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NASA To Push Human Spaceflight 84

Posted by Zonk
from the boldly-going dept.
b00le wrote to mention a New Scientist article in which NASA chief Mike Griffin says that human spaceflight should be NASA's top priority. From the article: "Griffin countered that the same loss of expertise threatened NASA's human spaceflight programme, which had served to define the US as a world 'superpower'. He said NASA lost a substantial fraction of skilled engineers during a six-year gap between the end of the Apollo programme in 1975 and the first space shuttle flight in 1981. Letting the human spaceflight programme 'atrophy' after Apollo damaged the agency for three decades, he said."
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NASA To Push Human Spaceflight

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  • Support? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Agent00Wang (146185) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:25AM (#14742250) Homepage
    Why I personally am pleased with the idea of a continued push for manned space flight, I feel like the public support just isn't there. There just isn't the widespread public support that there was in the 60s. What we need is an evil competitor.
    • Re:Support? (Score:1, Redundant)

      by bondsbw (888959)
      What we need is an evil competitor.

      Is China evil enough for you?

      • Exactly my point. I guess I wasn't clear enough with the sarcasm.
      • Re:Support? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RexRhino (769423)
        China, despite the rhetoric it sometimes uses, is now becoming a capitalist country. There is no great ideological divide spliting the world into two. China might be the next big boy on the block, and there is bound to be a natural competition between superpowers, but it is not the polorized world of the cold war. It is not the great battle of civilizations and ideologies.

        Lenin said that the irresistable forces of history would garantee that Socialism would be more scientificly advanced then Capitalism - Th
    • Re:Support? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rhoon (785258) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:34AM (#14742331) Homepage
      The Article cites a senator saying that China will be on the moon in 2017... Do you have any bigger "Evil" competitors in mind?

      I wasn't a big supporter of the new Administrator at NASA when he was appointed, but after this, I may have to review what I originally thought about him. I'm a big supporter of manned space flight, it should be NASA's #1 priority to get humans permanently into space and living on the moon, then Mars.

      I'll even volunteer to be one of the first inhabitants of this brave "New World"
      • Re:Support? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by discontinuity (792010) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:52AM (#14742489)

        The Article cites a senator saying that China will be on the moon in 2017... Do you have any bigger "Evil" competitors in mind?

        I don't think we ever can spin China as our "evil" rival. We're just too tied to them economically. If Washington starts presenting China too strongly in this way, then China just threatens to make it harder for US companies to get to its goods/consumers. As more time passes, they will wield even more such power. The USSR was essentially isolated from us and that made it easy for the US gov't to propagansize against them. Apparently, China's cultural isolationism isn't enough.

        I suppose a grassroots type of "evil-China" movement could emerge. But I don't see that happening any more than it already has when our economy is so tied to theirs. Too many people will want to avoid pissing them off.

        Any space race we have with China will be "friendly".

        • Sure we can! :) Bush just has to get up and make a rousing speech about how we will not let China corner the world market on Evil, and how, having beaten the last Evil Empire, that title rightfully belongs to US!

          (They're not necessarily more or less evil than we are... they're just... "differently evil.")
        • China probably thinks the U.S. is "the evil" first the U.S. keeps trying to spin stuff in a negative light.

          The U.S. is involved in dozens of wars every year.

          And don't forget the "We own Space" and "We own the Internet" mentality which if let into space will provide for the great "American Melting pot" of space chock full of "Conservative democracy" (big c little d) protestant values and American notions on the value of life and culture.

          I'd rather see China make it actually.
      • I'll even volunteer to be one of the first inhabitants of this brave "New World"

        Get in line, behind me preferably. I know a number of people who, if you asked them h"ow would you like to live on the moon", would say "Who do I have to kill."
      • Have they done anything about bone loss of people in lower gravities than our own? I thought this was a big problem with astronauts. Or would that only be a problem for people who come back to Earth's gravity? Maybe staying permamently in space would be OK, though I still think broken bones would be a lot more common even in lower gravity environments.

        /wondering about something I know nothing about
      • Do you have any bigger "Evil" competitors in mind?
        ANY viable competitor is, by definition, evil. Come on, if you don't see your competitors as evil, then you are not competitive at all! Additional "evilness" reasons are essentialy "your mama" arguments.
    • Oh, MANNED space fight. I read that as HUMAN-POWERED space flight. It'll be much easier now. I need more coffee. Never mind.
    • Well obviously we have to master spaceflight before 'the terrorists' do. There's your evil competitor. It's just a soft link to whatever the enemy of the day is for the guy with write permissions on that link.
    • Space.com [space.com] has a writeup on an antigravity propulsion system that claims transporting humans an other fragile cargos at more than half the speed of light can be done without crushing them. It would be awesome if space exploration extended past our nearest neighbours.
  • by cwtrex (912286) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:31AM (#14742301) Journal
    There is another word for it, but it is great to see more and more companies start to focus on lost knowledge. I'd like to believe that the tech industry in both programming, help desk, and other fields focus on retaining this with benefits and such but with the eweeks, etc that I read and working where I currently do, I sometimes wonder. But as an American, it makes me proud that NASA finally has an intelligent leader (one whom I hope provides a space boost not only in America but an extra boost for other existing agencies across the world).
  • The more I hear Griffin speak, the more I think he was the perfect choice to head up NASA. The guy knows exactly what needs to get done, isn't afraid to push what needs to be done, is able to eloquently express why it needs to be done, and yet is respectful of the role he plays in the government without becoming a political shill.

    About this particular story, he's right about needing human spaceflight. Every time we decide to push back on human space flight, we further reduce the ability of science programs to do their work. New technologies that could have been developed to get science packages off the ground and into space faster and cheaper get lost because there's no push for more advanced vehicles and technology. I don't know about anyone else, but I pray for the day when science packages based on reconfigurable standard designs can be simply and inexpensively launched from a space station. (A la Star Trek probes.) The mass production would allow us to launch more probes for less, and the orbital launch would save tens of millions on each probe. Thus instead of spending 20 years preparing for a single mission, we'll be able to reduce each mission to as little as 5 years (or less!) preparation time.
    • The problem being that the materials need to come from somewhere... We just can't "beam" it into space I'm sorry to say. The moon however has so much less gravitational pull, if we can set production facilities there somewhere down the road, we will have a perfect base from which to launch probes. But first, we need to get there and set up a permanent colony for the world (not just the United States and our allies). Personally, I know Mars is called the "Red Planet," but I don't want that to stem from a Pol
      • The problem being that the materials need to come from somewhere... We just can't "beam" it into space I'm sorry to say.

        There are two things that can be done to get the materials:

        1. Launch a large booster packed full of parts and materials to build a significant number of probes. If you factor the number of probes that could be built from the raw materials and parts (as opposed to using a rocket to lift a fully constructed craft, then boosting it into an orbital transfer trajectory) the price to launch eac
      • by Rei (128717) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:25PM (#14742805) Homepage
        The problem is that probes are mostly *not* bulk material. They're mostly intricate components. Perhaps if you were talking about exporting girders or sheet metal to help build a base on Mars you might have a point, but even then it's doubtful.

        Lets eliminate aluminum from the picture right now. First off, it eats up gobs of energy - so much that a typical aluminum production facility on Earth often has a large nuclear or hydroelectric plant nearby whose energy it gobbles up as fast as it can get it. Energy on the moon will be *expensive* as heck, because the price of getting infrastructure to the moon has to be amortized, and maintenance prices will be obscene due to labor and parts costs. But just to make it more obvious that this won't happen, aluminum refining involves cryolite. There's almost no fluorine on the moon, and the cryolite *does* get consumed (not as fast as the bauxite, but still at a reasonable clip). Yes, you could recover it, but that makes it even more expensive. Not going to happen.

        Iron refining? Get rid of any notions of recovering oxides; it's only cheap on Earth because we can reduce it with coal, and have a nice convenient atmosphere on hand. There's no coal on hand, no atmosphere, nor most of the fluxing agents. Not going to happen. Now, on the moon, there are very small amounts of elemental iron which could be recovered with magnets. This could be melted and wouldn't need to be reduced. However, this is iron, not steel. There's almost no carbon to work into it. So, it manages to be both heavy *and* weak. You might as well send aluminum from Earth rather than export that, although it might be useful for lunar base construction if you have excess power (see the points for aluminum).

        Other metals on the moon are just as bad (for example, I can't even imagine titanium refining on the surface). The only thing that I can think of that would potentially make metal production on the moon realistic is direct metal oxide electrolysis (for which there has been some recent progress on), but even still, you need the oodles of power (and the price problems with that have already been mentioned). Unfortunately, the surface of the moon is extremely non-diverse. If you want a limited selection of ceramics, it can't be beat, but apart from that, it's not exactly a good production facility.
        • Energy on the moon will be *expensive* as heck

          Er? What makes the idea of a ridiculously large solar array on the moon so far fetched?

          Yah, okay, producing the silicon solar panels we have on Earth might be a bit farfetched, but there's a proposal in at NASA to develop in-situ thin-film solar cells [nasa.gov]. Even without that, though, it's fairly simple to make mirror surfaces out of lunar soil.

          I especially don't agree with the blanket statement that energy won't be available. Electricity might require some work, but
          • Er? What makes the idea of a ridiculously large solar array on the moon so far fetched?

            As I stated previously: amortization of costs. Solar cells are expensive even here on Earth.

            develop in-situ

            Yes, an essentially nonexistant [google.com] company says that they can do it. Have you seen the kind of infrastructure solar cells take to produce even here on Earth?

            mirror surfaces out of lunar soil

            Reflective, yes -- but poorly reflective; Lunar albedo is low, and the scattering would be awful, plus as mentioned, your labor
            • In addition to dealing with chlorine loss from the system (trace on the moon), subchloride barely works on Earth. Just ask people involved in the Arvida plant, where it corroded the heck out of their equipment. You'll note that there is no longer an Arvida plant.

              Which, curiously, was mentioned in the study I linked. Which is why they recommended high temperature electrolysis.

              Where do you get your carbon source for reducing?

              Carbon's a catalyst in the process. You just need to split it from the carbon dioxide
              • Which is why they recommended high temperature electrolysis

                If you accept that it's unrealistic, why did you mention it?

                Carbon's a catalyst

                No, it's not. It's a reducing agent. You can recover the carbon, but it is not a catalyst (a component which remains unaltered and unconsumed in its entirity by the reaction)

                large infrastructure for power

                You're not seeming to understand the concept of amortization, so let me explain. If there was no such thing as "investment", one could ignore amortization; any money t
                • If you accept that it's unrealistic, why did you mention it?

                  Because it's currently unrealistic. But your original post made it sound as if you absolutely needed to use the Hall process, which isn't true. If someone's smart enough to find a way to avoid serious corrosion from chlorine, then the subchloride process becomes feasible.

                  No, it's not. It's a reducing agent. You can recover the carbon, but it is not a catalyst (a component which remains unaltered and unconsumed in its entirity by the reaction)

                  Carbon
                  • A chemical that has to be recovered is *not* [reference.com] a [wikipedia.org] catalyst [anl.gov]. This is basic chemistry terminology that we're talking about here. A catalyst can be briefly consumed in a reaction if it is immediately recreated, but a side recovery process makes it a reactant, not a catalyst. Otherwise, hydrogen would be a catalyst in hydrogen fuel cells (it's consumed when you combine it with oxygen, but it is recovered in a separate process through electrolysis or thermolysis). So, unless you want to argue that hydrogen is a
                    • This is basic chemistry terminology

                      Which is why I put a star by it. I couldn't remember offhand what would be the proper name for it. If you treat the entire process as a chemical black box, it's very like a catalyst - something that's needed, but you never really see it. Is there a name for a recoverable reactant?

                      If you spend 20B$ to produce a 30,000kg/yr lunar aluminum production plant, with maintenance costs of 1B$/yr, you will never, ever repay it even ignoring the costs of getting your materials off th
                    • It depends on where the $20B is spent. If it's spent on the moon, sure, then it needs to be purely amortized, and the cost will look horrendous. But if $19B in research is spent to develop a self-maintaining plant which can be built and shipped to the moon for $1B, which do you quote as the cost? $20B or $1B?

                      $20B

                      What if the technologies developed with that $19B find their way elsewhere into industry (as they inevitably will) that wouldn't've originally been developed?

                      That's called a spinoff. All tech devel
                    • Exactly my point! Please understand that I'm not discouraging research. I'm discouraging things that make no economic sense, such as building things on the moon when it's far cheaper to build them here and ship them up.

                      Well, I strongly disagree with the ISS having supplies shipped up and down - I think they should be trying to close several of the open loops on the ISS, because in the long run, it's just a waste. That's part of the problem - people are taking much too short of a view on it.

                      Now, that being s
                    • Who said anything about life?

                      Just an example :) Rather talk about industry in general? Lets look at industry's biggest consumed chemicals:

                      Hydrocarbons: The most important - reactants, solutes, lubricants, hydraulic fluids, etc. CH, sometimes with other chemicals involved.
                      Acids: All involving H and O, and the most consumed ones involving SNFP.
                      Metals: Only Fe, Al, Ca, Mg, Si, Ti, Ni, Na, and Cr available in bulk, with the possibility of K, Mn, and S in small quantities. Industry requires many metals not fo
                    • I could give a flying flip about the backing ;)

                      Which is curious, because the substrate is - by weight - the largest component of the solar cells. If nothing else, the ability to create the substrate reduces the launch weight dramatically. And yes, they did demonstrate actually making the solar cell, not just the substrate. It's just that the cell was deposited on, not made in situ.

                      And isn't "launch weight" all that really matters? Who cares if you need to resupply a rover with 10 kg of solar cell material i
                    • Which is curious, because the substrate is - by weight - the largest component of the solar cells. If nothing else, the ability to create the substrate reduces the launch weight dramatically

                      No, it doesn't. Here, lets look at their description. Given what they describe, they're using thin-film amorphous silicon cells. This means doing CVD with carefully balanced plasmas (both silicon and the doping element) in a cleanroom along micron-scale printing a grid into the result both beneath the p layer and abov
                    • Here, lets look at their description.

                      How doesn't it lower the launch costs? They've already done what they describe. They could build a rover right now which would build those cells on the Moon. It would be limited by the supply of the solar cell material, which could be replenished.

                      I'm missing something. Is there some reason the thin-film material couldn't be replenished?

                      First off, electromagnetic tether reboosting doesn't yet exist. I support research in it

                      Which... is what "designing" is. If you said "we
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:50AM (#14742472)
      I pray for the day when science packages based on reconfigurable standard designs can be simply and inexpensively launched from a space station. (A la Star Trek probes.) The mass production would allow us to launch more probes for less, and the orbital launch would save tens of millions on each probe.

      You're right about mass production, but how do you get 'em to the space station in the first place? Still need the rocket from Earth - unless you have an asteroidal or lunar industrial facility capable of building the things from raw materials.

      Mass production of standard probes might well be a good idea, though. The Mariner probes of the 70s were big successes, and ESA has been doing something similar lately - Venus Express (enroute) is the same basic design as the current Mars Express. Just swap out the experiment modules on the same basic spacecraft. Probably not as helpful with landers, which have to handle different gravities, atmospheres etc. dependent on target, but it would be well worth establishing a network of cheap Orbital Observer probes around the solar system.


    • I don't know about anyone else, but I pray for the day when science packages based on reconfigurable standard designs can be simply and inexpensively launched from a space station.


      From what we've done in the past, it doesn't sound like that would be particularly helpful. The things we want to learn are very specialized, and that takes specialized equipment. Just look at the Mars probes we've sent. Two rovers, ground penetrating radar, communications. That doesn't sound very standard to me.

      Not to mention
      • Gravity Probe B was proposed in 1961, started getting funded in 1964, and has been in development on and off ever since until it's launch; the project finally ended in 2005. So, that can't really be said about all prep times.

        But yes, in general, probes and vehicles are starting to become more standardized, which speeds up development. It's just not universal. And there are limits to how standardized a probe can become with techs advancing as quickly as they are ;)
      • The things we want to learn are very specialized, and that takes specialized equipment. Just look at the Mars probes we've sent. Two rovers, ground penetrating radar, communications. That doesn't sound very standard to me.

        Rovers are a trickier issue, but there's nothing all that odd about ground penetrating radar and communications relays. At some point NASA would like to build a packet network throughout the solar system (to improve communications), so I think you'll only see more communications instrument
    • I disagree. Manned spaceflight is a political vision, not a scientific one. Bush and Griffin are gutting real science to focus on fairly pointless goals, from the perspective of science.

      Who are we trying to impress by putting a creature that's not well adapted to space, in space? The universe? I'd rather learn more about the universe, thanks.
      • If you want to learn more about the universe, go out there and personallly and look.

        One geologist on site with comparatively primitive tools would learn more in 1 month than all of the missions all the nations on Earth have sent to Mars so far.

        What we've done so far is tantamount to trying to study Antarctica with remote probes with a huge time delay to prevent them from being used interactively. I'd like to see what kind of information you scrape out of Antarctica with nothing but Viking, Sojorner, and si
        • "If you want to learn more about the universe, go out there and personallly and look."

          This has got to be about the silliest thing I've ever heard on slashdot. By building giant telescopes and machines to capture radiation from space, we ARE looking. Your insinuation that sending a person into orbit, the moon, or even mars is somehow superior to that is nuts.

          "One geologist on site with comparatively primitive tools would learn more in 1 month than all of the missions all the nations on Earth have sent to M
      • Bah. Manned spaceflight is the only kind that makes any sense whatsoever. Why else are we here?
    • New technologies that could have been developed to get science packages off the ground and into space faster and cheaper get lost because there's no push for more advanced vehicles and technology.

      Care to name some of those technologies? (I bet you can't - because there aren't any. Reducing the cost of spaceflight isn't about technology - it's about design and manufacturing and operations.)

      I don't know about anyone else, but I pray for the day when science packages based on reconfigurable standard desig

    • We need space manufacturing more than anything else, and my guess is that this wont entail people, it'll entail automated machines doing their shit.

      Sending a box of crap into space isnt so hard. Add a person and suddenly there's all sorts of unnceessary crap you have to worry about; rad exposure, oxygen, waste management, living space and lets not forget loose heatshielding.

      I'm all for people in space, but I really think it'd be more useful if we had a space infrastructure already set up. And I dont think
  • Missing the Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shma (863063) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:47AM (#14742439)


    Griffin defended the agency's 2007 budget proposal, announced on 6 February, at a hearing before the US House of Representatives' science committee. The $16.8 billion budget includes $5.3 billion for science in 2007 but calls for $3.1 billion in cuts to science programmes by 2010 compared to projections made in the 2006 budget request.

    Despite all the sybolism associated with sending people out into space, it's just not worth cancelling so many science programs. This related story [newscientistspace.com] details exactly what they're planning on cutting and states that from 2008 to 2011 science spending will increase by just 1% each year (is that even enough to keep up with inflation?). Is it really that important to send people back to the moon or to Mars?
    • It's very difficult to sell the public on unmanned probes or other harder science. The ISS similarly has failed to catch the public's imagination. What we need is to push the boundaries of where humans can go to get the general public back on board -- when they're there, then money for the other programs is much easier to get. For example, the Voyager probes were approved when the public was about as high on spaceflight as it ever got, and they were not cheap. A NASA that the public (and by extension Congre
      • That's exactly the problem, though. What is a moon base apart from an even more expensive ISS? Yes, they have lunar soil below them. No, they can't build things from it effectively until launch prices come down to justify that kind of power and refining infrastructure on the moon, and even then, their options are extremely limited.

        What we really *need* is reduced launch prices. I don't care where they come from - nuclear thermal, scramjets, metastable fuels, cheap reusables, optimized disposables, whate
    • No, manned spaceflight could be considered "infrastructure", like roads and power plants... which is arguably a legit function of government. However, NASA having a monopoly on space science isn't a legit function of government, and has set space science back years.

      Does the U.S. government have a monopoly on research on the rainforests? Or medical research? Or any type of other research? No! We have companies, universities, non-profit groups, and plain old hobbiest doing all kinds of research. That is becau
      • Does the U.S. government have a monopoly on research on the rainforests? Or medical research? Or any type of other research?

        I can't comment about all types of research, but massive amounts of research are funded by NIH. NIH decides what programs they would like conducted and funds the actual research out to various universities and other organizations. Which is actually the model that NASA does as well.

        NASA does "basic research". No private company is going to fund MERs. No private company is going to f
        • No private company is going to fund MERs. No private company is going to fund Gravity Probe B. No private company is going to fund Cassini.

          Sort of like how no private organization would fund a solar sail [planetary.org] or experimental Martian greenhouse [wikipedia.org]? Granted, the solar sail's rocket failed and the Mars Oasis project was suspended (for the time being), but hopefully we'll see such private space research projects become more common as launch costs decrease. I'd love to see a space-based equivalent of the Howards Hughes
          • Get some realistic comparisons or don't post.

            Cosmos 1: 4m$.
            Mars Greenhouse: Cancelled almost as soon as it was started because it would cost way too much. He kept increasing the amount he would spend until it reached over 20m$ (much over), wherein he decided to cancel it.

            Vs:

            Gravity Probe B: >$700m
            MERs: $820m thusfar
            Cassini: $3.26b

            Get real, please. No private company or organization is going to fund that.
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:50AM (#14742474) Journal
    During the hearing, science committee member Bart Gordon expressed concern over human spaceflight "cannibalising" other NASA missions in this way. But Griffin pointed out that science had grown from 24% to 32% of NASA's overall budget over the last 15 years, carving its extra funding from the human spaceflight programme: "When that was happening, no one complained, though human spaceflight was suffering." That prompted Gordon to interrupt, emphasising: "No one complained."

    "Touché," Griffin responded. "I'm complaining now."

    And this would be invaluable in a) reviving NASA's flagging image and b) allowing the private sector to take a more active role in spaceflight. The private groups are right now trying to make their living off of space tourism and the like, but I think that's the wrong tack. Science and exploration are what drives public opinion - remember when the first pictures of Jupiter came back from the Voyager probes? Small space companies would be well to consider trying to develop non-military launch vehicles to enable scientific expeditions to be launched cheaply and efficiently, with an eye toward adopting that technology toward getting people into space. After all, space toursist will have to have someplace to go, which means space stations, which won't be built by cargo hauled in space planes, but by good old-fashioned expendable boosters.

  • Heavy editing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by b00le (714402) <interference@l[ ]ro.it ['ibe' in gap]> on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:59AM (#14742560) Homepage
    Actually what I submitted was something entirely different: I highlighted Griiffin's comment that "NASA's human spaceflight programme ... had served to define the US as a world 'superpower."' (As if that were what NASA is for!) I wished to emphasise that this focus on human spaceflight was at the expense of real science [newscientistspace.com], and quoted Louis Friedman, director of the Planetary Society [planetary.org], who said: "I would almost describe it as 'anti-science NASA' now". My point was that NASA is sacrificing substance for style - or politics for science.

    Maybe Zonk works for NASA, or the US Government - certainly he spun the story in a way that would make Scott McLellan proud. It's one thing for /. editors to edit submissions, but if they're going to wholly distort my meaning I'd rather they took my name off the story, thanks all the same.
    • Re:Heavy editing (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jguthrie (57467)
      Actually, helping to make the US a world 'superpower' is what NASA is for. That is why it was created from the NACA, which also wasn't particularly science-oriented (but which was technology-oriented, although I expect most people couldn't tell the difference.) NASA is, after all, an arm of the US government and, therefore, is a political entity. It always has been.

      I also bristle at Dr. Friedman's quote. At NASA, spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight, has never really been about science, but has

      • Re:Heavy editing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by b00le (714402) <interference@l[ ]ro.it ['ibe' in gap]> on Friday February 17, 2006 @01:15PM (#14743289) Homepage

        Actually, helping to make the US a world 'superpower' is what NASA is for.

        I take your point. The sad thing is that NASA also does, or did, a lot of important science [newscientistspace.com], (by mistake? for no good reason?) and that is being pushed aside:

        Delayed indefinitely - the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), a mission to detect and study Earth-like planets

        Delayed by about three years - the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), designed to map stars with unprecedented accuracy and search for planets slightly larger than Earth will now launch no earlier than 2015

        Cancelled - four to six 1.8-metre "outrigger" telescopes designed to bolster the twin 10-metre Keck telescopes in Hawaii. The outriggers would have searched for planets and imaged newborn stars

        Delayed indefinitely - the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a 2.5-metre infrared telescope built into a Boeing 747 plane, will be put under "review" because it is behind schedule. It has been given no funding for the foreseeable future

        Delayed indefinitely - NASA's cosmology programme, "Beyond Einstein", is under review. Two of its missions - LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), to search for ripples in space-time called gravitational waves, and Constellation-X, to study black holes - will be delayed indefinitely

        Cancelled/Delayed indefinitely - Mars research has been cut by $243.3 million to $700.2 million. This reflects the cancellation or indefinite postponement of missions such as the Mars Sample Return Mission and the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter

        Cut - solar system research, largely in astrobiology, has been cut by $96.5 million to $273.6 million

        All this to pay for a shuttle system already slated for retirement, a Space Station with no clear mission, a return to the moon, which will be fun but little more than a stunt, and a manned mission to Mars which is not going to happen, not in the foreseeable future. How does this help to make the US a world 'superpower'? (Never mind whether that in itself is a good idea.)

        Did the Mars Rovers do nothing for America's standing? Did anyone notice the enormous amount of attention that was paid (at least in Europe) to the return of the Stardust mission? Right now, nobody can be in much doubt about how powerful the US is - the doubt is all about how wise.

  • Quote from the Slashdot story: "Griffin countered that the same loss of expertise threatened NASA's human spaceflight programme, which had served to define the US as a world 'superpower'..."

    Thinking of a country as a "superpower" financially benefits people who have friends and family invested in the weapons and war industries, such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

    Similarly, someone who sells electronic security alarms could tell everyone in the houses around him that he is a "superneighbor".

    For
  • What I find so fascinating about humans in space is that there really is *no* space for us humans.

    The living conditions are horrific.

    Star Trek has really lobotomized the public about what it will be like to live in space; at least for the near future.

    The MIR station had over 200 organisms growing on the crystal port window.
    The smell inside was like a dirty locker room full of moldy socks.
    The moon is like living in an ashtray.
    No showers, no proper waste disposal.
    Humans slough off 3 grams of skin per day, nev
    • Some good points...though more we travel into space the quicker we'll develop the technology to deal with them. It also seems like most of the ones you mentioned could be easily solved with more airflow and better filtration/humidity reduction.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:33PM (#14744404)
      What I find so fascinating about settling the Oregon territory is that there really is *no* space for us humans.

      The living conditions are horrific.

      The game The Oregon Trail has really lobotomized the public about what it will be like to live near the Pacific Ocean; at least for the near future.

      Covered wagons often had zillions of organisms growing on their covers.
      The smell inside was like a dirty locker room full of moldy socks.
      The weather is like living under a waterfall.
      No showers, no proper waste disposal.
      Never mind shaving your face.
      Breathing that prairie dust into your lungs crossing the midwest is very unhealthy. (You don't suppose the ISS has filters though, do you?)
      Sweating is a big problem with water loss leading to dehydration and diarhea.
      Crossing the Rocky Mountains is nearly impossible
      Some of the Indians are unfriendly
      There's a big volcano right along side the Columbia River
      The list goes on with all the health concerns and morphing changes ones body goes through.

      The Pacific Northwest is *not* as glamorous as we are lead to believe.
      Personally, I don't ever want to leave the pacific northwest. The pioneers were willing to face a little adversity to settle this region and make it possible to live comfortably here. I see no reason why we wouldn't eventually be able to accomplish the same in space (although the current challenges are far from trivial).
      • lol

        Agree that eventually we will overcome these obstacles.
        But don't sugar coat it too much.
        Space is far more hostile than the Pacific Northwest.
        • Space is far more hostile than the Pacific Northwest.

          And we're a lot more advanced now.

          Mir and the ISS are extremely uncomfortable primarily because they're A) cramped, and B) lack gravity, and C) aren't really engineered to be self-sufficient - all the ISS recovers is water from urine.

          A permanent lunar base will very likely have a much more advanced recycling setup, almost definitely including atmospheric processing. Which handles all the "smell" complaints.
      • That's a pretty ridiculous comment really, and it shows that you don't actually understand what the grandparent was getting at. The pacific northwest (to stay with your example) always was a place that was not intrinsically hostile to human life (or life in general) - the only problem was getting there (especially with all those pesky natives thinking that the pioneers didn't have the dog-given right to steal their land and kill them).

        Space, be it the moon, Mars, or any other part of it, is completely and u
        • Actually, I'm not quite sure you understand what he was getting at. He was saying space is going to be difficult to pioneer, even to the point that it's not worth trying right now. My point was that we have done difficult things before, and because people were willing to take risks when it was difficult, we were able to overcome the difficulty and actually make things better. People died traveling west and they died living here. Many saw opportunities but didn't want to go because of the risks. Others faced
    • The problems with dust and micro-organisms go away if you live on a gravitational body or a rotating space platform. If you don't then you'll have far bigger problems to worry about as the long term effects on health of living in microgravity are quite serious and currently intractable.
    • Living in a good spaceship should be similar to living on a submarine. Think about it. Today's nuclear subs go for three months at a time without surfacing.
      • You forgot about gravity; plenty of that on a sub to pull particles from the air.

        Think about all the excrements that come from the human body.
        Eyes, Ears, Nose, Skin, Hair, Nails, Lungs, Mouth, Anus, Urethra.
        Don't forget about new materials shedding as well.
        Fibers from clothing, molecules of plastics. on and on.
        Now mix in water, food and heat along with bacteria and molds.

        Breathe all that into your lungs for too long and your going to get very sick.

        Radiation, atrophy, and psychology are yet another matter.
  • Wrong idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FridayBob (619244) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:47PM (#14743036) Homepage
    I hate to disagree with this sort of idea -- going back to the Moon and everything sounds like so much fun -- but this is obviously all going to go nowhere. When push comes to shove, economic realities (not to mention Congress) simply won't allow Bush's grandiose Moon-Mars plan to get off the ground, or maybe LEO at best. It's all far too expensive and Dubya knows it, but he'll be long gone by the time NASA comes asking for the really big bucks. Then it'll be the next guy's fault for shooting it down.

    Oh, the government could pay for it easily if they decided to shrink military spending by something like only 10 or 15%, but you know that isn't going to happen. There are way too many terrorists out there who are just be waiting to pounce at the first sign of weakness, so we'd better not give them the impression that our new fleet of F-22 Raptor's won't be ready on time! (haw).

    I say NASA should concentrate on doing more with less and stick to stuff like Mars rovers and Titan landers. Hell, really great science projects like the JIMO mission and the Terrestrial Planet Finder have been scrapped, and for what? In the end, it'll turn out to be for nothing. We'll just be left with a bunch of expensive plans that are never going to fly outside of a computer.
    • NASA has outlined the anticipated costs of a future moon mission up through the first landing. While some funding comes out of aeronautics research and science growth will be limited, most of it replaces the shuttle budget. I believe it really is feasible with the budget proposed, but there's a serious threat that funding will get cut to the point that development of the EELV has to be cancelled because pushing items into the next budget cycle will no longer make up for congressional cuts. I don't expect th
      • ... By the way, I wasn't aware the Terrestrial Planet Finder had been cancelled. ...

        Perhaps not, but "indefinitely deferred" is almost as bad (as stated in NASA's 2007 budget).
  • Well, that's an interesting little tidbit buried in the other article [newscientistspace.com] from a week or so ago, about what specifically was getting cut - reallocation of funding to manned missions means (if the Shuttle can be safe and get the job done) Hubble gets another servicing mission.

    I know that'll make a lot of people's desktop backgrounds happy.

    Unfortunately, the relatively small amount of money they were planning on spending on the Keck Outriggers got cut. Now, I'm biased since I work at Keck occasionally, but one b
    • Yah, but it's no fun that you can't stay overnight. What's the fun of going to the best observing spot in the world if you can't use it?

      It's like telling people

      "Hey, come see Ford Field, site of the Super Bowl (*)"
      (*) visitation hours do not include the Super Bowl
      • Weeeeelllll....

        Is it that you want to use Keck specifically, or is it that you want to spend a night on Mauna Kea? Keck's observers are pretty consistently down in Waimea, after all, but a lot of the other facilities up there allow (or require, mwahaha!) their observers to be "on the premises." And typically, the research funding you'll need if your proposal is accepted at one of them is less than the buck-a-second Keck time costs.

        If the actual use of the big shiny toys isn't your priority, and you're mor
  • They've only launched once in the three years since the last shuttle accidents and had problems with that. I believe they've been five Russian manned launches (all space station) and two Chinese in the meantime. I have not seen a date for the next shuttle launch.
  • ...the super collider in Texas that was shut down start back up again rather than shoot humans into space.

    I am really tired of seeing 'astronauts' throw M&Ms across at each other in free fall. And I've also seen enough somersaults, thank you very much. I'd like some real science now, please. How about, I don't know, investigate alternative, clean energy sources? Oh, that's right, National _Aeronautics_ and _Space_ Administration... Hmm, let's change it to National Advanced Sciences Administration (at l
  • If we start with robots it will never stop, they'll get cheaper faster than we do.

    This cheapness is great for serving people here on earth but it doesn't really start making people up in space or really dividing power any further and offering us new social systems. The rich will control space just as they do all the other resources we have.

    This seems like something that wouldn't last very long but if space never becomes a better place for humans to live the people who do end up going into space will be

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