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Chris Kraft Talks About The Decline of NASA 262

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lockhead-grumman-northrop-death-grip dept.
schwit1 writes in with a link to a recent interview with Chris Kraft, founder of Mission Control, discussing the impracticality of the SLS, and why the best and brightest are slowing leaving NASA. From the article: "The problem with the SLS is that it's so big that makes it very expensive. It's very expensive to design, it's very expensive to develop. When they actually begin to develop it, the budget is going to go haywire. They're going to have all kinds of technical and development issues crop up, which will drive the development costs up. Then there are the operating costs of that beast, which will eat NASA alive if they get there. ... You go talk to the guys who were doing Constellation (NASA's now-scuttled plan to return to the moon), and the reason they came to NASA was to go back to the moon. They're all leaving now. The leaders are leaving for a lot of other reasons also, but they're leaving because there's no future that they want to be involved in. And that's unfortunate."
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Chris Kraft Talks About The Decline of NASA

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  • Can't fund NASA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:11AM (#44744511)

    Didn't you hear? There are brown people on the other side of the world!

    We need to invest in killing them before they kill each other, because if they kill each other and we don't save them from killing each other by killing them then

    And we've also got to invest in storing everyone's email, because

    And, you know, the IRS needs to buy more ammo so they're ready to

    Did I mention they're Muslim? The brown people!

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Didn't you hear? There are brown people on the other side of the world!

      We need to invest in killing them before they kill each other, because if they kill each other and we don't save them from killing each other by killing them then

      ... we don't get to control a country strategically important for our access to petroleum that's not ours.

      And we've also got to invest in storing everyone's email, because

      ...otherwise we can't fight those who oppose us and want us out of government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Type44Q (1233630)

      There are brown people on the other side of the world!

      Brown people, pfft. that's nothing. We've got dangerous middle and lower classes right here at home. Things were fine for a while but they began to be a serious problem in the 16th century and by the 1700's, they'd become a big enough threat that we actually lost France and the most important of the Colonies. Fortunately, they've completely fallen for the "parliamentary system" that we (at least "officially") have replaced ourselves with; most of them tend to be too dumb to realize that their "elected repre

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:15AM (#44744531)

    Neil deGrasse Tyson says only the government can do Space.

    • Re:But but but...... (Score:5, Informative)

      by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:37AM (#44744609)

      Lacks nuance.

      There's no business case for Mars sample return, for instance.

      The private sector certainly produces services that could be useful running such a mission. And by this, I mean rather than designing a massive white elephant in-house, contracting out the manufacturing, and operating it in-house -- instead, line up multiple bidders for a contract to get "x" amount of payload into "y" orbit. That's effectively what's already happening with access to LEO, and I'm sure this approach will be vindicated.

      The government provides the mission and funding, the private sector does what it does best.

      The ONLY exception to this, is where the private sector is completely incapable of doing something economically, like super-heavy lift and expensive deep-space vehicles.

      Like it or not, NASA are broadly on the right track. Unfortunately, with sequestration and what not, the money isn't going to be around to build and operate SLS.

      The choice is very simple -- if the private sector can't "cut it" (as is the case with the missions the SLS is meant for), NASA needs the cash to do the work itself.

      • by Daemonik (171801) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:40AM (#44744823) Homepage

        The government provides the mission and funding, the private sector does what it does best.

        Bribe senators & congressmen for contracts, inflate the costs to double or triple original estimates, deliver 20 years after spec while milking every dollar they can from the government? So, you want to turn NASA into the Defense Industry II?

        • Re:But but but...... (Score:5, Informative)

          by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:29AM (#44744985)

          The government provides the mission and funding, the private sector does what it does best.

          Bribe senators & congressmen for contracts, inflate the costs to double or triple original estimates, deliver 20 years after spec while milking every dollar they can from the government? So, you want to turn NASA into the Defense Industry II?

          At least the defense industry gets a workable budget.

          2013 Estimated NASA budget : $17,000,000,000 - http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/632697main_NASA_FY13_Budget_Summary-508.pdf [nasa.gov]

          Estimated cost of one year of the afghan war: $109,500,000,000 - http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gNQ3JbWwd6t-PzkuECkRJvsAlNkA [google.com]

          FY 2013 Intelligence Budget: $52,000,000,000 - http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/national/inside-the-2013-us-intelligence-black-budget/420/ [washingtonpost.com]

          DHS 2013 Budget: $54,807,277,000 - http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/mgmt/dhs-budget-in-brief-fy2013.pdf [dhs.gov]

          We spend about 3 times as much on intel and spying on our own citizens than space research and capability

          When you add in DHS it is 6 times.

          A year of one war is almost 9 times the NASA budget.

          This does not include all the other crazy defense spending. Even if NASA were completely axed today, it would not take even a tiny dent out of our national deficit. Cutting 'unnecessary' NASA spending is just a way to please ill-informed constituents, and make it look like our elected legislators are working to reign in spending. They are NOT.

          • by delt0r (999393)
            What about the DEA, FBI or CIA? How do they compare. I know the NSA budget is never disclosed.
        • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:30AM (#44745309)
          Why don't you guys look up the wikipedia pages for the bits of Saturn V and the lander then get back to us. The private sector built that stuff for NASA.
          Also the sort of games you describe were the direct cause of the Challenger disaster - a part introduced due to a design change to spread around the pork failed and killed seven.
          • by sizzzzlerz (714878) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:27AM (#44745741)

            You realize that the rockets and the moon landers were built with government, i.e., NASA, money, don't you? Do you think Rockwell, Boeing, North American, Grumman, or the myriad other contractors would have built the things they did without the fire hose of money coming from Kennedy's space program? There certainly were things built that had other, commercial use that might have been funded and built anyway, maybe, but most of that technology had a single purpose and probably would never have be funded internally.

          • Also the sort of games you describe were the direct cause of the Challenger disaster - a part introduced due to a design change to spread around the pork failed and killed seven.

            *Sigh* Seriously, this bit of urban legend bullshit either needs to die in a fire, or people who believe it need to have "too stupid to live" tatooed on their forehead.

            Boosters (and drop tanks) were added to save money, correct performance shortfalls, and simplify the design. Solid boosters were chosen over liquid because

        • by delt0r (999393)
          NASA is the defense industry II. You described it to a tee. It that how you say it, "tee" or T or say tea.s
        • Re:But but but...... (Score:5, Informative)

          by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:05AM (#44745573) Homepage Journal

          That is kind of how it works now for every government project but the bribes are jobs. If you look at any big project like the Shuttle, Apollo, or just about anything they will all have a map showing all the places that will get jobs from the project. Why do you think the big aerospace companies build things in California? About the only Aerospace company that is not located in a big state was Boeing but they are moving their headquarters to Chicago.
          Take the top five states by population and look at the companies that are located there or the NASA presence there.
          California
          Texas
          New York
          Florida
          Illinois
          Votes are are power and you need to spread around the jobs. Even SpaceX is in both California and Texas.

          • The aerospace industry in California goes back to the early aviation industry, and for a simple reason: weather, empty space, and population centers close to both.. Build in LA, test in the desert. Just like Hollywood, they needed somewhere it doesn't rain.
      • Lacks nuance.

        The ONLY exception to this, is where the private sector is completely incapable of doing something economically, like super-heavy lift and expensive deep-space vehicles. ... The choice is very simple -- if the private sector can't "cut it" (as is the case with the missions the SLS is meant for), NASA needs the cash to do the work itself.

        Well I guess Elon Musk hasn't gotten the memo yet, that there's no way he can do heavy lift, because he certainly seems hell-bent on trying. Now do I know whether or not designs like the Falcon 9 Heavy or Falcon X Heavy can ever get off the drawing board? No I don't. But I'd love to see Musk try, instead of bowing to 'prevailing wisdom' that only the government can do this.

        • Re:But but but...... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:41AM (#44745041)

          Elon is _not_ the kind of guy to bow to conventional wisdom. SpaceX is one giant experiment to reevaluate 'conventional wisdom' about access to space, from the ground up. They're learning that while certain corners cannot be cut, there _are_ ways to economise.

          Tom Markusic has come right out and said that they can develop Merlin 2 (engine for their super-heavy lift vehicle) in three years for $1b. I don't know the odds of a company the size of SpaceX getting their hands on that kind of money any time soon.

          • Re:But but but...... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:06AM (#44745175)

            Elon is _not_ the kind of guy to bow to conventional wisdom. SpaceX is one giant experiment to reevaluate 'conventional wisdom' about access to space, from the ground up. They're learning that while certain corners cannot be cut, there _are_ ways to economise.

            Tom Markusic has come right out and said that they can develop Merlin 2 (engine for their super-heavy lift vehicle) in three years for $1b. I don't know the odds of a company the size of SpaceX getting their hands on that kind of money any time soon.

            The thing about SpaceX is that it would be really great if NASA could get out of the business of getting access to low-earth orbit, and focus instead on the types of platforms that get us from LEO to the moon or other planets. The best way forward I can see for the immediate future of manned exploration is definitely going to be figuring out what can be done with SpaceX platforms - and Elon Musk at least seems super onboard with anything involving sending people to Mars.

        • by cusco (717999)
          Of course Musk has the advantage that SpaceX doesn't have to invent the cryogenic storage systems, rocket nozzles, turbopumps, guidance systems, stabilization systems, heat shields, composite materials, metallurgical alloys, etc., etc. NASA and US taxpayers have already done all the hard work for him over the last half a century. SpaceX isn't building revolutionary technology, they're building evolutionary technology, the sort of thing NASA would have been doing by the end of the 1980s if Ronnie Raygun an
      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        "There's no business case for Mars sample return, for instance."
        There is no business case for an aircraft carrier, tank, or F-16.
        I think the idea is that NASA and the government would say we need to do x and then give a contract or contracts for the project. The problem I see is that the idea is that commercial companies can do it cheaper than bloated government. The problem is that I am not so sure that is true. Back in the 1960s Navy shipyards often built Navy ships that were in large part designed by the

        • Re:But but but...... (Score:4, Informative)

          by currently_awake (1248758) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:24AM (#44746715)
          People keep saying that private corporations can always do things cheaper than government. But every single time government tries to compete with private enterprise they get yelled at for unfair competition. Like health care, where Americans spend x2 as much on health care as Canadians do, yet get consistently worse care. Or community wifi, cheaper and higher bandwidth. There is no business case for anything above orbit. The international space station has no scientific value yet sucks up all of NASA's budget. The privatized cooks on a military base cost the same, but give worse food/service.
      • Lacks nuance.

        There's no business case for Mars sample return, for instance.

        You are far too short-sighted. Think about this: War profiteers make trillions, arguably the largest economy is that of death. Also, It takes a division of people to cause a war.

        Space is the greatest divider of all. You think pork spending is rife now? Just wait till the folks you're fighting are ON ANOTHER PLANET. Put some people on the moon or Mars... It will be made to pay off, big time.

        "no business" -- How quaint. You are now aware that oil is expensive and rare, and solar cheap and plentiful

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Neil deGrasse Tyson says only the government can do Space.

      What about all the Helium 3 on the moon? That could be very profitable.

      • by delt0r (999393) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:40AM (#44744825)
        We can burn DT which is 100x easier, so its not useful as a fuel. Its also very rare, at between 1ppb to 50ppb, so even if you could burn it you need a mining operation bigger than anything on earth just for a power station. Oh and if you can burn 3He then you can burn DD, which produces 3He.

        3He is not a reason to go to the moon. Its proof that even proponents can't come up with a good reason to go there at all.
        • Well, it still makes more sense than going to Mars. Satisfying scientific curiosity aside, the only point of Mars is a balls-out terraforming effort; otherwise you're better off bringing asteroids to Earth orbit and constructing habitats there.
          • by delt0r (999393)
            What if find strange is that the obvious reason is never stated. Tourism. Right now how much disposable income is spent on traveling for no other reason than just to be there? Its a lot.

            Of course if that is the market then NASA has no business doing it. And commercially it won't be done till the technology catches up a bit. That is cheaper .. and it will get easier/cheaper as we progress. Intended or not.
        • by delt0r (999393)
          Was of course suppose to say *can't* burn DT.
      • Re:But but but...... (Score:4, Informative)

        by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:59AM (#44745135) Homepage

        The main proposed use for He3 has been as a fusion fuel but while the fusion reaction involving He3 does have the advantage of being aneutronic it is unlikly to be used in practical fusion for two reasons. The reactions involving He3 requires much higher energy levels than the fusion reactions being investigated currently. This implies two things.

        1: He3+D fusion is going to be much harder to pull off than D+T or even D+D fusion (where D is duterium and T is tritium).
        2: The He3+D fusion reaction will always be accompanied by a side D+D fusion so the overall reaction wouldn't be aneutronic.

        There is also apparently a He3+He3 reaction that would be aneutronic but is even harder to pull off.

        • by TWiTfan (2887093)

          And fusion's just 50 years away, now, right?

        • by delt0r (999393)
          The 3He as a fusion fuel from the moon is directed at the 3He+3He reaction. Its a bit harder than DD or HeD fusion and of course a lot harder than DT and they have much lower power densities.

          All in all if you can burn pure He, you can burn DD with more power density and hence its cheaper. Neutrons are not that impossible to deal with. DT of course has something like 60x more power density again! But a much harder neutron spectrum.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      Is there any privately-funded space travel? About the largest I can think of was Armadillo Aerospace, which folded. SpaceX claims they want to go private in the future, but they're currently mainly funded by government grants and contracts.

    • by smpoole7 (1467717)

      > Neil deGrasse Tyson says only the government can do Space.

      He may be the current media darling, but that doesn't make him always right.

      All it will take is for the first asteroid with significant platinum group deposits to be discovered, close enough to make mining the materials profitable over a 10-20 year time frame, and all of a sudden, space will become quite appealing. :)

      NASA likes the big, impressive launches, complete with dramatic countdown. Dozens of smaller launches that then meet in orbit don'

    • by Peter H.S. (38077)

      Neil deGrasse Tyson says only the government can do Space.

      That is simply a lie. In fact he found it scandalous that the private commercial space program was delayed so many years. RTFA.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        Go on then. Tell us who else is going to put up the money for more than a few comsats and why they will do it. We're listening. Surely you've got some kind of obvious answer since you are calling another a liar - let's see it.
        • Re:But but but...... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Peter H.S. (38077) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:03AM (#44745549) Homepage

          Go on then. Tell us who else is going to put up the money for more than a few comsats and why they will do it. We're listening. Surely you've got some kind of obvious answer since you are calling another a liar - let's see it.

          I called the OP a liar because he lied about Neil deGrasse Tyson. He never claimed "only the government can do Space", in fact, if you and the OP actually Read The F*ne Article about him, you will see that he is an favour of commercial space activity, and in fact thought it scandalous that NASA had delayed such a development for years, hinting that the Space Shuttle program was part of the reason.

          For scientists, like Tyson, it makes no sense that NASA should spend their budget on making rockets for commercial satellite delivery, let the private sector do that, and let NASA concentrate on new research and space exploration.

          What Tyson also said was, that he didn't think the private sector would do trailblazing space feats, it is way too expensive to do space exploration compared to the economic gains that there simply isn't a business case.

    • by tgd (2822) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:17AM (#44745225)

      Neil deGrasse Tyson says only the government can do Space.

      NdGT is neither a politician or a businessman. He's a wonderful speaker and an astrophysicist.

      Its an error to attribute to him greater insight than those bring. (And, FWIW, I'm a BIG fan of his... but his statements there start tiptoeing pretty close to the line where really smart and successful people in one field start thinking that holds true in others.)

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Neil deGrasse Tyson was mostly right. Private companies aren't going to do big, ambitious projects or manned missions without the government(s).

  • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:22AM (#44744545)

    In fact, I'm surprised this didn't happen a lot sooner. The way the politicos screw around with NASA's budget and direction year after year, how is NASA supposed to get anything done? One can only take so much before you throw your hands up in the air and say "screw this".

    • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @04:45AM (#44744635) Journal

      Absolutely right. Not only that, but politics forced NASA to behave stupidly, pushing giant missions that would be popular with the public, rather than multiple smaller missions that make more sense. The Space Shuttle practically killed NASA, but because it looks and lands like a plane, it was very popular. Congress also gave NASA a monopoly on space launches. SpaceX would have been illegal up to a few years ago, which is why American companies couldn't get a satellite into space cost effectively, and had to use services from other countries instead. American companies developed most of the technology that put men on the moon, but they were forced to scrap it, and were banned from using that technology for anything but NASA approved projects and weapon systems, which of course were screwed up by politics.

      I hate to say it, but it's a good thing, IMO, that NASA is being pushed to the side. A lot of those bright people leaving NASA are joining companies like SpaceX, and they're finally getting the chance to make a difference. If NASA had gotten out of the way decades ago, I think we'd be a lot further along.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by benjfowler (239527)

        Be aware of the distinction between routine access to LEO, and science and exploration in deep space.

        NASA is getting out of the former -- and rightly so.

        • For unmanned missions, LEO is the first step. Once you have a craft in LEO, it can use massively more efficient propulsion to get where it needs to go, so long as you're not in a hurry. If you put a man in it, every day becomes critical and you're forced to continue burning fuel inefficiently, but if it's just a robot, even a few years in space is no biggie. If you want to get 1000 tons of stuff to the Moon, I doubt we'd want to do that in a hurry. Instead of a few SLS launches, in reality, we'd do a lo

      • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:08AM (#44744723) Journal
        NASA's been doing too many "reruns" albeit with better tech. Probes to Mars, Man on the Moon 2.

        They should start working towards building better space stations that have artificial gravity, radiation shielding and all the stuff that makes it possible to actually live in space, rather than die faster than normal.

        Talking about sending humans to Mars without doing this first is like trying to jump far before even being able to stand.
      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:49AM (#44744855)

        The space shuttle wasn't just for popularity, but a military boondoggle. A whole bunch of its requirements were basically imposed on NASA by the Pentagon, because they wanted it to be dual-use.

        • by khallow (566160)
          The dual-use thing came only because the plans were for more Shuttle than NASA could afford by itself. If they had started with a smaller, less ambitious, and of course, less costly Space Shuttle, then they wouldn't have needed DoD money or gotten those DoD strings attached. The DoD in turn could have just developed their own launcher or contract that out to private companies's launch vehicles. They ended up doing both despite the Shuttle.
    • by Daemonik (171801)
      Those same politcos screwing with NASA's budget will get on TV and scream how bloated government can't get anything done.
      • by imikem (767509)

        Those same politcos screwing with NASA's budget constantly get on TV and scream how bloated government can't get anything done.

        FTFY.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:44AM (#44745423)

      I think it's time to accept the harsh reality that the era of manned space travel is pretty much over. It was a nice, brief blip in modern history--fueled by the politics of the Cold War. But it's been in decline since the early 70's, and with the end of the Cold War in the early 90's, the writing was on the wall. A few more countries will send men up as a point of national pride (like China), and the ISS and Russian manned program will limp along for a little while longer. But we're never going back to the way it was.

  • Must Come Down.

  • My experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I did a bit of work for NASA and can confirm that the politics can be insanely frustrating. I busted my ass for 12, 14 hours a day for a year and a half and do not regret it; I quit when it became apparent that the guy making the powerpoint slides describing my work was making more than me.

    I recommend to work there for a bit as it's a cool experience, but couldn't imagine it as a career.

    • by tgd (2822) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:18AM (#44745235)

      I did a bit of work for NASA and can confirm that the politics can be insanely frustrating. I busted my ass for 12, 14 hours a day for a year and a half and do not regret it; I quit when it became apparent that the guy making the powerpoint slides describing my work was making more than me.

      I recommend to work there for a bit as it's a cool experience, but couldn't imagine it as a career.

      If I had to make PowerPoint slides instead of producing real results with my hands, I'd be wanting a lot more money, too.

  • So if the SLS is the one thing killing NASA, don't do it. I wouldn't have the slightest idea what the SLS is (redaction?) but it sounds like a no-brainer to me.
    • Re:The SLS? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:18AM (#44744763)

      The SLS is basically a big boondoggle forced on NASA by a bunch of congressmen who have factories in their districts that used to make Space Shuttle parts. These congressmen have basically forced NASA to produce some sort of space launch vehicle in a way that requires these Space Shuttle parts and therefore keeps the factories in their districts in business.

      • by tgd (2822)

        The SLS is basically a big boondoggle forced on NASA by a bunch of congressmen who have factories in their districts that used to make Space Shuttle parts. These congressmen have basically forced NASA to produce some sort of space launch vehicle in a way that requires these Space Shuttle parts and therefore keeps the factories in their districts in business.

        Its more insidious than that -- the Space Shuttle (and the ISS) largely existed to keep money pouring into defense contractors in those districts to maintain the skillset and brain trust around aerospace technologies. NASA would never be allowed to fund a lower-cost, more streamlined system to replace the STS program because the whole reason congress pumps that money into NASA is predicated on "big". Why do you think the NASA mission changed to the Moon and then Mars? As the cost and complexity of systems t

        • by dbIII (701233)

          If SpaceX actually figures out how to inexpensively get someone to Mars and back

          Aldrin worked that one out and would be famous for it even if he'd never been to the moon. There's a lot of very hard work after that but shaving vast amounts off the time required makes a massive difference.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:29AM (#44744785) Homepage
    the problem with nasa is its inception was intended to combat the USSR on a number of fronts. It advanced technologies like ICBM which were used to further the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. It also worked to advance american scientific achievements and progress in the face of a scientific juggarnaut that invented magnetic resonance imaging, staged rocket launches, the luna 1 space probe, the satellite, and had launched the first man into space. Space as it was tasked to NASA was in many respects propaganda. this definition is validated today when considering almost every commercial satellite, from Iridium to XM, has been launched by a former soviet launch site (Baikonur) and on a proton or similar Soviet/Russian vehicle. We just needed to prove to ourselves and the world that "Murica is still number one"

    It wasnt until 2010 that an american corporation was successful in delivering the same level of satellite delivery service as its russian counterparts (SpaceX) but my point remains: NASA kept engineers and physicists busy because it didnt try to commercialize its endeavors. NASA has it been proposed this year would be lambasted as a clandestine socialist program to waste federal money in the pursuit of junk science that does nothing to validate jesus. NASA as it was 50 years ago was the dream on the heart and mind of every school child, whereas today its mostly a clearinghouse for different politically motivated, nearly schitzophrenic technological endeavors that occasionally backfire hillariously and produce scandalous outcomes like validating climate change or evolution.

    its not a happy conclusion, but 50 years ago russia 'did science' while america chest-thumped and grand-standed until people conceeded.
    • by Daemonik (171801) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:53AM (#44744873) Homepage

      I think you're painting things a little dishonestly on the Soviet side there. Nobody at NASA ever got sent to Siberia because their project failed, you know.

      The politics of Soviet space launches were just as convoluted as ours, and created problems of it's own. They were "doing science" to prove their own political and military points. Sure, NASA was a counterpoint to that, but don't act like both sides weren't playing a game against each other with their space programs and captured Nazi scientists.

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        Nobody at NASA ever got sent to Siberia because their project failed, you know.

        Nor did they in the Soviet Union. The Russian space expansion took place after the death of Stalin, when people were no longer sent to gulags for professional failures. (Repression certainly continued in the USSR, but it was of a different stripe.)

        • They blew the holy shit out of a butt load of cosmonauts though, didn't they? Their space program makes our shuttle explosion look like a tire leak.
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:34AM (#44745009) Journal

      NASA is, to be honest, mired in congressional directives. They have very little actual control over their programs and budgets primarily because Congress sees it as a way to funnel money to their own state/district as pork. There's no logical reason why you would spread their mission development out over such a huge geographic area.

      The other problem: starting (mostly) with Reagan, NASA ceased to be a research institution and transitioned to a contract management organization which directed commercial contractors to do work for them. The contractors then get patents on everything and NASA just kept paying them by the hour. The idea was that you coulc fire contractors with impunity but you had to keep civil servants for life. The former is not as true as the theory since the government essentially had to guarantee performance of a contract to a minimum basis (pay whether you need them or not), and the latter is sadly true in the case of deadbeat employees thanks to the byzantine HR system in the government. The few *actual* engineers and scientists at NASA are still very good, but if you have to fight management and congress all the time then, yeah, you're going to look for more exciting work elsewhere.

      Disclaimer: I used to work for NASA, and we did cool stuff - earth sensing, expendable rocket sats, secondary shuttle science payloads. That whole division has since been dissolved, afaik. I left for non-work reasons; I never had to butt heads with top brass.

    • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:13AM (#44745207) Journal

      Ironic that this spin-authored piece claims that NASA was "just about propaganda".
      Each of the points made here could have been written by a TASS staff writer. Not sure if tendentious, or just ignorant?

      "...Nasa (was to) advance american scientific achievements and progress in the face of a scientific juggarnaut (sic) (the Soviets)..." Yes, the Soviets had the lead in space in just about every category one could imagine...in the 1960s. And since then (really, even then) Russia has turned into a barely-first-world country?

      "... almost every commercial satellite, from Iridium to XM, has been launched by a former soviet launch site...(and/or on Soviet/Russian hardware)" This would be because NASA has been nearly SHUT DOWN since the Columbia crash in 2003.

      To compare US (private) space business to Russia's is laughable. Why does Russia even have a allegedly-commercial launch system? Because the Russian government imploded and some opportunist pretty much found it sitting there with the keys in it. This wasn't a "policy choice" any more than a car crash is. The reason the Russian system is commercialized is because IT HAD TO BE to continue functioning.

      Arguably, such would be a healthier future for NASA as well (privatization). But it's one thing to completely inherit a space program cost-free, and another thing to build one from scratch.

      To point out the health of the Soviet/Russian launch organizations today vs NASA is as shallow (and misleading) as asking "why are all the German factories and infrastructure so much newer than the US's?". I'm not sure a lot of people would argue that what Germany went through in 1945 was worth it to have a more advanced industrial infrastructure today?

      I wouldn't even disagree with some of your criticisms that NASA is overpolitical, schizoid, and overexpensive (although the "Jesus" comment is...bizarre?). Then again, I'd ask how many Russian programs have gone past Earth orbit lately? Meanwhile a massive, magnificent orbiter continues to generate terrific data from Saturn, probes are all over, and NASA rovers are trundling all over and above Mars. Heck, a US-private launched satellite is leaving an entirely new launch site in Virginia headed for the moon this week.

      50 years ago THE SOVIETS 'did science'. 40-30-20-10 they were busy trying not to become a 3rd world country. Congrats? Your mom certainly used to be the prettiest decades ago, but now she just invites strange men to stay overnight so she can pay the electrical bill.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      It wasnt until 2010 that an american corporation was successful in delivering the same level of satellite delivery service as its russian counterparts

      Um ... guys ... who do you think built the parts of the Saturn V for NASA? There's a thing called wikipedia now which makes it much easier to read about the cool stuff in science and technology than it used to be.

    • "its not a happy conclusion, but 50 years ago russia 'did science'"

      They did so much science that they never figured out how to get to the moon, one of their objectives. Their "science" was also much more closely related to an M80 than ours was. I'd say we did it better.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @08:25AM (#44745725) Homepage Journal

      "the problem with nasa is its inception was intended to combat the USSR on a number of fronts. It advanced technologies like ICBM "
      Ahhhh No you are wrong and don't know history.
      The US ICBM programs were well on their way before there was a NASA. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all had projects that were moving along. NASA started to use those rockets for space work. Atlas, Titan, and Thor where all USAF ICBMs and MRBS that were converted to space launchers. By 1960 the needs of the military weapons and the needs NASA had completely diverged. Smaller warheads and the needs to launch in seconds meant that the next generation of missiles where small solid fueled missiles that were not very useful as space launchers. Minuteman and Polaris where lacked the payload of the older Atlas, Titans and Thor/Deltas. Even the Saturn I first stage was built out of left overs from the Army's SRBM and MRBM programs. It was made of leftover Redstone and Jupiter parts.
      You could argue that NASA was to help develop other technology like comm sats ,spy sats, weather sats, and nav sats but not ICBMS. In fact NASA benefited more from early ICBMs than it contributed.
      Too bad that the USGOV wasted all those Titan Is. When they were retiring the Atlas and Titan Is after only a few years in service as ICBMs the government stored that Atlases but gave away the Titans to parks and schools and other static displays. The logic was that the NASA had already converted Atlas to launcher so it was cheaper and the Titan I's payload increase over the Atlas wasn't worth the cost. Too bad since they had to re-open the Atlas production line when we ran out of them.

  • by felrom (2923513) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @05:56AM (#44744883)

    I worked at JSC from 2006 until 2010 when I volunteered for a layoff and left. The real drain that NASA causes is not the ~$18,000,000,000/year it spends, but tens of thousands of talented engineers who are wasting away their careers there waiting for something exciting to happen. Those engineers could be somewhere else doing something valuable.

    Working in private industry now, everything is better: the pay, the management, an executive leadership team with vision and drive to make it happen. NASA is a mess, and no amount of motivational speakers, presidential mandates, or pie-in-the-sky dreams is going to fix it.

    The way I sum up my time as NASA when I talk to people about it is this: "I'm very glad I got to work at NASA, and I'm even happier that I don't work there anymore."

    • Your story doesn't surprise me. Having delt with some agencies myself and knowing people who have delt with many others the situation you describe isn't unique to NASA. The sad truth is the US Federal government is a total mess right now. Management is at best inept and at worst corrupt. Projects are poorly defined. In most agencies there are very few people with the technical skills to really administer the project much less do the engineering work. So all of the real work gets outsourced to contracting f
  • You can not expect to make a career out of NASA. The best you can hope for is a temporary alignment on a particular project. If you want a long term career you must go private and work for SpaceX or start your own company. It is all about adjusting your expectations...
  • I like where this guy's going, less focus on big n' bad new launch systems and more focus on our current ones. I think more than a few studies have suggested that his concept of a "Cape Canaveral in the sky" fuel & spacecraft depot in orbit has merit. That said our current choices on LV's need some work. None of them are even partially reusable and a few of them I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to use for human spaceflight. I watched the footage from the recent Delta IV launch, I

  • Editors, it's never a bad idea to define less-than-ubiquitous acronyms.
    • by tgd (2822)

      Editors, it's never a bad idea to define less-than-ubiquitous acronyms.

      Are you really hypothesizing that there is anyone who knows who Chris Kraft is, and/or cares in the least what he thinks, who doesn't know that?

      • by tgv (254536)

        Really. Should I go all pompous and self-righteous, pointing out subtle errors and ...?

        I have no idea who Chris Kraft is, and I did want to know what SLS means. See, strangely enough, I am still slightly interested in what NASA does. I just don't care for all the names and abbreviations, because I don't follow it closely. But if NASA is making itself redundant, that's interesting. So taking the slight trouble of given the full name for SLS (or putting a link in, as it is now), does help.

  • Give NASA all the money that gets wasted at the Casino the day after the Social Security checks arrive.
  • NASA has been mostly privatized for a while now:

    "Many federal departments and offices Energy and NASA to name just two, have become defacto contract management agencies devoting upwards of 80% of their budgets to contractors"

    -Biobbit "Terror and Consent" page 90.

    which has had the counter-intended effect of driving up costs while removing any focused purpose from the projects:

    from http://joelhousman.com/2012/10/08/how-privatization-of-nasas-the-learning-channel-tlc-devolved-into-a-for-profit-child-exploitation-channel-pushing-honey-boo-boo/ [joelhousman.com]

    "People forget or did not know that once upon a time The Learning Channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as an informative/instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite.

    Then it was privatized in 1980 (Reaganism) and was then named the Appalachian Community Service Network. In November 1980 this name was changed to âoeThe Learning Channelâ, which was subsequently shortened to âoeTLC.â From then on we have a sad decline to the abomination of child and poverty exploitation of the TLCâ(TM)s current hit freak show âoeHere Comes Honey Boo Booâ.

    So it's no wonder that people who grew up with dreams of finding some way for space exploration to benefit humanity are exiting.

  • We have infinite time to explore space, we need perfected robots to interact with the utterly and permanently hostile space environment, and we need robots to serve us on Earth.

    Scrap all these silly manned programs for a few hundred years and instead of slow-development-cycle meat tourist carriers, build and deploy rapid-development-cycle machines so we can learn about and explore space much more efficiently.

    The manned space program was a Cold War dickwaving contest, that is all. When robots can do everythi

  • It was worth going there a few times, but it is just a pretty boring piece of static rock hovering far above our heads?
    Why not actually go to a planet or moon where we might actually make new discoveries and expand the limits of human space travel?

    I guess you will always find some attention seeking idiot, but who would even want to go to the moon simply to take 30 more samples of things we already have samples of, while receiving deadly doses of radiation that will possibly shaves decades off of your life.

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