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Moon NASA Space Science

Lawmakers Voice Support For NASA Moon Program 206

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the where's-my-moon-rocks dept.
Matt_dk writes "Members of a key Congressional committee on Tuesday voiced support for NASA's Constellation program, designed to get astronauts back to the moon. The comments came a week after an expert panel said NASA's plans were not possible, given its current budget. The occasion was an appearance by Norman Augustine, head of a committee formed to consider the future of human space exploration. The Augustine committee sent a summary report to the White House last week saying NASA needs at least an extra $3 billion a year to implement the Constellation moon program. The report also included several alternatives to that program. At a feisty session on Tuesday, Congress was having none of those alternatives, starting just minutes into the two-hour hearing."
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Lawmakers Voice Support For NASA Moon Program

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  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:38AM (#29465559) Homepage
    Augustine explains the

    mismatch between the task to be performed and the funds that are available to support those tasks

    And congress reject this. They call this "voicing support?" Sounds like a death sentence to the higher-ups at NASA to me...

  • by moon3 (1530265) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:47AM (#29465653)
    Do we believe that future of space exploration is in the hands of some government agency ? I look more at the X-Prize winners and similar developments for whatever space future we might be getting into.
  • Just get on with it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:49AM (#29465665) Journal

    Well I'm glad they said it. We can frig around with this platform or that platform based on the merits of xyz and sure direct is probably a better launcher and solid fuel launchers are probably bad but haven't we learned the lessons from scraping the Saturn V launchers yet?

    Pick a platform, with all it warts, short of fundamental design flaws, and keep developing it.

    I think the 747 was being developed around the same time as the Saturn V launchers, look how far it has come. Imagine if Boeing decided to chuck all that development work away and start again - they'd be bankrupt.

    Time to get on with it.

  • on a related note (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:58AM (#29465819)

    Could the ISS use excess electricity from the solar panels along with a tether to maintain altitude?

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

    The basic idea is you drag the tether through earth's magnetic field. If you pull power off of it, your orbit lowers. If you run energy back through it, your orbit rises.

    My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

  • by socrplayr813 (1372733) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:03AM (#29465865)

    As a result I think that good public policy would tell us that there needs to be a compelling reason to scrap what we've invested our time and money in over the past several years.

    Compelling? Like an expert panel saying 'this won't work'? What's the point of assembling experts to make recommendations if we're not going to listen to them. I can't say I didn't expect it, but I think it's just pathetic that there apparently wasn't any serious discussion of the alternatives. There may be benefits to going back to the moon, but most of what I've read lately leans toward "I want to relive the glory days when space was new."

    If this finally gets somebody to throw NASA some more funding, then I suppose that's something, but the cost of manned missions is staggering. There's so much interesting and useful science that could be done without having to spend (waste?) resources on consumables and redundant systems for supporting life.

    I actually had high hopes that someone would listen to the recommendations... Reminds me of a poker player that doesn't know how to fold a hand. Sure, we have a chance to get something out of it, but I don't see that the pot odds [wikipedia.org] are not worth it for manned missions right now.

    (Sorry for the poker stuff... no car analogy came to mind)

  • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGreenNuke (1612943) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:10AM (#29465961)

    The oceans are also a hostile environment. Yet we designed a submarine for about $6B and currently buy new ones (1 a year at the moment) for under $3B each. When was the last time the nuclear Navy has had an accident? That would be the USS Scorpion in 1968. Only twice in the history of the nuclear Navy has there been accidents resulting in the loss of life, both in the '60's. The Navy also has many more platforms, operate far more frequently, and are designed and built (nuclear construction too) for less than NASA wants to go to the moon. NASA needs to trim the fat and improve safety if that want to keep support levels high.

    You also say that you take a risk every time you strap yourself to a rocket and blast into space. Well you also take a risk every time you strap your self to a car, get on a bike, bus, train, etc. But you have to trust that things have been designed properly and the operator is paying attention to what they're doing. If you want a life without risk, good luck finding it. The key is to make sure the proper steps are taken to mitigate those risks.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:20AM (#29466073)

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iWWPT8cAUpUCsmOZoABze-6XhwTAD9ALBNU00

    We're in the deepest recession since 1930, and have run up $1.38 Trillion in debt, people- and that's not all from the two wars we're fighting.

    The administration is forecasting a $9 Trillion budget deficit [nytimes.com] within ten years, a figure the Congressional Budget Office agrees with.

    "Only $3BN more" you say? That's a +15% increase of NASA's budget. "Oh, only 15%", you say. Well, guess what happens after 1000 federal agencies and projects have come to you asking for "only 15% more"? I can't even find a figure for the number of items in the federal budget, but I'm guessing it falls around 10,000 or more.

    Yes, military spending is an order of magnitude larger. That is not an excuse to increase spending for another agency; it is a reason to reduce military spending. That is something that is not easily done, given how dependent our country has become on military spending to employ people, and congresscritters are very allergic to "defense" cuts in their district.

    We need to be trimming from the federal budget, not adding to it any more, except for the most critical needs. Space exploration, while fascinating and a great boost for nationalism, is not a critical need.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:39AM (#29466331) Homepage

    My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

    They have the spare power - they don't have the luxury of being able to remain in one attitude long enough for the tether to make a difference. (Not to mention that many of the engineering aspects of tether propulsion remain elusive and unsolved.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:46AM (#29466397)

    Military spending is over 2 magnitudes larger.

  • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vtcodger (957785) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:46AM (#29466399)
    You equate "space exploration" with "manned space exploration". That's not very insightful. Human beings are a really, really, lousy information detection and collection device. Supporting them in space is very difficult and costs a fortune. Any sensible engineer would instantly reject a robot design for space exploration that resembled a human being. And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever. So here's a thought. Instead of exploring space with humans and the oceans with robots, how about we explore the oceans using people and space using robots? The oceans are poorly known, have more area than the moon and Mars combined, and represent at least as great a technical challenge as space exploration. The costs of exploring and exploiting the oceans -- maybe even colonizing them would probably be comparable to space exploration. And there are plenty of opportunities to create a bunch of martyrs if you think that killing folks engaged in unnecessary, but stirring, activities is somehow a requirement for progress. But the cost increments in ocean exploration are much smaller. A billion bucks worth of ocean research will actually buy you something other than a pile of paper and a few press releases. BTW, IMHO if anyone seriously thinks that an additional three billion a year is all our space program needs to make it well, they are fantasizing (again).
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:48AM (#29466425) Journal

    No, I don't think business will jump in with both feet. I never said anything of the sort. All I think is that gutting the manned space program is incredibly short-sighted. There will come a day when spaceflight is profitable. That could be tomorrow if we discover some rare and profitable material (not likely), it could be within our lifetimes (somewhat more likely) or it could come afterwards. Either way, I think it's in our long term interest to do everything we can to develop space flight technologies and to study the effect that space flight has on the human body.

    The dinosaurs died out because they didn't have a space program. Personally I'd prefer that homo sapien not suffer the same fate.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#29466581)

    I'm not debating that health care in this country is a cluster fuck. I'm not debating that it's over priced and that it's being fucked up by bureaucracies.

    I'm just saying. Even with all those problems we could easily toss a fraction of spending we spend on the military and do it.

    And they went from 0 to the moon in 8 years. 8 years. Before the internet. Before CAD/CAM. Before software simulation. It used to take my company almost a decade to design a new product. You'd have to draft everything by hand. I guess we used to employ a courier service to go between our buildings and do nothing but carry drawings. Even then it'd take a day or two sometimes for another division to get them and change them and send them back.

    I don't think 5 years is unreasonable if we threw our unconditional support behind it.

  • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheGreenNuke (1612943) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:07AM (#29466659)

    And the buoyancy counteracts..... the weight. I did say that if you add weight you need to add length to give enough volume to float that weight, meaning you need to add buoyancy. Anyways the point was, subs could be made a lot smaller and cheaper if they didn't have to worry about coming up, because weight (read:buoyancy) will not matter, thus all those ballast and trim tanks (and associated pumps and piping) can go, the machinery can be packed in different to cut volume.

    To relate it back to NASA, it takes a lot to get payload into space. Once its up there, it doesn't cost nearly as much to move around. Point in the right direction, do a short burn and you're on your way. Similar to come back to Earth. A sub however (almost) always needs to be powered if it wants to move anywhere.

  • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:36AM (#29467033)

    Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program.

    You do realize that:
    1) The ISS is an international cooperation, an important starting point for manned deep space exploration as the cost will be prohibitive for any single nation? The PR it's worth isn't in the public eye, it's in the eyes of the nations that the US will have to ally itself with in space if it has any hope of getting a more permanent place in space.

    You do realize that the US has funded most of the ISS since Russia, China, and the other "world goverments" have failed on there part to fund any of it? That or why not just quote directly from slashdot. http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/07/13/1330220

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:46AM (#29467167) Journal
    More importantly, look at the Internet alternatives that were developed by corporate interests: things like Minitel / Prestel, Compuserve, AOL, and MSN. These were all walled-gardens, and no one could run services on them without paying the owner for the privilege, and all of them are effectively dead now.
  • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SteveFoerster (136027) <steveNO@SPAMstevefoerster.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @01:25PM (#29468571) Homepage

    Imagine the resource of the latest war were spent on space exploration. We'd have a space elevator by now.

    Or, for the cost of 57 days of the war, we could have had a launch loop [wikipedia.org], which would be cheaper, wouldn't expose passengers to anywhere near as much radiation, and wouldn't require unobtanium.

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