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NASA Space Science

NASA Think Tank to be Shut Down 132

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ice-cream-dept-still-intact dept.
Matthew Sparkes writes "NASA will likely shut down its Institute for Advanced Concepts, which funds research into futuristic ideas in spaceflight and aeronautics. The move highlights the budget problems the agency is facing as it struggles to retire the space shuttles and develop a replacement. The institute receives $4 million per year from NASA, whose annual budget is $17 billion. Most of that is used to fund research into innovative technologies; recent grants include the conceptual development of spacecraft that could surf the solar system on magnetic fields, motion-sensitive spacesuits that could generate power and tiny, spherical robots that could explore Mars."
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NASA Think Tank to be Shut Down

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  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:32AM (#18429421)
    If there is only 1% waste in the NASA budget, they are wasting 170 million per year, and that would be considered a low level waste-fraud-mistake amount.

    If it is 0.1% loss that is $17m/yr. So what is with shutting down a program that may yield opportunities for far greater savings and benefits over time?

    I suspect more efficiency program work would do better for NASA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MattSparkes (950531)
      That's true - even 1% wastage is a huge amount, but I suppose that cuts have to come from somewhere. Of course, if you looked at the US budget as whole there may be some other things that could be cut, so that NASA's budget could actually be raised this year.

      Can anyone think of anything that the US government is spending money on that it shouldn't?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by EvanED (569694)
        Can anyone think of anything that the US government is spending money on that it shouldn't?

        I can think of about $100bn/yr expense that has been going on far a couple years
      • by OK PC (857190)
        Erm, let me think... IRAQ!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BoRegardless (721219)
          "Erm, let me think... IRAQ!" Well IRAQ is not funded out of NASA but that has lots more than $170m/yr wasted you are right.

          The irony of war, waste and lost lives, is that the technologies which have been developed in Iraq & Afganistan by the U.S. & its allies from surveillance, guidance, sensors, weapons, language analysis, tactics and human psychology of urban conflict have resulted in abilities and knowledge which will help the industrialized world immensely in being able to find, monitor, stop a
          • by guruevi (827432)
            If you think that conflicts are going to stop or be minimized, you are dead wrong, it's only going to get worse, and the only thing we do is find better ways to kill each other.

            If we would actually apply the lessons we learn, we wouldn't have wars anymore by now, we can develop all those techniques in a peaceful setting by scientist that would actually create it with a good cause in mind, not by an oppressive government that is just going to use it to survey, guide, sense, analyze their people and weaponize
            • by timeOday (582209)

              If you think that conflicts are going to stop or be minimized, you are dead wrong, it's only going to get worse, and the only thing we do is find better ways to kill each other.

              Huh? Compared to the first half of the 20th century, the last 60 years have been a cake walk.

              I think I agree with the rest of your comment. The only dire threat to our national security right now is he proliferation of nuclear weapons. Obviously we should strive to minimize terrorism as well, but Muslim extremists haven't a pr

              • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward
                That's funny... I thought it was the new Iraqi government that hung Saddam...
                • by timeOday (582209)

                  That's funny... I thought it was the new Iraqi government that hung Saddam...

                  Sure, sort of. There are several factions battling for control of Iraq. The one we created, and are propping up, and to whom we handed Saddam for execution after capturing him, is the one that executed him. So in that sense "we" didn't do it. Even if you absolutely accept them as the legitimate government of Iraq, it's 100% clear that he never would have been executed without US actions, and almost as clear that Ahmadinejad w

            • Cuban Pringles Can Crisis kinda has an appealing ring to it.

              On the bright side, we could annex, er... liberate, them then.

              Three words:

              New Housing Boom!
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by evilviper (135110)

            [...] against a medieval set of ideas based on forced conversion not of just people to their religion, but indeed also the conversion of the entire worlds law and governmental systems to Sharia law.

            Yeah, Iraq was really on the brink of taking over the world...

            Sure, they were just about the most liberal and secular Muslim country in the world, but you know, as soon as they'd taken over, BAM! Islamic law everywhere!

            You can't lump Afghanistan and Iraq together. The two couldn't possibly have been more differ

          • The irony of war, waste and lost lives, is that the technologies which have been developed in Iraq & Afganistan by the U.S. & its allies from surveillance, guidance, sensors, weapons, language analysis, tactics and human psychology of urban conflict have resulted in abilities and knowledge which will help the industrialized world immensely in being able to find, monitor, stop and minimize potential conflicts through this century.

            Here's a problem with your cute little theory: the U.S. military alrea

            • Quick lesson:

              'light', 'rapid fire', and 'accurate' tend to be mutually exclusive in the weapons world. The only way to sorta get all three* is to reduce the power of your shots.

              The lighter the weapon, the more recoil felt. The faster you fire, the less time you have to stabilize the weapon before the next round fires. The combined effects tends to have any rifle pointing into the sky after a burst. The M16A2 is 'burst mode' for this very reason. It fires three shots with each pull of the trigger, becau
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:27PM (#18430137) Journal

        Can anyone think of anything that the US government is spending money on that it shouldn't?
        Wow. Dude, this is Slashdot, home of foaming-at-the-mouth anarchists and libertarians (among many other categories of people this post doesn't apply to, like tree-hugging granola-crunching Birkenstock-wearing non-showering reefer-smoking hippies).

        Are you trolling for replies or seriously asking that question?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        Salaries for Congress critters Benefits for Congress critters Retirement pay for Congress critters
    • It's brinksmanship (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yog (19073) * on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:47PM (#18430461) Homepage Journal
      I suspect NASA is actually playing brinksmanship games here. Cut external programs that cause maximum pain to the loudest voices in the scientific community and somehow this convinces Congress to restore funding allowances. Loudly threaten that we won't have any manned space flight capability for 5 years while the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans ramp up their programs.

      No member of Congress is going to begrudge $4 million. It's a drop in the bucket. The average Senator and congressman earmarks more than that for their many pet local projects.

      This is a pale shadow of what NASA used to represent: the scientific might of the world's most advanced country, boldly striding into space while the world watched in awe.

      Today NASA just exists to keep its patchy old 1970s era shuttles flying, pouring billions into dead end maintenance efforts while the truly innovative efforts are moving to the private sector if not completely to other countries.

      Frankly I think the U.S. has lost its will to explore space. Now everything needs to be justified by short term gain. The can-do, beat-the-Soviets mentality that drove us into orbit in the '50s and 60s seems to have been replaced by crass (and ignorant) focus on the bottom line. Of course, those early efforts resulted in massive technological advances, but today everything has to be directly and obviously profitable to even the stupidest politician before it gets any funding.

      Let's vote out the war and vote in a $1 trillion increase in science budgets. That's my pet solution to the whole NASA problem.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The U.S. never had a will to explore space. As you said yourself, we had a will to beat the Soviets. Which, I would argue, was a very short-term-gain mindset. We didn't go to space with thoughts of what it might do for the human race someday. We went to space so that we could beat our chests, brag about how we were the greatest nation on earth, and get everyone else to fall in line. And fear of losing that is one of the biggest reasons why we are all afraid to shut down NASA.

        Someone else on the thread
        • by mahmud (254877)
          If scientist is not doing an obviously bogus stuff, it's very hard to assess whether the research he/she does is actually useless. Science is one of those endeavors where you can't really know where you are going until you actually get there. That's why it's important to fund weird and esoteric research, while keeping the funding levels sane, of course.
        • by gaber1187 (681071)
          Good insight, I completely agree, because seriously, 4 million per year or whatever? come on! That's less than one medical research lab will live on in a year... jeez... That funds maybe 10 people at most plus some equipment purchases? Totally just "ok you wanna cut our funding, then we'll cut the cool stuff first".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Irvu (248207)
      The problem with NASA isn't a lack of efficiency it is a surfeit of "guidance". Unlike many large budgetary bodies (i.e. the DOD) Congress has taken an express delight in "fine-tuning" parts of NASA's budget over the years through specific mandates. Each mandate sets aside some subset of NASA's overall budget for a selected enterprise out of the control of NASA's administrators. In recent years these mandates have grown increasingly diverse and porcine up to and including a NASA run aquarium.

      This has als
    • by Firethorn (177587)
      I'd rather have this, and other projects, suspended or placed on hold until we have a shuttle replacement. From all my research the shuttle is a massive waste of money for it's utility.

      Basically, by developing an alternative launch-recovery system for people that's within an order of magnitude for a cargo shot of similar mass on one of the more economical disposable rockets in cost we'd be able to recoup the cost of development rather quickly.

      After that we'd be able to use the savings to do things like bui
  • by ivan256 (17499) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:33AM (#18429429)
    ...of recent technologies they've come up with that have made it into practical use?

    I see the value of research for research's sake, but you've got to come up with things that have a practical use once in a while, even if by accident, otherwise that value goes away...

    I'm not saying this lab hasn't come up with such things, but if they have, what are they and why aren't some of them listed in the story summary?
    • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:37AM (#18429479)
      Tang
    • by jim_deane (63059) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:53PM (#18430581) Journal

      Why would that be important?

      If we're looking for ways to do things better 50, 100, 200, 1000 years from now, why would we care about short term "...technologies...that have made it into practical use"?

      Jim
      • by khallow (566160)
        Because short term technologies are relevant to us while we can contribute little scientifically to what goes on hundreds of years from now.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vmerc (931519)
      Basic science does not develop "practical" stuff. It discovers and explores the framework under which those practical things CAN occur. The people who do basic science are best at what they do, and there are plenty of other people out there that will take that knowledge and create practical things from it which would not have been possible otherwise. Do not impune the value of a basic science program because it didn't pop out your next technology convenience. Instead, take a look at your cell-phone or y
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        /me hands you a hat that says "Captain Obvious" on the front.

        What I'm asking is whether they have done any basic research that has led to practical technology, not whether they themselves have produced anything practical. It stands to reason that if they're doing valuable work than this would happen now and then, and if not then they're not really providing the benefit you describe.

        Just because basic science is useful doesn't mean we shouldn't expect some results eventually. I want to know what technology t
    • by berwiki (989827)
      Velco and Tang were invented FOR NASA's use:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_(drink) [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velcro [wikipedia.org]

      I cant find the Wikipedia page that lists things NASA actually invented...
      (besides some obviously specialized robots and moon-landing movie studios ;)
    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      NIAC has been involved in looking at much larger space and lunar based telescopes. With much of the on the books missions now already off the books, one could see why planning for the future would be getting a lower priority. If you're not really planning on flying the missions you've already spent money on, why dream up new ones. NIAC has also been involved in evaluating some pretty novel propulsion systems as well. Here are a couple http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004AIPC..699..553M [harvard.edu] and http://www.nas [nasa.gov]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by delepster (599372)
      That's the sole problem with fundamental research. When you do not come up quickly with answers having practical use for ordinary people, your budget gets cut.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...to welcome our "tiny, spherical robot overlords who could explore Mars."

    Also known as 'meteorites'. Exploring doesn't mean you have to phone back home!
  • NASA used to be a organisation which looked to the future and developed new and astonishing technologies and dared to dream large. There is little left of all this nowadays...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mizled (1000175)

      NASA used to be a organisation which looked to the future and developed new and astonishing technologies and dared to dream large. There is little left of all this nowadays...

      No, NASA is not dropping the ball. They are planning to go back to the moon, live there and then on to Mars. NASA *is* doing big things. For one the ISS is a big thing although, it seems small to you it will be very helpful in the long run to know how to build and assemble a space station that is livable for many months at a time. FFS we're *living* in space. How is that not a big deal?

      NASA does what they can with the funding they receive. George W. Bush is doing cut backs on the NASA program so they

  • by tezza (539307) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:39AM (#18429517)
    Can some helpful person explain how the NASA budget [wikipedia.org] is drawn up? The wikipedia article covers the facts and outcomes, and not the political angles.


    I guess I'm asking:

    * where the money is going instead? To different NASA projects or to other state projects outside [stable economy]

    * is there less money overall? [shrinking economy]

    * is the budget determined by the President or the Senate?

    * how frequently are these budgets determined? - how soon could all this budget shrinking really be turned around?

    * is there consensus on the role of NASA, or is there variation between Democrats and Republicans?

    * if there had been less spent on Defense [say Iraq war], would that have been allocatable to NASA? Sometimes budgets are drawn from several pools... e.g. Road Tax in Australia is only spent on roads.
    • NASA budgeting has little to do with politics or even practical realities. NASA continues to try and thrive on the glory days of its leap to the Moon, even though the first landing was almost 41 years ago now. Whenever things are going bad, the President (choose any one you like) will announce plans for NASA to do something to make America proud and continue our long tradition of space exploration. However, not even Presidential boosterism can keep Congress from continually whittling away NASA's budget, to the point where it becomes a competition for money between the manned program (see as costly, inefficient, and dangerous) and the unmanned programs (see as cheap, flexible, and low-risk). Inevitably, the bulk of the budget goes to the manned program and some promising probes and instruments are shelved for lack of funds.

      Now, I am a firm believer in the need for both the manned and unmanned programs. The fact is NASA is underfunded, and those funds could certainly come from somewhere else (DoD for example), but the bottom line with the American people always is, what's in it for me? Now, there a legion of examples of technology spun off from NASA applications, but those are not the kind of things that the everyday citizen is impressed with. And unless you are a Star Trek fan, the idea of exploration for exploration's sake is a dim memory, best left with Lewis & Clark. The sad fact is, unless NASA can come up with something stunning, that captures the imagination of Americans again, as the Moon landings did, this is just another stage in the deterioration of a proud agency that once carried this nation's pride to a new frontier.

      • 7/20/1969, 38 years ago - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_landing [wikipedia.org] . I remember watching the sucky video as it was happening.
      • And unless you are a Star Trek fan, the idea of exploration for exploration's sake is a dim memory, best left with Lewis & Clark. The sad fact is, unless NASA can come up with something stunning

        If NASA could come up with something like warp [wikipedia.org] or hyperspace fold [wikipedia.org] drive or some other type of effective interstellar travel then that would certainly be stunning, but we will not get there but cutting the funding for all pure research and development entirely. The program should continue to receive some fundi
        • by 0111 1110 (518466)
          Unfortunately NASA also closed down the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program [nasa.gov] in 2002. The program was a bit more focused on the goals you have mentioned. Since it's not a very controversial subject the wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] seems excellent. A nice overview. The BPPP was a seriously cool idea and should have been funded forever. In 6 years they only spent 1.6 million. Although, obviously they were not able to come up with any useful ideas. It's probably not a very useful concept. Folks like Einstein or Newton d
    • I hope this helps [wikipedia.org]. It won't answer all of your questions, but it is a start.
    • In short, NASA is faced with a slightly declining budget (not in actual dollars, but in dollars when accounting for inflation) at least partially because of tightening budgets in the U.S. due to rising costs across government and Bush's tax cuts. Recently, the Republicans were both big on tax cuts and big on spending (which IMO was a key to their political success), but the public is finally starting to catch on and demand some sort of responsibility. (I'm not gonna say Democrats would have been particularl
      • by terrymr (316118)
        One cause of NASA's current problems was the complete failure of the last congress to pass a budget for the current fiscal year.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      * where the money is going instead? To different NASA projects or to other state projects outside [stable economy]

      From your link it seems like NASA's budget has remained steady. Most of the problems lie within NASA itself, which is bleeding massive amounts of money on ISS & Shuttle programs.

      * is there less money overall? [shrinking economy]

      The US economy is still growing, however, the rising cost of debt, the war in Iraq, and Social Security are putting massive pressure on the government budget

      * i

    • NASA's budget is unaffected by the Iraq war, the money would never have been considered for NASA. Unless NASA can find some pressing reason to exist beyond the small means it has now Congress is never going to pour money into it.

      A Moonshot was a us versus them, it gained votes because supporting it was politically smart.

      The shuttle at first was also a grand idea, the program being spread over so many states to make it even more politically viable.

      The space station was exciting how Reagan imagined it, it ne
      • by tsalaroth (798327)
        And this is why Senators and Representatives need term limits. Two for Senators, five or six for Reps. I think 12 years should be PLENTY of time to get programs you think are needed into place and moving.

        Instead we have 80-90 year old Senators and Representatives who lost touch with society and how it works in the 1970s. This isn't representation, it's a farce.
    • * where the money is going instead? To different NASA projects or to other state projects outside [stable economy]

      NASA will spend it on other things. If NASA does not spend it, Congress will decide they didn't need it in the first place, and NASA's budget will shrink. Es verdad, that's how it works: spending is the only way to keep a budget!

      * is there less money overall? [shrinking economy]

      The United States economy has been growing well since the end of the dotcom bust/Clinton Recession.

      * is the budget d

    • by ozeki (466460)
      Ok lets do the math, Medicare part d [wikipedia.org] is the reason, just think 40,0000 viagra tablets would fund this program. But then again I guess congress being nothing but old men, what are the odds they would risk it. they need to get lucky to:)
    • * where the money is going instead? To different NASA projects or to other state projects outside
      Presumably other NASA projects, according to what I read

      * is there less money overall?
      It is rare to find the US government spending less money overall. Money "not going to NASA" is going elsewhere.

      * is the budget determined by the President or the Senate?
      The Senate holds the purse strings in the US government.

      * is there consensus on the role of NASA, or is there variation between Democrats and Republicans?
      It var
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:42AM (#18429543) Journal

    This makes about as much sense as shooting a perfectly good horse while you're riding through the middle of the desert.

    NASA has been charged with getting back to the Moon and on to Mars and frankly needs all the innovative ideas and thinking they can find. So what do they do? Shut down the people who dream up advanced concepts! It's sad enough that they are going to try and go back to the Moon using souped-up Apollo-era technology, which I predict is a prescription for disaster, but they are not even giving themselves a fair chance of coming up with a better alternative.

    My pride in and belief in NASA wanes more with each passing year.

    • by Gr8Apes (679165)
      Great analogy, whether it's appropriate or not!

      It's not NASA that's the problem, but the current "brain" sitting behind the oval office. You know, the same one that got a minority of the popular vote in the last 2 elections?
      • by kalirion (728907)
        I'm pretty sure Bush got the majority popular vote in the last presidential election. Officially at least.
        • by Gr8Apes (679165)
          We'll never know. Ohio's election officials apparently tailored the "random" samples for verification. No one AFAIK has accurately reported on the number of disenfranchised voters that were hounded or otherwise discouraged from voting by Republican croonies.

          The funny thing? Until the shrub ran for office, I was a staunch Republican that would have said you're insane for even implying that I'd ever support a Democrat. Democrats be da deevil, ya no. (weak Waterboy reference)
    • Not Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:55AM (#18429697) Journal
      So what do they do? Shut down the people who dream up advanced concepts!

      Not exactly. They feed $500M to SpaceX and Kistler to develop real-working rockets that can deliver to ISS. And yes, the money is contingent on success. Invoking private industry to develop the next generation of vehicles is the way to go.

      It's sad enough that they are going to try and go back to the Moon using souped-up Apollo-era technology, which I predict is a prescription for disaster

      As an aerospace engineer, I'm glad they are reverting to the apollo 'stack' concept. It is safer than the shuttle, in theory, and let's face it - the shuttle never reached its full potential as a 'space truck': dropping off and retrieving satellites. It only really efficiently used the payload bay during the construction (and continued construction) of ISS. All those missions where they just brought along a few pallets of experiments - think of all the wasted mass that was accelerated to orbit. The new system will compartmentalize equiptment from people, allowing for better scaling and efficiency. And better failure modes, using existing hardware with a proven track record (and failure modes that have been documented and corrected).
      • Re:Not Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jim_deane (63059) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:50PM (#18430519) Journal
        >> So what do they do? Shut down the people who dream up advanced concepts!

        > Not exactly. They feed $500M to SpaceX and Kistler to develop real-working rockets that can deliver
        > to ISS. And yes, the money is contingent on success. Invoking private industry to develop the next
        > generation of vehicles is the way to go.

        Building a rocket to go to the space station is not an advanced concept.

        Building a space elevator using carbon nanotubes...that's advanced. Magnetic field drives...that's advanced. Solar sails, antimatter engines, gravitational drives...all advanced.

        The whole point of research like this is to look for major leaps in science, technology, and engineering. The third-party space industry is concerned with profit, mainly by repeating what NASA and the military have been doing for about a half century. Maybe in thirty years they'll be in a position to concentrate on research like this...but I don't think SpaceX is concerning itself with warp drive just yet.

        The NIAC, and the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics group before it, are about pushing for the future, not just resting on our chemically propelled century-old technological laurels.
        • by 2short (466733)
          "Building a rocket to go to the space station is not an advanced concept."

          Entirely agree. The space station as a whole is a huge expenditure of resources to learn pretty much nothing. We've been to low earth orbit a few times already.

          "Building a space elevator using carbon nanotubes...that's advanced. Magnetic field drives...that's advanced. Solar sails, antimatter engines, gravitational drives...all advanced."

          All *fictional*. With the possible exception of solar sails, based on my understanding of thos
          • by jim_deane (63059)
            >> Building a space elevator using carbon nanotubes...that's advanced. Magnetic field
            >> drives...that's advanced. Solar sails, antimatter engines, gravitational drives...all
            >> advanced.

            > All *fictional*. With the possible exception of solar sails, based on my understanding
            > of those "technologies", they are not at a point where time might be usefully spent on
            > them by engineers as opposed to SciFi writers.

            It is not necessarily true that currently fictional technologies are unlikel
            • by 2short (466733)
              I'm just saying there is a difference between saying "If we exploited this known physical effect, and were able to greatly improve existing technologies, what could we do?" (as is the case with Magnetic Field Propulsion) and speculating about, for example, Gravity Drives. Yeah, we've got a couple programs trying, so far unsuccessfully, to detect gravity waves, because various theories say they should exist. But we cannot spend useful time perparing to capitalize on future discoveries, because we don't kn
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        As an aerospace engineer, I'm glad they are reverting to the apollo 'stack' concept. It is safer than the shuttle, in theory,

        An aerospace engineer should be aware that while the stack concept removes some failure modes that the Shuttle has - it adds several of it's very own. Starting right at launch, the LES can fail when needed. When you start the re-entry phase, you face the problem of dropping off the parts no longer needed. (You can either drop too early, or fail to drop on time. The Soyuz has had

        • Sorry I'm a little late but I will defend myself.

          Starting right at launch, the LES can fail when needed.

          Versus the shuttle ... when exactly have we been able to take advantage of any kind of LES? Challenger? Hello!

          When you start the re-entry phase, you face the problem of dropping off the parts no longer needed. (You can either drop too early, or fail to drop on time. The Soyuz has had both happen.) Parachutes can fail to deploy and have no backups, and your landing braking system (rockets or airbags
          • Sorry I'm a little late but I will defend myself.

            You didn't 'defend' yourself - you exposed your ignorance even further.

            For instance the nonsensical claim about not delivering or servicing satellites since Challenger - ever heard of Magellan? Hubble?. Or the nonsensical claim about landing in water, given that the recovery mode for Orion is land. Or the dammfool claim about 'packing a backup parachute'. etc... etc...

            You haven't the slightest clue what you are talking about.

      • by SETIGuy (33768)

        As an aerospace engineer, I'm glad they are reverting to the apollo 'stack' concept. It is safer than the shuttle, in theory...

        Who's theory? I assume you've done a fault tree analysis? In comparing other launch systems with the shuttle, I've found that the theoretical differences in safety are fairly insignificant. Don't give me the "it's got an escape system" if you're not going to talk about what flight envelopes it can be used in (That capsule wasn't designed to separate in atmosphere and once it d

        • I've found that the theoretical differences in safety are fairly insignificant.

          Even neglecting the escape system, you have a system that is, in theory ( theory == it is all speculation now, we haven't flown one, much less enough to do a statistical analysis. But we can look back at our forefathers ... ) safer due to the stack design itself. Both fatal shuttle missions were caused due to parallel staging - a SRB rupture and foam decellerating and impacting the shuttle. The stack design alone will virtual
    • This makes about as much sense as shooting a perfectly good horse while you're riding through the middle of the desert.
      The shutdown doesn't mean that the research possibilities are lost. From the articles, it seems the NIAC was just a clearing house for funding research. The same research could be funded through other NASA teams.
    • by oni (41625)
      souped-up Apollo-era technology, which I predict is a prescription for disaster,

      that is a ridiculous statement on a number of levels. There are only two or three spaceship configurations that work. One is aerodyne, like the space shuttle. Another is capsule-based, which just happened to have been used by Apollo, but was also used by every other US manned space program, by every Russian manned program, and by the Chinese. To call it "Apollo era" is like poo-pooing the wheel because it's "cave man era."

      It
  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:44AM (#18429565) Homepage Journal
    for government airheads when they visit. they are truly eating the seed corn now.

    this idiotic decision is beyond pathetic.

    if NASA is going to shut down research for political suckup stunts like mars, they might as well shut down, and let the chinese colonize space.
  • by L. VeGas (580015) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:45AM (#18429571) Homepage Journal
    I am by no means knowledgeable about such matters, but of course I'm going to speculate anyway.

    4 million sounds like a very small amount in the grander scheme of things. Choices have to be made. I understand this. But isn't the entire point of NASA to do research? The very core reason it exists?

    Maybe I only hear about the success stories that come out of think tanks. Maybe most of them squander away money in futile pursuits. As a previous poster mentioned, I would like to hear what they have accomplished in the past.
    • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:54AM (#18429679) Homepage Journal
      A co-worker, referring to some of our employer's policies, used the phrase, "Stepping over dollars to pick up nickels."

      Seems applicable here, too.
    • Looking at it objectively, shouldn't most of the basic research that NASA has taken on over the years belong under the NSF budget and program office?

      It seems to me that Science and Innovation belong to the National Science Foundation.

      National Aeronautics and Space Agency should focus exclusively on applying science developed elsewhere to advance Aeronautics or Space applications.
    • by AutumnLeaf (50333)
      So who will be Spaceburton? If NASA can't pioneer research and technologies and guide that process, where does NASA go for space-flight services? SpaceX is already being looked to as a partner in developing space exploration for NASA. I'm wondering if NASA will be contracting out no-bid launch contracts with "Space Services" companies soon.

  • So it's gone.

    It's not the end of research or innovation, eventually a new group will be formed to replace it. And if it doesn't produce, it'll be gone too.
    • by tedgyz (515156) *

      So it's gone.

      It's not the end of research or innovation, eventually a new group will be formed to replace it. And if it doesn't produce, it'll be gone too.
      What about TANG?!?!?
  • Now who is going to come up with the ideas to stop the comets from hitting the Earth?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by physicsboy500 (645835)
      Don't you watch South Park?! it'll be MASA... The Mexican Aeronautics and Space Administration and the good part is they'll do it for pennies on the dollar. 17 Billion pesos there is about 5 bucks!
    • Now who is going to come up with the ideas to stop the comets from hitting the Earth?
      Bruce Willis?
  • I don't think 4 mill a year will design you anything special. might get you some sweet legos
  • This is another example of the Government deciding to defund something because either: a) it doesn't result in immediate tangible product (though the comment that mentioned "Tang" cracked me up), b) it doesn't benefit some Congresscritter's re-election drive, c) it doesn't provide a way for someone in Government to give a handout to a constituent who's looking for a Federal contract, or d) the think tank is located in a Democrat's district.

    This administration wants to privatize everything that Government

    • The Chinese will do no such thing because it would be a moronic and purposeless waste of huge amounts of money. As to private enterprise not being able to come up with innovative space technologies, a recent news item [sci-tech-today.com] indicates otherwise.
  • <Patrician|Away> what does your robot do, sam
    <bovril> it collects data about the surrounding environment, then discards it and drives into walls
  • Did the Think Tank come up with this idea?
  • I think think the science of non-manned missions is too compelling to give up for manned missions if push comes to shove. We almost have the technology to detect Earth-like planets around other stars with fancy space-scopes, perhaps even life-signs in such atmospheres. To me that is far more important than Neil dancing on Mars. Humans on Mars is about self-agrandizing ourselves. Finding other Earth's makes us ponder our future and think deeper.
  • by Rifter13 (773076) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:42PM (#18432485) Homepage
    I hate to say it, but NASA has been reduced to a large burecratic organization, they are not run for science any more. I spoke with a guy that had been part of the shuttle program, many years ago. It was EXTREMELY interesting listening to him. His thoughts on the shuttle program, the last shuttle disaster (his opinion is that it was easily avoidable, but wasn't because of cost-cutting measures). He also made it sound more like a government agency that was out for money, and not out for research anymore.
  • I fear that NASA is rapidly becoming a conduit for passing funds to contractors with no in house capabilities. No doubt due to lobbying by the contractors. They will tell NASA/Congress what should be built and for how much and then stand there with their wallet hand outstretched. Meanwhile, NASA will have nobody left with the domain knowledge necessary to call 'Bullshit!' at high priced boondoggles.

    It appears to be all over for this group anyway. With a budget of $4 million, they have barely enough staff

  • Am I the only one who immediately thinks of Civilization games as good simulations of this type of situation?

    What happens when you stop trickling funds into your scientific research? You wind up moving your gunpowder wielding infantry across the continent on a railroad while your opponent drops a nuke on your capital city, flies a helicopter out to drop paratroopers on your cannon and launches a colonization ship to Alpha Centauri.

    Don't these scientists, politicians and business people play games to lear

  • (or maybe just my tired brain being silly. Too funny not to share)

    NAthA Think Thank to be thut Down.

    Oth, nothes! The think thank is thunk!

    Thomebody thave them, pleathe think of the thuttles, or elthe Thoviet Ruthia will thut you down!

    Thalp savthe them!
  • To any other agency that wades into the global warming

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/edu/gwdebate/ [nasa.gov]

  • 510 billion fucking dollars [fas.org] to bomb people around the world, and we can't get $4 million for research. When the DOD cut funding for basic research ~2 years ago, another slashdotter said it best:

    I'll put it in StarCraft terms: you're spending your minerals on upgrading your Zealots, and failing to invest in the pylons and tech structures that would allow you to build a whole frickin' fleet of Protoss Carriers.
    -flyingsquid

    End the fucking war already!

    • We could have ended the war by starting on 9/12 with large nuclear weapons.
      There is no excuse for the US going soft on the Middle East and all of their
      religious terrorism harboring.

      Bring our troops home and put the Middle East back into the stone age.

       
  • NASA will likely shut down its Institute for Advanced Concepts,

    to be replaced by the new George W. Bush Institute for Simplistic Concepts.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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