Lube Jokes will be too Obvious
November 18, 2008 5:57 PM   Subscribe

At a cost of $20,000 a pound (google search prices vary). You have to wonder how much this cost. Poor Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper dropped her tool bag But don't worry, NASA tracks NEOs. And then there is the missing spider. Lastly, throwing in a gratuitous link to APOD (because it's cool and I can't wait to see the tool bag show up).
posted by cjorgensen (52 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is exciting to think that NASA can track something as small as a lost tool bag; it is depressing to think that NASA has nothing better to track than a lost tool bag.
posted by GuyZero at 6:26 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


2008 NASA budget: $17.13 billion
2008 NOAA budget: $4.1 billion
2008 FDA budget: $1.72 billion

If the rapture ain't coming, maybe the Space Shuttle will take Congress to heaven. It sure doesn't look like they give a shit about what's happening on Earth.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:27 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


APOD? I thought that was an iPod that only plays atonal music. This astronomy stuff is cool, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 PM on November 18, 2008


The other one has Obama in it.
posted by gman at 6:30 PM on November 18, 2008


Time to privatize NASA? Are you kidding me? Look at what the Cato-backed deregulation madness has cost us.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:48 PM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


You would think they'd have some sort of tethering arrangement. Didn't they invent velcro?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2008


damn dirty ape: google the price of putting an object in orbit.

I could care less about Cato. Just had a hard time picking a price point to put an object in orbit. You missed the LOST SPIDERS IN SPACE! and missing tool belt links. Those were the important ones.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2008


Yeah, when Cato pushes for something it makes me worry.

But I do think space transportation should be private, for many reasons as well as cost. Without any inter-government "space race", for example, nobody is pushing the USA to improve or accelerate its space technology. Think of how far we went from 1950 to 1970, and then think about those space shuttles... from the 1980's. :/

Of course, the more you get private citizens involved, the harder it'll be to stop them from bumping into those mysterious secret satellites all over the place.
posted by rokusan at 7:07 PM on November 18, 2008


Was Sarah Palin in that "tool" bag? Badump bump pssh!
posted by scarello at 7:09 PM on November 18, 2008


Holy shit, put a fucking comma between a prepositional phrase and an independent clause, not a goddamn full stop. Why is everyone failing at using their elementary-school grammar all of a sudden?
posted by Electrius at 7:14 PM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Spiders on the space station! I smell a blockbuster coming.

It was my understanding that NASA actually makes a very small fraction of the spaceship hardware; they just design the thing and hire contractors to make the parts. As long as the contractors are hired in a competitive bidding process (which is by no means guaranteed in Bushonomics), I'm not sure what Hudgins is complaining about. Besides which spaceflight isn't state-controlled, and there are plenty of NGOs launching satellites. As far as manned spaceflight goes, anyone's free to start a spaceflight company! NASA only has a monopoly because there hasn't been any economic benefit. However that also is changing.

Thanks for the post.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:16 PM on November 18, 2008


Hey, privatize this, Cato! How long after put NASA in the hands of Bain Capital does a giant shoddily made nuclear reactor come crashing down on our heads?
posted by delmoi at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


kuujjuarapik, how would you like the redistribute the 17 billion?

Research is not a zero sum game. NOAA wouldn't have satellites to track storms and weather patterns if we didn't have research into space.
posted by borkencode at 7:46 PM on November 18, 2008


Maybe checking Chinese imported food for poison. Or doing something about the continual presence of E. coli in the bazillion lbs. of hamburger meat that gets consumed. How 'bout knocking out malaria? Clean and safe nuclear power? These are all goals that are far cheaper than putting a robot on Mars, and I'd be more interested in seeing that research done.

Research is not a zero sum game.

The Federal budget is.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:58 PM on November 18, 2008


kuujjuarapik, look up the Defense Department's budget.
posted by intermod at 7:59 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


FYI, the bag liberated itself after she had to start dealing with the fact that one of the caulk guns in the bag had exploded and had gotten grease on everything.

But don't mind me, please continue talking out of your ass about the federal budget.
posted by intermod at 8:02 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Explain how I am talking out my ass about the budget, please.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2008


Total cost of this year's economic stimulus checks: $152 billion

If that didn't prevent this recession, I'm not sure how killing NASA, NOAA, and the FDA will help.
posted by casarkos at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


intermod, our glorious capitalist astronauts will have market-driven solutions to exploding caulk. Just you wait and see, and if they dont, golden parachutes for the CEO!

Seriously, NASA awards contracts to private enterprise who make all this toys of ours. The idea that NASA is this Soviet like organization is laughable. Billionaires have been hesitant to play the space exploration game because lack of profit. This looks like it could be changing in the future, but attacking NASA or NSF is like a sport for conservative nutters.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:12 PM on November 18, 2008


I'm such a heartless bastard. I would actually not mind it if we cut a lot of various existing programs and then put that money towards manned space exploration.

Don't get me wrong, I do realize that if I was poor/homeless/starving somewhere in Africa/etc, I would have a completely different view.

However, I'm not and I just want reality to catch up to our promises from the 60s and 70s. Our space program has been woefully underfunded and myopic in terms of vision/scope.
posted by agress at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is much, much cheaper to launch things into space when you don't have to create an environment in which people can exist.

The tool box needs to be tracked so the next space shuttle doesn't run into it, which would probably destroy them both.


Spiders on the space station! I smell a blockbuster coming.


A loose spider in a high radiation environment....
posted by eye of newt at 8:24 PM on November 18, 2008


A rat done bit my sister Nell...

Anyway, Nasa totally rocks, and is one of the primary reasons you've got a computer that will not crush every bone in your lap should you decided to put the whole of it's storage, power, processing and display hardware there, much less fit in the room your are currently sitting in.

I have always wondered what they are going to do with space junk. I mean, it could get hairy up there for space tourists if there's a toolbox flying around at several times the speed of sound.
posted by Freen at 8:39 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyway, Nasa totally rocks, and is one of the primary reasons you've got a computer that will not crush every bone in your lap should you decided to put the whole of it's storage, power, processing and display hardware there, much less fit in the room your are currently sitting in.

Bullshit. Technology spinoffs are not a reason to keep NASA around, any more then they are justification to have another war. Satellites, pure research, or space exploration are good reasons; if you want better computers or the next velcro, much better to put the money into materials research or something.

If we're discussing NASA and wasting money, we should take a good look at space shuttles v.s. heavy lift rockets, or ISS v.s. Hubble.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:00 PM on November 18, 2008


The Phoenix probe to Mars cost $475 Million.

Bill Gates alone has poured $1.2 billion into Malaria research.

A robot on Mars is cheaper than a Malaria vaccine, which still doesn't exist.

I'm not saying more food inspection, and more money going towards medical research is a bad thing. I'm saying if you want to pull a few billion from somewhere in the federal budget, taking it from NASA isn't where we should start. As intermod said, we could probably take a look at the Department of Defense budget, which was $481 billion for 2008.
posted by borkencode at 9:05 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You may want to forgo watching weather reports, kuujjuarapik. Those things rely on satellites. You know, the sort of things that NASA first figured out how to launch and operate?

And I think also consider forgoing further use of the integrated circuit. This here internet you're on. You see, an awful lot of money from NASA was put into designing smaller, lighter computers so that they could be more economical to launch into space.

Oh, and computer software for structural analysis that engineers probably used to build the very building you work in? Yeah, that too.

Um, the high density battery in your laptop? Cough it up, buddy.

Your nifty solar powered calculator? That, too.

Hope you never have to be rescued from a burning building by a fire fighter with modern flame-resistant materials. I'm sure asbestos weaves work just fine.

And don't get a pacemaker, either. Or fly in a Boeing 777.

Why didn't we get rid of NASA ages ago?
posted by chimaera at 9:05 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Without any inter-government "space race", for example, nobody is pushing the USA to improve or accelerate its space technology. Think of how far we went from 1950 to 1970, and then think about those space shuttles... from the 1980's

That's just not true, but it's an oft repeated myth by pro-privatization folk. While the manned space flight program has stagnated, (probably not NASAs fault really, they don't get much of a budget as was said) space science has gotten oh so much better.

Of course, future gains could have to be sacrificed because of Bush's plan to return to the "Moon, Mars, and beyond." That program is what is siphoning NASAs budget. Remember in the two years after Kennedy announced the Apollo program NASA's budget was doubled, twice.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:28 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Electrius: You missed that I totally missed a period. Fucking grammar Nazi can't even fully call me out. Wanker.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:29 PM on November 18, 2008


Well that rather a rather unexpected set of twists and turns in the comments thread.

Flying spiders, national budgets, NASA boosters, technology spinoffs and elementary grammer. It's only the second post I've read all night, and I'm happily sated.
posted by salishsea at 9:38 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Spiders on the space station! I smell a blockbuster coming.

"I have had it with these motherfucking spiders on this motherfucking space station!"

What? It needs a sequel.
posted by rokusan at 10:08 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


A robot on Mars is cheaper than a Malaria vaccine, which still doesn't exist.

A robot on Mars is cheaper than lots of things that don't exist.
posted by rokusan at 10:09 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sure a couple of articles I've read have gratuitously over used the word "lube." And of course, the inevitable "woman loses handbag" digs.

But I've read worse.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:22 PM on November 18, 2008


There is a fundamental difference between handing out billions of dollars to the avaricious fucks at AIG, who, as we have seen, have spent most of this for self-serving purposes, and handing out billions of dollars to scientists who may or may not have a few great aeronautical innovations that may be used by a good chunk of the human race. The former involves keeping fatcat shirts ironed and pleated, spas warm and bubbly for a select crowd, and money inside accounts that would be instantly liquidated if the idiots who passed the bailout packages had ensured some accountability. The latter involves some technological advancement that might lead to another technological advancement -- and, well, you can go dig up any James Burke program if you don't understand how some successful inventions come into being because someone else has failed at something. If one must spend billions of dollars recklessly and liberally, it seems more beneficial to human advancement if one gives it to science rather than a bunch of rich and falsely educated thugs.
posted by ed at 10:30 PM on November 18, 2008


FYI, the bag liberated itself after she had to start dealing with the fact that one of the caulk guns in the bag had exploded and had gotten grease on everything.

I would venture the guess that it's a situation that one can't completely prepare for.

I was in Houston last Monday taking the Level Nine tour around NASA, which was doubly cool since they were preparing for the launch. The next crew that will go up was in the pool doing spacewalk run-throughs; "meticulous attention to detail & procedure" doesn't even begin to describe it. But I would bet that handling an exploded lube gun & goopy gear underwater is vastly different than doing the same in zero-G.
posted by romakimmy at 2:52 AM on November 19, 2008


Did any other Brits read the title of the first link and think "woo yeah! The pound is well strong again! I'm well going to New York to clean up"

And then get a bit dissapointed to find the strength of the dollar against the pound still favours the Americans.
posted by 13twelve at 3:32 AM on November 19, 2008


I'll say one thing about private enterprise & space: Tell it to Scotty's ashes. I think the military's phony Star Wars crap that still doesn't work whatsoever 30 years later might be a good place to look for excess cash, if you want to talk budget priorities, or maybe subsidies for ConAgra and ADM, makers of all that high fructose corn syrup that's ruined the taste of everything. LEAVE NASA ALONE!!
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:31 AM on November 19, 2008


NEOs, which NASA is tracking, are the not the same as LEOs, which they are probably also tracking.

A "near earth object" (NEO) is something like an asteroid that will come close to Earth and may hit it. It is probably orbiting around the sun but in such an elliptical way that it intersects our orbit. I suppose some NEOs may be on orbits that will escape the Sun, but then they are probably going to intersect with us no more than two times, so the danger should be low.

An object in "low earth orbit" (LEO) is simply a low orbit around the Earth. A typical number is 1000 km. This is as opposed to a GEO (geostationary orbit) which is around 40,000 km. There are also some middle values in there but it doesn't matter.

The difficult part of tracking NEOs is locating them in the first place, because they could be anywhere and they are so far away and dark that they are hard to see.

Objects in orbit around the Earth are, by definition, pretty much always around (and in GEO, pretty much always around in about the same spot in the sky) so it makes them easier to find and track. And of course a LEO object is going to be fairly close to the ground. Which is not to say that maintaining the space catalog is a cakewalk. Just that it's not as hard as the generalized "there is a tiny object somewhere in infinite space--find and track it" problem.

All of this is to say that the dropped toolbag will not be followed by any NEO program, which is interested in things that endanger the Earth. However, it probably IS followed by a program to track anything that may be of danger to the Space Shuttle. (The reason I'm saying "may" and "probably" about NASA's space catalog is that I don't know if they do it themselves. There's a master space catalog "out there" from some agency and NASA may just use that. Or maybe NASA is that agency? I'm not clear.)
posted by DU at 4:43 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


You missed that I totally missed a period.

Congratulations to you and the father?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:06 AM on November 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


DU, that was a cool clarification. Had no idea about LEO. Makes more sense. Also explains why I couldn't find a tool bag on the NEO site.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:19 AM on November 19, 2008


borkencode, the next lander mission to Mars is going to be quite a bit more expensive, about $1.5 billion, if not more.

In order to properly align the capsule before it lowers the lander to the surface, it will eject 6 tungsten plugs, each weighing 29 kg. Try and calculate the expense of hauling 174 kilos to Mars, only to throw them away as if you were in an old-fashioned balloon tossing out sandbags. Not to mention, the buggy it drops will be about the same size and weight as a Mini Cooper.

I saw a presentation about the CFD of this process at a conference last month. The aerodynamic analysis was useful in demonstrating that the plugs would not collide with the capsule after they're ejected, but it is still a wild-ass crazy idea.
posted by Araucaria at 7:19 AM on November 19, 2008


Ha. Oops. I hope when she got back inside she was able to laugh about it, and relax with a nice cold glass of urine.
posted by rusty at 8:44 AM on November 19, 2008


Wow.... NASA hating here.

Yes, they're not perfect, but they're a symbol. Of what can be done, of progress, of science fiction come to life. Go see a launch. Don't tell me you can't feel the chill down your spine as you witness the power.

The $obscene amount of the bailout, money given away, with little accountability, the 'pork barrel projects' (the real ones), the other bullshit that money is spent on, wasted in the vast bureaucracy, the obscene health care costs, even though so many can't even participate, are all issues which should be a higher priority for your budget cutting enthusiasm. NASA is a small drop in the bucket, and funds massive amounts of research and ideas in the academic communities.
Don't crush all our dreams for the sake of a few dollars, which just end up disappearing down some dark financial loophole, making somebody richer for their own sake.
posted by defcom1 at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2008


I'm a little surprised they don't have a procedure to keep the bag near the astronauts and/or the space station. I mean, surfers keep their boards on a tether so that they don't lose them, so why can't NASA do the same? It certainly couldn't go around an astronaut's wrist, but couldn't they fasten or tie it to the space shuttle somehow? Or maybe attach it to part of the space suit that is more reinforced? This may be the case and the system could have failed, but the article doesn't cover that.

Personally, I don't think NASA is the most useful government agency these days, but in the general scheme of the federal budget, it's not that big a piece of the pie. I think the private sector can take over once we have space elevator technology. Until then, there's too much risk, and exploring the solar system probably won't yield anything profitable anytime soon. And even then, space elevators will still be a really expensive way to send stuff into space, so it will probably remain just for extremely rich companies and extremely eccentric billionaires. Plus, I feel like it'd be foolish to abandon the things we already have in space, since we already poured so much money into it and they do yield useful research. I'm not sure I'd approve of NASA asking for a bigger budget to build the Hubble Telescope today, but now that it's already in the sky, it'd be silly to let it break down.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2008


Don't crush all our dreams for the sake of a few dollars

Do you see anyone anywhere in this thread talking about reducing funding to NASA? Do you really see NASA hate? I don't. My initial comment was made to point out how little we as a society care about dirty little earthly concerns like food safety as compared to the aims and mission of NASA. When asked what I'd rather see the money spent on, I was honest. Next thing you know, I can't have a laptop battery, weather reports or velcro. Well, that cuts both ways. Without funding other types of research, many of us would still be getting polio, sucking lead from every auto tailpipe and dying of heart disease at 50.

Jesus, some of you folks act like I threatened to take away your spaceships and robots. If the decision were mine, we would fund all of these things. Since the decision is not mine, and in reality the Federal budget has constraints, then a comparison between these gov't agencies which have similar roles (science!) is useful for debate. The DoD has a completely different role to play, and isn't as useful in comparison. Obviously, the DoD and the bailout are much bigger piggies than NASA, and I don't agree with the amount spent on these things. But, these things don't really relate to the fact that we spend 10 times as much on NASA as we do on the FDA. I don't think this is an appropriate ratio. Which is why I'd like to see Congress take the space shuttle to some other planet.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2008


Spiders in Space.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:57 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


According to the 2008 federal budget, the National Institutes of Health is projected to receive $28 billion. I wouldn't call that dirty little earthly concerns either.

If you really have to grind an ax about federal research funding that doesn't directly benefit humanity, go back to the DoD and look at their $76.8 billion R&D allocation. Of that amount, the Air Force research funding alone tagged $24.4 billion.

Of course, if you believe nothing else in the world is so important as what the FDA does, then no amount of number games is going to change your mind. But there are better places than NASA to start your axegrinding.
posted by casarkos at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2008


She's not having a good astronaut career, is she?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:46 AM on November 20, 2008


csarkos, did you even read what I wrote?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2008


Yes, I did. And I disagree with it. In fact, you seem to be contradicting yourself when you say you'd rather see NASA's $17 billion spent on other stuff, but "would fund all of these things" if it were up to you. Not that I don't think food safety or nuclear power or greater access to clean drinking water or any of the other things you said you would like to have aren't important, because I would totally love to see the government pouring much more money into those areas, but your zero-sum game is not limited to the FDA vs. NASA, and there are other, better-funded agencies from which to shift money. The DoD's research budget does indeed fund a lot of institutional scientific work, so I'm not sure how they are completely irrelevant to the discussion.

If all you're saying is that you don't think space research should be as important as consumer safety research, then I still disagree and we'll just have to leave it there.

Do please let me know if and how I've read you wrong.
posted by casarkos at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2008


If you really have to grind an ax...
if you believe nothing else in the world is so important as what the FDA does...
...there are better places than NASA to start your axegrinding.


You would be wrong about these things. Your welcome to disagree with my prorities, you are not welcome to declare my intent.

but your zero-sum game

Not my game, it was borkencode's. Again, I only made a comparison.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2008


A friend of mine said all he has left to believe in is "NASA and libraries." I kind of agree with him. They're the on dreams we have left.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2008


Kirk Shireman, deputy shuttle program manager, says that while only one spider is visible, that doesn't mean the other is missing. 'We don't believe he has escaped the payload. I am sure we will find him spinning a web somewhere in the next few days."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:42 PM on November 21, 2008


Toolkit. Looks like if you're in the UK, you might be able to see it.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:03 AM on November 24, 2008


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