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Space Science

Proposed Next-Generation Space Station 153

WallytheWalrus writes "This article discusses the proposed next generation of telescopes and space stations. The concept presented with little fanfare by the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT) consists of placing a space station about 5/6ths of the way to the moon at one of a handful of local Lagrangian Points. This station would act as a springboard for constructing new telescopic mirrors, maintaining the telescopes that use them, and as a haven for future manned exploration missions. If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year...."
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Proposed Next-Generation Space Station

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  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Helter ( 593482 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:56PM (#4538136)
    Unfortunately you can't take all of NASA's plans at face value. They also have a plan filed to start populating mars in 2018.
  • Not again... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CleverNickName ( 129189 ) <wil@wilw[ ] ['hea' in gap]> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:02PM (#4538166) Homepage Journal
    WTF is this? The misleading Star Trek topic titles day? []

    You're making me earn my karma today, you bastards.

    Okay, on topic: Am I the only person who really wants us to go back to the moon? If this space station gets built, I sure hope that they use it to act as a halfway point between the earth and the moon, and not as just a platform for Orbital Mind Control Lasers. []
  • Quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mckayc ( 307712 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:08PM (#4538197)
    If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year....

    If only NASA could stay within their proposed budgets...

    Seriously though, Congress wouldn't be so iffy about giving NASA money if they actually stayed within their budget. Now no matter how little they say a project will cost, everyone will always roll their eyes and assume it'll cost like 10 times that.
  • Edge of Chaos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sivar ( 316343 ) <`moc.liamg]' `ta' `[snrubnselrahc'> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:09PM (#4538201)
    This is offtopic to moderate accordingly, but I wanted to point out that the game "Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos" used Lagrangian extensively as an important part of the game, as well as many other concepts in "real physics" that so many games ignore, either because the developers don't care or don't know. This was a point of respect to the game, but that it is huge, well designed, has a great plot and well-written character development helped too. It is, however, one that requires patience (Very LARGE area to explore.) and Windows (Unfortunately, it does not run in WineX at all.)
  • Re:Not again... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:22PM (#4538257) Homepage
    they don't need orbital mind control lasers, they already have the HAARP instaltaion []
  • Re:Not again... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @06:51PM (#4538656) Homepage Journal

    Am I the only person who really wants us to go back to the moon?

    Heck no. I won't be satisfied until we have self-sustaining colonies on the moon and Mars, with plans for them in other star systems. Keeping all of our eggs in one basket is probably the scariest thing I can think of.

    My granddad actually worked on the Apollo project. A few years before he died we were all having dinner and talking about space exploration, and it was obvious how disappointed he was that we hadn't even gotten people to Mars yet. You'd think we could do better in 30 years.

  • Re:Raise Taxes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @06:54PM (#4538676) Homepage Journal
    I would be happy to pay higher taxes if it would help expand our presence in space.
  • by Emperor BMA ( 554363 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @07:17PM (#4538801)
    Does anyone think this looks a little like the (early) history of the Gundam series? Sure people only conjecturing about building space stations at the Lagrange points now, but in 43 years, when the Universal Century began in the series (by the building of the first colony), we could definitely be building colonies at the Lagrange points. Also, the plans for the colonies used in the Gundam series were based on plans developed in the 1800s, so the ideas seem sound. In addition, the Earth's population might definitely be at 20 billion like it was when the UC began. If I am is correct, perhaps we could (possibly) be living in space colonies in about half a century (to supplant the earth's population woes). Also if it proves true, it would not be too far of a leap to suggest one of the colonies might demand independence from the Earth. Note: The UN seems an awful lot like an Earth Federation inasmuch as (con)Federation means a league of independent states. If it shows anything, it just goes to show that Anime writers do their homework before writing SciFi! Just my $0.02.
  • by GileadGreene ( 539584 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @07:19PM (#4538806) Homepage
    In my opinion the facts you stated support the conclusion that this is a perfect next generation project for a research agency.

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't be doing research in this area, just that it's very premature to be talking about putting manned platforms there.

    Also, I think most people understand that the models are simplified. Eliminating all but the major variables is a useful engineering tool in understanding the problem.In your freshman physics class when you solve the ball dropping off of the building problem you don't include every possible effect acting on the ball, but you still get a very useful answer.

    I agree that simplified models are a useful engineering tool (I'm an engineer by trade). My point was that the simplified models have lead to a number of popular misconceptions about what the libration points actually, and a misunderstanding of just a how complex it really is to analyze those regions of space. Also, your example with the ball dropping off of a building is not comparable to a libration point trajectory. The ball example works because, unless you are looking for a very precise answer, you can neglect everything other than gravity, which is by far the dominant force (try doing the same thing with an analysis of a feather falling :-). A libration point trajectory is a nasty problem in nonlinear dynamical systems: it is very sensitively dependent on initial conditions. If you do not correctly model some of the effects that would otherwise be neglible, you spacecraft will start in a slightly different location than you had planned, and end up in a wildly different location than you had intended. Even basic three-body dynamics are quite messy compared to the Keplerian orbits we are all used to. Throwing in all those extra bodies makes then even hairier. Not to say it can't be done (we have done it after all), just that it's much more difficult than most people seem to think (far more involved than a "normal" space mission).

    And part of the reason we want to put a station there is to study the intricacies of the problem further. Having an object physically there will help us to expand our understanding of all the variables involved.

    The reason that NASA wants to put a station there is that the people involved in planning the station do not have a clear understanding if the difficulties involved - they believe the "simplified model", and don't even seem to fully understand that. Someone in the NASA HEDS program needs to talk to some of the folks at JPL or Goddard who do libration points for a living. We would do much better to place unmanned objects in libration point orbits if we want to "expand our understanding of all the variables involved". That said, it's not so much the actual environment that we don't understand, it's the math needed to characterize and predict what things will do in these regions. In a Keplerian orbit we can use standard conic sections as a first cut, and perhaps include the effects of the major perturbations if necessary. At a libration point we don't even fully understand the motion: there's nothing comparable to a conic section. It's all numerical explorations, with no firm grasp of the underlying character of the trajectories. Right now operating a spacecraft in the vicinity of a libration point is akin to what it would have been like if someone tried to compute a free-return to the moon in the days before Kepler pointed out that "it's all just ellipses".

  • by infernow ( 529374 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @07:19PM (#4538811) Homepage
    First off, here's a map [] showing where the lagrange points in the earth-sun system are. This map works for the earth-moon system as well, as the earth-moon syetem is reduced to a point for earth-sun lagrange calculations.

    You're right about L1, L2, and L3 not being stable, but L4 and L5 are. This link [] explains in a bit more detail , but the L4 and L5 points, despite being peaks of gravitational "hills", would be self stabilizing.

    Here's NASA's explanation:
    A detailed analysis (In PostScript [] or PDF []) confirms our expectations [of instability] for L1, L2 and L3, but not for L4 and L5. When a satellite parked at L4 or L5 starts to roll off the hill it picks up speed. At this point the Coriolis force comes into play - the same force that causes hurricanes to spin up on the earth - and sends the satellite into a stable orbit around the Lagrange point.

    Putting a space station at either of these stable points wouldn't be much more difficult than putting something in orbit around the L1 point and would be easier then going around the moon to the L2 point, which NASA has shown they can do with reasonable success.

    The radiation would be worse there, but if we have to improve our radiation shielding anyway, we might as well try to make it strong enough so people can be placed at these points.

  • by rtphokie ( 518490 ) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @09:53PM (#4539405)
    .... before we start making ny more plans.
  • Re:Quote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PyroMosh ( 287149 ) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @04:05AM (#4540533) Homepage
    Just one?

    The Panama Canal [].

    Lockheed Martin's X-33 [] single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle concept.

    NASA's Mars Global Surveyor []

    The NEAR [] space probe (and it was delivered 9 months ahead of schedule!)

    The World Trade Center recovery effort [].

    The US Navy's Super Hornet [] (upgrade to the old F/A-18 Hornet Naval strike fighter)

    The U2 [] Spy Plane

    Also, I remember hearing from the Discovery Chanel or TLC or Discovery Wings or something that the F-117 Stealth Fighter was developed under budget, but I can't seem to find a reliable link.

    Golden Grove Prison [] at St. Croix in the US Vigrin Islands.

    The Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in Utah [].

    It happens. It's rare percentage wise, but it does happen all the time. With the exception of the last two, which I only found out from google searching for links for the rest, I knew of all of these off of the top of my head, so it's not a big secret or anything. Just think of all the mundane projects that come in under budget too. Government buildings, roadways, etc.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken