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NASA Considers Privatizing Space Shuttles

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the not-sure-how-i-feel-about-that dept.

Space 307

panopticon was among the many who submitted a BBC story talking about NASA considering privatizing the space shuttles as a cost saving measure since those pesky shuttles cost $400M every time we throw one up into orbit. The article really doesn't say much beyond that.

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I r0X0r!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532760)

"NASA is Considers..."


First rule of government (3, Troll)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532764)

If you don't wanna pay for it, find someone else who will. Hey, they did it with HMOs, and look how well that worked out...

Re:First rule of government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532845)

The reason HMO's suck is because of government! Half of every dollar spent on healthcare in the U.S. is spent by that good ol' ultra benevolent government.

Re:First rule of government (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532846)

You go to WPI? I have a few friends there. They're all sex-starved geeks. I think in all the time's I've been on campus I've seen 2 girls. Those girls looked like Pat from the SNL skits. What do you guys do for sex, besides eachother up the ass?

Re:First rule of government (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532893)

You go to WPI? I have a few friends there. They're all sex-starved geeks. I think in all the time's I've been on campus I've seen 2 girls. Those girls looked like Pat from the SNL skits. What do you guys do for sex, besides eachother up the ass?

Read your comment closely. People might think you are doing certain things with your friends.

Re:First rule of government (2)

overunderunderdone (521462) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532999)

If you don't wanna pay for it, find someone else who will. Hey, they did it with HMOs, and look how well that worked out...

First off HMO's and NASA are rather different cases. Beyond that I don't think you can use HMO's as a "cover all" example of the efficacy of government involvement since the entire healthcare mess is largely the creation of government involvement.

Or are you simply providing your .sig with an illustrative example.

previous poster is wrong (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532766)

please would someone re-moderate this wildly incorrect +3 post [slashdot.org]

Re:previous poster is wrong (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532782)

Calm down Wills, it doesn't really matter.

Re:previous poster is wrong (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532815)

PS. I agree with the later reply; Wills - you are fucking lame.

Re:previous poster is wrong (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532791)

you are so fucking lame

Frist frost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532767)

Frist frost

Commercialization of government projects... (1)

Nijika (525558) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532768)

Reasonable enough I'd say. This seems to be working elsewhere. Anyway, look what happens when commercial entities get involved in government projects (read: the Internet). For good or bad, the Internet is everywhere now. I predict the same for space commerce. Space is pretty damn useful.

Re:Commercialization of government projects... (1)

keath_milligan (521186) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532796)

How about air-travel security?

Re:Commercialization of government projects... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532848)

I can think of nothing more frightening than allowing air-travel security to be run by a bunch of civil service deadwood with more interest in union benefits than anything else.

Re:Commercialization of government projects... (1)

crumley (12964) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532867)

Ah yes, security by ex-cons making slightly above minimum wage is ever so much more reassuring.

I see it now. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532914)

You get on the space shuttle after going through the metal detector and have wand waived over you by some person that is like an idiot savant that is not good at math.

Re:Commercialization of government projects... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532952)

What about air-travel security?! They shouldn't have it for the shuttle. If a terrorist could afford to get on board and hijack the shuttle we know for a fact that the Al Qaeda Network would be losing an awful lot of money. And what about the training costs? Wow. They'd be astronomical!


Yes, but can the free market.. (1)

Meefan (526525) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532968)

support pure science? Most of what NASA does doesn't have a direct commercial application. Why would a corporation be interested in something like that? I mean, the entire DMCA and all the legal battles relating to it really don't say good things about how much big corporations support science, does it?

Re:Commercialization of government projects... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532994)

Yes -- and see where the internet is now? Suck-city.

Remember how nice it was _before_ all the money-sucking bastards got involved?

Leave it to corporations to screw up a good thing.

Space® -- brought to you by Microsoft.

Sometimes I wonders... (-1, Offtopic)

precize (83096) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532771)

...if the editors has have training in grammer (sic).

The New Internet Grammar (-1, Offtopic)

Rotten (8785) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532825)

I'm starting to think that the fast world of internet content is developing it's own grammar ruleset.
It has only one rule: "If it's understandable, it's ok"

offtopic my ass (0, Offtopic)

puck71 (223721) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532832)

"is considers"?? that's terrible!! :P

Is Considers? (1, Offtopic)

prophecyvi (249996) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532774)

"NASA Is Considers Privatizing the Space Shuttle".

How about "Slashdot Is Considers an EDITOR".

Or "All Your Grammar Are Not Belong to Slashdot".

It's not flamebait when it's the truth. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532821)


Moderators on crack, more like.

NASA is considers privatizing shuttles? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532784)

In other news, US forces is considers bombing the Taliban.


Funny, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532900)

Well, really though, is privatising this really in the interest of national security? I mean, really, planes are one thing. But could you imagine terrorists getting ahold of a spaceshuttle full of explosives and blowing it to kingdom-come over top of a city?? Catastrophic if you ask me. Some things, (very, very, very few mind you), should be left in the hands of the governments.

I call dibs.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532786)

on Colombia!

Larry will pay for this (0, Troll)

dropdead (201019) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532787)

You gotta figure Larry Ellison would be first in line. Any chance to look down on everybody at once would just yo good for him to pass up.
On the bright side finally a place big enough for his ego.

Re:Larry will pay for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532977)

Larry Ellison?
Isn't he that foreign guy from Perfect Strangers?

bushism? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532788)

Nasa is considers???

Ok, i could understand a typo, but this is a very glaring grammaar error.

Good idea. (1)

j_hirny (305473) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532790)

...but who will buy them? As far as I know, space shuttles are pretty expensive in use and conservation. I'm curious whether there is anyone, for whom it would be profitable to buy one. According to BBC, one launch costs 400$ million. Does anybody know how expensive one shuttle may be?

And the risk of hijacking one and crashing into ISS... yikes.

Re:Good idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532876)

The space shuttles we currently use cost $2 Billion, but three of them just went out of service... And to all the people talking about this lowest bidder crap, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are already doing this... so SHUT YOUR HOLES...

hehe (3, Informative)

TheMMaster (527904) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532793)

Just like putting the UK and Dutch railways into private hands... now THAT was a good idea ;-)

For all non-europeans here (quite a bit) this lead to the most HORRIBLE service ever.

Re:hehe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532802)

The shuttle standing at platform one has been delayed. Wrong sort of space dust?

Re:hehe (1)

IngramJames (205147) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532859)

I think you'll find the privatisation of British Rail exceeded all expectations! A recent poll blamed rail problems firstly on the management, then on the Labour government and lastly on the Tories who privatised it.

As a blame-shifting exercise, John Major's privatisation has performed exceptionally well!

After all, what other motive could there possibly have been...?

Most horrible service ever? (2, Interesting)

mgw1181 (214961) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532947)

Guess you've never heard of Amtrak? :)

P.O.D (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532795)

FUCKING BLOWS. I hate all this rapcore heavy metal grunting bullshit. How these bands get signed is a mystery.

Gimmie some Van Halen, Boston, Cars, GnR, Crue.

Re:P.O.D (-1)

insomniac (33758) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532805)

That shit flew on my p200 w/ mmx. That and the THIRD DIMENSION.

Re:P.O.D (-1)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532916)

Slayer and Motorhead! Wh00t!

Re:P.O.D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2533005)

Go dixie-chicks!


Not Interested. (5, Funny)

SubtleNuance (184325) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532798)

...Not this guy. Personally Im holding my wallet until the firesale on public buildings. The Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument and GoldenGate bridge... now thats a good investment. With the right re-naming, cross-marketing, and brand management strategy these are sure fire money makers!

"The SubtleNuance Statue Of Plutocracy"... A Monument to Capitalism and Entrepreneurial Spirit.®© Now thats a sure winner. God Bless America(TM)!

Privatize them! (2, Insightful)

Debillitatus (532722) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532807)

Why not? The Russians sent up that guy (Tito?) and had a massive infusion of capital into their space program. The Russians, of course, need money more than Americans, but everyone can use it.

This is a good move in the right direction. As soon as someone works out a business plan that allows them to make a profit off of flying to the moon, Mars, etc., there will be all kinds of stuff in space. And this will of course drive costs down, just through volume and through increased R&D budgets. if this all goes according to plan, maybe one day there will be a permanent Lunar settlement with regular shuttles. This would be sweet...

Re:Privatize them! (1)

carm$y$ (532675) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532918)

The Russians sent up that guy (Tito?) and had a massive infusion of capital into their space program

20 million, to be precise. Not a really "massive" infusion, by the space agencies' standards.
Also think about how many people could afford that... it's not a cash-cow.

What about Micro$oft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532809)

They could sponsor one and it would crash, It would be a blue sky of death!

The 'BSD is dying' troll is dying. Please send your postcards to him C/O Craig Shergold.

I is considers this. (0, Offtopic)

AugstWest (79042) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532810)

It no makes sense to me.

Is to be confusing and not good.

Re:I is considers this. (0, Offtopic)

Dop (123) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532874)

Which brings up a question. Does SlashTeam have an easy way of changing the title of a submission after it's already been entered into the database? Or, even if they did, would they not do it, because then all the posts about the mistake wouldn't make sense?

All Your NASA Is Considers To Us (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532814)

Ready every Strunk & White...

Space (1)

crumbz (41803) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532819)

Considering the ISS budget with the shuttle support is approx. US$5.5bn, I think it is a good time to start re-examining unmanned missions. The ISS may turn out to be a bad platform for micro-gravity research among other things.
At least it keeps the former Russian rocket scientists busy....

This isn't a bad thing! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532823)

Seriously, it will force NASA to reexamine the priorities of its missions, and only send up the most important experiments. NASA will be stronger as a result.

Innovation is a byproduct of scarcity. Think about it.


Inherent flaws (2)

swordboy (472941) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532824)

The problem is that you typically do not want your space project going to the "lowest bidder". I can see some advantages as long as things are executed properly (i.e. - real standards to comply to and perhaps a fed funded oversight team). Maybe they could hire Argenbright Security while they are at it.

In case you "could care less" about this, I would be quick to remind you that its your tax money (if you're indeed a US citizen) and this could potentially save quite a bit of it.

Danger Will Robinson

Re:Inherent flaws (2)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532967)

The problem is that you typically do not want your space project going to the "lowest bidder".

How do you think the shuttle manufacturers source components?

I can see some advantages as long as things are executed

The lowest bigger who meets the specification. But remember NASA are the people who spend $10,000 to procure a hammer.

Re:Inherent flaws (3, Insightful)

Fjord (99230) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532983)

In case you "could care less" about this, I would be quick to remind you that its your tax money (if you're indeed a US citizen) and this could potentially save quite a bit of it.

I thought the point is that it isn't our tax money. Instead, the launches will be privatized and the companies who use the services to lauch satellites etc will have to pay the full price. They will then take the risks involved in choosing one bidder over another, and the private organizations will come up with novel ways of increasing their payload/cost efficiency in oreder to maximize their profits or compete effectivly.

I'm not 100% certain that this is a good approach, however.It very difficult for me to understand the economic game plan of the current executive in this country. Subsidizing launches is good for the economy in the way that lower interest rates and tax cuts are good for the economy. It seems like they are pulling with one hand while pushing with the other. Then there is just the factor that spinning off a new industry while the economy is receeding just doesn't seem smart to me. If these were boom times, then I'd be all for it.

Re:Inherent flaws (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532992)

The problem is that you typically do not want your space project going to the "lowest bidder".
Uh, all of the hardware that goes into a space shuttle already goes to the lowest bidder. NASA awards contracts to private companies to build the shuttle now.

Remember those cheap O-rings made by Morton-Thiocol that failed causing the shuttle explosion?

Big Deal!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532826)

Who would be dumb enough to buy those expensive, outdated, pieces of crap?

This *never* should have happened (3, Insightful)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532830)

How did it ever get to the point where one of our greatest and proudest institutions needs to privitize one of their greatest resources in order to keep going? Americans everywhere should be ashamed at this rape of our space program, once the envy of the world.

No other country in the world comes close to the US in terms of economic might, and yet it is near-third-world nations like China that are now expanding their space programs as we are selling off ours. Hell, they're even talking about putting men on the moon, something we did once and then got bored with. As a nation we have the attention span of a four year-old child, and about as much forward-thinking. We'd much rather forget about the future (and everything else) and concentrate on our televisions and big honking SUVs, despite the fact that our initial lead in the space race could have been leveraged into an unassailable one.

No, this is just another symptom of the long, slow decline of the US into a narcissistic corporate paradise as the rest of the world forges on ahead of us into the future. It seems the only people here with any kind of enthusiasm are the ones that want to control your lives; everyone would rather let them get on with and have removed the intolerable burden of decision making.

Re:This *never* should have happened (3, Insightful)

Debillitatus (532722) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532889)

How did it ever get to the point where one of our greatest and proudest institutions needs to privitize one of their greatest resources in order to keep going? Americans everywhere should be ashamed at this rape of our space program, once the envy of the world.

You talk about this as if it were a horrible thing. What exactly is the problem here? It seems to me that the main reason to have the government involved in the space race in the first place is that it was such a big enterprise that it was completely out of the scope of any type of private investor. Now that the technology has progressed to a certain point, it becomes cheap enough for a corporation to get into the game.

Two analogies: First, the simpler case of space travel, simply putting stuff into orbit. Think about it: as recently as 1957 (?), we were completely and totally amazed that the Russians could put something the size of a soccer ball into orbit for a couple of revolutions. Now, every little broadcasting company can put an intricate satellitein orbit which does any number of things. Unless you're claiming that the fact that we have private satellite communications is bad, this change to privatization of satellites has been very good for everyone.

Another example: transAtlantic boats. Columbus had to go begging to the government of Spain to get funding to send the first couple of boats over here,and they were putting them over here at the rate of about one every 2-3 years... But the mid-16th century, colonization was in private hands (in England and France, at least), and I'm sure you'll agree that transatlantic commerce got "a little better" as a result. Unless, again, you're arguing that Europe should still be sending boats over here at the rate of one every year or so...

The private sector is inherently bad (1)

sharkticon (312992) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532943)

What exactly is the problem here?

The fact that the private sector invariably gives rise to the worst possible situation for the consumer, and that space should not be available for the obscene profit gouging that the US supports wholeheartedly. Given the fact that in every market our government has shown its willingness to bend over and take it from its corporate masters, why should space be any different?

Research (2, Insightful)

Man of E (531031) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532986)

I have nothing against the private sector per se, but I agree that in this case it might not be a good idea.
A lot of the R&D that happens on board the shuttle is quite subsidized, and I'm afraid that corporations are not going to be as friendly to researchers. What that means is that possibly some research projects won't be able to afford execution in space. We may somehow lose out on valuable basic research, which would be a shame.
Perhaps the government could continue subsidizing research done on corporate spacecraft, through some extension of the NSF, or so.

Re:This *never* should have happened (1)

ChuckDivine (221595) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532919)

You don't know much about NASA, do you?

NASA has done some great things in the past. But it has failed at its most important task -- opening up space to anything but a governmental entity. Yes, we do have comsats, but that is a special case. Information has neglible mass and high value. So comsats work. Remote sensing -- another information based industry -- has possibilities.

Other businesses -- ones that require real mass -- are another matter entirely. At $5000/kg to get mass into orbit, there is precious little we can do out there that makes real business sense.

NASA doesn't even think much about democratizing space. This is perhaps because it isn't a democratically oriented institution. A few of us have noted how NASA's authoritarian regime actually frustrates progress in the field. So far we have not yet made much of a dent in the status quo. As more and more failures become apparent, perhaps we will.

Shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532951)

"Americans everywhere should be ashamed at this rape of our space program"

Hey hey HEY buddy! There`s a cue for American Shame feeling..get in line behind Foreign policy, popular culture, food, waistlines, Bush (old and young) etc

sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532834)

Sweet! I've always wanted my own space shuttle!

now i just need to save up a couple of billion dollars...

Good Idea for the Space Frontier (1)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532835)

Although the big corporations will probably get involved, I think that privatizing the shuttle system is a good idea. This will allow the rich corporations to start doing own business in space. Regardless of what they will be doing up there, (probably advertising... imaging looking through your telescope and seeing a Microsoft ad in space), it will inevitably lead to more discovery. The more people there are out there doing things, the more information we will get about our galaxy.

Maybe some mailroom guy at Microsoft actually knows how to build a warp drive, but since he was caught playing digdug at work, he's already hit the "glass ceiling". This might allow his idea to come to fruition... you never know!

I just hope that the space shuttles that carry people (or any for that matter) aren't using Windows. The BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) might actually cost lives then!

Although the big corporations will probably.... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532897)

Well..Duh!!! How else has a few Billion to do this???

The Slashdot Shuttle! (0, Funny)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532837)

It will be just like the Slashdot Cruiser! BTW, who was the lucky winner of the Slashdot Cruiser? *snicker*

Re:The Slashdot Shuttle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532997)

OK, gotta ask. I know they were trying to sell that stupid cruiser, but what's the deal with it. I know there is one. Tell me the story.

-DFW : Banning never stopped me.

Launch cost breakdown. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532839)

I suppose that's $1 for the actual launch and
$399,999,999 for a new toilet seat?

could be good (1)

Manes (17325) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532863)

Given the lack of founds Nasa have had the recent years, I don't really see a problem with this, as long as they do it the right way.

Getting high bids, people wanting to commit to a project, making people care about it, would certainly make sure privaticing would be the way to go. If they end up getting low bids from people not interested in anything but a short-time investment or free pr, they will be better of as they are today.

I'd love to see the spirit people had way back when we first landed on the moon, but nasa needs more money for this to happen.

Privatization risks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532864)

Would a private corporation have the controls in place that would be required to ensure safety or something as delicate as space exploration. I personally think it's a great idea. The less tax money of mine going to seemingly pointless programs (don't ge tme started), the better, but I sure as hell don't think we should sacrifice safety policy and procedure in the name of saving a few bucks.

I Think That It Is A Great Idea (2, Insightful)

LaNMaN2000 (173615) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532866)

Not only will privitization of shuttle launch and maintenance help reduce costs for NASA (and give them more money to devote to other projects and the completion of the ISS), but it will be one more step towards the commercialization of space. Now, any company will be able to purchase space on the shuttle for satellites or even human cargo :-).

Remember how many people (including many /.ers) were critical of the government's desire to open the Internet to commerce; now, few would argue that we have all benefitted from that decision. The barrier to entry (or exit, in this case!) is so high, for space flight, that an independent company would never be able to develop the type of technology that NASA has developed for the shuttle; it simply would not be ecnomically feasible for them to pour so much money into R&D. By giving them the ability to resell NASA technology in exchange for lowering the cost of shuttle launches, the government will be entering an arrangement that is mutually beneficial and could help form an industry.

My only requirement for the company given the contract is that it have its headquarters in the U.S., because of security concerns and a respect for our national pride.

Next up (5, Funny)

sandidge (150265) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532869)

Next you know we'll be seeing :

Kellog's US Navy
Verizon Air Force
Kotex US Marines

(And, no, I have nothing against any armed forces. Kotex Marines just sounded funnier than any other.)

Re:Next up (3, Funny)

Tim Macinta (1052) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532912)

Next you know we'll be seeing ... MSArmy

Microsoft is one step ahead of you there. Check out this article on Microsoft's Army [bbspot.com] .

Re:Next up (3, Funny)

tswinzig (210999) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532956)

Kotex US Marines

Gives new meaning to the phrase, "We will insert our Marines into enemy territory soon."

Not the first time.... (5, Informative)

Fenris2001 (210117) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532873)

If I remember correctly, NASA tried to find a buyer for the Shuttles in the 1980s....

The reason no one bought them then, and the reason no one will buy them now, is the horrid expense of launching & reusing them - for example, on return to Earth, the Space Shuttle Main Engines are pulled, shipped to California, rebuilt to spec, and tested for ~75% of their design lifetime - any deviation during this test period results in the engine being scrapped. The Shuttle is an old design, and it wasn't efficient when it was new. Or consider the Solid Rocket Boosters, which actually cost more to retrieve and reuse than disposable boosters would.

The BBC quotes a figure of US$400 million, but the total development cost of the Shuttle program is *much* higher - some figures I've seen give a total cost per launch of over US$1.5 billion.

I think the solution to bringing down launch costs is to "open" the space program - let private companies build new launch vehicles, and have NASA test and certify them. This would allow NASA to perform more basic research, much like its predecessor the National Advisory Commitee for Aeronautics did from 1915 to 1958. This research, in turn, would lead to a new generation of launch vehicles.

I'm not a rabid NASA-hater like some out there, but I do think the agency has too much to do, with too many people, and too small of a budget.

Re:Not the first time.... (2)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532976)

Although I'd *love* to see the shuttles and space system revamped to make it more efficent by someone other than the lowest bidder; opening up the space system allows for industry corruption. What happens when someone gets a monopoly in space? Everytime you try to star gaze you have to distinguise the stars from the MS logos? If we were to commericialize space, there will need to be some heavy duty restrictions.

But I'm sure the illuminati already knows that... *loud ominious thunder*

Maybe not a bad idea. (4)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532875)

Take a look at the 50+ generation. They had the moon in their grasp and they turned their back.

How many experimental craft have been 'scrapped' for 'budget cuts'- the government is a big, slow, uninteresting beast that plows over ideas. Whatever happeend to the dream of SSTO (single stage to orbit)?

Throw 'market share' and a chance for profit in, then you have some businesses interested. Contractors don't deliver on time? Dock them. Don't coddle them.

The moon was ours once... now every time I step outside at night and look up I see another example of failure.

Venimus, vidimus, fugimus

Private shuttle manopoly (1)

BluePenguin (521713) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532882)

Step one: M$ is the only company with the ability to buy they shuttle... and does it to prove it
Step two: US Gov. Takes M$ to court because they have a manopoly on shuttle flights.
Step three: Shuttle crashes frequently while M$ and US Gov go back and forth in courts.

This has been a shameless joke at M$s expense... those who laugh will be assimilated at next reboot.


learn to spel (0, Offtopic)

saforrest (184929) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532887)

NASA is Considers Privatizing Space Shuttles

What you say?

It's been talked about before... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532890)

This is not really new. United Space Alliance, the LLC bastard child
of Boeing and Lockheed Martin has approached NASA before about buying
or leasing a shuttle. I believe USA was particularly interested in
Columbia because it has the lightest schedule during certain phases of
Space Station construction. Outgoing NASA agency head Dan Goldin was
reported to be all in favor of going forward, but the center director
at JSC, one George Abbey Sr., was opposed and blocked the deal.

The new emphasis on privatizing the program is a push by the new Bush
administration, and was a bit of a surprise to many at USA. "Out of
the blue" is how it was described to me. However, USA does not expect
much to come of the new push anytime soon because three key positions
at NASA are now vacant: Abbey has retired at JSC, Goldin is on his way
out, and NASA Office of Space Flight assistant administrator Joe
Rothenberg has announced his retirement. USA execs are NOT actively
pursuing privatization discussions with NASA, and cannot realistically
do so until these positions are filled.

In other words, don't look for a privately owned or operated shuttle
any time soon.

Security concerns and other misc. issues (2, Interesting)

GianfrancoZola (6069) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532892)

I wonder if there is anything to be concerned about with regard to national security. With the shuttle program in federal hands, I'm assuming there is close scrutiny of contractors involved in building and preparing military payloads that the shuttle delivers into space.

While the government has every right to keep sensitive information classified, they also have to keep the public informed (to a point) about what they're doing. If a private entity took over all the duties of deploying and maintaining the shuttles, would that entity be compelled to share as much information about what it's doing as the government currently does? How do intellectual property rights fit into this? Would a private entity at some point start claiming rights to knowledge derived from scientific activities that took place on one of its flights?

OTOH, a private entity that can't rely solely on federal dollars may have more incentive to find ways to drive down costs and streamline the whole process. But hopefully not at the expense of safety.

Read Feynman's report (5, Insightful)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532896)

Anyone who read Richard Feynman's report on the Challenger explosion knows the Shuttle design process was flawed from the beginning. Exhaustive testing of material tolerances and other bottom-up procedures used in modern aircraft design were ignored in the Shuttle design process.

It costs so much for every flight because they basically have to rebuild the engine after every run. Parts that were not designed to wear fall apart or develop stress fractures in a single run.

I would support privatization 100% if they would give Boeing or Lockheed a contract to redesign the shuttle based on what we have learned from the current design and its flaws. NASA bureaucratic BS was responsible for allowing many of those flaws to exist. Feynman asked, "Do NASA managers even TALK to the engineers they're managing?" Privatization of maintaining the existing fleet wouldn't save nearly as much money as a new design would.

Re:Read Feynman's report (2)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532906)

Damn, the italics close tag was there in the preview screen.

Re:Read Feynman's report (1)

Man of E (531031) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532955)

I would support privatization 100% if they would give Boeing or Lockheed a contract to redesign the shuttle

What about these X40 or so (I'm not sure about the number) reusable shuttles that Lockheed has been designing for years? Perhaps NASA is thinking of selling the old shuttle because soon they'll start buying a new fleet.

The new Lockheed design is sure to have been expensive - considering that NASA basically paid for the thing, I wouldn't be surprised if it were an exclusive deal.

Great, I can see it now... (1)

lys1123 (461567) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532901)

We have the first space tourist, and now the announcement that Nasa is considering going commercial? One has to wonder where this is leading.

"Thank you for flying Nasa. This flight has been brought to you by the letter M and the number 7. Now sit back and enjoy your in-flight commercials."

Competition (2)

wangi (16741) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532911)

Fair enough, privatise the birds - but do it in a manner which will allow competition to drive down costs.

Perhaps sell off each shuttle individually? Or perhaps more realistically split the inventory between two operators.

Were We Swindled? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532913)

They used a mission to repair a satellite (cost about $200 million) as a demonstration of the value of the shuttle. If the shuttle mission is $400 million, they could have launched two new satellites for the same bucks. Why do public officials use such lame reasoning? Why does the press let them get away with it?

Privatizing the shuttle or the maintenance? (1)

Indomitus (578) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532920)

I just read an article on space.com about a speech Dan Goldin (of course I can't find the link anymore) gave about fully privatizing the shuttle maintenance. Apparently they have already privatized about 40% of the jobs. Seems like that's a much better option than privatizing the whole thing and taking it out of NASAs hands all together. I wonder if this a real proposal or just something a couple of administrators and senators are tossing around?

One step too far (0)

Master Of Ninja (521917) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532922)

Privatizing space shuttles goes one step too far - $400m for a launch, where's the profit? What's going to happen will be something like in the UK. Someone else posted on the state of railways here, but I'm thinking of how the government is also trying to privatize the hospitals here as well - things start going down the drain very quickly when money runs out for operations.

Either the cost of the launch will creep us as the governemnt has to pay the profit margin, or there will be cutbacks on the shuttle itself. And cutbacks can only be bad - i remember seeing that if the shuttle had 99% reliability, there still would be a possible one million faults with it. Cutbacks on the thing could make a flying bomb.

And with the recent tradegy (in the US) security has to be a major aspect - how much damage could a shuttle do? Crashing it seems remote, but the technology could be stolen for nefarious purposes, and someone could probably modify it to make a super crop duster that could have unimaginable consequences.

OK, I'm sure the thing will be under heavy military guard, and security with the company will be tight, but giving control of such a valuable technological and economic asset seems a bit short-sighted just to save money (refer to the railways in the UK to see the real cost of privatization).

It just depends on how far privatization will go - unfortunately the article was a bit sketchy on the details. Anybody got more info?

Corporate Sponsorship! (1, Funny)

mikeboone (163222) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532924)

I think a Pizza Hut logo would be really sexy on the wing where the American Flag currently takes up valuable advertising space.

Would this hurt research? (1)

xdangavinx (534619) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532932)

By privatising shuttle lunchs, would there be a conflict of interests of the objectives of what the goal of the missions will do? It seems that this many turn into a situation where the people who are putting up the money for the launches (be it one organization or a group of organizations) could threaten to pull funding if they don't get what they want to get out of the mission.

which is exactly how it should be (n/t) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532996)

n/t foo

Sure, have GM and Ford make space vehicles.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532942)

It may sound good, and who knows may even be a great thing, but I'm not too sure about privatizing. The last thing I need is GM or Ford making space vehicles with defects that fail and come raining down on my damn house.

This pisses me off! (1)

Hazelrah (208818) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532953)

I think the leaders of the country have really missed the point of the space program. In an age when capitalism runs amuk (look at the Math World article posted earlier for what happens to quality ideas and creations), the government is loosing sight of what's important. We'd rather fight some pointless war in Afghanistan that we won't win, and I bet that costs a pretty penny. It's sad to see this proposal given any kind of serious consideration. I think the space program is an important key to our national future, and relying on people who ultimate objective is profit is not the point. There are many reasons the program should exist as a not for profit venture. First is the science. Companies don't want to do research on something they can't sell. Companies also don't care about human beings, so who the heck would want to ride on a shuttle where passenger safety is second to big bucks for shareholders. Third, NASA carries great national pride. Profit doesn't make people happy in the end, and ultimately NASA provides a piece of humanity's better half.
Ultimately, I would rather see the whole shuttle program killed rather than being profitized. If the government wants to be so cheap when it comes to national pride, let the world see that the U.S. dump money into a pointless war than better itself.

that we won't win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2532987)

We shall see about that... we shall see. Perhaps if by "we won't win", you mean "we will win" or some such.

No need to thank me. I find virtue is its own reward.

NASA has always been about the pursuit of science. (2)

Meefan (526525) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532954)

... and corporations don't really care about science. Engineering, yes, applied science, certainly - but pure science, the kind that NASA does? Not really. On the other hand, NASA has botched enough missions so that it seems *something* must be done. Is this a solution? Perhaps. Privatization, though, can have it's own share of worries and problems; HMOs are a good example.

A Nude Clint Eastwood as commentary on privatizing (0)

utdpenguin (413984) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532964)

I must admit to being a little concerned by this.

What safeguards are put in to insure liability? I mean, a private ocmpany is looing at the bottom line. NASA exists not to make a profit, but to explore. Ergo, I wonder if a private company will be as liable to insure safety. Even NASA has had some diasasters and near disasters.
(Aside, as if shooting Tom Hanks into space wasn't enough, what the HELL was up with "Space Cowboys" in which we got to see old geezers naked _and_ shot into space._

If provate ocmpany cuts corners and a disaster results, can we hold them liable? Can we sue them? Some how giving somehting of the magnitude and ocmplexity of a shuttle to the lowest bidder unerves me.

They are effectively private already (2)

s20451 (410424) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532970)

For years, a private company called United Space Alliance [unitedspacealliance.com] has held the contract for space shuttle operations. USA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, the contractors responsible for constructing most of the space shuttle hardware.

This was our idea (2, Insightful)

FrankBough (173822) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532971)

Weren't we talking about this the other day in the context of the ISS. Not exactly, maybe, but it all goes to the same end.

If you take this out of the hands of the government then you can reduce the amount of interference it gets. By all means we should support government interference (in the public interest, of course) during development, but when a technology is well established it should run OK. Leaving it in government hands lays it open to streams of politicians who just can't resist fiddling.

Let's face it - there already is competition in this market. That's why the Russian rockets and Arianes and so on are getting so much of the launch traffic. That's also why people are thinking of building new launch [space.com] facilities [space.com] commercially.

Maybe if there is a profit motive behind it for someone, the shuttle will realise its original objective of being a low-cost launch vehicle.

more on the original story here [space.com] , BTW

opposite of everything else in the wake of 9/11 (1)

josquint (193951) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532982)

Odd...considering the Current Government Trend(TM) is to centeralize and take over and control things now. Especially big explosive things like planes!

Which also begs the question... If terrorists hijack one of these puppies(which, i'd assume would be easier without the government 'security standards'), with millions of gallons of liquid H2 and O2... and ram it into something... ummm.. BOOM?

No Way (1)

red_dragon (1761) | more than 13 years ago | (#2532989)

You let a private corporation operate the Space Shuttle, and some dork will find yet another very tall building to crash it into...

NASA + eBay (0)

robvasquez (411139) | more than 13 years ago | (#2533003)

Put the shuttles on eBay. I'll. Perhaps a BUY IT NOW $2 billion?
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