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  Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
  Back to the Moon? NASA looks beyond lunar return (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Back to the Moon? NASA looks beyond lunar return
Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 07:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What people here seem to be describing is the difference between the story of Lewis and Clark and the long-forgotten typical American family helping to settle the West.

Both played important roles in the United States becoming what it is today, but only the Lewis and Clark story still engages the masses as a story of exploration.

As much as we all get excited by the next trailblazing path, the slow push outwards will always follow. The true testament of a society that values exploration is the ability to acknowledge the importance of the intervals between the giant leaps.

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-11-2013 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo astronauts in total "explored" little more then fifty linear miles of the lunar surface... Lewis and Clark?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure the distance traveled really matters to the comparison.

Lewis and Clark didn't chart the entire Western frontier, nor did any one family making the migration. It was a combination of pioneers pushing open the frontier and the long, tedious process of learning how to live in that frontier that resulted in where we are today.

Fra Mauro
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posted 06-11-2013 09:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems that no matter what the decade, NASA's plans are usually far more interesting (the what ifs..) than what eventually gets funded--even though they have some pretty significant accomplishments.

Glint
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posted 06-11-2013 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Apollo astronauts in total "explored" little more then fifty linear miles of the lunar surface... Lewis and Clark?

Yes, but look at the distance the Apollo missions had to travel before getting to those final 50 miles, or so. L&C and Apollo expeditions were both largely linear in their exploration. Plus, L&C were limited by sticking whenever possible to the waterways although they had scouts roaming around.

Also, both had very specific end goals: land a man on the moon, and discover the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. Each had its breakthroughs along the way.

jimsz
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posted 06-11-2013 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
Also, both had very specific end goals: land a man on the moon, and discover the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. Each had its breakthroughs along the way.
Clear and definable goals. Does NASA even have any clear goals currently?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, NASA has clear goals:
  • Support research and science aboard the International Space Station through (at least) 2020
  • Rendezvous astronauts with an asteroid by 2025
  • Fly astronauts to (at least) orbit Mars by the 2030s
In addition, as codified into law by Congress:
  • Establish a heavy-lift rocket capable of enabling human flight beyond low Earth orbit

MCroft04
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posted 06-11-2013 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, I'm excited about these goals. But to make the next step you have to establish an outpost on the moon. I'm not the smartest guy on the planet, but this is a no brainier, regardless of your political affiliation. Let's go back to the moon and learn how to live in a hostile environment. Going to an asteroid will be fun and we will learn something, but it leads us nowhere.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 01:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Barring a significant change of events, Congress is not going to allocate the funds necessary for a U.S.-built and led lunar outpost (or series of sortie missions).

(If other countries want to take the lead in landing humans on the moon again, then it should be within NASA's budget to enter limited partnerships with them, offering our expertise in return for having U.S. astronauts join the trip.)

For the several decades that have passed since Apollo, the U.S. has been making the same mistake over and over: letting our desires outpace our budget when it has come time to planning our next steps in space. We have chosen the missions we want, rather than the missions we need and can afford.

We can, in theory, afford to move a small asteroid to where an Orion crew module can reach it by 2025.

Building off that mission, it might be possible to fly an upgraded Orion and perhaps BEAM-like inflatable module to a near-Earth asteroid as it crosses the Earth-moon system, moving us further out into space.

Neither of those missions require the development of a lander, nor a landing on the moon first.

The combined deep space experience and proof of upgraded and new technologies should at least provide the foundation for a trip to orbit Mars (whether the budget for such will exist in the mid-2020s is yet to be seen).

At present, we do not know how to land a crew on Mars. We've only just succeeded in getting a car-size mass to the surface (we'll get a second try at that with the 2020 lander). Experience with a moon lander won't help in that regard, due to (a) gravity, and more importantly, (b) the atmosphere.

But waiting for us in Mars orbit are two way stations that our (by then) experience with asteroids should help prepare us to work on and around: Phobos and Deimos. The moons of Mars are asteroids and built-in space stations.

From Phobos, we can control rovers on the surface of Mars in near-real time. That's important, because it can accelerate the work needed to survey the planet for dormant or even active biologicals. Unlike the moon, where the threat from lunar germs to Earth was quite low (and for which there was really no concern with terrestrial germs contaminating the moon), Mars is a different situation completely. We neither want to risk exposure either way on the Red Planet.

Phobos can be a research station for robotically-retrieved Martian samples, either to properly prepare them for the return to Earth or studied by scientists as members of the expedition crew. Meanwhile, living on Phobos offers the same lessons that Earth's moon would in learning to live in a hostile environment, setting us up for an eventual landing on Mars.

But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. Today, we can only do what we can afford. We can't afford a lunar outpost. We can afford (in theory) a sortie mission to a captured asteroid. We have to start somewhere; it might as well be somewhere that is realistic from the start.

MCroft04
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posted 06-12-2013 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, as always your logic is impeccable. As far as having the knowledge to land on Mars, I agree we don't know how to do it. But in 1961 we didn't know how to get to the moon either.

Most of your position is based on lack of funding, and you are correct. But I contend that if our politicians could work together (which appears to be more difficult than going to Mars) I am confident that alternatives could be developed, with one that could get us to the moon, and set us up for Mars, and possibly more.

I've been involved in many large projects (literally billions of dollars) where many of my colleagues claimed it could not be done, often for technical and/or financial reasons. But by following a well developed decision making process I've seen the un-doable accomplished.

First frame the opportunity, including a stakeholder analysis, a clear definition of success,and development of key project drivers (cost, reliability, schedule-what is most important). Then develop a complete list of alternatives, and then work each alternative to determine the best one before moving forward.

If you get the right people with the right frame of mind (glass half full) it is amazing what can be accomplished. We need people with a vision to make it happen.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 09:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hate to be so cynical Mel, but the idea of using "the right people" and Congress in the same context, let alone same sentence, seems to me to be the very definition of an oxymoron.

Even if Carl Sagan and Wernher von Braun were still alive, and they teamed up with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, I very much doubt they could convince Congress to increase the NASA budget by very much.

So rather than try to continue fighting that uphill battle in the hopes of a different outcome, I think the best course of action is to make lemonade. We may not be able to have the space program of everyone's dreams but we can send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, doing things never done before.

And in the process, we might, just might, get to see humans reach the vicinity of Mars.

jimsz
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posted 06-12-2013 11:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Yes, NASA has clear goals
I don't see them as clear goals at all.
quote:
Support research and science aboard the International Space Station through (at least) 2020
Space Shuttle II. Go up, circle around and come back down. Only now we pay the Russians for the taxi ride. Uninspiring.
quote:
Rendezvous astronauts with an asteroid by 2025. Fly astronauts to (at least) orbit Mars by the 2030s.
I don't believe either of these will happen by an American. Chinese maybe, but not an American. NASA has lost it's capability to articulate a vision and the politicians (of all parties) have mortgaged the future of space travel with handouts and pork.

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree that it seems we are just shrugging our shoulders and settling for a questionable goal under the premise that we are just facing reality. I'd rather submit that reality is what we make it. Just because Charlie Bolden says we're not going to be a leader on the moon doesn't mean we can't. Bolden works for us, as we elected the people who both gave him his job and provide his funding.

I've always put out here that the moons of Mars are worthy goals, and that the lowered bar of the asteroid mission are wasteful of time and resources. Many of the points Robert makes here about near-Mars operations are detailed in Buzz Aldrin's latest book. Unfortunately Buzz doesn't have to find a way to fund all that he proposes, so it's fairly easy to call for the huge infrastructure he needs to accomplish it.

It seems the issue becomes how do we best prepare astronauts in the near term for working on the surface of a Martian moon in the ever more distant future? Both potential destinations are significantly larger than the small rock NASA currently wants to drag back home, probably a lot dustier, and certainly won't have a huge multi-million dollar trash bag wrapped around them when we get there.

We won't be spending an extended time living and working at the rock on EM-2, won't be living off the land, and won't be going into realistically deep space. And once the mission returns with a cache of samples, we will have no further use for our newly acquired gem.

It seems most of the current argument against a lunar mission is the expense of a lander. I would like to think that by the time EM-2 or -3 flies, U.S. industry would be more than capable of developing a lunar lander capability at an affordable price to market to the government. Just look at what is happening in commercial space right now. If Space-X, SNC, and Boeing can develop orbital spaceships and space planes, they certainly can build a lander. ISS is the current destination and driver for the market, and the moon could be the next.

Living on the surface of the moon (perhaps in a group of Bigelow inflatable modules) is a far better simulation of near-Mars operations than the "bag-a-rock" goal. There will be lessons learned from doing it that we cannot even imagine now.

But I think the most important difference is that a permanent presence on the moon is an on-going proposition. Like ISS, once it is established and productive, it will help spur U.S. and other partner countries' industry to develop improved capability to keep it operating. There are endless opportunities for exploration and exploitation there, and there may be an eventual return on investment.

So even with the recurring sine wave of support from Congress, this lunar base would continue on with the support of commercial industry and expand our presence in the solar system beyond LEO.

The greatest flaw of the asteroid capture goal is that there is no impetus for it to lead to the next goal. Once accomplished and cast away, Congress could just as soon end funding right then and there. If that were to happen and NASA only then starts the "what now?" game, we might end up on the moon by 2025-2030, but we'll likely be met by others who had the foresight to go there first.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 12:23 PM     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 jimsz:
I don't see them as clear goals at all.
Regardless of your perspective (of which you are, of course, entitled), they fit the definition of "goals," which answers your question ("Does NASA even have any clear goals currently?").
quote:
Uninspiring.
Again, your subjective opinion. NASA's charter does not require its work or missions to be inspiring. We didn't go to the moon in the 1960s to inspire; that was a spinoff.
quote:
I don't believe either of these will happen by an American.
Fortunately, not everyone has given up hope in the United States, but then they also don't necessarily hold NASA to the same ideals as you.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 12:39 PM     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 328KF:
I'd rather submit that reality is what we make it.
I'd submit history teaches a different lesson.

This is a history-based site, so I am surprised sometimes at how often it seems to be forgotten. Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), VentureStar (X-33), Orbital Space Plane (OSP), Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and Constellation were all underfunded attempts at trying to reshape reality. And they all failed because they were not realistic.

quote:
...and certainly won't have a huge multi-million dollar trash bag wrapped around them when we get there.
Just to be clear, that was a conceptual animation at best. NASA has since suggested it may not envelop, but rather nudge an asteroid into cislunar space. The actual mission architecture will begin to take shape during a series of meeting this summer, beginning on June 18.
quote:
I would like to think that by the time EM-2 or -3 flies, U.S. industry would be more than capable of developing a lunar lander capability at an affordable price to market to the government.
Not that much has changed since Altair was shelved by the previous administration for being too expensive.
quote:
ISS is the current destination and driver for the market, and the moon could be the next.
I'll grant you this; if you accept the moon as a final destination, and not a stepping stone to Mars, then yes, a lunar base becomes more of a driver. But if your goal is the Red Planet within our lifetimes, then the moon is a trap.
quote:
The greatest flaw of the asteroid capture goal is that there is no impetus for it to lead to the next goal.
I disagree with the basic premise of your assertion, but beyond that I would suggest that miring us on the moon has a greater chance of Congress walking away and never (in our lifetimes) reaching Mars, then politicians abandoning U.S. manned spaceflight after one asteroid mission.
quote:
...we might end up on the moon by 2025-2030, but we'll likely be met by others who had the foresight to go there first.
I really don't understand this obsession with making everything into a race. The moon is a big place! And the U.S. will always be the first on the moon. Whoever gets there next will be the "Buzz Aldrin" of nations (not that there is anything wrong with that).

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Not that much has changed since Altair was shelved by the previous administration for being too expensive.
Altair was shelved by the current administration along with Constellation. I don't believe anyone has studied a COTS-type arrangement with private enterprise to develop a lander capability, although at least one is being proposed.
quote:
But if your goal is the Red Planet within our lifetimes, then the moon is a trap.
I think differently. I believe the moon is a more logical step in he progression toward Mars, certainly more so than a drag/bagged/or otherwise transported small asteroid. Given our shared appreciation for history, based upon what I've seen in the past 40+ years I don't think you or I will see men on Mars in our lifetimes. I hate to say that, but unless something changes the game, that's my opinion. Therefore, I'm more interested in the most technically realistic and appropriate approach to getting future generations there.
quote:
I would suggest that miring us on the moon has a greater chance of Congress walking away and never (in our lifetimes) reaching Mars, then politicians abandoning U.S. manned spaceflight after one asteroid mission.
I'm not suggesting Congress will pull the plug entirely. They are very good at sniffing out convenient stopping points (like the assumed success of the asteroid goal) and reassessing the direction, especially when they have to come up with the money to take the next step.

I've suggested that a lunar base could become commercially self sufficient and employ numerous contracted transportation and habitation services to support it. With this setup, we will have a viable exploration program underway, a potential new industry of extracting resources (He-3, water, H+O= rocket fuel) from the moon, and be learning the lessons to go to a Martian moon.

quote:
I really don't understand this obsession with making everything into a race.
I'm not suggesting that either. If we get there to do valuable work and expand our presence beyond LEO, I'm okay with landing there a day or two after the Chinese.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 02:27 PM     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 328KF:
Altair was shelved by the current administration along with Constellation.
All work had been halted on Altair by direction of the White House several months before the current administration first took office. The project might not have been canceled but it was essentially frozen due to a lack of funds.
quote:
I've suggested that a lunar base could become commercially self sufficient and employ numerous contracted transportation and habitation services to support it.
If that's viable, and I hope it is, then industry should take the lead (as at least one company has suggested), build the hardware, deploy the lunar base and then sell its services back to the government. Unlike COTS/CCDev, that provides a critical infrastructure for NASA's established activities, the space agency does not need a lunar base to begin pushing out beyond low Earth orbit.

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 11:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
If that's viable, and I hope it is, then industry should take the lead (as at least one company has suggested), build the hardware, deploy the lunar base and then sell its services back to the government. Unlike COTS/CCDev, that provides a critical infrastructure for NASA's established activities, the space agency does not need a lunar base to begin pushing out beyond low Earth orbit.
Mmmmm... so government builds a $100 billion space station, then decides to cut off it's transportation and resupply system, thereby creating a market for commercial entities to compete for contracts to fill that gap.

An argument I have made before is pretty simple: no ISS = no market = no commercial interest in developing a LEO capability. If government hadn't come along with the need and provided the seed money (albeit years too late to minimize the "gap") there would be no Dragon, no Dream Chaser, and no CST-100 programs. I've also made the point previously that if these entities were left to fund start-up space programs for themselves, it would never happen. I felt, like you do in this case Robert, that if they felt there was a market, they should risk their own capital, rather than the taxpayers', but we now find ourselves in an unfortunate orbital lurch.

Remember the movie Field of Dreams? The common theme throughout the film? If you build it, they will come. Following the argument that COTS/CCDev for ISS is the model for the future, then shouldn't government have a role in partnering with private industry to service lunar surface activities? I'm not saying that we should go to the moon simply for the sake of creating a commercial market, I'm just following others' logic that government can have a great impact on driving private enterprise toward success.

ISS is a government built cart without a horse, and government has invested in finding a new horse. A permanent lunar base could be a cart funded with government seed money followed by commercial infrastructure investment. This may well evolve into a separate profitable business servicing government funded advancement into deep space, and that potential will draw private enterprise to invest it's own capital.

All of this can be put to great use in an economically and technically feasible manner to move us toward the "next logical step" of setting up a base of operations on a Martian moon while maximizing the potential for successful work once we get there.

I have yet to hear a compelling argument for how breaking off a few pieces of a small relocated asteroid does anything to get us closer to that goal. All I hear is, "Well it's a cheap goal."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:01 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 328KF:
...then decides to cut off it's transportation and resupply system, thereby creating a market for commercial entities to compete for contracts to fill that gap.
The retirement of the space shuttle was not driven by a desire to create a market for commercial space vehicles. It was driven by the death of seven astronauts.

The decision to adopt a new acquisition strategy was partially born out of the correct realization that NASA's budget would not support the development of both a low Earth orbit taxi system and a vehicle architecture appropriate for exploration missions.

quote:
An argument I have made before is pretty simple: no ISS = no market = no commercial interest in developing a LEO capability.
I suspect that Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace would disagree with you.

For that matter, development of Dream Chaser as a commercial spacecraft dates back to before the International Space Station and SpaceX was founded a year before the loss of STS-107, before Elon Musk could even factor in the space station as part of his company's manned spaceflight plans.

quote:
...move us toward the "next logical step" of setting up a base of operations on a Martian moon while maximizing the potential for successful work once we get there.
This makes sense only if the driving motivation is to expand space development rather than space exploration. NASA's charter however, is the opposite — further exploration while enabling development.

Setting up a moon base is a great way of making humanity's next destination the same as its last, the moon. It does little to push us out toward Mars (as Wernher von Braun and the Apollo generation learned).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to add here that I am not anti-moon. I would love to see a moon base, asteroid missions and manned missions to Mars. But I don't want to wait until we can afford all of that to do any of it.

I think we've spent enough years planning and replanning and planning again. I think we need to stop hoping for a Congress that will properly fund NASA and just get on with what we can do with the allocated funds.

Hand-in-hand with that we need to be realistic about what that budget will buy, and not try, again, to stretch it too thin by proposing open-ended programs with too many components. We need to stop talking about what might be possible and just go do what is.

Tykeanaut
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posted 06-13-2013 02:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's always jam (jelly) tomorrow. I'm afraid I tire of the things that might happen. My current interest in spaceflight is purely historical.

ZeroG
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posted 06-13-2013 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ZeroG   Click Here to Email ZeroG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
We need to stop talking about what might be possible and just go do what is.
Completely agree! I think going to the moon is the next logical step... besides I would love to see the moon in HD 3D Close-up! But at this stage I will go with whatever they can do! Let's just go and do it, stop planning the initial missions...

Saturn V
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posted 06-13-2013 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Saturn V     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to be the devils advocate here, if we only do what is possible within any particular budget we will never get to the moon or Mars because the budget will never be more than what will be provided over the course of 2 presidential terms. If with every President elected the budget changes there will never be enough time to develop the methods and means to go on the trip to these places. Try to work on something for more than eight years you won't get to finish before your budget gets cut by the next guy in office.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's a valid point and I'm not suggesting we adopt this approach forever. But I believe a good deal of the problems we face with Congress is due to NASA itself becoming a "hangar queen," forever being tinkered with on the ground but never taking to the air (so to speak).

I think if we get the ball rolling, go somewhere and demonstrate that we can actually complete a mission, additional and more ambitious missions will follow, and so will the funding for such.

But I don't believe Congress will ever allocate more money to NASA without first demonstrating more than plans on paper. It is just too easy to forever tinker...

tegwilym
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posted 08-29-2014 12:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally, I'd like to see us go back to the moon before even thinking about farther out. The moon is 3 days away, and why isn't there any talk about making a long term base there?

I just feel that the moon is a stepping stone that is in the middle of a river. Without a hop to that moon "stepping stone" we have too far to jump to reach the other side (Mars).

Don't get me wrong, I'm totally for a trip to Mars, but we have to put our moon boots on first and take a "small step" one more time before the next "Giant Leap for mankind". Anyone else feel this way?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Blackarrow
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posted 08-29-2014 03:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My sentiments exactly. NASA will shortly have the launch facilities, the launch vehicle and the crew vehicle. "Only" the lunar lander will be missing from the architecture required for a resumption of Moon-landings. I don't underestimate the expense of developing a lander, but (unlike the Apollo LM) there should not be the same ultra-critical weight restrictions. That was one of the main delaying factors in the building of the LM. And who says the new lander has to be all-American? What about co-operation (and cost-sharing) with Europe?

328KF
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posted 08-29-2014 04:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With no political slant intended, I don't believe the asteroid mission concept will survive beyond the current U.S. administration. There is alot of opposition to it, even by the scientific community directly involved in asteroid research. NASA itself has not done a good job selling it to Congress or the public.

With the recent go-ahead for the SLS, there is a universal concern over the low flight rate. This produces an inadequately experienced launch team, drives the cost per launch to unreasonable levels, and gives opponents an opportune argument for its' cancellation. There is an alarming discussion happening now that it may become an extremely capable vehicle without a mission.

But this is a self-imposed problem. We created it when we changed the mission. The moon is the logical place to begin. I could go on for awhile about the exploration and exploitation potentials, but in the context of SLS, it provides a reasonable flight rate requirement and many other benefits. Launch teams stay current, launch costs are lower, and an infrastructure begins to be laid out on the lunar surface that can drive future commercial activities, perhaps even transferring operations entirely to private enterprise.

It's not cheap. It will cost more than some want to spend. It may not be the preferred way of moving beyond Earth that some want to follow. But if we have made the national commitment to build SLS, we owe it to ourselves to make the most of the investment. International and commercial partners could easily offset development costs for a lander and other equipment.

Rather than the solo shot to an asteroid, followed by years of....who knows? we could get to a point where lunar surface operations are as commonplace as ISS operations are today.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-29-2014 04:50 PM     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 328KF:
It's not cheap. It will cost more than some want to spend.
And that is why the moon is non-starter. Congress has made it abundantly clear it has no intention of significantly increasing NASA's budget. And when NASA tries to find money within its own budget by curtailing other programs, Congress steps in and blocks those closures.

So, you're left with a choice: pining for the program you want to have or accepting the program you can afford.

Blackarrow
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posted 08-29-2014 07:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
I want to add here that I am not anti-moon...
I accept that you're not "anti-moon", Robert, but you do a decent impersonation of someone who is.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-29-2014 07:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Then you misunderstand me. It's not the destination that it is the problem. It is the almost blind eye turned to the fact that we cannot afford a lunar program under the budget currently provided to NASA.

At least two, if not three, independent research committees have now come to that conclusion. The answer is not going to change just because we really, really want to go to the moon.

I want to see us push forward out into space. I don't want to see us spend another 5 to 10 years debating and then half-implementing a plan to only see it canceled because, surprise, it is underfunded.

The moon is a great destination. It should be further explored. But it is not the solution to our currently budget-constrained space program.

For the record, we can't afford Mars right now either. But it appears we can afford an asteroid mission, and we can use the infrastructure built to support it to then justify the next step.

This isn't going to be a race. This isn't going to be "within this decade" we get everything done. It might take more than one generation. But we can start pushing outwards, or we spend even more time talking about where we want to go but cannot afford.

Blackarrow
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posted 08-30-2014 08:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Then you misunderstand me. It's not the destination that it is the problem. It is the almost blind eye turned to the fact that we cannot afford a lunar program under the budget currently provided to NASA.

I refer you back to my last post but one.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-30-2014 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As I understand it, ESA can barely afford the development work for Orion's service module, so I am not sure what resources Europe has left to contribute.

A lander though, is not the only expense. There's also the spacesuit; the asteroid mission is using modified shuttle launch and entry suits that would be insufficient for the lunar surface.

Also, there's the cost of the launches themselves. A moon program requires a launch rate beyond what NASA's budget can support.

There's another cost involved: the cost of replanning. Any change of direction would almost certainly result in an independent research committee first being convened to study the change, and then having to restructure (yet again) NASA to support the new mission. All that carries a cost, too.

And note we haven't even talked about the cost for a rover, the cost for a base, the cost for communications, mission ops costs, and more.

Jim Behling
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posted 08-30-2014 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ZeroG:
I think going to the moon is the next logical step...
For who? Why should the US government go back to the moon? Of what benefit is it to US government and its people? Just because and the "need" to explore are not good enough reasons.

I am not against space exploration, I think it should be done by commercial entities and NGAs.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-30-2014 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It would be nice if we space geeks could pressure Congress or the Presidential contenders to boost NASA's budget. However, how can we when we are divided among ourselves?

Blackarrow
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posted 09-01-2014 04:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
As I understand it, ESA can barely afford the development work for Orion's service module, so I am not sure what resources Europe has left to contribute...
I suppose it depends on the timescale.
quote:
A lander though, is not the only expense. There's also the spacesuit... Also, there's the cost of the launches themselves. A moon program requires a launch rate beyond what NASA's budget can support... And note we haven't even talked about the cost for a rover, the cost for a base, the cost for communications, mission ops costs, and more.
All fair points... but you have just suggested multiple reasons why no-one reading this is likely to see live TV of astronauts on Mars.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-01-2014 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Granted, the resources for a Mars mission do not yet exist. But should we just sit around waiting for the budget to materialize?

As I've written before, the asteroid redirect mission is something we seem to be able to afford and fits within the schedule and logistical limitations that should be expected for an "Apollo 7" type mission for a new era of human space exploration.

That's why I think we should press ahead: regardless if you'd rather go to the moon, or want to go directly to Mars, neither are realistic in the current environment. So, let's do what we can afford to do now and then build upon it incrementally.

328KF
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posted 09-01-2014 10:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If we follow the logic of "we have to accept what we can afford" here in 2014, where will we be in 2030? Not very close to Mars, I'm afraid.

But the main issue is that there is no logically expressed step between the ARM and Mars, which leads one to conclude that ARM is a one and done stunt, hardly worth the huge investment in SLS.

A sample return mission from an asteroid could be accomplished robotically at far less cost, if science were the real goal. On an EM-2 flight, there would be no return on investment in terms of equipment or spacesuit evaluation that would benefit a Mars mission because the requirements are very different.

So what happens in 2021 after the proposed ARM mission? A sudden increase in interest from the public and Congress to spend billions more to push out further? I would be skeptical. We may even run a real risk of getting a load of samples back no different from common meteorites that fall to Earth everyday. I can see the headlines now.

If there were an appropriate intermediate stop between the moon and Mars where representative vehicles and gear could be tested without the year-long commitment of a Mars transit, I'd say great, let's do it. But dragging a small asteroid back to our neighborhood to create a reasonable destination does nothing to advance our goals.

To an average person on the street, ISS is boring, if not non-existant. Yet the funding keeps coming. International commitments, commercial interests, pride and prestige all factor into this. The funding is rarely ideal, but nobody wants to "pull the plug." This same thing could happen with an international/ commercial lunar operation, and the technology required would be very similar to that required for work on Phobos or Deimos.

Politics aside, I think much of this conversation will be decided as SLS gets closer to reality. Having that incredible capability and not using it because of shortsighted thinking years before will tend to be self-correcting.

Now, if Musk gets his "BFR" off the ground, all bets are off!

328KF
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posted 09-02-2014 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In fact, if all goes well, Japan will have an robotically retrieved asteroid sample in hand by 2020...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-02-2014 10:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The primary purpose of ARM is not to visit an asteroid, collect samples or even conduct science. Those are all secondary goals.

The point of ARM is to be a shakeout cruise for the Orion space capsule, just as Apollo 7's mission wasn't to orbit the Earth, but to test the redesigned Apollo command module.

Before ARM, the EM-2 mission was proposed to simply orbit the moon several times and return to Earth. ARM added deep space EVA experience and proximity ops with another body, as well as other skills applicable to a mission to an near Earth asteroid or to the moons of Mars.

moorouge
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posted 09-02-2014 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The one factor missing from these discussions is 'political expediency'. Until that returns to the consciousness of our elected leaders then all space efforts will be confined to what is affordable within current budgets.

Apollo, perhaps the last great space adventure, was the child of political expediency, both space and ground based. These days are unlikely to return in the foreseeable future.


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