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back to article Neil Armstrong slams 'devastating' Constellation cancellation

Veteran astronauts Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and James Lovell have signed an open letter urging Barack Obama to reconsider the "devastating" cancellation of the Constellation programme. In the letter, obtained by NBC, the trio of Apollo commanders insist that in order to avoid "a long downhill slide to mediocrity", the US …

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Well said, guys!

Whilst the Constellation may not be the finest way forward, you certainly can't argue with the sentiment behind this. As for unmanned space exploration,robots are fine and dandy, but ultimately they can't take us as a species anywhere but onto the lardarse controller's couch.

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Grenade

Second rate nation

well guys you're just gonna have to get used to what the rest of the world already know

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With the greatest possible respect to all 3 commanders

This is BS.

America has *never* since the 1960s lacked launch capability (throw weight) to carry humans into space.

It will lack capability NASA *approves* of.

Which means funded by NASA and designed and built to its *exact* specifications.

With a huge ground staff funded by NASA payments.

The Augustine commission considered this uneconomic and proposed the cancellation. President Obama accepted.

The world has changed in the last 5 decades. In 1960 *no* one in the US knew a moon trip was possible or even survivable. By 1970 both were statements of *fact*.

Lockmart studied what was needed to make Atlas V passenger safe with their work for Bigalow and now Boeing as part of ULA are doing the same. Neither of them uses the astonishingly lethal propellant mix the Gemini (NASA) crews flew on. SpaceX was designed from day 1 to a human safety factor and estimate a 3 year timetable to make the capsule man rated *including* a 1 year schedule buffer. OSC give roughly the same timetable to build a new launcher as well. Interestingly despite *massive* solid fuel experience their vehicle will be liquid fueled.

If NASA give the go ahead to *let* them carry crew. If they accept that other people *might* be able to do the job they have had the *exclusive* right to do (in the US) for decades.

As for the ghost of Werner Von Braun He viewed solids as too unsafe for human flight. 1 shuttle mission suggests he was right.

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Blinkered BallistIQs Selling Short the American Dream.

Neil, James, Eugene,

You are missing at least three salient points, .....

1) There nothing out there up there which sustains life, as anyone knows it

2) You have alien visitors to deal with on Earth

3) They bear heavenly constructive gifts and/or unbelievably destructive weapons. ....... which sort of refines and dictates SMART Future Intelligence Channels and Communicative IT Chunnel Choices somewhat ..... and would Extraordinarily Rendered your Impassioned Missive Null and Void, although as a Memorable Ego Trip, does its Nostalgia have few Peers.

And what is to say that Obama isn't Leading Exploration in Advanced IntelAIgently Virtualised Fields, with the East Pioneering with ITs Voracious Appetite for Foreign and Alien Affairs and Special Secrets?

You know how easy it is to spook animals, and humans are no different. Somethings are best fed to the masses, bit by bit, lest they panic and do themselves great harm.

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Pint

i sorta agree

but given the state of America... i suppose the money could be put to better use on the ground

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@ i sorta agree

The money is put to use on the ground. Providing jobs, developing and building new technology.

And it's only a very small amount compared to the money devoted to killing civilians in two recent pointless wars.

There isn't a vault stuffed with cash on the ISS.

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Small change

50 million to book a seat on the Russians' ship ? Pah. The Merkins just chucked 20 BILLION at Citigroup, to name just ONE failing bank. For that money they could book 400 seats, and take Grandma, the kids, cousin Randy and his dog too.

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you know what

Just tell them there is oil up there !!

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Not stuffed with cash?

Are you trying to say that the Russians keep taking the cash out of the vault back down with them whenever we take it up there to fill the vault up?!?! How could they! Don't they know that the economic stability of the ISS depends on that vault of cash?!?!

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But...

...who are they going to club over the head to steal it from?

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Unhappy

I've lived too long...

and this makes me sadder than ever....buggrit! Am old enough, and a bit, to remember ALL of the space race, and the years of expectation...the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter...mining asteroids and maybe the Oort cloud...we could feckin' well do it!!...or so we thought.....buggerin' feckin' politicians...to see my boyhood heroes reduced to this??? shall now go into dark cupboard and cry for a bit.

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Privateers?!

What is it with calling space entrepreneurs "privateers"? I've had the same argument with the BBC. In the dictionary, a privateer is "A ship privately owned and crewed but authorized by a government during wartime to attack and capture enemy vessels; the commander or one of the crew of such a ship." A kind of licensed pirate, really. Unless someone's paying Richard Branson to hijack the space station or the Hubble telescope, I don't think we have any privateers up there. Apparently the owner doesn't count either, but Branson does tend to ride on his own balloons.

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I understand them: Constellation is Apollo with LCD screens

I understand their feelings, Constellation is just an Apollo with x86 CPU, LCD screens and some Shuttle spare parts, they would feel at home. But Constellation would have been an enormous waste of money in 1960 technology. Want to get back to the Moon? Blow the dust from the Saturn V blueprints and build another, you will save weight on computers too.

Obama is right: Constellation is a mediocre program designed by mediocre managers and scientists. Armostrong & C. should ask themselves why the Delta rockets use Russian-designed engines - and why Constellation would use Shuttle boosters and Saturn-era designed engines. Thirty years of mediocrity led to this situations.

NASA should get rid of many mediocre people, and design a real next-generation vehicle. Going to the Moon or Mars should not be the priority. The priority is a modern, efficent way to get there. Getting there in Apollo-era vehicles is just wasted money.

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The final nail in the coffin...

Now they'll have no excuse not to join the rest of the world in the metric system...

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Happy

@Captain Tick Tock

"Now they'll have no excuse not to join the rest of the world in the metric system..."

You *so* underestimate the ability of the US Aerospace industry to avoid progress.

It's not just the base 10/12/60 units they chuck around at the drop of a hat.

It's the conversion factors. 144 to convert PSI to PSF (they will use both), not forgetting 1728 when you need to convert to cubic inches from cubic feet plus whatever takes their fancy when converting from fathoms to feet or whatever dubious conversion factors need to be inserted.

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Paris Hilton

My God Its Full Of Stars

Wǒ de shàngdì le chōngfèn de héngxīng!

Predicting the future is a popular pastime for many tech watchers and for my two penneth I would say that the first 'Home cooked' meal on the Earths moon sometime around 2015 will be be boiled rice, and it will not be Uncle Bens boil in the bag muck either.

So if you have spacesuit and desire to travel, better pack a Chinese phrasebook.

Paris - because I would get my tongue around her anyday

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Happy

So who has the original letter?

A letter addressed to the President of the United States, signed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and James Lovell - geesh. The original copy of that letter is probably worth $250,000 or so to serious space collectors.

On the assumption that the President (being of the correct age) is actually a 'space enthusiast' himself, and assuming he has the original copy of 'The Letter', he's probably punching the air screaming "Yes! My plan worked!".

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WTF?

Space race vs health care

Big profits for the NASA contractors vs huge profits for big pharma and big medicine.

America, land of the "free"? "Free"? Where if you dare to even think (let alone say) "let the broadest backs bear the biggest burdens" you are likely to be incarcerated without trial, or worse.

Haven't been there for a decade or more, and even if they made anything that anybody wanted (including films and TV) I'd be reluctant to buy it.

Have a nice day, y'all.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps Neil ..

could pay for it ?

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Or better yet

perhaps the banks could give back a fraction of a percent of their bailout money and pay for the whole program, right up to the trip to Mars and back?

I just don't understand the priorities some people have.

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Stop

Stop......

>>They insist: "For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century.

There have been 22 Russians who have spent over a year in space, but only three Americans, of those three, one was half British and another only just did it by about 16 hours, in additon Russia also holds these "firsts";

First human in space

First (unmanned) moon (impact!) landing

First (unmanned) moon landing

First samples returned from the moon

First day spent in space

First full year spent in space

First manned space station

First woman in space

First spacewalk

First woman to do a spacewalk

First two-man spacecraft

First three-man spacecraft

It was five years (1964) after the russian successes (1959) that the USA got something to land on the moon (all the pioneer missions failed and only the last three ranger ones which were successful and they were 'impact' missions).

As a side note, the USA achieved their space program by employing Nazis and war criminals, the russian achievements were far more numerous and moraly sound.

Don't get me wrong first man on the moon *way* cool (even if it's only for political reasons), but in no way has the USA been "the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century".

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Paris Hilton

who had the best nazi scientists?

it is of course right to acknowledge the russian achievements in space. many of them are even more remarkable considering how primitive much of their space technology was. however it is wrong to claim that they are somehow morally superior to the american efforts. the early russian space programme had its own fair share of nazis and war criminals. the russians picked up the engineers and scientists that didn't flee westwards from peenemunde as ww2 ended.

and btw, some of nasa's achievements in the 60s and 70s were far more impressive from the point of view of technology or engineering than the russians: eg docking in space.

paris icon because she knows how to put a man into orbit.

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Anonymous Coward

@ No, I will not fix your computer

Not sure about all those "firsts". One thing that is a fact though is the Russians actually managed to get hold of more ex-nazi rocketeers than the yanks as well as far more paperwork (designs) etc.

The Germans are really the fathers of space travel (and no I am not German!). After all they had lots of practice with the V2 which is the grand daddy of them all.

However getting to the moon and back with live occupants is (was) the big one. It was the yanks that did it. Russia did try very hard and very often and failed, don't think they ever managed to steal the right plans from the yanks (Russias favourite way of "inventing" back then).

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Happy

Actually the Soviets employed their share of ex jailbirds

Korolev was on parole for the programme. I don't think he ever finished his sentence. Handy if the "Chief Designer" can't hit target, just send him back inside and replace with new "Chief Designer."

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Re: who had the best nazi scientists?

>>the early russian space programme had its own fair share of nazis and war criminals

Really? Name them..... I'm sure some captured german scientists ended up working for russia, however, this doesn't make them Nazis or War Criminals, however;

Wernher von Braun - a Nazi and a commissioned SS officer, ended up as a NASA director and cheif architect of the Saturn V, legally he shouldn't have been allowed to work in the US, but false employment history (part of the USA Project Paperclip) meant he could.

Arthur Rudolph (also part of the Saturn V program), was charged will war crimes by the justice department and at least in part responsible for 25,000 prisoners deaths at Dora concentration camp.

>>and btw, some of nasa's achievements in the 60s and 70s were far more impressive from the point of view of technology or engineering than the russians: eg docking in space.

Don't make me laugh! you dismiss out of hand all the achievemets I listed and some how try to imply that docking is far more impressive, OK then, but..... surely fully automated docking is more impressive than a manual dock in technology and engineering terms? (oh that was a russian first, too).

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@AC 15:39 GMT

No question landing on the moon and getting off again is way cool, the name of "Neil Armstrong" will live forever, some people will even remember the name "Buzz Aldrin" (but not know his real name), hardly anybody can remeber "Michael Collins" who was there too and nobody knows names like "Chaffee, Grissom and White" (I won't even bother to tell you who they are).

>>Not sure about all those "firsts"

Really? because you don't want to believe that the russians did almost everything first? if the russians spent the sort of money that the americans spent they would have been on the moon well before, and saying "don't think they ever managed to steal the right plans from the yanks" is just propaganda (which is the only thing that america is truly good at).

You get a FAIL because you can't even bother to check the facts, you don't want to believe the russians dominated (which they did).

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Re: Actually the Soviets employed their share of ex jailbirds

John, I would expect better from you!

Korolev was at least a russian! and not an ex German Nazi and jailbird? hmmm... he was charged with disloyalty! (turned out to be falsified charges), he went to prison for two years and then ended up in a labour camp, but still managed to guide the russian space program (responsible for many of the "firsts" I listed), OK the R1 had more than a passing resemblance to a German V2 and after the war he did get all the technology from Dora (but note, the R1 went further and faster, it was not a straight copy), however the R7 (the first ICBM) was all his.

It's a little bit unfair to imply that Korolev could just be replaced with a new "Chief Designer", the man was a genius and a true hero of the Soviet Union, I suspect the russian space program would not have been the same without him, like Turing he's never get the recognition he deserves.

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USSR not Russia

USSR accomplished the firsts you listed. Today's Russia is much less - a lot of drunks, some hard-working women and a declining birth rate. Now many of those ruled by USSR are ruling themselves, while Putin rides his pony without his shirt.

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Big badaboom!!

<engage rant mode> rockets?....boosters?...solid or liquid fuel??...get a grip, the lot of you!!...there's only ONE Project Orion...USA? China? whoever!! Just grow a set and build one!....<disengage rant mode>

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Happy

Not to mention their follow up bang.some years later.

I make that 17-3 to the Americans (Russians lost 3 in an air leak, US figure includes the 3 in Apollo1 in 1967. redesigned and ready to fly within 2 years).

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Grenade

Constellation - Humbug

I've waited so long for true progress on space flight that my only hope now is the space elevator. Get Otis on the phone and I'll rustle up some carbon nanotubes!

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Overmanning

Manned missions may be thrilling, but they are an expensive way to do science. Better ways to spend the money now, until we find somewhere where local life-support is genuinely sustainable - may be centuries.

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At last

The cold war is over

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Coat

The sun rises in the East

That's all folks.

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Welcome

Welcome USA!

As a citizen of the only nation to give up its near earth orbit lift capabilities I, for one, would like to welcome our American cousins to the second rate nation club!

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FAIL

The plug hole commeth?

Putting sarcasm aside, it never fails to amaze me how politicians swing like a pendulum.

Endeavours such as space exploration bring untold benefits, some material others spiritual. Many folks only see the cost. The classic term "The money is better spent here on Earth"- Generalising here, it is usually because they have not bee educated in the source of the many benefits they take for granted. And of course the money was spent here on Earth - in research and manufacture. - As said in the article employing many thousands of people worldwide.

In any event, such exploration is a long term commitment. As such. it should be possible to set aside politics ( and with commercial support) the vagaries of financial mismanagement by said politicians.

Go get a grip Obama, or mediocrity will result!

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Pint

In memoriam...

Ok...I've grieved...

I've mentioned our last, best hope..Project Orion....

but in truth, and much as it pains a lifelong stargazer and child of Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov/Niven, etc, we ain't going out there folks.

Not in my lifetime, not in yours, and your great-great-grandchildren will hopefully manage to survive on this small blue thing - I just hope they dream mighty dreams better than we did, and make them come true.

<glass of ale icon, because that's what I'm going to have a lot of when I get home - school night be damned>

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I totally gree with these - bravest of the brave - buggers.

It'd be a crying shame for USA to 'pull its horse up at the fence', aftr all the USA has acheived in this field. What if Russia suddenly degenerates? It''s not the most stable nation on Earth, after all...

Even the letter alludes to it:

"America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future)" - an obvious, and well-aimed 'dig'.

As a previous writer posted, compared to an illegal (IMO) war so GW Bush could finish Daddy's work, it seems insignificant.

Now, if Halliburton bid for the contract, would that make a difference? Hmmmm...

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As much as I would like to agree...

With the astronauts (I have the utmost respect for their achievements), as a lay man Constellation made no sense to me. We replaced expensive solid rocket boosters with the shuttle to save money and get to space more often. We then looked to replace the shuttle with? Solid rocket boosters... I know it's a gross over-simplification but it still felt like a step backwards. We should be looking for an even cheaper way to get even further into space. Let's move forward, please! :D

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Boffin

@transientcyclon

"We replaced expensive solid rocket boosters with the shuttle to save money and get to space more often. "

You underestimate the fail.

NASA replaced perceived -as-expensive (but safe) *liquid* fueled expendable boosters (Saturn S1 and SV) with a mixed solid/liquid fuel semi-expendable system.

This decision was driven by the allowed budget profile from the Nixon Whitehous'es Office of Management & Budget.

In reality liquid engines can be shut down if they misbehave, in a properly designed LV with engine out capability through most of the range (The scene in Apollo 13 where an engine does exactly that was *real*. Saturn V did exactly what it was designed to do and the mission did not skip a beat.). A shuttle engine failure will either probably shorten the mission (if its an SSME) or loose the crew if it's an SRB, as the huge thrust unbalance will tear the stack to pieces.

What NASA has is the *unique* experience of what running a semi-refurbishable launch system *really* involves.

A new generation shuttle which *looked* exactly the same (which would preserve the hugely expensive aero/thermo/structural database built up in its design) would (if properly managed) lower programme costs by an order of magnitude, given the cash NASA has put into subsystem developments (most never deployed) for it over the last 3 decades of Shuttle flight.

Aries *was* a step backwards for crewed spaceflight. It was called the "Shaft" by space activists because that's *exactly* what they thought taxpayers were getting.

NASA operated the all solid "Scout" satellite launcher for decades, but on one *ever* suggested it would make a good crewed launch vehicle.

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Stop

As a child of the 70s, I would like to say....

Sorry Gene, Neil, et. al., but we have other priorities. Expand our robotic exploration, cancel the seemingly-useless ISS and work on better propulsion systems for interplanetary travel and ways to get into earth orbit.

Nothing personal, but we need to prioritize in light of that $1.3 TRILLION deficit we have this year.

Plus, with current technology, a manned Mars mission would take years to complete and due to psychological isolation and the dangers of space it might be the most dangerous mission of exploration since Magellan set out to circumnavigate the world or white explorers tried to push into the disease-ridden tropical jungles of the 19th century.

And without a cheap way to get into orbit, any moon base is going to be the equivalent of 3 tents and a campfire out in the middle of a forest.

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@hamchessandonion

"but in truth, and much as it pains a lifelong stargazer and child of Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov/Niven, etc, we ain't going out there folks."

If you expect NASA to do it, you're right.

*None* of them ever did rely on NASA however.

"Not in my lifetime, not in yours, and your great-great-grandchildren will hopefully manage to survive on this small blue thing - I just hope they dream mighty dreams better than we did, and make them come true."

Things change. The game is only over when you're in the ground.

Good night and good luck.

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Alien

I wish

the people going "we could end poverty with that money" would wake up and realise a few facts

NASA's budget is set at 18 billion dollars or there abouts..... that money could be ploughed into the British welfare system to make everyone's lives a lot better, except one thing

That amount of money would keep our welfare system going for about 21 days

If it was applied to the US welfare program, then it would keep it going for about FOUR days.

We already spend staggeringly huge amounts of cash on our welfare systems.. how about £150 billion (or about 225 billion dollars) per year on stuff like benefits and the NHS.

And dont even mention the overseas aid budget or you'll get all the right wingers frothing at the mouth.....

As for what NASA should do.

Build the Ares V launcher.... that nicely gives the US the ability to chuck 130 tonnes into LEO even if it is unmanned (hint, no need to man rate all the bits like the RS68A engines it is supposed to use)

Then in an equal program, give the private contractors ,such as the SpaceX boys, access to NASA's manned flight technology and say "go build a spaceship to go with your rockets, oh and it has to be able dock with anything in orbit"

Aliens.... because they dont want us humans up there.

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@Boris

The moon program (just counting Apollo) cost $25 billion, if you work this out as a proportion of the US GDP this is about $700 billion in todays terms.

Obviously the US can just "magic up" as much money as it wants from the federal reserve (pretend money from the largest national debt brancrupt country blah, blah blah etc.), but the point is, every single $1 spent on welfare keeps people alive (OK, that's the theory!) but every single $1 spent on the moon program gave us what?

The US got to the moon first because it spent over twice as much as the russians (and had a far greater human life cost), had their programs run by technically excellent Nazis and War Criminals, all so they could actually beat the russians at something for a change.

But, Boris, you do say something very important, and that is the comercial side of space, specifically LEO, space tourists and satellites, theoretically better lift technology might make moon mining viable, this *should* fund itself, governments should explore space (as it will never be commerically viable), but this should be on a budget, unmanned and with clear goals, deep space probes with ion drives, 20-50 year working lives, once governments find something interesting (or of use) to it's people then the comercial side steps in, in other words governments do the R&D for it's people (socialised R&D if you like ;-)

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Alien

Space Elevator - use a damn pulley

JM: "...my only hope now is the space elevator. Get Otis on the phone..."

Supposedly one of the primary impediments to 'The Space Elevator' is providing power to the climbing craft. They're proposing all sorts of crazy system to beam power to the climbing craft. So to review: - 50,000km long carbon nanotube belt, easy. - huge dead mass at the top end, easy. - safety systems, easy. - zero-G bathrooms, easy.

But a stupid pulley at the far end with a looped belt driven from the ground, that's impossible. [?]

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shame

I heard the other day that 30 million plus Americans are starving each day. In real terms that is 60% of the UK population. Food or space, I know what I'd choose.

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First to vaporise 7 Astronauts

er, no, check the facts. Boring I know, but you learn so much more.

The unfortunate crew of Challenger likely survived the disintegration of the Shuttle stack (no 'explosion' either, sorry, it broke up due to uneven aerodynamic loads & thrust vectors) and a few of them were able to turn on their PEAP oxygen tanks. This means they were conscious for a few seconds after the breakup. It's likely the cabin depressurized, but apart from low-pressure induced unconsciousness there was no directly fatal event for another 6 minutes. Clinical cause of death for the Challenger 7 was severe physical trauma from the approx 300kph impact with the ocean. Rather horrific actually, especially if you were conscious all the way down.

So, no they didn't "vapourize".

Nor did the Columbia crew by the way, they suffered the same physical trauma when the shuttle lost attitude control, though for them it was probably a lot swifter - only a couple of seconds. Still nasty though, and plenty of, er, bits were found.

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Unhappy

@Adrian Esdaile

"clinical cause of death for the Challenger 7 was severe physical trauma from the approx 300kph impact with the ocean. Rather horrific actually, especially if you were conscious all the way down."

Which makes it worse. It's a *long* drop from c43miles up. Plenty of time to think about the fact that the *one* thing everyone expected would *never* happen is happening.

But IMHO the *worst* part was it happened *again*.

A study by the Aerospace Corp reckoned that given the STS architecture the programme would loose 3 (of 4) shuttle before it ended. with 4 missions to go let's hope they were wrong.

Personally I have my doubts on the orbiter windshields. They are 3 layers thick and in past landings cracks have been found 2 layers into a pane. One ill positioned flying lump of foam (AFAIK they don't carry spare windshields) and it's bye bye time for another crew.

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Jobs Horns

Privateers?

I spent 40 years before the mast and never got into space. Got really good at making a fast run up behind our cove, a quick turn, a shot across the bows, close up, then board, take all the gold and run for it. Har har! 'twas a good life if a short one for some.

The trouble with space is there is no Gold, so why should anyone want to go there? Best place is just off the east coast of Africa if you want to know.

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