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posted by martyb on Thursday May 10 2018, @09:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the Lucy...in-the-sky-with-diamonds? dept.

NASA chief on Moon return: "This will not be Lucy and the football again"

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, a long-range commitment toward the human exploration of deep space, beginning with a return to the Moon. "Major parts of that policy went forward, but establishing permanence on the Moon was abandoned," Bridenstine said Tuesday. Then, in 2004, President George W. Bush announced a bold plan to send humans back to the Moon, where they would learn how to operate in deep space and then go on to Mars. This became the Constellation program. Again, major parts of that policy went forward, Bridenstine said. But NASA abandoned the drive back to the Moon.

Before the US Senate confirmed pilot and former congressman Bridenstine, the Trump administration announced a plan to send humans back to the Moon. "To many, this may sound similar to our previous attempts to get to the Moon," Bridenstine said Tuesday. "However, times have changed. This will not be Lucy and the football again."

How have times changed? During his brief address, Bridenstine listed several technologies that he believes have lowered the cost of a lunar return. These include the miniaturization of electronics that will allow for smaller robotic vehicles, the decreasing costs of launch, private investment in spaceflight, commercial interest in lunar resources, and new ways of government contracting. (Bridenstine did not mention the Space Launch System rocket or the Orion spacecraft).

The speech was only a few minutes long, so I wouldn't read too much into the absence of SLS/Orion. But it's no secret that BFR could deliver 150 metric tons to the Moon or Mars by using in-orbit refueling, vs. a lot less when using the expensive SLS.

Previously:

Related:


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  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday May 10 2018, @10:37AM (24 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 10 2018, @10:37AM (#677786)

    Just an observation, that the stop-start nature of the US moon programme is reflected in other parts of the US science programme, e.g. the particle physics programme (with which I am familiar). I believe, as an outsider, that it is indicative of a significant, deep-seated failure of US science administration to think and act strategically. It's a shame because this sort of technology development rewards a long-term approach.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @11:29AM (21 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @11:29AM (#677792)

      It's difficult to have a long term strategy of any kind when priorities can change every 4 years. To compound the problem for NASA, they don'y have a mission that everyone can agree on.

      One of the smarter proposals that I saw a long time ago was to give them projects that could be accomplished (finished in 4 years) as well as being pieces that would have to be finished anyway as part of a potential larger goal.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PiMuNu on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:27PM (4 children)

        by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:27PM (#677806)

        Or fund them for more than 4 years. That was sort of my point - US needs a funding model for science R&D which covers longer than a 4 year term, or does not allow politicos to interfere (cf Haldane principle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haldane_principle) [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 2) by ledow on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:37PM (5 children)

        by ledow (5567) on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:37PM (#677808) Homepage

        Gosh, you mean like a plan?

        I think that's exactly the point, isn't it?

        If you know things change every 4 years (not shocking, shouldn't be a surprise to rocket-scientists, for instance), then you make your plans generic, modular and compatible with that.

        You also do things that benefit all kinds of ideas, not just one particular plan. For instance, a deep space network benefits all possible space missions, not just domestic / lunar / Martian ones, and you can roll it out piecemeal with every single mission that launches - whether that's a component, a test, or an actual use of the implementation.

        People think that someone a billion-dollar industry doesn't have to ability to plan and see this coming. They do. They're smart people. What stymies it is that they AREN'T THE ONES DECIDING. Some idiot tells them what to do instead of listening. And then creams off a percentage to his aerospace component friends, or whatever.

        Like all government projects, etc. don't just assume that the people involved are stupid. They're not. They're very smart. They just also have the ability to lie and to use that intelligence and knowledge to do what THEY want (whether that's making money, giving their friend a job, or tanking an idea that they've been paid to tank) so they can pretend it wasn't the plan all along. They KNOW precisely what they are doing. They just don't CARE.

        Same as people who buy up Facebook stocks, etc. They know it's not worth that amount. They don't care. They're smart enough to know that it doesn't even matter what the stock market says it's worth. It's about PROFITING from it, which can mean buying cheap, building up hyper, selling off to some other idiot before it tanks. Lots of money made. Lots of intelligence and data used. But they don't care if Facebook tanks or not. They still make money. In fact they can make more money by it tanking if they are smart enough to then account for that.

        These kinds of people aren't stupid. They're just not aiming towards the same goal as a reasonable person would expect.

        If NASA was run by scientists, we'd be on Mars already. We'd have been there 30 years ago. Fact is, they got a break back in the 60's as part of a military focus to do one set of very useful missions that happened to coincide with lots of other requirements (military, political, etc.). Those missions then weren't so important any longer. And since then they've been operating in the same kind of way as they did pre-Apollo. Fighting for funding for basics against people who are just interested in getting their 10% out of them.

        Do you really think that people with PhD's in astrophysics are honestly sitting there allocating money how they like? No. It doesn't work like that. If it did, the world would arguably be a much better place. No, they are fighting to be heard against a sea of nonsense, to get enough grants, to stay in something vaguely related to the field they enjoy studying, and having to kowtow and explain their business case for such.

        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Gaaark on Thursday May 10 2018, @01:30PM

          by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 10 2018, @01:30PM (#677835) Journal

          You also do things that benefit all kinds of ideas, not just one particular plan.

          I see returning to the moon as just that: a base on the moon, capable of building rockets/ISS/3D printers/etc, is ideal for future endeavours.
          --let's you work out problems with living on 'foreign soil', while still being relatively near to rescue if there is failure
          --low gravity: more fuel can be used for landing and returning, instead of just 'getting out of Earth gravity and atmosphere' (as well as less need to just dump crap (crap: small to large pieces of rocket/capsule-shredding metal) in orbit)
          --build an ISS around moon orbit: less orbiting junk around the already over-populated Earth orbit
          ---profit???

          I say Moon, then Mars.
          Most logical, Captain.

          --
          --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
        • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday May 10 2018, @01:51PM (2 children)

          by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Thursday May 10 2018, @01:51PM (#677847)

          > If NASA was run by scientists, we'd be on Mars already.

          I respectfully disagree. NASA is a complex organization with 18,000 direct employees and a fleet of contractors easily 5 times that number. The person running it needs to be a leader first, a skilled supply chain manager second, and a bullshit detector third. The organization has literally thousands of people who can weigh in on the technical merits of a specific idea, but damn few who can reign in an out-of-control cost-plus billion-dollar contractor with a Senator in their pocket.

          That gap leads to lack of progress, that lack of progress leads to priority changes, and those changes feed back to the lack of progress. That's why we're not on Mars today.

          • (Score: 2) by Taibhsear on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:00PM

            by Taibhsear (1464) on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:00PM (#677893)

            The organization has literally thousands of people who can weigh in on the technical merits of a specific idea, but damn few who can reign in an out-of-control cost-plus billion-dollar contractor with a Senator in their pocket.

            Maybe they can get help from the military industrial complex. They seem to be doing great in that...

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ledow on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:22PM

            by ledow (5567) on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:22PM (#677910) Homepage

            I think the first thing a scientist would question is:

            "Who's best to put in charge of getting out of the contractors exactly what our specification says?"

            There's no reason at all for the organisation to be managed by a "leader", when you're talking about the engineering side conforming to the scientific specification. Sure, someone, somewhere has to kick them into line and make sure they deliver. But that person shouldn't be outranking the scientists telling you what they want to actually achieve and how.

            If anything, the reason it fails it's because it's NOT done that way and someone who doesn't understand the technicalities is bullshitted by the people doing hard sell.

            "but damn few who can reign in an out-of-control cost-plus billion-dollar contractor with a Senator in their pocket."

            Which is why you don't want senators, contractors or anyone dealing with them making the decisions.

            A scientist would actually ensure they have a contract with specifications and penalty clauses for non-delivery, for example.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:30PM

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:30PM (#677916)

          > Gosh, you mean like a plan?

          > If you know things change every 4 years

          I was motivating a change in the American system of governance. I like the Westminster system (but then I am from UK). I think the French single transferable vote system is very good as well for selecting a president - it seems to select against insanity. I am going more strongly against first-past-the-post for selecting a legislature; and for selecting a president, it seems just bonkers.

          You just need to get a reasonable group of people to agitate for it...

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:38PM (9 children)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 10 2018, @12:38PM (#677810)

        To be fair, the priorities normally only change completely every 8 years, not 4. It's very rare for a sitting President to not be re-elected; the last time this happened was GHWBush, and to be fair here, his single term was basically a 3rd term for his predecessor, Reagan, since he was Reagan's VP and his administration didn't do anything terribly different. The last time we actually had a true 4 year term that was different from both the preceding and subsequent terms was with Jimmy Carter.

        So you should be able to give NASA something to do within 8 years, except the problem here is that it seems that it always takes some time to change course when a new administration comes in, particularly if it's a Democrat President (they're usually loathe to change the bad policies of the previous administration, as we saw with Obama; Republican Presidents don't have this problem, they'll happily change stuff on Day 1).

        On top of the problem with us changing the party in power in less than a decade, we also have the problem that most of our population is a bunch of religious nuts, and doing hard science with a voting public that believes in kooky religious garbage is very hard. It's even worse these days with the Internet and all the "fake news" and other BS. Now we have a large portion of the population that believes in "Niburu", that vaccines cause autism, that Hillary participates in Satanic child-sacrifice rituals, that climate change science is a vast conspiracy to deprive them of their 10mpg pickup trucks, that the Moon landings were a hoax, I could go on and on. In short, our voting citizens are gullible morons.

        If we want to do serious space science that involves big, long-term missions, I think the best answer is to simply, when we get access to the money needed to do it, give it to ESA and JAXA and ask them to do it. We just need to finally admit to ourselves that we can't do any big projects any more, and that we should sit back and let someone else more capable, and who does a better job with long-term planning, do them instead, but with our funding help.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @02:14PM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @02:14PM (#677860)

          I love how vaccines causing autism is just as unbelievable to you as moon landing hoax theories. One should be much more plausible than the other to a healthy mind.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 10 2018, @02:29PM (1 child)

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 10 2018, @02:29PM (#677874)

            There's zero evidence for it, you anti-science nut.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @08:19PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @08:19PM (#678091)

              No, there's very little plausible evidence that it is a considerable risk. Reactions to vaccinations aren't unheard of, they are just vanishingly rare, which is still a decent number when you're counting many millions. 99% of anti-vaxxers are illiterate morons, but their fears aren't entirely unfounded.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11 2018, @09:32PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11 2018, @09:32PM (#678578)

            Indeed, there was a heck of a lot riding on getting to the moon first. The incentive to cheat would be huge!

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday May 10 2018, @05:00PM (4 children)

          by bob_super (1357) on Thursday May 10 2018, @05:00PM (#677994)

          The Presidency may only change every 8 years (please people, let's make an exception this time), but there are House/Senate elections every 2 years, giving outsized power to whoever bribed their official the most.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 10 2018, @06:21PM (3 children)

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 10 2018, @06:21PM (#678035)

            The Presidency may only change every 8 years (please people, let's make an exception this time)

            Not gonna happen. I'd bet money on it. My prediction: the Democrats will again nominate some lousy candidate, who at best is completely wooden and uncharismatic, and at worst not only has the charisma of the stapler guy from Office Space but also seems to be corrupt, or is simply unpalatable to most of the population, and then will lose to Trump. It's quite possible they'll even nominate Oprah (a huckster who's pushed all kinds of pseudoscientific and other bullshit on her show, from anti-vax crap with Jenny Mccarthy to "the secret" to Dr. Oz's snake oil).

            but there are House/Senate elections every 2 years, giving outsized power to whoever bribed their official the most.

            That's a good point. Look what happened with Obama: he had a short time with a Democratic majority in Congress, and then pretty quickly the Republicans took over and he spent all his time fighting them.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @07:51PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @07:51PM (#678080)

              Obama had a super majority for two years and still couldn't get things done.

            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday May 10 2018, @08:28PM (1 child)

              by bob_super (1357) on Thursday May 10 2018, @08:28PM (#678099)

              > pushed all kinds of pseudoscientific and other bullshit on her show, from anti-vax crap with Jenny Mccarthy to "the secret" to Dr. Oz's snake oil

              She can stomp Trump on his own turf, I guess :)

              • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Friday May 11 2018, @12:49PM

                by Grishnakh (2831) on Friday May 11 2018, @12:49PM (#678341)

                Nope, even Trump doesn't spew as much bullshit as Oprah has.

                I'm serious here: if the dumb-ass Democrats nominate fucking Oprah in 2020, I'm voting for Trump. I will not vote for someone who's peddled as much pseudoscientific bullshit as Oprah. At least Trump *tried* to make money somewhat honestly, by building buildings and being a reality TV star, trying to show off his supposed business skills. Oprah did more than probably anyone to give a speaking platform to the anti-vax movement, and is personally responsible for many peoples' (esp. childrens') deaths.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:56PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 10 2018, @03:56PM (#677943) Journal

      it is indicative of a significant, deep-seated failure of US science administration to think and act strategically.

      Every four to eight years we have major upheavals in policy. Sometimes going opposite directions.

      How to make progress on your journey: Go north for a while. Now go south for a while. Now go north for a while. etc . . . repeat until you get somewhere!

      It's a shame because this sort of technology development rewards a long-term approach.

      We don't need no steenkin' long-term approach! This is the US darnit! We want the rich people rewarded in the short term. Screw the long term consequences! We will do anything to increase this quarter's profits, and thus bonuses -- even if we destroy the company business in the process! There is always the golden parachute. And investors not only don't mind this approach, they help create the environment and participate in it!

      --
      I get constant rejection even though the compiler is supposed to accept constants.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @11:35PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @11:35PM (#678179)

        I know you're being sarcastic, but it seems to work. Maybe not as well as you like.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @06:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10 2018, @06:36PM (#678041)

    ... The NASA Administrator thinks he's in charge of NASA.

    History says otherwise.

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