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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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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
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
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.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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