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NASA Funding Boost, But No Shuttle Extension in Obama Budget 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the layoffs-hitting-the-astronaut-industry-too dept.
adeelarshad82 writes to point out that details have been provided for President Obama's proposed $18.7 billion in funding for NASA in 2010 (up from $17.2 billion in 2008). Quoting: "The budget calls on NASA to complete International Space Station construction, as well as continue its Earth science missions and aviation research. Yet it also remains fixed to former President George W. Bush's plan to retire the space shuttle fleet by 2010 and replace them with the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which would fly astronauts to the space station and return them to the moon by 2020. The outline does make room for an extra shuttle flight beyond the nine currently remaining on NASA's schedule, but only if it is deemed safe and can be flown before the end of 2010."
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NASA Funding Boost, But No Shuttle Extension in Obama Budget

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  • Ares or DIRECT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camperdave (969942) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:17PM (#27019381) Journal
    Did they say anything about ditching Ares and going to DIRECT [directlauncher.com]?
    • Re:Ares or DIRECT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TopSpin (753) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:54PM (#27019637) Journal

      No, "they" said nothing about that meaningless debate. Administrations generally don't design rockets in the federal budget.

      Prediction: the heavy lift Ares V or its moral equivalent (Ares IV, DIRECT, yada yada...) will never be built. I will refer back to this in half a decade and you will acknowledge my brilliance.

      The new budget commits only to Orion and it's launch vehicle (Ares I). That's the bare minimum necessary to replace the Shuttle in its LEO ISS crew transport and resupply role. Finishing Orion and Ares I is the politically easy thing to do because without it Obama would have to explain the end of US manned space flight, which is politically difficult.

      Ares V, on the other hand, is several years down the road and a much bigger commitment. What's been done to-date can be dropped and quietly swept under the rug. It's not a 2012 issue and after that it doesn't matter, just as long as the NEA gets its dough.

      • Finishing Orion and Ares I is the politically easy thing to do because without it Obama would have to explain the end of US manned space flight, which is politically difficult.

        Nope. They'll likely cancel Orion along about 2013. The Dems have never been terribly thrilled by "spending money in outer space", and this is their big chance to end it. If they wait till 2013, it'll be forgotten by the next presidential election (and Obama won't be running then anyway).

        • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:26PM (#27020123) Journal

          They would never get us to the moon, or put up the ISS. Instead, they would do something like build the Shuttle.

          • by tftp (111690) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @01:45AM (#27020753) Homepage

            They would never get us to the moon, or put up the ISS. Instead, they would do something like build the Shuttle.

            Politicians only want power - for themselves and for the country. Back then Shuttle was a major military project (or at least it was sold as such.) If anyone told Congress that the STS will be used to fly school teachers to LEO (and kill everyone about every 50th flight) the program would have been dead. At that time manned spaceflight was seen as something that only superpowers can do, and if the USSR sends people and stations to LEO every other month you couldn't just sit on your Moon laurels. Besides, STS was presented as a "space bus", something that can fly every other week and practically for free.

            Today the understanding is completely different. First of all, military does not want manned deliveries of their hardware, neither up nor down. Secondly, LEO proved to be just a place devoid of any particular usefulness except to a couple of scientists. Thirdly, having (or not) a manned spaceflight capability today will not affect USA's standing (whatever that is, considering the financial crash etc.) China and India and even NK can send rockets and people up, and who cares any more? Military might of a country is now determined by automated weapon delivery systems (ICBMs and antimissiles, for example) and, as always, by nuclear submarines. ICBMs are related to manned flight vehicles, but only in part, and that technology can be retained and improved without worrying how it affects people on board (who are not there.)

            So I am not so sure that Obama - or any other president, to that matter - will not abandon spaceflight. There are very few voters on LEO; most voters keep their nose to the ground. When economy crashes and burns, when sky high taxes rob people of their wages and their homes, when nobody can afford to risk it all and open a business, when homeless people and armed gangs roam the streets, hardly anyone will question the president why he hasn't shot a hundred billion dollars of *their* money into the air for no gain to them, the voters. A single statement like "I decided to disband NASA, close all its projects down and transfer their funding into the new Emergency Assistance Fund that helps you personally" will do the job. Remaining 0.03% of population (scientists and /.) will be summarily ignored.

            • by Maelwryth (982896) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @02:55AM (#27021051)
              "A single statement like "I decided to disband NASA, close all its projects down and transfer their funding into the new Emergency Assistance Fund that helps you personally" will do the job."

              Ahhhh....yes. The end of the dream. Let me make a prophecy here; When America has lost its dream. America is lost. For that which was the hope of the world will have fallen. Not for a hundred years will a nation rise and say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." You have already lost the "among". So long, thanks for all the fission.
              • by bitrex (859228) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @03:42AM (#27021209)
                The problem is that while America is now swinging more socialistic, we don't have the national unity to care about the fate of America any longer. Maybe we could try some kind of combination of nationalism and socialism? I've heard that this was tried before and that they had a pretty good rocket program.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by hairyfeet (841228)

                  Maybe because the stench of corruption is thick in the air? When was the last time YOU saw a politician and didn't think "I wonder who payed him off"? We just don't get politicians like Teddy "Trust buster" Roosevelt anymore. There is no way they will bite the hand that is stuffing their pockets full of money. I have tried to teach my boys not to give up and to vote but both have made it clear when they turn 18 they won't bother. Why? Because both have seen how little the will of the people mean when compar

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by edumacator (910819)

                    Encourage your boys to run for office. We still have the final say, and if we had people run for office who don't want to be there, but see the importance of changing the system, we could get ourselves out of this mess. Too often though, we the people become apathetic. It's understandable, but still sad.

                    • by hairyfeet (841228)
                      Wouldn't work. One is Catholic, the other gay. And both don't take crap and hate corruption. Might as well have Bin Laden for a last name for all the good it would do getting them to run. Besides, you kinda missed the point. You have to be approved of by the parties to have a chance. Here the Dems rule is so tight on local gov that the Reps rarely run anyone anymore. No approval from the Dem "Good ole boy" network? No debates, no radio or TV, no chance in hell. That is what the new green party is finding ou
        • Re:Ares or DIRECT (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferret@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday February 28, 2009 @01:21AM (#27020647) Journal

          Dems have never been thrilled about 'spending money in outer space'"

          Uhm... Do the initials "JFK" and "LBJ" ring any bells for you?

          Dems have done plenty for spaceflight as well, and both sides like to use it as a chopping block when they need to cut spending, because voters are generally too short sighted to see the benefits.

          • Uhm... Do the initials "JFK" and "LBJ" ring any bells for you?

            I think I've heard of them. Wasn't "JFK" the guy who invented "trickle down economics"? Or at least the one who used it to justify the largest taxcut in American history?

            And "LBJ". Hmm, he's the guy who closed an important airforce base (important, in this case, in having capabilities that weren't duplicated anywhere else), which by an amazing coincidence was in the only congressional district in its particular State to vote against him, righ

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by moosesocks (264553)

            Temporarily cutting space exploration funding during a rough patch will set things back a few years, but shouldn't have any massive long-term effects.

            It certainly isn't great, but you honestly can't say that about many areas of the government.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          The problem is the shuttle has had it, it is a flying POS that was never meant to last 1/4 this long, and Orion is being designed by committee. And I can't remember if it is Aries or Orion, but isn't one of them going badly enough that the engineers have put up their own plans against the wishes of their superiors? Yeah, that doesn't sound too good.

          How do we save it? Simple, bypass the whole damned thing and bring back Apollo. How you say? We don't have the plans, nobody knows how to build it or what the fu

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by geckipede (1261408)
            Ares V is Apollo all over again. Apart from a slight change in scale of a few parts and the more modern materials, it's identical in almost every respect.
          • The Russian Soyuz is a modern version of Apollo and built like a freaking tank so just buy the damned thing and be done with it.

            Soyuz isn't a modern version of Apollo. It lacks many of the capabilities of Apollo (the obvious one is not enough deltaV to enter orbit around the moon, then to go back to Earth)). It's also much smaller than Apollo, and thus not really suitable for extended length missions.

      • If SpaceX (or one of the other space companies) commit to building a heavy heavy lifter, I am guessing that you are correct. Remember that Musk wants to build a new version of Merlin that approaches the F1. He has always said that the issue is how to get it paid for. Well, if Ares V is dead, then my guess is that he will probably throw money at it (or let some others invest their money). Likewise, I could see l-mart or boeing deciding to take this on ASSUMING that the feds back away from a heavy lifter.
      • by khallow (566160)

        I will refer back to this in half a decade and you will acknowledge my brilliance.

        You'll have to get in line. This has been a known failure mode since they announced the Ares program back in 2005 and I imagine there have been similar predictions made that day. As I see it, the numerous engineering problems of the Ares I have been nails in Ares V's coffin. In theory, it's still possible that Ares V will be built at some later day, but I don't see who is going to support it. DIRECT looks like it'd still be viable, but I agree with you in that I don't see any heavy lift projects instigated

      • by fm6 (162816)

        I will refer back to this in half a decade and you will acknowledge my brilliance.

        Only if the definition of "brilliance" is officially changed to "ability to state the obvious"!

    • by bsane (148894)

      Lets hope not

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:24PM (#27019453)

    No idiotic talk of planting a flag on Mars.

    * Continued funding of robotic exploration of everything outside of the Earth/Moon

    * A focus on the meat and potato tech that is fundamental to our long term presence in space. Orbital construction, long term living in space, space science, space manufacturing, long term maintenance of equipment in space

    * An eventual permanent base on the moon

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:54PM (#27019641) Journal
      "Continued funding of robotic exploration of everything outside of the Earth/Moon"

      The grownups are also bringing back Earth science [nytimes.com].

      As for the shuttle, Hubble, ect, I always feel like I'm betraying an old freind when I trade in my car but the smell of fresh leather more than compensates.
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:42PM (#27019907) Homepage Journal

        As for the shuttle, Hubble, ect, I always feel like I'm betraying an old freind when I trade in my car but the smell of fresh leather more than compensates.

        Even for multimillion to billion dollar vehicles, they eventually wear out and replacement becomes the safer and more economical choice.

        There was talk on the radio today about Obama potentially canceling the F-22 - but said cancellation would put something like 90k people out of work.

        A couple points that I think was missed is that 90+% of the expenses for the F-22, R&D, setting up manufacturing, have already been met. Shutting down acquisition of the planes wouldn't actually save you much money. Not even $23 million per plane canceled. Meanwhile, maintenance costs for F-15s and F-16s are starting to skyrocket due to age. One of the selling points for the F-22 is that it's supposed to be much, much easier/cheaper to maintain.

        Consider that old '88 chevy. Parts are getting hard to find, the seats need to be reupholstered, the exhaust system is shot; the engine needs a rebuild, cylinder 4 only gets half pressure, etc...

        At some point, it'd actually be cheaper to buy a new car.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Martin Blank (154261)

          Another point in favor of the F-22 is that virtually the entire F-15 fleet was grounded last year because of unanticipated structural failures, requiring examination and recertification of each plane before it could be brought back into service.

          The simple fact is that the F-15 and F-16 are now at least a generation out of date. The main aspect that keeps them in the lead when it comes to US forces against most other nations is that the US has such an overwhelming AWACS presence. However, other nations are

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            virtually the entire F-15 fleet was grounded last year because of unanticipated structural failures

            Are you talking about the cracks in the frames? I recall that some were discovered long before that but I can't find the Google links.

            The F-22 is currently the main hope for maintaining a qualitative edge over other nations......

            That's true, but we don't need it right now. It'd make much more sense for the Air Force to use that money to produce more MQ-1's, MQ-9's, and RQ-4's (unmanned aircraft) given that, like it or not, we're gonna be in the Middle-East for awhile.

            ...in case of large-scale operations against a country with a decent air force...

            The cold-war days that gave us Airwolf [youtube.com] are long-gone. Yes, there's gonna be plenty of bitching from the alpha fighter-jockeys, but fuc

            • In the navy/army by any chance? ;)

              However you have a good point. But its not limited to the air force. The US military complex is the last relic of the cold war.

              Your example make a good case with the F-22 vers the unmanned aircraft. But the difference is even bigger. You can't just design and build a next generation combat aircraft in a year. For that reason alone there is no hope of another air force pulling out a surprise. (and don't get me started about the eurofighter).
              • by Firethorn (177587)

                You can't just design and build a next generation combat aircraft in a year. For that reason alone there is no hope of another air force pulling out a surprise.

                Current UAVs have effectively NO air to air capability. They work in Iraq/Afghanistan because we've already suppressed effectively 100% of their anti-air capabilities.

                The US military complex is the last relic of the cold war.

                Hardly the last; but yes, due to the lag time we're still seeing cold war weapons systems coming on line. Still, we've been developing new systems(with shorter lead times) that address the guerrilla/insurgent situations.

                Now - I feel the need to point out that we can't just ignore cold war doctrine. Cold war doctrine worked, forcing potentia

                • Current UAVs have effectively NO air to air capability.

                  I was referring to the *in* production F22 etc.

                  • by Firethorn (177587)

                    I was thinking that as well, expanding for those that want to kill the F-22 for UAVs - The F22 can do stuff that UAVs can't, so UAVs can't replace the F22. The F35 isn't in production yet, and the F-15/16s are starting to have major issues.

                    I mean, their design is older than most of their pilots. Many of the planes as well, which isn't good for a high stress plane like fighters.

                    True, the F-22 hasn't done any missions in Iraq/Afghanistan yet. But then again, we're still doing work-up trials on them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by donscarletti (569232)

      No idiotic talk of planting a flag on Mars.

      Can I point out something that the parent poster might have missed? Sending people to Mars is actually quite cool.

      Now, if we think about this for a second, meat and potato aerospace research is done in many places, spacecraft manufacturers, communications companies, the Airforce etc. Because they actually have to do useful things with the research, the research must therefore be done. On the other hand NASA's purpose is to make Americans feel good about themselves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by donscarletti (569232)
        Correction: 19 Billion dollars is only $60 from every American. I think proper entertainment of this sort is worth $x per capita (where X > 60). It was mainly just rhetorical anyway.
      • by Crispy Critters (226798) on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:31PM (#27019845)
        Absolutely.

        What we don't want is Mars on a shoestring budget. If it comes down to axing robotic explorers, satellites to observe the Earth and the universe, reliable transport for installation and maintenance of said satellites, etc., to fund a Mars mission, then sending a few people to swoosh their feet through the red dust should wait.

        Why does no one care about ISS or a permanent moon base? Are they inherently dullsville, or has the space science community done a lousy job selling itself to the public?

        • Why does no one care about ISS or a permanent moon base? Are they inherently dullsville, or has the space science community done a lousy job selling itself to the public?

          I can't speak for the rest of the public but I can speak for myself. I don't see much space science value in ISS or a manned Moon base. There's some space medicine and space logistics value if you plan to later proceed on to other planets. But I think that's a slow and expensive route to go if the most valuable scientific question to ans

        • Are they inherently dullsville, or has the space science community done a lousy job selling itself to the public?

          Maybe we should just give NASA to the likes of Namco and Square-Enix, then at least whatever comes after the ISS will look like the Arkbird (Ace Combat 5) or the Ragnarok (Final Fantasy 8). Maybe we'd just ditch the whole booster concept and go with a Single Stage To Orbit [wikipedia.org] design like the SSTO in AC5 with a rail launch assisting sled or the equivalent from FF8, with a revolving chamber for fas
        • by couchslug (175151)

          "Why does no one care about ISS or a permanent moon base? Are they inherently dullsville, or has the space science community done a lousy job selling itself to the public?"

          Because we have shorted the incredible potential of robotic exploration in the pointless rush to send meat tourists into space. Meat explorers were cost-effective on Earth because we could afford to expend many men and many ships, and in those days it was accepted that many of them would not come back.

          Now we can explore and learn from afa

      • The reason the Moon landing was so captivating to the world was because nothing remotely like it had ever been done before. There was also the culmination of a technological leap unprecedented in history (Wright Brothers to Luna in 60 years).

        The world was also watching two superpowers play "Our Nazis Are Better Than Your Nazis" and we won. IIRC, von Braun had plans for a "mega-Saturn" intended for Mars.
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:09PM (#27020021) Journal
        Question: I have a picture of the LAST man on the moon in my screensaver - can you name him without looking it up?

        While your raking your brain on that, let's go with your entertainment theory and assume people are not interested in science and just want to watch heroics. My prediction is that these people would not be interested in a Mars landing for the same reason they were not interested in the last man on the moon.

        Why? - Because it's a rerun, they would simply shrug and say something like "what's the point, we've been to the moon already". The enourmous technological gap between a moon landing and a mars landing would be lost on them because they are not interested in men on Mars anymore than they are currently interested in men on the ISS. I was born the year after sputnik and grew up in the 60's, the Moon landing did indeed make the world stand with their collective jaws on the ground, but for the type of people you are describing the show ended with Apolo 11's return to Earth.
        • by techno-vampire (666512) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @12:07AM (#27020325) Homepage
          Question: I have a picture of the LAST man on the moon in my screensaver

          I sincerely hope not! I see nothing wrong with your having a picture of the last man so far to step on the Moon in your screensaver, but I do hope he's not the last man ever!

          • by Cally (10873)
            So long as my tax dollars aren't going to fund it, I'm entirely happy for you to enjoy whatever dream you like. Me, I'm dreaming about that geek girl at work. Whooo boy, I tell ya, she's smokin' and no mistake. *wistful sigh*
        • by AJWM (19027)

          Question: I have a picture of the LAST man on the moon in my screensaver - can you name him without looking it up?

          Depends, do you mean the last (most recent) person to step on to the Lunar surface, or the last (most recent) person actually standing on the surface? The former was Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist to walk on the Moon, the latter was Gene Cernan, the commander of the Apollo 17 mission (thus the first one out and last one back into the LM).

          they would simply shrug and say something like "wh

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter (624760)
            Good points but either way my ass is covered :o

            The picture [nasa.gov] is of Cernan but if you look carefully you can see the reflection of Schmitt in the center of his visor.
      • by Cally (10873)

        Can I point out something that the parent poster might have missed? Sending people to Mars is actually quite cool.

        Not as cool as surfacing my bathroom with diamonds, though, and a lot more expensive and pointless.

    • by khallow (566160) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:47PM (#27020221)

      No idiotic talk of planting a flag on Mars.

      While flag planting is in itself unsustainable, it is still worth noting that the Apollo program, the classic flag planting exercise of early NASA, did greatly advance our knowledge of the Moon and as a result, the origins of both the Earth and the Solar System. My take is that unmanned probes would not have generated the science or the same quantity and variety of return samples. The unmanned program would have had a much smaller price tag however. In history, earlier phases of exploration were highly dependent on flag planting as a component. You couldn't claim territory unless one of your exploration groups visited the location.

      The points you mention seem entirely reasonable. If the cost of a flag planting mission to Mars were much lower (at least an order of magnitude), then it wouldn't be such a serious issue. You can do useful work in such circumstances. Even if the effort doesn't generate infrastructure on Mars, it could exploit Earth orbit infrastructure.

      • by tftp (111690) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @02:02AM (#27020809) Homepage

        My take is that unmanned probes would not have generated the science or the same quantity and variety of return samples.

        I can offer you an opposite example. Martian rovers are crawling the surface for years now, looking at every rock and every feature of the landscape. They observed martian weather for two seasons, recorded and reported every detail of it. A manned expedition, OTOH, would be able to only set up a camp, visually inspect some places of interest within a circle of couple of miles, do all that inside of a month or two, and hastily depart back to Earth. No way they'd stick around for years, they'd go crazy or die from hunger or suffer accidents, etc. But robots don't have such problems, and once you designed one robot you can make a thousand of them at little incremental cost. Robots are perfect tools for meticulous, boring work 24/7; a human on Mars would be likely able to remain outside only for a few hours per day, with remaining time spent on maintenance of the camp, eating, washing, resting, sleeping, documenting, communicating...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Spotticus (1356631)
          Not to belittle the accomplishments of Opportunity and Spirit, but in their combined 10 rover years on Mars, they've covered 21km of terrain. Apollo 17 did 34km in 3 days and collected over 100kg in samples. Data from the Apollo missions is still being analyzed almost 40 years later. Manned and unmanned exploration each have their place, but neither trumps the other.
        • by khallow (566160) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @10:02AM (#27022441)
          I strongly disagree. Let's look at this.

          Martian rovers are crawling the surface for years now, looking at every rock and every feature of the landscape.

          First, note that the rovers are "crawling". With a several minute communication lag between Earth and Mars, decisions take a while to make. While humans can't look at every rock and feature of the landscape, they don't need to. The bonus to humans is that they'd be able to determine what is interesting, prioritize their investigation, and carry out the investigate without requiring Earth-side support.

          They observed martian weather for two seasons, recorded and reported every detail of it.

          At least every detail that the rovers could detect. It's worth noting that the rovers have very limited ability to sense their environment.

          A manned expedition, OTOH, would be able to only set up a camp, visually inspect some places of interest within a circle of couple of miles, do all that inside of a month or two, and hastily depart back to Earth.

          One merely needs to look at the Lunar expeditions to see how wrong this claim is. With a rover, a human driver, and a couple of months, you'd be able to see a lot more than a couple of miles. Further, there are various Mars exploration programs where the astronauts stay longer than a couple of months. But let's stick with the flag and footprints mission profile and assume they only stay a couple of months.

          No way they'd stick around for years, they'd go crazy or die from hunger or suffer accidents, etc.

          Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] has a good plan that doesn't have these issues.

          But robots don't have such problems, and once you designed one robot you can make a thousand of them at little incremental cost.

          The annoying thing here is that you're mostly right, but NASA insists on producing one-off designs. You still need to launch them. And someone needs to control them. And is it too much to point out that controlling robots from Mars will be much more effective than controlling them from Earth?

          Robots are perfect tools for meticulous, boring work 24/7; a human on Mars would be likely able to remain outside only for a few hours per day, with remaining time spent on maintenance of the camp, eating, washing, resting, sleeping, documenting, communicating...

          If robots did work comparable to that of humans, you might have a point. Robots don't. Eight hours of human work on site can be much more useful than 24 hours of robotic work. The question then is how much more useful? My impression is that a flag and footprints mission for a couple of months would probably be less efficient while a longer term mission, where the astronauts stay for a couple of years, would fall on the other side and be more cost effective (assuming very generously that you're willing to pay the price).

      • by Cally (10873)
        It's an awful lot of money to spend on indeterminate, unquantifiable benefits.
        • by khallow (566160)
          It's an awful lot of money no matter how you look at it. There were some practical benefits. First, the results invalidate the Apollo model. Apollo is the sole reason we're ranting about "flag and footprints" missions. Second, we have a much better idea of the Lunar environment for the purposes of commercial activities and in situ resource utilization. Attempts to simulate the environment or soils of the Lunar are more effective. Third, Apollo proved a particular approach for landing people on the Moon and
          • by Cally (10873)

            , the Moon will be economically the most valuable body outside of Earth

            I apologise for quibbling with your reasonable, informed and intelligent response :)

            However! IMNSHO, the notion of an economic return from the moon or indeed any other body is a chimera, at least until there's a functioning market for hard science data and results. (Same goes for asteroid mining and other putative money-making schemes.) I posit that no-one's ever going to get as far as even attempting a PoC mission, for the same reason i

            • by khallow (566160)
              As I see it, you are correct. There's no material and very few products in space worth the bother. My take however is that this is a slowly changing situation. Launch costs are gradually getting cheaper. With the advent of SpaceX, several US launch providers have introduced new launch vehicles. This indicates to me that if the launch market gets truly competitive and active, then there's a good chance of a lot of innovation in the private launch market. On the demand side, there's a lot of interest in space
    • by Cally (10873)
      s/eventual/possible/ . I don't think that's going to happen either. I just hope they don't hose too much budget on the impossible dream before they see sense.
  • Not enough money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:39PM (#27019547)

    But still good.

    Anyone suggesting extending the shuttle program is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient program.

    Instead, we should ramp up production to get the new systems in place ASAP. That it was scheduled with a gap in the first place is just shameful. It may be too late to avoid the lost air time, but I'd say we should try, and pay what we have to. The NASA budget is small potatoes, and incredibly important as we become more dependent on orbital systems.

    • by djupedal (584558)

      > "Anyone suggesting extending the shuttle program is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient program."

      Anyone suggesting extending NASA is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient agency.

      • by Maelwryth (982896)
        Anyone suggesting extending NASA is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient agency.

        Agreed, JPL all the way.....under Pickering...,we may have to resurrect him.
    • Anyone suggesting extending the shuttle program is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient program.

      Oddly enough, the Shuttle has had fewer failures per flight than any other manned spacecraft (with the exception of Gemini, which had no failures at all in its ten whole launches). It has also had more launches than ALL other manned spacecraft.

      Note, though, that the Shuttle failures have both been catastrophic. Some of the non-shuttle failures (the mercury one where the heat shield came unstuc

      • by khallow (566160)

        Some of the non-shuttle failures (the mercury one where the heat shield came unstuck comes to mind) didn't do much more than give the Mission Control guys white hair.

        If the vehicle does its job and the crew survives, then it isn't counted as a failure. The Mercury program didn't have a failure during the manned missions since the heatshield incident doesn't count as a failure. This also means that Soyuz is comparable to the Shuttle in terms of safety (especially once you consider the Shuttle's close calls).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The heatshield incident on Glenn's flight doesn't count as a failure, because the heatshield didn't actually come loose, and Glenn was never in any danger from it.

          One of the switches that detected landing beg deployment failed, causing a false telemetry indication.

        • If the vehicle does its job and the crew survives, then it isn't counted as a failure. The Mercury program didn't have a failure during the manned missions since the heatshield incident doesn't count as a failure. This also means that Soyuz is comparable to the Shuttle in terms of safety (especially once you consider the Shuttle's close calls).

          With this fairly narrow view of "failure", this is true. Personally, I consider it a "failure" when your Soyuz blows up on launch, even if it tosses the capsule free

          • by khallow (566160)

            Personally, I consider it a "failure" when your Soyuz blows up on launch, even if it tosses the capsule free and the crew survives.

            Loss of mission is a failure even if the crew survives.

            Note that if "failure" includes "doing its job", the Soyuz has had four of them to the Shuttle's two. And the Soyuz had fewer flights than Shuttle.

            The Soyuz (technically the combination of the Soyuz rocket and the Soyuz capsule) "does its job" when it delivers humans to orbit alive, returns them to Earth alive, and doesn't abort a mission due to a Soyuz capsule flaw. I'm only aware of two such failures though there have been a number of close calls.

            • The Soyuz (technically the combination of the Soyuz rocket and the Soyuz capsule) "does its job" when it delivers humans to orbit alive, returns them to Earth alive, and doesn't abort a mission due to a Soyuz capsule flaw. I'm only aware of two such failures though there have been a number of close calls.

              Let's see...

              Soyuz 1. Failed to complete its mission. And the crew (one guy) died on reentry.

              Soyuz 3. Failed to complete its mission.

              Soyuz 10. Failed to complete its mission.

              Soyuz 11. Problems cause

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        ...with the exception of Gemini, which had no failures at all in its ten whole launches.

        No failures on Gemini?

        What would you call the stuck thruster on Gemini 8, causing the spacecraft to tumble out of control, nearly killing the crew, and requiring an emergency re-entry?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_8 [wikipedia.org]

        • Thanks. Gemini 8 was possibly an even more dangerous situation than Apollo 13.

        • What would you call the stuck thruster on Gemini 8, causing the spacecraft to tumble out of control, nearly killing the crew, and requiring an emergency re-entry?

          Forgot that one, I'm ashamed to say.

          Counting that one, Shuttle has the smallest failure rate of any manned system. With the exception of the Chinese system, which has been flown twice (that they've admitted to).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anyone suggesting extending the shuttle program is advocating extending a clearly unsafe and inefficient program.

      The shuttle's key advantage is nobody else has one and it looks good -- it's going to be harder to keep the non-geek public's attention on NASA when they step "backward" to pure rockets that everyone else has, and instead have the much less flashy real-science front'n'center in the media.

      I'm a geek - I'm fine with it. But not having the photogenic big white bird is going to be a PR challenge for

    • by Cally (10873)
      Yes, for we must close teh shiny gap!!!1!
  • by Stele (9443) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:45PM (#27019571) Homepage

    Boost has a very good smart pointer implementation, not to mention an excellent threading and regex package. It's nice to see an organization like NASA supporting it.

  • is to develop a way to eliminate all the space junk orbiting the planet. No I didn't RTFA (go figure :P), but it seems like that would be money well spent. If a flock of birds can take down a jet, all that trash up there has to be hazardous for the space program!

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:14PM (#27019737) Homepage

      [What NASA needs] is to develop a way to eliminate all the space junk orbiting the planet.

      Which won't happen until and unless we get a heck of a lot more competent in working in space. No giant Roombas. No magical lasers (with or without sharks). That is such a huge task (volume! volume! volume!) that our puny forays in LEO are just the very beginning of utilizing space.

      In order for us to get anywhere near the tech to do that, we have to have a repeatable, sustainable presence in space. That's not what we're getting anytime soon.

      • by khallow (566160)

        No magical lasers

        Unmagical lasers seems like a possible route here. And the space junk problem will need to be solved in order to have a space faring civilization.

      • We had a guy come by our College class, and talk about how he was part of a project that had designed a very *VERY* powerful laser to blast space debris from earth.

        In the process, they figured out that if they pulsed that laser onto some mirrors pointing to the base of a rocket, they could propel the rocket without carrying fuel or engines on board.

        Most importantly, this mode of transportation works in a vacuum as well as in atmosphere...

        Anyway, yeah we have the tech to build giant lasers to clear sp
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Magical lasers are very likely to be the solution, since affecting the orbit of the stuff in almost any way will achieve our goal and in space you only have to worry about attenuation, not atmospheric loss. It certainly seems a lot cheaper than any other option. You are at least 100% correct in that it won't happen until we get better at doing things in space.

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:05PM (#27020007)

    once US manned missions stop, they won't continue in the US until funded by private enterprise if ever. The gap between the end of shuttle and the launch of Orion is long enough for people to start asking, "Do we really miss a manned space program? Maybe we should fund education or XYZ or ABC...."

  • by TekGnos (624334) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:22PM (#27020099)
    Orion and Direct are both pretty terrible, costwise. So Direct is a little better. In *theory*. But there are little incentives for the government to be efficient when they build these things. What congress should consider is Space X. Space X is fully private and is so much more efficient than NASA its crazy. And right now if we don't change anything we will use Russian Soyaz rockets to bring our people to the ISS, wasting taxpayers dollars in a foreign country. Even though Space X is 1 for 4, they already won the re-supply contract (pending some litigation) and their capsule is designed to carry people to space. We should cancel government funded efforts and instead contract it all out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrfrostee (30198)

      [Space X] already won the re-supply contract (pending some litigation) and their capsule is designed to carry people to space. We should cancel government funded efforts and instead contract it all out.

      You are contradicting yourself.

      Government funded efforts are already contracted out. NASA doesn't actually build rockets. They contract it out to Boeing, or Lockmart, or both (United Space Alliance), or now, Space X.

      "Go private" really means that the government stops supplying space money altogether, and al

    • by khallow (566160)
      Orion is the space capsule. You probably mean the Ares rockets, Ares I and V.
    • by Cally (10873)

      Um, you do realise what a SpaceX Falcon-1 launch actually costs, don't you? (Hint: no.) Yes, it's a great achievement and yes, it looks like it's got the potential to significantly reduce the cost-per-kg to LEO number; but it's still very, very expensive even just to launch a passive ballast into orbit. And once you start looking into the cost of building a payload that actually does something, the cost benefits look a bit less dramatic. (A lot less potential for COTS and economies of scale benefits when th

  • Is it a 'mega' boost, or a 'super-energy' boost?

    We got 'em all at the 'Frosty Shack'.

  • I for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by solios (53048) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @01:49AM (#27020771) Homepage

    ... look forward to the day when Space sets the national agenda in the Hearts And Minds, as it did during Kennedy's term in office.

    NASA gets 18 billion and change this year.

    The DOD got over 400 billion in discretionary spending in 2008.

    I called my dad on the anniversary of Apollo 8, We talked about how he'd heard the broadcast in his youth, the state of the space program and the future of manned spaceflight. He's of the opinion that the next boots on the moon will be Chinese. I'd prefer to think otherwise... but he thought Ellen Tigh was a Cylon at her very first appearance... and hey, they need it more than we do.

    More money for Space is always a good thing. Look at what NASA has given Americans in terms of national pride and the world in terms of scientific advances.... then look at the price tage of the Joint Strike Fighter and its price/performance ratio compared to current ready-to-fly equipment. Look at the price tag of our post-Clinton "nation building." Tell me the world wouldn't benefit more from NASA being tossed, say... an eighth of the DOD budget.

    Hell, for the price of invading Iraq we could be holding national lotteries to see who gets to be on the next colony ship to MARS.

    Our only hope as a species is to get off of this rock before we turn it into Venus Junior. The only agencies that can get us there - Roscosmos, NASA - can't even begin to try for lack of adequate funding.

    Which, ultimately, stems from lack of adequate political incentive.

    In terms of securing a future for the species, every dollar spent on NASA increases our chances more than any 100 million spent on "defense" (from what? Asteroids? Global warming? Some kind of superflu?). Unfortunately, that money isn't going to be spent until every television channel and radio station is broadcasting a "time till The Big Rock hits us" countdown.

    It's Watchmen all over again.... and while I'm grateful that Obama has bumped the NASA budget.... he's no Ozymandias.

  • Bollocks!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @11:34AM (#27022967)

    Oh, sure, we can DOUBLE (yes you read that right, DOUBLE as in TWICE as much as last year) the amount of money we give to "foreign aid" and get not so much as a thank you in return but allocate more money to NASA to keep shuttles working, nope, not yours. DOUBLE?!? DOUBLE??!?!?!? Yeah, that'll bring down the deficit. *bangs head on keyboard*

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