Recognitions:

## NASA's future

 Quote by Shackleford Clearly insufficient? NASA is clearly inefficient. The technology available today is far more advanced than that available in 1969. There's no good reason why NASA could not have successfully completed a modern-day trip to the Moon. NASA is poorly managed at best.
The technology is advanced, but perhaps not as much as you may think- certainly, there has been no major advance in the fuel/source of energy needed to lift things into orbit. Propulsion today is essentially the same as the 1960's. While computer technology has somewhat advanced, the need for radiation-hardened components means the computers used are a lot less functional than the Dell computer you can buy for $1000- and never mind the *software* requirements.... NASA doesn't do Windoze. Then there's the whole problem with astronauts- they need to eat and poop fairly regularly. That hasn't changed since 1969, and the technology to deal with that hasn't changed much, either. It's easy to blame NASA management, but for all their problems they must, in the end, respond to the demands of Congress, who provide sustenance. Getting Congress to support a$100+ B project that does not do anything to keep us safe from the commies/JMFs/cancer/etc.. is a tough sell. Unfortunately, space exploration is not a priority for the voting public, and there isn't a charismatic leader around right now who can change that.

 Quote by Caramon 1) Lack of a Goal There has been essentially no serious interest from those who have the opportunity to implement new programs and develop new launch vehicles and space habitats to seriously consider a mars program. We have simply been wallowing in Earth Orbit for the past 20 achieving little more than scientific and engineering curiosities that may be potentially useful some time in the future when we actually decide to do something useful. Until then, they seem to be happy with not looking beyond launching satellites and having interviews from the space stations learning about zero gravity health effects. Clearly I am giving a cynical caricature here, but there is an underlying problem that is of a serious nature. If NASA is to actually pull ahead of the rest of the world in space flight and secure the United States as a "great nation" as it once used to be considered, it must pour funding into the space program and lower safety restrictions and either build a moon base, send missions to mars, or likewise. Not in 20 years when the budget and administration will change, but within a 10 year time span that holds everyone accountable to achieving a goal... ...It has been long into the future, and will be far longer into the foreseeable future where no moon base will be built and no interplanetary missions will take place. As I see it, this is a step in the wrong direction towards the extinction of the human race. -Caramon
What has the ISS actually done that is actually useful towards scientific progress and space exploration!?

 Quote by Caramon I would argue that the overinflated portions of the budget that Defense and National Security get are not useful. The United States does not need to have military bases around the world or still be fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. No one is attacking the United States. 9/11 was a one-time thing. In the long-term, NASA is the government agency to be funded as once the door is opened to an actual base on another planet, then it will stay open.
That's not what you said. I'm a conservative and I agree with Ron Paul - close the military bases all across the world and bring the troops home. National security does not equal the Military Industrial Complex.

Going to another planet, let alone establishing a base will require revolutionary advances in propulsion technology.

 Quote by Andy Resnick The technology is advanced, but perhaps not as much as you may think- certainly, there has been no major advance in the fuel/source of energy needed to lift things into orbit. Propulsion today is essentially the same as the 1960's. While computer technology has somewhat advanced, the need for radiation-hardened components means the computers used are a lot less functional than the Dell computer you can buy for $1000- and never mind the *software* requirements.... NASA doesn't do Windoze. Then there's the whole problem with astronauts- they need to eat and poop fairly regularly. That hasn't changed since 1969, and the technology to deal with that hasn't changed much, either. It's easy to blame NASA management, but for all their problems they must, in the end, respond to the demands of Congress, who provide sustenance. Getting Congress to support a$100+ B project that does not do anything to keep us safe from the commies/JMFs/cancer/etc.. is a tough sell. Unfortunately, space exploration is not a priority for the voting public, and there isn't a charismatic leader around right now who can change that.
What? Are you sure about that? My main point was not that technology per se has advanced greatly, but that the cost has been reduced, maybe more mundane materials and technology.

The entire U.S. manned lunar program cost roughly $100 billion. There is no good reason why we cannot complete one lunar mission in a relatively short amount of time at a "reasonable" cost. We would not be starting from scratch.  The entire U.S. manned lunar program cost roughly$100 billion. There is no good reason why we cannot complete one lunar mission in a relatively short amount of time at a "reasonable" cost. We would not be starting from scratch.
Apparently, AIG is more important than creating a space-faring civilization as they received a bailout that rivaled the entire cost of the Apollo program and your projected $100 Billion. IMO, establishing a permanent base on both the moon and mars >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trouble...Relief_Program Which is probably what it would cost.  Quote by Caramon Apparently, AIG is more important than creating a space-faring civilization as they received a bailout that rivaled the entire cost of the Apollo program and your projected$100 Billion. IMO, establishing a permanent base on both the moon and mars >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trouble...Relief_Program Which is probably what it would cost.
Why would we establish a permanent base on both the moon and mars?

 Quote by Shackleford Why would we establish a permanent base on both the moon and mars?
Why not?
 The eventual goal is to colonize the entire solar system and when all of the solar systems energy has been harnessed, or our sun comes closer to expanding into a red supergiant, we move to another star/planetary system. The entire point of living is to colonize the galaxy and immortalize the human race.

 Quote by Fuz Why not?
Sorry. You want to undertake at least a trillion-dollar enterprise.

You explain why.

We need R&D to develop those appropriate technologies that would allow something like that to be much more practical.

Also, it's our tax dollars. Building a base on the moon and mars is entirely immaterial. We have more important things.

 Quote by Caramon The eventual goal is to colonize the entire solar system and when all of the solar systems energy has been harnessed, or our sun comes closer to expanding into a red supergiant, we move to another star/planetary system. The entire point of living is to colonize the galaxy and immortalize the human race.
Wow. You're thinking really far ahead. Might want to bring it back to reality.

 Quote by Shackleford Sorry. You want to undertake at least a trillion-dollar enterprise. You explain why. We need R&D to develop those appropriate technologies that would allow something like that to be much more practical. Also, it's our tax dollars. Building a base on the moon and mars is entirely immaterial.
Hey, I was just asking why not. And NASA isn't the only way, you still have programs like SpaceX, which don't rely on our tax dollars.

 Quote by Shackleford Clearly insufficient? NASA is clearly inefficient. The technology available today is far more advanced than that available in 1969. There's no good reason why NASA could not have successfully completed a modern-day trip to the Moon.
There's no good scientific or technological reason. There are lots of messy political, economic, and social reasons why not. Constellation is not being funded at anywhere near the levels needed to return to the moon.

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/100xx/doc...Text.4.1.shtml

You can get Constellation to work if you strip out everything else that NASA is doing, but at that point you've got lots of screaming astronomers at you. You can also significantly increase NASA funding, but there's no constituency for that.

 Quote by Fuz Hey, I was just asking why not. And NASA isn't the only way, you still have programs like SpaceX, which don't rely on our tax dollars.
SpaceX is going to rely on tax dollars. Hopefully it's going to rely on tax dollars in a way that works. Ultimately SpaceX is looking to be profitable by relying on contracts from NASA to supply the space station.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerc...ation_Services

It is true that private enterprise is putting up the development costs, which is a good thing because if SpaceX just doesn't work, then no politician is going to have people yelling at them. But without the prospect of massive government contracts at the end of the effort, it's not going to work.

 Quote by twofish-quant SpaceX is going to rely on tax dollars. Hopefully it's going to rely on tax dollars in a way that works. Ultimately SpaceX is looking to be profitable by relying on contracts from NASA to supply the space station. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerc...ation_Services It is true that private enterprise is putting up a lot of the development costs, which is a good thing because if SpaceX just doesn't work, then no politician is going to have people yelling at them. But without the prospect of massive government contracts at the end of the effort, it's not going to work.
I think my hopes are shifting to the fact that Obama won't be president forever. I'm sure somebody will bring everything back within the next decade. I mean, theres no reason NASA couldn't be resurrected to its original state if congress and some future president wanted to, correct?

 Quote by Fuz I think my hopes are shifting to the fact that Obama won't be president forever.
Except that some people (me included) think that Obama is doing the right thing, given the current budget constraints. Given that we don't have enough money for a gold plated mission to the moon, Obama's strategy is to kill Constellation and then fund SpaceX and other commercial vendors to get to low earth orbit. Once we have an infrastructure to get to LEO cheaply, then we'll have the foundations to get to the moon and Mars.

If you could triple NASA's budget, then everything changes. If......

Put some Red Flags on the moon, then things might change.

There are people that strongly degree with this. But then you run into the trouble that it makes sense if you drive on the right side of the road. It makes sense if you drive on the left side of the road, but if you compromise and drive on both sides of the road, you get a big mess.

What's a bit worrisome is that Obama is probably the most pro-space politician that I can think of. The Republicans will likely insist on even further cuts than Obama. It also doesn't help that most scientists are dead set against manned space flight. At every astronomer meeting that I've ever been to, the topic has always been killing the shuttle and the manned space flight program and putting that money into unmanned space probes.

The Hubble fiasco really turned most astronomers against manned space flight. The problem with Hubble was that it was designed to be serviced with regular shuttle flights, and once people were terrified of sending people into space, this left Hubble in a lurch. Had people done things over, they would have made Hubble a throw-away telescope, since for the price of one serviceable Hubble you can build five telescopes that you toss if something goes wrong.

The problem is that manned space flight provides essentially no science of value. Robots are a lot better at doing science in space than people are, for the main reason space is very dangerous, and you don't have a dead body when a robot blows up. The military is not that interested in manned space flight for the same reasons.

 I mean, theres no reason NASA couldn't be resurrected to its original state if congress and some future president wanted to, correct?
Unfortunately this is not true. One problem is that once you shut things down, people go off, work at other jobs, and it's really hard to put a team back together and relearn the lessons that you've already learned.

Also I worry that the US will get into a science death spiral. Science and technology produces economic growth, so I worry that we are getting into a spiral of "less tax money for science" -> "less growth" -> "less tax money for science"

Mentor
 Quote by Shackleford The entire U.S. manned lunar program cost roughly $100 billion. There is no good reason why we cannot complete one lunar mission in a relatively short amount of time at a "reasonable" cost. We would not be starting from scratch. 155 billion in 2010 dollars, and we would be pretty much starting from scratch. Most of that money was spent on procurement and operations. R&D was a small part of the total budget. Obama's proposed budget for NASA is$18.7 billion for 2012, less than that ($18.0 billion) in 2013 and 2014. About 1/3 of NASA's expenditures go to human space flight, not all of which will go to your back to the future / redo Apollo program. Even if we splash the ISS, kill the JWST, its hard to see more than 6 billion a year going into developing, procuring, and operating a new (old) rocket. We maybe we could redo Apollo in 20 years or so. Recognitions: Science Advisor  Quote by Shackleford What? Are you sure about that? My main point was not that technology per se has advanced greatly, but that the cost has been reduced, maybe more mundane materials and technology. The entire U.S. manned lunar program cost roughly$100 billion. There is no good reason why we cannot complete one lunar mission in a relatively short amount of time at a "reasonable" cost. We would not be starting from scratch.
I am sure. Computer components follow a mil-spec type of standard, and mission-critical components are held to an even higher standard.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ca...2004000657.pdf
http://www.cti-us.com/pdf/HistoryEEESpacePartsinUSA.pdf
http://aero-defense.ihs.com/collecti...andards-14.htm
http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/b.../1/01-1236.pdf
http://misspiggy.gsfc.nasa.gov/tva/m...ocs4/docs4.pdf

http://sunland.gsfc.nasa.gov/smex/wi...w/wirrqtop.htm
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ca...1988004514.pdf
http://www.aspera-3.org/idfs/APAF_SRS_V1.0.pdf

The full NASA motto is "Fast, Better, Cheaper: pick two."

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