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Space Science

Poor NASA 16

ruszka writes: "NASA is getting tossed further down the list again, it seems.. Now they're being hounded for the expenses of the space station.. CNN has the article."
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  • by vectus ( 193351 ) on Saturday November 03, 2001 @04:30AM (#2515780)
    about how we don't really need the ISS, I just want to say something.

    When I was a child, I looked to the night-time sky in awe. My every last thought was about space. I badly wanted to become an astronaut and fly around the space shuttle. I thought about how much I wanted to go to the moon, or Mars.

    I did not wish all these things because NASA did experiments in satellites, or because they were planning to send robots into space to do various missions. I longed to become an astronaut because of the pictures and video I saw. I wanted to stare in awe at the earth, while standing on the moon.

    I did not become an astronaut, but I was inspired to love science and math. Now, I am earning my BSc. in Computer Science, and am hopefully going to end up with a PHD in Computer Science.

    The science done on the ISS could surely be done more efficiently. Hell, we could explore the cosmos without ever taking a single foot off the surface of earth. I don't think that's the point of NASA, or the ISS. Behind all the research they do, there is the distinct presence of some basic human traits. We need to humanize the unknown. Space is vast and mysterious. We do know a lot about it, but it's just a drop in the bucket. There is so much we don't know, some of which could end up destroying earth (not likely, but possible). Having sent a man to the moon, probes to all the planets, and having satellites and a space station orbiting earth makes at least our corner of the galaxy seem a lot less hostile.

    I also think that the space station serves as a marker for our technological prowess. Through architecture, expos, and vehicles, our society tries to assure itself that we are the peak of civilization. We want to prove that we are better than the ancient Egyptians, whose pyramids leave us in awe. We want to prove that we are better than every other group of humans that have ever existed.

    Most importantly, and the point of this post, NASA serves to inspire youth. I'm sure that a lot of people on Slashdot, and around the world, have been inspired by NASA. Maybe you were around for the moon landing. Maybe you were around for Voyager. Maybe you were too young to remember Challenger, it doesn't really matter. You saw some awesome pictures, some awesome video, and you shit yourself. It probably inspired you to open a couple books, or to read the newspaper once and awhile.. maybe even to take up a career in the sciences. If it weren't for NASA, I'm sure that there'd be a hell of a lot fewer scientists out there.

    Do we "need" the ISS? Not really. Should we cut funding, or quit making it? Definitely not. The implications of the ISS run far deeper than just some scientific experiments.
    • I wanted to be the first "pirate-astronaut"
    • Hell, we shouldn't be wasting time on the ISS, if you ask me. Not that I'm against spaceflight; far from it. But there are cheaper, more interesting, and more rewarding things to do in space than throwing junk into low orbit.

      NASA should be mass-producing space probes. The big problem with NASA as I see it is that they don't mass-produce anything. It's the space station. It's the Mars probe. If we could just churn out a thousand identical rockets, well, we could really go places.
    • Nice. Sums up many of my feelings about NASA and humans and space, and I'm old enough to remember lunar landings.

      Fund NASA, let them continue to do research and exploration, both robotically, and with humans. Funding is not near the issue people^H^H^H^H^H^H politicians make it out to be. The few billion NASA gets each year is a miniscule portion of our national budget. Vastly more gets squandered in pork projects. More gets sent overseas in the form of 'aid' and 'loans' to countries that hate us anyway. How about giving ourselves that 'aid' in the form of larger NASA budgets?

      However, I think it's high time we stripped NASA of total jurisdiction over our access to space! While NASA explores and researches, let's let commercial groups start getting some return on the investments. A commercial space station to foster tourism, and act as a staging platform. Robotic lunar or asteroid mining. Hell, why not a hotel on Luna? I hope they find someone more open and forward thinking to manage NASA as Goldin steps down. The way NASA is going, I'll never make it into space. :-(
    • Do we "need" the ISS? Not really. Should we cut funding, or quit making it? Definitely not.

      Let me play devil's advocate for a minute here. At what point would you recommend cutting funding to ISS? The report discussed here shows conclusively that the ISS is vastly over its construction budget, vastly under capable, and vastly more expensive in terms of both astronaut time and NASA funding than anyone had ever dreamed possible. The report says that EVEN IF they cut back the plans by halting construction at the current, scientifically worthless state, and EVEN IF they only maintain a skeleton crew of 3, the minimum necessary to maintain the ISS at its current level of scientific uselessness (a crew of 3 can do less than 20 hours a WEEK of science according to the report), EVEN THEN the ISS will vastly overrun its OPERATING budget every year, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And this doesn't count the vast cost overruns in the shuttle program for missions assigned to service ISS.

      At what point do the immense cost overruns with no conceivable scientific return justify a restructuring of the program in your mind? Could the billions spent in cost overruns be better allocated to other scientific programs that have had to be cut as a result, both within and outside NASA? Seeing as the cost overruns CAN'T be fixed, would you really advocate just giving NASA what it needs to maintain the program it wanted when it promised it could do it for substantially less than what it is currently spending?

      Another way to put it: how many years of delay in going back to the moon, or going to Mars is the ISS program worth to you? Or: how many unmanned deep space missions is the ISS worth to you? Or, if you advocate taking money out of non-NASA programs to pay for the ISS, how many years of delay in cancer research, or materials research, or faster computers, or smarter networks, or cleaner burning cars, or longer battery life, etc. are you willing to give up so that a few people can orbit the earth in a scientifically-worthless tin can?

      I support manned exploration of space, and I support NASA science programs; I just find that the support for the current ISS program among the population to be bordering on ridiculous, since the money could be so much better spent on cheaper programs with real goals and a real chance to return on investment in both human and scientific terms.

  • At least for the time being, I think that NASA should be concentrating on exploring space by robots. I think that NASA may think that every americans dream is going to space. Because of that, and a lack of concrete motives for NASA, programs like the ISS happen. Sending humans to space is much more expensive than sending robots, and with todays robotic technology, I think that a lot more discovery could be made with robotic explorers. This may lead to sending humans to space, but the robots should go first. -CheezWizFire
  • The space station's real value lies in its Ability to do research in areas such as zero-g manufacturing and stuff like that. Every time nasa sends a shuttle up it is pack with lots of little 7-day experiments. Well, thats all fine and good, but some things can't be explored that way. We need the space station so that more corporate and scientific research can be done. The space station will allow research to go on for monthes or years, and larger experiments can be done cheaper than on the shuttles.

    Lots of people argue that NASA doesn't produce anything. This can't be farther from the truth, anyone know where Nike got the rubber for their sneakers? NASA. Well they certainly didn't think of it themselves. NASA does a fairly good job with what little money they receive. Those highly publicized failures with the mars probes stem from the fact that NASA is forced to work with such a constrained budget. Everyone thinks, 'hey, lets just send in robotic probes. They are cheaper than sending humans.' Yes, they are cheaper, but they certainly are not cheap. If you want NASA to send up a bunch of little probes, then they still have to find room for it by cutting other areas in the budget.

    Do we need NASA? hell yeah. do we need the space staion? HELL YES. Why? Cause everyone benifits from it. Corporate america gets access to good research data, we get better pharmacueticals and the such, and maybe a few more kids get inspired to reach for something bigger than themselves.
  • I recall reading that one of the mars missions (failed or not) cost about $100 million. The laymen then gasp "A hundred million dollars! My god! That money should be spent elsewhere! What a waste for just a few pictures!"

    There are about 150 million taxpayers in the United States. That means that each and every one of those taxpayers paid $0.66 for that mission. This is about the price of a can of Coke or a chocolate bar, and most of these taxpayers spend more money for both of those in a year than they do in money sent to NASA. NASA at least does real science - stuff that benefits humanity. What does Coca Cola Bottling Inc do? They sell fizzy sugar water. If you want to bitch about how much of your hard-earned NASA "wastes", maybe you should take a look at how much of that same money you waste yourself.
  • The BBC [] is also reporting that NASA is considering privatising the entire space shuttle fleet to save money (as well as having a funky new site design).

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