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NASA Space Science

NASA Faces Rough Road In 2013 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the buckle-up dept.
MarkWhittington writes "With the National Research Council report that concluded that President Obama's plan for a mission to an asteroid has no support, either inside NASA or anywhere else, the space agency faces a decision point in 2013. The NRC suggested that the administration, Congress, NASA, and other stakeholders in space exploration come to a consensus behind a new goal. But the space agency's problems run deep, caused by a lack of direction, a lack of leadership, and a lack of funding."
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NASA Faces Rough Road In 2013

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:11PM (#42437455)
    How the hell can you plan a major project when every year you're faced with the possibility of major cuts?
  • Not only NASA. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:11PM (#42437457) Homepage

    But the whole United States is locked in a situation where hope and optimism is starting to get rare.

    The Democrats and Republicans seems to be blocking each other as much as possible causing a deadlock. Today it seems like the creationists are taking over step by step.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      seems like the creationists are taking over

      First the creationists enacted their healthcare law. Now the creationists are proposing another AWB.

      Those creationists sure are taking over.

    • by symbolset (646467) *

      The Democrats and Republicans seems to be blocking each other as much as possible causing a deadlock.

      Inevitably. Almost as if the system were designed with that outcome in mind.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The two sides are not equal. The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") was originally crafted by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. Mitt Romney signed a version of the plan into law when he was governor of Massachusetts. One would think then that the Republicans would step forward and work to pass the ACA. They fought it tooth and nail instead. We live in a time when Republicans refuse to support any bill if the Democrats are in favor of it, even if the Republicans or other right wing gr
  • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:16PM (#42437481)

    From TFA (second link):

    The dimensions of the train wreck that is the Obama space policy are impossible to exaggerate.

    The dimensions of hyperbole in that statement are impossible to exaggerate, too. Reading that second link (possibly written by a very bitter pundit-turned-scientist Rove) was an absolute waste of time bemoaning everything from NASA considering too many options before making a decision, to Mitt Romney losing the presidential race. OP's summary was more educational and less biased than that pile.

    • In Space, No One Can Vote.
    • Obama *shut down* the manned space program. If opposing that is called bias, then I guess I'm racist too?
      • by Tablizer (95088)

        No he didn't. There was a battle between focusing on an asteroid mission or a moon mission. Congress and the prez are fighting that out, but it's ugly.

        I agree with the asteroid plan. We already did the moon thing. And there will be budget cuts because there is not enough money to go around.

      • Baloney! All Obama did was carry through the plan initiated under Bush to retire the shuttle fleet. There were some who wanted to continue flying the shuttles for a few more years, but they were so damned expensive to service they would have chewed up most of the NASA budget, putting other more important projects at risk, such as the JWST.

        "Shut down the manned space program"... yeah right, I guess all those ASTRONAUTS are just figments of our imagination then. Hm?

        Certainly it's a bit embarrassing to have al

  • ... except for the big war and corporate profit machine. In other words: Leeches that mooch on the luxuries and work force of a country, but give nothing back in return but a big fat "fuck you"... and insult the very people that got poor *because* of their corporate greed that has no purpose but itself.

    It's just a matter of when it breaks because of a lack of a working country behind it, not if.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      the country won't break, it'll just change: they'll enslave some, imprison others (big business that), and kill the rest. you're right about the main thing though, we'll all definitely be fucked over. It's called a fascist police state.

    • Just want to add, Rome fell when it's infrastrtucture broke down (viaducts-water delivery systems, etc) and it's people left. That gradual breakdown took about 300 years after it's money was mostly all looted by the rich and powerful of Rome. Is history repeating itself now?
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:19PM (#42437507)

    we'll spend ten times that amount occupying, maiming and killing people who did not attack us on 09/11/2001. because that's important and of lasting benefit to humanity.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was worried Ender would have no targets in his drone

    • Medline Albright was asked

      "Was it worth kill 500,000 babies in Iraq for the war?"

      She said, "Absolutely!!!"

      She typical of govt, zero compassion and ends justify the means.

      • And you're a typical rube for believing that...
      • Please give us a CREDIBLE link to that. Not faux news, pravda, national enquirer, or Daily Mail; not some blog where you in another name state it; but a video, or an honest news organization which reports that.
    • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:40PM (#42437649)

      Only ten?

      Where in the world did you get such a staggering discount? Or are you counting on a massive boost to NASA's funding?

      NASA budget in 2012: $3.5-$8.7 billion
      DOD (not including the FBI, international affairs, veterans affairs, homeland security, many other things): $707.5 billion

      Ten times would be a huge change. I mean, the interest on debt for past wars was $109.1–$431.5 billion itself.

      Lemme put that into perspective for you: You're spending about 30x as much repaying the debt for the last wars than you are putting stuff into space.

      I'll type it again so it's really really clear.

      The budget for repaying the debt, not necessarily the whole debt itself, just the interest on the debt, for Iraq/Afghanistan, is around about thirty times the budget of NASA. The defense budget itself is two to three times *that* amount.

      Ten. If only, mate. If only.

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States#Budget_breakdown_for_2012 [wikipedia.org]

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        whose numbers do you use? wikipedia says $17 billion for NASA in 2012. I only counting direct budgeted Iraq and Afghanistan "war" costs ~ 160 billion for 2012.

    • by cheekyboy (598084)

      off book accounts
      secret black ops
      secret drug sales by cia

      trillions missing in accounting records

      They spend 1000x NASA budget to kill.

      dudes, your country has been robbed by the banks and the CIA.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is currently no race condition between competing super powers. Just wait until China shows a 50% chance of actually sending a man to the moon again. Then of course we'll need a charismatic young POTUS to inspire strong protective feelings of our national pride.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:30PM (#42437589)

    Well then, fly!

    That way, you'll encounter severe turbulence.

  • Despite all the campaign rhetoric. The dems want more social spending. The repubs want more privatisation. NASA is a sitting duck in being fairly large.
    • NASA is very popular in certain portions of Florida, Texas, California, Maryland, Alabama, Utah... pretty much any state with a significant NASA facility. All those places have Congresscritters who will push for pretty much anything NASA wants to spend money on.

      Individually they're not much, but collectively they can legislatively logroll remarkably well.

    • NO. It is the republicans (actually, the neo-cons who currently control the republicans) who are fighting against private space. They are the fucks that continue to force NASA to spend money on Constellation and now on SLS. Hell, it is the republicans that told NASA HOW to build the SLS and which companies that HAD to use.

      The great news is that in 201[34], Falcon Heavy WILL launch. And once it does, a large cheap cargo carrier is ready to go to space. SLS will be redundant, and more importantly, wasteful.
      • Actually fairly ironic considering the Republican mantra that private industry always does better than government....
  • Problem with robots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asmkm22 (1902712) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:44PM (#42437671)

    This is why sending robots to Mars, while scientifically interesting, doesn't really help rally the nation. Do you think sending a rover to the moon instead of an astronaut would have created the same excitement and motivation? How far behind would we be with technology had that excitement not lead to all kinds of collateral innovations along the way?

    Set a vision for sending a team of scientists and engineers to Mars, within 10 years, with the goal of setting up a basic outpost. Nothing huge or complex, just some FEMA-type structures large enough for storage and manufacturing. Mars has a ton of iron, so there's little reason a foundry couldn't be setup up there.

    • by arobatino (46791)

      This is why sending robots to Mars, while scientifically interesting, doesn't really help rally the nation. Do you think sending a rover to the moon instead of an astronaut would have created the same excitement and motivation? How far behind would we be with technology had that excitement not lead to all kinds of collateral innovations along the way?

      There haven't been any manned missions to the Moon in 40 years. We can send dozens of robotic missions to Mars for the cost of a single manned one, making it sustainable.

      • by petsounds (593538) on Monday December 31, 2012 @10:58PM (#42438519)

        There haven't been any manned missions to the Moon in 40 years. We can send dozens of robotic missions to Mars for the cost of a single manned one, making it sustainable.

        The American public doesn't give a shit about robotic missions to Mars. Curiosity's complicated landing, yes the public was tuned in because it was drama and the whole jet-powered crane thing was pretty frackin cool. Then most just got on with our lives, the same way Americans stopped caring about the Apollo missions. The public perked their collective ears up again when NASA made a blunder with that "one for the record books" comment and all kinds of people I know were suddenly gushing about the possibility of Life On Mars.

        Putting people on Mars and starting a colony, well that's something people can be excited about and identify with. But it's a long-term goal. A shorter-term and ongoing goal that people are invariably excited about is finding life on another planet. The problem is, we keep sending robots to search for long-dead life, not current life. Let's get robots out to Europa and Titan and explore the seas, to Martian caves, and polar regions. Let's make finding existing extraterrestrial life a priority. Because if NASA strives for scientific discoveries that the public cares about, the public is more likely to demand NASA be funded adequately. This kind of thinking might not sit well with planetary geologists who want more rock-hunting missions, but NASA has to play a PR role as much as it focuses on hard science. Making a Twitter account is not enough. Inspiring the public must be part of the primary mission, if for no other reason than self-preservation.

        • by arobatino (46791)

          This kind of thinking might not sit well with planetary geologists who want more rock-hunting missions, but NASA has to play a PR role as much as it focuses on hard science.

          Those "rock-hunting" missions (including Curiosity) are providing valuable information on where future missions should look to find life. It may not be as immediately exciting to the general public to work that way, but it's more productive in the long run, and without that, both NASA's results and its funding may dry up.

          Besides, it's not true that the public "doesn't give a shit" about robotic missions. Spirit and Opportunity got significant publicity, for years, on a relatively small investment. (Widespre

      • Wrong. If we are willing to send a manned one-way mission to Mars, we will do more science with that crew than we could do with the dozens of robotic missions that you want to send. In addition, it would cost a FRACTION of the money. The reason is that real expense in manned mission is not the getting there. It is not the surviving on the mars. It is the return trip. Get rid of that, and it is cheap to go.
        • by arobatino (46791)

          The cost of one-way would certainly be much less than round-trip, but both are speculative, and would probably exceed estimates. We know how much robotic missions cost. The big advantage to having humans on Mars would probably be that they could operate rovers remotely with essentially zero latency, much more productively than from Earth. The rovers could be anywhere on the planet, whereas at least in the beginning the humans would all want to stay together, limiting their ability to explore directly. For t

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Monday December 31, 2012 @08:51PM (#42437717) Homepage Journal
    Lack of sufficent funding to (eg) NASA is a fundamental problem, because it shows that The US of A is losing sight of some things which are really important.

    I'm not just talking about "more science is good" but a thriving Space Program through NASA pumps something quite literally vital back into the economy.

    Confidence In And Hope For The Future.

    Almost NOTHING that NASA does is "for today", everything is long term, future thinking, "some day you will thank me for this" work.

    Problems with lack of direction (etc) at NASA are mostly a reflection of uncertainty in funding (both current and future).

    You can't blame the Captain of a ship that he's not steering anywhere useful when you won't put fuel in his tanks.
  • It may be a rough road you'll find, but then again you won't
    need rockets or runways.

  • They can't decide what goal to move toward? I have one. Alpha Centauri via pulsed nuclear propulsion and lunar mining and manufacturing. First, a permanent lunar base. Establish some photovoltaics and RTGs. Then a full fledged fission reactor. Some solar furnaces for melting ore. Then design/build some lunar rovers intended for carrying ore and some battery powered mining robots. Ideally some pitchblende or other uranium ores could be found. Locating the settlement within driving distance of such uranium so

    • by tftp (111690)

      You need to explain to the population of Earth (or to the population of the USA) what exactly they will *personally* gain from all this. Considering that they will get nothing, I just don't see where the budget for this space opera would come from.

      This society is not ready for operations in space and on other planets simply because there is no reason to do so, outside of a very far-fetched possibility of the global catastrophe. But even then who will be dying happily, knowing that there are a few Earthli

      • by cusco (717999)
        There are too many ways to die . . . What is the purpose of all this?

        Apparently you don't really get the concepts of 'frontier' and 'colony'. My great-great-grandparents went to homestead in the wilds of northern Michigan. They and their children faced bears, Indians, wolves, TB, starvation, sub-zero winters, Mormon marauders, tornadoes, and wildfires, all two days' travel from the nearest (incompetent and generally drunken) doctor. There were many ways to die, and I'm sure that their families back
        • by tftp (111690)

          There were many ways to die, and I'm sure that their families back in Cleveland and Paris wondered, "What is the purpose?"

          I'm sure your ancestors did have a purpose. Perhaps they wanted to get away from the old way of life and religious persecution in Europe; perhaps they wanted to get their own land and set up a ranch or a farm; perhaps they had other reasons - but the important part here is that they did have a reason. Only drunken men wander around without reason; everyone else's actions are driven by

          • by cusco (717999)
            You know that the spirit of the frontier is dead and buried?

            The lust after a frontier has always been found in the minority of people, that's why the majority stayed in Cleveland, or Europe (or for that matter Africa if you want to look 'way back.) Did you know that as a portion of national economy the voyages of Columbus and Magellan were more expensive for their sponsor countries than the Apollo program was for ours? That is the problem with representative government though, the mob rules, even on b
            • by tftp (111690)

              That is the problem with representative government though, the mob rules, even on budgetary issues, and the mob wants bread and circuses.

              I fully agree. A benevolent dictator would be better than the mob rule. Unfortunately dictators rarely come in benevolent form; that's why democracy is a safer way to live your life these days.

              If I were the dictator I would definitely give you all the money you need to fly to the Moon and live there. That would be bad news for the entitled crowd (modulo geniunely sick

              • by cusco (717999)
                You might be interested in looking at the Inca empire, which took the idea of 'benevolent despotism' to heart. Unlike the ridiculous European tradition of primogeniture, which more often than not ended up with an inbred halfwit as ruler, the Inca was chosen from among the eligible candidates by a conference of the previous Inca's advisers. Rule was generally seen as a burden rather than a privilege.

                The last of the conquistadores, Marcio Serra de Leguisano, declared in his deathbed confession, "The I
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday December 31, 2012 @10:21PM (#42438339)

    If you're short on money, stop wasting it dreaming about putting people on the moon again, or going to Mars with a human crew.

    1)There is no practical purpose in placing humans on the moon; certainly nothing that justifies the tenfold jump in complexity. There wasn't back in the 60's, either - it was done for patriotism and xenophobia.

    2)We have real problems right now, like the lack of replacements for aging weather satellites, in an era of accelerating climate change and instability. In case you all hadn't noticed, the last hurricane hit one of the largest economic centers of our country AND our eastern ports. In case you hadn't noticed, the midwest suffered the worst drought since the dust bowl.

    I've been saying it for more than ten years, any time Slashdot starts getting romantic about human space flight: Stop eating your dessert and start eating your vegetables.

    What's really pathetic is that we make fun of North Korea for lofting a satellite while people starve. We live in a country where 20% of our students go hungry, even more don't have enough textbooks to go around, and teachers are spending personal money on supplies...but hey, they get to watch some video of an incredibly privileged, elite person floating around on a space station doing science that nowhere near justifies its cost (NIH's budget is about 3x the annual spending of the ISS, but yet the NIH manages to fund more distinct disciplines than the number of ISS research projects.)

      Our public transit system is pathetic, our court systems are vastly underfunded, our retirement system is essentially a pyramid scheme, we have a huge homeless population, the world's largest (both by percentage and total headcount) prison population, and we're one of a shrinking pool of countries which doesn't provide health care services for all.

    We need to at least get to the point where we're not damaging the environment and climate further, and maybe even starting to restore it. THEN, and ONLY THEN, you can have your rocketships for human space exploration. Don't give me that "we'll use space technology to escape our doomed planet" bullshit - we have a population of 7 BILLION. Even if you think we have any hope of lifting even just 1% of the world's population, how do you morally justify screwing over everyone else to save those 1%? Further, if we can't co-habitate with this planet's ecosystem, why should we just start fucking up another planet?

  • NASA has turned into a disorganized formation of risk-adverse contract managers loosely connected to a rusting theme park playing endless reruns of their glory days. Their big accomplishment these days is dismantling some of the old launch platforms.

    They are not the agency that's going to make the next leaps in space technology. Hell, the fricking electric car guy is making faster advances than NASA. Put him in charge. They had their day, it's time to start over.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Elon Musk IS in charge. Of precisely what he should be in charge of. A rocket company. The only thing wrong with NASA is they keep thinking they should be a rocket company. When they do science, and contract out the solved problems, they do well. When they try to revisit the glory years, they get all confused and stupid. The "electric car guy" is doing what a business does best—optimize production of a machine that is a known quantity. We're lucky somebody like him came along. Somebody with th

  • Boots on Mars. This isn't rocket science, people.
  • I love space exploration and think it has tremendous potential for mankind. But I have often thought that the Space Shuttle was a kluge designed by a committee. It was also a huge government make work project. Thankfully, projects like SpaceX and private industry is taking over from where NASA blew it. Though there were plenty of hard working and smart people there. In the end they remind me of the DMV or Post Office of space technology.

    • NASA has probes zipping all over the solar system, they shot Cassini through gaps in the rings of Saturn, twice, then dropped another probe on Titan and returned pictures from near total darkness in temperatures cold enough to freeze methane. NASA also recently landed a fucking truck on Mars, in one piece and talking to a NASA satellite orbiting above. While I'm a fan of SpaceX and admire Musk for putting his money where his mouth is, the fact remains they have a very, very, long way to go before they can f
    • SpaceX and others are NOT taking over for NASA. They are working WITH NASA to get companies built. Without NASA, SpaceX would still be trying to launch F1 and spaceX would be a fraction of the size. Likewise, without NASA's work, Bigelow Aerospace would not be working towards cheap safe inflatable space stations.
      The same is true of SNC's DreamChaser, Boeing's CST-100 (though to be fair, I doubt that NASA is providing tech help, but 100% of their funding, as well as future missions), and others.

      These com
  • Obama has a vision a space program that fits within the budget.

    The Republicans have a vision. The space shuttle pork still flowing despite the cancellation of the space shuttle. The republicans call the lack of pork lack of vision because the can't see anything to eat. The Republicans want a return to Apollo where the pork flowed more freely.

    Now if someone really wants vision let me propose this. Charge NASA with laying the groundwork for colonizing the solar system. This should include the resear

  • That's all it is. For all his twaddle about teachers this and education that he's successfully dismantled most of what makes US science and exploration great in the past. He turned NASA into an Islamic outreach program. He's turning higher education into another forum for social work to benefit to the poor and brown. US graduates in Advanced degrees in STEM has fallen to something like #3 while half of all programs are populated with foreign students who will soon go back to their home countries.

    Let's face

  • I'm going to rip on NASA and then politicians. You forgot to add over budget and over designed to the list. almost all of their projects are overbudget, because they don't know when to stop adding features or designing. Take JWST, and many other big projects, they almost don't fly because they miss their goals. This is extremely ironic because NASA has written the book on system engineering and project development (I've studied the subject). This is one of their problems, the other has to do with the politi

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