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NASA Science Technology

Cool NASA Tech That Will Never See Space 324

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the best-garage-sale-ever dept.
coondoggie writes to tell us that with the "new and improved" NASA budget on the way it looks like many of the cool projects NASA has in the works will never see the light of day, let alone space. The biggest cut looks to be the Ares heavy lift rocket but other cuts include a new composite spacecraft, deep space network, inflatable lunar habitat, and an electric moon-buggie.
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Cool NASA Tech That Will Never See Space

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  • by hayd (1734904) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:33AM (#30981672)
    It's sad really and NASA is definitely who should get more budget. It's the idiotic short-sighted quick-profit thinking again. We are draining Earth resources and should try to expand to space. If it wasn't for NASA we wouldn't ever have visited or learned so much more about Earth. This way we never get intergalactic flights nor can live on other planets.
    • by truthsearch (249536) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:49AM (#30981940) Homepage Journal

      Maybe NASA could sell or license some of this "cool tech" to private industry. The private sector would have more to work with and the space agency would get more money for the projects they are left to focus on. And maybe some of the specialists at NASA could fork their own companies with the technology, keeping more people employed.

      Maybe they already do this. But the tone of the post makes it sound like they don't.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Bigelow Aerospace works on some cool tech that was previously under NASA umbrella. So it's certainly possible.

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Aerospace

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ephemeriis (315124)

        Maybe NASA could sell or license some of this "cool tech" to private industry. The private sector would have more to work with and the space agency would get more money for the projects they are left to focus on. And maybe some of the specialists at NASA could fork their own companies with the technology, keeping more people employed.

        Maybe they already do this. But the tone of the post makes it sound like they don't.

        The problem is that there's little immediate return on investment.

        Sure, give it a few years and we get nifty things like GPS and freeze-dried ice cream... But in the short term it's just pure science. And nobody likes pure science anymore.

      • by Morty (32057) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:26PM (#30983406) Journal

        Technology transfer of NASA tech to private industry already happens. Google "NASA commercialization" and "NASA technology transfer" for more info. For example, here is the NASA spinoff homepage [nasa.gov].

      • nice business model:
          1) Get handed billions of dollars in taxpayer money
          2) Use that money to develop expensive technology
          3) License that technology to the same taxpayers for yet more money, claiming it as a measure to save taxpayer money
          4) Profit

        Congratulations, You've solved step 3.

      • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:51PM (#30983758) Homepage Journal

        Like, I've pretty much had it up to here with this myth of "private industry" as the salvation of everything. Banks were private industry, and they screwed the pooch not once, but three times in the last 30 years, to the tune of multiple national, no, worldwide economic meltdowns, hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts, and for what? So we can have the pleasure of driving ourselves into the ground with more debt?

        By contrast, NASA put a man on the moon.

        I'm going NASA over private industry, any day of the week.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:50AM (#30981958) Homepage

      ...If it wasn't for NASA we wouldn't ever have visited or learned so much more about Earth....

      Hmmm...
      1st object in space - Germany
      1st Earth satellite - Soviet Union
      1st human in orbit - Soviet Union
      1st photograph of far side of the Moon - Soviet Union
      1st landing on the Moon - Soviet Union
      1st rover on another body - Soviet Union
      1st large biological specimens outside LEO (around the Moon, in a Zond version of Soyuz...turtles ;p ) and brought back safely - Soviet Union
      1st landing on Venus - Soviet Union
      1st landing on Mars - Soviet Union
      1st space station - Soviet Union (BTW, the Russian part of ISS was supposed to be called "Mir 2")

      And so on. In the meantime Europe could afford to play the game and they ended up being the biggest, I think, commercial launch operator(?). Or of the biggest anyway. With their ATV they are a small step from having manned spaceflight capability. China has one already, India is working on it, Japan has some plans too, and all are quite active in Solar System exploration. Plus you have private companies.

      I think we'll be fine

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by WormholeFiend (674934)

        Plus you have private companies.

        I think we'll be fine

        I'm kinda concerned about Weyland-Yutani's business practices though

      • by qmetaball (1645933) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:21PM (#30982422)
        That's all well and good you see, but it was the competition with the US that drove them to do those things, it was called the "space race" for a reason.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sznupi (719324)

          "Space race" undoubtedly played a large part, but it doesn't lessen the point that not only NASA was responsible for major progress. Besides, I like to think it wasn't merely about state level competition - after all there was valuable science being made on both sides, and the first breakthroughs relied on many years of progress being made before the race proper. With later ones also building on that early progress obviously.

          Plus...who knows, we might see another race at some point. China gears up, Russia i

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:22PM (#30982444) Homepage Journal

        Sorry, Mr Checkov, you are mistaken. The Soviets neither landed on nor put a rover on the moon before the US (we landed manned moon buggies), and the Germans weren't the first to put an object in space, that was in fact the Soviets. The US went to the edge of space with the X-15 plane, but the Soviets beat us (and the Germans) to space proper.

        The Soviets also put the first satellite in space.

        "Interesting" would have been an accurate mod, but informative it was not. More like misinformative.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          and the Germans weren't the first to put an object in space, that was in fact the Soviets

          I think he was referring to the V2.

        • by confused one (671304) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:32PM (#30982600)
          The German V-2 was capable of reaching space in a vertical launch with a light payload. Whether any ever did or not is not clear. The many thousands that were launched were generally not vertically launched.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Yes they were [youtube.com](44sec). Ballistic trajectories for long range are basically vertical at the surface.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by confused one (671304)
              I can't see the youtube... But basically, you've got it backwards. Ballistic trajectories for long range are fired non-vertical. Vertical launch is for close range. Longest range is around 35-38 degrees from vertical (accounting for air resistance).
          • by sznupi (719324)

            In vertical flight all the way up they were capable of aroound 200 km. While it is indeed not clear if any were launched that way, in operational flights they attained 90-110 km. Lower number satisfies US definition of "space", which is enough in this case, I gues ;p. Higher one fulfills also international definition.

        • Look up the altitude of some A-4 flights, a very German rocket. "Space" doesn't mean orbit, it simply means, well, space.

          Also, look up Luna 9, the first moon landing. And Lunokhods (yeah, I somehow subssribe to "rover = unmanned", as you said yourself US ones were moon buggies)

        • The Germans put a V2 in "space".
          The Russians put Luna 2 on the moon 10 years before Apollo 11.

          1st photographs from space ... USA. (they were pictures of the Earth)

          • by blueturffan (867705) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:38PM (#30983582)

            The Russians put Luna 2 on the moon 10 years before Apollo 11

            True, but highly misleading. You're comparing a high speed impact of an unmanned object (Luna 2), with a soft landing of a manned ship that later took off and returned to Earth (Apollo 11).

            That the Russians were ahead of the USA in space exploration in the late 50's and early 60's is a matter of historical record. Luna 2 predated the USA's Ranger 4 impact by ~3 years. The USA made great strides to catch up and both countries first soft-landed a ship in 1966, (Luna 13 / Surveyor 1).

            In the history of the world, only 12 humans have ever walked on the moon and all were Americans.

        • by jbezorg (1263978) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:39PM (#30982708)

          The Soviets also put the first satellite in space.

          But they didn't put "the first object in space". The first "Man made object in space" by all official records is the German V2 Rocket test number V-4 made on 3 October 1942.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_V-2_test_launches [wikipedia.org]

          As for the rest of your facts, I would suggest you check them. They may or may not be correct but I'm short on time to fact check them all.

        • by oh2 (520684)
          You are wrong, Sir. German A-4 rockets, better known as v-2, reached outer space as early as the forties, making them first man made objects in space. The Soviet Lunokhod 1 landed on the moon in november 1970, the first use of a lunar rover. Apollo 15 was the first American use of a rover on the moon, nine months later. In fact, the soviet space program landed a probe on the moon in 1959, the Luna 2.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#30982856)

        is that the list of 'Soviet firsts' should really be 'captured German engineers working for the Soviets firsts'.

        And the later 'American firsts' ought to be 'captured German engineers working for the Americans firsts'.

        I can't think of any early space-flight that did not depend on lots of German know-how and support. Perhaps the British 'Black Knight' and 'Blue Streak' programs, which were pretty well entirely home-grown. But even they only did this because the Germans had shown that it could be done first....

      • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#30982860)

        People often forget that there are other history books being written in other languages and in other countries, and they emphasize slightly different achievements.

        In North America, you've got to be a history or space buff to know this stuff. Or a commie!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Keebler71 (520908)
        1st landing on Mars - Soviet Union

        Hmm... if you count operating for 20 seconds [wikipedia.org] a successful landing... then maybe... not very useful though.

      • Ensign Chekov, is that you?
      • 1st rendevous in space, USA
        1st multiple rendevous in space, USA
        1st practical spacewalk, USA
        Most landings on the moon, USA
        1st man to orbit the moon, USA
        1st man on the moon, USA
        1st probe to Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and soon Pluto, USA

      • by hey! (33014) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:56PM (#30983842) Homepage Journal

        So? You still can't argue that NASA is not an enormous contributor to planetary science and remote sensing.

        Consider the Soviet Mars program. They sent three landers there over three years, and Russia is just getting around to following up on those. NASA has sent seven missions there over thirty years, very elaborate and sophisticated ones. The Viking lander was a scientific tour de force, and the US Mars Rover mission alone is a record breaker for sheer number of days in operation.

        On the other hand, the Soviet space program practically owned Venus, spent decades in a serious, extended effort to gather data there. That's a huge contribution to science, because Venus is hard, but very, very interesting due to its similarities and differences with/to Earth.

        As far as the Earth is concerned, I don't think there is any contest, science-wise. Not to denigrate Soviet contributions in engineering, but I don't think we can even begin to calculate the value of something like Landsat, or the other Earth Science oriented missions undertaken by NASA or with NASA playing a key part.

        A "punch list of firsts" approach is not a very good way to gauge the importance of a nation's space exploration program.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sznupi (719324)

          The point wasn't that NASA lacked enormous achievements. It was just pointing out absurdity of "space programme wouldn't exist without NASA"

    • by Peter H.S. (38077)

      It's sad really and NASA is definitely who should get more budget. It's the idiotic short-sighted quick-profit thinking again. We are draining Earth resources and should try to expand to space. If it wasn't for NASA we wouldn't ever have visited or learned so much more about Earth. This way we never get intergalactic flights nor can live on other planets.

      The basis for a good space programme with adequate long term funding is a good economy. The US have been borrowing like there is no tomorrow and is heading

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by morgauxo (974071)
        I follow your logic that a good economy makes a good budget however I don't agree that this means NASA's budget now relates to it's future budget in that way. NASA's budget is too small of a percentage of government spending to have that kind of effect on the future economy. It could be raised quite a bit and this would still be true.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:08PM (#30982188)

      Are you sure that if it wasn't for NASA, we wouldn't ever have visited Earth?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >It's sad really and NASA is definitely who should get more budget. It's the idiotic short-sighted quick-profit thinking again.

      How come Bush's promises of massive explorations with no funding backing isnt stupid, but when Obama has to clean up Bush's mistakes and bring Bush's BS promises to a real budget, then suddenly he's the bad guy?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Keebler71 (520908)
        Because the original Exploration plan *did* close within the current budget. Cost growth and schedule delays made it grow beyond the budget. Also, Obama isn't cancelling the program to save money... he is cancelling the program so that those funds can be used for *other* things closer to his core agenda (namely earth observation and climate science missions).
        • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:32PM (#30984360)

          >Because the original Exploration plan *did* close within the current budget. Cost growth and schedule delays made it grow beyond the budget.

          Those two statements contradict each other. NASA cant deliver this thing without an extra 3 billion a year for the next 8 or 9 years. The path to the moon is not sustainable and would only relive 1950s era achievements. Better off with robotics and earth science and building a role for private enterprise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MikeURL (890801)
      The political consequences of cutting NASA are trivial compared to cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicate or defense. In fairly short order every discretionary program is going to be cut to the bone in order to put off the day when the big entitlement programs have to be dealt with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      NASA's getting more of a budget ($6 billion over 5 years). Also, NASA will be reviving its R&D efforts, which were mostly ended to fund Ares/Constellation when it started going overbudget. Here's my recent slashdot submission below... please up-mod it if you think it's worthwhile!

      http://slashdot.org/submission/1163232/New-Path-For-NASA-Revealed [slashdot.org]
      http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_nasa/ [whitehouse.gov]

      New Path For NASA Revealed

      "The White House and NASA have revealed in this year's budget proposal their new plans for the agency. The big news is that NASA's budget-consuming Constellation program has been cancelled, as the project was 'over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies,' and would mostly be a repetition of Apollo-era achievements with a handful of astronauts. NASA will also be getting a budget boost of $6 billion over 5 years. Technological development and testing programs will be revived and expanded, in order to develop new capabilities and make exploration activities more cost-effective with key technologies like in-orbit propellant transfer and advanced in-space propulsion. There will be a steady stream of robotic missions to perform science, scout locations, and demonstrate tech needed for future human missions. Research and development will also be done to support future heavy-lift rockets with more capacity and lower operation costs. NASA will be maximizing the return on its investment in the ISS, extending it past 2016 and deploying new reseach facilities (potentially including a long-desired centrifuge to study human physiology in space). NASA will also use commercial contracts for routine human and cargo transportation to the space station, as it already does for most unmanned missions, which will 'help create thousands of new jobs and help reduce the cost of human access to space.' More details will be provided by NASA Administrator (and former astronaut) Charles Bolden over the coming week, and then NASA has to get its plans through a potentially-hostile Congress."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tezzer (558085)
      NASA's budget is being increased by 6 billion dollars. They're canceling the Constellation program because it wasn't originally funded enough to ever work. The schedule has slipped so much there wasn't going to be a replacement for the Space Shuttle until 2038 or beyond. The director's statement is here: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/420994main_2011_Budget_Administrator_Remarks.pdf [nasa.gov]
    • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:04PM (#30988698)

      It's sad really and NASA is definitely who should get more budget.

      To be clear, NASA *is* getting more budget in the proposed plan. It's a matter of what the money will be spent on. This latest move is consistent with the findings of the Augustine commission last fall, which was that the program of returning to the moon had little chance of success by 2020 at current funding levels. If you accept that judgment and are actually looking for forward progress, then either you (a) increase the budget for manned spaceflight, or (b) change your goals. Political forces and the current economy make (a) impossible, so they're going with (b).

      A problem with NASA's manned spaceflight program is that the footprint is spread across some very influential states (e.g., TX and FL) and companies (Boeing etc.). All of the complaining in Congress about this proposal is simply about saving jobs and govt subsidy of their local economies. Truthfully a big part of why the Shuttle is such an expensive way to get stuff into orbit is the thousands of ground support personnel needed. The Congressional representatives from these states love expensive spaceflight, and will do what they can to protect it.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:40AM (#30981798) Homepage

    reflecting on how this kind of tragedy can happen, and how it relates to our very rational, ends-oriented world, should read Horkheimer and Adorno's (in)famous Dialectic of Enlightenment and its much heralded account of how the very nature of rational Enlightenment thinking carries the danger that we'll fail to enter into "a truly human state" as a world, instead descending into "a new age of barbarism" marked by things like anti-intellectual mass culture, multiplying high-tech wars, short-sighted exploitation, and other modern ills that appear to destroy society and the planet.

    It was written back during the Nazi+Emerging Cold War era, but it remains as relevant a warning today as ever.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Wow, dramatic much?

      You know what other path there is to barbarism? Spending yourself stupid so we cant fund schools, healthcare, business investment, etc for the sake of a moon base or two.

      Not to mention, the pork politics of maintaining aging systems and cost runaways like Constellation.

      Turns out smart sometimes means taking a cut from dramatic projects and trying something different like private enterprise and more robotic missions.

      • I have only one point to take issue with your response: "[...] aging systems and cost runaways like Constellation."

        Cutting edge in military and space applications never means bleeding edge. People would *die* . You can't afford to trade stability for fanciness when you have the possibility of hitting re-entry too steep and everybody burns to a cinder. The core operational technology of any manned vehicle must be old enough to have been thoroughly tested and already field-proven in some capacity.

        The is
  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:42AM (#30981842)

    With the cut of Ares and other international status seeking nonsense, NASA can concentrate on their roots of science, exploration, and aeronautics.

  • FY2011 NASA Budget (Score:5, Informative)

    by cyberfringe (641163) on Monday February 01, 2010 @11:43AM (#30981848) Journal
    An overview "Fact Sheet" on the proposed FY2011 budget for NASA has been published by the OMB at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_nasa/ [whitehouse.gov] The Constellation program is cancelled, and this could mean thousands of jobs lost in Florida, Alabama and Texas at the major human space flight centers. The savings from the cuts will be reinvested in new R&D for future exploration.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      That is one thing they don't seem to look at when looking at how much something in the space program costs.
      Almost everything built is built in the US by US workers. Thousands of good paying "MANUFACTURING" jobs will be lost.
      It will also hit Mississippi, and Louisiana as well as Florida, Texas, Alabama, and yes California.
      Hey Obama kept his campaign promise as was posted in Slashdot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rufty_tufty (888596)

        I'm one of the most passionate people you'll find about space exploration but I'm glad constellation has been cancelled - it's about time.
        Why? It wasn't about building a Big Dumb Booster which is blatantly what is needed, but about a jobs program. If you really want a program to create jobs regardless of if they are useful jobs then employ people to go around breaking windows - lots of skilled jobs in the window fitting and glazing industry created there for minimal government spending. The government creat

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Apathy (584315)

      That reads proposed budget. Doesn't mean it's the actual budget, it's just what the current monkey in the whitehouse wants. It's congress, a bunch of monkeys, that write the checks. The congress critter in the states that will be affected carry a lot of weight on if the NASA budget will be cut. Yeah, they are idiots too, but they are our idiots.

      So I wouldn't say the fat lady has sung on any of these projects yet. She maybe warming up in the bullpit but by god she hasn't sung yet.

      This is esp. true

  • Nothing left? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spammeister (586331)
    So really NASA is just supporting the ISS and launching satellites into orbit? Oh if Sagan was alive today!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_sagan/ [wikipedia.org]
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:04PM (#30982146)

    The shuttle is retiring. There's no stopping that. No more external fuel tanks are being manufactured, the rest of the parts chain is shutting down. When the shuttle is gone, America loses manned access to space. And it appears we can't even manage to cobble together a bloody capsule to put atop a normal rocket. This leaves only Russia with manned space capabilities. (I don't know if the Chinese really have anything they'd consider flight-worthy right now.) The Indians and Japanese have their own programs but I don't see much happening in the near future.

    The Constellation program sounded like a real soup sandwich. Canceling it would be a good thing if it paved the way for something done right. But that's not happening. Every shuttle successor program we've ever looked at has ended in cancellation. Obviously, we have the technology to get into space but it looks like we don't have the organizational ability to make that sort of thing happen.

    You don't have to be much of a science fiction fan to appreciate the opportunities created by a serious presence in space. Even if we teleoperated everything from the ground, orbital power is a winner. Asteroid mining to prevent the destruction of our own environment down here is a winner. And human history has proven time and time again that opportunities can be opened up by endeavors and scientific discovery that we couldn't even begin to imagine at the outset.

    There's so much more we should be doing up there. The shuttle was just farting around in LEO. We should end it to do something better, not end it to abandon a manned presence in space. If we're not going to move forward up there, other nations will. And we will have ceded the high frontier.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)

      The main problem, I think (admittedly, among others), is that unless you're doing an all-out, money-is-no-object sort of thing like the 60s moon race, major projects take more time than changes in political leadership are willing to stand still for. So NASA ends up dithering back and forth every 3-6 years with a new project: manned mission to mars, shuttle replacement, low-cost capsule system, probe-focused unmanned space exploration, etc. I mean, Constellation was only proposed in 2005, with bids chosen by

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:29PM (#30982548)

      >If we're not going to move forward up there, other nations will. And we will have ceded the high frontier.

      They'll go broke putting meatbags in space and learning the same lessons we have, while we're focused on robotic missions and investment into private enterprise, instead of a purely government approach.

      On top of that, the Mars mission is still on. While China or India attempts to put a meatbag on the moon, the US will most likely be on its way to Mars. The US isnt ceding anything, its just spending its money more wisely along with the "trophy" of Mars. Turns out Bush's incompetence wasnt limited to just economies and wars, but to also signing checks his ass couldnt cash.

      Funny how the "fiscally responsible" Republicans want my tax dollars to keep subsidizing useless jobs in Florida and Texas and keep a runaway project like Constellation going to the tune of an extra 3 billion a year in cost overruns! Dont confuse the politics of pork with space exploration. Meatbags are too expensive to ship around all the time and moon base fantasies turn out to be too expensive in real life.

      • by blind biker (1066130) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:46PM (#30984558) Journal

        Science is made by meatbags. Scientists are meatbags that don't hope to earn much money or fame (save for the very few that get a Nobel prize). No, our motivation is the science and the great things it can do for humankind. Specifically, my research is related to technology that can potentially be used on spacecraft/deep space probes. But if I knew it will only be used so that a rich banker can go to LEO, fuck it, I can go back to a job in industry and make about twice the money I make now. I can easily imagine that manned exploration of the Moon and Mars would similarly invigorate and inspire tens of thousands of US scientists, not to mention the other people involved, and the american public in general. The american nation could again have a big, common dream that transcends their short existence.

        The Moon is very important because we can learn how to survive there, and then use that experience ans science to build a base on Mars. Yes, the Moon is in many ways harsher than Mars, but as far as things we can learn, it is still very useful, and the proximity of Earth is very useful in case of unexpected problems. Besides, if Constellation is out, Mars is out, too. It's *not* on.

        Finally, I'd like to emphasize the need for manned exploration of Mars and other remote objects, as radio-delay makes robotic probes severely crippled to the point of being useless, compared to humans. A human can find ways to dislodge a stuck wheel, for one thing.

    • *shrug*

      I'm all for the commercialization of Space. NASA was/is a waste of time and money.

      You don't have to be much of a science fiction fan to appreciate the opportunities created by a serious presence in space. Even if we teleoperated everything from the ground, orbital power is a winner. Asteroid mining to prevent the destruction of our own environment down here is a winner. And human history has proven time and time again that opportunities can be opened up by endeavors and scientific discovery that we c

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Has anyone ever actually tested what happens when you detonate a nuclear bomb in the upper ionosphere? My understanding is that it could charge it to the point of disruption of propagation of radio signals for days, which would have a severe economic effect. Supposedly it can be drained to ground via HAARP... or so says the guy who wrote the patent upon which it is based.

        More importantly, it is not even necessary to lift so much mass from Earth. The technology almost exists today to mine asteroids using rob

    • The new plan seems to be to strengthen America's commercial launch vehicle systems. As things stand, America sucks at expendable launch vehicles. The Europeans and the Russians have bigger and more reliable ELVs than we do. If you construe this as a way to get NASA to off-load the design of rockets to private industry and to concentrate on space exploration, this is a good though very ballsy move. Private industry can lobby effectively while NASA cannot. If NASA had to design a rocket, it would have to plea

    • You don't have to be much of a science fiction fan to appreciate the opportunities created by a serious presence in space. Even if we teleoperated everything from the ground, orbital power is a winner. Asteroid mining to prevent the destruction of our own environment down here is a winner. And human history has proven time and time again that opportunities can be opened up by endeavors and scientific discovery that we couldn't even begin to imagine at the outset.

      The problem is that, at least right now, the profit just isn't there.

      If you could point at some asteroid and say it'll cost us $10 billion to get there and set up shop... And then you could ship home $100 billion worth of profit every month they'd be launching rockets in a heartbeat.

      The cost of getting something out there just to analyze the asteroids and find a useful one... Then to set up shop... Then to haul the materials back here... And the time delays involved at every step... Even if it was all

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:14PM (#30982288) Journal

    If I made more money, I'd probably have a set of new golf clubs on my wish list for this spring. As it is, I don't have an unlimited budget, and there are other priorities which are higher, such as food, healthcare, and DirecTV. I mention that last one intentionally, by the way.

    You see I could do without DirecTV and save myself enough to get a new set of golf clubs every year. Thing is my wife an daughter really like the programming. They don't begrudge me my greens fees or my high power rocket purchases. Each of us gets something from the family budget, though perhaps not all we want. We simply don't have the unlimited funds for that.

    It's interesting what happens when you must have a balanced budget - certain choices have to be made.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      It's interesting what happens when you must have a balanced budget - certain choices have to be made.

      If the budget was being balanced, you'd have a point.

  • wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by confused one (671304) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:20PM (#30982404)

    it's all speculation until someone reads the budget and the new policy is announced. Now that that's out of the way...

    Heavy Lift: There's an understanding that we need heavy lift. It looks like a 200mT launcher is out of the question for now; but, we have plenty of experience, thanks to the ISS, in assembline large structures in space. So, the question becomes what form does an HLV take: A Shuttle Derived (Jupiter) derivative or an amped up Atlas / Delta derivative? Either could ultimately reach the 100-150mT range. The Shuttle Derived gets there faster using existing tooling.

    Composite launch vehicle: Let's assume, for argument sake, that ULA is one of the suppliers of the "taxi" service. Lockheed, who is one of the two ULA parent companies, and who supplies the Atlas 5 launch vehicle, is building the Orion CEV for NASA. If ULA does supply the launch vehicle, what crew vehicle do you suppose they'll use? Perhaps the one they already have the tooling for? The one that's already a NASA approved design? I think so.

    Inflatable structures: That technology was sold by NASA to Bigelow Aerospace, who then developed it further and did some limited testing in space LEO. NASA was going to incorporate Bigelow's work into their habitats. If NASA drops it, for now, Bigelow appears to have plans to continue the work. They've booked a Falcon 9 flight for 2014.

    Lunar descent engine: What made that engine interesting was the use of LNG/LOX as a fuel. It worked. Well. That's likely to find further use down the line; but, I can't speculate where.

    The lunar specific stuff is toast.

  • by pydev (1683904)

    I read the "electric moon buggie" as an "electric boondoggle". It might as well be :-)

  • Government development of space is holding back commercial development. The time for initial investment has ended now that we know the basics. This article is full of good examples of this. The robot mower highlighted here is already being provided by the marketplace. Private ventures are preparing more forward thinking launch vehicles than the big rocket talked about in the article. There is always going to be some role or collective action, but government is no longer needed as the primary driver.

    It

  • Put the moon rover up on Craigslist for $20M, with a 1 month limit on pickup time before the buyer loses their money and NASA re-lists the rover. It will be a win-win: either they raise the needed money to keep all of their programs, or someone will develop a vehicle to get to the moon and back so NASA doesn't have to.
  • Who owns the coffeepots at NASA? Dimes to tiddlywinks, the job is contracted out.
  • Don't really see what the problem is. The U.S. is not going to pay off the debt. It's like worrying about the fact that you don't have a parachute AFTER you have jumped out of the plane; it just ruins the enjoyment of the ride down.

    The amount of money NASA is asking about is trivial compared to the whole Federal Budget. Heck, the the U.S. government prints (via the proxy Federal Reserve) and borrows to pay the interest on what they have already borrowed. Worrying about the debt/deficit at this point is tilt

    • This, regrettably, is both naive and wrong.

      The interest rates at which the US borrows money reflects the lender's belief that they'll be paid back. Meaning they're pretty darned certain they're going to get their money back or they wouldn't lend it. If some hair brained politician followed your recommendations, you'd see this nasty little thing called hyperinflation rear its ugly head and your life would become rather more unpleasant than it is now.

      Not to say it hasn't been tried, but the countries that d

      • by Danathar (267989)

        Sure about that? Maybe they are just confident we will just keep paying the payments on interest...forever.....

        As for being paid back. The whole freaking planet uses fiat money. You can't hide the fact that things are being bought for intrinsically less value than the paper being used to purchase them. Sure, you can pass legal tender laws FORCING businesses to take Fed promisary notes but eventually the shell game of passing the true cost around has to end.

        The second law of thermodynamics WILL win. Play pon

      • by Danathar (267989)

        http://targetfreedom.net/help/228-interest-the-other-fiat-money [targetfreedom.net]
        --
        If I have 10 gold coins which I do not require the immediate use of, outside of throwing them to the wind, I have the options to either retain them in my possession or to pass them on to another's possession.

        Unlike fresh bread, there is a high degree of probability that the 10 gold coins will maintain their intrinsic value between today and tomorrow. However, if I choose to retain them in my possession, there is some cost I must incur to stor

  • by fantomas (94850) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:02PM (#30983050)

    The US military is something like ten times larger than the next country's military spend for goodness sake. How about easing off on the military spend and using the money for peaceful exploration of space.

    Do you really need a military budget that big?

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:05PM (#30984004)

      Yes, we do, so that we can control oil resources and help companies like Halliburton be very profitable. We've decided as a society that we don't care about future energy sources, and we're going to stick with oil no matter what, so we have to use a giant portion of our GDP to fund a military for the sole purpose of maintaining access to that oil. Later on, when other societies develop energy sources not involving oil (such as electric cars, better nuclear power, solar power, tidal power, etc.), we'll still be driving around in old gas-guzzling vehicles looking for food with a collapsed economy while nations like China, India, and Russia are leading the world in technology and space exploration, and have prosperous economies.

  • by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin@pelicancoas t . net> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:28PM (#30983426)

    Through all the brouhaha, the doubletalk about missing blueprints and the expense of reviving older tech, it would have been far inexpensive to bring back a tried and trusted heavy lifter: The Saturn V. The Block 90 series was all set to loft the heaviest payloads to date, even the Ariane V would be hard pressed to match it.
    I would have loved to see the V fly with upgraded hardware and avionics. The instrument ring would have been deleted in place for a more compact INS module. The inner structure rebuilt with improved metals and engineering. The engines... Well, hell, how can you improve on a already perfect set of man-made earthquake makers? I can see a V lofting not one, but TWO full sized ISS modules with them stuffed to the gills with parts and supplies.

    Now we're stuck with a kiwi, not even classed a hangar queen.

    Talk about an embarrassment.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:56PM (#30989438) Journal

    NASA has *always* started up more programs than it could ever finish, so there'd be a good chance of what would eventually be needed already coming down the pipe. Add to the NASA developments all those designs put together by aero-corps most of which didn't get used. It ends up looking like a set up when something tests out well and then gets canceled. Being successful and being able to fit future requirements are not the same thing, and until a good test, they can't tell what the operating parmeters are for the vehicle. Also in this category are most of the best designs, those done around the edges of the aerospace industries. An example of these is the entire line of a multi-project program's worth of vehicles designed by Robert Truax http://www.astronautix.com/astros/truax.htm [astronautix.com] and http://neverworld.net/truax/ [neverworld.net]

    But the biggest culprit is of course programs developed to fulfill the goals of one administration, which get cut by the next or subsequent administrations. If NASA developed programs based on 'stair-step' continual expansion (making each step a requirement for the next) rather than political grandstanding, progress might be slower in gross effect but with far less net cost and effort.

    As to 'why cancel the Ares and then start investigating a new heavy-lifter', first, Ares is not a new anything -- it's a hack built from shuttle components, meaning most of the technology is quite old (not to say that's bad, but it could be better). Second, the same could be said every few years for the last half century. Third, NASA and all the companies it feeds through its technology transfer program require constant renewal of R&D program direction in order to invent a whole new pile of golly-gee-whiz tech, and this is what NASA does best.

    Take a look at the line of canceled and never-started projects derived from, and intended to expand, the Apollo lunar program. This is the best example of cancels soon after if not before development began. Follow the links below from the index page at http://www.astronautix.com/ [astronautix.com]

    Pre- and post-lunar Apollo (and other vehicle) variants:
    Apollo Odds and Mods
    Project Horizon
    Project Lunex
    Lunar Gemini

    Saturn developement beyond initial lunar landings:
    Saturn V

    Lunar exploration and expansion :
    Manned Lunar Bases
    Manned Circumlunar
    Manned Lunar Landers
    Manned Lunar Flyers
    Manned Lunar Rovers
    Manned Lunar Orbiters

    And a complete program already well into development, with success fairly assured. Had this not been canceled, Armstrong might still have been first one the moon, but definitely would have been the first to fly (not just ride) an orbital space plane. An extremely well documented example of cancelmania:
    X-20/23/24 Dynasoar

    One project NASA may presently be regretting not following up on was an improved suspension and steering design for the Mars rovers. I'm not fully up on the details, but it would almost certainly have allowed Spirit to dig itself out of the sand. Apparently the story of its development and rejection was covered by some science-based talk show around 10 years ago. Some of the reasons they didn't pick up on it at the time made sense; the design they used was so far along that changing it would have cost much more, and being developed by an individual rather than the design team, training to bring them up to speed just to evaluate it would have taken too long. However, since the alternative design was produced by a college sophomore and was clearly better than that which was produced by an entire team, the fact that they resented being shown up by a kid is a distinct possibility. That's supported by the fact that his performance report was glowing, yet when he went to check out his supervisor told him "Don't bother to ask for a letter of reommendation". Turned out he didn't need one for his next summer job, at the National Ignition Facility. We're waiting to see whether they're using his design on Curiosity.

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.

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