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  Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
  Steve Squyres: concern over missions beyond LEO

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Author Topic:   Steve Squyres: concern over missions beyond LEO
328KF
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Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-21-2012 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I caught a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, in which Dr. Steve Squyers (of Mars Exploration Rover fame) expressed his concern for "the path" as it is currently laid out:
I believe that the low flight rate currently projected for SLS and Orion is a cause for concern. No human-rated launch system in NASA's history has flown so infrequently. With such a low launch rate it would not just be difficult to maintain program momentum; it would be difficult to keep flight teams sharp and mission-ready.

A more serious concern is that the SLS/Orion combination alone is insufficient to carry out missions to any important destinations beyond low Earth orbit. The Orion capsule can support a crew of four for three weeks, which is far too short a time to conduct a mission to an asteroid.

An asteroid mission therefore requires development of another major piece of hardware, capable of providing crew support in deep space for many months. There is no funding in NASA's budget to develop this hardware.

Three weeks is enough time for a mission to the surface of the Moon, which like an asteroid mission could be a reasonable stepping-stone to Mars. But such a mission would require a lunar lander, which again is not in NASA's budget.

So if we truly intend to have a program of human exploration to some destination beyond low Earth orbit, there is a piece of the puzzle missing. SLS and Orion will be highly capable vehicles, and their development is progressing well.

But they are only part of the picture. Without some means to develop or acquire the missing piece — either a deepspace habitation module or a lunar lander — a decade from now NASA will be unable to do much more in deep space than duplicate the success of Apollo 8's historic mission to orbit the Moon, more than half a century later.

Blackarrow
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Posts: 2024
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-22-2012 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well said, sir! One answer would be a vehicle capable of landing on the Moon or, in a legless version, capable of extending the duration of a mission (for instance, to an asteroid) by providing a small habitat with additional consumables. You could think of it as "Aquarius on steroids" but without the emergency conditions.

issman1
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Posts: 888
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Registered: Apr 2005

posted 09-22-2012 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can I infer from this that the European Space Agency offer to provide its ATV service module to the Orion programme is off the table?

Much more alarming is that there is no landing craft in development for a potential mission to an asteroid. I read somewhere that the Japanese may send an advanced version of the Asimo robot to explore the lunar south pole.

It's an ironic quirk of our hi-tech modern world which could make the role of human astronauts defunct in deep space exploration. Hopefully not.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-22-2012 09:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
Much more alarming is that there is no landing craft in development for a potential mission to an asteroid.
You needn't have or want a lander for an asteroid mission. There is not enough gravity to support a landing.

Rather, you pilot a craft (like the Space Exploration Vehicle, SEV, under development at Johnson Space Center now) above the asteroid, anchor it to the surface, and send spacewalking astronauts down to explore.

All times are CT (US)

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