Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Businesses Space

NASA May Outsource 219

Posted by kdawson
from the let-a-thousand-rockets-bloom dept.
The Wall Street Journal is running a piece about the growing momentum behind the idea of NASA outsourcing to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit. Quoting: "Proposals gaining momentum in Washington call for contractors to build and run competing systems under commercial contracts, according to federal officials, aerospace-industry officials and others familiar with the discussions. While the Obama administration is still mulling options and hasn't made any final decisions, such a move would represent a major policy shift away from decades of government-run rocket and astronaut-transportation programs such as the current space-shuttle fleet. ... In the face of severe federal budget constraints and a burgeoning commercial-space industry eager to play a larger role in exploring the solar system and perhaps beyond, ...a consensus for the new approach seems to be building inside the White House as well as [NASA]. ... Under this scenario, a new breed of contractors would take over many of NASA's current responsibilities, freeing the agency to pursue longer-term, more ambitious goals such as new rocket-propulsion technology and manned missions to Mars. ...[T]hese contractors would take the lead in servicing the International Space Station from the shuttle's planned retirement around 2011 through at least the end of that decade."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA May Outsource

Comments Filter:
  • by ZiakII (829432) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:00PM (#29165361)
    They took our jobs!
  • On my country, outsourcing is the same as disaster. You pay the same for a poor service.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:04PM (#29165385) Journal
      That's only because your country isn't as good at outsourcing as America, land of the free, is.

      Here, we pay more for a poorer service!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moosesocks (264553)

        My favorite example of privatization gone horribly, horribly wrong is the UK Post Office.

        After a year or two of operating under private ownership, the new owners decided there was no way that the Post Office could possibly operate profitably in rural markets, sold off all of its assets in these areas, closed up shop, and pocketed the money from the sales.

        • Good thing it would take a constitutional amendment to privatise the US postal service. That is one of the fed's core responsabilities.

          • The law only gives congress the authority "To establish post offices and post roads", it does not require that the post office deliver the mail or transport the packages. The post office frequently contracts mail transportation to third parties and could just easily contract out mail delivery or even legally eliminate home delivery if congress allowed it to.

        • by El Torico (732160)

          "Fed Ex And UPS Are Doing Just Fine, It's The Post Office That's Always Having Problems" - President Barak Obama, August 11, 2009.

          Sounds like your guys made the right decision.

          • "Fed Ex And UPS Are Doing Just Fine, It's The Post Office That's Always Having Problems" - President Barak Obama, August 11, 2009.

            Sounds like your guys made the right decision.

            Care to link to a reliable source for that quote?

            All Google turns up are a few obscure right-wing blogs, which makes it sort of difficult to believe or trust. Even Fox News doesn't seem to have picked up on it.

            That said, the USPS has generally done "just fine." The service typically operates with a modest profit, receives no subsidies, and the mail gets delivered on time at an extremely low cost to the consumer.

            It's also worth mentioning that in the UK, the Post Office is a separate entity from the Royal

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by segedunum (883035)

            Sounds like your guys made the right decision.

            Except it isn't. History has taught us that when you privatise previously public organisations then you end up with something even worse - a private company acting like a public sector organisation, generally with a monopoly milking away a cash cow. It's happened to BT and various other privatised organisations and it has hurt private enterprise because that monopoly at exchanges and elsewhere is still felt. It's far better to carefully look at how an industry

      • by Macrat (638047)

        That's only because your country isn't as good at outsourcing as America, land of the free, is.

        Apparently you have never had to rely on outsourced IT services.

        Imagine having to call the support desk to restart the servers mid launch.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      You pay the same for a poor service.

      Would be difficult to provide a worse 'service' than NASA does; they're looking at taking longer to put a spam-can on top of a shuttle SRB than they did to go from early unmanned satellites to walking on the moon.

      However, I do wonder whether the idea of 'outsourcing to competing systems' is at all viable: how many companies are going to spend billions of dollars developing a manned launcher which NASA will fly three times a year? The only way I could see it working is if NASA built the spam-can and designed

      • Well, for example: Forget hardware like the Spirit Mars Rover (build to last few months, but still working after two years) if you outsorce the manufacture.
        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Well, for example: Forget hardware like the Spirit Mars Rover (build to last few months, but still working after two years) if you outsorce the manufacture.

          We're not talking about the unmanned side of NASA, which actually does provide decent value for money; this is the manned side, which is spending a hundred billion dollars putting up a space station which will have to be deorbited shortly after it's completed.

        • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:31PM (#29165571) Journal
          You should know better. Much of America's space hardware is built in various locations. For example, MGS was from l-mart in Denver. Likewise, there are plenty of companies that are fully capable of building the rover. With that said, NASA's new missions will be to continue building rovers for mars and other planets UNTIL it becomes methodical. Then it would be handed off to private to do. Though think about this. If USA can fire up multiple companies here that are space and lunar bound, we will get an infrastructure that can move to other worlds. That is what we need. NASA will take us there. They will be at the leading edge on all of it. BUT, to allow companies to take over what should be mundane only makes sense.
          • Yes, but those parts are built in various states due to it being American tax dollars and a government program.

            IF they outsource most, if not all of the space program.... It will be done in china by either the chinese government, or private industry (multinational corporations) spondered by the chinese government.

            Denver... as you've mentioned... wont even be a thought of any private company.

            • Not if it is required. As I said earlier, this needs to be FAIR and can not compromise our national security. The condition of China and India certainly is not a fair economic situation and China would absolutely be a compromise of national security.
        • by vlm (69642) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:46PM (#29165677)

          Well, for example: Forget hardware like the Spirit Mars Rover (build to last few months, but still working after two years) if you outsorce the manufacture.

          Too late, spirit was an outsourced project. Oddly enough, the wikipedia page for Spirit/MER-A has no manufacturing details. But the main MER project page is believed accurate:

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

          Nasa outsourced the whole project to JPL to manage and generally run. The Wikipedia page details whom JPL subcontracted to for various parts... for example, the aeroshell exterior capsule thingy was outsourced to Lockheed. IBM-Federal made the radiation hardened CPU chip, but their division got sold around and was part of Lockheed at one point.

          Anyway, the whole point is that no spacecraft that I'm aware of, at least for the past 40 years, have any components made by NASA... NASA does not "do" anything, other than distribute budget to various contractors.

          Those are the facts. As for opinion, I believe there are no personnel accepting paychecks from nasa that have ever touched a soldering iron, screwdriver, welding torch, or milling machine...

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by TwoUtes (1075403)
            Glad you prefaced the last comment that it was opinion. I work daily with many folks that draw a NASA paycheck, who regularly use the tools you mention. My neighbor is a NASA machinist, not a contractor.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sethstorm (512897) *

        Except that their performance record isn't littered with as many disasters as offshored/outsourced work.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        The only way I could see it working is if NASA built the spam-can and designed it to be compatible with multiple launchers (e.g. Delta, Atlas, Falcon etc) so they could easily switch from one to the other for each launch.

        Yes, I'm fairly certain that's the way they're planning on doing it: purchasing the services of a commercial capsule like the SpaceX Dragon [wikipedia.org], Orion Lite [space.com], Excalibur Almaz [excaliburalmaz.com] which can be launched on the currently-existing commercial rockets you mentioned. This minimizes development costs, insures that you're using a rocket which has been well-tested with unmanned launches, and lets you easily switch to a different launcher if one of them has problems.

      • hmmm..... maybe if the sapce program was funded like it was back in those days they coudl move the time table up.

        Anti-government fools never think about what lack of resources does.

    • Look, when you are doing the SAME REPETITIVE ITEM, then a free fair competitive marketplace makes sense to handle it. The problem comes when it is NOT fair, nor competitive. For example, the feds outsourcing a number of items to private workers in America was not the problem. The problems came when companies shifted the work to places like China and India who have only one-way trade, have no real requirements about pollution, and most of all, have their money fixed against ours. OTH, if trade barriers are d
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      On my country, outsourcing is the same as disaster. You pay the same for a poor service.

      NASA has "outsourced" the launches of all its scientific probes since the 1990s or so, and that's worked rather well. The launch costs are maybe an order of magnitude less than the Space Shuttle, with a comparable track record.

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:06PM (#29165399) Journal

    NASA already hires contractors for doing a lot of the technical work right now. If I am not mistaken, large portions of the Space Shuttle and the ISS were manufactured by Boeing, just to give one example...

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:11PM (#29165427)

      How is this different? It eliminates 10,000+ government-funded jobs in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, etc.

      Ares was always more about keeping people employed than building a useful spacecraft; commercial launch companies won't employ 10,000 people just to stack a rocket and roll it out to the launch pad.

      • by brennz (715237)
        It is different because instead of paying around $100 an hour for a GS-14, the govt will be paying $150-$250 an hour for the same individuals, via a giant contractor ( Northrop, Boeing, Lockheed ). In addition, the govt will have to budget for the overhead cost of the acquisition and acquisition management.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by 0123456 (636235)

          It is different because instead of paying around $100 an hour for a GS-14, the govt will be paying $150-$250 an hour for the same individuals, via a giant contractor ( Northrop, Boeing, Lockheed ).

          Uh, no. They'd be paying for someone to launch their cargo into orbit, rather than employing people directly to do so... there's a huge difference between buying launch services like any other customer and hiring thousands of contractors to launch your own rocket on a cost-plus contract.

          Anyone can buy a Delta launch and the rates are well known; if Boeing start trying to charge NASA ten times as much as they charge any other customer, even the US government might realise they're being screwed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by brennz (715237)

            The last sentence of your post demonstrated a misconception.

            When the govt turns to contractors and issues an RFP, the govt rarely does a complete halt and tries to go in-house when contractors pitch inflated costs. Instead, the govt might try to scale back the services during the negotiation phase of the acquisition, and pay more, for less service.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by 0123456 (636235)

              If the government can't figure out when they're being screwed, then that's a problem with government, not with business; if the government is willing to pay ten times as much as any other customer, why would any sane business not charge that?

              • by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:43PM (#29167081) Journal

                I think that would be a valid argument for any well developed business area. I don't think space falls into that category yet, even though the future looks promising. Yes, it would be a problem if, say for example, a TV manufacturer charges the government 10 times more for its product than business would pay for comparable products. But in the rarefield area of space technology, there isn't a good competitive landscape. In certain cases there isn't any candidate who can even bid, because what the government wants, may be pushing the bounds of current technology (military technology for example). In such situations, tightening the screws on your contractor may not be the right approach: if you want a super-kill-bill-gizmo #3, and nobody today can build it because the science or the technology hasn't been developed yet, cost plus is the right kind of contract.

                The kind of outsourcing being proposed is in the more mundane (is there anything mundane about space?) areas of space technology, where there are more businesses participating. I don't think that the contractor cost overruns should be tolerated there, because there are more choices of vendors for the government.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:02PM (#29165817)

      The difference is the method of procurement. Under current methods of operations, the goverenment comes up with a design, says "Here's what we want, who wants to build it for us?". Then the big guys (Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, USA, etc.) make arguments about who can do it the cheapest and fastest, and the one that makes the best argument gets the contract (and all the others get to be subcontractors and get a piece of the pie). These are termed 'cost-plus' contracts because NASA is actually funding the development directly, and taking on the responsibility to pay however much it ends up costing, even if its more than the original bid.

      When they're talking about "outsourcing" and "using commercial options," what they mean is that they want to use whatever is commercially available, if it exists. The COTS and CCDev programs are designed to encourage this kind of market for the big HSF programs (JPL/Ames-style probes have been using straightforward EELV contracts for quite a while). The market is still not mature for human-capable launch vehicles (Atlas and Delta aren't man-rated), so its still in NASA's interest to actively foster the development of vehicles - but they're doing it with fixed amounts of money and relying on fixed milestones, resembling the way the eventual market would work.

      I doubt we'll ever get away from cost-plus contracts completely. They make sense for single-use items and specialized development: things like probes and rovers and moon landers. However, just about everything needs to get to orbit, and there aren't that many different kinds of requirements for it: whether or not its pressurized, man-rated, and how much mass it can carry. For this reason many people believe that NASA should no longer be designing launch vehicles to do rather routine things like getting to LEO, and instead focus on truly expanding the frontier, doing new things.

      The reason this faces resistance is that NASA has a habit of sacrificing the good for the sake of the perfect (along with the concerns about risk in doing new things and losing jobs in congressmen's districts). The space-pen/pencil story may be apocryphal, but it is emblematic of the problem*. In this case, you could argue that an EELV-based solution wouldn't be as good as a working Ares I, but EELVs are going to be cheaper and faster to man-rate, and with the limited budget they shouldn't waste money re-inventing the wheel.

      *Interestingly, its actually a great example of the COTS contract type, where a private company saw a problem, came up with a solution, and sold it to NASA (and the Russians) after developing it. They made money off of it and NASA got it much cheaper than it could have developing it on its own, probably.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        Thank you for writing this. It's the best comment I've seen under this entire story.

      • by dkf (304284)

        In this case, you could argue that an EELV-based solution wouldn't be as good as a working Ares I, but EELVs are going to be cheaper and faster to man-rate, and with the limited budget they shouldn't waste money re-inventing the wheel.

        Well, in that case arguably the EELVs are better because they let more be achieved overall. Spending a lot doing one part perfectly means having to scale back elsewhere (well, not unless you have an infinite budget, which nobody's proposing that NASA should have). If this rubs anyone up the wrong way, they need to remember that it's all about trying to optimize globally rather than locally.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WheelDweller (108946)

      You are not wrong, sir. Part of the problem with space is that while American has the tech (though others are quickly catching up) they also have the bureaucracy. And not the good kind that gets things organized- the bad kind that requires an 18 year delay to permit the sales of Coke in India. (THAT kind.)

      I'm just so happy that the settlers didn't decided it was too big to get across the USA back in the 1800s- that a government agency was needed. If it were, we'd be up to about Ohio, just about now.

      It's ti

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:09PM (#29165417) Homepage Journal

    SpaceX is moving forward, without asking the government for money. http://www.spacex.com/ [spacex.com]

  • by societyofrobots (1396043) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:11PM (#29165429)

    Would it still save money if the companies rose prices to make a profit?

    With NASA, its science oriented. With business, its profit oriented.

    I think the current status quo is best, only outsource if something better already exists.

    • The profit motive also encourages them to A: ship product B: on time C: on budget D: that meets the customer's needs. NASA seems to have trouble with all four of those.

      • So do many many private companies. I live in the land of the Private Finance Initiative and there have been so many private companies fucking up government contracts it's not funny.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Macrat (638047)

        The profit motive also encourages them to A: ship product B: on time C: on budget D: that meets the customer's needs. NASA seems to have trouble with all four of those.

        Yeah, all companies ship everything on time, under budget, without defects and a product that the customer actually wants.

    • by b4upoo (166390)

      This almost sounds like science fiction in which the evil doctrine of capitalism is let lose to contaminate the universe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      No, NASA is basically a PR agency. Yes, some things are good for science, but look at all the risky human missions, the ISS which had a few good experiments but is basically a black hole for funds, the joint USSR/USA missions which were purely political, etc. Along with the usual political crap of keeping overpaid, useless people in order to tell congress that they created new jobs and they should get more money. Private businesses are more apt to do things that always -work- to get a profit, as in, not mak
  • Ugggh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:13PM (#29165443) Homepage

    If there's one thing worse than the government doing something, it's the government giving someone a de-facto monopoly to do it in the form of a government contract.

    Contracting is the new graft. Witnessing this from the DoD side of the house, the same thing happens over and over. High level military officer retires, joins or starts a contracting company, and convinces everyone the contractor can do what the government is already doing for much cheaper. Politicians decide to use contractors, costs escalate, and there is no alternative because the formerly home-grown expertise is gone, since all the government experts are now working for the contractor making double for the same job.

    • by brennz (715237) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:44PM (#29165661)
      From the US taxpayer, to Lockheed, Northrop or Boeing.

      Look at these inflated labor rates! [northropgrumman.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      If there's one thing worse than the government doing something, it's the government giving someone a de-facto monopoly to do it in the form of a government contract.

      You're missing the point. The whole reason they're doing this is so they have multiple competing vendors for services, instead of just a single monopolistic contractor.

      • by lennier (44736)

        "The whole reason they're doing this is so they have multiple competing vendors for services, instead of just a single monopolistic contractor."

        Yikes - I thought the US military had pervasive dual-sourcing policies already, but maybe NASA not so much. At least as of 1998, it seems like much of the Shuttle was single-sourced. Probably still is?

        http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY98/executive_summaries/ig-98-030es.htm [nasa.gov]

      • by Macrat (638047)

        You're missing the point. The whole reason they're doing this is so they have multiple competing vendors for services, instead of just a single monopolistic contractor.

        Only if that vendor provides jobs to the voters of the senator on the "steering" committee.

      • Re:Ugggh (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bluesman (104513) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:45PM (#29167787) Homepage

        I'm as pro-competition and free market as anybody, but contracts just don't work that way. Much of the work is so specialized that only one company is able to fulfill the contract. For example, Northrop Grumman is the ONLY company that is able to overhaul aircraft carriers, so they get every contract. The barrier to entry is impossibly high for potential competitors. The contract is so large that it essentially grants a monopoly to the winner. The losers can't stay in business long enough to compete.

        The contracts are also massive. The contractors aren't competing to supply welding materials, they're competing for things like, "overhaul this aircraft carrier and replace the reactors," that are pretty much written so that one company is guaranteed to be awarded the contract. It's a happy coincidence that those companies have high-level officers who have plenty of buddies in D.C. and factories in as many key congressional districts as possible.

        This is a best-case scenario, assuming there are no back-room deals and shady hook-ups going on, which would be a miracle.

  • Good, BUT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:15PM (#29165461) Journal
    1. Keep it competitive. That means that we need at least 2 companies the provide a service. Ideally, it will be at least 3.
    2. National Security MUST come first. That means that at least 1 of each categories MUST be American. That does not mean that ALL of the win must go to Americans. There is a lot to like about the idea of having our partners provide part of the system.
    3. Keep it fair. If the nation has trade barriers and/or has their fixed against ours and/or has the gov subsidizing the bid, then it should not be allowed in. That would mean that China and India are absolutely out of any part of this. OTH, Brazil might be (not sure of their status).
    4. Anything developed for NASA and making use of NASA/US proprietary tech needs to STILL be limited to friendly countries.

    Go NASA go. Once the infrastructure is in place for LEO/GEO/Lunar, then it should be possible to focus on NASA's true purpose; pushing the tech and science of space.

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      National Security MUST come first. That means that at least 1 of each categories MUST be American. That does not mean that ALL of the win must go to Americans. There is a lot to like about the idea of having our partners provide part of the system.
      Keep it fair. If the nation has trade barriers and/or has their fixed against ours and/or has the gov subsidizing the bid, then it should not be allowed in. That would mean that China and India are absolutely out of any part of this. OTH, Brazil might be (not sure of their status).

      By the way, I'm fairly certain that the current proposals only mean "outsourcing" in the sense of outsourcing to private US companies, rather than companies based elsewhere. In fact, much of the reason for doing this is to prevent a reliance on Russia. During the Augustine Committee meetings I think there were some questions directed to Europe's EADS about potential manned launches on the Ariane V, but I believe these would be too far off in the future to be of immediate relevance.

      With NASA's current commer

      • By the way, I'm fairly certain that the current proposals only mean "outsourcing" in the sense of outsourcing to private US companies, rather than companies based elsewhere. In fact, much of the reason for doing this is to prevent a reliance on Russia.
        Oh, I am sure that is being driven by Augustine's committe. BUT, the real problem is that many in NASA (and some in congress such as Shelby; bless that man's black heart and tiny head) would rather see us depend on Russia and China then to allow us to use pri
  • horrible idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brennz (715237) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:17PM (#29165469)

    Most contractors merely charge the govt $150 - 250 an hour for the same people the govt uses already, while at the same time, carrying little risk. Compare this to a GS-14 at less than a $100 an hour, inclusive of all costs.

    You'll see a move to contract types* ** like cost plus, or cost plus fixed fee, where the government pays out the nose for cost overruns on the part of contractors. Fixed price contracts will only be made with massively inflated rates in order to protect contracting firms from risk.

    This leads to massive poaching of govt personnel to the private sector, and vastly inflated rates to the govt.

    The privatization of the US government is an abject failure. A-76*** is an abomination, because it does not consider the long term efficiency by private vs public sector.

    * http://www.dtc.dla.mil/dsbusiness/Info/contracts1.htm [dla.mil]
    ** http://www.dau.mil/pubs/misc/toolkit.asp [dau.mil]
    *** http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/Circulars_a076_a76_incl_tech_correction/ [whitehouse.gov]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dolphinzilla (199489)

      you are absolutely spot on - federal employees make less than their contractor counterparts - and your numbers are about right - but this is one of the reasons it is a screwed up system - do you think the best and brightest go work for NASA or the better paying jobs with their subcontractors ?

      • by brennz (715237)

        Contractors may make more than their civil service counterparts, about 5 - 20% by my observations.

        However, the government is paying generally 100% more per labor hour.

        I think the best and brighest go to the research institutes, the FFRDCs (JPL), and other think-tank like organizations. These organizations are generally non-profits, or non-profit like, as opposed to a for-profit contractor (Northrop / Boeing / Lockheed ).

    • Re:horrible idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by El Torico (732160) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:55PM (#29166237)

      One important difference - the contractors actually work while the GS-14s (and other grades) spend their time arguing with each other, taking breaks and long lunches, and changing their minds every five minutes.

      I'd rather work directly for a military officer in some godforsaken FOB in Durkadurkastan than a civilian GS in a safe, comfortable office in CONUS.

      Actually, the big move right now is to fixed price contracts. The Government found out that most of their COTR's are incapable of managing contracts.

  • by imunfair (877689) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:19PM (#29165481) Homepage

    If I was an astronaut I would prefer not to have it outsourced, purely from a logical perspective. Being in space is all about perfection and control, and NASA can build from that vision. Private companies always come from the profit aspect above all else, which at some point may end up causing a part to be less perfect than it could be. In space that just isn't a question mark you really want to have.

    NASA yearly spending, according to Wikipedia is in the 15-18 billion range currently. US Military budget is 515-651 billion, in comparison. So NASA is 2.7% of the military budget size, which kind of makes you wonder why we're worrying about cutting spending on NASA and not other far bigger numbers.

    • by imunfair (877689)

      Also, what the article is talking about is fairly irrelevant to most NASA work - NASA is about exploring and pushing the boundaries of what we can do currently. Commercial companies won't be offering to run spaceships to mars - they'll be offering to launch satellites and common things like that which happen much more frequently. Maybe putting space station parts into orbit could be done by a commercial company, but they're probably never going to be doing solar system exploration contracted by NASA.

      Think

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Commercial companies won't be offering to run spaceships to mars - they'll be offering to launch satellites and common things like that which happen much more frequently.

        Plenty of commercial companies would be happy to offer flights to Mars if the US government was to pay them to do so; after all, the spaceships which flew to the Moon were all built by commercial companies.

        And they'd probably find cheaper methods of doing it than NASA would, if they weren't offered open-ended cost-plus contracts.

        • by Macrat (638047)

          Plenty of commercial companies would be happy to offer flights to Mars if the US government was to pay them to do so; after all, the spaceships which flew to the Moon were all built by commercial companies.

          And they'd probably find cheaper methods of doing it than NASA would, if they weren't offered open-ended cost-plus contracts.

          And I'm sure their success/defect rate would match commercial projects as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      If I was an astronaut I would prefer not to have it outsourced, purely from a logical perspective. Being in space is all about perfection and control, and NASA can build from that vision. Private companies always come from the profit aspect above all else, which at some point may end up causing a part to be less perfect than it could be. In space that just isn't a question mark you really want to have.

      When buying a plane ticket, do you similarly insist that it be on a government-built plane?

      • perhaps the best aircraft would be some old USSR or Chinese aircraft.
    • Nearly ALL of the small startups have an astronaut on-board that is pushing the company. More importantly, they are all saying that this is the way that it should go. Simpler systems; less costs; more launches leading to lower price and improved safety. IF NASA also pushes for bigelow in creating a private location, this will allow a LOT more launches to take place, which will only improve the costs for all.
    • Being in space is all about perfection and control

      No it isn't. It is because we make it all about perfection and control. The only reason for that is that it is too politically risky to screw up. The result?

      We send over-engineered bricks into space that were built using over-priced, purpose-built hardware manufactured inside over-priced purpose-built factories. Nobody does manufacturing that way.

      Give me a private company who wants to make space travel as cheap as possible. It might be a little more ris

    • The simple answer would be... profit. More people profit from the wars, than Nasa.

      Since we're always at a constant state of war in this stupid country of ours.... we have to build, and replace bombs, hardware, gear, vehicles, boats, etc...

      Nasa does things releated to "what may be one day" where as the military is about "lets kill shit today and make a lot of money doing it"

      Military Industrial Complex.

  • "Best of breed", no doubt.

    Private industry has done so well in the US: telcos, airlines, utilities, "contractors" in Iraq, not to mention the entire financial sector. Deregulation and privatization in the US has shown that private industry has difficulty regulating itself or indeed acting in a responsible manner. Oversight with accountability is absolutely essential to success.

    Hate to be so negative but I don't see anything good in this whatsoever. There are some things that are too important to be left

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:59PM (#29165793) Homepage

    Which apparently is not being done very well:
    http://www.space.com/news/090812-nasa-asteroid-funding.html [space.com]

    Exploration is cool and all, but keeping the planet alive should really come first.

    Just from a species survival standpoint, it will be a LONG time before we have a self-sustaining base off-earth.

    If we aren't tracking asteroids on a full sphere, then we are leaving ourselves open to extinction.

    Just sayin. Oh, and before you mod me off-topic, I'll add that asteroid tracking should not be outsourced because its too easy to fake and say "yeah, we checked our quadrant. pay me."

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Just from a species survival standpoint, it will be a LONG time before we have a self-sustaining base off-earth.

      And it will happen way before we see an extinction-level impact threat; even a city-buster only happens maybe once a century, and then they hit the sea 75% of the time and low-population areas most of the rest.

      There is no reasonable cost-benefit analysis where spending vast billions of dollars looking for asteroids which might hit us makes any sense.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        There is no reasonable cost-benefit analysis where spending vast billions of dollars looking for asteroids which might hit us makes any sense.

        Actually, according to NASA estimates it would take less than a billion dollars spread over 10-15 years to perform the necessary tracking, which I believe is well worth it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Blakey Rat (99501)

          Ok, they find the asteroid... and then what? I hate to break this to you, but Armageddeon was a work of fiction. (Shocking, I know.) We don't have anything that can land on an asteroid and do anything about it-- and we probably wouldn't have time to build one after we detected the sucker.

  • maybe we can finally get rid of the Johnson Space Center one of the ultimate examples of pork...

  • Didn't "Ground Control" warn us against this?

  • China.

    Lets outsource everything to china... that way the middle class can finally go completely broke... and the wealthy can take their joy rides into orbit.

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

Working...