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Narrowing the Space Flight Gap 128

MarkWhittington writes with an article on the AssociatedContent site, discussing the impending US space flight gap. Between 2010 (the end of the shuttle era) and 2015 (expected date for the launch of the Orion project) the United States will have little or no spaceflight capability. This is an obvious concern to some members of Congress and NASA. "Is all, therefore, doom and gloom? Not necessarily. Just over a year ago, NASA chose two companies for its Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program ... The goal of COTS was for the two companies to build prototype space craft capable of delivering crews and cargo to the International Space Station. A second phase of the COTS program would consist of a competition for a contract to actually deliver crews and cargo to ISS after 2010 ... Private industry may well come to the rescue and preserve American access to space, at least until Orion becomes operational."
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Narrowing the Space Flight Gap

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  • by JK_the_Slacker ( 1175625 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:28PM (#21616103) Homepage

    Try 1: In Soviet Russia, the government bails out private industry!

    Try 2: I for one welcome our new private sector spacefaring overlords!

    Try 3 Yes, it can exit the atmosphere, but can it run Linux?

    Try 4: 2010: Google puts up a spacecraft before Microsoft. Chair sales skyrocket (as do some of the chairs).

    There, that should cover it.

    • //No, man, get with the times: it's try{ In Soviet Russia... throw americaFree(); } catch { print("You wish, sucka!") }
    • There, that should cover it.
      Not quite...

      Try 5: In Korea, only old people use spacecraft.
    • You missed: Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of private sector spacecraft?
    • by LordEd ( 840443 )
      Try 5: ???
      Try 6: Profit!!!
    • What? No goatse link?
    • The way I see the 'privatization' of low-earth orbits, is that Microsoft, IBM, and Google compete, then in 2010 Google buys IBM when they realize that they have the best space hardware. In 2012, Google successfully puts up a spacecraft that exceeds NASA specs, about 6 months after the first two Microsoft launches fail due to memory leaks in the control program that was written in VB.Net and SQL Server, and USB 1.2 for I/O. And Google will control the space craft with multi-threaded Python, and was developed
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by networkBoy ( 774728 )

        Toyota, in the meantime, will have built a fleet of small, reliable robotic space transports (called the TacomaTransport) controlled by a Sony Playstation 10 and Linux, with an integral Honda robot.
        Pfffft! Like that will happen. A Honda robot in a Toyota? Get realistic!
      • by vought ( 160908 )

        Toyota, in the meantime, will have built a fleet of small, reliable robotic space transports (called the TacomaTransport) controlled by a Sony Playstation 10 and Linux, with an integral Honda robot.
        Meh. Toyota has its own robot now! [google.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wellspring ( 111524 )
      According to this [thespacereview.com], it hardly matters, as Congress feels the need to ban at least manned Mars missions altogether. It seems stupid and pointless to me.
      • by tcolberg ( 998885 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @07:12PM (#21619127)

        The ban would not be permanent, but merely limited to the 2008 fiscal year. The point is not to keep NASA from Mars, but to force additional funding for what is currently an unfunded mandate. In 2004, when Bush announced his new space goals, NASA's budget was $15.5 billion. In 2007, the budget was only $16.3 billion. Adjusted for inflation, NASA's budget has been DECREASING despite having a mandate to undertake a new era of spaceflight. The Bush administration needs to work with Congress to dramatically increase NASA's funding levels.

        With this temporary ban on manned Mars exploration, it can be interpreted that the Congress wants NASA to maintain its current scientific missions, including robotics, without cannibalizing them in order to pay for development of the manned Mars mission.


        •     When you're running the country into bankruptcy to keep a war going, there isn't a lot of money to put into other ventures, no matter how much noise is made saying it's going to happen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ozbird ( 127571 )
      Try 1: In Soviet Russia, the government bails out private industry!

      In former Soviet Russia, they have tried and tested launch systems that the US could use to fill their gap. However, if the 45 year old embargo against Cuba is anything to go by, I can't see it happening.
      (Pity: a trade deal for SLVs in exchange for cash and a crack down on spammers, phishers and other criminal elements in Russia would be a win-win scenario.)
  • Clearly, we need the Chinese to do it for us. And maybe the Sovie^H^H^HRussians. And let's not forget the mineshaft gap!

    -l
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      The SoRussians will get right on that.

      Hint: try a couple more backspace characters or use ^W.

  • Trickle down effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:28PM (#21616117)

    So if companies are to be contracted to build and operate a transport system to the ISS, would it be too far-fetched to think that these companies might look at other possible revenue streams from their development work? I could see a privately owned/operated spacecraft doing a better job of opening up the space tourism market, even if a ticket is still obscenely expensive.

    • Perhaps, with a ship to 60 miles, with another one to be followed to leo? In fact, maybe they might even go to bigelow's new space stations? And maybe even another company that is cheaper than even the chinese are, so that tickets are NOT obscenely expensive.
  • Monopoly? (Score:4, Informative)

    by solafide ( 845228 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:30PM (#21616133) Homepage
    At the present time, only one company is developing such craft. There is the risk that no other company will step up and we'll have a space Microsoft. Why can we trust private enterprise with this when only one company is interested?
    • Two reasons? 1. It costs a lot of money to do it. 2. Gov. wants to spend the money elsewhere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikelieman ( 35628 )
      Google Jerry Pournelle and X-Prizes.

      He lays out a great argument for the Government to just GIVE MONEY AWAY as a reward for meeting technological goals ( Such as launching, servicing, and relaunching the same airframe (spaceframe? No, that's something else.. ) 4 times in 90 days, carrying some significant amount of cargo...

      That's my off the cuff example, btw, and not any example invoked as part of Pournelle's discussion.

      Structured right, we get heavy lift, and space based solar satellites, for a modest ex
    • Re:Monopoly? (Score:5, Informative)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @05:20PM (#21617699) Journal
      1. Spacex.
      2. Spacedev.
      3. T/Space.
      4. Armadillo.
      5. New Shepard (hmmm, actually, that is the craft itself).
      6. Space Horizon.
      7. Scaled Compostites/Northrup (with sales to Virgin).
      And that is just a few of the players.
    • by deft ( 253558 )
      there a difference between a monopoly that noone else wants to do, vs. a monopoly that everyone wants into.

      this would be the former.
  • by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:33PM (#21616187)
    Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!

    But seriously, why do US political rhetorics always seem to have that military touch?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by heinousjay ( 683506 )
      Because it's a human tendency to find exactly what you're looking for.
    • The word "gap" is now exclusively used in military political rhetoric? Uh. Ok. Someone better notify the people at Websters so they can make the appropriate changes.
  • Why bother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:40PM (#21616273) Journal
    If we can push out a space delivery system that is "good enough" in such a short time, why bother with Orion?

    • Re:Why bother (Score:4, Insightful)

      by QuickFox ( 311231 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:22PM (#21616867)
      The article mentions this:

      Indeed it could be argued that Orion would not be needed for the resupply of the International Space Station, with a private firm already providing the service.

      Perhaps, therefore, NASA could decide to bypass the development of the orbital Orion and go straight to one capable of going to the Moon. How much money would be saved is open to question, but perhaps enough would be to advance the return of explorers to the Moon by a few months, if not years. And for those who have been waiting over a generation for that event, it cannot come too soon.
    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
      If we can push out a space delivery system that is "good enough" in such a short time, why bother with Orion?

      How else do you propose keeping the jobs of the several thousand shuttle program employees in key congressional districts? It may not be the most cost-effective (or effective period) way to do things, but it's political reality.
    • by iso-cop ( 555637 )
      Orion is designed to be capable of operating in Low Earth Orbit and beyond, specifically to the Moon and Mars as targets. However, Orion (built right) should also be capable of trips to asteroids or to make a James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) repair at a Lagrange Point if need be. If its budget gets mercilessly hacked away over the next few years, then it will be less and less capable. I am not sure that the requested budget has ever been provided to date.
    • SpaceX is currently 0 for 2 on attempts to reach orbit (although they claim reaching orbit was a secondary objective of their test flights so far, so the second one was counted as successful based on the demonstration of operation of all components up to second stage ignition). They are still developing the launcher big enough to orbit a manned capsule, as well as the capsules themselves. The other COTS candidate was just re-picked last month after Rocketplane Kistler failed to meet objectives stipulated un
  • COTSS? Commercial Off The Shelf Spaceflight?

    Well if Broken Government[tm] can't do it in-house then they'll just have to do it out-house, err, I mean outsource it! Does Blackwater contract out astronauts?

    (okay, so if you don't work for the US Govt then you won't "get it" - pay no attention to the crazy mumbling old guy)
  • by Remus Shepherd ( 32833 ) <remus@panix.com> on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:49PM (#21616383) Homepage
    I work in the space industry, on the Landsat satellite program.

    There's a law that we must have an operating Landsat satellite -- it's that important to geology, agriculture, urban planning, etc. Landsats 1-7 were all specified and built by the government or its contractors.

    In the early 2000s it came time to build Landsat 8 (known as LDCM, because nobody likes the abbreviation 'L8'). The government directive was to use the COTS program: Buy data from an existing commercial satellite, or get a commercial company to build and operate it for profit, with the government its preferred customer.

    But there are no satellites that create the precise kind of data that Landsat needs. And when companies measured the profit potential of building the right kind of satellite, they walked away. If I recall the COTS LDCM request for proposal got zero bidders.

    The government has finally given up on its free market fever and allowed LDCM to be a non-COTS system. Meanwhile, because we dicked around trying to shoehorn a government project into a commercial venture, we're going to be 4-8 years late in launching the next Landsat satellite. Assuming budgetary problems don't kill the entire 30+ year program.

    COTS, and the recent governmental zeal to make everything part of the free market, is what has crippled and bankrupted the US space program. Some things are just better if done by governments, and at this point in history spaceflight is one of those things.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Yes, but isn't it true that most of the stuff is actually built by private contractors? I mean, NASA does the overall project management of building something like Landsat or Orion, and, yes, they actually launch it, but everything else is already built by private contractors, right?

      So what would be the difference if a private contractor picked up the remaining two pieces -- project management and launching/operation?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 )
      Wrong COTS, though I do see what you're saying, even if I prefer that method in the long run (a large number of smaller cheaper cooperative satellites, although there are still cases where you'll need the larger special-built ones, and LandSat definitely sounds like one of them).

      This COTS is the Commercial Orbital Transport System, which is a very very good program in my mind, because its funding the development of a much lower cost launch vehicle through a program where success is measured in results, not
    • Actually Landsat 6 [nasa.gov] wasn't built or launched by the government (not sure about how much they had to do with the design. Of course, it failed to reach orbit after being delayed for several years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuickFox ( 311231 )

      (known as LDCM, because nobody likes the abbreviation 'L8'). [...] we're going to be 4-8 years late
      An acronym change is not enough to change your f8.
    • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:53PM (#21617331)
      I work for a Very Large Charitable Organization, and a number of years ago we wrote a software application in house - it worked OK, but never really well. When it came time to replace it, the word came down - WE SHALL USE COTS! One little problem - our real world application is literally one-of-a-kind. NO ONE made a commercial version of our software that did what we needed it to do. But since the directive was COTS only, we bought the next best thing, and are now having the vendor modify it (so much for the OTS part). Now it's late, over budget, still doesn't work, and we are seriously considering just throwing the whole thing away and hiring the developers to write In House 2.0.

      COTS is to avoid $600 toilet seats, not things which are nearly unique.
    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
      But there are no satellites that create the precise kind of data that Landsat needs.

      In this case though, NASA has a fairly specific need: transport crew and cargo up to low earth orbit, and bring crew back down safely. Unlike what seems to have happened with Landsat, there are a number of commercial companies [wikipedia.org] who are pursuing this same need.
    • by dpilot ( 134227 )
      Shame on you for wrongthinking... You MUST remember the mantras...

      Government is worst at EVERYTHING.
      The Free Market is the solution to EVERY problem.
      The private sector can ALWAYS do it better.
      Regulation is ALWAYS the WORST way, voluntary compliance ALWAYS works BETTER.

      Repeat until you Believe!
      • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
        Nice straw men, but could you elaborate on what they have to do with the current issue? Should NASA just let the gap remain as-is and not invest a relatively-small amount to investigate the solutions offered by private companies?
  • It is private industry that is building all the stuff anyway. It is just some of the project management that is done at NASA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 )
      Don't forget the important part, funding. Where are Boeing and Lockheed going the get the hundreds of billions of dollars to develop and build spacecraft? How are they going to pay the sub-contractors? Those are 2 huge companies but they need the backing of a government to pay for things.
  • ...in our current government, it's a politics thing. Before, it was "America Must Be First in Space to Beat Out Those Reds!" (not my words, believe me) - and we weren't first. Now, it's, "golly, let's cut funding because this thing is too expensive." This is the government trying to get out of doing anything related to space research - we're too busy blowing people up and trying to decrypt 128-bit (1024? 2048? 10240-bit?) keys to get at personal data - both of which require enormous amounts of money in and

  • I've been meaning to ask somebody this, but I don't know who. Maybe some of the space nerd junkies can chime in if they know...

    What's to prevent the next president from rescinding the 2010 shuttle shutdown date? In preparation I know suppliers have been cut loose and long-range parts and spares capability has been shut down already. There are only so many external tanks on order and IIRC the production line has been shut down on a lot of the expendable pieces needed to fly the space shuttle. But is the
    • Regardless of your views on the wisdom and practicality of maintaining a national manned space flight program, one fact is indisputable. Bush decided that the shuttles should stop flying after 2010, and if Bush decided it you can bet your ass it was the wrong decision for any number of reasons.


      Actually, no, it's not Bush's fault. After the Columbia Accident, for safety considerations, NASA was directed to recertify the space shuttles for flight worthiness after 2010. This is a hugely expensive proposition
      • prometheus is a old idea they are now the Daedalus
      • The shuttle is a horrible launch vehicle anyway, it costs it $1bln to launch what could fly on a Delta IVH for $250M. Shuttle never lived up to (or even close) to it's expectations, and it took the Columbia disaster for NASA to be able to be able to press congress for the funding to retire and replace the shuttle.
    • Bush made the decision in wake of the Columbia accident based on the opinion of a safety panel. At the same time the Orion program was announced to replace it and to add the Moon and Mars missions. With half a percent of the federal budget, and NASA splitting that money among exploration, ISS work and environmental studies of Earth, theres not alot of money to throw at the Orion program to make it happen sooner. Without much money, there can't be as many engineers hired at once, so fewer engineers do the wo
      • and I don't know where any candidate stands on those issues
        FTA:

        Presidential candidate Barack Obama has promised to slash funding for the Orion, delaying its operational date five more years.
    • What's to prevent the next president from rescinding the 2010 shuttle shutdown date? [...] But is the 2010 drop-dead cutoff date cast in stone, or is there enough in the pipeline to run another couple of years' worth of shuttle missions?

      The article raises this point:

      Another effort, led by Rep. Dave Weldon, a Republican from Florida, would keep the shuttle orbiter fleet flying until the Orion is ready. On the surface this seems to be a mad idea. It takes about three billion dollars a year to keep the shuttle fleet operational. If the Congress cannot find the money to bring Orion closer to reality, how can it be expected to come up with six times the amount to keep the shuttle fleet flying? If Congress takes the money out of the Orion program, then the Orion is delayed, perhaps indefinitely, defeating the purpose of the exercise.

      Even worse, the shuttle fleet, in order to fly past 2010, will need a major overhaul if it is to fly with an even modicum of safety. That overhaul would cost more untold billions of dollars. Dispensing with the overhaul would place the lives of astronauts at risk and create the real possibility of a third orbiter and crew being lost in some accident.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:15PM (#21616777) Homepage

    So 2010 is the end of US manned spaceflight. There won't be a replacement for the Shuttle. NASA tried four times before, and never even got close to flight hardware. Why should this time be any different?

    The Shuttle was designed in the 1960s. Back then, NASA could hire top people. A huge number of experienced aircraft designers were available. Today, who goes into aerospace? NASA is sometimes called "the world's largest sheltered workshop". Aerospace is now so slow-paced that it takes decades to build anything.

    The GAO Report [house.gov] on the Orion program indicates that there are significant problems. The most serious is the usual one with large spacecraft - weight growth in the upper stages, requiring huge increases in the size of lower stages. NASA's plan involves adding another section to the Shuttle-type solid rocket boosters, and there are real questions as to whether the resulting stack will be strong enough. (Remember, that's how Challenger blew up; failure at the solid rocket booster joints.)

    • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:39PM (#21617115)
      As a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering, I'd disagree with your assessment. Those of us coming up through school now have gotten to know the space program during the 'return to flight' period and we recognize that human space-flight is not a given. It seems to me that the long continuation of the STS created some complacency and 'this is the way its always been done' mentality.

      However, the new people coming up aren't as trapped in those paradigms, and I really feel that my generation is up to the challenge of doing what the Apollo generation did, but for cheaper, and in a sustainable way.

      While its true that NASA isn't the beacon for intellectual challenge in the workplace that it was seen as in the 60's, I'd say Google best fulfills that role now, there are still plenty of very intelligent, very driven young people coming up in the space industry. We don't believe that the current way of doing things is the right way, and I feel we have the attitude needed, because we know that our failure could very well mean the end of human spaceflight for a long time, not just a 5 or 10 year delay.

      With a large portion of the space industry retiring soon (something like 30%-40% in the next 10 years) my generation will be very involved in the future, and I have a lot of hope for what we can do.
    • by DougF ( 1117261 )
      The Challenger blew up as a result of degradation of an O-ring through exposure to low temperatures, not because of weight or height of the SRB stack.

      Remember, that's how Challenger blew up; failure at the solid rocket booster joints.
    • Thats how long you have to put orders in advance for disposables like the fuel tanks.
  • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <sorceror171.gmail@com> on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:18PM (#21616815) Homepage
    ...even though no one will have the guts to actually build 'em: the nuclear liberty ship [nuclearspace.com].

    Will lift a thousand tons to orbit in a reusable and totally non-polluting craft. (Yup, the exhaust isn't radioactive at all.) But it's "nucular", and therefore terrible. Even though we could finally launch a bunch of solar powersats [wikipedia.org] and turn the U.S. into a net energy exporter...

    • One question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hellfire ( 86129 )
      There's an interesting section on mitigating risk, but it doesn't specifically mention the worst case (and quite possible scenario) that the fission rocket blows up somewhere in the atmosphere. What's the radiation damage then? I'm not a nuclear or rocket scientist but I don't see that discussed.
      • it doesn't specifically mention the worst case (and quite possible scenario) that the fission rocket blows up somewhere in the atmosphere

        Well, "quite possible" is a relative term. As noted in the article, this is a very conservative design, well below theoretical limits. With that much thrust, you can afford a bunch of extra safety measures, like the three independent scram measures [nuclearspace.com] listed here.

        But, actually, it does [nuclearspace.com] address the worst case, that of all the fuel and waste getting released into the atmosp

    • by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeeverNO@SPAMnerdshack.com> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @12:46AM (#21621469)
      The nuclear lightbulb would be a great thing once it was in space, but it would have some significant problems lifting off. The main one being that since hydrogen is extremely light and UF4 is one of the densest gasses there is, the ship would only be able to acheive extremely small accelerations before the uranium began escaping it's vortex and getting into the exhaust stream owing to bouyancy. The gas core nuke [wikipedia.org] article on wikipedia puts it at around 1cm/s^2.

      Frankly, if we're going to go for putting something big in orbit, I say we just freaking do it right and build a super-orion [wikipedia.org]. Eight million tons, anywhere in the solar system in weeks or months, also capable of reaching a measurable fraction of lightspeed for interstellar journeys. Yes, it would mean detonating a bunch of small nukes in earth's atmosphere. Frankly, if the return is putting twenty thousand international space stations up in one go, I could live with that.

      *mumble*goddamn sodding gravity well*mumble*
      • the ship would only be able to acheive extremely small accelerations before the uranium began escaping it's vortex and getting into the exhaust stream owing to bouyancy

        Un, no. Please actually read the article I indicated. The hydrogen stream at no point mixes with the UF6 gas. It flows along the outside of the quartz containment vessel.

  • "...the United States will have little or no spaceflight capability."

    1) Manned spaceflight is of very limited value to government. We don't need astronauts up there to have spy satellites and other military hardware.

    2) It's a mistake to equivocate the government having no manned spaceflight capability with the United States having no manned spaceflight capability. Private spaceflight will go forth unimpeded, and if you think humans are going to colonize space via NASA, well, evidence since 1969 (and a

    • 2) It's a mistake to equivocate the government having no manned spaceflight capability with the United States having no manned spaceflight capability. Private spaceflight will go forth unimpeded, and if you think humans are going to colonize space via NASA, well, evidence since 1969 (and analogous events hundreds of years prior), political science, and economics say this is highly unlikely. The US wasn't truly colonized by governments, but people looking to strike it rich. Government bureaucrats don't make
  • All I could see was General Buck Turgidson [wikipedia.org] yelling, "Gentlemen, we must not allow a space flight gap!"
  • Pigs...... In.......... Space....!

    This whole privatization of government thing has been such a boondoggle. Particularly when it comes to technology there is simply no motive to innovate. For example, we get power form coal and 1960s era nuclear reactors because continuing to do the same thing costs less in the short run than investing in finding better ways to do it.
    • by Teancum ( 67324 )
      I'll be the first to admit that some aspects of "privatization of government" simply don't make sense. Private security guards instead of police, and a private "security patrol" instead of military units...essentially the classical "mercenaries" is just insane. These by their very nature really require some sort of governmental "authority" in order to not only enforce decisions made by government employees in this sort of position, but to also keep people in these positions from abusing their authority.

      St
      • Well, if NASA were to be privatized, there would need to be a new military space program. National security interests aren't always profitable and are too important to be left to the whims of things like market forces.

        Before the Haliburtin debacle, I'd have had no problem with the defense department taking over control of NASA entirely. Between the air force and DARPA there's a fair bit of crossover anyway. The pure research stuff could be turned over to public universities in a manner similar to how the
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Well, if NASA were to be privatized, there would need to be a new military space program. National security interests aren't always profitable and are too important to be left to the whims of things like market forces.

          There is a "military space program". It is called the United States Air Force. They have full jurisdiction over military assets that go into space, and have a rather large fleet of satellites and when NASA sends up "classified" cargos on the Space Shuttle, it is done with 100% Air Force crew

      • I'll be the first to admit that some aspects of "privatization of government" simply don't make sense. Private security guards instead of police, and a private "security patrol" instead of military units...essentially the classical "mercenaries" is just insane. These by their very nature really require some sort of governmental "authority" in order to not only enforce decisions made by government employees in this sort of position, but to also keep people in these positions from abusing their authority.

        Stil

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Because there's no money in manned spaceflight. And it's extremely dangerous. NASA is the only one who's willing to spend the money and take the risks. We've had a hundred years to figure out how to fly planes, and the technology behind commercial airliners is utterly stagnant so there are no new risks. Hence reliable. The Concorde tended to explode, which we "rectified" by giving up on traveling faster than the speed of sound.

          How do you know that manned spaceflight has no money?

          As far as spaceflight being

          • As far as spaceflight being dangerous, so is flight of any kind in general. So I take it that you never fly commercial airliners and believe they should be shut down as well due to safety issues? And it wasn't risky in the 1920's just when commercial aviation was starting out?

            You misunderstand me. I'm not saying that people in general are unwilling to risk or their lives or that progress is possible without risking life. I'm saying that there's currently no sustainable business model around manned space f

  • by Brass Cannon ( 882254 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @05:07PM (#21617509)
    What would you have thought in 1969 (had you been alive) when Armstrong landed on the moon, if someone asked you where the US space program would be in 2007?

    Colonies on the Moon? Sure.
    Humans on Mars? Check.
    Remote exploration of the outer planets? Probably.

    The US unable to launch a manned mission into orbit? Absolutely not.

    But here we are. Armstrong will most likely be dead before we go back to the Moon.

    What a terrible shame.
    • When I saw "2001" a year before the moon landing it was generally thought most of that stuff was possible save for the aliens and a super-smart computer. But little of it was realized. Sniffle, sniffle.
  • It's called DIRECT, which was created by people from within NASA, and would have flights ready by 2012. Read the proposal and wonder why we're not doing this - it almost makes too much sense: http://directlauncher.com/ [directlauncher.com]
    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
      What is it that DIRECT does differently from NASA's current plans that results in it being so much faster/better? Are there any particular reasons for why NASA isn't pursuing this?
  • After Columbia. And two years after Challenger.
  • Just because Public Law 101-611 requires NASA to, where possible, procure launch services from the private sector in a commercially reasonable is no reason to stop government bureaucrats from announcing they intend to offer government services that compete in commercial markets. This is NASA after all -- the organization that is bringing the frontier of space to humanity real soon now for the last half century... Thank goodness they didn't do anything nasty to NASA the way they did to the satellite bureau
  • Well, Bigelow certainly couldn't get any support from the current startups and instead had to cancel a mission to cover inflation. Now it's NASA's turn again.

  • So NASA wants to go to private industry and say "spend billions developing something that we'll use for 5 years and then go back to our own stuff"? The only question is whether private industry will laugh at them to their face, or just behind their back...
  • Erh. Orion?

    So they will actually move to the only reasonable vehicle to put mass into orbit? That is, nuclear warhead powered (im)pulse rocket? Well, that's cool. Way cool.

    I hope they didn't just steal the name from a cool project for something lame such as same-old, same-old ho-hum rocketry..

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