NASA

Spudis: what NASA is doing right and wrong with the Vision

Paul Spudis spoke Saturday morning at the ISDC, reviewing how NASA is implementing the Vision for Space Exploration and what is right and wrong with it. He said he sees a number of good decisions NASA has made regarding the Vision, including basing the lunar lander on the RL-10 engine, which allows the use of propellants that could be made on the Moon; focusing on an outpost in the polar regions versus individual sortie missions scattered around the Moon; and early involvement of international partners.

However, Spudis identified several problems he saw with the current implementation. First, he cited the lack of robotic missions beyond LRO, a decision he said was initially based on funding problems but he now perceives as the agency’s belief that it needs only “a good map” to go back to the Moon. He also disagreed with NASA’s choice of lunar orbit rendezvous over the Earth-Moon L-1 point for staging lunar landings; he believes L-1 is a much better place for a cislunar depot for lunar-produced propellants. He also described the Ares program as “having all the disadvantages of a shuttle-derived system but none of the advantages”; he prefers a Shuttle-C or similar approach. The biggest problem? “NASA still doesn’t really understand what its mission is,” he said, creating “catalogs” of rationales rather than a single unified explanation. “I always thought that if you couldn’t state your mission in a single sentence, you probably don’t know what it is.” His suggestion: “We’re going to the Moon to learn how to live and work on another world. It’s that simple.”

Spudis was not optimistic that there would be significant changes in NASA’s current approach to the Vision, but at the same time tried not to be too pessimistic. “I don’t think this is primarily about money. I think it’s about attitude,” he explained. “Have we reached a point of no return? I don’t think we have, but I think we are getting close.” His closing assessment of the Vision: “I want this to happen. I think this is the best idea to come along as far as the direction of the space program in a long time. I’m very concerned that it’s not going to happen.”

78 comments to Spudis: what NASA is doing right and wrong with the Vision

  • Bill White

    A poster at nasaspaceflight with the handle “vanilla” routinely beats the drum for EML-2. Better delta v numbers.

    But in any event, ONLY an L point (EML-1 & EML-2) make any sense whatsoever for a re-useable LSAM. And, a reuseable LSAM fueled with Terran LH2 or CH4 and lunar LOX and parked at EML-1 and/or EML-2 would drop the per kilogram price to Luna’s surface through the floor.

    No polar water needed since lunar LOX is ~80% by mass of the fuel needs for a LOX/CH4 engine.

  • Allen Thomson

    > he now perceives as the agency’s belief that it needs only “a good map” to go back to the Moon.

    Oh, that’s probably right. It’s what happens after that that’s the question.

    I still think that a few landers/rovers to check out the landing site and to do engineering studies would be in order. In particular, the long term effects of moon dust on bearings, seals, fabrics etc. seem to keep getting the avoidance treatment. It would probably be better to learn more about them with a robot or two than with a manned base.

  • Edward Wright

    > It would probably be better to learn more about them with a robot or two than with a manned base.

    Have you done a trade study, or is this just the mating cry of the flightless Pasadena robobuilder? :-)

    Studying the “long term effects of moon dust” with a robot or two would be a long-term project (by definition). Adding a “long term” robotic research progam to the critical path for LSAM design would likely delay the first landing even further.

  • Lunatic

    Spudis is a renown lunar scientist, his agenda is obviously to maximize data collection from the moon before he retires. He was on the Space Show recently selling his SF book about lunar settlements.

  • tony rusi

    Nasa’s moon program is neat. I like it. But it isn’t sustainable the way it is currently set up. If we were setting up solar power stations on the moon or in high earth orbit at least we would have something to sell on earth to sustain the program. Right now it is just waiting to be axed as a “stupid republican idea” when the democrats take over the presidency. I am afraid our only hope is guys like Bigelow and Musk in the long run and space tourism. At least they are trying to figure out how to make a buck out there. Nasa couldn’t make a buck if it found one on the sidewalk!

  • vze3gz45

    “At least they are trying to figure out how to make a buck out there. Nasa couldn’t make a buck if it found one on the sidewalk!”

    There will be a lot of bucks made from going back to the moon and on to mars by Lockheed, Boeing, United Space Alliance and other companies. Thats why the moon program will never be canceled. There are too many aerospace corporations and politicians behind it, and since the aerospace corporations have the politicians in their pockets, it will never be canceled. That is basically how manned space exploration has surived for the past 40 years and thats how it will continue to survive. The only thing will be the time. We might have to wait to 2025 or 2028 to goto the moon.

    vze3gz45

  • ToxicMoon

    THOMSON: In particular, the long term effects of moon dust on bearings, seals, fabrics etc. seem to keep getting the avoidance treatment. It would probably be better to learn more about them with a robot or two than with a manned base.

    I wonder if anybody is thinking about what happens if you start blowing really toxic stuff, like NTO and UDMH, on to the lunar surface around your lunar base.

    How do you keep from tracking it into the facilities along with the lunar dust? Does it attach to lunar dust? Does that make it a more difficult challenge than what encounter at ISS? Can you use the same mitigation approach that we use at ISS, or does the lunar surface environment prevent that approach (e.g., using air hoses like we do on ISS just might create billowing clouds of lunar dust) ?

    What if this stuff gets into the lunar ice/hydrogen at the poles?

    How do you keep it out of the lunar ice and/or hydrogen — which might become drinking water for those living on the Moon?

    What impact might this have on the long-term desire to have a permanent human settlement.

    If you can’t keep it out of the lunar ice/hydrogen, how do you clean it up? What are the costs & risks involved in doing so? Considering it might be life critical, how many levels of redundancy would we need for this “clean up” technology?

    Has anybody done the environmental impact study on the use of toxic propellants on the Moon?

    Has NASA even looked at this issue as part of the trade space when it decides which rockets to use?

    If anybody here can add anything on this subject, please share.

    ToxicMoon

  • The good news is that we are arguing about HOW to execute a lunar exploration program. The bad news is the fact that we humans apparently won’t being going back to the moon before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

    I agree with NASA that NASA needs a “single-sentence” lunar mission statement. Our first lunar mission statement, as delivered by President John F. Kennedy, was very brief and to the point – “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Unfortunately, the JFK speech did not provide guidance about what to do with the moon and the Apollo hardware beyond crossing the lunar finish line by the end of the decade of the 1960s.

    It is important, from my perspective, to get the the new lunar program rolling ASAP, but it is more important for The United States to establish a program that fully exploits the potential of an indefinite presence on the moon. A great deal of thought, research and technical planning is required if taxpayers are going to get not just the biggest bang, but the longest and best bang for their bucks. Apollo was a huge bang that was heard around the world, but that quick bang did not sustain beyond the few years of Apollo landing missions.

    NASA has just been sort of hanging around for the last several decades, waiting for the next big opportunity that will put the agency back near the top of the list of national priorities. The Cold War conditions that made Apollo politically doable are gone forever. We don’t need another Space Race. We need a long-term Space Plan. It is time to slow down and think about where we are going.

  • anonymous

    “He also described the Ares program as “having all the disadvantages of a shuttle-derived system but none of the advantages”; he prefers a Shuttle-C or similar approach.”

    Spudis is spot-on with his Ares critique.

    I’ll reserve judgement as to whether additional robotic missions after LRO are absolutely needed. But at a minimum, they are a very important nice-to-have in order to validate LRO observations with ground truth and help optimize the location of any human missions and/or base. The fact that Exploration Systems can no longer afford them is a rather scathing indictment of how unaffordable Ares 1 and Orion have turned out to be.

    Spudis is also right that ESAS should not have dismissed Lagrange-point architectures out-of-hand, and that Shana Dale did a miserable, ISS-like job articulating the rationale for a lunar base.

    I suppose someone deserves credit for the RL-10 and lunar polar base “decisions”, but those are pretty blindingly obvious decisions given prior work on RL-10 throttability and scientific and resource interest in the lunar poles.

    I don’t understand Spudis’s comment about “early involvement of international partners”. No foreign partners have signed up to anything, even in principle, and perhaps the most important potential partner — in terms of human space flight capabilities — is actually precluding cooperation in a human lunar return effort until at least the middle of next decade:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20070525/66087731.html

    FWIW…

  • Anonymous: Spudis is also right that ESAS should not have dismissed Lagrange-point architectures out-of-hand, and that Shana Dale did a miserable, ISS-like job articulating the rationale for a lunar base.

    I’m agnostic about Langrange-point architectures as a long-term goal, but it strikes me as too ambitious for the VSE, which was advertised by Mr. O’Keefe as the _minimum_ required to get back to the moon, quickly, with the least possible up-front investment. Where the current architecture has gone wrong is trying to do too much. Re-usable staging at any location to lower costs should wait for a second generation architecture, after we’ve put in place a reason for it to exist.

    Credit is more due to the decision to use the RS-68, instead of SSMEs, for Ares-5, which is less “blindingly obvious,” but will also prove a very wise decision if we ever get that far.

    Spudis: the agency’s belief that it needs only “a good map” to go back to the Moon

    Of course, I do believe that. The astronaut survival and productivity data we’re after requires experience, and experience is obtained by astronauts on site. I’m not going to say that additional robotic missions would be completely useless, but the limited information at a limited number of sites (especially if NASA Marshall is managing the projects) should obviously rank far behind building on Apollo’s experience to gain more real-world experience.

    – Donald

  • richardb

    As for the dangers of living on the moon and potential environmental problems, Nasa does have real life experience living on the moon. So I’m not to worried about if those issues are being addressed.

    Imagine if you can the following debate years ago. Was the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria the right ships to sail? Something lighter maybe? Something heavier? Built with spruce? Oak? Elm? 2 main sails? 3 main sails? Oars or sails? Perhaps wait for the next big thing in sailing?

    Paralysis is my worry with VSE, I assume, because Nasa has designed rockets for over 40 years, that they know how to do it.

  • canttellya

    Paralysis is my worry with VSE, I assume, because Nasa has designed rockets for over 40 years, that they know how to do it.

    Those guys are dead and gone. NASA doesn’t know how to build rockets anymore, and Ares 1 is the perfect example of that ignorance.

    ALS, NLS, Spacelifter, SEI-rockets, X-33, and SLI are other examples of that ignorance.

  • Thanks for the comments and feedback from the readers of Jeff’s site. If anyone’s interested, I have posted my ISDC plenary presentation at my web site:

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/Opinion_Editorial/Spudis Moon Plenary ISDC May 2007.pdf

    Over at my blog (spudislunarresources.blogspot.com), I comment on my rationale for advocacy of more robotic missions. It’s about much more than gathering strategic information.

  • Paul: But most importantly, it provides continuity in a program in which a full decade will elapse between the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the first human Orion landings and helps to stake a “claim” to lunar exploration.

    I agree that this is your “most important” argument for more robotic missions. However, I argue that the types of science we now want to do on the moon (usually field geology and underground resource location) are better done by a human crew, and should therefore wait for one. This includes most experimentation with resource extraction, at least beyond oxygen.

    That said, if there are to be robotic missions, they should ride on the lander that human crews will use to gain additional operational experience with the hardware. They should also be tightly focused on reducing the cost of a human presence, as opposed to duplicating field geology that, again, is better done by geologists on site. Otherwise, especially if they cost a rediculous 0.5 to 1 billion per mission, the money would better be applied to getting geologists there sooner.

    (I know this is an extreme minority opinion, but as someone who has actually done field science, I stand by it.)

    – Donald

  • anonymous

    “Imagine if you can the following debate years ago. Was the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria the right ships to sail? Something lighter maybe? Something heavier? Built with spruce? Oak? Elm? 2 main sails? 3 main sails? Oars or sails? Perhaps wait for the next big thing in sailing?”

    While I sympathize with the concern about design paralysis, the historical analogy is flawed. Columbus had the luxury of using long-existing caravel designs and could even buy ships that had actually proven their seaworthiness. (Columbus bought the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria second- or third-hand). For lunar transportation, NASA does not enjoy this luxury. NASA must build its lunar transports from scratch and, by necessity of the design process, is forced to debate the modern-day rocket equivalents of what how many masts and what riggins a sailing ship should use.

    That said, for LEO and ISS transport, NASA does deserve a severe scolding for not leveraging the modern-day, proven, commercially available equivalents of Columbus’s caravels, the EELVs. If we’re going to use the Columbus analogy, it has nothing to do whether NASA will suffer design paralysis on its lunar transport system — there’s no lunar Nina, Pinta, or Santa Maria for NASA to buy or copy anyway. Rather, the Columbus analogy begs the question of why NASA is not adapting existing and proven vehicles for its LEO transport — the orbital equivalents of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria are readily available for NASA to purchase in the EELVs.

  • Paul, in our AIAA Space 2006 paper we advocated using precursor Jupiter launch vehicles to test various systems need prior to attempting the first manned landing. In these precusor and ongoing lunar surface mission we would place up to eight sample collecting return robots per site.

    http://www.teamvisioninc.com/services-consulting-space-exploration-optimization.htm

    Using real time remote control over many months large areas of the moon surface could be explored helping to connect up the remote imagery with the ground truth. From that information a subset of the explored area would be chosen for the manned landing for focused/detailed exploration including the collection of the samples from the rovers vectored to the chosen manned landing site. It would seem that this approach would produce a more synergistic (unmanned+manned) return of lunar science than Scott’s “all we need is a map” approach.

    Our most recent work is here:

    http://www.directlauncher.com/

    The Jupiter-120 would be great way of bringing a synergistic relationship between the manned and unmanned lunar programs.

    Your comments on all the above would be appreciated.

  • anonymous

    Mr. Metschan beat me to it, but given his advocacy of a Shuttle-C approach, Dr. Spudis should find the DIRECT 2 architecture and Jupiter vehicles very interesting.

  • vanilla

    Dr. Spudis,

    As far as Lagrange point staging goes, I think you might be pleasantly surprised to discover the merits of L2 as a staging point. It is superior for near, medium, and far term space development over LLO or L1. I became aware of this little-known fact by studying the work of Dr. Robert Farquhar, whom I believe you know. Here is more discussion of the merits of L2:

    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=1337&posts=192&start=1

  • [...] and Rocketplane notes More on the Dream Chaser The importance of Plan B (and Plan C, and Plan D…) Spudis: what NASA is doing right and wrong with the Vision Lampson and the [...]

  • Donald: “However, I argue that the types of science we now want to do on the moon (usually field geology and underground resource location) are better done by a human crew, and should therefore wait for one. This includes most experimentation with resource extraction, at least beyond oxygen.”

    I certainly agree that for field science, we must eventually have human crews, but I am advocating that we use robots intelligently to do a lot of the exploratory precursor “grunt” work before the arrival of people. I do not agree that resource exploration is primarily a human task; for example, if you need a high resolution map of a hydrogen prospect, that’s best accomplished by having a small rover with a laser, gas analyzer and mass spectrometer (which can work semi-autonomously) map a large gridded area, and make precision measurements without disturbing the deposit.

    I also think that a key objective of the VSE is determining the optimum mix of people and machines and how to use them for appropriate tasks.

  • Stephen, thank you for the link to your work, which I am familiar with. And I certainly agree with you that development of one new launch vehicle is more desirable than the development of two, as the Ares system requires.

  • Vanilla, my advocacy of L1 staging is mostly in regard to its superiority to low lunar orbit, which might save you a few m/sec delta-v, but is abysmal for export of lunar surface-produced products.

  • Anonymous, “Spudis is also right that ESAS should not have dismissed Lagrange-point architectures out-of-hand, and that Shana Dale did a miserable, ISS-like job articulating the rationale for a lunar base.”

    Thanks for your comments.

    Just to keep the record straight, I never mentioned Shana (or any other specific NASA employee) at all; my comments were in reference to the agency six-themed “rationale” for our return to the Moon. It was a classic faceless “consensus” document in which all bases were covered, but the essential “mission” was totally ignored. In my opinion, President Bush stated the essential mission of the VSE quite eloquently.

    I am sensitive to the issue of alleging quotes or actions to specific people because I have been accused recently of saying and doing things that I never said or did.

  • With full backing from everyone in the space community and its expression as full funding from Congress there would be enough funding to do a full robotic survey (base site landers and sample return) and get people back there exploring all by 2016. It seems 2015, the original date, is no longer possible without a crash programme, and nobody really wants or expects that.

  • anonymous

    “Just to keep the record straight, I never mentioned Shana (or any other specific NASA employee) at all; my comments were in reference to the agency six-themed “rationale” for our return to the Moon. It was a classic faceless “consensus” document in which all bases were covered, but the essential “mission” was totally ignored. In my opinion, President Bush stated the essential mission of the VSE quite eloquently.

    I am sensitive to the issue of alleging quotes or actions to specific people because I have been accused recently of saying and doing things that I never said or did.”

    My apologies. Dr. Spudis did not reference Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

    I did and my reference was to the fact that Dale did have lead responsibility for the conference that produced the limp-wristed, diffuse, and ISS-like list of six weak rationales for the lunar base. As lead, she was responsible for the product, and as Deputy Administrator, the product should have been much better.

    My argument, not Dr. Spudis’s.

  • Paul, in addition to the cost effectiveness of moving to one vehicle family we would also be able to field a more capable vehicle earlier with fewer new technologies all while utilizing a significantly higher percentage of the current STS infrastructure.

    The importance of this is that lunar precursor missions needed to maximize the benefit of the manned missions could be started much earlier than possible in direct contrast to the need to wait over 20 years for the Ares V. The Ares V, while required if we must use the Ares I, is an overkill vehicle for robotic mission when compared to the entry level Jupiter-120 which has only 2x the capability of the best ELV. An important component of keeping the STS derivatives launch costs low is a high launch rate because most of the STS cost structure is a politically driven fixed cost. It is a good assumption that any STS derived system will inherit this political reality. Above four launches per year the Jupiter’s $/kg to LEO drops below the best ELV. Ironically this is not due to the cost savings associated with removing the space shuttle but due to the increase in payload to orbit by removing it.

    Having even one unmanned launch per year using the Jupiter family would lower the cost for both the manned and unmanned programs while allowing the expansion and implementation of the robotic missions of higher mass margins and more volume. Ideally the increases in the spacecraft mass would be in the high mass yet relatively inexpensive ($/kg) areas of propulsion and power. Imagine how many multi-million dollar problems we could have avoided on the James Webb Space Telescope if the Jupiter-120 was available today.

    If the past is any predictor of the future the AresV’s disruptive STS changes so many years after the current STS workforce and infrastructure is gone may never happen. Should this come to pass that would leave us with just the Ares I, a vehicle no more capable than the ones we have today for manned or unmanned missions.

    Trapping manned exploration in LEO for yet another generation and not advancing by one kg or cubic meter of volume what we have today for the unmanned program.

    The Lunacy of the present approach, while relatively non-disruptive STS variants as initially proposed by ESAS exist, is beyond reason.

    Any insights?

    Email: stephen.metschan@teamvisioninc.com

  • anonymous

    Here’s one marketing contractor’s viewpoint about what is wrong with NASA’s message and mission, which is pretty relevant to the discussion here about the justification for a lunar base:

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2007/2002.02.27.letter.edit.pdf

    Scroll down to page 5 for the beginning of the mission discussion.

    FWIW…

  • Ray

    In case you’re interested, here’s more from Dr. Spudis:

    Comments on his blog on the talk: http://spudislunarresources.blogspot.com/2007/05/vision-for-space-exploration-quo.html

    Aldridge Commission Report (Dr. Spudis participated in it): http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/60736main_M2M_report_small.pdf

    It would be good to see more of these ideas used in the implementation of the VSE.

    Ray (Space Prizes blog)

  • canttellya

    Here’s one marketing contractor’s viewpoint about what is wrong with NASA’s message and mission, which is pretty relevant to the discussion here about the justification for a lunar base:

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2007/2002.02.27.letter.edit.pdf

    Excellent letter–spot on in its description of the “non-justification” of the VSE to the public.

    VSE could mean something. VSE could be relevant and important. But ESAS made sure that it wouldn’t and wasn’t.

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi Donald,

    I think one reasons the use of robots for exploration on the Moon is discounted by so many folks is because they are using the Mars rovers for a Benchmark. The slow rate of work accomplished by the Mars rovers is a result of the major communications constraints they operate under. NASA is only able to contact them once a day, with a time delay of 4-20 minutes and with a very limited bandwidth.

    By contrast a modern lunar rover would be in contact 24 hours a day with only a 1.5 second delay. And at a distance of only 250,000 miles you will much wider bandwidth. Think of using the Internet in the old 1200 bps days versus using a cable modem today.

    With the Mars rovers you have to plot your moves like a game of chess. By contrast you could probably drive and operate a lunar rover in real time using 3-d imaging. The closest analogy to what operating a lunar rover would be like would be driving an underwater ROV or a military UAV. It should be noted that Robert Ballard gave using human submersibles for much of his research because they couldn’t compete with the ROVs. And its possible, due to the Moon’ low gravity and proximity to Earth, to even have them send samples back, or a least gather them in a single location for a quick return.

    Bottomline is a lunar rover would be much more effective then a Mars rovers and although not a substitute for a human geologists they would still be able to do a lot of high quality field work. It’s a pity that NASA, by focusing on Mars, isn’t developing any lunar rover missions based on the cutting edge of tele-operated technology.

  • Thomas Matula

    Paul,

    The good thing is that the tooling for the ET’s is not being destroyed, only mothballed. This allows NASA the option of going the Shuttle C route when budget issues bring the current Ares I, Ares V to an end.

    And I like the idea of making the CEV light enough and flexible enough for multiple launch options, just as comsats are designed to be flow on different vehicles. That is the type of flexibility and robustness needed for a good human spaceflight option.

  • Al Fansome

    CANTTELLYA: Here’s one marketing contractor’s viewpoint about what is wrong with NASA’s message and mission, which is pretty relevant to the discussion here about the justification for a lunar base:

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2007/2002.02.27.letter.edit.pdf

    I found the 18-page letter, posted at NASA Watch, by an independent professional media consultant to be like a slap across the face. It resonated as being true and authentic, and is consistent with many of the things posted here by others.

    After conducting over 100 interviews, he/she concluded that NASA has no clear rationale for “why” we are going to the Moon. Why are we spending over $100 Billion on the ESAS/Constellation program?

    I was hoping that he/she would have taken the next step, and would have done some research — like that done by Dr. Matula — to figure out “what do the stakeholders want to buy from NASA”.

    Another problem this “communications consultant” missed is one step beyond the issues that he/she was evaluating. He/she missed that the reason that NASA can’t develop a strategy, is that Dr. Griffin has already figured out what he wants to do, and all he wants are some sales messages to sell that strategy. He does not care what those “messages” are, as long as they work. So, they are flailing all over the place coming up with “sales messages” and “sales tactics” to sell what Griffin has already decided to give to the public stakeholders.

    What was missing for me, was an understanding of “marketing”, which starts first with “what do the stakeholders want to buy”. ONLY AFTER you know what your customers want to buy, can you start the design of your product/service, and do so in a way that gives the stakeholders what they want. This is the complete opposite of the Griffin approach — Step 1: Design a superheavy-lift LV so we can go to Mars, Step 2: Figure out how to *sell* that plan by hiring communications consultants to come up with advertising messages.

    The reason NASA does not want to develop a “market-based strategy” — is quite obvious … because then they would be subject to the “market-based wants & needs” of the taxpayers and their elected representatives. This would destroy Griffin’s plans for a super-heavy lift LV, and force them to go to an alternative approach that would not provide a super-heavy lift LV.

    Unfortunately, what the bureaucrats never see, is that there is a huge upside to a market-based approach. If you give the customers (e.g., the taxpayers, and their elected representatives) what they really want … they tend to give you much bigger budget increases.

    If you try to ignore those market needs, you tend to struggle really hard to come up with increases that stay level with inflation. Just like NASA is doing right now.

    - Al

    PS — Dr. Matula — could you remind us what your research showed that people really want to buy from NASA?

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    I believe these are the presentations you are referring to.

    http://www.tlmatula.com/nsp/nspmatula1.ppt

    It is a blue print on how to build public support for VSE based on work I orginally did on commercial spaceports for my dissertation. .

    And here is a follow-up study I presented at ISDC in 2005 which includes results from an April, 2005 exploratory survey.

    http://www.tlmatula.com/nsp/nspmatula4.ppt

    Tom

  • Al Fansome

    Dr. Matula,

    Thank you for the links. Your presentations communicate what I have been attempting to say, but much more effectively.

    Too bad NASA did not hire you, or somebody like you , to do real “marketing research”.

    I recommend that every serious space advocate and space policy analyst read Dr. Matula’s two presentations. It clearly summarizes how you can take a “market research” approach to space policy, and how this is different than what NASA is currently doing.

    One chart that I wanted to share was titled …

    Why the Lack of Public Support?

    TRADITIONAL ANSWER — The Public simply doesn’t care about space

    NON-TRADITIONAL ANSWER — Does the public see space differently than policy makers? Do they want something else from NASA then just science?

    How to find out?

    ASK THEM!

    - Al

    PS — To those who don’t like the results of Dr. Matula’s research, this is a scientifically repeatable (and testable) method. You can hire your own marketing research firm, and see if you get a different answer.

  • Bill White

    Speaking of public input, shouldn’t the transcripts from the Aldridge Commission public hearings be closely consulted to learn more about public perceptions of the purpose and value of space exploration? As I recall, there was a substantial amount of testimony taken all across the country. Careful study of the raw testimony, as well as the final report could generate useful data.

    Next, Dr. Matula’s powerpoints show space solar power as a leading “reason” people support space exploration however are there any engineers who believe space solar power can be delivered to Earth at a price point that closes a busines case?

  • I agree with Bill’s implication. Unfortunately, if this is what the “public wants,” it is one of the most expensive and difficult goals imaginable. While we should show how a lunar base (or whatever we decide to do) contributes toward that goal, it is far too ambitious a goal for this time. Also, as any marketer should know, what “the public” says they want is often very different from what they actually want. While I am open to being convinced otherwise, my suspicion is that what the public really wants is adventure. (Compare the Web hits for the MERs and Cassini, or even Space Station construction, versus those for any immediately practical application in Earth orbit.) A lunar base (or asteroid mission) goal, properly sold, could contribute to both wants: oxygen and silicon, et cetera, for space-based solar power and other industries, and the raw adventure of astronaut miners exploring a new territory.

    Paul: certainly agree that for field science, we must eventually have human crews, but I am advocating that we use robots intelligently to do a lot of the exploratory precursor “grunt” work before the arrival of people.

    I am not wholly opposed to this, but I think it should be done with a great deal of care. (See my response to Thomas, below.) In addition, if we spend all our money doing “precursor missions,” we will never send the crew. If we’re sending the crew anyway, maybe the most efficient use of resources is to see what the crew can do, then automate what they can’t at a later date (which is more similar to exploration on Earth).

    I do not agree that resource exploration is primarily a human task; for example, if you need a high resolution map of a hydrogen prospect, that’s best accomplished by having a small rover with a laser, gas analyzer and mass spectrometer (which can work semi-autonomously) map a large gridded area, and make precision measurements without disturbing the deposit.

    That’s fine, if your ice is near the surface. In what I suspect is the much more likely case of widely scattered grains protected at great depth, a crew capable of many tens or hundreds of deep drills makes a lot more sense. . . .

    Thomas, I am not saying that a lunar rover could not do significant science. But, no lunar rover no matter how capable is likely to find that one-in-a-million find (Apollo’s location of a piece of original crust, or today a piece of the first continental crust splashed up from Earth, or that of another planet (even that of an extra-Solar System planet?), or a grain of cemetery ice deeply buried among a large volume of fines — all things properly equipped astronauts could do with varying degrees of difficulty). What a lot of science can, in theory, be automated, some of the most exciting and important discoveries could not be. We should also be very aware of the lessons of Apollo-16, where a crew on site found an environment very, very different from that expected from remote observations, and was able to quickly adapt their plans. Orbiters and rovers are appropriate for initial reconnaissance, but much less so for detailed geological survey work.

    My other point is, if you are spending the money to send humans anyway, you should limit the amount of money you waste trying to duplicate in advance what they can easily do. If an astronaut is going to trip over a certain kind of rock getting off the lander, it makes no sense at all to spend a billion dollars trying to find it in advance with a rover. Nor should you spend a zillion dollars trying to automate a deep drill when a properly equipped crew could easily do that, and do it deeper and far more frequently. Immediate cost should not be the only measure here; scientific efficiency — that is, the total cost of obtaining a unit of a defined class of knowledge — should also be considered. And, as Mr. Siddiqi pointed out in Challenge to Apollo, in terms scientific efficiency and comparing human and robotic skills at comparable levels of development, it is not at all clear that Apollo’s money spent on robots would have achieved equal science.

    – Donald

  • [...] Politics has an analysis of Paul Spudis’ speech at ISDC about how the Vision for Space Exploration is [...]

  • “I don’t understand Spudis’s comment about “early involvement of international partners”. No foreign partners have signed up to anything, even in principle, and perhaps the most important potential partner — in terms of human space flight capabilities — is actually precluding cooperation in a human lunar return effort until at least the middle of next decade:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20070525/66087731.html

    I’m surprised nobody has said anything about this comment. The article link here has some inaccurate data in it. It says the shuttle will be retired in 2015, and the Orion capsule won’t be flown until 2020! I believe the right dates are 2010, and 2015…

    It makes me question the other information contained about other nations not trying to land men on the moon. India and China have both spoken of it. Energia has spoken of it, but I’m not sure if they speak for the RSA. They usually don’t…

  • Al Fansome

    DONALD: Also, as any marketer should know, what “the public” says they want is often very different from what they actually want. While I am open to being convinced otherwise, my suspicion is that what the public really wants is adventure.

    Donald,

    I am disappointed. I would think you would at least want to explore this, rather than shoot it down. Since very little work has been done here, we are almost guaranteed to learn something. Possibly very useful.

    I hope you would have a different perspective if you were a government leader. For a government leader — who has swore to uphold the Constitution and to serve the American people — to not even ask the taxpayers what they want, because he/she knows he/she won’t like the answer, is an abuse of power.

    This line of thinking is a dangerous slope. The next step is for elitists to decide to not even ask the public (or its elected representatives) what they want because they have decided that “what the people say/Congress says” is “not what they actually want”. That we elitists know best about how to spend your taxpayer dollars. Just shut up, because we know better, and send us your checks (people/Congress).

    - Al

  • SSP Fan

    DONALD: agree with Bill’s implication. Unfortunately, if this is what the “public wants,” it is one of the most expensive and difficult goals imaginable. While we should show how a lunar base (or whatever we decide to do) contributes toward that goal, it is far too ambitious a goal for this time.

    Mr. Robertson,

    I assume you are talking about space solar power.

    I agree that is an ambitious goal.

    Whether it is too ambitious depends on what you are proposing that we do. I think a huge national program to create a space solar power industry is unjustified. But can we take incremental steps (like supporting investments in RLVs and the development of commercial on-orbit assembly) to bringing about the day in which SSP makes economic sense. You betcha.

    In this case, SSP is ambitious, but completely justified. As examples …

    Curing cancer is an ambitious goal. Does anybody seriously stand up and say we should not even try because “It is too ambitious”? No.

    Instead of not even trying, serious people are working on incremental steps to solving the problem, and achieving the objective.

    Ending world hunger is ambitious. Does anybody seriously stand up and say we should not even try because “It is too ambitious”? No.

    Instead of not even trying, serious people are working on incremental steps to solving the problem, and achieving the objective.

    World peace is ambitious. Does anybody seriously stand up and say we should not even try because “It is too ambitious”? No.

    Instead of not even trying, serious people deal are working on incremental steps to solving the problem, and achieving the objective.

    Is space solar power, which could provide a long-term solution to global warming AND would end our dependence on foreign oil, and would eliminate American economic support for dictators and cultures which hate America — ambitious. Yes.

    But we absolutly should invest in incremental steps on the road to SSP, and one day solving all these problems.

    IMO, it is a tragedy that nobody today is working on such incremental steps to SSP.

    - SSP Fan

  • it is a tragedy that nobody today is working on such incremental steps to SSP.

    That’s simply not true.

    My group has made what we consider to be significant advances in SPS demonstration architecture. What is more, for every bundle of solar panels delivered to orbit, that payload is necessarily accompanied by a rocket, which consists of cryogenic tankage, so by technical default, SPS (SSP) demonstration is also space colonization and space launch demonstration.

    These concepts are inseparable, trivially, by simple physics.

  • Al, while I can see how your read my comment that way, that is not the way I meant it. I do agree that we should conduct market research while recognizing that is more complex than just asking people point blank what they wanted. I was giving my opinion of what the answer would be. And, I do maintain that what people actually buy (the Web hits, pizza) says more about what they want than what they say (space-based industry, whole grain cerials). It is not elitist to recognize that human nature is not a simple thing.

    SSP Fan, I may have phrased it more negatively, but I think I said pretty much what you did. While I had a different list of incremental steps than you do, I certainly agree that we should keep major space industries like SSP in mind while we’re developing lesser goals. In fact, that is why I think the value of what we’re learning to do on the Space Station is vastly underestimated. If we are going to build SSPs or any other big project, even if its built up from prefabricated modules docked together, there is going to be a lot of construction and maintenance using just the skills we’re learning now.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    Actually the MER, even under the distance constraints they are operating under, have already made such a “chance” discovery.

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/mer-011905.html

    [[[Opportunity Rover Finds an Iron Meteorite on Mars]]]

    Yes, humans are good to have on the moon and I know what you mean about field work, I had a number of field labs while attending New Mexico Tech and even found some Triassic fossil tracks that one of the faculty wrote a paper on while on one such lab. In short they were lots of fun.

    What I expect will happen is a partnership between rovers and humans. Think of the rovers as mechanical “hunting dogs” sniffing out good locations and then the humans suiting up to go look them over. A perfect blending of what both systems are best at.

    In regards to the economics of SSP, a large number of individuals see promise it. Here are some websites on it.

    http://www.sspi.gatech.edu/

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/868/1

    As for the results of the question, if you read the rest of the slide show you would see what it meant, namely that the public wants the nation’s space program to provide visible benefits, not aesthetic ones. Energy from space and planetary defense are goals they could buy into. But searching for life on Mars is not widely supported.

    Also I agree more research is needed, much more. Especially if casual models of attitude formation are to be developed to understand the public perception of space and their expectations from national spending on space. But unfortunately there is no funding source for such research.

    As for the billions of hits on space exploration missions. The key question is how many are the same individual visiting several times a day? How many are students doing school report? There are 50 million kids in the U.S. education system. If each one logs in a dozen times or so for a required school report the number will shoot up fast and mean nothing in terms support for space. The number of unique visitors and their demographics is key. Also their behavior is important. Are folks just downloading the cool pictures as screen savers? Demographics are key. Visitor logs are used on ecommerce websites to track such information, especially purchase data.

    And the most important of all, how many would be willing to campaign for more government spending for such missions? Or support groups that do?

    The small membership of the various space advocate groups actually speaks for itself on the last question. Environmental advocate groups raise billions of dollars every year in membership fees and donations. The major space advocate groups are lucky to raise a couple of million at most. That in my opinion speaks louder then any survey on the real disconnect between NASA and the space advocates community and the general public on what the nation’s space goals should be. And why any real increase in NASA’s budget, or public support for VSE, is very unlikely.

    Also in regards to the difficulty and cost of SSP. It may well be that the public is far border then space advocates in what they expect from a national space program. And far more disappointed in what they have received. This could explain a lot about why strong public support is lacking for VSE.

  • It is true that international background and support to LRO mission is more about rhetoric wishes than reality.

    Russia openly declared it has no interest on cooperation on US lunar policy.
    Japan, China and India makes now their first steps and plan to launch first orbital probes without aim to lend the surface; something that US achieved few decades ago. Europeans even don’t have any detailed plan and it seems that SMART 1 was last European lunar adventure for long future; they more focus on Galileo system and other earth-related issues.

    We will see how much this project can enhance the international cooperation or whether it will be seemed more as a US lonely song.

    M.
    http://moonpolicy.blogspot.com

  • Dave Huntsman

    Paul –
    Listening to you at ISDC and reviewing your charts now I think I know where you’re coming from. You and I are in most (but not all) cases in violent agreement. Since it’s not fun to agree, I’ll pick mainly on the other couple of points:

    1. I do agree that ‘here we go again’ – history repeating itself, in terms of the Agency focusing on the couple big projects as ends in themselves, rather than the real mission – is indeed occuring, all over again..

    2. I disagree that ‘building infrastructure’ is one of the main goals – because of how that ends up being defined. (eg, focusing on L1 et al depots more upfront than not). Big, government-built and owned facilities almost always are unaffordable and unsustainable over the long run. (And if they were sustainable, it wouldn’t be government owned).

    Focusing NASA’s efforts on the creation of ‘tipping points’ sooner, not later would seem more sustainable than building big vehicles and just assuming it will all work out. The quicker ISRU on NEOs and the lunar surface are actually demo’d, for example, the better. (Right now, practical ISRU demos are ‘later’, and only when not inconvenient in the current architecture. And that’s bad).

    3. One (IMO) major error on your part, is over-promising in one respect. There is no near-or medium-term prospect of lunar resources for OFF-moon applications being viable; .and promising that it is is a major mistake. For example: At ISDC, SpaceWorks Engineering presented a joint economic anaylysis (with Shimizu of Tokyo) of lunar resource generation and use, principally comparing use of lunar resources on the moon (eg, refuelling an ascent stage with LOX); with actually carrying that LOX et al to other locations (like LOO or beyond). The study was the most complete yet I’ve seen, and clearly shows that the former is viable economically – but the latter, isn’t, by a long shot, as long as you’re stuck using rockets. Going both into, and out of, the lunar gravity well is a killer, unless you just wish away a lot of the costs. Going to and from the lunar surface mandates inefficient chemical stages with Isps of 300-450 seconds. And that eats your economic lunch in one scenario after another.

    4. What SpaceWorks/Shimizu, and most others..including, I think, you….
    don’t take into account is that far and away the greatest demand for resources is in LEO itself; including for departure and landing stages. (After all, most of the mass of any stage departing LEO is still propellant, for example). If the area of greatest (commercial) demand is ignored in cis-lunar commercial and resource arguments, pretending that the other areas make good economic (meaning, sustainable) cases is clearly misleaading.

    Short of a mass driver et al with LOX – which I think is ‘far term’ at best, including catching and processing – the Moon should not be promised as a source of materials for other locations – at all. Except for oxygen, most of the resources aren’t there; the gravity well…and the inefficient engines they require…end up being economic killers.

    (By the way: at ISDC, Boeing/Dallas Bienhoff presented their business case assessment of LEO refueling options on a brutally practical level; including what scenarios they may or may not work in, using earth-launched propellants. But as he pointed out, a LEO depot would buy the fuel from wherever made economic sense. But no time soon will that be from the lunar surface; the numbers just don’t work out).

    5. Reasons select NEOs can (I believe) end up being the only near/mid-term economic solution for resources used:
    - unlike inefficient 300-450 sec chemical engines, most of cis-lunar to/from NEO missions can be handled by 4000 sec ion engines; an order-of magnitude less propellant consumption. And propellant mass out of LEO is the single biggest factor to consider.

    - not only are many NEOs closer to/from delta-V wise to LEO than the luanr surface, some are ‘closer’ to LEO than even lunar orbit is.
    - while the resources vary greatly with the type of NEO, it’s (fairly) safe to say that a greater variety of resources -including water/hydrogen-containing compounds – are availabe on many NEOs than on most – possibly, all – of the lunar surface.
    More resources – easier to get to = much greater chance of being economically viable. And, to top it all off…..more exciting for the public paying the bills.

    The one area where, I think, I detect ‘bias’ in your proposals, is that you seem to be (to me) to be ‘lunar surface uber alles’. As you – correctly – point out in your pitch, NASA historically – and NASA now – keeps forgetting what the ‘real mission’ is, as it adopts things like the vehicles as the true goals. I feel you are doing the very same thing with the ‘lunar-uber-allles’ paradigm: by pushing so hard on it – including over-promising on where, and how, lunar resources can be truly useful – you’re also forgeting why we are supposed to be doing all this: space sustainability, including earlier-not-later- enabling of space commercialization. Meaning the driving factors need to be economic sustainability, including the earlier-not-later creation of economic tipping points. The lunar surface doesn’t do that; period.

    Just as you are correct to point out that cancelling most lunar robotic missions violates Bush’s direction, it should also be pointed out that his direction allows use of resources from other than the moon to get the job done, as well. The implication in other places that we must go and touch the moon first, or else we’re not following orders, is simply not true.

    There are reasons for humanity to go to the lunar surface. As you point out, learning to live on a different world really is a reason. If we could get balanced funding for alternative fusion concepts, Jack Schmitt may be right on the one, true, high-value lunar export resource: Helium-3. But until the latter happens, stick to the first one, and please don’t over-promise on what the lunar surface can do for us in the near-and mid-term.

    Dave Huntsman

  • Dave,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I never claimed to be “UNbiased”! I’ve thought for many years that the Moon was and is the logical next destination in space beyond LEO. Learning how to develop and use resources is the principal mission, but there are also good scientific and technical reasons for establishing a permanent human presence there.

    You may be correct about propellant export, but I draw on a (quite thorough) fiscal and technical study that the Colorado School of Mines did for DARPA in 2003 that concluded propellant export was financially sustainable IF water ice equivalent deposits could be found in concentrations greater than about 1.5 weight percent at the poles. I think the existing data support such concentration levels, but readily admit that they need to be verified (by robotic missions, which are no longer planned).

    Helium-3 is a non-starter until we develop the fusion technology to levels significantly higher than currently exist.

    Finally, I do not oppose asteroidal missions and exploitation, but think of them as an extension of capabilities and technologies that we will develop on the Moon.

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi All,

    Relevant to this discuss is that NASA just released its report on cooperation with other nations in exploration. Its called “The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination,”. It’s a 25 page document and a copy may be downloaded here.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/178109main_ges_framework.pdf

    The vision statement in it is good – to learn, to create economic opportunity and to solve problems on Earth. It also addresses NEO impact mitigation. But instead of rigid agreements like the ISS Convention its calling for voluntary cooperation instead.

    Tom

  • anonymous

    “Its called ‘The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination,’”

    I hate to play the negative nelly, but color me woefully unimpressed. I read through the 25-page document and found nothing of substance. It does little more than reaffirm that the world’s civil space agencies support civil space exploration (surprise, surprise). It does make a vague promise about establishing a “Coordination Mechanism” at some future point in time. But that’s just a plan to get to the plan that will maybe create the governing body that might actually develop the foreign agreements that could someday result in cooperative space exploration activities.

    It would be another thing if a foreign space agency had actually signed up to contribute something to the human lunar return effort. That would represent substantive progress towards achieving the foreign policy goals of the VSE and would be worthy of a major press event. Heck, even the actual formation of this “Coordination Mechanism” and its membership would be worth a minor press note. But who in their right mind in NASA management, external affairs, or public affairs thought that this non-achievement was worth trumpeting in a press release?

    I shudder to think how many highly paid civil servant hours go into creating these do-nothing documents. Several years in and this is all we have to show in terms of foreign involvement?

    What a waste of time…

  • Thomas: Actually the MER, even under the distance constraints they are operating under, have already made such a “chance” discovery

    It was sitting on the surface. If that is the best we can do, it will be a long time before we understand much about Martian geology! I’ll be impressed when they find that nugget under a couple meters of fill, something an astronaut with a shovel digging the foundations for a base can do easily, but is extremely difficult to automate. Remember, it’s not just the digging — which is hard enough — it’s recognizing what you’ve found, being able to manipulate it without destroying it, handling objects at many different scales, et cetera.

    (Our plumber told us that we would save a fortune if we dug our own ditch, so this old man has been practicing his ditch digging skills in the back yard, and you’d be amazed what I stumbled into without really trying. In addition to a ton of old square iron nails and less identifiable metal objects that may have been window sash weights, we found a probable wine bottle with the “Roman glass” mineralization indicating great age and managed to retrieve it without breaking it, as well as large fragments of two beautiful Victorian tea pots. These are the types of skills that will be needed to understand the geology or fossilized life of a planet. Show me the robot that can do them, then I’ll change my tune.)

    Dave: And if they were sustainable, it wouldn’t be government owned

    Which, is kinda the point. Every impending truly commercial activity in space (tourism, logistics delivery) is motivated by serving, or was first demonstrated on, a government-built and owned “unsustainable” facility. True, the nthgeneration needs to be different, but, although I would love to be proven wrong, no one is likely to finance purely private bases on the moon until NASA (or China or someone else) creates the first generation transportation systems and / or a base to give it a commercial reason. (Though I still hope the Space Station may serve some of that role — see my paragraph below on 02 delivery.)

    The quicker ISRU on NEOs and the lunar surface are actually demo’d, for example, the better. (Right now, practical ISRU demos are ‘later’, and only when not inconvenient in the current architecture.

    I agree, but this is unlikely on a large scale without the need (or impending need) of supplying a base or something driving the investment. I have argued that the first mission of the VSE should have been an experimental oxygen plant launched on an EELV. According to Dwayne Day in last month’s Spaceflight, NASA doesn’t even plan to experiment with this until the fourth year of lunar operations. That is a far greater mistake than using the wrong launch vehicle.

    Regarding bringing lunar O2 back to Earth, it depends on the scale. Bringing the odd tank of oxygen being mined anyway for use on the moon back in a spacecraft that is returning anyway and docking it to the Space Station (or a commercial facility) could be worthwhile without being economic, when a larger scale operation is not. But, that would be a start, and once it is demonstrated, people are likely to find other applications for that oxygen. Saying that an early oxygen trade is “uneconomic” may well be true, but it ignores the longer term big picture. The attitude results from looking only at the finished product — a large oxygen industry — and ignoring the slow incremental steps (probably over decades) that get you there. That said, I agree that a NEO asteroid resource mission should be a very high priority — but a mission does not by itself create a market and right now we need that a lot more than we need a source. Also, as I argued above, the Martian moons offer a unique combination of low delta-Vs, deep space experience, the possibility of a base and thus a market, resources to serve that and external markets . . . and a planet to study — potentially satisfying a lot of constituencies. Most likely, they are too challenging to be our next goal, but they certainly should be included in the one after that.

    Regarding the other discussion in this thread, Dr. Griffin just had a rather unfortunate interview on NPR. He sounded like a tired old man supporting a project he did not really believe in, and did nothing to fill even me with enthusiasm for his goals, let alone his means. His answer to spending the VSE money instead on global warming research was intelligent and accurate, in isolation, but coming from an Administration that has totally discredited itself on this issue, it sounded like justifying unjustifiable decisions that had already been made. This man really is impossible when it comes to politics.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    The Genesis rock was also on the surface waiting to be picked:

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/moon_rock_analysis_000522_MB_.html

    [[["But the rock did get a lot of attention because it was just what they were looking for," he said. "It was found in the highlands and the reason it was prominent was because of the way it was perched up on a pedestal of dirt, like it was waiting to be collected. It was white, covered in dust."]]]

    Even one of the MERs, if they were on the Moon, would had found it… No one dug a trench for it.

    And as for you trench example. Rovers have the ability to did trenches as well and the operator would see those bottles, nails, etc. just as well as the astronaut. More to the point, not running on a limited Oxygen supply the rover would have time to carefully study them in-situ before their removal. Indeed the rover could even do a microscopic and spectroscopic study of them in-situ which an Astronaut not be able to do. And best of all the video tape of the dig would allow other researchers, even years later, perhaps see new details of the discovery and how the objects were handled at the time of discovery, something not possible with your discovery of the bottles in your trench.

    Really, you need to talk to some ocean researchers about how ROVs have revolutionize their field to get a sense of what the state-of-the-art of rover exploration is.

    As for robots and the VSE. The way I see it they should really be used to build the moon base for the astronauts. A proper VSE would have a group of robots waiting for the first astronauts to arrive, their landing televised live by multiple cameras. And a hot meal waiting for them when they enter the finished base for the first time.

    Now that would be real 21st century lunar exploration. No surprise boulder fields causing the NASA controllers to turn blue wondering if the lander was going to run out of fuel and crash before it found a safe place to land. With today’s technology, especially the ability to scout a landing site using rovers first, that would border on criminal negligence by NASA.

  • Tom

    Dave-

    Check the asteroid Vinf values by doing a search using this web page:

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/neo_ca

    Some Vinf are quite low, most aren’t.

    You make some great points about over-promising the moon…just make sure that you don’t over-promise asteroids as an alternative.

  • [...] Librarian’s Note: The guys/gals who documented the film should have the DVDs up on their website soon. I got a production goof that also contains the Leshin & Spudis talks. I can see why Dr. Spudis’ talk may have ruffled a few feathers, as noted over at Space Politics. [...]

  • Thomas: Regarding the genesis rock, fair enough. My point that not all rocks will be so easy to find remains. Also, this rock was not found on a flat empty field. Would your rover or its remote operators have been able to cover enough rugged territory rapidly enough to have found the rock, then, more importantly, have noticed it amid the clutter? Then, would they have recognized it for what it was? Human eyes are remarkably skilled at separating patterns from background clutter in real time.

    And as for you trench example. Rovers have the ability to did trenches as well and the operator would see those bottles, nails, etc. just as well as the astronaut.

    Maybe some, but I don’t think even robotics experts think that rovers could do this “just as well as an astronaut.” When geologists start regularly resorting to robots in the Arizona desert because they are superior to what they can do, then I’ll grant your point. Robots today are used because there is no perceived choice, not because of their skills.

    More to the point, not running on a limited Oxygen supply the rover would have time to carefully study them in-situ before their removal.

    Oxygen is cheap, and, if we actually go there and separate it from the rocks, it is likely to be relatively so on the moon. Likewise, an astronaut in a few hours could cover as much ground, and do it in far greater detail, than any rover has yet demonstrated in years of operation.

    Indeed the rover could even do a microscopic and spectroscopic study of them in-situ which an Astronaut not be able to do.

    Of course astronauts can do that. First, an astronaut can look through the camera, than act on it in real time. (Sure, to a very limited degree, you could use teleoperation on the moon, but then you learn none of the skills you would need to do geology in the other accessible parts of the Solar System, where teleoperation from Earth ranges from difficult to impossible.) More importantly, few cameras have the color resolution and none have the pattern recognition abilities of a human eye.

    And best of all the video tape of the dig would allow other researchers, even years later, perhaps see new details of the discovery and how the objects were handled at the time of discovery, something not possible with your discovery of the bottles in your trench.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I do believe the photos taken by the astronauts on the moon are still being studied today. The astronauts rapidly took multiple photos of every target, both cross-sun and down-sun (once astronauts realized on Apollo-11 that was important), tasks that would take any foreseeable rover months or years.

    A proper VSE would have a group of robots waiting for the first astronauts to arrive

    I have not argued against this, so long as they are cheap and optimized for this task. It’s automating science I’m dubious about, not reconnaissance.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    Its not automating science. Its about expanding human capabilities. Once upon a time all astronomy was done using eye pieces and the human eye. And the same arguments about how no camera would be better then a human eye for seeing planetary details were used as you are using now for rovers. They progress came along and today even many amateurs use CCD’s for their serious observing and human eye astronomy has disappeared at the professional level.

    Also, as I noted, don’t compare the speed of the Mars rovers with the Lunar ones. Bandwidth and a 1.5 second delay make a huge difference. And even with their communication related speed handicap the MERs have covered a lot of ground.

  • Thomas: the MERs have covered a lot of ground

    But, I walk more almost every single day than each of them have covered in three years. Also, faster rovers can get in trouble faster. One of the reasons the MERs have succeeded is their extreme care in taking on the landscape, and even then they’ve had some very close calls. Duplicate that care on the moon, and you’re not likely to go very fast no matter what the bandwidth.

    And the same arguments about how no camera would be better then a human eye for seeing planetary details were used as you are using now for rovers.

    That is not the same argument. No astronomer, not one, is likely to argue that a CCD is superior to an eye on site, attached to a hand that can manipulate an object. Once again, telescopes are used because there is no perceived choice, not because of their superior capabilities.

    However, a note of clarification is in order here. I am not against using robots to augment human capabilities, although I think we probably try to use them a little more than we should to achieve knowledge at the the optimum cost. I am against using robots as a replacement for human capabilities, i.e., by sending robots to the moon to do what astronauts we plan to send there anyway can do faster and better. We should certainly use telescopes, orbiters, and rovers, to do reconnaissance and to go where we can’t and to do early quick looks. But, no robot in any of our lifetimes is going to be a Jack Schmidt or, even more importantly, a John Muir. All of the skills represented both these two individuals are vital elements in exploration. They are not optional.

    Sure, the capabilities you talk about can supplement human skills, but they can never replace them, and whenever it comes down to a financial choice, I believe we are better served by going for a little of the latter than a lot of the former. Ideally we need both. But, if it really is a choice, you’ll know a lot more by having one geologist on, say, one asteroid, than remote or robotic observation of ten or a thousand asteroids.

    I recognize these are not popular opinions, but if you examine the history of science where, again and again, the wrong conclusion came from remote observation (or worse, from theory combined with remote observation), I’m more likely to be right than you are.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    I think we are closer then you seem to think. I see robots as a tool. They allow more lunar geology, not less, by being more individuals on the Earth to overlook the astronautes. Look at how valuable the remote operated cameras were on the lunar buggies, allowing the scientist team on Earth to interact with the astronaust as they were working on Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

    That was a tatse of the future of lunar exploration. Robots, many of them, supporting the astronauts doing the exploration. And in the interim surveying the ground before hand.

    Once again, look at how ocean researchers have intergrated ROVs into their exploration of the sea floor.

  • Jeff Foust

    No astronomer, not one, is likely to argue that a CCD is superior to an eye on site, attached to a hand that can manipulate an object.

    Most astronomers are unable to access the objects of their interest, or to manipulate them in a safe manner: stars, galaxies, black holes, and the like aren’t exactly objects you can pick up with your hand. Perhaps Mr. Robertson meant planetary geologists instead?

  • kert

    Just on topic of robotic capabilities: i hope you are all aware that space robotics in its current form and capabilities is quite far behind of terrestrial robotics. Due do the simple fact that robotics field is evolving currently at lighting speed ( fundamental new capabilities are enabled by several new types of MEMS sensors and exponential growth of distributed embedded computing power, you can have hundreds of DSPs running on a mobile device at very low cost ) and space-qualified and/or rad-hardened versions of these things are nonexistant or lightyears behind.

  • Paul Dietz

    I’ll reserve judgement as to whether additional robotic missions after LRO are absolutely needed.

    IMO, any plan that has a moon base without also having robots at the moon base is not a serious plan. Having astronauts on site eliminates many of the residual concerns about reliability and recoverability from mishaps, and the robots would multiply the effectiveness of the astronauts. Automation makes increasing sense as labor costs increase, and the cost of labor on the moon will be very high indeed.

  • On the Spaceworks analysis that Dave Huntsman quotes as

    “comparing use of lunar resources on the moon (eg, refuelling an ascent stage with LOX); with actually carrying that LOX et al to other locations”

    Actually, I attended that talk, and that’s not quite what they looked at. They were looking not at LOX only, but lunar LOX + LH2. When asked about LOX-only the presenter said that would be good to look at but they hadn’t had the opportunity. The governing factor in their analysis was their cost estimate for LOX+LH2 manufactured on the moon – that drives all the other estimates. The comment made was that you could get oxygen out of regolith just by heating it (not sure this is accurate) – but whatever the method, if there are cheaper ways of manufacturing oxygen on the moon than cracking water ice, that changes the whole picture no matter the cost of lunar manufacture of hydrogen (because it’s light enough you can import it wherever you need it).

  • Thomas Matula

    Kert,

    Exactly why its unforunate NASA is not developing a vigorous lunar rover program. It would be an excellent opportunity to import those new technologies into space robotics.

  • Jeff Foust: Perhaps Mr. Robertson meant planetary geologists instead?

    Maybe it shows my age, but I tend to think of planetary geologists as a subset of astronomers. (Didn’t Clarke or someone once say that an Astronomer is someone who knows almost nothing about everything?)

    I argue (rightly or wrongly) that we should send humans where they can go. No human being is going to go to the galactic center in our lifetimes, so there we use telescopes. But, using a telescope on Mars at this point in time, while occasionally useful, is not where you are going to learn the most. So, here and now, to get the best science you need people on Earth’s moon, the asteroids with the lowest delta-Vs, and possibly the Martian moons. Robots anywhere else in the Solar System (as long as it is not at the expense of the first option). Telescopes elsewhere (as long as it is not at the expense of the first two).

    I do grant there is a lot of overlap. Obviously, telescopes can still tell us a lot of original information about, say, Neptune, even though that system has been visited by a spacecraft. Likewise (and not generally recognized even by astronomers, although it should be), local observation can feed back into remote observation (and if it were more widely recognized, this information would be better used). My example is, most of the worlds of the galaxy are very likely to be dominated by regolith, probably not all that different from that which dominates the moon and is present on Mars. Thus, greater understanding of the behavior and history of regolith should tell you a lot about conditions on worlds very far from home. Many scientists appear to happily assume that we know everything there is to know about regolith. If so, they are wrong. Any good scientific history of Apollo (or even watching what’s now going on in the highly modified regolith on Mars) shows how wrong such an attitude can be. Yet, a good understanding of the moon and Mars will provide a solid foundation for understanding what we’re seeing when we start observing terrestrial-sized worlds around other stars.

    To understand the wider universe, geologists on the accessible worlds are not a nice-to-have option, they are essential. Anyone who pretends otherwise is ignoring the most basic foundations of the scientific method as it has been practiced with great success. Observation and theory, without physical experiments, is religion, not science.

    – Donald

  • One additional comment about the importance of understanding regolith. It is quite possible, or even likely, that life started on Earth in a regolith-dominated environment. Nothing further need be said!

    – Donald

  • Bill White

    The comment made was that you could get oxygen out of regolith just by heating it (not sure this is accurate) – but whatever the method, if there are cheaper ways of manufacturing oxygen on the moon than cracking water ice, that changes the whole picture no matter the cost of lunar manufacture of hydrogen (because it’s light enough you can import it wherever you need it).

    At ~2000 K, ordinary dry lunar regolith will out-gas oxygen.

    Generate the heat with passive solar concentrators (commercial grade mylar set on lightweight inflatable parabolic forms should work and require very little mass sent from Earth). There are very real engineering challenges but no apparent violations of the laws of physics.

    No need to find water ice (if there be any) and the pyrolysis extraction of O2 can be done anywhere on the Moon since SiO2, TiO2 and Al2O3 are abundant everywhere on the lunar surface. No need to restrict LOX production to the polar regions.

    One link:

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/reports/CB-1063/GaTech.pdf

    and an old,old NASA paper:

    http://209.188.136.70/ralston/programs/itech/SpaceSettlement/spaceresvol3/vaporpp1.htm

  • Dave Huntsman

    You make some great points about over-promising the moon…just make sure that you don’t over-promise asteroids as an alternative.

    Me? Over-promise?? Nevahhhhh…..

    dave

  • Thomas Matula

    Hi Jeff,

    The point I was trying to make about the CCDs was that modern camera are far more likely to see something like the “Genesis Rock” than unassisted human eyeballs. That is what I gather from Donald’s comments on saying a rover would miss it. Of course the reality of have several sets of eyes watching the rovers image displays increases even more the odds that something that important will be seen.

    Perhaps a better analogy would be space and weather. In the 1950’s many writers like Willy Ley and Arthur C. Clarke argued that one big advantage of space stations would be that they would allow trained meteorologists based on the space stations to predict weather by allowing them to see it happening globally. In reality satellites (i.e. remote operated robots if you would…) work several times better. Not only are their imaging systems far better then the human eye, but the images are available to thousands of meteorologists world wide in near real time, both professional and amateurs. Last I looked none of the astronauts had a strong background in meteorology and there are no meteorologists schedule to work on the ISS. That field has gone through its paradigm shift just as astronomy has.

    One of the key mistakes of many individuals looking at space exploration is to take research practices that are done on Earth like field trips and say they are necessary in space. In reality how science research (and commerce) is done in space, on the Moon and beyond will be much different. One good example is how Arthur C. Clarke’s three massive space stations in GEO orbit, with hundreds of technicians on board, were replaced by hundred of unmanned Comsats.

    There will likely be astronauts geologists on the Moon. But the bulk of the field work, and discoveries, will be made by robots operated telebotically from Earth.

    The key point is to remember the reason for geology fieldwork. It is to collect, plot and analyze samples from the field to map the distribution of different geological characteristics to identify patterns. This in turn leads geologists to make and test hypothesis on how the geological features were formed, understand the geological history of the area and identify possible features and deposits that might be of economic importance.

    With today’s tele-robot technology none of that requires boots on the ground unless those boots on the ground are much cheaper then the tele-robotic alternatives. For Earth this is true, for the Moon and beyond, at the current level of technology it is not. Instead what human geologists will find when the return to the Moon is that their main task will be to repair the tele-operated robots and just be a part of hands for the senior geologists watching their field research by camera from Earth.

    The Apollo missions, even with the primitive camera systems, were a taste of that with the scientists watching the lunar EVAs on the monitor and making suggestions for sampling. The new tele-robotic technology will make future lunar missions even more so.

  • Paul Dietz

    Helium-3 is a non-starter until we develop the fusion technology to levels significantly higher than currently exist.

    Even if 3He-burning fusion reactors were fully developed, it would still be a non-starter. Mining 10 ppb 3He from regolith at acceptable cost would be a herculean task, optimistic slideware notwithstanding.

  • Thomas: erhaps a better analogy would be space and weather. In the 1950’s many writers like Willy Ley and Arthur C. Clarke argued that one big advantage of space stations would be that they would allow trained meteorologists based on the space stations to predict weather by allowing them to see it happening globally. In reality satellites (i.e. remote operated robots if you would…) work several times better.

    Interesting that you would raise this point, since, to this date, astronauts watching out of Space Station windows regularly see things that orbital cameras have missed. In pattern recognition (if in little else), the human eye still reigns supreme. The problem is that, you (this isn’t personal, too many people do it) ignore the news from the human space program, and only look at the “science” half of things.

    You are dead wrong about field work Have you done any? Read the scientific histories of Apollo. Take a geology course.

    it is to collect, plot and analyze samples from the field to map the distribution of different geological characteristics to identify patterns.

    This is precisely what humans are good at and robots are not. In only three days, Apollo-17 astronauts (with first generation planetary equipment and space suits) did a detailed survey of an entire alpine valley, complete with up- and cross-sun imagery of many thousands of targets, obtained many hundreds of intelligently-collected samples, explored steep talus-covered slopes and inside many tens of craters (something Opportunity has done with only great difficulty in a small handful of mostly shallow craters, and Spirit has avoided doing at all). They casually picked up and examined from all angles many hundreds of rocks, of many different sizes and textures, from loose breccas to fines to boulders.

    Apollo-16 astronauts found and delt with a landscape very different from what your robots had led them to expect, efficiently and in real time. Apollo-14 astronauts survived being lost and still achieved all but one of their major goals. Not one astronaut was lost on the moon, in sharp contrast to what has happened to your robots on Mars.

    Study what actually happened. Even at its enormously high cost, the scientific efficiency of first generation Apollo was so high relative to what nth-generation robots can achieve that it is far from clear that the money is better spent on the latter (and I think the reverse the case). Given that we want to send astronauts back to the moon anyway for other reasons and thus cover some of the cost, the science justification becomes very strong.

    Just because “everyone knows” that robots are better does not make it true. Don’t just follow the pack: study the real history, then make your conclusions.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    Actually I had a number of geology classes when I was majoring in geological engineering at New Mexico Tech. And have done field work both in connection with those classes and helping friends who were doing field work for their Ph.D’s, and Masters.

    And I have studied history and know when I see a paradigm shift occuring in a field. It already has occurred in ocean exploration as I have noted. Int he 1960′s the focus was on human research subs for ocean research. The new focus is on ROVs and its unlikely humans will travel as deep in the ocean as they did in the 1960′s for many, many years into the future.

    The key point is that new suits are not going to improve humans very much over the capabilities they had during Apollo. By contrast tele-operated robotic technology are surging forward rapidly, driven by their value in doing tasks on Earth. Many industrial applications, like mining, are already heavily robotic.

    But I don’t need to argue this further as the evidence will be when we return to the moon and the astronuats end of spending most of their time working on the lunar exlporation rovers and not doing the field work to the extent it had to be done on Apollo. I know space advocates really hope that space exploration will be like work, but its going to be far more like the visions of Issac Asimove versus that of Arthur C.Clarke and Robert Heinlien.

  • Thomas: I see a paradigm shift occuring in a field.

    I certainly grant the paradigm shift. I only argue that it is a mistake when employed where not necessary. There have been many examples of paradigm shifts that have proven to be mistakes, and I don’t think that the fact of a paradigm shift, by itself, proves that you and other advocates of the shift correct. Likewise, the fact that scientists are doing something in the ocean does not mean, by itself, that they are correct to abandon another way of doing it. While I know little about ocean exploration, I would tend to suspect that exclusively automating that will prove a mistake for the advancement of science, as well.

    By contrast tele-operated robotic technology are surging forward rapidly,

    I grant this too. That does not change the fact that these technologies have a long, long way to go before they can match the innate skills of a human being. Nor is field work itself the only consideration. John Muir could never have taken his photos through the lense of a teleoperated robot, and these images created a more important paradigm shift than anything, so far, to come out of the automated space program. Likewise, the visual and verbal imagery generated by Apollo-8.

    Many industrial applications, like mining, are already heavily robotic.

    There is a world of difference between automating mining in a known environment, and automating field discovery, especially in a truly alien and largely unknown environment like the lunar surface. Just because you can do one does not necessarily mean you can do the other.

    astronuats end of spending most of their time working on the lunar exploration rovers

    Well, who else is going to do it? Automating repair of machinery has an even less satisfactory history than automating field geology. Even simple change-out of “black boxes” has proven extremely difficult to automate in the relatively benign environment of LEO. And you seriously think we’re going to miraculously do the far more difficult task of rover repair in the harsh and unknown environment of the lunar surface?

    new suits are not going to improve humans very much over the capabilities they had during Apollo

    This is widely believed, but demonstrably wrong. Astronauts are doing today on the Space Station tasks that were undreampt of by Apollo astronauts, who did little more than retrieve film canisters. There is no reason at all to believe that Apollo surface skills cannot be improved upon to a similar degree. More significantly, look at the dramatic learning curve from Apollo-11 to Apollo-17, which occurred far, far faster, and to a immeasurably greater degree, than any improvement in robotic techniques. If that learning curve had been allowed to continue, we would now know a lot more about the moon than we will with any conceivable set of teleoperated machines.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Donald,

    Robots are not automatic, they are remote operated tools operated by humans. The human judgement is still there, just sitting comfortably with a cup of coffee in an easy chair, not worry about have to get back to the shelter before their suit runs out of consumables. And with additional sets of eyeballs watching to see what they might miss. That is why ROV’s are replacing human subs in ocean research. Not as romantic but much more practical.

    Also I think you are referring to Ansel Adams, not John Muir. John Muir was mostly a nature writer. And all you have to do is look at the photos from various space robots, starting with the great image of Lunar Orbiter 2 of Copernicus which was called the picture of the year when it was taken.

    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-168/section2b.htm

    The only difference is the person clicking the shutter was a bit further away then Ansel Adams was.

    The difficulty of repairing robots is exactly why you will need astronauts at a lunar base, not to do the actual field work as you keep arguing. That will be done by remote control from Earth, opening it up to dozens, perhaps hundreds of geologists, not just one or two that are able to make it to the Moon as astronauts. And the geologists on the moon will probaly just be doing the preliminary lab work at the lunar base on the samples the rovers return before shipping them to labs on Earth. Now that is a job humans will be good at.

  • Thomas, you are still wrong (particularly in your last paragraph), but I have promised in another thread to “give it a rest for a while.” That was well taken, so at this point I will agree to disagree with you.

    – Donald

  • Steve Mickler

    Just want to comment on the first link Bill White mentioned in his comment above. The authors of the referenced paper failed to consider solar thermal/electric propulsion. While not suitable for lunar surface to/from orbit operations, STEP is superior to the other alternatives for transit from earth orbit to lunar orbit. In addition this type of propulsion can use lunar O2 or in theory ANYTHING as propellent so that valuable elements don’t get used up in transporting the valuable payload. Transit times are a little longer than chemical but not prohibitively so.
    Steve Mickler
    Solar Thermal/Electric Propulsion enthusiast
    First STEP

  • i need to know what scientists r doing 2 prevent meteorites from killing us all

  • [...] This is pretty cool news. One of the biggest bones of contention amongst scientists when it comes to NASA is the support NASA gives for pure science. This came to a head a couple of years back when NASA made noises that going to the Moon would be done for exploration and not scientific reasons, saying in fact that all they needed to get back to the Moon was "a good map". [...]

  • Papa Ray

    Great comments and discussion although I can see much discention in the ranks (of whom I know nothing of). But all in all that is a good thing (As Martha would say).

    But as an American with no ties nor special knowledge of America’s efforts to explore and exploit space an nearby objects, I do have to say that as long as America spends its trillions on social welfare and buying and bailing out corporations and banks…well, that doesn’t leave anything in the honey pot for notable explorations either to space or to deep oceans.

    Yes, we need to go to both, explore, learn and exploit. That is the nature of mankind. But as it stands now in 2009, the only hope we have of either in not government efforts but private efforts.

    And you know, that is sad…in many, many ways.

    God Bless those that have given their all and even their lives to make America’s space efforts something not only for the history books but for the advancement of mankind. It is unfortunate that most of those that did so, are now departed and that their knowledge, beliefs and fervor have not been replaced by the current generations.

    Sad indeed.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas
    USA

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