SLS is a stunningly overpriced rocket that Congress is forcing NASA to build to keep former shuttle contractors and NASA centers employed. Congress is sending ~ $1.8 billion every year to states including Alabama, Florida, Utah, and Louisiana to develop it. There are very few payloads manifested for it. Launching the Europa missions on it would be a tremendous waste of money—the benefits would not warrant the cost.
It would be worth exploring the lobbying performed by SLS contractors including Boeing and Orbital ATK, as well as that of people close to the main NASA centers involved with SLS, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Understanding this is key to understanding a key constraint on how NASA operates. 10 separate field centers that work together, but are just as likely to try and stab each other in the back using their local congresspersons to get work earmarked.
I work in support both NASA aeronautics and space. Generally speaking, I appreciate the aero side more because, despite the small fraction of the overall agency budget, I feel like it has a much healthier and better-defined relationship with industry and academia at large (e.g. no one in NASA aero has any illusion about being an airline or airframe production company, we work and deliver on fundamental R&D). Which makes sense as largely a direct continuation of our precursor agency, NACA.
I remember there being a feeling that, post STS, the space side could make a similar transition - a developer of in-space fundamental research technology, and mission design/management with launch systems being treated as a "solved" technology to be purchased from vendors. But I think that senators in AL, FL, and TX will make sure that nevers happens, because it would likely gut the workforces of MSFC, KSC, and JSC.
"The mission concept review board in September concluded the SLS launch option was 'far superior' to other alternatives because it would allow the probe to fly directly to Jupiter in less than two years. Launching on a smaller rocket would require gravity assist flybys of Venus and Earth, adding three-and-a-half years to the voyage."
I think SLS makes a lot of sense for outer planet missions - at least until commercial super heavy lift options are available.
It could easily be worthwhile to spend $500 million to cut a few years off of a $2 billion mission. It's much less likely to pay off when the cost is $2 to 4 billion. That's the equivalent of three to eight extra entire Discovery-class missions, or two to four New Frontier missions.
SLS is also our best current candidate for serious human space flight past LEO, SLS brings up back to Energia and Saturn V launch capacity and while it is the usual cross state designed by a committee project it's good to have it since we do need it.
An alternative would be to use multiple, much-cheaper launches, and rendezvous in orbit. Even though the spacecraft needs to be more complicated, the rocket tech will be much more proven. And on-orbit refuel is an active area of R&D in the commercial sector.
The rocket tech is already proven both SLS and ULA launch platforms are more proven and reliable than the Falcon.
p.s. I'm confused by your mention of ULA vs Falcon reliability -- given that I didn't mention either! Did you read something into my comment?
Commercial satellite refueling market won't be viable by 2020, we might have a handful of attempts.
And I didn't read anything into your comment since there isn't much beyond ULA (Delta, Atlas) and Falcon to launch the damn thing to begin with.
And I'm sorry that I don't want to bet on technology that isn't there yet in any shape and form to start planning for a mission that is supposed to launch in 7-8 years with a limited launch window and a failure that would set you back a decade + and not insurance payout + 18 months like if it was a commercial launch to LEO.
And again you are missing the point we need big rockets it's not even a question, and SLS is the only big rocket anyone is currently building, if Space X comes up with a Falcon Heavy Plus capable of competing against the SLS on both payload mass and reliability there would be a room to talk.
We need NASA, and the US need cross state national projects because they are industry incubators, yes they are inefficient at times but you get plenty for them. If going to Europa also means that the US is back at building Saturn V class rockets it's a huge plus regardless the costs.
SpaceX isn't ready for these kinds of launches it's not proven enough.
ULA is just a " bureaucratically constricted" as the SLS.
I don't understand why people are proposing to play around with projects that are already insanely risky and hard to approve, we get to send a probe to Europa, which on it's own is complicated enough and now you want to build a whole orbital launch platform around it? Let the industry do it, blow up some stuff in orbit till they make it work, blow up some more stuff in transit till they get things sorted and then lets use it to launch billion dollar probes to Jupiter.
Taking the "let's just wait for someone else to do it" approach seems like a recipe for it never happening.
Europa is one of the few places in the Solar system where we expect to find liquid water. One of the others is Mars, but most water there is solid - only small amounts of it occur in liquid form and only briefly. By contrast, Europa has a freaking underground ocean! Moreover, by some estimates it is larger in volume than all oceans on Earth combined .
Should we go check it out? Hell yeah!
It is unlikely for there to be a water layer under rock because it would be gravitationally unstable to have a low-density layer under a higher one.
If so, there is a depth range where water is liquid.
Joking aside, something like this actually could be used to fund space missions. I suspect that some people with hundreds of millions would be willing to pay top dollar for something as exclusive as an item from Europa.
The question in my mind is, why is this initiative coming from the Congress rather than from the President or from NASA itself? What's happened to our national sense of adventure and exploration?
I remember the space fever of the 1960s and 1970s, and how it faded in the late 70s into a dull pride that we'd built a space bus, albeit a very expensive and compromised design that could take a team to low orbit and not much farther.
I guess we should celebrate the fact that someone with the power to fund new missions into deep space is making it happen, for whatever reason. But I'd like it better if Nasa were getting the kind of funding it really needs and the bold leadership it deserves to accelerate these sorts of spectacular missions that will advance our technologies and inspire more young people to go into the sciences.
Because both the president and NASA's power pales in comparison to congress. Congress is responsible for budgets, they're the ones that approve/disprove/modify any bill or budget on the table. If they don't like a particular direction a government organization is going, they say "Hey, do this" and that organization does it. They do it because congress is their financier. Organizations like NASA have to justify their budgets and layout their plans and short/long term goals before any money is approved. Congress can and will say "We don't like those goals. Make these your goals instead" and replace them entirely.
A more sobering view of the situation, however, is that a congressman (or congressmen) probably has some big lobbyist lobbying for this because while NASA heads up the mission, NASA still relies on cooperation with private businesses to make parts, widgets, contract work, etc... These private entities and local municipalities would benefit from a huge NASA mission financially. Unfortunately, the senator who lobbied hard for this (John Culberson, R-Texas) almost certainly didn't do it for altruistic reasons. Someone somewhere is going to financially benefit in a big way.
Edit: As another commentor pointed out (and was downmodded for doing so, a bit boggling), John Culberson receives lobby money from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Northrop Grumman. So there you have it... Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-space and pro-Europa trip. Just giving the lay of the land and answering your question.
I doubt this, many "moderate" religions cope with multiple intelligent beings just fine, i.e. the catholic church has expressed itself on the matter, Islam has always posited other intelligent beings (jinns for example) and some muslim scholars consider extraterrestrial life to be compatible with islam. Same for hudaism.
As for buddhism andi hinduism, I don't see why they would be incompatible with alien life.
Sadly, people with a literal-minded view of religion might have problems with that, but then, they already have problems with evolution and round earth.
Isn't it a well established fact that life outside of earth is possible? And in fact very likely given the size of the universe? That being said, I think it would be surprising to find another source of life within the same solar system. It would mean life is much more common than we originally thought.
Europe as a continent name is pretty messy and incoherent from an etymological point of view – but most words are. Europa as a name for a moon of Jupiter makes a lot of sense.
English has the additional advantage of Europe (the continent) and Europa (the moon) being written differently. In, for example, German both are written the same (Europa).
(Zeus obviously has more than four lovers and other moons of Jupiter derive their names from those, as well as pretty much anyone who had anything at all to do with Zeus.)
Edit: Oh, I'd read too fast. The history of the name is in the article for Europe that mnl linked above. This guy didn't invent the name that, as mnl noted, was used since... forever. He just happened to define what we call Europe today. In classical Greece it was used to mean the lands west and north of Greece. They didn't know of, let's say, Scandinavia.
> "Scientists speculate about Europe's ability to support intelligent life."
This would only be a problem though, if it wouldn't apply to all interpretations of "Europa".
Whenever a US politician makes a statement, I look Why they made that statement - and the why is often that they get paid in campaign contributions to say precisely what their donors want them to say. Whether it's about foreign policy or anything else, it's easy to go on opensecrets.org and see who their donors are and thus why they made a statement.
Nothing is done in America's interests - it's done to stuff pockets full of cash and contracts. http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=201...
I think this is a gross simplification - companies find politicians that are sympathetic to their positions to begin with, and then help finance those campaigns. I don't know about John Culberson specifically, but I'm quite sure that if you spoke to him or to numerous other politicians receiving the contributions you are complaining about - they would staunchly defend the positions they have adapted as being independent of donations. It's really not black and white.
Sure, it is the same thing in practice - but it's not what OP is suggesting:
>> Who would want to admit they are guilty of being essentially corrupt?Of cooooourse they would find excuses. But it's incredibly naïve to say US politicians aren't influenced by money. They are all bought.
> Then, the representatives are no longer representing the people but the money.
The representatives are probably accurately representing the balance of power in US society, which is weighted towards economic/financial interests.
Obviously you are assuming that I'm pulling my statements out of thin air (or some other place where the sun don't shine :D ).
Here's a paper from Princeton University that essentially says that public opinion as almost ZERO effect on US policy:
Also it should be noted the paper contrasts public opinion to 'organized interest groups':
> Our third and fourth theoretical traditions posit that
public policy generally reflects the outcome of struggle
among organized interest groups and business firms.
But in a number of cases organized interest groups are representative of a significant sector of public opinion (the NRA being one such example, or the ACLU is another).
Even those people who aren't so consistent in their voting just vote for whoever the advertising tells them to, which favors the most well funded and thus most corrupt candidates.
Do you, in all honesty, think that public schools getting closed, Wall Street getting bailed out instead of jailed for ruining an entire economy, medication being kept expensive, social security getting cut, pay day lenders getting more influence, having the shittiest labor laws in the world, or even Tesla being prevented from selling cars on the web has nothing to do with corrupt US politics?
In all honesty, sometimes I think that Americans DESERVE to be in all the troubles they are in today - they REFUSE to see the truths that are in plain sight. Americans, despite being on the fast track to hitting an economic and societal brick wall will always find excuses to defend the elite who are the obvious and very overt source of their troubles.
The fact that Boeing et all wants to sell more rockets does not make researching europa any less relevant, IMO.
It's not as if this congressman is being sold as a champion of human wisdom. Career politicians have other value and should not be judged as philosophers.
Rather than get upset about how corrupt politics can be (and that's putting it mildly), what you're supposed to do is root for the version of corruption that appeals to your tastes.
I can hardly believe Lockheed with Boeing investing into research over life in space research.
In the US, people are becoming increasingly tolerant of corruption. These days it more often invokes funny euphemisms than action. Politicians have innate incentive to fall into corruption, and it's expected that some of them do from time to time. But, it's the people's job to keep them in check.
If this country values funding science, then it should let the scientists determine where and how the money should be spent, not politicians, not lobbies.
But I think it's quite naive to look at campaign contributions as a dominant factor in the corruption of American society. It's a tempting scenario, and the numbers are visible, so it's easy to think they're important.
But reality is far more complex. And less conspiratorical.
"America" doesn't have interests, people have interests.
Galileo... had a resolution of only about 10 meters per pixel.
The spacecraft stored those images on a tape recorder with a
capacity of 114 megabytes, but a flawed rewind mode hampered
even that modest device
You stated the problem: radionuclides used to supply said RTGs (Pu238) are in shortage (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1132236...) because with the fall of the Soviet Union there is no (big) demand for new nuclear weapons, and Pu238 was a "waste by-product" of producing nuke cores.
I thought I remembered reading that reducing the size of the devices, and therefor the cross-section, more than compensated for the increased susceptibility to bit flipping from a direct hit by a cosmic ray.
Culberson represents the 7th district. NASA in Houston is on the other side of the city. Further, the Europa team is out of Pasadena, California - Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
You're over-reaching and then some.
I hoped it might provide at least one person context for what might seem abnormal -- Congress mandating and funding a mission NASA was not actively pursuing via the political process. It's unfortunate but perhaps not unexpected that at least one person did not find value there, the internet being what it is.
Besides that, NASA has (almost) no choice. It's not coming at the expense of other projects, this is running on a budget that exists solely to go to Europa. It's being pushed forward as a pet project by John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget. He's ensuring they get the extra funding necessary to make it happen.
ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE".
Not only vote for science but promote science - not only science but taxpayer funded science without any immediate or guaranteed benefits to society?
We need to figure out why because I think we need a few dozen more like him.