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Obama Moves To Link Pentagon With NASA 491

Posted by Soulskill
from the thought-they-wanted-to-save-money dept.
Amiga Trombone sends this quote from the beginning of a story at Bloomberg: "President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the US's civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China. Obama's transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency's planned launch vehicle, which isn't slated to fly until 2015, according to people who've discussed the idea with the Obama team."
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Obama Moves To Link Pentagon With NASA

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  • That's what they do. If this story is true, it is likely they have his ear.

  • by name*censored* (884880) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:31AM (#26319841)

    "Houston, we have a problem.."

    "Roger that, missiles launched"

  • by Dolphinzilla (199489) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:38AM (#26319883) Journal

    finally... a good idea from the Obama camp, I was praying for at least one - now they will be able to use the cover of black military programs to protect their funding streams. Time to to get back in the space business

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It might be beneficial in this regard, but there is a reason the civilian is separated from the military.
      • Re:hallelujah ! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheoMurpse (729043) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:31PM (#26321025) Homepage

        Although the DoD is not just military. The NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency are both in the DoD, and they are civilian (to be fair, the DIA also employs military and the NSA is headed up by a military officer). Not to mention the head of the DoD is a civilian.

        There is also the National Security Council (10 out of 11 in the Council are non-military). Also, the President (a civilian) is the head of the military.

        I understand your concern, but we tore down the wall between civilian and military a long time ago.

    • Re:hallelujah ! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:14AM (#26320051) Homepage

      finally... a good idea from the Obama camp [...] Time to to get back in the space business

      Imagine the amounts of mouth-foam, if Bush administration did this... Both internally (with corruption charges like yours) and abroad — viz. militarization of space.

      • Re:hallelujah ! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:34AM (#26320165) Journal

        Well that's the point of the factionalisation and faux-rivalry of US politics, isn't it? To get people so divided into their allegiance to a party name that you can then pull the same shit with either party and only 50% of the people will complain whilst the rest are obliged to rationalise it somehow.
      • by peragrin (659227)

        you do realize the majority of NASA commanders and pilots are military personnel right?

        While Nasa is civilian missions have to be approved and cleared by the airforce before launch. NASA is a way for the airforce to get even more money for R&D out of the government while making it look good.

      • Imagine the amounts of mouth-foam, if Bush administration did this...

        Yeah, and imagine the mouth foam that would have been generated if that lefty Jimmy Carter that gone to commie China instead of Nixon.

        So what?

      • I was about to get upset over this but then I realized that the space program has been militarized for decades. This just would reduce the overhead.

    • Re:hallelujah ! (Score:5, Informative)

      by hardburn (141468) <hardburn AT wumpus-cave DOT net> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:39PM (#26320605)

      What I found odd in this story is that the DoD's space budget is $22B. NASA requested a $17.6B budget for FY2009 [nasa.gov]. WTF? Does the DoD even do anything past LEO/polar orbits?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by philspear (1142299)

      finally... a good idea from the Obama camp, I was praying for at least one

      Yes, FINALLY a good idea. It's been so long since he took the oh-so powerful office of "president elect," it's about time he started using that office to govern rather than setting up the transition. It's high time he started using his constitutional powers as almost-president to do some good.

  • New name (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:46AM (#26319927)

    NASA will become a fourth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, known as 'Starfleet'.

    • Re:New name (Score:5, Funny)

      by Shakrai (717556) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#26319943) Journal

      NASA will become a fourth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, known as 'Starfleet'.

      Will the uniforms ride up every single time you sit down? ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by skeeto (1138903)

        Will the uniforms ride up every single time you sit down?

        Yes, but I hear they are developing a manoeuvre to fix it.

    • Spacefeet?

    • by Wiseleo (15092)

      No. SGC.

      Most of those who would really care about NASA have been already conditioned that Airforce == space exploration and technology assimilation.

    • You know... The guys WITH SHIPS and things?

  • by txoof (553270) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#26319989) Homepage

    The military and Nasa have always had a relationships; choosing astronauts from the ranks of the Air Force, for one. Obviously, the technology developed through the space program has military applications such as spy satellites and obviously a rocket that can put a man in orbit can just as easily deliver a multi-ton warhead to the other side of the planet. What worries me in this plan is shifting the focus from science to defense objectives.

    While NASA has a long relationship with the military and shares plenty of technology, they are a civilian organization. I know that up until recently, NASA's mission was, "To understand and protect our home planet...", but the main focus has been to send interplanetary probes [nasa.gov] into the solar system, bust up comets [nasa.gov] and generally produce outstanding backgrounds for our desktops [nasaimages.org]. Would this shift in leadership take more energy away from studying the nature of the universe, lofting the next generation of space telescopes and studying our planet from above? Under the military it seems more likely that NASA's goals would shift away from "understanding" and more to "protecting". I imagine this wold involve developing the next generation of anti-satellite and anti-anti-satellite weapons (despite the fact that earth orbit is supposed to be a weapons free zone [wikipedia.org]).

    What insight does the slashdot community have on this? Will shifting NASA to military control result in a more nimble and focused organization able to achieve the goal of putting a man on mars in the next 20 years, or will military research take precedence over science?

    • What worries me in this plan is shifting the focus from science to defense objectives.

      yes "defense"

    • by h4rm0ny (722443)

      Well it certainly sends a strong message to the rest of the International Community. US space programme to be done under the auspices of their military - nice and unambiguous.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by khallow (566160)

      What worries me in this plan is shifting the focus from science to defense objectives.

      Don't see why. Defense objectives are valuable. Space science is far less so. That's the primary reason that the DoD receives something like 20 to 50 times the funding that NASA receives. I think the concern here about NASA becoming, under an Obama administration, a subordinate program to the DoD is completely outlandish.

      What I think is the real driver for this idea is that the DoD often has to do part of NASA's job in order to sucessfully pursue defense objectives in space. A key example is space launch. S

  • Story Inaccuracies (Score:5, Informative)

    by olafva (188481) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#26319991) Homepage

    Check NASAWatch [nasawatch.com] to see some inacuracies in this Bloomberg story.

  • by psnyder (1326089) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:16AM (#26320061)

    Altruistic as the space race may seem, China will soon be a much larger influence in the world than today. Currently, their middle class is larger than the entire population of the USA, and the rest of the population is catching up fast.

    If they have a well developed space program, it's all the more leverage if they start to flex their muscles. You can bet their bureaucracy knows of the military benefits of space. Everyone and their mother already has surveillance satellites up. The US government wants a powerful presence up there as well.

    The race for power is underpinning this race for space, just as it did in the time of Sputnik. Only this time, bankrupting China (like the US bankrupt the USSR) doesn't seem to be an option.

  • by Numen (244707) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:18AM (#26320081)

    I'm pretty ignorant on this subject, and not a US national, but wouldn't this be a rather good way to eliminate redundancy in similar projects across both agencies at a time when the US needs to rationalise expenditure?

  • by Mordant (138460) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:23AM (#26320109)

    What's maddening is that nobody involved in this debate seems to realize that:

    1. We solved resonance and pogoing issues in the 1960s vis-a-vis the Saturn V stack.

    2. We can simply dust off the Apollo 18-20 J-series mission plans and the Apollo X/ALSS/AES/LESA studies, and execute them.

    3. All we need to actually get back to the Moon is a Saturn V stack updated with newer materials and automation technologies.

    4. SRBs are insanely dangerous due to their non-throttalability, and should not be man-rated beyond the poorly-designed Shuttle stack.

    We knew all this *more than 40 years ago* (we ignored the SRB issue back then, which led directly to Challenger); how can these people be so ignorant?!

    Here's a link [si.edu] to just a few of the studies which were done of follow-on missions. Here are links to Apollo X [astronautix.com], ALSS [astronautix.com], AES [astronautix.com], and LESA [astronautix.com].

    Stephen Baxter's Voyage [amazon.com] is an interesting alternate history based upon some of these mission plans (although he's way too hard on the Germans, IMHO).

    The bottom line - if NASA want to go back to the Moon (far better to offer a $20B X-Prize for the first organization to put 30 men on the Moon for a year and a day, and return them safely to Earth), all they have to do is to start building modernized Saturn Vs, Apollo CMs, SMs, & LMs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      Those stacks would be even more useful for unmanned payloads, and unlike NASA the military is getting very good at understanding machines should go on dangerous places instead of people.

      We only need to send people to the moon to explore and exploit it. We can explore and exploit it remotely and get more missions up. Getting meat in space isn't urgently required to learn what is out there.
      The longevity of the Mars Rovers is yet more proof of this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by evanbd (210358)

      While I agree with your conclusions, we can't just dust off the Saturn designs and reimplement them. For one, we don't have all the details. Some of them have been lost. For another, you'd have to redo a lot of things anyway -- do you really want to be using Apollo-era electronics? If you did, where would you get them? It would make sense to update the alloys used, at which point you have to recheck all the design parameters.

      Of course, I'm all in favor of building an all-liquid rocket that focuses on r

      • You're very right about the tech advances making it a bad idea, but not so right about the details of the Saturn Vs. We have the blueprints and, for most of the esoteric bits, actual examples "lying around". It wouldn't be easy, but it'd be doable.

        Also very right about kerosene over hydrogen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Thing 1 (178996)

        Of course, I'm all in favor of building an all-liquid rocket [...]

        Sure, but what would hold it together? <perplexed>

    • by steveha (103154) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @02:24PM (#26321453) Homepage

      All we need to actually get back to the Moon is a Saturn V stack updated with newer materials and automation technologies.

      I share your admiration for the Saturn V. But re-creating it is not the best idea.

      According to Henry Spencer, the blueprints for the Saturn V still exist, but much of the undocumented extra knowledge was in fact lost. The skilled machinists who knew how to turn those designs into working parts are long retired or dead; the special heat treatments needed to make some of the alloys are forgotten; etc.

      And, as another poster noted in this thread, if you did build a Saturn V it would have 1960's electronics.

      If you say "but we will just update the alloys and electronics" then it isn't really a Saturn V anymore, and it will need to be re-tested and re-engineered. In which case, you might as well have started from a clean sheet of paper.

      Also, the Saturn V was our answer to the problem of getting boots on the moon as fast as possible. I'd prefer to see the problem of moon travel solved correctly, which IMHO means making it easier and faster to mount expeditions, and making it possible to send larger payloads. This means I want to see a cheap, really reusable orbital vehicle; a space station suitable for staging moon missions; an Earth-moon spacecraft, assembled in space, that was never designed to land on Earth or the moon; and reusable moon landing vehicles.

      Every time you use a Saturn V to go to the moon, you destroy one Saturn V. That's expensive, and it doesn't scale well. If we have a reliable "pickup truck" that can carry a small payload to orbit, then do it again in less than a week, we can send up the crew and supplies for a moon mission.

      With the Saturn V, our astronauts lived inside a little tin can for a few days, then returned. I'd like to see an actual moon base sent over in pieces, and see people living on the moon for months at a time (and doing science the whole time).

      Cheap, reliable, routine flights to orbit change the whole game. Instead of repeating the space race, let's build an infrastructure and go to space to stay.

      (far better to offer a $20B X-Prize for the first organization to put 30 men on the Moon for a year and a day, and return them safely to Earth)

      Yes, yes, yes!! And make that prize tax-free while you are at it. And put a smaller prize for second place. These prizes would be cheap if someone succeeds, and if no one succeeds we would pay nothing. It's better than paying cost plus contracts to aerospace contractors.

      steveha

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      If NASA want to go back to the Moon (far better to offer a $20B X-Prize for the first organization to put 30 men on the Moon for a year and a day, and return them safely to Earth), all they have to do is to start building modernized Saturn Vs, Apollo CMs, SMs, & LMs.

      Just about anything would be better than continuing with the Ares program using bastardized space shuttle technology which was itself highly specialized for the peculiarities of the Space Shuttle which in turn is probably the most unusual launch configuration ever flown with people aboard. It seems that NASA always tries to save money by stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. They made that mistake with the Space Shuttle program and they are all set to make it again with the Ares program. The SpaceX guys

  • by Davemania (580154) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:27AM (#26320129) Journal
    I don't see what the big deal is. NASA and DoD have worked togeather before (Shuttle program but DoD dropped out for non-manned launches). This is not about militarization of NASA (DoD's space budget is significantly more than NASA), if it's cheaper for NASA to adopt or modify one of the heavy launchers used by the DoD, than why not ? What raised my eye brow was Griffin's response about NASA's inability to evaluate rocket options ....
  • I've always suspected that the military has an active and advanced manned space program. I'm not a conspiracy nut, but I do have a soft spot for dreaming about all the cool stuff the military could create in 40 years with trillions of dollars and little oversight.

    Why would we spend so much money in the 50's, 60's and 70's then essentially abandon space for short trips orbiting the planet, and relatively cheap robotic missions elsewhere. At the same time having military spend 100 times as much as NASA on t

    • by vbraga (228124)

      It probably just means using the same launch compatibilities. The US Military relies heavily on ULA [wikipedia.org], an umbrella company for Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for doing it's launches. The Delta IV [wikipedia.org] could probably fill this role if rated for manned launches - which should be expensive by itself, I presume.

  • I'm not entirely sure whether Obama will actually pursue this, but I notice a trend going on. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every time any idea is discussed, the press seems to make the assumption that the Obama administration is actually going to pursue it (and unmodified). Are they just not use to the idea of actual discussion about choices?
  • The military doesn't have, nor have any interest in, rockets that can reach the moon. And NASA has little interest in sub-orbital rockets.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:10PM (#26320421)

    ...that the military hasn't been running a black budget man in space program right along all this time. Their budget is huge compared to nasa, and right in the article, they have heavy lift rockets perfectly good for the task. And who's to say they don't have a two stage to orbit rocket plane or hybrid scramjet/rocket whatever dropped from a mothership already? Like they are going to brag about this, or we take it as gospel that they just stopped developing black budget advanced flying craft 40-50 years ago? The last one they finally fessed up to is the B2, we are now being made to believe they just gave that sort of research and deployment up? Really? They just stopped? And look at the near hysterical fit they went into when that dude in england hacked into some servers and he claims he found evidence of *just that*, a running black budget military manned space program. They want that guy shut up, locked away for the rest of his life in the US. Why? He didn't do anything but look, no damages, seems like a two year sentence or something like that is his native country would be sufficient, but nope, they went into serious overdrive to get him extradited.

    Don't dismiss the thought out of hand. My guess is, because I have yet to see any evidence that they have given up black budget advanced aeronautical research, is that we had the technology for man in space a long time ago now, and the military just kept doing it, with the nasa efforts beng the public misdirection effort to keep focus elsewhere for deniability purposes, They just got better at burying stuff inside the black budgets.

      Space is the high ground, no way in hell would they NOT want that advantage, including having humans up there and a way to quickly get them up and back. There's another guy out there who has been imaging rather large and pretty secret orbital craft, I don't have the url handy but I have seen his pics, those are some really large spacecraft, some of they completely large enough to hold a small crew.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lee1026 (876806)

      It is entirely possible that they have given this stuff up. Keep in mind that the B2 was fairly close to being done by the time that Clinton came in. Clinton cut the military's budget by a fair amount, and black budget stuff is the easiest to cut (by definition, not very many people needs to know about it)It is somewhat doubtful that Bush can afford to keep funding these things, considering the wars that he is fighting, and the high tech planes he is funding. In any case, the military is hardly in desperate

      • dod (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The DOD black budget is over 30 billion per annum now, as of 2007 figures I just looked at. Do you know what is in it? I don't. And it has been in the billions going all the way back, so add it up, half a trillion and change over the past few decades. That's enough to keep a little advanced space R and D going in there some place. Nasa for 2008 is 17 billion, and I would presume that any black budget efforts in space wouldn't have to be totally sourced within the black budget, a whole lot of the tech that c

    • by TheoMurpse (729043) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:56PM (#26321241) Homepage

      My guess is . . . that we had the technology for man in space a long time ago now

      I would wager since 1961. ;)

  • I can see why it is tempting to try and save some money - although when has the military ever had savings and synergy in their target? But it is always a very bad idea to mix military and civilian institutions. The military WILL try to take over, claiming that it is now all state secrets, and that will not benefit the people, or space science - proper science can't be conducted in secret, there must be free exchange of theory, regardless of national interests.

  • Unlawful (Score:3, Informative)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Sunday January 04, 2009 @03:23PM (#26321859) Homepage Journal
    TITLE 42--THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE

    CHAPTER 141--COMMERCIAL SPACE OPPORTUNITIES AND TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

    SUBCHAPTER II--FEDERAL ACQUISITION OF SPACE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

    Sec. 14731. Requirement to procure commercial space transportation services

    (a) In general

    Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Federal Government shall acquire space transportation services from United States commercial providers whenever such services are required in the course of its activities. To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers.

    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=105_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ303.105.pdf [gpo.gov]

  • by quibbler (175041) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @06:11PM (#26323229)

    "I will not weaponize space." [youtube.com] (and technically, weaponize [merriam-webster.com] doesn't mean what his puppeteers think it means)

"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberrys!" -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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