Comments for http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml en-gb 30 Fri 25 Jul 2014 04:54:42 GMT+1 A feed of user comments from the page found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml vkolotilov http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=96#comment31 This post has been Removed Sat 08 Jan 2011 10:45:53 GMT+1 U14717710 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=93#comment30 The biggest problem is the government bureaucracy at NASA. There are a lot of launch vehicle designs that promise economic space transportation, but in practice, the cost ends up orders of magnitude greater than prediction. The original promise by Wernher von Braun for Space Shuttle as $100 (1968) per pound to orbit. In today's dollars that would be about $620 per pound to orbit. It turns out the actual cost was 100x as much.The biggest culprit is obviously government inefficiency relative to the private sector. A government-run operation is generally slow to innovate, and is ridden with red tape and bureaucratic procedure. There are no economic incentives to enforce efficiency. These are the reasons socialism of the kind practiced in the Soviet Union failed.Perhaps the best system is for space transportation to be privately developed and operated, with the government acting as regulator to ensure flight safety. To get the NASA out of its socialist mode, where the government would to a large extent design and manufacture spacecraft and launch vehicles, is a welcome development. NASA was becoming a bottleneck to progress in opening up space for development.There are many who cynically viewed the American manned space program as sort of a national totem, to show off to the world what we can do. But what is meaningful is that the country ultimately benefit in tangible ways. When the British admiralty developed the technology of shipbuilding and navigation, and perfected the art of seamanship, it allowed the UK to become for a while the world's pre-eminent naval power, and made possible the British Empire. NASA seems to be going this way as well and this should be applauded.Best regards, Yuriy, CEO of youtube downloader Fri 10 Dec 2010 16:08:54 GMT+1 mark http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=90#comment29 You can help to get NASAs budget reinstated at http://www.tychotics.com/ Wed 10 Feb 2010 18:49:04 GMT+1 ToInfinity http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=87#comment28 Your entitled to disagree Stephen :)I will welcome whichever path takes us to space, but my logic is based on an analysis of the human characteristic: greed. When there is money to be made in space we will see an explosion of space travel technology. Let them spy a huge gold deposit exposed in the bottom of a crater, or find some new super-alloy that can only be created in zero G's and suddenly funding will appear for all sorts of unimaginably huge space projects.Nuclear propulsion was and is our best hope. The Orion project was a viable way to send up massive loads but it was shut down out of fear. To this day any mention of nuclear anything is political taboo. Its too bad they spent all the public-perception brownie points blowing up small islands and making glass in the deserts rather than putting up real space stations. We have lost four decades of potential discoveries as a result.Other than greed the next most possible motivator for space technology will once again be fear. The Apollo program was a result of the US military and public's fear of the Russian space program. As soon as China's space program is perceived as a threat we can expect another similar boost to space technology. Sad, but true IMHO. Wed 10 Feb 2010 16:49:33 GMT+1 Old_Wolf http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=84#comment27 Future Heavy Lift systems will need to have decent Impulse capabability, and also have good Power to Mass Ratios. So far, the best proposed method seems to be NPP - Nuclear Pulse Propulsion, alternatively referred to as EPPP - External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion. Various projects have considered this method - Orion, Medusa, Daedalus, Longshot, Gabriel. Various impulse providers have been proposed: Chemical-based advanced explosives, Nuclear Fission, Nuclear Fusion, Anti-Matter. Chemical based explosives (so far developed) are not powerful enough. Anti-Matter is too difficult to produce. Leaving Fission or Fusion as the best candidates. As tpapp157 rightly pointed out however, it is far easier to ruminate about these ideas on paper, than it is to get them to work - although tests for Orion were pretty promising, I didn't see any costs mentioned for a full-scale lift vehicle. Technical difficulties are not the only ones to overcome. We have economics and politics too. Wed 10 Feb 2010 15:03:10 GMT+1 Robert Lucien http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=81#comment26 Sorry #22 tpapp157 NASA's habit of closing projects halfway through is because it is run on the principle of short term costs and short term gains. The Shuttle was so expensive for two reasons - because it contained a lot of novel technology, it was meant to be a prototype but became a workhorse, and the design was thrown together with different groups fighting with each other and control resting with politicians. Conversely Sea Dragon was scraped because the future projects division was scrapped, it was originally designed to lift a nuclear powered Mars mission and they no longer had one. The reason a design like Sea Dragon would be cheap is the same reason its cheaper to fly in an airliner than to hire a small private charter plane. Go to a sea port, ships are huge aren't they? The bigger a ship is the more efficient it can be, and this applies to trucks, planes, trains, ships, and rockets.NASA doesn't go for large designs because it only plans for the missions it already has, which are trimmed to a minimum weight to 'save' costs. A Sea Dragon type rocket could carry up a space station twice as heavy as the ISS in one lift, even if it cost 1 billion dollars per lift it would still be ten times cheaper than the Shuttle. The other thing NASA haven't learned from the Soviets is to perfect one design and stick with it. As for secrecy thats a complete joke, the only way to keep most things hidden is to keep the design hidden in a box. A photograph of most things is enough to reveal their secrets - thats why NASA is obsessively secretive about things like metallurgy that can be hidden. I have several books that probably contain enough information to actually build a space Shuttle.Hate to tell you but the Chinese might get their money from capitalism but I'm sure their space program is long term and not dominated by short term planning. I would be very surprised if they aren't on the Moon within ten to fifteen years - which America is unlikely to be. Wed 10 Feb 2010 12:38:05 GMT+1 powermeerkat http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=78#comment25 Chemical propulsion is dead. Goddard and von Braun were great innovators but their era is over.Welcome to the NYUKULAR age! :-) Wed 10 Feb 2010 11:34:58 GMT+1 powermeerkat http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=75#comment24 #8: "It’s about time that national governments stop their jingoistic flag waving and territorial pissing and cooperated to form some kind of united nations space agency."Well, if it's effectiveness is going to be on the order of another international lemon called United Nations, good luck to you!"BTW. I'd love to see that plot in Lower Manhattan UN bureaucrats are lording in right now, to be available on a commercial real estate market. Wed 10 Feb 2010 11:30:32 GMT+1 powermeerkat http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=71#comment23 Have lift capability in "202-2030 time-frame" is totally unacceptable.Unless you're a country od Sudan. Or Zimbabwe.Fortunately, neither Barack Hussein Obama nor Bolden will have much to say about NASA's budget and program past THIS November. Wed 10 Feb 2010 11:26:25 GMT+1 tpapp157 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=68#comment22 In regards to the article.Congress will probably give NASA some nominal funding to continue development of the AresV or some other heavey launch vehicle. Don't expect the funding to be anything to write home about because they'll do it only grudgingly and for the sole reason of not pissing off all the people that stand to lose shuttle jobs.Remember that congress couldn't care less about the space program beyond the fact that it brings lucrative contracts and jobs to their states. Tue 09 Feb 2010 18:37:40 GMT+1 tpapp157 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=65#comment21 Alot of these comments are pretty good though people have misconceptions about the capabilities of technologies. Popular Science is not a definitive scientific journal and alot of the things you see and read in the media about great new scientific breakthroughs are highly sensationalized. The BBC is also to blame for this as most of their science articles are way overblown.So many designs work perfectly and provide everything that's great on paper but practically speaking they are unfeasible. There are reasons that these old projects from the past were dropped and more often than not it's because they were logistically unfeasible and not because of any technical deficiency. Going back to Sea Dragon is a terrible idea and people are talking about it here like it was the best thing since sliced bread. The project never got out of the initial conceptual design. Of course it looks great. Everything looks great when you're making a thousand different simplifying assumptions to create a conceptual design. Don't be fooled by something like that. The space shuttle was given a cost to orbit of a small fraction of what Sea Dragon lists back in its conceptual design phase and look at it now. It has the highest cost to orbit of any launch vehicle. You see how these things change from paper to reality?Moving on. International cooperation for manned space flight may arguably be necessary but it's a terrible idea. Look at the European space agency now. It has to deal with a half dozen bickering nations about who gets what contracts and who has to pay more than who and each nation tries to push its own agenda. Each nation fights and fights to less money and get more scientific and manufacturing contracts. The agency is hugely inefficient and underfunded largely because of bureaucracy and now imagine that on a much larger scale with more nations and more secrets and more distrust.To say that there should be a World Space Organization is simply foolish and doesn't consider anything outside of a supposed ideal. Should the US share all of its advanced space technology with China and Russia? Keep in mind that the vast majority of technologies developed for the space program are also used in military hardware. Should the US share with Russia and China and Europe all of its advanced secret military technology? This is what would effectively happen with such a large amount of cooperation. Let's consider an example. The USSR developed very advanced technologies and expertise in the field of robot moon rovers (they sent several to the moon and elsewhere). In the early 90s the Russian space agency gave NASA all of its technology and expertise in this area and this directly led to the Mars rovers that have been such a huge success. People don't realize that most of the Mars rover technology was developed by the USSR in the 70s and 80s and NASA just used it to get rovers to Mars. That same exact rover technology that was given to us by Russia in the 90s is now being used by the US military to develop super-advanced battlefield rovers. This is why the space program is such a closely guarded national secret. Space technologies have direct military applications and handing them out to other countries would jeopardize our national security. No way around it. Tue 09 Feb 2010 18:34:00 GMT+1 Stephen Ashworth http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=62#comment20 Comment 16 by HabeasCorpus1679 is a questionable assertion. The point is whether manned space is to be for the few or the many. The goal of the Shuttle programme was to bring down the cost of space access and thus enable new applications in space. Clearly, it has failed to do so, but that does not prove that the original goal was wrong-headed. The debate is therefore whether manned space should be preserved as "expensive, difficult and dangerous" (Mike Griffin, citing the CAIB), for a tiny elite of professional astronauts, or whether it should be opened up to a wider public, with falling prices and rising numbers of people travelling into space every year. By opting for commercial access to the ISS, the reality is therefore that America is moving back towards making a proper job of developing space.I am highly skeptical of Chinese or anybody else on the Moon. The Chinese are managing only one flight every two or three years. They're not going anywhere in a hurry. The Indians aren't even starting their own manned flights until 2014 or 2015.But suppose that the Chinese do get to the Moon before American or European astronauts? They can only do so by starting a highly expensive, Apollo-style programme which (as we know from experience with Apollo and now with Constellation) will only be cancelled when political priorities change. For a sustainable return to the Moon, there is no avoiding the gradual buildup of economically viable infrastructure in low Earth orbit, based on large-scale passenger access (ToInfinity, I still disagree with you!), and commercial research and manufacturing. Only in this way will you get the infrastructure of orbital accommodation, in-space refuelling facilities and reusable launch vehicles in regular large-scale production which will make a lunar return economic and hence sustainable.Ross Sargent suggests the combination of heavy-lift expendable booster with smaller reusable spaceplane-type vehicles for access to orbit. This is of course the infrastructure suggested by David Ashford, following von Braun, and also by Mark Hempsell in a couple of articles in JBIS.Stephen Tue 09 Feb 2010 18:30:51 GMT+1 Ross W Sargent http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=59#comment19 A combination of a big booster (Saturn V class or preferably larger) and truly reusable spacecraft, as mentioned by Stephen Ashworth, would in my opinion be the way to go. A booster to throw large masses into orbit and safe reusable craft to put people up there. Also NASA should fund three areas of research which would benefit our expansion into and utilisation of the Solar System. Firstly new spacegoing nuclear power plants, secondly magnetic shielding for protection from solar flares, and thirdly advanced drive technologies such as VASIMR. The latter two items would depend very much on the first. Most of the problems of human deep space flight would be ameliorated by these technologies. Tue 09 Feb 2010 17:30:04 GMT+1 Martin_H http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=56#comment18 In response to AllenT2:Firstly, while America might have the most advanced technology in this field, it is questionable whether it is the most successful - that prize probably belongs to the Russians for Soyuz.Secondly, if the US can "obviously do it on its own" why hasn't it made the promised advances over the past 3 decades. Spaceflight is only partly about technology and mostly about having the necessary funding. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of science and technology that have been shared for the benefit of everyone. Thirdly, claiming to be the best won't hold much water when someone plants a Chinese flag in the lunar soil within the next 20 years (not impossible).Finally, I suggest that you think twice before using the word "hostile", especially at a time when brave men and women from the US and the EU (especially the UK) are fighting side-by-side in Afghanistan. Tue 09 Feb 2010 13:12:12 GMT+1 AllenT2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=53#comment17 shayneherceg wrote:"It’s about time that national governments stop their jingoistic flag waving and territorial pissing and cooperated to form some kind of united nations space agency. It could bring more boffins together under one umbrella to brainstorm, the costs could be shared globally, and stop duplication of expensive science projects to see ‘who gets there first’. And if the private sector can also play a part to bring down costs, all the better, space exploration/science is just too expensive for any single nation to pay for and these financial constraints are impeding progress.A cost shared is a cost halved, two heads are better than one... and all that twaddle."Why should America do that if it can obviously do it on its own?? Why should it share its most advanced technologies with other countries, especially hostile countries like Russia, China, and hostile entities such as the EU?No sane country would do that to save a bit of money. Tue 09 Feb 2010 11:09:37 GMT+1 Andrew_C http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=50#comment16 Something a lot more recent than the Sea Dragon project was the Russian Energia rocket. That lifted 100 tonnes, and it actually flew! Would the US go into partnership with Russia to resurrect it though? I doubt it somehow. Mon 08 Feb 2010 23:01:54 GMT+1 Alex 71 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=46#comment15 No amount of NASA spin can disguise the reality that 14 months short of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's first venture into the "final frontier", the US has given up on manned spaceflight. I confidently predict there will be no American presence on the moon this side of the centenary of Neil Armstrong's one small step. There may well be a Chinese or Indian presence, but that's another story.... Mon 08 Feb 2010 19:44:23 GMT+1 ToInfinity http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=43#comment14 Stephen, the market for large scale passenger access will follow industry into space as a convenient byproduct. The holdup on space tech is not going to be overcome by joy-rides for the few that can afford it, it will be overcome when someone invests in space based industry and needs technicians, engineers, and miners to man and maintain the equipment that is generating a real profit. Mon 08 Feb 2010 16:29:47 GMT+1 Stephen Ashworth http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=40#comment13 I agree with Chris above about in-space refuelling. I want to add that in the longer term we should expect the resources of near-Earth asteroids to come into play, ultimately leading to an in-space refuelling system which is largely independent of launch from Earth. This should be part of the overall strategy right now.The first "game-changing technology" will be a fully reusable launch vehicle that drastically lowers the cost to orbit, like the UK Skylon and Spacebus projects.ToInfinity writes that we don't need tourists in space. I'd like to ask him where he expects the market for large-scale passenger access to space to come from, if not from private passenger spaceflight. This market is necessary for any high-frequency, low-cost space transport system to work.Stephen Mon 08 Feb 2010 13:09:33 GMT+1 Robert Lucien http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=37#comment12 Thats a great idea Axel, I use genetic algorithms in my AI but to use them for designing something like rocket engines, brilliant!In reality there are many viable ways of going into space (more cheaply). Some of the space elevator people think that they are almost ready and they have put their costs at about 3 to 5 billion to put an elevator into orbit. I do think Sea Dragon is one of the better basic designs I've seen and unlike the shuttle it really could achieve a low cost to orbit. There is a vehicle called SKYLON from the space company that designed HOTOL in the 80's. And NASA have had cancelled many good designs and projects that could have solved the problem- maybe the DC-X or the X33 are the best/worst (the stupidest to cancel). The real problem with designing really efficient (cheap) rockets is that there are two primary equations. The momentum transfer equation which governs thrust demands a maximized exhaust velocity - but the kinetic energy equation (which governs efficiency) demands a minimized exhaust velocity. Unfortunately a really high exhaust velocity is what is needed to get into space without carrying 90% of your mass as fuel. As an amateur I like tinkering with my own designs. For a while I worked on a design based on a railgun - very low reaction fuel mass (10%-30%) but enormous energy costs - reusable and low cost but some pretty heavy technical issues. (it pulverizes its launch site) You could probably build one on a big Lottery win - less than a single Shuttle launch. Mon 08 Feb 2010 13:01:56 GMT+1 Chris http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=34#comment11 Everyone is missing the real point here - read the PDF document about inorbit refuelling and then think it through. This idea was originally mooted as a mission scenario for the Apollo programme but was dropped as, at the time, it required too much technology that did not exist. All of the required technology is now in place and this system could be delivered in relatively short timeframes.The result would be a sustainable and repeatable long-term exploration of the lunar surface. This would lead to the kind of lunar exploitation that could allow both the extention of the manned space programme to Mars and the robotic exploration of the rest of the solar system.One has to wonder - if NASA had pursued this path in the post-Apollo 70's instead of the Shuttle/STS, where would we be now?Cancelling Constallation is correct as the "one-shot" approach to lunar exploration was fine for Apollo but is ridiculously expensive for what we need to do today and in the future. Forget pipe-dreams like Sea Dragon and Orion, only something like the in-orbit refuelling system provides the answers we need if humans are serious about using space. And yes, it HAS to be an international effort.Think of it this way. In the 19th century the development of the railway systems in the USA turned that country from a wilderness into a world-leader. The in-orbit refueling strategy is a railroad to the moon and beyond. Mon 08 Feb 2010 12:45:49 GMT+1 ToInfinity http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=31#comment10 I always hear this same old "we have too much to worry about down here on earth" argument trotted out every time real space exploration is discussed. To this I shake my head in disgust. Its not about what we know, its about what we don't know yet. Imagine elements so heavy that they sunk to the center of the earth while it was still molten, or so light they escape the atmosphere easily and are thus rare. We don't need tourists in space, that's putting the cart before the horse, we need pioneers. We need mining and industry able to take the available raw materials and convert them into refined products to mitigate the need to shoot everything up on expensive rockets. The moon has practically the same mineral composition as the earth, so its all there, iron and aluminum for structures, silica for glass, gold for electronics, and a whole host of other elements... its just waiting for the processing equipment. Mon 08 Feb 2010 12:38:22 GMT+1 brian http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=28#comment9 This post has been Removed Mon 08 Feb 2010 11:21:39 GMT+1 Bill Taylor http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=25#comment8 I would welcome a World Space Initiative for Science and Exploration, but fear the Military value of space will need a much more stable world before this can be addressed.If the money spent on Weapons and Defence Systems could be used for Space this would be game changing, but we need to feel secure before advancing Human Kind.It is a shame that the Space Shuttle is being phased out before the next generation Heavy/ Large volume Launch capability has been achieved. The recent launches have shown what a significant capability the Shuttle has been. I add it to the list of lost capability in my lifetime that includes Super Sonic Commercial Flight.Many thanks to all involved in achieving and maintaining the Space Station Facility. Mon 08 Feb 2010 11:11:49 GMT+1 SPH http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=21#comment7 It’s about time that national governments stop their jingoistic flag waving and territorial pissing and cooperated to form some kind of united nations space agency. It could bring more boffins together under one umbrella to brainstorm, the costs could be shared globally, and stop duplication of expensive science projects to see ‘who gets there first’. And if the private sector can also play a part to bring down costs, all the better, space exploration/science is just too expensive for any single nation to pay for and these financial constraints are impeding progress.A cost shared is a cost halved, two heads are better than one... and all that twaddle. Mon 08 Feb 2010 09:50:13 GMT+1 Axel http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=18#comment6 Let me just throw a line here.A long time ago I read about a clever man applying the rules of evolution to "evolve" such things as waterpipe elbows in order to minimize turbulence. The process worked and had some surprising results. In this case that the normal pipe elbow joint is far from the most efficient.He also applied this process to optimise the flow in a rocket exhaust. The final design had claimed 85% efficiency over I believe 50% theoretical for an normal rocket engine cone. And it looked nothing like what conventional wisdom dictates. Basically it had a few "expansion chambers" and was narrower than a traditional rocket cone.For those curious, essentially he took a basic design and introduced random modifications, measured the efficiency and kept or discarded the design as necessary. If if showed improvements, it formed the basis of further experimentation with random changes introduced. The thesis here is that this process selects for an optimum design in far less steps than going through all possible modifications one by one. If you can ever think of all possible permutations, which you can't. (Which leads me to believe that God was a brilliant being but lazy to the core.(grin)) Perhaps someone from the space program will read this and dig up that research? As I recall I read that article in the mid 1970's long ago and pre internet. Even applying this process to current rocket engines might help get interesting results. Significant research often gets lost because the author isn't gifted at promotion.I am 50 and have given up hope of man returning to space proper and reviving the old dream in my lifetime, but boy, it would surely be grand to see something like sea dragon fly. Mon 08 Feb 2010 09:45:13 GMT+1 The_Oncoming_Storm http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=15#comment5 The idea that America would simply abandon manned spaceflight capability when the Shuttle is retired went down very badly on Capitol Hill and I understand in the media. Clearly there is going to be a lot of hardball between Obama and COngress over the budget but I am pretty sure that some form of HLV will be included in the final budget, a "Son of Ares V," so as to pacify Congressmen in states like Texas and Utah. Mon 08 Feb 2010 08:58:10 GMT+1 Stoatwarbler http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=12#comment4 (disclosure: I work in the UK space program)Revisiting Sea Dragon would be a great idea. The rocket was intended to be built in shipyards out of 8mm submarine steel with lower per/pound liftoff weights to match (but a takeoff weight of 21,000 tonnes is a bit mind boggling...)The whole thing was scuttled just before the Space Race kicked off on cost grounds and not picked up again because it would take too long to develop compared to converting then-existing ICBM technology for manned flight.Even Sea Dragon isn't big enough for the _real_ heavylift work such as a space elevator or geostationary platform envisaged in the 1960s. Go back another 10-15 years to a once-classified project also named Orion and you'll find a design for 30,000 ton payload to mars _and back_ in 8 months.By the way, water is a better moderator for stopping high energy particles than lead is. Enclosing crew areas in water tanks would stop most of the radiation effects on a deep space mission and the rest can be taken care of with lightweight shielding. All of this adds weight but water is lighter.All of this is moot. The USA isn't going to have manned deep space missions for a long time, nor is Europe or Russia. There are other nations determined enough and prepared to take the risks entailed. While I expect to see a manned moonbase in my lifetime I don't expect the linga fraca there to be English - or any other indo-european language Mon 08 Feb 2010 08:50:18 GMT+1 The Plankmeister http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=9#comment3 The way forward for any kind of manned space exploration is through private enterprise. NASA are incredibly good at robotic missions and data acquisistion. When it comes to manned spaceflight, their record is less than impressive when compared to their robotic mission successes. I think it's absolutely a good thing that Obama cancelled Constellation, and it's something I predicted (and hoped) he would do when he took office. Now NASA can concentrate on what it does best, and the market for manned spaceflight will now explode. I guarantee that within 10 years, there will be several companies offering cheap LEO access for both cargo and humans, and these companies will be in it for the profit, and with new technologies being invented and implemented, we really are at the dawn of a new era of manned spaceflight.I foresee private space-stations within 30 years; mainly research labs and production installations, but also space hotels for space tourists. However, I really can't see any commercial benefit in going beyond LEO, so lunar/Martian/asteroidal manned missions will not be anything available from the private sector. Before any governments are capable of investing in such a scheme, I think many, many decades will have passed; it almost certainly won't happen in my lifetime. Mon 08 Feb 2010 08:27:05 GMT+1 l33t_sh1tz0r http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=6#comment2 The romantic notion of human space flight will remain a notion until there is a giant breakthrough in propulsion technology. Despite "Popular Science" magazine reporting throughout the decades of how to make things go into orbit with ease, we still today have no such items at our disposal, nor do we have any in ready reserve for deployment.The core issue behind heavy lift technology in regards to human space flight is simply, lead shielding. It requires a huge amount of radiation-shielding for living organisms to survive outside the Earth's protective atomosphere. It costs so much to get enough shielding into orbit to protect humans from the miasma of cosmic and solar radiation present a mere 50 miles above our heads, let alone 5k or 50k miles...It is possible to use conventional rockets and rocket designs to do this, just hugely expensive and damaging to the same atomosphere which shields us all on Earth.Here on Earth, for those of us with our heads still in the skies, we have more traditional problems, such as roofs over our heads, utilities, food, etc. etc. etc. and simply, our governments recognize that for all the hoopla and banner-waving a nice space program can give and brings, it is best to deal with the most appropriate issues at hand, namely economies, job creation, ensuring sustainable food and water supplies, social programs and spending, etc.It is indeed disappointing what NASA faces with this sea of change to their mission protocol(s) but at the very least they are under exceptional leadership with General Bolden and President Obama. They have clear mandates to continue with our joint international projects, even prolonging them, and also the forsight to realize that with available funds and programs much of the potential sought in the future may indeed be brought to bear on whatever may be best.Yes, commercial exploitation of space is going to be a huge boon for mankind in this century, but it is folly to assume we'll be vacationing on the moon in our lifetimes (remember lead shielding and a typhoon of ionizing radiation from deep space and our relatively nearby Sun.)Robots and remote-controlled craft will fulfill our needs for the time being and hopefully that breakthrough in propulsion will materialize sooner as opposed to later. In my humble opinion, I suspect such a breakthrough is within reach inside of twenty years, and, that such a discovery will coincide with other equally important discoveries. As a species we are on the cusp of huge breakthroughs in many realms of endeavor and it is hopefully only a matter of time and determination to realize this and other equally if not moreso important discoveries. Mon 08 Feb 2010 07:57:37 GMT+1 Kevin Blankinship http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=3#comment1 The biggest problem is the government bureaucracy at NASA. There are a lot of launch vehicle designs that promise economic space transportation, but in practice, the cost ends up orders of magnitude greater than prediction. The original promise by Wernher von Braun for Space Shuttle as $100 (1968) per pound to orbit. In today's dollars that would be about $620 per pound to orbit. It turns out the actual cost was 100x as much.The biggest culprit is obviously government inefficiency relative to the private sector. A government-run operation is generally slow to innovate, and is ridden with red tape and bureaucratic procedure. There are no economic incentives to enforce efficiency. These are the reasons socialism of the kind practiced in the Soviet Union failed.Perhaps the best system is for space transportation to be privately developed and operated, with the government acting as regulator to ensure flight safety. To get the NASA out of its socialist mode, where the government would to a large extent design and manufacture spacecraft and launch vehicles, is a welcome development. NASA was becoming a bottleneck to progress in opening up space for development.There are many who cynically viewed the American manned space program as sort of a national totem, to show off to the world what we can do. But what is meaningful is that the country ultimately benefit in tangible ways. When the British admiralty developed the technology of shipbuilding and navigation, and perfected the art of seamanship, it allowed the UK to become for a while the world's pre-eminent naval power, and made possible the British Empire. NASA seems to be going this way as well and this should be applauded. Mon 08 Feb 2010 04:40:20 GMT+1 Robert Lucien http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/02/a-big-rocket-is-still-a-us-pri.shtml?page=0#comment0 Just recently read about the old Sea Dragon project, cancelled in 1962 (due to cancellation of other projects) it was a super large partially reusable low cost rocket. Maybe the whole design couldn't be resurrected, but parts of it could be. Sea Dragon had a 500 ton to orbit lift capacity and it was designed to sea launch making it far cheaper per kilogram payload than most rockets. There is a scaling rule that the bigger a rocket is generally the more efficient it will be and the less of an issue weight will be. Sea Dragon was designed to lift Mars exploration craft, cargo, and large space stations. Outfitted for people it could lift maybe 200 or more at once.Its funny how such an old design still looks like it could out compete what we have today but then most rockets are still basically 50's technology, maybe a little improved but not much. Mon 08 Feb 2010 00:15:38 GMT+1