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> Shuttle Fleet Grounded, Nasa demise imminent?
Christopher
post Jul 28 2005, 10:18 AM
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With the grounding of the shuttle fleet and the obvious poor condition of the fleet itself, is this the end of manned space flight in our lifetime?
With the now neverending WOT and the incredible bloating of the budget is there any room for NASA to go on to better manned space vehicles?
There seems to be a growing sentiment that the money spent on NASA should be spent elsewhere....the WOT and defense from the right side of the fence and education and healthcare from the Left....so in todays political climate will there be enough will to give NASA what it needs?

Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?

What do you see in NASA's future?

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?



Ps could a moderator put a ?mark at the end of the nasa demise imminent line?

This post has been edited by christopher: Jul 28 2005, 10:20 AM
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Victoria Silverw...
post Jul 28 2005, 11:03 AM
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Here's a link to the news story:

Link

This is what strikes me:

QUOTE
While reviewing new cameras' unprecedented footage of the Discovery's ascent, NASA analysts saw a large piece of foam from a ramp on the external fuel tank fly off, officials said. The foam apparently did not strike the spacecraft, but it is a major concern because of its size and because engineers had worked hard to limit debris falling from the external tank. That was the source of the suitcase-size piece of foam that struck the Columbia in 2003, leading to its destruction upon re-entry.


If there had been another disaster like Columbia, the Space Shuttle program would have definitely been dead forever. As it is, it's only probably dead forever.

But NASA isn't dead, nor should it be. If nothing else, the agency has a superb record with robot probes of the solar system, which have increased scientific knowledge enormously. These should continue.

I don't see any need to abandon the govenment space program entirely, nor do I see any reason why private space flight should not be encouraged. Surely they would be of great benefit to each other. Of course, private space flight is going to be limited, for some time to come, to near-Earth projects, mostly those with immediate financial benefits (geosynchronous satellites and the like.) Maybe someday some visionary e to spell c will see the benefits of voyaging to the Moon, and beyond.

Meanwhile, one possibility hasn't yet been raised here. I see a strong need for a truly international space program. This would be a struggle in this complex, modern world, but it should at least be a goal. I don't see an easy way for there to be a Moonbase or human exploration of Mars in the next century or so without a massive effort on the part of humanity. It's just too big a job for the USA to take on alone.





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Julian
post Jul 28 2005, 02:57 PM
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Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?
Space shuttle fleet
There are only three operational shuttles left - does that constitute a "fleet" anyway, I wonder? - and none of them is less than 15 years old.
That's nothing in terms of regular aviation technology, where most operational Jumbos are 25 or 30 years old and still robust, but the very reusability that is the core of their purpose means that they are competing with brand new vehicles launched by foriegn agencies. The technology behind Ariane may be much older than the Shuttles, but each vehicle is assembled brand new before each launch (because they are not re-used).
I think the Shuttles probably are getting to the end of their useful life; as far as the manned reusable vehicles go it's probably time to start the research and design work on the next generation of vehicles, rather than keep flogging the rather ill-looking horse that is the Shuttle programme.
I think the Shuttle program is now in the same situation as the Concorde fleet was after the Air France crash. Even as they were grounded, they were still leading edge technology, but they were more expensive to run than any other civilian aricraft, and their safety was pretty questionable.

What do you see in NASA's future?
In the short to medium term, I think they will stick to single use vehicles, which probably also means pulling back from much manned spaceflight.
In the medium to long term, a new generation of vehicles should enable another exploratory push. I think some kind of international cooperation, if only to spread the cost, would be helpful. Maybe closer collaberation with ESA might be useful?

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?
Not for another couple of hundred years, I suspect.

I just don't see manned space flight becoming commercially viable for a very long time, and it remains too expensive for companies to justify the investment to their shareholders. Maybe if we discovered an essential reource - say, oil - on Mars that might change, but I can't imagine a terrestrial situation where the Earth had run out of that resource, at least enough so that it was cheaper to extract refine and distribute it from Mars AND we still relied on that resource enough for it to be a necessary commodity.

If it were solely up to free markets, we'd probably still be doing nothing but sending up satellites - I very much doubt whether we would have had manned spaceflight at all.

This post has been edited by Julian: Jul 28 2005, 03:05 PM
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Aquilla
post Jul 28 2005, 08:28 PM
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Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?


I'm not really sure at this point, but I'm afraid Julian may be right in a number of the things he brings up. As an old rocket scientist from the 70's, I've been somewhat concerned for some time about the so-called "culture" within NASA (and thus all of the private contractors as well). They really seem to have lost their vision on what it is that they're trying to do and are more interested in not being blamed for it. To be honest, listening to some of the NASA people the past few days really gives me the impression that they would be perfectly happy to not launch any more shuttles, but continue to collect their paychecks "studying" reasons for why they shouldn't fly. It's what we used to call a "paper airplane" culture where nothing was actually ever built, but we spent a whole lot of time "studying things" and designing things on paper and having meetings, but never really did anything.

Julian's idea of an expendable launch system is something to consider I think, but I fear it would be seen as a step backward by many people. Currently, the Russians are the only ones who have a "man-rated" launch vehicle, not sure where the Chinese stand and I don't know if Ariane is really an appropriate system to consider or not. In the US inventory only the Titan would really be appropriate and I'm not sure of the status of that program. One of the "dirty little secrets" is that back in the 70's, NASA was actively discouraging the development of expendable launch vehicles because they saw that as competition to the shuttle program. They actually attempted to cancel the Delta program I was working on at McDonnell-Douglas, but the US Air Force stepped in and kept it going. It is still the primary US launch vehicle today, but it's not man-rated and not really appropriate for a manned flight anyway.

I would take issue with one thing Julian said however.......

QUOTE(Julian)
I think the Shuttle program is now in the same situation as the Concorde fleet was after the Air France crash. Even as they were grounded, they were still leading edge technology, but they were more expensive to run than any other civilian aricraft, and their safety was pretty questionable.


Expensive? Yes. Questionable safety? No way. The Concorde accident in Paris was a freak accident caused by a very strange sequence of events - all of them bad. Fundamentally, that airplane was one of the finest commercial airplanes, and one of the safest ever built. It was an extraordinary engineering achievment and it's grounding has left me with two deep regrets. One that I never had an opportunity to fly in one and number two that the US didn't build it or anything like it.

What do you see in NASA's future?


At this point, I really don't know. As I said earlier, I think they've lost their vision and the dreams that used to drive those of us in the space business 30 years ago. If that is indeed the case, then tragically we're in real trouble as far as continued pioneering in space is concerned.

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?


It might be the only way for continued exploartion to happen, but I don't like the term "free markets". That implies an economic benefit and "cost/value" tradeoff and all kinds of other accountant terms. Now I don't want to insult any accountants out there, but I have some news for ya. Accountants and "bottom line" business types didn't get mankind into the air, much less into space. That took visionaries who had a dream and pursued it. If we are going to continue our quest for knowledge in space and continue to push our exploration of that frontier, it's going to take people who understand that we don't go there for pure profit. Rather, we go there because we can and it is in our nature to expand our horizons.

This post has been edited by Aquilla: Jul 28 2005, 08:37 PM
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VDemosthenes
post Jul 29 2005, 08:25 PM
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QUOTE
Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?


Doesn't seem like it. According to the NASA Chief it won't even make a hiccup in the continuation of NASA.


QUOTE
NASA Chief Michael Griffin said Friday he hasn't given up on launching another space shuttle later this year, despite suspending flights until the space agency can stop foam insulation from snapping off and threatening the spacecraft.


QUOTE
Griffin said he was not willing to give up on this year.



I tend to side with the director of NASA on NASA issues.


The Story


QUOTE
What do you see in NASA's future?


The end of using shuttles to reach outer-space. I predict scientists are already hard at work developing, if not testing, newer, safer designs of plane and or other flying device.


QUOTE
Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?


At this time I must say that it would not.





This post has been edited by VDemosthenes: Jul 29 2005, 08:25 PM
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Aquilla
post Aug 9 2005, 08:09 PM
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The stillness of the skies over Southern California was shattered this morning around 5 am local time with the double BOOM of Discovery as it announced it's successful return home. Always a welcome sound although it drives my dogs crazy. Or, maybe not, maybe it's their way of saying "good to have you back". After all, Southern California is the shuttle fleet's birthplace, every one of them built just down the road in El Segundo and every one of them first taking to the sky on the back of a 747 out of Edwards Air Force Base. I know it costs an extra million bucks to land in California and throws a crimp in the NASA schedule, but it's still nice to host a shuttle landing here from time to time. I was at the first shuttle return from space when Columbia came into Edwards. Three co-workers at Lockheed and I climbed into my Cessna Skylane with a TV that we hooked up to the cigarette lighter and flew up there, staying out of the Edwards airspace and tried to follow it down from around 12,000 feet. The Edwards air controllers were really helpful and gave me vectors to line up alongside (20 miles away) with Columbia, but that puppy had an entirely different kind of flight profile than my little Cessna did and we managed to stay with it for maybe 5 seconds. Still though, we got to see it land and that was a good thing. And today's landing was a good thing as well.

I am hopeful that NASA has learned something from this flight. There were some pretty incredible things done in the way of in orbit inspection and repair. This should serve to re-light the fire within the space business, the same fire that burned in all of us 30 years ago and got us to the moon. "We can do this". And we can and we did and we can and should do it again.
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logophage
post Aug 10 2005, 07:27 PM
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I was considering putting this under the whole "Is the media biased" debate, but it's sort of degraded into the standard partisan rants. Here's some titles that bother me.

NASA Scrambles To Find Shuttle Fault As Launch Window Closes
NASA scrambles with new problem
In fact just do a google search for "nasa scrambles".

Apparently, NASA does a lot of scrambling. The word itself from dictionary.com:
QUOTE(dictionary.com)
scram·ble
v. scram·bled, scram·bling, scram·bles
v. intr.

  1. To move or climb hurriedly, especially on the hands and knees.
  2. To struggle or contend frantically in order to get something: scrambled for the best seats.
  3. To take off with all possible haste, as to intercept enemy aircraft.
  4. Football.
        1. To run around with the ball behind the line of scrimmage in order to avoid being tackled while searching for an open receiver.
        2. To run forward with the ball when unable to complete an intended pass play. Used of a quarterback.

v. tr.

  1. To mix or throw together haphazardly.
  2. To gather together in a hurried or disorderly fashion.
  3. To cook (beaten eggs) until firm but with a soft consistency.
  4. Electronics. To distort or garble (a signal) so as to render it unintelligible without a special receiver.
  5. To cause (aircraft) to take off as fast as possible, as to intercept enemy aircraft.

While it might sell papers, get people to click links or watch the TV news longer, the use of the word itself is both inaccurate and sensationalistic. It gives people the false impression that NASA is bumbling, unprepared, incapable...

Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?

The shuttle fleet does have a planned EOL (2010). It's design is inappropriate for the type of missions being done currently. Will the shuttle be killed sooner? Unlikely. It is still useful and is the only manned-capable launch-to-orbit platform the US has.

What do you see in NASA's future?

I see NASA being slowly turned into an arm of the military. The days of government-funded civil space access will eventually end.

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?

These are not mutually exclusive ideas. I'm a big fan of private enterprise projects like Burt Rutan's company. I think such projects will be the future of low-cost access to space. However, this does not mean that government projects will be or should be excluded. There have been and will continue to be very good things coming from NASA unless the detractors win the day, of course.
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jaellon
post Aug 10 2005, 08:54 PM
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Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?

I think the Shuttle program is in real danger right now, not because the craft are any less space-worthy than expected, but that one more accident on the scale of Challenger or Columbia will shatter what public confidence remains. It will take at least a decade for Americans to get past Columbia enough to forgive another accident, and by that time the useful life of the shuttles will be pretty well ended.

However, as long as NASA can avoid any catastrophes, and I believe they can, America's love of the space shuttle will keep the program alive. You gotta admit, there's nothing like seeing the shuttle, the fuel tank, and the two boosters assembled on the launch pad.

What do you see in NASA's future?

I think as barriers to space are overcome, NASA will be split into various agencies, etc. Another branch of the military definitely seems plausible. Government-sponsored research programs into the other planets, and outside the solar system, will go on.

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?

I think that NASA played a crucial part in getting us into space, but I see them bowing out as more and more private companies use that foundation to get themselves into space. Plans are afoot to make space tourism financially doable.

Private Company Plans $100 Million Tour Around the Moon

For the cost of $100 Million per ticket, they plan to take two passengers on a 10- to 21-day trip around the moon, stating that the revenues from the tickets would be enough to pay for the cost of the mission.

Give us another 10 to 20 years and space tourism will be a real industry.
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Titus
post Aug 10 2005, 09:12 PM
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Is this the end of the Shuttle Fleet?

Maybe, maybe not. We might be seeing the begining of a slow death for the program, only to be ressurected when NASA develops a new spacecraft for manned flight.

What do you see in NASA's future?

A very long hiatus. You might see one or two more shuttle flights and that'll be it until the development of a new spacecraft, which may be delayed by appropriations. That's if the administration survives that long after the hiatus.

Would abandoning government sponsored space flight for one based in the Free Markets be a better path to follow for mankinds push into space?

I think that would be one of the worst things to happen to space exloration. If we open up space exploration and travel to corporations, you'll revisit the era of colonization during the latter half of the last millenia. We all see the trouble that caused.
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