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NASA Unveils Sweeping New Programs For Next 5 Years 278

Posted by timothy
from the now-another-sweeping-announcement dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that after terminating the Constellation program, which was to develop rockets to return humans to the moon, NASA has announced that instead it will focus on developing commercial flights of crew and cargo to the ISS and long-range technology to allow sustained exploration beyond Earth's orbit, including exploration by humans. 'We're talking about technologies that the field has long wished we had but for which we did not have the resources,' says NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. 'These are things that don't exist today but we'll make real in the coming years. This budget enables us to plan for a real future in exploration with capabilities that will make amazing things not only possible, but affordable and sustainable.'"
"Among the new programs is an effort known as Flagship Technology Demonstrations, intended to test things like orbital fuel depots and using planetary atmospheres instead of braking rockets to land safely, a program that will cost $6 billion over the next five years and will be run by the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Kennedy Space Center in Florida is to get $5.8 billion over five years to develop a commercial program for carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station. These new programs will be 'extending the frontiers of exploration beyond the wildest dreams of the early space pioneers,' added Bolden."
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NASA Unveils Sweeping New Programs For Next 5 Years

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  • Sweeping (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kiehlster (844523) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:37AM (#31788048) Homepage
    Sounds like NASA's gone low-tech using brooms to sweep away the old and introduce the new stuff rather than simply unveiling new programs.
  • R & D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:38AM (#31788050)

    "It will enable us to accomplish inspiring exploration, science and R and D, the kinds of things the agency has been known for throughout its history."

    NASA does a hell of a lot more than just launch people into space. This new budget will give NASA a leg up on real cutting edge R & D in new technologies. All the billions of dollars going towards getting men to the Moon will be spent on next generation rocket tech and many other exciting fields.

    • Re:R & D (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:49AM (#31788132)
      And it won't do any good if we're not inspiring future scientists and engineers. Research isn't all about money, you need people too. The manned spaceflight program provided the inspirations for thousands if not millions of scientists and engineers. I'm not looking forward to a world where all the amazing stuff is done by our robots. I'm not saying Constellation was a great program (it wasn't), but nixing manned spaceflight entirely is worse.
      • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:00AM (#31788248)
        according to the current budget, its the private sector's job.

        There's BILLIONS of dollars in potential earnings from manned space flight in the private sector. First it will be ventures like Space Ship Two that send people up for a couple hundred grand a pop. In a few years there will be the first private orbital manned private spaceflight. There's ideas for hotels, private moon missions and much, much more.

        The manned spaceflight program provided the inspirations for thousands if not millions of scientists and engineers.

        NASA has successfully pulled this load for 50 years (of course Apollo more than Shuttle). NASAs turn at the forefront is over. Its time for the private sector to start doing the manned flight inspiring.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          "There's ideas for hotels, private moon missions and much, much more."
          this will never happen until their is a radical change in how people get to space.

          It simply costs too much money. And yes, even the very wealthy will bald at spending million a night in a hotel with no pool and a risk of death a foot away.

          Human Spaceflight is still one of NASA specialties. There just not going to act a s a bus anymore.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by diamondsw (685967)

          Its time for the private sector to start doing the manned flight inspiring

          When is the last time the private sector did anything "inspiring"? The private sector is best known for greed, self-interest, and only doing what will get them a buck this quarter - long-term be damned. Not exactly "inspiring".

          • by ashitaka (27544)

            Take a look at how the automobile has developed since the 60's and tell me that the private sector doesn't do anything "inspiring". (As long as there is some regulatory oversight for safety)

            • by GooberToo (74388) on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:56AM (#31790360)

              Take a look at how the automobile has developed since the 60's and tell me that the private sector doesn't do anything "inspiring". (As long as there is some regulatory oversight for safety)

              So to say it correctly, "Thank you Mr. Government". They, US companies anyways, did nothing which was not forced on them by oversight, regulation, and new laws. Most of the cool new technology didn't even come from US companies. It actually came from foreign auto makers who actually invest in long term R&D.

              You need to keep in mind, something like fuel injection existed during the 50s and 60s but wasn't widely introduced into vehicles until the government mandated better economy.

              So realistically, at the end of the day, you can thank government and foreign companies which are not completely fucked up like American companies are. American companies don't understand the word, "long term". And if they use those words, its an absolute fact they are lying. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but not with US car companies.

        • There's BILLIONS of dollars in potential earnings from manned space flight in the private sector. First it will be ventures like Space Ship Two that send people up for a couple hundred grand a pop. In a few years there will be the first private orbital manned private spaceflight. There's ideas for hotels, private moon missions and much, much more.

          We've been telling ourselves that since the 60's

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        but nixing manned spaceflight entirely is worse.

        Good thing we're not doing that, then.

        • Yeah, we are. Low Earth orbit isn't manned space flight.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Chris Burke (6130)

            If you say so. But we weren't doing any manned spaceflight anyway then. Oh yeah we had a plan to one day do the same thing we've already done, at the cost of most other interesting things NASA is doing, like developing a way to go beyond what we did 40 years ago.

            If having an underfunded a underambitious boondoggle like Constellation on the books that will, at best, recreate the past in another 15 years assuming it doesn't keep slipping, is all you want, that's fine. But if that program's hypothetical fut

    • How much has NASA spent on R&D since the moon trip? NASA has come up with a lot of good spin-off technologies (though not so many in recent years...); but do you really think that those things would remain undiscovered forever? Would velcro never have happened if NASA didn't need it? I find that unlikely.

      Never thought I'd say this, but it's time to move on. The last truly monumental thing done by NASA was almost half a century ago now. The money dumped in to NASA over the decades since then could

      • by jcr (53032)

        Chief among those is not being taken from the people who earned it in the first place.

        Bingo. I'd mod you up if I had the points.

        -jcr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:39AM (#31788066)

    NASA is at its best when it's researching and developing new technologies to achieve the previously unachievable. Obama's nixing of the Constellation program was a good move as it was a program based entirely off of existing technology. NASA's budget overall has increased, and their renewed focus on future tech will inspire budding students to take up engineering, computer programmers, physicists, mathematicians, and other difficult fields. This will certainly reap rewards long into the future.

  • Meh (Score:2, Funny)

    by vwjeff (709903)
    I feel inspired
  • Oh, look.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eggplant62 (120514) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:50AM (#31788136)

    Someone thought of a way to drive our economy, create new jobs, set up new business opportunities, and create a whole sector of global wealth, all without raiding some shithole country in Farthest Outer Asia. I'm floored.

    Smell that? That's sarcasm.

  • by findoutmoretoday (1475299) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:52AM (#31788154)
    'extending the frontiers of exploration beyond the wildest dreams of the early space pioneers,'

    NASA underestimates dreams
  • FAIL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:53AM (#31788166) Homepage

    I'm seeing a lot of talk about figuring out how to do things that we might want to do, maybe, at some point.

    You know why Apollo worked? We set goals and a date, and the figuring out took care of itself.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Here I was thinking that it worked because there was national prestige at stake and the hearts and minds of the world. The Soviets were basically saying "haha! we're better than you" and the US needed to prove that they weren't. The same is not true now. No matter how much time and effort you put into making the airfield look legit and pretend to talk into radios, the planes will not come flying out of the sky with food and supplies. Give up on the Apollo cargo cult, people have been trying to rekindle

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Svartalf (2997)

        Actually, it's a little of both. There was a national prestige thing going on- AND they set goals, a series of planned dates, and then just did it.

        Cargo Cult? Only to those that don't have any of the history at their disposal- and access to some of the people that were there while they were growing up (My Father and Grandfather...and I've got verifiable proof of some of the stuff I've been told over the years in their shop notes, etc...). And there is something to the complaints from that "cargo cult".

        NA

    • Re:FAIL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:29AM (#31788508)

      You know why Apollo worked? We set goals and a date, and the figuring out took care of itself.

      I suspect it worked because the government considered it important enough to pay for.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        I just wish they'd consider it worth spending on... We've gotten quite a bit of return on the Apollo investments- and we'll see NOTHING from the bank bailouts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      You know why Apollo worked? We set goals and a date, and the figuring out took care of itself.

      Is that how you think it works? The figuring takes care of itself? I'd say you have a bright future in middle management, but you forgot to mention budget.

      Here's what setting a goal and a date got us: A program that was, at best, a rehash of Apollo which involved zero "figuring out" of the real problems facing space exploration today. Oh, but because the ones who created this program were also terrible managers

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:56AM (#31788192) Homepage Journal

    damn if they aren't doing a good job apologizing for putting NASA on the back burner. Effectively ending US leadership in space is about the sum of it, with all the required "forward looking" related buzzwords. Yet for every politico speak buzzword fest there is the followup of "no long range plan"

    In other words, there ain't money for rocket science. Really, until some other nation lays claim to the moon or really starts being pushy in space our space program is going to be full of double talk and expectations. So, uh, yeah, they have the resources now to develop x,y, and z. Well duh, your not doing any expensive launches your bound to have money for other things. The problem is, research is not exciting to the public. It does not capture the imagination. So NASA will fall further from the public's eye which will make it easier to keep marginalizing it.

    It does not generate sufficient votes in an entitlement first generation. Why spend money to go to the moon when we can use the money to provide entitlements which generate votes which keeps us safely in office.

    Hell, NASA's budget ain't larger than a rounding error in the overall scheme of things. To tell the American public with a straight face there ain't money to do that is astounding. Whats worse are all the people running to defend it. We just spent more money shoring up some major banks than we spent in the last ten years on the space program! The stimulus package had more pork than NASA has budget.

    What those articles do is nothing more than spew a well rehearsed apology for going nowhere.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:15AM (#31788380)
      What leadership? You mean continuing to launch one $700 million shuttle after another and constantly making promises that they never delivered on? The U.S. hasn't led anything in human exploration since Apollo. All they've been doing for the last 40 years on that front is delivering animations of ships and missions that never pan out and holding press conferences about how *one day* we're going to the moon and/or Mars (promises which get pushed back every few years). The cancellation of Constellation was just a tacit admission of what anyone with eyes, ears, and any memory at all has known for a long time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        ". All they've been doing for the last 40 years on that front is delivering animations of ships and missions that never pan out and holding press conferences about how *one day* we're going to the moon and/or Mars (promises which get pushed back every few years). The cancellation of Constellation was just a tacit admission of what anyone with eyes, ears, and any memory at all has known for a long time."
        It is called surrender.
        We did have Skylab which was big leap in Space station. Did you know we have a seco

    • by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:40AM (#31788628) Homepage Journal

      We just spent more money shoring up some major banks than we spent in the last ten years on the space program!

      OK, enough of this bullshit that I keep hearing mindlessly repeated. The TARP funds that went to banks were structured as investments, which haven't done too bad considering the circumstances.

      A big chunk of that has been paid back (at an annual rate of return around 8.5% [snl.com]). Yes there will be some write-offs that will ultimately lower that rate and in the end, it may end up being a wash. That means little or no net loss. Pretty good for a government program.

      Stop spewing this ridiculous meme that the bank bailouts were some huge money sink. It is not true.

      Now, if you want to complain about how things went with our money and AIG (an insurance company) and the automakers, fine. But on the balance, the bank bailout wasn't too bad...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)

        A big chunk of that has been paid back (at an annual rate of return around 8.5%).

        And "reinvested" in shit business. The TARP program is some sort of twisted version of the Gambler's Ruin problem [wikipedia.org]. Any positive return is put back in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        Also, it bears mentioning that the TARP money and an even larger amount put at the disposal of the Federal Reserve, are probably the largest, unsupervised slush funds ever created. I see no evidence of accountability or purpose in these funds. You can talk about the return on investment, but it ignores both that this money has been sunk into some really bad investments (like the car companies) and that these bad investments won't show up right away.
        • I'm not arguing that the TARP program overall isn't a questionable idea.

          I'm just trying to inject a little TRUTH into the discussion. The OP (and so many others, both here and elsewhere) are screaming about how the bank bailouts are the cause of all of our problems.

          It turned out that the bank bailouts were a pretty good investment, or at least pretty much a wash.

          If people want to rant about real problems/mistakes, fine. But I'm getting sick of some of the untrue memes that people mindlessly repeat over an

      • Don't forget the opportunity costs of not bailing out GM or AIG. Although I found the behavior of the two companies reprehensible, the failure of a mammoth company like AIG would have been devastating to the economy.

        We may never know the true extent of what the damage could have been -- it's certainly possible that a GM liquidation could have spurred the creation of several new companies out of the former parent's assets, although for the time being, it looks like it was the right thing to do, even though

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        You do realize that currently on the fed balance sheet there are more than a trillion dollars worth of mortgage backed securities that we've bought from banks, right? There's a reason the banks were able to pay TARP back so quickly, the money hole was just moved from one pile to another. The AIG, Bear Stearns, and auto-company bailouts were small in comparison. Check out the current Fed balance sheet for more info [wsj.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Mod this reply up! The main reason why the big banks are doing well now is because of two things:

          1. Government took over risky stuff off their balance sheet so they were not in such dire straits any more.

          2. Government pumped ENORMOUS amount of liquidity into the system so that borrowing is free. It is easy to make money when you borrow for nothing and lend it out for 5%.

          All these have long term costs for the government and we will all start feeling it real soon while the bankers will be giving themsel

    • Really, until some other nation lays claim to the moon or really starts being pushy in space our space program is going to be full of double talk and expectations.

      That's already happening [slashdot.org] ...sort of.

  • IMHO, at this technological point all efforts should go towards establishing a fully inhabitable and equipped space station.

    Not a web of tiny corridors, but a large building, sith actual rooms, artificial gravity, etc.

    First step? Reduce a hundredfold the price of pushing stuff into orbit.

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:59AM (#31788232) Homepage
    The Slashdot summary quotes the New York Times as "after terminating the Constellation program...", but the real quote uses the subjunctive: "President Obama’s plan for space, announced this year, would terminate the Constellation program." Obama doesn't write the budget bill, Congress does. And according to a March 24 Orlando Sentinel [orlandosentinel.com] blog, "House panel vows to save Constellation":

    Members of the U.S. House panel with direct oversight of NASA vowed Wednesday to oppose White House plans to cancel the Constellation moon rocket program, calling the proposal a “deficient” idea that could jeopardize U.S. leadership in space exploration.

    The criticism, from both Republicans and Democrats, underscores the difficulty that President Barack Obama faces in convincing Congress of his plan, which would terminate Constellation and instead rely on commercial rockets to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

    I predict that the usual political sausage factory will preserve some part of Constellation. Look how long the F-22 lived on life support.

  • for every astronaut we send up into LEO, we can probably send 40 cutrate probes all over the solar system. hell, as the predator drones in afghanistan show, not even the military needs pilots anymore

    the point is: the days of needing pilots and astronauts is over. everything can be done remotely for orders of magnitude of less cash outlay, for much greater amounts of quality science

    instead, send probes, hundreds of them. send 20 to saturn. send 40 to jupiter. lose a few. who cares? get them up there fast and keep cranking them out. fire and forget. FOR FAR LESS MONEY, ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, THAN A MANNED SPACE PROGRAM TO THE MOON. do quality science remotely. do it on a giant scale

    to hell with sending men to the moon, to hell with sending women to mars, enough of that pointless cold war chest thumping. let india and china play that idiotic nationalist game of who has the bigger penis now. sending human beings into space, for the foreseeable future, is a vanity, a conceit, a waste of money and time, like a rich guy buying a ridiculously expensive car just because he can

    lets give up the puerile boyhood scifi fantasies, and start doing real interplanetary on a massive scale... for far less money!

    • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:16AM (#31788386)
      In privately operated spacecraft!

      NASA paved the way with huge, expensive spacecraft. It's time now for the USA to put private sector ingenuity and efficiency to the Space sector. The US government should put some nice Tax incentives in place for space companies to keep them in the USA, thus keeping incentives for engineers and scientists to stay here.

      It isn't a waste of money if it pays for itself in Private hands!

      • i welcome all the budding dr. nos out there. if you have a lot of cash to blow, go ahead and do it on a space fantasy. what the hell do i care?

        however, my comment has to do with what nasa does with our public money, and a national program of unmanned space probes certainly makes the most sense, for many reasons, not least of which is that it can be really cheap: lots of science bang for very little buck

        there's no reason to give that up because some rich dude has a space fetish

    • by khallow (566160) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:29AM (#31788498)

      for every astronaut we send up into LEO, we can probably send 40 cutrate probes all over the solar system.

      It's more the other way around. Current seat price on the Shuttle (which is already pretty darn expensive) is something like $100 million, perhaps a bit more. The Discovery class probes are around half a billion dollars. This is as close to "cut rate" as NASA gets. That's five astronauts in space. You're off by a factor of 200.

      Now, if we really did cut rate probes, then we could as well do cut rate manned missions as well. I still don't see the price advantage that probes are supposed to have over people. It remains, for example, that a few geologists on Mars for a few years, would do a lot more scientific work than a few dozen space probes, perhaps even a few hundred space probes over a few decades of exploration (there's some hideous inefficiencies here, since in the unmanned exploration scenario an unanswered question requires a new unmanned mission, which typically takes a decade or more to develop and deploy currently). They wouldn't have the geographical coverage, of course, but most of the problems with space probes is that they simply are too limited to do much science at a time.

      • when you don't have to deal with something that eats, drinks, breathes, shits, and pisses, you can get a hell of lot more bang for your buck. surely you can see this

        i want to see RPI managing 5 probes on venus, i want to see lehigh managing 10 probes on the moon, i want to see northwestern managing 15 probes on titan. i want to see carnegie mellon and case western arguing over which of their probes gets to prospect the interesting block of ice on ganymede, because they both spotted it at the same time. i wa

        • by khallow (566160)

          when you don't have to deal with something that eats, drinks, breathes, shits, and pisses, you can get a hell of lot more bang for your buck. surely you can see this

          That "something" also is lightyears ahead in capability of any unmanned probe we can currently field. The stuff you mention is just overhead.

          • a probe is merely an extension of a human's senses

            if you send a probe, a human being is still evaluating, deciding, and learning, just as if he were standing on an alien surface

            yes, with a time delay for radio signals. as if whatever a meatbag is learning, deciding, and evaluating on an alien surface isn't also time delayed when being relayed back to earth! and how much more does it cost to send the guy instead?

            think of the military guys sitting in a cubicle farm in nevada killing al qaeda assholes remotely from predator drones. why do you need those actual guys sitting in the actual drones? YOU DON'T! what are you gaining by doing it remotely? what are you losing by doing it remotely? THINK! drones are the model for space exploration in our lifetime: more bang for the buck, very little is lost, plain and simple

            and what of the massive price reduction? sending 1 meat bag to mars=sending 100 probes around the solar system. why don't you see that the tradeoffs between meatbags and probes obviously and overwhelmingly balance out in favor of unmanned probes?

            think of sending probes as the same as sending astronauts, but the astronaut is sitting in a room in cape canaveral using a probe to see, hear, feel, and touch FOR ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE LESS MONEY

            why don't people see this? because of fan boy sci fi fantasies, that's why. everyone wants to be an astronaut. 5 out of the 5 million who want to be astronauts will actually get the chance. but with drones, 5,000 out of 5 million who want to be astronauts get to do real space science... remotely instead. so think of what your boyhood fantasies and your mental deathgrip on the "need" to send meatbags into space is costing you in terms of your real chances, in your lifetime, to do real space science

            the fan boys have inculcated star wars and star trek as the only cognitive model that makes sense to them. you adhere to the idea of astronauts out of passion, not logic and reason. SOMEDAY, we'll go into space. and our probes will have, in the meantime:

            1. decided the best place to go
            2. made massive strides in science and technology
            3. even set up the infrastructure and facilities waiting for our arrival

            compare that with the emotional but expensive and impractical and limited idea of actually going there in person first. its poor strategic thinking

            face facts: we only have extremely primitive spacefaring technologies. work with what you got, and resign yourself to the fact that firefly is centuries from now, and will never occur in your lifetime

            you get probes instead. work with what you got. if you instead waste your resources on investing in the idea of meatbags in space instead, you will satisfy some sort of atavistic fantasy life, but you will also see far less discovery and far less science in your lifetime, because the simple truth is that your financial and technological resources are limited

            it really is a no brainer: no more astronauts. stop wasting your time and money on that conceit, please

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        And there you go... In the end, we need both things, really.

        Part of the main reason things aren't getting done in the same manner that they were in the Apollo days of NASA is that they roughly have half the proportionate budget in dollars than they had in the 60's right now, coupled with a bureaucracy like any other ossified government agency.

    • by khallow (566160)

      instead, send probes, hundreds of them. send 20 to saturn. send 40 to jupiter. lose a few. who cares? get them up there fast and keep cranking them out. fire and forget. FOR FAR LESS MONEY, ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, THAN A MANNED SPACE PROGRAM TO THE MOON. do quality science remotely. do it on a giant scale

      OTOH, this here is a very sexy unmanned approach. I wouldn't mind scrapping a hobby-level manned program for a couple decades, if it meant some sort of serious, methodical unmanned approach like this. It's worth noting that the Apollo program had 21 unmanned probes as part of the deal for a cost (in 1994 dollars [asi.org]) of less than $5 billion dollars. The Russians had some success in their series of probes to Mars and Venus in the 70s when they did a similar approach. As far as I'm concerned, the approach has bee

      • for coming around to the superior approach

        spread the word, evangelize with me

        we need to wake the fan boys out of their star trek fantasies and the false need for putting bodies into space and get to work instead on inexpensive, rapidly deployed, unmanned probes. lots of them, quick, cheap, easy. fire and forget, lose a few who cares, crank them out by the dozens

        there's lots of science to be done, a lot more cheaply and a lot more easily and faster than one pissing and breathing meatbag on mars which only ac

    • by Leebert (1694) * on Friday April 09, 2010 @10:38AM (#31789268)

      the point is: the days of needing pilots and astronauts is over. everything can be done remotely for orders of magnitude of less cash outlay, for much greater amounts of quality science

      One of the STS-125 astronauts (I forget which) was asked this question at an event I attended.

      He told an anecdotal story about having asked a geologist about the science being done on Mars by the rovers, and how long it would take a geologist to do the same science if he were on the surface of Mars.

      The geologist did some back of the envelope calculations, and replied back "About 15 minutes."

      The point was that there is absolutely a place for both manned space exploration as well as unmanned exploration. Yes, human space flight technology is still primitive. It will need to improve for us to do more practical manned exploration. But that doesn't mean we sit on our butts and expect the technology to magically appear.

      Did Balboa or Columbus wait for diesel-powered cargo ships to do their dangerous trips? Did Lewis and Clark wait for a transcontinental railroad to magically appear?

      • we do what we can afford. and if we can send out 100 probes, or 1 meatbag to mars, for the same price, its a no brainer to send out the probes, and to hell with the meatbag

        and those probes can do the science and find where to go and set up the facilities that will be needed to support humans when we finally DO get humans out there

        "But that doesn't mean we sit on our butts and expect the technology to magically appear."

        what the hell is that supposed to mean? sending out astronauts is the only way to advance

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          and if we can send out 100 probes, or 1 meatbag to mars, for the same price

          We can't.

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      "not even the military needs pilots anymore"

      Watchu talking bout son. For every Predator in the air there are two pilots someplace in Arizona manning it remotely.

      And sending 20 probes to Saturn is stupid compared to making on more expensive mission to send a drone blimp or a drone boat to Titan. Besides for every probe you have large teams of all kinds of people behind, and then you have years of study on the returned data by planetologists and such. So if you've got money to blow on probes you might as

  • obligatory quote (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sloepoke51 (657405)
    As per the lack of NASA manned space funding...
    from "The Right Stuff"
    No Bucks, No Buck Rogers" or in this case "No Buck Rogers, No Bucks"
  • was to develop rockets to return humans to the moon

    I'm confused. How did they get here in the first place?
    Just because they don't like it here, does not mean that we have to send 'em back on NASA's dime, dammit.
    I mean, what have the Lunar humans ever done for us?

  • A funding proposal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:25AM (#31788462) Homepage Journal

    NASA cannot do anything long term because they have no long term funding - every year their funding is up for the chop in the name of political expediency. Since almost ANYTHING NASA can do is long term, this means they really cannot do anything.

    So, here's my proposal as to how to fix this. This would require Congress passing a law, but once the law is passed, Congress is out of the loop.

    1) Create a class of bonds - NASA bonds.
    2) The money from selling these bond SHALL BY LAW only go to funding NASA.
    3) Any technological spin-offs from NASA developments funded by these bonds SHALL be owned by NASA, SHALL be licensed to industry under reasonable and non-discriminatory rates, and those license fees SHALL be used to repay the bonds.
    4) Interest rates on the bonds SHALL be based upon the license fees above - no fees, no payments. In this sense the "bonds" aren't "bonds" in that they can fail.
    5) IF NASA can convince the market the bonds will be profitable, THEN the bonds will sell well and NASA will have a steady source of funds. If NASA cannot convince the market, then the bonds won't sell to the market.
    6) However, if you are truly a star-struck geek, you can still buy the bonds, even if you don't think they will pay off, if you feel that the work is worth the risk of losing your money.
    7) Since the funding is now voluntary, nobody can reasonably complain about "their money being wasted" (not that will stop them).
    8) If NASA starts doing things that people don't want to fund, the bonds will dry up, and NASA will (hopefully) get the message.
    9) For those who will claim this is just "NASA, Inc." - not quite. A company MUST make a profit, and failing to do so can be actionable by the shareholders. This setup purposefully allows NASA to NOT make a profit.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Alternately: accept the reality that large scale missions can't be achieved over presidential transitions and plan missions that are short enough in duration for the current President to take the credit when they are successfully completed.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Unfortunately, most of the sort of missions that can be accomplished are larger, longer term than that- NASA won't get to do much of anything if they take that and will dwindle even further down the hill.

  • another direction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:32AM (#31788536) Journal

    I mean NASA is seriously fucked up at this point in time. Every time they try and do something the rug is pulled out from under them. I know it's cynical but when I was growing up watching all this I really thought space would be accessible to a greater portion of the population than you can count in less than a minute.

    It's seriously fucking disappointing and I just can't even read this stuff from NASA anymore cause it's more of the same 'were gonna do this we're gonna do that' blah blah blah.

    NASA has gone from being a 'can do' organisation to a 'gonna do' organisation.

    • I mean NASA is seriously fucked up at this point in time. Every time they try and do something the rug is pulled out from under them.

      To be fair, the constellation project wasn't going well when it got pulled. Private industry aren't immune to budget cuts themselves, and it was probably a good idea to scrap it instead of having it turn into another Shuttle-like debacle, in which the final product was an order of magnitude over budget, and failed to achieve any of its original design goals.

      • As they did with the X-33 and so on. When do you stop "stopping" the development and going ahead? No way we can say this won't happen again.
  • Is it just me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:57AM (#31788810)

    or "To send a robot where no robot has gone before" doesn't exactly sound quite as exciting as the original phrase.

  • Research is great, and I think NASA should do it, and I hope they continue to do it.

    But not at the expense of actually doing things.

    The way I'm reading the spin is we basically canceled our space program so that we can think about having another one some day.

    That's fucking depressing.

  • ... To explore strange new worlds; To seek out new life, and new civilizations; To boldly go where no man has gone before.

  • But there seems a lack of definition and that worries me. There has to be concrete goals to make this work. It's all good and well if we develop a new ion engine that get's you to Neptune in 5 years, but not so good if it really can't put anything less than a probe there. Where are we going is the question?

Computers will not be perfected until they can compute how much more than the estimate the job will cost.

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