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NASA

NASA Hopes Discovery's Move Is Not The Last 81

Posted by Zonk
from the go-go-rocketship dept.
An anonymous reader wrote to mention the movement of the space shuttle Discovery. The upcoming mission, if it launches, is crucial to the future of American manned space flight. From the Washington Post article: "A successful flight will allow NASA to resume construction of the half-built International Space Station and possibly extend the life of the beloved Hubble Space Telescope, which has allowed humans to peer into far galaxies. But with the shuttle fleet due to retire in 2010, any serious problems during July's mission likely would bring a premature end to the shuttle program and disrupt NASA's plans to keep its skilled work force intact while a replacement spacecraft is being developed."
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NASA Hopes Discovery's Move Is Not The Last

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  • by helioquake (841463) * on Saturday May 20, 2006 @06:01AM (#15371405) Journal
    Abandon the ISS now and channel all its investiment to the next generation space shuttle.

    If you don't want to kill the ISS completely, then focus on maintaining the ISS in orbit while developing the new generation vehicle (you could do this with a conventional booster). The use of the current shuttle should be restricted to non-ISS issue only.

    Building something that cannot be used until the next generation space shuttle becomes available (for supply and emergency evacuation, etc) isn't exactly a smart thing to do.

    Have courage and let go the ISS for now.

    • The European and Japanese can ship the parts for the ISS. If NASA isn't going to continue with their shuttle program the Indian and Chinese space programs will have more time to catch up to the US and I guess Europeans too.
      • The European and Japanese can ship the parts for the ISS.

        No they cannot. They do not have the proper means to deliver right now (both Arian and H-II are wrong for the size of the ISS payload, nor do they have experience in rendezvous maneuver with a station).

        But if they want to, they should be definitely welcome to that.

        the Indian and Chinese space programs will have more time to catch up to the US

        No. If the NASA keeps its focus on the ISS only, then these nations would have time to play a catch-up (they ar
        • Take a look at the Automated Transfer Vehicle [wikipedia.org]. It's ESA (So not affected by NASA), and specifically designed to move stuff to the ISS and then burn up on re-entry with the waste. It launches on an Ariane 5, which has more than enough raw lifting capacity.
          • Wrong... the ATV (and HTV) are cargo vessels only - akin to Russia's Progress vessels. By cargo we are talking food, water and underwear - and in the case of the HTV a small quantity of external payload. Neither can come remotely close to carrying an ISS module. The Space Shuttle is the only spacecraft currently capable of this.
        • Congress did NOT cause the shuttle program. That was a pure nixon program in the early 70's. NASA fought against it, but accepted it in the end.
      • The European and Japanese can ship the parts for the ISS.
        No, they can't.

        They have no experience with automated rendezvous, and the payloads are designed to 'hang' in the Shuttle's cargo bay as opposed to 'sitting' on the payload ring of a conventional booster. (Not to mention they depend on the shuttle for power, cooling, communications, etc...)

        One could develop an adapter to handle these problems - but such development would take years.


    • Building something that cannot be used until the next generation space shuttle becomes available (for supply and emergency evacuation, etc) isn't exactly a smart thing to do.

      Do you really think NASA is that stupid? The ISS is supplied and evacuated by Russian Progress vessels. It's always been the plan to use the Shuttle to build the space station, and use Progress vessels to supply and man it after it's built. What do you think has been being used to keep ISS going for the past 3 years?
      • by helioquake (841463) * on Saturday May 20, 2006 @06:34AM (#15371466) Journal
        The NASA's guideline for the use of the ISS facility is this: the ISS can be staffed to the maximum number of astronauts that can be evacuated off the station in case of emergency.

        With a Soyuz pod, the maximum number of staff is limited to three. And currently there are only two ports available on the ISS (so theoretically they could go up as high as six today).

        In a fully configured mode, the ISS should hold at least three international teams (US, Europe and Japan, say). Each team has about 5 -- 6 staff scientists on board to conduct a variety of experiments. So it needs to staff about 15 or more people. There is no conceivable way to achieve that right now, because of the next generation shuttle problem (or a lack of thereof).

        That is what I meant by my original post. I think others got it, though.
      • NASA is pretty stupid, yeah. They've been using the wasteful, fuel inefficient beast with the tendency to explode and drop shit for a long time with no justification, after all.
    • Humble? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hardly humble, that's an arrogant American centric suggestion. It's the INTERNATIONAL space station. Not America's space station. Not NASAs. Other nations have a say in this you know.
      • You mean like the Intarweb is International? (claimed ownership and regulated - IANA - by the US) Like space is International? (militarised by the US). Like the polar regions is "international"? (militarised by the US mostly). Like international countries is "international" (Invaded and listening posts and army bases by the US). There is no such thing as "international" its all USA biased.
      • Hardly humble, that's an arrogant American centric suggestion. It's the INTERNATIONAL space station.

        I know that if *I* buy and pay for something, I consider it to be *mine*.
      • I don't believe NASA, or most Americans would have much trouble with any other nation stepping up and keeping the progress going on the space station while NASA works on internal issues. Other nations don't realy have a say, if you mean in forcing NASA to single-handedly continue development of the space station.

        Cheers!
      • So you're suggesting that the rest of the countries actually pay for it?

        Ok, my above words would be flat out flamebait if I didn't qualify them a little further. The US is by far the biggest investor in the ISS. Some of the modules and components come from Canada, ESA, Japan, and Russia, but most of the operational expenses come out of NASA's budget, with I suppose Russia second. If any of the above, except Russia, pulled out today nothing would happen. If the US or Russia pulled out of the project it wo
    • Nonsense. There are no plans at all for a next generation shuttle in the near to intermediate future.

      For now (semi)expendable boosters are the way to go, shuttles are technically too complex hence not cost-efficient. I'd think the current line of shuttles has proven that more than adequately, no?

      SSTO, real reusable shuttles are quite a way off.
    • ***Abandon the ISS now and channel all its investiment to the next generation space shuttle.***

      Regretably, that's more easily said than done. The I in ISS stands for International. It's International because when Reagan's misbegotten "Space Station Freedom" predictably ran out of schedule and funding simultaneously along about 1993 we sold a bunch or suckers on making this useless and rather silly project an International effort. So, the US doesn't own the thing any more.

      As far as I can see, it reall

      • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @12:38PM (#15372411) Journal
        put someone competent in charge of NASA -- quite possibly for the first time ever.

        Yeah, James webb who got us to the moon in 8 years, was incompetent

        As far as I can see, it really doesn't matter very much. The Bush league fantasies about going to Mars via the space station and the moon are probably going to flounder sometime just before or after we get back to the moon for a day or two. Reason -- cost overruns and the fallout from Bush's nutty fiscal policies.

        Actually, if the USA can get heavy lift rockets and our own mission to their working, we will probably be ok. The reason is that private enterprise is not really interested in going to space for spaces sake. They want to go to the moon/mars and start exploration. They will also build small hotels to help fund it, but all this requires heavy lift capablities running at least once a month (or more) to be low cost enough.

      • Utter nonsense. We've got a 747SP sitting in a hangar, victim of a budget cut. The plane was modified with an infrared window, a large infrared telescope, and named SOFIA. That was an international project too. It's also COMPLETE. As in, it needs to be run through trial tests and it's operational.

        We cut SOFIA and fucked the German partners. Why not just cut the ISS? SOFIA was going to give us IR astronomy results that would have blown our socks off, just like we all collectively ejaculate whenever Hubble pr
        • ***We cut SOFIA***

          Don't blame me. If it had been my call, we'd be spending money on science, not bizarre experiments in imperialism. (Wrong century for that). The bad news is that you can expect a lot more of this in the out years when the results of the current administration's fiscal whackiness come home to roost. I suppose there could be all sorts of reasons for delaying/cutting SOFIA and that some of them might be valid. But on the surface it looks like a worthy project.

          ***and fucked the German

  • 2010 (Score:5, Funny)

    by DJTodd242 (560481) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @06:22AM (#15371445) Homepage
    Well of course Discovery is going to retire in 2010. It'll be destroyed when Jupiter is imploded by the Monolith.

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE. USE THEM TOGETHER. USE THEM IN PEACE.
    • that was a great book.
    • Re:2010 (Score:3, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

      That was totally a marketing bluff from the aliens, and we all know this really means "SHIT, FORGET EVERYTHING AND COME TO EUROPA RIGHT NOW."

      Plus, why not land there. Are they hiding weapons of mass destruction or somethin'?
  • I have to agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by briancnorton (586947)
    The ISS serves no purpose other than international good-will. It is scientifically irrelevant, ridiculously expensive, and not safe for the inhabitants if we can't rely on the space shuttle to get up there. Fuel it up, pull the people and keep it in orbit as long as possible or until we need it for something.
    • Re:I have to agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rackrent (160690) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @06:32AM (#15371463)
      My understanding is that both the concept and design of the ISS were contingent on the Space Shuttle offering convenient flights to help build the thing. It wasn't uncommon to have one Shuttle flight each month back in the so-called heyday.

      What's failed is that the international, co-operative vision of the ISS kept on going even while the Shuttle fleet was realized to be an aging dinosaur, at best. Had the Shuttle been more reliable over the past decade, the ISS would be vastly different than it is now.
    • Re:I have to agree (Score:3, Informative)

      by DoktorTomoe (643004)
      and not safe for the inhabitants if we can't rely on the space shuttle to get up there.
      Deaths in manned spaceflight since beginning of the Shuttle Program] USA: 14 [STS-51-L and STS-107] RUSSIA: 0 (last confirmed death: Komarov, Soujuz 1, 1967... ) Really, no way to get inhabitants up there safely ;)
      • Re:I have to agree (Score:3, Informative)

        by DoktorTomoe (643004)
        Correction: Last confirmed Russian death is those of the cosmonauts of Soyuz 11 on June 30th 1971

        However ... Sojuz seems a lot more reliable to me...
        • Re:I have to agree (Score:3, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          However ... Sojuz seems a lot more reliable to me...

          You are right, Soyuz seems to be a lot safer.

          Mostly it seems so because it's numerous failures and problems (with the exception of Soyuz 1 and 11) are little known outside of Russian space program. (During the Soviet era they told niether the US, nor their own people.) However an account [jamesoberg.com] of just the re-entry and landing problems makes for frightening reading - and leaves out the two launch accidents and multiple loss-of-mission accidents/incidents.

          The

      • Not only has the shuttle failure highlighted the reliability of Russian conventional booster technology, the political situation seems to be helping the ESA align themselves more with Russia than the U.S. And that makes some geographical sense.

    • Re:I have to agree (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wertarbyte (811674) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @01:05PM (#15372503) Homepage
      That's because the science related modules [wikipedia.org] have to wait for the shuttle (or an equivalent). There is no other way to lift the european Columbus module - where "real science" could take place - into orbit.
    • "Scientifically irrelevant"...I'm sorry, what other platform allows direct monitoring and control over long-term microgravity and exo-atmospheric experiments? Perhaps the benefit/cost ratio of the experiments is questionable, but there is not currently anything equivalent to the laboratory capabilities it offers.

      The ISS has supported several hundred past and present science experiments [nasa.gov] and the numbers will pick up fast once the remaining modules are added and the crew is increased to a standard full comp
  • Star Wars (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "A successful flight will allow NASA to resume construction of the half-built International Space Station and possibly extend the life of the beloved Hubble Space Telescope, which has allowed humans to peer into far galaxies. But with the shuttle fleet due to retire in 2010, any serious problems during July's mission likely would bring a premature end to the shuttle program and disrupt NASA's plans to keep its skilled work force intact while a replacement spacecraft is being developed."

    Zoom to Yoda: In dan

  • by mikelieman (35628) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @07:08AM (#15371525) Homepage
    --------
    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/topics/gettospace.ht ml#prizes [jerrypournelle.com]

    Jerry Pournelle Wrote:

    "I can solve the space access problem with a few sentences.

    Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States:

    The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay to the first American owned company (if corporate at least 60% of the shares must be held by American citizens) the following sums for the following accomplishments. No monies shall be paid until the goals specified are accomplished and certified by suitable experts from the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Science:

    1. The sum of $2 billion to be paid for construction of 3 operational spacecraft which have achieved low earth orbit, returned to earth, and flown to orbit again three times in a period of three weeks.

    2. The sum of $5 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a space station which has been continuously in orbit with at least 5 Americans aboard for a period of not less than three years and one day. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the station be unoccupied.

    3. The sum of $12 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a Lunar base in which no fewer than 31 Americans have continuously resided for a period of not less than four years and one day.

    4. The sum of $10 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a solar power satellite system which delivers at least 800 megaWatts of electric power to a receiving station or stations in the United States for a period of at least two years and one day.

    5. The payments made shall be exempt from all US taxes.

    That would do it. Not one cent to be paid until the goals are accomplished. Not a bit of risk, and if it can't be done for those sums, well, no harm done to the treasury."

    ------------

    The problem is our GOVERNMENT DOESN'T WANT TO DO IT
    • Interesting idea, but as you say, the US Govt doesn't want to do it.

      So how about the UN, EU, China, and Middle East step up and do something like that? Middle East money is plentiful, Chinese production is cheap, Japanese technology is excellent, European engineering is suberb.

      We'd get it done in no time... if it wasn't for effing politicians.
    • I agree whole heartedly. NASA, back in its early days, was a great program. Today, it needs to be scrapped. We keep funneling taxpayer dollars into a system that has been going backwards since before they space shuttle program was ever even started. I can't even begin to fathom why our government wants to keep dumping money into this system, when they could just promise rewards as Pournelle suggests, and watch the ingenuity of competitive industry take its course.
      • I agree whole heartedly. NASA, back in its early days, was a great program. Today, it needs to be scrapped.

        NASA is what it has always been, an organization burdened by various politicians abusing it to boost their careers. Scrapping it would simply make those creeps take another target.

        I can't even begin to fathom why our government wants to keep dumping money into this system, when they could just promise rewards as Pournelle suggests, and watch the ingenuity of competitive industry take its course.

    • There's a small matter of the companies surviving long enough to accomplish the task and collect the reward money. I know that I'd have trouble finding billions of dollars in my couch to fund such a project with no guarantee of ever collecting the reward or of costs not soaring way beyond the reward amount.
    • The problem is our GOVERNMENT DOESN'T WANT TO DO IT

      No, the problem is that Jerry Pournelle, like a lot of Space Cadets, has this fixed idea in his head the somehow the US Goverment is responsible for making their dreams reality. The idea that commercial developments are generally funded by the market - and the lack of realistic profit opportunities, doesn't bother him one bit. Apollo, done by the goverment, provided him and his ilk with decades of masturbatory fantasies - and he and others like him now

  • SM4 needed (Score:2, Informative)

    by tonymtdew (976074)
    This is regarded by folks at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD (where they design and engineer the Hubble and parts for it) as Servicing Mission 4. When I was last there in March, the scientist the designed and built the mass spectrometer for it told me that its current one is no longer working. It had actually outlived its expected age by around 50% I believe. Furthormore, this will be the last servicing mission for the Hubble. After that, the hopes is to have the new and much more power
    • Re:SM4 needed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jubedgy (319420)
      "They handle unmanned space missions here."

      They handle *some* unmanned space missions here. JPL out in Pasadena, handles quite a few unmanned missions as well. There used to be a fairly strong rivalry between the two, in fact, but I believe that that has started to go the way of the Hatfield vs McCoy rivalry.

      The GSFC campus *is* huge, by the way, and the JPL campus is relatively small and on a hill.

      One of the best things about the JWST (James Web Space Telescope, the follow-on to Hubble) is that it will p
    • NASA's just manifested a placeholder for another hubble mission, which would be STS-125. It depends how tests go on this next flight, but I've heard both the astronauts and NASA administrator would really like to see it happen regardless.
    • Yes, SM4 is needed, but not the one originally scheduled. The original SM4 was the EOL (End Of Life) mission, which would handle the decommissioning (removing solar panels, installing retro rockets, etc.) The dream of stowing HST into the SST cargo bay and bringing it home had long been abandoned. SI upgrades have already been built, as well as platform maintenence modules (gyros, etc.) So a real servicing mission SM4 is really needed, as well as an EOL SM5 in 2010. The SST program is in too much turmo
  • Hurricanes? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jginspace (678908)

    I just read about this on the BBC and they say it isn't due for lift-off until early July. So they expect to have it standing out there for nearly two months? What's the situation re the likely chance of a hurricane sweeping through the neighbourhood during that timeframe? Or is it safer there than where it was?

    • Even if there aren't any hurricanes, it seems crazy to leave it parked outside, right beside the sea for a couple of months. Salty sea air is a corrosion nightmare.

      Plus simple rain of course, and cold nights, etc...

      I can't for the life of me imagine why they wheeled it out now, rather than keeping it safe and warm in the vehicle assembly building until the last possible moment - say, the day before launch.
  • Dubious Assumptions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @10:21AM (#15371984)
    A successful flight will allow

    That's a pretty big leap, in my opinion. I honestly don't mean to be a troll, but the shuttle has more or less proven to be a dangerously unreliable machine. So saying that a single successful flight will, ergo, guarantee subsequent successful flights is a bit like playing Russian roulette and figuring everything will be fine in the future as long as there's no bullet in the chamber this time. It just isn't very sensible.

    Maybe it's just the wording, but it seems to me that it would be better to say something like, "despite the very high risk of catastrophic failure involved, NASA will attempt to continue to fly the space shuttle in order to maintain the ISS," since that would at least be honest and accurate.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The shuttle isn't all that dangerous. What is dangerous is when the management folks won't listen to concerns the engineers have and allow potentialy fatal problums to remain unchecked. You can trace the root cause of BOTH shuttle accidents back to that.

      Is the shuttle perfectly safe? No... But neither is getting up out of bed everyday and walking out your front door. It's a risk but an acceptable one if the management will do their jobs and put reasonable safety first, innovation second and go from ther
    • That's a pretty big leap, in my opinion. I honestly don't mean to be a troll, but the shuttle has more or less proven to be a dangerously unreliable machine.

      How safe should strapping yourself to giant rockets and shooting yourself out of the earth's atmosphere be?

      Just curious.
    • Hm, walking to work carries a number of risks, drinking beer ditto, flying on a normal plane ditto.

      You can never avoid risks and when you consider the extreme conditions which the shuttle is designed for the risks, when put into perspective, are there but they are manageable.

  • by malsdavis (542216) * on Saturday May 20, 2006 @10:56AM (#15372094)
    People who think NASA is going to replace the Space Shuttle with an entirely new system allowing regular manned trips to space are kidding themselves. US based manned space flight will be a rare thing in the future, there's simply no political will to continue it anymore.

    A sad end to a once great US endeavour which was the envy of the world, but hey there's always the war on terror, look how popular that is making us, and at only 20 times the cost!

  • NASA rolled the space shuttle Discovery onto a launch pad on Friday hoping to leave behind problems exposed by the 2003 Columbia disaster and begin a final round of flights

    The posted article is, um.... not a confidence booster for astronauts. So if you're an astronaut click here [whitehouse.gov] for a more politically correct article.

  • It all went downhill after that fault was found in the AE-35 unit [everything2.com].

    Hmmmm. Check this [2001spacesuit.com]. Not sure if I'm more impressed or saddened.

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