Science Saturday: Final Shuttle Launch + James Webb Telescope In Danger + New Holodeck Tech + Air Power + More |
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Science Saturday: Final Shuttle Launch + James Webb Telescope In Danger + New Holodeck Tech + Air Power + More July 9, 2011

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Science/Technology , trackback

Say au revoir to the space shuttle program as Atlantis is the last ever shuttle to launch into space. The James Webb Space Telescope is in danger of being cut; What do we stand to loose? Plus, holodeck technology is in the making, and how to harness power from thin air. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: Terrafugia flying car gets street legal!


NASA’s final shuttle mission blasts off
The 135th and final space shuttle mission blasted off yesterday from Kennedy Space Center, sending space shuttle Atlantis and her STS-135 crew into Earth orbit for the last time. This is a bittersweet moment for most, as it marks the transition into a new phase for NASA but also the end of an era. It’s estimated that nearly 1 million people came out to Kennedy to watch the launch. The rather mundane mission sent only four crew members into space, primarily to resupply the ISS. The only vehicle for sending Americans into space is now the Russian Soyuz capsule. Soon, it will be up to the commercial sector to send men into low Earth orbit, theoretically freeing up NASA to boldly go deeper into our solar system and really push the boundaries of the exploration of space.

More space shuttle fun: Check out this interactive Space Shuttle tribute by the guys at Vizme.

James Webb Telescope, Hubble’s successor, may get axed
Thanks to budget cut threats looming from congress, NASA may have to abandon the already in progress James Webb Telescope, set to launch in 2018 as the successor to the beloved Hubble Space Telescope. Congress has proposed a $1.6 billion cut to NASA’s budget, a whopping 9% of NASA’s overall budget. Such a huge cut will certainly bring about the end of the James Webb. The Webb was expected to make incredible new discoveries, as it is fundamentally different from the Hubble in that it will primarily scan the skies in infrared light (rather than visible) allowing it to see things we’ve never been able to image before.

I encourage you to read more about Webb’s mission in this article by PCMag’s Peter Pachal, where he outlines what we’ll loose if James Webb is never to be.

Once it’s in place, though, the Webb is quite literally expected to unlock a universe of discoveries. Positioned so far from the Earth and shielded from outside infrared interference, the telescope will be able to see things the Hubble never could. Chief among them: seeing back in time. Since light only travels so fast, the further you look out, the further you look back. The Webb is expected to be able to peer into some of the universe’s earliest moments, before even stars existed. This could give insight into how the cosmos came into being.

James Webb Space Telescope may never be completed

Holodeck technology in the making
IARPA, the advanced intelligence research program, has announced a new campaign to develop holodeck-like technology called the Synthetic Holographic Observation (SHO) Program. Specifically, it aims to develop a system allowing multiple collaborators to exist in and interact with a 3D environment in real time. In particular, this tech could be used with LiDAR data, which is used to create 3D images and maps of real world places and things. The real-life look and feel of the Enterprise’s holodeck is still a long ways away, but IARPA is taking a critical first step toward developing such a thing.

Holodecks: how long until we see the real deal?

Power from thin air: harnessing ambient electromagnetic energy to power small devices
Harmless, ambient electromagnetic energy is floating all around us. Energy waves are sent into the air by radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks, satellite communications systems, and more. Now, researchers have discovered a way to tap into this airborne energy source and have used it to power small electronic devices. The researchers have already successfully operated a temperature sensor using electromagnetic energy captured from a television station half a kilometer away. They are preparing another demonstration in which a microprocessor-based microcontroller would be activated simply by holding it in the air.

Power from thin air, just like magic!

Pic of the Week: Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad

Today’s pic of the week comes once again from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). This is a gorgeous photograph of Space Shuttle Atlantis before it left Earth’s surface yesterday for it’s 33rd and final time.

Click for the glorious full-res version

Video of the Week: Diving in a volcanic ash-filled lake

Lake Nahuel Huapi in Argentina was filled with volcanic ash from the Puyehue volcano currently erupting in neighboring Chile. Some SCUBA divers go for a dip!

Gadget of the Week: Terrafugia Flying car gets green light from Feds
The Terrafugia flying car has finally been given the go ahead from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In March, 2009 we reported the Terrafugia’s first successful test flight followed by its FAA approval over a year later. Now, it’s air AND street legal. The revolutionary vehicle still has several safety and testing hurdles to overcome, so don’t expect to see them buzzing around anytime soon.

Terrafugia now tested, flight ready, and street legal

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.

A little perspective of NASA’s budget, courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson



1. Sebastian S. - July 9, 2011

It’d be a damn shame if we lose the Webb telescope, as all of the wonderful space science momentum we gained with Hubble over the last two decades will come to a screeching halt. This was a great opportunity to go to the next phase.

Hubble revolutionized astronomy; but now, thanks to the shortsightedness of Congress, the revolution is over…

2. Pensive's Wetness - July 9, 2011

does this mean, the idiotic disease that covers most of Florida will finally infect the former NASA folks now? oh wait, its has already… :/

3. SoonerDave - July 9, 2011

The lifetime pricetag for the Shuttle was $168 billion.

Medicare spent the same amount in five *months* last year.

If we going to gore an ox, let’s be sure we gore all of them.

I hate to lose (not “loose”) a vehicle like the Webb, but if it means we can save $1.6 billion in a time where our fiscal “chickens” are coming home to roost, I must reluctantly agree with the cut. National defense is a constitutional directive, space telescopes are not.

4. Thorny - July 9, 2011

James Webb is a program totally our of control, and the poster child of disastrous mismanagement. Sad to say, but it needs to be killed, and now. The House is killing it because it needs another billion or two dollars, which NASA won’t have without killing off lots of worthy smaller programs, and Webb’s notorious budget overruns have already earned it the nickname, ‘the beast that ate the space science budget’. Stop rewarding terrible performance, or that will simply tell future missions they can lie, underestimate and bust budgets and schedules all they want, we’ll just bail them out. And all those other projects, who accurately estimated time and costs of thei missionbut weren’t selected (or worse, canceled to pay for JWST’s overruns) will learn the lesson to not be honest in the future. Kill JWST. Now.

5. TheCaptain - July 9, 2011

I believe NASA should rethink their strategy. Now being the space agency of America. It would be far better to make NASA an alliance of all the space agencies in the world. That way more investments will come from all over the globe to achieve a common goal, space exploration for all mankind.

6. spock - July 9, 2011

The space shuttle is dead, but I am sure they will continue with Muslim outreach. Guess we saw how that went for Kirk in the 23rd Century. ;)

7. Jordan - July 9, 2011

And with that, the space age is over and without a clear future. The US went from number one to practically nothing overnight.

8. Steve - July 9, 2011

Blame the Republicans for the death of the James Webb. They control the House, and the Appropriations committee there, which voted to kill it. People need to wake up and realize the Republicans are destroying everything that made America great.

9. Red Dead Ryan - July 9, 2011

I just watched the video of the guy diving in the ash lake. The lake looked like wet cement and the guy seemed to be dumb for risking his life in it. The water looks pretty heavy with all of the ash and it clearly took a lot of effort just to wade into it. I hope he managed to get out.

10. Thorny - July 9, 2011

8. JWST was originally planned to cost $1.5 billion and launch in 2011. Today, costs are around $6 billion with more needed and it won’t launch until 2018 at the earliest, with worst-case being 2022.

The Republicans are right about this. Kill the damned thing.

11. Colin - July 9, 2011

The projected cost of this probe ($8.5 billion) is roughly equivalent to one Gerald Ford class aircraft carrier ($9 billion). No space probe should cost as much as an aircraft carrier, and I am in full support of terminating the program.

12. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 9, 2011

@ 3. SoonerDave

“National defense is a constitutional directive”
Don’t you mean Empire building?

“space telescopes are not.”
Yeah Carl Sagan was just talking about exactly that sort of fuzzy logic.
I suggest that you watch the video.

13. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 9, 2011

A summary of some of the previous posts
aircraft carriers …yes, science no
defense… yes, space no
medicare …no
Muslim outreach centers…. wtf?

Is this the FOX NEWS forums ?

14. Tom - July 9, 2011

It’s too much money, I agree. I hope no one starts posting how much money we give to other countries and spend on the wars of the last decade either.

Commercializin space tech. will be better in the long run. With more ideas and innovations floating around, someone’s bound to nail a new means of propulsion that’s cheaper, faster and more efficient than current rocket tech. But give it five years and we’ll be back on top. Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.

15. Thorny - July 9, 2011

13… You realize that we could have launched five or six clones of Hubble or about a dozen rovers like Spirit and Opportunity to Mars for the cost of this one telescope, right? I’m all for science spending, but lets use common sense about it. James Webb Space Telescope is a disaster, time to stop throwing good money after bad.

16. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 9, 2011

@ 15. Thorny
and are you aware that President Obama continued the Bush tax cuts for the rich, who don’t need the money anyway?
and here’s why
The republicans would not allow the Zadroga bill to be passed UNTIL they bullied Obama into letting the rich get richer.

9/11 heroes 0

Stop the $billions going to the fat cats and get it back to NASA [with more accountability]

17. CsMisi - July 9, 2011

I don’t get it how the Webb telescope is such a disaster … I was hoping a lot from the project but the statistics speak against it as I understand … How can a project eat so much founds?

18. Commodore Shaggy - July 9, 2011

Well when we’re not $14 Trillion in debt (more with unfunded entitlements, somewhere close to $55 Trillion) then I think we can focus on space. I mean I want to see advancements in space as much as the next guy but the money situation is pretty bad. We have spent so much money that its a problem that needs to be looked at in every area – cutting spending in defense, space, entitlements, pork, etc. Do we want to become Greece or Spain? We’re teetering dangerously close to that. We collapse and then what money are we going to be able to spend on space? Absolutely nothing. And you can tax every penny from every single corporation and every citizen and we still wouldn’t have enough to cover these debts.

I fail to see how increasing debt is going to magically solve this problem.

19. Electron - July 9, 2011

The money used for the Webb should’ve been used to design and build a next generation shuttle to replace the current ones. Now the Russian’s will have full control over our access to the ISS.

20. Vultan - July 9, 2011

People, people, please! The cost of the James Webb telescope is perfectly understandable. It takes a lot of time and engineering know-how to… attach a,,, satellite dish to an ironing board.

I hope it gets HBO.


21. MJ - July 9, 2011

Wow cosmology is important, I would like to see NASA spend more of its budget on telescopes that can find earth-like planets, and on new much higher tech spacecraft that can take men to Mars and beyond must faster than conventional rockets. I don’t think we really need to Webb telescope right now — understanding more about the Big Bang can wait for the next generation of telescopes. The priorities, within a limited budget, should be on advanced manned systems and in discovering earth-like planets around nearby stars.

22. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 9, 2011

@ 21. MJ

erm, Webb is the next generation of telescope.

23. Sebastian S. - July 9, 2011

If we weren’t engaged in long-running wars with little or nothing to show for it except a price tag in the trillions, we could’ve afforded the web easily.

NASA’s entire budget cost each taxpayer one half of one penny. We could’ve afforded it; but a shortsighted congress saw fit to slash ANYTHING of potential educational/scientific or humanitarian value (all the while giving tax cuts to rich fat cats who’ll invest the extra savings by outsourcing more US jobs). I see the dreams (and more jobs for scientists and engineers) going to hell. More brain drain ahead. Just so we can have one more aircraft carrier, or people making $250K or more can have extended tax cuts….

And no, we don’t need manned ferry capsules to the station to come out of NASA’s budget; the private sector already has no less than SIX companies in line that will each soon have capsules ready for manned service. Article link below:

NASA should reprioritize it goals to being the leader in unmanned exploration of the solar system. THAT’S where all the really exciting science is taking place. We have probes on Mars (including a new science lab rover launching soon), Saturn, Mercury, another on it’s way to Pluto. In terms of unmanned exploration and real scientific bang for our buck? This is how the final frontier will be being won!

24. Colin - July 9, 2011

The future, according to the Economist, is of humans planting satellites in low Earth orbit, and sending probes to explore our system with diminishing returns. According to the author, the probability of sending humans to Moon or Mars is becoming more and more less likely. This is because of the cost and the challenges posed by a long flight, If there is a competition, it will be an arms race wherein each nation will see who can build the better satellite defense.

Considering that our world may be facing a perfect storm of economic and environmental collapses in the next few decades, I am thinking that governments will be diverting their money and resources to protecting and expanding their interests. I can see nations building better satellite defenses, but I don’t see these nations putting much effort into manned programs.

25. Commodore Lurker - July 9, 2011

Speaking of Lava Lakes . . .

Hey! Whatever happened to our Kayla Bikini shots from Antartica???

I think it’s a mistake to be completely without manned spaceflight capability until next system is ready to launch.


26. Captain America - July 9, 2011

# 8 Don’t forget Obama KILLED the Constellation project…. no more Orion, no more Alltair Lunar Lander, No more Ares V Rocket…….

In the words of Dr. McCoy

“The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe. We’ll get a freighter.”

27. Captain America - July 9, 2011

PS and at the rate things are going with the future of American Space Exploration, we’ll be lucky to have even a freighter….

28. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - July 9, 2011

26. Captain America
“The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe. We’ll get a freighter.”
I laughed at that line when i was 15, but it is so true.

29. Nick Cook - July 9, 2011

Farewell Space Shuttle, we’ll miss you.

30. Sebastian S. - July 9, 2011

Yes, Obama killed Orion; but the program was never properly funded from the beginning. It was given a tenth of a percent of what was needed to seriously get humans back to the moon.

It was all a PR stunt by the previous administration to appear ‘forward-thinking’ when in actuality it was all smoke and mirrors. I had a relative who worked on Constellation and he predicted it’s demise years before it happened. I once attended a seminar with the late astronaut Wally Schirra back in early 2007 (about a year before he died) and even he derisively called Project Constellation “Apollo on food stamps.”

It was never taken seriously by any administration; past or present. It’s demise was not a loss either way, as it was never really going to happen one way or another. It was little more than a PR stunt to show off shuttle-derived booster technology for heavy-lifting rockets, that’s all.

31. TheChief - July 9, 2011

I bet if there were giant robots buried on the moon we could come up with the money.

32. Vultan - July 9, 2011

NASA ain’t what she used to be.

Sure, it started out as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants group of fighter jocks and whiz-kids with the stated goal of beating the commies to the Moon, but then after Apollo quickly turned into another bloated government program with a lack in focus and the undisclosed goal of spending as much tax-payer money on pie-in-the-sky boondoggles to keep the “Space Coast,” its employees, its voters, and most importantly its representatives in Congress happy.

If you guys want to “boldly go” somewhere, don’t look to NASA. Not anymore. Oh, there WERE plenty of bucks at one time, but Buck Rogers got fed up and left the coast somewhere along the way, grew a pair of mutton chops, moved to the desert, and now calls himself “Burt.”

33. Desstruxion - July 9, 2011

The air force has a space plane. Space travel will continue…..although half the time we won’t know anything about it.

34. Thorny - July 9, 2011

27… Bush is only partly to blame. NASA picked an architecture for Constellation that was far beyond any reasonably expected budget, even in good economic times. They wanted two new rockets, for example (Ares I and Ares V) when they could barely afford one. And then it picked a gigantic, outrageously expensive design for Ares V. They picked a capsule design too heavy to be launched by either of our existing rockets (Atlas 5 and Delta IV), meaning the U.S. had no way to get crews to the Space Station (that is 75% its own) until the aforementioned expensive rockets are built. That capsule ended up too heavy even for the Ares I, and had to sacrifice ground recovery, reusability, and go from six to four crew just to make it into orbit. The huge costs of the Ares rockets and Orion capsules forced NASA to cancel the Altair lander in 2009, meaning this architecture had nowhere to go once it was built.

Sorry, but the mess we’re in is at least as much NASA’s fault as the politicians.

35. NickInABox - July 9, 2011


How bout that holodeck concept?

36. MJ - July 9, 2011

@22 “erm, Webb is the next generation of telescope.”

The Webb is an infrared telescope that is designed to look at galaxy formation, and cosmology science. I’d rather spend this kind of major money on the types of optical telescopes that could find earth-like planets.

37. MC1 Doug - July 9, 2011

re: “The James Webb Space Telescope is in danger of being cut; What do we stand to loose?”

Loose? Was it ever tight?

38. Harry Ballz - July 9, 2011


Too loose to Trek?

What an artist!

39. Basement Blogger - July 10, 2011

Harnessing ambient electromagnetic energy sounds hopeful. Perhaps it will be a way to reduce our need for fossil fuels.

40. Holger - July 10, 2011

The Space Shuttle looks cool, yes. But let’s face it: The Shuttle program was a big failure. Two crews lost with their vessels. A cost explosion for one of the most complex machines ever built instead of a cheap and reliable space transporation system. And it’s hard to see why the successes the Shuttle has undoubtedly had couldn’t have been achieved and achieved earlier with Apollo/SkyLab technology. (Of course, that’s all said in hindsight.)
Still, I’m somewhat sad because the Shuttle program is the NASA manned space program that was there for as long as I can remember (I was born in ’73).

41. Jai - July 10, 2011

Re: #6

“The space shuttle is dead, but I am sure they will continue with Muslim outreach. Guess we saw how that went for Kirk in the 23rd Century. ;)”

Anthony Pascale,

Comment #6 (quoted above) is outright racist trolling and has absolutely no place on this thread, let alone this website.

42. Jai - July 10, 2011

The latest edition of the New Scientist has an excellent article about the implications of the space shuttle’s retirement. It takes a more optimistic view, and discusses how this basically opens the market for private companies to take over some aspects of space-based exploration and R&D, which could actually accelerate the process while freeing up NASA to focus on other things. Also, NASA administrator Charles Boden is quoted as saying “We are not ending human space flight. We are recommitting ourselves to it.”

The article has some very interesting details about the potential for private companies too.


43. Jai - July 10, 2011

Why aren’t this blog’s moderators deleting comment #6, considering that it’s openly racist trolling ?

44. Jai - July 10, 2011

^^ Apologies, my comment #41 had temporarily disappeared from the thread while I was writing #43. Moderators, feel free to delete #43 (although my question still stands).

45. Magic_Al - July 10, 2011

The picture of Voyager’s holodeck is a good example of Star Trek’s design going the wrong way. TNG was a lot more realistic and prescient in making future technology look simpler and more concealed. The simple black and yellow grid of the Enterprise-D holodeck hides the technology, while on Voyager they fell into thinking that seeing more stuff makes it look more high tech. The same comparison can be made of the bridge sets of the two shows. TNG’s design was not the obvious thing to do for a TV show but it was accurate futurism and probably more inspiring to kids who would grow up to work on real advances like the iPhone (which, by the way, is flying on STS-135).

46. Cygnus-X1 - July 10, 2011

The PCMAG article makes the issue pretty clear.

The potential benefits to humanity of the Webb Telescope are great, but here’s the financial issue that was most likely the deal-breaker for the Gov’s due-diligence-doers with instructions to cut as much from the national budget as possible:

“In fact, the Webb will ultimately be four times further from the earth than the moon. At such a long distance, servicing the telescope will be impossible, says NASA, so it cannot afford any screw-ups or design flaws. As such, testing the Webb’s components is extremely detailed.”

Uhh…remember what happened when the Hubble Telescope first went up? Yeah, it had a design flaw and needed to be serviced before it could be of any real use. And now that the Space Shuttle isn’t around to do that kind of servicing, and with the proposed Webb being too far from Earth to be serviced anyway, budget-trimmers are hard-pressed to overlook a program that could easily be a waste of $7 billion.

If there’s one thing that we should have learned by now from NASA’s history is that Murphy’s Law is most certainly in effect and should be budgeted into all programs. And a $7 billion telescope that counts on zero errors when the history of NASA, especially that of the last space telescope, has no shortage of errors, just ain’t likely to pass muster these days.

If these were the more affluent days of the 50s and early 60s with the USSR lurking ominously over the horizon, sure, the Gov. wouldn’t have a problem with relatively small potatoes like a risky $7 billion investment, especially in the name of National Security. But as much as I’d love to see the awesome potential of the Webb Telescope, I really can’t blame the Gov. for cutting it. It’s just the reality of the times, sadly enough.

47. Cygnus-X1 - July 10, 2011

That said, I completely agree with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

But NASA has to give the Gov more security for any investment these days than an assumption of perfect performance and zero errors. And so should the Defense Dept for non-essential spending. And that there is plenty else wrong with the current budgetary priorities is beyond refutation.

48. saavik001 - July 10, 2011

42. Question 6 is a legitimate gripe. When the NASA admistrator says his primary focus is Muslim outreach so they can feel better about themselves is ridiculous. They don’t even have any spaceflight capability.

49. Red Dead Ryan - July 10, 2011


I saw nothing racist about that post. Don’t jump to conclusions!

50. saavik001 - July 10, 2011

42 and it is not racist talking about muslim outreach, since the most populous mulsim nation is Indonesia, which is not arab or persian or african.

51. Dr. Image - July 10, 2011

I’ll maintain that Obama’s cancellation of Constellation was purely political.
The Saturn V was far from perfect in its initial stages of development, yet went on to become a reliable heavy-lift system. Same would’ve been true today if the Ares and Orion would’ve been allowed to continue- and CHEAPER because of using shuttle-derived tech.
Now we have to re-invent the wheel. And any man-rated system we’ll get from commercial interests will cost lives, I guarantee it.
National pride in space achievement was killed by this administration- and you can’t blame George Bush for that.

52. Steve - July 10, 2011

I had thought sci-fi fans might be the last group of people who would push for space exploration, regardless of the costs. Why? Simply because it’s necessary for the future of humanity. (And the annual cost of the entire space program is only 0.5% of the federal budget. Big deal.)
But after reading the comments here, I’m even more disheartened. Apparently even scifi fans don’t care about true exploration anymore, and seems like many have already drank the tea party KoolAid. America is doomed.

53. Holger - July 10, 2011

Re 51: Why? The comments here seem very mixed to me, with many of them clearly in favor of boldly going into space.

54. Vultan - July 10, 2011


Space travel is great. Fiscal responsibility is even better—and by that I mean it should apply to all levels and departments of government. If the military can get by without a billion-dollar piece of non-essential equipment, they should cancel the project. Same goes for NASA.

That’s not Kool-Aid, buddy. That’s how you save the country from economic collapse. No economy, no bucks—no Buck Rogers.

55. MJ - July 10, 2011

To those of you “Einsteins” commenting on this topic, NASA has what is called a public outreach program that is designed to get the word out on what NASA is doing and to encourage match, science and engineering in our youth. This outreach program has always been around, and is not part of the spaceflight budget — either manned or unmanned, or science programs — it is funded separately.

As part of the current goals of this outreach program, one goal is to outreach to Muslim nations to recognize the historical contributions to math and science of the Muslim world., thereby hoping to connect to some Muslim youths who may not be aware of this, and get some of them excited about match and science instead of perhaps going down an extremist path.

I don’t have a problem with this, and those of you saying that this is taking money out of the Webb telescope or other programs just don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about. And BTW, if this goal was discontinued, the Outreach office would spend that money on other goals of the outreach program anyway.

56. MJ - July 10, 2011

@52 “who would push for space exploration, regardless of the costs.”

Regardless of the costs? You’ve got to be kidding, right? I want space exploration to be done in a major way, but I also want it to be done responsibly, and not with the blank checks that you apparently would have us write to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.

57. saavik001 - July 10, 2011

55. Regardless of your opinion of the intelligence of the people commenting on the Muslim outreach program, its a waste of time and American taxpayer funds to try on sell science and engineering degrees to people decades behind in technology. It’s appeasment plain and simple.

58. MJ - July 10, 2011

@51 “Now we have to re-invent the wheel.”

Dude, this is a case of the wheel absolutely needing to be reinvented today. Do you think the “chemical rockets status quo” is ever going to get us to Mars, Jupiter and the outer planets. We need to spend a decade of R&D developing truly revolutionary propulsion and spaceflight systems, and thus set the table for the 2020’s when we can go to Mars, etc., using new technologies. Exotic propulsion technologies will get us to mars in 60 days versus six-to-nine months, which will substantially reduce the size of the spacecraft mission requirements, etc, which will make the project somewhat affordable.

Ares and the other “incremental” technologies were never going to get us to Mars or Jupiter. And do we really want to spend 15 years and $200B to dick around on the moon again?

59. MJ - July 10, 2011

@57. Fine, that’s your opinion, and you should write your Congressperson about it. If that goal is removed, it is not going to effect one single dollar of the Webb or manned flight programs though, so the casual relationship that folks have brought up here related to this article simply doe not exist.

60. saavik001 - July 10, 2011

58, Getting back to the moon and setting up a moon base, telescope, helium 3 mining as well as learning to live on the surface of another moon/planet was and still is a relevant goal. The technology we could glean from suchs missions will help us learn to live on Mars for a year at a time. It is an incremental step to extended stays in space that cannot be done with the ISS.

61. saavik001 - July 10, 2011

59 My primary complant was with Jai requesting a comment to be deleted for being racist for disagreeing with the Muslim outreach program, when clearly it has nothing to do with race. Besides Iran, no muslim nation can even come close to the technology for manned spaceflight within several decades. Whether or not that money spent can help the Webb telescope is immaterial, in my and others opinion, it is a waste of time and money and should not be the primary focus (Bolden’s own words) of the NASA adminstrator.

62. MJ - July 10, 2011

@60. We just spent $300 Billion in 20 years on the Shuttle program and the tinker-toys-in-space space station –both of these programs only advanced us incrementally in space, and frankly, they cost so much together that they probably prevented us from getting to Mars in the 90’s or 2000’s.

I don’t want to see us make the same mistake twice here — we finally have a an opportunity to start fresh with the space program and drop this incremental crap that takes 30 years and hundreds of billion of dollars to repeat things that we and the Russians had already proven could be done in the 60’s and 70’s.

And if a Helium 3 market is created and the price is high enough for that commodity, then commerical fleets can go to the moon and mine that — in that special case, I would not be opposed for our government to provide some seed money.

We need to our eye on Mars and Jupiter and be thinking about much more advanced spacecraft, and stop eating up the NASA budget with this incremental chemical improvement by defense contractors. We need to be thinking of building something like the “2001” Discovery spacecraft in orbit at around 2030, not dicking around on the moon with $200M bases with 5 astronauts trying to plant broccoli in and underground greenhouse.

63. MJ - July 10, 2011

@61. I’m not all that worried about a well meaning but obviously politically explosive goal of the minor NASA outreach program that got some political heat. But if it bothers you guys so much, then by all means, contact your representatives about it.

Honestly, a lot of people is this country are way too focused on Muslims and their perceptions of them (real or otherwise), but hey, go for if it really bugs you.

64. Vultan - July 10, 2011


“Honestly, a lot of people is this country are way too focused on Muslims and their perceptions of them…”

Exactly, which is why NASA should be exploring space—and only exploring space. Muslim outreach, to use a Trek phrase:

“…resides in the purview of the diplomats.”

65. MJ - July 10, 2011


66. Anthony Pascale - July 10, 2011

Warning to spock & steve for trolling and starting all this political stuff,
warning to MJ #65 for ALL CAPS,

Now lets all stop with the partisan bickering please

67. Vultan - July 10, 2011


Frankly, I couldn’t care less if Webb makes it into space or not. I’d rather see NASA devote its resources to exploring the solar system and finding new planets and galaxies—you know, things in the VISIBLE spectrum, as with Hubble. And whether the outreach program is separate or not is not the issue (for me anyway).

To use the most technologically advanced wing of the US government (in any sort of fashion) to placate a world in large part very much stuck in the Middle Ages is naive and utterly pointless. Only the moderate, forward-thinking Muslims are going to be able to save their society from radicalism. In other words: NASA, look outward; Muslims, look inward.

68. MJ - July 10, 2011

@67 “Frankly, I couldn’t care less if Webb makes it into space or not. I’d rather see NASA devote its resources to exploring the solar system and finding new planets and galaxies—you know, things in the VISIBLE spectrum, as with Hubble.”

Well said!!!

69. dmduncan - July 10, 2011

Well, since all Muslims do not belong to a single race, then technically any anti-Muslim comment, if there was one, would not be racist.

We just seem to lack an equally concise and disarming term to point out religious bigotry.

But since Mars was mentioned…perhaps we should call those bigots Maher-tians!

As far as America’s heavy lift capability. Didn’t Space X have a recent major success in that area? Any rocket THEY name Enterprise truly will be private, but that’s American ingenuity…which is great…unless like any other giant corporation they eventually crap on the nation that gave them the life and freedom to achieve their goals…

70. Jai - July 11, 2011

Dmduncan, re: #69

“Well, since all Muslims do not belong to a single race, then technically any anti-Muslim comment, if there was one, would not be racist.”

Although this obviously doesn’t apply to you personally, I’m sure you know that there are quite a few malicious people out there who use the “Islam is not a race” excuse as a cover for their bigotry. However, #6 clearly was racist in this case, considering the simultaneous reference to Kirk’s alleged ‘Muslim outreach’ activities in the 23rd century; unless there’s some obscure TOS episode focusing on Muslims which I’m not aware of, I’m assuming the bigoted trolling in #6 referred to Khan. Who was, of course, not actually a Muslim at all, but such things make little difference these days to people of a certain mindset.

Ironically, Star Trek does have a major character who was from a Muslim background, namely Dr Bashir in DS9.

You are of course right in mentioning the lack of an appropriate term to describe religious bigotry. I see that there has been a combination of apologists and people pushing some ignorant prejudiced stereotypes on this thread. Even the dogwhistle term “appeasement” has reared its ugly head. It really is disgusting to see such attitudes here, on this website of all places, and in a couple of instances involving people I’d assumed would know better.

MJ, re: #55, #59, #63

We’ve had some differences of opinion in the past, but I really wanted to applaud you for your comments above on this topic. Well done for speaking up.

I’ll let the matter drop now, since Anthony Pascale has made it clear in #66 that he doesn’t want this godforsaken “discussion” to go any further.

Anthony, thanks for intervening. Please don’t allow your brilliant website to be hijacked by bigots (racial or religious), even more so considering such attitudes are the very antithesis of what Star Trek is supposed to be all about. As you can see, it takes only one hate-filled troll to poison discussions (and apparently encourage some others to drop their masks), and unfortunately the internet is full of such lunatics making the world an even nastier place than it already is.

71. Jai - July 11, 2011

Getting back to the topic of the future of space exploration:

In theory, there really is a lot of potential for human capabilities in this area to increase dramatically if private companies become heavily involved. Think about the ongoing rapid developments in numerous other types of technology in recent years, driven by a mixture of innovation and market competition, and compare it to how much it would have been held back if only government agencies had a monopoly on it (with all the associated budget and bureaucratic problems). Potentially the same principle applies to spaceflight.

72. Holger - July 11, 2011

There’s been some renumbering going on. My post #53 is a reply to #52, but I’m pretty sure that was #51 when I was writing the reply.

73. Steve - July 11, 2011

66 (Anthony): Sorry, my apologies. I was just frustrated.

74. saavik001 - July 11, 2011

70. Yeah, I can see that anyone who doesn’t applaud a controversial policy must be a bigot. Ridiculous.

75. MJ - July 11, 2011

@70. Thanks Jai. The feeling is mutual.

76. MJ - July 11, 2011

@74. Well it doesn’t make them “enlightened,” that’s for sure. :-)

77. saavik001 - July 11, 2011

76. Absurd. Yeah, how enlightened of Bolden and Obama to wanna make Muslims feel better about their contributions to science and technology in the middle ages. Brilliant.

78. dmduncan - July 11, 2011

70: “Although this obviously doesn’t apply to you personally, I’m sure you know that there are quite a few malicious people out there who use the “Islam is not a race” excuse as a cover for their bigotry.”

Not only that, but there are probably quite a few people who DO think Muslim is a race, which would tag them as racist by intent if not by linguistic precision. But I had no idea what that guy was thinking about how Muslim outreach went for Kirk in the 23rd century. You are probably right about him meaning Khan, though, who of course was not Muslim at all.

Anyway, that was my “in” for the Maher joke.

ba-da-BUM! *cymbals bash!*

79. MJ - July 11, 2011

@77. An observation — you really are fixated on the Muslim stuff/issues of today.

80. Keachick (rose pinenut) - July 12, 2011

I assumed that NASA’s outreach programmes were about reaching out to people within the USA, many of whom would be Muslim. They are exposed to modern technology and education. Is it about encouraging an interest within a certain group for astrophysics, space exploration etc, where normally it may not be at the forefront of their focus?

What does today’s NASA’s “Muslim Outreach” programme have to do with Kirk in the 23rd century? Beyond silly.

81. Jai - July 12, 2011

Dmduncan, re: #78

“You are probably right about him meaning Khan, though, who of course was not Muslim at all.”

When it comes to bigots like that, you can guess their reaction whenever they remember that the actor who played DS9’s Bashir is a Muslim himself, and was also married for a few years to one of DS9’s Caucasian non-Muslim actresses in real life.

Actually, they probably also think that the fictional Dr Bashir was plotting his insidious agenda of the Islamisation of the Federation by secretly building a giant ‘Victory Mosque’ in sickbay, in-between playing darts with his unsuspecting Irish friend and engaging in witty repartee with the local Cardassian tailor ;)

82. Jai - July 12, 2011

The level of ignorance being displayed by certain individuals here is ridiculous. Amongst other things, the part of the world which has the largest Muslim population is not the Middle East, or Persia etc — it’s South Asia, meaning India and its neighbouring countries. And India itself, a country that has the third largest Muslim population in the world, does have an increasingly influential space exploration programme too.

It speaks volumes about scale of ignorance involved if someone decides to turn up on a sci-fi blog in order to opportunistically promote bigoted (and completely irrelevant) propaganda about Muslims and the so-called ‘Muslim world’ whilst apparently being completely unaware of where some of the largest numbers of Muslims actually reside. It also speaks volumes about the level of bigotry involved if those individuals are assuming that Muslims are not involved in that country’s modern-day technological and scientific fields, whether it involves the space programme or any other advanced scientific endeavour.

Plus, as Keachick said in #80, the USA itself does have a Muslim population, who are not only amongst the most highly educated Muslims in the West but also comprise one of the most highly educated and successful American communities.

All of this is of course a lost cause when it comes to people with a certain mindset who let slip remarks about ‘appeasement’ and ‘the Middle-Ages’. There’s not much you can constructively say to individuals deliberately engaging in that level of sweeping generalisation and condescending prejudice. The irony of doing so on a website associated with a sci-fi franchise whose message and philosophy is the total opposite of such attitudes also appears to be completely lost on them.

“What does today’s NASA’s “Muslim Outreach” programme have to do with Kirk in the 23rd century?”

Absolutely nothing, apparently apart from giving some people with an agenda of hatred an opportunity to embarrass themselves on Star Trek forums by revealing how ignorant and bigoted they actually are.

83. Bob Tompkins - July 12, 2011

This whole idea to privatize what NASA does is ridiculous. We are headed straight into the world of ‘Aliens’ where the research,. discovery aand invention gets patented, not applied into every field it possibly can be applied in and basically shuttered.
Imagine if that had been the case from the beginning? Progress would have been at a crawl and many ideas from that era of space travel would be without mass distribution. A snail’s pace and 20 times as expensive. It’s the way of privitization.
Imagine no PC, no cell phone- or at ridiculous prices and much lower quality?
There are certain things government alone should have purview over.
Education [all education through college], infrastructure, welfare of the elderly and the indigent, banking, space exploration [based upon the record of NASA], health care, common defense, regulation of business and trade, disaster relief, mass communication. I am sure there are others I have not included. Elimination of the bribe system of government we currently have [lobbyists] and the budget would be balanced in no time.
With communication and travel being so universal, the State Government is becoming a complete redundancy; the term Intrastate is fast becoming an obsolete term. Double the numbers in the House of Representatives and ever concern will be at least heard.
Lots of stuff in government needs rethinking, rebooting if you will, for efficiency’s sake if nothing else.
But for all that high-falutin’ thinking, I’d settle for NASA being funded appropriately.

84. MJ - July 12, 2011

@83. The point is not privatize NASA. The point is to privative certain functions that NASA needs, and that NASA cannot do cost effectively, such that NASA can save its primary budget for space exploration and science.

Example — putting cargo into orbit.

Example — delivering supplies to the space station

Example — mining the moon when the Helium 3 market materializes.

NASA needs to get back to space exploration, and the first step will be to developing new propulsion technologies which can get to us to Mars in 60 days and Jupiter in 4 months. Let private industry handle the first leg of moving the payloads from the ground to earth orbit.

85. Bob Tompkins - July 12, 2011

Checked NASA’s budget lately? It’s smaller now than it was in the 1960s when all of the progress was being made. It is an organization in stagnation; most innovation is coming from Asia now. I am not proud of that fact. Are you? The Space Program’s ROI has been fantastic. Invest more.
I was around in the 60s, watched all of the new stuff hit the markets in the 70s and 80s.
Mars? Ain’t gonna happen in your lifetime with that attitude [I am assuming you are a young buck.] Jupiter? Fuggedaboutit without a major attitude rearrangement.
Seen Aliens? That’s where it is all headed.
Makes me sick. We need another JFK-minded Presaident setting goals for us. I thought we had one. I was dead wrong and NASA is a dead fish, slowly being gutted by privatization and politicians. is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.