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Space United States Science

NASA's Own X Prize? 152

Roger_Explosion writes "NASA has announced that its 2005 budget includes 20 million dollars allocated to what it calls 'Centennial Challenges.' These are described as 'a series of annual prizes for revolutionary, breakthrough accomplishments that advance exploration of the solar system and beyond and other NASA goals.' The article on the X Prize site seems to suggest that this was a collaborative effort between the X-Prize organisation and NASA. You can read the story on the X Prize site."
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NASA's Own X Prize?

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  • Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by monstroyer ( 748389 ) * <devnull@slashdot.org> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:21AM (#8216278) Homepage Journal
    Although I am happy that funds like this are reviving the human desire to develop more space bound technology, this x prize is to jumpstart the space tourism industry.

    I see in my mind's eye several hawaiian shirt and sunglasses wearing citizens doing limbo and playing shuffle board on a double decker space bus. It just feels tacky and it is far removed from my utopian Star Trek TNG tendencies of space exploration.

    Is humankind so pathetic that the only reason we want to go into space is to expand the tourism industry?
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by djupedal ( 584558 )
      What, you never saw 'The Fifth Element'? C'mon...get in the game already :)

      Besides, tobacco farming and the fountain of youth have already been used as excuses to leave home...
    • by King_of_Prussia ( 741355 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:26AM (#8216300)
      If promoting space travel as a possible tourist activity can help develop the technology faster, I say do it.
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sangreal66 ( 740295 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:26AM (#8216301)
      The idea is that by creating a space tourism industry companies will need to invest in the advancement of space technology to accomodate the tourism. The resulting advancement of space technology is needed to propel the world into space for non-tourism activities. At least, that is what I think.
      • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@@@got...net> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:52AM (#8216671) Journal
        It's so good to know that Columbus got it all wrong... Holiday Inn should have sent the first ships from Spain and built fine accomodations in the new world...

        Since when did we become such spineless weenies!!! I can't even believe the silly crap wafting to my ears... we just spent enough money to freakin' move New York city to the moon, bombing the crap out of people who weren't bothering anybody but each other, all so that President Shrub could give his Daddy the most expensive Christmas gift in recorded history. Then we decide we haven't got the intestinal fortitude to pursue our destiny, our inspired future, because we haven't the will to generate the amount of money collected by The Starbucks Corporation during any given 45 minutes period of their business day. Oohhhhh, it's soooooo hard to save the kind of money needed to get into space, it's so expensive. Oohhh, let's suck up to the "spa class", and suggest maybe the best tan in the universe can be had on the moon! Then they'll build the future for us and we won't have to grow a friggin spine!

        People... Suck it the FSCK up... our future is out there. It's not here. Here will go away. Here is dangerous... we got asteroids, and super volcanoes, and tsunamis big as mountains, we got global warming, we got methane in the sea floor, we got virii and ice ages, and it's just a very uncertain place to be... we need to spread our eggs to more than one backet. We need to get life to other places. We need to explore and grow into our universe. All of that takes guts. All of that takes commitment. It takes saying I will pay the price of admission to build a bold future, that mankind will have more than we have today.

        I'm willing to contribute the price of a Grande Mocha Latte with a shot of hazzlenut, if I know that in ten years we'll have a sustainable access to the universe, and that in twenty years a half million people will live on the moon.

        This is one of those time when somebody with a little vision and a lot of testoserone needs to stand up and say follow me, I'm going up there, last one there to join me is a BIG FAT WEENIE!!!

        Genda Bendte

        "The meek shall inherit the earth the rest of us shall receive the stars..." -- Isaac Asimov
        • I wouldn't consider the parent post a troll. I'll admit that it's tone was somewhat confrontational, but it contained some very valid arguements and the Asimov quote was spot on.

          If you don't agree with what they are saying why don't you come up with some intelligent counter-arguements? There are some trolls who need to be modded down and ignored, but I don't think this is one of them.

        • Mmm-hmm.

          Why did Columbus sail? To open a commercial route across the Atlantic to buy luxury goods for the rich from the East

          How was the technology Columbus used developed? By the patronage of Henry the Navigator, whose goal was to forge a Portuguese route to the East for the shipment of luxury goods for the rich from the East Indies.

          It's very nice to rant about how space is a matter of long-term survival. What's going to get us there is the same thing that got Columbus to America -- the chance to make
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by macmaniac ( 734596 )
      Although I am happy that funds like this are reviving the human desire to develop more space bound technology, this x prize is to jumpstart the space tourism industry.

      Hopefully this doesn't spur on further developements such as the planned russian tourist space station [chron.com]...

      Not that I wouldn't personally love to have a chance to travel in space myself, but NASA should be more concerned with keeping its astronauts and shuttles in shape.

    • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:30AM (#8216332)
      While I believe that space exploration is more important that space tourism - space tourism will jumpstart private funding of the space program.

      I read that the top 500 millionaires said they would pay up to $100,000 for a short flight into "subspace". By offing space tourism as a new luxury for the wealthiest people in America, these people are more likely to consider investments/donations for more exploratory space programs (namely NASA).
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tsunamifirestorm ( 729508 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:30AM (#8216335) Homepage
      money is a big deal, and the sooner that space exploration brings back a quick profit, the sooner that you will have several companies developing spaceships, which will of course develop the technology. the x prize is an excellent way to encourage efficient (money-saving) technology because the dollar amount is low enough that these enterprises will have to cut costs.
    • To make large, economical and safe space hotels in orbit or on the moon, we would need a lot of asteroidal and/or lunar material to make structural materials, outfit the interiors (tables, chairs, etc.), build shielding from space radiation and micrometeorites, and large, thick windows for great views. Giant, flat, polished mirrors from asteroid nickel or lunar aluminum could be used to protect large windows from direct exposure to micrometeorites.

      Agricultural areas would be needed to reduce expensive f
      • Last time i checked, NASA was a government organization. If the new mandate of the government is to figure our a way to take more salary away from their citizens, good job NASA!
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by G-funk ( 22712 )
      Space tourism is the only way we can get off this planet. Until we have fusion, and it's accompanying demand for He3, there's no money in space. No matter how much platinum there is out there on asteroids, it's always going to be shitloads cheaper just to buy it from somebody down here, unless we have an established space industry already.

      And the unfortunate truth is that in today's society, unless there's money in it, there will be no space industry. The powers-that-be are only interested in increasing th
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb@co[ ]st.net ['mca' in gap]> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:31AM (#8216597)
      "Is humankind so pathetic that the only reason we want to go into space is to expand the tourism industry?"

      No, there is NASA and others that do it, they have many dedicated staff that would make much more money in industry.

      Also how much have you donated to space travel? Why should a company (not govt) invest millions of dollars for the heck of it? Same reason you do not give up large portions of your salarly willingly for a myriad of other cause. There is nothing pathetic about it.

      It's not preciesly greed, it's putting the carrot out for the donkey.

      I am willing, and have, given parts of my salary for causes I greatly believe in (though not space travel - I probalby would if I saw someplace and thought about when I had some extra money). But my paltry contributions would get no-one nowhere in space, nor would what the vast majority of individual companies could give would be a dent in it. But if there was said carrot they are willing to gamble.

      And lastly, should they actually flat out give the millions upon millions and time I bet there would be a great deal of people (not saying you, I don't know you and have no idea) that would lambast them for not giving to some charity or other org.

      In short, without said payoff there is dis-incentive for a business to go to space. That is why the govt taxes us and spends on the grand human/technology driving projects that have no real hope of turning a profit (while there have been individual compnents that have made a fortune it is small compared to the overall cost of space exploration - not to mention had they actually patened the stuff it probably would not have spread as far as it did rendering smaller sales on top of that).

      "It just feels tacky and it is far removed from my utopian Star Trek TNG tendencies of space exploration."

      Remeber two things. By the time of star trek much of the scarcity issues that drive our economy were gone (especially by TNG) allowing pretty much everyone to persue thier humanitarian ends. I would imagine if we ever achieve all the food/energy/environment/toys we could want then Star Trek philanthropy will be a reality. Even then you had other types of greed/carrot. And secondly the Ferengi :)
      • By giving out millions to private individuals in the US like this, you would almost be guarenting that the US becomes the major power in space travel in the near future -- just like it became in IT (don't know if this is a worthy goal, but it would sound good for most politicians!)
    • Are you two?

      YES, we are! Just open your eyes and look around. :->
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bgarrett ( 6193 ) <garrett AT memesis DOT org> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:57AM (#8216685) Homepage
      The exploitation of space comes down to economic and human factors, once the technology is there. The hman reasons are easy: you expand outward to preserve the species, and by giving people more room to live in you avert conflict, to some extent. The economic reasons are many: stuff like helium-3, asteroid mining and so forth.

      The problem is that you cannot just leap from a planet-bound existence to a space-based one. The expense of reaching orbit or escaping gravity entirely is slowly coming down, and at each stage it's essential to approach the problem of reducing costs still further in different ways. At one stage, only governments can afford to put things into space. Then, corporations. We're there now - you can pay for satellite launches. Who's going to pay for the next stage? Probably the people who can throw money at something just because they want it - namely, the rich. And what do wealthy people want from space, at this point? Gratification.

      You'll get your moon colonies once those space-tourists start cutting down the cost per pound of space launches.
      • giving people more room to live in you avert conflict

        If only it were so. Forget the 'blank sheet of paper' utopia that you picture. I'm rich, I decide to move to the moon, I buy several acres of moon and build a big house in the middle of it surrounded by sculpted moon rock in the style of some random japanese designer.

        I need a few staff, someone to wash my car, and people to cook my food when I go into town for a meal. Somehow I doubt that these people will also have a couple of acres of moon to live on
    • Re:Tourism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ctr2sprt ( 574731 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:39AM (#8216814)
      There are so many things wrong with your post I don't even know where to start. The most glaring is your internally contradictory final question. Currently we have space missions for three reasons: military, scientific, and commercial. So clearly we have at least three reasons to go into space, and none of them have anything to do with tourism. (There have been a few such flights lately, but none by NASA.) The self-contradictory part, by the way, is where you, a human, clearly believe there is another reason to go into space than tourism. Remember: generalizations are your enemy, they reflect looseness in thinking.

      I also strongly disagree with your opinion of tourism. If we manage to make space travel so reliable, affordable, and safe that people are doing it just for kicks...! Imagine a world like that! It doesn't mean we're going to stop having scientific missions. But it means that I can hop on a shuttle and go visit the moon, or another planet, or maybe even see another star. Not because I have any great reason, just because I want to. The freedom to go anywhere in the solar system for only a couple thousand bucks? Wow. I certainly think that's a noble goal, even if you don't.

    • ...it is far removed from my utopian Star Trek TNG tendencies...

      What do you suppose is the financing source of all the impressive space infrastructure you see in Start Trek TNG? Taxes?

      • My guess would be it involves taking resources away from indiginous peoples, like in the Insurrection movie.

        The Federation has such total control over its citizenry and their property that taxation is no longer neccesary. Since nobody outside of starfleet appears to have a significant amount of wealth and they don't pay their employees anything, what's the point of taxation?
    • I see in my mind's eye several hawaiian shirt and sunglasses wearing citizens ... Is humankind so pathetic that the only reason we want to go into space is to expand the tourism industry?

      Thanks for your application to the Celestial Fashion Police. Indeed, the Galaxy needs hand-picked uniformed police like you to turn away millions of ugly space tourists at the airlock.

      We've heard reports that some of these unsightly revelers have been sneaking aboard shuttles under false credentials as space adventure

    • Is humankind so pathetic that the only reason we want to go into space is to expand the tourism industry?

      Yes.
    • Tourism is what comes before migration. To be able to migrate into space we have to first build up experience with short trips, short trips to space are simply most likely to be marketable as tourism.
    • And frankly science is the wrong reason to expand space exploration. It must be profitable, that means tourism, land ownership, mineral rights etc etc.

    • Other reasons include religious or racial freedom. If you have something "new" and a new order being built in space, people will go there...
  • NASA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:24AM (#8216289)
    Seems like a way for NASA to capatalize off of geeks with big ideas
  • Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:26AM (#8216306)
    Finally NASA realizes that the best way to produce innovation fast is to put it into the private sector! I am looking foreward to more programs like this, though this one will probably have limited success because of the small amount being put in compared to NASA's total budget.
    • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

      the best way to produce innovation fast is to put it into the private sector! I am looking foreward to more programs like this, though this one will probably have limited success because of the small amount being put in compared to NASA's total budget.

      Funny how you think the private sector should get more taxpayer money...
      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by use_compress ( 627082 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:09AM (#8216720) Journal
        $20m is a very small amount of money to the government. If it serves as a good incentive for a company to make space travel more affordable, the government could recoup the $20m many times over.
      • Funny how you think the private sector should get more taxpayer money...

        The total money invested by X-Prize contestants far exceeds the $10 million prize. The prize system can act as a very effective amplifier for taxpayer money!

      • >Funny how you think the private sector should get more taxpayer money...

        They should if it's a solid investment.

        Let's see... give away $20 million to a company that might sell $20 billion in space travel. What 35% (or more) of $20 billion again? More than $20 million, right?
    • I've always been confused about the logistics of Private Sector type of stuff w/ discrimination.

      Looking towards the future... will stuff like Gattaca [imdb.com](a personal favorite)--descrimination based on physical ability or percieved physical ablitiy-- enter everyday lives? I know the BoyScouts/Army are running Don't Ask/Don't Tell policies. As of now space requires certain physical abilities and fortitude. Can there be selective/non-descrimination based choices for who can do what? With the growing population

    • Yes, imagine what would happen if the entire NASA budget was offered as "prizes".

      Then we'd be talking a Beowulf of in Soviet Russia all your base belong to us.

    • I know some Americans care enough to write letters to people in power. I have to think that the efforts of private citizens, and space experts like Alex Roland contributed to this outcome, but I'm also quite certain the XPrize Foundation takes the most credit, for coming up with the idea in the first place.

      Here's to the pilots in the Mojave Desert, the Israelis, Romanians, Italians, and Canadians for stepping up.

  • by tetrahedrassface ( 675645 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:28AM (#8216313) Journal
    Faster, Better, Cheaper? Pick two and toss out one. We all know that low cost and space are desirable, the only problem is that low cost and government aint gonna happen. By its nature government views the spending as a positive. Hell, government will spend the saving on something else. Its all pointless. I say spend more for less is probably the best solution :)
  • $20M??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Flavius Stilicho ( 220508 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:28AM (#8216318)
    Has it occurred to anyone that the reason the X Prize hasn't been won yet is becuase of the size of the prize? I mean, if I'm going to invest (and have others invest in ME) I think there needs to be a reasonable expectation of a return on that investment. 5, 10, 20 mil just doesn't seem to be enough to me.
    • Re:$20M??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kclittle ( 625128 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:31AM (#8216338)
      It's not meant to be "enough". Why not? Why do the prize givers think it will work anyway? One word: EGO.

      The $20M is just icing.

    • Re:$20M??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KewlJedi ( 738594 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:43AM (#8216387)
      The money recieved for the X-Prize would be nothing compared to what a successful space tourism industry could make, especially if you own the only company that can put tourists into space on a regular basis. Everyone's seen the polls where people say they would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few hours in space, and this is what the companies are aiming for; this is why people are investing in X-Prize.
    • by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <roystgnrNO@SPAMticam.utexas.edu> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:14AM (#8216529) Homepage
      The X Prize isn't about putting another man on the moon, or even putting another one in orbit. It's just about building a rocket that can get people above the atmosphere repeatedly, quickly, safely, and cheaply. Such a rocket doesn't need much in the way of performance compared to a real launch vehicle.

      For that goal (especially the "cheaply" part), increasing the amount of prize money could actually be detrimental. An expensive winning vehicle in 2000 (which could have been done, if the prize money was enough to lure a big aerospace company into the race) would have been much less of a "return on investment" than a cheap winning vehicle in 2005.

      A big part of the reason why space exploration is stuck in a rut is that when we started it, we had a post-war technology (expendible artillery rockets) that could be used to "get people to space, and damn the cost". Well, we've been using those sorts of rockets ever since, and "DAMN, the COST!" Rocket fuel is cheap, but rockets and rocket engineers are expensive, and when we throw away the former and hire armies of the latter to supervise a few launches a year it gets really expensive. There are a lot of people (myself included) who think that the only way to change this is with reusable, rapid turnaround launch vehicles, and who speculate that the natural way to develop those vehicles is from technology developed flying suborbital prototypes. Our previous strategy of "start with a huge orbital rocket, and try to make it cost effective" (the Space Shuttle) turned out to be so expensive that when it failed we couldn't afford to try again. Hopefully the alternate strategy of "start with a cost effective rocket, and try to make it orbital" will be more successful, and even when it does have failures it's a lot easier to repeat a multimillion dollar experiment than a multibillion dollar one.

      The reason these Centennial challenges (and the X Prize) are so exciting is that there's a problem with our alternate strategy: revenue. There's a commercial market for orbital rockets, but not much of a market (except for tourism, war, and the occasional science experiment) for suborbital rockets, and nobody wants to start a multi-decade research program if it's not going to bring in any money until the end. If NASA can provide funding for those projects in such a way that they can't be "cheated" into paying for failures (like they were with the X-33), it makes that long term strategy into a short term opportunity.

      Hmm... I didn't intend that to be so long; I should shut up now, find a link for anyone who's actually still reading this, and go to sleep. There's a large relevant discussion at Jerry Pournelle's website [jerrypournelle.com]; Pournelle's opinions on this subject don't differ much from mine, he's had most of them longer than I've been alive, and he's better at articulating them.
      • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:26AM (#8216577)
        Not so much anymore, but about ten years ago when Russia and the United Space were regularly sending people up into space for research, or bragging rights, or whatever they did it for, it was shown that the Russian system was a lot more efficient, and cheaper.

        They used cheaper, non-recyclable equipment and rockets, while the U.S. would spend extreme amounts of money designing reusable rockets, and space suits, then there was the excess money used to fish the rockets out of the water for recycling.

        With the Russian system it would be a lot easier to implement upgrades because there isn't very much dependency on keeping everything antiquated and compatible. If something doesn't work anymore, you can afford to use it up, then replace the entire system.

        Not to say that the 286's that are running NASA arn't good at what they did, back when they were first used, but things change, and become increasingly less useful. Just remember what happened about a year ago. You can only recycle something so many times before it's unusable.
        • by roystgnr ( 4015 )
          Not so much anymore, but about ten years ago when Russia and the United Space were regularly sending people up into space for research, or bragging rights, or whatever they did it for, it was shown that the Russian system was a lot more efficient, and cheaper.

          Actually, the Russian system for sending non-people up into space is more efficient and cheaper, too, despite the fact that even the USA is using expendibles for that.

          But I'm not arguing with your main point. It's cheaper to design expendible rocke
        • A very nice thing about this Centennial challenge and the X-Prize is that there are lots of different teams going in lots of different directions, so if it turns out that, say, [non-]reusable is best, we won't be stuck with a huge investment into a different type of system. Diversity is good.

          By the way, an illustration of the different cultures of NASA and the Russian space program [oyonale.com] is the kinds of laptops they allow their astro- and cosmonauts to carry onto the ISS. The standard laptop is a Pentium-166 IBM

    • Re:$20M??? (Score:3, Insightful)

      Sure, it won't cover the cost of the development, but it is still a rather hefty prize, and as such, it gets quite a bit of exposure. Whichever company wins the X Prize is going to be getting a lot of media exposure and probably a lot of consideration in terms of companies wanting to develop commercial space programs.
    • You said: " Has it occurred to anyone that the reason the X Prize hasn't been won yet is becuase of the size of the prize? I mean, if I'm going to invest (and have others invest in ME) I think there needs to be a reasonable expectation of a return on that investment. 5, 10, 20 mil just doesn't seem to be enough to me."

      This is only part of the reason. I think the bigger part is that the 2 week time between launch and subsequent relaunch is too short. Not even the space shuttle could qualify to win the X-p
      • I'm not sure of this, but I don't think that these suborbital rockets need a heat shield beyond the usual "stick some insulation in there so the hapless pilot doesn't get too hot". As an example, Armadillo Aerospace is going with a disposable nose cone design, which should be a good place to put any heat shielding, and which will crumple on landing. It is rapidly replacable, but I don't think it's much of a "heat shield". I would agree with you if we were talking about orbital, though.
  • Finally.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mean_Nishka ( 543399 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:32AM (#8216339) Homepage Journal
    I predicted way back in 1999 that if and when the Chinese put a human in orbit that we'd finally get off our butts. All I can say is that it's about time.

    2004 is already shaping up to be a banner year for space exploration. I can hardly wait to see what kinds of advancements come next. Competition is healthy, let's hope for a very competitive exploration of the cosmos.

    • No offense but that isn't much a prediction... first of all, nothing much has happened. Most of it is just words with very little behind it. Second, 1999 is soooo close to the present day. If you predicted what you did in, say, 1979, that's something.

      Sivaram Velauthapillai
  • by Schwarzchild ( 225794 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:49AM (#8216421)
    is right here in PDF www.nasa.gov/pdf/55407main_24%20Exploration.pdf [nasa.gov] format.
  • Here Come The... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 )
    "Those 20 million should be spent on AIDS/Cancer research" replies!
  • by SirDaShadow ( 603846 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:56AM (#8216458)
    ...post an article about the "X-Prize" right after I read about porn/X-rated movies...
  • by exratio ( 548823 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:08AM (#8216507) Homepage

    Research prizes work so much better than many other methods of investment in progress that it's surprising you don't see more of them. On average, you'll see 16 dollars invested in progress for every 1 in the prize.

    Here's a good article (plus links to other articles) on why research prizes are a great thing: http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/research_prize s.cfm [longevitymeme.org]

    Reason
    Founder, Longevity Meme

  • Yay for prizes. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UPAAntilles ( 693635 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:08AM (#8216508)
    Really, I never saw the X-Prize being a real big deal technology wise. The same goes for future prizes. Sure, the technology is great and all, but couldn't NASA do something similar on its own? Absolutely (though it would probably take more time and money). The point is the same as the aviation prizes a few decades back, while there might be a couple good "breakthroughs", they won't be revolutionary. The point is to get the "common man" excited about space travel. Remember the Simpson's when Homer goes up on the Shuttle? Same concept, different angle. People feel disconnected from the space program in the same way they feel disconnected from the military. That needs to be fixed. The Bush administration has made a wonderful decision to use the tools of the past (the prizes) to increase interest in space. Once the public is interested, NASA will have to get its act together better, and start making results, otherwise the public is going to demand the heads of the administrators. Also, we'll see more corporations entering the fray to profit off of this increased interest. And the end result is better and cheaper space travel and more R & D. Looks like everybody wins.
    • It also helps to make sure that things are commercially possible. For instance, a lot of the stuff NASA uses can't be sold to average Joe.
    • Re:Yay for prizes. (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If there were a prize for run-on paragraphs, you would certainly win it.
    • For what it's worth, I found this [rocketmanblog.com] article on incremental testing and rocket design to be something of an eye-openner. He points out that once you start out building rockets the way NASA started, you are very unlikely to experiment with a proven design. Extrapolating from that, I don't know if NASA ever would eventually develope similar technology to what the X-Prize contestants are doing.

      I am excited about this prize program. Bush didn't mention it in his speech a while back, and I figured it would take so
  • LEO Rockets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:15AM (#8216534) Journal
    NASA needs to concentrate on missions to deep space exploration (beyond Earth). At this point and in light of W's cutting the X-33, I am in hopes that he creates a 1-2 billion X prize for the the first craft to lift X amount to LEO and repeat it again within a week with a maximum price. This would encourage the space industry to truely form.

    NASA should also continue its own work on building a truely heavy lifter (non-reusable) that can takes us well beyond earth's orbit with large payloads (or simply lift extraordinarly large payloads).
    • The engineering side of it should be closed completely leaving just an administrative arm for regulating space travel.

      The the bilions of dollars of budget saved should be split into prizes like the X prize for specific achievements.

      Does the FAA design, engineer, build and fly military, passenger and cargo aircraft? Do they bollocks.

  • Isn't this like The Emmy's award for best award show? I am sure that prize would be great for some small group working under a tight budget but this is how I think its going to be: Nasa's X-prize goes to....Nasa for its continuing completion of goals in space travel. What im trying to say is how many people are actually gonna win this? Its like Microsoft having a prize for best microsoft product. I'm sure there are lots of other smaller companies who push the limits of transversing space but not as much as
  • Even more? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by qat ( 637648 )
    Are these funds really necessary? Aren't most companies that practice this kind of science already receiving government funding? There should definatly be a serious look taken at this option, as that's a LOT of money. Why should a company receive more funding than necessary, what, arne't plush pillows and cushioned chairs along with a multi million dollar house good enough for these... rocket scientists?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:39AM (#8216625)
    Now this [xprize.org] is weird...

    "Pitch and roll will be the only flight control functions and a signal to abort the passenger may be added."
    • From the pictures, it looks like they'll need a way to abort passengers. From what I can see after blowing up the in-flight cutaway, there's two couples making out, two people bending over in midair, and a pilot bent over trying to blow (him?)self. And, the whole thing looks like a vibrator. I mean, all rockets are phallic, but this one takes the pie.
  • universities (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Devil's BSD ( 562630 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:42AM (#8216632) Homepage
    Today's medical research is conducted by companies, but also by education foundations like universities. Even though there aren't really grants for space research, perhaps the engineering developments for space travel should also be researched at universities. I'm sure there are lots of grants out there that are applicable to research in space technology, and this would get a lot of college students involved in the area for the future, when space travel becomes a more commonplace thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:31AM (#8216787)
    The Navy can make a ship that generates 40 megawatts (50,000 HP).

    The Navy can make a ship that is completely self contained.

    The Navy can make a ship that generates oxygen and scrubs the CO2 (and doesn't fail either).

    The Navy can make a ship that can stay on self-sustained 6 month missions with a crew of hundreds.

    NASA can't do more then seven crew for two weeks.

    The Navy says "Can do!" and builds the Seawolf [naval-technology.com] class submarine.

    NASA says, "huh?"
    (picture Conan O'Brien doing his Bush impression)

    And if one is at all curious one should ask one's self this question: "When has a military power ever allowed a civilian agency to have more advanced technology than they do?"

    Hmm?

    I thought so.

    Happiness is asking the right questions.

    • This is flame bait so I really shouldn't even bother with this but here it goes:

      The Navy can make a ship that generates 40 megawatts (50,000 HP).

      Do I even have to touch this one? Let me guess you suggest launching rockets using nuclear reactors. It's called rocket fuel for a reason.

      The Navy can make a ship that is completely self contained.

      Last time I checked the space shuttle wasn't leaking. Also, im pretty sure that making a shuttle out of solid metal is just a bad idea.

      The Navy can make a

      • Let me guess you suggest launching rockets using nuclear reactors. It's called rocket fuel for a reason.

        Actually, there are quite a few Nuclear Rocket designs. The most applicable to this situation would probably be NERVA or GCNR. Both could provide heavy lift capability as well as efficient space engines. You'd still need some sort of propellant to convert into plasma, but oxygen and hydrogen are fairly common gasses that can be found all over the solar system.

        Also, im pretty sure that making a shut
        • The largest Orion ever proposed (within the confines of modern technology) was an 8 million ton starship.

          Actually, that should be within the confines of 1960's technology, which says far musch more about our current state now, than the "state of the art" then...

    • When the Navy gets a Seawolf attack sub into orbit THEN I'll be impressed!
      • The Seawolf has a submerged displacement of 8060t dived, and 7,700t surfaced.

        Hmm, if I recall correctly, displaced water is supposed to weigh the same as the item doing the displacement. Or am I on crack? Anyway, that's the closest to a weight measurement I found.

        So the two begging questions are:

        1. Can NASA put 7,700 tons into orbit?
        2. Can a Seawolf deal with re-entry heats?

        Obviously, if we stripped out all the weapons systems and everything associated with weapons systems, we'll have a lot less weight


        • Can NASA put 7,700 tons into orbit?


          Short of an Orion, the largest proposal I've seen is 3,000 [nuclearspace.com] tons. And part of that is rocket engine weight. If you launched multiple times and constructed it in space, it could be doable. (i.e. The hull in one launch, the reactor and some internals in the next, and the weapon systems and the rest of the internals in the last.)


          Can a Seawolf deal with re-entry heats?


          If you're going to launch something that big, I think you'd keep it up there. Not much point in a lar
          • If you're going to launch something that big, I think you'd keep it up there. Not much point in a large reentry craft.

            Hmm, not necessarily. Maybe. :) The main thing I'm thinking is that you need to be able to send lots of people at once. What's the crew capabilities on the Seawolf? I didn't check. I suppose if we're just talking about a passenger shuttle craft, it doesn't have to be as big as all that in order to carry lots of people. The reason the shuttle has to carry so much 'dead weight' is beca

            • The main thing I'm thinking is that you need to be able to send lots of people at once. What's the crew capabilities on the Seawolf? I didn't check.

              (I'm quoting this fact file [fas.org].)

              The Seawolf has a crew complement of 12 officers and 121 enlisted personnel for a total of 133 crew members. She's certainly no slouch. :-)

              I suppose if we're just talking about a passenger shuttle craft, it doesn't have to be as big as all that in order to carry lots of people. The reason the shuttle has to carry so much 'dead
    • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:03AM (#8217847)

      In addition to what the others reminded you of...

      The Navy has the ability to jump to the surface anytime their air supply system fails. Well not anytime, they can't when under ice, but most of the time anyway.

      The Navy operates in water, which is heavy. They need heavy vessels to sink below the water line. Nasa operates in space where there is nothing to float on, but you need to operate against gravity to get there. I could design a sub and have it work, I couldn't design a spacecraft without a lot more education. My sub would just have walls much thicker than needed, and thus a lot less capacity than a navy sub, you wouldn't want to be on it, but it would work. Spacecraft won't get off the ground if they are too heavy, and that is an engineering restriction that cannot be designed around by overkill.

      Mind I'm not stupid enough to be on a sub I design with my current knowledge, but I'm pretty sure it would work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:36AM (#8216804)
    There is no energy crisis. Never has been, never will be.

    First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy is neither created, nor destroyed [google.com].

    First law of business: Make the consumer believe the product is scarce, then package and sell it in a format that can be controlled (ie. barrels of oil can be controlled, solar roofs can't).

    The captured solar energy of a 150 mile by 150 mile square area of Nevada desert would provide the United States with all its energy needs: consumer, residential, transportation, commercial and industrial; oil, gas, coal, electric, etc. combined. Yes. It's a fact.

    And we don't need any new technology to do it either. A simple coal, gas or oil fired plant can be retrofitted [boeing.com] with a different heat source.

    Do you know how many of these [boeing.com] we could have built for the over $100 billion spent on securing middle east oil? 10? 100? No, _1000_. Yup! Ouch.

    But we _are_ running out of oil. And we're running out of it much faster [google.com] than anybody cares to inform [peakoil.net] you.

    How much did you spend on heat this winter? On hot water? On AC last summer? On $2/gal gas for your Camry and SUV? It's time we had Open Source Energy, don't you think?

    Your friendly neighborhood,
    JSMS III

    p.s.
    For every four barrels of oil we burn, we're only finding one new one.
    Again, for every four barrels of oil we burn, we find only one new one.
    And again, for each new barrel of oil discovered, we're burning four from the old fields.

    Who was the greatest exporter of oil to the United States last year (2003)?
    Saudi Arabia? No. Venezuela? Nope. Iraq? uh-uh.
    Who was it you ask? Canada! How 'bout that, eh?
    Now ask yourself, why? How's that? What the heck is going on?

    • The captured solar energy of a 150 mile by 150 mile square area of Nevada desert would provide the United States with all its energy needs: consumer, residential, transportation, commercial and industrial; oil, gas, coal, electric, etc. combined. Yes. It's a fact.

      Um, that's nice. Wake me when we have 100% efficient solar cells, so that we can actually have total "captured solar energy". Oh, and when it's possible to manufacture 22,500 square miles of solar panels without utilizing massive quantities of
      • Heh heh, I don't know why you decided to make me your enemy, but your post was dead on. :)

        Um, that's nice. Wake me when we have 100% efficient solar cells, so that we can actually have total "captured solar energy". Oh, and when it's possible to manufacture 22,500 square miles of solar panels without utilizing massive quantities of some very nasty materials. Oh, and when the things will install and maintain themselves. Oh, also, and when we cease to have power loss in transmission. Oh, and when we have re

  • PRON in space (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:53AM (#8216860) Homepage
    look what it did for the internet! better than space tourism i think
    • Zero G Sex (Score:2, Interesting)

      Not a bad idea. Space tourism could be marketed as the ultimate "romantic" holiday. Even if people only went up for one orbit of the earth it would be an amazing experience. Couples could stay in a simple cabin with staggering views and explore the possibilities of zero G sex. The karma sutra has some amazing positions in it, but many of them are extremely physically demanding, in zero G they would be a lot more feasable. New positions could be invented that are only possible in zero G.

      There would be a ri

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:54AM (#8216861) Homepage Journal
    My opinion of The New NASA(TM) [slashdot.org] remains unchanged. Until they have actually awarded prize monies in a fair and open competition ($20M in prizes is pocket change for what should be the _bulk_ of NASA's budget) I'm convinced this is just a way to inhibit politically embarrassing events, such as the private prize awards that actually opening up the space frontier in the place of NASA. No one in power really wants this to happen lest they lose control of the pioneering (and therefore unmanageably independent) American populations they have so recently destroyed with their economic [ddc.net] and technology [ieeeusa.org] policies.
  • by ajd ( 199697 ) <adam@adamd a v i d s o n .com> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:28AM (#8216936)
    A few years ago, the big thing at Nasa was micro-satellites and micro-explorers. Send up several dozen cheap, small explorers that were mostlly made from stuff already on the private market. NASA could send up dozens, knowing half or more would be destroyed or wouldn't work, but the end result would be a lot more exploration for a lot less money. With any kind of manned spaceflight--tourism or not--the multiple redundancies and zero (?) accepted risk, the costs grow astronomically and the actual science down drops. But former NASA administrator Dan Goldin--back during the mid-90s budget crisis at NASA--decided the only way to get Congress and US taxpayers excited was through manned travel--the Right Stuff stuff. The press doesn't get as excited about 40 football-sized explorers out there, most of which don't work. This is a shame. Forget the rich tourists, forget lunar colonies. Let's go back to small, cheap, expendable which also means a lot of good science.
    • I'd say that the ultimate goal of space science is to prepare us for the colonization of other worlds. It is imperative that we leave this planet behind and the sooner that happens the better.

      Science with small, cheap and expendable unmanned probes and orbital labs is useful because it will help us to prepare for the manned flights which, to my mind, are absolutely essential for the future of the human race.

  • [Music:Hail to the Chief]
    [Bush descends from Airforce One on a runway in Geneva]
    Bush: Hello!
    [pause]
    Bush: Hello!
    Frenchman: Allo! Who is eet?
    Bush: It is George W. Bush, and these are my presidential aides. Whom am I addressing?
    Frenchman: A representative of the European Space Agency.
    Bush: Go and tell your superior that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest to land a man on Mars.
    Frenchman: Well, I'll ask him, bu
  • It sounds to me like an easy way for NASA to contract/outsource. Hobbiest come up with solutions for the problems, then NASA buys the IP from them for the set prize amount. Depending on your point of view, this is good or bad. Good in that it spurs innovation in the private sector, gives NASA some nice PR, gives someone a sizeable check for their work, and lowers some costs at NASA. Bad in that the same schmuck that sold his IP probably sold his rights to patent and market his/her design. I realize tha
  • by gojomo ( 53369 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @04:56AM (#8217222) Homepage
    Hey! They should be offering a prize to the best low-cost, low-risk tech to save Hubble. [oreillynet.com]
  • by axxackall ( 579006 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:12AM (#8217883) Homepage Journal
    I cannot belive that all proposals are still based on ignition-based burning fuels. Anyone with nuclear reaction based prolosion? On a long-run I think that propolsion engines based nuclear reaction would be much cheaper.

    As safity goes, two or three reactors crashed to the ocean within a decade should not make any big difference with what we already have there. And I think nuclear reactor based engines should be much safer as there is no risk of self-ignition based explosion like we have on a regular basis with Shuttle boosters and similar ones. You cannot stop ignition in modern engine once it's started. If anything goes wrong the reactor can be stopped immidiately (as well as the water or waterver liquid vaporation process) and the whole thing can land safily on a parashute.

    Did I say that nuclear engines will be multiple times usable? Ok, Now I've said that. And that's a big plus to make the whole orbital business cheaper.

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H.L. Mencken

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