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NASA Space Science

Using Fuel Depots Instead of Giant Rockets 202

EccentricAnomaly writes "The New York Times has a story about a leaked NASA study that showed it would cost $80 BIllion less and get astronauts to an asteroid sooner if NASA used fuel depots instead of developing a new rocket. According to the article, NASA's response to the leaked study is to start developing fuel depots in addition to continuing its new rocket program. Because, after all, who doesn't need more cool stuff."
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Using Fuel Depots Instead of Giant Rockets

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  • by Skarecrow77 ( 1714214 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:39AM (#37809502)

    there's no reason to visit Italy, Australia, Hawaii, or wherever it is that may be interesting to visit, when you have pictures of the place on the internet? That's the same thing right?

    Now human experience counts for nothing?

    Yes yes, I know, robots are better than internet pictures, still though, a virtual experience isn't the same, any more than madden 2012 is the same as playing NFL football.

    We -certainly- have the energy, money, and will to do human space exploration, we're just currently wasting all 3 on other endeavors.

  • Let's have both. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sasayaki ( 1096761 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:42AM (#37809522)

    We could easily have both. Easily. Let me show you how:

    NASA's budget: $18.724 billion (Fiscal Year 2011) (source: [])

    Department of Defense's budget: $663.8

    Which does NOT including Iraq and Afghanistan, which together are approximately $900 billion, and does NOT including the care for the approximately 33,000 wounded veterans those wars have produced... which is probably a few billion, but I couldn't find an easy source so let's just go with nothing. But remember it's there.

    Adding those into DoD's budget gives: $1,563.8 billion. (source: [])

    That means that DOD gets 83 times as much as NASA gets. They could reduce their budget by 1/83rd and double Nasa's budget.

    A country needs defense. I get it. But seriously -- NASA is one of those organizations that, if your pour money into it, does AMAZING things. Things that give so much back to the scientific community -- things like computers, insulation, search and rescue, navigation, everything. So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so many technologies can be traced back to the space program... and while DoD are great inventors too, especially in medical treatment, materials, transportation... NASA gives so much back too and no brown people have to die.

    Can't we just have a couple less B2 Stealth Bombers (B-52's bomb brown people just fine) and a couple less F-22's (F-15 Eagles still have never been defeated in combat) and GET THE FUCK TO MARS?

  • So, we should pay multiple billions so that one or two people have "the human experience"?

    Maybe when we have "Total Recall" and can experience other people's memories!

    'till then, I'd rather send the robots, until we have a VIABLE strategy for actually exporting humans into permanent off-world colonies.


  • Re:Uhm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:45AM (#37809532)

    Things that are designed to be refueled, can be refueled. Amazing what can happen with a little planning, isn't it?

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @10:46AM (#37809546)

    Yes, but they also study climate change which automatically negates all the good stuff they do to the smaller government lobby.

  • by Skarecrow77 ( 1714214 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:01AM (#37809610)

    yes, when humans have actually gone there, they can give firsthand accounts. robots can't. until we have sci-fi levels of virtual reality (which should never really happen with the transmission delay), sending a robot in place of a human is -not- the same. I'm not saying stop robot research, obviously that's beneficial. I'm saying that send robots first, to scout out for humanity.

    Multiple billions of dollars spread across the economy of humanity is a drop in the bucket.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:07AM (#37809642) Journal
    CONgress, namely Shelby(R), Wolfe(R), Hatch(R), Hutchinson(R), Coffman(R), Nelson(D), and many others, are pushing this nightmare. The only reason is not because they believe that it is needed for the space program, but these slimes have turned NASA into a jobs bill.

    The good news is that by 2014, SLS will be dead. The fact is, that once SpaceX launches FH, no president will support. It does not matter whom is in office. The project will be dead. Hopefully, we will then hold a COTS for 2 SHLV. At the same time, HOPEFULLY, these above slimes or whomever replaces them, will continue funding for NASA to support nuclear engines (not for launch on earth, but interplanetary travel and perhaps launch on the moon and mars), private space, ISS partners exploration of the moon, and NASA continuing their push for BEO.
  • by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:10AM (#37809660)

    What kind of worthwhile first hand accounts have we gotten from astronauts that went to the moon or to low earth orbit ?

  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:17AM (#37809698) Homepage
    I'm all about getting to Mars. Heck, offer me a one way ticket and I'm off. But here's the deal: NASA is not going to get us there. Today's NASA is not the entrepreneurial NASA of the 1960s or even the 1970s. This is an Iron Law bureaucracy whose job is to keep working, which they do by spreading money across a lot of important Senators' districts. Note the important fact left out of the summary: this finding of getting there cheaper with fuel depots was buried by NASA for months because they didn't want to interfere with the SLS funding, which like Constellation before it is almost certain to never, ever fly. Consider that the last successful NASA development program for rockets was run in the 1970s, with the Shuttle. (And that was only successful if "success" means "getting people into space" as opposed to meeting cost or capability targets.) The only new rockets since then have been commercial, and NASA is in a love/hate relationship with those.
  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:28AM (#37809762) Homepage Journal

    Somebody has to be the first.

    I don't expect to go into space in my lifetime. But I'd like my kids to have a better chance than I did.

    I want humans to venture forth from Earth in every direction towards every destination. We can work towards that goal even if we have no idea when we'll acheive it. And doing so is worthwhile even when we have so many other challenges closer to home.

    The fact of the matter is that no matter how much time and money we spend, we will not "cure" hunger, poverty, and war. These attributes are baked into the human condition. So long as man has free will, some men will choose destructive ends.

    Ultimately, humanity must escape the cradle of Earth and venture forth, to provide assurance that we will not be snuffed out by destruction -- self-made or otherwise.

    Finally, the exploration of frontiers unknown brings out the best our kind has to offer. It is why we exist. When we navel gaze we are not fulfilling our purpose. We are not leaving the legacy our descandants deserve.

  • by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:42AM (#37809814)

    All those things has a positive return on investment. People invested in railroads and ships because they could make money moving stuff around.

    Manned space travel is just a useless money pit.

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Sunday October 23, 2011 @11:55AM (#37809888) Homepage

    Seriously? All the astronauts from all countries have given first hand accounts of their reaction to space.

    The OP said worthwhile accounts. While a poetic statement about "beautiful desolation" or looking down on the Earth might sound nice, it doesn't advance our knowledge of space much.

    It's the first hand accounts that really capture people's imaginations. To watch the short film "Yuri" or talk to someone who watched the first moon landing live.

    Sure, the public watched the first moon landing and got fired up, but that enthusiasm dropped like a rock with subsequent landings. Human endeavours in space no longer interest the general population. As much as nerds like to talk about the importance of capturing people's imaginations, all the initiatives they launch fail.

  • by DanDD ( 1857066 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @12:53PM (#37810236)

    > So, _every year_ we spend about 6 _APOLLO PROGRAMS_ blowing up people that don't even matter to us. We borrow 9 APOLLO PROGRAMS every _year_.

    Ahem. Please keep this kind of generalization to yourself. All humans matter to me, especially those that need blowing up. However, I do appreciate your sentiment that our priorities are severely skewed.

  • I love this plan. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Sunday October 23, 2011 @01:25PM (#37810452)

    Here is the beauty. You never get really good at something unless you do it often. You need lots of practice. But currently we are stuck in a catch 22 with rockets. The payloads are very expensive so you want to make sure your rocket doesn't fail. This requires lots of money typically to verify everything.

    Fuel delpts turn everything upside down. Now you are launching something cheap, fuel. You can make the rockets as cheap as possible and even with a few failures it's no big deal since you are only out cheap fuel. But even with cheap rockets if you launch them often enough you will get very good at it and reliability will increase as you identify problems.

    This is great for NASA too since the majority of beyond earth orbit mass is propellant. It can launch they payloads dry and do that on much smaller and cheaper rockets. Also it can just pay for fuel delivered to the depot. Any failures are on the customers dime.

Information is the inverse of entropy.