why does this differ from Saturn V?

Re:Good Design (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604125)

There are no stages in this design. ALL engines fire.

In the Saturn V, the engines were inlined and timed to fire after a previous stage fell away. Which meant that the 5 F-1 engines would fire, fall away, then the three J-2 engines would fire and fall away.

In this configuration, you fire 5 SSMEs and 2 SRBs simultaneously, then let the SRBs fall away as the SSMEs carry you to orbit. The advantage to this design is that the SSMEs firing in the first stage help improve the overall efficiency (Isp) of the rocket.

Re:Good Design (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604193)

Having a powerful booster gives a lot more flexibility, like the Soviet Union's Energiya booster [] , which could (and did) launch loads other than their Shuttle. Although their strap-on boosters were liquid fuel and more powerful.

They had plans for reusing both the strap-ons and the main booster, but no-one knows how far that went - certainly the main engines were discarded. I wonder how/if Nasa plans to re-use the main engines? Since they were designed for reusability, I guess the SSMEs are not cheap and cheerful, so they would want to recycle them.

Also I remember that, in their earlier plans, the USSR were going to have an inline configuration with some kind of super-advanced high-speed lander. In the end they went for the more conservative shuttle design.

Observers seemed to agree that the USSRs approach was more flexibile in some ways, so shades of that are probably appearing here. It must be nice for the designers to revisit some of these ideas :)

Speed ? (1)

doskir (894079) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603927)

so is it faster too or just safer ?


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603931)

Score:-1, Troll

Deja vu (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603933)

Is it just me, or does the artist's conception up there look like the Apollo command module and lander? They can't seriously be doing the same design they did four decades ago.

Re:Deja vu (1)

stevew (4845) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603988)

No - that is what I was thinking too - the only real difference seems to be the solar panels.

I suppose with all that 3Ghz computer gear running on it, it'll take more power than the original Apollo command module did. ;-)

I'm not impressed. There is nothing here to replace the things the shuttle can do? How do you deal with repair of craft all ready in orbit, etc?

There are simply some missions only a space-shuttle type vehicle can accomplish.

Re:Deja vu (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604049)

The point is that at this rate, with exceptions such as the Hubble, it's cheaper to deorbit a broken sat and send up another one ( 200kg of stuff to send upstairs) than to send up a shuttle to service it (20 tons of stuff to send upstairs).

Most of the cost of an earth-orbiting sat is ultimately the launch vehicle.

Re:Deja vu (2, Insightful)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604166)

Well, what does the shuttle really do?

1. Capable of bringing a shitload of material into orbit. Yup, this can do that two.

2. Repair craft in orbit. How often have we used that capability? At max 5 times, and I think I'm being generous...

3. Building the ISS. Well, the ISS have a pretty capable arm and gantry system. Once things are boosted up to it and attached, it can build itself.

The shuttle has served us well, but I see it as a first step and it has outlived its usefulness. What we should do is scour the shuttle for all of it's great ideas, carry them forward and leave the bad ideas behind.

Re:Deja vu (-1)

gcw1 (914577) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604021)

Looks like a giant step backwards to me...

Re:Deja vu (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604086)

if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Fake (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603934)

That thing looks so fake. I mean, c'mon, purple and gold?

Re:Fake (0)

bleaknik (780571) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604147)

Nasa and their outsourcing... Apparently they hired a Liberty City pimp to design this one.

News? (0, Redundant)

Cally (10873) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603935)

C'mon this isn't news. BBC was reporting it yesterday FFS, and as other pointed out the Wikipedia page on the CEV [] has a lot of detailed info on the launchers, mission plans etc.

Note to all the Rutan freaks out there: if you can do this was less than $60 billion, feel free to try. Even better, volunteer to be a test pilot...

Re:News? (1)

Attaturk (695988) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604079)

C'mon this isn't news. BBC was reporting it yesterday FFS, and as other pointed out the Wikipedia page on the CEV has a lot of detailed info on the launchers, mission plans etc.

Took the words right out of my mouth. The briefing and much more all available here: []

Re:News? (1)

Edward Ka-Spel (779129) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604224)

This is the worst kept secret in NASA. I've seen details about this over a month ago. What is news is that Congree, the White House, and OMB have now all signed off on it so that it can be officially announced.

10x safer? (4, Insightful)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603943)

How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

Jerry []

Um, duh (2, Informative)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603975)

Obviously it means 1/10th as many deaths per N usages. Of course, this thing will probably be less then 1/10th the cost of shuttle mission, so it will be used more then 10 times as often, meaning more death. Oh well. It will probably have 10x fewer people dying, and 10x fewer explosive disasters.

Re:Um, duh (2, Funny)

dr.octogonocologist (858447) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604026)

Is that 10x in metric or english measurements?

Re:Um, duh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604074)

I thought it was binary...

Um, duh, redux (1)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604048)

Obviously it means 1/10th as many deaths per N usages.

That's obvious? I'd think that it'd be far more obviously 1/10th as many mission failures. Any statistic regarding deaths would vary according to the number of people on the flight, which changes per mission on the Shuttle, thus making your "obvious" conclusion anything but.

Re:10x safer? (1)

ThankfulJosh (867278) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604065)

One way you calculate it is by measuring the theoretical failure rates of the components and then adding/multiplying them accordingly. It's not simple or straightforward to quantify these component failure probabilities, or the relationships between components, but the math is high school.

Re:10x safer? (1)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604198)

but the math is high school

If that's the case, then NASA needs to go back to high school [] .

Let's hope these are more realistic calculations than they did on the Columbia and Challenger statistics...

Re:10x safer? (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604098)

How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

Perhaps the materials used in construction have 10x the tensile strength? Or statistically they expect it to last 10x longer before requiring scheduled maintenance or retirement? Or the test runs they've done have resulted in 1/10th the number of accidents, Loss Time Injuries or just plain downtime? Maybe for ever safety feature in the original there are ten in this one?

It's probably just an arbitrary number but that doesn't dismiss the concept of being able to say one thing is safer than another.

Re: It's probably just an arbitrary number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604232)

Like having 10x as many characters in italics as you should?

Re:10x safer? (1)

TuataraShoes (600303) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604102)

How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

Well, you're not far off. In a complex, even chaotic system, you can develop metrics - or measurable elements. It is not the same as certainty, but it's better than having no clue.

Each component has a failure rating
Each system has a failure frequency
Each potentially failing system has a level of redundancy
Each potentially failing system has a degree of impact on other systems and the entire system.

Formulae which take all this into account can model and rate the safety of the system as a whole. Of course, this means nothing if you're riding on the shuttle that explodes. But it does provide a means of measuring safety.

Apply the formula! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604130)

Take the number of shuttles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X...

If X is 1/10th the value it was with the old shuttle, it's 10x safer.

It's meaningless blurb (4, Informative)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604213)

Read Richard Feynman [] tearing them a new one over exactly that sort of language. It's disheartening that they still apparently have marketdroids doing their press releases.

Re:10x safer? (1)

Edward Ka-Spel (779129) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604248)

Well, by doing various sorts of failure analysis studies, they determined that the shuttle had a 1 in 200 change of failure. By doing those exact same studies on the new vehicle, they determined that it had a 1 in 2000 chance of failure. Thus, 10x safer.

Great. (3, Informative)

Seska (253960) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603945)

113 shuttle flights, 2 catatrophic failures. A ten-fold improvement means we should only lose the entire crew 1 time in 560.

Re:Great. (4, Insightful)

failure-man (870605) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604076)

Well, that's only like, 20 times more dangerous than a car. Pretty good considering you're basically riding a bomb to orbit.

Re:Great. (5, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604192)

Well, that's only like, 20 times more dangerous than a car. Pretty good considering you're basically riding a bomb to orbit.

...which makes one wonder why NASA doesn't just use cars...

10 times? (0, Redundant)

rdejean (150504) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603946)

10 times safer?? can they possibly measure that... if NASA really knows how unsafe the current shuttle is, maybe someone should fix it?

Re:10 times? (0)

xmuskrat (613243) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604115)

Uh, isn't this the fix?

Re:10 times? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604220)

It's called engineering. You build a reliability model of the system and evaluate it. What's the probability of component X failing and what are the effects if it does fail. NASA already has a comprehensive reliability model for the Space Shuttle.

From the illustration... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603954)

It looks almost exactly like the Apollo system.

(if we're going back to 1969, can we also drop the war on drugs? thanks.)

Re:From the illustration... (0)

failure-man (870605) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604119)

Yeah, but if we went back then we'd also have to be fighting Vietnam again. Oh wait . . . . .

Sherman, set the wayback!

10 times safer?? (1)

dudeman420 (909853) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603956)

What exactly does that mean? Let's say this new spacecraft is 100% safe. does that mean the old one was only 10% safe?

Re:10 times safer?? (2, Insightful)

Hakubi_Washu (594267) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604060)

If the last system had one fatal failure in 57 flights, then the new one is supposed to have one in ~570 flights. If you want to convert that to percentages you'll end up with an exponential curve requiring an endless number of flights before a fatal failure, which is not achieveable. That's not exactly rocket science :-)

Re:10 times safer?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604242)

"supposed to"? :-)

humans on on the moon by 2018? (2, Funny)

Evil Grinn (223934) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603971)

Next they'll be telling us that they plan to have that "powered flight" thing all sewn up by 2040.

Another Failure of Imagination (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13603976)

1. Not realizing the severity of the terrorist threat prior to 9/11.

2. Not preparing the Gulf Coast for threats like Katrina and the inadequate response afterward.

3. Going back to the moon, instead of reaching for Mars and/or beyond.

SpaceShip One (1)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603985)

I remember hearing the SpaceShip crew speaking about their plans for the future, basically paving the way for space travels within a few years and moon landing within 20. So NASA goes there in 2018 and then the rest go there a few years later.

I've always wanted to walk on a giant cheese ball.

based on Space Shuttle technology (3, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 9 years ago | (#13603994)

So NASA's going to be using the latest in 1970's tech? Woo Hoo!

Re:based on Space Shuttle technology (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604096)

No its the latest in 1970's tech with the latest in 1960's configurations.

The Sat V launch was one heck of a show and I miss real rockets.

yeah, 10 times safer... (5, Funny)

RelliK (4466) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604003)

and 30% cooler, with 200% more wiz-bang factor!

Re:yeah, 10 times safer... (2, Funny)

N1ck0 (803359) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604100)

We secretly replaced NASA's space shuttle with new folgers crystals. Now with 10 times that real mountain grown flavor.

Such daring speed! (-1, Troll)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604012)

Wow, men on the moon in a mere 13 years. I'm almost impressed!

Never went to the moon (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604017)

I take it they'll be taking advantage of CGI this time, hey we might even see Shrek make an appearance.

New wine, old bottle (3, Interesting)

FishandChips (695645) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604020)

Perhaps we've moved a bit beyond this stuff, though NASA hasn't yet gotten the message or is worried about its future funding. For a start it looks as if unmanned missions could achieve the same at far less cost. Second, missions like this are really about the future good of all mankind, unless you're some crazed tycoon who wants to own space, the planets, etc. So perhaps the other major power blocks in the world could be induced to cooperate and to spread the cost. Who knows, they might even come up with some good ideas or tasty new technology. The US is financially overstretched as it is.

Re:New wine, old bottle (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604097)

This mission is never going to happen. The national debt keeps mounting and at some point the IOUs will need to be paid. By 2015 the bulk of the baby boomers begin to retire and there won't be enough funds to pay that expense (not to mention all the government pensions and PIGC pensions that will need to be paid).

Back to where they begun? (5, Interesting)

Andr0s (824479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604033)

I must say, it is interesting to notice that NASA has, in fact, finally opted to return to the old, well-tried capsule approach, as opposed to reusable reentry vehicles such as Shuttle. Especially when one takes into consideration the significant amount of resistance NASA experts have been offering to the idea for years and years, despite the poor cost-to-results ratio of Shuttles and, apparently, high(er) risks involved in Shuttle flights as compared to capsule flights.

Perhaps it is a bit of me that loves rubbing it in to american 'rocket scientists', but it might be interesting to notice that Russians never fully embraced their shuttles (Buran, [] ) despite it posessing payload and operational capacities superior to those of US Shuttle...

Re:Back to where they begun? (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604184)

No offsense, but the Russians were stupid to build the Buran in the first place. The only reason why they built it was that Reagan had them convinced of the need for "technological parity". They bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

The Buran never flew again, because Russia went bankrupt and experienced a coup. There was no money left to fly the Buran (or much else until the US starting pumping $$$ into it), and the orbiter and facilities were all pawned to the Ukrainian government for a loan.

Re:Back to where they begun? (1)

joib (70841) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604247)

I read that the Russians and the EU are collaborating on some kind of shuttle. Well, not a shuttle as in the space shuttle but more like one of those lifting body CEV designs.

Still, ironic that the US is ditching the shuttle and going back to capsules as the Russians are going the opposite way. ;-)

Re:Back to where they begun? (1)

Andr0s (824479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604257)

I never said Buran was a good investment, or cost-to-result effective one. However, that just brings us to the original point - capsule-based systems are far more price-efficient than re-usable space vehicles, such as Space Shuttle. As for:

There was no money left to fly the Buran (or much else until the US starting pumping $$$ into it)

...ask yourself (or go look for definite figures) how much $$$ USGOV is pumping into NASA to keep it flying? Those things are hardly profitable, and on top of it NASA has a need to win any pissing match, which leads to it under-bidding every other space-launch provider on commercial projects, even if it means that part of such commercial flights, whixh are supposed to be paid by a customer, is actually subsidied from taxes paid by US Citizens. In effect, your taxes pay for i.e. private telecomm satelites to be put up.

Perhaps, hopefully, maybe NASA's return to single-launch systems will finally offset some of these expenses and, if nothing else, allow them to be poured into some serious R&D?

Wasring money? (-1, Flamebait)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604056)

With all the problems we have in America and nothing going right here and abroad, (we just went past 1,900 lost lives in Iraq), does this government think that spending over 100 billion on this cause is a wise thing to do?

What can a lay man do to make these politicians see the light?

Re:Wasring money? (1)

ifwm (687373) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604241)

"What can a lay man do to make these politicians see the light?"

I have heard that shooting at the White House gets their attention. Maybe you could try that.


Mr. FBI agents, I'm not suggesting it, so don't come kick my door down.

Wake me when we get there (0, Flamebait)

szquirrel (140575) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604068)

Hate to be cynical, but 2018? Given the recent track record of NASA funding [] I'll believe it when I see it.

The BBC had an article [] also mentioning this 2018 date. My favorite quote:

Dr Griffin dismissed suggestions that reconstruction of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina could derail the programme.

"When we have a hurricane, we don't cancel the Air Force. We don't cancel the Navy. And we're not going to cancel Nasa."

Of course not, silly! We only cancel NASA for budget crunches, elections, pork barrel programs, presidential whims, new episodes of Star Trek, and when we can't find the straw to our juice box. Why the fuck would we cancel for a hurricane?

If you believe NASA has the same funding priority as the Air Force and Navy then allow me to sell you some prime real estate on the moon.

Doubtful (3, Insightful)

Kefaa (76147) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604080)

The funding of the space program continues to be less and less each year (adjusted for inflation). Even those in NASA recognize it depends on the "will of Congress" to fund such an effort at a time when we are spending $180 Billion a year in Iraq, $200 billion on Katrina, Billions upon billions for Homeland Security and we still have other natural disasters to face (Rita is on her way now).

Further, we do not have the motivation that existed in the 60s, when Russia beat the US into space. It was not just American pride, it was a deterrent, to both sides, to show they had the technology to be a leader in the world. Unless we see China, or India on the moon, it is unlikely to be of such importance that NASA would be funded for it. Even if we do see them, the question may be "So what? We were they ~40 years ago."

Talking about precursors, or the technology we would derive from such an effort, will be lost on the "yes, but we have "X" that needs to be paid for first." I wish it were otherwise, but I just do not get the feeling we have the 60s excitement around space. People look at the technology and fail to see it was possible because it was necessary to fulfill the mission. They are thankful for the derivatives, but many believe another Steve Jobs could create the same in IPOD like fashion.

Apollo on steroids, how true... (3, Insightful)

Soft (266615) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604081)

Mike Griffin's comment, that this is "Apollo on steroids", has more truth than it appears. It seems that no provision is yet made in that plan to actually build something on the Moon (they say that permanent bases eventually will be set up, but where is the payload for that? right now it's still flag-and-footprints, only longer); and that the operating costs will make the new program just as affordable as the previous ones, Apollo and Shuttle, i.e. barely.

Any comments on the following analyses? Transterrestrial Musings []
Space Access Update #112 []

How to privatize the manned space (3, Insightful)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604094)

It used to be that NASA would excuse its competition with private sector launch services by pointing to its manned space missions as an example of what it was doing that couldn't be done by purchasing a launch service. However, now that manned space missions are receiving all this attention from space tourism investors, NASA is increasingly standing in naked competition with the private sector.

This is all quite unnecessary. The private sector is already chomping at the bit to invest in manned space. Griffin says $100M over 13 years is going to be spent within the existing NASA budget for this initiative but if that $100M were simply available as incentives [] , be they prizes, tax credits for manned space transport and habitation, there would be an explosion of alternatives in a highly competitive environment that would yeild results in a short time.

Erratum: $100M - $100B of course. (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604152)

Althought it may be true that $100M in prizes could accomplish what NASA proposes to accomplish with $100B of expenditures -- I really did slip up by saying $100M rather than $100B.

Re:How to privatize the manned space (2, Insightful)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604215)

If privatized space exploration is feasible, shouldn't it work on its own with government internvention (i.e. tax credits?) If we still have to subsidize it, what's the advantage?

Public subsidization for private profits?

I like it, but I also have questions and doubts. (4, Interesting)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604105)

NASA have needed a heavy lifter ever since they (foolishly) retired the Saturn V. Now they'll finally have one again, and that's good. However, it doesn't seem to me like a big step up from the Saturn V -- unless I'm missing something. How does the payload capacity to LEO compare? Off the top of my head, I thought the Saturn V was rated for 220 tons to LEO, the new rocket only 125 tons. But maybe I am mis-remembering something, or reading something wrong?

I'm a little disappointed that nobody seems interested in reviving the old Sea Dragon concept from the 1960s. If you were really serious about going to Mars, that would make a good foundation for it.

The CEV and associated launcher look sensible. I'm not sure about the CEV's crew capacity. NASA say it can carry four astronauts to the Moon or potentially six to Mars. Do I sense a problem with their math skills? Maybe another of those pesky metric conversion errors. :p Anyhow. . . To me it looks adequate (not great) for lunar missions. The idea of sending it to Mars is ludicrous, it would be like sticking Columbus in a rowboat with five other guys and sending him out to find America.

The good news is that NASA are finally picking up where they left off 30 years ago. The bad news is that NASA are picking up where they left off 30 years ago. . . and we have precious little to show for the decades, lives, and many billions of dollars sacrificed to the Shuttle.

Re:I like it, but I also have questions and doubts (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604191)

Not much of the techonology has changed since saturn V. The fuel techology is the same, and considering the limitations of chemical energy unlikely to get better.

I am glad that they are pursuing lunar missions, we need to prototype all of the non-earth colonization technologies, and what better place to harden the systems than on the moon. If things go bad it will be easy to return, where with mars it is not an option. The launch window to return to Earth may be a year or more.

Looks familiar (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604124)

Wow, that crew vehicle and lander look familiar. Where have I seen something like that before? Oh yeah - back in 1969! Seriously though, I guess there are only so many simple/cheap solutions to a problem so it is natural that it would look similar - just like modern airplanes dont look that different from ones 40 years ago.

Launch costs (1)

raider_red (156642) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604141)

Has anyone published figures on the cost/kg using these two new launchers.

Also, why use SSMEs? They are wickedly powerful, but they're also the most expensive engines available. Why not develop a less complex engine?

Re:Launch costs (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604246)

Why use SSMEs? Because they're already man-rated and have an outstanding safety record. Sure, we could design a new, cheaper-to-build engine that would do the same job, but how many flights would it need before we trusted it as much as we trust SSMEs?

NASA, you suck.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604144)

Seriously.. Revamping 1970's tech to go to the moon? So for the last damn near 40 years, we've spent billion upon billion for you to revamp 70's tech and go to the moon. When you should of already had a fucking base station there by now.

What NASA needs is someone who knows what the fuck is going on. A forward thinker with some goals to run this goddamn outfit. You know, someone who can say yeah. "It'd probably be a good idea to have a Base Station in outerspace where we could easily launch missions from instead of having to worry about earths atmosphere and large gravitational pull. Ok, lets do it".

Instead we get "Well, shuttle program looks fucked.. Mars had some cool stuff with the robots.. These images are cool. Jupiter might have more moons? Whats this on saturns belt? Cool, cool.. Whats next?? Wanna go back to the moon?? Sweet, good idea, well then the best way to do it? REVAMP EVERYTHING FROM THE 1970'S!!"

Holyyy shit; how bout we fund private companies instead of my taxes going to NASA?

What's different? (2, Insightful)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604158)

So, what exactly is the point of going to the moon, staying a week and then coming back? There must be one but I don't know it. America gave up for lack of interest last time 30 years ago, so why is that not going to happen this time? What's different?

That sure is a long time (1)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604159)

Given that we went to the moon in less than a decade in the 60s.... why so long to plan and execute in the 2000's?

Safety, shmafety (1, Informative)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604179)

NASA says the new system is designed to be 10 times safer than the space shuttle

Whether it's seat belts in cars, kids wearing helmets on bikes, or the severe risk-intolerance that afflicts our space program, we've become a society of cowards, insisting on safety above all.

If that trend continues, and I expect it will, soon we won't ever venture into space, underwater, or outside our own fenced in back yard.

Besides, calling something "10 times safer" sets off my B.S. detector. 1/10 as much likelihood of disaster isn't 10 times safer. If (to pick a number) 2 of every 10 shuttle launches ends in a crew loss, then you're already 80% safe. If you determine that you'll have only 2 in 100 flights end in calamity, then you've gone from 80% safe to 98% safe, on 1/10th the risk.

"10 times safer" is meaningless unless your safety record is in the single digit percentage range. "One tenth the risk" would be a lot more accurate, if that's even what they're claiming.

More informative link (1)

Kris Magnusson (115926) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604182) nasa.html []
(registration required)

the striking difference between this mission plan and apollo is the earth orbit rendezvous of the excursion module and the exploration module. i guess this is because the heavy-lift vehicle is not man-rated. doesn't matter--separate crew/cargo launches just mean more payload to orbit, and like someone else said, the extra bonus cargo capacity means nasa has greater in-orbit construction capacity.

............. kris

Too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604195)

Holy blatant error, tacoman!

Obligatory Futurama Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13604204)

Having seen how quick the launch video runs:

Fry: "Can I do the countdown?"

Leela: "Huh? Oh, sure. Knock yourself out."

Fry: "Ten...nine..."

Leela: "Ok, we're here."

Fry: "Eightsevensixfivefourthreetwooneblastoff."

Smoke and Mirrors (1)

Walrus99 (543380) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604225)

Face it, this is all smoke and mirrors. Bush will use the Moon and Mars missions as an excuse to cancel existing space programs and then keep pushing the Moon and Mars missions back. It is part of the Republican effort to dismantal govenment so that they can reduce taxes for the rich fat cats and cut back on programs and services. See #FEMA.

but is it also (1)

DohnJoe (900898) | more than 9 years ago | (#13604252)

10 times cheaper??
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