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NASA Prepping Plans For Flexible Path To Mars

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the getting-there-is-half-the-fun dept.

NASA 175

FleaPlus writes "A group at NASA has been formulating a 'Flexible Path' to Mars architecture, which many expect will be part of the soon-to-be-announced reboot of NASA's future plans. NASA's prior architecture spends much of its budget on creating two in-house rockets, the Ares I and V, and would yield no beyond-LEO human activity until a lunar landing sometime in the 2030s. In contrast, the Flexible Path would produce results sooner, using NASA's limited budget to develop and gain experience with the technologies (human and robotic) needed to progressively explore and establish waypoints at Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moon Phobos, Mars, and other possible locations (e.g. the Moon, Venus flyby). Suggested interim goals include constructing giant telescopes in deep space, learning how to protect Earth from asteroids, establishing in-space propellant depots, and harvesting resources/fuel from asteroids and Phobos to supply Moon/Mars-bound vehicles."

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175 comments

nasa is not gonna get much done (4, Insightful)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887760)

if it gets "rebooted" very 4/8 years by new president/administration

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30887794)

Those jackasses in Alabama will see to it that nothing does

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (3, Interesting)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888266)

if it gets "rebooted" very 4/8 years by new president/administration

Yes, it seems to be a shell game. Making an "exciting new announcement" every couple of years creates the illusion of things happening without ever producing any tangible results. I've pretty well lost faith in the proposition that we're going to be going anywhere in my lifetime again. John Derbyshire wrote an insightful article [nationalreview.com] detailing a number of reasons why. I think he's hit it on the head.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (2, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888432)

What, you can't design and build a simple rocket within 4 years?

Come on, this is 2010 - surely we can design rockets a lot faster than in 1969...

[/sarcasm]

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (2, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888728)

I know you're being facetious, but we can design 'em faster than in 1969, largely because we still have the designs from the 1969 rockets as a starting point. They only starting point that they had back in the '60's when they started the plan to shoot for the moon were the V2 and the rockets used in the Mercury program. Nothing of the size/scale that could push a capsule to the moon had ever been built before.

We can't say that in 2010... people have been to the moon, and rockets of the scale needed to push people to the moon, if not further, have already been built and refined. There's decades of research that they don't need to repeat in order to start building rockets like that again. I'm not saying that putting an astronaut on the moon by 2014 is a likelihood, or even a possibility. But I am saying that it probably won't take as long as it did the first time. :)

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889152)

What, you can't design and build a simple rocket within 4 years?

Come on, this is 2010 - surely we can design rockets a lot faster than in 1969...

I can't think of any rocket designed in '69...

Depending on how you want to count the saturn-1, it took somewhere between 1960 to 1967 or 1962 (really 1961) to 1967 to design and build the moon rockets, so figure 5 to 7 years back in the olden days.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_V [wikipedia.org]

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (4, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889852)

Design is not the problem. Politics is. Mike Griffin had a pet project which has been nicknamed "the stick", or ARES-I. A single solid rocket capable of launching a 20 tonne payload into orbit. ATK, the folks that build the SRBs for the shuttle were given the contract to develop and build the solid rocket. ATK is based in Alabama, and Alabama's senator, Richard Shelby, holds NASA's purse strings. So, no money for NASA unless ATK gets a big fat juicy contract.

Another problem is NASA's "Not Invented Here" syndrome. ARES-I is a 20 tonne launcher. Billions have been spent developing it. However the US already has a perfectly fine rocket that can launch 20 tonnes into orbit; the Delta-IV Heavy. Oh, but that was designed by the Air Force. Can't have that at NASA.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890270)

But isn't the ARES-I the smallest of the ARES series, and it matches the Delta-IV max load.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 3 years ago | (#30891306)

ATK is based in Alabama

No, they are headquartered in Minnesota, but they do have facilities there, along with california, minnesota, utah, virginia, ... you get the idea.

So, no money for NASA unless ATK gets a big fat juicy contract.

Or it could be that they are basing ARES-I on 20 years of engineering data, rather than starting from scratch to make a new human-flight rated rocket, which is no small proposition.

Geeze, if you're gonna get all conspiracy theorist you could at least get the basics right.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (4, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889126)

In this case, no. The Bush plan was underfunded and overplanned. Ares has proven to be a colossal money sink, using a contracting method that has been incapable of creating an actual working vehicle since the space shuttle, and kept alive by political considerations rather than practical reasons.

The flexible path provides new and early 'Firsts' that can be accomplished much more cheaply and fits better within expected budgets. It moves to take NASA out of the LEO ferry game, and keep it doing what it does best -- Exploration. The mission steps outlined by the Augustine commission were designed specifically to deal with the always changing political goalposts. The flexibility means that if funding changes our the target changes its not a cessation of an entire program, just some relatively minor revisions.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

Verio Fryar (811080) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889330)

It moves to take NASA out of the LEO ferry game, and keep it doing what it does best -- Exploration

NASA 40 years ago did some exploration, but since then everybody involved has retired. Nowadays NASA expertise is only LEO operations and it has to relearn how to "explore".

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889838)

Oh, they're still exploring, just mostly with robots lately. I think once you have a consistent, reliable, cheaper transport to LEO it will be easier to translate that to manned missions as well. I hope anyway.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889954)

You seem to have forgotten the Mars rovers, the stardust probe, and all the other robotic probes they've sent out recently.

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (3, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890574)

Wait, a Bush plan has turned out to be non-workable and only resulted in gov't money being sent to contractors. Say it ain't so!

Re:nasa is not gonna get much done (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890044)

Decision paralysis isn't the only threat to space development and exploration. Shitty programs that actually harm space development are worse (such as the Ares program, which builds a government funded competitor to commercial launch vehicles, in effect both building an inferior, unnecessary launch vehicle and undermining US commercial activity in space at the same time).

Going Nowhere (2, Insightful)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887816)

NASA is going nowhere unless the gov't stops the loss of our prosperity overseas. Yes, I mean outsourcing. Good manufacturing jobs get replaced with crap-wages retail jobs so more and more people live near the poverty line. You can't tax people like that to pay for sky adventures by NASA, and there's fewer and fewer rich people to tax, too. Eventually the Chinese are going to wise up and stop lending us money, and that'll be that for a whale of a lot of things, with things like NASA getting the axe first.

Re:Going Nowhere (5, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888120)

Eventually the Chinese are going to wise up and stop lending us money, and that'll be that for a whale of a lot of things, with things like NASA getting the axe first.

I do wish people would stop saying that.

Total US debt in 2009 $12,867.5 Billion [wikipedia.org] . Total debt owned by China 789.6 Billion [ustreas.gov] . China owns only about 6% of US debt and the odds are they will reduce that gradually to reduce their risks if the dollar depreciates or there is inflation in the US. The Iraq war is forecasted to cost $2 trillion by the CBO - Afghanistan is a bargain at a mere $500 Billion [wikipedia.org] . The US spends almost that much a year on defense. $8.3 trillion [wikipedia.org] evaporated in the financial crisis, way more than any of these numbers.

So even if the Chinese T bills were destroyed instantaneously it would still be a shock 10x less severe than the financial crisis, or less than half an Iraq war.

Of course the Chinese gradually diversifying away from US debt is likely to have much less effect than that.

Re:Going Nowhere (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888246)

Fuck it then, 400% outsource tax and embargo on China. The dollar will crash but then we'll be forced to create our own industries. Make an exception for raw materials, but embargo everything else. We'll lose out on cheap plastic toxic crap and computer stuff, but American companies have the plans and they will create factories or someone else will take their place.

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889062)

Any suggestion of a tariff would drive the armies of armchair free-trade extremists batshit crazy. Would would be distorting the market, you see.

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890528)

We don't need no steekin' tariff. All we need to do is pass the fair tax (www.fairtax.org). The removal of the IRS, all income taxes, etc. etc. from AMERICAN industry will cause the prices of AMERICAN goods to fall. Everything retail then gets taxed with the retail sales tax that is the Fair Tax, and foreign stuff ends up costing relatively more than American stuff. Yet, its not a tariff. That's what we should be working toward. Great potential for bringing back our industries from overseas, Mexico, and Canada. Broadens the base of taxpayers to include those that don't pay taxes now - rich people sitting on a pile and spending a little of it each year, illegal aliens, criminals (esp. the drug dealers making trillions of untaxed income), and, a new group, tourists. None of those are paying a dime now, so we get 142 million tax returns in 2008 for a country with 305 million citizens plus probably 20 million illegal aliens. That's nuts. We should have maybe 200+ tax returns. But with a retail sales tax, the inefficiency of even handling individual tax returns goes away, and the $$$ is simply collected when people buy new items at retail.

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888276)

Compare that to World War II and consider that we use technology more and (as a result) less Americans have died (then include inflation..)
http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/art14_world_war_ii_spending.html [usgovernmentspending.com]

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890278)

I don't disagree. Still World War II was not something the US had a choice about. It's arguable that Afghanistan was necessary but invading Iraq was almost pure adventurism.

Re:Going Nowhere (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888620)

and i wish ppl would stop calling it defense.

Re:Going Nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30890174)

Sorry

The US spends almost that much a year on so called defense but actually for imperialist colonialist wars of aggression against the peace loving and socialist peoples of the oppressed so called third world countries

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888960)

Out of curiosity, is that US total debt figure including or not including the portion owed to Social Security? See, there was a wonderful bait-and-switch pulled on the middle and working classes over the last 25 years or so that went like this:
1. Notice that Social Security will eventually be broke unless we do something about it. A commission led by Alan Greenspan is formed to figure out what to do about it.
2. The commission recommends raising FICA taxes to build up a surplus in the so-called Social Security Trust Fund, to reduce the risk of having to cut SS benefits. Congress follows the recommendations of the commission.
3. Fast forward about a decade, and lo and behold government is running a surplus if you include the extra SS revenue (but a deficit if you don't). So when George W Bush gets into office, he says "We'll send everyone a $300 check as their portion of the surplus, and also use the surplus to justify a nice hefty tax cut for the top tax brackets."
4. And lastly, since the SS Trust Fund "doesn't exist", the same people then argued that either benefits had to be cut, or the SS system privatized, because government couldn't afford it anymore.

The effect of this is that over the last 20 years overall tax burden is shifted from the progressive income taxes to the regressive FICA taxes.

Frequently, the same folks who argue that the SS Trust Fund doesn't exist and therefor SS shouldn't exist also include the T-Bills owned by Social Security in the "Total US debt" figure as a way to argue for cuts to other programs.

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#30891190)

Out of curiosity, is that US total debt figure including or not including the portion owed to Social Security?

That figure is the external debt. Which does not include the "debt" to the Social Security Administration. I have read that the unfunded liability of the SSA (you know, the sort of thing that corporations get slammed for in court regularly) is on the order of $100 trillion.

See, there was a wonderful bait-and-switch pulled on the middle and working classes over the last 25 years or so that went like this:
1. Notice that Social Security will eventually be broke unless we do something about it. A commission led by Alan Greenspan is formed to figure out what to do about it.
2. The commission recommends raising FICA taxes to build up a surplus in the so-called Social Security Trust Fund, to reduce the risk of having to cut SS benefits. Congress follows the recommendations of the commission.

Which had already happened before that, and will happen again.

>3. Fast forward about a decade, and lo and behold government is running a surplus if you include the extra SS revenue (but a deficit if you don't). So when George W Bush gets into office, he says "We'll send everyone a $300 check as their portion of the surplus, and also use the surplus to justify a nice hefty tax cut for the top tax brackets."

But, but...it was the Clinton Administration that claimed that we had a surplus. Bush taking them at their word was disingenuous at best, but otherwise he'd have had to call them liars (and the lads on the left would have crucified him). Plus, of course, opposing his proposed income tax cut on the grounds that the "surplus" that Clinton had achieved wasn't REALLY a surplus would have made the Democrats and the Media look bad....

4. And lastly, since the SS Trust Fund "doesn't exist", the same people then argued that either benefits had to be cut, or the SS system privatized, because government couldn't afford it anymore.

Actually, they suggested privatizing it since the stock market was appreciating in value far faster than your "investment" in Social Security. They fell for the "but prices will NEVER go down" fallacy that infected so many people during that period.

Note: about five years ago, in discussing housing in Florida, I heard three well-educated, technically literate people assert that "housing prices could never go down". When I realized I was the only dissenter from that PoV, I went home, wrote my mortgage company a really big check, and have been the sole owner of my home since.

The effect of this is that over the last 20 years overall tax burden is shifted from the progressive income taxes to the regressive FICA taxes.

Yep, pretty much. And that process will continue. It can't help it, really. SSA is structured such that it MUST be paid from SS taxes. As the fraction of our population of SS age increases (as it has pretty much every year since it was instituted), the amount of SS taxes must increase.

And as the amount of SS taxes increase, the fraction of our budget that is the SSA will increase. Note that the SSA is the largest single budget item today. And while you can cut the Defense Department, you can't cut SSA (paid for by SS taxes) and Medicare (paid for by Medicare taxes) (first and third largest items in the budget right now).

In order to actually balance the current budget, we'd have to eliminate the Defense Department, and reduce all other discretionary spending by ~70%.

Or, alternately, double income taxes across the board.

Frequently, the same folks who argue that the SS Trust Fund doesn't exist and therefor SS shouldn't exist also include the T-Bills owned by Social Security in the "Total US debt" figure as a way to argue for cuts to other programs.

It doesn't exist. Simple thought experiment to demonstrate its existence or non-existence:
Assume it exists. When the SSA finally reaches the point that it must start redeeming those T-Bills, figure out what will happen (hint: the government will raise SS taxes and/or increase the external debt to match the decrease in the "debt" to the SSA.
Assume it doesn't exist. When the SSA finally reaches the point where it must start redeeming those T-Bills, figure out what will happen (hint: see above hint).

If the result is the same assuming the SS Trust Fund exists as if it doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist.

Re:Going Nowhere (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889022)

Unlikely. The Chinese buy US T-bills because they /have to/, to maintain their dollar-yuan peg which helps keep their currency low, and their squillions of workers employed. They're doing this to contain unrest and prop up their odious totalitarian regime. As always with the Chinese, this is COMPLETELY about naked Chinese self-interest, or rather, the naked self-interest of the Chinese government.

As an aside, the US could play some financial games to make life REALLY hard for the Chinese government. Perhaps our friends in Beijing needs a timely little reminder of who's the superpower -- and who's the wannabe middle-power...

Remember, US overconsumption is funded by the Chinese government forcing their own people to be underpaid in sweatshops.

Re:Going Nowhere (2, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890310)

Well this is true too - in fact this shows the T bills are far more important to China than they are to the US. Without them the Chinese currency would appreciate and their trade surplus with the US would reduce. On the other hand Chinese domestic demand would grow. Of course there are lots of other places that want to export to the US - Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are obvious ones. All of them would buy T bills to weaken their currencies.

In fact if China started to unload them quickly the price would drop and they would lose money. The other export driven economies would pick them up. I've read that China is becoming less competitive even with an artificially weakened currency and factories are moving to places like Vietnam and Malaysia.

Vietnam is actually an ideal candidate to copy the Chinese model where foreign currency is seized from private owned factories and put into a state run fund that buys T bills to weaken the currency. Then again Vietnam doesn't much (any?) treasuries at the moment, presumably for political reasons. Malaysia does of course and it would make sense for them to buy more if they are already competing successfully on cost with China. In fact if they did and Vietnam didn't it would seem to make even more sense.

You're kidding. (0, Troll)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887842)

Are asteroids hitting earth such a high probability we need to protect ourselves? Won't this be an unnecessary drain on taxpayers?

Re:You're kidding. (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887946)

Asteroids are a good target for missions because they are easy to get to in energy terms. There were plans to do it with Apollo. Doing something is better than doing nothing, and an asteroid mission is pretty much all NASA could do now outside low earth orbit. It is actually easier than going to the moon.

Re:You're kidding. (2, Insightful)

stiggle (649614) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888066)

'Easy' to get to and provide potential for resources.

While getting hit by an asteroid isn't that common - we've been hit in the past by big objects from space and its a world changing event. Personally, I'd like it not to change so I can stay living here.

Re:You're kidding. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888100)

You are more likely to die from an asteroid hit than from a terrorist attack in the USA. And yet the US has spent a lot more money on various wars than searching for asteroids (road safety would be a better target of course).

Re:You're kidding. (1, Insightful)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888286)

I would like to see a link to the thousands in the US that have died in the past 10 years by asteroids.

Yes. Next stupid question? (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888150)

The title of the post suggests this is a troll. An asteroid strike is a very credible threat, as the geological evidence for past ones is all around us. The last one that could have been really serious was Tunguska, which had it hit head on rather than at an angle, and in an inhabited region rather than Siberia, would have been so destructive that it would have been worth the cost of deflecting it. That was in 1908. The next possible impact is, I believe, in 2037/8.

Only last week hard evidence was reported that asteroids themselves collide. This implies that yet another mechanism to cause asteroids to leave their relatively stable orbits and head Sunwards exists (apart from gravitational deflection by planets.)

The cost of a program to detect all credible collision threats and do something about it is, I imagine, around $1 billion per annum. The cost of a single asteroid collision in the developed world could easily run into thousands of times that. Look on it as relatively cheap life insurance, on a par with solving the Year 2000 problem and cheaper than protecting the US eastern seaboard against inundation, and it makes a lot of sense.

Re:Yes. Next stupid question? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889622)

The cost of a program to detect all credible collision threats and do something about it is, I imagine, around $1 billion per annum.

At a billion dollars per year, I don't think it'd be cheap insurance. But we should be able to reduce the cost of the surveillance systems over the next few decades. A system in the $100 million per year range should be a steal for what you'd get out of it.

Re:You're kidding. (5, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888530)

Won't this be an unnecessary drain on taxpayers?

.

It never ceases to amaze me how often this objection is raised. The original drive to the moon in the 1960's is one of the very few examples of a government program that WORKED, and that paid for itself many times over. This point has been raised many times over as well: a quick Google search, in fact, led to this comment from September of 2007 right here on /.:

...from a poster named "Tausin," with plenty of links to prove the point. [slashdot.org]

Besides, even if it did cost, why not invest in the future in the most tangible way? Rather that sitting on this planet whining about resources running out, why not go "out there" and FIND MORE? Rather than worrying about overpopulation, why not go find some more real estate??? Man, even if we never make it to Mars, putting viable colony/way stations at the Lagrange points would be cooler than liquid helium. :)

It's time for us to stop whining and tightening our belts and worrying about the future. It's time to start MAKING IT.

As for a change of administrations killing this new initiative, it won't happen if the people get behind it. That's a simple sales job. And to quote Jerry Pournelle, one great way to start is just to ask everyone to go outside tonight and look up at the stars for a while.

Just look at them. :)

Re:You're kidding. (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890252)

Another "spinoffs" myth. NASA has some effect as an early adopter of consider non-aerospace related technologies, but as I see it, it's real effect has been in the creation of the commercial satellite industry (which incidentally, it had to be pried out of after it created the market). That's something like almost $20 billion [spacemart.com] per year. NASA also is a significant developer of aeronautics technologies. Finally, it has considerable aerospace research that has reduced the cost of development for many businesses. SpaceX and Scaled Composites would be required to spend more in development costs, if it weren't for prior NASA-sponsored development. NASA also demonstrated RLV technologies and orbital assembly techniques (what I consider the meager output of hundreds of billions of dollars of expenditures).

It's done some useful stuff, but at what I consider extravagant cost. Spinoffs are one of a number of touchie feelie intangibles (inspiration to young people, national prestige, international cooperation, space science) that are used to rationalize spending money without consequence.

Re:You're kidding. (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890962)

But to me, it seems fear driven. I wish I could find this quote from many years back. But, I think it was regarding communism, terrorism, then asteroid impacts.

Someone mentioned $1 billion per year. Well, let's see if that jumps multiple times-fold in the coming years.

Re:You're kidding. (1)

Mattskimo (1452429) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889032)

They're certainly a bigger threat than terrorism, if that's what you mean. Imagine the Tunguska object (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_Event) had entered the atmosphere a few hours later over a city, say Paris or London. Within seconds it would have killed orders of magnitude more people than terrorism ever has.

Re:You're kidding. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889948)

I guess that depends on what you think terrorism is. Were the notorious dictators of the 20th Century, terrorists at the time that they killed most of their victims? If they were, then a Tunguska event would kill something like two orders of magnitude less people even if it burst over a populated city of the time in 1908.

Flexible Path (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30887890)

"Flexible Path" ? Would that be a space elevator that didn't stop at geosync orbit, and went all the way to Mars. It would certainly need to be flexible with both planets moving and the sun in the way sometimes.

Take the froggy path! (1)

Xinvoker (1660417) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887902)

I think the flexible path is a step in the right direction. Rather than landing on the Moon and Mars every 50 years, NASA should move to establish permanent bases.Experience with asteroids is an important bonus too. Leaving LEO for private companies can also save them a lot of money to deal with that. Ares I can be scrapped, but Ares V could still be useful.

Space: faster, further, sooner (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#30887962)

Can't wait until we all start spending loads of money on space programs again.

I believe that it's all money well spent.

Re:Space: faster, further, sooner (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888116)

Yeah, but first we need money to spend. Given that we're already spending money we don't have, I'm not very optimistic about seeing funding for space increased any time soon.

Why do people care so much about Mars? (1, Interesting)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888028)

Just because it's one of the few planets in the solar system whose gravity/temperature won't instantly kill you? Am I in the minority here by preferring to spend my entire life on earth than visit a desert with no breathable atmosphere? Why is it so important to send people to a barren rock before we have the technology to make it livable? Wouldn't the vast sum of money required be better spent preserving the rainforests here on earth? Who tagged this article 'getyourasstomars'? Why does going to mars in the near future matter even a tiny bit for our present situation?

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888074)

Wouldn't the vast sum of money required be better spent preserving the rainforests here on earth?

That always bugged me too. The idea that we should be exploring other planets in case we screw this one up just doesn't work... how badly would be have to screw this one up that starting from scratch would be easier than fixing this one???

By all means go and explore Mars because it's a fantastically cool thing to do, but don't do it under the pretense that we might kill the Earth so bad one day that we need somewhere else to go.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888816)

Wouldn't the vast sum of money required be better spent preserving the rainforests here on earth?

.

And how are you going to preserve them? First, figure out what's killing them: OVERPOPULATION. People clearcut the forests to make room for houses and farmland.

So? Move the freakin' population out into space. That's not a case of "exploring in case we screw this one up," it's a clear, unambiguous case of exploring so that we WON'T screw this one up. Can't you see that?

The only alternative is a future filled with angst, tightened belts and draconian population controls. And you have been warned: I will fight that future with every breath that I possess.

Our destiny is the stars, dood. Let's start making it happen before things DO get so bad here that we can't.

Not again. Think, man! (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890086)

A. I'm all for setting up colonies everywhere.

B. It's cheap, compared to expenses we have on Earth right now.

But

C. Overpopulation causing rain forest depletion is a great way of ending an argument so that nothing happens, but it's crap. The problem is that people are stupid -- no, not just Americans, everyone. They think in the short term. They don't get much education. They keep cultural tendencies that don't benefit them. The Malagasy people believe that every family should have 10 children. This is what's destroying Madagascar. I know, I've been there, I've talked to people. 10 children is the target. What's the reason for this? It's necessary to have many children in a poor society to protect the parents. It's not infant mortality (though that factors into it) it's that adults cannot make enough to live well without more workers under their control. The same thinking devalues girls (even though girls currently tend to make a little more money in a lifetime) in Asia since parents feel they need a son to take care of them when they're too old to work.

So what's the cure for this? Social safety nets, health care, propaganda and birth control. Economic incentives for not having more than 2 children. This would be cheap, compared to supporting all those kids. It would be paid for by the rich nations because we want that rainforest (or those lemurs) preserved. It's VERY, VERY CHEAP, and it benefits everyone.

D. We could never keep up with the population being born to send all the excess to Mars. If you sent a billion people to Mars, you need to send another billion in less than a decade just to keep the benefit. So you need C whether you have colonies or not.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890598)

Moving people into space is not going to help. Population growth is exponential. Space exploitation is geometric. Population growth is always going to "win".

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30889142)

If your looking for money to fund such things NASA is probably the LAST place you want to look. First off the last estimate that I heard is that NASA is ~1% of the federal government budget, Compare that to Military: ~50%, Medicare: ~23%, "Discretionary": 17%. Secondly NASA earth reconnaissance satellites collect most of the information that lets us know the deforestation rate, CO2 pollution, greenhouse gasses, ect.

Note: I know the "Official" estimates of Military spending are ~21%, but from what I understand that number leaves out a bunch of the big ticket items, Iraq, Afghanistan, DARPA, and "Black" budgets.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (3, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889224)

Human-caused disaster is not the only scenario that would drastically reduce the Earth's carrying capacity. Calderas such as Yellowstone, ice ages* and asteroids are the first things that come to mind, and over a few thousand years the chances of one of those happening starts to be significant (given averages on these events, we're due for all three). Given progress from one man walking on Mars to thousands living there would likely take hundreds of years, we better start early.

Not that we should start spending billions of dollars on ice-age prevention or something, but it is always good to keep in mind that there's a reason the vast majority of species no longer exist, and odds are humans will join that group eventually.

*I realize an ice age would not kill off humans as long as there is still a habitable zone. The threat to humanity would come with the fight over the remaining land and food.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889560)

Wouldn't the vast sum of money required be better spent preserving the rainforests here on earth?

Hell no. You don't need to spend money just to leave something alone.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#30891114)

That always bugged me too. The idea that we should be exploring other planets in case we screw this one up just doesn't work... how badly would be have to screw this one up that starting from scratch would be easier than fixing this one???

Basically by implementing one of the concepts on this page to destroy the earth utterly [qntm.org] .

Seriously, there's practically nothing we could do that would make earth less habitable than Mars. Global Thermonuclear War? Even if Ferris Bueller had failed to talk down that computer, the end result would be a planet far more suitable than human life. Gigantic meteor impact? They've happened before. Mass extinction followed, but the biosphere itself pressed on, as did the oxygen atmosphere it created. On post-KT-repeat earth, you could still walk around and breath the air, maybe with the help of a dust mask, and maybe find some resilient plants and animals to eat. As opposed to requiring a massive infrastructure just to keep you from dying in moments on the surface of Mars. We could poison and kill every ecosystem on earth and what remained would still be a better starting point for 'rebooting' than any other heavenly body we know of.

And you're right, we're probably much better off preventing these situations from happening in the first place than trying to move off-world in case they happen.

On the other hand, I do believe that in the very long term self-sustaining off-world colonies are both possible and desirable.

It's just the idea that we could actually pull that off, yet not be able to pull off keeping the earth habitable even in the aftermath of severe catastrophe, seems pretty silly to me.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888486)

Earth can sustainably support 3-5 billion people. The solar system can sustainably support 20-40 billion. We have 6.7 billion. Get our asses to not just to Mars, but also Europa and Titan.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1)

amck (34780) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888566)

1-2 billion is probably a closer number for "sustainably support"; it depends on what requirements you choose. Current Western energy consumption, etc.

Getting a few thousand people off this planet is not sustainable unless space elevator plans really pay off. Shipping them to Mars with the resources they need to become self-sustaining there is not an option over the next few decades. We solve the 'peak population' crisis before
colonizing Mars, or die in the process.

Check out the numbers for what it would take to live on Mars again, and compare them with living in the Gobi desert. Then explain what you can do on Mars that you can't do in the Gobi, and why you're not colonizing there first.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888824)

Sigh. You assume that it's all drain and no return. Wrong! See the link above (and the links referenced therein). This would pay for itself if it was done right.

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888962)

It's because the Gobi desert is in China and we ain't stinking communists!

Re:Why do people care so much about Mars? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889342)

I support space travel, but this makes no sense. What's the limiting factor on supporting people on Earth?

If it's land (either to live on, or to grow food), you're still better off colonising deserts or Antartica, than other planets. If it's resources like oil, I'm not sure what good other planets will do.

Plagiarism? (1)

SalaSSin (1414849) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888042)

...establishing in-space propellant depots, and harvesting resources/fuel from asteroids and Phobos to supply Moon/Mars-bound vehicles.

Well, after Jules Verne, NASA is checking out other science fiction writers for ideas... The Mars trilogy [wikipedia.org] , by Kim Stanley Robinson, sound familiar?

Re:Plagiarism? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890012)

I seem to remember hearing that some President said to the heads of NASA pick something from 2001 and its funded, they chose the Shuttle

An alternative they never consider... (5, Interesting)

master_p (608214) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888098)

An alternative they never consider is the creation of a 'mothership', i.e. a big enough spaceship that can act as a space station and as as a small planetoid, complete with its own gravity (out of rotation) and nuclear propulsion (project Orion). Assembled in space and never landing itself on planets, it can be a stepping stone for mankind to the solar system, and make the trip Mars-Earth a commodity.

Re:An alternative they never consider... (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888148)

Our hardware is too unreliable

Launching from Earth is too expensive to build something which will mass thousands of tonnes

Assembly in vacuum and microgravity by humans is too dangerous and expensive

I could go on. We are just not there yet. We won't be there in 100 years either.

Re:An alternative they never consider... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888484)

I could go on. We are just not there yet. We won't be there in 100 years either.

Bullshit. If we only put some effort in to it, we could be there in less than 30.

Space isn't THAT hazardous as you make it out to be. Yeah, perhaps if there is a particle storm, but we can predict those quite well.
And nobody said they need to be building things "outside" either. They can be 1) behind metal plates in all directions 2) building things within a ship 3) controlling robotic arms.

Nothing needs to be built by humans in space at all, we have had self-assembling devices for a long time now.
And space just makes self-assembly so much easier too.

And the worst part is they are planning on sinking the ISS in however many years they are saying now.
All the material in ISS is valuable simply due to the fact that IT IS UP THERE.
If they are decommissioning it, take it apart and compact it to a smaller size, don't burn the damn thing up just because
THIS kind of shit is why space agencies are a joke these days. So god damn wasteful it is embarrassing.

To hell with manned space flight, it won't do a damn thing.
Send up parts, send up robots, remote control. The latency isn't that bad.

We could start now (3, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889040)

Thousands of tonnes could (theoretically) be launched by something like Project Orion. The estimated cost of the fallout would be ~20 people getting cancer across the world. I think more than that get killed in car crashes, wars and famines and other pointless ways each weekend, . So I think this is the price humankind is able to afford to do more space exploration.

Computer hardware was even more unreliable in the 70s-80s, and people managed to get by. You can always have some redundancy and hot-swappable modules, both with computer and with other hardware.

Assembly under the sea is just as dangerous, and we still manage to do it.

For the price of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we would probably be in Mars already. It's just a matter of priorities and long term goals. We don't have any anymore. It's all about next quarter profit, getting rich and doing 2 chicks at the same time. There aren't any big plans or visions anymore.

--Coder

Re:An alternative they never consider... (1)

BodhiCat (925309) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888514)

um yea, i think Auther C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrik has that idea in um, 1968.

They do, and immediately reject it (2, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888538)

If you don't mind going back to the Stone Age while we divert all the earth's engineering and energy resources for a decade or so, feel free to assemble enough like minded people to put it to an electorate that screams when oil goes to $4/US gallon.

Re:An alternative they never consider... (2, Interesting)

OldBus (596183) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888950)

How do you know they never consider it? I've not heard anything specific from NASA, but they do seem to have plenty of people who do dream up long terms plans and ideas. Don't forget that most of the people there read/watched science fiction just like we did and many of them were inspired to take up their careers at NASA because of it (see various bios on the NASA sire if you don't believe me).

The problem comes in turning those blue-sky ideas into reality. There is no 'just' when it comes to space. Whenever you find yourself asking, "Why can't they just..." it is almost always for a good reason. A mothership's a great idea, but how do you build one. You've got to get the parts into space. Are you going to test the nuclear propulsion? How long will this project last and will Congress give you the funds? These are the sort of real questions that need to be answered and have scuppered programmes before now (and look likely to scupper NASA's current plans - which are less ambitious than the mothership idea).

The way I look at things, I ask are they likely to cost a lot more than what is happening now. To do this, you need to assume there will be no miracle leap in technology in the short-medium term. For example, if raising parts to space cheaply relies on a space elevator, then rule out the short-medium term. Obviously, we have ideas that one could be built, but technological breakthroughs need to happen to make it a reality. While this is possible (and even likely, I hope), don't assume that we will have a functioning elevator within 20 years.

So, using only slight advances in current tech, could we build a mothership for approximately the same as what the ISS cost? I don't believe so - it would clearly need to be bigger and would involve research and testing in propulsion systems. Given that the US, Russia, ESA, Canada and Japan are struggling to find the cash to keep the ISS up beyond 2015 (when most of it is already built) who is going to fund and build the mothership?

Sorry to sound so negative, but I get fed up with all the unrealistic ideas and whining about NASA on Slashdot. Being a Brit with a government that does no funding of a manned space programme at all, I think they do a fantastic job given the resources they have to work with.

Re:An alternative they never consider... (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889308)

Yeah, I'm sure they never considered that. Obviously if only they'd considered that, we'd be there by now. Another thing they haven't considered is ships equipped with warp engines.

(And anyhow, many designs of both manned and unmanned ships do involve a mothership and separate lander. No, the mothership isn't the size of a space station with artificial gravity, but given how much it's taken to just build a straightforward space station, perhaps this isn't quite so straightforward.)

Re:An alternative they never consider... (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889360)

An alternative they never consider is the creation of a 'mothership', i.e. a big enough spaceship that can act as a space station and as as a small planetoid, complete with its own gravity (out of rotation) and nuclear propulsion (project Orion). Assembled in space and never landing itself on planets, it can be a stepping stone for mankind to the solar system, and make the trip Mars-Earth a commodity.

The reason they never consider it is because it is a terrible idea unless you build them in quantity. Building just one that does everything, would be immensely expensive even by the current and past standards of space development and exploration. Hence, in no way would it make the Earth-Mars trip a "commodity" unless you had a large fleet of them. It also doesn't do much to address the expensive Earth to orbit trip or the other trips from significant gravity wells to space (Mars, Moon, etc).

Re:An alternative they never consider... (1)

Warbothong (905464) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890716)

An alternative they never consider is the creation of a 'mothership', i.e. a big enough spaceship that can act as a space station and as as a small planetoid, complete with its own gravity (out of rotation) and nuclear propulsion (project Orion). Assembled in space and never landing itself on planets, it can be a stepping stone for mankind to the solar system, and make the trip Mars-Earth a commodity.

To build such a ship would require lifting a hell of a lot of material into space, a very expensive proposition for rockets and they are the only definite, we've-done-it-before way to get into space (although sending up lumps of raw material sounds like a great use for a space gun, if any ever get built). Whether that comes from Earth or any other planet, the difficulty remains (although at least on Earth we are already here, with heavy machinery, manufacturing, people and fuel). In my opinion, if you're going to send up chunks of metal by rocket then they may as well have electronics built in and do some exploring whilst we're lifting up the rest. An alternative source of materials would be asteroids, many of which are rich in metals, and their miniscule gravity doesn't present the same problem as that of planets. However, doing any serious construction and refinement is beyond our robots' control ability at the moment, and remote control would likely be too laggy to prevent serious mishaps. This means we must either send people to the asteroids, a task for which getting them to Mars is a stepping stone, or bring the asteroids closer to Earth, in which case we'd better have a decent defense system to deflect those that go astray.

In short, everything we're doing/planning at the moment (robotic exploration (although we don't currently retrieve our probes for recycling, this is, as far as the outer planets are concerned, just a matter of choosing their route, since the Sun can do the hard work of bringing them back, but as it stands we can usually get a lot of great data by smashing them into things instead), long-haul Mars missions, asteroid deflectors, etc.) more or less, would need to be done in a mothership-style programme anyway, so where's the problem in doing them?

translation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888136)

"We have no money. We know it sucks, but it's the economy. Sorry folks! Maybe private enterprise will get us there sooner!"

Re:translation... (0)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888326)

Maybe private enterprise will get us there sooner!"

I wonder if private enterprises were allowed to claim property on the moon, if there would be more interest?
If we ever did this, there should be an additional agreement that is the property is not used within X years, it default back to which ever mulitnational orginization that owns it.

Orbiting Fuel Depots (4, Insightful)

BodhiCat (925309) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888184)

Orbiting Fuel Depots, 'bout time. Use of the LaGrange points, asteroids, yes! Scifi has known this for years, 'bout time that NASA caught up and went for long term development of space instead of quick one-shot missions.

Re:Orbiting Fuel Depots (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30888576)

Lagrange points, like Joseph Lagrange [wikipedia.org] , not RuPaul Charles [wikipedia.org] .

Try reading a few more of those books, and watching a bit less TV.

They have no Idea (3, Informative)

Torino10 (1369453) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888352)

Where they should be going. The main purpose of manned spaceflight should be to develop the technologies to form permanent self sustaining colonies off of Earth.

With the abandonment of the Centrifuge Accommodations Module (CAM) we cannot determine if Humans or even most vertebrates can reproduce in reduced gravity and how much gravity is required.

All experiments with mice in microgravity have have indicated that cell division after fertilization does not occur, and that more advanced fetus that were launched do not undergo cell migration and/or cell differentiation properly.

If it is found out that Centripetal acceleration is an adequate substitute for gravity, then the asteroids may be our best bet.

Re:They have no Idea (1)

OldBus (596183) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888808)

As something of an outsider (being British - we have no manned space programme at all which seems to suit the majority of the population here), it appears to me that there are lots of ideas - the problem is which one. NASA itself clearly has a very definite idea - Constellation, Orion, the flexible path leading to Mars. That is quite a definite vision for space exploration. However, lots of other people have other ideas and some of these people are very powerful.

Personally, I can't really comment which is better or not, but while America itself remains divided NASA will struggle. It needs serious funds for its programme.

Unfortunately, as far as I can see, the only part of America which doesn't seem to have a definite opinion yet is the White House - and that's the most crucial opinion of all. Of course, that is probably not true. I'm sure Obama does have an opinion. The worry for someone like me as a lover of manned space flight is that he would rather spend the money elsewhere but is afraid to go down in history as the President who killed the US manned space programme. Of course, it's not my taxes which will pay for it.

Re:They have no Idea (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889262)

If it is found out that Centripetal acceleration is an adequate substitute for gravity, then the asteroids may be our best bet.

If the rotation rate is low, then centripetal acceleration is indistinguishable from gravity at the human scale except for subtle effects (like things not falling straight down or a slight decline in acceleration with height). We have done experiments with people in long term rotating systems and below 1 revolution per minute there's no obvious effect (no nausea, etc). Even in faster rotating systems, people tend to adapt rather quickly. I believe current thought is that even 10 revolutions per minute should be adaptable, if the person doesn't move much (say as in a bed on the side of a rotating cylinder). So you can generate 1 gee of acceleration with roughly 9 meter radius at 10 revolutions per minute and 900 meter radius at 1 revolution per minute.

The real unknowns are simply to get a working artificial gravity system in the first place and to figure out just how much artificial gravity is needed by humans.

Re:They have no Idea (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890210)

On a somewhat related topic I just finished Planetes, which I highly recommend.
 
Its suppose to be hard SciFi for the most part, but one thing that I've always wondered about and I can't really find anything about it is human growth in low gravity. One of the secondary characters was born on the moon, and she was 12y/o and was I guess about 6' tall. I was wondering if there was any truth to that?

Reading Between the Lines (5, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 3 years ago | (#30888606)

tells me this: "We're not going to Mars".

This is a bureaucratic method of killing the overall project of a Mars mission. What happens is each sub project runs into "unexpected delays and expenses" that make it impossible to complete the sub project, or delay it so that it splits up the co-ordination with the other projects for a Mars Mission. Apologists will take up the side of NASA, and they should, but in reality there are facts mitigating against NASA even existing, such as the simple fact that the USA is bankrupt and can't pay its bills, and (according to the Hirsch Report from the DoE [doe.gov] ) the USA needs to spend 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars converting itself to a non-fossil fuel culture if it hopes to maintain a technical civilisation at all.

In short: good luck with this new plan - cool if it works out - but it has "Cover My Ass" and "Plausible Deniability for Mission Failure" written all over it.

RS

Re:Reading Between the Lines (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889822)

Reading Between the Lines tells me this: "We're not going to Mars".

This is a bureaucratic method of killing the overall project of a Mars mission.

I wasn't aware that there was an "overall project" to go to Mars. Or the Moon. Or anything past LEO for that matter. Merely saying that there's some goal to do something isn't a project. You can't kill what didn't exist in the first place.

and (according to the Hirsch Report from the DoE) the USA needs to spend 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars converting itself to a non-fossil fuel culture if it hopes to maintain a technical civilisation at all.

Perhaps you would like to provide evidence for your assertion? I glanced through the Hirsch Report and it speaks of peak oil, not of peak fossil fuels. A lot of people seem oddly unaware that there are more fossil fuels than just oil. They also seem unaware of biofuels, electric powered cars, and other alternate technologies to an oil-based transportation infrastructure.

Re:Reading Between the Lines (3, Informative)

Domint (1111399) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890754)

. . . in reality there are facts mitigating against NASA even existing, such as the simple fact that the USA is bankrupt and can't pay its bills . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget [wikipedia.org]
The money allocated to NASA from the 2009 Federal Budget was 0.55%. Saying that NASA is the source of our financial woes (or that its complete dismantling will do anything to correct them) is like arguing that the reason a person is going bankrupt is due to the 1$ they give to the Salvation Army bell ringer every Christmas. It's a retarded argument, and one that really needs to stop.

What's new (2, Funny)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889234)

Haven't we been on the flexible path? So flexible they were able to bend it right back around upon itself making circles around the Earth...

A key assumption of the Flexible Path option (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#30889296)

The Augustine committee assumed with the Flexible Path option, that the NASA budget would not expand significantly. As a result, this plan is designed to do useful and daring things without requiring that everything gets developed at once. Staggered development of technologies is a notable property of this option. However, it does require that NASA will get somewhere around $3 billion more per year to support manned space flight development including a Saturn V-class heavy lift launch vehicle, fly supporting unmanned space missions, and pay for the missions described in the report.

It is intended to be a stepping stone to some more advanced exploration scheme, but neither Mars nor Lunar exploration is required as part of the program.

Some proposals mentioned in the Slashdot article simply cannot be afforded on even that enlarged budget (for example, the space telescope construction mission). At this point, many of these proposals are merely a theoretical study of what sorts of missions are possible with the infrastructure and tools proposed by the option plan rather than serious plans.

Finally, it's worth noting that there's a good chance even the relatively low funding needs of the Flexible Path option will not be supplied by Congress. At that point, I don't know what will happen. As far as I know, the Augustine committee simply could not generate a useful manned space plan with the budget manned space flight currently gets. My view is that the dependence on a heavy lift vehicle is the reason why. Eschewing heavy lift should be possible, but that does generate a new set of problems and technologies which NASA has yet to explore (propellant depots and orbital assembly of spacecraft in particular).

Experience bullshit... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30890008)

NASA needs to grow some balls and stop wasting the budget on gaining "experience"... We've spent the last 30 years in earth orbit pissing around with small scale experiments, sending robots to mars and other planets. We know enough to have a go at engineering a solution. Surely there would be plenty of astronauts willing to take the risk rather than waiting 30 years and watching NASA blow the budget on a "flexible plan".

something profitable from asteroids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30890020)

All we need to do is find something profitable and useable to mine from the asteroids and we will have a major leap forward in our abilites in space. At the moment there is nothing to really drive corporations to invest in space.

cant even get people into orbit after 2010 (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#30890178)

The successor NASA manned programs are underfunded and behind schedule. Its optimistic that NASA will be able to put people into Earth orbit by 2020.
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