back to article NASA nixes Trump's moonshot plan

NASA will miss its deadline for the first flight of the Orion capsule and the Space Launch System, with the launch moved from 2018 to 2019. The agency's Bill Gerstenmaier also told media in a briefing last Friday that as well as delaying the first flight (designated Exploration Mission One, EM-1), the EM-2 mission that will …

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  1. Triggerd

    What's the problem

    Couldn't they just copy the technology used in the apollo missions and land on the moon rather than just circle it...It's already been tested a couple of times?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the problem

      Presumably because Trump thinks the moon is made of cheese and thus a very squidgy place to land.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: What's the problem

        Presumably because Trump thinks the moon is made of cheese and thus a very squidgy place to land.

        But imagine the grilled cheese craters left behind by the Apollo missions. A worthy prize indeed

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the problem

        "Presumably because Trump thinks the moon is made of cheese and thus a very squidgy place to land."

        That's unfair, he's put a lot of "thought" into this! I believe this is Trump's preferred landing area, close to the Apollo 11 site?

      3. ChrisC

        Re: What's the problem

        In which case, he needs to have a chat with the occupants of 62 West Wallaby Street, as the whole design and test process for their successful cheesemoon landing and return to Earth was documented for posterity some years ago...

    2. Denarius Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: What's the problem

      can't rebuild Saturn V. Factories were sent to China and the blueprints ordered to be shredded so the worst possible design that would actually work could fly. This is why USA bought a lot of USSR 1950s developed rocket engines. The world of bean counters as PHBs {S}

      In case one doubts engineering assessment of shuttle, ask why the Russians launched their Buran once.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the problem

        I suggest at this link you will find a more nuanced and accurate explanation of why you can't readily build a Saturn V

        https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-NASA-lost-the-plans-for-the-Saturn-V-rocket-If-so-how-is-it-possible

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a more nuanced and accurate explanation of why you can't readily build a Saturn V

          Notably, he tplans are only part of the build - the plans are predicated on a whole supply ecosystem that no longer exists, ways of making things (eg welded rocket motors) that have been utterly superceeded, and rely on the skills of craftspeople who are long retired.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: a more nuanced and accurate explanation of why you can't readily build a Saturn V

            "Notably, the plans are only part of the build - the plans are predicated on a whole supply ecosystem that no longer exists, ways of making things (eg welded rocket motors) that have been utterly superceeded, and rely on the skills of craftspeople who are long retired."

            Also, all those Nazis with slide rules are long dead.

            (Mine's the one with Wernher von Braun's biography in the pocket.)

          2. soulrideruk Bronze badge

            Re: a more nuanced and accurate explanation of why you can't readily build a Saturn V

            It's the division of labour that has, and continues, to destroy our world.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: What's the problem

        "This is why USA bought a lot of USSR 1950s developed rocket engines".

        A lot more interesting than that:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84ukJb64Gy8

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "copy the technology used in the apollo missions"

      We don't have that technology any more.

      The Apollo program used the Saturn V lifter which had a cargo capability of 120 tons. That rocket is not available any more.

      As you can see here, nothing currently available has that capacity. One or two lifters are slated to have comparable or better abilities, but they are in the planning stages and not available before 2020 in any case.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "copy the technology used in the apollo missions"

        It's not that we don't have the technology. We certainly do. And better.

        We don't have the ability.

        We don't have the people that took responsibility and did stuff to the best of their ability. In Apollo, the techs said "by god, it's not going to be MY bolts that kill an astronaut" and nobody cares today.

        We don't have management that proactively looks for problems and assigns people and resources to solve them ahead of time. In Apollo, they did spacecraft assembly flows until they ironed out the bugs. In Apollo, they had two engines from two companies compete to be the critical LM descent engine. NASA doesn't have that kind of money any more.

        We don't have people that are proud of the work they do. In Apollo, you had companies paying money to advertise they were part of Apollo, no matter what tiny piece of chintz they were building. Shoot, I'm sure people would be embarrassed to admit they're on SLS.

        There's been so many NASA projects shitcanned just as they were starting to accomplish things that people no longer assume their project is real. I know several of the SLS folks, and they're just mostly marking time. They're assuming it'll be canceled like FASTRAC, X-33, X-34, Constellation, and a TON of others.

        Those that are optimistic enough to think it'll fly, figure it'll only happen once, like Ares 1-X. It won't fly twice, and it won't fly with crew. And those are the OPTIMISTIC ones.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: "copy the technology used in the apollo missions"

          Actually, since the original Apollo project was run as a military-style, highly compartmentalized one, the contractors who developed the tech were under certain legal obligations.

          As was covered in the now-defunct Omni magazine back in the 90s, after 25 years in storage, the documentation on How To Go To The Moon was ... destroyed. Presumably to prevent it falling into enemy hands. Keeping such documents carried and still carries heavy penalties.

          So as was pointed out in the Omni article, if we wanted to go back to the moon we'd have to do huge chunks of the R&D over again, all because no-one in power thought it worthwhile to archive the records somewhere centrally.

          Now it is true that there have been huge leaps in materials science since Apollo, but a quick trawl through the NASA histories shows that we currently still hold our breath when firing unmanned rockets to the ISS in low earth orbit (the irony of having the Roosies take up our astronauts in a vehicle older than the decommissioned space shuttle must be making JFK and Nixon spin in their graves).

          Lofting a booster capable of ramming a payload into a seriously businesslike trans-lunar injection is probably beyond our power right now. Hell, the one we used back in the day was barely fit for purpose. The wonder is that more people weren't lost riding it into the sky.

          The truth is that for the average tax payer space is boring. No-one has ever explained why it is important in terms Joe Public can relate to. And for all the blabber coming from the White House in the last twenty years, not one dollar has been sent to fund the pie-in-the-sky Mars Shot. Not "Mars, Ho!" GWB, Not "Mars or Bust" BO, and certainly not "Mars - I could use a candy bar right now!" OPOTUS.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "We don't have..."

          ....A NASA that can get 5% of the USG entire budget to solve this problem.

          ...An Administrator who was as effective a political operator as James Webb. IE a political insider, not a NASA insider.

          ..As effective an overall project manager (with the breadth of understanding and the necessary authority to trade things off against each other) of a Von Braun.

          And the odds on bet is none of those losses is going to be replaced anytime soon.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      "just copy the technology used in the apollo missions"

      AFAIK, it doesn't fit the actual safety requirements. If was a bolder world, back then.

      So they are building an Apollo 1.1 which will meet the requirements.

    5. Black Betty

      Re: What's the problem

      The problem is that the technology you speak of no longer exists. And the people who developed it are long retired, if not as dead and buried as the program.

      Too many of the schematics and engineers drawings are missing for us to even attempt a new component for old substitution. And even if we had them, trying would almost certainly run into component saving shortcuts that relied on highly specific characteristics of those components. You'd spend as much time trying to figure out why they did something, as sorting out what it was they actually did.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the problem

      A VERY good question with a simple answer:

      Apollo didn't work and never went beyond LEO. It's debatable they got to LEO, all the highly accurate splashdowns were the CM being pushed out of the back of a plane.

      They will never get to the moon, they will always stall, remember Orion started in 2003 so they've been at it 14 years now and look what they have been developing in that time: An American Soyuz, but not even ready for a man to use it. Apollo vs Orion is the difference between fiction and reality,

      No development on any type of craft to travel to the moon or land on it: at all.

      If you watch the Orion videos you'll see why too: Too much radiation.

      They will never build a lunar lander and Mars is just a cover for their attempts to combat the radiation, they will never take off for mars. Also a big rocket is not the answer, even back in 1957 Von Braun knew that which is why he proposed a space station and assembling rockets in orbit for the moon and mars.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What's the problem

        Re: "Apollo didn't work ::mercy snip::"

        Bad troll. No cookie.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, any bets on whether Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. makes it to the full NASA administrator position, or will be replaced with somebody who can listen to his master's voice a bit better?

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Send Remotes/Robots

    Or politicians.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Send Remotes/Robots

      Seems to me that my politicians are remote robots. They certainly aren't in touch with "here", and they seem to be on auto-pilot ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send Remotes/Robots

        Puppets not Robots

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Send Remotes/Robots

          I see little to no difference, sir or madame.

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Send Remotes/Robots

      No more space roombas.

      Humans, multiple, in a proper Moonbase. No landing two people in a machine made of chicken wire and Cadbury's Old Jamaica tinfoil and claiming that as a moonbase. No sheds that are occupied for two weeks and abandoned in place. Proper domes and landing pads for the Eagle transports.

      Keep the robotics where they belong: Realdoll fembots.

  4. Vinyl-Junkie
    Go

    NASA should make every attempt...

    ...to fulfil Trump's wishlist.

    On the sole condition that the only human aboard when it lifts off is Donald Trump.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: NASA should make every attempt...

      Actual Humans on line one ... They wish to register a complaint.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NASA should make every attempt...

      A probe going to investigate things that are different, why not add Nuttall and Le Pen, the mission could be called Xenophrobe One ....

    3. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Re: NASA should make every attempt...

      Hang on there...

      ...I'm no fan at all of the Orange One. But at the end of the days he's the head of the executive branch and therefore boss of the guys saying that our manned space program cannot be manned... because tens of billions of dollars pissed down the drain hasn't been enough. WTF over? Doesn't matter if you are the Orange One, Black One, or Cuckholded One... You have the right to be pissed. If I'm in the executive position ... I'd definitely start shitchanning every man, woman, and child walking into NASA HQ until I cull down to where I find either a capable cadre or a building I can close. As a taxpayer I'm not amused.

      But this is only a symptom of the problem. The real problem is that it's not obvious why we need a manned space program in the first place.

      Am I happy the space program is just some sort of PR program for the administration? Heck no. But at the end of the day that's all a manned program is good for. If you really want science and exploration, double down on your robotic program. Seriously, other than political grandstanding what does manned spaceflight do for me? Great scientific discoveries and advances in tech? Please.

      Human water bags are so delicate we must be cocooned is a perfect little atmosphere of just the right O2 partial pressure... just enough H2O to keep the lungs hydrated... we don't like radiation... built-in sensors are painfully narrowband... low operational duty cycle... bizzare failure mechanisms. If I'm in space interacting with a deadly environment through remote manipulation, sensors, and multiple layers of pressure suit, how is that different from doing the same back in my lab on earth 'experiencing' space through a highly capable robot.? A robot that never sleeps, eats, poops, or has any needs at all beyond power and propellant... Am I any "closer" somehow so that my feeble sensors can somehow achieve magnificent insights? As an astronaut... is my training so amazingly comprehensive and vital that there is no way discoveries are going to happen unless my and my beloved todger are there IN PERSON? That's taking fighter pilot syndrome to unhealthy levels. Even for a pilot.

      The only difference between telepresence and what id call 'local telepresence' is tens of $B and "being weightless ". And I know a couple of good psychopharmacologists who can get you the weightless effect in a very economical manner right freakin' here...

      -BC

  5. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    EM-1, EM-2? Pah!

    What a waste of perfectly good acronyms! I say re-dub them EMO (manned by Bieber fans perhaps?) and EMT (as the relationships with China and/or Russia may dictate, especially after the first broadcasts from the former mission).

    1. IT Poser

      Re: EM-1, EM-2? Pah!

      That naming convention is bound to get the project moving. I expect you Brits will be on board if we add ELO.

  6. frank ly Silver badge

    Everything changes

    "... changing the EM-1 mission, planned as an uncrewed jaunt into cislunar space between Earth and Luna, to instead carry human cargo around the moon."

    So they wanted to change it from cislunar to translunar? I thought the Trump administration was very much against that sort of thing.

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    "the rocket that takes the United States to Mars"

    Now there's a plan...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "the rocket that takes the United States to Mars"

      ...but only those who think it will be a Yuuuuge and GREAT plan! The rest can stay.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: "the rocket that takes the United States to Mars"

        The GREATEST.

        (note: also embark a load of broads for grabbing purposes, as the journey may be very long.)

  8. DropBear Silver badge

    Is anything actually developed these days at NASA or are they just reshuffling vaporware indefinitely until it gets conveniently cancelled...?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Pretty much. They don't have the money for anything else. And it's ALWAYS canceled, without exception.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      SLS is very definitely on the way, with much infrastructure being adapted at KSC. Though SpaceX have got one of the two pad 39s.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        "with much infrastructure being adapted at KSC."

        Like the Space Shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg ?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Vandenburg was due to become active for Shuttle on a date that unfortunately fell in the hiatus period following the Challenger disaster.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps the Donald...

    Just went to see Alien Covenant and wants to mitigate the risk.

    1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps the Donald...

      He wants to see what those Brits from SHADO are up to on the dark side without first getting permission from the leader of the free world. Also he might get to meet super totty Lady Penelope and get to use his tic tacs.

  10. LDS Silver badge

    If I were NASA I would changed my plans...

    ... and launch the whole Trump family on the first try...

  11. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Hmmm...

    I wonder what Trump's going to say when the advisor who reads this report out loud for him points out that NASA have just politely told him to fuck off and leave the hard stuff to the experts?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm...

      Probably those infamous words: "You're fired." Possibly to both the advisor doing the reading and the one who wrote the report.

  12. strum Silver badge

    >The Space Launch System is intended to be the rocket that takes the United States to Mars.

    What? All of it?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      It may be less expensive than building an impenetrable wall around it... and maybe you can also ask Canada, Mexico and other countries to contribute under the pretense of science and exploration...

      Also, importing foreign goods and workers will be much, much more expensive, and while India and China has a space program, I guess they won't invest that much (although, if the their population keeps on increasing, sending some into space may be the only solution).

      Atmosphere is already made of CO2, thereby adding more is not really an issue, actually it could improve the planet surface temperature. You won't find dinosaurs and other evidences the planet is much older than 6000 years or so, satisfying creationists as well. Alternative facts about rocks age can be easily created.

      And the president hairs will match very well with the planet itself. Maybe only Palin & friends may be upset because of the lack of local fauna to shoot at, but I'm sure they'll found a solution. After all, criminals would use precious oxygen and water....

      A win-win situation, I'd say...

      1. Kernel

        "It may be less expensive than building an impenetrable wall around it... and maybe you can also ask Canada, Mexico and other countries to contribute under the pretense of science and exploration..."

        Anyone keen to open a Kickstarter for this?

  13. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    First he thinks he's Andrew Jackson, now he's JFK.

    I wonder what his tweets would look like if the Chinese (or in some Peter Sellars-esque dream universe the Norks) sent a team around the Moon next year?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      "in some Peter Sellars-esque dream universe the Norks) sent a team around the Moon"

      Fat Boy Kim : Space Cadet.

      I know. It's rude to mock.

      But it is slightly amusing.

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