back to article Obama to scrap Moon, Mars expeditions - report

President Barack Obama is set to effectively scrap all US manned spaceflight plans beyond Earth orbit for the foreseeable future, according to a newspaper report. The Orlando Sentinel - which has proven itself to have good sources in US space circles in the past - says that the White House budget proposal for the US space …

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  1. Alex-TheManfromUncle
    WTF?

    May I be one of the first to say..

    This sucks balls.

    I was REALLY looking forward to seeing a push to further our horizons.

    Shame

  2. Paul 25
    Thumb Up

    Thank goodness for that

    While I would love to see people back on the moon and mars, sacrificing the ISS and unmanned missions to help fund it was just dumb.

    We should be concentrating on developing cheaper ways to get to orbit by fostering commercial competition, combined with a station large enough to facilitate some real science and the construction of craft to head out into the solar-system.

    Spend the intervening time developing some of the interesting new ideas for interplanetary drives.

    Just building more big dumb rockets to chuck at the moon was shallow popularism by Bush.

  3. Stef 4

    Living on the moon

    As a child, I was promised that we'd all be living on the moon or Mars by now, so I have mixed feelings.

    On the one hand "How dare they hold back manned exploration of our solar system!!!!!"

    On the other hand "The money would be better spent fixing the country."

    But I guess the money will actually be put into paying off the Taliban, or paying contractors $27Million to move A few gallons of fuel 300 miles to Baghdad, when a normal company charges $3000

  4. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Lack of vision, except the vision to blow stuff up

    "NASA can't design space programs to create jobs... that's the view of the president".

    Not that the Apollo program created jobs or anything. Oh, wait, it did - not just jobs, it catalysed entire industries which the US went on to dominate for decades.

    1. Elmer Phud
      Pirate

      Next in line?

      There is always the next 'threat to democracy' to look forward to.

  5. Captain Save-a-ho
    FAIL

    Obama compared to Kennedy

    Here in the states (sry, colonies), people seemed to be quick to compare Obama to JFK. I wonder how well that comparison is holding up now.

    1. markp 1
      Coat

      my thought exactly on reading the news

      It would be quite a bit of vision to display, wouldn't it?

      But then these are quite different times to the sixties, and he was voted in on an agenda of change. Perhaps the bigger vision now is to lay off the expensive, slightly stagnant space stuff for a while til the technology has progressed a little more, and concentrate on putting the country to rights.

      Given that we've already gone to the moon and all once already, but you could hardly claim that the civil rights movement's work is yet done, I think the down-to-earth plan might have a greater and more lasting impact right now.

      Mine's the one with the secret Chinese space elevator, guaranteed basic healthcare and vastly reduced national debt in the breast pocket, next to the biros.

    2. Flugal

      Kennedy on the moon

      kennedy was initially quite a sceptic of the lunar landing programme.

      It was only when he needed a big idea that the Russians would struggle to equal - given the Russians had pretty much pioneered every 'first' in space until that time, and the US population were less than enamoured with the situation - that he went along with the idea.

      Obama does not face the same sort of challenges. These are different times. The Taliban aren't developing a ship to Mars, or even launching satellites.

      I would be hugely pleased to see vast sums of US taxpayers' money spent on a lunar and Mars programme, but can understand why it is no rush for Obama.

      1. David Stever
        Thumb Down

        ...but how would we do that?

        "But then these are quite different times to the sixties, and he was voted in on an agenda of change. Perhaps the bigger vision now is to lay off the expensive, slightly stagnant space stuff for a while til the technology has progressed a little more, and concentrate on putting the country to rights."

        Yes, there's always another reason to spend the money for something else, but if we don't get out THERE and use the technology we have, we will never know how to improve the technology. If English sailors had not gone out and used the 16th century sailing technology, they would not have figured out how to improve upon it.

        NASA and Lockheed had a great idea to make a single stage to orbit vehicle called the X-33. They ran into some technological problems, but rather then working through it, they threw in the towel, and surrendered. Now it's 40 years later, and we never go beyond low earth orbit. More's the pity for the human race.

  6. Gene

    No problem...

    ...we can always pay the Russians and Chinese to visit their bases.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      We already do...

      We already pay the Russians to use their spacecraft. There was a question at the KSC press conference wondering if the Russians are going to jack up their prices. "Of course not!"

      Yeah, sure. Oh well, the Russians need jobs even worse than we do. Personally, I hope they quadruple the prices.

  7. markp 1
    Paris Hilton

    For one brilliant, glorious moment

    I thought that headline said "Obama to scrap moon".

    Well, you'd certainly get quite a lot back off the salvage wouldn't you.

    Don't hurt me, I was blond when I was little... some of it stuck.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Why go today?

    When we can do it tomorrow at greater expense in a frantic hurry with duct tape technology trying to win political points and beat the damned *fill in with whoever* there.

    Or

    Earth was good enuf for me Pa, so I'll be damned if it ain't good enuf for Junior!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I just want to know...

    Where's my &%@$ing jetpack?!?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    What did you expect?

    After Bush and the Banks had finished looting there is really not much left for Obama to work with.

  11. Studley
    Unhappy

    Obama to scrap moon?

    WHAT?!

    Oh, you've gone for the 'Americanized' comma in the headline.

    Please make it stop.

  12. Mad Dog 1

    Now is not the time

    Yeah I agree, shallow popularism. The moonshot was great in its day, but we now have other problems to worry about, and unless there is a desperate need to go to the moon, mars or anywhere else, one that will pay for itself in a sensibly projected timescale (oil on mars anyone?) then we simply don't need to go there.

    I'd LOVE to see us extending our horizons to other worlds, but now is not the time. We are in a time of recession, two wars, a still relatively new presidency and fickle relations with other international partners. Going to the moon or mars sounds cool, neat, a fantastic achievement, something we can be proud of and all that... what a cool way to re-start our exploration of the universe beyond our current boundaries... but for what? Just the coolness of it? That's not a good enough reason. There needs to be a suitably well thought out business case for doing it, not just "we think it's a cool idea".

    At the moment, we just don't NEED to. Until someone finds a reason why we need to get resources from other planets or a pressing need to do good science not just for its own sake but in the name of recovering from the mess we're currently in, then I'd say the Obama administration has got it right. Besides, what was the point of building the space station if it's only going to last another 5 years. I always thought 2015 was a very short timescale for something that has cost so many billions. Lets make use of it for as long as we can, do the good science we need to do right here in our own earth orbit, do what is within our means, and wait until we have a real NEED to go elsewhere. We'd love to do frivilous missions on the basis of human exploration being "cool", but we simply can't pay for them right now, or ever, until that business case exists.

  13. Terry H
    Flame

    What angers me...

    People talk of the "huge waste" and all the better uses that money could be put to. LIKE F*ING WHAT? Another couple billion to follow the many trillions we've poured on entitlement programs? Do you, for one second, believe that would even be visible? The entire NASA budget for the decade would disappear into the miscellaneous admin bucket of Medicare on any given weekday.

    And perhaps we shouldn't look too closely at the question: who said "they" were entitled to anything other than a chance? Nor the fact that the government has deprived everyone of that chance by destroying the economy.

    As for NASA proper, what possible science can we do in LEO? Learning if ants can sort tiny screws in space? [Simpsons]. We accomplished all the "science" there was to be done 20 (30?) years ago. It seems a terrible waste to abandon ISS, but the real waste was building it to begin with.

    Adding insult to injury we get to: "study climate change". PLEASE!!! The climate is not changing! OK?! Get that straight. Global warming was a global scam. BUSH's people came up with "climate change" because they knew they'd already missed the normal solar heating cycle and will soon have to start talking about Global Cooling. EXACTLY like they were doing in the 1970s - we were headed for another ice age. But I digress.

    Supporting commercial launch could be good. But won't be good. The EELV (Boeing & Lockheed) rockets are barely operational from the last big "commercial space" boondoggle. By most any quantitative measure they are failures. Not catastrophes since they are functional but they're certainly not worth a fraction of the investment to create them.

    Going back to the moon is a dubious undertaking but would be the minimum acceptable undertaking. A much better plan, and the ONLY one with any chance of actual long range benefit would be a Mars colony.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Boffin

      The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus

      Dear Terry H, try doing a little basic research before digging up another long-discredited Zombie Argument:

      http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0477/89/9/pdf/i1520-0477-89-9-1325.pdf

    2. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge
      WTF?

      What angers me? Well, what amuses me is...

      "PLEASE!!! The climate is not changing! OK?! Get that straight. Global warming was a global scam. BUSH's people came up with "climate change" because they knew they'd already missed the normal solar heating cycle and will soon have to start talking about Global Cooling. EXACTLY like they were doing in the 1970s - we were headed for another ice age."

      Please, please, please tell me that was irony. Apart from the fact that there is a huge weight of scientific evidence to show that you are talking bollocks, do you really think Bush, of all people, with his well known strong ties to the oil industry, would promote some sort of vast conspiracy, the result of which would be to damage his own not insubstantial financial interests?

      Eejit.

  14. Steve Graham
    Jobs Horns

    leaving the space race

    "children born in the last few years no longer have any chance of growing up to walk on Mars."

    I think you meant "children born in America..."

    (Unless their parents are Chinese or Indian citizens, which I suppose is actually quite common these days.)

  15. Red Bren
    Welcome

    Earth Final Conflict?

    Aliens are already here, as hinted at by Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees of the Royal Society - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8478033.stm

    Obama has obviously been told by our new alien overlords (whom I for one welcome!) not to bother with this space exploration...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Linux

      Children born in America...

      You took the words from my mouth

  16. sumisu
    FAIL

    Good

    Given how much the ISS has done for science and commercial applications of its tech (heavy sarcasm), I'm glad we're not going to throw $100bn into a pit to put someone on Mars to do what unmanned rovers are already doing there, right now, at a fraction of the cost. Manned space travel has a deadly combination of romantic allure and monumentally horrible return on investment, and in the end economics always wins. If it weren't for the Cold War, we'd probably still be waiting for someone to set foot on the Moon...

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Ye GODs .......AIMind Game for ARGonauts

    If you want to fly to Alien Locations, you gotta get into Virtual TelePortation ...... for with IT you can Instantly Beam/BroadBandCast Youself into Any Other Alien Beings World and Arrange for Transfer and XSSXXXXChange of Powers and Controls for Earthly Goods Credited and Delivered for Creative JOINT AIdDVenturing in Virtually Real Rising Sun House Parties. But for those, you definitely have to be more of an Eastern Zen Master than a Western Cowboy Blaster. And yes it is AI NeuroLinguistic MkUltraSensitive MindMelding and Mentoring Programming that Uses Different and Alien Intelligence rather than wasting Time looking for the Sound of IT.

    Man is very Primitive, isn't he, when he doesn't Think to Imagine the Future for the Present to Deliver and Realise. What on Earth does he Think Virtualisation is All about, or does he not bother to Imagine Things just Happening with the Greater Sharing of Thoughts? Crikey, how Crazy is that, to live in a Place where Greater Thoughts are not Shared in a Time whenever they All can be Shared in an Instant for the Lightness of Flights into Virtual Being with Globalised Operating Devices in OrbIT.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bama is going doen

    Looks like Bama ain't able to B.S. all the people all the time, any more. His days as thief-in-charge are numbered. History will show his reign of terror was one of the worst in U.S. history. Don't let the door...

  19. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    FAIL

    Nasa's budget

    17 billion dollars or so

    Remind me again how much money was thrown at the banks to dig them out of a hole of their own making

    As for the spin offs.... guess the US does'nt want to be world leader any more

    My own line of work with CNC controlled industrial robots was spawned and partly financed at first by the US airforce who wanted a better way of making aircraft wings.

    Now the robots are everywhere making stuff faster and cheaper than a factory full of old style machinists.

    Nobody foresaw that.

    But there will be nay sayers saying spend that 17 billion on curing poverty...

    That money could run the UK's welfare system.

    For about 3 weeks

    Or the US's welfare system for about 3 days

  20. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Outsourcing claims another scalp

    the Yanks bumble around at home while the Indians and Chinese get on with the actual business of doing stuff.

    Excellent work, America.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down

      The previous post...

      ... was brought to you by Fox News.

    2. Jay Castle
      Flame

      You are an arse.

      See above.

    3. Western Spaceport
      FAIL

      Bad -- and shows how little you know

      "Given how much the ISS has done for science and commercial applications of its tech (heavy sarcasm), I'm glad we're not going to throw $100bn into a pit to put someone on Mars to do what unmanned rovers are already doing there, right now, at a fraction of the cost."

      ---Since the station was first occupied on a permanent basis in November 2000 NASA has been able to perform a surprisingly large amount of research. This is detailed in the NASA report “International Space Station Science Research Accomplishments During the Assembly Years: An Analysis of Results from 2000-2008.” Overall in the first ten years of the ISS lifetime NASA has done almost all the scientific research it could reasonably be expected to do. The Columbia disaster set the program back by at least three years. Now that there is a full six-person crew on board much more work can be done. For the US government it is now a question of how much future research will reflect US priorities versus how much will be done by others to suit their national goals.

      One factor that may affect the station’s utilization is a provision in a NASA authorization bill in 2005 that designated the US elements of the ISS as a national laboratory. That designation opened the door for NASA to cooperate with other government agencies and private entities regarding use of the station. NASA has signed several memoranda of understanding since then, including with the Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health, to cooperate on ISS research applications.

      "Manned space travel has a deadly combination of romantic allure and monumentally horrible return on investment, and in the end economics always wins."

      -- Wrong again. A November 1971 study of NASA released by the Midwest Research Institute of Kansas City, Missouri concluded that “the $25 billion in 1958 dollars spent on civilian space R & D during the 1958-1969 period has returned $52 billion through 1971 -- and will continue to produce pay offs through 1987, at which time the total pay off will have been $181 billion. The discounted rate of return for this investment will have been 33 percent.”

      This statement is plausible since those were the years when NASA’s spending on Apollo was at its height. However, NASA also invested in other programs, and they are included in the mix, so the conclusion is not as definitive as one would like. Also, a 33% Return on Investment (ROI) is not really big enough to make the normal venture capitalist go wild, but for a government program, it is quite respectable.

  21. Proteus
    Grenade

    It's the right move

    Sending humans into space is wasteful and pointless. Machines can do a better job for a fraction of the money. The sooner we get past the anachronistic Buck Rogers paradigm of space exploration the better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Buck Rogers wouldn't have got stuck in a sandtrap

      unlike some robotic explorers I could mention

      1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

        Ummm

        Buck rogers would have died following his accident in space, not woken up 200 years later. You appear to be conflating fantasy with reality.

        1. Western Spaceport

          Ummm - Part Deux

          You want to talk reality? How about the UK's Beagle 2? The USA's Mars Observer and Mars Polar Lander? Russia's Mars 1 and Mars 2 and countless other failed unmanned vehicles that presumably made smoking holes somewhere?

          I tired of the "Either/Or" argument of Manned vs. Unmanned; It's "Both/And" since they should compliment each other wherever necessary with the unmanned serving as the pathfinders and the manned (or "crewed" for the PC gallery) to follow up.

          As someone else was famously quoted, “Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft, and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor” and “Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go -- and he'll do plenty well when he gets there.”

  22. SimpleUser
    Thumb Up

    Good decision.

    Spent that money instead for education and decent healthcare (for all). Take a some of it to

    feed some think tanks to develop waterproof, workable strategies to deal with global crisis, there

    will be more than a few hand full of those in the next years.

    Which earth do we want to leave to the next generations, certainly one question deserving decent,

    honest answers - and actions to make sure this continues to be a planet worth living on.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    This deserves every flame it gets.

    The sheer idocy of the statements here is absurd, but should probably be expected from politicians. Especially after the state of the Union address.

    "we certainly don't need to go back to the moon"

    Technically, you don't need to eat either, but there's a good chance you'll die if you don't. Space programs--manned or not--have had huge effects on the world today. Its pretty obvious that there are a lot of people that work in these industries, from the engineers, to the construction personell, to the scientists and astronauts as well as all the people required to make sure those people can do their jobs: managers, janitors, receptionists, etc. As well as all the jobs produced by the less obvious things that they consume. The vast majority of the science and engineering that is produced in these endevours comes back to terrestrial applications as well.

    "NASA can't design space programs to create jobs... that's the view of the president".

    Ok, I doubt that NASA designs space programs to produce jobs. That would be stupid. That's what the US military does. Instead NASA designs space programs for scientiic and engineering reasons. This, in turn, produces jobs.

    And not only jobs, visible science, like manned space programs has been one of the most effective means of getting children into science and engineering classes and professions. Undoubtably, not all of these people eventually go into working on manned space programs, but they can then go into other science and engineering areas and produce new innovations there, because they have the background to do so.

    "sacrificing the ISS and unmanned missions to help fund it was just dumb."

    Certainly, but NASA doesn't have a huge budget to begin with, it would've been much easier to get the money from where the majority of it goes now. In 2009, NASA had a budget of about $17 billion. The US military got over $500 billion which doesn't include the cost of any wars. NASA's budget could be doubled without even affecting the rounding there in the military's budget. The NSF on the other hand got less than $7 billion, so there's obviously some other useful places to put that money too.

    "We should be concentrating on developing cheaper ways to get to orbit by fostering commercial competition, combined with a station large enough to facilitate some real science and the construction of craft to head out into the solar-system."

    That was part of the idea behind the new vehicles, though, like any other new project of this type, it would've taken a long time before it would've been able to show that it was cheaper. And fostering commercial competiton is easy when it only costs a couple million dollars to produce a prototype, but when the prototype will cost billions of dollars, its a lot harder to get any real competition no matter what. So far, only one "company" has been very successful at what its tried, and even that only compares to the first unmanned space missions that NASA did. This isn't the kind of problem that can be solved by holding a million dollar contest or throwing out a couple million dollars in subsidies. There's a reason why there are only a couple of COUNTRIES that are interested in manned space exploration. There just aren't that many places where that much money can come from.

    "The money would be better spent fixing the country."

    There's lots of better uses for the money, but it always ends up being wasted in the same places. Putting money into NASA doesn't pay off too well in the immediate future. At least not if you ignore the fact that NASA spends money, and that money is then used by the suppliers to buy supplies and hire workers... but that part of government spending seems to be conveniently overlooked lately. Putting money into NASA is really not much different than funding basic science. The payoffs tend to be enormous, but can take decades to arrive. So, most politicians don't really want to fund it, since there isn't anything to point at the next day to say that it improved the lives of their countrymen.

    TL;DR: Politicians have no clue about anything.

  24. David 45

    Shame

    That's a crying shame. I know it's loads-a money but exploration and acquisition of knowledge has always been the thrust of mankind and if it costs, so be it. There must be tangible beneficial spin-offs from space exploration, surely?

  25. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Well, robot rovers...

    ...are a lot cheaper than humans.

    Just be sure they are cute.

  26. LaeMing Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Ho hum.

    Plenty of innovative countries in the former developing world gearing up to do what the West has lost the will to. The rewards are undefinable looking forward but I wish them every success in reaping them and hope they will send us in the West some by-then-needed aid (and associated cultural colonialism) since we will need them both by then to drag us into the mid 21st century.

    Posting from Australia - once known for being the world leader in space launch services, now best known for bad-mannered ex-pats and attempts to criminalise possession of small boobs.

    1. Andrew Dowd
      Coat

      @LaeMing -

      At least we will get the benefit of having sold the raw materials for the infrastructure for the Chinese space program.

      "Please sir, can we have a rid ein your shiny rocket?"

      That is assuming of course they don't own it all anyway by then.....

    2. Graham Marsden
      WTF?

      Politicians have no clue about anything.

      And you clearly have no idea how to construct a sensible argument!

      You complain about the "sheer idiocy" of the arguments, but then you go from "we don't need to go back to the moon" to "Technically, you don't need to eat either". Tell me, have you ever heard the expression "Straw Man"?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      I'd like to leave my children with a world

      where we're not scared of exploration just because of cost.

      Where they're far, far away from any possible global warming issues

      Where they've got plenty of power, plenty of food and plenty of clean water.

      The money we'd spend on Space Travel would be best spent on Space Travel. It's insignificant if added to the budgets of the NHS- even a few companies wouldn't find it that much of a boost over the massive incomes they have today.

      And, most importantly, where we don't spend billions on think tanks coming up with waterproof, workable strategies. They won't work except in the most broadly sweeping, general terms- "build more airships to allow rubble removal and supply distribution in places like Haiti"- and broadly sweeping, general plans will again be too expensive for people like you. You'd moan about the expensive Helium content or the flammability of the hydrogen. You'd complain that they're not able to help far away places immediately, but also complain that we've been paying to keep the hard-to-recruit / train crews on standby for a year with no major incidents.

      This will begin to be a planet worth living on only when we have the choice to leave it. If we can't, then our decision to stay here is nothing to do with big-heartedly loving Nature and wanting to have a better planet. It's purely fear that things will be unpleasant for _you_ in the future. The UK is a bit screwed up so I'm working towards emigrating to somewhere that suits me better. I'll still love the UK- its' history, its' obvious and limitless potential, and it's home- but it's not somewhere that I'll choose to live. So the things I do, post-move, to make the UK better will be more meaningful than those stuck in it who don't want to move because of their own fear of the unknown.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Move along! Nothing to see out there.

    Our hidden Lizard Overlords have determined they just don't want us mucking about out there until the new ID scheme has been put in place. No visiting the outer planets & buying Venusian cig's without the proper ID.

  28. ravenviz
    WTF?

    Eastern promise

    Keep an eye on the Chinese.

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke
      Pint

      In America...

      ...if you intentionally endanger the population, you get a very hefty fine. After several years.

      In china, they shoot you. Right Away.

      American Business culture has been maimed by avarice. Once you have maximixed profits by smart, honest, optimazition, the only avenue left is *************ing people.

      The Unites States Constution is on of the most intelligent documents ever written. It took almost 200 years for the rich to take over.

      A beer because it's not as bad after a few 211's.

  29. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So they are ramping up the COTS programm?

    Thumbs up for the continuing effort to shut down the Shuttle programme. It is *long* past time when the 5000+ Standing army" that supports the shuttle (estimated cost per staffer $128k PA) along with the numerous contractor staff (at least of those contractors who are still in business)

    it is time that NASA got out of the launch vehicle design business and started making fuller use of the launch vehicles that exist. Claims that major existing options cannot be man rated (BTW the Shuttle cannon meet those requirements either) and was too weak to lift the NASA capsule design (despite comments by various people that their design was grossly oversized for its payload) could be re-visited as well

    Both SpaecX and Orbital Sciences are on track to deliver live cargo capsules and SpaceX state they could meet a crew rated capsule (they designed their launcher to be man rated from day 1) within 36 months of go ahead.

    With a different perspective perhaps NASA senior management might put more effort into working out how to use those faciliites, rather than trying to shake more funds out of Congress to do it all in house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Different perspective from the point of history

      I am quite amused by John Smith's comment that "NASA should get out of the launch vehicle business." That statement is so simplistic as to be disingenuous.

      NASA has never really built any rockets in its 51 years of existence; NASA hires contractors to do that.

      For example, the Saturn V was built in pieces: the S1C first stage was built by the aerospace division of the Chrysler automotive company (how times have changed!), the S-II second stage by North American Aviation, the S-IVB third stage by McDonnell Douglas, the Lunar Module by Grumman, and the Command/Service modules by North American. Even the famed "Mission Control" in Houston was contracted by Ford Aerospace.

      Getting to low earth orbit is neither routine nor easy. Anybody that has really tried to do it -- past the viewgraph engineering stage -- can attest that getting to LEO is hard; just ask Elon Musk after the first three failures of his Falcon 1 -- or Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites who has blood on its hands after killing three of their own during a "routine" ground test.

      Several statements from "new space" entrepreneurs concerning space flight safety acknowledge that an accident would be devastating for the commercial crew launch business, so they profess that each of them who are attempting to put human spacecraft in orbit (or sub-orbit) is committed to safety.

      However, intentions are not enough. Mortgage lenders claimed that giving loans to people who cannot repay those loans was bad for business and could cause the mortgage company to fail. Surely nobody would do that, right?

  30. Jared Vanderbilt

    I love it.

    Manned space flight passed it's prime before Apollo was scrubbed. We get 10x the science for the same price when we eliminate the Astrotard. There may yet come a day when people serve a purpose in space, until then lets just send the science labs.

  31. Cucumber C Face
    FAIL

    Did Western civilisation peak in the 1960's?

    Why are we less ambitious and indeed truly less capable of pulling off successful big projects than fifty years ago despite the technological advances?

    I suggest the combined advance of risk aversion, managerialism, 'all must have prizes' education systems, and politicians who think no further ahead than a 24 hour news cycle.

  32. Michael Hoffmann
    FAIL

    So, I turned to my wife...

    ... while watching "Avatar" and said "You know what's most unrealistic about this movie? That in 2154 it's actually Americans with interstellar space travel and not an Asian in sight!"

    Yeah, right!

  33. John Latham

    Priorities

    Moon, Mars, meh. Don't care, send robots. Why would anyone want to walk on Mars anyway? The ending of Total Recall put me off that idea.

    Class-M planets, warp drive and transporter beams is where it's at. None of which are going to be sorted out unless we work on more pressing short term problems, like replacing fossil fuels as our primary energy source.

    I really don't think finding 100 slightly different ways to launch a chemical rocket is going to achieve much either.

    1. Western Spaceport

      How ironic. . .

      "Class-M planets, warp drive and transporter beams is where it's at. None of which are going to be sorted out unless we work on more pressing short term problems, like replacing fossil fuels as our primary energy source."

      --Star Trek wishful thinking aside John, isn't it ironic that the very "pressing short term problems, like replacing fossil fuels as our primary energy source" you're crying for could possibly be resolved via the construction of Solar Power Satellites and the mining of Lunar Helium-3 for nuclear fussion powerplants -- both of which will require the use of manned and unmanned presence in space?.

      What? You were expecting to create some new unobtainium energy sources out of thin air by simply ordering it up from a replicator?

  34. Mike Flex

    What NASA needs...

    ... is a Taliban space programme.

  35. Janko Hrasko
    Pint

    very pragmatic

    "Unless there is a clear profit, human race is going nowhere in space."

    A hard lesson that Mr. Zuppero (nuclear steam rocket scientist) had learned is still prettty valid.

    So no surprise there.

    Don't worry though, the third option Augustine commission proposed was going after asteroids and readying some refueling orbital stations for possible commercial haulage.

    If there is any value beyond LEO for us at this stage, it's just asteroids.

    "We are the wrong species for space."

    A. Zuppero

    Let's just have pint...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Counter Insurgent Intelligence Morph .. a NEUKGBNIRobotIQs thing ...

      ...... in AIVirtual Reality Singularity String Theory Project ...... Present Future Production ..... for Media Mogul and CyberIntelAIgent Community Play.

      "What NASA needs...... is a Taliban space programme." ..... Mike Flex Posted Friday 29th January 2010 00:19 GMT

      How very true, Mike Flex.

      And is it revolutionary and helpful to consider, rather than subversive and informative to ponder, the virtual possibility, and therefore, such is the crazy world that we live in, the real probability that the above quoted assertion should have been more accurately written .... "What NASA needs...... is the Taliban space programme"

      And they can be probably also further refined and enhanced/enriched, with further processing to read .."What NASA needs...... is Taliban space programming" ..... with Super Sub Atomic Astute NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Processing of MetaDataBase Protocols, SMARTer Enabling the Extraordinary Rendering of .... What a NSA needs .... is Taliban Space ProgramMING?

      And the Question Mark Only Supplied for the Doubting Thomases out There.

  36. Popofla
    FAIL

    Obama's New Berlin Space Wall - Keeps Americans Lock On Planet

    Lets see the 10,000 people that have any launch experience will be gone forever. No kid is going to study aerospace engineering since there are few job prospects. This is the death of America in space forever! Obama has created a technical Berlin Wall, we are locked in for the next generation. This is the end...

    I am very sad. Now I really know what was meant by "Ich bin ein Berliner".

  37. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Terminator

    Yeah Mr. President...

    "NASA can't design space programs to create jobs... that's the view of the president".

    He would even be on a better trip if he realized that Government can't "create jobs". It can just reassign money taken from either the future or the taxpayer. Which will then be missing in the economy. Which won't create those jobs. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, in fact.

    But apart from that, can I see real HORDES of apartment-sized interplanetary robots and also nuclear-powered spacecraft now?

  38. Mikel
    FAIL

    And so it goes

    The grand adventurer shakes his gaze from far horizons and settles into a rocking chair. We won't go because it's far. We won't go to the moon and Mars and do the other things in this decade or any other because it's hard and we're scared. Let others set sail for the great unknown to learn the wonderous lessons along the way and claim the rest of the universe for their own. We're tired. Tired and old and spent. It's cold out there. You go. We'll wait here and tend to our knitting and when you get back you can spin us a tale of wonders beyond imagining, wealth beyond the dreams of Midas - of petroleum waterfalls and diamond seas. Write if you find life.

  39. Lars Silver badge
    Happy

    Mars does sound nice

    but what the hell would we do there and for what damned reason.

    Sounds a lot like some Robinson Crusoe adventure for children.

    Kennedy had good world political reasons for the space and the moon.

    Things are different to day.

    Scrapping the ISS, is absolutely stupid now when it is almost complete.

    Let China go bankrupt on a voyage to Mars like the Russians did playing the Star War games.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      That's just beautiful- here, have an internet beer.

      "There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song." And we shouldn't stop until we've found them all.

      And thanks to Obama and his guiding economists, America will be the first to none of them. Never again will they raise a generation of pioneers and frontiersmen and, with time, they will fall into insignificance as other countries start returning with the mineral wealth of the new worlds.

      While they sit playing with their Virgin Galactic aircraft and their LEO bottle rockets, I will watch the sunrise from atop the Olympus Mons and shed a single tear for those who took the first small step but are now too scared to explore further.

  40. Robert Hill
    Boffin

    Finally someone has a brain...

    We've done the moon, and we did it in style - FIRST! We've done LEO, and done it with style - SHUTTLE!

    But after that, things get a lot, lot harder. All of this talk of "getting to Mars" is just hyperbole until someone has even the SLIGHTEST, realistic method of preserving the crew from radiation for that long a flight, outside of the Earth's magnetosphere. And to date, no one really has a workable idea, despite nearly a half century of talking about it.

    We need to either REALLY up our game on space propulsion, to reduce the transit time dramatically, or REALLY up our game on very, very heavy lift and assembly in orbit to carry enough shielding - and, oh yeah, get used to massive nuclear power generators in orbit while we do that, because that's what it will take to power a Mars ship.

    None of those are realistic in the short to medium term. NASA is still testing high velocity drives - but they are just small scale unmanned tests, nothing nearly large or powerful enough to drive a manned ship to Mars.

    The Moon program had lots of technical hurdles to overcome - but most of them were met by scaling up existing technologies - or in the case of the flight computers, scaling down. But Mars will probably require whole new technologies, and until those develop we can't even get out of the gates. And ironically, the programs that are testing the new propulsion systems are in NASAs unmanned space flight program - the one that would be cancelled for a Mars program.

    The only real issue becomes what if the Chinese decide they have NO PROBLEM with the safety of Earth-orbiting a fully fuelled 200MW fission reactor to power an ion drive ship to Mars...but the rest of the world does... Think they will listen?

  41. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Terminator

    This was all foretold

    Heed ye the signs and portents

    The coming of SkyNet is nigh.

    1. Janko Hrasko
      Boffin

      correction

      We had the technology for getting to Mars in 1960, it is called NERVA.

      http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/N/NERVA.html

      But what we still don't have is a clear benefit for going there. If there was a profit to be made from going to space, we would have done it long time ago. Without it, it is all FAR TOO EXPENSIVE.

    2. Janko Hrasko
      Boffin

      radiation

      You don't need to worry about radiation either, you only need 3 feet of ordinary dirt/water to protect you from it. You don't even need to create an artificial strong magnetic field.

  42. Charles Manning

    Good!

    Funding space science is just funding a bunch of people who have an interest in something that really has little benefit to anyone else. Like funding train spotters, just more expensive.

    Space "research" is very expensive and really generates very little useful knowledge. There are far more important areas of research here on earth that are far more relevant and have better payoff.

    So Mars has some craters and CO2 and shit... So who really cares? A handful of scientists get a stiffy and work up PhDs but what real benefit is there? It's just infotainment.

    Sure, 1960s space race generated an interest in science but most kids really just wanted the cool factor of dressing up in all mom's tin foil and being an astronaut. Now they all want to be rappers or whatever is cool these days.Tthe space race was really a political race. These are once-off events lose their shine pretty quickly. and, like telling a joke, it only really works once. By Apollo 13 they could not even get TV air-time until things broke and the voyeur effect kicked in.

    Yeah, we got satellites, which are very handy, but launching satellites was achieved in 1950s and is a completely different thing from sending people to ISS or missions to moon or mars.

    Yes, we got some spin-off developments in "space age" materials. But that's not enough. We will get spin-off developments from **any** research effort.

    1. Bilgepipe

      Shortsighted

      It's a very shortsighted view to claim that space exploration does not provide any benefit. The cable hooking this monitor up to the computer is a result of the space race, so is WD40.... the list goes on. Talk down space exploration because of cost all you like, but don't claim it has no benefit. You are simply wrong.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Robots vs Astronauts

    I can't remember ever reading about a robot that donned some nappies, got into her car and drove across the country to stalk another robot.

  44. Tom Cooke

    "To Sail Beyond the Sunset"

    Robert Heinlein must be weeping in his grave... I don't agree with some of Heinlein's presuppositions about *why* humans must go to space (read C S Lewis's Space Trilogy if you want a thoughtful critique) but like Mikel a few posts up, I think that we give up something that's a critical part of our humanity if we don't push outwards. I agree we have to balance the cost of space exploration with economic justice and environmental sustainability on this planet, but it's not either-or, it's a both-and - as Heinlein would say, "Take big bites"!

  45. Filippo

    not as bad as it sounds

    I, for one, think that the decision to focus on research & development of a new heavy lifter, instead of sinking tons of money into redoing the same tech we've used 50 years ago, is a good thing for space exploration in the long term. A non-rocket tech would probably be asking too much, but even if we can "only" get a more efficient and reusable rocket *before* we start thinking about manned missions, it'll be worth the wait. Helping a private space industry develop is also a good thing - again, in the medium/long term.

    I think that the "we're going to the Moon, RIGHT NOW" approach might be good to spark enthusiasm, but it's really big money for no clear benefit at all, not even as pure research/exploration.

  46. jeffrey 1

    shame

    It's a shame, Obama has just un-done the one policy of Bush's that I agreed with.

  47. Graham Bartlett

    Priorities

    However many billion for the ISS which has produced *some* science is a bad thing, yeah? But orders-of-magnitude-more billions for a trip to the Moon is a good thing? Sorry, that doesn't make sense to me.

    I'd rather that space funds went into:-

    (a) Sorting out pollution problems and environmental destruction on Earth. For the purposes of this, I don't care whether climate change does or doesn't exist, but it's undeniable that virgin rainforest is being destroyed, and the atmosphere and ocean are full of shit.

    (b) Ensuring that everywhere around the world has clean drinking water, basic healthcare and education, even (especially) women, so that impoverished farmers don't get pissed off with the West and become terrorists.

    Yeah, space exploration is exciting. So was the Circus Maximus in Roman times. So either we can blow the money on distractions from "compassion fatigue", or we can sort out this planet before we have the nerve to think we should head off somewhere else. If there's excess money floating around then fine, but the US is *still* illegally holding back money for UN aid programmes.

  48. andy gibson

    Lets just sit and wait

    Until Zefram Cochrane is born and develops the warp drive.

  49. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    AC@22:09

    "NASA has never really built any rockets in its 51 years of existence; NASA hires contractors to do that."

    Mostly true, anon. Although IIRC some of the early Saturns were built under direct NASA control at either Marshall or Decator, GA due to some of the complex mfg issues involved.

    However all were built to *very* detailed NASA requirments. I was objecting to NASA's *continuing* tendency to not just set a functional spec but a detailed *implementation* spec, to the point where certain solutions (or contractors) are ground ruled out from day 1. I am hoping that instead of requiring a vehicle be designed and built to their *exact* requirements they use what is available and work from there.

    "Getting to low earth orbit is neither routine nor easy. ...can attest that getting to LEO is hard" "just ask Elon Musk" "Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites who has blood on its hands after killing three of their own during a "routine" ground test.

    I'm not sure what your point is but I'll say this. SpaceX's commitment demonstrated that the devil *is* in the detail *but* that a *wholly* new substantial launch vehicle can be built for less than $250m *including* 3 failed launches, if you're not operating by NASA purchasing and selection rules. If you are you spend c$1.1Bn on a hangar full of parts called the X33. If you hire a bunch of ex NASA staff to keep your VC backers happy you flush about $950m away and get a hangar full of parts called a Kistler K1.

    Is it just me or does there seem to be a common link in these failed, expensive projects?

    The Scaled Composites event was *stunningly* stupid. They call it "Critical temperature" for a reason. A neat demonstration of "Evolution in action." However as a *fully* reusable sub orbital system *any* lessons they learn can be incorporated into the *whole* fleet, as they will be coming back in 1 piece. OTOH unlike SpaceX it is *not* orbital by a *very* wide margin.

    "Several statements from "new space" entrepreneurs concerning space flight safety acknowledge that an accident would be devastating for the commercial crew launch business, so they profess that each of them who are attempting to put human spacecraft in orbit (or sub-orbit) is committed to safety."

    Same goes for existing players. Specifically Lockheed's work on the Atlas V for the Bigalow space hotel.

    Note that *none* of the original US manned launchers were designed to be "man rated" at all. Atlas and Titan were designs were carefully reviewed to locate problems (I think Redstone was as well) and *limited* modifications made, along with tighter QC during construction.

    So what *is* your point? Building a launch vehicle safe enough to carry people is difficult? If there fare paying "spaceflight participants" it's even more so? Only people with *no* awareness of launch vehicle history and design think that.

    However the knowledge base is a lot bigger today. Russia launches crewed vehicles on a regular basis, China has done so and India wants to. Japan and France probably could on their own but don't feel the need. Europe through ESA has under the ARD project.

    IMHO NASA's (and it's competitors) biggest achievement was in creating a supply chain. There are specs for "space rated" *stuff* you can look up and buy, rather than building (and testing) that have a track record of working in the environment. A truly "free trade" in launch services would probably be the best way to lower launch costs on a global scale. The US ITAR regs (or the closet thing to a protection racket some have ever seen) has done much to nurture local launch vehicle component development.

  50. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    @Destroy All Monsters

    ""NASA can't design space programs to create jobs... that's the view of the president"."

    I think you'll find that that is pretty much what NASA did in the shuttle design process. Why it did that (and how *aware* it was that it was doing so) are other questions. The OMB's ludicrious funding profile rules (out of whack with pretty much *all* historical data on the spending profile of this kind of project) did not help either.

    You might like to look into the history of the J2-s programme (the original one. Not the renamed Delta engine with an old turbopump design slapped on it) and the SSME combustion cycle choice (hint. "Keeping the winning team together")

  51. mhenriday

    Vision for space exploration ?

    Was there anybody who really believed that George Walker Bush's so-called «vision for space exploration» was anything more than bluster by a man with a pathological need to come across as a mover and shaker ?...

    Henri

  52. Tony Paulazzo

    # 456345211

    >I'd rather that space funds went into:-<

    I agree with you, and I'm a scifi, science loving nerd. But it won't, just into the pockets of bankers and politicians and other corrupt humans... 'Who desire power above all things'.

  53. The elephant in the room

    My guess at the next 20 years in space:

    So for understandable if near-sighted reasons the US soon cancels manned space programs.

    In 10-15 years time the Chinese will make their moon-shot. This will be a cause of great national trauma for the USA, just as Sputnik & Yuri Gagarin were - and the president's knee-jerk reaction will be to rashly announce the intention before the decade is out, to send a man to Mars and return him safely back to Earth; and just like last time will not bother to ask NASA beforehand whether they can do it (they would of course say no).

    The positive Mars Mission scenario: And like last time, yes they can do it, now with the even vaster expense necessitating partnering with Japan (also alarmed by China's show of capability) and a share issue in the mission that raises billions out of US patriotism, international venture capital and heat-felt Mars enthusiasm, thus avoiding an impossible tax bill, and making the investors a lot of money through the IP & media revenue.

    or alternatively the negative Mars Mission scenario: instead of the above, two years into the entirely US taxpayer-funded project that is running behind time and over budget, New Orleans and 1/4 of the inhabited coastline of the Gulf of Mexico is destroyed by hurricane Katrina II, as the media call it. A million homeless people march on Washington demanding the mission is scrapped to pay for aid & reconstruction, and after a week of rioting they get their way. Meanwhile 4 Taikonauts return to Earth after a month-long stay on the moon.

    The EU & Russia will effectively take over the operation of the ISS, it being a nice high-profile mission, but, compared to going to the moon or Mars, not actually that expensive or difficult to do now it's up there. They will also launch scientifically important and economically implemented but mass-media unsexy satellites & probes.

    China and India will dominate the commercial satellite launch market.

    The private space ventures will concentrate on sub-orbital tourism, with higher margins in this than launching satellites. But this will turn out to be a fad and the market will virtually collapse after a rocket full of "high-net-worth individuals" explodes.

    And new instruments will detect a handful of genuinely Earth-like exoplanets; which will be an obvious target to point new SETI apparatus at...

  54. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    @The Elephant In The Room

    "So for understandable if near-sighted reasons the US soon cancels manned space programs."

    Dramatic but inaccurate. NASA has not cancelled its astronaut programme. it is running down the STS (which it never fully developed) and will focus on Aries V. If it wants to retain a US crewed launch capapbility *prior* to Aries V being "man rated " (WTF that means is another question) it has 2 choices.

    1) Fund the 2 teams on the COTS programme to give option 5 (human, as opposed to just lab animal grade) transport to ISS. Space Exploration estimate 36 months maximum from contract start, of which 6 months is a float for unexpected problems. Not sure about Orbital Sciences. The Orlando Sentinel report suggests they are going to do just that.

    2) Re-visit the view that *no* version of either of the EELV vehicles (Atlat V and Delta IV) is reliable enough to be "man rated "

    Otherwise it's A.N.Others LV. BTW Ariane 5 *is* "man rated" (at least by the European definition, whatever that is) as it was designed to carry the Hermes space plane (AKA Dynasoar revisited) before it went down the pan.

    You may feel this is NASA's darkest hour. Perhaps it will turn out to be the agency's finest instead.

    you can gues what DVD Iv've got in my pocket.

  55. tjake13

    It's about time

    That someone stops the spending on space travel. Who wants to go to Mars and set up camp? Who wants a space station on the moon; for what purpose? Are we trying to colonize because we are ruining our planet? Spend the money on cleaning up, and developing non-polluting items.

    Why do we need a super-duper collider? TOYS!

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