It's official

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  • Thread starter aquitaine
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We don't care about our space program.

WASHINGTON — In a move that reflects the uncertainty surrounding NASA's current strategy for replacing the space shuttle and returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020, House appropriators slashed by 16 percent the space agency's $4 billion request for manned space exploration in 2010.

The proposed legislation, marked up June 4 by the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, trims $483 million overall from U.S. President Barack Obama's $18.7 billion budget request for NASA next year. The $670 million cut to the 2010 manned exploration request would leave $3.21 billion, which is less than is available for the effort this year.
 

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  • #2
A 16% cut from 4billion dollars during economically hard times somehow equates to lack of caring?
 
  • #3
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Yes it does, for the simple reason that we have been spending so little to begin with. Nasa's budget as it stands is a fraction of one percent of the total national budget.
 
  • #4
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Why do we need to spend money on manned space missions, aquitaine?
 
  • #5
Hepth
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Why do we need to spend money on manned space missions, aquitaine?

To further develop our ability to adapt human life to extreme or alien conditions. While I don't see anything coming out of manned space missions themselves, the technology to support humans in space travel to orbit more efficiently, safely and comfortably will undoubtedly lead to some new inventions, materials, processes and techniques that will filter down to everyday life. (Home-water recirculation, etc. )


Having said that, I support pulling back some spending across the board. Just so long as its temporary. I'd hate to see them cut it back 16% just so they can fight over a "Dems propose 19% increase in manned space exploration funding!!" fiasco in a few years. Which you know is how it would be framed. They'd have to make legislation that made it temporary to be reviewed again at a later time.
 
  • #6
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To further develop our ability to adapt human life to extreme or alien conditions.

Why?


While I don't see anything coming out of manned space missions themselves, the technology to support humans in space travel to orbit more efficiently, safely and comfortably will undoubtedly lead to some new inventions, materials, processes and techniques that will filter down to everyday life. (Home-water recirculation, etc. )

I don't think thats worth the high sticker price. All those things could be developed for earth based applications for a lot less money.


Having said that, I support pulling back some spending across the board. Just so long as its temporary. I'd hate to see them cut it back 16% just so they can fight over a "Dems propose 19% increase in manned space exploration funding!!" fiasco in a few years. Which you know is how it would be framed. They'd have to make legislation that made it temporary to be reviewed again at a later time.

I'd like to know why they should fund any manned space flights anymore. We sent robots to mars, why is it necessary to send a +3000lb space station there to do the exact same thing, unnecessarily risk peoples lives, and cost 20x more.
 
  • #7
While I don't see anything coming out of manned space missions themselves, the technology to support humans in space travel to orbit more efficiently, safely and comfortably will undoubtedly lead to some new inventions, materials, processes and techniques that will filter down to everyday life. (Home-water recirculation, etc. )

I totally agree, and these beneficial side effects are much more interesting to most people than any 'stamp-collecting science' that comes from robot missions. I'm not saying that the design of these robots does not lead to innovations, I am just saying that NASA should keep foremost the innovations in mind as opposed to the 'scientific' importance of the data that they are collecting.
 
  • #8
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I totally agree, and these beneficial side effects are much more interesting to most people than any 'stamp-collecting science' that comes from robot missions. I'm not saying that the design of these robots does not lead to innovations, I am just saying that NASA should keep foremost the innovations in mind as opposed to the 'scientific' importance of the data that they are collecting.

Your point about having people in space is more tangible to the general public because they can (ignorantly) think: "maybe some day I can go to space".

I don't understand what you mean by 'stamp-collecting' science. What non stamp-collecting science does the shuttle missions do?

The scientific importance of the data they collect is the only reason why we spend so much money on it.
 
  • #9
Yes it does, for the simple reason that we have been spending so little to begin with. Nasa's budget as it stands is a fraction of one percent of the total national budget.

So during hard economic times with the largest money making state in the union on the verge of bankruptcy we should not decrease spending on things which do little to help or fix our poor economic situation just to show we care? I think we have our hands a bit too full dealing with people here on earth to be worry about putting people in space.
Also the NASA budget total will still be increased by approximately one billion. They have only trimmed the budget for manned space flight apparently due to lack of a coherent direction and are open to amending their change to the budget if they see a good plan placed before them
 
  • #10
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NASA still has a decent budget. And yes, with the economic downturn, you cannot blame the government for cutting funding. NASA can always collaborate with Russia, Europe and share resources.
 
  • #11
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Your point about having people in space is more tangible to the general public because they can (ignorantly) think: "maybe some day I can go to space".

I don't understand what you mean by 'stamp-collecting' science. What non stamp-collecting science does the shuttle missions do?

The scientific importance of the data they collect is the only reason why we spend so much money on it.

Relative to other things, we don't actually spend that much. Would you rather we spend nothing at all?

I'd like to know why they should fund any manned space flights anymore. We sent robots to mars, why is it necessary to send a +3000lb space station there to do the exact same thing, unnecessarily risk peoples lives, and cost 20x more.

Because there is a limit to what robots can do. They are slow, the distances involved create major problems with radio control due to lag, and they are dumb. That's right, dumb. They can't do even the simplest of problem solving. Of course there is a place for robots, but they aren't the uber-explorers they are made out to be. Besides, since when did we as a race ever get anywhere by playing it safe? Driving to the movie theater is an unnecessary risk, but I don't see calls to not go to movie theaters. What we need to do is invest in new technologies to reduce the cost of getting stuff into space like this thing

So during hard economic times with the largest money making state in the union on the verge of bankruptcy we should not decrease spending on things which do little to help or fix our poor economic situation just to show we care?

It gives people good jobs, how is that bad? Besides, this isn't the first time California has had major budget problem. I'm also not saying we shouldn't have no funding cuts, but we do need to be careful with what gets cut. If we pulled out of Iraq, we could save $108 billion per year. Which would serve our children better?
Space exploration, both manned and unmanned, is our promise to the future. That it has largely been stagnant for the last 30 years is the icon of our parents generation's general failure to realize the promises of the past for what could have been.

Your point about having people in space is more tangible to the general public because they can (ignorantly) think: "maybe some day I can go to space".

You are referring to a group of people who are much more likely to know who the winner of last seasons' american idol than who is the speaker of the house or senate majority leader. The american public by and large doesn't care about space at all.
 
  • #12
Office_Shredder
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Relative to other things, we don't actually spend that much. Would you rather we spend nothing at all?



Because there is a limit to what robots can do. They are slow, the distances involved create major problems with radio control due to lag, and they are dumb. That's right, dumb. They can't do even the simplest of problem solving. Of course there is a place for robots, but they aren't the uber-explorers they are made out to be. Besides, since when did we as a race ever get anywhere by playing it safe? Driving to the movie theater is an unnecessary risk, but I don't see calls to not go to movie theaters. What we need to do is invest in new technologies to reduce the cost of getting stuff into space like this thing

Can you let me know what humans exploring space have done that a robot couldn't do?
 
  • #13
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Relative to other things, we don't actually spend that much. Would you rather we spend nothing at all?

As an Aerospace engineer, yes. As a rational taxper and scientist, no.

Because there is a limit to what robots can do. They are slow, the distances involved create major problems with radio control due to lag, and they are dumb. That's right, dumb. They can't do even the simplest of problem solving. Of course there is a place for robots, but they aren't the uber-explorers they are made out to be. Besides, since when did we as a race ever get anywhere by playing it safe? Driving to the movie theater is an unnecessary risk, but I don't see calls to not go to movie theaters. What we need to do is invest in new technologies to reduce the cost of getting stuff into space like this thing

I don't agree with your notion that robots are slow vs. having people in space. In what way are people faster? Radio control due to lag isnt a major issue because they are not radio contorolled. They work on their own, but recieve updates if necessary. Getting robots to work better autonomously is worth while cutting edge research where money benifitting that will benifit us back on earth far more than sending people up in tin cans to circle the earth for top dollar.

Second point, robots are the explorers humans can never be.

Third point, your last sentence lacks any sound logical basis. It's not about "risk", its about bang for the buck. Robots have a much larger bang for their buck than human space flights.


You are referring to a group of people who are much more likely to know who the winner of last seasons' american idol than who is the speaker of the house or senate majority leader. The american public by and large doesn't care about space at all.

True, and even more reason to not fund manned space flight.
 
  • #14
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So during hard economic times with the largest money making state in the union on the verge of bankruptcy we should not decrease spending on things which do little to help or fix our poor economic situation just to show we care? I think we have our hands a bit too full dealing with people here on earth to be worry about putting people in space.
Also the NASA budget total will still be increased by approximately one billion. They have only trimmed the budget for manned space flight apparently due to lack of a coherent direction and are open to amending their change to the budget if they see a good plan placed before them

Cut back on military spending instead of science?
 
  • #15
Hepth
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Can you let me know what humans exploring space have done that a robot couldn't do?


Fix the hubble telescope?
 
  • #16
LowlyPion
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To further develop our ability to adapt human life to extreme or alien conditions.

Interesting goal, even if a bit narcissistic in a human sense.

Without getting too philosophical what is the purpose of adapting human life to extreme conditions? Are we going someplace? Is there some imperative that we must spread ourselves about beyond the borders of Sol?

If understanding extremeophile forms is a goal, that would seem to be most easily conducted and developed on Earth or near Earth orbit.

If in 400M years when the sun perhaps swells to red is there some relevance to spreading our spores about to far flung hostile environments?

Isn't the real priority to enjoy our E ticket ride, and make sure all the passengers are comfortable as long as the ride lasts?

I'm all for learning more about the Universe. It's a splendid tapestry. But really aren't pictures absent the pain and risk and inevitable losses preferable?
 
  • #17
D H
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The scientific importance of the data they collect is the only reason why we spend so much money on it.
Wrong. The scientific importance of the data is one of the least important reasons we spend so much money on it. And we don't spend so much money on it. NASA's entire budget is 50% less than the amount Americans spend yearly on pizza.

The only truly valuable assets up in space, as least insofar as Congress is concerned, are military satellites, weather satellites, and communications satellites. These are the domain of the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, and private industry. The primary rationale for sending unmanned spacecraft to other planets is that one day humans might follow. What else justifies the $2.3 BILLION dollar price tag for the Mars Science Lab? How many grad students in a field that does have immediately tangible benefits to the US economy or to humanity as a whole would that $2.3 billion dollars fund?

An easy test of your hypothesis is to look at how the various space-faring nations value the scientific importance of the data collected by their space agencies. The two countries that spend the most on space science are the US and Russia. Both have strong human spaceflight programs. France spends a lot on space science, a lot more than any other western European nation. France is also the nation that is trying to push ESA to have a stronger human spaceflight component and is the only western European nation that spends a significant amount of money on its own space agency.

How about other space-faring nations? One western European nation has gone so far as to ban governmental involvement in any human spaceflight activities. If space science were so valuable, you would think that this nation would spend a lot on space science. It doesn't. Great Britain spends a paltry 0.05% of its total federal budget on space science. Take away the motivating factor that someday humans may go into space in significant numbers and you take away the rationale for spending money on space science, period.

The primary reason for spending money on any space venture is politics.
 
  • #18
LowlyPion
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I will grant that there should be some interest in developing space technologies to possibly aid in avoiding extinction events. But that does require detection and planning, which weighed as an expense is more a short term priority, than developing manned missions per se. In that regard I don't see developing tools for Armageddon-like, cowboy managed, manned asteroid adventures as being solutions to resolving far out future encounters, nearly as important as identifying what potential problems may be delectable, so that planning might be carried out well in advance, if needed, or possible at all.
 
  • #19
I am saying that I for one don't care about the science that is done by the manned missions anymore than the science that is done by the unmanned missions. It is all stamp-collecting science to me, e.g. cataloging facts. I don't believe that large numbers of people will ever be traveling to space using rocket technology, you won't see me arguing for anything like building a space colony for catastrophic evacuation of earth: I think that's just fantasy for the forseeable future. Therefore the facts about which stamps are availible are mars have neither an aesthetic appeal (because the're stamps) nor a pragmatic appeal (since we have no practical reasons to go there).

What I do care about, and the reasons that I think NASA should have it's funding dectupled, are:

(1) The engineering innovations developed by NASA have historically had a trickle-down effect that furthers the state of the art for practical technologies here on earth.

(2) Not all jobs are simply a means to an end, some are ends in themselves, and aerospace engineers are above-average quality citizens, meaning that a progressive civilization will do well to support large number of them.
 
  • #20
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I'm all for increasing NASA's budget a bit. A factor of 10? No. That level of expenditure would require clear, very strongly motivated, and very imminent goals. NASA did receive monies of that sort during the Apollo era. Even with very clear and very timely goals, NASA wasted a lot of money back then. Moreover, those levels of expenditures were not sustainable.
 
  • #21
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Wrong. The scientific importance of the data is one of the least important reasons we spend so much money on it. And we don't spend so much money on it. NASA's entire budget is 50% less than the amount Americans spend yearly on pizza.

All right, omit the hastily used word 'so much' (I was just using the same wording as the person who I was replying to here).

The only truly valuable assets up in space, as least insofar as Congress is concerned, are military satellites, weather satellites, and communications satellites. These are the domain of the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, and private industry.

Correct me if I'm wrong, none of these require manned space missions to send up to space.

The primary rationale for sending unmanned spacecraft to other planets is that one day humans might follow. What else justifies the $2.3 BILLION dollar price tag for the Mars Science Lab? How many grad students in a field that does have immediately tangible benefits to the US economy or to humanity as a whole would that $2.3 billion dollars fund?

My understanding of the Mars missions was to determine the chemical composition of Martian soil, not to send people to mars some day.

An easy test of your hypothesis is to look at how the various space-faring nations value the scientific importance of the data collected by their space agencies. The two countries that spend the most on space science are the US and Russia. Both have strong human spaceflight programs. France spends a lot on space science, a lot more than any other western European nation. France is also the nation that is trying to push ESA to have a stronger human spaceflight component and is the only western European nation that spends a significant amount of money on its own space agency.

I really don't see any correlation with what you have posted. The US and Russia have big space programs because of the space race. They are leftover byproducts of the cold war. Concerning France, I would expect them to push for more human space flight because if NASA goes the unmanned route, how are they going to get into space? They would have to use Russian or Chinese rockets. It seems like they have a vested interest in manned space flight.

How about other space-faring nations? One western European nation has gone so far as to ban governmental involvement in any human spaceflight activities. If space science were so valuable, you would think that this nation would spend a lot on space science. It doesn't. Great Britain spends a paltry 0.05% of its total federal budget on space science. Take away the motivating factor that someday humans may go into space in significant numbers and you take away the rationale for spending money on space science, period.

The primary reason for spending money on any space venture is politics.

I'll buy that argument considering we went to the moon for the purely political reason of beating the Russians. But I also think you are making my case against having manned space flight all together.
 
  • #22
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I am saying that I for one don't care about the science that is done by the manned missions anymore than the science that is done by the unmanned missions. It is all stamp-collecting science to me, e.g. cataloging facts. I don't believe that large numbers of people will ever be traveling to space using rocket technology, you won't see me arguing for anything like building a space colony for catastrophic evacuation of earth: I think that's just fantasy for the forseeable future. Therefore the facts about which stamps are availible are mars have neither an aesthetic appeal (because the're stamps) nor a pragmatic appeal (since we have no practical reasons to go there).

What I do care about, and the reasons that I think NASA should have it's funding dectupled, are:

(1) The engineering innovations developed by NASA have historically had a trickle-down effect that furthers the state of the art for practical technologies here on earth.

(2) Not all jobs are simply a means to an end, some are ends in themselves, and aerospace engineers are above-average quality citizens, meaning that a progressive civilization will do well to support large number of them.

Ahem, I take donations of appreciation!
 
  • #23
turbo
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It would be nice to see NASA steering away from gee-whiz manned missions that accomplish little beyond keeping fragile humans in low-Earth-orbit and concentrate on remote sensing. Those little Mars rovers have been a treasure-trove of scientific information.

Before we could hope to do anything like that with humans running the instruments locally, we would have to not only vastly improve our technology for shielding the people in the space-craft, but also come up with a revolution in propulsion. Such projects wouldn't generate the headlines or TV coverage of a Shuttle launch or a Hubble servicing mission, but they are prerequisites to establishing a rational, reasonable space program that extends beyond Lunar visits.
 
  • #24
Hepth
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Interesting goal, even if a bit narcissistic in a human sense.

Without getting too philosophical what is the purpose of adapting human life to extreme conditions? Are we going someplace? Is there some imperative that we must spread ourselves about beyond the borders of Sol?

If understanding extremeophile forms is a goal, that would seem to be most easily conducted and developed on Earth or near Earth orbit.

If in 400M years when the sun perhaps swells to red is there some relevance to spreading our spores about to far flung hostile environments?

Isn't the real priority to enjoy our E ticket ride, and make sure all the passengers are comfortable as long as the ride lasts?

I'm all for learning more about the Universe. It's a splendid tapestry. But really aren't pictures absent the pain and risk and inevitable losses preferable?


No, I meant extreme conditions more for here on earth. By creating equipment that can protect us and sustain us in space, we overcompensate if compared to how the environment might change for people here on earth. I'm NOT assuming the earth is going to drastically change and we need this (a la global warming) but more for like, say we want to drill for oil or methane or something on the bottom of the ocean (Abyss?) I know we might have the technology to do it now, but it surely isn't as efficient as it could be. But the trickle down from manned space flight could create a lot of newer/improved techs to make it more affordable and safe, etc.

Imagine alone how big of an impact a cheap, completely closed-system, household water purification (from waste, etc) system would be to arid impoverished areas. Again, we probably have that technology now, but the development of it isn't being driven by the demand and so it goes foward at a slow pace. Whereas when we need it for the ISS we have a well funded system to develop it (for a reason that, lets be honest, is sort of not worth it in these economic times) but we know that we get so much more out of it that keeping 5,10,15 people alive in outerspace.



tl;dr : I believe that any advancements made from trying to sustain human life in extreme conditions (in this case Space) will eventually result in more efficient, cheaper technology that can be used to improve quality of living here on the ground. And that reason alone is worth the funding.

I guess in addition, I'd have to research it, but propulsion and aerospace methods of delivering humans to orbit must have resulted in some contributions to safer/efficient air travel (i'm thinking late 70's 80's developments). Perhaps? I'm not sure.


While the idealistic goal of manned space flight may be interstellar travel or something so far-off and unreachable that its pointless, the adventure of striving for that goal leads to some very realistic contributions to our lives.
 
  • #25
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No, I meant extreme conditions more for here on earth. By creating equipment that can protect us and sustain us in space, we overcompensate if compared to how the environment might change for people here on earth. I'm NOT assuming the earth is going to drastically change and we need this (a la global warming) but more for like, say we want to drill for oil or methane or something on the bottom of the ocean (Abyss?) I know we might have the technology to do it now, but it surely isn't as efficient as it could be. But the trickle down from manned space flight could create a lot of newer/improved techs to make it more affordable and safe, etc.

Oil companies make a lot of money, and have a lot of reason to spend good money on research to find more oil. I'm not buying this argument that NASA will somehow make something that is suddenly new for this application you just described.

Imagine alone how big of an impact a cheap, completely closed-system, household water purification (from waste, etc) system would be to arid impoverished areas. Again, we probably have that technology now, but the development of it isn't being driven by the demand and so it goes foward at a slow pace. Whereas when we need it for the ISS we have a well funded system to develop it (for a reason that, lets be honest, is sort of not worth it in these economic times) but we know that we get so much more out of it that keeping 5,10,15 people alive in outerspace.

Why would it be any different than the water purification system already on board the space station?

tl;dr : I believe that any advancements made from trying to sustain human life in extreme conditions (in this case Space) will eventually result in more efficient, cheaper technology that can be used to improve quality of living here on the ground. And that reason alone is worth the funding.

I see no evidence to support this. If I were a project manager (or congressmen) and you told me you "believe" advancements "will eventually" result in x,y,z, I would say come back and talk to me when you know you can do (a,b,c) and it can be used for (1,2,3). This is really pie in the sky imagination here.

I guess in addition, I'd have to research it, but propulsion and aerospace methods of delivering humans to orbit must have resulted in some contributions to safer/efficient air travel (i'm thinking late 70's 80's developments). Perhaps? I'm not sure.

Airplanes don't use rockets.

I think there are other NASA projects that could use the money and have tangible results to show for it that actually will improve air travel, and our lives. I can even name a few:

-Aircraft Icing Research
-High Angle Stall Dynamics and Controls
-Flight Testing

Why are we going to pretend we need a billion dollar space shuttle that "might" trickle down something worth while, when I just listed some that would directly have impact?


Note: I am totally unbiased being a flight dynamicist :wink:
 

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