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President Bush and US Space Policy

By eldonsmith in Op-Ed
Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:32:32 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

Recently, President Bush announced his new policy for space. President Bush is to be praised for his bold new vision, including at least two crucial points:

  1. Humans can and should travel beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). Robotic exploration is valuable and important however is not sufficient to satisfy the human spirit. George W. Bush deserves great credit for making this point.

  2. The space shuttle must be retired. Cancellation of the wasteful shuttle system offers significant opportunity for reinvestment of significant funding.

These are significant steps forward. The vision is plainly there. I see opportunity and risk for President Bush. If he demonstrates commitment to follow through with this powerful vision, he will supplant JFK as America's premier space President. If not, his recent speech may be remembered, if at all, as empty rhetoric.

One critic speaks. . .

The Washington Post recently wrote:

Beyond the next five budget years, moreover, congressional sources said there are significant gaps in the game plan for funding the new initiative, as outlined in private briefings yesterday -- and many of them will stretch out long after their political parents in this administration have moved on. Such orphan programs, out of sync with the political rhythms of Washington, often fare poorly, analysts said.

There are also serious unknowns about how, physically, the mandate will be carried out. There is no mention of money for a big rocket that could replace the shuttle's heavy cargo-carrying capacity.

What is a Crew Exploration Vehicle?

Rumor suggests that this will be a beefed-up Apollo style capsule perhaps launched on an Enhanced Expendable Launch Vehicle, an EELV. To my knowledge, no details have been offered either by the President or by his staff. Since return to the Moon by 2015 requires successful deployment of this CEV, I am eager to see details.

One suggestion is for this CEV to resemble the Delta-X or Delta Clipper Experimental.

Does the Delta-X have the payload capacity to carry men to the Moon and Mars?

Phase out the space shuttle

An excellent idea.

The shuttle orbiter should have been cancelled long ago. So, why will we pay to return the shuttle to space for a maximum of five years of operation? Some plans call for adding an on orbit repair capability in case damage is discovered while the orbiter is in LEO. How much will that cost? How much will the other repairs, retro-fits and upgrades cost to make the orbiter safe for human flight?

Aren't such expenditures like buying new tires for a car you are sending to the junkyard? I say we terminate shuttle flights TODAY.

"But what about the International Space Station", cry all you internationalists.

Whether immediate US termination of ISS participation is a good idea or not, President Bush has declared the US will fulfill its ISS obligations. I accept his leadership on that.

Nonetheless, even if the shuttle orbiter never flies again, shuttle derived boosters can offer an alternative means to complete the ISS. This National Space Society document  offers a succinct presentation of these variants.

Cost? Use the savings from the cancelled orbiter flights to build and deploy the Shuttle B variant. This uncrewed vehicle appears to be able to lift twice the payload of the current shuttle orbiter and since there is no ground processing of orbiter heat shield tiles and the like, each launch should cost considerably less than a current shuttle launch.

US heavy lift

If the shuttle is phased out by 2010, and if the CEV is delayed, America will have NO system for moving humans to LEO and only smallish boosters for lifting payloads to LEO.

Delta-X payload capacity for example may not be sufficient to accomplish "humans to Mars" thus even if this new mysterious CEV can carry humans to LEO, a new booster system may well be needed to transport equipment and supplies to the Moon to build the proposed permanent base.

An uncrewed shuttle derived launch system, however, combined with an Atlas/Delta EELV Crew Exploration Vehicle, or Delta-X would together give the United States a powerful launch capability both to put a permanent base on the Moon and eventually send people to Mars. In any event, there appears to be a hole between 2010 and 2014 during which America lacks any ability to move humans into LEO. I am nervous about that.


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Should the US immediately cancel shuttle orbiter flights and move to a new launch system?
o Yes 49%
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Votes: 51
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President Bush and US Space Policy | 143 comments (124 topical, 19 editorial, 2 hidden)
Space: Whose Frontier (2.80 / 5) (#6)
by octavius314 on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:55:44 AM EST

Just wondering when (if) an American presence is established on the moon, will it become the 51st state of america? Wonder how his international policies will be like, now that it acquires an interplanetary element.

an international agreement makes that impossible. (2.80 / 5) (#9)
by xutopia on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:41:17 AM EST

any country cannot lay ownership claim over a planet or asteroid. Some ass laid claim to the moon though and sells parcels to anyone that wants to waste money : http://www.lunarlandowner.com/1979_moon_treaty.htm

[ Parent ]
Good point (3.00 / 19) (#10)
by Michael Moore on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 02:22:26 AM EST

After all, when was the last time America broke an international agreement?

"My life was more improved by a single use of [ecstasy] than someone's life is made worse by becoming a heroin addict." -- aphrael
[ Parent ]
Moon Treaty (2.83 / 6) (#14)
by adiffer on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 04:13:25 AM EST

We didn't sign it.  8)

However, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty still applies.  The US is not allowed to claim sovereignty over the Moon or recognize such a claim from any other nation.  It's still debateable whether that precludes US citizens from property ownership, though, since a sovereign grant isn't strictly required.  All that's really required is a general recognition of ownership.

There are other nice things in the '67 OST that will discourage us from dropping it like we did the ABM treaty.  No nukes in space is covered in OST.  We may drop the treaty one day, but it won't be anytime soon.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Look at Antartica (none / 2) (#17)
by nebbish on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 05:36:37 AM EST

There are science stations in Antartica and no-one makes any claims to ownership, despite the fact that it is very mineral-rich. I don't see any reason why things would be different on the moon.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Australia Owns Most of it (none / 1) (#22)
by richarj on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 08:10:36 AM EST

Dare you go down there and fight our squads of killer penguins to release it from our grasp.

"if you are uncool, don't worry, K5 is still the place for you!" -- rusty
[ Parent ]
Seriously? (none / 0) (#23)
by nebbish on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 08:21:12 AM EST

The ownership, not the penguins. I thought it belonged to no-one.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Just googled (2.50 / 4) (#29)
by nebbish on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:52:32 AM EST

And fuck me you're right.

But then, you haven't really got that much space in Australia, have you?

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

The Moon should remain free of national government (none / 2) (#33)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:10:07 PM EST

though, of course, once there's a few Catholics up there, you can't deny them there religious faith, so the Vatican would need to create a diocese up there.

[ Parent ]
Unless the Mormons get there first [n/t] (none / 0) (#34)
by eldonsmith on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:17:32 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Ridiculous, they are unfit for space travel (none / 2) (#35)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:21:42 PM EST

Astronaut training typically involves taking large amounts of stimulants, hallucinogens and other drugs, in attempts to familiarize them with altered states. Plus, I'm sure most missions have caffeine and amphetamines for emergencies. Mormons would not be willing to take those drugs, and would endanger the mission.

Plus, I don't think spacesuits fit over their silly mandated underwear.

[ Parent ]

Ahem. . . (none / 0) (#36)
by eldonsmith on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:26:12 PM EST

Why such hostility?

[ Parent ]
Hostility, I see little hostility (none / 1) (#38)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:02:08 PM EST

Mormons I know of eschew caffeine, alcohol and other drugs, per their prophets. I wouldn't want them to compromise their religious values to get into space.

[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#107)
by ShiftyStoner on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 02:32:47 AM EST

 That means I would be a great astronaut. No point though. I'm sure a few bong rips and a couple grams of shrooms is way more enjoyable than walking around on a giant lifeless rock. If I want to ware a goofy suit and feel weightless I'll go scuba diving again.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]
Policies already endanger NASA (none / 2) (#92)
by hawaii on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:18:22 PM EST

Beyond the $1 billion investment is $12 billion of reallocation. This is read as cancellation of many other worthwhile NASA missions.

A NASA official this morning just cancelled the planned Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4. The equipment for this servicing missions has been designed and in progress for construction. All this effort will be now thrown out the window.

Hubble, along with Chandra, the future James Webb Space Telescope, and a slew of other space telescopes, have been entirely invaluable to astronomers. But now many of these are getting canned or drastically cut down.

This is a total shame because physics, astrophysics, planetary science, among other research, will be drastically reduced. NASA consists of much more than just the shuttle and ISS, but now the other worthwhile programs are being cut out.

While it might be a good day for lunar/planetary exploration and engineering, it's a sad day for the astrophysical sciences.

[ Parent ]

by andamac on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:05:33 AM EST

I have nothing else to say.

Except that I bet Arnold would give Bush a right scolding and tear up a big credit card right in his FACE though.

Nothing but election-year lies (2.88 / 18) (#11)
by BadDoggie on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:39:47 AM EST

Shrub wants to give NASA a whole billion dollars extra? To go back to the Moon? The last time we went there it cost somewhere around $75-150B in today's dollars, and despite previous experience, we'd pretty much have to start from scratch. New rockets, new capsule and lander designs, new computers and hardened chips, new programming, damned near everything, really.

It's questionable whether the U.S. could even catch up to or beat China now, even with a $200B appropriation for NASA.

Not that the U.S. could afford this anyway. It could a couple years ago when there was a surplus, but the current regime managed to not only piss it all away, it's created the biggest budget deficit ever.


"E pur se muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

money (3.00 / 7) (#15)
by adiffer on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 04:19:13 AM EST

That's a whole billion dollars spread over five years.  8)
Not much to that except starter money.

The scoop I've heard is that it won't be just NASA doing the heavy lifting.  Note the clause in the speech about the independent advisory commission.  The truth will be known by who sits on that commission.  Keep your eyes open because the major media may miss it as too small to report.  This is important because if private industry gets a fair chance to enter the market as a supplier, things could be very different.  We have different motivations...  8)

-Dream Big. --Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Proposals Are Politics, Not Vision (2.87 / 16) (#12)
by Peahippo on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:58:57 AM EST

The timeline for all of this is so farcically extended that it highlights the "political ploy" aspect to the proposals. From that, I have no faith that there's any will behind them.

In fairness, there are elements that finally demonstrate that logical thinking was at least used to make them. The Moon must be pursued before Mars. The ISS (crippled though it is) must be made a completed waypoint. A standard vehicle (necessarily, designed to be built from Lunar materials) is needed for all intrasystem voyages.

However, the idea of sending more unmanned probes (or exploratory probes of any kind) to the Moon is so ludicrous that I have to laugh out loud. What more do we need to know to be able to make an industrial site on the Moon? The Devil can only be in the details, but that's what REAL engineering is for.

And the advertised proposals end with the standard NASA propaganda about how all their spending wasn't a waste (abandoned programs, vehicles lost due to negligence, etc.), by asserting tech advances that are allegedly linked to space industries. I especially loved this one:

"Infrared hand-held cameras used to observe blazing plumes from the Shuttle have helped firefighters point out hot spots in brush fires."

Wow! As if we didn't have a need for handheld infrared cameras for usage in law enforcement, home surveys, geographic surveys, firefighting, etc. With all of that need, why do we think that we need a space program to come up with them?

A space program should itself be the beneficiary of a technological culture ... not the other way around. The things the space program would be best at, would have little use on or for Earth except for military and weather applications (missile guidance, satellites, etc.).

timelines (2.66 / 6) (#16)
by adiffer on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 04:31:34 AM EST

The real ploy here is that the goals Bush set give a cover for the reorganization and redirection of NASA.  With the President's political weight to back him, O'Keefe will be able to do more in those efforts.  Many previous Administrators have been stifled by their own people and processes and didn't have the clout to finish big tasks.

The long timeline to get to the Moon may also be a sneaky ploy too.  It gives those of us in private industry some breathing room.  When NASA doesn't have a Shuttle and the CEV is still being designed/built/tested, who is going to get the civil servants to space?  We can't do it yet, but if we know such a situation is coming, we might be able to raise the financing we need to do it later.

I think you are dead on regarding the spin-off debate, though.  Early on in the history of space-flight, the technique may have worked.  Today, our NASA labs are in a very different position.  Much of the supposed spin-offs are "me-too's" that make it look like they are in a leadership position.  The commercial markets for consumer electronics and related goods have FAR more power and money today than all the government spenders combined.  The clearest example I know is in the avionics on the rocket and airship vehicles my friends and I build.  The latest upgrades we made (smaller, cheaper, better, AND faster) were due to advances driven by the cell phone market.  We've got batteries for our big electrically driven propellors that we could only dream about 5 years ago and they cost about $1K.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

There will be spin-offs.. (none / 1) (#110)
by bobzibub on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:43:25 AM EST

...but they will be for the weaponization of space.
Sending people to the moon will require power systems, navigation systems, propulsion systems, communications systems, etc.  All these will have military applications if one chooses to place a new generation of weapons into space.


http://www.bushtothemoon.com is taken.
http://www.bush2themoon.com is not!!!!!

[ Parent ]

Instead of developing another shuttle... (2.37 / 8) (#13)
by spacebrain on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 04:00:54 AM EST

it'd be far better now to focus on the space elevator!

Or a rotovator (none / 0) (#19)
by Gully Foyle on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 06:17:00 AM EST

You can build one of those with current materials. Dyneema is strong enough, no need for CNT.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

WTF is a rotovator? (none / 0) (#77)
by CtrlBR on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:06:48 PM EST

Please explain....
If no-one thinks you're a freedom fighter than you're probably not a terrorist.
-- Parent ]
Just a guess... (none / 1) (#88)
by Eater on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 06:27:02 PM EST

...but does it involve rotation, counterwieghts, and an impossibility of construction due to the friction (and resulting loss of velocity and damage) created by the Earth's atmosphere? And, also, wouldn't the materials required be no weaker than those for a space elevator?


[ Parent ]
Two problems (none / 2) (#37)
by wiredog on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:31:32 PM EST

1. Building a space elevator requires large amounts of the rare element unobtainium.

2. Building a space elevator requires lifting large masses in to orbit, which requires a low cost way to orbit, and if you have that then why build the elevator?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

No... (none / 2) (#90)
by Jazu on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:05:44 PM EST

1. Carbon Nanotubes. 2. Define "investment".

[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#118)
by wiredog on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 03:42:28 PM EST

1. "unobtainium". Sure, carbon nanotubes are being manufactured. In the laboratory. In milligram amounts. Not in factories by the ton.

2. Investment in what? Why build a space elevator if you already have a low cost method of reaching LEO?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

1/2 a problem (none / 1) (#124)
by hollo on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 12:35:38 AM EST

Building a space elevator requires large amounts of the rare element unobtainium.

I'd call it notyetobtainedium myself. Carbon nanotubes exist, and can theoretically be epoxied together to make a sufficiently strong rope - the problem is more of production than theory.

Building a space elevator requires lifting large masses in to orbit, which requires a low cost way to orbit, and if you have that then why build the elevator?

Have a look for the study done for NASA by Bradley Edwards on building an elevator. Ideas of space elevators are coloured by descriptions in SciFi where they are normally manufactured in one go from a large asteroid. Makes for good storylines, but not necessarily very practical.

Edwards describes sending a single 144,000km ribbon of cable which would be 10cm wide by a few microns thick into geostationary orbit. This would weigh 20,000 kg, be put into LEO with a single shuttle booster launch, and have propulsion systems for propelling to GEO launched in subsequent launches.

The ribbon unrolls to be a very weak elevator, anchored to earth at one end with the other out beyond geostationary orbit. Further ribbons of cable are added from earth by climbers that climb the cable unrolling their own ribbon behind them and epoxying it on. After the initial launches no further rocketry is required.

From then the time to double the carrying capacity of the table is 170 days, and after 3 years of adding to it the cable could carry 1000tonne weights. While all obviously hypothetical the study is detailed and worth a read if you can find it online. It changed my view of space elevators from something that would always be science fiction to something that we might be able to do in the future if anyone wants to badly enough.

[ Parent ]

I have a much better idea. (3.00 / 4) (#41)
by tkatchev on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:01:14 PM EST

Better yet, let's just build a Space Ramp.

That way we could simply drive trucks right into near-earth orbit.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

A space ramp would be handicapped accessible (none / 2) (#44)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:43:31 PM EST

too, though the Supreme Court just ruled that carrying the wheelchair-bound up a stairwell is the equivalent.

[ Parent ]
Umm, do you mean one of these? (none / 1) (#48)
by cestmoi on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 07:26:43 PM EST

StarTram? You can read about it here.

[ Parent ]
Keep the Science Missions (none / 1) (#91)
by hawaii on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 07:14:16 PM EST

Or at least keep funding good and worthwhile science missions. HST's SM4 mission shouldn't be cancelled just to make way for moon landings and Mars trips. HST and all the other space telescopes have been far more worthwhile to physics and science in general than the larger budget programs of ISS.

[ Parent ]
Do we need to send people into space any more? (2.60 / 5) (#18)
by nebbish on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 05:38:50 AM EST

It is very expensive because of the safety issues involved. Wouldn't it be better to concentrate on unmanned space exploration? I think sending a probe to Europa would be far more valuable scientifically than putting a man on Mars.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

Two separate things (2.80 / 5) (#20)
by bugmaster on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 06:22:47 AM EST

These are two separate issues, really: space exploration versus space development. It could be argued that space exploration can be achieved with robots alone. Personally, I don't believe that (humans don't get stuck in air bags, for one thing), but I know that many people do.

Space development, however, cannot be achieved without humans. If we want to have a functional moonbase, an orbital factory, an asteroid mine, a sub-orbital passenger/cargo plane, an orbital repair shop, etc. etc., then we need either a reasonably cheap and reliable way of putting humans into space, or some sort of a Strong AI to drive our bots. I think putting humans into space is easier.

Note that the two projects are orthogonal: we could send more bots to Mars without doing anything else, we could build a crewed moonbase without going anywhere else, or we could do both, or neither. I certainly hope we do both, but it looks to me like this space exploration deal will blow over in at most four years (if not much sooner), when re-election is no longer an issue. A shame...
[ Parent ]

Depends on what we want (2.25 / 4) (#27)
by godix on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:46:12 AM EST

If we want scientific information then the answer is maybe. There's still some issues that can only be resolved by putting a man into space but not all that many. If instead the issue is to capture people interest and focus attention to the space program then there's nothing a robot could do that would match putting a man on the moon or mars.

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.
- General Qaddafi
[ Parent ]
For sure we do (none / 2) (#58)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:31:50 PM EST

The Spirit rover, although it is pretty cool, took almost two weeks to stand up and move a few feet - and there's a thousand piddly little things that could destroy the rover, but that a human would have no problem with (explosive cable cutters, airbags, etc...)

I believe that at least one of the Apollo missions would have met the same fate that the Beagle did (falling into a crater) but since there were humans on Apollo they just steered the lander past the crater.

You have to consider that the moon is more or less close enough for remote control but nothing further out is. They don't really drive the rover, they tell it where to go and the software figures out how to get from Point A to Point B without getting caught on a rock or flipping over. There's probably several bugs in that software, however (which hopefully will not surface.) Humans wouldn't have that problem.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#131)
by fenix down on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:30:39 PM EST

But for the price of that crater the astronauts avoided you could've sent a half-dozen new rovers to replace the one that fell in.

[ Parent ]
groundbreaking would be... (2.50 / 4) (#21)
by dimaq on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 07:22:30 AM EST

1 - literally groundbreaking - send people towards earth core rather than away from it, or

2 - figuratively groundbreaking - subcontract all space program from the Chinese *g*

quicker solution (2.69 / 13) (#28)
by j1mmy on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:48:18 AM EST

Let's just crash the ISS into the moon and we've got the moon base thing all taken care of.

I am all for it (2.60 / 5) (#30)
by mami on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 12:08:36 PM EST

let's send Bush to the Moon, Cheney to Mars and Rumsfeld to Venus ... and keep all the robots doing real research in space, as they beat humans any day in what they can accomplish there.

Nah... (none / 0) (#89)
by Eater on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 06:31:28 PM EST

...I dare not wish such a horror on the poor Martian and Selenite populations.


[ Parent ]
The threshold of economical exploration of space (2.00 / 7) (#39)
by K5 Troll Authority on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:14:03 PM EST

A comparison people make too often is the one between the exploration of space and the exploration of the new world in the fifteenth century. But how valid is it? The new world held a plethora of riches to be conquered and traded back in Europe, so much so that hundreds of thousands of men risked their lives in the unknown for the tiny chance that they might become rich — and the ships of the time were much riskier than today's spacecraft not to mention astronauts actually know where they're going.

However, the explorarion of the moon or of mars brings no benefits to us earthlings. No gold, tea or sugar, only rocks. Rocks and pretty pictures to look at which could be generated much cheaplier in any computer graphics shop.

It is clear to me now that the whole space program is just a clever plot to deceive the general american public into thinking those hundreds of billions of dollars are being poured into any useful end. Not that the space program is even useful, but if only they actually got the cash. I ask, how many people today will trust the Bush administration? Be reminded that these people are very close to those who killed Enron.

I do not trust them. I'm pretty convinced that there are no probes in mars right now and this whole thing is a huge scam to swindle tax payer's money. As I said, not only is it much cheaper to generate those images down here on Earth but there's absolutely nothing that we could gain with them. Those pictures of the "martian soil" we saw last week were pretty pathetic too, they could at least have fixed the sky so that it didn't look so fake.

K5: we get laid more than Slashdot goons — TheGreenLantern

Not too mention the souls of millions of Indians (none / 1) (#40)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 01:20:22 PM EST

Back in the 15th century, the True Church learned of the millions of pagans in the New World, and dispatched hundreds of Jesuits and other missionaries to save their souls. I imagine having Church backing helped the exploration quite bit, which is why most of the American continents speak Spanish and are Catholic.

[ Parent ]
Clever troll. (none / 0) (#42)
by tkatchev on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:07:39 PM EST

Though it has a grain of truth -- compare the areas north and south of the border.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Not counting Little America (none / 1) (#43)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 03:42:09 PM EST

North America speaks English, Spanish and French, mostly.

Central America speaks Spanish, mostly.

South America speaks Spanish and Portugese, mostly.

That's 2/3, unless you only feel like counting North and South America.

If you slice it per population, or per countries, Spanish/Catholicism should come out on top.

Let's be honest, most "trolls" have a grain of truth, since truth is always upsetting.

[ Parent ]

2 Ways To Make It Pay (none / 0) (#57)
by Ogygus on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:16:13 PM EST

Off the top of my head:
1. Space elevator. This'll put "launch costs" through the floor. The corporation that puts up the first one will have a shipping monopoly like the world has never seen.
2. Solar Power Satellites. People down here need inexpensive, reliable, clean power. SPS can provide it.
Of course, there are two reasons why it will never happen: vested interests in the dirty power business and vested interests in the aeronautic industry.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
vested interest in the auronautical industry... (none / 0) (#84)
by Hana Yori Dango on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 03:12:06 PM EST

given the opportunity to increase their markets by several orders of magnitude by decreasing the cost of LEO by the same value... why would any industry, vested or not, oppose such a move?

I dont think there's really an answer you can give demonstrating anything other than a severe lack of business sense.

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#85)
by Ogygus on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 03:54:53 PM EST

It won't be an aeronautics company that puts one up.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
power satillites? (none / 0) (#115)
by bladder on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 01:07:40 PM EST

If solar power can't produce meaningful amounts of power on the planet then what good is it going to be to put the panels in orbit? It's not like we are on the surface of Venus here, most of the radiation gets through...

And btw, a space elevator seems a bit far off too. I would be willing to be that fusion reactors will be built long before the first space elevator. But, who knows...

[ Parent ]

Panels are too inefficient (none / 0) (#119)
by Ogygus on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 03:49:03 PM EST

The SPS designs I've seen were for a parabolic mirror directing sunlight onto a boiler that would boil a liquid, forcing it through an impeller, condensing the liquid using the shady side of the apparatus and boiling it again. The power is then beamed to Earth via wide beam microwave to a rectenna farm in the desert areas of the planet. Efficiency is not an issue as it runs 24/7/365, it's never cloudy and it needs little maintenance.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
I doubt the shuttle industry is very large... (1.20 / 5) (#45)
by debacle on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 05:26:33 PM EST

"Also, moving immediately to a post-orbiter shuttle derived launch system will allow those people employed in the shuttle infrastructure business to retain their jobs."

This shouldn't be a concern. Why would it matter if people who probably aren't even employed yet might lose their jobs ten to fifteen years into the future?

What a tragedy.

-1, kuro5hin sucks.

It tastes sweet.

We must first send monkeys to Mars (2.66 / 12) (#54)
by JayGarner on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 09:51:42 PM EST

It is important to follow well-established conventions of the Space Race from the Cold War days. The order is: dog, monkey, test pilot, 3rd-grade teacher. Rumors abound that China's space program involves a plan to have an intelligent, specially bred race of cyber dogs establish a base camp/farm on Mars.

After this base camp is established, monkeys wearing cowboy hats will follow. The monkeys will know sign language and will further develop the farms, and grow the settlement through breeding. The monkeys will even have been genetically engineered not to have the masturbation gene, ensuring their drive to reproduce will be strong.

Finally, Taikonauts appear on the scene. There are plenty of dogs to eat. The occasional monkey will be eaten to 'keep them in their place', as this space colony will be multi-tiered, as the engineered society in Huxley's 'Brave New World' is. It will be a Brave New World. Sorry Americans, you and Ethan Hawke will only get on a spaceship if you're cleaning it.

The end.

Crew Exploration Vehicle (2.75 / 3) (#55)
by speek on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 10:01:15 PM EST

Don't think I want to know what that is.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Reality Check (2.66 / 6) (#62)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:36:53 AM EST

Before you cancel a major program, you better think long and hard about the consequences. People like to deride the NASA bureaucracy and its contractors, but it contains a great deal of knowledge and experience. If you effectively kill manned spaced flight, with plans to restart it in 5 or 10 years, you are setting yourself up for major problems. Aerospace engineering never really recovered from the termination of the Apollo program. You can't dump many thousands of people on the street and expect them to be available years later.

5440' or Fight!

An important and entirely valid point. (2.00 / 4) (#63)
by eldonsmith on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:43:50 AM EST

This is one of the concerns with President Bush deciding to phase out the shuttle by 2010 with the CEV not being flight ready until 2014.

Had you voted this up, you could have helped assure yourself of a forum to express this valid concern.

[ Parent ]

lemon curry???? (1.05 / 17) (#64)
by fae on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 02:11:33 AM EST

Very good for drilling research (3.00 / 8) (#66)
by imrdkl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 04:57:03 AM EST

There are many aspects of these "missions" to be considered, and I agree with others that doing so will provide a valuable distraction from the problems at hand during the election campaign. The science and technology necessary to get men, and machines to the moon or mars will certainly provide exciting opportunities among the thousands of groups who genuflect to the existing (NASA, Office of Naval Research, Los Alamos, etc) heirarchy of providership - even if nothing ever gets off the ground.

What really smells about this proposal though, is the fact that Halliburton has already been chosen to lead the drilling research, again as others have already pointed out. Indeed, not only have they been chosen, but they're already looking at the problem with NASA and Los Alamos in Alaska. Drilling in Alaska might provide a perfect "simulation environment" for the Mars work, but I suspect there may be some ulterior motives. Would you not agree? In any case, Halliburton gets a taxpayer funded research project which will provide them with new patents and secrets for exploiting frozen resources, wherever they may be. And the interesting research is already "so advanced they aren't willing to talk much about them."

So whats wrong?. (none / 3) (#71)
by Lew Dobbs on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:26:42 AM EST

If you want to drill on Mars hire the guys who are experts on drilling on Earth.

[ Parent ]
What part of (none / 1) (#76)
by imrdkl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 11:52:46 AM EST

"It smells" wasn't clear for you?

[ Parent ]
I see where you are headed, but. . . (none / 0) (#78)
by Pop Top on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:13:22 PM EST

does anything smell on the Intraweb?

[ Parent ]
I dont know (none / 0) (#80)
by imrdkl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:41:14 PM EST

Perhaps he should consider submitting for a research grant under this program to find out.

[ Parent ]
Deja vu all over again (2.85 / 7) (#70)
by Skwirl on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 09:27:34 AM EST

Does anybody else remember the time Bush made a big hooha about how he would double the funding for Americorp and other volunteer programs and then he went and cut it in half?

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
I agree (none / 3) (#72)
by theboz on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:30:39 AM EST

From my jaded perspective, Bush seems to be up to his old tricks. From how I see it, he's just trying to kill NASA. The two points that stick out the most for me as being doable is 1) Finishing out our required work for the ISS, then abandoning it to the rest of the world, and 2) Retiring the space shuttles. The rest sound like good ideas, but I don't think he's given enough funding to NASA or has plans to do enough to actually accomplish putting men on the moon or Mars.

[ Parent ]

=IF= the goal is to kill NASA (none / 1) (#74)
by Lew Dobbs on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 11:01:08 AM EST

the Democrats swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

How many Demo-whiners have been saying we can't spend money on space, Earth first. Now, how can Al Gore complain about too little money for NASA?

[ Parent ]

That's OK (none / 1) (#95)
by hardburn on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 08:31:53 PM EST

Maybe after the US abandons it, we can hitch a ride up to the ISS with John Carmack's X-Prize rocket. A few shots with Carmack's BFG to get rid of the pesky Russians up there and we can own the joint. The Russians probably left some Vodka behind. We can get a drinking game going with satellites and the BFG. Take out a cell phone sat, take one shot of Vodka. A TV sat is worth two. Spy sats are worth three. The Hubble is worth seven.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Not enough money (none / 2) (#73)
by Lew Dobbs on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:38:00 AM EST

I like the Bush vision (which surprises me) but there just isn't enough money here to actually do anything. Maybe this is merely a ploy to kill NASA altogether and then move control of all space activities over to the Pentagon.

I want commercial space not military space! Whats good for CNN is good for America.

Anyways, a Professor Jeffrey Bell writes this:

There is a lot to like in President Bush's new space initiative. Most of the technical and programmatic changes to the current hopeless NASA plan are steps that various critics have been suggesting for some time: early phase-out of Shuttle, dumping the decaying corpse of the Space Station, scrapping the winged Orbital Space Plane in favor of a ballistic "Crew Exploration Vehicle" with Moon-return and Mars-return capability.

But hidden in the President's speech and the supporting documents is clear evidence that the funding plan for the New Space Order underwent major surgery, probably in the last 2 days before the speech. This hasty and ill-prepared operation has eliminated whatever chance may have existed that this program will actually be executed.

HA! HA! HA! HA! (none / 2) (#75)
by Pop Top on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 11:27:07 AM EST

Rove pulls a fast one.

Gore screams "Earth first! Earth first!"

- and -

Kerry says the time ain't right to go back to the Moon or on to Mars.

Guess what? Now Bush can KILL the civilian space program with the blessing of the opposition.

Phase out the shuttle, refuse to build a replacement lift system, merge NASA into the Department of Defense, spend all the NASA science money on a StarShip Troopers Crew Exploration/Assault Vehicle AND also say it was all the Democrats idea.

Spirit may be roving on Mars, but Bush sure is Rove-ing on Earth.

Good one, Karl.

[ Parent ]

How could you have missed this? (2.75 / 4) (#79)
by Pop Top on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 12:23:35 PM EST

Its on friggin' Wired.com!

Can we take this into account when thinking about Marsian regime change?

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-based policy group that bills itself as nonpartisan, pointed to two reasons for continuing the station: furthering the U.S. commitment to its space-station partners, and maintaining a manned presence in space as the moon and Mars program gears up.

Pike said he was skeptical of the administration's motives in articulating the moon-Mars plan. He noted that a new moon landing would not take place until at least 11 years after the end of a possible second Bush term.

He went so far as to indicate that the plan is a Trojan Horse for killing the shuttle and station -- and that the moon-Mars initiative will never materialize beyond "paying contractors for artwork."

The president's mandate of going to the Mars and moon is certain to put pressure on other NASA projects, such as robotic missions to the planets, asteroid belt and comets -- as well as aeronautics research and securing a replacement for the aging Hubble space telescope, Pike and other observers said.

"They've looked at the manned space program and come to the conclusion that they don't understand why we have a manned space program," Pike said. "So they're going to wind it down, and Bush gets credit for launching a bold new adventure."

Standard Bush procedure (none / 0) (#82)
by wumpus on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 02:24:03 PM EST

Never, ever, let Bush speak to your group. He will praise your good work while his handlers quickly knife your budget.

Standard Bush administation doubletalk.


[ Parent ]

manned vs. unmanned (3.00 / 4) (#81)
by waxmop on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 01:12:41 PM EST

Principal Skinner summed up NASA's plight when he said every good scientist is half B.F. Skinner and half P.T. Barnum. In NASA's case, that means balancing projects that are uninteresting to the public but scientifically valuable, like unmanned probes, or gravity-wave telescopes, with crowd-pleasing media spectacles like sending John Glenn up in 1997 just for good times' sake, and this poorly-thought-out manned mission to Mars. NASA nearly permanently mothballed the Hubble telescope because of lack of support in Congress in 1992. If NASA has to start working on a manned Mars base, then lots of lower-profile, but still meaningful, projects will wither on the vine.

Bush is not a scientist. He's a politician. He really ought to let the scientists figure out where the best return on the tax-dollar investment would come from, rather than conscripting their work in order to boost his popularity.

If space exploration becomes something we do just for national pride, then the people that argue that we should instead spend the money on social programs here on Earth have a good point.
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar

Skinner vs Barnum (none / 0) (#121)
by irrevenant on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 06:38:12 PM EST

Doesn't that mean that Bush is happily taking on the role of Barnum for himself, leaving the scientists to be Skinners?

[ Parent ]
Where do I sign up to be a Bush skinner? (none / 0) (#144)
by rpresser on Thu Jan 22, 2004 at 05:19:10 PM EST

He's got too much skin.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Disgusted by Bush's announcement? (none / 3) (#86)
by Baldrson on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 04:15:16 PM EST

You might want to vote The National Science Trust story up.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

Heh (none / 1) (#93)
by trhurler on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 08:11:14 PM EST

If all it has to be is a multistage rocket, the US can have heavy lift capability back in a matter of probably at most a few months. We know how to do that. The trouble is, people will want more than that.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Mildly Suprised (none / 0) (#94)
by hardburn on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 08:20:30 PM EST

I think its interesting that Bush is throwing support, not just for space exploration in general, but NASA specifically. There is growing support for private firms to invest in their own exploration program, such as the X-Prize. I would assume at least someone on Bush's staff has heard of these and passed it along. Making space a lucritive buisness should appeal to such a strong right-wing President. What gives? Are people too set in the thought that the US space program has to come from NASA?

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

You just missed it... (none / 3) (#109)
by Milo Minderbender on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 11:20:51 AM EST

There's only one thing better than letting his corporate buddies do the R&D and enter space:

Letting NASA contract his corporate buddies for the R&D and let the tax payers pay for it. The same research gets done, but the poor people pay for it.

This comment is for the good of the syndicate.
[ Parent ]
ugh (1.20 / 5) (#97)
by the77x42 on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 09:32:46 PM EST

I know it's a tech site and travel into space will be looked at with "ooh's" and "aah's" (hey, on the face of it I am excited too), but there is much more to consider.

The billions of dollars it takes to send people into the moon to gather up some dirt in the name of science loses its pull after you consider all the problems here on earth that could desperately use some funding.

I would have no problems with a Northern European country sending people into space as they are more advanced than us North Americans. (Look at the massive engineering projects in the Alps and the Netherlands and their education systems if you don't agree with me.) When a country like the United States, with their soaring poverty rate and crime problems, chooses to basically strip funds from realistic services and throw it at unnecessary projects, it's a sham to call it a democracy.

The people of the states are not benefiting from space travel except for having their curiosity tweaked. I'm sure more Americans would like to see billions going into education and health care than space exploration. But hey, the million-dollar corporations that are going to cash in on all the needed R&D will be laughing all the way to the bank and their tropical retirement homes.

Put the problems of the people before the out-wordly curiosities of "science".

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Billions of dollars (none / 3) (#98)
by zen troll on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:04:00 PM EST

Where does it go? Do we put the cash in rockets and send it to the Moon or Mars? Nope, it goes to pay scientists, engineers, technicians, managers, security guards, webpage designers, janitors, and on and on. Not just to NASA/JPL but at to every company that NASA/JPL buys stuff from. All most all the money goes for jobs. Into people's pockets.

On the other hand, cancel the NASA budget and see if you get your health care and free educations. We didn't have it before Bush announced we were going to the Moon and Mars. What makes you think we will get those benefits if is this plan is cancelled? And if you figure it out, the cost of this plan, per person, per year is not a very large percent of your tax dollar. I would even say it is tiny.

[ Parent ]

your logic (none / 2) (#103)
by the77x42 on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 01:46:04 AM EST

i'm not saying that the money WOULD be spent on healthcare and education, but at least it COULD. if we burn up all this money on space programs, then it definitely WON'T go into healthcare and education.

the cost of this per person per year is irrelevant and i don't know why you even mentioned it. everyone could give me a dollar a year and i'd be rich... so why don't you?

okay, lastly, granted all this money will be going into jobs, but the end result is going to be nothing different than it is now. we will still live on earth with the only difference that we will have dirt from mars. if, however, we spent that money on jobs for teachers or schools or healthcare workers, then everyone in the country would be better off, including those that received the money.

invest in the country, not space.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

You should not talk about logic [nt] (none / 1) (#105)
by zen troll on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 02:03:50 AM EST

[ Parent ]
sorry, i thought my philosophy degree entitled me (none / 0) (#142)
by the77x42 on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 08:43:40 PM EST

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
These aren't Normal People we're Talking About (none / 1) (#100)
by hardburn on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:48:45 PM EST

We're talking about politicians here. If they took the money given to NASA, they'd probably spend it on a Stratigic Helium Reserve or something dumber. Or worse, they'll just sink it into making more bombs. The poor and oppressed will continue being poor and oppressed no matter what happens to NASA.

NASA, with all its screw-ups, has at least done something for humanity. I don't necessarily think NASA is the best solution for a space program, but it's better than nothing.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Redistribution vs future investment (none / 3) (#104)
by alizard on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 01:50:20 AM EST

The choice you favor is redistribution vs investment in the future with you on the wrong side.

Redistributing all the wealth in the top 1% that Bush's economic policy favors would make a lot of people feel very good for a while. It would could do a lot of things for a lot of people.

Extra consumer spending would create a lot of jobs, some of which might even be in the USA.

Adequate funding of schools, welfare benefit levels high enough to actually keep people eating and roofs over their heads, job training programs, etc.

No, I haven't any clue as to where the jobs are coming from, other than minimum wage service sector crap... if we are going to get new "good jobs", we need new technology to give us new goods and services we can sell, and nobody who tells us that the "improved" economy we've gotten from outsourcing seems to have any clue what these are to be. No, we can't build a GREAT!!! future around selling iPods to each other.

NONE OF THE ABOVE WILL DO ANY GOOD WHEN THE OIL FINALLY RUNS OUT in a generation or so, or will be all that helpful when the wars over which of the world's countries will get to burn the last of the oil.

By the way, if you who believe in "spend it all on social programs" haven't noticed, these wars have already started. Remember the Gulf War? Noticed the War on Iraq? Noticed the Pentagon plans for increased spending to build a miltary with capabilities straight out of science fiction?

That military is intended to fight those wars, and the spending to build and maintain that military makes current NASA budget levels look like a roundoff error.

The alternative to redistributionism is "making a bigger pie". Make the economy bigger. A Solar System-wide economy will have enough jobs for everybody. The technologies required to make this work will make possible new goods and services that will solve problems here on Earth, which translate to full employment and good jobs.

It should be obvious to anyone with an IQ above room temperature that information technology just isn't enough of a technological driver to make indefinite prosperity possible for a society. The dot.bomb should be adequate evidence for this.

The first major goal should be to build power satellites big enough to replace the Middle East as a primary source of energy.

This will require a space infrastructure, orbiting industrial parks and a moon base to begin with to process moon rock into silicon and oxygen and water, and I don't mean a few handfuls of people doing research of great interest to the scientific community, I mean enough people and equipment to build factories from lunar materials.

The secondary policy implication is that with the Middle East becoming a non-issue on the international scale, we can divert military resources to space industrialization.

If we start now, we'll have enough time to get all the pieces in place before the cost of energy based on increasingly scarce oil becomes painful enough to hurt those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

This doesn't mean that research will end. Much research must be done to make space industry workable. Moreover, once we have large-scale permanent space housing, a lot more research will be done when all it takes for a university to start a project is to book a trip for a grad student on regularly scheduled commercial space flights and then rent housing and lab space.

Bush has inadvertently reopened the debate on what we should do in space. While I agree with the GlobalSecurity people who say that the Bush program will never get beyond contract artwork that'll look good on Bush's campaign propaganda, I think we should take this as an opportunity to hijack Bush's agenda into something which might actually do some good.

Impractical? Expensive? Perhaps the price of human survival, or at least the price of survival of technological society is too high.
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico
[ Parent ]

Trickle-down theory. (none / 3) (#108)
by tkatchev on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 08:12:41 AM EST

Congratulations, you're a communist.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Hang on Moonraker (none / 2) (#114)
by bladder on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 12:48:54 PM EST

"The first major goal should be to build power satellites big enough to replace the Middle East as a primary source of energy."

I hate to break it to you, but if solar power can't be made to produce significant quantities of power on the surface of the planet then putting it in orbit is not going to help.

Before you pull out your stats about Rutherford scattering and how there is more radiation above the atmosphere, try to keep in mind that sending 100 pounds of solar panel to the nearest desert costs me about $35 for UPS next day air, whereas NASA would bill me $100,000 or more.

I think a good ol' fission plant is a far more realistic replacement for oil, and far cleaner too. Of course there aren't too many uranium tycoons in the white house right now.

[ Parent ]

Bzzztt (none / 0) (#116)
by hardburn on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 03:33:17 PM EST

I hate to break it to you, but if solar power can't be made to produce significant quantities of power on the surface of the planet then putting it in orbit is not going to help.

Without the atmosphere in the way, solar power is far more efficient.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Change in units of importance? (none / 1) (#120)
by irrevenant on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 06:35:30 PM EST

What you seem to have done here is gone:

(A) Orbital Satellites won't make significant quantities of power


(B)  They'll cost a lot.

These two issues are not necessarily connected.


(1)  How much does it cost to build a fission plant?
(2)  How much did it cost to build the _first_ fission plants - 'cos that's the more accurate analogy here.

Also, orbital solar cells would pick up a lot more power than the nearest desert.

The big problem is, of course, getting all the collected energy back down to the surface...

[ Parent ]

Not a problem (none / 0) (#122)
by hardburn on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 09:54:20 PM EST

The big problem is, of course, getting all the collected energy back down to the surface...

Actually not. Those microwave power stations in Sim City are actually feasible, and have been since the '70s. Fortunately, much unlike the game, the effects of a microwave power beam missing the target should be pretty much harmless, as long as it's not prolonged.

There are also some thoughts of adding some high-voltage wires into a space elevator. For most of the proposals for such a beast I've seen, the researchers didn't want to add the extra weight for power lines. Still, a space elevator would be a good way to get a solar sat constellation into orbit.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
The problem with all this is... (2.75 / 4) (#99)
by jonnyd on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 10:25:06 PM EST

First of all in response to the argument that the money should be spent elsewhere here on Earth where it is more needed: The fact of the matter is that there is easily enough money to go around, it's just being wasted in a lot of places right now. The space program is not the place to cut out funding because, although expensive, it produces tangible benefits to the sciences and also is a valuable focus of pride for many Americans. There are many other places large quantities of money are being spent that seem to be much better options to cut out. For instance, did you know that nuclear weapons development in this country is budgeted $6.38 billion for 2004? And this in what is far and away the biggest nuclear power in the world.

Still, an argument can be made that this is true of NASA too - that if they used their budget better all of Bush's plans could be accomplished, and more, without even giving them more money.

Nasa's budget is around $15.4 billion in 2004 of which almost half is going to "Space flight capabilities". The shuttle makes up almost $4 billion dollars of this and it is flown less than 10 times a year. The international space station is being pumped $1.7 billion a year - and is expected to cost the US over $100 billion by the time it is done. Compare this to Mir, which was privatized by Russia, and cost about $4.3 billion altogether.

The entire Apollo program to land men on the moon cost about $25.4 billion or $110-$140 billion in 2003 dollars, not that much more than just the US's contribution to the arguably useless ISS. And going to the moon again, 35 years later, should cost only a small fraction of this.

The point is that if NASA is grossly missusing their budget. Much of the the technology, especially launch technology, is made cutting edge for the sake of cutting edge, not for any economic benefit. The shuttle is a perfect example of this. While intended to lower launch costs by being cutting edge and reusable, instad we find that it is more expensive than NASA's other single-use commercial launchers such as the Deltas, Titans and Atlas's. To truly reduce the cost of space, their must be incentive to reduce the cost of going there, which means privatization. NASA's actions have actually stifled private launch development, in the past, leaving expensive government funded launchers to be the only viable alternative.

NASA must be gutted and rebuilt, or they will continue to be a beauracratic, money wasting idealogue who's accomplishments will become more and more mediocre.

A question from the article author (none / 0) (#101)
by eldonsmith on Fri Jan 16, 2004 at 11:40:41 PM EST

What is your opinion of shuttle variants - - especially the B variant described in the article?

[ Parent ]
In my opinion... (none / 0) (#123)
by jonnyd on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 12:16:48 AM EST

This is a difficult question to answer. There are definitely things to be said for the idea. The orbiter weighs 175,000lb and is basically dead weight as it will be returning to Earth. Without it, you could launch at least 175,000lb more. And the argument that it would be cheaper to modify the existing system than to develop a new one is definitely a good one. However, I think there are some very good reasons to abandon the system altogether.

The biggest is the SRB's. The space shuttle's solid rocket boosters are kind of the red-headed step child of the whole shuttle development program. Originally meant to be reusable fly back boosters, they were trimmed and changed because of budget deficiencies until the emerged in their present form. The boosters are classified as reusable, but the refurbishment between flights is basically a complete rebuild. The need to reuse the boosters is retained from the original specifications that all parts of the Shuttle should be reusable. Of course the main fuel tank lost this capability at some point, and I think that the SRB's were left classified as "reusable" in an effort to at least retain some element of reusability in the design. But the fact is that "reusable solid rocket booster" is really an oxymoron and the cost to rebuild them probably is more as building new ones that needn't be reusable. A redesign of the SRB's to be liquid reusable boosters is an option, but again this would entail throwing more money into the aging system.

The other thing is that, as I said in my original post, the space shuttle was not really designed to be economical, inspite of how it was sold to congress and the public in general. The liquid hydrogen used as the fuel in the SSME's is much more difficult to work with and more expensive than, for instance, kerosene used in the first stage engines of the Saturn V. The complexity added by the need to handle cryogenic hydrogen is significan and adds to system cost and maintenance cost. There are many similar examples of this.

All in all, I would say that money would be better spent in the long run if a new heavy lift system was developed assuming the primary design objective was economy, not technology. Of course technology would be used to opitimize this in some places, but in others it might be that Saturn V era technology would do the same job for much cheaper.
[ Parent ]

Hello. (none / 2) (#102)
by Megahitler Electrodictator on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 01:21:22 AM EST

If I remember correctly, Carl Sagan, in one of his books, made a similar appeal to the spiritual satisfaction of space exploration. He argued, I think, that space exploration would unite humanity under one banner and foster kinship through a common quest.

Indeed, if many shared Sagan's enthusiasm, such a quest would doubtless improve human cooperation and wellbeing. But is his spirituality really an instance of a universal, or has he ignored the diversity of human attitudes and ideas?

There are many arguments for and against the space programme, and they will succeed or fail on their own merit. Yours, in particular, must survive this test: is the human spirit what you think it is?

Care to share? (none / 0) (#112)
by eldonsmith on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 12:34:45 PM EST

President Bush has called the human need to explore "existential"

While I prefer the word "settle" to "explore" I am content (for now) with the recognition that the human spirit needs to move outwards, onwards and upwards.

[ Parent ]

Hi. (none / 0) (#126)
by Megahitler Electrodictator on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 06:57:13 AM EST

But do you not agree that what is significant to one person may, perhaps, be irrelevant to another? I feel that you have not squarely met my challenge in this case.

[ Parent ]

Carl Sagan wasn't a scientist. (none / 0) (#134)
by StrifeZ on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 01:04:52 AM EST

Carl Sagan was an idiot and a fake-scientist. He had to leave Columbia and go to Cornell because Columbia refused to give him tenure, an honor reserved for respected, accomplished academics. Sagan wrote Cosmos, hosted a series on PBS, and wrote Encyclopedia Galactica which can be found in the Science Fiction section of bookshops.

Carl Sagan may have been a good entertainer, but he is uniqley one individual unworthy of the name "scientist".

[ Parent ]
You are correct! - - Dear sir or madam Z (none / 0) (#139)
by Pop Top on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 10:24:02 AM EST

Sagan was NO scientist. This guy is a true scientist.

Obviously the cosmos cannot be billions of years old. All true scientists know that.

[ Parent ]

Is this really his vision? (none / 2) (#106)
by lukme on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 02:08:42 AM EST

President Bush is to be praised for his bold new vision

I think the retoric is a piled higher and deeper here since he is just reiterating what his father said, and the chinese have said more recently.

Take a look at http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/14/china.spacerace/index.html

It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
Right on point (none / 1) (#117)
by epburn on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 03:35:32 PM EST

The New York Times published an excellent analysis of whether the younger Bush's "bold new strategy" is anything more than a grab at a few news cycles. Broad and many of his sources point out that the critical moments in this timeline take place well after even a second Bush term, allowing maximum talk with minimum responsibility. There is no way to hold him accountable to this plan aside from his fiscal support, and it seems many astronomers are appropriately cautious.

[ Parent ]
Russian Spacecraft (none / 1) (#111)
by bladder on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 12:24:12 PM EST

Why not just purchase Russian made spacecraft instead?

Their soyus craft seem pretty reliable and this delta-X thing sounds like essentially the same thing, so what's the point?

The money saved could be better spent doing science missions instead of bulding all of this manned crap. People have to get over the idea that exploration has to be done by humans. Reality is not the sci-fi channel.

I think there should be some manned flight as we need to undestand it, but spending 99% of the budget on it is stupid at this point. If the US had spent its space cash on remote sensing and probes then we might have somewhere to send a human by now.

I mean, we have an orbiting habitaion for half a dozen people, but we have no idea if the next planet over has water on it.

It is illegal to pay the Russians for spacecraft (none / 2) (#113)
by eldonsmith on Sat Jan 17, 2004 at 12:38:49 PM EST

Seems they have been helping the Iranians develop nuclear technology so Congress passed a law.

Sean O'Keefe has worked out some elaborate barter tricks. For example, we give the Spanish some aid over here and Madrid pays the Russians for a ride on Soyuz and an American astronaut just sort of tags along.

Beltway bureaucrats, go figure!

[ Parent ]

Junk the space shuttle? (none / 0) (#125)
by QuantumG on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 04:13:41 AM EST

Good plan. How about this instead. We automate the space shuttle, use it for what it is still good for (ferrying stuff to the ISS) and eliminate the possibility of another "tragic day" when it blows up next. With all the money we save not training and feeding astros to fly the damn thing we can research why the parts that were supposed to be reusable arnt anymore and concentrate on making something that is reusable (or preferably, just a single freakin' part that doesn't require fishing stuff out of the ocean every time we wanna go up).

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
Cost/Benefit Ratio (none / 0) (#128)
by hardburn on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 12:41:59 PM EST

The shuttle is expensive. If all you want is an unmanned ferry to the ISS, there are much cheeper alternatives, and have been for years. If you want a manned space program, it's better to scrap the expensive shuttle and use that money to build an alternative. There really isn't a good reason to keep using the shuttle, except that it happens to be America's only option for a manned space program right now. It should have been junked years ago.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
You mean other than the fact that it exists? (none / 0) (#129)
by QuantumG on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 05:35:31 PM EST

It's a billion dollar program and it works. The only problem with the space shuttle is that it occasionally blows up with people on board. It's clear that we can't stop the shuttle from blowing up, so let's take the people off.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Uhh . . . (none / 0) (#132)
by hardburn on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 10:35:35 PM EST

There is no point to the shuttle if its unmanned. You're better off with a Titan IV. It'll be a lot cheeper and gets the job done. Now, if you want a manned program, the shuttle is America's only current option until one of the X-Prize teams gets off.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Is a Delta IV better than (none / 0) (#133)
by eldonsmith on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 12:06:49 AM EST

this idea? And, if you believe Delta IV is better, can you explain why?

[ Parent ]
They solve different problems (none / 0) (#138)
by hardburn on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 09:05:30 AM EST

The orginal poster wants to take the existing Shuttle module and modify it for purely unmanned use. The Shuttle-B wants to take a few components from the existing Shuttle to do primarily (but not entirely limited to) unmanned missions

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
We automate the space shuttle... (none / 0) (#135)
by Shren on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 01:13:01 AM EST

Right. Automate the space shuttle. You'd be one computer error away from a disaster that makes 9/11 look like well-planned urban renewal.

Do you think about these things or do you just think that the word "automate" sounds sexy?

[ Parent ]

yep (none / 0) (#136)
by the sixth replicant on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:26:52 AM EST

someone needs to swap the tape drives from the ascent module to the landing module.


[ Parent ]

I believe the russians did something similar (none / 0) (#140)
by phred on Tue Jan 20, 2004 at 10:18:08 AM EST

with their shuttle lookalike. Ie., the shuttle flew unmanned.

Now this may not be "automated", but it could be a heavy lifter without the meatsack overhead. Given that launches are always pretty risky, I don't see the downside (except for perhaps the cost of converting the thing, although I could be wrong).

[ Parent ]

Sorry, it's just more empty words (none / 2) (#127)
by jd on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 11:42:35 AM EST

The US has had several alternatives to the shuttle designed, built and tested. President Bush has spent not a single dime on them. He's only interested in cashing in on NASAs recent Mars success.

Let's look at some of the evidence for this. His abandonment of the Hubble Space Telescope. If he was interested in space exploration, he'd be interested in knowing what's there, right? Especially what those ultra-massive Gamma-Ray bursts are from, and whether they can be predicted.

One zap from one of those would fry the occupants of any manned space vehicle. Right now, we know that they're the most extreme source of gamma rays in the Universe, they're very localized and they're evenly distributed across the sky. What we don't know is anything else. The more high-power telescopes we have in space that can help in identifying these, the better.

Now, we move onto the next issue. the ISS. One of the original justifications for it was that it could serve as a way-station for a Mars voyage. The technical demands on a rocket in an atmosphere are very different from those of a rocket in space, so assembling a rocket for Mars on Earth is rather stupid.

Something that is aerodynamic enough to not burn itself into a cinder or run out of fuel trying to displace air, shielded enough to keep radiation down, large enough to hold a decent-sized crew for 7-12 months without them going stir-crazy, and small enough that manoevers don't rip the vessel apart from inertial forces...

Much, much simpler to build in space. Fewer variables.

Personally, I think the ISS has been a gigantic waste of money, so fat, but this could be its saving grace. Adapt the ISS to being a construction and launch platform, then build the Mars rocket there.

Of course, we all know that the real reason for the money is that President Bush wants his ABM system but the military hasn't been able to deliver.

How do we know this is the real reason? Because President Bush has no interest in technology or science, and a Mars mission would be about both. Because the systems that exist that would be required for such a mission are being scrapped. Because if President Bush really, trully wanted man on Mars, it wouldn't take 30 years or bilions of dollars.

The cost, the timescale, and the dismantling of what would be vital infrastructure are very telling. The cost and timescale are just about right hor his dream "Star Wars II" ABM system. On the other hand, if we wanted to go to Mars for real, it would likely cost less than a single billion, and take five to ten years at most.

Remember, getting to the moon took less than a decade, and at that time we didn't even know wwhat the moon surface was composed of! We had no maps usable for a landing, we had next to no knowledge of rocketry, computers were less powerful than a modern pocket calculator and guidance systems capable of putting a rocket into a free-return orbit over those kinds of distances were the stuff of sci-fi.

We still got there. We already know more about Mars than we did then about the moon. We already have rockets that can travel those distances with near pinpoint precision. We have computers that can operate in space with high reliability. We have life-support systems that can operate over the timescales required.

What we don't have is enough data on deep-space extreme events, nor facilities capable of building a vehicle large enough.

Compared to the Apollo missions, these problems are relatively minor and can be solved in a very short time. But not by diverting cash from the very projects that can solve them!

The current plans would be like Ford closing all its car plants, in order to design the ultimate 2005 model. Even if you produced the design - and it's unlikely, 'cos you've laid off all the designers by closing the plants - you couldn't then build it! You've nothing to build it with!

Now, sure, I believe NASA is underfunded. I'd like to see them get a billion extra a year. It might even be enough for them to get something useful done. But to reach Mars - assuming the other projects remain active and are properly maintained?

Reaching a moon of Jupiter within a decade might need a billion a year. That's tougher, as you'vre the asteroid belt and Jupiter's radiation to contend with. Unmanned probes don't worry about minor structural damage, but a manned vehicle certainly would. Radiation-tolerent components (I listed a whole bunch a few years back, on here) can be far tougher than the average person.

Yes, I can see that taking longer. But 10 years is still generous for that. In 30 years, a well-funded NASA should be sending manned missions into the Keplar Belt.

That is why I believe this is crap. The timeframe is such that Bush can have his advanced rocket systems for shooting down missiles. Once that is in place, and the Rover mission is forgotten history, he can quietly scrap the Mars Mission and nobody will even notice.

This isn't about science, it's about deception for the purpose of abusing a science organization to make their machinations come true.

What part of 'build' are you refering to? (none / 0) (#130)
by QuantumG on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 05:48:09 PM EST

Much, much simpler to build in space.

It is? How you going to do that exactly? Are you going to shoot up raw materials and a bunch of minimum wage steel workers to build it in a factory that doesn't exist? Or are you talking about building parts and assembling those parts in space? If so, you're not going to do it with astronauts, building just about anything in space is very hard. Robots? Possibily, but it's easier to talk about it than to do it.

The moon on the other hand has a gravity and it has raw materials available.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]

this might happen instead (none / 1) (#137)
by the sixth replicant on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 07:39:51 AM EST

- shuttle is decomissioned
- so is IIS
- so is Hubble
these decisions are now set in law (or will be)

all of their replacements will be overbudget, underfunded and years overdue, and NASA will be in the same position it is in *now*!

congress will be very unhappy and not fund some of the above essential projects due to the inevitable bugdet overruns

not to get political but Bush, i think, cares less for science than he does for universal health care (yes that much)

increasing the budget by a billion a year is a joke even if it was just to get the replacements going, let alone a Mission to Mars(TM)

talk about bad leadership : in fact this sort of automatic generation of incompatible goals (time, money etc) is what the Columbia Accident Investigation Board talked about as the leading cause of NASA's human disasters


Space Lift (none / 0) (#143)
by Cackmobile on Wed Jan 21, 2004 at 10:09:56 AM EST

GW should invest in a space elevator. We have the nanotubes. We just need more cash to perfect them. We should do it now. Maybe we could use rope. Get one of those indian guys that raise the rope from the ground

Oh, for crying out loud ... (none / 0) (#145)
by EphraimT on Fri Jan 23, 2004 at 03:48:20 AM EST

... this is George Bush we're talking about! The whole idea was to:

1. Capitalize politically on the Mars landing, and; 2. Divert public attention (however momentarily) from the earthly concerns of dead soldiers in Iraq and mounting numbers of homeless and poor here at home, and; 3. Signal somebody that the Chinese are not the only space faring society left on earth.

George Bush could care less about Mars, and the moon program will last as long as there is any threat that someone else might go up there and find some use for it.

President Bush and US Space Policy | 143 comments (124 topical, 19 editorial, 2 hidden)
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