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NASA May Have to Buy Trips to Space

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the hey-buddy-can-you-spare-some-change dept.

Space 256

MattSparkes writes "Budget cuts could leave NASA without a Space Shuttle replacement, and leave it reliant on private firms to get payloads into space. A similar scenario happened between 1975 and 1981 when NASA made the transition from Apollo to the Space Shuttle. It seems like a strange state of affairs when a magazine can take people to space, but the USA can't."

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Cost Effective? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904532)

If its cheaper than the shuttle, and works just as well, why not?

Re:Cost Effective? (0, Flamebait)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904698)

If its cheaper than the shuttle, and works just as well, why not?

Especially if American companies get the contracts as well. Nothing against the Russians and Europeans, but I'm an American and I want to see money (especially tax money, which supports NASA) stay in my country.

-b.

Re:Cost Effective? (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904828)

I sort of agree... but I think I'd rather just give the government less money and make them pick the lowest cost supplier that can meet the business requirements and take less of our money so we can choose to spend it where we want. Give the government less, keep more of your freedom.

Re:Cost Effective? (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904888)

I think I'd rather just give the government less money and make them pick the lowest cost supplier that can meet the business requirements and take less of our money so we can choose to spend it where we want.

Except that the tax money is coming back to Americans -- in the form of wages, stock dividends, purchases from other US companies, local property taxes -- and even some obscure stuff like corporate university research grants. If you're dealing with tax money that was TAKEN from Americans, I'd rather have it stay within the US.

-b.

Re:Cost Effective? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904968)

"(especially tax money, which supports NASA) stay in my country."

Then stop blowing up half the world, you imperialist swine. We want nothing more than for your money to stay in your country. Now go back in your SUV, buy a burger and go watch some football.

Re:Cost Effective? (1)

Soygen (911358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905028)

Nothing like an anonymous coward truely living up to the title.

Re:Cost Effective? (2, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905076)

Then stop blowing up half the world, you imperialist swine. We want nothing more than for your money to stay in your country. Now go back in your SUV, buy a burger and go watch some football.

I'm not a supporter of the war in Iraq. Afghanistan was necessary, yes, but the invasion of Iraq was excessive. And US and British historical meddling in the Middle East (Mossadegh, etc) has done little to make for a stable political situation there now.

As far as my SUV, I don't own one. Honda CB550 motorcycle and an old station wagon that I'm selling in a month before I move to New York. As far as football, I didn't watch the SuperBowl -- I was having dinner with my dad who was in NYC for the day. And we didn't have burgers either.

Your post is proof that Americans aren't the only people who can be ignorant, abusive, ignorant swine. BTW, have you ever BEEN to the US? Come visit some time -- you may like it despite yourself.

-b.

Re:Cost Effective? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905680)

The difference is when I'm being ignorant and abusive, NO ONE DIES. Idiot.

Star Wars (1)

Khammurabi (962376) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904970)

If its cheaper than the shuttle, and works just as well, why not?
Without a reusable orbital vehicle, some of the military's more expensive spy satellites will be at risk. While I know the typical solution is just to spend more money and send up more equipment via rockets, without a vehicle our continued dominance in space would be questionable. As soon as someone brings up that tidbit of info, I'm sure NASA will get a check.

In the meantime, expect China to be counting down the days until it can start shooting down all our satellites that pass over it without fear of a shuttle going up there to figure out what happened. If I were China, I know I would.

Re:Star Wars (4, Insightful)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905228)

Right now, the Space Shuttle is only infrequently used to launch satellites. The vast majority of them (military and otherwise) are launched with standard rockets. It's much cheaper to just launch the satellite, rather than launching the satellite plus a bunch of squishy bodies plus all the thousands and thousands of pounds of equipment it takes to keep those squishy bodies from going squish.

And we don't even need those squishy bodies there to successfully deploy a satellite; sending them up for such a mundane task is just wasting money and putting lives in danger for no good reason.

Re:Cost Effective? (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905152)

Just remember to always allow for taxes [slashdot.org]

Sorry, but I had to (5, Insightful)

matr0x_x (919985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904556)

Not to stir the pot, but think of how many space missions the war in Iraq could have paid for...

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1, Redundant)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904672)

Forget space... think about the massive Beowulf cluster we could have built.... OMGWTFBBQ!?!?!

Re:Sorry, but I had to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904676)

Bingo.

>> It seems like a strange state of affairs when a magazine can take people to space, but the USA can't.

Of course! The magazine does not have a trillion dollar budget for a war.

Re:Sorry, but I had to (0, Offtopic)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904796)

You didn't have to. That is specifically to stir the pot. There is no other purpose for such a statement. Since when is flamebait modded as insightful?

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1, Offtopic)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904932)

When it's an insightful statement? Something -can- be flamebait AND insightful, in theory.

Sometimes the truth hurts?

We know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904846)

This is also exactly what the goofball "privatize everything" NeoCon/NeoFascists were after the entire time.

All these Republicans and Libertarians do is weaken America.

Re:We know (2, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905374)

All these Republicans and Libertarians do is weaken America.

Actually, I think they're generally indifferent to whether their policies strengthen America, weaken it, or whatever. To the Republicans, a policy or program is considered desirable if and only if it opens the federal treasury to their corporate patrons, who are subsequently expected to return a portion of the loot in the form of campaign contributions and other favors. Thus, privatization is a convenient and reliable way of converting taxpayers' money into campaign funds and continued power. It is the "marriage of State and corporate power" of which Mussolini spoke.

The privatization of the Iraq War is especially alarming, and not just because a lot of people close to the Bush admin are getting very, very rich. These contractors probably have more influence over events on the ground in Iraq than the military does, and they're largely unregulated. Might they have their own agenda? Is it in their collective interest for the war to come to an end, even in victory, if it stops the gravy train? Would it be unprecedented for greed and private financial interest to trump patriotism and our national interest?

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1, Interesting)

Paladin128 (203968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904890)

The military, at least, is a function of the government. Whether or not you agree with the justifications of war in Iraq (I certainly don't), a reasonable person must agree that a government has a right to maintain a military and defend a nation as it sees fit.

I do not, however, believe space exploration is within the constitutionally defined limits of what the federal government should be doing.

NASA is a huge, wasteful organization that should be dismantled. If there is value in space exploration, let that be done by the private sector, who has a fiduciary incentive to not waste money.

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904948)

If privatizing the work of NASA works, maybe the same thing could work for the military? Imagine military missions going out to the lowest bidder!

Re:Sorry, but I had to (4, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905132)

I do not, however, believe space exploration is within the constitutionally defined limits of what the federal government should be doing.

NASA is a huge, wasteful organization that should be dismantled. If there is value in space exploration, let that be done by the private sector, who has a fiduciary incentive to not waste money.

NASA should not be eliminated.

The federal government is charged with the responsibility to "Promote the General Welfare". If, therefore, there is value in space exploration, then one could argue that this promotes the general welfare.

Launching commercial satelites is something that could be done by the private sector. There is money in it. Purer research is not as appealing to the private sector. This research is what NASA should be focused on.

Some folks might say that research is only worth doing if it leads directly to a profitable discoverty, and that therefore private research is all that we need. I do not agree with this point of view. Scientific research for its own sake is a worthwhile endeavor and is in the long term interest of the public.

Re:Sorry, but I had to (4, Insightful)

b4stard (893180) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905300)

... a government has a right to maintain a military and defend a nation as it sees fit ...
That's creepy. "as it sees fit".

If there is value in space exploration, let that be done by the private sector, who has a fiduciary incentive to not waste money.

That's probably valid for stuff that pays off quickly. Long term stuff, like the survival of our species, is not gonna attract many for-profit organizations AFAICS. And yes, I do believe the colonization of space is essential for humanity's long term survival.

Also, FWIW, NASA makes you yanks look good world wide, which you might benefit from someday. In these times of dubya and "war on terror", I'm certain stuff like NASA helps alot of us non-americans to keep a nuanced view of your nation.

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905596)

The military, at least, is a function of the government.

...

I do not, however, believe space exploration is within the constitutionally defined limits of what the federal government should be doing.


I'd argue that space presence is vital to military function, given how important satellites are for surveilance and recon. Perhaps a good question is whether NASA should be folded into the Pentagon and all it's science dumped.

Re:Sorry, but I had to (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905824)

How about this:

Spend billions on a stealth bomber, launch spy satellites into space==> defense of the county, necessary

Give some money researching climate change or space exploration, which could one day save all mankind==> waste of money, leave it to the private sector

The goal of any government should be to do what is best for it's people. Private organisations haven't got that policy, and sadly it seems that there is the perverse assumption within these that it is their duty to seek maximum profit and gain, whilst avoiding any moral responsibilities in doing so.
If the population feels that research into valuable science needs to be funded by the government, why shouldn't a democratically elected government do so?

If you want to know what progress would be like without governmental research funding? Look at the amount of scientific progress up until about 250 years ago, and you'll know.

=Lots!!!!!! (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905236)

Good point and as nobody put in the figures. A shuttle mission runs between $500mil to $900mill, depending on whether it is ISS or Hubble servicing (the higher cost). The war is costing the treasury about $364bill. Some of that money is the ongoing cost of the US military 'resting state' costs, i.e. salaries, training and equipment replacement. The fact is that the military has been upscaled for this and most of the costs are multiplied so most of that number realy is *extra* cost.

Even allowing for giving some of the tax back, thats one heck of a lot of missions and probably even a man on mars. Twice.

Not the same thing (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904578)

A sub-orbital 90 second flight is not the same thing as what NASA usually does. These comparisons where NASA is ridiculed do not make sense.

Re:Not the same thing (3, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904922)

Indeed. There is not a single zillion dollar toilet seat on board, the average age of employees is somewhat less then 60, and they have a real fiscal agent called a Financial Officer looking at the bucks spent. The Shuttle on the other hand uses 8086 era tech, systems that are so obsolete that the fellow who designed them is not just retired, he is dead, and other such inovations. Yep. a company is not in the same game as NASA....Thank Goodness!

Re:Not the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905616)

There is not a single zillion dollar toilet seat on board

You obviously don't have a key to the executive washroom.

they have a real fiscal agent called a Financial Officer looking at the bucks spent

At least congress faces their voters when it turns out that the bucks went into a black hole and disappeared. When a corporation's money vanishes, the CFO just acts like a retard. But gets a million dollar severance package when he's removed from office for incompetence. God forbid SarbOx makes the executive officers actually responsible for what happens on their watch.

The Shuttle on the other hand uses 8086 era tech, systems that are so obsolete that the fellow who designed them is not just retired, he is dead, and other such inovations.

Yeah, corporations always drop their old dead weight and last-generation technology. Just think, if all of the banks and companies didn't update all their servers to core 2 duos running Vista, they'd be in a real pinch now that all the experienced COBOL programmers are retiring or dead.

Re:Not the same thing (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905728)

The Shuttle on the other hand uses 8086 era tech, systems that are so obsolete that the fellow who designed them is not just retired, he is dead, and other such inovations.

If it does the job it was intended for, why upgrade? Why redesign an entire subsytem to do exactly the same job?

Private trips to space (-1, Flamebait)

otacon (445694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904584)

the United states has some of the richest bastards in the world, it's about time NASA allows private citizens to buy trips to space. Russia did this awhile ago and banked on it.

Re:Private trips to space (2, Interesting)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904734)

NASA is a government agency, the purpose of which is to advance science in the fields of astrophysics, spaceflight and aeronautics. It does not exist to offer a commercial service to members of the public who wish to travel into space for recreation. To do so would be to give unfair privilege to the wealthy, and would take up time and payload capacity which could be better used for other purposes. If NASA is having trouble funding its operations, that would suggest that its budget is insufficent, and needs increasing. Were the Bush administration not to have gone tax-cut-happy the moment it came to power, NASA might have slightly more resources at its disposal.

However, the problem here seems to be partly developmental as well as funding based. If I recall correctly, a gap between the shuttle's retirement and the CEV's first launch was expected, just not of this duration.

Re:Private trips to space (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905058)

How the fuck is someone using money they have earned to buy a trip into space an unfair privilege?

Obvious solution.. (4, Funny)

gentimjs (930934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904590)

Just swallow the pride and buy a few Soyuz .... too bad its built in the wrong congressional district .... :-(

Re:Obvious solution.. (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905096)

Great answer.

The cold war is over and Russia isn't exactly on the opposite side. Give them some respect and do the right thing, buy Soyuz. The space program will keep going and USA will make friends which she so needs right now.

Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904594)

As well they should.

NASA (5, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904640)

This is despicable. We need to ensure that our astronauts are up in space. Down here, they try to kill each other [cnn.com] .

Re:NASA (1)

CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905104)

I guess once you've been in space it's all downhill from there.

Re:NASA (1)

BryanL (93656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905242)

I thought they were trying to fuck each other.

We would be able to buy all new shuttles (2, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904642)

And a whole lot of other useful things like teachers, public housing, additional health care and other benefits to our country if we weren't spending our money somewhere else at the moment. [costofwar.com]

Re:We would be able to buy all new shuttles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904854)

How about we don't spend money that we don't have for a change.

Not such a Bad Idea... (4, Funny)

errxn (108621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904648)

...considering that as of this morning, the Shuttle crew has turned into its very own episode of the Jerry Springer Show.

Unlikely. (3, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904654)

I'd expect this issue to be brought up during the 2008 presidential campaign. It'd be highly unlikely for the US to abandon the shuttle program until a suitable replacement is found, given the current Chinese space program's ambitions. Remember - it doesn't matter how much it costs, as long as it makes the US #1.

Let's hope so! (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904658)

"Budget cuts could leave NASA without a Space Shuttle replacement, and leave it reliant on private firms to get payloads into space.

This is a GOOD thing, if NASA would allow private firms to develop a robust launch capability. Truthfully, launching has become a routine event (if you aren't using a 25+ year old monstrosity like the Shuttle), and NASA doesn't need to spend the time and money producing equipment that doesn't respond to real world conditions, but does suppress innovation by the private sector.

The real question is: Should NASA have launch capability at all? I suspect that it always will have some, but if we are ever to get off this Earth, it had better not be the primary means of doing so.

Re:Let's hope so! (1)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905038)

There seems to be a lot of rather confused postings regarding the capabilities of the private sector in space. Virtually every commercial launch system has had large amounts of government input in some form or another. Even SpaceX used some government facilities. As for manned space flight, Scaled Composites flight was nowhere close to real space flight. They flew into space, they didn't really fly in space. Orbital, manned flight is a far more complicated affair requiring experience that no private company possess currently.

Re:Let's hope so! (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905356)

This is a GOOD thing, if NASA would allow private firms to develop a robust launch capability.
And then the feds NOT tax and regulate the life out of it. In fact, tax *incentives* would be in order.

Re:Let's hope so! (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905604)

This is a GOOD thing, if NASA would allow private firms to develop a robust launch capability.

I'd agree with you, if we could assume that privatization would be done on a competitive bid basis and lead to significant cost efficiencies that would leave everyone - including taxpayers - a winner.

But that's not how the Big 'P' is done these days, is it?

Quote from Bush (1)

Intangible Fact (1001781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904666)

"Everyone knows republicans are afraid of space. As for war...bring er on."

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904750)

"Everyone knows republicans are afraid of space.

Sad to say, the areas with the most wide open spaces - Texas, Wyoming, Montana, etc probably have the highest percent of Republicans. Agarophobes they are not.

-b.

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

Intangible Fact (1001781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904866)

If there was oil on Mars. The Bush Admin would have already set up shop there using the excuse that alien beings need democracy too. God Bless Amer...err Mars??????

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905284)

Agarophobes they are not.

So they're not afraid of seaweed jelly?

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905258)

HAHA LOL no...

The STS program began during the Nixon administration, and Eisenhower signed NASA into existence (note the metaphor of an eagle landing on the moon on the back of the Eisenhower dollar coin).

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

Intangible Fact (1001781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905660)

Let me rephrase...."present day elephants that are from texas".

Re:Quote from Bush (1)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905726)

Considering the soon to be published /. story about "Space Junk", maybe the Republicans are correct to be afraid of space. After all, debris from recent Chinese anti-satellite tests seems remarkably resistant to the efforts of Political Action Committees.

Private companies (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904668)

Looks like they'll be buying from American private companies as well as the Russians and Europeans. Actually, private exploitation of space will probably be a good thing if those companies find a way to make it turn a profit. Maybe we'll even get a permanent human presence in space -- NASA's work has been small-scale and mostly short-duration. About time we stick our noses out of this comfortable but aging blue ball.

-b.

Re:Private companies (2, Insightful)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904744)

Yeah, it's a "good thing" to funnel more tax money into the pockets of corporations. Oh how we love our corporate welfare state.

Re:Private companies (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904812)

Yeah, it's a "good thing" to funnel more tax money into the pockets of corporations.

Well, better American corporations than the Russians or anyone else. At least *Americans* get the tax money back in the form of wages, dividends, and benefits. And, BTW, those corporations are *already* developing the launch technologies without Federal help. So it might be cheaper to pay them to launch rather than reinventing the wheel again.

-b.

Re:Private companies (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905432)

I apologise for the obvious questions. I probably should not ask them from someone who obviously has not thought what he is talking about:

1. And what specifically prevents Russians from buying back American components?

That is besides acts of congress which prohibit American companies to sell them.

2. What is the expense ratio between payload/carrier? What fraction of it is R&D and what is the proportion left in each country?

Launching is very very dirty business. Just ask anyone in Kazahstan down the prevailing wind direction from Baikonur. In fact if all long-term environmental damage is accounted for the launch fees may not even recoup themselves. Even discarding environmental damage (and all the children with missing limbs and other birth defects in Kazahstan) the profit from launch is minimal. In addition to that the launch business has very low feed back into R&D and education. All R&D has been done and dusted very long ago. It is a classic vertical market. Most money goes to 2-3 major military related contractors for the implementation after which it is "burned" at launch with minimal positive economic impact.

Now let's compare this to the payload development and manufacturing - most of it is R&D which means money is left in the country. Most of it is high tech high payed jobs which means that the average standard of living in the country increases. It is also a business with a very large number of small and medium size subcontractors and relationship with the academia which feeds a lot of people and produces investment back in education. A lot of that money ends up producing developments that are useable elsewhere with extra positive economic impact.

Frankly, as a half Russian I can say that the US is more than welcome to keep the launch business to themselves. It is a dirty unavoidable necessity, like dirty nappies when dealing with a baby. Helping a kid grow up is fun, and if this means dealing with dirty nappies, so be it. Now, wanting do deal just with the ditrty nappies for a token sum of money that does not even reflect their disposal cost, that is masochism. No thanks.

Re:Private companies (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905598)

Launching is very very dirty business.

Depending on what propellants you use. Hydrogen + Oxygen as used in the main engines of the Shuttle are very clean, though the fuels used in the solid boosters leave something to be desired.

Even discarding environmental damage (and all the children with missing limbs and other birth defects in Kazahstan)

Are the birth defects from exhaust from space launches, or are they more to do with the fact that the Russians used Kazakhstan as a nuclear playground - plutonium processing and nuclear testing at the Semey polygon? If you thought the Americans were bad with Hanford, Rocky Flats, etc, the Russians were .... yeesh.

-b.

Re:Private companies (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905828)

Are the birth defects from exhaust from space launches,. - they are. Semipalatinsk (where the nuclear testing grounds are) is quite far away. Even the cleanest fuels like hydrogen + oxygen liquid engine generate a shedload of nitric oxides (and russians do not use that, their fuels are much more horrid). In addition to that you have all the horrid shit from solid boosters (if used). In addition to that you have all kind of nasty junk falling back onto the ground and most of it very dangerous environmentally. Here is just one example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/not_in_website/syndicat ion/monitoring/media_reports/1521728.stm [bbc.co.uk] (warning - while the article does not contain pictures, I would recommend not to read it on a full stomach, you may end up "loosing" your lunch). Plenty of others. No thanks, if USA has a mad desire to have that, USA can really have that all to themselves, I would rather pass on this one.

This isn't so strange (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904718)

The US government doesn't design and build trucks. If they need something shipped, they use a shipping company. If the president needs to make a speech, they buy microphones and pay TV stations. Space should be no different.

This is just a small step toward the commercialization of space, and the use of off-the-shelf parts to get a job done. Perhaps one day, the Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace, and Scaled Composites will be bidding to deliver the next satellite into orbit around Mars.

Re:This isn't so strange (2, Informative)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904954)

The US government doesn't design and build trucks.

They sort of do - a lot of military trucks are built specifically to government contract and only sold to civilians later or as surplus. Look at the Humvees, the M-151 MUTTs, and the Gama Goats as examples of this.

-b.

Re:This isn't so strange (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904994)

True. Although the difference is that people other than the US government want things to be shipped, and broadcast on TV. Any company set up to do this will have the government as a sole customer. It's probably not going to be any cheaper than if NASA ran their own rockets.

Re:This isn't so strange (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905054)

Wouldn't be a problem, except that in this case, we're talking about a taxi or bus, and there are no commercial taxi or bus operators, yet. For that matter, as far as I know, there are no to-your-doorstep truckers either, except for Russia's Progress. (US truckers are to-orbit, not to-rendezvous/dock.)

Re:This isn't so strange (2, Informative)

twostar (675002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905064)

Exactly, and this isn't something new. NASA's robotic missions have been launched via rockets from Boeing and Lockheed for years. So they're finally moving the manned missions over, it's about time.

Now they can focus on what they're good at, exploring and innovating, not running a hauling service.

Re:This isn't so strange (2, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905318)

The US government doesn't design and build trucks. If they need something shipped, they use a shipping company. If the president needs to make a speech, they buy microphones and pay TV stations. Space should be no different.
Well, we're in the early stages of that, but not quite there yet. (And, some special purpopse military vehicles like the HMMV or those big honking hovercraft used by the military are, in fact, designed for the government specifically, even if they don't build 'em.)

Something like space (to date) is exceedingly expensive and difficult to accomplish, and would need to be initially developed by a motivated government with a lot of funding. We're in the initial stages of corporations trying to do this.

You'll notice there isn't a retail market for aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. If a government wants those, they either need to build 'em themselves, or buy them from another government.

It just takes a while to get there.

Cheers

Re:This isn't so strange (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905786)

and when the US needs to fight a major war is hires a million mercenaries...
Ok, it doesn't, the US has an army for that kind of thing. Some things are best done in-house, the discussion is whether space travel is one of them. Pointing out different situations where things are not done in-house isn't really very useful unless it's used to illustrate an advantage.
Although it should be pointed out that while NASA operates the shuttles, all the major components were built by contractors anyway (Lockheed-Martin IIRC) - perhaps the fact that most of the space program has not been done as an in-house project would have been a better example.

Magazine vs NASA (5, Insightful)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904724)

I'm no rocket scientist, but I think there's a big difference between:

1) Sending someone on a sub-orbital flight at 62 miles altitude and;

2) Bringing several working payloads into space, docking with a space station at 236 miles altitude, and performing orbital repairs on satellites at 355 miles altitude.

It's not like NASA is so incompetent that some private firm is beating them at this whole space thing.

Re:Magazine vs NASA (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905060)

Not to mention sending probes to various planets, comets, and other parts of the galaxy.

And then there was that whole "men on the moon" thing. Let me know when a magazine is offering THAT as a prize...

MOD PARENT DOWN: ATLAS V and DELTA IV can do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905442)

Not only that, but Lockheed has investigated manrating ATLAS V to support Bigelow. And what rockets do you think NASA has been using to launch interplanetary probes?

NASA should stick to space-ships. Both launch/reentry vessels and in-space only. And while they're at it, they should build their own fuel depot to use for VSE and hire out private rockets to refuel it as needed.

Satellite repair is of questionable value.

Will this really be cheaper for NASA? (1)

smahesh (845383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904740)

Countries like India are building up local launch capabilities because it is cheaper than launching the same satellite, etc using private companies like Ariane (ESA). This translates to substantial saving for the Indian space program.

If NASA is going to rely on private enterprises, wont it be more expensive for NASA. Given that they are facing budget cuts, where are they going to find the extra money to pay for these more expensive launches? And if most of the reduced budget goes into paying these private operators, where is the money needed to fund the shuttle replacement program?

Regards,
Mahesh

Re:Will this really be cheaper for NASA? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905748)

Countries like India are building up local launch capabilities because it is cheaper than launching the same satellite, etc using private companies like Ariane (ESA).

Actually, countries like India are building up local launch capabilities because to make their nuclear weapons a credible threat for any given range, they need an effective delivery system with that much range. Orbital launch capability == ICBM capability.

To Mars we Go... (1)

ta ma de (851887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904764)

provided we can hitch a ride on a vogon destructor ship.

Not Quite True (0, Offtopic)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904774)

seems like a strange state of affairs when a magazine can take people to space, but the USA can't.

More like the USA won't. It is really a matter of priority. Bush and his cadre are focused on their idiodic Persian Excursion.

A tragic and pathetic end for NASA (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904798)

I remember being a kid and thinking these guys could do anything--that it was just a matter of time before they had us living in moonbases.

Now, look at what they've become.

Scrap it, before they just waste more. Time to focus on providing incentives directly to private industry. NASA is just a wasteful old baby-boomer pipe dream.

Mod me down NASA-lovers. In your heart you still know what I'm saying is true.

-Eric

Re:A tragic and pathetic end for NASA (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905214)

NASA is just a wasteful old baby-boomer pipe dream.

On the plus side you must recognize that NASA is putting out a lot of research that is free to the public. This is going to be a keystone in the future of private space flight ventures. So while I agree that NASA is riding the edge of usefulness they have contributed a lot and still have room to contribute more in the areas where the private sector would not see enough ROI on some projects. This pure research could still offer a lot in the overall understanding of what it's going to take to get people into space, what it's going to take to keep them there on a functional basis and a reason to go that offers a profit motive to corporations.

Without profit motive the private sector is going to be just as slow, if not slower, than NASA. We'd have to ride the coat tails of philanthropy into the final frontier. That's not exactly a glowing prospect.

Re:A tragic and pathetic end for NASA (1)

jbrannon (881627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905302)

Actually, they still have plans for those moonbases: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/0 3/0911232 [slashdot.org]

Re:A tragic and pathetic end for NASA (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905420)

No, they have plans to waste a lot of money planning and designing moonbases, Mars missions, etc. which will never actually materialize. They'll spend $billions and all the taxpayer will get out of it will be some cheesy animations and many hollow promises.

-Eric

No surprise really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904836)

After all, private companys has taken over a great part of what used to be run by the government. The US is getting closer and closer to have a privatly run government. And, no, there is no evidence that this is a good deal for anyone but the companys who gets the contract:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/washington/04con tract.html?_r=1&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

Could be a good thing (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904858)

I've always thought the private sector could do it better, cheaper, faster than NASA. Profit motivatioin is a powerful force!

I think this will be a good thing (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904886)

One of my biggest inspirations growing up was the NASA of the 60's and 70's. Back then, NASA had a blank check and could not only afford the best of the best, but could also give them whatever they needed to accomplish whatever they had to. I remember Apollo 13....engineers with slide-rules frantically trying to figure out how to get those three guys back down. I was young and, in my mind, there was no question they would figure it out.

I don't think those "seat-of-the-pants, just solve the damn problem" scientist work at NASA anymore....or, at least, they are not allowed to function that way anymore....no, those scientist are all working for the private firms run by some guy with a big enough pair to actually do pioneering work in commercial space flight.

I want those scientist getting more access to space exploration....and, in the absence of a cold war, this might just be how we do that these days.

Corporate Welfare (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904924)

Why not? Bush's aerospace program already tried to bail out Boeing [google.com] with $BILLIONS in wasteful jet tanker leases, rather than buying them upfront.

the starbucks space shuttle (1)

boston2251 (1033620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17904950)

I can see it now...giant evil green mermaid plastered all over the side of the shuttle...it's the next advertising frontier

Heck with Starbucks, Bring on the HOOTERS Shuttle! (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905574)

With, er, twin parachute recovery system...I bet it turns a profit :)

Parent = Interesting? (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905698)

How much WOULD it be worth to multinational corporations to get their logo on those things? I mean, there's lots of exposure of shuttles during take off and landing.

Maybe future eras might find trashed remains of deep space probes and wonder who this McDonald's guy is anyway.

No, they can't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17904964)

No, a magazine *can't* take people to space.

In a few years they'll be able to fire them into space for a couple minutes - but not into orbit. The US is quite capable of doing this too.

It's a safe bet that NASA's next spacecraft will be taking humans into orbit before the commercial space crowd. (But yes, the commercial space companies are coming soon too.)

A Good Thing (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905002)

This could provide much needed funding for the fledging commercial space industry.

Not Space... (2, Insightful)

Chiminea (696521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905122)

Calling a sub-orbital jaunt a "trip into space" is like calling wading in the Pacific "deep sea diving". Rocket science is difficult and expensive. Only an few private firms can actually get a payload into orbit and if you give a quick google you can get video of quite a few of these guys blowing up on the pad, or failing to get orbit and other mission failing scenarios. So before you pile on NASA make note that it is still the pre-eminent spaceflight operation in the world. No other organization has done what NASA has done. None have even come close. (Full disclosure: I am an SA at NASA).

Take the hit now (2, Interesting)

Jivecat (836356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905172)

IMO, NASA should mothball the Shuttle immediately and put all its effort into developing the Ares system. They would have to re-manifest some crews and hardware aboard Soyuz and Proton rockets for the next few years, but that would allow their current engineering talent to focus exclusively on the new system, avoid the brain drain that Administrator Griffin fears, and save a bunch of money in the process. I bet with focus they could have flight-worthy hardware by 2010.

m"od 0p (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905202)

Just goes to show (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905266)

- that in America the state is nothing and big money is everything. Some apparently think this is a good thing, but I think it is a shame to see that once great nation becoming just the property of a self-styled big money aristocracy.

That is how it has been (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905270)

The US space biz with NASA and the air force has always relied on outside private companies to build all the components. They don't build fighter planes or stealthy planes or moon rockets,etc, they just *order* them. Actual government employees build very little of anything, it is subbed out all over heck into private industry or into semi private industry academia. All you are talking about here is determining who is the general contractor on the whole project. They have subbed most everything else out, this is just one more aspect to that.

So what exactly is wrong with this? (1)

beaverfever (584714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905310)

When America goes off to war in far-off lands, it is not a vast fleet of US Navy vessels carrying the mountains of food and equipment to foreign shores. The material goods are transported by civilian cargo companies which the government hires, and the cargo goes on plain old civilian container ships.

If the government needs to hire a civilian company to haul cargo to space, what is wrong with that? If it is more efficient, then I believe it is a better arrangement.

The more "normal" space travel becomes, the more people are going to have to let go of the notion that space travel is only for government agencies, and let go of the assumption that government space agencies must be more advanced than civilian companies in all areas of space technology.

Re:So what exactly is wrong with this? (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905612)

Indeed. Maybe if NASA got out of the launch business, it could focus more on basic science and engineering?

Re:So what exactly is wrong with this? (1)

ohearn (969704) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905658)

The difference is that if private cargo companies get too expensive then the government can fall back on Navy vessels to transport everything if we need to. If we scrap the shuttle and don't have a replacement yet then we have no fall back if private space launches get more expensive than the shuttle was. I think a good solution would be to keep at least one shuttle in operational status and then do bids for the launches. If a company proves they can get the job done and offers a decent bid price, use them. If no one offers a bid signifigantly cheaper than NASA just launching the payload themselves with the shuttle, then use the shuttle.

Not so bad (1)

TheDawgLives (546565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905424)

> It seems like a strange state of affairs when a magazine can take people to space, but the USA can't.

Why is that sad? Private companies can get into space cheaper and easier. Just look at the bloated, over engineered shuttle that resulted from letting the government monopolize the space industry. If, instead of letting NASA build whatever it wanted, we had put the specs out and let companies compete for NASA's business, then we would probably already have a fully developed space tourism industry just like our airline industry. Instead NASA blew its load on the shuttle, and then development on space vehicles capable of carrying humans stopped. Now, 30 years later, we're still waiting for new space vehicles. It's high time NASA turned development over to the private sector.

Give the money to Scaled Composites with a goals (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905654)

... and then get the bureaucracy out of the way.

SpaceX, Rocketplane, and COTS Option (2, Informative)

Doug Dante (22218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17905720)

NASA can fulfill its mission by expanding its existing COTS contract [spacex.com] with SpaceX [spacex.com] and expanding it to include manned launches using the dragon crew [spacex.com] module.

The American people will still have a vibrant space agency, that can focus on exploration, rather than on space launch, which is rapidly becoming a normal, commercial business.

NASA's COTS contract [nasa.gov] also includes Rocketplane [rocketplane.com] , which also includes demonstrations for ISS support.

The COTS contract was a polite way for Congress to buy some insurance in case Lockheed's Space Shuttle Replacement [popularmechanics.com] spins out of cost control in terms of either dollars or time.

Which I think is a great move as a taxpayer, having watched ISS cost much more than planned and delivering much less than expected.

We just need the safest, soonest, and cheapest way to get people and stuff into space. I don't care who does it, so Lockheed and those people at NASA in bed with Lockheed, watch out, you've got competition.

Yeah, if USA had ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17905854)

It seems like a strange state of affairs when a magazine can take people to space, but the USA can't."
Yeah, if Bush had not spent enough money on stupid War on Terror (Afghanistan and Iraq), NASA would have enough funds to send by their own !
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