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NASA Space Science

NASA Opens New Office For Space Missions 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the directorate-of-hot-air-balloons dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA has been tasked with landing astronauts on a space rock by 2025, and on the Red Planet by the mid 2030s. To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far, and a capsule to bring people safely there and back again. The new Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will be responsible for overseeing all this and more. 'America is opening a bold new chapter in human space exploration,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. 'By combining the resources of Space Operations and Exploration Systems, and creating the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, we are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come.'"
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NASA Opens New Office For Space Missions

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  • Meaningless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday August 15, 2011 @06:50PM (#37100604)

    There's no way that Congress will manage to focus on the same task for 15-20 years.

    Within five years, they'll be trying to find someplace to cut to pay for some pork somewhere, and the project that's not due to deliver anything for a decade or more then will be first on the chopping block.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      Weren't we given a goal of hitting the moon and mars again by 2020, like, a decade ago? Whatever happened to that?

      I think our best hope is that maybe the Chinese will catch up and surpass and really start pushing space exploration and we'll all be able to watch in awe from the sidelines. I think something like that is going to happen long before we wait for commercial enterprises to build themselves up, get us into space, and then find a financially viable reason to explore the far reaches (none of that wil

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Didn't you RTFA? It's 2030. It's the same goal, just accounting for the progress made so far.
        • by Seumas (6865)

          You mean the lack of progress made so far, don't you? We're supposed go feel energized and positive about losing an entire decade of progress and having to push the goal to reach the moon (again) back another decade? It's not exciting. It's depressing and sad. Where in the article does it suggest that it's the same goal? It says that Obama has set a goal. Not that he has changed the date on the existing goal (which was set by Bush eight years ago).

          http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/39144/bush_calls_for_retu [redorbit.com]

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          I hear that by 2020, we'll only be 30 years away from it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Weren't we given a goal of hitting the moon and mars again by 2020, like, a decade ago? Whatever happened to that?

        President Obama realized President Bush was full of shit, didn't fund anything, and didn't bother even researching the details, so he said "Oh that's full of shit, let's go with another plan, with a chance of working" which was spun by FoxNews as Obama deciding to let the Moon serve as a terrorist base where Osama would surely hide and plot another terrorist attack.

        Or something.

        • President Obama realized President Bush was full of shit, didn't fund anything

          Note that Congress is responsible for funding things.

          And, yes, the Republican Congress didn't fund it properly, and the replacement Democratic Congress didn't fund it properly.

          So, anyone want to bet that any of the TEN Congresses between now and 2030 will fund this properly?

          Republicans might, but I doubt it.

          Democrats haven't even done a budget for two years (yes, we're still operating under continuing resolutions since 2009),

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          More like President Obama, in a long Presidential tradition going back to Nixon, advanced his *own* pile of bullshit about how we're going to conquer space, which he also has no intention of ever funding. His successor will do the same.

    • Re:Meaningless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday August 15, 2011 @07:02PM (#37100708) Homepage

      That's why these "Get to X by Y!" plans are stupid.

      And look at what it does: "To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far". Because that's the most direct way to meet the goal. But either the giant rocket will be canceled when the Mars mission is, or it'll sit around trying to find justifications for its existence, wasting money that could be spent on better things.

      Right now is not the time for grandiose missions with long time lines. That's a way to just repeat the Constellation debacle over and over. Instead, we should be focusing on building up capabilities. Especially the ability to assemble and refuel craft in orbit.

      Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion.

      But by all means, Congress, demand a Pork Rocket and a legacy-that-will-never-happen Apollo-style Mars mission. Shooting yourself in the foot may seem like a bad idea, but it makes such a pleasing noise that it definitely sounds like you're doing something!

      • by Seumas (6865)

        The problem is that other than "go land on this thing", we don't have any real goals. Goals are important. And not just quiet "inside the organization" goals. But goals we can all dream about and get behind (especially if you want funding). So let's set realistic goals. Like "land on the moon again and establish a base by XYZ". We've been to the moon. That's doable. building shit on it. That's doable. Instead, we get "we'll go to the moon again in 2020". And then a decade later, we're told "uh... well go to

        • That's not really a valid comparison though.

          While computer technology has increased dramatically since the space missions of the 1960s, rocket technology hasn't.

          We still use the same basic equipment/principles/fuel/structures to get into space. Sure it might have a better computer/guidance system, but that doesn't really decrease the cost or complexity of getting into space.

          So if we wanted to go to the moon again today, it would be a long and difficult undertaking just as it was in the 60s.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            And what's the reason for that? Basic physics! You've got it all correct. The *energy* required to flip a bit is quite low, for the last few decades we've been developping technology that goes *down* towards that ultimate theoretical limit. However, there is no technological "up" we can use for anything else. The energy requirements for moving mass are the same, how can they change? They can't. How can rocketry change? It's based on solid Newtonian physics. F=ma and all that jazz.

            There's a reason a 747 fr

            • by khallow (566160)

              Also, space is uttely hostile and empty. There's simply nothing there to get or do. The manned stuff is all largely symbolic.

              "Hostile and empty". There's merely the rest of the universe out there.

              • by lennier (44736)

                "Hostile and empty". There's merely the rest of the universe out there.

                That's a little like a plankton saying "look, there's a whole another universe out there if we go 'up' from the top of the ocean! It's just like walking to the edge of the whelk shell, only bigger!"

                Except the plankton is going to have a better time surviving in dry air than we currently do in microgravity and vacuum.

                Yes there's a universe out there. No, it's not built on a scale compatible with human exploration. It's five years just to send a text message to the neighbour's cellphone, 50,000 to get to the

                • by khallow (566160)

                  Except the plankton is going to have a better time surviving in dry air than we currently do in microgravity and vacuum.

                  I suppose it's inconvenient to your argument to point out that the plankton and us have both solved our respective problems?

                  Yes there's a universe out there. No, it's not built on a scale compatible with human exploration. It's five years just to send a text message to the neighbour's cellphone, 50,000 to get to the drive-in. If you want to explore space, you'd better not have any pressing carbon-based biological business to attend to in this or the next dozen lifetimes.

                  We ignore, of course, the vast territory of the Solar System. The Moon, for example, is a bit over a light second away. No "five years" to send a text message there.

            • by GooberToo (74388)

              And what's the reason for that?

              Its called, "theory", and, "practice." In theory you have some idea of what you're talking about. In practice, you don't.

          • by khallow (566160)
            Keep in mind that we still have about two orders of magnitude in cost per kg of payload before we reach the limits of rockets.Then another order of magnitude before we reach the limit of current energy cost to space. Then if you can recover the energy of downmass (stuff brought down from space), you can go beyond even that limit.

            So why aren't rockets achieving these sorts of limits? The big constraint is volume. Low launch frequency means your fixed costs, such as development or infrastructure, dominate
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          So at what point do we say "okay, enough has advanced -- now let's start doing something"?

          When we've established LEO as the starting point it should be: the gateway to the solar system. Not before.

          Once any such "let's go to the moon" or "let's go to Mars" mandate can start with the assumption that the actual mission will begin from LEO, with all components and fuel lifted by as many commercial rockets as necessary, so we aren't constricted by the exponential bottleneck of what we can lift out of our gravity well in one shot.

          That's when.

          To put it in technology terms, it's like trying to build a

      • Re:Meaningless (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday August 15, 2011 @07:34PM (#37100968)

        That's why these "Get to X by Y!" plans are stupid.

        No, they aren't. If you don't have a clear goal and a clear timetable to accomplish it by, then you're not going to achieve the goal, or if you do it'll take far longer than it should.

        Just look at the Apollo missions. JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

        If we had this thinking today, there's no telling where we'd be: moon bases, space stations with artificial gravity, tourist trips to Titan, who knows. Sure, all this development requires lots of money, but if we hadn't wasted trillions on some stupid wars (plus a stupid drug war), we'd have that money.

        Right now is not the time for grandiose missions with long time lines.

        Grandiose missions require long time lines out of necessity. Not necessarily ridiculously long (Apollo got to the moon in less than a decade, though they continued with more missions for longer than that), but longer than a single President's term, and certainly longer than it takes for the House of Representatives to swing from one side to the other (2 years).

        There's no way around this. Asking for anything meaningful to be finished within 2 years is fantasy, so if you're going to make that constraint, then you might as well just give up on doing anything great.

        Instead, we should be focusing on building up capabilities. Especially the ability to assemble and refuel craft in orbit.

        To build up capabilities, you need to have a clear mission. What's the mission for "assemble craft in orbit"? That's not a mission, there's no goal there. No non-technical person is going to see the need for that, or why it's even useful. What are these craft for? Where are they going? This is precisely why you need an over-arching goal, like "build a base on the moon", or "send a manned craft to an asteroid to land on it and collect samples". Remember, these "capabilities" you talk of cost a lot of money to develop, so you need a reason to develop them in the first place.

        Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion.

        Wrong (sorta). Yes, doing a Mars shot all-in-one is pretty stupid for the reasons you state. However, you still need "landing humans on Mars" as the overall goal of the mission, though the mission should include many smaller steps as you describe.

        Basically, to make an analogy, you're talking about building a ship before you've come up with any ideas about where to sail it. Or building a car when there's no roads to drive it on.

        So yes, better LEO (or other orbital) capabilities are important, but you're not going to sell the public, or really anyone outside of NASA, on "building capabilities". "Let's go to Mars!" however, has a much better chance of getting popular support, and then the details of the mission (e.g. developing the capabilities you talk of) can be hashed out later. Of course, with the way the American public is these days, wanting to cut all public spending that doesn't benefit billionaires and wanting to establish a fundamentalist theocracy, I don't have much hope that Americans would back anything that NASA might dream up. Heck, if astronomers found a planet-killer asteroid on a collision course with Earth, but determined that it's 75 years away and if we act now we can safely divert it, even then I don't think Americans would want to spend any money on that program.

        • Why not just sit on your national debt. It'll get you to mars in less than 19 years.
        • Re:Meaningless (Score:4, Informative)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday August 15, 2011 @09:07PM (#37101754) Homepage

          No, they aren't. If you don't have a clear goal and a clear timetable to accomplish it by, then you're not going to achieve the goal, or if you do it'll take far longer than it should.

          Oh yes they are, because they cripple the goal in the name of clarity of scope and timetable. These kinds of goals by necessity require an expedient and practical solution that gets us from point A to point B, where point B is much less ambitious than it could be if you bothered to increase your capabilities.

          Goals are great. "Functional LEO assembly/refueling stations" is a clear goal, and you can have clear timetables and success criterion. "Go to Mars" is great as a general goal, something you have in mind when building the LEO shipyard, but yes it is stupid to get specific with time and scope until you've developed the capabilities because those parameters will drastically change.

          There's a big difference between "a goal" as in a purpose, and this kind of goal. It seems like throughout your post you aren't distinguishing between them. If this is my fault I apologize, but let me be absolutely clear that I am distinguishing.

          Just look at the Apollo missions. JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

          Extremely impressive for its time, yet because we're still limited to launching things as a whole out of the deepest gravity well of any rocky body in the solar system, we aren't going to get much past it. Looking at Apollo is exactly what you'll think you're doing when you see astronauts leave bootprints, plant a flag, and leave because that's all the mission scope that could be launched in a monolithic rocket.

          To build up capabilities, you need to have a clear mission. What's the mission for "assemble craft in orbit"? That's not a mission, there's no goal there. No non-technical person is going to see the need for that, or why it's even useful. What are these craft for? Where are they going?

          But it's the technical people actually doing the work who are hamstrung by this "clear goal"! They're the ones who have to look at what they have, where they have to be, and the time they have to do it and decide what they have to do to meet the demand. Hint: It's never going to be running off and developing general-purpose capabilities even if they would eventually make the mission much easier, because to the ones watching the clock and purse strings they will always seem like an unnecessary distraction from the clear A-to-B goal.

          As for everyone else, how hard is it to explain that the purpose of the orbiting shipyard is to enable a Mars mission with broader scope than would be possible otherwise? Oh wait, I just did!

          A vague "We're doing it to go to Mars!" goal should be fine for the public, but having a specific goal is crippling to the people who actually have to work toward it!

          Basically, to make an analogy, you're talking about building a ship before you've come up with any ideas about where to sail it. Or building a car when there's no roads to drive it on.

          Noooooo, there's plenty of ideas for where to sail it, and the possibilities are vast. This mandate, on the other hand, is like suggesting that we sail to one specific island on a specific date before we've invented the ocean-worthy sailing vessel, and since there's no time to do that and meet the timetable we're going to have to use a canoe.

          So yes, better LEO (or other orbital) capabilities are important, but you're not going to sell the public, or really anyone outside of NASA, on "building capabilities". "Let's go to Mars!" however, has a much better chance of getting popular support, and then the details of the mission (e.g. developing the capabilities you talk of) can be ha

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            I see what you're getting at. I'm advocating for a general goal ("let's go to Mars"), but no, I don't think it should be so constrained as to cripple all the other things you could do in the process. Maybe they should come up with the detailed plan (which includes all the milestones for developing capabilities), and just warn that parts of the schedule might change as the situation changes and other ideas come up (e.g, "we should goto this other site instead, even though this will take a little more time,

        • Grandiose missions require long time lines out of necessity. Not necessarily ridiculously long (Apollo got to the moon in less than a decade, though they continued with more missions for longer than that)

          Apollo took much longer than most people think - there was a lot of tech in progress that NASA re-purposed. The F-1 engine for example, started development in 1956. The Saturn family of rockets started development in 1958, but was based on work that started as early as 1956. (The first hardware contracts

        • JFK says we'll go to the moon within the decade, and sure enough, with plenty of money and effort, they got to the moon when a decade before human spaceflight was a fantasy.

          just a wild tangent here, but this thread (combined with some stuff i read about assassinations) made me wonder how JFKs death affected the whole thing. What if JFK had served out the rest of his term normally, and in the end turned out to be a bit of a let-down (like say, the current guy in the white house isnt exactly living up to expectations, for whatever reason). What if in 1964, the repubs would have won the elections, and the race to the moon wasnt the legacy of a martyr?

          Honestly, i dont know enough

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            I've often heard this suggested wrt Johnson's Great Society programs, suggesting that guilt and sadness over JFK's death played a role in at least a few votes. No reason not to think the same would apply to NASA.

      • Once you're in LEO, you're nearly halfway to the surface of Mars in terms of delta-v. That's why monolithic missions are stupid -- everything you plan to send to Mars, including all the fuel for doing so, has to be lifted all at once from the surface meaning either the mission itself will be tiny or the rocket will have to be fucking huge -- probably both. With proper LEO capabilities, we could have a bigger Mars mission enabled by a smaller rocket, and with a shorter time-line from conception to conclusion

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          With smaller rockets and a modular approach it would be possible, for example, to put an unmanned lander/ascent stage or two on the Moon or Mars well before any manned crew capsule gets there, giving the crews redundancy as well as removing the need for them to fly their own ascent stage down to the surface. Similarly unamnned supply capsule flights could be pipelined with lots of smaller launch vehicles, and if one is lost then another can be rotated into the launch program to replace it.

          With an Apollo-s

          • The really good thing is that there is an existing range of small and medium-lift vehicles already in the catalogue off-the-shelf -- Delta, Ariane, Soyuz, H-2 and others all of which can do the job today without the eye-watering development costs and inevitable construction delays of building and qualifying a new heavy-lifter.

            The problem is your solution to the eye watering cost of a big booster is to replace it with the eye watering cost of building a complete backup set of mission hardware *and* procuring

            • by nojayuk (567177)

              I think that a Big Booster system is optimised for a "boots and banners" mission to, say, Mars. Fly four or five astronauts in a crowded capsule plus a lander/ascent vehicle to the Red Planet where they go down, plant a flag, take some pictures, grab some rocks and then come home after a couple of months max and then we (meaning the human race) never go back. See Apollo and the much-lauded Saturn V as an example of a just such a dead-end mission profile.

              Everything in a single mission vehicle to Mars has t

              • Use the Moon as a testbed for landers and ascent vehicles

                That's somewhat like testing wetsuits in the middle of the Sahara desert. The hard part of landing is the aerodynamic part... and guess which part can't be tested on the Moon?
                 
                The really sad part? The quote above is the most clue-full part of your reply.

                • by nojayuk (567177)

                  Soft-landing on Mars takes retro-rockets as well as parachutes. There's no sea to splash-down in. The atmosphere is too thin to fly a Shuttle-style spaceplane hull to a runway touchdown and there isn't a runway to land on anyway. Small very rugged spacecraft can use balutes and cushions for surface contact but scaling them up as the lander size and mass increases is problematic; see the incredibly complex system of heatshield, parachutes and retrorockets the Curiosity rover is going to be using to put down

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Smaller rockets probably won't shorten the time line because smaller rockets don't address the issue of doing all the engineering and development of the spacecraft, lander, etc...

          Right, but you also don't have to engineer a new ultra-heavy lift launcher, which demands a massive amount of attention and resources, and essentially gates off the development of the other components, as in Constellation where because they were useless until the Big Rocket was built, capsule development was in its early stages while the Big Rocket continued to lag behind schedule.

          So yes, total development time will likely be less since work can start immediately on the actual mission, not on escaping our g

          • And as far as the actual trip itself, you've increased the chance of success for the final step because you've decoupled it from the hardest part, the trip out of LEO.

            ROTFLMAO. Are you actually so ignorant as to believe that? The issue isn't the success of the final step - but the odds of success of the entire mission.

            The balance of your reply is equally clue free. You simply have no idea what you're talking about, and consistently confuse handwaving and wishful thinking for reality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Congress managed to focus on the F-22 program for 21 years now, the JSF/F-35 program for 15 years now, the War on Drugs for 40 years, the Shuttle Program for 39 years, so it's obvious that Congress can say on the same task for a long period.

      • All that proves is Congress likes pork.

      • Re:Meaningless (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MightyYar (622222) on Monday August 15, 2011 @07:14PM (#37100798)

        Congress managed to focus on the F-22 program for 21 years now, the JSF/F-35 program for 15 years now...

        The F-22, the JSF, and the Shuttle all enjoyed wide popular support and provided jobs to powerful districts. The stupid drug war is also quite popular - I'm constantly arguing with people about it and I don't think I've ever gotten anyone to agree with me other than on marijuana. Congress is pretty agonizingly frustrating, but I can't fault them for doing what they were elected to do.

        By the way, despite its warts, the JSF will save money overall. Of course, when it is grounded we will have no air force, no naval air protection, and no marine corp jet. Just some old national guard A-10s, a bunch of old bombers, and whatever the UAV fleet looks like at the time. There's some saying about putting all of your eggs somewhere or something... :)

        • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          I'm not a fan of the drug war, and I'm a Republican.

          The F-35 program is a goddamned boondoggle to put it politely, it is one of the worst design by committee aviation programs since WW2. The costs are skyrocketing, the schedule is slipping.

          On paper it's less effective than late block F-16s in the light fighter role. It's never going to be an effective replacement for the A-10 in that role, in the AV-8B role it's at least 300% more per plane, and in the F/A-18C/D role its at least 200% more per plane. Those

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            On paper it's less effective than late block F-16s in the light fighter role.

            Yes, it is. But it's hard to beat the F-16 so long as you don't need range. Most countries can't afford an interceptor fighter and an attack fighter, and it's not surprising that we are making the same compromises.

            It's never going to be an effective replacement for the A-10 in that role

            The A-10 is a complicated story, but it's clear that the Air Force hates dedicated fixed-wing ground support. We've been fighting this fight since Vietnam. The F-16 was supposed to replaces the A-10, but that's also a joke. The A-10 isn't going anywhere, and no multi-purpose plane can ever take th

            • by gmhowell (26755)

              How relevant are the performance characteristics relative to the F-16 when the latter cannot be delivered by carrier? How many operational theatres are there where the higher performance of the F-16 is relevant? (Not being argumentative, just curious)

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                It's all speculative, but speculation is fun :)

                The F-16 is hard to beat in a dogfight. But it has limited range, limited payload, and is not stealthy. It originally was designed such that it could be modified for carrier use, but the Navy wanted two engines and thought the landing gear was too narrow. So the navy chose the F/A-18, which wasn't very good. It has a bit better low-speed performance than the F-16, but loses on almost every other score. Note that this is different than the current "Super Hornet"

                • by gmhowell (26755)

                  I guess my initial inquiry wasn't phrased clearly enough.

                  I see the problem with the F-16 as not able to be delivered by a boat. It's gotta be land based. That severely limits the usefulness of the platform.

                  So, yes, the F-16 can outdogfight the F-18. But the former is stuck at home while the F-18 is out getting the job done. (And on the other other hand, who are we going to fight with these magical air-to-air fighters? Anyone with them is going to have nukes. I think the face of future warfare is changing in

                  • by MightyYar (622222)

                    But the former is stuck at home while the F-18 is out getting the job done.

                    That line of reasoning is useful when comparing existing, but not necessarily helpful when designing new. If the F-18 and F-16 can be replaced by a single airframe, that in itself could have value. On the other hand, the F-16 doesn't "need" no be replaced anytime soon. It is still produced and, while not stealthy, can still go up against anything else in the air. The US also has F-22 for stealth, and F-15 for range and armament. F-15 is also still produced.

                    F/A-18C/D, on the other hand, is dead. The navy nee

        • That's not true, with regard to the JSF. Our current equipment is already the best in the world. The F-16, F-15, F-22, F/A-18, and A-10, along with all the drones and Apaches and Hellfires and AMRAAMs, not to mention the upgraded avionics and the ASRAAMs and the projected ramjet-enhanced AMRAAM gives us the technical edge with regard to air dominance for the foreseeable future, even if the JSF program falls completely on its ass.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            But our Harrier II needs a replacement - they don't make it anymore and the existing airframes are getting old. And the F/A-18C/D is also not produced anymore, isn't really a match for other modern fighters, and is not at all stealthy.

            Does the air force need them? Maybe not. At least not in the short term, since the F-16 and F-15 are still in production.

            So does our country have the best equipment? Sure. But the airframes are getting older and our stuff won't be "best" forever. We could start all over again

            • by gmhowell (26755)

              I'm not sure how starting over again will help save money.

              Sunk cost fallacy [wikipedia.org]. It might. It's unlikely, but rejecting starting over out of hand is poor analysis.

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                I wasn't rejecting it out of hand. I pointed out that the B-1B, F/A-18, and F-22 were also boondoggles. I have absolutely no reason to believe that the US government can develop a new 5th generation fighter that will have a lower cost going forward than the F-35. I'm not talking about sunk cost at all - that money is gone. I'm talking about cost of new aircraft, maintenance, and training.

    • My first reaction when I saw this story was, "It'll never happen". Apparently I'm in good company.

      Not looking promising.

    • by arisvega (1414195)

      landing astronauts on a space rock by 2025, and on the Red Planet by the mid 2030s

      I am sorry, I am just not buying it.

    • by khallow (566160)
      That's why it's part of NASA's job to not only present a coherent plan to Congress, but also preserve that plan despite the vagaries of politics. Sure it's tough, but long term plans have been done before in the US. The thing is that NASA hasn't had a serious plan since Apollo ended. So they long haven't had something that could withstand the forces of Congress.

      Obviously, this isn't a responsibility of the rank and file, but it is an organizational failure that has damned much of what NASA does to irrele
    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Ever notice how these promises are also far enough out that almost every NASA senior person involved will be long retired by then too? Pretty good way to ensure that you will never have to actually deliver on your bullshit promises (which will be long forgotten by then anyway).

      We are a mere 30 years away from landing a man on Mars, and always will be.

  • by Seumas (6865)

    From the moon to a rock in only around 60 years. Hopefully I'll have the same excitement and thrill when I'm in my 50s and we're doing something amazing in the late 30s as my mom felt when she was like 12 and we landed on the moon. And hopefully I'll still be alive when we hit Mars. Though . .. probably not. I was always excited that I was born in the generation after the moon landing, because it meant that I'd be alive to see way much more awesome space stuff happened that stirred everything about explorat

    • mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also planing for a 1 way / long term trip takes time as well or due you want to rush it and end up with people dead in space / on mars?

      • mars is a lot harder to get to then moon also planing for a 1 way / long term trip takes time as well or due you want to rush it and end up with people dead in space / on mars?

        If it's a one way trip, you're going to wind up with people dead in space / on Mars anyway.

      • by Seumas (6865)

        Of course it requires a lot of time and planning (and technical advancement), but we at least have to establish a plan and incentivize an effort. or we'll never get around to it (I'm a big fan of commercial-based exploration supplementing more "humanity based" exploration, but as much as that's the big talk right now, there really is no realistic financial incentive for businesses to do this just yet).

        However, we went from riding horses to landing on the moon in less than 70 years and we've gone from landin

        • by Anonymous Coward

          However, we went from riding horses to landing on the moon in less than 70 years and we've gone from landing on the moon to . . . landing on nothing (including the moon, again) in another 45 years.

          To be fair, we went from the *very end* of our reliance on horses for transport to the *very beginning* of our ability to land on the moon in less than 70 years. If you're going to use horses as a technological advancement metric you need to start from when we figured out how to ride horses, which was thousands of years ago. Compared to that, 45 or 100 or 200 years to go from intra-Earth-system travel to intra-Solar-system travel isn't that bad.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I think hoping for the Americans to do anything great like that is folly. Our only hope for serious space exploration in the next 200 years is Europe or China. Europe doesn't seem to be doing so great managing its finances, however, and China seems to prefer building ghost cities to doing anything useful.

  • I have little hope for NASA. Right now, they are scrapping exploration missions left and right and the missions they do have pay no attention to being cost-effective. They are building exactly one mars rover for $2.5bn and that's it. Are you kidding?

    (Ok, in this case, they have a good excuse for building just one of them - NASA is running out of Plutonium-238, because Bill Clinton decided that nuclear research is a thing of the past and ordered all research reactors that could produce radioisotopes to be
  • That's a relief (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Monday August 15, 2011 @07:06PM (#37100746) Homepage

    we are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come.

    That's good, because I thought for a minute there you were presiding over a crumbling infrastructure and dying agency that left its best years in the rear view mirror 20 years ago.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's good, because I thought for a minute there you were presiding over a crumbling infrastructure and dying agency that left its best years in the rear view mirror 40 years ago.

      FTFY.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With what money??? With the USA having some 14 trillion dollars in debt and massive budget cuts everywhere(read space program cuts), how is this going to be funded at all, much less over how many new administrations until the due date?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is the brilliant aspect of this plan. We fund it using deficit dollars that are owned by China. Then the Chinese space program is outsourced to the USA! It provides jobs here and scientific research all on China's dime!

  • More guvmint pork. Let those engineers work in the private sector for a change, so we begin to wean ourselves from H1B visas and get those good-paying jobs to US citizens. The money not spent on this pork can go towards reducing the deficit, or even more interestingly, stimulating american manufacturing to reduce dependence on foreign imports. I'd like to see a DVD player made in the US, for instance, as well as clothing, tools, and every other item packing WalMart.
    • by Seumas (6865)

      Why lead the world in exploring the universe on behalf of all mankind when you can make shitty electronics for lazy fucking walmart shoppers. Brilliant.

      • That's a better idea- let the US unemployment rate skyrocket and let the US default on its debt so it can continue to lead the world in exploring the universe. We'll need a good place to hide from our creditors. Take care of the budget problems now. When the money is there, maybe these pork programs can come back. Until then, spending money on pork programs instead of dealing with the debt and unemployment problems is irresponsible.
        • But you do realize government spending hires people too right? Every dollar the government spends would go towards hiring people and buying equipment from other people who will have to hire people too, provided that they make reasonable efforts to do the project right. You give a dollar of tax breaks or incentives to companies and you'll only see a fraction of it back into employees pockets. The rest will go to shareholders pockets (while they earned it, still it isn't hiring anyone and unless it is spent
      • Why lead the world in exploring the universe on behalf of all mankind when you can make shitty electronics for lazy fucking walmart shoppers. Brilliant.

        Since at this point, we aren't exploring the universe or making shitty electronics, making shitty electronics would be a step up in the world.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      The US spends more on air conditioning Afghanistan per year than NASA's entire budget.

      If you want to reduce the deficit, maybe hand out some paper fans to the troops, or perhaps pull them out of the desert.

      • by siddesu (698447)
        Why do you think paper fans for the troops will be cheaper than airconditioning the troops? With the nano-paper, the micro-motors to drive them, and the advanced cloaking device on the side facing the enemy, it may well cost more.
    • by the gnat (153162)

      Let those engineers work in the private sector for a change, so we begin to wean ourselves from H1B visas and get those good-paying jobs to US citizens

      I'm pretty sure a lot of the jobs involved are only available to US citizens anyway due to government-mandated security restrictions. In fact, I've seen this cited as something holding back American space efforts, as many otherwise qualified immigrants are unable to obtain these jobs.

  • If the Soviet Union was not pushing the US into space we would never of gotten there by now. All the large military contractors were also part the the moon race and they all benefited greatly by the US citizens thinking it was national pride to make it to the moon before the Soviet Union (oh and gave great amounts of money to make it happen). Now there is no great threat to get the US citizens all worked up about so it is hard for Joe or Jane politician to keep money in real science. I say we need to stage
  • GIVE UP ON MANNED MISSIONS ALREADY!

    You do great work with automated probes and observation of planets, moons, the sun, and beyond. Keep that up!

    But, please, divest yourself of the 1960's "manned space-race" mentality. It wastes lives and $$$$$$. Your congressional charter gives you the mission "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown." If a mission can be accomplished with probes, there is no reason to send humans. Only loft a human when it is necessary FOR THE MISSION.

    Please, explore as
  • Given limited funding they can either do manned missions or do science stuff, but not both. If you're looking for a reason to spread the pork around congressional districts then build a national (gov owned and operated, last mile monopoly) telecommunications network based on fibre to the home. That would be an investment in your future instead of just throwing money away. As for a manned mission to mars: You haven't done a full search for life yet. If it's got life you'll either kill it or contaminate
  • Ares Five is alive! Or is it?

    • by mcswell (1102107)

      Why not lift a bunch of modules with smaller rockets, and build the asteroid/ Mars spaceship there? I think that was von Braun's original idea.

      And as for getting from Earth orbit to an asteroid or Mars, it seems like we'd do well to develop a non-chemical drive for manned exploration. Then the asteroids or Mars need not be the final destination. Whereas if you get there with chemical rockets, it's going to take forever to get to the next destination (Europa, say, or Titan).

  • by khallow (566160) on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:24PM (#37102826)

    To reach those goals, the United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far

    Or buy rides on future commercial heavy lift rockets. Part of the problem with these grandiose space plans is all the um, "little" details that have to be in place and which in hindsight suck up all the funding rather than the intended goal of the program. We have to have the big rocket, the crew vehicle, etc. But as it turns out, the more requirements you have, the less likely it is that you do real stuff, namely, actual space development, exploration, or science.

    At some point, the US needs to decide whether it wants a space program that advances a US presence in space or a jobs program that occasionally does space stuff.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      The thing is, NASA already knows (or should know) how to put people in space. They put a LOT of people on the moon they should be able to get to Mars (notwithstanding the human factor) with the current technological and scientific developments. Make the same rocket you had, the same vehicle you had, pack it with the more advanced version of the fuel you had before, add ion/nuclear thrusters or whatever (I'm not a rocket scientists, but it's not rocket science), use the gravity catapults of Earth, Moon or an

  • I still think there's zero need for actual humans to fly to Mars until we terraform it [wikipedia.org].
  • by master_p (608214) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @04:48AM (#37104512)

    Heavy lift rockets that can only be used once is a bad idea economically. What NASA needs to build in space is a non-landing spaceship that is used for travelling between planetary bodies of our solar system. It will be more expensive than a heavy lift rocket, but once it is up there, the cost of space travel for humans will be greatly minimized.

    The spaceship could harness power from external resources like the Sun, and therefore help avoid carrying all that fuel to orbit, as with heavy lift rockets.

  • We cannot afford any of this. By 2025 the middle class will have been finished off, and thus the tax base will have been erased, and we will have openly accepted our Third World status. The first words spoken on Mars will have to be translated into English for us as we shiver in our boxes amidst burning trash in America's favelas.
  • By 2025 we'll be lucky if we're not shooting each other in the streets to feed off each others flesh. Not only is this country doomed, we are well and truly fucked on a scale you cannot imagine.

    So that a very fortunate few can become massively wealthy, enough to have them live like kings for 10 or 20 generations, the rest of us are going to be involved in a civil war that will have us shooting each other, and probably televisied for the wealthy to gamble on.

    We have been robbed, and things are going to get r

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      since usa is now a 3rd world nation does that make the ex-3rd world nations 9th world or what? and what's 1st world? germany and france?

      seriously, do a trip to russia and reconsider. usa's monetary troubles are just numbers on a computer display - usa's been buying china's assets against those numbers, that's a pretty sweet deal.

      and the kings need peons too. if they only lived like kings, there would be less problems, but just sitting on the imaginary numbers while their assets go up in imaginary value make

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