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NASA Space Science

NASA To Propose Commercial Space Initiative 151

MarkWhittington writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that starting with the FY2011 budget request for NASA, the Obama administration intends to propose a new program to encourage the development of a commercial space flight industry. 'The controversial proposal, expected to be included in the Obama administration's next budget, would open a new chapter in the US space program. The goal is to set up a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying US astronauts into orbit—and eventually deeper into the solar system. Congress is likely to challenge the concept's safety and may balk at shifting dollars from existing National Aeronautics and Space Administration programs already hurting for funding to the new initiative. The White House's ultimate commitment to the initiative is murky, according to these people, because the budget isn't expected to outline a clear, long-term funding plan.'"
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NASA To Propose Commercial Space Initiative

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  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:22PM (#30896974) Journal

    Gee - this is encouraging. Just a week ago, an expert panel warned NASA not to outsource manned space to commercial entities. []

    Clearly, this panel was stacked with government bureaucrats, obviously biased against upstanding American businesses. The fact that commercial space has been 90% vaporware for the past three decades had nothing to do with it. And God forbid anyone suggest that for-profit organizations would cut corners for the sake of making more money.

    And certainly corporate capture of NASA had nothing to do with today's announcement. Perish the thought.

  • Just do it! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @07:08PM (#30897442)

    I say let private companies explore space. Just make sure they get punished for leaving junk in earth orbit, or things will get messy(er) quick. Give them some approved launch lanes so their flops fall in the drink and not on some lawyer's condo.

    And safety? Did the Wright brothers have a safety net? Screw safety. We sit around being "safe" way too much. With Earth rapidly turning into a big Easter Island we better get established in space. It's not going to be easy. People are going to die doing it. It needs to be done.

  • National Defense, Homeland Security, Aid to poor people are extra. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, will be canceled.

    Sounds good to me. National defense should be provided primarily by the second amendment (the unorganized militia), with the state national guard forces (the organized militia) providing the framework and the sorts of expensive, high-tech weaponry that the people can't afford. The feds should provide a navy, per the constitution. An air force is debatable; it could be provided at either the state or federal level. The federal government is not supposed to maintain a standing army, only to create one when needed -- and if we'd stop trying to impose our will all over the world, we wouldn't need one very often. National defense should be national defense, meaning defending against incursions by foreign forces, not running around invading other countries.

    As for the rest, the federal government has no business being involved in any of them. There is no constitutional basis for any of them (yeah, yeah "General Welfare Clause" -- that's been stretched even worse than the Commerce Clause). Those issues should be handled at the state level.

  • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @07:26PM (#30897710)

    Except that NASA's current modus operandi is already what DOD does. Apollo and STS were built by private contractors under cost-plus contracts, same as defense systems are.

    When you hear 'commercial space' interpret it as 'fixed-price contracts.' Its not new in the fact that its giving money to private companies to do things the government wants, its new in saying "we'll pay you this much to do (blank)" instead of asking "how much can you do this for, and oh yeah, if you run over, we'll help cover that too."

    Cost-plus has its place, in high-risk situations where final cost may be highly variable. However, getting to LEO has been done over and over again, so fixed-price makes much more sense, and will ultimately save money.

  • by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <jscott.farrow@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Monday January 25, 2010 @07:35PM (#30897806)

    You do realize that virtual everyone with experience in developing a working launch vehicle at NASA retired years ago? Your 50 year legacy is dust or in the nursing home.

    SpaceX has at least built a rocket that flies and is more than vaporware. Better yet, they did it with ZERO taxpayer dollars, and no government bureaucracy.

    What the New Space industry needs right now is more customers, and for that, the gov't is perfect to help jump start the market.


  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:45PM (#30898660)

    Until then, they're just a vehicle to privatize what is otherwise be a government research function.

    Which raises the question: "What more is there to learned about manned space flight given our current limitations"? After all, you can only do the "study of weightlessness on human body" experiments so many times before nothing new or useful is learned by additional repetitions. Personally, I feel that we should shelve manned space flight, or at least place it on the back burner, until we have substantially better propulsion systems (aka interstellar drives) and somewhere interesting to go. As you have already stated, there are few compelling reasons (other than national pride or prestige) for continuing manned space flight at this time. If there were, then private companies would do it, provided that they could earn profits; except right now they really cannot earn much (if any) profit, with the possible exception of government contracts, with manned space flights.

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:41AM (#30901252) Homepage

    Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere.

    I'm guessing that GP's point is that our current space technologies are so awfully expensive that though technically we, as a society, can once in a lifetime do a stunt like trip to the Moon (or now Mars,) it has near-zero practical use.

    It is my personal belief that we won't be flying to planets until we design a propulsion technology that is good enough for SSTO. Then it will be also good enough to move between orbits and land on planets and take off again. The current chemical rockets are not even close. Getting to the LEO is pointless if we have nowhere to go from there.

    To offer an analogy, it is possible to cross the Atlantic ocean on a raft, or in a rubber boat - it had been done - but if Europeans were limited to those technologies we'd never see Americas.

    IMO, the money should be spent primarily on fundamental science, and a smaller part of it - on good, complex robots that can be launched from time to time to other planets. We need to know how this Universe works. An antigravity-based propulsion [] would solve all our problems, for example. Teleportation or FTL would also come (or definitively not come) from the same pool of knowledge. I'd even settle on a Space Elevator that we will be able to put together out of new materials. We need to stop paddling our reed canoe across the Atlantic for a moment and instead think if there is a better way.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama