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Shuttle May Fly Again In '04 186

Posted by timothy
from the prior-investment dept.
giantsfan89 writes "A report from CNN says that a shuttle (possibly Atlantis) could fly again next fall. "The latest launch window is September 12 to October 10, NASA said Friday." A conference call referenced in the NY Times (free reg or via Google News) says it'll be an uphill battle (obviously) but that 'I'll also guarantee you that we're getting an awful lot smarter about this and we're going to come back stronger and safer as a result.'"
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Shuttle May Fly Again In '04

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  • Come back smarter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BizidyDizidy (689383) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:37PM (#7135664)
    Doesn't it seem at this point that "coming back smarter" is getting away from the shuttle system in general?

    I'd be much happier to hear that we could expect spaceflight based on rocket technology in 2004. Whatever happened to that article?

    • That would assume that the shuttle system is somehow deficient. It more or less serves its purposes, and it would be unwise to give up on it now. While I agree that a new method of spacetravel should be developed as fast as possible, realism dictates that this will take at the very least another 15 years, if not much longer then that.

      what is truly disgusting though is the fact that this article, as well as almost all others written about the subject drive readers to the conclusion that the shuttle needs t
      • The shuttle system has failed to meet most of the design goals that were used to justify its construction. In particular, its flight rate, reliability, and cost are all far worse than promised.

        'Deficient' is an excellent word to describe the shuttle.

        But, you are right, the shuttle does not need to be fixed. It needs to be abandoned.
        • yes, I agree, however, what alternative do you see right now? There is nothing on the table today that can be implemented in less then 10 / 15 years - what do you want to do until such time?
          • I suggest nothing be done. The shuttle is producing essentially nothing of value, so if a replacement is not much cheaper (and it's not likely to be if developed at NASA) then continuation of the manned space program at this time is just foolish.

            This may force individuals to confront the sad reality that the visions of manned exploration of the solar system in their lifetimes were just bad science fiction. Too bad for them. Next time, don't be conned so easily.

            • ok, let me try and understand what you are saying (sorry to come across all daft, but I want to get this right) - are you saying that a manned space program has no value, that it has value, but it is too expensive, or that the shuttle is useless, or....

              As to your point about costs of NASA developing any replacement - I quite agree - NASA spent a million dollars developing a pen that works in zero/micro gravity. The Russians just used a pencil......
  • Space Shuttle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DaBjork (575727)
    I'm glad they are keeping this program....IMHO the space shuttle is what has kept us from mars...too expensive and very not reusable.
    • Re:Space Shuttle (Score:2, Insightful)

      And that is good in what way? In my opinion, they should keep the shuttle but complement it with another system. Here is my idea:
      • The Shuttle, for use when they need to launch a crew and cargo at the same time, or when they somehow need the land-like-an-aeroplane ability.
      • A Reusable Capsule, for about 5 people perhaps, when all they need is to ship people to and from orbit. This capsule should be modular in that they can attach, say, a modul underneath with heatshields and gasbags when they land on earth,
      • when they need to launch a crew and cargo at the same time

        This is needed on every flight to the ISS, since the station wants lots of big thingies all the time (until it is built; then it will require lots of food and water instead.)

        or when they somehow need the land-like-an-aeroplane ability.

        I doubt this was ever needed. You want to land, and that's pretty much all. Only the most sensitive experiments could benefit from softer landing; I don't know if that was ever the case; and relatively hard capsul

        • Re:Space Shuttle (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          This is needed on every flight to the ISS, since the station wants lots of big thingies all the time (until it is built; then it will require lots of food and water instead.)

          One word: Progress

          How do you think ISS survived without a problem half a year without a shuttle and will survive at least year to come? (and could survive...whole its life, just like Mir)
          Of course you can say "but I meant assembly also". Well, there's nothing stopping us from using cargo rockets.
    • So, let me get this straight, you say that the shuttle is the one thing that has kept us from going to Mars, the logical next "giant leap for mankind", and you're glad about it?

      Sorry, when something as old and dangerous as the space shuttle stands in the way of change, and change for the better, then there's something seriously wrong. Especially so when you're cheering such a luddite view.

      Do we need to be making real strides into space? Yes. Is the best way of doing that by clinging onto old technology th
  • by sonnik (49704) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:41PM (#7135684) Homepage
    ...after seeing an article like this, it does seem that NASA is more reactive than proactive in fixes of this nature.

    Granted, we're only going to hear about stuff like this after something happens...

    However, I'm really wondering why we still spend a crapload of money more or less flying around in circles above the Earth.

    How much more can we really learn from the shuttle? Put the money in some other form of space research...
    • For the work that goes on in the shuttle, it's probably the least expensive way to fly circles around the Earth. A lot of experiments are conducted in zero-gravity and a lot of worthwhile inventions and discoveries have come out of research conducted for and by the space program.

      I think that NASA should have probably made sure to be better prepared for repairs to be conducted on the space shuttle. On the other hand, sometimes it takes a catastrophe like this to bring it to the attention of the rest of the
      • About those discoveries in space and expermients. Seems like stuff like that in a controlled environment can be done without sending people? VNC anyone?

        I work on computers all around the world. But I dont FLY there.
  • Article Text (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- NASA set a September 2004 target date for the next space shuttle launch, CNN has learned.

    The space agency decided in recent weeks that it needed more time to develop systems for detecting and repairing damage to shuttles in orbit, forcing the agency to retreat from plans to launch in March or April.

    The space shuttle fleet has been grounded since the Columbia disaster in February in which all seven crew members died. Insulation debris from the external fuel tank has bee
  • by reiggin (646111) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:45PM (#7135695)
    There is a big difference between "smarter... safer" and "smart.... safe."
  • Go Space Program! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:45PM (#7135696) Journal
    Maybe this is that eight-year old Trekkie in me, but I really believe we need another space race. Our overall progress in space during the first thirty years of the Cold War greatly overshadows anything since that time, and I wholly reject this apprehension towards more people going into space after tragic accidents. My condolences, of course, to the friends of family of those who've died in a space suit.

    Let's see if we can dump some of that massive defense budget and sink that cash into a more active space program. Let's see if we can get to the moon. We already know we can blow up the world pretty good. We don't need to prove that we can, and if the situation actually arose where we needed to unleash our arsenal, then the world would be screwed anyways.

    I bet I sound like a naive, idealistic fool...sue me.

    • Bah. What we need isn't another space race -- what we need is a better way to get out of our gravity well. Blowing ourselves into orbit with explosives isn't much safer or more practical for our astronauts than it was for Wiley Coyote. If NASA were to ask my opinion (and rest assured that they won't ;^)), I'd say take all the money from the space shuttle program and invest it into developing a nice Space Elevator [nasa.gov].
    • Your post is reminiscent of Adam Smith's free-market philosophy: Without competition, there is little progress. I agree. The only thing that will really stimulate our development of better space technology is competition from another government. It's sad, but true. Right now, there is no real incentive for our government to invest lots of money into improving a system that--at its most basic level--already works well. In short, we will not see big improvements in space technology from NASA until we see big
    • Re:Go Space Program! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grozzie2 (698656) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @04:13AM (#7135971)
      Maybe this is that eight-year old Trekkie in me, but I really believe we need another space race.

      There's 2 factors that come into play, economics, and political will. Political will is generated by 'the masses', and the economics are generated by political will. The 60's were a wonderful time to grow up as a young boy interested in science and exploration. As a pre-teen i watched the first landing on the moon live, on a black and white tv. Even then, I knew, I was watching one of those historical moments that happens but once in a century.

      The environment of the space race in the 60's was brought on by a political will to make it happen. The entire country was focussed on the space program as a point of national pride. It wasn't there to be efficient, it wasn't there to be 'cost justified', it was there so folks could watch with pride, wave the flag, and say 'we are the best'. It worked, and worked well, the focus of the entire country was on research, development, and 'do the impossible'. Nasa was the fledgling young organization tasked with 'do the impossible', and they did it with tremendous pride.

      The political will does not exist today. The politics of today are focussed on military expenditures, and doing whatever it takes to contue justifying the existence of the military industrial complex. During the cold war, this wasn't to difficult, the percieved threat was real enough that everybody 'bought in', and life went on happily. Nasa got shovelled aside to play with shuttles, while the real expenditures went into the military.

      Today, the achievements of Nasa are viewed by most as 'just a money pit' for tax dollars. National pride is focussed on the military invasions overseas. It will take time, but that tide will shift once again. Folks are already tired of hearing about body counts, and little things like 'we need another 87 billion dollars to keep this up'. it would have been easy to keep the momentum in this area, but, the politicians are finding, they have been called up on statements, and, cant back them with enough facts to convince folks anymore. The population is rapidly losing the political will to continue feeding the military industrial complex now that the price is measured in bodies as well as dollars.

      Achievements in space have always been a big point of national pride in the USA, but it's something that is kind of taken for granted today, most americans believe that the USA is still the leader in space development and exploration, and this is something that goes without question, is taken for granted. But, one has to look at a few facts, to check this out carefully, the assumption is no longer valid.

      As it sits today, the american space program consists of sending american astronauts to an international space station, riding up and down on soviet hardware. That's not much of a 'leadership' role. Now, look around, the Europeans are flight testing the next generation in space propulsion that is required to do longer range missions. The Chinese are launching rockets on a regular basis, and will have a manned mission in orbit before the year is out. They have a stated goal to reach the moon with a manned mission, while the european flight test hardware is already on it's way to the moon, to validate the new concepts in propulsion.

      The ducks are starting to line up for a major shift in the cards of political will. Joe average on the street doesn't even realize that the Chinese are going to be launching people into space imminently. When it happens, it's going to be a wake up call to todays generation, similar to what sputnik was to mine. I dont believe Joe Average is willing to conceed the leadership as a space exploration nation, it's far to big a point of national pride.

      It isn't going to happen for 2004, but, the ducks are lining up to create a groundswell of support for a 2008 campaign, one that is prepared to de-emphasize military conquest, and re-emphasize scientific achievement.

      Then again, I could

      • Re:Go Space Program! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sql*kitten (1359) *
        The politics of today are focussed on military expenditures, and doing whatever it takes to contue justifying the existence of the military industrial complex.

        You are forgetting where all the dollars spent on the space race actually went: into the so-called "military industrial complex". Saying that politics today is all about that is missing the point; the politics of the 1960s were all about that too!

        The finish line is a permanent installation on the moon, and a year or two from now, we'll find out if
      • The politics of today are focussed on military expenditures...

        Don't forget that universal healthcare might be on the horizon. I can't wait to wait for three hours to get a check-up by a civil servant with guaranteed job security and a pension who says I don't qualify for treatment XYZ because I don't fit the racial or economic profile alloted by Congress.

        Wheeeeeee...thud.
    • Let's see if we can dump some of that massive defense budget and sink that cash into a more active space program.

      Social security is a much larger slice of the pie that could be better spent on technology development. Regardless, it is getting to the time where the private sector can take over. I think Rutan's X-Prize entry is an example of how entrepeneurs can take us forward.
  • Free Link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Google Link [nytimes.com]
  • Here [nytimes.com]
  • by thedillybar (677116) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:46PM (#7135700)
    I think it's great that NASA can recover so quickly from such a tragic incident. I think it's very important that they launch another shuttle to show the public they're still hanging around.

    However, I think the CAIB Report [streamos.com] released in August raises some very interesting points that need to be addressed (if they haven't already been). It mostly discusses long-term issues that will only be solved over the long term.

    The last thing NASA wants to do is jump into anything to quickly. Let's face it: one more accident resulting in injury/death will destroy NASA's reputions for many, many years to come. Maybe they should elect to take some years off now, watching out for their own future? Let's just hope they've got 100 people thinking about this...and everyone else actually listening to them this time...
  • by shams42 (562402) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:47PM (#7135701)
    A more detailed version of the article [nytimes.com] can be found at the NY Times site. According to this article, the restrictions imposed by the new safety regulations constrain the shuttle to daylight launches, where adequate ascent video can be obtained. This unfortunately results in am extremely limited number of launch windows to reach the ISS. (It seems that there are only 4 between September 2004 and March 2005, and two of these are very narrow.)

    Now I certainly want the thing to be as safe as possible, but is anyone else think that the level of acceptable risk has gotten too small? We should make the shuttle as safe as possible, but we shouldn't do this by compromising the shuttle's ability to fulfill its mission. Remember, we now have a space station up there that is going to need lots of maintenance, supplies, and fresh crews if it is going to be able to carry out any of the science work that are ostensibly the reason for its existence. Albatross or windfall, we put the thing up there, now we have to take care of it -- otherwise we've wasted a lot of money and political capital.
  • by coolmacdude (640605) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:48PM (#7135704) Homepage Journal
    I'll also guarantee you that we're getting an awful lot smarter about this and we're going to come back stronger and safer as a result.

    The same kind of stuff was said after Challenger. Then over the years everyone got complacent again and reverted to the old attitude. Maybe they've learned that lesson now and won't make the same mistake three times. It remains to be seen though.
  • safer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mOoZik (698544) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:48PM (#7135707) Homepage
    C'mon now. The shuttles can't be safer because it takes a disaster for a potential problem to come to light. Challanger blew up. Columbia blew up. What's to keep from Atlantis or Enterprise from blowing up? I think they are fundamentally flawed and just making changes to them as disasters happen is a poor way of going about it. NASA needs to re-evaluate the way it conducts research and development and start from scratch.
  • by Omega037 (712939) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:50PM (#7135712) Homepage
    I think there needs to be a lot more changes at NASA than just shuttle design before they try to go back to space. Repeated failures seems to be the norm for this agency, and the Columbia disaster, while tragic, should not have been that surprising. I feel the problem isn't jsut the technology, but the organization behind the program.

    My best friend's father is actually an engineer at NASA and I would sometimes talk with him about some of the problems there. He said NASA has become too bureaucratic and that the management barely communicates with the engineers or with other managers. He also said that NASA was lacking an atmosphere where innovation would be welcomed and that there was no big goals for them to strive for.

    I personally think that NASA either needs to completely recreate itself or it should be replaced with a new organization altogether.
    • Flamebate follows. Mod me down, I don't care anymore.

      He said NASA has become too bureaucratic and that the management barely communicates with the engineers or with other managers.

      Well, there's a shock. Imagine that, a government buracracy, with management problems. Say it isn't so, Pa.

      Would we be happy with government made shoes? How about if the government went and made cars. Would you want to ride in D.C. engineering? Why is it that most rational beings agree that when you want a good product,
      • by sgage (109086) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @08:10AM (#7136363)
        Regarding private industry and space:

        First of all, private industry has been building the space program hardware all along. And they profit from it. Their customer is NASA.

        Developing man-rated space hardware is hideously expensive, which is why governments foot the bill. Just like governments foot the bill for building bridges and roads and such. A space program is not like making cars or some other consumer item. It's more like public works.

        Space travel is difficult, and the profit from going there is hard to see. If there is any, it will be long-term and after a huge investment. That's why you don't see private corporations avidly going after space programs on their own. As far as I know, nothing is stopping them, other than the fact that there's no good business reason to go there.

        Other than commercial satellite launches, wherein private corporation make profits from employing technology derived from years of research and development funded largely by public money.

        The idea that all we need to do is "get some profit motive in there" sort of ignores the fact that there is no profit to put there! At least not the kind of profit that shows up within the planning horizons of most any corporation on Earth. How do you propose to get some profit motive in there?

        I'm not defending NASA - there are real flaws in the culture there. But invoking the idea that "private enterprise" as some sort of magic incantation that is going to solve every problem is a bit over the top.
  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:52PM (#7135721)
    How many problems with the shuttle can we really hope to fix?

    When the shuttle launches again, the current problems will still remain:

    - There is still no viable crew escape system. During launch you theoretically have a chance to abort as long as the emergency doesn't involve the SRBs. In reality though, there is not much you can do. A mid-launch abort is more of a fantasy concocted to make astronauts and the public feel better. Once you're in space, hope that you can either get to the ISS (assuming all your navigational and propulsion systems are working properly), or that there is another shuttle almost ready to go...and you manage to survive the shuttle-to-shuttle transfer.

    - Repairing the shuttle is still pretty iffy. NASA developed a substance that can be injected into small breaches in many parts of the shuttle to ensure the craft survives re-entry. Note I said *some* parts. The repair does not work on leading edge of the wing and you couldn't really hope to fix it in orbit even if you happened to have just the right spare part with you. (which is unlikely in of itself)

    Repairing the shuttle can actually inflict more harm on the craft. There is a good chance anyone going over the side to look at the heat tiles will actually damage more in the course of the repair.

    - The launch systems....mainly the SRBs are still horribly broken technologies that are absolutely not fault-tolerant whatsoever. Hundreds of things usually go wrong with the shuttle during the course of a mission. Little things here and there. If something goes wrong with the SRBs, you will probably die.
    • There is a good chance anyone going over the side to look at the heat tiles will actually damage more in the course of the repair.

      That would be the case if an untrained spaceperson does that (like those on Columbia). However it is trivial now to establish means for safe inspection, and all astronauts can be trained to use them.

      I don't work for NASA, but even I can think of soft rubber shoes and gloves that would allow you to touch the surface w/o damaging it. The spaceman would be weightless, so no stat

      • However it is trivial now to establish means for safe inspection

        I know this is /. home of the bland statement but come on. This is space we are talking about, not your garage. Nothing is trivial. If it was we would all have our own orbiters and I would be abducting Venusian women. Inspection is not easy and repairing any damage is considerably more than your average stroll in the park. Procedures must be designed and verified. Tooling must be designed and built to carry out repairs. The Austronauts mus
        • If it was we would all have our own orbiters and I would be abducting Venusian women.

          Come on, abductions are not politically correct any more; don't give the Venus government the chance to blame Earth again :-)

          Anyways, it is most definitely understood that anything involving space is a little bit more difficult than eating a pretzel. In this context (which is presumed to be blatantly obvious to /. readers) it _is_ trivial to equip an astronaut with soft gloves, compared to the much less trivial matter o

          • One of the return to flight requirements is that NASA develop an "extension" to attach to the end of the RMS (robot arm) that can be used to inspect otherwise not viewable / inaccessable areas of the orbiter.

            Spaceflight now (http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts114/031 0 03target/) indicates that there are multiple technical goals for the first return to flight mission: "Mission STS-114, currently assigned to the shuttle Atlantis, will include a robot arm extension and sensors to look for damage to

          • Anyways, it is most definitely understood that anything involving space is a little bit more difficult than eating a pretzel. In this context (which is presumed to be blatantly obvious to /. readers) it _is_ trivial to equip an astronaut with soft gloves, compared to the much less trivial matter of launching him to the orbit in first place.

            Several points here. First, soft gloves aren't sufficient for handling tiles in bulky spacesuits, these things are too delicate for that. Ie, astronauts shouldn't be

  • by YahoKa (577942) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:57PM (#7135739)
    Really, it shouldn't be a huge deal. We're launching ourselves into space and we expect it go problem free? Ok, no matter how great you are you'll make mistakes, people will die & money is lost. It happens, but it's not a good reason to stop doing it (although there may bemany other good reasons.) There are probably more people who die of starvation each minute than have ever died related to accidents in spacecraft (and the people in the spacecraft knowingly take a risk.) We probably spend as much on porn as we do in space research. So what's the big deal?
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @11:59PM (#7135747)
    ...And penguins will fly!

    [Looks at a model of the space shuttle, thinks of what animal the shuttle most closely resembles.]

    Um... never mind.

    Ryan Fenton
  • Good ol' Nasa (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Streiff (34269) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @12:00AM (#7135749)
    I can't wait to see what happens to Nasa if China starts a new space race.
    • Re:Good ol' Nasa (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tftp (111690)
      Probably nothing will happen. NASA, that young sprinter of 70's, now looks like old Sumo wrestler, and is as agile as a snail. If China challenges NASA, it will take years for the bureaucracy to even comprehend the challenge!

      As matter of fact, China already announced its intentions - to fly to the Moon and beyond. What transpired at NASA? You guessed it. Nothing. As if China does not exist.

      On the other hand, NASA does not have resources to do anything even if the challenge is valid and immediate. Imagi

      • Well, it's one thing to "announce intentions", and another - to actually fly somewhere. There's substantial amount of science and "know how" involved and terrifying number of trial and error experiments must be performed to actually make their dreams a reality.

        Right now they only have "intentions" and NASA is absolutely correct in not reacting to them. NASA has proven time after time they can fly whatever wherever given the right financial resources and prioritization of goals. Will they prove this again?
      • It is even cut off of space at the moment, and its best chance to launch anyone would be ... in a Chinese capsule :-)

        I for one welcome the prospect of going to sleep by the light of a Communist moon. :) Seriously, though - it's the only way we'd ever get people interested enough to do more than keep NASA barely on life support.

      • As matter of fact, China already announced its intentions - to fly to the Moon and beyond. What transpired at NASA? You guessed it. Nothing.

        What if China announces the moon sovereign territory? Or has an international treaty already covered this?
  • by melted (227442) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @03:00AM (#7135819) Homepage
    And that's their main problem. In order for something to work reliably this something MUST be simple.

    USSR had a superior shuttle program, "Buran" which got cancelled because of three simple reasons:
    1. It was way more expensive than rocket-based space launches (which kinda defeated the purpose of having a reusable spacecraft).
    2. It was less reliable than rocket-based stuff.
    3. Russians had proven they can build a better shuttle than Americans (Russian shuttle flew its first flight unmanned and landed all by itself) which back then was a big thing.

    Here's more info on Buran: http://www.buran.ru/htm/molniya5.htm
    • by RedWizzard (192002) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @04:26AM (#7135998)
      Buran was technically superior, mostly since the Russians got to see the US' attempt with the Space Shuttle before they designed their own.
      USSR had a superior shuttle program, "Buran" which got cancelled because of three simple reasons
      Your reasons are wrong. Buran was launched via a rocket-based system (Energia). It is essentially just one type of payload for the Energia system. It did not have significant expensive/reliability disadvantages compared to other rocket-based systems. Buran was cancelled because there was no clear, compelling role for the vehicle, and with the breakup of the USSR there was no money available to continue the project without a very strong reason.
      • Energia was the most expensive booster ever built by Russians (if the same thing was built by NASA it would be the most expensive booster ever built). Boosters required to propel equivalent payloads via more traditional technologies were almost an order of magnitude cheaper and did not require an insane number of subcontractors to build parts (Energia/Buran as far as I know required more than a thousand subcontractors).

        At one launch per year (which was a tentative plan) it did not make financial sense to k
        • Energia is estimated to have cost $764M (in 1985 USD) per launch. Comparatively the Saturn V D cost $736M, and the N1 cost $604M. The cost of Energia was high, but not unusually so given it's 100,000kg payload to a 200km orbit. In terms of development cost Energia-Buran totalled some 16B roubles. I believe that was significantly less than the cost of the shuttle program (which was itself something like a quarter of the cost of the Apollo program).

          Boosters required to propel equivalent payloads via more t

          • You can not compare Rubles and dollars here. Considering that back then Russians spent about 10 times less on their multiple space programs than americans, $764M is a heck of a lot more than was economically reasonable.

            American space (and military) programs have historically been orders of magnitude more expensive than Russian ones. If we're talking equal prices, for Russians this meant exorbitant costs sucking in the entire space budget.

            The high cost of Energia wasnt caused as much by technologies used (
            • You can not compare Rubles and dollars here. Considering that back then Russians spent about 10 times less on their multiple space programs than americans, $764M is a heck of a lot more than was economically reasonable.

              In the mid eighties Russia was making something like 10 times as many launches as the US (see the graph here [fas.org]), and had accumulated 3 times as much manned time in space. NASA's budget in 1985 was about USD 7B. There is no way Russia was making 10 times the launches on a tenth of NASA's bu

      • >> Buran was technically superior, mostly since the Russians
        >> got to see the US' attempt with the Space Shuttle
        >> before they designed their own.

        FYI, that's also why MiG and SU fighters are superior to their american counterparts. They started out as carbon copies but were then improved a lot, because American stuff in its original form didn't cut the mustard.

        The newer MiGs and SUs are another story. I've seen an American military pilot's jaw drop when I showed him a video of SU-30 doin
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @03:45AM (#7135921) Homepage Journal
    "If a chance of failure of one element in the device is one to billion, in a device with a billion components something HAS TO fail."

    KISS, the more complex it is, the more it will cost. Reentry and horizontal landing cost fortune in development cost, fuel, payload capacity and quite a few other domains. Carrying all the life support space and devices on flights that could be perfectly performed by unmanned devices is plain stupid.
    • "If a chance of failure of one element in the device is one to billion, in a device with a billion components something HAS TO fail."

      Reminds me of the improbability drive (in HHGG); with an improbability drive, even the most improbable things are very likely to happen as soon you turn it on. (or something to that effect).
  • by steveha (103154) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @03:46AM (#7135924) Homepage
    Individuals inside NASA may be genuinely smart and caring, but NASA as an organization is a horrible morass of red tape. Nothing important will change. They will slap a bandage over the Shuttle's current problems and that will be that.

    The Shuttle is only about 99% reliable. In other words, if you fly it 100 times it is pretty much certain to have a fatal failure. We have two Shuttle orbiters left; that's about 200 flights we have left. Maybe less.

    My suggestions:

    Make sure anyone who flies on the Shuttle is a volunteer. You will get volunteers who want to be in space so badly they are willing to risk a 1% chance of death, so that's okay.

    Immediately start finding ways to ship people and supplies to the Space Station without using the Shuttle. Never again use the Shuttle for any mission that could be done by, say, a Russian rocket.

    Immediately offer a large, tax-free, cash prize for the first company to put 1000 kilograms in the same orbit as the Space Station, and then do it again within three weeks. Offer another, almost as large prize for the second company to do this. Also offer contracts for delivery of supplies and people to the Space Station.
    Something everyone needs to realize: there is no amount of money that anyone could spend that will buy another Shuttle orbiter. They are done. There are two left in the world, and that's all. When those two explode or whatever, there will be none left.

    Something else everyone needs to realize: NASA is incapable, as an organization, of building any reasonable system for going to space. If we let NASA build a "Shuttle II", they will first spend billions of dollars, hire many people, and conduct many studies and write many documents. Perhaps even, someday, some hardware might fly. That hardware will be a haywire monstrosity almost as bad as the current Shuttle. Conclusion: don't give any additional money to NASA, and don't ask NASA to design any new spacecraft.

    steveha

    • Aren't there three shuttle orbiters left? I count Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour in the current fleet, with Challenger and Columbia destroyed and Enterprise never made spaceworthy.
    • by sql*kitten (1359) *
      Immediately start finding ways to ship people and supplies to the Space Station without using the Shuttle. Never again use the Shuttle for any mission that could be done by, say, a Russian rocket.

      You know, the original plan for the ISS was to assemble the whole thing on Earth in a collapsible form, strap it to the back of a shuttle booster in place of the shuttle itself and launch the whole thing in one go, unmanned. NASA's engineers thought this was a good idea, Lockheed-Martin's engineers thought this w
    • "The Shuttle is only about 99% reliable. In other words, if you fly it 100 times it is pretty much certain to have a fatal failure."

      I liked reading your posting, but I'm pretty glad you were not the one teaching me statistics.

      This is almost like saying that you are pretty much certain to get a six by throwing the dice six times.

      --
      Gaute
      • What, "pretty much" isn't enough handwaving in front of "certain"? I never said it is impossible to fly more than 100 times. I'm aware that you can throw a die six times without seeing a six, flip a coin twice without it landing heads, etc. Would you have preferred "the estimated probability becomes 1"? Would "extremely likely" have made you happier than "pretty much certain"?

        If I were teaching statistics I should be very careful how I phrase things -- more careful than in a Slashdot discussion about t
  • Good to see them get going again.

    I look forward to seeing what they come up with for a replacement. The suttle design has worked out fairly well as a low earth orbit vehicle. If they can work out the catastrophic bugs, the next generation should be impressive.

    I think we need to get back to the moon and create vehicles that are appropriate for moon travel. The where further inovation will gestate.
    • If they can work out the catastrophic bugs

      That's the easy part: fire those inept managers that refuse the photo opportunity (Lynda Ham (sp?) in particular seems to be the culprit here, according to the CAIB report)
  • by BillsPetMonkey (654200) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @05:02AM (#7136047)
    a shuttle (possibly Atlantis) could fly again next fall.

    "Fall" is a comment on the reliability of the shuttle program, or the US for Autumn?
    • So in what country does "grammar" mean "lexicon?" :P

      Shouldn't that be "I hope this is from the US lexicon?" or something along those lines?

      But, yes, pairing "next fall" with "shuttle launch" would seem to be... well, wrong.

  • A sick joke... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nicodemus05 (688301) <nicodemus05@hotmail.com> on Sunday October 05, 2003 @05:22AM (#7136074)
    On July 28 a CNN.com Article posed the question, "Should we send a manned mission to Mars?",and gets the answer,

    "We can go there after all the things wrong on Earth are fixed," said Betty Collatrella, a retiree from Caldwell, New Jersey. "I'm totally against any of it. It's a total waste of money we need for our kids, for illnesses, could put somebody's kids through college, could cure so many diseases."

    And why don't we cure injustice and human suffering first as well? Bleh. We have heard those arguments for decades, but they scare the ever living hell out of me... What's the good of sending kids to college if we stagnate here doing nothing? What good is one more .com founding MBA if the taxes they pay aren't going towards something other than money for more kids to go to college and start more .coms?

    Enthusiasm for the program of space exploration was greater among younger adults, those with more education and those with higher incomes. Whites were more likely than blacks and men were more likely than women to think the shuttle should continue to fly.

    Let's all just stay home and knit sweaters. Liberal women and their damn social welfare concerns.

    More than half, 56 percent, said they believe civilians should be allowed to participate in shuttle missions, while 38 percent said they should not.

    This makes no sense to me... Should we send soldiers off into space against their will, or should we ask for volunteers? I think astronauts understand the risks involved pretty well. This article concerns me because the polls show ignorance and lack of ambition. There are also priceless lines like this:

    "I think it's all bogus," said Claudette Davidson of Jonesboro, Georgia, who does accounting work for physicians. "I just do not believe they've gone to the moon. I saw Capricorn One," she said, referring to a 1978 movie that featured O.J. Simpson and included a faked trip to Mars. "That did it for me."

    My head was about to explode after reading that.

    Well, Claudette, do you believe in alien abductions? Maybe the extensive education necessary to perform your job doing 'accounting work for physicians' gives you a unique insight into the veracity of the government's claims regarding the space program. I've got to say, though, that I've seen Catch Me if You Can, and I feel fairly certain that your employer is not only a con artist, but that he is in fact Leonardo DiCaprio.

    It's too bad that people like Claudette get to vote.

    So the government isn't going to get us to Mars as long as people like Claudette and Betty have any choice in the matter. What we need is a private venture to take us there(see the X Prize) or a good scare provided by the Chinese (see the 100 Day Countdown until China puts a man in space, which may or may not be on hold or on target, I haven't checked) to jumpstart the government program. China is already talking of a moon base. Would that be enough to wake the government up?

    Probably not. Claudette wouldn't believe that they had actually gotten there.

    • We can go there after all the things wrong on Earth are fixed," said Betty Collatrella, a retiree from Caldwell, New Jersey.

      Yea, right - find a person who has no clue about anything, and ask her "a question of cosmic proportions", to cite Prof. Preobrazhensky [lib.ru]... I bet she also has a fully formed opinion about usefulness of synchrotrons, and is ready to advise humanity on how useless tensors [wolfram.com] are (since she can't buy them at Wal-Mart.)

      These people are flatlanders - always were, and always will be. People

    • Earth-bound R&D has a much greater chance of paying out to humanity now than anything done on the shuttle or ISS. The space program has not paid off in terms of R&D in quite some time - how could it when the program itself is using such outdated technology?

      Nanotech. Quantum computing. Genomics. Protein research. All of which stand to pay out much higher dividends for humanity and frankly have nothing to do with space research. All manned spaceflight has really taught us is that space is inherently t

      • Shows your total ignorance. Most of the research done on the ISS is of what you describe in the second paragraph.
        For example, microgravity is useful in growing crystals for computing (allows extremely large samples of perfectly aligned atoms), and protein research (allows for protein folding that can't be done on earth because of gravity))
        Research before you post !
    • Re:A sick joke... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333)
      "We can go there after all the things wrong on Earth are fixed," said Betty Collatrella, a retiree from Caldwell, New Jersey.

      Betty hasn't heard about our sun [cornell.edu]. And yes, that means I believe we'll never solve every problem everybody has on Earth to the satisfaction of everybody. Until that condition is fulfilled, Betty's argument stands.

      I think J. Michael Straczynski said it best:

      Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you'll get ten different answers, but the

  • by panurge (573432) on Sunday October 05, 2003 @06:11AM (#7136134)
    I guess the European equivalent of the Shuttle program was the Anglo-French Concord(e) aircraft. Loads of national pride involved, and basically no-one liking to admit that it was fast but cramped, low payload, expensive to maintain and never covered development costs (the weasel expression "operating profit" was a giveaway.)

    Just as with the Shuttle, a fatal (and much more lethal -113 people were killed) crash occurred as the result of a known weakness - easy projectile rupturing of fuel tanks.

    Despite attempts to bring it back, the thing is finally going out of service. It's old technology, and it is always expensive to maintain small volume old technologies. Of course, there is no replacement supersonic passenger air travel. But it hardly matters. Long haul flight is now cheaper and more fuel efficient than ever before for "normal" passengers, and the thing that did not exist when Concorde was first built - efficient video conferencing and around the world networking - is now commonplace for urgent communications.

    I think the analogy is worth pushing. Why is the Shuttle needed? The Russians have shown that bread and butter manned flight can be done relatively cheaply and more reliably with non-reusable rockets. The things that didn't exist when the Shuttle was first launched - really sophisticated, small robotics systems - are now commonplace.Eyes, ears and other sensors can be put on other solar system bodies using increasingly sophisticated remote robots. The development of miniaturised electronics and ion drives gives the enabling technologies for really interesting long range missions that would not be possible in manned versions for many years to come. So why keep the Shuttle flying at vast expense rather than do something new? Inertia?

    • is far more inspiring to future generations of scientists and engineers than moving people faster than sound across the atlantic.
    • The Russians have shown that bread and butter manned flight can be done relatively cheaply and more reliably with non-reusable rockets.

      More cheaply, yes, kinda. For your lowered price you also get vastly lowered capacity. (You are comparing the cost of 747 to a Piper Cub, but ignoring the difference in capability and flexibility.)

      More reliably? If anything, the Soyuz is *less* reliable than the Shuttle. The Shuttle has two LOCV (loss of crew and vehicle) incidents and one partial mission loss in 113

      • by rebelcool (247749)
        the new and 'improved' soyuz landed several hundred miles off target.

        Amusingly, all soyuz capsules come with sawed off shotguns. Why? The russians had problems with them going off course and landing in the woods and one crew found itself staring down hungry wolves while they waited for a rescue team.

  • after seeing a bbc horizon television report [abc.net.au] on shuttle design flaws ... spam in a can [lewrockwell.com].
  • So after a perfuctory review, NASA will be back flying the same shuttles with the same safety procedures with the same goals. All of which are outdated and outmoded.

    NASA will go back to building the ISS - aside from Star Wars in the 80s, the largest transfer of public money to a military contractor in history. Who knows, maybe missile defense will end up being a bigger boondoggle, but right now ISS is the white elephant to beat. Just what is NASA doing up there? The crew has only one job really - janitor/su

  • Will we ever hear Birdsong in space?

    [Birdsong = Fuglesang = family name of Scandinavian astronaut whose space trip has been postponed three times for various reasons]
  • Did anyone expect NASA to remain without manned transport until a new machine was designed, tested, and built?

    That would take years... and they certainly don't want to rely on Russia (or anyone) for that long.

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.

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