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Space Science

Triana Mothballed 201

Posted by Hemos
from the nada-mas-triana dept.
jessemckinney writes "Apparently, the US congress of last year cut the funding of this great satellite project after it was finished. It will now take millions of dollars (us) to refuel and recalibrate the instruments. Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?"
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Triana Mothballed

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  • Usually the challenge for NASA is to convince congress of the importance of a project that may be hard to understand.

    Now congress figures "If we can understand it, it must be stupid"

  • Just because Algore has an idea for a satellite doesn't mean it's a good idea. Questioning the scientific credentials of a wooden political hack is not necessarily politically inspired.

    This does tell us something profoundly bad about state-sponsored research. 1) it can be misallocated to satisfy political dogmas (e.g. Hitler's eugeneics, and Stalin's Lysenko biology). 2) it perpetuates errors, demonizing attempts by scientists to pull the plug as politically motivated.
  • What's a vandetta?

    (Filling in for the grammar nazi.)

  • There was a lot of idiocy in the article.

    The article says they were going to put Triana about a million miles out, but it also says they were going to put it at L5, which is equidistant from both Earth and Luna (more like a quarter million miles away)

    They have spent 125 megabux on the poor little Triana already. If they don't launch it,that money will go to waste. What does a shuttle launch cost? About a thousand megabux (8 times what they have already spent on Triana).

    Rather than storing it, they should sell it as surplus. Those of you who think it should be launched can buy it and then find your own damn launch vehicle. I'll be willing to pay ten bucks a year for a subscription to the video feed once it is in place.

    Of course I think the best thing that those incredibly wise and intelligent Cogresscritters could do would be to cut NASA's budget to zero effective 12/31/2001. They could use the savings to buy everybody the latest Brittany Spears album. And without NASA in the way, we'd soon have those aforementioned launch vehicles available. cheap.

    • They were referring to the Earth/Sun Lagrange points, not the Earth/Moon Lagrange points. Also, it is L1, not L5 that would be between the two bodies (either Earth and Moon or the Earth and Sun). And it is not an equidistant point, it is the point where the gravities are equal.
      • to clarify, the Lagrange points offering the greatest orbital stability are equidistant from Earth and Luna - in the same orbit as Luna, only leading or trailing by sixty degrees. There are other less "desireable" Lagrange points. but the ones on the Lunar backside sure wouldn't give much of a view of Earth. Since they were making noises about pictures like the Apollo 8 shot, you may perhaps understand why I assumed they would want something at the same distance from Earth as Luna.

        And if they meant Earth/Sun Lagrange points, why not say so? The major Earth/Sun points are also about 93 million miles away. I can't speak to the minor ones, but if they are too close to the Earth/Luna system, (such as a mere million miles) wouldn't they would tend to be destabilized by the separate gravitational fields of the Earth and Luna?

  • We need to link this into something that attracts funding. Use those 15 minute webcam shots as guidance for the missile defense system. Just as useful as GPS transmissions (more so, because in times of war, evil countries can't use GPS telemetry to help us track their missiles), but much more expensive- although we're getting a bargain because it's already made; we're using off the shelf parts.

    It's worth the money just to have a window to click on next time you want to say "Cambot, get me rocket number 9."

    • "15 minute webcam shots" would NEVER work for missile guidance. Even real time video would not be sufficient. Those missiles are moving just too fast to track and intercept using what is essentially a vision system. Vision systems are rough even under pretty good situations. Now add haze, smoke and clouds. Plus the missiles are traveling so fast that most cameras that could resolve them would not be fast enough to freeze them.

      If you are thinking using this as a spy sat to track slow moving land based things, well, I'm sure the US military has far better sattelites anyway. Plus this sat was not designed to give close up views of the earth. Instead it is designed to sit where the gravity of the earth and sun are equal and take pictures of the lit earth as a whole.

      Sorry.. this thing can't really be of much *military* use. Its purpose was to track climate changes, which could be of great use in analyzing the greenhouse effects, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Canada had the most brilliant fighter plane design, something like 20 years in advance of his time, but when the "Parti Conservateur" took place instead of Liberal party, they cut the Avro Arrow [avroarrow.org] project just because it came from another political party. Frnace and many other country were waiting in line to buy either the engine or complete planes. It didn't count. Instead, Canada bought crappy outdated missiles from US and also paid for manpower to have them deployed in the great north. It finally came out it was a big financial disaster, but they completely dismantled the Arrow plane project (destroying planes thet were completed and ready to fly) so everything was lost and they could not go back. (sorry for my bad english!)
    • Canada had the most brilliant fighter plane design, something like 20 years in advance of his time, but when the "Parti Conservateur" took place instead of Liberal party, they cut the Avro Arrow project just because it came from another political party

      And I saw the exibit in the big-ass museum (whatever it was) in Toronto! It sure looked cool.

  • There's a fair amount of history- this was a waste and even adding "legitimate science" (which just duplicates what SOHO does) isn't enough to consider it a reasonable project.
    It was merely a means to deliver a daylight side webcam of earth.
    Sheesh
    Check out NASA Watch [nasawatch.com]
  • Why we paid even a dime for Al's dream screen saver is beyond me.
  • Few people, even hardcore Libertarians have noted a small fight that's been going on in the LP.

    You see, the Space Exploration [lp.org] part of the party's Comprehensive Platform mentions Lagrange Libration Points. There is a movement in the party to have that part removed, since no one ever talks about Lagrange points anyway. The fact that cnn.com mentions it is actually may give this part of the platform a bit more life.

  • Item 1:

    In March 2000, a National Academy committee reported that Triana had "the potential to make unique scientific contributions," even though the mission had "higher than usual risks."

    What are the risks they are talking about?

    Item 2:

    Craig Tooley, the deputy project manager, said that when Triana was first proposed, there were enough flights and cargo space for it to fit into the space shuttle schedule.

    But now, the shuttle is limited to six flights a year and is heavily loaded with higher priority missions.


    The International Space Station has higher priority. This is no surprise.

    This quote confuses me:

    instruments on Triana would have a unique perspective for studying the Earth's atmosphere, climate and seasonal changes.

    I thought there were some weather satellites. What functionality does this satellite possess over the others?
    • I thought there were some weather satellites

      The site http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/ [wisc.edu] has some nice pictures, including full-hemisphere views from GOES-8 [wisc.edu] and GOES-10 [wisc.edu].

      Of course these are in a fixed position with respect to the earth's surface, while GoreSat would have been fixed with respect to the sun's position.

      Also of interest is the SOHO [nasa.gov] spacecraft currently orbiting L1 and observing the sun.

  • Visit their website [nasa.gov]. Check out their photo collections in the making as well [nasa.gov].

  • From everything I've heard about the project and the satelite, I simply don't really think it was anything I would consider worthwhile anyway. Even after reading that pro-go article I still come away with a sense that this would be a kind of worthless mission.

    Yes, I believe NASA needs more money and more shuttleflights, but at the same time I wish the money would not be spent on this.

    But what do I know? Just because noone's proven the worth of the project to me doesn't mean it's not there, right?
  • it's called "sunk costs"

    Just because a lot of money has been spent on a project, that is not reason enough to continue to spend money on that project.
    It was a political toy that needed to go on the scrap heap.
    I for one am glad to hear Nasa have the sense to stop dumping money into at least some of the useless projects.

    Maybe they'll put it up for auction some day and Gore can buy it and put it on his front lawn. ;)

    • Just because a lot of money has been spent on a project, that is not reason enough to continue to spend money on that project

      Depends on how much more it'll take to launch the damn thing. I agree, it's not the world's most useful satellite, but it's here. If we put it into storage it'll take $13M to make it usable again. If it takes less than, say, $30M to launch it, then we're talking about another 15% to actually get some use out of the thing.

  • Can someone update me on this? I thought the Lagrange points were ahead and behind the Earth on its orbit, but this would give just a half lit view of the earth. The article claims that the satellite would be between the Earth and the Sun. Am I just completely mistaken?? I also saw an article about this in Scientific American which also confused me.

    Can someone please try to clear this up for all of us? I could not easily find any information about this on the web.

  • "I have made the tough moral and ethical decision that the federal government can only fund direct and untainted descendants from the original Apollo spacecraft. Al(l) Gore's base belong to us."
  • by PenguinX (18932)
    Why don't they just stick it out there one of these days when they are going to the ISS? Combine missions, save money, do a bit more...

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:52PM (#2117296) Homepage Journal
    To take pictures of the Earth.

    *sniff* that's so.... Oprah ...*sniff*

    Al Gore could have downloaded openuniverse [openuniverse.org] and saved us alot of money.
  • Matter of Priorities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rkent (73434) <rkent@post.ha r v a r d . edu> on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:52PM (#2117298)
    Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?"

    Who says they did? My understanding of the article is that no funding was actually cut from the Triana project itself -- the satelite is done. In fact,

    "NASA is limited by a budget pinch to just six space shuttle flights a year and most of them are being taken up with building the international space station, re-servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and other projects with a higher priority than Triana."

    Moan all you want about NASA being underfunded, but this doesn't sound at all like a matter of anyone taking "political revenge" at Al Gore's project. NASA has to prioritize, and they have.

    Personally, I question why the space station (a run-down tenement in orbit! whoo hoo!) is more important than this climate-research vessel. But I don't smell a political attack here.

    • Yeah, but had the satelite gone through as planned, it supposedly would have had a ride. The challenges by the Republicans created the delay that kept it from going.

      It seems to me the lesson to learn is that if you're concerned about the scientific results of a project, don't let a politician prominently identify himself with it for his own aggrandizement. That's basically forcing the other side to try to stop it. This isn't abortion -- bipartisan is always the way to go.

      By the way, now I remember: I knew I had read about this before [slashdot.org].

  • Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?

    Well, because you cannot have a decent vendetta without some significant killing, ofcourse! :)

    Oh.. sorry, rethorical...

  • Triana != science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:56PM (#2117302) Homepage
    Triana was originally built as a political favor. I won't mention to whom, but you might guess by the nickname it was given of "Goresat".

    There was originally no science planned. Only when scrutiny increased to it were some basic instruments added to make the excuse of it being a research tool float.

    Just a heads up, the only thing Triana would have really done was take pictures of the earth for posting on a website to 'make people feel better about the earth'. For a working alternative, please visit the NOAA website where legions of weather satellites already do this 24x7.

    Triana was a waste of a rocket launch. Hopefully the chassis can be adapted to perform some real science.
    • Re:Triana != science (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mz001b (122709)
      There was originally no science planned. Only when scrutiny increased to it were some basic instruments added to make the excuse of it being a research tool float.

      Granted the science offered by this instrument may be limited, especially when compared with the HST. One question though is how does the science per dollar produced by this compare to the science per dollar of the Internation Space Station?

    • by rgmoore (133276)

      According to the article, at least, the mission was run past the National Academy of Science. NAS said that it had the potential to make unique scientific contributions and was worth funding. Anyone who looks at what they want to do can see that it has some very powerful potential for various types of environmental monitoring. It makes you wonder if the people who want to kill it are afraid of what the science it will produce will say.

      • The scientific instruments were added after the project was started in order to get it past the NAS. We already have several satellites that are being used for global environmental monitoring. Friends of mine process and archive gigabytes of it every week. The only thing useful about Triana would be that it could take a picture of the entire Earth at once and no mosaicing would need to be done. However, it's probably too far away to be of any real scientific use compared to what's already flying. So it gets put in storage for a while. Big deal. It hardly deserves two Slashdot stories [slashdot.org]in as many days.

    • Re:Triana != science (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rimbo (139781)
      I was definitely no fan of Al Gore, and I do believe the ISS and Hubble are more important for science, and I must also admit that I shared your reaction to this. At first.

      But when I was an officer of SEDS (Students for Exploration and Development of Space) at college, we had our sponsor, Dr. Hans Mark, speak to us about some of the goings-on in the space program. And he mentioned that although current interest in the space program was down, "People always love to see the pictures."

      Pictures from space are the best marketing NASA (or any space program) has. That's the other reason why Hubble is important. I have the Hubble slashbox, and I find myself changing my wallpaper to whatever's linked to it pretty frequently. :)

      It still means it's a political device, but these things are important so that real scientific advancement can continue. So this would have benefitted science, and possibly in more ways than we can know.
      • On reflection, I agree with you fully. You are correct, the best way to involve the public and spark interest in space and science at this point is through means like this.

        One modification I might make to my original post that you responded to is that while the Triana would have served the purpose of inspiring interest in space and science, it should not be sold as a 'scientific research' satellite.
    • by MikeyNg (88437)

      So what? Sometimes it's very important to popularize space exploration. Who cares if all it would have done was to take pictures of the Earth? Maybe that would get some children to be more interested in the Earth? Maybe over the span of a decade, we could see any climactic and atmospheric changes that may have occured? Never mind the exploration of a LaGrange point. Weather satellites are situated in geosynchronous orbits, so they're like 30,000 miles away or so? Triana would have been 1,000,000 miles away. That would have been a VERY different vantage point.

      The fact of the matter is, it would have been good for space exploration. It would have contributed to some public interest, which is good, because that's where the money comes from. The satellite is already done, and they've invested over $100 million in it. Yes, I know it's quite expensive to launch satellites, also. I do not advocate throwing good money after bad, but from the looks of things, Triana wasn't all bad.

      • by Tackhead (54550)
        > So what? Sometimes it's very important to popularize space exploration.

        What's more likely to interest kids in space?

        1) $125M to buy a screen saver with a picture of Earth that could be done today with a little software and a data feed from our fleet of weather satellites?

        or

        2) $125M to buy a nice economy Mars probe.

        (Of course, most of our cheap-o Mars probes don't arouse interest in space exploration because NASA fsckups turn them into Earth-originated meteorites leaving little craters on the Martian surface, but that's beside the point ;-)

  • First he invented the Internet, now this! :)
  • Why do we need two links to the article? I would think one link would be enough. At first I thought they were different articles, but I guess not. Oh well
  • At least as I understand the term, having looked it up after seeing The Big Lebowski [movieweb.com]. You have to realize that Congressmen are only there for their own gain. They don't represent you, they represent the money interests who pay to get them elected, and literally NOTHING else means anything to them. We (Americans) live under an institutionalized bribery system marketed as democracy. Once you understand that, you can stop wondering why so many things are wrong.
  • This sounds cool, but I have to agree with what congress did on this one. What a waste of time and money.
  • Possible flight (Score:4, Informative)

    by Viadd (173388) on Friday August 10, 2001 @07:45PM (#2122577)
    According to someone I know on the project, they might have a launch opportunity for Triana if they send the shuttle up to recover UARS [aviationnow.com].
  • There is one, and only one lesson to be learned here. You think it doesn't matter who you vote for? You're wrong. When utter MORONS like Dick Armey get elected, this sort of thing goes down.

    IT MATTERS WHO YOU VOTE FOR. SO VOTE. AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING WHEN YOU DO IT.

  • I am gonna keep this brief, I am on a laptop and I hate the keyboard. GoreSAT was a waste of money from the get-go. It should sit and stew. Everyone here who has worked on a scientific satelite raise your hand...i thought so. I have worked on both HESSE, SWIFT, and did a bit of work on the COR-1 lens for STEREO. These are true scientific satelites. They do shit.

    Read a previous post of mine for the history of HESSI's problems. Things like GoreSAT waste money on stuff that could have been used to accelerate HESSI's launch. Also, HESSI was bumped back in the lanch schedule again. It was supposed to launch before MAP. Why waste space in a tight launch schedule on useless satelites, not to mention mission control space and money. Read a previous post of mine for links. BTW, I have stood 10 feet from GoreSAT as it sat in bld 29(?) at GSFC awaiting some testing. The scientists tehre explained its uselessness.

    I worked at GSFC for a year as a student, so you know my background.


  • In the meantime, NASA will be spending about a million dollars a year to store Triana. The craft's solid rocket propellant, which chemically degrades, expires in 2003 and will have to be replaced, at the cost of about $3 million, before Triana can fly. It would also take $5 to $10 million to recalibrate the instruments after the craft comes out of mothballs.

    So, we're talking about $13 million bucks here. What's it cost to launch the shuttle? Seems like it would make more sense to just use the $13 mil to get that bad boy up into space right now instead of wasting it all...
    • What's it cost to launch the shuttle? Seems like it would make more sense to just use the $13 mil to get that bad boy up into space right now instead of wasting it all...

      Heh...not even close [broaddaylight.com]. And unlike most technology, don't expect this price to go down over the years...

    • The underlying problem is not the satellite, it's the limited launch options. For (various, political) reasons, they built the Space Shuttle - a space truck which turned out to be a space ferrari. Sure, it's "reusable", but at enormous cost. I started to figure this out when I used to read the USENET postings about Shuttle servicing - I don't know if they still do it, but they used to completely disassemble and then reassemble the engine after every launch.
      It costs like $500 million to a billion per launch.

      They already had a cool, huge space station, Skylab, but for (various, political) reasons, they let it fall out of the sky.

      So having built this space ferrari, the problem was, there was no place for it to go. So eventually for (various, political) reasons they finally built the new space station (ISS).

      Meanwhile, with all the eggs in the Space Shuttle basket, we have not achieved the goal of having a diverse range of launch systems with a range of prices and capabilities.

      I still don't understand why they don't use the Russian Energia to get usefully large payloads into orbit.
  • The article discusses all the money burned on the project up til now, arguing that more money should be expended to finish the job. While a 24x7 view of the rotating Earth might promote world peace, I don't think we'd be seeing anything new science wise.

    So campers, if Al, Oprah, and enough people want to see this bird fly, then I suggest they start by setting up a Paypal account and get the cash to launch it themselves. The Russians will do it for less than $100 million. Heck, maybe they can take a loan for the Democratic Soft Money account (ok, the Republican one too - amybe you can pitch it as a missle defense component :^).

    Seriously, we have the means, willingly provided by a number of countries, to make our space exploration dreams come true. We need the will to make them happen.

  • Here's a copy of the article text, for those who do not wish to see pop-up-ad-hell. :)

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A science spacecraft dreamed up by Al Gore, built by NASA and delayed by a Republican Congress is now going into mothballs, grounded for lack of a ride into orbit.

    The $120 million spacecraft, called Triana, will complete its final ground tests this month, but instead of going to a Florida launch pad, it will be crated and stored indefinitely at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

    Officials said that for the next few years there is no room in the space shuttle schedule to launch Triana. NASA is limited by a budget pinch to just six space shuttle flights a year and most of them are being taken up with building the international space station, re-servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and other projects with a higher priority than Triana.

    Triana evolved from a 1998 suggestion by then-Vice President Gore that NASA park a camera-toting satellite some 1 million miles out in space so it could constantly beam down a picture of the sunlighted Earth. The picture, updated every 15 minutes and carried on the Internet, was to be similar to the famed "whole Earth" photo taken by Apollo astronauts in 1968.

    The spacecraft was to be placed at the Lagrange 1 point, a spot in space where scientists say the gravity of Earth and the gravity of the sun are balanced. The sunnyside of the Earth would be in constant view. Besides capturing the planetary picture suggested by Gore, instruments on Triana would have a unique perspective for studying the Earth's atmosphere, climate and seasonal changes. It would be the first time that such a whole Earth analysis would be possible, scientists said.

    Officials named the project after Rodrigo de Triana, the sailor on Columbus' voyage of discovery who first sighted the New World.

    "The idea that the vice president had was philosophical. He wanted schoolchildren to look at our planet and appreciate our environment," said Francisco P. J. Valero, the mission's principal scientist. "We realized that there was a lot of science that could be done with such a spacecraft."

    Valero, head of an atmospheric research lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and other researchers devised the instruments to be carried on Triana.

    But on the way to the launch pad, Triana got ambushed by the Republican-led House of Representatives.

    House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, called the spacecraft "a far-out boondoggle." Others ridiculed Triana as the "GoreCam" or "GoreSat." In a partisan vote in May 1999, a House committee cut funds for Triana from NASA's budget.

    The money was later restored in a conference committee, but Congress delayed the launch until January 2001, when Gore was to leave the vice presidency, and required that the project first be analyzed by the National Academy of Sciences.

    In March 2000, a National Academy committee reported that Triana had "the potential to make unique scientific contributions," even though the mission had "higher than usual risks."

    With the Academy endorsement and money from Congress, NASA kicked the project into high gear. The spacecraft, bristling with science instruments and Gore's camera, was built in record time--- but by then it was too late.

    Craig Tooley, the deputy project manager, said that when Triana was first proposed, there were enough flights and cargo space for it to fit into the space shuttle schedule.

    But now, the shuttle is limited to six flights a year and is heavily loaded with higher priority missions.

    After its final ground tests are complete, Triana will be put into an aluminum crate filled with dry nitrogen and stored at Goddard as sort of an air-sealed, space age hanger queen. For how long, nobody knows.

    "NASA is committed to flying it and I believe it will get off the ground eventually," said Tooley. He said it is unlikely that Triana could fly before 2004.

    In the meantime, NASA will be spending about a million dollars a year to store Triana. The craft's solid rocket propellant, which chemically degrades, expires in 2003 and will have to be replaced, at the cost of about $3 million, before Triana can fly. It would also take $5 to $10 million to recalibrate the instruments after the craft comes out of mothballs. That job alone could take months, said Tooley.

    "We've already spent $120 million on Triana," said Valero. "That will all go to waste unless we fly the thing."

    Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:41PM (#2134140) Homepage Journal
    I heard on the radio this morning (KCBS) that there was a proposal under consideration in the House to mothball two carrier fleets(!) to divert money to Missle Defense. The Joint Chiefs were not amused. I wouldn't be, either. That's the House for you.
    • If you read the article:

      The money was later restored in a conference committee, but Congress delayed the launch until January 2001, when Gore was to leave the vice presidency, and required that the project first be analyzed by the National Academy of Sciences.

      In March 2000, a National Academy committee reported that Triana had "the potential to make unique scientific contributions," even though the mission had "higher than usual risks."

      With the Academy endorsement and money from Congress, NASA kicked the project into high gear. The spacecraft, bristling with science instruments and Gore's camera, was built in record time--- but by then it was too late.

      You'd know that congress gave them the money, there just isn't room on the shuttle for it. You know with the space station and all.


    • there was a proposal under consideration in the House to mothball two carrier fleets(!) to divert money to Missle Defense. The Joint Chiefs were not amused.

      I wonder if this was some representative's attempt at illustration of a point through use of irony.

      Though as I think about it, what it really reminds me of is the kind of interactions I have with my 2-year-old son:

      I know you want some ice cream, but that means we have to
      leave the playground if we are going to go get some. I'm sorry that you don't want to leave the playground, but we can't really do both at the same time.

      Speaking of military intervention... I think I figured out how to get Triana launched.

      Send it up as a test-target for the proposed missile defense system. But "accidentally" disable it's GPS beacon.

      But then, I guess that knowing ahead of time that it's going to be headed for the Lagrange 1 point pretty much gives it as big a "Kick Me" sign as the first test-target had. Hrm. I got it! Make Triana one of the unconvincing decoys that the next test-target throws out. Disguise it as a mylar baloon. That'd work.

    • by Manuka (4415)
      Sounds typically short-sighted. At least we *know* the carrier fleets are an effective defense mechanism and an even better lever for US Foreign policy.
      • I think I read it somewhere in P. J. O'Rourke's "Give War A Chance", that US Marine Corps had done more for world peace than all the good intentions of foreign policy. While I don't agree with everything he writes, I think that there was a point hard to argue.

        If you're running the House, and your party recommends drilling, lumber, mining, burning fossil fuels, all in a valiant attempt to spur the economy, you probably don't want people to see what damage all this "economic recovery" is doing. Particularly with the difficulty encountered in trying to explore (not even drill, yet) for oil in ANWR

        • There is already oil drilling in the area right next to the ANWR. The proposal only expands that area by 6000 acres into the ANWR. It's not going to be as difficult as you make it sound.

  • I thought this idea by Al Gore was bad when he first proposed it. I never even thought they'd actually build it.

    This is a feel good enviroweenie type of project. It's a frigging NASA-built webcam! We need to spend our money on more important projects, like sending Lego robots to Mars, and huge expensive lasers in orbit. Yeah, that's the ticket.

    Spend the NASA budget where it's use will better serve the advancement of science and knowledge. Raise the budget for the ISS. More Mars exploration missions. Christ, let's send a mission to the Moon to verify the existence of subsurface ice.

  • Why? (Score:2, Funny)

    by wrinkledshirt (228541)
    Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?

    Why do dogs lick their own balls?

    A: Because they can.

  • I dunno... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by update() (217397) on Friday August 10, 2001 @07:02PM (#2141523) Homepage
    Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?

    "Vandettas" aside, (they sang back-up for Martha [history-of-rock.com], right?), this project doesn't inspire a huge amount of confidence in me. It started out as a stunt by Al Gore, and while scientists may have come up with useful uses for it (which I'm not qualified to judge), I'd be a lot more enthusiastic about a project that was designed to do something useful in the first place.

    My sense this is like the biology experiments they do on the space shuttle, something I am qualified to judge. They're worth doing, given that the shuttle is already going but they're hardly a justification for the shuttle program.

    As an aside, which may make you feel better, I heard a talk recently by one of the leaders of the Chandra telescope project. Asked about the security of funding, he said that while legislators aren't going to give more money, they pretty much all appreciate astronomy and space and the stream of money isn't in jeopardy at all.

    • by unitron (5733)
      If the "Vandellas" find out you called them "Vandettas" (sounds like a Volkswagen), you're liable to find yourself with "Nowhere to Run", and worried about something worse than the current "Heatwave", perhaps finding yourself sinking in "Quicksand".
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:45PM (#2142114) Journal
    We already saw this, btw.

    As for the project, there was clearly nothing vaguely scientific in the original plan but it was subsequently expanded to include a whole host of "scientific" things to encourage its approval. Of course, with the increase in things it needed to accomplish, the price went up. It's hardly surprising that a pet project like this got cut.

    Dancin Santa
    • Unconscious Gore (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SEWilco (27983)
      This is an idea which Gore literally dreamed up. A Google search for "Gore satellite Earth" will show several articles about it -- he dreamed it up at night while asleep. Scientific?

      It would require an eight-inch telescope on the satellite, which would be 1.6 million Km from Earth, rather than the 36 thousand Km of geostationary weather satellites. Those existing weather satellites already let us see global weather 24 hours a day.

      • So? He suggested something to NASA, someone there apparently liked it, and they ran with it. Just because he's not an aeronautical engineer he can't possibly come up with an idea?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It wasn't so much a "weather satellite" as it was a tool to make everyone in the world aware of our Gaia-ity. We see one blue world with swirling clouds and suddenly everyone realizes that we are one big family and all wars end and we have a huge harmonic convergence.

        If that doesn't convince them to do it, we can always say it will track weather or something...

        D.S.
  • Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?"

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Most politicians aren't thinking of the greater good first. Number one.

    Then, the rest of your taxdollars are spent covering it up.

  • Al gore said "Hey, dude! No seriously. I want to put a sate... hahahaha. Pass that to me fucker. Ok what were we talking about? Oh yeah, so anyway, this satellite will take pictures of the earth! Isn't that fan-fucking-tastic? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh man I am so messed up."

    Some of the other uses sound like they may be of some scientific use but a few years until budget has availability for it isn't really a big deal. Sorry we can't launch everyone's ideas into space. How about just pay the russians to launch it. They will suck your dick for a price.
  • Politically speaking, this project never had a chance. It was started by Al Gore, and Congress is dominated by people with an obsessive hatred of anything connected with the Clinton/Gore administration.

    But we all share some responsibility here. We've let national politics become dominated by sound-byte politicians, each with a political agenda that's a mindless list of hot button issues. Look at the web page of Dick Armey [house.gov], the politico quoted in the CNN piece. His politics are hodpodge of simple-minded reactions. ("Beware of the red-light camera scam!") This is the House Majority Leader, one of the most powerful positions in DC!

    Here's an interesting political experiment: call Mister Armey (phone number on his web site) and give him a piece of your mind. Or write your own congressperson [house.gov].

  • by Ross C. Brackett (5878) on Friday August 10, 2001 @07:19PM (#2151612) Homepage
    Building a $120M satellite just to get a constantly updating view of the earth? Couldn't they save a ton by buying one of those very detailed 3D models of the Earth they use in sci-fi flicks and hooking it up to a giant renderfarm? They'd just need make sure they chose a model that doesn't leave out New Zealand. [imdb.com]

    Sure, it wouldn't be "the real thing," but I say, no harm, no foul. The populace would be happy because they could tune into "The Planet Channel" any time, and be filled with that warm fuzzy "I am a speck of dust" feeling. The Democrats and Republicans would be happy because they could spend their half of the 120 mil on whatever they wanted (the former on supplying clean needles to welfare mothers, the latter on black ops research to create a clone army of genetically-enhanced Richard Nixons.)

    And nobody would be any the wiser.
    • > Couldn't they save a ton by buying one of those very detailed 3D models of the Earth they use in sci-fi flicks and hooking it up to a giant renderfarm?

      Exactly.

      And for that matter, if you wanna get kids interested in geography, hook it up with Terraserver. Sure, the pics aren't live, but high-resolution satellite photos of damn near everywhere on earth are a seriously-cool idea. Imagine a "globe" you could render in 3-D and "zoom in" to your home town. Sweeeeet.

      (And but for the data storage requirements, pretty doable on today's tech.)

  • by btempleton (149110) on Friday August 10, 2001 @07:19PM (#2151615) Homepage
    I don't know the value of the other projects they put on this bird, but Gore's picture from space was sentimental but stupid.

    I stll think we should do it, but we should never have spent $120M on the satellite and more on the now scrubbed launch.

    We already have cameras taking pictures of the earth all the time. The weather sats and other instruments are constantly recording the earth.

    As such it would cost a very small amount to develop software to integrate those pictures to generate an image of what the planet would look like from any point, including L1. With enough work you could get it so you could not tell the difference.

    Yes, it wouldn't be "real" to some people. But it would be true, and that's real enough for me.
    • As such it would cost a very small amount to develop software to integrate those pictures to generate an image of what the planet would look like from any point,

      That's been done many years ago. I did something similar as an intern in 89 to make a video of the Earth rotating using satellite images.

      • I figured it might have been done. Of course, I'm presumign it's done with real time weather, and mapping to simulate the fact you are viewing some parts of the iamge through more atmosphere (with weather) and at a different angle? Work, but surely it can be done. If you have't seen some region for a while (particularly the regions near the terminator where the light is changing rapidly) you could extrapolate from earlier images.

        Like I said it should be possible to get one that really shows you what the earth looks like from L1, which is the point, not to actually have a $120M plus launch camera there.
  • Well, duh. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mike Schiraldi (18296) on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:54PM (#2153580) Homepage Journal
    Why do politicians have to kill great science projects for their own political vandettas?

    Sometimes a question just answers itself. :)
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday August 10, 2001 @06:54PM (#2153581)
    ...because those pesky scientists would most likely use it to gather evidence about inconvenient issues like global warming and pollution. In the mean time, the money is much better spent on that trillion dollar orbiting erector set.
    • because those pesky scientists would most likely use it to gather evidence about inconvenient issues like global warming and pollution. In the mean time, the money is much better spent on that trillion dollar orbiting erector set.
      There are already satellites that study the climate and this one would not add anything special. The satellites show that the middle and upper atmosphere have warmed much less than ground level, which is the opposite of what is predicted by the computer climate models.

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