Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Moon Space Science Technology

NASA Engineers Work On Alternative Moon Rocket 340

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-even-have-a-hybrid-engine dept.
Gibson writes "A team of 57 engineers at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight center feel that the Ares rocket is not the best solution for launching the new CEV. They are currently working on their own time developing an alternative launch system known as Jupiter. The 131 page proposal, along with other information, is available on the project website. Proponents of the project say that it is 'simpler, safer, and sooner' than the Ares project, predicting the ability for a return to the moon in 2017, two years before the current goal. Ares management has so far dismissed the proposal as a 'napkin drawing.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Engineers Work On Alternative Moon Rocket

Comments Filter:
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:04PM (#24198807)

    That a "napkin drawing" by engineers never amount to anything.

  • by Illbay (700081) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:05PM (#24198817) Journal

    How can anyone whose project is in the design stage, scoff at another that is in the conceptual stage? Neither of them EXIST yet!

    Where is Ares? Oh, it's in AUTOCAD! Well, that makes ALL the difference!

    Meanwhile, their brilliant project isn't expected to get anyone to the moon before, what, twenty years?

    Sheesh.

    • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:18PM (#24199067)

      While I'm sure that it would cost less to have one vehicle instead of two, I disagree with their safety and "simpler" claim.

      I'm no rocket scientist (though I am an engineer), but a simple look at the NASA plan shows that the crew vehicle is much simpler than this Jupiter plan. The Jupiter are looking to use 2 shuttle boosters and the center fuel tank with shuttle engines mounted on it to put a crew into space, while NASA is using only one booster and one engine for the 2nd stage.

      Do I have this right? Seems to me that NASA's solution for the crew vehicle is simpler (and thus probably safer). Especially considering that there's never been a booster failure, has there? Though Challenger was arguably a booster failure, would it have been catastrophic without the center fuel tank explosion?

      • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:40PM (#24199461) Journal
        Though Challenger was arguably a booster failure, would it have been catastrophic without the center fuel tank explosion?

        A better question would be: would a center fuel tank explosion cause a catastrophic loss of the crew module if the module were at the top of the stack, rather than at the side (especially if the crew module has abort rocket that can pull it away from the stack)?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Probably would have been fatal without the main tak explosion. The shuttle was going fast enough that it probably could not have survived the large changes in attitude that were likely, even if you could disconnect instantaneously, because of aerodynamic buffeting from the main tank shocks. Plus once you get way out of shape you probably are not going to be able to recover,
        • by Shoeler (180797) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:18PM (#24201337)
          The external tank didn't explode. The SRB burned through its o-ring an then burned a hole into the tank, releasing its contents which then turned into vapor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster [wikipedia.org] "Contrary to the flight dynamics officer's initial statement, the shuttle and external tank did not actually "explode". Instead they rapidly disintegrated under tremendous aerodynamic forces"
      • by Intron (870560) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:49PM (#24199655)
        My design is much safer since no fuel is carried on board. It requires a long-barelled cannon packed with guncotton.
      • by OmniGeek (72743) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:51PM (#24199695)

        I *am* a rocket scientist, BTW. I read the Jupiter concept doc a few months ago, and I find it reasonably persuasive. The thing that makes the Jupiter concept "simpler" is that it reuses existing designs (specifically, main engine systems and fuel tanks) that have already been fully developed and put into use, rather than designing new ones that employ untested techniques.

        What makes a design safer isn't necessarily lowest component count; in the space business, proven designs count for a LOT in risk mitigation. Consider the Russian Proton rocket: not modern, not the most efficient, but a very reliable system that gets its job done at low cost (assuming that the recent Soyuz QA problems don't mean that their whole production infrastructure has gone rotten from lack of funds). Incremental changes are almost always faster, better, and cheaper than radical design departures (at least until the radical tech is fully worked out, which takes time).

        Indeed, a big part of the argument here is that Ares junks an existing manufacturing infrastructure THAT WORKS, just like NASA did after the Apollo program. Jupiter, on the other hand, maintains the current Shuttle-related tech base and builds on it. Having a functional tech infrastructure to build on, with suppliers who've been designing and delivering product based on the same design for many years, is an immense advantage in terms of cost, lead time, and reliability. Folks who've made the same system dozens of times make fewer mistakes than those building something brand-new with no comparable predecessor product.

        • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:21PM (#24200203) Homepage

          in the space business, proven designs count for a LOT in risk mitigation.

          Very true, which is why the Shuttle continues to fly with 1970's-era technology controlling most of it.

          However, I would posit the following: the Shuttle program dumped most of Apollo in the trash bin and started with something new. I'm of the opinion that what we ended up with was not an improvement over Apollo. The Shuttle is more expensive, more finicky, less reliable, and arguably much more dangerous than Apollo ever was. So, while we have a large body of knowledge centered around Shuttle systems, the systems themselves may not be worth prolonging through to Ares. Hence the justification for breaking with the (Shuttle) past with Ares.

          The Shuttle was a great experiment, but ultimately we learned it was something we shouldn't have built. Everything it's done in the last quarter century could've been done better, faster, and cheaper with Apollo-era tech (with incremental improvements as you alluded to earlier) just as the Russians have proven with their launch systems.

          No human has been out of low Earth orbit in roughly thirty years. The last three that did, did so on top of a Saturn V. The Shuttle has had us going in circles (literally) since then. The ISS prolongs that boondoggle. Why do we need an ISS? To give the Shuttle some place to go! Why do we need a Shuttle? To build the ISS! What fantastic circular logic. What a horrific waste.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dpilot (134227)

            > The ISS prolongs that boondoggle.

            IMHO the ISS is valuable as an engineering experiment. Yes, we're having a really tough time making the thing run, so what makes people think that we can make some different space station run better? The ISS is barely above the tin-cans-bolted-together stage, so we're a LOOOOONG way away from Von Braun's wheels.

            There is a rough maximum size we can launch from Earth, so if we want to do more, at some point we're going to have to be doing some serious construction in sp

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cowscows (103644)

            While I'll agree that in the context of expanding humanity's abilities in space, the shuttle didn't live up to the hype, I don't think it's fair to say that the only thing we learned from it was that it was a bad idea. The shuttle is made up of a bunch of very well engineered components, they're just all stuck together into an overall package that isn't that useful. Sure, the next generation of spacecraft doesn't need wings. But that doesn't mean that technology developed for the shuttle's engines isn't bet

        • by Thelasko (1196535) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:42PM (#24200611) Journal

          Incremental changes are almost always faster, better, and cheaper than radical design departures (at least until the radical tech is fully worked out, which takes time).

          As an engineer, I agree with that statement. I wish to add that the team knows, and has addressed the current failure modes of the technology they are planning to use by relocating the payload to the top of the craft.

          I will also point an error in the grandparent's post.

          The Jupiter are looking to use 2 shuttle boosters and the center fuel tank with shuttle engines mounted on it to put a crew into space, while NASA is using only one booster and one engine for the 2nd stage.

          They are planning to use the RS-68 [wikipedia.org] engine, which is considered superior to the space shuttle main engines. These engines are currently in use on the Delta IV. The engine NASA is planning is yet to be developed, but based on the J-2 [wikipedia.org] from the Saturn V.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Picass0 (147474)

          Looking at the Jupiter design and the Ares V, they look to the untrained eye to be very similar. I see a shuttle liquid oxygen tank on both designs, SRBs on both, aft skirt thrust modules on both, and similiar configurations for the upper command modules and payload.

          The Jupiter uses some delta engines. The Ares doesn't.

          Asided from that what are the major differences? More importantly, why should we feel one of these projects offers a great advantage? The Jupiter paper talks as if NASA is heading down a bad

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          What makes a design safer isn't necessarily lowest component count; in the space business, proven designs count for a LOT in risk mitigation.

          The problem being that Jupiter/DIRECT is just as proven as Ares - that is to say, not at all. While it reuses a few components unmodified, the large remaining balance of reused components are modified (sometime considerably) which takes it right out of 'proven' category.

          Consider the Russian Proton rocket: not modern, not the most efficient, but a very

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717)

        I'm no rocket scientist (though I am an engineer), but a simple look at the NASA plan shows that the crew vehicle is much simpler than this Jupiter plan. The Jupiter are looking to use 2 shuttle boosters and the center fuel tank with shuttle engines mounted on it to put a crew into space, while NASA is using only one booster and one engine for the 2nd stage.

        Jupiter has three times the payload capacity. Jupiter uses the normal 4-segment SRBs, while Ares uses a brand new five segment SRBs. The 5-segment SRB

    • by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:18PM (#24199071) Journal
      Where is Ares? Oh, it's in AUTOCAD! Well, that makes ALL the difference!

      Guess I'd beg to differ, having seen metal cut for Ares I-X. Just do a google image search and see for yourself.

      And by the way, the Ares side of things is, to the best of my knowledge, on schedule to launch in 2009. If you have facts to differ, please let me know. The one thing that will probably delay them is the upcoming Hubble mission - until they vacate pad 39B, the appropriate pad modifications can't be made, so it's a day-for-day slip as the Hubble mission slips.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jandrese (485)
        2009? If that's true color me shocked. I though it would take much longer.
        • by notadoctor (1296593) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:56PM (#24199775)
          The Ares I-X has no commonality with the actual Ares I. It will still use a four segment solid rocket motor from the space shuttle, instead of the five segment one (a $2 billion dollar development project) that the real Ares I will use, and will have a dummy fifth segment and dummy upperstage. The actual Ares I-Y (a closer test vehicle that uses the proper solid rocket motor) won't fly until 2013, and the real Ares I won't fly until 2015 at the earliest and can't fly earlier because the upper stage engine won't be ready until around that time. The flight next year is more of a political stunt by NASA to give the appearance of progress. It's like driving out a Ferrari, but the body is plastic, and there's a Ford engine and a one gear forward only transmission under the hood.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Beezlebub33 (1220368)

            Wait a minute.

            Earlier in this discussion, we have people concerned about the flight dynamics, controllability, number of SRB's, etc. The Ares I-X will test these things, won't it?

            Maybe I'm wrong, but to me this does not seem to be a boondoggle or publicity stunt. It's a reasonable stepping stone in the project.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by everphilski (877346)
            Sure, it's not 1:1 with the final vehicle, do you really expect the first test flight to be?

            You've listed the ways it is not Ares I, now list the ways it is not Shuttle. You will find the list is much longer. Yes, only four segments on FS plus a dummy stage but it's not a stock SRB. The upper stage is a mass accurate dummy, but is instrumented for re-entry. The CLV is testing an abort scenario.

            It's not a complete PR scenario ... some of us are getting * data from this launch.

            It's like driving out a F
    • by scuba_steve_1 (849912) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:20PM (#24199107)

      Design phase means they have requirements. Most likely detailed requirements...with detailed interface specifications between thousands of systems. Design of a system like Ares is not just industrial engineering. There are most likely a myriad of electrical, computer, and software systems being designed in parallel. Most likely thousands of items in fact.

      Of course, the real issue is most likely that people have a vested personal interest in the current direction...and perhaps congressional support for tasks being performed (or that will be performed) in their districts.

      Of course, I am just guessing. I don't build rockets...but I do work on software systems that have 5-10 million LOC...and there is a heck of a lot of work that is performed before coding starts...so I wouldn't assume that they don't have much invested in Ares yet just because they are not yet building...unless they are performing extreme agile spiral rocket building. ;)

      Of course, good ideas should not be dismissed...and given the size of this contingent, their proposal almost certainly warrants further investigation. Napkin drawing? Some of the most creative ideas in the world started in this fashion...and 57 engineers with a 100+ page white paper and a website is one hell of a napkin. Of course, it's almost certainly orders of magnitude less mature than the Ares design, but I think that the idea at least warrants a DAR.

      What happened the last time that NASA ignored a bunch of their engineers? I think they had plenty of time to reconsider while they were picking up Shuttle parts all over the western US.

    • by Thelasko (1196535)
      If it's in AUTOCAD, then NASA needs to really get out of the 80's and into the 21st century. It's all NX5 [siemens.com] and CATIA [3ds.com] now a days.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamlucky13 (795185)

      Easy statements first:

      Meanwhile, their brilliant project isn't expected to get anyone to the moon before, what, twenty years?

      It depends on congressional funding. Current plans are between 2018 and 2020, but first operations of the rocket for ISS and LEO operations should be about 2015. NASA can't really get cracking on this until the shuttle retires in 2010, which will free up about $3 billion/year in funding...unless congres wants to dole out some extra right now.

      How can anyone whose project is in the desi

  • by jeffy210 (214759) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:08PM (#24198869)

    The 131 page proposal

    That's a hell of a lot of napkins...

    • This is why we glorify the mental prowess of "rocket scientists". They consider a 131 page proposal with this level of detail to be the equivalent of a napkin drawing.

      Frankly, Ares management is probably right, but that's not the reason this idea won't fly, as it were. The real reason, depending on your level of cynicism, is that either (a) it has arrived too late or (b) it doesn't justify enough spending.

      • Re:Napkin Drawing (Score:4, Informative)

        by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:24PM (#24200247)

        This is why we glorify the mental prowess of "rocket scientists". They consider a 131 page proposal with this level of detail to be the equivalent of a napkin drawing.

        In the world of government and military systems, 131 pages is just enough to cover the information declarations, the acronym list, and the table of contents. Page 131 probably says "Pages 131-542 TBD".

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:53PM (#24199731)

      >> The 131 page proposal

      > That's a hell of a lot of napkins...

      Hardly. That's like two visits to Taco Bell.

  • $35 Billion (Score:4, Funny)

    by Illbay (700081) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:08PM (#24198873) Journal

    From the project website:

    This change to NASA's architecture completely removes the costs & risks associated with developing and operating a second launcher system, saving NASA $19 Billion in development costs, and a further $16 Billion in operational costs over the next 20 years.

    $35 Billion in savings? How much is that in napkins?

  • by ricebowl (999467) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:09PM (#24198903)

    They are currently working on their own time developing an alternative launch system known as Jupiter

    After reading the summary the only thing that went through my head was memories of Matt Le Blanc, and the urge to cry: "Danger, Will Robinson!"

    I could probably do with a rest...

  • A bit disingenuous (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amliebsch (724858)
    I scoffed a bit at their description of the excess payload capacity of the crew-launch configuration as "free." I mean, you still pay for that capacity in fuel and delivery. You're not getting something for nothing. The Ares CLV has far less capacity but it should be far less expensive as well. And I'm not entirely persuaded that the costs of operating two launch systems will be that much greater than one combined system. We currently launch a wide variety of rockets for different purposes without it b
  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:14PM (#24198977) Journal
    You got to love it: By day, they are mild mannered engineers. By night, they are undercover rocket scientists who are building a rocket to go to the moon! It sounds like a pulp sci-fi story.
  • by Fastfwd (44389) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:14PM (#24198985)

    It's the old engineers vs management debate on who gets to make the decision. Seeing as both cost and speed are on the engineer's side I don't see why management would be against.

    oh wait I know

    Because it will make them look like they have been wasting time and money and they would rather waste even more money while looking like they are not.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:32PM (#24199317) Homepage

      It was engineers who did the ground work for Ares - it's not like management created the booster out of thin air and in secrecy and isolation.
       
      I often wonder how today's space fans would have reacted back in the 1960's - when the Saturn (V) initially ended up nearly a third larger than the Nova booster that was supposedly sufficient for a lunar landing mission... and then required a 20% performance increase on top of that in order to be barely able to conduct the mission.
       
      Everything is cheap and fast and easy - on paper. When you start getting off the page and bending real metal, they usually turn out not be fast, cheap, or easy.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:57PM (#24199801)

        Uh, no, actually that's exactly what happened. Griffin and Horowitz (the PHB's) came up with their Ares plan many years ago, did a 60 day "study" that came back with the recommendation to follow their plan, and ordered the MSFC engineers to build their designs, rather than the engineers' long standing plans to develop more conventional and cost-effective derivatives of the Shuttle (NLS/Magnum) or EELV.

        Back in the '60s, the NASA PHB's were at least smart enough to see that John Houbolt had come up with a solution to fix their performance gap. Today, the PHB's are too busy doing political spin to promote their preferred solution and hide the 7mT performance shortfall, the 6 year spaceflight gap, and the $1.4 billion to $2 billion per launch total cost.

        Thats one heckuva' job Mikey.

  • by ultraexactzz (546422) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:16PM (#24199033) Journal
    If NASA is unwilling to consider Jupiter as an alternative to Ares, then would there be private corporations willing to invest in what appears to be a good heavy-lift flight system? You might even find Russia or the ESA willing to purchase flights, either to service the ISS in the pre-Ares years, or to service an ISS v2, if and when. Pie in the Sky, perhaps, but I'm finding this to be an intriquing proposal, and it'd be a shame if it didn't end up flying.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rbanffy (584143)

      To conduct both projects in parallel would require building a couple more launch pads as the current shuttle/Jupiter-compatible ones will have to be changed for the Ares rockets.

  • Can anyone explain why so little technology is recycled from current and previous generation spacecraft in designing the new generation craft.

    It makes sense to use as much shuttle technology and durable facilities in constructing the next heavy lifting vehicle as the Jupiter people are proposing, so why wasn't that a goal from the start? The proven technology is well tested, and is well known by the folks who work on it, so why is there such a desire to change it?

    Also, why are the scaled composites tier 1b

    • by nospam007 (722110)

      >Can anyone explain why so little technology is recycled from current and previous generation spacecraft in designing the new generation craft.

      Shuttles and priors are 70ies tech, they can't read the tapes anymore.

    • by Burdell (228580) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:44PM (#24199535)

      You should check the designs before you criticize them. Ares I uses an extended solid rocket booster (upgraded from the Shuttle) and a J-2X engine (upgraded from the Saturn V second and third stages). Ares V uses extended SRBs and RS-68 engines (from the Delta IV).

      The Shuttle main engines (SSMEs) were considered instead of the J-2X and/or the RS-68, but the cost was too high. The SSME is a high performance engine, but it is an expensive engine. Also, one concern for using it for the Ares I is that the liquid engine is the second stage engine, which will be started in-flight and at high altitude. The SSME has never been tried like that (nor was it designed for that), while the J-2 was used that way in the Saturn.

      As for Scaled Composites Tier 1b, it is a sub-orbital vehicle (good for nothing but tourists and hype). IIRC Tier 2 may be an orbital vehicle, but that is a long way off as well, since Scaled is working on Tier 1b (Ares is much further along in development).

  • Read about the argument for this chumpy:

    # Delete all risks associated with a second new launch vehicle
    # Delete all costs associated with a second new launch vehicle
    # Optimum use of the existing NASA & contractor experience
    # Enable multiple upgrade paths

    Basically, "hey, we're NASA, we're too stupid to design a new rocket, and let's just use the shuttle that, um, we already have."

    I thought the whole point of Constellation was that the shuttle sucks. If the engineers had gotten the shuttle off the ground

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:17PM (#24199055)
    A handful of engineers and a stenographer cooped up in a hotel room over a weekend, designed and developed the B52 [boeing.com]. And its still going strong 50 years later.

    After all, it not rocket surgery.
  • We already have a man-rated safe moon rocket. It's called Saturn V.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nimey (114278)

      No, actually we don't. The tooling's been long-since destroyed, and there are no blueprints for many of the parts because they were farmed out to contractors, let alone information on things like what precise alloys to use for said parts, and other methods of manufacture.

      There are a couple Saturn Vs left, yes, but they were left out to the elements for many years and may have been scavenged for parts.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i higly doubt that that is the case - i have seen alot of the work that was done on the Saturn V - there is no doubt in my mind that if they wanted to build another they would know exactly what to make and how to make it and how to put it together.

      • by willith (218835) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:04PM (#24199919) Homepage

        No, actually we don't. The tooling's been long-since destroyed, and there are no blueprints for many of the parts because they were farmed out to contractors, let alone information on things like what precise alloys to use for said parts, and other methods of manufacture.

        You are wrong. The blueprints for everything, down to the last nut and bolt, are on file at MSFC. Source. [space.com]

        There are a couple Saturn Vs left, yes, but they were left out to the elements for many years and may have been scavenged for parts.

        You are wrong. There are three, but none of them is "one" rocket. The one at the Johnson space center, made up of three flight-rated stages from different rockets, was left out for 20+ years but has been restored to pristine (though obviously not flight-worthy) condition. The one at MSFC is all static test stages and has been similarly restored. The one at KSC is two flight stages and one test stage, and has been kept in perfect (but again, obviously not flight-worthy) condition since the day it was rolled in. NONE of the rockets were ever "scavenged" for parts--they're all property of the Smithsonian and are maintained in trust as artifacts by NASA.

        Recreating a Saturn V isn't impossible because we don't have the plans--it's impossible because the blueprints call for standard parts and items that don't exist any more (like a left-handed widget with widget gauge #12, which was used by, say, Boeing in 1960, but not any more).

    • Not only that, but we used to have one example of flight rated Saturn V hardware. Of course, it had been stored outdoors for several decades, so I don't think it would be flight rated anymore. There are a few other bits and pieces of other Saturn V hardware around, but not all of it was flight rated.
  • Some of our best innovations come from engineers that are driven to do something different. It usually doesn't come from a corporate cog. I just hope this Jupiter isn't lost in the space between NASA directors ears.

  • If you look at the overviews of their ideas, you can tell right away that this launch system would have several advantages over Aries. It does not require a modification of the boosters, which is one of the more significant design challenges that Aries, especially the crew lift system, is facing. Additionally they don't call for a significantly different vehicle to lift the crew. While they do propose a few different systems for lifting cargo vs lifting cargo and people, the base vehicle engineering is t

    • Agreed, the basic principles look sound and it reuses working technology rather than the Ares probe, which seems to be about reinventing the Saturn system 50 years down the line. But I fear Nasa bureaucracy will chew this idea and spit it out, because it isn't Ares and look, they have all these lovely pictures of how it might work, ten or so years down the line. Besides, engineers never have good idea, that's for officials to do.
  • One more.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:47PM (#24199603)

    After getting most prized "first post" position, I have one more...

    I would trust a set of napkin drawings from dedicated engineers more than I'd trust a polished proposal from a committee of military contractors and NASA administrators.

    Think of it this way, the latter said the O rings were safe, the former tried to warn everyone of the danger.

  • Basically as I understand it, this Jupiter thing is essentially the same rocket as the Ares V... Both would be heavy lift boosters in the Saturn V/Energia class... So while NASA wants to build an additional simplified Ares 1 that only lifts the crew module, the Jupiter people want to essentially put the crew module on top of the EDS and put it up in one shot - ala Saturn V... But what is so different from Ares V and Jupiter? They both seem to use both SRB and Liquid rockets... Basically it seems that the
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff1946 (944062)

      The SRB's have a good track record. Only one failure in 100+ launches. Cause of the failure identified and fixed so it should not be factored into reliability calculations. Unless some new system is significantly cheaper in the long run,then stick with the SRB's for a heavy lift vehicle. Remember they are recovered after launch and reused. The steel cylinders (about 1/2" thick walls) are taken apart and refilled with propellant and reassembled. All the infrastructure to do this is already in place.

      Whe

  • Is this alternative moon rocket going to aimed at an alternative moon [wikipedia.org]?
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:06PM (#24199949) Homepage

    The US can't afford a manned space program any more. The Iraq war has cost $3 trillion, we're headed into a recession, and it's going to take years to unwind the housing bubble. The next administration is going to have to focus on digging out of the hole left by the Bush administration.

    And, face it, sending a few more people to the Moon on chemical rockets doesn't really get us anywhere. Been there, done that, know what the Lunar surface is like.

    If fusion power ever works, space is worth revisiting, but with chemical rockets, we hit the limits a long time ago.

    • by Markvs (17298) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:43PM (#24200627) Journal
      Proportionally, the Viet Nam War cost more far more: 9.4% of GDP vs. the Iraq War @ 1% of GDP. The entire military budget is 4.4% of GDP, and that's including spending on Corp of Engineer projects and other non-combat related spending. (BTW: The Department of Defense estimates a presence in Iraq through 2017 at $1.7 trillion. $3 trillion is a number came up with by some people with some VERY vested interests.) We WERE in a recession in 1957-1958 (when NASA was founded) and the housing bubble, while bad, is no where NEAR as bad a Black Monday or The Crash or perhaps even the .Com bubble. The only reason why people are bemoaning it (and rightly so!) is because people lost homes. That many of them were homes they never should have bought is another discussion. And we've gone nowhere NEAR the limits. We could easily to manned missions to Mars, set up a real scientific lab on the Moon, even have missions to asteroids all on chemical rockets and boosters. By some logic, it's never a good time to do anything. But human advancement depends on it. And NASA's budget is a mere 0.6% of the US GDP. Call me a kook, but if I wanted to save money, let's ax something really worthless like The Department of Education. It gets [b]3.3 TIMES[/b] NASA's budget, but the kids are dumber today than they were when Carter formed the DoEd thirty odd years ago!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        Eh, I disagree on the housing bubble. First, your stock market crashes are out of order. The Crash of 1929 was by far the worst US stock market crash ever. Black Monday wasn't significant in the long run aside from increasing regulation on computer trading. And the dotcom bubble was pretty signficant in size, but not that much effect compared to other US recessions after the Second World War. The housing bubble is signficant for two reasons. First, most people have substantial assets tied up in their home a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)

      The US can't afford a manned space program any more.

      But China can?

      The Iraq war has cost $3 trillion,

      The most recent figures I saw put that at $1 trillion, not 3, but either way, that's a blip on the radar. Hell, the first space race took place DURING the height of the Vietnam war, which was far more expensive and difficult in every sense of the word. The trip was also occurring with brand-new technology, no knowledge of the challenges faced, etc., etc. This time around it's going to be much cheaper, and

  • why doesn't the NASA management support this plan?

    All TFA says is:

    "It's not feasible. We said, 'It doesn't work' and moved on,'" Cook said.

    I also want to know if the skid they plan to use to maintain Hubble is reusable, or does it burn up on reentry?

  • Deja Moon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:23PM (#24200221) Journal

    Wasn't the Apollo system shaped by a similar event? As I remember it, the original plan was to travel and land directly on the moon. However, a handfull of engineers felt that the launching rocket could be simpler and smaller if there was an orbital undock/docking stage. The problem was that orbital rendezvous docking was untried and required technology that didn't exist yet. The docking group eventually won out after heated discussion.

    In the end, everyone was happy except Michael Collins, who had to wait in orbit while his buddies danced on the moon for the first time. (Although perhaps felt safer being that this was all new stuff.)
         

  • Pointless Exercise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:38PM (#24200519)

    The cold reality is that we're probably not going to send a manned mission to the moon. The cost of robotic probes drops by the day, at the same time their capabilities increase. By the time we're ready to send up more astronauts, we'll be able to send up probes that can stay longer and perform more tasks than a human in a rubber suit who has to live in a little tin can. This whole moon-shot thing was basically a PR stunt by the Bush administration - McCaine or Obama will probably kill it, as it's wasteful and frivolous.

    Humans will only return when it's time to construct something permanent there, like a telescope or automated mining equipment. (Even then, it would probably be cheaper to send unmanned probes to small asteroids, directing them to fall in the middle of the desert for harvesting.

    The realities of space exploration have changed - going just to go isn't a useful aim anymore, unless you're paying on your own hyper-rich dime for a vacation to orbit.

  • You know (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:20PM (#24201379) Journal

    One person with 50 years more experience than all of you still isn't nearly as smart as 57 of you that came to the same conclusion!

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.

Working...