NASA is Building a Huge Rocket — But to Where? March 18, 2015 5:30pm by Barry Ritholtz Source: Bloomberg continues after the jump Building America’s Next Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle Spread the wealth. twitter facebook linkedin What's been said: Discussions found on the web: Captain Ned commented on Mar 18 SLS doesn’t really mean Space Launch System. The acronym is more properly reported as Senate Launch System, as its cobbled-together parts have never had a coherent goal in space, just a demand from Senators in space-industrial states that the gravy from the Saturn & Shuttle eras not stop flowing. This is a solution to a problem that’s never been asked, for which performance objectives have never been established, and for which measurable goals are non-existent. This is pure political graft to the existing NASA complexes and work force simply because the optics are good and the willing idiots buy it. Give SpaceX half of what NASA will spend on SLS and say “man on Mars in 10 years” and it’d likely happen. The only good thing about today’s NASA is their investment in HD cameras. willid3 commented on Mar 18 well NASA was to lead us into deep space. like mars etc. and the mars flight is expected to be at ;least 6 months one way. and early testing on how well we humans dont do well if we have extremely small space that long. and even with the largest version of SLS it might take more than one launch. RW commented on Mar 18 Why not start by asking NASA what it thinks it is doing: Building America’s Next Heavy Launch Vehicle The SLS will be NASA’s first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V took American astronauts to the moon over 40 years ago. With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach in the solar system, allowing astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft to explore multiple, deep-space destinations including near-Earth asteroids, Lagrange points, the moon and ultimately Mars. The SLS heavy-lift launch vehicle is essential to NASA’s deep-space exploration endeavors. The system will be flexible and include multiple launch vehicle configurations. The SLS will carry crew, cargo and science missions to deep space. NB: There was a time in our not too distant national past when we eagerly accepted challenges of this caliber but, regardless, projects on this scale do not have a single destination and their goal is typically realized in policy and infrastructure capacity because cost, duration and institutional structure are quite beyond individual private firm capability; e.g., “going to Mars” is as much a metaphor as “going to the moon;” the real goal is more analogous to the interstate highway system. On a purely personal level I’d rather burn a thousand bankers and politicians at the stake than forgo a single chance to see the universe in a different way: we’re not talking the F35 fighter here; if boondoggle there be then it is still the stuff dreams are made on. Just say’n. LeftCoastIndependent commented on Mar 18 I still love this space stuff too BR. I can remember when Alan Shepherd blasted off in”61. A classmate had a transistor radio and we followed the mission. I was more amazed by the 12″x 10″ radio than the space flight. Had never seen a radio that small before. This was pre “hi-fi”. Anyway, it is sad that we have to depend on the Russians to get us to orbit. I’m sure that’s a lot of fun these days. But then again, why are we going into orbit? And Mars is just another “trophy trip”, like the moon was. But the old farts in congress are still living in the dark ages, so go figure. This new SLS is nothing more than a Saturn 5 on SRB steroids. Another disposable rocket courtesy of the American tax payers. It would be nice if NASA could come up with something practical, like a supersonic, sub-orbital ,trans-continental(oceanic) aircraft. Imagine being launched into stellar flight from JFK to Heathrow, and getting there in 1 hour. Now that would be bragging rights. BillG commented on Mar 19 When has NASA ever come up with anything practical? We already have supersonic flight. Making supersonic flight practical is more the job of Boeing at this point than the government. They’re the only company left who would benefit from it. And there’s isn’t much of a market for it (plus there’s lots of laws making it difficult). You’d need a major change in energy production to make something like that viable. Jojo commented on Mar 19 What we really should be doing (have been doing) is to build a “real” space station that could accommodate thousands of people. Then use those people to research and to manufacture space ships there that won’t need to use a huge rocket to escape Earth’s gravity field. Which would avoid cramming astronauts into that Apollo era space capsule now named Orion. First, we would have to lift materials to the station but eventually, maybe we could capture some asteroids and mine them for metals. Or build a real manufacturing base on the Moon. With a real space station, maybe we could connect a space elevator to the station and get rid of rocket ships entirely. Doesn’t anyone at NASA read SF? Sheeze. I wish we could express no confidence in Congress and force immediate new elections like countries with Parliamentary government systems can do. We need to get rid of 90% of Congress. NoKidding commented on Mar 19 Money pit. Somebody give me a practical reason for manned space flight. Put space tourism and media entertainment on someone elses dollar. I’m not anti science, I’d rather they spend the money wasted on this project on: Curing diseases, vaccinating every child on earth, improving national parks, … Jojo commented on Mar 19 Try doing a search on “why manned spaceflight?” using Google instead of asking other people to provide you with answers. There are about 480,000 hits when I tried it. PLENTY of reasons for any reasonable person! RightData commented on Mar 19 Not sure that’s sound logic…I just Googled “Why Kill Puppy Dogs” and got 19 million hits. louis commented on Mar 19 We must get off this planet and colonize. It is our Destiny! kaleberg commented on Mar 20 The SLS looks pretty impressive. It generates 1M pounds more thrust than a Saturn V, but can heft more than three times the payload into orbit. It’s like those oversized supercontainer ships that Maersk is building. There are definitely economies of scale. Now we can put all sorts of neat stuff into orbit, telescopes, satellites, interplanetary probes and so on. With this baby we could have put the entire GPS system into orbit with one launch. We could even have an orbital repair station to keep everything working. Since the main purpose of manned spaceflight is to repair things in space, this rocket may do what the Space Shuttle failed to do, drive down the costs of going orbital. P.S. I wouldn’t rag NASA for being useless. The materials science spinoffs of the space program have been pretty amazing. It often pays to fund totally bogus and apparently pointless research. Having the parts in a drawer and the know how to use them can be extremely valuable. jcallip commented on Mar 20 It’s not to go anywhere; it’s for bigger government “Weather” satellites!!!!!! 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