The Planetary Society’s “Roadmap to Space”

The Planetary Society has published its “Principles of the Roadmap to Space”, its guiding principles for NASA that it asks the next president to endorse. The key elements of these principles:

  • Human exploration of Mars should be a primary goal
  • The United States’ human space flight program is an enduring symbol of global leadership, and an incomparable engine for technological innovation
  • Science and exploration are inseparable
  • NASA’s mission—including the development of human space flight capabilities—needs to be realistic in scope and time

The society also has the results of a survey of its members, with nearly half endorsing human Mars missions as the “driving goal” for space exploration. Nearly three-quarters also said NASA should invest more in Earth sciences work to support climate monitoring.

10 comments to The Planetary Society’s “Roadmap to Space”

  • Planet Space

    This organization has lost all credibility.

    Anyway I study the problem, a previously visited and well known moon and a planet with nearly intractible deep gravity well, doesn’t stack up well at all in exploration trade space, to a pair of low gravity carbonaceaous moons and a recently rediscovered, new and mysterious nearly unknown fifth planet Ceres.

    Throw in a rogue near near Earth asteroid, and the whole plan is negated.

    Any way you stack it, the stick doesn’t make the cut.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Human exploration of Mars should be a primary goal

    They question that must be asked here is why Mars as the primary goal? What material benefit does it bring the United States? What is it that justifies its enormous cost at the expense of all other goals?

    Bullet # 4 effectively negates bullet number 1. The Human exploration of Mars at this time is not realistic, either in scope, finances, or in its fundamental reasoning. NASA’s current exploration architecture is falling apart even as this was announced due to the inordinate focus on the human exploration of Mars. The focus on Mars was a major contributing factor in the demise of SEI and it is the Achilles heel of the ESAS architecture.

    It is my position that a modular, extensible, and near term return to the Moon does more to put us into the position for the human exploration of Mars than any Mars only architecture. None of the systems required for extensive exploration of Mars have been demonstrated and even the science precursors have been wildly over budget and behind schedule.

    Critical technologies such as ISRU, advanced robotics, integrated communications, life support, and In Situ Food Production (ISFP), can and must be demonstrated before Mars is more than a bridge too far. The Moon is where all of this can be done, and can be done in a short period of time, if the inordinate focus on Mars and the uber vehicles required to get humans there are removed from the equation.

  • Vladislaw

    “1. The Human exploration of Mars at this time is not realistic,”

    If we were to shoot for mars, build a new nuclear powered propulsion system and then found the task to much and chopped it, as in apollo.

    Would we be better postioned in the next run for manned space missions if we already had the new under utilized propulsion system?

  • Vladislaw

    “The society also has the results of a survey of its members, with nearly half endorsing human Mars missions as the “driving goal” for space exploration.”

    It would have been nice to know just exactly how valuable this survey was.
    I could not find anywhere on the site, How many actually were sent the survey, and more importantly, how many actually voted.

    If they sent it to 10,000 and only 100 answered those numbers are basically meaningless. It would basically be saying what the few active controling members think and not the gerneral view of the mainstream member and how important the survey was to begin with.

    Personally, I have lost a little faith in the “Planetary” Society.
    if you goto their link here:

    “Extrasolar Planets
    Today, we know of more than 100 planets orbiting other stars, and that number is rapidly rising.”

    there is 100 extrasolar planets? THIS according to the PLANETARY Society?
    Exactly HOW old is THAT data?

    Months? YEARS?

    MAYBE if they actually spent a few minutes updating their site I would have a little more confidence.

  • Bob Mahoney

    The Planetary Society has been Mars-centric since its inception, so this recommendation is hardly surprising.

    Choosing any single destination as the be-all end-all of an entire national/international space effort is doomed to short-change itself by focusing solely on the achievement of that singular goal at the expense of establishing a sustainable architecture that permits access to ALL desired destinations.

    Exploration and exploitation of the entire solar system and its vast resources should be THE guiding principle of the US space program, with the enabling of commercial investment a strong corollary. This was what the VSE as originally presented was all about. The Moon happens to be the most logical starting point for re-wetting our boots and it can serve for building the foundation of such an architecture—if only the folks doing the designing keep their eyes on the long-term sustainability of the entire effort versus falling into the trap of getting destination-exclusive.

    ESAS and its insistence on re-inventing launch capability around 40-year-old perspectives about disposable lunar access is what would very likely benefit from some serious reconsideration. The true irony here is that it was the Planetary Society that sponsored the original architecture study co-chaired by NASA’s current administrator that essentially begat ESAS in the first place.

  • Bill White

    Doesn’t the Planetary Society have over 100,000 members while the National Space Society has roughly 20,000 (for example)? A quick Google search gave me those numbers. Setting aside the technical arguments, the Planetary Society’s road map creates a few political obstacles as well.

    As a former “Mars or bust” Zubrin-ista, my opinion is that beating back the Mars-first people will require a persuasive case for actually making money in cis-lunar space. And if we learn there are no recoverable metals on the Moon, then Mars and the asteroids is where we need to go. Mars for the possibility of life and as a “real” second planet and the asteroids for resources.

    Of course, we also need to recognize that NASA currently is not a “Mars capable” organization even if they somehow manage to build the Ares V, which looks increasingly unlikely from budgetary perspectives.

  • Bill White

    Bob Mahoney writes:

    Exploration and exploitation of the entire solar system and its vast resources should be THE guiding principle of the US space program, with the enabling of commercial investment a strong corollary.

    Whether it will ever be economical to harvest those resources would seem to be part of the calculation from the Planetary Society’s point of view.

    A viable plan for generating revenue (excluding tax dollars) from space exploration would seem to be the mission critical aspect of all this.

  • I agree with most here that Mars is not where we should first put our human spaceflight effort, and particularly with Dennis Wingo. With our present skills, it is too difficult and too risky a goal to bet everything on. Developing deep space skills through incremental achievements at easier destinations will get us to Mars far more safely, probably faster, and certainly more securely (meaning, to stay).

    Higher priorities should be to practice living off the land on Near Earth Asteroids and Earth’s moon, demonstrating the export of oxygen and water (and any metals) to orbital facilities like the ISS and applications satellites, searching for unanticipated knowledge and exploitable resources, and reducing the costs of all of the above. The skills we learn doing all that are directly applicable to later Mars missions. In particular, human missions to Phobos and Deimos (PhD missions) are far easier than actually reaching the surface of Mars, while demonstrating the deep space skills we will need to later land on Mars.

    — Donald

  • Dennis Wingo

    Amen brother Don.

  • […] Planetary Society, which announced its guiding principles for a “Roadmap to Space” a few weeks ago, followed that this morning with the release of its full-fledged exploration […]

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