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Is NASA On Life Support?


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In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2010, 10:12:54 PM PDT
"development of a future heavy-lift vehicle. "

Which was cancelled... NASA at current has no development work going on or contracted out for any vehicle capable of lifting any decent sized load (let alone human beings) off the planet.
They're hoping to buy space on privately developed vehicles instead, if and when those get built and approved by the US government for operations.

Posted on Aug 28, 2010, 3:33:51 PM PDT
Here's another interesting NASA article.
"NASA Finds Cash to Fund Fast, Clever, Unusual Tech For Future Space, Air Missions"
http://www.fastcompany.com/1684908/nasa-finds-cash-to-fund-fast-clever-unusual-tech-for-future-space-air-missions

It looks like they are seriously looking to fund some game changing new approaches.

Posted on Aug 26, 2010, 2:04:31 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
NASA's not dead yet: 'The Kepler spacecraft has discovered two Saturn-sized planets transiting a single sun-like star. The same system might contain a third world--a hot "super-Earth" one and a half times the size of Earth. Researchers announced the results today at a NASA press conference.'

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/26aug_kepler/

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010, 7:25:08 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"It was the earlier Russian "isolation tests" that ended early due to friction and fistfights."

As was noted in my earlier post of August 24, 2010 2:19 PM PDT....

Biosphere 2's problems were even more extreme: 'Now, the veneer of credibility, already bruised by allegations of tamper-prone data, secret food caches and smuggled supplies, has cracked ... the two-year experiment in self-sufficiency is starting to look less like science and more like a $150 million stunt.'
The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2

Posted on Aug 25, 2010, 6:50:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 25, 2010, 6:54:10 AM PDT
Here's another link to an article about the joint ESA/Russian/Chinese "isolation test". I don't think the U.S. has ever taken part in them. It was the earlier Russian "isolation tests" that ended early due to friction and fistfights.

http://www.esa.int/esaHS/SEM4VFFKZ6G_index_0.html
TO MARS AND BACK - AS REAL AS IT GETS

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2010, 1:10:35 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"I hadn't heard of the Russian isolation tests."

Six men from Russia, Europe and China are going to spend 520 days living together in a mock spacecraft, in a test to see how a mission to Mars might work.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8693237.stm

Posted on Aug 24, 2010, 8:56:22 PM PDT
I hadn't heard of the Russian isolation tests. I hope they don't do it like that old Twilight Zone episode ->
"Where Is Everybody?" opened The Twilight Zone on 2 October 1959, and featured a riveting one-man performance by Earl Holliman as a psychologically stressed Air Force man who hallucinates that he is completely alone in a deserted but spookily "lived in" town while actually undergoing an isolation experiment."

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2010, 2:19:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 24, 2010, 2:21:49 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

Reports on the BBC suggest that as the miners are there in numbers, over thirty, they should be able to ensure their mental and physical health: they were already picked for working in a hazardous and strenuous environment, and if any individuals suffer breakdowns then they have colleagues by them to help them through.

It's a less controlled version of the Mars isolation tests going on in Russia at the moment; in previous tests, I believe the group dynamics of a much smaller number of people caused issues, and in the biosphere test a while ago in the US the group broke into two mutually hostile factions...

Posted on Aug 24, 2010, 12:00:34 PM PDT
It amazes me how new things where NASA can help keep popping up. The latest is that they've asked NASA to help with the Chilean miners who are trapped underground.

"Health ministry officials on Tuesday contacted Nasa asking for technology and rations that could help the miners remain healthy, which the space agency was considering. Experts said such cramped conditions were similar to those experienced by astronauts during long stints on the International Space Station." Also it discusses the danger of going insane since rescue will probably take 4 months (until Christmas this year) which they haven't told the miners yet!

Article Title: Trapped Chile miners: Nasa asked to 'help with psychological trauma'
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/chile/7962583/Trapped-Chile-miners-Nasa-asked-to-help-with-psychological-trauma.html

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2010, 12:23:35 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Being not a Civilian(cover) space agency in the first place as NASA is owned by the Pentagon and DoD, possibly even military, returning to some of its origins??? Which origins again"

NASA is a branch of the executive government of the USA, not a part of "the Pentagon and DoD".

NASA was formed in 1958 from the older NACA and various other facilities, including parts of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and Naval Research Laboratory. NACA itself began as a military program during the First World War before becoming involved in military and civilian aeronautics research. The idea that NASA is a 'cover' space agency is popular with some conspiracy believers, but the military have their own aerospace programs, with the sort of exchange and cross-use you would expect between parts of the same government. For instance, at one time military requirements were in place for the space shuttle, but no military shuttles were ever in service and none ever flew from Vandenberg, though some shuttle missions carried military payloads.

Posted on Aug 13, 2010, 11:32:29 AM PDT
Mark Twain says:
NASA has been subjected to severe and "debilitating budget cuts" over the last few decades and markedly so by the general cuts in scientific funding in the last decade. I doubt that it will ever be allowed to completely die, though its possible to see it eventually folded in whole or in part into another agency, possibly even military, returning to some of its origins.

In others words though its possible to see it eventually folded in whole or in part into another agency, possibly even military, returning to some of its origins.

Being not a Civilian(cover) space agency in the first place as NASA is owned by the Pentagon and DoD, possibly even military, returning to some of its origins??? Which origins again

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2010, 9:50:24 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
LDS,

Unfortunately, as a government agency, NASA is very restricted by several layers of political control. It is also restricted in how much it can play politics to sound its own drum, less it upset anyone. Some very important projects have been relatively quietly killed (such as Project Prometheus or VentureStar) with little hue and cry.

Posted on Aug 13, 2010, 9:41:37 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 13, 2010, 9:42:11 AM PDT
Ubiquitin says:
M. Helsdon,

"tax-payers had paid for the research and development that gave rise to the patent, and so should not be forced to pay for these innovations a second time"

Maybe NASA needs to be a little more creative about this. I think the ultimate in obtuse public-funded research to profit-driven enterprise comes from universities. I went to UW-Madison, which is famous for this, with their WARF (example: their very acronym was used to name warfarin, also known as coumadin, a common pharmaceutical). Researchers cannot own their own inventions in some cases, WARF has control over their use and licensing.

And the most complicated was when I toured WiCell this year, the site that maintained and distributed the 21 legal stem cell lines during the Bush administration. They have strong ties to genetics legend Jamie Thompson, and industry, and the university, and it's impossible to tease out all their funding.

In fact, some such organizations have seperate redundant labs set up in close proximity that researches must travel between to avoid certain laws about which funding sources paid for what.

Perhaps NASA just needs to hire some better lawyers, learn to be a little sneakier?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2010, 9:27:30 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
LDS,

"As such, it will never be allowed to die out, or be encumbered by debilitating budget cuts."

NASA has thousands of patents (and could have made many more) but has not been permitted to gain much funding by these, from either the military or civilian sector, because it was argued that tax-payers had paid for the research and development that gave rise to the patent, and so should not be forced to pay for these innovations a second time. The main benefactors were, of course, large corporations who used the innovations to drive their own profits.

NASA has been subjected to severe and "debilitating budget cuts" over the last few decades and markedly so by the general cuts in scientific funding in the last decade. I doubt that it will ever be allowed to completely die, though its possible to see it eventually folded in whole or in part into another agency, possibly even military, returning to some of its origins.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2010, 9:21:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 13, 2010, 9:28:23 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"TUMBLING BOULDERS LEAVE TRAILS ON THE MOON (Cool photos, of the "moving" moon boulders and their trails. No one can figure out the how or why."

'Boulders fall from high elevations to lower ones because of gravity after being knocked loose by small impacts or moonquakes. Changes in slope can stop boulders; when a steep slope (like that of a crater wall) suddenly shallows, the boulder may not have enough inertia to continue moving. Inertia, or Newton's First Law of Motion, describes an object's resistance to change in velocity. So, a boulder will continue to move until something changes its speed or direction.'

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/multimedia/lroimages/20100520_holeinone.html

The Moon isn't totally inert, and the necessary vibration to start a boulder rolling can be caused by either impacts or quakes - the Moon is affected by tides over 27 days causing stress which builds up over time, until released as moonquakes. Moonquakes were detected by seismometers left by the Apollo missions, and a moonquake can, once started, last for an hour or so. These will, eventually, unseat a boulder and set it rolling.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2010, 9:03:08 AM PDT
Ubiquitin says:
M. Helsdon,

I have heard it said that NASA has always really been more about spin-off technologies to be used by the defense department and to be licenced to industry (as well as demonstrating our power to competitor nations). As such, it will never be allowed to die out, or be encumbered by debilitating budget cuts. Thoughts? (I apologize if this point has already been mentioned)

LDS
A Place of Rest

Posted on Aug 13, 2010, 8:53:23 AM PDT
NASA's space-observational capabilities continue, regardless of their truncated manned-exploration options.

http://www.universetoday.com/71067/tumbling-boulders-leave-trails-on-the-moon/#more-71067
TUMBLING BOULDERS LEAVE TRAILS ON THE MOON (Cool photos, of the "moving" moon boulders and their trails. No one can figure out the how or why. They are similar to the equally mysterious "moving rocks" on dry lake beds in Death Valley, California. And the "accepted explanations" of the Death Valley "moving rocks" don't fit the conditions on the moon.)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2010, 10:07:21 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Dennis,

"Since NASA is a political entity..."

NASA is an executive branch agency of the US government subject to the elected national leadership, and has suffered for the past thirty or forty years for a lack of a distinct mandate, direction and funding. Whilst not itself a political entity, and restricted in what it can do in certain areas, it is subject to political pressure and manipulation.

"As to whether or not NASA is on life support, I'm not sure they're even still breathing."

NASA is still overseeing existing space probes and activities on the ISS and actively planning future probes. Its horizons are limited, however, by limited finance, and political interference/management of the development of a future heavy-lift vehicle.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2010, 9:38:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 3, 2010, 9:41:28 AM PDT
"Please save the politics for another forum."

Since NASA is a political entity, how can one discuss whether it is "on life support" or not without discussing politics, and why it is in the state it is currently in? I don't consider myself democrat or a republican. I'm a conservative, but frankly, I think if a giant earthquake occurred in DC, and the earth opened up and swallowed it whole, I think we'd all be better off a year from now. NONE of the politicians represent the people any longer. They're all drunk on power, and they all need to go! As to whether or not NASA is on life support, I'm not sure they're even still breathing.

Dennis Phillips, author, The Proximian

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2010, 1:03:41 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"Pardon me, I forgot that I'm dealing with some shrill and negative posters who are more into personal attacks that staying with the topic at hand."

Poor Marilyn! Where exactly were you attacked off-topic this time? (And I take it you've taken us off your ignore list again, or are you just peeking, as usual?)

"(This is the 'Science Fiction' forum, isn't it? I haven't mistakenly ended up in the 'Juvenile Hysteria Attack' forum, have I?)"

Yes, of course, this is your personal "I'll post anything I want and justify it as 'speculation'" forum. (But the only person who ever approaches hysteria here is, from what I can see, you.)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2010, 12:35:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 2, 2010, 12:44:14 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Marilyn,

"So how about a transparent-aluminum/treated-acrylic for clear colony domes?"

It doesn't solve the problem of cosmic radiation or solar energetic particles. Unfortunately the aluminium produced by the process you cite is also only transparent for a very short time as this is an extremely short 'transient state' due to saturable absorption and it is also 'nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation' - it isn't apparently transparent to other wavelengths of light but is transparent to X-rays... eek! This means that if you add a layer of something else to filter out ultra-violet, then there's no point making the aluminium (briefly) 'transparent'.

Even if it were possible to make it permanently 'transparent', the other properties of the material aren't going to help you. Aluminium is a pretty poor radiation shield due to the secondary radiation effects.

You can have glass treated to provide *some* radiation shielding (lead glass) but not sufficiently to provide full protection.

In fact, another form of 'transparent aluminium' has been around for some years as aluminum oxynitride, but it isn't really suitable for Martian domes.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8180-windscreen-repels-armourpiercing-bullets.html

"There is a company in Germany who claims they can add something to acrylic glass so that it "absorbs" UV light."

The cited article states 'Unlike glass, acrylic glass does not filter ultraviolet (UV) light. Acrylic glass transmits UV light down to 300 nm.'

Ordinary window glass is pretty good at reducing a fraction of UVb penetration (on Earth) and the thicker the glass, the less it lets through; it can be given a coating to reduce the the amount of ultraviolet radiation that passes through. So the German modification to acrylic glass is unnecessary for your domes.

Note that ordinary glass does not give total protection, so someone working with UVb light sources has to use something better than ordinary eye glasses to protect their cornea and ocular lenses to prevent the formation of cataracts. Even UVa can damage the retina. Most UVb is blocked by the Earth's atmosphere and no UVc gets through at all.

The big problem is that whilst ordinary thick glass can block UV to *some* degree, a great deal more UVb and UVc gets to the Martian surface than on Earth because there's no protective ozone layer. This means that you would need a much thicker layer of glass even with special coatings, and whilst you could make glass on Mars and the lower gravity means a thick pane of glass 'weighs' less, it still isn't going to be a good material for building large structures.

I wouldn't want to rely on thick glass to protect plants (or humans) from harmful UVb or UVc, and if we are thinking of making glass from Martian sand, we have to be very careful because silica or quartz glass can be totally transparent to all UV...

Martian (and Lunar) greenhouses would have to use materials we don't yet have, or get around the problems by using sunlight indirectly, perhaps channeled and filtered through light wells underground or powering artificial light.

Posted on Aug 2, 2010, 11:44:00 AM PDT
There is a company in Germany who claims they can add something to acrylic glass so that it "absorbs" UV light.

http://www.hydrosight.com/technology/acrylic_uv_resistance.php

So how about a transparent-aluminum/treated-acrylic for clear colony domes?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2010, 8:53:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 2, 2010, 11:12:39 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Transparent aluminum colony domes?"

Transparent aluminium is feasible - though not practical for Martian greenhouses...

"Aluminum is one substance being studied to block Cosmic Radiation."

Aluminium is only capable of absorbing beta particles (electrons), it won't stop cosmic radiation or all solar energetic particles. The ISS can rely on a thin layer of aluminium for shielding, but it has the advantage of being protected by the Earth's magnetosphere.

In deep space, or on Mars or the Moon aluminium would have a negative effect because of secondary radiation. Hydrogen rich plastics are more effective than aluminium, though a form of layers of magnetic shielding would be most effective, though power hungry. Polyethylene is certainly better than aluminium and weighs less; RXF1 is lighter and stronger than aluminium and apparently 50% better at shielding solar flares and 15% better for cosmic rays.

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travelinginspace/radiation_shielding.html

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/25aug_plasticspaceships/

[Interesting model comparison of aluminium/polyethylene spacecraft resulting in equivalent radiation shielding, suggesting that the benefits only occur in certain scenarios.]

The other problem, as Ronald noted, are the 'rays' - the level of harsh ultraviolet light, as Mars doesn't have a significant atmosphere to provide protection, so this would have to be filtered out.

Posted on Aug 2, 2010, 8:11:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 2, 2010, 8:16:30 AM PDT
Pardon me, I forgot that I'm dealing with some shrill and negative posters who are more into personal attacks that staying with the topic at hand. I'm also to blame, I suppose, that much of what I post is assuming "future extensions" of ideas or substances which are currently unavailable, or unperfected. (This is the 'Science Fiction' forum, isn't it? I haven't mistakenly ended up in the 'Juvenile Hysteria Attack' forum, have I?)

I am well aware of the risks of Cosmic Radiation. I even read where our astronauts routinely donate sperm before going up, so that in case of radiation-damage, they can still have the healthiest children possible later on.

Aluminum is one substance being studied to block Cosmic Radiation. Some interesting research with aluminum has already made yet another "Star Trek" idea reality --- transparent aluminum. Below are some links to this research and current products.

http://www.physorg.com/news167925273.html

http://dornob.com/transparent-aluminum-glass-like-see-through-metal/

Transparent aluminum colony domes? When it's perfected, and we have a space program to actually get to colony-possible planets or moons?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2010, 1:45:21 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Ronald,

"A domed greenhouse on Mars will be perfect for soakin' up some rays!"

The ultraviolet radiation and cosmic rays would certainly be unhealthy, and another problem is that sunlight on Mars isn't bright enough for terrestrial plants. Whilst this isn't a problem on the Moon, half the time, during a lunar night your greenhouse won't get any light so you'd have to provide artificial lighting.

On Mars you might use reflectors to increase the level of sunlight and use filters matching the absorption characteristics of chlorophyll, but the radiation levels are a big problem. Instead of being a greenhouse bubble on the surface you might have to direct and reflect the light through lightwells underground, or use solar panels to collect energy which is then used for artificial lighting. Mars does have wind, but I'm not certain that wind turbines would be efficient and the dust would erode the blades.

As Mars is quite cold, you'd have to heat your greenhouse, and on the Moon at times cool it. The energy requirements would be quite high.

It is probably possible to build a shielded greenhouse on Mars though it is very unlikely to be a transparent dome.
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