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New Budget NASA Space Science Missions 180

Posted by Zonk
from the who-needs-science dept.
pertinax18 writes "The New York Times is reporting that 'Some of the most highly promoted missions on NASA's scientific agenda would be postponed indefinitely or perhaps even canceled under the agency's new budget.' This looks to directly impact the types of missions that have been NASA's greatest successes like the Mars Rovers. 'Among the casualties in the budget, released last month, are efforts to look for habitable planets and perhaps life elsewhere in the galaxy, an investigation of the dark energy that seems to be ripping the universe apart, bringing a sample of Mars back to Earth and exploring for life under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa'"
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New Budget NASA Space Science Missions

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  • by GmAz (916505)
    If I was a microbe on the moon of Juipter, I wouldn't want a robot drilling into my living room. Can't you read, no soliciting.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iamlucky13 (795185) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:30PM (#14838505)

      And on a more serious note...

      While Europa remains a high priority for science missions, NASA has been re-evaluating the JIMO mission and concepts that have been proposed for Europa landers, and the latest opinion is that the scope of these missions would make them too costly for the amount of information returned. Additionally, JIMO relies too heavily on technology still in development for Griffin's comfort.

      Among the casualties in the budget, released last month...

      Also released last month, if I remember right, another slashdot article talking about said budget. Sorry, but I'm too lazy and slashdot's search feature is too crappy for me to look it up.

  • Dark energy?....ripping the universe apart?...I would think that would be on the top of their list to look into. Unless it's like, "Eh, why should we look into it? By the time it gets to us, we'll be long gone anyway."
    • Looking into something humans would be utterly incapable of stopping? I dont think it is a pressing matter.
      • Dark energy is one of the few things that Slashdot types go on about that I think is actually worthwhile. As far as I'm concerned, a unknown energy source is far more exciting than whether or not some rock that we can't reach has extra-terrestrial turnips.

        The observations that don't fit physics theories have the potential to let to better understand the way the universe fundamentally works and, more importantly, how to use it to our advantage.
    • They're just waiting for the prophesied one to come and restore balance. Or was that the dark side? Either way he'll probably end up fixing that problem to so they've got nothing to worry about.
  • investigate the dark energy that seems to be ripping the universe apart

    Wasn't that an anime plot? Or maybe a Final Fantasy game... someone fetch Butz and have him check it out.
  • Bad idea. Didn't you guys get the memo?

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA.
    ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

    Peter, do you me to go ahead and send you another copy of that memo?
  • Well - the US is racking up huge bills in Iraq, with no end in sight, not to mention the enormous current account deficit, so I guess NASA gets hit with the cost-cutting.
    • Iraq is just a convenient excuse. All scientific programs in the US are hit by serious budget cuts. Eliminate all chances of finding a job for an entire generation of scientists and you cripple science for decades.
      • All scientific programs in the US are hit by serious budget cuts. Eliminate all chances of finding a job for an entire generation of scientists and you cripple science for decades.

        After cuts last year, the National Science Foundation saw a modest increase this year, but not enough to keep pace with inflation. Likewise, the 2006 budget for the National Institutes of Health fails to keep pace with inflation. DARPA is being pushed away from pure research, and now NASA's science is being put on hold. Bush can

    • Good to see the fruits of this administration's budget "increase."
  • That seems to be more the opionion of the poster than NASA.

    "We're delaying some missions," he told the committee, "but we're not abandoning them."


    It appears the Shuttle replacement costs (and ongoing Shuttle costs) are more than was thought. And if we're going to get rid of the Shuttle, clearly there has to be a replacement. So unless Congress wants to increase the budget to make up the difference, then these missions will just have to wait a while longer.
    • They'd have to fire scientists who won't come back, projects that are suspended have a very low probability of being restarted, anything Europe picks up will likely have to be totally abandoned by NASA due to the lack of experts (but at least it'll still be done), etc.

      If you lose the skillset, you won't get it back. Once the retroactive budget cuts take hold, there'll be a LOT of scientists who will find themselves burned. Even if NASA gets more money at a later date, few will take the risk of going back, k

  • Dr. Donald Lamb, University of Chicago: "The bottom line: science at NASA is disappearing -- fast"
    Dr. Charles Beichman, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "We're getting ready to fire all the people we've built up"
    "Such a lengthy suspension would be a devastating blow to the program and the science community"
    • I find this quite ironic since President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative [whitehouse.gov] during his 2006 State of the Union Address. Maintaining a strong space program with a solid foundation in science would help increase our global competitiveness, especially since China and India are now trying to start space exploration programs of their own.

      Our government's policies are not consistent regarding science and technology, and both President Bush and Congress are to blame. Our lawmakers don't un

  • Makes sense (Score:1, Troll)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802)
    How can you get children to believe in Bible-Based Science$reg; when you're spending all that money promoting real science?
  • by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:30PM (#14838514) Homepage
    Get rid of the bloody Space Shuttle!

    Between the Space Shuttle's budget, stupid wars, and highways to nowhere, the US government should be able scrape together a few million for these important missions.
    • Er...

      That's exactly where the money is going: to develop the CEV. Which happens to be the manned replacement for the Shuttle. There is also the big booster built from Shuttle-system components that will be used for heavy lifting big cargo.

      You're advocating what's already being done!

      The shuttle program can't just stop now, however; it's needed for a few more tasks. Like, oh, that obligation toward finishing the space station and getting it usable (at least, the parts that aren't just being trashed and left t
      • Like, oh, repairing the Hubble Space Telescope and installing already-built parts.

        I don't see a Hubble mission anywhere on the list of upcoming shuttle missions. [nasa.gov]

      • That's exactly where the money is going: to develop the CEV. Which happens to be the manned replacement for the Shuttle. There is also the big booster built from Shuttle-system components that will be used for heavy lifting big cargo.

        Let's get rid of that while we're at it. Given how much manned programs cost, and given how rapidly the capabilities of the unmanned probes and rovers are increasing, sending humans into space will soon have little more merit than sending monkeys into space. It's not even terr

        • OK, let's get this misconception out of the way.

          While there are a lot of things that robots can do, there are a hell of a lot of things they can't. For instance, having a robot on Mars doing geology investigations is great, but all the stuff the rovers take a day to do could be done by a human in just a few minutes. Robots can't react to new situations the way humans do, either; present one with something outside of its programming and it'll just sit there. And do you really trust the robot to not screw up?
          • by Bad D.N.A. (753582) <baddna @ g mail.com> on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:01PM (#14840175)
            OK, let's get this misconception out of the way.

            misconception my ass.

            While there are a lot of things that robots can do, there are a hell of a lot of things they can't. For instance, having a robot on Mars doing geology investigations is great, but all the stuff the rovers take a day to do could be done by a human in just a few minutes.

            The amount of time it takes is irrelevant. How much is costs to get the job done is the point.

            Robots can't react to new situations the way humans do, either; present one with something outside of its programming and it'll just sit there. And do you really trust the robot to not screw up?

            Um... And like there is not a documented paper trail of people screwing up?

            There are reasons why humans still drive trucks, fly planes, and operate trains.

            What planet do you live on? You have never heard of robots flying planes or operating trains or driving trucks? The military uses flying planes now. Every other airport I go to uses robots to drive the trams. Nearly every distribution plant uses robots to truck goods from one end to the other.

            You use the right tool for the right job. And the choice of a human over a robot can sometimes be just another case where you choose the right method for the right situation.

            Bullshit

            You use the tools you can afford! I would love to use a helicopter to transport me from my house to my work every day. It would save time, the technology is available, what's the downside? I cant afford it

            I could hire a doctor to put a bandage on my kids "boo-boo". The doctor is certainly qualified, what's the downside? It's too expensive

            I could send a dude to Mars to pick up rocks. "Dude" is certainly qualified, he can do it faster, what is the downside? do you really need the math?
            • I could send a dude to Mars to pick up rocks. "Dude" is certainly qualified, he can do it faster, what is the downside? do you really need the math?


              Plus the dude will spend most of his time sleeping, eating, housekeeping, suiting up and writing reports for management.
            • So you're going to bitch over everything I say, huh? You stated that human space missions are unnecessary. They most certainly are. And you're getting hostile at me over being corrected.

              I live on the same planet as you do, and apparently you aren't considering the fact that while there are SOME situations where robots can do the job, they can't do ALL of them.

              The only steaming pile of bullshit I see here is your uncalled-for hostile attitude.

              And if you're going to whine about "affordability", here's somethi
              • So you're going to bitch over everything I say, huh?

                It did kind of come out that way didn't it.

                I'd hate to have .... where dreaming about something literally above our petty problems and dreaming about maybe being able to go out there is apparently too expensive

                Well, I have this little problem in that I am in the space business, and I have to worry about these things. I certainly can dream, but I cannot live in a fantasy land either. Sure, I would love to launch a probe to 0.1 AU with a full suit
        • But the romance of the manned missions is what keeps taxpayers interested enough to fund ANY space program. Cut the manned missions entirely, and about the only space stuff you'll see will be weather and communications satellites, so Joe 6pak can see the hurricane bearing down on him, on TV. Space science will follow manned space down the toilet, because while it's cheaper, that's only in relative terms.
    • The Shuttle is already being wound down. It is the US government that determines where NASA spends its funds. If you don't like how the funds are being earmarked, talk to your congresscritter. Even if the President has a Mars fixation, it is Congress that holds the purse strings and passes the budget.

    • Get rid of the bloody Space Shuttle!

      The whole point of the Space Shuttle was to build and support the Space Station. The whole point of the Space Station was to build an interplanetary ship, since building one that has to both escape Earth's gravity AND fly to, say, Mars is a huge problem to overcome. And this was only to be the plan for 15 to 20 years.

      Congress turned the Space Shuttle into the only vehicle left, and Congress turned the Space Station into what it is. OK, them and a lot of bad managemen

  • by Buran (150348) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:33PM (#14838534)
    And so Dickens was right.

    We have long been hoping that someday people would go back to the moon for more than just the Apollo-style touch-and-go missions, and now that looks like a reality more than it ever has since the end of the Apollo program.

    And yet, it is the worst of times, too, for those who have been working very, very hard on programs that have nothing to do with the lunar program which have been very productive. I can only hope that this will pass, and that once the new vehicles have been developed and are flying we will be able to resume other science programs -- and face it, despite the setbacks like the Polar Lander and the Climate Observer, there have been a great many successes in the NASA robotic programs. The HST, the MER program, Cassini, the Great Observatories, Landsat, the list just goes on and on.

    The Shuttle was and is a great idea, but the execution was flawed due to too much pennypinching during the design phase. It is an amazing idea and I hope that a safer reincarnation of the same thing returns, from either a government or from a private company. Do it right (manned flyback booster, a hardier orbiter, and so on) and put a better escape system on it.

    But until things get smoothed out again, all I can do is wait, and hope that it all works out in the end. I've been a space buff for years, and I probably will be forever, and I know that the new expendables will probably be more inexpensive to operate plus the processing flow will hopefully be smoother.

    Until then, though, it is the season of light and the season of darkness.
    • The Shuttle was and is a great idea, but the execution was flawed due to too much pennypinching during the design phase.

      I'm not sure design was the real problem. As usual, when government money is involved, engineering loses out to politics. The history of the Shuttle might have been far different if Morton Thiokol (who had a huge logistical disadvantage) hadn't been awarded a certain contract.

      Too many people, inside and outside of NASA, made conflicting claims about the Shuttle. Depending on who you

      • Yes, the design was fairly good -- but it had known flaws that were pointed out and argued against while it was in development. Such as having a manned flyback booster. Such as having liquid-fuelled boosters. Such as having monolithic solid boosters. Such as being top-mounted instead of parallel-stack. All of these issues were addressed in designs -- that were thrown out due to being too expensive. And the monolithic booster were thrown out and a design made by the entrant that came in last in the booster-d
        • All of these issues were addressed in designs -- that were thrown out due to being too expensive.

          I'm not sure what your argument is. As I said, pick one or two design goals - expense was one of those. You can't have them all. The Shuttle was designed in the 70's. I'd guess that most Slashdot denizens can't remember a time when the Shuttle wasn't flying, and a good portion weren't even born when the first shuttle launched, although most have perfect hindsight on the subject.

          Just for comparison, it wa

          • I'm not aware that explaining the facts of the matter at hand constitutes anything beyond attempting to be informative. Not everything involves an argument just because it's on an internet message forum.
      • The Shuttle was and is a great idea, but the execution was flawed due to too much pennypinching during the design phase.I'm not sure design was the real problem.

        As usual, when government money is involved, engineering loses out to politics. The history of the Shuttle might have been far different if Morton Thiokol (who had a huge logistical disadvantage) hadn't been awarded a certain contract.

        Sadly, the decision to award the contract to Morton Thiokol was made on sound engineering (and penny pinching) g

        • Sadly, the decision to award the contract to Morton Thiokol was made on sound engineering (and penny pinching) grounds. At the time the contract was awarded, there was essentially no experience with big monolithic solids, and a fairly large base of experience with large segmented solids.

          You lost me. If there was no experience in the field, then why should Morton Thiokol have been chosen over any geographically closer competitor, with the resultant transportation and assembly problems? Just low bidder?

          • Sadly, the decision to award the contract to Morton Thiokol was made on sound engineering (and penny pinching) grounds. At the time the contract was awarded, there was essentially no experience with big monolithic solids, and a fairly large base of experience with large segmented solids.

            You lost me. If there was no experience in the field,

            I'll try and explain, I thought I made myself clear.

            There are two ways to build big solids -

            1. Cast the grain in a single large pour. At the time the SRM contract was
            • Usually when NASA puts out a RFP, it includes it's research data (and/or a general design) as well as the specifications, the contractor then proposes a specific design. NASA analyses the competing designs and chooses among them. (Contrary to popular belief, price is only one of many, many criteria used by the goverment to evaluate proposals.)

              Yes, I've been involved in several responses to RFPs. I'm aware of how it works. There are also single-source requisitions which are not so clear.

              Many people pa

              • With my well-earned cynicism, I follow the smoke-and-fire model whenever politics and money are involved.
                In other words, you prefer ignorance - your mind is made up, facts need not intrude into your world.
                • In other words, you prefer ignorance - your mind is made up, facts need not intrude into your world.

                  Um, no, those would be your words. My cynicism comes from seeing both ends of the aerospace and construction contract process over a period of several decades. If I tend to entertain suspicions about government contracts, it is because I've seen how easily abuses of the system happen. While you could be correct about the RFP process for SRBs, I do not get my "facts" from unknown people on Slashdot (alth

  • I wonder which Pork Barrel Project drove this latest reduction in NASA's budget? perhaps Alaska needed another bridge to nowhere ?

    Who needs space exploration when you have have TONS and TONS of PORK, that oh sweet budget bustin' other white meat that our elected big spenders in Washington would just starve without.
  • It is sad to see NASA's science and exploration focus abandoned to instead spend billions on new technology to send people to low earth orbit slightly less unsafely than before.

    All of the cancelled missions were of great scientific and exploratory importance. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the missions replacing them.

    Hopefully under a new administration, sanity (and science) will return to NASA.

  • At least someone... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kuwan (443684) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:37PM (#14838566) Homepage
    At least someone is doing something:

    Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, and 56 other senators have introduced a bill that would mandate a 10 percent increase per year in NASA's science budget from now through 2013, among other things.

    More people ought to contact their representatives about NASA funding. Unfortunately space exploration doesn't seem to get as much press time as other "important" issues these days.
    • More people ought to contact their representatives about NASA funding. Unfortunately space exploration doesn't seem to get as much press time as other "important" issues these days.
      Unsurprising - since the general public has historically been vastly disinterested in space exploration.
  • when the bible says there isnt any. stupid sintists....

    I wish I could simply mod this "Funny", laugh and move on, except so many people actually think this way. At the moment, unmanned missions are being canned, next thing we know a new government is in and cans the manned missions as economically unfeasable, and then there's no more science *or* engineering/political activities going on at NASA.
    • The Bible clearly states that there is life "elsewhere": Angels. (Not to mention people like Enoch and the Christ, whose physical incarnations were transported to some non-terrestrial abode, according to the Bible.)

      As with all things--especially complex and sophisticated things--asshats will misunderstand, misrepresent, and misapply. But that just proves that they're asshats, not that the subject of their asshattery is itself a bad idea.

      And as you have just demonstrated, being an asshat about Christianity
  • ...or so the Radical Religious Right( aka R3) would have you believe.

    Of course they want to force out funding for extraterrestrial life sicences and searched. This would shatter their belief nuch like the concept that the Earth revolved around the sun.
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:53PM (#14838707) Homepage
    Uhura: Captain, I'm getting an urgent communique' from Starfleet HQ
    Kirk: Put in on the main screen
    Uhura: Aya
    Commander: Jim...
    Kirk: Commander Wilkes! What brings us the pleasure of your visit?
    Commander: Jim, I have some bad news.
    Kirk: Not another shippment of tribbles, heheh
    Commander: Jim, this is serious. We're ... you know that 'five year mission' bit?
    Kirk: Yes
    Commander: Well, we're going to have to cut it back to one ...
    Kirk: What?
    Commander: That's right - one year.
    Kirk: (dramatic) Their ... ONE ... year ... mission ... to ... seek ...
    Commander: That give your 3 more months to clear up this planet destroyer thingy.
    Kirk: But ... why??
    Commander: It's the budget Jim. Starfleet's pretty strapped these days, what with the extra patrols in the Romulan sector
    Kirk: I knew we never should have taken sides in their sectarian squabbling.
    Commander: That doesn't matter. It's not for us to decide. We .. have our orders. And you ha..
    Kirk: What about ... new life, new planets ... boldly going ...
    Commander: It's "to boldy go" Jim. I know, we all feel as bad about it as you do. Prepare to wrap this up in 3 months. That's all.
    Uhura: They've dropped connection, captain.
    Kirk: Sulu, lay in a course for the Altairian sector
    Spock: Captain, the plant destroyer is continuing toward the heavily populated...
    Kirk: Nevermind that. If we've only got 3 months budget left we're going to the planet of the Altairian slave girls...
  • The article and the summary both specifically say that the most of the programs will simply be delayed, not cancelled completely. Space isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so what's the big deal if we bring back stuff from Mars now or in 10 years? Why not scale back a few programs and save some cash now and address scaling it up in the future when the country's budget is a little better?

    Every government program complains about funding cuts and gives doomsday scenarios about what's going to happen. Those t
    • The problem is that the programs that are continuing are worthless:

      The agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, says NASA needs the money to keep the space shuttle fleet aloft, complete the International Space Station and build a new crew exploration vehicle to replace the shuttle.

      The shuttles and the ISS should be scrapped immediately, and the US shouldn't develop a replacement for the shuttle.

      Instead, money should be redirected into low-cost unmanned launch options, robotics research, and missions that

    • I personally think every government program should undergo significant funding cuts and those programs will be forced to be more efficient.

      I personally think your salary should undergo significant cuts, and you will be forced to be more efficient.
  • This is nice, instead of real science getting done we get to keep some craft from the 70s (that are falling apart) and a money hole(iss). Awesome. NASA should shitcan the shuttle and get out of this LEO mentality, start thinking big again. Balls to the wall, as it were.
    • Transitional periods cause turmoil. It's unavoidable, and complaining that we should somehow achieve the goals of the transition, without going through the transitional period and its turmoil, just makes you sound like an ass.
      • Well I may sound like an ass, but I do know that it takes a really long time to travel a mile if all you do is crawl.
        • Crawling isn't wrong in an infant, nor do we complain on account of how long it takes an infant to crawl a mile. Perhaps you'd sound like less of an ass if you bothered to explain both how the current pace qualifies as a "crawl" and how a crawl is an inappropriate pace for NASA's current situation.
    • NASA should shitcan the shuttle and get out of this LEO mentality, start thinking big again.

      This is exactly what they are doing! The reason there isn't as much money for science is due to the fact that they have to spend money to replace the shuttle.
  • No big surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NatteringNabob (829042) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @07:15PM (#14838889)
    Big ticket, no science programs like Bush II's 'man on mars' fantasy provide huge contracts to aerospace corporations that are big contributors. Programs that distribute a lot of small grants to thousands of scientists and graduate students don't produce contributions. Bush II has always been clear that job number one is taking care of the 'political base', and aerospace contractors have always been part of that.
    • And the public only sees an increase of the entire budget, which includes a significant decrease for science and a remarkable increase of subsidy measures for the aerospace industry, not to mention the waste of money for faith-based initiatives.
    • This guy is right on the money (pun intended). Bush is only taking care of his base via NASA. It's simply money laundering under a different name. In fact, if you follow ALL the pork in government, you'll probably find the exact same thing.

  • Way to go! Kill off the basic research as usual. How far could we have advanced if priorities were got right?

    On the bright side, it still seems to be OK to pay $billions to spray coal with pine resin, though, according to the previous article...
  • Small changes (Score:3, Informative)

    by MagPulse (316) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @08:10PM (#14839230)
    According to this page [whitehouse.gov], here are the science budgets for 2004-2006:

    2004: $5,600M
    2005 (est): $5,527M
    2006 (est): $5,476M

    That doesn't look like too big of a change. Does losing $50 million really do that much?
    • My understanding is that the proposed amount wasn't actually funded by Congress. Can anyone clarify this?
    • According to this page, here are the science budgets for 2004-2006:

      2004: $5,600M
      2005 (est): $5,527M
      2006 (est): $5,476M

      That doesn't look like too big of a change. Does losing $50 million really do that much?

      In a word: yes it does. A lot. For starters, The loss from 2004 to 2006 looks more like $124M to me, which is a 2.2% cut But that's not really stating the full extent of the problem, since these are nominal dollars and not real dollars. If we assume the inflation rate is 3%, we find that t

  • If america would stop wasting money on wars it should never have started in the first place (the situation in IRAQ is actually WORSE now than it was under saddam I believe), maybe there would be enough money to do something good (like space exploration)

    I dont follow US politics, is the general push from the US people these days pro-iraq-war or anti-iraq-war? (i.e. is there pressure from the public to the administration to pull out of iraq or not?)
  • I've gone through this entire thread and haven't found a single argument for that first A, Aeronautics. I've been working with NASA for years on the Small Aircraft Transportation System [nasa.gov] program. We were just informed that there is going to be no funding support for it this year.

    Why is it that 99.999% of NASA's "customers" travel by air and .001% travel into space, but the budget is so lopsided that that almost 98% of the funding is going to Space flight? We're not done innovating in the atmosphere yet
  • Like the stem cell researchers who made news the other week for packing off to China, it looks like this budget would give China an opportunity to buy a planetary exploration team or two if they were interested.

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