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NASA Turns 50

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  • Wowzers! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chebucto (992517) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @05:27PM (#24392205) Homepage

    Am I seeing things, or does this story have no comments attached to it five hours after it was posted to slashdot?!?!

    That's got to be some record, at least post-1998.

    I guess that means I can say... First Post!

    Also, Go Nasa! Keep the orbiting observatories coming!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mooingyak (720677)

      Am I seeing things, or does this story have no comments attached to it five hours after it was posted to slashdot?!?!

      Actually, according to the time stamps I can see, you posted your comment 9 1/2 hours before the story was posted... funky.

  • by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus.hotmail@com> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:25AM (#24398013) Homepage
    I'll go ahead and start us off.

    We obviously didn't land on the moon, check out the alleged videos, the astronauts jump but don't fly away. Learn some science, you people are sheep.

    That should do it, please discuss.
    • by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:31AM (#24398045)
      Exactly. The moon landing was obviously filmed in a studio in the Hollow Earth. Gravity is lower inside the Earth, since there is more mass on all sides, so it was the perfect location to fake the landing. It was also filmed inside the largest vaccuum chamber ever built to replicate the lack of air on the moon. I don't understand why more people haven't realized these obvious truths.
    • by RuBLed (995686)
      The Earth too is flat.. It's so obvious that it's a fake much like Discovery channel's I love.. song.

      If the Discovery channel's song is true, are you proposing that they would send someone up there just to sing and float away? Absurd isn't it? My point exactly...
    • That's no moon! (Score:1, Informative)

      by PinkyDead (862370)

      That's a halucination caused by so called flouridization of the water driven by a military industrial complex conspiracy to exploit the common man and subvert democracy for the establishment of a new world through globalisation and unilateral foreign poli...

      Wait, sorry, it is a moon. My bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 3waygeek (58990)

      The real reason the astronauts didn't fly away is because they were wearing heavy boots [milk.com].

    • Of course we went to the moon. They were going to fake it in Area 51, but then that spaceship crashed. So President Truman told his generals that: "we'll have to really land on the moon. Invent NASA and tell them to get off their fannies."

  • But what comes next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:38AM (#24398083) Homepage Journal

    NASA has accomplished some trult amazing feats during the last 50 years, the pinnacle surely being the moon landing of Apollo 11, which I remember watching as an awe-struck 13 year old. But where does it go from here?
    With many countries now seriously into spaceflight and a burgeoning private sector (Virgin Galactic et al) it's hard to see how NASA will stand out as it has done previously.
    However in a much more space-focussed world, NASA's vast experience should allow it to take the lead heading-up collaborative ventures with other space-faring nations, particularly for the 'Big One', a manned trip to Mars. A firm commitment to this within a set timescale could re-ignite the public's interest in space exploration like the Moon landings of the early 70s did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      NASA has always had this mentality of trailblazing.. the assumption has always been there that someone else will follow once they lead the way. This is lost on many people who look for NASA to build cities on the Moon or whatever.

    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:08AM (#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 Squapper (787068)
        Is it just me, but doesn't 4% seam like a ridiciously high figure when reflecting upon the problems that still exists down on US soil?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mikael_j (106439)

          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 Talderas (1212466)

            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

            If you think the percentage of the budget we're spending on the military right now is a lot, you should have seen what percentage we spent on the military before WW2!

        • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:54AM (#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 GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:46AM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by icebrain (944107)

          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

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            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.

            A counter-example: Pharmaceutical companies in the US spend around $60 billion on R&D [phrma.org] each year, and most of the drugs they test never make it to market. For those that do make it to market, the average time-to-market is 12 years [cbo.gov]. Despite the immense cost and huge amount of time before any profit is seen, the drug companies still invest in the long-term.

        • by darjen (879890)

          yeah, those terrible anti-government people. If only we could get rid of them, NASA would be a huge success!

          Private funding of commercial space flight is the only way you will see substantial improvement in space exploration.

        • by FleaPlus (6935)

          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.

          Perhaps not, but the private space industry is most certainly needed in order to lower that $100 billion cost by a couple of orders of magnitude.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elwinc (663074)
        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 Statio

      • by jacoby (3149)

        But with Space Exploration, your dollars go farther!

      • After getting to the moon in record time, NASA is now relegated to clawing its way to Low Earth Orbit. The can-do spirit has been replaced by CYA middle managers and numerous white papers which lead to nothing.

        Truly embarassing. If that's the best NASA can do, it's time to close down the manned space program and let the private sector handle it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      After the first FAILED private sector spaceflight, I think the billionaires will rightly leave space to the experts.

      There is ZERO justification for a moon base at this time. We HAVE a space station. The shuttle is a ridiculous contraption at the moment. By the way, have you seen the national debt lately?

      I think NASA is doing EXACTLY what it should be doing, which is unmanned robotic missions. Imagine what we could gather from an array of hubble telescopes... and what little more we could learn from an e

      • by mikael_j (106439)

        Don't you have a sense of adventure? Sending a hundred probes to accurately measure everything you can imagine about the moon and its surface just isn't the same as actually setting foot on the moon. Sending a probe to a distant star and taking pictures of the little green men living there just wouldn't be very fun, would it? Would anyone watch Star Trek if it was about sending thousands of probes while the humans all sat in front of screens back on Earth?

        /Mikael

      • There is ZERO justification for a moon base at this time

        Sure there is. Just not a financial one. Not everything is about dollars and cents you know. Exploration by definition means you don't know what you'll find and you don't know until you try.

        By the way, have you seen the national debt lately?

        NASA's budget [wikipedia.org] is around $17 billion/year. The total US federal budget for 2008 was around $2.9 Trillion [wikipedia.org]. That means NASA's budget is approximately half of one percent of the total federal budget. Compare that with the $549 billion spent on defense [wikipedia.org] or the $581 billion spend on Social Security [wikipedia.org] and I'm not really ver

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mikkeles (698461)

      They get their NOAA remote-sensing licence?

    • NASA has accomplished some trult amazing feats during the last 50 years, the pinnacle surely being the moon landing of Apollo 11, which I remember watching as an awe-struck 13 year old. But where does it go from here?

      Interesting that you consider the pinnacle of NASA to be 11 years after its creation. Which implies that it's been going downhill for 39 years.

      Note that I agree with this. NASA hasn't done a thing worthwhile since we gave up on the moon.

  • by Eukariote (881204) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:45AM (#24398119)
    50 years, and we are still stuck in low Earth orbit. 50 years, and still no cost-effective launch system.
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:02AM (#24398481) Journal

      50 years, and we are still stuck in low Earth orbit. 50 years, and still no cost-effective launch system.

      If all goes well, we'll have one this weekend:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX#Upcoming_launches [wikipedia.org]

      • by nasor (690345)
        I guess it depends on whether or not you consider $7 million for launching 700 kg into orbit "cost effective"...personally, $10k per kg does not seem very cost effective to me. In fact, in terms of $/kg it's not much better than the Saturn V of 40 years ago.
        • by colmore (56499) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:04AM (#24402125) 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. You're asking for a near-free source of energy that can effortlessly be converted into kinetic propulsion. NASA hasn't found it because it may very well NOT EXIST.

          You need to remember what the 'Fi' in Sci-Fi stands for. Just because a handful of its thousands and thousands of predictions have come true doesn't mean the whole mess was a bill of sale.

          Arthur C. Clarke himself has said that it's out and out incredible that we've gotten as far in space as we have, and that without the historical oddity that was the Cold War, we'd probably not be much further along than a fancier Sputnik.

          Cheap ways of escaping the Earth's gravity are kind of like Time Machines, Anti-Aging cures, FTL drives, zero-gravity chambers, true holographic projection, and such. Just because they'd be awesome and we've been talking about them forever doesn't mean there's any remotely reasonable expectation that we'll see them in our lifetimes. There's still a WHOLE lot of history left to happen.

          • by nasor (690345)

            There's a fixed cost in terms of energy to pull a pound of matter out of the Earth's deep-ass gravity well. You're asking for a near-free source of energy that can effortlessly be converted into kinetic propulsion. NASA hasn't found it because it may very well NOT EXIST.

            The "energy costs" are relatively trivial. The X1 is fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene. Kerosene is about $500/ton, and liquid oxygen is only about $15/ton if you buy a lot of it, and is basically free if you have the equipment to liquify it yourself. The total cost of this rocket's propellant (and energy) is in the tens of thousands of dollars, not millions. Most of the $7 million price of launching one of these is the cost of the rocket itself, which is of course thrown away after one use.

          • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @01:57PM (#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.

        • by FleaPlus (6935)

          I guess it depends on whether or not you consider $7 million for launching 700 kg into orbit "cost effective"...personally, $10k per kg does not seem very cost effective to me. In fact, in terms of $/kg it's not much better than the Saturn V of 40 years ago.

          It isn't too great in terms of cost/kg, but it's quite low overall. The key point is that the techniques and technology SpaceX has developed will scale up quite nicely, such that their upcoming Falcon 9 will be around $3k per kg, and one of their main go

      • I'm really excited about the Falcon, and hope everything goes well this weekend. But when someone complains about being stuck in LEO, pointing him to another craft that is only capable of reaching LEO might not be the best approach :)

    • ...still no cost-effective launch system.

      That will require airline-type operations. That will require higher design margins. That will require higher payload mass ratio. That will require air breathing. That will require SCRAM.

      At the end of WWII Boeing was already making modern pressurized semi-monocoque airplanes just like we have today (the B29). All that was needed was the jet engine to create the air transportation system we have now.

      We know NASA can make space planes. They lack the engine.

      Unfortunately even HRH (His Royal Hairness) B

      • by Octorian (14086)

        Not sure if you implied this or not, but the US didn't develop the jet engine. It was simultaneously invented by independent teams in Great Brittan and Germany, around the timeframe of WWII. Of course the first operational jet fighter was the German ME-262, which even had a modern swept-wing design.

        • Yes I do know that...all credit to Frank Whittle and the German fellow whose name escapes me. The American jet engine, I believe, was born when they got their hands on a Whittle in the early 40's and GE essentially copied it.

          Still, it would be hard to deny that the great number of experimental jets that the US built in the 50's wasn't the primary impetus behind the growth of the jet. The UK was also doing good things at the same time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      um, why would they want a cost effective system? That just means that will get less money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:04AM (#24398195)

    But they won't be done by NASA. NASA has become too politicized, too corporate centered, and above all too risk adverse. The upcoming Orion system is just a rehash of the Saturn-5 with reused Shuttle parts. It breaks no new ground and does not push the envelope in any way. If we've learned anything in the last 50 years it is this: 1) When NASA is not pushing the envelope and taking risks it stagnates, gets sloppy, and then a mission fails. 2) You cannot explore space on the cheap.

    NASA is now not pushing the envelope in any way and they are trying to come up with a new launch system, go to the Moon, and on to Mars without spending any more money. They will fail and people will die.

    I expect to see people walking on the Moon again and possibly Mars within my lifetime. They will be European and Chinese. America will be remembered by history as the Portuguese of the 20th century. Portugal was the first nation to push out and explore the world by ship. Columbus was Portuguese. The first European to round the southern tip of Africa was Portuguese. Then they stopped and Spain, England and the Dutch took up the effort and built globe spanning empires. The US and NASA are following this same path.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by iminplaya (723125)

      ...Spain, England and the Dutch took up the effort and built globe spanning empires.

      Not exactly something to be proud of, considering how they did it and all. It just means that the Chinese will be enslaving little green men to toil in their underground sugar cave. And I for one...

    • by khallow (566160)

      If we've learned anything in the last 50 years it is this: 1) When NASA is not pushing the envelope and taking risks it stagnates, gets sloppy, and then a mission fails. 2) You cannot explore space on the cheap.

      Ah sweet irony. That won't be the lessons of the next 50 years. Space development is going to require space travel that is mundane, doesn't push the envelope of that future time, and is fairly cheap. I think we can get there. As it is, I think NASA spends more than enough for genuine space exploration. If it can't spend the current money in an effective way (I'm thinking of the manned program here), then why expect it to spend considerably more in an effective way?

    • by bogjobber (880402)

      Portugal also had a globe-spanning empire. The difference was that they (largely) didn't care about conquest, only trade. That, and the fact that they were smaller and had fewer resources, ensured that their empire was more on the level of the Dutch than the Spaniards, English, or French. But they still had colonies around the world, including Brazil, Goa, and Macau.

  • Happy anniversary!
  • For the 1/3 of Americans who support cutting or eliminating NASA's budget, how about you vote for a someone who can properly manage the economy instead.
  • I'm celebrating those 50 years by reading "Kings of the High Frontier" by V. Koman.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:38AM (#24398377)
    .. how many spacecraft have YOU put into orbit? that's right, silence.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by rarel (697734)
      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 mentio
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        while it's true they aren't perfect, i'm aiming this at all the nay sayers who use this as an oppertunity to attack NASA on their 50th when they would be lucky to understand 1/10th of what goes into the agency's activity's.
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Nullav (1053766)

        Not to mention the inherently unsafe strap-on design.

        And their notoriously unreliable vibrators. [slashdot.org]

    • Well, if Never A Straight Answer (NASA) would just be open and *gasp* honest, for a change [amazon.com], maybe they wouldn't be ridiculed.

  • by GreggBz (777373) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:41AM (#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 sconeu (64226)


      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.

      Unfortunately your answers are most likely in order:

      yes, yes, no, no, maybe, no, no.

    • by demachina (71715)

      "weather forecasting, satellite communications ... aerospace and commercial aviation advancements"

      You left out GPS. These are the really important things but they would have been done by the military, private sector, or by other nations if NASA hadn't. The rest of the stuff on your list doesn't really matter to most people. They are interesting to scientists and space enthusiasts, no one else would think the price tag for them was justified.

      There isn't anything particularly exceptional about NASA except

  • Happy Birthday NASA (Score:2, Informative)

    by Neuropol (665537) *
    Annual US war budget: $480Bn USD

    NASA US Annual budget: equal to about 1 day of war budget.
  • by 6Yankee (597075) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:13AM (#24398857)

    "Fifty years ago yesterday, in 1958"

    I presume this was for the benefit of any NASA engineers who can't convert between metric and Imperial years?

  • toast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phrostie (121428) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:23AM (#24398915)

    *raises glass*

    to the next 50 years

  • by soldeed (765559) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:51AM (#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 nasor (690345)
      Although I agree with you in general, the shuttle is certainly not more expensive than a Saturn V launch. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of a Saturn V launch was something like $1.5-$2 billion, depending on how you want to calculate it. The shuttle is expensive, but still much less than that.
  • given as much money as they, I could've accomplished just as much. Probably would've have, but that's not the point.

    • by MosesJones (55544)

      Of course you would have, I mean if only you'd been given the billion dollar budget on your FIFTH BIRTHDAY you'd have had people on the moon by the time you were 11.

      If it was all about money then Paris Hilton wouldn't be worthless.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sun.Jedi (1280674)

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

      Whoever smelt it, dealt it.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:18AM (#24400319)
    ...and 35 years of wasting my money.
  • by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:23AM (#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...

  • I find it truly interesting that people seem to dog upon the space program and NASA. What many do not realize is that much of the technology that we enjoy today was developed by NASA and its partners to solve a problem in space. It is when they realized that it had practical applications on earth they were able to make back profits.

    I have heard from others that "For every dollar put into nasa we get 20 dollars back in new tech." Searching around lead me to find that it is actually around 9 dollars back.
  • by sighted (851500) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @01:03PM (#24404379) Homepage
    I don't have any patience for this idea that, as one person put it, "NASA hasn't done a thing worthwhile since we gave up on the moon." In just the past decade, NASA has landed on an asteroid, successfully reached Mars six times, impacted a comet, explored Saturn and its moons in detail, explored Jupiter and its moons in detail, and sent missions on their way to Mercury, the asteroid belt, Pluto and beyond. Meanwhile, the Voyagers continue their quest for the very edge of the solar system. (And this is just NASA - other nations are exploring in a big way, too. For example, between the American, Chinese, Japanese and European space agencies, there are two spacecraft active at the moon, one at Venus and SIX at Mars as I write this, with others en route to various destinations.) If you ask me, the golden age of space exploration wasn't in the 60s. It's right now. Yes, I understand that the human element is in some ways more gripping, and I hope that human exploration regains a place in the story, but for now, the robots are doing amazing things. And I, for one, ...
  • 12 years until retirement

  • I'm disappointed the US Space Program didnt meet the expectations of 2001-Space Odyssey which came out when I was kid (and a year before the first moonwalk). Yet I still have hope of a space future for mankind. Even though the ISS is a grossly over-spent $100 billion, seeing it pass overhead several times a month gives hope of a space future. Its the tenuous presence of humans in Space. My friends dont understand why I watch the ISS. Am I crazy? And I dont care whether its the US, Russia, Europe, China or
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @01:23PM (#24404699) Homepage

    I went to a meeting at a NASA facility a few weeks ago, not something I usually do. It felt very 1960s. A conference room with a large fake-wood table, plaques on the walls commemorating events of long ago, and frosted-glass windows for security. On the wall hung three calendars, for the previous, current, and next month, an ancient Government custom. Almost everyone in the room was over 50; many were older.

    The meeting was about airspace deconfliction for UAVs, a bureaucratic problem involving the FAA, NASA, and some other agencies. It was all about who to call, what forms to fill out, and what to do when your application wasn't being processed fast enough. The overall feeling was that this was a hard problem, wasn't going to be solved soon, and nobody really cared that much because their budgets were being cut.

    Driving across the facility, it seemed a monument to the past. Many buildings, and most of the parking lots, were empty. Here and there an aircraft was set out as a display. The place has an operational airport, but it wasn't used while I was there. A few flyable planes were parked on the ramp, but nothing was going on around them.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

Working...