Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by CdnShockwave, Dec 9, 2010.
The Future is Now: SpaceX Flight 100% Successful
That's cool but I've been waiting on this:
Virgin Galactic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Which should be testing soon. I'd pay for the trip. Capsule, not so much.
What I really love is that the private sector can explore this realm more and more. Outside the restraints of the Nasa "this is how it is" kind of mentality this becomes a boon to space programs.
I dunno man, it took a lot of research to develop the current technologies for space travel, and though it did yield a number of useful patents for NASA, it's not like the space program was profitable, in terms of comparing it to private industry. Those NASA eggheads did a pretty good job of making truly generation-defining achievements with the resources available, but shareholder return wasn't their primary objective, scientific advancement and discovery was and especially in recent years, there was only so much they could do.
That being said, now that the technology has matured enough for private enterprise (see what I did there) to take a shot at space travel, it's probably a good thing overall. Private application of space technology so far has been more or less positive, though limited, but as projects like these begin to pop up it'll be interesting to see what the limitations of the market truly are. It should also free up a lot more resources (and potentially expand them) for NASA and its international equivalents to continue with research and exploration projects too, which is another plus.
Frankly though, as cool as the Virgin Galactic and SpaceX tests are, I'm more interested in these guys:
Læserarrangement: Overvær den største raket-test på dansk jord*| Ingeniøren (in dutch)
We've made the world's largest amateur space rocket. - The Something Awful Forums
A bunch of amateurs building their own rocket from scratch to prove they can. They already built their own submarine (which they'll use to tow the rocket on its offshore launch pad), and it looks like they've got a pretty good handle on what they're doing. If a bunch of guys like them can make it into orbit without killing themselves or going bankrupt, it'll say a lot about the real feasibility of the technology for mass application.
"This is how it is" refers to Nasa's lack of advancement in carry systems. The shuttle's been around with no changes since the early 80s. They talked a lot but haven't done anything.
They do make a wee bit of money selling patents on other tech but the carrier systems are lacking and have been lacking development for a good long time. It's sad to think we haven't been to the moon in decades and we start going backwards from there and just do upper atmosphere/ high orbit missions that teeter back and forth in space.
I think it isn't so much "This is how it is" with carry systems as much as "This is what we have available to us at this point". You have to admit, the shuttle program has been pretty successful, and what is essentially the same technology has been used for nearly 30 years, so its certainly an enduring design. But at the same time, most people wouldn't want to keep a car with the same technology for 30 years, so why would it be a good idea to use a mode of travel that goes into space for that long?
I guess the main issue is probably cost. NASA funding just ain't what it used to be, and only a few other countries have really stepped up to the plate with their own space programs. There have been plenty of designs for shuttle replacements and other new technology over the years, even very recently, but they just never seem to make it into the real world.
I'm completely with you that the relative lack of manned missions is disheartening, but since they're the most expensive type, that's probably one of the reasons we don't see them much anymore. We don't really go to the moon anymore because there really isn't much point in terms of discovery relative to the cost, and I guess NASA feels that it's better for them to send out mechanical probes to Mars, the other planets, comets, and deep space instead, and to focus on research about earth's atmosphere. Who knows though, if private industry starts funnelling more and more money into space technology, it could mean more opportunities for NASA, other space programs, and other organizations to build up the knowledge and technology for extraterrestrial travel more quickly.
I'm still a bit bummed I missed the SpaceX launch my about 30 minutes. I looked up at the sky and saw only what was left of the swirly contrail. I'm really going to miss watching the shuttle launches from my backyard.
SpaceX and other private contractors could free up additional funds for NASA research. What I'm thinking is that by using SpaceX as America's primary means of delivering crew into low Earth orbit it would mean NASA wouldn't have to spend money developing a low Earth orbit delivery system. So you could pretty much scrap all of what's left of Constellation since, according to my understanding, it was only going to be used for purposes that presumably the Dragon capsule could handle. In this scenario, now that NASA doesn't have to build the Orion capsule or really develop much else to meet it's current operations they could focus on other projects (such as getting the James Webb telescope finished and into orbit). Although, and this is where my knowledge gets a little sketchy, to my understanding the shuttle was America's heavy lift rocket and part of Constellation was the development of a heavy lift rocket. So I'm going to presume that by "heavy lift" they mean something beyond the usual Delta rockets.
In terms of manned missions I think it's unfortunate but perhaps for the best. I would love to see humans set foot on the Moon again and on Mars (although I think a manned mission Ceres would be amazing). But realistically aside from putting footprints on alien soil the primary usefulness is bringing back samples. I see manned missions as being more symbolic than practical, except for the valuable knowledge gained from the development of such a project. I think we could learn a lot more per dollar with unmanned missions. The James Webb space telescope would probably lead to more discoveries and fill in more gaps in our knowledge than putting footprints on the Moon.
I think the biggest problem facing manned space exploration at the moment is funding. NASA's budget has been slashed in comparison to what it was getting for the Apollo missions or the shuttle development. If you want to get a man to Mars then you need money and lots of it. So I think NASA should probably refrain from any manned missions beyond low Earth orbit until funding gets serious again.
Personally, I think public criticism of NASA is overly harsh. We expect so much but aren't giving them the resources they need to meet those expectations. It's like giving one guy a butter knife and expect him to fight off an army of one hundred thousand.
2012? Was supposed to be the date set for the next flight back to the moon. The objective is to set up a relay point for a trip to mars in 2020? I can't remember the exact years but when I read about that I was happy I'd see it my lifetime. Now I'm even happier that I have a chance at flying into space in my lifetime.
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