China to land rover on Moon by end of this year

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by DarthTom, Aug 28, 2013.

  1. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    China can put a man in space today and a rover on the moon by the end of the year.

    USA can do neither (and, apparently, it won't even be able to put a man in space until the 2020 or so).
    But americans keep invoking 50 year old achievements in order to convince themselves that they're not falling behind. I'm sure romans were also fond of invoking past greatness by year 450 or so.
     
  2. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    What I find so disturbing (or damning) is that Bush announced the retirement of the Shuttle in 2004, telling NASA to come up with a new system that would allow us to do more than go around in circles. The first manned test flight, of a capsule, is scheduled for 2019. That's the same time span from Sputnik in 1957, when we realized that we should do something in space, until the end of the Apollo lunar missions in 1972.

    The first manned SLS block II mission is tentatively scheduled to take place in 2035 or 2036, which is the same span of time from Yuri Gagarin's first flight, through Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George HW Bush, and into Clinton's first term, going from Vostok to the post-Challenger Shuttle era. (It's almost the same span as from Chuck Yeager's first supersonic flight to the launch of the Space Shuttle, but not quite).

    You could meet a girl today, get married, have kids, put them through college, and then take them to that inaugural launch - of something Bush told NASA to build back in 2004. The average-aged NASA engineers who started working on the original concept will be 75 years old before a crewed Block II ever flies.

    They're not having to invent whole knew groundbreaking technologies along the way. The SRB's are virtually unchanged from the 1970's models, bolting on an extra segment, unless they're replaced by liquid boosters using the F-1 engines we developed in the 1950's. The SLS main engines were developed in the early 1970's, while the upper stage SLS engines were being tested when John Glenn was flying around the Earth in his little Mercury capsule.

    How NASA can manage to pass that off as "the future" is beyond me, since they plan to be still developing the SLS into the 2040's, while its engines were designed by people who were born prior to World War I. And I don't mean "invented the concept" of the engines, I mean "used a T-square to draft the actual freakin' high-speed moving parts bolted to the ship."
     
  3. Manticore

    Manticore Manticore, A moment ago Premium Member

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    It's probably just due to the insanely tiny budget that NASA has. Their budget is great for probes, but not to support manned spaceflight. :/
     
  4. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The Chinese space budget is estimated at ~ $2 billion/year.

    CNN

    NASA's budget is $16.6 billion/year.

    NASA budget

    Either NASA is wasting a shit load of money on bullshit or the Chinese are a lot more efficient.

    In either case - it's obvious they are doing more with less than we are.
     
  5. B.J.

    B.J. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Not exactly. NASA's budget covers many different things, not just spaceflight.
     
  6. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    isn't that the point? What exactly is NASA's mission?

    Their stated mission is as follows:

    That seems very broad whereas the Chinese seem focused on the manned space flight prize. Just an observation.
     
  7. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    NASA investigated the Falcon 9's development costs because the standard NASA Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM), which works so well for NASA and Air Force rocket development, produced an initial estimate that the Falcon 9 should have cost $3.97 billion dollars to develop, not the less than $400 million SpaceX spent.

    NAFCOM Falcon 9 analysis

    By the way, SpaceX was founded in 2002, developed their own engines, tanks, guidance system, and everything else, and was launching into orbit by 2006. By 2010 they became the first private company to put a capsule in orbit and return it, and that capsule was designed to hold a crew of seven.

    NASA says the total development cost on the SLS/Orion will be about $35 billion, which, under the Falcon 9 development cost structure, would be enough to develop about eighty unique, private sector orbital launch vehicles.

    Or, in a world where NASA was actually efficient instead of burdened with a legacy of "money is no object" ICBM hardware, military aerospace contracting practices, centers cited for Congressional district support instead of common sense, etc, the SLS should cost about $3 billion to develop over a couple of years, since they're just re-using existing engines, tanks, and boosters.

    For example, Gemini was actually our third manned space project, started about seven months after Apollo when we realized we needed something after Mercury but before Apollo hardware was ready. Born in 1962, Gemini had its first flight in the spring of 1964. Of course, one of the ways we were getting the projects to move so quickly, given that we were learning how to even build such things at the time, was that the government treated it like WW-II. Just throw millions of people and billions of dollars at a problem and they'll solve it. It's extremely inefficient, but it works. For example, it's estimated that Apollo employed 400,000 people and cost somewhere between $110 billion and $180 billion modern dollars. Currently NASA employs about 18,000 people and 70,000 contractors. NASA make look back at their past budgets and employment levels and think they're doing pretty well with what they have, while SpaceX, the giant among newspace startups, employs about 3,000 people.

    If it takes 10,000 or 20,000 people on the ground to keep each person in orbit, you're obviously never going to put many people into orbit, and for each person in orbit someone has to pay the salary of all those people on the ground. The solution is to build rockets using less money and fewer employees instead of bloating the budget so the same inefficient system can just get "embiggified".
     
  8. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I agree with virtually everything you've said - and the point of this thread isn't to thump on NASA. Someone upthread just said that NASA seems under-funded relative to the Chinese and IMO they seem very well funded.

    One thing that is encouraging is NASA subcontracts more of its services today and private contractors should in theory be more efficient so long as they are not simply trying to suck the public nipple.

    In terms of a mission NASA seems, "lost in space," but I'm sure insiders in the agency would blame that on the White House. GW Bush wanting to go to the moon and Obama reversed course midstream with that objective to landing on an asteroid instead.

    Perhaps the agency should be long term funded with a clear mission. Say what you will about the Chinese and their system of government, but when they make long term goals [and it isn't only in space but also infrastructure] they don't waiver when a new president enters office or the congress wants to shift focus.

    edited to add:

    If I were in charge of NASA I would make their sole mission to find any kind of life in space with proof. Such a find would be bigger than landing a man on the Moon as we did 40 years ago and as you say leave manned space flight moving forward to private industry.
     
  9. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    That's too ill-defined a goal. Where do you look? What if there's nothing to find?

    A better goal for NASA would be to establish a permanent human presence beyond LEO by X date. Maybe a moon base, maybe a Lagrange station, but something that takes our current achievements and pushes them to the next level.
     
  10. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    A more NACA style mission would be for them to devote a lot of resources to figuring out how to make reliable, cheap rocket engines. One of the cheapest in the stable is the RS-68, which is about $19 million dollars. The RL-10, which we're still flying all the time even though it was the first LH2/LOX engine ever developed, weighs 610 pounds and costs $38 million, which is five times its weight in gold. We're talking about a glorified burner, plumbing, and some transistor circuits, designed to be used once and thrown away. You'd think a society with as much advanced technology and industrial capacity like our could build something like that for about $6,000 ($10 a pound), or given some of the freaky metals, maybe $50,000 tops. Yet to my knowledge, nobody except SpaceX has ever made a modern turbopump for much less than about $800,000 - for a fuel pump.

    It's said that more than half the cost of the rocket is the engine, and most of the cost of the engine is the turbopump. It's also said that regarding costs, a rocket is some stuff you attach to a turbopump to get into space.

    Xcor has developed a piston pump just to sidestep the problem, noting that nobody who makes a turbopump makes more than a handful of them a year on extremely expensive and specialized machines, so they'll of course cost a fortune, whereas if you use pistons you can go down to the local motorcycle performance expert and get some help.

    For about a year I've been looking at an idea to make a turbopump without any moving parts, whose efficiency wouldn't be much less than existing methods, and it all hinges on whether I can recover pressure from a high speed stream of droplets, a feat that really has no other useful application.
     
  11. E-DUB

    E-DUB Captain Captain

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    Of course, one aspect of all this hasn't been commented on and that's the politics. Russia and China have command economies and if the powers that be want spaceflight, they'll get it.

    Here a lot of the go/no-go decisions on space are made by people who lack even a fundamental understanding of science and the hardware is built by companies who view government contracts as a license to make money.

    We don't need new technology, we may need new hardware right now, but what we need most is the sheer will to do it and in a democracy that comes from the bottom up.

    If enough congresscritters hear from their constituencies that spaceflight should get a higher priority, it will get that higher priority. If folks think the status quo is fine, then they'll get that too.
     
  12. P0sitr0nic

    P0sitr0nic Vice Admiral Admiral

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    See if i were heading Nasa, the asteroid belts would be the target. Mining ops and study.

    Once astromining becomes viable, there wont be a funding issue.
     
  13. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    China sees space travel as a superpower litmus test, that's the only reason for this.

    If they got to Mars, then I'd be impressed.
     
  14. B.J.

    B.J. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  15. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    This makes no sense. NASA is a government agency, which means that it works just like a command economy works. The opposite would be a free market space travel program, which many people (critical that NASA isn't cutting it) have advocated.
     
  16. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  17. larryman

    larryman Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  18. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Assuming that drive even works--and that is a big if--it is a space drive only. Ion engines, field effect--that sort of thing--doesn't have the thrust to descend to the Moon's surface. Can they dock with an asteroid? Maybe.

    If you want to land on Europa or the Moon, you will have to do a LEM type burn. There just isn't a way around that. Look, I wish anti-gravity was real. I wish the EM drive was real. But if you don't believe me, then ask my rival here, Byeman, as Jim from NASASPACEFLIGHT likes to call himself.

    We may not agree on much--but we both take a dim view of some of these promised field effect craft. I don't buy into them, and I don't think he does either. Send him a PM if you don't believe me.