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NASA Space Science

US Manned Space Flight Taking a Budget Hit 182

An anonymous reader points out that Congress has quietly begun dismantling NASA's manned space flight program. "Other recommendations contained in the bill include a $77million reduction in NASA's proposed space operations budget, which includes the space shuttle and international space station; a $6 million reduction in science; and a $332 million shift in funds from the Cross Agency Support account to a new budget line-item included in the subcommittee's mark. Dubbed Construction and Environmental Compliance, the new account would be funded at $441 million. Congressional aides said the new line item and accompanying funds are aimed at consolidating NASA's various construction efforts into a single pot of money."
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US Manned Space Flight Taking a Budget Hit

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  • by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:17PM (#28256759) Journal
    Actually this not completely true. While it seems some space exploration may be on the chopping block, scientific research is a part of the Obama stimulus package and the top notch research/educational institute for which I work is a beneficiary for this year and in 2010.
  • Re:Stupid move (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:11PM (#28257609) Homepage

    Obama needs to grow a backbone and stand up to the Republicans he is trying to appease by continuing overseas military operations. Instead of diplomatically engaging with the Muslims, keeping a heavy military presence in their countries in order to "stop terrorism" is only pissing away funds that could be better used elsewhere.

    Obama is engaging heavily with Muslim leaders, even making overtures to Iran to prevent the next mid-east debacle (which would make Iraq look like Candy Land). So it's not a matter of "instead". As far as the military presence, he's pulling out of Iraq -- not as fast as I'd like by any means, but about as fast as is responsible I must admit. Afghanistan, now that's the conflict that actually made sense, and with an actual enemy and lines and territory won and lost, our military has a prayer in hell of winning. It will still be expensive at a time we don't need it, absolutely, but at the same time we can't let Afghanistan fall to the Taliban again. Hopefully with us focused solely on that, and Pakistan starting to get serious about their Taleban problem now that it's hurting them, we can resolve it soon. Okay, I don't have that much hope, but it will help.

    The full budget requested by NASA was 4 billion dollars (As per TFA, Congress reduced it to $3.2 billion). Guess what? We piss away this much amount in Iraq every two weeks!

    I hear ya. Really, this pissing around with millions here and there, targeting "earmarks" and such that nobody is going to be able to get rid of anyway, is just a distraction that can ultimately just backfire. You might think the ten million here, half billion there would add up and it does... to a pretty small fraction of the budget. There are bigger issues there. Robbing NASA of $800 million that can be used for doing their special kind of advanced R&D that can benefit us going forward... silly.

    So getting back to one of the things that does matter, I wonder how much cheese we will save when at long last we're not more than a token presence in Iraq. I know we're ramping up in Afghanistan, so that offsets any gains. I am willing to bet it'll be enough that scraping that $800 mil off NASA's budget won't seem like it was much use.

  • Re:So why not? (Score:4, Informative)

    by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:27PM (#28257867) Journal

    First of all, as an academic (his name escapes me now) once said:

    A trained geologist can do more research in an hour than a robot in a whole year

    and as I understand, his opinion stemmed from the huge delay in sending commands and receiving feedback from the rovers on Mars - and he actually contributes to the Mars Science Laboratory, so he's not "just being negative".

    And then, a manned mission to mars would galvanize the energy of the nation that would take on such an endevour. Direct monetary benefit: none. Indirect: incalculable.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:14PM (#28258475)

    NASA floundered because their budget was cut, and they were saddled with the stupid, ill-conceived, and overpriced Space Shuttle by the Defense Department because the DoD wanted a way to send military satellites into orbit and then to retrieve them intact too. If they had stuck with the Apollo-style rockets and kept the budget up, we'd already have a moon base by now. It would have been expensive, but the economic rewards in spin-off industries would have been huge, plus we could have paid for a lot of it by not wasting so much money in Vietnam and on Johnson's Great Society program where we pay lazy people to sit at home and pop out babies without working.

  • Seven hours in Iraq (Score:5, Informative)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:21PM (#28258557)

    Other recommendations contained in the bill include a $77million reduction in NASA's proposed space operations budget

    When I read this I decided to see what that is relative to the Iraq war.

    I'm using this chart as a reference. [zfacts.com] It says we've been at it for about 7 years, and it's cost about $670 billion in total.

    So, 7 years is about 2500 days. Divide that through and you get about $268,000,000 per day. That works out to 11.16 million per hour.

    77 million / 11.16 = 6.89 hours.

    7 hours.

  • Re:This makes sense (Score:3, Informative)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:28PM (#28258645) Homepage

    You miss the point. Near-Earth orbit is a stepping stone to further goals. A base on the Moon might is equally but a stepping stone.

    The point is acquisition of resources and raw materials from off-planet sources. Whether it is Helium-3 from the surface of the Moon, hydrocarbons from Jupiter, or metals from asteroids the key is that we need stuff. Stuff to make other things with.

    There are alternatives. None of them particularly nice. If we force a much smaller population to consume less we will not need as much and can probably get by with what natural processes will make available. Wood is essentially an eternal resource, as long as you like stuff made from wood. Wood is particularly unsuited to a number of containers, enclosures and cases in common use today. Wooden cars are unlikely to be very popular, as would wooden cell phones.

    Similarly, while it is possible to recycle metals, it is neither economically feasible nor practical to recycle all metals - most metal products today end up in a landfill somewhere. In 10,000 years or so we can expect to mine rich ore veins where there were landfills. Until then, we are either going to need other sources of raw materials or just plan on a smaller population making do without.

    How much smaller a population? And, more importantly, how do we get to a smaller population today? War? Pestilence? Herding people into gas chambers? I really want to hear someone on the environmental side come out with some plans for how we are going to get to a smaller, Earth-constrained population that will be able to make do with fewer natural resources.

  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:46PM (#28258799) Homepage

    I'm sorry - but thats complete and utter bullshit. Save your apoplexy for subjects that you didn't study at the Armageddon School of Asteroid studies. Mars is not close. Asteroids don't randomly shoot through the solar system. They are not surrounded by asteroid fields, or whatever craziness you think makes landing difficult. In fact, the practically 0g environment makes them the EASIEST objects to take off from.

    This idea is so "out there", that its been studied by NASA for the Orion spacecraft. Here's a wikipedia link, since the actual study isn't in easy to watch movie form. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_Asteroid_Mission [wikipedia.org]

  • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:12PM (#28259031) Homepage

    Branson's efforts have managed to produce a vehicle of about the same capability as the early Mercury missions. In one respect, it's impressive, in another, well... the US government has significantly greater resources both financially and technically than any private interest.

    You're kidding, right? The Spaceship One spacecraft is nowhere near the capability of a Mercury capsule. Even if you could get it into orbit, there is no way Spaceship One could make a survivable reentry. The Mercury capsule was intended from the start to be an orbital spacecraft. Spaceship One is a suborbital dead end. Even Spaceship Two is targeting a 120km apogee and about 1 km/s velocity at MECO. The feathered reentry won't do the job if you're going much faster than that.

    The first manned Mercury hit 2.3 km/s at MECO, 186 km apogee and 500 km downrange. Apogee mass of it and Spaceship One are about the same, so there's only a factor of 5.3 in the amount of energy Mercury dissipated on reentry. Toss Spaceship One into the air at 2.3 km/s and you'll be picking up charcoal where it comes down.

    Spaceship One is a toy for rich people, and is only a spacecraft because someone decided that the arbitrary edge of space is 100 km. The real, non-arbitrary edge of space is 7.8 km/s. When Scaled Composites gets there, then they can say they have spaceship. Since there isn't a way there from Spaceship One, it'll be a bit of a wait.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:31AM (#28262189) Homepage

    NASA sometimes takes credit for Teflon, but that was a spinoff of the Manhattan Project, which needed a sealant resistant to uranium hexafluoride.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teflon#History [wikipedia.org]

  • Invertable Factoids (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:09AM (#28266007) Journal

    How come it is that the cancellation of regular increases in the manned spaceflight program during a period when no manned spaceflight is planned is being called the "dismantling of the manned spaceflight program" in the summary? NASA's budget and program planning show an intent to keep the program running at the present level while they decide on what the next program is to be. Per TFA:

    "In his opening statement at the markup hearing, Mollohan said the cut should not be viewed as a diminution of the subcommittee's support for NASA's human spaceflight activities. "Rather, it's a deferral taken without prejudice; it is a pause, a time-out, to allow the president to establish his vision for human space exploration and to commit to realistic future funding levels to realize this vision."

    A summary so clearly contrary to TFA without the summary calling TFA wrong or a lie indicates no attention being paid to the facts. Could be an agenda with no support looking for an outlet, could be just a wild guess used instead of reading TFA. Either way, it's a good case for /. editors doing at least minimal research comparing the summary and TFA. Not doing so causes them to make the same mistake as the submitter.

    It's criticism, in my opinion warranted, plainly presented, posted calmly, and you can like it or not. It is therefore not, per moderator guidelines, flame bait.

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