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US Not Getting Money's Worth From ISS

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the give-ya-five-bucks-for-it dept.

Space 217

greysky writes "On the 45th anniversary of his first trip into space, astronaut John Glenn says the U.S. is not getting it's money's worth out of the International Space Station. From the article: "Diverting money from the orbiting research outpost to President Bush's goal of sending astronauts back to the moon and eventually on to Mars is preventing some scientific experiments on the space station"."

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oblig. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18096954)

Tell the President there's oil on the ISS.

Re:oblig. (-1, Redundant)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097046)

Tell the President there's oil on the ISS.

haha, would so mod you up if I had the points.

Re:oblig. (4, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097240)

Now why would you want us to invade the station? Its allready falling apart witout us bombing it.

Re:oblig. (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097496)

Too much trouble. You would have to start by explaining to him what "ISS" stood for. Then you would have to explain the concept of a "space station." Then you would have to explain about a hundred other things, like why we need oxygen on a space station, why astronauts wear spacesuits, etc. By then, it would be his nap-time, and since he always wakes up cranky you'd just have to come back the next day and start all over again.

Better to just go right to Cheney.

-Eric

Oh GOD no... (4, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097566)

not another president that needs to be told what ISS is ?

Re:oblig. (2, Funny)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098180)

Cheney? Nah... I know you can't blow up an airplane with a single shot from a handgun, but I wouldn't try to see if the same thing happens with the ISS and a shotgun.

Re:oblig. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097564)

The correct moderation for this is -1 Cheapshot.

Re:oblig. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097718)

So he'll divert money from the Iraq war to the Star Wars program?

Re:oblig. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098142)

I have to wonder if that was the intent when 'putting men back on the moon' was announced. Its no secret that the current administration would like to stifle if not halt 'ALL' science it sees as not in line with certain agendas of administration supporters.

I recall when they first announed 'putting men back on the moon', I was genuinely excited that they were taking steps in the right direction with the space program. Low and behold, I once again put to much hope this administration as having an ounce of legitimate purpose and initiative. I should have realized that 'putting men back on the moon', was really 'redirect current funding from current ongoing scientific experiments to PLANS for moon exploration'.

I seriously doubt our new 'moon exploration' will actually go through as scheduled, thanks to the extreme politicization this exploratory science has now absorbed.

Thanks GOP. Just when I thought you couldn't kill dreams, you shine on through where you shouldn't.

Re:oblig. (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098318)

Are you sure that's a good idea? He'll just send somebody up there with a big drill.

Re:oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098446)

He'll just try to blow it up...

Indeed. (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096960)

It was a bunch of compromises so we could have a presence in space. Its kinda sad that the Hotel in Space dude might actually end up being more successful at it!

Re:Indeed. (3, Interesting)

monkeydo (173558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097250)

And just what does he mean by "Getting our money's worth?"

"To not utilize that station the way [b]I think it ought to be utilized[/b] is just wrong," said Glenn. Thanks for clearing that up, Senator.

Re:Indeed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097946)

Regarding your sig, is there such a thing as a well informed Libertarian? If they become well informed, they realize how ridiculous Libertarianism is and become anarcho-socialists like any other right thinking individual.

Re:Indeed. (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097966)

He's hardly alone in that view. The current plan for what to do with the ISS is bloody ridiculous: finish spending a fortune to get it built, and then not fund it for long past there. The components mostly have expected ~40 year lifespans (and judging by other craft, say the MERs, this is probably an underestimate), but once we finally get to the "cheap" part (maintenence of the station), we're just going to let it burn.

And why? Why, so we can go to the moon! And set up a permanent base there, with enough room for half a dozen people To do low-gravity research! In a vaccuum! With three times the cost for delivery of supplies! And we'll spend two decades building it, with huge cost overruns. And opposition to the moon base will grow. And the government will insist on "getting it done", and then divert all funds for operation of it onto some other project that's the "new things". Sound familiar?

It's not the cost overruns on ISS that bothers me. It's not the capabilities of ISS or the kind of science that can be conducted there that bother me (it's actually much better than most peoples' perception of it). It's this whole "lets get it up to full capacity so we can say we built it, then let it crash so that we can move onto our next disturbingly-similar project" attitude that bothers me.

Re:Indeed. (1)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098134)

The moon base could theoretically become self sustaining. If they could get a good source of water they could supply themselves with pretty much everything else they require.

Re:Indeed. (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098592)

No, it couldn't. Even ignoring the technological hurdles, of the basic elements required for all life (CHONP), the moon only has (in relevant quantities) O -- and it's all locked up in minerals that take a lot of energy to extract. If water is found, add H, but you're still missing CNP.

The moon is very mineral poor. It has huge quantities of certain elements, but is largely devoid in most. It is not a place to build a self-sustaining colony.

Even producing food on the moon with recycled/Earth imported nutrients would be a nightmare, given that you have a choice between only low-angle light all day (and only in very tiny regions of the moon), light for two weeks then darkness for two, or using a huge amount of electric power at an awful efficiency conversion rate (perhaps 2% of the energy you input ending up as food). It'd be easier in space, and as we know, it's not easy in space. Completely closed habitats are nasty for plants in ways that most people wouldn't expect. For example, ethylene. Plants produce it. On Earth, it blows away and breaks down. Harmless to humans. However, to plants, it's many times more deadly than carbon monoxide is to humans. Hard to detect in such tiny quantities, and hard to prevent from accumulating. That is just one of many, many problems that must be addressed.

Not that other aspects of building a self sustaining colony on a more mineral-rich world are any easier. In fact, they're much, much harder. Take any piece of technology essential for running a colony -- let's say, an ore crusher. Pick just one component of that ore crusher, preferably one that gets consumed over time -- let's say, its oil for lubrication. Trace back all of the components (petroleum oils, silicone oils, EP additives to form a film to prevent contact welding, detergents and dispersants to keep particulates in solution, emulsifiers, etc) of that oil back to their natural resources. You're left with a monstrous dependency chain. And no, you can't cut corners without cutting capabilities. Even if you could, just a pure petroleum or silicone oil has a huge dependency chain on a non-Earth planet. And no, you can't just substitute a vegetable oil. It works poorly. You can refine vegetable oils to produce lubricants -- say, polyol esters from soybean oil -- but it's still problematic (vegetable oils and products derived from them oxidize quickly and don't lubricate well and are not suitable for high stress situations).

This is just one component of one device used in one aspect of maintaining a colony. Sci-fi presents far too rosy of a picture of how hard it is to establish even close to resource independence on another planet.

I say we nuke it from orbit (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096968)

Its the only way to be sure.

Time to reevaluate the whole program (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18096988)

I know I will get modded down for this, but, IMHO, the NASA of today is little more than a slush fund for big money contractors and a few researchers who can't get funding any other way. The Space Race-era of the big government space agency is over. A new era of private funding has begun. Russia has already realized this and begun to exploit it. In the U.S., we are still holding on to old baby boomer pipe-dreams of men on Mars and moonbases.

The launch of SpaceShipOne should have been a wake-up call for the U.S. The future is NOT in NASA.

-Eric

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

antifood (898331) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097048)

I think there are a few countries that may disagree with this assessment.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097764)

I think there are a few countries that may disagree with this assessment.


So Elbonia is going to have to get flight time for their cosmonauts on someone else's nickel.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (4, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097084)

Get back to me when SpaceShipOne can reach GEO or even LEO.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1, Insightful)

Tmack (593755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097302)

Get back to me when SpaceShipOne can reach GEO or even LEO.

Its name is SpaceShipThree [wikipedia.org] , and is on the drawing board... SpaceShipOne did what it was designed to do, go straight up 100miles, and come back. Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

Tm

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097358)

Exactly, it's on the drawing board. As of now, NASA is the only US organization that can put people into orbit and will continue to be the only one for years to come.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097828)

Nonsense. If you call up Boeing or Lockheed Martin and ask for a manned space system, they'll be happy to provide a quote (assuming that you are serious, and actually have money). NASA's just the only organization that has that kind of funds to throw at the contractors. Sure, NASA has a lot of expertise, but they don't build the rockets.

Boeing, Lockheed, mod parent up! (0, Flamebait)

Tmack (593755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098546)

Supporting the parent here, go and google "Space Shuttle Lockheed" and "Space Shuttle Boeing" and see what comes up.... The results show the history here. Boeing built the shuttles under contract from NASA. Lockheed was/is looking to get that contract to build the replacement. NASA works with them to set criteria and organize the projects. If NASA advanced at the rate Scaled composites and other X-Prize competitors have, we would already be on mars. In the past, NASA advanced by leaps and bounds, it only took only 8 years to go from man in space to man on the moon, but then the Space race and cold war ended, the funding dried up, and the idiots in the president's seat started expensive wars that further dried up funding while also stifling other research. And now he wants us to go back to the moon and even onward to mars, but still cuts the budget?! /rant

tm

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098290)

NASA may not be putting people up there much longer. Shuttle is set to be retired in 2010 and there isn't a replacement even CLOSE to ready until 2012 or 2105. The older STS gets the more chances of another accident, and there are only two operational shuttles and there aren't are replacements for some parts (like main engines).

I do agree that ISS isn't what it's supposed to be, but then again it's not completed so there is still hope.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (2, Informative)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097506)

SpaceShipOne did what it was designed to do, go straight up 100miles, and come back. Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

Tm

Kilometers, not miles. Bit of a difference there. 100 mi is near LEO, 100km is barely halfway there. Honestly, it is an achievement, but there is a long way to go.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098006)

Yes, it's on the drawing board. So is JIMO. So is Medusa. So are tens if not hundreds of thousands of other spacecraft. It's not hard to get a spacecraft on the drawing board. It's hard to get it built and functional.

Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

To elaborate on this, it's like someone in modern day building an overpriced Wright Flyer and then acting like they're one step from crossing the Atlantic and how such an Atlantic crossing will revolutionize and drive the modern aircraft industry.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098332)

Come to think of it, depending on how detailed of specs you want to consider something "on the drawing board", hundeds of thousands may be too low. Heck, even I have a spacecraft "on the drawing board". "Black Kite" -- a tow-launch assisted (with midair fuelling from the tow craft using lines hooked up at launch to reduce loading on the landing gear) LOX/Propane craft with flometrics-style or reluctance-motor driven turbopumps, with self-contained-hydraulic or electric actuators with distributed power storage and wireless-networked control surfaces for damage resilience, with the whole craft designed to launch small upper stages and then return for unpowered landing. I have a couple variant designs, such as a wingless lifting body lofted to altitude stowed inside the body of what would otherwise be the tow craft, landing using a parasail. I even did some economics research on potential tow craft; you'd be surprised how cheaply you can get an old jet with a 100,000-200,000 kg payload. Sure, they wouldn't be good for too many flights, or too frequent flights, but during the R&D phase, you're only looking at a couple dozen flights at the most, likely with weeks to months between flights.

It'll never be built, of course. Also, odds state that there's probably some fundamental flaws in some aspect of the concept. Even if there weren't, odds state that it wouldn't be economical. But it's a "plan", "on the drawing board". Kind of like SpaceShipThree. Across this country and across the world, there are millions of space enthusiasts who probably, like me, have designs "on the drawing board". Not counting plans developed by corporations, some of which actually have the resources to develop their craft but probably never will.

My point? A plan "on the drawing board" means very little. Actual motive and resources to build it have meaning. Scaled has shown little evidence of either. Even if they did, odds are it would never fly.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097108)

Expecting a goverment agancy to be the leader in something only lasts perhaps a decade or two, Then its success will increase the beurococy and make it heavy and more bothersom.

Compaines do the same thing to, but they are allowed to go out of buisness, or do a major reorganization in an attempt to trim the fat. Unless governemt gets involved with the companies to make sure they stay alive then they are just as bad.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097122)

I know I will get modded down for this, but

I know you're using the oldest karma whore trick in the book, but

The launch of SpaceShipOne should have been a wake-up call for the U.S. The future is NOT in NASA.

I agree that private funding is the future of space. I do see a role for NASA in the forseeable future at least for the pure research and exploration roles that they are currently doing a good job at. There's not much impetus to send a probe to Io just to see what the place looks like, unless you have a budget designed around ideas like that. Private interprise wouldn't see the ROI -- certainly not until gathering resources from another body becomes feasible, and even then they'd need some reason to think resources were there. However, for a space station or cheap flights to the moon, I'm looking at the private ventures.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097480)

That would put the NASA in the same scapegoat position many universities (over here, Europe) are in. They get to do the fundamental research, which rarely if ever yields anything that can be sold for money, while the applied research is done by private organisations, based on the findings of said universities, and they reap their harvest.

It would pit NASA in the position where they are a constant loss making entity in the space business, with everyone leeching from them and making a very nice vehicle for funding cuts because they are "slacking", since all those private organisations are making big bucks while NASA "cannot".

I'd be wary of that.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097650)

I wasn't aware that NASA was making big bucks today. As far as I knew, it already was the case where NASA spent all the money, and private enterprise -- as in aerospace contractors -- reaped the harvest.

It's basically the same with universities here as you describe across the pond. They are at the forefront of pure research, but it's the corporations that take the pure research ideas and apply it and make the cash. Sometimes the companies fund university research, sometimes it's the government that funds it, either way the university isn't making a profit on the deal. But that's okay, because as long as they continue to exist while doing pure research then there is benefit.

The NASA I'm envisioning, btw, is a much smaller organization anyway. They wouldn't be in the business of building a space shuttle. Mars rovers and Saturn probes, sure. Let the ones with the profit motive figure out how to move people and cargo into space efficiently.

Option B is that the moving people and cargo aspect of NASA gets taken over directly by the defense department, as the privatization of space would probably spurn them to see the militarization of space as essential.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098384)

That would put the NASA in the same scapegoat position many universities (over here, Europe) are in. They get to do the fundamental research, which rarely if ever yields anything that can be sold for money, while the applied research is done by private organisations, based on the findings of said universities, and they reap their harvest.
NASA isn't supposed to be making big bucks on their research. The science they do is supposed to answer fundamental scientific questions. If this happens to spin off some commercially viable products, like Tang or Velcro, fine.

A growing problem with universities on this side of the pond (the USA) is that they have been given the rights to participate in profit making ventures based on their research. While this isn't a bad idea on the surface, it has the effect of restricting their focus to projects with guaranteed ROIs at the expense of the fundamentals.

It would pit NASA in the position where they are a constant loss making entity in the space business, with everyone leeching from them and making a very nice vehicle for funding cuts because they are "slacking", since all those private organisations are making big bucks while NASA "cannot".
Some may argue that the proper place of government is to perform tasks that, while unprofitable, we (the public) deem necessary. At this time, nobody can calculate the value of the 'water on Mars' question. The science we bring back may have value in terms of understanding our own geology for commercial purposes. Or not. The question is not so much profit vs loss, but it is answering the scientific questions in the most efficient manner.

NASA has had some amazing successes from an efficiency standpoint. They have also found the other side of the economic optimization curve by losing equipment when a few more dollars and a little more care might have saved the mission. Even this (systems engineering) knowledge is of some value.

The problem with the ISS (IMHO) is that the questions it is designed to answer were not well defined, or they have changed sufficiently over the course of the program that a manned station may not be the best way of getting these answers. Its possible that NASAs budget is being milked by a bunch of fat cat contractors. We may never know. As with many other government functions, there is less opportunity for doing a make vs buy decision upon which to base economic decisions. NASA doesn't have the infrastructure to support such tasks in-house, so they have to go with whatever the contractors bid. If they tried to develop such capabilities, rest assured that the contractors (through their lobbyists) would have their budget plug pulled in short order.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (0, Offtopic)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097772)

It's not a karma whore trick. It's a recognition that a good number of /.ers either work for NASA or have their heads well up NASA's ass. They WILL mod down any criticism, valid or no. It's a reality.

-Eric

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098120)

I agree that private funding is the future of space.

I disagree. There does not exist, an enterpreneur, or board of directors, or venture capitalist, who would take this kind of risk - this much money, for; well, the potential returns are really really huge. But the risk is very very high. For guys like you and me, with all the vision, and no money, well, of course it's a no-brainer. But for guys like, hell, even Bill Gates, I don't think they see this as a good investment. Today's crop of investors are extremely conservative and risk-averse. No way in hell will you see enough money being invested to make this happen. The money and time required to get a profit out of space is probably something along the lines of two to three orders of magnitude more than what we've already spent.

Columbus discovered the Americas - but he was not financed by private capital. And did the investor realize all of the profit from this investment (Queen Isabella's jewels?). No. She had to split the gains with the Portuguese, the Germans, the French, the British, etc. And the huge profit from this venture took CENTURIES to be realized.

Private funding for space travel? Don't be absurd. Maybe 500 years from now.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097234)

In the U.S., we are still holding on to old baby boomer pipe-dreams of men on Mars and moonbases.
If the money spended on the Iraq war had been spended on Mars and moonbases they wouldn't be a pipedream.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097634)

If the money spended on the Iraq war had been spended on Mars and moonbases they wouldn't be a pipedream.
It appears that the money would have been better spent on the education system.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097760)

Why, do you view spelling as more important that putting people on Mars?

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097810)

Without an education nearly everything is a pipedream.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097886)

Only if you want to actually end up on Mars instead of in the Horsehead Nebula (a "mare").

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

Valar (167606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097392)

There is a role for both the private sector and the public sector in space, just like there is a role for the private sector and the public sector in all kinds of research.

There are some kinds of research that will not be profitable to a corporation, but will have benefits outside of the market (a form of market externality [anyone who talks a lot about free market capitalism should be familiar with the term-- surprisingly few are]). For example, take the hubble space telescope. Despite all of the good posters it has produced, I seriously doubt a private venture could find a profitability angle on it (unless it sold instrument time to public researchers at universities and the like... in which case, we're back to square one). However, though it isn't profitable , the hubble has provided amazing insight into the origin and nature of the universe, which goes to the very heart of the things we are curious about as human beings.

On the other hand, there IS a commercial market to put cargo into space. We need more broadcast, communications, and monitoring satilites every day. A lot of them are even owned privately. There might even be a market for passenger flights (space tourism, high speed travel).

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097454)

I disagree. I mean do you really think that private enterprise is going to be able to recruit Bruce Willis AND mount the sort of two-shuttle nucular payload mission required to save us all from the killer asteroid? Naw, we still need NASA.

Re:Time to reevaluate the whole program (2, Insightful)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097528)

SpaceShipOne was just a low cost copy of what the US Air Force did in the 1950's. It only technically went into "space". It was just a ballistic trajectory, like if you shot a rifle into the sky. That is far from getting into orbit.

As for using private industry to get into space, what do you think they do now? Who builds and launches all those rockets? It's all contracted.

How funny (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097552)

  1. None of the privates have reached orbit. I think that in the next month that spacex will do so, but no guarentee.
  2. It is COTS and the possibility of cargo and passenger ferry to the ISS that is helping to drive these private enterprise. Only 2 companies won COTS and yet, 2 more have pushed for help from NASA and the possibility of getting work IFF they can make orbit.
  3. Where did Bigelow get the guts of his space hotel from? From NASA. Likewise, where do you suppose the first he will get the first few contracts from? NASA and DOD. He will almost certainly move on to for his own stations, but the first few sales will be as maskes for DOD satellites as well as an extension for the ISS. And yes, NASA will be buying at least one before 2010.
  4. Who will do the robotics missions that are the envy of the rest of the world? As it is, EU is really just starting to do these. Do you think that they did not learn from both NASA and Russian space agency? Even now, India is sending up several NASA instruments on chandra.
All in all, NASA is fueling private enterprise, not harming it. There was a time where they got in the way, but no more. Even now, they are in the process of redesigning the replacement for the shuttle knowing that it is possible that private enterprise MAY overtake them. But spacex has already blown up one rocket. How many more before they learn their lessons? Private enterprise is just taking babysteps. NASA is watching out for them. Sit tight and see what happens. As it is, I think that NASA will be back to doing primarly robotics within the next decade. But they still have to push for the moon and mars until private enterprise has proven that they can and will do the job.

close enough (1)

rs79 (71822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098560)

"None of the privates have reached orbit."

Yeah but there was this girl I once knew and baby, my privates were in heaven.

Manned missions suck (3, Insightful)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097036)

They suck dollars from non-manned (i.e., robotic) missions whose focus IS actually collecting data for research. This is pretty well-known, but here's a recent news link that puts this into perspective -- NYTimes interview with NASA physicist Drew Shindell.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/magazine/18WWLNQ 4.t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

Regarding manned missions: "It's fine to do it for national spirit or exploring the cosmos, but the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet."

Re:Manned missions suck (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097530)

There are a few things unmanned probes cannot do, or cannot do as well, as a manned mission. There are certain experiments that have to be done on site, with lots of variables you can't plan in advance. A robot can only react to a certain degree to changing situations, and as we've seen with the Mars rover, the signal delay becomes crippling even at the rather "small" distance to the next planet.

Re:Manned missions suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098018)

"as we've seen with the Mars rover, the signal delay becomes crippling even at the rather "small" distance to the next planet."

Eh? Spirit and Opportunity did incredibly well and the signal delay was not a problem. It hasn't been for probes like Voyager or Cassini either. This isn't mucking about with an RC car we're talking about, activities are planned well in advance no matter what the delay.

There's plenty of stuff robots can do that humans can't, like switching off for the night (and the whole duration of the trip), withstanding radiation or high temperatures (try a manned mission to Venus...), and just plain being disposable saves a vast amount of fuel and cost.

The cost differential between a manned and unmanned mission to Mars is so vast that even if a robot gets into some unforeseen situation it can't deal with simply building a better model with the experience gained and sending that is still cheaper than sending a person. Going through that process 20 times, with 20 launches (or even call it 40 and assume a 50% failure rate) would still be cheaper.

Re:Manned missions suck (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098512)

Yeah, they did great as far as their mission profile goes, but what they did in a year a man could do in a week.

Re:Manned missions suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097858)

They suck dollars from non-manned (i.e., robotic) missions whose focus IS actually collecting data for research."

And what about the things you learn and unforseen problems you discover when you actually send people into space? There is a feedback loop between unknowns that you would discover sending human beings into space and what you theoretically would not discover. Sure it may not be "efficient" from a completely scientific and observational standpoint but from an engineering standpoint at some point human beings whether you like it or not will have to leave planet earth because the sun will only last so long, so there choices are really 1) Maintain the sun for a time or 2) Evolve and adapt to outer space or die trying.

Re:Manned missions suck (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098032)

They suck dollars from non-manned (i.e., robotic) missions whose focus IS actually collecting data for research.

Well, yes and no. The unmanned (science) side asked for large increases in their budget - and got smaller increases instead. So it's not 'precisely' sucking money from unmanned to manned.
 
His statement about missions being cancelled is particularly disingenuous - because he fails to tell you that it's normal for more missions/instruments to be proposed/planned than actually fly. Having projects be cancelled in midstream isn't something happening recently because of the VSE - it happens on a regular basis. (Partly because the unmanned side is no better than the manned when it comes to delivering on time and on budget.)
 

Regarding manned missions: "It's fine to do it for national spirit or exploring the cosmos, but the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet."

Given that his job is to conduct climatalogical studies - he's not exactly an unbiased source.

Re:Manned missions suck (1)

Spleen (9387) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098166)

"the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet"

I knew boss was a Goa'uld!

Sunk Costs (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097044)

Let me preface this by saying that I have the highest respect for Former Senator and Colonel John Glenn. He was a pioneering figure in a world where manned space travel was only the stuff of dreams. That being said, Former Senator Glenn needs to STFU before he blows another huge hole in the space program.

The International Space Station was a bad idea from the get-go. It was placed in the wrong orbit, with the wrong components, and wrong plans for construction. It was a disaster from the moment it started, and was only conceived because Congress and NASA managed to twist a good plan for a moon-staging point into a useless abomination meant to symbolize international cooperation.

While I'm the first to admit that it's rather cool having a space station flying over our heads, I also know that it's a turkey. Skylab was far more useful than the ISS ever was, and that was launched in a single launch on the back of a Saturn V. In comparison, the ISS has required over a dozen Shuttle flights for construction, and it's still not done yet. Worse yet, the Space Shuttle is required by the plan for the regular reboosts of the station back into a stable orbit. It's just not a good design.

While I understand that Former Senator Glenn is upset that we're not seeing a return on the money we spent on the station, he needs to pay more attention to the economics of Sunk Costs [wikipedia.org] . The money is already spent, and there is little to be gained from investing more money into the station. All that would happen is that NASA would waste further taxpayer funds that would show little to no return.

As a taxpayer myself, I would be extremely unhappy with NASA if they weren't diverting funds to the CEV program rather than the ISS. The development of the Ares V would provide NASA with far less expensive options for building and maintaining space stations. Options that would allow them to use such stations for useful ventures (like staging for moon missions) rather than mere symbolism.

Re:Sunk Costs (0)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097208)

What he said. Double amen.

Re:Shuttle Joy-Rider (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097280)

I had the highest respect for John Glenn until he traded political favors to then-president Clinton for a joy-ride on the shuttle. He is in no position to lecture anyone on NASA waste.

Re:Shuttle Joy-Rider (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097544)

I had the highest respect for John Glenn until he traded political favors to then-president Clinton for a joy-ride on the shuttle. He is in no position to lecture anyone on NASA waste.

Man, I'd trade a fucking lot more than mere political favors to get a joy-ride on the shuttle.

On the other hand he had already been to space on multiple occasions. He should have traded political favors to get me a ride on the shuttle. Then I'd still respect him.

So Mr. Glen, if you're reading this, re-read my first sentence but with a *wink wink Johnny-boy* at the end.

Re:Sunk Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097816)

The International Space Station was a bad idea from the get-go. It was placed in the wrong orbit, with the wrong components, and wrong plans for construction. It was a disaster from the moment it started, and was only conceived because Congress and NASA managed to twist a good plan for a moon-staging point into a useless abomination meant to symbolize international cooperation.


Why am I not suprised at this but other smart people are? NASA's track record SUCKS. Only the small projects where there are more engineers and fewer dead weight managers involved end up successful. The bigger the project the more idiots and morons (Management) get brought in to screw it up. the ISS was doomed from day one because it was an "international" project. Cripes we cant get countries to agree on the color of tablecloths at meetings WTF though we could get a space station designed and built right?

The biggest mess up was the shuttle replacement from a few years back. Choice between a engineers wet dream and a working demonstratable prototype and the morons chose the wet dream made of unobtanium. So now we have a half built spruce goose of NASA sitting there with the engines that it needs still cant be designed to work.

Screw this deep space crap. Let's design and build a decent space station that is useable to space industrial use as well as a platform for further out ... I.E. a spaceport.

Re:Sunk Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098052)

ha! so ISS is in the wrong orbit and constructed wrong, but Skylab which fell to the ground was done well and was in the right orbit. Good one..

Re:Sunk Costs (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098456)

Skylab fell to the ground because NASA let it, you moron. The same thing would happen to the ISS if NASA didn't regularly boost it.

Re:Sunk Costs (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098544)

"Skylab which fell to the ground was done well and was in the right orbit"

Skylab successfully completed its planned mission despite some huge screwups in the launch. Then it dropped out of orbit years later because the shuttle, which was supposed to reboost it to a safe altitude, was way, way behind schedule.

The astronauts on Skylab at least spent most of their time doing research. As I understand it, the astronauts on ISS spend most of their time trying to keep it working.

Bah (1, Insightful)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097050)

It doesn't matter how much or how little money the US spills in the ISS, it will never pay off. It's a pointless monument of pork, and should be scrapped. Any experiments it supposedly is needed for, could be performed on normal space flights and/or satellites. How about funding real science instead of this hogwash?

Re:Bah (1)

pedroloco (778593) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097560)

Why was the previous comment modded as a troll? I don't entirely agree with it, but it is an expression of a defendible viewpoint.

Re:Bah (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097796)

Precisely how is this a troll? Because the guy has a high ID#? The ISS is a sad joke that never should have been. It's expensive to maintain. They could have done much better by just not throwing away all those shuttle main tanks over the years, instead parking them at a lagrange point (it could be done very slowly, and the tanks could already have been taken to orbit) and then welding them together (or otherwise attaching them) into a gigantic ring or cylinder of cylinders. Then you could just send up stuff to fill it. Instead we threw all that mass away...

Line up your little doggies... (5, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097076)

Bush isn't the only President that has had to deal with the Space Station. If anything its doing just fine under him. The best thing he ever did for the space station was to drop the Shuttle as a delivery system. It should have been gone in his father's day.

Diverting? How about focusing on something which grants us more opportunities. A space station is low earth orbit does not provide us with a stepping off platform that something more permanent, like a moon base, would. Besides being more difficult to shield from radiation, heat, and micrometeroites, we have to constantly push it back up. Worse, it is planned to come back within the lifetime of many of these other programs being put forward. In other words, unless we have a plan to keep it up permanently why throw money at it.

Blaming Bush for the space station and state of NASA is really reaching. Don't even try that line that NASA would be better off if all the funds from Iraq didn't get spent as Congress never cares for NASA unless it can bash whomever is in the Adminstration at the time.

Re:Line up your little doggies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098198)


I'm guessing you have never had any interactions with NASA concerning science.

The "opportunities" you speak of are ridiculously expensive and cannot be
supported without an effort which rivals that of the war. What Bush did,
essentially with a single speech, is redirect the efforts of NASA to this
silly Mars program, without giving them the resources to achieve it.

The result? A science program which has been castrated. Remember the Nobel
Prize in Physics for 2006? It was for work carried out under the Explorer
Program, which is currently a joke, with postponement after postponement.
The last MidEx AO was 6 years ago. Meanwhile, the Europeans are taking the
lead in many many science topics....

 

Could see this coming ... (3, Insightful)

SengirV (203400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097124)

... from a mile away. NASA follows up it's biggest boondoggle to date(the Space Shuttle), with the biggest boondoggle in it's history(the ISS). Both platforms should be scrapped at this point in favor of a truely long term "humans in space" approach. But that would require NASA/Congress to admit they made HUGE mistakes with these two projects, and we all know how likely that is to happen. So we'll jsut continue paying bllions for two POS projects that are killing the space program.

Re:Could see this coming ... (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097390)

The Shuttle was designed, in part, to support a massive space station. Without the space station, Ol' Bricks 'n' Wings doesn't really matter.

Re:Could see this coming ... (1)

SengirV (203400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097532)

True, but the 300 mile up design requirement precluded this massive space station from playing any part in the next step of humanity in space. It's been a huge waste since day one.

Re:Could see this coming ... (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098058)

the biggest boondoggle in history is that piece of crap that was supposed to replace the space shuttle that cost billions and is sitting unfinished.

the idiots chose something that was an idea only over the working prototype.

THAT is their biggest boondoggle.

STS-95 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097144)

I wonder if we got our money's worth when we sent him back into space on STS-95 so he could relive some former glory.

Re:STS-95 (1)

r3mdh (113054) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098272)

Excellent point!

perhaps true, but... (2, Insightful)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097174)

given the current state of the space shuttle fleet, and the known safety issues with the design, NASA has no choice but to design a successor spacecraft. The only question is what sort of a spacecraft should they design. Should the shuttle successor be a little transit-craft only useful for flying to the iss, or do they do something bold that can go out of low earth orbit? Nasa, at the urging of the president, and many others, decided to build a bold craft, which consequently costs a lot of money, and takes focus off of other things.

Anytime nasa reprioritises money, something gets left behind. It's a careful balancing act of expense vs. return on that investment. There is still some science being done on iss, and will be more in the future. It's just not as much as origonally envisioned. How important is that? How do you prefer to weigh that against going to the moon and preparing to go to mars?

Ideally, we do both, but that means taking money from defense, with which this president isn't likely to go along.

Nice Spin, Fox News (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097180)

Also from the article:

He said he supports the president's moon and Mars goals, but not at the expense of the space station...
From that and the blurb in the summary, it sounds like he's saying we should be spending more on the ISS. But TFA (and summary) make it sound like he's saying it's some kind of money pit.

Nice "no spin zone" you got there.

Oh no (2, Funny)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097188)

Now we may never know if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space!

Some things never change (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097238)

Last night I was capturing a camcorder video from a talk I went to by some astronauts, who were talking about how they were about to start building Space Station Freedom, and then President Bush had promised them a manned landing on Mars by 2019. Nearly fifteen years ago now.

I just thought it was kind of funny that now we still haven't finished building the International Space Station and while the next President Bush has promised them a manned landing on Mars at some point in the distant future, it's looking less and less likely that even the new 'spam in a can' launcher will reach orbit by 2019, let alone that anyone will be going to Mars.

At this rate, I guess NASA astronauts will be landing on Mars in the year 2300. At least private companies will already have hotels and crazy golf courses set up there for them so they won't need to build huge rockets to get there.

I have plenty of fingers... (3, Interesting)

DriveDog (822962) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097242)

to point. So Shrub is the anti-Midas. What's new? The ISS, shuttle, and Bush's manned mission plans all suck resources from important stuff like interplanetary probes, future propulsion research, and the next space-based telescope. But of course we could have them all for a fraction of the cost of throwing hardware and soldiers into a black hole in the middle east. NASA maybe mostly a welfare program for contractors, but it can't compete with the Pentagon. Does anything make sense? Perhaps a scary asteroid on a collision course with Earth would be the kick we need to build cool stuff and undertake important high-risk missions.

Re:I have plenty of fingers... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098406)

Perhaps a scary asteroid on a collision course with Earth would be the kick we need to build cool stuff and undertake important high-risk missions.

I sort of doubt that, we're centuries away from building a spaceship, space base or settlement that could survive completely without supplies from Earth, and it'd probably only raise interest in bomb shelters and anti-asteroid defense systems. Yes, we have tested closed biosystems so basic stuff like food and water could be recycled, but high-tech gear is another story. They'd be essentially stranded inside a tiny bubble on a planet way beyond their ability to terraform. And even if we did, you'd probably talk about saving hundreds while billions die on Earth, not exactly a good outcome in any case. And that's assuming whatever disaster wipes out life on earth isn't so powerful it takes out any base along with it. A moonbase is almost certainly dead. A base on Mars would probably be our best bet, but still... it's like keeping a dollar when you're betting your house - "Why? So I'm not completely broke..."

Well, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18097268)

The shuttle and ISS are the 800 pound gorillas in NASA's budget. They've been sucking the life out of any other NASA project of significance for years.

Absent an increase in NASA's budget (unlikely), any significant project is going to have to suck money away from shuttle or ISS.

Additionally, both the shuttle and ISS are flawed on a fundamental level. Shuttle is decades old and significantly more expensive to launch than most expendable launch vehicles (whether the reuseability, excuse me, remanufacturability is worth it is debatable), and ISS is in too high an orbital inclination to be anything other than a research station (that is, it can't be used as a waystation for manned or unmanned lunar or planetary missions for example).

Re:Well, duh! (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097844)

...Shuttle is decades old and significantly more expensive to launch than most expendable launch vehicles (whether the reuseability, excuse me, remanufacturability is worth it is debatable)

Well, it would be debatable if you could find anyone to take up the pro side. Good luck with that.

John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (5, Informative)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097272)

The summary and the article are pretty misleading (here's a better article: http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/9806/1066/ [itwire.com.au] ).

What John Glenn is actually saying is that the ISS should be getting more money so that it can fulfill its purpose and reach its true potential. There's been no follow-up with Glenn, but I'd imagine what he's really saying is that instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097556)

Instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

Successful at what? That's what no one can seem to tell us. John Glenn says that's there's "potential". You say that it can be a success. Neither one of you is telling what exactly the station is supposed to be useful for?

Anyone who looks carefully at the specs of the station realizes that it's not useful for anything. It can't act as a staging point )wrong orbit), it can't service satellites (not high enough), it doesn't offer any astronomical observation abilities over dedicated satellites like Hubble, its internal capacity is not that much greater than the Space Shuttle, and any ground observations are being done better by the Space Shuttle and dedicated sats. Basically, the ISS sits up there and shows the flag. (Or flags, as the case may be.)

If someone can give me even one good reason to keep the ISS, I'd run out there and help them rally for funding. Unfortuntely, no good reason exists. Just a lot of romanticism about manned space travel. Well, guess what people? Living in space is like living on the tall ships of yore. The ability to go new places had a lot of appeal, but the unhealthy conditions, uncomfortable quarters, stench of fellow humans, constant danger, and claustrophobic living space didn't make it worth the hassle unless that ship was doing something important. Tall ships weren't built by the governments of their time for pleasure cruises, and neither should Space Stations.

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097702)

"If someone can give me even one good reason to keep the ISS, I'd run out there and help them rally for funding."

ISS was built to funnel money to the Russians to discourage their rocket scientists from moving abroad to design missiles for people America doesn't like. I suspect that justification is a bit out of date now.

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097722)

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097894)

This is a joke, right? Let's see here:

- Weightless Treadmill
- Spacewalks for Leak Checks
- Studying fires in zero gravity
- 4 year old polymers
- Testing of Dust Detectors
- Taking pretty pictures of the Earth
- Play with their Magic Rocks kit

Yes, these are incredibly important experiments that we absolutely cannot do without the Space Station. (Can you hear the sound of my eyes rolling?)

There is practically nothing at those links that couldn't be done by the Space Shuttle with the SpaceLab attachment, or by dedicated satellites already in place. All these items are is justification for the station's existence. None of them make any serious advances in human knowledge, and many of them are retreads of experiments that have been done before. Even if we assume that some of these experiments are Very Important(TM), none of them are so important as to give the station priority over the CEV program. Anything the station is doing now could be done by an Ares V lifted station for a LOT LESS MONEY.

Nice try, but no dice.

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098030)

What John Glenn is actually saying is that the ISS should be getting more money so that it can fulfill its purpose and reach its true potential. There's been no follow-up with Glenn, but I'd imagine what he's really saying is that instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

Nah, we need to cut NASA completely off. We need to give the department of energy the directive to build a space based solar power array. Let 'em hire the former NASA guys and just throw up big rockets that work to get it in space and working. Who cares about Mars, the moon, or space? We need energy and resources. It's "cheap/free" energy and resources that will make space attractive. If we spend billions launching anything into space it shouldn't be for just science reasons. It should have a return on investment that makes a few billion for our government. Um, going to the moon or mars are both currently wastes of money. Space based solor panels can atleast double as spaced based death rays as you get to beam the energy doun via microwaves so we could even have the DOD build it for our big stick polic policy cause its useful having a big stick to hit others with.

Re:John Glenn is Pro ISS (In Case It Wasn't Clear) (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098574)

Both moon and mars programs have high potential for mining metals, including some that are very useful but rare in the Earth's crust (like platinum).

I personally think manned moon and mars missions would be interesting without such a direct practical benefit, but if you want one, there you go.

Well of course... (2, Funny)

The Orange Mage (1057436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097378)

You're not going to get money out of the ISS unless you've either got a low gravity mint up there, or are growing hydroponic money trees, both unlikely.

Another interesting article (2, Interesting)

johndiii (229824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097462)

Re:Another interesting article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098088)

The shuttle was a cluster fuck, it grew from a small reusable vehicle to send humans to space into a grotesque hybrid of what should have been a half dozen separate vehicles. Then again the US government (not NASA per say, the shuttle was in many ways the fault of the government and the Air Force with its funding requirements) has the attention span of a five year, mirroring that of the US voting population average. They always need to have the next shinny thing while ignoring whatever they just spent countless billions on. The ISS has been essentially shelved now, the Mars program will send some preliminary probes then be killed as well and maybe we'll send a few people to the moon before the moon base idea dies as well.

We've never gotten our money's worth out of space (-1, Troll)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097838)

We've not gotten our money's worth out of space, period. Space has been a boondoggle from the beginning. Yes, some neat technologies have come out of the space programme, but they are worth orders of magnitude less than the money poured in. John Derbyshire has written two excellent articles, one in 2005 [nationalreview.com] and one in 2004 [nationalreview.com] about the pointlessness of the space programme.

Sure, space is exciting and romantic, but it's a bloody enormous waste of money.

Re:We've never gotten our money's worth out of spa (3, Insightful)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18097948)

Sure, space is exciting and romantic, but it's a bloody enormous waste of money.
Tell that to the dinosaurs [wikipedia.org] .

Re:We've never gotten our money's worth out of spa (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18098220)

And the insects, amphibians, turtles, birds, crocodiles, and placentals all had a space programs of their own, and thus were able to survive, right?

Re:We've never gotten our money's worth out of spa (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098326)

Life as we know it would end. Maybe the human race would survive, or some form of it. But why even go through that? The devestation that would result from a large impact is incredible, far surpassing the amount of money that we spend on the space program. Nice, snarky comment. But you know that isn't the point of what I'm saying.

Re:We've never gotten our money's worth out of spa (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098162)

Then theirs the fact, if we had developed a space infrastructure, that ~90 of the most important usable resources lie in the asteroids. Some what simpler and easier to get to than anything at the bottom of a gravity well. We could easy pay for any and all investments in space research that we have up until today.

Re:We've never gotten our money's worth out of spa (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098278)

Compared to what, the 200+ billion used with great care in Iraq? Or the dozens of other massive wastes of funding.

One reason for sending people into space is PR, robots can't talk in front of schoolchildren and congress. Also contrary to the beliefs of some doing things in space is not easy (anyone who even thinks mining an asteroid is in any form easy deserves to be laughed at) and robots can't do things as well as humans. If you want a better justification for the manned space program then you can call it hedging the bets, if anything truly important is found up there then we'd as it stands now need to send people to whatever it is (robots are slow and limited) so we at least keep that option open. Similar reason to why we have F-22s when our enemies can't get a single plane into the air.

about the pointlessness of the space programme.

And you sir apparently can't read, he talked about the pointlessness of the MANNED space program not of space exploration itself.

The Shuttle, ISS, and Galileo (4, Informative)

Sigfried (779148) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098020)

The circular logic goes something like this:
  • The defacto purpose of the ISS is to justify the existence of the space shuttle.
  • The defacto purpose of the shuttle is to build the ISS, (and to give fidgety astronauts something to do with their hands).
Science has nothing to do with it.

When I first came to work at JPL in 1987, folks were already gearing up for what they called their "Third Annual Galileo Pre-Launch Picnic", to be held out in the nearby Oak Grove Park (which by the way, has one of the best frisbee golf courses on the planet--but I digress). It might have been the Fourth, but I lost count. Those who worked on the mission would joke about this, but you could always tell that there was some ironic bitterness in their voices. Galileo was neither the first nor the last of the victims of the politically-inspired space shuttle, but for many at the 'lab it became the iconic poster-child for the sacrifice that science has paid on the altar of politics and the almost religious cult of man-in-space hero worship.

This Galileo Page [wikipedia.org] barely scratches the surface of the number of ways in which real scientists, engineers, and mathematicians had to wrack their brains trying to fix, work-around, and ultimately solve technical problems that arose on Galileo -- problems which were entirely avoidable, and were either directly or indirectly caused by the resources that were pulled from the unmanned science missions of JPL, Goddard, and the like.

Galileo was originally supposed to be launched on an unmanned rocket like its esteemed predecessors Voyagers I and II, but JPL was forced to reconfigure the probe to be launched from the shuttle instead, again (like the IIS) to give some justification for building the shuttle. After the Challenger disaster, the cargo bay was redesigned and so again the probe had to be reconfigured. It has never been proved, but was suspected that the reason that the high-gain attenna "umbrella" jammed was due to the loss of lubricant over the many years of storage prior to its final launch. And so it went...

About the only good thing that came out of the decision to launch Galileo from the shuttle was that it forced us to look at new data compression algorithms, so that we could store more data on the mag tape for later broadcast over the low-gain antenna. But, given the choice, I think the unanimous consensus was that if we had to do it all over again, we'd have told Johnson and Kennedy to stuff it, thank you very much, and we'll stick to our plans and launch the damn thing from a nice, reliable, unsexy but technologically sound unmanned rocket.

I feel much better now.

NASA is federal research (2, Informative)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098036)

NASA is and always has been about research, not exploitation of space resources. Anything NASA discovers that can benefit a consumer economy/industry should be passed down to private companies that can take full advantage of the discovery.

OTOH Iraq is paying off handsomely (-1, Troll)

melted (227442) | more than 7 years ago | (#18098054)

On the other hand, Iraq is paying off handsomely. Remember this next time you vote for someone. Don't elect dyslexic retarded cowboys into public offices.
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