Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Science

NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space 182

Posted by timothy
from the let's-send-them-to-the-oceans-instead dept.
gManZboy writes "NASA's Mars Science Lab and Curiosity rover are the next steps in a long-term plan to travel farther and faster into space. Check out the future spacecrafts and tools that will get them there — including NASA's big bet, a spacecraft that combines the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle with the Space Launch System, designed to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo 17 Moon mission in 1972. NASA will need 10 years to prepare astronauts to take Orion and SLS for a test flight."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space

Comments Filter:
  • Or are we going to offshore it?
    • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:37AM (#38172664)

      Neither: we're going to cancel it outright, a month after the next President gets sworn-in.

      • You might be right; a better question might have been "So what is the next President going to spend the money on with an 'Executive Order'?"
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ChatHuant (801522)

          You might be right; a better question might have been "So what is the next President going to spend the money on with an 'Executive Order'?"

          Do you even have to ask? Tax cuts, bailouts, incentives or whatever they call now the payback to the corporations or rich individuals that bought, sorry, "contributed" to his campaign.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I heard they cut NASA's budget in half for outside launch services from SpaceX and the like. So uh, what the hell are we going to do for space travel when they cancel this one? :(
      • by demachina (71715) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:33AM (#38172890)

        If America is going to get humans to Mars SpaceX is your best bet, not NASA. NASA is completely indifferent to actually building a new launcher. NASA's only goal is to keep Senators Shelby, Nelson, Hatch and Hutchinson happy with perpetual jobs programs in their states so their money keeps flowing. That's why they keep proposing launchers that are always 10 years away from ever launching.

        The beauty of SpaceX is they get some money from Congress but they can probably support themselves on commercial and military launch contracts and ride out the sheer stupidity of America's political system.

        Here is an excellent article on SpaceX in Air and Space Mag [airspacemag.com].

        Elon Musk's goal is almost entirely aiming towards colonize Mars and disrupting launcher design so thoroughly that we can actually afford to get big things in to LEO and beyond.

        Article has excellent stuff on the really innovative stuff they are doing, like their heat shield. They aren't patenting anything because they don't want to give China a HOWTO so they can rip off all the cool stuff they are doing. They also give the finger to all the existing aerospace companies that try to gouge them on parts. If the price isn't reasonable they build their own and often improve on existing designs. They are probably going to undercut China's Long March on LEO launch cost which is impressive with their plant being in very expensive California and having a relatively expensive American work force. They are beating China on cost using innovation.

        A really compelling part in the article is an engineer at one of their competitors rooting for them to succeed. They are almost the only shot America has of recapturing the Apollo magic and beating China in the new space race.

        • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:16AM (#38173242)

          Both you and the AC that replied to you before me are equally right, and at the same time both wrong.

          In the current state of affairs and absence of sufficient collective awareness and conscience, private entities not beholden to the tug-of-war of politics are the only entities likely to be able to fund a continued space presence (much less an expansion of that presence).

          On the other hand, the consequences for the human collective if such an infrastructure is left in private hands would be nothing less than THE END of any chance of reigning in the One Percent that nearly controls everything now. Can you imagine the "network neutrality" debate translated into the infrastructure required for space exploration and colonization?

          Never mind that ALL discussions of so-called network neutrality are a deliberate mis-frame, because the only true neutrality would be public ownership of the infrastructure - the wires - and THAT has never even been part of the main discussion; it's only been unimportant people like me with no voice even mentioning it at all. (Meanwhile the government in Australia finally gets something right that doesn't repeat our political stupidities, with its plan to buy back their wires as part of its own broadband initiative.)

          Frankly, we don't dare even allow Space-X or any single government to get a controlling foothold off-planet until we've evolved the necessary collective awareness and wisdom to prevent the result from reading like the plot from any one of dozens of dystopian science fiction novels. WE NEED TO OWN THAT INFRASTRUCTURE, all of us; it needs to be a co-op enterprise. The human push into space must be a SOCIAL endeavor, and by social I mean the entire human tribe, not just one splinter group of it.

          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            Frankly, we don't dare even allow Space-X or any single government to get a controlling foothold off-planet until we've evolved the necessary collective awareness and wisdom to prevent the result from reading like the plot from any one of dozens of dystopian science fiction novels. WE NEED TO OWN THAT INFRASTRUCTURE, all of us; it needs to be a co-op enterprise. The human push into space must be a SOCIAL endeavor, and by social I mean the entire human tribe, not just one splinter group of it.

            I don't have all the answers, or even a fraction of them. But, what you advocate here could only turn out well if basic human nature suddenly and totally changed.

            As long as government is the all-encompassing megalith it's become over the last 100 years, mortgaged up past it's eyeballs with fingers in every pie and control over everything, thereby guaranteeing massive corruption by anyone that has money, the space program (and all other worthwhile works) will only go as far as the politicians (and those who

            • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @09:34AM (#38174288)

              Corporations only have the amount of power they currently enjoy and can only act as criminally as they do without real fear because the government has power they can co-opt, and are able to do it safely because of the sheer size of government. If the government wasn't so all-encompassing and huge, corporations wouldn't have the power they do.

              This makes absolutely no sense.

              It's not capitalism that's given corporations the power they have these days as so many like the OWS protesters scream about, it's a too-large government that by it's very nature of being so large & powerful, attracts corruption and covers up corruption in it's labyrinthine maze of finger-pointers, always blaming something/someone else and muddying the waters such that curbing corruption is impossible. It becomes a circular self-reinforcing system until it collapses and leaves the poor sucker citizens to suffer the consequences.

              And this is akin to saying "the problem with all this crime is that we have laws!"

              • by HBI (604924)

                More's the pity that the truth in those words isn't clear. It's the reason why no solution is possible at this time, and perhaps ever.

                • by BlueStrat (756137)

                  More's the pity that the truth in those words isn't clear. It's the reason why no solution is possible at this time, and perhaps ever.

                  Thanks.

                  Some don't want to understand those truths in my post above for ideological reasons, nor do they want anyone else to hear such truths. To accept & acknowledge those truths invalidates their entire worldview. They do the mental equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and going; "I can't hear you!...lalalalala!" while attempting to silence any dissenting views. There's simply no arguing with these types, as they've drank the kool-aid. They live in an armored ideological echo chamber. The

              • by BlueStrat (756137)

                Corporations only have the amount of power they currently enjoy and can only act as criminally as they do without real fear because the government has power they can co-opt, and are able to do it safely because of the sheer size of government. If the government wasn't so all-encompassing and huge, corporations wouldn't have the power they do.

                This makes absolutely no sense.

                That's because you fail to understand that centralization of power provides a simple one-stop-shop for corruption to exercise power over the entire system. In addition,

              • Corporations are, simply, organizations chartered by governments to act according to government policy. Vis. the East India Company. Their use was expanded in the 1800s to accommodate the need for organizations that rose from new technology - railroads, telegraph, etc. - to be able to attract capital from non-governmental sources (public investment) at a new large scale, and to build the administrative structure required to run national-scale business operations. Single individuals could no longer collec

            • by wdef (1050680)

              WE NEED TO OWN THAT INFRASTRUCTURE, all of us; it needs to be a co-op enterprise. The human push into space must be a SOCIAL endeavor, and by social I mean the entire human tribe, not just one splinter group of it.

              I'd like to agree with you, and I would have, once. At present it doesn't look like governments can afford to 'own that infrastructure'. They're all so in debt. I agree they could probably find some way around that but governments don't seem to give a shit about space anymore. When people started yawning at yet another boring shuttle shot it meant the end of more stuff for politicians and that meant the end of exciting space shots ie those carrying humans to exotic places which is a critical part of get

          • by Hitokiri Battousai (702935) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @08:55AM (#38174156)
            If you haven't watched the anime Planetes [wikipedia.org], you should. One of the main topics is what you're talking about. It's one of the best hard science fictions I've seen/read.
          • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic@@@gmail...com> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:52PM (#38175984)

            Frankly, we don't dare even allow Space-X or any single government to get a controlling foothold off-planet until we've evolved the necessary collective awareness and wisdom to prevent the result from reading like the plot from any one of dozens of dystopian science fiction novels. WE NEED TO OWN THAT INFRASTRUCTURE, all of us; it needs to be a co-op enterprise. The human push into space must be a SOCIAL endeavor, and by social I mean the entire human tribe, not just one splinter group of it.

            No. Or at least, only in the broadest abstract sense, in which we truly already do collectively 'own' it. Imagine if the integrated circuit technology invented in the early-mid 1960s had been owned and developed collectively. We would still be running 128 K bit memory and 100 KHz processors, and disk drive capacity would be still approaching 10 Mibibytes. If (as so many of us believe) NASA in its post-Apollo structure has held back space exploration rather than advanced it, how can you propose that this, a particular expression of a collective approach, makes any sense?

            No, progress has always and will always depend on individual creativity, risk taking and initiative. In fact I'm rooting for the first trillionaires, who will achieve trillionaire status by collecting $100 billion in investment and using it to exploiting the literally unlimited resources available to a space-faring civilization. They are the ones who will pull this off, risking their own and their investors' futures and their participants (employees etc.)) lives. Excellent examples - Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Jeff Bezos, Burt Rutan, Richard Branson, and Robert Bigelow.

            Do not forget for one minute that there is no technical difference (other than the pre-existing legal basis for shooting the opposition without repercussion) between a government and a corporation. The plain fact is that space is big - really big, and communications and transport are relatively slow compared to the distances. So it is inevitable that any future spacefaring civilization will be segmented and diversified, analogously to the world in the era of sailing ships when it could take months or years to get from Europe to China.

            Whether the management of the various elements of a spacefaring civilization - planetary, asteroidal or orbital communities - are governments or companies is a rather unimportant distinction - in the end, both will act similarly to protect their interests. (A 'company' was, originally, a group of people who establish a contractual agreement to work in common - in some cases under a government or military regime, in others under a profit-making regime. But all 'companies' must make a 'profit' - acquire more resources than are spent - else they die.) Let the legal structure be developed and firmly established on the basis of a common understanding of the rights and responsibilities of humans, to prevent and minimize the impact of internal and inter-agency conflict and preserve human and other rights, and work very hard to establish a permanent philosophy and practice of ethical interactions, and there is a chance that most (not all) conflicts between groups will be restricted to activities within that broad legal basis. For example, there have been almost no significant deadly conflicts between the various states of the United States. California has not sent their militia to attack Oregon over water rights on the Klamath River. That is the best that you can hope for.

        • Wow, thanks for that article link. It's the best damn thing I've read on here in a long time (the original Slashdot article is PR crap btw, I'm talking about the Air & Space one)

          Sure worth repeating: http://www.airspacemag.com/space-exploration/Visionary-Launchers-Employees.html [airspacemag.com]

          P.S. Elon looks a lot like Pavel Chekov!
  • by qualityassurancedept (2469696) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:26AM (#38172602) Journal
    Sadly, there is on the one hand the desire to come up with ever more grandiose projects now that the space shuttle program is defunct and on the other hand looming budget cuts... so what we will get is a huge launch and a couple of years of data and then a giant chunk of metal hurling through space that no one can afford to keep track of any more. Civilization is collapsing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      If they agreed to stop studying climate change the GOP would probably let them have their funding back.

    • by cowtamer (311087) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:44AM (#38172706) Journal

      It won't be budget cuts, but the lack of political will. If SOME politician in charge would just give NASA a well-defined mission such as "10 years for a working moon base" or "15 years to land humans on Mars" they would find a way to pull it off, even without budget increases -- provided that the next guy doesn't just change or the mission. But this takes guts, and the willingness to stand up to the inevitable chorus of of naysayers and space-hating dullards who will keep yammering about budget deficits, etc.

      So instead, they end up spending a considerable amount of money on ENDLESS reorganizations and PowerPoint presentations while they lose engineers who are tired of the Sisyphean nature of working on projects that are prone to the whims of yearly budget cycles.

      Sometimes I feel like the politicians are AFRAID of letting NASA accomplish something grand, lest they attract the (unwarranted) attention of the aforementioned naysayers.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @02:31AM (#38173110) Journal
      Grandiose? The Orion module has a habitable volume of approximately 9 cubic metres, about the size of a full sized van. This is shared among a crew of 4, giving each about as much room as a shower stall. Mission duration is 21 days. The shuttle had a habitable volume of approximately 65 cubic metres, about the size of the trailer on a typical transport truck. It was designed for seven people. So each gets 9 cubic metres, as much as an entire Orion module. Granted, the shuttle had a mission duration of only 16 days, however, it had shower and toilet facilities, an airlock and space-suits. Add to that a civilized landing rather than a terrifying rescue at sea. There's no question which one I'd rather spend a mission in.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Add to that a civilized landing rather than a terrifying rescue at sea.

        I think you mean 'terrifying near-crash with no chance of survival if you missed the runway'.

  • Why return mission? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sentientbeing (688713) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:47AM (#38172712)
    i never understood why NASA insists on making the Mars trip a return mission. Why waste 3 years there and back stuck in the middle of space doing no science?

    Just send a couple of guys there and make it a one way mission. They can start colonising immediately and start building stuff. Pioneers used to do that sort of thing all the time in the new world.

    People place too much value on human life. If the Chinese send anyone theyd do it that way.

    I bet NASA could find a million volunteers to do it and id be one of them. Id do it for a single week on Mars.
    • by epiphani (254981)

      Because right now we're fairly certain they'd die - and not at the end of their natural life.

      A lot more research, development, and money would have to go into the program to actually believe we'd have some chance of establishing an actual colony, never mind a self-sustaining one.

      • by sentientbeing (688713) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:17AM (#38172818)
        They'll die right here on earth too. I guarantee that. Maybe theyll get hit by a bus. Maybe have a heart attack at 50. Maybe develop cancer by 55 and In 50 years time no one will even know they existed.
        • by causality (777677) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:49AM (#38172948)

          They'll die right here on earth too. I guarantee that. Maybe theyll get hit by a bus. Maybe have a heart attack at 50. Maybe develop cancer by 55 and In 50 years time no one will even know they existed.

          That's okay because eventually, anyone who could have known they existed will be dead too. So you see it's self-correcting.

          I mean it doesn't make much sense to say [slashdot.org] we over-value human life and then worry about the partial memories of those lives. The life itself is more valuable than the memory; if you recognize no other reason for this, then at least because it can continue to make more memories.

          I think that's your own desire to "make your legacy as an answer to mortality" using the topic to manifest itself. Otherwise I agree with you about having balls and understanding that exploring new frontiers might mean facing new dangers and this is not a good reason to give up. It would make a lot more sense than dying in some pointless undeclared war against a foreign nation that isn't really a threat to you.

          • by khallow (566160)

            I think that's your own desire to "make your legacy as an answer to mortality" using the topic to manifest itself.

            And why isn't that in itself sufficient justification for the practice?

            • by causality (777677)

              I think that's your own desire to "make your legacy as an answer to mortality" using the topic to manifest itself.

              And why isn't that in itself sufficient justification for the practice?

              I'm not concerned with justifications or the need to make them.

              But otherwise, to answer what I think you are asking if the need for justification let go of ... which is why I pointed that out ... I would say it's because that need/desire is manifesting by putting a spin on another subject (space travel), instead of just honestly expressing itself on its own terms (the human experience and dealing with mortality). Long before there were rockets, people wrestled with these same questions.

              Wanting to lea

              • by khallow (566160)

                Wanting to leave some kind of legacy is not really an answer to how to cope with mortality because anyone in the future who would learn of this legacy are themselves as mortal as you were.

                Except that we see it is. Dealing with mortality via high power rocketry and space settlement may be suboptimal, but it's definitely a cool way to do it.

    • Pioneers used to do that sort of thing all the time... AFTER the initial explorers had done sample return missions.
    • by rossdee (243626) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:24AM (#38172854)

      "Just send a couple of guys there and make it a one way mission. They can start colonising immediately and start building stuff."

      Unfortunately there are no Martian princesses there for these couple of guys to breed with, so you are gonna have to include some females in the crew.

      "Pioneers used to do that sort of thing all the time in the new world"
      "
      The new world (the Americas) had a lot of advantages that Mars does not:

      Breathable atmosphere
      Climate suitable for growing stuff
      Fertile soil with plants and animals already there
      turkeys, cranberries and mashed potato for dinner (and locals to tell the colonists how to cook them)
      Trees for making wooden structures out of
      fresh water
      mineral resources
      etc

      • by drerwk (695572)

        "Pioneers used to do that sort of thing all the time in the new world" " The new world (the Americas) had a lot of advantages that Mars does not:

        Breathable atmosphere Climate suitable for growing stuff Fertile soil with plants and animals already there turkeys, cranberries and mashed potato for dinner (and locals to tell the colonists how to cook them) Trees for making wooden structures out of fresh water mineral resources etc

        The Americas also had by some estimates 90 million humans living there already http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas [wikipedia.org] - who taught the 'pioneers' about the local flora and fauna - who bred with them and so on. The Americas had humans living here for somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years - probably much longer, just not in the numbers needed to leave behind obvious signs of habitation.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:08AM (#38173212)

      Can we put this whole pioneer bullshit to rest? Pioneers were going into a world where there would be food, animals, materials for shelter, the same gravity, and AIR. Mars has none of these (although if you insist, I will grant you rock for shelter). Traveling across space to Mars isn't like traveling on the ocean to a new continent. Sure those guys had balls to risk traveling to a new land they had never seen, but they understood that they could take fish from the sea if they were hungry and could distill water from the ocean if they needed water. Space is empty, you cannot refuel your supplies from the cold vacuum of it. So the trip isn't bad. Let's get to Mars, see what you need then. You may argue that you can grow your own food, produce your own oxygen, and create your own shelter. If you're going to live on the ship you came in on, that's fine, just means you only have a few hundred feet to walk around in for the rest of your life. If you want something bigger, you need infrastructure to build it. And I mean massive infrastructure, because there are no hardware stores on Mars. Hell, there are no trees on Mars, so you better be building with rocks. But then you need massive tools to cut and move the rocks. And to seal them, because it's not like building a stone hut on Earth, you need that shit to be air tight. And as for air, you need a system to replenish your air, permanently. Unless, of course, you don't care to breathe. And you'll need redundancy, because that's not something that can go down for a weekend. So that's even more stuff you need to pack. Food. Grow your own, sure. But that takes space. And light. Assuming the biology of plant growth works decently on Mars, you still are getting less sunlight than normal. Growing in your own greenhouse would take significant space to feed people for a year, and if you have a particularly bad crop, there are no Indians to come and help you. And finally, Mars has roughly 1/3rd the gravity of Earth. That will cause problems to your body, and there's no way to fix that currently.
       
        Fuck you and your colonist ideals. Early pioneers took great risks but they weren't idiotic. To assume that they would willfully head off to settle a land that is impossible to live in just states your ignorance. If you still can't get your head around it, then explain to me why no one's built a house on top of Mount Everest. It'd have quite the nice view.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Can we put this whole pioneer bullshit to rest?

        Why? What's it to you?

        Fuck you and your colonist ideals. Early pioneers took great risks but they weren't idiotic. To assume that they would willfully head off to settle a land that is impossible to live in just states your ignorance. If you still can't get your head around it, then explain to me why no one's built a house on top of Mount Everest. It'd have quite the nice view.

        I guess we'll have to figure out how to make it possible then. Good thing our entire human history is chock full of demonstrations of our ability to figure out how to do hard things that some people say are impossible.

        As to Mount Everest, I gather the land is government owned (on both sides), hence one can't build there. Further, there's little interest in living there (from both an individual and societal points of view). It's worth noting here that few mountains actually have hous

      • I think there are many people who, given a 50/50 chance of living a year, would accept the challenge to go to Mars. It doesn't matter whether you think they are idiotic - they don't agree. In fact, I would bet that there are enough such people reading this thread to populate such a mission. And twice as many if there were a reasonable probability for follow-up missions bringing additional explorers/settlers/whatever you want to call them. And given the capability to launch the inaugural mission, it wo

    • Seems NASA should work out a colony on the moon where return/rescue would be more plausible. Then extent to other planets.
    • i never understood why NASA insists on making the Mars trip a return mission.

      Because the public (who would be asked to pay for it) would never support it otherwise.

      They can start colonising immediately and start building stuff.

      With what, and out of what? How much stuff do you think we'd be able to send there with them, on top of the necessary oxygen, water, food, and fuel?

  • by Goonie (8651) <[gro.arbmaneb] [ta] [lekrem.trebor]> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:07AM (#38172774) Homepage
    SLS exists by Congressional mandate, to send cash to ATK and the other Shuttle contractors. It'll probably never fly.
  • SLS? No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thinine (869482) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:13AM (#38172806)
    SLS is a steaming pile of shit shoveled onto NASA by Congress. I hope it never flies. Frankly, the Ares V launcher was a pretty good idea, but was bogged down by having to involve all of the old shuttle contractors.
    • Re:SLS? No thanks... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:27AM (#38172866) Homepage

      how about no thanks to anymore manned missions sponsored by NASA? WTF is being accomplished by the tens of billions they plan to spend? Jack. If there is something for "man" to do in space then the private sector will figure it out faster and cheaper. If NASA must exist, keep it to unmanned science missions, something they have at least shown some degree of competency with a relatively low budget.

  • Spacecrafts??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fnj (64210) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:55AM (#38172968)

    The plural of spacecraft is spacecraft.

    • by skine (1524819)

      While "spacecraft" is the standard pluralization, "spacecrafts" is also an accepted spelling.

      On a somewhat related note, octopi, octopuses and octopodes are all accepted variants.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Don't worry, people think they are reading this on the internets.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @02:16AM (#38173068)

    Let's think about all that we have learned from our manned space program in the last 30 years. And now let compare that to everything we've learned through our unmanned space program. What amazed us more, pictures from Hubble, or pictures from the ISS? Or was it shockingly detailed infrared pictures of the universe's first light? Or was it the ISS? Was it the amazing Mars landers? Was it the fact that a human-made probe made a soft landing on freaking TITAN??? Well it turns out that the ISS was more expensive that all those missions put together. That's largely because human exploration is just expensive and it's getting more expensive all the time. Alongside, robots are quickly closing the capability gap on us, and in 20 years I'm confident that they can do more on Mars than humans could.

    In the 60's our robots sucked, lives were cheap, the Soviets were scary, the economy was pumping, the politicians were united behind NASA, and the Moon was close. Yes, that was the single coolest and most amazing thing that any space program has ever done. But we're fooling ourselves absurdly if we think that in the present day we can get our glory back by doing Mars. The conditions are different in every way.

    And I think it would be terrible for the space program as well. Just like the ISS ate up an ungodly chunk of each year's Space budget (for what?) as serious and far cheaper science experiments got vetoed, a Mars mission would just *be* the NASA budget for three decades. It can't be denied that it would primarily be a prestige mission. There are much better ways to learn each and every one of the things we would learn on such a mission. But I think Americans want to do it because we feel like we're on the decline, and like all aging men, we want to get back on that horse and show that we've still got it. It's like the old dude who reminisces about that time he was 24 and hooked up with a model, and ends up buying a Porsche and a mountain of Cialis because he thinks he can relive those glory years. Yes, we're looking for an excuse to whip out our cocks again and scream madly about how we can piss all the way to Mars. But it's more than a little pathetic, not least because there is no political way that our political system could produce the huge volume of steady funding that such a project would require. If we try it, it will be mentioned in every two minute version of the history of the American empire, right at the end.

    • by kermidge (2221646) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:25AM (#38173262) Journal

      re: ISS.... for what?

      Proof of concept. Practical engineering: making things work when they don't. Up until Vostok, a manned _anything_ in space was only a concept. All the manned efforts through to ISS have been a stepwise move to develop the kinds of knowledge and know-how needed to go further. Robots are pretty neat and do some good work; they'll definitely improve. But history shows that where explorers go, some will eventually want to follow - whether for adventure, profit, or to live.

      I suggest thinking multi-facet, long-term, various kinds of return, for fun and profit. I don't care much for the "either-or" kind of thinking that crops up often in discussions of 'most anything - I think it tends to limit perception and possibilities.

      I also have a long-standing bias that the long-term survival and flourishing of humanity requires being on more than one planet, in one solar system. Whether that survival is possible or desirable is for each to decide. Short-term, I'm thinking mostly science, and resources - helium-3, the vast treasures of the asteroids in all kinds minerals, and continuing to develop the engineering and other know-how needed to keep on truckin' - whatever the blend of man and machine that gets it done.

      And, yeah, I've been reading and thinking on this since the Fifties. I admit to being heavily influenced by Heinlein, von Braun, Ley, O'Neill, and others. Maybe I'm impatient. Maybe I'm selfish. But I'd like to see some more progress while I'm still here.

      • by arose (644256)

        Robots are pretty neat and do some good work; they'll definitely improve. But history shows that where explorers go, some will eventually want to follow - whether for adventure, profit, or to live.

        Robots are the explorers, we are wimps in space, they are built for it. The only way any of us are ever following them to live is either as robots (or GEd roachmen) or after they have built enough infrastructure to actually let us survive. Humans suck at space exploration, that is not something you can will away.

        • by Bomazi (1875554)
          Actually, robotic exploration is human exploration. Robots don't have a will of their own. Humans are merely using robots as an extension of their senses and limbs, but are the ones in control, interpreting data, deciding what to explore next.

          It is unfortunate that manned mission advocate don't understand that what makes us human are our thoughts and desires, not our bodies. Insisting on hauling them in space is missing the point and a distraction from actual exploration.
      • by Bomazi (1875554)
        In practice, it is either or. The manned program is one big chunk (ISS/shuttle), the unmanned program is made of many (comparatively) small missions. So to avoid canceling the manned program, they cancel or postpone unmanned mission to pay for it. It would be nice if there was a strict wall that prevented that, but there isn't.

        As for the ISS, it was sold as a science platform, not as an exercise in living / building stuff in space. Yet, the science results are not there. What little science they do is in
      • Me too. :)

    • by melted (227442) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:58AM (#38173532) Homepage

      Think about it this way: it's a heck of a lot cheaper than wars (by an order of magnitude), while still giving politicians and nations an opportunity to compare who's dick is longer. That's what it's all about. Paraphrasing Kennedy: "We don't do it because it's easy, we do it because we have to show our dick is much longer than anyone else's". I mean, Russia is recovering little by little, to such an extent that they're the only country in the world which can still reliably put shit into orbit, and they intend to land on Venus again in 2016, and this time spend a month on the surface, not a couple of hours like their previous missions. In the meanwhile the US is circling down the crapper. Sure, it'll take a long time for us to sink low enough to match Russia's current level, but unless we do something about it, we'll get there eventually. I mean, compare the Pentagon budget to NASA's. If we swapped them, in 10 years we'd get manned interstellar travel at the speed of light. :-)

      • by arose (644256)

        I mean, Russia is recovering little by little, to such an extent that they're the only country in the world which can still reliably put shit into orbit, and they intend to land on Venus again in 2016, and this time spend a month on the surface, not a couple of hours like their previous missions.

        You shouldn't point at Russia unless you are willing to follow their example. Shuttles were sexy, but expensive; they can put shit into orbit reliably because they are using dirt simple tech to do it (i.e. they co

        • by melted (227442)

          It doesn't matter. Their shuttle was groundbreaking for its time (fully automatic flight and landing of a heavy, multiple-use spacecraft — no one, including the US, could replicate this until late 00s), but they were in the same situation as the US today — they simply couldn't afford it. They can afford to reliably sling a load to ISS every few months, manned or not. In retrospect, their decision to abandon the Buran was the right one, since you can launch thirty people and tons of cargo into or

  • The original Orion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flyhigher (643174) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @02:25AM (#38173092)

    Whenever I hear "Orion" and "manned spaceflight", this is what first comes to mind:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

  • by bgoffe (1501287) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:21AM (#38173250)

    The current Scientific American has an interesting article on the path that manned exploration out of the Earth-Moon system might take. It employs aspects of the unmanned program to cut cots and to have a more flexible program. One interesting aspect is that the main spacecraft is parked in high earth orbit and human crews fly to it in a small craft. Once on the main craft, it does a swing by the Earth to get a speed boost. Its main engine is electric-power (off of solar arrays). While only part of the Scientific American article ("This Way to Mars," 12/2011 issue) is free, they do kindly provide links to its references at the bottom of the page. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=this-way-to-mars [scientificamerican.com] .

    Apparently, you need about 100 tons in low Earth orbit for such a craft. That would be two launches of SpaceX's proposed Falcon Heavy. It seems way more likely to fly than NASA's proposed Space Launch System (SLS).

    • The article is good as far as it goes, but they left out one key idea: mine the asteroids. Depending which asteroid, you can get metals, carbon, water, oxygen, and just plain dirt for radiation shielding. You can bring back 20-50 times your fuel used to Earth Orbit, or wherever you put your extraction plant. The most important thing to mine for at first is oxygen to feed your electric thrusters. That makes the mining system self-sustaining in fuel, and reduces what you have to bring up from Earth dramat

  • Moon, Helium 3, rocket fuel.

    Go there, pick it up, use it.
  • by master_p (608214) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:13PM (#38174956)

    What NASA needs to build is an interplanetary arc; a big spaceship complete with rotating sections for gravity, nuclear propulsion, huge areas of hydroponics and onboard shuttles for visiting planets.

    With such a spaceship, visiting other planets of the solar system would be much easier.

  • by inhuman_4 (1294516) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:18PM (#38175224)

    How NASA projects should work:
    President gives a mission to NASA
    NASA estimates method and budget
    Congress approves budget
    NASA completes mission

    Here is how it actually works:
    President gives a mission to NASA
    Congress chooses the method (maximum jobs) and budget (way too small)
    NASA tries and fails to make congresses' stupid ideas work
    New President cancels old mission in favour of a new mission that is "better" because he can take credit for it

  • Wake me after Deep Space missions 1-8 are over.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

Working...