Mars

Space Shuttle Sent to Museum, SpaceX Launch Set For April 30

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meme bait

The space shuttle Discovery made its final departure from the Kennedy Space Center today, headed for a display at the National Air & Space Museum.

The Discovery is the first of the retired space shuttles to be sent to a museum. The Atlantis returned as NASA's last space shuttle mission last July, ending a program that began its retirement in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.

President George W. Bush unveiled a "Vision for Space Exploration" that included a moon base and a mission to Mars, but economic reality and a recession hit in and the plans were scrapped by President Obama before the space shuttles they were replacing were.

Today, NASA relies on contracts with private space transport companies like SpaceX to get to the International Space Station (on which federal money's been spent since the Reagan Administration). SpaceX will launch NASA's first mission to the space station on April 30, and has more than $2 billion in NASA contracts.

But because government spending goes up even when it's not doing anything, NASA's budget continues to rise. It spent $2.6 billion more in 2011 than 2004 despite the scaled back ambitions. No matter how trivial NASA's mission becomes, it'll find a way to keep spending more money. And for all the romanticizing about NASA's Apollo program, spending on NASA hit 5% of the federal budget in 1965 and astronauts never came back anywhere close to the moon since Apollo 17, almost forty years ago.

Could human space exploration flourish best without government intervention? Reason's February issue is all about it.

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  1. Shouldn’t the piles of debris from the crashed Shuttles also merit a spot in the museum?

    1. They’ve still got astronaut all over them.

  2. It’s time for the private sector to take over manned access and occupation of space, period. Nothing sustainable is coming out of the government anytime soon.

    Rand Simberg recently published a white paper on space property rights. It appears to have upset some people who think only the government should be allowed in space (“Corporations would strip mine the Moon and enslave the Selenites!”). Which is a good thing.

    Is the April 30 date set? Last time I looked at the NASA manifest, it was April 30+, which means maybe April 30, maybe later.

    1. “We’re here to steal your pornography, and sodomize our vast imaginations. “

    2. Pretty soon a private corporation will be mining the Moon using only a Kevin Spacey robot and the guy they keep cloning over and over. The future is bright.

      1. *spoiler alert*

    3. Could be April 31st.

    4. What’s the big deal with strip mining the moon anyway? Environmental concerns?

      1. The Moon would look horrible with a little hole in it!

        1. Damn straight. I bought this house for the view of the moon, and I’ll be damned if I let corporate fatcats lower my property values.

      2. Anything mankind does to change the way things were before he got there is inherently evil?

      3. I wonder how much material we’d actually have to remove from the moon for it to affect tides or cause the moon to slip away from the earth at a faster rate or something.

        1. My precise calculations say “a shitload”.

        2. I don’t know about that, but I’d exercise caution when storing nuclear waste there.

          1. That wouldn’t be nearly as bad as dropping by-products of nuclear energy generation into the sun.

  3. AI robotic missions aint cheap Ed and NASA’s ~10-15 yrs ahead of the military who benefit from the R&D as do civilian contractors.

    1. AI robotic missions are dirt cheap compared to a Shuttle mission. Space is no place for water-filled meatbags.

  4. I’m pissed. All hands meeting in Tallahassee at 1pm on the 30th. I’m stuck here unless it goes off before 7am or after 6pm.

    1. Here’s the current scheduled launch:

      Date: April 30 + [the “+” means targeted for]
      Time: 12:22 p.m. EDT
      Mission: SpaceX
      Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9/Dragon
      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
      Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 40
      Description: The Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. Pending completion of final safety reviews, testing and verification, NASA has agreed to allow SpaceX to send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the station in a single flight.

      1. Sonofabitch!

        1. The “+” could mean that it gets pushed back. Once the “+” goes away, then it’s set. I assume they’ll firm that up really soon (it could be already and just not updated).

  5. So how is Space X any different then the other government contractors? They are still using taxpayer money.

    If they were doing this with their own money I would be impressed, but with my money, not so much.

    1. SpaceX has other customers, and it’s not building rockets purely by NASA spec. It also doesn’t operate like the entrenched players as far as its business model is concerned.

      The American government is an obvious customer. Just not the only one. We’ll see that before too long. SpaceX has a stated goal of launching a shitload of rockets each year, which won’t happen flying NASA missions only.

      1. I want to see that business plan.

      2. SpaceX is getting benefit in costs by not being a cost-plus contractor. Once the gravy-train is dismantled (what happened to United Space Alliance anyways?) past manned flight into sats (hello United Launch Alliance) SpaceX is dead. Musk is good as shilling for Uncle Scam’s pennies but building businesses against real competitors he sucks.

        When/if Boeing sees a real market for space-launch they are going to get in there with Delta/RS-68 or some-such and eat SpaceX up. But only when the easy-money and devil’s bargain end.

        1. I know a North Asian country that could use help with their rockets. Will SpaceX take slaves in payment?

          1. Are the slaves orphans?

        2. I don’t agree. The established aerospace companies really lack the capability of operating on a low-cost basis, and with the military still keeping them flush in government money, they aren’t likely to change their ways anytime soon.

          SpaceX is still in its early stages, but it’s a few successful launches away from being a serious competitor for launch services. If it can scale up to regular launches, it and its business model could be revolutionary.

          1. Meh. SpaceX is run by Elon Musk – that’s a hit right there. Without Gov-bucks, SpaceX would be gone. Now, are they a ‘serious competitor’ in the launch biz? Sure. But how seriously competitive is their technology?

            At the end of the day they build same rocket essentially next guy builds, but with crappier motors (you can buy Energomash motors that put more power out than all those little Merlins on bottom of a F-IX combined). Where SpaceX makes the difference is not having to pay hundreds of Gov-clowns to sit around, use subcontractors politicians choose, and play faux PR crap like ‘minority outreach’ and ‘teachers in space’ and the rest (you should see NASA RFP’s, that shit is part of them for things like ion engine bids!).

            And notice I said Boeing. They still have real ‘customers’ in the form of airlines and the like. LockMart has good vehicle in Atlas series already (uses those Energomash motors I was talking about even) but they are like KBR or Halliburton – all they do is government work and have configured their corporate cultures to do nothing else.

            1. I’m not a universal fan of Musk–see Tesla–but I think you’re pooh-poohing a fairly decent operation with good prospects.

              I’m not suggesting that Boeing couldn’t eventually compete at this level, but I think the New Space companies will have an advantage for a while. Down the road, it may change radically. For that matter, I don’t necessarily think SpaceX has everything in the bag just yet.

        3. When/if Boeing sees a real market for space-launch they are going to get in there with Delta/RS-68 or some-such and eat SpaceX up.

          You clearly have no idea how much a Delta IV or Atlas V rocket costs compared to a Falcon 9.

          1. This is really the whole issue. If SpaceX or another company can really crack the cheap-access nut, the whole business will radically change. If we get down to sub-$100/pound, the solar system is going to open up very quickly.

          2. Im not talking what the government pays for them. I’m talking their real marginal costs to build. Once you get Big Aero out of government cost and management structures, they’re on level field with SpaceX and their technology is better.

            1. Well, I’m all for competition. Let’s get it down to $10/pound so I can visit my ranch on Mars. I’m growing Martian yaks.

              1. I’m growing Martian weed. The size of the plants in .38 G and the buds…positively getting all Jurassic up there I bet.

    2. They do have cost savings from not having to have facilities in a number of different districts to bribe the various Congress critters. Everything is pretty much in one place.

  6. I took a couple of decent shots of the flyby this morning. Nice excuse to leave the office for an hour and not be looked at askance.

    1. Errr…photography shots, that is. Just in case some Feds have it in mind to gun down my dog and cat.

      1. I read that as you were drinking while watching the flyover.

        1. That would have been a good idea…but I think the alcohol ban is in effect year-round, not just July 4th. The bastards.

  7. You’ll know we’ve successfully conquered space when tales of mentally ill crewmen having onboard freakouts start to emerge.

  8. Just wanted to throw a “fuck Obama” in here for not letting a shuttle go to Houston’s Johnson Space Center. You know, just the home of Mission Control, nothing important. But that’s politics.

    1. Of course, without Johnson’s political bullshit, Mission Control would be at the Cape. You know, where it should be.

      1. Why you bringin up old shit?

        1. *popcorn*

        2. We’re talking about the space program.

      2. Yes, you two fight over where a bloated, incredibly wasteful program’s headquarters should be. That makes sense.

        1. I just wanna see a space shuttle, fer chrissakes. Is that so wrong?

          1. Yes. It makes you a monster, in fact.

            1. So you’re not interested in joining me on a shuttle-stealing caper, I take it?

          2. Yes. It’s a shuttle. A shuttle!

            We were promised warships!

        2. Watching libertarians argue about NASA is like watching Butch and Marcelus Wallace trying to decide who gets raped last.

          1. I don’t get it. Not only is NASA horrifically wasteful, it has unquestionably blocked private space exploration for decades. It’s actively harmful. Why would someone who loves the idea of space exploration worship that? They should hate NASA, and all it has done, with a burning passion.

            1. I do. That’s right, an aerospace engineer who hates NASA.

              Also I said “good riddance” to the space shuttle program when my colleagues were talking about flying down to see the last launch. They couldn’t understand how I don’t love the shuttle.

              1. I worked at mission control on the shuttle program prior to Columbia, and on the Orion project. I’ve seen firsthand how they operate and all I have to say is: fuck NASA in their fat fucking asses.

            2. I don’t care much for NASA as an organization. Whatever good it did ended somewhere in the early 70s, and the lack of sustained manned spaceflight to real destinations is it and the rest of our government’s fault.

            3. it has unquestionably blocked private space exploration for decades

              Unquestionable because it’s obvious or unquestionable because you have no response to one who questions that claim?

          2. But don’t forget that we shoot NASA in the balls at the end.

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