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Old 04-21-2010, 10:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Our Tax Dollars at Work - NASA, ESA, etc

Exploration, Innovation, Advancement of Humanity, or more government waste - what do you think of when you see NASA, ESA, RSKA, JAXA, CSA, CNES, DLR, or ISRO? Is your response different depending on the country?

How does your response to government-run space agencies differ from that of private endeavors, such as Space-X, SpaceDev, XCorAerospace, etc?

Do you have similar feelings for the big contractors that have assisted NASA, such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin?

What is your favorite invention or technology that was developed by a space agency?

Share any interesting news

We've already had a thread questioning people's exposure to information about space exploration, but this thread is a bit different. I have no idea what direction it might take, but I figured if nothing else, it would be a good place to start listing interesting news articles about the space agencies as I come across them. Hopefully others will join in, too!
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Old 04-21-2010, 10:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Fact: One day the earth will no longer be a suitable habitat for H. sapiens.

Not that I think we're more worthy than any of the other species on the planet, but any work we can put in that will help increase the likelihood that humanity outlives the rock it was born on is well worth the effort in my book. Part of the solution to the problem of a dying earth will almost certainly involve space travel, be it some form planet hopping or a (semi) permanent space-cation

As far as who does it? The more the merrier. I only wish we could pool our resources more effectively and possibly accomplish more, faster. I think it would be useful to stop thinking about America/NASA putting a man on Mars and start thinking about Earth putting a person on Mars. From there, who knows what's next. Hopefully a moon colony but we have a long way to go before that.
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Old 04-21-2010, 11:38 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Hektore View Post
As far as who does it? The more the merrier. I only wish we could pool our resources more effectively and possibly accomplish more, faster. I think it would be useful to stop thinking about America/NASA putting a man on Mars and start thinking about Earth putting a person on Mars. From there, who knows what's next. Hopefully a moon colony but we have a long way to go before that.
My SO and I were talking about this last night. I believe the next great advance in spaceflight is going to have to be a joint effort, bringing together the world's space agencies in cooperation with one another. I think space exploration makes vital contributions to technology, and it gives us a reason to invent and innovate. Inventions and innovations for space often have practical applications here on Earth.

Educationally speaking, we made some of the greatest leaps during the Space Race because of investments made in math and science education during that period. I'd like to see something similar happen again. We need it.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm all for Space exploration. Even more so since the brunt of the effort is born by our American friends. it's like PBS: tv that is so free, that not even our tax dollars are paying for it. And, our fledgling space industry benefits.

You guys need to really look at oceanic exploration as well. and subterranean. I'm rooting for you!
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Old 04-21-2010, 02:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think there's value to programs like the space programs. I think taking on the challenges over the last 50 years has benefited us with more knowledge of the universe and of science in general. Technology wise I think there's been big benefits with micro electronics and materials sciences.

After 50 years I think it's time for commercial companies to start running the space programs and government should be backing out of it's involvement.
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Space Exploration should be the #1 concern of the human race. We're a marble in a swimming pool the size of...our fucking galaxy. How can people not understand this and want to devote our resources to it?
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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My only issue with privatizing space exploration is the idea that it will be used to benefit the few rather than all.
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
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There are plenty of tangible reasons for space exploration - primarily the advancement of science and the eventual continuation of the human race (yes, this is very long term). People often seem to forget the intangible reasons as well: the human spirit and curiosity.

It often seems to me as though people forget it is actually possible to do more than one thing at a time. People say NASA is a waste of money because of all the problems we have here on Earth, but supporting NASA has nothing to do with not supporting the search for solutions to our current Earthly problems. It's merely a recognition that, yes, it really is possible to deal with poverty and explore space at the same time.

To put it in perspective: NASA's 2009 budget was $17 billion (about 0.6% of the federal budget). The Global War on Terror budget was $145 billion, plus another $515 billion for the Department of Defense. (Plus even more appropriations spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.) We could literally DOUBLE NASA's budget by cutting military spending by a mere 2.5%. $34 billion a year should be enough for NASA to fund a timely moon-to-Mars mission, and we'd still have plenty of room in the federal budget to redirect more funds toward other important current issues.

I have nothing wrong with privatized exploration, but I don't see that as an excuse to stop government sponsored exploration. Getting to Mars, for example, is just something private companies are not capable of at this time. Even the moon would be quite a stretch.
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Old 04-22-2010, 08:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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There are plenty of tangible reasons for space exploration - primarily the advancement of science and the eventual continuation of the human race (yes, this is very long term). People often seem to forget the intangible reasons as well: the human spirit and curiosity.

It often seems to me as though people forget it is actually possible to do more than one thing at a time. People say NASA is a waste of money because of all the problems we have here on Earth, but supporting NASA has nothing to do with not supporting the search for solutions to our current Earthly problems. It's merely a recognition that, yes, it really is possible to deal with poverty and explore space at the same time.

To put it in perspective: NASA's 2009 budget was $17 billion (about 0.6% of the federal budget). The Global War on Terror budget was $145 billion, plus another $515 billion for the Department of Defense. (Plus even more appropriations spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.) We could literally DOUBLE NASA's budget by cutting military spending by a mere 2.5%. $34 billion a year should be enough for NASA to fund a timely moon-to-Mars mission, and we'd still have plenty of room in the federal budget to redirect more funds toward other important current issues.

I have nothing wrong with privatized exploration, but I don't see that as an excuse to stop government sponsored exploration. Getting to Mars, for example, is just something private companies are not capable of at this time. Even the moon would be quite a stretch.
Precisely. Also, though. Imagine the things you could BUILD in space that would be useful on earth.

Imagine building an entire hotel without any support structure whatsoever (because there is no gravity, ya'll.. No wind either.) Crappy example, yes, but there are bound to be benefits to zero-G construction, or absolute-zero construction, or construction within a vacuum that have not been realized yet.

I found my niche already.. I'll build the tools to do the work in space. Something way better than that gay battery powered drill that cost about 100k.
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Old 04-22-2010, 09:04 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Anything that causes people's eyes to rise up above horizontal and stay there for increasing lengths of time is worth doing. Our minds tend to follow our eyes. Spending too much time looking straight ahead (or lower than eye-level) makes us increasingly stupid and exposes us to things like mass media mind control and related experiences. The more time we spend looking up (and thinking about what's up there), the better for our general well-being and for the human race as a whole. So it follows: the more money we spend on outer space exploration the better.
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Old 04-22-2010, 07:40 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I think a space program is a great example of some of the best government can offer. Projects that benefit the entire country (far more than their expense), but aren't commercially profitable. I think the private companies 'up and coming' are a great example of public-private partnership...as areas of space become commercially viable, the government should 'back off' and allow private companies to take over...private companies should be taking over near-earth operations and proven technologies as the government moves out further with more ambitious and long-term projects.
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Old 04-22-2010, 09:08 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I'm glad someone started this post, I've thought about starting one but never got around to it. As an employee of the space industry in the US I'm glad to see the support.

I have the perspective of a "rank and file" employee that gets to see the day to day operations of human spaceflight. So I'd like to share/possibly rant about a few of my views especially with respect to the new vision for NASA as laid out by the president.

First, I generally agree with a lot of the stuff the President outlined in his April 15th speech. NASA needs to invest in new technologies to ensure we have the ability to sustain people in space for extended durations, we need a heavy lift launch vehicle capable of sending more mass to low earth orbit (LEO), and we need to be able to perfect techniques such as on orbit refueling. All this stuff will allow us to go further and faster into space. I think this is the revitalization NASA needs.

I disagree with the President on two points he made.

1. Private industry is ready to shoulder the responsibility to fly crew and cargo to LEO and service the International Space Station (ISS). Right now no commercial enterprise has successfully demonstrated their ability to send cargo let alone humans to LEO (satellites on Delta and Atlas rockets don't count since they are not truly commercial). I think Americans should be upset that their tax dollars are going to be subsidizing unproven companies in the hopes that one of them will be successful and able to fly cargo and crew to the ISS before the 2020 targeted end date for the ISS program. Also, at this time the government is really the only customer to sending crew and cargo to LEO since the government is the only entity with a space station at this point. Even SpaceX "cheaper" rocket still will cost an estimated $20 million per seat for a person to get to LEO. Virgin Galatic with SpaceShipTwo I think is somewhere around $200,000 per seat but that's only a suborbital flight with ~6 minutes of weightlessness. To put this into perspective we are currently paying the Russians $55 million per seat on the Soyuz and a typical Shuttle mission carrying 7 crew with several thousand pounds of cargo is between $500 - $800 million. Right now the commercial sector is projecting to be at best an order of magnitude cheaper, but still to expensive for even the average millionaire to afford. And this is only their estimate after a total of 0 successful missions. The Space Shuttle promised to much cheaper back when it was conceived...but we see how long that lasted. Bottom line, as a person who works "in the trenches" of the space program I don't think that the commercial sector is anywhere close to being able to provide a cargo/crew transport service in the time frame we need them and at a cost that is worth the risk we are taking on them being successful.

2. When Obama stated "We've been to the moon before and there is no value to returning," that really irked me. I agree that if we just plan to land on the moon for a few days and bring back some rocks like we did on Apollo..there is no point in going back to the Moon. However if we were to commit ourselves to building a robust space infrastructure that included an orbiting Lunar space station and a Lunar surface station the amount of science we could perform and technology we could develop would be staggering. There have been numerous projects NASA was running that were able to extra hydrogen and oxygen from lunar soil. If you can extract hydrogen and oxygen from Lunar dust you've got air to breathe, fuel for rockets, and fuel for electricity and water producing fuel cells. Instead he spouted the same "been there before" crap that I'm sick of hearing. We've been going to LEO for the past 50 years and we are still learning new things about operating there every day. Instead the plan is to simply visit destinations such as asteroids, Lagrange points, and maybe even Mars, to simply say "yea we've been to those places." And while I'm all for human exploration of Mars, I think a more valuable long term goal would be to create a robust space architecture of permanently inhabiting space. Doing this would create a larger market for commercial space industry because now they can supply a service to ferry supplies and resources to and from the Lunar space stations. It's much more long term than ferrying cargo and possibly crew to and from the ISS until 2020.

There is merit to his plan, but ultimately it falls short of real space exploration, science, and technology development...and that is what disappoints me the most.
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Old 04-22-2010, 11:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Thank you supersix2, those two points are my main complaints about Obama's proposal as well. Especially #2. The moon isn't Mount Everest. It's not a place that we conquer and then say, "well, that was cool." It's a place where we can do real science, and a place that we could potentially inhabit. The moon is a relatively safe place to experiment with permanent structures before we go to Mars, and a robust presence on the moon would theoretically make it easier to get to Mars in the first place. I also imagine there would be more interest in civilian visits to the moon if there were a more comfortable place to stay for a bit when they got there. Few people are going to seriously want to take a vacation to the moon where they will eat crappy food, sleep on crappy beds, etc. We've barely got a market for Antarctic tourism (relatively speaking); there is certainly not enough market to promote private development of lunar travel. Make it a more hospitable trip and visit - in the process of conducting science - and maybe that could slowly change.

I understand debating the relative worth of returning to the moon vs other manned space missions, but I do not understand the outright dismissive attitude that Obama's statement seemed to convey. Of course, it has long irked me that we haven't been to the moon for about 40 years now. It almost makes the conspiracy theorists seem reasonable*. After all, why would we go to the freaking MOON 6 times over the course of 3.5 years and then just forget about it for 40 years? In the meantime, we've invented the internet so that anyone from around the world can communicate instantly, and we all carry little phones in our pockets that have the computing power of entire buildings back in 1972. In 1980, 2GB of data storage weighed 4,400 pounds, and now it weighs 0.001 pounds. And yet, despite all this advancement, we haven't returned to the moon? It makes absolutely no sense... except, that's what we've done. We've squandered 40 years of space exploration, and sadly I wouldn't be surprised if we squander 40 more. In the meantime, I'll be lucky if we even land on the moon once in my lifetime, let alone Mars.




*I say this only to emphasize how ridiculous it is that we haven't been to the moon in so long. I have never believed in any way whatsoever that the moon landings might have been faked.
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:00 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:20 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I don't think there is the benefit for manned exploration right now. Before we go forward with that we need to address bigger issues like faster travel, simulation of gravity, and food production in space. Unless I'm wrong, all of our travel is based on gravity. We don't have a lot of capacity to move the crafts in whichever direction we want to go. What happens if our calculations are off and the ship goes sailing by Mars?



We don't NEED to build a lunar base. We should be able to mimic the conditions here at a fraction of the cost and no risk to human life.
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:44 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I don't think there is the benefit for manned exploration right now. Before we go forward with that we need to address bigger issues like faster travel, simulation of gravity, and food production in space. Unless I'm wrong, all of our travel is based on gravity. We don't have a lot of capacity to move the crafts in whichever direction we want to go. What happens if our calculations are off and the ship goes sailing by Mars?



We don't NEED to build a lunar base. We should be able to mimic the conditions here at a fraction of the cost and no risk to human life.
The part of the President's budget I agree with address things such as faster travel. I believe a large portion of that new funding will go to fund the VASIMIR project. NASA - Propulsion Systems of the Future

As far as simulating gravity, we can do that with centrifuges but keeping a spacecraft spinning fast enough to simulate gravity consumes a lot of energy and creates other control problems. It also changes the design of the interior of the spacecraft significantly since now planners have to account for the crew habitable areas along the outer walls of the craft. Working in micro-gravity has its advantages.

Due to the science and development we've done on the ISS, we've come up with medical solutions to reduce the bone and muscle degradation due to being in microgravity. We've also developed exercise techniques and equipment to counter the affects of microgravity on the body. Astronauts who return from their 6-month stays on the ISS have little or sometimes no significant bone or muscle loss. These are all things we never would have been able to prove unless we had a human presence in space.

As far as food production in space, the ISS has grown (albiet in small quantities due mainly due to the space available) various types of plants in space. Again this is a technique that would not have been possible to prove on the ground at all.

Also, my experience has shown me that even though hardware/techniques work on the ground, that doesn't guarantee it will work once you send it into space. The microgravity environment causes things to behave differently and sometimes it is tough to account for that when you are designing hardware. On that same note, since stuff has to be designed to work in microgravity it sometimes will not work on the ground since its design relies on the way fluids behave in microgravity. Also, a motor may be designed in such a way that it doesn't have the power to move a component on the ground because its not required to overcome the force of gravity once it's in space. The Space Shuttle payload bay doors are an example of this. They cannot open on their own when the Shuttle is on the ground.

Bottom line, if humanity wants to branch out into space and reach new destinations, every minute that we have humans in space operating in new and different environments we learn something. Even at the end of the Shuttle program, nearly 30 years after it began, we are learning how to operate the Shuttle better, safer, and in new ways that were never originally thought of.

Edit to address something I forgot:

To answer your question about our travel, yes it's true that our travel methods are based on gravity. Think of it this way. When we are in orbit around the earth, a spacecraft is essentially falling toward the earth and around the earth at the same time but since the surface of the earth is curved we never hit it unless we slow down the rate at which we are falling around the earth. So if you continue to accelerate, you will go to a higher and higher altitude but the earth is still pulling you back causing you to remain in orbit. Eventually you can move fast enough so that the earth cannot pull you back fast enough and you end up on a a parabolic or hyperbolic trajectory. You are moving away from earth but it's still trying to pull you back until you get further enough away that it's gravity is no longer strong enough to pull you back and eventually you would stop. If you stabilize there you've just reached a Lagrange point. If you are able to accelerate past that point using an engine, you'll eventually enter the gravity field of your target object. At this point, you are now falling towards that object and accelerating at it's gravity constant. If your energy is not correct, you will either accelerate yourself too fast for the object to capture you in an orbit, or you will slow down too much and crash into the object. Fortunatley for us, these equations to figure all this out have been around for a long time and when you are doing trajectory planning A LOT of people have to verify it.

You can completely circumvent this "free propulsion from gravity" if you have a lot of fuel and and a powerful engine and get there directly. Using gravity allows us to limit the amount of propellant and thrust we need. Using gravity, we only need enough fuel to simply get us to the correct speed so that gravity can do the rest of the work.

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Old 04-24-2010, 07:51 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Thanks, everyone for your responses so far.
supersix2, you've added a lot to this thread, thanks!

A couple of interesting articles:

An article including a pretty image from NASA's Solar observatory:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010...=1&ref=science
And the NASA page about it: SDO | Solar Dynamics Observatory

The US Air Force is making significant strides in spacecraft, as evidenced by the recent launch of the X-37B:
X-37B unmanned space shuttle to be launched tonight | Mail Online

I'm wondering how involved NASA was with this project. A few of the images in the article above mention NASA in some form, and it seems to be based on an original NASA design, the Boeing X-37. Looks like I'm not the only one who is a bit confused about its purpose. I've heard this described as primarily an Air Force project, but Wikipedia claims NASA put more money into its development. Here's a link to the wikipedia article about it: Boeing X-37 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




On another note, Congress doesn't sound too happy with Obama's plan for the future of spaceflight:
Obama?s NASA Blueprint Is Challenged in Congress - NYTimes.com
Quote:
Obama’s NASA Blueprint Is Challenged in Congress
By KENNETH CHANG
WASHINGTON — President Obama may have hoped that a speech a week ago at the Kennedy Space Center would sway skeptics to his proposed space policy, but a Congressional hearing on Thursday gave little signs that the lines of contention have shifted yet.

Opponents like Richard C. Shelby, the Republican senator from Alabama where NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has been leading the design of the Ares I rocket that the Obama administration would like to cancel, continued to denounce Mr. Obama’s plans. Those plans call for ending NASA’s current Constellation program that was to send astronauts back to the moon and turning to private companies for transportation into orbit.

At a hearing of an appropriations subcommittee, Mr. Shelby said that the proposal would abdicate the United States’ leadership in space.

“Future generations will learn how the Chinese, the Russians, and even the Indians took the reins of space exploration away from the United States,” said Mr. Shelby, the ranking minority member of the commerce, justice and science subcommittee.

Mr. Shelby called the $6 billion that the administration would like to spend to develop commercial rockets to take people to space “a welfare program for the commercial space industry.”

He criticized the space agency for not researching whether a commercial market existed beyond NASA to support the companies.

Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., the NASA administrator, repeated many of the same points he had made to other Congressional committees: that NASA would ensure the safety of any and all rockets that astronauts would ride on and that the current Constellation program was unsustainable.

But in response to a question from Mr. Shelby about the safety of the different rocket options, General Bolden said, “My gut tells me that Ares would be safer than anything else.”

It is unclear whether Congress is leaning to the views of Mr. Shelby or to those of Mr. Obama. Except for Barbara A. Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat who is chairwoman of the subcommittee, all the senators attending the hearing on Thursday represent states with businesses or NASA centers heavily involved in the current Constellation program.

Ms. Mikulski gave little indication of which path she might ultimately choose. “I need to know more,” she said.

She added, “I want to know if this is the program that the Congress and the American people are going to support from one administration to the next. We cannot reinvent NASA every four years.”

In a sign that the Ares I might evade the administration’s ax, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate budget committee, unveiled a version of the 2011 budget that increased NASA’s 2011 budget to $19.7 billion from $19 billion in the president’s budget request.

The added money would pay for more launchings of prototypes of the Ares I, an idea suggested by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida. Mr. Conrad cited national security concerns that abandoning the Ares I, which uses a stretched version of the space shuttle’s solid rocket booster, would drive up the cost of solid rocket motors used for ballistic missiles.

“There are classified discussions we can’t go into here with respect to this initiative,” Mr. Conrad said, “but I say to my colleagues, this is absolutely essential, for the national security, that this go forward.”

If that proposal succeeds, then essentially all of the components of Constellation will be resurrected, albeit in less ambitious versions.

In his Florida speech, Mr. Obama announced that the Orion crew capsule, which was to take astronauts to the International Space Station and then the moon, would be continued as a stripped-down lifeboat for the space station. Meanwhile, other members of Congress have introduced bills to extend operations of the space shuttles beyond their planned retirement this year.
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Old 04-25-2010, 07:17 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I grew up with heroes such as Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, and the rest of the original Mercury Program astronauts. I've always thought space exploration was important in expanding mankind's horizons, both literally and philosophically.

It seemed to work just fine (not perfectly; but fine) without some rich CEO and his inner circle making a ton of profit off it, raising the costs.

Privatizing space exploration will end up just like what always happens - the investors and upper management will grow rich from the U.S. taxpayers' investment. And if it ever starts losing money, guess who will have to pick up the slack while they all bail with their golden parachutes? Isn't it enough that it is already a cash cow for the biggest defense contractors?

If you want to cut spending, how about a little oversight on the biggest drain on our budget - defense spending. We spend $1 trillion a year (more than the 13 next-highest spending countries combined) on equipment and personnel that are neither needed nor wanted; spread all over the world. If we just cut the Pentagon's budget by a mere 15%, we could completely pay for free education and health care for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Haven't we learned from Blackwater, Halliburton, et al what happens when you privatize war - the G.I. on KP duty has been replaced by independent contractors making six-figure salaries.

The 2011 budget allows for an 6.8% increase in military spending. This increase alone is 3 times more than NASA's total yearly budget.

Why spend trillions of dollars building an empire that will eventually be repossessed by the Chinese anyway?
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Old 04-26-2010, 02:04 PM   #19 (permalink)
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It's a damn shame none of us will get to see what the future holds in 200 years.
It is comforting knowing that we can contribute to that future, though.

What a fucked up world we live in, where people work for thousands of years to grow and expand, and the new challenges that come up..


lol... Think about it literally.. All these little things moving around for so long, then all of a sudden they build a giant thing that shoots fire and moves really fast, and next thing you know, they're moving distances that they can't fathom, through a vacuous void right outside the external shell of this conveniently placed rock-with-ball-of-fire-in-center.

What the fuck?
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Old 04-27-2010, 02:46 PM   #20 (permalink)
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It is interesting that Congress is still debating Shuttle extension and reviving the Ares launch vehicles. The Shuttle is a great vehicle that has served us well, I think it's time is over and we need to move on. We can't expect to keep flying Shuttle forever and Congress/The President aren't willing to give NASA the money to continue to fly it and adequately fund a new program to replace it. Not to mention, it has been the plan to retire Shuttle in 2010 since 2004, and trying to save it now is a bit too late. Contractors supplying parts for the Shuttle are no longer doing so, manufacturing facilities have been shut down, and employees have already transitioned to other things. Realistically, the train has left the station long ago on extending Shuttle program with more flights beyond the current manifest.

As for saving the Ares launch vehicle, that is a big mistake. One of the main problems the entire Constellation program had was the Ares launch vehicle. It did not achieve the required performance levels in its flight test last year and it was running into a bunch of unforeseen technical issues. Launch vehicles is something NASA can and should get from the commercial sector. There are already several options available from Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. Yes those vehicles will have to be modified to fly humans, but purchasing those vehicles will help drive the cost to down since the contractors can produce more to cover their overhead costs. In my opinion, purchasing commercial launch services to send Astronauts to LEO and the ISS is the way to go. Funneling money into an unproven start-up industry (Obama's current NASA plan) is not the way to go. As I said in a previous post, whether you support NASA or not, Americans should have a big problem with their tax dollars going to subsidize a private industry that has not yet proven itself capable of providing the services the government requires.

I think Congress needs to let Shuttle retire and Ares to die a peaceful death. They need to make sure that commercial sector will not squander tax payer money and hold them accountable for failures. Congress also needs to make sure the funding is distributed to ensure the development of a heavy lift vehicle to take astronauts beyond LEO is the number 1 priority to get manned spaceflight back on track. Finally, Congress should ensure that NASA continues to develop the Orion spacecraft using commercial launch assets so it at least has a viable back up in the event that commercial cargo and crew launch providers like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are not successful.
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Old 04-28-2010, 02:00 PM   #21 (permalink)
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While supersix2 definetely has me reevaluating whether I think it would be more useful to get to Mars first or focus on the ability to indefinitely remain in space here is a video I have come across from TED which discusses some of the important issues relating to returning to Mars. It goes into some of the goals with ARES but it seems a bit beside the point to me, as after all it is titled "Why We Need to Go Back to Mars"

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Old 04-29-2010, 11:57 AM   #22 (permalink)
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forget percentages. For the cost of 16 months of defense spending in 2008 dollars, we went to the moon six times, launched men and machines into orbit scores of times, sent probes to other planets and out of our solar system, and launched space shuttles over 130 times. Enormous amounts of research, knowledge and of course commercial development have come from it. Even without that third one, it's worth it because of the value of furthering human knowledge, but things like Velcro and digital cameras are nice, too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by genuinegirly View Post
I'm wondering how involved NASA was with this project. A few of the images in the article above mention NASA in some form, and it seems to be based on an original NASA design, the Boeing X-37. Looks like I'm not the only one who is a bit confused about its purpose. I've heard this described as primarily an Air Force project, but Wikipedia claims NASA put more money into its development. Here's a link to the wikipedia article about it: Boeing X-37 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
NASA started development, abandoned it, and the Air Force picked it up. I can't say for sure what its purpose is, but it can be launched and orbit for 7 months with a payload on board, and the Air Force is in charge of it. I'll bet we find out what that classified mission and payload are when the Iran situation goes south and their nuclear facilities go up in smoke without a foreign plane or missile within hundreds of miles.

Frankly, with the way it's going, I'm worried by the fact that our next generation of astronauts are likely to wear USAF patches instead of NASA. Peaceful civilian exploration of space grew out of the race to [strikethrough]develop the first ICBM[/strikethrough] put the first satellite in orbit, I had hoped that the end of the cold war would keep it in civilian hands, but the X-37 brings it full circle.
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:39 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I'm not all doom and gloom about the X-37, I think the purpose for it is to deploy and retrieve satellites for the Air Force. One of the design reference missions for the Space Shuttle was to launch and retrieve DOD satellites. In fact, the design of the Shuttle was altered to meet specific requirements for DOD missions and payloads. The large delta wings of the Shuttle were designed so that it could have the aerodynamic performance needed to be launched into a polar orbit, deploy a payload, and at the same site it was launched from after one orbit of the Earth. Also, the payload bay is the size it is today because it needed to fit the largest planned DOD satellites.

Bottom line, the Air Force and the DOD have been interested in a resusuable launch vehicle to deploy and retrieve payloads for over 30 years. They stopped using the Shuttle for that purpose after the Challenger accident in 1986 (though they had to fly some payloads on the Shuttle post-Challenger due to their size). Since then, they have relied on expendable launch vehicles to launch their payloads but always had their eye on a reusable one that could return payloads back to the Earth.
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Old 04-30-2010, 08:42 AM   #24 (permalink)
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It'd be nice if they open it up to biological research-based payloads that don't require crew interaction. There's little room on the International Space Station for 7-month experiments.
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Old 05-06-2010, 06:59 AM   #25 (permalink)
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A few images of Saturn, its rings, and its moons, from the Cassini probe. Its mission has been extended to 2017, so we should see many more beautiful images in the upcoming years.
Images come from the New York Times gallery.



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Old 05-06-2010, 06:09 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Amazing pictures. Anyone check out the new 3-D IMAX Hubble movie?? It was incredible. The Hubble pictures have such good resolution you can actually "fly through" them in 3-D. The IMAX does that and you feel like you are on the Enterprise's stellar cartography lab. I highly recommend checking it out if you have an IMAX near you.
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Old 05-08-2010, 05:29 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by supersix2 View Post
Amazing pictures. Anyone check out the new 3-D IMAX Hubble movie?? It was incredible. The Hubble pictures have such good resolution you can actually "fly through" them in 3-D. The IMAX does that and you feel like you are on the Enterprise's stellar cartography lab. I highly recommend checking it out if you have an IMAX near you.
I saw it, and it was impressive.

As for commercial human space flight, I wonder if Orbital will be able to build something like the Soyuz rocket in the next 10 years?

Orbital Sciences Corporation

The Soyuz spacecraft

I would think that having NASA and the Air Force help private companies develop cheaper access to space, while still being safe, would be a good thing.
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Old 05-08-2010, 07:28 AM   #28 (permalink)
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I'm sure a commercial company can build a rocket within in 10 years. The problem, I see, is the lack of a market for such a thing.

I do think that NASA should do whatever possible to help develop the commercial space industry, sadly though there is not real clear plan or direction NASA has been given to do so.

Back before there was NASA, there was NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) they would publish research papers, build test facilities, collect and distribute information about advancements in aeronautics. I think it really helped spurn a lot of innovation and aeronautical development in the early days of aviation. NACA eventually turned in to NASA in 1958 and became the sole source of civil space development. I can see now, with the new direction, NASA takes on more of a role like its predecessor NACA as the direction is given correctly.

Part of the difficulty NASA faces in a lot of things is existing legislation on the types of activities NASA can engage in, as well as legislation such as ITAR which greatly restricts distributing materials and information dealing with the creation of missiles and rockets.

I hope the commercial sector succeeds. I think in order for them to do so, NASA will have to invest heavily into helping them otherwise they may all bankrupt themselves trying.
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Old 05-13-2010, 11:13 AM   #29 (permalink)
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The moon on McDonalds

File:McMoon - 48,000 lbs of 70mm tape.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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Old 05-13-2010, 12:27 PM   #30 (permalink)
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The International Space Station has been awarded the 2009 Collier Trophy for excellence in aerospace/astrospace engineering! The award was announced in March, but it was awarded today.



NAA: National Aeronautic Association
NASA - NASA?s International Space Station Program Wins Collier Trophy
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Old 05-19-2010, 12:59 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Cassini strikes again - there's a liquid sea on Titan!



Quote:
New Evidence of a Fluid Sea on Saturn’s Moon Titan
By WILLIAM J. BROAD

Last July, a glint of sunlight from Saturn’s moon Titan sped through space and fell upon the sensors of the Cassini spacecraft, starting a process of discovery that is now strengthening the idea that the icy moon harbors liquid seas.

If confirmed, the finding means that Titan is the only body in the solar system other than Earth whose surface is known to hold stable fluids in a liquid state. The reflective sea — larger than the Caspian — is no vacation spot. The scientists calculate that its fluids are probably a mix of ethane and methane, with perhaps some liquid nitrogen thrown in for good measure. The temperature? About minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The chilly sea is known as Kraken Mare, after the legendary sea monsters. It sprawls over an area of about 150,000 square miles.

A team of 15 scientists, writing on April 7 in Geophysical Research Letters, reported that the glint of sunlight bouncing off Kraken Mare, near Titan’s north pole, was a special type known as a specular reflection.

By definition, such mirrorlike reflections occur when the incoming and reflected rays have the same angle with respect to the reflective surface — in other words, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. On Earth, glass, liquids and polished metals often produce specular reflections.

The scientists, in a four-page analysis, said the reflection captured by Cassini in July was clearly specular, “strongly suggesting” that Kraken Mare exists in a liquid state.

The Cassini mission to Saturn was launched in 1997 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, began orbiting the giant planet in 2004 and soon found radar evidence of seas and lakes on Titan.

Since Cassini’s arrival, the northern polar regions of Titan have been shrouded in winter darkness. But the recent onset of spring in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of direct illumination by the sun have allowed scientists to begin the hunt for specular reflections. The moon’s northern hemisphere has more lakes and seas than the southern hemisphere, and the bodies there are larger.

The paper’s lead author is Katrin Stephan of the Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin. Her 14 co-authors are from the Free University of Berlin, the University of Arizona, the University of Idaho, Cornell University, the United States Geological Survey and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology.
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:09 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by genuinegirly View Post
Do you have similar feelings for the big contractors that have assisted NASA, such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin?
I've worked for two of the 'big contractors' in the last six years, so considering they write my paychecks, I like them.

As for private space exploration, I think it'd good if it'd bring us new/useful technology, but I don't think the tax payers should pay for it. Someone said in this thread that it'd just be a way for management of these companies to grow rich, which is, unfortunately, most likely the case.

This news of liquid on Titan is interesting. I wonder if that makes them think it's more likey to hold, or have held, life. I've always marveled at scientists assumption that a space body had to have similarities to earth to contain life. Maybe life elsewhere doesn't need oxygen or water... grow an imagination, people... but I digress.

I definitely think it's worthwhile to build sustainable structures for habitation/research on the moon. Hell, I'd be first in line if I could afford it.
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Old 06-01-2010, 08:08 AM   #33 (permalink)
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This talk is an absolutely fantastic talk, that I am so sorry I did not find out about sooner. I'll let the details speak for themselves.





The tiny pale blue dot just to the left of Saturn's inner rings is earth.

Absolutely incredible.
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:57 PM   #34 (permalink)
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You can't post the Pale Blue Dot without Sagan narrating.
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Old 08-02-2010, 01:49 PM   #35 (permalink)
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The ISS is falling apart again:

Snippets from this article: Space station drama as cooling system fails
Quote:
US space officials planned emergency repairs Monday after a failure of the cooling system on the International Space Station that has forced astronauts to reroute power.

One of two cooling loops shut down Saturday night, triggering alarms throughout the orbiting station, which is manned by three Russian and three American astronauts.

NASA said the crew is not in any danger. But an attempt overnight to close the circuit breaker and restart the pump module that feeds the vital ammonia to the cooling system failed.

Astronauts closed down two of the gyroscopes that position the station as they rerouted power from the Destiny Laboratory research module to keep the temperature system stable. One gyroscope was later put back on line.

"The station is in a stable configuration with most systems receiving cooling and many systems operating with redundancy following the installation of jumper cables from the Destiny Lab's power system overnight," NASA said.

Experts said that the incident could restart a months-long debate about NASA's future.

The delay has led some lawmakers, such as Representative Bill Posey of Florida, where the Kenndy Space Center is located, to call for the continuation of shuttle flights to ensure that the station can be stocked with crew and supplies until 2020.
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Old 08-04-2010, 02:33 PM   #36 (permalink)
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It was a crazy weekend for a lot of people I work with because of this. That pump has been running constantly for like 5 years in an extreme environment so it's pretty impressive that it ran that long. However this was a pretty major failure for any spacecraft to have. Fortunatley there is enough redundancy built into the space station that the impacts were fairly minimal and there is a spare on orbit so the crew can swap out the failed pump.

They will be doing 2 spacewalks to replace them pump package, the first of them is planned for Saturday.
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