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BrainGlutton
01-12-2004, 09:31 PM
I can't seem to find a link, but I'm sure you've all heard the news by now: President Bush has proposed establishing a permanent manned station on the Moon, and a manned expedition to Mars. What do you think? Greatest thing ever? Good idea but impractical? Cynical election-year ploy? If we get a Democrat in the White House next year, would he follow the same policy or not?

jshore
01-12-2004, 09:39 PM
I think it's a dumb idea.

But, speaking of good ideas, it is always a good idea to check carefully to see if your thread topic is unique...Here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=234225) is another thread on the same subject.

John Mace
01-12-2004, 09:50 PM
What, no quote from Michael Lind? :)

We covered a lot of this in Sam Stone's thread over the last week or so. But these plans, from what I've read, will span a decade or more, meaning that they'll need to support of successive adminstration. Good luck.

Cardinal
01-12-2004, 09:59 PM
I was part of a long-winded debate here on this topic a couple months ago, and I still can't vote in favor of it.

The moon shots were created mostly for the PR value during the Cold War. I'm sure that a number of things made it "from tactical to practical", but I just can't see taking that much money and using it to employ people to do things that don't increase production of things that people really need. You can't eat or wear Mars landings.

No, I don't buy the idea that we should do it "because it's there". The difference in cost between this and Hillary's climb must be a factor of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions.

AtomicDog
01-13-2004, 01:06 AM
If not now, when? If we wait for a perfect world before going back to the Moon, we'll be waiting forever. I think that thirty years of waiting is long damned enough. Ad Luna!

Mops
01-13-2004, 11:57 AM
This is one project that we can make the project of our species. That would be worth the effort.

I still remember well July 20, 1969. All people from the 4 families in our apartment house staircase were sitting (late at night, our time) in the living room of the one family who had a TV. We were so proud that we (=humans) had reached the Moon.

Mankind needs to do things that transcend our consuming more and engaging in rivalries that future generations will wonder why anyone wasted their life with them.

The whole Apollo program cost $ 25 billion (http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/NASA.Educational.Products/The.Apollo.Program/The.Apollo.Program.pdf) (1960s' dollars, presumably - i.e. very roughly (ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt) equivalent to six times that in today's dollars), over the course of more than a decade. That's the sort of money that the world's rich countries can easily afford together.

athelas
01-13-2004, 12:23 PM
(This is taken from an essay I wrote last year, but it is still applicable)

In Defense of Space Exploration

After the Columbia tragedy (the use of the word “travesty” in the title of the aforementioned editorial, defined as “a grotesque or farcical imitation for purposes of ridicule” was either a typo or an extremely skewed interpretation of the incident), the worst possible way to honor the dead would be to cancel the space program that they risked their lives to advance. The loss of life is a tragedy, but it is an inevitable consequence of any program that seeks to expand the human race beyond its boundaries. Human history has been a series of these advances; the lack of any of them would have dramatic consequences for life as we know it. Imagine what would follow if a television broadcast in 15th century Spain had read “Contact with Expedition 17 to find a western route to the Indies has been lost, presumably due to man-eating sea monsters. There has been an enormous backlash against the exploration program, resulting in the royal family of Spain turning down a request for funding by one Christopher Columbus. And now on to sports …”
The editorial dismissed spin-offs from the space program, mentioning only MRI, which it claims often does not work. Actually, MRI is a very powerful and accurate tool, allowing high-definition “slices” of the body to be shown without surgery. The other products that the space exploration has produced are legion. Miniaturization of myriad appliances (cell phones are one example) is the most evident. Satellites are another example of products generated by the space program; they are indispensable for the aforementioned cell phones, as well as for information transfer, GPS, and weather forecasting.
But these are small potatoes compared with the possibilities offered by space exploration. After all, the main products of Columbus’ expeditions were not new ideas for ship design or a stronger material for sails. There is a finite amount of many materials on Earth, and space could be an answer to the eventual lack of some of them. Asteroid mining is one of the most promising sources of metals such as iron and nickel, and could provide other useful and more exotic materials such as iridium, one of the densest, hardest, and rarest, elements, which could have widespread uses, such as radiation shields (as from computer monitors). The possibilities of other space products are quite literally beyond the imagination. Many useful materials can be manufactured best in zero-G, such as carbon nanotubes, tightly coiled rods of carbon “thread” which are hundreds of times stronger than steel.
It is not only beneficial to go into space, but the alternative, remaining on Earth, is also dangerous. Space is the only way to assure the survival of humans. A species that cannot adapt and spread as conditions allow is eventually doomed to extinction. Having all humans on only one planet is truly putting all eggs in one cosmic basket. Earth is approached by approximately 1,500 asteroids that are large enough to cause global catastrophe if one was to strike the earth. The resources delegated to near-earth object spotting are not sufficient to prevent this (Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong, eventually will). Astronomers were taken by surprise when a meteoroid passed within a few million kilometers from Earth, a very small distance in space. We do not want to meet the same fate as the dinosaurs – becoming extinct through the collision of a meteoroid. Setting up colonies on other planets can help to minimize the effects of this inevitable occurrence on the survival of our species.
This essential endeavor cannot be advanced by canceling it as the editorial suggested, any more than hunger or war will end if we simply let them simmer for a few decades. What will happen that will magically make a casualty-free, 100% efficient, warm-and-fuzzy space program? The only logical answer would be Vulcans coming to Earth. Just as one cannot jump from arithmetic to calculus, it is not possible to expect problems with spacecraft to solve themselves over a half-century. After all, the entire point of the space program is to test out space-related technology, something that cannot be done in a laboratory. If anything, the spacecraft after the proposed hiatus will be less safe, because the newer technology that would have been developed would not have been tested in the demanding conditions of space. Imagine what would happen if the first humans abandoned making canoes because they couldn’t get to another continent, fishing was not yet profitable, and people – gasp – actually die on these early missions. Abandoning canoe-making for a half-century would not miraculously create a fleet of functional galleons. No pain, no gain.
Saying that we should not pursue space exploration because there are still problems in the world is akin to a parent saying “Don’t eat all your food because there are starving children in the world”: not eating the food will not help one starving child. The amount of NASA funding is currently chicken feed compared to the national budget, and diverting its few billion dollars will not make a significant difference in any major endeavor. In fact, colonizing other planets or the moon may eventually increase food production and alleviate world hunger, since almost all arable land in the world is farmed. Hydroponic agricultural colonies on the moon or on Mars can provide the needed food. Additionally, while eliminating the ills of humanity is an important (though not totally attainable) goal, to say that we must either abandon the space program or give up all hope eliminating these problems is to present a false dichotomy.
It is clear, then, that humans must continue their outward push into space. The benefits are too great, and the consequences are too dire, to stop such an endeavor. Let us, therefore, not flinch from the future, but shoulder the burden and continue our trek to the stars.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
01-13-2004, 04:54 PM
If not now, when? If we wait for a perfect world before going back to the Moon, we'll be waiting forever. I think that thirty years of waiting is long damned enough. Ad Luna!

Going to Mars has proved to be so problematical I think it's premature to think about it. If we don't know yet how to make an earthbound Biosphere self-supporting, then good luck doing so on a planet hundreds of millions of miles, and in the spacecraft needed to get there. But I do think returning to the Moon would be a good idea. It doesn't seem like it should be so much harder getting to the Moon, and building a base there, than doing the same in low earth orbit.

Rune
01-13-2004, 05:11 PM
The space project is probably well worth it in the scientist engineers etc. it help educate and train and attract. Yesterday in the Danish news, there was a story wherin company leaders complained that the American Mars project had “vacuumed and brain-drained” (their words) the Danish labour market for the young skilled scientist and engineers they desperately needed themselves. The space project is so much more interesting to work in than anything they could dish up with. These people are not for the most coming back to Denmark, but will remain in America even after the stopped working at NASA. They further very much suggested Denmark jump on any space wagon NASA may have, for our own benefit.

- Rune

BrainGlutton
01-13-2004, 08:05 PM
Going to Mars has proved to be so problematical I think it's premature to think about it. If we don't know yet how to make an earthbound Biosphere self-supporting, then good luck doing so on a planet hundreds of millions of miles, and in the spacecraft needed to get there.

Only if you're trying to make the habitat "self-sustaining" in the sense Biosphere 2 was supposed to be self-sustaining -- i.e., as a closed ecosystem, with the plants providing enough breathable air for all the humans and animals, etc. I think it would be possible, with currently existing technology, to build a habitat in which a dozen or so astronauts could live, eight months on the journey to Mars and eight months back. We would just have to provide the habitat with sufficient stores of compressed air and freeze-dried food. The real problem is that all that storage space, plus adequate living space that the astronauts don't go crazy with cabin fever, plus adequate fuel stores for the return trip, would make the ship BIGGER than any spaceship or space station yet built. Ben Bova's sf novel Mars, about the first manned expedition to Mars, painted a pretty plausible picture of how it could be done.

GoHeels
01-13-2004, 08:46 PM
Personally, I wish we'd devote all that Mars money toward a national initiative to come up with a safe, environmentally-sound, cost-efficient alternative energy source, and watch with satisfaction as our Saudi friends go broke and return to the desert as nomads, and we can quit kissing their asses.

I can dream, can't I?

Jann
01-13-2004, 09:20 PM
The space program so far has just wasted money.
What if there had never been a scientific space program (I won't argue missles, not when USSR and even Hitler had them)

But what if all that "science" money had gone into feeding the world?

carnivorousplant
01-13-2004, 10:49 PM
I'm all for going to Mars, but why return to the Moon?
It's a dumb idea as a launch or assembly point. It takes energy to get into and out of the Moon's gravity well. Is there anything else to be learned from the Moon?

jshore
01-13-2004, 11:17 PM
The editorial dismissed spin-offs from the space program, mentioning only MRI, which it claims often does not work. Actually, MRI is a very powerful and accurate tool, allowing high-definition “slices” of the body to be shown without surgery. The other products that the space exploration has produced are legion. Miniaturization of myriad appliances (cell phones are one example) is the most evident. Satellites are another example of products generated by the space program; they are indispensable for the aforementioned cell phones, as well as for information transfer, GPS, and weather forecasting.

You are mixing up the concepts of "space exploration" and "manned space exploration." Yes, there have been a lot of benefits to space exploration but nearly all of them have come from the unmanned programs. If you then look at it in terms of value (i.e., benefits/cost), the difference between the manned and unmanned is even greater because manned programs suck money like mad.


Many useful materials can be manufactured best in zero-G, such as carbon nanotubes, tightly coiled rods of carbon “thread” which are hundreds of times stronger than steel.

Here (http://www.house.gov/science/park_4-9.html) and here (http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=10831) is testimony before Congress by Robert Park, a physicist at University of Maryland who was Director of Public Affairs for the American Physical Society for many years. I particularly direct your attention to the discussion of growing crystals in microgravity. (Perhaps growing carbon nanontubes is the latest "idea" since the myth of the virtues of crystal growth in zero-G has been debunked?)

More recently, here (http://www.aps.org/WN/WN04/wn010904.html) is what Park had to say last Friday regarding the rumors of Bush's initiative:


MARS: "LIKE COLUMBUS, WE DREAM OF SHORES WE’VE NOT YET SEEN."
Those stirring words were spoken by President George H. Bush on the steps of the Air and Space Museum on July 24, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. He called for a return to the Moon, and on to Mars. President George W. Bush, who seems driven to complete his father’s unfinished work, is expected to issue a similar call next Wednesday. It’s a curiously old-fashioned dream. Progress of society is measured by the extent to which work that is menial or dangerous is performed by machines. The scientists that command telerobots like Spirit, having become virtual astronauts, are the explorers of today.



The space project is probably well worth it in the scientist engineers etc. it help educate and train and attract. Yesterday in the Danish news, there was a story wherin company leaders complained that the American Mars project had “vacuumed and brain-drained” (their words) the Danish labour market for the young skilled scientist and engineers they desperately needed themselves. The space project is so much more interesting to work in than anything they could dish up with. These people are not for the most coming back to Denmark, but will remain in America even after the stopped working at NASA. They further very much suggested Denmark jump on any space wagon NASA may have, for our own benefit.

I'm going to need some sort of cite on this to know what you are talking about. What is the "American Mars project"? Was this the proposed manned program under Bush Sr...which I doubt since it never went anywhere. If it was the unmanned program, it doesn't prove anything about the virtues of pursuing manned missions. Few people would argue about the scientific value of the unmanned space program.

jshore
01-13-2004, 11:23 PM
Here (http://www.aps.org/statements/91.2.html), by the way, is an official statement from the American Physical Society from 1991 in regards to the space station:


91.2 STATEMENT ON THE MANNED SPACE STATION

(Adopted by Council - 20 January l991)

The Council of the American Physical Society is concerned that there remains widespread public and governmental misunderstanding of the justification for the Manned Space Station. After a review of the experimental program proposed for the Space Station the Council is issuing the following statement:

It is the view of the Council of the American Physical Society that scientific justification is lacking for a permanently manned space station in earth orbit. We are concerned that the potential contributions of a manned space station to the physical sciences have been greatly overstated and that many of the scientific objectives currently planned for the space station could be accomplished more effectively and at a much lower cost on earth, on unmanned robotic platforms, or on the shuttle.

The United States needs a vigorous space science program, but such a program can be implemented for the foreseeable future without the proposed manned space station.


(Although it doesn't speak directly to the issue of a Mars mission, it does discuss the fact that there has been a tendency on the part of those advocating for manned missions to exaggerate the scientific benefits.)

AtomicDog
01-14-2004, 12:40 AM
The space program so far has just wasted money.
What if there had never been a scientific space program (I won't argue missles, not when USSR and even Hitler had them)

But what if all that "science" money had gone into feeding the world?

Perhaps you can show me how "all that" money spent on science and space has kept one person from being fed.

scotandrsn
01-14-2004, 02:43 AM
The space program so far has just wasted money.
What if there had never been a scientific space program (I won't argue missles, not when USSR and even Hitler had them)

But what if all that "science" money had gone into feeding the world?



:rolleyes: Oh, dear, not again...

The current world population is 6 billion, give or take a few mil...

NASA's annual budget is $15 billion, give or take a few mil...

What's anyone going to eat on $2.50 a year?

jshore
01-14-2004, 10:14 AM
By the way, the Bush Administration's decision to pull out of the International Space Station at this point is basically an open acknowledgement that the critics of it such as Park were absolutely right. How much did we waste on that thing?!?!

You would think that the fact that these critics were right would give policymakers a little humility so that they would at least feel compelled to listen carefully to what these same critics are saying this time! I suppose that would be too logical.

Rune
01-14-2004, 10:25 AM
I'm going to need some sort of cite on this to know what you are talking about. What is the "American Mars project"? Was this the proposed manned program under Bush Sr...which I doubt since it never went anywhere. If it was the unmanned program, it doesn't prove anything about the virtues of pursuing manned missions. Few people would argue about the scientific value of the unmanned space program.No cite, just something from the tellevision I heard in passing. The ”Mars Project” was the current rovers. The post wasn’t intended as a proof of anything to do with the science part. Just to point out an additional benefit of a space program. Supposedly an even larger manned moon / mars project would be able to attaract even more talented scientist from all over the world to America.

- Rune

spanna
01-14-2004, 10:34 AM
We need to go so that those damn moonmen don't develop WMD and pass them on to terrorists.

If we do nothing now the first sign might be a mushroom cloaud over a US city

Grey
01-14-2004, 11:22 AM
By the way, the Bush Administration's decision to pull out of the International Space Station at this point is basically an open acknowledgement that the critics of it such as Park were absolutely right. How much did we waste on that thing?!?!

You would think that the fact that these critics were right would give policymakers a little humility so that they would at least feel compelled to listen carefully to what these same critics are saying this time! I suppose that would be too logical.Cite for the US immediately dumping the ISS please. As to the final costs, well the State department turned ISS into a make work project for Russian scientist to prevent proliferation. By complicating the project in that manner, it seems almost inevitable that cost overruns would show up.

Besides, according to here ( http://interestalert.com/brand/siteia.shtml?Story=st%2Fsn%2F01130002aaa069ef.upi&Sys=siteia&Fid=LATEBRKN&Type=News&Filter=Late%20Breaking) shuttles get retired first, ISS is used until 2013 and then the US gets out. 10 years worth of use, 15 years work of building expertise. Not great, but hardly terrible.

jshore
01-14-2004, 03:01 PM
No cite, just something from the tellevision I heard in passing. The ”Mars Project” was the current rovers. The post wasn’t intended as a proof of anything to do with the science part. Just to point out an additional benefit of a space program. Supposedly an even larger manned moon / mars project would be able to attaract even more talented scientist from all over the world to America.

- Rune

Except that talented scientists tend to be attracted to good science not to good PR. The reason those scientists were attracted to the rover missions is because that's good science.

I'm sure that there will be some interesting science/technological issues in trying to get men to Mars but for the price we are going to pay it would likely make more sense to fund real science directly. (And the actual science that these manned missions themselves will perform will almost certainly be trivial in comparison to what the robotic missions perform.)


Cite for the US immediately dumping the ISS please. As to the final costs, well the State department turned ISS into a make work project for Russian scientist to prevent proliferation. By complicating the project in that manner, it seems almost inevitable that cost overruns would show up.

Besides, according to here shuttles get retired first, ISS is used until 2013 and then the US gets out. 10 years worth of use, 15 years work of building expertise. Not great, but hardly terrible.


Okay, my bad on the timeline of us getting out of the ISS ... All I heard on the news this morning was that we were going to get out of the ISS; I didn't hear the timescale. [I of course wait with baited breath to see all the exciting science that gets performed by the space station over the next nine years.]

As for the State Department's involvement, considering that they provided the only useful rationale for the ISS, I hardly think one should blame the whole fiasco on them. (My only critique of their point of view is that it probably would have been much cheaper to just pay the Russian scientists directly.) And, I doubt that is what the cost overruns are mainly attributable to. Look back at the shuttle program and you'll probably see similar cost overruns.

Rune
01-14-2004, 03:45 PM
Except that talented scientists tend to be attracted to good science not to good PR. The reason those scientists were attracted to the rover missions is because that's good science.

I'm sure that there will be some interesting science/technological issues in trying to get men to Mars but for the price we are going to pay it would likely make more sense to fund real science directly. (And the actual science that these manned missions themselves will perform will almost certainly be trivial in comparison to what the robotic missions perform.) Talented scientist and engineers are just like you and me and my uncle Bob. They get attracted to where the money is.
I think your dichotomy is false. It’s not a choice between using the money on robot missions or human missions. But between human missions and higher subsidies to hog farmers or something. Anyway I disagree that the science will be trivial. I think human in space is the most important element of the space program. I suppose a Moon / Mars project will solve a great many problems regarding how to help humans survive in space, which BTW robot missions will do very little to solve. Knowledge gained from robot missions is splendid, but I believe ultimately that knowledge should be used for something more directly involving man.

- Rune

ElvisL1ves
01-14-2004, 04:03 PM
Winston:Talented scientist and engineers are just like you and me and my uncle Bob. They get attracted to where the money is.In general, I don't think so, and you're doing them a disservice by dismissing them that way. Most of the ones I know, and I hope I'm one of them too, are attracted by psychological rewards first. Sure, the money has to be adequate to live on and raise a family with, and a vast amount of money can be attractive enough to a bright young technologist to lure him away, but that is hardly at the top of the list when career-hunting.

The sheer size and significance of a project, the chance to be able to say one day "I did that" and get an awed response, the opportunity to truly change humanity or the world, the chance to learn something important that nobody else has ever known, the simple sexiness of the project, that's what attracts top technical talent.

Which is not to say that this is it. It isn't the money, less than 10 milli-Iraqs/year, but the timeline and the commitment to it, requiring real leadership and vision, that are questionable here. We've had enough false starts and abandoned-partway projects since the end of Apollo to make an entire generation of aerospace geeks nauseous, and there's no reason to do it again. From the little that's been leaked, Bush intends to ignore the ISS (pissing off all those little non-Coalition countries that trusted us, but fuck 'em) and drain other already-shoestringed NASA programs to help fund what I've heard called "Moon Base Dubya". One might hope that he'll actually do something about it, not make a bold speech like his dad did then simply refuse to do anything at all to make it happen.

Yes, we need to do it, for our species' sake. No, this guy won't make it happen, and if he tries, his failure will help keep it from ever being tried again.

jshore
01-14-2004, 06:18 PM
I think your dichotomy is false. It’s not a choice between using the money on robot missions or human missions.

Well, this is far from clear. Here is what the NY Times article says:


The president appeared to leave himself some latitude on the subject of costs. In the days leading up to this afternoon's speech, there were reports that he would propose an increase of about 5 percent, or $750 million, in next year's budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with similar increases to follow over the next several years.

Today, Mr. Bush said much of the money for what he envisions would come from reallocating $11 billion of NASA's current five-year budget of $86 billion, and that he would ask Congress to increase the agency's budget by "roughly a billion dollars, spread over the next five years."


So, most of the money would actually come from re-allocating portions of NASA's budget. Would this all come out of the manned program or will part of it come out of the unmanned program and other programs that are actually doing real science?

By the way, Grey, the NY Times article also says "The president said the United States should commit itself to completing work on the international space station, in conjunction with America's 15 partners, by 2010." I don't know what this means exactly.

BrainGlutton
01-14-2004, 06:35 PM
I'm sure that there will be some interesting science/technological issues in trying to get men to Mars but for the price we are going to pay it would likely make more sense to fund real science directly. (And the actual science that these manned missions themselves will perform will almost certainly be trivial in comparison to what the robotic missions perform.)

Nonsense. The ONLY advantage of a robot probe over a manned expedition is that a robot probe is much cheaper -- requiring no life support, nor extra fuel for a return trip. But there is no scientific research a robot can do, that human astronauts on the scene can't do better; and, at the present stage of robotic technology, there is a lot of research humans can do, that robots can't do at all. Do you think a robot is going to be able to dig deep into the crust of Mars and look for fossils? Or, if it finds them, bring them back to Earth for study?

BrainGlutton
01-14-2004, 06:40 PM
At any rate, the Planetary Society has posted an appreciative response to Bush's plans: http://planetary.org/human/president_statement.html. Curiously, the Mars Society (http://www.marssociety.org/index.asp) has posted no such mention on its website, as yet.

jshore
01-14-2004, 06:50 PM
Nonsense. The ONLY advantage of a robot probe over a manned expedition is that a robot probe is much cheaper -- requiring no life support, nor extra fuel for a return trip. But there is no scientific research a robot can do, that human astronauts on the scene can't do better; and, at the present stage of robotic technology, there is a lot of research humans can do, that robots can't do at all. Do you think a robot is going to be able to dig deep into the crust of Mars and look for fossils? Or, if it finds them, bring them back to Earth for study?

Well, for one thing, "cheaper" (actually much, much cheaper) means you can do more for the same price. After all, we are constantly reminded about the importance of economic tradeoffs on this board, especially by the likes of people like Sam Stone who will no doubt be here any second to argue that this sort of thing should be subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis, just as he argues must be done for various environmental regs & international agreements (even ones for which this had in fact already been done).

Besides which, Park's point is that by the time they can get humans to Mars, the robotic missions could/would have already done the most important things.

Also, it is the non-expendability of humans that makes them both so much more expensive and and also so much more fragile as explorers.

Personally, I don't see why it would be more difficult to have a robot dig into the crust and search for fossils and even return them back to the Earth than it would be to send humans there to do it. Actually, my wild guess is that it would be easier (although by no means easy) all things considered.

By the way, here (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=96&ncid=753&e=10&u=/space/20040114/sc_space/eagertogotomarsscientistsoffercautiouspraiseforbushplan) is an article that gives a variety of scientific views on Bush's proposal.

As regards funding tradeoffs:


Astronomers are concerned about the details of how Bush's plans will be funded.

Bush did not outline any major changes to the robotic portion of NASA's budget. An internal White House statement obtained by Space News and SPACE.com says NASA would remain committed to expenditures in aviation, education and Earth science.

Marvel is also concerned that Bush's call to devote the shuttles to building the space station and to retire shuttle fleet in 2010 would eliminate any chance of servicing Hubble, either to extend its life or even possibly improve it. Past shuttle missions have repaired the orbiting observatory and even installed a new and better camera.

"Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers" to putting humans on Mars, Bush said today.

Congressional sources told Space News, however, that NASA officials have said the refocusing would affect science programs not related to the new vision. No specifics were given but one source said, "The rate of growth for the science budget will be slowed down."

Funding for NASA space science -- which includes robotic missions to the planets and the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes but not satellites studying the Earth -- has jumped significantly in recent years after a decade of fairly flat spending. In 2000, space science received $2.2 billion, compared to $4 billion for 2004.

Kevin Marvel, an astronomer and spokesman for the American Astronomical Society, said the lack of details provided by the president left his colleagues anxious about whether space science funding would be cut or go flat.

jshore
01-14-2004, 06:53 PM
At any rate, the Planetary Society has posted an appreciative response to Bush's plans: http://planetary.org/human/president_statement.html.

Now, that is quite a surprise! Who would have thought that group would endorse their own idea (http://planetary.org/human/grassroots.html)?!?

John Mace
01-14-2004, 07:35 PM
Nonsense. The ONLY advantage of a robot probe over a manned expedition is that a robot probe is much cheaper -- requiring no life support, nor extra fuel for a return trip. But there is no scientific research a robot can do, that human astronauts on the scene can't do better; and, at the present stage of robotic technology, there is a lot of research humans can do, that robots can't do at all. Do you think a robot is going to be able to dig deep into the crust of Mars and look for fossils? Or, if it finds them, bring them back to Earth for study?
I tend to agree with jshore on this. One of the key arguments for space exploration is spinoff technolgoy. Improving AI and robotics to the point where those technologies get significantly closer to human capabilities would seem to be a very useful indeed. People can always follow later, as technology makes it cheaper and (more importantly) safer.

duality72
01-14-2004, 07:36 PM
Dumb idea. The money would be better spent on researching space elevators and better unmanned missions. Throw some of it at the ISS if you have to feed the 'humans in space' jones.

AtomicDog
01-14-2004, 08:10 PM
Dumb idea. The money would be better spent on researching space elevators and better unmanned missions. Throw some of it at the ISS if you have to feed the 'humans in space' jones.

The ISS is not sufficient. The only way to learn to survive on the Moon is to go there and learn to survive. The only way to learn how to perform deep space missions is to undertake them. The technology to develop space elevators does not exist. The technology to colonize the Moon and go to Mars does, and needs to be matured.

BrainGlutton
01-14-2004, 08:25 PM
Here's a rather cynical response from New Urbanist commentator James Howard Kunstler's online column, "Clusterfuck Nation," at http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary9.html:

January 12, 2004
With the United States facing a permanent natural gas shortfall and a global oil crunch, and with no other means to run the hyper-turbo-warehouse-on-wheels WalMart economy that we have allowed to insidiously evolve around us, it is astounding that President Bush now wants to re-start the space exploration program, to send men back to the moon and beyond. Nothing could be more emblematic of yesterday's tomorrow. Instead we need to prepare for the real tomorrow.
Here is a list of things that America needs much more than a reenactment of our bygone exploits in space.
-- An up-to-date and comprehensive passenger rail system.
-- Reconstruction of interurban light rail lines connecting smaller towns to larger cities.
-- A single-payer national health care system.
-- Many thousands of new, smaller schools to replace the gigantic suburban factory schools and decrepitating inner city factory schools.
-- Two divisions of the Army deployed to secure our border with Mexico.
-- A comprehensive agricultural reform program including support for local, small-scale farming, local value-added production of farm products, community gardens, and agricultural education.
-- A federal department of de-suburbanization to help states and counties cope with the enormous problems we will soon face with our misallocated resources.

Sam Stone
01-14-2004, 08:29 PM
Well, for one thing, "cheaper" (actually much, much cheaper) means you can do more for the same price. After all, we are constantly reminded about the importance of economic tradeoffs on this board, especially by the likes of people like Sam Stone who will no doubt be here any second to argue that this sort of thing should be subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis, just as he argues must be done for various environmental regs & international agreements (even ones for which this had in fact already been done).


Of course. And just because I'm a big proponent of space exploration doesn't mean I'm an instant convert to any big-government boondoggle that promises the moon but can't deliver.

So far, this program is long on vision, and short on details. That's where the devil lies. I'll be mighty pissed if some bloated, unrealistic program comes along that displaces funding for programs that have a large chance of success and a high return on investment. For instance, I'll be sorely disappointed if the Terrestrial Planet Finder and the James Webb telescope get axed to pay for this.

One thing I hope we can agree on is that *something had to change. The current NASA is a mess. We have a very expensive space station that does no real science, being maintained by a shrinking fleet of space shuttles that are getting long in the tooth and risky. These two programs between them consume about six billion dollars a year, and we get very little in return. The current state of affairs is unsustainable and extremely expensive. Kudos for Bush for shaking the establishment.

elfkin477
01-14-2004, 08:43 PM
What do I think of Bush's idea? " Oh, God, the democrats are right, he is a moron."

I do wonder, though, if there's a correlation between thinking the space program is worthwhile and having been alive in 1969, and thinking it's a foolish waste of money and being born after the moon landing. I bet space missions seem ever so much more impressive to people who were alive during the space race.

AtomicDog
01-14-2004, 09:08 PM
I was fourteen years old in 1969 and remember the Moon landing like it was yesterday. I think that it was the most important achievement in human history and I just cannot understand the mindset of people that think that it and the further expansion of humanity off this world is a waste. So, I guess I fit your correlation. BTW, I am as yellow a dog Democrat as you can get, but I would make a deal with the Devil incarnate to make this come true.

BrainGlutton
01-14-2004, 09:19 PM
BTW, I am as yellow a dog Democrat as you can get, but I would make a deal with the Devil incarnate to make this come true.

My sentiments exactly. Skyward ho!

carnivorousplant
01-14-2004, 09:25 PM
I just cannot understand the mindset of people that think that it and the further expansion of humanity off this world is a waste.
I am of the same age and completely agree with you.
Yet, I also cannot understand why people would want to give tax breaks and let little Black kids in Mississippi go without a school lunch.
I'll give mine back. I think it was seven bucks a week.

Cool animation on NASA TV after the speech, though.

Priam
01-14-2004, 09:33 PM
I'm just wondering about a quote I saw saying that this supposed new deep-space vessel would be constructed and tested by 2008. That's four years, folks, to fully design, build, and test a complex vehicle to the point where we can be absolutely certain it's not going to Challenger on our butts. Does anyone with more knowledge of these things think this timeline totally off-base?

BrainGlutton
01-14-2004, 09:36 PM
I'm just wondering about a quote I saw saying that this supposed new deep-space vessel would be constructed and tested by 2008. That's four years, folks, to fully design, build, and test a complex vehicle to the point where we can be absolutely certain it's not going to Challenger on our butts. Does anyone with more knowledge of these things think this timeline totally off-base?

2008? Where did you see this? Just this afternoon on the radio, I heard that Bush's plan calls for establishing a permanent Moon base by 2020, and a Mars expedition by 2030.

XT
01-14-2004, 09:40 PM
I also remember the moon landings in 1969. My folks couldn't afford a TV, so we went to a neighbors house (he was the only person in our entire area with a TV) and sat around eatting and celebrating with most of the entire neighborhood. We were dirt poor, and there were no hispanics in the space program, but we were still proud to be Americans (even those folks that WEREN'T Americans in the room...and there were quite a few of those).

I think there have always been folks content to sit back, to not push things, not to explore. Sometimes a great nation though has to push such things, even if there aren't ANY practical benifits...just to show they ARE a great nation. And I think that there are a lot of benifits not only to America but to the world for the US to do great things in space.

My only concern is that this will either A) Come to naught, as other 'plans' have or B) Simply be another One Off mission, another flags and foot prints photo OP that doesn't get us anywhere over all but looks great. If this is a REAL long term committment to space and exploration, a real vision and program with legs that will continue steadily, then hell...I'd even vote for Bush for that and I can't stand the guy.

-XT

jshore
01-14-2004, 10:18 PM
One thing I hope we can agree on is that *something had to change. The current NASA is a mess. We have a very expensive space station that does no real science, being maintained by a shrinking fleet of space shuttles that are getting long in the tooth and risky. These two programs between them consume about six billion dollars a year, and we get very little in return. The current state of affairs is unsustainable and extremely expensive. Kudos for Bush for shaking the establishment.

Well, I agree with your comments but would modify it to say that "The current manned program at NASA is a mess." The unmanned program is doing great. And, in some sense I think you are right that things could use some shaking up, although I would prefer to see the shakeup involve shifting money out of the ISS and shuttle and into unmanned stuff....with money left over to either shift to other science within NASA or shift out of NASA to other places. I suppose having some sort of low-grade program to study the future issues for manned flight is justifiable...But, I don't think there should be a go-ahead unless a strong case can be made for it. At the very least, it should not be deceptively sold as doing important science...If you want to sell it as PR (even PR for science and technology) and just exploration in the sense of climbing Everest, that is fine...at least it's honest. But, the problem is that NASA has been reduced to pretending that they are doing lots of important science in the manned program and then they just end up looking stupid when the science is debunked as being marginal at best.

Sam Stone
01-14-2004, 10:25 PM
Priam: I think your news source got it wrong. The plan is to:


Immediately begin diverting funds from other, conflicting missions to the new effort. Things like the Orbital Space Plane, Space Shuttle life extension programs, etc., can be shut down now, which will divert about 2 billion a year to the new program. This money would be used to begin financing development of a new Crew Excursion Vehicle, which is a multi-purpose capsule which will carry 6-8 astronauts on missions to orbit, the moon, the Lagrange points, Mars, "and beyond".
Give NASA another billion dollars over five years to help fund the new project.
Finish the ISS assembly by 2010
Scrap the shuttle once that's done
Once those two programs are killed, that frees up another 6 billion a year, which will also be diverted into programs to create the CEV and the moon hardware.
Fly the first robotic 'scouting' missions to the moon by 2008. These missions would be in support of an eventual manned landing - looking for landing sites, useful minerals, water, whatever they think they need to choose a viable place to start a moonbase.
Begin flying the CEV by 2014, I suppose on missions to the ISS and LEO at first.
Start manned missions to the moon by 2015-2020, of 'increasing duration'. There was no talk of a permanent manned presence in the short-term - just ever-increasing stays. I would imagine each mission would leave more material at the moonbase, gradually building it up.
Plan other missions beyond that. Mars was mentioned (by 2030), plus other destinations beyond.


Is this a reasonable plan? By my calculation, funding for this project amounts to 12 billion by 2010, and another 80 billion over the next ten years after. That's a pretty big sum, but in constant dollars it's not as much as the Apollo program cost. This is much more ambitious than Apollo, so either NASA had better get more efficient, or hope that new technologies will lower the cost.

The big problem I can see so far is that the timetable is too long. 2030 to Mars? That's what, 7 Presidential administrations from now? What are the odds that the political will will be there over that period of time?

This is exactly how the ISS went into the weeds early on. Its original grand vision was trimmed repeatedly. Component designs had to be thrown away repeatedly at great cost as the mission kept changing. Eventually, it got so expensive that it had to be scaled way back and become next to useless.

I can see it now - NASA will spend billions designing the moon program from Bush's vision. Then another president will come along and announce that priorities have changed, and the program has to mutate. Can't afford a ship big enough for 6-8 people, so now it's going to be a 3 person ship. Of course, politicians don't understand that a change like that means you should start designing from scratch. And the moonbase design which relied on 6 people to operate it has to be redesigned. Billions wasted. Then another presidential campaign will make an issue out of NASA's 'waste', and the program will be scrapped or scaled back to a 'flags and footprints' one-shot mission just so we can say it was a 'success'.

None of the details are set in stone yet, and Bush has set up a commission to do feasibility studies. Hopefully, they'll recognize this problem and design the program to have short-term milestones that have value outside the context of the larger mission. One step at a time, with each step being self-sustaining.

Something interesting in this program is that without the Shuttle, the U.S. will be without any manned capability at all for about four years, and without the shuttle I bellieve there are a number of missions that cannot fly at all, such as the Webb telescope and some military missions. I wonder what the implications of this are? If NASA abandons Low Earth Orbit, does that open the door for private heavy-lift rockets? That might be a positive development.

carnivorousplant
01-14-2004, 10:52 PM
Begin flying the CEV by 2014, I suppose on missions to the ISS and LEO at first.

That's what, 7 Presidential administrations from now? What are the odds that the political will will be there over that period of time?

Something interesting in this program is that without the Shuttle, the U.S. will be without any manned capability at all for about four years... If NASA abandons Low Earth Orbit, does that open the door for private heavy-lift rockets?


I got the idea from his speech today that the CEV would replace the shuttle as well. Probably not a good idea.

I don't think he really wants to do it. He wants me to vote for him.

See above.

duality72
01-14-2004, 11:05 PM
I'm as pro-space as anyone, but there's a smart way and a dumb way to go about it. The dumb way is to keep doing what we've been doing, infrequently lighting expensive candle after expensive candle with little to no return. The smart way is to build a long-term highway to space we can use day-in and day-out to see some real return on investment. Now, we've had to do it the dumb way up 'til now, but we're close enough to the smart way that delaying super-expensive projects like going to the moon and Mars are worth it in the massive savings gained by moving to the smart way.

That said, I think there's about zero chance of these proposals going anywhere anyway and we'll just continue more or less as we have been.

squeegee
01-14-2004, 11:43 PM
Something interesting in this program is that without the Shuttle, the U.S. will be without any manned capability at all for about four yearsSam, that's the achilles heel I see in this rigamarole -- it seems with this proposal that we're abandoning US LEO capability almost entirely. That seems like a big mistake. Sure, the Shuttle was far too expensive to continue to live, but we need *some* sort of LEO capability that's less than Saturn sized. Giving up all LEO to a) the US military, b) other countries seems like a huge mistake. I'd love to see LEO end up privatized and NASA can concentrate on exploration, but I don't see enough (US) players available to fill the gap. Am I missing something?

Sam Stone
01-15-2004, 12:03 AM
There are lots of U.S. rockets that can get to LEO. The U.S. has Delta, Atlas, and Titan rockets. NASA flies them, as well as the military. Note that almost all the interplanetary probes launched by NASA rode into space on these rockets.

What will be missing will be U.S. man-rated rockets and certain types of heavy lift that the Shuttle can do. But those can be farmed out to Arianespace or even Russia.

I was thinking mostly about things like spy satellites that the U.S. would not be willing to subcontract out to another country. But I forgot about the new generation EELV (http://www.spacetoday.org/Rockets/Delta4_Atlas5.html) rockets.

Still, NASA getting out of at least some of its LEO activities should open the door to private firms expanding their rocket programs. That's a good thing. NASA goes back to doing what it does best - pushing the boundaries of exploration and research. It's about time they stopped flying that expensive truck and crowding out private investment in space.

Sam Stone
01-15-2004, 01:38 AM
Well, I feel better now. Here's a copy of the press release from Whitehouse.gov (http://www.whitehouse.gov/space/renewed_spirit.html)


B. Space Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit

The Moon

Undertake lunar exploration activities to enable sustained human and robotic exploration of Mars and more distant destinations in the solar system;
Starting no later than 2008, initiate a series of robotic missions to the Moon to prepare for and support future human exploration activities;

Conduct the first extended human expedition to the lunar surface as early as 2015, but no later than the year 2020; and

Use lunar exploration activities to further science, and to develop and test new approaches, technologies, and systems, including use of lunar and other space resources, to support sustained human space exploration to Mars and other destinations.

Mars and Other Destinations
[list]
Conduct robotic exploration of Mars to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to prepare for future human exploration;

Conduct robotic exploration across the solar system for scientific purposes and to support human exploration. In particular, explore Jupiter's moons, asteroids and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources;

Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars;

Develop and demonstrate power generation, propulsion, life support, and other key capabilities required to support more distant, more capable, and/or longer duration human and robotic exploration of Mars and other destinations; and Conduct human expeditions to Mars after acquiring adequate knowledge about the planet using robotic missions and after successfully demonstrating sustained human exploration missions to the Moon.


Looking at that list, I realize that this new 'vision' is a lot broader than "Moon to Mars". He's got emphasis on space telescopes, robotic vehicles, missions to Jupiter and other planets, advanced propulsions, etc.

In other words, it looks a lot less like a specific 'mission', and more of a general re-focusing - NASA gets a funding boost, gets out of the space truck and space station servicing business, and takes all of that freed money and pumps it into exploration and science of all types. There is a big goal of getting back to moon, but only in the context of the larger exploration mission.

I think I like this plan. I wish it could be more aggressive, but with the budget the way it is, keeping it smaller in the early years and self-financing is probably the only way to get this through Congress.

I also like this:

[quote]
International and Commercial Participation

Pursue opportunities for international participation to support U.S. space exploration goals; and
Pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the International Space Station and exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.



Looks to me like the plan is: Commercialize LEO operations, and see how much of it you can get developed in private industry. Take the government's money from that, and move it into exploration. Along the way, once private industry has money to be made flying to the space station and doing other commercial tasks, we should get some serious R&D money flowing into space research.

Sam Stone
01-15-2004, 02:56 AM
Here's an interesting graph of NASA's funding priorities for the next 20 years:

NASA Funding Chart (http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/54873main_budget_chart_14jan04.pdf)

Under Bush's plan, funding for space exploration goes way up. And not just into the Crew Exploration Vehicle, but all the exploration missions - robotic missions to the outer planets, space telescopes, etc. Funding for the ISS actually goes up until 2017.

Basically, it looks like what will happen is that Shuttle money will go almost equally into the moon mission and space science in general. Then as the CEV investment tapers off, that money all moves into exploration. After that, the ISS money starts moving into exploration as well.

This is about far more than just shooting for the moon. This really is just a shift in NASA towards true space exploration rather than LEO maintenance and engineering. Something I've been advocating for a long time.

BrainGlutton
01-15-2004, 11:29 AM
I'm as pro-space as anyone, but there's a smart way and a dumb way to go about it. The dumb way is to keep doing what we've been doing, infrequently lighting expensive candle after expensive candle with little to no return. The smart way is to build a long-term highway to space we can use day-in and day-out to see some real return on investment.

By a "long-term highway to space," are you referring to a space elevator or beanstalk? That's the only way I can think of to reach orbit, that doesn't involve lighting an "expensive candle."

Grey
01-15-2004, 11:43 AM
The smart way is to build a long-term highway to space we can use day-in and day-out to see some real return on investment. Now, we've had to do it the dumb way up 'til now, but we're close enough to the smart way that delaying super-expensive projects like going to the moon and Mars are worth it in the massive savings gained by moving to the smart way.
My objection to carbon nanotube cables is that they have yet to be used in more typical applications like suspension bridges, Ottis elevators or even emergency brake cables. Until we can manage those small miracles the idea of hoisting 40 tonnes to orbit on a ribbon of soot is right out to lunch.

In short this comes down to the role of NASA. Is it simply a science agency or is it an agency to helps us exploit space. I vote exploitation first science second.

BobLibDem
01-15-2004, 12:11 PM
I hope that Bush's initiiative has more lasting power than that of his father. I've always been a space enthusiast, being 12 at the time of Apollo 11. I'm not sure we have a lot left to learn from low Earth orbit missions, even a space buff like myself thought more than once "How many stinking times do we need to send peoplie in space to study the effects of zero gravity?" Sending people in space to launch satellites has always seemed nuts to me. The justification for the shuttle program has always in my view been shaky at best. In the light of two major failures, we really need to examine alternate ways to get people and payloads into space and also get people back safely. Splashdowns may not be as elegant a solution, but at least we never lost anyone doing it.

A base on the moon would be a great thing. My ideal would be to have an observatory just on the far side to block out the brightness of the earth but close enough to the near side to be able to relay data to a transmitter on the near side. Building even a small community in a vacuum would be enough of a technical challenge to keep us busy for a generation.

Manned missions to Mars I don't see in the cards in my lifetime. The sheer distances involved plus landing on a planetary surface with an atmosphere plus taking enough fuel to launch from Mars would be a monumental technical hurdle. This would be like asking the shuttle to land and then take off again without help from the ground. I think resources would be far better spent to develop a new generation of rovers, perhaps nuclear powered, that would not be constrained to the equatorial regions of Mars as the present ones are. Sending back physical samples from the Martian surface would be far easier and cheaper when you wouldn't have the burden of carrying not only the people but all their life support supplies.

Return to the moon? Sure, sign me up. Venture to Mars? Not yet.

carnivorousplant
01-15-2004, 12:35 PM
Sending people in space to launch satellites has always seemed nuts to me.
How about repairing Hubble?

The justification for the shuttle program has always in my view been shaky at best.
The concept is inexpensive, reusable quick turnaround.
No, it hasn't worked for the last two.

close enough to the near side to be able to relay data to a transmitter on the near side.

Use a satellite like some of the Apollo missions.

I think resources would be far better spent to develop a new generation of rovers,
Gotta have somebody to clear the air bags out of the way. :)

BobLibDem
01-15-2004, 12:58 PM
Yeah, the repair of Hubble was in my opinion the best use ever of the shuttle. But when they went up to merely launch a communication satellite, I had to say "huh"?

I don't think I'd characterize shuttle missions as inexpensive.

Yeah, I thought of lunar satellite relays too. But you would either need enough of them to assure that a satellite was always available or store data for transmitting when the satellite reappears. If you're aiming for 24/7 live connection with a base on the far side of the moon, I'd think the lunar ground relay to a point on the near side would be easier.

carnivorousplant
01-15-2004, 01:34 PM
I don't think I'd characterize shuttle missions as inexpensive.


I posted: No, it hasn't worked for the last two.

BobLibDem
01-15-2004, 02:24 PM
My mistake, then. I wasn't sure if by the "last two" you meant the last two factors or the last two missions or what.

duality72
01-15-2004, 04:30 PM
BrainGlutton: I was referring to the space elevator I mentioned in my first post.

Grey: I don't know the economics, but you may not see carbon nanotubes do any of those things any time soon for simple cost-benefit reasons. I imagine nanotube alternatives are still going to be more expensive than steel and if steel does the job on those, why change? I could see some previously impossibly huge suspension bridges using them if needed, but don't really know that there's a demand for that. I get the feeling from this article (http://www.sciencenews.org/20030614/fob3.asp) that it's more likely we'll see them used as high-strength fabrics first.

In the end, though, if using nanotubes for those applications is a necessary precursor to a space elevator, I think it still behooves us to pour more resources into nanotube research so we can do those things and get us that much closer to making a space elevator a reality. The payoff in accessing space virtually at will is awesome to contemplate, not to mention the many other uses nanotubes offer.

Finally, I have to disagree with you on the role of NASA. It should be a science agency and leave the exploitation to private companies.

jshore
01-15-2004, 05:47 PM
Yeah, the repair of Hubble was in my opinion the best use ever of the shuttle.


Well, that was certainly nice but I wonderi if it was very cost-effective. I have to wonder whether for the cost of the shuttles, we would have been able to just build another Hubble and send it up more cheaply than using the shuttle for repairs.

To give you some numbers here, the Hubble apparently (http://www.chron.com/content/interactive/space/missions/sts-103/hubble/archive/910702.html) cost $1.5 billion to build. Each Space Shuttle flight is claimed (http://visitor.broaddaylight.com/spacekids/FAQ_67_430.shtm) by NASA to cost $450 million. (I say "claimed" because I recall Bob Park criticizing NASA for coming up with a cost per shuttle flight that was significantly lower than the total cost of the shuttle program each year divided by the number of flights per year...They liked to give something that was some sort of marginal cost rather than a cost that absorbed a share of the fixed costs.) So, while it was certainly cheaper to use the shuttle for repairs once we had it, it would be hard to justify the shuttle program on the basis of this one-time event of being able to fix the Hubble.

Oh...And here to round things out is what Bob Park had to say (http://www.aps.org/WN/WN03/wn022803.html#1) last February about what he calls the "Hubble repair myth":


NASA: THE SHUTTLE AND THE HUBBLE-REPAIR MYTH.
For the first time, the need for a human presence in space is being questioned openly on Capitol Hill. But at a House Science Committee hearing yesterday, Sean O'Keefe invoked the Hubble repairs as an example of man doing what robot could not. It's a NASA myth; Hubble was designed to be serviced. It was supposed to be like calling AAA for a jump start; NASA promised a shuttle launch every week. But the repair missions cost more than Hubble, and no other science satellite has ever been repaired in orbit. Moreover, Hubble had to conform to a NASA decree that everything that went into space had to be launched with the shuttle. This confined Hubble to a far from optimum low-Earth orbit that took it in and out of the Earth's shadow and exposed it to the rain of space garbage from past missions. Moreover, Hubble's dimensions had to conform to the shuttle's cargo bay, and its launch was delayed for three years by the Challenger accident. Ironically, the Challenger accident finally forced NASA to drop its shuttle-only launch policy. Hubble has gone on to achieve greatness, not because of the shuttle and the man-in-space program, but in spite of it.


Ouch!!!

Oh, and as for the cost per shuttle flight, it seems that the number above from NASA wasn't their most dishonest one but was still short of the mark. Here again is Bob Park from way back in 1993:


SHUTTLE STAYS ON GROUND--BUT SHUTTLE COST IS ALREADY IN ORBIT!
Even as NASA was aborting a scheduled launch of Columbia due to a faulty valve, a far more serious flaw in NASA's bookkeeping was getting attention in the New York Times. In calculating the cost of Space Station Freedom, NASA uses a figure of $44M each for the associated shuttle launches. That would pay for the extra fuel and in-flight meals--which is like equating the cost launching an aircraft carrier with the bottle of Dom Perignon they break on the bow. The Times article cited a recent University of Colorado study which determined the cost of an "average" shuttle launch from the cost of the shuttle program divided by the launch rate. At the present rate, the cost per mission comes out to be $1.1B; it goes up to about $1.7B if development costs are added in, but that has to be spread over the life of the program. Using honest numbers for the cost of the shuttle would more than offset the reduction from shrinking the station. The Colorado study was authored by Roger Pielke and Radford Byerly. Byerly is now Chief of Staff of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

GIGObuster
01-16-2004, 12:16 AM
I was not planning on being in this discussion, but I was looking for what kind of life may be on mars, when I stumbled into this article from Space Daily:

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/nasa-04c.html

Plan 3 From Outer Space: The Bush Budget Switch

[Snip]

This dramatically different funding plan is confirmed in two more bullets in the press release:

# The funding added for exploration will total $12 billion over the next five years. Most of this added funding for new exploration will come from reallocation of $11 billion that is currently within the five-year total NASA budget of $86 billion.

# In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 budget, the President will request an additional $1 billion to NASA's existing five-year plan, or an average of $200 million per year.

So in only four days, the amount of new money the Bush Administration plans to spend on its New Vision for Space has dropped by $11B, and this missing money is now to be robbed from existing NASA programs at the rate of ~$2B/yr.

[Snip]

So there is really no alternative to cutting over $2B/yr out of the non-manned-space half of NASA's budget. That's a ~%40 cut to "Aeronautics and Other Science" if you assume it is equally distributed over the five years 2005-2009!! If it is ramped in like most big budget cuts, the final cut by 2009 would be much larger. Goodbye wind tunnels, goodbye Webb Space Telescope, goodbye planetary probes to boring places like asteroids.

Do we really want to trade all this in for Apollo Mark II? A lot of people will say no. Even a lot of Space Cadets will say no. We lost ten years of solar system exploration to pay for the Shuttle and it left a bloody wound that still drips. A lot of influential people will fight this proposal to the last round, and then fix bayonets and keep on fighting until it is defeated.

I could go on for pages with minute analysis of the Bush space plan(s), but what's the point? This situation reminds me of what they said in the Congress about Ronald Reagan's budget proposals -- "Dead On Arrival".

Sam Stone
01-16-2004, 02:19 AM
Nothing has changed. There's no bait and switch here. This was always the administration's plan. Retire the shuttle, get out of the ISS, and divert that money into exploration (NOT just a moon base and Mars, either. ALL exploration, including robotic missions, telescopes, etc.)

The only change to the Bush proposal from the first time I heard of it was that original reports said that NASA was going to get a budget increase of 5% per year. That later got changed to 1 billion over 5 years, which is about 1/3 as much.

Rather than read second-hand reports about what might happen, why not go to the source? Earlier in the thread I posted a link to NASA's proposed budget out until FY2020. It makes it very clear where the money is being re-allocated. Mostly, from the Shuttle, and then later from ISS. All that money, plus the additional billion or so, all goes into exploration. Of that, the actual moon vehicle development only accounts for about 1/3. The rest of it goes into things like the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter and other exploration missions.

happytrails
01-16-2004, 08:43 AM
Mo' money for trips to the moon/Mars, 1.5 billion for marriage counseling --- methinks Bush is employing some serious diversionary tactics here. What about those two little words we haven't heard in a while ....... Bin Laden?

Inoshiro
01-16-2004, 10:50 AM
I understand the arguments regarding tele-robotics. Robots can do a lot of what people can do and will do ever more as AI and robotics improves. That said, I think the best reason to send people to space is to send people to space! By that I mean that we are safer as a species if we are based in many places all around the solar system. That way one catastrophe (nuclear war, asteroid strike, etc...) can't wipe us all out. I don't see space exploration as enormously expensive compared to the federal budget as a whole and if we can get other countries involved we can split the cost even more. This might even be a good way to rebuild some of the political capital we've burned through with our allies in the recent war. Finally

Moon base

This is actually a good idea (it would have been a better idea 30 years ago when we should have done it. But that's all done now). If the moon can be industrialized and spacecraft can be constructed using minerals mined locally you can build quite large and heavy craft and lift them off the surface with great ease in the lower gravity. Such things would be much more expensive and energy intensive to build here on earth and would then have to be shipped up in pieces and assembled in orbit.

Then again a space elevator here on earth would solve a lot of these problems too (though not the assembly one). Perhaps we should focus on that instead.

UselessGit
01-16-2004, 11:04 AM
Robotics? Sure, I'm all for it.

Space Exploration, now that's something different. Terraforming Mars seems like a so-so idea when and if we have the technology, but it seems to me that the US has been spending way too much money on absolutely useless "Space Tours". I was shocked when the (us) Europeans decided to join the bandwagon and throw money away with this ludicrous Mars expedition. I just can't see the point, as far as I'm concerned we have more pressing issues to attend to here on Earth before we start thinking about what's outside.

I would suggest that Bush is trying to be the first to be able to use outer space for his WarMachine, but I fear my admiration for Alde is clouding my judgement...

Inoshiro
01-16-2004, 11:17 AM
Robotics? Sure, I'm all for it.
Space Exploration, now that's something different. Terraforming Mars seems like a so-so idea when and if we have the technology, but it seems to me that the US has been spending way too much money on absolutely useless "Space Tours".


Space tours are a bad idea. Sending a bunch of guys up to play golf on the moon was not a great use of the capabilities we had. If Mars is just an expensive golf expedition then I agree. But the plans I've seen for Mars seem to emphasize going and staying and not frivolous cold war style dick swinging.

I was shocked when the (us) Europeans decided to join the bandwagon and throw money away with this ludicrous Mars expedition. I just can't see the point, as far as I'm concerned we have more pressing issues to attend to here on Earth before we start thinking about what's outside.

I would suggest that Bush is trying to be the first to be able to use outer space for his WarMachine, but I fear my admiration for Alde is clouding my judgement...

I think there will always be something here on earth we could focus on instead but space is worth it for the "insurance policy" reasons I cited above. A large international project like this could also reduce tensions and perhaps even help avert wars. Or it could lead to people fighting over chunks of turf on other planets :( But I think the cooperation needed to pull off the projects themselves will prevent that.

KarmaComa
01-16-2004, 12:23 PM
:rolleyes: Oh, dear, not again...

The current world population is 6 billion, give or take a few mil...

NASA's annual budget is $15 billion, give or take a few mil...

What's anyone going to eat on $2.50 a year?Not to hijack, but...

If you chose a nation of, say, 25M people (or just 25M needy people), that budget would allow $1.64/day. I argue that that's enough to feed someone. Not that I know anything about relief work, but that $15B would probably be better put towards irrigation/water, hospitals, and development of sustainable agriculture.

Why are you feeding the First World in your argument, anyway? It's a shameless straw man. You (probably) know damn well that $15B/year could make a huge difference to a lot of people in the world. Now if only the military budget could be pared down just a little... nah, impossible.

carnivorousplant
01-16-2004, 12:52 PM
You (probably) know damn well that $15B/year could make a huge difference to a lot of people in the world.

Cuts from NASA haven't gone to feed people and I doubt they would now.
You can use my above mentioned $7.00 Bush tax cut to feed kids school lunch in Mississippi, I'll come up with some more for NASA.

Grey
01-16-2004, 01:43 PM
Not to hijack, but...

If you chose a nation of, say, 25M people (or just 25M needy people), that budget would allow $1.64/day. I argue that that's enough to feed someone. Not that I know anything about relief work, but that $15B would probably be better put towards irrigation/water, hospitals, and development of sustainable agriculture.

Why are you feeding the First World in your argument, anyway? It's a shameless straw man. You (probably) know damn well that $15B/year could make a huge difference to a lot of people in the world. Now if only the military budget could be pared down just a little... nah, impossible.

I agree. Now actually if only 10% of the Health and Human Services budget could go to needy people in 3rd world coditions that $50.2 billion could do some good. :rolleyes:

Health and Human Services annual budget 2004 $502.0 Billion

scr4
01-17-2004, 05:31 AM
I have to admit, I'm starting to have have mixed feelings now that the Hubble service mission is confirmed to be one of the sacrifices for the new initiative:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/157010_hubble17.html

Also Sam Stone's link appears to show a decrease in science and aeronautics funding for the next 3 years. Interplanetary missions may fall under "Exploration" but this does not look too good for astronomy. Though I suppose it could have been worse, and the infrastructure built for the new exploration program may benefit astronomers in the long run. I want a lunar observatory!*

*I think the Moon is a nice place for astronomy. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to stabilize an orbital telescope to 0.1 arcsec accuracy, much less 0.01 arcsec (diffraction limit for a 10-meter telescope).

Sam Stone
01-17-2004, 12:48 PM
The Shuttle Servicing Mission wasn't cancelled because of the new initiative. The funding for that was left in place. It was cancelled because O'Keefe felt that it was too dangerous for the benefits it provided. It has been decided that all future Shuttle missions must go to the ISS, so that the tile system can be inspected (and the shuttle astronauts have a place to hang out if their ship is busted).

Under the new plan, the aeronautics and 'other science' funding goes down very slightly for three years, but then increases again and winds up larger than it is now. But as far as I know, this budget does not include things like Hubble. It's more things like Earth sciences, research into new General Aviation engines, etc. I believe the telescope missions are part of the 'exploration' budget, which gets massive funding increases from here on out.

Granted, we don't know how that budget breaks out, but I have confidence that you're going to see all of the planetary and telescope missions remain intact, or even get bigger funding. All of those programs fit very well with the new initiative. The media has characterized this new plan as "A moon mission, followed by a Mars trip". But that's really not it. If you listen to Bush's speech, or read the documents I linked, the true nature of this is much clearer - NASA's new job is to explore space. All of its money tied up in quasi-commercial activities in LEO are to be diverted to exploration. Part of that is a Crew Exploration Vehicle, which can go pretty much anywhere in the solar system. Other than that, exactly how the exploration budget gets broken up is still unclear. Bush it's been said repeatedly that 'exploration' includes both robotic missions and telescopes.

carnivorousplant
01-17-2004, 03:54 PM
It was cancelled because O'Keefe felt that it was too dangerous for the benefits it provided. It has been decided that all future Shuttle missions must go to the ISS, so that the tile system can be inspected (and the shuttle astronauts have a place to hang out if their ship is busted).
This is from the jerk who was supposed to change things after Challenger and didn't listen to people. Who laughed the week after Columbia at the jokes of Congressmen sucking up to keep his job. Oh, and a President that killed the lifeboat for the space station. That's why there are just two guys there now.


Part of that is a Crew Exploration Vehicle, which can go pretty much anywhere in the solar system.
It might take a while to get there, depending upon where anywhere is. :)
I should think you would need different kinds of ships to do different things; trips of three days to the Moon, land and return vs. months to Mars land in a much greater gravity well and return.
It might also be difficult to design the CEV when the design of engines and power sources are part of the program. I hope NASA doesn't get stuck with a bad idea that eats up the budget.

Sam Stone
01-17-2004, 04:13 PM
This is from the jerk who was supposed to change things after Challenger and didn't listen to people.


Uh, no. That would be Dan Goldin.

carnivorousplant
01-17-2004, 04:20 PM
Uh, no. That would be Dan Goldin.

Okay, one of the jerks. :)

Here is an interesting article:

http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040116-022905-4711r

Cervaise
01-17-2004, 05:44 PM
I am, unashamedly, a space junkie. As such, I have been following the current mission(s), and this discussion thread among others, with much interest.

Really, for me, the need to continue exploration and expansion can be boiled down to a very simple statement of philosophical principle. In short: A major human presence in space is inevitable. Eventually it will be economically and sociopolitically sustainable, represented by permanent habitats on the Moon and Mars plus asteroid retrieval and so on. This will require a hundred years of effort, regardless of when we start. So as far as I'm concerned, we might as well start now.

On this, I'm a big-picture guy. And I say we need to get rolling. The more we do it, the better we'll get at it. If we stand around and argue until the stars miraculously align and we have a rare shot at something meaningful, our lack of experience will translate to excessive caution and cost and it'll turn into a boondoggle, and then we'll all sit back down and do nothing for several more decades. Metaphorically, we're all standing at the edge of a hundred-square-mile plot of land, trying to decide what kind of city we're going to build, but doing basically no work until we've finalized our plan. And we're thinking that once we all manage to agree on a plan, we'll be able to build a massive metropolis inside a week. It just doesn't work that way.

No, we won't be perfect at first. Yes, we'll lose some personnel to accidents and it'll cost a lot of money to get the infrastructure established. But long-term success demands sustained effort over the long haul.

So, like I said: We might as well get started now.

Sam Stone
01-17-2004, 06:08 PM
Carnivorousplant:

O'Keefe has been a fine administrator so far. What specific criticisms of him do you have?

As for your link, the one thing it should do is put to bed that this is just election-year politics. Both because this plan has been in the works for a long time, and also because according to the article Karl Rove was not particularly supportive of the whole thing, but Bush went ahead and agreed to it anyway.

carnivorousplant
01-17-2004, 06:46 PM
Carnivorousplant:
O'Keefe has been a fine administrator so far. What specific criticisms of him do you have?

I saw a satellite feed of his laughing with a bunch of Congressmen after Columbia. I thought that was in bad taste.
I am dissapointed that he didn't change things so that someone listened to the engineers about Columbia.

scr4
01-19-2004, 02:48 AM
The Shuttle Servicing Mission wasn't cancelled because of the new initiative. The funding for that was left in place. It was cancelled because O'Keefe felt that it was too dangerous for the benefits it provided.
But what do you make of this quote (from Space.com (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/hubble_service_040116.html)):
[NASA chief scientist] Grunsfeld said the decision, announced by NASA Administrator Sean O?Keefe on Friday, was driven in part by the need to make tough choices in light of the president's new vision.

"If we had plans to fly the space shuttle for another 15 years, this is an investment that we might have made to develop for all those rescue scenarios," Grunsfeld said.

Sam Stone
01-19-2004, 08:39 PM
Scr4: Sure, the ultimate deciding factor was that the Shuttle was being retired. Once that decision was made, cancelling HSM-4 was a foregone conclusion. Because NASA only had two options - kill the Shuttle in 2010, or recertify it. So yes, if Bush had issued a Presidential directive that NASA continue flying the Shuttle until 2020 or 2030, then maybe that would have left room for HSM-4. That, by the way, would have been a horrible decision. The Shuttle needed to be retired.

But even if the decision had been made to recertify the Shuttle, that doesn't mean that HSM-4 would have flown. The decision had been made that further Shuttle flights will all go to the ISS, so that the Shuttle can be inspected, and if necessary the Astronauts could hang out there until a rescue shuttle could be prepped to go up and get them. For the Shuttle to fly to Hubble, they would have had to develop some way of inspecting the thermal protection system, AND they would have had to have another Shuttle waiting in standby in case there was damage.

Originally, there was hope that the icing problem could be solved with some kind of shroud to prevent ice from the main tank hitting the orbiter. Those plans became unworkable, and the shuttle was looking less and les viable over time, and I'm pretty confident that the decisionw would have been made to scrap it anyway.

So I don't think the Hubble servicing mission would have flown regardless of what the Bush administration had planned. Other comments I've heard from people inside NASA suggest the same thing.

Back to my original claim: The servicing mission wasn't scrapped because funds were moved to Bush's new program. It was scrapped for safety reasons, and because the three remaining shuttles are critical to the task of finishing ISS. A cost-benefit analysis showed that it was just too risky to service Hubble to give it a couple more years of life. Notice what Grunsfeld says: IF the Bush proposal hadn't come along, and IF the decision had been made to recertify the shuttle, THEN the mission MIGHT have been flown AS LONG AS a rescue scenario could have been developed. And all that would have had to happen very soon, before Hubble failed. Long odds indeed.

scr4
01-31-2004, 03:14 AM
It looks like my fears were not unfounded. According to the latest Space.com (http://space.com/news/nasa_budget_040130.html) article:
[quote]The five-year plan outlined in Bush's 2005 budget request details exactly where that money would come from:

$5.9 billion by phasing out or transferring to the new effort funding previously set aside for existing launch programs such as the Orbital Space Plane and the Next Generation Launch Technology program, an effort to develop reusable launch vehicle technology;
$1.5 billion from the shuttle program;
$1.2 billion by eliminating research aboard the international space station that is not tied to the president?s new exploration vision;
$2.7 billion by deferring the start of several planned new missions, including the Global Precipitation Measuring Mission, solar terrestrial probes and Beyond Einstein, a group of planned astronomy missions designed to investigate the origin and nature of phenomena like dark matter and black holes. In addition, spending on several Earth Science missions and Sun-Earth Connection missions will be held flat through 2009; and
$300 million from reducing space technology development and deferring institutional activities such as the construction of new facilities at NASA field centers.
So the very popular Astronomical Search for Origins initiative (includes the James Webb Telescope) is unaffected, but the other astronomical and environmental science missions are all affected to some extent. :( The Beyond Einstein initiative includes high-energy astronomy missions (successors to the Chandra X-ray Observatory), and Sun-Earth Connections includes environmental science satellites and astronomy (solar physics) missions. This whole initiative is bad news for the world's science community, IMO.

scotandrsn
01-31-2004, 11:47 AM
It looks like my fears were not unfounded. According to the latest Space.com (http://space.com/news/nasa_budget_040130.html) article:
The five-year plan outlined in Bush's 2005 budget request details exactly where that money would come from:

$5.9 billion by phasing out or transferring to the new effort funding previously set aside for existing launch programs such as the Orbital Space Plane and the Next Generation Launch Technology program, an effort to develop reusable launch vehicle technology;
$1.5 billion from the shuttle program;
$1.2 billion by eliminating research aboard the international space station that is not tied to the president?s new exploration vision;
$2.7 billion by deferring the start of several planned new missions, including the Global Precipitation Measuring Mission, solar terrestrial probes and Beyond Einstein, a group of planned astronomy missions designed to investigate the origin and nature of phenomena like dark matter and black holes. In addition, spending on several Earth Science missions and Sun-Earth Connection missions will be held flat through 2009; and
$300 million from reducing space technology development and deferring institutional activities such as the construction of new facilities at NASA field centers.
So the very popular Astronomical Search for Origins initiative (includes the James Webb Telescope) is unaffected, but the other astronomical and environmental science missions are all affected to some extent. :( The Beyond Einstein initiative includes high-energy astronomy missions (successors to the Chandra X-ray Observatory), and Sun-Earth Connections includes environmental science satellites and astronomy (solar physics) missions. This whole initiative is bad news for the world's science community, IMO.

I agree. But it is hardly surprising that Bush would sacrifice long-term gain for short-term glory. We can only hope that his cronies will be too senile to name the actual rocket after him, 20 years from now.

If the Project Constellation CEV is really a worthy replacement for the other Reusable launch initiatives, the money may be well-spent. The shuttle and non-human exploration ISS money will not be missed, as I believe the real goal of the ISS is to examine long-term human existence in space anyway.

But to scrap real science missions in the name of a long-term, risky exploration whose real budget will be anything but predictable (especially given this president's inability to put out accurate budget numbers, exemplified by yesterday's announcement of the Medicare package), is exemplary of Bush's shallow grasp of scientific endeavor.

scr4
01-31-2004, 12:58 PM
If the Project Constellation CEV is really a worthy replacement for the other Reusable launch initiatives, the money may be well-spent...
My understanding is that the CEV will be an unpowered capsule launched on top of an expendable rocket. You can see the proposals for its previous incarnation (the Orbital Space Plane) here (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/osp_okeefe_030715.html). You'll notice that one of the proposals looks like a plain old Apollo-style capsule.

I don't see any indication that reusable launcher development will continue. The more I look at this proposal, the more short-sighted it seems...

Sam Stone
01-31-2004, 01:10 PM
...And I disagree with both of you. *Some science missions may have their funding lowered, but plenty of others will have increased funding. The really exciting programs to me, such as the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, the James Webb Telescope, and the Terrestrial Planet Finder may actually get increased funding. I hear there is talk of moving the schedule for the JWST up by a year.

The fact is, NASA is pouring almost six billion dollars a YEAR down a rat hole right now. The Shuttle is a dead end, and the ISS is a bit of a boondoggle. Sure, it's easy to nitpick details of a visionary new plan, but does anyone think the status quo was going to work? If Bush hadn't done this, here's what would have happened: NASA would have gone on to recertify the shuttle, spending billions of dollars in so doing. Then eventually a year or five or ten from now, there will be another Shuttle disaster. Then the program would be cancelled with no replacement in sight. In the meantime, billions and billions of dollars will have been wasted.

And by the way, John Kerry and John Edwards, who are probably going to be the front-runners for the Democrats, are both "Why spend money in space when people on Earth need it" kind of guys. Which brings us to the 3rd option - Bush could have done nothing, and then if one of those two gets elected we could have seen an order to wrap up Shuttle by 2010 (the recertification deadline), and have NASA's budget CUT by five billion a year and the savings spent on someone's pet social program. That may in fact still happen if Bush loses.

I never thought I'd see the day when a president would come along and announce a new recommitment to space, moon bases, mars bases, and increased funds for NASA, and hear a lot of space fans bitch about it. We could go back to the Clinton years if you'd like, with a president who didn't give a crap about space. NASA floundered around for eight years with its budget being cut almost every year.

scr4
01-31-2004, 01:28 PM
The really exciting programs to me, such as the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, the James Webb Telescope, and the Terrestrial Planet Finder may actually get increased funding. I hear there is talk of moving the schedule for the JWST up by a year.
But the article I linked to seems to contradict your info:
The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, which had been planned for a launch in 2011 or 2012 will slip a couple of years to about 2015, according to a NASA chart that accompanies the budget request.

Though it doesn't say anything about Astronomical Search for Origins (James Webb and TPF). Do you have a cite that it gets increased funding?

carnivorousplant
01-31-2004, 01:32 PM
If Bush hadn't done this, here's what would have happened: NASA would have gone on to recertify the shuttle,
I never thought I'd see the day when a president would come along and announce a new recommitment to space,

They were working on the space plan, Sam.
You really believe this to be a "recommitment to space" rather than a re-election ploy? A wish it were. Beats the hell out of what little taxes I now pay to kill people.
:)

Sam Stone
01-31-2004, 03:48 PM
Long term plans at NASA were adrift. And, without this new initiative NASA's funding WOULD have been cut - O'Keefe showed a chart last week which had NASA's old 5-year budget overlaid over the new one - without the new initiative, NASA would have lost about 500 million dollars a year, compounding over the next few years, as programs ended without scheduled replacements.

This whole initiative has been micharacterized as a 'manned mission to the moon at the expense of everything else'. A better description of the plan is that 'maintenance' activities like flying to LEO to resupply the ISS and maintenance of a space shuttle fleet are being cut, and the money saved is being poured into the 'exploration' budget, which includes both manned and unmanned programs.

Here's a description of the new plan as given to NASA employees after the annoucement: New Exploration Vision (http://www.astrobiology.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=11605). Here are the details:


Guiding Principles for Exploration


Pursue Compelling Questions

Exploration of the solar system will be guided by compelling questions of scientific and societal importance.
Consistent with the NASA Vision and Mission, NASA exploration programs will seek profound answers to questions of our origins, whether life exists beyond Earth, and how we could live on other worlds.


Across Multiple Worlds


NASA will make progress across a broad front of destinations.
Consistent with recent discoveries, NASA will focus on likely habitable environments at the planet Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and in other solar systems.
Where advantageous, NASA will also make use of destinations likethe Moon and near-Earth asteroids to test and demonstrate new exploration capabilities.


Employ Human and Robotic Capabilities


NASA will send human and robotic explorers as partners, leveraging the capabilities of each where most useful.
Robotic explorers will visit new worlds first, to obtain scientific data, demonstrate breakthrough technologies, identify space resources, and send tantalizing imagery back to Earth.
Human explorers will follow to conduct in-depth research, direct and upgrade advanced robotic explorers, prepare space resources, and demonstrate new exploration capabilities


For Sustainable Exploration


NASA will pursue breakthrough technologies, investigate planetary resources, and align ongoing programs to develop sustainable, affordable, and flexible solar system exploration strategies.
The vision is not about one-time events and, thus, costs will be reduced to maintain the affordability of the vision


Starting Now


NASA will pursue this vision as our highest priority.
Consistent with the FY 2005 Budget, NASA will immediately begin to realign programs and organization, demonstrate new technical capabilities, and undertake new robotic precursor missions to the Moon and Mars before the end of the decade.

Key Elements of New Space Policy


Space Shuttle
Return the Space Shuttle to flight and plan to retire it by the end of this decade, following the completion of its role in the construction of the International Space Station
International Space Station Complete assembly
Refocus research to exploration factors affecting astronaut health, and
Acquire crew and cargo systems, as necessary, during and after availability of Shuttle.


Crew Exploration Vehicle


Develop a CEV to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first new U.S. human space flight vehicle since the 1980s.
Undertake first test flight is planned by the end of this decadein order to provide an operational capability to support human exploration missions no later than 2014.


Lunar Exploration


Begin robotic missions to the Moon by 2008, followed by a period of evaluating lunar resources and technologies for exploration.
Begin human expeditions to the Moon in the 2015 2020 timeframe.


Mars Exploration


Conduct robotic exploration of Mars to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to prepare for future human exploration.
Timing of human missions to Mars will be based on available budgetary resources, experience and knowledge gained from lunar exploration, discoveries by robotic spacecraft at Mars and other solar system locations, and development of required technologies and know-how.


Other Solar System Exploration


Conduct robotic exploration across the solar system for scientific purposes and to support human exploration.
In particular, explore Jupiter's moons, asteroids and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources;


Exploration Beyond


Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars;


Enabling Capabilities


Develop and demonstrate power generation, propulsion, life support, and other key capabilities required to support more distant, more capable, and/or longer duration human and robotic exploration of Mars and other destinations.




It should be clear from this that really what has happened here is that NASA is being moved away from commercial exploitation of space in LEO, and being turned into an agency that has the primary duty of exploration. Human, robotic, and telescopic exploration of our universe. And it's being done right - no 'flags and footprints' one-shot missions, but a gradual, sustainable capability to conduct long-term and long-range operations in space. The CEV itself is likely to be a modular design that can be re-configured from flights to LEO, to the Moon, to L2, Mars, and even beyond. See this concept from Boeing (http://boeingmedia.com/images/search.cfm?product_id=1525) for hints as to what such a vehicle might look like.

Note that there is emphasis in this 'vision' on robotic and telescopic research, with special mention of Jupiter's moons and the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

This is the best thing that has happened to NASA and space exploration in general in my lifetime. I can't believe how much opposition there is from space fans - I wonder how much of it is the result of this being announced by George Bush? If Clinton or President Gore had announced this same vision, do you think it would be received with such hostility?

Sam Stone
01-31-2004, 03:59 PM
By the way, my reading of this is that a manned Mars mission will only be done if it makes sense. In particular, this paragraph:


Timing of human missions to Mars will be based on available budgetary resources, experience and knowledge gained from lunar exploration, discoveries by robotic spacecraft at Mars and other solar system locations, and development of required technologies and know-how.


In other words, we go to the moon first. If we find that maintaining long-term bases is more difficult than we thought, then we don't go to Mars. Or, if robotic technology improves to the point where we can accomplish a lot with more robots, we'll send them instead. Or if other major discoveries are made in the solar system, such as a liquid ocean on Europa or something compelling on Titan, perhaps we'll refocus on those with more robotic missions.

The whole thing is pretty open-ended. It basically just sets the vision: "NASA has spent too long spinning its wheels and flying a truck into LEO and back. Time to start a new round of exploration and discovery."

Sounds good to me.

dude
01-31-2004, 04:31 PM
you yanks just cant handle that china will be all over the news when their probes land on the moon

send probes, its cheaper

the moon...but you been allready !

scr4
02-01-2004, 01:44 AM
Long term plans at NASA were adrift.
The manned space program plans were adrift, and I'm all for restructuring that. But why should the science programs pay the price? So far I haven't see any indications that any astronomical and environmental science programs will benefit, and many indications that they will suffer.

Sam Stone
02-01-2004, 02:29 AM
I've seen no evidence that they are paying any price. JIMO hasn't been delayed for lack of funding - it's been delayed because they still have technological problems with the nuclear reactors. The vision explicitly calls for increased funding for scientific missions. But it's true that the focus of the science is being redirected - moving away from some kinds of research into increased funding for the fundamental purpose of discovering life, earthlike planets, and the origins of the universe. To answer the great questions of the day.

Any time funding is re-allocated for any purpose, you will find disgruntled people, because someone's funding has to be cut. And they'll have good reasons for feeling the way they do. But you have to step back and look at the larger picture. NASA is being told to get out there and explore instead of hanging around LEO and playing with more sophisticated LEO trucks. This is a very good thing.

scr4
02-01-2004, 02:58 AM
I've seen no evidence that they are paying any price.
I already showed a cite that says $2.7 billion will come from "deferring the start of several planned new missions, including the Global Precipitation Measuring Mission, solar terrestrial probes and Beyond Einstein." That's a substantial price to pay. Are you saying that the increased funding in other areas of science will make up for this? As important as planetary exploration may be, it's not a substitute for research in theoretical physics, astronomy and environmental science. You're not going to find the "origin of the universe" by looking at other planets in this solar system.

But you have to step back and look at the larger picture. NASA is being told to get out there and explore instead of hanging around LEO and playing with more sophisticated LEO trucks.
Again, I'm not arguing against the restructuring of the manned program. But when Bush talks about sacrificing the science missions to accomplish this goal, the message becomes "Give me one big success and put my name on it, and forget everything else."

Please don't think of this as knee-jerk anti-Bush reaction. I'm just speaking as a scientist what I think would be good for the scientific community. (Though I admit it's hard not to take it personally, since my paychecks will soon be coming from NASA's Sun-Earth Connections budget.)

Sam Stone
02-01-2004, 03:32 AM
Again, I'm not arguing against the restructuring of the manned program. But when Bush talks about sacrificing the science missions to accomplish this goal, the message becomes "Give me one big success and put my name on it, and forget everything else."


Where did he talk about sacrificing science missions? The budget chart I saw basically showed a whole bunch of money into 'Exploration'. The manned and unmanned programs are being lumped together, but the funding levels for the new division are higher than the sum total of the two individually.

As for how it will all break out in the end we still don't know. The Presidential Commission was just put into place yesterday. I only recognize one or two names on the list. Does anyone know these people (http://www.nasa.gov/missions/solarsystem/PICT_members.html)? Who they are might tell us a lot about what the planned direction is.

scotandrsn
02-01-2004, 01:38 PM
Does anyone know these people (http://www.nasa.gov/missions/solarsystem/PICT_members.html)? Who they are might tell us a lot about what the planned direction is.

Sorry for no links, I got the details from so many sources that plugging in the links was more than my early morning brain could focus on. Trust me that the info is from the most reliable sources avaiable:

Edward C Aldridge was (until last March) Undersecretary of Defense for Acquistion, Technology and Logistics. In the past, he was president of both The Aerospace Corporation and McDonnell-Douglas Electronic Systems.
Carleton Fiorina is CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, and has split her time between tech management jobs and more strictly commercial jobs
Michael P. Jackson was a VP at Lockheed Martin when he became Bush's pick to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation. As of December 11th, someone else now fills that post.
Laurie Ann Leshin is a planetary geochemist at Arizona state University
Lester Lyles is a retired air Force General, and was Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization until 2000, when he was assigned to be commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB.
Paul Spudis is a visiting scientist with the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston
Neil deGrasse Tyson is from the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History.
Robert Smith Walker was a Representative from Pennsylvania for 20 years, and served on the Committee on Science in the 104th Congress
Maria Zuber is a Mars scientist at MIT

So the score is:

Defense: 1.33 Aldridge, Lyles
Commercial High-Tech: 2.33 Aldridge, Fiorina, Jackson
Gummint: 1.33 Aldridge, Walker
Science: 4 Leshin, Spudis, Tyson, Zuber

I could have done with one more scientist on board, an expert in Human Physiology under extreme conditions, in place of Lyles, who's strictly defense.

Sam Stone
02-01-2004, 02:13 PM
So does it make you feel better that the committee that is going to make recommendations for NASA's exploration plan is top heavy with scientists? The number of scientists actually surprises me. I thought it was going to be someone from each of the big space contractors, plus a management type, and a couple of astronauts with a scientist or two thrown in for completeness.

scotandrsn
02-01-2004, 02:48 PM
So does it make you feel better that the committee that is going to make recommendations for NASA's exploration plan is top heavy with scientists? The number of scientists actually surprises me. I thought it was going to be someone from each of the big space contractors, plus a management type, and a couple of astronauts with a scientist or two thrown in for completeness.

Actually, what I was really afraid of was that Bush would put another one of his god-damned oil industry cronies on board, although Lyles was a Rumsfeld lackey, which is why I think he could use replacing. Aldridge is Defense enough for a purely scientific and engineering endeavor. Fiorina is your management type, having the least sci-tech credentials of anyone on the panel.

As impressed I am by the list of people involved, I still don't think this is necessarily the right group for the job at hand.

Why no one from Boeing, who has built the American components of the ISS? Human life-support will bey a key factor in any Mission to Mars, my reason for replacing Lyles with a Human Physiology expert. Also, was Aldridge running M-D when the Reagan administration notoriously gave them billions for a Space Station that never saw the light of day? If so, dark forebodings indeed.

The key to getting a person to Mars will be knowing how the human body reacts to long-term exposure to low- and micro-gravity. The only reasonable way to study this currently is teh ISS, which Bush crippled early in his administration, by cancelling the Crew Return Vehicle (the technology of which was to be used to build a better shuttle, contrary to the claims of those who believe that NASA was in love with the old one), which would greatly increase the utility of the station, and the Centrifuge Module, which would be used to generate different levels of artificial gravity suitable for Martian physiological studies.

Until Bush announces that he is reviving these two projects, along with a workhorse reusable launcher to get them into place quickly, I can't really regard his announcements as anything other than an election year dog-and-pony show.

scotandrsn
02-02-2004, 01:33 AM
To use a Reagan-era phrase, I have "misspoken" myself.

Billions were spent in the 1980s on a potential Space Station project, but not all was necessarioly given to McDonnell Douglas. Having recently worked at a science education facility, I have seen an extensive packet published by M-D in the 1980s to get people excited about this great station they were going to build. We even had a scale model of Space Station Freedom, as conceived at the time, although I do not know if they are one and the same plan.

Aldridge was an Astronaut! (http://www.spacefacts.de/bios/astronauts/english/aldridge_edward.htm) He never flew a mission, but that doesn't usually matter to NASA.

From his NASA bio:
1986 - 1988 Secretary of the Air Force; 1989 - 1992 President McDonnell Douglas Corporations`s Electronic Systems Division; then he worked with The Aerospace Corporation; later Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; retired from government service in May 2003; since 26.06.2003 elected to the Lockheed Martin Board of Directors.

I suppose his position at M-D does not qualify him to be responsible for the Freedom boondoggle, so I back off from that point. Still doesn't make him the expert in microgravity physiology I would like to see on such a board though.

scr4
02-02-2004, 01:40 AM
Where did he talk about sacrificing science missions?
I'm not sure what your objection is. The space.com article I linked to above clearly states that Bush's proposal takes $2.7 billion away from the Sun-Earth and Beyond Einstein initiatives. Do you think (1) this is made up by increases in the other fields of science, or (2) the article is of questionable authority, or (3) it's just a proposal and unlikely to resemble the final decision, or (4) some other reason?

Sam Stone
02-02-2004, 08:46 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
Where did he talk about sacrificing science missions?

I'm not sure what your objection is. The space.com article I linked to above clearly states that Bush's proposal takes $2.7 billion away from the Sun-Earth and Beyond Einstein initiatives. Do you think (1) this is made up by increases in the other fields of science, or (2) the article is of questionable authority, or (3) it's just a proposal and unlikely to resemble the final decision, or (4) some other reason?


I waited until today to respond, because the budget details were scheduled to come out. It would appear that answer 1) is the correct one. Here are some details of the new budget: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=924

From the article:

Contrary to arm waving prior to the release of the budget NASA's Space Science programs are not being hit. Indeed, Space Science actually benefits from the new exploration focus and the new synergy that will now be promoted for human and robotic programs.


Here are some details on the new space science budget:


Space Science:
$1.2 billion for solar system exploration;
$691 million for Mars exploration (16% increase over FY 2004 - will double by FY 2009);
$70 million to lunar exploration (will amount to $420 million by FY 2009 with the first robotic mission in 2008);
$1.1 billion for Origins (19% more than in FY 2004);
378 Million for the structure and evolution of the universe; and $746 million for Sun-Earth connections.

The JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter) spacecraft and its nuclear propulsion systems (developed under Project Prometheus) will be covered in the Office of Exploration Systems budget. The scientific instrumentation specific to that mission will remain under development in the Office of Space Science budget.


Note the 19% increase in one year for the Origins program, which includes the James Webb Space Telescope, Kepler, the Terrestrial Planet Finder, the Life Finder, and the Planet Imager. This is great news to me, because I think this is the most exciting and important work NASA is doing.

Another very exciting thing is that the Exploration budget for next year includes 20 million dollars for prizes like the X-prize. I've been harping on this for a long time, and it's great to see NASA try this. If it's successful, let's hope we see larger prizes for loftier goals in the future.

jshore
02-02-2004, 11:30 PM
So does it make you feel better that the committee that is going to make recommendations for NASA's exploration plan is top heavy with scientists? The number of scientists actually surprises me. I thought it was going to be someone from each of the big space contractors, plus a management type, and a couple of astronauts with a scientist or two thrown in for completeness.

Talk about the era of reduced expectations! Bush can actually speak in complete sentences and he puts a plurality (although not majority) of scientists on a committee to study what should basically be a scientific issue. ;)

The sad thing is that this does almost pleasantly surprise me!

The_Broken_Column
03-01-2004, 01:00 PM
Personally, I wish we'd devote all that Mars money toward a national initiative to come up with a safe, environmentally-sound, cost-efficient alternative energy source, and watch with satisfaction as our Saudi friends go broke and return to the desert as nomads, and we can quit kissing their asses.

I can dream, can't I?

Well your dream is pretty messed up....you have a problem in your thinking.

1) The Private Sector can handle development of alternative energy sources and already has done a significant job, the Private Sector can not handle Space Exploration as it requires too many companies, too many fields of research, and too much resources.

2) If you thought Terrorism is bad now...just wait until we stop using Oil.

Aldridge was an Astronaut! He never flew a mission, but that doesn't usually matter to NASA.

Actually yes it does, being selected to the Astronaut Core but never flying usually denotes something terribly wrong about the person. Either lack of initiative or a failure to actually fullfill their requirements. I'll look up his bio now...

Hmm...I guess his not getting a flight was such a big deal.

He doesn't have a Bio, that means he never completed his year of technical training, whether he couldn't or opted out is unkown to me, but for whatever purpose you are bringing him up, the fact that he was selected as an Astronaut doesn't give him any more validity in anything. Considering these facts I've brought up.

carnivorousplant
03-01-2004, 08:32 PM
2) If you thought Terrorism is bad now...just wait until we stop using Oil.


On the one hand there would be no reason for us to have a presence in Saudi Arabi or any other country to keep the oil safe, so we wouldn't be messing with their culture.
On the other hand, we would probably still be supporting Israel.

jshore
03-01-2004, 09:21 PM
1) The Private Sector can handle development of alternative energy sources and already has done a significant job...

Interesting thought...Then I imagine you must be quite upset about all the subsidies that have gone to nuclear power industry (http://www.taxpayer.net/greenscissors/LearnMore/legislation/5-24-01lancelotnuclear.PDF) over the years...and especially the new ones proposed by President Bush (and this when nuclear power is already a mature industry that certainly ought to be able to fend for its own in the marketplace)? And, then there are the subsidies for the fossil fuel industry:


The sixteen subsidies highlighted in this fact sheet give coal, oil, and natural gas over $5 billion per year. The industry has already received more than its fair share, collecting $150 billion in subsidies from the federal government between 1918 and 1978, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sam Stone
03-02-2004, 01:41 AM
I thought this would be a good place to post this:

NASA to Announce 'Significant Findings' of Water on Mars Tuesday (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/opportunity_nasa_040301.html).


On Sunday SPACE.com reported a "palpable buzz" among Mars Exploration Rover (MER) scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Sources indicated that a coherent picture of the geology of the rover landing sites was emerging.

Speculation that the announcement might involve any discussion of biology has not been confirmed.

However, there have been repeated observations at the Opportunity site that have puzzled the Mars rover scientists. Using the rover’s Microscopic Imager, the strange spherules, thread-like features and even a larger object detected in rock outcrop have sparked scientific discussion -- both inside and outside of the Mars rover team -- as to whether they are tied to biology.


Press conference at 2PM EST tomorrow. It'll be on NASATV. You can watch it here (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html).

The_Broken_Column
03-02-2004, 08:18 PM
Carnivorousplant, it is because of poverty that most Saudi Arabians become "terrorists" not because of US influences, do a tad bit more reading on terrorist breeding in Saudi Arabia there was a good report about how the current poverty levels are creating much more terrorists than there would be otherwise.

Jshore, the private sector has currently invented, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Wind Turbines, the "kilometer high thermal plant" that's a good one. In Austrailia is where they plant to test that out. I giant kilometer high tower with a vast greenhouse below all that heat rising up to turn turbines and the greenhouse to grow food.

The Bush Administration is not capable of handing money out as it wills, it must get Congress to do this.

Rather than posting a bunch of numbers, how about you post the Congressional "String attachments" to see what they plan to see done with the Money. For all you know the subsidies could be going to cleaning up the facilities's waste products.

You are too superficial. Especially if all you care about is how much money goes to what.

It is after all, a petrol-company that developed one of the better working Hydrogen Fuel Cells for a car, not some "futuristic think tank that has nothing to do with Oil".

The_Broken_Column
03-02-2004, 08:25 PM
Ooo! Ooo! Good, that PDF file you gave me does have a summary I suppose that's ok...but more indepth congressional report would be better.

But here let's look at a few!

Hmm there are Bills for Nuclear Power Plant Optimization.

There are Bills to shut certain plants down (as you know the federal government can't force anything out of business or such if it is not to compensate it.)

Incintives for Current Nuclear Power Plants to produce more efficient energy that is 1 million dollars for every kilowatt-hour increase.

Doesnt seem too bad.

Also, if your argument was "Why does the Government give them money if they can handle it on their own?"

The Government gives everyone money after all everyone pays taxes.

The point there was that there is NO incentive for Space Exploration. The Government has to drive that and it does so through NASA.