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NASA Proposes Manned Asteroid Mission

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the summon-bruce-willis dept.

219

eldavojohn writes "NASA has proposed a manned asteroid mission to a near earth object. They mention this being viewed as a "gap-filler" to keep the public's attention between a lunar exploration & manned mars mission. The article also cites these goals as in line with the Constellation Program. From the article, 'Furthermore, a human venture to a space rock may well accelerate precursor robotic surveys of asteroids, Schweickart observed. "Early unmanned visits to asteroids ... it's the same pattern as we did with the Moon and we're doing right now with Mars. It's all pretty logical," he told SPACE.com.'"

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219 comments

Good idea (0, Offtopic)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870054)

What about sending Bush, Blair, Olmer, Rice and the rest of those bastards ?

Re:Good idea (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871196)

"Politicians in Space" would offend all the "Pigs in Space" fans. You don't want piss off Miss Piggy when she's wearing high heels in space.

This is important (4, Funny)

B11 (894359) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870076)

The experience we get from a mission to asteroids could serve us well in the event that one heads towards earth. I mean, Bruce Willis isn't getting any younger.

Re:This is important (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870506)

I remember this one! This is one where the coyote sat his ass in a slingshot then strapped himself to an acme rocket. Is that what we're doing here?
No really, cos it didn't...
work out too well for the Coyote, Harry! ...
We have a lot better rockets than the Coyote.


Sorry I couldn't resist, it's just one of my favorite quotes.

Re:This is important (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870542)

Asteroids are relics from early solar system formation, McKay pointed out. "Then there's the whole, what I call the 'Bruce Willis factor'...the star in the movie Armageddon...and the ability to send significant assets to an asteroid."

Re:This is important (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870632)

Well this one is kinda wtf:
"There's a lot of public resonance with this notion that NASA ought to be doing something about killer asteroids...to be able to send serious equipment to an asteroid," McKay observed. "The public wants us to have mastered the problem of dealing with asteroids. So being able to have astronauts go out there and sort of poke one with a stick would be scientifically valuable as well as demonstrate human capabilities," he said.
So get rid of Bruce Willis by sending him to deal with killer asteroids with like serious equipment man--like poke it with a stick, man!! Waaay out there! Far out man! Hey wtf man no double puffs~!

s/stick/nuke/g (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870894)

I think that "poke it with a stick" here is a substitute for "deliver unto the asteroid a large nuclear weapon."

If you can land on it, then you can probably drop a nuke there. That's the scientific part. However, actually putting a person there also satisfies the equally important goal of continuing NASA's public relations campaign and spurring public interest in space exploration.

So does this mean... (4, Funny)

Mayhem178 (920970) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870082)

...that when the special edition of Armageddon is released, it'll be marked as "based on a true story?"

Best make sure there's solid ground (3, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870090)

If the plan is to "land" on an asteroid and plant a flag (or whatever), it's probably a good idea to actually know ahead of time that there's solid ground there. If I recall correctly, the most recent asteroid fly-bys suggested that it was mostly loose gravel held together by microgravity. Imagine "landing" and finding yourself sinking into a bunch of rocks that start flying about.

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870114)

Yeah, I sure hope someone at NASA reads your post, otherwise they'll just blast a rocket full of people up there and hope for the best.

It works most of the time... oh wait (-1, Offtopic)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870232)

Server Too Busy We are experiencing higher than normal volume and are therefore unable to service your request at this time. Try one of the following: In your browser, click Refresh In your browser, click Back, and try again Wait a few minutes and try again We apologize for this inconvenience.

Re:It works most of the time... oh wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870436)

dude...hotmail's server says that too...very weird

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (2, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870266)

Well, my point is that we don't have a very good understanding of asteroids. Personally I'd rather see a plan that involved a lot of robotic exploration first, with a tentative "later we'll decide if a manned mission makes sense". Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870582)

Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.

You must've missed the whole Mercury - Gemini - Apollo era of NASA. Science aspects aside, it was just a cockfight with Russia.

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (0, Flamebait)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871782)

It was a huge waste of money - like pretty much everything NASA does.

Nobody wants to see robots in space. (5, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870986)

Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.

Not doing PR will guarantee that the entire Space Program ends up being nothing but a bunch of expensive lawn ornaments and a theme park in Florida.

It's only because of the public interest in space, and their willingless to spend a shitload of money on it, that there is the opportunity to conduct scientific research up there at all. Private industry isn't going to pay for it; at least not on anything like the scale that we've come to enjoy today.

The primary goal of the space program should be to ensure its own future existence, and that means keeping the public interested. If that means going and sending some guy up to stand on an asteroid for a photo op next to a flag, so be it. It's that sort of thing which will keep the money flowing.

Re:Nobody wants to see robots in space. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16871622)

Nobody but actual scientists, that is, who realize that robotic missions are far more cost-effective and accomplish more than manned ones.

Re:Nobody wants to see robots in space. (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871734)

yea.. and well.. screw the robotic stuff .. i will go.. i don't care if i die.. it would be worth it to be the first man on a space rock.. shit.. i would go to Mars even if i knew i wouldn't be able to get back.. just to go..

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870738)

You've probably just shattered the dreams of an enthusiastic teenager somewhere with your sarcasm.

I do love Slashdot sometimes.

Re:Best make sure there's solid ground (1)

saider (177166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871590)

I remember seeing an article about the Hubble mirror before it launched. It went on and on about how perfect it was and it had an image showing the contours of the mirror. Instead of looking like a bunch of concentric circles, it looked more like a cat's eye, and my first thought was that it wouldn't focus light very well if that were the case. But I figured that the folks at NASA knew what they were doing.

Turns out that the mirror was perfectly flawed. Although the mirror was ground exactly to specification, the equation they used to make the spec produced the assymetry that caused the Hubble to have blurry vision.

So don't be too quick to assume that the folks at NASA have taken care of everything.

won't sink (3, Insightful)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870464)

You won't sink. The gravity's too weak, remember?

There'll be extremophile nanobacteria. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16871260)

Don't worry, it will be solid and filled with extremophile nanobacteria that make up trillions of minds, and watch the universe for all eternity. I just hope the cosmonauts won't hit the interface too much.

Better than Armageddon? (2, Funny)

viper21 (16860) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870102)

Like NASA can do better than Armageddeon? [yahoo.com]

Maybe if they get Steve Buscemi [yahoo.com] to pilot the mission they have a chance.

move that sucker into orbit (2, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870104)

Can we put some small ion engines on the asteroid? Because if we do that and can feed the engines with asteroid dust, we can move it into Earth orbit within my lifetime. And that would just be too cool.

Plus, free non-nuclear WMDs (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870142)

A little shove would bring it nicely down upon an enemy state of your choice, without the messy fallout that nukes have.

Perhaps one of the Lagrange points would make people feel more comfortable.

Re:Plus, free non-nuclear WMDs (2, Informative)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870470)

It would take more than a "little shove" - unless you don't mind smiting your enemies a couple of hundred years hence.

Been there, done that (1)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870164)

Yeah, cause we've grown tired of our moon. We wish for more shiny objects to entertain us! We'll sort of the whole rocks falling us from space later, or Lucas will - his special effects are the coolest.

Re:Been there, done that (4, Insightful)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870388)

The Moon is too far away and has too deep a gravity well to be really useful as a source of raw materials. An asteroid that we could break up and use to build really big spacecraft, satellites and space stations could kick start the commercial space business into high gear.

Re:Been there, done that (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871878)

...following the principles of Heisenburger's Uncertain Cat...
That has gotta be a reference to a reference to this post [slashdot.org] , right? I remember that post. And so does my keyboard and monitor, which continue to this day to have bits of my breakfast from that morning.

Re:move that sucker into orbit (1)

c_woolley (905087) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870538)

Everyone needs to just step away from my ride!

Re:move that sucker into orbit (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870842)

Ion engines probably aren't the best choice for this. They require a lot of power (100s of kW to get a few newtons of thrust), and the material you'll find on the asteroid probably won't be ideal propellants (heavy noble gases like xenon are ideal.)

However, doing the same thing with a traditional chemical rocket and in-situ propellant production (currently in the works for moon and Mars missions) could be very productive, and in fact would hope that somewhere in JPL theres a case study looking at that possibility.

Re:move that sucker into orbit (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870974)

Power is cheap - that's what solar arrays are for. And while asteroid dust isn't an ideal propellant, it still would have a higher specific impulse (Isp) than an aluminum/oxygen or iron/oxygen chemical rocket (probably higher than a hydrogen/oxygen chemical rocket, in fact). Aluminum and iron are abundant in many asteroids, but hydrogen is not, so you'd have to go with the less efficient reactions.

You'd need chemical rockets to get off of the Moon or Mars, because the gravity there is too high for ions. But to move an asteroid over a period of decades, an ion engine is a great choice.

Re:move that sucker into orbit (4, Informative)

dthx1138 (833363) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871406)

Power is anything but cheap, especially in space.

A decent ion engine, such as the one which powered Deep Space 1, required most of the spacecraft's 2.4 kW of power, and that was to get a 500kg craft around.

Ion drive thrust increases with power input. So, in order to move an asteroid about within our lifetimes you're probably going to need several football fields of panels, not to mention either a large number of actual engines, or a new breed of them. (And try getting all that to the asteroid in the first place).

The whole benefit of ion engines is that you require less fuel on your spacecraft due to higher isp. If you can figure out how to use materials on the asteroid for chemical rockets, do it.. if you don't, you're still going to be pushing that mass with an ion engine anyway.

Not an asteroid! (3, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870980)

Capturing an asteroid for resources would be idiotic. Placing a spacecraft hull in orbit is simple. Tie together a few TransHab modules, and there you go. It is a one time cost. The real problem is consumables: Water, oxygen, propellant. You won't find usable quantities of these things on an asteroid.

No, what you want to do is capture a comet. Thousands, if not millions of tonnes of water, which can be cracked for oxygen. Also, plenty of other ices which can be used as propellant. Launch a giant plastic bag into an intercept orbit, seal the comet inside. As the sun heats the bag/comet, vent the gas to put the comet into a more usable orbit, and voila, a mountain sized chunk of water to live off of.

Re:Not an asteroid! (3, Insightful)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871054)

Actually, it's only a few consumables that you'd be short of in an asteroid: hydrogen and carbon, in particular. Oxygen is abundant in most lunar and asteroid regolith. Furthermore, there's a slight difference of scale between a billion-ton asteroid and a "few TransHab modules strapped together". At current rates, launching a billion tons into LEO would cost about $10 quadrillion. While this may be a "one-time cost", it's a wee bit of steep one.

However, you're certainly right that capturing a comet would be extremely useful. And I love the plastic bag method of propulsion! Has anyone studied this for practicality?

Re:move that sucker into orbit (1)

RancidMilk (872628) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871640)

That is all we need. Another object effecting the tides. Just hope that you aren't on the coast when the moon and asteroid's lunar effects combine. Goodbye coastal cities.

Hi. Can I go please? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870116)

Sign me up, I'm ready to take a vacation from *this* rock.

I wonder that if NASA is thinking about the public's attention, why not send rock-stars, or famous people to some asteroid? Make them do the television circuit to tell us all about it. I don't care about the risk of death due to failures.

Re:Hi. Can I go please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870850)

I like "rock-stars, or famous people" - because rock stars obviously aren't people :D

Re:Hi. Can I go please? (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870884)

I for one can think of many, many celebrities I'd like to fire at asteroids and then forget about. Finally, a use for Tyra Banks!

The Dig Anyone? (1)

Hobbitgh0d42 (863818) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870128)

Can we get Robert Patrick to be the lead commander of the mission? Although I did hate that one puzzle with the turtle bones...

News Flash (0, Offtopic)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870180)

I was going to say something about Armageddon.. but I think thats well covered. Instead though, I found this article -

This just in! Britney Spears pays $92M to be the first woman to have a child on another spacial body. Sources report that she is no longer content to have child on earth, like the social norm. Critics suggest its just another cry for attention.

Re:News Flash (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871056)

This just in! Britney Spears pays $92M to be the first woman to have a child on another spacial body. Sources report that she is no longer content to have child on earth, like the social norm. Critics suggest its just another cry for attention.

Well hopefully she'll have sufficient good taste and historical awareness to name the baby Virginia...

Re:News Flash (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871666)

This just in! Britney Spears pays $92M to be the first woman to have a child on another spacial body. Sources report that she is no longer content to have child on earth, like the social norm. Critics suggest its just another cry for attention.

The following week: Madonna flies to asteroid to adopt Britney's baby!

A Gap Filler? (4, Insightful)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870190)

It's so great NASA has the right goal: entertaining the masses.

Re:A Gap Filler? (4, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870382)

It's so great NASA has the right goal: entertaining the masses.

"The masses" would be the people that pay for what NASA does. I mean, I know I pay a lot of taxes. And the whole purpose of missions like this is to find activities that do benefit their program (more experience in different circumstances) while also stimulating an interest, in the taxpayers, to continuing to fund this stuff. Making sure that some of the testing and learning also happens to be interesting to watch is simply smart. We're a long way from stomping around Mars and looking under rocks, but we can do some very good CEV testing and some other very cool science near one of those interesting big rocks. And it will look great in HD.

Re:A Gap Filler? (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870628)

while also stimulating an interest, in the taxpayers
Science is not circus. What NASA needs to do is set scientific goals, achieve those goals and then the taxpayers profit from the knowledge obtained. There are more interesting things going on in a small part of cosmology, with huge implications, than a "hey look! We can do this, how cool!" attention grab from NASA ever could achieve. Interesting, important != understandable to the average person.

The average guy is not going to hear or care about 21 centimeter radiation, but it's still damn important for science.

You can do the circus part with extra funding from the x part of the budget, but science should stay science not "Tv-science". Yeah, it's hard to justify on a funding level because it's not immediately spectacular, but it's still the right thing to do.

Re:A Gap Filler? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870956)

Yeah, it's hard to justify on a funding level because it's not immediately spectacular, but it's still the right thing to do.

I maintain that these thing are not mutually exclusive. Doing science with a bit of flair is scarcely more expensive than doing it without. You may not like spending money on projects that don't expressly pursue the areas of inquiries that you're passionate about, but I think you're really missing how hard it is to get 400+ congress-creatures to write a check for 21cm radiation research when their constituents are thinking more about their local pothole problem, whether or not their congressional representative has $90k of cash in their freezer, whether or not North Korea is about to step off of some cliff, or whatever else wanders across their television that day. When NASA wanders across their television in a compelling way, it improves the prospects for everything that NASA wants to do. Bigger picture, here. You will never make those subtle cosmological studies interesting enough for a wide enough audience to appreciate (with their wallets). That sense of adventure, when coupled with at least one of the research areas being pursued, is a vital part of the overall mission.

Science isn't circus, but politics is. (3, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871134)

Interesting, important != understandable to the average person.
Unfortunately, it's those "average people" who control the flow of cash to scientific research, and it's their basically ignorant, baseless opinions which determine what agencies get funded and which get redlined out of existence.

Democracy is sort of a bitch that way. If you can't make your case for funding to the masses, they're going to ignore you; once that happens, the politicians will smell money, and move in for the kill.

Politics is circus. And thus, anything that derives its funding from the political process, or has to otherwise interact with it, needs to get with the program.

Unless you have some brilliant ideas on how to make NASA totally self-funding, it's the "PR stunt" missions that are going to effectively pay for all the boring research ones, that Mr. and Mrs. America don't care about.

Entertaining the Masses (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871098)

Actually, we as taxpayers should demand that all government programs be more entertaining for the masses. As it is now, all we have is an occasional space mission and perpetual war. Surely the Department of Agriculture can whip up some excitement to keep those tax dollars flowing.

Of course, besides being scientifically unjustifiable, a manned asteroid mission will carry significant risk, so part of NASA's planning will have to include a spin campaign if something goes wrong. Most of "the masses" won't care any more about the asteroid mission than they do about the ISS.

Survivor: Iraq (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871316)

Actually, we as taxpayers should demand that all government programs be more entertaining for the masses. As it is now, all we have is an occasional space mission and perpetual war.

Well, up until the public realized it wasn't all fun and games, the war seemed to be performing its duties as World's Most Expensive Reality TV Show pretty well.

Actually, the military in general does a pretty good job of PR, in terms of making itself a focus of national pride. NASA could take some pointers from them.

Re:Survivor: Iraq (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871544)

Actually, the military in general does a pretty good job of PR, in terms of making itself a focus of national pride. NASA could take some pointers from them.

Yup. And just look at how the NRO was quick to point out how the tsunami and Katrina responses were aided by their orbital goodies. That was getting coverage in plain old newspapers. NASA contributes all sorts of science in similar arenas, but it's usually conveyed (if at all) to the public in such incredibly dry, academic terms that causes narcolepsy.

Re:A Gap Filler? (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870982)

A mass in motion tends to stay in motion till effected by an outside poll.

Faked Moon Landing (0, Troll)

Chemkook (915402) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870200)



I'm not convinced we even went to the moon.

This video raises doubts ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3z7uOIT6BE

This is just a first step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870226)

...to "Pound me in the asteroid" prison.

so NASA has trouble just getting space shuttles up (1, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870234)

yet, they want to land on an asteroid

i mean, set your bar high, but not so high you can't reach it.

Re:so NASA has trouble just getting space shuttles (1)

Thraxen (455388) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870484)

Since when have they had trouble sending shuttles up? Sure, there have been disasters, but who said space travel was easy? They have landed on the moon, rammed a probe into a comet, and have 4 (IIRC) vehicles on or orbiting Mars.

Re:so NASA has trouble just getting space shuttles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870694)

It's a good thing shuttles have zero to do with anything beyond near earth orbit. It will take a different kind of vehicle all together.

Interestingly enough the captcha word is "vacuum" how fitting.

Re:so NASA has trouble just getting space shuttles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16871168)

You must be new to this country.

The more impossible the goal, the better our chance of accomplishing it.

:)

Dont wanna close my eyes... (1)

mdobossy (674488) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870248)

... dont wanna fall asleep ...

damn you slashdot! Now I have cheesy late 90's Aerosmith humming in my brain..

Mining? (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870300)

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious: Using an asteroid landing as a precusror to a mining mission.

If NASA's plans go forward, they're going to need a space infrastructure. Eventually, that will mean space-based manufacturing. For manufacturing, you need raw materials. Those raw materials are expensive to lift from Earth's gravity well. Ergo, the best solution is to mine them from much smaller gravity wells where the cost of transport is comparitively minimal.

The key issue that an mission to an asteroid would need to resolve is the actual composition and concentration of valuable ores. Scientists currently have a lot of educated guesses, but we won't know for sure until a geologist makes a proper survey.

Re:Mining? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870922)

The key issue that an mission to an asteroid would need to resolve is the actual composition and concentration of valuable ores.
I think wrt asteroid missions, the first issue is determining what value of goods we'd need in order to make extraction and transport cost-effective. Refining ores is expensive... refining ores in space more so. Never mind the cost of having staff members on-site, unless the process is fully automated, that cost would get prohibitive.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that energy to get out of the gravity well is only one cost, and the other costs _may_ outweigh it (pardon the pun).

several things missing. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870952)

first, it makes sense to do this with ba-330 rather than the orion. in addition to mineral, it would make sense to find some amonnia asteroids and steer them towards mars. a few of those would help bring the temp and pressure up. but of course, a robotic could do the job just as well. in fact, in my mind, sending man to asteroids does not make sense until we can handle mars and the moon.

Re:Mining? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16871328)

exactamundo. As soon as NASA can come back with a report on a mountain-sized hunk of palladium in an earth-accessible orbit, there's gonna be a gold rush...

Re:Mining? (1)

orielbean (936271) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871346)

Well, if the space elevator works well, it will be able to bootstrap itself and create added elevators, further reducing the cost to escape gravity's grasp. I imagine it would be simpler to lift finished materials and construction than smelting ore and fabricating materials in space. But who knows? Isn't that half the fun of a mission like this?

"gap-filler"? (1)

zLimes (1028142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870310)

"gap-filler"? What a great way to suck the importance of the project while simultaneously insulting the future people who have yet to be assign to work on the "gap-filler".

I think we should try landing on comets first. (3, Insightful)

hoy74 (1005419) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870322)

Deep Impact [imdb.com] was a much better movie IMHO than Armageddon [imdb.com] .

Users of The Internet Movie Database [imdb.com] seem to barely agree with me.

Re:I think we should try landing on comets first. (1)

guy-in-corner (614138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871408)

Yeah, but only because Paris gets trashed in Deep Impact.

Landing words (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870364)

This is no cave... !!!

Bad idea in lots of ways (4, Insightful)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870372)

What's the basis for NASA's planning, here?

Science, or entertaining the public to keep the space budget healthy?

What happens when the public start to wonder why exactly we're sending men to the Moon and Mars and asteriods, just to have them come back again? what exactly did we get for it, except the bill? saying "it's for science" or "it's advancing towards men in space" is getting *old*. We don't have an off-planet base, we're not getting one in the next ten or twenty years.

When you consider that reality, statements like "for science" and "men in space" are ring hollow and people basically go "well, I can't see why we're doing this" and then your public support goes away.

And no bad thing if it did. NASA has been an unmitigated disaster for space travel and exploration. It's almost entirely prevented enterprise and investment into the field and substitued expensive, slow, bureaucratic, political-football State-run snails-pace development.

What have we got to show for the last thirty, fourty years of NASA?

We got men on the moon and then...

What?

One exploration satellite every year or two? Skylab for a bit, then that came down and after thirty years, we FINALLY have the ISS...and it's in low Earth orbit. What's the point, exactly? it's a frickin' expensive way to get into space.

Where's the innovation?

State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*.

And by God, if there's a field which needs innovation to get off the ground, it's space travel.

We need solutions to fundamental problems. You don't get that from a committee.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870446)

No offense, Toby but there's something about your nickname that doesn't sit well with me.

I'd probably believe TobyTheInsaneAsylumInmate than TobyTheEconomist ... though it would be hard to distinguish the two.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870752)

You have insulted me personally.

You have *not* actually discussed the matter in hand, expressed anything which explains your point of view or thoughts, or provided *any* information for the basis upon which you (presumably?) disagree with my post.

In a word, you are insulting that which you disagree with.

I may be wrong, but I think people who behave in this way are doing so because they're insecure.

When someone doesn't know they're okay, that they're alright, there is a *need* for them to cling, limpet-like, to the conviction that they are RIGHT, that what they believe is THE correct belief, because it gives them some way of saying to themselves that they must be okay because they're right.

And when the person with this need is inconsiderate, then it's all too natural for any debate to immediately descend into insults, because it's not really about where the truth is, but about people trying to "prove" to others (and so to themselves) that actually, they're not the wothtless, pathethic thing they feel they are, deep down inside.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870930)

You're reading too far into it mate :P

Don't try to analyse anonymous posts on the net, it was a drive by flaming of your name. The 5 minutes you took replying could have better been used elsewhere; the other AC doesn't care you think his argument was crap, he's long gone. Miles off topic, eh?

You need to read more SciFi. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870494)

Especially early Heinlein.

The meek will inherit the Earth. The rest of us will go to the stars.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (3, Insightful)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870500)

"State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*.

I love to read such claims on posted the internet. [isoc.org] . Nice high irony factor.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870604)

Tim invented the Net in his spare time; not as part of his work for CERN.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870666)

Was that before or after Gore created it in Congress? :)

The point is, Darpa is a state run company, and has been rather innovative.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870826)

In what way is Darpa innovative?

The argument given was Tim and the net, which was incorrect, so the statement currently stands unsupported.

Here's another good question; for the same money given to Darpa, would we have got much less/less/same/more/much more innovation from that money if it had been used by non-State entities? e.g. if we had not been taxed to fund Darpa and that money had therefore been available for people to use directly.

I'm not seriously looking for an answer for that question of course, it's impossible to easily answer, but it's important to realise that question *exists*.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (2, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871070)

I'll answer anyway: unlikely.

The problem with private industry is they end up needing results and showing profit. Thus long, difficult projects that don't show a good return will be scrapped. The government doesn't need to show results on a profit level, which is why they fund things like this: to promote the wellbeing and advancement of the state in ways the private sector would not.

Personally, I like my tax dollars going to NASA as opposed to the multitude of social programs run by the state.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871874)

AT&T rejected the idea of packet switching because it was a threat to it's monopoly. The contract for the first IMP was awarded to BBN. Packet switching was innovated by ARPA and it's contractors and funded by the US Government.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871588)

Tim invented the Net in his spare time; not as part of his work for CERN.

Don't you mean the Web? The ARPAnet/Internet has been around much longer than the World Wide Web.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871616)

Tim? Do you mean Tim Berners-Lee? The Internet isn't the World Wide Web, Sparky. The Internet was developed over decades through a project funded and operated by the US government.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870718)

We don't have an off-planet base, we're not getting one in the next ten or twenty years.

So the ISS then is simply on the soundstage wher they faked the moon landings then?

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870898)

I wrote:
> Skylab for a bit, then that came down and after thirty years, we
> FINALLY have the ISS...and it's in low Earth orbit. What's the point,
> exactly? it's a frickin' expensive way to get into space.

What do we get for having the ISS?

How does it help us establish an off-planet colony or resource exploitation?

Of course, it may help a little bit - general experience gained, etc - but that's like saying having a French newspaper delivered each day helps with learning French. Well, it does, a BIT, but if you want to learn French you spend money on French classes. If you want to found an off-planet colony you go and DO IT, you don't build a bloody low-orbit space station!

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870978)

"State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*."

Compared to whom? Where are the moon landings accomplished by private enterprise?

"We need solutions to fundamental problems. You don't get that from a committee."

Name one private enterprise with the assets to attempt a moon landing that isn't run by committee.

Until you anarcho-capitalists can show me something concrete, I'm not willing to let these things be thrown to the wolves of your illusory free market. Perhaps if you'd accomplished more in space exploration than, say, the communist Soviet Union, your words might have weight.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871096)

> Compared to whom? Where are the moon landings accomplished by private enterprise?

They're present in the tax money taken from each and every one of us and given to State run enterprises to inefficiently and bureaucratically spend.

If you have a massive State run organisation dedicated to space travel, funded by the taxpayer, are YOU going to invest your companies money in space travel? or would you let the taxpayer pay the bill till nice cheap technology is *finally* invented and *then* get involved?

> Name one private enterprise with the assets to attempt a moon landing that isn't run by committee.

These companies don't exist in the first place *BECAUSE* NASA exists. It's like the National Health Service in the UK; the existance of State organisations in a field is like penicillin in a petri dish.

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

jdunn14 (455930) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871254)

the existance of State organisations in a field is like penicillin in a petri dish.

Yeah, seriously, like the US Postal Service. If only they'd shut down then private companies could start shipping packages. And the pharmacutical companies. I mean they're research is just being held back by the existance of things like the NIH and CDC.

No rule is absolute, regardless of how strongly you believe it, even this one =).

No, they DO exist (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871762)

... they just don't have the funds or capabilities of NASA. Yet. They are all backed by "angel investors" from other industries who want to see private companies enter space, hence they started their own companies to try and bring commercial space into fruition:

Armadillo Aerospace [armadilloaerospace.com] (John Carmack)

Blue Origin [blueorigin.com] (Jeff Bezos)

SpaceX [spacex.com] (Elon Munsk)

XCOR [xcor.com] (various members of RRS and others)

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16871208)

I think you just explained why they want to do this. You mention each of the manned missions as something significant, just not significant enough. You mention each of the unmanned missions as some piddling little thing. The funny thing is, we learned a lot more from the little missions.

Also, if you haven't noticed we basically stopped funding NASA to actually do anything related to space, we fund them as an education center instead. Sojurnour was made on a shoe-string budget, so much so that one of it's major limiting factors was the radio between the rover and the base station, which had been constructed by hacking a radio-shack walky-talky. That's just sad! Yet they built it, and it worked, and got alot of people excited about space again. So they built two more, and managed to drop one in about the hardest, yet most scientifically interesting spot you can imagine (that is, the middle of a crater). It's not easy to shoot something across a solarsystem and hit a target thats only a couple of miles across.

You are right that alot of things have broken because of funny government crap. Like Cassini which had to be redirected while on it's flight path due to it's radio. It turned out that the radio couldn't handle the doppler shift required for their original angle of attack because they had gotten it from JPL, who refused to tell them how it actually worked. None the less someone figured it out, and they solved the problem on the fly, after the thing was up there.

Seriously... I'd like to see you debug a hanging VxWorks system on another planet over a serial console with 45 minute latency. That's AFTER they downloaded a program to another satalite to flash the system image in the 1 or 2 minute window before the machine crashed again. This shit is HARD man. Hell, I bet you don't even know how to build electronics that can take that kind of radiation, or that can overvolt a capacitor on the fly while a satalite is outside our solarsystem hurtling towards the plasma barrier.

NASA could probably do better than they do, they have much to much administration and governmental shit, but all told they do a pretty damned good job.

On one more final note, you are also neglecting something like 2/3 of space shuttle launches which all have "secret" payloads. NASA is partially under the control of the armed forces, and does quite a bit in that direction. This is where alot of their money goes. Who do you think fixes spy satalites? Back in the day, who do you think braught back the film from the spy satalites!

Re:Bad idea in lots of ways (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871854)

> The funny thing is, we learned a lot more from the little missions.

Like what? and what didn't we learn from the first half-dozen little missions which required the next twenty years worth of little missions to keep being done? when do we get to the point where we've learned enough from little missions and don't need them any more?

> Also, if you haven't noticed we basically stopped funding NASA to actually do
> anything related to space, we fund them as an education center instead.

That seems plainly untrue, since NASA has a bunch of satellites up and runs the ISS.

It does make me think of a question though; why isn't NASA doing the things which actually MATTER in space? and when it comes down to it, that means an off-world colony and also ecomonic exploitation.

> None the less someone figured it out, and they solved the problem on the fly, after the thing was up there.

Anecdotal stories about NASA pulling its chestnuts out of a fire do not form a meaningful basis for any decisions or opinions. Such events are not representative and shed no light upon the larger economic situation and position of the agency with the economy. Moreover, I could equally well point out similar anecdotal stories where NASA's incompetence has killed people - the first Shuttle accident was largely contributed to by systematic mismanagement (RF's report) and the second might have been avoided if NASA managers had no refused to have the shuttle photoed for damage while in orbit.

> Seriously... I'd like to see you debug a hanging VxWorks system on another planet over a serial console with 45
> minute latency. That's AFTER they downloaded a program to another satalite to flash the system image in the 1 or
> 2 minute window before the machine crashed again. This shit is HARD man. Hell, I bet you don't even know how to
> build electronics that can take that kind of radiation, or that can overvolt a capacitor on the fly while a
> satalite is outside our solarsystem hurtling towards the plasma barrier.

A couple of privately funded companies have in a few years learned enough to start getting sub-orbital. Why couldn't they continue learning and get orbital/planetry?

> NASA could probably do better than they do, they have much to much administration and governmental shit, but all
> told they do a pretty damned good job.

I think they do a terrible, terrible job. They're terrible inefficient at converting money into space exploration.

> On one more final note, you are also neglecting something like 2/3 of space shuttle launches which all have
> "secret" payloads.

Interesting! I had no idea it was such a high proportion. Do you have a source for this percentage?

> Who do you think fixes spy satalites?

I don't think they get fixed, I think they get replaced. It's cheaper and anyway, satellites aren't built to be repaired in-orbit, let alone by an engineer in a spacesuit!

Excellent book on why we should go to asteroids (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870614)

For all of you slashdot readers who have plenty of time on your hands, here is an excellent book on why going to the asteroids should be one of, if not THE, priorities of the manned space program. Although I haven't read it since I was young(er) I still remember it fondly as being one of my great inspirations for space travel. The ease of getting there (it is energetically easier to get to a Near Earth Orbit asteroid than going to the moon!), the resources available there (iron asteroids = lots of metals, icy asteroids/comets = water and volatiles, carbonaceous = building materials) and the potential for discovery/experience in deep space travel are covered in this fascinating book. It made a compelling case, without resort to more speculative ideas such as orbital habitats a la L-5, for why this is our logical next step after the moon.

Of course the book was written before Luiz Alvarez proposed that asteroids likely were responsible for mass extinctions. However since that justification for travelling to the asteroids has been discussed endlessly I don't think the omission hurts this book.

If you can find this book (I'm sure it's been out of print for decades) and have the time to read it, please do, It will help restore the feeling of endless possibilities that some of us had about space travel when we were young.

"Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids" Donald Cox and Dandridge Cole

By the way, if you've read this far, you might want to check out my previous musings on asteroids - http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=171538&cid=142 87818 [slashdot.org]

So what? (2, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870754)

NASA talks about this and that, shuffles around some papers, maybe changes the names of certain desk jobs, and nothing concrete comes out of it. This has been going on for, oh, a decade now (at least).

Whether we should blame NASA, Congress or the White House for this current situation is moot. Anything NASA says about future manned missions that involve something other than putting people into low-earh orbit in an aging space shuttle is a pipe dream, isn't particularly noteworthy and I fail to see why it belongs on the front page here.

Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16870784)

I have Man Asteroids, and they hurt like hell when I sit down..

Armageddon 2 (1)

bostons1337 (1025584) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870788)

Michael Griffin has seen Armageddon too many times.

space mining (1)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 7 years ago | (#16870936)

i can see it now... mining contracts that last 5-10-20 years... maybe they'll find some sort of alien life forms?

Finally - a step into space? (4, Insightful)

njdj (458173) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871024)

For 40 years, NASA has been sending astronauts into low Earth orbit and calling it "spaceflight". Dinking around in LEO is not space travel.

OK, there was the Apollo program. That begins to count. But the Apollo astronauts were still, at all times, within the Earth's gravity well (the moon is gravitationally bound to the Earth).

But now ... "That kind of early demonstration mission might last no more than 60 or 90 days," Durda said, "and take the crew no farther than a few lunar distances away from Earth."

Finally. A human being is going to travel in space. Not very far. But it's a start, after decades of pitiful pretence.

Obviously We've Gone Back in Time (2, Informative)

bsytko (851179) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871104)

It is quite obvious that this is the result from someone sending us a message from the future telling us to start this program. It only makes sense that an asteroid in our future will be heading towards us. Next we'll have to gather up the best men on the planet to take this bitch down. By starting this program now, we're saving ourselves for the future. It's all pretty logical.

what? (1)

alexhard (778254) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871262)

a "gap-filler" to keep the public's attention between a lunar exploration & manned Mars mission.

Since when is NASA about entertaining the public? They should only do this in case there is stuff to be gained other than the public's attention!

Astroids.. pew pew pew (3, Insightful)

Kazrath (822492) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871302)

Astroids are definitly a much better endeavor than making a 3d image of the sun. The possibility for mining resources that are rare on earth or needed for space-based manufacuring are high. Who knows maybe we will be able to expand the known elements and open up a whole new scope of metallurgy.

I for one am willing to pay taxes for experiments with potential this has.

Gravity issue? (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | more than 7 years ago | (#16871648)

Now if the gravity on the Moon was light enough for astronauts to easily bounce around, lose their balance and fall over, what would the chances be of having astronauts easily walk on the surface of an asteroid? (assuming the surface is solid enough for a fully suited human to stand on in the first place) The Moon is quite a bit more massive than even Ceres is, and we had slight issues walking around up there.
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