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As another commenter pointed out, it's become rather cliche for NASA to make grandiose plans for 15-30 years out, only to change direction a few years later.

Solve cost-to-orbit, guys. Get it to $100/kilo and we can build a dozen manned stations for the amount of money the country spends on potato chips each year (around $10 Billion)

But enough with the grandiose long-range plans that only serve to allow contractors to bill for a few years until the next grandiose long-range plan.




This is because space programs are a great tool of presidential politics, which operates on 4-year cycles that are completely useless for long-term space policy.

Perhaps a solution is to have NASA administered by a board that's appointed for life similar to the Supreme Court -- its total budget will still be subject to the vagaries of political squabbling but at least its ability to allocate budget to programs will be unencumbered.


To an extent, this is an oddity of the US system, where a lot of the civil service is run by appointees. In most modern parliamentary democracies, the civil service is largely static and non-appointed, and while the government can in principle get rid of, say, a permanent secretary, it's highly visible and would rarely be done. This tends to give long-term projects more inertia; if the government wants to kill one without considerable controversy, it really has to make a case for doing so.


This is a very interesting proposal. There are a number of large-scale and long-term problems that require consistency of vision beyond election cycles. You should write up this idea in a formal way and see if you can get published as an op-ed somewhere.


Get it to $100/kilo and we can build a dozen manned stations for the amount of money the country spends on potato chips each year (around $10 Billion)

How about "space chips?" Send up a batch of chips to be fried on-orbit inside a parabolic solar deep fryer. (It would have to have a means of centrifugally pumping out the oil once done.) Then distribute the chips amongst bags of other potato chips, such that there's a 1 in 6 chance of getting a bag containing a potato chip cooked IN SPACE! Then use the proceeds to fund unmanned missions to the asteroids.

But enough with the grandiose long-range plans that only serve to allow contractors to bill for a few years until the next grandiose long-range plan.

That's a brilliant and succinct way of putting it!


That's exactly what SpaceX is done.

NASA shouldn't waste their time with those kinds of logistics anymore.


This is not a solved problem. SpaceX is working on it, but they're currently around $6k per kilogram [1], with hopes to get to $1100 or less per kg [2].

Cost-to-orbit reduction is not a sexy or scientifically interesting problem to solve, but Nasa needs to put as a top priority. As the parent post stated $100 per kilo means all of their other plans go from being grandiose to realistic.

[1] - http://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/essays-and-commen... [2] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX#Background


Although (to the extent that SpaceX has accomplished it so far anyway), what SpaceX has done is what the Russians had done.

Competition is good. (Though I do admit I see NASAs expertise more in the experimental/exploratory.)




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