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NASA Space

NASA Does a U-Turn, Opens To Private Industry 81

Posted by kdawson
from the facing-skyward-thumb-out dept.
mattnyc99 writes "Popular Mechanics is reporting that NASA — faced with the looming retirement of the space shuttle, and planning for longer missions like the one to Mars we've been discussing — is looking to free up its budget and depend a lot more on private space startups to carry key payloads into orbit in the next few years. For an agency so steeped in bureaucracy, it seems like everyone from NASA chief Mike Griffin to contracted officials to the key players in this in-depth podcast roundtable is finally acknowledging that commercial rocketeering (space tourists aside) is a more efficient means of getting back into space for NASA. Quoting: 'Because of a new focus for NASA's strategic investments — not to mention incentives like the Ansari X Prize, which spurred the space-tourism business, and the Google Lunar X Prize, which could do the same for payloads — private-sector spaceships could be ready for government service soon, says Sam Scimemi, who heads NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. "The industry has grown up," he tells PM. "It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things."'"
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NASA Does a U-Turn, Opens To Private Industry

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:26PM (#23385588) Homepage Journal
    That very few people actually work for NASA as opposed to "NASA contractors", as such, saying that NASA is "opening to private industry" is just ignorant.

    When NASA stops offering "cost plus" contracts to the usual suspects (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc) then you can have a big celebration, but until then its just business as usual.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrbluze (1034940)

      When NASA stops offering "cost plus" contracts to the usual suspects (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc) then you can have a big celebration, but until then its just business as usual.

      When this kind of thing comes up, I always wonder what implications private outsourcing of critical work has on problem solving. I mean, if another shuttle explodes or some such thing, it's probably straightforward in getting all the commerical secrets out of the offending company, but couldn't it be argued that private outsourcing causes these kinds of accidents (because the private company doesn't want to reveal everything to NASA about their product)?

    • by philpalm (952191)
      That private industry already sends satellites into space (for telecomunications and direct TV) but commercial enterprise for landing on the moon is limited at best to either making it a stepping stone to the planets or as a mining venture. You can't put a price tag on landing on the moon, as opposed to sending satellites into orbit. Bigger payload rockets may pay off in the long run, but not landing on the moon.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:50PM (#23385798)
      First paragraph:

      For decades, NASA kept a tight fist around the construction and operation of the spacecraft that ferried its astronauts and hardware into orbit. Sure, an army of private contractors actually built the vehicles, but NASA oversaw the designs--and always kept the pink slips. Now, however, the agency seems to be shifting course, as NASA officials insist that the budding commercial spacecraft fleet represents the only way the United States can realize its dreams of solar-system conquest on schedule and at an affordable cost.
      NASA not owning the successor to the shuttle does seem like a significant change to me.
      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        Which is why the development of the Ares I is barreling ahead. You can't just make shit up and then say "wow, that's unusual" to get a story.

        • by lgw (121541)

          You can't just make shit up and then say "wow, that's unusual" to get a story.
          Wow, have you ever watched a 24-hour news channel? That's their entire business model!

          The dinosaurs are extinct because they didn't have a space program, but imagine the hilarity if they did!
          All we really know is that if they had a space program, they didn't come back - hilarity may yet ensue once we look around a bit more. :)
          • by Teancum (67324)
            If the dinosaurs had a space program (aka sentient dinosaurs with an industrial civilization to build them), I'm completely certain that we would have found the ruins of an ancient dinosaur civilization by now.

            That we haven't even found evidence of even something like a cave-man level of technology from dinosaurs speaks volumes abut that concept.

            Still, I would have to agree with you about news outlets.... who are very fickle with what they will and won't run as stories.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I worked for a company of a few hundred employees, who contracted directly and indirectly with NASA providing technical and engineering support for Ares I. Not a usual suspect. And there are a lot of us around. Lots of little companies you've never heard of, designing and engineering Ares. Sure, Boeing and LockMart have the big contracts to fabricate (honestly, there aren't many who could compete who have the capabilities, care to name a few who could outside the "usual suspects"?), but the engineering work
    • Check the article again. That's exactly what they are talking about here. NASA is trying out different alternatives to get a private vehicle that can make it to the ISS for supply drops. They feel that the field has matured enough that private industry can develop the vehicles and earn profit off flying them, so NASA doesn't need to be as heavily involved. This is not a new decision, NASA has been going in this direction ever since Rutan won the X-Prize with SpaceShipOne. That was enough to give confid
      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        And this is why I say to you, and the article, no shit sherlock. The article is trying to play this up as some great about turn for NASA. It's not. It's a little toe in the water to see how warm it is.

  • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:32PM (#23385630)
    Only 2 years late on this story [wikipedia.org]. *sigh* I remember when I could read Popular Mechanics and learn new things.

    The most recent detail in that article dates back to three months ago when NASA re-awarded to Orbital Sciences the funds that Rocketplane Kistler forfeited when they failed to meet their milestones.

    Also, it's not like NASA has been closed to private industry before. The true story of the Fisher space pen [snopes.com] is a small, but great example. NASA just doesn't typically provide open-ended opportunities like this, much less with discretionary development funding.
    • by Teancum (67324)
      This is a bit different than the COTS program. COTS was originally intended to be a "safe bet" backup concept in case the Orion/Ares vehicle couldn't get off the ground (and increasingly it looks like that may happen). Or more to the point, there was a faction within NASA and Congress that wanted to see what private businesses could come up with, even though the leading administrators and committee chairs in Congress wanted to re-create the Saturn I rocket (for lack of a better comparison).

      The "news" that
  • Give em a go (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:34PM (#23385654)
    Lets not be too negative. At least it's turning in the right direction. They might not really be walking down that path yet as we all hope they do, but getting them to look to the right direction is something better than nothing.
  • Oh No!! Not NASA!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linesma (869062)
    It was bound to happen, it had been brewing since the draw down of the Clinton years, and they are finally admitting it, NASA is mainly a non-government organization. Just like the military, which has yet to truly admit it (but they have in a way), things are mostly done by outside contractors or civilian employees making more than they could if they worked for the military doing the same job. Or tax dollars at work!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wasted (94866)

      Just like the military, which has yet to truly admit it (but they have in a way), things are mostly done by outside contractors or civilian employees making more than they could if they worked for the military doing the same job. Our tax dollars at work!!

      Although the individual contractors make more than they would if they were in the military, the contracts I am familiar with usually end up saving the military money. It usually takes significantly fewer contractors, (since contractors don't have as many b

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Teancum (67324)
        You tend to get better services from civilian contractors that are performing tasks that are admittedly something more of a civilian task anyway.

        Do you think that some private soldier or ordinary seaman is going to have their heart into flipping burgers at the Burger King in the PX? What kind of accounting job do you think some 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of college is going to perform as opposed to a professional CPA with 30 years of experience that doesn't want to deal with the ordeals of a military officer
  • by pavon (30274) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:38PM (#23385684)
    This isn't an about-face. The fact of the matter is that NASA has been required by law to contract out nearly all of its launch production, facilities and maintenance for a long time now. All of its probe launches are done with Boeing and Lockheed rockets. NASA has also gone out of its way to offer contracts to the smaller private companies from the vary beginning of the new launcher plans. If you look at the contracts they almost appear to be intentionally catered to the strengths of these specific start-ups.

    This isn't about public vs private - it is about NASA's desire to stop being dependant on a small number of large aerospace corporations. It is about their desire for space exploration grow in anyway possible. Everybody who works there wants to see SpaceX, t-Space, and the others succeed, as much as the folks here do.
  • Sounds Good To Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:39PM (#23385714) Homepage
    NASA's primary role is to stimulate aerospace R&D by setting challenging goals and offering to underwrite the costs of risky R&D programs outlined the most competitive bids from private contractors.

    The contractors benefit by getting outside sources of funding for research projects that may not swiftly transform into mature, commercial aerospace opportunities.

    The public benefits from the scientific gains, and the long-term economic benefits resulting from the original R&D stimulation.

    But once an aerospace technology begins to mature, and profitable business models become apparent, the need for government-subsizied R&D passes away, and private industry willingly takes the next steps themselves, with their own funding. Witness, for example, Boeing's booming aerospace engineering and service business, founded on Apollo-era technology acquired from companies whose R&D was originally funded by NASA.

    I, for one, wholeheartedly approve of NASA turning to the private sector for robust, proven, mature aerospace solutions. Once the technology has reached that stsge, NASA's work is done, and it should move on to other, more advanced goals.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:59PM (#23385872)
    Regarding the typical kdawson buzzwords...first of all, insofar as government being "steeped in bureaucracy", how about a large corporation? I have worked at large companies where it would be a dream that the red tape was as low a level as covers for TPS reports...many of them were natural monopolies that European governments would have never let stand - but the US government does - so they can afford to blow money.


    Secondly, why is the private sector "efficient"? Instead of paying just labor costs and capital costs, you now have add the expenses for the profit that will be taken as well, so the only thing new about this is the majority shareholders, whom Federal Reserve studies show are multimillionaires and billionaires, will be getting a check as well. Plus the company will be lobbying the government regarding how this money is doled out. Look at the agricultural industry in the US for starters.

    Despite having had to swallow a lifetime of propaganda about how much more efficient it is to have something handled when a billionaire is getting a profit paycheck as opposed to a government project, I don't swallow it. Maybe in the US or UK, where government attempts to do so are sabotaged, but I have seen Scandinavian government "bureaucracies" that make the "efficiency" of the typical pointy headed bosses company in the US look laughable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rob Kaper (5960)
      Secondly, why is the private sector "efficient"?

      Because it allows you to utilise the ideas, labour and capital of the entire population and not just the part supposed to be involved with government.
      • by gemada (974357)

        Secondly, why is the private sector "efficient"? Because it allows you to utilise the ideas, labour and capital of the entire population and not just the part supposed to be involved with government.
        Just because you utilise those 3 things does not make the private sector inherently more efficient.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by syousef (465911)
        Because it allows you to utilise the ideas, labour and capital of the entire population and not just the part supposed to be involved with government.

        No it doesn't. You hand your contract out to a company and you're locked into what that company can do. Hand it to a government department and you're locked in to what they can do. Sure you get to pick from a wider set of limitations but neither allows you to use the "ideas, labour and capital of the entire population". You can't hand a contract to Boeing and
        • by Teancum (67324)
          The advantage of going with a company is that if a competitor comes up, you can hire the competitor... perhaps as a secondary supplier at first but if they work out you can make them the prime contractor and relegate the previous company as the secondary supplier/contractor.

          In other words, you can cut out a company much easier than you can kill a bureau or department from the government.

          Look at the regulations regarding the sales and importation of Irish Whiskey and tell me how you are going to kill the gov
          • by syousef (465911)
            The advantage of going with a company is that if a competitor comes up, you can hire the competitor... perhaps as a secondary supplier at first but if they work out you can make them the prime contractor and relegate the previous company as the secondary supplier/contractor.

            Ah yes, so if I contract to have a speciality item made, I can have a second one made and double my costs? That might work if:

            1) There's no exclusivity deal in the contract. (There often is)

            2) It's not a speciality one of item. Your idea
    • One big reason private companies are better than government is budgets. A government agency runs on budgets, they aren't motivated to save money if they don't spend all of it they don't get it back the next year, use it or loose it. Simple as that.
    • So, the Soviet Union was a model of efficiency, you say? Actually, I don't really even care about the answer. Neither answer would make me want to live in the Soviet Union.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Iron Condor (964856)

        So, the Soviet Union was a model of efficiency, you say?

        In an attempt to get this even vaguely back on topic: who put the first satellite into LEO? Who put the first man into LEO?

        And while I'm at it: How many people did the Russian government put into LEO total? How many people did the US government put into LEO total? And how many people has the oh-so-efficient private industry put into LEO so far? Big zero, eh? Wonder how that is...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JonBuck (112195)
          There's one very good reason why private industry hasn't put people in orbit yet.

          There's no profit in it.

          Oh, there's profit in commercial satellites. We have thousands of them orbiting. But to actually put people in orbit is still a money-losing proposition. Although that might change in the medium term.

          Ever heard of Bigelow Aerospace?

          Governments may lead the way, but it's private citizens who really make changes. It's been like that for centuries, from Columbus, to Lewis and Clark, to Alan Shepherd. I
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Wasn't Columbus funded by the Queen? Isn't that equivalent to today's government? Also, Columbus didn't make "great" changes...he began exploiting and enslaving the native Indian population. (Read his own journals)

            Your notion that profit is the motivation needed for "real movement" is laughable...and patently incorrect if history is at all relevant.

            To name a few examples, the state has been responsible for the "big ideas" behind electronics (and hence computers), the Internet, biotechnology, space travel
          • by Teancum (67324)
            The reason why private industry hasn't put people into orbit yet (discounting Space Advantures and their astro-tourists), has mainly been due to government bureaucrats getting in the way.

            I know of at least two and perhaps more private industry groups that gathered the financing necessary to purchase a space shuttle for private flights. NASA didn't even want to consider the possibility and flatly refused to give the authority for the NASA contractors to continue the production line necessary to build additi
    • Instead of paying just labor costs and capital costs, you now have add the expenses for the profit that will be taken as well,

      Private does not mean profit-driven; private means 'without force'. For example, Wikipedia is a private organization. Also, profit is not an expense; profit is revenue minus expenses.

      The beauty of the profit-driven model is that, over time, scarce resources will tend to be allocated to their most-demanded uses as efficiently as possible. If a company earns large profits by sell
    • Very good point and well said. I often question the pie-in-the-sky, free market is god sort of capitalists. My experience has been the opposite of Rand's famous Fountainhead (a load of bollocks, by the way) - big corporations are typically some of the most poorly managed, myopic and wasteful organizations I have ever seen.

      However, given that /. has lot's of Ron Paul types, expect to get modded down for your accurate, though heretical, views.
    • Debating the inherent superiority of private vs. public industries is an exercise in false dichotomy. It's the context, circumstances, and era that matter.

      Back in the space race, the government had a motivation to be daring and adventurous; they just had to one-up the commies. Not only that, but space was something new and dramatic. This allowed a whole lot of money, time, and brilliance to be pooled and we got pretty far from it.

      Once the space race was over, that drive faded. The space shuttl
  • Outsourcing: I would love to see the new launch site in Delhi!
    • India already has their own. In addition, how would this help America or even the world? Absolutely nothing would be gained.
  • Annoying (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Migraineman (632203) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:41PM (#23386250)

    It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things.
    WtF? It used to be that NASA and the Air Force had a strangle-hold on spaceflight. They were the only ones who could do such things. Ugh, this annoys the crap out of me.

    The Shuttle was a huge program when it was first considered. Congress mandated it's use to justify the expenditure. The Air Force levied horrible constraints against development, turning it into the mediocre performer it is today. The Congressional mandate effectively stopped any substantial commercial spaceflight development until pretty recently.

    I've flown a payload on the Shuttle (STS-116.) Lemme say that the oversight for flying on a manned launch vehicle was enormous. That's a completely unnecessary burden for most launches. The single-use unmanned boosters are a much more effective method for putting everything but people into orbit.

    The US space program is 20-30 years behind where it should be. I can't stand when folks think it's a wonderful thing that the bureaucrats are finally getting a clue. We should be completely furious that it's taken this long.
    • Lemme say that the oversight for flying on a manned launch vehicle was enormous. That's a completely unnecessary burden for most launches. The single-use unmanned boosters are a much more effective method for putting everything but people into orbit.

      What are your thoughts on the multi-platform Ares I/V designs, which effectively split the mission into manned and unmanned segments?
      • The reason I bring it up, is that Musk has indicated that he is doing the BFR (big (F******|Falcon) Rocket), which will use the merlin 2. From some of the items out there, it appears that it would have an engine that will deliver about as much as a falcon 9 engine will.
        • I look forward to success in the Falcon series, but as yet, there has not been a successful launch of even the Falcon 1. I seem to remember watching one of the two launches on a web stream, until the video cut out due to control problems. I'm hoping that they can get a better result in the third launch, which I understand is due soon, though news on it seems to be a bit unclear.

          The Ares systems, while being somewhat new in some ways, uses proven technologies derived from the shuttle. We'll see a first te
          • A system that is based VERY loosly has more possibility of success than does a system that has fired twice (literally once), and on the 2'nd attempt was just shy of getting to its orbit by an early shutoff (and other issues)?

            Third launch is to be end of june, though I have wondered about that.

            As to the suborbital test, that is just for 1 piece of the ares system. It will take another decade to get to the end. And oddly, I am a fan of Ares, but, I think that it is not going to see the end of the tunnel.
            • That's quite possible. But there's a lot left to do. And even if the Falcon 9 heavy succeeds and keeps its manned launch costs down, there's still room for the Ares V to be developed, as its maximum payload is nearly five times greater, and will be important for getting the most massive launches into space. There's something to be said for ultra-heavy launch platforms; had we been a little more forward-looking and continued evolving the Saturn platform, we might have been able to get the space station up
              • The falcon 9 heavy is very different from the ares V. The comparable is suppose to be BFR and ares V, though Musk has kept that one pretty cryptic about it all. Worse, at this time, both Ares V and the BFR have about the same level of development. The falcon 9 heavy is meant to take on the top Atlas with a greater payload and less than half the costs.

                I think that it is fair to say that just about anybody connected to the space program wants to see a MONSTER low costs rocket. Of course, getting both toge
                • When it comes to 100+ ton payloads, I'm a little less picky about costs, especially since even high costs are often a small fraction of the development costs of said payloads.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Migraineman (632203)
        I definitely think that the programmatic split is the right thing to do. There is no reason to send a flight crew up with every single launch. The Shuttle's original mission objectives had a much more hands-on expectation. That has turned out to be inaccurate.

        The Shuttle is an impressive piece of hardware, but it's payload capacity is a huge step backward from that of the Saturn series. The Saturn V (which happens to be man-rated as well,) could loft 118,000kg into LEO. You'll need four or five Shutt
        • by icebrain (944107)
          Though if you consider the orbiter itself as payload, then you do reach Saturn V levels (roughly).

          Seriously, though, Shuttle-C and others would have narrowed the usable payload gap considerably. It still leaves the pesky problem of a side-mounted payload, but at least said payload wouldn't have a TPS to get damaged.
    • by clickety6 (141178)

      It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things.

      WtF? It used to be that NASA and the Air Force had a strangle-hold on spaceflight. They were the only ones who could do such things. Ugh, this annoys the crap out of me.
       
      Yeah, what about the Russia, Europe, China and India, all of whom can do "such things" :-)

      • Perhaps I should have clarified that I was referring to US spaceflight. Until recently, it was damned near impossible to take hardware built in the US and launch it on foreign vehicles. ITAR restrictions and all that ... Top that off with Congressional mandates that US programs were to use *only* the Shuttle, and you have a recipe for stagnation.
      • by Teancum (67324)
        Russia is certainly a worthy country to put into a comparison here, but Europe and China? India?

        OK, Europe is considering a manned spaceflight option, and China has been able to duplicate the early Soyuz/Gemini type spaceflights, but I don't consider them to be realistic in terms of practical alternatives at the moment. Certainly not India who is developing technology comparable to SpaceX and some of the private space launching services.

        If you relax the standards, you might as well add in Brazil and Dubai
    • by perlith (1133671)
      > The US space program is 20-30 years behind where it should be

      The US education system is 20-30 years behind where it should be.
      The US nuclear power program is 20-30 years behind where it should be.
      The US homeland security is 20-30 years behind where it should be.
      The US patent system is 20-30 years behind where it should be.
      The US healthcare system is 20-30 years behind where it should be.

      Made several corrections for you.
      • by rujholla (823296)
        I agree with most of your post but I'm curious on the last one -- where should our healthcare system be. I thought we were doing well there with the drugs we are developed and medical techniques that are amazing.
  • "It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things."

    Yeah, It's not like its rocket science or anything... Or has the challenges changed? Its still primarily a challenge of managing a crap load of propellant.
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:54PM (#23386346) Homepage Journal
    PL 101-611, the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990, has required NASA to do this for the last 18 years.

    Tragically there was an obvious direction in place subsequent to the space race (remember the Apollo program?) that would have been followed through to space industrialization had the launch service industry enjoyed the same protection from government competition that the satellite industry enjoyed [presageinc.com]:

    * (c) Private enterprise; access; competition

    In order to facilitate this development and to provide for the widest possible participation by private enterprise, United States participation in the global system shall be in the form of a private corporation, subject to appropriate governmental regulation. It is the intent of Congress that all authorized users shall have nondiscriminatory access to the system; that maximum competition be maintained in the provision of equipment and services utilized by the system; that the corporation created under this chapter be so organized and operated as to maintain and strengthen competition in the provision of communications services to the public; and that the activities of the corporation created under this chapter and of the persons or companies participating in the ownership of the corporation shall be consistent with the Federal antitrust laws.

    It wasn't until 1990, when a coalition of grassroots groups across the country [geocities.com] lobbied hard for 3 years, that similar legislation got passed for launch services.

    The fact that the global economic paradigm didn't follow the Club of Rome model exactly doesn't change the reality of the Malthusian paradigm given a fundamentally limited biosphere undergoing its largest extinction event in 60 million years. The Club of Rome merely added academic fashion to the very real urgency of the Malthusian situation still facing the biosphere. The 1970s was the right time to start the drive for space industrialization based on a private launch service industry. It didn't happen, the pioneering culture that founded the US is being replaced by government policy with less pioneering cultures and now we're all facing some increasingly obvious difficulties -- not just pioneer American stock -- and not just humans.

  • As it stands, NASA operates as a wholly government-funded agency, and under its current charter, anything that results from its efforts is a Public Domain free-for-all.

    Perhaps they should look at a joint funding scheme such as Australia's CSIRO [wikipedia.org], where they can patent and profit from their efforts? Just think of how much they could make just off APOD [nasa.gov] prints alone, let alone actual useful stuff!
  • ...in space.

    Nothing like bottom-dollar, low quality equipment to cloud the orbits. It didn't do well to cut corners the last time around. This time, the corners being cut are too deep into quality.

    When corporations cannot do anything to evade regulation, then we can talk. Handing over the control does not make sense when quality will go out the window. That'll be made painfully clear when some "cost-designed" vessel has a flaw that kills.

    Keep it in-house, in-nation as much as possible. That means keepi
  • "The industry has grown up," he tells PM. "It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things."

    NASA and the Air Force still are. Someone show me a private corp with anywhere near the success rate as NASA, even with its private contractors (like Boeing, etc).

    How can anyone be surprised or impressed with the Bush regime cheerleading our turning over our space program to private corporations, after deliberately leaving us without new public programs to replace the capacity we developed over the

  • Dear Popular Mechanics,

    Welcome to 1995. That's when the Office of Commercial Space Transportation was placed with NASA. It was formed in 1984, under the Department of Transportation, but you specified NASA's role so we'll go with that. NASA has been reversing its policy of relying solely on BigAero ever since OCST came under their umbrella. Sadly, it was too late and too inbred with the industry to take advantage of the previous efforts to produce more efficient launch systems such as Truax's designs, said
  • Deception Point?!
  • This is obviously a bad idea which will result in the creation of a master race on a hidden space station.
  • Too late for the Rotary Rocket Company [wikipedia.org], dangit.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deception_Point [wikipedia.org] It's too bad that they announced this before they had a chance to stick a meteorite in the Arctic.
  • This is not about being more open to private industry. Things are done and will continue to be done by the large contractors which are not, in fact, government agencies. The little X-prize companies are not anywhere close to putting a beeping metallic sphere, much less a human, into orbit - and by the time they do they will look more like peers among the military-industrial old guard than revolutionary startups.

    When you boil this story down to its essence, NASA is just aiming to do with rockets what they'
  • Does this mean that I'm gonna get to fly to the moon, or am I still gonna have to wait?

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