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What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

Posted January 16, 2011 7:00 AM

In a matter of weeks, the final flight of space shuttle Endeavor will mark the retirement of the fleet. It's the end of an era for those of us who grew up with the shuttle as a fixture. How will we get astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station? Amid the current economic chaos and rising deficits, how can we free up enough money for NASA to undertake another launch vehicle program? More to the point, such programs typically take a decade or more to come to fruition. What happens now?

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#1

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 9:55 AM

We wait. Russia will have to ferry our astronauts. We have zero man-rated lift vehicles after the last Shuttle flight.

NASA does have a new program based on the recently scrapped Ares/Constellation programs that could provide a heavy lift potential in as few as 5 years. However, such programs usually face delays.

Unfortunately, NASA's budget will not support that program, despite directives to do it.

The whole thing is a mess. We have had nearly 30 years to work on this problem and nothing to show for it except an expanded definition of the word vacillation to add to the on-line dictionaries.

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#2
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 11:34 AM

not a bad idea, russian does have very good heavy weight lift vehicles, it may benefit both country's if we have russia do our lifting

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#3
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 11:44 AM

The contract, as I understand it, is for humans an not payload.

Nevertheless, the problem with that approach is it relies on the geopolitical whims of Russia. Right now our relationship is souring as Russia tries to regain and project more and more of its power and control over the former Eastern Block countries and into the Mid-East (Iran and neighboring countries).

In these situations it is better not to hand them a political lever that they can tweak at their desire at it puts us at a great political disadvantage.

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#4
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 11:52 AM

maybe restrict heavy lift for other than military. So atleast we retain a big stick.

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#5
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 12:03 PM

We have no stick.

Anytime there are non-Russian astronauts abroad the space station they are at the mercy of Russia for supplies, crew rotation, and emergency returns.

Russia has successfully demonstrated their ability to coerce Europe and Eastern Block countries through the throttling of natural gas supplies.

Additionally, the need for heavy lift is not an issue for the time being. Everything that needs to be up there is up there or waiting on a remaining Shuttle mission. STS-133 carries one last module and STS-134 will be loaded with spares for the station.

That's all folks!

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#6
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 12:26 PM

for russian to do something like that on ISS, which they are a part of. It would be foolish for them to be reliable in the international forum. And sticks come in many forms, food is a big one, as well as technology.

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#18
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 2:05 PM

Of course now we all know that it wasn't really russia that was originally screwing with the natural gas supply turned out that it was the ukraine stealing gas from the gas line. Western european coutries at first implicated russia until germany and italy had a swiss group conduct an audit. surprisingly much of the government of the ukrraine is made up of people with strong tiess to their natural gas corporation which ownes the section of the pipeline through their country (Russia had to hand control over as the ukraine will not allow foreign ownership). The continued activities by the Ukrainians and the lack of enforcement of control by their government has been a major impetus for the secondary pipeline route through Poland.

So to some degree if Russia's natural gas corporation is pissed at western europe for constant accusations of shorting supply deliveries for over a decade that eventually they discovered russia was right in accusing the ukraine of theft. I would be pissed too, if i was supplying the life blood to a bunch of whining countries that blamed me for not getting deliveries there which i had little control over and then effectively whining at me not to pick on the litle former eastern block country when I tried to enforce some modicum of control over the conveyance/distribution.

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#19
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 4:09 PM

In reality nobody blamed Russia for stealing the gas, everybody knew the role of Ukrainia.

It was in the newspapers, the TV and official statements.

But nobody wanted to blame officially Ukrainia - wrong interpretation of diplomacy.

Now Russia is bvuliding a pipeline through the Baltic-Sea to Germany totally avoiding other countries but may be with a terminal in Sweden.

RHABE

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#15
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 8:21 AM

I miss the excitement of the space program

I remember as a kid , building Estes models of the rockets and timing their launches to the launch of the real ones.

Then has an adult Building the shuttle model and timing its launch with my kids. The model actually does that same roll right before apogee!

My wife and I were there for the first on time launch of STS4. We were camping across the river and the pride of all those around us is something we will remember forever. I remember a Canadian couple, in tears with pride, so proud of their Country's contribution of the payload bay arm. It was great!

I really believe we need more of this excitement and the inventions that were created out of necessity.

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#7

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 6:35 PM

Put on a good used set of tires and do a basic engine rebuild then drop them down to basic liability insurance for the fleet and treat them like a good used cars.

Or sell them to Mexico and they will start putting us in orbit for 1/3 of the cost if you don't mind some fuzzy dice in the rear view mirrors.

The odds are they will make quite a few more trips on them before they rust out completely!

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Aye essay wheres the duct tape? That big O ring things leaken some more.

No No man. I told U euse GB weld this time it takes da heet better, fool.

Wat bout em heat tiles Holmes?

Home depot gots lil bitty floor tiles for 49 cents. They fits jus fine. Jus makes sure you buy that good red silicone at Napa so thay dont be fallin off commin back down.

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#8

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 10:46 PM

I believe Obama has signed on with a private contractor.

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#9
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 11:02 PM

A privately owned company put a spacecraft into orbit and brought it back safely on Wednesday in a groundbreaking test flight NASA hopes will lead to cargo runs to the International Space Station after the space shuttles are retired next year.

Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10:43 a.m. EST (1543 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the company's first operational Dragon capsule.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35783740/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/

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#10

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/16/2011 11:37 PM

Too bad some one does not have a complete set of Saturn V plans. Upgrade it and it would still cost less than the shuttle.

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#11

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 12:40 AM

Nobody really needs men or women in orbit.

This is good for reputation and decoration of political people but science and technology can stay without them.

A nearly 10fold (?) increase in effectiveness (results/$$) is existing if the extra weight and cost of men in orbit is avoided.

I do know only 1 example where the space shuttle really was useful: replacing Hubble-Space-Telescopes dead or nearly dead gyro unit. (Two times).

(And this could have been avoided by careful examination of the inert fluid that was used for flotation of the gyros and proved not to be really inert after some time and allowed the voltages and currents passed through by tiny wires (or the acids that are generated chemically) to eat up the wires until failure.)

Who will be on JamesWebbSpace telescope?-Nobody. Who is on the different planetary missions? Nobody!

So please tell me why we need a manned space-station.

We are switching now (slowly) to unmanned flight on Earth - much better and cheaper to be done in space.

Payloads to ISS: ESA has tested successfully an automatic launch and rendez-vous.

Russia has been a reliable partner in any scientific program. If there will be a partnership in military programs is discussed at this moment and we will hopefully see a positive result.

RHABE

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#12
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 1:01 AM

Yes but if we do not develope space travel how will I/we ever get off this rock.

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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 2:48 AM

We will never get off.

(Unless tiny black holes are manageable and built into spaceships as energy sources).

Think about the energy that is necessary only to go into orbit.

It took 35 years for the first probes to reach the boundary of solar to galactic region.

Getting this down to 4 years will be a formidable task. Look at VASIMR or VASIMIR developments going on since many years. There is no way today.

Dreaming is ok.

RHABE

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#16
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 10:25 AM

Don't bet on it!

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#14

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 3:54 AM

Walk...

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#17

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/17/2011 10:57 AM

I will be the first to admit that my understanding of the space station as a useful step to exploring space has been limited. There does not appear to be any really useful gain in developing such a station except to study the effects of space on humans and to carry out some unique experiments. It is not like we are getting "tang" every time the space station is used. Yet the costs have been enormous compared to recognizable benefits. The space station has a very limited usefulness to deep space exploration.

If the objective is to develop a better means of advancing the potential for longer term space travel, I think it would be far better to develop a geoscynchronous orbiter capable of being used as a space elevator. Once it can be established that a space elevator is possible and can be built, the elevator anchor can then become a launch point to further space. The energy for launching at the large distance of orbit is very high and would assist space exploration of more distant object. It may even be possible to construct other elevators on other objects and use them as sling shots to deeper space. In fact I think if such an orbiter was established on the dark side of the moon, we would find it easier to build and would get more energy for launching.

A project such as a space elevator will be a massive undertaking. Russia has much to contribute and should be invited as a potential partner. In fact the west should negotiate with Russia to establish a great free trade zone with them. They are for all purposes a proud people but have an underdeveloped economy with tremendous resource. This type of partnership would allow the west to advance science and gain toeholds to the potential resource rich Russian geography. In the interim there is going to be a closer relationship with Russia and the ISS and we in the west should advantage this to benefit. The launching of hardware such as the space telescope, communication, or even spy satellites, can be better developed with current rocket knowledge.

Anyway, that is my $0.02 worth.

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#20

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 8:33 AM

One of the things addressing this issue: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/1006864.article?cmpid=TE01P&cmptype=newsletter&cmpdate=170111&email=true bioramani

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#21
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 9:54 AM

Nice article Bioramani. I may even be around to see some of the results of the E-ELT. It is nice to know that some astro-scientists still think with their feet on the ground. Thanks for the info.

I just think a better strategy to explore space is required. The space station does not seem to be advancing space exploration or I may just be impatient. It seems that we are into a futile stage of exploration. It would also seem to me, that better advancement will be made if all the international efforts are coordinated. That way the onus of mega dollars required, could be spent much more effectively. India and China are flirting with space travel and are simply spending money to repeat prior work done be USA, Europe, and Russia. Instead of hording all the effort based on nationalistic pride, we could gain a lot be international cooperation. And yeah, I do understand the military and spy reasons for remaining sole owners of some information. Much of the civil scientific effort is lost because of such spending.

Thanks again for pointing out one option even if it does not lead to space travel.

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#22
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 10:58 AM

How right you are Kevin M! What an advance can result if there is complete international co-operation on space issues. Closely know most of the Indian scientists/engineers in the space programme. Even worked with many on non-space projects. Do not see it happening though. Bioramani

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#24
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 12:27 PM

The thing is that the financial resources devoted to space travel and any new exploration are now being out competed by fear mongering psuedo-science now in western societies. You know the old argument, The world is going to end and man is to blame. There was a time in the US when we didn't care about the complaints of other nations and special interests about our endeavors to explore further, we spent the money and got it done. These concerns about rodents and bugs impacted by mans activities, and the atmosphere all adversely effect limited funding resources available for other ventures. We have people claiming cheer leading is as much a sport as football, and wanting to fight their arguments clear through the supreme court. We spend too much resources at trying to make groups and people feel good about themselves and not enough towards tangible goals to complete them. and when we do devote to tangible goals , large amounts have to be devoted in even those budgets to unnecessary fluffy social elements that drive costs up. The chinese do not have these limitations.

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#27
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 5:36 PM

Worse is the lack of informed people that know about big excursions in climate and associated problems in the past.

Many people are fighting today against ghosts by fighting a "global warming" that has happened with much more intensity in the past.

But this movement has gained so much unreflected support that you must let them go until they learn (or not).

Only then there may be a reversal of attitudes. - Unfortunately -.

I never was a supporter of man in space (after the moon-landings), but what we do today is burning taxpayers money without any benefit.

I would like any scientific and infrastructure program to be financed by taxpayers money - from pure eduction to the power grid, to railways and streets, to pure scientific programs- lots of opportunities but the darkness won't know.

RHABE

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#28
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 7:12 PM

Also consider the money spent on things like Kit Fox habitat preservations in areas where a Kit Fox has never been seen within 100 miles in documented history. It is one thing to spend money on something we know and have documented evidence it once thrived there and has declined through direct documented activities of man, and another to force money to be spent on habitat preservation/mitigation for something that could have thrived there at some time as the habitat seems suitable and it lies within the potential range of the species. If we had the biologists and arcehiologist running things in the 1940s the way they do today, we would have had EIRs prepared before we could do anything for war and in the end had to give up to avoid the potential adverse impacts war could potentially cause to potentially historical structures, rocks that indians may have touched or some potential animals, fish, or whale habitat that could be used by said animal at sometime as yet undetermined. Imagine the EIR for everytime we built a aircraft carrier alone, let alone military housing/training facilities, the Manhattan project, everything we had to undertake...

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#23

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 12:15 PM

There is another world to explore: beneath our feet.

Earth's radius is 6000Km. Deepest drilling was 6Km conveniently and 12 Km extraordinary.

So a vast field of unknown treasures is remaining to be unveiled.

RHABE

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#25

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 2:54 PM

That is why we have the Russians.

TILL our new Shutlle is rolled out of production. 2 years?

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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

01/18/2011 4:13 PM

There is no new shuttle.

The replacement was going to be the Ares I as part of the Constellation program. The crew capsule was called the Orion. Constellation was going to provide a heavy lift vehicle for LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and a mechanism to return to the Moon, then a program to take humans to Mars. That would take nearly a decade to put into service (realistically). So we would have a big gap before we return to space, not two years. Well...

Obama cancelled the program last year. Unfortunately, the contract can not be stopped until the end of the first quarter this year. So, billions of dollars is being spent on a dead-end project due to paperwork.

Recently, Obama authorized NASA to produce a heavy lift vehicle to replace the Shuttle. Good idea, no?

NASA was charged and given a thumbs up to produce a heavy lift vehicle based in part from engine technology from the Shuttle orbiter. In fact, the remaining spare engines from the Orbiter would be used for the initial flights of a traditional rocket based on engineering from the Saturn IV, the Space Shuttle, and some of the design from the Constellation.

Unfortunately, the budget for NASA does not support this new rocket, so it is unclear what will happen.

While I was holding out and hoping that the Shuttle would get a green light for more flights, the infrastructure to support it has been dismantled. So, STS-134 will be the last flight and we are done.

I see NASA in doldrums right now. Many fine ideas have been proposed and even some green lights, but there is no fuel in the tank to make it a go. My guess is that due to the budget busting spending we have been doing in the last 10 years (which just keeps accelerating like the ascent of the Space Shuttle after lift-off) we will see little real progress for manned missions from NASA for a long time.

If we get our fiscal budget in order there will probably be a better chance to reorganize NASA and return to the forefront of manned exploration, but even if we get a budget, we will be starting from ground zero and it will probably take the better part of a decade to execute on any new plan. That means it must survive changes in the Oval Office as well as Congress, which has put NASA on the manic depressant bus in the past.

It's not like the 60s anymore with a national mission of high importance driving the Moon program. Those days ended after Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and there is little reason to see anything like that in our lifetimes. It would be nice if we did, but unfortunately people are more interested in the Avatar sequels and reruns of Star Trek than what NASA can produce.

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#29

Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

04/14/2011 12:04 AM

According to this article published on 4/10/2011

http://www.cleveland.com/world/index.ssf/2011/04/russia_accelerates_plans_for_m.html

states

"Russia is working on the space station with the United States. It will provide the only way for U.S. astronauts to travel to the station following a decision to end the almost 30-year-old space shuttle program this year, with the last two flights scheduled for April and June.

Russia receives $752 million from the United States for sending crews to the space station through 2015. The country is using the launch fee of $63 million per member on craft development, maintenance and upgrade, Perminov said."

My opinion is that without continuous development of manned spacecraft and heavy-lift launch vehicles, America will lose its capabilities and will never be technologically or economically competitive to the Russian and Chinese in manned Space Exploration and Colonization and possibly in other industries.

This is where we are at after fifty years of manned space exploration.

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#30
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Re: What Do We Do After the Space Shuttle Retires?

04/14/2011 11:46 AM

Well you know if it comes to cutting funding for NASA or the NEA. Apparently, Obama has decided scientific investigation and discovery should take a back seat to a fully paid freedom to artistic expression. There are afterall limited resources by which the government can fund these agencies, and science doesn't rate very high in the current socio-economic considerations of US politics. Science only seems important to people who feel threatened to the point they need to advance, and very few people feel a need for that advancement (actually some feel we should go backwards to a time when they were considered skilled professional labor instead of unskilled labor that a robot would handle in Japan, but their union fortunately protects them here from such replacement by automation).

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