NASA Vision of Space Exploration

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by BRYAN_SEECRETS, Jul 28, 2006.

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  1. BRYAN_SEECRETS Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 2005
    star 1
    In 2004, NASA unveiled its Vision of Space Exploration, as part of charting a bold new course into the cosmos, a journey that will take humans back to the Moon, and eventually to Mars and beyond. Yet, this year, NASA is blurring the Vision of Space Exploration with the U.S. administration's proposed budget for 2007 that cut NASA's science programs drastically. Even now, before Congress approves the cuts, NASA has eliminated funding for a mission to explore Europa.

    The U.S. administration is defending the NASA budget, saying that it is growing. But the funds allocated for NASA are more than $1 billion less than those pledged a year ago in order to support the Vision of Space Exploration and the rest of the NASA program. This year, NASA warned that increased shuttle cost estimates would require major cuts to space science and the U.S. administration agreed that funding cuts from space science were required.

    This is a woefully short-sighted decision. Cutting science is ridiculous for the space science community. It is the part of NASA that is working best, producing the most spectacular results, and leading the way of exploration.

    This budget could also essentially stop human exploration in its tracks. The commitment to 17 more Shuttle flights could delay the sorely needed new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), dooming us to Earth orbit for at least another two decades. The end result is this budget places the future of the Human Flight program and science in jeopardy. It is literally the "worst of all possible worlds."


    Recently, the House Subcommittee has approved a budget of $16.7 billion, $100 million less than that requested by the Administration. But, it restored $75 million out of $330 million funding that the Administration had cut from space science plans. The Committee directed $50 million of the science funding to help restore some of the research and analysis cuts. It also restored $100 million of planned cuts in aeronautics. However, to offset the restoration of these funds, additional cuts beyond those proposed by the Administration were made in space exploration program line items. Also, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $16.75 billion budget for NASA and also passed the Mikulski-Hutchison amendment for a $1 billion dollar ?emergency? supplement to pay for shuttle repair and recovery. (The amendment actually specifies $2 billion over two years). The final total not including the supplement was $500 million more than the previous year and very close to the level passed by the House of Representatives.

    All space perspectives are welcome to be discussed in this thread in relation to NASA and the politics concerning space exploration.
  2. VoijaRisa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    I've been saying this for the past two years: The present space vision is a dead end.

    Aside from having to pull money away from scientific aspects, many experts agreed that even with 100% of NASA resources going to it, such a program would still be underfunded.

    Furthermore, it calls for a retiring of the shuttle fleet relatively soon, while a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is developed. However, that leaves NASA without any manned space craft until such time as the CEV is finished, and we all know how good NASA is at doing things on schedule.

    This also requires an abdandoning of the ISS on the USs behalf. We've commited to doing a certain amount, but with the US not having a manned orbital vehicle, the Russians are the only nation left currently capable or sending people there, and their resources have already been strained during our 3 years off after the Colombia disaster. Abandoning a project that many nations contributed to financially as well as materially (building modules and the like), is not going to make NASA any international friends.

    While I have no problem with going back to the moon/Mars, such a task must be properly funded and not taking away from the science that NASA does.
  3. Lord Vivec Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 8
    Right now,our space program needs to find a better way of travelling. Our current fuel and method is inneficient. It is also very slow. If we can find a fuel or system that travels faster, we will be better off.
  4. VoijaRisa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    And don't forget expensive. To actually launch a single pound into orbit on the shuttle, it costs nearly $100,000. Once we get past orbit though, then it's not as much of a problem. It's just getting that first few hundred km that's the trick.
  5. Darth-Seldon Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    NASA and the Americans have a vision?

    -Seldon
  6. LemmingLord Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Apr 28, 2005
    star 4
    They both do silly!

    NASA have a vision of dollar bills and big toys and showing off how smart they are.

    Americans have all sorts of visions; the most prevelent being "man, I wish I didn't have to work but could still get paid."
  7. VoijaRisa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    And just in time to prove my point: [link=http://www.space.com/news/0650728_iss_science_cuts.html]NASA considers suspending science on ISS[/link].

    Apparently, they're having *GASP* budget issues that are forcing them to suspend science to fund a new attachment.

    So without doing science, the ISS is what? A 200 km high, $100 billion tree fort?
  8. Master_SweetPea Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2002
    star 4
    N.A.S.A.

    No
    Americans in
    Space
    At all

    ya like?
  9. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 10
    I almost hate to say this because I don't want it to turn into that kind of discussion, but you can blame Bush. This CEV Moon/Mars initiative thingy was a set back. NASA had not finalized a design at the time but they were already given the go years prior for a Shuttle replacement called the OSP or Orbital Space Plane. It was scheduled to be in operation before 2010. And behold, there came a President interested in leaving a legacy rather than doing the right things to forward NASA's endevours. Had some R&D going on for a few years already? Too bad, start over.

    Before CEV and OSP there was VentureStar; single stage to orbit, $1,000 per pound. This is one of my favorite stories. The engineers NOT in charge of VentureStar said that the proposed composite fuel tanks were not a good idea and they should go with aluminum tanks. But no, that would not do. NASA must have innovation so Boeing had better make some composite tanks. Come test time the engineers said the tanks would rupture, and they did. So those in charge asked the engineers what they should do, and behold the engineers said they should use aluminum tanks and behold...those in charge actually listened to the engineers! They got the go ahead to use aluminum tanks and a launch system that would cost one tenth what the space shuttles cost was on its way.

    Until...

    I don't recall the guys name, but an advisor to NASA went before Congress. He told Congress that since they could not get composite fuel tanks to work that the VentureStar should be scrapped. Congress said, "Ok." And VentureStar was scrapped. Jut like that. One year later, Boeing made the composite fuel tanks work as needed, but VentureStar was not pulled off the shelf.

    IMO NASA should give up on manned spaceflight. Instead they keep the manned spaceflight budget but use it for pure R&D, then let the private sector buy the patents and make use of the technology. In case you have not been following there is a rather rich man by the name of Robert Bigelow who did just that. NASA had inflatable modules in mind for the space station but went with tin cans instead. Bigelow bought the inflatables, called TransHab, and recently launched a test module successfully into space last week.

  10. VoijaRisa Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2002
    star 5
    I'm a big fan of NASA looking to the private sector for their technology as well. Every time this has happened, it's brought about major advances.
  11. saber_death Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2005
    star 4
    i agree that private companies should at least join NASA in manned flights (if not take over completely once able) and let NASA stick to advanced R&D (better engines for both ground to orbit and orbit to elsewhere being the big issue) and ISS based science.

    i saw an article in Popular Science or one of those magazines about a planned Learjet that can go into space (has a rocket in addition to it's jets)... that will be awesome for the billionares who can afford it, and perhaps trickle down/scale up the tech for a Boeing "787" that can do the same thing. imagine getting a flight for Paris to LA with a stoppover in ORBITCITY 2... if the private sector gets behind these ideas i could see that being an option by the time my parents retire (~20 years).

    as for NASA... build a good ION engined craft and go to the ISS/moon/mars and learn something useful... that's what they need to be doing, and for as little as safely possible.
  12. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 10
    NASA has a [link=http://www.newscientistspace.com/article/dn9616-new-ion-engine-could-propel-spacecraft-to-titan.html]New ion engine[/link] which is billed as 2.5 times the thrust as Deep Space 1's engine.

    Project Prometheus has been scaled down but that would have been a nuclear powered Ion engine which could have been a precursor to manned Ion engines.

    [link=http://www.nasatech.com/Briefs/Sep01/MSC23041.html]VASIMR[/link] IMO is something NASA should get as a funding priority.

    [link=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Galactic]Virgin Galactic[/link] is considered the leader in space tourism since they are the only company looking at sub-orbital flights that have actually had a sub-orbital flight. Branson has already said that if the first year of tourist flights is profitable they will immediately start developing an orbital vehicle.

    [link=http://www.rocketplane.com/home.asp]Rocketplane ltd.[/link] worries me because it is just a Lear Jet, but if its space worthy then so be it.

    [link=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Origin]Blue Origin[/link] wants to use a vertical take off and vertical landing vehicle similar to DC-X. DC-X was an incredible test vehicle...launching twice in one day, hovering, turning upside down then righting itself, but I think horizontal landing is better.

    [link=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_X]Space X[/link] has made attempts but is having troubles getting a successful launch. Musk is quite serious about this though and Space X is far from over. It has leaked out that he plans on mounting a wedge-like craft on a future heavy lift version of his rockets for passengers to orbit.

    And many more...

    Sub-orbital prices look like they will start at $200,000 per seat. Orbital rides may run $1,000,000 per seat when they start which is far better than the $20,000,000 it costs to take a person on any other launcher.
    The current powers of the launch industry could actually lower their launch costs if they really wanted to, but they don't, and won't. At least they won't until some of these other guys who are trying to make access to space much cheaper start regular launches and relieve the current industry leaders of their monopoly.
  13. Jediflyer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5
    I don't have much time to get into this thread now (perhaps later this weekend), but I do think it needs to be acknowledged that "space" for private industry and "space" for NASA are two completely different concepts.

  14. EnforcerSG Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    The problem with ion engines is that although extremely efficient in terms of fuel used they have very little thrust. They will never get something off the ground and into space (in the foreseeable future at least). So we still have the problem of expensive launch costs. But once they are in space and if you have years to get to someplace then they are great.

    I just want to see space become a more normal part of life. I feel that we should push the envelope of putting people in space, but we should focus on robotic missions until we get the hang of it. I hope that some business man can figure out how to make space profitable in some way. Yeah it will take a major initial investment, but if they can figure out a way to make a profit then I bet it will be developed. Any ideas are welcome.

    Vivic
    Although I would say that our current rocket technology is not efficient enough to seriously develop space at a reasonable cost, in what way is it inefficient?
  15. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 10
    I would say that the rocket tech itself in efficeint, but the red tape that goes with it makes it expensive. 80% of the launch cost for the Space Shuttle is payroll. In thi instance though, the reson is because the Shuttles are so complex it requires an army of PhD's to make it fly. $10,000 a pound is the result.
    Sounding rockets are capable of orbital altitudes but not orbital speeds and cost ~$1,000 per pound. Most unmanned launchers run around $2,500 to $5,000 per pound. These prices could come down, but there really is no competition to force the matter.

    I can't locate the article but NASA has ongoing research into a new type of pre-burn turbo system that would double the efficiency of chemical rockets without losing thrust capacity. This means being able to do twice as much work for the same fuel, or the same amount of work for half the fuel.
    Metallic hydrogen is a substance that could have efficiencies equal to a fission rocket with thrust better than chemical rockets. It is unstable however, and difficult to make to say the least and for now remains a dream.
    We could go to the Moon and make a gigantic solar powered particle accelerator who's sole purpose would be to make anti matter. Then all you need is water as a working fluid and you can transit the Earth/Moon distance in a matter of hours, to mars in less than a week(a few grams of anti matter with about 40 tons of water for that), or out to Pluto in a month. Containment is the goal here; one kilo of anti hydrogen combined with the same amount of hyrdrogen yields a 48 megaton explosion.
  16. Neo-Paladin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    It's hard to beat the rocket equation, which is really your hard limit in how a rocket performs. Staging helps, but with diminishing returns, more than three isn't worth the complication. Of course stages add to cost, which is why single stage to orbit is supposed to cure our cost woes. We?ll see.

    Of course I'd love to see a maglev launching system or an elevator. I think the maglev's material problems will be solved before the elevator. Before that we may see fission thermal rockets, which are being tested in Russia (last I knew). Unfortunately resistance to nuclear power will be a stumbling block to FTR's usage; we probably won?t see it as a launch engine, it?ll be hard to sell it as an interplanetary transfer engine. It's hard to say where we're going.

    I think the vision of a return to the moon is good. I know someone plugged into the workings, and he's very excited, saying there is more traction behind this initiative than any before. That said, I agree there isn't enough ballast (money) there.
  17. Espaldapalabras Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    I think for most Americans, we stopped going to the moon for a reason. We found out it wasn't made of cheese and moved on. Personally I think it would be cool, but we have so many problems back on Earth we need to solve that exploring space with men can't just be justified by some "final frontier" speech. We need more reasons than some appeal to our duty to explore. Columbus found America because he had a real economic insentive to do so, not because the Queen of Spain wanted to see what was over the proverbial mountain. If NASA could figure out how to build cheaper ships instead of building the coolest one ever, funding for space wouldn't be an issue. If corporations or individuals thought they would make money off of space, they would spend money on it. We already see this happening. What NASA does is get the taxpayer to pick up the tab for things that rarely gives back the taxpayer its investment.
  18. Jediflyer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5
    If corporations or individuals thought they would make money off of space, they would spend money on it.

    Often the government has to lay the groundwork or do much of the heavy lifting at the beginning to make an area commercially viable. Just look at the railroads or airtravel.

    And the internet. What company would have spent money on that 60 years ago?

    What NASA does is get the taxpayer to pick up the tab for things that rarely gives back the taxpayer its investment.


    It gives us back far more for our investment than bullets or social security checks.
  19. Neo-Paladin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    We stopped going to the moon because of politics. Nixon didn?t want the Dems to score points off of Apollo (Kennedy?s legacy) and he had it scrapped so NASA could pursue Skylab and the Shuttle instead. He went as far as to sell the machines that built the Saturn V as scrap steel.

    You want us to wait on space until we solve the problems here on Earth? There?s just a few problems with that. First, some of those solutions may not exist today. World peace, poverty, et al. do not seem to have solutions today. We could do the research necessary, but technology and science doesn?t progress linearly. Every year NASA produces a book called spinoffs that lists technologies that NASA developed that are now being used in the private sector. That is NASA?s economic return to this country. Everyday you are affected by these spinoffs. Also note, NASA doesn?t see a single cent from spinoffs; that was written into the NASA charter.

    Also, the NASA budget is far too small to appreciably impact these world problems. Even with a budget increase of returning to the moon, you won?t approach a meaningful contribution to the problem. It?s a scale issue, something that is frequently misperceived I think. I believe it was 97? when the Dept. of Heath and Human Services spent the equivalent of the NASA annual budget every week. I don?t think the scale has shifted that much since then.

    And finally, there is a Lunar resource that is worth pursuing. The isotope Helium-3 is in abundance on the Moon, but rare on Earth. Today groups are pursuing Helium-3 fusion which may someday provide our energy needs. It?s hard to say when this will be possible, like I said technology doesn?t progress linearly. But when it is possible we will already need to have the infrastructure in place to make frequent flights to the moon.

    Even if Helium-3 doesn?t pan out, there are a multitude of possibilities that we could see come from this venture.
  20. EnforcerSG Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2001
    star 4
    Espaldapalabras

    I am going to go easy on you since you didn't outright say the meaningless feel good whine that I have heard many other people say. However when you said:
    you came awfully close.

    I agree that there are many many problems on earth that should be fixed (assuming they can be). However as many people have noted already, NASA's budget is relatively small. It has been hovering at around 16 billion a year for many years. Compared to Medicare that (last I checked) was about 300 billion a year, and Americas' military budget that in 2004 (according to Wikipedia) was 437 billion,

    Now if you have an actual plan to permanently solve all of the problems of the world to your satisfaction for 16 billion dollars a year, I would be the first to say shut down NASA and do it. But I would need a detailed plan, not just a vague "it could be used better."

    Until then, realize that these problems have been in existence for a very long time. Hunger, poverty, disease, trouble in the Middle East (well, I guess Bush wasn't president until only 6 years ago ;), but we had Clinton before that :p ), etc. Sometimes thing get a little better for a little while, sometimes things get a little (a lot) worse. However one area that there has been overall unquestionable improvement has been technology. That to me has been the only progress that the human race has made and I see NASA at the head of that progress.

    Now, the line of yours I quoted feels like it didn't belong in that paragraph you wrote. You were saying that there needs to be an economic reason to go into space (not just pure vision) and that is different from waiting until the world is a happier place. I would agree with that too (however there would need to be some stuff going on in space to find something profitable/to figure out hot to make it profitable). If I misread you and took the 'fix problems on earth first' line in the wrong way I apologizes.
  21. Lord Vivec Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 8
    EnforcerCG, it is inefficient because it takes to much time to go the moon/mars with our current engine. It already takes a few months to go the moon, and that is only because we lauche shuttles and rockets in the same direction as the Earth is spinning to use less energy. I'm pretty sure that with our current technology,if we wanted to send someone to mars, they better pack for a long and boring trip. (1.3 years, I believe)
  22. Kimball_Kinnison Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    A few months to go to the Moon? Then how did Apollo 11 get there and back in 8 days?

    Apollo 11 launched July 16, 1969, landed on the Moon 4 days later (July 20, 1969) and splashed down on Earth another 4 days later (July 24, 1969). Apollo 12 made it to the Moon in only 3 days.

    In fact, if you added up the entire time from initial launch to final landing of all of the Apollo Moon Landings, you would barely get a total of about 2 months.

    Kimball Kinnison
  23. Espaldapalabras Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    My point was that unless we are using space to help us out down here somehow there is little point in exploration for the sake of exploration, at least when it comes to manned space flight. I think it would be great to send men to Mars, but I think the people footing the bill deserve a better explanation than some appeal to man's need to move on to the next step. Looking back on it, the Shuttle program was a mistake. While it had many capabilities, NASA should just work on getting things into space as cheap as possible, and the shuttle did not do that.

    16 billion is a lot of money to just have some cool toys to see over the mountain.
  24. Jansons_Funny_Twin Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    But we all benefit from this. In order to get to Mars, we would require new ways of doing things, new technology. Technology that would eventually find its way into the general market. Many of the things that we enjoy today are direct decendants of technology developed during the Space Race. Do we see an immediate return on investment? No. But we do see long-term improvements. Also, I think someone earlier mentioned things like Helium-3. This isn't just exploration for the sake of exploration, it is something which could help us develop the resources and technologies to improve all people.

    Damn, I've been reading Planetes too much. :p




    You ungrateful, metal pansy!
  25. Kimball_Kinnison Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Tang. You forgot to mention Tang.

    How can you extol the virtues of the manned space program without mentioning the single greatest development to come out of it?

    Kimball Kinnison
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