Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Age of Space Exploration

Comments Filter:
  • by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:02AM (#8702091) Homepage Journal
    ...then hurry up before it's completely terraformed [slashdot.org]!
  • by turnstyle (588788) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:04AM (#8702104) Homepage
    I, for one, would prefer more robotics and AI, and less "people in space" for the time being.
    • by turnstyle (588788) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:36AM (#8702254) Homepage
      Let me explain a bit more...

      Bush's call for a manned mission to Mars is mostly a publicity stunt. And since the PR polling that followed his announcement indicated luke-warm support, you'll not be hearing make too much more noise on the subject.

      Personally, I don't see such a need to send people into space, apart from the admittedly spectacular gee-whiz factor.

      I've been amazed at what the Mars rovers have been doing, for months, on their own, and I also think that the application of robotics and AI "in the field" will wind up having practical uses back home.

      All the "people in space" talk also winds up at odds (for share of a limited budget) with the "real" science that is trying to figure out the nature of the physical universe.

      • "I've been amazed at what the Mars rovers have been doing, for months, on their own."

        But they are not on thier own.

        They are controlled from California and what one of them has done in 3 months could have been accomplished in a matter of hours by a human.

        Walk out, grab rocks, take rocks back to lab module, walk out, grab rocks.

        On Apollo 17 the Astronauts were able to walk around in locations much too rough for a rover to move.

        • "They are controlled from California and what one of them has done in 3 months could have been accomplished in a matter of hours by a human."

          Don't forget that the Mars rovers self-navigate with the help of 3D terrain maps that they build with their stereoscopic vision, and can travel unguided over considerable distances, and that's a big plus given the amount of time that it takes to transfer information between Earth and Mars.

          Obviously people can still do lots of things better than robots, but the rob

        • On Apollo 17 the Astronauts were able to walk around in locations much too rough for a rover to move.

          It's highly unlikely that an unmanned rover would have discovered the "fire beads" that Schmidt found in Shorty crater.
      • There are many reasons for a call to have manned missions to the moon and mars. Ever since we got to the moon (and eventually stopped), the US as a country doesn't have a common goal to set forth on. We did in the 60's. That's one of the few things that I will praise JFK for. Plus, there are massive inventions that took place then. A lot you enjoy still today (microwave oven, computers, et al). While sending up rovers to do the work is not a bad idea, it isn't the same as sending actual astronauts. B
      • Its true that Bushs plan is about self-promotion but if we can acheieve low-cost space access, then all sorts of things become possible/worthwhile/economic to do, manned and unmanned. Smaller military budgets and bigger space ones would be a start too..
    • by Channard (693317) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:41AM (#8702285) Journal
      I, for one, would prefer more robotics and AI, and less "people in space" for the time being.

      And I, for one, would prefer to see more the money spent - or some of it at least - on deep sea exploration. Perhaps we could compromise and have the depths probed by giant robot squid?

      • "And I, for one, would prefer to see more the money spent - or some of it at least - on deep sea exploration."

        Excellent point.

        It's amazing how little of the Oceans have been cloesly explored, and there is presumably a lot of potential medicine (and perhaps materials) to be discovered... oh yeah, and great bug-eyed monsters too...

        • Just what kind of materials? And how do you plan on bringing them back up to the surface at a reasonable cost?

          Sure, you could attach big inflatable balloons to chunks of these materials, but I still fail to see what kind of new materials we're going to see underwater.
          • "Just what kind of materials?"

            I can imagine all sorts of stuff -- mostly assorted chemical byproducts of living organisms that woldn't necessarily be used for medicinal purposes -- a few quick examples include glow in the dark chemicals, glues, anti-freezes, and so on.

          • Well, for one, it's easier than getting stuff back from Mars. Also, something like 80-90% of the world's hydrocarbon reserves are locked up in methane clathrates deposits at the bottom of the ocean along with massive quantities of precious metal-rich nodules. There's also entire branches of life that we haven't even begun to study that can give lots of insight into our own evolution and the history of this planet.

            Basically most of the stuff we are going to do on Mars is similar to what we'll get from the
    • ... and I, for one, would prefer to see a little more NASA money spent on protecting the Earth from being hit by big rocks. It may not be fun, but it sure could have a big payoff in the long run. I wouldn't want to be under the next Shoemaker-Levy.

  • by FTL (112112) * <slashdot@NOSpam.neil.fraser.name> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:05AM (#8702107) Homepage
    To illustrate how quickly things can change in the field of planetary exploration, the details for the 'Messenger' probe to Mercury are already out of date. Liftoff has been postponed [spaceflightnow.com] from May to July, and it will take a different route to get to Mercury. It won't get there until 2011.

    The list only includes NASA, ESA and JAXA. Completely missing are the upcoming probes from China [interfax.com] and India [newindpress.com]. Oddly, Russia doesn't seem to have anything planned.

  • A bit optimistic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyperherod (574576) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:12AM (#8702140)
    Mars Science Laboratory: Still in its planning phase, this mission would establish a long-term roving laboratory on Mars dedicated to studying the planet's environment and composition. The launch could take place as early as 2009.

    I know it states that's the earliest date, but doesn't that seem a bit too optimistic? 2009 isn't that far away, and if it's a 'long-term roving laboratory' I'd imagine it would take longer than five years to set up - and just how long is long-term, anyway?

    • Re:A bit optimistic (Score:3, Interesting)

      by johnjay (230559)
      If they design it right, all they need to design thoroughly are "long term" and "roving". The lab could be relatively simple at first. They can send more and better lab modules later. The rover would just go to the landing site, swap modules and continue on it's work.

      "Long term rover" seems do-able today. Use the currentrover's platform and convert it to nuclear power.

      (The thing that continually impresses me about the rover missions is that, regardless of how much great science the current rovers are
      • If I ran the world NASA would have Mars-Rovers coming out of factories and firing those things over to Mars twice a month. Every state university in the country would have its own rover it could order around.

        "Battlebots: Mars" anyone?
      • If I ran the world NASA would have Mars-Rovers coming out of factories and firing those things over to Mars twice a month.

        Sadly the launch window is only roughly every 18 months, at least if you want to use an efficient Hohmann transfer [marsacademy.com] orbit. Probes -could- be launched on less efficient orbits but the cost would be substantially higher and presumably the extra fuel load would mean less rover.

        Of course there's little reason not to send a dozen probes at every opportunity, you might have to expand the

    • Re:A bit optimistic (Score:5, Informative)

      by GileadGreene (539584) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:38AM (#8702748) Homepage
      Mars Exploration Rover (aka Spirit and Opportunity) managed to go from "approval to proceed" to launch in around 3 years (mid-2000 to mid-2003). And they built two of them. If MSL is already in the planning phase (actually it's been in the planning phase for a while now) then there's a reasonable chance that they could get something built within the 5 year timeframe suggested by a 2009 launch date. Hopefully with a little less stress on the project team than the MER team faced :-)

      I don't recall exactly what the intended mission duration of MSL is, but IIRC "long-term" counts as anything that is significantly longer than the 90 sol lifetime MER. My understanding is that MSL will be returning to using radio-isotope thermoelectric generators (rather than photovoltaic cells) as the primary power source for the rover - thus the long life compared to the curent set of rovers.

    • The thing that made Opportunity and Spirit short termed labratories is the solar power.

      From what I've read, they're going to use nuclear generators like Cassini used (and, for that matter, the Viking landers) to allow the rovers to work for potentially years on the surface.

      In that case, its just an evolutionary change from the current rover technology. 2009 doesn't seem at all farfetched, especially given how quickly the current rovers were developed.
  • Physics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dolo666 (195584)
    Let's face it, the use of rockets and pressure-based engines is why we can't really get to deep space yet. Until we find a really safe method for infinite travel (mass transfer) I have to agree that robotic probes are the way to go, until infinite travel is possible. Flying hulks of mass through space, and requiring that these ships support human life is the bottleneck for research. We don't need people anymore, whereas in the 60's we did.

    Soon we'll know all about the space around us, and maybe then we'll
    • by millahtime (710421) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:16AM (#8702155) Homepage Journal
      "Until we find a really safe method for infinite travel"

      Do I hear you proposing an open source warp engine project?????
    • "Infinite travel"? How do these things get modded insightful?

      • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Funny)

        by BDew (202321) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:56AM (#8702410)
        Because it's slashdot. Anything that says robots are better than humans gets modded up.
      • Thoughts (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dolo666 (195584)
        > "Infinite travel"? How do these things get modded insightful?

        Likely the same way gripes about moderation are modded as Troll.

        To clarify what I meant by Infinite travel, I will say that travelling through space is the problem; we are still very point-a-to-point-b in our logic. The correct method of space travel is likely developing a system that would enable us to find a coordinate and APPEAR there (kinda like Dune). That's what I meant by infinite space travel.... when you are going point-a-to-poin
        • Your arguement is flawed as already mentioned.

          As for you general idea that rocket based technology is not the way to go, WELL NO FUCKING SHIT.

          You won't find one single NASA engineer who thinks rockets are the way to get to another star system or anything like that. That's why they're working with things like ion propulsion and whatnot. Sure, it's no space/time warp thing, but the fact of the matter remains, we don't have the technology nor do we understand enough physics and how the universe works
      • "Never underestimate the power of Human stupidity"
        -- Robert A. Heinlein
    • Re:Physics (Score:3, Funny)

      by turgid (580780)
      Marvel Comics are rarely a good source of scientific education.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:13AM (#8702144) Homepage
    Scheduled for launch by NASA in August 2005, this orbiter will be equipped with what NASA calls the "most powerful camera ever flown on a planetary exploration mission." It will take extreme close-up images of Mars' surface.

    With Spirit and Opportunity practically shoving their lenses into the dirt, I'm not sure that "extreme close-up" is the best way to describe photos taken from orbit.

  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte&freenethelp,org> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:15AM (#8702152) Homepage Journal
    We all heard the reasoning for abolishing space-exploration (particulary human-based) before, and I think the major flaw in all these 'arguments' why we shouldn't go into space is that they always set economic factors as a premise.

    But, although economic viability is important to create a mass-usuage of space(travel), I fail to see why it should be the only possible motive to start exploring space. It's a pretty narrowminded, materialistic and typical capitalistic view on things. It's the same view that makes progress on medication for very rare diseases, or for diseases that are prevalent in continents that are poor, so slow: corporations can't see how they are ever going to get profit out of it, so they all turn their backs on it.

    If ppl (including states) are only going to do something when they are sure of an immediate profitable return, the world has become a sad place. (And we should leave it the sooner ;-)

    Arguments based on such a viewpoint fail to recognise other incentives apart from economical ones.

    The reason why we shouldn't (only) rely on robots? You can explore, but you can not colonise with robots. The will to explore is deeply entrenched in the human race, but with a reason: it has survival advantages.

    A species that doesn't colonise new territory and adapt, will perish. I think it's paramount that humans always keep their adventurage spirit and keep exploring and expanding, because the moment we will go "ah, let's sit back in our sofa's and let our robots/droids do it", we're basically finished, even when not being aware of it at that moment.
    • This makes me think of humanity-as-virus and the need to find fresh hosts to perpetuate the species. Could this 'will to explore' also be an instinctive trait within the viral forms we fight daily here within our own bodies? We consume natural resources and so far, NOT to the benefit of the host. Is this not the actions of a virus? Though I admit that to go to the stars has been a deep and obsessive wish of mine, I am also concerned about allowing such a dangerous life-form to escape the gravity-well. Being
      • not at all (Score:5, Insightful)

        by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte&freenethelp,org> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:55AM (#8702395) Homepage Journal
        The treat to conquer new grounds is not a tell-tale sign of a virus, but of life in general.

        And frankly, the exploration of earth (or its ecology) is hardly that of a virus killing it's host, though the ultra-greens may often portray it that way. Earths' ecology ALWAYS changes; species appear and dissapear, and those that are most suited (and have spread the most around the globe) have the most chance of surviving.

        The fact that a lot of current change is done by humans, may give it an air of artificiality, but to that idea I don't subscribe. Humans are still biological identies, and as such, need an ecology to survive in. 'Nature' or 'the world' does not care what particular ecology it sustains; as long as there is biological life, it exists, period.

        Your premise that being self-aware is not a reason to colonise the solar system and then the galaxy is based on...what? I would claim it DOES (though it would not excuse us from being responsable - to alien life - while colonising).

        If alien life is not omni-present on the planet, but only in small niches, I think it's worth considering to protect those niches, or create articial enclosures to preserve it - but still go on with the colonisation. Things would only be different if it's a planetwide alien ecology, or if there is alien sentient life involved.

        As for your argument that it does not benefit the host; allow me to contradict. The mere fact that we would colonise other planets and introduce earths' ecology there, would augment the chances of earths' 'nature' to survive...therefor, it would benefit from our actions.

        Infact, viewed from the point of 'Nature' (if it had a viewpoint, that is ;-), we, humans, could be seen as merely the spermcells of Earth, and are the means to propagate itself so that the galaxy will eventually contain myriads of earths.
      • I thought Neo destryoed you Agent Smith.

        That argument is just so damn lame.
    • We all heard the reasoning for abolishing space-exploration (particulary human-based) before, and I think the major flaw in all these 'arguments' why we shouldn't go into space is that they always set economic factors as a premise.

      I fully agree with you that the narrow focus on economic rationales for space programs, and well, pretty much anything else. Our lives - and our societies - are more than a pareto optimality with the end result prefaced by a dollar sign. The problem for policy makers is, amon
      • The problem for policy makers is, among other things, how do you spend money on grand space visions when social security is running out of money, public services have little money and millions of Americans are without primary healthcare?

        Space travel - even manned space travel - is not expensive. The Apollo missions cost a mere fraction of a percent of gross national product of the USA. Even a manned Mars mission would be inexpensive compared with defence spending. Its just a matter of priorities. If d
    • Upfront: I am against manned space flight at the current state of the art.

      Cost. Manned space missions are an order of magnitude more expensive than unmanned missions. This means that for the price of (God forbid) a manned space mission to Mars, ten or so smaller missions such as stated in the article could have been performed.

      Effectiveness. Manned space missions are not as effective as often thought. The extra weight that the Space Shuttle has to carry just to accommodate the astronauts in space already
      • of course not (Score:4, Insightful)

        by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte&freenethelp,org> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:55AM (#8702938) Homepage Journal
        We don't need the pyramids neither, nor all those great buildings and artworks, nor any luxery, etc.

        The only thing we 'need' is food and shelter.

        Based on what we truelly 'need' thus, we should go back living like cavemen.

        But ofcourse, we don't, and the reason is that we, as humans, look beyond our immediate needs and have (and should have) grander visions.

        What you say is what I already indicated: economics (and also the ratio of costs/science output) is less good with human spacetravel then robotic ones. Contrary to some zealots, I do not dispute that.

        But, as I have said, I do not think one should measure everything in terms of economic benefits. Even if you could send a hundred, or a thousand robots for the price of one human mission, it still would not change the fact that robots can't colonise planets, and augment the survival chances of the human race (and earths' ecology) through interplanetary spreading.
        • Re:of course not (Score:2, Insightful)

          by kipsate (314423)
          You talk about interplanetary spreading and the fact that robots can't colonize planets. You are implying that a single, very expensive manned Mars mission would be the first step into colonization and interplanetary spreading, and that they augment the survival chances of the human race.

          This really is hogwash. With what we know now, we can not terraform Mars, nor can we routinely transport many people from earth to Mars. Note that in my original post, I talked about the "current state of the art". In the
          • In the future, yes, who knows. But not now. Putting someone on Mars is not going to change that. It is not going to increase the survival chances of the human race one little bit.

            And how exactly will we advance the state of the art? It's not going to happen by itself, we need to work with what we have now if we want things to evolve. Or is there some magic point where you'll tell us "ok guys, technology is good enough, we can start sending people out to explore the universe now". Where is that point?
      • Cost: The question of cost is really one of how much value we place on knowledge and the possiblities that it could give us. That's, of course, if you go with the assumption that we'll get something valuable out of the whole scenario.

        Effectivness: Uhh, I might be able to plan a decent Mars mission, might being if I were trained and so forth, but to react to something unusual or to notice something "over there" and just go investigate, there's not a robot yet that can do these tasks.

        Danger: The only life
      • Danger. Why risk lives?

        This argument always annoys me. You risk your life every day when you step into your car (or, if you're not old enough to drive, a car or a bicycle). Judging from your nick you're from Holland, there were some quite deadly accidents in the news even today. Why do you take that risk? Because the benefits of your trip outweigh the risk, at least in your judgement.

        There are enough posts in this story that mention some of the benefits of human spaceflight. Factor in the as of yet unkno

    • There are also economic arguments toward going into space [cnn.com]. One which could have a significant effect is mining in space [permanent.com]. Although best done by automation due to long travel times, having heavy metals available in free space would allow more activities in space by humans. Even simple iron or steel would have many uses. The large amount of fissionables available from asteroid mining would certainly be a useful power source. Although just having water [ieee.org] would also be necessary.

      Humans need to get into spac

  • Interesting trends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spellraiser (764337) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:16AM (#8702156) Journal

    "The '80s were very dark for exploration," said Friedman. "We only started to see a resurgence in the '90s under (then NASA administrator) Dan Goldin."

    Friedman attributed the Reagan administration's focus on manned spaceflight as the primary reason for the lack of planetary missions in the 1980s.

    Interesting that this decade NASA seems to be focusing on both unmanned and manned [slashdot.org] missions.

    Let's just hope there will be funds available for all these plans; although I personally would sacrifice manned projects in favor of unmanned ones if it came to that. We have plenty of time later to take such bold strides - for one thing, we really need better methods for entering orbit than the current, wasteful method of simply burning loads and loads of fuel that has been practised since the inception of space flight. This would, of course, benefit unmanned missions as well, but in my view it is absolutely crucial for the viability of manned missions.

    • Friedman attributed the Reagan administration's focus on manned spaceflight as the primary reason for the lack of planetary missions in the 1980s.

      Friedman is taking a cheap shot at a president he didn't like. The 80s had few planetary missions because the paradigm that planetary science used then was to build huge, multi-billion dollar probes to the outer planets. This took up all the space science dollars. Oh, and that little thing called the Hubble was developed in the 80s.

      The emphasis now is on smal
  • by Mukaikubo (724906) <gtg430bNO@SPAMprism.gatech.edu> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:17AM (#8702162) Journal
    I really, really want to see a nuclear-powered orbiter studying the Jovian system for years on end...
  • Space... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paddyish (612430) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:19AM (#8702172)
    Not to be corny, (too late, I know) but it seems that the bright periods in human history are often during the full-scale exploration of a new frontier.

    I certainly hope that, despite the article's point that manned exploration takes away from true exploration, eventually this trend of new probes leads to more of a human presence beyond the pale blue dot. I want my kids / descendants to look across a huge expanse of space back at their home and think how strange it must have been to be limited to a single planet.

  • Right... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:23AM (#8702187) Homepage Journal
    And how many of these are going to actually go to completion?

    Funding, politics, it's all horrible.
    • And how many of these are going to actually go to completion?
      If we are not made aware of these missions, if we do not get excited about them, then funding will be easy to cut. Look at the possible reprieve that may be granted to the Hubble due to public outcry.

      So a few of them may be cut for funding/political reasons... The history of space exploration has always been one of starry-eyed optimism bruised by the unfortunate realities of politics and engineering limitations. Without the vision and the opt
  • They forgot that Jupiter mission in '01!
  • V'ger (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mick Ohrberg (744441) <mick,ohrberg&gmail,com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:32AM (#8702234) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if we'll ever see a Voyager 6...
    • Offtopic? Are the mods on Slashdot really that young?

      Man, go rent Star Trek, the movie. It came out in 1979. Watch the movie.

      Now, shouldn't a comment that makes reference to fictional space probe from a geek classic movie in a story about a flotilla of space probes being launched be considered at least a little relevant?

  • Solid State Age (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why does everyone always consider this the Space Age? When you look at the technology around you (heck, look at the technology you are looking AT right now) and it is all because of an advanced understanding of the solid state of matter.
    • Re:Solid State Age (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tmack (593755)
      Last I heard, we were in the middle of the information age. The Space Age started back when Sputnik was launched and ran through the 70s when the cold war was pushing the race to the moon etc... The information age then took over with microprocessor developement in the 70's, TCP/IP and fiber optics.

      Tm

  • (complete the punch line)

    Space. The final frontier ...
  • by MrIrwin (761231) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:41AM (#8702290) Journal
    In the "race to space" NASA put all it's efforts into putting a man on the moon, whilst the russians (with more modest resources) launched higher risk unmanned spacecraft and probably learnt more.

    They did not get a man to the moon but they did get thier explorer there, learnt that there was nothing much to learn there, and left it to the US to go and play golf.

    Now the US and ESA are into probes, learning more at low cost, but not able to send anybody into space.

    Ironically the russians, whilst lagging behind NASA and ESA in probes, are now the only ones able to reliably transport people.

    There is a lot more collaboration nowdays of course, but I still think a lot more is needed to get the right contrast between men and probes. Perhaps different agencies should take up different specialities.

    We now have a constant shower of probes on mars.....but whenever they **may** have found something interesting we are told that only a **manned** mission can really confirm the facts.

    Dare I say that perhaps the quickest and cheapest way to get a man to mars would be to pay the russians to do it?

    • by cosmo7 (325616) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:04AM (#8702476) Homepage
      This is so profoundly wrong. If the Russians didn't want to land men on the moon, why did they announce in 1962 that they intended to do just that?

      The Russians did not land men on the moon because their plans [astronautix.com] were politically hashed and once they had developed a vehicle it was too late.
    • The US learned a lot from space exploration in the 60s. Not, IMHO enough to justify the cost, but there was a lot learned. How to build big rockets for instance. Sure the Russians can get small payloads into space, but not big ones. They don't have rockets with the ability to get men and all their support gear to the moon and back. The Saturn V was a large rocket.

      • by MrIrwin (761231) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:26AM (#8702638) Journal
        I think the current state of the art is that the russians **do** have a mothballed but tested project that is up to manned lunar mission standards.

        They are also able to shuttle people back and forth between the ISS.

        NASA has managed to lose the plans to Saturn V, and has a space shuttle that is semi-retired long before a sccessor will be available.

        Meanwhile, back in Europe, they can launch lots of little payloads but have never been anywhere near manned mission like payload, and don't appear to have any interest in developing for manned missions.

        That's how I see it.....but I live in a country that has never made it's own spacerocket and has no national pride.

        • Wasn't that the project that used a billion engines which was begging for horrible failure? If I am remembering correctly, it's much more likely that it would of been a horrible death trap rather than a success story.
          • I was reffering to Energia [russianspaceweb.com] which was slightly more powerful than Saturn V but less payload (Russians have a bit of offset from the equator!), and it was succesfully launched.

            I think strictly it is considered a booster, anyway, see the link for the details.

            AFAIK, this was used to lift the Russian clone of the shuttle, but I think Glasnost put an end to that program.

        • NASA has managed to lose the plans to Saturn V

          This is an urban myth [faqs.org] which I would like to dispel.

          WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SATURN V PLANS
          Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, the Saturn V blueprints
          have not been lost. They are kept at Marshall Space Flight Center on
          microfilm. The Federal Archives in East Point, GA also has 2900 cubic
          feet of Saturn documents. Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of
          volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated
          in the late '60s to document every facet of F-1 and J-2 engine
          production to assist in any future re-start.
          The problem in re-creating the Saturn V is not finding the drawings, it
          is finding vendors who can supply mid-1960's vintage hardware (like
          guidance system components), and the fact that the launch pads and VAB
          have been converted to Space Shuttle use, so you have no place to launch
          from.
          By the time you redesign to accommodate available hardware and re-modify
          the launch pads, you may as well have started from scratch with a clean
          sheet design.
    • whenever [unmanned probes] **may** have found something interesting we are told that only a **manned** mission can really confirm the facts.

      We are told that by the same administrators who have to justify raping, pillaging, and plundering the budget for future unmanned space probes in order to divert funds barely adequate to conduct fig-leaf concept studies towards one anti-intellectual politician's "vision" that has more to do with his getting re-elected than any actual plans for space exploration. A *hu
    • They did not get a man to the moon but they did get thier explorer there, learnt that there was nothing much to learn there, and left it to the US to go and play golf.

      I just got done reading The Big Splat by Dana Andrews. The book is a history of human knowledge about the moon with a focus on the impact theory of the moon's origins. It highlights the fact that we really did not know much about what the moon was made of, until the Apollo missions recovered geologic specimens. What we learned from Apollo was a necessary prerequisite for all of the planetary science that followed.

    • by GileadGreene (539584) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:45AM (#8702802) Homepage
      You do realise that NASA launched a metric crapload of probes in the early days of the "space race", right? Things like Pioneer (of which there were several), and Mariner (of which there several). The Surveyor (IIRC) probe that the Apollo 12 mission deliberately landed near. Others I can't remember right now. To characterize the early US space program as focusing on manned missions only, is a gross distortion of the facts.
  • No Europa missions ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EpsCylonB (307640) <eps@NOspaM.epscylonb.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:42AM (#8702295) Homepage
    I was sure that I read something about NASA planning a probe to go and study europa but this list doesn't seem to mention it. Potentially this is one of the most interesting places in out solar system, it would be great to get some more infomation about it.

    Also it is nice to see a Venus mission, I personally think Venus is a much more interesting planet than mars. It would be cool for mars to attempt a venus rover despite the obvious challenges.
    • NASA planning a probe to go and study europa but this list doesn't seem to mention it.

      I couldn't RTFA (/.ed) but JIMO [nasa.gov] includes a study of Europa. Europa lander/driller/submarine missions such as this [klx.com] are in the early conceptual stages.

      would be cool for mars to attempt a venus rover despite the obvious challenges

      Such as Mars not having intelligent life, much less space technology? :-)

      • Such as Mars not having intelligent life, much less space technology? :-)


        Doh!, I meant of course that it would be cool for NASA to attempt some kind of venus lander/rover.
      • would be cool for mars to attempt a venus rover despite the obvious challenges

        Such as Earth blocking the view? Where's that Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator? Delays, delays!
    • "All these worlds are yours except Europa - do not attempt a landing there" Signed, God
    • I personally think Venus is a much more interesting planet than mars. It would be cool for mars to attempt a venus rover despite the obvious challenges.

      Mars has so far demonstrated an excellent proficiency for destroying planetary space probes, however historically it has not been known to build them.

      Perhaps when it finds out Venus is a chick?

      Cheers,
      Justin
  • "Lunar-A: Originally scheduled to be launched in 1999 by Japan's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, this lunar orbiter mission was delayed because of a failure during testing. When it is finally launched this August, the orbiter will map the surface of the moon and

    lob two missile-like probes designed to penetrate and study the moon's interior."

    WTF?! Did they clear this with anyone?! I guess the thing that catches my attention is the phrase "missile-like". I wonder if the probes will be Aibo [sony.net]

  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@defor e s t . o rg> on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:12PM (#8704566)
    Did you notice that most of those missions were already launched? The budget projections for NASA are out for the next few years, and (at least for unmanned exploration and space science) they're not pretty.

    NASA just cancelled an entire line of six spacecraft -- the Solar-Terrestrial Probes -- that have been on the drawing board since the mid 1990s. The Explorer line of missions is delayed indefinitely. Science funding is level for the next two years, then drops rapidly.

    Meanwhile, countries like Japan, India, and China are building their space programs with vigor and dedication. Japan -- a nation the size of California -- will nearly match our rate of new scientific launches over the next decade.

    The reason for the cuts in scientific launches at NASA is W's new manned-but-not-funded spaceflight initiative, which is diverting resources from the comparatively inexpensive scientific missions.

  • Space is so over.

    The US is not going to the moon again. Or Mars. We can barely afford to supply the space station we've got.

    The ISS will be abandoned within a decade, after the next Shuttle accident.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

Working...