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Space Station Funding Safe - For Now. 113

SRMoore writes "Some good news from Congress today. Looks like the International Space Station will get its funding this year. (At least from Congress)" Well, there are plenty of bloody battles to be fought before next year's budget is finally passed, but according to the CNN article SRMoore pointed us to, the House vote in favor of funding the space station was 298 to 121, so construction will probably continue for at least another year.
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Space Station Funding Safe - For Now.

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  • Only the House of Reps. has passed the bill. The Senate is still reviewing it. Though it is unlikely that the senate will kill it, there is still the chance...

    [And now for my rant]

    I see some very differing opinions out there on the usefulness/worthieness of the space station. I have to say that personally I think it's worth the cost. With the science advances made in space and the research potential of the station it's well worth the cost. Not to mention that it will provide experience for the eventual move off the planet.

    Yes I know that sounds really far fetched, and I'm not saying it's going to happen today, tomorrow, or even this century. But at the rate that we are destroying the environment, Earth won' tbe habitable for much longer.
  • I have wondered just how to interpret this line from the constitution: (Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 1 & 12)
    The Congress shall have Power To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
    and this: (Clauses 15 and 16)
    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
    and slightly unrelated (Section 10, Clause 3)
    No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
    I have always thought that the nature of my selections were meant to say that the US wasn't supposed to have a standing army, but if it needed one, it would raise and outfit one as needed.
  • >>The practice of bundling appropriations is simply a convenient way to make compromises and create consensus. Plus, by combining appropriations bills it makes it a lot easier to focus debates on the more contentious appropriations rather than debating every single one - otherwise the Congress would never get through the budget.

    If they had to spend more time talking about and working on each spending measure, they would have less time to spend our money. With that reduced amount if time they'd have to concentrate only on what is important.

    "Whoops, we didn't have time this year to pass the funding measure for the Hatian clog dancing lesbian thesbian educational fund, well maybe next year."

  • Actually, you have a good point in the sense that space-based research is important. Probably the solution is to form a University-based consortium to handle space research. Perhaps tear off the research part of NASA into that, and send the other part into the military.

    A university consortium wouldn't be perfect, but it would (probably) be far more efficient than the pure political entity that NASA has become. While Universities have a lot of politics, they wouldn't nearly be as subject to the pork-barrel pressures.

    As far as exploration goes, that probably should be left to private enterprise. It's very difficult to make the case that the added benefits research-wise outweight the costs. The only way human exploration is going to be cost effective is if their is a profit-motive involved (probably through manufacturing; tourism probably won't pay enough).

  • Okay, educated public is one thing. But colleges aren't the place to do it for most people. How many people do you remember from your school days who just drifted through school, not really caring about learning, just because their parents told them they need a college degree to get anywhere in life?

    Colleges right now are full of students that can be broken down into three categories

    1. people looking for a certificate to get them a job (the future workforce)
    2. people looking to further their knowledge in a subject in hopes of furthering that knowledge (the future academicians)
    3. people who couldn't come up with a better idea (the people who don't belong in college)

    For group 1, I really wish the US could develop respectable vocational schools. The american public has too much of a derogatory opinion of these schools for it to ever happen, but it's a nice idea. In this category I include everything from doctors to programmers, electricians to pilots. This group should constitute the bulk of society who simply want to learn a skill and get a job.

    For group 2, I include those people who are interested in pushing the boundaries of the fields they are interested in. I would also include some poeple who would like to eventually work, but want a really thorough understanding of their entire field. This group would include most of the full-time grad students and professors across the country.

    For group 3, let them get a job and take night classes until they know what they want to do. Hell, let them sign up for something in one of the other two, and switch if they don't like it. Most of the people in this group would likely end up in group 1.

    And as for needing an educated public, that's what reading is for. There's no need to have people going full-time to school if all they want to do is broaden their horizons by reading a few good books. Let them take night classes. Let them read the newspaper. Let them get together to discuss the issues that affect their daily lives.

  • People in Turkey don't have safe houses to live in, and we're trying to put people into orbit?

    Here goes the Mir all over again.
  • you are the most evil person I have ever seen in my life. the hell with 25% of kids! they're better off than John D. Rockafeller was! Do you know how STUPID that sounds? And as for spending for a better future, I am all about that; I simply consider that to be investing in education and children, not fueling some pathetic sci-fi fantasy. You don't actually care about people, you are more interested in seeing a science flourish, no matter how many miserable lives there are. Excuse me for caring about other human beings - assholes like YOU really annoy me.
    Matt Singerman
  • Look - I'm not denying the importance of starting to get out into space...but what are we accomplishing, relly, with this station? I mean, it's good enginerring 'practice', but there's not that much science to be gained... I mean not compared to a project like the 11-billion$ SSC (Superconducting Super Collider), which congress cancelled a few years back...Everybody seems so keen on this space stuff that they tend to ignore what scientific value you can get from it...
  • The space station is pretty much secure right now, partly because of the enourmous sunk costs we've already spent on it. Congress is demonstrating its dissatisfaction with NASA over the station by cutting new programs, such as the unmanned ones, even though they're much less costly and more efficient.

    In a way, I'd rather they'd cut station instead of all the science programs. Or maybe cut X-33 instead; it's going massively over budget by about the required amount...

  • I mean, get real. The entire Yugo air force was splashed or never got off the ground. With existing planes.

    We don't need more expensive planes, we need more efficient, more omnipresent planes.

    Wake up and smell the defense cuts ...

  • I'm not sure I see the advantage of handing space exploration over to big business. Besides satellites, why would businesses want to spend money on space exploration?

    Because if there is value to space exploration for mankind beyond basic science, then corporations will fund space research to gain an edge in future space industries. But even if corporations don't fund any research, they would still pick up the R & D for more efficient means of getting into space, simply because they need satellites. That's a large part of what NASA does anyway, so much of the current money could be gotten just as easily from private sources.

    The difference would be that the businesses would be paying the full cost, and so they would have much more incentive to cut costs. And there would likely be a couple of different space carriers, and competition would therefore drive down prices. The space market is no different from any other market: private organizations and free markets will find ways to get the job done more efficiently than the government could hope to accomplish.

    As for basic research, this could probably be funded to some extent by universities and private organizations. Keep in mind that I'd cut a lot of other government programs as well, so there would be more money available for private charity.

    I also question the notion that space exploration is so important that we should force people to pay for it. If no one is willing to pay for it voluntarily, what right do we have to force them to pay for it on the threat of going to jail? There is an infinite number of good causes, and the fact that many /.ers (myself included) like space exploration does not give us the right to force that preference on others.

    As much as you deride "profit margins," they are the best device yet discovered for comparing the relative desires of people in an economy and giving them what they want most. If people like space exploration, they are free to form organizations and start missions of their own. If no one is willing to do this, then I question whether space exploration is really so important.

    One of the reasons that private entities are not exploring space right now is that the government is subsidizing NASA. Space enthusiasts and companies would be silly to set up an alternative space program when they can get the same service at reduced price due to government subsidies. If the government didn't provide subsidized rides into orbit at taxpayer expense, we very well might see private alternatives arise. But why start a competing service when your competitor has billions of dollars in government funds to allow it to sell its services for less than their full cost?

    In any event, I don't see how any of this relates to the space shuttle and space station. I didn't say that the government should not fund *any* basic research (although I'm inclined to think so.) Even if the government is going to fund space exploration, my point is that a private space industry with shuttle space purchased by the government is better than a government program that sells space to private entities, since in the long run the private carriers will develop cheaper, more efficient space program. There have been billions of dollars spent servicing the space shuttle, and for that money, private firms could have probably developed better and cheaper alternatives. But instead we are still stuck with 70's technology, and that looks like it won't change for another decade. Like all government agencies, NASA is bloated and inefficient, and I'd like to see it dismantled.

  • That was one of the most stupid thing I have ever read. So, what is best, to waste money to kill ppl, like in Kosovo (costed alot more than NASA's budget) or ro use money for exploration? I also read that NASA's budget is 12billion$/year... and that NATO's budget is 2000billion$/year... which is a waste of money... killing ppl doesn't make anyone happy....
  • It would be built at the space station of course! It would make launches easier because they wouldn't have to escape earth's atmosphere every time.
  • So we should cut funding even further to an already severely underfunded NASA in order to try to put more people who don't belong there through college?

    You can't be serious. The amount of money NASA receives is a piddling amount compared to the national budget as a whole. And because we're already committed to putting $X towards the ISS, any cuts in NASA's budgets mean that some other project has to suffer. As for not "needing" to be able to live in space in the next 50 years, what does that have to do with anything? The space race was a good way to spur us on, but we shouldn't be stopping just because we don't have any competitors any more.

    And as for putting NASA's budget towards education, maybe we should first look at reforming a system that says everyone needs to go to college to get a decent job, and instead look at bolstering the quality of elementary and high school educations, as well as that of vocational schools. College isn't for everyone, and it sure as hell isn't necessary for a lot of fields we seem to think require it.

  • maybe when an individual's contribution exceeds the cost of actually getting that person there, but since NASA's budget is about 1% of the federal budget, unless you pay more than $200 million in federal taxs you'll never have contribitued enough even to simply cover the cost of launching you into orbit.
  • Wouldn't it be easier to launch a shuttle to Mars from a space station than from the surface of the earth?? To me, this seems to be one of the biggest advantages of having a space station.. it will make exploration outside of earth a lot cheaper and easier.
  • Why are "people" programs better? We can breed and feed the poor any time.. let's build a space station.. it would at least be some meaningful accomplishment in our lives besides just propagating the species. Any cave man can work for "people" -- it takes real intelligence to explore space.
  • I'm not sure I see the advantage of handing space exploration over to big business. Besides satellites, why would businesses want to spend money on space exploration? There is no money in it for them, and the only purpose of a business is to make money.

    Furthermore, there is nothing stopping business from exploring space RIGHT NOW... and they obviously aren't doing it, except for sending up a few satellites now and then.. which sort of proves my point. We need a government space program if we want any research to take place that is concerned with things beyond profit margins.

  • Space is cool. But that doesn't mean we should support NASA and the ISS. The net effect of government spending on space programs is to inhibit private sector spending on alternatives.

    Want space elevators, interplanetary human exploration, and permanent space settlements? Do you want these to be available to ordinary people in our lifetime? Do you believe that they will be, if the government is the primary source of space research and exploration dollars?

    No private entrepreneur wants to compete with NASA. It would be foolhardy in the extreme. Furthermore, the ISS is just bad science. No fundamental new principles of physics or engineering are really being derived, just recycled old technology from the 60s and 70s.

    Finally, and while it may seem an archaic point, where in the Constitution is it provided for government to spend money on space programs? Apart from the "provide for a national defense" argument, there is none. Thus, it is not merely a misguided program on pragmatic grounds, but as a matter of principle should be ceased at once.

  • Cassini (sp?) was the last "big budget" space project to be launched. All recent exploration has been under the "smaller, faster, cheaper" motto. Gallileo was cheap and gathered a lot of data for its cost, same with Deep Space 1, which included a new cheap and light propulsion system (less $$ to launch) and an autonomous navigation system (less ground controllers to pay.) The mars explorer (name forgotten) used low-mass landing gear - aerobraking, parachute, airbags - meaning less money to launch. There has even been a proposal to replace the Russian-built habitation module with an inflatable device. Cheap, cheap cheap has been what nasa is doing..
  • >There is plenty of information available on just about every candidate available for anybody who wants to look for it.

    And if I do spend that time, there's a vanishingly small chance that my vote will affect the result. Moreover, the candidates that do appear by the time I vote (given that I don't live in New Hampshire or Iowa, and even the ones who show up there are the ones with big money orgs behind them) will be Tweedledee and Tweedledum as far as I'm concerned.

    Read David Freidman's "Hidden Costs" for his analysis of why voter turnout is as small as it is here.
  • no doubt. How much fruit can you grow in orbit. Space is really big, but we keep exploring the same stupid part of it (orbit). And guess what? There's nothing there (in orbit) of even the most trival interest to science. I am all for exploring space, but if spinning an 80 year old man around next to a third grader's cabage experminent is NASA's idea of exploration, we need a new program director.
  • OK. I am the biggest fan of space you can find. There is nothing--NOTHING--I would want more than a healthy, amazing, mind-boggling space program. That is why this story strikes an emotional chord with me.

    A few weeks ago the VA-HUD appropriations subcommittee slashed most of the good projects NASA is working on. It cancelled all Mars missions past 2001 or so, cut funding to the Deep Space missions that were SO great for science, and cancelled several future astronomy missions. Further, recent deliberations have failed to restore any of this fundin.

    But it left two programs virtually unscathed: the ISS and the Space Shuttle, the two bloated NASA programs that matter the least.

    I have a great fear that within a couple of years we will have a (so-called) space program consisting of only these two projects, and none of the bargain-basement science missions that give us so much gain for the buck.

    I also have a fear that two years from now the taxpayers are going to be outraged by the failure of the ISS and the waste of BILLIONS and BILLIONS of their dollars.

    My wish: NASA would cancel the ISS, free up 2.something billion dollars, and spend all that money on science missions and a manned mission to Mars. Yes, a manned mission to Mars--we could afford it without the ISS.

    It's a sad time.
  • no doubt. How much fruit can you grow in orbit? Space is really big, but we keep exploring the same stupid part of it (orbit). And guess what? There's nothing in orbit that is of even the most trival interest to science. I am all for exploring space, but if spinning an 80 year old man around next to a third grader's cabage experminent is NASA's idea of exploration, we need a new space program.
  • So if this bustling economy is such a great solution, then why do 25% of children live at or below poverty, and 20% of all Americans overall? Oh wait, because instead of having better schools and job training and drug treatment centers, we launch bits of metal into space so we can see what happens when a monkey shits in zero gravity.

    Oh, by the way, don't confuse "poor" and "poverty"... "poor" is having trouble making ends meet; "poverty" is legally defined as a family of four surviving on less than $16,000 per year. So while you sit in your nice suburban living room, or your trendy urban loft apartment, arguing why we need to hand that much more money over to the aeospace industry, please try not to think too much about the chronically undernourished children in the US. Did you chronic undernourishment kills almost twice as many children worldwide than famine does? Oh, I forgot, we're so much better off here.
    Matt Singerman
  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Friday September 10, 1999 @07:26AM (#1691165)
    It is patently false that there was no opposition to going to the moon. There was considerable opposition from every end of the political spectrum. Kennedy himself found the idea causing him such political trouble that he even publicly offered to cooperate with the Soviets on the project (with, more than likely, the quiet hope that they could be blamed if the effort failed). While it is virtually impossible to find anyone today who was opposed, this is because the program became such a (short lived) popular success.

    Now, I don't happen to think the fact that the world is not a utopian paradise is sufficient reason to scuttle the space program. Europe was no utopian paradise when the "voyages of exploration" began in the sixteenth century. Even so, I think we should be looking for ways to profit from manned space flight, otherwise we should leave space to the robots.

    I've heard the argument about "machines can't think," and true as this is, you should take a look at what it costs to make a long space flight survivable for a human being. You can put a lot of brains in a robot for what that costs.

    I laughed out loud at the scene at the beginning of the movie Apollo 13 when Lovell calls to his kids and they were all sitting on the stairs. I was a kid on the stairs those July nights in 1969, pretending I was down in my room, listening to everything as it happened on the TV. I will never forget it.

    Apollo was lousy science (in space exploration terms, not in technological development terms), but it sure had me dreaming of the stars and dying to be a scientist/engineer.

    I see the future of man in space in the very long term. It took almost 100 years for Europeans to follow the explorers into the "new world." The distances and difficulties and costs of this expansion are so much greater that I do no think 1000 years out of line for the length of time it will take to have interplanetary trade and civilization, but I think we should continue to try.

    "A man's reach should always exceed his grasp." Help the poor, yes. But don't put everything on hold until poverty is gone. Society doesn't act. Individuals act. Select your priorties and put your effort in there. Give others the freedom to do the same. The world can and will become better if you do.
  • You are so 1995.

    Seriously, why should we blow money on F-22s when we can just take Stealth Fighters and equip them with JATO strap-ons (late 90s) for the dumb bombs? Cost is $2000 strap on to a $500 bomb, accuracy is 95+% (way better than those 75% smart bombs) and it works in cloud cover.

    Fast and cheap, just like the space program. Sure, let's send people to Mars, but why not send robots to collect fuel for the return trip, establish the Mars base, and set up the solar collectors first? Way cheaper and we can send more people in the long run.

    The GOP approach is throw money at it. Like buying Windows NT boxen when you could get Linux boxen that actually work and cost less. The Demos, because they're the party of fiscal prudence, insist on Linux boxen.

    Me, I think the Demos have the right tack, but then, I'm biased.

    And I sure don't trust my privacy to the GOP.

  • As someone who grew up on welfare, I must say that *you* are living in a fantasy world! Do you really believe that throwing money at people betters their lives? As a previous post pointed out, welfare has been around for a long time and nothing has changed. The welfare program has plenty of money. But, it is a mismanaged and terribly designed system that only manages to create more generations of welfare recipients. The only way to help people via government handouts is to completely redo the whole welfare system. More money will do absolutely nothing. I was able to escape from the system because my parents knew how valuable it was for my sisters and me to be educated. And it was the space program that was my inspiration to go into the sciences! Until people appreciate education, they will remain on welfare, no matter how much "assistance" you give them. Other countries have better test scores than the US not because they pump lots of money into schools, but because education is highly respected. Don't blame NASA for the welfare system's problems! Cutting the space station and turning that money over to the Welfare program will just give them more money to waste! On the other hand, expanding NASA's programs will create jobs all over. The space station and planetary probes, and eventually bases on the Moon and Mars and mining the asteroids, will *create* jobs, not just for scientists, engineers and programmers, but also in support areas, everything from med techs to receptionists to truck drivers. The space program not only affects the major contractors like Rockwell, but also the subcontractors, suppliers and support companies. Cutting space programs just puts even more people out of work. The way to get people out of poverty is to give them opportunities, not cash. You know the old saying--"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, give a man a fishing pole and he eats for the rest of his life" (or something like that). Food stamps will get someone through the month, but McDonnel-Douglas building a new assembly plant, or companies being created to handle the mining of asteroids, will give someone a future. People like *you* really annoy me because you treat people in poverty like objects--pet projects to dole out contributions on as you see fit and to shed crocodile tears over to feel good about yourself. You self-righteously make proclamations about what is "best" for the poor without even bothering to find out if it actually works. It is not stupid to say that poor kids are better off today--they are. There are so many opportunities to get out of poverty (education grants, low-interest loans, etc., that require the recipient to accomplish something), but you have to have a goal for yourself to use them. Throwing money at people may make you feel better, but it does nothing to encourage people to better themselves.
  • Correct.

    If you haven't already, check out Robert Zubrin's ideas on "Mars Direct." He has written a book, called The Case for Mars. He has given a *bunch* of talks on his plan and is involved in the Mars Arctic Research Station, which will test in-situ fuel generation for return trips back to Earth.

    Check out The Mars Society [] for all kinds of Mars info.

  • Sure space is cool, but why send people?

    Let machines do the work.
  • I've mixed feelings on this one; on the one hand, it shows that congress still has some interest in the space programme, but on the other hand the station is a phenomenal waste of money.
    If I were Dan Goldin, I'd do my damdest to get together the $50 billion needed to establish a permanent base on Mars []
  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Friday September 10, 1999 @02:28AM (#1691171)
    It's such a pity that something as important as the Space Program has to struggle for survival. This is very good news.

    During the Space Race, no qualm was made about going to the Moon. Politicians kept underlining how important the Space Program is for Humanity: it is an expression of our innermost desires for exploration, and a trait of curiosity that marks the entire race. In truth, they just wanted to win the pissing contest with the Soviets.

    Is the Space Program important? You betcha. It's an inalienable right of Mankind to pursue it. In the long run, it can have a dramatic influence on the survival of Humanity itself as a species.

    But the results don't come during a single mandate, so it keeps getting cut and cut again... Fortunately, it has also forced NASA and other agencies throughout the world to innovate and become more creative. We're far from sending another billion-dollar Viking when we can send a little robot that'll do just fine.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Space research and exploitation will pay off in ways that we can't dream of today. This, in turn, will lead to more "well being" for us.
  • That's one done. Now all that needs to be done is to try and get the Miltary budget down to almost nothing. And we should be in the clear.

    Murphy(c) 4 3l33t pReZi
  • I am glad to see that space station funded. I am tired of hearing from ignorant people who think spending money on space programs is silly. I especially can stand some of the short range thinking folks that we seem to have in Congress these days who feel they need to eliminate the space program. Space exploration is our future, and I am sure many here will agree on that. It's just sad to see people trying to stop a wonderful part of our scientific community.
    Words of Wisdom:
  • If I was Dad Goldin, I'd use the $50 billion to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate the 25% of US children that live in poverty.

    God bless America; the richest country in the world, and it can't even feed all its own children.
    Matt Singerman
  • While the space station surely is a technical marvel. I believe that the well being of our people is much more important. What the space station can accomplish research does not equal the amount of money that is being invested into the project.

    Anyway, they will probably dump it next year after putting wads of cash into the project.
  • by rhuff ( 22750 ) on Friday September 10, 1999 @02:31AM (#1691178) Homepage
    I have to agree with the previous poster. I am greatly in favour of having a real space program, but what NASA has been doing for the past 15 years is not a real space program.

    The ISS is years late, billions over budget, and will only have a fraction of the capabilities originally intended.

    It's tragic to think that we have seen no significant advance in our space capabilities since the late 70s.

    BTW, for a great novel that harps on the same theme, read Homer Hickham's Back to the Moon. It's a great story and it is very strong in the technical details (Hickham is a retired NASA engineer; his childhood was the subject of the movie October Sky - the absolute best geek movie ever).
  • They also pay off in ways we can dream of. There are thousands of spinoff technologies from the space program in everyday use by ordinary people. I can't remember the url, but nasa has a page listing some of the more major ones, including things (iirc) like artificial heart valves and velcro.
  • They have 60m to spend on the porn^H^H^H^H Starr report, and they have no money for the only space station humanity has left?
  • Because we don't have machines as smart as astronauts.
  • Why is the Space Station tied to veterans benefits and environmental programs?

    If we're going to open the wallet for the space station, let's just do that. I support environmental protection and veterans benefits, but they should be handled on seperate bills and not riders on the space station's funding bills.

    It's exactly this practice that gives people like this asshole Roemer the ammunition to attack the funding bill.

    "My district isn't getting enough out of this, so I'm going to kill it." Screw that and screw him.

  • I guess this post is flamebait but I would still answer it. Until machines will stop being stupid people shall be sent. And as further away from earth (light speed is finite) as more imperative will be sending something with brains not diodes.
  • If previous patterns hold true than the knowledge and technologies developed just to get the space station off the ground and running will spin off into the civilian world and drive all kinds of wild new innovations.

    It's easy to diss the potential value of the pure research projects that will go on up there but I think just the technical achievements involved in getting the station up and running & supporting life will have all kinds of useful applications down on earth.

    just my $.02

  • Is the Space Program important? You betcha. It's an inalienable right of Mankind to pursue it.

    And you have the right to make a donation to your favorite private space exploration organization. Alas, you don't have as much to give, thanks to taxes. We've settled into a situation where each of us pays money the government without getting to tell the government how to spend our money. Instead, we only have the crudest methods for influencing how it will be spent: we vote every few years among a tiny pool of candidates (with very little information about those candidates other than whatever can be gleamed from mud-slinging ads) for the one we hope will use our political and economic power the most wisely.

    I say abolish NASA and most of the rest of the government, along with the taxes that support it. Let people choose directly for themselves how their own resources are spent (i.e. feeding the hungry, educating kids, exploring space, subsidizing tobacco farmers, etc) according to their own values.

    Have a Sloppy day!
  • It sure would be easier to launch a shuttle to Mars from a space station than from the surface of the Earth. That's a fine idea you've got there. Before I write my Congressman and ask him to support it, though, can you please explain how the shuttle is going to get to the space station?
  • If companies can make money off space, then why don't you see the 'Intel Zero-G Chip Production R&D facility' for example? If there was enough immediate money to be made in space, you would see more companies there. R&D is expensive. R&D is necessary. To keep this country leading edge as it is, the government needs to provide a place to do R&D. Whether that is in a national lab, or in space. The government wouldn't be sending people into space for just the coolness factor. And companies can't afford to put people into space with no large short term return.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • If your figures are correct, I completely agree about the manned mission to Mars. The l\only problem is that it's kinda hard to get the ship, crew, and supplies for a 6-12 month mission off the ground all at one time. It would be much easier to send repeated missions to mars, the moon, and other places if we could get around the problem of launching stuff from earth.
  • So if this bustling economy is such a great solution, then why do 25% of children live at or below poverty, and 20% of all Americans

    Maybe because we define "poverty" as "the poorest 25%"? Most of these people are living much better than a fairly wealthy person 100 years ago. Why? Investements that society made (one way or the other) in progress

    Oh, by the way, don't confuse "poor" and "poverty"... "poor" is having trouble making ends meet; "poverty" is legally defined as a family of four surviving on less than $16,000 per year.

    Spending or not spending $$ on creating a better future world has nothing to do with this. Maybe if we build a better world (a key ingredient to which is getting off this one limited planet) we can do better for these people's kids/grandkids. Face it, the fact is that there is no longer enough appropriate work for the 25% least intelligent/motivated/educated/responsible fraction of the population. There are not enough floors that need sweeping or fries that need selling to keep them all employed.

    I think this poster is probably a pseudonym for Dr. Laura. Or at least a luddite, vegan, peta, Dr. Laura lover. There's goes a few points of karma,but these people really annoy me.


  • The space station is largely irrlelvant for science as a whole; much of its capacity for making a contribution to anything beyond being a "feel-good, high-tech, public works project" has been compromised in the interest of cutting costs and getting it up into the sky.

    The real embarrassment in terms of scientific spending is how NASA, the DOE, and NSF must compete with the VA, HUD, and Americorps this fiscal year in a zero-sum-game for appropriations. The latter three have highly vocal constituencies, and will almost certainly gain significant amounts of revenue which would otherwise be used for R&D spending. Given that 50 percent of the US's GDP since the end of World War II has been the result of scientific and technical innovation (70 percent over the past few years), it seems ill-advised to accept such massive cuts in scientific spending.

    Federal support of R&D is now only about 45% of what it was 30 years ago. This trend is unlikely to reverse itself anytime soon without the involvement of the (largely apathetic) scientific and technical constituencies.

    Perhaps we could all devote 1% of the time we spend bashing Microsoft, Apple Co., intellectual property and patent law, GNOME/KDE, RHS, the NSA, AOL, the DOJ, and Sun Co., and instead write an informed letter to a congressperson or two in support of scientific and technical spending in this country. This would do much to give the impression that some are indeed concerned about these issues.

    A Wash ington Post editorial [] by Allan Bromley, a former president of the American Physical Society, makes a compelling case for increasing science appropriations.

    (My apologies for the non-USA readers for this USA-centric post).
  • I look at the space-program of the 60's -> 80's as another side shoot of the cold war. Look what we can do -- we can do it better and faster. Now that most of that competition is over, we are looking for other ways to waste money...

    The space station may be a way to explore future residence in space, but I really don't think that we will come to need that in the next 50 years.

    Spend the money on education and schools. We have enough under educated people that need a college education. Stop the bullshit and get kids in school!
  • There are so many worth while alternatives to spending money on the space station. It's true that the money would probably be better spent on "people" programs.

    The research knowledge gained during the construction of the station could be gained through other research. *IF* people could remain focused on doing research for the sake of research.

    Spending money on something like a Mars base, or the ISS is valid, because it gives us some high mark that is defined, and reachable. There are plenty of other ways to adjust the budget and our government programs which would make more sense.
  • The Space Race was a product of the cold war or at least the cold war mentality though: We must beat those Ruskies to the moon because we've already lost the race into space! This is a fight for Truth, Motherhood, Apple pie and other American ideals. We can't let the communists win! The sentiment of the time allowed the American public to be charged up by the propoganda.

    You're more or less co-operating scientifically with any country capabale of making use of the space station at this point, including those who don't currently embrace democracy. Things have changed a lot in thirty years. Because of this similar tactics won't work.

    I feel that getting into space, both manned and unmanned, is an admirable goal. Exploration was a part of the human spirit and experience and we need to go that way again. Now anything that doesn't have immediate commercial or military application is considered a waste of money. Exploration is too fraught with danger to risk human life on and so on. The community at large imposes there own biases on people who would be willing to take risks to explore.

    If the europeans in the 15th century felt the way we currently do North America would still be populated by aboriginals.
  • Not to bring politics into the issue... but the one thing I loved about Republicans was the fact that they'd blow money on the military and the space program until recently. Now we're making F-16's and stealth fighters based on 70's technology, and dump our 90's technology like the F-22, ISS, etc. down the sh1tter so that the average American can take home $40 at the end of the year. People tend to forget that if it wasn't for the space program, we would probably not have integrated cicuits... at least they wouldn't be comparable to today's standards. And who can ever forget Tang? I'm just wondering what good things aren't being developed because of this budget frenzy.
  • Consider this hypothesis:

    The fastest way to truly colonize space is not to fund ridiculously expensive and mostly useless corporate welfare projects like the space station, but to spend that money on education and growing the economy. In 20 or 30 years the Space Station will be just another sad reminder of the impotent wastefulness of governments, like the moon landings and Mir, but by that same time, a wealthy and educated Earth will be ready to begin actual colonization.

    I haven't done the necessary research to actually convince myself of this hypothesis, but it seems more plausible to me than the viewpoint promulgated by NASA -- that we should give them half a trillion dollars and not worry about the fact that we're not actually getting any closer to space by it.


  • Couple things that can be said about this nonsense.

    First, you do know that the US has transferred around 5 TRILLION dollars to the poor since the sixties? Clearly dumping more money into a corrupt welfare system isn't the solution.

    Second, how many children actually die in the U.S. of starvation? Oh, zero? Not to say that some people couldn't live better, but the poorest person in the U.S. lives better than the average person in a lot of other countries.

    The solution to poverty is 1) a growing economy, and 2) encouragement of people to get a job and support themselves (and sometimes this has to be "tough love"). Dumping more money has not been and never will be the solution.

    But I'm sure screaming "more money!" impresses your friends with your "caring"."

  • The proposal to kill the Space Station comes up and is killed every year. It was never a serious threat. What is a serious threat is that the $1 billion in cuts to NASA's budget were included in the bill and passed (here) []. These were targeted specifically at the non-manned missions, so the NASA cuts we were all debating a few weeks ago went through.
  • It's interesting that nobody complained about the poor and education in the US while flinging $750k missiles at another country. Especially when you consider that the conflict was of little strategic value to the US and that they will probably pay a lot for rebuilding the area.

    But when a historic project with plenty of scientific and economic spinoffs for the US costs a lot there is a lot of complaining and threatening to cut off funding.
  • They're going to kill the space station! Quick, get some more funding for it. We must save this valuble portion of our national budget!!!!!

    More taxes, you say? You'll need to use the budget surplus? Well, for a worthwhile project, I guess it's oaky. But only for space and the american dream.

    Alright, you can have that defense contract for your home town. I'll take this education grant. Where will we get the money? Ah, just cut the nasa program. The people will always approve more spending for it. We do it every year, and they always write these "We do these things not because they are hard, blah, blah, blah" speeches urging us to please take more of their monye. Yes, it's funny. Yes, we'll play golf on friday. See you.
  • by Fish Man ( 20098 ) on Friday September 10, 1999 @04:58AM (#1691224) Homepage
    Actually, the Apollo program of the 60's was one of the few examples in all of history of a government program running efficiently and effectively.

    The Apollo program ran efficiently, made progress remarkably quickly, and truly pushed hard on the technology envelope of the time, all reasonably close to budget.

    Had the congress not eviscerated NASA in the mid 70's, and NASA continued progressing at the pace and efficiency that it showed during the Apollo program, I'm convinced we would now have the following things:

    • A permanent research facility on the moon.
    • Perhaps even a vacation resort on the moon.
    • A space shuttle like vehicle to shuttle researchers (vacationers?)
      to and from the moon.
    • Numerous manned missions to Mars, maybe even a permanently manned
      station there.
    • At least one or two manned missions to Jupiter and to Saturn, perhaps
      even with landings on one of their moons.

    Those who say that space research is a waste are just plain ignorant. The benefits to humankind that fall out of space research far outweigh any reasonable cost, if the research could be done as efficiently as the Apollo program was.

    It is sad that NASA is now so under funded and that NASA along with the rest of government is so burocratic and lumbering that it can just barely manage to keep moving on a space station that is puny and unimpressive even compared to what we were accomplishing in space in the 60's!

    And even the funding of the space station is a constant source of political fighting.

    It is true that the space station is being handled so inefficiently and is such a token effort that the benefits if this particular station might not outweigh the costs.

    This is a true pity, since it need not be that way.
  • Well... Actually I was saying that why isn't Intel looking at producing chips in space.. perhaps the zero-g environment makes this easy.. or more specifically what about GaAs (I think that's Galium-arsinide) wafers? I remember that they were extremely hard to produce in a lab, but were a snap in space...

    The point that I was making is companies are not even looking at utilizing space, in any extent other than communications and military.

    But why would a company put up Hubble?
    Who is going to pay them to do that?

    Sure it would be nice, but it isn't going to happen any time soon.
  • Other Nasa programs are addressing it though, like the X-33. []

  • by rlglende ( 70123 ) on Friday September 10, 1999 @02:49AM (#1691228)

    NASA likes everything gold-lated, large, late, over-budget, under-performing.

    If we want space stations, abolish NASA and give the taxes back to ordinary people. Repeal the Treaty on Space/Moon, let people homestead the moon and mars the way they did Oklahoma.

    Then we will have space travel.

    Until then, don't hold your breath. The laws of bureaucracy are just as binding as the law of gravity.

  • i think that space is a wonderful place to spend money , sorry to say that it is underfunded , most gov. programs are fighting hand and fist for a little green to line there pockets to get throw another year , we dumped the space station a few dozen times , it has almost died , but i think it is something that we need to explore for there is a ton of things we have learned and made that have helped out development of our as a ppl , we need to look to the future as well as the past for our answers , for one day space maybe the only place we can go , i am not saying that space should get more funding , but it needs to be open and explored , as do the ocians . i hope that funding will keep up becouse i am infavor of a space station , and even moon bases , and the mars colony are all good things , we also need to feed and cloth our own first and learn to stop reproducing at the rate we are . as a sociaty we need to grow up and advance . with out funding we cant get off this planet or under teh ocians , with out education our sociaty cant advance , schooling needs to be for front now. clothing and education , with the advancement as well, its a juggling act .for who knows when or how the next great technology will come.

    geeks in space a look to the future!
  • Only the government would waste money on such a massive and unnecessary project as the space station. Yes, it's cool, but the billions of dollars spent on the station would be far better put to smaller, more effective space efforts, or more desperately needed purposes here on Earth. It is amusing that when you ask people why they need a space station, their answer is "to find out how you live in space." My question is: if that's the only reason to put people in space, what's the point. There is very little that cannot be done with machines and/or short trips aboard space shuttles or the like.

    The future of space exploration would be much better off if the government stopped pouring money at failed space programs rather than let free markets and competition work their magic. There are enough private companies needing satellites that had the government not subsidized their travel on the shuttle we would doubtless have a private space industry putting satellites into orbit. And the government could then purchase space on those privatge carriers for their legitimate research and military needs, and at reduced cost due to competition and innovation. Only the massive subsidies of the space shuttle and other pork barrel projects (and regulation of private rocket launches) have prevented private firms from finding better, cheaper ways of getting into space. And only a private space market will help us realize the dream of cheap, reliable space flight as soon as possible.

    So I say can the space station, and NASA with it. Yes, there will be a period of reduced space exploration while private companies gear up to start taking cargo. But in the long run both space exploration and the space industry will be dramatically improved.
  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    So when do all the people who are actually paying for this thing get to go on-board it?
  • We should absolutely go to Mars. I would like to see alot more spent on space exploration, bigger & better Hubbles, space-based inferometers (sp?) to look directly for planets around other stars, a series of landers and orbiters to check out Europa, research into commercially expoliting the resources of asteroids etc.

    The ISS is more of a political boondoggle than anything else, it doesn't seem to have a purpose (research or otherwise) important enough to justify its existance, the money could have been spent on other, more important, space exploration purposes.

    On the other hand I think its important to establish a permenant human presence in Space, and in the near term thats not going to happen with out a LEO space station.

    In the long run it might make more sense to establish a moon base to exploit the polar ics (if its really there) to produce fuel and maybe other material for trips to Mars and the outer solar system. It would be alot easier to boost the fuel into lunar orbit than to have to boost it into Earth orbit

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"