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NASA Admin Says Shuttle and ISS are Mistakes

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the he-should-know dept.

NASA 642

Teancum writes "NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was recently interviewed by the USA Today Editorial Board regarding the current direction of the U.S. Space Program, and in the interview he suggested that the past three decades have been a huge mistake and a waste of resources. As a total cost for both programs that has exceeded $250 Billion, you have to wonder what other useful things could have been developed using the same resources. Griffin quoted in the interview regarding if the shuttle had been a mistake "My opinion is that it was... It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible." Regarding the ISS: "Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in.""

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apt-get development expenditure? (2)

Debian Troll's Best (678194) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665958)

Might the money wasted on the Shuttle and the ISS have been better spent on developing apt-get? It seems like a far more efficient method for delivering packages to the SPARCstation than a shuttle.

Imagine if... (0, Flamebait)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665961)

the Space ship One team had 250 billion. What they could have accomplished. Bureaucracy and the status quo seem to have limited their functionality. However, building space vehicles is going to require breaking a few eggs. Hindsight is always better than foresight, just ask George Bush (1 & 2)

Re:Imagine if... (5, Insightful)

Chaotic Spyder (896445) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665996)

Remember spaceship one used knowledge and tech that NASA developed/figured out.
They were first to do it privately, not first ever.

Re:Imagine if... (3, Interesting)

Scoria (264473) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666048)

I've always found it interesting that hardware and research which began as byproducts of various military initiatives may actually preserve our species in the end.

It's almost poignant.

Re:Imagine if... (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666024)

Imagine if the Space ship One team had 250 billion...

They would probably become just as inefficient as NASA. Generally, the bigger the budget you have, the less efficient and more wasteful you become. You've only got to look at some of the excesses of the .com era to realise that.

Re:Imagine if... (4, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666113)

The problem isn't overinflated budgets, it's poor management of those budgets. People who design soemthing turn around and say "hey look, we need more money to keep going, this is going to be more expensive"; make them quantify why it will be more expensive, come up with a list of alternatives, and make these people work for the money they're getting.

If Scaled Composite was handed a check for 250 Billion they'd wet themselves, hire a ton of new engineers, and start on their way to becoming NASA. But forcing them to work with a small budget makes each and every bolt a considered cost, and a lot more streamlined.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that Scaled Composites can do better than NASA, but it will take some self control when it comes to spending, designing and testing. But I would be greatly disappointed if they were handed a huge check for a quarter trillion dollars.

Re:Imagine if... (5, Insightful)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666027)

they wouldn't have accomplished jack, if NASA hadn't come up with the tremendous knowledge base that current teams get to draw from.

NASA could put a tiny ship with barely any payload into low orbit decades ago. Not really all that comparible.

Your post was rated insightful? More like overly-rehashed nonsense.

Re:Imagine if... (4, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666056)

The thing is, even if Scaled Composites had 250 billion in one large lump sum, it wouldn't get them very far at first. You see, the Space Shuttle was nickled and dimed into existance, as was pretty much all of the space program (except maybe Apollo, those budgets were kinda wild).

In fact, if we go back to why the Space Shuttle concept was even dreamed up, it was to cut costs, so that the program wouldn't have to keep nickel and diming their way into space. Of course, it didn't save them as much as they had hoped, and more recently has scaled up quite a bit in expense maintaining old flight hardware, but nevertheless the reasoning is all there.

I mean we can all look at what we've spent to date in any industry, find flaws of where the money was put, credit them to bad engineering, cutting corners, whatever you like, but the point remains the money is spent and you should be working towards moving your industry in a forward direction and not spinning your wheels trying to figure out what to do next.

This is why I'm supporting the SDLV so much. We have flight hardware that works, and has worked many times. The flaws have been hammered out by catastrophies that happened with the Shuttle hardware that can now be retired to a museum. Even if this will set us back a few years, and it will make us look like the Soviets had it right all along, we will still be moving forward into further reaches in space, and we'll be able to go back to the moon (something the shuttle would have never allowed us to have done).

Sometimes it's good to have disasters like these; it makes you look at yourself and realize that man is mortal and that the hardware you're flying on is only as good as its weakest link. It makes you grow out of complacency and mundane attitudes about flying into space. And it opens up people's checkbooks to help mend the ailing space agency. The only really sad part is the loss of human lives to make people realize that this needed to have been done years and years ago.

Re:Imagine if... (5, Insightful)

SlothB77 (873673) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666106)

Absolutely. Flood that money into the private market and let it take their chances with space exploration.

I can't believe a NASA Administrator (read: advocate) would be so candid. But the point here is not that space exploration is bad, or science is bad or we are bad at science or we shouldn't invest in science. The point is Government is bad at science. Government is bad at running a multi-hundred billion science program. Government is inefficient. Government is bad at ensuring safety and reliabilty.

What we need is less government involvement, whether it is domestic government or foreign governments. Yes, japan, china and india can help stem the costs - private japanese, indian and chinese firms. Not more mismanaging governments. Other space exploration will just be run by the same types that run the UN. Gross incompetence, malfeasance and inefficiency.

Re:Imagine if... (3, Insightful)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666145)

why do people always refer to spaceship one when space shuttle articles come up.

space ship one wasn't designed as an orbital vehicle. in the fact that it was designed to do one thing and one thing only, it actually mirrors the short term thinking that went into the space shuttle.

therein lies the issue. and it isn't just with NASA. All of our governmental goals are short term. So there is no natural evolution of our technological process in regards to space.

just our whole governmental process is screwy. How is it that George Bush promises no tax increases in light of the recent meteorological disasters. How is this fucking possible? Would I have a problem with a slight tax increase to cover shortfall and to finance the rebuilding of an american city? No. Would I have a problem with the slightly increased cost of what we learn of protecting our coastal cities because this is a country built on the economic might of its coastal urban centers, especially because I live in one? No. Who are these people in our country that favor these reduced tax rates; it's like the governmental equivalent of anorexia. How is this possible, Mr. Bush? Regardless of whether there are billions of dollars wasted on other things, and I assume they are, they've already been allocated. Where is this cash coming from? And who the fuck cares about Mars when we can't get back to ORBIT. Orbit, Mr. Bush. We can't get to orbit.

Our government is like a macrocosmic MTV. Short attention span.... much ado... about nothing. Everyone knows that overspecialization breeds inherent weakness, but we keep making task specific ships.... we keep overspecializing over and over, which forces us to throw out designs when administrations and priorities and mission requirements change.

and please, lets not even refer to space-ship one - it's a glorified bottle rocket. It's not even innovative; the air force pioneered all the research in the 50s. It doesn't even have avionics; which is why it pitched wildly (catastrophically!) during one of its "record" setting flights. We shouldn't be "piloting" spaceships; shit, as a species, we can barely drive.

Re:Imagine if... (1)

Luigi30 (656867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666186)

There's a thing called "testing". Ever heard of it? SpaceShipOne's success shows that their fundamental technology works, and they can proceed with working on SpaceShipTwo or whatever their next project is safe in the knowledge that the underlying parts work.

Better uses! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13665965)

$250BN? What about funding a war? []

Re:Better uses! (1, Interesting)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665992)

What about feeding, clothing and educating more than half of the planet? We'd have been the most beloved and respected nation on earth, effecting conquests that no military or intelligence agency could dream of accomplishing.

The space program benefits those it was designed to benefit. Thank you for the future we have today, Raytheon, General Dynamics, etc...

Re:Better uses! (1)

mangus_angus (873781) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666075)

I think you need to brush up on your world events. We tried that. And when the goods wern't going to some warlord of the country we were trying to help, we were basically told to stay the fuck out and mind our own business from the rest.

Re:Better uses! (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666105)

we owe a good deal of our peace-time technological progress to NASA. There are thousands upon thousands of everyday things we use that came from NASA research.

And most beloved people on Earth? Yeah, because all those people here in the US that were on welfare loved the rich. People tend to think so well of the generous rich that give the poor enough to keep being poor. All those places in Africa that we in fact did feed in the last few decades - they loved us so. Built little temples in homage to us, sang our praises...

OR...we could stop treating them like children, and open up markets. Like we're doing now.

Re:Better uses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666154)

Feeding half the world, indeed.
Thats roughly 3 billion people.
250 billion can only buy these people $1 worth of rice a day for not even a 100 days.

As for education...forget it.

Sure you can use the money smart, say for some agricultural development and get some more rice out of it in the long term, but we dont do that. We buy rice and drop it from planes.
Compared to that, the space shuttle is developed with great foresight. I mean, it has a landing gear. Bags of rice don't.

Re:Better uses! (1)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666001)

Or building hurricane-proof levees near, let's say, New Orleans. That would've generated another $200BN ...

ISS Orbit (5, Informative)

bohemian72 (898284) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665967)

I'm sure I've heard that the ISS was supposed to have a more equatorial orbit, but when Russia came on board the orbit was tilted to give them easier access to it.

Re:ISS Orbit (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666032)

Alpha was supposed to have a more equatorial orbit. But Russians needed to came, and prerequsite to that was changing orbit of future station, ISS from this point.

Re:ISS Orbit (0, Redundant)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666036)

In Soviet Russia, Russians tilt orbit to come on you!

Re:ISS Orbit (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666053)

Yes, Freedom was supposed to be in a different orbit that the Russians cannot reach, but it would have been disasterous after the Columbia accident, as either the Shuttle fleet would have had to have been flown with a known (and now highly public) flaw or grounded and the station abandoned for the interim period. Could NASA have gotten away with flying Shuttles after Columbia?

Not quite. (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666139)

The ISS is a very different station to the Freedom / Alpha designs that came before it.

Essentially concieved as an international project from the start using design elements of station Freedom, it would always have had an orbit which intersects Baikonur and French Guiana.

As it is, the shuttle only operates (or has been operated) between orbital inclinations of 28.5deg (which is not all that equatorial anyway) and 57deg. (the station orbit being approx 51.6deg).

That 'advantage' of the low 30's / high 20's orbit is the added assist from the earth's rotation which means higher payload lift. However, it also means a limited number of de-orbit opportunities and IIRC a marginally higher initial re-entry velocity (as a factor of the wider orbit due to the shape of the planet?) - For a decidedly shakey platform like the shuttle which may yet need to make an emergency de-orbit, it would seem with hindsight like a poor choice.

Re:Not quite. (1, Funny)

Colgate2003 (735182) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666192)

...marginally higher initial re-entry velocity (as a factor of the wider orbit due to the shape of the planet?)

Think about that a little and get back to me...

Next time NASA, wear a condom. (0, Offtopic)

blankoboy (719577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665969)

I think I may have misinterpreted something along the way. =)

Waste of Resources? (5, Insightful)

sdaemon (25357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665972)

Sure, that $250 billion could buy us another year in Iraq!

But seriously, the ISS is not a waste of money. When you think of all the research done there, the international goodwill spread there, it is well worth the cost. I do wish the degree of internationality was a bit larger. Simply having Americans and Russians isn't very diverse -- it would be nice to see China/India/other aspiring space powers to join in the fun (and help with the bills).

Re:Waste of Resources? (3, Funny)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666034)

That's exactly the reasoning I use when arguing FOR the Big Dig here in Boston.

Re:Waste of Resources? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666049)

Spending 250 Billion on a space shuttle doesn't prevent the terrorists from attacking us. We're over killing them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them again in New York, sure the money spent on the research will be necessary in the long run, but the 250 Billion being spent in Iraq to protect us will ensure that we HAVE a long run in which to have a space station. I'm suprised more scientists don't get this it's very clear and logical.

Re:Waste of Resources? (4, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666130)

I disagree.

Read up on the history of the shuttle program, and what alternatives were dumped in favor of it. Make note that they knew perfectly well the numbers they were telling congress for flight costs were wrong.

Then read up on the history of the ISS. A lot of people here were probably not born when they first started making those plans, and don't remember the fiasco around it -- the ISS has been a political project that was known was going to never be productive since day one. Its a technical corporate welfare program meant to keep defense contractors in business, really nothing more. They've known for a decade it would never get constructed to the size required to do productive science, but science was the bedtime story told to the American public to keep support for it.

Some people tend to look at the manned space program through rose-tinted glasses and think everything is so romantic, man in space. Its been a collossal failure since the end of Apollo, and from a science standpoint even Apollo was really a failure. NASA and the Government killed the program once the political goal of beating the Soviets was done -- science was never a primary goal, or even in the top ten. Even Skylab was intended to develop technologies with military use.

NASA, in general, has always been better at non-manned science. You get 100x your bang for your buck doing that, so thats a good decision on their part. The problem is more the public's misguided belief that the manned space program existed for anything more than military applications and keeping companies critical to the defense industry afloat. Science is just the shiny thing to keep the public's ADD distracted from the real motivations.

If China wasn't rattling its space saber right now, Bush wouldn't be getting a boner over getting man back on the moon. Its not a coincidence its planned to use so much of the Shuttle components -- the research is done on them, and production of those components are pure profit for the contractors that build them.

Re:Waste of Resources? (3, Informative)

supernova87a (532540) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666150)

All the research that has been done there?

As one commentator put it recently, "the only research that has been carried out at the ISS is of the caliber of a high school science fair."

If you can name any hard hitting science that has been done at the ISS (aside from humans-in-space-duration sort of research), I'd be interested to hear it. I'm an astronomer, and I haven't heard of a single thing useful having been produced by the ISS.

We seem to have fallen into the faulty logic that, "we've invested so much that we shouldn't bail out and waste what we've put in to it so far." If it's a waste, it's a waste -- and continuing it is just throwing good money after bad. This seems to be a common thread these days....

Wrong headline ... (4, Insightful)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665976)

The ISS itself is not a mistake, only the orbit it is in is a mistake.

Headline doesn't reflect the Michael Griffin quote in the summary :(.

Re:Wrong headline ... (2, Informative)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666009)

no, it doesn't. In fact, it is more than just misleading; it's very wrong. Mr Griffin did state that ISS was in fact important, he just said, like you pointed out, that he thinks the orbit is wrong.

Re:Wrong headline ... (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666019)

While I agree, I might add that it sounds as if he doesn't agree with the actual design of the ISS either. Too bad NASA is so political - a lot more could get done.

Re:Wrong headline ... (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666091)

The ISS itself is not a mistake, only the orbit it is in is a mistake.

Headline doesn't reflect the Michael Griffin quote in the summary :(.

I know this is probably going to be modded Troll, but...

Welcome to Slashdot! It is amazing how many Slashdot article headlines need to be corrected by the insertion of 'not'.

Re:Wrong headline ... (1)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666173)

I know this is probably going to be modded Troll, but...

Welcome to Slashdot! It is amazing how many Slashdot article headlines need to be corrected by the insertion of 'not'.

Yep, and it's amazing too how many posts need to be modded to 'Troll' <grin>.

250 billion (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13665980)

$250 billion Would account for what, 1 tank of gas on that thing with gas prices right now/

Miserable Failures (-1, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665981)

Gotta love those BushCo hack appointees. They're always willing to admit disastrous mistakes. As long as someone else made them. Bush and company themselves, of course, never make mistakes. That's why everything's going so well in our country, as we descend into the middle of their Third Quarter.

At least he has credentials! (-1, Troll)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666004)

At least the man has engineering credentials. You know, unlike Michael D. Brown of FEMA who had a legal background and was thus apparently completely unqualified to perform the duties he was appointed to.

Re:At least he has credentials! (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666057)

Bush himself was quoted on TV last week saying he was in Texas to watch an learn about the interaction between state and local government relief efforts after Hurricane Rita. He said he's got "a lot to learn" about those government operations. Bush's credentials include "governor of Texas", prior to being appointed president. I guess he was too busy "working hard" to learn about his job down there.

Re:Miserable Failures (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666029)

So, September 11, the dot-com bust, and Hurricane Katrina are the fault of the President?

Re:Miserable Failures (-1, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666147)

Anonymous Bush apologist Cowards are probably Bush's fault - some kind of astroturf. Bush's management of the country in response to those problems - 5 years into his administration - is certainly his fault. He's spending $3TRILLION a year, and the country is a mess. Unless you're a really rich Republican banker - those people are doing great, not paying taxes.

For good measure, the Iraq catastrophe is Bush's fault, too. Why didn't you mention that? Because that one is obviously undeniably Bush's fault? What kind of sleazy denier tries to pretend that Bush isn't responsible for his job running the country for 5 years? Dick Cheney, is that you?

Re:Miserable Failures (2, Interesting)

halivar (535827) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666072)

I don't understand what you're complaining about. This guy isn't doesn't like frivolous expenditure of money, and somehow he's a bad guy? Would you have preferred more of the do-nothing status quo?

Sounds like you don't like him simply because he's a Bush appointee, which is hardly relevant in this case. Besides, he right. NASA has been horribly mismanaged for the lat three decades, and it's time someone on the inside came out and said that.

Re:Miserable Failures (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666185)

I don't like him because he's been part of that mismanagement. I don't like him because he's not taking any responsibility for the problems he's enabled. I don't like him because he doesn't actually have any vision for the future that will keep American leadership in space exploration/science/development. Doesn't that sound like every other Bush appointee? What's to like about that?

Your comment is exactly the kind of defense we always hear about these Bush hacks. They screw up in their standard ways, denying responsibility, offering no actual leadership. Then their critics are accused of just "hating Bush". We hate Bush because he screws up in such familiar ways. He's earned our hatred, along with the cronies he's surrounded by. And that hollow defense that ignores their incompetence is hateful, too.

Re:Miserable Failures (4, Informative)

danheskett (178529) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666086)

You are a liar and a loser. You criticize Griffin without any grasp of the facts, and in doing so lie and distort his significant record. Griffin was distinguished head of the Space Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Before that he worked at NASA and previously did important work for SDI which led the development of the Delta anti-missle system. When he was appointed to head NASA he had just been elected to be president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a group of scholarly aeronautics engineers. He is also shockingly well educated: BS Engineering from University of Maryland College Park Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Catholic University Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California Masters in Applied Physics from Johns Hopkins Masters in Civil Engineering from George Washington University MBA from Loyola College, MD BS Physics Johns Hopkins He was working on his BS in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins when he left for NASA. He plans to return at then of his term. He co-wrote what many believe to be the definitive textbook on space vehicle design used in virtually every graduate aeronautical program. In general, you are an asshole. Griffin is not a hack. He is a shockingly well qualified man. His views expressed here are refined, excellently thought out, and very reasonable. Disagree? Fine. Say why and be prepared to be ripped apart. Assholes like you are the reason qualified people avoid politics and positions of responsbility. You labeled him a hack without even knowing anything about his impressive qualifications.

$250 billion. (5, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665983)

I wonder if he is aware of the recent wars that the US has gotten involved with. Talk about real wastes of money. At least the Shuttle program, and the ISS to a lesser extent, have furthered our knowledge of science and engineering, rather than just our ability to mindlessly destroy.

Re:$250 billion. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13665990)

Bringing people freedom while preserving national security is certainly not a waste of money in my book.

Re:$250 billion. (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666017)

Bringing people freedom while preserving national security is certainly not a waste of money in my book.

Oh, is that what we were supposed to have spent it on?

When do we get it?

I think we've been robbed.

Re:$250 billion. (0, Flamebait)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666133)

When do we get it?

I think we've been robbed.

When was the last time you were attacked in the U.S.? If we did nothing there would be nothing standing in the way of truck bombs, hijacked planes, and any other series of terrorist acts. Just because you don't SEE something doesn't mean something wasn't stopped from being seen. Imagine if we had stopped the hijackers of 9/11. If it never happened nobody would think catching 11 guys with knives was a big deal....

Re:$250 billion. (0, Flamebait)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666022)

Bringing people freedom while preserving national security is certainly not a waste of money in my book.

I think there's faeces on your book.

Re:$250 billion. (2, Interesting)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666044)

This is so true. The money should have been spent on bombing North Korea.

Re:$250 billion. (1, Troll)

pubjames (468013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666061)

Bringing people freedom while preserving national security...

Because of course, the Iraq war was all about being nice to those poor Iraqi's...

And we all know how Iraq had WMD that they could fire to the USA...

And those Sept 11 guys, they were all Iraqi's...

Looks like you've swallowed the official line.

Re:$250 billion. (3, Insightful)

ahsile (187881) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666000)

I do believe that war drives a lot of R&D as well. Heck, didn't the Internet we all love come out military research?

Not saying I'm pro-war or anything, but killing each other has lead to many advances as well.

This sort of war doesn't require technical R&D (0)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666088)

Yes, war does drive a lot of research and development. But not the sort of war that's going on in Iraq, mind you. The US is so vastly advanced technologically that such research isn't really necessary. They can already destroy entire cities like Fallujah with relative ease. Killing people isn't a challenge for them any more.

Of course, the US, Britain, etc., are still getting their asses kicked daily by the citizenry of Iraq who have had enough of their incompetent and anti-democratic presence there. So perhaps more research and development does have to take place. It wouldn't be in the field of technology, but rather in that of the social sciences (ie. learning how to not alienate the rest of the world).

Re:$250 billion. (2, Interesting)

pubjames (468013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666110)

I do believe that war drives a lot of R&D as well.

Well, you should consider how much money the USA spends on defence. It's astronomical. Just because some R&D benefits come out of it doesn't mean that it's not an inefficient and wasteful use of resources.

Re:$250 billion. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666003)

You'd be amazed at the technological advances that have come by way of our United States Military originally just trying to devise better ways to kill people.

Re:$250 billion. (2, Interesting)

thc69 (98798) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666028)

Not that I want to defend, or indeed offer any opinion, on any particular war (it's OT for a discussion of the space program), but war drives our knowledge of science and engineering (and new technologies) as well as, or possibly better than, the space program.

Think DARPA-derived Internet, and GPS.

Re:$250 billion. (2, Funny)

RWerp (798951) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666060)

Or all the laser stuff which came out of Reagan's SDI.

Re:$250 billion. (3, Funny)

lemnik (835774) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666085)

and lets not forget the dolphins with dart guns *nods*

Re:$250 billion. (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666071)

The first duty of NASA was to beat the Soviet Union to major space milestones during the Cold War. Had it not been for our space initiatives, like the Apollo program or the Space Shuttle program, we may still be in the Cold War today. The Soviet Union realized they had no match for our scientific advances and that they could not keep pretending to be as powerful.

Re:$250 billion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666094)

At least the Shuttle program, and the ISS to a lesser extent, have furthered our knowledge of science and engineering, rather than just our ability to mindlessly destroy.

So has the Internet. Oh, wait, I mean the DoD's ARPANET [] ...

What other things, indeed. (1, Flamebait)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665987)

$250 Billion, you have to wonder what other useful things could have been developed using the same resources. Griffin

Yes... Other things indeed. A... war... perhaps. Say... a war for oil and ... say... defense companies to make a killing from.

Or . . . welfare...

Or.. even... rebuilding a flooded city that could have been fortified for $20bn ahead of time.

Or hell, even paying off a whole 5% of the debt!

His point? (5, Insightful)

kawika (87069) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665989)

I RTFA and can see what he's saying that the shuttle and ISS were basically mistakes, and I agree. However, I'm not so clear about his proposed alternatives. Is he shilling for Bush's "Man to Mars" mission and saying that should have been our goal since the 1970s? That would certainly be a wise career move (at least for the moment) but what purpose would it serve to send a man to Mars? We can't even get some of our unmanned probes to the Martian surface successfully. Maybe we could try to get a probe there and back to Earch first.

finger-pointin' good (-1, Troll)

pluckey (918518) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665991)

And the administrator mainly blamed the local and state governments for not being prepared for space exploration...

Comparison (4, Insightful)

Scoria (264473) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665997)

When you consider our prodigious investments in both combat and weaponry, it's hard to see any kind of space exploration as anything other than progress.

Having no space program would be a mistake. Having an inefficient one just reminds us that there is always room for improvement.

Re:Comparison (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666084)

Currently, I think the greatest use of $250bn would be to educate people so that we don't have the majority of the population believing in the "creation myth" as scientific explanation. As long as the majority of the population is so dense and ignorant that they actually think the female sex came from a man's rib and there was a snake in an evil tree and 800 year old men, we really can't afford to explore space.

Anyway, when we come to meet an off-earth civilization, I'd rather we have evolved a bit as a society. We still have large religious groups and quasi-political figures blaming hurricanes on homosexuals incurring "god's" wrath upon us (a lot like ancient people used to think an eclipse was the anger of their gods). Are we really ready to explore? Are we currently in a societal state in which we would wan to be introduced to possible other peoples?

I don't know about everyone else, but I would be embarrassed and ashamed, much like having to introduce backwards neanderthal-type family members to your friends (or worse, your significant other).

Useful? (4, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666005)

As a total cost for both programs that has exceeded $250 Billion, you have to wonder what other useful things could have been developed using the same resources.

"Useful"? I hate it when people use words like that in reference to the sciences. It's like they think every last penny of the national budget that's not being spent on Medicare or disaster recovery should be spent feeding the homeless.

How do you define "useful"? This is NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Their entire charter is building giant cans that explode out of one end in order to throw chunks of metal into orbit. They're science, which means $99 out of every $100 they spend goes toward what amounts to research and development of ideas nobody else can implement, and then working with them for a couple of decades to see what comes of them.

How can you gauge the "usefulness" of the Cold War space race in the 1950s and '60s? Yet that race eventually led to the technology and processes which, today, have placed hundreds of communications, weather, and astronomy satellites in orbit. Was any of that "useful" at the time? Heck no. We haven't gained one "useful" bit of knowledge from our trip to the Moon in 1969, but we didn't know that would be the case until we actually went there.

NASA's budget is on a shoestring as it is. Give them credit for doing what they do with as few dollars as it is. You never know when an investment will pay out until it does.

Re:Useful? (1)

RWerp (798951) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666080)

The problem is, what scienca came out of space shuttles and ISS? Space probes, Hubble telescope -- this is all extremely useful stuff. But it's all rocket-driven. Can you imagine how many space probes one can build for $ 250 bn.?

Re:Useful? (1)

Kpau (621891) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666101)

The headline and the article really don't match ... unless he's been misquoted (like that never happens) he's saying something that many NASA employees would agree on. Both the Shuttle and the ISS are monsters of compromise due to chronic underfunding, mismanagement of existing funds, and politics. The Shuttle was supposed to something closer to the X craft they're tinkering with now but Congress -- year after year underfunded the project - forcing design compromises that led us to the mess we call the External Tank, for instance. Originally, there were to be two vehicles - a cargo shuttle and a crew launch vehicle. Poof. The ISS was *originally* going to be something rather spectacular but the restraints (partly due to being forced to fit in Shuttle bays, again more underfunding, *LOTS* of mismanagement) became something that really a LOT of the research that could be done there can't be (the necessary pieces to do a broad range of research were erased during budget cuts). NASA uses less than a penny out of every tax dollar and despite the enormous waste it *does* have, the GAO routinely calculates that NASA gets more bang for the buck than almost every other agency. Bush has managed to squander in two years with his stupid and arrogant diversion into Iraq from Afghanistan what NASA couldn't spend in a decade.

NASA is more than rockets. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666119)

If you don't believe me, take a look at the actual charter, aka 'The National Aeronautics and Space Act [] '.

Items like "research, development, demonstration, and other related activities in ground propulsion technologies as are provided for in sections 4 through 10 of the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1976" don't necessarily have anything to do with "giant cans that explode out of one end in order to throw chunks of metal into orbit".

Re:Useful? (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666165)

250 billion isn't a shoestring. I'm not against having a space program, but spending that amount of money on it, in comparison with the need for money in areas such as healthcare and education... I just dont see its right to complain that 'only' 250 billion was made available for space research.
I'm guessing people with no health insurance living in a squalid flat and attending a screwed up school full of drug addcits, aren't rooting for a boost to NASA's budget.

I tend to agree (5, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666007)

It's fairly well known that the space shuttle was a compromise [] between NASA and the military. In order to get the budget, they agreed to design requirements that involved weird payloads and the ability to launch them into polar orbit. That in turn drove the design to be what it is today.

In terms of the space station, it seemed to quickly turn into an exercise to divide up the money according to country and state. I'm not even sure what science goes on up there any more. These days the reduced crew seems to spend their time repairing the place. Crazy.

Light on Details (1)

republican gourd (879711) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666014)

Does anyone have any links to a more verbose explanation of his stance? This USA Today article is almost as bad as reading the comics. In particular I'm curious as to what orbit he would have had in mind.

ISS (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666015)

"Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in."

That's a whole different kettle of fish to the saying the ISS was a mistake. Several NASA officials are on record to the effect that NASA didn't want to build the ISS in such a low orbit, but agreed to do so in order to accomodate the Russians. Some of that might be coloured by the failure of Skylab, but it was also to enable the station to be of use of the ISS as a launch point to the Moon and beyond. It's kind of ironic that with the ISS project starting to show serious signs of floundering that it's NASA that's currently having problems getting to it, despite the lower than desired orbit, and the focus of manned spaceflight has once again returned to visiting the Moon and reaching Mars.

Re:ISS (2, Informative)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666131)

It's not the altitude of the orbit, it's the orbits angle with the equator that Michael Griffin is referring to.

The Russians put the first parts of the ISS in orbit, and did it in an orbit that is easier for them than for the Americans. The large angle with the equator reduces the amount of payload the shuttle can bring to the ISS.

Back On Track The Moon (1)

Zeveck (821824) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666021)

Damn it!

"Only now is the nation's space program getting back on track, Griffin said. He announced last week that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule."

No no no no.

Going to the moon is a publicity stunt. The only way that is "back on track" is if the trip itself will be used as a testbed for new technologies and techniques intended to support longer trips, like to Mars.

But even a trip to Mars at this point seems wasteful. I love the notion of traveling the stars and look forward to tea and danish on Alpha Centuri one day.....but not as our country is embroiled in more problems and debt that your average citizen can comprehend.

Re:Back On Track The Moon (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666122)

I could be wrong, but I thought the Bush administration had said we would hit the moon by 2010 and Mars by 2020?

How is it that Kennedy says we'll do the (at the time) completely impossible within 10 years and they do it 9 years later, and today we can't even decide if we'll do the completely possible (and redundant) within 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years - or ever?

Things they could be working on (5, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666038)

1) Cheap, reliable, frequent trips to geosnychronous orbit.
2) First generation platform at one of the Lagrange points [] .
3) Lunar observatory on the dark side.
4) Another Hubble-like telescope at L3.
5) Space elevators, aynone?

Re:Things they could be working on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666116)

The dark side of the moon. Riiiight...

Re:Things they could be working on (1)

madprof (4723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666166)

Do not underestimate the power of the dark side.

Sorry, I'll leave now.

Re:Things they could be working on (2, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666143)

There is no "dark side" of the Moon. There's a *far* side that we don't see from Earth, but it gets about as much sunlight as the Earth-facing side.

Re:Things they could be working on (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666197)

Of course you are correct. I should know better than to use a common, though technically incorrect idiom on Slashdot.

The Far Side ;-), is however, in radio (Earthly originated) darkness, which is the point of building an observatory there in the first place.

Typical bureaucrat (2, Insightful)

Bad to the Ben (871357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666039)

He offers plenty of criticism of the current plan, but the article lacks one important detail:
- Exactly what would Mr Smartypants have had us do with the money?

I mean, he states the shuttle was "deeply flawed". What would he have built? Kept shooting Apollo capsules up forever more? Built an Apollo 2? And if the ISS isn't in a good orbit, what orbit would he prefer? And additionally, how were we supposed to know the Shuttle wasn't a solid idea, until we had actually built a few and tested them operationally?

It seems to me he's just trying to ride the wave of popular opinion that says the shuttle must go and the ISS isn't interesting. It's plenty easy to offer criticism, but it's a bit harder to come up with an viable, alternative solutions. If he's going to be so critical as to call the last 30 years a mistake, than it's only fair he steps up to the plate and specifically outline what he would have done better.

Here is one instance in which (1)

narcolepticjim (310789) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666042)

Slashdot could benefit from fark's [Obvious] tag.

What he should have pointed out is that manned exploration of mars and a manned return to the moon is also a giant waste of resources. Why not do these unmanned, as we are having terrific success with our current unmanned missions?

Robots don't have psych problems, waste elimination problems, urinary tract infections, etc.

Curious similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666043)

Both of those were ambitious, much sought after projects that gradually had their budgets reduced. The ISS became the Incredible Shrinking Space Station, and the Shuttle became a big dumb booster with wings.

I think the shuttle could have been a much better investment, if it was designed with the idea that parts would be upgraded and improved over time, and a certain amount of the budget was invested in doing this, we would have ended up with a much more viable long term solution

I Often Wonder About Statements Like These (2, Interesting)

zensmile (78430) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666064)

When people state that a arguably successful endeavor was "was extremely aggressive and just barely possible", I have to wonder exactly what is behind the statement. The shuttle has been successful on a number of fronts, too many to list here. Yes, exploration is a dangerous business--an not just space exploration. You can always look back in history for dangerous expeditions and high casualty rates. Test pilots, famous historical exploration, modern-day exploration (in space, underwater, and caves), unnamed and unrecorded Viking, Chinese, Phoenician, Portuguese, and Polynesian explorers, etc. I am sure you can find many harrowing tales of death and suffering in the name of exploration [] . I am sure there are a number of tales of failed Colonial settlements [] which ended tragically. It makes me wonder if we have lost our tolerance for casualties in the name of science and/or exploration. If it wasn't for seemingly foolhardy or impossible endeavors, would we have really learned anything of value?

Re:I Often Wonder About Statements Like These (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666111)

I belive you misunderstood the real problem with the shuttle. It isn't the technical challenge, but rather the whole design concept being just plain wrong. They went for something overly complex and inefficient solution, instead of using a simple and safe one.

Consider a gun; do you fire small airplane shaped objects, or something that looks more like a dildo?

Shuttle Engines Not Engineered Properly (4, Informative)

justanyone (308934) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666078)

As Richard Feynman's brilliant analysis from 1986 clearly states, the shuttle's main engines were NOT designed properly and are doomed to be both expensive to maintain and markedly dangerous to use.

A link to his comments is at ml []

He has a wonderful explanation, in terms that non-engineers as well as engineers can understand, about how to build complex devices. Good engineering, he says, comes from dividing the task in to component parts, creating specifications for those parts, building samples, testing them to their limits, retesting them to various other limits, until you have a complete understanding of all the failure modes of that component, as well as the reliability of your manufacturing process for that component. Then, you assemble multiple components together and test that assembly together in all the modes you can conjure up, to create what I have always heard termed, "A Well-characterized System".

As he points out, the space shuttle main engines (SSME's), though complex and "groundbreaking" in the sense that they were very big and incorporating some (at the time) quite advanced technologies, they were NOT WELL CHARACTERIZED on a component basis. To my knowledge (although I'm not a NASA watcher with as much fervor as some) I don't believe the SSMEs have EVER BEEN analyzed and re-engineered to create characterizations of their failure points, reliability, etc.

The fact that NASA's next plan is to use them in the follow-on vehicles for heavy lift only testifies to NASA's complete lack of focus here. They should put out several contracts for heavy lift engines with well-characterized failure modes, with focuses on reusability, reliability, maintenance cost, and overall operating cost.

We're soon going to be stuck with the next-gen heavy lift using components of unknown reliability, which forces us to replace component parts ("tune-up" or "overhaul") the system too often and with too large an expense.

Feynman was right. Solve the root cause. Engineer these things with good methodologies. And don't tie us down to next-gen-of-schlock-engineering if we don't have to be. I congratulate the able engineers who worked on the SSME's, but I respect Feynman's analysis that correct procedures benefit lowering long-term costs and ensure safety of the admirable crews who pilot our national spacecraft.

The mistake was not moving to the next genneration (2, Insightful)

aka_big_wurm (757512) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666089)

NASA waited too long to move past the shuttle, by now they should have been useing the next genneration of shuttle one that can fly into orbit. This thing that they are doing now is just a waste.

If it was up to me I would cut NASA just to unmanned stuff and set more prizes to private business for achiving goals like orbit and moon orbit etc.

To those to say we could have spent the money to feed the poor and other things, the space program has taught us things we could not have learned on earth and things that help or one day will help all mankind...

Not the same thing (4, Interesting)

slapout (93640) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666096)

NASA Admin Says Shuttle and ISS are Mistakes

is not the same thing as

he suggested that the past three decades have been a huge mistake and a waste of resources

which is not the same as

"It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible....we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in"

Manned versus unmanned (4, Interesting)

davmoo (63521) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666100)

This is not meant to be a troll. I love the space program and everything about it. But I do have a serious question to make sure I'm not overlooking something.

At this stage of the game, what is it that we can do on Mars with a manned mission that we cannot accomplish better, cheaper, and safer, with a robotic mission?

I really don't see a point in a manned mission to Mars until we've been on the Moon long enough to have a permanent station of some kind there.

As much as I loved Apollo, I'm not sure I see that it really accomplished anything with manned missions that a robotic mission couldn't have done. Especially since if I'm not mistaken only one or two real 'scientists' went on any of those missions.

Duh... (5, Funny)

kjeldor (146944) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666104)

I think most of us SysAdmins new that IIS was a mistake for years now.

back in time (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666134)

Lets go back in time. Back, say as far as the 1970's, to a time when people thought the world was flat and the moon landing was a farse. Oh wait. O.K. Lets not bother because people still beleive those things. How about we just take away the things those people have learned from scientific exploration. O.K. I still have nothing. Well, I guess he is correct. The shuttle and ISS where a complete and total waist of money and time. Everything we needed to know about imaginary things like - What effect does space have on people if they are there for long peroids of time and what is the feasability of a reusable craft - were already known to be the devil's lies. U.S. money is better spent supporting our missionaries and soldiers in those crazy arabic counties.

Good bye Karma I'll miss you.

This guy leads NASA? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13666142)

"It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible."

Yes, man should avoid things that are aggressive and barely possible....things like going to the moon or going to mars...make up your own.

Is anyone else bothered that this guy is in charge of an organization that we consider on the edge of "barely possible" and he considers such things as mistakes?

I wonder what his vision is? I assume from that statement that its either moderately aggressive or not aggressive at all, and very possible. Lets not explore science because at this point...we kind of know whats possible...why look at the barely possible. Those supercolliders....garbage...get rid of them.

I wonder if he also subscribes to the intelligent design hogwash....because I think one of its tenants is that some things are just too aggressive and on the edge of possibility (too complex) that we as humans can't hope to understand them.

Bush Appointee, nothing to see move along (0, Troll)

infonography (566403) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666146)

It's Michael Brown in Space.

A waste?!?!?! (3, Funny)

03Cobra (826073) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666151)

Omg what are you talking about, we got the memory foam bed out of nasa teknol0gy. Definately worth the 250 billion

Another lost idea... (0, Flamebait)

feelyoda (622366) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666155)

Using a disposable fuel tank, like the shuttle, isn't a bad idea. NOT using one you have is.

I recall hearing a critic ask "why didn't you send each fuel tank into orbit? There could have been a huge array of 120+ tanks used as a base for a mega-space-station."

Considering it would only take a small ammount of energy to go that extra step, that thousands of engineers didn't think of it, or worse were not listened to, is a disgrace.


BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666156)

Just remember NASA doesn't own you. GNAA do. kekekekeke !

$250 Billion? (1)

jlmcgraw (140716) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666163)

I'm only basing this on the summary text, but you're telling me that we can get 30 years of space program for about the same price as 3 years of war in the mid-east?

Sounds like a good deal to me.

I feel duped! (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666180)

When I read the submission I said "hell ya!"

As a total cost for both programs that has exceeded $250 Billion, you have to wonder what other useful things could have been developed using the same resources.

Yes! What could the individuals that were taxed to pay for this have done with this money? Build 5 million houses? Buy 50 million cars? Each 20 billion meals?

Who knows, because the money didn't enter the economy in an efficient way. It went to cronies with clout who used it in ways that didn't build wealth as it should.

Then I reread the submission and realized the author meant "what would NASA have built if they spent the $250B wisely?"

Answer: they wouldn't use the money wisely. They can't.

It's got to be said... (2, Funny)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666195)

Imagine the beowulf cluster you could build with $250 billion!

Again this demonstrates... (1)

ivano (584883) | more than 8 years ago | (#13666201)

...what is wrong with NASA. Since there inception scientists and engineers have been telling the admin what a waste the IIS and space shuttle is. But the politics and powers-that-be didn't listen. And who suffers? The people that didn't want it in the first place. As Jon Stewart says "...we seem to always get Opposite-guy to run these departments...", but this time it's been happening way before the current Bush II administration (they just perfected some things :).


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