Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Space United States Science

Astronauts Face Bleak Odds For Spaceflight 359

Abhishek writes "According to a report, Astronauts at NASA fear that they won't be able to fly until 2015 and that, for some, would be too late. The space shuttles that NASA have are almost at the end of their lifetimes and any shuttle can take years to be built. Though almost everybody is involved in some way or another in looking after a shuttle, only a lucky few actually gets the chance for a ride."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Astronauts Face Bleak Odds For Spaceflight

Comments Filter:
  • Begs the question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tabkey12 ( 851759 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:32PM (#11868321) Homepage
    What do they do every day? They are unlikely to be training for a specific mission at the moment with no shuttle...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ... astronauts serve other duties at NASA.

      They help with planning and ground support for other missions, help with long-term planning, and serve other tasks often depending on their pre-astronaut background.

      Currently, there are some working on the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Moon/Mars plans.
    • by Dashing Leech ( 688077 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:38PM (#11868399)
      "What do they do every day?"

      Most of them have other jobs at NASA when not in prep for a flight, such as running a lab, program manager for a particular system, performing various analyses or engineering work, etc., plus all the PR (trips to schools, educational programs). Basically their technical/leaderhship skills are used within the program.

      Well, if they want to go into space they can always take one of the new private rides which will probably get them there faster than 2015, though not for as long a stay.

      • Wanna bet those private shuttles will be crewed by ex-NASA astronauts?
      • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:04PM (#11871124)
        "plus all the PR (trips to schools, educational programs)."

        I can just imagine it...

        little kid; "Are you really an astronaut, mister?"

        nasa astronaut; "yeah, son, thats right" (gleaming smile)

        little kid; "how many times have you been in space mister?"

        nasa astronaut; "well, I havn't actually been *in* space, but we train for it all of the time!"

        little kid; "ummm when *are* you going into space then, mister?"

        nasa astronaut; "I'm unlikely ever to go into space, son"

        little kid; "so how come you are an astronaut?"

        • nasa astronaut; "I'm unlikely ever to go into space, son"

          little kid; "so how come you are an astronaut?"

          NASA astronaut: "Why, you little ...!"

          Little kid: (choking)

    • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#11868413)
      They are also engineers. Design, test, evaluate other aspects of spaceflight and operations in space.
    • by buddahfool ( 123287 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#11868415) Homepage
      My cousin got offered a place is the Space Program. He choose to design satelittes rather than the astronaut position. (Better money, and he later went to the private sector. Obviously he is not a geek... :)
      These are highly trained and educated individuals, I am sure they being employed gainfully...
    • by paranode ( 671698 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:51PM (#11868574)
      Suppose there is not another space shuttle built by the time some of these astronauts retire. It is given then, that these astronauts will never fly again and should be fired.

      That is begging the question. ;)

    • 2 jobs (Score:5, Informative)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:51PM (#11868576)
      "Although flying in space is the highlight of an astronaut's career, little time is actually spent in orbit. In fact, during a 10- year assignment with NASA, an astronaut will probably fly in space only three times. There is much more to being an astronaut than time spent in orbit. An astronaut's ground duties can be broken down into two major categories: training for space flight and serving as a technical expert in some portion of the space shuttle or space station programs. "

      Excerpt from RedNova []

  • by BackInIraq ( 862952 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:32PM (#11868328) that there isn't much need for Astronauts in our new service-based economy, so they're gonna have a hell of a time finding a new job.
    • Actually, with Virgin backing a commercial space flight service they could find jobs working there.
    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:42PM (#11868466) that there isn't much need for Astronauts in our new service-based economy, so they're gonna have a hell of a time finding a new job

      Well, then there hasn't been a need ever, if that's how you look at it. But try this instead: these are some of the smartest, most physically and intellectually hardy, well-rounded people on the planet. Every one of them is better equipped to teach than most teachers, better able to fly than most pilots, better able to handle stress than most soldiers/firefighters/police, better able to understand and work with complex systems than most engineers... somehow I think that someone with those skills is hardly going to be working at, well, Disney's Space Mountain ride. There are plenty of systems engineers I know making six figures that would love to have one of these folks as a boss. Just the aerospace defense area alone could gobble up the entire astronaut-trained team in any one month's hiring cycle.

      Now... does holding analysis review meetings quite measure up to flying to the moon? No. Does grading orbital mechanics term papers have quite the same panache as shrieking into LEO with a billion dollar payload? No. Is my job boring? Most of the time. They'll deal with it just fine.
    • is that there isn't much need for Astronauts in our new service-based economy, so they're gonna have a hell of a time finding a new job.

      They could get jobs at Space Camp, you know, inspire kids to reach for the stars and end up like themselves...

    • that there isn't much need for Astronauts in our new service-based economy, so they're gonna have a hell of a time finding a new job.

      India and China are expanding their space program. Maybe they can become visa astronauts (B1H?). With all the damned visa workers India sends over here, at least give our astronauts some reciprical opportunities.
  • by novakane007 ( 154885 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:33PM (#11868338) Homepage Journal
    Hey NASA, I suggest you contact this guy named Burt Rutan []. Apparently he's pretty good at putting together elegant solutions for a relatively low cost.
    • It's rather ironic I think. NASA does things "rigoursly" in the name of safety, but in the end I think safety is compromised because systems are so complex. No one person can have a high level view of such as system.
    • by wes33 ( 698200 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:37PM (#11868394)
      tell Rutan to call NASA when he knows how to put something into orbit (there is a difference between 100 km up and mach 2 and 500 km up and around and mach 25)
      • by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:49PM (#11868551) Homepage Journal
        tell Rutan to call NASA when he knows how to put something into orbit (there is a difference between 100 km up and mach 2 and 500 km up and around and mach 25)

        If Rutan had NASA's budget, the question would not be ``Will they get into orbit?'', but ``Which planet will they orbit next?''.

        • Exactly, you beat me to it.

          FYI. NASA's proposed 2006 Budget Request is just $18 Billion and change.

          But in defense of NASA, only $10.3 Billion is to be spent on exploration and operations.

          • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:15PM (#11868844) Homepage
            A lot of people don't seem to realize that NASA is a research organization, not a space cargo organization. Most of their budget generally goes to new research. Even a sizable chunk of the shuttle's budget (from which that 13k$-15k$ per kilogram number comes from, compared to 10k$ for Ariane-5 and 7k$ for Proton and Long March (although they get the benefit of cheap labor)) goes to research on how to lower maintenance costs and improve performance of reusable craft. The shuttle itself was really a research craft; you might have noticed that most of NASA's manned space program craft have been designed to try and push the envelope. If you want a cargo workhorse, use a Delta or Atlas, or go overseas.

            As an example of how much research NASA does, just take a look at how many papers there are on NASA's site that just contain the word "novel" [].

            Rutan doesn't do research. He doesn't have the budget for it. His budget was about right for what he did: a completely unscalable joyride craft [].
            • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:25PM (#11868975)
              Yes, because there were SO many existing ways to keep a glider from going over MACH before Rutan built his craft. NOT. Rutan researched and designed a novel way to accomplish his goal and did so with a budget of only $20 million to research, design, test, and launch his craft three times. I'd say that's pretty damn good use of money and he even managed to do some R&D along the way =)
              • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:41PM (#11869200) Homepage
                Keep it from going over mach? I hate to disappoint you, but SS1 *did* go over Mach 1. And, furthermore, there *are* lots of programs for simulating compressible and incompressible flows as you get accelerating through/decelerating from supersonic speeds. I can get you about half a dozen open source computational flow dynamics programs that can simulate a craft ahead of time if you'd like. And guess what? A good portion of them were originally developed by NASA ;)

                > Rutan researched

                He did not research. He *developed*. You need to learn what research is. Rutan took already existing technology (much of which had its fundamentals laid out by NASA research), designed a craft, and built it. For comparison, I don't call it "research" when I write a program that utilizes Blowfish encryption; developing Blowfish encryption was the "research". :P
    • for a satellite launcher or a way to get to iss the shuttle is a LOT more elegant than something that can't make it up there.

      yes cool stuff rutan's made... but if you want to get on the orbit on the cheap reliably better call up the russians(hell, why not just buy the whole russian space program).
  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:33PM (#11868340)
    Don't mistake my sarcasm for flamebait, but does this then mean that ex-commies will have to ferry our capitalist asses to space?

    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by JeffTL ( 667728 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:38PM (#11868403)
      You don't need the future tense. Without the Shuttle, when we send someone to the ISS, we already have to let the Russians do the transportation.
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:43PM (#11868482) Homepage
      "Don't mistake my sarcasm for flamebait, but does this then mean that ex-commies will have to ferry our capitalist asses to space?"

      Why not? Current commies (China) make almost all our clothes, our toys, our machines....

    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MosesJones ( 55544 )
      And the genius of the Russian programme is that they took an engineers approach to the whole thing of "if it ain't broke don't fix it". So they built simple, and built to last. The mechanics are miles simpler, and are a major reason for the Russians keeping going despite budget reductions.

      Maybe NASA should be made to concentrate on basic engineering rather than fancy shuttles.
      • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Scott7477 ( 785439 )
        Amen to this comment; the US military/space programs could do well to emulate the Russian design philosophy. Make things simple, rugged, and easily replaceable. I'm surprised Russia doesn't do more PR about how they are basically holding the ISS together.
    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Informative)

      by igny ( 716218 )
      Actually, the Russians are grieving that they are training more foreigners in Star City than Russian cosmonauts.
  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:33PM (#11868341) Homepage
    Right, an astronot.

    OK, more seriously, I think the era of NASA is in decline and the era of private spacecraft is in ascent. Some of those astronauts may yet fly, but they might have to retire from NASA to do it.

    • e and the era of private spacecraft is in ascent.

      Uh, first, we have to have private spacecraft. Burt Rutan's project is about at the level of the second Mercury flight, which was suborbital.
      • At least the Redstone rocket used LOX and turbopumps. I.e., they actually had some ability to scale up :P
      • Uh, first, we have to have private spacecraft. Burt Rutan's project is about at the level of the second Mercury flight, which was suborbital.

        Not to mention 40 years in the past.

        The private sector still has a lot of work to do before it can really play with the big boys (in this case, government space agencies). It will catch up, but it's kinda like saying you're ready to start carrying passengers between New York and Tokyo because you can fold a piece of paper and make it fly. You may have re-discovere
    • Given that airlines are too cash strapped to put in RFID equipnent to track lost luggage, how many of them are going to pony up the cash to head off into space?

      Then insurance costs alone will bust 'em.

  • by virex ( 562720 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:34PM (#11868344) Homepage
    It's amazing how far we've come in the past 36 years. We were once going to the moon, now we can't even go to space! We need to get up there, no matter how we get there. Be it spaceshipone, or the shuttles, or something new. What NASA really needs to do is stop canceling all the good ideas for vehicles. They'll let the planning and testing go on for 8+ years and then nothing comes out of it.
    • by smashin234 ( 555465 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:48PM (#11868535) Journal
      Although you are correct that it appears we are going in reverse, by not actually adopting new things, and not going to the moon or doing big missions (such as Mars.) NASA has been doing things.

      Since the 70's, NASA's budget has not been the top issue (it has gone down steadily since we stopped going to the moon.) And we also no longer wanted to beat the Soviets in space (since we already did that.)

      We still have the technology to go to the moon, and I would even hazard to guess the technology is there to go to Mars as well, but the money is not there.

      And the testing money NASA is spending, well think about that as trying to get itself to Mars on a limited budget. If something will not work to accomplish NASA's probable main mission, why stick with it?

      NASA has accomplished several smaller probe missions. But the fact is, that with such a smaller budget and the fact that we are still the main financier's for the international space station; NASA has issues with its budget right now. So, write to your congressman if you want to go out to Mars or goto the moon again, because right now its those people who decide whether we go or not. (Think oversight committee as well.)
      • "We still have the technology to go to the moon, and I would even hazard to guess the technology is there to go to Mars as well, but the money is not there."

        I would argue to you that we have no WILL to go back to the Moon...or Mars...or anywhere else that requires putting men any farther than low orbit.

        We know that no one else is likely going to another planet soon, so we go "What's the rush? Why spend the money now? It's not like anyone else is going". Doing it for science, and frankly, for history and a
    • It's amazing how far we've come in the past 36 years

      Yes. We've lost 3 entire crews and risked the lives of others. Apparently, the missions do not justify the risks involved nowadays. NASA cannot afford to make another mistake so the costs can only go up while paranoid security measures and fear of doing something wrong make it harder to send anyone into space.

      Besides, Joe Sixpack is entertained enough with the unmanned missions and the high-res pictures they send back. So why should the well-paid peopl
  • private sector (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 53cur!ty ( 588713 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:34PM (#11868352) Homepage
    They need to move to the private sector where there are still some with the balls to boldly go...

    Nasa is defunct and crippled, if it were a pet we'd put it out of its misery!
  • There goes my hopes of being the first man on Mars! I honestly think it'll be 50 years before we put a man on the red planet.. which really blows. Well, NASA won't make it happen until we axe the whole organization and rebuild it with young whipper-snappers ala the '60s. Hopefully Zubrin can convince a commercial outfit to go there.. perhaps Scaled Composites?
  • by no parity ( 448151 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:36PM (#11868380)
    It's our money they spend, and it's not meant for their personal pleasure.
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:48PM (#11868534)
      The answer is: Yes, we're supposed to feel some sympathy for people who spend their lives training for an extraordinary and meaningful experience, but who may not see their dream fulfilled. No, we're not supposed to be completely callous to their aspirations.

      I'm a much bigger fanboy for robotic space exploration, and not much of an advocate of the shuttle program. (Nixon basically pimped the shuttle by exaggerating how cost effective it could be, in a spectacular example of how much government largesse the 'Publicans are capable of when the military industrial complex stands to benefit. IMHO, of course.) That doesn't keep me from sympathizing with astronauts who are, by all accounts, pretty impressive people.

      Putting yourself in other people's shoes isn't a weakness.

    • Ask not for whose dream the bell tolls. It tolls for ours.
  • That's shocking! I figured everyone at NASA took turns hopping on board and rocketing off to Saturn and back on weekends. /sarcasm
    Is it REALLY part of the story that only a blessed few get to ride in the shuttle?
  • Work Wanted (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chowdmouse ( 155597 )
    They should apply to the privatized space flight companies. I'm betting they'll have a better chance to to get into space with them than NASA.
  • So? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glrotate ( 300695 )
    The space program doesn't exist for their personal egos. There are a heck of a lot of things I'd like to do but will never get the chance, and it doesn't merit a /. story.
    • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

      The point is that it's going to be hard to maintain a pool of qualified astronauts if they have no incentive to train for it because of no chance to actually go into space. You don't just pick these guys out a few months before launch.
  • by christopherfinke ( 608750 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:37PM (#11868392) Homepage Journal
    Didn't NASA realized that their shuttles were becoming obsolete? Shouldn't they already be building to next shuttle in order to avoid 15-year downtimes?
    • yes, but without budget.. no dice.

      stupid management yes, mostly just about being shortsighted because of not having money. they've had dozens of plans for a replacement, but without budget to order one they remain as concepts.
      • BS. It's never been a question of money per se. NASA has, as you rightly pointed out, had all sorts of ideas for shuttle replacements. But usually one of two things happens:
        1. the idea they are hot for involves all sorts of untried technology that requires loads of R&D. The program goes a long for a while, hits a snag, and then gets cancelled.
        2. the political winds change, and suddenly some new concept is the one and only true future of manned spaceflight

        The X-33/Venturestar program is a poster-child f

    • They were thinking that the post Regan era slashing to their budget means that it's awfully hard to complete all of their mandates: scientific satelites, unmanned missions, manned mission using current (expensive to maintain) equipment, and designing and testing next generation equipment. Today the US uses the smallest percentage of their wealth for exploration of any large world power in history, heck even at the height of our spending on the Apollo program we barely matched what the Spanish did with Colum
  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:38PM (#11868406) Journal
    With all their paid training they've received, they're perfect for landing jobs in the private sector. In the last year, we've seen a huge initiative for private ventures to go into space. Who better to be the vehicles' operators than existing astronauts? Throw in some stock options, and I think they'd do quite well for themselves. Richard Branson wouldn't hesitate to hire them, not just for their experience but also for the PR value it would have.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#11868422)
    If you could get ten cents on the dollar for the $90 billion International Space Station you could keep manned space flight going for some time.

    Why does this make me want to cry instead of laugh?
  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#11868429) Homepage Journal
    All face an uncertain future and development of the next-generation space vehicle could take until 2015.

    Why is that?

    The first shuttle was built in the 70s using decades old know-how. Why has it taken so long to produce its successor?

    Is it the technological challenge, or is it just politics that keeps the manned space exploration down?

    • This is how the procurement works, and no doubt the new craft will have some "anti-terrorism" purpose as well (to get extra budget).

      a) We could just go for a low cost solution that does the job, like the russians

      b) But this would mean that we couldn't give large subsidies to the R&D programmes at folks like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

      c) And it might not even be more expensive than what those pesky Europeans are doing with Ariane.

      So the end result is a massive white elephant of a programme that aims
  • steps of plan. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:41PM (#11868454)
    1. scrap current plans
    2. buy Soyuz rockets from the Russians
    3. invest the billions you save out on other projects like lunar colonies, exploration drones and advanced propulsion systems.
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:42PM (#11868472)
    The current design is proven, it's not like they'd have to go through the whole design process/testing again.

    Just order the same parts, new, and put them all together.
    • by ebrandsberg ( 75344 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:48PM (#11868540)
      a) I actually doubt they could build another, like the Saturn V rockets
      b) Much of the cost of building something like this is figuring how to build the parts to spec, and chances are, they don't have the tooling in place anymore
      c) The only thing the current shuttles have problem is that it is too complex and too costly to send on missions.

      While politically impossible, it would be far cheaper to buy launches from the Russians to put these guys into space.
      • by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:08PM (#11868763)
        Do you really think that we lack the capability to make something that was made in the 1960s? Yes, there might be a large start up cost since many of the tools are no longer in use, but we also have technologies and automation that was unimagined in the 60s.

        I have heard this argument time and again - we can't make the parts anymore, we don't know how. I am waving the BS flag on that. I challenge you, or anyone else, to point to a part used on the Saturn V rockets that can no longer be made. I am not saying that it can be made inexpensively or mass produced in a factory, but point to something that absolutley cannot be made.

        Also, do you need something made to spec? What size? I'll measure it with my laser. Need to examine it for flaws? I can use my PC and a camera to look it over for you. Need an X-Ray of it? I can do the same thing. Need to check calculations? Forget your slide rule, I've got a TI-92.

        In short, I doubt there is anything technologically impossible about creating more Saturn V rockets. I doubt there is even a financial reason it can't be done - NASA declaring they are spending billions to buy a new "fleet" of Saturn V rockets will motivate companies to produce what is needed for a reasonable cost (in most cases). What we really need is the political will to say this is important and we need to fund it.

        No bucks, no Buck Rogers.
        • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:37PM (#11869144)
          Cost is probably most of it. But we'd have to fully recreate the original tooling to build one. Making a part of dimension xyz is only part of the problem. It also has to be of the same original material. Thermal expansion/contraction would play a big part in it. Part A & B need to work with part C. If C is built of a newer, better(?) alloy, that's not necessarily a good thing, if it expands at adifferent rate than the original...

          Could we duplicate a 1972 Pinto? Not a look alike, with a better motor and suspension, but an actual duplicate 1972 Pinto. Sure. But at a cost of 5x the original. Finding that 5x is the problem.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:22PM (#11873325)
          Do you really think that we lack the capability to make something that was made in the 1960s?
          We no longer have the plans, the infrustructure or the people with skills - the Saturn V was the culmination of years of work by people with years of experience. We could put one together in a few years after building all of that up - but don't expect the first one to be any good.

          Also, do you need something made to spec? What size? I'll measure it with my laser.
          We've had good enough length measuring devices for over a century, you'll find that where a laser is available micrometers are still used, and as for examining it for flaws "a PC and camera" won't do the job any better than back then. Industrial endescopes get you into hard to reach places, and ultrasonics has progressed a bit but still gives you no more info than 1960's x-rays.
          Need to check calculations? Forget your slide rule, I've got a TI-92.
          They had computers back then too - but the computer is a tool of the designer and cannont design anything itself. We can pull apart the example Saturn V and make replicas of the parts but unless we know exactly why they are designed that way it isn't worth doing - something will go wrong. When you build really big rockets the stresses on the very thin walls you need to stop the whole thing melting are immense - so it doesn't take much of a flaw to make the thing split. That's why the Russians use lots of little rockets clustered together instead of one big one, and why the shuttle has boosters instead of being on top of one really big rocket.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The current design is inefficient, expensive
      (because it's inefficient,;), unsophisticated, unsecure and uneconomic. Even spare parts are rare
      (remember the NASA's search for used i8086 and i8088...).
    • Just order the same parts, new, and put them all together.

      A lot of the original tooling is probably gone. And each one is more or less a custom job, not an assembly line duplicate.

  • The postponement could be due to past fatalities that occurred, including the 2003 incident. Maybe NASA has to develop a new machine for flight.

    1 February 2003; Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107), over northeast Texas: Columbia was in the re-entry phase of flight after a 16-day mission and its intended destination was the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Communications with the shuttle were lost at about 9 a.m. local time. At the time of the most catastrophic phase of the breakup, the spacecraft was at an a
  • by BHAX ( 865190 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:45PM (#11868500)
    When my fourth grade teacher asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I told her, "I want to be an ASTRONAUT Mrs. King". She told me I could do it, if I apply myself. Never before have I been as grateful for chronic drug abuse and not living up to my potential as I am today. It's not like the title says, "Network Tech's Face Bleak Odds for Hooking up Patch Cables"
  • by PxM ( 855264 )
    Maybe they could jump ship and try for one of the proposed manned space programs in other countries. The pilots and engineers shouldn't have a problem finding jobs in the private sector as it begins to take off (no pun intended) since there will be a need for people who know how to get a hunk of metal moving at 7km/s on the ground in once piece. The scientists and other mission personal would have trouble finding spots in the private sector unless it becomes profitable. This would require something like fea
  • "The space shuttles that NASA have are almost at the end of their lifetimes "

    This isn't quite right. The remaining shuttle fleet isn't even to the halfway point of its life expectancy. In other words, the flight-hours remaining on the airframe is greater than 50%.

    Yes, we could use a more advanced vehicle, with less risk and more efficiency. But let's not go spreading rumors - the shuttle fleet is actually not old, the design is.

  • Private Companies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randall_burns ( 108052 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:55PM (#11868615)
    Odds are the Bigelow space prize [] will be won well before 2015. That means a private space shuttle will be available for purchase. The best thing nasa can do is focus on scientific missions and provide a market for the contestant in that prize-instead of trying to compete against them.
  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:02PM (#11868686)
    Did NASA outsource to India?

    ( there go my karma points )
  • maybe they should just enter this []!
  • by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:15PM (#11868841)
    I thought this was an odd article, my thinking that an "astronaut" who's never been to space would be an "astronaut wannabe", "astronaut in training" or the more pejorative: "space cadet". According to Websters just being "trained" makes you an astronaut.

    " a person who travels beyond the earth's atmosphere; also : a trainee for spaceflight"

    Gotta suck when you tell people you're an astronaut and people's first question is "When did you go up?". They probably have the Websters definition loophole printed on the back of their business cards.
  • man... (Score:3, Funny)

    by enrico_suave ( 179651 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:19PM (#11868888) Homepage
    I bet the makers of Tang, are pissed...

  • Too many astronauts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yeechang Lee ( 3429 ) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:40PM (#11869190) Homepage
    Deke Slayton [], one of the Mercury Seven and the longtime head of the astronaut corps (i.e., the guy with the final say on flight crew assignments), pushed hard to use an airliner-style crew system for the shuttle. That is, have a small group of pilots and mission specialists that would fly repeatedly together, with one-off payload specialists handling mission-specific duties. He'd seen how frustrating life was for the later '60s astronaut classes that only saw a few members fly, and sometimes not for decades. And this was back when NASA genuinely believed each shuttle would spend as little as two weeks before launching again.

    Instead, we got the worst of both words: A launch schedule in which four shuttles did at most a dozen launches a year together, little likelihood of even that annual figure in the three remaining shuttles' lifetimes, and an astronaut corps that numbers in the hundreds with new inductees coming in every two years. That's just crazy.
  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:48PM (#11869284)
    "This *is* a space program isn't it? I mean, when you have a manned space program there will be times when people go into SPACE, right?"

    "I hate that man..."
  • The "Excess Eleven" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:01PM (#11869457) Homepage
    NASA's done this before. NASA's astronaut class of 1967, hired for the "Apollo Applications" program that didn't happen, called itself the Excess Eleven []. Most of those guys quit or were laid off in the early 1970s.

    One wrote a book, "The Making of an Ex-Astronaut".

  • Nuclear Rockets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:03PM (#11869486) Homepage
    When somebody mentions the shuttle program ending, I never miss a chance to plug nuclear rockets. I know it's the "N" word, but read this fascinating article [] detailing a design for a fully reusable, non-polluting rocket ship based on the Saturn-V form factor. Powered by Gas Core Nuclear Reactor engines emitting only non-radioactive hydrogen, the ship would be capable of carrying 1000 Tons of cargo into orbit and returning an equal amount of cargo to a powered landing. For comparison the shuttle's cargo capacity is less than 30 tons.
  • by cratermoon ( 765155 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:26PM (#11869744) Homepage
    In the last 1960s, Al Bean had been assigned to the Apollo Applications project. He didn't expect to get into space for years, if ever. As it happened, his friend Pete Conrad needed someone to be LMP for Apollo 12, and knew Al was good and was working on long-term stuff that could wait. Al became the LMP for the flight, his first in space, and the 4th man to walk on the moon.

    Everyone in the Astronaut training program is looking for their chance to jump the line and get wings, and you never know how might turn out to be the one to flip the critical switch for SCE to AUX and save the mission.

    Bean later flew in space again as a Commander on the Apollo Applications mission that became Skylab.

This universe shipped by weight, not by volume. Some expansion of the contents may have occurred during shipment.