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Save the American Space Program?!


RexMundi
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http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/leadership/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=223200119&subSection=All+Stories

 

Well normally, I would wait for Nyrath to post "SCIENCE!!!!!" and "STUFF WITH SCIENCE!!!!!!", or such things effecting that, but alas.....

 

Anyway, poking around I had this little thing pop up and thought it would make a good discussion point for awhile.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

The problem is NASA failed to redefine itself after the fall of the USSR with a clear and focused goal. NASA was created as part of the Public Relations side of the Military Industrial Complex of the Cold War. It was an outstanding success. It's first goal was to go to the moon which it exceded all expectations by getting there so early. Then the goal was a reusable space shuttle. The shuttle we got wasn't the best but was the best we could build with the availible tech of the day. In early '90s NASA suffered from a lack of direction. I agree we need a space program but maybe we need to take a step back and come up with a more defined plan. So I don,t have a problem with letting the Russians handle traffic to the ISS(I've never been a big fan of this money pit anyway) we should focus on Mars. As for private investment thats only going to work if you can show investers how they can get a return on thier money in the short term.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

I'll second the ISS remark. Always thought it was retarded really for the most part, because everything it could possible prove, was pretty much already done by Mir anyway, so the fact we once again wimped out and went low orbit, because hell, money's no good unless we can burn it up in re-entry, always irked me.

 

Constellation was at least a step forward in the right direction. Off the shelf know how, still being able to use current parts etc, not having to fix what isn't broke, all good moves. Was Constellation what I wanted? Not really. I'm all for firing up an Orion myself, but at least the Constellation stuff would have gotten us a heavy lifter, which is what we really need to get out of Low Orbit. Private investment, isn't going to work at all until there is a real profit for them out there and right now there are to many stupid things on the international law books, for a corporation to even consider an investment outside of "Look, we can do it, but Nah, since we can't stake a claim to anything up here because of hippies and politicians, what's the point?"

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

People have this weird thing about space, where we're waiting for a new Columbus to find a new America.

Columbus didn't come out of nowhere. His voyages were rooted in a centuries-old oceans fishery that provided the technology and labour resources for transatlantic trade.

We're not in the Space-Columbus Age. We're in the Space-First-Time-An-Atlantic-Trawler-Goes-Out-Sight-of-Land-Age. Low Earth orbit is where it is at, for humans in space. The next stage is GEO, not Mars. That's where people are making a lot of money in space, and could make far more.

and America is leading the rush there. Not with NASA, but with the USAF, which is currently keeping no fewer than three different private sector rocket systems alive. Of these, Boeing's Delta-IV, could be rerated for human lifting.

And these American-made rockets have the potential to dominate the high lift market sector. They are capable of putting far more cargo into space than the Long March or Soyuz programmes, while DirectSpace's Falcon technology is the most impressive bit of rocket vapourware out there.

The problem is that the supply of orbital launch capability currently exceeds demand. Boeing isn't even proceeded with a commercial offering of its Delta-IV product, for lack of contracts.

Clearly, some product has to be taken off the market. It would be nice if some foreign competitor would just close up shop and fold, but if there is one financial underperformer in the sector that stands out, it is the STS.

Of course it is. It's 30 years old! We haven't invented spindizzy skyhook technology in the last thirty years, but materials science and design has continued to advance. The space shuttle is on the verge of becoming a white elephant. Yes, America has no current human lift capability. (Unless the USAF has something that they're not telling us about, which is a crazy notion, because it has never, never happened before, although sometimes it is crazies who say that.) But it can soon, if the Delta-IV programme is given the support that it needs to be the viable competitor in the satellite launching business that it should be. This decision is not exactly rocket science.

 

Oh, wait. Did someone way that the space shuttle brought jobs to Texas? Forget I said anything.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

I'm all for the Delta IV and Atlas programs. Off the Shelf is always the best way to go if you can. Never been a Fan of the Shuttle because at best, all it's ever been is a VW microbus when you needed a Freight Train. USAF has always had the edge of NASA anyway simply because the USAF Does things the military way, and the military way will get things done. For the most part. It bogs down like anything else but at least with the COC, you know who's at fault and when and why. Moon, would be better then GEO though. Once you got the Moon, then you got Raw Material you just Railgun everywhere else in Orbit you need.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

The shuttle we got wasn't the best but was the best we could build with the availible tech of the day.

Actually the best we could build with the availible tech of the day while dividing up sub-assembalies so that every congressional district got a piece of the pie.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

President Obama vowed to defend his plan to mothball NASA's shuttle fleet as the debate over the spacecraft's future turned partisan.

 

The White House said Obama would explain to the country why he believes NASA would get more bang for its space buck by scrapping the shuttle and turning rocket launches over to private contractors in an address slated for April 15th.

 

"After years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting, the President's plan will unveil an ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration," the White House said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The shuttle program is slated to end later this year.

 

Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget request, released last month, also strips funding for the Constellation program, which was to see NASA return astronauts to the moon by 2020.

 

It also would effectively outsource the transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station to the private sector.

 

Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, last week slammed Obama's agenda, claiming it would cause the U.S. to take a back seat to other countries in terms of space research and exploration.

 

Bailey also said the shuttle program shouldn't be scrapped until a replacement vehicle is ready.

 

"We must close the gap in U.S. human space flight or face the reality that we will be totally dependent on Russia for access to space until the next generation of space vehicle is developed," said Hutchison.

 

"If the space shuttle program is terminated, Russia and China will be the only nations in the world with the capability to launch humans into space. This is unacceptable," said Hutchison.

 

Hutchison introduced a bill that would give the shuttle program a reprieve until NASA develops a replacement and extend the life of the International Space Station through 2020. The bill also calls for the U.S. government to develop a new space vehicle for human flight by 2015.

*checks dateline* Not April 1st.

 

*checks mirror* No goatee, not in the Mirror Mirror universe.

 

OK, is it just me or is a Republican arguing against privatizing launch capability?

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

*checks dateline* Not April 1st.

 

*checks mirror* No goatee, not in the Mirror Mirror universe.

 

OK, is it just me or is a Republican arguing against privatizing launch capability?

 

Welcome to opposition politics, my naive American cousin. Want a load of hard-socialist tax busters to go with that?

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Welcome to opposition politics' date=' my naive American cousin. Want a load of hard-socialist tax busters to go with that?[/quote']

Saw you talking about them in another thread. Is it too much to ask that an elected official's positions be consistent? Apparently it is, and no matter who we elect they will hoist the Jolly Roger as soon as the wind changes.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

No what he's arguing against, is handing over the drivers keys to untrustworthy sources, and then sitting back and crossing the collective fingers and hoping, that some private company will see fit to go out into space if you toss enough chum into the water. You CAN'T privatize it anyway, and get it to work just yet. There's to much other crap, and crappy people in the way.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

No what he's arguing against, is handing over the drivers keys to untrustworthy sources, and then sitting back and crossing the collective fingers and hoping, that some private company will see fit to go out into space if you toss enough chum into the water. You CAN'T privatize it anyway, and get it to work just yet. There's to much other crap, and crappy people in the way.

 

~Rex

"She," not "he."

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Yeah I'm prone to typos. Comes from the 75 hour work week. :D I coulda fixed it, but that wouldn't provide entertainment for the masses. Point remains the same. Much like the smaller scale of the person to person world. Having to depend on your neighbors for a ride all the time, never works out.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Yeah I'm prone to typos. Comes from the 75 hour work week. :D I coulda fixed it, but that wouldn't provide entertainment for the masses. Point remains the same. Much like the smaller scale of the person to person world. Having to depend on your neighbors for a ride all the time, never works out.

 

~Rex

Agree, just surprising to see a Republican making that point. I thought the meme they were trying to sell was "the government can't do anything right," or at least "anything the government can do the private sector can do better." Guess that goes out the window when you're talking about cutting a program in their district.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Oh no doubt you are going to see District Wars. I expect that completely. The Program is being Cut though for a purely political reason for the most part, so the retort, is going to come from that direction as well. I think personally what would work best, is a combination of the three. Keep the Nasa Infrastructure and support, Fire all the idiots that have run it into the ground or used it as a sounding stage for other politically toxic things beyond what Nasa should be doing. Then, let the Corps Kick in their Ideas and some people, and at the end, Let the Air Force Run it, and organize it, and start utilizing the stuff we have, to do the stuff we can do.

 

It's really Not that hard. Like I said, I wasn't the biggest fan of Constellation and the Ares family, but Delta IV and Atlas are proven, and so is their support structure. Shuttle's got a few legs left and is still a good bus, but to kick it to the curb, before you got something else to drive, doesn't do anyone any good.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

The Shuttles are at the end of their lifetime. Past the design lifetime, actually.

 

The decision to put manned spaceflight on potentially permanent hiatus is ... well, mutable, since it's almost strictly a political exercise anyway.

 

I'll be very sad when they deorbit Hubble, which has been serviced using the Shuttle several times with spectacular scientific payback every time, but it too is near the end of its lifetime. In a real way, Shuttle was designed around the Space Telescope, since HST's dimensions are those of the payload bay.

 

I think everyone is coming around to the belief that we need another way to put humans in space, but what that way should be can't be decided until we have a concrete idea of what the humans are being put into space to do. There isn't a clear need for a manned station Up There yet, and no clear economic payback has been proposed. With the risks and investment required, that doesn't quite make it.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Oh without a doubt, the Shuttles are done. But then not long back folks said the same thing about the B52, and a few tweeks later, they're looking at another 30 Years of service out of the remaining H fleet. So I understand first hand, that yeah. Shuttles an old dog, that probably should be put down. However, I also have first hand experience, with how a few tweaks, and a nudge here and there, have turned the old BUFF into an 80 year Combat Airframe with three times the mission capable rate of any other bomber in the list. Old Tech doesn't mean Done Tech, the Delta family of Lifters has proven that alone.

 

As for needing a reason. If folks actually needed a REASON, exploration would be done. Reasons you can attach afterwords. The Society that Stops Exploring, Stagnates and Dies.

 

You see these lists everywhere, top ten list this or that. Always been humerous and serious ones for space exploration as well.....like this one (serious):

 

Reason Number 10

Colonization: it's a long shot, but there are serious people who still claim that we can travel to mars and turn it into livable space for humankind. The process is called "terraforming".

 

Reason Number 9

Intelligence Surveillance: Ok maybe we wouldn't bother placing a spy satellite over the Hawaiian Tropics contest (then again maybe we would) but the very first truly functional (i.e. non-experimental) satellite was a U.S. spy satellite. This was the Corona series, first operational in August of 1960. The U.S. maintained a strong lead in this super-secret technology throughout the cold war and it was the only distinct intelligence advantage this nation ever really had. Since the U.S. won the cold war, you simply can't dismiss the importance of this capability.

 

Reason Number 8

International Diplomacy: this one speaks for itself. It's the only reason we went to the moon.

 

Reason Number 7

Natural Resources: this one may be reaching, but there are people who believe that we would want to mine the asteroids & the moon for minerals. The most credible argument for this is assuming we would want to build a huge space structure and wouldn't want to have to loft the raw material into earth orbit or higher on rocket power.

 

Reason Number 6

Researching the universe: this one also speaks for itself. The discoveries and observations made from the Hubble telescope alone are staggering, and could never have been made from earth because of the obscuring effect of the atmosphere.

 

There are new discoveries being made every day, such as finding planets around other stars and discovering the true structure of the outer solar system (the Kuiper belt).

 

Reason Number 5

Technology Spin-Offs: this also speaks for itself, although the list of new technologies just goes on and on and on. These new technologies mean new industries, new jobs, and saved lives. For example, kidney dialysis, which has kept (and still keeps) countless people alive, came from the Apollo program. A new artificial heart came from technology used in Space Shuttle. New insulin pumps can eliminate the need for injections for diabetics, and the space program is constantly producing new materials for prosthetic devices.

 

Reason Number 4

Researching the sun, moon, and planets: - planetary probes like Voyager, Pioneer, Viking and Pathfinder landers on Mars, Magellan probe to Venus, these and others have all changed our entire view of the solar system and all the planets. Nothing else has ever given us the close-up view of the planets or their moons. For example, no telescope could ever have shown us the volcanoes on Jupiter's inner moon Io or the ice on Jupiter's second moon Europa. Nothing could ever have given us the clue that there could be life on those moons, aside from the space probes we've sent.

 

With these probes and the new, powerful orbiting telescopes we've put in place, we are updating our once-simple view of the solar system - learning about the many asteroids and comets and their complex orbits. We are only now becoming aware that an asteroid or comet may have been the end of the dinosaurs, and could be the end of us. By studying our solar system, knowing what's there and what threatens us, and devising the capability of averting disaster, space exploration could mean the very survival of the human race.

 

We may care very much some day about this reason for space exploration.

 

Reason Number 3

Marvin's autograph: well maybe not his, but the more we learn about our solar system and the universe the more likely it is that we'll someday contact intelligent life.

 

Reason Number 2

Satellites in orbit: The biggie in my opinion - you would not be reading this page if it weren't for communications satellites that make the world wide web possible. Thousands and thousands of lives would be lost each year to hurricanes if it weren't for weather forecasting satellites. Even the war in Iraq would have come out differently (and not in favor of the allies) if it weren't for satellite positioning capabilities. The civilized world owes much of what it is today to satellite technology.

 

Reason Number 1

Because it's there: This one may seem whimsical but it is not. The society that stops exploring and begins to stagnate begins to die. It is only through the constant effort to learn and to achieve that we remain vigorous, bright, and strong. The fact that we don't know yet what is out there, and the fact that space represents our final limitation, is reason enough for us to strive to master it. Note that the same could be said for the ocean floor.

 

Those lists are all over the "Science" sites.....One could expand the diplomacy one. Get there First, because when you look at the other options of who is going to get there if We Don't, do you expect them to Share? Really?

 

~Rex.....A stay of execution for the Shuttle is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

I don't object to any of those. I agree we need to explore out there, I just don't think NASA is the way to do it unless they reorganise and become more focused in their plan. They also need to be more accountble to the tax-payers.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

That's why I would take the program that's been proven to be able to do the Job (The AFSPC) and let them run it with the addition of the non "personal agenda orientated" members of NASA and the Inclusion of the private Industry folks that actually have some good ideas. That gives you, a functional proven command structure with accountability, experienced infrastructure and support people, and new Blood moving in the proper direction.

 

~Rex

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

That's why I would take the program that's been proven to be able to do the Job (The AFSPC) and let them run it with the addition of the non "personal agenda orientated" members of NASA and the Inclusion of the private Industry folks that actually have some good ideas. That gives you, a functional proven command structure with accountability, experienced infrastructure and support people, and new Blood moving in the proper direction.

 

~Rex

 

I could live with that :)

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

I don't object to any of those. I agree we need to explore out there' date=' I just don't think NASA is the way to do it unless they reorganise and become more focused in their plan. They also need to be more accountble to the tax-payers.[/quote']

What do you mean by "more accountable to the tax-payers?" A case can be made that crops saved through improved weather forecasting alone has paid for the entire space program, manned and unmanned.

 

Personally I would like to see a dime a month from every cell phone and every TV hooked to a satellite or cable system go directly to the space program.

 

[edit] As far as focus, I don't understand why NASA isn't using telepresence more, especially on the moon. We could learn a lot from a Spirit type remote operated rover with a much shorter SOL lag for issuing commands.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

What do you mean by "more accountable to the tax-payers?" A case can be made that crops saved through improved weather forecasting alone has paid for the entire space program, manned and unmanned.

 

Personally I would like to see a dime a month from every cell phone and every TV hooked to a satellite or cable system go directly to the space program.

 

I could go for that.

 

And I think you're right, the lifesaving and cropsaving benefits of better weather forecasting and mapping alone have more than paid for the entire space program. It's one of those no-brainer investments.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

I could go for that.

 

And I think you're right, the lifesaving and crapsaving benefits of better weather forecasting and mapping alone have more than paid for the entire space program. It's one of those no-brainer investments.

 

Yes we must make sure to save all the Crap.....lol.

 

~Rex.....points out Delta IV Heavy owns some serious heavy lift records.....and is Modifiable to do more.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

What do you mean by "more accountable to the tax-payers?" A case can be made that crops saved through improved weather forecasting alone has paid for the entire space program' date=' manned and unmanned. [/quote']

 

I agree. Prior to weather satellites a group at MIT found that a random number program did a better job of predicting local weather than the weather bureau!

 

And spin off technology paid for it too. Handheld electronic calculators, kevlar, and a host of others.

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Re: Save the American Space Program?!

 

Yes we must make sure to save all the Crap.....lol.

 

~Rex.....points out Delta IV Heavy owns some serious heavy lift records.....and is Modifiable to do more.

 

The delta IV heavy is comparable to the shuttle in terms of lift to LEO, but it suffers from some major problems as a shuttle replacement. First and foremost is the fact that the only way is up, baby. You can use it as a lift vehicle, but that's all. That means no repair work, no space station support, no humans in space unless it's rebuilt. The second is cost - at a quarter billion per launch, it's significantly more expensive than other lift vehicles already in use. For the air force, that's not such a big deal, but it's the reason commercial partners like Boeing have given for dropping the delta IV heavy.

 

So as a specialist lift vehicle it's potentially useful: it has a much better lift to GEO than other vehicles, for example. But a shuttle replacement it's not.

 

cheers, Mark

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