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President Obama controls NASA's destiny, as the U.S. space agency needs at least $3B more per year

A 10-member government panel released a new 157-report that indicates NASA should consider ditching its new rocket, saying its findings can be considered options, not recommendations.

After construction of the International Space Station is completed in 2010, the three space shuttles that make up NASA's fleet will be retired.  The shuttle fleet retirement opens up a several year gap that will force the U.S. space agency to rely on the Russian space program to transport supplies and astronauts to the ISS.

"It's human spaceflight activities are nonetheless at a tipping point, primarily due to a mismatch of goals and resources," according to the Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation report.  "Either additional funds need to be made available or a far more modest program involving little or no exploration needs to be adopted."

The U.S. space agency has put high hopes on its Ares I rockets and Orion spacecraft, but the project severely lacks funds, which has led some to speculate the next-generation launch capsule is a mistake.  The timing of the report's release has proven to be interesting -- Ares is expected to make its first test flight later this month.

Essentially, the future of NASA is now squarely in President Barack Obama's hands, with the president's staff calling on space experts to share their thoughts and ideas.  Congress and the president will now meet to discuss the possibility of boosting NASA's $18.7 billion annual budget to $21.7 billion.

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RE: NASA is inefficient
By namechamps on 10/23/2009 9:28:20 AM , Rating: 5
NASA only "problem" is that it is non profit and interested in research and exploration.

There are numerous NASA achievements that have been given away and produce massive (billions) of dollars in value to the word community.

Just one example:

Winglets. NASA research found that a vertical wing tip improves thrust and reduces fuel consumption.

Every single commercial aircraft in the world uses this advancement today. Average fuel savings is about 2%. Try to calculate what the value of 2% fuel savings on every single commercial flight in the last 40 years is worth.

We need pure research organizations. Not everything needs to be focused on profit. NASA gives back far more in innovation then they take up in tax dollars. It is a net + for the world community.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By 91TTZ on 10/23/2009 9:55:44 AM , Rating: 2
Winglets. NASA research found that a vertical wing tip improves thrust and reduces fuel consumption.

You mean lift, right? Thrust is generated by the engines.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By HotFoot on 10/23/2009 10:22:30 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, no. Winglets will produce a small amount of thrust when they're designed right. Simply, there's wasted energy in the wingtip vortices and the winglets tap into it. They're a lifting surface, but it works out that a portion of their lift is forwards - by definition: thrust.

Wasn't it Dr. Whitcomb that pioneered winglets? I was sad to hear of his passing last week. Career wise, the man was my hero.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By Chernobyl68 on 10/23/2009 12:42:55 PM , Rating: 2
I thought they reduced drag?

RE: NASA is inefficient
By stromgald30 on 10/23/2009 12:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
Technically, not correct. Winglets reduce drag, which acts against of thrust. So, you could say that it increases thrust, but it would be more appropriate to say that it increases net or effective thrust (after drag is subtracted out) of an aircraft. Wings/winglets don't generate forward motion by themselves.

Lift from an aircraft standpoint is just what counteracts gravity. Lift from an airfoil view is whatever force the wing (or winglet in this case) generates perpendicular to the flow.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/23/2009 11:13:15 AM , Rating: 3
It's almost as if you read the agency's enabling statute. Whew, you came close to an informed opinion there. Watch out or they might throw you off DT.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By Moohbear on 10/23/2009 12:49:04 PM , Rating: 2
I think NASA just got too big, overstretched. One solution would be to refocus the priorities. Going to LEO and building a space station is not out of reach from relatively small private companies. Let's give them some tax breaks and contracts to take care of that. Most of the robotic exploration now relies on non-NASA launcher. Why keep it under their umbrella? Spin it off to a new agency, focused on doing it on the cheap with existing rockets, the military are an endless supply of new rocket designs. It's already what they're doing after all.
NASA should focus on manned space flight. It should be tasked with a new "Apollo program", something exciting, something that would inspire people and draw support, something everybody on the planet will remember 40 years after. Going to Mars could be that, so would be building a Moon base. Adding another module to the ISS on the other hand...

RE: NASA is inefficient
By niva on 10/23/2009 7:27:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm... pardon me but the suggestions you gave to NASA are things already being worked on. They do want to go back to the moon, they do want to go to Mars. They don't have the money to do it and most likely it will not happen anytime soon. The sad truth is that it's starting to look more and more that humans will not be able to get off this planet and colonize others (even the Moon) in our lifetime. The research done on the ISS is simply invaluable, never mind the research, just operating that spacecraft is educational to the human race.

That being said there are a lot of issues with the new capsules. It is somewhat NASA's fault that they got to this point in their history by relying on the shuttle too long. While the shuttle is a very unique and capable vehicle it is too expensive to maintain and operate, never mind the consequences of something going wrong during ascent/entry. Redesigining the new capsules is probably the best thing in terms of that program now, unfortunately it's going to put us even farther behind the curve in terms of being able to continue to launch humans into space without relying on Russia.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By Jacerie on 10/23/2009 5:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget about Velcro and Tang!!!

RE: NASA is inefficient
By SiliconAddict on 10/24/2009 2:11:08 AM , Rating: 2

I weep at the though of how much money NASA could make from even half of the inventions and innovations they have made over its life. I mean they where in thick with the design of the first pacemaker.

If they could have patented this stuff and used it to fund further research. Hell we might be on Mars by now.

RE: NASA is inefficient
By Solandri on 10/24/2009 6:17:30 AM , Rating: 2
I weep at the though of how much money NASA could make from even half of the inventions and innovations they have made over its life. I mean they where in thick with the design of the first pacemaker.

If they could have patented this stuff and used it to fund further research. Hell we might be on Mars by now.

NASA is a government agency. What they create is owned by the public. They get their money from taxes, and tax revenue is increased the most when the public is allowed to use their inventions and innovations without it being encumbered by patents and licenses.

If you have an issue with NASA not getting as much money as their inventions have increased tax revenue, then as the GP said your beef is with Congress for not giving NASA enough funding.

(Actually, much of the stuff in your link was made by private companies under contract with NASA to come up with a solution to a problem. So it was actually the private company which created it. NASA was the customer.)

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