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NASA Space

NASA Shuttle Replacement's Problems Are Worsening 344

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the parts-is-parts dept.
ausoleil noted that NASA's replacement for the shuttle, the Orion, is slipping behind schedule "'We're probably going to have to move our target date,' NASA exploration chief Doug Cooke told The Associated Press on Wednesday after Nasawatch.com posted the 117-page internal status report (PDF) on the moon program. The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system. The Orion spacecraft's design remains too heavy for the proposed Ares 1 rocket. Software development, heat shield testing and other complex work remain behind schedule or over budget. There are dozens of such serious challenges, many of which are 'worsening.'"
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NASA Shuttle Replacement's Problems Are Worsening

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:44AM (#24228837)
    but i'll play one on slashdot and come up with all kinds of rubber band and duct tape solutions and act like my 11th grade physics class bests nasa engineers.

    wait, my friends, you'll see tons of posts just like this except for that the posters take themselves seriously.
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:54AM (#24229031) Journal

      but i'll play one on slashdot and come up with all kinds of rubber band and duct tape solutions

      You mean like the ones that saved Apollo 13 [wikipedia.org]? IIRC the solution to the problem of running out of breathable air involved rubber bands and duct tape.

    • I'm not sure the problem is so much technical as process: the Orion is a "Cost Plus" contract.

      Cost plus is always likely to see cost overruns and major delays. The more expensive and the longer it takes, the more the contractors make. There's no motivation to be on time and under budget.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:52PM (#24229903)

        The more expensive and the longer it takes, the more the contractors make. There's no motivation to be on time and under budget.

        Not true... cost plus is good if you don't want the "lowest bidder" mentality. Although underhanded tactics will inevitably exist, NASA only pays contractors cost plus a FIXED profit for the contractor.

        They have no incentive to run over on the time

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Unordained (262962) *

          Isn't that trivially fixed by "buying from yourself", such that you can control the costs (indirectly) and still blow the top off the budget? It seems pretty common for even a moderately-sized business to split itself into lots of tightly-knit components, and depending on the definition of 'cost', it seems like that could work out perfectly for the contractors involved...

          • by shawn(at)fsu (447153) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @05:56PM (#24234515) Homepage

            You can buy from your self but you still have to disclose the costs to the government. In the paperwork the you disclose what the base costs are plus all the markups and profit. Not only that but you have to prove to the DCAA auditor that your stuff is cost competitive, usually by showing a comparison to three other independent solutions. It's actually quite interesting on the government side to see how open they force you to be in your proposal and billing compared to the private sector.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DragonWriter (970822)

          Not true... cost plus is good if you don't want the "lowest bidder" mentality. Although underhanded tactics will inevitably exist, NASA only pays contractors cost plus a FIXED profit for the contractor.

          Many of the costs (e.g., labor costs) are profits to people involved in the project (and in many cases, in the decision making relating to how the project gets done), though they aren't part of the "fixed profit" added on to the "costs".

          Not true... cost plus is good if you don't want the "lowest bidder" menta

    • by tweak13 (1171627) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:42PM (#24230625)
      They're screwed. MacGyver himself couldn't keep this project on schedule with all the duct tape, rubber bands and paperclips in the world.

      The problem is, this project is massive. It was obvious from the beginning that their time estimates were basically based on everything working perfectly the first time and optimization studies showing that they'd already picked the most efficient design. There are always going to be problems, and the bigger the project the more you're going to have.

      If they're serious about replacing the shuttle with only a couple years of downtime, they should already be gearing up to test the system as a whole. I'm not personally involved in the project, but it doesn't even look like they're ready to test big pieces yet. Maybe 2020 is a more reasonable date to actually begin flights.
      • by benjackson520 (778024) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @02:14PM (#24231065)

        If they're serious about replacing the shuttle with only a couple years of downtime, they should already be gearing up to test the system as a whole. I'm not personally involved in the project, but it doesn't even look like they're ready to test big pieces yet. Maybe 2020 is a more reasonable date to actually begin flights.

        Disclaimer: I'm a NASA employee at Stennis Space Center, programmer not rocket scientist. The first round of testing on the powerpacks for the new J-2X engines was last month, second round is scheduled for early 2009. That's not the fully assembled engine assemblies, but it's progress.

  • Just wait (Score:2, Funny)

    by nizo (81281) *

    I keep half expecting them to finally get one built, and then they realize they don't have a launch pad capable of handling something that big.

    • Re:Just wait (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:52AM (#24228993) Homepage Journal
      Just set up a national tip jar on something akin to PayPal.
      Citizens actually want to fund space activities, not the stuff that's killing us: http://perotcharts.com/ [perotcharts.com]
      Dis-intermediating DC is step #1 in carrying out the will of the people.
      • Re:Just wait (Score:4, Interesting)

        by imipak (254310) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:51PM (#24230733) Journal

        Nonsense. The vast majority of people really want to see some cool pictures on the news every couple of years or so. If you substitute to 10c per person (or whatever the current budget works out to) with half a dozen multi-millionaires and a long (actually, short) tail of "enthusiast" types chipping in $50 or $20, you won't have enough for a single Delta launch, let alone fund design testing build and operation of two and a half new launchers, a new crew vehicle and the TLI / lander / ascent hardware needed for another moon landing.

        I personally am of the opinion the moon landings will be jettisoned as soon as practical, and that that's a good thing. I just hope it's early enough to leave enough left for the increasingly delayed outer planets flagship mission and some more Mars landers / rovers, oh and a telecoms relay orbiter that will be desperately needed in 7-10 years' time. (Did you know there's nothing on the Mars launch schedule after MSL in 2010? That money's gone to Dubya's cock-eyed publicity stunt of trying to get Kennedy's rep by announcing another manned moon landing. But I realise that's unpopular around here.

    • Re:Just wait (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:09PM (#24229261) Homepage Journal

      I think you're confusing Ares I [wikipedia.org] and Ares V [wikipedia.org]. Ares I isn't all that big. It's a single stack of capsule -> fuel tank -> stage 2 engine -> stage 1 solid rocket booster. If anything, it's quite a bit thinner than most rockets. However, it does make up for this by towering a massive 94m high. Which does mean a few upgrades to the scaffolding.

      The Ares V, however, she's gonna be a beasty. With six (!) main engines, two outboard Solid Rocket Boosters, a plump width of 10m on the central stack, and a towering 116m tall, she's going to put every other rocket to shame. Personally, I can't wait. ;-)

  • by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:46AM (#24228865)
    There are alternatives [spacex.com].

    Look, does this news really come as a surprise? NASA's been over-budget and behind schedule since the last Apollo flight. Without the unlimited checkbook that Mercury/Gemini/Apollo had, this should be expected.

    Unlimited budgets have a way of clearing all obstacles in their path.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      NASA's been over-budget and behind schedule since the last Apollo flight.

      Please remind me which USG agency has not been? (Other than the post office)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Rub1cnt (1159069)
        Hey, the post office is only over budget because of the grevious overspending in the management section. I've seen the Reqs...new desks every 6 months in hardwoods, hardwood paneling for offices..Granted, they're complaining that email is killing thier business..but the Post Office is far from "run by penny pinching PHBs." Their POS system is still run on a celeron 300!
        • by maxume (22995) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:24PM (#24229487)

          The post office is, roughly, a crown corporation. It operates under a government mandate and follows some special rules regarding taxes, but it has been self funded for quite a long time now.

          • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:51PM (#24230745) Journal

            The post office is, roughly, a crown corporation. It operates under a government mandate and follows some special rules regarding taxes, but it has been self funded for quite a long time now.

            You should check the figures on that... it stopped being true some time ago. Email has killed the ability of the USPS to fund itself. It's really hard to track the USPS budget, for lots of reasons (for example, their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters are 84 days long, and their 4th quarter is 112 days), but the Federal budget includes payments to the USPS for security and anti-terrorism, to make up for reduced revenue from Congressionally capped rates, and for other reasons.

            Suffice it to say that the USPS is no longer self-sufficient.

    • by Vornzog (409419) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:01PM (#24230045)

      There are alternatives [spacex.com].

      Yeah, including some real alternatives, that can actually get into the orbits NASA needs to get to, rather then just barely out of the atmosphere (where you can tell a tourist that they are 'in space'. Like this [ulalaunch.com] or this [ulalaunch.com].

      The US Government has already funded the development of not one, but two rockets with the kinds of capabilities they need. They are flight proven, expandable to handle all sorts of loads, and available right now, not whenever Ares will slip out to. Add a little redundancy in a couple of systems, and have them ready to launch American astronauts into space in two years.

      SpaceX is cool, and is probably the direction that the future of American space exploration needs to go. But it is not ready, it is not proven and it doesn't come close to the kinds of payload capacity or reliability that we need now. Check back around the time when Ares is supposed to be done to see what SpaceX is up to. In the mean time, quit screwing around developing a rocket similar, but slightly different from, the two perfectly good commercially available ones that are already up and running.

    • There are alternatives

      Those are some and I also wonder if they couldn't just license the designs of the Ariane 5 [wikipedia.org] or the Soyuz 2 rocket [wikipedia.org]? They are both proven vehicles.

      Another alternative would be to work the Russians to bring the Energia [wikipedia.org] rocket back into use.

  • Gap? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justinmc (710870) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:47AM (#24228891)

    How long will there be no active US manned spacecraft - and will this get longer?
    I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      How long will there be no active US manned spacecraft - and will this get longer?
      I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

      This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

      • Re:Gap? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasma ... org minus distro> on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:10PM (#24229287) Journal

        This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

        Actually this kind of cost overrun is absolutely planned.

        You'd do it too, if faced with this alternative:

        • Propose to congress a project which will cost $40B, be truthful about the cost, and be rejected; or
        • Propose to congress a project which will cost $40B, lie and say it will cost $15B, and be approved. Later the cost will rise but Congress will not care, or will commit the "sunk cost fallacy".

        If you cared *nothing* for your country but just wanted to run a big project, then you would lie, get the money, and do the project. On the other hand, if you cared *dearly* for your country, and knew it needed a space program, then you would lie, get the money, and do the project.

        Ah well.

        I am finally at peace with this. What I will never be at peace with, however, is the fact that the space program is a mere drop in the bucket of market-distorting federal transfer payments.

      • Re:Gap? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:12PM (#24229313) Homepage

        This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

        Somebody-or-others-law:

        A poorly planned project takes three times as long to complete as scheduled.

        A well planned project only takes twice as long.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

      Had Shuttle flown as scheduled Skylab would still have eventually re-entered - the purpose of the reboost flight(s) was to control, not prevent, reentry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman (238306)

        This is incorrect. Missions were planned to service Skylab using the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle was simply not available in time, the funding didn't materialize for an automated boost, and Skylab's orbit degraded faster than expected. NASA would have been much happier continuing to run and expand Skylab than build the International Space Station.

        More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylab#End_of_Skylab [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:49AM (#24228923)

    We seemed more adventurous and capable in the 1960s than we are in 2008. Is this what has become of the great spacefaring nation that so many before us had envisioned? Despite serious technological advancements, have we lost our momentum? Maybe it was a passion for the unknown that enabled us before. I fear it has been replaced by disinterested private contractors, underfunding, and ambivalence. More so if this shuttle replacement isn't successful.

    • by east coast (590680) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:58AM (#24229079)
      There's two major problems:

      1. Less funding. For as much as we use it as a dick wagging competition neither party has a real interest in seeing a very robust space program when those dollars could go to buying off voters with more useless ventures that put cash in the right pockets.

      2. Speaking of dick wagging competitions, we've lost our main rival. While the argument could be made that the Chinese are going to beat us up in the space race in another couple of decades, most people just aren't that interested. The space race is no longer a spectator sport since Crazy Ivan is now regarded as either friendly or impotent. The same Joe Sixpacks who shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars each year on their favorite football team were keeping interest in the space program alive when it was competitive. They love The Right Stuff, they yawn at 2001.
      • by ShibaInu (694434) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:13PM (#24229323)

        Let's also be clear that the need to put humans in space seems not so obvious any more. We have fleets of robots exploring other planets with less cost and less risk. To me, human exploration of space at this time seems like a waste. Right now the human space program seems more like a corporate boondoggle than anything else. Of course it is over budget, that is the whole point - to spend a lot of taxpayer money!

        With robots you can take more risk and spend more money. And, I'm not saying that humans shouldn't go into space, it just seems like right now we should be focused on exploration, which is better served with robots.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by east coast (590680)
          Disclaimer: I'm not a scientist nor an engineer

          See, I don't know about this. I keep hearing around minable resources on the moon that might make good sense if we ever get the whole cold fusion thing working. If this is true (and excuse me if I'm not, see disclaimer for more info) it makes sense to me to get the technology off the ground today that could put those resources within easy reach to us as soon as possible. I would really really hate to see us get fusion down to a workable and safe energy solutio
          • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:33PM (#24230473)

            The resource on the moon is the isotope He3. It might be useful for certain fusion scenarios. However, investing $billions now would be putting the cart before the horse.

            We don't know if *any* kind of hot or cold fusion will be feasible with any fuel. IIRC, He3 will be harder to fuse (but less radioactive) than the usual D/T combination. OTOH, there are other more abundant fuels, harder to fuse than He3, which would also have low radioactivity. We'll have to see which, if any, fusion reactors end up as workable possibilities.

            The He3 is in trace quantities distributed across the surface of the moon. Mining it would require gathering moon dirt in quantities comparable to the amount of coal mined here on earth, then distilling a few tons of He3 annually from these countless megatons of dust. This doesn't seem economical with any foreseeable space technology.

            The huge amounts of money it would take to develop this moon fuel capability would probably be better spent on fusion cycles that don't need He3, or other energy technologies altogether.

  • 40 years later we can barely make it out of Earth's atmosphere. Just use the equipment from the Apollo program...problem solved.
    • by torkus (1133985) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:53AM (#24229013)

      Sure sure. Sounds great.

      Now, just initial here that the 2008 mandatory stress testing has been done on each component, OSHA has approved the ergonomics of the seats, all modern safety systems are in place...and...hello? Where are you going?

      No one (with power in NASA or gov't) is interested in getting back to the moon without a billion rules, regulations, and safety measures.

      • by east coast (590680) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:05PM (#24229189)
        No one (with power in NASA or gov't) is interested in getting back to the moon without a billion rules, regulations, and safety measures.

        Also consider that astronauts were looked on as rough and tough guys doing their national duty in the days of Apollo. Today they're seen as geeks wasting cash on expensive toys.
        • by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:32PM (#24229597) Homepage Journal

          The Apollo astronauts _were_ tough guys doing their national duty.

          Besides that. JFK was buried the day Armstrong set foot on the Moon. The goal set by him was accomplished, the Russians defeated and, thus, Joe Sixpack lost interest. There seemed to be a can-do attitude, a willingness to blow stuff up and to take risks that is no more.

          It's really tragic thing. Maybe we don't deserve to be a spacefaring race.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by torkus (1133985)

            It's really tragic thing. Maybe we don't deserve to be a spacefaring race.

            Well unless you count LEO...we're not. The ISS is what, about 220 miles up? Shuttle makes it a whopping 500-ish at most? what a sad state.

          • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:40PM (#24230577)

            It's really tragic thing. Maybe we don't deserve to be a spacefaring race.

            Have some patience, man! It's like having the Vikings visit the Americas, get killed, never return, and then you complain that "Maybe we don't deserve to be a seafaring race."

            A little over a century ago, man wasn't even flying airplanes. The first human was sent into space less than fifty years ago. There's no real reason to think that large-scale space exploration and even colonization won't happen. There's also no real reason to think that it will, or should, happen within the next fifty years, or even within the next two hundred years. The amount of time that humanity has so far been visiting space is but a blink of an eye in historical terms.

      • by dotancohen (1015143) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:05PM (#24229209) Homepage

        Now, just initial here that the 2008 mandatory stress testing has been done on each component, OSHA has approved the ergonomics of the seats, all modern safety systems are in place...and...hello? Where are you going?

        Actually, the real problem is the toxic fuels that were used, and a few other toxic components. It's the _environmental_ issues that prevent Apollo-era technology from flying today, not the safety issues.

      • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @07:24PM (#24235353)

        "No one (with power in NASA or gov't) is interested in getting back to the moon without a billion rules, regulations, and safety measures."

        Even if that were true the cost of five really nice seats is not much. What costs is the thousands of people that stay on the ground. The flight hardware is "nothing"

        Where do yo think those billions go? Almost all of it is paid in saleray to middle class enginers and technicains. Noe of those guys are ritch. Upper middle class mostly.

        People always think of the big rocket as being the expensive part. It isn't. It's that army of people who support it. Just one simple little thing like inspecting a weld joint with X-ray. You need to maintain a whole lab and trained people. and then you have the mission asserace people who check that the work was done and that the correct weld was inspeced and so on and so on. And then you have to pay me (I'm typing this while waiting for a test to complete.) Me and 12 others work on getting telemerty from some data link to about 50 or 100 computer screens. Next you have the engineers that look at that data and not just durring flight. We support tests on the pad or hangers, several a week.

        And yes we have to follow dumb OSHA rules like not placing large object on file cabinets that might fall on our heads and we have to hold fire drills twice a year and I've got to take a CPR class even if I'm a software engineer because we need 1 in 20 or so people to know CPR.

        Oh, and recently the window washer outside is required to use a safety harness and helmet. Darn rules running up the costs. But would you change them?

        OK back to work,....

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      We could do a lot better.
      The Aluminum/Li alloys work well for the Shuttle ET. Electronics are better by far.
      NASA developed and improved F1 called the F1A before the end of Apollo.
      Build a Saturn Vi using Aluminum/Li, the F1A, J2s for the second and third stage, and modern electronics.
      Build a Saturn 1bi with a Single F1A for the first stage.
      I HATE going backwards and I would like to see an improved shuttle but NASA isn't going to get the funding to do that right.

    • We *can't* go back to the Apollo gear. What little survives is in museums and the tools that made it are long gone. So are the tools that made the tools, and the knowhow that went with it. You might as well ask for a brand new L-1011 jetliner.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rub1cnt (1159069)
        Copies of the manuals and the designs for the Saturn V still exist. And we've got one of the best examples out there. We still have original Saturn V rockets out at the space centers. Dust that damn thing off, REVERSE ENGINEER it. If NASA can't do it, HIRE MICROSOFT ENGINEERS! They've been doing it for YEARS.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      40 years later we can barely make it out of Earth's atmosphere. Just use the equipment from the Apollo program...problem solved.

      Not only does NASA not have the Apollo equipment, they don't even have the plans anymore! It was all stored in some humid Florida closet, and is unreadable today. All the design, right down to the wind tunnel testing, would have to be redone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > Just use the equipment from the Apollo
      > program...problem solved.

      This would be going back to vacuum tube technology.

      It would also be quite expensive to do. Not only are the required vacuum tubes not in stock anywhere, the factories and machines that made the vacuum tubes no longer exist. And the tools to make the machines to make vacuum tubes no longer exist, and nobody makes the tools any more.

      Now multiply this problem with every part -- from electronics to literally nuts and bolts -- of the rocket

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChrisA90278 (905188)

      "Just use the equipment from the Apollo program...problem solved."

      Even if this could be done there are problems...

      1) Why bother. The Apollo can only support a VERY high risk "plant the flag" type mission. We do not want to do that mission.

      2) Many people just don't realize how risky and shoe string the Appollo design was. I think if we started it up we could expect to loose one in ten missions. NASA did 6 missions and almost lost one. It was also a very expensive design. The expense was the reason NASA

  • by WwWonka (545303) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:50AM (#24228955)
    NASA has reported that the delay and the budget crunch has forced it to reconsider a prior option that will now be built on the shores of Cocoa Beach, FL. It will include two one hundred foot towers with a very elastic synthetic band extending between them. A state of the art human reclining space momentum chair will be attached in the middle to propel future explorers into space...or some where father out into the Atlantic Ocean.
    • by RabidMoose (746680) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:04PM (#24229161) Homepage
      This solution contains rubber bands, but is detrimentally lacking in duct tape.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      A state of the art human reclining space momentum chair will be attached in the middle to propel future explorers into space...or some where father out into the Atlantic Ocean.

      I heard Scaled Composites is going to be doing this one for a tenth of the cost, and hopes to get it down to the point where many middle-class people could afford it. The downside is you won't quite reach the ocean.

  • Shocker!!!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chineseyes (691744) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:52AM (#24228989)
    Engineering of a very complex systems overrunning budget and schedule limits and this is news?

    News would be if they were under budget and finished a year early.
  • Jupiter [slashdot.org] look better every minute.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:53AM (#24229025)

    I've given up on any hope for a manned successor to the shuttle, at least as far as NASA is concerned. I've gotten my geek hope burned too many times on the hype.

    If this thing ever gets off the ground, I will be surprised. But even if it does at that, I imagine the design will be as flawed and compromised as the shuttle's.

  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:56AM (#24229051)
    and we haven't paid for much of a space program for several decades now. All that engineering knowledge has slowly, and literally, died as engineers have retired. Sending a handful of people to earth orbit every year is not exploration - any focus on anything other than how to advance human beings as rapidly as possible to every body in the solar system is simply spending money without garnering public desire to pay for more of it. We need people going places, and waiting five decades to get around to making it happen has wasted away all the good will those who write the checks had for doing this business.
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:37PM (#24229681) Journal

      I'm astounded at the number of people on a nerd site (of all places) who take "old sayings" unquestionably.

      Whoever believes that "you get what you pay for" has never prepaid for sex, or used an unlicensed contractor for home repairs. You usually pay for what you get, but you don't always get what you pay for. Often a higher priced item will be inferior to a lower priced item. Only a fool buys item A because it costs more than item B. Seller B may be trying to get market share.

      Money doesn't grow on trees, you know. Oh wait - yes, it does. It not only grows on trees, it grows on cornstalks and soybean bushes and all sorts of other plants.

      There's no such thing as a free lunch... excuse me, grandma's calling. What, grandma? Sure, I'll come over for lunch.

      Nothing free is worthwhile. Except maybe air. And rain. And those dandelion leaves in that expensive salad you just bought. Someone gave me some tomato plants, and guess what? Home grown tomatos are vastly superior to the ones I bought. Yes, It took fifteen minutes physical labor to plant them and I'll have to pick the tomatos, but that's not a cost, it's a benefit. I work at a desk job and don't get much exersize. Meanwhile I pay a fee for the gym.

      My dad always said "don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see". I think he's right, and I think it goes double for those incredibly stupid old sayings. Don't take anything on face value; at least give it half a thought.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Whoever believes that "you get what you pay for" has never prepaid for sex

        It's nobody's fault but your own that you chose to get married.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by sm62704 (957197)

          The cheapest sex I ever had cost me a draft Budweiser. The most expensive cost me a house, a car, and part of my pension!

  • I'm outraged? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Itninja (937614) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @11:57AM (#24229059) Homepage

    The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system

    Well, that's sucks I guess. But since NASA has something like a $17 billion budget, isn't that a colossal non-issue? I realize this was just the motor system, but if I had a $40,000 budget to furnish a new home, I don't think I would be concerned if the coffee table was $20 more than I was expecting.

    • Re:I'm outraged? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dotancohen (1015143) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:08PM (#24229255) Homepage

      The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system

      Well, that's sucks I guess. But since NASA has something like a $17 billion budget, isn't that a colossal non-issue? I realize this was just the motor system, but if I had a $40,000 budget to furnish a new home, I don't think I would be concerned if the coffee table was $20 more than I was expecting.

      From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
      "NASA's current FY 2008 budget of $17.318 billion represents about 0.6% of the $2.9 trillion United States federal budget."

      I'll let the reader come to his own conclusions about US priorities. Without linking to the DoD budget.

    • Re:I'm outraged? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tbfee (1115043) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:50PM (#24229875)
      It's much more complicated than your home furnishing project. NASA can't simply apply funds from elsewhere it its budget; that money is already spoken for, and appropriated by Congress for other projects. In other words, there is no way, within the law, to take money from another project to fix this problem; additional funding or reprogramming actions are required, both of which take time. Even in Washington, $80M is a big issue. As it should be.
  • Cheops' Law (Score:2, Redundant)

    by 4D6963 (933028)

    "Software development, heat shield testing and other complex work remain behind schedule or over budget."

    "Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget."

  • Are you implying that the word is not perfectly cromulent?

  • Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:00PM (#24229103) Homepage

    You should see the contortions Grumman had to go through, to get the Lunar Module under the mission weight budget, well into the Apollo Program.

    I figure the only thing that's changed between now and then is the Internet makes it much easier for the lay public to form entirely the wrong impression about highly complex and technical works-in-progress.

    • by THotze (5028)

      That's all well and good, but we DID that already. 40 years ago. That was the first time that anyone'd ever tried a spacecraft designed solely for space; we're talking about a crew capsule here. The we've made them for nearly 50 years now, the Russians a bit longer, even China's Shenzhou is basically a decade old. the point is, most of the 'creative thinking' on making a spacecraft at the right weight (if not in-budget) has been done already, this should be easier.

      I, for one, am hoping SpaceX's Dragon [wikipedia.org] a

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:05PM (#24229201)
    In fairly new technology a fairly good rule I observe is to always doubel managements estimated time. Therefore the first manned Orion to ISS will be 2018 (assuming ISS is still functional then).
  • Why the Ares I? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpthompson (457482) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:09PM (#24229263)

    There are existing commercial launch vehicles such as the Delta IV or Atlas V rockets that can be man rated or the potential upcoming commercial launch vehicles such as the SpaceX Falcon 9 that could replace Ares I. Although man rating isn't trivial it's insane for NASA to create a new rocket to compete with existing commercial launch vehicles. NASA should encourage making manned access to low Earth orbit a low cost commercial commodity rather than using government resources to discourage such access.

    In fact, NASA should contract with two independent suppliers capable of lifting the CEV to low Earth orbit and buy launch vehicles from each supplier in near equal quantities. This would add some expense, but it would make sure that should a launch accident occur our manned space program isn't grounded for years as complex accident investigations occur and fixes are implemented on the failed launch vehicle.

    The Ares I is an albatross that only exists because of pride and politics. It is harmful to the exact type of space development that this nation needs. In the early 60's NASA didn't lose any face by choosing to re-purpose ICBMs for the Mercury and Gemini programs. Instead, out of necessity, NASA it's rocket building teams on the Saturn series of rockets. It was the practical decision then and it is the practical decision to re-purpose existing vehicles now for LEO access.

    If NASA wants to build a launcher (and whether they should be building any is a very debatable) then they should be concentrating exclusively on the Ares V/VI which actually goes somewhere and does something that commercial space companies may not be able to do economically today.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mindbender.ca (875755)
      Because none of those launchers you mentioned could lift the Orion capsule, which is the whole idea for the project (even though the current Ares I design cant do that either). If we scrap Ares now and cancel Shuttle, the US wont be launching people until 2018 at the earliest.
      • Re:Why the Ares I? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Suzuran (163234) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:03PM (#24230067)

        That's exactly what's supposed to happen.

        We're canceling the Shuttle, and later when Ares/Orion turns into a huge disaster with budget overruns and shortfalls, Congress will be justified (in the public's eyes) when they cancel it as well and shut down the entire manned spaceflight program.

        And if you think they're going to make private spaceflight easy to make up for this, you're deluded.

        We're in the process of shutting down our airline industry with ridiculous security policies that do nothing for security and everything for driving people away from air travel. Private aviation is being similarly crippled with new taxes designed primarily to ensure that only the very wealthy can afford to fly. There is no reason to have NASA when we can outsource our space flight needs to overseas vendors and get paid kickbacks to our secret overseas bank accounts.

        A population that stays in the same place all the time is much easier to control. Transportation is under attack.

    • by Phairdon (1158023) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:43PM (#24229777)

      Did you look at how much payload each rocket can take to orbit before you made this post? Look at the payload capacity to GTO (not LEO)

      Let me list the estimated maximum payloads since you did not:
      Delta IV: 20,000 pounds or so
      Atlas V: 18,000 pounds or so
      SpaceX Falcon 9: 27,000 pounds or so
      Ares I: 50,000 pounds or so

      See the difference? Ares I is also rated for man-flight, which just makes everything much more complicated.

      The article is from a florida newspaper. Of course florida newspapers are going to print doom stories because they don't want to lose Shuttle business. Losing business happens.

  • By the time Orion is actually getting ready to launch, Richard Branson (or somebody like him) will have rendered the entire program irrelevant by creating something cheaper/faster/better.
  • I have less of an issue with NASA being over budget than something like the census bureau. Trust our government to take one simple, Constitutionally mandated action (counting heads) and blow as much tax money on it as they can. [slashdot.org]

    Then there is the whole pesky war thing ...

  • Anyone know if they're mandating Ada?
  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:33PM (#24229603) Homepage Journal

    Damn, I thought they were talking about Project Orion [wikipedia.org].

  • Go Robotic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by squoozer (730327) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:33PM (#24229607)

    I would like to question the reason to build a human carrying shuttle at all right now. While it's certainly very cool to be able to shoot people into space and have the walk around on the Moon is it really the most cost effective way to do the research? Huge amounts of money are spent researching ways to keep our poorly space adapted feeble bodies alive in space which could otherwise be spent making some really great breakthroughs in the robotics and perhaps AI fields.

    I'm not questioning whether we should do space research (which I would like to see more of even though I think it's an expensive luxury) but I am saying that we should be maximum bang for our buck both in space and down here in the real world.

  • Inefficiency (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stmfreak (230369) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {kaerfmts}> on Thursday July 17, 2008 @12:39PM (#24229721) Journal

    I'm sure there are a lot of smart people at NASA who can do quite a lot on their modest government regulated salaries.

    But I'm equally sure they are vastly outnumbered by mediocre and downright incompetent talent that waste tax payer dollars doing little, nothing or actually counter-producing by dragging the aforementioned smart people into their screwed up projects on last-minute, emergency fix-this sessions.

    It's the nature of government employment methodology: "keep the fat."

    Thank god we have some rich billionaires developing the commercial space program.

  • Man rated (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:37PM (#24230527) Homepage Journal

    Look through the discussion, and the term "man-rated" comes up, a lot. It's probably a good thing it does too, because it's generally a bad idea to lose life during launches, or any other time during the flight, for that matter.

    But I question the path to man rating. For the US space program, as far as I can tell, only Mercury and Gemini turned previously designed boosters into man-rated. Everything else has been designed from the get-go as man-rated. It seems to me that though it can be done that way, it's a bit of a fallacy in the making. To some extent, parts is parts, and it should always be possible to tighten the specs on some number of parts to improve the reliability of an existing booster. For that matter, existing non-man-rated boosters likely have a much longer track record, more launches, etc. They really don't want to lose *any* of these things, because even if human life isn't on top of the stack, typically tens of millions of dollars are.

    So I don't understand why we don't start with a non-man-rated booster with a large number of launches and study its track record, failure modes, etc. Then start work on a man-rated version of that same booster with the necessary spec and reliability tweaks. Seems to me that it would be faster and cheaper. It likely wouldn't have the launch capacity, but at the moment that's a separate issue. Even in the Aries program there's the Aries-I with relatively low launch capacity, and the Aries-V with much greater capacity. Better heavy launch programs would still need to go forward, but why have a new light-launch program?

  • by damburger (981828) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @01:41PM (#24230589)

    Its an organisational one. They themselves are already complaining about their budget and they haven't even got a rocket off the ground yet. They've got teams off their own engineers who disagree so strongly with the direction NASA is taking they are designing an alternative rocket on their own time (DIRECT/Jupiter/Ares 2 or 4 or whatever). They've got staff airing their complaints to the press rather than their supervisor. I'd say the wheels have come off the plan to return to the Moon, buy NASA probably haven't even settled on what size wheels those would be yet.

    I've mentioned this before. We can't do scale. Everyone is so invested in the orthodoxy of competition that cooperation automatically falls flat on its face. The idea of man as selfish and rational is a self fulfilling prophecy - if you believe that about other people it makes it almost impossible for you to trust and work with them.

    So, in my humble opinion, neither the Americans nor anyone else is getting back on the interplanetary horse until we figure out the systemic, structural problems in our societies.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday July 17, 2008 @02:53PM (#24231757)

    NASA has been on a long, uninterrupted downward slide ever since Reagan, when it became more heavily politicized. They somehow managed to get people to the moon in 1969 with a basic, brute-force, heavy-lift vehicle and almost enough computing power to run a pocket calculator. Since then, the manned program hasn't made it much past Low Earth Orbit.

    If the current crop of idiots can't get their act together, why not blow the dust off those old Saturn V plans, save some weight by substituting new materials where it would work, and get freakin' going? Longer stays could be accommodated be using the Mars Express approach of sending automated supply missions on ahead.

    I don't know if it's time to fire everybody in upper management and start fresh, but it's getting really tempting. And let's try to remember that space exploration is dangerous work. Test pilots die. Astronauts die. That doesn't mean you shut down and abandon your whole program for years on end whenever something goes wrong. They tried it with the Space Shuttle, and all that down time didn't ultimately make things a lot safer.

  • by SloWave (52801) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @04:44PM (#24233631) Journal

    Here's another thought. The Russian have some huge heavy lift rockets that are tested and reliable. Use the Russian rockets to do the heavy lifting and concentrate on developing the manned equipment. Actually if you tell the Ares V contractors this is the plan then they may just find a way to get things done on time and on schedule for a change.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @09:17PM (#24236325)

    The Orion spacecraft's design remains too heavy for the proposed Ares 1 rocket.

    Capsule too heavy? Now if it was designed for crew less than 150cm tall and under 40kg the capsule could be a lot smaller and lighter:)

    Then again - I just watch too much anime. The above was the premise for "Rocket Girls" to have an excuse for high school girls in space in a reasonably realistic story. Some real science and adapted anecdotes are mixed in. The characters even do a skip trajactory and repeat Aldrin's impressive feat of doing complex flight calculations without a computer. And yes, the "skin tight spacesuits" are under development and were not just an anime thing.

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