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NASA Learns Anew From the Apollo Program 201

solitas writes "NASA isn't just "going back to the drawing boards" to get back to the Moon, they're also going through the museums and archives so that the new engineers can rediscover/learn how it was done the first time." From the article: "Some old Apollo engineers are even being brought back on a contract basis to work with the young folks, some of whom were not even born when the Saturn V was flying lunar missions. The new manned exploration project, called Constellation, is deliberately drawing upon lessons from the past as the space agency works to meet a congressional deadline of flying the Ares rocket ... In fact, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has described the new program as 'Apollo on steroids.'"
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NASA Learns Anew From the Apollo Program

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  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:10PM (#15915057)
    From the description, it's more like "Apollo on Viagra."
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:11PM (#15915066) Homepage Journal

    "NASA isn't just "going back to the drawing boards" to get back to the Moon, they're also going through the museums and archives so that the new engineers can rediscover/learn how it was done the first time."

    What they can find is what was done, but only with the old Apollo engineers can they get some insight into the minds that worked out novel solutions where no obvious ones existed.

    I've been hearing a few times over the past weeks how school children can't esitmate. Every mathematical problem has a definite answer presented by a calculator. Ask me what's 250 * 7 and I don't sit down and do math, I figure the first four 250's are 1,000 and the rest are 750. Ask me what's the square root of 27 and I'll say 5 and a bit, because the number squared closest I know is 5. Some kids today couldn't do that. Can today's engineers think on their feet?

    In fact, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has described the new program as 'Apollo on steroids.'"

    Uh. Don't mention steroids to Congress. They've already got the bee for baseball.

    • So you can do mental math, fantastic. But generalising about school children is dangerous. You hang out on slashdot so it's fairly safe to assume you're some kind of nerd and use math in some way on a fairly regular basis. But think about all the people you went to school with. How many of them weren't nerds and didn't go into fields where being able to quickly estimate a sum weren't important? So I bet if you go talk to them they aren't very good at estimating either. I just finished teaching a summer of c
    • There are kids that can do that too, dude.
    • That sounds like pretty much what most of us geeks can do.

      I don't want to point out the obvious, but most people in most generations aren't great at maths. My mother can't do what you describe, but my wife can. Every generation thinks the generation beneath it is somehow mathematically illiterate.

      I don't know how old you are. If you're a typical Slashdot reader, you're probably somewhere between 20 and 40. I'm in my mid-thirties. We were brought up with calculators. I don't see calculators as something

    • That's one of the great things about slide rules--they give one an excellent feel for the continuous nature of most mathematical & engineering work. Calculators give you an excellent answer, but they give just the answer--they don't have any indication what effect a small difference in the input parameters would have on the answer.

      A fellow I know has created a set of brewing slide rules which illustrate this very well. You can, for instance, fiddle with your starting gravity and hop additions to get

  • Seriously, how much would it cost just to get the Russians to fork over some of their old-school-but-reliable technology.

    We may have "won" the cold war, but they definitely won the "spacecraft that aren't overly-engineered death traps" war.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:17PM (#15915117) Homepage Journal
      which allowed them to win the highest death rate award.
      • Little history lesson here from wikipedia: As of November 2004, 439 individuals have flown on spaceflights: Russia/Soviet Union (96), USA (277), others (66). Twenty-two have died while in a spacecraft: Apollo 1 (3), Soyuz 1 (1), X-15-3(1), Soyuz 11 (3), Challenger (7), Columbia (7), totaling 18 astronauts (4.1%) and 4 cosmonauts (0.9% of all the people launched). So actually the americans hold the award. The russians are still using the same rocket (the R-7) that they used to launch sputnik up with. It i
        • and by your numbers alone we have launched three times the number of people into space. So the US has a 6% failure rate. versus the russian 4% And if you don't count apollo one as they died during a training accident on the ground, your down to 5%. either way both countries have roughly the same failure rate. it just goes to show you, you can make numbers mean what ever you want them to mean. it also means the shuttle is more reliable than the russian soyuz as it can handle twice the number of people p
    • Seriously, how much would it cost just to get the Russians to fork over some of their old-school-but-reliable technology.

      We may have "won" the cold war, but they definitely won the "spacecraft that aren't overly-engineered death traps" war.

      And how many times exactly did the Russians put people on the moon or orbit the moon? Why should we listen to them instead of former NASA engineers who did send men to the moon?

    • Seriously, how much would it cost just to get the Russians to fork over some of their old-school-but-reliable technology.

      You can't buy from the Russians what the Russians don't have.

      We may have "won" the cold war, but they definitely won the "spacecraft that aren't overly-engineered death traps" war.

      That would be why the difference in failure rates between the US and Russia are statistically insensible. That would be why the latest mark of Soyuz (the TMA) has had serious problems on six o

      • That would be why the latest mark of Soyuz (the TMA) has had serious problems on six out of eight flights to date.

        Care to elaborate? I remember the first flight ending in a ballistic reentry, and maybe the fifth having problems during docking, but what about the others?

  • Space Cowboys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew@gmail.3.14159com minus pi> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:16PM (#15915113) Homepage Journal
    The movie doesn't sound so far fetched now, does it?

    I'm no expert but two of my best friends are a physicist and a mechanical engineer. Both follow the space program and both say that money and politics have firmly grounded NASA in 1960's science with little to no possibility to explore new options.

    Plenty of guys in the X Prize world are saying the same thing. So before I visit a museum, I'd look into varied options from some of today's best minds based upon current or evolving technologies.

    Then again, if NASA was scrapped tomorrow, or maybe shelved for a few decades until space flight is cheaper, safer and more feasible, I wouldn't care. We've thrown tens of billions of dollars on a pride issue, and what have we gotten in return? How much more do we know about the universe?

    I'd rather throw that money are universities and I bet you money, society will benefit considerably more.
    • without NASA, space flight won't get cheaper.

      • I think without projects like the X-Prize, space flight won't get cheaper. Government programs are never about making a profit, or marketing to a consumer.

        If affordable space flight becomes feasible, it will be in the civilian world.
    • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clarkmoody ( 995127 )

      We've gained a huge number of advances in science and technology from NASA. If you consider materials science alone, the cost is worth it. They conduct research on a monumentous scale. Everything from structural design to hydroponics to supercomputing is subject to NASA's research effort. Yes, Velcro too.

      The Space Shuttle is the most complicated machine ever built. It's thirty years old. It's time to move on with exploration, and the best way to do that is with existing strategies (a.k.a. Apollo-esque rock

      • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:4, Informative)

        by AsnFkr ( 545033 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:18PM (#15916157) Homepage Journal
        Yes, Velcro too.

        Actually...

        "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'."

        ...from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]


        But hey....I agree with your fundamental argument that NASA pushes development in general, plus I'm a huge Apollo dork so this is all cool news to me.
      • Maybe Oil companies should be encouraged to get into the space game. Exxon Mobil earn $4.7 Million in profit per HOUR between April-June 2006; $10.4 Billion profit for second quarter 2006. Source [nwfdailynews.com]

        It would seem they have the cash on hand for space exploration. I don't think space tourism is going to interest them but resource "mining" might.
      • We've gained a huge number of advances in science and technology from NASA. If you consider materials science alone, the cost is worth it. They conduct research on a monumentous scale.

        One needs to examine both the cost and the benefit. It'd be absurd to deny that the space program has had some massive benefits--but it'd also be absurd to deny that its cost has been staggering. Now, is that cost worth it? Are Tang and zero-G pens worth several trillion dollars in R&D? I'm being more than a little f

    • Your friends "follow" the space program, which means they read news. Dan Goldin started the "smarter" NASA when I worked as a contractor at KSC back in the 90's. Crippen pushed safety and cost effectiveness. I worked with some of the best people in the industry, and never have I met a group more focused on a mission. The mission was the mission statement.
      And if NASA was scrapped tomorrow, you'd get no more of these:
      http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html [thespaceplace.com] Spinoffs.
      And I just bet that your hou
    • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      I'm no expert but two of my best friends are a physicist and a mechanical engineer. Both follow the space program and both say that money and politics have firmly grounded NASA in 1960's science with little to no possibility to explore new options.

      They aren't experts either seemingly. NASA isn't ground in 1960's 'science' (whatever that means) at all. You'll note the use of composites in the structures of the new vehicles. You'll note modern computers (modern by aerospace standards - ancient by geek st

      • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 )
        I don't follow the X-prize forums, but I've seen interviews with no less than 3 people who've had successful projects, and all were extremely critical of NASA and their approach. It isn't about the material of the shuttle, but the concept of the shuttle and how it is launched.

        We are using the same shuttles, theories and propulsions systems we were using 40 years ago. Considering the exponential rate that this technology rate has evolved, that is plain silly.

        But NASA was a huge money-sink, with the promise
        • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

          I don't follow the X-prize forums, but I've seen interviews with no less than 3 people who've had successful projects,

          Considering that there has only been *one* person with a sucessful X-prize project (Rutan), that's flat-out impossible.

          and all were extremely critical of NASA and their approach. It isn't about the material of the shuttle, but the concept of the shuttle and how it is launched.

          You need to understand the alt.spacer mindset - part and parcel of it is the rock solid belief that

    • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @08:56PM (#15915687) Journal
      Enderandrew (866215) sez (out of order):

      > We've thrown tens of billions of dollars on a pride issue,
      > and what have we gotten in return?

      NASA has a technology transfer system set up specifically to give the things it invents away.
      See http://www.nal.usda.gov/ttic/guide.htm#NASA [usda.gov]
      It doesn't actually give away its patents and such for free. It is allowed to sell them for the cost of operating the technology transfer system.

      If NASA were allowed to profit from its inventions, then on the developments it made in just 4 areas, microelectronics, cryogenics, medical telemetry and systems analysis software, it would have made $4.50 in the twenty years following Apollo for every dollar spent up to the end of Apollo. We know how much NASA would have made, because we know who picked up those balls and ran with them, and how much they made. And that's just 4 areas. NASA has contributed tens of thousands of inventions, developments and patents of all kinds, and someone has made something off of most of them. That's contributed far more to the economy than the taxes taken out to fund the program in the first place. As for you personally, I'd bet an inventory of your home would show a number of things that either wouldn't be there, wouldn't be as good, or would cost a lot more, if it weren't for the contributions of NASA. And when it comes to number of lives saved by the various technologies that NASA contributed to, we're well beyond talking about profit and loss.

      > How much more do we know about the universe?

      Aw geez, seriously? Don't you read any science news? We know tons more about the universe because of NASA programs and their participation with other programs. The Science and Discovery Channels are always running that stuff.

      > I'm no expert but two of my best friends are a physicist and a
      > mechanical engineer. Both follow the space program and both say
      > that money and politics have firmly grounded NASA in 1960's
      > science with little to no possibility to explore new options.

      In large part your friends are correct. NASA has become a corporate welfare system for the aerospace industry. There have been many, many tried and proven technologies and even space transportation systems that were started by NASA, R&D funded by NASA to the aerospace companies, and cancelled when enough people had made enough money. There were also many spaceworthy systems developed by others that were far cheaper than what NASA had the aerospace companies crank out, and those never saw the inside of a hangar. It is only the large number of recently very rich people willing to gamble on space that have created visibility for the private space business upstarts. There have been many in the past that died on the vine. Read up on Robert Truax for example. People were so convinved he'd be the first person into space without a government program behind him that they even made a TV show based on him (Salvage I).

      NASA and the aerospace industry it exists in symbiosis with (they live off NASA, but NASA lives off the money it gets to give them) do not stand to gain from the sort of massive forward movement such as we saw from 1960 to 1970. They stand to gain more by the same stepwise, incremental improvement such as has been happening in the consumer computer/electronics industry for years. This definitely slows the pace of progress, but not the amount of R&D done by NASA which gets passed into the US economy. That remains.

      When engineers ran the space program, we got "Failure is not an option." (Apollo 13)
      When bureaucrats ran the space program, we got "My God, Thiokol, what do you want me to do, wait until April to launch?" (Challenger)

      Frankly, regardless of the success or failure or sheer bullheaded political wrangling or welfare status of NASA and its corporate children, I'd throw in with the likes of Burt Rutan, and anyone else who tackles the job without any help from NASA. Those
      • Thanks for the informative reply.

        My only qualm is that I'm not sure we really have learned anything about space and our universe, save from the Hubble project, which came very close to being a huge bust.

        Every few months I read new articles, many linked here, which suggest that no one can agree on anything.

        How many times have I read in the past 5 years that no one agrees on what causes red shifts, in space is finite, whether dark matter or dark energy exist, how old the planet is, how old the universe is, or
        • How many times have I read in the past 5 years that no one agrees on what causes red shifts, in space is finite, whether dark matter or dark energy exist, how old the planet is, how old the universe is, or whether or not we have 8, 9, 10, or 11 planets in the solar system?

          None of those are NASA problems to solve though.

          You can't measure redshift by sending a man to the Moon. You measure redshift using spectrometers, CCDs, and telescopes.
          You don't discover if space is finite through sending men to Mars. You

        • My only qualm is that I'm not sure we really have learned anything about space and our universe, save from the Hubble project, which came very close to being a huge bust.

          Are you *insane*? Geez, the WMAP project alone has provided incredible insight into the formation of our universe. It's all but confirmed the inflationary model of stellar evolution, not to mention pinning down the age of the universe to +-200 million years.

          And that's just one project. Chandra is providing some fantastic insights into ga
    • "We've thrown tens of billions of dollars on a pride issue, and what have we gotten in return? How much more do we know about the universe?"

      What about the Hubble space telescope? That has taught us amazing things. How can you possibly say that NASA hasn't done anything worthwhile? Because of Hubble we know that the universe is actually accelerating outward. Hubble alone is worth the space program.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_Space_Telescop e [wikipedia.org]
  • by Kesch ( 943326 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:24PM (#15915165)
    ...we had to get to the moon in foot deep snow, and it was all uphill, both directions!
  • ...tapes [slashdot.org]:
    Some old Apollo engineers are even being brought back on a contract basis to work with the young folks
    ...who just had their share of training videos and previous mission data cancelled.
  • Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andreyw ( 798182 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:36PM (#15915233) Homepage
    ...Idiots. They've basically watched their entire knowledge base die, disintegrate and retire of the past 30 years, and only /NOW/ they're doing something about it.
    • Re:Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by humankind ( 704050 )
      ...Idiots. They've basically watched their entire knowledge base die, disintegrate and retire of the past 30 years, and only /NOW/ they're doing something about it.

      Hey, look on the bright side... back then those poor people only had one kind of Coca Cola. Now we have Diet Coke, Vanilla Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Cherry Coke and more! We're still exploring the horizons. They've just dipped a little lower.
  • NASA has lost track of all kinds of old stuff in those archives! [slashdot.org] And with recent policy on science funding [waronscience.com], I certainly hope we won't have to go back to the drawing board in order to relearn basic science all over again! Really though - NASA makes its mistakes, but it's one of the better agencies left alive in our government.

    Then again, if we go back to the drawing board, perhaps we'd consider funding basic education and research again beyond just memorization and giveaways to the isolated private sector
  • Bygone era (Score:5, Interesting)

    by humankind ( 704050 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:43PM (#15915279) Journal
    A few months ago, one of the old Apollo monitoring stations went on sale and we went to look at this unique property. A building in the middle of nowhere up on a mountain, with a six-story-high satellite dish. It was amazing and awe-inspiring to crawl through this rusted dinosaur skeleton of a bygone era. There wasn't much left of the place when I visited, but I felt proud just to be standing on the hallowed ground where great minds plotted of men flying through space and landing on the moon. Now on this site, sits a big obnoxious cell tower. It's kind of sad that kids today don't look up at the stars.

    I cannot imagine America having the resources to land on the moon successfully now. Our society was different back then. Science was something to revere. Now we are more concerned with American Idol.
    • Re:Bygone era (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:47PM (#15915299) Homepage Journal
      "Science was something to revere. Now we are more concerned with American Idol."

      nothing has changed. While people where plotting to get us to the moon, others where goggling their current american idol, Elvis.
      The only thing different is that now they're googling american idol.

    • It's kind of sad that kids today don't look up at the stars.

      They can't with all the Light pollution [wikipedia.org]
      Seriously, it's that bad.

      I'm 24, and today I biked out into the fields (I have to bike 20km to get far enough from a quite tiny studentcity to get a small path of clear sky between blobs of light from the streets) and just was amazed at HOW MANY STARS there actually are visible to the naked eye, and wondered how it'd look like without light from the roads and what not.

      I grew up just seeing the basic constell

      • I know what you mean. This is why I was looking at property up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. It's nice to see what the sky really looks like.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @07:51PM (#15915314) Journal
    Why should we go to the Moon with a bunch of expensive little space ships that can only bring back a few pounds of material for study?

    Why don't we just put some big rockets on the dark side and push the whole thing down here were we can get at it easily?

    We could land it where it came from in the first place - the location of Atlantis.

    Anyhow, dropping the Moon onto the Earth should would shut up a lot of whiners.

  • With the advances in CGI there's no need to dust off those old studios, the moon landings can be faked entirely in a computer.

    Sorry, it had to be said ;-)

  • The 1960s space program was only possible because of the freely cooperative relationship between the organizations and businesses involved. The sharing of ideas, methods and all sorts of patentable technology took place between all of the stakeholders without concern for license fees for use in the space program.

    Part of the reason was the secrecy with the ongoing race with the old Soviet Union. A company could not file a patent without the patent being publicly available from the US patent office. The othe

    • The 1960s space program was only possible because of the freely cooperative relationship between the organizations and businesses involved

      You might want to read the apollo 17 ALSJ [nasa.gov]. The gravity wave detector deployed on that mission was an exact prequel to Hubble. The device was designed wrong and could never have worked. NASA were prevented from testing it because doing so would have revealed nasa trade secrets.

  • Boy I hope so.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @08:13PM (#15915445)
    Wierd that this comes up. Just today, at my latest gig, I had casually mentioned running some rough computation on engine cowl latching loads that showed we might be a little tight on safety margin. However, I needed to see that Nastran load simulation to cross-check the results.

    The response I got stunned me a bit...

    One of the most senior structural engineers there told me that the loads within an engine core are far too complex and why was I even bothering with hand computations?

    It made me immediately think of two things:

    1) We were building jet engines long before there was a Nastran (or a NASA for that matter)

    2) Complexity!?...NASA brought Apollo 13 home using slide rules and one hell of a pilot. I'm old enough that I remember that. In fact, it's probably why I'm in the aerospace industry.

    I hate to sound like an old man, but sometimes I worry that we rely too much on tools that separate the engineer from the analysis. Don't get me wrong, Nastran is great, but if you have no way to cross validate the results, how do you spot an error?

    Ya, know...the method I used to evaluate those loads probably came from around the mid 1940's.
    • Re:Boy I hope so.... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zackbass ( 457384 )
      Umm, that engineer was right, you don't check computation with more computation, whether it be by hand or computer. You check ALL computation with testing. Are you telling me that you'll make any progress checking even remotely complex structures by hand? Any analysis should be assumed faulty in critical cases and on low FOS. All your analysis is worthless until you apply the actual loads with actual instrumentation.
      • by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:27PM (#15915864)
        First off, obtaining a consistent result via two independant methods is an excellent way to cross-check your work.

        Secondly, testing is a good way, but the only way. At some point, you have to make you best accessment without the benefit of testing.

        Finally, you have no idea what specific analysis I was doing so have no basis to say it was too complex to do by hand.

        I suggest you research the origin of the term "back of the envelope calculation", you will learn the story of one "Sir Geoffrey Taylor". Then come back and tell me again what is too complex to do by hand.

        You are a perfect example of the problem I was trying to present. No ingenuity, just reliance on machines....pity you don't seem to understand how dangerous that can be.
        • I suggest you research the origin of the term "back of the envelope calculation", you will learn the story of one "Sir Geoffrey Taylor". Then come back and tell me again what is too complex to do by hand.

          According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] at least the term has more to do with Fermi.
          • Back of the Envelope (Score:3, Interesting)

            by StressGuy ( 472374 )
            Search Wikipedia again for "The Buckingham Pi Theorem". Sir Taylor, considered by many to be one of the greatest physicist of the 20th century, was invited to witness the first US ground test of an atomic blast. Moments before the blast, he pulls an old envelope out of his coat and starts scribbling some computations on it. Just before the blast, he tore the envelope up into small fragments and tossed them in the air as the shock wave went by. He then paces off the distance they flew through the air and
            • by dcam ( 615646 )
              In the article I referenced in Wikipedia attributes that (the bits of paper) to Fermi not Taylor. A quick googling would seem to confirm this [bell-labs.com].

              According to the wikipedia article on the Buckingham Pi Theorem, Taylor is commended for his calculations on the energy from the atomic bomb based on the videos. This is a similar story to the Fermi one, but there appear to be two distinct stories here.
  • by MerkX ( 704698 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @08:23PM (#15915490) Homepage
    As a child and into my young adult years I was so proud of NASA and looked so forward to the future of manned space exploration. Sure, I began to become disappointed in the '90's that NASA wasn't doing much and that no Shuttle replacement was even on the horizon.

    However, this whole CEV concept is "One Giant Step Backward for Mankind" - I don't care how they spin it. It represents a failure of nerve before the Universe and reflects a "tuck tail and run" policy of our nation as a whole.

    Freeking politicians are screwing the whole thing up and NASA is a massive beuracracy maintaining jobs for the "less than creatives". Long live Burt Rutan, Richard Branson and their crews - poke the crap out of NASA's eye!
    • Freeking politicians are screwing the whole thing up and NASA is a massive beuracracy maintaining jobs for the "less than creatives". Long live Burt Rutan, Richard Branson and their crews - poke the crap out of NASA's eye!

      Oh, yes... replicating something that NASA did 45+ years ago is really a poke in their eye. (And NASA did it time, after time, after time - for nearly a decade. Branson & Rutan haven't flown in over two years - after only flying a handful of times.)

  • by TheHawke ( 237817 ) <rchapin AT stx DOT rr DOT com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:03PM (#15915727)
    destroyed by Boeing, Grumman, and the various subcontractors on orders from the Gov't due to them being worried that some Bad Guy was going to try to duplicate the feat. As if someone had the money and resources to do that!

    The Saturn Project held so much promise as an general-purpose heavy-lift vehicle. I just hope that some plans escaped the shredders and reside in someone's collection that would be a hefty bonus to the new HLV program.

    I'll bet that they will take over the Kansas Cosmosphere for a month or two, reverse engineer the Apollo CM and SM they got there, not to mention pick over the LEM as well.
  • Lesson #1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:09PM (#15915761) Homepage
    Bring duct tape. Plenty of duct tape.
  • With as many deaths from accidents/errors/mishaps/fuckups on both sides (US and USSR,) I thought that the original Apollo missions *were* on steroids

    My bad, I guess they were on speed.
  • So... 37 years ago we could go to the moon with slide rules and 64 k of RAM... but today its really hard? WTF?
  • by Dr. Mu ( 603661 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:43PM (#15916271)
    Meat-based robots (a.k.a. humans) are ill-suited for duty on remote worlds. They're incredibly fragile, hyper-sensitive to cosmic rays, require hugely expensive support systems, consume energy constantly — even while idle — and generate noxious waste products. Not only that, they are difficult to program, and memory dumps are unreliable at best. Interaction among multiple units on long missions can be a challenge as well, sometimes leading to erratic and even harmful behavior. But the worst part is, they can't simply be left at their destinations when their missions are complete: they have to be brought back to Earth — at tremendous expense.

    By the time we are ready to send more of these units to the Moon and beyond, their silicon-and-metal counterparts will have advanced to such a point as to render them obsolete for such missions. It seems to me a much better use of our national resources to advance the cause of our metallic, compliant brethren, develop their capabilities to the fullest, and save a ton of cash in the process. By pushing their new Meat In Space program, our government is once again pandering to jingoistic sentimentailty rather than the needs of hard science.

    • But nothing we can produce artificially, at any expense, comes anywhere even close to how versatile and adaptable the meat-based robot is at coping with completely unpredicted circumstances.

      To say nothing about the human spirit of adventure and exploration...

    • By pushing their new Meat In Space program, our government is once again pandering to jingoistic sentimentailty rather than the needs of hard science.

      Manned spaceflight is not for science, it is for exploration and eventual colonization. You may equate that to "jingoistic sentimentality" but the need is there, and sending meat-based people to remote places is the goal per se.

      And they will do science too, a lot of it--maybe less than what a same-budget unmanned program would have yielded in the short

  • It's hard to put a finger on it but something seems broken about the way this kind of project is done now vs. how it was done in the past. The young engineers are as smart as the engineers in the past were. The materials, tools and resources are an order of magnitude better than they were then. The people are likely working as hard or harder or harder than their counterparts did then. But the end result of the project seems likely to be way over budget, way behind schedule, and unlikely to work very wel
  • they wanted to go back to the drawing boards, but couldn't find them. Best guess is that retiring engineers took all the original drawing boards home with them, and they are gathering dust in garages and attics. The children and grandchildren of those engineers simply have no idea how essential drawing boards were to our space program, or how valuable they could be to it now.

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

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