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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 Hmmm2000 ( 1146723 ) * on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:05PM (#28256573)
    In a bad economy, pure science and space exploration seem to be first on the budget chopping block. However the information learned and technology developed while performing these activities quite often lead to innovations that fuel the economy for years to come.
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:15PM (#28256735) Homepage

    The shuttle replacement is over-budget, under-spec, and without a realistic mission. We have trouble building and servicing a base going around the Earth, in zero-g... why does NASA think we can do this without busting timelines or budgets on the moon?

    I wish Bush had set a more realistic goal... landing on near earth asteroids. Then NASA would have two things going for it - something never done, and a bs fallback line to feed axe wielding politicians (we need these missions to learn how to blow up incoming astroids - you want to tell your constituents why they need to live in a tent camp for the next 5 years when we evacuate all of New Mexico?).

    Now all NASA has is a half-assed Apollo clone, no clear goal, and a loud insurgent campaign (DIRECT). I just hope this doesn't blow-back and foul up the fairly successful non-manned space missions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:21PM (#28256833)
    Utter bullshit. We need to spend money to live on earth before we try to explore how to live off of it. There will be far more technological innovations if the money is pumped directly into research and/or the industry as opposed to the trickled effects of a space exploration mission. This is a classic case of living beyond one's means.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:24PM (#28256879)
    (1) NASA. Censored documents on global warming and climate change to meet his views, but at least the funding was relatively fine. (2) The U.S. Mint, because how dumb do you have to be to screw up the seigniorage from the state quarter program? Based on this, we can conclude that the Mint will do something stupid, like a series of sharp-cornered triangular dimes with a series of vice presidents on the front, in order to provide stimulus for the band-aid industry.
  • by ViennaSt ( 1138481 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:26PM (#28256903)

    With robotics coming such a long way since the 60s, it is more efficient and cheaper to just send robots to do all the exploring and data/sample collection in space. Until the average American thinks the cost of human presence in space is a priority for the tax payer dollar, space flight will have to be unmanned in the meantime. We are just going to have to wait for China or another rising global leader to send humans to Mars until the US population is willing to put in the extra effort and dollar to compete in a second space race and reinflate their ego as the "pioneers of space".

  • and... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:28PM (#28256945)

    billions will go to israel

    (slow down cowboy!! slashdot can't handle your quick posting!!)

  • by offrdbandit ( 1331649 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:36PM (#28257057)

    I wish Bush had set a more realistic goal... landing on near earth asteroids.

    Are you insane? Do you have any idea how hard it is to land on asteroids? Any "near earth" asteroids would be on eccentric orbits. I doubt it would even be possible to land on an asteroid and return to Earth. It certainly would be extremely dangerous (you know, with the risk of being stranded in a 100+ year orbit, ejected from the inner solar system, etc, etc). The Moon and Mars are targets for two reasons: they are close and they are "easy" to land on. The hard part about either is getting there and getting back. Asteroids are harder to get to, more dangerous to approach, more difficult to land on, and far more difficult to leave. You don't know what you are talking about.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:37PM (#28257077) Journal

    NASA has produced a helluva lot of useful technology. The drive to miniaturize onboard guidance systems and other computers in the Apollo program pretty much lead to the blossoming of integrated circuits and microprocessors in the 1970s. The value that that has produced over the last forty years for just about every industry in the industrialized world would be hard to calculate. So even though Apollo was an insanely expensive program, the spinoffs were enormous.

    I'm not saying NASA doesn't need to live within its means, and I'm not saying that there aren't areas where efficiencies can be gained, but guys like you who just mindlessly go "money shouldn't be wasted on space research" are tragically ignorant of just how important the Unites States' space exploration programs have been to the technological innovations of the last few decades.

  • by transami ( 202700 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:41PM (#28257143) Homepage

    Without our biggest dreams, even our smallest hopes are lost.

    And so the Spirit of our country is lost.

  • by Waste55 ( 1003084 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:41PM (#28257155)
    How is Orion half-assed when it is capable of more than Apollo? Do you really think avionics on board Orion for example are going to be less advance than a craft that is over 40 years old?

    Orion is even included in DIRECT's architecture as well...
  • by rhyder128k ( 1051042 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:45PM (#28257193) Homepage
    Can you prove that microprocessor design wouldn't have progressed more quickly if the money had been pushed into direct research?
  • by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:49PM (#28257265)

    Russia, China, India, the hope for a human future in space.

  • by ThreeE ( 786934 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:49PM (#28257269)

    Yeah, it is. Asteroids are actually "closer" if you consider delta-v your yardstick.

  • by Scragglykat ( 1185337 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:54PM (#28257321)
    Can you prove that it would have? Perhaps you can prove that Neo would not have knocked the vase over, had the Oracle not told him to not worry about it? It's not something you can absolutely prove, but it does seem logical, no? Your line of thought reminds me of the terminator series... mainly starting with T2, where they try to stop the apocalyptic future by stopping the production of SkyNet, but each time, even though they stopped one means of SkyNet being created, there is always another that pops up. And as the story goes, they don't stop the creation of SkyNet, but they do delay it. I can agree with you... or disagree with you on that point, but you can't argue that some stimuli, such as the need for smaller electronics and control systems in space vehicles, often speed along the development of those things. You can't prove it wouldn't have happened otherwise, but it seems logical that if that need hadn't been there, the development of those technologies would have at the very least, been delayed until that need did arise elsewhere.
  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:54PM (#28257331) Homepage

    We did the Apollo thing not really to do it, but to rub the Soviet's nose in it. The the NASA manned program feels like it's been coasting on "hey, wasn't that AWESOME?!" for the last thirty years.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the space program and think it's money well spent (overall - Ares/Orion is debatable, but look at the science we've gotten from Hubble and compare the cost of the maintenance flights against, say... the F-22 Raptor program). However, there's no competition in the manned arena and there hasn't been since the days of the Saturn V and the N-1 (or space stations, if you want to go there - We've fielded one and a fraction. The russians have done much, much more in that area).

    And there won't be competition until China - who's been excluded from the ISS program - starts making some serious strides towards putting a man on the moon. Or mars. Or an asteroid or a comet or whatever.

    So despite the setbacks they've faced, I'm all for the Chinese space program - eventually they'll catch up to NASA/Roscosmos and we won't have a choice - we'll have to get off our asses and start giving a shit about the manned program again, or lose the prestige forever.

    NASA costs pennies compared to the black hole of the bailouts and massive defense boondoggles such as the recent USAF tanker fiasco or the Army's Future Combat Systems. Pennies - fractions of pennies - on the dollar, with REAL results.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:56PM (#28257345) Journal

    What an odd question. How would I prove that, any more than you could prove directing the money to basic research would have been better? It's a nonsensical question, like someone asking "If Elizabeth I had married a Catholic monarch, would England have still become the major naval power of its time?"

    NASA had a requirement, a solution was developed, and that solution also had uses in other industries. In this case, the solution has uses in just about every industry out there. The problem was an engineering problem, for the most part the technologies already existed in one form or another, but the specific applications had not. I can't think of too many other programs at the time that would have driven the miniaturization of ICs as much as Apollo.

  • So why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @05:59PM (#28257413)

    Okay, so what's the national interest in manned space flight? I'd be firmly against cutting NASA's more scientific work, but the manned space program doesn't do nearly as much for science as other NASA programs.

    It's cool to get people off the planet, but it costs a whole lot of money to get them into low Earth orbit, let alone somewhere interesting.

    Manned space flight seems to have lost the inspirational value it had in the 1960s, it doesn't produce good scientific returns compared to the unmanned probes, it takes money and attention from the really useful space stuff, it's hurt our satellite-launching capability, and if there's commercial value in sending people into LEO some company will take it up. Why should we be doing it?

  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:05PM (#28257501)

    The key is to find real, meaningful, achievable dreams and work towards those. One reason NASA has floundered is their long-term manned space exploration visions haven't made much sense in recent decades, with a lot of technical and logical show stoppers swept under the carpet. People think its unpatriotic to say this, but from my experience parts of the NASA bureaucracy are almost unbelievably corrupt. People lose faith after years of false promise and waste. Better to start fresh maybe, focusing more where there has been recent success, such as with unmanned probes and powerful telescopes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:09PM (#28257577)

    It's always been clear that the Democrats would gut the space program.

    Sad, by electing Obama, we've put the last hopes of space progress behind us. We're a smaller nation as a result. Pretty much the plan, I guess.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:15PM (#28257681)

    Yep, gotta cut science, engineering and exploration from the budget so we can use the money to fund science and engineering programs in the schools....

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:19PM (#28257735) Journal

    The invisible hand that allowed the financial mess in the first place. Except this hand wasn't invisible, it was Uncle Sam's hand who allowed the credit swaps and actually encouraged it, it was the government who allowed bank mergers creating full service banks which was not technically possible until they relaxed the rules, and it was the government that drew up a pyrimid scheme with Fanny and Freddie in which they sought to artificially increase real estate prices as a way repay bond holders.

    You cannot rest the blame on the mess your talking about purely on market forces, the government shares just as much if not more blame through their relaxing and refusal to enforce regulation. And no, you can't blame it on one party either, the democrats have a much larger majority then the republicans ever had and it took both parties to make it happen.

  • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:19PM (#28257743)

    While I'm an advocate of the commercial space segment, I think you're reaching a bit far here. Most people calling for it (myself included) believe that NASA needs to get out of the business of building launchers and buy them off the shelf, but continue their efforts to explore the frontier.

    There are plenty of commercial opportunities for launching to LEO, and new NASA programs like COTS are attempting to foster this development by basically assuring the companies that the government will be a reliable customer. As such, it makes sense that NASA should limit its work on directing the construction of new launch vehicles and help to develop an open market that they and others can purchase from. Things like COTS, as well as efforts to reform ITAR would go a long way for this.

    However, there is no reasonable commercial reason to do science and exploration, yet there is very high value for society in exploring and doing this science and development. This is exactly why we formed governments in the first place, to do the things that benefit our society and advance our interests that individuals and private groups are incapable of doing. Defense isn't really commercially beneficial (neglecting war profiteering which just leaches off of the government effort), but I think most people agree its necessary to some extent, thus why we have governments do it. In the 1500s and 1600s, governments paid for the initial exploration of the world, and only later did commercial entities come in to exploit and profit from it. Continued government spending on exploration efforts seems appropriate and proper if we ever want to leave the planet, especially at the low level of funding it has.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:24PM (#28257815) Journal

    Uh no, I'm basing it on the proven spinoffs from the Apollo program. You're basing your claim on a demand that I prove a negative.

  • So what you are saying is that by not preventing (regulating) private action (creation of CDSs and full service banks), the government prevented the free market from working?

    If I read you correctly: the government doesn't do anything==bad. The government does something==bad.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @06:56PM (#28258257)

    Sadly, I don't think there's any hope for getting the young kids to wake up and see that Obama's plan for Europe 2.0 will actually be bad for them.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:02PM (#28258349)

    I'm not against the space program but I'm one of many who think that the focus should be on things that are obviously useful. A manned mission to Mars /might/ provide some stimulus the overall sense of aspiration amongst people, but robotic missions seem to provide a greater practical return on investment.

    I think it depends on exactly what returns you're looking for.

    If all you want is scientific knowledge about Mars, then robots are definitely the cheapest way to get that.

    But if we had been content with simply sending robots (or remote-control probes, since the Moon is so close this would have been feasible), instead of sending manned spacecraft, we wouldn't have developed all the technologies we did, and we also wouldn't have developed any knowledge or expertise about sending humans into space.

    If your goal is to eventually send humans to Mars, then sending robots isn't going to get you to that goal as quickly as starting manned missions as soon as possible.

    Of course, with everyone whining about the spending, has anyone looked at how little money in the Federal budget is spent on NASA? It's a tiny, tiny fraction of what is spent on the DOD and for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Exactly what "return" are we getting on our "investment" there?

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:19PM (#28258531) Journal

    The problem there is that we didn't know we were progressing towards microprocessors at the time, as nobody could even envision them. "Microprocessor" is something you buy in a box now, but it's the culmination of huge advances in many different areas. You don't just "research microprocessors". Especially if you don't know what you're researching.

    Advances in techology generally come from trying to solve a problem. The bigger the problem, the bigger the advance. In this case, there was an overriding need to put certain functionality in a particular volume of space with not more than a certain weight. You could not make the space bigger, and you could not make the device heavier, but you had to do it, and you had the engineering and monetary resources of the largest nation on earth, in it's innovative prime, to get it done. Classically, that's the environment that's given impetus to radically new technologies. Once the pump is primed, consumer usage helps drive refinements, but in some cases you need a "moon shot" effort to get things started, if they're radical enough.

    The classic environment for radical advancement is war. War also works really well as an engine for technological advancement. On the whole, however, I prefer space exploration.

  • by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:49PM (#28259973) Homepage

    Right, lets leave it to private enterprise, so they can do for spaceflight what they've done for the financial services industry.

    Nice try, but it was mostly Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that fucked of the financial services industry.

    Even still, maybe the private sector would do for space flight what it's done for the computer industry?

    Also, even comrade Obama disagrees with you here, because as he's cutting NASA's budget he's giving out hundreds of billions of dollars to private companies in an ill conceived attempt to stimulate the private sector. Maybe you should tell him to stop spending so much money bailing out that "superstitious bullshit", and divert more of it to seemingly better causes, like the war on drugs [reuters.com], paying single moms to have kids [foxnews.com], paying farmers not to farm, [npr.org] and sending people to Mars for no good reason.

  • by crazyjimmy ( 927974 ) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:03PM (#28260121)

    But I bet if one was to compare the amount of new tech gained from the defense industry VS the amount gained from NASA the defense industry would win hands down.

    DARPA has more money than NASA. Of course they're going to be able to fund more development. Let's try funding NASA. Really funding them. Giving them a piece of the pie that's even close to what we give to defense. Let's see what they can do then.

  • by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @03:04AM (#28262363) Homepage Journal

    Well, yeah. But if it had been funded by the DOD for missile tech instead of for NASA, then it would probably have been controlled like nuclear weapons info, requiring Top Secret clearance, and would have as much development as would be necessary for running an ICBM. See "controlled" missile tube/isotope centrifuge cascade metal alloys for an example. So "we" might have at best the equivalent of an Intel 8080 or 8086, and still be using large ECL-based mainframes because there would be no mass market to fund the expensive development of later generations of a DOD-supressed CMOS uprocessor technology.

    OK, the Japanese might have taken over and pushed CMOS microprocessor technologies in the late 80's or 90's instead. For ignition control in their automobile industry. 'Cause Detroit sure wouldn't have worried about that. So that would give you maybe 80486's about now, or whatever MITI's equivalent would look like. At least we wouldn't still be using punched cards.

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