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Space Science

USA To Return To Moon By 2015, Then Mars 1480

securitas writes "This afternoon George Bush announced space exploration plans for the USA to return to the Moon by 2015, the design and construction of a new space vehicle fleet by 2014 (called the Crew Exploration Vehicle) to replace the aging space shuttles which will be retired in 2010, and the construction of a permanent Moon base, followed by manned missions to Mars. The initiative begins with a $1 billion increase to NASA's budget and $12 billion in new space exploration money over next five years. However Congress is concerned about how to pay for the new space policy initiative in the face of a $500 billion national budget deficit. AP via Yahoo has a Moon/Mars/space policy FAQ, and there's more at NASA and the New York Times among others."
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USA To Return To Moon By 2015, Then Mars

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  • Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:21PM (#7980048) Journal
    Strange. He did not mention what this would cost. Yes, he mentioned an initial $12 billion investment, but 11 of those are in the budgets already as far as I know.
    I have seen price tags from NASA people and other space scientists for the whole expedition fluctating from $60-175 billion.
    It's probably difficult or impossible to make an accurate estimate of total cost this early in the process but nevertheless the current estimates deviates much from each other.
    $60 billion is one thing, but $175 billion?

    Yes I know going to Mars might create some jobs and promote technology and development but I would like to know the price tag anyway.
    And with a $450 Billion budget deficit already I'm not so sure that this is a good idea.

  • 4 years? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[evaned] [at] []> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:22PM (#7980068)
    "the design and construction of a new space vehicle fleet by 2014 (called the Crew Exploration Vehicle) to replace the aging space shuttles which will be retired in 2010"

    Anyone else concerned about the 4 year break from the retirement of the shuttle to the *planned* launch of the new craft? The last time we'll have stayed out of space for so long is before the shuttle launch (assuming we get back there following Columbia anywhere near NASA's schedule). There are already problems with the ISS given the shuttle's current grounding...
  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:24PM (#7980090)
    First lunacy: waste money bringing the space station up to snuff, then abandon our part in. That's one hell of a message to send to future prospective partners.

    Second lunacy: only add $1B to NASA's budget. They will have to gut every other program to fund this return to the moon, and they appear to be eager to do so.

    Third lunacy: nothing in this proposal has anything to do with making access to space cheaper.

    What ought to happen is tell NASA to get out of the way of independent private companies who are trying to get into space for much less money than NASA spends just thinking about it. That's the key. Let NASA build satellites and telescopes and whatnot, but make it law that NASA has to go with the cheapest launcher of reasonable reliablity, and if that means going with some private company who can do it for 1/10th the cost of Lockheed or Boeing or Ariane, so be it.
  • by Darth23 ( 720385 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:25PM (#7980108) Journal
    to try to (further) militarize space. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the actual proposed funding was much more linked to the Back From the Dead SDI 'peace sheild' Death Star that the Republicans have been creaming for ever since they first saw Star Wars.
  • by Omega1045 ( 584264 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:25PM (#7980110)
    Whatever you may say Bush's motivation is or what you think of Bush, this is a great announcement! I don't care if we are in a deficit. I don't care how much this costs. We MUST boldly go where no one has gone before, for the rest of the time our species exists.

    How many technologies we are using toady are based (somewhere in their roots) on the Apollo missions or shuttle missions? What a great advancement for mankind!
  • by Best ID Ever! ( 712255 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:26PM (#7980133)
    That's a poor justification. The same could be claimed of a great deal many pork barrel projects and useless programs. "Look! We're a miniscule fraction of the trillion dollar budget."

    The truth is, on an absolute scale, 17 billion is a lot of money, and you could do a lot with it. So the question is, is it worth it?
  • NASA Lottery (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mathetes ( 132911 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:28PM (#7980148)
    I propose that NASA be authorized to create a lottery for supplemental funding. It could either be a traditional cash lottery, or perhaps they could make the prizes NASA related, such as getting your name on a space probe, or give away some NASA merchandise. The "Big Jackpot" could be a trip to the International Space Station valued at $20 million. If the eligible person can't qualify for health reasons, he/she could sell the spot.
  • by Jubedgy ( 319420 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:30PM (#7980184)
    IMHO the first attempt was just a 'hey! let's do this quick and dirty' kinda thing. This time, with the moon being only a rest stop, there'll probably be much more testing and thought going into everything (assuming all of this gets off the ground....).

  • Re:4 years? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sharrestom ( 531929 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:31PM (#7980193)
    That's how long that it will take to copy the design in China, and put it on the shelves in WalMart. "Always low price. Always"
  • by cheezus ( 95036 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:33PM (#7980214) Homepage
    Yes, going to the moon again is a GREAT idea. Building a moon base is a GREAT idea. Going to Mars is a GREAT idea.

    This is something that looks good in a 30 second spot, but falls apart when you look at it. How is Bush going to pay for it? Answer: He's not. The 5% increase is a joke - it's not going to get a man on the red planet. But we can pretend for the cameras.

    See, he doesn't want to get caught like poppy lacking the "vision thing". So he comes up with this vision of a moon base that seemed cool when he was a kid and tells everyone we're going to do it.

    Kind of like No Child Left Behind. All those reforms sounded pretty good too. Who knows, they might have been, but Bush didn't fund it. Still, it made him look good, just like this NASA announcement does.

    I applaud the Bush for being the first President in a long time to get us excited about space exploration again. I just wish he really meant it.
  • by 1029 ( 571223 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:35PM (#7980240) Homepage Journal
    Good. I hope this is a smokescreen. I sure don't want any more of my, or the rest of us US tax payers', dollars going to NASA. I'd much rather keep my money and let private firms start making big leaps in space exploration. NASA has something of a tendency to kill off private space ventures anyhow, so move them the f**k out of the way and lets get the wild-west style frontier explorers up into space.

    I certainly wouldn't mind a national space program staying alive for the sole purpose of giving us a national presence on the moon, mars, etc. I just don't want the gov't space program to be the heavily-funded only game game town that it is currently.
  • Re:and bush says... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Old Wolf ( 56093 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:35PM (#7980243) porn. I can't wait
  • by D.A. Zollinger ( 549301 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:38PM (#7980287) Homepage Journal could have spent $100B on NASA, getting people back to the moon and to Mars and been remembered forever.
    Instead you chose to spend $100B on bombing Iraq, to be reviled forever.

    You know, I wonder if that had some kind of factor to this decision. That GWB took a look at how he would be remembered by future generations, especially if he lost this election, and realized he didn't like what he saw - First attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, erosion of constitutionally granted rights, 2 wars, an ugly occupation, an economy that just will not recover, and critics that grow louder as election time grows nearer. Maybe he saw a gambit like this as his only means of redeaming himself in the court of public opinion. That if he sets us out on a long term project, like going to Mars, then perhaps he will be remembered more favorably in the long term - even if he doesn't look so good in the short term.
  • Oh come on Congress (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Orne ( 144925 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:38PM (#7980289) Homepage
    These guys didn't care about the deficit when in one year they gave the Pentagon $74 billion [] increase, $40 billion [] ($400 billion/10 years) to create a Medicare senior drug plan, or $12 billion [] in farm subsidies. Surely we can scrape together $1 billion this year to do some actual science... Incidentally, I happen to be a trickle-down believer, and any money we put towards NASA will only go to help provide jobs for scientists and engineers, something we really need to do to drive off what's left of the Dot-Bomb, and help rekindle the USA's technology drive.

  • Re:4 years? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Unnngh! ( 731758 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:43PM (#7980355)
    If Bush were really, really serious about this, he wouldn't be saying 15 years, or anything else along the same lines. We went to the moon over THIRTY years ago. Yes, we haven't kept up our equipment like we should. But with the leaps in technology since then, I don't see why we couldn't have manned missions to the moon within, say, 2-3 years, a moon base in 4-6 years, and a mission to mars shortly thereafter. There are a lot of bright people out there capable of pulling this off, but they would need funding and support. That I could get excited about, backed by real funding now. 2015 sounds like a huge stall.
  • Look behind you? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:43PM (#7980357) Homepage Journal
    "One prominent Democrat, John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, pre-emptively criticized Mr. Bush's Mars proposal as a wasteful and costly diversion. Mr. Podesta, speaking to an audience at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-oriented organization that he leads, said that at a time when the country faces pressing problems, "President Bush is asking us to focus our attention on a red planet 35 million miles away.""

    So, in other words, Bush stopped talking about Iraq, and said, "Hey, look at that thing all the way over there!"

  • by Dukeofshadows ( 607689 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:49PM (#7980426) Journal
    Two scenarios:

    1) Issue bonds with the return being first access to a space outpost at a later date or something like that. This would be like the Pan-Am sale of tickets to the moon, but these bonds have government backing as to avoid bankruptcy and gain interest when not used (2-3%?). If NASA gives up the initiative, the government bonds still have value. I'd buy quite a few and be happy to contribute to the program over the long term.

    2) Lots of space technologies are dual-use for civilian and military, so why not get the DOD to help fund it? Insight into orbital mechanics and practical space vehicles would allow us a decent chance (better than 40%) to shoot down ICBMs and other long-range missles before they reached the US. Also, there is territory on the South Pole of the Moon that gives great visibility to most of the planet, so it is in their best interest to participate and lend a few billion to the plan.

    (On the other hand we could always falsify reports that oil or Osama could be found on Mars/the Moon and get up there much sooner without having to worry about how it gets paid for...)
  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:07PM (#7980592)
    After Rome fell, much of its science and technology was preserved. It was not widespread, but mostly carried along by the scholars of the Church. This preserved knowledge was a major factor in the early Renaissance, when society was ready to accept these ideas again. Had Rome not preserved its knowledge and technology, the relatively rapid period of rediscovery during the Renaissance would have been much longer.
  • Tip the polls (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phazei ( 559785 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:10PM (#7980621)
    CNN has a poll for Yes or No on the moon $$$. Perhaps we can tip the polls the other way, its 1000+ for no and 500+ for yes...
  • by luckylindy ( 719051 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:11PM (#7980629) Journal
    The current administration knows that there will not be a space future. They intend to abandon the space station by 2010 after possibly finishing core complete by 2008. It is highly unlikely that the Russians will continue to support it as they have no means to repair any US modules. Eventually the Russians will abandon their support of their 1/4 of the space station, the part that maintains the stations attitude and more importantly altitude. The space station currently loses 1.5 miles per day and needs daily boosting by the russian modules and also boosting provided by the shuttle when it is finished visiting. If the station is assembled to core complete it will lose 2.0 miles per day. Within 2 years of the Russians abandoning the station the station will lose enough altitude to be too late to save it and it will burn up. The Chinese may improve their capacity by then but will probably be more interested in going it alone. The US will not have spent the money to return to the Moon and Mars due to increasing demands on paying for health care and retirements. These demands will suck up all expenses not related to military. Sometime about 2012 the US will have turned its back on space, not even interested in send any more silly horribly expensive robots to the moon or mars. And that will be that. The US will not dominate the century except thru various military campaigns whose intent will be to control oil fields. By 2020 the world will be run and owned by the Chinese.
  • by Kenneth Stephen ( 1950 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:15PM (#7980661) Journal

    If living on Mars or the moon is the end goal, then sure, your argument has some merit. However, that isnt the end goal at all. To quote a popular TV show, our goal as a species has always been " go boldy forth where no man has gone before..". If we establish a presence on Mars, there will always be a rock further away that we will want to land on. And if we land on that rock too, there will be yet another rock further away. The reason to go into space is not because of tangible or intangible payoffs, or because we havent got anything better to do, but because it is our destiny.

    Anyway, even if living on Mars was the end goal, there are still some issues with your argument. Today there are folks living in really harsh environments like the Sahara and the Arctic. They know about alternative places where the environment is much kinder to the human body, yet they choose to continue living there. While it is true that Mars is much more inhospitable than these environments, who is to say that future technological improvements wont make Mars so hospitable that people might actually want to call it "home".

    As regards to your argument that "the money could be better spent elsewhere", that is your point of view and you are entitled to it. But the last I checked, the US has a democratic process, and your elected representatives are speaking for you. If you dont like how they spend the nations money, cast your vote accordingly. If the majority of the US voting population like the way they are spending money, you are SOL.

    Those who dont vote, dont deserve to get their complaints listened to.

  • Mars Not Drugs! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:19PM (#7980700)
    I think it's interesting that we'll spend almost, but not quite, as much money in the next FIVE years, as we spent fighting marijuana LAST year alone.

  • by Doug-less ( 611975 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:27PM (#7980762)
    And this is a bad thing? Older computers are more resistant to radiation, and any quirks are very well-known. Steel and aluminum may be "primitive", but once again, it is well-known how they behave under almost any conditions.
    1. Technologies that were exotic in the 1960's-1970's have had a lot of time to mature since the shuttle fleet was built. While it may not be the Athlon 64, the Government is starting to manufacture
    2. Radiation Hard Pentiums []. Personally I would be much happier with a updated fleet of space vehicles with technology from the 1990's rather than from the 1970's. As I understand it, it is the cost per pound to lift something in to orbit seems to be a major expense. Hopefully a newer fleet built out of new materials would mean a more efficient system.
  • by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:30PM (#7980794)
    I rarely work up the energy to be funny anymore.

  • by appleLaserWriter ( 91994 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:32PM (#7980815)
    First lunacy: waste money bringing the space station up to snuff, then abandon our part in. That's one hell of a message to send to future prospective partners.

    Bush stated that we would fulfill our obligation to the international space station. That sends a very positive message to future prospective partners.

    Second lunacy: only add $1B to NASA's budget. They will have to gut every other program to fund this return to the moon, and they appear to be eager to do so.

    How is that lunacy? If a moon platform better serves NASA's research goals then cancel the obsolete platforms.

    Third lunacy: nothing in this proposal has anything to do with making access to space cheaper.

    Making it possible rather than impossible to get to the moon and then mars is clearly a cost reduction in space access. Any further reductions are in the domain of business, not government. Once we are on the moon, it is government's responsibility to manage our property claims.

    What ought to happen is tell NASA to get out of the way of independent private companies

    Would you care to name some independent private companies that NASA is standing in the way of? XPrize contestants seem to be making good progress. Lockheed and Boeing are both public corporations which owe a great deal of business to NASA.

    NASA doesn't build any satellites or rockets, that work is typically contracted out.
  • by ONOIML8 ( 23262 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:40PM (#7980872) Homepage
    From the Associated Press story on

    "...outlining a costly new effort to return Americans to the moon..."

    How wonderful. Someone at the AP has already done the math for us and determined that this effort is "costly."

    Outfuckingstanding. Now how come all they do is whine about how we have a deficit rather than reporting on how we can eliminate it. They seem to have all the answers.

    And then you have all the liberals bashing the plan because we need the money on the war for terror. Funny how they didn't support that war until we wanted to spend money on the space program.

    Might as well give up now and call it a day. The AP says it's too costly so we aren't going to get enough benefit out of it.

  • by jpnews ( 647965 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:40PM (#7980876)
    I'm waiting until the "State of the Union" speech to decide if the president actually intends to follow through on this plan. Actually, the fact that this announcement wasn't held back until the SotU address already has me wondering about the sincerity of it.

    Somebody floated a trial balloon on this at least a couple weeks ago, I wonder why?
  • by bsharma ( 577257 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:44PM (#7980922)
    For much less money, a more exciting science and technology project would be to send a probe to the center of earth. If possible, we should even bring a sample of earth's core. The advances in material science, geology, volcanology, siesmic forcasting would be astronomical. And how can you equal the joy of understanding our own home planet so much more intimately.
  • I think its good... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by cartzworth ( 709639 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:54PM (#7981012) Journal
    ...the people of the US could use a non-destructive national goal.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @09:58PM (#7981058)
    Frankly, I'd rather close half our libraries and me assured of men on Mars in six years (not that closing even all the libraries would probably pay for that).

    If you were not talking about taking money away from Nasa to fund libaries, then I apologize - there are many other places money goes that are much lower on my priority than libraries. I just think that the boost in spirit of the people of the planet would do more to further public education than all the libraries put together. People only learn if they want to...
  • by jayveekay ( 735967 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:01PM (#7981089)
    >Instead of building a bomb which has a negative economic impact (not to mention cost)

    Nobody (who is rational) builds a bomb thinking about how it will make them poorer. People build bombs because they believe that having the bomb will benefit them by:
    1. Preventing others from taking their stuff, and/or
    2. Allowing them to take others stuff.

    As a hypothetical, suppose the United States had not spent any money on nuclear weapons or missiles after WW2. Imagine that that as a result of a lack of deterrence (Mutual Assured Destruction), there was a WW3 fought between the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union and China and their puppets against the democracies of Western Europe, North America, and Australia. Do you think that the negative economic impacts of that war could have been worse that the costs of building the doomsday weapons?

    I'm not a war monger, quite the opposite. I prefer butter to guns. But I am realistic and see that humanity has not passed the point where we can all throw down our weapons and just love each other.
  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:04PM (#7981118)
    The earth is ideally suited for human life because we have evolved within it over the last 200,000+ years.

    Any outpost created will inevitably fall to murphy's law. I say within 50 years on the outside. Especially without base station support from mother earth.

    You're kind of missing the point. The idea is to start _now_ so that we can get as much practice in as possible before we really need to do it _without_ the support of earth.

    Maybe we won't really need the outposts and colonies for 200,000+ years, by which point we'd be pretty damn good at it if we start now by your claims. However if we wait 199,999 years and then say oh shit, maybe we ought to set up a space colony because the earth is about to get smacked, _then_ we'll be fucked.

    I am amazed that congress would vote to spend BILLIONS revisiting a SINGLE stupid rock orbiting our earth while they scoff at and cut off funding in the MILLIONS for a project that is scanning BILLIONS of solar systems for signs of intelligent life (SETI).

    I'll agree with you on that, at least the cutting of fundings for other space research. However instead of blaming one science program for the hard times of another science program, how about we cut back on something like that $1.5 billion of marriage propaganda?

  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:16PM (#7981228) Journal
    Waiting for some mythical "true believer" to create perfect space program will result in waiting forever.
    Well, I never said we shouldn't support the program, just that I'm not going to vote for Bush.

    I definitely support the idea of a permanent moonbase and a manned mission to Mars -- and any politician who supports those programs will have that support factored into my decision to support them. It'd be treated as just one of many factors when deciding whether I would vote for that politician.

    In Bush's case, I dislike him so much due to his past actions that I have trouble even thinking of any action he could perform that would convince me to vote for him. Even if I were convinced that his reasons for this announcement were utterly selfless, that would not come close to convincing me to vote for him.

    But I'm not going to look at a politician, ignore everything else, and say, "Because he supports the moonbase, I'll vote for him."

  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:23PM (#7981291) Journal

    What the hell kind of name is the "Crew Exploration Vehicle"? At least the shuttle didn't have some crazy name; it was the shuttle. And it is a shuttle, so that was an OK name.

    The official name of the Shuttle is "Space Transportation System."

  • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:26PM (#7981308)
    see that computer you are typing on, see the cell phone you are using, see that velcro, teflon, anything small, anything modern, anything you see around has been made possable because of the work NASA did in the 60's to get men to the moon.
    Velcro? Swiss inventor, 1948.
    Teflon? Ohio researcher, 1937.
    Care to try a few more? Plastics, maybe? Nope, 1908!
    Smoke detector? Nope
    Computers? No. Night vision goggles? No. Cell phones? No. TV? No. Radio? No. Microwaves? NO. Tang?......NO! All of these things I have heard people mention as spinoffs, and NONE OF THEM ARE TRUE. Some even came from the 19th century!
    Most of the advances they have contributed have been minor improvements on existing ideas. That's not to say that they havn't contributed anything, but it isn't vital to our current state of technology. The most important things they have come up with has been in the field of treating osteoporosis, on account of having to deal with it in astronaughts who had been in space for too long...
    Oh, and data compression. They hold a whole whack of patents on various methods of compressing images and other data, and 40% of their funding comes from these royalties.
  • by javatips ( 66293 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @10:48PM (#7981502) Homepage

    Second lunacy: only add $1B to NASA's budget. They will have to gut every other program to fund this return to the moon, and they appear to be eager to do so.

    Third lunacy: nothing in this proposal has anything to do with making access to space cheaper.

    I'm no fan of Bush, but this would actually force the Nasa to focus on something instead of spending money all over the place with no particular goals.

    That's what made possible to send the first man on the moon!

    Having less project mean less bureaucracy, less manager, ... If they foxus on a single goal, they'll get somewhere.

    BTW, Making space access cheaper has never been a goal of Nasa... I let that to the private sector. When profit matter, production cost drop!
  • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:03PM (#7981600) Homepage
    I think your question is fundamentally flawed. You can't ask "What do we use *now* that NASA invented 10 years ago?" Most of the things they are using now won't be in serious commercial use for another twenty years. So most of the things we're using now were invented over 10 years ago.

    But, to answer your question anyways, here is an article on Video Image Stabilization and 2D Barcodes []. This is another on Superstrong Plastic Films/Strings and Lightweight Composite Actuators [].
  • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:12PM (#7981657)
    In thinking about my own post I think the important point is that technology spinoff is not really a very good argument for a space program. Fact is we spend billions in defense and we also get technological returns. Look, for example, at GPS which was developed entirely for military purposes and is yielding huge civilian and economic benefits that surpass anything recent I can think of NASA has done.

    Fact is if you spend billions of dollars on any technological endevour you might get spin offs of substantial value, and you might not. I really doubt the spinoffs from space exploration are certain to justify the spending versus investing in fusion research, nanotechnology, biotech, defense or any other technological endeavour

    I wager Apollo was something of a fluke simply because they hade to make huge leaps in things like electronics just to do it. I doubt you are going to see any similar leaps when we go back to the moon, the same place we went 35 years ago. In fact it sounds like NASA is planning to avoid high risk technology and may well just attempt to reinvent and refine a lot of the stuff they did 35 years ago and that is not something conducive to big advances in technology.

    Having said all that, I could see trying to put a self sustaining colony on Mars as a potential source of big advances and spin offs since it would compell major advances in things like energy, food production and terraforming. Putting a knock off of the ISS on the moon, supplied from earth isn't likely to lead to many breakthroughs.
  • Re:Simply Put (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:16PM (#7981689)
    "In terms of doing something useful in space,"

    Why does it always have to be "useful?"

    No, I'm serious. I've been really disturbed by some of the things I've read from people who are against the idea and words cannot describe the pity I feel for those that are incapable of understanding the "Because it's there" argument.

    Are we that incapable, as either a nation or a species, of having big dreams and pursuing them every once in a while? Do we always have to wait for something to be practical before we get around to doing it? Yes, we have war, famine and pestilence. Yes, this will probably take away some funds from fighting those scourges. Whether or not that loss of funds will be noticable is another issue but ultimately the whole thing is a red herring. We're trying to feed people and save lives for... what exactly? So that future generations can also try to eliminate them better than us, feeding the cycle? What's the point in saving and lengthening lives when nobody's actually living?

    Sure, there's the "practical" argument that we could always wait until all these problems were solved and then we could follow our dreams of going out there. So we wait and wait and wait and before you know it we're all pensioners in retirement communities still waiting "just another ten years..." If waiting until everything is "just so" isn't a vague, amorphous, intangible and ultimately hollow goal to work towards, I don't know what is.

    The moon. Mars. They're right there. We can go there. Now. That stirs up passions even in me, and I'm a jaded, cynical bastard.

    If we as a culture and a species are that incapable of dreaming, even about something so utterly attainable as the moon, then maybe we shouldn't be going up there. We deserve to chase our tails over "standards of living" until the sun goes nova. Heck, maybe that's the solution to the Fermi Paradox; they're not here because they had more important things to do or they simply couldn't be bothered...

    Prersonally, I'd rather live in a country that bankrupts itself trying to get to Mars than what I seem to be living among today. Hell, set up a "Mars or bust!" fund at NASA and I'll gladly start tithing to them. Anything but this malaise.
  • One glaring problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gudlyf ( 544445 ) <gudlyf&realistek,com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:27PM (#7981767) Homepage Journal
    One problem I'm sure someone at NASA has an answer for is the simply insanely cold temperatures on the surface of Mars -- how can humans be expected to endure temeratures that average -76 degrees F?! On nights like this in New England, where the wind chill is -25F, you can surely appreciate that number.

    I found an interesting link while looking for temperatures of the moon and mars called The Artemis Project []. I didn't look at it much, but they seem to indicate we'd have to build an underground habitat in order to endure those cold temps for long perids. Another good point they bring up is how the cold temps will simply cause tools to break down with use more easily.

  • by securitas ( 411694 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:39PM (#7981847) Homepage Journal

    That's weird - simoniker slightly different headline but the rest of it is identical to the submitted post.

    2004-01-14 21:33:38 It's Official: USA to the Moon and Mars by 2015 (articles,space) (rejected)

    This afternoon George Bush announced space exploration plans [] for the USA to return to the Moon by 2015 [], the design and construction of a new space vehicle fleet by 2014 (called the Crew Exploration Vehicle) to replace the aging space shuttles which will be retired in 2010, and the construction of a permanent Moon base [], followed by manned missions to Mars []. The initiative begins with a $1 billion increase to NASA's budget and $12 billion in new space exploration money over next five years. However Congress is concerned about how to pay for the new space policy, [] initiative in the face of a $500 billion national budget deficit. AP via Yahoo has a Moon/Mars/space policy FAQ []. NASA Chief Scientist/Astronaut Dr. John Grunsfeld will discuss U.S. Space Policy today [] at 5pm (ET) in an online chat. They want questions []. More at NASA [] and the New York Times [] among others.

    I know this comment may be somewhat OT but I had to add a comment. Anyone know what's going on with this? Maybe related to the many 500-class errors I've been getting lately?

  • Allocation you say? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metalhed77 ( 250273 ) <> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:44PM (#7981890) Homepage
    And this is the same president who appointed a fraud [] to lead our education infrastructure? Greaaaaaaaaaat.
  • Meh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @11:57PM (#7981985) Homepage
    The only thing we know is how long until the oil we *know about* is going to run out.

    We have no idea how much oil earth actually contains or even how exactly it's formed naturally. Which means we have no clue how long it takes for the Earth to generate oil.

    We also know how to make synthetic oil out of waste in very reasonable amounts of time.

    If it is about alternate and more effecient fuels then great.

    That's sufficient without the doomsday mumbojumbo about running out of oil in X years.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:04AM (#7982037) Journal
    Ditching the space station is a bad idea. Why?

    Very simple: it can act as a test bed for technology to get the Mars effort going.

    When we did Apollo, did we go straight to the fucking moon? No. Remember: the first to land was Apollo 11.

    Now, the moon is a several day trip, so it's not a huge investment of time (by human scale), but Mars is. So how do you TEST a Mars ship?

    The International Space Station.

    Make the space station (or something like it) into a mock up/test bed for the Mars ship.

    Need to grow dinner on your ship? Practice on the ISS. Need to figure out to survive MASSIVE solar flares? Do it on the ISS. Need to practice landings on Mars? Use the Moon and the ISS. Need to figure out how to lock a bunch of goody goody militarist fuckwits into a tin can for months on end without killing each other? do it on the ISS.

    Ya dig?

    If we ditch the ISS, we handicap our ability to test the things we need to test for the Mars Mission. Getting to Mars on top of a rocket would consist of a few minutes of takeoff and nerve wracking tension, followed by several months of interplanetary travel and boredom, followed by a few minutes of nerve wracking tension, followed by several months of nerve wracking tension leading to tension fatigue and a weird relaxation on Mars itself, and then reverse the process.

    Getting rid of the OSS gets rid of the most testable and reducible phases of the mission: the several months spent in space travelling to Mars.

    And while I know that EVERYONE on /. is a primo coder and doesn't REALLY need QA, I really do think that something like the first and following Mars Missions DO need QA, and the ISS is the most immediate and useful device for testing a Mars mission.

    Canning the ISS is a BAD idea. A moon base is a GOOD idea (test bed for Mars colony). Canning the shuttle is a GOOD idea.


  • by chipace ( 671930 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:05AM (#7982046)
    What could 160 billion over two years buy you?
    (a) A war in Iraq
    (b) Fiberoptic network to every home in the USA
    (c) Moon base in 3 years, manned Mars mission in 7
    (d) Discount the cost of hybrid cars (air pollution)
    (f) b, c, d and e
  • by 17028 ( 122384 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:34AM (#7982223)
    ?! NASA's annual budget is 17 billion AFAIK. Are you saying that 6.8 billion a year is generated from their royalties?
  • by Riktov ( 632 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:52AM (#7982336) Journal

    If an asteroid wiped out all life on this planet, I don't think anyone would give a fuck about absolutely anything. I surely wouldn't. If the killer asteroid were discovered today, it wouldn't matter if we started building space colonies -- with today's most advanced technology -- today, or if we had that technology ten years ago, or even five hundred years ago.

    Contemplating something of this scale and then judging the opinions and actions of a few thousand people within a few years' time frame based on such extrapolations seems kind of like worrying that one grammatical mistake made by a five-year-old is going to prevent him from becoming a great lawyer forty years later.

    Don't worry, we have started working on it now. I just define now as "within the next 500 years".

  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:54AM (#7982344)
    No. It isn't. Several other countries do develop technology, but for instance, take pharmeceuticals - who foots the bill for research and development? The good ol' USA.
    That's not the point. The US does a great deal of R&D now, but it didn't in the past, and it won't in the future. While we are at the top, it is our responsibility to contribute to the knowledge of humanity.

    And besides, what did the space race do to the C.C.C.P? If you answered "Bankrupt" and or "cold" you iz just about right.
    The space race didn't do that to them, it was a mix of bad economic planning and the arms race.

    I agree. Science (should be) is for the good of all, but have you ever heard of patents?
    Yes, and I also know that they are a temporary monopoly. Even if the patent lasts for decades, that's really a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. We're talking about the macro scale here.

    How about gouging American customers for research and development. Spending on NASA DOES achieve stuff, no question, but we want the payoff, not some pie-in-the-sky promise about trickle-down science.
    That's not a great way to do science. If scientists were beancounters, we'd be fucked. Consider quantum mechanics. It was purely intellectual mastrubation for several decades after its invention in the early 20th century. Today, the practical applications of quantum mechanics underly 30% of the US GDP!

    Again, I agree. We're still using fire and electricity and that is likely to continue. However, Rome had little more than brute strength, borrowing their logic and math and religion from Greece and the East.
    They made enormous original contributions to engineering and architecture. Concrete, for example, was a Roman invention. They scale of their architecture was unmatched in the West for more than a thousand years after the fall of the Empire. They were not original in the "pure" sciences, but they were in the applied fields.

    I just think we have SO MUCH technology that we should slow down. A hundred and fifty years ago, and all time prior, you and I would most likely be farmers or hunter gatherer.
    Eh? There were almost no hunter-gatherers in the West (not counting the native Americans) 150 years ago. A 150 years ago, the world was quite modern. Maxwell completed his theory of electromagnatism precisely 149 years ago in 1855!

    Not such a bad life except that it was only, on average, 35-50 years long.
    The average lifespan for a male in 1850 was 60 years old. The average lifespan overall was 47, but that was brought up by high child mortality. The decrease in child mortality was not completely due to technology. Much of it was just teaching people proper practices, and doing proper pre-natal and post-natal care.
  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:59AM (#7982358) Journal
    How about a US MagLev transport system????

    How about funding more mass transit systems that lower peoples need for cars and hence more interstates. Wouldn't be nice to be able to hop on trains and get pretty much ANYWHERE in the US. How about 400 MPH on the ground without the 2 hours to get in and out of airports. How bout wind farms on the Great Lakes that would provide a profound amount of green power (the really BIG ones turn slow and don't kill birds)?

    How about a great new effort for PEDESTRIAN super-highways. If you've been on a rail-to-trail you know what a great concept this is. A safe place for kids and adults to get from one place to another on their bikes, skates, etc... Add lots of pedestrian bridges. After all, America is facing a crisis of obesity. A lot of this can be attributed that we spend profound amounts of time in cars on our asses instead of WALKING.

    How about more money for border patrol to secure our nation from illegals of ALL kinds? How about more resources for first responders (the money Bush promised but didn't deliver) to deal with a chemical or biological attack?

    How about universal preventative and emergency health insurance (this would benefit small business)? How about building more $5 million dollar schools instead of $750 million dollar stadiums? How about more cops to keep our cities safe, even the "bad" parts?

    How about raises for our civic heroes: Cops, fireman and teachers. Yeah we revere them but we pay them DICK!!!

    Mars is likely a trillion dollar mission. And what will it deliver to the US in return??? A new improved version of Tang?? Was teflon really that much better than an oiled iron pan??? Was there really any technology that NASA delivered that wouldn't be developed by private industry when they needed it???

    Speaking of NASA technology ... How bout funding for those scramjet engines? How about the space inferometer project? How about funding for carbon nano-tubes that will enable a space elevator which will cut launch costs to a tenth of what they are now?

    Oh yeah, and all that fiber-optics sounded really good too. Actually Kucinich is pimping free secondary education at a price of 27 billion annually. This is a gem of a bargain compared to a trillion of ten years.

    So, there are some other things to spend money on besides "muddin" on mars.

  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @01:07AM (#7982390) Journal
    I don't think that ANYONE would doubt that satellites are useful and helpful to human civilization. The debate seems to be whether HUMAN BEINGS personally launching satellites is beneficial.

    Rather, robots seem to do a good job at pennies on the thousand dollars compared to manned space flight. There are very few things that robots CAN'T accomplish in space that humans can. For example, it would be difficult to make a robot that hits golf balls on the moon ;-)

    I'm sure at some point in the future we will be a space-faring race. And by that time, we will have MUCH better robots that will be perfectly capable of hitting golf balls along with all those other HUMAN tasks besides eating.

    If we ever DO colonize Mars, the VERY last delivery will be the humans. The robots will have built all the dwellings before humans arrive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2004 @01:45AM (#7982610)
    The President says he's going to improve budget for space exploration and suddenly every nerdy conspiracy theorist pulls out of the woodwork.

    So far I've seen:
    1. He's doing this for political reasons.
    2. He's doing this to help get his dad's words back on track.
    3. He's doing this to fund his corporate friends who will be contracting for nasa
    4. He's doing this to gain military dominance
    5. How's nasa going to operate with such a small budget?

    Geez people. Shut your whiney mouths up and give the man props!

    I know all you liberals hate him, but he's doing the best he can and he's trying to advance our country. For just an instance shut your pie holes and appreciate that!

    Anonymous to avoid being labeled a troll.

  • NASA Brain drain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0x1234 ( 741699 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @02:24AM (#7982860)
    I for one am thrilled at President Bush's announcement. One of the most serious problems that NASA faces is brain drain. A third of the workforce is said to be within five years of retirement. To make matters worse NASA hasn't been attracting "the best and brightest" as it once did. That's because there is nothing really cool and inspiring as during the Apollo era, when many of the current work force were attracted to NASA. The Shuttle is now old and has been in "maintenance" mode for a long time. Much of the space station development is also winding down and never was very inspiring. It certainly didn't break any new ground. Smart people are attracted to hard, interesting problems. If you don't provide them with hard, interesting problems, they'll go somewhere else to find them. So, if we really want a manned space program, then NASA (like all of us) must have some interesting goals. If we wait too long, and the critical mass of good people is lost, the point will become moot because they won't be capable of it. I grew up dreaming that the space travel of 2001 a Space Odyssey and so forth were inevitable. But since Apollo, it doesn't appear to me that we've really made much progress. I don't believe that I'll see what I dreamed of during my lifetime, but I'd at least like to see it get started.
  • by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @03:28AM (#7983103) Homepage
    I think Zubrin does a good job of prooving the moon a rather poor choice as a stepping stone to MARS.

    Moon has almost no gravity, Mars is 1/3 earth normal which is a serious problem for long duration habitation. Moon has 28 day cycle of day/night, mars has almost a 24 hour day. Moon has no atmosphere to provide UV filtering Mars has a substantial atmosphere by comparison which significantly (along with greater distance from the sun ) reduces cosmic radiation exposure. Also mars atmosphere means suit designs for Lunar surface exploration and Martian surface exploration are very different. One similarity however may be longevity regarding dust wear and tear on the suit joints/seals.

    One of the biggest fallacies is that the Moon is easier to reach. It is in some ways more difficult due to its lack of gravity/atmosphere. The moon offers little to help you slow down. The delta V needed from your engines to reach the lunar surface is actually more than that needed to reach the surface of mars thanks to gravity capture and aero breaking avaialble at mars. Thus total delta V to the surface is in the 6k/s. Hohman transfer delta V to mars is 4.5km/s and Mars slows you down, thus you actually have greater delta V on the mars mission but less of it is supplied by rockets which require fuel which is heavy.

    In otherwords the reality of orbital mechanics and checmical rocket technology means it takes more gas to go from the earth to the moon than it does from the earth to mars. In simpler terms refuling on the moon is like driving from Atlanta to new york to get gas for a trip to D.C. Duration is longer, but energy expended is greater.

    The other problem is the lunar refuling proposition still has not acounted for both elements of the rocket fuel. Oxygen is bound up in the regolith in large quantities.. 50% or more by mass in many cases. But you need something to burn with it and that is not as easily found. The best hope for this is finding ICE gathered in the craters. Otherwise you have to process regolith for elements found in the parts per million range rathere than signifigant portions. That takes some serious equipment, all of which takes more energy to land on the moon than it takes to land it on Mars directly from earth. Or of course you could lift it from earth. Thus if your reason for a lunar base is a staging point for Mars it dosn't make a whole hell of alot of sense. You could have put all that mass on Mars to begin with if you had enough energy to land it on the moon. Not to mention making rocket fuel on Mars is a hell of alot easier than making it on the Moon.

    Don't get me wrong. The moon is a good destination for exploration in and of itself. I just want to point out the 'common sense' idea of using the Moon to get to mars is flawed.

    Lets go to the moon to go to the moon and go to mars to go to mars. One does not require the other. I for one would love to see the plan of establishing an observatory ( a telescope or series of scopes ) on the moon. In such a mission there are some mission elements that would be germain to both ventures ( habitats, shielding, some elements of long duration mission suit design ). SO going to the moon could provide some insight for a mars mission but its not a pre-requisit by any stretch of the imagination.
  • by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil@kjernsm[ ]et ['o.n' in gap]> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @04:57AM (#7983474) Homepage Journal

    I'd much rather keep my money and let private firms start making big leaps in space exploration.

    That's probably because you have never been anywhere near a real space program. I'm an astrophysicist and I'm Norwegian, still I recognize their great contributions to advancements.

    How do you expect private enterprises to do some serious science and exploration? Private enterprises wants to get paid you know! That's what companies are for. There's mining, of course, lots of enterprises could make use of that. But that would turn the other suitable planets and moons in the solar system into junkyards, and screw it up just like we did with our own planet. I for one, don't want to see that happening.

    Perhaps you can find similar ways to fund a private space program, but they will just be small change compared to the enormous costs. It all boils down to that you have to get most of it tax-funded. Private companies can do parts of it, the parts they do best, but it is still tax money.

    Astrophysicists world-wide strongly depend on the work NASA is doing, and contributing back to the community. Perhaps most americans don't realize it, and that's bad of course, but I really can't put the blame on anybody but yourself: NASA has a really good outreach-program, and they even feel compelled to design missions with outreach in mind (compare the design of ESA's XMM to NASA's Chandra, at least people in NASA blames the design of Chandra on the fact that NASA has to keep an eye on outreach in everything they do).

    With private companies, do you really think that things like NASA Astrophysics Data System [] would be open? Nope, it would have been closed, complete with DRM and the like. What a wonderful world that would be!

    I know a lot of people working in NASA, both fresh-outs and mission Science Operation Coordinators, and it's being done a lot of really good work in NASA, and I really doubt it could have been done any better.

    Furthermore, NASA is not only into the "space exploration" that's about just popping in and out of our atmosphere, around our tiny planet. It is also into some really fundamental science, like cosmology. That's the kind of research that expands the forefronts of science, I can understand why people don't recognize it, because it is so very far ahead, but it is nevertheless the driving force for any subsequent technology: Without Bohr's speculations on the nature of atoms, you would have no semiconductors and no computer for you!

    I've never seen NASA actually kill off any private ventures, but I have seen a few kill themselves due to incompetence and or a "1) blah 2) ??? 3) profit!" business plan. And it may well be that others will "kill" themselves in the true sense of the word...

    That being said, I'm not impressed with Bush in this matter either. The US needs to fix the economy, stop wars, transfer the defense budget into space exploration, free NASA from the hands of the DoD, and then let scientists decide what to do and how.

  • Re:I don't get it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @05:23AM (#7983554) Homepage
    Yes and no. The X-prize contestants are working on much smaller budgets and competing for a 10 million dollar prize. I think in most cases the 10 million would be a profit. I am not so sure about the armadillo and rutan design efforts though.

    In any case they are just going for altitude, 100 kilometers in this case. They never attain orbital velocities and thus never encounter the atmosphere at those velocities. I think the highest speed being proposed is over mach 2 which is roughly 1400mph. Orbital Velocity is roughly 17,500mph. Only prooven method for attaining that speed is a rocket and that means carrying a crap load of fuel, which means a BIG rocket. The rockets in that contest are not very big and scaling them gets tricky.

    However, as you point out, We know how to make rockets But engines that produce in the 100klbs + range are still damned expensive and finiky bastards. Open sourcing the current designs and allowing anyone with the manufacturing capacity to have at it could make the larger scale designs already known cheaper... though for the most part to make them cheaper you need economy of scale and for that you need a large enough launch scehdule which people will pay for.

    For a while it seemed commercial sattellites would provide such a demand but that all fell apart. Perhaps it will eventually provide such a schedule but right now it dosn't.

    So private ventures have a problem.... we know how to make big rockets but they don't have access to the designs on the books so they currently would have to develop their own designs. No matter how you approach that its expensive.... thousands, possibly millions of man hours, high precision machining and equaly exacting construction. Building a house is easy, building a skyscraper is hard... But imagine building your first skyscraper after only having built a house. We are talking about a similar increase in difficulty from current smaller scale rocket designs to building rockets capable of accelerating manned mission mass levels to orbital velocity at an altitude higher than 100 kilometers ( the nominal boundary for 'space').

    The other problem is the heat encounterd accelerating and returning. X-prize contestents are not encountering any heating that very mundane materials can not handle. Aluminum skin on airplanes has been surviving extended mach speeds for several decades and the x-prize flight profiles are pretty short. As you approach and pass mach 3 things get a little different. You either need an active cooling system or exotic materials like Titanium or carbon fibre composits. Machining Ti and carbon fibre is no easy task and machining them to exacting precise specifications is not a cheap process even at the most basic 'at cost level'.

    Now having said all that my gut feeling is your right. 20 billion is a bit much... what really amazes me are the people that think its such a paltry sum and its insane to think we could ever even atempt a manned mission to mars/moon for that or less.

    My guess is if a company with the needed expertise and access to existing design info could pull off a lunar mission mimicing apollo 'at cost' for less than 5 billion... possibly even less than a billion but that would be very slim and here is why.

    Had we decided to keep saturn V production then a launch today is estimated at approximately 300 million based on our experiences with the delta and atlas lines. The problem is we don't have the tooling to make the bad boys anymore. Thus you have to re-tool for a heavy booster. Even if you manage to sidestep most of the experimental R&D cost incured in the initial design you have to keep in mind prototype cars and new factory line tooling are VERY expensive and they are generally incremental design improovements using equipment that exists. This would not be the case for a large booster... so not only do you re-tool for the stack, you have to re-tool the tools to re-tool for the stack with. And unless you have numerous launches the per launch cost of the system will ref
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @07:59AM (#7984081) Journal
    While the cynical non American part of me thinks that this is very possibly an election year exercise in yahoo vote gathering, the other part of me wishes that it will come to pass, and for one reason only: Survival of the species.

    While an American moon base and mars mission would be excellent for American morale, it would perhaps also serve as a stepping stone for the real colonisation of space by the human race. And I think it is vitally important that we as a species expand beyond our planet, but more on that later.

    I don't think it will be possible to get the Bush programme working on the budget that he claims and even if the programme isn't cancelled by the next president after Bush (or by Bush himself after getting reelected) the costs will probably balloon into five or tens times the initial amount before it actually gets there. Simply taking a look at the ruinous costs of the American war effort in Iraq ($4 billion per month) and the way that massive cronyism led to connected companies such as Halliburton being able to charge what they wanted for gasoline, and companies such as Bechtel charging $10 million to repair a bridge where a local Iraqi competitor was offering to rebuild it for $500 000, and thereby blow costs in the war wildly out of proportion, I don't think, given the way that the current American administration is run, that it would be possible.

    Even the so called spin offs from a space programme are mostly propaganda myths. It is true that space provides bountiful resources and the ability to develop whole new techniques in engineering, medicine and science, such as those advertised by [], but obviously those things would primarily be of interest and value to colonists in space, not to people on earth.

    But that doesn't mean it should be done. Even the tiny chance of an asteroid or comet hitting the earth could mean the extinction of our species, and given how humanity is incapable of living in peace with itself or even solving easier problems such as hunger, disease and the enironment on our own planet, it is not unthinkable that we might wipe ourselves out in the future. It's not like we haven't been close to that point in the past (Black death, the Cuba crisis).

    Nothing has really changed much in human nature, really. We still fight and squabble, oppress and murder, cheat and steal, suffer from greed and egoism just like we have throughout history. Yet in spite, or perhaps because of those dark sides of our nature (The discovery and colonisation of America was mainly a commericial and political power venture) we have achieved great things. I think it is important that we as a species accept ourselves for what we are, intelligent primates but animals none the less, and expand off our planet to colonise the solar system.

    I don't think anyone alive today will ever see the first true colonists making the first martian version of a homestead, and not even our great great grandchildren will see the terraforming of mars, but we as a species need to go, I think, simply because it's a part of what life is about.
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:21AM (#7984158)
    Then you have cases where, like NASA, military funding leads to breakthroughs in technology that have multiple applications unrelated to weaponry.

    I am not trolling. I am genuinly curious. What are these breakthroughs?
  • ISS commitments (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psmyylie ( 741794 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @08:51AM (#7984326)
    I fail to understand how we are going to precisely fulfill our committments to our international partners...the cancellation of the X-33/34 project and the cancellation of the CRV mean (and have meant for what, two years now?) that yes, the ISS is not really able to accomplish alot. It was a little difficult for the 3 person crews to accomplish significant science with 1 science module attached to the ISS a year ago, and since the shuttle has been grounded, there's only two-person crews...for those that don't know, the ISS was designed for 7 full-time residents, and all those modules we let other countries build for us (which are still sitting in labs somewhere waiting there chance to go up in space) kind of rely on 7 people to staff all of them. No CRV (crew return vehicle) means that we'll have to indefinitely continue relying on the Soyuz capsule as the only escape method, which means that only a maximum of 3 people can be left even IF all the modules are assembled in orbit, how can a crew of 2 to 3 people accomplish the same as 7 or more? The guys up there have hard enough a time already, just keeping the damn thing running. NASA has backed off of 'keeping up their commitments' to their international parters for some time now.
    And if I were anyone employed (directly, once was contracted indirectly by them) by NASA NOT involved with men to moon/mars, I'd be terrified by the plan.
    Was there any announcements made as to the status of the pluto/kupier probe that seemingly not even NASA wanted to build, or the next round of mars-bound probes at next launch window? I know robots are cheaper than humans, but those 11 billion dollars have to come from somewhere...hopefully they won't come from JWST or SIRTF/Spitzer or one of the other high-profile projects (and damn them all who want to just abandon Hubble...the original plan was to bring it back down and put it in the smithsonian, however now a) noone wants to send the shuttle after it and b) that'll likely be the first target for money re-allocation so c) it's sure to burn up over australia in 6 years...).
    As to mr. bush's promises...yes I'm gung-ho about anything space, and fairly excited about the opportunities, but he's got a pretty bad track record when it comes to ACTUALLY funding big projects that sound great as sound bites (AIDS in africa, no child left behind, etc...), so when the money starts materializing under president dean next winter, i'll sigh relief...
  • by ImWithBrilliant ( 741796 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:16AM (#7984469)
    Establishing a base at L5 rather than the moon for the pruprose of a permanent waystation to Mars would reduce the overall tons launched, and hence a significant cost savings. Can anyone hazard a guess as to how much? Seriously, what advantage does Luna offer over L5 that's worth this tradeoff? One side of a base that doesn't leak?
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @09:17AM (#7984472)
    Like the X prize but with ever increasing goals. It'll encourage companies to find low cost ways to meet the goals.

    Start small with half a dozen prizes very similar to the X prize for companies who can get manned and reusable craft into space twice in 2 weeks. 1st gets 100 million, second 75 million, 3rd 25 million, 4th 10 million, 5th 5 million, 6th 2 million. This seeds the market with a bunch of small efficient companies who now have a load of money and expertise to start on the bigger challenges.

    1st 100% commercial company to orbit Earth with manned craft.
    2nd gets 50 million
    3rd gets 20 million

    1st 100% commercial company to orbit the moon. ...

    1st 100% commercial company to land on the moon and return.
    2nd ...
    3rd ...

    1st 100% commercial company to build a permanently manned settlement on the moon. Make this one bigger, say half a billion.

    etc etc.

    And then you have a commercial space economy without the need for NASA and a 17 billion dollar per year budget. The government doesn't run the airlines, it doesn't run the ship lines, cars or busses why oh why does it insist on monopolising space?

  • by cybercuzco ( 100904 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:51AM (#7985898) Homepage Journal
    Certainly, some of it has benefited people who live in affluent nations -- most notably, the aerospace industry, otherwise known as the "defense" industry. The vast majority of mankind, however, lives under conditions of grinding poverty and the advances gained from the space program do not benefit them in the least. In fact, many of the "technological advances" of the aerospace industry have resulted in widespread death and destruction -- for instance, the development and use of stealth bombers and cruise missiles. For untold numbers of Iraqis and Afghans, the American space program translates into GPS guided bombs killing their children.

    Many technologies have dual uses. For example, the same cargo ships that carry humanitarian aid to third world countries can be used to carry tanks and soldiers to invade Iraq. I dare you to find any important technology that cannot or has not been repurposed for military uses. For untold number of other Iraqis, the american space program means that they can watch satellite news and call relatives around the world on their satellite phones. Not to mention the fact that you are using the internet to post this, which was originally a military project.

    Bush's "first goal" is to realize plans spelled out by the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld in 2001. A report issued by the Commission demands the US "have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attacks on U.S. interests." In other words, the US will build a new generation of space-based weapons to further realize Pax Americana. Of course, this will motivate other countries (most notably China) to waste money and precious resouces on developing space weapons of their own, initiating an arms race.

    In fact, China has already started its own space weapons program, according to a report released by the Department of Defense. "The report focuses on the current and probable future course of that country's growing military-technological prowess, including the use of space to assure military advantage," Leonard David writes for "This year's report cites a comment from Captain Shen Zhongchang from the Chinese Navy Research Institute. He envisions, according to the DoD, a weaker military defeating a superior one by attacking its space-based communications and surveillance systems." For more on the strategic thinking of the Chinese, see Chinese Views of Future Warfare.

    So if the chinese have started weaponization of space already, arent we just responding to them? If the chinese are going to weaponize space regardless of what we do, then we need to respond to that. We have lots of space assets that need to be protected. If the chinese decide to blind one of our nuclear launch watchdog satellites it could lead to a premature launch of nuclear weapons on our part.

    Wishful thinking aside, BMDS is essentially a boondoggle for "defense" corporations such as Raytheon.

    This is true, BMDS is ineffective as it is currently envisioned.

    The tiny fraction of mankind represented by Bush, the Pentagon, the neocons, transnational corporations, and the ruling elite on terra firma are not interested per se in exploring space, landing on Mars, or setting up a base on the Moon -- that is unless the base has an over-budget, Raytheon manufactured laser aimed at "rogue nations" on the earth. Space is simply the next step in their warmongering.

    If it takes the military to create a permanent outpost on another planet, so be it. America wasnt colonized bby shipping over several million europeans at once. They came over in small batches, and the first colonies were tiny. A giant frickin Laser will require a large outpost and support system, and even if that is expensive, it will provide for a pretty good sized colony. Many cities are a result of a military base being built on the spot where the city now is. If the only way that humanity will move out into the solar system is a military base on the moon, lets dp it.

  • by TomRC ( 231027 ) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:29PM (#7986355)

    If we want to get humanity permanently into space, we need to stop thinking in purely engineering and short term economic terms.

    One of the reasons North America got settled relatively quickly, IMO, was that kings passed out huge chunks of land to cronies so they could set up colonies to profit by shipping goods home.

    With space it's harder. Information is the main thing valuable enough to ship to earth - and the value of scientific information will decline rapidly after the first few missions to any place. (He3 may be worth shipping from the moon to earth - we'll see.) So we need to quickly bootstrap space settlement off of the value of scientific exploration, but rapidly reduce the costs of getting there and staying there.

    Zubrin's plan is elegant and far cheaper up front - and does establish some infrastructure on Mars. But the cycle time of growth is very slow, not concentrated in any one location, and doesn't do much to reduce the cost of subsequent Mars missions. Maybe we'd keep that up for 10 years before deciding we weren't learning enough to bother maintaining the program. On to Titan, abandon Mars!

    But if we build up a base on Luna - whatever the up front cost - it will make economic sense to maintain and expand it - initially as a much cheaper source of LOX for rockets, later for other exports supporting space exploration and settlement.

    So - call it a con job if you wish (well, please don't tell the politicians), but taking the slower, more costly Moon-first approach seems more likely to get us permanently into space. I prefer to think of it as an investment in humanity's future.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton