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NASA Moon Space

NASA Plan to Return to the Moon 531

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'll-believe-it-when-i'm-sipping-tang dept.
sjoeboo writes "NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion during the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018. The U.S. space agency now expects to roll out its lunar exploration plan to key Congressional committees on Friday and to the broader public through a news conference on Monday."
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NASA Plan to Return to the Moon

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  • Update on Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:50PM (#13568309) Homepage Journal
    Just to be clear, this isn't new news. The CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) program has been designed from the beginning with orbital, trans-lunar, and lunar landing phases. What this article is about is an update on those existing plans. The bright side to this is that NASA is making real progress on the CEV program as opposed to making it a "miracle technology" that just need money poured into it as they have been so guilty of in the past. (Not that the CEV program doesn't need money. They need LOTS of money.)

    The big changes since the inception of the program have been:

    • The death of the Orbital Space Plane [wikipedia.org] idea, and the birth of the CEV concept.
    • The plan to use less expensive and potentially reusable capsule technology instead of today's combined engine/habitat technology.
    • The death of the "Spiral" plan of development. Griffin has made it clear to congress that he plans to trim the fat and do this in whatever way makes sense, not according to a military development schedule.
    • As a result of the abandoning of the spiral plan, NASA believes that they can have the Orbital phase hardware completed by 2008 instead of 2011.
    • A great deal of research is being done on the use of Nuclear Engines for the later trans-Mars phase.


    IMHO, Bush's administration has done a reasonable job of making sure that we are on a viable track to returning to the moon and reaching Mars. My hope is that the next President who shows up doesn't dive in and try to change everything. The plan is good. It only needs some nursemaiding, not micromanagement from on high. Thankfully there's a great deal of pressure to replace the Space Shuttle, so the future President may be willing to just let NASA do their job.

    (FYI, Wikipedia has been keeping extremely good track of CEV Development [wikipedia.org] as it happens. While Wikipedia is not a news source, this particular article is a good place to go for the latest status of the project.)
    • by lgw (121541) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:03PM (#13568478) Journal
      The $100 billion price tag is news, however, and good news. Usually when a president (any president) tries to give NASA an objective, NASA gets pissy and invents a price tag in the trillions and announces that everyones favorite programs will all have to be cut and 10,000 kittens slain to achieve that goal. That sort of turf war doesn't help anyone.

      This seems ike a legitimate plan with a reasonable price tag, however, and I'm excited to hear it! Short timelines? Nuclear engines? This is the NASA that once kicked so much ass! I completely agree: it's now about whether the next president will ruin it.
      • by Chosen Reject (842143) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:07PM (#13568555)

        They'll probably have to kill a lot more if they're going to use this guy's [slashdot.org] engine.

      • by infinite9 (319274) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:29PM (#13569376)
        10,000 kittens slain

        That's a lot of masturbation.
      • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @05:24PM (#13570482)
        I completely agree: it's now about whether the next president will ruin it.

        Odds are, the current one already has. We're fighting a war, and currently spending about a billion dollars a week doing that. A reasonable guess is that the insurgency will take five or ten years to defeat. Meanwhile, taxes have been cut for those Americans who can most afford them. Things might not have been so bad if we'd had any sort of planning for the postwar situation, or if we'd gone in with a real multinational force, or if we'd simply stayed home, but what's done is done.

        The result is that the U.S. owes a lot of money. Sooner or later, the Federal government will either need to raise taxes, cut spending, or both. Even if future administrations support the mission, in that kind of climate, 100 billion (perhaps more, knowing how these things tend to turn out for NASA) is gonna be a tough sell.

    • by fsh (751959) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:03PM (#13568483)
      Here's a link to NASA's 2004 Budgetary Analysis [cbo.gov], done about a year ago (there should be a new one out sometime soon).

      If you look about halfway down, you'll see that the budget of the CEV is far outweighed by NASA's other activities, as well as being less than the amount budgeted for the Space Shuttle.

    • by The Lynxpro (657990) <lynxpro@gma i l . c om> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:29PM (#13568798)
      "Bush's administration has done a reasonable job of making sure that we are on a viable track to returning to the moon and reaching Mars. My hope is that the next President who shows up doesn't dive in and try to change everything."

      Or completely cancel it like what the fresh-at-the-time Clinton Administration did to Project Prometheus, which the current Bush Administration thankfully restarted.

    • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:33PM (#13568849) Homepage Journal
      The death of the "Spiral" plan of development.

      I had to look up the term, so I'll save someone else the trouble to describe what spiral plan is. (info from Wikipedia)

      Spiral One (CEV Earth Orbit Capability)
      Spiral Two (Extended Lunar Exploration)
      Spiral Three (Long Duration Lunar Exploration)
      Spiral Four (Crew Transportation System Mars Flyby)
      Spiral Five (Human Mars Surface Campaign)

      Basically it's a progressive development of the basic vehicle into 5 different vehicles with different and increasing capabilities. It comes from the military development experience.

      The proposal to eliminate this phased approach comes up because the military development experience doesn't appear to match NASA's requirements and procedures. There are steps in there that are probably unnecessary (spiral 2 and 4). The phases do not necessarily build on each other.

      The new plan abandons spirals entirely, in favor of blocks and stages. If that sentence elicits a 'WTF' from you, just read on:

      Stage I, Block I is a LEO vehicle for taking over space station construction from the Shuttle.
      Stage II, Block II is an interplanetary vehicle built in the same shape as the Block I vehicle. That vehicle will be able to fly to the moon, Mars, La Grange points, and so forth.
      Stage III, no block, are lander modules that will work on the moon, mars, or both, with the Block II spacecraft.

      So, it turns out that despite the screwey naming of the stages and blocks, the plan is actually quite a bit different that the spiral plan described. Maybe Wikipedia has just confused these Stages and Blocks a bit.

      The only problem that I have with all this is the use of the SRB as a basis for a man-rated space launcher. That's a big WTF to me, and I really wish they'd go with an all-liquid fuel booster.
    • Why does Bush want to go back to the moon? Why really? To keep Red China from controlling all the green cheese. [uncoveror.com]
    • by NatteringNabob (829042) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @05:28PM (#13570529)
      [My hope is that the next President who shows up doesn't dive in and try to change everything.]

      My hope is the next President jumps in and compares the cost/benefit ratio of putting a couple of people on the moon for a few days with the cost/benefit ration of every other science project, including unmanned exploration, and the cost/benefit ratio of every other activity that the government could be involved in, and then selects the projects with the greatest cost/benefit. Putting men on the moon or Mars as a personal vanity project or to show that one can do 'the vision thing' probably isn't anywhere close to the top of the list. For example, for 100B, you could give 833,000 kids a free ride through the most expensive Universities in the country. For $100B, you could replace 5 million government vehicles with hybrids and save 500 million gallons of gas. Or reduce the Social Security deficit. Or return it to the taxpayers. Or fund 20+ Cassini-Huygens or Mars rover type missions. Bush has done a reasonable job of getting us back on track to the moon, but of all the possible challenges to the nation, is that the one that most deserves 100B of our money? I don't think so.
  • Mars on hold... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:51PM (#13568317)
    What happened to Mars by 2015?
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:51PM (#13568320) Homepage Journal
    With Bush set to drop $200 billion on Katrina, finding money for going to the moon is going to be difficult. However, with the Chinese headed into space again, maybe they can argue it for national security.
    • With Bush set to drop $200 billion on Katrina, finding money for going to the moon is going to be difficult

      Also include: Iraq and Afganistan wars, Tax Cuts, High Oil prices, huge budget deficits, huge trade deficits, etc ...

      The US needs a financial planner or at least a debt councilor.

      I love space exploration. I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. But I just don't see the justification for this at this time. A good distraction, I guess.

      • by Bastian (66383) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:27PM (#13568778)
        Didn't Intuit mail every member of Congress a free copy of Quicken maybe ~10 years ago?

        Possibly we should convince them to grow this program to include the Executive branch, and to every newly elected or appointed official.
      • how many new materials, technologies ect have been largely ancillary to the ultimate goal (or even developed without a goal in mind), NASA, DARPA, and similar organizations don't exist to be financialy viable in and of themselves, they exist to reach beyond what we are capable of now, and make it possible. A bit over $8 billion dollars a year for the next 12 years is pocket change for what benifits we can reap. Not in the next 10 years, but in the next 50, or 100 years.
      • by sfjoe (470510) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:45PM (#13568969)
        The US needs a financial planner or at least a debt councilor.

        Actually, I think we just need to quit electing rich boys who've never had to balance a checkbook.
    • It's not as hard as you think. NASA's 2006 budget is $16 billion dollars [nasa.gov]. That money is already in the congressional budget. Now NASA can use their next 12 years of funds to fly to the moon (PLEASE!) or they can send the Space Shuttle up and down, up and down, up and down, (sensing a pattern yet?) up and down, up and down, up and down, up and...

      Well, you get the idea.
      • or they can send the Space Shuttle up and down, up and down, up and down, (sensing a pattern yet?) up and down, up and down, up and down, up and...

        Then what?! I'm dying to find out. Will they ever come down or have we lost them forever? Maybe they will find Major Tom. Oh the suspense!!!

    • With Bush set to drop $200 billion on Katrina, finding money for going to the moon is going to be difficult

      No. The Katrina rebuilding phase will bring about a fairly large economic boom. The increase of both construction jobs and money being exchanged for goods/services will translate into more tax revenues. This is in addition to an already strong economy, which showed little signs of weaking after Katrina. Plus, as the need to support the Iraq conflict slows down (and it is on average despite the constant
      • No. The Katrina rebuilding phase will bring about a fairly large economic boom.

        So maybe we should just destroy a few more cities, so the economy can really fly! The economy is being affected, negatively, but our country is a big enough economic engine that even catastrophic damage to one city of ~500,000 isn't enough to dramatically affect it.

        Seems to me it's already making a $1,000 or more deficit in my finances, at least based on current spending plans and my family's share of taxes paid.

        As for Iraq, I d
      • The Katrina rebuilding phase will bring about a fairly large economic boom. The increase of both construction jobs and money being exchanged for goods/services will translate into more tax revenues.

        Uh... you do realize that in order for those construction jobs to exist, hundreds of thousands of other jobs had to be lost and billions of dollars in property utterly destroyed? People in that region would have been engaging in the same commerce as usual if Katrina hadn't happened. It's not like they were

      • by demachina (71715) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @06:35PM (#13571048)
        "This is in addition to an already strong economy, which showed little signs of weaking after Katrina"

        Define strong economy?

        - U.S. national debt is about to cross the $8 trillion mark

        - The U.S. annual current-account deficit [epi.org] (trade deficit, budget deficit, etc) for 2005 was heading towards the $800 billion mark, tack on another $100 billion of deficit spending on Katrina maybe it will hit $900 billion. It was %6.4 of GDP in Q1 probably way worse in Q3 now post Katrina. Note from the chart, how the current-account deficit spiked under Reagan and George W.

        - Oil companies are making record profits and I'm sure their results alone are bouying economic numbers though they are sucking the life out of the rest of the economy to get it.

        A key point is a "strong economy" doesn't operate with staggering trade deficits or borrow massive amounts of money from other countries.

        George W. is creating synthetic prosperity:

        - Slash taxes for the wealthy
        - Dramatically increase government spending
        - Borrow vast amounts of money to make up the difference
        - Import vast quantities of cheap Chinese goods which means Americans spend less and get more (only problem is all the money they spend is going to China not to American jobs).

        All the borrowed money George W. is pumping in to the economy creates the appearance of growth. If the government pours hundreds of billions in to the economy though defense spending, medicare "reform" spending and drug benefits, incentives to energy companies(while oil companies are making money at record levels), $250 billion plus in the new highway bill to build bridges in Alaska to nowhere and massively increase farm subsidies.

        The Bush administration has passed one massive federal spending program after another to artificially pump the economy. The rebuild the Gulf bill will just be the next in line. The return to the Moon and Mars is chump change by comparison. Sure the U.S. can afford $10 billion a year for that, it can't afford the hundreds of billions its squandering elsewhere.

        You want to create phenomenal 10% growth in GDP, just borrow $1 trillion dollars and pump it in to a $10 trillion economy through government spending. The problem is the wheels fall off as soon as foreign countries stop buying your debt, the debt servicing kills youm and you are mortgaging the future for easy prosperity today.
    • National Security?

      We must make the Moon safe for democracy!

      New satellite photos indicate a clear presence of W.M.D. on the Moon.

      SecDef thinks we can liberate the Moon with only 30,000 troops.

      Regime change on the Moon now!
  • Modern technology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ucblockhead (63650) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:53PM (#13568343) Homepage Journal
    Nice to see that with modern 21st technology, we can make it to the moon in only thirteen years, as opposed to the long eight year program it took forty years ago.
    • Re:Modern technology (Score:5, Informative)

      by fsh (751959) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:08PM (#13568565)
      Nah, it's more like modern budgeting. We're simply not willing to put 3-5% of the federal budget behind such a program, like we did with Apollo. NASA *as a whole* now comprises less than 1% of the federal budget.
    • You've forgotten how much lobbying has gotten better
    • by oni (41625) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:21PM (#13568707) Homepage
      We could be on the moon by the end of the month if someone was willing to pay for it and if we could accept risk.

      When someone died in an accident in the '60s we the American people dusted ourselves off and got back on the horse. After the Apollo I accident, an investigation was performed and a report was presented in only three months. And then NASA went back to work going to the Moon. After Challenger, "OMFG! We should just cancel the space program! OMFG! OMFG!" And then years later we finally started flying again and years after that another, completely unrelated accident and, "OMFG THESE THINGS ARE DEATH TRAPS!"

      One of the reasons we don't do things like go to the Moon anymore is that we're wimps. We don't accept risks and we crucify people who do.

      The other reason is money. The cost of the Apollo program in 2005 dollars was nearly $200 billion, and that doesn't include the other programs like Gemini etc. Now we're going to do more (more as in, it's got to be 99.999% safe this time because we can't accept any risk at all) and we're going to do it for less. It should be a little cheaper because of modern computers etc. But not *that* much cheaper! Rockets are rockets. They haven't changed much in 50 years. They should still cost about the same.

      And again, the culture is really whimpy now. The space program was a point of national pride back then. These days people are embarrassed to show any pride in their country - it's not fair that we have a space program and Zimbabwe doesn't. Plus, if you dare to spend $1 on science there will always be a crowd of idiots screaming, "OMFG some kid is poor* we can't spend this money on science until after every other problem on earth is solved!!!"

      *poor in this case means that his family only has one TV and doesn't even have Tivo and somehow they managed to buy enough food to become morbidly obese but we still call them poor because otherwise we'd have to ask if maybe their lifestyle is influenced more by behaviors than by money or opportunity.

      • The purpose of the space program was to show that we were going to be the uber-advanced space age society that would ultimately win the cold war. The space program was a pageant put on for the sake of countries sitting on the fence between dealing with the Soviets and dealing with the USA.

        There is no such war now. If anything we've thrown in that towel since we now have no trouble trading outright with the worlds largest oppresor of people ... CHINA.

        We don't have to compete with China in this regard. We
      • Mod Parent +100 :) (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#13569126)
        "OMFG some kid is poor* we can't spend this money on science until after every other problem on earth is solved!!!"

        That's the one that causes me to have the blood pressure of a morbidly obese chain smoker. Some day people are going to wake up and realize that, well, we are NOT going to solve all the problems here on Earth. Ever. We'll be lucky to solve half. We can't solve problems when society refuses to recognize the true causes, which in many cases is "people are stoooopid." We need to focus on the big ones like energy, somehow eradicating the memes that make people vote for monsters or fly planes into buildings and getting the educational system out of the hands of the ideologues, be they on the Left (feed good education) or the Right (anti-science).

        Anyway, it looks like the private space sector might actually be showing some life, so f*ck NASA. I'm updating my resume to send out to Rutan's company and maybe a couple others. I'm going to be there, baby!

    • That's because we're not just going to the moon. The CEV was begun with manned mars missions in mind, and lunar missions are only a stepping point. Everything about the CEV has to be stepped up a little bit because of that; thus the extra time.
  • 2018?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dustinbarbour (721795) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:53PM (#13568348) Homepage
    It only took us 9 damn years to get there in the first place! Now that we already have the technology to make it there, they want 13 years?! Fuck that shit. Thye should be able to get there in at most 5 years. I'll bet $100 NASA's beaten by the Chinese or Burt Rutan. Any takers?
    • Re:2018?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) * on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:00PM (#13568435)
      There is a big difference between getting there and staying there. The original race to the moon, while a spectacular achievement, was not intended to result in a routinely repeatable capability. Quick, cheap, right -- pick one.
    • Re:2018?! (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      i'm pretty sure they could do that, with money, if they wanted.

      but what good would rushing do? they've already been there multiple times. i wouldn't care as much about getting there as to i would about what technology they develope to get there(and perhaps _stay_ there) this time around.

      and I'd bet you 200$ that rutan won't make it to there in that time either(chinese could, they got the resources but i'm not so sure about them willing to spend that much to get there just for the sake of getting there).
    • Yes but it cost a crapload of money to do it in 9 years..

      100B over 12 years is a hell of a lot less money.

      Keep in mind we're running a deficit the whole time (which we have been since Kennedy, oddly enough).

      As we have not since balanced the budget (not even in the 90's, unless you ignore the interest accumulation), it's probably a good thing they're spreading out the cost.
    • I'll bet $100 NASA's beaten by the Chinese or Burt Rutan. Any takers?

      No bet on the Chinese. I don't think they'll do it by then, but I wouldn't put it outside their potential capabilities.

      I'd take your bet on Rutan, though. The man's accomplishments are fantastic, but all he's accomplished so far are two flights to the lower edge of space, which is a whole different ballgame both technologically and financially than LEO, let alone the moon. We're talking orders of magnitude more difficult and more expen
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:53PM (#13568351)
    Everyone knows the moon landing were faked.

    Besides, I would think that $100 Billion is too much. The price of motion picture special effects has come down a lot since the 60s.
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:53PM (#13568355)
    Congress won't fund these guys well enough to put people in low earth orbit safely, and they want to go back to the Moon?

    -JDF
  • What a waste (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:54PM (#13568361)
    They have no reason for going to the moon. At least Apollo had a reason, the space race against the evil commies, but this time, not even that much. No doubt we'll go there a few times and stop again.

    Moon colonies would be great, from a science fiction point of view, but without an actual practical reason that involves real colonists with real practical uses, this new moon plan will be just another short sighted waste of time and money. I'd rather that money was spent on technology that had actual uses for most people. Don't preach to me about spin-offs. There would be just as many spin-offs from orbital hotels or quiet and environmentally friendly hypersonic transports or practical electric cars with batteries to go 500 miles.
    • As long as there are evil commies going into space [space.com], the USA will be right there with money to spend on going to the moon to keep them from stealing our precious bodily fluids.
    • Re:What a waste (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:24PM (#13568738) Homepage Journal
      Don't preach to me about spin-offs.

      Okay. How about I preach about lowering the costs of space transport? How about I preach about the billions of tons of cheap ore that could result? How about I preach about the free energy obtained from solar mirrors focused on space engines? How about I preach about a future where dangerous and toxic industries can be moved off the Earth? How about I preach about a future where man can thrive across the solar system, guaranteeing safety from little things like asteriods? How about I preach about a future where the power of the Sun is harnessed to power trips to other star systems? How about I preach about a future where truely inexpensive science probes can be launched to finally reveal the remaining secrets of the universe? How about I preach of a future with unimaginably technology that results from the science done?

      How about we get off this rock and finally do something other than IM each other about Britney Spears or Paris Hilton? How about it?
    • Re:What a waste (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bastian (66383)
      I'd rather that money was spent on technology that had actual uses for most people.

      Like getting to live on the moon?
    • Not a waste. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324)
      The waste has been being trapped in Earth's orbit ever since Apollo ended. We have been pissing away billions just to orbit the Earth, something we did over 40 years ago.

      We are not going to get anywhere in space until we get out of orbit. Putting a permanent presence on the moon opens more opportunities than any orbital venture ever would. Other than distance the tech involved to live on the moon would be easier that staying in orbit.
  • we already went there once with FAR inferior technology (or did we ?.. cue tin foil hat) ... it shouldnt take us 12 years to do it again ..

    All the rockets they need are stored in the kenedy space center museums.. gettem out.. dustem off and lets go already !
    • by narcolepticjim (310789) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:00PM (#13568437)
      I heard that the plans for the Saturn rockets are lost. A quick check, however, revealed that they are not [space.com].

      I now have no reason for posting this message.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:10PM (#13568580) Homepage Journal
        The Saturn V plans are not lost, but the rocket effectively is. The Saturn V was built with heavy industry, electronics, and computer technology that simply doesn't exist anymore. To update the existing rocket would make less sense than simply building a new one.

        (Side Note: Someone once mentioned that the Saturn V's electronics were designed to cope with the electronic lag in transmissions by sending commands early. If the same design were followed in an update, the rocket would destroy itself because those early commands would be transmitted instantanously. Who knows how many more of these gotchas are in the design?)

        NASA has the right plan here. The Space Shuttle engines are more powerful than the Saturn V ever was. By reusing the technology, NASA can build something better than the Saturn V in a relatively short amount of time.
    • Why do you think the technology was *far inferior*? Most of the limiting items (propulsion) are hardly any better now, and many if not most of the actual hardware end items are no longer available.

      As far as space technology is concerned, just about the only thing that has improved significantly is the computer processing capability, and that wasn't a significant limiting factor in 1966. And software development processes have, if anything, gone backwards as far as the ability to genera
  • by October_30th (531777) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:55PM (#13568381) Homepage Journal
    Just watch. All this will be brought to nothing by the unmanned space flight mafia. It's just too attractive politically to push for unmanned space flight where there are no risks. We're slowly becoming a race of cowards when it comes to exploring new frontiers.
    • The unmanned spaceflight mafia isn't really about saving human lives, its about sparing costs and avoiding unnecessary risks. If it was necessary to send humans to do these missions, then we'd be all for it. But bottom line, it's neither necessary nor effective. Robotic probes do the job cheaper and better. Why not spend 20 or 30 years doing more development on materials and technology using robotic craft, then send men to moon/mars for an overall cheaper project cost than trying to do it with men from
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:56PM (#13568386) Homepage
    I don't care whether you define that "this decade" as starting in the year 2000 or the year 2005... ...if NASA could do it within a decade in the 1960s, why can't they do it within a decade now?
    • In the 1960s they had motivation ... they thought, apparently seriously, that if the communists beat them in the space race, the world would pretty much end. So they were racing, taking various unnecessary risks, to get to the moon.

      Now we're going to do it again, but this time, there's essentially no pressure beyond "We'd like to do it". So we'll take our time, try to develop a reliable technology, and ultimately build a platform to take us onward to mars.

      So basically, we have very different goals and pri
    • "...why can't they do it within a decade now?"

      Money. Things cost more now. That, and you don't feel the need to beat the Russians. Americans already know they have the biggest penis.

    • Why? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dire Bonobo (812883)
      > if NASA could do it within a decade in the 1960s, why can't they do it within a decade now?

      They probably could, but why should they?

      What pressing reason is there to divert a large portion of NASA's money and manpower to rushing out a lunar vehicle? What would be gained by doing it in 9 years instead of 13? What terrible thing will happen because of that extra 4 years? Why is doing it faster important for anything other than appeasing complainers? There might be a good reason, but nobody's prese

  • While it's good to see NASA seriously looking into returning to the Moon, I think the money would be better spend in focusing on sending robotic missions. Not only would it be more cost effective, but it could have just as great a scientific return, and would spur the development of a technology that would have huge spin off benefits here on earth.

    I'm also all for a more agressive effort to explore Mars robotically. But the idea of sending humans there so soon seems very foolish to me. Why? There's little b
  • From the article: One of NASA's reasons for going back to the Moon is to demonstrate that astronauts can essentially "live off the land" by using lunar resources

    The only problem I see is finding a spacesuit to fit Grizzly Adams. [grizzlyadams.net]
    • Nah, that's easy with modern spacesuit technology. The *real* problem will be finding a spacesuit for his bear! But it will be worth it for the flapjacks.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:06PM (#13568517)
    > NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion and the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018.

    Read between the lines.

    Not "to get to the moon". Not "to put humans back on the moon". But "building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to".

    In 2018, NASA will have spent $100B (or about $8-10B a year, probably around half to 3/4 of its bugdet). At the end of that timeframe, NASA will have contracted out the design and production of a new spacecraft, and some new rockets.

    That's it. There's no lunar mission in there. There probably isn't even the planning for a lunar mission in there.

    Most likely, the new spacecraft and rockets will either continue to fly into low earth orbit to service the white elephant known as ISS.

    To blue-sky for a minute - the timeframe from 2018 to 2024 will be used for planning a lunar mission. The mission will be funded for the timeframe from 2018-2030. By which time, the spacecraft and rockets developed around 2015 will be obsolete scrap.

    We're going to divert a lot of funds that could be used for science (which might be OK if we were going somewhere), but the fact of the matter is - just like 30 years ago, unless you count the contracts that'll get farmed out to every Congressional district, we're not going anywhere.

  • ... is the "Fire Depression System" in the diagram.

    I'm hoping that's it's similar to my own Fire Depression System -- a 12-pack of beer.

  • The Plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:10PM (#13568576) Journal
    "to put humans back on the Moon by 2018."

    ... where they will be greeted by the Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Russians, Canadians, and every college student with a "Build Yourself An Interplanetary Space Craft" kit ordered from craigslist.

  • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:17PM (#13568661)
    "Ten thousand?" Luke gasped. "We could buy our own ship!"
    "But who's gonna fly it, kid? You?"
    "You bet I could! Ben, we don't have to take this."

    No doubt there will be those of the next generation up to the task, but you just don't see the push of science and space at least as I remember when I was going through school (of course the round wheel was the big thing back then). Is becoming an astronaut or rocket scientist as cool as becoming an "American Idol" or a reality TV star?

    • I know I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. But once I realized that I didn't have the genius-grasp of physics required for such a job, I happily settled for "computer scientist" instead.
  • This is absurd. The 100 billion price tag could be used in R&D programs of far more potential value in biotech, energy research and environmental initiatives. Or in infrastructure improvements.

    NASA is living proof of many key concepts of inefficiency in systems engineering, buraucracy and Parkinson's law.

    Katrina is living proof of what happens when key infrastructure goes underfunded in deference to pork barrel projects.

    The time has come to put an end to this sort of waste. We just cannot afford the opp
    • by lgw (121541) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:48PM (#13569555) Journal
      The time has come to put an end to this sort of waste.

      So, New orleans would have been better off with no warning of the approaching hurricane at all? Cause, you know, those weather sattelites are just the sort of waste we need to put an end to?

      The space program has had few side-benefits in recent years because we haven't been pushing our limits, merely doing things we already knew how to do. If we embrace a new space program with a goal we don't know how to achieve, we will once again reap ten times what we spend. That's what happens when you force yourself to invent new technologies.
  • Huh. First time it took less than 10. Are we that much more stupider? Or just that much more broke?
  • What people are forgetting about the previous moon missions:
    • The US pushed the envelope of technology
    • The missions were very dangerous (CRef: Astronaut Armstrong's comments on the risks involved)
    • The Technology and methodology was not sustainable

    I'm thinking this time, that perhaps we will see some additional leaps of technology. We certainly got enough technology breakthroughs from the space program. Perhaps, even with pesky physics still requiring the same effort to launch payloads into space, we c

  • Imagine the beo^H^H^H cluster of interferometry space telescopes you could build with 100 billion!
  • Pie in the Sky (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:42PM (#13568932) Homepage Journal
    We don't have another $100B. For anything.

    I wish we did, I want the US to go back to the Moon, especially to leverage all our science, engineering and indisputably pioneering investments. Before other, more ambitious (and less complacent) countries, like China, get up there first. And then, for example, set up giant solar power stations with technology we developed in the USA, from rocketry to photovoltaics. Solar power we'll have to buy with more money we haven't got.

    But we've already spent that money. A $300B Lunar/Solar energy platform would make the US a lot safer than the terrorist cesspool we've created in Iraq. A lot more prosperous than the $TRILLIONS in taxes we're cutting on the rich, who don't seem interested in putting Americans on the Moon - not while they're staying rich enough selling us $12:barrel oil for $70.

    Here's an idea: we recoup some of those unprecedented profits from American oil companies, that are underwritten by so much American expenses (dollars and military lives, just to get started). We reinvest them in the government space program to install American energy facilities on the Moon. Whoever and whenever we do that, American or otherwise, the American "oil" companies are going to wind up owning the business anyway. We might as well get ahead of the curve, and keep more for Americans. And get it done faster, so the rest of us without our own oil company don't have to suffer through $10:gallon gas before we finally are forced to do it.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:02PM (#13569136) Homepage Journal
    My first thought was that they're trying to derail Burt Rutan by hopelessly outclassing him, even if only in advertising. We Slashdotters should be familiar enough with this strategy: "Don't buy OS X - Vista has these features that will be far better (assuming we don't drop them)!" I wouldn't be completely surprised to find that NASA mainly just wants to steal Burt's thunder in order to keep Congress from asking pesky questions like whether civilians should be able to compete in the deep space arena.

    What saddens me most is that I don't really have much faith in them anymore. When I was growing up in the 70's, the folks at NASA were my heroes. They were the smartest, most determined, and best people anywhere in the world. I kind of wish I had that back, but at least private industry has given us a few new heroes to live vicariously through.

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:15PM (#13569242) Homepage Journal
    $100 billion budget?

    Here's a seat-of-the-pants outline of prizes that achieve the goal:

    $5 billion:

    $1 billion prize each for the first five launches, to earth orbit, of a mass equivalent to the LEO payload of the Saturn V.

    $5 billion

    $1 billion prize for each set of 5 successful consecutive launches for the same system, to earth orbit, of a mass equivalent to the LEO payload of the Saturn V. (That's $200M/reliable launch payout.)
    $5 billion
    $1 billion prize for each insertion into lunar swing-around trajectory of a mass at least equal to the fully loaded Apollo LEM+command module. A portion of the mass at least equivalent to the Apollo command module reentering the Earth's atmosphere and being recovered without burning up.
    $5 billion
    $1 billion prize for each of 5 soft landings on the moon of a mass equivlent to the fully loaded Apollo LEM.
    $5 billion
    $1 billion prize for each of 5 soft landings on the moon of a LEM mass equivalent and return, by a mass equivalent of the Apollo ascent module, to dock with a command module mass-equivalent.
    $5 billion
    $ billion prize for each of 5 returns to earth of the command module mass-equivalent after docking with the Apollo ascent module mass-equivalent returning from the lunar surface.
    We're not even 1/3 of the way through the budget and we've got a system that can transport the mass equivalent of the Apollo missions.

    ...on to the manned prizes...

    Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you...

  • by El Cabri (13930) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @05:13PM (#13570376) Journal
    An illegal war of choice : $200bn and counting

    A mishandled natural disaster : $100bn

    A permanent tax cut for the rich : $800bn

    A trip to the moon like in the '70s : $100bn

    Driving your country into bankrupcy : priceless.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @07:28PM (#13571537)
    Since China plans a moon base in ten years, then NASA can visit them for a nice cup of tea. China will have a week-long orbital flight in three weeks and the Russians are visiting the space station. Americans can look up at the pretty lights in the sky, wave and cry.
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Friday September 16, 2005 @01:38AM (#13573498) Homepage Journal
    We need to get off this rock, and every decade we lapse into introversion is a decade later that man's history of exploitation of the solar system is delayed.

    The major benefits I can see are:

    - ensure survival against earth killer asteroid hitting in say the next 2 centuries

    - increase pressure and funding to build independent robotic mining and factories

    - draw minds and effort away from fragmented religion, and towards a unified goal of conquering space

    - exploit space-based power generation and develop better water extraction and conservation technologies, reducing pressures to start oil wars and water wars

    - get advanced physics research off the planet's surface as soon as possible. One possibile reason for the lack of alien contact is that nature holds a booby trap (or a jackpot) that most cultures hit by accident and everything goes boom. We are already close to primordial densities in particle physics and if it is possible to use advanced space-based resources to quickly and cheaply (say with a self-organizing robotic factory) build a ring in space or on the moon that would be excellent.

    - add low-noise observatories on the moon. Currently we are just starting to observe in very noisy RF bands for example.

    - develop unified educational program based on integrated science and exploratory culture. A free course of study for any child on the planet, instilling a citizen of the world sense of identity, respect and practical knowledge of science, an imperative to stride beyond man's history of intolerance and enter the next phase of our civilization, develop emotional intelligence, and in general train people so that we can achieve 10 times more efficient exploitation of the world's human resources, with 10 times better health and welfare for the world, and international collaboration to develop key technologies more quickly. Sure there is more to this but obviously there is still demagoguery, genocide, famine, disaster, and demonization in the 21st century. We need to get beyond it and work together.

    Many of these things can be done on the planet. But the fact is, our societies are still pretty uncivilized and we need a common project to bind politicians and peoples around the world toward the same goal. It seems that broad, continued, well funded efforts for space science and every connected area - including advances in biotech, robotics, and education for example - could be a spark that begins humanity on exponential growth and saves us from nuclear races and preoccupation with trade deficits and resource starvation. People need to have something to work towards, and we need to provide great salaries and lionize people who go into these fields and go to space.

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