Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Moon NASA Space The Almighty Buck

NASA's Cashflow Problem Puts Moon Trip In Doubt 357

Posted by kdawson
from the as-for-mars-talk-to-the-hand dept.
krou writes "According to the Guardian, the Augustine panel is going to declare that there is simply no money to go back to the moon, and the next-generation Ares I rocket is likely to be scrapped unless there is more funding. The $81B Constellation Program's long-term goal of putting a human on Mars is almost certainly not going to be possible by the middle of the century. The options outlined by the panel for the future of NASA 'are to extend the working life of the aging space shuttle fleet beyond next year's scheduled retirement until 2015, while developing a cheaper transport to the moon; pressing ahead with Constellation as quickly as existing funding allows; or creating a new, larger rocket that would allow exploration of the solar system while bypassing the moon.' All of this means that NASA won't be back on the moon before the end of the next decade as hoped, 'or even leaving lower Earth orbit for at least another two decades.' Another result of the monetary black hole is that they don't have the '$300m to expand a network of telescopes and meet the government's target of identifying, by 2020, at least 90% of the giant space rocks that pose a threat to Earth.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA's Cashflow Problem Puts Moon Trip In Doubt

Comments Filter:
  • have a lottery for a chance to win a trip to the moon...

    One of these days Alice, to the moon...
  • ... how much could it cost to rent a hollywood studio and some video equipment for a day?
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:21PM (#29067853)

    We're in the middle of a recession that's one of the longest on record. They're projecting that the budget they have now will be the same fifty years from now, and everyone panics over this? Oh please. Just wait until the Chinese start firing rockets into space with people on them and design their own Apollo program. I bet legislators will look between the couch cushions then and find the spare cash they need to one-up them. I've never credited Congress with an abundance of brains, but pride? Oh, they got that in spades.

    • It will go down right? The budget..
      Isn't America broke, compared to the rest of the world?
    • You're a bit late, the Chinese have already launched multiple rockets with people on them; and, are already working on getting to the Moon.
    • Our manned space program has been on a budget that amounts to just enough to keep limping along in LEO, but not enough to do anything useful for the last thirty years. And honestly, we don't care about what the Chinese do. We don't need an excuse to develop nuclear capability anymore. We aren't in a battle of ideologies where allowing the Russians to be better than us in anything would be a "win for communism". If the Chinese put a man on the moon we'll say good "job catching up", and then do nothing.

      Congre

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      i disagree- I think the USA is in not-quite a death spiral. It has exceeded its reach and the last time I checked (earlier today) it's in debt so deeply (11.65 trillions dollars) that if it was EVER able to pay down the debt at the rate of 1 million dollars a day (which it has NEVER been able to do on a consistent ongoing basis) it would take approximately 31,917 YEARS to pay it off. If it paid down the debt 1000x faster (1 Billion dollars a day) it would still take almost 32 years to pay.

      The answer is:

      • It can be helpful to look at some actual data once in a while, calming, even. The problem is big, yes, but the historical record shows that the USA was able to reduce it's total national debt as a percentage of GDP, consistently since World War II, with the notable exceptions of the years of Reagan, Bush, and Son of Bush. This was done by growing the economy. It could be done again. One of the best ways to stimulate that kind of massive economic growth would be to use space exploration and alternate ene
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531)

      Just wait until the Chinese start firing rockets into space with people on them

      They started doing that almost 6 years ago.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3192330.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • It seems to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moogied (1175879)
    NASA's only real problem is that the government is giving them a crap ton of stupid projects to do. What good is identifying the asteroid that will kill us all? We can't stop the stupid thing. Why exactly are we going to the moon again? As a launch platform for mars? How about we use that other launch platform we have.. you know, earth. We got to the moon in the 60's because NASA was told "Get to the moon.", so sure enough they hopped right onto it.
    • Re:It seems to me (Score:4, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:32PM (#29068031)

      Why exactly are we going to the moon again?

      Uhhhh-- You're not from around here, are you? The non-geek answer is here [nasa.gov]. The geek-trying-to-not-be answer is here [nasa.gov]. And the real geek answer is... well, anything modded +5 on this thread that isn't "Funny".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joggle (594025)

      You don't need to stop a meteor. If you can spot it soon enough there are several techniques that could be used to change its trajectory so that it misses the Earth (such as putting a satellite near it that can tug it over time just using gravity, or by putting a coating on it that would alter the solar pressure on it and push it out of the way, etc).

      Or you could leave everything to chance (or name your deity) but since we have the ability I definitely think we should give ourselves the chance to use it.

    • Re:It seems to me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:40PM (#29068153)

      We can't stop the stupid thing.

      That depends wildly on how much warning we have. If we spot it two months, or even two years before it gets here, you're probably right. Even then, small rocks are more common than big ones so it would be statistically likely that an evacuation could be done, possibly saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

      If we spot a rock, even a big one, 30 or 40 years out, we have the technology already to make a difference. Enough nukes detonated all on one side will ablate material off the surface and produce thrust, changing the rocks orbit by a little bit. Luckily, even a minuscule change in direction will produce a significant change in position 30 years down the line.

      The really interesting thing is if a rock is detected that will hit in 10-15 years. At that point, it is less likely for our current technology to be fully effective. We'd end up with a crash program that would make Apollo look like chump change. I could even imagine NASA dusting off the old Orion nuclear pulse propulsion ideas if the whole world were at stake; after all, what's a few hundred nukes being detonating in the atmosphere compared human extinction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why exactly are we going to the moon again? ... How about we use that other launch platform we have.. you know, earth

      Because the moon is a very large bunch of ore in a MUCH shallower gravity well. For any construction for use in space that is of sufficient mass to make building and operating mines, some processing facilities, and a catapult on the moon cost-effective for a step in manufacturing its compaonents, it's the logical way to cut costs and/or boost profits.

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:22PM (#29067879)

    There never seems to be enough money for something as fundamentally important and immensely valuable to the human race as space exploration. But apparently there's always a bottomless pit of wealth for bailouts, to help grow government bureaucracy and expand what in many ways are entitlement programs.

    • by scorp1us (235526)
      Space exploration is not "fundamentally important". The bailouts help protect the people who are alive from starvation and crime. [I hate you for having me argue for a bailout, but given a choice between space and the collapse of civilization as we know it, I'll take the bailouts]

      I do believe NASA's premiere mission should be one to identify and protect Earth from asteroid and comet impacts by developing technology to 1) identify hazards and 2) adjust trajectories. Everything else (man on mars, moon or beyo
    • The money spent on space gets PAID to someone. From TFA, one of the comments posted below it:

      "Can I have some money for food?"
      "Aww...no. We're going to send a robot to the moon!"

      Hey, you hungry? Go ask to wash the BMW of the guys who wrote the code for that robot, or the guy who tested the propulsion system, or THE GUY WHO EMPTIED THEIR TRASHCANS!

      The money wasn't burned, it was PAID. Those who got paid will spend it. Give them a reason to PAY YOU for something, and they will.

      I made money burning some of NASA's money, but also private customers'. Food and robots are NOT EITHER/OR.

  • I really am not. The sad thing is that a lot of that money would have been spent on good high paying jobs in the US. It might have also started to inspire young people to think about jobs in science and engineering like it did in the 50s and 60s.
    Well let's hope SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule work.
    Or
    Vote for me in the next election.
    My platform is.
    More money for Space.
    Faster and cheaper broadband.
    No more software patents.
    And your tax refund can not be more that the amount you paid in taxes.

  • We were able to get to the moon in the 60's, but there's no way we can get there in the 21st century? If Congress is giving them too many stupid tasks to do, they should just divert the funds & manpower from those programs and redirect it to SPACE TRAVEL.
    • It comes down to this simple fact: In the 60's Congress gave NASA an unconstrained budget. all the money they asked for. Now, Congress isn't giving them enough money to complete the tasks they're already working on, like the ISS and building a replacement for the Shuttle -- going to the Moon is out of the question.
  • NASA Benifits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m0s3m8n (1335861) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#29067953)
    No matter your political leanings, it is hard to argue that NASA does not provide a great return on investment. But with our myopic tendencies (Congress and Business) no one has the balls to invest what is needed to continue long-term success.
    • No matter your political leanings, it is hard to argue that NASA does not provide a great return on investment.

      Such as? I'm not trolling, but what sorts of things does the space program do that could be considered a great return on investment? When I think of space travel inventions, I think of Tang, but now I found out here [cnn.com] that it was around before the "space age". Are all of the inventions listed in that article good? Sure, but most of them could have been and probably would have been invented in the absence of a space program.

      • Hear hear! I'm fed up with this superstitious crap.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Why did Europe dump so much into the exploration and conquest of the New World? Where was the even remotely near term ROI on that? It was expensive as hell and the first couple generations of Europeans didn't see a drop. However, run the calendar on a while longer and you'll notice a good many things: vast improvements in ship logistics, short haul and trans-oceanic; establishment of mineral and other natural resource mining/harvesting on distant shores to replace increasingly scarce resources locally;

    • Name them. What ROI do we get from manned space exploration that cannot be obtained from vastly less expensive and more technologically sophisticated unmanned exploration? What is compelling at all about sending human beings to the moon and mars? What will they do that can't be achieved far sooner, on incomparably longer missions, and at much much less cost by machines?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by S.O.B. (136083)

        Many of the NASA technologies on this list would not have been developed if it were an unmanned only operation.

        http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html [thespaceplace.com]

        Don't get me wrong, I think there's an incredible amount of science that can be accomplished using unmanned probes, landers, etc. but to not have any manned exploration would be a mistake.

        And no matter how good we make the robots a real human being is infinitely more adaptable. As an example, one of the Mars rovers (I think it was Spirit) at one point

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      No matter your political leanings, it is hard to argue that NASA does not provide a great return on investment.

      No it doesn't (from Congress's point of view): Funding NASA doesn't result in graft^Hcampaign contributions.

  • There is a world recession on now, but it will eventually get better. Most people seem to think that will happen in 2-3 years or even a bit less.

    Presumably then the money tap will be turned back on. If helium 3 turns out to be as important as it seems it will be in the next century, the money will be found.

  • by starglider29a (719559) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:33PM (#29068059)
    You just won't like the solution. From TFA:

    The agency needs about $300m to expand a network of telescopes and meet the government's target of identifying, by 2020, at least 90% of the giant space rocks that pose a threat to Earth. Congress has not come up with the money and is unlikely to, according to the National Academy of Science.

    There is no advantage to detecting an incoming impactor if you do not have the means to prevent its impact. Having less time before large scale annihilation may serve the public better. But when it does hit (don't say if if you mean when), the loss of tax revenue will cause more damage to the budget than the space budget would have.

    A microgram of prevention is worth a metric tonne of cure.

    • Of course this is totally retarded thinking. If you happen to know how long you've got before the impact, then you can evaluate your options and see what is possible. And certainly SOMETHING might well be possible. It seems reasonable to me that advanced warning is important in this scenario. Unless you know something the rest of us don't, in which case please share.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      There is no advantage to detecting an incoming impactor if you do not have the means to prevent its impact

      I disagree. It gives you time to get far away from where it will hit (or far away from the coasts if it hits an ocean). Preventing it from hitting and avoiding the destruction and impact winter would obviously be better, but being able to get out of the way is far better than being blindsided.

    • by rbanffy (584143)

      "But when it does hit (don't say if if you mean when), the loss of tax revenue will cause more damage to the budget than the space budget would have."

      You know... This argument may just do the trick.

  • All they need to do is a $1B prize. It will happen.
  • suddenoutbreakofcommonsense
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry kids, I know I promised it to you, but we're not going to get to go to the moon anytime soon.
    (Pause for "Awe but..." and whining)

    You see, the thing is, we're on hard times here. The country's not what it used to be. We just don't have the money right now to spend going on trips to the moon and such.

    So keep up those grades and -- if you're good -- maybe we'll go to the moon in ten years.

  • NASA should just do an IPO, raise the funds, go completely private, remove the redundancies created by bureaucracy and go ahead with their work. Then they can throw the frivolous projects out, and continue with the useful stuff.

    IMHO, the Russians/Chinese/Indians/Private companies with their space organizations will get to the moon/Mars much faster than NASA anyway since their motivations are different, and especially, those countries take a lot of pride in their space related work.
    • It sounds good, but which projects would you "buy stock" for? And if so, would you expect your money back?
    • Who exactly are the customers of hypothetical lean, mean, private-sector-SuperNASA?

      With the exception of pumping satellites into earth orbit(and even here, a fair slice of the demand is public sector) everything we do in space is a "frivolous project". Appeals to "discovery" aren't going to pay the bills in this case.
  • The thought of a Chi-Com moon will open the Governments coffers.
    We have the potential for a new wide reaching conspiracy theory here people.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:00PM (#29068493) Homepage

    The future of space belongs to a country willing to use nuclear propulsion. [wikipedia.org] Chemical rockets are a dead end. They haven't improved much in forty years, and the limits of that technology have been nearly reached.

  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:26PM (#29068899)

    My prediction is that there will not be a human outside of low Earth orbit for at least the next 50 years, with the possible (unlikely) exception of the Chinese attempting a lunar orbit or landing.

    • The cost of human spaceflight is going up. In part, this is because we haven't made significant investments to improve propulsion technology since the 1960's, so efficiency hasn't been improving. At the same time, we as a nation seem less willing to accept risks with spaceflight than we used to. At one time, astronauts were mostly former military or test pilots, people used to the idea of real risk. Now we treat the Space Shuttle like some kind of bus into space, and we expect the bus to be safe and comfortable. We send up teachers, congressmen, scientists, tourists -- pretty much anybody who wants to go. The expectation of safety means more engineering margin and backup systems, driving up cost.
    • The capabilities of robotic craft are steadily improving. Moore's Law and all that. What will an autonomous rover on Mars be able to do, with another 30 years' development? It's hard for me to imagine sending a person on a 15 year voyage to Europa to dig through the ice, or to Titan to explore the hydrocarbon oceans.
    • Nobody has identified a compelling economic, scientific, political, or military rationale for sending people into space. Arguments based on national pride, or fear of being surpassed technologically, have for now evaporated.
    • The ISS. This $xxB useless boondoggle must be playing some role in tempering Congress's enthusiasm for Big Projects.

    Perhaps in the 50-100 year timescale, we'll have figured out radically different approaches: Nuclear propulsion, a space elevator, a launch loop. Or we'll be able to upload our minds into hardware, and send people into space without sending bodies. E.g., your consciousness gets radioed into the probe once it's tunneled through the Europan ice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      My prediction is that there will not be a human outside of low Earth orbit for at least the next 50 years, with the possible (unlikely) exception of the Chinese attempting a lunar orbit or landing.

      The Russians have already offered flights around the Moon for $300,000,000. Maybe NASA could buy a few.

      The cost of human spaceflight is going up.

      $300,000,000 is a lot less than Apollo 8 cost, and non-government prices are only going down from here as private companies take over the manned spaceflight business.

      Nobody has identified a compelling economic, scientific, political, or military rationale for sending people into space.

      Yes they have; it's called tourism. Get the price of a week in orbit down to a couple of hundred thousand dollars and you'll have more customers than you can handle... that won't happen overnight, but it's quite feasible in a couple of decades

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:27PM (#29068913) Homepage Journal
    The government has made it abundantly clear that it understands and cares little for scientific progress. It doesn't matter whether you lean left, right, or upside-down, the fact of the matter is that neither Congress, nor recent Presidents, have serious desires to see progress made in scientific realms for purely progressive reasons. As other slashdotters have pointed out numerous times, there is an enormous list of spin-off benefits that come from manned-exploration of space. Not only that, but direct benefits such as a progression of the human species beyond its own world are a payoff in and of themselves. Politicians don't care. If something won't result directly in votes, money, or power for politicians, then there is little chance that thing, be it a movement, a field, or an ideology, will get any serious backing from the legislative or executive branches.

    This can also be seen in the Green movement, for example. Rather than fund or seriously investigate truly sustainable energy sources such as breeder reactors and fusion research, the government wants to hop on a trendy bandwagon (votes) that involves the more inefficient methods of solar and wind energy production and the costly subsidization of corn-based bio-fuels (money). We can, and should, therefore kiss off serious government spending towards goals like space exploration. True development and innovation will come in this field through privately funded space organizations and governments of other countries.

    Companies like Bigelow Aerospace will work to make space accessible to the civilian population. Companies like Orbital and SpaceX will continue to try to reduce the cost/kg to LEO until space is affordable and accessible. Universities will continue to inspire engineering and science students to work on space-related projects just for the sake of doing 'something totally awesome' such as the Cubesat project. This will, in turn, provide a place of invention and learning. Other governments such as Japan, Russia, the UK, and the EU in general will lobby harder to have more say and dabbling in international space endeavors such as the ISS. Slowly, unfortunately, I think we will see NASA start to sputter and stagnate over the next few decades.

    All I have to say to NASA is, "Thank you for all of the inspiration and hard work you put into paving the road to space for us." That organization put decades of hard work and research into opening up a whole new universe (literally) to us as a species. NASA, at its height, embodied the peak of the American 'can-do' spirit and gumption. It very much did make heroes of many dreamers and it should forever be remembered as an organization that truly inspired and captured the minds and dreams of thousands of people. The human race owes NASA a great debt for this and this alone. Sadly, however, I fear this organization is going to lose much of its former glory under the suffocating chokehold of egoistic and, frankly, stupid politicians.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      As other slashdotters have pointed out numerous times, there is an enormous list of spin-off benefits that come from manned-exploration of space.

      No, what they have pointed to is either a) research that just happened to be done by NASA with little (if any) connection to manned space exploration, b) technology developed elsewhere that NASA uses and claims, or c) outright handwaving and propaganda.

Save energy: Drive a smaller shell.

Working...