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Is NASA On Life Support?


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Posted on Nov 5, 2009 8:51:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2009 8:56:54 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Yes, I agree with you totally, hence my title for this thread. What I DO like, however, is that private enterprise is heading into space with just what NASA lacks --- "bold thinking and innovation." (Heck, even global militaries are eclipsing NASA these days, weaponizing space as just another "arena for struggle", as the Russians say.)

And it says a lot for the "entreprenurial spirit", since private enterprise has to do more with less money, hence more clever and bold thinking. NASA is kinda like the Pentagon, to my way of thinking. Too much money to throw around, and sub-contractors who just want to milk-the-system instead of coming up with something truly cutting-edge and do-able.

Sad to think that NASA was just a flash-in-the-pan, our response to the Russian Space Program during the Cold War. But it DID excite a lot of people, and got them thinking that space-travel was a real and attainable goal. And all the kids who went thru Space Camp every summer? Those are our next space-pioneers with "bold thinking and innovation".

Posted on Nov 28, 2009 12:11:29 PM PST
While NASA was letting the shuttle, and manned moon and mars missions die, they were still funding some interesting research. Below is a link to a February 2009 article in Live Scientist, NEW ARTIFICIAL DNA POINTS TO ALIEN LIFE. NASA funded this project to try and understand what "life" might be like beyond Earth, by the creation of "artificial DNA":

http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/090214-weird-life.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2009 3:04:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2009 5:05:03 AM PST
Hello, Marilyn:
Do you realize that it has been 23 days (3.29 weeks [smile]) since the last post on this site? and that one was yours, as well. We have to generate more activity!

For example, in your post of November 5, your point about entrepreneurial spirit has great validity. Good ol' capitalistic greed will eventually get the human race into space permanently, if the government doesn't eventually sabotage their efforts -- or even declare them illegal. That's not as far-fetched as some might think. Look at what politically-motivated ideologues have done to the nuclear power industry in the United States.

Unfortunately, all these efforts (Spaceship One, Spaceship Two, etc.) are all occurring at a pace that's too slow for me to have a realistic chance of ever going to space - even on a suborbital flight. Oh, well, "C'est la vie".

Posted on Nov 28, 2009 3:17:32 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"Unfortunately, all these efforts (Spaceship One, Spaceship Two, etc.) are all occurring at a pace that's too slow for me to have a realistic chance of ever going to space - even on a suborbital flight. Oh, well, "C'est la vie"."

Believe there's a company that will launch your ashes into space -- or at least some of them. I want the spaceliners and stations of 2001... The future isn't what it was.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2009 3:36:40 PM PST
To M. Helsdon:
Re: "Believe there's a company that will launch your ashes into space -- or at least some of them. I want the spaceliners and stations of 2001... The future isn't what it was."

You bet your bippy, it ain't! Yes, there is a company that will launch your ashes into space, but that just won't get it. Even if I were on total life support and they told me that going to LEO would probably kill me, I would STILL sign every release form in sight and say cheerfully, "Let's light this candle!" (How's THAT for being a space nut?) However, considering the bureaucratic, risk-adverse, lawyer-dominated society in which we live, they STILL probably wouldn't let me go.

I, too, want the spaceliners and space stations of 2001. I find it particularly poignant to watch the movie 2001 because I'm quite aware that we could have actually had all that, or something similar, by the year 2001.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2009 8:04:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 30, 2009 8:05:23 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Yes, I try to post new and interesting information in relation to NASA, where I can.

You might want to check out my latest post in the "Anti-Gravity" discussion. Looks like the Russians might actually have developed an aircraft with anti-gravity capabilities!

Posted on Dec 2, 2009 12:24:58 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Even in its present state NASA is still making interesting discoveries...

The Spirit rover has been stuck in sand, and its spinning wheels have broken through a thin crust to display evidence of sulfates, which may have been formed by ancient steam vents associated with hydrothermal activity - water-charged explosive volcanism.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/02dec_troy.htm?list139933

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 12:49:34 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Sir Richard Branson will unveil the rocket plane on Monday he will use to take fare-paying passengers into space.

SpaceShipTwo is being presented to the world in California, US.

The vehicle will undergo testing over the next 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short-hop trips just above the atmosphere.

Sir Richard, who heads the Virgin Group, intends to run the first flights out of New Mexico before extending operations around the globe.

Built from lightweight carbon composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor, SS2 is based on the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne concept - a rocket plane that is lifted initially by a carrier vehicle before blasting skywards.

SS1 became the world's first private spaceship with a series of high-altitude flights in 2004.

Its successor, however, is twice as large, measuring 18m (60ft) in length. And whereas SpaceShipOne only had a single pilot (and the ballast equivalent of two passengers), SS2 will have a crew of two and room for six passengers.

About 300 individuals are reported to have signed up for a flight. They are all willing to pay about $200,000 (£121,000) for the privilege of experiencing six minutes of weightlessness during what will be a two-hour end-to-end flight.

Many of those future "astronauts" are expected to attend the VIP unveiling at the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will christen the spaceliner Virgin SpaceShip (VSS) Enterprise.

The New Mexico authorities are investing almost $200m (£121m) in a purpose-built facility in Upham. It will have a 3,000m (10,000ft) runway and a suitably space-age terminal and hangar building designed by Foster and Partners.

Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic enterprise will have competitors but he is almost certain to be the first to market, barring any problems arising in the test campaign.

SpaceShipTwo's carrier plane is called WhiteKnightTwo. It was finished last year and has already begun its own trials.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2009 11:04:22 AM PST
To M. Helsdon:
I knew, in a general way, about Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites' R&D work on SpaceShipOne/WhiteKnightOne. Thank you for the very interesting update. It's nice to see something right happening, for a change, even though I'll never be able to afford a flight unless I win the lottery. Some people will definitely deride this as a rich man's toy. However, a check of the histories will show that commercial aviation was once VERY expensive, and was considered only for affluent daredevils. My point is that the prices will eventually come down.

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 7:47:37 AM PST
Below is a link to an article in today's on-line reuters.com (Science Section):

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BE11420091215

CISCO AND NASA LAUNCH CLIMATE MONITORING VENTURE. (Do we need any more proof that NASA is turning away from spaceflight, and concentrating on more Earthly ventures?)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 15, 2009 10:31:25 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"CISCO AND NASA LAUNCH CLIMATE MONITORING VENTURE. (Do we need any more proof that NASA is turning away from spaceflight, and concentrating on more Earthly ventures?)"

As this initiative is likely to integrate existing satellite-based and ground monitoring measurements this is a prime example of NASA fulfilling its mission to utilise space-based resources to provide benefits back on Earth.

As many of the sensors used in interplanetary probes use technology originally developed for Earth satellites to monitor various effects on Earth this will also be beneficial in potentially supporting the enhancement and refinement of the sensors. As we cannot compare and contrast the data from most planetary probes with ground-based sensors this will have the byproduct of testing the capabilities and accuracy of space-bourne sensors.

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 8:49:42 PM PST
Marilyn,
Correction to your statement. NASA has stated for a long time that studying the planet Earth was part of its overall mission. This is NOT turning away from spaceflight. See http://naccenter.arc.nasa.gov/NASAMission.html

NASA Mission Statement
To improve life here,
To extend life to there,
To find life beyond.

NASA Vision
To understand and protect our home planet, To explore the Universe and search for life, and To inspire the next generation of explorers... as only NASA can

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 9:57:22 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
Oh, poor Marilyn, pounced on and savaged by the facts yet again... :(

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 4:23:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 16, 2009 4:25:34 AM PST
Doug says:
I'm coming in late to this thread, but, yes indeed, JFK, Ike, and Cronkite are undoubtedly turning over in their graves. Will catch up later, and prolly have a note or two to add.

(Hi Marilyn --~!~!)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 5:53:30 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"I'm coming in late to this thread, but, yes indeed, JFK, Ike, and Cronkite are undoubtedly turning over in their graves."

Adjusting the cost for inflation etc. the Apollo Moon missions would cost around $180 billion in today's money, possibly more. Space exploration, especially manned space exploration costs. If there is no political will to pay for it, it won't happen. Getting beyond very low Earth orbit is beyond any commercial organisation at present, and it would take a massive amount of investment with little or no return for some time to get much further.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 6:57:26 AM PST
Hi Bob!

Thanks for the correction. To be more specific, I see NASA less and less involved with outer space ventures.

They agreed to a partnership with CISCO to study or monitor our weather. But the Russians made an offer to NASA months ago, to pool resources and budgets, for a joint manned mission to Mars. And I heard/read nothing more. Was it turned down? Or, like Congress with their Black Hole committees, is it buried under a decade of "under consideration"?

Posted on Dec 16, 2009 8:31:59 AM PST
I used to manage large technical computer projects, and know what's it's like to have budgets barely adequate to run all the existing projects, and still need to create new ones. And then have a budget cut. And then have another budget cut. NASA is in the same situation. You have to get really creative and/or make hard decisions to drop projects.

I think NASA has an amazing group of people and do some fantastic stuff. But, the thing I fault NASA on is that they take too long to realize they are on a bad path and then do something about it, even if it to say "Look, we are going to have to cancel xxx." Things like the Ares I being so late that, by the time it is ready, it's primary early missions to the space station won't happen, because the 'plan' is that the space station support ends in 2015 due to lack of $$. So, what is the Ares I supposed to do for many years until a Moon mission is ready? Maybe they hoped that Congress would step in and give them more $$ when faced with the situation. Wishful thinking!

I think they are really afraid of, when saying, "No bucks, no Buck Rogers" that the answer will be "OK, no Buck Rogers!" Sad to say, I really think that would be the answer.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 9:00:03 AM PST
Hi Bob!

Thanks for your thoughtful post. Yes, I know NASA's budget keeps getting slashed. In hard economic times like these, the govenment tends to slash programs which have the least direct, or smallest impact on the general populace. (Dentures would chew off Congress' hands if they touched Social Security. But, at the other end, they will slash Head Start and other pre-K programs, possibly thinking that states or charities might pick up the tab.)

But your comment on how muddled and inflexible NASA is with their priorities, is a big part of the problem too. If they could present a "do-able" timeline, allowing for "options" at each stage, I'd think Congress would be more willing to give them the money they need.

And why isn't NASA more willing to form partnerships, to share budgets? Maybe the Russians aren't the ideal partners for joint missions, but the Russians are now talking to the Chinese about joint missions. Is NASA that frightened of "stolen secrets"? Or is this just Superpower-Thinking, that no other space agency could possibly be as good as NASA? (The Russians got creative years ago, charging hundreds of millions of dollars to train and ferry anyone with the money to the Space Station.)

Part of the problem too, is the psychological aspect of going into Space. The rest of the orbs in our solar system look unattractive and inhospitable, just dead hunks of rock or gas. And going anywhere outside our solar system is presently impossible, due to the distances involved, coupled with our barely-to-the-moon manned flight capabilities at present.

I guess we have to shift our focus, and start rooting for the private spacecraft programs ...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 10:20:16 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
There is still considerable collaboration between NASA and Roscosmos:

http://moscow.usembassy.gov/nasa.html

The Russians are also still hoping for collaboration with NASA on a future Mars mission.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/russia-reveals-vision-for-manned/1

Officials at the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, made no secret that these grand ambitions were not achievable within the current budget and capabilities of the Russian space program alone. Instead, they hoped to jump-start the idea of broader international cooperation, which could spread the cost of the manned space program.

"This proposal could serve as a basis for a large international venture, which could be even wider than the one we have had in the International Space Station, ISS, because the resources required are enormous," says Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at Roskosmos.

"I hope, and this is my personal opinion, that in the context of the Augustine Commission work, and with the new NASA administration, we will ultimately come to the understanding that the development of international cooperation in space should move in this direction," Krasnov says.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 10:36:05 AM PST
Dannis Cole says:
NASA has been funded in Congress for another year. Tell your Congress to get behind the promises and fund NASA's manned missions to Moon and Mars! See http://savenasa.ning.com NASA is testing Constellation, a new craft to ferry between the ISS and the Moon, and Mars. NASA has been busy, but Congress is cutting NASA funding every session. If we want NASA to be the space leader, it's time to quit giving it lip service like Bush did and fund the promises. I daresay if Congress had not cut NASA funding, both shuttle disasters could've been averted.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 10:36:24 AM PST
Dannis Cole says:
NASA has been funded in Congress for another year. Tell your Congress to get behind the promises and fund NASA's manned missions to Moon and Mars! See http://savenasa.ning.com NASA is testing Constellation, a new craft to ferry between the ISS and the Moon, and Mars. NASA has been busy, but Congress is cutting NASA funding every session. If we want NASA to be the space leader, it's time to quit giving it lip service like Bush did and fund the promises. I daresay if Congress had not cut NASA funding, both shuttle disasters could've been averted.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2009 8:00:23 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"The rest of the orbs in our solar system...."

YEA!!! The "orbs" are back! :D

Posted on Dec 17, 2009 7:12:47 AM PST
Hi Dennis!

Thanks for your interesting post. Yes, I'm all for kicking NASA into higher gear, and getting back into manned spaceflight. I'll check out the Save Nasa website.

You mentioned that better funding would have averted both shuttle disasters. I've never heard that. Could you elaborate?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2009 10:40:21 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
One of NASA's 'terrestrial' project has just bourne spectacular results: the network of cameras deployed around the Arctic in support of the THEMIS mission (five spacecraft launched in 2006) has made a discovery about the aurora borealis. Events in Earth's "plasma tail" have produced explosions of light.

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/17dec_whenaurorascollide.htm?list139933

Fascinating, and perhaps with important implications both on Earth and for spacecraft in Earth orbit.

Posted on Dec 18, 2009 12:19:29 PM PST
http://spacefellowship.com/2009/12/16/signs-of-life-detected-on-the-moon/

(Just this past week, both NASA's researchers with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Indian researchers with their Chandrayaan-1, declared that signs of organic matter have been detected on our moon's surface. Verification/validation is in progress, and the organic matter may be just residue from comets or asteroids.)
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