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NASA's Competition For Dollars

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.

NASA 78

An anonymous reader writes: We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system. But why is funding such a problem? Jason Callahan, who has worked on several of NASA's annual budgets, says it's not just NASA's small percentage of the federal budget that keeps those projects on the back burner, but also competition for funding between different parts of NASA as well. "[NASA's activities include] space science, including aeronautics research (the first A in NASA), technology development, education, center and agency management, construction, maintenance, and the entire human spaceflight program. The total space science budget has rarely exceeded $5 billion, and has averaged just over half that amount. Remember that space science is more than just planetary: astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science are all funded in this number. Despite this, space science accounts for an average of 17 percent of NASA's total budget, though it has significant fluctuations. In the 1980s, space science was a mere 11½ percent of NASA's budget, but in the 2000s, it made up 27 percent."

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Just Do Prizes (0)

Baldrson (78598) | about 2 months ago | (#47792021)

Prize awards have high leverage on private investment. Moreover, prize awards aren't spent only for the desired returns -- thereby relegating risk management to the private sector where it belongs.

Oh, I forgot, NASA's money comes largely from political considerations about which districts get how much government pork.

Never mind.

Re:Just Do Prizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793835)

And stop comparing the NASA budget to the total federal budget. That is a non-metric designed to make ANY budget look low or reasonable.

Re:Just Do Prizes (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 2 months ago | (#47794773)

Living sustainably in space is a next huge step for humanity or even life on Earth through using humans, in the 4 billion years that life's been around on this planet, and of those, the first 3 billion mostly as single cellular.
But when you talk to some people, as in a great dream and enthusiastic way, they are like, you wanna go to the Moon? We'll take you to the Moon, drop ya off with a can of gas, and see ya! Dude we don't have food on the table for some kids, and you wanna go to the Moon? and now I'm like yeah, and let's take some giraffes too.

How Does SpaceX Do it? (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | about 2 months ago | (#47792057)

How can SpaceX come up with innovative rocket designs for a fraction of what it costs NASA? And they can produce those designs faster. SpaceX soft landed two boosters into the ocean, it would have taken NASA 10 years and $20 billion dollars to replicate that development.

I spent years in Titusville to cover the end of the shuttle program and walking away my opinion was that NASA is a flock of risk-adverse mid-managers flying in formation with a rusting theme park endless replaying clips of their glory days. There are some really good people there, some of them doing amazing things, but they're handicapped by a management structure that's too fat and doesn't have an aggressive vision for the future. NASA depends too much on contractors that can't produce anything on budget and there's no penalty for not performing. Some of that is political, not all their fault.

If we're going to explore space then we have to face the fact that it's unlikely we're going to get there with NASA as it exists today. And we have to find a way to fund that exploration so it's more insulated from politics. Otherwise we're stuck on this rock until a giant comet, asteroid or neutron star wanders by or we get fried by our own sun or a gamma ray burst.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792085)

Because NASA did all the heavy lifting half a century ago?

"endless replaying clips of their glory days."

That's pretty much 99% of all space-related news. It's a place to put satellites and send probes now and then. That's it.

All this geek paranoia about asteroid defense is sci-fi nonsense.

Has anyone ever just tiled their roof in titanium shingles "just in case" a meteorite smashes through their roof?

No? Then why do you expect the entire "species" (to use Space Nutter parlance) to pay for your delusions?

"If we're going to explore space then we have to face the fact that it's unlikely we're going to get there with NASA as it exists today."

We're already "exploring space" from our computer chairs. No one needs to go anywhere!!! The universe is billions of light years across, how does sending a few test pilots on the Moon for 45 minutes help at all?

You're also "reliving the past glory years" if you don't understand that there's simply no reason to put people in space.

There never was.

You're just hanging on to some emotional propaganda. "Explore space". Give it a rest man, it's not like Star Trek where you meet a new species every week for an hour.

You guys and your space delusions. Just wow.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792103)

No reason to send ppl to space? Wouldn't you like to leave this polluted rock behind? Last time I checked progress happen in iterations - not leap frogs. For that we should keep practicing, so not just few extremely apt ppl can do it - but everyone.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792199)

"No reason to send ppl to space?"

Exactly.

"Wouldn't you like to leave this polluted rock behind?"

You're mentally ill and immature. It's amazing that this kind of dreck gets modded up so easily.

And why did you suddenly shift away from "exploring" space? Whatever that even means considering we're already doing that from our office chairs?

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792313)

The question isn't what can't we do from here, but can we do out there.

I don't want to go into space to stare at stars through a telescope. I want to go into space to say, I went into space. I want to go to another planet like Mars and say I have been there. I want to lay claim to some plot of dirt and sand over there. I want to build my story and legacy in a more wild frontier. Space Exploration is the new wild west. It is the new Louisiana Purchase. People don't want to sit around in the same situations all the time. Every man at one point in his life must desire to raise their own flag. If they can not even want to do that, they should hand in their card.

Exploration is a Man's Romance. It does not need a logical reason. We make the logic, before or after the fact, so that we can pursue it.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792325)

You're not "exploring", you're trying to fill the void of your boring life with imagery that makes no sense.

Grow up.

How come none of you ever wants to explore the center of the Earth or the bottom of the ocean?

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47795465)

How come none of you ever wants to explore the center of the Earth or the bottom of the ocean?

"None of you"? Where the heck do you get your information from? Navel-gazing? Just because you don't feel like doing either of those things, doesn't imply that "none" of "us" wants to do them.

Do you "date" by surfing F*cebook pages? No! Eventually you have to complete the experience by actually going someplace and doing something.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792451)

With that mindset you should keep exploring your nostrils and nothing else. Stupidest thing I've read in a while.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793403)

And the worst part is that he's just repeating Space Nutter theology. Lots more nutcases where he came from.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (2)

david_bonn (259998) | about 2 months ago | (#47794759)

I sympathize, but then again I do not see large numbers of people moving to Antarctica or Greenland. Both of which are likely to be much, much nicer places to live in the short to medium term than anyplace on Mars is going to be on the same timeframe.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 2 months ago | (#47800005)

I sympathize, but then again I do not see large numbers of people moving to Antarctica or Greenland.

I don't see large numbers of people moving to seasteading, which is a much closer analogue to space settlement.

Having said that, I don't think any of the four destinations is any indication at all of the will present to move to such places. All four are very capital-intensive places to live, but with the massive concentration of wealth happening in the US and around the world, very few people with the will also have the capital to do anything about it. With respect to the fourth destination, space, only one person in the entire world has both the will and the capital: Elon Musk.

There may be hundreds of thousands, even millions, who are willing to risk the frontier, but only a handful of them are suicidal about it. They're the ones who signed up for a one way trip to Mars. The rest are aware that it takes a significant amount of money to do such a thing, and they're aware they don't have that kind of money.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

drolli (522659) | about 2 months ago | (#47792463)

No. I am fine here. I like going on my bike to work trough a forest.

No matter how bad environmental problem become, earth will still be better than anything which we could plan to reach. Fixing the problems here woll have a fraction of the cost whcih fixin them by flying away would have.

Lets

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47792555)

No matter how bad environmental problem become, earth will still be better than anything which we could plan to reach. Fixing the problems here woll have a fraction of the cost whcih fixin them by flying away would have.

So, what's the plan for dealing with the Sun's inevitable transition to a red giant?

Space is where we need to be for the long term. And when I say "long term", I don't mean "three or more Congressional election cycles"....

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792661)

Holy crap, the mental illness just radiates from your post. What a delusional fool.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792725)

We have 1 billion year to get an interstellar space program running. (1 billion year till oceans evaporates because the sun get brighter and earth is no longer in the habitability zone).

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793139)

You better find a way to stop evolution too, there were no humans a million years ago and there won't be any in another million. Worrying about a billion years is just insane geek neurosis, at worst it's a religion.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 2 months ago | (#47792813)

> Wouldn't you like to leave this polluted rock behind

Why, so you can screw up another planet?

Even cats can figure out how to bury their waste.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792863)

Overall, cats are smarter than Space Nutters.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47794715)

Humans can and have figured out how to make waste into something valuable. So we are already better than cats in that respect. The sentiment you express is just another myth.

Further, how do you expect people to learn how to do that sort of thing better? Living on Earth is soft in many ways, including a lack of need to not "waste" things. Such wouldn't be true in space.

I'm reminded of the proverb, "necessity is the mother of invention". When someone needs to learn how to do something, they tend to do a better job of it than if the learning is optional or irrelevant.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792217)

Amen Brother!!

It's time to retool our efforts based on the needs of life here on planet rather than squandering more resources trying to get off the planet we depend upon for survival.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793453)

If everyone had an attitude like yours, Hitler would have never tried to colonize Eastern Europe for Lebensraum. Then we wouldn't have jet engines, microprocessors, smartphones, or internet porn.

What kind of monster are you?

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47794193)

Because NASA did all the heavy lifting half a century ago?

No. Because SpaceX and similar companies are doing the heavy lifting now.

We're already "exploring space" from our computer chairs. No one needs to go anywhere!!! The universe is billions of light years across, how does sending a few test pilots on the Moon for 45 minutes help at all?

How does getting out of your house help you travel anywhere? Travel isn't a process of deciding to go somewhere and just magically end up there.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47794201)

How does getting out of your house help you travel anywhere? Travel isn't a process of deciding to go somewhere and just magically end up there.

Tell that to the poopsockers.

You probably answered your own question... (2)

Ecuador (740021) | about 2 months ago | (#47792215)

If you are a contractor that can get a huge contract and can get paid even more for delays and cost overruns, what is your incentive for delivering quickly and cheaply? Plus the various limitations of having to source stuff off every state that has abusive (or others would say competent) congressmen, plus all the middle management and red tape and there you go.
People like to point out how SpaceX et al. are benefiting of all the NASA research, however that is not relevant to the question of why NASA itself can't source cheaply NOW.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792309)

SpaceX hasn't screwed up and killed someone yet (that we know of). Once they have, they will become risk-adverse/uninsurable or go bankrupt.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 2 months ago | (#47793685)

If that were true Disney along with many other companies wouldn't be around...

NASA is a Public Works Project (-1)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | about 2 months ago | (#47792381)

I've watched SpaceX and NASA launches. The scenes I've seen from their control rooms speaks volumes. A NASA launch has zillion of people and monitors in their control room. SpaceX has maybe 30 people in theirs. NASA seems to have become a public works project.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

MickLinux (579158) | about 2 months ago | (#47793307)

Well, if I remember correctly,first theyor other private corporations fight the government on whether they should be allowed to have propellant; then they have to fight the government on whether they should be allowed to launch. Then having proved their technology they have to fight the government on what new paperwork they have to fill out to sell US-made rockets to the government, rather than buying from the standard graf^H^H^H^Hgovernment contractors like boeing that illegally buy Russian rockets, mark them up, and sell them to the US government for nonbid profits galore.

Then they have to fight the government on quickly having signed an exclusive nonbid contract with said preferred contractors while the previous issue was still being dealt with.

Idon't know, it seems pretty par for the course, and was why Mircorp went under.

Why did you want to know how companies like spacex do it?

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 months ago | (#47793349)

they're handicapped by a management structure that's too fat and doesn't have an aggressive vision for the future. NASA depends too much on contractors that can't produce anything on budget and there's no penalty for not performing.

NASA is not supposed to have vision - they're a branch of the Executive Department and carry out the policies of the Executive as funded by Congress. Ditto for contractors, NASA has always relied on contractors.
 

If we're going to explore space then we have to face the fact that it's unlikely we're going to get there with NASA as it exists today.

NASA is an engineering and scientific agency (with an overlay of flags-and-footprints) and always has been, not an exploratory agency. They do not exist to feed the wet dreams and masturbation fantasies of the space fanboys.
 

And we have to find a way to fund that exploration so it's more insulated from politics. Otherwise we're stuck on this rock until a giant comet, asteroid or neutron star wanders by or we get fried by our own sun or a gamma ray burst.

Exploration has always been about money, not as in funding, but as in making it by the bucketload. Space exploration pretty much no chance of doing so, and thus is unlikely to ever be funded. (See the above about wet dreams.) As far as using space to avoid some planetary disaster... you're hallucinating. We know so little about what will be required we can barely describe the known unknowns. Even with significant investment, that's unlikely to change for decades, maybe centuries.
 
Seriously, the problem isn't NASA. The problem is clueless space fanboys who have somehow decided the world should provide them with and endless supply of willing supermodels and free supercars - and who blame reality for failing to live up to their fantasies.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793707)

" the wet dreams and masturbation fantasies"

That's pretty much all they have.

" Space exploration pretty much no chance of doing so"

"pretty much"? How about "none"?

" As far as using space to avoid some planetary disaster... you're hallucinating."

They're just repeating geek space theology.

" The problem is clueless space fanboys"

What I call Space Nutters basically.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47795483)

NASA is not supposed to have vision

Bullshit. The law [nasa.gov] authorizing NASA directs NASA at numerous points to plan and promote things that fall under "having vision". For example:

Congress further declares that such activities shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, a civilian agency exercising control over aeronautical and space activities sponsored by the United States

he Administration seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space

The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space.

The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes.

The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment.

Later on, there's:

plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;

That's the vision mandate. It's worth remembering here that Congress isn't the experts on space exploration in the US government, NASA is supposed to be. Nor does Congress have responsibility for promoting and insuring that the US has viable and useful NASA activities. Once again, that's NASA's particular responsibility.

NASA is an engineering and scientific agency (with an overlay of flags-and-footprints) and always has been, not an exploratory agency. They do not exist to feed the wet dreams and masturbation fantasies of the space fanboys.

The above law also has numerous places where it directs NASA to do space exploration or to encourage space exploration by US private sources.

What gets missed in all these clueless and misguided posts about "space fanboys", is that technology and the economics of space activities are progressing and getting into space need not stay as hard and as costly as it is now. Rather than merely decree without much thought that something is permanently impossible or unprofitable, it makes more sense to figure out what thresholds need to be crossed in order for an activity to be possible or profitable.

Even with significant investment, that's unlikely to change for decades, maybe centuries.

Decades is the usual shortest time frame discussed for this sort of thing anyway. You're not in disagreement with most "space fanboys" on that. I think it's a bit dishonest to downplay someone's ambitions as delusions and hallucinations while simultaneously admitting that the only real problem is that you think their estimates of time to achievements are mildly ambitious.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 months ago | (#47796117)

Bullshit. The law [nasa.gov] authorizing NASA directs NASA at numerous points to plan and promote things that fall under "having vision".

Only if you're under the influence of sufficient drugs to be having hallucinations, or have a complete lack of understanding of the English language. Given your posting history and complete lack of connection to reality, it's hard to discern which is the case. (Not that it matters, as the end result is the same.)
 

Decades is the usual shortest time frame discussed for this sort of thing anyway. You're not in disagreement with most "space fanboys" on that. I think it's a bit dishonest to downplay someone's ambitions as delusions and hallucinations while simultaneously admitting that the only real problem is that you think their estimates of time to achievements are mildly ambitious.

Space fanboys never discuss time-frames, as that requires doing a painful thing that they never voluntarily do - which is deal with reality. (And estimation of time-to-achieve is hardly the only problem with their fantasies, err..., ambitions.)

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47800045)

Only if you're under the influence of sufficient drugs to be having hallucinations, or have a complete lack of understanding of the English language. Given your posting history and complete lack of connection to reality, it's hard to discern which is the case. (Not that it matters, as the end result is the same.)

It's a good thing then that I actually quoted relevant parts of the law in question to address this very concern. That's the law as written - not my creative interpretation of reality or for that matter, your creative interpretation of reality.

And if we approach this from a rational point of view, who is supposed to provide the vision for NASA's activities? Congress and US presidents don't have the ability and a host of many other distractions. Presidents can appoint informal special panels to do the vision thing, but those come and go. They aren't legally binding.

Ultimately, it's NASA who has that job simply because no one in the US government has the right combination of competence and authority.

My view is that NASA has for decades abandoned its primary duties as the organizer and planner for the exploration and development of space by the US. NASA should have resisted and redirected the whims of Congress rather than devolving into yet another government organization whose most important duty is to put the right names on the checks.

Sure, it does some things in space. But I think we should have much higher expectations than that.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47806113)

It's a good thing then that I actually quoted relevant parts of the law in question to address this very concern.

Not really, you selectively quoted parts of the law that APPEARS to address the concern.

The full quote actually says a completely different thing:

(b) Aeronautical and Space Activities for Welfare and Security of United States.--Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that adequate provision be made for aeronautical and space activities. Congress further declares that such activities shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, a civilian agency exercising control over aeronautical and space activities sponsored by the United States, except that activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems, military operations, or the defense of the United States (including the research and development necessary to make effective provision for the defense of the United States) shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, the Department of Defense; and that determination as to which agency has responsibility for and direction of any such activity shall be made by the President.

So the POTUS decides who heads the execution of the activities (NASA, or DoD), which in effect means the POTUS sets the vision.

NASA can have its own vision, but the POTUS can override it in the name of national security and have DoD head the US's space activities and pursue the POTUS's own vision. Meanwhile Congress retains the power of the purse, which in theory puts a check on the POTUS's visions

And if we approach this from a rational point of view, who is supposed to provide the vision for NASA's activities? Congress and US presidents don't have the ability and a host of many other distractions.

Incorrect. Having vision isn't a matter of scientific or engineering ability. The ability required for having vision is called leadership, and that is exactly what one should expect from the leaders of your country (Congress and POTUS)

If NASA gets to set the vision, they could have set a vision where they worked with the USSR during the Cold War, as the very first clause in that law says the policy of US activities in space "should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humankind". Working together as opposed to getting into dick measuring contests would promote peaceful coexistence. And for the fiscal conservatives, sharing knowledge with the Russian would lead to less repetition of work, so it's more efficient, so less money taken from taxpayers.

But nope, POTUS (probably acting on advice from his advisers and Congress, neither experts in engineering or science or space in general) has a different vision, a vision where the Soviets are a threat to national security and promoting all the commercial stuff said in the other clauses have to come later, after the US "won". I'm not saying they're wrong on seeing the Commies as a threat, but it demonstrates that ultimately it's the leaders (POTUS and Congress) who set the vision.

Analogy time: NASA are the techies. They're the IT and programmers. They're just the doers. POTUS and Congress are the leaders. They're the CEO and executive management who sets the direction (vision) of the company.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47812955)

So the POTUS decides who heads the execution of the activities (NASA, or DoD), which in effect means the POTUS sets the vision.

That's fine, except the US President doesn't have the skills, experience, or time to set the vision. That's why Congress allotted funding for an agency to enable and implement the President's authority in this matter.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47815573)

That's fine, except the US President doesn't have the skills, experience, or time to set the vision.

He's supposed to have those skills, experience, and time. I'll restate what I said last post for convenience: the skills, experience, and time for setting a vision is called leadership. That's what POTUS, being the leader of the executive branch and commander-in-chief, is supposed to have.

That's why Congress allotted funding for an agency to enable and implement the President's authority in this matter.

Dude, from the law itself which you brought up, the first statement in clause b is:

"Aeronautical and Space Activities for Welfare and Security of United States.--Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that adequate provision be made for aeronautical and space activities."

"General welfare and security" is why Congress is funding a civilian agency (except in matters related to military and defense), and as stated by the end of clause b, "which agency has responsibility for and direction of any such activity shall be made by the President"

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47815753)

He's supposed to have those skills, experience, and time.

Of course, that isn't true. Even in some sort of ideal case, no one expects a leader to be a highly proficient expert in everything. The leader is expected to delegate his authority to subordinates who do have the necessary skills.

There isn't any point to the rest of your post since I've already quoted for DerekLyons, the relevant quotes of the law.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47818827)

Of course, that isn't true. Even in some sort of ideal case, no one expects a leader to be a highly proficient expert in everything.

No, it is true, because I didn't say he has to be proficient expert in everything. I said a leader should be proficient at leadership, which having and setting a vision falls under.

The leader is expected to delegate his authority to subordinates who do have the necessary skills.

So? Delegation of authority is not the same as setting a vision. A leader is expected do both. A leader with no delegation is an idiot, but a leader with no vision is just as bad: he'd just be a figurehead, a rubber stamp, a puppet to whoever gets inside his inner circle, delegating everything while collecting a paycheck.

Leader setting vision: I want to beat the Russians in space. We do these things not because it's easy, but because it's hard.

Leader delegating authority: NASA, go figure out how to beat the Russians in space.

There isn't any point to the rest of your post since I've already quoted for DerekLyons, the relevant quotes of the law.

Dismissal is not a rebuttal. The rest of my post, and the ones before it, tells you that the relevant quotes of the law you quoted don't say what you think they say.

Re:How Does SpaceX Do it? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47820909)

"Vision" is not just a leader making large scale or long term decisions. It's the ability to see in some metaphorical sense. The current state of NASA, as more a tool for distributing public funds than as a space exploration pioneer, is a choice made by leaders, but it isn't a result of vision.

Sure, US presidents make the final choices and US congresses set the budget. Those parties have the control and final say over anything NASA does. But the only party with the vision in this mess is NASA. They're the only ones here who have the ability to evaluate the consequences of actions and determine ways to implement future goals. They also have the ability to steer the decision-making. If something remarkable is feasible, they can push for it.

And as I noted earlier, that's an explicit job function of NASA in the law.

Re: How Does SpaceX Do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47794191)

Umm, with money from NASA? NASA funding supplied roughly half of the capital to get Space-X going.

Now the shuttle program has gone.. (1, Insightful)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 2 months ago | (#47792063)

...perhaps NASA can do some serious exploration.

Except we still have the flying boondoggle from the Reagan administration, the ISS, sucking money away from exploration and giving it to the Russian government to launch and retrieve people and stuff from LEO for profit.

The return on investment for the ISS has been pathetic.

Re:Now the shuttle program has gone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792165)

Reagan wanted a US station ("Freedom") not an international cooperation. I think the last thing on his mind was it to be a project to divert money to Soviet scientists.

That may have been what became of his original concept after others took control, but blaming him for that is illogical.

Re: Now the shuttle program has gone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792255)

How do you say, "nationalism sucks, " in Ukrainian? And why does everyone still believe that Kennedy and Reagan were such admirable leaders for chasing the Soviets down the rat hole of colonialism that Britain, France, Italy, and Portugal were all forced to abandon?

Space is just a euphemism for militarism.

Re:Now the shuttle program has gone.. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47792591)

Return on investment might be a bit better if we'd actually invested enough for it to be more than a glorified Skylab.

They should have been adding a new habitable module to the thing every year, or every other year.

Or more often.

That would be the Clinton-Gore ISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47796017)

Reagan proposed an AMERICAN space station (which he called "Freedom"), which would certainly have hosted visitors from allied nations like Britain, Canada, Japan, etc but it was to be 100% American built-and-operated with all the benefits of the jobs and the tech and development going to American workers.

The Bush(41) administration largely neglected it (like everything else the entitled functionary who just did not "get the whole vision thing" was in charge of)

The Clinton administration completely perverted the thing - they brought the Russians on-board as a "partner" in order to employ their aerospace workers (supposedly to keep them from going to work arming dictators around the globe). Apparently, the Clinton team did not give a damn about the American aerospace workers who would be losing their jobs (not just from the loss of space station work, but also from his massive post-cold war defense cuts) ... and even less so as the construction of many "American" segments were farmed-out to Italy. The first hint of trouble was that tha name had to be changed; "Freedom" was unacceptable to the Russians, so Gore's people wanted it re-named "Alpha" (and for a brief period it WAS referred to as "International Space Station Alpha") The word "Alpha" was quickly dropped from the name. As the Russians fell-behind on their part, an American propulsion and control module was built but by the time it was nearing completion the Russians finally launched theirs; this US module is sitting under tarps in some Navy lab where it was being tested and the ISS is now completely dependent upon Russia for propulsion and flight control - a situation Reagan would have TOTALLY opposed.

Now that Bush43 and Obama have tag-teamed to make the US fully dependent upon Russia to get to a Station the Americans paid most of the costs to build abd with is NOT called an "American" station but rather the "International" station, there is simply NO rational way to blame the mess on Reagan; that makes about the same sense as blaming it on Kennedy since HE was the one who put US manned spaceflight into high-gear, or on Eisenhower since he started NASA.

As long as Republicans rule this country... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792105)

the situation will not improve so NASA is just wasting time complaining. They should instead start working on a plan to be more effective with the crumbs that they are given.

Re:As long as Republicans rule this country... (1)

greenwow (3635575) | about 2 months ago | (#47792139)

That and the huge percentage of research money that gets flushed down the drain to prove (un)intelligent design means there's almost none left over for science.

Re:As long as Republicans rule this country... (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 2 months ago | (#47792169)

I'm pretty sure the government is not diverting any money from NASA to try to prove intelligent design. Oh, there probably are a few in there that would like to, but it would be political suicide. (I like to think so, anyway.)

No, the faux-science quakery that gets funded is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792527)

NOT "intelligent design" or even "creationism" NEITHER of which get any federal dollars. It's studies of why lesbians are fat (an actual funded study) why gay men in Brazil troll gay bars (another actual funded study), why gay men do not use condoms often enough (there have been a pile of these studies fully-funded) the infamous "shrimp on treadmills", and an enourmous pile of "green energy" and "global warming" claptrap.... ANYTHING that will make Obama's supporters get a thrill up their legs (see: Chris Matthews, one of NBC's numerous career Democrats pretending to be unbiased journalists and analysts)

It would be nice to get all the left-wing politics out and return the government to funding the really cool science it used to fund like: trips to the moon, nuclear rocket engines, studies of manned flights to mars and venus, nuclear power, supersonic airliners, mag-lev trains, etc.

Re:As long as Republicans rule this country... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792157)

Replace "Republicans" with "Politicians" as they are all porkers.

Re:As long as Republicans rule this country... (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 2 months ago | (#47792201)

The democRats control the Presidency and Senate. It is they who must go. Join us this election day and let's wipe the dems out once and for all.

You are a misinformed moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792485)

President Obama is a DEMOCRAT, and his guys Holdren (his science advisor who wanted to "save the planet" by sneaking human-sterilizing drugs into the drinking water) and Bolden (his NASA administrator and the only guy in Washington who cries as often as John Boehner) are running NASA.

The U.S. Senate is run by Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada) who is THE reason the congress "does nothing". The House has voted on something like 350 bills and sent them to the Senate, where Harry Reid protects his Democrat senators and Democrat president from having to be accountable for votes/signatures/vetos by simply stuffing those bills into his desk and never even allowing them to be debated. The House Republicans have little reason to consider any bills sent to them by the Senate when the Senate Democrats are refusing to even debate 300+ House bills.... if those House bills are so bad, then why don't the Democrats debate them and then vote them down???? (hint: many are good bills that the Democrats oppose but do not want to have to explain their "NO" votes to the voters).

The Republicans have only held the White House for 8 of the past 22 years.

The Republicans have only held the Senate for 16 of the past 48 years (4 of the most-recent 14)

The Republicans have only held the US House of Representatives for 16 of the past 44 years (10 of the most-recent 14)

And... because some DNC-drone always screeches about the 2008 meltdown, let me remind everybody that in 2007 and 2008 the Republicans did, indeed, have the White House (George W Bush) but Harry Reid and his Democrats were running the Senate and Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats were running the House of Representatives... so if Obama is not to blame for things now because the GOP has the House, then Bush is not to blame for the 2008 meltdown because the Democrats had BOTH the House AND the Senate. Democrats do NOT get to have it both ways of issues of responsibility.

Acid Bucket Challenge (4, Funny)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 months ago | (#47792115)

They should create an acid bucket challenge. Participants would get challenged to dump a bottle of hydrochloric acid on their heads or donate to NASA.

Re:Acid Bucket Challenge (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792239)

Couldn't we have some people, e.g. your average politician, do both?

Re:Acid Bucket Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792931)

Couldn't we have some people, e.g. your average politician, do both?

Haha this is so fucking funny because all politicians are douchebags.

Ugh, find a new cheap complaint about the society already.

Priorities Changed - And People Got Suspicious (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792131)

This is entirely due to a matter of federal government policy. When President Kennedy made his famous speech to declare his intent to put a man on the moon, he made a massive change to state funding. His intent was to kick-start the U.S. economy by pouring a huge amount of tax dollars back into the US economy by giving it to NASA as the primary recipient at the "top" of a spending pyramid. The idea was that NASA would then award contracts to lots of other companies, who in turn would generate more work with tertiary companies, thus pouring all that tax money back into circulation as seed funding. Part of the reasoning was that the scientific developments driven would then flow out into the broader economy, powering the US forwards. It was pretty successful in that regard. And, of course, those who owned or held shares in those primary contractors did very well out of things. Thanks NASA...

More recently, public perception has changed. The broader population has come to view (perceived) profligate spending with much more suspicion. Yet still the federal government wants to spend trillions of inflation-adjusted tax dollars. Now, a more sophisticated, educated population might look at ever-increasing NASA spending, and those trillions being spent, and call time. So what can the government spend all this money on in a way that people won't cry foul?

The answer that seems to have been chosen is defense spending. Make people frightened and then tell them you need to spend money in order to make them safe, and they aren't going to complain too loudly. So now, instead of spending "surplus" wealth on the advancement of humanity through exploration and research, it's being spent on the NSA, the military-industrial complex, and wars. To keep people safe.

This might sound completely and totally far-fetched... but the evidence is there in black and white. And while you're looking at the evidence, compare the cost of projects like Skylab and the Apollo program [in inflation-adjusted dollars] with what it cost Burt Rutan to develop Space-Ship One, or for Bigelow Aerospace to develop their inflatable station technology, or for Elon Musk to develop Space-X. Oh - someone is bound to read this and challenge the comparison, claiming that these relatively recent companies are only able to develop such rapid advancements based on the earlier work done by NASA in the 1960s and 1970s. But that's not quite true... Take, for example, the development of the Arianne program by the European Space Agency and see just how expensive the "government spending" model can still be if you want it to be...

This would entirely be the land of make believe, but just imagine what NASA could have achieved by today if it had continued to receive sponsorship and support at the same level as it did for the Apollo program... I'm guessing: permanent basis on the moon and Mars; several advanced Outer Planet models; experiments in Space Mining; orbiting Solar Arrays; the list goes on.

Re:Priorities Changed - And People Got Suspicious (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 months ago | (#47794245)

Part of the reasoning was that the scientific developments driven would then flow out into the broader economy, powering the US forwards. It was pretty successful in that regard.

It was almost entirely unsuccessful in that regard. Despite the efforts of generations of NASA PAO's to convince people otherwise, the reality is that space program is a net consumer of technology and has produced very little that has subsequently made it's way out into the general economy.
 

This would entirely be the land of make believe, but just imagine what NASA could have achieved by today if it had continued to receive sponsorship and support at the same level as it did for the Apollo program...

Sponsorship and support when during the Apollo program? If you actually look at the funding, it's pretty much define by a sharp spike in '63-'65, followed by an almost equally sharp decline in '65-'67 and a gradual decrease from there onwards. By the time we landed on the Moon, the program was already running on fumes.

Budget never reformed (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 2 months ago | (#47792179)

This is all because even though there was a deep recession NASA's budget was never reformed. Over the decades more and more non-core programs accreted. Obama didn't help by axing Project Contsellation, or declaring the central role of NASA one of muslim outreach. So here we are, with our center piece program dependent on Vladimir Putin! Way to go America! Is this where you really want to be?

Space (1)

tquasar (1405457) | about 2 months ago | (#47792397)

Is there a lack of science classes in the education system? There was a science lab in my seventh grade school, a better one in high school. The teacher should have been working at a college but must have liked working with teen students. Mr. Munson was a genius and the students who could keep up with his work as he filled the room with algebra and geometry equations got a once in a lifetime opportunity to test their limits, no slackers.

What about 'diversity'? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792407)

I bet they piss away millions of dollars on making sure that 'whitey' doesn't get too many jobs in NASA - thus committing genocide against the white race, which is an international war crime. "BRINGING ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF A RACE, IN WHOLE OR IN PART".

What part of "in part" don't you understand?

Oh geez, is that all? (0)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 2 months ago | (#47792571)

"We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system"

Wow, what a list. I'm surprised it doesn't include unicorn hunts and panda mating.

> returning to the moon for over four decades

Why?

> minimal presence in low-Earth orbit

Sure, so we can spend all our time learning what happens to people in LEO.

> failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system

Nor do we have an alien defense system, which is exactly as likely to be needed.

We need to go to Mars. Permanently. There is no other manned mission.

Re:Oh geez, is that all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47795669)

> failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system

Nor do we have an alien defense system, which is exactly as likely to be needed.

What the hell are you talking about? Asteroids are know to be very real - to the point where it's not even a question of if we will be hit again, it's WHEN will we be hit again. Oh, and we also know exactly how bad it is to get hit by one. I think you need to turn in your geek card and leave after a statement that stupid.

Re:Oh geez, is that all? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 months ago | (#47799341)

Mars as the next step is a stupid idea. And that NASA also keeps suggest it as a next step proves to me how unworthy NASA is of funding. Same whenever they keep doing stupid studies on humans spending long periods in confined areas (they can always ask the nuclear submariners about it).

The true next step for anyone serious in making actual progress in space tech is to build a space station with artificial gravity (tethers+counterweights or other).

Once you have that you can test various animals (rats, food fish, humans) at Earth and Mars "g" concurrently to see how well they hold up for months in space.

And if you succeed in making that tech practical and cheaper it means you don't actually have to go to Mars - you can colonize the asteroids.

There's no actually much benefit going to Mars in the next few decades. The "g" is wrong, the pressure is wrong - you can't really use the tracts of land for farming without effectively building a "space station" on Mars (pressurization, shielding etc) - so there's little advantage over a space station with the disadvantage of not being able to pick your "g".

Re:Oh geez, is that all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47835267)

> failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system

Nor do we have an alien defense system, which is exactly as likely to be needed.

Uh-oh [slashdot.org] That was a close one. I guess the aliens are going to turn up any second now....

America has a military space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792621)

The US military puts most of the stuff into space. The US military demands extremely reliable, and consequently reliable, rockets to put their payloads into orbit.... The Atlas V and Delta IV have had 70!!! consecutive successful launches. SpaceX makes its money by sending cheap, middle income nation satellites into orbit, and cheap supplies to the ISS. They are different markets of payload.

Rogozin has suggested America kill the Atlas V, and I think it should happen.

The DC-X was run for ~$50 million. If Congress was willing to put up the money, work on the DC-X could have continued. The SLS is expensive, in part, because it is so damn big.

Re:America has a military space program (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about 2 months ago | (#47793141)

SLS is not expensive because it's so damn big.
SLS is expensive because it's so damn expensive.

It has been a goal for many in the space community to hit $1000/lb for space launchers.
SLS will beat that.
Unfortunately - in the wrong way - by exceeding it for the cost of the actual fuelled rocket on the ground.
(At the flight rates that NASA is projecting - on the high end of likely for the first several flights).

For the cost of the SLS program up to first launch, you can lift around 5500 tons to LED - using the published per-flight cost of Falcon Heavy.

Where the Money Goes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793193)

Saw a presentation 2 years ago. At that time 75% of NASA's budget was directed at climate change. A return to aeronautics (Budget is currently less than 10% of NASA's total) and aerospace is needed. Let NOAA chase climate change. Let NASA do advanced concepts/technologies. Depend on contractors (SpaceX) for transportation systems. NASA proved with the shuttle that they do not do operations very well.

Re:Where the Money Goes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793841)

It looks like he meant to say 7.5% of NASA's budget, or about $1 Billion a year. It also appears much of that money is spent on studies also done by other agencies, a duplication of effort.

Re: Where the Money Goes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793845)

75% is the correct number

Re:Where the Money Goes (2)

thrich81 (1357561) | about 2 months ago | (#47793891)

I don't know what 'presentation' you saw but it is bullshit. At least for FY13 (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/outreach/022212_budget_charts.pdf) the Human Exploration and Operations (formerly known as 'Manned') percentage of NASA's budget was 45%. Its hard to argue how human operations in space (mostly ISS related) is in any way "directed at climate change". The remaining 55% includes all the planetary missions and astrophysics which again can't be called 'climate change'. Where is the 75% directed at climate change?

NASA has no purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47793825)

NASA has an identity crisis. What is NASA today?

The reality is that the vast majority of new ventures in the scope of human history were based on economic, political, or military gain. Any big events not based on that tend to backfire, or at least take a back burner to more pressing needs.

NASA's purpose, despite some perception of a hard push towards pure science, was in reality about political and military power: military because of the dual nature use of the technology developed by NASA, and political because of the global perception of which method, capitalism or communism, were the more profitable methods. Now that the Cold War is over, and no one can deny that Capitalism trumped Communism, and that the US is now the only superpower with global reach, what purpose does NASA serve? All of NASA's budget issues can be traced to this key concept: What is NASA for now? Pure science/engineering isn't good enough, because no one's going to fund it.

NASA needs to claim a mission now, like studying and reversing/controlling global warming, or a massive reduction in energy cost through developed fusion power combined with Helium-3 harvesting on the moon. Something like that. But pure science, robots exploring the planets, that's secondary stuff.

If the voters want a robust NASA (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#47794017)

They will elect the politicians who will make it happen. If not, then NASA will spend the rest of its existence looking for lost change in the couch.

Disposable rovers (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about 2 months ago | (#47795313)

It costs an absolute fortune to sent something to another planet (regardless of weight), so why does NASA spend so much time and money designing and building rovers that are only expected to last 3-6 months?

It's like a person complaining about having a food budget that is too small, when they buy nothing but high-price, pre-packaged, ready-to-eat meals.

A lack of focus (0)

lightbounce (2440482) | about 2 months ago | (#47795675)

Back in 2010, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said President Obama gave him three priorities: "When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he [President Obama] charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering" None of these is actually about doing space exploration.

Money wasted on manned pork (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 2 months ago | (#47808449)

The real excitement and discoveries are all the result of unmanned missions such as the Voyager, Cassini, New Horizons, MRO, etc. missions (and the fabulously successful rovers). Manned spaceflight is just pork for Congressionally-powerful districts with no scientific return. The SLS (called the Rocket to Nowhere), the Orion capsule, the old shuttles, and the ISS are/have burned billions and do nothing for science....and they endanger astronauts. The problem is that NASA is run by ex-flyboys and the districts that build their toys want the pork to keep coming. Bolden is a shill for the manned space lobby--it is fairly disgraceful how he has tried to kill planetary science.
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