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Mars NASA The Almighty Buck

NRC Human Spaceflight Report Says NASA Strategy Can't Get Humans To Mars 206

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-going-to-happen dept.
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes 'The National Research Council issued its report on the future of space exploration. The report stated that the "horizon goal" for any program of space exploration in the near term (i.e. the next two decades) is a Mars surface expedition. It also stated that the current NASA program, which includes a mission that would snag an asteroid, put it in lunar orbit, and visit it with astronauts is inadequate to meet that goal.

The report gave two reasons for its critique of the current NASA program. First the asteroid redirect mission would not create and test technologies necessary to conduct a crewed Mars mission. Second, NASA projects essentially flat budgets for the foreseeable future. Any space exploration program worthy of the name will cost considerably more money, with five percent increases in NASA funding for a number of years.'
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NRC Human Spaceflight Report Says NASA Strategy Can't Get Humans To Mars

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  • Sorry... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:10PM (#47168073) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't work to do this with a democratic government. We need a monarchy :-(

    It seems to me that SpaceX is on the path to a solution that might be affordable by a single administration, though.

    • Re:Sorry... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The New Guy 2.0 (3497907) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:43PM (#47168241)

      There's no such thing as a Physics Congress... the laws of physics are unrepealable!

      • If only we can divert the amount of money that is allocated to NSA for NASA ...

        If only we do not have so many brainfucks in Washington D.C. ...

        If only ...

        • The number of brainfucks in Washington could be turned to our advantage.

          We only need to introduce a single letter typo into a funding bill and for the brainfucks to not notice.

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:44PM (#47168247)

      It doesn't work to do this with a democratic government. We need a monarchy :-(

      Or perhaps a font of sage wisdom? You know, like a Council? Composed of wise people, you know, like one's Elders? Something any sentient species ought to be able to figure out. Speaking of which, I feel another press release coming on...

      K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, addresses the publication of the new report thusly:

      "WE HAVE TRIUMPHED! Our skilled operatives from the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Propaganda; Planetary Research Council have successfully infiltrated the blueworlders' technological and informational systems. One notable document, Pathways to Exploration makes clear the disarray in which the blueworlders' long-term invasion plans lie, drawing on the history of meat-controlled spaceflight to justify future programs in organic space exploitation. Although the report promotes the invasion of our world as the horizon goal for the program, it takes into account funding levels necessary to maintain a robust tempo of execution, current research and exploration projects and the time/resources needed to continue them, and intertribal cooperation that would be required to further oppress the citizens of our fair red world."

      "And its conclusion? Although the mechanized threat remains, and we salute those still fighting pitched battles with the two active land-based invaders, Pathways to Exploration makes it clear that it is not possible for the blueworlders' organic-based self-replicators to invade our world, at least not without a sustained commitment to funding at a higher level than their own tribal leaders are currently providing."

      When an intern from the defense engineering board suggested that improving the capabilities of the blueworlders' EDL systems, radshielding, and propulsion and power systems were ultimately matters of engineering and not physics, and could ultimately be addressed if the tribals of the blue world ever get it into their oxygen-addled brains to work together to achieve a common goal (as, the intern suggested, the way any sentient species does), K'Breel had the intern's gelsacs addled by immersing them in a suitably-merciful quantity of liquid oxygen.

      Thus spake K'Breel, Speaker for the Council of Elders, Committee on Native Spaceflight; Arenautics and Defense Engineering Board; Defense Studies Board; Division of Blueworlder Social and Physical Sciences; Committee on Gelsacular Statistics.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yep, we could never do any space program under a Republic form of government.

      • by sg_oneill (159032)

        I wish you americans would stop confusing the term republican for democratic.

        You live in a republic AND a democracy.

        Like North Korea you are a republic.
        Like Australia you are a democracy.

        Unlike Australia, you are a republic.
        Unlike North korea, you are a democracy.

        See? Its not that hard to understand. (Republic just means "No king". It doesn't specify what the king is replaced with).

    • Re:Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by savuporo (658486) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:17PM (#47168429)

      So lets see. This is an NRC report that ONLY considered using SLS as the launch vehicle, and concluded that you cannot get to Mars with that, something has to be done differently.

      How about _trying_ something different then for a change, stop trying to build redundant launch vehicles, we already have plenty, and actually invest in enabling technologies that DO get us to Mars.
      Like, putting spacecraft together from modules like was done with ISS and other stations before that - except without involving costly human ops. How about refuelling the spacecraft on orbit. How about doing research on partial-g environments, and launching a centrifuge. How about sending some rats en route to Mars to study different radiation shielding approach effectiveness. The list is endless. Actually, NRC PRODUCED all the enabling technology roadmaps, they are available here :
      http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oc... [nasa.gov]
      How about actually fricking following these roadmaps ( SLS is NOT in there ) and getting some stuff done ? Advanced radioisotope stirling generator that was outlined as the CRUCIAL enabling technology piece for future exploration ? Cancelled ! Funds are required to build a monster rocket to nowhere instead ...

      But, if you keep doing the same thing over and over, no reason to expect a different result. Kill the waste, and start investing in future.

      • Of course the report is only about using the SLS as a launch vehicle. That's all NASA is allowed to look into by it's political masters. The SLS isn't being used because it is superior technology. It's used because it maximizes the number of jobs across a number of districts for the politicians.

        And NASA could actually reach a goal if it's goals weren't changed every couple of years by Congress or the President.

      • How about actually fricking following these roadmaps ( SLS is NOT in there ) and getting some stuff done ? Advanced radioisotope stirling generator that was outlined as the CRUCIAL enabling technology piece for future exploration ? Cancelled ! Funds are required to build a monster rocket to nowhere instead ...

        But, if you keep doing the same thing over and over, no reason to expect a different result. Kill the waste, and start investing in future.

        Sorry. Couldn't resist [youtube.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It doesn't work to do this with a democratic government. We need a monarchy :-(

      Well, we're getting close ... one party wants to amend the Constitution so that it can ban the other's speech.

    • Or we need to include NASA in the military budget, and assuming outer space is gonna get divided up into smallscale Star Trek-like micro quadrants (alpha quadrant, beta quadrant) by whoever occupies it first and sticks a flag down with a rotating space station, with some minimum distance rule by these things, so conquest of areas close to Earth as space territories is important if they are more valuable than the ones farther away, even if there is a lot of room up there. But before anything else comes the M
    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      Seriously? SpaceX on the first post? Can we stop fellating Elon Musk for at least 15 minutes?

    • Not just SpaceX, but Bigelow and Blue Origin.
      The fact is, that to get to the moon and mars, we need multiple companies that can compete but also provide redunancy.
      Sadly, the GOP is intent on killing off private space. Even the tea* are allowing the neo-cons to pull this shit.

      For example, Shelby is DESPERATE to kill private space. [parabolicarc.com] He and othe rest of the GOP would rather spend 3-4 billion / year for the next 20 years building the SLS AND SEND ANOTHER 2B TO PUTIN then invest less than 2B into American
  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:13PM (#47168095)
    I think it's most people's impression that NASA is just going through the motion, making empty noises wrt Mars human exploration. There simply is no viable plan nor adequate budget to come up with a viable plan.
    • by Kardos (1348077)

      That's the point. It can't be done on the current budget levels.

    • What is on Mars, that the Moon is the second best location?
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Volatiles.

        Given how poorly we can manage a closed ecosystem, permanent habitation on the Moon is currently out of the question. With Mars it might be possible.

    • by khallow (566160)

      There simply is no viable plan nor adequate budget to come up with a viable plan.

      Maybe the problem is that we need a new organization that can come up with a viable plan on the very ample budget NASA receives. It always amazes me how low expectations are for NASA and similar organizations.

  • by ubergeek2009 (1475007) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:14PM (#47168101)

    There's no reason to go to the bottom of another gravity well. We should be travelling to, learn from, and eventually exploit the asteroids. It makes more sense for the long term viability of the human race.

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      Why go anywhere else at all? As the pace of technology accelerates, it may well be that the future of the human race is staying put right here, moving into a virtual reality instead of expanding outward through the cosmos. Defense against asteroids could be automated, and while the sun would eventually expand into a red giant and engulf the Earth, we still have a few billion years, so there's no rush.

      It is curious that this possibility is rarely considered in nerd circles, as it has been proposed by scienc

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Because we need resources, and we can get those resource from asteroids. Also, we need to expand for the survival of the species.

        Ironically the tech to make what you speculate to happen will only come about as a spin off from space exploration.
        People in VR? we need to put them some place, we need them to be able to be still for large amounts of time, we need complete automated systems, and so on.

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          Because we need resources

          A trans-human society may be able to make do with the resources available on Earth. Assuming technology exists to transmute materials, the only thing needed is more energy, and research in fusion is going ahead regardless of the scaling back of space exploration. Even if we went up into orbit to create a system of beamed solar power as is often discussed, that's not the same as moving into space.

          Ironically the tech to make what you speculate to happen will only come about as a spin

        • Don't worry if we wait long enough an asteroid or two will come to us. :)
        • Because we need resources, and we can get those resource from asteroids.

          Let's do the math. Lets say we re can re-equip the Curiosity rover and send it to an asteroid, asteroid 1981 Midas, to mine metal. We luck out, and after scraping off some cometary debris, it turns out that 1981 Midas is SOLID GOLD! Just we assumed it would be, based on the name. The rover then initiates its grizzled 1849 gold prospector protocol and jumps up and down whooping and yelling like crazy. Now it starts mining. How long before it turns a profit, in our scenario- which is at best very unrealistic

        • by Shadowmist (57488)

          Because we need resources, and we can get those resource from asteroids. Also, we need to expand for the survival of the species.

          Ironically the tech to make what you speculate to happen will only come about as a spin off from space exploration. People in VR? we need to put them some place, we need them to be able to be still for large amounts of time, we need complete automated systems, and so on.

          Technical spinoffs occur when you have any major effort in research and applied technology. There's a popular myth that the space program is the major, perhaps only source of "spinoffs". That's simply not true.

    • There's no reason to go to the bottom of another gravity well. We should be travelling to, learn from, and eventually exploit the asteroids. It makes more sense for the long term viability of the human race.

      There are ALL KINDS of legitimate reasons to go to the bottom of another gravity well. Especially the Moon's.

      If we can figure out efficient ways to extract them, resources such as minerals, and even oxygen, are abundant. Moon rocks have lots of oxygen... and why do you think Mars is red?

      But perhaps more to the point: we have learned that construction in microgravity is intolerably slow and tedious. Precisely because there is no gravity. BUT... in a shallow gravity well, such as Mars and even more so t

      • by khallow (566160)

        But perhaps more to the point: we have learned that construction in microgravity is intolerably slow and tedious.

        No, we haven't learned that at all. And construction on Earth is tedious too. I suppose stuff can some day magically build itself overnight. But in that case, it'd be able to do that in space as well.

        So if we ever DO manage to harness resources from space, where should they go to maximize further space exploration?

        Earth orbit is a more obvious location.

      • There's another excellent reason for a Moon colony: we can learn how to build, maintain and live in an environment where there's little or no atmosphere and is close enough to Earth that extra supplies can be shipped there on fairly short notice. Once we know how to build a self-sufficient lunar colony, we can use what we've learned there on Mars, the largest asteroids and possibly some of the Jovian or Saturnian moons.
    • I think I can debate this on point. Why is looking a ball of ice, and nickel more significant than a colony on the Moon? Why not put a telescope on the Moon? Why not pick up the H3 that is litteraly on the ground there and use it for Fusion technologies? ISS works, now put one around the moon, an on the surface of the moon. If you're interested in a Trillion dollar business model, sell Senior Living on the moon, where ones weight is about an eighth, and less phyical demands on an aging angry Tea Party membe
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Not being dependent on one planet, and ultimately on one sun, makes a lot of sense for the long term viability of the human race.

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:15PM (#47168111)
    Am I the only one that saw NRC and was wondering why in the world was the Nuclear Regulator Commission talking about human spaceflight?
    • by SumDog (466607)

      YES! That's exactly what I thought (my dad worked in nuclear power for my entire life, and one of my good friends works for the NRC)

  • Simple Solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022)

    Militarize NASA and make the liberation of the Solar System from the enemies of FREEDOM priorities of National Security. At that point Congress will be tripping over themselves put the US an additional 15 Trillion in debt in order to invade Mars and install a puppet dictatorship that is friendly to US and Israeli interests.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SumDog (466607)

      If one rover discovered a massive reserved of oil on mars, we would be there yesterday.

      • I believe that Chevron already has the oil rights, they're just waiting until oil is $10,000 a barrel. Maybe in 6 years from now.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:20PM (#47168139)

    Seriously, forget Mars. It's like Utah, but cold, and even more boring. We know Mars.

    Now, rearranging big chunks of our solar system to get our grubby hand on some sweet sweet platinum, that's the sort of crazy shit that our parents hoped we'd be doing by now. In any case, that's what we should be doing, imo.

    • Its not really an "asteroid", its a rock and not a very big one. We are talking about moving something the size of your living room, not a dinosaur-killer certainly not Ceres. . We have lots of fragments from meteors already.

      Its OK, but it seems like a lot of work to move the entire rock here rather than just collect interesting samples and bring them back.

      As the article said, it doesn't seem to really develop much interesting technology.

      There is some Pt in asteroids, but no where near enough to pay for th

      • by geekoid (135745)

        It develops the a lot of tech. Creating a machine that has to make decisions and course correcting the 3d is a great challenge. Plus, we learn how to do it better so we can move up to big rocks.
        The more we understand that, them better a solution we will \have when a big one is headed are way.

        "There is some Pt in asteroids, but no where near enough to pay for this type of effort."
        and there never will be. they more you get, the bigger the drop in value. Still, there is a lot of use for platinum, so it being c

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "We know Mars."
      no we don't.

      "sweet sweet platinum,"
      I agree, but lets not forget it would loose value as a commodity immediately after bring one of these back. So it needs to be a government mission

      And it's not that crazy and completely do able. In fact we should do a few, some to gather resource for earth, and others to gather resource for mars.

    • Well, maybe not as boring. The drinking laws on Mars are more favorable to exploration.
    • All it needs is some greehouse gases.

      As Elon Musk noted it's a fixer-upper planet.

  • or his clone and watch it produce 100x the results it would otherwise. Ok, if you can't how about diverting a little of the defense budget to NASA? Just 1% is enough. It will still be rather wasted compared to what the likes of SpaceX could do, but compared to the complete waste of warfare it is still great...
    • by Kardos (1348077)

      SpaceX doesn't have the R&D hurdle that NASA had to achieve LEO. SpaceX first to mars? That seems unlikely. Perhaps if we gave them a sustained budget comparable to mid-60s NASA levels for a couple decades. Or, we could just fund NASA, they are quite competent.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Or, we could just fund NASA, they are quite competent.

        Yea, their successor to the Space Shuttle is quite the amazing vehicle, especially for being made of paper.

      • NASA to Mars under any circumstances seems unlikely. They haven't made any progress since what 1969?

        Give the money to Musk. NASA and their contractors are mostly a pile of bureaucrats milking the public teat.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      So you think 177 million is enough for Elon Musk to get people to mars?

      Please, Elon Musk hasn't done anything that hasn't been done before.

      • by khallow (566160)
        So you really think that 17.7 billion is enough for NASA to fly anyone to Mars? Seriously?
      • by khallow (566160)
        Rereading your post, I realize that you are actually claiming that SpaceX would be unable to get to Mars on $177 million per year indefinitely given to them just for that purpose. That's a lot of money for a company that developed their current launch workhorse, the Falcon 9 from scratch for a bit under two years of such funding.
      • by rioki (1328185)

        You mean like a powered landing [youtube.com]? Ok that thing is a prototype, but it looks like it will be in service within this decade. Elon Musk is a genius when it comes to reducing operational costs. Sure they build on top of existing technologies, but they have surpassed them and are stepping into unknown territory. With the combination of the Dragon 2 and the grasshopper [youtube.com] we may see launch vehicles and space ships that are fully reusable, similar to how planes are today. Refuel them, maybe spay on a new layer to the

    • I'm going to go out on a limb and say we will NEVER be able to explore/exploit/colonize space unless we do away with war. It's dangerous out there. Very dangerous. Even just a fistfight in the ISS could destroy the whole thing.

      Steve

  • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:47PM (#47168271)
    I'm glad the National Research Council has published this... maybe now it will get some traction. Having said that, it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the program is underfunded and will not be able to meet any of its goals. Frankly, this is true of not just NASA, but science in general. Too many in Congress talk about the importance of STEM; but, when push comes to shove are unwilling to fund R&D and large scale engineering programs.
    • by khallow (566160)
      There's huge sums shoveled at STEM today. It's not funding that's the problem here, but the remarkably poor returns on that funding.
      • There's huge sums shoveled at STEM today. It's not funding that's the problem here, but the remarkably poor returns on that funding.

        Eh, not so much. US Science Funding [wikipedia.org] only represents 20% (~$90 Billion) of total R&D (~$450 Billion) in the US. That means that government spending on R&D is only 0.56% of US GDP [wikipedia.org]

        .

        • by khallow (566160)
          Which is a lot of money. Savvy?

          My view is that by putting that money through public funding, we drop its effectiveness by at least a factor of ten. It's like burning $80 billion each year.
  • by Krishnoid (984597) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:53PM (#47168315) Journal

    Maybe they could just get a donkey to Mars?

  • by mrflash818 (226638) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:58PM (#47168355) Homepage Journal

    I do not think humans will get into expanding our civilization past Earth's atmosphere until there is a single global government. Currently the nation-states divert too many resources against each other (arms, trade wars), that instead could be used into expanding us beyond Earth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... [wikipedia.org]

    • The "Space Race" between the USSR, and USA would be a difinitive choke point to your logic. But a world government would be useful for Parking tickets.
    • by khallow (566160)

      I do not think humans will get into expanding our civilization past Earth's atmosphere until there is a single global government. Currently the nation-states divert too many resources against each other (arms, trade wars), that instead could be used into expanding us beyond Earth.

      That point of view only makes sense, if governments are the only source of industry and innovation. They aren't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      Ah, yes, one world government. Because there isn't nearly enough tyranny on this planet already. Surely, a global government would concentrate resources on space and advancing the cause of humanity instead of large-scale theft for their own tribe and armed response to anyone who disagreed.
  • Why should we care? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:11PM (#47168413)

    Why is sending humans to Mars supposed to be such a great thing? It's incredibly expensive, incredibly dangerous, and doesn't accomplish much of anything useful. Once you've sent them, the next trip will be almost as expensive as the first one.

    I'm much more interested in building up a meaningful, sustainable space program. That means building up an industrial base in space. We need to be able to manufacture things in space out of raw materials that were mined in space. That's the only way that human space travel will ever be economically sustainable. So that asteroid mission sounds like exactly the right approach to be taking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by slew (2918)

      Why is sending humans to Mars supposed to be such a great thing? It's incredibly expensive, incredibly dangerous, and doesn't accomplish much of anything useful. Once you've sent them, the next trip will be almost as expensive as the first one.

      Well, since you asked...

      "Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

      Of course if the challenge of sending humans to Mars is something we are unwilling to accept, or willing to postpone, or intend to lose...

      Industrializing space may sound like a meaningful thing, but industrializing areas of our own earth hasn't been the most ecological of pursuits. Nothing like the chants of "drill-baby-drill" being replaced by "launch-and-mine-baby-launch-and-mine"... It seems like it was also meaningful thing Yellowstone was the first national park, although I'm

      • by Dzimas (547818)
        A politician's speech is the best you can come up with to explain why we need to reach Mars? Oh, my. JFK was all hot and bothered to reach the moon because it would upstage the Soviets, not because it was a noble or even sensible endeavor. There are a number of good reasons why a mission to mars would be desirable: (1) it requires the development of long-range manned spacecraft, (2) it gets us out of low earth orbit, (3) (in the long term) it encourages the development of new forms of long-range propulsion
        • (2) it gets us out of low earth orbit

          But that's exactly the problem: it doesn't get us out of low earth orbit. Or rather, it gets precisely one ship out of low earth orbit, but the next one we send out will have to start all over from ground level. Sending anything from the earth's surface into space is incredibly expensive. As long as we have to rely on that, we will never be able to do more than a handful of one-off missions involving a handful of people.

          I want to see humans colonizing space. I want to see permanent habitats where people

      • by khallow (566160)

        Industrializing space may sound like a meaningful thing, but industrializing areas of our own earth hasn't been the most ecological of pursuits.

        OTOH, what sounds to me to be a particularly meaningless thing is ecologizing sterile space. Completely taking apart an asteroid for its resources is just as ecological as leaving it alone.

        • by slew (2918)

          FWIW, Ecology isn't just "fuzzy" animals and although space is not likely to be completely sterile (e.g., space faring bacteria diaspora?), you can still have ecological impact w/o native organizing. However, it could affect *our* future

          Say capturing an asteroid and mining it isn't going to kill and fuzzy animals, but there is likely going to be unexpected collateral pollution issues (e.g, space debris in orbit of the moon, etc). Nascent industrial operations often ignore any such collateral pollution iss

          • by khallow (566160)
            Again, no ecological issues have been mentioned here.

            And there is no such thing as "unrestrained industrial forces" in space. Space treaty already constrains the activities you discuss. If debris from my mining operation wipes out your satellite, then I and my backing government are already financially responsible for that damage.
    • Good point, but after a few moments of considering to your logic; "Where do I sign up to be the first to go?"
    • I'm much more interested in building up a meaningful, sustainable space program.

      Well, the thing is that we'll realistically need a meaningful sustainable space program to get to Mars. That's why we're not getting to Mars. The work ahead of us to have a successful mission to Mars currently means a lot more than just building a ship and going. The intervening steps pretty much require the space program you want. Nobody wants to pay for it, thus we're not going to Mars either.

  • by fma (71738) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @08:24PM (#47168465) Homepage

    Setting up shop at a Lagrange point is a whole lot more interesting and likely profitable. Unless you really want little green men.

    • by Shadowmist (57488)

      Setting up shop at a Lagrange point is a whole lot more interesting and likely profitable. Unless you really want little green men.

      Profitable in what sense? What exactly is waiting to be mined at a Lagrange Point? It may be a good place to anchor a space telescope, but what beyond that?

  • ... you need rockets to get you to Mars.

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