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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 24th 2009
    I'm not sure how the standards have changed since then.

    One of the odd things about the US program is that current astronauts not training for a specific mission and retired astronauts are given administrative jobs within the space program.

    I've never understood how, for example, David Scott being an army pilot with an engineering degree and post-grad qualifications in Astronomy and geology qualified him for project management and HRM jobs but I guess when you have these highly qualified driven people sitting around you need to keep them occupied.
    • CommentAuthorMechanist
    • CommentTimeJul 25th 2009
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    Pretty much Kosmo. They need to be kept occupied or they'll degrade thanks to boredom.
    • CommentAuthor/
    • CommentTimeJul 25th 2009 edited
    <blockquote>They need to be kept occupied or they'll degrade thanks to boredom. </blockquote>Either that, or they'll violently rape the rest of the human race just out of sheer ennui.
    Which is a different word for boredom, yes, I know.
    • CommentAuthorMechanist
    • CommentTimeJul 25th 2009
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    While it would be entertaining see an astronaut go crazy in such a manner you can only imagine the media backlash: "Astronauts are violent killers!" "The astronaut in your midst!" "Schools allowed astronauts near children!" "NASA training evil psycopaths" and other such silly things
    • CommentTimeJul 27th 2009

    Giving astronauts admin jobs suits astronauts from both military and civilian backgrounds. In the military, the goal is to retire at the highest rank possible. Pilots are already junior officers, but if they make astronaut, they're no longer on a combat track (barring a revolt against the Terran Hegemony); they're staff officers. Staff officers rise by mastering the bureaucracy, becoming project managers, department heads, etc. And few astronauts fly until they retire. If civilian, they'll go back to the private sector at some point, similarly need to follow the management track.

    It's not glamorous, but that's life.

    @M echanist:

    NASA-Johnson Space Center, where astronauts spend most of their professional lives, can be a hothouse. That macho, Right Stuff culture was still very much in evidence when I worked there (1986-1996). Also, it's a fairly conservative place. In some ways, it's like highschool, with the jocks at the top, except the jocks are also very smart, geeks are in the middle and the few cheerleaders are in the PAO (Public Affairs Office). It is (was) a somewhat insular culture, though some of us had friends from the oil company ghettos of west Houston.

    So, yeah, some people can flip out now and then. A few years ago, a woman astronaut very publicly went nuts after ending up on the weak leg of a sexual triangle, and drove most of the way to Florida nonstop in order to pursue the woman she lost out to. She was pulled over in Georgia IIRC. She got fired of course. I hope things eventually worked out for her, though.

    The astronaut program selects rigorously for physical and mental health, but I'm guessing until the above incident (which was years after I left), the psych evaluations tended not to allow for the pressure of life and work in the NASA-JSC bubble.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 1st 2009 edited
    New Scientist reports on a review committee that's considering alternatives to the current back to the moon plan.

    1. One idea is to refuel lunar and interplanetary missions in space using relatively small cheap rockets (which could be bought in from the private sector) to put fuel supplies into orbit. That'd radically reduce the size of manned spacecraft and get rid of the need for big new boosters.

    2. The other idea I like is rather than going back to the moon or trying to go straight to a manned Mars missions NASA should undertake a series of less ambitious deep space missions that would build the skill base and tech base for an eventual Mars mission. This'd involve missions to Earth-grazing asteroids; a Venus fly-by and a mission to one of the Martian moons. The cost of these missions would be much lower than the Mars mission - you won't need a lander or a return stage and you could do a lot of valuable science. An asteroid mission might also lead to in-situ resource extraction which would transofrm the whole cost structure of space travel.

    Put those two ideas together and you're really going places.
    • CommentTimeAug 4th 2009
    I like them both because together they imply a space infrastructure. The problem with Apollo and Constellation, if it flies, is that neither left (will leave) behind an infrastructure when the project is over. The ISS isn't really an infrastructure either. You can replace solar wings, radiators, and other bits, but once the core modules becomes unfixable you're kind of screwed. Hence the idea of just letting the whole works crash back to earth once the station's useful life is over. And that's a shame. On the other hand, some bits can be rebuilt around another core module (see "End of mission/deorbit plans") and used for another 10 or 20 years. But the station itself isn't a suitable staging area for manned lunar or Mars missions. At best it's a way station.

    The next step should be a follow-on, more heavy-duty Space Station. Kinda boring I know, but maybe we could make it a big spinning double donut (mmm...donut) this time.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeAug 4th 2009
    "space infrastructure"

    I think that everyone with any interest in space should keep using these words as often as possible. If they become a part of the ongoing conversation, then it's more likely to happen.
  1.  (5884.9)
    Do we really need a panel to tell us this:

    A presidential panel wrapping up a review of options for future U.S. manned space flight operations delivered a grim assessment today, showing NASA's current plan to retire the shuttle, finish the space station and return to the moon by the early 2020s is not even remotely feasible without a significant restoration of previously cut funding.

    And I was out today and the words "space infrastructure" and "space architecture" kept going through my head.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2009
    NASA Launching IRVE Today. It goes in about 20 minutes, and you can watch it Here or at NASA's website. This thing is pretty neat; it's like a giant inflatable suit of armor for a rocket on re-entry. Mars landings have been difficult and used a lot of fuel as they have to use thrusters to decelerate and maneuver to a reasonably speed to land (crash) on the surface. The idea behind this is that it inflates just before re-entry, causing a huge amount of drag. The benefits of this is that larger payloads, rovers, and one day (potentially) crews can be landed safely with less effort and money. According to the article, the idea has been around for a long time, but only recent advances in materials technology are allowing us to actually test this.
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2009 edited
    I got T Minus 8 minutes and holding. What gives?

    Aircraft in the area, so Range Safety Officer says wait.

    3 minutes and counting.

    Getting dizzy......I had bedspins like this once.

    Obviously this was really a test of the s00p3r sEEkrit Hypno-Missile. Clearly the technology has come a long way since the 1990s.
    • CommentAuthoratavistian
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2009
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    I really am starting to think that the Chinese will land on the moon before Americans return there.

    According to Wikipedia, the Chinese are planning a Mir-style space station for next year and a manned moon mission sometime between 2020 and 2024.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    If only it's not shoddily constructed like the ships that have been rumored to be exploding all over the country have been...
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    Atavistian, I just looked at that link and I have to say I don;t see much point in building a reactor to provide 40 kilowatts of power.

    If that's all you need, nuclear batteries could probably do just as well.

    I'm also not all that convinced of the superiority of the reactor design over solar panels when the colling system for the proposed reactor is almost as big as the solar panels would be.

    Now if they wanted to generate 1 megawatt or more a reactor would make much more sense.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    I just looked it up, and the Wiki article on the Chinese space program seems to have been written by a particularly nationalistic Chinese person. There's no mention (as of right now) of there ever being any accidents or explosions in the program. But take a quick google search, and you find hundreds of news articles about recent explosions, mishaps, and deaths.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    The Shenzou program uses Soyuz technology for a lot of the critical components like the docking ports so we know the designs, at least, are pretty robust.
    • CommentAuthoratavistian
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2009
    @Kosmopolit - kilowatts and such are beyond my sphere of expertise, so I'll bow to your superior knowledge there.
  2.  (5884.19)
    I wonder why nobody in Chinese or American politics is trying to cooperate with China in space. We have similar goals, similar reasons for achieving them, and anything that fosters good will and knowledge exchange is probably a good thing. It doesn’t seem like much of a security issue; China has had ICBMs capable of hitting almost any Earthbound target for decades and their unmanned rockets do a fine job launching intel satellites. Our combined space efforts with Russia seem to have gone well. Seriously, there must be something our nations could work together on.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 22nd 2009
    "Our combined space efforts with Russia seem to have gone well. "

    Not really the ISS is about a decade behind schedule and $20 billion over budget because the Russians kept extorting the other partners for repeated massive "cost over-runs" on critical components.

    I agree with the idea that joint missions are the way forward but the history to date of the ISS is a bit of a worry.

    A joint moon mission would reduce the cost to each of the parties' stop it turning into a jingoistic pissing match (maybe) and prevent any party from getting any sort of strategic lead out of it.

    So yeah, NASA, the ESA, China, Japan, India and maybe Russia if they behave this time.