NASA, Other

Lunar water and space policy

The discovery officially announced yesterday of more, and more widespread, water on the lunar surface has potential implications on space exploration policy: does it improve the case for the US—or someone else—to send people to the Moon? It’s a question addressed in a couple of pieces in The Times of London and The Independent, both of whom play up the potential for a new race to the Moon.

“This information could prove highly influential,” Howard McCurdy tells The Times, noting that it “increases the case” for a return to the Moon in a fiscally constrained time. The Independent gets a bit more hyperbolic, arguing that because India was involved in the discovery, it will force China to “intensify their efforts” in lunar exploration. “But what if the Chinese – or the Indians, or anyone else – goes ahead with an attempt to establish the first true lunar base? Will the US, the nation which planted its flag there, really stand by and let that happen without becoming involved itself?” The Independent even goes so far as to question the timing of yesterday’s announcement: “Do we really think the timing is a coincidence – of a Nasa announcement about lunar water which implies that establishing a Moon base might be more feasible than we thought in the past?” The folks at Science, who published the findings, might disagree.

Overall, it’s hard to see this discovery of water as a reason in and of itself for humans to go to the Moon. However, from the standpoint of making a human presence there potentially easier and less expensive, it may improve the odds of justifying other reasons to return to the Moon—if advocates can put together a compelling case.

32 comments to Lunar water and space policy

  • Doug Lassiter

    Re timing, I did find it amusing that the MRO press release on meteorite-excavated ice on Mars was timed to accompany this report about water and hydrated minerals on the Moon. Everyone wants to jump on the water bandwagon (or surfboard, maybe?)

    Completely true that this discovery is exciting in pointing out a resource that may make human exploration of the solar system somewhat easier, but it sure isn’t a reason to do so. As has been pointed out in many circles, the sensible response to such a discovery would be robotic followup on the lunar surface, rather than increased emphasis on putting humans there.

    One rather astonishing part of this is that the samples brought back by Apollo showed evidence for this water, but it was ignored because of presumably poor sealing of the sample transport boxes. So here’s a case where human spaceflight focused studies of lunar geology failed to find what may turn out to be the most important constituent of the lunar regolith.

  • Loki

    I doubt if the discovery of water will make much difference policy-wise. From a technical standpoint it somewhat reinforces the possibility of using ISRU to live off the land, thereby making it slightly cheaper in the long run, once the technology to extract water from regolith is developed.

    As for possibly sparking a new space race between the US and China and/ or India, I don’t really see that happening either. In order for a space race to start the US public would actually have to care. I think most people’s reaction to someone else landing on the moon would be “yawn, been there done that 40+ years ago, what’s really important is when is Americal Idol on?”

  • I’m curious. From what I read there is evidence of micro-amounts of water dispersed over much of the lunar surface. Is there still reason to believe that larger deposits of ice are found in permanently shaded craters at the poles?

  • Robert Oler

    The issue of lunar water will (and already has) gotten the “return to the Moon” folks all hyperventalating…but the reality is it is not as if we have found Lake Tawakoni in frozen form ready to be claimed by the first humans to plant their flag on it…

    What it argues for is some additional uncrewed missions to map out the scope and depth (grin) of the water issue…after all it is hard to argue now that “exploration” wasnt done by the uncrewed vehicles since they are the ones who found it.

    At that point some appraisal can be made of the true value of the water. Did I read somewhere that if all the apollo rocks were 100 percent processed for water…one would get a tablespoon out of it? There are probably “Anwar” like concentrations of it, which would be far more valuable…but its hard to argue as some have that President Obama should grab the JFK podium go to Rice University and redo Apollo.

    Most Americans would say “are you nuts?”

    Doug L in his post has hit the most astonishing part…it looks as if the Apollo samples were “misscienced” (my words) which I guess makes me wonder if the “Viking” (Mars probes) results on Martian life…were over analyzed as well.

    Water on the Moon is “entertaining”…far more entertaining to me is the biology that has been done on the space station AND Musk’s theories on the first flight of the Falcon9.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Loki: thereby making it slightly cheaper in the long run

    Without right now getting into whether we should go back to Earth’s moon, I would think finding accessible water would make a permanent outpost (and maybe even temporary ones) rather a lot cheaper. Oxygen is by far the heaviest commodity likely to be needed in large quantities, and it can be used for drinking, bathing, growing things, and as the heaviest part of fuel. If none of that has to be delivered to the moon, you would save huge amounts of money. . . .

    – Donald

  • Major Tom

    Even assuming a strong rationale for human lunar return, it’s hard to see this resource being utilized, at least based on some rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations. For example…

    The Apollo LEM ascent stage used 1.9 tons of hypergolic propellant — for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume an even 2 tons, or 64,000 ounces, of LH2/LOX is needed for some future human lunar ascent stage. Based on the data, AvWeek reports that 32 ounces of water could be extracted from each ton of the top layer of lunar regolith. So we’d have to process 2,000 tons of the top layer of lunar regolith to fuel our lunar ascent stage. That amount of regolith is equal to the tonnage of one-sixth of a typical coal train today.

    Put another way, assuming 1.5 tons per cubic meter, 2,000 tons of regolith is equivalent to 1,333 cubic meters of regolith. It’s stated that the useful regolith layer is about 2mm thick, which means we’d have to thinly “strip” mine about 666 square meters of the the lunar surface, or well over half a square kilometer, to fuel our lunar ascent stage.

    I have a hard time envisaging the emplacement on the Moon of the equipment necessary to mine, transport, process, and dispose of the equivalent tonnage capacity of one-sixth of a coal train, at least using today’s machine technology, especially if that equipment can only produce enough product to fuel one lunar ascent stage after one process cycle. I also have a hard time envisaging the thin “strip” mining of over a half square kilometer of the lunar surface to produce only enough product to fuel one lunar ascent stage.

    Of course, it would be wise not to underestimate human ingenuity, and maybe there’s some revolutionary means (electrostatic fields, nanobots, etc.) of gathering such a widely dispersed resource that wouldn’t require trains-sized amounts of equipment to be emplaced on the Moon just to refuel ascent stages. Maybe a prize should be offered for such an innovation. But absent some revolutionary, low-mass, separation and transport process, it’s very hard to see the resource being economically advantageous, or, adding normal inefficiencies to the calculations above and given the transient nature of these molecules, even recoverable in useful amounts.

    Maybe these very thinly dispersed H20 and OH molecules are harbingers of more concentrated deposits at the lunar poles or under the lunar surface. It’s worth investigating (and too bad that Constellation ate the budget for the lunar robotic program after LRO/LCROSS). But given that these molecules’ origins are likely in the solar wind, and not ancient planetary or cometary deposits, I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Certainly not something to count on from either an engineering or policy standpoint, at least at this time.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom: While I agree with your analysis, it ignores the point that the heavy part of water is oxygen. If all you are looking for is oxygen, and importing the hydrogen or finding it elsewhere, oxygen is readily available in quantity in oxidized rocks and volcanic glasses. You would still save a lot of money over carrying oxygen in quantity to the moon.

    – Donald

  • Major Tom

    “If all you are looking for is oxygen, and importing the hydrogen or finding it elsewhere, oxygen is readily available in quantity in oxidized rocks and volcanic glasses.”

    Agreed — that resource is probably much easier to exploit than the transient lunar surface H20 and OH molecules.

    “You would still save a lot of money over carrying oxygen in quantity to the moon.”

    Remains to be proven or seen. The cost of developing, emplacing, and running the equipment necessary to extract a given amount of LOX from lunar regolith has to be at least comparable to the cost of launching and transporting that same amount of LOX from Earth. There are some detailed analyses showing that we should save mass. But I have yet to see more than a back-of-the-envelope cost analysis or business case demonstrating that we would save dollars — nevertheless the detailed engineering designs, independent cost estimates, and tech demos necessary to underpin that analysis or case.

    I’m not saying it’s not worth pursuing — we should be investigating it. But mass savings in a lunar (or any other) architecture do not necessarily (and often don’t) equate to cost savings.

    FWIW…

  • “if advocates can put together a compelling case”

    I am really, really getting tired of that phrase. (nothing personal, Jeff – I think it was listening to Dr. Livingston rant about it recently on The Space Show that pushed me to the edge)

    Why? Because every rationale that gets offered up gets smacked down, and those who are demanding a “compelling case” never offer up any kind of metric of what they would consider “compelling”. So advocates keep flailing around in the dark trying to make happy those who won’t tell you what will make them happy.

    This is why I am so much more inspired by commercial efforts rather than NASA. When folks are paying their own way they don’t have to offer up “compelling” reasons to anyone. I want to expand the economic sphere of the U.S. to encompass our Moon and cislunar space. If you don’t find economic expansion and growth a compelling rationale, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

    So is anyone willing to offer up any examples of what they would consider “compelling”?

  • common sense

    “So is anyone willing to offer up any examples of what they would consider “compelling”?”

    A case that appeals to everyone would be compelling. Here is one for example: We detected an asteroid coming our way and we gotta get out of here soon. Another one: We detected life on -name your preferred celestial body here- and we gotta get going see what is happening there. We just saw alien invasion ships nearby may be another one but that may be a stretch.

    Bottom line: There may not be a compelling case, not today. However there may be a more rational case than just the need to explore. Such argumentation would be based on national priorities…

  • Loki

    Major Tom, I agree with your analysis, but there is one nit to pick. The specific impulse (Isp) of LH2/LOX is quite a bit higher then for hypergolic propellants, usually on the order of ~450 sec vs ~250 sec.

    That difference means that you could get the same thrust performance from a LH2/LOX engine for ~5/9 as much propellant as you would require for hypergolics because you would need a lower mass flow rate (mdot) to produce the same amount of thrust. So you’d only need about 1.1 tons of prop.

    Thrust = mdot*Isp*g (g = acceleration due to gravity at sea level)

    I agree 100% with the rest of your analysis. In fact I don’t really see the discovery of water on the moon lighting a fire under anyone’s butt to go there.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Ken, you have to understand that there are those who like to naysay just for the sake of naysaying. “Major Tom” is a case in point, suggesting that modern mining equipment wouldn’t be economically feasible for extracting H2O and HO from lunar soil, then slyly add that maybe something like nanobots would do the trick.

    Duh. Even under the most optimistic time frame, nano technology materials processing will likely be mature indeed when it is needed for large scale lunar mining.

    In any case, the proper response to this new discovery is not to shrug shoulders and claim it doesn’t matter. The proper response is to recognize the opportunity presented and take it.

  • Robert Oler

    Mark R. Whittington there are some who naysay just for that purpose…but then there are those horribly practical people who try and live in the real world of what is possible or even probable.

    No matter what does the mining, the figures that “Major Tom” pushed seemed pretty accurate in terms of what land mass we are talking about…so even if one is doing small scale lunar mining (a LM ascent stage oh say a month) there is still going to have to be a pretty good chunk of equipment…all of which is viewgraph stuff now.

    The proper response to this news (the water) is to say “interesting it deserves more uncrewed study, but doesnt seem to be a game changer at this time”…

    not to supplant “the Chinese are going” with “there is water water everywhere”…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Being lectured to about reality by Robert Oler is sort of like being lectured to about chastity by Bill Clinton. (g)

    More seriously, why “uncrewed?” It seems to me that this caused for a human return to the Moon as soon as possible, not only to start prospecting in situ (best done by human geologists) but to start testing mining technologies. Interesting is kind of a mild way of saying it. Interesting as the discovery of gold in California or oil in Texas.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “if advocates can put together a compelling case”

    Yes, I’m getting tired of that phrase too. But is that the reason to give a heave-ho to compelling cases? If we can’t find one then we shouldn’t need one?

    What does a “compelling case” have to look like? Does it have to show quantitative dollar value? I think not. What it can look like is a vision (yes, I use that word intentionally) that captures the dreams and aspirations of the taxpayer. Those dreams and aspirations may well have to do with making money. The Bush Vision was a solid attempt to do that. As I’ve said repeatedly, one of the main failures of that Vision was that Bush didn’t support it with political capital. He essentially lit the candle and turned his back on it.

    The “need to explore” as a justification for human space flight is bogus. Because of dramatic advances in robotic and telerobotic technologies, and modern autonomous communication/navigation systems, I don’t think we understand what that word really means anymore.

    Let’s not forget that resource mining on the Moon doesn’t clearly enable anything. It may make some things easier and, then again, it may not.

  • Robert Oler

    Mark…you do need some quidance in reality. you are the one who told us that the “vision” would have substantial private involvement (would you like for me to repost your 2004 missive)…and you do seem to think that the Chinese are racing us to the Moon.

    “It seems to me that this caused for a human return to the Moon as soon as possible, ”

    why?

    At the rate NASA is doing “human flight” (9 billion so far on Ares) the US could have sent substantial uncrewed resources to the Moon to “look” at the extent of “the water”.

    A human landing would be “one place at one time” whereas it should be possible to dispatch modern “Surveyor” type landers with rovers and the like to many different places …not to mention a plethora of penetration probes etc.

    If it is going to take another 41 billion to get your pet Ares and Constellation going…it is hard to imagine the uncrewed effort that could be accomplished with that.

    Of course you are the person who bought the vision hook line and sinker and still seem (from your website) to worship at the feet of Dick Cheney who knew where the WMD was.

    reality is a harsh mistress

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Doug Lassiter

    what is a vision?

    The way the Bush vision turned out (in so many things of his administration) was complete chaos.

    That is accurate in his space policy. Lets say that somehow Bush had managed to get his show on the road and NASA gets the 3 billion dollars per year that they want.

    What vision do you see happening?

    Vision is about seeing what is happening today and pushing for something different happening tomorrow. How did Bush have a “vision” that was different then what happens today? A different place? Otherwise it is a government program that has a hugh tail to teeth ratio, putting a few “mythic heroes” on the Moon (or to Mars) at enormous cost doing things which are completely irrelevant to the rest of America. All after about two decades and about 100 billion dollars.

    What vision is that?

    This is where Bush and his administration completely imploded. NOTHING they did changed the immediate future for the better…in fact almost everything that they did made things worse. (I still hold out hope for Iraq and probably only because there is so darn much invested in it…although it will be decades before any value comes of that).

    How does NASA returning to the Moon as a big government program change the future.

    Had the effort created some infrastructure along the way that private enterprise could have taken advantage of and prospered by there might be an argument. All it is is more of the same.

    What “vision” of a different world did you see in Bush’s plans for space?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, I agree with your analysis, but there is one nit to pick. The specific impulse (Isp) of LH2/LOX is quite a bit higher then for hypergolic propellants, usually on the order of ~450 sec vs ~250 sec… So you’d only need about 1.1 tons of prop.”

    You’re right, and for a LEM-equivalent ascent stage, I agree. But I also had a larger ascent stage on a modern lander, like the Altair, in mind, which would require more propellant. But rather than spend on a lot of time on the ascent stage calculations, which really aren’t the point here, I just rounded up to an even 2 tons so I could focus on the ISRU calculations.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    I can do without lectures about Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration. I said that Bush made a solid attempt at a vision. I didn’t say it was a drop-dead good one or that he followed up with responsible political arm-twisting. It was, however, more than most previous presidents had done. He called it a “vision”, which from the perspective of the American public is asking for a longer view than a “policy statement”. The importance of a longer view is critical here.

    But a real presidential Vision is one that doesn’t suddenly go blind or nearsighted. And that’s what happened. Never again did we hear from the White House that space was important to the nation. The longer view disappeared from the lips of the President, as did even the shorter one.

    Most people in the space community were delighted with that Vision when it first came out. Although it was kind of broad and handwaving, it made some strong points. Here’s the White House telling America that “The fundamental goal of this policy is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.” When was the last time you heard that from a President?

    Here was a President saying that “humanity has the potential to seek answers to the most fundamental questions posed about the origins of the universe and the existence of life beyond Earth” and that “direct human experience in space has fundamentally altered our perspectives of humanity and our place in the universe. Humans have the ability to respond to the unexpected developments inherent in space travel and possess unique skills that enhance discoveries. discoveries.”

    This is not Joe Lunatic or Bob Zubrin saying that. It’s the President of the United States.

    It’s saying that space exploration has to mean more to this country than just jobs.

    What vision of a different world did I see in that original Vision? A vision where those things are respected as national priorities. Right now, they are not.

  • Robert Oler

    Doug L. I am certianly not a fan of Bill Clinton, although with each passing day his Presidency looks better and better compared to what came next…and even to some extent what we have now.

    As for space. Clinton said about the same thing (and with much more eloquence) when he revamped the space station into ISS. And then he (Clinton) backed it with solid execution with what seems now almost precision planning. What is amazing if you go back and look at what was planned in the mid 90′s and what is being almost completed today…there are some modest schedule slips…but the entire effort holds up pretty well to the planning that went on. That is a tribute to Mr. Clinton, Mr. Gore and yes (yikes) Psycho Dan.

    Bush’s ““humanity has the potential to seek answers to the most fundamental questions posed about the origins of the universe and the existence of life beyond Earth”” while probably a mouthful for him, really means almost nothing. It could be Hubble looking back into time or it could mean five years spent planning Ares.

    Look good words are nothing without precise execution. Bush and Cheney and all the other thunderheads of the last administration ran around the country endlessly talking about “bringing democracy to the mideast” etc…they never tired of talking about it…and yet they had not the remotest idea about how to execute the entire effort…

    Same with space. Bush could have run around The Republic endlessly calling for “exploration” or (““humanity has the potential to seek answers to the most fundamental questions posed about the origins of the universe and the existence of life beyond Earth”) and NASA would have under the management that his administration put in place still spent 9 billion on Ares with nothing to show for it.

    What was impressive about Clinton is that he (and Gore) put together a plan, sold it to The Congress (and yes the people) and zounds carried it out.

    Rhetoric only gets you so far.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “Ken, you have to understand that there are those who like to naysay just for the sake of naysaying. ‘Major Tom’ is a case in point,”

    What does Mr. Murphy’s post have to do with mine? I’m calculating whether a particular resource is useful, and Ken is reacting to Mr. Foust’s original statement about policy justification. The former has nothing to do with the latter.

    And where did I “naysay”? I either provided cold, hard calculations showing that this resource is useless today, or I stated that it might point towards more useful deposits elsewhere on the Moon or could become useful with some unanticipated revolutionary technology. Dealing with the facts as we know them or trying to find some future positive is not “naysaying”

    “suggesting that modern mining equipment wouldn’t be economically feasible for extracting H2O and HO from lunar soil,”

    Hydroxyl is labeled “OH”, not “HO”. If you don’t understand the basic chemistry involved, please don’t post on the topic here. Poorly informed opinions are a waste of your time and ours.

    And it’s not a suggestion. Processing 2,000 tons of regolith just to avoid sending 2 tons of fuel to the Moon’s surface — and spending billions of dollars developing, transporting, and operating the lunar-qualified equipment necessary to do all that processing on the Moon just to avoid spending the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to transport that fuel over multiple missions from Earth – isn’t economically feasible in the least.

    “then slyly add that maybe something like nanobots would do the trick. Duh. Even under the most optimistic time frame, nano technology materials processing will likely be mature indeed when it is needed for large scale lunar mining.”

    This last sentence is barely intelligible. Will likely be mature “indeed”?

    And it’s “timeframe”, not “time frame”.

    And it’s “nanotechnology”, not “nano technology”.

    Is English even your first language?

    And do you really think nanobots capable of safely processing thousands of tons of material in an alien environment are going to be ready to support a human lunar return in the next 10 to 30 years? Do you have any real science or engineering background, or did all your technical learning come from B-grade science fiction movies?

    “In any case, the proper response to this new discovery is not to shrug shoulders and claim it doesn’t matter.”

    No one did that in this thread. Although the resource is currently useless, several of us, myself included, pointed out that it may portend more concentrated and useful deposits elsewhere on the Moon or may one day become useful with a technological breakthrough.

    “The proper response is to recognize the opportunity presented and take it.

    What “opportunity”? How do you take advantage of a resource that’s currently useless and going to be useless for the foreseeable future?

    “Being lectured to about reality by Robert Oler is sort of like being lectured to about chastity by Bill Clinton.”

    Why do you have to insult posters by comparing them to philanderers?

    No one had insulted you in this thread prior to your posts.

    Either grow up and learn to engage in a conversation as an adult, or don’t post here.

    “It seems to me that this caused for a human return to the Moon as soon as possible,”

    Again, this sentence is barely intelligible. “… this caused for a human return…” Please take an English class and learn the difference between nouns and verbs before you post here again.

    “Interesting as the discovery of gold in California or oil in Texas.”

    Those were highly concentrated deposits on or near the Earth’s surface that could be accessed with a pan in a stream or simple drill. No one had to move thousands of tons of regolith in a vacuum to recover those resources. They’re not comparable in the least to the transient lunar surface H20 and OH.

    Ugh…

  • Anon

    One challenge for making a compelling case for the moon is the lack of ground data. Its been over 35 years since a robot has landed on the moon. That is criminal given how Mars is crawling with rovers. Seems in all the billions NASA has spent on space science since the early 1970′s it could have found some money for a lunar rover or two…

    But given how the Mars people just had to schedule their news conference at a time, noon pacific, so the moon scientists had to cut their news conference short shows what NASA thinks of the moon. Nothing more then a place to caliber instruments on before going else for “real” science. That is why I really don’t care if Obama cuts NASA’s budget to zero and pours it into education. The money spent on NASA isn’t doing anything to open the space frontier anyway. Maybe if spent on education it will at least produce a few more engineers for new space.

    No water on the moon isn’t a game changer because NASA hasn’t changed its long focus on Mars.

  • Doug Lassiter

    ISS? As a presidential vision for space? Give me a break. That’s not a vision. It’s an object.

    We were never told why we were building station, except in that it had something to do with this “space exploration is great” stuff. At various points we were promised that it would be the assembly hub for future spacecraft (which it never has been), all about science (which it surely has never been), and some kind of a gateway our of LEO (which it never has been).

    With all due respect to ISS as a tremendous engineering feat, we still don’t quite know what it’s for. You want me to thank Bill Clinton for that? He may have had precise execution, but he sure didn’t have the good words telling us why we were doing it, and now we’re considering dumping it because we still don’t know.

    Seems to me you’re saying that Clinton’s vision was to complete ISS. Well, if we put it in the drink in 2015, that vision didn’t have any legs at all.

  • Robert Oler

    Doug. Yeap ISS could/is a vision as much as the space shuttle was/could have been, as much as Apollo was/could have been, as much as the interstate highway system is…

    Visions are all about creating “potential” that did not exist before the project was started. Ike had no idea (nor the GOP right wingers who oppossed it) that his interstate highway system was going to enable stores like Walmart or Home Deport or whatever by making it cheap to ship goods by truck anywhere. A child is a vision (sorry quite atune to that right now) you have no idea while raising them what they are going to turn out to be, and what that is is ultimatly up to them…but without good parents they almost have no chance.

    “we still don’t quite know what it’s for” (ISS) yeap that part Clinton and Gore and PSycho Dan had to leave for “someone else” to make …they could put us on the path to build it, they could do the correct planning…and yet once the thing is built…well it is u p to the people who are “in power” then to make something useful of it.

    to use the Biblical example…Moses could get the folks to the promise land but it was “them” who had to make the vision come true.

    Everything that Bush said about going back to the Moon, was said about ISS (and incidentally was said about shuttle and even Apollo) and far more eloquently (grin)…

    the difference between Apollo and Shuttle and Bush’s vision and what Clinton pulled together under ISS, is that Clinton actually made it happen… He put a short term reason in place that at least had the ability to appeal to the American people…(although its reality was rather dubious…but it didnt hurt anyone) and now it is up to us to make something of what is there.

    The irony of it is that the Russians, Europeans and now the Japanese seem to within their own economies and business models are pursuing that. We are stumbling into it nicely however and it will be ironic if President Obama (the “socialist” according to nuts like Glenn Beck) are the one to crank up the capitalistic engine to take advantage of ISS.

    I’ve oppossed “the vision” for a long time…and a lot of the reasons stem from Mike Griffin’s effort on MTP where he tried to explain it. It was clear to me then (and time has borne me out) that all we had was another Republican giveaway to their favorite corporations.

    Bush may have used words you like, (but they were not his, probably Frums’) and he had not a clue what they meant.

    that is why years later Ares is well 9 billion down and accomplished little
    …dont feel bad he did the same thing to the neocons in Iraq.

    Robert G. Oler

  • [...] water wasn’t a reason itself for human exploration of the Moon but improved the prospects if advocates could establish a “compelling case” for doing so, it raised a debate in the comments on what would constitute such a rationale. For a [...]

  • Doug Lassiter

    Sorry, but a “vision” isn’t a piece of equipment. ISS wasn’t a “vision” any more than Constellation would be, or would a skyscraper be. I think this is a useful thing to consider as we look ahead to a renewed justification for human space flight from the current administration. What’s the storyline that supports what we’re doing? The taxpayer needs that storyline.

    As I said originally, what is that “vision” going to look like when Obama presents it? What’s the smell test for whether it will do what it is supposed to do?

    BTW, I really don’t care whether the VSE came out of Bush’s brain. Almost certainly it didn’t.

  • Robert Oler

    Doug… oh I completly disagree.

    “a “vision” isn’t a piece of equipment” sure it is. Maybe it is because I test airplanes for a living, but “things” are vision. Yesterday we moved some oak and pecan tress “starters” that we got from the San Jacinto Memorial…where my Great Grandfathers Father had fought to the Chicken coup here…(did this many years ago for the house in Clear Lake)…as they were being planted I wondered a great deal what the world would be like in 20 years and what the people who were doing the “planting” would look like then.

    A vision is anything that enables a different future from the present.

    A house for a family is a vision, a base at the south pole is a vision…the space shuttle could have been a vision, ISS still can…and yes I will say a base on the moon could be a vision…

    but the shuttle didnt become a vision and a base on the Moon done as NASA is stuttering along doing it…wont be …because they do not enable anything different from the present.

    Obama has a chance, and I suspect that things are moving in this direction to make, at the very least the space station an enabler of commercial access to space in The Republic. There are so many ironies here…and if CAS happens it alone will be an enormous vision, but what comes from that will be even more.

    What is lacking in human spaceflight in this country is the feedback to our economic system. It just is not there, and in a country where free enterprise is (still) the calling card…unless free enterprise is involved up to its kaneck then there will never be any feedback.

    There is no vision of a 41 billion dollar 15 year effort to replace the shuttle….or another 60 billion and another 10 year effort to get NASA astronauts back to the moon to do nothing.

    all that does is cement the relationship that NASA is a welfare organization

    Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    “a “vision” isn’t a piece of equipment” sure it is. Maybe it is because I test airplanes for a living, but “things” are vision.”

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. The U.S. government, industry, and academia all produce statements of vision, and none of those that I’ve ever seen are an engineering architecture. Your “vision” might be an airplane, but that doesn’t mean anything at all. The airplane could be to bomb the hell out of a country, or to airlift people to safety and ensure peace. It also could be to make money moving cargo. So visions of airplanes can go off in wildly different directions. Saying, “Oh yeah, all of those and more!” makes for a pretty boggled vision.

    Much has been made of Eisenhower and his federal highway system. His vision wasn’t ribbons of concrete. It was a vision of mobility for the American public. The implementation of that vision was ribbons of concrete. I guess that wasn’t the only way Eisenhower could have ensured mobility for the nation, but that’s what he chose to do.

    “A vision is anything that enables a different future from the present.”

    Huh? Nope. The vision is the different future, not the thing that enables it.

  • [...] very good or at times even relevant. For the relevant space posts over at Space Politics – “Lunar water and space policy” and “Compelling reasons, or lack thereof“, I asked a simple question in the [...]

  • Joe Smith

    Sorry,I am ashamed of my President.
    Nothing I write here will change anyone’s mind.

    For the first time in my life I am proud to be an American,quote from
    Hussain’s wife.

    Does anyone at all understand that millions died who were proud
    to fight in order to give her the right to say this?

    NASA is not your local welfare office,nor your free doctors office,
    nor will it lower its standards for minorities. NASA is a tribute to Americas finest.Literally.

  • Hop

    Major Tom said “Based on the data, AvWeek reports that 32 ounces of water could be extracted from each ton of the top layer of lunar regolith.”

    That data is now obsolete. Chandrayaan 1 as well as LRO have detected what appear to be sheets of ice at least two meters thick.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Mini-RF/multimedia/feature_ice_like_deposits.html

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