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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."
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NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space

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  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:22AM (#38172586)
    Or are we going to offshore it?
  • 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.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:35AM (#38172658)

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

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.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.

  • 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 Goonie (8651) <robert DOT merkel AT benambra DOT org> 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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:20AM (#38172832)
    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 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 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 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 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 ChatHuant (801522) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:10AM (#38173218)

    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.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.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 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:33AM (#38173286)

    I'm no less close minded than you. Your plan would kill people and create a monetary sink hole that would destroy any future space program. It's a never ending system that either ends with the most costly care packages ever created, a failed mission that requires the colonists to come home, or the death of the colonists. I believe in a future in space and I wish to god it would hurry up, but space is not that easy, and if you thought about it for a minute, you might see that sending people on a one way trip would do more harm than good. Small steps aren't bad, especially when a failed mission could mean an even bigger step back.

  • by strack (1051390) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:44AM (#38173308)
    oh stop being so fucking melodramatic. whats wrong with profit motive driving down the cost of access to space? that seems like a ideal place to apply a bit of ruthless capitalism. its not like the government has done much to lower the cost to get to space.
  • by oh2 (520684) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:27AM (#38173426) Homepage Journal
    You forgot bombing Iran. Its their turn next, you know.
  • by bertok (226922) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:56AM (#38173530)

    The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica is actually a great example, thanks for bringing it up. It's entirely dependent on the outside world for supplies except for air and water. Everything, and I mean everything is shipped in. There's no self-sufficiency to speak of.

    We think of Antarctica as an inhospitable place, but it's a tropical paradise compared to anywhere we can land people in space. It has unlimited oxygen and and water, no dangerous radiation, earth normal gravity, unlimited water, vast mineral deposits, and temperatures that can be survived with nothing more than some warm clothing.

    Nonetheless, if external support was cut off from the south pole station, then despite having all the existing buildings, infrastructure, machinery, and a staff of hundreds of brilliant scientists and researchers, everyone there would die.

    Let me reiterate this: your examples of 'colonies' are all places where the people there are supported by enormous external supply chains, and would die if those supplies are cut off. On Earth, we can keep the supplies going because we can afford to, and because it's worth it -- the relatively low overhead of air freighting in everything is small compared to the valuable science that can be performed in Antarctica, or the money people are willing to spend to climb Everest.

    All of these are expeditions, not colonies. They're not self sufficient, and it wouldn't be cost effective to make them self sufficient.

    Shipping stuff on Earth is cheap. Air freight to a frozen desert in the middle of nowhere is a negligible overhead when compared to sending stuff to Mars. Even in the wildest, most delusional dreams of space fanatics, there is no way to do it for less than about $100 per pound.

    Look around your house -- really look -- and for everything you see, ask yourself: how many pounds is that?. Could anyone afford to live like this if it cost $100 per pound more than it would otherwise? How many pounds of water do you use? How many pounds of air? What does your house weigh?

    Try that again with the current, realistic cost of sending things to Mars of $10,000 per pound.

  • 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. :-)

  • Re:sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the linux geek (799780) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:34AM (#38173640)
    We're still the only nation that seems to reliably be able to send anything to Mars.
  • by f()rK()_Bomb (612162) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:58AM (#38173852)
    You put you lives in the hands of for profit airline companies and car makers. Don't be ridiculous
  • Re:Memo to NASA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @09:00AM (#38174170)

    1. Moon

    2. Helium 3

    3. ????

    4. Working fusion engine

    5. rocket fuel//profit.

  • 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 demachina (71715) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @12:00PM (#38174888)

    Elon Musk isn't doing SpaceX to profiteer. He is doing it because he wanted to launch payloads to Mars and all of the previous alternatives tended to suck.

    He needs to turn a profit on his launchers so he can plow the money back in to R&D to work on the next steps in the technology. The SpaceX business model is totally the right one, and it has NOTHING to do with the OWS and the 1% strife. We should be cheering him on for putting a bunch of aerospace engineers back to work in California, and for pouring over NASA's engineering docs from Apollo through now and preserving and building on all that hard won knowledge.

    One reason NASA is completely dysfunctional is Congress and one president after another keeps forcing them to change their designs and even their goals every 4-8 years, they force them to do things with more focus on which states the jobs programs will be in, Florida in particular being an important swing state, rather than if its the best design for the goal. The Chinese might be able to make the state funded model work since most of their politburo is technocrats and engineers. Letting a bunch of clueless lawyers run your space program⦠really bad idea.

  • 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

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @01:28PM (#38175282)

    It's no surprise - the "new left" are the quickest to silence any dissent, and they love their mod points. I can trash the far-right all day long and get maybe one "troll" mod which gets balanced out by multiple "insightful" mods. But make a negative comment about the far-left, and you're downmoded into oblivion within seconds. I expected to be downmoded, but it needed to be said.

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