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Ares 1-X launch; October 28, 2009  (Source: NASA)
Obama's 2011 budget proposal is expected to face stiff opposition

America's space program is at a crossroads. This year, the Space Shuttle fleet is expected to be retired after nearly 30 years of ferrying astronauts and equipment into space. In addition, there have been calls to have its immediate successor -- the Ares I launch vehicle which would be topped with an Orion crew capsule -- shelved altogether.

A 155-page report issued in November 2009 by the Augustine Panel made a number of recommendations on which direction to steer NASA in the future. The recommendations included 1) hitching rides into space using spacecraft from other nations or private contractors, 2) keeping the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs alive, albeit in more limited roles, and 3) shifting the focus from returning to the moon and instead aiming for Mars.

The Augustine Panel also made it clear that the estimated $145 billion cost to return to the moon by 2020 would not be possible given NASA's $18.7 billion yearly allowance for all operations.

According to a new report by Space News, it appears that the Ares 1 launch vehicle and the Orion crew capsule may be put on the chopping block. President Obama is not expected to give NASA the $1 billion increase in its yearly budget that had been hoped for to help further develop the Ares program.

President Obama's 2011 budget for NASA aligns closely with the recommendations of the Augustine Panel. The budget calls for the the use of commercial spacecraft and rockets to carry astronauts into space instead of relying on the behind schedule, cost-overrun Ares program. Another Augustine Panel carryover is the decision to bypass the moon and instead gun for near-Earth asteroids and onward to Mars.

The Wall Street Journal says that the efforts to initialize the private sector -- including startup firms -- for carrying astronauts into space will be a "multi-year, multi-billion-dollar initiative". Private firms are expected to receive roughly $200 million during the first phase of the program. The total amount doled out within the first five years could balloon to more than $3.5 billion according to sources familiar with the details of the budget. The funds for the private ventures would be pulled from NASA's yearly $18.7 billion budget.

Industry stalwarts like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are expected to benefit from this new initiative, but smaller firms like Space Exploration Technologies would also be vying for NASA dollars.

Not surprisingly, there is opposition to the there mere mention of NASA outsourcing crew vehicles to the private sector. Charles Precourt, a senior exec at Alliant Tech Systems remarked that such proposals are "really radical" and that they are "extremely high risk". In addition, Precourt said that whatever option is selected for the future direction of NASA must be accompanied by a subsequent increase in its budget.



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Here's what I make of it
By TMV192 on 1/25/2010 1:13:30 AM , Rating: 2
To be honest, NASA has been slow for the past few decades, sure it still does some great things, but consider it's budget vs other agencies and what it was capable of doing pre-Shuttle, it leave a bit to be questioned

Lots of ideas and proposals get started one day and thrown out the next, the Ares series being just another one of them. I can't imagine how much of their budget this consumes.

All that said, this radical change in NASA's operations can make or break them, since we realistically can't hope for anyone to get them the money they need to work on their own anymore, at least not until China catches up, then it will be on every politician's agenda




RE: Here's what I make of it
By AstroGuardian on 1/25/2010 3:56:36 AM , Rating: 1
Just compare space vs military industry. Which one is more successful? The first one has budget of only 18B and the second one has more that 550B. And yet, the space industry has done much MUCH!!! more than the military.
I recommend US to mind our own business and focus on technology and well being for all of the humanity. Not sticking it's nose in every war hole in the world


RE: Here's what I make of it
By theapparition on 1/25/2010 11:07:29 AM , Rating: 4
Considering that virtually every single astronaut has been trained in the military tends to contradict your assesment.

Also depends on what your criterea of "more" is. The military never sent a man to the moon, but NASA didn't stop 100's of nuclear warheads being parked 100 miles from the tip of Florida.

They serve complimentary roles, not competitive, so stop trying to stir the pot.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By PrinceGaz on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: Here's what I make of it
By ClownPuncher on 1/25/2010 12:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
Military advancements for civilian life often come in the medical field, many innovations have come from the military for treating wounds and other illnesses.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/25/2010 12:58:32 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
By PrinceGaz on 1/25/2010 11:29:30 AM , Rating: 1

I'm pretty sure that NASA and space-research has contributed a lot more to most ordinary people than military-research has


I mean this in the nicest of ways but that's about the most ignorant statement I've seen in awhile. You should maybe research the facts before making such in uninformed statement. Aside from the obvious transfers of weapons and armor related equipment being developed by the military that is now in use by your local police forces and such there are numerous things you have an use now that was made possible by the military.

Do you like using the Internet? You can thank the military for that.

Do you like using GPS equipment? You can thank the military for that.

Those are just 2 right off the top of my head. You can thank the military for alot of technology and conveniences you have today. There are just too many things to list.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By WW102 on 1/25/10, Rating: 0
RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/26/2010 2:03:55 AM , Rating: 1
No and No. As much as Al would like to take credit for what Darpa did he most definitely did not invent the Internet.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By WW102 on 1/26/2010 9:38:19 AM , Rating: 2
It was a joke dumbass.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By Spookster on 1/31/2010 2:15:06 AM , Rating: 2
Your lack of intelligence shows when you have to resort to name calling.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By maven81 on 1/25/2010 1:38:58 PM , Rating: 1
"virtually every single astronaut has been trained in the military"

That's true for a lot of shuttle pilots, but otherwise is a big exaggeration.

"The military never sent a man to the moon, but NASA didn't stop 100's of nuclear warheads being parked 100 miles from the tip of Florida."

Say what? It was a diplomatic solution that ended that crisis. We're damn lucky that the generals on both sides were ignored by the politicians as their advice was rather hawkish to say the least.

Frankly though this whole comparison is not entirely fair. It would be better to ask whether the civilian space program has accomplished more then the military's space program. In other words how much did we benefit from the multi billion dollar spy satellites, communications satellites, early warning satellites etc. Since a lot of that work is classified we may never know the answer to that. All we do know is that the military's program is just as "good" at going over budget and behind schedule.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By Solandri on 1/25/2010 1:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The military never sent a man to the moon,

Just before the Soviets put Sputnik into orbit, the USAF (in conjunction with NASA and the Navy) was working on getting into space with lifting bodies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_X-15

While we're getting into speculation here, it's been argued that Sputnik and the space race actually did more harm than good. Rockets are an incredibly inefficient way to put stuff into orbit. NASA resorted to it as the quick and dirty (and expensive) way to get stuff into orbit. It's been speculated that had the space race never occurred and the USAF/NASA continued their research along lifting bodies, we would already have sub-orbital hypersonic transports between NY and Tokyo by now.

From a practical standpoint, that would be a lot more useful than planting some flags on the moon and bringing back a few hundred pounds of rocks.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By maven81 on 1/25/2010 3:06:19 PM , Rating: 2
You didn't think this one through at all.

The X-15 is not a lifting body, it's a rocket with wings. It also flew after Sputnik. The airforce did have their own human spaceflight program but did not get very far. And NASA has done a wealth of research on lifting bodies.
You might actually say it was airforce interference in the shuttle project that negatively effected it, as there was a time when the the hope was it was supposed to launch every military payload, no doubt adding all sorts of design requirements that were necessary to the military but not to anyone else.
Ironically it's the airforce itself that's taking the best ideas out of that program and resurrecting the old lifting body research, and pushing their unmanned shuttle, the X-37.

"it's been argued that Sputnik and the space race actually did more harm than good."

It's also been argued successfully I think, that without Sputnik we would not have the internet. (It was Sputnik that caused the creation of DARPA, which was basically given a lot of money to work on any project that would push US technology forward. This work even extends to computer graphics in fact).

"NASA resorted to it as the quick and dirty (and expensive) way to get stuff into orbit."

You mean the only way to get to orbit with existing technology.

"It's been speculated that had the space race never occurred and the USAF/NASA continued their research along lifting bodies"

If the space race never occurred, there would be no NASA!!!!


RE: Here's what I make of it
By CHAOQIANG on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: Here's what I make of it
By Reclaimer77 on 1/25/2010 5:31:22 PM , Rating: 2
Here's what I make of it. Obama, who hasn't run so much as a lemonade stand in his lifetime, knows how to run NASA better than NASA. Can build cars better than GM and it's engineers. And a man who couldn't figure out how to use a bandaid if his life depended on it is also a health-care expert.


RE: Here's what I make of it
By maven81 on 1/25/2010 6:44:57 PM , Rating: 2
Ah yes, you can always be counted to drag politics into everything.

Let's stay on topic shall we? Whether you like what he thinks or not, it's the president's JOB to give NASA it's agenda. It's a government agency! Hello!
The president tells them what to do, and the NASA administrator's job is to get that done. Period.


I hate this administration
By Randomblame on 1/25/2010 3:57:32 AM , Rating: 2
Obama lobbied to get the "stimulus" bill passed which cost 787 Billion dollars and accomplished nothing. Nasa needed 150 billion to go to the moon. How much for mars 250, 350 billion? That money could have been better spent on nasa! Imagine what 787 billion dollars could have done for our space program! Lets compare the effects of the stimulus bill to giving it to nasa:

Job Creation -
Nasa: Imagine all of the high skill, high pay jobs that would have went to americans if nasa had recieved the cash.

Stimulus Bill: I have not seen evidence of a single permanent job created by the bill however a lot of companies got money for the automation of factories which cost thousands of jobs

Education:
Nasa - Children are constantly inspired by seeing men and women in space, hearing stories about the moon landings. Every little boy wants to be an astronaut and every parent takes advantage of that to get them to do their homework.

Stimulus Bill: Well they included more money for food stamps for some states, I guess that means more kids are eating free lunches. Plus they get the valuable life lesson from their parents that if they don't work they can still eat.

Science-
Nasa: The amount of technologies that would have been developed for long range space flight would have been astounding. Every field of science from botany to chemistry, metallurgy to geology would have benefited.

Stimulus bill: Several hundred million was invested to help find a way to make pig manure smell better, pretty sure no actual research was done.

Is that enough? It's like handing your stock portfolio over to an 8 year old and letting them take charge of it. The worst part of the classic liberal over spending problem is that they never spend it on anything worth a damn. They just flush it down the toilet.




RE: I hate this administration
By Sokal on 1/25/2010 5:14:37 AM , Rating: 3
Excuse me, but if I remember correctly, Mac Cain was also pushing for the very same stimulus plan before the elections... So did Bush, and... Every politician, really. So if Obama is so wrong, they were all wrong.

I am not saying the stimulus plan is good, but you have to admit you're blaming Obama for something he did'nt decide by himself. They were all in on it, republicans included.

Further more, if Obama had done the exact opposite, and given Nasa tons of cash, I am pretty certain you would have been yelling against it too.

You hate Obama. We get the point. If he gave you a brand new house on the beach you would probably tell him you hate the view.

But it does'nt really say anything about the article we are talking about: will the private sector help space exploration get on track, or will it go nowhere?

That is the real question.

For my part, I'd rather ask Sigourney Weaver what she thinks than to read the rantings... Is she unfrozen yet? How is her stomac doing this time? :-)


RE: I hate this administration
By amanojaku on 1/25/2010 9:31:24 AM , Rating: 2
A potential reason for investing in private firms instead of using government agencies is money. Few government agencies make money, and NASA is no exception. The government cannot afford to operate at a loss these days, and in general, so privatizing certain operations makes sense. A private company can offer services to both the government and the public with the potential for profit. And as an investor the government would get paid back if the company does well. Otherwise it's lost money just like what goes into NASA. Just a theory, anyway.


RE: I hate this administration
By AssBall on 1/25/2010 11:31:37 AM , Rating: 2
We could easily afford to operate NASA if we stopped wasting money on administration, finances, and social programs. 19 billion a year??? That is nothing, as the original poster pointed out. If we can spend ONE HUNDRED times that on useless new policies, I don't see how something that is actually beneficial has to suffer.

I may not agree specifically with how NASA manages their budget, but I'd sure be alot happier giving my money to them than the GM Union,Fanny Mac, Bureaucrats, and the like.


RE: I hate this administration
By mmatis on 1/25/2010 11:34:51 AM , Rating: 1
The government has repeatedly shown it has no concern about operating at a loss. Just look at HUD. Or any other fine government welfare deal. Osama is about to suck on a bunch of PowerPoint slides that haven't even taking paying passengers suborbital yet. Just shoveling money down a rat hole to buy some campaign donations. This will not end well. But then, that's probably what the Head Nanny What's In Charge is looking for.


RE: I hate this administration
By Solandri on 1/25/2010 1:47:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I am not saying the stimulus plan is good, but you have to admit you're blaming Obama for something he did'nt decide by himself. They were all in on it, republicans included.

Personally I believe a stimulus plan was needed. But you are wrong here. Republicans generally tend to be against stimulus-type plans. Only 3 Republican Senators and no Representatives voted for the current stimulus plan. Even the stimulus plans which passed under Bush were opposed by a majority of Republicans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_Stimulus_Act...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_Economic_St...

Like I said, I think the majority of Republicans were wrong on this. But if you think the stimulus isn't working, don't blame the Republicans for passing it.

quote:
Further more, if Obama had done the exact opposite, and given Nasa tons of cash, I am pretty certain you would have been yelling against it too.

Well, generally that's true of everyone and everything. Everyone feels there's a certain right amount of funding for everything. Don't give it enough money and they yell at you. Give it too much money and they yell at you. The trick is to arrive at an amount of funding which generates the least amount of yelling.

quote:
You hate Obama. We get the point. If he gave you a brand new house on the beach you would probably tell him you hate the view.

I don't hate Obama. But if he gave me a brand new beach house, I would hate him because that's a profligate waste of money since I neither deserve one nor would I be able to use one to generate a return on the government's investment for it to make financial sense for them to give me that much taxpayer money. Actually, now that I say that, that's probably why some people seem to hate Obama for the stimulus. They think it was full of profligate wastes of money.

quote:
But it does'nt really say anything about the article we are talking about: will the private sector help space exploration get on track, or will it go nowhere?

I would say no, it will go nowhere. The private sector will develop launch vehicles to put satellites into orbit because it's a tried and true business model with predictable incomes and historically measurable risks. Exploration on the other hand is by its very definition a journey into the unknown which yields unknown returns. Business has a very difficult time making heads or tails of unknowns (it's why the amount of money invested in R&D varies wildly by company). Historically, it's traditionally been governments which spurred on and funded exploration.


RE: I hate this administration
By Reclaimer77 on 1/25/2010 5:35:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Excuse me, but if I remember correctly, Mac Cain was also pushing for the very same stimulus plan before the elections... So did Bush, and... Every politician, really. So if Obama is so wrong, they were all wrong.


That's a lie. The TARP was NOT the stimulus bill.

quote:
They were all in on it, republicans included.


That's a lie. And you can't blame Republicans when, pay attention, the Republicans do NOT have enough votes to stop any of this.


NASA needs to show some progress
By taber on 1/25/2010 1:37:19 AM , Rating: 2
Seems to me this report is mostly just recommending doing the safe things that has gotten NASA nowhere recently. My takes on their 3 points:

1) Hitching rides should just be a bridge to developing a shuttle replacement and helping with capacity. I'm all for cheap private industry, but let's wait to pay for that until they can provide what NASA does for cheaper. There's no guarantee the private sector will be more like McDonalds than Blackwater.

2) The shuttle lifecycle is at the end, hopefully they can come up with something safer and more efficient 30 years later. The ISS doesn't need to be government funded forever, let the private industry take some costs if we have to. This chart shows why the shuttle and ISS need to go away if NASA wants to accomplish tasks that excite the public more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NASA_budgetFY05....

3) Go to the moon first. It's a good stepping stone for technologies and will happen much faster than Mars anyway.

I admit my points are aimed more at engaging public interests than achieving scientific accomplishments, but my idea is the more NASA interests the public, the more money they get and the more science they can pursue. I'm also expecting retiring the Shuttle and coming up with a replacement will produce something more efficient.




RE: NASA needs to show some progress
By nafhan on 1/25/2010 10:52:11 AM , Rating: 2
Mostly agree with you.
On 1: if the private sector can provide transportation it will almost certainly be cheaper. Also, I think improving the space abilities of the private sector is a good long term investment as they are more likely to discover other uses for the technology.
On 3: I'm worried that skipping the moon and going to Mars directly is the first step in canceling the whole program one piece at a time. I.e. it's less about going directly to Mars and more about getting rid of short term goals.


bloated
By knowom on 1/25/2010 1:28:40 PM , Rating: 2
Spending some of the NASA budget on the private sector is a great idea it'll force NASA to prioritize better and become competitive again like it originally was when NASA was ambiguous and willing to take risks in the spirit of competition and for the greater good of civilization.

This is just the kind of nudge NASA needs similar to how Intel needed one from AMD to become competitive again after the Prescott fiasco.




RE: bloated
By JediJeb on 1/26/2010 10:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
I am in favor of getting private industry into space big time. I think those that worked trying to win the Xprize have done some great work with what little they have invested compared to government run organizations. If you think about it airplanes got started by private citizens before the government got involved, so did automobiles and many other things that have really changed the way we do things. Virgin Galactic may only be looking at suborbital flights in the short term, but when they have people saying that isn't good enough and are willing to pay more for orbital rides, they will find a way to do it, because it will mean money for them. If NASA gives them money to take supplies to the ISS, then they will figure out how to do it if it will be profitable. Im sure Russia is not sending our stuff up there out of the good graces of their hearts, they just have a big headstart on the tech to do it so it.

Just like shipping, space will only boom when it is profitable. When the Americas were discovered there were small military expeditions here at first, but once it became profitable to ship resources from here back to Europe, the seas became filled with ships from private companies. The same will happen in space eventually, but there will need to be the spark to set it off, and unfortunately that will probably have to come from a government sponsored program like the early expeditions to the new world.


Deep Sadness
By GruntboyX on 1/25/2010 8:46:50 AM , Rating: 1
It truly saddens me that the Obama Administration would gut the measly funds from NASA in order to pay for humongous social programs. The Administration should be ashamed to retire the shuttle fleet without allowing the successor to be named or developed. Obama's administration has destroyed NASA and the irony is that Kennedy did so much for space.

Sure NASA has made missteps, but developing Rockets are large and time intensive projects that span multiple Political administrations. Every administration can keep coming in and throwing the wheel of the ship a different direction.




RE: Deep Sadness
By ceauke on 1/25/2010 11:21:45 AM , Rating: 2
Hi

I agree that it's sad to see hardware go while being unsure about the replacement, but you have to admit that if you have budget overruns both financially and timewise that you can't really complain of not having had an opportunity.

So yes. There's money wasted by new administrations cutting programs but there's also A LOT wasted on delays and budget overruns.


interesting...
By roostitup on 1/25/2010 1:37:24 AM , Rating: 2
On one hand some people don't like NASA because it's government run, but on the other hand some people don't like it being corporate run because of greed. This will play out in very interesting ways...




outsourcing?
By Jeffk464 on 1/25/2010 11:59:20 AM , Rating: 2
Hasn't Nasa always pretty much outsourced to the usual suspects like lockhead and boeing? Why is it only considered outsourcing when the companies are upstarts?




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