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NASA Space Science

After Discovery's Launch, What's Left For the Shuttle? 150

Posted by kdawson
from the short-timer dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA space shuttle Discovery rocketed into orbit this morning and, despite some communications problems, is slated to dock with the International Space Station in the wee hours of Wednesday, April 7. After this mission NASA has only three shuttles scheduled to launch, though speculation persists that the program may be extended. NetworkWorld has a roundup of what the last Shuttle missions consist of and what happens next."
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After Discovery's Launch, What's Left For the Shuttle?

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  • After's Discovery's Launch, What's Left For the Shuttle?

    My guess is that the shuttle is probably going to go look for its precious's

    (sorry.... couldn't resist)

  • by cosm (1072588)
    Ebay?
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:21PM (#31744200) Homepage

    It will.

    • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:04AM (#31744702)
      It probably will be extended a little, but not significantly for three important reasons. The budget game in Washington is such that you can fly the Shuttle or develop a heavy lift replacement (or exclusive to both of those, some sort of beyond Earth orbit program). Sure the US is a wealthy country and could afford to run many space-related things at once. But it's not going to. The extension proposals seem to launch the Shuttle twice a year, which aside from being a pathetic launch rate (which causes serious safety issues), result in massive cost per launch, somewhere in excess of a billion dollars per launch.

      Second, the Shuttle doesn't serve a useful role in any serious US space program. The only argument for it is ro provide "downmass" from the ISS (that is, returning mass from the ISS safely to Earth). All those other fancy capabilities are near useless for what the Shuttle is used for.

      Third, the supply chain for the Shuttle has been completely disrupted. The US already has shutdown the facilities for making external tanks. The SRBs probably will be shut down this year or next. And there's only three orbiters. Sure we could spend a bunch of money to restart that manufacture, but what would be the point? See the first two problems above.
      • Second, the Shuttle doesn't serve a useful role in any serious US space program. The only argument for it is ro provide "downmass" from the ISS (that is, returning mass from the ISS safely to Earth)

        Downmass, assembly and supply capabilities not matched by existing or planned vehicles, reboost, etc... etc...

        • by khallow (566160)

          Downmass, assembly and supply capabilities not matched by existing or planned vehicles, reboost, etc... etc...

          We don't need assembly. ISS is complete enough for our purposes. We have four vehicles (Progress, Soyuz, ATV, HTV) which already provide supply and will probably soon have a couple more (the COTS entries). Reboost just needs propellant which can be provided by supply vehicles. As I was saying the only thing that the Shuttle currently provides which cannot be provided by other means is significant downmass. Currently, Soyuz is the only other downmass provider. There are plans for the COTS entries to provide

      • The only argument for it is ro provide "downmass" from the ISS (that is, returning mass from the ISS safely to Earth). All those other fancy capabilities are near useless for what the Shuttle is used for.

            Not even that. We could do that much more cheaply (not to mention be able to return much more mass) with an unmanned return craft launched with a heavy lifter.

        SB

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      alternatively: it wont.

  • How many iPads do you think they brought up?
    • Two for each crew member.
      • How many iPads do you think they brought up?

        Two for each crew member

        This somehow invokes the image of Dr Strangelove standing up from his wheelchair - "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      So, I guess I'm supposed to reply "depends for how many months they'll be up there" and then I get modded funny or something.

      The iPad = feminine hygiene pad joke was lame and childish when it started, now it's just pathetic. Just like the childish jokes about the Nintendo Wii.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        The iPad = feminine hygiene pad joke was lame and childish when it started, now it's just pathetic. Just like the childish jokes about the Nintendo Wii.

        It's funny you brought that up, because the iPad can help you control your Wii, too.

    • None because they don't allow Li-Ion or Li-Poly batteries on the Shuttle.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:33PM (#31744266)
    So after 28 years, we don't have a replacement for the shuttle yet? In less than half the time, mankind went from sending metal orbs in orbit to landing a man on the moon. After 28 years in the US we can't even backport an older design and make a working manned spacecraft.
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:40PM (#31744294) Homepage

      Between 2.5 wars, a few major natural disasters, an economic mess, a heaping helping of social programs and agriculture subsidies, and the US's loss of the world tech leadership position....we just couldn't seem to find the time.

      Busy and Lazy can have the same effect.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:50PM (#31744342)
        ...Because we all know that the 1960s were just a happy time!

        Lets see, Coalition forces dead in both Iraq and Afghanistan total 6,411 in 2010. 58,159 died in Vietnam. The US has been pretty stable in recent years with the exception of 9/11, compared to massive domestic instability, the assassination of a president, the time closest the world has come to total nuclear destruction, the cold war, etc.

        Yeah, the 1960s were just a -great- time.

        Yeah, we aren't going to great in 2010, but we, and the world, are a whole lot more stable now than we were when we landed a man on the moon.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Macrat (638047)

          ...Because we all know that the 1960s were just a happy time!

          I guess you don't know the Apollo program was cut short due to Vietnam.

          There were many more moon shots scheduled when the program was shut down in order to send more resources to Vietnam.

          • by RoboRay (735839) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:11PM (#31744428)

            No, there weren't. There were exactly three more Apollo flights planned. Those are the three Saturn V lawn ornaments scattered around NASA centers. Those weren't models or mock-ups; they were fully operational, man-rated moon-rockets that could have been used with little additional expenditure. Nearly all of the funds that could have potentially been "saved" were already spent; the hardware was already bought and built.

            The program was killed not to "free up money" for Vietnam, but to kill a program that nobody in power really wanted but couldn't eliminate until it succeeded without appearing to spit on JFK's grave.

          • It was also that medicare exploded during the early 1970s. Entitlements exploded, and the cost of the war exploded, and the price of oil exploded when the USA devalued its currency and dropped the gold standard.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WindBourne (631190)
          Actually, we had a much better economy and manufacturing back then. In addition, we did not have the kind of hatred that we see today in our politics. Yes, they fought over Johnsons give aways, BUT, overall, politicans represented AMERICA and AMERICANS. Now, politicians represents any company in the world that attaches themselves to the pols zipper and lines their pockets. Look at how W/neo-con regime allowed China to disregard their legal obligations just so that they could invade/occupy Iraq. Now, look at
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by khallow (566160)

            Now, look at the fact that Obama is not reporting on countries that manipulate their money, of which the WORST is China (fixed at 7 yuans to 1 dollar for quite some time; Many economists think it should be anywhere from 3, or possibly 1, yuan to a dollar). Basically, America, the land of the free and brave, has losts its morals, and its way.

            China's monetary policy would be a gift to any rational competitor who can print dollars. The US could just buy a massive amount of yuan (say a few hundred billion dollars worth or more) and close down this fixing scheme instantly (the US would exit the strategy by buying back dollars with the now more expensive yen, making a big profit). If China tries to print more yen to play the game, then sell yen to crash the market (alternately, provide your rival, more competitive yuan/dollar exchange). The dynamic

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by WindBourne (631190)
              What they can do and what they will do are two very different things. If we go after China, then it would likely move many investors off the dollars (hopefully, to the euro). Basically, they would see us as being irresponsible and wanting to get out of the way of 2 nations that are conducting war via economic means. Besides, the fact that Geithner is not forthcoming with the report about fixed money speaks loudly about this admin. I voted them in since I can not say 'president palin' and not see more W/Chen
        • by Al's Hat (1765456)

          "Lets see, Coalition forces dead in both Iraq and Afghanistan total 6,411 in 2010. 58,159 died in Vietnam."

          Looks like we forgot how to deal with unemployment...

          Seriously, we have let our manufacturing base mostly disappear, outsourced many of our technical roles overseas, and chosen to let other countries take the lead. If our politicians of both parties could get on the same page instead of doing their utmost to do in the other we might be able to regain our role as innovators and leaders.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:14AM (#31744744)

          "but we, and the world, are a whole lot more stable now"

          And there's the problem. Stability means demanding ever more TV channels to entertain us. Instability means working your butt off to make sure you're better than the other guy.

        • I liked the mid to late 80s, loved the 90s, but this decade (2000-2010) sucked major ass! And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I'm proved wrong.

          F%&K! If only there was something to be optimistic about. How about some innovation, motivation, revelation, even a positive revolution would be nice for a change.

          • by multi io (640409)
            How about some innovation, motivation, revelation, even a positive revolution would be nice for a change.

            The internet has progressed nicely in the 00s.

        • by smash (1351)
          You're counting people costs, which although tragic, are nothing when compared to budgetary constraints. The current Iraq/Afghanistan situation has cost billions upon billions of dollars.

          The borrowing to spend culture that the US has been in, in recent years is finally catching up - the money simply isn't there (never was, really) - but now money is getting more expensive to borrow due to others becoming more and more concerned that the US (and other european nations) may eventually default on their debt

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RoboRay (735839)

        You obviously were neither alive during the 1960s nor are a student of history.

        • I don't know if GP was alluding to this, but he may have been. The only reason we haven't gotten as far lately - not enough crap to stress out over. There's nothing pushing us to the brink, which is what forced us to improve technology immensely, including the space program, during the cold war era.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well, if less time was spent picking fights with other countries, you'd have more time/money for space exploration.
      • Nah, that's just media drama. We went to the Moon because of the Red Scare, and to wow the world by doing something very difficult and impressive that had never been done before. The Vietnam War, the Counter-culture of the 1960s, racial inequality, bad schools, the relative decline of America, and natural disasters didn't stop us.

        Now, what is the point of a return trip? Men on the Moon has been done. No one doubts we could do it again if we really wanted to. All sorts of health evaluations and experi

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Now, what is the point of a return trip? Men on the Moon has been done. No one doubts we could do it again if we really wanted to.

          I disagree. I don't think we could do it again. Others feel the same way. [nationalreview.com]

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            That article is just silly political posturing, not a factual argument. If you've got an actual reason behind your disagreement, I'd love to hear it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rogerborg (306625)
          You know a good way to "work out" work out how to do something? You stop paying people to theorise about how you might do it, and you start the countdown to doing it.
          • Like Moriarty said in the ST:TNG episode Ship In A Bottle: "A deadline has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind."
      • by caladine (1290184) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:36PM (#31744542)
        I don't believe it has anything to do with lazy or "couldn't find the the time". People got bored with the idea, as much as that thought boggles my mind. The movie, Apollo 13, covered some of it in passing. People weren't tuning in to watch about it much until something went wrong. The hype with space was beating the USSR to putting a man on the moon, and once that was over with, people lost interest. We have people to this day that think that any space program isn't worth the money. Waning public interest in space and lots of political self interest (let's buy some more votes with social programs!) are really to blame.
      • by dAzED1 (33635)

        we've lost the world's tech leadership position? Really? And who made the Internet?

        Or, lets go the other direction...who would you put ahead of us, and for what? Linus came here for a reason, I'm pretty sure. We have most the patents, our problem is that many countries don't respect patents.

        • by Savage650 (654684)

          we've lost the world's tech leadership position? Really? And who made the Internet?

          That was 40 years ago.

          [..] We have most the patents, our problem is that many countries don't respect patents.

          No (sane) country "respects" US patents unless forced by military or economic pressure. The US patent system (that had originally been introduced to protect inventors) has been completely subverted into legalized racketeering.

          BTW: the patent mess is just a symptom of the real problem: big money has long since abandoned the idea of "making stuff" (i.e. creating value through work) in favor of "selling licenses" (i.e. collecting monopoly rent on imaginary property).

          • by dAzED1 (33635)

            40 years ago wasn't the Internet. That would be like saying my grandmother gave birth to me.

            Whether patents are abused is irrelevant to the point; the point is we're still the ones coming up with the crap in the first place, which is pretty much technological leadership.

            You didn't say who you thought was ahead of us...

          • by dAzED1 (33635)

            or, lets put it another way...

            who cloned the first living animal?
            if an AIDs vaccine is found, where will that most likely be?
            Where was the Human Genome Project?
            Where every newest generation phone designed (even the ones we don't have access to)?
            Where was every major operating system in use on the planet designed? (even Linus came here to make Linux go from pet project to something real)
            Where was almost every major computer hardware component originally designed and conceived (NICs, math processors, video pr

            • by Savage650 (654684)

              or, lets put it another way...

              who cloned the first living animal?

              if you mean the first mammal cloned [wikipedia.org]: British scientists?

              if an AIDs vaccine is found, where will that most likely be?

              NOT in the US. Big Pharma makes loads of money treating AIDS. A vaccine would destroy that lucrative market.

              Where was the Human Genome Project?

              In the US. And while the HGP (funded by taxpayer money) did not patent the resulting data, other people (Celera) did. After a short bubble, progress in the field of Biotechnology is now at a standstill due blanket patenting. (well, if you listen to the other side, it is at a standstill because patent profits are in danger)

              Apropos "patenting gen

              • by dAzED1 (33635)

                if you mean the first mammal cloned: British scientists?

                If I had meant that, I would have said it. The man who cloned the first animal was here in the US, and died 13 years before Dolly was even cloned. Try again.

                And so on for the rest of your post - half of it wasn't even disagreeing with me.

                • by Savage650 (654684)

                  if you mean the first mammal cloned: British scientists?

                  If I had meant that, I would have said it. The man who cloned the first animal was here in the US, and died 13 years before Dolly was even cloned.

                  Again, you are citing "stuff somebody did long long ago" in order to support your "USA is #1" mantra, blithely ignoring the fact that this whole thread is about current events, namely the retirement of the space shuttle (and the implied loss of technological capability).

                  .. And so on for the rest of your post - half of it wasn't even disagreeing with me.

                  I'm getting the strong impression we aren't even on the same page here. You seem to define "technological leadership" in terms of "we have outpatented the rest of the world, now we can sit back and rake in the money".

                  How about a reality c

                  • by dAzED1 (33635)

                    manufacturing isn't technological leadership.

                    Current events? Which is the only country to have ever had a successful mission on mars? And as a person who is highly involved in biotech (my wife was featured on the cover of Journal of Virology recently, for instance) I can promise you...not only are we not as far behind as you claim, we're ahead. We're /still/ leading in genetics, pharmacology, medical research, etc. You can mock us, and think us just a bunch of hicks if you wish - but compare the number

    • NASA's budget has been but a shadow of what it was in the Apollo days. We're perfectly capable of building another moon-capable spacecraft within 10 years or so (maybe much sooner) it'll just cost more than congress and the president want to spend.
  • Now that NASA wont be buying overpriced outdated computer hardware to repair the shuttle with, how's that gona effect the price of a hardened 386 on eBay?
  • Discovery isn't done (Score:4, Informative)

    by crow (16139) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:51PM (#31744348) Homepage Journal

    The last scheduled shuttle flight is also Discovery, so today's launch doesn't signify the end of anything.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-133 [wikipedia.org]

  • Billions of dollars of finely crafted hardware will just gather dust in a museum or rust in an outside rocket yard. Its what happened to perfectly functional Apollo hardware, its what will happen to the shuttles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by robot256 (1635039)
      Or we could keep flying them, at excruciating cost, until every last one blows itself up, leaving nothing for future generations to remember a whole era of spaceflight by. The only reason the hardware cost so many billions of dollars is because so many man-hours went into retrofitting and repairing it to actually work. Face it, the only way to not have this problem is to take control of space travel away from politicians.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rakishi (759894)

      Sunk cost, go read up on it.

    • by smash (1351)
      Hardware may work, but if it costs more to operate safely (long term) than to develop/acquire/convert to an alternative and operate differently, then its not "perfectly functional". It's a waste of money.
  • Although the Dems were able to muster votes to get their health care stuff through despite bitter republican opposition, they will ultimately, on lesser issues, talk turkey. Florida and Alabama will get to keep flying the Shuttle with some contracts for extending it, in exchange for support on any of the things Obama wants but needs the center-right in both parties on. For example, Obama might want an emissions deal, and, while, you would think Republicans would oppose it, Republicans are also heavy in th

    • Contracts... Pheh... Obama has already released an initiative to convert contractor positions to GS positions.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They can vote as much as they like, extension in any sensible use of the word is impossible.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/04/charlie.shtml

      for example.

  • by wdhowellsr (530924) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:19AM (#31744780)
    On May 25, 1961 John F. Kennedy said the following:

    "IF we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not. Now it is time to take longer strides--time for a great new American enterprise--time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.

    I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment."

    On July 16, 1969 Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin A. "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.

    When the Space Shuttle program ends there will be no US based manned space flight solutions for at least five years and possibly fifteen years. During that time all US manned space flights will be outsourced to Russia, China and possibly India at a cost far exceeding the current cost of the Space Shuttle.

    On a personal note, I live close enough to see all of the Space Shuttle launches from my front yard and watched a early morning launch on the way back from my honeymoon in 1986.

    I'm just glad that John F. Kennedy is dead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrVxD (184537)

      On July 16, 1969 Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin A. "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.

      Michael Collins didn't.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      During that time all US manned space flights will be outsourced to Russia, China and possibly India at a cost far exceeding the current cost of the Space Shuttle.

      A cost far exceeding the current cost of the Shuttle? I'd say that's far from certain...

  • I'm perfectly content to see the shuttle program end. Now that the space station is complete, the shuttle no longer has a purpose. A much smaller craft would be just fine to ferry people to the space station service the occasional space telescope. Can't say I really see much point in the manned space program at all, but as long as we have a $50 billion space station we might as well have a few folks keep the lights on. Its only justification was science and much of that was pretty thin. Mostly it was an end
    • Keeping the space station running means we need a space craft that is big enough to carry spare parts to do repairs and things like that.
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Soyuz, Progress, ATV, HTV, plus soon Dragon and Cygnus are plenty big for that...

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Since you don't see much point in manned space programme, you might indeed see ISS as just a wastefull science and political project...

      But it's an exercise in space engineering, space dock and long term missions (for which the main difference would be lack of shielding from the magnetosphere, hence requiring artificial one, and propulsion system; both relativelly easy modelled)

      BTW, there was quite a bit more science done than just the rovers...

  • It's amazing to think there could really be only three more space shuttle missions before the retirement of all the orbiter fleet. The current plan is to sell the orbiters to museums as soon as possible.

    The United States is suspending manned spaceflight.

    I wish that the final shuttle missions would be flown by the extended duration orbiter, Endeavor. I wish that the missions could be extended to even longer or that there were a plan in place to refit and refly the shuttles. But there is no plan to ke

  • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettin&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @02:04AM (#31745194) Homepage

    After Discovery's Launch, What's Left For the Shuttle?

    Discovery's landing, I should hope!

  • by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:06AM (#31746232)

    I'm amazed that they've missed the fact that the July flight of Endeavour is due to carry the $2B particle physics experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), to the ISS.

    Spearheaded by Nobel-prize winner, Sam Ting, and built and funded largely outside the normal peer review process, AMS is one of the most significant physics experiments of recent years, but as much for political and sociological reasons as scientific. If nothing else, without AMS and its friends in high places, there would only two shuttle flights left: this one was added by Bush and ratified by Obama completely over the head of NASA's normal process.

    That all said, AMS recently moved from testing at CERN in Switzerland to ESA's ESTEC in the Netherlands for electromagnetic and thermal-vacuum testing, and is on a really (really) tight timeline to get to KSC in time for the July launch. There are good reasons to suspect that that flight will be delayed into August and perhaps even moved later in the year behind Discovery's last flight.

    I was on a VIP trip to KSC very recently and was thrilled to be shown around the Orbiter Processing Facility where both Endeavour and Atlantis are be prepared for their last flights at present, while Discovery was out on the pad. Very special for a space geek to be literally inches from all of those tiles on the underside of Endeavour and (sorry NASA :-) to have actually sneaked a touch of the undercarriage.

    Also deeply, deeply sad to think that this will all be over very soon: the shuttle programme has been an inspiration all the way back to the drop tests of the Enterprise back in 1977, even in the darkest hours. While I understand all the technical and financial arguments for stopping it now, psychologically it seems crazy to do so, particularly in the absence of any successor. End of an era. There were moments when I was pretty choked up on that OPF visit, I have to admit.

  • Uh oh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by PhaseChange (244013) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:05AM (#31746490)
    The Discovery? A communications failure? I've seen the movie and know what happens next....I would highly recommend NOT going out to repair the antenna...there might be a problem with the pod bay doors....
  • um... (Score:4, Funny)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:28AM (#31747202) Homepage

    Re-entry?

  • They are only mid-way through their structural life. However it costs a fortune to refurbish them for each mission.

    Note that B-52 bombers have been used for 55 years and likely for at least 75 years. there are several cold-war era planes that have passed the half-century mark.
  • Just like old tanks, train cars, and even some jumbo jets, the old shuttles should be sold off to be local tourist attractions. Convert the cargo bay into a couple of hotel rooms, or make one into a restaurant for "out of this world cuisine"!

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