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NASA Space

Nasa Details Shuttle's Retirement 400

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-can-see-your-house-from-there dept.
schliz writes "Nasa has announced that it intends to officially retire the aging space shuttle fleet by 2010, four years before it has a replacement craft ready. The space shuttle fleet will make ten more flights, mainly to add modules to the International Space Station and carry out repairs and upgrades to the Hubble orbital telescope. The retirement will leave the US without orbital capacity for at least four years, until the Ares booster programme is complete. European and Russian launchers will service the space station in the meantime."
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Nasa Details Shuttle's Retirement

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  • Just plain sad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:19AM (#24115879)
    I'm having nostalgia for when our space program was a national priority. This, despite having no memory of any time pre-Challenger.
    • Re:Just plain sad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:21AM (#24115911)
      No joke. If you went back in time 20 or 30 years and told the NASA folks we'd spend the 2010s depending on Europe and Russia for our orbital needs, they'd smack you one.
      • Not only that, they would think the Soviets won!
      • Decadence (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mangu (126918) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @10:17AM (#24116939)

        When a nation is no longer able to excel in a technology they pioneered, it's very difficult to come back. It started in the 1970s when, instead of continuing on lunar exploration, they decided to cut back on the Apollo program.

        Ultimately, what will define how technology will evolve is not the day-to-day improvement but the grand vision. It doesn't matter what the immediate gains from lunar exploration were in 1973, but how long and how much effort it would take to get something practical out of the moon. Once they decided to cut back on the difficult part, the USA couldn't hold its competitiveness in the easy parts.

        Today Europe is the leader in commercial space flight, with Japan, Russia, and China trying to gain more significant shares of the market. Without NASA actively developing space technology, the US industry seems to be unable to keep up with external competition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Viol8 (599362)

          "When a nation is no longer able to excel in a technology they pioneered, it's very difficult to come back."

          Yeah , its a shame what happened to Germanys rocket program.

          • Re:Decadence (Score:5, Insightful)

            by damburger (981828) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @10:49AM (#24117677)

            Behind the joke is a serious point.

            At the risk of being modded flamebait, I think I can say that Americas education system has never produced the quantity and quality of talent necessary for real innovation in space. The US has always relied on immigrants. Your victory in the space race was in part due to the fact that World War 2 drove the best rocket scientists out of Europe. Once they had retired and died, there wasn't the kind of people you needed coming out of your home grown education system, and no great cataclysm in countries with good education system to scatter geniuses for you to scoop up.

            Your latest administration isn't helping matters either. Pushing widespread hostility towards evolution and climate change, leaning on NASA scientists to misreport results, and generally acting like a dangerous theocracy in many ways means that you'll have a harder time attracting the talent you are unable or, more likely, unwilling to develop at home.

            • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:14AM (#24118121) Homepage

              I think I can say that Americas education system has never produced the quantity and quality of talent necessary for real innovation in space. The US has always relied on immigrants. Your victory in the space race was in part due to the fact that World War 2 drove the best rocket scientists out of Europe.

              It got us out of WW2 too. Frankly, our German scientists were better than their German scientists...

            • Re:Decadence (Score:5, Insightful)

              by samkass (174571) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:32AM (#24118425) Homepage Journal

              I would venture to say that no country has ever really produced the quantity and quality of purely home-grown talent necessary for anything like Apollo. The whole point of the United States used to be that it was where the best and brightest could excel, and where hard work could be rewarded. Any time you have a nation that attracts these people you end up ahead. I agree that recent US policy has made it both more difficult and less desirable for such people to come here, but disagree that it has much to do with our educational system. No educational system could compete.

              • Re:Decadence (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Anspen (673098) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:48PM (#24122845)
                With all due respect I think this overglorifies. Yes it was a great achievement, especially with the technology of the time. But for the most part it got done because of money, not extreme talent. Any largish nation, willing to spend the money could have done it. Only the relative speed at which it succeeded could be credited in some way to a more than usually talented bunch of scientist (as compared to other talented scientist).
            • Re:Decadence (Score:5, Insightful)

              by zullnero (833754) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:07PM (#24118987) Homepage
              The education system in the US can produce as much good talent as anywhere else in the world, but the cash flow in this particular society trumps all other things. Why make a relatively paltry living as a scientist when you can make oodles of cash as a lawyer, running a business, or even to a lesser degree, writing software?

              There's no prestige in this country in being a geek in a lab coat. The prestige is all in being the guy in the suit making the deals and living large. 18 year old kids don't even bother thinking about being that geek in the lab coat with his middle class income.
            • Re:Decadence (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:28PM (#24119331)
              To quote Von Braun on his reasons for surrendering to the American Forces "We were terrified of the Russians, we despised the French, and the British couldn't afford us."

              Says a lot really

              If you mod me down I'll go and make a cup of tea

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Illbay (700081)

              Your victory in the space race was in part due to the fact that World War 2 drove the best rocket scientists out of Europe.

              Oh, surely. I mean, it was just by a WHISKER that we beat all those Euros into space, wasn't it? The proof, of course, is in all those successful European space flights that came soon after, the European moon mission, etc.

              I mean, just how big a deal is national will and determination, and a can-do attitude, anyway?

              The US has always relied on immigrants.

              Wilbur and Orville would certa

            • Re:Decadence (Score:5, Interesting)

              by demachina (71715) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:17PM (#24121109)

              It could also be that being a rocket scientist at NASA or one of their contractors is a really, really terrible job so there aren't many talented people in the U.S. that are even interested in it. It is a program that peaked in 1969 and has been down hill on the excitement and tangible results scale ever since.

              The space program and aerospace in general goes through constant boom and bust cycles and when its in a bust cycle you can't find work. Depending on whose president, the whims of Congress or whose NASA administrator the project you spend years on can be snuffed out over night.

              NASA is a horrible bureaucracy. Most of the civil servants are contract monitors shuffling giant mounds of paper to hire contractors to do the cool work, and that job sucks. Contractors maybe do cool stuff sometimes but there are a lot less frustrating and more rewarding place to work than for a horrible bureaucracy or for the kinds of companies that doing government contract work.

              It could also be the U.S. did about everything worth doing by about 1969 and realized it wasn't really worth it. Other countries are retracing the same ground to gain the prestige but they may well realize eventually its not really worth it too. When the U.S. decided to sink decades and over a hundred billion on ISS they didn't really think it through and completely killed off excitement for manned space exploration. ISS is an inherently extremely boring project. The Apollo veterans had already figured that out with Skylab. One of the space documentaries on Discovery recently had footage of an Apollo veteran saying exactly that, and that after the moon landings it drove them nuts to work on Skylab. Watching a tin can spin around the earth in LEO doing nothing interesting is BORING and so far it has yielded almost no useful return past the mere experience of building a big thing in LEO and living in it for a long time(ground Mir had already covered on a smaller scale). Its not clear landing the Moon again will generate that much excitement in the U.S. again. People were already bored with moon landings by about Apollo 12.

              For space exploration, especially manned exploration to gain relevance again you need to either:

              A. Move warfare in to space in a big way, and use your dominant position in space to dominate Earth. Fortunately we have mostly refrained from doing this. If it happens it will probably be really expensive and really ugly. I'm talking about putting serious weapons platforms in space, attacking your adversaries assets in space and on the ground from space. Right now ground launched ballistic missile and spy satellites seem sufficient and a lot cheaper and safer. If someone decides to finish what Reagan started and put lasers or other beam weapons in space and start a really weapons race..... shudder. It would spur the space program though...

              B. Start doing something in space that actually yields tangible economic returns greater than the cost of doing it. We have done this to some extent with GPS, weather and communication satellites but this business is already saturated. I imagine fiber optics are making comm satellites somewhat obsolete. You would need to make the next big leap to asteroid mining, mining the moon for fusion reactor fuel or generating power in space in a big way. Until you make that difficult leap people are mostly going to way you are wasting money on it... though the U.S. has wasted hundreds of billions on Iraq to no good end too

              C. Space tourism maybe, but its a little bit of a stretch because right now it a niche thing for rich people with a lot of money to burn. Its going to take a pretty huge leap to cut costs enough for ordinary people to get in orbit and live there for a week, and also for it to be safe enough to not kill people on a regular basis. We seem to be having trouble people just flying people in jets economically lately.

              D. Make it to Mars and start a permanent colony there. This is a somewhat dubious undertaking since it would be hugely expe

    • Re:Just plain sad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spamking (967666) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:23AM (#24115943)

      I also find it sad that current launches go off with out much fan fare or press. It's like we as a Nation have become spoiled to the fact that we send folks into space these days.

      I think most people don't realize (or have forgotten about it) the danger these men and women face during a mission.

      • Re:Just plain sad (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:41AM (#24116273) Journal

        I think most people don't realize (or have forgotten about it) the danger these men and women face during a mission.

        Most people don't realise the danger construction workers face doing their jobs either. Roofers alone are #3 in Wikipedia's list [wikipedia.org].

        A dozen people died building EPCOT's "Spaceship Earth" [wikipedia.org] alone.

        The US has had less than one fatal accident per decade since the space program started; the Apollo fire and the two shuttle disasters.

        I'd say their safety record is pretty good. I'd rather be an astronaut than a lumberjack.

      • That's actually a good thing. Not to diminish the effort/risk/dedication/etc required, but we will only become a truly spacefaring race when the launch of a manned spacecraft is no longer news. Can you imagine a headline every time a jetliner takes off or lands safely? No, because it happens so often, and is so safe, it's become mundane. When we reach that point with spacecraft launching and landing, I for one will be out to celebrate!
    • Re:Just plain sad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:23AM (#24115947) Homepage

      Yes, but catching those derned ter'rists is WAY more important than science, education, helping people get off welfare, or anything else that money could possibly be used for. Ten billion a month, and all we get is death and destruction.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        At least oil is still a high priority. Thank God for that much.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        It's funny that you mentioned that. Last year, the rover team announced that it would have to discontinue the Mars rover program due to funding cuts. The two rovers would have to be put into permanent hibernation until later. The shortfall was $4 million of the annual $20 million budget of the program. Some estimates put the cost of Iraq at $17 million per hour. [blogspot.com] Maybe it was the bad press, but NASA then came back and said it would find the money somehow.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I guess it'd be a priority if the satellites and space shuttles could kill Iraquis.
      • parent is not a troll.... the us gets all kinds of political power for killing the bad guys. If they could 'kill the bad guys' and do science they could possibly be talked into it. Also a post more or less the same right above it is marked insightful wth.

    • Re:Just plain sad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:35AM (#24116151) Journal

      Yes, but it depends on how you look at it. I never really liked the cost inefficiency of the space shuttle program. Many lessons were learned, but I don't think this change is for the worse.

    • Baby steps (Score:5, Informative)

      by mangu (126918) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:45AM (#24116337)

      The space program became too costly. The shuttle was announced as a cost-saving project, a reusable space craft. The problem is that they should have tried to crawl before they tried to walk.

      There were projects in the late 1950s, the X-15 and the Dyna-Soar, to develop reusable "space planes", but not much came of them. The logical progression would have been to improve and expand these, but instead they chose to try to adapt existing disposable rockets into a reusable spacecraft.

      Okay, government tried and ultimately failed, now private enterprise has started from where the X-15 and X-20 stopped [wikipedia.org]. Let's see how it goes.

      • by damburger (981828)

        Don't look to SpaceShipOne as a model for a reusable spaceplane. Those guys went for a hybrid motor because of its much greater simplicity than a liquid motor, but the price of that simplicity is a lack of scalability. The fuel tank and the combustion chamber are the same thing, so you can't test the engine independent of its tankage like you can with liquid engines. Not a problem for something small like SS1, but when you get towards the size of an F1 engine it becomes a very significant problem.

        There is a

      • Re:Baby steps (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:51AM (#24118759) Homepage Journal
        I thought the logical progression would have been to improve rockets and work on the materials and engineering technology necessary for the space elevator (the latter of which is being done, although it is arguable that it could proceed more quickly, especially if we gave more support to our education system [slashdot.org].) The space shuttle's main engines have to be rebuilt between flights, so it's really not all that useful; it would be better to just have rockets with some or all stages recoverable and eliminate that military-encumbered boondoggle.
    • Space was never a national priority. One-upmanship was, because of the fight for space dominance with the USSR. Give it some time, and history will repeat itself with China. Only China will probably win this time. Unless we find a better way to cooperate, of course.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I'm having nostalgia for when our space program was a national priority.

      You're having nostalgia then for a time that only existed for a couple of brief years in the 1960's.

      Few people seem to know that NASA's budget was slashed nearly in half in 1967... Before we even landed on the moon four planned landing missions had been cut and Saturn V production halted.

      In the years since, various Presidents and Congresses have made Brave Patriotic Noises about the Wonders of having a Space Program. B

  • by Anonymous Coward

    NPRs been running this, as have the Orlando area news media for a while now. Why am I reading this on /. from a source in Australia?

    Gaaaa!

  • How come? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:22AM (#24115925)

    How come they're retiring the fleet 4 years before the next craft is ready? Is is actually more economical to pay the Russians or us Eurotrash to send them to space rather than the cost of maintaining and flying the shuttle?

    • Re:How come? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Karrde45 (772180) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:24AM (#24115961)
      The money for developing Ares comes in large part from the money currently allocated for shuttle operations. Barring an increase in NASA's budget, any prolonging of shuttle ops will primarily postpone the gap, not shrink it.
      • by neokushan (932374)

        So are they downscaling all of their operations in the interim or is it just the shuttles not being used?
        Like if they normally have (completely arbitrary figure) 50 astronaut flights in a year, will this drop down to like 10 or 12, or will they just be using European/Russian capsules instead and have the same number as usual?

        If it's the latter, then it shows it MUST be cheaper to use them than maintaining the current fleet, which could indicate all sorts of things, such as how much technology has evolved an

    • Re:How come? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:26AM (#24116007) Homepage

      How come they're retiring the fleet 4 years before the next craft is ready?

      The reason given is that the development of the new launch system costs money. There is no added budget to develop it, so the money to design and build the new system has to come from some other part of the budget. The budget they're using is the budget to fly the shuttle. So, in short, they can't develop new system until they free up money to do so by stopping flying the old one.

      Is is actually more economical to pay the Russians or us Eurotrash to send them to space rather than the cost of maintaining and flying the shuttle?

      Yes... up until the point when the Russians raise prices because they have a monopoly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by neokushan (932374)

        Suddenly it reminds me of that Speach Dick gives in Robocop...

        "Take a close look at the track record of this company, and you'll see that we've gambled in markets traditionally regarded as non-profit: hospitals, prisons, space exploration. I say good business is where you find it."

        Good business, indeed.

      • Re:How come? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:41AM (#24116285)
        On the economics, the shuttle was never the cheapest solution. Originally the idea was to be able to turn that thing around on the pad, and send it back up after fueling.
        As it turned out, the refit of the shuttle after each flight is about as costly as a Saturn V launch. Now, the Saturn V could lift 100 tons into orbit, the shuttle 30. You can do the math on cost per pound.
        • Re:How come? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:49AM (#24116415) Homepage

          As it turned out, the refit of the shuttle after each flight is about as costly as a Saturn V launch. Now, the Saturn V could lift 100 tons into orbit, the shuttle 30. You can do the math on cost per pound.

          No, not really. A shuttle launch is about half the cost of a Saturn V, even by the highest-cost estimates for shuttle. Saturn V was not a cheap booster by per-launch calculations. It was cheap by per-ton calculations, but in the 70s there weren't any payloads high-lift vehicles.

          Shuttle was intended to be cheap to fly when it was flown at high rate, because the fixed costs would go down. It never ended up flying at a rate high enough to make the assumption correct. The marginal costs of the shuttle are actually not terribly bad-- it's the fixed cost that is high. (Which is why it isn't good enough to simply reduce the flight rate-- you don't save much by decreasing the rate when most of the cost is in the fixed cost.)

      • by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:44AM (#24116321) Homepage Journal

        The reason given is that the development of the new launch system costs money. There is no added budget to develop it, so the money to design and build the new system has to come from some other part of the budget

        The problem, really, is that the shuttle is too darned old. The program never really lived up to its promise as a cheap way to get into space. Originally, the Shuttle was supposed to bring launch costs down to something like $100/lb and have a two week turnaround time. What we have sucks! The Shuttle was to be a stepping stone for cheap space flight for everyone and what we have now is an overly expensive turkey. Imagine your commercial airliner whipping out a big camera to look at its underside to see if it is safe to land. That's what the shuttle does. It's a joke!

        Among many problems, the shuttle's tiles have a knack for getting dinged or falling off on every flight, and that means a much, much more expensive turnaround. A built in design flaw of having the rocket on the side of the shuttle basically means that the already fragile tiles now have to get damaged. Then you have consumables to refill or refurbish that aren't as easy as topping off a tank, and instead of a reusable space plane that makes space cheap, we have expensive space plane that has to be semi-rebuilt every time we fly it.

        Cool technology, in that, the shuttle is practically a space station in its own right... it has a nice big roomy crew compartment, and the cargo bay is cool. But, the job of the shuttle was to be cheap to fly, not so that space stations would cost 100 billion dollars, and have a few astronauts, but should be costing 2 billion dollars, and be like hotels.

        All of these scientists bitching about the cost of manned spaceflight do have a point. But they forget they are bitching about the expense of manned flight in an era where NASA, by flying the shuttle, has seemingly invented the most expensive way to do it possible. There's nothing magical about the Russian space program or its expense.. just imagine, for the amount of money we've ploughed into NASA just to orbit the earth and do nothing in the shuttle, we could back on the moon AND mars.

        So yeah, kill it. Bum a ride for a few years, then we go to the moon, to mars, and to asteroids, and get back to exploring space again.

        I'm excited!

        • by elrous0 (869638) *
          What was supposed to be a spaceship turned out to be a big splashdown pod with wheels that needed to be rebuilt after each launch. Epic fail.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        Also NASA was given a presidential directive [wikipedia.org] to get a man on mars by 2037 or so. Of course, NASA wasn't given enough additional funding to do this. They were told to fund it by diverting the money from current programs, i.e. Space Shuttle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by damburger (981828)
      Since when have us Eurotrash had a manned space capability? Given the Chinese seem to have forgotten about Shenzhou, the Russians have the market cornered. We have an opportunity to work on them on CSTS (A sort of bastard child of Soyuz and ATV that would provide cheap and cheerful manned access to the moon and beyond) but we are probably too bloody tight fisted to take advantage of it.
  • That's ok. (Score:5, Funny)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:24AM (#24115959) Homepage
    The Chinese will fill in for us.

    We'll outsource NASA, just like everything else.

  • NASA, not Nasa (Score:5, Informative)

    by gunnk (463227) <<ude.cnu.gpf.liam> <ta> <knnug>> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:24AM (#24115963) Homepage
    Come on, folks! It's News for Nerds, you should know better!

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    (or, National Acronym Society of America) In either case, not Nasa.
    • by will_die (586523)
      Yea but can you still see your gardening equipment [wiktionary.org] from there?
    • RADAR LASER...? Get over it. Be proud that its common enough that you don't need all caps.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by proxima (165692)

      Come on, folks! It's News for Nerds, you should know better!

      The New York Times has taken to turning acronyms into proper nouns, e.g. Nafta. Drives me nuts, but where the NYT goes, much of journalism follows sooner or later.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:25AM (#24115979) Homepage

    for a lot more than the 4 years claimed by TFA, particularly if Obama gets elected and carries out his plans to slash NASA's budget.

    And if NASA goes that long without manned spaceflight capability, the "brain drain" that will result will make it even more difficult to resume manned flights even WITH the political will to do so.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by pease1 (134187)
      Don't worry, be happy. He'll flip flop on this as well.
    • by MiniMike (234881) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:41AM (#24116271)

      From what I could find, Obama only plans to cut the Constellaton program, which is Bush's plan to send people to Mars (I guess to search for oil or terrorists). He has stated he supports funding other programs (see spacepolitics.com [spacepolitics.com] for examples).

      • Obama only plans to cut the Constellaton program, which is Bush's plan to send people to Mars

        Sorry, you've been misinformed. The Constellation program is the program to build the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, along with the Orion crew capsule and Altair lander module. The roadmap of the Constellation program includes an eventual flight to Mars. However, no funding has been allocated for that leg of the program, nor has any planning in earnest been done.

        If Obama kills the Constellation program, the United States will be left without a manned space program. Period. End of story.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by carambola5 (456983)

        The article you cite is from January. From Obama's current Pre-K-12 Education Plan PDF on his site:

        The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years...

        Delaying the Constellation program, which encompasses not only Mars missions, but also manned LEO and manned Lunar missions, will kill it. You can't lay off thousands of aerospace engineers for 5 years and expect them to willingly come back.

  • by kidgenius (704962) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:25AM (#24115983)
    That's only six years away. Call me skeptical, but I bet it's more like 2018 at this point. With all the testing that is required and work remaining, I'd be really surprised if it's done in six years.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      I'd be surprised if it *ever* gets done. Somewhere between 2015-2020, the boomers are going to going to be demanding their Social Security checks in record numbers. And, when those selfish bastards are asked to choose between themselves and government programs like NASA, guess who's going to lose out?
  • by pease1 (134187) <[bbunge] [at] [ladyandtramp.com]> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:27AM (#24116011)
    About time! Yeah! Efforts first started early 1990's to replace and retire these expensive, wasteful dogs. Who else would try to build a "truck" that needs to run at 100+ percent of it's original design specs every time you need to drive it. Even the Soviets had enough sense to give the concept up. Kudos to Mike G. for really getting this started and truly starting the rebirth of NASA as an exploratory agency and not a trucking company.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      No they didn't. Buran made its first test flight a few months before the fall of the Soviet Union. Three additional orbiters were under construction at the time.

      The Buran program ended because the R&D was prohibitively expensive, and Russia had much bigger fish to fry in the early 1990s.

      Granted, it would have been nice if the remaining orbiters were kept in a building with a stable roof, but I suppose there's no point dwelling on all that now, even though I really would like to see it fly one more tim

  • Seems foolish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damburger (981828) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:29AM (#24116063)

    There has been a lot of talk that all is not well in the development of Ares I. It isn't just that they are developing a new launcher (always tricky) but that they are developing a type of launcher never attempted before; a manned launcher that is aerodynamically unstable and has the biggest SRB ever flow as its first stage.

    It is quite easy to imagine a scenario that could cause serious delays to the project. It is also quite easy (and unpleasant) to imagine a scenario where the new booster causes fatalities. There are real concerns about it flipping over during flight or the booster exploding. A fatal accident at that stage could finish off NASA and thus serious manned space exploration in the US. Given the pathetic amount of backing given to efforts in Europe, Russia and China that would be a bad thing for all of humanity.

    Being British, my nations contribution to space is through the BNSC ('who the fuck are they?' I hear you utter, to which I respond 'exactly') and the ESA. It pains me to see that neither are likely to do much in the way of manned flight, despite being full of smart, motivated people with good ideas for it, because the grey bean counters who run our country see nothing but the immediate bottom line.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 (957197)

      I had to look up SRB in wikipedia to figure out what you were referring to. The I said "duh, I'm stupid". Solid Rocket Booster (smacks self on head)

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Magnetic_Spectrometer [wikipedia.org]

    The project has $ billions sunk into it already and international partners who will be most unhappy if the US can't allocate a shuttle mission to launch this baby to the ISS. Unfortunately, the article didn't list which missions had been selected. In fact, it didn't say much at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nacnud75 (963443)
      No the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is not going to fly, even though congress has offered the money for another flight in 2010. Nasa management doesn't seem interested. I think the only hope for the AMS is in a change of NASA management in 2009, that is if the ability to fly another STS mission hasn't already been lost by then, though I expect it would have.
  • War (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rinisari (521266)

    And we spend > $100 billion on fighting an undeclared war in a country which has little capability or war to defend itself.

  • Is the country finally realizing that the private space industry, as with any private industry, will lead to more innovation, greater efficiency, and lower prices?
    • I'm glad that we have people like Richard Branson willing to invest in a worthy cause (even though he is a goofball). I mean, he is the future Levi (As in Levi Strauss). Invest in something big now and reap the rewards of immortality later.

      As for efficiency, anything that isn't run by the government is inherently more efficient because of it. It's not like companies have the financial resources of a government. Even Virgin Galactic has a finite pool of resources. They have to make-do with less to achieve th

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger (981828)

      The private space industry has so far managed to make explosions and sub orbital hops. Those dastardly socialists at NASA managed to launch a rocket with a capacity of 130 tonnes and put men on the moon 40 years ago. It is a bit premature to start mouthing laissez-faire rhetoric about space.

      Markets are generally bad at space flight, because a market (and those people in it who succeed through accepting the tenets of the market) perceives redundancy as waste and precise standards as bureaucracy. In space fli

    • Is the country finally realizing that the private space industry, as with any private industry, will lead to more innovation, greater efficiency, and lower prices?

      Given that we've had an active private space industry flying since the early 1960's... when exactly is the innovation, greater efficiency, and lower prices supposed to kick in?

  • ... I am pretty sure that if a spy satellite needs to go up, or an old one needs to be fixed, the shuttles will be pressed into service. I doubt the US government wants even its allies handling that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neokushan (932374)

      You know, there's more than one way to launch a satellite into Orbit. There's literally hundreds of different Rockets out there capable of such a thing.
      Look at the thousands of satellites currently up there doing everything from broadcasting your TV and Radio to telling your GPS device where you are - you think they were all put up there by NASA?
      Chances are, a lot of those commercial satellites got put into orbit with a small discount for allowing the Military to put a small, undisclosed payload into some s

    • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:54AM (#24116477)

      If a spy sattelite (or any other sattelite) needs to go up, heavy boosters such as the Delta or Atlas will be used. If its an old one that needs to be dealt with, they would probably just shoot it out of the sky like they did last time.

  • Tirst Fest! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by e03179 (578506) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:39AM (#24116249) Homepage
    First test is scheduled for April '09. Less than a year, we're supposed to see Ares I-X go up from Kennedy. We may not be sending Homo Sapiens up on Areas for a while, but at least we'll have a candle to burn.
  • crying shame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:51AM (#24116429)

    Man, the Apollo guys saw themselves as the vanguard of moon settlement, they thought they were the scouts. What comes after Apollo? Thirty years of dicking around in LEO. Isn't this exciting, boys and girls? What a sad, sad joke. What's our next goal? "Why, if we wish hard enough, we might finally be able to replicate the Apollo mission, successfully flown decades ago!" Whoopitie fuck. We're just going to go back to the moon and plant a flag? Oh, and still-President Bush says he wants us to plant a flag on Mars, too. Fucking wanker. Where are our LaGrange colonies, where are the orbital power sats, asteroid mining, space manufacturing? Where is the vision? The only vision at NASA right now is making retirement without fucking up too badly.

    • by damburger (981828)
      NASA was created to get America to the Moon first, but once it had achieved that it was perceived as a bloated, inefficient government program, and promptly gutted and intentionally mismanaged by those with an interest in proving that 'government doesnt work'
  • A flight remembered (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eekygeeky (777557) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @09:55AM (#24116523)

    I'm glad of this: It means that a few years down the road, I can visit the Space Museum and my sturdy young son will see with his new eyes, under the fierce and optimistic Florida sun, another step in the hopes of man to go further than their birth.

    He'll be just as mad as I was, all those years ago, smelling the hot dusty grass and the tarmac and sea, looking at those mighty silver birds, purpose built by the best we hade within us, that he can't climb in the real one, and has to go inside to the mockup.

    I hope what he sees was what I saw, so far away and yet so close to hand, all those years ago. I hope the shuttle means to him what the moon lander meant to me- untrammelled hope and faith in human endeavour.

    Rest in peace, big old bird; even parked on the forever runway, we'll always look at you with untarnished eyes and souls full of wonder.

  • by ZonkerWilliam (953437) * on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @10:27AM (#24117169) Journal
    Visiting NASA at Cape Canaveral a couple of years ago with my wife, I can't help feel like the whole place was a shrine to Apollo age. I would talk to people at NASA and they would just talk about the "Good old days", not once did they talk about the Shuttle or ISS. Honestly, I think we need a new Space Agency, one who can look to the future instead of being stuck in the past.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:06AM (#24117969)
    I agree the shuttle should be phased out, but a 4-5 year gap until Orion is silly. The decision is more political than for safety or financial.

    The space station only will have a single option for manned transport and two options for unmanned resupply during 2011 - 2015.

    NASA has to decide two years in advance, beacuse it takes that long to order new rockets for a launch. Plus these rocket factories will be mothballed then with decreasing chances of ressurection.
  • by bxwatso (1059160) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:18AM (#24118179)
    The Space Shuttle is a complete failure on almost every level, especially safety.
    It has killed 14 people, much more than Apollo.
    On top of that, it is much more expensive ($500MM per launch) than other means of launching humans into LEO.
    The constant safety failures of the system have caused NASA to delay other important programs and focus the energy of smart people away from science.
    The private sector has the capability of launching material into orbit at a lower cost, and the Russians can launch humans into orbit at a lower cost. Therefore, the Shuttle can't be grounded soon enough.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The Space Shuttle is a complete failure on almost every level, especially safety.

      Yes... and no.

      The shuttle had twenty-four sucessful launches in a row before the first loss-of-vehicle accident on the twenty-fifth launch; this is vastly more successful than any other orbital launch vehicle ever built, by any country, in history. Following that it had a hundred successful launches in a row before the second loss. This is, really, quite unprecedented.

      Basically, launching into space is dangerous, and new vehicles are dangerous.

      It has killed 14 people, much more than Apollo.

      What? Apollo lost zero astronauts in the first 14 launches.

  • by Venik (915777) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:09PM (#24120933)

    Unfortunately, the retirement of the shuttle fleet has nothing to do with our president being an idiot. This would have been too simple an explanation. The shuttle program was supposed to pave the way to affordable space launch technology: $100/lb with a two-week turnaround. This never happened. If anything, the cost of putting a pound of payload in orbit has increased. NASA's reusable launch systems turned out to be far more expensive than Russia's single-use launchers.

  • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:52PM (#24121789) Homepage Journal

    The retirement will leave the US without orbital capacity for at least four years

    That's a very misleading statement. We'll have no human orbital capacity, but plenty of expendable rockets for lobbing satellites and probes into space.

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