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NASA Government Mars The Almighty Buck United States

Mars Rover Opportunity Faces New Threat: Budget Ax 185

astroengine writes "NASA's baseline budget for the year beginning Oct. 1 pulls the plug on the 10-year-old Mars rover Opportunity, newly released details of the agency's fiscal 2015 spending plan show. The plan, which requires Congressional approval, also anticipates ending the orbiting Mars Odyssey mission on Sept. 30, 2016. 'There are pressures all over the place,' NASA's planetary science division director Jim Green said during an advisory council committee teleconference call on Wednesday."
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Mars Rover Opportunity Faces New Threat: Budget Ax

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  • 90 day budget (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:34AM (#46470845)

    It really overran the original 90 day budget.

  • Re:90 day budget (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrBingoBoingo ( 3481277 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:46AM (#46470889) Homepage
    Sure, but... Continuing a legacy like that is cheaper than launching anything else. It's almost like the Airforce retiring the A-10 and supposing a vaporware F-35 can replace it, the F-35 being both Vaporware and an abortion because someone insisted the bulk of the US's future airplanes must take off and land like helicopters. Seriously, Fund NASA, axe the F-35 and just buy some French Raphaels already.
  • Re:Thanks, Obama. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @01:07AM (#46470947) Homepage Journal

    Well, you got the wrong president's name, but you do have a point.

  • Re:open source it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @01:25AM (#46471019) Homepage Journal

    I realize it probably sounds like a good idea, but screening and training volunteers is likely to be even more expensive than keeping the minimal crew they have operating the rover now.

    Ditto on the API and "simple prototyping program," although I'm not even sure what that second thing even it supposed to be. Just writing the software would be expensive, not to mention you now have to have NASA people reviewing what comes in.

    Driving rovers probably sounds a lot easier than it is. Commands are strung together in sequences. Sequences have to be checked to make sure they don't have conflicting commands. Instruments have to be taken into account; it's not just driving around that is being done.

    And then there is the intense analysis and investigation that has to be done if something goes wrong. Reports have to be written explaining everything down to the bit level.

    On top of that there is planning to be done to even decide where to drive, which involves a whole lot of people.

    There is not only no money to be saved by handing operations over to "the community," there is also the probability that if you did the rover would be ruined within a few days.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @02:12AM (#46471103)

    If NASA can't afford to explore space with robots, then what's the point of funding NASA at all? That's certainly what some probably want, but I think it's utterly ridiculous that NASA can't afford to continue to use resources they've already developed and launched.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @02:25AM (#46471137)

    What is the expense of this thing at this point?

    Everything being used is likely fixed and in use on or orbiting mars. The only things beyond that would be the transmitter/receiver on/above earth, the control room, and whatever you're paying the engineers to run it.

    So of that, the only thing that should really cost money is the engineer's time... and I would think at this point you could get volunteers to do it.

    Sorry, NASA's budget has no room for fat. These little projects add up to being a significant portion of a budget. I think the project should be maintained. But all the fat needs to be trimmed. Additionally, solicit donations and consider relocating the control room somewhere cheaper. Possibly a university somewhere would be happy to have graduate students control it and would pay most of the costs associated with maintaining it. After all, all the expensive stuff was already completed.

    Farm it out to someone with room in their budget.

  • Re:open source it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2014 @03:22AM (#46471283) Homepage

    This should be happening now...it would cost virtually nothing (on NASA $ scales)

    And it accomplishes virtually nothing to boot! Seriously, there's a hell of a lot more to running the rover than just steering and driving. There's also a whole hell of a lot of engineering support. Then there's the whole science team, who also are on the NASA payroll...

  • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @03:35AM (#46471321) Journal
    I keep seeing the argument of what we get for a dollar funded to NASA. I ask what we get for a dollar funded to professional sports. I get to see some grown man chase all over some field trying to snare a ball.

    I admit a lot of kids see this and dream of becoming a sports star or rock star. Is this a productive use of a human lifetime? Some say it is, some say it isn't, and I am not qualified to state. All I know is advancement of science is a dream to me. As far as I am concerned, Space Exploration is to science like programming games is to computer science. Its the stepping stone, the common basis of knowledge, from which we spring off whatever comes up.

    NASA has always been an icon for me - an entity who is actually doing something that has never been done before. Will I benefit from a romp on the moon? Probably not. Would I benefit from stronger alloys, higher energy density batteries, more sophisticated CAD systems, and legions of kids which were motivated by the Scientists at NASA. I believe I will.

    Our society seems to be quickly succumbing to what the economists refer to as "tragedy of the commons", where everybody is in it for themselves regardless of the cost to others. Our government is passing all sorts of laws encouraging "rent seeking" ( ownership benefits ) at the expense of production ( job creation ), leading us into a welfare state. I see big social problems ahead with this leadership model, as the ownership faction will run amok, leading to enormous wealth disparities between those who labor and those who own. We are setting ourselves up for a civil war between the worker and the politician/banker classes.

    We seem to have no problem funding enormous salaries for someone to hit a ball with a stick. Here we have fostered an intelligence great enough to have placed a part of ourselves on another planet, and we bicker over whether we can even fund manning the operation? I am quite sad over this whole affair. It seems the only idols we are given is all this bread and circus crap. No more Spock, Scotty, or Steve Squyres.
  • by distilate ( 1037896 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @03:57AM (#46471377)
    Still only a tiny fraction of what the government spends blowing up civilians in other countries.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @06:22AM (#46471657) Homepage

    less than 1% of the Defense budget can run NASA at higher levels. WTF is wrong with the complete MORONS that were elected to be in Congress?

    They want to save money, call all the troops home and end the frigging police actions.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @06:35AM (#46471695) Homepage

    then they can pay for their own fricking stadiums.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @06:54AM (#46471753)

    NASA projects involve basic science.

    The ROI on basic science is so enormous it's difficult to quantify because it's hard to know where to stop. How do you even try to attach a dollar value to the entire Internet and everything it has created and touch in order to answer "What was the ROI of the DoD's investment in ARPANET?" With the corporate sector having, in the last 50 years, become utterly blind to everything more than 3 months out, it's up to the government and associated entities (national labs, universities) to keep funding and doing basic research.

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @07:21AM (#46471819)
    Nobody seems to be asking the most important question: What more can we expect in return for the continued operation? That answer should drive the decision. It may not cost much to keep it going, but if we've pretty much exhausted any meaningful return, then what is the point of putting more $$ into it. OTOH, if they think there is a lot more information we can gain beyond what we already have, then extend the operation appropriately.
  • lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @10:01AM (#46472815)

    For those that are not aware how this works... Every time there is a new budget proposal, NASA first suggests axing its most popular projects... usually Hubble, but sometimes other things... and they send that up to the hill... Congress panics "They can't shut down Hubble! It's the only sciencey thing we do anymore!!!" and they give NASA a bit more money. It's all part of the game. BTW, you're supposed to write into your congressman angry about how NASA doesn't get enough money right about now. I'm not saying you shouldn't... they really don't get enough money... but you should at least know the game that's getting played.

  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @12:50PM (#46474429)

    Dude, people are lining up to pay $150k for five minutes in "space" on Virgin Galactic...

    New idea: Get rich idiots to pay Nasa $150k for one hour of "driving" Opportunity, complete with "I drove on Mars last week-end" NASA-certified bumper sticker.

About the time we think we can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends. -- Herbert Hoover