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NASA Readies Discovery Shuttle For Final Flight

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the fare-thee-well dept.

NASA 153

gabbo529 writes "After 38 trips, 352 days in orbit and more than 5,600 trips around the Earth, the space shuttle Discovery is preparing for its final launch. Since its creation, it has flown to orbit more than any other craft. It has set a number of precedents including first craft to feature a female shuttle pilot and female shuttle commander (Eileen Collins), the first African American spacewalker (Bernard Harris) and the first sitting member of congress to fly in space (Jake Garn). In its final foray into space, the Discovery will set another precedent when it flies the first humanoid robot to fly in space, Robonaut2."

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First Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35295728)

First post for last launch!

Can I have it now you are finished with it? (4, Funny)

ASDFnz (472824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295742)

I would give it a good home!

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295790)

Weren't they considering selling the shuttles to private companies as they push for privatization of space travel?

When you think about it, not only is the reusability of the shuttle a plus, it can easily haul cargo both into and out of space, and is the majority component of the launch? (not that a tower, big tank, and two SRBs is chump change, but still)

Come to think of it with the SRBs, the one company that made them said they were making their last one, I wonder if they've considered the possibility of future orders from whoever gets the shuttles?

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35295814)

white elephant.

Only a government and the politicians who get their districts the business could love its cost structure.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296004)

The shuttles are not reusable in any real cost saving sense. They have to have many tiles replaced, the main engines replaced, and numerous other little odds and ends. The SRBs are one of the shuttles main failings, SRBs are cheap but notice that no one else uses them for a man rated launcher.

The Shuttle will not find a buyer, it is not cost effective and never was.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296052)

SRBs are cheap but notice that no one else uses them for a man rated launcher.

No one else but the Russians fly a 'man-rated' launcher with any regularity. So its 50-50...SRB or not.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296094)

Look at planned man-rated launchers. Not an SRB in sight, unless a congressman was involved in the design.

Good reason for that. Even if they where 100% safe, they mean you have to go out to the pad standing up, which adds huge amounts of cost to current launches. Not saying an SRB without this issue could not be designed, just the shuttle ones suck out loud.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296460)

I thought that a shuttle-like stack would require it being assembled and rolled out upright, otherwise there'd be too much weight on the fuel tank from the orbiter... but sure enough, the Soviet-era Buran was assembled horizontally [russianspaceweb.com] .

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297320)

Actually no, it is because the Solid Rocket Booster segment joints were never designed to be flexed through the rotation. It isn't impossible to do it, it just needs to be designed to do it.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296776)

I...okay, let's mince words a little bit. The shuttle SRBs most certainly DO NOT suck. They're an extraordinary feat of engineering that have worked damn near every time they've been used, and the one remarkable failure was in a case that they weren't supposed to be used in at all. It was too fucking cold. They're better now because of that failing. That's not to say, however, that they aren't extraordinary, because they are. Solid rockets are fraught with difficulties. Solid rockets at that scale are really hard to get right.

Are solids the right choice for a civilian launcher? No. The main benefit is in an application like a ballistic missile, where you want to be able to put it somewhere and leave it sit for a long time. Liquid rockets, particularly LOX + Hydrogen or LOX+RP1 are going to give you better performance with less construction fuss. DoD got their hands too goddamn deep into the shuttle program. I'll be particularly interested to hear, whenever we're finally allowed to, what DoD actually did on the classified shuttle flights.

But the shuttle SRBs definitely don't suck. They're damn good SRBs.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296798)

DoD got their hands too goddamn deep into the shuttle program. I'll be particularly interested to hear, whenever we're finally allowed to, what DoD actually did on the classified shuttle flights.

But the shuttle SRBs definitely don't suck. They're damn good SRBs.

They probably just helped unfurl some large antennas or camouflage systems. Some of the non-shuttle-launched spy satellites have radio antennas the size of a football field.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296272)

I'll give that comment a 50/50 agreement. More details here:

http://www.astronautix.com/engines/ssme.htm [astronautix.com]

Saying the engines have to be "replaced" is a bit deceptive. "rebuilt and inspected" is more accurate, though they don't say but I'm assuming they have one extra set on hand and simply swap them out while they get to work rebuilding the set they pulled.

(that article above has at least one technical error, so take it with a grain of salt)

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296302)

You are indeed correct. I mis-spoke they are rebuilt, and at great cost.

Not so big a deal there (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296426)

You know who also rebuilds engines? Engine shops for Professional race car drivers. At least at the top end. I'm sure there are start and park teams that don't bother so much, but if you want to be on top of things, you're willing to take apart your engines, check everything out and then put them back together. I think some of the leagues even have rules limiting how often that can be done in order to level the costs. Heaven knows they put enough other restrictions on building the engines.

Sure, those engines run for a lot longer, but you could make an intensity argument too.

Re:Not so big a deal there (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296610)

You know who also rebuilds engines? Engine shops for Professional race car drivers. At least at the top end. I'm sure there are start and park teams that don't bother so much, but if you want to be on top of things, you're willing to take apart your engines, check everything out and then put them back together. I think some of the leagues even have rules limiting how often that can be done in order to level the costs. Heaven knows they put enough other restrictions on building the engines.

Sure, those engines run for a lot longer, but you could make an intensity argument too.

You know who doesn't rebuild their engines every time they use them? Anyone who doesn't want to spend a bunch of money. Professional race car drivers aren't exactly a group of people known for using affordable vehicles, so I'm not sure why you used them as an example..

Re:Not so big a deal there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296680)

You know who doesn't rebuild their engines every time they use them? Anyone who doesn't want to spend a bunch of money. Professional race car drivers aren't exactly a group of people known for using affordable vehicles, so I'm not sure why you used them as an example..

Pointing out that rebuilding engines is not so horrible that people don't have reasons to do it.

Sure it costs a lot of money, but somehow they manage to make it. When you're pushing the edge of the envelope, guess what? It is costly to be there. I suppose if you want to be a mindless drone driving on a sedate pace on the way to work every morning with a swarm of your fellows, then ok, but um, that is not the current state of the space industry.

Should it be? Perhaps, but that day is not today, and it won't be without major investment. Much like the billions, if not trillions, put into the automobile industry.

Go figure.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (4, Interesting)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296898)

That's just not true.

Orion: 1.5bn per flight, $50bn spent on development before cancellation.
Shuttle: 450m per flight, 1.5bn per shuttle to build
Soyuz seats: $45 million each
SpaceX Dragon: $300-$400m (est.) per flight

For the amount we wasted on the ostensibly "cheaper" Orion program, with disposable components similar to the Apollo program, we could've built *11* new shuttles. The Shuttle also is far more capable, able to transfer a tremendous amount of cargo (the Orion / Soyuz fit in the cargo bay...) and hold nearly twice the number of astronauts for rescue missions.

The SpaceX Dragon isn't significantly cheaper than the shuttle, and is again, far less capable than the Shuttle, and is still an unproven design. (the SpaceShipOne/SpaceShipTwo are just X-15 / X-20 ripoffs and can only get 10% of the altitude needed to reach the ISS, they don't even count)

The Soyuz seats are probably the most cost-effective and time-tested design, but the Soyuz holds three people max, and in the past, two of those have always been cosmonauts.

The Russians developed a pretty nice shuttle of their own -- the Buran -- though the end of the Soviet Union doomed it.

I'm sorry it doesn't have a warp drive, subspace communicator, artificial gravity, or "inertial dampening" (whatever that is)... but the space shuttle is the most advanced spacecraft ever developed, and a very economical one at that. And we let it die. The canceled Orion program was a failure that was uneconomical, and the amount of money we blew on that could've gotten a lot more shuttle flights, or a great many Soyuz seats.

I hope we maintain good ties to Russia, because as of this June, the only way an American is getting into space -- or to the ISS -- is if they let us. Ironically, it will be on a rocket originally intended to deliver a nuclear warhead as an ICBM to us.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297634)

SpaceX Dragon: $300-$400m (est.) per flight (...) The SpaceX Dragon isn't significantly cheaper than the shuttle, and is again, far less capable than the Shuttle, and is still an unproven design

At least for the cargo operations, SpaceX will deliver 12 flights for 1.6 billion. That works out to about $133m per flight. And it is tested [physorg.com] so they have a working rocket and a working capsule. How reliable they are can be questioned, but the design works.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (4, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297692)

I think the figures you have for the Shuttle are low. Endeavor cost $ 1.7B to build from spare components. That does not include the cost to acquire those components, and it assumes the design has been paid for already.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : Roger Pielke has estimated that the Space Shuttle program has cost about US$170 billion (2008 dollars) through early 2008. This works out to an average cost per flight of about US$1.5 billion.

Re:Can I have it now you are finished with it? (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295908)

The SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines), the three things on the back of the orbiter itself, are free if you pay for shipping.

Aikon-

Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35295798)

Orion is cancelled, because it is thought competition between private companies will be better in the long term than huge monolithic government-run organisations. Sure, but err, what has that yielded so far? Are Lockheed-Martin ready to go to the Moon yet?

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (2)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295896)

SpaceX is almost ready to fly people and to dock with the ISS, which is much farther than any other private organization has done. The Space Shuttle can't go to the moon, so the shuttle's replacement doesn't have to either -- it just has to be able to get people and cargo up into low-Earth orbit. Moon rockets and beyond come later.

Aikon-

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35295966)

I wouldn't say that they are almost ready to fly people. They are probably ready or almost ready to fly cargo (we will find out during the course of this year), but I'm pretty sure that they have to do at least one unmanned test flight with all the life support systems running and one manned test flight before they can start to fly regular missions. They also need to test the launch escape system.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296080)

Yes, you're right.. by NASA standards they're not ready to launch humans. I'd get on their next flight if they offered me the seat though.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296616)

SpaceX is almost ready to fly people and to dock with the ISS, which is much farther than any other private organization has done.

And they're going to do it a lot cheaper too. Cheaper launches means more launches, and that means more fun stuff in space.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296938)

itym "barely cheaper, possibly far more expensive". The Dragon will cost an estimated 300-400m per launch; the shuttle was 450m/launch. The shuttle could also hold almost twice the number of astronauts and a ton of cargo. The Dragon can't. The Soyuz is a much more cost-effective design than the Dragon, anyway, and one that's been proven to be quite safe. Aside from political reasons, spending money on the Dragon instead of the Soyuz makes little sense.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297772)

itym "barely cheaper, possibly far more expensive". The Dragon will cost an estimated 300-400m per launch; the shuttle was 450m/launch. The shuttle could also hold almost twice the number of astronauts and a ton of cargo. The Dragon can't. The Soyuz is a much more cost-effective design than the Dragon, anyway, and one that's been proven to be quite safe. Aside from political reasons, spending money on the Dragon instead of the Soyuz makes little sense.

Citation needed...

This estimate of $20 per astronaut on a 7-man mission implies a launch cost of less than $140: Q & A with Elon Musk [space.com]

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (3, Informative)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295982)

False. Orion has not been cancelled. The most recent NASA authorization act passed last year authorizes over $3.6 billion in funding to develop the vehicle over the next 3 years. The Ares I/V launch vehicles are what was cancelled.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:3:./temp/~c111kXpLQV:e14982 [loc.gov] :

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296064)

To be honest, always thought that Ares I was a clusterf**k, but I was (and still am) kind of disappointed that they cancelled Ares V. Nobody has had any sort of heavy lifter like that since the Saturn V.

On top of that, (no pun intended) they put the payload in Ares V on top of the stack where it's safe from any shedding foam (though the payload fairing would probably have dealt with it even sidemounted).

I think the current biggest payload to LEO/GTO is currently Ariane 5 (but I may be wrong).

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296124)

Nobody has had any sort of heavy lifter like that since the Saturn V.

Have you considered that there might be a reason for that?

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296960)

Lack of Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev, perhaps? There's really not been anyone with as strong as an influence in rocketry since.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296072)

Technically (which is what you're being), the act doesn't authorize anything for Orion. The authorization is for a crew capsule in the 2016 timeframe.. that might turn out to be Orion, it might not.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296972)

No, the Orion was canceled. What received funding was something that *may* be based to some unknown extent off the Orion's design.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297076)

Working for a DoD contractor that did work for Orion, I can say for certain it was cancelled (even if they do not call it that). There's no more work being done for a very critical portion of the capsule right now that our company was responsible for, and that stuff is now sitting in the corner of the lab, the responsible engineers are off working on other things.

The two words that are a death knell for any project are: "Stop Work"

Gotta post AC, simply because I cannot speak for my company, but I have eyes and can plainly see what is going (or not going) on.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (3, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296120)

Orion+Ares 1 wasn't going to be finished until 2017 at the earliest.

The first test-article of Dragon has flown, and its launch vehicle (the long pole of the system) has flown twice. Everything I hear about the Boeing offering is going well, and will probably be on a Delta IV (a flying vehicle). Orion is even still alive, and Lockheed is planning to fly a version on an Atlas V (again flying).

No one is ready to go to the moon yet, but developing a real multi-supplier infrastructure to get to LEO is a critical first step. Even more importantly, if the next administration changes plans again, the infrastructure will remain in place and make it easy to do whatever the powers that be decide.

Re:Still unclear what will replace the shuttle (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297524)

The Shenzhou spacecraft [wikipedia.org] , part of the People's Republic of China's space programme is most likely capable of deep space spaceflight, and I'm sure can have a lunar lander attached rather than an orbital module. All they need is a heavy launch vehicle. I hear they are building a vehicle assembly building like the one at Kennedy Space Center. China will be the next to reach the moon, they're just doing the right thing by being secret about it, otherwise we might not have killed Constellation.

GM (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295850)

I don't think that GM has been in space since the moon rover! I was supposed to go see the launch, but it looks like I'll have to wait for the April one.

Re:GM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297912)

If anything the gov't owns has a Northrop-Grumman label on it, guess what? That company belongs to GM in some aspect or other. (At least I know any wheeled vehicle with a Grumman name on it is a GM product. Be it the post office's LLV or some armored truck for the Army. Some of them even share many parts with vehicles you can buy at a dealership.)

Maybe not the shuttle itself, but I'm sure there's plenty of subsystems made by GM up in space.

Last! (1)

maijc (1365289) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295934)

Launch... :'(

goddammitsomuch (2, Interesting)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35295942)

Park one or more of these puppies in orbit, next to the ISS. No, it isn't useful *now*. But it may be in 10/15 yrs. No, the internal systems will not last. Batteries will die quickly, etc. Here are 3 large pressure capsules, all ready for future use.

But once these are on the ground, that's it. They will never rise again. We needed to think of this a decade ago, it's far too late now.

Goddammit....these vehicles would be perfect for future orbital ops.

Re:goddammitsomuch (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296026)

Just how exactly do you think it would stay in orbit next to the ISS with no fuel for station keeping? Or did you think delivering that would be free?

How are they perfect for orbital operations?

They are old, they waste lots of space on stuff not needed on orbit and they are not safe re-entry craft.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296086)

Just how exactly do you think it would stay in orbit next to the ISS with no fuel for station keeping? Or did you think delivering that would be free?

As said, this would have needed several years worth of thought/design to be a viable concept. Far too late to do it now. A couple of small, bolt on rockets and a fuel tank or two. But gee...how to current satellite do station keeping for several years?

Re:goddammitsomuch (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296110)

The shuttle has a much higher mass than most satellites. It also leaks air, so you can't use it for humans else you want to be wasting tons of that too. Overall the shuttle was designed for a purpose and it was not this.

Re:goddammitsomuch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297472)

Station keeping is cheap. Just the fuel that a shuttle carries for getting back to Earth should be enough to keep it (and the ISS!) on-station for a few years.

And sure, a shuttle isn't an ideal orbital transfer vehicle. (It's got the basics - fuel, engines, habitable environment - but it's got a lot of useless stuff too.) But when it's practically free to put it in position (just leave it up there!) ... why not do it?

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297666)

Station keeping is cheap. Just the fuel that a shuttle carries for getting back to Earth should be enough to keep it (and the ISS!) on-station for a few years.
And sure, a shuttle isn't an ideal orbital transfer vehicle. (It's got the basics - fuel, engines, habitable environment - but it's got a lot of useless stuff too.) But when it's practically free to put it in position (just leave it up there!) ... why not do it?

Since when is it practically free? Last time I checked a Shuttle launch costs around a half billion dollars, that's far away from free.

Your estimate of a "few years" of station keeping fuel is highly optimistic, considering that the ISS needs to be re-boosted every time a shuttle visits. Also consider that the Shuttle gets completely overhauled on the ground after every flight, do you expect it to run for a few years with only much trickier on-orbit maintenance? The liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel will also not last that long even if none of it is burned.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

Troll-Under-D'Bridge (1782952) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296030)

Park one or more of these puppies in orbit, next to the ISS.

Attach them to the ISS, to be sure they don't float away and add to the space junk. But I like the idea of keeping the shuttles up in space after their last flight. Since money has already been burnt on the launch, why not keep the shuttles up as, say, extra storage for non-critical radiation-tolerant supplies.

Only problem is how to get the shuttle astronauts back to Earth. The Soyuz is perhaps the only other human-rated spacecraft that can serve as a return vehicle for the ISS.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296044)

You think things in orbit just stay there based on magic or your hopes and dreams?

Here in reality it costs fuel, meaning more deliveries and more money spent.

Re:goddammitsomuch (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296036)

You can't 'park' a shuttle in orbit; the orbit will decay and they'll need a reboost.

And from what I've read they leak air like crazy, so they're useless for long-term space habitation. They only need to survive a couple of weeks in space with a reasonable supply of replacement oxygen, so they're not designed to do any better than that.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296060)

You're right.. you'd have to put them at their highest orbit, robotically. It would be about 600km altitude and last centuries.. or until it collided with something else :)

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296658)

You're right.. you'd have to put them at their highest orbit, robotically. It would be about 600km altitude and last centuries.. or until it collided with something else :)

NASA disagrees [nasa.gov] :

12). How long will orbital debris remain in Earth orbit?
The higher the altitude, the longer the orbital debris will typically remain in Earth orbit. Debris left in orbits below 600 km normally fall back to Earth within several years. At altitudes of 800 km, the time for orbital decay is often measured in decades. Above 1,000 km, orbital debris will normally continue circling the Earth for a century or more.

Re:goddammitsomuch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296056)

...these vehicles would be perfect for future orbital ops.

Doubtful. They were built with a specific mission in mind. It would be like repurposing SR-71s to be fighters.

So, Shuttle fleet... Thanks for not killing more people and good riddance.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296108)

It would be like repurposing SR-71s to be fighters.

You mean very effective but insanely expensive, like the YF-12? I'm not sure that would apply here.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296122)

Not at all effective. The YF-12 was an interceptor plane concept not a fighter.

That means, fly fast at bombers coming in then launch your missiles against them. Not a whole lot of fighter plane stuff going on there.

Either way ICBMs sorta make that pointless.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296144)

Not a whole lot of fighter plane stuff going on there.

What exactly do you think 'fighter plane stuff' is, if it's not shooting down the bad guys?

I believe the YF-12 had about an 80% kill rate on drones down to 150 feet altitude in tests, which is a lot more effective than flying around in circles hoping that you can shoot the guy in front before he gets on your tail.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296152)

Shooting at people who can shoot back. That is what I would call fighter plane stuff.

The SR-71 was a wonderful aircraft, but the YF-12 was a solution looking for a problem.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296240)

Looking for a problem? How about the Backfire-B and Blackjack bombers: the supersonic intercontinental heavy bombers the Russians maintain, capable of delivering nuclear cruise missiles anywhere in the mainland United States.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296256)

Not going to happen. ICBMs and sub launched ICBMs make sure of that.

The Russians have plenty of defense contractor pork too, that is what you are seeing. We both spend too much money on dick waving and pork barrel defense contractor bullshit.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296278)

Yes, nuclear war probably won't happen.
The threat exists, and could be more effectively countered with a supersonic, long-range interceptor platform.
F-22 fills this fine right now, but there are scenarios where a YF-12 would be more desirable in terms of mission performance.
The Russians' latest advancements and threats to modernize their ICBM systems have little to do with defense contractor "pork" and much more to do with geopolitics.
The recent SS-26 use against Georgia, needless overkill, is concrete evidence of this.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296998)

What do you think modern air combat is, WWII style dogfights with machine guns? It's launching missiles at enemy aircraft you can't even see. He with the greatest range, wins.

Re:goddammitsomuch (2)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296222)

The interceptor role is a type of fighter role. ICBM's in a non-FOB launch profile give a larger warning time than high-speed bombers. A Soviet first-strike would have attempted to sneak bombers close to critical C4I targets such that detection times would be similar for land and air assets. ICBM's don't make bombers obsolete whatsoever. A bomber has many features that are desirable to the targeting planner and the command chain during the execution of the first 24 hours of a strategic war. The bomber can be retasked in flight, recalled, you have a lot more options. A limited number of bombers could potentially evade surveillance systems and deliver a surprise attack on a small number of targets. Advanced IR national systems preclude any ICBM surprise attack. Some countries utilize mobile TEL's, and as additional intelligence became available regarding TEL location, the bombers could be retasked realtime and deliver precision strikes, which would be necessary to neutralize dismounted TEL's operating in rough terrain, where the terrain could provide shielding from blast/thermal.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296290)

The second strike capability of sub launched ICBMs do make nuclear attack pretty much obsolete by any form. If you use nukes you will be just as dead as your enemy.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296324)

Everyone knows what mutually assured destruction is.
You are assuming that the enemy has ballistic missile submarines that are not tracked by friendly forces.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296384)

No, I am assuming that the minute you kill one of the enemies ballistic missile subs you give away your hand.

To be able to do what you are talking about you would need to be able to track and kill all their subs, any other form of mobile launcher, and destroy all land based launchers. You would need to accomplish that with in minutes of your attack and your enemy would need to not notice that you are preparing for all this. That sounds just a little far fetched.

Re:goddammitsomuch (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296420)

Destruction of an enemy ballistic missile submarine would not be detected for an extended period of time unless an emergency radio transceiver was able to be launched prior to destruction.
No singular and coherent enterprise in the history of mankind has seen greater mental and monetary resources invested into it than the business of nuclear war.
The sophistication of Western and Eastern strategic weapons vastly exceeds any engineered project you have ever encountered. I agree it is improbable that you can destroy all enemy launch vehicles, but that isn't really the point.
The primary purpose of strategic warfare is to deter strategic attack.
The secondary purpose of strategic warfare is to maintain a counter-strike capability sufficient to cause annihilation of the enemy's populace and strategic capabilities in the event of nuclear attack detection.
The unspoken purpose of strategic warfare systems is to maintain the ability to deliver a surprise pre-emptive counter-strike and deliver a counter-force or counter-command strike such that the resulting strike is less lethal than if the pre-emptive counter-strike had not been delivered. Bombers are good for this.

Lagrangian Points (1)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296366)

As many others have pointed out... you can't "park" it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Station keeping would cost too much. You could park in a Lagrangian Point [wikipedia.org] but the question is why? At this point there's nothing sexy or special about the shuttle. It's a 20+ y/o technology that served it's purpose but is now outdated and expensive. We need to free the funds up for other programs.

And doing so will not "kill" space exploration. There are several commercial companies actively involved in putting objects in LEO and they are there b/c they are cheaper and arguably more reliable than the shuttle. These same companies can deliver supplies to the ISS and will soon be able to deliver people. If we need to do heavy lifting into LEO we have the Delta and Russian heavy lift platforms to fall back on. Which is exactly what we need for deep space exploration.

This is no different than all the explorers we've named our space probes after. They broadened our horizons and then moved on. Let commerce take over the "easy" stuff and let NSA, ESA, etc. go after "the stars".

This is it (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296006)

>>> when it flies the first humanoid robot to fly in space

This is the moment they've been quietly planning and waiting for. I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Re:This is it (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296814)

if they still need humans to repair and build robots, can i apply for the "human breeding" program :D

kbb value (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296126)

what is the blue book value on a space shuttle with only 140 million miles on it?

Re:kbb value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296500)

1 dollar.

Delivery charges are a bitch though.

louboutin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296154)

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Nostalgia is good... achievements are better (2)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296196)

First "first shuttle pilot" and "first female shuttle commander"? How is that any more different or special then "first female pilot" or "first female commander" both achieved by the Soviets in 1963? First African American is historic for America but not for other countries that came to their senses long before us. Putting a politician in space? People have been dreaming of that _long_ before rockets were even invented.

NASA is making the unpopular but correct call of killing this "ancient" (compare 20+ years of flights to Apollo) program and moving on. NASA's job isn't making social statements... it's to broaden our technical and scientific understanding. They've exhausted the shuttle platform and they're moving on.

Re:Nostalgia is good... achievements are better (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297864)

NASA is making the unpopular but correct call of killing this "ancient" (compare 20+ years of flights to Apollo) program and moving on.

Seems pretty arbitrary to call it "ancient"; both the Soyuz and Proton programs, for example, have been going on since the mid-60s, and are doing quite well.

We're Broke! (0)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296248)

What part of "we're broke" don't people understand?

We need to dissolve NASA, and a whale of a lot of other gov't agencies, and let the military handle all the space stuff, which should probably be restricted to enough spy and weather satellites to keep us safe, and then the navstar system. We're borrowing 40% of what we spend. If we don't stop it, we're going to have an Argentina / Wymer Republic style meltdown, where you're entire yearly salary won't be enough to buy a loaf of bread. That's coming, if we don't balance the budget, and pretty D soon.

Re:We're Broke! (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296288)

While I agree that austerity measures make sense, let's be honest about the numbers. NASA is such a tiny percentage of the budget that canceling their program isn't a realistic way to save money or pay down our debts.

Realistically, the mandatory budget and the defense budget are what will have to be (painfully) trimmed down if we want to stabilize the deficit.

Re:We're Broke! (0)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296412)

We're not only going to have to deep-6 NASA, we're going to have to give up being world cop, close all the overseas military bases, kill ridiculously expensive things like the EPA, NHTSA, DOEducation, DOEnergy, etc. etc. If we don't, in another 20 years,maybe sooner, the INTEREST on the national debt will consume ALL our tax revenue, at which point we'll have to borrow ALL of the money we spend. Somebody that wants to kill the USA just says they won't loan us any money. Sounds like China might do that. If we let them get into that position, they will.

Any alternatives? Maybe sell off every acre of US owned land that are not National Parks, like all that desert and shale oil areas out west, and without Nancy Pelosi trying to lock up the desert so's it can't be used for solar power, or the other democrats attempting to stop the exploitation of the shale for oil, we might then be able to afford to pay some of the debt with the proceeds from the sales of these lands, which should be very valuable for the already mentioned reasons. Should the US own vast areas of Alaska? Let the oil companies buy them, then they can drill them "by right," no more obstructionist envirowackos keeping the USA from being prosperous.

Re:We're Broke! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296484)

Oh jebus.

You are tripping my troll sensors.

Sometimes reading posts like this makes me wish we had an equivalent of SpamAssassin for trolls:

uses words like "envirowhackos" = +5 troll points
breathless, cocaine-fueled delivery = +10 troll points
woefully poor understanding of macroeconomics = +50 troll points

Ding ding ding! Troll post detected!

Re:We're Broke! (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297584)

Mod parent up, and don't feed trolls.

Re:We're Broke! (3, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296524)

Or, dare I say it, raise taxes on those most able to pay higher taxes.

Gee, that would solve a whole bunch of problems, wouldn't it?

Re:We're Broke! (-1, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296842)

Nope. Just creates more problems. Raising taxes is hardly ever a solution to problems, because it assumes government spends the money better than the private sector. I can assure you that it doesn't. But it is easy to play class warfare and not really address the problems.

We've spent TRILLIONS on "war on poverty" to what end? Do we still have "poor people"? Of course! It is just that the "poor" today have running water, electricity, TVs, Cell phones and Computers. But they are still "poor" we just shifted the definition of what it means to be "poor", and we need more taxes and more programs to help poor people, because there are more of them. We make more poor people by taxing them till they are poor in a vicious cycle.

All taxes are regressive, and leftwingnuts never realize that they are the most anti "progressive" people in the world, because they don't want progress, they want to punish progress by taxing it to death.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297820)

We've spent TRILLIONS on "war on poverty" to what end? Do we still have "poor people"? Of course! It is just that the "poor" today have running water, electricity, TVs, Cell phones and Computers.

If that's all true, it sounds like we're doing very well!

Re:We're Broke! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296634)

Let the oil companies buy them, then they can drill them "by right," no more obstructionist envirowackos keeping the USA from being prosperous.

My word, you're a terrible terrible fool. The Oil companies are raking in billions in revenues and profits and you want to give them more? You worry about them being prosperous? You're like a farmer who decides he wants a snack because he's hungry so he gives away his seed corn to the baker. Who the farmer seems to think is starving despite the baker being as fat as can be.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297810)

I'm not worried about them being prosperous so much as US being prosperous. What would gas cost if we didn't have to import any? Probably would cost as much as electricity. I find that my electric rate would power a Chevy Volt for 100 miles (20 KwH) for about $1.60 @ 8 cents / KwH. My current car (20 mpg) costs about $16.25 @ $3.25/gallon of premium (my car's a turbo, needs premium.) Almost exactly 10 times the expense. When gas gets to $7 a gallon, the Volt will be over 20 times more frugal as my current car. But anyway, we need to quit importing oil. Until we can get the Volt to go 300 miles on a charge and recharge in 5 minutes, and can get charging station that can deliver that sort of power, we need the oil. OBTW, 300 mile range volt would require 60 KwH, and to deliver that in 5 minutes would require a 720 Kw delivery rate. At, say, 300 volts, that's 2,400 amps of delivery to charge 1 car in 5 minutes to run 300 miles. Suppose a "gas" station was trying to charge 10 cars at once? Does it need its own nuclear power plant on site? Prolly. How many years until we can build up infrastructure like that? A long time - decades - which is why we need to keep doing oil right now. Which is why the "environmental extremists" (happy now that I didn't say "envirowacko") are the enemies of prosperity in the US because they think that they can just choke off the supply of oil, by opposing everything, and the solution will magically appear. No, it won't. Unfortunately, the envirowackos are all liberal arts students that took course like "photography" and "art appreciation" and don't understand 2 + 2 nor amps and volts. Or, they do understand it, and are simply societal saboteurs. The solution is HARD, and requires a lot of time and money to achieve, and we don't even HAVE the magic battery yet that can be coaxed to hold that much energy in a car without weighing tons and be recharged in that sort of time. No such battery exists, and likely won't for at least another few years.

But anyway, people that bash oil companies, that are simply folks that bring us a commodity that we desparately need, and get all sideways 'cuz they make a buck while doing it, really rub me the wrong way.

Re:We're Broke! (3, Insightful)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296928)

If the USA is broke, then might I suggest a few areas to cut? How about farm subsidies. You are paying a bunch of foreigners to take your food, that's just dumb. And if you could get over the idea of being in charge of everything then maybe you could have a UN army do all the global cop stuff. It would mean no more american sons and daughters getting sent off to third world battlefields, or at least not with american flags on their uniforms so it would be harder to spot them. If you transfered half your army/navy/airforce to the UN then the world would split the cost, and you'd only have to pay a little bit of it instead of all of it. That right there would end your budget deficits. If you taxed gas like europe does there would be plenty of money for renewable energy (and the political will to make it work). Oh yes, and if you had cost controls on your medicare system (like everyone else does, with much lower medical costs as a result), you'd save billions a year. There are many places you can eliminate deficit spending, it's not the how that's stopping you- It's lack of political leadership that's sinking your boat. Your country has spent decades letting the politicians/bankers/oil companies run around unchecked, and now you're finally getting the bill.

Re:We're Broke! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297118)

If the USA is broke, then might I suggest a few areas to cut? How about farm subsidies. You are paying a bunch of foreigners to take your food, that's just dumb.

Actually, it's smarter than you think. You see those farm subsidies are because the US could produce enough food to drive down the prices of food to the point where local farmers across the world could not compete. This would cause such global havoc that well, you don't want to see it.

Yeah, eventually the free market might conceivably level it out but I genuinely do not want to go through the experience. It's like dropping a rock in a pond. Sure, eventually the waves will subside, but if you're small enough, you'll be in for a lot of trouble.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297826)

Every state has farmers. And you know what happens when every state produces something? Every senator gets behind them. (Just look at defense companies for an example of this, the disjointed placement of defense industry offices and manufacturing is NOT a mistake.)

Re:We're Broke! (3, Funny)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297034)

Wow, and I thought I saw a lot of teabagging on XBox Live playing Halo.

Re:We're Broke! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296472)

What part of "we're broke" don't people understand?

The part where it is a made up boogeyman that has no relationship to the truth.

Well, at least that seems to be the case for you.

Too many people are like a store owner who has a problem with taking in the bills for what you have for sale, or charging the right prices, then wondering why you're going out of business. Or like a girl who thinks she is fat, but instead of I dunno, engaging in a healthy diet and working out, decides to starve herself to death because she has unrealistic expectations of her body image.

The US is not broke. The US is not even overexerting itself. The US is refusing to fuel itself, the US is refusing to do the necessary things to keep healthy. The attitude people like you have of retreating into a shell is what is going to destroy the US.

I only hope I don't have to live through it.

We need to dissolve NASA, and a whale of a lot of other gov't agencies, and let the military handle all the space stuff, which should probably be restricted to enough spy and weather satellites to keep us safe, and then the navstar system. We're borrowing 40% of what we spend. If we don't stop it, we're going to have an Argentina / Wymer Republic style meltdown, where you're entire yearly salary won't be enough to buy a loaf of bread. That's coming, if we don't balance the budget, and pretty D soon.

Yeah, you don't know how to balance the budget if you think giving NASA over to the military is a good idea. Military budgets have EVERYTHING that is wrong and broken with NASA and more. Do me a favor, and stay out of public policy planning, or at least keep yourself to the local level. Nothing more than a county. You won't be able to screw things up too bad there.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297058)

Do me a favor, and stay out of public policy planning, or at least keep yourself to the local level. Nothing more than a county. You won't be able to screw things up too bad there.

Yes, hopefully this attitude will not reach a level of office beyond that which you can see Russia from.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296910)

Killing NASA will have essentially ZERO impact on the spiraling US national debt.

Unless the government is prepared to do what no politician is willing to do and to cut from the huge amount spent on the massive military and security machine maintained by the US, the US will never be able to get out of the sinkhole they are in.

Re:We're Broke! (1)

atriusofbricia (686672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297244)

Killing NASA will have essentially ZERO impact on the spiraling US national debt.

Unless the government is prepared to do what no politician is willing to do and to cut from the huge amount spent on the massive military and security machine maintained by the US, the US will never be able to get out of the sinkhole they are in.

Not that some military cuts aren't in order, why is it that everyone goes after this and ignores the elephant in the room. It isn't the 700Billion dollar military budget that will bankrupt the US. It is the projected trillions of dollars in "mandatory" spending for entitlement programs that will only continue to grow and grow and grow. That and interest on the debt. If you want to really talk about choices no politician is willing to make, lets talk about killing the programs that will really do the damage. Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid and all related programs.

Re:We're Broke! (2)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297018)

Yeah, because NASA is such a huge overall expense, doesn't employ anyone or provide funding to contractors (Keynesian economics, ever hear of them?), and doesn't at all create technologies that have implications in civilian and military life, and numerous commercial applications far in excess of NASA's funding.

Just because you heard it on Rush doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Last time, baby (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296432)

I know it's more a Tomcat tagline, but still.

Starbuck? That you? (1)

mcneely.mike (927221) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296544)

Hope mothballing Discovery goes better than it did for the crew of the Battlestar Galactica.

Robonaut1 (1)

Coppit (2441) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296604)

Robonaut1 was cut from the program after an embarrassing incident involving a long drive to Florida and an astronaut diaper.

Terrible firsts (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296648)

That is a sad list of firsts. First congressman to fly in a space shuttle? Sheesh. People are too concerned with celebrity. There are probably plenty of scientific engineering firsts that should be applauded rather than "First [color|race|profession] to do X."

Eileen Collins actually commanded Columbia first (3, Funny)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297032)

NASA technicians investigate fuel leak after rare nighttime landing

First female commander earns praise for "safe, if overly cautious" flying

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) 7/28/99 - 419SPP

Even before NASA's first female mission commander touched down on the tarmac at Kennedy Space Center late Tuesday evening, investigators were speculating on the possible cause of the fuel leak observed at the launch of shuttle Columbia at the start of its historic 5 day mission.

"At first we thought maybe she left the gas cap off," reported Chief Inspector Gerald Schmitt during a post-mission press conference yesterday. Schmitt was referring to mission commander U.S. Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, who led STS-93 to a complete success despite the glitches that plagued the start of the mission.

However, the inspectors ruled out that scenario after an exhaustive examination of the video launch records. They are now considering alternative theories, as well examining the shuttle engines for possible damage, such as a burned-out clutch. "We'll get in there and take a look," explained Schmitt, "but the real test will come on the next flight for Columbia, when the next mission commander can let us know if the shuttle still handles the way it did before."

Schmitt went on to explain that the launch is usually performed in an "Automatic" mode, but the shutdown of 2 flight computers just seconds into Friday's launch required Col. Collins to switch to "Manual" mode, which she may have had less experience with in the past.

Shuttle failed to reach "nominal" altitude

By the time main engine cutoff, or MECO, took place at the end of Columbia's vault into space, the shuttle was about 7 miles beneath its intended orbit. At the time, NASA had not yet confirmed the fuel leak, so ground control was at a loss to explain this result.

Launch controller Peter "Pete" Castle recalls, "For a few minutes I was beside myself. Did [Collins] fail to advance the engine throttles to 104 percent as called for in the launch sequence? Everyone knows you can drive those engines a little bit over the limit. There aren't any cops in space. Why are we here staying under the limit? We'll never get where we need to go like that."

Fortunately, Columbia had sufficient fuel onboard to boost itself to its full intended orbit, and the mission objectives and the crew were never in danger.

"She really took us by surprise"

Mission controllers at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas, were very complimentary of Col. Collins. Third shift controller Michael Childs recalls one incident in particular:

"During orbit 15 of the mission, Col. Collins called down for directions on the next scheduled maneuver. At this point in the schedule we had not expected any communications from Columbia. Past shuttle commanders always ran through this sequence without asking for directions, even if they had lost track of where they were. It is a little known fact that on STS-96 [when shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station (ISS)], Mission Commander Kent Rominger reached the station three orbits late, basically because he insisted on 'just flying around in circles until we found it', to quote Mission Specialist Patty Jernigan."

Most call the landing 'flawless'

The touchdown of shuttle Columbia in the final minutes of Tuesday evening was called "flawless" by ground controllers at the KSC. However, U.S. Air Force Col. Jack "Cracker Jack" Jackson, the last mission commander for a Columbia mission, was more critical.

"That's not where I left it," Jackson said of Columbia, noting that Columbia rolled to a stop on the runway over 500 yards earlier than it did when he landed the same vehicle back in February, 1998. "When you take that baby out for a spin, I expect you to put it back where it belongs when you're done." After a moment, Jackson added one final thought, "God, I don't want to think what happened to those brakes."

419SPP - The Associated Press and Reuters did not contribute to this report.

I'm such a leftist pinko but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297094)

first woman commander...check
first afro american space walker...check
first gay jew pilot...comon NASA, WTF is the hold up?

For those fortunate to have see a launch (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297194)

It has been my lifelong dream to see a shuttle take-off in-person. I don't have the opportunity to see the Shuttle take its last voyage. For those that have had the opportunity to see a launch how would being in-person to a comparable sized rocket launch be like?

There will likely be future rocket launches for satellites. I'd just like to experience the rumble and hear the sounds. I grew up living near an airforce base and I've always been fascinated in watching planes and space shuttles, rockets by extension. I know this can also be waiting game. If they say they will launch at 9:00 on the 1st of March it might be a week before clear weather patterns show up. But I'd like at some point to budget some time and be able to travel to see a launch.

Final flight part four (1)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297210)

I swear this is the fourth time I've seen a 'final shuttle flight' story online.

How many ? (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297944)

How many final flights did it have ?
Who wants to bet there will be at least another one ?
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