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US Space Policy Update Urges International Cooperation 66

eldavojohn writes "The recent shift in NASA's spaceflight goals has caused great stress in the space community and those related to efforts in space. A White House update to the policy is said to emphasize cooperation with the international community and looks to be a move away from individual nations competing in space. Instead, the document urges intense competition (PDF) in the commercial sector and reasons that 'The United States considers the sustainability, stability, and free access to, and use of, space vital to its national interests. It is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in ways that emphasize openness and transparency, and help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.' also notes that you can submit your comments and thoughts to the task force Obama appointed to determine new directions. No doubt this avoidance or departure from another Space Race will have a lot of people concerned that the US is out of the game."
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US Space Policy Update Urges International Cooperation

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  • WHAT game?!?!? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:09PM (#32722610)

    No doubt this avoidance or departure from another Space Race will have a lot of people concerned that the US is out of the game.

    Hate to break it to you, but NASA hasn't been "in the game" in almost 40 years now. You want a perfect illustration of the last time they were fielding a real team? Just look at their historical budget []. Notice a pattern after 1970? Yeah, that's when they stopped being the Yankees and started becoming the Mets.

    • by rwv ( 1636355 )

      The Yankees spend LOTS of money and win on average every 4-5 years. The Mets spend slightly less money and have won 3 or 4 times since they joined the league in 1962. Not to say you're wrong... but the Mets throw LOTS of money down to drain to produce negligible results. I think you're trying to make the point that NASA doesn't have the budget to put up "Yankees" numbers in the "Championships Won" department.

      Maybe you meant to compare NASA to the Pittsburgh Pirates [] who spend about 20% of what the elite

    • by AnonymousClown ( 1788472 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:26PM (#32722874)
      Well, if we start using the Social Security money, then there wouldn't be a problem. NASA == Social Security. You could never cut the budget then!

      Ah, the old people. Send them into space. Shit blows up? Pfft. They're old and were going to die soon anyway.

      It's a win/win! NASA gets funded. We have an unlimited supply of expendable astronauts. And, it takes care of all those old people burdening our system. And lastly, the old people get first dibs into going into space - it could even be a one way trip!

      Yeah! What a gimmick! Hey old farts! Say good bye to your loved ones and go into space!

      As far as the senile ones are concerned just say, here you Gramps! There's a Matlock marathon in that rocket and all the chocolate and banana pudding you can eat!

      *The mods* Ooo! What to do...what to do... Moderation guide:

      Like old people -> Flamebait

      Don't like AnonymousClown->Troll

      Some old guy pissed you off today-> Funny.

      Seeing the budget deficit going horribly into the Red and all that Medicare money go out of your paycheck while you see the old farts in their Cadilacs, Land Yachts, and telling you to get a job and compete with the Asians because they had to work hard in the snow (with virtually no overseas competition) and you're just a slacker-> Insightful

      Huh. Gramps always wanted to go into space and get away from Grandma-> Interesting

      • To the moon, Alice! ... is where I'm going to go!

      • by Silm ( 1135973 )
        actually, it is quite benificial to send old people into space. Less bone density required, less ( no )chance of falling down and breaking something, and well, they're old already and dont need to reproduce.
        that way you dont even have to worry about them getting all sterile from radiation. And the cancer doesnt matter either; they'll die sooner anyway.
        Of course, this means you dont worry about getting them down again, but still, this is quite serious if you find a solution for that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ravenspear ( 756059 )
        In Soviet Korea, old people launch you!
      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Clearly, old people are just pissing eveyrone off...

        Do we really want to hand them over the glory of space exploration in such case>

    • Re:WHAT game?!?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by atrain728 ( 1835698 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:34PM (#32722990)
      So... who's spending more than NASA?

      According to this [] the Chinese were spending about 1/10th of NASA in 2007. Does that make them the Royals?

      JAXA [] comes in at around 2 billion dollars as well.

      ISRO spends about half that ($1.23 billion). []

      Oh, who could forget about Russia? The FRO has a declared budget of about $2.4 billion. []

      Puny old NASA with it's $17.6 billion budget. The Mets indeed.
      • FRO = FKA. I fail.
      • by Araes ( 1177047 )
        This completely ignores globalization.

        Just comparing the labor costs that these institutions have to deal with. Assuming similar ratio for other costs. Tabulated average yearly income for mechanical engineers (used because aerospace doesn't have enough data on payscale).

        US Engineer ~ $61000
        Chinese Engineer ~ $17500
        Japanese Engineer ~ $44500
        Indian Engineer ~ $7500
        Russian Engineer ~ $42000

        If they then spent their budgets completely to hire engineers, they could each get:

        US ~ 288
        • No doubt this is true to an extend, however my point was that OP was suggesting that NASA is some sort of second-rate space agency, which is, even by your worst-case estimates, far from correct.
      • You forgot the nearest competitor which is the ESA ( with an approx $4.5 billion budget.

        But even including NASA's relatively large contribution, that's still a very small amount being spent overall by the world's governments. It makes sense to encourage more commercial involvement as well as commercial, rather than militaristic, competition between nations.

  • Good new direction (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Cooperation is good. Races are bad and cause accidents. The plans I've seen for long duration vehicles using ion drive engines and inflatable habitats are a great step in the right direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brainboyz ( 114458 )

      One more step towards the "global government" is not a step in the right direction. We need individual organizations held accountable for completing missions (getting to Mars, more probes to the outer planets, etc). Global "cooperation" leads to eternal delays, blame shifting, and inflated budgets. Let's not even get into the fact that everyone wants their approach to be everyone's approach.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)


        Global cooperation provides more hands, funds, and experience to work toward a common goal.

        Your paranoia about a 'global government' is completely unfounded and the type of nonsense that only someone with no knowledge of the way the world works would shovel.

        Anything to inspire cooperation, explore new areas, improve technology, and deteriorate war and its causes is a good step for our world.

        If you think otherwise kindly get the fuck off of my planet and go pollute another.

        • Anything to inspire cooperation, explore new areas, improve technology, and deteriorate war and its causes is a good step for our world.

          If you think otherwise kindly get the fuck off of my planet and go pollute another.
          What color is the sky on your planet? B/c here on Earth, you get to pick 2 of those things not all of them. Also love the irony of your if don't agree with me leave after looking to inspire cooperation. Quite nice tovarich.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Competition got us Apollo. Cooperation got us ISS. You sure you don't want to rethink that?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Competition got us Apollo.

        It was also a cooperation. With Germans.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Teancum ( 67324 )

          You might want to check again with the Germans [] to see how well that went. German engineers are pretty good at building rockets, but American politicians killed off (economically) an entire generation of German rocket developers that is only beginning to recover. It is a real pity too as this was a rather ambitious program that could have made a huge difference.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        Yeah, but that was competition people cared about, since people cared about the Cold War, and advanced rocket technology was seen as rather relevant to advanced missile technology. Do people in 2010 really care about competition with, say, the European Space Agency? If they don't, as I suspect they don't, might as well just cooperate with them and let them foot some of the bill.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Apollo got 12 people on the moon, each for a few days, at the expense of three more lives, and only at the very end did anybody think to send up a lone geologist.

        The ISS has had over six times as many people on orbit, for weeks and months at a time, doing actual science.

        Spectacle != progress

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          Apollo (and in general the push to the moon, including mercury and gemini) got us (well, you americans anyway) from barely being able to shoot a single guy in a can into orbit, to doing in-orbit rendevous, lunar transfer orbits, and landing on a frickin moon! (in ~10 years from the start of serious spacetravel to moon walking)

          The ISS is mostly mir 2.0 combined with freedom (the us proposed space station), and while it is the pinacle of space-station design and operation, most knowledge regarding long term s

          • sorry but you've got your facts wrong, the ISS is a PLATFORM FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, i really fail to see how you could think that the first 10 years of Apollo-era could have spawned more science than that, since those first 10 years spawned mainly rocket-tech while today they're conducting researches in most, if not all, scientific fields up there.... (i do however agree that, generally speaking, most people are a bunch of bastards)
      • And once the Apollo program was over and the space race was "won", much of the technological and engineering advances made by that team in rocketry have been readily forgotten (I saw a documentary the other day saying the today's engineers sometimes reverse-engineer Apollo parts to find out how they solved all sorts of problems). With international cooperation, the need to share the designs and have things fit together with other countries components at least ensures that they are properly documented and re
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Cooperation is good. Races are bad and cause accidents.

      Since we're going for slogans that are easy on the old noggin, how about this one? "Competition is the best form of cooperation." I'd buy that over your thing about races. After all, doing anything risky causes accidents. And space activities are inherently risky no matter how many international partners you have.

  • Two missing items from the Policy:

    • Towel
    • Hitch-hiking thumb

    Those that can' the liftoff on TV.
  • Pfft (Score:1, Troll)

    by LittlePud ( 1356157 )

    A White House update to the policy is said to emphasize cooperation with the international community and looks to be a move away from individual nations competing in space

    In other words, the US has realized it is broke and now wants the rest of the world to foot the bill for space exploration.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Until somebody figures out what the ????? is supposed to be between "1) Space Travel" and "3) PROFIT!", we aren't going anywhere.

      • Until somebody figures out what the ????? is supposed to be between "1) Space Travel" and "3) PROFIT!", we aren't going anywhere.

        I don't know, but I somehow get the impression that The Riddler is involved.

        • So you're saying batman is standing between us and affordable spacetravel?

          I find your ideas intruiging and wish to subscribe to your newsletter

    • "In other words, the US has realized it is broke and now wants the rest of the world to foot the bill for space exploration."

      China figured out you don't have to lead to make money and benefit from modern technology.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Troll? I don't know about that.

      What was the cost sharing on the "International" Space Station again?

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Hey, it was also the only thing to make Shuttle look useful (plus there's training with Mir, and I suspect prices for "Mir 2" part and "Alpha" part aren't exactly comparable)

  • by HerculesMO ( 693085 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:30PM (#32722934)

    Man I miss that game.

  • and give pioneers someplace to go which means they will slip the leash. Right now there is no new frontier. If a substantial population moves off the planet how will they ever round them back up? The meek will inherit the Earth, everyone else will be making a life out there somewhere.
  • "It is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in ways that emphasize openness and transparency, and help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust."

    Not if you are the only nation that has this policy.

  • by Silm ( 1135973 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:57PM (#32723320)
    This document is not a " This is what NASA is going to do" sort of thing; It is a top-level, national guideline towards spacerelated ( and by related, I mean everything even vaguely connected ) business. Even school teaching programs. And if the USA can get data from satellites for climate change. This is a set of soft guidelines, without any realistic impact. For that impact, we need way, way more technical and financial reports.
    For such a thing we will have to wait till congress looks at budget proposals, and some real life testing. constellation is still doing some tests, but everyone knows that the Ares 1 will never launch a single human to orbit. Officially - and even this document changes nothing about that - it is still going on.
    And please, dont attach too much meaning to rumors of a new "space race". The chinese have a launch rate of one mission every 2 years. They are currrently way below 1965 level of experience from the USA. Instead, look at the slow but significant progress:
    ESA getting Soyuz acces: []
    Russia upgrading its production facilities to build a 5th soyuz ( notably the upgrading of its thermal room so that 2 soyuz heatshields at the same time can be fitted to the spacecrafts: []
    While its nothing flashy and I think there should be more money into spaceflight, spaceX and orbital and the likes are really going for it. Talk in the article about "losing the space race" is overly simplistic, certainly with an ISS that'll be around till atleast 2020, and very possibly 2030. It is international, dont forget that.
    also, a rumor; ATK ( they manufacture the shuttle srbms) have finally caved in it seems, and are willing to build the old 4 segment boosters instead of continueing to lobby for a 5 segment version. Great news; they finally might get something moving now...
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @06:10PM (#32723526) Journal

    First off, a full link to the document (instead of the short fact sheet linked in the original post) is here: []

    It's useful to compare this to the 2006 National Space Policy document issued by the Bush administration: []

    Space Politics has a pretty good comparison of the two: []

    I think the revised section on commercial space is quite promising:

    Commercial Space Guidelines
    The term "commercial," for the purposes of this policy, refers to space goods, services, or activities provided by private sector enterprises that bear a reasonable portion of the investment risk and responsibility for the activity, operate in accordance with typical market-based incentives for controlling cost
    and optimizing return on investment, and have the legal capacity to offer these goods or services to
    existing or potential nongovernmental customers . To promote a robust domestic commercial space
    industry, departments and agencies shall:
    Purchase and use commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent
    when such capabilities and services are available in the marketplace and meet United States
    Government requirements;
    Modify commercial space capabilities and services to meet government requirements when
    existing commercial capabilities and services do not fully meet these requirements and the
    potential modification represents a more cost-effective and timely acquisition approach for
    the government;
    Actively explore the use of inventive, nontraditional arrangements for acquiring commercial
    space goods and services to meet United States Government requirements, including measures
    such as public-private partnerships, hosting government capabilities on commercial spacecraft,
    and purchasing scientific or operational data products from commercial satellite operators in
    support of government missions;
    Develop governmental space systems only when it is in the national interest and there is no
    suitable, cost-effective U .S . commercial or, as appropriate, foreign commercial service or system
    that is or will be available;
    Refrain from conducting United States Government space activities that preclude, discourage,
    or compete with U .S . commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public
    Pursue potential opportunities for transferring routine, operational space functions to the
    commercial space sector where beneficial and cost-effective, except where the government
    has legal, security, or safety needs that would preclude commercialization;
    Cultivate increased technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the commercial space
    sector through the use of incentives such as prizes and competitions;
    Ensure that United States Government space technology and infrastructure are made available
    for commercial use on a reimbursable, noninterference, and equitable basis to the maximum
    practical extent;
    Minimize, as much as possible, the regulatory burden for commercial space activities and ensure
    that the regulatory environment for licensing space activities is timely and responsive;
    Foster fair and open global trade and commerce through the promotion of suitable standards
    and regulations that have been developed with input from U .S . industry;
    Encourage the purchase and us

  • I was going to add another post to the NASA poll pointing out that if we're going to get anywhere beyond the moon, we should do it with an international project, to spread the risks and improve technological and sociological cooperation generally.

    Frankly, there's no more "space race". The job is too big for one country to pay for, and too important to humanity for one country to claim credit for.

  • Mistake (Score:3, Informative)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Monday June 28, 2010 @08:55PM (#32725150)

    It's a mistake to depend too heavily on international ventures. Countries have different political and economic cycles - you tend to find yourself halfway through something ambitious when your partners decide they don't want to fund it any more. The ISS was a classic case of this kind of thing - we ended up bailing out the Russians as they went through problems after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Europeans were slow with their supply ships. The US stayed in the project when it would have made sense to cancel it, then we kept the shuttle fleet flying longer than we should have to service the ISS.

    You may save money up front by penciling in partners, but you pay a big price in flexibility.

    • by stiggle ( 649614 )

      The orbit of the ISS was also changed from a useful one we could have used as a staging post for further missions, to the mess it is now so it orbits over Russia and is in basically a useless orbit for anything else.

      Also due to the Columbia accident some interesting parts were cancelled - centrifugal base artificial gravity, X-38 CRV (that project got passed to the Air Force to function as what seems to be a returnable spy satellite system.

      International co-operation is good - ESA has shown it can be done. B

  • Note that, if you replace the word "Space" with "Internet", it makes for an even more insightful article.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor