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NASA Space United States

NASA Turns 50 160

Posted by kdawson
from the make-a-wish dept.
phobos13013 writes "Fifty years ago yesterday, in 1958, President Eisenhower signed the United States Public Law 85-568, National Aeronautics and Space Act to create NASA. In the fifty years since its creation, NASA has made manned missions landing on the Moon, put a space station in orbit, launched numerous unmanned missions to the Moon, Mars, the solar system, and beyond, as well as launching reusable manned spacecraft in orbit. Some of the failures included the loss of two manned spacecraft and their crews as well as the loss of the Apollo 1 crew during a training mission. Although the future of the organization is in question, Americans, and the world, are looking forward to another fifty years of progress including a return trip to the Moon and an eventual manned mission to Mars."
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NASA Turns 50

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  • by Eukariote (881204) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @02:45AM (#24398119)
    50 years, and we are still stuck in low Earth orbit. 50 years, and still no cost-effective launch system.
  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @02:55AM (#24398153)
    Hmm, that might be because reality is different from science fiction. We don't have intelligent humanoid robots either or even flying cars (you'd think that one would be easy), so are those NASA's fault as well? Increase NASA's budget to more than the current fraction on one percent of the national budget and maybe we'll see some more progress
  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:08AM (#24398225)
    NASA has accomplished some truly amazing feats during the last 50 years, the pinnacle surely being the moon landing of Apollo 11

    But that was 40 years ago, which is exactly what the problem is. NASA's budget has been going down ever since (as a percentage of the nation's budget) all the way from 4% to 0.7% and falling. The only way things are going to change in a dramatic way is if somebody figures out a genuine commercial interest in space exploration, which would lead to an increase in NASA's budget and more competition from private sector and from other nations.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:38AM (#24398377)
    .. how many spacecraft have YOU put into orbit? that's right, silence.
  • by rarel (697734) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:45AM (#24398401) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but this is irrelevant... Not being a rocket scientist doesn't prevent us from recognizing that NASA has some serious flaws, most of them being in the heavy bureaucracy and CYA mentality. We can appreciate all their successes, which were tremendous and awe-inspring, the Moon landing, the space station, but we can criticize just as well and some of these criticism are justified. The shuttle may be a marvel of technology but it never delivered and it ended up being a money blackhole. Not to mention the inherently unsafe strap-on design. So yeah, they did good things, things that the majority of us cannot accomplish. But they're not perfect, and we oughta remind them of that. (Especially since they use your tax dollars...)
  • by mikael_j (106439) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:53AM (#24398445)

    If you think that's a lot then I don't think you want to know how much money the US is spending on its military.

    /Mikael

  • by GreggBz (777373) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:41AM (#24398675) Homepage
    I just think it's been a self destructive downward spiral.

    Cut funding for NASA, NASA stops doing amazing things, people stop caring about NASA, the peoples representative stop caring about NASA, cut more funding from NASA, rinse, repeat.

    I wonder if we subtracted a great percentage of things like weather forecasting, satellite communications, planetary geology, solar technology, aerospace and commercial aviation advancements, awesome pictures of our Universe and other worlds, a growth in understanding of the Universe.... if people would start to care.

    NASA was a catalyst behind so much stuff that everyone now takes for granted. They are the root of a giant science and technology tree.

    The flaws and bureaucracy were always there. If NASA had funding and direction the flaws wouldn't be the biggest thing we notice.

    To bad.
  • by Oktober Sunset (838224) <[ku.oc.oohay] [ta] [301egapds]> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:44AM (#24398695)
    um, why would they want a cost effective system? That just means that will get less money.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:46AM (#24398701)

    Or, people in this country stop acting so anti-government and commit to a space program on the scales you're talking about. Personally, I don't see commercial interests EVER besting NASA as far as milestones go. Sure, they can use the technology that national space programs develop, but no way a corporation is going to sink $100 billion into getting a man on the Mars.

    Everyone keeps talking about how NASA is in danger as if Microsoft is going to take over space exploration. NASA hasn't hit the same scale of milestones as the moon shot, but I've been impressed with what they've been getting done. Now, I want to see more but we live in a country full of intellectually disinterested American Idol fans.

  • toast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phrostie (121428) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:23AM (#24398915)

    *raises glass*

    to the next 50 years

  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:42AM (#24399011)

    They get their NOAA remote-sensing licence?

  • by soldeed (765559) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:51AM (#24399045)
    NASA's problem; The @$#%#^%* space shuttle Gee. they said space travel sure is expensive! what can we do? Hey, let's build a re-usable space ship! We can operate it like an airliner and launch it every two weeks! (cough!) It will be cheap and economical! (cough!) We can get rid of all our expendable launchers! (cough!) And it will be safe, we can even take school teachers up for rides! (CHOKE!) Inefficient, bad compromise between a cargo ship and crew launcher, Inherent design flaws that make it vulnerable to catastrophic failure, huge operating costs that make it more expensive to launch than a saturn V, and has completely put an end to all manned exploration. Sorry, dicking around in orbit doing science experiments is NOT exploration! I will be glad to see them sitting in museums.
  • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:54AM (#24399059)

    I'm tired of this "but there are poor people!" argument. We could dump every spare cent in the budget into welfare programs, and you'll still have poor people.

    If you want to look at it this way, a space program is a jobs program. It's not like all the money spent on it is thrown away in space, or burned in a giant pit... that money all goes into the economy. It pays all the small contractors that make electronics, valves, pumps, etc.; it pays all the mechanics and technicians that build and maintain the systems; it pays all the engineers that design the spacecraft... and all those people have to live and eat somewhere. Make the program interesting, and kids will think "hey, I want a part of that", and they'll stay in school, get science and engineering degrees, and have a better future. I think that's much more beneficial than just handing out welfare checks.

    We need to change the focus of the space program, too. No more of this focus solely on science; it's good and all, but it doesn't directly solve practical problems. The focus should instead be on preserving the human race--ie, developing defenses against planet-killer asteroids and spreading out over many worlds (redundant off-site backups). And you know that, if something happens (like a large asteroid coming at us), the public will be screaming "do something, save us!" And I'll just be sitting there saying "well, I told you so, but nobody listened."

  • by elwinc (663074) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:09AM (#24399131)
    Add to this the fact that NASA's current mission, Moon+Mars is unfunded, and NASA has to cut left and right just to study the mission. Bush essentially gave NASA a huge unfunded mandate. Mars will never get a manned visit in the current budget climate, so the study just steals money from the other missions.

    And then there's the inconvenient truth that almost all the good science is being done by unmanned craft. Try and list scientific accomplishments that have come out of the International Space Station. With the dubious exception of crystal growth, most of them have to do with acclimatizing humans to space, or bringing some simple plant or insect to LEO to see what happens. Basically no interesting science has happened except with the robot explorations.

    Finally, there's the canceling in 2006 of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) due to "competing priorities." This to me is the final proof that Moon+Mars is killing space science. My conclusion: Either we should actually separately fund Moon+Mars or we should kill it and re-allocate the money to unmanned projects (like the Mars Rovers & DSCOVR) that are doing actual science.

  • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @07:36AM (#24399799)

    Sure, they can use the technology that national space programs develop, but no way a corporation is going to sink $100 billion into getting a man on the Mars.

    Even if a corporation was willing to spend that much money... there's no way it would happen. Almost everyone (politicians, executives, shareholders, and the general public) is pretty much incapable of long-term thinking. Hell, most companies don't even seem to think beyond this quarter, much less this year--just look at all the dumb decisions that boost quarterly profits at the expense of long-term ones. Something like the space program could have an enormous benefit twenty or thirty years down the road... but nobody's willing to invest the cash required if they have to wait that long for their return.

    That's why, despite my general leanings toward less government involvement and private industry, I believe governments (ie, not just the US) need to commit to long-term heavy space funding. The potential benefits, like survival of the species, efficient technology that can help reduce environmental impact, space-based power transmission to remote areas, better satellite navigation, asteroid impact avoidance, etc. are benefits to everyone; and while private industry may have a role, only a government has the necessary funds and the longevity to run something like this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @07:57AM (#24400041)

    Yeah, but they only ever got 1/4 of the funding they said it would take to build a shuttle to do all of the things they said it would do. The fact that it was ever built for 1/4 the funding is amazing all by itself.

    NASA's biggest problem is that they continue to be underfunded after decades of being underfunded, and expectations have never been adjusted to match. NASA has kept up with expectations quite well, despite low funding.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @08:18AM (#24400319)
    ...and 35 years of wasting my money.
  • by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @08:23AM (#24400413)

    50 years of aeronautics research on a steadily declining budget:

    http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/technical_excellence.htm [nasa.gov]

    Just $750 million in aerospace funding for FY2007; perhaps it is time to split the ``NA'' from the ``SA'' and give the aeronautics directorate the freedom to pursue its own budget and agenda outside the bondoogle that is the US space programme.

    In other words, just turn the clock back those 50 years...

  • Re:NASA not dead! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sun.Jedi (1280674) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @08:34AM (#24400541) Journal

    The stench first appeared at 6.23am Houston time. The source is still unknown.

    Whoever smelt it, dealt it.

  • by VJ42 (860241) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @08:36AM (#24400581)
    This post [slashdot.org] put's it well. In short, NASA has given us

    I wonder if we subtracted a great percentage of things like weather forecasting, satellite communications, planetary geology, solar technology, aerospace and commercial aviation advancements, awesome pictures of our Universe and other worlds, a growth in understanding of the Universe....

    Secondly, I'm not American but if you asked me to list the things I thought were best about your country, NASA high up, if not top of the list; I'll bet it's the same for many other non-Americans, so NASA also buys you good PR. That's something that your country badly needs at the moment. There is far too much unjustified anti-americanism in the world, programs like NASA do more to counter it than your diplomats and politicians could ever do.

  • by spidercoz (947220) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:25AM (#24401373) Journal
    Better hope your kidneys never go bad or you never need an MRI or CAT scan. And don't wear those Nikes or use anything with velcro. Don't watch weather forecasts anymore either, in fact, just turn off the TV permanently. And while I'm at it, don't ever play golf, go swimming, fly a plane, wear a helmet, use a watch, use an air conditioner, become a firefighter, or feed a baby. Oh yeah, and get off the computer.

    IMHO, your HO is an idiot.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:57PM (#24405435) Journal

    There's a fixed cost in terms of energy to pull a pound of matter out of the Earth's deep-ass gravity well.

    Keep in mind that energy is a tiny fraction of current launch costs. Right now the vast majority of the costs for vehicles like the shuttle go into paying the standing army of personnel on the ground.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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