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ranugad
2005-Jul-17, 06:48 PM
This is a rant on an Associaed Press article featured on page A3 of my local rag.


Aging space shuttle’s doom seems to be in the stars


Setbacks, risks due to old technology make end seem near


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Maybe NASA’s managers still view the shuttle as the Cadillac of space technology, but they sometimes make it sound as if it were a cranky old Ford with a few too many miles on it.

This headline, subheadline and first paragraph pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the article.

Why do they push commentary as news? Do they think us all so naive?

This is not a report on the shuttle, rather an interpretation of shuttle manager’s comments gleamed to form the opinion that too much time and money has been spent on the whole program. IMHO - Irresponsible Journalism.

I wish I could put together, with as much accuracy as possible, the total number of occupants that rode the shuttle and the distances they traveled together with the budget to come up with total person miles traveled and cost per mile traveled. I’m sure the total number of miles covered is astronomical, and the cost per person mile traveled not. And if we then calculate the number of losses per mile traveled, loss would be less risky than a trip to the nighborhood grocer.

If so much risk analysis were done with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, Columbus never would have made the trip.
I further contend, that if we (humanity) had used the same level of risk avoidance, we’d still be in caves with neither light nor the wheel.


Sorry, for the rant, it’s just I’m tired of waiting for what should have been, thirty years ago!

Moose
2005-Jul-17, 07:06 PM
Why do they push commentary as news? Do they think us all so naive?

The vast majority of "us" appear to be, unfortunately.

Arneb
2005-Jul-17, 10:51 PM
ranugad, allow me to politely disagree on some points, -

I agree with you on caves and the exploration of America, but not on a lot of the rest.

1. Mileage - The price per mile travelled would probably go way down if we calculated it the way you wrote. However I think it's unfair to do that calculation because a mile is not a lot in space - If you calculate $/ hours of service, losses /hours of service, %age of losses of entire fleet, total downtime due to technical problems, %age of occupants killed in service etc., the picture looks very different.

2. Concern has been raised about the fact that NASA has never so far put any real effort in the development of a new crew vehicle. Consider: These babies were calculated for a total service time of 20 years. That is, the development of a new vehicle would have had to begin in earnest at least by 1990 anyway; since the Challenger catastrophy happened not that much earlier (1986), it would have been wise to do then what NASA is doing 19 years later now: Announce a phase-out, then try ro return to flight with whatever you can get out of the project, but try to cut your losses. Even before 1986, it should have become abundantly clear that the Shuttle was not a viable concept as it missed its projected launch rate by, what, 80%? And that was from the beginning through 1986, never mind later.

3. So why didn't they do just that - I am quite certain it was not because the Shuttle is such a bright concept, and so brightly executed - it isn't. I see a moral reason here, and a cynical one: The moral is, NASA is by no means the organisation that put Apollo on the Moon any more (that would be a camparision with Columbus I'd accept); it has become a bureaucratic, slow, somewhat complacent structure (I am talking about the structure, not individual people; cf the beautiful success of the Mars Rovers). Oh, we can keep the bird flying for a few more years, can't we? Ah, and congress is always slashing funds; ah and the media just love those Shuttle takeoffs, and we can't afford to sit on the ground renting flights from those Russkies, etc. The cynical answer is: If you are a contractor to supply hardware for a hugely expensive, damage-prone, ageing (and thus getting ever more damage-prone) spacecraft, and every time one of the geezers trys to lift, you make huge buck - would you WANT to have this cash-cow slaughtered instead of milked? Well, you guess.

4. I think what we have here is a ball of lead clamped to NASA's feet: Cranky, old spacecraft that are falling apart even if they manage to get into and out of orbit a few more times, and falling apart ever more badly. It is not the fact that the technology is 30years old (look what the Russians kann do with their humble Soyuz craft from the 60s - these do not, at least, kill people), the problem is that some of the actual stuctures inside the ships are: Hell, these fuel sensors simply have a right to break break down after that long!. NASA is sitting there with a Hugely overpriced, hugely and unnecessarily complicated spacecraft.

No, I am not sure if I should wish for a return to flight. Maybe they just don't get the bird off the ground any more. Maybe they just keep on discovering new glitches that keep them forever fixing the thing instead of lifting off. Tough for the ISS, but the US wanted to relinquish that project (ahead of contract) anyway. If only this bird flew without people in it: It could just crash during liftoff or reentry and take with it a program that should have died in 1990 at the latest. Unfortunately, as there are seven human souls aboard, we have to wish them that they either never make it off the pad or somehow creak home afterwards.

Of course Columbus was a daring man, and his security analysis was probably rather reckless. But he wouldn't have sailed with old, creaky ships and the suppliers telling him, "Yeah, we have found something to patch over the holes. All you have to is send a few of your crewman diving under the hull to place the patch".

Would you have sailed?

Cugel
2005-Jul-17, 11:13 PM
There is nothing astronomical about the mileage of a spaceshuttle. Their destination is 400 km. out in space. Roughly 0.1% of the distance to the Moon.

Arneb
2005-Jul-17, 11:20 PM
There is nothing astronomical about the mileage of a spaceshuttle. Their destination is 400 km. out in space. Roughly 0.1% of the distance to the Moon.

True, but a space shuttle goes more than 40 000 km everytime it goes round the Earth (in about 90 min). Mileage is cropping up there. As I said: you can't compare mileage in the Shuttle to that in a plane or in a car.

The other ratings I gave are more realistic, I think.

Cugel
2005-Jul-18, 01:02 AM
I agree. The real problem with the Spaceshuttle is probably not how far it goes, or where it goes. It is more about what it does. IMO there is no vision behind the program, no clear well defined goal. (Like beating the Russians to the Moon or something like that...). I'm afraid the same thing goes for the Moon, Mars and Beyond program. I have never heard Bush explain WHY we have to go back to the Moon.

Manchurian Taikonaut
2005-Jul-18, 02:13 AM
There is nothing astronomical about the mileage of a spaceshuttle. Their destination is 400 km. out in space. Roughly 0.1% of the distance to the Moon.

The Shuttle was a very good craft, it did its job lifting American's into Space, it had a fantastic robot arm and helped the fixed the Hubble. It was a wonderful craft, and some of the missions were great it carried specialised scientists, commercial researchers and oceanographers. However many feel the Shuttle has seen its best days gone. Since the disaster NASA has not been able to put people in Space for almost 2 and 1/2 years. What is astronomical about the STS Shuttle is the cost and the price of launching on it, weigh that with the risks. Compare the NASA budget with Russia, the ESA or China, how did this craft start costing so much ?

fossilnut2
2005-Jul-18, 04:54 AM
"Why do they push commentary as news? Do they think us all so naive? "

I have found it weighted the other way. Shuttle launch coverage has been cheerleading and naive ramblings with interviews of former astronauts, etc. what are they going to say? I never hear a CNN reporter asking an astronomer begging for funding getting a realistic response from the scientific community 'What a waste of billions and billions of dollars. Over 15 billion has been spent on the Shuttle between tha last successful mission in 2002 and today. And still NO LAUNCH!"

15 billion and they can't fly because of a fuel sensor. What the 'beep' have they been doing since the Columbia disaster? The friggin fuel gauge on my lawn mower has worker fine for 17 years.

The paleontology community in the USA has almost zilch funding..as do many other sciences. I know some of the very best scientists in their field who have left the sciences. 15 billion on the Shuttle since the last successful launch and ZERO results since.

Cugel
2005-Jul-18, 01:23 PM
how did this craft start costing so much?

Well, what I have heard is that when the shuttle was conceived one of the top priority requirements was that it had to be able to retrieve Russian spy satellites from orbit. Because these things were pretty big in those days, the shuttle's cargo bay had to be pretty big also. This resulted in the enormous shuttle orbiter (over 90 ton) we now have. Without this requirement the orbiter could have been made much smaller and therefor the whole STS stack would have been smaller, simpler and much cheaper while retaining the same 24 ton to LEO capacity it now has.

kucharek
2005-Jul-18, 02:24 PM
NASA wanted something smaller, but to get money from the military budgets, the had to make a bigger cargo bay (I read that it was sized to their biggest spy sattelites the Air Force planned to launch) and a cross-range capability that it could return to the launch site after one orbit (some kind of quick deploy- or reconaissance-mission). For NASA's purposes, small wings like we see at the X-15 or even a lifting body would have been enough. But the cross-range requirement of the Air Force made the large, heavy delta wing necessary.

Swift
2005-Jul-18, 03:04 PM
NASA wanted something smaller, but to get money from the military budgets, the had to make a bigger cargo bay (I read that it was sized to their biggest spy sattelites the Air Force planned to launch) and a cross-range capability that it could return to the launch site after one orbit (some kind of quick deploy- or reconaissance-mission). For NASA's purposes, small wings like we see at the X-15 or even a lifting body would have been enough. But the cross-range requirement of the Air Force made the large, heavy delta wing necessary.
That agrees with my memory.

Jorge
2005-Jul-18, 03:48 PM
hmmz, why can't NASA branch of from the airforce?

Or won't politics let this happen?

Donnie B.
2005-Jul-18, 04:18 PM
NASA is a civilian agency, not directly associated with the military.

However, at the time funding for the shuttle program was being negotiated, NASA couldn't get congress to authorize a civilian-only program; the only way they could get a development budget was to design the shuttle to handle military missions too.

Remember, STS was going to be a "do-everything" system that provided low-cost access to space. No other launch systems were to be used at all.

As the old saying goes, if you try to be all things to all people, you often end up being nothing to nobody.

Jorge
2005-Jul-18, 04:24 PM
NASA is a civilian agency, not directly associated with the military.

However, at the time funding for the shuttle program was being negotiated, NASA couldn't get congress to authorize a civilian-only program; the only way they could get a development budget was to design the shuttle to handle military missions too.

Remember, STS was going to be a "do-everything" system that provided low-cost access to space. No other launch systems were to be used at all.

As the old saying goes, if you try to be all things to all people, you often end up being nothing to nobody.

yeah, it with those funcky kitchen crap that does every thing from mix, whip, slash, dash...

I find the standonly things to do a better job, because there only made for the one think.

I think if nasa ever drops the shuttle
they shoud create a cheap way to launch heavy payloads and a safe way to launch astronouts.

KHarvey16
2005-Jul-18, 07:09 PM
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v202/KevinH16/Shuttle.jpg

License (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_Licen se).

fossilnut2
2005-Jul-18, 09:41 PM
Regardless of who influenced the early design of the Shuttle it was NASA who promised the it could deliver on performance...not the Air Force. The promise of a flight a week has become no successful missions since October/2002. NASA chiefs never said 'we can't do that' when it was originally given the green light. If Shuttle expectations were unrealistic then the nabobs at NASA had an obligation to have spoken up. Instead they fudged budgets and then held out their hands for more.

What will be the credibility of any budget proposed for the next space craft? Instead of taking an estimate and adding 10% for overcosts...NASA will have to make an estimate and then multiply it by 10 times and then only guarantee a 10nth the expected performance.

The USA was attacked at Pearl Harbor and developed the technology to mount the invasion of D-Day in a shorter time span than has gone by since the last successful Shuttle mission.

Donnie B.
2005-Jul-22, 11:34 AM
The USA was attacked at Pearl Harbor and developed the technology to mount the invasion of D-Day in a shorter time span than has gone by since the last successful Shuttle mission.
True but irrelevant. The war effort in 1941-44 was a total national effort. Manned space exploration has nowhere near that level of public support in the USA or anywhere else. Which is appropriate, since in the short term, at least, it's not a matter of national survival.

Jpax2003
2005-Jul-22, 07:16 PM
Normally, I am against commentary passing as news, but sometimes I let it pass when the commentary is truer than the propadanda that is released as news. I don't have the whole article so I am relying on your description of it, but it does not seem to be wildly antagonistic. Most news needs analysis in order to interest a reader. Even intelligent readers can not be up to date on all things. If it is a story regarding someone's comments then it may seem slanted because it is reporting on an opinion instead of a fact, even if that opinion is reliable and justified.

As for the Shuttle, I agree. Many missions were successful but the overall plan was not. It would appear that the only thing the pro-shuttle engineers were good at was exaggeration. But it's not entirely their fault, the political climate forced them to accept compromises. Perhaps they figured that some spaceflight was better than no spaceflight and that it would eventually get better. Maybe now it will. Perhaps the whole shuttle debacle will serve as an example of how not to go to space.

Ricimer
2005-Jul-22, 07:26 PM
I thought NASA has done work on the next generation of shuttles. I remember catching specials about NASA funded prototypes. Unfortunately funding problems usually caused the end of them.

But I'll agree, NASA really should work on a new design.

MrClean
2005-Jul-22, 08:07 PM
Boeing, Lockheed, Northrup, Rutan and others should be working on new space vehicle desings. NASA should get out of the desing business and get back to just science. The budget should be gutted and Science as a whole should once again have access to a budget. Like the guy said, 2 billion and no launch, time to go a different way.

publiusr
2005-Jul-22, 09:19 PM
I don't mean to be obtuse but the get-NASA-out-of-the-Launch-business is as wrong-headed as can be.

The worst thing you can have are contractors out of control building what they want instead of letting real experts like Griffin build what we need.

Rutan only has play toys--and t/Space isn't going anywhere.

We need a strong NASA making strong decisions--no Goldin-era nonsense.

Give Griff a chance.

Launch window
2005-Jul-25, 11:44 AM
Discovery's launch could go ahead even if a fuel gauge malfunction reoccurs

http://www.space-travel.com/

Launch window
2005-Aug-05, 04:16 PM
another rant

http://www.winonadailynews.com/articles/2005/08/03/jerome/jerome03.txt

'face up to the fact we're going to be back making spaceship payments or get used to hitching rides with the Russians. '

skrap1r0n
2005-Aug-05, 06:13 PM
Why do they push commentary as news? Do they think us all so naive?

Um to be blunt? Yes they do think we are that naive because in general the public IS that naive. It never ceases to amaze me at the people that will buy into ANYTHING fed to them without checking it out for themselves.

Launch window
2006-Mar-25, 02:41 PM
More bashing from the Anti-Shuttle camp
http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/healthscience/homepage/article_1071957.php
" program should be scrubbed "

Yodaluver28
2006-Mar-26, 01:38 AM
I don't see where it is bashing to mention the reality that the shuttle was never as productive nor as safe as it was promised to be. Even if it had been, NASA should have been well on it's way to a viable replacement 25 years into the fleet's active service and nearly 14 years since a new vehicle was added.

It's simply worth contemplating whether a new vehicle class needs to replace it sooner rather than later or if a Russia-style rocket based system is better overall than that of a "reusable" orbiter.

NEOWatcher
2006-Mar-27, 02:16 PM
I don't see where it is bashing to mention the reality that the shuttle was never as productive nor as safe as it was promised to be. Even if it had been, NASA should have been well on it's way to a viable replacement 25 years into the fleet's active service and nearly 14 years since a new vehicle was added.

It's simply worth contemplating whether a new vehicle class needs to replace it sooner rather than later or if a Russia-style rocket based system is better overall than that of a "reusable" orbiter.
First: this is a blog, which in my mind is editorial. So from that point of view, it is ok. If it were a news article I would disagree since the facts should leave the decision up to the reader.
Second: There is obvious bias. The article clearly shows his anger.

There's a fine line between: "program should be scrubbed" and "should the program be scrubbed?".

Mephisto
2006-Mar-27, 02:55 PM
Is this AP, or is this actually your local newspaper using an AP wired story as the basis for their report?

I've worked extensively with the AP stories and to be honest, this does seem very editorial for one. They usually provide only the bare bones of the story with absolutely no commentary whatsoever - let alone a full article of commentary.

Are you sure it isn't just AP-based?

NEOWatcher
2006-Mar-27, 03:36 PM
Is this AP, or is this actually your local newspaper using an AP wired story as the basis for their report? SNIP
Oops, my comments compounded a problem. This link is about the AP, Launch Window is posting articles that rant (editorial), but are not from the AP.
Related? That's up to you, but I would say no, only because there are plenty of other threads dealing with the rants and rages of both sides of the spaceflight issues.