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      07-19-2013, 07:41 AM   #1
RobertRO
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Manned space program: grounded for 2 years. And counting...

This is way off-topic, but I cannot refrain from expressing my bemusement when I remember that nowadays only 2 countries are capable of sending humans in space. One of them is Russia - but heck the other one is China, not US.

For me it's beyond logic that the country who performed best in space exploration, with the spectacular Apollo program, and then the Space Shuttle program - that is the United States, in case you haven't yet figured it out - simply pulled out of the game in July 2011 by sending the Space Shuttles to museums and replacing them with nothing.
So US just celebrated 2 years of being grounded.
Stunningly, it seems that not earlier than 2019 will NASA be able to send people in space again.
NASA played with some replacement programs in late '90ies / early 2000s, the most promising being Constellation. But it got canceled in 2010, due to lack of funding.

Yes, there are other interesting space exploration projects currently performed by NASA, but by sending out only robots you're only doing half of the game. And yes, US astronauts still go in space, but that's possible mainly because the Russians are keeping the door open.
It will only take some strong political turmoil with Russia, and space may be a nice memory to US astronauts.

Funding is of course an issue, but losing decades of space flight expertise is the worst of all.

Well, US seems to be doing its best to lose everything to China by the end of the decade. Economy ranking, soon space supremacy, and probably military power it's also on the way.

Sorry for this message, I'm not an US citizen and I should mind my own stuff - but I simply don't understand why is US doing this.
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      07-19-2013, 07:55 AM   #2
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      07-19-2013, 08:04 AM   #3
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I'd rather the US not send people to space no further than the moon or the space station. It seems just a waste of time.

Start sending people again when we have better tech to send people farther (and bring them back safely). That is the future, not goofing around on the space station or the moon. Been there, done that.
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      07-19-2013, 08:10 AM   #4
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I am not sure of NASA motivations in all of this, however, it kind like been there done that, let do something new. Also, why waste anymore US tax payers money on something that has really been done before. Let the Russian and Chinese waste their money and the US gets to send people along for the ride.

The Space program generated more modern day technology than any single company out there and created new completely new industries and revenues far more than whatever was spend on the space programs. The question is will this continue to happen if NASA is no longer pushing the envelop of technology.
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      07-19-2013, 08:22 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Templar View Post
I'd rather the US not send people to space no further than the moon or the space station. It seems just a waste of time.

Start sending people again when we have better tech to send people farther (and bring them back safely). That is the future, not goofing around on the space station or the moon. Been there, done that.
The US had between 30 and 35 years of dominance in manned space exploration. I agree with the OP - it is a crying shame that all that effort, including the ultimate sacrifice by some - has allowed those efforts to stall.

The goofing around is required - it is a necessary evolutionary step - in order to develop the better tech, so that people can be sent further.
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      07-19-2013, 08:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Templar View Post
I'd rather the US not send people to space no further than the moon or the space station. It seems just a waste of time.

Start sending people again when we have better tech to send people farther (and bring them back safely). That is the future, not goofing around on the space station or the moon. Been there, done that.
You obviously don't understand the point of the ISS.



Anyways, the future for space seems to be in private companies. Namely Virgin Galactic.
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      07-19-2013, 09:28 AM   #7
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First, Bush killed the Shuttle. And it was time to retire the Space Shuttle. They were aging. Atlantis limped to the finish. They were designed to last 20 years or 100 missions. They pushed that 20 year limit.

And it is common to end one program to develop another one. NASA's budget is only $17 billion a year. That is barely a scratch in our total budget. With NASA's other projects, Shuttle had to end to free up money for their next Heavy-lift rocket. Just like Apollo had to end before the Space Shuttle's development really got started.

The next vehicle is pretty much a Saturn V redo called SLS or Space Launch System. Whether it survives the next president is another question( like how Obama killed the Ares rockets). It will have a core stage containing 4-5 RS-25D/E's( the Shuttle's SSME's). The 70t version will have a 5 segment shuttle derived SRB( Shuttle used 4). They are using the Delta IV's upper stage initially for the second stage/earth departure stage. They will eventually use a new upper stage consisting of the J-2X engine( updated version of the J-2 from the Saturn V's second and third stage). Current proposals include the revival of the F-1 engine(which powered the 1st stage of the Saturn V) to use as strap on boosters to replace the 5 segment SRB's for the 130t version.

The first unmanned launch of the SLS will be in 2017 using 4 RS-25D's(which are the Shuttle's engines currently in storage. Its current mission will be to go around the moon and back to test the SLS and Orion capsules systems. The first manned launch will be in 2021 in the same configuration as the 2017 launch. When the remaining I believe 16 RS-25D's are used up, they will switch to the RS-25E engines which will be far less complex and cheaper to build making them more practical to be expendable. SLS will be launched from LC-39B. Status of LC-39A is still uncertain.



In 2014, NASA will test Orion called EFT-1.



Here is EM-1 for 2017 using SLS.

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      07-19-2013, 09:33 AM   #8
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People get mad at President Obama for taking a vacation at a cost of a few million dollars. I'm surprised people didn't take issue much earlier with the billions spent on the space program. I don't think the cure for cancer is sitting on a foreign planet so I would rather that money be spent saving lives here on earth by the funding of medical research.
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      07-19-2013, 09:39 AM   #9
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The goofing around is required - it is a necessary evolutionary step - in order to develop the better tech, so that people can be sent further.
I don't think it is. The tech is still being developed now, and it is being used, without sending people to play with moon rocks.
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      07-19-2013, 09:41 AM   #10
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People get mad at President Obama for taking a vacation at a cost of a few million dollars. I'm surprised people didn't take issue much earlier with the billions spent on the space program. I don't think the cure for cancer is sitting on a foreign planet so I would rather that money be spent saving lives here on earth by the funding of medical research.
NASA is like .04% of the US budget( that includes SLS, probes, satellites, etc). You want to cut a budget to cure cancer? Cut the Defense budget and reform the entitlement programs. Those will free up a lot more money to find the cure for cancer than cutting NASA's budget.

And for the person that said we shouldn't go back to the moon because we did that already.... One of my favorite quotes from Apollo 13 was when Tom Hanks stated," What if people didn't come back to America after Christopher Columbus?" in response to a question of why should the US continue to fund the Apollo program since we got to the moon before the Soviets...

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      07-19-2013, 09:44 AM   #11
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And for the person that said we shouldn't go back to the moon.... One of my favorite quotes from Apollo 13 was when Tom Hanks stated," What if people didn't come back to America after Christopher Columbus?" in response to a question of why should the US continue to fund the Apollo program.
People were already living here when Columbus arrived. It's a terrible analogy.
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      07-19-2013, 09:49 AM   #12
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People were already living here when Columbus arrived. It's a terrible analogy.
Yes, but you wouldn't be living here and the US wouldn't exist if people didn't come back to explore America. The fact people were already living here is irrelevant to that point. If we stop exploring simply because we did it already, progress will never be made. There is still a lot to discover about the moon. Going back to the moon I think is a critical next step before going to Mars. See how living on the moon for an extended amount of time will do. The ISS is sort of testing that now as well, but the moon is the next step before we send people on a months long trip to Mars.

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      07-19-2013, 09:57 AM   #13
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I'll admit i teared up when they grounded the space program 2 years ago. Just didn't seem right.
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      07-19-2013, 10:04 AM   #14
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Yes, but you wouldn't be living here and the US wouldn't exist if people didn't come back to explore America. The fact people were already living here is irrelevant to that point. If we stop exploring simply because we did it already, progress will never be made. There is still a lot to discover about the moon. Going back to the moon I think is a critical first step before going to Mars. See how living on the moon for an extended amount of time will do. The ISS is sort of testing that now as well, but the moon is the next step before we send people on a months long trip to Mars.
Both are unihabitable rocks. We don't have the technology or the funding currently to inhabit them. So again, what is the purpose of returning to the moon? We've been going back and forth to that thing for decades. If we were going back to constantly test new technology for possible habitation, then that's one thing. We haven't developed it yet, so I don't see how we can continue to afford going there just to go.

As you said in an earlier post, there comes a time when one program has to be dropped to pave the way for a new one.
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      07-19-2013, 10:07 AM   #15
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Yes, but you wouldn't be living here and the US wouldn't exist if people didn't come back to explore America. The fact people were already living here is irrelevant to that point. If we stop exploring simply because we did it already, progress will never be made. There is still a lot to discover about the moon. Going back to the moon I think is a critical first step before going to Mars. See how living on the moon for an extended amount of time will do. The ISS is sort of testing that now as well, but the moon is the next step before we send people on a months long trip to Mars.
That's all fine and dandy but the real question is about results. We landed on the moon. That's amazing for bragging rights but it did little else other than allow us to thumb our nose at Russia. I am open to my mind being changed and am not trying to be dismissive but I think Hubble has done more and at a fraction of the price.

With the money we've already spent, it's not like we've found an ocean or palm trees or more crude oil. I would rather send more unmanned rovers that are more cost effective and have a farther reach than spend a multiple of that amount trying to send a human.
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      07-19-2013, 01:08 PM   #16
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The shuttle was one of the biggest boondogle ever. It was supposed to make space access cheap, reliable and safe. It was an order of magnitude more expensive to fly than predicted, would spend years grounded, and was an inherently unsafe design. It's an impressive machine, but it just doesn't make sense to bring a half dozen people and a 200,000 pound airplane with you when you want to launch a 45,000 pound satellite or deliver some cargo. At over $1B per flight (due primarily to the low flight rate and standing army required to train crews and maintain the damn thing) it left Nasa with insufficient resources to develop a replacement. The upper stage and cargo shrouds are the least cost-effective pieces of a launch vehicle to re-use, and an enormous hypersonic airplane is the least efficient way to recover them.

The design was inherently unsafe due to being large, fragile, and requiring exacting flight requirements. Being mounted on the side exposed it to debris and made an abort all but impossible. A traditional capsule, on the other hand, can abort at pretty much any time. A Soyuz once entered very steep and sideways and the crew still survived. They're light weight, safe, simple, require a much smaller launch vehicle, and are affordable. We're so risk-averse now though that we can't even build one of those in a timely manner. In the 60's it took 8 years from our first spaceflight to a moon landing, going through 3 generations of spacecraft. Now, even though we have the experience and far better materials and design tools, it'll take over a decade to do our first unmanned test flight.

The new heavy lift rocket is another boondoggle, designed primarily to keep those old shuttle tax dollars going to various congressional districts. SpaceX is designing something just as good and far cheaper. They also have a capsule they could fly today if not for the government controlling all the launch facilities and having export controls that prevent them from launching elsewhere. They're willing to take the risks that are necessary. Private is the future of manned space flight. The first eyes to see Mars will be from a privately funded vehicle. Let's let NASA get back to its original business of developing technologies and doing things like interplaneterary probes.

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      07-19-2013, 01:12 PM   #17
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Warp drive is coming in exactly 50 years.

Zefram Cochrane is still in school at the moment. give him a break
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      07-19-2013, 01:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
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The new heavy lift rocket is another boondoggle, designed primarily to keep those old shuttle tax dollars going to various congressional districts. SpaceX is designing something just as good and far cheaper. They also have a capsule they could fly today if not for the government controlling all the launch facilities and having export controls that prevent them from launching elsewhere. They're willing to take the risks that are necessary. Private is the future of manned space flight. The first eyes to see Mars will be from a privately funded vehicle. Let's let NASA get back to its original business of developing technologies and doing things like interplaneterary probes.
Only the 70t version of the SLS is just Shuttle parts recycled( with Delta IV thrown in). Once the 130t version comes online, only the core stage will be Shuttle derived. The rest will be unique to SLS( the new boosters, upper stage, Orion, etc).

Private will be viable for only LEO operations, IMHO.

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      07-19-2013, 01:44 PM   #19
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Until someone comes up with a viable propulsion system that will get us to Mars or beyond in less than months, there's no sense pursuing manned flight to another planet. I agree with the statements above that the moon and Mars have no habitation options, so why bother. Anything a heavily spacesuited human can do, a little robot can do better.

You could say that we might need the experience of space flight and landing on other planets or asteroids if we ever have to deal with an earth-killing asteroid, but really, how many people alive today have that experience in the first place? And none of them could actually go on such a mission.

I spent 10 weeks as an intern at Johnson Space Center right out of college. I worked on a project to develop rocket fuel on the moon using ice and lunar soil, basically to collect oxygen and hydrogen. It was all just initial testing of ways to extract those things from oxidized soils found by the Apollo 17 mission. The process was proven to work, but the energy needed to extract huge amounts of oxygen and hydrogen was just not feasible. You'd need a nuclear reactor on the moon to do it. And even if you could do all that, a contemporary rocket propelled vehicle launched from the moon still needs months to get to Mars with enough fuel to get back. Using oxygen/hydrogen-based fuels just isn't feasible for anything beyond the moon.

I do think the ISS is a good project. I'd rather see us dump money into expanding that to a much greater degree than to waste money trying to put a flag and footprints on Mars. Private companies should be able to step up and provide a reliable, cost-effective system to go back and forth. I would even like to see a program that allows for non-NASA scientists to spend time on the ISS. But even expanding the ISS itself presents challenges. The bigger you make it, the more maintenance it needs and the bigger target for space junk it becomes. Both of those issues very rapidly escalate costs.
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      07-22-2013, 03:57 AM   #20
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I don't think it is. The tech is still being developed now, and it is being used, without sending people to play with moon rocks.
Thanks. Do you have an example? How is this technology tested and proven effectively - with any degree of certainty - without placing it into the environment into which it is designed for?

I can understand that certain stresses within labs, theoretical scenarios, computer modelling of environmental stresses and so on, can be implemented here on our planet - but surely the best way to test and stress any new technology, is to do it in situ? To test it where it is designed to be used?
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      07-22-2013, 08:00 AM   #21
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Thanks. Do you have an example? How is this technology tested and proven effectively - with any degree of certainty - without placing it into the environment into which it is designed for?

I can understand that certain stresses within labs, theoretical scenarios, computer modelling of environmental stresses and so on, can be implemented here on our planet - but surely the best way to test and stress any new technology, is to do it in situ? To test it where it is designed to be used?
I agree that the best envrionment to test it is in space, however the funding is not there for constant (expensive) trips to space with new equipment. Not to mention, the direction the country has taken for a long time is how can we prevent putting people in harms way while still accomplishing something new and exciting. I think the unmanned space program definitely does that.

Again, what would be the purpose of going back to the moon right now? We don't even have anything to test out over there. The next step should be to build technology that can allow us to possibly live on another planet. Interstellar travel on a large scale is far beyond our reach right now, so while it's cool to look at possible planets that we could live in the future, we have no way to get there and we won't anytime soon.

This is all just my opinion, but I think large scale space stations (bases or something) close to earth should be top priority. Followed by stations that can allow us to live on the moon or mars, etc. Build out from that. Just my thoughts, although I'm sure it sounds like something out of Star Trek
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      07-22-2013, 09:39 AM   #22
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I agree that the best envrionment to test it is in space, however the funding is not there for constant (expensive) trips to space with new equipment. Not to mention, the direction the country has taken for a long time is how can we prevent putting people in harms way while still accomplishing something new and exciting. I think the unmanned space program definitely does that.

Again, what would be the purpose of going back to the moon right now? We don't even have anything to test out over there. The next step should be to build technology that can allow us to possibly live on another planet. Interstellar travel on a large scale is far beyond our reach right now, so while it's cool to look at possible planets that we could live in the future, we have no way to get there and we won't anytime soon.

This is all just my opinion, but I think large scale space stations (bases or something) close to earth should be top priority. Followed by stations that can allow us to live on the moon or mars, etc. Build out from that. Just my thoughts, although I'm sure it sounds like something out of Star Trek
I think that all posting on this subject matter, are more in sync with their thinking than at first it seems. Cheers.
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