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Audacious Visions For Future Spaceflight 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-been-a-lonnnnng-road dept.
New submitter nagalman writes "There is a very powerful video out that takes the audio of words from Neil deGrasse Tyson, receiver of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, and meshes it with powerful images of the history and successful outcomes of NASA. Through Penny4NASA, Dr. Tyson is pressing for the budget of NASA to be doubled from 0.5% to 1% of the federal budget in order to spur vision, interest, dreams, public excitement, and innovation into science and engineering. With Kansas stating that 'evolution could not rule out a supernatural or theistic source, that evolution itself was not fact but only a theory and one in crisis, and that Intelligent Design must be considered a viable alternative to evolution,' and North Carolina's legislature circulating a bill telling people to ignore climate science, maybe it's time we start listening to experts who have a proven record of success, rather than ideology that has only been 'proven' in the mind of elected politicians."
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Audacious Visions For Future Spaceflight

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  • Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbb999 (758019)

    Why link together disbelief in evolution with disbelief in climate alarmism?

    They are polar opposites, evolution is clearly a reaonable theory only opposed by those who would rather believe in some superstition.
    Climate alarmism is a theory from the 1990s and very early 2000s that fewer and fewer people believe in and generally is only supposed by people after tax or research grants these days,

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:13AM (#40273125)

    ...on this topic, it is WELL worth your time. I was fortunate to see Neil deGrasse Tyson speak in person recently at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It's well worth a little over an hour of your time:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqJzHHkmJ-8 [youtube.com]

    • I think he messed up by comparing NASA's budget to social safety net and education budgets in the video though, the implication that one should grow at a cost to the others is not going to sit well with many. He carefully stepped around mentioning the bloated military budget for some reason.

      • I think he messed up by comparing NASA's budget to social safety net and education budgets in the video though, the implication that one should grow at a cost to the others is not going to sit well with many. He carefully stepped around mentioning the bloated military budget for some reason.

        In fact, I thought about including a comment about this in my post —

        He realizes that our military infrastructure is one of the things that also drives and protects our society, and while war isn't preferable to other motivations for technical progress and scientific research, it is one of the chief motivations throughout our history. He also realizes that exploration can reinvigorate the human spirit, even stoking industry and the economy, which actually would help the people served by the "government

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          I quite agree China will eventually be a credible threat to us, but then we're currently a major threat to them, so unless you're of the opinion that the world should be forever be completely dominated by a single military superpower it's really hard to use that as an argument.

          To put things in perspective, US military spending currently exceeds the rest of the world combined (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures). And the bogeyman of "12% growth will exceed US spending b

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          while "Social programs" and "Social Security, Medicare, and other retirement" are what accounts for "over half" (55%) of our spending.

          The fact that you lumped all those together is quite telling I think. In the UK we gave universal healthcare and almost everyone uses it, so it isn't considered a "social program" or some kind of drain on society. Look at it another way, when most of us want better healthcare we don't complain about "forced" to buy into the national scheme instead of being free to have private insurance, we just want the national scheme to be better. It's cheaper and better for all of us.

          Similarly government pensions are so

  • I don't believe climate change skeptics and those who support intelligent design should be wrapped together. While I don't fit into either group, I find that those who believe in "ID" are very often... well... retarded, but I've met individuals who are skeptical of climate change and do not appear to be retarded.

    Given the input that I've received, I find this to be somewhat unfair to the global warming skeptics.

  • not a panacea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sega_sai (2124128) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:53AM (#40273209)
    Being an astrophysicist (and not american), I'm entirely pro-science, and would support spending more on NASA vs say on war. But for some reason, the video by Tyson make the case that spending on science (and particularly big PR projects like flying to Mars) is the solution to all problems. I don't think it is. I think spending a good chunk of GDP on science is very productive way to incurage innovation etc., but it is not a panacea. Furthermore, I'm a bit skeptical about projects like flying to Mars, which are good PR, probably very good for engineering and technology, but not that exciting from scientific prospective.
    • Re:not a panacea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @07:05AM (#40273261)

      I am neither a scientist, nor american. I had a similar thought. IMO a Mars mission is pushing the limits on the logistics, while the majority of problems have already been figured. It would serve as PR stunt and create jobs in the field, while the benefit to science might be limited.

      Instead of a Mars mission, I would like to see more Amercian effort in the ITER project and in the friendly competition with CERN. Those are the projects that are currently pushing the frontiers of science and engineering, that have the potential to create a lot of jobs while solving so many problems our world economy is about to face.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        A long term Mars mission would allow for continued progress and long term jobs. Plus the mission could easily expand as it went, including mining the moon for H3 or visiting asteroids. Rather than aiming for one specific goal with like Apollo you should be thinking in more general terms about creating a new market, a new frontier to work on.

        Look at it another way. It seems that the US was happy to invade Iraq and then hand out all the lucrative reconstruction contracts to US companies. Well, space could be

      • Indeed. In short, the kind of thinking on space science that requires humans to be there and doing it by hand as a kind of pre-requisite to doing it at all is magical thinking. I doubt that you can fight magical thinking (e.g climate denialism) with more magical thinking.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Honestly, I think the idea Dr. Tyson has is that a mission to Mars would get the American public interested in science again.

      I don't know if you are aware that in America superstition and anti-intellectualism is winning more and more each day, among other issues highlighted by this 'evolution v. intelligent design debate'. Currently we spend more on war/defense (over 1 trillion dollars) in a single year than we have given NASA in it's entire history (somewhere around 5-600bn dollars over the course of it's

      • Honestly, I think the idea Dr. Tyson has is that a mission to Mars would get the American public interested in science again.

        Did the last mission to mars do that? Did the one before? Or did public interest in Mars spike and then wane over time - much like public interest in the Moon spiked, and then waned post Apollo?

        It's easy to forget apparently, that Apollo was cancelled because people lost interest and the benefits of sending more astronauts to the Moon could not be quantified against the quantified cost.

        I don't know if you are aware that in America superstition and anti-intellectualism is winning more and more each day, among other issues highlighted by this 'evolution v. intelligent design debate'. Currently we spend more on war/defense (over 1 trillion dollars) in a single year than we have given NASA in it's entire history (somewhere around 5-600bn dollars over the course of it's 50+ year history).

        I doubt very much that anti-intellectualism can be stymied by more iconoclastic anti-intellectualism, such as insisting

        • by 0111 1110 (518466)

          The US was mainly known as a country of merchants, of traders. Never a country of intellectuals and scientists. The space program had more to do with the cold war, with military applications, than with science or even exploration for its own sake.

          Arguing for a space program because it will lead to more scientists is just a pathetic argument even if it were true, which it probably isn't. A space program should stand or fall on its own merits. If the majority of Americans don't care about space or lacks curio

          • The US was mainly known as a country of merchants, of traders. Never a country of intellectuals and scientists. The space program had more to do with the cold war, with military applications, than with science or even exploration for its own sake.

            Arguing for a space program because it will lead to more scientists is just a pathetic argument even if it were true, which it probably isn't. A space program should stand or fall on its own merits.

            Agreed. But I would say that space exploration does have merit, and I find it dead interesting. I don't see the benefit of sending a humans, i'm no more represented by another human than a probe or robot.

            If the majority of Americans don't care about space or lacks curiosity about what might be 'out there' then perhaps what's left of the US space program should be ended. Who cares about "boldly going" anywhere when American Idol or a football or baseball game is on?

            I suppose they could put the money saved from NASA toward furthering the police state and security theatre. Americans may not like spending money on space exploration, but I suppose they are quite content with spending billions to be able to pretend that they are safe from bogeyman terrorists. We'll lose some astronauts, but gain more TSA agents or, if we're lucky even more invasive xray machines that will 'protect us' from body bombs. That way the majority can have the society that they so richly deserve.

            Kinda pessimistic view there. But I'm not American, so I can't tell you what to do or where your country is at. I would say that there are many interesting things still to do, and these should have our focus - fusion and advance forms of fission energy, hydrogen based fuels.

    • Re:not a panacea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday June 10, 2012 @07:48AM (#40273411)

      I agree with that view. While we're proposing fantasy budgets, instead of doubling NASA's budget from its current $18 billion to $36 billion, I think the promotion of science would be much better served (at a lower cost, even!) by doubling the National Science Foundation's budget from its current $7 billion to $14 billion.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by 0111 1110 (518466)

        Why does everything have to be measured by how well it serves "science"? What makes science so special? Fuck science. Seriously. If you want to perform some boring experiment that no one would care about besides someone in your field then pay for it yourself. Or get your university to pay for it. Those $50,000/year tuitions should pay for something. Of course if you happen to work for a private company then you can probably guess who I think should pay for it. Especially when any engineering that results fr

    • Re:not a panacea (Score:4, Informative)

      by khallow (566160) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @08:47AM (#40273679)

      Furthermore, I'm a bit skeptical about projects like flying to Mars, which are good PR, probably very good for engineering and technology, but not that exciting from scientific prospective.

      I guess that depends on whether you think vastly more science done on the surface of Mars in real time (rather than a small amount staggered out over decades) is exciting or not.

      People seem to forget the many lessons of Apollo. One of those lessons is that a knowledge person on site with relatively simple tools does a lot more and covers a lot more ground than even our best landers/rovers over the foreseeable future will do. Despite being mostly a national prestige project, Apollo got a remarkable amount of science done and radically changed our understanding of the early Solar System.

      • Furthermore, I'm a bit skeptical about projects like flying to Mars, which are good PR, probably very good for engineering and technology, but not that exciting from scientific prospective.

        I guess that depends on whether you think vastly more science done on the surface of Mars in real time (rather than a small amount staggered out over decades) is exciting or not.

        Proportionately humans have done less than 1% of the total science done in space. To use the common anecdote - machines are currently leaving the solar system - humans are fixing the toilet on the space station. If speed is a concern then

        (a) send a robot to do a robots job, they are demonstrably better at it then humans, by sheer volume of discovery.

        (b) If speed at particular tasks is a concern (e.g. moving around on the surface of mars), then design a robot that does that faster. Humans can travel at

        • by khallow (566160)

          Proportionately humans have done less than 1% of the total science done in space.

          Nonsense measure which ignores considerable human contributions from Earth. For example, I imagine you include Earth studies (such as TOPEX/Poseiden) in your guess, which has a lot of human involvement in it (the satellite measures are routinely used in conjunction with Earth-side measurements by humans).

          You also ignore relative value. For example, the considerable sample return from the Moon is probably the single most valuable contribution from Apollo and one of the most valuable contributions to space

  • After watching the first link, talking about "why," I found Mr. Rogers [youtube.com] at the top of the related videos, demonstrating "how" to dream big, in the "Garden of your Mind." It dovetails with Neil deGrasse Tyson surprisingly well.
  • We want the economy to improve, we want jobs, we want to make money. Instead of feeding an overstuffed pig such as NASA, with bloated budgets and projects that accomplish little, PRIVATE space industry should be supported, subsidized, and given free reign. The first private space ports are only now opening around the world. This is the new hi-tech industry for the 21st century, the US needs to take and KEEP the lead in this cutting edge new frontier. Let us relegate NASA to the bygone era of the coldwar. Sp
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Aside from during the 60's and early 70's NASA's budget has generally been under 1% of the federal budget, falling to under 0.5% in the last decade. If they can stimulate even a fraction of a percent of economic growth then they pay for themselves (since that growth will continue compounding going forward, even if NASA were scrapped). The argument is that with a real vision, proper funding, and good PR (such as during the moon race) NASA could stimulate far more growth than that, as well as inspiring youn

  • by queazocotal (915608) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @07:13AM (#40273293)

    NASA is not at the moment a space organisation.
    They are a welfare organisation for aerospace.

    For example - taking the budget for the Space Launch System up till the first couple of flights, and purchasing commercial launch from SpaceX gets you 85000 tons or so launched. (Assuming that reusability does not kick in)

    Everything done in space by NASA is driven by launch costs.

    The size of spacecraft has to be reduced, and they have to be more carefully engineered and built, which dramatically raises costs.

    NASAs previous attempt to lower launch costs (X33) picked a major aerospace companies bid.
    This company proposed, with NASAs encouragement to use three seperate fundamentally untried technologies on the one vehicle.
    (Linear aerospike, conformal tanks, and metallic TPS).

    SpaceX (for example) is building on their successful rocket launches so far, with the aim of reusing their rockets several-many times.
    At the moment, space launch costs several thousand dollars a kilo.
    The soon-to-be-launched http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasshopper_(rocket)#Grasshopper [wikipedia.org] is a test stage, to test propulsive landing for the first stage - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSF81yjVbJE [youtube.com] is a video outlining this.

    The absolute starting point for any space program has to be getting things into space.
    Doing this expensively, for political reasons (SLS, ...) means you have a welfare reason, not a space reason.

    A sane space agency should have very limited mission definitions.
    'Fly safely to ISS, dock using this adaptor'.
    Previously they've made a practice of making proposals that effectively pick from one of several large aerospace corporations.
    By requiring technologies they've developed, for no good reason, rather than simple functional requirements.

    A fundamental change in space could occur if SpaceX (or one of the other new entrants) gets reusability up and running.
    The fuel cost for a launch is well under $10/kg.
    Even if you 'only' get to $100/kg, from the current $5000/kg or so, that enables a dramatically different space program.
    It becomes feasible to put a lot more people up, and have them debug stuff on orbit.
    It becomes comparatively cheap to have massive redundancy in systems, based on comparatively inexpensive and massive designs.

    You don't end up spending 220 million to design an air-conditioner.
    You launch 5 candidate systems built by bidders for $10M, and see which one works.

  • We'd see much better results if we increased the budget of National Science Foundation from 0.2% to 0.5% instead. I'll take solid results in basic research over vision, interest, and dreams any day.

    • by bmo (77928)

      >I'll take solid results in basic research over vision, interest, and dreams any day.

      Vision, interest, and dreams are prerequisites for solid results.

      HTH.

      --
      BMO

    • by amliebsch (724858)

      It's the latter that enables the former.

      You're like the person who decides to stop sleeping, because they'd rather be getting productive work done.

  • "maybe it's time we start listening to experts who have a proven record of success, rather than ideology that has only been 'proven' in the mind of elected politicians."

    And this is exactly why NASA and other scientific endeavors will never get the funding they need.

  • by neokushan (932374)

    That powerful video uses music from Mass Effect 3. It works a lot better in this video than it did in the game, although considering that the plot of the game is that all space faring races are being systematically wiped out, I'm not sure it sends the right message.

  • Neil for President (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @08:11AM (#40273481)

    If only we could get quality people of this caliber to choose from. It would put an air of confidence around the future of the US instead of the corporate-sponsored Reality TV show it's turned into.

    Go Neil!

  • by khallow (566160) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @08:53AM (#40273721)
    The big problem with this proposal is simply that NASA as it currently exists is a colossal waste of money. One would not want to put in 1% of the federal budget only to have NASA squander it on developing a vastly overpriced, heavy lift rocket (SLS and Ares V, for example). The money has to go into something useful or it's just another money sinkhole like so much of defense spending was.
    • I would prefer my money to be wasted on rockets into space instead of rockets launched at brown people. I would rather throw my money at NASA scientists than to throw it at corn/oil subsidies.
      • by savuporo (658486)
        Most of the money that goes to NASA does not go to "scientists", it lands with bureaucrats, middle managers, and a lot of fat cost-plus contractors - often the same ones that make your "rockets for brown people".
  • by khallow (566160) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @09:03AM (#40273787)

    With Kansas stating that 'evolution could not rule out a supernatural or theistic source, that evolution itself was not fact but only a theory and one in crisis, and that Intelligent Design must be considered a viable alternative to evolution,' and North Carolina's legislature circulating a bill telling people to ignore climate science, maybe it's time we start listening to experts who have a proven record of success, rather than ideology that has only been 'proven' in the mind of elected politicians."

    First, Kansas no longer says that. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    The Kansas Board of Education voted 6â"4 August 9, 2005 to include greater criticism of evolution in its school science standards, but it decided to send the standards to an outside academic for review before taking a final vote. The standards received final approval on November 8, 2005. The new standards were approved by 6 to 4, reflecting the makeup of religious conservatives on the board.[75] In July 2006 the Board of Standards issued a "rationale statement" which claimed that the current science curriculum standards do not include intelligent design.[76] Members of the scientific community critical of the standards contended that the board's statement was misleading in that they contained a "significant editorializing that supports the Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design networkâ(TM)s campaign position that Intelligent Design is not included in the standards", the standards did "say that students should learn about ID, and that ID content ought to be in the standards", and that the standards presented the controversy over intelligent design as a scientific one, denying the mainstream scientific view.

    [...]

    On August 1, 2006, 4 of the 6 conservative Republicans who approved the Critical Analysis of Evolution classroom standards lost their seats in a primary election. The moderate Republican and liberal Democrats gaining seats, largely supported by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, vowed to overturn the 2005 school science standards and adopt those recommended by a State Board Science Hearing Committee that were rejected by the previous board.

    [...]

    On February 13, 2007, the Board voted 6 to 4 to reject the amended science standards enacted in 2005. The definition of science was once again returned to "the search for natural explanations for what is observed in the universe."

    It must have been an unpleasant year and a half, but Kansas voters did fix the problem as quickly as they could.

    It's also worth noting that the North Carolina bill forces only a particular planning agency (for NC ocean shores) to ignore certain climate predictions (and may have been in response to possible abuse of such climate predictions by the planning agency in question).

    It's far more limited in scope than claimed in the summary above and while short-sighted may have been proposed in response to valid concerns about what the planning agency was going to do.

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Sunday June 10, 2012 @10:53AM (#40274593) Homepage Journal
    When, in 1991 I was testifying before Congress on a grassroots-promoted bill to require NASA to procure launch services from the private sector, a NASA employee, flown in on my tax dollars while I had to pay my own way, pointed at me and said "There's the enemy."

    NASA started being friendly toward private launch services only when it was apparent it could no longer play the same good-ole-boy game that had for so long presented an anti-competitive barrier to the entry of true freedom to pursue industrially reasonable launch services.

    To now listen to "experts" that are designated as such by NASA telling us to pump huge amounts of money into NASA so it can turn SpaceX and others into yet another good-ole-boy network is the moral equivalent of pumping huge amounts of money into creation science.

  • by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:09AM (#40274701)
    The first part of your post was okay. I actually think it would be handled better by companies like Spacex rather than NASA. But then you yourself plunge into ideology and political discourse. Then again, unfortunately the reality of science is that it does not exit in a vacuum. I dislike the political and ideological baggage tossed in there by all sides. It won't go away either.
  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:18AM (#40274763) Journal
    NASA, just make a kickstarter project. "Mars base. $4 trillion goal."
  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:26AM (#40274817)

    NASA needs to make the transition from an executing agency to a support agency, more like NSF and less like the post office.

    It's still appropriate to have NASA labs and NASA projects, but the next big advances are going to come through private partnerships and creative investments. NASA's budget is more than 5 times DARPAs budget, for example, but DARPA grabs much more of the public eye these days. The key difference is that program managers (people who control the money) serve 3 year terms in DARPA. There's no time for empire building or lawyering up, which are BIG problems at NASA.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @01:23PM (#40275719) Homepage

    We'd be much better off spending research money on fusion power than on space. If we get fusion, we'll get space. Sending people to Mars is a dead end. We know what Mars looks like. We have a space station, and no use for it.

    It looks like Space-X has the low-cost booster thing figured out. That took long enough, especially considering that the US mass-produced ICBMs in the 1960s.

    Closing about half the NASA centers would be a good start. NASA Slidell (the "Stennis Space Center") was scheduled to downsize, but instead they got funding for a big museum. NASA Ames is dead except for the wind tunnel. NASA still has 23,000 employees, and that doesn't include the contractors.

  • by TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:15PM (#40276217)
    ... Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flame wars as Slashdotters discuss evolution vs creationism instead of, you know, the TOPIC, which is the sorry state of NASA's funding.
  • Congress just needs to stop using NASA as a pork receptacle.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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