Campaign '12, Lobbying, NASA, White House

The Planetary Society looks ahead to planetary science funding in the 2014 budget

The space advocacy organization The Planetary Society has been pushing for months to try and undo the proposed cuts in NASA’s planetary science program in the 2013 budget proposal the administration released earlier this year. While the results of those efforts are yet to be determined—Congress has yet to pass a final 2013 appropriations bill for NASA or other agencies, as it debates big-picture concerns like sequestration—the organization is already laying the groundwork for the fight for the following year’s budget.

In a call to action earlier this week, The Planetary Society called upon its members and others to write to President Obama and ask him to restore funding in the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal currently under development. “I respectfully urge you to direct your budget planners to rebalance and restore NASA’s planetary allocation to the FY12 level, $1.5B for each of the next five years so that NASA can move forward with the visionary priorities recommended by the National Academy,” the sample text of the letter provided by the organization reads, referring at the end to the decadal survey of planetary science missions released by the National Research Council last year.

There is, though, a wild card in this advocacy effort: what if President Obama loses in November? The 2014 budget proposal will then be released by the new Romney Administration. The Planetary Society admits that this is a “tricky” issue, bud argues that it’s unlikely a new administration would scrap the work done to date by the Office of Management and Budget on the 2014 proposal. (The proposal would almost certainly be delayed for a few months, though, to allow the new administration to reshape it; in 2009 the FY2010 budget proposal didn’t come out until early May.) As has been the case on most other aspects of space policy, the Romney campaign has not offered specifics on how it would approach, or fund, planetary science missions; the space policy white paper the campaign released last month, though, was critical of “international opportunities to cooperate in robotic explorations of Mars [that] have been squandered” by the Obama Administration, a reference to the administration’s decision to withdraw from the ExoMars program with Europe.

130 comments to The Planetary Society looks ahead to planetary science funding in the 2014 budget

  • John Logsdon

    In most presidential transition years prior to 2008, the outgoing administration sent a budget to Congress before January 20, and then the new administration used that proposal as a baseline from which to propose changes. Might happen again if (gulp) Romney wins. So influencing current budget deliberations is not a meaningless exercise.

  • GUEST

    I commend the planetary people for their positive and proactive movement and wish them well. I note that on the human space side, their seems to be no such pro-action or positive movement. Maybe they are embarrassed that they already are getting a lot of money but seem to be making little progress with it, or maybe they simply do not know in what direction they wish to head?

  • Fred Willett

    The big problem is the deficit. Something must be done to bring the deficit down. An agreed planned budget reduction or sequestration. Either way the budget is going to be cut.
    In the case of NASA any budget cut is going to hurt some programs. Commercial crew is difficult to cut because NASA really needs commercial crew more than anything else. SLS and Orion are so far away as to be meaningless in terms of providing a realistic crew capability. There might be an early down select to reduce the cost, but in the end Commercial Crew will continue.
    SLS is the problem. To keep SLS something else has to go. It probably will be science. It doesn’t matter that a bunch of scientists are running around lobbying. The real lobbying muscle is with the SLS contractors. ATK, Boeing et al.
    Ideally SLS get’s dumped. Cutting SLS would free up funds for a full Science program, full commercial crew and would also allow funds for development of real payloads for beyond LEO explanation. All on a budget that’s going to be smaller anyway. However you can expect SLS contractors to resist this to the death.
    So Science is going to get shafted. Commercial crew will probably be reduced somewhat and even SLS may have to have some sort of a cut to show they too are sharing the pain. If the happens expect SLS to start slipping to the right the way Constellation did.

  • NeilShipley

    GUEST
    You may like to specify which HSF programs you’re discussing and what your issues are with each of these. Posters can then respond appropriately to each but lumping them together doesn’t help.

  • Jim

    NeilShipley
    I’m with guest-what is the manned space plan? Are there priorities? Is there a long term goal. What is the roadmap? It is all managed by one NASA group. How come they cannot figure it out?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    I wish them luck in getting funding restored. But what isn’t completely clear is why the administration made those cuts. The policy story out of the administration is kind of vague. To the extent those cuts were made just because of a natural dip in fiscal obligations to planetary projects ongoing, that’s one thing. But the runout budget for Planetary Science is flat at that lower level. Of course, the Mars program took the brunt of the cut.

    If this were just in response to a fiscal tightening across the agency, perhaps because of deficit fears, directorates would have seen more cuts across the board. They didn’t see that. Everyone else is flat. This was aimed largely at the Mars program. Also a the Lunar Quest and Outer Planets program.

    It’s one thing to argue that funds should be increased. It’s another thing to question why they were decreased.

    Discovery and New Frontiers were bumped up slightly. Those lines are usually for planetary missions, but they aren’t owned by particular planets. Is the Administration just saying that they want policy where science budget lines are to be used where the questions are, as opposed to being stovepiped on particular planets?

  • Coastal Ron

    Jim wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I’m with guest-what is the manned space plan? Are there priorities? Is there a long term goal. What is the roadmap? It is all managed by one NASA group. How come they cannot figure it out?

    I’d break it out this way:

    Short Term – Continue the ISS so we can gain operational experience and continue to find out how to survive long-term in space. In addition, add Commercial Cargo and Crew so that we can lower the cost of operating in LEO, which will also lower the cost to expand beyond LEO when we’re ready.

    The ISS is our current foothold in space, and in my view if we can’t make it there, we don’t have much of a future beyond LEO.

    Long Term – This is less clear, and there seems to be two camps:

    A. The Administration has declared that an asteroid is the next NASA goal beyond LEO, with the goal after that of getting to Mars orbit and returning safely. Other than planning, no real funding is behind this from Congress.

    B. The Congress wants the Space Launch System (SLS). However that have provided no funding for the payloads and missions that it’s supposed to carry (likely $10B per mission payload), and there are no customers for it under the current NASA budget limits, so this has all the appearances of being a future candidate for cancellation.

    The MPCV is kind of an oddity, in that it is too small and limited for doing real space exploration by itself, and I think it’s future is that of a really expensive lifeboat for real space exploration vehicles (like the Nautilus-X). However both the Administration and Congress support it for now, despite it costing $8B and still not having an SM (Service Module) so it can do a real mission (NASA wants the ESA to build one using ATV hardware).

    Bottom line is that just like the space community as a whole, no one in government can agree on what would be “exciting” or “inspirational” as our next mission beyond LEO.

    I’ve said this many times, in that I don’t blame our politicians for being unable to articulate a goal that everyone agrees with, because it is the space community that is to blame for that. Politicians rely on the experts for what to do, but our space community is as fractured as our political system – Moon First, Mars First, Flexible Plan, goal-oriented programs, capability-oriented programs… no wonder our politicians can’t back a cohesive space exploration plan.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    On the other hand, it may not be wise to be too closely identified with an administration that may well be about to repeat Jimmy Carter’s fate. If I were Nye (and that applies to certain other FOBs (Friends of Barack) I would start quietly opening lines of communications with Romney and his aerospace brain trust. (I.e. Scott Pace, Mike Griffin, and co.)

  • @Mark Whittington
    If communication with Romney on space policy is to be through “Scott Pace, Mike Griffin and co”, then it won’t matter who anyone contacts about human space exploration issues, because NASA will be stuck in LEO no matter what. Too bad you won’t open up your mind enough to see that. I just hope you’re wrong about how much influence those two have on Romney’s future space policy or NASA’s future as a true human space exploration agency is doomed.

    I don’t want my hope of America going beyond LEO to be tied soley to Musk’s ambition to go Mars, but that’s what will happen if the scenario you describe comes to pass.

  • Robert G. Oler

    What is not addressed is the prime reason for the cuts…I dont know this for a fact but it seems clear that the cuts came as a result of the inability of the folks “doing” the programs to come up with a program and program end that is reasonably affordable. under any circumstances.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    If I were Nye”

    then you would be informed and not do mindless rhetoric. RGO

  • Heinrich Monroe

    I would start quietly opening lines of communications with Romney and his aerospace brain trust. (I.e. Scott Pace, Mike Griffin, and co.)

    There is nothing even vaguely political about this Planetary Society effort. But leave it to you to politicize it. Pace and Griffin are huge fans of space and planetary science, and the Planetary Society knows that. But Pace, Griffin et al. are not coordinating early agency efforts on FY14 right now. It’s the Administration’s responsibility to start doing that right now, whoever ends up sitting in the Oval Office.

    Of course, it’s no surprise where NASA money will come from in a Romney administration. Straight out of Earth Sciences. Question is whether it goes anywhere inside NASA. It’ll also come out of anything else in NASA that Obama has his fingerprints on. Aside from commercial, which has strong GOP support, there really isn’t much. Oh, human trips to NEOs will get canned, but everyone understands that they aren’t going to happen for a long time.

  • GUEST

    Coastal Ron has captured it pretty well.

    I’m not sure I would believe the $8 billion for Orion MPCV. It seems to be a lot higher than that for whats already been spent, let alone another 9 years of development. They’ve been working on it since 2005, so that is 7 years so far, and will not fly a first manned mission until at least 2021, that is another 9 years. Is $500 million a year all that has been spent and all thats been planned to spend?

    I don’t think Orion MPCV has much credence as an exploration vehicle and I don’t think its needed as a ‘lifeboat’ for any true exploration vehicles. It would have a role in an Apollo redux, but Apollo redux was never affordable in the long term, just as the original Apollo was never affordable.

    And I think Coastal Ron has expressed exactly my thoughts-if our own space community cannot put together a reasonably coherent plan. strategy and goal, then why would anyone expect anyone else to be able to do so?

  • Robert G. Oler

    GUEST wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    the “space community” cannot come up with a coherent plan for anything because it is divided up into two distinct groups

    The first are those who need a paycheck (“If I dont get this or that money I have to lay of XX or XXX or XXXX or larger groups of people”) and those who want to see something done other then just “programs”…and really those two groups have almost no inermingling.

    What should be clear from a comparison of the Orion/Dragon efforts (or SLS/Falcon) is that NASA and its favored contractors are simply incapable of doing anything “real”…there are lots of programs but they mostly consist of viewcharts and schedules and not a lot of hardware…when we actually get to hardware it consist of things like the Mars lander where everyone is explaining why it cost so much and yet is so American.

    On the other hand the new way of doing things is actually flying (with all its faults) hardware and accomplishing things.

    What is also clear is that the “we need our paycheck” people have despite American exceptional ism, the threat from the Chinese or anyone else have lost the support of the American people..and even the right wing politicians. It is not clear but it is possible that the other group the group that is actually producing jobs and products can get that support.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Mark R. Whittington

    NASA is a political agency and what it does is determined by politics. My only point is that space advocates would do themselves some good by not being too closely identified to a president who increasingly looks like he will be in the private sector after Jan 20, 2013. Grousing about how horrible Pace and Griffin are supposed to be is not going to do any good. They are Romney’s go to guys where it comes to space policy. One of them might be taking Bolden’s office sometime next year. Blowing off the people who may be in power next year is the depth of political stupidity.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    I note that on the human space side, their seems to be no such pro-action or positive movement.

    Oh good heavens. The Space Foundation, the Mars Society, the National Space Society … they’re coming out of the woodwork! The advocacy dollars that are being spent on human space flight are vastly, I mean VASTLY larger than for space science. Just as different science societies will have their own take on priorities for space science, these and others have their own, very well developed and passionate strategies to light flames under humans.

    What will be very interesting in this regard is the panel on the purpose of human space flight, now being constituted by the National Academy, as per directive to NASA by Congress. This independent and, one would like to believe, very broadly based, group could establish some public consensus on what human space flight is for. That’s consensus that science establishes with the Decadal Survey reports. It could end up being a real rallying cry for the efforts, which are now (in the eyes of Congress as well as all of us) pretty thinly directed.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Grousing about how horrible Pace and Griffin are supposed to be is not going to do any good. They are Romney’s go to guys where it comes to space policy. >>

    and you know that how?

    really Mark how do you know that? There has been nothing to indicate that Pace or Griffin are the people Romney is listening to on space policy; if so then he wouldnt be pushing a “commission” to sort out the future of NASA if he is elected.

    you politicize everything with your babble. You have been saying Obama was going to lose when Romney was 9 points behind. Like saying SpaceX is crony capitalism or lecturing Rich Kolker on how an embassy works (for Pete’s sake he is stationed at one) all you do is translate what you want into waht is.

    The election right now is a jump ball.

    try and come into reality RGO

  • Heinrich Monroe

    NASA is a political agency and what it does is determined by politics.

    Mr. Romney has zero responsibility for laying out details of the FY14 budget. Mr. Obama does. What NASA does is determined by politics in that the winners of the last election are making decisions on it. My point is that the Planetary Society is making an appeal to the leaders who actually count right now, as decisions are being made.

    For all you know, they’re also talking to Romney’s team.

    Grousing about how horrible Pace and Griffin are supposed to be is not going to do any good.

    Probably not. Who are you accusing of that? Speaking of depths of political stupidity …

  • NeilShipley

    Thanks CR. I’d spent a bit of time formulating a response but your’s is better.
    RG also offers the jobs program angle, again pretty convincing given history. Sequestration’s becoming more and more likely. Large programs like SLS and MPCV are going to get harder to justify however chances are other programs will suffer the cuts to keep employment going.
    COTS (Orbital), CiCCap and CRS currently only bright lights for NASA programs. ISS has potential but apparently very difficult to get that happening. All the others are pretty much failing shedule and cost.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    the “space community” cannot come up with a coherent plan for anything because it is divided up into two distinct groups

    The first are those who need a paycheck (“If I dont get this or that money I have to lay of XX or XXX or XXXX or larger groups of people”) and those who want to see something done other then just “programs”…and really those two groups have almost no inermingling.

    I guess I don’t see it that way. Sure “those who need a paycheck” are always going to want their services or hardware used. But I don’t see them as the “thought leaders” for developing exploration plans, although they do play a big part of a capabilities based exploration program.

    Which raises a question – can a large goal-oriented program succeed these days?

    Apollo succeeded, although it was seen as advancing not only space exploration, but political needs as well as military ones too. Not counting the Shuttle (meant to be a transportation system, not exploration one), only the ISS has become operational, and even then it went way over budget (partly because of the Shuttle). I think the ISS being international also played a part, which should be a lesson for the future too.

    The Constellation program was supposed to be something like a 15-year effort before it resulted in a lunar landing, but that stretched out to a 25-30 year schedule (and way over budget) by the time it was cancelled. I don’t think it’s possible to sustain programs of that scale without a widely recognized “National Imperative” like Apollo was perceived to have – and we don’t have one right now. Goal-oriented programs are certainly the ones that large businesses typically dominate, yet they have no incentive to keep costs low.

    So I see the only way we get out of LEO in a big way is by using a capabilities-based approach. Interestingly enough, this approach also keeps the negative tendencies of “those who need a paycheck” more in check, since the increments of capabilities that will be involved won’t be stretched out that far.

    But a capabilities-based approach takes some degree of thought, and significant agreement. For instance, what would happen if the Moon First, Mars First and Asteroid First groups could agree that creating an EML1/2 outpost/staging point AND a robust transportation system to supply it with cargo and crew was a good idea? I think that would provide direction for the politicians, as well as “those who need a paycheck” (in a good way because of competition).

    Of course the more everyone disagrees on our goals, the more likely entities like SpaceX will step in and become the “thought leaders’. Considering how stupid Congress is being with the SLS, I’d be OK with entities like SpaceX leading the way…

  • Folks like Whittington and Windy think if Romney’s elected the ISS will be defunded and the Bu$hco Era Contstellation Program will be reinstated, lol.

    More than likely Romney will keep Obama’s program going with commercial supply and crew to ISS, with little more than that. Forget about that EML-1, 2 business, let alone moon landings!

    NASA will be lucky if they get $14-15B/year instead of $17-18B/year.

    Long faces and finger pointing will ensue, gauranteed!

  • Coastal Ron

    I think I was a little vague in how I started comparing goal vs capabilities programs in my October 14th, 2012 at 11:25 pm post.

    I think Oler’s “those who need a paycheck” theory is true for goal-oriented programs, in that “those who need a paycheck” (large aerospace) are not incentivized to keep a large program on schedule or budget.

    Then I should have segued into the Apollo program example.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Richard Kerr, a senior staff writer, did up a nice piece on this budget cut in Science magazine a few months ago. It would seem that the recommendations from the Mars science community (Decadal Survey) were for Mars sample return — an expensive flagship-class suite of missions, with no “plan B”. Their idea was that more rovers was simply an unsellable, though mildly afforable, option, compared with other affordable solar system science opportunities that could offer more science value. OMB wasn’t ready to buy into “plan A”. The latest Mars strategy, through the recent MPPG study, is to map out how robotic exploration might serve the needs for eventual human visits. To the extent that planning was successful, we may see reinstatement of funds in FY14. One problem with that, of course, is that linking science to human space flight is dangerous. The lunar science community paid for that linkage dearly several times in the history of space exploration, though it paid off for them once. Another problem is that science that serves human space flight isn’t necessarily science that serves science questions. How to keep humans alive on Mars is a very different question than how Mars came to be, or whether there was once life there.

    So the “give us more money!” howl is a bit simplistic, as such howls usually are.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Well the “I need a paycheck group” is not much of a thinker group but they are a large mass, probably the largest in the equation. They have the attention of pols both GOP and Dem although mostly GOP due to red/blue divisions who really dont care what a space effort accomplishes just that it accomplish it in their district feeding in good government jobs.

    most of these people are in red states where “good jobs” are not the norm and as much as the folks may hate the federal government they love the federal dollars and the good jobs that come with it.

    I dont think that we need a new project; in fact I think it is a distraction. An EML station would preserve the worst in NASA; go look now and see how many people are just sitting at computers or in meetings doing nothing “real” just massive planning excersizes…it doesnt do much even if it was built and it wont develop a robust infrastructure; it will preserve the worst of NASA’s infrastructure.

    we have ISS…we should use it. RGO

  • “Blowing off the people who may be in power next year is the depth of political stupidity.”
    And my point is, if those “people” implement policies that result in no real advancement in space, then we’re just as screwed either way whether we resist them or not. Six one way, half a dozen another. So, again, I hope you are wrong about how much influence Griffin and Pace have. Judging by past performance vis-a-vis Constellation, either could be a disaster for America’s future in space.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I think Oler’s “those who need a paycheck” theory is true for goal-oriented programs, in that “those who need a paycheck” (large aerospace) are not incentivized to keep a large program on schedule or budget.”

    the problem is that since the space shuttle program the “exaggeration”/outright lying about what a program can do and how much it is going to cost has started at the programs inception…

    By 1984 it should have been obvious that the notion that we were going to go from completely throwing away everything on a spaceflight to reusing it had been vastly over and underestimated depending on ones metric…and yet when it came time to push the station the same “game” was in play.

    I was a child then (grin) but even by the time they were selling the station in 84 it was clear to me that there wasnt a chance that what they were pushing was going to be done for 8 billion dollars by 1992…and yet that fiction kept the world going.

    SO the incentivization to keep a programon track should start with what the program is sold to do and the schedules/budget forthwidth.

    The unique thing about SpaceX so far is that what they have “sold” that they can do they have done and the modest overruns or schedule slips although loudly proclaimed by SpaceX critics seem trivial compared with say Orion/SLS which lets be fair have no real schedule or cost metrics.

    If you told a single manager at either program “Hold this schedule and cost and produce something near to what you have promised or (to mimic Vlad Putkin) we shoot you” none of them could. When Randy Brinkley couldnt get the station on track instead of working at the Taco Bell as he promised…he landed a cush job at Boeing sort of a pay back for keeping them in the loop.

    Instead like on the Mars rover we have a guy show up in a Mohawk and do a video and wow its so cool…3 billion dollars of cool RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Well the “I need a paycheck group” is not much of a thinker group but they are a large mass, probably the largest in the equation.

    No doubt. And there is no sure way of figuring this all out without actually trying something different than what has failed before, which is why I’m floating alternative approaches.

    I dont think that we need a new project; in fact I think it is a distraction.

    Well the status quo won’t last long. What do you suggest?

    go look now and see how many people are just sitting at computers or in meetings doing nothing “real” just massive planning excersizes…it doesnt do much even if it was built and it wont develop a robust infrastructure; it will preserve the worst of NASA’s infrastructure.

    Bloat in government will always be there, so using it as an excuse not to do anything doesn’t work for me. Like my boss used to say, bring me solutions, not problems – what is your solution?

    Now if you don’t think the U.S. should be in the space exploration business, then fine, but I do. And I think using the current amount of budget NASA gets is an OK amount, and I don’t hear too many taxpayers complaining NASA gets too much.

    Which brings us back to how to maximize the value of what NASA gets, and is really more a matter of the philosophy we will use – Congressionally planned goal-oriented programs, or collaborations (both community & international types) that heavily rely on competition and commercial providers? Or something in between?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    either I dont (right now) think that the government ought to be in the human spaceexploration business or I really define exploration differently.

    People hang up on a place “NASA has to go somewhere” but the reality is that it cannot economically (apparently) go somewhere when it has to invent all the parts taht make the trip possible…and really I think doing things like fuel depots and the like is exploration just as much as a guy or gal doing the “first person on somewhere” thing.

    NASA needs to sort out why SpaceX (and I guess OSC) can do on pennies what it takes them hundreds of dollars to do…why does it take 1.5 billion a year to “cook” Orion with no real end in sight and yet SpaceX is close to a human dragon for at worse that amount of money 1.5 billion?

    Someone on one of the blogs said that one of the “strows” on ISS took 25000 pictures a month! REALLY what the heck is that all about…

    another took 25000 in six months, thats 4000 a month or well over 100 a day..

    We really need some adult supervision here RGO

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    There is a strategy that consists in re-cycling the workforce. We could go to the Moon fairly quickly if it were a goal. In order to do that we could establish a COTS/CRS type of competition/contract. Doing so would help the current NASA workforce to transition to the private sector to support the initiative. Not all for sure but quite a few. We could get people to work on new initiatives like propulsion and deep-space vehicles, R&D really, and develop an architecture to really truly exploit the nearby and distant solar system. We could do so much more. And the way possibly to doing this is to bring NASA to a more NACA like organization that supports the industry. Then we might use a form of cost-plus contract for out-of-this-world concepts.

    Now such programs are and will be very difficult to implement for many different reasons including but not limited to the engrained culture at NASA and the political control from Congress for example.

    Of course it is a lot easier to watch solid propellant grow in an SRB than to embark on a new, difficult and challenging endeavor…

    My suspicion though is that two things need to happen. CRS is still a success in the first year of the next mandate and SLS/MPCV blow yet again their cost/schedule – notwithstanding sequestration.

    Of course sequestration might level the field as they say… But I believe that NASA (and the rest of the country) is far from ready for sequestration. We shall see soon I guess.

  • DCSCA

    @GUEST wrote @ October 13th, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    That’s because it’s destunation oriented.

    Mars? Return to the Moon then on to Mars? Lasso asteroids? Competing camps all. Dwindling resources. Ambivalent support– broasd yet shallow.

    Taxpayers cheered the $2.5 billion Curiosity’s landing- for its engineering success– then interest quickly waned as more pretty red pictures of dusty red rocks were returned– and dubious science to justify the $2.5 billion expense. Case in point- tens of thousands of cheering Americans filled the streets of LA to watch Endeavour trundle cross town to its museum perch. People flew in it and can relate to that.. Still, an anecdotal note- friend told me her kids were thrilled when they got up close to it at the LA Forum when it paused for a stop, until she reminded them of the very down-to-earth reality of the cost of the orbiter they were gawking at (roughly $3-$3.5 billion) and the price tag of launching it at the end of the program- $1 billion.

    The way forward is pretty clear. Return to the moon; develop hardware, plans and procedures for long duration stays in the lunar environment and confidence in cis-lunar ops; consolidate that knowlwdge and eventually press on out w/an expedition to Mars– if the robots don’t make it so familiar, it’s not worth the trip But in the immediate 100-200 year time frame, somebody will likely go, more for projecting geopolitical and economic power here on Earth. But it’s probably a good bet you’ll see a Chinaman on Luna to hallmark this century as theres before you’ll see an American on Mars.

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ October 14th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Rubbish. The ISS was long ago morphed from its intent as an integral element of a space exploration program into a geopolitical project; a one-off; a 30 years aerospace ‘WPA program’ as a Slayton called it, born in the Reagan days. It’s a dinosaur representing past planning from an era long over. A Cold War relic like the Berlin Wall and Minuteman missile silos.

    It’s an absurd waste of dwindling reslurces to keep funding it now as a faux market then subsidize ‘commerial’ firms to service it. Through the lens of ‘commercial enterprise’ it is not cost-effective; it has minimial to no ROI for the $100 billion cost and continued bhillions to operate it. It’s an orbiting Berlin Wall; a Colr War relic — which only made a buck when it was torn down, busted up into rubble and some savvy wags sold off fist-sized cement fragments for $20 a piece.

    The ISS should have been firmly secured to the floor of the Ocean of Storms not destined to splash into a Pacific grave. (Lori Garver opposed a return to the moon in her NSS days BTW.) That way it could have been used as a exploration/exploitation hub; a destination for government and commerical contractors servicing a lunar outpost to perfect hardware, plans and procedures for long term stay off-plant, ultimately blending that experience into an eventual expedition to Mars. And politically speaking, it would have been a lot more difficult to abandon a fixed lunar outpost than dumping a space station into the sea– which humans have done w/several of them- from Salyuts to Skylab to MIR and eventually, the ISS – and the PRC’s one day will sleep with the fishes as well.

    But given the increasing sophistication of robotic probes to Mars, there seems less and less rationale for actually sending people there in the next 50 or 75 years, particularly if a few SRMs are conducted– (as long as they can cut he costs of throwaway probes- Curiosity’s costs were absurdly over budget and a setback in that arena.) .

  • Heinrich Monroe

    An EML station would preserve the worst in NASA; go look now and see how many people are just sitting at computers or in meetings doing nothing “real” just massive planning excersizes…it doesnt do much even if it was built and it wont develop a robust infrastructure; it will preserve the worst of NASA’s infrastructure.

    I think you’ll find NASA human space flight people doing nothing “real” except for massive planning exercises wherever you look, except for ISS. As such, this has nothing to do with EML stations.

    In fact, if such a station were built, it could provide a high value site for support of lunar surface operations which, right now, at least for humans, we just can’t afford. Human outposts on the lunar surface is just dreamy bubble-blowing. It would teach us a lot about survival in deep space, and especially about materiel management for supporting operations at large distances from the Earth. There’s your robust infrastructure that you don’t want to admit.

    OK, it’s not descent and landing infrastructure, and it’s not surface hab infrastructure. So what?

    The telerobotic work it could enable on the lunar surface would be compelling proof of concept, for both technology and operations, for such work on Mars or other planetary bodies. All of this would prepare for, and actually incentivize, future human trips back to the surface.

    Sure, a new project that we end up not doing is just a distraction. What we need is a new project that we’re actually going to do. Finger wagging about new projects isn’t helpful.

  • NeilShipley

    CS I don’t think you’re going to find it all that easy to migrate even ‘quite a few’ of the existing NASA workforce to private organisations. Maybe the old school companies but I doubt they are really up to the challenges having milked the government teat for so long. This issue is skills, flexibility, committment.
    Newer companies such as SpaceX and Bigelow need flexible, talented individuals willing to work beyond the normal 9 – 5 day. Gov’t employees generally don’t have that drive, aren’t encouraged to use their initiative and are pretty risk averse. My experience in both private and gov’t organisations demonstrate this quite clearly and it’s why it mostly doesn’t happen.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    There is a strategy that consists in re-cycling the workforce. We could go to the Moon fairly quickly if it were a goal. In order to do that we could establish a COTS/CRS type of competition/contract.

    While I like COTS/CRS type contracts, I still think that a goal-oriented approach has a lot problems. Now maybe you have a lot more detail that would solve those, and if so, then that would at least be an improvement over Constellation-type efforts.

    Doing so would help the current NASA workforce to transition to the private sector to support the initiative. Not all for sure but quite a few.

    I’d have to agree with NeilShipley on this one, in that I don’t think it’s quite that easy, especially with the jobs you want to create so far away from where the jobs currently are. But again, maybe you have more detail in mind that would address those concerns, and I like the overall concept. Not sure politicians would though…

  • Heinrich Monroe

    But it’s probably a good bet you’ll see a Chinaman on Luna to hallmark this century as theres before you’ll see an American on Mars.

    And that should concern us … why? We should be the first to congratulate them for doing what we did forty years ago. Maybe they’ll figure out some value in staying there. We never did.

    The ISS was long ago morphed from its intent as an integral element of a space exploration program into a geopolitical project; a one-off; a 30 years aerospace ‘WPA program’ as a Slayton called it, born in the Reagan days. It’s a dinosaur representing past planning from an era long over.

    That’s mostly true. Except geopolitically, it was fabulously successful. It’s true that the international partnerships that we developed with it should be achieving new goals. That’s happening, though slowly. Right now we have serious industry concept studies about cis-lunar habitats that are U.S./Russian collaborations. Twenty years ago that would have been unthinkable.

    The way forward is pretty clear. Return to the moon; develop hardware, plans and procedures for long duration stays in the lunar environment and confidence in cis-lunar ops; consolidate that knowlwdge and eventually press on out w/an expedition to Mars– if the robots don’t make it so familiar, it’s not worth the trip.

    Heh. Let’s hope the robots make it so familiar it isn’t worth the trip. Because we’d spend HUGELY more sending people there than sending those robots there. If robots could do that for us, more power to them! We could go somewhere else that is worth the trip. Actually, from your description of Curiosity, Mars sounds like such a boring place it’s a wonder we’d even want to go.

    But given the increasing sophistication of robotic probes to Mars, there seems less and less rationale for actually sending people there in the next 50 or 75 years

    See, you get it.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    The way forward is pretty clear.

    In your head maybe. But our political leaders can’t agree, and the space community can’t agree either.

    Return to the moon; develop hardware, plans and procedures for long duration stays in the lunar environment and confidence in cis-lunar ops; consolidate that knowlwdge and eventually press on out w/an expedition to Mars…

    What little clarity there is in the political and space communities is that Mars is the big goal. But if you listen to everyone, no one is talking about using the Moon as a learning or staging point for Mars. No one except for the Moon-First crowd, which you are a dues paying member of.

    The ISS was long ago morphed from its intent as an integral element of a space exploration program into a geopolitical project

    Provide facts and examples, otherwise it’s an empty argument.

    For instance, the current mission of the ISS is at least a subset of what Reagan’s Freedom space station proposal was, and the ISS is doing what was agreed upon in the MOU between NASA and RSA establishing it.

    And where you (and a few others) see international partners as a negative, most see it as a huge positive – as do I. And without a “National Imperative” to increase NASA’s budget, you ain’t getting back to the Moon without international partners.

    So do you want to provide some facts for you “theories”?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    “In fact, if such a station were built, it could provide a high value site for support of lunar surface operations which, right now, at least for humans, we just can’t afford. Human outposts on the lunar surface is just dreamy bubble-blowing. It would teach us a lot about survival in deep space, and especially about materiel management for supporting operations at large distances from the Earth. There’s your robust infrastructure that you don’t want to admit. ”

    WEll.

    First until the problems are fixed at NASA where we have more people doing something and less people sitting around staring at computer screens running simulations and the other useless stuff they do…almost nothing is affordable.

    Look I agree that on paper an EML station is entertaining and somewhat thought provoking…but I have seen to man of these NASA rodeos to not know how this one will turn out.

    It will be more expensive, less capable and take longer…and once it is “there” then the people on board it will do very little other then keep the thing running. What they need to do is find a way to make things more efficient on the space station we have…get it down to where three people maintain the station and the rest do something other then take loads and loads of pictures and build legos blocks and work the ham radio (although I do enjoy the contacts)

    Next try cutting the number of people on EARTH that are attached to the station…lets get it down to oh say 100 on Earth for 1 in space…OK the Russians are not going to play so lets get it down to 100 in the US for 1 American in space…

    I bet you money right now it is 1000 or 2000 for every one in space…

    then lets pump up the science. and once we got ISS going well then lets talk about an EML station…

    RGO

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Our political ‘leaders’ can’t see any further than the next election cycle. They’re already chattering about positioning and financing for 2016. The way forward is what it is, given the state of the technologies in the era. Kraft qs on th right track. so was clarke 40 years ago; and Von Braun as well. . Some one will go- but whether it is American led as opposed to a participant in same is increasingly doubtful.

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 10:44 pm
    DCSCA wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    “The way forward is pretty clear.”

    In your head maybe. But our political leaders can’t agree, and the space community can’t agree either.

    “Return to the moon; develop hardware, plans and procedures for long duration stays in the lunar environment and confidence in cis-lunar ops; consolidate that knowlwdge and eventually press on out w/an expedition to Mars…”

    “What little clarity there is in the political and space communities is that Mars is the big goal. But if you listen to everyone, no one is talking about using the Moon as a learning or staging point for Mars.”

    Except they are, a la Gemini was for Apollo. Armstrong advocagted this direction. Kraft noted it as well. It’s a logical progression given the hostility of the environments involved. And as more and more robots pepper Mars- and they get better and better- and hopefully cheaper throwaways- several SRMs may make going to all the expense of going there not worth it in this era of human history. Luna presents a different perspectibe in terms of logistics and geopolitical power projection in this time frame.. Someone will press onward and out in the next 100 years or so– and thwt may be a short time frame. Bear in mind we’re already 40 years past the endo f Apollo. Time flies. ..

    Maybe you should go back and revisit the history of the ‘ISS’ from it’s inception as ‘Freedom’ during a Reagan SOTU speech in the mid 80′s to what it has become today. It’s a dinosaur. A Cold War relic from an era long over.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    First until the problems are fixed at NASA where we have more people doing something and less people sitting around staring at computer screens running simulations and the other useless stuff they do…almost nothing is affordable.

    Great thought. Let’s twiddle our thumbs until that happens.

    but I have seen to man of these NASA rodeos to not know how this one will turn out.

    NASA is all about concepts. Very few of them actually get done. We don’t know how anything is going to turn out. That’s where the challenge is.

    What they need to do is find a way to make things more efficient on the space station we have…get it down to where three people maintain the station and the rest do something other then take loads and loads of pictures and build legos blocks

    To a large degree that inefficiency is built into ISS. The architecture assumes that you have people there who have little else to do than keep it running. You don’t “find a way to make things more efficient” by waving an operational magic wand. It’s built that way largely because it’s relatively easy (compared with BEO) to get people and equipment there. So a cis-lunar station we’re talking about has to be different. Building one exercises different operational protocols, and those are the ones you’re going to need to do anything anywhere BEO.

    ISS is indeed a dinosaur. Not because it goes around in circles close to Earth, but because of the operational strategies that need a marching army to keep it there. Maybe what we need is a new ISS in LEO that doesn’t need a marching army. Maybe the Chinese are already building one.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Except they are, a la Gemini was for Apollo. Armstrong advocagted this direction. Kraft noted it as well.

    So other than “I see dead people”, you agree that no one ALIVE agrees with you. Glad we got that out of the way…

    Maybe you should go back and revisit the history of the ‘ISS’ from it’s inception as ‘Freedom’ during a Reagan SOTU speech in the mid 80′s to what it has become today.

    I already did, and I even provided you with a link for the current ISS MOU. Both are in sync, which is why I asked you for specifics to support your “theories”.

    Do you have anything more than rhetoric? You know, like contrasting examples or facts?

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 12:29 am

    It [an EML station] will be more expensive, less capable and take longer…and once it is “there” then the people on board it will do very little other then keep the thing running.

    That could happen if all we did was start our designs from scratch, but that is not what everyone is talking about doing. The concept as of today is to use existing module designs as the starting point, and then add whats missing. And if you put those in space using existing rockets (including expensive ones like Delta IV Heavy), then it will be far less expensive by any measure than it was per pound for the ISS.

    As to ongoing maintenance, two things:

    1. The ISS is a first generation multi-purpose laboratory. Sure MIR and Skylab preceded it, but the ISS took modularity and utility to the next level. And it was not necessarily built to be automated – and I’m not sure even today we could automate such a facility, and I keep up on the robotics side of things pretty well. Regardless, the number of science hours are already going up, and if NASA adds a 7th person to the crew after Commercial Crew comes online, the number of science “touch hours” will go up dramatically more. I don’t see this as an issue.

    2. An EML station is going to have a different purpose than the ISS. The ISS is the least expensive location for doing general purpose science in space, so I see the EML station as doing science and research that can only be done where it’s at, and that’s likely to be related to radiation. Combined with 2nd generation equipment and a less complex design, I don’t see this as an issue.

    I bet you money right now it is 1000 or 2000 for every one in space…

    How many is it for the aircraft you fly Robert? Or a nuclear submarine?

    This is kind of a silly metric you’re pushing. Sure we should be lowering the cost per man hour in space, and I think we already are for the ISS. But the ISS is a National Laboratory IN SPACE, so of course there is going to be a lot of support behind it.

    I think can’t see the forests for the trees.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    That could happen if all we did was start our designs from scratch, but that is not what everyone is talking about doing. The concept as of today is to use existing module designs as the starting point, and then add whats missing.

    But Robert makes a good point, that if we do it this way, and if inefficiency has, in fact, been unintentionally designed into ISS, then it may require some careful engineering to make sure we don’t end up with a new habitat that is similarly inefficient. That’s actually a good question, for example, for the ISS-EP folks. How do you use ISS legacy designs and avoid ending up with ISS legacy inefficiency and personnel burden? Just copying ISS engineering and thereby operational protocols at a more remote place where life is a lot harder is very much NOT what we need to see.

    In principle, we could just build a replacement ISS in LEO that teaches us operational economies we should have achieved with the original but, of course, that idea would never fly.

  • common sense

    @ NeilShipley wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    “CS I don’t think you’re going to find it all that easy to migrate even ‘quite a few’ of the existing NASA workforce to private organisations. Maybe the old school companies but I doubt they are really up to the challenges having milked the government teat for so long. This issue is skills, flexibility, committment.”

    Well I guess it all depends with your experience. I believe (I know? ;) ) there are quite a few talented individuals inside NASA. I think that the NewSpace companies would (and actually do – present tense) benefit from some of those people already. Experience is a nice to have too for a company that does not want to repeat errors and waste money… Did I wink at Sp…? Oooppsss Nah I did not. Anyway.

    “Newer companies such as SpaceX and Bigelow need flexible, talented individuals willing to work beyond the normal 9 – 5 day. Gov’t employees generally don’t have that drive, aren’t encouraged to use their initiative and are pretty risk averse. My experience in both private and gov’t organisations demonstrate this quite clearly and it’s why it mostly doesn’t happen.”

    I understand what you mean. For sure. However some people did join NASA in the hope of somehow being part of space exploration, not to have a government job. Some of those people will join the private sector. And yes it includes the big companies too. I would rather have them work at a major doing something useful than ppt slides at NASA.

    Not every one will go. Some will be lost by attrition and some well… C’est la vie.

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ October 15th, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    “While I like COTS/CRS type contracts, I still think that a goal-oriented approach has a lot problems. Now maybe you have a lot more detail that would solve those, and if so, then that would at least be an improvement over Constellation-type efforts.”

    I understand and I have for a long time said we don’t need a “goal” in that sense but rather an architecture. I even proposed that NASA develop its won Starfleet Academy!!!

    I believe Dave Huntsman at thespacereview.com called it a “Development Directorate”. To me, he “goal” would be to develop a modular, flexible, evolvable architecture to reach out to the Solar System and eventually beyond. They would come up with a blend of private and government effort – including investment, yes it can be done with SAAs – to set up the architecture. It might include ISRU on the Moon, Mars, NEOs, whatever. A private sector led effort would also identify if yes or no there is a commerce lying out there and in conjunction with the government would develop a strategy… And so on and so forth. The Moon is merely an example.

    “I’d have to agree with NeilShipley on this one, in that I don’t think it’s quite that easy, especially with the jobs you want to create so far away from where the jobs currently are. But again, maybe you have more detail in mind that would address those concerns, and I like the overall concept. Not sure politicians would though…”

    Oh I know the politicians won’t like it, especially the current crop of Republicans who favor the private sector.. Oooppsss sorry… who favor fascistic approach to our economy. Hence the benefit of sequestration. Hence radical measures. Now as far as I know it is the current lot of most americans (ever was right?) to go take the jobs where they are so it is difficult for me to take that into account. You have to move? Well then move! If not, again, c’est la vie. Easy? Nope. What about the other millions of americans who MUST do it? Easy for them? Why would we give a preferential treatment to the NASA workforce? Any good reason? But I agree and I said so. It won’t be easy. It might not even happen free willingly and NASA might just implode. And then it’ll be done for everyone. So let’s wait, kick the can down the road and make it some other WH/Congress problem. Or let’s take the COTS/CRS like approach and move on! Let’s give wings to those capsules ;)

  • common sense

    Robert, just a tiny correction

    “why does it take 1.5 billion a year to “cook” Orion with no real end in sight and yet SpaceX is close to a human dragon for at worse that amount of money 1.5 billion?”

    For $1B you got Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. For an extra $500M you may get the associated vertical landing/LAS capability for Dragon and the human integration.

    Just to be fair ;)

  • common sense

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    “But Robert makes a good point, that if we do it this way, and if inefficiency has, in fact, been unintentionally designed into ISS, then it may require some careful engineering to make sure we don’t end up with a new habitat that is similarly inefficient.”

    Well. Take the ISS as a prototype. A lot of inefficiencies are designed into a prototype well by design. You take the knowledge and transfer it to the private sector and let them figure the most effective way of designing an ISS. But ISS is more than a station. It is teaching us how to live in space, how to do engineering and science in space. We do not need an EML ISS. We need – possibly – a way station. A place to stay on the way to or from somewhere. And I think nothing else really. We already have the national lab. Unless someone can some up for a second national lab at an EML.

    “That’s actually a good question, for example, for the ISS-EP folks. How do you use ISS legacy designs and avoid ending up with ISS legacy inefficiency and personnel burden? Just copying ISS engineering and thereby operational protocols at a more remote place where life is a lot harder is very much NOT what we need to see.”

    Essentially agreed.

    “In principle, we could just build a replacement ISS in LEO that teaches us operational economies we should have achieved with the original but, of course, that idea would never fly.”

    And I don’t think we need that. We might need a Bigelow station as an ISS v2.0 to understand benefits and inconvenience of another kind of space station. Something radically different.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    a few points in your thoughtful post

    First the entire notion of an EML station is a solution looking for a problem. In reality there is NO DIFFERENCE in terms of “living and working” in space in terms of the people with ISS then there is with a space station in Mars orbit or “anyplace”. There are some design differences a station outside of the Earth protective belts that a station would need but that is a design issue.

    What the EML supporters have hooked on to are two things. First there is a lot of ISS/shuttle hardware left over so they have to do something with it. Sadly almost none of it is 1) designed to be used outside of the EArth protective belts and 2) has the same issues that ISS/shuttle hardware does. Second they have latched on to this “operate lunar telerobotic devices” thing as if that is something “unique.

    I am not a telerobotic expert but I know people who are and we now routinely control robotic devices in very demanding articulating circumstances with 2-3 second time delay. Put a large bandwidth com platform at EML and bang there goes the need for a station.

    I wrote:

    ““I bet you money right now it is 1000 or 2000 for every one in space…”

    You replied:
    How many is it for the aircraft you fly Robert? Or a nuclear submarine?.

    It is not a 1000 to one. at worst on a small corporate jet (like a GV) it is maybe 1 to 1 and the 1 on the ground are rarely full time on that airplane. IE when they are not working on one G they are working on another one.

    On a nuclear sub? At worst I bet its 1 to 10 maybe 1 to 20 if you include “everyone” and those people do more then just 1 sub…

    the worst part about an EML anything station is well it is another mission without a reason.

    ISS is designed like it is because in the end what it did didnt matter…all that matters is that it got into orbit and really used “everyone” o the ground who already had a ticket punched for ajob.

    How many “control rooms” does the thing have now? RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Robert, just a tiny correction

    For $1B you got Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. For an extra $500M you may get the associated vertical landing/LAS capability for Dragon and the human integration.

    Just to be fair ;) >>

    thank you always want to be fair! RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 8:59 am

    “Great thought. Let’s twiddle our thumbs until that happens. ”

    No I didnt say that. What we should do is 1) argue for change and 2) oppose things which perpetuate the entire nonesense.

    There is nothing “built into” ISS. the system is inefficient because NASA management refuses to try efficiencies particular ones that reduce crewing (on earth) requirements.

    For instance…what about the guy snapping all the pictures. If it is accurate that on the average they get 25000 pictures in six months and one guy took near that many a month…well we need to do better tasking there.

    Why are there multiple control centers? Are there still multiple control centers in the US? Is there still some crewing at Huntsville? Why?

    Go to any major satellite control center (ie one with a lot of comsats) and look at the crewing there…OK now double it because there are people on ISS…Now triple it because you need some planning people?

    But for the most part most of the science planning should be done by the people doing the science…

    We should be able to get the crewing on the ground down to say oh 50 a shift for everyone? Thats say four shifts…200 people. RGO

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    “thank you always want to be fair! RGO”

    You’re welcome.

    And come to think of it we need to be as fair as we can so here goes some more:

    – CEV/Orion/MPCV only is government money and so is SLS.

    – The Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon were developed using in large part private investment including Elon Musk’s own cash.

    Yes to be fair the color of money is important too but I will let the readership figure out the exact sums invested in SpaceX.

    Oh. Almost forgot. The $1B for SpaceX was a one time investment, not a yearly installment.

    It’s tough to be fair but I guess we have to do it.

    Oh well.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Why are there multiple control centers? Are there still multiple control centers in the US? Is there still some crewing at Huntsville? Why?”

    Not sure for the US, but Dragon has its own control center in Florida. I can’t think of why there would be crewing at Huntsville unless a particular payload or experiment was built or is being hosted there. I can see some reason to just have a separate control center for a part of the mission that is just used for that part of the mission. Russia has it’s own control center and ESA as well as Japan when they have their own. Not sure if Cygnus will have a separate one too. The only ones that stay staffed are Russia and Huston when there is a mission, the others are used for part of a mission(i.e. While Dragon is in space).

    “For instance…what about the guy snapping all the pictures. If it is accurate that on the average they get 25000 pictures in six months and one guy took near that many a month…well we need to do better tasking there.”

    The crew gets one day a week off and the digital camera has been invented. Also photography is something the crew does for science as well as engineering(i.e. lets see what that looks like). Brazil donated a large clear window for that purpose.

    I agree with the ground staffing but that is both a reflection of being a government program and having old technology(or not able to transition as quickly to new). The ISS program has systems from the 90ies. Compared with Skylab the ground staff is reduced(Skylab required people in multiple sites to maintain commincation as well as a ship).

  • Heinrich Monroe

    I know people who are and we now routinely control robotic devices in very demanding articulating circumstances with 2-3 second time delay. Put a large bandwidth com platform at EML and bang there goes the need for a station.

    There you’re wrong. Very few telerobotic systems on Earth are done with that kind of time delay. Telerobotic surgery (which exemplifies high dexterity) fails with delays >0.5 seconds. For high dexterity tasks, 2-3 second time delay is going to be a factor of 10-15 slower than real time. But even to the extent that delay is endurable, this is practice for Mars, where delays to Earth are HUGE. You think we’re going to send humans to Mars to teleoperate surface science equipment from Phobos when we’ve never done it closer to home? Really? (I had to work Mars science in here because, gee, that’s what this thread is about!) Oh, you can’t do it completely from ISS down to the Earth because the direct ground links are rare, and TDRSS offers its own very significant delays.

    There is nothing “built into” ISS. the system is inefficient because NASA management refuses to try efficiencies particular ones that reduce crewing (on earth) requirements.

    Also wrong. The whole ECLSS system, for example, is pretty unforgiving of subsystem failures. Sending that system to the lunar vicinity would be pretty daft. There are many systems on ISS that require regular maintenance with tools and equipment shipped up regularly. No can do at L1 or L2. The system has to be far more bulletproof. Not to say that Earth crewing requirements shouldn’t be reduced, but those crews are large mainly because of the delicacy of the equipment on board ISS.

  • DCSCA

    “Maybe what we need is a new ISS in LEO”

    Except ‘we’ don’t.

    LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no place fast. If you want a LEO space platform to play tourist for a limited market, go to the private capital markets, source financing in the private sector, let private investors take the risk try to make a go of it. Just not with taxpayer subsidies. But it’s clear they keep balking and turn to government as a backstop.

    Let the ISS splash. It has served its Cold War era, geopolitical purpose. Head for Luna. Use it. Explore it. Learn from it. Then exploit it. Establish a research outpost for exploration/exploitation of our moon; service it w/gov’t and commercial ops; perfecting planning, hardware, systems and procedures for long duration- off-planet habitation, then press on out to Mars– if it’s worth going after the robots report back. If this species can’t manage to keep its own alive for extended stays to work and explore on its nearest neighbor in that harsh environment– a mere three days away — it will never be capable of sustaining a foothold on Mars. That’s your HSF project of scale for the next 50-150 years. aand we want smart people to do it. We’ve had far too many years of certain pols courting the knuckle-draggers just to gain office for short term gain. This is long term stuff. Something Americans seldom excel at doing.

    It’s costly– sure, but not compared to the less sophiticated, destructive nature of war after war. It’s progresive; yes- it’s a government works program demanding highly skilled personnel from private industry and academia to work along side – yes; and it projects geopolitical presence and economic clout here on Earth for the nation(s) which invest and embark on such an endeavor. But there can be no half-measure as it will take generations to do, which makes it less likely that Americans will lead such an enterprise. It requires a commitment to a vision and the resources to back it up, the discipline to adhere to it and, as Von Braun once said, ‘the will to do it.’ That’s rare in the American culture w/o the added caveat of competition. Americans tend to be more reactive than proactive, subject to fits and starts- . be it sticking to a diet, managing a budget or racing to the moon in the ’60s.

    Still, it’a an easier sell to the public than space stations and Mars trips. The fresh generations who miss Apollo can see the moon; Few can find a pinpoint of light hurtling ovehead and even fewer can find Mars in the night sky. Those Americans were wowed by the Endeavour in LA because they saw it. Could almost touch it. The moon is the stepping stone to getting humans off this rock and establishing a presence up, out and away from the Earth. And the PRC knows it.

  • pathfinder_01

    “ First the entire notion of an EML station is a solution looking for a problem. In reality there is NO DIFFERENCE in terms of “living and working” in space in terms of the people with ISS then there is with a space station in Mars orbit or “anyplace”.”

    Radiation environment would be different.

    “I am not a telerobotic expert but I know people who are and we now routinely control robotic devices in very demanding articulating circumstances with 2-3 second time delay. Put a large bandwidth com platform at EML and bang there goes the need for a station.”

    Not an expert, but can tell you that bandwidth and latency are different issuses. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data being sent at a time. Latency is how long. A telegraph from mars needs less bandwidth than say an hd broadcast from mars, but both will take the same amount of time to get to earth.

    “What the EML supporters have hooked on to are two things. First there is a lot of ISS/shuttle hardware left over so they have to do something with it. Sadly almost none of it is 1) designed to be used outside of the EArth protective belts and 2) has the same issues that ISS/shuttle hardware does.”

    Some ISS hardware is useful, other not. I personality don’t like recycling ISS hardware just to recyle it or save money on development. I think that is a bad idea but see value in recycling the CBM, some life support equipment ect. I would prefer something US only, single (or few modules) that is mostly purpose built with ISS hardware, where it makes sense.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/behindscenes/index.html

    a list of some of the space station control centers. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    There is nothing “built into” ISS. the system is inefficient because NASA management refuses to try efficiencies particular ones that reduce crewing (on earth) requirements.

    Well it’s easy to make claims about things that didn’t happen, and I guess I can’t debate such claims either. But if you have any examples that would be helpful, especially if you can show that there was budget available to implement the potential improvements.

    Not being an engineer or rocket scientist, I look at things in more of a macro level – more a big picture view. So when I look at Skylab, Salyut, Mir and now the ISS, there is a clear trend that can be seen about sophistication and capabilities. And I would expect that to continue with any new stations or outposts, even if they are in LEO.

    The ISS design is close to 20 years old now, and has been supporting human life for well over 11 years, so I have no doubt that terrestrial engineers have improvements in mind for when we need more modules or stations. And I also know that the function of the next station will be different than the current ISS, since we’ll have answered many of the initial questions we had when the ISS was envisioned. That just normal systems evolution.

    Because of all that, I’m not as concerned about crew function as you are. And I’m not concerned about how many mission control centers there are either, since the nature of the ISS has always been mainly U.S. & Russia, so we both have control centers, and ESA and JAXA want control centers for their equipment up there. Inefficient? Yes. But it was price to pay for being the first multinational space station.

    So really the solution I see is that instead of trying to make government more efficient – which every incoming President says they are going to do, but don’t – let’s remove the need for the inefficient government activities. Commercial cargo starts that process, and commercial crew will do even more. After that comes the big leap, with commercializing transport beyond LEO, and possibly even the destinations.

    Instead of assuming NASA or a multinational group will build and operate the EML-1/2 station, what if it was done under contract by the multinational group? What if teams competed for the contract to build and operate that station? Wouldn’t that be a step in the right direction for all concerned?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 7:32 pm
    ” Very few telerobotic systems on Earth are done with that kind of time delay. Telerobotic surgery (which exemplifies high dexterity) fails with delays >0.5 seconds.”

    Well we are not doing remote surgery on the Moon and probably wont for sometime, and if we do it would be with the time delay of a surgeon on Earth direct to the lunar near side or through a relay platform for “farside” work.

    I was at Fourchon LA (well Port Fourchon) for a client doing a safety audit and got to spend some time in their “robotics control center”. There “good old boys and girls” who peak mostly at a high school education are routinely doing “rig” maintenance on platforms all around the world and with 3-4 second latency. Of course the tools that they have are far in excess of what NASA can imagine.

    The robots for instance can have “screws” designated by a targeting device and then they have the smarts to know which screw to go after, and can do it with little or no assistance from the operators…who on the other hand can take over and do such task. all at depths which are truly amazing.

    they do it on rigs around the world from PF…and also from the Shell Control center here in Houston…all it takes is a lot of bandwidth and they have it from the satellites.

    People who fliy drones and kill other people work with similar times once the multi geo platforms are taken into account. and that is pretty much all I can say about that.

    It is absurd to think we are going to spend 10-50 billion dollars on an EML station so one of the three astronauts can spend a small part of their “time” running a rover or two or three which at best will do very modest task compared to what the folks are doing “now” here on earth. And you have no idea what they are actually doing on X-37 but I believe that they are testing space construction techniques using robots.

    you wrote

    ” The whole ECLSS system, for example, is pretty unforgiving of subsystem failures. Sending that system to the lunar vicinity would be pretty daft. There are many systems on ISS that require regular maintenance with tools and equipment shipped up regularly. No can do at L1 or L2. The system has to be far more bulletproof.”

    sorry I dont know where you get ECLSS from my comment. I wouldnt have the ECLSS system on the space station on the space station…it is a rube piece of junk that well needs to be trashed. If someone wants to develop a better system one that might work at an EML station or wherever lets try it at ISS…no need to build a station to try it

    Sorry for the late reply I was watching Mitt Romney lose the Presidency.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    thanks as a EE and a amateur radio operator and a Ships First Radiotelegraph with radar and avionics endorsement and a First Radiotelephone (yes I still have mine) with radar endorsement…I have a pretty good handle on both bandwidth and latency. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Instead of assuming NASA or a multinational group will build and operate the EML-1/2 station, what if it was done under contract by the multinational group?>>

    Who pays? I dont see any need for US taxpayers to pay for one…what is its purpose? RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    The moon is the stepping stone to getting humans off this rock and establishing a presence up, out and away from the Earth. And the PRC knows it.

    Except they don’t.

    All they have said is that they are “studying” going to the Moon.

    The Soviets/Russians have been “studying” going to the Moon for 50 years…

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Well we are not doing remote surgery on the Moon and probably wont for sometime, and if we do it would be with the time delay of a surgeon on Earth direct to the lunar near side or through a relay platform for “farside” work.

    This is a silly complaint that misses the point. I’m not talking about doing surgery on the Moon. I’m using telerobotic surgery as a prime example of high dexterity, high precision work, which might be scientific or equipment assembly or maintenance. You want to turn a screw, or make a connection? You want to pick up, manipulate, and examine a rock in detail? This is the technical capability you’re talking about. You might want to familiarize yourself with this technology.

    Oh, by the way, if we do surgery on the Moon it’s unlikely it’ll be done well with a 3 second time delay. I’m familiar with the surgical telerobotic literature, and telerobotic surgery goes to hell with time delays much longer than half a second. You can do it, but not well.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 1:08 am

    Who pays? I dont see any need for US taxpayers to pay for one…what is its purpose?

    Why should the U.S. Taxpayer pay for NASA at all?

    Again, this gets back to whether we should be trying to expand our presence out into space.

    If no, then let’s shut down NASA and shift the non-human funding over to some other agency.

    If yes, then how do we expand our presence out into space smartly? An EML 1/2 outpost/station is the next furthest destination, and one that supports going everywhere after that, so it would be key to continuing that expansion.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 9:06 am

    ” I’m using telerobotic surgery as a prime example of high dexterity, high precision work, which might be scientific or equipment assembly or maintenance.” so we are going to build a 10-50 to higher billion dollar station so one astronaut can “in their spare time” from maintaining the station do this sort of work?

    ” You want to turn a screw, or make a connection? You want to pick up, manipulate, and examine a rock in detail? ”

    High school graduates do this all the time in the oil industry with 3-4 seconds latency time…already…I would post a picture but I had to sign an agreement that prohibited that.

    we are not spending 10-50 billion or more so a bunch of “eggheads” can play “look at the rock”.

    come up with a better reason for an EML station then we can talk. a place to do telescience with less time delay is a non starter. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    I would add this…the robots are getting smarter everywhere but NASA faster then NASA is making progress toward a EML station. sorry controlling them is a non starter.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 10:46 am

    “Again, this gets back to whether we should be trying to expand our presence out into space.”

    No point in doing it until it is something we can sustain by concurrent enabling technology development RGO

  • common sense

    @Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 16th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    “There you’re wrong. Very few telerobotic systems on Earth are done with that kind of time delay.”

    So?

    “Telerobotic surgery (which exemplifies high dexterity) fails with delays >0.5 seconds. For high dexterity tasks, 2-3 second time delay is going to be a factor of 10-15 slower than real time.”

    Again so? Since you picked telerobotic surgery and then claimed it’s unfair to call you on that maybe you ought to chose a different example. Right? Anyway. No we are not talking about telerobotic surgery. We’re not even talking about high dexterity tasks. You are way ahead of yourself. Think of it this way. What is it that we can do with a robot on Mars that we cannot on the Moon? Further. A robot does not have to be teleoperated! It can be a blend of teleoperation and built-in intelligence to do some tasks. Further-more, what do you think you are going to do, actually do, on the Moon, Mars or anywhere that requires immediate action? What??? For crying out loud. You first (FIRST) define what you want to do. Then you look at what you have that can do the job. If you don’t have anything there are 2 options. 1) You do something else or 2) you develop new technologies (remember FY-11??? Why do you think it was a good plan?).

    “But even to the extent that delay is endurable, this is practice for Mars, where delays to Earth are HUGE.”

    Absolutely not. Let’s make it simple. Take an orbiting station to Mars if you need so much teleoperation, or on a moon of Mars, and voila. Small time delays. AGAIN, why in heck do you need short latency? WHY?

    “You think we’re going to send humans to Mars to teleoperate surface science equipment from Phobos when we’ve never done it closer to home? Really? (I had to work Mars science in here because, gee, that’s what this thread is about!) Oh, you can’t do it completely from ISS down to the Earth because the direct ground links are rare, and TDRSS offers its own very significant delays.”

    SO WHAT???? You haven’t even started to tell us why we will do teleoperation on the Moon, Mars or at the bottom of the ocean on Europa???

    The way Robert would put it is that this is a solution in search of a problem. And I would agree with him. Define the mission and its requirements and then come back tell us why we cannot, or can, do it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    No point in doing it until it is something we can sustain by concurrent enabling technology development

    Who says we can’t now?

    What do you think we are missing?

    If anything, I think focusing on an EML-1/2 outpost as NASA’s next goal brings clarity to a number of technology development questions:

    - The SLS and MPCV question. If the outpost is to be international, then the SLS won’t be needed since the partners will insist on the hardware being launcher agnostic (a good thing in this case). The MPCV will be looked at as a choice for the transport to/from the outpost initially, but it will only do that function for a limited amount of time (too expensive long term).

    - LEO-to-EML crew transportation options. Post-MPCV, could we take a Dragon crew vehicle and dock it with a dedicated Service Module/Habitat (call it an EM Transporter) for trips to/from EML-1/2 and LEO? Maybe this could be a larger version of the ATV or HTV, which allows for quicker development (and is already being considered).

    - Logistics. Can the current commercial cargo vehicles be used for supplying the outpost? For instance, with the addition of a tug module, could they pretty much be used as-is?

    - Fuel. If we build dedicated in-space transportation vehicles, then having the ability to autonomously refuel them makes sense, so this becomes the natural segue for trying out these technologies, and an expansion of commercial services.

    In all, I don’t see any technology barriers, and most of the stuff we need is a short leap versus the big leap we took with the Shuttle and ISS (as well as the SLS and MPCV). All of the technologies developed will be building blocks for everything else we want to do in space, no matter where we want to go, and the individual components can be upgraded individually.

    Spreading the technology requirement around also allows for concurrent development, so I could see this happening pretty quickly – far quicker than getting the SLS operational.

    So if the SLS can be cancelled, why wouldn’t this be a good replacement?

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    well said

    what is stopping us from doing “Curiosity” level robotics on the moon at any place is not an EML station.;..and there is no evidence that we need to do more then Curiosity type robotics on the Moon.

    An EML station whose “reason for being” is to do robotics on the Moon is a station without a purpose. Unless that purpose is simply to keep all the people who built ISS busy.

    RGO

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Wow. What happened to the old Coastal Ron? ;)

    “- The SLS and MPCV question. If the outpost is to be international, then the SLS won’t be needed since the partners will insist on the hardware being launcher agnostic (a good thing in this case). The MPCV will be looked at as a choice for the transport to/from the outpost initially, but it will only do that function for a limited amount of time (too expensive long term).”

    International? Really? Did you check the economies in Europe, Asia or Russia recently? You think we have it bad? Go ask Greece, Spain, Italy, France, etc. Not gonna happen. Europe can’t even change their ATV into a crewed vehicle and the darn thing already flies. They can’t even produce a suborbital vehicle. MPCV will not be. It is redundant with Dragon and possibly CST-100. Both can do the same as MPCV at such a much lower cost it is almost indecent.

    “- LEO-to-EML crew transportation options. Post-MPCV, could we take a Dragon crew vehicle and dock it with a dedicated Service Module/Habitat (call it an EM Transporter) for trips to/from EML-1/2 and LEO? Maybe this could be a larger version of the ATV or HTV, which allows for quicker development (and is already being considered).”

    Maybe so but we still don’t have a mission, requirements, a plan, an architecture, etc. Until you do have mission and requirements these are all nice things to think of and that’s about it.

    “- Logistics. Can the current commercial cargo vehicles be used for supplying the outpost? For instance, with the addition of a tug module, could they pretty much be used as-is?”

    They might yes.

    “- Fuel. If we build dedicated in-space transportation vehicles, then having the ability to autonomously refuel them makes sense, so this becomes the natural segue for trying out these technologies, and an expansion of commercial services.”

    Yes again but we must have a mission, plan etc. And we don’t. All we have is some silly justification for MPCV and SLS without even a budget.

    “So if the SLS can be cancelled, why wouldn’t this be a good replacement?”

    If SLS is cancelled along with MPCV it is because we will save cash. The money, most of it, will not be reallocated at NASA. Just watch. The only hope for this to ever happen is to get the commerce going one way or another. Nothing but that. If you think that MSL is expensive wait until you see the bill for the EML station…

  • Heinrich Monroe

    High school graduates do this all the time in the oil industry with 3-4 seconds latency time…already…I would post a picture but I had to sign an agreement that prohibited that.

    Your picture would show BIG bolts and BIG connectors. Also, there is a price for that latency. This is well understood in other terrestrial work, such as telerobotic mining, where delays of 500ms are more common. It is actually very significant that we have high school graduates doing this telerobotic work, isn’t it? The kind of people we need a EM L1 or L2 don’t need to be expert engineers, perhaps. Also, 3-4 seconds latency isn’t common in deep sea well-head management, unless you’re using an acoustic modem. The cabled systems I’ve seen, linking to a surface ship where they are controlled are vastly faster than that.

    we are not spending 10-50 billion or more so a bunch of “eggheads” can play “look at the rock”.

    Nope. Sure aren’t. But you’re giving them something useful to do if you’ve already decided to spend 10-50 billion to put them there. NASA is good at doing things like that. Also, as I said, and you never refuted, we’re going to be doing it at Mars, where the advantage is huge. Exercising that capability on the Moon is just smart.

    Further-more, what do you think you are going to do, actually do, on the Moon, Mars or anywhere that requires immediate action? What??? For crying out loud. You first (FIRST) define what you want to do.

    SO WHAT???? You haven’t even started to tell us why we will do teleoperation on the Moon, Mars or at the bottom of the ocean on Europa???

    Take a deep breath and don’t cry out loud. The answer is simple. Trivial.

    What you want to do is ANYTHING that you’d send a human to the surface to do. If there is nothing that a human on site is needed to do, then you’re exactly right. We’re talking about a surrogate for a human, until such time that we can afford (maybe never) sending humans all the way. Think hard about that.

    The way Robert would put it is that this is a solution in search of a problem. And I would agree with him.

    Then you’d have to accept that human space flight is a solution in search of a problem. No way around that. There is actually a lot of truth to that.

    what is stopping us from doing “Curiosity” level robotics on the moon at any place is not an EML station.

    Nothing is stopping us from doing “Curiosity” level robotics on the Moon. Why in the world would I want to do Curiosity level robotics on the Moon?? That’s just daffy. Driving, imaging, occasional sample assessment. We did the first two with Lunokhod. Scientifically, what we’re talking about doing is real field geology, which something that we’ve never done with a rover. Harrison Schmidt has made the point well. It takes real human involvement to do field geology efficiently. The question is whether you need humans all the way there to do it.

    Define the mission and its requirements and then come back tell us why we cannot, or can, do it.

    Put human cognition back on the lunar surface. Requirements are mobility, dexterity, and vision. We can’t afford to send people all the way there (lander, surface habs, etc. etc.) to achieve those requirements. QED. That was easy …

    A robot does not have to be teleoperated! It can be a blend of teleoperation and built-in intelligence to do some tasks.

    Sure. That’s what we do now. But built-in intelligence can only go so far. Really smart built-in intelligence is actually very expensive. You know why? Because a lot of built in intelligence requires a lot of power. That’s not commonly understood, but it’s a fact. Power is what limits our autonomous robotic capabilities right now. I’m talking LOTS more power than the measly 110W that comes out of the pricey PuO thermoelectric system on Curiosity.

    Yes, this is hard to understand, if you’ve spent your brain power worrying about putting humans on surfaces in gravity wells.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    “Your picture would show BIG bolts and BIG connectors.”

    Things are moving faster then apparently you realize. metric 16 is the common dimension on “well heads” for covers but the devices were handling (at least what I saw) down to 10.

    the robotics is not what I guess you are envisioning. The operators were quite capable of commanding the “devices” to act as an extension of their arms etc…but for the most part they would designated screws/bolts etc and command the type of tool and the device would do it. while all this happened the device would display torque/turn count etc…some of the screws/bolts had bar code ids that the things would scan and “move” to.

    It is impressive but then again in my world we are now able to designate “taxiway” paths and the G-650 would all on its own “drive” along them even using its laser devices to read taxiways etc.

    it is a world gone mad. I am not saying a robot could have done the hubble repair…but at least the oens that they are using in depths now approaching 5000 feet…(at least what I saw) we are nearing the moment where a purpose built satellite could be serviced by such a “device”.

    In any event what we are headed for in lunar robotics is more Curiosity then brain surgery.

    What we need around the Moon instead of an EML station (and could get for under 5 billion if done right) is

    1. a Lunar “GPS” (I know the G is out of place) system.
    2. large bandwidth high rx and tx gain satellites at various points for relay.

    at that point we could easily let loose “predator” style land rovers. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    “Then you’d have to accept that human space flight is a solution in search of a problem. No way around that. There is actually a lot of truth to that.

    Mostly it is right now so we have to be careful how we spend money

    “Nothing is stopping us from doing “Curiosity” level robotics on the Moon. Why in the world would I want to do Curiosity level robotics on the Moon?? That’s just daffy. Driving, imaging, occasional sample assessment. We did the first two with Lunokhod. Scientifically, what we’re talking about doing is real field geology, which something that we’ve never done with a rover”

    A curiosity level robot on the Moon would answer some basic questions at the lunar poles which need answering.

    We dont need “field” geology we need some basic answers. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Put human cognition back on the lunar surface. Requirements are mobility, dexterity, and vision. We can’t afford to send people all the way there (lander, surface habs, etc. etc.) to achieve those requirements. QED. That was easy …”

    done the NASA way we cannot…but the SpaceX way…maybe RGO

  • common sense

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    “Take a deep breath and don’t cry out loud. The answer is simple. Trivial.”

    Thanks! I am breathing fine no. May have a spell of laughters but let’s see.

    “What you want to do is ANYTHING that you’d send a human to the surface to do. If there is nothing that a human on site is needed to do, then you’re exactly right. We’re talking about a surrogate for a human, until such time that we can afford (maybe never) sending humans all the way.”

    No I am afraid “we” are not talking about human surrogate. You are. What kind of logic is that?

    “Think hard about that.”

    Trying, trying but my head hurts. Not used to thinking that hard you know.

    “Then you’d have to accept that human space flight is a solution in search of a problem. No way around that. There is actually a lot of truth to that.”

    So? Did I ever say HSF was a done deal? Must not be thinking hard enough.

    “Scientifically, what we’re talking about doing is real field geology, which something that we’ve never done with a rover. Harrison Schmidt has made the point well. It takes real human involvement to do field geology efficiently. The question is whether you need humans all the way there to do it.”

    Again the “we”, who are “we”? Because I cannot recall I wanted to do field geology on the Moon. Harrison Schmidt? Ah I see. And by the way the question is not that. The question is “do we need to do field geology on the Moon? And why?” That is the question. And the answer is?

    “Put human cognition back on the lunar surface. Requirements are mobility, dexterity, and vision. We can’t afford to send people all the way there (lander, surface habs, etc. etc.) to achieve those requirements. QED. That was easy …”

    Pardon my ignorance, but what is “human cognition”? And why do we need that slimy stuff on the Moon? What requirements are we talking about again? My head is hurting more and more I am afraid.

    “Sure. That’s what we do now. But built-in intelligence can only go so far. ”

    So far as in how far?

    “Really smart built-in intelligence is actually very expensive.”

    Expensive like $10B a year to develop a SLS/MPCV nonsense and then multiple $2B launches a year? You sure it is that kind of expensive?

    “You know why?”

    Nope.

    “Because a lot of built in intelligence requires a lot of power. That’s not commonly understood, but it’s a fact. Power is what limits our autonomous robotic capabilities right now. I’m talking LOTS more power than the measly 110W that comes out of the pricey PuO thermoelectric system on Curiosity.”

    So okay then. Do you have a price? How much power? How much intelligence? Oh I forgot again. To do what? Field geology on the Moon? You should try and send a proposal somewhere to do what you just so very aptly described. I may not even review it, if you’re lucky.

    “Yes, this is hard to understand, if you’ve spent your brain power worrying about putting humans on surfaces in gravity wells.”

    Yeah you’re right it’s hard to understand. Nothing to do with gravity wells though. More to do with a very poor enunciation of a problem and its solution. And so that you know I spent some (not all, at least I hope not) brain power on HSF with some success and not so much success. Yet on occasion I see things I helped design fly here and there, and probably more so than some of my friends on this site. So, see, I was not worrying about gravity wells. I am afraid.

    So in the end, my head hurts a little, no laughter though. Still don’t know why we are going to put “human cognition” on the surface of the Moon and why we cannot run robots with current technology.

    I am afraid it’s an F. Sorry. Nice try though.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Wow. What happened to the old Coastal Ron?

    Not sure what you mean – I did say “If SLS is cancelled”, so I haven’t changed on that front.

    International? Really? Did you check the economies in Europe, Asia or Russia recently?

    All the more reason to partner. And in case you haven’t noticed, ESA is still a going concern, as is JAXA and RSA. But yes, not much money.

    Europe can’t even change their ATV into a crewed vehicle and the darn thing already flies.

    Oh, come on. We’re talking about morphing a 100% disposable vehicle into something that can bring back people. Definitely non-trival. It would be cheaper for them to license the Dream Chaser and have ESA partners build it (something I hope SNC will do).

    Maybe so but we still don’t have a mission, requirements, a plan, an architecture, etc. Until you do have mission and requirements these are all nice things to think of and that’s about it.

    OK, a meaty question, and very valid.

    This gets back to the question of why do we want to go to Mars, or the Moon. Even the current plan for getting to an asteroid by 2025, whether you believe that plan will continue or not. All of the ISS partners have shown interest in expanding our presence beyond LEO, so the desire is there – the HOW part of it is the big debate.

    I’m not a fan of disposable architectures. Apollo landed on the Moon in probably the least expensive way, but it was also the least sustainable way, so there is a trade-off that we have to accept if we want to stay in space.

    The goal I see for an EML-1/2 outpost/station is:

    1. Be a test platform for radiation mitigation technologies, and other technologies and techniques we’ll need to operate beyond LEO. For instance, we should move around between L1 and L2, and maybe even the other Lagrange points. It seems simple sitting in our chairs here on Earth, but in order to do that we’ll need to become competent in in-space refueling and autonomous maneuvers.

    2. Be the destination that requires improvements in cargo and crew transportation. If we’re going to send crew to EML-1/2, then we can’t keep throwing away MPCV’s. We’ll need to develop a reusable transport that can travel the LEO-to-EML-1/2 route.

    3. Be the waystation for trips to the Moon, asteroid missions and Mars. I think starting those mission from Earth, or even LEO, is not optimum.

    All in all, I see a lot of value in an EML-1/2 outpost.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I would add this…the robots are getting smarter everywhere but NASA…

    A romantic notion, but one that is right on the “smarter” aspect, but wrong on why that is (hint: it’s not NASA’s fault).

    Heinrich Monroe touched on the power aspects that are lacking, and I’ll add processing power – the chips we use here on Earth don’t need to be radiation-hardened like the ones we use in space. The SLS could even be delayed by a lack of radiation-hardened computer chips, so it’s not an imaginary problem.

    The radiation-hardened computer chips are also generations behind those in use today – the Curiosity rover uses the IBM RAD750, which is based on the IBM G3 chip that Apple was using back in 1997 – 15 years behind today’s state of the art. Your smartphone is smarter than what we can put in space today.

    The other limitation is end effectors – the “fingers” of these robotic or tele-robotic machines. They are not that sophisticated yet. Just look at what NASA’s Dexter can and can’t do, or what it can do but only very slowly.

    All in all there are many things we can do in space with robotic systems, and certainly cheaper overall that with humans. But robotic systems cannot fully replace humans, and won’t for a very long time.

  • common sense

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    “All in all there are many things we can do in space with robotic systems, and certainly cheaper overall that with humans. But robotic systems cannot fully replace humans, and won’t for a very long time.”

    I don’t think anyone would completely disagree with that but this is not how you solve a problem.

    1) You define the mission and its requirements. If you don’t believe me go ask SLS/MOCV what they think about ever changing requirements,

    2) You look at the budget you have. Note though that 2) may replace 1). It actually did for CEV initially. What can you do with the budget you have if the plan is to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond? You know, the VSE.

    3) You run trade studies that will tell you what is available to do the mission with the defined requirements.

    etc. And it is an iterative process.

    You DO NOT say I want to perform low latency high dexterity robotics or human activities anywhere without a firm understanding of what you try to accomplish.

    However it seems quite obvious to me that anything human has an unaffordable price tag as it stands today with the government. Therefore robotics are the means to accomplish anything for now beyond LEO. When launch cost will no longer (?) be an issue at least we’ll move that out of the way and possibly bring upstairs higher output power supplies therefore enabling smarter robotics and so on and so forth.

    Do I like this? No. Do I have a choice? No.

    So what is it going to be? Some exploration or no exploration? I choose some. What about you?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    All in all there are many things we can do in space with robotic systems, and certainly cheaper overall that with humans. But robotic systems cannot fully replace humans, and won’t for a very long time.>>

    I am not making that argument. RGO

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Pardon my ignorance, but what is “human cognition”?

    Your ignorance is pardoned. Very simply, it’s what human beings standing on the Moon bring there. It’s the difference between humans in the loop in real time, and iteration with occasionally uploaded instruction sets. Not that hard to understand. If you’re still unsure about it, we have more problems than I figured.

    Again, though it makes your head hurt, do understand that what one would want to do telerobotically is exactly what you’d send people there to do. It’s still about people in control. It’s just about where those people are. If this is a solution in search of a problem, then it’s inescapable that so is putting humans on a planetary surface.

    But robotic systems cannot fully replace humans, and won’t for a very long time.

    Please don’t turn this into a humans-versus-robots screed. That would be a fundamental mistake in interpreting this discussion. Made all the time. We’re not talking about robots replacing humans. As in robots that think for themselves. We’re talking about robots that extend human senses and dexterity to places that humans might not be able to go. Those robots are just extensions of the hands, arms, and eyes of the humans who are sitting at a control console. Telerobotic miners aren’t worried about robotic bulldozers replacing humans. To them it’s just putting those humans in a different place in using those same bulldozers.

    Let’s keep in mind that our telerobotic technology is vastly greater than what we had forty years ago. It’s going to get much better. Why? Because it’s being driven by terrestrial commercial applications. It’s not about space technology investment, which is money that is hard to come by.

    That robotic extensions won’t replace humans for a long time is an old, tired assessment that gets more flaky as the years go by. You know what? Humans are not going to be anywhere near Mars for a long time. Yes, we have a ways to go in developing multi-fingered and jointed dexterity, and especially force sensing and haptics, but we already have gone a long ways, and terrestrial commercial applications are driving the bus on technology development. Note that suited humans have very little dexterity. Telerobotic mobility we’ve got down pat, though it would be nice to be able to climb. What the Apollo astronauts did could certainly be done telerobotically now. Even hitting golf balls. It couldn’t have been done that way then. Not by a long shot.

    The other limitation is end effectors – the “fingers” of these robotic or tele-robotic machines. They are not that sophisticated yet. Just look at what NASA’s Dexter can and can’t do, or what it can do but only very slowly.

    Actually, DEXTRE can do a lot. But it wasn’t designed to work with small piece parts of random size and shape in settings that aren’t well characterized. Again, telerobotic surgery exemplifies the technology that not only offers stunning dexterity in a complex environment, but is on the market. It’s in thousands of hospitals right now! Tying knots, threading sutures remotely. Try that with EVA gloves!

    The question is “do we need to do field geology on the Moon? And why?” That is the question. And the answer is?

    … lunar geology. Understanding the processes that formed the Moon and how it is constructed. LRO-type remote recon is a capability that is actually little-used by terrestrial geologists. Field geology is how we do it down here. I point to Harrison Schmitt (sorry about the misspelling in my last post) because he was the only one who ever did it.

    I think I’ve made my point. Thanks for the discussion.

    So in the end, my head hurts a little, no laughter though.

    Ibuprofin works for me. Might even help you laugh.

  • common sense

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ October 17th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    “Not sure what you mean – I did say “If SLS is cancelled”, so I haven’t changed on that front.”

    I was under the impression that you would not support a wasteful government program. An EML station today would only be that. There is no need for something like that. It would result in a similar catastrophe as SLS/MPCV. Just think what it took to get ISS going. Think that Ares and CEV were supposed to be easy. I mean really, easy!

    “All the more reason to partner. And in case you haven’t noticed, ESA is still a going concern, as is JAXA and RSA. But yes, not much money.”

    They are running on fumes. For now anyway.

    “Oh, come on. We’re talking about morphing a 100% disposable vehicle into something that can bring back people. Definitely non-trival. It would be cheaper for them to license the Dream Chaser and have ESA partners build it (something I hope SNC will do).”

    Not trivial but not that difficult either. They have all the basis for the spacecraft and they ran a lot of studies how to do it. What is lacking is the cash and of course the will. They know how to build a capsule. They already built one in the past that did reenter – uncrewed.

    “This gets back to the question of why do we want to go to Mars, or the Moon. Even the current plan for getting to an asteroid by 2025, whether you believe that plan will continue or not. All of the ISS partners have shown interest in expanding our presence beyond LEO, so the desire is there – the HOW part of it is the big debate.”

    I don’t agree with “the desire is here”. If the desire were here then you would have cash to show and they don’t. Europe has never been really serious about human space flight. Talk about robot love.

    “All in all, I see a lot of value in an EML-1/2 outpost.”

    Maybe so but there is no architecture today to support it. There is no plan to go anywhere in space beyond LEO. Nothing. And you seem to assume (?) that SLS/MPCV will be there which they won’t.

    I would rather see an all encompassing plan to bring the solar system to our economic sphere, or something like that. I would like to see the private sector invest in probes and technology to demonstrate there is an interest in space commerce whatever it might be. I would like to understand what the resources are lying out there and whether they are accessible and exploitable. Etc. And all that before sending human in space in ship that are going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. We need to demonstrate there are good reasons to build an EML station or anything. And we are simply not doing this now.

  • common sense

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 9:54 am

    First, You are mixing my post with other’s posts. Must be the ibuprofin. Oh well.

    “It’s the difference between humans in the loop in real time, and iteration with occasionally uploaded instruction sets. Not that hard to understand. If you’re still unsure about it, we have more problems than I figured.”

    Well no I don’t understand. Please educate me.

    “If this is a solution in search of a problem, then it’s inescapable that so is putting humans on a planetary surface.”

    Well, you’re getting there.

    “Let’s keep in mind that our telerobotic technology is vastly greater than what we had forty years ago. It’s going to get much better. Why? Because it’s being driven by terrestrial commercial applications. It’s not about space technology investment, which is money that is hard to come by.”

    This piece makes actual sense. Congrats.

    “… lunar geology. Understanding the processes that formed the Moon and how it is constructed.”

    Okay lunar geology is important to well you know geologists. Please give us an argument that you would be able to enunciate in front of I don’t know say Congress. Why would they invest hundreds of billions of taxpayers dollars in lunar geology? It seems to me that Harrison Schmitt has not been able to and he was in Congress and a former geologist and Apollo astronaut. What is it you know that he does not? I mean to garner support.

    “I think I’ve made my point. Thanks for the discussion.”

    Nope. You haven’t. You only threw the usual banal argument about how important it is to do lunar geology without supporting your argument.

    “Ibuprofin works for me. Might even help you laugh.”

    If Ibuprofin makes you laugh then I guess *you* have a bigger problem than lunar geology.

    Still an F.

    Cheers.

  • common sense

    Here is something that I would support, taken from thespacereview.com I was actually hoping that NIAC and NASC would be part of something like that but NIAC is not and NASC was not revived. What we have is engineers who like to play with their toys in a very unfocused way. Trying this or that because *they* think it is important. Not because they are supporting any national goal. Just tactics, no strategy.

    ========

    Dave Huntsman · 2 days ago
    I disagree with the main premise behind this proposal. Focusing on Mars – and Mars alone – as the be-all and end-all of ‘exploration’ is not a sustainable way to go, and would lead to skewering of the entire agency in a non-sustainable direction. In fact, any single-point destination-driven org change would have the same (negative) effect. It is much more important – for example – to establish something like a ‘Space Development Directorate’ within the Agency, to serve as an overall planner, architect, and advocate for long-term infrastructure and exploitation, both government and private sector (and the mix between the two). Such a Development Directorate would finally fill the gap that has always existed in the Agency over long-term planning for space infrastructure and exploitation, including commercial development. It would not have anything directly to do with ‘science’ or ‘exploration’ per se.

    The lack of such an advocate and focus within NASA HQ over the decades is why there has been no long-term space infrastructure and development planning, including in the commercial space development arena. The function has never really existed, and it is desperately needed. Adding a Mars (only) focus to NASA is, IMO, exactly the wrong way to go.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi –

    “Power is what limits our autonomous robotic capabilities right now.”

    Yes, power is the limiting factor, using the algorithms that are used here in the US.

    Suffice it to say I did what I could then.

    I now seem to be unique in my answer to the “Why?” question.
    THE space problem is dealing with the impact hazard.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi RGO, CR –

    “I would add this…the robots are getting smarter everywhere but NASA…”

    “”A romantic notion, but one that is right on the “smarter” aspect, but wrong on why that is (hint: it’s not NASA’s fault).””

    How the US let its robotic industry become foreign owned is one of those disgusting stories that no one wants to read the facts about. Kind ot like how Japan dumped the US RAM and dsiplay industries to death back in the early 1980′s.

    As far as it being NASA’s fault, CR, yes it was, to some degree.
    NASA’s Dave Lavery was one of the most incompetent people I met ( and I am pretty sure Donna Shirely can tell you more about his performance), but he falls far behind David Morrison in the NASA incompetence race.

    Of course, Mike Griffin with his Ares 1 stands at the top of that particular heap.

    In the end, it is Executive (and here in the US Congressional) decisions that are ultimately responsible for developments in space policy, which is a historical point I’ve tried to point out for years.

    In September Obama’s OSTP was supposed to report to the Congress a detailed plan for dealing with an impactor headed our way.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 9:54 am

    someone wrote:
    Pardon my ignorance, but what is “human cognition”?

    you replied:
    Your ignorance is pardoned. Very simply, it’s what human beings standing on the Moon bring there. It’s the difference between humans in the loop in real time, and iteration with occasionally uploaded instruction sets. Not that hard to understand. If you’re still unsure about it, we have more problems than I figured.”

    I dont think I agree with that

    Human cognition at best is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences and it doesnt matter where the human is in the loop as long as one can do the processing, application and changing of thought as a function of receiving the information.

    One doesnt have to “be at a place” to have cognition of a situation.

    One has to have information but today taht comes from a variety of sources. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I was under the impression that you would not support a wasteful government program.

    How do you define what a wasteful government program is? There is no agreed upon basis for determining this, since by definition if the Congress and the President have agreed to fund it, someone sees value in it.

    In this case, I support the current funding levels of NASA (no more, no less), and I also support the gradual extension of the human species beyond LEO.

    Not trivial but not that difficult either [adding crew return onto the disposable ATV].

    It looks like adding lipstick onto a pig to me – very much like the Shuttle being multi-purpose. A clean sheet approach would be better, but all things considered I hope one of the CCiCap participants announces a licensing program.

    I don’t agree with “the desire is here”. If the desire were here then you would have cash to show and they don’t. Europe has never been really serious about human space flight.

    Yet they agreed to be part of the human-occupied ISS, and some of the ISS partners have signed MOU’s with Bigelow. I see desire, but money is a limiting factor.

    Maybe so but there is no architecture today to support it. There is no plan to go anywhere in space beyond LEO. Nothing.

    There is plenty of desire, but limited money. As for architecture, I don’t see this as a problem because I have seen suggested architectures that look logical, in that they mirror successful transportation expansions here on Earth.

    And you seem to assume (?) that SLS/MPCV will be there which they won’t.

    Ugh! KILL THEM NOW. You must be mistaking me for someone else, because if anything I have been very clear and consistent on my total dislike for both of those programs. Humankind could expand out into space despite the MPCV becoming operational (it has limited short-term usability), but the SLS will kill off any near-term chances we have.

    I would rather see an all encompassing plan to bring the solar system to our economic sphere, or something like that.

    Really? So you’re going to emulate the well laid out plans that were drawn up for things like conquering the America’s, or the Westward Expansion?

    You were joking right?

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    “How do you define what a wasteful government program is? There is no agreed upon basis for determining this, since by definition if the Congress and the President have agreed to fund it, someone sees value in it.”

    Now I was talking about an EML station and compared it with SLS/MPCV. The value is the jobs associated with it. It is not funded at the level necessary to succeed, only to sustain the ongoing jobs. You really don’t know that? To me the very basic value is that it delivers what it is supposed to do. As a customer, I am happy my vendor has a job but I also want my vendor to give me something in return for my money, not just the happy though my vendor is fully employed.

    “ATV”

    Search for crew and “human-rated” here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_Transfer_Vehicle

    “Yet they agreed to be part of the human-occupied ISS, and some of the ISS partners have signed MOU’s with Bigelow. I see desire, but money is a limiting factor.”

    ISS is old news. MOUs don’t mean much. And desire without money is wishful-thinking. Just like SLS/MPCV. Europe will not join a grand plan for human space flight to anywhere. Neither will Japan, nor anyone else. The only ones who might are in China but in the end they go it alone. Hopefully commercial space will have developed here otherwise…

    “You were joking right?”

    No I was not but I think we are talking past each other now…

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Okay lunar geology is important to well you know geologists. Please give us an argument that you would be able to enunciate in front of I don’t know say Congress. Why would they invest hundreds of billions of taxpayers dollars in lunar geology?

    Allow me to dip back into this. There you go again! (With apologies to Ronnie.) This is NOT NOT NOT about spending 10-50 billion to do lunar geology. It’s just not. You’re setting up a strawman. We didn’t send the Apollo astronauts to the Moon to do lunar geology (though extraordinarily naive people might believe that we did). NASA desperately wants to send humans outside of LEO. But NASA can’t afford to put them on the lunar surface. So they’re going to gather together varied and sundry reasons why going to a Lagrange point might be useful. Perhaps the most important ones are the ones you already listed. But while you’re at it, you might as well use the opportunity to do science that would otherwise be hard to do. That’s what I would tell Congress, and I’ll bet they would accept that.

    By your reasoning, $100B is a lot of money to pay to send LEGOs into orbit. What we’re talking about is cheap compared to those LEGOs!

    Human cognition at best is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences and it doesnt matter where the human is in the loop as long as one can do the processing, application and changing of thought as a function of receiving the information.

    Long time delays are to human cognition what pogo sticks are to human transportation. No one is saying that pogo sticks can’t be used for transportation, but they make for an inferior mode of it. Curiosity on Mars certainly engages human cognition, but no one would suggest that it does so in any kind of efficient way. Processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences is highly dependent on time delays, and in that respect, it sure does matter where the human is in the loop.

  • common sense

    @Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t want to set up a straw-man. I offered you several times to give us a good, reasoned, substantiated argument why lunar geology is important to Congress hence the american public. I as an individual would love to see more science of any kind. BUT. I am not your audience. Nope.

    “That’s what I would tell Congress, and I’ll bet they would accept that.”

    Well then go straight ahead and let us know how it went.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Now I was talking about an EML station and compared it with SLS/MPCV. The value is the jobs associated with it. It is not funded at the level necessary to succeed, only to sustain the ongoing jobs. You really don’t know that?

    Not that I expect people to read what I write, but I have been saying this about the SLS since it’s inception (i.e. that it is a jobs program that doesn’t address any known need). The MPCV is barely usable, but would also be a severe drag on NASA’s budget – worse than the Shuttle was in some ways (using a cost/benefit ratio).

    As for the rest, the crew-rated ATV, EML-1/2 outpost and whether there is a desire to do anything in space, those conversations do overlap.

    For instance, you demonstrate that there is a desire to expand beyond LEO, as you would like to see plans to exploit the Solar System developed. ESA has spent time and effort on seeing if they could develop a crew-rated ATV, and others have signed MOU’s with Bigelow.

    I do concede the point that all of that doesn’t equal agreement on what we should do next, nor is there enough money coalescing around a plan to expand past LEO. I’ve even pointed out the lack of general agreement as the reason why we haven’t left LEO, not the lack of political leadership, our abilities, or our desires.

    Now that I think we’re agreeing, let’s get back to what we don’t agree about – how do we leave LEO?

    Continued on another post…

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    ISS is old news.

    OK, but it must be providing value to the ISS partners, otherwise they wouldn’t be supporting it. That could change soon, but so far the ESA portion has been showing support for extending the use of the ISS past 2020 (the partners have to decide soon). That to me shows interest, as well as financial commitment even in these tough economic times.

    But back to the future – how do we get out of LEO?

    I know a number of people involved with the Lean Startup movement, as well as Lean Marketing (I know one of the thought leaders). It was inspired by lean manufacturing, which has as a guiding principle:

    “Lean,” is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

    What would the ISS partners be willing to pay for as a next step in space? They and their political masters are the customers here, not the public, since the public has given each of the space agencies money to spend on “space stuff”.

    The current ISS partners may even go off and decide to leave LEO independently of each other, but still the question stands – how do we get out of LEO, when, and to where next?

    And discounting everything that is currently being funded (SLS, Dragon, etc.), what is the next piece of hardware we should build and why is it important for getting us out of LEO? And then what is next after that?

    The journey of a thousand parsecs begins with a single step…

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    “Not that I expect people to read what I write, but I have been saying this about the SLS since it’s inception (i.e. that it is a jobs program that doesn’t address any known need). ”

    Hmm. Give me a little more credit here. I know your position on SLS. What I am arguing is that the support of an EML station amounts to a similar situation as that of SLS. End even though I understand – I think – your point all I am saying is that you would only translate the problem that plagues NASA from SLS/MPCV (MPCV is in the same mess) to an EML station. BUT I will grant you this, I cannot prove it beyond just looking at past performance.

    “The MPCV is barely usable, but would also be a severe drag on NASA’s budget – worse than the Shuttle was in some ways (using a cost/benefit ratio).”

    MPCV is not “barely” usable. Yet! MPCV does not even exist yet. Just watch what will happen soon to MPCV. How soon? Crewed Dragon. I think Cargo Dragon has already put a spade through MPCV but some people will need to see some fellow climb in and out Dragon to make decisions…

    “For instance, you demonstrate that there is a desire to expand beyond LEO, as you would like to see plans to exploit the Solar System developed. ESA has spent time and effort on seeing if they could develop a crew-rated ATV, and others have signed MOU’s with Bigelow.”

    Yes ESA did that and they have been doing this kind of studies for as long as I can remember. ESA could have had Hermes and they bailed. They have no real desire to have HSF of any kind. Go ask ESA astronauts, in private… Check how many recruitment campaigns they’ve had since they flew to space.

    “I do concede the point that all of that doesn’t equal agreement on what we should do next, nor is there enough money coalescing around a plan to expand past LEO. ”

    Okay then. In what is that different from what I suggested? About a Development Directorate for example.

    “I’ve even pointed out the lack of general agreement as the reason why we haven’t left LEO, not the lack of political leadership, our abilities, or our desires.”

    This is not the real reason we do not have anything else. You are not looking at the facts. The facts are that we had enough cash to do a lot that was in the VSE BUT the political leadership you claim exists failed us. Their only focus was on existing jobs. Nothing to do with HSF of any kind.

    “OK, but it must be providing value to the ISS partners, otherwise they wouldn’t be supporting it.”

    Oh please. ISS started during the Cold War. Of course it provided some value to the partners! The same it did to us. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Program_cost_in_United_States_dollars

    “That could change soon, but so far the ESA portion has been showing support for extending the use of the ISS past 2020 (the partners have to decide soon). That to me shows interest, as well as financial commitment even in these tough economic times.”

    Yes again in ISS! Not in beyond LEO flights, not for an EML station, not for a Moon base or a Mars mission or anything of this kind.

    “What would the ISS partners be willing to pay for as a next step in space? ”

    Right now. Nothing! There is no post-ISS plans anywhere.

    “They and their political masters are the customers here, not the public, since the public has given each of the space agencies money to spend on “space stuff”.”

    Cynical I think is this statement. The public tell their political masters what they either with their votes or more vociferously in the streets. Go tell a Greek what they think about an EML station and how much budget should be allocated. Do not think for a second that all the other countries in Europe and actually even outside Europe are immune to what is happening in Greece or anywhere for that matter.

    “And discounting everything that is currently being funded (SLS, Dragon, etc.), what is the next piece of hardware we should build and why is it important for getting us out of LEO? And then what is next after that?”

    Back to my (and Huntsman’s) idea about having some form of planning directorate.

    An EML station is way, way, way in the Sci-Fi realm right now.

    “The journey of a thousand parsecs begins with a single step…”

    And that step is called COTS and it already happened. Everything else is wishful thinking.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    I offered you several times to give us a good, reasoned, substantiated argument why lunar geology is important to Congress hence the american public. I as an individual would love to see more science of any kind.

    Congress has weighed in repeatedly on the value of lunar science, geology included. Congress has been spending of order $100M/yr on lunar science, a large part of which is geology. LRO/LCROSS, Grail, etc. That’s not chump change. But the value of lunar field geology was attached to the $50-100B figure. That wasn’t you, but it’s very much a straw man. In fact, it’s a straw man juggling flaming torches.

    Lunar geology is understood clearly by Congress to be the foundation for any future lunar resource development. Congress has been groomed to free-associate field geology with minerological riches, like it or not. It is of great relevance to future lunar civil engineering as well. As to the value to the American public, I’ll let Congressional actions speak to that. They know better than you or I.

    So has this discussion degenerated to one about the value of lunar science? DSCSA, is that you hiding under the rock? I’ll put on my elbow pads just for you!

    This is peculiar because I gave lunar geology as just one scientific pursuit that could be advanced with low time delay telerobotics. There are many other scientific pursuits, and many non-science pursuits as well. Lunar ISRU identification, extraction, and refinement will benefit strongly from “hands on the wheel”, whether there is any flesh actually present. Any kind of habitat development intended for future lunar visitors would benefit strongly from that as well.

    But the bottom line is that to the extent that putting humans on the surface of the Moon is important, putting human decisionmaking there is as well, even if human flesh can’t quite make it there. Low time delay telerobotic control of reasonably sophisticated surrogates can be every bit as important as humans in the flesh, especially if we can’t afford the latter.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    all I am saying is that you would only translate the problem that plagues NASA from SLS/MPCV (MPCV is in the same mess) to an EML station. BUT I will grant you this, I cannot prove it beyond just looking at past performance.

    A valid concern, and I wouldn’t want that either.

    And this gets back to what should be the role of government, which in the guise of NASA is to do what private industry can’t or won’t do. Can’t could be because no one company has the expertise, and won’t could be because there is not enough profit in doing it.

    I think now that Commercial Cargo has got the ball rolling on changing peoples perspectives on what government needs to do (and Commercial Crew should solidify that), whatever we end up doing in space next will have a larger commercial participation.

    If I could delegate responsibility for an EML-1/2 station, I would have commercial companies providing logistics support and crew transportation, as well as misc. tug and refueling services. The station itself would likely be made up of components contributed by program partners, but I would want it to start out small – just the basic components required to serve it’s purpose. However those components could be substantially commercial products, like a Bigelow module for the U.S. portion.

    The public tell their political masters what they either with their votes or more vociferously in the streets.

    Oh come on. When was the last time you voted for what NASA does? Where can I vote against the SLS? The public doesn’t get into the details of what NASA does, and Congress doesn’t solicit input from the public on what they should fund.

    Back to my (and Huntsman’s) idea about having some form of planning directorate.

    I have voiced support for such things in the past. It’s a better solution than Congressman Wolf’s bill to make the NASA Administrator a 10-year job and take away the ability of the Administration to manage NASA.

    An EML station is way, way, way in the Sci-Fi realm right now.

    Compared to your grand plans for the solar system? An EML station will be the easiest “hard” thing we do beyond LEO – far easier than returning to the surface of the Moon. In fact I did some cost estimates last year (before the Boeing EML station proposal), and I think we could do it for less than $10B – and that includes one year of staffing. Far from sci-fi.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I think latency might have interfered and we are back near the same opinion ;) I am glad you, or I, are not on the Moon. Or Mars! What a telerobotic mess it could be. Oh well.

    I think I did not express myself well about my “grand plans for the solar system” ;) But since we mostly agree on the planning directorate, the commercial involvement (even in an EML station) I will leave it at that for now. Well until of course I change my mind which never happens. Of course.

    Maybe we’ll talk later or tomorrow, otherwise you have a good weekend.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “(i.e. that it is a jobs program that doesn’t address any known need).”

    It does address a known need, at a time of high unemployment, it provides a state/district with a lot of high tech, well paying jobs. It means a great tax base and economic activity for an area.

    Weigh that against anything new, different, less expensive in space and we know the result, the bottom line is if the funding change or the ‘mission’ change means that area becomes a net loser for employment/tax base, then ‘new’ space takes a back seat.

    The only real way it can be sold is a station at EM1 or EM2 means you will not lose a single job and if anything it will mean more jobs for your district. The unfortunate thing is … that way costs a lot more.

    “Senator, here is how we can open up space and more economic activity, we cut your state’s workforce and move to a less labor intensive way of conducting space operations at NASA.” … see I just do not think that will fly. Especially if it is this President trying to make the case.

    If the parts for a EM2 outpost can be launched WITHOUT the use of a government launch system it might be doable. The ISS only cost us what … 35 billion? A couple billion a year with the early years cheaper. It was the cost of the shuttle that sent the price through the roof. Add in the costs that skyrocketed because of all the freakin delays and the accident and it was a disaster.

    I believe until the 800 pound gorilla is dealt with nothing really will happen.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    An EML station will be the easiest “hard” thing we do beyond LEO – far easier than returning to the surface of the Moon.

    And therein is the profound justification for doing at. At least in the eyes of Congress, who can’t see much deeper than getting the hell out of LEO. NASA is between a rock and a hard place on this one. The rock is, well, you know what. It’s hard too. The really hard place is actually other rocks. NEOs and Mars. We can’t afford to send humans to any of them. GEO? Forget about it. NASA doesn’t want to get roped into a raision d’etre that involves servicing private birds. NASA should be happy to develop technology to help do it, but that’s about it. NASA is somewhat reluctantly getting L1 and L2 considered as “destinations”, although there is nothing physical at either place. They need to be “destinations”, you see, otherwise you can’t proudly say we’re going to go there.

    That’s the score.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I think I did not express myself well about my “grand plans for the solar system”. But since we mostly agree on the planning directorate, the commercial involvement (even in an EML station) I will leave it at that for now.

    Good enough – we’re on the same page. We’ll leave it at that.

  • pathfinder_01

    vulture4

    “If the parts for a EM2 outpost can be launched WITHOUT the use of a government launch system it might be doable. The ISS only cost us what … 35 billion? A couple billion a year with the early years cheaper. It was the cost of the shuttle that sent the price through the roof. Add in the costs that skyrocketed because of all the freakin delays and the accident and it was a disaster.”

    The idea was to launch the modules via EELV and assemble at ISS. SLS would have been used to launch the SEP stage to push the 50 ton station to L2. Commercial would resuply the station, and SLS would send the crew.

    The only problem was that ISS parts were built for LEO and current redevous and docking methods won’t work at L2.

    That being said it is possible for an L2 station to be manned and supplied via commercial. FH with an upper stage could push Orion to L2. A BEO version of Dragon might be able to mass low enough to be thrown there via FH. Orion could be push to L2 with an upperstage launched by delta to LEO(and could be launched manned or unmanned to ISS).

    My only objections to the ISS EP plan were thoughtless reuse of technology(i.e. is a shuttle airlock really designed to be an airlock for a station and do you really want a 20 year old airlock?) and SLS. I think something small and Salyut like could be stationed at L2 and think that if Bigleow can provide a LEO station he might be able to pull a small BEO one for a few hundred million. I think if NASA plays it cards right it might happen but not in a form that saves SLS.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    It [the SLS program] does address a known need, at a time of high unemployment, it provides a state/district with a lot of high tech, well paying jobs. It means a great tax base and economic activity for an area.

    Well that’s how politicians look at it. The SLS & MPCV were safe havens for the work that were going to be eliminated by the cancellation of the Constellation program.

    Entrepreneurs know better though.

    Let’s say the Development Directorate that Common Sense & Dave Huntsman have suggested was put in place as part of the cancellation of Constellation, and they developed an exploration plan that utilized the funding the SLS and the MPCV would have used. The same amount of jobs likely would have been created, and I would suggest that since less of the work would have gone to “Old Space”, that probably even more jobs would have been created.

    But the jobs wouldn’t be in the same place as the ones that were cancelled (or planned to be hired in the future), which is another thing that scares the politicians. It’s human nature – what we pay them to worry about.

    The only real way it can be sold is a station at EM1 or EM2 means you will not lose a single job and if anything it will mean more jobs for your district. The unfortunate thing is … that way costs a lot more.

    Yep, it’s a tough problem. We just have to just keep pushing…

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ October 18th, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    NASA is somewhat reluctantly getting L1 and L2 considered as “destinations”, although there is nothing physical at either place. They need to be “destinations”, you see, otherwise you can’t proudly say we’re going to go there.

    As Buckaroo Banzai said: No matter where you go, there you are.

    To me a destination is a place you go to, whether it’s a place in nature or something humans have made. Scientists travel for miles to reach remote telescopes, not to see the barren landscape the telescope is on, but to use the telescope.

    The value of the EML-1/2 station is it’s location. Scientists can use it to get unfiltered access to space, and explorers can use it as an intermediate stopover before traveling on to the next destination.

    They need to be “destinations”, you see, otherwise you can’t proudly say we’re going to go there.

    You can find L1 & L2 on maps, and I think the public will quickly add “Lagrange point” to their vocabulary, and even learn enough to know that L1 is on the near side of the Moon, and L2 on the far side.

  • Googaw

    if such a [manned EML] station were built, it could provide a high value site for support of lunar surface operations

    Don’t you love how the main, and increasingly nearly sole, justification for taking money from taxpayers to build a ten billion dollar dollhouse in the middle of nowhere, where there is nothing either natural or artificial save vacuum, is that it will supposedly be used to get our precious Buzz Lightyears to even more astronomically costly and useless RVs higher up in heaven. Way-stations for our carefully Pampered pilgrims to rest their radiation-wracked bodies in on their way to even more astronomically unfundable daydreams.

    Way-stations to grander projects of the future were how LEO space stations were originally justified as well. Space stations as originally envisioned were supposed to be way-stations to the moon and Mars: thus their very name. Until the people who actually had to send real spacecraft to the moon and Mars figured out that it makes much more sense to send spacecraft directly there, thank you anyway. So the cult had to make up other even sillier justifications (e.g. “spinoffs” and “national laboratory” along with the usual hype about markets-of-the-future that never materialized). Now they’re back to the original silliness about way-stations, but we’re supposed to believe it this time because of the magical orbital attributes of the heavenly halos.

    All the space stations that that cult urged us to lavish tens of billions of dollars on are now thankfully sitting at the bottom of earth’s oceans, soon to be joined by the hundred billion dollar plus ISS. Such a white elephant at EML would be as dead-end as any other astronaut project has ever been, then slowly calve off space junk for a near eternity.

    The astronaut cult long ago severed any actual connection between their goals and economic reality. Now many have stopped even trying to pretend. Astronauts for the sake of astronauts — that’s all the justification a cultist has ever needed. We need a doll house in LEO in order to learn how to build a doll house on the moon. Whoops, we also need a doll house at EML in order to house our diapered cosmic travelers on their way to huddle in their lunar hobbit holes. And of course we need buried RVs on the moon in order to build even grander shrines for our celestial sojourners on Mars.

    It’s voodoo doll space development — put Buzz Lightyear in space today and this will cause a hundred Buzz Lightyears to live in space in the future. Make taxpayers cough up tens of billions of dollars for useless playthings today and, presto magico, they will cough up hundreds of billions of dollars for useless playthings tomorrrow.

    The main competing theory within the cult being that the cosmic pixie dust that has been hiding all along in the Heavenly Halos will magically reduce the costs of all these government-funded efforts, the private sector will follow the lead of our dogmatic cult central planners of the future, and the silliest of s*c**l*st daydreams will transmogrify into grand commercial markets-of-the-future. Just inhale the halo dust and chant “commerce! Bigelow! commerce! Bigelow!” until you run out of breath, and all your dreams will come true. Economics? Actual use of space for the benefit of the people on earth who are paying for it? That’s for people in some other galaxy.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 12:59 am

    My only objections to the ISS EP plan were thoughtless reuse of technology(i.e. is a shuttle airlock really designed to be an airlock for a station and do you really want a 20 year old airlock?) and SLS.

    Did the plan call for using the Space Shuttle Airlock, or the Quest Joint Airlock? The Quest looks pretty good for what it’s supposed to do.

    Which specific plan are you referencing – could you provide a link? Just want to make sure I’m referencing the latest.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 1:20 am

    “The same amount of jobs likely would have been created,”

    Maybe not quite the same amount but it looks like we definitely are understanding each other now. And such a directorate would use the old workforce at least initially…

    ” and I would suggest that since less of the work would have gone to “Old Space”, that probably even more jobs would have been created.”

    Not quite necessarily because most of the experience lies with Old Space. BUT. Probably a lot many more young graduates would have applied to define the future as they see it not as old tired people see it. It might be a great endeavor. And the various centers might attract a lot more new blood as well. See, the youth does not want to repeat Apollo and the likes they want their own thing. Believe me those at SpaceX don’t think they are going around in circle to LEO. They see they designed and built and launched darn rockets and capsule to darn space!!! And a lot of them are in their early 20s. THIS is NewSpace.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi Googaw –

    “Until the people who actually had to send real spacecraft to the moon and Mars figured out that it makes much more sense to send spacecraft directly there, thank you anyway.”

    Obviously you;ve never studied space architectures nor long term use environmental systems.

    “Actual use of space for the benefit of the people on earth who are paying for it?”

    Once again, the best way to deal with the impact hazard is CAPS.
    The best way to build the CAPS instrument suite is with the use of a station in lunar orbit.

  • E.P, Grondine

    I’d like to pose a question to all of you. We may have sizable chunks of Comet Schwassmann Wachmann 3 headed our way in 2022.

    How would you deal with them? What kind of launch systems do you want to have on hand then?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    You can find L1 & L2 on maps, and I think the public will quickly add “Lagrange point” to their vocabulary, and even learn enough to know that L1 is on the near side of the Moon, and L2 on the far side.

    I agree with you ENTIRELY on this. I’m just saying that many L1 and L2 skeptics have specifically pointed to the fact that “there ain’t nuttin’ there!” These is a powerful lobby that believes that a destination is a rock, ideally with some gravity. I very much hope that, as you say, the public can see through this, and add “Lagrange point” to their vocabulary as a valid destination.

    Of course, in LEO, “there ain’t nuttin’ there” either, and most of our efforts are currently aimed at that barren (well, except for debris) locale.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Not quite necessarily because most of the experience lies with Old Space.

    We both know that the Shuttle tile technicians who for worked for USA were never going to find industry equivalent jobs. And the workforce for both the ET and the SRM’s was on the way to being dispersed before Obama was inaugurated. There is not always a one-to-one transition both in skills and location.

    As to “most of the experience lies with Old Space”, is that experience relevant to what is needed in the future? Have those people been keeping their skill sets and education up to date? Can they move to another location? I’ve hired quite a few people in my time, and some job categories have lots of flexibility but some don’t, and there is not much that can be done about that on a micro level.

    Keep in mind though that between my wife and I, I’m the one that takes the weedwacker and hacks out large swaths of our landscape to allow new growth to take over. Sometimes that has to happen in industry too, because keeping the old industry going too long makes you uncompetitive.

    BUT. Probably a lot many more young graduates would have applied to define the future as they see it not as old tired people see it.

    Well and that’s the other side of the equation. Once employers have the chance, they might pick the younger applicant who has newer education or newer skills over the older worker who didn’t keep up their education and skills. You can’t get complacent – you can’t assume a job will last forever.

    But this does point to the direction we’ll have to take in order to cancel the SLS – have a compelling plan with lots of support that Congress can see will come close to some sort of job swap within the same budget amount.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    “We both know that the Shuttle tile technicians who for worked for USA were never going to find industry equivalent jobs. And the workforce for both the ET and the SRM’s was on the way to being dispersed before Obama was inaugurated. There is not always a one-to-one transition both in skills and location.”

    I believe I said that much. There are multiple ways you can use workers and some you just can’t. But remember this is a pretty old workforce and most of it were to be lost by attrition.

    “As to “most of the experience lies with Old Space”, is that experience relevant to what is needed in the future? Have those people been keeping their skill sets and education up to date? Can they move to another location? I’ve hired quite a few people in my time, and some job categories have lots of flexibility but some don’t, and there is not much that can be done about that on a micro level.”

    No argument with me. I did not we should hire the entire workforce, now, did I? But as a plan to sell to Congress you emphasize that aspect so that they don’t freak out they are going to lose their electorate. While at the same time showing you’ll bring a fresh electorate to vote for them…

    “Keep in mind though that between my wife and I, I’m the one that takes the weedwacker and hacks out large swaths of our landscape to allow new growth to take over. Sometimes that has to happen in industry too, because keeping the old industry going too long makes you uncompetitive.”

    That’s because you like to wack stuff!

    “Well and that’s the other side of the equation. Once employers have the chance, they might pick the younger applicant who has newer education or newer skills over the older worker who didn’t keep up their education and skills. You can’t get complacent – you can’t assume a job will last forever.”

    True. Employers do those things while politicians like the older citizenry, those who actually vote.

    “But this does point to the direction we’ll have to take in order to cancel the SLS – have a compelling plan with lots of support that Congress can see will come close to some sort of job swap within the same budget amount.”

    Yes again. See? We are not all that different after all…

  • Googaw

    studied space architectures nor long term use environmental systems.

    Apparently I’m a moron because my knowledge of space development comes from real life instead of sci-fi. So tell me Mr. Self-Appointed Expert, in actual reality rather than in your prophecies, out of the many dozens of spacecraft that have actually flown to the moon, Mars, and beyond in the five decade history of such spaceflight, during an era in which hundreds of billions of dollars have also been lavished on space stations, which of these deep space missions have used space stations as way stations?

    I’d hold my breath waiting for an answer…except that would be rather like sucking vacuum…

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Apparently I’m a moron because my knowledge of space development comes from real life instead of sci-fi.

    And what “real life” would that be? Can you be specific about your knowledge base?

    So tell me Mr. Self-Appointed Expert, in actual reality rather than in your prophecies, out of the many dozens of spacecraft that have actually flown to the moon, Mars, and beyond in the five decade history of such spaceflight, during an era in which hundreds of billions of dollars have also been lavished on space stations, which of these deep space missions have used space stations as way stations?

    Ah, the old “if it’s never been done, then it can never be done” theory.

    Do you drive your car forward by looking in your rearview mirror to see where you’ve been? That’s essentially what you’re saying here, that only things we’ve done in the past can succeed.

    But I can give you terrestrial examples of waystations – airports, ferry terminals, train stations, bus stations, etc., etc. If you think about it, it makes sense, since some types of transportation are better for short distances and some are better for intermediate or long distances. Taking a trip across the country by taxi doesn’t make sense, but taking a taxi to the airport does. And there is no practical way for everyone to have a 737 as their “big” family vehicle.

    Waystations/transportation nodes exist at points where a change in the mode of transportation makes sense. For the transportation uses of an EML-1/2 station, such changes would be between transports from Earth (likely starting in LEO) and transports down to the lunar surface or traveling on to Mars.

    I would imagine that someone wanting to go to the surface of the Moon would travel to LEO on a commercial crew vehicle, transfer to a dedicated LEO-to-Lagrange transport that has more roomy accommodations for the longer trip, and then transfer to a dedicated transport that only travels between the Lagrange points and the lunar surface. Any modern day traveler would understand the need for each of these different transportation modes.

    And just to circle back to your initial example, the Apollo program was not designed to be a sustainable transportation system, just the most expedient way to get us to the Moon.

  • Googaw

    No, Coastal, it’s the “we should look at what the real engineers who actually built and flew their stuff did, not at what the armchair theorists, central planning bureaucrats, and and pop science writers have been propounding as obsolete dogma for many decades” theory. And we’re talking about many dozens of spacecraft transported from earth to deep space, not just Apollo. The engineers who built and flew every single one of them eschewed these supposedly crucial benefits of using space stations as way stations. Which just means in the minds of the Great Omniscient Planning Directorate that everybody who ever actually built a spacecraft and transported it into deep space is a moron.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi Googaw –

    Googaw wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    “Apparently I’m a moron because my knowledge of space development comes from real life instead of sci-fi.”

    No, googaw, you’re not a moron, but your knowledge of manned Mars and Moon systems comes from sci-fi rather than real life, as mine does.

    As far as being an expert, I’m simply a journalist/historian. As far as being self appointed goes, I earned my expertise doing that. Others have found my work extremely useful; the rest are mostly idiots who pretend to know what they are doing and/or talking about.

    By the way, you’re avoiding my question of what you want to have in hand by 2022 to deal with potential problems from SW3″s debris field.

  • Googaw

    SW3′s debris field

    I’ve answered this kind of question before. I don’t know of any group of space scientists who think SW3 debris is a big threat, but if it were we’d basically need three sets of technologies: (1) active radar and passive infrared instruments to characterize the threat, some of them at least delivered to the SW3 orbit or an orbit that repeatedly intercepts the SW3 orbit, (2) unmanned gravity tugs to divert any such space-bergs that needed diverting, and (3) nuclear-powered SEP to get the instruments and tugs there and to power the tugs. No diapered infrastructure needed. The idea that such a threat is justification for spending tens of billions of dollars to build orbital doll houses is utterly silly. Quite the contrary: if such a threat were to materialize, the best thing we could do is gut HSF and get those engineers working on the above-mentioned actual solutions.

    However for those who insist on getting your celestial doll house fix here you go:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-265xTz2zA

    To infinity and beyond!

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    No, Coastal, it’s the “we should look at what the real engineers who actually built and flew their stuff did…

    Well it’s nice to see the end result of a number of engineering choices, but so far it looks like you don’t understand WHY they made those choices.

    For instance, Von Braun envisioned using space stations as staging points, and he is recognized as the father of the Saturn V architecture that took us to the Moon. So why didn’t we use space stations to stage our trips to the Moon? Because the goal of the Apollo program was, in the words of Kennedy, “of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”. Kennedy didn’t plan on staying on the Moon, or venturing further out from it. His goal was political (i.e. show U.S. superiority over the Soviet Union) not practical.

    So holding the Apollo program up as the model for how we should do all space exploration is pretty ignorant.

    Oh, and for the record, notice I didn’t call you a moron… ;-)

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Googaw –

    You haven’t looked very hard, then.
    Your wish list for 2022 is noted, but not immediately to the point.
    You want to try getting at least somewhere close to reality?

    Hi CR –

    Yes, Googaw does not appear to understand WHY they made those choices.

  • Googaw

    Von Braun envisioned using space stations as staging points

    My goodness, this is getting serious. You’ve invoked The One. The Great Celestial Prophet Himself. Indeed Werner von Braun and his followers were largely responsible for the c. $300+ billion that has been taken out of the pockets of taxpayers and borrowed out of the mouths of our children to squander on space stations and space shuttles (he was also big into that other grand old cult fetish, the reusable winged space rocket). The fruits of good old Werner’s federally funded cult are all now museum pieces, or sitting at the bottom of the ocean, or in the case of ISS soon will be. And indeed von Braun was foremost among the economic illiterates who long ago as I stated above did insist that space stations would be essential as way stations if we wanted to send people or things to the moon or Mars.

    By all means, let’s stick rigidly to dogmas conceived seven or more decades ago. Let’s make sure our Central Planning Directorate bases 21st century space development on the economic fantasies spun by von Braun and his sci-fi buddies and solidified into dogma before the advent of the semiconductor, the transistor, and the solar cell, during an era when Werner’s pen pals were still writing with straight faces about intelligent aliens on Mars and Venus, and long before the microchip and modern sensors and software. Let’s rest our hopes for 2030 on the ancient propaganda of a World War II and Cold War bureaucrat who never got closer to economic reality than a $150+ billion Cold War extravaganza, a Disney park show, and a slave work force to mass-produce short-range ballistic missiles.

    And you wonder why I call this a cult!

  • Googaw

    Your wish list for 2022 is noted, but not immediately to the point.

    Now that it has been demonstrated that no cosmic doll houses are needed should such a threat arise, it is suddenly discovered that the Great Spaceberg Threat of 2022 is not so urgent after all. Thus proposing actual solutions to said horror that don’t focus on grand hovels for our diapered Buzz Lightyears is beside the point.

    But that’s the problem with trying to make astronauts look useful. As soon as you invoke a cognizable problem for our astronauts to solve, that isn’t merely a tail-chasing business of astronauts for the sake of astronauts, the project soon ends up obsessing about the doll house and protecting its precious inhabitants from nasty exploding rockets and radiation and microgravity and their own waste products, and forgetting about the original problem. For any actually useful task in space it’s easy to show that an unmanned mission can solve it with far less expense, far greater effectivness, or both.

    So it’s back to justifying taking money from taxpayers to build our next “logical” cosmic abode by regressing solipsism: by arguing that said celestial hostel will prove useful when in the prophecied future we take even more taxpayer dollars to build yet more diapered doll houses at even higher levels of heaven. It’s voodoo economics, but if you don’t like that terminology let’s call it the Russian doll theory of space development.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ October 19th, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    By all means, let’s stick rigidly to dogmas conceived seven or more decades ago.

    You mean like what you are pushing? That all exploration will have to be done on one rocket (just like Apollo) – because that’s the way we’ve always done it, and gosh darn it, if it was good enough for Neil, it’s good enough for Googaw! ;-)

    It’s funny how you think that just because we’ll be doing things in a different location (i.e. space), that we won’t use the same lessons learned for getting to and from places here on Earth. I’m glad you’re just an anonymous blogger and not someone in charge of developing space plans… hey, you don’t happen to work for Romney, do you?

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ October 20th, 2012 at 12:26 am

    The exeternal airlock was used for some space lab missions.

    Ah, thanks for the link. It looks like the plan proposes to use leftover hardware (MPLM, Shuttle air lock, etc.), which may not be optimal but could be replaced at a later point.

  • pathfinder_01

    Ah, Goosaw comparing manned vs. unmanned systems is like comparing apples to rutabagas. It is like complaining that a passenger train needs a dinning car(which a freight train does not). An unmanned spacecraft for the most part does not gain anything from using a space station. They might in the future but not right now. A manned space craft could.

    Basically in terms of life support the amount of recycling (if any) depends on the mission.

    For Apollo and the Shuttle: Water is a byproduct of fuel cell use, CO2 is scrubbed by disposable lioh catarges, Oxygen is not recycled nor is water(in fact they dump the stuff overboard as fuel cells provide more water than the crew can use!).

    Here are the problems with systems like this: Fuel cells require consumables and are not preferred for long term spaceflight (solar or nuclear would be better for any mission lasting more than 2 weeks). Disposable lioh cartages take up space, and if you don’t recycle oxygen and water, you will need to bring enough for the whole mission (increases mass).

    The ISS and space stations in general have enough volume and power to accommodate recycling systems. They are less mass or volume limited than any spacecraft that needs to land on a planetary body (including earth).

    A mars mission or NEO mission would use life support systems that are more like a space station than the space shuttle but a reusable lunar Lander or a spacecraft that transports people from earth or LEO, likely would not.

    They are much more mass and volume constrained than a space station. For a craft that needs to return to earth mass equals more requirements on the entry decent and landing system. For a craft that needs to move between earth (and LEO) to L2 more mass equals more propellant needed. For a craft that attempts to land on the moon more mass equals more propellant needed and more structure to hold support said mass in gravity and more mass to get the propellant off of the moon. And for a craft that needs to reenter an atomosphere shape(i.e. volume constrisnt….) is really important.

    For a reusable manned lunar Lander the space station could provide:

    Power to recharge batteries so that you don’t need to lug solar panels or nuclear reactors to the moon’s surface and back and it allows you to use fuel cells for the lander since the fuel cells don’t need to provide power for the months between crew vistis. Skylab provide power to Apollo enabling it to stay in space longer and the ISS provided power to the Shuttle allowing it to stay in space at least 2 days longer. ISS also is going to provide power to the CCDEV craft that don’t use solar panels.

    Station keeping for both your CTV and lunar lander. The propellant needed could be sent via cargo instead of everything with the crew as in Apollo(there are trajectories and methods for sending cargo to L2 that are not appropriate for sending crew but allow you to send more cargo than you could if you tried to send it with the crew). In general people need a faster trip, cargo does not. A 3 month SEP trip to L2 would be inappropriate for crew but just fine for cargo. Likewise some lower delta V trajectories that take much longer to get there.

    Pressurized volume in which to load and off load cargo from the CTV, an automated cargo transfer craft or the lunar Lander (or any other spacecraft).

    For Mars and NEO missions the station is a staging point for cargo(i.e. You could send cargo to L2 while your mars SEP powered cargo tug makes it’s 3 year round trip or you NEO mission is away.). In that way you could have a lunar SEP cargo system able to support a mars mission or NEO mission. Also in that way you can break the cargo amounts down to amounts that could be lifted with smaller rockets. A delta heavy or two could lift enough supplies for a NEO mission to L2 instead of cramming everything into an HLV (which itself can not lift enough for a NEO mission in one shot).

    It also enables re useablity. You can return to L2 from the moon, mars or NEO missions a lot easier than you could return to LEO.

  • Googaw

    WHY they made those choices.

    You’ve tried to explain it for a grand total of one out of the many dozens of kinds of actual missions to deep space. Every single one of which made the same decision, the decision that defies your dogma. Yet you fell far short of a plausible explanation for even that one.

    Kennedy didn’t plan on staying on the Moon

    Neither has any other important politician, save for a poor fellow named Newt who had the fatal misfortune of getting his space advice from a sci-fi-addled astronaut cultist. You utterly fail to grasp the astronomical gulf that lies between the dogmatic hallucinations of the von Braun worshippers and the political, economic, and technological realities of actual space development.

    Von Braun and his NASA bosses, on the advice of their engineers, sidelined his idiotic way-station idea for Apollo because that’s what you have to do if you want to actually get a deep space mission done in a reasonably efficient manner. Since, in sharp contrast to the distributed sources of cargo and passengers that make ports and stations often desirable on earth, everything and everyone is being launched from earth anyway, way-stations in space are a barrier and a diversion, substantially adding to the costs and bureaucracy of a mission, which far outweighs the miniscule and occasional benefits. Which is why all the many dozens of other missions to deep space that you have so studiously ignored have made the very same decision, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on space stations during the same period.

    Like von Braun, until he had to actually fly things into deep space, you completely fail to grasp the economics at work here, but instead dogmatically cling to a preposterously bad analogy to transportation in a network of dispersed sources and destinations of cargo and passengers.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Hi Googaw –

    “let’s stick rigidly to dogmas conceived seven or more decades ago.”

    Let’s not. We now know that stuff from space hits the Earth.

    More immediately, we know that the Earth will be in the debris field of Comet SW3 in 2022.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ October 20th, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Von Braun and his NASA bosses, on the advice of their engineers, sidelined his idiotic way-station idea for Apollo because that’s what you have to do if you want to actually get a deep space mission done in a reasonably efficient manner.

    It’s good to see you’re hearing something I say, even if you can’t understand WHY.

    Since, in sharp contrast to the distributed sources of cargo and passengers that make ports and stations often desirable on earth, everything and everyone is being launched from earth anyway, way-stations in space are a barrier and a diversion, substantially adding to the costs and bureaucracy of a mission, which far outweighs the miniscule and occasional benefits.

    Oh, you’re so close here. Just a little further and you might have actually have had a “light bulb” moment.

    Which is why all the many dozens of other missions to deep space that you have so studiously ignored have made the very same decision, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on space stations during the same period.

    Swing and a miss. More of your driving using the rear-view mirror again.

    So quick lesson here in logistics (cargo, people, whatever). If you don’t have significant volume then you don’t need transportation nodes (waystations, distribution points, passenger terminals, etc.), unless you need more than one type of transportation system.

    Getting from the surface of Earth to the surface of the Moon can be broken down into three transport segments, being 1) Earth to LEO, 2) LEO to lunar orbit (or a Lagrange point), and 3) lunar orbit to lunar surface. No one has ever done that with one vehicle, and Apollo did it with the Saturn V, CM/SM, and Lunar Lander stack, which threw away parts along the journey. So if you don’t need a reusable transportation system, that works.

    But the question is no longer can we get to the Moon or beyond, but how to do it on a regular basis for the least practical cost. For that we’ll need reusable transportation systems, which means they will be specialized for each particular transportation segment.

    Go ahead and rant about zombies and space ghosts dictating how we will do things in space, but that won’t change what will actually happen. We didn’t create transportation nodes by accident, we create them because they are necessary here on Earth, and they will be in space too.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Since, in sharp contrast to the distributed sources of cargo and passengers that make ports and stations often desirable on earth, everything and everyone is being launched from earth anyway, way-stations in space are a barrier and a diversion, substantially adding to the costs and bureaucracy of a mission, which far outweighs the miniscule and occasional benefits.”

    Cart before the horse goosaw, On earth cities often are found where modes of Cargo and passenger transport switch.

    In the case of shipping boats built for Ocean going (or even the great lakes) are often too big to pass up and down rivers. The cities of Chicago and New Orleans share this in common. In the case of Chicago a network of rivers snake around the area plus the great lakes plus the Chicago River (which was near rivers that lead to the Mississippi river basin was connected to it)—in short you could sail from Chicago to New Orleans (and many places in between and around).

    Rail came later which allowed you to switch from boat to train and if you are on the train switch rail roads and to this day Chicago still is a major rail hub. Highways and Air travel later O’Hare and Midway also handle freight. In short destinations like New York, New Orleans, Boston, and Chicago were and are places where modes and routes of travel are swicthed (i.e. Ocean going Ship to river barge to great lakes shipping in the case of a New Orleans to Chicago leg). Bus, Rail and domestic or international Air travel in the case of Chicago passengers. Truck, rail, air freight, river barge or great lakes ship(or Ocean going vessel by way of the St. lawrence seaway) in the case of Chicago freight traffic.

    How does this connect with an LEO or L2 station?

    In theory while you could launch directly to the moon, you need a HLV to do it with and such a rocket need systems, staff, and manufacturing that isn’t shared with anything else. There is a reason why Soyuz and Proton are still in use but Saturn V is not. A reason why Atlas and Titan out lived Mercury and Gemini. Those rockets have or had other users than HSF.

    Let’s say you had a station in LEO. LEO station crew and tourist as well as L2 station crew and tourist could share the first leg up. In the case of something like commercial crew they all hold a crew of 7. Given 1 pilot, that leaves 6 seats to split between ISS(or Bigloew) and BEO usage. Some could be NASA staff, some could be touristst. You could preposition Orion(or Dragon to the ISS) the use a stage lifted by Delta Heavy or FH to push you to L2. Orion could also carry crew up if launched on a big enough rocket.

    Advantage is now you don’t need a special lunar HLV like Saturn V to lift everything at once or need to deal with attempting to launch 2 rockets in short order (boil off problem with lox/loh) and with very limited crew supplies in the LEO to L1 transfer vehicle.(Orion can only support a crew for 21 days….ISS much longer that and you need 8 days to L2 and back with a launch window that opens every ten days) . If manned you must use FH or Delta heavy to lift Orion, but if unmanned you could lift it with Atlas (which is cheaper than Delta).

    In theory FH could do it directly (if you added a stage but now way could FH push both a capsule and lander fully fueled to the moon at once! It might push a lighter version of Dragon there directly—but having the ISS was what enabled dragon in the first place!) If you go through the space station FH would be able to lift a full 50MT or so to LEO increasing the amount of cargo that could be carried to L2 with your crew or conversely you could possibly trade that mass for propellants that are easier to store than lox/loh. Also, you don’t need to man rate FH or Delta heavy if unmanned and just use the cheaper and more trustworthy Atlas(and by then Falcon 9) to lift your crew to LEO.

    If you develop aero breaking the station in LEO offers a place to return the crew. The LEO to L2 craft could be serviced and restocked (however you probably need to develop a better earth to LEO tech to be worth the trade. )

    Those are some of the advantages a way station in LEO offers for trips further out like L2.

  • pathfinder_01

    A way station at L2 gives:

    More control over when and where you land your earth return spacecraft. Apollo had very little control over that. From L2 you have anytime return to earth (which you don’t have with LLO like Apollo) and the station allows the volume to preposition supplies and has less mass, volume and power constrained life-support systems.

    Ease of reuse of lunar lander. It is easier to bring a lunar lander to L1/l2 in terms of delta V than to park it on the moon not to mention the propellant that would be spent attempting to land propellant on the moon to enable early reuse.

    A place to park the space capsule for NEO and MARS trips. For Mars trips a space capsule(which you need to return to earth) is dead weight most of the trip. It would only be useful for a relatively short amount of time and there are questions about directly reentering with people at those velocities (higher G force esp. on a deconditioned crew). In addition instead of needing to develop a capsule that can be stored for 3 years (Mars and back) you could use current tech (capsules with 6 month to maybe 2 year lifetimes in space)—just rotate the capsule.

    For SEP NEO missions not lugging the capsule saves mass and the capsule again is only useful for the emergency return in the early and late parts of the trip. Sure you could do without a station, but that puts more demand on the capsule’s systems from longer term storage.

    It allows you to break the missions into more managable pieces instead of being forced to lug everything for every mission all at once.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ October 21st, 2012 at 3:18 am

    For SEP NEO missions not lugging the capsule saves mass and the capsule again is only useful for the emergency return in the early and late parts of the trip.

    I don’t think many people realize that once you have a waystation at EML, you no longer need a capsule as a lifeboat on trips beyond Earth. Your lifeboat is your 2nd or 3rd vessel in your exploration flotilla, or one of the smaller “boats” like the proposed Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV).

    That’s why the MPCV has such a limited usage, in that it’s really only needed as a transport or lifeboat in between Earth and the Moon. And even then it’s a really expensive one.

  • Googaw

    All this splendid elaboration of castles in the sky is so adorable. Where only vacuum exists now a splendid infrastructure of spaceships, space stations, batteries, toilets, and all the rest has already been all planned out for us. I gotta admit that those little imaginary block-cities I built as a child don’t hold a candle to this fantasy.

    At least it would be adorable if these weren’t adults lobbying to take billions of dollars from the taxpayer and out of the mouths of our children to try to build their simultaneously elaborate and useles celestial shrines for their diapered dolls.

    Reality check folks: there is in actual reality no commercial traffic to and from the moon. There are no passengers of any sort going from the earth to the moon or beyond, nor have any so gone for four decades, when there was an ephemeral extravaganza under extremely odd circumstances at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars to the taxpayers. Nor is there any realistic prospect of political funding for any such thing in the foreseeable future, nor even if there were would any such Apollo repeat require any more elaborate infrastructure than it did last time.

    Reality check folks: there were hundreds of thousands of natives, fur trappers, and farmers living and working along the Mississippi River many decades before there were port facilities. The standard means of transportation during those decades (and for many millenia before among those natives) was the canoe. The standard means of offloading cargo off that canoe was to pull it onto any reasonable beach and for the passengers or nearby inhabitants to come take it off.

    What in fact were our pioneers focused on? Supporting themselves economically, whether growing their own food, selling food to others, or trapping furs for the fashionable city-slickers in Europe. These were practical people focused on provide benefits to themselves and their customers. Children in adult bodies who spent their time writing letters to Congress to subsidize their grand fantasy “infrastructure” wouldn’t have survived a year.

    That’s how real frontier settlement works: the explorers, businesses and technology and (in old frontiers, but not space) on-site people come first. The infrastructure comes much later when there is actual real world demand for it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ October 22nd, 2012 at 4:51 am

    The standard means of transportation during those decades (and for many millenia before among those natives) was the canoe.

    Swing and a miss again.

    A canoe was only used when on the water, they didn’t use canoe’s on land. Which means you are making my case for mixed mode transportation.

    What you forget to mention too is that to get across rivers providers sprung up offering ferry services, since even our pioneers liked to travel in comfort sometimes. And as the loads they were carrying became bigger, the canoes were replaced by rafts which could also be used by more than one person.

    What in fact were our pioneers focused on? Supporting themselves economically, whether growing their own food, selling food to others, or trapping furs for the fashionable city-slickers in Europe.

    And where did they sell their extra food? In a marketplace, which is also known as a distribution node.

    You just keep bolstering my arguments. The only thing so far that is right is that there currently is no traffic going to the Moon. What a brilliant observation by the way (just brilliant). However when the time comes we decide to leave LEO, putting a waystation at EML-1/2 makes sense if we’re going to be going back and forth on a regular basis.

    Time for you to move on to another topic.

  • pathfinder_01

    Ah even when people and cargo are coming from the same place, not all people or all cargo should use the same methods. On earth we have Cars, Trucks, Busses, Rail, Ships(and other water craft), and aircraft to use depending on what needs to be transported where, when and for what price.

    Goosaw:

    “The standard means of transportation during those decades (and for many millenia before among those natives) was the canoe.”

    Costal Ron

    “ A canoe was only used when on the water, they didn’t use canoe’s on land. Which means you are making my case for mixed mode transportation.”

    The reason why the Canoe and all forms of sailing were invented is because moving cargo over water is (esp. back then) the cheapest way to do so. It still is the cheapest way to send items, just not the fastest or most flexible (i.e. must be near a large navigable body of water and large bodies of water do not make easy crossings). Rivers were natural highways. It takes less energy to move a load over water than to do so over land. So the smart move if you wanted to send something somewhere was to send all your stuff to the nearest river and boat it near your destination(if you could). In short mother nature provided part of the infrastructure(water ways) and man the other(boats). On land rail is the cheapest pound by pound per amount of energy needed and likewise not the most flexible(time table, stuck on rails) or fastest.

    Cars, Trucks, Busses, aircraft are more flexible forms of land transport and the airplane is the fastest one. They are the reason why private Rail in the US is limited to freight operations because a trip across country by train would take days instead of hours. And although Cars, busses, and Trucks can be slower than trains they have more flexibility about departure time as well as ability to pull an items right to its destination.

    A similar situation is true for space.

    In general for space travel people need a fast trip. A faster trip reduces consumable needs and radation exposure. Cargo on the other hand does not. By breaking cargo that can take a slower trip away from people and cargo that need a faster trip you gain savings. We do it all the time on earth. You don’t fly automobiles from Japan you ship them by boat. Conversly you usually don’t board a ship to Japan, you fly. This is one of the reasons why your beloved unmanned spacecraft can be cheaper…they are much more flexible time wise(who cares if you send the probe to the moon on a slow, non free return trajectory that takes a year(smart 1)).

    In the case of space there are Trajectories that could take you to the moon but could take much longer. There are weak stability boundary trajectories that can reduce the delta V by 25% and almost double the payload you can send to the moon. Only problem is they take three months to do it. There are technologies like SEP that likewise can take months to reach their destination, but can carry more cargo than per mass of propellant than a chemical rocket as well as potentially be reusable(SEP could return to LEO or from mars orbit to earth orbit on a single tank of propellant while carrying cargo.).

    These methods are inappropriate to use to send people to the moon. An SEP craft could depart and return to LEO carrying crew but the slow trip through the van Allen belts and the month’s worth of food and consumables means that this is probably not the best way to send people. A smaller SEP carft however could send enough cargo such as food, clothes, water to enable a mission to last months. Things that could withstand a three month trip, they could be packed to the brim volumewise(people need space), they only need pressure, temperature control and maybe some humidity control rather than full life support(ie.CO2 scrubbing, oxygen ect..).

    It is cheaper to send the cargo ahead to l1/l2, your moon, base whatever separately and via slow boat methods than to try to put it in with your crew. DCSA’s freeze dried shrimp could easily handle a three month trip to the moon. The crew on the other hand would not and would prefer to use Apollo’s 3-4 day Hoffman transfer instead.

  • vulture4

    We won’t need surgery on the moon until we have a substantial human community. We still do not have surgical capability in the Antarctic or on any but the largest military ships. Actually we already have self-tying sutures. Within a decade or two we may have autonomous surgical robots.

    Given the capability for autonomous robotic driving (not teleoperation) of wheeled vehicles at high speeds in the most difficult conditions, as demonstrated in the DARPA off-road challenge and the Google car that can drive in traffic, there is no need for teleoperation of vehicles, or at any rate there would not be if NASA can keep up with the technology.

    There are real challenges in developing artificial intelligence capable of performing autonomous planetary exploration, but the advantages of intelligent robotics over biological humans in missions to really deep space, decades or centuries in transit, are so great that NASA should be making a major effort in artificial intelligence.

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