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DailyTech's middle of the month International Space Update, March 2007 edition

NASA is headed for a "train wreck" if the U.S. space agency is unable to get better funding to help finish construction of the International Space Station, according to Bart Gordon, chairman of the U.S. House science committee.  NASA also is unable to secure proper funding to find killer asteroids by 2020.  Also happening today at the Capitol, other representatives attempted to give NASA a $1 billion budget raise.  NASA has a $17.3 billion tentative budget for 2008.  

"I think it's clear that we have a budgetry situation that bears little resemblance to the rosy projections offered by the administration... a vision that is now increasingly blurred," Gordon said.

NASA reported that the Cassini spacecraft has discovered what appears to be large lakes and seas on the surface of Titan, one of Saturn's moons.  The images were taken on Feb. 22, and reveal that the largest is around 39,000 square miles -- larger than any North American Great Lake.  Their minimum size is the only key feature because the radar on Cassini has only been able to observer a portion of the features.    

Astronomers initially believed the entire surface of Titan was a global ocean, but Cassini helped prove that wrong.  It is unknown if the seas contain liquid, but initial radar observations indicate that liquid is likely present.

Researchers studying information gathered by NASA's Spirit space rover are interested in some bright Martian soil that contains high amounts of sulfur and traces of water.  "This material could have been left behind by water that dissolved these minerals underground, then came to the surface and evaporated, or it could be a volcanic deposit formed around ancient gas vents," said Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis.  Arvisdon is the deputy principal investigator for the NASA's Spirit and Opportunity space rovers.

It will ultimately take some time before researchers are able to figure out which hypothesis is correct -- the discovery of the correct hypothesis, however, will give further insight into the Columbia Hills region of the Red Planet.


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Demand more from NASA
By masher2 (blog) on 3/16/2007 10:02:18 AM , Rating: 3
If it was up to me, I'd quadruple NASA's budget-- but I'd demand ten times the results from them. It is one of the nation's most important agencies...but few people, especially NASA's own leadership, appear to realize it.

To me, what sums up NASA's current attitude problem better than anything is when, in 2004, they estimated a return landing on the moon would require a minimum of 15 years to plan and execute. Come again? We did it in 10 years the first time around, and that was with 60's-era technology...and the first time is always by far the hardest.

NASA's unmanned, pure science missions are (usually) highly focused and yield invaluable results. Their manned program, however, is floudering without goals or purpose, and right now, exists primarily for no other reason than to perpetuate itself. I could list a hundred reasons why we NEED a manned space program. NASA can't seem to even think of one any more.

NASA needs to reexamine and reevaluate itself, and get back to its original roots. It needs to find some new goals, focus on them. Privatizing anything and everything possible would be a good start as well.




RE: Demand more from NASA
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 3/16/2007 10:46:32 AM , Rating: 2
Good point on their time windows. 10 years first time, 15 second time, that is crazy. Should be more like 5 years.


RE: Demand more from NASA
By rcc on 3/16/2007 10:57:01 AM , Rating: 4
Part of the problem with the manned program is the change in societies outlook. In the 60s society was comfortable with the realization that people working on new frontiers (be is space, ocean, etc.)were at risk. The people involved were aware of it, and ok; and the general public realized it, and supported them.

Today the attitude is that anything that might endanger a life is inherently bad. Do not strive, if to strive involves risk.

So, being politicians, the leadership at NASA has to find a way to advance under these conditions. As with most politicians, they take the easy way out and smother manned programs with safeties (which is cool, to a point), bureacracies, and delays.

I'm not advocating throwing lives at the problem. But if anyone actually believes that the "final frontier" can be conquered without risk, they need to study history a bit, and read up on the topic.


RE: Demand more from NASA
By Tsuwamono on 3/16/2007 11:06:57 AM , Rating: 2
i agree. its not like we force these people into space.. they WANT to do it. Its retarded the way people think. Its their choice so leave them be.

And 15 years is a joke, like someone said before. Should be 5 at maximum. Give me 2 years and the funding and ill have them on the moon and building a damn base. Give me 15 years and ill have my first kid born on mars. Thats god damn retarded that they need that time frame.


RE: Demand more from NASA
By ralith on 3/16/2007 2:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
If it was up to me, ... appear to realize it.

There are a lot of NASA folk that are meeting moths or doing nothings, and I personally know some of these people. I also know some NASA folks that are considered to be some of the finest talent in the world in their field. They need to weed out the people that don't produce and don't have drive and raise the wages and actively recruit the rest of those finests that are out there. Then they could do what you suggest.

To me...they estimated a return landing on the moon would require a minimum of 15 years to plan and execute. ... We did it in 10 years the first time around, ... the first time is always by far the hardest.

1. They don't have a blank check like they did the first time. They where given an average yearly budget figure and told to say within it, which resulted in a 15 year wait. Yes it sucks, but thems the budget climates they get to live in.
2. Plus most of the domain experts are dead, retired, or have not had to think about that stuff for so long that they wouldn't remember it all anyway.
3. They also lack the type of leadership, vision, and political prowess Von Braun provided.
4. Trying to leverage Saturn stuff will be tricky when most of the custom molds/dies are no where to be found i.e. have been destroyed to make room for other stuff. About the only thing I've heard that they are going to reuse with upgrades are one of the Saturn V rocket engine types (want to say the F1s, but don't remember for sure).
5. From what I understand they did the cost analysis and concluded they could get there easier, and with more benefits in the long run, this way.

NASA's unmanned, .... Their manned program, however, is floudering without goals or purpose, and right now, exists primarily for no other reason than to perpetuate itself. I could list a hundred reasons .... NASA can't seem to even think of one any more.

The manned program has goals. I suspect if you bothered to look around their site you'd find some. The ones they are studying that come to mind off the top of my head are: understanding long term exposure to microgravity, fixing Hubble, the numerous zero G experiments they are doing on the space station etc. Just because you don't see it every night on the news doesn't mean its not happening.

NASA needs to reexamine and reevaluate itself, and get back to its original roots. It needs to find some new goals, focus on them. Privatizing anything and everything possible would be a good start as well.

I agree with the first 2 sentences, but I am very sceptical of the last due to the results of private industry so far in this field. Also I have heard to many horror stories from NASA folks about bone head contractors, private industry, and university professors/students to allow much to go over now. Let them prove they can do it first with these competitions they've been doing.


RE: Demand more from NASA
By masher2 (blog) on 3/16/2007 3:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
> "most of [NASA's] domain experts are dead, retired, or have not had to think about that stuff for so long that they wouldn't remember it all anyway....They also lack the type of leadership, vision, and political prowess Von Braun provided..."

Which is exactly what I said. They lack effective leadership. The fact remains-- NASA did it the first time in 10 years. And that was with 1960s-era materials, computers, and technology...when they didn't have a clue what was required, before we'd even put a man in space before. Hell, we didn't even know what the properties of outer space were then. Half of that ten years was spent in just ensuring we could put a man in orbit safely.

How did they do it? By being a new, dynamic organization, with goals and vision. Not an entrenched bureaucracy, more interested in keeping the paychecks flowing than any real progress.

> "The manned program has goals. I suspect if you bothered to look around their site you'd find some...understanding long term exposure to microgravity, fixing Hubble, the numerous zero G experiments they are doing on the space station etc..."

As a active researcher these past 20 years, I know a good bit more about NASA than you might think. And I don't consider yet more in an endless stream of meaningless experiments about "effects of microgravity" as being worthwhile goals. They're excuses to perpetuate the program, nothing more. The NASA of the 1960s and early 1970s generated more advances and discoveries in a single year than the current bureaucracy has in the last 25 combined. Is that because there is less to discover, less advances to be made? Think again.

The manned space program is floundering, and has been since the Space Shuttle failed to live up to its promises. And everyone besides NASA leadership is more than ready to admit it.


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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