Customer Discussions > Science Fiction forum

Is NASA On Life Support?


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-25 of 1000 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 19, 2009 5:55:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 20, 2009 5:37:59 AM PDT
The former NASA Director killed the Mars missions, because of unsurmountable problems with ... the landers' wheels. No update on the Russian space agency's proposal to NASA, to combine resources and budgets for a joint manned mission to Mars.

Manned missions to the Moon are almost dead, called "too expensive". Yet, when the shuttle fleet is retired in the next year or so, we'll be paying the Russians $50 million per seat to ferry our astronauts to the Space Station. (I'm unclear if this $50 million price tag is one-way, or round-trip.) So THIS is NASA's idea of being "fiscally responsible"?

The shuttle fleet has been aimed for retirement for around a decade now. And yet no NASA replacement vehicle got to the final stage for deployment. Now Space X (who already has NASA contracts) says their Dragon craft and crew can ferry astronauts to the Space Station for only $20 million per seat.

Ike, JFK and Walter Cronkite must be turning over in their graves ...

Posted on Sep 19, 2009 6:09:55 AM PDT
Jalina says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Sep 19, 2009 8:11:51 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 19, 2009 8:12:35 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Manned missions to the Moon are almost dead, called "too expensive". Yet, when the shuttle fleet is retired in the next year or so, we'll be paying the Russians $50 million per seat to ferry our astronauts to the Space Station. (I'm unclear if this $50 million price tag is one-way, or round-trip.)"

Both ways.

"So THIS is NASA's idea of being "fiscally responsible"?"

It is a result of a decade or more of budget cuts, and longer term issues with being forced to use short-term solutions due to limited finances (such as the space shuttle which bears little resemblance to the original concept, and for all its technological wonders, is filled with forced engineering blunders) to the need for long-term investment.

Basically, space is expensive; politicians have cut and slashed budgets: the result, an ailing space program.

"Now Space X (who already has NASA contracts) says their Dragon craft and crew can ferry astronauts to the Space Station for only $20 million per seat."

Dragon has not yet flown a test flight, either as a cargo or personnel capsule and its launch rocket, Falcon 9 hasn't been launched yet and is still undergoing engine testing...

"Ike, JFK and Walter Cronkite must be turning over in their graves ... "

The Apollo program was cut before its intended end by politicians, with the last Saturns left to rust as tourist sites.

Posted on Sep 19, 2009 1:57:51 PM PDT
Mrs. Garside says:
As they say in 'The Right Stuff', no bucks, no Buck Rogers. Any space program would be expensive. These days we (as a nation) lack the will to fund a program that would get us to Mars. Or anywhere else.

When I'm feeling really down about the whole thing, I think that the space program was all about 'beating' the Soviet Union, rather than exploration, knowledge, and advancing as a species.(at least from the POV of the people who actuallly signed the checks). We have no real rivals left, so what's the point?

I hate feeling so sad and cynical. I don't know what it will take to get things moving again. But I hope that someone does. Humans CAN do this; we must find a way.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2009 2:51:54 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Mrs. Garside,

"We have no real rivals left, so what's the point?"

If the space race permitted a venue where competition in the Cold War may have reduced the risk of the conflict going 'hot', then we may be in an era where the emphasis becomes co-operation. Certainly, NASA, ESA, Roscosmos and JAXA are tending to work together, both in the ISS program and others.

"These days we (as a nation) lack the will to fund a program that would get us to Mars. Or anywhere else."

At our present levels of technology, a manned mission to Mars has major risks, not least the high dose of radiation from galactic cosmic rays. The Moon itself provides a level of screening of half the incoming particles and the Apollo missions were of a short duration that ensured the astronauts received a low dose of radiation. Going to Mars results in a high risk dose, unless a 'fast' means of transport is used. Given the protests over the launch of the small radioisotope thermoelectric generators in probes to the outer planets, launching a vehicle or its components using some form of nuclear drive isn't likely to be practical.

What's interesting is that recent discussions have related to a manned mission to the moons of Mars, but not landing on the planet itself save by remotely operated rover. This seriously reduces the costs, because a manned lander would require considerable mass, as well as risk.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2009 7:29:11 PM PDT
To Mrs. Garside:
RE: "...I think that the space program was all about 'beating' the Soviet Union, rather than exploration, knowledge, and advancing as a species."

Of course, that's what is was -- merely a propaganda tool in the Cold War. To see this illustrated, check out the U.S. print media right after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. The various editorial writers and commentators were practically frothing at the mouth in consternation, indignation, and fear. After all, NASA was established after that "satellite shock," and that time was when the term "space race" was first coined.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2009 7:35:52 PM PDT
To M. Helsdon:
RE: "Given the protests over the launch of the small radioisotope thermoelectric generators in probes to the outer planets, launching a vehicle or its components using some form of nuclear drive isn't likely to be practical."

A nuclear drive (non-nuclear from the surface to LEO) remains eminently practical. The problem is that the bureaucrats lack the political will to carry out such a mission.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 1:27:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 20, 2009 7:11:29 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"A nuclear drive (non-nuclear from the surface to LEO) remains eminently practical."

Technically practical: yes. Politically practical: probably no.

It still requires radioactives to be launched from Earth, as the 'final stage' or as components for a vehicle constructed in orbit. This would result in even greater protests than those when the outer planet probes were launched. It's unlikely that the political will would be there to ignore the protesters.

Von Braun's Mars Expendition, using Nerva nuclear rockets assumed the vehicles being launched as the upper stage of a Saturn V variant.

Posted on Sep 20, 2009 5:48:32 AM PDT
Thanks one and all for the interesting posts!

Yes, I know our Space Program started out as a Race Into Space with the Russians. But sometimes how something "starts" is less relevant than how it "continues". Real science was done (and is being done) on the moon and Space Station.

Every year, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of kids head to Space Camp. How do parents tell them that NASA will never again be what it was, and thus dreaming about being a NASA astronaut will never happen?

The Space Station is due to be retired in 2016. Bush laid out a bold plan for our space program to move forward, plotting out manned missions to the Moon, and then Mars. Now we have nothing. NASA couldn't even build/find a replacement vehicle for the shuttle.

So what do you think our future in space will be? Will a down-sized NASA just be piddling around with satellites and the Hubble? Will private space exploration companies be able to fill the gap for manned excursions, for profit more than exploration?

WHERE THERE IS AN OPEN MIND, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A FRONTIER. Charles F. Kettering

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 6:57:02 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"The Space Station is due to be retired in 2016."

The Russians have plans to retain their modules, and the Augustine Committee on September 8, 2009 recommended that the ISS program be retained at least until 2020. The fate of the ISS is not yet decided.

"Bush laid out a bold plan for our space program to move forward, plotting out manned missions to the Moon, and then Mars."

Grandiose schemes without funding equate to no schemes: NASA spending was capped in 2006 for the five-year period from 2007 to 2011 as part of his cuts to federal science funding.

An editorial in Nature magazine at the time wrote: "NASA is undergoing a historic shift in direction without consulting scientists or paying attention to their advice. Projects with great appeal to scientists and to the public-including the search for planets around other stars and the study of dark energy-are being abandoned so that NASA can return astronauts to the moon half a century after the Apollo landings."

And now those vague desires to return to the Moon look in doubt.

"Now we have nothing. NASA couldn't even build/find a replacement vehicle for the shuttle."

The removal of the shuttle is still being discussed by Congress. On September 8, 2009, the Human Space Flight Plans Committee released their recommendations:

Summary
--------

The Committee summarizes its key findings below. Additional findings are included in the body of the report.

The right mission and the right size: NASA's budget should match its mission and goals. Further, NASA should be given the ability to shape its organization and infrastructure accordingly, while maintaining facilities deemed to be of national importance.

International partnerships: The U.S. can lead a bold new international effort in the human exploration of space. If international partners are actively engaged, including on the "critical path" to success, there could be substantial benefits to foreign relations, and more resources overall could become available.

Short-term Space Shuttle planning: The current Shuttle manifest should be flown in a safe and prudent manner. The current manifest will likely extend to the second quarter of FY 2011. It is important to budget for this likelihood.

The human-spaceflight gap: Under current conditions, the gap in U.S. ability to launch astronauts into space will stretch to at least seven years. The Committee did not identify any credible approach employing new capabilities that could shorten the gap to less than six years. The only way to significantly close the gap is to extend the life of the Shuttle Program.

Extending the International Space Station: The return on investment to both the United States and our international partners would be significantly enhanced by an extension of ISS life. Not to extend its operation would significantly impair U.S. ability to develop and lead future international spaceflight partnerships.

Heavy-lift: A heavy-lift launch capability to low-Earth orbit, combined with the ability to inject heavy payloads away from the Earth, is beneficial to exploration, and it also will be useful to the national security space and scientific communities. The Committee reviewed: the Ares family of launchers; more directly Shuttle-derived vehicles; and launchers derived from the EELV family.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, trading capability, lifecycle costs, operational complexity and the "way of doing business" within the program and NASA.

Commercial crew launch to low-Earth orbit: Commercial services to deliver crew to low-Earth orbit are within reach. While this presents some risk, it could provide an earlier capability at lower initial and lifecycle costs than government could achieve. A new competition with adequate incentives should be open to all U.S. aerospace companies. This would allow NASA to focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, based on the
continued development of the current or modified Orion spacecraft.
Technology development for exploration and commercial space:

Investment in a well-designed and adequately funded space technology program is critical to enable progress in exploration.
Exploration strategies can proceed more readily and economically if the requisite technology has been developed in advance. This investment will also benefit robotic exploration, the U.S. commercial space industry and other U.S. government users.

Pathways to Mars: Mars is the ultimate destination for human exploration; but it is not the best first destination. Both visiting the Moon First and following the Flexible Path are viable exploration strategies. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive; before traveling to Mars, we might be well served to both extend our presence in free space and gain experience working on the
lunar surface.

Options for the Human Spaceflight Program: The Committee developed five alternatives for the Human Spaceflight Program. It found:

* Human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit is not viable under the FY 2010 budget guideline.

* Meaningful human exploration is possible under a less constrained budget, ramping to approximately $3 billion per year above the FY 2010 guidance in total resources.

* Funding at the increased level would allow either an exploration program to explore Moon. First or one that follows a Flexible Path of exploration. Either could produce results in a reasonable timeframe.

http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/press_release_files/Augustineforweb.pdf

Posted on Sep 20, 2009 8:50:49 AM PDT
Now that they found the first rocky planet outside our solar system, we just need to find one that "might have liquid water" or a rocky planet in the green zone. Maybe then there would be interest in space.

Then we just need to work on that light speed problem :)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 8:57:23 AM PDT
Hi Chris!

Actually, you may have hit the nail on the head. As the world population keeps booming, eventually we'll run out of space. (Although we'll probably run out of drinkable water and maybe food first.)

Then "space exploration" will take on a new urgency, as we are forced to start looking for "colonies". (There's an older thread in this forum, in which we discussed space colonies. We'll probably end up on some rocky orb with a dome initially, since the beloved terraforming of Sci Fi legend and lore is still beyond us, technologically.)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 9:20:32 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Then "space exploration" will take on a new urgency, as we are forced to start looking for "colonies". (There's an older thread in this forum, in which we discussed space colonies. We'll probably end up on some rocky orb with a dome initially, since the beloved terraforming of Sci Fi legend and lore is still beyond us, technologically.)"

It is very expensive to create 'colonies' on Earth outside the usual zones of occupation: bases in Antarctica are expensive and reliant on a constant flow of supplies. 'Colonies' elsewhere in the Solar System would be much more expensive and risky.

"As the world population keeps booming, eventually we'll run out of space. "

The traditional controls on human population will kick in: plague, famine and war, and the looming energy crunch will doubtless act as a catalyst.

Without a cheap reliable means to LEO, large-scale human colonisation is a pleasant day dream.

Posted on Sep 20, 2009 2:53:40 PM PDT
NO one has mentioned China. They now have a space program.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 6:39:32 AM PDT
Hi Art!

Sorry -- you're right. China does indeed have a space program. (So does India.) But the Chinese are very secretive about it, and I don't think they are willing to share resources for joint projects (like the Russians). Only thing I've read, is that the Chinese want to build a factory on the moon in the next couple of decades.

Posted on Sep 21, 2009 7:16:39 AM PDT
UPDATE:

According to Space.com, China's space agency is in talks with the Russian space agency about joint missions.

India's space program is focusing now on launch development and satellites. But it has a five-year plan to develop rockets, and maybe commercialize its GSLV launcher.

Israel has a private company that is in joint missions with S. Korea's space program.

Other global space companies are working on "refined imaging technology". Business (borne out of spy satellites) is booming, although the U.S. is dragging their feet about upgrading to better imaging technology. (Or else we already have super-imaging capabilities, and are keeping it very secret.)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 1:02:32 PM PDT
To M. Helsdon:
RE: "It's unlikely that the political will would be there to ignore the protesters."

Unfortunately, you're right. With neo-Luddites on the ascendancy, and with politicians and bureaucrats either sympathetic or willing to acquiesce to them, it doesn't look good for any kind of advances in space.

So-o-o-o, what, in your opinion, what would it take (aside from another Cold War) to get the human race advancing into colonization and exploitation and general space industrialization?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 1:12:44 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"So-o-o-o, what, in your opinion, what would it take (aside from another Cold War) to get the human race advancing into colonization and exploitation and general space industrialization?"

A threat that can only be countered in orbit or beyond: a high probability of impact by a comet or asteroid, or the urgent need to shade Earth from solar radiation to reduce global warming (natural or otherwise).

The effort required to destroy or alter the trajectory of an impactor would focus minds wonderfully, as would the industrial and engineering requirements of a giant sunshade.

Governments, even more than individuals, work, I suspect, on self-interest, and threats to survival are the most effective incentives.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 1:27:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2009 9:26:06 AM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
Basically, NASA is just a long term jobs program for engineers and bureaucrats. There's "talk" about returning to the moon and the best that they could come up with is an enlarged Apollo capsule!?! Or remember the O-rings on the SBR on the Challenger. I mean, O-rings are a mature technology and they couldn't get that right the first time. The "new and improved" O-rings are only marginally better and are much too complex for the relatively simple job that they have to do.

RE: "NASA couldn't even build/find a replacement vehicle for the shuttle."
And it's not as if the replacement date for the Shuttles has snuck up on them; they've known for years that the Shuttles were going to need to be replaced. After all, any vehicle or system has a certain "design life." But did they do anything about it? No, they did not.

RE: "Will a down-sized NASA just be piddling around with satellites and the Hubble?"
You got that right.

RE: "Will private space exploration companies be able to fill the gap for manned excursions, for profit more than exploration?"
It's much better that it be done for profit than for it not to be done at all. Besides, such noble reasons as "exploration" and "advancement of humanity" don't get the bills paid. And profit is not a dirty word.

Yeah, I know; I'm a cynical curmudgeon with no poetry in my soul -- but I do have fun, though!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 1:57:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2010 8:45:07 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "As the world population keeps booming, eventually we'll run out of space."
Space colonization, even sending thousands of people at a time, will NOT in any way alleviate population pressure. Currently, the world net population growth is about 75,000,000 people per year. However, what space colonization WILL do is to place all of humanity's eggs (both literally and figuratively) in more than one basket. Extrasolar colonization would be even better, but hey, one step at a time.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 2:15:30 PM PDT
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "Only thing I've read, is that the Chinese want to build a factory on the moon in the next couple of decades."
What do they plan to make at that factory? Off hand, it could be LOX and hydrogen for spaceship refueling. This implies that they are planning on a massive presence in cis-lunar space.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 2:18:12 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"And it's not as if the replacement date for the Shuttles has snuck up on them; they've known for years that the Shuttles were going to need to be replaced. After all, any vehicle or system has a certain "design life." But did they do anything about it? No, they did not."

There have been several shuttle replacement programs - the most interesting the Lockheed Martin X-33, abandoned after NASA had spent $912 million and Lockheed Martin $357 million. To complete the demonstrator would have cost even more - but success would have made the investment worthwhile. VentureStar as a single-stage-to-orbit could have been made to work, but the finances were pulled... in part due to a problem with a fuel tank (which could be overcome) but mainly due to political will, or lack thereof.

Posted on Sep 21, 2009 2:19:43 PM PDT
Hi Walter!

Thanks for your thought-provoking and fascinating posts.

So, as we both feel that private industry will have to pick up the reins for manned space flights, what do you think will happen politically when (for example) China declares that half the moon is theirs, because they are actively building factory on it? Will it be "first come, first serve" as private space mining companies jockey for the asteroids/comets with the most water and gold?

Unlike our Native Americans (who say "We don't own Mother Earth, we are only protecting it for our children"), most of the rest of the civilizations on this planet are highly territorial. With only a minimal NASA operating in the future, how do you think governments will sort out the aspect of "ownership" (or "rent-to-buy") about the orbs in our solar system?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 2:23:34 PM PDT
To M. Helsdon:
I agree totally. No need for me to add anything else; you've said it all.

Posted on Sep 21, 2009 2:28:15 PM PDT
I agree with the "Threat Theory"

Once ailiens come down and tell us we are approaching certain doom, or an asteroid is 100% going to impact earth, or the planet is almost unhabitable there will be some interest in space exploration again.

It took the threat of "The Ruskies are gonna get us" to get us up there in the first place.
‹ Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 53 Next ›
[Add comment]
Add your own message to the discussion
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Prompts for sign-in
 



Active discussions in related forums  
   
 

This discussion

Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  99
Total posts:  1309
Initial post:  Sep 19, 2009
Latest post:  Sep 15, 2013

New! Receive e-mail when new posts are made.
Tracked by 6 customers

Search Customer Discussions