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NASA will rely on contractors to help pick up additional tasks as the U.S. space agency deals with money issues

Facing growing financial issues that may eliminate future missions to the moon and Mars, NASA may be prepared to let private contractors have a larger role in its future space endeavors.

President Barack Obama hasn't made any official decisions regarding the future of NASA, but several unnamed government officials and other space experts claim the private sector will be responsible for a larger amount of NASA-backed missions.

Currently, each shuttle launch is government-led, including the use of the current space shuttle fleet, but cost restraints may end up crippling anticipated missions.  During the previous administration, former President George W. Bush outlined a plan for NASA to return to the moon, but Obama's blueprint involves $30 billion to $50 billion less than what was expected over the next decade.

Outsourcing work to the private sector would allow the federal government to save the $30 billion to $50 billion, with contractors expected to help develop rocket-propulsion technology and plan manned launches to Mars.

As space nations outline plans to return to the moon by 2025, NASA is unlikely to launch a manned mission to the moon by 2020, as necessary funding will simply be unavailable.  The U.S. space agency is currently unable to finance any manned launches anywhere past the International Space Station (ISS) at the moment, according to former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, who said NASA "just can't get there," regarding the moon.

Once the current space shuttle fleet is retired -- which is expected to take place in 2010 -- private contractors will help NASA get back to the ISS, along with the Russian space agency.

If NASA continued with its current budget, a return back to the moon wouldn't be possible until 2028, if not later.

Obama recently put together the Human Space Flight Committee of space experts and politicians to study how feasible it would be to launch towards the moon or Mars, but "at the end of the day, the President will make the decision, not a committee."

Until a final decision is made, the future of the U.S. space agency remains extremely confusing for the public, politicians, and contractors who may be called upon to help NASA with future space missions.



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The commercialization of space exploration..
By wingless on 8/23/2009 6:40:38 PM , Rating: 1
I hope this move will lead to the privatization and commercialization of space exploration. Profit is a powerful motivator for the masses (science and the progress of mankind is apparently not)so hopefully companies will find ways to make money in space. Exploration and progress will be sped up as a result of this if all goes well(fingers crossed).




By joos2000 on 8/23/2009 8:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
Profit at the expensive of humanity is evil, yes.


RE: The commercialization of space exploration..
By MatthiasF on 8/24/2009 12:05:16 AM , Rating: 2
Where's the profit in space exploration?

A question that needs to be answered before the Government steps away from the en-devour.


By TMV192 on 8/24/2009 12:43:19 AM , Rating: 2
Well in terms of commercializing, really the profit will first be to compete for jobs requested by government agencies, then things like satellite launchers (not exploration but the R&D goes in the same direction), then tourism, LEO first but then to the moon and mars, etc. Of course once it becomes profitable to do so, there's always space mining, and things like heavy hydrogen on the moon for fusion power


RE: The commercialization of space exploration..
By Amiga500 on 8/24/2009 3:20:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Where's the profit in space exploration?


Bringing back Helium 3 from the moon.


RE: The commercialization of space exploration..
By randomly on 8/24/2009 10:32:24 AM , Rating: 3
Mining Helium 3 on the moon for Fusion fuel is unfortunately a bogus argument. Helium 3 is advocated as a fusion fuel because when fused with Deuterium or itself it does not produce any neutrons that will need to be shielded against and make the materials they impact with radioactive. The reaction products are also all charged particles which can be directly converted to electrical energy instead of using a steam cycle powered by the heat.

However side reactions will still produce some neutrons. The much higher temperatures needed to get He3 to fuse are problematic and may not be achievable. Also the amount of He3 required is substantial and it may take more energy to mine it than it would produce in power plants.
The proton- Boron11 aneutronic reaction gets a lot more attention as the fuels are readily available, it's even more neutron free from side reactions, and the reaction products are 3 He nuclei with all about the same energy making direct conversion easier to implement.

Regardless we still don't even have a working D-T fusion reactor yet, there is no certainty that a He3 reactor is even feasible.


By SpaceJumper on 8/24/2009 11:06:54 AM , Rating: 2
By randomly on 8/24/2009 12:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
I want as much as the next space enthusiast to find a good reason to go to the moon, but this He3 mining on the moon is just grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to find some economic justification for lunar exploration.

Almost nobody in the fusion community is doing any research on He3-He3 fusion. All the aneutronic fusion research is focused on the p-11B reaction. It's even more neutron free than He3 and the fuel is cheap and readily available.

Tokamak reactors like ITER can't use He3 or any aneutronic fuels for that matter, the losses are too high and you can't make it work with any reactor with a thermalized plasma. The only types of fusion reactors that might be able to use those fuels are ones with anisotropic plasmas like the polywell, dense plasma focus, Field reversed configuration, colliding beam and other such variants. There is no assurance that any of these approaches can be made to work in an economically viable fashion.

If somebody can get a fusion reactor to run on p-B11 there is no reason to bother with He3.


RE: The commercialization of space exploration..
By ipay on 8/24/2009 6:20:59 AM , Rating: 2
There's no profit in space exploration per se.

However, there are massive profits to be made from space mining. If you refer to:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/asteroid-mining1....

you'll see that NASA itself has estimated that the total wealth in our solar system's asteroids is approximately $100 billion for every one of the 6+ billion people on Earth - in other words, six hundred billion billion dollars in total.

If we ignore the purely monetary side and instead look at colonisation - it has been estimated that the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter could support a total human population of 7,500 trillion people.


By HotFoot on 8/24/2009 8:17:28 AM , Rating: 1
Time to mak-eh the babies.


By Yeco on 8/24/2009 8:55:20 AM , Rating: 2
That may all be true but with our current state of technology it would cost more to go and get it, then the price you can sell it. Even for Helium-3, a proces we don't controle yet!


By marvdmartian on 8/24/2009 9:46:30 AM , Rating: 2
Here's an idea. Why not add another solar panel onto the ISS, along with a humungous LED panel that would be the ultimate jumbo-tron? Then sell advertisement time to big corporations, who will pay to have thier company name in huge letters crossing the night time sky! Sort of like the Goodyear blimps do, only a factor of 100x larger!!!

Just think, you could take your kids out at night, and show them the feminine hygeine product or prophylactic commercials from space!!!!!


the day will come
By mforce on 8/23/2009 4:36:00 PM , Rating: 4
when we'll see Made in China on the space shuttle. Oh well, everything else is anyway ....




RE: the day will come
By mmntech on 8/23/2009 5:22:11 PM , Rating: 5
[in a broad Indian accent] Yes, hello, my name is Steve. Thank you for calling NASA tech support. How can I help you with your space shuttle today? Canadarm is stuck? Ok, press control-alt-delete....


RE: the day will come
By quiksilvr on 8/23/09, Rating: 0
RE: the day will come
By Breathless on 8/24/09, Rating: 0
RE: the day will come
By FITCamaro on 8/23/09, Rating: 0
RE: the day will come
By Ralos on 8/23/2009 11:58:37 PM , Rating: 5
Hey FIT, why don't you go register to a political website and post your comments there?

Seems to me that more than half of your comments are about government (democrats) bashing, the other half about those stupid environmentalists.

Anybody who's been here for more than a couple of months know your point of view. Tell us something new or useful.


RE: the day will come
By TSS on 8/24/09, Rating: -1
RE: the day will come
By Titanius on 8/24/2009 8:21:02 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah I agree with Ralos; FIT, stop stating the obvious.


RE: the day will come
By randomly on 8/24/2009 9:54:09 AM , Rating: 2
Obama may still maintain NASA funding and keep his promise. The problem is the current Ares I/V program requires large funding increases to make it executable.

Actually it was Bush that messed this up. It was Bush's Vision for Space Exploration that required large budget increases and cancellation of the shuttle and deorbiting the ISS in 2015 to pay for the very expensive Ares I/V program. Development of the Ares I and the enormous Ares V and their support infrastructures is so expensive there would be no money left to do any missions with them. After tasking NASA with an unsustainable goal not only were there no budget increases to cover the program but funding cuts were started under Bush.

The budget increases are just not going to come out of congress under the current economy, or even a better economy. The current NASA program is not even close to executable with the current level of funding, and there will be something like an $80 Billion shortfall by 2020.

Obama at least put the Augustine commission together and they will hopefully come up with some more efficient and sustainable space programs that can be accomplished within the current budget. Cancellation of Ares I is almost a certainty. Hopefully also the Ares V will be canceled and replaced with a smaller Shuttle Derived Launch vehicle that is much more economical to develop and fly. Preferably an inline design that has a much larger payload volume and fairing size, and the safety and lift capacity advantages over the NASA proposed NSC.

At any rate it was Bush that drove NASA toward the edge of the cliff with an unsustainable program, Obama is just trying to keep it from going over the edge.


RE: the day will come
By stromgald30 on 8/24/2009 1:48:26 PM , Rating: 2
So . . . you think the Ares/Constellation concept is too expensive?!?! Maybe you should check the numbers and get your spin from somewhere other than Obama's a##. I'm not going to bash him or the Democrats controlling Congress, but despite what you've convince yourself of, Obama's no saint or savior.

The Ares program was just about the most economical choice, and certainly less expensive than any 'shuttle' concept. A shuttle allows for technical capability and flexibility, but is also much, much more complex and costly.

As far as the ISS is concerned . . . it is going to reach the end of it's planned service life. Bush didn't extend it because his committees recommended scrapping the station since the ISS has been flawed ever since that compromise of orbit inclination to appease the Russians.

The facts are that Obama is pinching NASA's already meager funding to help his plethora of other programs. Bush's plan was to overhaul the shuttle fleet, which is a daunting and costly task in of itself, and it was squeezed into NASA's tight budget at the expense of many other projects. There simply aren't any other possible designs that would be cheaper without significantly reducing capability.


RE: the day will come
By randomly on 8/24/2009 10:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
You're agenda seems to be just anti-obama rhetoric from a position of ignorance with no actual basis for your statements. Not even one of your statements is correct.

Let me start by saying that I do not believe Obama is a saint or savior of NASA. It remains to be seen if he will be more or less supportive than Bush. He has made no
decisions on a monetary basis at all yet, but he did put together the Augustine commission to review the Human Space Flight program which was desperately needed. The problems facing NASA are there regardless of who is currently president.

I get none of my information from any political party but from the people insider NASA, contractors, and people in the aerospace industry. If you actually wanted to learn something about the situation you might want to look into the Augustine commission hearings. Videos here
http://vimeo.com/user1955131/videos/sort:date

'The facts are that Obama is pinching NASA's already meager funding to help his plethora of other programs.'

This statement is just blatantly false since no decision on whether to increase or decrease NASA's future budget has even been made or announced and the administration is still involved in fact finding and analysis. Is it wishful thinking on your part or are you just parroting what you've heard elsewhere?

The Ares program is not even close to the most economical choice, it was driven more by a CYA attitude about launch risks driven by public reaction to the Columbia and Challenger losses and probably also an appeal to ego in that Ares V would be by far the largest rocket ever built by man.
The reasoning went something like this. Probabilistic Risk Assessment tells you that the simplest vehicle should be the safest (all other things being equal). This leads to the Ares I concept of using a single SRB first stage and a second stage with a single engine (originally it was an SSME - space shuttle main engine) to launch only the crew capsule and nothing else since you're limited to about 25mt lift capacity to LEO with such a launcher. Everything else including the Altair lander and the Earth Departure Stage would then be launched by an Ares V. This however requires a very large launcher with enormous lift capacity in the 180mt range.
Originally there was supposed to be some commonality between the rockets and the legacy shuttle launch hardware but all this has been lost because of technical problems, performance shortfalls, and budgetary constraints.

Ares I/V program calls for development of two totally new rockets that require separate and unique production, handling, and launch facilities and support. The Ares I reproduces the launch capability that we already have in the Delta IV and Atlas V vehicles. The Ares I requires development of a new solid rocket booster and a new upperstage engine. The Ares V requires 2 different new engine designs (always a long pole), new infrastructure to manufacture and handle the 10m diameter tanks (as opposed to the shuttle 8.4m ET). New 5 1/2 segment solid rocket boosters with new propellant, and new core geometry. The extreme weight looks like it will require a new crawler, and a new crawler way. Projected development costs are 35 Billion, launch costs for ARES V are now estimated at 1400 million per launch.

The theory that Ares I will be safer is now under considerable doubt. Performance limitations of Ares I have caused numerous safety systems to be removed from Orion in order to reduce weight. Thrust oscillation problems that cause shaking so severe it could kill the crew are still not resolved, the proposed mitigation options cause even more performance penalties. The high G/ high dynamic pressure flight profile due to the SRB first stage is causing numerous problems. One is the acoustic environment is so severe that it will damage the avionics system. A more severe problem is the recently release Air Force analysis that shows an abort in the 30-60 second range after lift off results in 100% crew fratricide because the Launch Abort System cannot pull the crew capsule far enough away from the debris cloud of burning solid propellant chunks. The radiant heat from the burning solid fuel will melt the parachute on the crew capsule. There is no mass margin left in the launcher to substantially increase the size of the LAS.

A much less expensive approach is to abandon the 1.5 launch approach for a 2 launch approach. Design and build a single 100mt launcher instead of a 25mt and a 180mt launcher. It could be much more directly shuttle derived, use SSME which are already man rated, qualified and in production. Use the current 4 segment RSRM which are already man rated, qualified and in production. Use an 8.4m tank so the existing tooling and handling equipment for the Shuttle ET can be used. The mission load is split up more evenly, one launcher carries Orion and the crew with the Altair lander, the other carries the Earth departure stage.
You only need one set of launch support infrastructure and support crew. You gain economies of scale since you are flying much more often, and also improving safety because you gain flight history at least twice as fast. You get huge savings from avoiding development costs by using more legacy hardware.

ISS will only be completed in 2010, it would not be at the end of it's service life by 2015 at all. The only reason proposed for the early abandonment was to redirect the 3 Billion per year in support costs towards the Ares I/V program that is sucking all the air out of the room. That's even after the vaguely promised 6 billion a year NASA budget increase that is magically supposed to show up. There is almost no chance ISS will be decommissioned in 2015, politically it's just not going to happen. It will get extended to 2020 at least.

The shuttle is a dead end. It was supposed to give us cheap and regular access to space but it achieved neither. Operating costs turned out to be about 10 times higher than originally envisioned. It only goes to Low Earth Orbit. If we want to get out of LEO we need something else. At least a 50-70mt HLV of some kind. Preferably an inline design with an 8-12 meter diameter fairing (volume is often more important than lift capacity.)


Our inept government
By CosmoJoe on 8/23/2009 8:21:03 PM , Rating: 5
So let me get this straight. We will spend billions of dollars to bail out companies such as GM, AIG and Citi. We will spend trillions, when its all said and done, to clean up soured mortgage backed securities. We will spend billions on "cash for clunkers" and yet we can't seem to adequately fund NASA? We are now relying on other countries such as Russia just to get into orbit. This is really pathetic, and a huge step back from where we once stood with feet on the moon.




RE: Our inept government
By HotFoot on 8/24/2009 8:19:02 AM , Rating: 2
NASA doesn't provide socialism for the rich the way all the other programs do...

If your tax dollars aren't lining someone else's pockets as a direct result of the program, look for it to not gather much support.


RE: Our inept government
By Donovan on 8/24/2009 10:56:47 AM , Rating: 2
NASA still has until 8pm tonight to turn in those space shuttles for newer models.


Just need to find Oil...
By Belard on 8/24/2009 8:10:21 AM , Rating: 2
That it... prove theres OIL on the moon, and you bet we'd be there in a week.

But of course OIL can't be on the moon... since its not magic and requires life.

Going to Mars by 2020 or 2025... I laughed at that idea years ago. Going to the moon is very high as it is... The Mars would be far more expensive.

Unless new propulsion tech is invented. We need some sort of WARP drive... ;)




RE: Just need to find Oil...
By FITCamaro on 8/24/2009 8:52:06 AM , Rating: 2
There's oil off our shores and in our own land that we're not using. What makes you think we'd go to the moon for it?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014240529702038...

Check this out though. Awesome isn't it?...


RE: Just need to find Oil...
By Digimonkey on 8/24/2009 9:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah it's kind of silly when it comes to people protesting off shore drilling. Especially in places where the oil seeps into the ocean anyways.

This isn't exactly outrageous news though. They mention loan, so I'm hoping there is interest involved here. Also, more oil imports coming from Brazil sure beats getting it from Saudi Arabia.


RE: Just need to find Oil...
By Bateluer on 8/24/2009 3:37:47 PM , Rating: 2
It'd be a longer tip to Mars than the Moon, but what makes you think it'd require faster than light travel? Ships at sea here on Earth stay out out of ports, often under communication black outs, longer than a trip to Mars would take with current propulsion.


This always happens
By JayDeeJohn on 8/24/2009 2:35:16 AM , Rating: 2
History shows the dems as non supportive of NASA, and when theyre in control, the money shrinks, going to other areas




RE: This always happens
By ClownPuncher on 8/24/2009 11:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
Totally! Goddamn Kennedy ..


Boldly go
By randyc on 8/23/2009 7:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
Build a 200 MW solar array (e.g. from SpaceEnergy.com, not NASA), 200 MW VASIMR ion engine (from Ad Astra, not NASA), attach both to ISS. Send the whole shebang on a five year mission (to Mars, orbit Mars, return). Send a Mars lander when ISS gets to Mars.




Not enough contractors
By nafhan on 8/24/2009 12:20:42 PM , Rating: 2
I think NASA could benefit greatly from being leaner. Really, I think they should trim off everything but management. They would have some committees that determine the direction the US is going to go with spaceflight and science and a budget group that pays contractors when work actually gets done . NASA wouldn't own anything other than spaceport locations like Cape Canaveral. The less they are doing themselves, the better.




By Mjello on 8/24/2009 4:26:42 PM , Rating: 2
Ooh come on age old news hehe

Is paying the russians to send people into space not outsourcing ;)

Just a thought. They've been doin that for a while now.




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Way to go
By bug77 on 8/23/2009 6:27:53 PM , Rating: 1
Make sure you make them hybrid, too (or fully electrical while you're at it) so we don't accidentally warm-up the universe - or change it's climate, according to more recent developments :-D

Yes, you can.




Great!!
By bryanW1995 on 8/23/09, Rating: -1
RE: Great!!
By Pandamonium on 8/23/2009 5:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
Personally I lump space exploration/research as more of a (future) national defense thing, so I'm supportive of government efforts in that sector. Hell if I want a private company whoring its shuttles & infrastructure to the highest bidder.

FWIW, I'm a pretty staunch libertarian. I can see space being a big deal in the next couple hundred years though.


RE: Great!!
By Murloc on 8/23/2009 5:21:31 PM , Rating: 2
that may be an issue, but they can still keep NASA up to date


RE: Great!!
By menace on 8/23/2009 5:48:35 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see any strong relationship between manned exploration and defense. Are we going to have x-wing fighters on patrol? I don't think so. Continued use of satellites make the most sense. Putting weapons in space doesn't make much sense, it's too easy to take out. The weapons will be on the ground, either mobile or in hardened facilities, or in submarines, ships, and airplanes.

If you are a "staunch libertarian" as you say, you should whole-heartedly agree with a reasonably regulated shift to privatization of space industry. "Whoring it's shuttles & infrastructure to the highest bidder?" Man, that's what capitalism is all about. We still can have the government hand in approving what nations they are allowed to do business with and what type of cargo they are allowed to carry (that is a proper government role).

As to space becoming a "big deal" in the future (and I assume you are referring to manned exploration of space since that's what the topic is about) - a prerequisite for this would be a revolution in propulsion technology to drive down costs at least a hundredfold. Until that happens I just don't see any possibility for significant "space industry" emerging (nor "space tourism" for that matter).


RE: Great!!
By inighthawki on 8/23/2009 5:56:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure what he was referring to, but in terms of defense, you can always view space as either a large emergency exit/exit route, or maybe have a strategic base of sorts which can be used to protect people. Exploration of space allows people to retreat there. You must think of it this way. Before boats were made, we could not escape or travel through large bodies of water, and in the same sense via air or space. Just because we can't do much now doesn't make it a complete loss, as space has huge benefits if we ever find easy ways there.


RE: Great!!
By rs1 on 8/23/2009 9:09:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
you can always view space as a large emergency exit/exit route


Not really. Not with current and near-future technology anyways. While it might be possible to get some people up there, keeping them alive long-term and/or getting them to somewhere that would allow them to stay alive long-term is pretty much out of the question. Launching enough food/water to support even a modest population for more than a few months is not practical, and nowhere that we could ship them to in that amount of time is really habitable, barring significant advances in either terraforming or life-support technologies.


RE: Great!!
By StevoLincolnite on 8/24/2009 3:54:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Not really. Not with current and near-future technology anyways. While it might be possible to get some people up there, keeping them alive long-term and/or getting them to somewhere that would allow them to stay alive long-term is pretty much out of the question. Launching enough food/water to support even a modest population for more than a few months is not practical, and nowhere that we could ship them to in that amount of time is really habitable, barring significant advances in either terraforming or life-support technologies.


And this is the catch, if we don't send missions up into space for scientific reasons, how do we expect to make in-roads into doing such a thing? All advances in technology was made from research and exploration, without those two we will be stagnant.

That's how we ended up with Velcro and Microwaves in the first place.

Personally I think it's worth the cost to explore outer-space, which -is- the Final frontier.

The cost would be greatly reduced however if we un-cover a StarGate in Egypt, Meet some powerful allies like the Tokra/Nox/Asgaurd/Tollan and we will be all set to create a fleet of Battleships. :)


RE: Great!!
By menace on 8/24/2009 2:11:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah that velcro was well worth the $10 billion

Microwave ovens had nothing to do with the space program. It was discovered quite by accident during radar testing (someone left a sandwich next to an antenna or something like that). This was way before the space program even got off the ground.


RE: Great!!
By menace on 8/23/2009 9:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking of defense in terms of protecting the country (USA specifically) from terrestrial adversaries. An emergency exit strategy sounds like more a defense from some cosmic catastrophe perhaps.

Space is not a very friendly place to retreat to. I don't think it is possible to create a truly self-sustainable colony anywhere else in this solar system. Certainly not without a colossal movement of materials from earth and hundreds of years of construction, which again would require a major revolution in propulsion technology to accomplish (I'm not saying it can't happen or won't happen, I certainly would like to see it happen but I wouldn't lay any money on it happening in my lifetime or even the grandkid's lifetimes). Likewise for building a huge sustainable space station or moon colony. It is likely the distance to the nearest place that might have a decent planet to colonize would be hundreds of light years and which direction do you set out to find it? Unless you learn how to break Einstein, interstellar colonization is a pipe dream.


RE: Great!!
By inighthawki on 8/24/2009 12:31:34 AM , Rating: 2
With a large amount of electricity (solar panels?) and a biodome of sorts, i think mars could easily be colonized, of course the cost, manpower, and maintenance is a huge setback


RE: Great!!
By ayat101 on 8/24/2009 12:47:07 AM , Rating: 2
You CAN colonise INTERSTELLAR space... just not as quickly as people imagine after watching Star Trek or Star Wars.

Perhaps it IS NOT POSSIBLE to break the speed of light, or find some work around, but space can still be colonised at sublight speeds. It can be done with generational ships.

For example, let's imagine we can build a generational ship that can do 3% of the speed of light. YES, trips even to the nearest stars would take hundreds of years, but it is just a matter of time. Plus if you arrived at your destination and it was uninhabitable, you could move on.

At 3% of the speed of light, we could colonise the whole Milky Way Galaxy within a few million years. In evolutionary terms this is a short time, by the end of which time we would be around every star you can see in the sky.

YES, it would be expensive, and the current world economy does not have the resources to build such a space ship, not even one. However, once we grow out into the Solar System, it should become possible to do the above.


RE: Great!!
By chagrinnin on 8/24/2009 2:53:03 AM , Rating: 2
For all we know we may have already done this and whenever "our" astronauts return we freak out and swear we've seen a "UFO".


RE: Great!!
By StevoLincolnite on 8/24/2009 4:06:17 AM , Rating: 2
We will never know if it's possible to break the Speed of Light barrier until enough research has gone into this field.

However, I am a firm believer in using Electronic Propulsion like Ion Drives which has been tested, however more research into this area to increase efficiency and decrease costs still needs to be done.

For all we know, a rare resource not discovered by man might be the missing link to achieve economical interstellar space flight, and it might not even be present in our current solar system.

Space is of endless possibilities, and we have yet to even begin to scratch it's surface to see the actual available possibility's and benefits.

I now have urges to play Freelancer again. :( Pity there isn't a sequel.


RE: Great!!
By ayat101 on 8/24/2009 6:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
... all the more reasons to colonise the Milky Way Galaxy even if you have to do it at sublight.

You would get the explore ALL THAT SPACE to search for technological advancement.

In circa 5 million years or so, you would have humans, or the variations into they would evolve over this time, on billions upon billions of planets. Each of them would be working on new technologies. The first one that works out faster than light travel wins, and spreads it around.

If FTL turns out to be impossible, there are other technological advancements that can be shared around.

Personally I have a suspicion that FTL is not possible, and that ultimately we may need to turn to creating new universes from scratch to escape into.

We have enough technology now to start colonising the Solar System. When the Solar system is colonised, we will have the knowledge and resources to start building interstellar space ships... even if they have to move at sublight.

In the time it took humans to split from chimps, people could be settled around just about every star in this Galaxy.


RE: Great!!
By menace on 8/24/2009 2:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
The context of my statements were on the order of the next hundred years. Who can say what the state of human affairs, much less technology, will be in the next million years or so. It's nice to be optimistic but if you look at history there is bound to be a collapse of civilization at some point that will negate some tech advances (more likely numerous cycles of collapse and renewal). That assuming we don't get wiped out by a dinosaur killer or some man made holocaust first.

Technology doesn't always move forward. Just look at the Concorde, 70's era technology that we have failed to improve upon and proven to be economically impractical in the long stretch. Same thing with visiting the moon, we've no need to go back there until we find an economically viable reason to go back. Likewise for Mars. Sure if we pump a couple hundred billion into it we may be able to send a few men there. But what more are they going to learn that you couldn't learn by spending just a few billion dollars on some robotic probes.

"We have enough technology now to start colonising the Solar System." Perhaps, perhaps not. But possibility is not a compelling reason to do it. You have to have an economic case as a motive otherwise it is just a massive waste of resources. I don't want to hear any of this "look at all this wonderful tech we have due to the moon program". At most IMO it helped to advance tech progress a couple of years - do you really think velcro would never have been invented anyway?


RE: Great!!
By ayat101 on 8/25/2009 12:16:11 AM , Rating: 2
Over the next hundred years the best we can do is settle on the Moon. We do not have the resources for anything else - I am talking about the whole world here.

Colonising the Solar System will in my mind take on the order of a few thousand years. After that, there will not be a high danger of us getting wiped out. Plus technology may not always advance quickly, but it does not move back, sometimes it just stays stagnant.

Short of some amazing new technology making space travel easy, there is NO economic case for space colonisation. Period. Combine this with the expense, and we may as well NEVER do it.

Settling the Solar System should be done in terms of spreading out the human race. Coupled with the above economical/resource constraints, you have to start small and proceed slowly. Moon first. Solar system next.

Once the Solar System is settled, we will have enough resources overall to build an interstellar ship... the resources of a whole system is what is required in my mind. The difficulties of interstellar travel without some sort of a "warp drive" are just mind boggling. For one, at sublight, we probably need to learn how to make antimatter and develop it as fuel, as otherwise even fusion does not provide enough energy per unit mass to offset the relativistic mass increase at high speeds... once your speed increases your mass by the mass turned to energy in your fuel, you can not move faster.


RE: Great!!
By HotFoot on 8/24/2009 8:28:32 AM , Rating: 2
I think NASA would probably accomplish more for less if it were canned altogether and restarted with all new people. Bang for the buck goes steadily downhill after decades of bureaucratic entrenchment.

I'd like to see continued work in manned spaceflight - maybe a scaled down space station next time, though - keep it NASA (and maybe CSA) but leave Europe/Russia etc out of it. But really, coming from a background in UAVs, seeing the untapped potential the sky is beginning to offer once pilots are out of the equation - both on commercial and military grounds - I just have to think that moving increasingly towards robotics in space would be a good thing.

Why not go back to the moon by 2015, but send robots. See just how far you can get with moon base construction, mineral extraction, etc. etc. by remote control or semi-autonomous robotics? That would be a major technical challenge and well worth the effort. Have something there for astronauts to go to when you do go back.


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