back to article NASA to return to the Moon by 2024. One problem with that, says watchdog: All of it

The chances of NASA sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 is looking less and less likely, according to a report this month by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Under the previous White House administration, the US space agency was told to make the lunar landing by that deadline. Prior to that …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Go

    Hurry up guys

    I’m not getting any younger.

    Apollo was such a long time ago.

    I’d love to watch a (fe)male astronaut put up the Moon’s first National Park sign at the Apollo11 landing site.

    Where leaving footprints would be banned.

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: Hurry up guys

      "...put up the Moon’s first National Park sign Amazon Locker at the Apollo11 landing site <SPONSOR YTBD>."

      Fight Club had it right.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Hurry up guys

      National Park?

      When did the moon become a US posession?

      An internationally protected place or world heritage site would be better.

      One of the reasons I would prefer NASA over commercial interests to develop and open up the moon and Mars is because commercial interests will lay claim to everything they touch.

      An international space agency would be nice but that would be space travel by committee, in other words, we would never get there.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Hurry up guys

        commercial interests will lay claim to everything they touch.

        REASONABLE claims are not bad, as long as they aren't "in perpetuity" "because we claimed it".

        Back in the day, a homestead in the USA required that the property be developed somehow, either by using it for agriculture or mining or "whatever" but you couldn't just claim it and then prevent others from doing so.

        Similarly, on the moon or Mars. There would have to be an international committee of some kind to oversee it. I suppose it would be like doing things on Antarctica. So as long as everyone had equal opportunity, regardless of nation or any OTHER classification, AND the requirement that you must "improve it" within a set of guidelines, you could claim a reasonable and exclusive amount of moonland for yourself (or Mars-land for that matter).

        Typical examples would be mining claims, i would expect. And there could be administrative fees based on surface area or location, to fund the program. I think a lot of prospectors would want to get in early on this and it woudl greatly advance space exploration IF it is run properly.

        That last part might be hard. Look at the internet nowadays and can we all claim it is being RUN PROPERLY? And yet, the current system in its current form is a LOT better that what COULD have happened...

        So yeah, lessons learned here, applied to space - Moon, Mars, asteroids, whatever.

        1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Sponsored by ...

          >Back in the day, a homestead in the USA required that the property be developed somehow, either by using it for agriculture or mining or "whatever" but you couldn't just claim it and then prevent others from doing so.

          Unfortunately, in the short term, the visible side of the moon might be most valuable as a big (really big) billboard. Would that count as commercial use or whatever?

          Just send up a large swarm of devices that plant themselves on the moon in an array, each one acting as an image pixel. I can see the Google, SpaceX and Amazon logos now.

          I think that idea is from a short story I read many years ago.

          1. alisonken1

            Re: Sponsored by ...

            Yep - a Robert Heinlein story. Can't remember which one, but Harriman was the protagonist, and because of his efforts he was NOT allowed to go to the moon.

            A more recent example would be all of the work that Elon Musk has put in for Mars, but the company would not let him go because he was "too valuable ensuring the company makes its' goals of visiting another space body to risk himself ".

            The logo you were thinking of was not really put on the moon, but he would wear a button on his jacket when he went to visit companies trying to get funding. He would then tell them "This is what your competitor's logo would look like if they get there first and put their logo on the moon".

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Sponsored by ...

            "I think that idea is from a short story I read many years ago."

            The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert Heinlein.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Hurry up guys

          "Back in the day, a homestead in the USA required that the property be developed somehow, either by using it for agriculture or mining or "whatever" but you couldn't just claim it and then prevent others from doing so."

          "Back in the day" it was still thought that development and expansion was always good at all costs. In fact the whole point of the policy was to encourage as many people as possible to settle as much land as possible as quickly as possible. Ecologically unsound, not to mention how much of the land was taken from Indian tribes.

          The problem with any development policy is it's either discriminatory (some are allowed to develop but not others, because the space is limited), which leads to monopolistic and rent-seeking bahaviour. Or only those who can meet the strict guidelines are allowed, which translates to: those who have the resources (riches) to do so will profit exclusively. Or everyone is allowed with minimal entry barriers and screw tghe ecological consequences.

          When it comes to resource extraction from space, none of those options is particularly palatable.

          1. Mage Silver badge
            Alien

            Re: "Back in the day"

            "Back in the day" it was actually already inhabited (Little House on the Prairie and many other books gloss over that). However it's unlikely that it's even got the Penguins and stuff Antarctica has though that isn't exactly the fairest International carve-up.

            As long as there is no life I guess we can do what we like, it's our moon. But it should be "we", not big corporations, NASA, China, Russia or even the ESA (which while EU backed, not all of the EU are members and Canada is an associate). The ESA is actually the closest thing to an International space Agency, though a bit French (CNES and the European Space Port in South America).

            It should be internationally managed, even though we are rubbish at international stuff. So should IP addresses and the Internet domain names. Why is that US controlled?

        3. veti Silver badge

          Re: Hurry up guys

          Actually, "back in the day" large swathes of prairie were indeed "owned" by absentee landlords, mostly on the East Coast. The homesteaders who developed it were squatters, and it took decades for the law to catch up and decide that, actually, yes they did have the better claim to the land.

          Battles were fought, both in courts and on the land itself, over that principle. The supreme court came down on the landlords' side, and the result was the wholesale rejection of its authority. Politicians, sheriffs and judges from Mississippi to Michigan lined up to declare that the justices didn't know what they were talking about, and they would refuse to apply the law.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Hurry up guys

            "Actually, "back in the day" large swathes of prairie were indeed "owned" by absentee landlords, mostly on the East Coast. The homesteaders who developed it were squatters, and it took decades for the law to catch up and decide that, actually, yes they did have the better claim to the land.

            "

            In the US, all land is owned by somebody. There is no such thing as land that is "unowned". There is still land that can be claimed for mineral extraction but you have to do a certain amount of work on that claim every year or it expires. The requirement is pretty low so it's not that hard to keep up. Each claim is of a maximum size so you can't claim a huge tract and just perform a little work or minor upgrades on a tiny bit so you can keep it all. I'm not sure if it's possible to convert a claim to private property at this point.

      2. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: Hurry up guys

        When did the moon become a US posession?

        An internationally protected place or world heritage site would be better.

        The moon is not on our world, either. "Moon heritage site" doesn't have the same ring.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: When did the moon become a US posession?

          When they stole if from the indigenous Clangers

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hurry up guys

          "Moon heritage site"

          Sounds like a bunch of neo-druids prancing around Stonehenge, naked!

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Hurry up guys

        "is because commercial interests will lay claim to everything they touch."

        "You can't lay a claim to it unless you build a pressure on it or under it" The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    3. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: Hurry up guys

      put up the Moon’s first National Park sign at the Apollo11 landing site. Where leaving footprints would be banned.

      I look forward to seeing them install the asteroid defence missile system to protect the site.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Get real.

    Did anybody, anywhere, believe either the '24 or the '28 deadline? Both are preposterous without billions, possibly trillions, of dollars being given to NASA to implement the project. And that ain't going to happen in the existing political climate. Not without a JFK-style President to motivate the nation, anyway ... and Biden ain't that guy. Neither was Trump.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Get real.

      Whilst money is a big issue, the biggest problem for Artemis is Shelby and all the other politicians sticking their oar in.

      If Shelby, et al. weren't interfering I suspect NASA would be a lot further forward.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Get real.

        "If Shelby, et al. weren't interfering I suspect NASA would be a lot further forward."

        The Senate Launch System (SLS) is the rocket that's not very good for any mission other than creating jobs in certain states. Nelson, the new administrator had the nickname "ballast" when I was in aerospace. He's a poor choice to be in charge.

        NASA had a blank check for Apollo. I do believe that a better job of estimating can be done, but one-off or low volume projects are very hard to get a firm grasp on. I remember working on a new piece of machinery for my business and my investor keep bugging me for a timeline on when it would be done. He couldn't understand that since I'd never built one before, there was nothing I could base an estimate on. I did assure him that if we ever needed another one, I could give him a much firmer budget and timeline. I had the theory down pat, so that wasn't a problem. With a new moon rocket, there may be a bunch of theory that still needs to be worked out as well.

    2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

      Re: Get real.

      Agreed, that deadline does seem unreasonable.

      JFK was a popular guy, but it wasn't him that provided the motivation, he just enabled the activity and rallied the nation like a great leader should. The real motivation was the Soviets getting the upper hand, especially as they already had the first person in space and had sputnik in orbit and flying over US territory with impunity.

      Apollo was a great story of everyone coming together for a single unifying cause, but the motivation was almost military in nature. It was effectively run on a war footing, enabling huge resources to be thrown at it. That kind of motivation and risk appetite just doesn't exist today.

      I have no doubt it will happen, just not on Apollo timescales.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Get real.

        until China are about to do it

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Get real.

          For All Mankind, the TV series, is an interesting take on what might have happened.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Get real.

        Agreed. Apollo cost 2.5% of GDP, on average, for ten years. That would be $500bn per year at the moment, which sounds like a lot until you remember that the US spends half as much again on its military.

        SOP for NASA for decades seems to have been "Announce new launch system, with grandiose plans. Make half hearted efforts to implement it. Cancel. Lather, repeat". It's now forty years since they introduced a human carrying vehicle and ten years since they had one working.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Get real.

          "SOP for NASA for decades seems to have been "Announce new launch system, with grandiose plans. Make half hearted efforts to implement it. Cancel. Lather, repeat"."

          The issues are political. SLS has been dictated to them and then the budget gets trimmed each year. Congress also interferes as much as possible with internal policy. The NASA administrators have to go hat in hand with goals that they will be able to get funding for. That could be manned missions, Earth observation or Mars rovers. Whatever the politicians think will get them the most votes for approving. Not only how many votes, but a project that gets them those votes in time for the next election.

          The rank and file scientists and engineers at NASA never want to see the programs they are working on get axed. Sometimes it just turns out that a project isn't worth it once its gotten into, but more often it's a change in the political winds. If it were up to me, I'd exchange the military and science budgets. The return on the investment would be tremendous and so would the fuel savings.

      3. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Soviets getting the upper handGet real.

        Photographed and mapped the Far Side.

        Lunar Rover.

        Though they never mentioned the failures.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get real.

      "Did anybody, anywhere, believe either the '24 or the '28 deadline? "

      It should be trivial at this point. The technology is already well known, tried and tested, the math models is the stuff of smartphone games. The suits are made, the rockets are made, it should be the sort of thing you do in a few months to prove how you've mastered it.

      What's lacking is the motivation.

      Why?

      Why go to a pile of rock you already know well. Trying to relive a former glory? By pretending its hard?? OOOh look, lets go to a rock we've send lots of probes to already, in suits we already made, using software we already have, to face condition we already face and then land the return craft using our normal tried and tested thing that's so routine we do it all the time right now....

      This is "Friends Reunion" of space missions. Milk the project for the money by making faux problems that require lots of money to fix.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Get real.

        getting to space is not the same as getting to the moon and back.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Get real.

        "The suits are made,"

        No so much. Moon dust turned out to be a much bigger problem than anticipated. It's very abrasive and just a few days on the surface was about the safe limit for the Apollo suits. I had the chance to talk with Charlie Duke about that once.

    4. Mage Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: JFK-style President

      The 1950s and 1960s Space race was partly replacing bombers with ICBMs and partly the Cold War. JFK's Charisma certainly was a factor, but overstated. To-day maybe competition between USA and China? But that's not of the same ilk as the Cold War. Which the USA didn't win, it was more that it was bankrupting the USSR and they decided they wanted a different goal. Current Russia seems to have returned to Czarist ambitions. Will they want Alaska back? They only sold it to the USA so that Britain wouldn't get it. They'd just lost a war with Britain.

      I just hope M.A.D. is off the menu in China and USA as well as Russia.

    5. veti Silver badge

      Re: Get real.

      '24 was never anything but a Trump vanity project. He wanted it to be within his term.

      With that in mind, I imagine he's now rooting for '28.

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Artemis 3 does not require gateway

    NASA had a bunch of restrictions that made a Moon landing difficult. They had to use SLS and Orion to launch astronauts and return them to Earth. SLS can only get Orion to NRHO. Senator Shelby promised to cancel NASA's entire budget if they said the word depot (as in orbital propellant depot). The largest operational rocket could not send everything required to NRHO in a single launch and as the propellant could not go separately the ride from NRHO to the Moon and back had to be broken into pieces and assembled at NRHO. The astronauts would require somewhere to live while assembling their ride so the Lunar Gateway got funding.

    Gateway cannot be in place in time for a 2024 lunar landing so NASA got the option to do Artemis 3 without it. Elon wants a colony on Mars so SpaceX will be making a really big rocket and orbital refuelling tech whether NASA is involved or not. Those parts allow SpaceX to get a really big lunar lander (human landing system Starship) to NRHO then to the Moon and back to NRHO without any construction at NRHO (or disassembly on the Moon). This gets around the Shelby restriction because SpaceX will be doing orbital propellant transfer, not NASA.

    Blue Origin's current effort can only delay NASA working with SpaceX for 100 days. They are not stopping SpaceX assembling the pieces that are common to Lunar and Martian missions. Blue may be able to divert funding away from NASA participating in the design of HLS Starship and the cargo that would allow NASA to achieve things on the Moon. That will not stop SpaceX doing their privately funded alternative to Artemis 2 (humans going around the Moon and back to Earth) that does not require SLS or Orion.

    Gateway cannot not be ready for 2024. SLS is almost certain to be late. Orion is approaching its sell by date and further SLS delays may cause more problems for Orion. Congress should be able to restrict NASA funding so they can delay HLS Starship but that just means SpaceX will be landing hudreds of tons of cargo on Mars before NASA gets people on the Moon.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Artemis 3 does not require gateway

      SpaceX on Mars before NASA get to the moon again seems unlikely1.

      However, I wouldn't bet against SpaceX getting to the Moon on their own while NASA juggles the pork barrel requirements with actually doing the job.

      Testing all the Starship Mars tech on lunar trips, is an obvious and much quicker first step as they won't be restricted by launch windows and the fails will happen a few days instead of months later. There is a lot to learn with the biggest hurdle being the landing system that needs to be optimised for the very thin atmosphere on Mars and total vacuum on the Moon, using the current SpaceX testing method will spread a lot of stainless steel around the place.

      1 Vague guess - 5% chance

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Artemis 3 does not require gateway

        SpaceX launching to Mars in 2022 is nearly impossible but cargo to launched to Mars in 2024 is possible and it might even land in one piece a year later. I think NASA can get cargo to the Moon well before 2024 even with a large amount of help from congress.

        NASA getting crew to the Moon before SpaceX getting cargo to Mars is more difficult race to predict. Martians before Lunatics would require a determined effort from congress. Congress are perfectly capable of delaying Artemis several years but at some point voters are going to see a fully operational Starship and wonder why NASA is not using it.

        I am not sure whether the Artemis 2024 plan came from Boeing or from Pence but the 2024 date was required to sell it to Trump. The anticipated huge welfare payments to Boeing bought the required support from congress. 2024 has turned out to be both too early and too late. Old space still do not have a complete credible plan all the way to the Moon and SpaceX made enough progress to get the HLS award. Now that Artemis 2024(+1?) is not funnelling money entirely in the anticipated direction we will have to wait to see how congress responds.

        I will stick to cargo on Mars before people on the Moon because of my level of confidence in congress but it is not a safe bet. Congress could surprise me and 2024 Elon Time could easily be equal to 2026 CE.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Artemis 3 does not require gateway

          SpaceX launching to Mars in 2022 is nearly impossible but cargo to launched to Mars in 2024 is possible and it might even land in one piece a year later. I think NASA can get cargo to the Moon well before 2024 even with a large amount of help from congress.

          One snag might be ongoing litigation around Boca Chica, part of which is documented here-

          https://rrctx.force.com/s/ietrs-public-file-correspondence/related/500t000000Z1gRsAAJ/Public_Files_Correspondence__r

          Quite why Texas railroads handle petrochemicals exploration is probably lost in history, but curious none the less. Although Musk via SpaceX and it's Lone Star Mineral Development LLC entity have applied for licences for oil & gas exploration, there's now two cases ongoing. One's related to Musk's lease of 806 acres of land, much of which is rather soggy. Dallas Petroleum Group (DPG) LLC had leased their chunk of land, which was dry.

          Then along came SpaceX, and allegedly decided to help themselves to DPG's lease on the grounds that it wasn't being used. The court filings show DPG disputing that and having paid $6m to lease their parcel, they're entitled to the quite enjoyment of that land. Give or take loud noises and the occasional rain of stainless steel (not of the rat variety).

          So there's a seperate case going in a Texan real-estate court over possible fraud and the terms of the lease. Can't find filings for that one.

          So all a bit strange.. Ish. Musk's claimed that he's planning to fracc for gas. Fairly quietly though because that's un-green. I think DPG argue that SpaceX has already done some drilling stuff without the correct permits. But DPG seems to have been using it for a disposal well, ie not production, so it seems a bit unclear what the prospects might be for extracting gas there are anyway.

          But the site in question also seems to be part of the new construction at Boca Chica, so if court(s) rule DPG's claim holds, that could be a slight snag for SpaceX. Not sure if it's where the Musk's new erection is rising (the 'orbital platform') or it's just part of the expanded tank farm.

          But being real-estate, I'm guessing brown envelopes are in play. In telecomms (and probably general real-estate) there's a concept called a 'ransom strip'. Want to cross this bit of land? That's going to cost you. Situation seems complicated by Musk and DPG being lease holders, so not sure if eminent domain could be used, without risking the whole 800 acre parcel. So an 'amicable solution' might be found instead if a $6m+ envelope passes through the land owner to persuade DPG to vacate the lease.

          TL;DR, don't get involved in complicated real-estate transactions unless your attorney lists 'shark wrestling' as a hobby.

    2. Pete 2 Silver badge

      I did it my way

      > Senator Shelby promised to cancel NASA's entire budget

      As fine a set of arguments for NOT having government run / controlled programmes as a person could ever wish to hear.

      Have governments sponsor commercial or private work, but on the basis that there is no political interference attached. Just a flow of money to permit those who know what to do (and how to do it) achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.

      1. John Sager

        Re: I did it my way

        We all wish for things we can't have. That kind of political pie-division has long been a feature of US politics, though NASA does seem to suffer more than most. I guess it's the supposed extra kudos that attaches to SPACE!!

      2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I did it my way

        Have governments sponsor commercial or private work

        That's what NASA has been doing for the past 50 years, that's why alot of NASA's hardware has been designed and built by the likes of Boeing and Lockheed. It's all part of the "Military Industrial Complex" Aka America's economy. It's why there are so many subcontractors scattered all over America. The senators care that it's delivering jobs in their constituency rather than if it every delivers 1 gram to orbit.

        The core problem is that NASA has been willing to pay upfront for those design and build stages rather than taking a harder "Here's our requirements, we're willing to pay # per launch but only once the thing is delivered with FAA approval"

        I would use the cargo resupply or commercial crew programs, but they had alot of up front money.

        Alot of the public are looking at starship with hopes that NASA will say "Hey Elon, when you've finished designing and building your Mars rocket can we buy a trip or two to the Moon with it"

      3. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I did it my way

        Have governments sponsor commercial or private work

        Why? If it is commercially viable they should be able to do it without government subsidy.

      4. veti Silver badge

        Re: I did it my way

        Really? Personally, I would rather my tax money not be given away, no strings, to plutocrats and mad scientists, but each to their own.

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Artemis 3 does not require gateway

      Congress should be able to restrict NASA funding so they can delay HLS Starship but that just means SpaceX will be landing hudreds of tons of cargo on Mars before NASA gets people on the Moon.

      Unlikely, if only because there's a fair chance SpaceX will go to the moon before USGov has decided who NASA are allowed to give the contracts to. At which point NASA will say "one of those please" and buy a commercial launch with some change they find down the sofa (could maybe sell the billion-dollar SLS launch tower for scrap since it's already leaning). At which point someone can take Mr Shelby out behind the chemical sheds and deal with his treason.

      NASA will be on the moon before SpaceX goes to Mars. But it will be on a charter flight from SpaceX.

      Edit: I'll concede there's a chance an early cargo-delivery/test flight could put SpaceX hardware on Mars before they get NASA astronauts to the Moon. But knowing SpaceX, that'll be an early "might RUD" flight to study radiation environments and validate hardware for extended duration flight. Not an in-earnest colony-support flight.

  4. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    OAIP

    The mission, dubbed Artemis III, is ambitious. NASA wants to send astronauts to Earth's natural satellite using a new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The crew will live in a capsule, known as the Gateway, which will orbit the Moon. They will then land on the lunar surface in a separate vehicle, called the Human Landing System (HLS),

    And while the astronauts are en-route they can relieve their boredom by engaging in the Obvious Acronyms Invention Program (OAIP).

    PS: Is there a Human Taking-Off System to complement the Human Landing System?

    1. SonofRojBlake

      Re: OAIP

      I'm reminded of the aviation joke: People say pigs can't fly - they're wrong. Pigs can fly. What pigs can't do is LAND.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: OAIP

        Pigs can land, it's being able to walk away afterwards that is the tricky bit. Anything is airdroppable once.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: OAIP

          If you dropped a pig from orbit could you cook it at the same time ?

          1. jmch Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: OAIP

            "If you dropped a pig from orbit could you cook it at the same time ?"

            There's an xkcd for that... https://what-if.xkcd.com/28/

  5. WanderingHaggis
    Holmes

    Am I the only one

    Am I the only one who looked at the video and saw startrek blue engines on the ships?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one

      Depending on the reactant, the plume can be blue, purple, red or green, I think Xenon is the blue one.

    2. TheProf Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one

      Nah. With that music it's the start of a race in Wipeout.

  6. Tessier-Ashpool
    Coat

    Wrong time of the month

    Or decade, for that matter.

  7. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    I remember

    watching the first broadcast from the Moon of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface a month before my 9th birthday. I was allowed to stay up and watch it and then went to sleep on the sofa (it was, as I recall 2 a.m. UK time). It would be nice to see another landing with real people on another body, although I cannot help feeling that 2024 is years too soon unless NASA has already got a lunar lander in advanced development somewhere.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I remember

      Can you imagine the "One small step ..." speech written by Trump ?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: I remember

        "Can you imagine the "One small step ..." speech written by Trump ?"

        I'd really rather not, quite frankly. I've seen Trumps "writing", there are thousands of examples of it available for anyone's perusal in the twitterverse. The man is quite clearly an illiterate, bumbling boob who can't even put two coherent paragraphs together without making several egregious errors. Trying to imagine such a document would probably give me hives.

  8. meadowlark

    Waste of money.

    Think of what all that money could be used for on earth rather than going to the moon again, or to Mars. Just giving all the developing world a clean water supply would be a start, followed by proper sanitation and an end to 'shanty towns' which are home to hundreds of millions of people would be another.

    1. robert lindsay
      Meh

      Re: Waste of money.

      well sure but if you go down that path their are vastly better targets than the space program. Their budget is chump change compared to defense.

    2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Re: Waste of money.

      If money was the only problem then I might agree with your sentiment, but it is not. Wars and local political corruption have a way of undoing our (usually) good intentions.

      Does not mean we should not try but if we don't keep investing in our own future we will loose the ability to even try.

  9. martinusher Silver badge

    I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

    The Chinese seem to be not only getting things to work these days but they're also crushing the normal timescales for product development. Sure they're a bit behind us in Mars rover development but they appear to have gone from zero to "go to the Moon, grab a couple of kilos of rock and bring it back" capability in something less than a decade. At this rate we'll probably be able to buy a white box moon lander kit in the near future -- add decals and launch.

    Joking aside, the fundamental problem we have at the moment is that most of our efforts seem to be focused not on doing stuff ourselves but stopping others from doing it. I live in California and one of our ongoing technological problems is building a high speed rail connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco (UK readers will know this as "HS2"....we're working from the same script). In the time we've built exactly zero miles of functional track the Chinese have organized a 27,000Km network. The amount of effort -- legal and political effort -- that's gone into shutting this down is incredible because, as we all know, its far preferable to either bounce along crumbling concrete for 6-8 hours or spend a few hours getting to and from an airport for a flight (in an aircraft that delivers everything to its passengers except travel comfort and the confidence its not going to fall out the sky). With relatively few exceptions the Chinese seem to be on a roll, they're not only producing stuff cheaper and faster but the quality has been rapidly improving. Its reaping the fruits of an extensive, planned, investment in infrastructure -- not just the physical manifestations but education, health and all the other components that go to make a productive society. We, on the other hand, have been systematically neglecting this, resting on our past successes, unwilling to invest in anything that can't deliver an immediate and substantial return, undermining our future to give us an illusion of present prosperity. Its a depressing picture, especially as I have this nagging feeling that the Chinese (and substantial parts of the rest of the world) are laughing at us and all we can do to stop them is to (threaten to) kill them.

    (Did someone mention the term "Paper Tiger"?)

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

      "I live in California and one of our ongoing technological problems is building a high speed rail connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco"

      It's been pared back to something like Bakersfield to Modesto, won't go as fast and will cost twice as much. On a positive note, all of the bribes and kickbacks have been fully funded.

      There are something like 44 flights between LA and SF per day for chump change. HSR has no chance. They can't even get out of the LA basin very well.

      If a higher speed train like the Acela could be done (100mph or so) from LA to Las Vegas, the liquor sales on board might pay the operating costs of a weekend. As it stands, there is no service between LA and Vegas. Every time it gets brought up, some ninny starts taking about HS rail and derails anything getting done. Who the hell wants to pick up the train in Victorville? By the time you've driven to Victorville, you might as well continue on to LV by car. It's not a town I'd want to leave my car in. Being able to go 60-100mph the whole way on a Friday afternoon would mean solid bookings reserved far out. The High Speed Rail money could have been spent doing work on getting over the Cajon pass and laying parallel passenger track in the flat places.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

        I'm familiar with the arguments, the legal cases, the NIMBYs and so on. That's the point I'm making -- we spend so much time chasing our tails that nothing ever gets done without expending an extraordinary amount of time and money. There's always excuses -- e.g. 'kickbacks' -- but the problem's more subtle than that. So coming up with 'let's go to the Moon' is a pipe dream, a fantasy. Its trading on past glories.

        >There are something like 44 flights between LA and SF per day for chump change.

        Post pandemic flight prices are nothing like they were, they're certainly not for 'chump change'. Then there's the time lost getting to the airport and onto the plane, its at least four hours from where I live. Its a messy, inefficient and expensive way to travel. But we like it -- because we know no better.

        (BTW -- The Amtrak service to Las Vegas used to take a touch under 8 hours. Not really a practical proposition for a weekend visit.)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

          "I'm familiar with the arguments, the legal cases, the NIMBYs and so on. That's the point I'm making "

          IIRC, some Chinese construction/infrastructure companies have come a cropper in countries with robust legal systems and democracy. They have, at least on some occasions, tendered for jobs which they priced and time-scaled based on their past experience in their own country and certain other Asian and African countries where once a plan is decided on, it goes ahead at full speed. Even if that means shifting entire populations out of the way.

          What we in the "west" need is something in between. Such as, for example, a cut-off point where no further legal challenges can be raised so we don't get NIMBYs saving up legal points so they can keep going back to court with "new" arguments.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

            It's not just the NIMBYs ... one of the biggest hurdles to progress is when a very small group claims their rights are being trampled on, so the vast majority of the rest of the population can (in their minds) just sit and spin while the Government caters to them, a minuscule percentage of the population.

            It's supposed to be "We, the people!", not "ME, the subsample!".

            Look at San Francisco and Oakland for good examples of what happens when single individuals can completely fuck things up by placing their own interests above those of all of their neighbors. And of course good old Berkeley, which is proof that Government by whoever can scream the loudest clearly does not work.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

          "BTW -- The Amtrak service to Las Vegas used to take a touch under 8 hours. Not really a practical proposition for a weekend visit."

          Trains in the US are slow. Very slow. How slow? Thanks for asking ... A little quick research shows it is about 2430 train-miles from San Diego to New York. There are 9 trains leaving SD for NY per day. The fastest makes the trip in just over 72 hours on a good day (or three). That's an average of about 33.7 MPH ... I can drive cross country faster than taking the train.

          In fact, the Wife, Daughter and I spelling each other in the Peterbilt have made the drive from Sonoma, California to Allentown, New Jersey and back (5,800 miles, give or take) in under 100 hours. Not once, but several times. Without even bending the speed limits. (Yes, "limits", plural ... interstate highway truck speeds vary by state. Here in California, it's 55MPH, cross the border into Nevada and it becomes 80MPH.)

          With that said, I actually enjoy traveling by train. Amtrack is the vacation, not transportation to a vacation.

    2. John H Woods Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I thought they were just going to buy a Chinese one and slap their own label on it....

      The Chinese are doing so well - and we is the West doing so badly - that maybe it's time to ask whether Thatcher/Reagan trickledown neoliberalism is actually all that great. Oops, sorry, did I say that out loud ...

  10. steviebuk Silver badge

    Better to take your time than kill people

    Rushing it is how the challenger disaster happened. The management ignored the warners the engineers and put PR over safety then 7 people died.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Better to take your time than kill people

      The Challenger disaster happened because there were O rings joining together bits of rocket

      There were joints in the rockets because they had to be shipped from landlocked Utah

      They were built in Utah instead of Texas because Texas already had mission control. But Utah didn't get any Nasa spending and so wouldn't vote for the Shuttle budget.

      Houston has mission control because in the Apollo era it didn't have industry that could be used in Apollo but needed some Nasa spending to get Texas to vote for Apollo.

      Fortunately all that has changed today with the Senate Launch System which is made in 33 states

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