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More Moon vs. Mars

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, author Homer Hickam called for a human mission to the Moon’s south pole without adding “a cent to the paltry amount NASA gets”. He didn’t describe specifically how to get that done, only suggesting that “its excellent engineers” would figure out a way. If they did, they might end up with something like what Paul Spudis and Tony Lavoie have proposed, an architecture that they claim can result in “a fully functional, human-tended lunar outpost capable of producing 150 metric tonnes of water per year” for $88 billion. The schedule for achieving this is flexible, but Spudis notes that it could be done in about 16 years, with peak annual funding of $7.1 billion. Missing from the technical analysis, though, is what’s needed to win political support for such a venture from the White House, Capitol Hill, and the various other constituencies in the space community.

The Moon, though, might seem passé for Loren Thompson, COO of the Lexington Institute. In a Forbes.com column, Thompson identifies space as one of four areas where America “could materially improve the nation’s outlook without costing much money or leading to further political polarization.” Specifically, he wants NASA to mount a human mission to Mars by the early 2030s, “and do it without spending any more money than NASA was planning to spend anyway.” Human spaceflight “seems to be in its death throes” under the current administration’s policies, he claims, “and the only near-term human space flight initiative on the books is a handout to rich California businessmen to update old technology,” an apparent reference to NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program, which includes awards to Elon Musk’s SpaceX (but also a number of other companies not backed by “rich California businessmen”.) “By organizing the human spaceflight program with Mars in mind, NASA can develop a near-term investment and exploration agenda that gets us somewhere interesting without any additional commitment of funding,” Thompson claims. How exactly NASA would do that, though, is apparently left as an exercise for the agency’s excellent engineers (although one assumes Bob Zubrin would have some ideas in that regard.)

246 comments to More Moon vs. Mars

  • Mark R. Whittington

    One wonders about the snarky tone of this post. Paul’s plan has a lot of good things going for it. But he’s stated on his blog that its not likely to be implemented in its current form under the current regime. If we want to set the exploration program right, then proposals like this are needed to start to the discussion and give the next President something to work with when he–or she–takes office. And by discussion, by the way, I do not mean the kind of cynical sniping and bloviating that is sadly typical of the Internet.

  • Coastal Ron

    Some people never learn the lessons from the past.

    The only way for NASA to afford any meaningful exploration is by leveraging existing systems, which we don’t have a lot of yet. We don’t even have an American way of staffing the ISS!

    What is keeping us from expanding out beyond LEO is not the will or the ability, it’s the money. And until we find that right combination of capabilities and funding, we won’t be able to get to the Moon or Mars.

  • Would that be the Loren Thompson who is on the payroll of Lockmart, Boeing et al?

  • Anne Spudis

    Spudis/Lavoie ABSTRACT

    We present an architecture that establishes the infrastructure for routine space travel by taking advantage of the Moon’s resources, proximity and accessibility. We use robotic assets on the Moon that are teleoperated from Earth to prospect, test, demonstrate and produce water from lunar resources before human arrival. This plan is affordable, flexible and not tied to any specific launch vehicle solution. Individual surface pieces are small, permitting them to bedeployed separately on small launchers or combined together on single large launchers. Schedule is our free variable; even under highly constrained budgets, the architecture permits this program to be continuously pursued using small, incremental, cumulative steps. The end stage is a fully functional, human-tended lunar outpost capable of producing 150 metric tonnes of water per year – enough to export water from the Moon and create a transportation system that allows routine access to all of cislunar space. This cost-effective lunar architecture advances technology and builds a sustainable transportation infrastructure. By eliminating the need to launch everything from the surface of the Earth, we fundamentally change the paradigm of spaceflight.

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/Papers/Affordable_Lunar_Base.pdf

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    If we want to set the exploration program right…

    …we need to get busy exploring, and the current NASA plan does that. We need to get the robotic explorer program going as quickly as possible, especially for the Moon. Stop the churning with all these grand plans, and start launching incrementally more ambitious exploration.

    At the same time, we need to but the basic transportation infrastructure in place so that when we want to go beyond LEO, all NASA has to do is budget for a commercial launch, not build the whole darn rocket. Capitalism works, even in space.

    At some point, the excitement generated by the robotic exploration, the basic transportation capabilities we’ve put in place, and the available funding from the America Taxpayers, will all line up to allow human exploration to go beyond LEO in a sustainable fashion. Starting it before that point risks almost certain failure, which does no one any good.

  • John

    For comparison purposes, how much more or less would it cost to ship the same amount of water directly from Earth?

  • Anne Spudis

    [Excerpt] ….So let me respond to the President’s new plan by reminding the readers of this column why the Moon is our goal and of its significance and value to space exploration.

    It’s close. Unlike virtually all other destinations in space beyond low Earth orbit, the Moon is near in time (a few days) and energy (a few hundreds of meters per second.) In addition to its proximity, because the Moon orbits the Earth, it is the most accessible target beyond LEO, having nearly continuous windows for arrival and departure. This routine accessibility is in contrast to all of the planets and asteroids, which orbit the Sun and have narrow, irregular windows of access that depend on their alignment with respect to the Earth. The closeness and accessibility of the Moon permit modes of operation not possible with other space destinations, such as a near real-time (less than 3 seconds) communication link. Robotic machines can be teleoperated directly from Earth, permitting hard, dangerous manual labor on the Moon to be done by machines controlled by humans either on the Moon or from Earth. The closeness of the Moon also permits easy and continuous abort capability, certainly something we do not want to take advantage of, but comforting to know is handy until we have more robust and reliable space subsystems. If you don’t believe this is important, ask the crew of Apollo 13.

    It’s interesting. The Moon offers scientific value that is unique within the family of objects in the Solar System. The Moon has no atmosphere or global magnetic field so plasmas and streams of energetic particles impinge directly on its surface, embedding themselves onto the lunar dust grains. Thus, the Moon contains a detailed record of the Sun’s output through geological time (over at least the last 4 billion years). The value of such a record is that the Sun is the principal driver of Earth’s climate and by recovering that detailed record (unavailable anywhere on the Earth), it can help us understand the details of solar output, both its cycles and singular events, throughout the history of the Solar System. Additionally, because of the Moon’s ancient surface and proximity to the Earth, it retains a record of the impact bombardment history of both bodies. We now know that the collision of large bodies has drastic effects on the geological and biological evolution of the Earth and occur at quasi-regular intervals. Because our very survival depends on understanding the nature and history of these events as a basis for the prediction of future events, the record on the lunar surface is critical to our understanding. A radio telescope on the far side of the Moon can “see” into deep space from the only platform in the Solar System that is permanently free from Earth’s radio noise. The Moon is a unique, rich and valuable scientific asset.

    It’s useful. In my opinion, this is the most important and pressing argument for making the Moon our first destination beyond LEO. Because of the detailed exploration of the Moon undertaken during the last 20 years, we have a very different understanding of its properties than we did immediately following Apollo. Specifically, the Moon has accessible and immediately usable resources of both energy and materials in its polar regions, something about which we were almost completely ignorant only a few years ago. For energy, both poles offer benign surface temperatures and near-permanent sunlight, as the lunar spin axis obliquity is nearly perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This relation solves one of the most difficult issues of lunar habitation – the 14-day long lunar night, which challenges the design of thermal and power systems. In addition, once thought to be a barren desert, we have recently found that the Moon contains abundant and accessible deposits of water, in a variety of forms and concentrations. There is enough water on the Moon to bootstrap a permanent, sustained human presence there. Water is the most important substance to find and use in space; not only does it support human life by its consumption and provision of breathable oxygen, in its form as cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen, it is the most powerful chemical rocket propellant known. A transportation system that can routinely access the lunar surface to refuel, can also access all of cislunar space, where all of our national strategic and commercial (and much of our scientific) assets reside (many satellites reside above LEO and are inaccessible for repair). Such a system would truly and fundamentally change the paradigm of spaceflight and can be realized through the mining and processing of the water ice deposits near the poles of the Moon. Space exploration should be a driving force in our economy not merely a playground for scientists or a venue for public entertainment.

    Given the real and potential benefits of lunar return, the question is no longer “Why the Moon?” but “Why bypass the Moon?”….. [End Excerpt]

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/04/

  • @Anne

    Thanks for posting the link to the Dr. Spudis Moon Base article! Its much appreciated!

  • Martijn Meijering

    For comparison purposes, how much more or less would it cost to ship the same amount of water directly from Earth?

    That depends strongly on launch prices obviously and launch prices in turn depend strongly on the amount of traffic. That is the big argument against Spudis’ plans that he is simply silently ignoring, although many people have pointed it out to him.

  • Anne Spudis

    Thank you for appreciating it Marcel!

  • Anne Spudis

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 1:46 pm [That is the big argument against Spudis’ plans that he is simply silently ignoring, although many people have pointed it out to him.]

    Please elaborate.

  • Greyroger

    “Show me the money” seems to be the rallying cry for the commercial crew crowd that is fixated on their private taxi to the station and dead set against anything else.

    It is the default argument used against practical BEO plan. The approximately 20 billion dollar ceiling for NASA seems to be dogma- the “I AM” from the burning bush. What results is captivity in LEO.

    Fly to the space station and be happy with that because that is all you are going to get!

    That sucks.

    There are three possible sources of funding for BEO in my opinion;

    1. The nuclear industry. As I have explained in other posts, the inconvenient truth space advocates continue to dance around is radiation. Not solar events generated- cosmic radiation; GCR. And not generally- a small portion of cosmic radiation consisting of heavy nuclei. This stuff is murder and is THE showstopper for any long missions in deep space. The only guaranteed solution in my opinion is a water shield. The accepted figure is 5 meters in every direction, which is about 400 metric tons. Since it is not practical to push that mass around with chemical propulsion, nuclear power is required. The nuclear industry and thousands of decommissioned nuclear weapons are waiting.

    There are several problems with this- the two main ones being safely transporting fissionables to orbit and where to get the water. The Shuttle derived side mount vehicle can happen quick, uses human-rated components, and has the orion LAS system that can be adapted to a fissionable package. And it can be a cargo only vehicle to keep the commercial crew folks happy. Where to get the water; lunar ice.

    2. Planetary Protection. The DOD exists to defend against threats. Impacts are definitely a threat- the most extreme over the top threat imaginable is the threat of extinction. Nuclear weapons are the best way to deflect impact threats. Nuclear weapons=DOD=funding.

    3. Popular support. Flying scientists and technicians into space in the largest numbers possible is the way to win popular support and tax dollars. If spaceX and lockmart make good on their promises then hundreds of people a year can go into space. People with 4 year degrees as well as Phds. Commercial space is going to fall flat on it’s face without places to send these people. Inflatable motels are not going be much of a destination. The poles and the far side of the moon and multi-year space ship missions to the asteroid belt and the moons of the outer planets are where these hundreds of astronauts will need to go.

  • vulture4

    I agree that exploration must be sustainable. We can’t simply budget $8B a year for a moon base. We have to show that human spaceflight to LEO is productive first. However I agree that the Moon is a logical next step. The Obama administration was right that Constellation was unsustainable, but they kept much of the Constellation strategy and just dropped the moon as a destination. Instead they should have rejected the Constellation architecture and kept the moon as a destination. But this wasn’t in the laundry list Augustine provided.

  • vulture4

    I love the WSJ claiming that we can go to the moon without a dime in new taxes. Where did I hear that before? Oh yeah, from the previous administration. You can’t propose major tax-funded programs while simultaneously demanding tax cuts. Who called that “voodoo economics”?

  • Doug Lassiter

    “It’s useful. In my opinion, this is the most important and pressing argument for making the Moon our first destination beyond LEO.”

    I agree that it’s the most important and pressing argument. That it’s close is not an argument at all. That it’s interesting is a quality equally, if not more, applicable to Mars.

    But re usefulness, it kinda comes down to what you want to do in the long run. If the idea is to get to Mars and investigate it, we don’t need the Moon. You shell out your dollars and go. If the idea is to promote settlement/colonization of Mars, then the large number of trips that would be required — really the development of a whole transportation system — would in principle be greatly assisted by a major ISRU program on the Moon. If the idea is to investigate Mars and then decide if you want to colonize it, then ISRU on the Moon is nice, but not necessary in the near term.

    The Spudis and Lavoie ISRU plan is a very nice one, and the emphasis on telerobotics for early lunar development is smart, but it should not be ignored that in their picture, there isn’t any cis-lunar human space flight flight for a long time. Not clear if fifteen years of just going to ISS, and maybe what Paul calls a stunt-trip to a NEO, is going to appeal to the American public.

  • William Mellberg

    @Anne Spudis

    Anne, President Obama has PROMISED that the United States is headed to asteroids and to Mars (in his lifetime, he told us)! And if we’re going to go to asteroids and to Mars as President Obama has PROMISED, then the Moon is the first stop on the way for the reasons Paul has cited in his proposal.

    Please don’t tell me that President Obama is going to break his PROMISE, and that NASA’s new space policy isn’t really going to get us out of ow Earth orbit for the first time in half a century (by the time it happens). Because President Obama PROMISED that we’re going to asteroids and to Mars, and we’re entitled to see that PROMISE kept.

    Aren’t we?

    Isn’t that what the “LEO First” folks have been telling us? That NASA and our presidents ought to keep their promises.

    Well, Paul’s plan is a good start for keeping the promise to take humanity to asteroids and to Mars.

  • Greyroger

    The moon or mars?

    I think Mars is a crummy destination. Just keep going past it to Ceres or another asteroid and set up a permanent base. Mars has way too much gravity to deal with.

    And as I posted previously, it would appear a heavy water shield and nuclear propulsion is the only practical way to fly humans in deep space and there is water on the moon and nuclear processing facilities can also be set up underground. So first orbit to put together the spaceships, then the moon to fill them up with water and fissionables, and then off to…not mars.

    If the space ship has a closed loop life support (which the water shield would facilitate) and nuclear power, it can go on a mission of several years and if it goes fairly fast, which is possible with nuclear propulsion, it might as well go to the outer planets and their moons.

  • Coastal Ron

    John wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    For comparison purposes, how much more or less would it cost to ship the same amount of water directly from Earth?

    If you used Dragon to ship water to the ISS under the CRS contract, then NASA would pay $22,222/kg (1 kg = 1 liter).

    If you didn’t use Dragon, but had a water container that you put on top of a Falcon 9, then with a 3,000 lb container you could get 20,000 lbs of water (~9,000 kg) to LEO for $6,222/kg.

    If you used Falcon 9 Heavy, which is advertised for $95M, then using the same ratio of container & water payload (85% payload) would equal ~$3,490/kg.

    So if we use the $88B figure in the Spudis plan (and no recurring costs added), they would have to produce at least 3,960,040 kg of water before it becomes comparable to the price NASA would pay through the CRS contract for the ISS. That figure goes up to around 33M kg if compared to Falcon 9 heavy.

    This is more of a thought exercise than a direct comparison, because we’re not comparing delivery of water to a common destination. Still, you can see how long it will take for a lunar water mining consortium to just get to break-even. It’s going to be a long time before we need 4M kg of water, much less 33M kg.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    It’s close.
    It’s interesting.
    It’s useful.

    Those are all neat little squishy reasons for going back – kind of like saying why you should do volunteer work in Belize on your next vacation.

    But the you keep forgetting why we haven’t gone back yet. It’s not because the Moon isn’t any of those things, but because it’s EXPENSIVE!

    Until you address the COST of going back to the Moon, the American Taxpayer is never going to fund your “interesting” lunar trips.

    The Spudis plan addresses the exploration part of the plan, but the sustainable transportation infrastructure needed to support is is still TBD. Since that is the majority of the upfront cost, that has to be solved first.

  • The investigation of the Moon’s polar ice is a robotic exploration mission. Doing it under the guise of a human exploration robotic precursor has been proposed and rejected a bunch of times over the last 10 years. The availability of more evidence of polar ice is not justification for a rover mission.. quite the opposite. If you really want to characterize that valuable asset then you need to convince the robotic exploration part of NASA that the Moon deserves at least 1/4 as many rovers as Mars is getting.

    Similarly, demonstration of ISRU of polar ice is a task for the technology demonstration program. Currently they’re aiming for 2016 for such a demonstration.

    Going the robitic precursor to human exploration route just unnecessarily makes it a political punching bag. Don’t do it.

  • Vladislaw

    “At some point, the excitement generated by the robotic exploration, the basic transportation capabilities we’ve put in place, and the available funding from the America Taxpayers, will all line up to allow human exploration to go beyond LEO in a sustainable fashion.”

    When you look at who dreams of space and tried to do anything about it, under the NASA monopoly, you first had to dream up a plan to become a billionaire or close to it.

    Musk, Branson, Bigelow and Bezos are the ones who are trying to make their dreams a reality. For those with lesser dreams, like just taking a suborbital hop or an orbital flight to a station you might as well not bother yourself with those dreams, because under NASA you were never ever going to get to space, no matter how big your checkbook. Now the time is fast approaching where you do not have to dream up a way to become a billionaire, you only have to generate 200,000 to 20 million dollars. THAT, for me, is when the excitement is really going to hit. If you can dream up a way to make a few bucks while you make your flight those numbers become even less.

    With social media networks, ease of website/blog building and google ads you can try and turn your space adventure into a money making venture to offset your costs to obtain a spaceflight.

    I believe the true excitement is not going to be about anything NASA does 2 or 3 decades from now at a cost of 100 – 200 billion, (look at how much excitment the 100 billion ISS has generated, hell it has not even created one freakin’ reality show yet!) but for the average mom & pop entrepreneur, fueled by their dreams of space, taking a ride to orbit and their creative way they generated the funds to achieve it.

    I still can’t wait for the reality show UFO hunters in space! smiles

    “watch as our intrepid UFO hunters scan the heavens outside the port window and see ….. tune in next week”

  • Martijn Meijering

    Please elaborate.

    The argument that the vast amount of propellant needed to support a lunar exploration program in its early phases (before ISRU) is an excellent opportunity to develop small RLVs, which is all we need for a breakthrough.

  • Martijn Meijering

    the commercial crew crowd that is fixated on their private taxi to the station and dead set against anything else.

    Not everybody is dead set against everything else. Speaking purely for myself, I certainly want to see some form of exploration beyond LEO within five years and I think that is perfectly feasible, provided you do it incrementally. But unless you want to splash the ISS, NASA will need access to it. In theory it could be done on Soyuz, but I don’t think that is desirable or politically acceptable. Commercial crew taxis are an excellent solution, which would help Bigelow too.

  • Anne Spudis

    For those who are curious and want to learn more (those interested in the possibility and need for a Moon-cislunar infrastructure built with lunar resources) you will find essays at the Air and Space blog “Once and Future Moon” (linked in the main article of this blog) that cover many of Paul’s views on the Moon, lunar science, and space policy. I can see there are a lot of questions along with a lot of misunderstanding, so rather than play “wack-a-mole,” I’ll give you the tools to search for that information, confident that you will come to the conclusion that lunar return is important and that it can and should be down now.

    These links will also help:

    April 2010:
    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/Papers/12SpudisNDU.pdf

    February 2010
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1376

    Browse this website for articles, papers, presentations, Paul’s background, etc
    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/

  • Vladislaw

    Greyroger wrote:

    ” “Show me the money” seems to be the rallying cry for the commercial crew crowd that is fixated on their private taxi to the station and dead set against anything else.

    It is the default argument used against practical BEO plan”

    Your logic always astounds me. It would like crossing the ocean for the first time BEFORE you have even built a common row boat and have the ability to cross a river.

    Our Nation, through the agency we have assigned the job, NASA, couldn’t even manage crossing the river (200 miles to LEO) with a 10 BILLION dollar budget. So what is your idea, let’s have the same agency that gave us the 100 billion dollar, bloated, budget busting ISS, build a lunar base 200,000 + miles away. Not only that but it can be done for a 12% discount from what we paid for a base in LEO, only 88 billion.

    Let’s see .. 10 NASA centers, contractors from every state in the union and half the policitical districts… ya .. I am sure you are right… NASA has proven they have the management skills and personal to do this project. Also congress will of course line up for making this as cost efficent as possible and will not try and pull funding into their states and districts.

    I can see how the well oiled machine we currently have for space, the usual suspects in congress and NASA could do this on budget and on schedule.

    Who should be running this for NASA .. bring back Griffin? Which congressperson will suggest their center really doesn’t need to do any overlap work and will bow out to keep costs contained?

  • Greyroger

    “an excellent opportunity to develop small RLVs, which is all we need for a breakthrough.”

    HLV’s are the only breakthrough technology that is going to make a difference. Going small will just make it a terrific.

  • Instead they should have rejected the Constellation architecture and kept the moon as a destination.

    They did reject the Constellation architecture. It was killed in the proposed 2011 budget. It was Congress that insists on hanging on to it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Going the robitic precursor to human exploration route just unnecessarily makes it a political punching bag.”

    Not sure what you mean by this. You’re arguing for or against robotic precursors? I would say, robotic precursors for ISRU demos, yes. Of course! Robotic precursors for building habs, maybe.

    What makes these hab construction precursors a punching bag is that, as I said above, in the Spudis-Lavoie plan, humans ain’t goin’ outside of LEO for a long time, except maybe on a NEO “stunt” trip. We could easily end up with some nice robotically preplaced habs, and no funds to send anyone to live in them. Of course, once those people get there, what would they do? Oh, science. Or, more accurately, choosing which samples should get returned to Earth to do science. What teleoperated robots could do. Maybe fixing robots? Oh, handymen. Sigh.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Going small will just make it a terrific.

    A terrific what? And of course the point is cheap, not small. Small is just to make it less ambitious. And you’ve still not explained why HLVs would be a breakthrough.

  • We’ve just discovered a gold mine of natural resources at the lunar poles. So it would be perfectly logical for the US to focus the efforts of its nearly $20 billion a year Federal space program on pioneering these regions for the economic benefit of our nation. Spudis and Lavoie have proposed a viable architecture for establishing such a lunar facility.

    If NASA sets up a permanent base at the lunar poles and starts to produce fuel on the Moon, there’s no doubt in my mind that the emerging private commercial manned spaceflight companies will quickly follow with their own facilities.

    Once NASA establishes the first permanent fuel producing base, the Moon will become a major tourist mecca. Once government builds the fort, the privateers and the settlers soon follow!

  • Bennett

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I believe Gary has explained his various positions on previous threads, ad nauseum.

    Sidemount!

    Orion! (nuclear bomb propulsion)

    Ares V!!!

    I wonder why Paul never comes by here to make a case for his Lunar Base Proposal? I appreciate that Anne is a partner and all, but if Paul wants to gain some converts, a personal appearance would probably help.

    As would his addressing the very valid doubts and questions posed in this forum.

  • James T

    Excuse me if I’m being too much of an optimistic “dreamer” here, but in response to greyroger’s comment that “HLVs are the only breakthrough technology that is going to make a difference” I’d like to point out that the idea of a space elevator is to me the most practical investment our nation or any group can hope for.

    I just finished reading a great book on the space elevator and how it would work and what components would be involved titled “Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator.” The only technological breakthrough that is really required to make the space elevator an engineering reality is using carbon nanotubes to create a composite material 140 times stronger than steel, enough to withstand being swung around by the earth’s rotation. Once we have that, everything else is pretty much already invented. And don’t try to tell me we can’t achieve such breakthroughs in a reasonable time frame. After all, we went from the Russians launching Sputnik to the USA putting a man on the moon in just 12 years.

    With a space elevator we can cut the cost of access to space by at least 95%! And in addition to that, ships can be literally flung from the end of the ribbon as a launch mechanism… using the Earth’s rotation itself as an slingshot! The only fuel any craft would need would be for course correcting and perhaps increased travel speed. Landing and taking off from the destination is another matter, but if we’ve already built an earth elevator then we already have the technology, expertise and launch mechanism we need to build elevators on the moon and even Mars.

    In 1969 we landed a man on the moon after less then 10 years of preparation and invention. In the very early 2000′s George W. set out a plan to do the same exact thing with 20 years of preparation. That doesn’t sound like technological progress to me. What would you say to someone who said vacuum tubes just needed some more improvement and that we shouldn’t spend any investment capital or effort on developing the microprocessor? What if people decided we should support and improve upon dial-up internet access rather than develop the various broadband internet access types we have today? Of course these sounds like ridiculous points of view, but that’s how I feel about most people’s reaction to the space elevator. We can’t keep ourselves locked into a virtually dead end technology just because it’s been working adequately up to this point. Yes, rockets have room to improve, and commercialization could make it cheaper, but at the end of the day we’re still spending obscene amounts of money to launch payloads that are impractical for any long distance/duration missions. Of course, we still would need an HLV to launch the ribbon deployment mechanism, which needs to be lowered to Earth and can’t be build up from the ground, so I’m not saying we don’t need to develop that, but I’m just disappointed in the number of people who seem to believe that rocket based technologies are all we have to depend on getting us to orbit.

    Obama’s budget proposal made no direct reference to the space elevator option, but considerable funds were going towards the research of “game changing technologies.” Congress decided to say NO to progress and instead put it’s faith in established rocket technology and cut the amount going to that potential research. I support the commercialization efforts of Obama’s plan, which was essentially partially approved my congress, but at the time I saw that as just a way for us to divert the large amount of money needed to own and operation our own shuttle fleet and use that to instead invest in a long term sustainable way to access space, like the space elevator.

    Again, I know this idea will be seen by many as least a little “out there,” but many of our society’s greatest achievements were treated with the same skepticism, including the Wrights brothers and their “magical” flying machine. The book I mentioned estimates a 10 billion dollar price tag on the overall development and construction of a Space Elevator, which can be payed over a 10 year long project. That’s just 1 billion a year for something that will completely revolutionize the way we get to space and usher in a new era of human space exploration and even colonization. A relatively measly portion of what is to be a nearly 20 billion/year NASA budget, considering the significant payoff for the investment. The Japanese themselves have even committed to building a space elevator and are confident enough in their engineering prowess to do it with only 5 billion dollars! And the first nation, corporation or individual (yes, with a price tag of 10 billion some of the richest people in the world can pull it off) will have a hugely significant cost advantage to space access. The first ones to pull it off will effectively control space.

  • red

    “Please don’t tell me that President Obama is going to break his PROMISE, and that NASA’s new space policy isn’t really going to get us out of ow Earth orbit for the first time in half a century (by the time it happens).”

    If you mean Obama’s April speech, I don’t think that PROMISE was in there. He set out a plan and proposal based on commercial participation, advanced technology demonstrations and various other things to fix various aspects of NASA that were whacked by Constellation. Part of that concerned beyond-LEO astronaut trips:

    - early in the next decade: initial BEO crewed flights (I interpret that as shortly after 2020 lunar orbit, E-M Lagrange point, or similar trips)
    - 2025 NEO (I’m not sure why everyone acts like these are the first proposed BEO astronaut missions, but they aren’t)
    - by mid-2030′s he believes we can get to Mars orbit. (i.e. the plan doesn’t go out that far in enough detail to be fairly sure – just he “believes”)
    - Mars surface later

    Saying “I believe we can do” isn’t “PROMISING” it.

    At any rate, as far as exploration missions are concerned, Congress rejected the plan, so you can’t hold him (or NASA) to the results suggested from that plan. Congress decided they want to essentially burn most of the exploration on SLS, STS-135, and MPCV. You might not see any progress with those in the picture. Congress also hasn’t delivered the first batch of the proposed $6B increase to NASA over 5 years. Again, don’t expect progress under those conditions. Congress hasn’t even removed the restrictions against stopping Constellation, so any moves in that direction have to be taken very carefully even though many members of Congress want them to move to SLS/MPCV.

    Fortunately a few crumbs are left for exploration technology, general space technology, commercial crew and cargo, and so on, so we should still be able to get some useful work done. Don’t expect NASA astronauts at a NEO from those crumbs, though. The funding in those areas is a fraction of the proposed amounts.

    Anyway, how could Obama make a PROMISE about something that depends in part on future Adminstrations?

    You can criticize Obama for not fighting harder for general space technology, human research, exploration technology development and demonstrations, commercial crew, robotic precursor missions, and the rest (I do), but don’t pretend the FY2011 policy is in place and bemoan the lame results we get from Shuttle-derived SLS and Orion-based MPCV, if they turn out to be lame results.

  • NASA Fan

    Since the American taxpayer is going to pay for this, doesn’t he or she get a say in where their money goes? Moon or Mars?

    On second thought , better not ask them; if they knew where their money was going they’d put a halt to HSF right now! Oh wait, they just did that via Obamaspace!

    Until the American public can see something in it for them, there will be no HSF beyond trips to ISS and ‘studies’. (Mars is so far away, and such a challenging flight, it will be studied to death)

    HSF is getting its energy, excitement and vision from the Merchant 7, not NASA.

    Egad, NASA doesn’t even have enough money to deal with what is on it’s plate. Look for a big science mission to be canceled as a result of the CR pass back from OMB. An Agency that is living off the dysfunctional dynamics of the WH, Congress, OSTP,and OMB is not worth investing in circa 2010. Look elsewhere for moon or mars to happen.

  • Doug Lassiter

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    “President Obama has PROMISED that the United States is headed to asteroids and to Mars (in his lifetime, he told us)! ”

    It seems to be a bad habit among many space commentators to play fast and loose with the President’s language. There’s a lot of that going around! One howler is the accusation that the President said “been there done that!” about the Moon. What Obama said about asteroids and Mars (may I quote for you from the transcript) was

    “Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space. We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow.”

    He’s telling us here what he expects, and what he believes we can do. That’s not a PROMISE (your caps … many times). So we won’t tell you that he’s going to break his promise because, after all, he never made one.

    I think it was a little presumptuous of him to even expect that we’d be sending astronauts to an asteroid around 2025, and that he believes we can send people to the vicinity of Mars by the 2030s. That might be hard. The decision about where to go, especially in a flexible path scenario, should come out of detailed studies that haven’t yet been done, with technologies that the President, in his FY11 budget, wanted to see developed. Perhaps Congress will even see fit to fund those technology developments that would allow the President to live up to his expectations.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I wonder why Paul never comes by here to make a case for his Lunar Base Proposal? I appreciate that Anne is a partner and all, but if Paul wants to gain some converts, a personal appearance would probably help.

    As would his addressing the very valid doubts and questions posed in this forum.

    If he knows he can’t answer the questions then staying away and trying to reframe the issue in a way that leaves out awkward questions is a wiser course of action.

  • Coastal Ron

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Since the American taxpayer is going to pay for this, doesn’t he or she get a say in where their money goes? Moon or Mars?

    You already pay four people to do the decision making for you (President, Representative & 2 Senators), and you get a chance to re-elect them or elect somebody else when their terms are up. If you don’t like the way they represent you on space related stuff, then tell them, or elect someone that will listen to you.

    Until the American public can see something in it for them, there will be no HSF beyond trips to ISS and ‘studies’.

    I’ll agree with that sentiment, and that kind of tracks with what’s been going on since the Apollo program – it succeeded, and the public decided that space had been conquered, so there wasn’t a need to spend the big bucks anymore. Some, but not a lot.

  • William Mellberg

    red wrote:

    “Anyway, how could Obama make a PROMISE about something that depends in part on future Adminstrations?”

    I thought it was fairly obvious that I was being facetious — poking a little fun at those who say that NASA broke its “promise” with respect to the Space Shuttle.

    But you raise a very valid point. It’s why many people (myself included) see the President’s new space policy as a “blueprint for a mission to nowhere.” That’s because there is no specific goal or destination — no target people an wrap their minds around — even though Mr. Obama mentioned NEOs and Mars (with the media picking up on those comments as meaning an actual plan).

    When President Kennedy called on the United States to put a man on the Moon by “the end of this decade” (i.e., by 1969), he knew that he might not be in the White House when the goal was accomplished. Had he lived and won a second term, he would have at least been President when Apollo 8 circled the Moon — which would have been quite a political feather in his cap at the end of his that term. But Apollo 11 would have taken place on someone else’s watch (Richard Nixon’s). The point is, Kennedy set a goal which might (and did) extend beyond his presidency. In fact, the Apollo Program spanned three Administrations (four, if you include Apollo-Soyuz).

    Sadly, most American politicians are unable to think beyond the next election. Few can even envision goals that might be achieved by the next generation.

    And that is what was missing from President Obama’s speech in April. He talked about some good R&D initiatives. But as he cancelled one goal, he failed to set his own specific goal in space — one today’s students could wrap their arms around as they did in the 1960s, saying to themselves, “I want to be a part of that.” (The average age of NASA engineers and scientists working in the Apollo Program was 26.)

    What Dr. Spudis has proposed is the sort of bold initiative Mr. Obama failed to identify in February — or April. But in the end, such bold undertakings depend on political will. That was true in the time of Columbus; and it’s still true today. Which is why leadership is such an important factor in every great enterprise. Without it, all we’re left with are nice words and unfulfilled dreams.

  • The only technological breakthrough that is really required to make the space elevator an engineering reality is using carbon nanotubes to create a composite material 140 times stronger than steel, enough to withstand being swung around by the earth’s rotation.

    Oh, is that all that’s needed?

    [rolling eyes]

    And don’t try to tell me we can’t achieve such breakthroughs in a reasonable time frame. After all, we went from the Russians launching Sputnik to the USA putting a man on the moon in just 12 years.

    One of these things is not like the other.

  • Coastal Ron

    James T wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I’d like to point out that the idea of a space elevator is to me the most practical investment our nation or any group can hope for.

    It definitely would be nice to have, but there are so many scientific breakthroughs that would have to happen, that it would be a very high risk endeavor. Just look at the problems the Constellation program ran into while making a “simple” evolutionary launcher, or Boeing with their new composite 787. One breakthrough technology can be tough enough, but many can be too much.

    Again, I know this idea will be seen by many as least a little “out there,” but many of our society’s greatest achievements were treated with the same skepticism, including the Wrights brothers and their “magical” flying machine.

    True, but there are plenty more that never made it – not even close. Look at fusion power, which has been well funded for many decades. It is still decades away, and has consumed hundreds of billions.

    The book I mentioned estimates a 10 billion dollar price tag on the overall development and construction of a Space Elevator

    Whoever made that estimate has never built anything big before. Sorry, but $10B is off by at least a factor of 10x, and probably 100x or more.

    For comparison, it was projected that NASA would spend $40B just to fly the first Ares I, and the Orion capsule, after years of development, still needed a minimum of $4.5B just to get flight ready – for one capsule! When someone gives you an estimate on brand new technology, you have to take it with a grain of salt. In the case of space elevators, a lot… ;-)

  • Robert G. Oler

    Spudis idea/concept/plan/musing…whatever one wants to call it is both entertainingly bold and completely foolish. It is why nothing serious has happened in beyond earth exploration since Apollo and as things are developing wont happen for a long time.

    There are some technical holes in the effort but no need to go into any great discussion about those because the entire notion of “why” to go back to the Moon…to spend 88 stated billion (and of course its more) dollars to arrive at a product which 1) could be acquired directly from Earth for a lot less…and 2) for which there is no commercial use—is as the Bush/Obama depression really gets going…so ridiculous that one can simply imagine the political theater. But it is the sort of nonesense that Space advocates for the most part (some exceptions) engage in almost routinely…”we have to spend this money so why not do our pet project”.

    (a Gallon of water sits on a desk in a hearing room as someone ask SPudis how much his lunar water cost per gallon…)..

    The entire notion is the proverbial very expensive bridge to nowhere…

    Space “fans” (and this plan borders on that) are fond of thinking that government planning can completely replace the free market (and this from a lot of people who nominally are free market folks)…Spudis theory is that a lot of federal dollars (we are going to spend it anyway…he seems proud that this fits the Augustine budget lines…goofy) can somehow create a need for something that 1) on its face is not needed and 2) for which there is no commercial infrastructure and 3) which can be had cheaper in another way.

    There is no need for approximately 150 metric tons of water on the Moon…and spending at best 100 billion dollars to create that water will only create a laughing stock…and then I guess we will have to spend more money to do something with the water…

    I have no doubt we will use lunar resources one day…but we wont use them without the development of a space free market system in human spaceflight…and this doesnt do it.

    It is just another make work space technoproject…that makes a lot of space fans feel good…there is no rigor behind it. And this is as far as it will go.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    ” That’s because there is no specific goal or destination —”

    and Apollo proved how little value a specific goal or destination had past simply getting there.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    That’s because there is no specific goal or destination

    Sigh. Except for Bush 43, how is this different than any other President? And Bush 43 didn’t even really mean it – it was just a speech he gave, and then he failed to make sure it happened.

    This all boils down to the loss of the Moon as the next goal. Because of that, you feel adrift, with no date for getting back to the one place you feel we should be – the Moon.

    Unfortunately, no one can help you out here. This is a limitation that you will have to live with, maybe for the rest of your life. But I would say the vast majority of Americans are not affected by this. If they were, then Constellation would not have died so easily – that should have been your biggest clue.

    But as he cancelled one goal, he failed to set his own specific goal in space — one today’s students could wrap their arms around as they did in the 1960s, saying to themselves, “I want to be a part of that.” (The average age of NASA engineers and scientists working in the Apollo Program was 26.)

    I’m no psychiatrist, but you certainly seem like you want to relive the Apollo days.

    The circumstances of the 60′s will never reappear, so it makes no sense to try and repeat them. We won the race to the Moon, so now there has to be other reasons to venture forth to the Moon and beyond. And there are good reasons, but there isn’t the national imperative to spend 4% of the total federal budget.

    Regarding firm dates, are you OK if they are lies? I ask because the VSE stated that we would return to the Moon by 2020, but Constellation was on track for something like 2035. Did you complain to your congressional representative about that delta? Did you write op-eds in the local papers to bring popular pressure to bear? Or did you just say “well the goal is still the Moon, so it’s OK if the date slips by a couple of decades”?

    Now that Constellation was deemed a financial black hole and cancelled, you blame the messenger for telling you that the Moon is too expensive right now. Even though the messenger tells you that they are still working on putting in place the infrastructure that will get us back to the Moon, you still shoot the messenger. What message does that send to politician who want to make sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely?

    For me, I’d rather hear the truth and work to change it, than be told a lie and live with it. But that’s just me.

    My $0.02

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “It (Apollo) succeeded, and the public decided that space had been conquered, so there wasn’t a need to spend the big bucks anymore. Some, but not a lot.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Which has been the problem for people on my side of the fence for the past 40 years.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    So if we use the $88B figure in the Spudis plan (and no recurring costs added), they would have to produce at least 3,960,040 kg of water before it becomes comparable to the price NASA would pay through the CRS contract for the ISS. That figure goes up to around 33M kg if compared to Falcon 9 heavy.

    This is more of a thought exercise than a direct comparison, because we’re not comparing delivery of water to a common destination. Still, you can see how long it will take for a lunar water mining consortium to just get to break-even. It’s going to be a long time before we need 4M kg of water, much less 33M kg.

    You’re also comparing what would be a retrospective cost sixteen years from now to a recurring cost into the indefinite future. If the taxpayer is willing to sink $88 billion in the first place, then the only question is whether operating costs permit setting a price low enough to compete with CRS delivery. As you point out, it will be quite some time before we demand for thousands to tens of thousands of tons of space emerge, so if the taxpayer hopes to spin off the operation to Lunar Water Inc and if the answer to the previous question is yes, then the question is whether or not the market or the buyer’s payment can survive long enough to recoup the selling price. Projecting whether or not the taxpayer or the initial private investors win or lose is an exercise in fortune telling, but hell…it’s worth a shot.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    The Spudis plan addresses the exploration part of the plan, but the sustainable transportation infrastructure needed to support is is still TBD. Since that is the majority of the upfront cost, that has to be solved first.

    The Spudis plan outlines a sustainable transportation infrastructure; which is either amongst the dirt cheapest (from the appropriator’s perspective) to the borderline unaffordable (in the view of commercial buy club). That’s besides the point; the plan exposes stages in which you can trade time for savings precisely because that’s what planning is all about. You know, as opposed to spending the indefinite future running down whatever research tasks pop into mind.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 11:39 pm
    ” If the taxpayer is willing to sink $88 billion in the first place, ”

    and this is why all such schemes flounder. They are no longer willing to do that in human spaceflight.

    First the taxpayer has become convinced that NASA cannot design or execute the build of a “toliet” for the stated price, Second the days of “just doing it anyway” (or “we are going to spend the money anyway”) are over. The Taxpayer no longer believes things like “the wars will pay for themselves” or “tax cuts for the upper rich pay for themselves”.

    Now the politicians are still doing goofy things like the two mentioned because the “base” and the “true believers” believe those things…but NOT EVEN THEY believe them in terms of human spaceflight anymore.

    Spudis plan contrast with say the investment in the GPS system. I dont know what the total cost of the GPS system is to date…but 1) it provides a service aspects of The Republic need no matter the cost and 2) it provides a service that more or less pays for itself outside of what it was intended to do.

    UPS right now is the ultimate machine in terms of using GPS for their own fleet control. IE at their hub they have worked with ATC to develop specialized routes that anyone going into their hub can fly…but are applicable only to their hub in KY. It is a sort of model for the ATC system of the future, and is one reason that ATC went along with it.

    The dollar savings on fuel are amazing when traditional radar control systems are “backed up” (really GPS is primary but officially it is a backup) with GPS RNP (required navigational performance) .

    There is nothing like that “use” so far in human spaceflight and until it is things like Spudis plan are pipe dreams.

    How much of a pipe dream is seen in how the entire effort is justified starting with “we are spending the money anyway” or “we need a visionary plan to excite the people”…all dogs that no longer hunt…

    Robert G. Oler

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “I’m no psychiatrist, but you certainly seem like you want to relive the Apollo days.”

    No. I want to pick up where Apollo left off, as do many other perfectly sane and rational people (including my cousin who IS a psychiatrist).

    Merry Christmas.

  • DCSCA

    @Anne Spudis wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    This is obviously a starting point. Just add water, as it were, and the recipe for fresh lunar explorations begins to whet the mind’s appetite. 17 years, however, is a far too optimistic time frame given the realities of our era, particularly with respect to measuring time frames. Bear in mind, 42 years ago this very day, Apollo 8 took humans to the vicinity of the moon for the first time. And speaking strictly from a personal point of view, the television beamed back by Borman, Lovell and Anders that Christmas Eve from lunar orbit remains a high point in the lifetime of this writer. It was a benchmark event for all alive to experience the hell on Earth that was 1968. That said, Apollo was a paid for in that period by that generation, not charged off to other generations. And the decade long effort culminated in a brilliant but short-lived period of human exploration lasting just a shade over four years which, as the late NBC News anchor John Chancellor noted in 1989. It was not economically sustainable in that era, and the nation was on much sounder economic footing then than it is now.

    Today, the United States government borrows 41 cents of ever dollar it spends. According, any proposal that employs the statement, “This plan is affordable…” is immediately suspect, raising ‘red flags’ to any serious space advocate who realizes space exploration is a luxury, not a necessity in the Age of Austerity. What discovering water on the moon at the poles has done is narrow the focus of where to go when humans do go back, some day, to stay.

  • …and this is why all such schemes flounder. They are no longer willing to do that in human spaceflight.

    Why not? The taxpayer sunk over half as much more into NASA as a whole over the past decade without much complaint.

    First the taxpayer has become convinced that NASA cannot design or execute the build of a “toliet” for the stated price, Second the days of “just doing it anyway” (or “we are going to spend the money anyway”) are over. The Taxpayer no longer believes things like “the wars will pay for themselves” or “tax cuts for the upper rich pay for themselves”.

    1. Whoever said “the wars will pay for themselves?”
    2. In case you didn’t notice, Obama just signed a two year extension to all tax cuts. Apparently the jury’s still out on whether tax cuts stimulate growth.
    3. None of this has anything to do with the fact that taxpayers are still sinking upwards $20 billion a year into NASA anyway, of which Spudis is asking for a peak $7 billion over the course of 15 years.

    Now the politicians are still doing goofy things like the two mentioned because the “base” and the “true believers” believe those things…but NOT EVEN THEY believe them in terms of human spaceflight anymore.

    Regardless of why they’re doing them, they’re faced with the following facts.
    1. Shuttle’s done.
    2. NASA doesn’t have a plan to do anything worthwhile in the near, mid or long term.
    3. They’re still funding NASA to the tune of $20 billion a year.

    Spudis plan contrast with say the investment in the GPS system.

    Different agency, different budget. We can ignore GPS investment.

    There is nothing like that “use” so far in human spaceflight and until it is things like Spudis plan are pipe dreams.

    Which is why you’re building this lunar reach infrastructure in the first place, to crack open the nearest source of stuff off world and find something useful.

    How much of a pipe dream is seen in how the entire effort is justified starting with “we are spending the money anyway” or “we need a visionary plan to excite the people”…all dogs that no longer hunt…

    About as much in the pipe dream that commercial crew and cargo will emerge a market out of thin air (or no air at all) at LEO. The end goal is to get rich off space; at least Spudis has a plan that starts with the basics for exploiting a new frontier–raping it for raw materials.

  • Anne Spudis

    DCSCA wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 6:39 am

    You’ve given your view of manned return DCSCA but you did not address the robotics in the architecture. What do you think of that schedule?

  • NASA Fan

    @ Doug Lassiter; regarding the Presidents quote:

    “Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space. We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow.”

    The use of the word ‘will’ in the very first sentence is a declarative statement. These kinds of statements offer the speaker the choice to honor their word or not. These words alter the future – witness the Declaration of Independence. The use of the word ‘We’ll” in the third sentence also declares a new future offer Obama the same choice in honoring his word. The founding fathers had a choice to honor their ‘declaration’ of independence as their word, and flight to back it up, or chicken out and slump back into oblivion. They were courageous and decided to honor their word. Lets see if Obama has the same courage. I doubt it.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Coastal Ron, regarding how the American people are represented via our elected officials, and so do indeed speak for the American pubic.

    You seem to have some trust in our form of government actually working to benefit the American public writ large. How quaint. We both know how a well positioned politician – say as the chair of an appropriations committee – can steer funding and legislation to their district thus cementing their political career entrenchment; funding and legislation that does not benefit the public at large…as but one example of democratic dysfunction.

    Democracy may be the best form of government in the world, but that doesn’t mean it works as intended or actually makes a difference – witness our huge national debt.

    Again, lets not ask the American public if its ‘moon’ or ‘mars’, cause it will be a clear ‘no’ to both. IMHO of course

  • NASA Fan

    @ Robert Oler

    I love your example of UPS and the GPS system. Perfect example of what NASA HSF should be doing with its $4 to $5B. NASA HSF needs to transition to a DARPA like organization, doing HSF research that has benefits to the public, and only doing ‘HSF missions’ in the context of that research.

    Indeed, NASA’s Earth Science does research mission that are intended to benefit the world. If there is some aspect of Earth Observing that is operational, then NOAA funds those projects. Not NASA. NASA Earth Science does not have an ISS Albatross wrapped around its neck, draining funds from doing research.

  • Martijn Meijering

    1. ” That’s because there is no specific goal or destination —”

    2. “and Apollo proved how little value a specific goal or destination had past simply getting there.”

    I find it frustrating that people on various side of the multidimensional fence seem to be saying that picking a destination and building an affordable transport infrastructure are mutually exclusive. That seems false to me, or at least unsupported. Consider terrestrial transport systems to put this into perspective.

  • Coastal Ron

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 9:49 am

    You seem to have some trust in our form of government actually working to benefit the American public writ large.

    Oh, by all means I’m a realist, which means that I’m quite aware of the ability for my elected officials to do things that I don’t want. But that’s democracy in our system of government, and compared to the other potential forms of government, I’m happy to stick with it.

    Again, lets not ask the American public if its ‘moon’ or ‘mars’, cause it will be a clear ‘no’ to both.

    Maybe that’s what their true interest is, or maybe it’s because they don’t really understand what the plan is. The public will get involved if the issue is ready for them, but all we have for going to the Moon and Mars is a laundry list of reasons and ways to go, but no cohesive plan.

    Some may blame NASA or the President for that, but the current administration clearly doesn’t think that we have enough infrastructure in place to make a concerted push to the Moon. Certainly not one that will fit within the budget constraints they foresee from Congress. And Congress isn’t clamoring for a Moon or Mars plan either, they just want to spend money on infrastructure too (for good or for bad reasons).

    So there is not a lot of clarity here for the public to weigh in on, which is why the public is not engaged. What we’re waiting for is a set of conditions that bring clarity to this question – an inflection point. And like many inflection points, we may not know when it’s coming until we’re there, either because we suddenly realize that we have all the capabilities needed, or there arises a national imperative (natural disaster, global race, etc.).

    I see many similarities with the startup investor process. The public is the VC, and they listen to lots of ideas for the next “big thing”. Every day they hear these kinds of ideas, and some are interesting, but most are not. But the onus is on the ones pitching the ideas, not on the investors – they are no shortage of ideas to pick from, but not a lot worth investing in.

    So it is with plans for the Moon and Mars, where there is lots of great ideas, but no one has put together a compelling business case that lines up with the level of investment the public want to go with. But that could change, maybe even tomorrow, but I think we’re still a ways away.

  • pathfinder_01

    Problems with the spadus plan:

    On earth Hydrogen is produced via hydrocrobons and oxygen is produced via cooling air. Both processes take less energy than cracking water and produced useful side products that are sold commercially for purposes other than spaceflight. In addition Hydrogen and Oxygen production on earth have uses outside of spaceflight. So all things being even (and they are not) lunar propellant generated by cracking water is at a disadvantage.

    If I remember correctly the value of the propellant in a single tank of the shuttle is only worth around $500,000. Any propellant generated on the moon is going to have to be much cheaper than simply importing it from earth or give other advantages on the moon locally. It is further disadvantaged by size. On earth plants capable of producing a lot more hydrogen and oxygen than the amount of water Spadus wishes to export and thus would have economies of scale further reducing the price.

    This plan assumes that water on the moon would make the best source of propellant. From the LCROSS data methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide were found. These compounds themsleves are either good propellants or can easily be combined to make propellants that are easier to store than hydrogen and you would need to transport less useless mass in the form of water since most lox/hydrogen engines require different ratios for hydrogen and oxygen than 2:1. If I remeber correctly it is 7:1.

    The plan assumes it is economical to export water to a midpoint station. What if it is not? It could turn out that the only economical use of lunar generated propellant is returning the lander so that it does not need to carry propellant for both accent and decent.

    Here are some improvements:

    1. A prop depot should not need to both generate and store propellant esp. not a LEO one. The depot should be for storage only. Generating and storing are two separate functions and will add complexity that is not needed. Processing can be done both on earth and on the moon that way the only propellant that needs to be shipped is already in a useful form.

    2. Hydrogen may not make the best lunar lander propellant due to the boil off issue and the fact that it is not dense(requiring large tanks). A hypergolic lunar lander could in theory be developed and it could be storable for much longer. Instead of basing the whole archtuture around lox/hydrogen break it up into pieces. A LEO depot for instance could use different propellants than on at L1 and still be useful. A l1 depot could use different propellants than an LEO one and still be useful. A lunar lander may want to use different propellants than an in space craft.

    3. I would like to see it survive 8 Congressional election cycles, at least two potential turns overs in the senate, 4-8 presidents. That is the problem with destination oriented plans. Anything beyond 10 years is fantasy imho. This plan does nothing useful after mission 4 and even worse it expects rovers and lots of complex first generation machinery to operate without much human supervision. Bad assumption. Not to mention like CXP they are trading time in an attempt to control costs. If takes 16 years to do it then only a 4 year delay pushes it to 20.

  • red

    NASA Fan: “I love your example of UPS and the GPS system. Perfect example of what NASA HSF should be doing with its $4 to $5B. NASA HSF needs to transition to a DARPA like organization, doing HSF research that has benefits to the public, and only doing ‘HSF missions’ in the context of that research.”

    The original FY2011 early technology development and demonstration proposals are good examples of this:

    - FTD1/SEP demonstration: could enable or lower the cost of various commerial, military, science, and other satellite missions and probes (DARPA’s FAST solar array technology was suggested for demonstration on this mission, too)
    - FTD2/Depot demonstration – could enable or lower the cost of various commercial, military, science, and other satellite refueling architectures
    - FTD3/Inflatable habitat demonstration – could encourage commercial stations, possibly enabling a greater commercial crew/cargo market with its economic benefits and potential for lower launch costs for various applications
    - FTD3/ECLSS demonstration – could enable similar recycling applications on Earth and lower ISS operational costs (a public benefit if we assume ISS is kept)
    - FTD1,FTD2,FTD3 AR&D vehicle – the space tug could have many applications for commercial, military, science, and other satellite missions
    -FTD4/aerocapture demonstration – could enable or lower the cost of various science probes to other planets and Titan, and also for Earth return applications

    The type of approach that Spudis describes could also deliver benefits to the public in terms of use of resources from the Moon for cislunar applications. However, this approach needs far more investment to work, is not as likely to succeed if funded (because of uncertainties about political changes, details of lunar resources and lunar operations, and cost of lunar work), and doesn’t return the benefits nearly as soon. On the other hand, the benefits could be huge if it’s successful. Thus the approach I’d take is do the FTD1-4 missions and a few similar ones, do related technology development work, use ISS and commercial crew/cargo for their public benefits, and at the same time do the early missions Spudis describes (e.g.: surface rovers to look for lunar resources, test lunar ISRU, and test other lunar robot “grunt work”). Those early lunar robotic missions are affordable, and they would give us a lot of information we can use once they’ve been accomplished to see how likely it is that we really would get public benefits by continuing along the path Spudis describes.

  • Doug Lassiter

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    “The use of the word ‘will’ in the very first sentence is a declarative statement. These kinds of statements offer the speaker the choice to honor their word or not.”

    I just said he didn’t make any promises, and the accusation that he did was unfounded. Now you’re talking about Obama honoring his word”, which is presumptive of a promise. You’re making stuff up.

    Obama was describing what could be termed a very handwaving vision for space exploration. It was just a speech at KSC, and your comparison to our Declaration of Independence, our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty, is laughable. I guess his speech ought to go on display under glass in the National Archives, eh? What’s more, everyone understands that the President proposes and the Congress disposes, so for Obama to honor his words would require close cooperation by a Congress that, given their treatment of his FY11 budget, aren’t likely to give him that privilege. Shall we similarly dissect the language in the relevant Congressional bills for NASA and see if our Congress lives up to its word too? Many of the words in the 2008 Authorization bill regarding the Moon and Constellation sure weren’t lived up to.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    well lets take the easy ones

    “1. Whoever said “the wars will pay for themselves?”” MANY MANY members senior members of the Bush administration…I am not going to do the research for you, either learn what you are talking about or stop talking about it.

    on to (at least) space related stuff

    “Which is why you’re building this lunar reach infrastructure in the first place, to crack open the nearest source of stuff off world and find something useful.”

    there is no evidence that this plan would do that…ie that after the government spent all this money (and it would be far more then 88 billion) that there would be anything “left” which would have value exceeding its cost that would prompt its use…

    There is no history of NASA spending on human spaceflight which has resulted in anything that after all the spending is done…is even with the cost to develop the “thing” able to stand on its own “two feet” economically, it continually requires government money to keep running. NASA HSF couldnt even make launching commercial satellites on the shuttle “an economic seller” . As it stood in the 80′s our notion of “government subsidized programs” were losing out to the European notion of government subsidized programs.

    There is no evidence that Spudis plan would be any different. What likely would happen is that after all this “water” was mined then the government would yet again have to pony up some program to actually use the “water” because it would be to expensive for any private concern to use.

    but you have an answer for that

    “None of this has anything to do with the fact that taxpayers are still sinking upwards $20 billion a year into NASA anyway, of which Spudis is asking for a peak $7 billion over the course of 15 years.”

    it is not likely that this “fund it anyway” approach will continue. Obama and the GOP agreeing to continue tax rates which do not really require the “rich” to pay a reasonable cost of running The Republic is going to ensure that the debtand deficit grow…and the pressure to end that is going to be high…and thanks to lack of improvement on the revenue side the cuts are going to have to come from spending.

    Now you sit back and figure it out. Which do you think would go first? 7 billion dollars on Spudis plan or 7 billion dollars of oh Medicare/Caid?

    But having said all that if we were going to “spend the money anyway” the notion that it should be spent in the same stupid way that we have been spending cash in human spaceflight for the last 50 years…ie to do things that when they are done have little or no value to TheRepublic is in my view nuts.

    You might not htink that GPS is relevant, but thats only because HSF has nothing like it (or Syncom, or the investments made by NACA in human aviation flight or…) to illustrate how money is spent by the federal government as a multiplier for private industry not a drag on it. As long as that mentality is allowed to exist (ie “we are going to spend it anyway”) then 1) The REpublic will never get hold of its budget and we are as a superpower doomed…and 2) HSF will never amount to much.

    You may think going to the Moon is neat and gives good pictures and will be exciting…but you cannot say how it would change your life one single bit (unless you are on the government space dole)…and thats why it wont happen.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 23rd, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    The Spudis plan outlines a sustainable transportation infrastructure; which is either amongst the dirt cheapest (from the appropriator’s perspective) to the borderline unaffordable (in the view of commercial buy club).

    I wouldn’t say that they outline a sustainable transportation infrastructure. They plan to use a variety of existing and future transportation systems, but their plan is far less detailed than the ULA Moon plan with regards to transportation assets and how they will be used.

    For instance, they talk about when they will send humans to the Moon, but I don’t see where they talk about bringing them back. What are they using, how long do they stay? It’s OK that they don’t show the details, especially since they are focused on the exploitation aspects of the plan, but because of that you can’t say they have a “sustainable transportation infrastructure”. Not enough information.

    That’s besides the point [transportation issues]; the plan exposes stages in which you can trade time for savings precisely because that’s what planning is all about.

    I’ve already stated that I think the exploration part of the plan is fine. The progressive build up of robotic explorers is something I have long supported as a way to pave the way for eventual human occupation.

    But also remember that part of their justification is based launch costs. They say:

    However, despite numerous and continued attempts to lower launch costs over the last 30 years, a cost plateau has been reached at around $5000/kg (based on the price of the two cheapest existing launch services, India’s PSLV and SpaceX’s Falcon 9.)

    That statement is false, and I’ve pointed it out to Dr. Spudis on his Air & Space blog where he focused an article on the topic. If you look at the cost of putting fungible payloads (10 & 25 ton) into LEO over the past two decades, the costs have been falling significantly, and are projected to continue to fall.

    Now that’s a good thing for the transportation part of their plan, but it’s a bad thing for the justification part, since they are advocating that it’s cheaper to supply water from the Moon than from Earth for various space endeavors.

    But again, despite their various dubious assumptions, and the typo on page 2 (anyone else notice it?), I think the exploration/exploitation part of the plan is fine.

  • @red:

    However, this approach needs far more investment to work, is not as likely to succeed if funded (because of uncertainties about political changes, details of lunar resources and lunar operations, and cost of lunar work), and doesn’t return the benefits nearly as soon.

    Replace “lunar resources and lunar operations, and the cost of lunar work” with “assembling laboratory space in LEO” and completely remove “doesn’t return the benefits nearly as soon” and tell me what thing brings to mind. Hint, we sunk $100 billion over 15 years into it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    “I find it frustrating that people on various side of the multidimensional fence seem to be saying that picking a destination and building an affordable transport infrastructure are mutually exclusive. ”

    maybe someone is saying that but not me.

    What “I” am saying is that picking a destination that has no value to the commercial human spaceflight structure as it now exist and building a transportation infrastructure to get there that has no notion of “cost” is about the dumbest combination of ideas that I can think of.

    Robert G. Oler

  • James T

    @ Coastal Ron (thank you for your intelligent response, btw)

    There aren’t really a lot of breakthroughs to be made. More materials research into CNTs and the power transfer system are the only big ones, and a space elevator isn’t the only thing that would be helped by that research. Even shuttle technology would be helped tremendously with lighter stronger building materials. And developing a system that can transport energy by laser is already being worked on for use in solar collectors in space to beam energy down to earth. Any progress we make on the way to the SE will benefit other projects so even if hypothetically we never reach the goal, the journey would literally still have it’s own payoff. And then once we are approaching the goal we can begin designing (NOT inventing) the other components such as the Earthport (which will be floating on the ocean) and the space station at geosynchronous orbit (where the effect of Earth’s gravity becomes effectively null and any amount of mass would have neutral impact on the ribbon system).

    I think the comparison to fusion power is a little unfair. Just because it’s hard to mimic the power of the sun doesn’t mean material research will take forever. Even if the cost estimate is off by a wide margin (and I think your x100 is just ludicrous) it’s not a few times use device, it’s long term infrastructure. And once we have one, the cost of deploying more goes down considerably. Also, there’s no reason NASA has to do this by itself. In fact, I think it SHOULD be an international effort.

    The payoff for completing a SE is immense and immediate. When we can cut the cost of a access to space by 95% then we’re at a whole new stage of the game. Rockets can never reach even close to that level of efficiency. People here are talking about building a moon base and maintaining it at 8 billion dollars a year. How much of that cost in used up just in getting the payloads off the ground? Most of it I would imagine, or at least a sizable chunk. If we’re at a point where we’re excepting that logistical cost as the best we can hope for and we’ll accept it rather than seriously considering an alternative delivery system then we’re in big trouble.

    I’m not expecting NASA or any other body to get 100% behind the SE and dedicate themselves to it like the Apollo program, but striving to build a HLV by 2016 to take us nowhere for now, maybe back the moon later, and around Mars perhaps once, at a time when the commercial industry is almost ready to taxi our astronauts to the ISS, is just a poor waste of money. Instead we should be investigating and developing our other options with a very healthy R&D budget (other options include nuclear powered rockets, which I feel are avoided for safety rather then technical limitations).

    I’m very frustrated by the political atmosphere over the last year. Some of the only things about the republican party that I agree with are their fiscal conservancy(to a point) and faith in the entrepreneurial spirit. Obama’s budget proposal was in line with exactly these values, and the only thing not republican about it was the overall increased funding. Republicans threw their core values to the side just so they could be anti-Obama.

  • Coastal Ron

    James T wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    There aren’t really a lot of breakthroughs to be made.

    I doubt that, but it would be interesting to hear what you think the known ones are.

    I do like the idea of space elevators, but I’m also aware of the many issues that affect them once they are built. How will the floating Earthport be affected by storms? How will the Spaceport deal with debris or meteorites? How will the cable be repaired or replaced? What happens if it breaks?

    Many hard-science fiction authors have postulated theories about these issues, and they have even forecasted what happens when they fail (not pretty). Just like people get concerned when nuclear power plants are built near them, people “downstream” from a space elevator will have the same concerns – what happens when the impossible happens?

    So I guess my point is that there are many other issues to be addressed in addition to just building the cable and powering the cable cars. It’s how it fails, and how it affects society when it fails. And if you don’t have a convincing answer, the people (and the politicians) will never let you get started. That’s just reality.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Doug Lassiter

    In no way am I comparing Obama’s hand waving speech at KSC to the Declaration of Independence. Egad.

    I was using that as an example of how declarative statements create an opportunity to shape the future.

    Not sure if you have a significant other, or children. If you do, consider their reaction to you saying you ‘will’ do something for them, then you don’t. I do not think they will get hung up on lawyerly distinctions between the word PROMISE and the word ‘will’, as the contemplate if they should trust you when you say you ‘will’ do something.

    Yes, of course, Obama did not use the word promise. And yes, it takes Congress cooperation and honoring their word to fulfill on any Obama promise. The lack of such honoring of one’s word is of course much of what ails US government functionality on behalf of the American public, and what ails NASA in implementing its mission – people do not honor their word, rather spend lots of time arguing they didn’t make any promises and pointing fingers and blame everywhere except the mirror.

  • The notion that any politician, and especially a president, can make any promises about events that will occur long past his tenure in office, is quite foolish, and just a continuing part of the Apollo Cargo Cult and mythology, that all we need is another JFK.

    If you want to see space opened up, all you can do is press the government to put into place policies that will maximize taxpayer bang for the space buck, encourage more private space activities, competition, and entrepreneurialism, focus on the development of technologies that will reduce costs over the longer haul, and then fight continually to keep those policies in place from Congress to Congress and administration to administration. Constellation was a disaster on all these fronts, and the new policy a useful step in the right direction.

  • Martijn Meijering

    “What “I” am saying is that picking a destination that has no value to the commercial human spaceflight structure as it now exist and building a transportation infrastructure to get there that has no notion of “cost” is about the dumbest combination of ideas that I can think of.”

    Well, an affordable transport infrastructure could support any destination and conversely any destination could generate the demand that is necessary to develop that infrastructure. For that reason I’m mostly destination-agnostic, but with the caveat that it is important to have at least one destination (better yet, a sequence of destinations), preferably an inspiring one. Budget-wise and incrementality wise a very modest destination that requires lots of propellant would be good. Unmanned NEO tagging / sample return with a refuelable spacecraft based at and returning to L1/L2 seems like close to optimal in that regard.

  • Doug Lassiter

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
    “In no way am I comparing Obama’s hand waving speech at KSC to the Declaration of Independence. Egad.”

    I appreciate that clarification. Thanks. (But you were making that comparison.) OK, let’s get out the scalpel and tweezers on the two “will”s.

    “Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights WILL [my caps] test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit.”

    Let’s see. That would be 2020-2030. I see no indication that’s unlikely to happen. But wait! He’s not saying that we’ll go BEO by then, just that we’ll have figured out how to do it. But wait, didn’t we do that already… ? That box is already checked!

    “We’ll [as in, we WILL] start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history.”

    Well, unless the Chinese do it first, when we do it (he never really directly says when we WILL do it) it’ll be the first time. Now, it does seem as if he is assuring us that when we finally do it, we’ll be the first to do it. Oooh, a promise that we’ll beat the Chinese! Ah, no, he’s just saying that when we do it, it’ll be the first time WE do it! Whew.

    That Obama. He’s such a cagey orator.

    C’mon. This is getting ridiculous. You’re just twisting words, as am I above. In fact, there were no “words” to honor here as there were no promises made. What any President needs to do is to be a leader by telling the country what he aspires to. That’s what Obama did. But it’s clear to everyone that human space flight is not high on his list of aspirations. It wasn’t to any President. Probably not even Kennedy.

  • James T

    @ Coastal Ron

    Actually the book I mentioned, “Leaving the Planet by Space Elevator”, tackles all of those questions and many others. If you don’t want to buy it (20 bucks after S&H from Amazon.com was worth it to me) I would be glad to fully answer any questions for you by e-mail (hargoonis@hotmail.com, I would rather not further fill this post with an off topic back and forth). Just so you’re not surprised, I wrote the only book review on Amazon for it. Some quick answers to the questions you’ve posed here are:

    “How will the floating Earthport be affected by storms?”
    Location, location, location. The book actually uses 10 years worth of weather data from some of NASA’s recent satellites to determine that there are a few regions where there appear to be no storms year round. The two largest of these regions are west of Australia and west of South America. That of course is only with 10 years of data. It is possible that over the longer term those regions experience some storms, and with all this global climate change who knows, but we have plenty of time to collect more data before we have to finally decide on a location. And the point of the floating earth port is so it can me moved in case of emergency (actually the book suggests the most important reason for the system’s mobility is to avoid satellites that will be in an orbit that could intersect with the ribbon).

    “How will the Spaceport deal with debris or meteorites? How will the cable be repaired or replaced?”
    The spaceports at geosync and at the end of the ribbon itself would be just as susceptible to debris and meteorites as anything we put into space (ISS or any craft), so it’s not like we’re not already preparing to mitigate these factors for other endeavors. Bear in mind that the mass of the geostation can be as large as we want since it will have neutral impact on the ribbon system, so we can build it out of some pretty resistant heavy materials if we need to. If you were asking how debris and meteorites affect the ribbon itself, the book specifically discusses the advantages of a ribbon over a cord for this very purpose. Imperfections in a cord are more likely to case break and a cord has the same dimensions from any angle. Imperfections in a ribbon will have to build up over a long period of time to cause breakage and is very thin when looking at it from one side. The book suggests a method of ribbon repair where we send a special repair cruiser up the ribbon every so often to fix imperfections. The book is written in plain language and not as a technical manual so it doesn’t explain exactly how the ribbon would be repaired by this device on the chemical/atomic level (simply adding layers on top is not a long term solution since that would increase the mass of the ribbon, and that can be bad if left unchecked). Without even knowing the exact properties of the as to be developed composite material it is no surprise that there are no specifics. With regards to having it replaced, the idea is to not just build one elevator and stick with it. We can have multiples and the subsequent elevators will be cheaper to deploy since we can now get all the equipment into space with the first one, rather than launching another big rocket. So once multiple ribbons are in place, replacing a totally broken ribbon is far less costly then making the first one was. If material research advances further beyond the minimum we need to build the first one then replacing an old elevator could actually be an improvement.

    “What happens if it breaks?”
    Exactly what would happen depends on where it breaks but the material that makes the ribbon is so light/pound that we don’t have to worry about it crashing down and causing too much havoc. The book goes so far as to describe it as a long piece of newspaper drifting down from the sky. I don’t think it’s going to be falling fast enough to burn in the earth’s atmosphere so we won’t have a big flaming whip falling on out heads. On top of that it would be falling so slow that we could probably intercept it with a aircraft that can catch on and at least direct its fall. Having it fall south from an Earth port at either of the two desired regions would bring it falling into the ocean and maybe hitting Antarctica. Having the anchor point (the Earth port) out at open sea helps quite a bit. For most break points the upper portion will slowly drift away from earth, no longer being anchored by the Earth port. The geostation can release any attachment it has to the ribbon and allow it to slip away, but the station at end will probably be lost. The real thing we have to worry about is the assets and people traveling on the ribbon when it breaks. Designing the cruisers to detach from the ribbon in case of emergency, use boosters to move away from the ribbon or set a trajectory toward reentering earth’s atmosphere then use parachutes for slow decent would be the best solution for that. That’s not a solution given from the book, that’s just what I think is a good method.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    “Well, an affordable transport infrastructure could support any destination and conversely any destination could generate the demand that is necessary to develop that infrastructure.”

    picking a destination that imparts any “launch” demand does not ensure by any means an affordable launch infrastructure …

    And there is no a chance on “the creators Earth” that the government any government but particularly the US government has a chance of developing a launch infrastructure (as a government program) that is affordable to private industry…at best it would be affordable to the government…but an F-22 is affordable to the US government and thats all.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Merry Christmas everyone.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Robert:

    The government shouldn’t develop the infrastructure, it should only provide the demand for launch services. Industry would develop infrastructure as required and on their own dime, that is funded from profits generated by the sale of launch services. Do you disagree with that?

  • Matt Wiser

    At least the Mars people aren’t advocating a one-way trip like some were a week or two ago….

    Ron: a lot of the opposition came out of the way the new program was presented; suddenly it was commercial to LEO vs. NASA to BEO. And anyone who advocated one path was (and still is by some) considered a heretic or worse by the other side. If the President had repackaged the program as a revamping of the lunar mission (still cancelling Constellation, but enabling lunar return much sooner than Constellation would have), a lot of opposition would, IMHO, have been muted, or at the least, softened. Or, if he had said “Before we return to the Moon, I want to challenge NASA to do something new, such as visit an asteroid, and do so by 2025, with return to the lunar surface by the mid to late 2020s”, again, by giving those who were supportive of CxP the intention of going back, would’ve garnered more support. Said it on earlier threads, but that kind of program I would’ve gladly supported. Just my $.02;

    And Merry Christmas to all, everyone.

  • K.S.

    Martin,

    In that scenario if the only customer is government, the infrastructure would still be government funded. It just would be funded on the back end, not the front. In effect, the ‘Industry’ would be owners of government debt until the payload reaches LEO. Granted, that bond would only be paid upon delivery of product.

    KS

  • NASA Fan

    @ Doug L

    Okay. Smile. Enuf with the words.

    Indeed Presidents have a unique position in American life to lift our hopes dreams and visions. For me, Obama doesn’t do it.

    @ Everyone

    Merry Christmas. I love this blog, but don’t comment much as you are all much more knowledgeable and smarter than I. (And I so fear the reprisal of Major Tom! – Don’t make stuff up!).

    Enjoy the holiday season.

  • Suddenly it was commercial to LEO vs. NASA to BEO.

    No, it never was. That was a gross misinterpretation that opponents insisted on making (and many still do), like the continuing canard that “commercial = SpaceX only.” It was always commercial to LEO and NASA to BEO.

  • Gregori

    It would be very unwise to throw all your resources at a plan based on wishful thinking. Every space program to date has been promised to be cheaper than it actually ended up being.

    Certainly, I think people could be sent to the Moon, but I wouldn’t put ISRU on the critical path. Mining 150 tonnes of water on the Moon might not end up being such a great idea and becomes a rationale for sinking more money into the program to ACTUALLY use it.

    A better plan would be to slowly test ISRU on a small scale with robotic demonstrators to test different approaches and see which one works best. These could involve human landing missions, who can repair the machines on site, if they break down. If its proven to be economical, scale it up with bigger machines.

  • Brian Paine

    Hope you all had a good Xmas, or are still having one, and nobody was given an argument! It was a balmy 104F here with enough solar gain to power the globe.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Ron: a lot of the opposition came out of the way the new program was presented

    No matter what the President would have proposed, there would have been griping. If he had kept Constellation going, then those who saw it as a financial & technical black hole would have been disappointed. If he would have scaled it back and restructured the program people would have howled over half-measures and pushed-out schedules.

    Face it, without a national imperative to focus the needs for human exploration in space, there is plenty of room for disappointment from space advocates.

    Part of the opposition is based on whether certain destinations have specific dates, even though we don’t have funded programs for those destinations – I don’t understand how you can guarantee something if you don’t have the money for it, but people seem to want that assurance.

    In any case, whatever the President wants, it’s Congress that makes the laws, and Congress has decided the direction of NASA for the next couple of years. So regardless if you’ve been naughty or nice, that’s what you got in your stocking, and I guess it’s up to you to decide if it was a lump of coal or something of value.

    Happy Holidays

  • Martijn Meijering

    In that scenario if the only customer is government, the infrastructure would still be government funded.

    Yes, absolutely. And if government is not the only customer (and it wouldn’t be) but still the main customer (as it probably would be, at least initially), then it would be mainly government funded. I’m not arguing against this, government funding would be crucial if we want to see commercial development of space soon.

    Another important point is that the infrastructure would be available to commercial clients as well, and the amount of traffic from such clients would increase as costs came down.

    It just would be funded on the back end, not the front.

    Agreed again, but I think this is one of the main things that will prevent the whole thing from degenerating into a second STS or a second SLI or Constellation as Robert fears.

    In effect, the ‘Industry’ would be owners of government debt until the payload reaches LEO.

    That would be true if they developed all the infrastructure up front, but I’m arguing that would be unwise and prone to the same kinds of failures you would have to be worried about with an SLI rerun. But industry is unlikely to opt for such a high risk approach. It would be much safer to work towards the required infrastructure incrementally, starting with existing launchers and slowly making them more cost-effective and (partially) reusable and/or starting with small suborbital RLVs and evolving them into larger orbital RLVs in several steps. For beyond LEO you could start with small SEP tugs without the capability to cross the van Allens repeatedly, then incrementally adding that capability as well as making them larger. ISRU could start with just oxygen, then expand to include fuels and construction materials etc.

  • Doug Lassiter

    NASA Fan wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 10:11 am

    “Indeed Presidents have a unique position in American life to lift our hopes dreams and visions. For me, Obama doesn’t do it.”

    I guess if your hopes, dreams and visions are dominated by human space flight, he wouldn’t have. Nor would most any of our Presidents.

    But that brings up a good point. What would a President have to say with regard to human space flight to lift hopes, dreams, and visions? Seriously, if you were a Presidential speech writer, what words would you hand the President? There is a fine line here between lifting hopes and getting laughed at, or even impeached, if not thrown in a straightjacket. What do you say to the American public? I’ve heard all the arguments from the space advocates, and none of them come close, in my view, to something a President could say with a straight face to lift hopes, dreams, and visions. Let’s be clear. At KSC in April, Obama wasn’t trying to lift any hopes, dreams, and visions.

    “The bottom line”, he said, “is nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am.” Speaking of words, is “commitment” the same as what lifts hopes, dreams, and visions?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 2:33 am

    “Ron: a lot of the opposition came out of the way the new program was presented; suddenly it was commercial to LEO vs. NASA to BEO.”

    no it didnt.

    that’s simply not accurate.

    It is like saying to those of us who opposed the war in Iraq…”you liked Saddam”.

    The vast majority of the opposition to The Presidents plan comes from those (including you) who believe that exploration for the purpose of exploration is enough to justify humans in space and the massive government expenditures that go now with any NASA effort.

    Your post even points to that…you wrote “If the President had repackaged the program as a revamping of the lunar mission”

    there is NO REASON RIGHT NOW FOR HUMANS TO RETURN TO THE MOON THAT REMOTELY HAS VALUE FOR THE COST.

    Now the cost with Cx (or any NASA program) is phenomenal…but in your world and the world of most of the opposition to it “if people are not (at least planning) on going somewhere in the solar system then its no program at all”

    People like you cannot understand either the significance of the notion of value for cost, nor can you grasp the history of how almost every other frontier in this nation was opened, nor can you grasp the complete and utter failure that the “Apollo method” for human spaceflight has been in this country.

    Sorry for the harsh tone, but you are not even honest with yourself (or you are being totally dishonest with us). What you want is a big government program that in some form or fashion goes back to the Moon and you dont care about a reason why or the reasons you give are complete jerks.

    That dog wont hunt anymore.

    Merry Christmas

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 12:19 am

    “@Robert:

    The government shouldn’t develop the infrastructure, it should only provide the demand for launch services. Industry would develop infrastructure as required and on their own dime, that is funded from profits generated by the sale of launch services. Do you disagree with that?”

    In general no…but I would add this to have agreement.

    Whatever the demand for launch services is because of…it should be something that is or already is in the national interest and has value all by itself related to cost.

    I dont believe in the government saying “we are going to go back to the Moon and do the other things just to stimulate the launcher industry in this country” (sorry JFK)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    “I dont believe in the government saying “we are going to go back to the Moon and do the other things just to stimulate the launcher industry in this country” (sorry JFK)”

    Heheh, good one. We are in almost complete agreement then. “we are going to go back to the Moon and do the other things to open up space for mankind” sounds like a better reason, and that is what I believe it would do. But it still isn’t a good reason to spend taxpayers’ money, and I don’t think there is another justification for it either. At best there is a conditional justification, “if we are going to the moon, then we should seize the opportunity to open up space for mankind in the process”.

  • Vladislaw

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    ‘Suddenly it was commercial to LEO vs. NASA to BEO.

    No, it never was. That was a gross misinterpretation that opponents insisted on making (and many still do), like the continuing canard that “commercial = SpaceX only.” It was always commercial to LEO and NASA to BEO.”

    I agree with an amendment.

    For me it is commercial to LEO and NASA to BEO, utilizing commercial services to the maximum extent possible, as mandated by Law. (smiles)

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I wouldn’t say that they outline a sustainable transportation infrastructure. They plan to use a variety of existing and future transportation systems, but their plan is far less detailed than the ULA Moon plan with regards to transportation assets and how they will be used.

    Details are just that, details. When it comes to the bottom line, note that the ULA sketch doesn’t give us a more precise cost estimate than “tens of billions (of dollars).”

    For instance, they talk about when they will send humans to the Moon, but I don’t see where they talk about bringing them back.

    Spudis black-boxes vehicle selection; unless we’re talking about committing to separate architectures for delivery and return, what’s the point of talking about it?

  • @Martijn:

    But it still isn’t a good reason to spend taxpayers’ money, and I don’t think there is another justification for it either.

    It certainly was when the Feds sent Lewis and Clark out west, followed by numerous Army fort builders. What better way to spend taxpayer money than on things that put more money in the taxpayers’ pockets?

  • Doug Lassiter wrote:

    What would a President have to say with regard to human space flight to lift hopes, dreams, and visions? Seriously, if you were a Presidential speech writer, what words would you hand the President? There is a fine line here between lifting hopes and getting laughed at, or even impeached, if not thrown in a straightjacket.

    To be blunt, words don’t mean squat.

    Look at Bush’s January 2004 VSE speech. he promised the Moon. Literally.

    But two weeks later, when NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe came before the Senate Science Committee, he presented a long-range budget chart which asked for no additional funding to build the Moon program.

    No less than John McCain, who at the time was the Committee chair, called him on it less than five minutes into the session which is available for viewing on the C-SPAN web site. McCain said in his opening remarks:

    I’m very curious to hear how Administrator O’Keefe thinks we can implement the President’s proposal with the very limited resources that have been proposed. Two days go, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deficit in Fiscal Year 2004 would reach $477 billion. It’s been reported that the President’s new proposal could cost between $170 billion and $600 billion. Needless to say, the $12 billion that the Adminstration has suggested be spent over the next five years falls far far short of what might actually be required to return to the Moon and reach for Mars and beyond.

    The only reason JFK got the funding for Apollo was the Cold War. There is no Cold War now, therefore there is no compelling reason to blow the federal budget for another Moon program.

    That might explain why some of the “Moonies” to coin a phrase keep claiming there’s some Red Menace threat from the Russians or Chinese. Of course, in the reality-based world no such threat exists. But perhaps they figure that it worked in the 1960s, so maybe it will work in the 2010s.

    In the early 1960s, we didn’t have the unholy space-industrial complex where members of Congress on the space subcommittees represent districts with NASA space centers and/or NASA contractors. No matter what inspirational words a President might speak, they mean nothing because the budget is ultimately determined by Congress, and all they care about is being re-elected, which means redirecting NASA money to their districts regardless of national priorities.

    The only way out is the commercial route. We have to cut Congress out of the vehicle design process. Now, if that happens will we see the day when the Congresscritters from the SpaceX and Orbital districts try to steer government contracts to those vendors? Probably. But hopefully by then the old space-industrial complex will have blown away and perhaps a new NASA will emerge, freed of its sclerotic bureaucracy.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Doug Lassiter

    ““The bottom line”, he said, “is nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am.” Speaking of words, is “commitment” the same as what lifts hopes, dreams, and visions?”

    Good question. Indeed, if I am Elon Musk and I hear the president say those words, than I am thinking my dreams and hopes and visions of a vibrant successful Space X have more chance of succeeding if there is an ISS out there supported by NASA $’s that I can provide launch services to.

    In the context of moon vs mars, clearly the President isn’t committing to anything of content. I believe his use of the words puts people on notice he won’t cancel HSF. Of course, he could be committed to the eventual Manned Space Flight program of Space X and Orbital, with every intention of slicing NASA’s HSF budget to zero, and he will have kept the intention of his words. After all, he didn’t’ say ‘whose’ manned space flight program he was committed to. And being committed to HSF doesn’t mean he will fork over funds. He can simply cheer from the sidelines, and be committed to helping someone succeed without expenditure of federal dollars.

    Smart politicians of course always leave themselves wiggle room with whatever they say. I have therefore come to never trusting what a politician says…including Obama.

  • Bennett

    Well said Stephen.

    One wonders why O’Keefe wasn’t asking for say, 5 billion over what he thought he’d need to implement the VSE? Knowing that Congress would certainly give him less than he asked for, but still enough to push the VSE forward?

    Merry Christmas to all.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Details are just that, details. When it comes to the bottom line, note that the ULA sketch doesn’t give us a more precise cost estimate than “tens of billions (of dollars).”

    Yes, details are details, and whereas the ULA plan provides enough detail that you can plug in the prices of a Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V (or Ariane V, Falcon 9, etc.), the Spudis plan suggests possible transportation options, but otherwise doesn’t define them. Now I think this is a fine approach, but it is far from detailing out the “infrastructure for routine space travel”.

    And you can see what the preference really is for the Spudis plan:

    First they discount the evolutionary development of the ULA ACES family of tankers by saying “but development of propellant depots is required to permit journeys beyond LEO“. If you’ve ever looked at ACES, it is the big brother to Centaur, and uses existing Delta IV tooling – not much risk.

    But they don’t feel the same concern for an evolutionary launcher:

    Two concepts – DIRECT and Shuttle side-mount (SSM) – take advantage of the existing space industrial base, including tooling and assembly facilities, as well as the existing processing and launch infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center, to create new vehicles that can deliver tens of metric tonnes to LEO.

    What they forget, is that existing launchers utilize “existing space industrial base, including tooling and assembly facilities, as well as the existing processing and launch infrastructure” too. And they can “deliver tens of metric tonnes to LEO“. But pointing that out doesn’t fit into their narrative.

    ULA does use their vehicles for their own study, but they even state that other launchers can be substituted.

    If we decide to set up colonies on the Moon, then I would suggest the ULA template for the transportation, and the Spudis plan for the ISRU.

  • Matt Wiser

    Rand, it’s the way the program was presented-at that disaster of a rollout back on 1 Feb that got that perception going. Suddenly, everyone was shrieking about “privatizing NASA” and ‘turning human spaceflight over to the private sector.” Or at least that’s how it was being spun. Charlie Bolden took the rap for the disaster of a rollout (and rightly so-he admitted not listening to his PAOs), and he failed to say how going commercial to LEO enabled NASA to go BEO in that presentation. And there were a couple of House and Senate hearings where he took a lot of heat for not doing so-and it was at one of those House hearings where Bolden said that he didn’t care if the ChiComs beat us back to the moon, and his questioner replied, “it does to me.” Not something you want to do: get on a committee member’s bad side….Bottom line: They (Bolden, Garver, and even the President) didn’t “make the sale.”

    Vladislaw: if Congress directs NASA and (and appropriates necessary funding to do so) to put Orion on an EELV to handle the crew mission to ISS if the commercial sector doesn’t live up to their promises, they have to do it. Like it or not. Or if they are directed to have such a vehicle as a backup in case the commercial contractor(s) have problems, NASA is obligated to do so. Congress writes the checks, and you’d better do what they tell you. And maximum extent possible will likely be NASA handling the BEO misson with international partners (ESA, JAXA, Canadians, even the Russians). When things develop into the exploitation phase, then the commercial sector will get involved, but that’s a long ways off.

    Oler, Oler, Oler….your shreiking oppsition to any HSF is well known.

    Ron: here’s what I’d reccommend:

    1) Develop the commercial sector for cargo/crew to ISS-but have the crew side more on the lines of a lease arrangement-especially if the vehicle is reusable. Bolden has said he’s in favor of that, and that’s what the Houston Chronicle has said is the Astronaut corps’ preference.

    2) Build Orion and test-fly it in LEO-as L-M has suggested, on an EELV. Shake the vehicle down, fly a few missions to ISS, and do some stand-alone flights in LEO to prove the vehicle.

    3) Build, test, and fly the Heavy-lifter. After 4-5 test flights, put Orion on it, and do 2-3 tests (uncrewed). Then have an Apollo 7 redux-heavy lift w/Orion to LEO. Then shoot for BEO-with lunar orbit. It certifies the Orion with crew for BEO, and it tells the world that the U.S. can return to the moon whenever we think we’re ready.

    4) Find out if inflatable habitats, closed-loop life support, automated rondezvous/docking, and on-orbit refueling can be tested, certified as flight-ready, and demonstrate them in LEO. The commercial sector can be a partner, especially in the latter field, with the possiblity of their involvement in restocking a depot, either in LEO or at an L-point.

    5) Extended missions in lunar orbit, along with GEO, L-points, and if a destination can be found by 2025 (or even 2019 as L-M has suggested), fly PLYMOUTH ROCK-the NEO mission.

    6) Begin lunar lander and human rover development in the 2018-20 time period. Shoot for boots on the ground by the mid to late 2020s. If international partners are willing to get involved in work on the lander, rover, rover robotics, and/or surface habitats, the more the merrier. Spreads out the costs, and gets other parties a chance to have their astronauts land on the lunar surface with NASA’s.

    Fly several sorties a year, with longer stay times. Fly also to all the L-points, getting the human biomedical and radiation data needed to prep for Mars. Mars flyby by early 2030s. 2035 with Mars orbit/Moons. Then decide if we’re ready for the big one: Mars proper.

    Essentially, this is Ed Crawley’s presentation at the Cape on 15 Apr, but with what Congress (thank-you Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchinson) has gotten involved. Crawley sold me on FlexPath, and I was a very reluctant convert. But he “made the sale.”

  • Martijn Meijering

    And you can see what the preference really is for the Spudis plan:

    Yes, they are still shilling for SDLV.

  • After all, he didn’t say ‘whose’ manned space flight program he was committed to.

    He was committed to America’s manned space flight program. Not that this is not identically equal toNASA’s manned space flight program, at least as it’s been economically disastrously run for the past forty years. I was appalled at the implied equivalence in the House bill between American space companies and the Russian space program. But I guess that’s what we should expect when the only principle involved is jobs in Utah and Alabama.

    Rand, it’s the way the program was presented-at that disaster of a rollout back on 1 Feb that got that perception going. Suddenly, everyone was shrieking about “privatizing NASA” and ‘turning human spaceflight over to the private sector.” Or at least that’s how it was being spun.

    Yes, that was how it was being spun, by those committed to the unaffordable and unsustainable status quo. Those interested in actual progress in space should have been paying attention to what the actual proposal was, even at the time. It was available on line, here and other places. All one had to do was look at the budget, and ignore all the noise from the ignorant press (generally a good idea) and those feeding them to preserve their pork.

    Not to say, of course, that the roll out wasn’t a disaster, PR wise. But that’s about the best that one can expect from an incompetent administration like this. Even the few things it wants to do right, it screws up.

  • That previous should be “Note that this is not identically equal to NASA’s manned space flight program…

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Ron: here’s what I’d recommend:

    Sure, we can do all of that Matt, but we don’t have the budget to do all of it. And that has been the problem for the last 5 decades, not the lack of ideas or speeches.

    For instance, your #3 & #6 are essentially Constellation, but you’re planning on them earlier than Constellation, and with less budget. How can you possibly do that while doing everything else?

    Here are some other comments:

    1) Leasing commercial capsules – You make this seem like a huge impediment. I doubt SpaceX and Boeing care if NASA wants to rent, lease or buy.

    2) Build Orion and test-fly it in LEO – So far Congress has not fully funded Orion, and there is no mission for it other than as a backup to commercial crew. Besides, Orion is Apollo-era thinking for space exploration, and we’re ready to move on to something evolved from the ISS (i.e. modular spacecraft). Capsules will be relegated to lifeboat status.

    3) Build, test, and fly the Heavy-lifter. After 4-5 test flights… NASA will not have any money for anything else if they do that. HLV’s are very expensive.

    4) Find out if inflatable habitats, closed-loop life support…” This is the stuff that the Obama plan wanted to focus on, which is the building blocks of our future space exploration infrastructure.

    Essentially, this is Ed Crawley’s presentation [flexible path] I guess you haven’t noticed, but the President endorsed the flexible path, and that is what he proposed in his NASA budget. That Congress decided to implement an HLV 5 years too early is unfortunate, along with the under-funded technology and exploration programs. Still, flexible path is still moving ahead, DESPITE Congress.

    My $0.02

  • DCSCA

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Mars is the place for robots. Pepper the planet with probes festooned with instrumentation, camera and sample return capacity and let ‘em roll. Should keep the planetary sciences people happy at a reasnonably affordable cost through the Age of Austerity if they play their cards right. The south pole of the moon is your goal/target for a manned return but given the economics of our time, the most important and immediate element for NASA is to get a general purpose manned spacecraft with a base block design capable of modification for extended lunar flights, operational. Get it flying a top existing LVs through the Age of Austerity. Once it’s up and running, space planners can begin to work up realistic planning for more expansive missions including a return to the moon to stay. Robots to Mars. People to the Moon– that’s your space program for the next half century. Try to sell anything more elaborate and it’ll be cut to shreds.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 12:26 am

    “Oler, Oler, Oler….your shreiking oppsition to any HSF is well known. ”

    LOL just more of “if you are not with us then we can make your opposition out to be anything we want to, because we dont have the facts to back up what we are claiming”

    goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    nicely said…That will be me waving as I go overhead at FL4XX today…off to the home of the fourth largest fleet in the world (hint the other three are also in the US Navy!…so much for the Chinese threat)…a few days in TJSJ

    Robert G. Oler

  • NASA Fan

    @ Bennet

    “One wonders why O’Keefe wasn’t asking for say, 5 billion over what he thought he’d need to implement the VSE? Knowing that Congress would certainly give him less than he asked for, but still enough to push the VSE forward?”

    Pure speculation: O’Keefe was angling for the Secretary Of Defense under Bush II, and as a life long creature of Government wanted to stay in Bush II favor; hence don’t ask for more money. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, O’Keefe had an epiphany and realized he needed more money to put his kids through college and bailed out to become Chancellor of LSU.

  • Bennett

    @ NASA Fan,

    I’m Shocked! SHOCKED I say!

    Well OK, not so much.

  • Vladislaw

    Matt Wiser wrote:

    “Vladislaw: if Congress directs NASA and (and appropriates necessary funding to do so) to put Orion on an EELV to handle the crew mission to ISS if the commercial sector doesn’t live up to their promises, they have to do it. “

    If the congressional rocket scientists want to take taxpayer’s money and build a 10 billion dollar capsule more power to them. That is why I keep trying to get a commercial sector started. America is never going anywhere in space as long as NASA is directed to build 10 billion dollar capsules, 35 billion dollar medium lift rockets like Ares 1 and 50 billion dollar rockets like Ares V. I honestly don’t care what the pork space states and NASA does anymore as long as commercial still gets a few table scraps to get a commercial human spaceflight sector up and running.

    Once commercial is established, NASA human spaceflight will be irrelevant, they know it, I know it.

  • Vladislaw

    “Two concepts – DIRECT and Shuttle side-mount (SSM) – take advantage of the existing space industrial base, including tooling and assembly facilities, as well as the existing processing and launch infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center, to create new vehicles that can deliver tens of metric tonnes to LEO.”

    Paul also does not even come close to providing what the actual funding requirements for legacy hardware. Legacy hardware, legacy costs.

  • Anne Spudis

    DCSCA wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Thank you for your comments but I was inquiring as to your opinion of the front loaded robotics of the lunar architecture (I get your human return points).

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 25th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    “To be blunt, words don’t mean squat.”

    Yes, I think that’s the important takeaway here. But I also have to wonder if the rationale for human spaceflight can still be credibly grounded in what has been referred to as hopes, dreams, and visions. The “inspiration” thing. Is that not largely a holdover from Apollo that is less relevant than it used to be? Should our political leaders be casting our space efforts in words like that? Many would say that the future in space has to be grounded in economics, science, and perhaps in national defense.

    Should a President be referring to space exploration in terms of hopes, dreams, and visions, or something more concrete? When President Obama tells Jon Favreau “I need to say something competent about space!” what should he get handed? Would it include words like hopes, dreams, and visions?

  • JohnHunt

    We shouldn’t expect Dr Spudis to spend a lot of time participating in comments on various blogs. If you want his personal reaction, he frequently replies to commenters on his own blog. However we are very fortunate to have Anne here who can (presumably) filter and relate our thoughts to him.

    I agree with those who recognize Spudis’ proposal as a major contribution deserving support. That said, I agree with those who fear that this Plan won’t ever be approved due to certain factors (e.g. political defense of status quo, total expense, end cost of water compared with alternatives). But I don’t think it necessary to throw out the whole plan.

    But, I believe that the Plan contains the right seeds from which a politically acceptable plan can emerge. Those seeds are:
    – telerobotic development of a Lunar Ice To LEO (LITL) system,
    – incremental steps
    – starting with existing launchers
    – bootstrapping (using LITL)
    – the value of LITL to both NASA and private companies
    – preparation for manned return
    Spudis’ main reason for lunar return is to develop the technology and skills to learn how to live off Earth using local resources. Commercial value, colonization, and even lunar science are secondary to this prime goal. Commercial participation is give only passing reference equal to international participation. So he points to and sticks with this same purpose in the VSE. Humans on the Moon aren’t needed to do repairs (teleoperated robonauts can do this). Rather they are a part of this Plan because eventually our destiny is to become a space-faring civilization and that includes humans (eventually on Mars for example). So this whole Plan emerges from this premise.

    But the Plan would be more politically acceptable if it were to achieve the same goals but doing so at much less cost. The way to do this is fairly straight forward if you are willing to truly include commercial value as a top-level goal.

    COTS is proving itself as a means of considerably reducing costs to NASA. But this only works if there is value to BOTH NASA and commercial companies. Can this be true for a LITL system? Certainly! There is a lot of money to be made in orbital servicing, boosting to GEO, tourism around and to the Moon, and SPSs. NASA needs LITL for it’s deep space robotic and manned missions.

    BUT the cost of developing a LITL system needs to be much less than $88 billion. How much 150 tons from Earth to LEO is a legit question. (But more fair to ask how much it would cost to deliver something like 1,500 or more tons to LEO over 10 years).

    Here’s how a LITL system can be developed for much less. COTS-like develop each small step with commercial ownership of the LITL system in the end and NASA guaranteeing they’ll buy a certain amt of LITL. Commercial companies will kick in some of their own money, sell to NASA and other countries. That in-and-of itself will reduce the Spudis Plan costs considerably.

    Secondly, make the NASA part strictly the telerobotically developed LITL system. But NASA should use the prize approach to sending private astronauts to the Moon. NASA’s manned mission should be focused on deep spaced manned missions (i.e. Asteroids, Deimos, & Mars). NASA’s astronauts on the Moon gives it little new knowledge or skills (“we’ve already done that). It is the ISRU which is the new, useful thing. Telerobotics can achieve this and preparation for private astronauts on the Moon will give NASA the rest of the experience. Private, risk-wlling astronauts can land on SpaceDev rocket chairs. Spudis and NASA would require large lunar landers requiring an expensive HLV. Private astronauts (e.g. Bill Stone) would be willing to go on small, cargo-proven landers requiring no new launcher or lander. Again you just saved many billions.

    Finally, Spudis is “agnostic” about the size of launch vehicles. I’m not. Under the Spudis Plan, a HLV will never, ever be needed. HLVs are there to launch large quantities of fuel. Achieve LITL and you’ll never need that. HLV are expensive to develop. They require a standing army. And since the market is satisfied with medium launchers they’ll always be more expensive on a $/kg basis. The HLV should be killed and that money put toward a modified Spudis Plan.

  • Doug Lassiter

    JohnHunt wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
    “Humans on the Moon aren’t needed to do repairs (teleoperated robonauts can do this). Rather they are a part of this Plan because eventually our destiny is to become a space-faring civilization and that includes humans (eventually on Mars for example). So this whole Plan emerges from this premise.”

    So humans on the Moon aren’t needed to do repairs, nor are they needed to do ISRU. They are part of this plan because our our “destiny”?? That’s about the most hollow rationale I’ve heard in a long time. There’s a line that will get a President hung up by his fingernails. That we’re reaching out into space because it’s our destiny.

    But yes, Spudis’ whole plan is creative, innovative, and uncomfortably revolves around the premise that we need to go to the Moon simply because it is part of our destiny. That premise doesn’t appear in any national policy document. So adopting that premise as rationale for major federal expenditure is just spitting into the wind.

    Do you mean destiny for Americans? Well, if that were the case, then I guess it would make sense for us U.S. taxpayers to pay for it. If you mean destiny for the human race, than that’s a pretty poor reason for us U.S. taxpayers to pay for it.

    But I agree with you that the Moon, and whatever resources it has, should be left to private folks who can cash in on these resources, perhaps by selling them to nations who want to send their craft further away. Those private folks can make a commercial decision best. I think sending lunar ice to all the way back to LEO is a pretty poor way to do that, but I’ll leave that for them to figure out.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Spudis’ whole plan is creative, innovative

    In what way? What haven’t we heard before?

  • DCSCA

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 10:45 am
    Robots are a nice adjunct for HSF operations but not a primary element for a return to the moon, particularly for establishing long term lunar operations. If memory serves, pretty much all of the Apollo crews which landed indicated the most basic common problem facing extended equipment operations and wear in lunar surface procedures rests with the dust. It got into everything. Very abrassive stuff which can easily jam up or disable robotic systems and does not bode well for any kind of extended remote controlled operations. And the temperature extremes between the long days and nights don’t help either. Send people. Actually, an economical way to establish a foothold on the moon is to assult it like a beachhead. Send up several inexpensive, cost-effective habatat/support/supply modules, peppering the place with basic equipment and consumables ahead of time and then land your team and establish your ‘Motel 6′ south lunar pole base.

  • DCSCA

    JohnHunt wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    “Humans on the Moon aren’t needed to do repairs (teleoperated robonauts can do this).

    Wrong. Robots can be easily disabled by lunar dust over extended use. It’s a basic problem all the crews noted. It got into everything- from cameras to pulley systems– even their lungs.

  • Doug Lassiter wrote:

    Yes, I think that’s the important takeaway here. But I also have to wonder if the rationale for human spaceflight can still be credibly grounded in what has been referred to as hopes, dreams, and visions. The “inspiration” thing. Is that not largely a holdover from Apollo that is less relevant than it used to be? Should our political leaders be casting our space efforts in words like that? Many would say that the future in space has to be grounded in economics, science, and perhaps in national defense.

    People make a huge mistake if they think JFK one day gave this inspirational speech that instantly brainwashed Congress into blowing the federal budget to build Apollo. That’s the mythology, but as I’ve written ad nauseam on this site and my web site the historical record shows otherwise.

    I’ve challenged people many times to actually read JFK’s speech to Congress in May 1961 when he proposed the Moon program. It was actually a long and fairly boring recitation of programs he proposed to stimulate the economy due to a mild recession. The Moon program was proposed in a couple paragraphs near the end. It was hardly inspirational, much less an epiphany for Congress. I’m sure he buried it near the end thinking that if the idea flopped it would be largely forgotten as just one item among many on the proposal list. In fact, in the next paragraph he proposes $30 million for the “Rover nuclear rocket.” That idea went nowhere.

    But today it’s spun like he marched into Congress and gave a speech solely about going to the Moon. That’s not what happened.

    And as I’ve noted many times, right after the mid-term election in November 1962 he told NASA administrator James Webb flat out he was “not that interested in space,” his sole interest was to show the world U.S. technology was superior to the Soviet Union, and he was very worried about Apollo breaking the federal budget.

    The whole “inspirational” thingie is a fallacy. It’s a myth that evolved over the years, enlarged by his assassination that became a martyrdom for the space program.

    Polls have consistently shown over the years that the majority of the American public is not that interested in space. They like to watch rockets launch, but they don’t want to pay for it and would prefer the private sector do so.

    The mythology is what’s killing any hope for human spaceflight beyond Low Earth Orbit. The Obama administration’s plan, in my opinion, is refreshing in its sober adult approach to the matter. Obama didn’t give a speech that promised the Moon. He proposed what the federal budget can afford. He didn’t mislead us with a Vision for Space Exploration that he didn’t intend to fund, that he knew Congress wouldn’t never fund.

    About the only politician I think would have put any political capital into expanding HSF is Al Gore, who’s been very open about his support. We can only speculate what would have happened if one member of the 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court had ruled he won the election in 2000 and not Bush. I don’t think he would have proposed a program only to not fund it.

  • common sense

    Sometimes I wonder if Elon Musk would have guessed how much hatred he’d generate by trying to accomplish what every one else dreams of. Funny because I would have thought people would have supported a fellow “space cadet” who actually puts his money where his mouth is, unlike so many so called space “advocates” whose only advocacy is to take “our” money, taxes, and put it in unaffordable grandiose space plans. But I guess it’s a normal reaction from the “pures” and “nobles” who really know what we should all be paying for: A base on the Moon and one on Mars and super winged SSTO vehicles with nuclear propulsion. See at this stage I would hope that he gets his thing going and then tells every one else, nicely, to go build their bases on the Moon.

    For the others, the corrupts, who think that lowering access to space is the first thing to do I say well there is hope, even from an incompetent administration (Rand?) that we someday have a blooming space business. But I’ll say this. The “others” think “it’s my way or the high way” and if they can “sabotage” the whole plan they will.

    There are more entrants in this business since this WH decided the CCDev program. I just hope that no matter your political affiliation you can see this. The PR and roll out of the FY2011 budget critics is nonsensical. Come on, had they done something “better” all the others would still have found a way to blame something about it. You know that don’t you? So let’s go past the pundit approach. This WH so far is doing a terrific job for space exploration. A lot more than what they did a year ago. And far more than any other WH so far. Look at all being proposed for HSF, orbital and suborbital. Go beyond the “noise” for once. The only people making waves are in Congress, especially the House for some reason. It’s all political theatrics. SpaceX now has a very good chance to achieve their goals. SN seems to be catching up too even though I still believe they are quite far from their goal. VG has joined CCDev. Boeing has a plan. I think Boeing has the talent but they may have a very big problem with fixed cost but if they think really hard I am sure they can figure how to do it. A lot, a real lot, is finally going on in this area. I don’t know if it will work at all but nonetheless it is a lot more than 2 or 3 years ago or anytime before that. It seems that we are finally getting what we want: “Space competition”.

    Happy Holidays to all!

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Yes, details are details, and whereas the ULA plan provides enough detail that you can plug in the prices of a Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V (or Ariane V, Falcon 9, etc.), the Spudis plan suggests possible transportation options, but otherwise doesn’t define them.

    You mean he doesn’t commit. He certainly defines, and he assumes one of two SSD approaches

    Now I think this is a fine approach, but it is far from detailing out the “infrastructure for routine space travel”.

    I don’t see how assuming an SSD architecture’s hypothetical costs after a brief discussion of it and the depot oriented ,strategy which in this particular crowd probably represents a practical upper limit on how much money one can dump into launch without being laughed at, is less detailed (other than in the trivial sense) than a table listing any and all available options. Presumably, you the reader can substitute other launch options and compare costs between any set of transportation options yourself.

    And you can see what the preference really is for the Spudis plan:

    Throwaway crap that doesn’t even attempt to weigh SSD over depot archs

    But they don’t feel the same concern for an evolutionary launcher:

    More of the same

    What they forget, is that existing launchers utilize “existing space industrial base, including tooling and assembly facilities, as well as the existing processing and launch infrastructure” too. And they can “deliver tens of metric tonnes to LEO“. But pointing that out doesn’t fit into their narrative.

    For Chrissakes, the document isn’t some piece evaluating different launch architectures. It’s an exercise in gaming out permanent, expandable lunar return that NASA can afford within the Augustine restraints. Who gives a crap if Spudis didn’t assume depots in his assumptions? It’s *nothing* for you to simply swap out whatever SSD configuration he used to contribute to his $88 billion bottom line and jump for joy when the costs drop.

    Or shall we simply give up on the Moon and opening space if it even remotely touches anything related to shuttle?

    ULA does use their vehicles for their own study, but they even state that other launchers can be substituted.

    So does Spudis; mind you, he has to. He has no vehicles of his own.

    If we decide to set up colonies on the Moon, then I would suggest the ULA template for the transportation, and the Spudis plan for the ISRU.

    The two aren’t incompatible whatsoever, largely because the ULA plan isn’t one for settling the Moon–it’s one for getting there (and back) at least one time.

  • @Vladislaw:

    Paul also does not even come close to providing what the actual funding requirements for legacy hardware. Legacy hardware, legacy costs.

    Neither does ULA.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    “Wrong. Robots can be easily disabled by lunar dust over extended use. It’s a basic problem all the crews noted. It got into everything- from cameras to pulley systems– even their lungs.”

    So is it better and more cost effective to “disable” human beings on the Moon if dust get in their lungs? Rather than robots?

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    More oil on the fire:

    1. SD-HLV is dead: no cash,
    2. Orion is dead: no cash and further, Dragon just happened.

    What’s sad is that we will pay $Bs of our taxes to keep this nonsense going nowhere, just because. And all the cheerleaders of Constellation to keep cheering another 2 or so years. In the end they’ll chant the glory of the VSE while disparaging this WH FY2011 (for lack of a better name) even though they cannot read the then proposed budget and policy, never read the VSE ever, keep mistaking Constellation for VSE and know for sure we need an HLV to go and do something, just that we don’t know for sure what that thing is, that this WH terminated Shuttle and killed HSF even though the plan or killing Shuttle was made during the previous WH, and so on and so forth.

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    JohnHunt wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    But, I believe that the [Spudis] Plan contains the right seeds from which a politically acceptable plan can emerge.

    Is that why you think we haven’t returned to the Moon? That we’ve lacked a “politically acceptable plan”?

    What is missing is an urgency that matches the huge national cost, and even $88B is a huge cost.

    There is a lot of money to be made in orbital servicing, boosting to GEO, tourism around and to the Moon, and SPSs.

    I have been careful to state that the only known demand for commercial crew services is the ISS. Past that, the only other possible demand is Bigelow Aerospace and their LEO habitats, but that is speculative at this point, and we don’t even know if the ultimate economics of it will work out. Anything else is pure speculation, so you can’t state “There is a lot of money to be made in…”.

    Regarding Lunar Ice To LEO (LITL), there is no market for it, and even if there were, it would be much easier to supply it from Earth than the Moon.

    I like the progressive part of the Spudis plan, but only up to the point where humans go there – that’s when the costs exceed the current national will.

  • common sense wrote:

    Just for kicks…

    The operative paragraph in that article you cited is:

    The language that keeps Constellation going was inserted into the 2010 budget last year by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who sought to protect the program and Ares jobs at Marshall Space Flight Center in his home state.

    So the $500 million fiasco is due to Shelby’s porking. All the more reason to grow commercial and get Congress out of the loop.

    Great comments, by the way, upstream about the people who want to “sabotage” anything that doesn’t fit their narrow agenda and all the White House has accomplished this year for space.

    I’ve been telling my fellow Space Coastians that in five years we’re going to see a rebirth of human space flight at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Some of those long-abandoned launch complexes might arise from the ashes. It’s entirely possible that in 2013 we’ll see the first human flight from CCAFS since 1968 — a 45-year gap. How exciting that will be.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Neither does ULA.

    The ULA study was a technical one – can we set up and staff colonies on the Moon.

    The Spudis plan puts a price on their study as part of their justification – the $88B. If they can’t explain and defend that number, then how much credence can we give to the other parts of their plan?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    “In what way? What haven’t we heard before?”

    I called Spudis & Lavoie’s plan creative and innovative because it wholly relies on telerobotics to do ISRU demos and basically set things up for human habitation. That’s smart. Most plans did not rely as heavily on telerobotics as they do. In particular, most plans from lunar development advocates had astronauts with shovels and whellbarrows, and driving bulldozers. But yes, the tasks they’re doing are pretty much the standard ones.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 7:06 pm
    “The whole “inspirational” thingie is a fallacy. It’s a myth that evolved over the years, enlarged by his assassination that became a martyrdom for the space program.”

    Well said. But, you know, “inspiration” and “exploration” (also one of these peculiar “thingies”) is a lot of what human space flight is based on. Those are two words that people really don’t understand in the context of space. Those words have evolved a lot, and the public has had a hard time keeping up with that evolution.

    DCSCA wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 6:00 pm
    “Wrong. Robots can be easily disabled by lunar dust over extended use. It’s a basic problem all the crews noted. It got into everything- from cameras to pulley systems– even their lungs.”

    And let’s not forget about seals and rotary joints, which is half of what a space suit is. Humans, and their human-specific equipment, are exquisitely sensitive to dust.

    Let’s not demean the dust resistance of robots that simply. Terrestrial mining equipment (quite often telerobotically controlled these days) works very well. Spirit and Opportunity did too — six years into their two month mission. It’s straightforward to design machines with a lot of dust resistance.

    Dust is a poor justification for humans. In fact, it may be a better justification NOT for humans. What humans can do is tweak and innovate. Now, suitably high performance and low latency telerobots can be used to do those things too.

  • Matt Wiser

    The problem with the rollout was that Bolden, Garver, Dr. Holdren, etc. all assumed their proposals would be praised to the skies, they’d be applauded for their innovative and forward thinking, and Congress would fall into line and support it generously. Wrong. Not listening to the PAOs was just the beginning. Failing to explain how going commercial to LEO enables NASA to go BEO quickly followed. Any change would have to get the pro-Constellation Congresspeople on board, and they failed-totally. The original budget and the revised version went nowhere in Congress, and the Authorization Act that did pass was the best compromise that was politically possible. Repeat: Politically possible.

    One of the reasons Musk has attracted so much venom is that he’s not from an engineering or aerospace background, but was CEO of PayPal. Even though he’s got a lot of talented people working for him, the image of a “space cadet” or a “model rocketeer” has stuck with him, and it’ll be a while before he shakes that image-if he can at all.

    Anyone who thinks Dragon will be NASA’s BEO vehicle needs to collide with political reality. Orion will fly. There’s enough support in Congress to enable that, and NASA will not be irrevelant. Read: Texas, Alabama, Utah, Ohio, California, and Florida Congressional delegations will see to that. Not to mention the congresscritters in other states who have subcontractors working for NASA programs.

  • Fourty-two years ago came the epic journey of Apollo 8. Upon reaching an LEO parking orbit—that’s all it was; NOT the intended end of their journey—the earth departure stage was lit up, and the capsule began the most farthest, most remote traveling trip in all of human history. But their destination was NOT some oversized piece of charcoal NOR was it some vague deep space point in the middle of nothingness—it was a sizeable planet in and of itself, replete with canyons, mountains, valleys, hills, plains, escarpments, along with predicted craters; and it had a rich & vivid geological history. It was a dynamic world; as scientifically rich in knowledge to yield, as any gas giant planet’s moon. And between 1968 & 1972 it was engineeringly feasible to send astronauts there, and traverse the three-days-away gulf of empty deep space. What in heaven’s name is wrong with the Obama administration in thinking that NASA has to skip, bypass, and never again venture out to Luna again?! There were only nine Lunar flights which ever took place; meanwhile, there have been hundreds of LEO flights, over four subsequent decades, and no one has ever complained that “We’ve been to LEO already!”, or “Let’s not do that same thing over again!” This dumb, silly quest to do manned visits to asteroids and/or lagrange points, all in the name of avoiding the Moon is the biggest thing wrong with sectors of the space interest community today. When a new President of the U.S. gets elected in 2012, and this Obamaspace is finally exposed for the massive fraud that it was, it is my sincere hope that a manned Lunar program will at last get restored, and that America will take its rightful place as the nation of greatness & glory, with regard to space exploration. Happy Christmas everyone!

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    You mean he doesn’t commit. He certainly defines, and he assumes one of two SSD approaches“.

    Well I agree that he says that, but you had earlier said “Spudis black-boxes vehicle selection”, which implied that he didn’t assume any specific approach. But it is clear that he prefers SDV’s, and not existing launchers, so that is not “black-boxing” the transportation portion or being “agnostic” about the size of launch vehicles.

    Although when you say this “He has no vehicles of his own.“, you’re forgetting that Spudis did not create the plan on his own – he has co-authors from NASA, and some in NASA do have preferences that lean towards Shuttle-derived vehicles. That in itself is not a surprise, but it a blind faith that SDV’s are the best way to go, when no trade studies have been done for a specific mission.

    I don’t care which launch system we use as long as it’s the best value. SDV’s are undefined in that regard, even though they are reusing existing hardware. At least existing launchers can be quantified in $/kg for proposed missions – SDV’s cannot, and that is one of the glaring errors in the Spudis/Lavoie plan.

  • JohnHunt

    @ DCSA
    Wrong. Robots can be easily disabled by lunar dust over extended use. It’s a basic problem all the crews noted. It got into everything- from cameras to pulley systems– even their lungs.

    True, but you’re not thinking about a few things. Now that we know that these things are a problem, we can begin to start to come up with some solutions. For example, sealed flexible covers can be placed over the major joints of the robonauts. Also, the robonauts can provide telepresence and hence routine maintenance, something which wasn’t needed or taken into account in the brief Apollo missions. Then, one can have spare joints and switch them out every so often. As for humans, see how the proposed Mars missions kept the dirty suits outside of vehicles while allowing the astronauts to climb though the back of the suit. Dust is a problem but by no means a show stopper.

  • common sense

    @ Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    “The problem with the rollout was that Bolden, Garver, Dr. Holdren, etc. all assumed their proposals would be praised to the skies, they’d be applauded for their innovative and forward thinking, ”

    And it was by the people who can actually think straight be they on their political side of the fence or the other. May I remind you that even Newt Gingrich praised the proposal? Not exactly a leftist liberal now is he?

    “and Congress would fall into line and support it generously. Wrong. ”

    Anything that is deemed Obama’s idea is wrong in any Republican’s eyes in Congress, they said so themselves. Further you seem to limit Congress to Florida, Utah, Colorado, Texas and Alabama, hardly any supporter of this WH I think, don’t you. But they and apparently you are in for a big surprise soon. They may live in denial but there will be no rebirth of Ares or Orion or any of that stuff, to stay polite.

    “Not listening to the PAOs was just the beginning. Failing to explain how going commercial to LEO enables NASA to go BEO quickly followed. Any change would have to get the pro-Constellation Congresspeople on board, and they failed-totally.”

    Nothing would have brought these pro-pork pro-Constellation on board unless it was Constellation. Come on.

    “The original budget and the revised version went nowhere in Congress, and the Authorization Act that did pass was the best compromise that was politically possible. Repeat: Politically possible.”

    They went nowhere? You should try and keep abreast with things. Maybe you want to re read all the proposals and all that Congress agreed to recently. The CR? It still will kill Constellation, it only is a little recess. No more. We shall see.

    “One of the reasons Musk has attracted so much venom is that he’s not from an engineering or aerospace background, but was CEO of PayPal. Even though he’s got a lot of talented people working for him, the image of a “space cadet” or a “model rocketeer” has stuck with him, and it’ll be a while before he shakes that image-if he can at all.”

    What a lame reason. If he were an engineer, even though his background is also in physics, it would not change a thing. Go find anyone with the appropriate background who was able to fly rockets to orbit twice, twice from prototypes, and one successful reentry. Go ask Boeing what the chances are? Or Lockheed? Or any one you care of asking.

    “Anyone who thinks Dragon will be NASA’s BEO vehicle needs to collide with political reality. Orion will fly. There’s enough support in Congress to enable that, and NASA will not be irrevelant. Read: Texas, Alabama, Utah, Ohio, California, and Florida Congressional delegations will see to that. Not to mention the congresscritters in other states who have subcontractors working for NASA programs.”

    Not a chance Orion will fly. Not one tiny bit of a chance. You may not like Dragon but CST-100 is on the way and the others as well. But no matter what, if you really knew what it takes to go from Dragon to Orion you’d see that Orion is just plain dead. D.E.A.D. And here is why. Even assume that Orion get some budget, by the time it flies to LEO, Dragon will make it at least cis-lunar and return. It means that by the time Orion is fully operational as “defined” in Constellation SpaceX will have crews on the Moon. For Orion to be successful Congress would have to agree to give it several times its current budget and of course this WH would have to sign said budget. Get real. Not one tiny bitsy chance of flying Orion. Period.

  • About the only politician I think would have put any political capital into expanding HSF is Al Gore, who’s been very open about his support.

    What is the evidence for this? If you substitute “Newt Gingrich” for “Al Gore,” this might make sense.

    The problem with the rollout was that Bolden, Garver, Dr. Holdren, etc. all assumed their proposals would be praised to the skies, they’d be applauded for their innovative and forward thinking, and Congress would fall into line and support it generously.

    Really? Now you’re a mind reader? Do tell.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Well I agree that he says that, but you had earlier said “Spudis black-boxes vehicle selection”, which implied that he didn’t assume any specific approach. But it is clear that he prefers SDV’s, and not existing launchers, so that is not “black-boxing” the transportation portion or being “agnostic” about the size of launch vehicles.

    I won’t say Spudis necessarily agrees shuttle-derived is the most expensive option (he probably picked out the family easiest to cost from material available to him), but he did happen to pick the one most people here consider to be more expensive (and unreasonably so) than just about any serious alternative. If shuttle-derived is an upper limit, and given that the Spudis plan is completely flexible about trading against any particular component, you can look at the plan as blackboxing transportation arch.

    Although when you say this “He has no vehicles of his own.“, you’re forgetting that Spudis did not create the plan on his own – he has co-authors from NASA…

    Not forgetting Tony Lavoie at all, just not writing Spudis and Lavoie each and every single time.

    …and some in NASA do have preferences that lean towards Shuttle-derived vehicles.

    And some don’t. But c’mon, Lavoie’s removed far enough from anything having to do with ESAS, Ares, orbital and lunar spacecraft (ISRU guys pushing a hypergolic propellent chain?) we can afford to give up speculating on his motives here.

    That in itself is not a surprise, but it a blind faith that SDV’s are the best way to go, when no trade studies have been done for a specific mission.

    Once again, we’re not looking at a trade study on launch archs. We’re looking at a plan to settle the Moon permanently. Not every document issued from here until doomsday has to be a trade study between shuttle derived and whatever else pops up.

    I don’t care which launch system we use as long as it’s the best value.

    I’m willing to trade the best value for the path of least resistance towards taking this step, which is why I find thinking like that in the Spudis approach so attractive. If technical, financial, or merely political circumstances prevent an optimal configuration from emerging at any particular step, you can still choose one bounded by an expensive but viable upper limit.

    SDV’s are undefined in that regard, even though they are reusing existing hardware. At least existing launchers can be quantified in $/kg for proposed missions – SDV’s cannot, and that is one of the glaring errors in the Spudis/Lavoie plan.

    Not dedicating a portion of the paper to trades on launch is not an error; it’s simply beyond the scope of what Spudis and Lavoie are trying to do.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    The ULA study was a technical one – can we set up and staff colonies on the Moon.

    The Spudis plan puts a price on their study as part of their justification – the $88B. If they can’t explain and defend that number, then how much credence can we give to the other parts of their plan?

    About as much as you could give the ULA plan, which apparently draws the line of precision at “tens of billions.”

  • Anne Spudis

    DCSCA wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you for having a conversation DCSCA.

    Where better to learn how to deal with these issues but on the Moon and in cislunar space? They certainly will be an issue elsewhere.

    You are correct that the local dirt was an issue for the astronauts. Earlier it was speculated we’d sink into the lunar soil. But we now know that isn’t the case. if we can’t resolve issues with the local soil, we certainly are barking up the wrong tree. However, since we know about the soils, designs will accommodate. The soil’s magnetism will be helpful in addressing this.

    BTW the soil, as with most things, has benefits- it can be microwaved into roads, bricks; give solar panel assist as well as shielding, etc. It’s the same on Earth, where sand and gravel are valuable commodities extensively used.

    Re The temperature extremes and the day-night question your raised:

    From the paper:

    [Excerpt]…..In addition to being suitable localities for solar arrays, these lit regions are also thermally more benign (surface temperatures on the order of -50° ± 10° C) than the equatorial regions, permitting extended operations for almost the entire 708-hour lunar day…..[End Excerpt]

    At the lunar poles, instead of rising and setting, the sun circles around the horizon. This mitigates the huge temperature swings experienced at the equator and among other obvious benefits makes engineering easier. This lighting assist is a real boon as water ice concentration is higher at the poles.

    You bring up economics but I believe you miss the mark. This architecture isn’t about putting a Motel 6 on the Moon. This architecture is about making space travel and development affordable and routine.

    [Excerpt] ….We go to the Moon to learn how to live and work productively on another world….This mission objective doesn’t just imply but rather defines the architecture of lunar return. We stay in one place to build up capabilities and infrastructure in order to stay longer and create more. Thus, we build an outpost; we do not conduct sorties (see Clarke, 1951). We go to the poles of the Moon for three reasons: 1) near-permanent sunlight near the poles permits almost constant generation of electrical power from photovoltaics, obviating the need for a nuclear reactor to survive the 14-day lunar night; 2) these quasi-permanent lit zones are thermally benign compared to equatorial regions (Apollo sites), being illuminated at grazing solar incidence angles and thus greatly reducing the passive thermal loading from the hot lunar surface; 3) the permanently dark areas near the poles contain significant quantities of volatile substances, including hundreds of millions of metric tonnes of water ice.

    We plan to return to the Moon gradually and in stages, making use of existing assets both on Earth and in space. We emplace small robotic assets on the lunar surface first. These robots will establish a communication/navigation satellite system around the Moon, prospect for promising volatile deposits, conduct demonstration experiments to document the physical state and extraction potential of water, and conduct the initial preparation of the outpost site. In the second phase, larger, more capable robotic machines (also operated from Earth but with more autonomy) will begin production of water in quantity, emplace a habitat, prepare roads and landing pads, erect solar cell arrays and thermal control systems, and deploy surface communications systems. In the third phase, humans arrive on the Moon, where they live in a pre-emplaced outpost and begin using previously landed robotic machines to increase production and extend operations. This work proceeds as resources and technical development permit; schedule is the free variable. In the fourth stage, we produce surplus water that is exported to cislunar space (e.g., Earth-Moon L-1) for processing into propellant and other products……[End Excerpt]

    There is much more information to garner from the paper that will round out your appreciation and discussions, including “Cost and Schedule” and “What Will This Give Us?” The focus is on the creation of reusable and extensible space systems where, “[T]he modular, incremental nature of this architecture enables international and commercial participation to be easily and seamlessly integrated into our lunar return scenario.”

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/Papers/Affordable_Lunar_Base.pdf

  • Anne Spudis

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    You may have read the paper but you don’t understand it. Perhaps a second reading for content and understanding is in order.

  • Anne Spudis

    @ Vladislaw

    You must be envisioning the OPF where many people, like swarms of ants licking the queen, are necessary to inspect every inch of the orbiter – replacing tiles, etc (work not done at minimum wage).

    This isn’t that.

  • DCSCA

    @JohnHunt wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 12:17 am
    Wrong. Not in a cost-effective fashion. The hardware that next goes to the moon has to ‘hit the ground running’ as it were and be pragmatic, reliable, dependable and affordable. No time or budgets for experimentation and tinkering with robots. The objective is to establish a human foothold at the south lunar pole, not use the environment to perfect robotic systems.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 10:47 pm
    Musk’s problem is pretty straight forward: he has flown NOBODY. Advocates try to establish and position him as an alternative or adjunct to half a century of government HSF operations. It’s simply bogus. There’s no equivelency. And his own boasting about ‘retiring on Mars’ doesn’t enhance his image. It also seems highly unlikely as he won’t even ride his own rocket. What really matters is getting some skin in the game. He’ll have some credibility when he actually orbits a crew and returns them safely to Earth, just like government space agencies did fifty years ago.

  • DCSCA

    JohnHunt wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 12:17 am
    “Dust is a problem but by no means a show stopper.”

    ???? You might want to review the status of robotic Mars Rover ‘Spirit’– stuck in the dust nearly a year and its fate through winter uncertain. Nobody there tyo give it a shove- or turn a shovel loose on it to get it freed up. And some of the equipment malfunctions, anomolies and failures on Apollo due to dust. 15′s landing was ‘in the blind’ per Scott’s book- ‘IFR landing’ so to speak. And it’s very abrasive ‘dust’ btw.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 9:54 pm
    It’s really not comparative to terrestrial ‘mining’ dust. There’s no atmosphere. And no humidity, so the dust is especially messy to deal with– and it has a high percentage of ‘glass’ in it. Most of the surface crews have referenced it being a base problem just in terms of day to day living and long term equipment operations. Affects temperatures, joints, etc.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 7:30 pm
    “Sometimes I wonder if Elon Musk would have guessed how much hatred he’d generate by trying to accomplish what every one else dreams of.” Everyone? Speak for yourself. Only the foolhardy are dreaming of for-profit, private enterprise ventures leading the way into the cosmos. Won’t happen because there’s simply no viable return on the investment in this era. But then, at one time salt was as treasured as gold.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 12:26 am
    ‘… here’s what I recommend…’

    =blink=

    Here’s what this writer recommends and expects Congress will do: forget everything else- station, Constellation, etc., as it’s part of the past and instruct NASA to focus on getting a general purpose manned spacecraft up and running with a base block design that can be modified for LEO, BEO, lunar and possible manned Mars missions. Get the base block spacecraft operational and get it flying a top existing LVs by 2019. Because in the Age of Austerity, that’s all NASA may get.

  • Doug Lassiter wrote:

    Well said. But, you know, “inspiration” and “exploration” (also one of these peculiar “thingies”) is a lot of what human space flight is based on. Those are two words that people really don’t understand in the context of space. Those words have evolved a lot, and the public has had a hard time keeping up with that evolution.

    Apollo certainly wasn’t about inspiration or exploration. As already documented, JFK made that very clear. It was about showing the world our technology was superior to the Soviet Union.

    Although some may feel inspired by NASA, that’s not its purpose and the business case for every program since Apollo (Skylab, Shuttle, ISS) had nothing to do with inspiration. In fact, nothing in the National Aeronautics and Space Act requires NASA to fly humans into space, to explore other worlds, or even to own its rockets.

    As for exploration, since Apollo we haven’t gone beyond LEO. The business case hasn’t been there because the trip can’t justify the cost.

    The current generation of youth isn’t inspired by a government space program. They’ve grown up 40 years after Americans walked on the Moon, and they have over 30 years of space fantasy entertainment in their collective consciousness. In my opinion, they’re more interested in video games and 3D movie technology.

    Just my anecdotal experience, but as a volunteer leading tours at the Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, I almost never see anyone under early 20s. They’re almost all middle-aged or older, those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970. I think that’s very telling about who was “inspired” and it certainly isn’t the current generation.

  • Chris Castro wrote:

    But their destination was NOT some oversized piece of charcoal NOR was it some vague deep space point in the middle of nothingness—it was a sizeable planet in and of itself, replete with canyons, mountains, valleys, hills, plains, escarpments, along with predicted craters; and it had a rich & vivid geological history.

    The Moon is *not* a planet. A planet orbits a star. The Moon orbits Earth.

    What in heaven’s name is wrong with the Obama administration in thinking that NASA has to skip, bypass, and never again venture out to Luna again?!

    The Obama administration never said that. Don’t make things up.

    What they have said is that the current generation wants its own groundbreaking space event. Going back to the Moon to get more rocks does not inspire the current generation. That’s what their grandparents did.

  • @ Anne Spudis

    You bring up economics but I believe you miss the mark. This architecture isn’t about putting a Motel 6 on the Moon. This architecture is about making space travel and development affordable and routine.

    To accomplish this objective (and its a truly worthy objective IMHO) we need revenue sources that do not depend on the taxpayers.

    This proposal doesn’t appear to address that issue other than to repeat the “Field of Dreams” promise:

    Build “it” (a moon base) and “they” (profit) will come.

  • Anne Spudis

    Bill White wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    That you see this proposal as a “Field of Dreams” promise” that addresses nothing, leaves me speechless.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 3:18 am

    About as much as you could give the ULA plan, which apparently draws the line of precision at “tens of billions.”

    I don’t think you have read the Spudis/Lavoie plan all the way through. They include a budgetary plan that backs up their $88B estimate. The challenge with providing detail though, is that if your assumptions are off, then the plan as a whole is not supported. That is the case with the transportation portion of the proposal.

    Again, that’s not to say that the non-transportation portions aren’t valid, but the plan as a whole is not something that can be taken to Congress for a vote. And because they claim to be unbiased for transportation issues, but they’re clearly not, they loose credibility overall as a reference for future proposals. They should have stuck with just the exploration and ISRU parts.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 5:04 am
    “It’s really not comparative to terrestrial ‘mining’ dust. There’s no atmosphere. And no humidity, so the dust is especially messy to deal with– and it has a high percentage of ‘glass’ in it. Most of the surface crews have referenced it being a base problem just in terms of day to day living and long term equipment operations. Affects temperatures, joints, etc.”

    My point wasn’t that lunar dust is easily managed. It isn’t. My point was that the difficulties that lunar dust presents is not an argument for having people around.

  • E.P. Grondine

    CR wrote:
    “Some people never learn the lessons from the past.”

    Yes, otherwise they would not be prattling on about the “need” for manned flight to Mars.

    What needs to be done is to remove an institutional barrier to learning those lessons, specifically firing Ed Weiler.

  • Anne Spudis

    @ Coastal Ron who said: “They (Spudis/Lavoie) should have stuck with just the exploration and ISRU parts.”

    They did Coastal Ron.

    @Coastal Ron who said: “the plan as a whole is not something that can be taken to Congress for a vote.”

    Really Coastal Ron? Is that seriously a concern of yours?

    This paper is a solid effort showing that cost numbers DO fit under the budget numbers used by the Augustine Committee (Spudis/Lavoie illustrate possible transportation modes so that transportation costs are represented. Others get that. Why can’t you?).

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 7:23 am
    “Apollo certainly wasn’t about inspiration or exploration. As already documented, JFK made that very clear. It was about showing the world our technology was superior to the Soviet Union.”

    That’s true. But the pubic perception was otherwise. Exploration and inspiration was how NASA marketed the Apollo program to the American people. I suspect the American public equated those two words with beating the Russians, in the sense that we could explore and inspire better than they could!

    The way the word “inspiration” is used for human space flight I have always found curious. The Apollo model of inspiration is, as you say, where people were inspired to beat the Russians, not to go anywhere to actually do anything. That’s why, as a result of the Apollo program, we have nothing left of a lunar program. Apollo was a complete success in what it set out to do. It was, in that respect, just a conspicuous flag on the “let’s beat the Russians” flagpole, and for this reason has been linked with the scientific, educational, and technological revolution that we saw in those days. No, the Apollo program didn’t “inspire” us to have that revolution. Not by a long shot. It was just part of doing that, and it was a part that was a singular event. It was a race we could watch from the grandstand. In the context of competition, we understand races. One competitor wins, and the other loses.

    My experience is similar to yours. In working with kids, astronauts are like movie stars. They don’t inspire kids to be smart, or even to work hard. They inspire kids to wear cool clothes, be brave/assertive, and to be leaders at what they do. That’s good, but what human space flight inspires in kids is not necessarily what we’d like to think it inspires.

  • @ Anne Spudis

    It is your rejection of the intangible economy that is the basis of my opinion.

    Tourism, entertainment, media rights, advertising and the global competition for prestige and inspiration are where we shall find non-taxpayer financed revenue streams for human space exploration.

    We need to embrace “Field of Dreams” and then sell the story of humanity becoming space-faring. After all, tourists are what made “Field of Dreams” actually pay off, in the movie.

    Without revenue streams from the intangible economy, the business case can’t close.

    He3? Nope, we can make it from tritium;

    PGM? Eh, part of the puzzle but too thin a market to stand alone;

    Rare Earths? Yup. Ending Chinese monopoly would be good, but the moment we opened up a lunar rare earth mine, the Chinese would relax export restrictions and crash the market price.

    Water? Lunar water does indeed enable everything else but fails to provide revenue of its own (unless we assume a robust exploration program funded by others).

  • Anne Spudis

    Bill White wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I’m not rejecting anything Bill. We seen to be talking past each other. With this architecture, all have the opportunity to contribute. The objective of this extensible program is that all will have space access to do what they want and go where they wish.

  • @ Anne Spudis

    Glad to hear it, and yes, we may be talking past each other.

    The architecture is very good (IMHO) except I don’t see a proposed funding mechanism other than hoping that the U.S. Congress will pay for it. However, even though we do agree that Congress “should” fund this architecture, I am not at all sanguine that they will.

    Therefore, go look for money elsewhere.

    My continuing point is that the story of humanity becoming a spacefaring species will be one of a handful of the greatest stories ever told and good stories told well, always sell.

    Sell the story, sell the narrative of humanity becoming spacefaring, and I believe there is a fighting chance such an enterprise could be profitable.

  • Anne Spudis

    Bill White wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    We need all that. But to begin a cohesive, sustained program, there must be an objective that draws on (in) many quarters because it addresses their concerns.

    Also:

    Please notice how many times commercial is mentioned in the paper, and if you haven’t seen it, please read my comments this morning: Anne Spudis wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 3:34 am

  • Matt Wiser

    Congress will see to Orion flying. If L-M is right, they can have it ready by 2014, for EELV launch to LEO. Once the heavy-lifter is ready, shoot for an Apollo 8 redux, then start going to other places. Common Sense: Congress will have a VERY big say in what NASA flies, and worshiping Space X (as you appear to do) won’t change that a bit. Musk isn’t a god, but he is human. Boasting about “retiring on Mars” is one thing. Proving it is a whole ‘nother matter entirely. You forget that Congress writes the checks, and if they tell NASA to use Orion for BEO, they HAVE TO DO IT. Period. It’s like the USAF: they’ve wanted to stop buying the C-17 for years, but Congress keeps telling them to keep buying the planes. And DCSCA: the age of austerity won’t last forever.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “I’m not rejecting anything Bill. We seen to be talking past each other. With this architecture, all have the opportunity to contribute.”

    Of the 88 billion, how much is going for commercial, which rovers etc are going to be commercial, how much of the 88 billion is going to fund commercial start ups, how much income/profit is going to be derived from it. Who are the potential customers.

    I would sure like to see some actual details and numbers for the “all” that have an opportunity. Also would like sure like to see some numbers for input output of funding/investment and protential profits.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Congress will see to Orion flying.

    You and Presley seem to be loudly proclaiming that what you desperately want to happen is what is likely to happen. Maybe you believe that if you keep ardently predicting it then that is going to make it more likely to happen.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I called Spudis & Lavoie’s plan creative and innovative because it wholly relies on telerobotics to do ISRU demos and basically set things up for human habitation.

    That’s certainly a good idea, but people (including Spudis) have been saying that for years.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I don’t think you have read the Spudis/Lavoie plan all the way through. They include a budgetary plan that backs up their $88B estimate.

    I know, I’ve read it all the way through.

    The challenge with providing detail though, is that if your assumptions are off, then the plan as a whole is not supported. That is the case with the transportation portion of the proposal.

    Exactly what errors in the transportation portion fail to support the $88B estimate?

    Again, that’s not to say that the non-transportation portions aren’t valid, but the plan as a whole is not something that can be taken to Congress for a vote.

    Neither can the ULA proposal. Nor almost anything that isn’t a bill. That’s a standard you don’t have to meet in order for something to be considered sound planning. Spudis and ULA both qualify as a sound plan for lunar exploration. Spudis alone goes to the extent of proposing a step towards lunar settlement. Spudis also lets you play with each step like Legos. Augustine doesn’t even play the game. And that’s the bottom line.

    And because they claim to be unbiased for transportation issues, but they’re clearly not, they loose credibility overall as a reference for future proposals. They should have stuck with just the exploration and ISRU parts.

    And like I said before, nothing’s stopping you from swapping out what portions of the transportation section you don’t like and re-jiggering the numbers. Everything else is just politics.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “The Moon is not a planet. A planet orbits a star. The Moon orbits Earth.”

    That’s nitpicking, and you know it. Technically, Chris Castro might have mistakenly used the term ‘planet’ in his comment. But if you replace the word ‘planet’ with ‘world’ his point is totally valid:

    “But their destination [the Moon] was NOT some oversized piece of charcoal NOR was it some vague deep space point in the middle of nothingness — it was a sizable ‘world’ in and of itself, replete with canyons, mountains, valleys, hills, plains, escarpments, along with predicted craters; and it had a rich and vivid geological history.”

    Chris Castro was describing the Moon as a fascinating world — still waiting to be truly explored, and still waiting to be fully utilized. That was his point. And it’s a darned good one.

    Stephen C. Smith further wrote:

    “The current generation of youth isn’t inspired by a government space program. They’ve grown up 40 years after Americans walked on the Moon, and they have over 30 years of space fantasy entertainment in their collective consciousness. In my opinion, they’re more interested in video games and 3D movie technology … Just my anecdotal experience, but as a volunteer leading tours at the Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, I almost never see anyone under early 20s. They’re almost all middle-aged or older, those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970. I think that’s very telling about who was ‘inspired’ and it certainly isn’t the current generation.”

    That’s a rather dim view of the younger generation — addicted to a fantasy world of virtual reality and video games with no interest in creating their own dreams or in making those dreams come true. You’re describing a generation of nincompoops. But that hasn’t been my experience talking with young people at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Those youngsters are very enthusiastic about the “government space program” and NASA’s tremendous achievements in space. I’ve found that they’re inspired by our past as they dream about their future. (Which is more reassuring to me than some of the comments posted here by a few adults.)

    Stephen C. Smith also wrote:

    “Going back to the Moon to get more rocks does not inspire the current generation. That’s what their grandparents did.”

    First of all, we don’t want to go back to the Moon “to get more rocks” as you so derisively put it. I recommend you read ‘To A Rocky Moon’ by Don Wilhelms if you haven’t already. (If you have, read it again.) Perhaps if you knew a bit more about the Moon, you would have a greater appreciation for why it is a ‘world’ that ought to be explored in far greater detail by robots and humans alike.

    But assuming for a moment that you are correct in your blanket assertion that today’s younger generation doesn’t care about the Moon (“That’s what their grandparents did”), perhaps the problem is that their generation has no hope of sending their own representatives to the lunar surface — and no chance (under ObamaSpace) to leave their own footprints in the sands of Time, so to speak. All they’ve seen are astronauts going around and around and around and around the Earth. And all you offer them is the opportunity for a few more astronauts (and billionaires) to keep going around and around and around and around the Earth. I don’t find that very exciting myself.

    If you’re right about the younger generation being hooked on video games and sci-fi movies, then perhaps I’m right that they’d be more inspired to see some of those films come to life as their own generation begins to “boldly go where no one has gone before” (i.e., beyond Earth orbit). The Moon is the logical first stop on the way to worlds beyond.

    And let’s address another assertion that has been made here as of late. Namely, that a return to the Moon has to be economically viable.

    Why?

    “Commercial” space has to be economically viable because of its use of the term “commercial” and the promises some of its proponents are making that space travel will become as commonplace as air travel in just a few years … if only the U.S. taxpayer will fork over a few more billions of dollars to prop up the new “commercial” enterprises. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am NOT opposed to “commercial” space — or, more accurately, to lowering the cost of access to space by giving the private sector more leeway in how that goal is achieved.

    But spaceflight beyond Earth orbit is about exploration, not purely “commercial” activities. And exploration by its very nature does not imply immediate returns on investments.

    Consider this: Columbus first bumped into the ‘New World’ in 1492. The United States wasn’t founded until nearly 300 years later. Humans have been flying into space for a mere 50 years. And space is a far more hostile environment than the frontiers of old.

    Columbus opened an Age of Discovery which saw great voyages around the globe and the charting of vast, unknown tracts of land. While there was some return on investment at the time (e.g., gold), many if not most of those early explorers were seeking knowledge, not profits — knowing that profits might some day follow by the knowledge gained. In more recent times, what have the great polar explorers brought back in terms of riches? Not much that you can put a price tag on. But enormous amounts of scientific knowledge.

    The same goes for today’s physics research facilities. How much return on investment have the taxpayers gotten from multi-billion dollar particle accelerators? Yet, governments (and taxpayers) fund such projects because some people recognize that discovery has its own rewards, and that the return might not be realized for a hundred years or more. Which is why governments, not the private sector, must take the lead. All Great Nations (as the Augustine Commission describe the United States) invest in their futures — and in future generations. It’s called Leadership.

    But perhaps this country has lost some of its greatness. Maybe we have lowered our sights and become more self-centered and self-absorbed. This is the impression I sometimes get when I read peoples’ comments about their ‘right’ to travel into space (subsidized by the taxpayers) to enjoy their own view of the Earth as seen from low Earth orbit. That might be one big step for a millionaire, but it’s certainly no giant leap for humankind.

    Perhaps the reason today’s younger generation is uninspired (according to Stephen C. Smith) has something to do with their parents’ generation. Maybe today’s 30- and 40-somethings have forgotten to instill in their children what the great Chicago architect said a century ago:

    “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”

    Burnham’s famous plan resulted in Chicago’s magnificent, park-lined lakefront and its spectacular, ever-growing skyline.

    Fortunately, we still have a few Burnhams in today’s world — people who make “big plans.”

    Paul Spudis and Tony Lavoie come to mind.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 7:23 am
    “The current generation of youth isn’t inspired by a government space program. They’ve grown up 40 years after Americans walked on the Moon, and they have over 30 years of space fantasy entertainment in their collective consciousness. In my opinion, they’re more interested in video games and 3D movie technology.”

    Not really. It’s the shuttle that’s not been inspiring. The ISS as well. They go in circles and the missions are esoteric, requiring a citizen to work at finding out what’s going on. NASA needs a ‘friend’ in the media a la Cronkite these days. They dont’ really have one aside from Hanks. One of the most successful films in the past 15 years was ‘Apollo 13.’ Audiences literally stood up and applauded when screenings concluded. This writer had some professional dealings in Hollywood during with the 1998 HBO series ‘From The Earth To The Moon’ and attended the premiere in Hollywood. Plenty of ‘kids’ as well as 40 and under types found renewed interest and based on the ratings, the Emmys it won, aftermarket rebroadcast and sales of videos/DVDs of the series. And recall the success of Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ series, too. So the interest is there. Kids just don’t have any real world exploration program to aspire to. My own nephew, exposed to spaceflight through his uncle, found microbiology more inspiring a career to pursue at Berkeley chiefly because it is a growing field and the space program is not. Part of NASA’s problem is it is very poor at marketing itself. Example- if NASA Select was available on all cable systems interest would grow and education supplemented. But it is not because it does not turn a profit for cablers so it is replaced by HSN channels, which pay cable operators a percentage of every sale made.

    “Just my anecdotal experience, but as a volunteer leading tours at the Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, I almost never see anyone under early 20s. They’re almost all middle-aged or older, those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970. I think that’s very telling about who was “inspired” and it certainly isn’t the current generation.”

    Not really. The real place to measure that kind of ‘interest’ you want to quantify remains the NASM in Washington, which remains the most popular museum in America. Local museums may just be hard to get to– or visited already. The Air & Space Museum in Los Angeles and in San Diego gets plenty of traffic from local schools but both are limited in displays and you see them once or twice, that’s enough for life. If you want to see Lindy’s ‘Spirit,’ you go to Washington, not glare at the replica in the museum lobby in Balboa Park. Anecdotally speaking, this writer, who has had a life-long interest in space– has visited Cape Canaveral/KSC exactly once- in 1978 no less– when the place appeared all but abandoned, Pads 39 A & B were being disassembled and reconfigured for shuttle; interstage farings for Saturn Vs lay in the weeds near the empty, unpainted press stand and nearby a trailered Saturn V, exposed to the elements, streaked with seagull droppings. Not very inspiring to see. And we never did make it to a Canaveral missile museum. Mercury Control, the VAB and the gift shop, run by TWA at the time, were the centers of interest. The Cape’s a pain to get to unless you’re making a side trip from a visit to Disneyworld. That’s just the way it is. Same w/t getting to the Kansas Cosmosphere. Even a trip up to Edwards AFB is a haul from LA but worth it at least once when they open it up once a year. Visited it on the 50th anniversary of Yeager’s flight and met him after he reinacted it. Besides, most kids today can access space via NASA Select and punch up this morning’s weather report and fresh image from on Mars via the web. It’s not the kids but the parents who became all too self-absorbed… you know, Yuppies: the children of Reaganomics.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm
    No, the Age of austerity wont last forever, but it will certainly last longer than the dreaded ‘gap’ — at least a decade or so. Think Great Depression. Get Orion operational and the future will fall into place.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 2:14 am
    About the only politician I think would have put any political capital into expanding HSF is Al Gore, who’s been very open about his support.

    What is the evidence for this? If you substitute “Newt Gingrich” for “Al Gore,” this might make sense.

    Utter nonsense. The is the same Gingrich wanted to dissolve NASA in the mid-90′s. The man’s a bombastic boob.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Sure it is. It’s a managable problem and people make good managers.

    A dust hole stopped Mars Spirit in its tracks. A little shove, or a turn of a shovel by an astronaut would get it rolling again.

  • DCSCA

    @ Anne Spudis wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 3:34 am
    You’re preaching to the choir, Anne. If it were up to me, I’d allocate NASA a base $25 billion a year budget, adjusted annually for imflation, for a decade and instruct them to get a permanent base on the moon within a decade. If they fail, dissolve the agency.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 26th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    “The problem with the rollout was that Bolden, Garver, Dr. Holdren, etc. all assumed their proposals would be praised to the skies, they’d be applauded for their innovative and forward thinking, and Congress would fall into line and support it generously.”

    nope

    the problem with the roll out is that it took on a substantial block of 1) technowelfare and 2) it finally punctured the flawed vision of a lot of people like you that says to have a real space program people have to be involved in a massive government program that year after year works on sending just a few government employees to do things that the vast majority of the American people simply dont care about.

    In reality the technowelfare was going to opposse whatever new program came along because the (mostly) good Republicans who dont like government handouts everywhere else…love it when it comes to big government space programs.

    And there is a binary choice in the matter either we can have the technowelfare keep everyone employeed and encompass little or nothing of value in human spaceflight or we can ditch the “space is hard” jerks and replace them with people like Musk who see space as just another engineering place…and actually do things of value for The Republic, the economy and the American people.

    What has happened over the past decade is a that in the minds of people like you, Spudis and Whittington and a lot of others…the big government program has become acceptable and necessary…and its not.

    Musk (and others) are proving that on a continuing basis …that space is a place where competent (but not special) engineering works is something that should cheer everybody on.

    The notion that Orion is needed “in case the private sector cannot perform” is a goofy one. The sector that has repeatedly failed to perform is the government one. It has made human spaceflight the most expensive endeavor known to man…and the least versatile and the least safe.

    So at least be honest about it. You dont like the new program because you like the old one…and thats fine. But the old one was a failure happening…and its time in this country that we stop subsidizing failure.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Musk isn’t a god, but he is human.

    Who has ever claimed otherwise? Who are you arguing with, us, or the voices in your head?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    “Congress will see to Orion flying. If L-M is right, they can have it ready by 2014, for EELV launch to LEO. Once the heavy-lifter is ready, shoot for an Apollo 8 redux, then start going to other places”

    and none of that is going to happen…its a power failure

    Robert G. Oler

  • Byeman

    DCSCA wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Pot calling the kettle black

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 4:54 pm
    A dust hole stopped Mars Spirit in its tracks. A little shove, or a turn of a shovel by an astronaut would get it rolling again.

    Care to put a price tag on that “little shove” or “turn of a shovel? I could put rovers ALL OVER Mars for that price. That’s the dim vision here. Put humans where they can give little shoves to robots.

    As I said, Spirit was working many many years beyond it’s design lifetime, and went through who knows how many dust storms.

    But let’s get back to the Moon. I’m delighted to see an organized lunar architecture that is telerobotic-intensive. Spudis and Lavoie have created that. Such work paves the way for telerobotic work on the surface of Mars by controllers in orbit. Now, it’s quite possible that once the telerobotic ISRU efforts are done, someone will get the idea that putting humans there to give the ISRU equipment a “little shove” isn’t necessary. At that point, one has to make the decision about why one is doing it. It is for the expansion of humanity, or for bringing the solar system into our economic sphere?

  • William Mellberg wrote:

    And all you offer them is the opportunity for a few more astronauts (and billionaires) to keep going around and around and around and around the Earth. I don’t find that very exciting myself.

    Why are you lying?

    No one here has argued that space be restricted only to “a few more astronauts (and billionaires).” If you want to have an honest discussion, then don’t lie.

    NASA has only flown government employees. The only three who weren’t astronauts were a teacher (who was killed in a preventable accident), a senator and a representative (both of whom were on space committees and therefore abused their positions of power to get a free ride). The government has no intention of flying anyone other than an astronaut for the foreseeable future. Even if the universe blinked and Constellation magically arose tomorrow, the government would continue flying no one but government employees.

    Any new technology has always been pioneered by more affluent people who could afford it. The horseless carriage was expensive at first. So was the personal computer. So was the video tape recorder. So was the calculator. So I really can’t fathom why people like you disparage so-called “billionaires” for only doing what they’ve always done under capitalism in the last 100 years — bring down the cost of technology for the common person by increasing demand for a service.

    I’m happy to continue a conversation with you if you promise not to lie any more. If not … well, I’ll just ignore you like I do the others here who are incapable of an honest conversation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    “You’re preaching to the choir, Anne. If it were up to me, I’d allocate NASA a base $25 billion a year budget,”

    and then you could find another reason to gripe when on 25 billion dollars they managed to accomplish not a lot more then they do on their current budget.

    When you spend 1/2 billion for a “test” flight that last under a couple of minutes…there is something sadly wrong with ones engineering management.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm
    “Musk isn’t a god, but he is human.”

    a completely goofy statement. Much like this person trying to explain “sovereignty”

    “tribal sovereignty means that you are sovereign”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5xVRXLgLxw

    or “if we do not succeed we might fail” (different goofy person)

    entertaining all but strange

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    “They (Spudis/Lavoie) should have stuck with just the exploration and ISRU parts.”

    They did Coastal Ron.

    The first line of the study starts off by saying “We present an architecture that establishes the infrastructure for routine space travel…“, which is the “What”, and then finishes by saying “…by taking advantage of the Moon’s resources, proximity and accessibility.“, which is the “How”. That sure looks transportation-related to me.

    “the plan as a whole is not something that can be taken to Congress for a vote.”

    Really Coastal Ron? Is that seriously a concern of yours?

    Well it sure seems like that was their purpose – to persuade Congress to authorize funds for returning to the Moon. If that wasn’t their goal, why did they do the study? Weird.

    This paper is a solid effort showing that cost numbers DO fit under the budget numbers used by the Augustine Committee

    The problem is that their SDV numbers are guesses (and way low), and instead of proposing a “launcher agnostic mission”, it is dependent on HLV’s for 5 of the first 17 missions, including crew. The decision about the modes of transportation have been decided by the authors, and no trade-offs are priced out for comparison.

    A truly non-partisan study would have shown two or more alternatives priced out so the reader understands how different choices affect the overall cost. And despite their saying “This plan is affordable, flexible and not tied to any specific launch vehicle solution“, the plan is tied to a new class of launchers, while alternatives requiring less development are dismissed outright (“but development of propellant depots is required to permit journeys beyond LEO“).

    Missed opportunity there…

  • Dennis Berube

    Al Gores baby was the X 33 was it not?

  • DCSCA

    Byeman wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 6:06 pm
    You may want to ask Brother Gingrich why he floated the trial balloon and declare NASA’s mission accomplished and advocated dissolving the agency in the mid 90s. Given the worsen state of the economy and the GOP surge in Congress, his rationale it might very well fly in the Age of austery before another manned spacecraft from NASA ever does. With the U.S. government having to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends, you might want to spend your time justifying the agency’s raison d’etre. Because the Cold War has been over for 20 years and to more and more cash strapped Americans, there just isn’t a reason to keep it around.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Focus on getting Orion operational. Get it flying initially a top existing LVs by the end of the decade through the Age of Austerity. Try to do anything more and the space agency’s budget will be cut to the bone. (It really has only one safe place to survive severe cuts- as a division of DoD.) Once NASA has a general purpose, adaptable and modifiable manned spacecraft up and running, the longer range plans will appear more plausable.

  • pathfinder_01

    Will, both Bill and I are Chicagoans and it took more than just a plan to make this city into what it is. The city of Chicago started as a trading post for furs between Indians and Fur traders. Without the Chicago river there would BE no city of Chicago. Chicago’s principle industry then and today is transportation and trade. Without river, lake and later rail transport and airports the capital that would latter create latter industries such as the stock yards, steel, the downtown skyline would not exist.

    What the Burnham plan did was influence the development of Chicago such that for heavy industry was encouraged to go elsewhere in town principally the Southside instead of downtown. The parks around the lake are both beautiful and practical. The lake can and does flood. The parkland gives protection to the downtown area, but on the rare occasion a good storm can whip up and flood the near parts of lake shore drive. Lincoln Park for instance was once a cemetery and from time to time bodies do come up there. Turning that area into an area into a park was about public health (Lake Michigan is also the drinking water) and the fact that the area was ill suited for the role of cemetery (high water table). Grant Park was created by dumping the ashes of the Chicago fire into the lake. The area filled in and became firm ground.

    It is going to take more than a grand plan to make the moon habitable. It is going to take an investment of private money but I have yet to see a plan that encouraged that upfront. As Bill said the Spadus plan is “If you build it they will come”. Perhaps before a plan that calls for export of lunar Ice to LEO is done, it may help to create a market for such an Item in LEO in the first place.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    But that hasn’t been my experience talking with young people at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

    I think you’re practicing selective statistics William, since it’s more likely that at least one group (parents or children) has to be predisposed to visit the center to begin with, and most likely both – especially if it’s Space Camp. That would not be reflective of the overall population.

    I’d say a better indication of what the overall population thinks about the U.S. returning to the Moon was when President Obama announced he wanted to cancel Constellation, and when Congress voted to remove the Moon from the “next destination” list. And what was that? Near silence, and no real debate in Congress about keeping a plan in place for returning to the Moon.

    There is no national imperative to return to the Moon, and it has been relegated to that long list of things that are hard, and interesting, but otherwise not needed to be done immediately. Congratulations Apollo for taking a lot of the mystery out of the Moon.

    and the promises some of its proponents are making that space travel will become as commonplace as air travel in just a few years

    Anyone that knows anything about space issues would not say such a thing, but if you want to use it to justify your position, so be it. However that makes you look as uninformed as they are.

    if only the U.S. taxpayer will fork over a few more billions of dollars to prop up the new “commercial” enterprises.

    You know that’s not the situation, so why do you keep stating it. If NASA does nothing, then NASA will have to continue to rely on Russia for access to the ISS. If you think that’s a bad thing, then the answer is to create a COTS-like competition for crew services.

    If it turns out the two (or more) winners can provide crew services for less than it would take NASA, then NASA should award the contracts to commercial companies. If it turns out NASA can do it for less, then NASA should do it. What’s wrong with NASA paying for services that it can’t or won’t do? Weird.

    And exploration by its very nature does not imply immediate returns on investments.

    Again, you keep misinterpreting the situation. If you read the comments of those on this blog that support commercial efforts, we have stated over and over that we see NASA being the lead for exploration, and that commercial services will support that. This is no different than how the DoD handles things, even in war zones.

    Fortunately, we still have a few Burnhams in today’s world — people who make “big plans.”

    It’s easy to make big plans. It’s hard to make big plans that are achievable within an available budget and time frame.

    Unfortunately the Spudis/Lavoie plan doesn’t do it, mainly because of their faulty justifications for the transportation segment of the plan. They should have spent less time proving everyone else was wrong, and just stuck to the basics of what they wanted to do. Too much hubris.

  • Vladislaw

    “Chris Castro was describing the Moon as a fascinating world — still waiting to be truly explored, and still waiting to be fully utilized.”

    Using traditional NASA management and funding patterns of the last 50 years and their steadfast refusal to really embrace commercial empowerment, EXACTLY what year could NASA ever afforded the moon?

    What has happened at NASA that proves to you NASA can be a new agency, and could achieve a sustainable lunar base with sound management, on time on budget schedules, and not be the same ole’ same ole’, cost plus, escalator clauses that reach higher than the Ares 1, overpriced, technowelfare agency of yesterday?

  • Matt Wiser

    Some folks here don’t seem to get the political side: if Congress tells NASA (or any other government agency for that matter) to do something, and appropriates the necessary funds, that agency must do as congress says or future programs may be in jeopardy.They write the checks, after all. If Congress tells NASA to buld Orion and place it on a EELV and/or HLV, and appropriates the needed funds, NASA must comply. NO way around it. Period. And remember one other D.C. adage: “One person’s pork is another’s vital project.” The new head of the House Science and Tech commitee is someone who’s skeptical of Commercial space, unlike Rohrbacher, who’s more supportive-getting on the bad side of the new chairman is ill advised-and some suggestions to turn HSF over to the commercial side wouldn’t pass in the new Congress-let alone a successor administration (hopefully in 2013).

    The authorization act that was passed is the best compromise that’s politically possible. What some people here have advocated would have a very hard time getting Congressional approval-something to also keep in mind. It gives the Commercial crowd some of what they wanted, but gets NASA ready for the exploration side with Orion and HLV.

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    “Will, both Bill and I are Chicagoans and it took more than just a plan to make this city into what it is. The city of Chicago started as a trading post for furs between Indians and Fur traders. Without the Chicago river there would BE no city of Chicago.”

    nicely said.

    The problem with humans in space is that after 50 years and hundreds of billions of dollars NOTHING has been found for humans in space to DO that has anything of value near the cost of the effort. The history of “people on earth” is that unless people could find something to do in a particular place that sustained their existence in at least some fashion of “closed loop” then settlements didnt stay. The scenery in some of the old abandoned mines in CO is awesome; but when the mine ran out mostly the people left.

    Space is a tough act to settle because there is almost no natural survivability there. A person could in theory march out west with a few tools and scratch out at least subsistence…without enormous inputs of (so far) expensive technology no human stays alive long in space. Thats true for places like the South pole of course, but the cost to keep people there is trivial compared to that of space and even then no one lives their on a permanent basis. If cost to keep humans in space were as low as the South Pole, or even say ten times that…we would have lots of people in space. Its not.

    So people like Spudis and Zubrin with their endless plans are sort of like Dr. Frankenstein…trying desperately to create a living “thing” out of the various parts of mostly political life. Its a mix of “great nation”, “the reds are going to do it”, etc…but none of them come close anymore to justifying the cost of the effort…they might if (again) the cost to keep people in space were nearer what it cost to do so at the South Pole…

    So the great “lightening strike” notion of all the folks like Spudis and Zubrin is “we are going to spend the money anyway”…and as the Bush/Obama depression gets worse its hard to imagine that scenario playing out.

    Sometimes I think that the Red Chinese just must be, like Osama son of Ladin laughing their buns off at American stupidity. Why would we go to the moon to mine water that we could launch cheaper from Earth (why would they?)…As our cities and infrastructure decay (things used by everyone) we have goofy people arguing to engage in a non existent race to the Moon or conquer countries that are of no threat to us…or build weapon systems for non existent enemies. Almost everything we do these days in politics is not based on cold hard facts, it is on stupid rhetoric like Death Panels. There is not a single soul that can no justify the invasion of Iraq on anything but “wow we removed a dictator”…not “we stopped a threat to the US”.

    This is not the forum to argue the right wings goofy notions about Iran…but it is where we should all opposes the notion of spending money in space just to spend money in space and that includes to do things…that can be done cheaper on earth.

    If there is a function for federal spending in space; it is to develop the technology that can allow operations in space to reduce by magnitudes the cost. I doubt that the cost reductions at SpaceX (or anywhere else in the current round of COTS) will flood space with humans…but if it opens space to a group of people who so far have been priced out of the market…that is a first more powerful then Armstrong’s step.

    That was a step for a man…lower access cost…is a step for our economy.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    Re: Cost of space plans.

    This is highly “entertaining” since no one, not a soul actually can predict the future. Maybe one should try and check the cost of any aerospace program past and present and see how it compares to their then predictions. In general the cost is like 2 to 3 times more than predicted as far as I know. For space, there is no reference point, nothing recent enough we can point to. Only vaporware that never went anywhere. The two most recent vehicles are Dragon and X-37. Both can be seen as prototypes. Their cost includes all the development and none of the life cycle, yet. Their cost can only be “predicted” if some number of launches appear accurate. And, so far, they fly no humans as our friend DCSCA would point out even if out of context. The other only one point we have is, hold your breath, tatahhh, Constellation. So. I am afraid that $88B has as much value as $1,000B in that context. The only way we might be able to predict anything like that would be that we have an existing infrastructure that is expendable and modular. So far all we have is… Shuttle. So here again let’s go check the price if you will…

    Therefore I am afraid that only the silly like “this writer” may be on to something when they try and desperately explain to the enlightened people that first and foremost we need to lower the cost of access to space, LEO or otherwise. Until then we will have plan B to outer-space and watch nice, or less nice, proposals.

    Ah and did I say that Orion will not fly? I am not sure. Did I say that the technological jump from Dragon to Orion will actually cancel Orion? I am not sure if I said that, did I?

    C-17 compares with Orion? In what way? At least C-17 actually flies.

    He-3 and the Chinese again? Come on people…

  • common sense

    @ Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    “Some folks here don’t seem to get the political side:”

    “but gets NASA ready for the exploration side with Orion and HLV.”

    Some people here don’t understand how much it would take to get any Orion and HLV going… A lot of lack of understanding going it appears on all sides, right?…

  • If Congress tells NASA to buld Orion and place it on a EELV and/or HLV, and appropriates the needed funds, NASA must comply. NO way around it.

    Don’t be a fool. There are many ways around it. Look how long it took them to build a space station. Often, it runs out that the “needed” funds aren’t sufficient after all. All they have to do is delay for a couple years, and then there’s a new Congress. Congress demanded that they build an Ares I, and where did that get them?

  • “runs out” should be “turns out.”

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Some folks here don’t seem to get the political side: if Congress tells NASA (or any other government agency for that matter) to do something, and appropriates the necessary funds, that agency must do as congress says or future programs may be in jeopardy.

    Just because Congress wants it, and thinks they allocate “enough” funding, does not mean that it will get produced on-time. Witness Ares I and Orion, which was being enthusiastically within NASA, and they could not produce them on-time or on-budget.

    Does NASA have to work on something that Congress wants? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it will ultimately succeed. Don’t be blind Matt.

    In any case, who said Congress has given them enough funds for SLS & MPCV? Don’t count your launchers until they’re on the pad… ;-)

    The new head of the House Science and Tech commitee is someone who’s skeptical of Commercial space…getting on the bad side of the new chairman is ill advised-and some suggestions to turn HSF over to the commercial side wouldn’t pass in the new Congress

    Are you just getting back from a 3-month trip and trying to catch up on current events? Fast forward a little more and you’ll realize that the LAST head of the House Science and Tech committee didn’t like the idea of commercial either, so what’s new? But it’s in the NASA charter, in the VSE, and on the books as law (see Sec. 2 & Title IV), so this will move forward because, as you say, it’s the law.

    The authorization act that was passed is the best compromise that’s politically possible.

    You’re arguing old news with people that supported the Senate bill (which the House approved). It was the Constellation supporters that lost, not the commercial supporters. Try to stay current.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “Why are you lying?”

    I’m not. But why do you resort to crass demagoguery?

    Stephen C. Smith added:

    “NASA has only flown government employees. The only THREE [my emphasis] who weren’t astronauts were a teacher (who was killed in a preventable accident), a senator and a representative (both of whom were on space committees and therefore abused their positions of power to get a free ride).”

    Mr. Smith, I have the impression that you like to play games with semantics. You refer to NASA’s astronauts as “government employees.” That’s a tad disingenuous, don’t you think? Because you fail to mention that among those “government employees” have been professional astronomers, biologists, geologists, physicists, medical doctors and other scientists and researchers who have done invaluable work in Earth orbit, as well as on the Moon (Harrison Schmitt, for instance). You also failed to mention (perhaps conveniently?) Charles Walker, the world’s first ‘industrial spaceman’ who flew three Space Shuttle missions while working as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas. And Gregory Jarvis (killed in the Challenger accident) who was an engineer with Hughes Aircraft. And Paul Scully-Power, the Australian-born oceanographer. Plus, of course, payload specialists from other countries. And 77-year old John Glenn, whose mission was certainly an inspiration to seasoned citizens, even if you think young people couldn’t care less.

    Stephen C. Smith further stated:

    “The government has no intention of flying anyone other than an astronaut for the foreseeable future. Even if the universe blinked and Constellation magically arose tomorrow, the government would continue flying no one but government employees.”

    So what? If my tax dollars are supporting the $100 billion International Space Station and the $50 million seats on Soyuz, I’m glad to see those seats going to professional scientists and researchers who will use that facility for the purpose it was designed, approved and built.

    And Stephen C. Smith opined:

    “Any new technology has always been pioneered by more affluent people who could afford it. The horseless carriage was expensive at first. So was the personal computer. So was the video tape recorder. So was the calculator. So I really can’t fathom why people like you disparage so-called ‘billionaires’ for only doing what they’ve always done under capitalism in the last 100 years — bring down the cost of technology for the common person by increasing demand for a service.”

    And just how soon do you expect space travel to be affordable for the common person? We’re not talking VCRs and home computers here. We’re talking lots of energy being used to propel very expensive space vehicles into an extremely hostile environment. Bringing the cost of doing that down to a level which the “common person” (your term) can afford is many years away. Your comparison to consumer products is ridiculous.

    Stephen C. Smith continued:

    “I’m happy to continue a conversation with you if you promise not to lie any more.”

    More demagoguery — designed to brand me as a “liar” in the minds of others. That tactic is as old as the hills. I’ve encountered it for many years in local politics. And I’ve always thought that it has said more about the accusers than the accused. More often than not, I’ve found that demagogues accuse others of doing what they do.

    Finally, Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “If not … well, I’ll just ignore you like I do the others here who are incapable of an honest conversation.”

    You mean anyone who disagrees with your opinions or punches holes in your arguments?! Seriously, your reply totally avoided the comments I wrote earlier in response to your previous remarks about today’s younger generation and their supposed lack of interest in America’s historic achievements in human spaceflight (i.e., Apollo). Rather than falsely accusing me of lying and clumsily trying to disparage my reputation, I wish you had simply addressed my points. Or, better yet, I wish you had simply ignored me as you’ve just promised to do above.

  • William Mellberg

    pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “Without the Chicago river there would BE no city of Chicago. Chicago’s principle industry then and today is transportation and trade. Without river, lake and later rail transport and airports the capital that would latter create latter industries such as the stock yards, steel, the downtown skyline would not exist. What the Burnham plan did …”

    What the Burnham Plan did was to give city planners a clear path to follow for the next 100 years — one which would eventually provide the people of Chicago with a beautiful lakefront, fine neighborhood parks (many local communities in Chicago are named for their local parks), a surrounding belt of forest preserves, a logical grid pattern for streets and highways and a long-range vision for building a genuine world-class city from the ashes of the Chicago Fire. All of which is reflected in the “I Will” spirit of Chicago. Before the fire, Chicago was a gritty industrial town. After the Burnham Plan, it became a great metropolis.

    As you say, Chicago was a transportation hub from the outset — its resources and location providing the foundation for its growth and economic strength. Of course, other cities have valuable resources and good locations, too. But some of them are still gritty industrial towns. A few have become municipal wastelands. It was the Burnham Plan — and the bold, long-range vision of a great architect — that paved the way toward today’s Chicago. And believe it or not, Chicago’s mayors have pretty much stuck with the plan for the better part of a century.

    That is the sort of grand strategy that we need for space — one which will outlive not only its author, but also multiple political administrations. One which will inspire not only this generation, but generations to come.

    “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood …”

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Consider this Vladislaw.

    Commercial studies the Moon and technical issues.
    Commercial sees a opportunity to invest.
    Commercial devises how they will plug into the architecture’s objective.
    Commercial rounds up investors.
    Commercial becomes valuable to the program’s success.
    Commercial makes itself a vital partner.
    Commercial profits from their risk taking and investment.

  • William Mellberg

    Matt Wiser wrote:

    “The authorization act that was passed is the best compromise that’s politically possible. What some people here have advocated would have a very hard time getting Congressional approval — something to also keep in mind. It gives the Commercial crowd some of what they wanted, but gets NASA ready for the exploration side with Orion and HLV.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with these comments! Politics is the art of compromise and the arena of persuasion. Personally, I find some things to like on both sides of this debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. But some people are unwilling to compromise or to see any merit in differing points of view; and that’s always a problem.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “The problem with humans in space is that after 50 years and hundreds of billions of dollars NOTHING has been found for humans in space to DO that has anything of value near the cost of the effort. The history of ‘people on earth’ is that unless people could find something to do in a particular place that sustained their existence in at least some fashion of ‘closed loop’ then settlements didnt stay.”

    And not a whole lot of value was returned in the same period (50 years) following the discovery of the New World in 1492. Sir Francis Drake visited the West Indies in 1586 (nearly a century after Columbus). And Jamestown was founded in 1607, the same year Henry Hudson discovered the river that now bears his name in New York. Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec in 1608 — 116 years after Columbus. Hudson found Hudson Bay two years later. But he didn’t find much else except ice, snow and polar bears. The great cities and farmlands of the United States and Canada were centuries away.

    Which goes back to my previous post. Exploration doesn’t always equate with profits or quick returns on investments. Exploration is about touching soil and planting seeds. Great nations pursue it. Other nations do not (or cannot afford to).

    I sometimes think the United States has reverted to the Carter years with their signature “malaise.” Although President Carter never used that word in his infamous “malaise” speech, he did talk about a “crisis of confidence.” Which certainly describes America today. The current crisis has even taken its toll on this country’s space program as NASA tries to redefine its mission in an uncertain economic and political environment. Which, of course, is one of the reasons we’re having this sometimes heated discussion.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 11:06 pm
    Congress may also formally instruct NASA to do something which Congress has been informally informed is feasible. If NASA says it can do something, Congress can say go do it and here’s the budget.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 24th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    “If you want to see space opened up, all you can do is press the government to put into place policies that will maximize taxpayer bang for the space buck, encourage more private space activities, competition, and entrepreneurialism…”

    Nonsense. Absolutely nothing has prevented private enterprise from exploiting rocketry development and private space ventures except the very core motivator of free market enterprises- the profit motive. Over the past 80 years private industry has never stepped up to take the initiative because there’s simply not enough return on the investments necessary in this era. That’s why governments do it.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 12:36 am

    “but if it opens space to a group of people who so far have been priced out of the market…that is a first more powerful then Armstrong’s step.”

    Silly stuff. After a few billion years of evolution, nothing will compare to Armstrong’s first step, particularly the notion of hurling Goober and Aunt Bee up into orbit. And, of course, your endless disdain for HSF pretty much voids any perspective musings on that arena of human progress. Space will open up for the right people at the right time when the central motivations are not fueled by economics. A century ago the problem facing proponents of space travel was whether it was technically possible at any cost given the state of science and engineering of their time. This century, the preoccupation is not if it’s technically possible but if it is simply affordable, which is a relative and scalable element. It would have astounded those visionaries of centuries past to see it used as a barrier to progress. In eras to come space advocates and space travellers will chuckle at the people back in the day who thought economics was the core motivator for expanding the human experience out into the cosmos.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 6:52 pm
    Hmmm. The only person who ‘gripes’ endlessly about HSF operations is you.

  • @DCSCA:

    Focus on getting Orion operational.

    Why Orion?

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 6:26 pm
    You miss the point- robotic architecture is not reliable nor cost effective for extended lunar operations in that environment. As an adjunct to human habitation, fine, but the costs should be sunk into environment control systems for long stay habitats. Sure, pepper Mars with rovers, festooned with instrumentation and bristling with cameras and sample return capability. And please, don’t use that lame ‘extended beyond its lifetime’ line. It’s expected. It’s like waving the manufacturers 90-day warranty on your DVD player. The place for people to live and work is the moon.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The authorization act that was passed is the best compromise that’s politically possible.

    That remains to be seen, as the old “compromise” has been overtaken by events. A new Congress will have to agree on a budget, the planned increase in the budget will likely not happen and there may even be cuts compared to FY10, there will be massive cost overruns for JWST and we’ve just witnessed a remake of that Bruce Lee classic “Enter the Dragon”.

  • Hey, how about Da’ Bears! Jay Cutler sure looked good against the NY Jets!

    If we want a transportation hub then EML-1, over by ‘dere, is where we want to be.

    Or, if we want a cuppa too tree transportation hubs maybe EML-1, EML-2 and some LEO depots.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “Consider this Vladislaw.

    Commercial studies the Moon and technical issues.
    Commercial sees a opportunity to invest.
    Commercial devises how they will plug into the architecture’s objective.
    Commercial rounds up investors.
    Commercial becomes valuable to the program’s success.
    Commercial makes itself a vital partner.
    Commercial profits from their risk taking and investment.”

    Consider what Anne? I asked for numbers. How many times have I and others typed actual N U M B E R S behind what we advocate? How many times have I and others illustrated defined commercial tracks?

    commercial studies the moon and sees an opportunity to invest? Are you kidding me? What do they study? What opportunity? How much do they invest? What is the potential ROI ?

    If that is the outline of the crumbs you toss commercial to get them fully vested it is laughable. How much of the 88 billion is budgeted to get actual dual use hardware up and running?

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 3:44 am

    I am taking this to the new thread …Robert

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 27th, 2010 at 6:26 pm
    “The place for people to live and work is the moon.”

    But see, with regard to the capabilities of robots, that’s the issue. If the ultimate goal is to have people live and work on the Moon, then well, you really have to send people there! If the ultimate goal is to include the Moon into our economy, then putting people there to live and work may or may not be necessary. I’ll remind you that there is no policy directive whatsoever to make the Moon a place for people to live and work. A goal of VSE was to “extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon”, but living and working on the Moon is hardly implied by that.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I gather from your response you can’t think of anything.

    Perhaps there are innovative, deep thinking entrepreneurs who understand how it’s done.

    You want something spoon fed and subsidized.

  • Matt Wiser

    William: thanks for the reply. Yes, some people here are of the mind “My way or the highway”, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said-not about space, but about a different issue altogther, but perfectly applicable here. There’s folks here who are zealous advocates of commercial, but do not want to think about NASA or other governments doing their own spaceflight; while others want government only, dissing the commercial side. It seems like here that if you don’t support compromise, you’re a heretic. The problem is finding the right balance between those who advocate commercial space, and those who are more on the side of NASA and other governments doing everything space-related. And I doubt the Augustine Commission members knew the storm that was coming when they proposed increasing reliance on the commercial sector for crew and cargo services-and did Bolden, Garver, and company?

    Remember that the board covers space politics. Well, the Politics doesn’t allow turning spaceflight over to the commercial sector past LEO (as some here advocate). It also didn’t support the original FY 11 request, let alone the revised budget proposed after that “space summit” on 15 Apr. (Preaching to the choir would be a more fitting description) And it wouldn’t support any NASA spending on the scale of Apollo…Congress passed its own NASA Authorization Act that properly disposed of the original FY 11 request and the revised one, and put in their own ideas. Congress is NOT a rubber stamp, people. Bolden, Garver, and Dr. Holdren found that out the hard way.

  • Well, the Politics doesn’t allow turning spaceflight over to the commercial sector past LEO (as some here advocate).

    Who? Why do you keep making things up?

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Matt, Matt, Matt. You keep trying to relive the past, where we’ve all moved on to the future. And that future is devoid of Constellation, which was way over budget & schedule, and was slowly removing the U.S. from any meaningful human spaceflight progress. In fact, with the ISS having to be defunded to fund Constellation, it was sending the U.S. space program into reverse. Good riddance.

    By canceling Constellation, that made way for the future of commercial crew, which once established, will provide NASA with more exploration capabilities than it could ever afford to do by itself. Congress put it this way:

    Existing and emerging United States commercial launch capabilities and emerging launch capabilities offer the potential for providing crew support assets. New capabilities for human crew access to the ISS should be developed in a manner that ensures ISS mission assurance and safety. Commercial services offer the potential to broaden the availability and access to space at lower costs.

    So if you have any doubt who won the NASA budget battle, it was overwhelmingly Obama/Bolden. Did they get everything they wanted? No, but despite the way the Congressional hearings may have gone, NASA got the direction change it wanted. On to the future!

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    LOL I’ll remind YOU that ‘policy’ can be crafted/changed/wrecked/inspired/pen & penciled on the back of an envelope over a tossed salad at the Hay Adams.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Dragon? If you have post-flight data analysis on the performance of Cheesebox One, please share w/t class. Might be nice to know before anoiting it a viable system. It may be a gem or a death trap. Throw in any data on its environmental control system. Investors would like to know.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 3:44 am

    “And not a whole lot of value was returned in the same period (50 years) following the discovery of the New World in 1492.”

    Nothing but tons of Mayan and Incan gold and silver.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “I gather from your response you can’t think of anything.

    Perhaps there are innovative, deep thinking entrepreneurs who understand how it’s done”

    Anne, where are the “innovative, deep thinking entrepreneurs”, who know how it’s done, putting their money?

    It is in getting commercial assess to LEO and destinations in LEO. I will support the ones who are actually already investing their millions in hardware now rather than the pie in the sky you advocate. I must take note that once again, you didn’t manage to come up with a single number in your post.

    I ask again, of the 88 billion, how much is going to fund dual use government/commercial start ups and what are the dual use start-ups that you are advocating for? Heck Anne. just drop a ballpark percentage number, what percentage of the 88 billion is going towards commercial enterprises?

  • I’ll remind YOU that ‘policy’ can be crafted/changed/wrecked/inspired/pen & penciled on the back of an envelope over a tossed salad at the Hay Adams.

    Why would we need to be reminded of nonsense? Go learn how policy actually works and is changed. It involves things like legislation passing both houses of Congress, being reconciled, signed by the president, etc. It doesn’t happen simply with a “stroke of the pen,” either on a bill or the back of an envelope.

  • @DCSCA:

    Dragon? If you have post-flight data analysis on the performance of Cheesebox One, please share w/t class.

    Got any on Orion?

  • William Mellberg

    Rhyolite wrote:

    “Nothing but tons of Mayan and Incan gold and silver.”

    If you go back to my comments, I specifically wrote, “And not a whole lot of value was returned in the same period (50 years) following the discovery of the New World in 1492.” It’s the timing that is relevant here as we were discussing the first 50 years of the Space Age.

    Spain instituted annual treasure convoys (gold and silver) out of Central America in 1543. That was 51 years after Columbus first visited the New World.

    The Pizarro brothers began shipping Incan gold back to Spain in 1535. That was 43 years after Columbus first visited the New World.

    But once again, if you go back to my comments, you will find that I was describing those areas of North America which later became the United States and Canada. My focus was on the British, French and Dutch explorers — not the Spanish. I didn’t even mention Central or South America. Nevertheless, I stand by my remark that not all that much of value was returned from the New World during the first 50 years after Columbus, although the Spanish plundering of Central and South America was well underway by the beginning of the second 50 years.

    I should add that the first 50 years of the Space Age have not been totally devoid of value. Communications satellites have certainly produced quite a return.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Nothing but tons of Mayan and Incan gold and silver.

    Nowadays they simply get their loot from the treasury without having to go to the trouble of actually reaching the moon…

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Cortez was taking Mayan gold by 1521, 29 years after Columbus and rendering at least 20% of the takings back to the Spanish crown.

    Treasure convoys were a response to piracy, which implies that valuable trade was already taking place by the time they were initiated.

    “I should add that the first 50 years of the Space Age have not been totally devoid of value. Communications satellites have certainly produced quite a return.”

    No argument there. Not to mention the value of satellite navigation and reconnaissance.

  • Matt Wiser

    Rand: look at what Vadislaw (no offense) posts. He’s been advocating turning HSF to commercial enterprises (see above and in previous threads); and Oler’s hostility to HSF is well known, and it doesn’t bear repeating.

    Ron: I’m happy with the compromise-it’s the best of both. It gives the best of both worlds: the commercial sector can stand up, and it give us a crew vehicle and heavy-lift so that NASA can start going places. Do I want the commercial sector to succeed? Certainly: NASA can do either LEO or BEO: but with the current resources, it can’t do both (Charlie Bolden has made this clear more times to Congress than he can count, probably). What soured me on the revised FY 11 proposal was the “been there, done that” approach to lunar return. If POTUS had stated explicitly that lunar return would be coming along with an NEO mission, then I’d be mollified somewhat. Ferris asked on a previous thread that if POTUS’ speech had revamped the lunar program instead of killing it (tech development, robotic precursors, commercial crew/cargo to LEO, and all the rest in the original FY 11 disaster), would I have supported it? Gladly. But the perception that NASA was (A) turning all HSF over to the commercial sector, or (B) leaving BEO to other powers, made those in Congress who have to approve such measures very upset (at the very least). Not consulting with key members of Congress and assuming that Congress would rubber-stamp the proposals (including the revised one) was a big mistake. Not to mention the disaster of a rollout on 1 Feb. They (Dr. Holdren, Charlie Bolden, Lori Garver) blew it, and they’re still picking up the pieces. The sooner the commercial sector (Boeing, Orbital, and ugh..Space X) get stood up and flying-not just demonstration flights, but actual crew and cargo flights, the sooner NASA can go explore. Not quite boots on the ground-which I imagine many of us here want-not just on the lunar surface, but asteroids, Martian Moons, and the big one-Mars proper. But those will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later. (just my $.02)

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    It would be nice to know who I’m talking to Vladislaw. It’s difficult to take your comments to heart when I have no inkling about you, or your work, or why you have an interest in space.

    As to numbers… I am not qualified in that field. With all the spin and misinformation out there, the truth would be refreshing. Wouldn’t it? Paul and Tony Lavoie have worked with experts and the numbers for the architecture they propose have been reviewed.

    It hardly serves for you to appear so dumbfounded and/or interested about a rocket designed by me. What audience are you playing to?

    Me? I’m hoping people will read Paul’s Air and Space articles “Once and Future Moon” and study the Spudis-Lavoie Moon-Ciclunar Architecture. I believe that our country needs to be in the forefront of lunar return and resource development.

  • He’s been advocating turning HSF to commercial enterprises (see above and in previous threads); and Oler’s hostility to HSF is well known, and it doesn’t bear repeating.

    Which has bugger all to do with “turning spaceflight over to the commercial sector past LEO.”

  • Vladislaw

    Anne, I have said before, you may have missed it, my university education was in economics. It is why I am always numbers orientated and why I push more for commercial activities over a big government program. There is just to much historical data I have reviewed, in the last 30 years, illustrating which way gives the greatest return on investment.

    My interest in airflight started with building balsa wood airplanes, a hobby of my father’s and I was the only one who also took an interest. Around the late 60′s he gave me a model of the apollo capsule rather than an airplane and said that would be the future, space travel and how NASA would soon make it so everyone was going to space.

    If you wonder why I have lost faith in NASA … there it is. It is really funny when you think about it. He actually thought NASA would just launch a few times to prove it out and then it would get shoveled (shoveled was his word and why I choose to use that word) into the private sector and we would see the same thing we saw with airlines.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Around the late 60′s he gave me a model of the apollo capsule rather than an airplane and said that would be the future, space travel and how NASA would soon make it so everyone was going to space. If you wonder why I have lost faith in NASA … there it is. It is really funny when you think about it. He actually thought NASA would just launch a few times to prove it out and then it would get shoveled (shoveled was his word and why I choose to use that word) into the private sector and we would see the same thing we saw with airlines.”

    Then your complaint might be with your father — not NASA. Because he apparently gave you the false impression as a youngster that space travel would soon become like air travel, and that you might fly into space yourself one day. Anyone who understands the airline business also knows (and knew) that space travel was a LONG ways from becoming as routine as air travel — or that space would become affordable or accessible to average people anytime in the near future. Losing your faith in NASA because it didn’t fulfill your father’s prediction seems a little … well, I’m not sure what word to use. But perhaps you should have taken flying lessons as a teenager and studied aeronautical engineering or astrophysics, as those pursuits might have given you an opportunity to fly into space as a professional astronaut or scientist. In which case your faith in NASA might be very strong today rather than “lost.” (It’s all a matter of perspective.)

    I’m reminded of Hillary Clinton’s remarks following the flight of STS-93 in 1999, when Eileen Collins became the first female Space Shuttle commander. The First Lady pointed out that she had written to NASA when she was a youngster, and she asked NASA about becoming an astronaut. Hillary was told that females were not being selected at that time — for some very basic reasons. (Incidentally, Hillary Rodham and I grew up in the same town and went to the same high school.) Young Ms. Rodham took that as a personal affront, even though when I sent the same sort of letter to NASA as a kid, it seemed I wouldn’t meet the qualifications to become an astronaut, either. (My vision was too poor.) In any case, had Ms. Rodham followed the same path as Colonel Collins (i.e., getting a pilot’s license at age 16, pursuing an education in engineering and joining the U.S. Air Force where she became a test pilot), perhaps Hillary could have become an astronaut, too. She might have made it on an early Shuttle crew (like astrophysicist Sally Ride). But Hillary’s attitude seemed to be one of entitlement. Colonel Collins made it into space because of determination … and good old-fashioned hard work. Moreover, Colonel Collins overcame her family’s poverty to achieve her childhood dreams.

    Many a youngster has dreamed of flying into space, myself included. But it has never been NASA’s role to make those particular dreams come true for everyone. Congress never told the space agency to turn itself into a travel agency. One day, the private sector will fulfill some of those dreams. But not for everyone. You’ll still need lots of money to buy a seat into space.

  • In any case, had Ms. Rodham followed the same path as Colonel Collins (i.e., getting a pilot’s license at age 16, pursuing an education in engineering and joining the U.S. Air Force where she became a test pilot), perhaps Hillary could have become an astronaut, too. She might have made it on an early Shuttle crew (like astrophysicist Sally Ride). But Hillary’s attitude seemed to be one of entitlement.

    You are assuming that her story was true.

    But it has never been NASA’s role to make those particular dreams come true for everyone. Congress never told the space agency to turn itself into a travel agency.

    No one has ever said otherwise. More straw men.

  • Anne Spudis

    @ Vladislaw

    Have you seen Paul’s comments about NASA at Air and Space’s “Once and Future Moon?”

    If you have, I don’t understand the effort by you and so many posters on this site to paint him as anti-commercial, pro NASA. Paul is pro-space access. He is agnostic about rocket choice. He is not in anyone’s “camp.” Some at NASA think he’s anti-NASA. He is all about getting the job of space access to the Moon, ciclunar and beyond routine and available to everyone.

    He believes the Moon is where we will finally get moving again but that NASA dropped the ball by choosing ARES and that that decision caused the total meltdown of the VSE, whose mission was to learn how to use space resources to live, work and access space. As more and more data shows us the abundance of water and other resources on the Moon, it has become even clearer that using the Moon is the smart thing to do.

    Now he and others have put out a workable, sustainable, extensible architecture where time is the free variable and where government, commercial and international can all step forward and cherry pick what they can work on — where they make the effort to get in on the mission — make themselves a vital cog in the wheel of progress.

    You saw such a suggestion as casting a few crumbs to commercial and totally missed that they were inviting everyone to the table. Perhaps it’s more pot-luck than buffet but we need more collaboration and less agitation.

    And for the record, Paul has always advocated robotic precursors for lunar return and development, with the goal being that humans would follow. He’s been involved with robotics for lunar studies over his entire career.

    It’s easy to navigate the essays at the Archives at “Once and Future.” Just pick a month linked on the right side, leaf through and read them.

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/

    He also has a lot of material at his own website.
    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Paul is pro-space access

    And he is a “Moon First” proponent who views the VSE as a Moon-centric document, not a general exploration one.

    You saw such a suggestion as casting a few crumbs to commercial and totally missed that they were inviting everyone to the table.

    Maybe he wanted the study to be viewed in that way, but unfortunately he wrote it with too much bias for the transportation portion.

    If he would have just outlined the lunar elements and left out the modes of transportation, then that would have been non-biased. But instead he dismissed short-term commercial alternatives (tug/depots) in favor of longer-term government funded ones (SDV). That shows the plans bias for NASA-only solutions and that he doesn’t want lower-cost solutions to be considered that would obviate the short-term need for lunar resources.

    A missed opportunity.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    I have read and commented on Paul’s site before.

    As purely a mental exercise could you ask Paul if he had control of the Government’s checkbook to do what he proposes, spend 88 billion, but with one single condition, it had to be done purely commercially. That would mean having to do the start up spending, it would all be milestone and fix priced contracts and they would all be open bidding. He could also fund xprize contests and other creative funding paths as well. NASA would be a data purchaser and any manned part would be NASA just buying a commercial ticket.

    Have him price out what he believes that data would be worth, along with seat prices.

    I would like to see the costs for this as a baseline comparison to the plan he currently advocating.

  • Anne Spudis

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Ron you know as well as anyone, that if they had not included some form of transportation costs, it would have been dismissed. It was done to show that it is, was and will be possible to fit this architecture under the Augustine’s budget.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I emailed your request but what you are asking isn’t just a mental exercise. Much time and work from many people went into the architecture.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Ron you know as well as anyone, that if they had not included some form of transportation costs, it would have been dismissed.

    Actually I don’t know that, and I don’t believe that.

    As you can see from the feedback the proposal is getting, the focus is overwhelmingly on the transportation part of the plan, and not the lunar exploration/exploitation part. That means the part of the plan that Paul should have wanted to talk about most is being ignored. Not good for him.

    In fact, I would suggest that he could republish the proposal with the transportation part only defining what he needs delivered, and where – fungible components. Forget defining if they need an Atlas 551 or whatever – that’s open to change based on price & availability, and there are too many new transportation systems coming online during the next ten years to try and predict the future.

    Paul has to decide what he really wants to focus on – lunar resources or transportation issues.

  • Vladislaw

    “Then your complaint might be with your father”

    No, my complaints don’t lay there, it is with people from congress with vested state interests and agency personal who kept the myth going that space is hard therefore only NASA can or should be allowed to do it.

    It was not like my father was alone in believing that. The idea NASA was going to maintain a national monopoly in human spacelaunch for the next 40 years was a very out of the mainstream thought in 1969.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    And he is a “Moon First” proponent who views the VSE as a Moon-centric document, not a general exploration one.

    Apparently Congress took the same view of VSE.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Paul has to decide what he really wants to focus on – lunar resources or transportation issues.”

    I think he already has. His focus is on the objective: lunar resources.

    I think he has also made it clear that we need to put the horse in front of the cart. You design the mission first. Then you design the hardware.

    What Spudis and Lavoie have given us is a reason for going back to the Moon and a basic framework for getting the job done. Obviously it will be up to some engineering teams to fill in the blanks. And their paper says as much.

    But the main objective of the Spudis-Lavoie plan is to refocus the attention of our Congress on their objective: the Moon.

    They also need to erase the “Apollo on Steroids” idea that seems to be stuck in the minds of so many. The Spudis-Lavoie plan is not Apollo on Steroids. It’s a plan for opening the Solar System for human exploration and settlement by utilizing the Moon’s resources to make that ultimate objective more doable.

    As Anne Spudis has suggested, Paul’s plan presents opportunities for some visionaries in the private sector to get involved. Or for other nations to get involved. That’s the nice thing about it … there’s a lot of flexibility.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 2:13 pm
    Collins’ background as a test pilot is what clinched it for her– and the changing times. And given the circumstances surroundering her first shuttle command at launch, she proved to have been a good selection.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Then your complaint might be with your father — not NASA. Because he apparently gave you the false impression as a youngster that space travel would soon become like air travel, and that you might fly into space yourself one day.

    NASA itself fed those expectations when it was developing the Shuttle.

  • Anne Spudis

    You don’t know what you don’t know Ron and you believe what you believe.

    So why don’t you use what you think you know and add it to what you believe and construct your own architecture and then we’ll compare notes.

    It would be a missed opportunity for you, if you don’t make the attempt.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “The idea NASA was going to maintain a national monopoly in human spacelaunch for the next 40 years was a very out of the mainstream thought in 1969.”

    That simply isn’t so. If you look at the long-term plans von Braun was putting together for NASA at that time, there is no mention whatsoever of anything but government launches in the realm of human spaceflight. First, the Apollo Applications Program was to have extended our stay times on the Moon. Then, we’d see the development of a Space Shuttle and a Space Station in Earth orbit. Next, there would be permanent outposts on the Moon. Finally, there would be manned missions to Mars. All of this was to have taken place using NASA astronauts and NASA vehicles. And the plan extended to the year 2000. No one within the space agency was talking about “commercial” space at that time. No promises made. No promises broken … other than the fact that very little of von Braun’s grand plan (which he was brought to Washington from Huntsville to create) was ever implemented.

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “NASA itself fed those expectations when it was developing the Shuttle.”

    No. NASA talked about Space Shuttle operations emulating airline operations with two-week turnarounds and rapid processing. NASA repeatedly compared the Orbiter to a Douglas DC-9 jetliner in terms of overall dimensions and payload capacity. And NASA talked about spaceflight becoming “routine” — which it more or less did become with the Space Shuttle compared with Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (which is what the public had in mind at he time). But NASA did not say that the Space Shuttle was going to provide access to space for private citizens — just professional scientists and researchers, although there was mention of an occasional teacher or journalist. Whatever mention there was of “commercial” space referred to the launch of unmanned commercial payloads aboard the Space Shuttle. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, Charles Walker and Greg Jarvis were two payload specialists representing McDonnell Douglas and Hughes Aircraft.

    If other people had other expectations for travel aboard the Space Shuttle, they were self-created — not NASA fed.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I think he already has. His focus is on the objective: lunar resources.

    I’ve seen a lot of business plans, and their’s is not very clear. The title is “Mission and Implementation of an Affordable Lunar Return”, and the first line starts off by saying “We present an architecture that establishes the infrastructure for routine space travel…”. ISRU is not even mentioned specifically until the second sentence. Mixed messages.

    Besides, any plan that relies on NASA developing the largest launcher in the world does not have “a lot of flexibility”. For instance, what happens if the launcher is delayed, or cancelled? Does the Moon mission get cancelled too? Where is the flexibility in that?

    What Spudis and Lavoie have given us is a reason for going back to the Moon and a basic framework for getting the job done.

    In the business world, you have to find the pain points that people are willing to pay money to solve. There are no immediate pain points that the Moon solves for the U.S. – none. Sure the resources of the Moon will be useful at some point, but not until we have lots of hardware flying out of LEO. My quick calculations based on the $88B mission cost showed that the trade off for Earth vs Moon for water doesn’t happen until after 4M liters of water are needed. That’s going to be a while.

    But the main objective of the Spudis-Lavoie plan is to refocus the attention of our Congress on their objective: the Moon.

    Well that was obvious, since they tried to put a price tag on it. We’ll see if anyone in this next congress steps up to spend more money. Don’t hold your breath.

    That’s the nice thing about it … there’s a lot of flexibility.

    A NASA HLV is what’s called a single-point-of-failure (SPOF). Tell me how that defines “flexibility”?

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 3:25 am

    It would be a missed opportunity for you, if you don’t make the attempt.

    If the authors of the proposal can’t stand the heat, then they shouldn’t be in the kitchen. They already knew they had an uphill battle even if some in Congress liked the idea, and I imagine they tried to craft a plan that catered to the desires of certain political patrons. Unfortunately the resulting mish-mash looks like, well, mish-mash.

    For myself, I have been very clear about advocating for lowering the cost to access space. I cheer on the ones that look like they might do that, and I advocate against those that can’t or won’t.

    A Congressionally mandated HLV launcher run by NASA does not lower the cost to access space, so I advocate against it, as well as any planned uses for it. That includes the Spudis/Lavoie plan.

    All they need to do is change their plan so it is completely launch vehicle agnostic and interchangeable. It may not make them more likely to be funded (still no ROI), but at least it will be less likely to be another money pit like Constellation.

    And really Anne, do you want me putting out a competing plan? That would just dilute the visibility of Paul’s plan, and you wouldn’t want that, would you? ;-)

  • Martijn Meijering

    If other people had other expectations for travel aboard the Space Shuttle, they were self-created — not NASA fed.

    See http://www.nss.org/resources/library/shuttledecision/chapter06.htm#intro.

  • William Mellberg

    @Martijn Meijering

    Martijn,

    The starry-eyed speculation of a few was not representative of the material put out for public consumption by NASA at that time. The Number One publication distributed by NASA to the general public when the Space Shuttle was being developed in the mid-1970s was NASA SP-407 (“Space Shuttle”). Produced in 1976, it was my primary source when I was writing press releases about the Space Shuttle and Spacelab for Fokker-VFW during that time. (Spacelab was being built by our ERNO division in Bremen.) NASA SP-407 was the standard media reference guide during that era. It can be read online at:

    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-407/contents.htm

    I suggest you read the Foreword (“A New Era in Space”), as well as the first chapter “Space Shuttle System and Mission Profile”). You’ll find that NASA portrayed the Space Shuttle — and those who would fly in it — exactly as I’ve described it in my previous posts.

    Again, there was NO mention of tourists or commercial activities, other than launching commercial satellites.

    Note the following lines:

    “Space flight will no longer be limited to intensively trained, physically perfect astronauts but will now accommodate experienced scientists and technicians.”

    “The primary mission for the Space Shuttle is the delivery of payloads to Earth orbit.”

    “Some crewmembers and payloads for Spacelab will be international in origin and others will be provided by U. S. Government and industry.”

    These sorts of statements were repeated in one NASA publication and brochure after another. This is how the Space Shuttle program was ‘sold’ to the U.S. taxpayer. It was never depicted in general publications as a program that would provide space access to the masses.

  • Anne Spudis

    Coastal Ron said: [...And really Anne, do you want me putting out a competing plan? That would just dilute the visibility of Paul’s plan, and you wouldn’t want that, would you? ;-) ]

    Bring it on Ron. Bring it on. Put your architecture out on the table.

    When do you think you will submit your architecture for publication?

    It is good to go through that process and justify what you say.

  • Anne Spudis

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    You present facts Mr. Mellberg and they seek refuge in fiction.

    My hat’s off to you and your patient and generous efforts to educate.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 30th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    When do you think you will submit your architecture for publication?

    As soon as an ROI for mining water on the Moon becomes apparent.

    I’m kind of funny that way, in that there has to be a need to do something for me to propose it. And not just a wish, but a real need. That and money is why we haven’t returned to the Moon since Apollo, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 29th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    If you’re still checking this thread, I wanted to give you a heads up to look at the questions and the discussions going on about the architecture over here:

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/12/21/can-we-afford-to-return-to-the-moon/#comments

  • William Mellberg

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “My hat’s off to you and your patient and generous efforts to educate.”

    Thank you very much. And I compliment you on the same.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I’ve seen a lot of business plans, and their’s is not very clear. The title is “Mission and Implementation of an Affordable Lunar Return”, and the first line starts off by saying “We present an architecture that establishes the infrastructure for routine space travel…”. ISRU is not even mentioned specifically until the second sentence. Mixed messages.

    For one, this isn’t a business plan. You might call it a draft white paper, a pre-print, a case, or something else. Spudis and Lavoie outline an architecture and suggest one implementation out of presumably many that falls within the constraints. The actual business execution of the plan–up to and including selection of transportation method–is left as an exercise to the reader.

    Two, it’s hard to find any paper that couldn’t stand to be a little more clear. “Mission and Implementation” isn’t a final draft, but even if it were I was immediately able to take away the following simply from the abstract:

    1. The paper presents an architecture to support routine space travel,
    2. Lunar resources are central to sustaining this architecture
    3. The component objectives of the architecture are or yield small, manageable tasks.
    4. Components are tackled in increments, and each component encapsulates a useful activity in and of itself.
    5. Scheduling components is “a free variable.”

    And the conclusion: all the components taken together add to a permanent presence on the Moon, the supply chain needed to sustain it, and the supply chain needed to sustain other space activities in the Earth sphere (bringing us back to point 1).

    So does the paper’s subsequent substance reasonably support the argument laid above? I say yes, provided that the accounting work not provided justifies the numbers.

    Whether the example implementation is the most optimal configuration is a separate question, and one a good number of us would answer with a resounding “no.” That’s besides the point; the paper clearly shows that even with a less than ideal launcher, lunar exploitation and routine space access is doable within NASA’s projected HSF budget.

    Besides, any plan that relies on NASA developing the largest launcher in the world does not have “a lot of flexibility”. For instance, what happens if the launcher is delayed, or cancelled? Does the Moon mission get cancelled too? Where is the flexibility in that?

    The flexibility is in the fact that plan doesn’t rely on NASA developing the largest launcher in the world. It works with or without it, and arguably better without it.

    In the business world, you have to find the pain points that people are willing to pay money to solve. There are no immediate pain points that the Moon solves for the U.S. – none.

    That the core mission of business is to meet immediate need is a mere principle, not physical law. Satellites, ICBMs, Facebook and Dr. Pepper address no immediate pain points. Neither did Columbus, the conquistadors, nor the expeditions to open up the American West, Manchuria, Africa, or Siberia. The economic intuition here is that the risk of failing to meet demand increases the farther out in time you try to project the emergence of said demand. What do you say of a government that is thrifty when it comes to assuming such risk but will gladly fork over billions on projects that address no clear need or opportunity–immediate or otherwise?

    Sure the resources of the Moon will be useful at some point, but not until we have lots of hardware flying out of LEO.

    Arguably, we won’t have lots of hardware flying out of LEO until the Moon becomes useful. That’s the essential argument behind lunar return. Space is a long way out of the way to simply be a thoroughfare between points on Earth.

    My quick calculations based on the $88B mission cost showed that the trade off for Earth vs Moon for water doesn’t happen until after 4M liters of water are needed. That’s going to be a while.

    You actually showed that at a price point set by commercial lift of water from Earth, it takes 4 million (or up to 33 million, after you jiggered with the assumptions) liters to retire the $88 billion in sunk costs.. Demand is a quantity derivative in time. Neglecting the risk of lunar ISRU costs ballooning into continuing losses at the given price point, then you simply operate as long as it takes to deliver the 4 (or 33) million liters. And that assumes that government is going to pass on the cost in the first place.

    Once again, there is always a risk that operating costs will turn ISRU into a money losing proposition. I also noted that quantifying such risk right now is dodgy at best. But hey; this is space. If we waited for absolute certainty we’d never get anything done. And right now, what reason do we have to believe that lifting water from a gravity well one-sixth as deep as Earth’s is necessarily more costly than lifting it from Earth herself.

    Well that was obvious, since they tried to put a price tag on it. We’ll see if anyone in this next congress steps up to spend more money. Don’t hold your breath.

    The price tag falls within NASA’s existing runouts for HSF as projected by Augustine. Assuming it holds, then there’s no need to appropriate additional monies to do Spudis-Lavoie. Arguably, getting smarter about transportation would result in savings.

    A NASA HLV is what’s called a single-point-of-failure (SPOF). Tell me how that defines “flexibility”?

    Then swap it out.

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 31st, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    For one, this isn’t a business plan. You might call it a draft white paper, a pre-print, a case, or something else.

    Based on conversations with Paul on this Air & Space blog, this paper was meant to be the justification for getting Congress to fund the program.

    The flexibility is in the fact that plan doesn’t rely on NASA developing the largest launcher in the world. It works with or without it, and arguably better without it.

    The paper disagrees with you.

    Satellites, ICBMs, Facebook and Dr. Pepper address no immediate pain points.

    Well that’s a mixed bag of examples. Satellites do address a pain point for communication. iCBM’s address the pain point of needed rapid and un-defendable strike capability. Facebook addresses the desire people have to communicate. Dr. Pepper, out of all of them, is a nice to have, but otherwise a fungible commodity (a friend of mine would disagree however).

    Arguably, we won’t have lots of hardware flying out of LEO until the Moon becomes useful.

    I disagree, but that is probably the core disagreement between “Moon First” proponents and everyone else. I’m in the camp where we see an organic expansion of space activity out of LEO, and that resources from the Moon won’t be needed until there is an economic basis for them.

    Robotic exploration and exploitation should be going on during this time, but large scale ISRU should only be done because it’s more dependable or less expensive. Otherwise it’s money being spent too soon, and slowing down other space activities that would have driven demand for lunar resources on their own. In other words, when it’s needed, but not before.

    And right now, what reason do we have to believe that lifting water from a gravity well one-sixth as deep as Earth’s is necessarily more costly than lifting it from Earth herself.

    The infrastructure for getting water from Earth to LEO (or anywhere) exists today. According to Paul’s plan, getting water from the Moon would take 15 years or more, with a minimum expenditure of $88B – and that’s just for the first liter.

    IF there was a need for large quantities of water in orbit near Earth, we could satisfy that demand today using existing launchers, and likely lower the cost with competition over the ensuing years. How cheap could it go? Already SpaceX is advertising Falcon 9 Heavy for $/kg far lower than what Spudis/Lavoie say is the “plateau” ($5,000/kg). If that were true, then how does that change the economics of their plan?

    Assuming it holds, then there’s no need to appropriate additional monies to do Spudis-Lavoie.

    Considering the recent budget battle that NASA just went through, I don’t think that would be correct.

    In any case, great conversation, and I’ll let you have the last word.

    Happy New Year.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ December 28th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    “Dragon? If you have post-flight data analysis on the performance of Cheesebox One, please share w/t class. Might be nice to know before anoiting it a viable system. It may be a gem or a death trap. Throw in any data on its environmental control system. Investors would like to know.”

    Let’s assume I have such data, what is it that makes you believe I’d be naive enough to post said data here or elsewhere? This being said, all I said is that Dragon effectively killed Orion. There is not even a hint of a clue of a data that shows Orion would fly according to specs. Assuming there is any real spec for Orion. Problem is, still, that you don’t know what you’re talking about and I do.

    As far as investors go, if you were one such investor then you would know what you need to know. You are not an investor, just someone angry with SpaceX. Nothing else, nothing more. I even suspect you have no, zero, background in engineering of any kind. Yet you make claims about the engineering capabilities of such and/or such system bet it Dragon or Orion. Never to backup your claims. See, SpaceX just backed up my claims about Dragon vs. Orion, they flew Dragon to orbit and back. It may be a deathtrap but we now have a lot more data about Dragon than we ever will about Orion.

    Orion did not fly any one in space or anywhere for that matter. And never will. Get over it.

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