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    • CommentAuthorpoor_boy
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.1)
    ^ just for the record, I sincerely believe that St. Sparky is one of the good guys.

    *sal...smiles and waves*
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.2)
    @StSparky - didn't you also fly Airwolf and kill someone by sticking your finger into their brain?
    •  
      CommentAuthorstsparky
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.3)
    Airwolf was written by someone else who used to post on the WEF.

    As to putting my index finger in through someone's eye socket when 14 years old — I was being mugged at the time. I advise you to remember that move. I don't know if my letters of recommendation still exist, but if I can find one I'll try and scan it.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.4)
    Sorry. My mistake.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009 edited
     (5884.5)
    Well Hubble is now loose. I haven't heard if they've test-fired the STIS or anything yet though...

    They're also going to take the next two days simply inspecting the shuttle before the land because of fears it might blow up on reentry... has this always been procedure? or is that new since Columbia?
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.6)
    @looneynerd

    New since Columbia. Also included: the use of the robotic arm to photograph the tiles and, when docking with ISS, the end-over-end flip so the ISS can photograph the tiles as well. Considering the size of the current gash in the tile, they're being a little more careful, from what I understand.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.7)
    Ah okay. I also just realized that they're putting the landing off until Friday because they'll have more reentry windows on Friday than any other day this week.

    Also, if you're interested, congress is discussing NASA's Upcoming budget at 2 P.M. Eastern Standard time. Sorry the link is from a GOP page, but it's the link NASA's twitter gave, so yeah...
    •  
      CommentAuthoraike
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.8)
    DIsbanding and reforming NASA would probably be a better approach at this point. Changing the organizational culture at that place would be a Sisyphusian task.

    Incidentally, I think the 'sevral years without manned space flight capacity' is exactly what they are aiming for. That will get the public support necessary for a higher budget and more rapid development.

    On the space shuttle, it is a lousy design and inherently flawed (and thus far too expensive to run), even the basic idea of strapping the thing to the side of a giant explosive fuel tank is ridiculous. It needs to be retired and a new program needs to be put in place. The problem is that noone wants to fund a really new program. So, they go back to using proven technologies. And why not? When the panic sets in, there will suddenly be funding for newer programs.

    Dont forget, people like burt rutan already have answers, in a crisis, it would be a matter of just putting them to work. It is not like we are completely castrated.

    jut my .02.
  1.  (5884.9)
    The GOP link is simply becuase Hall is the ranking member, so they are linking from their caucus.
    •  
      CommentAuthorbjacques
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.10)
    *Ahem*

    1986-1996 NASA-Johnson Space Center, moi. I grew up in a very bourgeois little village across the highway, called Nassau Bay, in the 1970s (great time to be a kid, a bit like Dazed and Confused), so I knew exactly where I wanted to work when I grew up. Graduated with a gentleman's C in Mechanical Engineering, also somewhat locally, cooled my heels at a mall record shop and pestered NASA workers about job openings. Landed an interview that was cut short by the Challenger disaster, but got hired a month later. Spent the first 3 years getting certified as an instructor for all the stuff required to make the Space Shuttle livable once in orbit, spent the next as part of a top-to-bottom review of contingency procedures, mostly on the editorial end, and then tracing every wire in the Spacelab and Space Shuttle Systems Handbook. Final four years getting trained to sit in the big Mission Control room, but got within a few months of certification before quitting to follow the siren call of the Internet. Was there just long enough to get a tiny pension. Fun times. Rode on the Vomit Comet twice as script boy and stayed late after a few midnight shifts so I could watch the latest pictures of Shoemaker-Levy splashing into Jupiter. I wouldn't trade those times for anything.

    But I'm glad I left when I did. StSparky's right. Working mostly during the time of Reagan (drug tests for everyone!) and George H.W. "Vision Thing" Bush, especially for a contractor and not directly for NASA, could be soul-eroding. Great people, but mostly conservative, and I was finally outgrowing the Ayn Rand-style libertarianism that had crippled my social life since high school.

    Um. Well. What oddbill said. The only reason to send people into space is for fun. NASA can't afford to do that, and it shouldn't. It has to do space science, and the most economical way to do that is with robots. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The reason Hubble is even getting fixed is because of all the pretty pictures it keeps finding, and that's not even its main job, but enough non-scientists loved it enough to tell George W. Bush's stooge at NASA to do the rescure OR ELSE. Nobody's going to land on a comet or put the moves on the Sirens of Titan anytime soon, but NASA are great at sending cameras out there that at least let us look. And we learn stuff.

    Keeping people alive in space, on a budget, requires NASA to be boring, i.e., stable. That means bureaucracy. Maybe the present one needs slimming down, but you still need the kind of bureaucrats that keep the boring stuff running. And if putting even more people in space and sending them off to exotic locales is beyond NASA's capabilities, it's certainly beyond those of any existing corporation. Unless any megalomaniac but public-spirited billionaires want to step forward, it's not gonna happen soon. NASA's political horizons may only stretch four, maybe twelve, years, but publicly-traded corporations look no further than the next quarter. This kind of put me off libertarian nerds like the L5 Society (later the National Space Society.)

    What NASA *can* do in the service of fun is find ways to make the parts and procedures for doing fun stuff cheaper, using existing astronauts, rockets and orbiting platforms as a testbed. Then one day a corporation (or crazy Texas billionaire) can do those fun things without going broke, and, by doing so, will lower the price still further. It's sort of why Wernher von Braun wanted to build the double-donut space station once we made orbit, and then go to the moon. But Kennedy vetoed it to win the space race.

    So this time, NASA are going at it the right way, more or less, only 45 years late. Sure, the Space Shuttle is a pig, but we needed something reusable because we couldn't keep firing and throwing away big rockets at a billion a pop. The Space Shuttle cut the price to a third. Once the US won the moon race, we should have started building a real space station, like von Braun suggested and like the USSR actually did. Unfortunately, the economy got crappy and technology became something you bomb people or planets with, so people just weren't in the mood for real long time.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.11)
    As much as some of the eccentric billionaires bother me, I think that space tourism could really help the future of space science. Hundreds of thousands (my self included, if I'm being honest) would pay good money to go into space, even if it's just a launch, brief orbit, and set down taking little more than a day. Launching millionaires into orbit has already helped the Russian program, but could it be beneficial here?
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009 edited
     (5884.12)
    @looneynerd

    I could see it possibly being helpful. Couple of reasons:
    1. Who goes into space? Air Force and other military individuals, scientists, and other specialized people who are not a large portion of the population. When I was growing up "astronaut" was one of the many things I wanted to be when I grew up (never imagined psych degree-owning HR monkey/writer but, hey, you go with what you're good at) but I don't think that is seen as a viable career path for many people now. Making space travel wide spread/normal/accessible, regardless of how brief it is, could make such an occupation/career in the fieled seem more attainable by more people.
    2. With space travel becoming more accessible, it may serve to drum up interest. Regardless of political or military reasons for it, the original space race had a huge amount of public interest and I think we all agree that public interest in regards to space has waned over time. If more people get interested in it, whether as a "Hey, that's neat!" perspective or as a possible career path/opportunity for entrepeneaurs/weird science way, the more funding private and governmental space programs will receive.
    3. Private programs, IMO, stand a chance of being more innovative in regards to technology than NASA because of all of the issues regarding R&D that have been mentioned and their propensity for staying with the tried-and-true rather than the cool-and-possibly-going-to-explode.
  2.  (5884.13)
    @bjaques

    That's probably one of the key things about moving into space, huh? Lots of the stuff required to be alive in space is boring, traveling through it doubly so. But really, does it require that much bureaucracy to make things happen? My concern isn't the time said bureaucracy takes. It's the cost of it that bothers me.

    Another thought on the understandably 'boring' aspect of space travel. Is the instant-gratification society we live in now a good chunk of the disinterest of Space?
    • CommentAuthorcwebb39
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.14)
    Howdy, I'm new to Whitechapel via Warrenellis.com.

    Just thought I'd note the weird coincidence of having literally just read "Oribiter" about an hour ago (thank you Tompkins Public Library). Six years later and it feels like the cautious optimism for the revitalization of manned space flight has devolved into simple exasperation and the belief that the "other guys" (India, Russia, China) will make something happen.

    Best,

    Charlie
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009 edited
     (5884.15)
    NASA has now set a date of June 17th to launch the Lunar Recon Orbiter. It's main job is to find suitable landing and building sites for future trips to the moon, so sweet! Another satellite, LCROSS, is going to be smashing itself into the surface to find water ice and other valuable resources. When I had originally heard about these missions several months ago, the date had been set for launch early next year. Maybe China and Russia's announcements about their own lunar programs have spurred a new lunar program?
  3.  (5884.16)
    it feels like the cautious optimism for the revitalization of manned space flight has devolved into simple exasperation and the belief that the "other guys" (India, Russia, China) will make something happen

    I'm English. You're ALL the other guys to me.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.17)
    What about other English people?
  4.  (5884.18)
    They have some plans with twine and some craft paper?
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.19)
    The English have a space program?
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2009
     (5884.20)
    The English space program was shut down after Nazis tried to hijack it to destroy London with a nuclear warhead. Seriously.

    Also, they quit when they discovered there are no pubs in space.