Ares V rocket
Ares V rocket

NASA

No Moon Missions, That’s a Relief

1 Feb , 2010 by

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The rumors were true, Constellation is cancelled. No Ares 1 crew vehicle, no Ares V heavy lifter, no Altair lander. No bases on the Moon, and no human exploration of Mars. NASA is canceling the human return to the Moon.

Good.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of human space exploration. I’ve dedicated my life to it. I’ve raised my children in the certainty that they’re going to be the first humans to set foot on the surface of Mars, and I mourn the end of the Apollo program. Where’s my flying car? But I’ve also felt deeply unsettled about the Constellation program. Maybe it was the best way to reach the Moon 40 years ago, but things are different now.

As some of you know, my background is in software, where the competition is fierce. And half of this is a mental game; you win the information war in the minds of customers through FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Make your nervous customers wait, and hope that your next great solution is going to solve all their problems. Although we’re talking space exploration here, I see a parallel. Why work our tails off to go to the Moon or Mars if NASA is going to just make it happen for us?

Well they aren’t, and I’d argue that they never were. It was just a matter of time before the political parties changed, budgets tightened, and priorities shifted. It was inevitable that this would happen, and if it didn’t happen this time around, it would happen with the next shift in government. No long term goal could ever survive. And time spent waiting for NASA to make it happen was wasted time.

As the guy watching stats at Universe Today (2 million readers in January, 2009), I can guarantee that interest in space and astronomy is continuing to rise. The demand and interest is there, and thanks to the Internet, thousands of flowers are blooming as space advocacy groups are coming together to get things done – like the Mars Society, and the Planetary Society. Private companies are making human space tourism a reality, with Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Bigelow Aerospace. There are privately funded prizes available for the completion of technical accomplishments, like the Google Lunar X Prize.

But with NASA handling that “back to the Moon” thing, space advocates probably thought they could relax a little.

I think that NASA has an enormous role to play in human space exploration. They have the ability to solve problems that private enterprise just doesn’t have the funds for. Sure, NASA put a man on the Moon, but it’s the trickle down technologies that we appreciate every day. Like velcro! NASA needs create the tools and technology that will enable a vibrant and healthy private space industry.

What’s the best way to extract fuel from an asteroid? How can ion engines cut down flight times? Is there a better way to make a spacesuit? What are some good materials for space elevators? What are some safer rocket fuels? How can we make rocket launches better for the environment? Is there a way to make velcro better?

They can do this through pure research, competitions, university grants, prizes, and private/government partnerships. They can team up with other governments to cut costs on the really big challenges.

And you know what’s strange? They already do this with science. NASA listens to scientists to hear their greatest challenges. “We need to see through gas and dust to see star formation and protoplanetary disks” – here’s Spitzer. “We need to see high energy regions around supermassive black holes” – that’s Fermi. “We need to know if there’s evidence of water on the surface of Mars” – that’s Spirit and Opportunity. NASA does this so well with science? Why don’t they answer questions and solve problems in the same way for space exploration? There are so many questions, and NASA can help point us in the right directions.

NASA can help me build my flying car, but I still want to choose the destination.

Don’t worry, the Moon is still there, and Mars isn’t going anywhere. And my daughter is still going to be first person to squish the sands of Mars between her toes (thanks to remote toe-sensing technology developed by NASA).

Here’s an article about the 1st man on the Moon.

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By  -          
Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.



155 Responses

  1. brink says:

    NASA is full of crap. This is insane that they aren’t willing to explore the heavens. 3rd World countries are going to beat us to the punch, just like they did before we “blew up the moon”. Even though the pictures of us “blowing up the moon” looked like a 1960s piece of crap camera. NASA is a fraud. There is no question or doubt in my mind. They are a F R A U D. And there missions are all just a money siphon. This is absurd to keep the human population stranded on a slave planet.

    Bring back to the power of the people and we’ll win the universe over. ETs will love us for freeing ourselves from this slavery. Stay like this and let the government decide when and where we go – and we’re only creating our own demise.

    Keep telling people it’s “good” we’re not going to the moon. Keep spreading the propaganda. One day the people will win, oh and what a glorious day that will be.

  2. Aqua says:

    SAVE THE HUMANS! spread out….

  3. Uncle Fred says:

    This article seemed to ramble. What has been a software engineer have anything to do with the sentences after?

    Encouraging the private sector is all well and great, but one can’t hide the fact Mars is now a long way off. Seems nothing short of a new space race is necessary to kick-start human exploration again. Unfortunately, the Chinese and other space agencies are only in their infancy.

    Seems like Mars is getting further away…

  4. Fraser Cain says:

    I did ramble, I’ll tighten that up.

    My point is that Mars has always been a long way off. And by putting our hopes and dreams into NASA, we’ve ensured that it’s staying that way. It takes a true, vibrant space economy to make it happen.

    So NASA throwing in the towel just helps us see reality again.

    Why work your tail off to get to Mars when NASA is just going to go there for you? All that time waiting for NASA to get there is wasted time that could have been spend working together to make it happen.

  5. Emission Nebula says:

    As much as I want to scream at NASA too, this is because Obama cut the funding.

  6. Fraser Cain says:

    And you can blame the Obama funding on the trainwreck of an economy left over from the Bush administration. Which was high on the hog from the excesses of the Clinton administration.

    Bad economies come more often than long-term visions can withstand.

  7. Thameron says:

    A relief indeed. They have freed up all that future time I might have spent reading about and watching future manned planetary landings so that I can instead read and watch all those things that are more important.

  8. ZomZom says:

    It’s Bush’s fault for not adequately funding Constellation but Obama should be praised for cancelling it outright? The machinations of the liberal mindset amaze.

  9. Trippy says:

    I was initially opposed to the idea of canning the missions to the moon, but I think Fraser may be right, this could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

    Too many people, with too many ‘revolutionary visions’ who think that NASA should be doing it their way to make a 20 year plan viable.

  10. strongenough says:

    Goodbye universetoday.com. It was nice knowing you, but this went too far.

  11. gr8hifi says:

    Think how much could be accomplished if Elon Musk was given and additional 1.2Bn dollars a year for his program. If you want to get political about it, show me in the constitution where it says that my government should run a space program…. I am all for private venture. Let NASA open up their files to each of the private companies, make the plans for the Saturn rockets public domain. Sure another country may build something and launch it up there, but, if they did, you might get a nice repeat of Kennedy’s moon shot. Competition is always a good thing and fat NASA hasn’t had enough of it. Trim the fat, take a few chances, and be great.

  12. digidan says:

    I’m not sure what happened to the exploratory nature that our country was founded on. What about the olden days of exploring the wild west and settling new lands and new parts of the world? Does this not apply to the universe as a whole? I think we should at least try to get back to the moon, if not Mars and beyond. We should colonize the solar system and galaxy with the same gusto as we did the new world.

  13. Andy F says:

    I agree with what you say in this article, Fraser. NASA should be facilitators, but also engage in programs that are of great scientific interest, but are not commercially viable in the private sector (terrestrial planet finding telescopes, gravitational wave detectors, Mars science laboratories and the outer solar system etc.).

    There can’t be any return to the glory days of Apollo because the political momentum required for such a gargantuan project in the 1960s came from defence during the Cold War, not science.

  14. Thameron says:

    You know what these private companies are going to do when they get into space, to the moon and to the other planets?

    They are going to put up banner ads. The man in the moon will be replaced by the McDonalds, Nike and Coke logos.

    That will be progress.

  15. geraldspace says:

    Sorry, but I think that column of smoke you see off in the distance is NASA’s funeral pyre. The “bold new approach” with no clear direction or objective will just lay the groundwork for more cutbacks and downsizing in the future. When Bush announced the “return to the moon” plan in 2004, I bet a friend $5 that we’d fail to execute. Rather than collect my $5 today, I’m going to make a new bet: Once NASA pulls out of the ISS program in 2020, there will be no more NASA human spaceflight program.

  16. Olaf says:

    What will happen now is that China will send manned missions to the Moon and the US stood there and just looked unable to go themselves. Since they failed to create the technology for it.

    Obama just killed manned US space exploration by only have the experience in Low earth orbit.

    And to the public, no human hero’s since ISS is low earth orbit so very boring by now. Just as exiting as watching a ship leaving the harbour.

  17. SpaceNinja says:

    Do you really think the Obama administration honestly believes that this plan sets us up for human space flight to Mars, or anywhere besides LEO?

    Of COURSE when you are trying to cut the legs from under a program, you don’t say “I’m cutting the legs from under the program.”

    What you do say is “Bold new direction….blah blah blah….no moon, but MAYBE MARS!!!….blah blah….”

    The only president that was able to move a nation to land a man on the moon is long dead, and he had an entire nation backing him.

    Obama just mumbled “Mars”. If he really meant it, the speech would be much more grandiose. He would call us to action, and lay out the plan for the next few decades to return to Mars. To succeed in the cuts, he HAS to mention Mars, and continued human spaceflight.

    One small step backwards for a budget, one giant leap backwards for US space flight as we know it.

  18. Thank you Fraser!

    I’m tired of people claiming the space movement is dead because NASA is no longer in the game!

    Yeah, this means the government has “less control,” as they are not doing it entirely themselves and costing us a fortune.

    But, it also means that businesses may be able to (finally) establish outposts upon the Moon that are (wait for it) profitable!

    Anyways, glad to see this up on UT! :-) Makes me proud to be a space geek.

  19. Surak says:

    It’s downright sad seeing how some people are trashing NASA / Obama / ‘Liberals’ for the current state of NASA.

    NASA Does want to do human spaceflight … they can’t without money.

    Bush never funded NASA sufficiently to enact the PR stunt dream of his to go back to the moon and on to Mars, he actually CUT funding.

    Blame the ‘Liberals’? ya … blame the people who have to clean up the catastrophic $1.6 TRILLION deficit and $10+ TRILLION accumulated debt of the American People’s duly elected governments.

    This is what you get from Bush’s rediculously unsustainable tax cuts, brutal unjustifiable war in Iraq, and deregulation of the Banks allowing them to screw you and the world over with their mortgage scams. Are you a Bushie? … It’s your fault.

    It’s time to pay the bills before China comes by to repossess Everything.

  20. Surak says:

    Forgot to say ..

    Keep up the good work Fraser

    Too many Americans have trouble seeing the problems they’ve given themselves as clearly as those of us North of the border.

  21. ZomZom says:

    Hey, north of the border, gimme a call when you get to the moon.

    And Bush’s deficits don’t come close to Obama’s.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/files/2009/04/obamadebt.jpg

  22. I find the role reversal so ironic – the democrats and Obama pushing for an private enterprise based program, and the republicans trying to save an inefficient under-budgeted government-based program….

    I’m all for ditching Ares, and skipping the moon. NEOs, phobos, Mars – all are much better targets. Somewhat harder to get to, but easier to survive on (anything is easier than the moon…) and oh so more rewarding.

    Good move, wish it had happened 8 years ago. or 20.

  23. Fraser Cain says:

    Sorry ZomZom and others, my politics defy your categorization. Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

    I am surprised that you’re mad at me because I’m applauding less government spending and a greater reliance on private space exploration. Encouraging the government to get out of our space exploration.

  24. ZomZom says:

    Fraser, if you had stated this position previously it would be different. But to suddenly adopt this position after the fact looks like you’re adjusting your views just to defend Obama.

  25. Olaf says:

    I hope the US is realizing that China manned moon mission are MILITARY!

    Commercial rockets don’t care about the Moon they care to get money so they will be happy with low earth orbits only. And what when these commercial companies get owned by a Chinese company?

    What if those private companies get sucked dry by Chinese companies, called a brain drain. All technology is moved to China so they can build their own military rockets?

    Not going to the moon means that astronauts becomes just like any regular sailor on a commercial boat trip to Bangkok. Boring for the public, no more hero’s.

  26. Olaf says:

    Oops forgot to add:

    Boring ISS low earth orbits mean the public does not care any more so in the end result budget even for ISS will be cancelled so human space exploration comes to a halt.

    It also has an effect on science people and engineers, no more hero’s, no exiting new challenges, many young people will probably not take a science or engineering class because there is nothing exiting out there.

    Many people get expired by hero’s en exiting exploration. I do the work now because of this moon landing. I wanted to be as close to space exploration that I could so my career path is a direct result of this moon landings.

    But now Low earth orbits are boring, so I will direct my career to some other interesting stuff away from space exploration.

  27. Fraser – you da man. Seriously – this has been a non-partisan reality-based no-brainer of a move.

    The fact that it has been turned into a political battle is sad. See one comment above your last one.

  28. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    I’ll say this again, it is good news! A lot of grass root work from space enthusiasts of the Planetary Society has gone into this effort to wrest space out of the hands of bureaucrats remote pipe dreams into near term missions.

    And they succeeded. Observably bigger, better budgets and smaller, better targets. Flexible Path, here we go!

    Until you can explain to people why we should go to the Moon, instead of a Near Earth Asteroid.

    going back to the moon would yield no more results than the last time we did it.

    That is false dichotomy, we need to do both, respectively empirically false, we know there are more science to be done.

    For example, geologists dream of exploring the likely mostly preserved early record of Earth geology that has been ejected by great impactors and rained down on the Moon shadowed south polar craters.

    [And me, who dream of the exploration of the probiotic, protobiotic and early biota preserved in that record. Who knows how much of the process of formation of life we can learn? We won’t, until we get there!]

  29. high_school_astronomer says:

    Thank you Fraser, for saying what I have thought for years. It is about time that NASA hands over manned space flight to private companies, who can actually try to do it economically. With VASIMR, SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable modules, and perhaps in 10 years Reaction Engines Limited’s Skylon spaceplane, private companies will be able to do everything NASA can and more, at a fraction of the cost. This is what was needed for a good, sustainable manned space flight program. Now that’s not to say that I want NASA to totally abandon manned (sorry, crewed) spaceflight. I just want them to wait until private companies can build them ships CHEAPLY. Quite honestly, I predicted that this would happen, although I thought maybe it would be a few more years down the road.

    As for the ISS. I admit, at present, I don’t think it is all that useful. BUT, they are talking about installing a centrifuge, with which we could finally find out how people respond to low gravity. Now that would be useful. There are other useful applications too. For instance, if NASA was to use it as an assembly station for deep(er) space vehicles and as a way to access and repair satellites then I think that’s great.

    The only thing I’m a little sad about is we no longer have an ultra-heavy lifter (Ares V). All in all, though I think Obama really made the right decision here.

  30. Olaf says:

    I just saw CNN, so basically Obama is going to send big parts of money to the Russians by paying them for transport to the ISS.

    Basically this means the US money is spent for paying Russian engineers, science people and normal work people so the Russians can develop more technology and science using US money. I think the Russians are very happy that the US is helping them with their economy by giving them more jobs.

  31. Mr. Man says:

    *sob* I swear Obama, I will NEVER vote for you or anything you stand for again. EVER. You’ve slashed millions of dreams for our country and humanity. I just hope the Chinese get there first and don’t follow your backward example. Hell, I might just move there. At least they have some initiative.
    As for the writer of this article, how can you say this disaster is good?! Obama’s already gone back on his promise to “restore Science to it’s rightful place” (obviously) as well as many other promises. Do you really think he’ll keep to his promise of effective ‘privitization’ mumbo jumbo or doing other ‘exiting’ things mumbo jumbo?!
    Without the Ares V rockets or Ares I rockets we are not going beyond LEO. ‘Galactic’ tourism and private spaceflight will just consist of a few days’ foray into orbit for a handful of billionares. how exciting.
    I can’t believe this. I am upset beyond words……….
    :( :( :(
    Mr. Man

  32. Fraser Cain says:

    Hiring the Russians to provide ISS taxi service makes perfect financial sense. Their technology is safe and relatively inexpensive.

    And it creates a market for US companies like SpaceX to compete against them. In 2 years when SpaceX is rated for human flight, they’ll fight tooth and nail for the contract. Is that acceptable? Or do you think NASA should drive private companies out of business by developing their own launch vehicles.

    I want results. I want humans in space for the long term. Where a single change in government can’t destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation with the stroke of a pen.

    We need to make spaceflight inevitable and impossible to cancel. Imagine trying to cancel the concept of “cruise ships”.

    I seriously feel like I’m in some kind of topsy turvy world arguing with people about this.

  33. Fraser Cain says:

    @Mr. Man – The dream isn’t dead, the dream was never alive. You were promised a return to the Moon, but it was never a serious promise. The big mission plans were never backed up by the money and political will to actually be successful.

  34. Craigboy says:

    Sounds like you want NASA to be DARPA.

  35. Fluffmachine says:

    Fraser! My good man. I agree with you said. Hopefully this will engaged other companies/nations/people to develop better technology for space exploration. Even though astronomycast is a “facts base journy through the cosmos” I think that it would be great if you and Pamala did a little show about this. Since you have covered this previously in an episode you did. Just to hear your guys thoughts.
    Good work Fraser and congrats on the site attracting millions. 😀

  36. Propane81 says:

    A point Carl Sagan brought up in Pale Blue Dot is: Why?

    Until you can explain to people why we should go to the Moon, instead of a Near Earth Asteroid. I heard 99942 Apophis will be a nice, close target in a few years and will be back again. If you really wanted velco, why not spend money in researching how to get things to stick together. It’ll be cheaper and we might have even gotten a better product.

    I’m all for space exploration – robotic and manned flights. But until someone comes up with something other than mining He3 (for our non-existant fusion reactors), the moon doesn’t seem to be inspiring.

  37. Fraser Cain says:

    I want NASA space exploration to be more like NASA science. It should be in service to the space exploration community, helping fund the things which are too risky and ambitious for any one company to try and take on.

    DARPA’s a good analog, except that it’s often top secret and funnels its developments into the military.

  38. Vedic says:

    Good to see you posting again Fraser!

    Personally, I think this is exciting and it’s going to open up the frontier to private investment.

    It now means that numerous businesses are going to try and see what they can do for themselves.

    I’ve come from the video games industry when we used to program in machine code. I believe that off-world AI, robot exploration and recon missions will start taking a giant leap forward.

    NASA will always be there pushing the far frontier but now the gates been opened for much wider competition – game is a foot!

  39. Craigboy says:

    @ Fraser – But Obama had a chance to change that, and changed it by killing the dream.

  40. Craigboy says:

    ~I did ramble, I’ll tighten that up.

    My point is that Mars has always been a long way off. And by putting our hopes and dreams into NASA, we’ve ensured that it’s staying that way. It takes a true, vibrant space economy to make it happen.

    So NASA throwing in the towel just helps us see reality again.

    Why work your tail off to get to Mars when NASA is just going to go there for you? All that time waiting for NASA to get there is wasted time that could have been spend working together to make it happen.~
    I think you’re in some form of denial

  41. ND says:

    The one thing that I was looking forward to was a new US capsule, Orion. It’s my understanding that it would not have been dependent on the rocket stack it would have sat on. Nasa does not currently have a capsule like the Soyuz and after the shuttle I figured a general purpose capsule would have been an important thing to have.

    Also a manned trip to an asteroid sounded more interesting than a lunar landing to me. The concept idea that I remember seeing involved two interconnected Orions.

    ESA could develop a capsule based on their new ATV. So there is another possibility there.

  42. Surak says:

    ZomZom … Obama took control right as Bush’s destruction of the financial system due to deregulation was peaking

    Do you think the damage just ended like magic the day Obama was voted in?

    It will take many years go get over the damage Bush caused not just to the USA but the world financial system. It will be a long painful process of higher taxes and less spending … not unlike the 12 years that it took a liberal government in Canada to dig us out of the finances of structural deficit that our own previous conservative government. drowned us in.

    Funny, we got a conservative government back a couple years ago … and already that 12 years of hard work and pain has been nearly undone, we’re back in record deficits … but mostly due to the side effects of Bush’s insane policies.

    If you want to be mad at Obama over NASA, scream about the $708 BILLION that he wants for your military budget for this year.

    15 or 20 billion of that each year would have our kids living on the moon within 25 years.

    Instead you’re blowing it all making new enemies for yourselves in the middle east.

  43. Dark Gnat says:

    This is extremely disappointing. It’s just depressing.

    Obama is now all of the sudden worried about the deficit because his popularity is sinking like the Titanic. So NASA gets to be the sacrificial lamb in hopes that he can get some political gain.

    We have just handed the game over to China and Russia. It looks like Mars will be the Red planet in more ways than one.

    China and Russia will both use their new positions for political advantage – you can bet money on that.

  44. Craigboy says:

    ~Thank you Fraser!

    I’m tired of people claiming the space movement is dead because NASA is no longer in the game!

    Yeah, this means the government has “less control,” as they are not doing it entirely themselves and costing us a fortune.~
    Less control? Because Nasa was preventing all those space faring companies from being successful. :rolls eyes:

  45. Craigboy says:

    ~Are you a Bushie? … It’s your fault.~
    Sounds like an easy way to free Obama from guilt.

  46. Craigboy says:

    ~NEOs, phobos, Mars – all are much better targets. Somewhat harder to get to, but easier to survive on (anything is easier than the moon…) and oh so more rewarding.~
    They’re not easier to survive on.

  47. Thameron says:

    I just don’t get it. Private companies? Private companies don’t care about the moon. Private companies don’t care about Mars. Private companies don’t care about anything beyond LEO which they barely care about because of the communication satellites to bring you the latest corporate focus-grouped entertainment product. If the science involves something other than getting that to you quickly and cheaply they could care less about it. Everything in this entire universe with the exception of the Earth and the Sun could vanish and they would not care one bit. Depending on them to advance us into space is absolute folly.

  48. star-grazer west coast says:

    I am more interested in having US unmanned probes going to different Solar system bodies than humans going to the Moon. There is still NO proof CO2 is on the Moon in life-support quantities and trying to establish a manned post on the Moon is extremely expensive. I would like to see private firms/other nations trying to go to the Moon and establish a post there-they will find out the price is enormous!!!! The idea of humans going to Mars- our current propulsion systems is still too slow!!!! The round trip will be about 2 years and NO-ONE have as yet have a group of 5-10 humans being quarantined in an enclosed space about 50k cubic feet (1415cu meters) for 2 years with life support supplies (water,air,food) NOT being refreshed in those 2 years!!!!.

  49. Craigboy says:

    How will private industry get us beyond LEO? Who will pay for a two year trip to Mars, that they may die on, how could they afford it, who has that much leisure time, once they get there do you think they’d give a shit about what mission control tells them what and not to do, where is the science in privatization space? What if it’s determined that going to the moon or just to low earth orbit provides the same level of excitement than going beyond (Mars, Titan, Io…) but at of tenth of the cost of going beyond, there would be no economical point of “wasting” the money to explore any further.

  50. Surak says:

    Dark Gnat, Craigboy … you should be worried about the deficit, and the debt which is about 10x worse, and be glad someone is looking at the problem.

    You borrowed most of that money from China. Now if they just flinch the wrong way and your dollar will collapse as if you were in Zimbabwe. … Your whole country has become a sub prime mortgage.

    Maybe if Americans understood deficits, you wouldn’t have let Bush destroy your financial system.

  51. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The biggest disappointment is canceling Ares V. That would be a good launch vehicle to loft more ambitious spacecraft to the planets, and to put up new space telescopes and instrumentation to plumb the depths of the universe. As for canceling the lunar program, frankly I am not terribly concerned. In fact if this only amounts to an expensive program in space to keep the American flag flying over some lunar base, then frankly good riddance as far as I am concerned. There was through this whole return to the moon idea virtually no discussion about whether astronauts on the moon would ever accomplish anything.

    Seriously folks, we are not likely to be moving out into space. I think it is about as likely, if not less likely, as colonizing the ocean bottoms. It all sounds romantic to think of pioneer astronauts and techies setting up colonies and eventually cities on other planets, but I think these things are destined to remain just dreams. The costs for these things would be utterly enormous, and for cities or colonies in space to eventually economically sustain themselves they would eventually have to have an enormous economic throughput. A space colony on the moon that sustains itself would require the economic capacity or productivity of a nation like Korea. I absolutely have no idea how that can happen on the moon. The simple fact is that people like to live where they can walk outside, see a blue sky, lie on the beach and so forth. If we really were going to be colonizing space I should think Antarctica would by now have a sizable population of eager colonists.

    There is only one thing which our species has a history of spending the sort of resources required to colonize space: That is war and the preparations for war. In the Middle Ages about 1/4 of the economy was devoted to making swords, armor, and weapons. The same percentage holds today, as it did previously in the Roman period. The idea of space colonization is nifty, but it does not carry the thalamic-endorphin cycle we humans are easily subject to —- hate, anger, fear etc.

    As for privatizing manned spaceflight, well that is a good way of turning it into joy rides for the extremely wealthy, killing what little prospect of any science that might be accomplished, and in the end killing any dream of colonizing space.

    I am not sure how it can be done, but I do see the loss of Ares V as a bad loss, and it would be nice to see that part resurrected. That would be a damned good workhorse for putting up instrumentation into orbit or at the Lagrange points. Some campaign should be waged to keep that part of it going. Maybe if it is deemed reasonable to put astronauts on the moon it could be employed for that.

    LC

  52. Craigboy says:

    Dear Surak, in 2001 I was nine. I’m sorry that I lent all of our money away, being a financial adviser at the age of nine can be a very challenging thing. Not to mention getting elected into that position…

  53. jgs7800 says:

    Velcro wasn’t developed by NASA. Lots of other neat stuff was but velcro wasn’t one of them.

    We can’t do everything and looking long range we may look behind but by developing commercial launch capabilities and focusing on much deeper space objectives we will come out on top.

  54. ZomZom says:

    If the decision to cancel Constellation were part of a larger epiphany on the part of the administration to reign in the size of government I would view this differently. But Obama’s 2010 budget with a $1.56 trillion deficit shows his fondness for government largesse.

    Obama’s decision to abandon America’s return to the moon exposes his indifference to space exploration, period. In context, there’s no other way to see this decision.

  55. Jlazor says:

    This political tit-for-tat is pointless.

    The president did what he had to do for the interest of his country. He did it in a balanced way, with funding increases for science and health across the board, and without decimating NASA.

    The question is what effect will this have? Commercial space ventures don’t have the rockets to launch large payloads into space, only the Ares V could do that. The money that will be saved and the additional 6 billion will probably be used to research and eventually design a new heavy launch vehicle, maybe by 2020. Commercial ventures will probably take over LEO after the ISS is decommissioned, and NASA will have the ability to launch missions to asteroids or moons of mars. I think having a Heavy launch vehicle is the most important thing, because it is the infrastructure that enables large-aperture telescopes and crewed missions.

    I am doubtful that commercial ventures will have the vision, funding, or equipment to do any serious science. What they can do is make it cheaper for Space agencies, Universities, and the Planetary Society to do their science. The future might be better than we currently expect!

  56. high_school_astronomer says:

    There are a few more things I want to say. First, I think Fraser should do editorials more often. It would add a nice bit of variety to Universe Today.

    Second, I think it is wrong to assume that a $25 billion NASA budget can get us living on the Moon in 25 years. NASA amazing goal was to have a base on the moon for…wait for it…4 people. And it wouldn’t even be self-sufficient! In order to have a colony on the moon, we need a business model. Lunar mining (I seem to remember hearing that there are large titanium deposits, although I could be wrong) could work nicely.

    Thirdly, even if businesses focus on LEO, that can still be useful. It would allow the development of cheap(er) access into orbit, which is the hardest part of space travel. Not to mention, technologies like the VASIMR drive will still be needed (to transport satellites to Geosynchronous orbit). By developing it for those sort of applications we then have the potential to scale it up for trips to Mars.

    Finally, companies probably will have interest beyond LEO. Between lunar tourism and mining of near Earth asteroids, there is plenty of incentive for them to go farther.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like seeing budget cuts to NASA. However, I think that in their case the money would be better spent on unmanned probes. In 15 years if (hopefully when) we can get into orbit for, say $100 000 a person, THEN NASA should start manned space exploration again. Because then it will have become cost efficient.

  57. orrery66 says:

    I have always been a supporter of NASA and I would hate to see them go “out of business”. Why is it the government can bail out corporations which are supposedly “too big to fail” — whatever THAT means — and yet cannot bail out and support part of itself, ie: NASA? Perhaps the reason is because the lawmakers don’t want to lose the cookie jars that their hands have been in for so long — cookies provided by corporations.

    It begs the question of who the “government” really is: is it the elected lawmakers, or is it the corporations who make sure “their” lawmakers get elected. This country was founded on the principles of capitalism, whereby if your business doesn’t provide what people need or want, or if you mismanage your business, then you fail. The president should never had bailed out those banks; they should have failed and better ones would have taken their place. Corporations are taking over too much as it is. Think of all the football “bowls” and stadiums that have had their names changed to accommodate the largest corporate sponsor. Banners on the Moon or Mars would be very sad indeed.

    Back to the issue at hand, NASA needs and deserves more funding. There is no “space program” without them. I DO agree, however, on the point that NASA can and should work with private enterprise business but feel that NASA should be wholly involved, oversee all the projects and have the final word on what “flies” or doesn’t.

  58. Surak says:

    Craigboy … apparently you are still 9 … Your an adult now, time to take responsibility for what your society does as you are now a full part of it..

    ZomZom … again, that deficit would not be 1.56 TRILLION if not for the necessity of pulling your country’s economy out of Bush’s collapse.

    It’s not just higher government spending, it’s also greatly reduced tax revenue from the millions who have lost their jobs due to the collapse.

    Look at the full picture people.

  59. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Jlazor said:

    “This political tit-for-tat is pointless.
    The president did what he had to do for the interest of his country.

    If you are an American, you are an absolute genius, but are clearly in minority.

    Obama currently lives in a nightmare scenario. Does he follow endless dreams the US can’t afford or really fix the economic mess. He, as do others, see the American economy teetering on the very edge of oblivion. His conscience cannot comment to dreams but to facing the economic reality.

    Constellation, as most commentators here state is far from dead. It is clearly being shelved for better economic times.

    Bottom line. The faster you fix the economy the faster your dreams can be achieved.

    (Perhaps when Obama comes to Australia next month, he might learn something on how to improve the American economy!)

  60. Craigboy says:

    ~Hiring the Russians to provide ISS taxi service makes perfect financial sense. Their technology is safe and relatively inexpensive.

    And it creates a market for US companies like SpaceX to compete against them. In 2 years when SpaceX is rated for human flight, they’ll fight tooth and nail for the contract. Is that acceptable? Or do you think NASA should drive private companies out of business by developing their own launch vehicles.

    I want results. I want humans in space for the long term. Where a single change in government can’t destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation with the stroke of a pen.

    We need to make spaceflight inevitable and impossible to cancel. Imagine trying to cancel the concept of “cruise ships”.

    I seriously feel like I’m in some kind of topsy turvy world arguing with people about this.
    ~
    Well tough titties for the private industry. No we shouldn’t kill it but investing souly in them hoping they go where we want them is going to end with them saying the same to us. Another thing, you’re afraid of changes in gov killing long term goals, but who says the private industry even cares about deep space exploration, Elon Musk himself said he didn’t want to replace NASA but to support it [1]. And hiring the Russians simply invests more money into their economy, and lots of it, making the American space program harder to justify especially when it comes to funding.

    [1] @ 1:22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiIWcoeWeN8

  61. Craigboy says:

    ~Craigboy … apparently you are still 9 … Your an adult now, time to take responsibility for what your society does as you are now a full part of it.~
    So I sent those troops to Iraq and should come to realize it? Where are you from, I would like to plague you with some of your own history.

  62. Bariman43 says:

    You know, I’m kinda disappointed, but at the same time, I realize that going back to the moon would yield no more results than the last time we did it. And if we’re not going to Mars, then at least SOMEONE is going there. It won’t matter who goes there, as long as discoveries are made. China, Russia, get moving.

    And maybe NASA could devote more time and money to space observatories like the James Web Space Telescope.

  63. Thameron says:

    Those who think that planning at NASA is too short term because of administration changes should perhaps think twice about putting the space program into the hands of people who make decisions about the future based on how well their stock did in the last three months.

  64. Mr. Man says:

    I’m soo mad. All that work on constellation, and for what? I understand that some of you think it’s too expensive, but look at the facts for a second: NASA needed what…3 more billion annually to go to the moon. HUNDREDs of billions were used this year to bail out giant corrupt corporations that then proceeded to give their CEOs lots of extra $$$.

    To add insult to injury, guess who is now responsible for getting us into space…
    corporations. I don’t see how there would presently be any economic incentive to go beyond LEO for them. The once great space race could degenerate into billionares going for a joyride on a suborbital spacecraft. How inspiring. And why, in heavens name, cancel the Ares V; even if the corporations wanted to be innovative and risk-taking, how do we get away from LEO without a heavy lifter? I certainly hope (but am doubtful) that corporations would be willing to invest the $$$ to not only TRAVEL to a cool destination but also to build their own heavy lifter. Of course, they could prove me wrong (and I certainly hope they do).
    >Sigh< In the meantime it's up to Russia and China. Hopefully their space endeavors will create the competition necessary to start a new space race, and revive NASA.
    That would be a miracle for us all,

    Mr. Man

  65. gopher65 says:

    Yes. Please. Stop spreading that stupid myth that NASA developed velcro. I wish people would do research before writing an article, but barring that, at least do a freaking wiki search. Come on already.

  66. Vanamonde says:

    People are blaming NASA for this decision? NASA begs for budgets, it does not set them!

    And of course, Mr. Cain rambles. That is why we love him.

    As I see it, the wars are sucking the U.S. dry. That and the feeding frenzy by the elite banker and others. The Moon will have to wait until we get leaders with some BRAINS!

  67. lexusmaxus says:

    well it’s too early to tell yeah
    however looks like the chinese are going to get back to the moon before the americans

  68. mastercope says:

    Constellation Program Was dead from start. Ya Know somewhere there is a blueprint for the Saturn Engine, Still the most powerfull Engine built by man, And Ion propulsion For LEO start points. Best of all there is no investment research needed for the Saturn and burns oxygen and hydrogen. If it ain’t broken __________

  69. HJG731103 says:

    History – With a computer equivalent to a Pentium 1 (266MHz), I think, was the first man landed on the moon. What a huge step it was.
    Present – With super computers today – we can not land a man on the moon due to some budget cuts and some Political opinions.
    Future – Who will be so daring to think what the future holds in for us.

    I’m a dreamer, I dream of a journey in to space. Even if it should only take me to the moon surface. It will still show me the beauty and secrets of space.

    Conclusion – I’m so dissapointed about this whole debate. Gone are those days of me lying ontop of my parents roof and dream about space.
    We all are left in the dark about the dreams that the future might hold in for us.

    If only the Human race can work together as a unit, but then again we all want to compete against each other. What a silly thought in some aspects is that. I believe that we can do so much more if we work together.

    a Dreamer I might be, but Dreams makes it happen as long as you believe in it!

  70. Jlazor says:

    I agree with HJG731103, If only the we can work together as a unit….

  71. Jim Gagnon says:

    It’s understandable that passions are flaring today, but there are a few important facts to keep in mind:

    – NASA’s budget was increased, not decreased
    – Private industry will not conduct scientific exploration of space. NASA will, by hiring private industry to build the machines and operate them per NASA contracts and specifications,
    – If anything the new direction for NASA promises to offer access to space to many more people, not just elite astronauts and millionaires.

    Constellation is dead. It was a poorly conceived project with massive cost overruns and an ever expanding schedule — it deserved to die. At best we were looking at a seven year gap in US manned launches. By turning to the private sector, we should be able to cut that gap by at least half, and perhaps more.

    The technology behind Constellation is not dead. If companies think the Constellation designs are so valuable, they should approach Bolden and offer to buy them. It’s traditional to sell such designs for a token $1, as they’re going to be cancelled anyway. They would be doing him a favor. However, you won’t see that happen as no aspect of Constellation has the ability to compete against the private market. Given that, why should government fund such inefficient projects?

    Exploration is not dead. We are going to build the kind of infrastructure that frankly should have been built forty years ago. Not only will it support the same kind of exploration as Constellation was intended to, but it will do it more cheaply and in a much more sustainable fashion. True, we don’t have a date for footprints on the Moon, asteroids, or Mars, but the Constellation dates were fantasy. Which would you prefer: truth or false promises?

    This is a day to be happy for our future prospects in space. Some day we’ll look back at what happened today and wonder why we didn’t do it twenty years earlier.

  72. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    “the likely mostly preserved early record of Earth geology”

    To be clear, Earth’s own record has been erased that far back by plate tectonics et cetera.

  73. donjasjit says:

    If predictions about China’s rise are correct then in a decade or so it will have a comparable economy to America. With great power comes great aspirations.

    We may well see the start of another space race in which all these decisions taken now will have to be rethought.

  74. Brian Sheen says:

    The scientific reason for cutting the “return to the Moon” mission is the lack of accessable water on its surface. This has been clearly demonstrated recently.

    The financial reason is the lack of funds available in the world following the worldwide banking collapse.

    I fear all that Constellation could have done was repeat in a posher way the Apollo Programme.

    Where to now? Certainly there is a lot of unfinished business on the Moon. A sample return mission or two would help there.

    On to Mars?? Could be … provided they don’t burn the books the knowledge gained will not be lost. My guess is that Obama wants to be remembered for one giant step rarther than repeating the one small step of his predecessor JFK

  75. Jim Krug says:

    People won’t want to hear it, but I think this cancellation makes it all the more likely that some of the Apollo astronauts’ off-the-record comments about the Moon already being inhabited by another civilization…were actually true.

    NASA and the US government have been backpeddaling and stalling for time regarding Moon colonization for decades, even though doing so would help the human civilization survive on the whole by expanding us into another cosmic ecosystem.

    They refuse to give full disclosure, so they will continue to waffle for years and years, until hopefully some private space company discovers what they already have.

  76. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    When I was at teacher training college back in 1977 we, and the university next door, held an evening of events titled, ” Remember The Space Age?” During it there were screenings of Gagarin, Shepard, Glenn, Sputnik, the Apollo flights, the German rocket pioneers; space music; Felix the Cat cartoons with space themes, the whole shebang. We put it on because even back then we felt that a high point had passed and the exciting possibilities had been put on indefinite hold. Most of the possibilities HAVE been binned though some good things did emerge mostly unmanned craft. However, with this announcement we can say that The Space Age is as good as over. I’d go as far as to say that nobody alive today will see humans on Mars and we won’t return to the moon for decades. America is the only country capable of doing the BIG space stuff. China, India etc are still, rightly, concentrating on pulling their nations and [all their] people out of abject poverty through industrial revolutions and won’t be going for the glittering prize of Mars or the outer solar system. Thanks a lot Obama – Destroyer of dreams. That will be your presidential legacy. Pah!

  77. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    Even a serious story such as this STILL brings out lunatics who will insist that there are aliens on the moon. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  78. m23w23g says:

    I’ve been reading UT for quite a while now and this is the first time I have registered and commented

    It seems to me that the greed and selfishness of all those responsible for the ‘credit crunch’ have robbed humanity of one of its opportunities to return to the moon and perhaps progress to Mars

    So I don’t think it is Obama we should blame for this but those nameless individuals who for the last 10 years have been sowing the seeds of our finacial downturn.

    I think that is the saddest part of the whole story :-(

  79. gmo says:

    I worked for the shuttle program for many years. I participated from the inside in the absolutes that are required in space travel. As ingenious and clever as we have been to have accomplished what we have so far, the technology leveraged has been only enough to gets us there and barely enough to get us back. Perhaps the Apollo Program was too successful and undernourished our recognition of the immense challenges space travel requires.

    Honestly, politics and military industrial accounting methods have terminally infected the US Space Program. Obama’s team is attempting to re-engineer our desire to explore the heavens by re-purposing the very behaviors we cannot overcome ourselves: greed, glory and exclusivity. I applaud the effort. This ambitious approach will take us further into the heavens than any re-enactment technology currently on the table.

    Finally, until that tinkerer, scientist, inventor type blows their laboratory roof into a perfect polar orbit with some new propulsion scheme, traveling in space mixing chemicals and fire will get us about as far as a dugout canoe and a paddle.

    I for one would rather spent my life working on the hard foundation of exploration than glorifying myself with a Hail Mary pass only to plant a flag.

  80. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    I indicated yesterday on February 1st, 2010 at 5:19 pm the biggest loss is the canceling of the Ares V large launch vehicle. This could be used to loft a next generation of deep space observatories and interplanetary probes.

    There is no particular loss of a space dream. The dream in effect began fading as soon as it reached its apex in 1970. I think it is not at all likely that humanity is going to colonize and migrate out into space. The environments are lethal, it requires enormous expenditures of energy to get there, and so far nobody has come up with a credible economic purpose for putting bases on the moon or other planetary bodies.

    The problem with the whole return to the moon program is that there was no discussion of any purpose for this. It might be argued that astronauts could deploy instruments and systems to do space science on the moon. A gravity wave interferometer might be placed there for instance. I don’t know if that is realistic, but curiously there was virtually no discussion of anything remotely related to this. What is the point in putting a pressured hut on the moon where at most a half dozen astronauts can hunker down and keep the flag hoisted above? That is an enormously expensive stunt for nationalistic purposes. It is a lunar version of the ISS.

    Let the Chinese or other nations attempt a return to the moon. I suspect even if they do return they will find the whole venture to be an expensive and unproductive program that eventually they close down.

    Our venture into space is not about planting our feet on the moon or any other planet. It is that our minds become aware of the universe to greater depths of understanding. We far more explore space or the universe through our minds than we ever can by planting boots anywhere out there.

    LC

  81. Jon Hanford says:

    @JK, I would have thought those lunar aliens would be more concerned that funding wasn’t cut for that pesky Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that keeps snapping all those pics. :)

  82. P. Edward Murray says:

    Fraser,

    I disagree wholeheartedly.

    Now, I don’t know how old you might be but I’m about 5 years older then the President.

    Those 5 years make a difference and apparenlty many of the commenters are farly young too.

    I’m a child of the space age, born just months before Sputnik. I spent my childhood watching Mercury, Geminii and Apollo Astronauts along with watching the stars.

    We go into space for a variety of reasons and robotic probes are great but in the end robots don’t think, plan or dream…it takes a human to do that.

    Humans are a species that explores..we do that as little children and as adults we call it Travel but few understand that concept.

    And what of Obama’s plan for not going back to the moon?

    I’m disappointed..I thought we would be going to Mars too in my lifetime.

    I wonder what folks will think when they see other nations rocketing to space but we are stuck on Earth?

    I guess war is more important than everything else?

  83. sirclickalot says:

    its simple….
    its all about the money money money, thats all. shame.

  84. Aodhhan says:

    A blessing in disguise… ?

    At this point I would really like to see us put more money and technology into being able to explore using new and extreme space based telescopes of various types and for various subjects.
    In reality, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what I believe is possible.

    Sinking tax money into private space companies would be foolish. Private companies reliability for human space travel into LEO is probably a good 10 to 15 years away. Just getting a group of tourists up to an altitude of 75 miles and back down is probably a good 4 to 5 years away.

    There is a big difference in launching something up and back down, and actually orbiting the planet. Especially when it comes to cost.
    Just think of the difference in engineering a spacecraft full of passengers which re-enters the atmosphere at 5000 miles/hr, and one re-entering at 17000 miles/hr.
    …just a couple of things people seem to forget about.

    I don’t understand why we are looking at extending the orbiting trash can. There isn’t really any scientific value we can gain from it, and maintaining it isn’t inspiring engineers to come up with new technology. Maybe we can sell our part to China? :)

    Fraser….
    Although I really hate talking about politics, I must remind you… it wasn’t the Bush Administration which put us into this crisis. It was the money grubbing banking executives, Wall St. twats, and the congressional morons who allowed it to happen. In fact, they still haven’t changed the laws to keep it from happening again. If anything, blame our current congressional leaders from not putting something on the agenda to change it. I’d bet they would finally get something sent to be signed by the president.

    Although I really wanted to see us get back to the Moon, I really hated the plans and vehicle used to do so.

    If the next administration comes from the other screwed up political party (I’m an Independent… in case you didn’t guess), it is likely the plans for going back to the Moon will be re-initiated. Thus forcing us to re-think how to do it; hopefully with a little bit more technology to work with.

    …unfortunately the jobs and technology lost from cancelling this project will have to wait…. until then.

  85. Andy F says:

    Lawrence Crowell said:

    There is only one thing which our species has a history of spending the sort of resources required to colonize space: That is war and the preparations for war. In the Middle Ages about 1/4 of the economy was devoted to making swords, armor, and weapons. The same percentage holds today, as it did previously in the Roman period. The idea of space colonization is nifty, but it does not carry the thalamic-endorphin cycle we humans are easily subject to —- hate, anger, fear etc.

    …absolutely true… and project Apollo of course had nothing to do with science…. as Sagan said it was about rockets, big rockets, the same or similar rockets used for ICBMs.

  86. Rb85 says:

    Very good article, and even better discussion.

    For those who talk of ‘dreams’ and ‘exploration’ and ‘discovery’, please fully understand your arguments before you present them. When you do your research, for example, you’ll find that Columbus wasn’t given a blank cheque to just ‘push the boundaries’. There was something to be gained financially and politically at the end. It was an investment. Sending men into expensive and risky places only happens when there is incentive. Its the same for space.

  87. Aqua says:

    I THINK the President made a decision based on cold hard financial facts AND there are alternatives for reaching LEO and the Moon that have not been made public.

    Think SpaceShip III on the back of a hypersonic ‘Aurora-esque’ mother ship.

  88. ND says:

    “I wonder what folks will think when they see other nations rocketing to space but we are stuck on Earth?”

    I can think of a couple:

    “Been there, done that.”
    “What took you guys so long?”
    “Good luck maintaining and financing a long term lunar presence.”

    But then again, the advantages of following ingenious and trailblazing pioneers like the US and the old SU is that you have the benefit of their successes and failures. You know what works and what not to do.

    As much as I think the shuttle is an amazing piece of technology compared to what came before it, it should not have been done. A small fleet of reusable, plane like spaceship (yes a ship and not a capsule) that can haul up and back medium sized cargo with up to 7 people is actually a really cool accomplishment, with way over 100 flights. Unfortunately it’s expensive and has some fatal design flaws as we have seen. And a nod goes to the Russians/Soviets for launching their own version that flew on the first launch. An Apollo/Soyuz style launch vehicle is the safest way to put humans in orbit. Put everything else on other launchers.

  89. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The comparisons with the ocean voyages in the early modern European period is way off the mark. The reason is simple: There were people already across the oceans! Much of this was meant to establish new trade routes. Spain also took over the Arab slave trade and expanded it into a global enterprise. Space has none of that.

    I can sympathize with some here who believe the dream of moving out into space. As a kid in the 1970s I was big on these ideas and felt let down by the Apollo cancelation. Then in later years and decades I came to learn the real stuff. Now I see these ideas of humans in space, colonies and so forth as not only unworkable, but in a funny way childish.

    LC

  90. Bervin says:

    I can understand cancelling the moon mission, but why cancel Orion and Ares? They are being built by the private sector already. How would a new rocket and crew capsule magically appear out of an additional six billion over five years?

  91. Aqua says:

    The White Knight I and White Knight II are impressive. The high altitude ‘flight to release’ cap. is impressive. Up there… it takes a whole lot less fuel to get up to orbital speed = less atmospheric drag. So, from sub orbital hypersonic to LEO speed transition.. the concept keeps looking better n better?

  92. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The launch vehicle struck me as worth developing. It is sad to see that go down the tubes. A lot of astronomical instruments and interplanetary craft could be lofted with this.

    Ending an expensive program to field a human presence on the moon, with ideas of a “permanent presence,” is probably prudent. The United States of America is in danger of going the way of the Ottoman Empire, which in its latter days was called the “Sick man of the World.” This nation has fallen behind on a whole range of technologies, we have lost a huge percentage of our export markets and are a net importer, our military budgets far exceed our ability to maintain them for long, we have a very impoverished socio-economic condition relative to other technically advanced nations, and the economy of this nation has been kept alive by ever greater deficit spending. Even more alarming is that the American people, when compared to people in other leading nations, are very ignorant, superstitious, and are motivated by a range of fear agendas. To inject a bit of a political jab, this has happened mostly in the last 30 years — a period marked by overall political right winged governance. The US of A is in danger of not only falling behind the rest of the world on many more fronts, but of being a declining civilization that lapses into a neo-third world status. To be honest I think that is what is going to transpire.

    It might be that China in its high growth exuberant stage of development puts astronauts on the moon and does the whole RTM thing on steroids, with maybe a sizable lunar base there. They will then probably by the mid 21st century start of run into their growth limits. They will probably start to look at a range of national programs which need cutting, and eventually they will abandon the moon. This venture will be a huge money drain, as well as a drain on resources, energy and the talents of their workforce. China might put their first taikonaut on the moon by 2025, and then by 2050 they will be in the final count of their last lunar missions — just as the Shuttle is now scheduled for only 5 more missions before being shelved.

    I suspect that the majority of Americans who will ever fly in space have already done so. The Johnson manned space center will be kept alive on some life support as a few American astronauts are lofted to the ISS on Russia’s Soyuz. By 2020-25 or so the ISS will become too fault ridden to be kept inhabited in orbit and will be abandoned. I suspect that will be it for America’s manned space program. All of this talk about abandoning Constellation for some deep space program is a lot of nonsense that before long will burn off like the morning fog. China as the world leader later in this century might maintain some lunar base and a cis-lunar manned program that will become eventually be cancelled as their fortunes begin to wane.

    I suspect by the third quarter of this century all manned space programs around the world will be permanently scrapped.

    LC

  93. Aqua says:

    Now.. if we would only design a commercial, say transoceanic passenger airplane that would ALSO carry a hypersonic parasite attached to an orbital module… to release altitude.

  94. Aqua says:

    BURP!… at atltitude….

  95. Aqua says:

    The Dreamer awakes.. and views the future as paradise. EDEN NOW!

  96. Andy F says:

    All civilisations and empires have waxed and waned… just look at the Egyptian, Roman and the colonial powers of the 19th century… Britain being a good example. The empires become bloated and the citizenry complacent, and I’m sure that the US will be no different. The ‘icing on the cake’ of space exploration will be (and infact, now is) one of the first things to be axed…. just the mosaics in Roman villas once the going got tough.

    China will have its day, just like all the other empires, and hopefully will continue to take up the baton of space exploration, possibly followed by the Indians.

  97. RUF says:

    I sure will hate seeing the Apollo 11 flag on display in Beijing.

  98. CarpD says:

    Cool note Fraser.

    That is how I see it, too.
    The BBC article hits the spot as well.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/the-vision-thing-and-nasas-new.shtml

    The good comparism is the airline industry. It was government control, but now it is the private sector. Much cheaper than what the government would have had.

    Cause…. I’m tired of funding (through taxe), a $4,000 hammer when home depot or target sells it for $12.95.

  99. Olaf says:

    So what is going to happen with all the engineers and scientists that were working at constellation?

    Suddenly unemployed?

  100. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The engineers who have worked on Constellation are right now, as I write, frantically working up their resumes. They will hit the pavement and compete with the growing crowd of other engineers seeking work — as this nation continues to build its casino economy.

    LC

  101. star-grazer west coast says:

    @Lawrence B. Crowell Says
    Good replies you posted. Many people believe humans going into space like trying to ‘find’ and explore ‘new’ Earthly lands as happened a few centuries ago-such thoughts is way off the mark, at the least on Earth, there is an atmosphere,water may be made from sea-water, food can be caught from the Sea. In outer space, all 3 life support articles-air,water, food has to be on-board and if you get past Earths’ orbit, you will NOT be refreshed with the life support systems!!
    When the Apollo program ended, I thought the Universe was quite benign except for Supernovas as the TRUE nature of Universe was just slowly becoming known. Today, I find the Universe incredibly violent-I told many people I don’t know how any lifeforms can survive outside their stars protective heliosphere and no amount of advanced technology can ever overcome the various forms of deadly radiation our Universe has.
    I said most likely, many advanced lifeforms far away sent ouy robotic probes, probably numbering in the billions or more out in all direction, but our galaxy is HUGH!!!(probably the closest approch to our Solar System was a half-light year!!!) I said such advanced lifeforms eventually become ‘homebodies’ because they knew of the futility of travel outside their stars’ protective heliosphere.
    There is still much willing nations can do to explore our Solar System as it is very interesting.

  102. Aqua says:

    LC – “Shielding could protect astronauts from charged particles which stream out from the sun. However, that requires lofting up lots of mass, which requires energy and in turn that translates into lots of dollars. Space flight is tightly constrained by energy.”

    Who says ‘lots of mass’? I like superconducting substrate coatings on space craft to provide EM shielding AND enhanced pulse propulsion… were applicable.. Made in the shade!

  103. Aqua says:

    …where applicable.. i.e. LEO or inner solar system. Think magnetic solar sail…

  104. Aqua says:

    There are more answers than questions!

  105. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Space offers little for us critter made of polypetides, lipids and polysaccharides. Space science is great, and I work on cosmological problems, but there is not a whole lot out there for us. Mars is the closest thing to Earth, and yet it is completely lethal. And what is lethal off Earth in the solar system is down right placid compared to other regions in the universe, such as the surface of a neutron star or the interior of a black hole.

    Some issues could in principle be solved. Shielding could protect astronauts from charged particles which stream out from the sun. However, that requires lofting up lots of mass, which requires energy and in turn that translates into lots of dollars. Space flight is tightly constrained by energy.

    I suppose if we were to transfer defense dollars to a grand program to colonize space it might happen. If sustained for 50 years things might reach some break even point where it can sustain itself. However, that is not at all likely. Further, manned spaceflight is nowhere at a point where it could be transferred to private business. The investments required are huge, and corporations are pretty conservative on these things. Computers were developed with 40 years of federal support before they reached a point the industry could be privatized, since Moore’s law drove costs per n-flops down exponentially. Further back, the railroads which girded the country were only possible with huge federal supports and the transfer of land to the railroads. Shifting manned spaceflight to private hands at this time is a recipe for closing down the whole business — one where the government can point to someone else to blame.

    LC

  106. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    These ideas are more in line with science fiction. You can deflect charged particles with a magnetic field. However, that requires some sort of power plant. So you are changing the problem into another form.

    LC

  107. HolyAvengerOne says:

    Wow Fraser, what a can of worm just got opened here ! Very interesting, strong opinions being shared here. I especially appreciate the insights of mr Lawrence B. Cromwell. Very intelligent commentary and very well put !

    Although this article did sound sort of like an obituary, thanks for making us think Fraser.

  108. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    But there are so many things canceled or questioned these days. In these times after the financial crash. Not only the colony on the moon.

    No! Meanwhile, even global warming is questioned. Somebody helped a little by hacking the mail server at the University of East Anglia prior to Kopenhagen, lol. And not to forget the the war on terror, where the next big thing is to negotiate with Taliban. About what again?

    And maybe you identified even more items with a shift in the paradigm. And it is not that we spare money on some of these topics to enforce others. No. There is retreat on every front.

  109. Bill Samson says:

    I’m rather disappointed in this decision – Still, the Moon and Planets will always be there for people with the vision and hunger to get there.
    I suspect these people won’t be from the increasingly risk-averse Land of the Free, though.
    It’s a cliche, of course, but would Columbus still be remembered if he just sailed up and down established trade routes making money for bean-counting sponsors, rather than taking the ‘giant leap’ that he did? All credit to Ferdinand and Isabella for supporting his hare-brained scheme.
    Another nail in the coffin of America as the biggest superpower?

  110. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    Rb85 says, ” For those who talk of ‘dreams’ and ‘exploration’ and ‘discovery’, please fully understand your arguments before you present them. ……….”
    What a terribly patronising response.
    Of course the space race was all about gaining the upperhand militarily. As LC said it always was. In fact if it wasn’t we’d still be lolling around in the trees.

  111. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    to Lawrence B. Crowell,

    “Space offers little for us critter made of polypetides, lipids and polysaccharides.”

    Space? Is this planet not part of it?

    “Space science is great, and I work on cosmological problems, but there is not a whole lot out there for us.”

    We not even started, and you say that it is already over?

    “Mars is the closest thing to Earth, and yet it is completely lethal.”

    Oh my goodness! Have you ever been there?

    “And what is lethal off Earth in the solar system is down right placid compared to other regions in the universe, such as the surface of a neutron star or the interior of a black hole. ”

    Who talked about colonizing a black hole?

    “Some issues could in principle be solved.”

    Oh sure! Because “I work on cosmological problems”. In principle!

    “Shielding could protect astronauts from charged particles which stream out from the sun.”

    Yes, we can. “Ion Shield for Interplanetary Spaceships Now a Reality”. See: http://www.universetoday.com/2008/11/04/ion-shield-for-interplanetary-spaceships-now-a-reality

    “However, that requires lofting up lots of mass, which requires energy and in turn that translates into lots of dollars.”

    So we might have to wait some time until we see some pictures of the system in action…

    “Space flight is tightly constrained by energy.”

    Not only space flight. Already Adam and Eve faced economical restraints.

    “I suppose if we were to transfer defense dollars to a grand program to colonize space it might happen.”

    I don’t mind if we do! But please feel free not to rely on defense dollars alone.

    “If sustained for 50 years things might reach some break even point where it can sustain itself.”

    Yes. And since Apollo 17 nearly 40 years are already wasted!

    “However, that is not at all likely.”

    And of course. But you simply forgot to say why.

    “Further, manned spaceflight is nowhere at a point where it could be transferred to private business.”

    And on what economical studies do you refer?

    “The investments required are huge, and corporations are pretty conservative on these things.”

    If you say so.

    “Computers were developed with 40 years of federal support before they reached a point the industry could be privatized, since Moore’s law drove costs per n-flops down exponentially.”

    Not to forget, that once not even Bill Gates belived in the mass market for computers.

    “Further back, the railroads which girded the country were only possible with huge federal supports and the transfer of land to the railroads.”

    This holds for America. And compared to the German railroad, your’s is a mess, even after huge federal supports.

    “Shifting manned spaceflight to private hands at this time is a recipe for closing down the whole business”

    So better shift it to China.

    “one where the government can point to someone else to blame.”

    Which government? The Obama administration or the next one?

  112. Lazyletters says:

    With the world economy in the nasty state it’s in finances are tight for everybody not just the USA. While some missions may get mothballed that doesn’t always mean forever. When budgets get withdrawn R&D still carries on. With tighter budgets possibly NASA will get it’s costs down and provide more cost effective ways to get into space, like the Russian and European rockets. Belt and braces is not such a bad approach and I believe it takes a very brave politician to bite the bullet and say no to those expecting their pocketmoney when things are tight. It’s too important to everyone that we get into space, to the moon, to mars. With 7 billion people on earth, and growing, it’s just not sustainable to expect that we can support everyone, something has got to give. I have no doubts that when the economies get back on their feet a new race will start.

  113. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    I am not sure the purpose of Hans-Peter Dollhopf’s nearly word for word decomposition of my post above. There term “space” here is implicitly evident in its meaning, it does not refer to Hilbert space, or a Cayley projective space in 16 dimensions, or even Euclidean space we do indeed inhabit. The meaning refers to the region outside the atmosphere of Earth —- the region of space travel etc. Any writing can be decomposed this way to make it appear ridiculous.

    The space program of the United States has accomplished a wide range of scientific results. Yet clearly these have been virtually 99% through unmanned spacecraft. The WMAP probe illustrated how the cosmic microwave background has anisotropies of a form expected in inflationary cosmology, and recently the Planck probe, a similar craft, has found polarizations in this background radiation which are signatures of B-modes from gravitational physics in the very early universe during inflation. There is the Cassini mission to Saturn, Galileo to Jupiter, the rovers on Mars, the Hubble space telescope, Voyagers, Chandra and so forth which have opened up our knowledge and understanding of the universe thousands of times over. While these results were obtained, manned space flight accomplished paltry little by comparison. The space shuttle missions were largely a form of gymnastics in space, where the few missions which performed services to systems such as HST were the few outstanding exceptions.

    The cancellation of the Constellation program is mostly a loss due to the cancellation of a heavy launch vehicle. The proposed lunar missions simply had no purpose other than to plant more American flags there, or to have some permanent presence on the moon. It does not take much to see how this is an extension of the space station concept to the lunar surface. The ISS has accomplished nearly no real space science, the early proposals for technology developments in orbit have not worked out, and any policy decision maker with a clear head can see this RTM has all the appearances of much the same — with a higher cost. The return to the moon had no mission specific concept of servicing facilities on the moon, other than maintaining a lunar base. There was a complete failure of insight and recognition that the space shuttle missions which accomplished something were service missions to instrumentation. An RTM program might only make sense if there are associated programs to deploy radio telescopes, gravity wave interferometers, cosmic ray particle detectors and other systems on the moon. Astronauts would then provide intermittent deploy and maintenance missions.

    In part the failure here is because of motivations based on science fiction, more than science. At this point we should rein in our so called visions and recognize that ideas of colonizing space are science fiction concepts which have little to do with actual science. Further, the RTM was motivated by nationalistic ideas, ultimately based on some unclear ideas of building up national colonial empires in some parallel with the European empires which expanded as such in the 16th century. It might be worth pointing out that GW Bush proposed this right at a time when the Iraq mission was looking more muddled and pictures of Abu Ghraib had been released. It provided a bit of a nationalistic based distraction from a growing problem involving a misguided American military adventure.

    The notion of space colonization is science fiction, and it could easily be that none of it will come to pass. Manned spaceflight is at best following a Moore’s law with a very long and slow time scale for cost reductions. The ISS has cost 150B, and keeps a handful of astronauts in space for purposes that are not clear. These costs are not elastic with time and technological development, for they ultimately involve energy. Energy costs (fuel etc) don’t obey Moore’s law, and space travel is very much about getting large craft which can house people to high velocities —- which translates into energy.

    LC

  114. ND says:

    To go off onto a bit of a fantasy land, I’ve often thought about what it would take to put a space shuttle in lunar orbit. What sort of changes and additions could be made to a space shuttle to pull out of earth orbit and head to the moon.

    I’m guessing that the shuttle’s main engines cannot be used in orbit since they require chilled hydrogen and oxygen and I’m assuming that one would need a new tank of this fuel to break out of earth orbit and chilled hydrogen and oxygen would not want to stay chilled for too long. Can the shuttle engines be fired in space at all? Launch videos always show these sparklers going off before the engines fire up. I assume it’s to ignite the hydrogen.

    I’m not sure the other engines onboard are powerful enough to pull out of orbit.

    Attaching another fuel tank in the same position as the external tank in orbit would be risky given the possible tile damage. Maybe another rocket in the cargo bay that can be deployed in orbit… somehow.

    It probably won’t be elegant or purdy if at all feasible.

  115. Dark Gnat says:

    I still think this was a poor decision based on spur-of-the-moment politics/

    Obama was quickly establishing himself as a huge spender, so when Republicans call him out on it, he responds by crippling one of the few big government programs that they like: NASA.

    This was a 100% political move, one that will end up biting him in the ass.

    He can afford to spend trillions on bailing out corrupt banks and brokers, (which are now paying themselves billions in bonuses), but he cannot bail out NASA, and expects private industry to magically come up with technology to get to LEO and the Moon.

    Apparently, his “Yes We Can!” catch phrase doesn’t apply to space exploration.

    Sure, we can all blame Bush for getting us into the Wars, but remember that the Iraq war had congressional approval (including some of the people who now say it was a mistake and used their newfound position for political gain). Also remember that the financial crisis was brewing for a long time, due in part to some of Clinton’s policies.

    Obama could have used NASA as a way to inspire people, a way to create new jobs, and a way to restore patriotism and positive outlooks among the people. Remember, the ’60’s was also a time of turmoil and dismay. Riots, Wars, Assassinations were the things that were commonly in the news, but the Apollo landings injected a spirit of hope and unity.

    What a missed opportunity we have. It’s ironic that a leader who’s campaign centered around hope, change and dreams is the one to crush the hope and dreams of so many.

  116. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    I have a question.

    Lawrence B. Crowell says that the “WMAP probe illustrated how the cosmic microwave background has anisotropies of a form expected in inflationary cosmology”.

    And he also says that “manned space flight accomplished paltry little by comparison”.

    I ask, how many of the 7 billion people on earth are in either way affected by what the WMAP probe illustrated.

  117. wjwbudro says:

    @Hans-Peter Dollhopf
    I ask, how many of the 7 billion people on earth are in either way affected by what the WMAP probe illustrated.

    Perhaps a few of us out of the 7 billion consider the unmanned projects, such as those mentioned by LC, to be far more valuable in terms of pure science which translates to further understanding of this magnificent universe and our place in it.
    Yes, the ISS has provided science, esp. micro gravity bio. experiments which required manned loe missions but, was the cost worth it? Could we have developed micro satellite missions to accomplish the same science at a fraction of the cost?

  118. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Bsides, the results of Hubble or WMAP are available to anyone who wants them on various levels of detail.

    LC

  119. Aqua says:

    I like the idea of reusing ESA’s ATV orbital module(s), Japan’s HTV orbital module(s) and the Russian Progress supply vehicles and engines to build a lunar space station. Why simply discard them after use? Is that wasteful, or what?

    Since they already share common docking modules, we could assemble and outfit them next to or near the ISS, THEN send them out to lunar orbit using orbital pumping and have a ready-made, twice used, lunar orbiting outpost?

    By the way… ESA’s heavy launch vehicle and Japan’s heavy launch vehicle and the Proton have already been developed. How much money would it save to use what’s already been developed?

  120. Aqua says:

    Lets get some ground penetrating radars into lunar orbit. Find the volcanic tubes, find the mineral resources – then send rovers to explore them – controlled by the orbiting lunar station with near ‘real time’ *.coms.

  121. Aqua says:

    Reusable lunar landers anyone?

  122. njacres says:

    Fraser!!

    “Fraser Cain Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 11:53 am
    And you can blame the Obama funding on the trainwreck of an economy left over from the Bush administration. Which was high on the hog from the excesses of the Clinton administration.

    Bad economies come more often than long-term visions can withstand.”
    There were plenty of excesses in the Clinton administration, but the budget wasn’t one of them. Have you quit doing ANY research when writing??? Thanks for the liberal politics. Go back to getting your information from CNN. I’m outta here!

  123. Aqua says:

    Hot topics: (In my humble opine)
    Reusable lunar landers
    Lunar rovers equipped with microwave oxygen extraction and collection systems
    Lunar orbiting manned outpost
    Lunar craters as infrastructure for large scale radio wave antennas and spun Mercury optical telescopes
    Lunar volcanic tubes for
    a) Habitat shielding
    b) Volatiles storage
    c) Seed stock/genome storage
    d) Ultra cold manufacturing processes
    Mining lunar He3 for controlled fusion experiments
    ‘Dirty’ or dangerous industries manufacturing

  124. Olaf says:

    Maybe NASA is expensive, that money stayed inside the US so it ended up paying the US people for the work. Directly and indirectly for example the food industry that created the meals for the engineers at NASA or the cleaning people.

    Hiring a rocket by the Russians means that money does not stay in the US and US workers do not get paid. The money shifts to Russian banks so Russians gets rich.

  125. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    ND, Those sparklers are a spray of water.

    There was some half crazy proposal to use two shuttles to get to Mars, where the two would be tied to a rod or tether and kept in rotation. To get to the moon you would have to place a fuel tank presumably in the cargo bay. That in turn would have to be connected by some re-engineering to the engines. They might thrust you to the moon and back, assuming they are not over heated or sressed by this additional activity.

    Putting a fuel tank in the cargo bay is probably rather dangerous. Any build up of fuel or oxidant in the cargo bay could be disastrous. There was a plan to put a rocket stage in there, but the plan was abandoned for just this reason.

    LC

  126. ND says:

    LC,

    Yeah, putting a tank in the cargo bay is the first idea to think about but also dangerous. My understanding is the cargo bay doors are required to be open throughout operations in space so I don’t think they would be closed on a trip to the moon.

    A tank in the bay would mean additional work to get fuel lines into the engines through the cargo bay walls and new connections. Also new software to control the engines since the weight would be distributed differently. One might even need less than 3 three of the engines to break orbit from the earth and the moon.

    Another idea might a stage that attaches over main engine area like the aerodynamic shell they put on when transporting the shuttle on the 747.

    The shuttle would also be an inefficient craft given the additional weight of the wings, which are totally unnecessary for a trip to the moon.

    That said, somehow I’m completely fascinated with this idea of refitting a shuttle for a trip to the moon. Fun to think about :)

  127. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    wjwbudro,

    robotic space missions can be canceled with the same sort of argumentation that LC used against human space flight. Any policy decision maker can think of the usefulness of state-subsidized cosmology at any time, compared to something else.

    In my opinion, it was a bad and morbid idea to introduce an antagonism between robotic missions and human spaceflight by LC here.

    I asked: how many of the 7 billion people on earth are in either way affected by what the WMAP probe illustrated.

    The correct answer to my question above would have been:

    ALL OF THEM!

    Don’t you really understand that cosmology teaches us that we can’t last on this planet forever as a species?

    LC argued that space “is lethal” “for us critter made of polypetides, lipids and polysaccharides”.

    Exactly!

    And when he says, that meanwhile “the space program of the United States has accomplished a wide range of scientific results”, he should not conceal that the results make it clear that the life on this diny planet will not last for so very long. It will sooner than later, compared to a cosmological timescale, be endangered by cosmic events.

    We as a species need human space flight. Don’t allow, that it is handled as a rival to robotic missions. See them separately.

    How long will the knowledge about the cosmos last, when there is no more intelligent life form that can be aware of this knowledge, because it was wipped out by the lethal forces of the cosmos?

    Don’t let ‘them’ waste another forty years.

  128. Astrofiend says:

    njacres Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 10:18 am

    “Thanks for the liberal politics. Go back to getting your information from CNN. I’m outta here!”

    Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.

  129. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The sad part of this IMO is the loss of a large launch vehicle. If that were still going then a lunar program might be more easily reconsidered in the future. This will curtail any program of lofting larger telescopes into space and putting more advanced laboratory-probes and Lagrange points.

    There is another drawback to sending shuttles to the moon. They are designed for a 10km/sec re-entry velocity, while re-entry from the moon is 14km/sec. The heat tiles will have to withstand twice the energy and heat they were designed for. So at best that component would have to be reconfigured.

    Cosmology has little bearing upon our future survival, at least on reasonable time frames. Frankly, if we were so concerned about our survival we would not live in a world bracketed by thousands of nuclear warheads, and be tearing down the life support system of this planet. Our species is only 150,000 years old, which is a flash of time compared to the age of the sun or much longer periods, about 10^{100} years, where the universe asymptotes to a de Sitter vacuum, or so called “heat death.” Our history is only about 3% of our species duration, and the age of space science a small fraction of that. It is somewhat of a hubris to presume that putting a small “space-hut” on the moon at a huge cost will have a great bearing upon our survival on astronomical time scales. There will come a time when we will simply be gone. Frankly if there is any continuation from the human species it is much more to be self-replicating systems or probes we release into the solar system, which over vast periods of time evolve and migrate through the galaxy. Eventually over vast time period the universe will become a de Sitter vacuum, and thing will be totally dead, dark and at zero temperature. There is no escape from this — get used to it.

    The human race is likely to end by fouling up our planetary nest here. To be honest I suspect our species may snuff itself out in the next couple of centuries, maybe this century. Cosmological time scales have little bearing on the pressing issues we face.

    Reusable lunar landers? Not likely any time soon. The problem is that after they have completed their mission they need to be serviced. This required hauling them back to Earth, with fuel costs and the need for a larger command ship. This is not to mention the matter of getting them to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The costs for this are more than the costs of building new ones.

    Indeed robotic missions can be cancelled. Yet they do not carry the 10-100 times the cost and the sticker shock Congress must deal with. It is a lot easier to slip a $300 million space probe through Congress than it is a $100 billion manned space program.

    LC

  130. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    Looks like LC knows a lot of reasons for human spaceflight, but is just interpreting himself in the wrong way:

    “The human race is likely to end by fouling up our planetary nest here”, says LC and thus again unintentionally produced another good argument for spreading our species across space by means of human spaceflight. His “nuclear war”-argument is another reason to have more than this planet to rely on.

    Hawking: “Spreading out into space… will completely change the future of the human race and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.”

  131. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    ND: “somehow I’m completely fascinated with this idea of refitting a shuttle for a trip to the moon. Fun to think about”

    Yes. If LC is right that the shuttles “are designed for a 10km/sec re-entry velocity, while re-entry from the moon is 14km/sec.” then why should the approach to Earth after the return from the moon immediately begin with a dive ibnto the atmosphere?

    Why not first go into earth orbit, decelerate further and finally plunge down?

  132. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    “robotic missions … do not carry the 10-100 times the cost and the sticker shock Congress must deal with”

    Hawking: ““Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don’t catch the public’s imagination the same way, and they don’t spread the human race into space, which I am arguing should be our long-term strategy”

  133. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    For the lunar version of the shuttle to enter the atmosphere at 10km/sec it’s velocity changes by a Delta v = 4km/sec. So there is only one way to do that, you have to include additional fuel (a fair amount in fact) so the craft is slowed down by the main engines. This is an additional cut in the already constrained energy budget.

    Energy and mass are the two biggest constraints in this business. A little lesson is also in order. Newton’s third law tells that

    d(mv)/dt = 0.

    Now if we break m in m – dm + dm where m for mass of the rocket and dm mass of an increment of ejected rocket plume and v = v – dv for the rocket velocity and the velocity of the rocket plume gasses we get

    Vdm = (M – dm)dv (set dmdv ~ 0)

    or that

    dv = V(dm/m)

    so the velocity of the rocket ends up as

    v = V log(m_i/m_f)

    for V the plume gas velocity and M_i the initial mass and m_f the final mass. The main point is that if m_i = 10m_f the velocity of the rocket is about 2.3 times the plume velocity. The logarithm is a “killer,” for it means the maximum velocity grows slowly with m_i/m_f increasing.

    Hawking has made statements of this sort. I don’t know that he has thought through the program management issues and engineering much.

    LC

  134. ND says:

    “There is another drawback to sending shuttles to the moon. They are designed for a 10km/sec re-entry velocity, while re-entry from the moon is 14km/sec.”

    Ah yes, the devilish details of rocket science. Well in that case I’ll settle for putting the shuttle in a parking orbit around the moon as a museum piece :)

  135. Greg says:

    The USA is on the decline. Anyone who doubted me when I have said this years before can look to this as obvious proof. They can find trillions to fund reckless government spending on all-consuming entitlements, but can’t spare a few billion for manned space flight? Once they put this down it will be even more enormously costly to bring it back up. And this program has a proven track record of bringing real products and innovations to the people on Earth. This is a sound investment thrown down the toilet. And what did they get in return for the money they gave to entitlements? What is next defining part of Americana that will fall? And oh there is that particle accelerator thing that got built in France.

  136. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The costs which tax our economy are less about entitlements and far more the extensive military programs this nation supports, which includes two military actions or wars. This is the largest sector of our economy is this, but will be surpassed by the end of this decade by servicing the huge debt this nation has run up. I am getting a bit of a politically right winged jab here, but these problems have mushroomed over the last 30 years — a period of generally conservative policies with the Republicans holding the greater sway of power.

    The space shuttles are simply not designed to go out of Earth orbit. To be honest I think that a robust manned space program off Earth orbit, say in the cis-lunar region or to the Lagrange points, requires rocket engines with a much higher specific impulse. Chemical rockets have a specific impulse, defined as s = v/g for v = rocket plume gas velocity g = 9.8m/s^2, of about 500 seconds. What is needed is a propulsion system up to 1000-2000 seconds. This will require a nuclear power source, which either directly heats hydrogen in heat pipes running through the reactor, or better still powers up a VASMIR plasma propulsion system. This will not power up the launch vehicle directly off Earth, but the command ship could be so configured.

    LC

  137. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    Yep, too much plume velocity for “nationalistic purposes” (LC, February 3rd, 2010 at 4:29 am), why also the “nationalistic” Orion would rather have returned on a heat shield of higher quality. Question is, why the head shield of the shuttle would not be modifiable. Somehow other return vehicles could already manage to return through more fierce head how Apllo demonstrated.

    And Steven Hawking,

    “I don’t know that he has thought through the program management issues and engineering much.”

    I, in contrary, think that he even stepped forward from theory to practise to demonstrate us, that not even a spinal muscular atrophy is a real barrier to proceed:

    http://www.universetoday.com/2007/04/30/steven-hawking-soars/

    “Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons. First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.” (from the English Wiki)

    Which, I suppose, is the opposite of LC’s way of thinking: “get used to it … To be honest I suspect our species may snuff itself out in the next couple of centuries, maybe this century”, so bye bye.

  138. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    My comment about Hawking’s recent stance is that if we are really concerned over our survival in the face of nuclear war, or genetically engineered viruses (not likely a source of doom IMO), or environmental collapse, then we need to change what we are doing. It is ridiculous to think we can tear down this “ship,” think of passengers and crew tearing out rivets and bulkheads from a ship they are on to make trinkets, and where the wealthiest on the ship are making their luxury lifeboat for when the big ship founders. It really makes no sense. Let us face it as well: If there is an exit from a catastrophe on Earth for human beings, only those humans in the billionaire club will have a ticket out. They will be escaping a disaster that they largely created as well.

    LC

  139. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    Would like to reject LC’s last comment from 5:01 am with his own words:

    “In part the failure here is because of motivations based on science fiction, more than science.”

  140. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    I mean “social science” science fiction.

  141. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Well, I have better things to do than argue this. I think it is a bit of a delusion to presume we can survive problems of our own making by putting a half dozen people on the moon.

    LC

  142. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    “I think it is a bit of a delusion to presume we can survive problems of our own making by putting a half dozen people on the moon.

    Steven Hawking did never discuss our planetary problems cynically.

  143. Dark Gnat says:

    I’m beginning to cool off about this whole thing, and attempt to look at some positives….

    Maybe NASA should sell off the Ares/Constellation project to the highest bidder. Whatever company buys it can then take over development, and evetually begin (or extend) a LEO business, with possible lunar missions in the future. This would boost NASA’s budget and allow the launcher to carry on without being wasted.

    NASA could even rent launchpad space until the private company builds it’s own launch facility. This might also be a way to preserve jobs in Florida.

    In turn, NASA could rent the rocket from the company to launch sats, or get to the ISS.

    This way NASA gets use of the launcher, the Company gets the launcher and use of a pad, we won’t have to rely on other nations to get to space, money and jobs will remain in our economy.

    LC, I think Hans has a crush on you. :)

  144. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    Not really, Dark Gnat, I just thought about what would have happened if Wernher von Braun would have been captured by LC’s grandfather.

    Maybe the first six lunar landings would never have happened. At least no “nationalistic” American ones.

  145. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    The Apollo program was meant as a cold war display of America’s technological might. That was demonstrated and the program cancelled after 3-1/2 years and six landings. The program from a political perspective was never about setting humanity up into space, but to demonstrate to the world the supremacy of American technological power over the Soviet Union’s.

    LC

  146. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    *sarcasm*

    Sure, JFK was as evil as only an American president can be.

    Too much Michael Moore movies … anyone?

  147. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    and, btw, the Apollo program did not display America’s technological might. In the contrary, it just helped developing it.

    Since 1969, the landing on the moon had also always a propaganda effect on the enemies of the U.S., and it is stupid to neglect the peacekeeping effect of Apollo.

    If anyone ever thought bad on America, he always also thought of the Man on the Moon. And what an achievment that was for humankind.Made in USA.

  148. Bill Samson says:

    I may have missed this on the way through the comments, but how exactly will astronauts get to the ISS after the Shuttle goes? Oh yes – 60-year-old Russian technology. Good job they’re friendly right now.

    [ Who would have thought that Koriolev’s launch vehicles would still be going strong long after Von Braun’s are a distant memory?]

    OTOH Obama maybe has no plans to continue US collaboration on the ISS.

  149. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    As Hans-Peter Dolhopf says:- “If anyone ever thought bad on America, he always also thought of the Man on the Moon. And what an achievment that was for humankind.Made in USA.”. As a Briton I can only endorse that. I posted above that America is still the only country with the economic muscle and young-nation spirit to undertake the BIG space projects. Sure, there many things we outside of the USA dislike – The Bush Doctrine/the assumed ‘our might is right’ ethos etc – but no one has come close to matching the contributions made by NASA. [Korolyev was virtually working single-handedly and had immense bureacratic hurdles to overcome so I suppose he comes a close second ].

  150. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    I thought I would come back here to see what has taken place. The discussion has turned from science and technological practicality to nationalistic and political persiflage. I mention the Apollo program was done as a cold war demonstration of superior power, which was the case, and this gets turned into some statement on my behalf as bashing the US of A.

    I will confess that I am not a partisan of hyper-nationalism, and think it usually leads to some sort of disaster.

    At any rate, which is most likely to insure our survival? The first is that we put a small lunar base up. The second is we start to clean up our act here on Earth? Remember, this is about surviving the next century and at least maybe a few beyond that, and not about astronomical or cosmological time scales.

    LC

  151. Mr. Man says:

    LC, the Lunar base would be a stepping stone for greater things. They wouldn’t repeat apollo, Constellation was about a permanent presence on the moon, which would build up our confidence in our own technology to move ahead from there. I’m not really sure how nationalism entered the arguement. But since a little nationalism helped start apollo then I think it’s safe to say that a moderate amount is ok if it helps spur on future progress (ie: If US and China compete to get to the moon that only means we will all get there faster). Anyway I think Stephan Hawking has some very good pionts; I would fall into his criteria for I find manned missions that advance our presence in space as fascinating (and necessary). With robotic missions, I recognize their importance for data, but if that data does not advance our cause in space then it interests me only minimally.

    Mr. Man

  152. Greg says:

    LC is a splendid example of how a European socialist thinks. Narow-minded and self-interested. What can the government take from someone else and give to me? The strength of America is that it did not follow in the footsteps of their European forefathers. They had the spirit of young independent explorers and it made them better. Now we see how the ravages of time and excess of power have taken their toll. That defining spirit is gone for more and more which was America’s stength. More people talk about what can’t be done and wonder what more the government can give to them rather than give to everyone by funding exploratory research and technology projects that provate industry cannot afford. I am amazed at how few people on this website have acted dismayed and distraught by this development. Are they too unscientific to understand it’s true implications for the future? America has lost its way and is dissociating from its roots that defined it and made it strong.

  153. Hans-Peter Dollhopf says:

    LC says, that “it is a bit of a delusion to presume we can survive problems of our own making by putting a half dozen people on the moon”

    What proplems of our own exactly?

    Hunger?

    from the English Wiki: “In the U.S., consumers spend approximately US$1 trillion annually on food, [3] or nearly 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Over 16.5 million people are employed in the food industry.” Damn!

    Education?

    Wiki again: “In the year 2000, there were 76.6 million students enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. …
    Among the country’s adult population, over 85 percent have completed high school and 27 percent have received a bachelor’s degree or higher.”

    Sickness and desease?

    “In 2007, the U.S. spent $2.26 trillion on health care, or $7,439 per person, up from $2.1 trillion, or $7,026 per capita, the previous year.”

    As LC can see, we work hard on our problems on earth day by day.

  154. Hr. J. Ceasar says:

    And you know what is the real joke? These companies are American, there is no future for them. When the dollar falls these companies will be sold off in order to keep American soil american instead of Chineese. America has sold there souls, just to keep buying stuff,…

    America did not get these bizar large debst by fighting a regional war or 2, they got into this mess because the population thinks they can spend every cent they earn… never realising that the money in there hands is chinese, who rent the money to the company’s these people work for. But instead of saving up, the spend that money to.

    This is no problem until someone wants there money back.. and be sure they will come. I’m sorry America, its all just a matter of time.

    Well maybe Obama has a trick up his sleeve, you americans are always in for a stunning comeback… good luck

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