Abolish Shuttle...and NASA

Damn. You were doing great with all that abolishing, and then as though you had learned nothing from history, you selected to rev it all up again. “Every revolution evaporates, and leaves behind the slime of a new bureaucracy.” — Franz Kafka

No, the confusion is entirely in your own mind.

You appear to be thinking that my opposition to Shuttle was because it was, at the time, unproven. In reality, it was because Shuttle was oversold in the 1970s (in large part by an administration and its intellectual adjuncts who hoped that the manned space program would quietly wither away, and that we could then get back to funding unsound “energy conservation” schemes the way that God, or Ehrlich or somebody, intended us to) a means of providing routine access to space.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that I had written:

"I was opposed to the Ford Pinto before the first one rolled off the assembly line.

“And, yes, I’m willing to try something unproven – like the Otto-cycle engine was in 1880.”

That, perhaps, would have been clearer. My error may have been in failing to pretend that Shuttle is coeval with Creation (or, if you prefer, the Big Bang).

  1. Yes. People will probably still die entering and leaving space, but the deaths of the astronauts in Challenger and Columbia could have, and should have, been avoided. :frowning: In my opinion, of course.

  2. One Congressman described the Shuttle as 40 year old technology. It will take 10 to 15 years to put the next generation into space. Someone wasn’t paying attention…


A libertarian joke:

Q.: How many carrier groups does it take to defend Taiwan?
A.: None. The market will take care of it.

Oh. My mistake. I thought this was a serious thread…

I’ll take my pound, or two, of salt now.

Akatsukami -
The reason the shuttle uses the firecracker approach is because that is the most efficient means of achieving orbit at a distance outside of earth atmosphere. Once this orbit is achieved no other propulsion is required to keep the craft aloft aside from that needed for small course corrections. If there were cheaper and more efficient means private industry and other governments would develop them to launch their weather and communication satellites.

It is a matter of physics; to propel X number of pounds to 17000 plus mph to achieve an orbit of 250 to 300 miles requires Y amount of energy, and it will always require that much energy unless of course the gravity on your planet is less than that of earth’s. By the way NASA has been working on alternative propellants http://www.nature.com/nsu/020513/020513-2.html http://www.space.com/news/hydrogen_helium.html but this will not alter the amount of energ that will need to be expended.

I would agree that there is some exaggeration and mis-representation when selling the idea of a space program to the general public and this maybe because progress is a hard sell, but this should not be used as a club on engineers and other professionals that have developed the most efficient, safest and cost effective method of reaching outer space; reentering the earth’s atmosphere and landing.

You argument of a conspiracy to prevent the development of newer technologies by NASA and/or the Government is specious. Aside from the modifications as I stated previously, and maybe a few others, the shuttle offers the best current technology can offer and is thus state of the art.


The correct answer of course is that libertarianism is a political philosophy and capitalism is an economic philosophy; therefore, let Taiwan decide for itself.

Wow. I would be among the first to admit that NASA administration could use an overhaul, and a DECENT BUDGET for a change. But this business of throwing out the baby with the bathwater - firing all NASA employees - is just ridiculous. There are an awful lot of hard-working folks who make up the institution, not all of whom work on shuttle-related stuff, by the way. :rolleyes:

It was my understanding that the X-33 had engineering problems that led to its being scrapped, but I don’t know specifics. I would be interested if anyone could post them.

Regarding this tidbit:

I have to ask you… do you actually think that past exploration has NOT led to exploitation, or wasn’t intended to? If so, I invite you to read the following links:

Spinoff: Commercialized NASA Technology
International Space Station Commercial Development


That sounds good, in an ideal world. In fact, from everything I have read about the situation, America is willing to do as you suggest.

But what is your response if China decides to make the decision forTaiwan? Do libertarians say we should help defend a tiny country against a much larger enemy? Or are we too distracted by Iraq to help them if China should make a move in the near future?

This is not correct, of course.

It would be correct (at least to a precision good enough for barroom debates) if the Earth had no atmosphere. Atmospheric drag varies a function of speed and rocket shape. The function for rocket shape is so complex that it has to be computed empirically (i.e., by actually testing a rocket). Of course, we want the rocket to be as streamlined as possible, but this is begging the question to an extent, since “streamlined” means “minimal drag”.

As a rule of thumb, I believe that engineers use a loss of 1500-2000 feet/second (fps) as an approximation of loss of speed to atmospheric drag. If we’re going to calculate the loss of specific impulse (I[sub]sp[/sub]), I believe that experience shows that LH/LOX rockets have their effective I[sub]sp[/sub] reduced from 456 to about 350 seconds, because atmosphere reduces the exhaust velocity of the propellant.

You’re nearer to agreeing with me than you suspect; watch your step :smiley:

The Nature article (apparently written by a particularly clueless journalist – although I don’t suppose they commit their best and brightest to the Web) speaks of paired charged nitrogen rings. It says that such a fuel would have “twice as much energy as the same volume” of hydrazine. The ultimate formula for this fuel, however, would be N[sub]10[/sub], giving an effective molecular weight of 140, whilst that of hydrazine is N[sub]2[/sub]H[sub]4[/sub], with a molecular weight of 30. IIRC, the velocity of a particle is proportional to the square root of its thermal (kinetic) energy, so we would crudely assume the I[sub]sp[/sub] of the solid nitrogen fuel to be sqrt(2*30/140) that of hydrazine, or about 150 seconds (hydrazine, I believe, has a I[sup]sp[/sup] of about 230 seconds. This naïve calculation, of course, omits many things. Nonetheless, since LH/LOX has an I[sub]sp[/sub] of 456 seconds (although, as I commented earlier, LH is dangerous stuff to handle), and methane and propane I[sub]sp[/sub] in the 360 second range, I fail to see the advantage that NASA expects to get from solid nitrogen.

The Space.com article speaks of the stabilization of monatomic hydrogen in liquid helium. Whilst the concept of using monatomic hydrogen is an old one, no effective stabilizer has been found until now – if indeed one has been found now.

(Sidebar for those who wonder what we’re talking about: Ordinarily, hydrogen comes in diatomic or molecular form, H[sub]2[/sub]. Monatomic hydrogen is single atoms, H. The energy released by combining the two atoms is well in excess of the energy released by oxidizing hydrohen to water; the mere recombination of monatomic hydrogen to the molecular form has a theoretical I[sub]sp[/sub] of 668. Of course, the hydrogen molecules have to be separated (consuming energy) in the first place, but mass is not a consideration since we’re doing to on the ground; we can use a nuclear reactor if we wish).

But Shuttle is, as GOM pointed out, forty-year-old technology. We must therefore assume that:
[li]It is effectively impossible to advance on the technologies of the early 1960s[/li][li]Shuttle does not represent state-of-the-art technology[/li][li]NASA has been discouraging (American) attempts to develop newer technologies[/li][/ul]
In favor of my point of view, I ask: why did NASA destroy the DC/X in its first attempt to fly it? Why have X-projects been suspended since 1968? What is slated to replace Shuttle, over 2twenty years old, of which we have destroyed two and relegated a third to “hanger queen” status. When should we expect to see the first one roll off the line?

I await the answers with worms in my mouth.

I rather like the beagle.

You missed my point; my bad, I didn’t say it well. A 1.7% failure rate is unacceptable from a cost/benefit POV - not just (or even mainly) for the lives lost, but for the monetary cost. The Shuttle program will never be more than an expensive boondoggle (assuming it is more than that now), if one out of every 50 times you launch one of them, they go boom, at the cost of hundreds of millions to billions to replace it and train new astronauts.

BTW, the comparison was not non-logic; if 1.7% of airline flights fell out of the sky, we wouldn’t have airline flights, period. We grant that the expected catastrophic failure rate of space flight is going to be higher than airplanes, even orders of magnitude higher - but nowhere near this high. It is unsustainable.

It is simply not viable to “learn from our mistakes and go on.” Currently, a 50% reduction in catastrophic accidents - a near impossibility to achieve in almost any endeavour - would merely mean that about 1% of Shuttle missions end in big explosions. That’s still entirely too high to develop a meaningful space program around.


The Shuttle program represents the most reliable launch platform in the world, albeit at the highest per-pound in orbit cost.

FromThe Strategy Page, here are the success rates for platforms, per 100 launches:

What the loss of the Columbia a tragedy? Certainly. But so are the fatal automobile accidents that occur every day.

I agree that we should be looking into less expensive ways of getting stuff into space. But to scrap the most successfull means of doing that seems to be a foolish overreaction.

<hijack…sorry about that>

Isn’t there a certain error when comparing 100 launches (Shuttle) to 600 (Titian)? I know it has all been normalized for comparison but shouldn’t the sample size impact the comparison?


Columbia and NASA have already been privatized to a great extent. :rolleyes:

My first-ever rolleyes!

By privatization, I did not mean giving out government contracts. I meant putting control and ownership of research and development in squarely in the hands of private companies who would foot the bill for their own work and make what profit they could from what they developed.

As far as I can tell from googling, NASA still holds the reins and doles out the dough.

Sorry about the rolleyes FF, I soemtimes get annoyed at the notion that government always seems to be the problem, and the private sector always has the solution.

Are private companies legally prohibited from research, development and deployment of space craft into outer space? I don’t have a cite handy, but I beleive some satelites have been launched by private companies.

I would love to see Lockheed Martin or Boeing raise the enormous amount of capital needed for a manned spacce program, build the space ships, train the astronauts, launch the mission into space, perform the experiments, place the payloads in orbit, safely bring the craft and astronauts back to Earth and return a profit back to the shareholders.

I don’t know if it’s illegal or not. I would hope it isn’t.

As far as I can tell, though, NASA does direct most of space research and hand out most of the money devoted to that research.

Don’t worry about the green smiley. It gave me a chuckle.

Because it was designed to do TOO MANY things (launch satellites, ferry people to the ISS, and be reusable). There is NO need to use the shuttle to launch satellites anymore-this can be done more cheaply with cheaper one-shot launch vehicles. and the satellite communications business is in deep decline anyway. As for the ISS, access to it could be obtained much more cheaply, if we had developed a low-cost launch vehicle. I basically agree, it is time to replace the shuttle with a less expensive vehicle, which could be considerably smaller-something like a spaceplane, oreven a smaller shuttle (like the cancelled French “Hermes” vehicle).
We really cannot afford the shuttle anymore-besides the huge expense of refurbishing them, the things are just too complicated-the probability of failure in such a complex machine is too high. Finally, they are based on 1970’s technology, and NASA is finding it increasingly difficult to obtain spare parts for them (some of the integrated circuits used on the shuttle have been obsolete for years).

How exactly do you propose to do that? You can’t just de-regulate it or anything - there are no regulations to speak of. So far nobody seems to be willing to pay for their own development, which is why the US government has to help fund the development. And don’t forget that there is foreign competition. An American company without government funding has no chance against Russian, European and Chinese companies who are funded by their respective governments.