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NASA Space Government Politics

Obama's Impending NASA Decisions 405

Posted by kdawson
from the in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-run-out-of-money dept.
eldavojohn writes "From delaying Project Constellation to an additional $2 billion in funding, Space.com looks at some immediate decisions the President Elect will have to make once he takes office in January. The biggest one will be the shuttle plan: do we retire the shuttle fleet or keep it on for more missions? If it is retired, we would have to rely on another country to bring our astronauts into space between 2010 and 2015 as a new fleet is built. Will Obama hold true on his $2 billion pledge to NASA?"
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Obama's Impending NASA Decisions

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  • First (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ifandbut (1328775) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:10PM (#25761035)

    I hope Obama holds up to his $2 billion offer. I know there are other problems facing the USA but space exploration is not something we should ever stop.

    • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

      by electrosoccertux (874415) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:25PM (#25761223)

      Someone else made a good point about this Obama thing, that you can't just "push back" the date 5 years when you cut funding. Because after those 5 years, you can't just call up all the guys you laid off and say "hey we want you back!" and expect them to drop their job and reform the exact development team you had going before you did the budget cuts. These teams take 5-10 years to form and get on the ground running. You either keep up the funding or push the moon plans back 15 years. There is no 5.

      • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RenderSeven (938535) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:34PM (#25762305)
        I remember the same argument for nuclear submarines... that even though we really dont need any more at the moment, if you even temporarily shut down existing production you pretty much permanently lose the ability to produce submarines in the future. Or at least make it prohibitively expensive to restart the program since so much would have to be rebuilt from scratch. On the surface it sounds like a BS argument, but if you do a little analysis on it theres probably quite a bit of truth to it.
        • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

          by Lino Mastrodomenico (1156433) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#25763675) Homepage Journal

          On the surface it sounds like a BS argument, but if you do a little analysis on it theres probably quite a bit of truth to it.

          It's much more than a bit of truth: it already happened! NASA tried to pull that stunt after the Apollo program. There was a big gap between Apollo 17 and the first Space Shuttle flights and NASA fired a lot of engineers and workers with valuable skill sets. They tried to hire them back more than 5 years later.

          Guess what most of then answered? No, thanks.

      • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

        by scamper_22 (1073470) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:46PM (#25762509)

        dude, I think you just described the problem in the entire high-tech/engineering world.

        No one knows what we do, so no one knows how much experience is valued.

        They will just post an ad
        NASA Aero-space engineer wanted.
        25 years experience designing Space capable vehicles.

        No takers?

        Oh damn... we have a skills shortage in America...

        - seen it happen to many times

        • Re:First (Score:5, Funny)

          by conspirator57 (1123519) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:19PM (#25763003)

          you mean you didn't have 5 years of ASP experience 2 years after it came out, either? if you're a representative sample of America's information workforce, we're in deep trouble... Time to build another Technology business park in a rural county. That'll fix it. :P

    • Re:First (Score:5, Informative)

      by conspirator57 (1123519) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:11PM (#25761927)

      As a fiscal conservative, I'd prefer less aggregate government spending because it is an inefficient way to accomplish the ends it is put to. However, given the spending spree the government is on, I find NASA far less objectionable than writing checks to citizens, bailouts, or WPAish "dig a ditch. now fill it in." economic "stimulus" plans. At least spend our money on something that might one day help us.

    • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Surt (22457) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:40PM (#25762409) Homepage Journal

      There is no way he will keep to that offer. With the economy in the toilet, tax revenues will be way down, and he's already fighting a huge deficit and debt. It's one campaign promise that will be all too easy to break. And in any case, it's just one of those things you say you'll do to get a minor voting block behind you, not something you take seriously.

    • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:46PM (#25762505)

      What we COULD do is dump the manned missions until we, as a society, evolve far beyond our primitive level of technology. Send machines, many machines, which would be both cost effective and expendable. The rush to send meat into space was understandable during the Cold War, but is not wise today.

      • Meat in space (Score:4, Insightful)

        by yog (19073) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:51PM (#25763561) Homepage Journal

        What we COULD do is dump the manned missions until we, as a society, evolve far beyond our primitive level of technology. Send machines, many machines, which would be both cost effective and expendable. The rush to send meat into space was understandable during the Cold War, but is not wise today.

        Actually, the way to bring down the cost of sending humans into space is to simply do it. After the research has been done and the ships have been built, the cost of actually launching humans into space is relatively trivial.

        Sitting back and waiting for the technology to magically appear is tantamount to giving up on developing said technology. Ancillary tech such as smaller and faster computers may come along anyway, but putting it all together requires a lot more integrative technology and hands on expertise.

        And, take note that if we, the U.S., give up on manned flight as too expensive, there are other nations out there that will definitely continue. Do we want to settle for renting a 3rd class berth on Chinese and Russian ships for the next 50 years, after we pretty much pioneered the way?

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:11PM (#25761057)

    we are flat broke. Kill the shuttle already.

    • Is it that hard to ask the russians or a private company to get your astronauts down?

      What do the astronauts do anyway? I mean I'm all for space exploration, probes, etc, but do the astronauts do anything that cant be automated or done on earth?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:19PM (#25761149)

        but do the astronauts do anything that cant be automated or done on earth?

        I'm sure the same can be said of your job...

        :-)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        somebody has to monitor the ants, while we determine if they can be trained to sort screws in a zero gravity environment.

      • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:37PM (#25761391)
        Is it that hard to ask the russians or a private company to get your astronauts down?

        To get them down, as in from a crippled Shuttle? Yes, it is.

        A Shuttle crew is typically seven astronauts. Soyuz carries three. Launching with only a pilot, that's room for two rescued astronauts. To evacuate a Shuttle would need four Soyuz launches, in quick succession. And that's if and only if the Shuttle is in an orbit that the Russians can reach; Florida is a better launch site than Kazakhstan, receiving more of a boost from the Earth's rotation. And if the Russians can arrange for four rockets and four capsules to be ready to go before the Shuttle's air runs out. That's one hell of a tall order. Given a blank cheque, they might try to do it, but it would be such a rush job you'd likely end up with even more crippled spacecraft in orbit.

        As for private enterprise? No chance. No private enterprise has ever launched a person into orbit. SpaceShip One was a major achievement for them, but didn't even reach Alan Shepard levels of spaceflight; a Gagarin is far beyond them.

        This is why the last Hubble repair mission was a worry, and why a second orbiter was readied for launch if rescue were needed. If that Shuttle had taken Columbia-style damage on launch, it wouldn't have been safe to return to Earth, and it wouldn't have been able (from that orbit) to reach the space station either. The astronauts would have been be in deep trouble.

        If you mean could the government write a cheque to a private firm to build them a spacecraft, yes, they could. I'm not convinced, however, that a private contractor would be much better than NASA - the same political demands would be placed upon them, and the chief advantage of a free market, competition leading to efficiency gains and low cost, is lost in a market consisting of one customer who makes one colossal order every few decades. NASA contracts out the actual building to private enterprise anyway, firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Morton Thiokol.

        And yes, they could buy Soyuz capsules as needed, and even engage the Russians to develop them an entire spaceflight system. That's what they did post-Columbia when the Shuttles were grounded. They'd probably get entirely acceptable results at a very low cost. US governments don't like to buy foreign hardware if they can avoid it, though - taxpayers don't like to see their money leaving the country. They prefer to distribute the pork to firms in crucial swing states.

        • Then the money would be going to a US firm

        • by Robocoastie (777066) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:48PM (#25761583) Homepage
          speaking as a veteran military supply officer you'd be amazed at how many parts come from overseas in the military - especially from France.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mbone (558574)

          Except for the Hubble, I think that all future Shuttle missions will be in the ISS orbit. Then there are possibilities, since all you have to do is get them to the ISS, not down, during the emergency. The Soyuz TMA attached to the ISS might have enough delta-v to do that.

          Of course, if we really ever wanted to have a space station that was a help for deep space travel, we need one in an equatorial orbit or at least a Florida inclination orbit. The ISS is just in the wrong orbit to serve as a way station to

        • by osu-neko (2604) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:57PM (#25761729)

          As for private enterprise? No chance. No private enterprise has ever launched a person into orbit. SpaceShip One was a major achievement for them, but didn't even reach Alan Shepard levels of spaceflight; a Gagarin is far beyond them.

          Is there a reason you're mentioning SpaceShip One (which was never designed for orbital capability) while ignoring Falcon (which was)? Granted, Falcon didn't carry any people, but a claim that this capability "is far beyond them" is ridiculously false. Dragon [spacex.com] should be ready to go by the time the shuttle retires.

          If you mean could the government write a cheque to a private firm to build them a spacecraft, yes, they could.

          And they already did. You seem to be treating an ongoing program, started years ago, as if it's a hypothetical...

          • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:27PM (#25762185)
            Is there a reason you're mentioning SpaceShip One (which was never designed for orbital capability) while ignoring Falcon (which was)? Granted, Falcon didn't carry any people, but a claim that this capability "is far beyond them" is ridiculously false. Dragon should be ready to go by the time the shuttle retires.

            SpaceShip One has in fact flown with an astronaut. Dragon has not. Falcon is a rocket, not a crewed vehicle, and only the satellite launcher has reached orbit - Falcon 9 is still in ground testing. SpaceShip One is the current high water mark of private manned spaceflight, such as it is. At that end of the post, discussing present options for a shuttle rescue, neither is an option, because neither right now are remotely capable of the task.

            And they already did. You seem to be treating an ongoing program, started years ago, as if it's a hypothetical...

            At this end of the post, discussing options for Shuttle replacements, Dragon might be a competitor. I don't see, however, that the government have simply said 'we will pay you to build us a spacecraft'. SpaceX was founded with dotcom wealth. They've received contracts for launches from NASA and the USAF - but neither commit to any great funding. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org],

            On May 2, 2005, SpaceX announced that it had been awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for Responsive Small Spacelift (RSS) launch services by the United States Air Force, which could allow the Air Force to purchase up to $100,000,000 worth of launches from the company.[4] On April 22, 2008, NASA announced that it had awarded an IDIQ Launch Services contract to SpaceX for Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launches. The contract will be worth between $20,000 and $1 billion, depending on the number of missions awarded. The contract covers launch services ordered by June 30, 2010, for launches through December 2012.

            So NASA and the USAF have options to buy launches from SpaceX. Doesn't look like either have committed to any specifics, though. Orbit a Falcon 9 with a manned Dragon and bring it safely back to Earth and NASA may very well buy up all that billion dollars' worth and then some, but not before. Scaling up from one rocket to a cluster of rockets while maintaining man-rated reliability is a hard problem. Ask the engineers who built the N1.

        • by T-Ranger (10520)
          If think you are responding to the (unasked question), "why not just keep 1 shuttle around?" I diddnt think that was on the table. But maybe it should be. And to respond to you response: or you could just restrict missions to those where a crippled shuttle _could_ get to the ISS. Then you can leisurely launch Soyuz's. and all is good.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pentalive (449155)

        What is the point of sending robots if we are never going to go ourselves.

        The point of the shuttle and ISS and all other maned space is to prove, and improve systems for taking people places in space.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:49PM (#25761599) Homepage Journal

      This year's NASA budget [wikipedia.org] was $17.318 billion. Meanwhile, the military got $515.4 Billion. [wikipedia.org]

      One year's military budget would fund NASA for three decades. I think your priorities are as badly misplaced as our government's.

      Meanwhile, we could do a lot of other things to balance the budget - like ending corporate welfare.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Good point.

        Moreover many of the problems that NASA is facing with the Constellation program are due to the stupid insistence of the current Administrator, Michael Griffin, with the Ares architecture with two launchers. In particular, Ares I it's a running joke between actual rocket scientists. NASA engineers have developed a cheaper, safer and faster alternative: DIRECT [directlauncher.com] (the site includes hi-res images and videos).

        The first thing Obama should do is replace Griffin and then do a real independent review of al

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by InlawBiker (1124825)

      Bullshit! We can still go to the moon if we outsource the work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942)
      If you're nearly broke, which is going to be more effective, returning the $10,000 HDTV, or returning the $50 clock radio? Obviously cutting back on the big ticket items is going to be most effective. So why not cut your big ticket military spending instead? America has the largest military budget on the planet. It is larger than the next fifteen largest combined (twelve of which are US allies). Cutting back the military by a mere 1% would pretty much pay for NASA.
    • by compro01 (777531) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:10PM (#25761917)

      Total NASA budget, FY 2009 - $17.6 billion
      US federal budget, FY 2009 - $3.1 trillion
      NASA budget as a percentage of federal budget - 0.568%

      Even if you completely scrapped NASA, you're not going to make any useful difference.

    • by AMuse (121806) <slashdot-amuse@foofus. c o m> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:23PM (#25762113) Homepage

      Actually, our being flat broke has very little to do with the space program, except that every dollar spent by the government is a dollar it either needs to tax us for, or borrow from someone (to later tax us for with interest).

      Here's a chart I threw together a while back when having an argument with a friend of mine about NASA's budget and our general federal budget woes.

      http://foofus.com/amuse/public/Fedspending-2008-linechart.jpg [foofus.com]

      Note how, if the NASA budget remained the same every year from now on, it would take approximately 47 years to spend as much as we threw away on the bank bailout this year. Also note how the "Interest on Debt" line is about 40 times NASA's budget.

      I understand that we need to cut spending and balance our budget - hell, I DEMAND it of anyone I vote for - but NASA is an awfully popular whipping boy for "government spending" compared to the very small portion of our budget that is actually spent on basic science research, engineering, computing, space exploration, and protecting our planet from potential destruction by rogue asteroids.

      (disclaimer: Yes, I DO work for NASA - but I'd feel this way even if I didn't!).

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:12PM (#25761065)

    ...and one which is related to, but transcends, politics, is:

    How can any grand initiative that takes longer than eight -- or four -- years to implement ever again be achieved?

    • by WatersOfOblivion (1215490) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:14PM (#25761103)
      Barack Obama '08 Barack Obama '12 Michelle Obama '16 Michelle Obama '20
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      How can any grand initiative that takes longer than eight -- or four -- years to implement ever again be achieved?

      By the Chinese. Or, as happened last time around, by the Americans, spurred into action by the idea that if they didn't, somebody else might.

    • by mbone (558574)

      The ISS was started under Reagan, went "I" (International) under Clinton, and has largely been finished under Bush II. That's a lot longer than 8 years.

      Going international really helps keep large science projects going, once you get over the initial barrier of getting a bunch of countries on-board. In my own personal connection to this, I actually said as much to the then Vice President when I had a chance to talk to him about the Space Station in 1993. I have no idea if my pitch influenced government polic

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mdm-adph (1030332)

      Free Market Economy!

    • by sckeener (137243)

      It has been pioneered for decades that if you don't like an agency just cut the funding. The politicians even can say they are for the agency and then cut the funding or increasing the paper work...that is what needs to stop.

      What I would do is judge certain agencies vital to the country

      and

      Guarantee a baseline budget that is adjusted for inflation for each agency. Basically let it be known that we are not going to go below X amount, but you may not get more. Give possible ways they can earn more such as t

    • Is the United States currently in a position to fund scientific research? Shouldn't we concentrate on putting the country back on its feet now, and leave space flight for another generation?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rk (6314)

        I disagree. These are the worst times to cut basic research out. I will grant that some priorities need to be made and we need to look for bang for the buck type things, but cutting funding the science research turns it into a musical chairs game where the little bit you still spend on science is all getting spent on scientists writing grant proposals to get more funding rather than actually doing science. We're over halfway there now.

        Also, let's not forget that a bunch of highly educated engineers and s

  • Just NASA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Facetious (710885) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:13PM (#25761073) Journal
    NASA decisions are a very small part of the issue. The question should be, will the new president choose to continue deficit spending at a time when tax revenues will be shrinking and the number of national debt dollars exceeds the number of stars in the known universe?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by initdeep (1073290)

      ....or instead will he kill of entitlement programs and force government agencies to justify their budgets and FINALLY kill the asinine concept of FORCING an agency to spend all of their current year budget in order to justify their next years budget.

      There, fixed that for you.

      • Re:Just NASA? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:46PM (#25761539) Journal

        There is a problem with not expecting a budget to be spent. First is that under the current law, the government has to spend the money or give it back to the people. This mean that outside of some rainy day fund that the Feds have never bothers creating but states do, that excess revenue will have to be spent.

        The second problem is in accounting. If they can't justify using less of their budget then their budget should be less. It really is that simple. If you ask for 10 million dollars and only spend 5, you have wasted the ability to either use that other 5 million or for some other department to effectivly use it. Then there is the issue of public trust, if agencies are purposely over funded to a point of surplus revenue, how do you expect to justify tax rates and collections?

        The problem isn't with the laws, it is with the greedy department heads who think that wasting 20% of a budget that wasn't needed is appropriate just so they can hoard the same amounts the next year. My local school system used to have this problem of budget burning and we actually made a law declaring it a felony. All this did was cause the schools to waste money in other ways and now they claim they need levies and so on but the people don't trust them enough to pass them. Now I don't want to seem like I'm picking on schools, it's just that in my area, we actually attempted to address the budget problem with less then desirable results. Now there is some screwed up scheme where the state takes the property taxes that would go to schools normally and then gives it back at the end of the year in order to redistribute it to poorer districts where people moved away from for various reasons.

        Unless you can say X happened that won't happen next year, then if you have a surplus in the budget, your budget is too big. It needs to be cut next year. X could be a number of things like some stage of something failed so the later portions of development wasn't spent or maybe something like, Y had a closeout sale and parts or supplies were obtained at 25% of normal costs but they are out of business now. There are a number of things like falling gas prices during on quarter or the lack of snow one year or whatever. The costs need to be justified and burning budgets should be a felony that disqualifies people from positions of public trust ever again. The people deserve a fair accounting of their money and a sense of it not being wasted because some department head is greedy or too ignorant to justify why they had a surplus that won't be the same case next year.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        Yeah, good luck getting funding for NASA after you tell people they're not going to ever see their social security money, because they make too much--or after you tell them that grandma's medicare funding is going to be cut off. The voters will be breaking out the pitchforks and torches long before you ever get to the NASA part.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by locster (1140121)

      I don't think US national debt is anywhere near $10^22 just yet.

    • by Delwin (599872)
      ... or will he follow sound economic policy. You know, the one that notes that you get deflation in a recession so you need to print more money to combat this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574)

      We are in a recession. I certainly hope he continues deficit spending at least for the near term.

      The last President to cut spending because of hard economic times was named Hoover, and it didn't go so well for him.

    • Re:Just NASA? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by techess (1322623) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:42PM (#25761487)

      Don't forget NASA is one industry that puts a lot of money back into the US economy. Due to export controls and ITAR restrictions nearly every man hour is paid to a U.S. Citizen and nearly every part is built here. NASA farms out quite a bit of work to Universities so the next crop of engineers actually gets hands on experience in building equipment.

      At a seminar I was at one NASA employee said that it takes over seven years after a student graduates before they are fully beneficial to the NASA program. If the student had hands on experience that number can be reduced to below three years. Many NASA employees are nearing retirement age and there already is a problem finding replacements. If you cut money now NASA won't/can't hire new employees to be trained by experienced personnel, Universities won't be able to fund new space projects so the students will not be fully prepared or trained to take over jobs once funding is returned, and those that are looking for jobs now will most likely go into private industry where their innovations and ideas will become the property of their employer and be lost to public enterprise.

      So I'm for our government pouring money into NASA and rewarding a group that has been highly successful (recently). Why should they just be dumping money into failures (mortgage companies, banks, wallstreet, automotive).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by savuporo (658486)
        Are you familiar with the Parable of the broken window [wikipedia.org] ?
        Because thats where your "puts money back in the economy" is going.
        You see, if you are just circulating money through these guys, you arent creating any value. There has to be a tangible benefit. And for about past 30 years, human spaceflight part of NASA has very little value for the money spent. Over a half of its 16 Billion a year budget is poured into manned spaceflight each year, and what do we have to show for it ?
        International Space Station o
  • by DesScorp (410532)

    In this economy? No, I don't think he'll keep the funding promise. I think we just kicked the new age of human space exploration back to the curb, and we're going back to "better, faster, cheaper", with all small probes, all the time. As for the Shuttle, we should extend it's life (it'd be kind of stupid to depend on the Russians now), but I don't know if he will. He might very well decrease our commitment to the ISS, and basically punt to the Russians and the Europeans on it.

    • it'd be kind of stupid to depend on the Russians now

      why exactly? as far as i know, for the last 6 years they have always delivered as they have promised.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:16PM (#25761115)

    I expect him to be as keep his NASA pledge as much as he kept his stance against telecom immunity and his pledge not to exceed public financing limits.

    In other words, not at all.

    He's a politician. I've never known a politician to follow through with their campaign promises.

  • We're considering continuing to use a vehicle that has a failure rate of 1-2% per flight? In the words of Invader Zim -- Have you the brain worms?! No, if the President wants space flight he needs to pony up on a vehicle that does more than act as an ashtray that seats seven. Honestly, given the current economic outlook, the United States needs to start looking at partnerships with other countries and pooling our resources collectively. Our space flight program is a national icon, but I think we proved that
    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:27PM (#25761261)
      "We're considering continuing to use a vehicle that has a failure rate of 1-2% per flight?"

      Just a reminder, the NASA space shuttle program is one of the most successful long term space programs ever. Remember - this IS rocket science. Seriously, look up some of the other space programs and you'll see some spectacular failures with nowhere near as many successes over the span of decades. The space shuttle program is an enormous success.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mbone (558574)

      The expected Apollo loss rate was 1 in 25, or 4%. The Soyuz loss rate has been 2 out of 100, or 2%.

      Having said that, the Russians are very sensible in running basically the same spacecraft for decades. Once you get the bugs out, spacecraft (like any engineering) is a lot more reliable, and the Soyuz has had 90 successful missions in a row. (I am counting success here as the crew survived - obviously, not all of these missions did everything they were supposed to do.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by moosesocks (264553)

        There hasn't been a Soyuz-related fatality since 1971, and the vehicle has undergone 3 major design revisions since then.

        I would argue that it's unfair to include the early Soyuz launches (or Apollo 1 for that matter), considering that the problems which caused the failures were entirely eliminated, and the vehicle proved to be extremely robust afterward.

        The same can be said (to a lesser extent) for the Challenger, but not Columbia, as the tiles remain extremely vulnerable.

        There have been 2 Soyuz launch fai

  • Obama's Decision? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rayeth (1335201) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:19PM (#25761141)
    Is any of this really up to Obama? Isn't it Congress that decides where money is spent? Pretty sure that I took Civics in 8th grade and the Executive branch doesn't control all the cash. Unless Bush has changed all that in the last 8 years?
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:38PM (#25761411)
      Is any of this really up to Obama? Isn't it Congress that decides where money is spent?

      Shhhh, you'll spoil it! Next thing you'll be saying is that Obama can't wave a magic want and "change the world," or that his promises to tax the economy - especially the most successful parts of it - won't discourage people from risking their money and efforts in that way. Next you'll probably even say that calling a check you get from IRS, when you don't even pay income taxes, a "rebate" is a gratuitous lie. Why do you hate his supporters so much, that you bring up little issues like the fact that Nancy Pelosi has more to do with what NASA gets to spend than Obama does? You are mean.
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Next you'll probably even say that calling a check you get from IRS, when you don't even pay income taxes, a "rebate" is a gratuitous lie

        I must say that even as an occasionally liberal Democrat that this concept has always annoyed the hell out of me. Can I get a check from Uncle Sam just for working [wikipedia.org]? And why do certain people get away without paying any income taxes anyway? Income taxes fund things that directly benefit all of us -- I wouldn't care if the lowest tax rate was a measly 1% -- as long as everybody was being asked to contribute something.

    • Re:Obama's Decision? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:43PM (#25761503) Homepage Journal

      The President traditionally submits a budget to set the agenda. Of course, the congress is free to totally ignore it, but in practice the President generally provides a roadmap of what he wants to see.

      That's why I blame Reagan for the runaway budget during his years, even though conservatives tend to blame the Democrat congress. Reagan didn't even *try* to submit smaller government budgets, and he certainly didn't do any veto threats.

    • The President is the ultimate authority on the budget. If he vetos it, Congress will have to start again. In result, bills are often a negotiation between Congress and the President. Which doesn't mean that Congress won't take a hard-line position and slam space funding through in exchange for other concessions, but it's far more likely that space funding will BE the concession.

  • by Robotbeat (461248) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:21PM (#25761189) Journal

    I think Obama will give NASA the $2 billion. It's a stimulus to the economy, something it badly needs. Now, I know that 90% of slashdot is libertarian, but Keynesian economics says that you do deficit spending in a recession. You both decrease taxes and increase spending, since the gov't can act as a employer of last resort (when everyone else is firing). There's no question that there's great waste when 10% of the population is unemployed (if that high unemploymentcomes to pass). You'll have millions of people not doing anything for the economy, just sitting at home and draining the government's social spending with nothing to show for it. The only way to quickly reduce that number is by government spending. No other way. He may even reverse Bush's decision to go to the Moon and instead go to Mars first. If he wants Florida in the bag in 2012, he probably will also extend the Shuttle for a couple years.

    (Of course, the national debt will eventually overwhelm the tax base unless the flip-side of Keynesian economics is also followed: increase taxes and decrease spending during boom cycles.)

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:48PM (#25761571)
      The problem is that the U.S. federal government doesn't just do deficit spending during recessions. They do it during recessions, booms, middling periods, and every year in between. Deficit spending during a recession may indeed make sense, but turning it into the *norm* is the sure road to government bankruptcy and debtor nation status. And when the day comes when the U.S. can no longer get credit for the great national credit card and can no longer afford those growing interest payments, the collapse that will follow will make the current crisis look like a financial paradise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by servognome (738846)

      I think Obama will give NASA the $2 billion. It's a stimulus to the economy, something it badly needs.... He may even reverse Bush's decision to go to the Moon and instead go to Mars first. If he wants Florida in the bag in 2012, he probably will also extend the Shuttle for a couple years.

      Spending on operations is one of the least effective ways to stimulate the economy. Stimulus is not just about government spending, it's about government investment. One of the great things that came out of the massive s

  • by mbone (558574) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:24PM (#25761211)

    Our whole space program needs a general rethink. We have two big programs, flight to the Moon and Mars, that were started by Bush without a lot of thought, we have the ISS which is ready for experiments that we do not have money to fly - such as Samuel Ting's very interesting cosmic anti-matter detector [spaceref.com], and we are canceling ready-to-go missions such as the SIM [wikipedia.org] planet finder to pay for new stuff that is frankly never likely to happen.

    We do not have a coherent space program, and so we are wasting much of our money. Fixing this will not be easy, but it is very urgent in my opinion.

  • We're looking to outsource!

  • by I.M.O.G. (811163) <spamisyummy@gmail.com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:36PM (#25761389) Homepage

    In the cold war NASA was bankrupting Russia and expressing USA's technical superiority... NASA's goals are much less interesting to many now - exploration, learning, and inspiring interest in understanding science and the unknown.

    I love NASA and think it should be funded, but I'm a nerd... The cold war version of NASA was a lot easier for an entire nation to rally around and love.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      The cold war version of NASA was a lot easier for an entire nation to rally around and love.

      Well, if relations with Russia are any indication we might get back to that version of NASA in the next decade or so ;)

  • While Obama may view himself as a totalitarian dictator, the Old Republic has not been swept away to the extent that the President can just dump $2 billion in a government agency on a whim.
  • The bankruptcy of the country aside, I'll start supporting NASA putting humans in space when NASA provides a path for normal citizens to go to space, such as myself. Right now, space travel in the United States is only for the annointed elite, and that's not the way it should be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cyclone96 (129449)

      I guess I'll take exception to calling astronauts the "annointed elite". Read through the biographies of the current crop of astronauts, and you'll see a pretty broad demographic of military officers, researchers, doctors, and even a teacher. Almost all came from a middle class background and got where they are through hard work.

      The astronaut selection process is completely merit based, albeit extremely selective (since there's way more applicants than openings).

      I'd be interested in what your propose NASA

  • Two billion out of two trillion per year in taxes (at current rates) isn't that big of an issue IMO. It's not just the exploration, but the additional research and innovation to solve complex out of the normal issues with space exploration.

    Yes, spending is beyond revenue numbers, but I don't think this two billion would do the job to bring it down. Go look at streamlining health care or tax collection. And if there is a surplus, give me my money back.

  • Kill the shuttle and the ISS.

    Take all that money and put it into robotic missions and space telescopes.

    If a telescope needs work that only people can do, put some people on a rocket and have them work on it.

    For all the money they want to piss away on a Mars mission, I'd send 100 robots.

    for the money on the ISS, I'd put it into space telescopes or even one on the far side of the moon with lunar satellites for data transmission.

    People in space has been and always will be a dumb idea. fun and gloriou

  • by FatherOfONe (515801) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:08PM (#25761893)

    Lets see he is going to give 95% of Americans a tax break.
    Keep spending under control.
    Try and provide socialized medicine.
    Continue to vote to bailout private organizations. Well only those that he feels should be bailed out.

    What's 2 Billion dollars for NASA? Given the 1.7 TRILLION in Entitlement programs that the U.S.A currently has. Anyone want to take a bet that Entitlements will go up next year also? How about the debt?

    Given the above situation I am sure he shouldn't have any issues getting an extra few Billion for a space program.

  • Nuclear Rockets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by serutan (259622) <.snoopdoug. .at. .geekazon.com.> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:33PM (#25762279) Homepage

    I hope somebody at NASA starts pushing for nuclear powered rockets based on Gaseous Core Nuclear Reactors. In a gaseous core reactor or "nuclear lightbulb" a cloud of gaseous uranium would be confined in the center of a sealed quartz bulb, by a buffer gas swirled around the inside of the bulb. The uranium gas heats up to 25,000C, emitting intense ultraviolet. Pure quartz is 100% permeable to UV, which passes through and heats a stream of liquid hydrogen flowing past the outside of the bulb. The superheated hydrogen expands and exits through a rocket nozzle to provide thrust. Keeping the nuclear fuel from touching anything overcomes the temperature limitation of solid fuel reactors, which can only be taken to about 3,500C without melting. They're also safe; completely destroying a GCNR in the atmosphere would release less than 1% of the nuclides from a single 1950 A-bomb test.

    Here's an interesting hypothetical design [nuclearspace.com] for a 100% reusable, non-polluting GCNR-powered rocket using the Saturn-V form factor, which could life 1000 tons of payload into Earth orbit and return an equal size cargo to a fully powered landing. This rocket could launch a space hotel in a one shot or carry lavishly equipped missions to the moon or Mars, with dozens of crew and plenty of radiation shielding. True Buck Rogers style spaceships that take off and land vertically again and again.

  • What about SpaceX? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by caywen (942955) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:50PM (#25763517)

    Isn't SpaceX close to launching astronauts into space with their Falcon 9 and Dragon? This sounds like a big opportunity for private space industry to fill this need.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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