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NASA Space Science Technology

NASA's New Shuttle 476

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-listen-too dept.
j0ugh writes "NASA releases plans for a new spacecraft (Audio stream contains the meat) that would replace the space shuttle. The vehicle is part of a system that will be capable of putting astronauts on the moon by 2018, laying the groundwork for space travel to Mars. NASA says the new system is designed to be 10 times safer than the space shuttle"
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NASA's New Shuttle

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  • Why fly... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Knight Thrasher (766792) * on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:37AM (#13603916) Journal
    Why fly a spacecraft, when you can just take the elevator [slashdot.org]?
    • Re:Why fly... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by minginqunt (225413) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:41AM (#13603960) Homepage Journal
      When you put a date of '2018' on something, being at least two US administrations away, isn't that akin to basically saying "maybe, one day, but I wouldn't count on it"?

      I wish we could be honest. Nobody really can be bothered to put a man on the Moon or Mars. It's faster, cheaper and easier to have a little wheeled avatar nipping around for us, searching out prime real estate and letting us know that the nightlife in these places isn't a patch on Vauxhall, daahling.

      I mean, I'd like it to happen, but we all know it won't, right?

      Martin
    • Re:Why fly... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Because you need spacecraft to put the elevator in orbit. Plus, perhaps you can put a smaller, trial version on the moon to test the technology and bring material from the surface -- and where hurricanes and terrorists have a hard time hitting it.
    • Because they are planning on going to the moon
    • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:04AM (#13604203)
      Why take the elevator when you can just strap yourself to forty-seven fireworks? [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Why fly... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by orac2 (88688)
      OT, but if you're interested in the elevator, you may want to check this feature by elevator guru Brad Edwards in last month's IEEE Spectrum magazine. [ieee.org]
  • Good Design (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:37AM (#13603918) Homepage Journal
    FYI, there's a promotional video of the new rockets here. (flash required) [nasa.gov]

    The video and other information make several things quite clear:

    1. There will be two boosters, a Heavy Lifter Vehicle (HLV) and a smaller "man rated" booster for the crew capsule.

    2. Both rockets will be based on Space Shuttle technology.

    3. The CEV rocket appears to be a three stage deal. First stage is an SRB booster. Second stage is a single SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine). Third stage is a smaller booster for navigation. (It's unclear from what I've seen what type of rocket this will be and what type of fuel it will use.) The ET (external tank) will be inline in the stack. i.e. From bottom to top: SRB, SSME, ET, Nav Booster, Crew Capsule.

    4. There appears to be an Apollo age escape tower on the crew capsule. This doubles as a docking port.

    5. The HLV is five (!) SSMEs fueled by a large ET directly above. The cargo area is inlined above this, with a protective shell and nav rocket. Two SRBs are attached to the side of the rocket. Now the SRBs replace the F-1 engines used in the Saturn V first stage. The SSMEs replace the J-2 engines used in the Saturn V second and third stages. The modern engines are each twice as powerful as their S-V counterparts. One big change from the Sat-V is that ALL engines fire on launch. This gives a total thrust (using the numbers from the Space Shuttle) of (2x3,300,00lbf) + (5x400,000lbf) = 8,600,000 pounds of force! In comparison, the first stage of the Sat-V put out 7,500,000. However, this rocket will continue to put out 2,000,000 pounds of force until orbit is reached. In comparison, the second stage of the S-V put out exactly half that! In other words, this rocket will likely be significantly more powerful than the Saturn V.

    6. The mission plan given is basically the same one used on Apollo. We use big booster to light up millions of tonnes of mass, then bring back a mere 20 or so tonnes from the moon. The only difference is that the crew capsule and the lunar lander will be launched separately. Kind of pathetic, but we need to walk before we can run. And the HLV NASA is building is the PERFECT tool for getting space tugs and moon bases in place.

    7. The crew capsule will do its job of getting people up, but far less expensive than today.

    8. I'm a bit disappointed in the crew capsule. With all the experience we have with winged craft, I was hoping they'd take up Lockheed's capsule design [wikipedia.org] and fit it with a full carbon-carbon heat shield that would never have to be replaced.

    9. The inline configuration of the small rocket ensures that debris from the rocket (such as foam) could never strike any heat shielding on the CEV.

    10. Screw the ISS. With this HLV booster, we could put a brand new space station whereever the hell we want it in just two to three launches! ROCK! :-D


    Overall, this looks like good technology to me. Anyone who thinks NASA is taking a step back (except for the capsule configuration, I agree with you there) needs to pull his head out of his rear. This design will be inexpensive (NASA is merely redirecting the shuttle buget plus a little extra), reuse existing components/industry, will be more powerful than any rocket ever designed, and will finally give us back the ability to put USEFUL stuff into space. Good job, NASA!

    P.S. On the capsule (again), I'm surprised they didn't even consider the Big Gemini [wikipedia.org] design. The BG would have been a very large capsule (more crew than the Shuttle!) with a parawing [nasa.gov] for smooth touchdowns on Earth.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "The HLV is five (!) SSMEs fueled by a large ET directly above"

      Imagine a...

      Oh never mind
      • Is there any fundamental reason they are limited to two SRBs for the HLV unit?

        SRBs have a lot of residual thrust for fairly cheap. Once you have a rotationally-symmetric stack, eliminating the balance considerations of the SSTS, it would seem you could significantly increase your maximum lift capability by putting four or six SRBs around your central unit. More lift with very little redesign requirements.

    • SSME complications (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:43AM (#13603978) Homepage
      I expect the SSME on the second stage of the manned launcher will be replaced with a J-20S.

      The reason: Restarting.

      The SSME has never been restarted in flight, and there's a big cost associated with adding/certifying this capabillity. The J-2, on the other hand, was used by the Saturn V's third stage, and this restart is needed for trans lunar injection.
      • by mj_1903 (570130) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:49AM (#13604062)
        I don't think they will. The J-2 hasn't been built in years and while the J-2S (the more modern version) could have production restarted Thiokol believes [astronautix.com] it would take more than 4 years to restart production.

        I suspect that development and certification of the SSME for orbital restarts would take significantly less time and money than the restarting of the entire J-2S program.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) *
        I did hear about this, but the last thing I heard was that the J-2S plan was scrapped. Since the J-2 is no longer in production, it would be costly to rebuild and recertify it. So costly that it seems easier for NASA to modify the SSMEs, of which they have a great deal of experience.

        On the big launcher, there has been talk of using the RS-68 engines from the Delta IV instead of the SSMEs. Supposedly that would increase the payload capability of the craft. No idea if that's going to go anywhere.
        • by orac2 (88688) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:01AM (#13604176)
          The fact sheet that accompanied the announcement, here [nasa.gov], explictly states they'll be using the J2-S. Astronautix.com [astronautix.com] notes that "It was estimated by ATK Thiokol in 2005 that restarting the J-2S program, including engine fabrication, design and reliability verification, certification, and production, would require four years." Looks like the ghost of the S-IVB (America's favourite stage!) will live on yet...
    • Re:Good Design (Score:3, Informative)

      by mj_1903 (570130)
      Just to make a minor correction to an otherwise good post, the 'Nav Booster' is actually the service module which has the same task as the one on Apollo.
    • Having a powerful booster gives a lot more flexibility, like the Soviet Union's Energiya booster [wikipedia.org], which could (and did) launch loads other than their Shuttle. Although their strap-on boosters were liquid fuel and more powerful.

      They had plans for reusing both the strap-ons and the main booster, but no-one knows how far that went - certainly the main engines were discarded. I wonder how/if Nasa plans to re-use the main engines? Since they were designed for reusability, I guess the SSMEs are not cheap and chee
    • This design will be inexpensive (NASA is merely redirecting the shuttle buget plus a little extra), reuse existing components/industry, will be more powerful than any rocket ever designed, and will finally give us back the ability to put USEFUL stuff into space.

      If I recall, the biggest bitch people had at the time of the Saturn V was how MUCH it cost to put stuff into orbit. The result was the shuttle was supposed to reduce this cost.

      But, instead of using boosters WITHOUT gaskets (which could be built down
    • Re:Good Design (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sconeu (64226)
      The HLV is five (!) SSMEs fueled by a large ET directly above. The cargo area is inlined above this, with a protective shell and nav rocket. Two SRBs are attached to the side of the rocket.

      I wonder if it would be possible to come up with an EHLV rev ("Extra Heavy"...) with four SRBs strapped on instead of 2. That would give an extra 6.6Million pounds of thrust.
    • by reallocate (142797) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @01:19PM (#13605837)
      It's sad that this is the kind of post that passes for infomative.

      First of all, for those who actually read rather than just look at pictures, there's a lot more information at the NASA site than what the OP writes here, and, unlike that post, it is correct.

      Now...

      >> There appears to be an Apollo age escape tower on the crew capsule. This doubles as a docking port.

      No. That's part of the abort apparatus. it is jettisoned during the trip to orbit. It has nothing to do with docking.

      >> The mission plan given is basically the same one used on Apollo.

      Wrong. There are significant differences with Apollo, including flight profile, length of stay, size of crew, and the ability to land anywhere on the Moon (Apollo was confined to equatorial regions).

      >> We use big booster to light up millions of tonnes of mass... Kind of pathetic,

      It is not pathetic. That's how rockets work. Almost all the mass in a rocket is propellant.

      >> I'm surprised they didn't even consider the Big Gemini design...

      Probably because it is essentially the same design: a blunt conical object with a heatshield. We've seen more than 40 years worth of avionics and electronic advances since Gemini. There's no reason to resurrect the dead. Remember, too, the CEV is supposed to bulk up for the Mars trip. Gemini couldn't survive more than a few weeks. (It barely made it through the two-week endurance mission.)

      >> Anyone who thinks NASA is taking a step back (except for the capsule...

      The capsule is not a backward step. That's equivalent to lamenting the lack of innovation in aircraft design because they all have wings. If you design a spacecraft to be launched by rocket from and to return to a planetary surface, that's the vehicle shape you'll have: conical for aerodynamic purposes during launch, with a blunt heat shield on the other end. So long as we launch such vehicles via rockets, that's what they're going to look like. (Remember, we don't have the technology to protect leading wing entries at escape veleocity speed, which a returning lunar mission will see. A returning Mars mission will reenter at higher speed.)

      >> With this HLV booster, we could put a brand new space station whereever the hell we want it...

      Why?
  • 10x safer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by confusion (14388) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:40AM (#13603943) Homepage
    How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

    Jerry
    http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]
    • Um, duh (Score:3, Informative)

      by autopr0n (534291)
      Obviously it means 1/10th as many deaths per N usages. Of course, this thing will probably be less then 1/10th the cost of shuttle mission, so it will be used more then 10 times as often, meaning more death. Oh well. It will probably have 10x fewer people dying, and 10x fewer explosive disasters.
    • How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

      Perhaps the materials used in construction have 10x the tensile strength? Or statistically they expect it to last 10x longer before requiring scheduled maintenance or retirement? Or the test runs they've done have resulted in 1/10th the number of accidents, Loss Time Injuries or just p
    • How do you classify something as 10x safer than something else? Do they expect 10x less people to die, 10x less frequent explosive disasters, or are the events themselves 10x less dangerous, meaning astronauts could survive?

      Well, you're not far off. In a complex, even chaotic system, you can develop metrics - or measurable elements. It is not the same as certainty, but it's better than having no clue.

      Each component has a failure rating
      Each system has a failure frequency
      Each potentially failing sy
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:05AM (#13604213) Homepage
      Read Richard Feynman [fotuva.org] tearing them a new one over exactly that sort of language. It's disheartening that they still apparently have marketdroids doing their press releases.
  • Great. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seska (253960) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:40AM (#13603945)
    113 shuttle flights, 2 catatrophic failures. A ten-fold improvement means we should only lose the entire crew 1 time in 560.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:40AM (#13603954)
    It looks almost exactly like the Apollo system.

    (if we're going back to 1969, can we also drop the war on drugs? thanks.)
  • by Evil Grinn (223934) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:42AM (#13603971)
    Next they'll be telling us that they plan to have that "powered flight" thing all sewn up by 2040.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:44AM (#13603994) Journal
    So NASA's going to be using the latest in 1970's tech? Woo Hoo!
  • by RelliK (4466) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:45AM (#13604003)
    and 30% cooler, with 200% more wiz-bang factor!
  • New wine, old bottle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FishandChips (695645) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:46AM (#13604020) Journal
    Perhaps we've moved a bit beyond this stuff, though NASA hasn't yet gotten the message or is worried about its future funding. For a start it looks as if unmanned missions could achieve the same at far less cost. Second, missions like this are really about the future good of all mankind, unless you're some crazed tycoon who wants to own space, the planets, etc. So perhaps the other major power blocks in the world could be induced to cooperate and to spread the cost. Who knows, they might even come up with some good ideas or tasty new technology. The US is financially overstretched as it is.
  • by Andr0s (824479) <dunkelzahn@rocketmail.com> on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:47AM (#13604033)
    I must say, it is interesting to notice that NASA has, in fact, finally opted to return to the old, well-tried capsule approach, as opposed to reusable reentry vehicles such as Shuttle. Especially when one takes into consideration the significant amount of resistance NASA experts have been offering to the idea for years and years, despite the poor cost-to-results ratio of Shuttles and, apparently, high(er) risks involved in Shuttle flights as compared to capsule flights.

    Perhaps it is a bit of me that loves rubbing it in to american 'rocket scientists', but it might be interesting to notice that Russians never fully embraced their shuttles (Buran, http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/rsa/buran.html [nasa.gov] ) despite it posessing payload and operational capacities superior to those of US Shuttle...
    • No offsense, but the Russians were stupid to build the Buran in the first place. The only reason why they built it was that Reagan had them convinced of the need for "technological parity". They bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

      The Buran never flew again, because Russia went bankrupt and experienced a coup. There was no money left to fly the Buran (or much else until the US starting pumping $$$ into it), and the orbiter and facilities were all pawned to the Ukrainian government for a loan.
      • I read that the Russians and the EU are collaborating on some kind of shuttle. Well, not a shuttle as in the space shuttle but more like one of those lifting body CEV designs.

        Still, ironic that the US is ditching the shuttle and going back to capsules as the Russians are going the opposite way. ;-)
    • I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:22AM (#13604428) Homepage Journal
      how many NASA engineers and others secretly cheered when Bush and Co. announced the end of the shuttle?

      For too long we spent out time focused on the Shuttle instead of space itself. Everything other than a few probes was centered around the space shuttle. How much of the ISS was compromised because of the shuttle? Perhaps the original glamour of a flying space plane helped NASA but it sure turned into a Spruce Goose pretty damn quickly.

      I really like this new direction. Getting the moon is the first step. While we might not reach Mars from there we never will have any chance if we just putz around in Earth orbit.

      Perhaps the next habitation in space can be built on the moon. That can put the glamour back into the space age in a more practical method than a space plane.

    • > I must say, it is interesting to notice that NASA has, in fact, finally opted to return to the old, well-tried capsule approach, as opposed to reusable reentry vehicles such as Shuttle.

      FYI, the new capsule is supposed to be reusable as well, although with a limit of ~10 trips.

  • Doubtful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kefaa (76147) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:51AM (#13604080)
    The funding of the space program continues to be less and less each year (adjusted for inflation). Even those in NASA recognize it depends on the "will of Congress" to fund such an effort at a time when we are spending $180 Billion a year in Iraq, $200 billion on Katrina, Billions upon billions for Homeland Security and we still have other natural disasters to face (Rita is on her way now).

    Further, we do not have the motivation that existed in the 60s, when Russia beat the US into space. It was not just American pride, it was a deterrent, to both sides, to show they had the technology to be a leader in the world. Unless we see China, or India on the moon, it is unlikely to be of such importance that NASA would be funded for it. Even if we do see them, the question may be "So what? We were they ~40 years ago."

    Talking about precursors, or the technology we would derive from such an effort, will be lost on the "yes, but we have "X" that needs to be paid for first." I wish it were otherwise, but I just do not get the feeling we have the 60s excitement around space. People look at the technology and fail to see it was possible because it was necessary to fulfill the mission. They are thankful for the derivatives, but many believe another Steve Jobs could create the same in IPOD like fashion.
  • by Soft (266615) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:52AM (#13604081)
    Mike Griffin's comment, that this is "Apollo on steroids", has more truth than it appears. It seems that no provision is yet made in that plan to actually build something on the Moon (they say that permanent bases eventually will be set up, but where is the payload for that? right now it's still flag-and-footprints, only longer); and that the operating costs will make the new program just as affordable as the previous ones, Apollo and Shuttle, i.e. barely.

    Any comments on the following analyses? Transterrestrial Musings [transterrestrial.com]
    Space Access Update #112 [space-access.org]

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:52AM (#13604094) Homepage Journal
    It used to be that NASA would excuse its competition with private sector launch services by pointing to its manned space missions as an example of what it was doing that couldn't be done by purchasing a launch service. However, now that manned space missions are receiving all this attention from space tourism investors, NASA is increasingly standing in naked competition with the private sector.

    This is all quite unnecessary. The private sector is already chomping at the bit to invest in manned space. Griffin says $100M over 13 years is going to be spent within the existing NASA budget for this initiative but if that $100M were simply available as incentives [geocities.com], be they prizes, tax credits for manned space transport and habitation, there would be an explosion of alternatives in a highly competitive environment that would yeild results in a short time.

    • Althought it may be true that $100M in prizes could accomplish what NASA proposes to accomplish with $100B of expenditures -- I really did slip up by saying $100M rather than $100B.
    • If privatized space exploration is feasible, shouldn't it work on its own with government internvention (i.e. tax credits?) If we still have to subsidize it, what's the advantage?

      Public subsidization for private profits?
  • by Zobeid (314469) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:53AM (#13604105)
    NASA have needed a heavy lifter ever since they (foolishly) retired the Saturn V. Now they'll finally have one again, and that's good. However, it doesn't seem to me like a big step up from the Saturn V -- unless I'm missing something. How does the payload capacity to LEO compare? Off the top of my head, I thought the Saturn V was rated for 220 tons to LEO, the new rocket only 125 tons. But maybe I am mis-remembering something, or reading something wrong?

    I'm a little disappointed that nobody seems interested in reviving the old Sea Dragon concept from the 1960s. If you were really serious about going to Mars, that would make a good foundation for it.

    The CEV and associated launcher look sensible. I'm not sure about the CEV's crew capacity. NASA say it can carry four astronauts to the Moon or potentially six to Mars. Do I sense a problem with their math skills? Maybe another of those pesky metric conversion errors. :p Anyhow. . . To me it looks adequate (not great) for lunar missions. The idea of sending it to Mars is ludicrous, it would be like sticking Columbus in a rowboat with five other guys and sending him out to find America.

    The good news is that NASA are finally picking up where they left off 30 years ago. The bad news is that NASA are picking up where they left off 30 years ago. . . and we have precious little to show for the decades, lives, and many billions of dollars sacrificed to the Shuttle.
    • NASA have needed a heavy lifter ever since they (foolishly) retired the Saturn V.

      Foolishly? Last time I checked, money didn't grow on trees. The Saturn V was very expensive to build and launch. That was a major reason why it was retired, NASA couldn't afford to operate it after its budget was slashed.

    • by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:29AM (#13604503) Homepage Journal
      According to this site [astronautix.com]
      Saturn C-5 max payload: 127 metric tons
      New Booster may payload: 100+ metric tons [spaceref.com]

      May be less payload, but last time I checked we weren't building Saturn 5 components.

      For crew capacity, technology has changed. We can take out a lot of mass and replace it with new technology compared to the apollo era. Remember, we were still using vacum tubes then and no solar panels. Adding solar panels (which is in the plans) means fewer batteries are needed. Replacing vacume tubes with solid state decreases power and mass and space.

      The good news is that NASA are finally picking up where they left off 30 years ago. The bad news is that NASA are picking up where they left off 30 years ago. . . and we have precious little to show for the decades, lives, and many billions of dollars sacrificed to the Shuttle.

      We got some info out of it, just not as much as we could have since we got sidetracked with the original moon missions. I've heard that JFK set the space program back (or held it back) 50 years. However, that does not mean we haven't gotten anything out of the shuttle. Otherwise we wouldn't be using shuttle components in these new lifters.
      • by orac2 (88688) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:42AM (#13604684)
        we were still using vacum tubes

        A nit, but I don't think there were any vacuum tubes in the Apollo/Saturn stack -- transistors were already commonplace, and the Apollo Guidance computer pioneered the use of ICs, albeit not microprocessors. But if you've got a reference that describes tubes, I really would like to see it (I'm not being snarky, I really would!)
        • still used them. The RF power amplifiers for communications, the klystrons/magnetrons for landing/docking radar, TWTs in the telemetry transponders, and the vidicon and image dissector tubes used in the TV cameras. I believe there was also a CRT used for one of the cockpit displays (radar?).
      • A nit (Score:5, Informative)

        by localroger (258128) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:42AM (#13604685) Homepage
        Remember, we were still using vacum tubes then

        While "we" were still using a lot of vacuum tubes in 1969, the Apollo program did not. Their computers were solid state; in fact, the onboard flight computers were the first ever built with integrated circuits, and the Apollo program absorbed a significant fraction of all the integrated circuits manufactured in those early years.

    • by wildzer0 (889523) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:35AM (#13604596)
      Saturn 5 did 110 tons. Here are some large rockets:
      • NASA's new heavy lifter: 125t
      • Saturn V: 110t
      • Russian Energia: 100t
      • Space Shuttle: 29t
      • Commercial Falcon 9 S9: 25t
      • ESA Ariana 5ECA: 21t
      • JAXA H-IIA: 12t
      All to LEO (low earth orbit).
    • NASA say it can carry four astronauts to the Moon or potentially six to Mars. Do I sense a problem with their math skills? Maybe another of those pesky metric conversion errors. :p Anyhow

      Metric humans, like the ones in europe, are smaller than the imperial humans here in the US. So you can fit more of them in the capsule. :-D
    • NASA have needed a heavy lifter

      Actually, I've heard about studies stating that the main driver for launch cost is neither the total payload nor the technology but the launch rate. That is, for the same payload weight, a light booster that flies a hundred times a year will probably be cheaper than a heavy lifter that flies only a few times a year. It doesn't really matter if they are expendable, reusable, cryogenic or whatever.

      See for example this 1994 study [dunnspace.com] ("This indicates a potential paradox in

      • The funny thing is that NASA arbitrarily set the CEV weight at 25 tonnes, just above the LEO capability of the heaviest rocket currently available (Delta 4 Heavy).

        The Delta 4 is not rated for human spaceflight, and probably cannot be without huge changes in technology and redesign.

        So they needed a new rocket anyway, and one might as well set your capacity high so you can get more done in orbit and on the moon.
    • Actually, the shuttle system is one hell of a heavy lifter. What is the weight of that thing - 50 tons?
  • Wow, that crew vehicle and lander look familiar. Where have I seen something like that before? Oh yeah - back in 1969! Seriously though, I guess there are only so many simple/cheap solutions to a problem so it is natural that it would look similar - just like modern airplanes dont look that different from ones 40 years ago.
  • http://www.npr.org/templates/common/image_enlargem ent.php?imageResId=4855288 [npr.org]


    I'd hate for all of my alien friends to see me driving around in this thing. Give me a deathtrap shuttle anytime!
  • Has anyone published figures on the cost/kg using these two new launchers.

    Also, why use SSMEs? They are wickedly powerful, but they're also the most expensive engines available. Why not develop a less complex engine?
  • What's different? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:59AM (#13604158) Homepage Journal
    So, what exactly is the point of going to the moon, staying a week and then coming back? There must be one but I don't know it. America gave up for lack of interest last time 30 years ago, so why is that not going to happen this time? What's different?
  • Given that we went to the moon in less than a decade in the 60s.... why so long to plan and execute in the 2000's?
  • Safety, shmafety (Score:2, Informative)

    NASA says the new system is designed to be 10 times safer than the space shuttle

    Whether it's seat belts in cars, kids wearing helmets on bikes, or the severe risk-intolerance that afflicts our space program, we've become a society of cowards, insisting on safety above all.

    If that trend continues, and I expect it will, soon we won't ever venture into space, underwater, or outside our own fenced in back yard.

    Besides, calling something "10 times safer" sets off my B.S. detector. 1/10 as much likeli

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/science/space/2 0 nasa.html [nytimes.com]
    (registration required)

    the striking difference between this mission plan and apollo is the earth orbit rendezvous of the excursion module and the exploration module. i guess this is because the heavy-lift vehicle is not man-rated. doesn't matter--separate crew/cargo launches just mean more payload to orbit, and like someone else said, the extra bonus cargo capacity means nasa has greater in-orbit construction capacity.

    ............. kris
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @12:24PM (#13605153) Homepage
    No way is this going to happen. The US doesn't have the money. And they're not going to get it. Even conservatives are now fed up with Bush's spending.

    But it's great for NASA bureaucrats. They can just idle along, issuing press releases, running their "centers", and promoting their "education" programs, without actually building anything flyable. And they get to blame Congress for not providing more money.

    You can see this already. NASA just converted their home page to Flash.

    The next people on the moon will be Chinese. They have such a strong manufacturing economy that it won't be a stretch to build a big booster. The "China price" on a booster should be low. Maybe the US will buy some.

  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @12:31PM (#13605247) Homepage Journal
    Do you think taht by 2018 CmdrTaco will know the difference between "to" and "too"?

    "from the stuff-to-listen-too dept"

    Scientists predict that Taco's spelling will be 10 times more accurate, with sufficient funding from Congress.
  • by RedLaggedTeut (216304) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @12:54PM (#13605511) Homepage Journal
    There are 10 kinds of people: Those who think in binary, and those who don't.
  • by Ancil (622971) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @08:34PM (#13610077)

    Could someone explain to me why thousands of my hard-earned dollars should be spent so that a couple guys I'll never meet can walk on the moon for a week?

    This is a serious question. NASA claims that returning to the moon will cost $108 billion. I personally paid 8.5 ppb of the federal government's tax revenues last year (a bit over $15,000, in case you're wondering). Let's do some math: Suppose this moon-doggle ends up costing $200 billion (that's being very generous -- usually NASA manned missions cost 4-6 times their initial estimate). My part of that bill will be $1,700.

    Any NASA folks around? What am I getting for my $1,700? Because honestly, I'd rather drop it in my wife's IRA, or save it for my daughter's college education. At what point did it become ok to seize another person's hard-earned money at gunpoint and blow it on something you think might be "fun"?

    Dear President Bush: Stop being such a socialist and get with the conservative program. Shut down NASA, please.

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