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NASA Attempts To Cut Back Constellation 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-stop-sending-checks dept.
FleaPlus writes "In a surprise move in the battle between NASA and certain members of Congress over NASA's future direction, NASA has told its contractors to cut back nearly $1 billion on this year's Ares/Constellation program, stating that the cutback is necessary to remain in compliance with federal spending laws requiring contractors to withhold contract termination costs. While complying with budgeting laws (and in line with NASA's desire to cancel Constellation), this move is also potentially in violation of a 2010 appropriations amendment by Sen. Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Bennett (R-UT) which prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation contracts. If NASA's move goes through, the biggest liability is $500M for ATK, the contractor who is/was responsible for the first stage of the Ares I medium-lift rocket."
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NASA Attempts To Cut Back Constellation

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  • by nopainogain (1091795) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:47AM (#32534032)
    Orion left holding pants up with no belt
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ccarson (562931)
      Too bad this is happening because I've always been a fan of private industry gaining more experience in the space exploration industry. It seems, not only was NASA inefficient and bureaucratic when it came to building space vehicles, they're impotent when charged with the simple task of doling out cash to competent private companies who are better equipped to handle the job. Yet another example of how large government is broken. I've worked in both the private and public sector and know from experience t
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Pojut (1027544)

        This I agree with. I think NASA should be used as a governing body to be in charge of overall space operations (for now), but the private industry should be funded enough to do the research and build the vehicles. NASA shouldn't be gutted (on the contrary, I think its budget should still be increased), but its role needs to be looked at.

        Not sure why you were modded down. Companies like Orbital (formally Fairchild) already build most of NASA's hardware anyway. Might as well make it official, know what I

        • " I think NASA should be used as a governing body to be in charge of overall space operations (for now), but the private industry should be funded enough to do the research and build the vehicles."

          I think NASA should be abolished. It was a creature of it's time... the US-Soviet space race, and it served its purpose as a cradle of US space exploration. It's time we left the cradle and let the children grow up and move out on their own. Abolish NASA, and farm out its responsibilities to existing agencies. Tra

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            Regardless, NASA in its current form has outlived its usefulness, and its duties are too varied and scattershot. Break it up and merge it into smaller units with distinctive missions.

            Which I addressed in my OP and you somehow missed when you quoted me:-)

            From my post:

            NASA shouldn't be gutted (on the contrary, I think its budget should still be increased), but its role needs to be looked at.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pnewhook (788591)

        This is a great example of how NASA is trying to cut a wasteful program but is having its hands tied by Republican senators with solely their own selfish interests in mind and not caring about the usefulness of the end output. I can't remember the exact number but something like over 90% of the NASA budget is mandated of where it is spent by congress and the NASA administrator has no control over it. NASA has no choice but to be inefficient when saddled with restrictions like that.

        NASA would be far more ef

        • The filibuster DDoS attack against the constitutional function of the senate brings you much of todays PORK spending. These senators have corps in their state that want our tax money. Deals must be made for EACH senator's pet project when they decide they are in the best position to abuse procedures. (filibuster is not written into the system and some voting thresholds are which clearly imply a majority rule is the expected norm.)

          State government needs to get back some of their power to pick senators. We

          • The filibuster DDoS attack against the constitutional function of the senate brings you much of todays PORK spending....

            These senators have corps in their state that want our tax money.State government needs to get back some of their power to pick senators. We changed it due to corruption; but it has become corrupt either way while state representation has fallen down to the point where the federal government has become too powerful.

            Although I agree with your assessment that the filibuster is bottleneck co

            • I'm not saying they should go back to the past system; although, that is the traditional constitutional way...

              Its possible since we did change it in the past, to change it again. A hybrid of 1/3 vote by the state and 2/3 by popular vote for example. Something to keep state governments in the federal loop because its too federal now and was too much a state level corruption problem before. At least with state corruption it differed by state; although, corporations are more powerful than federal government so

        • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:32AM (#32537040)

          You are correct except for your knee-jerk desire to place blame on a single party. BOTH parties pull as much pork money into their states as possible, and in this case as many of the NASA contracts are in states that tend to vote republican, it happens to be republican senators pushing this particular issue... but do some reading on the subject and you'll find that there are plenty of democrats in the same situation with NASA contracts in their states as well.

          Polictics is politics. No matter what team you're on, you play the same game. Political parties matter about as much as uniform colors. You root for the burgandy and gold team, I root for the yellow and black team.

        • by bigpat (158134)

          I can't remember the exact number but something like over 90% of the NASA budget is mandated of where it is spent by congress and the NASA administrator has no control over it. NASA has no choice but to be inefficient when saddled with restrictions like that.

          I'm shocked. Shocked! You say that spending within a government agency is driven by... AGHAST... politics?

          If you want to take some of the politics out, then with their scientists, R&D and launch facilities the NASA centers would be very competitive as FFRDCs. Look at NASA's JPL which is overseen by Caltech and see how successful they have been with the robotic missions: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf05306/#Topic5 [nsf.gov]

          Why aren't all the NASA centers run like that? Focus on the missions.

          • by pnewhook (788591)

            Why aren't all the NASA centers run like that?

            Because as I said, the vast majority of the money is mandated to go to specific projects instead of where it makes sense.

  • Augh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:50AM (#32534054) Homepage

    It pisses me off to no end that we can afford to spend trillions of dollars killing each other, but we can't afford a few billion dollars exploring the universe around us.

    What the fuck, people.

    • Re:Augh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flitty (981864) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:57AM (#32534116)
      Well, more accurately, we can only support exploring the universe around us if we find a way for private companies to sell tickets.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by somersault (912633)

        I know that's just a joke (well, I hope it is) - but as Pojut says, the money is clearly there if they just get their priorities straight. Definitely no need for any other sources of income.

        • Okay, so a post about sources of income for a story about budget cuts.. is offtopic. Now I'm 100% sure the mods are on some kind of medication.

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            And not the "hey, take a deep breath and let's experiment" kind of medication!

      • I just wish the tickets were cheaper.

      • Re:Augh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by morgauxo (974071) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:40AM (#32534578)
        No, private companies are only selling tickets to LEO. There is a big difference between running circles around the world we have been on since pre-history and actually exploring another one.
        • by 0123456 (636235)

          No, private companies are only selling tickets to LEO. There is a big difference between running circles around the world we have been on since pre-history and actually exploring another one.

          I believe one of them was offering a trip around the Moon by Soyuz for a couple of hundred million dollars a while back. But that's about as far as current cheap Russian rockets can get.

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            I believe one of them was offering a trip around the Moon by Soyuz for a couple of hundred million dollars a while back. But that's about as far as current cheap Russian rockets can get.

            Yup:

            http://www.constellationservices.com/lunarexpresssmsystem.html [constellat...rvices.com]

            I believe SpaceX is designing their Dragon capsule to be eventually upgradeable to returns from lunar velocities and long-duration missions, as well.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by BlueParrot (965239)

      It pisses me off to no end that we can afford to spend trillions of dollars killing each other, but we can't afford a few billion dollars exploring the universe around us.

      What is even more depressive is that even a small fraction of the US military spending could grant you full health-care coverage for the entire population. The Iraq war alone could have accounted for half a century or so.

      • by sakonofie (979872)
        Estimate of US health care cost in 2009: $2.5 trillion [wikipedia.org].
        CBO estimate of the 2001-2017 total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afganistan: $2.4 trillion [reuters.com].

        This is also kinda depressing.
        But back to space, NASA's annual budget $18.724 billion [wikipedia.org].
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)

        What is even more depressive is that even a small fraction of the US military spending could grant you full health-care coverage for the entire population. The Iraq war alone could have accounted for half a century or so.

        My understanding is that even including medical and retirement costs, the Iraq/Afghanistan military efforts cost around two trillion dollars. The US in 2008 spent 2.3 trillion dollars [kaiseredu.org] on health care. In other words, that's roughly a year of "full health-care coverage" not half a century. No offense but the war among other things bought increased oil security (not perfect though as markets have indicated) and knocked off a particularly troublesome dictator (who had a history of instigating wars and developin

    • Re:Augh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:21AM (#32534334) Journal
      That is annoying, true. But what is more annoying is that these senators are clinging to this expensive program when there are cheaper, safer alternatives that would save jobs, and eliminate the necessity of going to the Russians and saying "Hey Ivan. Can you possibly give me a lift to the ISS?". They are clinging to this program simply because it brings money into their state. They are willing to sacrifice the US manned space flight program, the prestige of the nation for pork. I think Shelby in particular is in a position of conflict of interests. He controls how much money NASA gets AND he represents a state that is home to some major NASA contractors.
      • Re:Augh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by morgauxo (974071) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:49AM (#32534682)
        Constellation had a heavy lifter and plans to go to the moon. The cheaper alternatives end at the ISS. Is that the whole point of the space program now? Astronauts just sit in a can and look at the planet they just left for a while and then come back down? Choose a heavy lifter in 2015? Come on, that's just punting it to the next administration with no real plans to go anywhere.
        • by strack (1051390)
          wrong. constellation had a space shuttle solid rocket first stage, a lot of plans for launchers that were more to keep the pork flowing for ex space shuttle contractors than something that would really be the best way to get to orbit, and nine billion dollars already spent. meanwhile spacex spent a tiny fraction of that amount of money on progressive testing of actual hardware like the falcon 1, and then used that experience to build the falcon 9. which nailed its first flight. you can have plans out the wa
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by nojayuk (567177)

            The Falcon 9 did not nail its first flight. The upper stage ended up in an elliptical 240x280km orbit rather than the planned circular 250km one. The upper stage was also yawing and rolling noticeably after orbital insertion -- I watched the web broadcast of the launch and I wondered if that was deliberate or not, it turns out it was not. Hopefully they'll fix those problems in the next few test launches.

            I can't see NASA or any of the other participants in the ISS programme letting a Spacex vehicle make a

            • For a new spacecraft making it into space without breaking or exploding is a huge success. It IS rocketscience. But only time will tell how reliable this vehicle really is, I doubt that the issues you mentioned are an irreparable design flaw.
            • Well it certainly wasn't perfect, but for the first flight of a new launch vehicle I think it did about as well as could be expected. I'm sure those minor issues can be addressed before any approaches to the station are considered.

              It sure did better than the Falcon 1's first flight.
            • by J05H (5625)

              Proper RCS system would prevent the roll - the upper stage and dummy payload don't have the planned Draco thruster assemblies on the first Falcon 9. Might have helped with circularizing the orbit.

        • Re:Augh. (Score:5, Informative)

          by camperdave (969942) on Friday June 11, 2010 @09:48AM (#32535476) Journal
          The cheaper alternatives end at the ISS.

          Boy are you misinformed! DIRECT's [directlauncher.com] plan is for the Moon, Mars, and Near Earth Objects, with commercial craft doing ISS resupply. By making use of the current shuttle systems and infrastructure (as Constellation was *supposed* do do), they eliminate large chunks of costly development. There's no need to develop new engines when there's half a dozen SSMEs in stock and paid for, and an assembly line and trained workers already in place. There's no need to develop new solid boosters when there's already several in stock and an assembly line and trained workers already in place. There's no need to continually having to re-design the Orion crew capsule to make it light enough to fit on an anaemic ARES-I, a Jupiter 130 can carry two fully loaded Orions with payload capacity to spare.

          Constellation would have cost $10billion for ARES-I and $25billion for ARES-V, $35Billion in total. DIRECT would have cost $8billion for the J-130 and $4billion for the upper stage to turn the J-130 into the J-246, a total of only $12Billion.
          • by morgauxo (974071)
            Yes, but nobody did is or is likely to ever build DIRECT. I was sad myself when Constellation was chosen over DIRECT but unless I missed a really big announcement today DIRECT is as dead as it ever was. Don't think DIRECT will be chosen in 2015 according to Obama's plan of choosing a heavy lifter in that year. Nothing is 'planned to be planned' that far in advance unless it is really not expected to be done at all but merely hot air to keep people from complaining. Even if there really is a heavy lifter
            • Apparently there is still quite a bit of interest in the industry to proceed with a DIRECT-like plan. Just a month or two ago Boeing released a heavy lift vehicle proposal that was almost a clone of the J-246SH Jupiter variant.
          • by caseih (160668)

            This is not quite correct. When the shuttle is retired, the Augustine commission claims there are a total of 17 SSMEs, which certainly could be used. But the assembly lines that produced the SSMEs were shut down years ago. Endeavour was largely built from spare parts, including the SSMEs that NASA had. So there's no assembly line to produce them and the trained workers are long gone. Besides the spares all we have are the plans. I don't think that the tooling even exists any more.

            • I thought that they were supposed to shut down the line, but were dragging their feet on actually shutting it down. My mistake.
      • But what is more annoying is that these senators are clinging to this expensive program when there are cheaper, safer alternatives that would save jobs

        Constellation was cheap and safe back when it was a paper project too. They're always cheap and safe on paper.
         
        Where things invariably get sticky is when they have to transition from paper to the real world - then all of the sudden, they aren't cheap or safe anymore.

        • DIRECT could double its costs (which, by the way, already include generous padding in case of overruns) and still be cheaper than Constellation. Besides, the bulk of the J-130 already exists in the real world. The Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) and Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) would be used as-is. The External Tank ET needs slight modification - replace the bullet shaped nose with a blunt end cap (which is identical to the one on the tail end), and eliminate the manufacturing step where they shave me
          • That's how Constellation started out too... But, when it came time to move from paper to hardware is when the problems arose. But you handwave those away - mentioning two modifications to the ET, but failing to include them on the paper-to-real transition list. You also miss the change to the piping to connect the tanks to the SSME's (which isn't simple), designing a new nose (it isn't identical to the tail - the loads are not only completely different, they're experienced 180 degree's from each other),

            • Constellation's problems didn't arise on the move from paper to hardware. Constellation's problems arose long before that. It was a flawed design right from the start. Within a year of the initial concept, simulations showed that it was underpowered. They were looking everywhere to gain even a thousand extra pounds of thrust. They were looking at ways to cut systems down by hundreds of pounds. Do they use three parachutes or two? Do they include toilets or not? Do they land on land or at sea? Do
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      First we need to prove that there are things to slaughter in outer space and then NASA funding will... increase greatly (should mod me for holding off using an obvious and terrible pun then)

    • Re:Augh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:31AM (#32534420) Homepage Journal

      It pisses me off to no end that we can afford to spend trillions of dollars killing each other, but we can't afford a few billion dollars exploring the universe around us.

      It pisses me off that the decision over which program survives and which dies has more to do with which senator's district the plant that's going to build it resides in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        It pisses me off that the decision over which program survives and which dies has more to do with which senator's district the plant that's going to build it resides in.

        What really gets me is that these are the same congressmen who will bleat and whine about out of control spending by Washington. The democrats park their cars outside of the adult bookstore and proudly brag about the porn they watch. the republicans park their trucks down the street and sneak in wearing a hat and sunglasses; on sunday morning they'll decry the filth-flarn-filth that they found in there.

        If you look at the way the shuttle pork has been divvied up across the country it's absolutely disgusting.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I want space exploration as much as the next guy.

      However, *RIGHT* now it is way to expensive. You end up with a lot of 'on-off' shots. Even the space shuttle had to be torn down and rebuilt every time. Making all these new programs fantastically expensive.

      That they are cutting costs says something. It means it is already wildly overbudget. Which means it is a bunch of unicorny features.

      We need better and most importantly cheaper (fuel, money, and personal wise) ways to go into space. If you have 1 gia

      • Re:Augh. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:41AM (#32534584) Homepage

        I 100% agree...but you will never see the "Defense Budget" getting fitted for a hair cut. Never. All in the name of "national security".

        We need to do only two things right now: secure our homeland, and fight people out in deserts. Funding our military as if the Cold War were still in full swing is not just stupid, but irresponsible.

        What's the point of spending trillions of dollars to defend your country if there's no country left to defend?

        • I 100% agree...but you will never see the "Defense Budget" getting fitted for a hair cut. Never. All in the name of "national security".

          For the record, I'm about to switch programs again after the one I'm on just had its budget cut. This marks my second switch in 1 year. There are cuts going on, but the savings are being spent just as quickly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Solandri (704621)

          but you will never see the "Defense Budget" getting fitted for a hair cut. Never. All in the name of "national security".

          Scroll down to figure 1 [cbo.gov] and you will plainly see that defense spending is the budgetary item receiving the biggest cuts over the last 50 years. (Post-9/11 it's grown by about 35% as percent of GDP.)

    • by khallow (566160)

      It pisses me off to no end that we can afford to spend trillions of dollars killing each other, but we can't afford a few billion dollars exploring the universe around us.

      It's worth noting here that US space exploration probably picks up around 2% of the budget of US national security (including military, law enforcement, anti-terrorism, the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc). That seems reasonable given the relative importance of the two.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      We can and do afford a few billion - more actually. NASA's budget is $17B, and very little of that goes to aeronautics.

      While it would be nice to have more money, maybe our space program needs to figure out how to use the money we have more effectively. Its a much more effective plan than hoping that politics ceases to be petty and short-sighted.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      technically speaking both the space program and military contracts do the same thing, spend money on products that will get blown up.

      as such, they are gravy for whatever local community that gets the contract for making those products, as you know the customer will be coming back for more.

  • Hang on, weren't they going to cancel constellation [slashdot.org] in the new budjet?

    • by flitty (981864)
      Obama requested to cancel it after his special task force said that it was over cost and that either Obama needed to start paying for space travel, or not doing it at all, and the half measure that was in place wasn't working. However, before that, congress passed a law saying that Constellation could only be cancelled by congress (nice, eh?). On top of that, Obama only gets to sign the budget, congress still gets to write the budget, and they get to put in whatever they want.
      • (Not understand quite how the American government works here)

        So I get you need checks and balances and that you therefore need the president and congress to be on the same page when it comes to policy, but if you can have the situation above how come you don't get it more often where the right hand ties up the left hand from doing anything?

        • how come you don't get it more often where the right hand ties up the left hand from doing anything?

          That actually happens quite frequently, typically whenever the president's party is different from the party that controls Congress. RIght now Democrats are in charge of both, so it's less likely to happen.
  • This has been over a month coming. The irony is that at least for Orion they are using some jobs stimulus money that was given to keep working. At least through June. So what was important enough for stimulus money one day goes on the chopping block the next. Makes sense. My understanding is there is some verbage attached to an Afghanistan funding bill (something guaranteed to pass) that addresses the termination fee coverage issue.
  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:04AM (#32534194)

    I do not care whether it's Ares V, which doesn't really quite exist yet, the even more vaporware "new heavy lifter" that president Obama spoke of, or some weird hybrid that the nerds down in propulsion dynamics wrote up on the back of a napkin 2 or 3 years ago and havn't told you about yet...

    But will you PLEASE get our monkey asses to Mars before I die?

    I'd love to see the beginings of a manned Mars base (even, dare I dream, a colony?!), but at this point I'll take Neil Armstrong's grandson standing there holding a flag with 50 (or even 52) stars on it.

    Pick a heavy lifter that can get the job done, put some intelligent technial people in charge of it, give them the money and resources to get it done, and LEAVE THEM ALONE for the next decade. Also, if it's absolutely necessary to get the job done again, I'm ok with you telling them that the russians (or maybe the chinese, the're more likely to believe that nowadays) are going to take over the world (scratch that, the galaxy) if they don't succeed.

    That is all.

    • by morgauxo (974071)
      Mars colony? I doubt it. No doubt IF humanity keeps trying one day we will have that but I think at this stage we could pull off a lunar colony. Or... we could sink all our resources just in getting to Mars to plant a flag and then our grandchildren can watch as yet another generation pisses it's days away in LEO like ours has.
      • You've gotta start somewhere.

        Christopher Columbus showed up what, 3 or 4 times in the new world? comparativly speaking, he did little more than plant a flag and grab some moon rock (well, he planted a few flags, and grabbed some natives for slaves). He went there, proved it was there (well, not that the vikings hadn't done so already, but nobody remembered), and Europe's response was "wow, that's amazing" and then proceeded to dick around in the mediterranen.

        I'm too lazy right now to go dig up exact dates,

        • by the gnat (153162)

          it was at least 100 years before spain, england, and france started seriously exploiting the resources of the new world, and even longer before your first permanant colonies started springing up.

          Actually, Spain started exploiting it almost immediately, and was colonizing Hispaniola (and attempting to convert or enslave the inhabitants) by the end of the 15th century. It only took two years after Columbus discovered the New World for the Spanish and Portuguese to sign a treaty dividing it up. The real colo

          • We've also got much better technology than they had in the 16th century.

            we can make 120 tons of breathable oxygen and methane (fuel/propellent) from 8 tons of hyrogen we bring with us and the free CO2 in the martian atmosphere.

            large reserves of fresh water exist on mars, they're just frozen. we just have to heat them up. I think the byproduct heat of the nuclear reactors we'll almost certainly bring with us should work well.

            food is a trickier subject, but soil analysis by martian landers has been quite prom

    • by Necron69 (35644)

      Well, simply put, F*CK that. I DON'T WANT the government to go to Mars.

      Let's see something more like the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Company [wikipedia.org]. That way, people might actually have a reason to stay on Mars instead of planting another flag and leaving.

      Necron69
       

      • I'm not against the idea at all, I just think that the government is the only entity that can currently afford to do it.

        If Bill Gates wants to get together with Warren Buffet and some sultan from Abu-Dhabi, and privately finance this, I'm fine with that.

        Not because I think they'd be any more altruistically minded than some government, more so I just want to see it done during my lifetime... and seeing as how I don't believe the aging gene(s) will be discovered and nullified before my time is over, I'm in th

    • by khallow (566160)

      But will you PLEASE get our monkey asses to Mars before I die?

      How much do you think that would cost? Why not get together with a large bunch of like-minded people and do it, if you really want it?

      • The Mars direct program layed out in the mid 90s pegged the cost at 20-30 billion over 10 years to put 3 teams of 4 astronauts (two scientists and two engineers each) onto nearly overlapping stays of 1.5 years apiece.

        Current estimate, adjusted for inflation, is around 50 billion over 10 years. I believe that is somewhere around 20% of NASA's current (non expanded) budget.

        Honestly, If I had 50 billion lieing around, hell yes that is EXACTLY what I'd do. I couldn't think of a better project to put it towards.

        • by the gnat (153162)

          The Mars direct program layed out in the mid 90s pegged the cost at 20-30 billion over 10 years to put 3 teams of 4 astronauts (two scientists and two engineers each) onto nearly overlapping stays of 1.5 years apiece.

          Constellation was already billions of dollars over budget without even giving us a working launcher. I don't think the Mars Direct estimate was remotely realistic. Of course the real cost is still only a fraction of our yearly defense budget, but I can think of much better uses of tens of bil

          • Constellation was already billions of dollars over budget without even giving us a working launcher. I don't think the Mars Direct estimate was remotely realistic.

            I don't think Constellation was a bad program when it was concieved either. Sure I think they could have made a better plan, but I don't think it was necessarily bad. You can't blame the program for the failings of it's parents (NASA) and grandparents (US government).

            That's exactly why one of the tenants of my inital statement said that the program needed to be run by people who have a vested interest in it's success (hopefully engineers with some management experience) and not be politically motivated, and

    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday June 11, 2010 @11:57AM (#32537524) Journal

      Pick a heavy lifter that can get the job done, put some intelligent technial people in charge of it, give them the money and resources to get it done, and LEAVE THEM ALONE for the next decade.

      You don't need a heavy lifter for space exploration. In fact, it just eats up the funds you'd need for actual exploration. There's a reason that each of the times that a country has developed a heavy lift rocket in the past it's been canceled in a few years due to being far too expensive.

      A better alternative is propellant depots, allowing you to use smaller, pre-existing launchers and refuel in space to get to where you want. Propellant depots play an important role in NASA's new plans:

      http://selenianboondocks.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Depot-Centric_Human_Spaceflight.pdf [selenianboondocks.com]
      http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/viewrepositorydocument/cmdocumentid=230949/Section4.pdf [nasaprs.com]

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:06AM (#32534204) Homepage Journal
    The decades of Nazi's Ageing in Southern Anonymity seems to be over.
    You would think they would have passed on the 'how to keep your projects funded' secrets as well as engineering, medical and other useful data.
  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:23AM (#32534352)

    Screw you guys! I'm gonna build my own space launcher, with blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the blackjack!

  • spacex (Score:2, Interesting)

    by strack (1051390)
    with the successful launch of the falcon 9 recently, its a nail in the coffin of these really quite bad launch vehicles.
  • by Necron69 (35644) <jscott,farrow&gmail,com> on Friday June 11, 2010 @09:17AM (#32535074)

    Would have bought us two more SpaceX's and four more new rockets, based on what SpaceX has spent in their 8 years or so of existance.

    NASA's Constellation program is a massive budget boondoggle.

    Stick a fork in it....

    Necron69

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Would have bought us two more SpaceX's and four more new rockets, based on what SpaceX has spent in their 8 years or so of existance.

      It's quite sobering when you realize that the half-billion required simply to cancel the contract for the Ares I first stage is about the same as SpaceX has spent in total to develop, build, and launch several Falcon 1's and the Falcon 9, and do most of the development on the Dragon cargo/crew capsule (all designed to NASA's human-rating specifications). Particularly so since most of the justification for when prior NASA administrator Mike Griffin went with the Ares I design was that it was supposed to be m [safesimplesoon.com]

  • FTS:

    While complying with budgeting laws (and in line with NASA's desire to cancel Constellation), this move is also potentially in violation of a 2010 appropriations amendment by Sen. Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Bennett (R-UT) which prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation contracts.

    The mind boggles. I've never seen politicians in other countries actively sabotaging current policy like this.

  • "NASAs desire to cancel Constellation"? Is this the Obama-led NASA, as I was under the impression that NASA wanted to continue with the programme?
  • After Challenger, Congress (in the form of the appropriations committees) mandated a new Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (ASRM). NASA indicated that the Redesigned Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) and the changes suggested by the Rodgers commission were more than adequate.

    Still, ASRM was funded. Why? Congress said so.

    For years, we as taxpayers footed the bill to build a new plant in Iuka Mississippi, and to develop a new monolithic beast that even NASA thought was infeasable.

    Why? Because Congress said so.

    Then, aft

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