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Project Orion to Bring U.S. Back to the Moon 399

Posted by Zonk
from the guess-you-can't-take-the-sky-from-me dept.
ganjadude writes "Thirty-seven years ago yesterday, Project Apollo put the first humans on the surface of the Moon. The next time the U.S. launches its astronauts to Earth's natural satellite, they will do so as part of Project Orion." From the article: "Under Project Orion, NASA would launch crews of four astronauts aboard Orion capsules, first to Earth orbit and the International Space Station and then later to the Moon. Two teams, one led by Lockheed Martin and the other a joint effort by Northrop Grumman and The Boeing Co., are currently competing to build the CEV. NASA is expected to select the winner in September."
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Project Orion to Bring U.S. Back to the Moon

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  • by adam (1231) *
    ah, the moon, the stepping stone to Mars. for me, this is a subject of much ambivalence. it's nice to see some actual money being spent on science, but at the same time, I struggle to really identify what benefit there is going to the moon, or to Mars. Other than public relations benefit, of course. But really, what will we find? That a few simple organisms once existed on mars, and that Mars once had water? But don't we know this now?

    The Europeans focus much more heavily on aero-sciences, and we
    • by Faylone (880739) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:49PM (#15761309)
      To put it bluntly, we need to get off this hunk of rock we're on and start colonizing elsewhere.
    • by erice (13380) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:52PM (#15761318) Homepage
      That a few simple organisms once existed on mars, and that Mars once had water? But don't we know this now?

      Finding even simple organisims that evolved on Mars would be of fantastic value. Right now all we know about life is derived from one sample point. A lot of what we assume to fundamental about life could be proven completely wrong if we find out the Martian life does it differently. It could be that Earth life has unnecessary complexities and finding Mars life is the key to creating life from scratch in the lab. All sorts of amazing bio-technology could result.
    • by yog (19073) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:58PM (#15761333) Homepage Journal
      Yours is a common argument. In an earlier era in the 1970s people were saying, why don't we spend that money here on earth where it's needed? Yet, every cent of that money is spent here on earth; it's not as though we launch tons of dollar bills into orbit and eject them into space. Thousands of engineers, scientists, physicians, space suit makers, rocket ship builders, computer programmers, astrophysicists, and others are employed by the space program.

      I question that we would necessarily have developed velcro, microcomputers, Tang, new alloys, biomedical advances, etc., by sending robotic ships to explore space. Perhaps other things might have been developed instead, perhaps some of the same things, but scientific developments and spinoffs are not predictable. JFK didn't say he believed this nation should develop microcomputers and velcro by the end of the decade, he said we should land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth. The implementation details are where the technical advances are made.

      What's more, it's the manned space flights that hold the public's interest and keep the funding up. The public latched onto astronauts as national heroes early on, in an era when heroes were greatly needed, and today is no different. Dangerous exploration is a glamorous thing. Sure, the robotic craft that explore Mars are very exciting and of course we should continue such efforts, but the extra effort of accommodating humans in space is what really pushes us forward technologically and emotionally.

      It's also worth considering that even if the U.S. doesn't travel back to the Moon, other countries will. Do you really want your grandkids to have to buy tickets on a Chinese spacecraft to visit the Chinese moon city fifty years hence? Or the EU moon base? Or the Russian Mars base? Not that our grandkids will be able to afford such things; we'll be the has-beens, the left-behinds who stand at night and gaze at the sky while other nation-states dominate the heavens. No way. The U.S. has got to maintain its leadership role in space or it will become an also-ran.
      • What's more, it's the manned space flights that hold the public's interest and keep the funding up.

        That's not true at all. The Apollo program came to an end because the public got bored. It's an ironic part of the history of space exploration that even something as amazing as walking around on the Moon wasn't enough to hold the public's interest.

        It's also worth considering that even if the U.S. doesn't travel back to the Moon, other countries will. Do you really want your grandkids to have to buy ticke

        • Is that any different from buying tickets on a country's national airline to visit said country? Do you condemn as unpatriotic people who fly to Beijing on Air China, or Dublin on Aerlingus?

          I think the core of his argument was all about pride. It's pride that provides the social momentum to forge ahead and aspire to be better than we are. Without pride, we sulk and eventually have an attitude of "I don't give a damn". I don't know about you, but I'd rather live in a country that's optimistic about the futur
      • question that we would necessarily have developed velcro, microcomputers, Tang, new alloys, biomedical advances, etc., by sending robotic ships to explore space.

        Well, repeating the past is hardly going to help advance current science, don't you think?

        We need fundamentally different, harder challenges! Why? Because going to the Moon is possible with 1960's technology, so actually going to the said Moon will sink hundreds of billions into the said 1960's technology!

        Why not invest this US$ trillion or so into
        • by Kjella (173770) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:49PM (#15761483) Homepage
          Well, repeating the past is hardly going to help advance current science, don't you think?

          We need fundamentally different, harder challenges! Why? Because going to the Moon is possible with 1960's technology, so actually going to the said Moon will sink hundreds of billions into the said 1960's technology!


          That sounds like "well, we've sent a couple planes with daredevils across the atlantic, so we know we can do it. let's not waste money doing it again" and then expect modern passenger jets where the passengers yawn their way over to appear out of nowhere. I'm sorry, but it doesn't work that way. We need to evolve modern spacecraft if we're to reach Mars, if we're to populate the solar system, and if we're one day to go out among the stars. And even if we don't, we won't be sinking hundreds of billions into 1960's technology but to apply modern technology to space travel. I've no doubt we can find uses out there that we can bring back to earth. This isn't "Moon II: The remake", it's about how safe, easy and comfortable we can make going to the moon with all the luxuries of modern electronics they never had. What landed in 1969 (and beyond) was with all due respect a very primitive craft. A great achievement to be sure, but they don't prepare us to go further. These missions do.
          • In 1800's the Chinese started building a giant stepladder to reach the Moon. While some said they should wait for a better technology, the Emperor decided to sink the country's resources into the 'project' anyways "because the country needed to evolve modern stepladders if we're to reach Mars, if we're to populate the solar system, and if we're one day to go out among the stars"

            I hope this litte joke illustrates the problem with what you are proposing. Do you realize that the Titan rockets burned 20,000 gal
            • Do you realize that the Titan rockets burned 20,000 gal. of fuel per second (!) to go to the Moon.

              No, I actually didn't realize that. I always thought it was the Saturn rockets that did that, not Titan. Wow, I guess I was ignorant.

            • by SnowZero (92219) on Friday July 21, 2006 @11:56PM (#15761875)
              Do you realize that the Titan rockets burned 20,000 gal. of fuel per second (!) to go to the Moon.

              Funny, Titan rockets never went to the moon. Apollo went to the moon. Please read your space history.

              What we need is a new propulsion system, something like the ion thruster prototypes the Europeans got

              You mean like the one the US developed and launched in the late 90s on Deep Space One? Yeah, too bad we don't have one of those. Please find out what is going on before you spout off on a rant.

              The human race needs to go to the moon, and eventually it needs to stay. Here are some other things which were a waste of resources during their development, and without any immediate payoff:

              - transoceanic ships (why go to another country, we have everything we need here!)
              - cars (horses were far better in the early years)
              - airplanes (think how many people spent their life savings working on one, and never made progress)

              Please look at the US budget [www.icdr.us]. NASA's entire budget is 0.7% of that, compared to 17% for defense and a whopping 40% for social security and health benefits. We could pay for NASA by spending 4% less on defense, or finding a way to decrease medical costs by 2%. Several drug companies could fund NASA in its entirety with their profits alone. Space exploration is not the "low hanging fruit" for saving money on the budget.
            • Funny, when I first read the header I thought we were going to use a large spacecraft with nuclear warheads detonated behind it to reach the moon. That's what Project Orion used to be. But that's not the point. NASA has already used ion propulsion on a mission (Deep Space One) and I believe it's fairly common for station-keeping in earth orbit. But it's spectacularly ill-suited for launches. You fire a long time to get the velocity change you want, it's not like a swift kick in the pants.

              And I'm prett
            • ion-propulsion is not in the vaporware stage, it's in deployment!

              NASA's deep space 1 launched 1998 http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/quick_facts.html [nasa.gov]

              ESA's SMART-1 launched 2003 http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/SMART-1/SEMSDE1A6BD_0. html [esa.int]

              boeing sells ion thrusters for satelites http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/space/bss/fact sheets/xips/xips.html [boeing.com]

              additionally, these technologies will never be used to replace chemical rockets. chemical rockets throw a lot of mass out the back at a relativly slow speed, but all

        • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:58PM (#15761510) Homepage
          Why not give that money to science teachers so that we don't need to import engineers from India, China, Russia?

          Because the reason you have to import engineers from India, China, and Russia is lack of founding to American teachers... After all, just look at all those bags of money Indian, Chinese, and Russian teachers seem to have lying around... The causes of your lack of native grown engineers are many, and teachers' salaries are probably not anywhere near the most important problem. Until you are willing to take a hard look at what your society and education system have become, instead of throwing even more money at the problem, I fear you shall continue to fail.
          • Have you seen those "support our troops" ribbons? Today it's not politicaly correct to say anything except "we support our troops". Wouldn't it be cool to have "support our teachers" ribbons?

            It would never happen of course, they are unionized. We know how much the right wing hates unions, we have seen how much slashdot hates unions.
          • by megaditto (982598) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:46PM (#15761662)
            I see your point, and I agree that there is a larger problem somewhere in the system. But high-school science funding is a huge problem. Well funded private and public schools have small class sizes, dedicated, enthusiastic teachers, fun hands-on science experiments, something to capture young minds distracted by porn, sports, videogames, drugs.

            Most schools in this country have non-existant science lab programs (dissolve NaCl in water, separate these metal shavings from sand with a magnet). Most science teachers are crap (e.g. teaching PE and some science on the side). Most poor students don't have the basic fascilities to get homework help (and yes, science and math are HARD, take TIME to understand and start liking them). Those interested in science AND able to get to college are weeded out due to lack of basic knowledge/concepts (sin2 x+ cos2 x=1, V=IR, N=6.022*10^23)

            Not enough science PR in our classrooms, either. The students do not get to hear about Craig Venter, Flemming, Crieg and Watson, Oppenheimer. Instead they are hearing about what Paris Hilton sucked last month, how much money a basketball player can make, how much steroids can help some, how many bitches one can slap as a rapper, etc.

            What can you expect when poor kids trully believe that basketball/army can be their ticket out of a trailorpark/ghetto?
          • First, we don't have to import engineers. They are falling all over themselves to get here. We are merely allowing them to do so. You know, the brain drain and all that. For some reason the smartest folks from all those countries are incredibly desperate to come here. You might want to ask them why. Second, do a little reading about Indian teachers. You might learn something. Many of them don't even bother to show up for class. They are paid almost nothing. Yeah. That's a real dedication to teaching and edu
            • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @01:11PM (#15763529)

              And India? Has anything ever been invented there?

              According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], the number zero, negative numbers and binary and decimal number systems are Indian inventions. You might have heard of them sometimes ;).

              According to this page [edhelper.com], sugar (extracting it from sugarcane, to be exact) and cotton were also invented (found ?) in India.

              Not that I don't like a good curry. And I love Basmati rice.

              Indeed.

      • I want people to be able to choose from the Hilton moon base, or the Marriot Mars base. Maybe a Holiday inn on one of Mars's moons. For a longer trip, perhaps a resort on Titan or Ganymede. One nice thing about corporations is that they rarely bomb each other.
        • Only because they aren't allowed to own bombs. You trust an organization who's only purpose is to create more wealth and power for tiself, with no public oversight? You're a fool.
      • by Schemat1c (464768) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:33PM (#15761439) Homepage
        I question that we would necessarily have developed velcro...

        Once again, Velcro was not developed by NASA.

        From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

        "The hook and loop fastener was invented in 1948 by Georges de Mestral, a Swiss engineer. The idea came to him after he took a close look at the Burdock seeds which kept sticking to his clothes and his dog's fur on their daily walk in the Alps. De Mestral named his invention "VELCRO" after the French words velours, meaning 'velvet', and crochet, meaning 'hook'. Today Beige-a is the leading exporter of velcro in the world."
      • by Seraphim1982 (813899) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:36PM (#15761452)
        I question that we would necessarily have developed velcro, microcomputers, Tang, new alloys, biomedical advances, etc., by sending robotic ships to explore space.

        Tang and Velcro were devolped independently of the US space program. Velcro was invented in Europe in 1948. Tang was devolped as a breakfast drink in the 50's about 10 years before its association with the space program.

        What's more, it's the manned space flights that hold the public's interest and keep the funding up.

        Then why were the later Apollo missions abandoned due to lack of public interest?
        Holding the public's interest is impossible, the public is far to fickle.
      • If Tang had been developed by NASA, it would serve as a powerful argument against space exploration.
      • by nyri (132206) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:33AM (#15762181)
        It's also worth considering that even if the U.S. doesn't travel back to the Moon, other countries will. Do you really want your grandkids to have to buy tickets on a Chinese spacecraft to visit the Chinese moon city fifty years hence? Or the EU moon base? Or the Russian Mars base?

        Being an European myself, I find it highly offensive that you assume that any reasonable American person should answer: no.

        Not that our grandkids will be able to afford such things; we'll be the has-beens, the left-behinds who stand at night and gaze at the sky while other nation-states dominate the heavens. No way. The U.S. has got to maintain its leadership role in space or it will become an also-ran.

        It doesn't really matter to me what "nation" goes to space. I want that human race goes to space. The whole going to space thing seems to be a mere a mean to protect U.S.'s status as leading superpower. And what comes to left-behinds: They won't be Chinese or Europeans. They will be Earthlings.
      • by nczempin (822340)
        Yours is a common argument. In an earlier era in the 1970s people were saying, why don't we spend that money here on earth where it's needed? Yet, every cent of that money is spent here on earth; it's not as though we launch tons of dollar bills into orbit and eject them into space. Thousands of engineers, scientists, physicians, space suit makers, rocket ship builders, computer programmers, astrophysicists, and others are employed by the space program.

        By the same argument, wars are good for the economy. It
    • by blueturffan (867705) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:05PM (#15761356)
      but if we want to prioritize, wouldn't billions of dollars be better spent focusing on fixing our own messed up planet?
      Billions and billions of dollars have been spend trying to "fix our own messed up planet". This was exactly the reasoning that got the budgets for Apollo 19 and Apollo 20 cancelled. (People pointed to the Vietnam war, the homeless, and so forth and asked, "Why are we spending money on the moon when we have so many problems here on Earth??") The sad fact is that we had the most awesome heavy lift capability this planet had ever seen and we threw it away. Even with minimal funding for Apollo / Saturn hardware, we could have built a real space station in just a few launches. Put another way, the US went from first sub-orbital flight (Alan Shepard, Freedom 7, May 1961) to "concluding man's first exploration of the moon" (Apollo 18, December 1972) in 11 short years. Since 1972, we've just been going in circles.

      As far as the value of "putting men on a rock in space" is concerned, it's more than just the science value. That is not to discount the science value which is very real. I heard of an experiment that was done with a simulated "alien" environment. First the unmanned probes (may have been rovers) were given their chance to explore the area. They found nothing remarkable. Then they sent in the *HUMANS* who within seconds discovered a soda can that obviously did not belong in the simulated environment.

      That may be an urban legand, but I believe it makes a valid point. A trained *HUMAN* scientist can quickly determine what is relevant and what is not, and focus on the relevant. That is not to say that all exploration should be manned. I believe the manned and unmanned missions should be complimentary, not competitors.

      • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:11PM (#15761373) Homepage
        Apollo 18 was killed by budget cuts shortly after 19 and 20 were. :(
        • Apollo 18 was killed by budget cuts shortly after 19 and 20 were. :(

          Actually Apollo 15 was cancelled first, causing a renumbering of the subsequent flights. (This resulted in the Rovers flying early - they had been slated for the original Apollo 17. 15 & 16 would, under the original plan, have been handcart missions like 13 and 14.) This happened IIRC in 1969. Much later Apollo 20 was cut, the 19 was cancelled to free up a Saturn V for Skylab.

      • I don't know why, but your use of emphasis on the word "*HUMAN*" makes me think we are going to send Roger Wilco from Space Quest 3 out there, while good at successfully landing chickens at the intergalactic burger joint, does it all just to avoid paying overdue taxes.
      • More impressive... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cyno01 (573917)
        the US went from first sub-orbital flight (Alan Shepard, Freedom 7, May 1961) to "concluding man's first exploration of the moon" (Apollo 18, December 1972) in 11 short years
        Something thats always impressed me about us as a species, if you take a step back and look at the whole of human history. We went from heavier than air flight to landing on our moon in just 66 years.
    • by icebike (68054) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:07PM (#15761362)
      The money spent will be spent here on earth. Its not like there will be a bunch of guys shoveling money out the spacecraft hatch.

      Any spin offs are gravy, and historically have vastly exceeded the total budget by several orders of magnitude in untold commercial applications of even the most basic research by-products.

      Spending the same amount of money on any terrestrial application OTHER THAN the development of additional energy sources would probably be a boondoggle.
      • Any spin offs are gravy, and historically have vastly exceeded the total budget by several orders of magnitude in untold commercial applications of even the most basic research by-products.

        That's the propoganda NASA has been spinning for decades. The cold reality is that total number of spin-off is essentially zero.
    • I agree with you, but for different reasons...

      With the current administration, and the general state of NASA funding, (and scientific funding in general), I doubt this project will ever work. Some "more pressing" project/war will come up and money for this project will be cut from the budget, and eventually the project will be cancelled.

      I think that there would be a lot of valuable research, invention and innovation that would result from this program - if it would ever be completed. What I think we'l
      • With the current administration, and the general state of NASA funding, (and scientific funding in general), I doubt this project will ever work.

        No, it WON'T work with the 'current administration'. But not for the reasons you outline. The 'current administration' will be gone in 2 years. Someone else will take over. It will be up to them to continue funding or not. And the ones that follow after them.
        This is a LONG project. All the 'current administration' can do is get the ball rolling. Which they are do
    • similar research in this country is largely the burden of private organizations

      Which almost always do a better job than government. The reason that they have never sent people to the moon is very much related to your point: it isn't worth it. They are trying to make real gains, not do something "cool" to earn voter support, but do something useful to earn money. How much more have the Europeans invented than the US?

      All the tangible benefits we've reaped from space travel (tang, velcro, etc)

      Tang and
    • The usual suspects (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alfred, Lord Tennyso (975342) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:22PM (#15761404)
      You've already gotten the usual answers: dubious claims of technological advances (always a very short list, usually stuff that was being worked on already), and utopian ideas of being able to provide a backup of human life (which would cost hundreds of trillions and doesn't really seem necessary, especially to a cynic like me who thinks that if we manage to wipe ourselves out then we're not worth backing up). Plus the usual "It could produce all kinds of stuff you don't know about" (which hardly seems like justification for spending a quarter-trillion dollars) and a vague notion of manifest destiny.

      All of which are lies. They're obviously justifications because they don't want to tell you the real reason: because it's cool. And arguably, that's the best reason.

      The US reached its position of power in the world largely on the back of its inventiveness. (Immensely fertile land didn't hurt, but we'd have long since tapped that out if we hadn't invented a huge array of technology to prop it up).

      If a high-profile "scientific" mission (there's actually little scientific value to manned space-flight) inspires the things that bring money into America today, from Sergey Brin to Dean Kamen to Craig Venter, perhaps it's money worth spending.

      Other than that, it's mostly a way to funnel vast sums of money to prop up the military contractors. Guess what Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, and Lockheed do when they're not building space-ships? And they do it in practically every Congressional district in the country.
      • by Moekandu (300763)

        dubious claims of technological advances (always a very short list, usually stuff that was being worked on already)

        The first reason the list is usually so short, is that most of us here are not avionics experts. There are hundreds of components (possibly thousands) used in current jets that were developed by NASA.

        The second reason that the list is short is that most of us are too lazy to do some honest research when posting a reply here on /. As you can probably tell, I'm including myself in this...

        e

    • by A non moose cow (610391) <slashdot@rilo.org> on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:33PM (#15761436) Journal
      If you bother to look past the short term expenses I think you will start to realize how beneficial it would be to establish modes of efficient travel and a permanent presence on terra luna. There are physical characteristics there that make it ideal for a number of different industries, most obviously, an inconsequential atmosphere, and relatively low gravity.

      For example, how big and how perfect of a pure silicon crystal could you grow there? And how much energy would it require? The low gravity means that you could make one much bigger (6 times as big? or is there an exponential factor there?). The near-nothing atmosphere means that probably all the energy you would need would be available via solar panels. Energy collection could be a business in itself (you want to stop using hydrocarbons, right?). And what about transport of these goods? What would it cost? How about almost nothing to any location on planet earth? I imagine even small towns would have a designated delivery port where lunar cargo could be dropped with the accuracy of a smart-bomb... cheaper and faster than a cargo ship from China.

      Sure, it's incredibly expensive to establish a presence there, but in the long term, it's more expensive not to.
      • For example, how big and how perfect of a pure silicon crystal could you grow there?

        And, once grown, what would you do with this crystal? In many cases it is cheaper to make 1,000 similar crystals on Earth and throw away 999 of them, rather than to fly The Precious One from the orbit. There is no immediate, obvious industrial need in pretty much anything that microgravity offers. Not to say that there may not be any; we are like a caveman who does not need a CNC lathe; the time of that technology hasn'

        • In many cases it is cheaper to make 1,000 similar crystals on Earth and throw away 999 of them, rather than to fly The Precious One from the orbit. There is no immediate, obvious industrial need in pretty much anything that microgravity offers

          In many cases that is true, and why? Because there is no more efficient way to do it. The obvoius industrial need that you are overlooking is called "the competitive edge". If you can produce something cheaper than your rival, you beat him on price and prolong t
          • by kamapuaa (555446) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:19AM (#15762157) Homepage
            You're working backwards from the premise that we should all go to the moon, and inventing rationalizations for it. Saying "we will develop ways that make it cheaper to send things from the moon than from China" is impossible to disprove, but so immensely unlikely that it can be dismissed out of hand. Likewise for the idea that the increased efficiency of solar collectors on the moon would account for the immense cost and resources of both creating solar collectors on the moon, and then transporting the energy back to where it was actually needed. And even if that is possible in the far distant future, that doesn't mean sending rockets to the moon now will do anything to help it.

            Companies do have long term planning. If there was a capitalist interest in immediately setting up factories on the moon (for immensely profitable "moon crystals") economic lobbies would be clamoring for the US government to do just that. Instead it's entirely people who have watched lots of "Star Trek." There's nothing capitalist about what you're saying.

            Oh, anyone who disagrees with you shows pessimism, a lack of imagination, and is possibly a Communist? That's how little kids argue, give me a break. Just because people don't subscribe to your particular irrational sci-fi inspired flights of fancy doesn't make them bad people.

        • You would be hard pressed to refine enough Al on ISS to make a teaspoon.


          Which is, of course, why England does not have a space programme.

        • There are also other interesting effects, like beam focusing and aiming. If you miss your target - which itself has to be a thousand square km zone of death - you can say goodbye to any city that the beam happens to flick across.


          Oh, sure, play it up that way and every government will want one.

    • by Teckla (630646) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:52PM (#15761495)
      I'm simply shocked and amazed your post got modded +5! Where to begin?

      But really, what will we find? That a few simple organisms once existed on mars, and that Mars once had water? But don't we know this now?
      No, we don't know that a few simple organisms once existed on Mars. And if we did discover that, the repercussions would be staggering.

      The Europeans focus much more heavily on aero-sciences, and we seem to be a lot more captivated by reaching the moon (etc).
      We're captivated by reaching the moon?! We haven't been there in how many decades, with no real, solid plan to go back? I hardly see us as being captivated.

      The Europeans are busy doing piles and piles of research (which will ultimately find many useful things), and similar research in this country is largely the burden of private organizations.
      Research is a burden for private organizations?! More like, research (coupled with development) is what enables them to produce new, useful, and innovative products which makes them lots and lots of money!

      All the tangible benefits we've reaped from space travel (tang, velcro, etc) could have been discovered much more cheaply (or if you prefer, in greater abundance for the same price) if we were simply focusing on inventing and not reaching some milestone out in space.
      Way to cherry pick some lame sounding inventions. You and I and everyone else knows scores of incredibly valuable things came out of our race to the moon in the 60s and 70s.

      I guess what i'm saying is that I'm not sure how to feel about this; It's science, and exploration, and both are good (imo), but if we want to prioritize, wouldn't billions of dollars be better spent focusing on fixing our own messed up planet?
      You're assuming that if those dollars were freed up, they'd go to fixing up our messed up planet. What makes you think that would happen? The money would probably be given to the rich as yet another tax break, or something else equally lame like yet another unpopular and tragically unsuccessful war.

      Assuming there is some inherent benefit to going to the moon/mars/wherever, is it really necessary to send *HUMANS*?
      Well, uh, yes. Having every human being on the same planetary body is a bad idea for the long term interests of the human race. "The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program."

      I promise this post isn't a troll, I am a filmmaker, and interested in science, but obviously I have some question as to the science-value of putting men on a rock in space.
      My advice to you: Don't quit your day job.
    • What was the point of Columbus sailing to the new world? To walk on land similar to the land that he left behind? New discoveries are not just new inventions, new discoveries are also new places.
    • Your point of view is a bit narrow minded. First of all it's not really about going to the moon, I think. It's about establishing a permanent human presence outside of earth. Why you may ask? Well, there are many answers to that and many will find many better ones than I can.

      Stephen Hawkins would probably argue that it is good for the survival of mankind. Who knows what could befall our planet? Others would say that it may be the stepping stone in the expansion of life... humans at this stage would

    • Look at it this way:

      Suppose the Orion project costs ten billion dollars a year for the next ten years. That comes to $30 per person per year. Don't you think, just in terms of pure entertainment, that it's worth thirty bucks a year to watch people walk on the frickin' moon? In HDTV this time?

    • No scientific value per se. But the moon has wonderul military potential. The fun thing about the earth is that it's sitting at the bottom of its own gravity well. The moon is, in some respects, the ultimate high-ground. You don't even have to try hard to be threatening from the moon, the same kind of explosive charges that can demolish a building on earth can launch a large chunk of rock at the capital city of your favorite enemy. Return fire is much harder work.

      IMHO, this is one of the reasons why we don'
    • by ornil (33732) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:53PM (#15761686)
      There's a Russian historian/philosopher, Lev Gumilev [wikipedia.org] who had some interesting ideas as to what causes nations' and enthnic groups' rise and fall. His theory was that when such a nation is born (usually in the fires of revolution, migration, war), its people are passionate and idealistic. This lets them defeat their enemies and establish themselves in relative security. The next stage, as the people feel more secure, the culture flourishes and you have a golden age. But after that people become more and more concerned with improving their lives and they become more cynical and "decadent", unwilling to take risks. After that someone comes and knocks them over (sometimes their neighbors, sometimes just some more passionate group in the same nation). Obviously, Rome is a good example to look at.

      For many nations, it's easy to guess which stage they are at. You could say that, say, China is clearly being reborn. France is looking back at its past glories. The US is an unusual case. It's sort of still in its golden age, held there by the immigrants who keep renewing it past where the nation could normally stay without becoming decadent. The space program is a good indicator. If it is cancelled, it would mean that the US is finally on its way down. It does not matter to me whether it is the economically right thing to do, its the right thing to do if we don't want to end up where the other empires usually do - decaying into the dust as its young and vigorous neighbors go forward.
  • Don't jinx it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darklordyoda (899383) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:47PM (#15761303)
    Didn't Apollo manipulate the goddess of the moon (Artemis) into killing Orion?

    Not exactly the most auspicious name...
  • by TintinX (569362) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:47PM (#15761304) Homepage
    I read that as Project Onion.
    Either way - something to cry over, I'm sure
  • by Bottlemaster (449635) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:52PM (#15761316)
    Thanks for getting my hopes up. I thought NASA was referring to Project Orion [wikipedia.org].

    "We have to make sure we aren't infringing on any copyrights or anything," Horowitz said, describing how Ares was selected. "You have to go through that whole process and that just takes time."

    I vote for a name change.
    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:00PM (#15761339)
      I was also really annoyed at the name. They take the name for a project to get man to a planet on another solar system, and use it for this much much smaller project. :(
    • Thanks for getting my hopes up. I thought NASA was referring to Project Orion [wikipedia.org].

      PSH! I thought they were talking about Operation Meteor [wikipedia.org]

      The original plan for Operation Meteor involved the de-orbiting of one of the space colonies, dropping it on Earth. The impact would result in an extinction level event, undoubtedly killing billions both on Earth and on the colony used for the attack. Anyone that remained alive on Earth would then be killed by the five Gundams, leaving no survivors. Once th

    • by erice (13380) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:04PM (#15761352) Homepage
      I vote for a name change

      No kidding. Naming in Orion is travsity. The real Orion would open up the entire solar system. This return to Apollo style capsules is an embarassment, a belated acknowledgement that we went down the wrong path and now must back up and start again. Nothing at all like the great leap forward that a nuclear pulse rocket would be.
      • by blueturffan (867705) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:15PM (#15761381)
        This return to Apollo style capsules is an embarassment, a belated acknowledgement that we went down the wrong path and now must back up and start again.
        I guess it's a matter of perspective. The return to Apollo-style capsules is a great move. I believe it shows that the Apollo design teams really got it right. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Imagine how great these new Apollo style capsules will be with 40 years of materials science improvements. I can't wait!

        On the other hand, I agree that the Shuttle was the wrong path. It is/was an expermiental vehicle, neutered by politics. Who knows what it might have been had they stayed true to the original vision. Alas, politics is the fountain of compromise, and compromise is the enemy of engineering.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:19PM (#15761392)
        No kidding. Naming in Orion is travsity. The real Orion would open up the entire solar system. This return to Apollo style capsules is an embarassment, a belated acknowledgement that we went down the wrong path and now must back up and start again. Nothing at all like the great leap forward that a nuclear pulse rocket would be.

        Not really. In order to use a nuclear pulse rocket (or any realistically sized method of nuclear propulsion) you need a heavy lift rocket. Currently there is no heavy lift rocket that could realistically put a nuclear pulse rocket into LEO (and a nuclear pulse rocket would have to be in a very high earth orbit or in interplanetary space before any politician would allow it to be activated). Rebuilding our heavy lift capability with the CaLV or Ares V is essential.

        Second, we need a cheap way to put humans into space. The CLV or Ares I will do that.

        The only part that you should consider a waste would be building the lander (and perhaps the CLV if you are one of those machine-only supporters). The Ares architecture will be extremely useful for future technologies. Even large rockets like the Delta IV or the Arianne V are kids toys compared to real heavy lift rockets like the Saturn V and the Ares V. Having a 100 ton class rocket makes a lot of projects possible, not just Project Orion.
  • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:58PM (#15761332) Homepage Journal
    ... and cutting Shuttle flights and ISS funding and space telescope funding ...

    I predict we will get some nice, new expensive exhibits for Space Camp and not much else.
    • You could be right, and I see how the push to go back to the moon could be viewed as nothing more than a PR stunt, but after thinking about it for a bit I have to say that I take the opposite opinion.

      Heading to other bodies is exactly what we should be doing. We might not learn as much about the solar system as if we'd spent that money on a new telescope or whatever, but the knowledge we gain about getting to other planets, and potentially existing there is invaluable.

      What's our ultimate goal with space tr
  • With the [mis]management at NASA and the enormous challenges we as a nation face overseas (read IRAQ and Afghanistan), not forgetting all that needs fixing back home, one wonders whether the moon should even feature as a priority at this moment.

    To me, and I admit I am a small individual, I see a waste of resources by this admnistration. It is even worse that if it (the moon idea) has managed to get this far, so many in administration do not see the waste that we are about to encounter.

    • I see a waste of resources by this admnistration.

      If the administration was foolish to plan to go to other planets, at least it corrected itself by failing to spend any money on it. The whole plan was just a political song and dance, with no intention to follow through. You probably can't find more "down to Earth" administration in the recent history.

  • Project Orion? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:10PM (#15761372) Homepage Journal
    Project Orion [wikipedia.org] has been used in a lot of sci-fi stories. The basic premise is that nuclear warheads are dropped below the ship, where the detonate and the blast lifts the ship. Relatively cheap way to lift immense masses.

    It'd be the easiest way to establish a permanent moon base or make a trip to Mars, but of course people don't like the idea of thousands of nuclear warheads going off in their backyard. :)

    Obviously only the name is the same with this latest version.
    • Obviously only the name is the same with this latest version.

      Obviously? I was just looking for the bit that said "... but this one doesn't use nukes" but didn't find it.

      I'd have thought that something along those lines would have been the obvious thing to add if they weren't going to use nuclear power. Given that they didn't, I don't think assuming a non-nuclear craft is obvious at all.

    • Re:Project Orion? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ucblockhead (63650) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:31PM (#15761433) Homepage Journal
      Project Orion didn't use nukes to "lift" the ship. It was an interstellar craft that would have used nukes for propulsion once well away from Earth.

      Using nukes to "lift" anything would be utterly insane.
      • Re:Project Orion? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AJWM (19027) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:51PM (#15761492) Homepage
        Interstellar? No, interplanetary.

        And the original developers behind Orion did indeed envision using it to lift very large craft. This was back in the late 1950s, atmospheric testing of nukes was common amongst them that had 'em. Talk about direct to Mars...

        Ever seen film footage of the test models? Small things, using grenade-size explosive charges, but pretty impressive considering. The number of (small) nukes needed to lift the real thing beyond the atmosphere wouldn't have amounted to as much as some of the strategic weapons they were testing anyway. Indeed, as much as anything else, Projects Argus and Starfish (high atmospheric/ionospheric detonations, in the late 1950s/early 1960s) put the damper on Orion because it showed the adverse effects of ionospheric detonation. The EMP from Starfish blew out phone lines and street lights in Hawaii, and even fused car ignitions.
      • Re:Project Orion? (Score:3, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)
        Using nukes to "lift" anything would be utterly insane.

        I wonder if you have read Footfall [wikipedia.org] by Larry Niven?

        The Orion launch is a classic IMHO: God was knocking, and he wanted in bad

      • The original Orion proposals were nukes from the ground up, and hope there wasn't too much fallout; the revisionist idea of using conventional rocketry to get the building materials into LEO and then firing the nukes where fallout wouldn't matter would be horrendously impractical. Maybe you could build an interplanetary Orion on a Moon base if you had one of those, though of course hauling thousands of nukes to the moon has its own risks of catastrophic failure.

        And of course that doesn't even *begin* to

  • The design work is already done ( which saves years and bucks ), the testing is done ( which saves years, bucks, and probably lives ). Is Orion going to be that much better to be worth all the extra costs?
    • by CreateWindowEx (630955) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:41PM (#15761468)
      I was about to reply that I had heard they had lost the plans to the Saturn V, then thought to myself that perhaps that was an urban legend, and of course, it is just a legend at least according to this page [tafkac.org].

      Key takeaway (at least according to some random internet source, ha ha):

      Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, the Saturn V blueprints have not been lost. They are kept at Marshall Space Flight Center on microfilm.

      The problem in re-creating the Saturn V is not finding the drawings, it is finding vendors who can supply mid-1960's vintage hardware (like guidance system components), and the fact that the launch pads and VAB have been converted to Space Shuttle use, so you have no place to launch from.

      By the time you redesign to accommodate available hardware and re-modify the launch pads, you may as well have started from scratch with a clean sheet design.

      Not to mention the cost of updating the design to include child seat brackets, non-CFC air conditioning, and an MP3 player input...
    • The Saturn V is insanely inefficient by today's standards. But they are thinking like you're thinking- they are using the same concepts as the Saturn V, but applying space shuttle technology (specifically the main engines, which are arguably the best rocket engines ever designed). SSMEs are wonderful units. Lots of money were spent on them, lots of testing was done, they've been continuously improved and have never experienced a failure. They're the way to go.
      • ... but applying space shuttle technology (specifically the main engines...


        The SSMEs have been cut. The current plan has the Ares V using RS-68 engines from the Delta IV for the 1st stage. The upper stages of both Ares I and V will use J2-X. Yep, as in those J2s. From the Saturn program.
  • "We have to make sure we aren't infringing on any copyrights or anything," Horowitz said, describing how Ares was selected. "You have to go through that whole process and that just takes time."

    D'ya mean like just type "project orion" into google and see if you get any hits?
    Like this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion [wikipedia.org]?
  • Capsules?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:04PM (#15761532) Homepage Journal
    How about we land in earnest and setup a permanent base, really hedging humanities bets against any astronomical catastrophe short of a supernova.

    We need to head up there and build a glass factory and an iron factory, is what needs to happen. Then we need to start building all types of stuff that will be very inexpensive to launch because the moon's gravity is so much less than the earths.

    I mean, is there a point to these missions? Or are they just more little go and take picture expeditions?

    rhY
  • Maybe the U.S. had better bring the White House back to reality first.

  • If NASA is going to do "Apollo II: The Orion Project", the least they can do is open up the competition by permitting a wider array of US companies to make nuclear rockets, and then purchasing launch services from the resulting nuclear rocket orbital launch services industry.

    I thought that Griffin "got it". Now I'm not so sure.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @12:39AM (#15761962) Homepage Journal
    Once upon a time, this nation was comitted to putting the best and the brightest forward, and creating the most we could with the technology available to us at the time.

    Sadly, those days are behind us.

    Now it seems, every project is a bad compromise, and it seems to have started with the Shuttle Program. Originally intended as a fully reuseable system that took off like a plane and landed like a plane, it then became a boondoggle of wildly incompatible systems that culminated in a bad hack where you strap the orbiter/glider to a fuel tank and two sticks of TNT and cross your fingers.

    NASA still had high hopes for a full resuable system with the VentureStar, which sadly, never got beyond computer animations and little plastic models. The DCX, which had a 1/3 scale flying prototype, was scrapped after a few tests.

    And now here they are again, with a bad compromise, using existing parts from the shuttle program and haphazardly slapping them together and crossing their fingers.

    It would save a ton of money to design a good system from the start, even if it's more expensive up-front, than to build a system that's awful to start with and hope you can improve upon it with time.

    It's funny that sci-fi from the 60's and 70's was so hopeful about where we'd be by this time, because we were making so much progress back then. If only they could have forseen how much time we'd wasted by going backwards, and designing lousy systems that can never really fulfull their mission requirements.

    It's hard to believe that even before Yuri Gagarin was launched, America was reaching the edge of space in a rocketplane called the X-15, a simple, durable design that worked stunningly well, and, had we continued along that path, we'd all probably be living in space right now.

    But no, we took two steps backwards with "spam in a can", sticking a capsule on top of a missile, and we've been making the same mistakes since then. And now, here we are in 2006, talking about using essentially the same technology from the 60's, when we should have already been reaching the outer planets in long-distance exploration vessels as seen in Stanley Kubrick's "2001" film.

    America no longer puts its best and its brightest on top. America no longer prizes doing the best it can do. It's embarassing, that's what it is.

  • by ChePibe (882378) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @01:07AM (#15762019)
    I'm a capitalist. I hate Wal-Mart, true, but I'm a capitalist economically speaking. I see nothing wrong with people driven by profit, I believe in the "invisible hand", although I recognize its flaws.

    But I also support various programs that produce no profit (directly) and cost a great deal of time and money, including space exploration.

    Why?

    Because I'm a human being. I like that we're exploring. I like that we're pushing beyond these bounds placed upon us. I am fascinated by the idea that man could do something so complex as leave this earth and visit the Moon, or Mars, or beyond. It's not just the money - it's the fulfillment of a human desire. Something we were "made" for - to reach out and extend ourselves beyond this sphere and to travel to new lands. I must admit - my thoughts are based purely on ideology, not "reason". But I think I'm not alone in this.

    There's something about space exploration that should set off that spark in all of us - something beyond money, beyond mere profit. It's the advancement of the capabilities of an entire species - it's not merely that Americans have been on the moon, but man has been there.

    If (when) it costs hundreds of billions to go to Mars and back, with no economic returns, it will still have been worth it. We will then be able to say that man has gone to the moon, that mankind has made yet another massive acheivement.

    Are there things on earth that need to be fixed? Yup. But if we wait for things to be perfect here before we leave, we'll never go. In any case, simply giving away money has rarely had a positive effect on most social problems - it's often made them worse.

    Why climb Mount Everest, when it gains you nothing and could cost you your life? Because it's there. That's a good enough reason for me to see us go to the moon, Mars, or anywhere else.

    In any case, I think we all love the moon... [rathergood.com]
  • by klausner (92204) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:04AM (#15762137)
    Project Orion [wikipedia.org] was a proposal from the 1950's headed by Freeman Dyson to drive a spacecraft by throwing nuclear baombs out the back end. I guess you could call that pulse propulsion. Even suggesting something like that today would have every anti-nuclear type going ballistic (pun intended.) Chemical rockets are clearly a dead end, but the eco-freaks will never allow nuclear, laser launch, beanstalks, electro-magnetic catapults, or any other alternative system. :(
  • by technoCon (18339) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:17AM (#15762151) Homepage Journal
    I heard a story that the space ship, Discovery, in the movie 2001 was originally concepted to have an Orion-type nuclear propulsion system. Trouble was that Stanley Kubrick had just made a big splash with Dr. Strangelove. He decided that it was just too many nukes.

    A quick google netted this [visual-memory.co.uk] web site that supports the story.
  • BBC segment (Score:3, Informative)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @08:31AM (#15762705) Homepage Journal
    Interestingly, BBC New 24 had a half hour fluff piece about the shuttle and future plans for space travel on this morning.

    Have a gander. [headru.sh] [xvid 250MB]

    (tip. If you're using Firefox on linux, drag the link to a xine window and stream it. If you're using windows, then you might have to copy the link and paste it into your player- vlc is good)

A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough For Love"

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