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In Leaked Email, NASA Chief Vents On Shuttle Program's End 424

Posted by timothy
from the just-jealous-of-garriot dept.
jerryasher writes "In a leaked memo, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin discusses 'the jihad' to prematurely terminate the Shuttle and what that means for the International Space Station. One implication: there may come a long interval when only our Russian Allies are aboard the Space Station. Add that bit of irony to your new cold war kit and then wonder why Griffin discusses why we wouldn't sabotage the Space Station, and how and why the memo got leaked in the first place."
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In Leaked Email, NASA Chief Vents On Shuttle Program's End

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  • by 427_ci_505 (1009677) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:21AM (#24916467)

    And get something new and awesomer in the skies to replace it.

    Something that could get people going wow again would be nice.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:34AM (#24916529)

      And get something new and awesomer in the skies to replace it.

      Something that could get people going wow again would be nice.

      I would also like a pony.

      • Ponies don't just fall out of the sky you know.

        Only space stations do that.

        And even then only after getting some "help".

        Not that we're, you know, considering that at all.
      • And get something new and awesomer in the skies to replace it.

        Something that could get people going wow again would be nice.

        I would also like a pony.

        A _winged_ pony? [wikipedia.org]

    • by bmo (77928) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:39AM (#24916549)

      "And get something new and awesomer in the skies to replace it.
      Something that could get people going wow again would be nice."

      Not going to happen. Not now. Not for another 30 years or more.

      Afghanistan
      Iraq.

      Do I dare look at the expenses incurred for the latter? No. There is nothing I can do about it, and all it will do is fill me with rage.

      And now, due to criminal lack of oversight (because regulation is BAD, Right?!),

      THIS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7602992.stm [bbc.co.uk]

      This administration has fucked us all for sure. Forget the Shuttle. Forget the ISS. Forget the Moon. Forget Mars. Forget space exploration. Forget inspiring kids to become engineers and scientists.

      Forget dreaming at all, for we can no longer afford it. Our future has been pissed away in 8 years.

      Welcome to total, complete, utter incompetent management by the Shrub and his apparatchiks.

      The first words spoken by the next President after being sworn in this January and looking at the real numbers: "What the fuck is this shit?"

      --
      BMO

      • by rumith (983060)

        People keep complaining that the war in Iraq costs the US multiple billions, but why doesn't anybody take into account the profits that America receives from the captured oil fields? Somehow, I suppose the occupation of Iraq must be profitable after all, otherwise it would only be logical to withdraw troops from there. Same for Afghanistan.

        Disclaimer: I'm not a US resident and might not understand what's happening under the hood of your political machine.

        • by bmo (77928) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:46AM (#24916817)

          "Somehow, I suppose the occupation of Iraq must be profitable after all, otherwise it would only be logical to withdraw troops from there. Same for Afghanistan."

          We need a -1 Naive tag.

          You need to read up on the Project for a New American Century.

          http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqletter1998.htm [newamericancentury.org]

          Please note the date.

          Please note who the members of PNAC are and who signed the Mission Statement.

          http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm [newamericancentury.org]

          Let me know when you finish screaming.

          --
          BMO

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          America does not profit from the "captured oil fields". The profits are going to Iraq, when we *buy* their oil at *market prices*.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by rumith (983060)
            1. Since the Iraqi oil reserves currently belong to American (and some British) oil companies, the Iraqi government's profit comes from taxes imposed on the said companies. This way, US oil consumers buy it from US oil producers at market prices.
            2. Iraq exports oil to Europe and Japan as well. If this is the case, these parties are actually paying the US companies, too.
        • by n dot l (1099033) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:52AM (#24917049)

          Well, some American companies are certainly making money off of the whole thing. It's just that the money isn't coming from where you think it is. Let me clarify. This isn't a war where the USA is looting Iraq (they've done a lot to that country, but looting isn't part of it). This is a war where one segment of the USA (the military industrial complex) is effectively looting the rest of the USA. And their government seems to take turns being too oblivious, evil, or simply too incompetent to do anything about it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Stanislav_J (947290)

        The first words spoken by the next President after being sworn in this January and looking at the real numbers: "What the fuck is this shit?"

        Regardless of whether McCain or Obama is the name of our next Prez, I think there will be some pretty serious sicker shock when they start to get briefed about internal WH matters and become privy to the actual degree of incompetence, malfeasance, and fiscal irresponsibility that awaits them. It makes me think of JFK's half-joking, half-serious response when an interviewer asked him early in his presidency what surprised him most about the job. "I think what surprised me the most was finding out that things

      • You can blame Bush as much as you want for the Fannie Mae debacle, but if you actually have been following the issue for twenty years, you would find in the Op Ed web pages of the Wall Streetn Journal a steady stream of Republican voices arguing that the finances of these two institutions are basically crap and have been that way for decades. Democrats have resisted any sort of legislative effort to bring reform to these two agencies. In fact, if you look at whose donating to whose campaign you could see t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine (196982)

        The first words spoken by the next President after being sworn in this January and looking at the real numbers: "What the fuck is this shit?"

        This is one reason why I think that our next President will be a one term President. He's either going to have to make hard choices that wind up being unpopular (thus causing him to lose his reelection bid), or he won't make the hard choices and will conduct business as usual as things get worse (thus causing unpopularity and a losing reelection bid). I honestly feel

    • by cohensh (1358679) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:42AM (#24916559)
      Part of the point of this is that it takes an incredible amount of time and money to send something into space. Adding one more flight will not be a huge issue, because there is a rescue flight scheduled for the last current shuttle flight. But after that to add a flight would be a ton of work. With the knowledge that the shuttle program was coming to an end the ability to make the antique parts that the shuttle flies on is diminished, as no one makes them anymore. (To give an idea of how old the hardware is, the navigation system runs on something like 512 K) It would cost in the order of $400 million dollars per additional flight. Also, to speed up Constellation it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars per month, and even with expanded funding there is a limit to how fast it can be realized. In short, everyone is asking for money, NASA included, and lots of people question how important manned space flight actually is.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by uofitorn (804157)
        My immediate reaction years ago to seeing that some parts of the shuttle run on 512K was... great! If it can get the job done with minimal complexity, then what is the problem? Why invite more loc, when it accomplished what was necessary for the job at hand?
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@G m a i l.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:24AM (#24916481) Homepage Journal

    With Putin doing his best Stalin imitation lately, it's moronic to trust the Russians to be a reliable stopgap until our new rockets and spacecraft are ready. We need to simply accept the fact that we'll be needing the Shuttle for a little while longer, and budget appropriately.

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:30AM (#24916501)
      Or pump some cash into SpaceX to get a reliable vehicle faster.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      The Russians are reliable as long as we pay them to be. Slightly better than the shuttle's "reliable only when it hasn't exploded in the last x months" track record. The Russians would very likely extort some more money from the US but that's probably about as far as they'd go. Worse case is that the ISS is lost, I doubt the Russians want to pay to keep it afloat, which depending on who you ask may not be a bad thing in the long run (we'd at least be able to built the next one without being hamstrung by nee

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)

        The Russians are reliable as long as we pay them to be.

        Right. Why does the US even need its own fleet of ICBMs. They could just pay the Russians or Chinese to provide and outsourced deterrent facility.

        • by Rakishi (759894) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:39AM (#24916787)

          We're talking about the ISS not ICBMs, please refrain from randomly changing the subject unless your desire is to amuse me with your incompetence. You know that floating pierce of crap that was mainly created to let multiple nations work together and has been heavily outsourced to Russia already?

          The ISS was by design a joint project and otherwise idiotic design decisions were made for that reason. The Russians have provided support not only as part of the normal design but also during times when the shuttle fleet was grounded. The Russians also own part of the station and will own even more of it once it's finished (the European and Japanese likewise own other parts of the station).

          If they US didn't want to outsource the ISS then they shouldn't have made it a joint project.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zero return (1244780)
        One of the benefits of the station is the symbol and fact of international co-operation. Words like "extort" and "hamstrung" are right off target. It's not like Russia is spoiling a US party. If anything, the party is only happening because of Russia.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:49AM (#24916587)

      You can not realistically budget the fact that alot the people that made parts for the space shuttle have already changed jobs because of a mandated stop in orders. Any company that exclusivly worked building components itself either retooled the machines, sold them off or more unlikely left them taking up costly space in storage.

      You would need to wave one hell of a magical wand to reverse changing your mind at this point. Its along the lines of saying to 'Just use the same rockets.' to get to space and to the moon that were used previously before the space shuttle.

      Except the capacity to do that was also mandated to end in order to bring online shuttle. Deja vu.

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:54AM (#24916617) Homepage Journal

      With Putin doing his best Stalin imitation lately

      I agree that Russia over-reacted to the Georgian problem, but its not a black-and-white situation there. It was not a blatant land-grab as some paint it.
             

    • on at least one point.

      How can this be called the premature end to the shuttle program? Shuttles were an ill-conceived idea from the beginning and now they are almost 30 years old. Surely they should have been retired long ago.

  • Sabotage! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:33AM (#24916521)

    Add that bit of irony to your new cold war kit and then wonder why Griffin discusses why we wouldn't sabotage the Space Station...

    I would imagine he's covering scenarios. But I'm sure someone will manage to read something sinister in to it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:09AM (#24916687)

    It's a serious question since McCain has already said the Russians should be thrown out of the G8 Summit. How likely is he going to be to continue cooperating with the Russians or how happy are they going to be dealing with some one that speaks openly against them? The Cold War is coming back at a very bad time for the ISS.

  • Premature my ass (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:33AM (#24916771)
    "Premature"? The shuttle program should have been terminated decades ago when it was clear it wouldn't meet stated design goals, i.e. low cost transportation to orbit. The termination of the shuttle program is very, very post-mature. The only reason it survived is the number of jobs it provided in the right congressional districts.
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:57AM (#24916857)
      The shuttle failed to meet design specifications as you state (cost is only one area in which it failed). But unfortunately, all our eggs are in one basket. Nobody did sufficient forward planning to replace the space shuttle... planning that should have begun no later than the day it first launched.

      Nevertheless, you don't throw away the only tool you have, even if it is expensive and unwieldly. Granted, we should have had a replacement for the shuttle a long time ago. But we don't, so that means we fly the shuttle until we do!!!
  • Might the Russians decide to sabotage the ISS? How badly do they need us to keep the thing running? Sounds like they don't need us at all.

    Here's a wacky idea so bear with me. Could the Russians "steal" the ISS? They have the capability to dock with the ISS but we will not (without their cooperation) between 2011 and 2014. That date of our being unable to reach the station may come sooner if Russia becomes even less "friendly" and the date we can reach the station might be pushed back because of technic

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)

      What COULD they do with the ISS in four years? They could arm it

      Only in a movie so bad that it makes a group of half decent actors look like incompetant idiots.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The PRC initially designed the Shenzhou spacecraft with docking technologies imported from Russia, therefore compatible with the International Space Station (ISS). The Shenzhou 8 unmanned space laboratory module, the Shenzhou 9 unmanned Shenzhou cargo and a manned Shenzhou 10 will be docked in late 2010 to form a first step small orbital space laboratory complex. This first step will allow China to master key technologies prerequisites for the following larger permanent space station. The Shenzhou 11 missio

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:23AM (#24916957) Homepage Journal

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1188/1 [thespacereview.com]

    Time is short. Senior NASA management is committed to beginning the destruction of the tooling used to construct the Space Shuttle's External Tank as early as next month. This destruction is completely unnecessary to support the current Ares 1 production plan because the floor space NASA plans to use is not occupied by the External Tank tooling. The only apparent objective of beginning the destruction of this $12-billion national asset next month, used by both the Space Shuttle and Jupiter Launch System, is to maliciously eliminate any competition to the current plan. In an attempt to put a halt to this unnecessary destruction of government property, the Senate version of 2009 NASA authorization bill sought to make this imminent action of the NASA administrator explicitly illegal. Specifically, the Senate provision directed the NASA administrator "to terminate or suspend any activity of the Agency that, if continued, would preclude the continued safe and effective flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter after fiscal year 2010." Unfortunately, this provision, that cost us nothing to include yet wisely keeps our options open, was removed from the Senate-House conference bill just before the summer recess.

    • When Hernando Cortez arrived in Mexico, he ordered his ships to be burned. As there was no turning back, no options left open other than to proceed ahead, his men were incredibly well motivated.

      I'm going to propose that having the shuttle program intact is possibly the biggest hindrance to advancement. As long as it is there, any viable alternatives are so easily canceled by Congress whenever they need an influx of cash by cutting NASA's budget, just as they've done dozens of times before over the last c

  • VentureStar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StarfishOne (756076) on Monday September 08, 2008 @05:55AM (#24917493)

    Does anyone else still remember all the videos shown on Discovery Channel and the like on the Lockheed Martin "VentureStar"?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VentureStar [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_X-33 [wikipedia.org]

    I know they had some technological problems, but somehow I've always had the feeling that the project was canceled /way/ too soon!

    I especially like the idea of the Aerospike engine:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerospike_engine [wikipedia.org]

    But the moment they canceled that project, it was for me a given that they would run into problems with the Shuttle in the years 2010-2015-2020.

    Lack of persistence, vision and looking ahead IMHO.

  • Engineering (Score:5, Informative)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Monday September 08, 2008 @07:12AM (#24917769) Journal

    I'll take Griffin's assertions of context at face value and assume he thinks it's the right thing to replace the STS with Constellation.

    He did, however, say the retirement of the STS was not based on engineering. I can see why he might say that.

    The most incredible thing about the STS is the main engine, both incredibly amazing and incredibly problematic. The development of those machines as been long and winding. Here [enginehistory.org] is a nice summary of the problems they had just up to first flight.

    The thing is, work on improving those engines has continued non-stop since 1972, and finally their performance and reliability is in the ballpark of where is was originally spec'd to be.

    Mainly due to new fuel [spaceref.com] and oxidizer [spaceref.com] turbopumps.

    And now they throw it all away. I just don't get it. It's too Arrow-esque for me.

    Why not re-do the STS instead of re-doing Apollo?

  • by stretchpuppy (1304751) <`stretchpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday September 08, 2008 @09:28AM (#24918849)

    I didn't see a link to the memo, here it is:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=29133 [spaceref.com]

  • by alexwcovington (855979) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:25AM (#24920349) Journal

    When I went down to Marshall Space Flight Centre last year, I saw it all laid bare. NASA is still stuck in the Cold War.

    All the presentations were highly nationalistic, and the histories omit the Russians except as adversaries. The TVs at the cafeteria were set to Fox News. And in private moments, the engineers are still griping about the switch to metric units for the Ares rocket. Some of them don't even know what a Newton is!

    I don't know why NASA continues to persist in this mindset, but it's not going to help them in their long-term goals.

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