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-   -   Can NASA Do It Again? (http://www.travellerrpg.com/CotI/Discuss/showthread.php?t=25232)

Sifu Blackirish September 14th, 2011 09:14 PM

Can NASA Do It Again?
 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...LEFTTopStories

far-trader September 15th, 2011 12:02 AM

Saw this on the news earlier tonight. In my opinion you're asking the wrong question. NASA can certainly do it, given the budget. Without stepping over the line into politics (I hope) the question imo is:

"Will there be the political leadership to generate the public support required to see NASA properly budgeted?" The answer to that I'm afraid is far from certain.

aramis September 15th, 2011 01:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by far-trader (Post 381138)
Saw this on the news earlier tonight. In my opinion you're asking the wrong question. NASA can certainly do it, given the budget. Without stepping over the line into politics (I hope) the question imo is:

"Will there be the political leadership to generate the public support required to see NASA properly budgeted?" The answer to that I'm afraid is far from certain.

Any cogent discussion runs us into the pit... where even we can't find it.

mbrinkhues September 15th, 2011 02:59 AM

Assuming such a big booster, canned man and Mars makes sense, and for me they do not, the big question remains:

Why do it alone?

The Russians have a big post Saturn booster with Energia, the Euros have some nice capsule tech with the ATV that can be man rated - why not a combined effort and improving on existing, relatively modern systems? And sharing a budget

Granted, I rather finance some Greek Sirtaki group rather than canned man but the Berlin parasites <<<politicians may be convinced to waste my taxes on ESA

far-trader September 15th, 2011 03:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mbrinkhues (Post 381157)
Assuming such a big booster, canned man and Mars makes sense...

Yes there are those many and other layers of the whole endeavor to question. Disposable rockets seem silly. Any manned mission without first building a large orbital (or lunar even better) support and launch facility is wasteful and shortsighted. The whole moon mission should have hammered that lesson home.

Quote:

Originally Posted by mbrinkhues (Post 381157)
...the big question remains:

Why do it alone?

Quite! The only reason to do it alone is... well, anything I have to say down that road of discussion will likely lead to me driving this thread into The Pit :o

I'd like to see manned space missions back on the table, internationally, and geared to a permanent presence in space. Not just of an elite "Astronaut" corp but the whole gamut of industry, exploration, science, tourism, settlement and whatever else I may be forgetting that makes up "life" as we know it. It's overdue. Do I think it's gonna happen? Frankly no, and that depresses the hell out of me. It's shortsighted and species suicidal. I see nothing in this latest NASA idea that leads to anything more than another one shot show and wasted resources. I don't think any government has the vision or will to do it. Too many people couldn't care less and would rather the money was spent on making faster cars and more roads leading to new shopping centers.

mbrinkhues September 15th, 2011 04:36 AM

The question is:

Can any useful manned exploration past the moon be done without nuclear drives? If not that the program ist "useless" since the current political climat is a bit like the Greenie in "Footfall" when he discovers what the US is building.

I agree with far trader: IF we want to go "manned space" this will require a massive support structure first. And then a (perferable reuseable) deep space craft or two, maybe something like a Cycler. Not likely to see that money.

And yes, I would prefer that money being spend on fixing the potholes in the street. The local board of mines was here recently and plans to certify some of them as open pit mines.

atpollard September 15th, 2011 04:06 PM

The heart of this issue has Traveller implications.

Some launch economics …
It takes tens of billions of dollars (call it billions of Imperial Credits) to design, develop and build a new prototype launcher/spacecraft. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars (call it tens of millions of Imperial Credits) to build each additional launcher/spacecraft. It costs millions of dollars (call it hundreds of thousands of Imperial Credits) to launch/operate each launcher/spacecraft.


Option One – the Large Ship Universe:
1A:
Assume that we spend one billion Imperial Credits to design, develop and build one 1000 metric ton spacecraft with a 100 metric ton cargo capacity and 100 thousand Imperial Credits to launch it on a single Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 1,000,100,000 credits to deliver 200 metric tons of cargo (100 tons from Earth to Mars and 100 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 5 million credits per ton.

1B:
If we build 10 ships rather than just one, then the costs are one billion Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 10 million credits for each of the next 9 ships (90 million credits) plus 1 million imperial credits to send each ship on one Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 1,091,000,000 credits to deliver 2000 metric tons of cargo (1000 tons from Earth to Mars and 1000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 545 thousand credits per ton.

1C:
If we build 100 ships rather than just one, then the costs are one billion Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 10 million credits for each of the next 99 ships (990 million credits) plus 10 million imperial credits to send each ship on one Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 2,000,000,000 credits to deliver 20,000 metric tons of cargo (10,000 tons from Earth to Mars and 10,000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 100 thousand credits per ton.

1D:
If we build 10 reusable ships at twice the cost of a single-use ship, then the costs are two billion Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 20 million credits for each of the next 9 ships (180 million credits) plus 1 million imperial credits per trip to send each ship on an Earth-Mars-Earth mission (times ten missions = 100 million credits). Total Investment is 3,090,000,000 credits to deliver 20,000 metric tons of cargo (10,000 tons from Earth to Mars and 10,000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 154 thousand credits per ton.

1E:
If we plan for a 10 year life for our reusable ships, then the 10 ships still cost 2,180,000,000 credits plus 1 billion credits for 1000 Earth-Mars-Earth missions (over 10 years). Total Investment is 3,180,000,000 credits to deliver 200,000 metric tons of cargo (100,000 tons from Earth to Mars and 100,000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 31 thousand credits per ton.


Let’s assume that to be ‘worth it’, the cost of the cargo must be at least equal to the transportation costs and the ‘budget’ for the spacecraft and cargo represents 1% of GNP. Now we can explore the economies to support each of the above programs:

1A: 1,000,100,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 200 tonnes of freight at 5 million credits per ton = 2 billion credits total program cost = 200 billion credit GNP to support.

1B: 1,091,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 2000 tonnes of freight at 545 thousand credits per ton = 2.18 billion credits total program cost = 218 billion credit GNP to support.

1C: 2,000,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 20,000 tonnes of freight at 100 thousand credits per ton = 4 billion credits total program cost = 400 billion credit GNP to support.

1D: 3,090,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 20,000 tonnes of freight at 154 thousand credits per ton = 6.17 billion credits total program cost = 617 billion credit GNP to support.

1E: 3,180,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 100,000 tonnes of freight at 31 thousand credits per ton = 6.28 billion credits total program cost = 628 billion credit GNP to support (actually since it is a 10 year program only a 314 billion credit GNP is needed to start the program and a 32 billion credit GNP is needed to sustain it after the first year).

atpollard September 15th, 2011 04:07 PM

Option Two – the Small Ship Universe:
2A:
Assume that we spend 200 million Imperial Credits to design, develop and build one 100 metric ton spacecraft with a 10 metric ton cargo capacity and 20 thousand Imperial Credits to launch it on a single Earth-Mars-Earth mission (Smaller craft cost more per ton due to lost efficiencies of scale).
Total Investment is 200,020,000 credits to deliver 20 metric tons of cargo (10 tons from Earth to Mars and 10 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 10 million credits per ton.

2B:
What if we actually need the 100 tons per year cargo capacity from option 1A (in the earlier post)?
Then we need to build 10 ships at 200 million Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 2 million credits for each of the next 9 ships (18 million credits) plus 20 thousand imperial credits to send each ship on one Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 218,200,000 credits to deliver 200 metric tons of cargo (100 tons from Earth to Mars and 100 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 1 million credits per ton.

2C:
What if we actually need the 1000 tons per year cargo capacity from option 1B (in the earlier post)?
Then we need to build 100 ships at 200 million Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 2 million credits for each of the next 99 ships (198 million credits) plus 20 thousand imperial credits to send each ship on one Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 400,000,000 credits to deliver 2000 metric tons of cargo (1000 tons from Earth to Mars and 1000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 200 thousand credits per ton.

2D:
What if we actually need the 10,000 tons per year cargo capacity from option 1C (in the earlier post)?
Then we need to build 1000 ships at 200 million Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 2 million credits for each of the next 999 ships (1.998 billion credits) plus 20 thousand imperial credits to send each ship on one Earth-Mars-Earth mission. Total Investment is 2,218,000,000 credits to deliver 20,000 metric tons of cargo (10,000 tons from Earth to Mars and 10,000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 110 thousand credits per ton.

2E:
Repeating option 2D with reusable ships (10 trips per year for 1 year)
Then we need to build 100 ships at 400 million Imperial Credits for the first ship plus 4 million credits for each of the next 99 ships (396 million credits) plus 200 thousand imperial credits to send each ship on ten Earth-Mars-Earth missions. Total Investment is 816,000,000 credits to deliver 20,000 metric tons of cargo (10,000 tons from Earth to Mars and 10,000 tons from Mars to Earth). Cost for freight is just over 40 thousand credits per ton.


Let’s assume that to be ‘worth it’, the cost of the cargo must be at least equal to the transportation costs and the ‘budget’ for the spacecraft and cargo represents 1% of GNP. Now we can explore the economies to support each of the above programs:

2A: 200,020,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 20 tonnes of freight at 10 million credits per ton = 400 million credits total program cost = 40 billion credit GNP to support.

2B: 218,200,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 200 tonnes of freight at 1 million credits per ton = 418 million credits total program cost = 42 billion credit GNP to support.

2C: 400,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 2,000 tonnes of freight at 200 thousand credits per ton = 800 million credits total program cost = 80 billion credit GNP to support.

2D: 2,218,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 20,000 tonnes of freight at 110 thousand credits per ton = 4.4 billion credits total program cost = 442 billion credit GNP to support.

2E: 816,000,000 credits ‘up-front costs’ plus 20,000 tonnes of freight at 40 thousand credits per ton = 1.6 billion credits total program cost = 162 billion credit GNP to support.

atpollard September 15th, 2011 04:20 PM

So rather than spending another billion credits to create another big ship, we should either spend 10 million credits to convert the existing shuttle parts into an "each additional" rocket (rather than a new rocket), or buy a lot of existing small rockets and build 'cargo' to deliver with them. Both options have merit, but the current plan proposes a new expensive rocket and very few launches to spread the costs across ... the worst of all possible worlds.

aramis September 15th, 2011 08:18 PM

Big rockets and manned space flight are NOT, I repeat NOT scientifically essential.

They are scientifically useful, however.

They are also politically advantageous, and economically advantageous. All massive prestige projects are. It may be the worst for a corporate approach, but corporations generally don't look at the economy overall, nor at the political clout of "Ours is biggest!"

(The phallic look of rockets tends to make that even more humorous.)

The problem being: no matter which way they go, NASA isn't able to commit to funding long term. They'd need a special batch of legislation to do that.

And whether or not they should, or congress will back them, is so inherently political that I'm tempted to lock the thread right off.


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