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Government NASA The Almighty Buck

Obama Backs New Launcher and Bigger NASA Budget 391

The AAAS's ScienceInsider confidently reports that NASA is in line to receive $1 billion more next year. Reader coop0030 sends this quote: "President Barack Obama will ask Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the Moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars... The president chose the new direction for the US human space flight program Wednesday at a White House meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, according to officials familiar with the discussion. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency's fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft."
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Obama Backs New Launcher and Bigger NASA Budget

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:27AM (#30487618)

    “The decision is not going to make anyone gasp,” said one source in the White House, which hopes to ease congressional concerns about the impact of the new plan on existing aerospace jobs.

    This is about jobs; not science. Which means, science will take a back seat - shit will be built for the sake of creating the most jobs regardless of the scientific merits and it means that if a scientifically justified project creates less jobs or no jobs, it will be placed behind a project that creates more jobs.

    Folks, this is how Government distorts markets and science. Then when either doesn't live up to its promises, Government passes the buck.

  • by rwv ( 1636355 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:42AM (#30487868) Homepage Journal
    Ares V []

    I doubt the government would give a billion dollars to Elon Musk to fund his private space company. If Musk wants to compete with the public sector, let him use his only money.

    The article did open the door wide open for ISS space tourism because it says, and I quote, "And commercial companies would take over the job of getting supplies to the international space station."

  • Re:Smaller budgets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <> on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:43AM (#30487908)

    Well, I think he can have this one, since the entire budget is 1 day's worth of combat in Iraq.

    If he tells the US military to go on holiday for a week in Iraq he can fund this 7 times over.

  • DIRECT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:00PM (#30488114) Journal
    I am glad they are ditching ARES-I. The thing could barely lift the Orion module into orbit, and that's after lopping off all sorts of features (land landing, six person crew, toilet, etc). Then there were the thrust oscillation issues. A solid rocket does not produce a steady thrust. As it burns, chunks of the fuel can come loose and alter the burn characteristics of the engine as a whole. On the Shuttle, there was a flexible beam running through the external tank. The solids were attached to both ends of the flexible beam, and the orbiter was attached to the middle. They had to develop some sort of spring system for ARES-I, which didn't help its already weak lift capabilities.

    This [] makes a lot more sense. Take the basic shuttle launch system, remove the orbiter, stick the engines on the bottom, put the Orion module on the top. There would be no costly engine development, as the rocket uses the same proven engine that has been launching the shuttle into orbit for the past thirty years. The J-130 (as its called) can lift the Orion module into orbit with ease. In fact, it could lift two - and not the stripped down versions, but the full featured Orions. Imagine being able to park one permanently at the ISS, as a lifeboat. The J-130, through the use of a module that mimics the mount points of the shuttle's cargo bay, could lift any payload that the shuttle could lift - including the Canadarm and an airlock for EVAs, something the ARES-I cannot do.

    Because it shares so much of the shuttle heritage, the Jupiter system can keep the bulk of the current shuttle workers employed, especially if the current shuttle mission manifest is stretched out, or perhaps a flight or two added. The ARES system would leave a decade-long gap in some areas. Far to long to keep people around "polishing tools".
  • Re:MORE FUNDS?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:01PM (#30488142) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, a heart attack and President Palin ;)

    The guy's younger than either of my parents, and my mom (81) plays golf and my dad (78) square dances. Wikipedia says []

    McCain has addressed concerns about his age and past health concerns, stating in 2005 that his health was "excellent".[217] He has been treated for a type of skin cancer called melanoma, and an operation in 2000 for that condition left a noticeable mark on the left side of his face.[218] McCain's prognosis appears favorable, according to independent experts, especially because he has already survived without a recurrence for more than seven years.[218] In May 2008, McCain's campaign briefly let the press review his medical records, and he was described as appearing cancer-free, having a strong heart and in general good health.[219]

    To misquote McCoy, "He ain't dead yet, Jim."

    Your humorous comment ;) was badly mismodded, but I'm glad they gave you a karma boost (even though I know you don't need it).

  • by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:06PM (#30488222) Homepage

    You read this [] right?

    "NASA is ready to cooperate with China in space exploration, the head of the US agency said on Tuesday, as Beijing aims to send a manned mission to the moon by around 2020."

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @01:11PM (#30489230)

    Also, Clinton did produce a balanced budget. It took some years of doing to get there, but he did. It was, of course, immediately trashed by the Bush Administration.

    Umm, no. National Debt increased every year of Clinton's terms. Yes, I'm aware that popular mythology has the last year (or two) of Clinton's Presidency "balanced", but whatever the budget says about "deficit", if "debt" increases, the budget wasn't really balanced.

    Remember those first five years of the Bush II Presidency, when the Republicans controlled Congress, too...That's were about half the deficit came from.

    I did indeed forget that the Republicans didn't lose the Senate till 2006. My bad.

    That said, the Debt run up in those six years was more like 1/3 of the debt, not half. Though it was (slightly) more than the debt Obama will be running up in his first two years....

  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @01:31PM (#30489538) Homepage Journal

    Here are the debts to the penny for 31 Aug of the years where budgets signed by Clinton were in effect (1993 is included for debt increase reference):

    1993 - $4,403,247,046,170.58
    1994 - $4,691,991,360,873.49
    1995 - $4,970,755,679,060.21
    1996 - $5,208,303,439,417.93
    1997 - $5,404,420,294,885.51
    1998 - $5,564,553,479,478.04
    1999 - $5,672,386,167,530.41
    2000 - $5,677,822,307,077.83
    2001 - $5,769,875,781,034.48

    All numbers were pulled from Debt to the Penny [].

    Every year, the debt increased, meaning that borrowing increased every year. The smallest increase was $5.4 billion. It was a very good accomplishment, as the debt decreased dramatically that year, but it still meant that the government spent more than it took in. I have difficulty understanding how it could have been balanced, at least insofar as when it's defined by an entity having more in the coffers at the end of the year than at the beginning. And remember: the government does not have to adhere to normal accounting principles, or else its annual losses would be tremendously higher.

  • Re:Simpler? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @01:32PM (#30489556)
    Keep in mind that there are two rockets much further along than Ares I, Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V. And they're built by people who have experiment designing, building, and flying expendable launch vehicles. If we're going to do things that we "might as well do", then we might as well drop Ares I for these two vehicles.
  • Re:Saturn V (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greyhueofdoubt ( 1159527 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:46PM (#30492866) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention that we could do much better using modern materials, computers, and manufacturing. If you sifted through the blueprints, updating everything with modern techniques, you'd end up with an entirely new spacecraft that only superficially resembled the original.

    Another reason we don't build another cutty sark today is that we can fill the Cutty Sark's intended role with much better replacements.

    I don't see the problem with viewing lift vehicles as commodities. We can purchase a range of lift capacity vehicles from the russians, french, japanese, etc.


  • Re:BOOOOO!!!!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <jscott.farrow@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:19PM (#30493340)

    There is nothing that can be done with an HLV that can't be done cheaper with multiple smaller (and already/soon existing) rockets. On orbit assembly and refueling are the technologies we should be developing expertise in.

    On a brighter note, I've read some more analysis today that says this announcement may in fact be the stake through the heart of the boondoggle that is Ares-1. Hopefully, by the time this hypothetical HLV is designed, the commercial sector will have proven that it isn't even needed.


  • Re:DIRECT (Score:4, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:50PM (#30493742) Journal
    The Augustine panel (or at least, certian members) were aware of it. However, the DIRECT plan was not considered on its own merits, but on ad-hoc mission requirements that bore little resemblance to any missions NASA has plans for. They seemed to ignore the synergies that DIRECT was designed to make use of.

    The DIRECT plan revolves around a single rocket, the J-130. Basically, you take the shuttle system, remove the orbiter, stick the engines on the bottom, and the payload on the top. The SRBs are unchanged from the shuttle. The engines (SSMEs) are unchanged from the shuttle. The external tank only requires two changes: first, the pointy end cap is replaced with a blunt end cap, and second there is a manufacturing step that can be skipped. Right now, the walls of the external tank are thinned out to save weight. The centers of the panels are milled down, relative to the edges. This is not necessary, as the J-130 has a lot of margin, and leaving the material there will make the tank that much stronger. (Although prelimiary figures say that it is actually strong enough as is.) The only new pieces that are needed would be the aft thrust structure, the payload fairing, and the avionics ring. The thrust structure and payload fairing are almost trivial. The avionics would be the difficult part, however indications are that it would be ready before the Orion module would be ready. Apparently, there are enough SRBs, external tanks, and shuttle engines already built and in stock to build four or five of these rockets. Because it has so much in common with the shuttle system, both could be made and flown at the same time, preventing a workforce gap.

    The J-130 would fill the roll of ferrying cargo and astronauts to the ISS until commercial interests were ready to take over. Aside from that, the spare lift capacity of the J-130 would allow for Hubble service missions, missions to Near Earth Objects, etc. Basically, any payload that a shuttle could lift, a J-130 could lift (not surprising, since they are essentially the same rocket system).

    The second phase of the DIRECT plan would be to add an upper stage to the J-130, transforming it into the J-246. The upper stage borrows a lot of the technology from the upper stages used in the current Centaur and Delta lines of rockets. It would use the RL-10 engine, which already has a long history. It is currently not man-rated however, so a significant ammount would have to be spent to bring the engines up to code. (Which apparently would not require much, as these engines are rock solid. They just don't have the sensors on them needed to detect if they are about to fail.) Again, like the J130, the J-246 re-uses a lot of currently functional technology. Develoment costs are kept to a minimum.

    The DIRECT plan can do a lot of LEO missions with a J-130, co-existing with an extended shuttle mission manifest to save jobs and eliminate a manned space flight gap. Once the upper stage is developed, the J-130 becomes the J-246, leaving LEO missions to commercial interests. Two J-246 rockets could send 4 people and 80 metric tonnes to the moon (compared to ARES's 4 people and 70 metric tonnes). Either way, it's one rocket system. Parts are interchangeable. They can be launched from the same pad, and you only need one team of expertise.

    The Augustine commission report ignored the J-130 altogether (thus trashing any attempt to save jobs through synergy with the current shuttle system). The lunar mission they designed required launching three J-246s, yet the ARES system was fine as is.
  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:46PM (#30494368)

    The Ares I design is not simple, cheap, or even really effective. A good portion of the expense of launching the Shuttle, an Ares I, or anything else is manpower. You have a lot of people that get paid salaries no matter how many launches take place every year. The cost of a launch then becomes (vehicle cost) + (yearly operations and personnel cost/scheduled launches that year). If you launch one rocket a year it's fairly expensive, if you launch six then the price of each launch goes down. You might recognize this cost-production curve an economy of scale which is what it is.

    The Ares I was meant to be able to carry a fully decked out Orion capsule capable of carrying four people, long solo flights with an extended service module, a toilet, and the ability to to land on the ground with parachutes and airbags. It turns out the Ares I can't do any of that so the Orion had to be scaled down to only carry three people, no toilet, no air bags for ground landings, and a service module just barely capable of getting astronauts to the ISS or some other vehicle.

    The rub with the Ares I is that it is damn near useless without the Ares V follow-on. Because it can't carry much into orbit it is essentially an expensive bus to take three astronauts to the ISS. People bitch about the Shuttle being an expensive tow truck but it can carry seven astronauts in addition to twenty tons of cargo and can survive independently for weeks. Going back to the launch cost problem, the Ares V requires significant changes made to one of the two launch pads at KSC. This leaves only one available for Ares I launches. Only having a single pad available for the Ares I puts a limit on the number of Ares I flights that can be made every year. The low frequency of flights increases the cost of every kilo launched on an Ares I rocket.

    The cost per unit of mass problem with the Ares I determines what sort of missions you can afford to use it for. There was an unmanned Orion capsule design that was intended to be used for cargo resupply to the ISS. The low launch frequency put the cost per unit of mass too high for that design to make any sense and the low number of flights even possible for the Ares I meant there were scheduling problems as well. Since the Ares I can't launch a well equipped Orion capsule the only use for it until the Ares V is ready is to ferry people (no meaningful cargo) back and forth to the ISS. Again the low launch frequency means this is really expensive, it would be cheaper to buy assembled Soyuz rockets from Russia and launch them ourselves than it would be to send crews up in Orions via the Ares I.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers