Maggie Koerth-Baker at 7:48 am Mon, Jun 27, 2011
ADVERTISE AT BOING BOING!
I recall hearing 18years ago or so, and this may be incorrect, that the DoD’s budget for office supplies is more than NASAs.
The most shocking part of the article : “Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Free-standing tents equipped with air conditioners in 125 degree heat require a lot of fuel. Anderson says by making those structures more efficient, the military could save lives and dollars.”
Yeah, this is why the Marines have been actively researching solar and non-traditional energy sources as much as they have lately. They’re really pushing a lot of envelopes in terms of increasing energy generated while reducing energy use. When you’re spending hundreds of dollars to get a gallon of gas somewhere it’s a good idea to just get less gas somewhere.
NASA has always gotten shafted since Apollo, but then NASA’s also had a distinct lack of goals since Apollo. I love them to death but creating the shuttle to then build a space station that would need a shuttle is a little like building a mechanical horse so you can get your cart somewhere. We’re talking about going to the moon in a twn year plan, what new technology do we need to invent to do this? Look at the Apollo plans, use more efficient tech and just fricking do it, don’t spend time and money discussing about how we’ll do it.
re: “We’re talking about going to the moon in a twn year plan, what new technology do we need to invent to do this? Look at the Apollo plans, use more efficient tech and just fricking do it, don’t spend time and money discussing about how we’ll do it.”
I have heard this from more than one person and I think they lack the scope of what sort of task this is.
First off, we can’t just open a book, “Make your own Apollo Craft in 4 Million easy steps!” The original plans aren’t complete (or exist in some cases), and parts were made by many, many subcontractors. Pretty much NOTHING would be compatible with what we have today. Finally the level of risk inherent in the Apollo program would be waaaayyyy too great for NASA today.
To try to put things in perspective, I tell people to imagine making a 1969 Cadallic. Should be simple, right? OK, now the only reference you have is another Cadelliac that is only 60% complete (that is being extremely generous, compared to what is left of an Apollo capsule). You can also have blue prints for 50% of it. OK aaaaannnnnddd GO!
Wait, wait, I almost forgot, nothing for this car is off the shelf. You must machine every part you need. OK, now go.
Are you done? Ok good. Now take that car and redo it so that it meets 2011 DOT safety standards, completely update the engine, add AC, electronic fuel injection, ABS braking, a sun roof, and any other items one would expect to find on a nicely priced Volvo. Again, – you need to make most everything as well as design everything to retrofit the old car.
All done? OK, great. Now make me a car that can land on the moon, and a rocket large enough to get all of it there.
With that example, I hope people will see how the only choice for a new moon shot would be one from the ground up and it would be just a monumental task as it was during Apollo.
“one from the ground up”
But the thing is, we’re not. The same way that JPL has proven that off the shelf technology flies within standards to accomplish the missions means that we are ahead of the curve. Most of Apollo was spent actually determining if Aldrin’s math for orbital mechanics and the sheer physics of man in microgravity actually worked. That’s been done several times over.
Getting off the Earth and returning: Dangerous. However, once you’re up there we’ve worked out most the systems that need to be finalized. Food and water? Working conditions? Materials and technologies? Physics?
We’re not even talking about radical things here, like mining the moon for water or return fuel. We’re talking about creating a launch craft that will leave Earth’s orbit, spend three days getting to the moon, launching a lander, finding a way to spend some time there and returning. You know, like the space station but three days away. I know that simplifies it a bit but while I’m not talking about dusting off the Apollo scrapbook and putting up another Gumdrop and Spider, we have learned a thing or two since then about incorporating modern methods into space tech.
Oh for sure we have a head start in some of the areas. But designing the craft and rocket would have to start from the ground up. All it takes is money.
At the same time, eliminating the Earth-orbit portion by using Soyuz craft to move people to the Space Station before boarding their non-planetary moon transport vehicle would save scads of engineering as well. Look to the LEM to save weight, no couches or safety equipment required for the real rigors of Earth launch and we’re talking a lot less money. It just requires making going to the moon a “whole Earth” thing (or at least US-Russia) instead of a US-only thing.
Sharing means caring. And cost-savings. Let the Russians handle heavy lifting like they have for the past sixty years and pair that with US technology for landings with the space station now as a “port”? There’s a nice small budget number for that versus the massive Ares program that’s now sitting on a shelf…
That doesn’t make sense. We did it in less than ten years before; even if the craft itself needs to be redesigned from the ground up, the experience with what has to be done, what can go wrong, and new technology can only make it easier.
Sure it does.
First off – the more complicated, or ‘advanced’ something is, the more that can go wrong with it. Do you know how low-tech the Apollo missions were? Read up on “rope memory”. Basically it was ROM done with wire, braided/programmed by stocking manufactures.
It would have to be built to better standards than back then as well.
But the BIG BIG difference between now and then was the sheer amount of money and man power thrown at the project. If we did the same thing today, you would see it all done faster as well.
There is also no way we’ll be putting the amount of people into it this time around. Apollo was a national mission with a deadline. It cost approximately 170 billion (in 2005 dollars) and was directly responsible for the deaths of five astronauts. At the time the US was the world leader in actual manufacturing of actual things.
Today we offshore as much labor as possible and manufacturing jobs have shifted to “light manufacturing” if at all. Mister44′s car analogy is correct, which is why I advocate limiting the stuff we have to build to spacecraft only. However, I don’t think there’s going to be the “by the end of the decade” push like there was for Apollo.
The problem is, instead of saying, “We should spend more money on NASA.” most people will say, “We shouldn’t be in Afghanistan/Iraq.” Regardless your position on the war, most Americans think a) NASA is absolutely swimming in cash and doesn’t need more, or b) we shouldn’t be spending as much as we do on NASA.
This is why I am pretty sure that criticisms of NASA as a waste of money, which rarely mention military spending, are usually more motivated by dislike of science.
[cough] and meanwhile, well over 40,000 Americans will die this year until we get a single payer system in place.
The military… it’s killing us.
I read (but am too lazy to look up) that the US still is a leader in manufacturing, but it is generally high-end, costly things.
Personally, I would like to see a return to vocational schools and teaching vocations in high school. My grandpa got his start as a machinist in high school.
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