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A leaked internal report shows that NASA's ambitions to get its new moonshot spacecraft off the ground in five years may be thwarted by technical and financial issues. The agency's publicly-announced deadline to conduct a first test launch of a manned Orion capsule is 2015, although internally it hoped to fast-track this to 2013 …

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A pale shadow of past glories

The Apollo programme solved far greater challenges in the 1960s, including heat shield design, shaking during launch and hatch doors that were hard to open (remember Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White?).

It's a far cry from NASA's heroic answer to Kennedy's "before this decade is out" challenge.

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Stop

Saturn V +25%??

Any moonshot programme that involves taking a 40 year old rocket design and sticking it on a photocopier in 'enlarge' mode - which in essence is what NASA are doing - is a big backwards step.

NASA should be using this opportunity to resume development of things like the aerospike engine - new technologies and materials should be explored, not ignored.

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Paris Hilton

How can it be so difficult...

How can it be so difficult to return to the moon? I mean it was accomplished in the late 60s, and not technology has progressed it should be easier/safer. Has NASA just forgotten the expertise it gained in that period?

I understand that they are developing en entirely new spacecraft and launch system, but surely it will be based on the Saturn V and just improved.

paris, cos she knows how to get a rocket thrusting correctly.

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Unhappy

new design wheels anyone?

"Current technical challenges include "[software that may not be developed on time], the heat shield, a dangerous level of shaking during launch, and a hard-to-open hatch door"

So, they ditch the working and successful Apollo designs for heat shield, rocket lift system and hatch doors; to be replaced by (presumably) 'new and improved items' - that don't work.

Why do people do this??

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Black Helicopters

They only want to beat China...

so they can plant a flag and dump an old quad bike there.

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Tim

NASA= Low Tech.

Have you been to Kennedy? it's really low tech. Everywhere else in florida has automated everything (you only ever need to touch one thing when you go to the bathroom). Kennedy is rusty, old, manual and looks like it hasnt changed at all since the seventies. If they cant even get a bathroom right, they will never get back to the moon. I vote the Japanese have a go, as they will at least do it efficiently!

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Anonymous Coward

Re-inventing the Wheel

Are the designers starting from scratch? Even though the Saturn V is 40 years old I'm sure they could learn something from it. Surely modern materials and electronics should enhance a proven design or are they too proud to look at some elses work?

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NASA in the 60's

probably had about twice the effective budget it does now.

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Chestnut?

'NASA's plans would shortchange astronauts' daily water needs, giving them only two liters a day when medical experts say they need at least 2.5 liters".'

I thought that was bollox now. Some American did a study in the 50's and concluded the human body needs 2.5 litres of liquid a day. This includes ALL liquid intake, but is usually (wrongly) taken to be water requirement.

The (real) arab guys I have met exist on a much lower water intake than 2.5lt.

P.

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Paris Hilton

This comment...

...is simply to use the Paris icon.

Paris, because she knows a correct entry angle when she sees it.

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Flame

Get the Russians to build it.

I recall seeing the discomfiture of the Yank rocketry industry when they found that the Russians had cracked oxygen-rich, closed-cycle rocketry some time ago and mothballed the evidence.

They'd done it the old-fashioned way. Design engine, build prototype, test, BANG. Find bit that went BANG, reinforce/modify, retest, BANG. Repeat until the BANG doesn't happen, document what it now looks like, send to production.

Then there's the new-improved, American way of doing things. Design engine, build prototype, test, BANG. Hold series of meetings on subject of BANG, recommend changes to prevent BANG, send recommendations back to design, hold workshop on new design, suggest changes to suggested changes, conduct risk analysis on proposed changes, rework budget based on impact of proposed changes, redesign, have new design signed off for prototyping, produce prototype, test, BANG. Oh and if anyone breaks a fingernail as a result of BANG, suspend project for five years of public hand-wringing.

When they saw the number of iterations the Russians had been through to get the beggars working, they worked out it would have taken them several decades to do what had actually been achieved in as many years.

They haven't learned anything from this at all.

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Anonymous Coward

@new design wheels anyone?

Yeah because your ford mondeo still has wooden wheels with a diameter of 4 feet and steel bands instead of tyres.

You can't be seriously suggesting that they take 40 year old technology and just gaffer tape it to the vehicle ? You wouldn't expect to do that in any other area of manufacturing, so why should NASA do it ?

I don't care if it worked "back then", they are not applying it to a vehicle constructed from techniques used "back then". They are taking the basic principles of the vehicle as it was designed and upgrading them - not re-implementing exactly the same design.

For example:

"Orion will be similar in shape to the Apollo spacecraft, but significantly larger. The Apollo-style heat shield is the best understood shape for re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, especially when returning directly from the moon. Orion will be 5 meters (16.5 feet) in diameter and have a mass of about 22.7 metric tons (25 tons). Inside, it will have more than two-and-a-half times the volume of an Apollo capsule."

Do you suggest they just take on an old style hatch and graft it to the side of a different sized, and constructed vehicle ? Reminds me of a few Peugeot 205s I see round here, with massive whale tails and huge exhausts. Sure, that whale tail worked a treat on a Porsche but just bolting onto a Peugeot is senseless and stupid. Even NEW Porsches don't have tails like that any more.

Also bear in mind that Orion is only the crew capsule area on top of the Ares 1 launcher, much as Apollo was only the crew capsule area on top of the Saturn 5 launcher. Apollo had to deal with launch vibrations generated by a liquid fuel rocket, Orion has to deal with vibrations generated by a solid fuel booster. It's not inconceivable that the methods used to mitigate that vibration are going to be different.

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No, they can't reuse the Saturn V

They can't reuse the Saturn V (ever on 'enlarge') because the same tech has to be used to go to Mars, including a number of heavy cargo lifts.

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@Dabooka

There's no race when you've been waiting at the finish line for 40 years.

They are well aware that China - if they want to - can go to the Moon before NASA goes back. Do bare in mind, however, that NASA's scheme is much more complicated than a rehash of Apollo 11.

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Unhappy

Re: How can it be so difficult...

The "new, improved" Ares would appear to owe very little to Apollo or the Saturn V. Its a liquid fuel booster with two bloody great strap-on solid boosters, so I'd suggest it owes more to the Ariane series than to Apollo. However, NASA seems to have a strong 'not invented here' syndrome, so its possible that Ares is simply parallel design evolution and all the lessons ESA has learned are being ignored.

And yes, NASA has forgotten just about everything they learned from thje Apollo program and lost much of the data and documentation too. Why do you think they're enticing the surviving Apollo engineers out of retirement to tell the new boys how it used to be done?

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Alien

@NASA in the 60's

Slightly more than that!

"NASA’s requested budget for 2007 is nearly $17 billion.(0.58% of federal budget)"

"NASA spending made up more than five percent of the federal budget during the heady days of the Apollo program. If it received five percent of the federal budget today, its annual funding level would be $139.2 billion dollars"

Stolen from The Space Review website :)

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/898/1

The push from China will see the NASA budget slowly climb over the next few years, there has been a number of "leaks" around China's space program and the lack of funding for NASA..... so you can guarantee it!

Meanwhile UK gov spend £4 billion on a nice ship but dont have the money to improve services..repair the roads etc, hmmm :s

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Wheelchair access.

It's all well and good complaining that they could copy door designs -- but the old designs didn't have to provide for wheelchair access and baby changing facilities.

Joking aside -- I suspect that the reason it is so much more difficult to plan a moon landing now is that the old technology doesn't meet modern safety standards. Take Concorde as an obvious example or how safety regulations move on.

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Bronze badge

Meanwhile, by the Tannhauser Gate

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Men walking up the beach of Mare Tranquillitatis. Airliners flying faster than the sun across the ocean, light glinting on their wings. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.… Time to die.

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Coat

Ares and Saturn V

@ various people asking about the relationship to the Saturn designs: Ares (the launcher) is variations on a first stage consisting of a shuttle SRB with an extra segment attached, and a second stage that reuses the Saturn J2 second stage engine. Other components will come from variants of the unmanned Delta launcher, which has proven to be pretty reliable over a couple of decades. Engines apart, the rest of the vehicle is done from scratch partly because (apart from huge advances in computer-aided design, simulation and fabrication, and materials science in the last 40 years) the blueprints and design docs for those old systems are mostly long long gone in the bowels of the various private sector contractors who actually built the thing. Some of those companies are still around but the majority have been absorbed by others or gone out of business. It's not just a case of blowing the dust off the old production line and starting it up again.

Incidentally I believe the biggest problem with Ares so far is vertical oscillations (pogoing) caused by the fundamental way a solid rocket motor runs, burning along the whole length of the tube. STS (the shuttle) doesn't suffer from this as there are two boosters tied together by the ET.

Mine's the anorak with the mission patches on the sleeve...

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And for NASA's next trick

Teapots made of chocolate.

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Coat

Its obvious they never went to the moon

If it were they could get the old 1969 technology and equipment out of storage and back in business in weeks.

So they're frantically having to create new equipment to get there, but based on the 1969 designs so we don't smell a rat.

For further study watch CAPRICORN ONE

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Alien

This will be the first moon landing

They couldn't learn from the Saturn programme because they never landed on the moon.

(someone had to say it)

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Sam

stoopid question

Why don't they launch the stuff in bits up to close to the ISS, and then assemble it?

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Dz
Paris Hilton

Hopefully......

..... The astronaut that steps out of the module onto the surface first will at least get his line right:

"It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!"

Maybe it's just me, but isn't man and mankind one in the same thing. Sure the line should have read:

"It's one small step for A MAN......"

What a dumbass armstrong was. Obviously NASA couldn't provide him with a pocket sized thesaurous or oxford english.

PARIS: Because she has a great pair of solid rocket boosters!

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Alien

Are they going to build a real lander this time?

The main problem is the soundstage they filmed the original landing in has now been converted to apartments.

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Why it's so hard

NASA in the 1960s was receiving twice as much money (adjusted for inflation) as they are now and only had to worry about funding one major project at a time - not the mishmash of projects that they've been tasked with by various Congresses.

If the ISS was abandoned as the useless white elephant it is and the Shuttle immediately retired as being pointless without the ISS, NASA might have the money to begin working on the Orion project.

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Coat

@ Anonymous Coward

'Incidentally I believe the biggest problem with Ares so far is vertical oscillations (pogoing) caused by the fundamental way a solid rocket motor runs, burning along the whole length of the tube. STS (the shuttle) doesn't suffer from this as there are two boosters tied together by the ET.'

Pogoing was a major problem with the Saturn V which was never entirely resolved. The unmanned Apollo 6 suffered such sever pogo that several pieces came off the rocket and it came close to structural failure. Apollos 11, 12 and 13 all experienced severe vibration during launch. On 13, the rocket very nearly never got into orbit; pogo caused one of the engines to shut down just before it tore loose of its mounting - which would have destroyed the rocket. Later flights used a slightly redesigned Saturn V and were much less rough on their crew.

Unfortunately pogo is one of those things that can't really be simulated on the ground with static tests, you can attempt to eliminate it at the design phase but the only real test is to light the candle - which is expensive and risky.

It's also worth pointing out that the Soviet N1 Moon rocket was destroyed by pogo in its last flight. The rocket was within seconds of completing the first successful burn of its first stage when pogo caused the computer to begin shutting down engines; the rocket tumbled out of control and exploded. With four out of four failures, the N1 was cancelled.

Mine's the hoodie with the gold tinted visor.

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Paris Hilton

@ Joe Cooper

You're missing the point Joe, they've never BEEN!

I hoped the black 'coptor was a clue. And the comment about planting a flag and dumping a quad bike, kind of hoped that would have been a clue too.

Paris because, er, she'd not understand either mate. Sorry.

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Happy

The Right Stuff

I can thoroughly recommend Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff", which is a fascinating look at the early Apollo programme, and a lot of the problems, like things blowing up, that it encountered.

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Alien

Two points...

Back in '69, the health+safety crowd were still in nappies, and people were willing to take a lot of risks. That sort of behaviour is not permitted these days - there has to be a near-guarantee of getting the astronauts out there and safely back. It wouldn't surprise me if there had been a few unpublished moon-attempts from NASA and CCCP ending very badly that we won't hear anything about for a number of years, if ever.

The other point is about the lack of water for the mission. If they can't fit it in their truck, why not send it on ahead in an unmanned box near the planned site, and then pick it up when they land (and defrost it)?

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@Dz

Speaking of dumbasses, he actually did say "a man" but you're too fucking stupid to look it up.

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Assembly in orbit

"Why don't they launch the stuff in bits up to close to the ISS, and then assemble it?"

Because then it would take a couple of lifetimes to build, instead of a decade or two.

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Boffin

The problem

Has less to do with technology than it has to do with poor leadership and management. Not to mention (or mentioned in tandem) look how much worse the bureaucracy is now.

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Go

WHY NOT JUST RE-JIG THE OLD ROCKETS?

All this new crap never works. Why not just re-jig the old rockets. Space travel is fraught with risk after all. A couple of new computers and the old Saturn V rockets and we're back on the moon.

And, how exciting to go to the Cape and watch a Saturn V lift off!

The shuttle was and is crap, all the new boosters they are designing appear to be crap too.

With nice new suits, new computers etc. they could be back on the moon by 2012.

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@Alan re. @new wheel.....

How did you know I have a Mondeo??

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Reusing Apollo

NASA actually isn't trying to do Apollo again.

They're trying to do something much more advanced than Apollo on a much more spartan budget - a huge chunk of which is going to other things! Such as the space station and other research programs.

So to do that they need to design a system that is affordable. While all these efforts sound so complicated and arduous and expensive, it's actually quite typical.

NASA's own press release put it best; it "reflects typical problems of a program this early in the running"

Show me a rocket program that went perfectly and I'll show you someone who's full of shit.

Case in point, the Soviet's N1 Moon rocket which went BANG four out of four times never made it to the Moon.

But since they're not American I guess it's politically correct to glorify everything they do, right?

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RE: stoopid question

The ISS is a dead project, soon to land in the ocean with its billions of wasted dollars. There's no point building a launch program that will so soon be obsolete. Incidently, that's why they should have scrapped both the ISS and the Shuttle long ago as someone else has mentioned.

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Paris Hilton

@Dabooka

Yeah yeah, I'm sure you're one of those people who thinks he's super smart and ahead of the game cause you don't know why the sky is black in the photos.

Paris, because she doesn't know either.

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Paris Hilton

Balls

NASA, and to a large extend the general populace, has lost its stones. During the ramp up to Apollo, we saw men who were willing to take the risk and hang it all on the line. Where are those men now?

Instead we have government bureaucracies who are intent on playing CYA with every decision they make. At this point in time, space travel is not a safe commodity. In our human history there were times when air & sea travel were equally unsafe. How many explorers set off to the New World and were lost to the pages of history? The rewards only come to those willing to take the risks.

Until we get some leadership with a couple brass ones, we will continue on as before. Bumbling along and trying to keep everyone safe. The real men are out there, they just choose not to get involved with the BS which takes the initiative out of everything.

On a final note... October 1957 was Sputnik. July 1969 was Apollo 11. Less than twelve years. What have we done of significance since 1996??

Paris, because she doesn't have any either.

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All rockets look the same to me

With the aerospace companies now run exclusively by MBAs instead of engineers (as many still were in the 1960s), cost overruns are inevitable as they can be extremely profitable. (One bids unrealistically low to get the contract, counting on NASA to make some requirements changes which allow you to jack the price up.)

That said, study the Apollo program a bit and you'll see that it was nothing but a series of technical challenges which had to be resolved. In particular, read the history of Grumman and the lunar module to see just how close it all came to not getting done.

The difficulty is what attracts a lot of engineers to the field.

And Aries V (the heavy lift launcher) has a much bigger payload capacity than the Saturn V ever did. Of course, it's also not man-rated so it's allowed to go BANG a bit more often.

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Coat

The Truth - and what might have been.

How it was done:- http://stuffucanuse.com/fake_moon_landings/moon_landings.htm

How it should have been done:- http://manconquersspace.com/MCSEnter.html

Mine's the one with knitting needles in the pocket.

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Apollo was safer than being shot at

which was the alternative. It relaxed people about some risks.

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Unhappy

doom and gloom

Its all a waste of time anyway

If obama gets in , you can be sure NASA's budget will be cut to ribbons and diverted to 'equality awareness' programs, thus ending the orion program

If Maccain gets in , NASA's budget will be cut to ribbons and diverted into another war, thus ending the orion program

At best the crewed stick may survive to get off the ground, but just for more low earth orbit farting about.

It took man 66 years to go from the first powered flight to the moon..... what have we done since?

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Time to wonder given how this is progressing...

Will any of the 12 who have walked on the moon be alive to see the 13th on the moon? The mind wonders.

It seems that those with ANY experience have "left the building", and the replacement crew is attempting to make a go of it. Given all the people looking over their collective shoulders, it doesn't seem to be turning out well. In other industries, the sequel doesn't do as well as the original!

(*SIGH*)

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Meh

They have to wait for windows 7, and auto restore from chip like the systems bios and play startrek

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Sequels

"In other industries, the sequel doesn't do as well as the original!"

That's so true! Like in the aircraft industry. Those ridiculous 747 things are nothing compared to the Write brother's plane!

Of course, aircraft are totally unrelated. Bad sequels are totally the norm in the much more relevant movie industry.

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NASA-now powered by Lawyers

I bet the legal fees, the political correctness, and racial quotas enforced on every design team/contractor/subcontractor requirement had plenty to do with overruns. Plus the usual siphoning for pork, which lawyer/lawmakers are ever-so-good at.

Can you imagine the liability concerns of a moon project? A failure could cause "emotional duress" on thousands of people and they'd all sue. Not to mention the astronauts' families. Plus all those astronauts passed up for the first flights, "discriminated" against for not being in the prestegious first flight, "held back by The Man" because "they couldn't help the way they were born"-just a little slower, a little less intelligent, a little less an engineer, etc. than the guy who was chosen...

Plus, you've got to "represent" all races and religions so no one is "offended". Even if one race/gender/religion/orientation is less than .01% of the population, they have to get equal airtime. Any group not represented in prestige flights will surely sue as well.

What? hardware? Rockets? Are you insane? We can't allow such a risk of litigation!

Lawyers-what's *really* wrong with this country.

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Been done before

chuck the Russians a few Million dollars, and buy the Energia design, use that as the basis and develop it.

or do likewise with ESA and Ariene 5,

complete? no, but a good starting point.

or dust of the NERVA project...

use a Saturn-VI (saturn-V with better controls and fuels) as a heavy lifter, something smaller and simpler as a crew launcher, that *just* puts people up and down, let the truck do the heavy stuff.

the problem is not doing it, its doing it god alone knows how many times, in different groups.

ideal solution.. use something based on Soyuz as a crew launcher/lander. need to launch more than three people? use more than one of them.

use Ariene as a heavy lifter, again in multiple if needed.

let the yanks design the stuff they carry.

then get the Chinese to build it, or at least the common production run bits.

don't commission *one* of something, make a run larger to get some economies of scale.

stop buggering about with space planes, KISS.

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Design

Could save money and time and just design the next shuttle to be travel worthy

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With

Using carbon fibre, cavlar. Titanium mesh hull with am aerogel pocket

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