NASA

Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden

A week from Monday marks the third anniversary of President Obama’s speech at the Kennedy Space Center where he formally announced the goal of a human mission to an asteroid by 2025. While that is an official goal of NASA’s human space exploration program, there remains some opposition or, at the very least, lack of acceptance of the goal by many people, including some with NASA, as a report on NASA’s strategic direction concluded last December.

At a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington on Thursday, the head of that study, Al Carnesale of UCLA, reiterated those concerns. “Since it was announced, there was less enthusiasm for it among the community broadly,” he said of the asteroid mission goal. “The more we learn about it, the more we hear about it, people seem less enthusiastic about it.”

Carnesale suggested that, in his opinion, it might be better to shelve the asteroid mission goal in favor of a human return to the Moon. “There’s a great deal of enthusiasm, almost everywhere, for the Moon,” he said. “I think there might be, if no one has to swallow their pride and swallow their words, and you can change the asteroid mission a little bit… it might be possible to move towards something that might be more of a consensus.”

Carnesale was followed at the meeting by NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who showed no sign of accepting Carnesale’s advice. He noted that a number of nations have expressed interest, to varying degrees, in human lunar exploration. “They all have dreams of putting human on the Moon,” he said. “I have told every head of agency of every partner agency that if you assume the lead in a human lunar mission, NASA will be a part of that. NASA wants to be a participant.”

However, he made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. “NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,” he said. “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.” Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.”

“I don’t know how to say it any more plainly,” he concluded. “NASA does not have a human lunar mission in its portfolio and we are not planning for one.” He warned that if the next administration tries to change course again back to the Moon, “it means we are probably, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.”

212 comments to Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden

  • Robert G. Oler

    Charlie’s comments are entertaining, but really they reflect a reality that extends even to an asteroid mission…no one really is interested in it

    The “space community” is interested in a lunar effort because its “bored” and needs something to justify its existence…but in reality at the COST THAT NASA WOULD DO IT (and that is an important delimeter) no one other then the space welfare set is interested in NASA doing it.

    NASA human spaceflight is the Terry Schiavo of the US government, its been dead a long time, they just need to pull the plug, but the “beloved” still think its alive. (as they did Schiavo) RGO

    • DCSCA

      “NASA human spaceflight is the Terry Schiavo of the US government.” quips RGO

      Talk about weak if not insensitive rhetoric. Pretty strange coming from you. If you think government HSF is deceased, you must be seeing dead Americans aborrd the ISS, riding Soyuz up and back. In fact, it is NewSpace HSF orbital ops which is dead. IT flies nobody.

    • MPR

      @Oler

      What an offensive, irrelevant and dated analogy!

    • xyz

      RGO, You are pathetic.

      It is not about justifying its existence, but about doing something worthwhile. Maybe, just maybe, a new mission to the Moon will spawn a whole bunch of new technologies.

      Other option is to just do nothing, except for accounting, lawyering, building bigger bureaucracy, etc. Maybe you are one of those types.

      What we want is for NASA to do greater things and inspire the next generation.

      • windbourne

        XYZ, you speak of spawning a whole bunch of new technologies, but ignore the fact that we have been on the moon and other surfaces with more G and atmosphere, but have never had to move an asteroid, or deal with landing on one, or even mining one.
        So, which one is far more likely to develop new tech? I would say that it WILL be the asteroid.

        More importantly, if NASA is NOT diverted from doing the asteroid, AND we can kill off the SLS and push private space, NASA will go to the moon by 2022, if not 2020. The reason is that Bigelow and Musk BOTH want to go to the moon and then mars. By getting other nations to buy seats on a lunar base, well, it drops the price a great deal for private space to go there. That will lead to new technology based on the work that NASA has done in the past. At the same time, NASA will be free to develop brand new tech (electric engines, nuke power, etc) that can also be used on the moon and mars.

        Finally, if private space is moved along as NASA wants, and CONgress, esp. the house, does not manage to kill off private space (as they continue to try), then NASA will be able to do it all.

    • John

      What a terrible thing to compare NASA’s future to the life of a human being. Life is precious, not to be thrown away when inconvenient or expensive to maintain. Would you were in Terry Schiavo’s position, fully cognitive yet unable to communicate your wishes, would you pray that they did not pull the plug and discard your life as being worthless? I think not.

  • Guest

    Ok, so Mr. Musk is going to Mars and Mr. Bezos is going to the moon, and so apparently NASA is bound and determined to go nowhere very slowly with the largest and most expensive rocket and capsule ever designed, but never flown. Thanks for that.

    Keep us posted on how it all turns out.

    • Robert G. Oler

      that was a hoot RGO

    • Chris

      And Mr. Bolden said NASA is going to an asteroid. Of the three (SpaceX, Blue Origin, NASA), which has launched humans into space? Mr. Bezos’s rocket has flown where? Can the Falcon 9 be used for a Mars mission?

      I wholeheartedly embrace commercial space and celebrate what they have achieved, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      • Guest

        Ok, I volunteer to ride on the next SpaceX cargo mission to the ISS if they can squeeze me in. I’ll even bring back the American flag for you. Mr. Bezos rocket flew supersonically to a fairly high altitude before it lost aerodynamic stability, as I recall, roughly equivalent to the Ares 0 test flight. Plus he’s spending $50 million a year on a tap off cycle deep throttleable hydrolox engine (a smaller scale J-2S) with the sole purpose of establishing reusable and SSTO capable LEO space flight, as well as lunar landings with presumably clustered versions of this vehicle, with the stated purpose of commercializing the moon. And yes, the Falcon 9 can reach escape velocity, and the Dragon has an escape velocity capable heat shield, so by definition it is capable of a Mars Mission. You’ve really got to try harder. One has to wonder where all of these developments will be in the year 2025 to get a handle on the SLS, because unless some major changes are made to the program and design of this launcher it will certainly be on the scrap heap of history by that time.

        • Chris

          You do realize there is no life support functionality on the current Dragon, right? Feel free to have them squeeze you in. :) Also, do show me where anyone has realistically proposed using a Falcon 9 for a Mars mission. I’ll gladly be wrong there.

          Seriously, like I said, I applaud the commercial space program and all they have done. Sorry to use a cliche, but pride comes before the fall. Fortunately, I also believe that those actually working at SpaceX and Blue Origin are smart enough not to be caught up in the fanboy community.

          I really have no idea whether SLS or SpaceX or Blue Origin will be successful. I’m just willing to admit it.

          • Guest

            I’ll take a rebreather and some oxygen. And I do believe Mr. Musk developed the Dragon with Mars in mind. Certainly Dragon 2, which I believe will be announced later this year. But by all means, put your faith in the rocket that doesn’t exist and the zombie capsule costing tens of billions but never yet flown.

            • Chris

              A rebreather and some oxygen? Man, those Mercury/Gemini/Apollo/Soyuz cosmonauts/astronauts were/are really overdressed.

              I put my faith in all the teams that are trying to explore space around the world. I want them all to succeed. However, whether you like it or not, NASA is still the only US organization that has sent people into orbit. That is valuable experience. One can still support commercial space and acknowledge that as well as the other things I mentioned. Despite the blog name, this is engineering, not politics where one is never allowed to admit they are anything other than perfect. Hubris in politics may win elections, but hubris in engineering kills people.

              • JimNobles

                Last I heard the cargo Dragon had some minimal life-support capability such as pressure and temperature control. Some of NASAs cargo requires it. So I think Guests idea of taking a rebreather and some oxygen is not that daring a proposal.

                After the first Dragon mission of two orbits Elon did say that if someone would have been on-board they would have had a “nice ride”.

                It would need to be a quick trip to ISS though, not one of those 2.5 day ones.

              • Guest

                I put my faith in all the teams that are trying to explore space around the world.

                I would rather put taxpayer money in robots exploring hard objects in space and instruments detecting particles emanating from objects in space, as that appears to have much more national value, and in the end is a lot cheaper and more beneficial for humanity. As far as engineering is concerned, I am of the opinion that a billion dollar launch vehicle costing tens of billions of dollars to develop, that simply ends smashed up at the bottom of the ocean is not a very good investment of taxpayer money in the post SpaceX engineering world.

                It doesn’t take much engineering sense to make a launch vehicle that almost reaches orbit, with the most powerful (SRBs) and efficient (SSMEs) boosters and engines known to man, able to reach orbit or escape velocity. Already this proposal has pretty much gone viral everywhere but in congress and the ninth floor of headquarters. But I readily admit that politics trumps engineering at NASA and in congress.

                I don’t fund proposals. I just write them. And I’m at the end of a long line of volunteers to be the first astronaut to get that flag.

              • JimNobles

                Guest said, “Already this proposal has pretty much gone viral everywhere…”

                Cool! Post a link please.

              • A rebreather and some oxygen? Man, those Mercury/Gemini/Apollo/Soyuz cosmonauts/astronauts were/are really overdressed.

                For a quick trip to the ISS, that would be more than adequate. In fact, just a scuba tank with air would do the job.

            • Guest

              Viral in the space cadet world is a pretty limited venue, but already there are several threads over at NSF covering commercial liquid boosters for the SLS, Charlie just mentioned in Space Board testimony of the ease of mixing and matching lunar and asteroidal mission trajectories, and of course, my 2012 NIAC paper was submitted several months before the Keck report was released, although they were studying this concept simultaneously with my own group.

              I’m not the Gaetano Morano type, but I’m still suspicious that the Keck people really understand angular momentum. Our focus has been almost entirely on derotation techniques, in preparation for non-destructive (unmessy) deflection, which we proposed to test on geosynchronous zombie sats first, and before that on very small objects in the ISS atmosphere.

              The solar system is already a pretty messy place, but the near Earth environment is one place that is already off the scale in terms of man made messes, there seems no reason to me to extend those messes to Cis-lunar space, and certainly to me more kinetic impactors seems to be unadvisable at this time, certainly in locations that we may with to visit in the future, such as closely orbiting rubble piles with large moons (the proposed ESA mission). The moon obviates most of those problems with its relatively deep gravity well, but another things we’ve been looking at are impact induced orbital dust and exhaust plume ejects from landings. This has caused us to reevaluate several different approached to lunar landings. I’ve changed my mind a number of times in regard to space cadet scenarios due to newly acquired information on new phenomenon (GCR SEP for instance), and I expect I will change it several times again. Space cadet ideas have a very limited lifetime in my circle of collaborators.

            • porkfight

              This whole conversation string is hilarious.

              Guest,
              Dragon is not designed to even survive a trip through the Van Allen belt.

              Falcon Heavy can loft ~10,000kg direct to Mars. Obviously the number of launches and thus the amount of independent hardware elements are ridiculus without a more efficient upper stage (if it ever gets built).

              Dragon has lost multiple systems in the benign radiation environement of LEO during its ISS missions. Redundancy has saved it, but the ionizing radidation flux experienced on a trip to mars is hundreds of thousands to millions of times greater.

              The cost of designing a true rad-hard system dwarfs the cost of simply building a capsule structure with mostly COTS avionics hardware.

              There are many other deficiencies of Dragon with respect to long duration spacelight beyond LEO. Note that simply using PICA for the main heat shield does not mean a spacecraft can handle the thermal and mechanical loads of direct reentry from the moon or mars.

              A NASA study team looked at using a commercial crew vehicle and a space-only vehicle instead of Orion, but found that modifying a commercial vehicle to meet their basic set of requirements would be designing Orion again, and it would cost even more.

              None of the Commerical crew vehicles in development are capable of leaving low earth orbit. Problems include sufficient radiation shielding to protect crews from X-class solar particle events, adequate radiation hardened avionics & sensors, substantially more MMOD (micrometeroid & orbital debris) protection than LEO vehicles (they can be informed of debris and can survive small leaks), long mission durations over extended temperatures swings with high radiation, and emergency survival capabilities.

              • Guest

                Dragon is not designed to even survive a trip through the Van Allen belt.

                Well I guess the whole Mars thing is off then. You had better get on the horn and inform Mr. Musk right away. At least send him an email.

                And all those satellites and probes that flew through those radiation belts, they’re all dead, right? Wooosh.

              • JimNobles

                Yeah Dude, really! You need to get on the phone to Elon and explain to him that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with his whole Mars idea. He’ll probably be very grateful for having someone finally sort that all out for him.

                Don’t wait. Call now! He needs you.

              • Chris

                You need to get on the phone to Elon and explain to him that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with his whole Mars idea.

                Could you show me where Musk has ever said that current instantiation of the Dragon capsule is going to go to Mars? That is the only thing porkflight is saying. Again, praise SpaceX for what they have done. Heck, I’ll even throw in the whole ridiculous stowaway idea now for free if you’d like, but enough with the hype!

                BTW, he’s right about the avionics.

              • Guest

                With the amount of payload capacity that Mr. Musk thinks he will have in the near future I suspect he will look at a mix of rad hardening and outright shielding, whatever it takes, and whatever works the best and is cheaper. And he’ll have plenty of missions to test and work out the details of whatever he ends up doing.

      • DCSCA

        “You do realize there is no life support functionality on the current Dragon, right?” noted Chris.

        Mr. Musk, boasted on Jimmy Kimmel’s show in February, a ‘stowaway’ could have survived a ride on Dragon up to and back from the ISS. Bravado, of course. Just hype, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from a NewSpacers seeking parody though false equivalency yet fly nobody. The microbes on a wheel of cheese can survice. A human, not so much. And until any of these commercial firms actually put some skin in the game and decide the value of success outweighs the risk of failure, it’s all just sucker hype and false equivalency. When NASA flew Shepard and Glenn, per Chris Keraft, the rocket technology of the times had a 65% success rate at best. And the value of success for the United States outweighed the risk of failure at that time. Today, profit driven commercial firms will never accept that kind of risk/failure, ‘profit/loss ration. That’s why government do HSF on an orbital scale and beyond- for geo=poliical and power projection purposes– not to make a buck,.

        • Mr. Musk, boasted on Jimmy Kimmel’s show in February, a ‘stowaway’ could have survived a ride on Dragon up to and back from the ISS.

          And what would have killed them if they’d gone, with a scuba tank? He was right.

          • Chris

            And what would have killed them if they’d gone, with a scuba tank? He was right.

            You are making my point for me with your hyperbole. But since you said it: The valve problem delayed docking with Dragon by a day. A SCUBA tank really would have had enough air for the one planned day, let alone the extra day? Same issue on reentry.

            Just to be clear since I think this is being missed again, I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST COMMERCIAL SPACE! I have a SpaceX hat. My son launches a SpaceX rocket. I think it’s really cool. What I don’t like is some equating SpaceX and Blue Origin, etc. to what NASA has done. NASA has launched people into space. Not theoretical stowaways–real people with real families. NASA understands what’s it is like to know a human is on a launch pad and may die, not that a load of laundry might burn up. Commercial space has made amazing strides. However, there’s no need to over-hype it to the point at which when people die, and they will, suddenly the public is shocked that it’s more difficult than slapping on a SCUBA tank.

            • The valve problem delayed docking with Dragon by a day. A SCUBA tank really would have had enough air for the one planned day, let alone the extra day? Same issue on reentry.

              OK, then half a dozen tanks.

              • You are making my point for me with your hyperbole. But since you said it: The valve problem delayed docking with Dragon by a day. A SCUBA tank really would have had enough air for the one planned day, let alone the extra day? Same issue on reentry.

                I see you didn’t answer my question. If they had food, air and water, all of which they could have easily packed, what would kill or harm them?

              • Chris

                I see you didn’t answer my question. If they had food, air and water, all of which they could have easily packed, what would kill or harm them?

                I suppose if they hung on really tight at launch. :) Seriously, I have no idea. I don’t have the specs. But if your version of commercial flight means you just throw in some air, water, and food with no way to control the spacecraft from inside or take care of certain private functions, etc., I’ll wait for Orion.

              • JimNobles

                Chris said, “I’ll wait for Orion.”

                As you wish but Dragon is likely to moving people years before Orion does. If it ever does. If they ever get their design and weight issues under control.

              • I suppose if they hung on really tight at launch.

                Beanbag chair would have done the job, but it’s no big deal to install a couch with restraints.

                I don’t have the specs.

                The specs are that it deliver pressurized cargo within a reasonable habitable temperature range. The only thing lacking from a life-support standpoint is sufficient air for a long trip.

                But if your version of commercial flight means you just throw in some air, water, and food with no way to control the spacecraft from inside or take care of certain private functions, etc., I’ll wait for Orion.

                That is not “my version of commercial flight.” I’m simply pointing out that if someone had wanted to go along for the ride, and was willing to rough it, they would have done just fine.

              • Chris

                And I’m simply pointing out that it’s still not a human rated vehicle. If all it takes is a beanbag chair and a scuba tank, then I want the $440 million of taxpayer money back that NASA is giving to SpaceX to help human rate Dragon and Falcon.

              • Most of the money needed for “human rating” is in developing and testing the launch abort system. But it’s perfectly possible to fly without one. Someone could have been on every single Dragon flight to date, and would have had no need for one. The other issue is that they need to get a docking adapter to allow it to be used as a lifeboat, because berthing is unacceptable for that requirement.

                Life support isn’t that big a deal, given that the vehicle is already designed for pressurized cargo. And the couches have already been demonstrated, with NASA astronauts.

            • And I’m simply pointing out that it’s still not a human rated vehicle.

              Who cares? What does that have to do with anything I wrote? A vehicle doesn’t have to be “human rated” for humans to fly on it. (Hint: Shuttle was not human rated.) NASA hasn’t built a “human-rated” vehicle since the sixties.

              • Chris

                Where did I mention the shuttle? Thanks, but I already understood what human rated meant. Last time for the sake of nothing, obviously: if you want commercial space to die along with the first astronauts, feel free to keep hyping it and raising expectations that it’s so easy to just throw people into a spacecraft. As I said before, fortunately the people actually doing the work (SpaceX, et al) have the sense to know it. But it will be for naught if public expectation is otherwise.

              • Where did I mention the shuttle?

                You mentioned human rating, as though it had any useful meaning.

                if you want commercial space to die along with the first astronauts, feel free to keep hyping it and raising expectations that it’s so easy to just throw people into a spacecraft.

                I neither hyped anything, or raised any expectations. I was just describing reality. Sorry you have such problems dealing with it, and reading comprehension in general.

      • “Of the three (SpaceX, Blue Origin, NASA), which has launched humans into space?”

        You know… before the Apollo missions went to the Moon, Apollo hadn’t gone to the Moon. Similar can be said for many other space techs/projects/missions :)

    • windbourne

      Orion and SLS is being forced on NASA by CONgressional republicans. It is a near certainty that when SpaceX flies the FH in less than 1 year, AND announces the BFR, well, that will kill the SLS.

      It is great that NASA focus on asteroid capture. That will enable us to do a lot with mars and mining the asteroid belt.

      • JimNobles

        windbourne said, “Orion and SLS is being forced on NASA by CONgressional republicans.”

        And Senator Nelson, Dem. Fla.

        ” It is a near certainty that when SpaceX flies the FH in less than 1 year, AND announces the BFR, well, that will kill the SLS.”

        I wish but I’m not so sure. The powerful politicians behind SLS will keep it going as long as they can. But I do agree that it will be much, much more difficult to defend SLS logically after FH becomes operational. As for Elon’s BFR I have no idea when he will formally announce such a project. So far he’s just hinted at it two or three times. I don’t know what his schedule is.

  • Coastal Ron

    However, he made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. “NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,” he [Bolden] said.

    NASA’s goal should be to extend our horizons, and going back to the Moon does not extend our horizons.

    If people think the Moon is an interesting place, then by all means grab your wallet and start funding a private exploration effort. Last century NASA figured out how to get to the Moon safely and return, and now it is up to everyone else to figure out how to exploit that.

    Even if the U.S. Government at some point determines that the Moon needs to be “settled and secured” for national reasons, it won’t be NASA that will take the lead, since that is not NASA’s area of expertise – they are rocket scientists, not settlers and miners.

    He warned that if the next administration tries to change course again back to the Moon, “it means we are probably, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.”

    We’re already hamstrung by Congress forcing NASA to build a massive rocket that they won’t providing enough funding for NASA to use.

    Folks, we need to build up our capabilities before we’re ready to venture out beyond LEO, since shooting “Apollo on steroids” capsules around the Moon is not the model of space exploration we can afford.

    We need to build reusable commodity hardware that can be economically produced, and use our capabilities to determine how far we go next. As of today that’s nowhere, since there is no funding for fuel depots, Solar Electric Propulsion tugs, and all the other infrastructure we’ll need to leave LEO and stay out there. We need to develop these things first so anyone (NASA, private companies, etc.) can use them, then we’ll be ready to go – anywhere.

    • DCSCA

      “If people think the Moon is an interesting place, then by all means grab your wallet and start funding a private exploration effort.” mused Ron.

      The history of moden rocketry has repeatedly demonstrated that this kind of mind set goes no place, fast. It has been government, in various guises for various geo-political motives, which has pushed the technology and science forward in this field. Private industry has always been a follow along, casing in where it could. You know that, Ron.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA whined:

        Private industry has always been a follow along…

        Do you have a reading comprehension problem?

        We’ve already been to the Moon, so what I’m advocating is that if someone thinks we should go back, that it should be private industry “following along”, or following decades later in this case.

        Sheesh, what a Maroon!

        • DCSCA

          what I’m advocating is that if someone thinks we should go back, that it should be private industry “following along”, or following decades later in this case.

          Won’t happen, Ron. Where’s the profit in it? America went to the moon to project political power, economic vigor for suppotive insustries and national prestige. A loss leader- not to make a buck, and that’s what private insudtry is in business for- to make a profit. Your ‘private firms’ seek government subsidies anyway just to get off the ground because the private capital markets continue to balk at it. It’s redundant, too. We already have several government space programs- civil, miliatry and dark, thank you. Show me your business plan– where’s the profit? Show me the money, Ron.

    • windbourne

      Exactly. Private Space WILL go back there. And soon. The reason is that if private space builds more bases in LEO, it really does little for them. Sure, nations will want to send ppl up there, but if that is the end, then no. It will do little for them. However, if you are going to the moon, well, that is the next Antarctica/Arctic land grabs. And yes, there WILL be land grabs. It is a certainty.

      Count on the fact that nations like Saudi Arabia, OAE, etc. Canada, Australia, EU, UK, and yes, even NASA, will want to be on the moon again. NASA simply does not want to pay top dollar for it. They have far more important things to do. BUT, I suspect that they would happily pay .5B/year/astronaut to have 2-4 ppl on the moon. And yes, 1-2B/ year to have 2-4 ppl doing science, and R*D will appeal to them.

  • Casey Stedman

    There are a number of commercial entities who are intent on opening the lunar frontier. The Golden Spike Company http://goldenspikecompany.com/, OpenLuna http://openluna.org/ , and all of the participants in the Google Lunar X-Prize http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/ .
    Perhaps we’ll see some commercial lunar activity in the next decade. If NASA maintains it’s strategic direction to focus on BEO (and beyond Lunar orbit)missions, there appears to be a very uncluttered opportunity to focus on the Moon by private sector. And I hope that nobody has a problem with that.

    • Fred Willett

      All of these commercia efforts to mine to moon, mine an asteroid or whatever rely on an unspoken assumption. And that is cheaper launch is coming one day soon.
      That is the real underlying issue.
      Cheap launch.
      If it arrives. If Musk, or someone else can reduce the cost of actually getting to space then all these dreams are possible.
      Without it…?

    • DCSCA

      “There are a number of commercial entities who are intent on opening the lunar frontier.” said Casey.

      Meaningless press release fodder of promises of ‘things to come’– a work of science fiction as well .It’s April, 2013– and ‘commercial’ has failed to even attempt to launch, orbit and safely returny anybosy from LEO, let alone head for Luna. And as log as the risk of failure outweighs the value of success in a low to no ROI marketplace for profit-driven commercial firms, they ain’t going there any time soon. Over the 85-plus year history of modern rocketry, it has been governments which have led the way in this field and prushed the technology forward, not private industry. Goddard was starved for private funding while at the same time it was the German government which kept Von Braun’s reseawrch flush with Reichmarks. It was the Soviet goverment which funded Korolev and when Sputnik flew, private industry again balked in the West and it was government which stepped up and financed the American response, created NASA and moved the technology forward.

      No sir, it has always been governments, in various guises and for geo-political motives, which has moved this technology forward. Private industry has always been a follow along, cashing in where it could. Which is precisely what we’re seeing today.

  • common sense

    All right, all right! Now please be serious Mr. Bolden. I will ask the question again. When are we going back to the Moon?

    And BTW ” you can change the asteroid mission a little bit…”. To go to the Moon??? And by his resume he’s a darn smart guy. Of course there ought to be a mission defined in the first place. Nonetheless. Change “a little bit”? Only a little bit?

    Oh well.

    • Guest

      I’m not exactly sure what you are talking about but you can execute a lunar flyby and pretty much go wherever you want in the plane of the ecliptic, and still deliver a payload to the moon. This is very simple simulator fodder. It does require fuel though.

  • Egad

    I’d guess the title of this piece derives from “Rich Fantasy Lives,” a cheerily bleak filksong.

    “Can’t go to the Moon, at least any time soon,
    But an inner-space trip costs you no fare.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tJU9w6_YkI

    http://www.tomsmithonline.com/lyrics/rich_fantasy_lives.htm

  • amightywind

    We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.

    But we’ll let the last disastrous course change, Obama’s, stand. No, we will certainly have to redirect NASA in 2016. It is a mess. Yes, the lunar mission has widespread support.

    • Matt

      Concur with almightywind. This Administration has been anti-NASA since the get-go. It is a mess, and if the administration won’t consider a lunar mission, then it’s up to Congress to tell NASA to do it. The asteroid mission is as popular at NASA as the plague, and Charlie Bolden stil doesn’t get it?

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        The asteroid mission is as popular at NASA as the plague…

        Though we may live in a democracy, the only vote employees get is with their feet (i.e. they can leave if they don’t like what the goals are).

        And besides, NASA employees trying to repeat what their parents and grandparents did is not “cutting edge exploration”.

        The Moon is now a place for exploitation, not exploration, as we’ve already been there, done that.

        It’s time to move on to Mars.

        • Guest

          It’s time to move on to Mars Ceres.

          I fixed that for you. We’re already AT Mars. Boring. Dead. Planet.

          We need a new boring dead planet to look at.

          • Coastal Ron

            Guest said:

            It’s time to move on to Mars Ceres.

            Nope, Mars is it. If we’re going to live anywhere else in the Solar system, Mars is the most likely place.

            We’ll mine Ceres to rehydrate Mars, but no one is going to want to live there…

            • Guest

              I didn’t say or mean ‘we’ and I didn’t say or mean ‘live there’.

              Woosh. Extra points for being a space cadet, though. A delusional space cadet you are, but a space cadet, nevertheless. Congratulations, you’ve just graduated.

              • JimNobles

                I’m a space cadet also. Would you like to insult me too?

              • Guest

                If your skin is that thin with respect to criticism of your space cadet beliefs and proposals then you aren’t really a space cadet.

        • DCSCA

          “The Moon is now a place for exploitation, not exploration, as we’ve already been there, done that.” blusters Ron.

          THe late Neil Armstrong, who has actually been there BTW, stated just the opposite to Congress noting that pretty much all of Luna has yet to be explored. And, in fact, the six Apollo landig sites are ‘places’ now. the rest of Luna is not. =sigh=

          • Matt

            Agree with DCSCA. Apollo only scratched the surface when it came to Lunar Exploration. There’s the lunar poles, the far side, and a number of other sites (all considered by Apollo planners but rejected-or were sites for 18 and 19) Dave Scott said after Apollo 15 that there was still a lot to be seen and done there….and when we get a new administration, (though we should’ve had one this last election, IMHO, but I digress), this travesty of Bolden/Garver ought to be reversed.

            I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Moon first, then NEOs, then Mars. Under Flex path, you can get 4-7 years of exploration work done before going back to the lunar surface. Ron, it’s not a question of the Moon being the Ultimate Destination: that is Mars. But it should be the FIRST destination.

        • It’s high time we leave Low Earth Orbit! Hey, been there, done that, a heck of a lot of times! Just how many times are we supposed to “repeat the achievements of our grandparents”?? There were roughly 130 Space Shuttle flights; many of those in the ’90′s & ’00′s were space station visit missions. (To the Russian Mir, & to the ISS.) Just how many times can you build a ‘new & improved’ mousetrap, and keep on manning & resupplying LEO stations?? What’s supposed to happen after the ISS has reached the limits of its operating life, and needs de-orbiting?? What, we then have to launch a commercially-built ISS-2?! So this boys, is the next twenty-five years of the future of American space travel: we simply never get out of LEO!! Just wash, rinse, & repeat……

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        …and if the administration won’t consider a lunar mission, then it’s up to Congress to tell NASA to do it.

        Um, Matt? Don’t you realize that Congress has only decided once in 40 years to try to return to the Moon, and that Congress changed it’s mind and cancelled it because it was over budget and over schedule?

        And since Congress can, by law, create a program for NASA to do whatever Congress wants, why do you think they haven’t created a replacement for the Constellation program? It’s not because of Obama, since Congress is forcing NASA to build the SLS against the wishes of Obama.

        What makes you think Congress cares about going back to the Moon? Do the majority of U.S. Taxpayers care?

        Go ask 20 random people if they want their tax money to fund a return to the Moon, or they’d rather pay off the debt, fund education better, fund better healthcare or build a stronger military. Then you’ll see what I mean…

      • JimNobles

        Matt said, “This Administration has been anti-NASA since the get-go.”

        Well that’s completely untrue. The Administration has tried to give NASA more money than Congress would approve.

        I think only the people who believe NASA’s main focus should be their favorite destination or program think that. For example, the Moonies thought they had hijacked NASA and turned it into a Moon Exploration Agency and when Constellation go cancelled they got a rude surprise, became very upset, and got their feelings hurt badly. Some of them are still struggling with the psychological effects of that.

        On the other hand, those of us who think NASA should be an enabling agency for American space exploration feel that the new NASA much better represents our views and America’s expansion into space. At least I do.

        I didn’t like the change at first but after I thought it out I realized I was glad it happened.

      • “…then it’s up to Congress to tell NASA to do it”

        And pay for it?

        Oh, and like a certain launcher, tell them exactly how to do it?

      • windbourne

        wow. Please show where O has been the one that has cut NASA. You can not. O has had multiple fights with the republicans who want to throw large sums of money at their favorite programs (aka jobs programs) while working hard to kill off private space.

        • Matt

          Obama voted against NASA when he was a Senator, and in the ’08 Campaign, he wanted to delay Constellation (but not kill it-yet) to divert its funds to pay for “unspecified education programs.”

    • MrEarl

      For once windy is right. Obama’s last course change and then indecisiveness on implementation has been a disaster.
      The VSE presented a broad view of going to Mars by way of the moon.
      While I thought using an asteroid mission to prepare for a trip to Mars was not the best approach, a weak case could be made for such a mission.
      Now, bringing a tiny asteroid into a stable lunar/Earth orbit then using the SLS/Orion mission scheduled for a 2021 timeframe to reach it is just the latest example showing how clueless this administration is.
      For the money they would spend on this lame endevour, the gateway at L2 could be built and be operational in the same time frame, with international cooperation. This gateway would be both a destination for scientific discovery and a launching point for explorations of much larger NEO’s and Mars.

      • pathfinder-01

        Although I do like the L2 gateway idea, the problem with international cooperation is how does any nation besides the US, use it?

        ESA and Japan lack rockets able to throw their ISS resupply craft to L1/L2. They would need to develop smaller resupply space craft or bigger rockets to be able to do so.

        Russia I can’t see what they could bring. The presentation I saw used a Russian station module, but ah those modules and their associated systems both in space and on the ground were designed for LEO. Who does the modifications and testing for L1/L2? Russia could throw a modified and lightly packed Progress to L1/L2 but then again who pays for it. Manned Soyuz to L1/L2 with two launches and again modifications and who pays for it?

        This just does not use current abilities of international partner well or forces some big costs on them.

  • Hiram

    Boldin, and Obama as well, are exactly right in that, as noted, just sending people back to the Moon doesn’t broaden our horizons. But if you send people back to the Moon with the goal of accomplishing something of significant import to humanity, that changes the deal entirely.

    We have to stop the naive presumption that the destination is a goal. For the Moon, it is absolutely not. For Apollo and the Moon, it was.

    Now the trouble, of course, is figuring out what of significant import can be achieved by sending people back to the Moon. I don’t believe any rationale has been credibly established. Resources for expansion of humans in space? Sure, but why do you need people there to harvest those resources, and why do humans really need to expand into space right now anyway? No, “destiny” doesn’t drive appropriations. Resources to return to the Earth? Eh, go breathe some He3 and keep talking funny. But still, it is increasingly unnecessary to send people there to do that.

    Now, this isn’t to say that human visits to, and capture of, an asteroid offer any more significant import. But if you want a destination to be a goal, an asteroid works fine for that.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    There’s no NASA human asteroid (forget Mars) exploration mission, either. Even under the most optimistic circumstance — where NASA’s funding over the past three years had matched the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and was projected to continue to grow from those levels into the future — there was no funding for “In-Space Elements” like transit stages, mission modules, and proximity vehicles or EVA equipment. See the bottom of the middle column in the chart on p. 8 of the document below:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=38348

    You can’t execute a human asteroid exploration mission without a means to get to the asteroid, a means to keep the crew alive and sane on the trip, and a means to move about the asteroid itself. The budget has never had funding for developing any of those systems, even when the President’s FY 2013 budget in that document was projected to be $19.96 billion (see top of p. 4).

    And since then, NASA’s budget has only gotten worse — substantially worse — through deficit reduction and sequestration. NASA’s actual budget for FY 2013 is only $16.65 billion:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2013/03/23/with-budget-uncertainty-resolved-sequestrations-effects-kick-in/

    That’s a cut of $3.31 billion or 17% from the projection in the document above.

    NASA doesn’t even have funding to build the service module for MPCV in the US anymore. That’s been outsourced to ESA in the hope that they can come up with the funding.

    With the budget NASA has to work with and the huge carrying costs of SLS and MPCV, it’s delusional for Bolden and Carnesale to be arguing over human asteroid missions versus human lunar missions. (There’s no funding for a transit stage, lunar lander, or EVA equipment for a Moon mission, either.) It’s like poverty-stricken family arguing whether they’re going to vacation in the French Riviera or Tahiti — they can’t afford either. You can’t carry out a program of human space exploration, regardless of target, if you don’t have a budget with which to build some human space exploration hardware.

    The only way NASA can afford human space exploration missions is if SLS and MPCV are terminated and the savings plowed into developing “In-Space Elements” that are launched on existing LVs or much less expensive HLVs. That’s the argument Bolden and Carnesale should be having.

    And if the parochial politics on the Hill and/or the political priorities of the White House don’t allow the SLS/MPCV cancellation argument to happen, then Bolden and Carnesale should just state the facts as they exist — that some ~$16-20 billion is going to be wasted on SLS and MPCV until the next Administration realizes that they have no purpose and terminates them — and then move on to the next discussion topic.

    The degree to which these arguments between suppossed leaders of the nation’s civil space program are disconnected from the budget reality of that program is grotesque.

    • Fred Willett

      Bolden is the servant of the administration, which is the servant of the congress.
      The congress has told the administration (and thus Bolden)
      (on voice of doom)
      “BUILD SLS”
      (off voice of doom)
      So that’s what Bolden’s gotta do.
      The only thing he could do was commission a study (Booz Allen) which showed that SLS is not gunna happen. But the congress didn’t take any notice of Booz Allen and so Bolden has no choice but to do his darndest to to try and actually make SLS happen.
      Of course there’s no budget to actually use it if by some miracle it actually gets built.

    • Jim R.

      Thank you… great post. This latest fantasy, excuse me, “plan” is nothing more than PR. Obama is not serious about space anything (but at least he’s not standing in the way of the commercial work). And he appointed someone who is not serious about space to run NASA. As an American, it’s embarrassing to read and listen to Bolden.

      • DCSCA

        “As an American, it’s embarrassing to read and listen to Bolden.” says Jim R.

        And if you’re Chinese, or Russian.. or any other rival nation that understands HSF ops as a projection of economic vigor and political power, they’re welcoming words, indeed. Bolden is shuttle deadwood. And a CIC on the ball would jettison him. But he won’t.

  • common sense

    “It’s like poverty-stricken family arguing whether they’re going to vacation in the French Riviera or Tahiti — they can’t afford either.”

    Ah ah! Sorry DB9 but this is false equivalency. Poverty stricken families do not know that the French Riviera or even Tahiti for that matter actually exist.

    Tres beaucoup disappointing indeed.

  • OBSERVE-TOUCH-EARLY-OFTEN. This has been a “local” rallying point for NEO/NEA activities. Perhaps we need to stop talking about all that we think we know, start applying this simple approach,,,

  • Breaking news … Florida Today reports that Bill Nelson says he was briefed on next week’s budget proposal, which will request that SLS be used in 2021 to send an Orion crew to rendezvous with a captured asteroid in Earth orbit:

    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20130405/SPACE/130405027/NASA-crew-could-launch-captured-asteroid-by-2021

    • common sense

      “mankind’s first attempt at modifying the heavens to enable the permanent settlement of humans in space.”

      Hey Stephen, anything he might have inhaled near where he lives? “Modifying the heavens”? “To enable the permanent settlement of humans in space”? Really? Wow.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      It’s probably doable (although it would likely lead to the de-funding of other projects). However, I think that the message it sends would be counter to Nelson’s objective, i.e.: “Going beyond cis-Lunar space is too hard so we have to bring objects back to us to study… Small objects, of course, because moving big ones is pretty much impossible.”

      IMO, if they’re really serious about flexible path and getting to the Martian surface by around 2035, they need to vote to execute Boeing’s SLS-based Moon-Asteroid-Mars concept:

      Part 1 – Moon – http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/01/boeing-discusses-sls-robust-lunar-program/
      Part 2 – Mars – http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/01/boeing-outlines-technology-crewed-mars-missions/

      It’s hardly Griffin’s DRM-5 behemoth, but it’s a good starting place for both sustainable human lunar exploration and flights beyond cis-Lunar space to Mars and other targets.

      • Ben Russell-Gough wrote:

        It’s probably doable (although it would likely lead to the de-funding of other projects).

        My first thought is that the ISS agreements expire in 2020. Congress might choose to “retire” (i.e. splash) ISS in 2020 rather than extend it, to focus on the asteroid mission.

        Right now, they’re just asking for money to do the study. The question is where in the authorization cycle they would ask Congress to commit to all the $$$ to pay for this escapade.

        • Ben Russell-Gough

          It would have to be relatively rapidly.

          The plan, as it is described by Nelson, would be a modification of the EM-2 mission (the first crewed flight of the SLS/Orion system), which would take place in 2021. So that’s eight years to find a target, fund, build and fly the ‘flying coffee mug’ robot capture vehicle and plan the mission. They would also need to accelerate development of the SEV exploration vehicle as that would be used as the airlock for the EVAs in the mission.

          This isn’t impossible but it would take a mission focus and a fleetness of corporate footwork that NASA hasn’t really demonstrated since the Apollo program was in development.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      Several important questions that the reporters at Florida Today (and elsewhere) should be asking:

      1) Assuming it pans out, where is the $2.6 billion-plus for the robotic NEO retrieval mission going to come from? NASA can’t afford to develop the service module for MPCV in the US, so ESA is going to fund the module’s $320 million cost to have it developed in Europe. If NASA can’t afford to develop a $320 million service module for MPCV, how can it afford a $2.6 billion-plus robotic NEO retrieval mission to give MPCV a target to go to?

      2) If the robotic NEO retrieval mission successfully retrieves a NEO and places it in lunar orbit, are the suppossed deep space capabilities of SLS and MPCV still necessary to visit it? Or can existing and lower-cost launch vehicles and capsules do the job faster and for far fewer taxpayer dollars?

      3) Is $2.6 billion to put one NEO in lunar orbit an effective use of taxpayer dollars for advancing human space exploration? How will this mission advance the communications, long-duration systems, and deep space operations necessary to explore targets in space that are weeks, months, and years away from Earth if MPCV is only going a few days away from Earth? How does rendezvousing with a controlled object in lunar orbit advance the state of the art in human space exploration when NASA repeatedly demonstrated that capability over 40 years ago in the Apollo Program?

      4) Is $2.6 billion to retrieve one, 7-meter NEO a good use of taxpayer dollars in terms of planetary defense? How does demonstrating a technique to move a NEO that is too small to threaten humans protect humanity from NEO threats? Wouldn’t this $2.6 billion be better spent developing techniques to move much larger and different types of NEOs?

      5) Is $2.6 billion for one NEO retrieval mission a good use of taxpayer dollars for science? Is this a priority in the planetary decadal survey? Even if not, wouldn’t it be better to spread that $2.6 billion across visits to multiple NEOs to get a better sampling?

      Like the ISS, there’s a little good that could come out of this robotic NEO retrieval mission. But like the ISS, the rationale is mixed and not clear cut and does not seem capable of supporting the $2.6 billion pricetag given the programmatic alternatives that could much better advance the same goals. Like ISS, it certainly cannot justify a multi-ten billion dollar pricetag when the costs of SLS and MPCV are factored in.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith said:

    which will request that SLS be used in 2021 to send an Orion crew to rendezvous with a captured asteroid in Earth orbit

    Does anyone find it odd that Congress wants Commercial Crew vehicles to be proven to the nth degree before government employees ride them, but Congress is OK with sending government employees beyond the Moon in a spacecraft that’s never carried humans before, and on a rocket that’s only flown maybe twice, and has never carried humans before?

    Boy are they desperate to show that the SLS is somehow needed.

    • Coastal Ron wrote:

      Does anyone find it odd that Congress wants Commercial Crew vehicles to be proven to the nth degree before government employees ride them, but Congress is OK with sending government employees beyond the Moon in a spacecraft that’s never carried humans before, and on a rocket that’s only flown maybe twice, and has never carried humans before?

      I think it calls Congress’s bluff. Are you serious about a deep-space program or not? If so, pony up. If not, admit it’s workfare and let us spend the money on things that actually succeed, i.e. NewSpace.

  • JimNobles

    Florida Today said, “…Bill Nelson says he was briefed on next week’s budget proposal, which will request that SLS be used in 2021 to send an Orion crew to rendezvous with a captured asteroid in Earth orbit.”

    Not to be a party-pooper or anything but I didn’t see the part that would indicate that a SLS sized booster would be needed. Or, really, specifically a MPCV.

    Just sayin’

  • Its really not surprising that Bolden, Holdren, and Obama have no vision for NASA’s future. They’re just being consistent:-) And they’ve been anti-Moon right from the start!

    But I believe that if it is determined that returning to the Moon to utilize lunar water resources is the fastest and cheapest way to achieve NASA’s ultimate goal of putting humans on the surface of Mars, then NASA will be returning to the Moon whether Bolden, Holdren, or Obama like it or not:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Matt

      Concur, Marcel. This administration was against NASA even during the ’08 primaries. NASA will return to the lunar regolith, because as Ed Crawley said in his presentation that explained FlexPath, we’ll need to relearn surface operations in a planetary environment to get ready for Mars, and an asteroid (captured or otherwise) won’t cut it.

      One wonders what Hillary would’ve done had she been elected. Hopefully, in 2017, when we (finally) have a new NASA Administrator and a more NASA-friendly Administration, this grevious error will be….corrected.

      And you can bet that if there’s a confirmed Chinese lunar mission in the works, the politics (and this board’s about the politics of space) will be..intense.

      I see things have not changed since I was here last…the SpaceX fans have definitely taken over. One had hoped that differing views would be tolerated, even respected. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        I see things have not changed since I was here last…

        Well, that could be because the money issues (or lack thereof) that drive most of the discussions haven’t changed.

        Congress continues to insist on NASA building a rocket it didn’t ask for, but will not provide NASA enough money to actually use it.

        If Congress didn’t force NASA to build a government owned, government run, gigantic rocket, NASA would have plenty of money left in it’s budget to build and launch missions that go beyond LEO.

        So it’s readily apparent to quite a few of us that the reason Congress (actually, just a few in Congress) wants NASA to build the Senate Launch System (SLS) is because it provides jobs for the right companies in the right congressional districts, not because Congress (actually, just a few in Congress) want to do anything at all in space.

        Space Politics 101.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        One wonders what Hillary would’ve done had she been elected. Hopefully, in 2017, when we (finally) have a new NASA Administrator and a more NASA-friendly Administration, this grevious error will be….corrected.

        Assuming space is able to eek out any of her time, I’d say there is a good chance that she’ll recommend that the SLS program be cancelled due to a lack of funding to finish it and eventually use it. Remember, by that point the lack of any mission funding for SLS payloads will mean that they SLS will have no missions to fly for years, maybe even a decade given the normal schedule slips. If Congress hasn’t started funding a steady stream of SLS-only missions by next year, that will be your indication I’m right.

        A President Clinton would be able to do that since commercial space companies will have proven by then that they are up to the task of taking care of NASA’s transportation needs, so why will NASA need to build and operate a non-redundant and too-big rocket system? That’s not what’s needed to expand humanities presence beyond LEO, we need low-cost commodity transportation – that ain’t the SLS.

        And since a President Clinton is very likely to appoint Lori Garver as NASA Administrator (girl power!!), I’d say that Garver’s counsel on this will support that direction.

        Be careful what you wish for…

      • We will indeed need to re-learn manned surface operations, prior to sending our spacemen into far-deep interplanetary space!! All these New Space people & the Mars zealots seem to think that it’ll be a piece of cake, to land a crew on another planet and maintain them there for a full calendar year, with no worries. They forget just how technologically challenging the last three Apollo J missions were! Even a mere three-day stay on a rocky, sandy, regolith-laden world, puts you into many hard-to-predict complications. Longer-than-Apollo Lunar surface stays are clearly going to be necessary in order to prove the viability & durability of our machinery & equipment, upon a planetary surface setting.

  • Michael Listner

    All this presumes that SLS will get built and that an asteroid will be captured, which I highly doubt will happen. NASA under Bolden’s watch will be remembered for growth of commercial space and lots of expensive Power Point presentations about what NASA could have done.

    • JimNobles

      Michael Listner said, “All this presumes that SLS will get built and that an asteroid will be captured, which I highly doubt will happen.”

      I didn’t believe so in the beginning but I now strongly suspect SLS may get built, at least one copy, just because of the powerful political players involved. I don’t expect the system to become truly operational or to become in any real way a value to the American space program though. In my opinion it is a poster child for pork politics.

      I kind of hope the asteroid mission does happen though. The asteroid-mining concerns could use something to practice on.

      ” NASA under Bolden’s watch will be remembered for growth of commercial space and lots of expensive Power Point presentations about what NASA could have done.”

      If commercial space continues to grow I guess I’ll be happy with that. I don’t think politics will allow NASA to likely ever be what it once was. And maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe what’s happening is natural evolution.

      • windbourne

        I would argue that private space doing launch, and ultimately transhab units and bases, will allow NASA to RETURN to what it used to do: Bleeding edge work.
        Basically, NASA is supposed to do the things that commercial companies will not do. Yet, NASA has been forced to be a jobs program for the house republicans since 2000.

        Once NASA is 100% out of the launch game, then they will return to doing advance work and figuring out how to expand around the solar system with both robotics and human.
        And CONgress will not be able to stop it unless they defund NASA entirely.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      I agree.

      NASA can’t spare a few hundred million dollars to build all of MPCV in the US. There’s no way a robotic NEO retrieval mission with a pricetag approaching $3 billion is going to find its way into the budget. If you add in the typical 2x (Mars Curiousity) to 12x (JWST) cost growth from initial estimate associated with these flagship robotic missions, we’re looking at a $6 billion to $36 billion mission by the time it’s over. That’s Tinkerbell territory in this budget environment.

      Even if this robotic NEO retrieval mission didn’t exist, to avoid further schedule slippage, SLS needs to recover the couple billion dollars that it lost in the FY11-13 budgets compared to what it needed in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. And with MPCV 4,000 pounds overweight for reentry years before CDR and needing to add a little mass to address structural issues, it’s unclear that MPCV will ever fly astronauts operationally regardless of the budget.

      It’s far past time to start over and stop wasting limited NASA resources and taxpayer dollars on these near-unflyable projects.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Bolden said this absurd thing because he has to, because abandoning the moon is Obama policy. However both he and Obama will be gone in 2017 and a new policy will develop. Indeed, with the substitution of the mission to the asteroid to bringing an asteroid to lunar orbit, the new policy is already taking shape.

    • Matt

      Agreed, Mark. He has to do what the President tells him to do,and say what he’s told to say, though I imagine Bolden will get roasted again in House and Senate hearings for this travesty. And several of the SLS DRM (Design Reference Missions) include Lunar missions: not just rehashing Apollo 8, but actual landings. NASA returning to the moon is going to happen: the only question is when.

      Just my two cents, but this Administration’s the worst for NASA since Jimmy Carter.

      • JimNobles

        Mark and Matt:
        Are you guys not paying attention to reality at all? Who do you think is going to pay for a back-to-the-moon policy like you want? And why and the hell should the American taxpayers have to pay for your lunar fantasies?

        If you want things to happen with the moon then join up with others who feel the same way and get to work on it. Stop wishing for ways to rip off Americans who don’t share your beliefs.

        Jesus Christ, were either one of you even born in America? Do you not have any idea how things work here? The emergence of commercial space has allowed anyone to go in the direction they’d like when it comes to space. It doesn’t force us down one path like you want. People like you guys are part of the problem not part of the solution.

        • Mark R. Whittington

          While I like Golden Spike and wish it well, I’m not very hopeful about its prospects, absent of course a huge infusion of government subsidies. There is, after all, a precedence for that.

          • DCSCA

            While I like Golden Spike

            It’s fool’s gold. It makes for a sparkly distraction, but a worthless waste of time and resources. It won’t happen, Mark.

      • NASA returning to the moon is going to happen: the only question is when.

        If NASA personnel go to the moon, it will be by buying a ticket on a commercial vehicle.

        • Matt

          That is not politically possible and YOU know it. Rand, politics is politics, and the idea of NASA “buying a ticket” on a commercial craft is anathema to many on The Hill. NASA explores, the commercial sector supports, then exploits. And the commercial sector doesn’t get involved in something like exploration unless there’s money to be made somehow. You know it and I know it. When it comes to lunar exploration with people, Apollo only scratched the surface. WHEN, not if, NASA returns to the moon-as a proving ground for Mars surface operations, is the question. And it will have to come before the big prize: the Mars landing mission.

          • That is not politically possible and YOU know it. Rand, politics is politics, and the idea of NASA “buying a ticket” on a commercial craft is anathema to many on The Hill.

            Doesn’t matter. It’s already happening. That’s what commercial crew is all about. When there are affordable private missions going to and from the moon, for whatever purposes, NASA will never get the many billions from Congress to do their own.

            • windbourne

              esp. if and when SpaceX announces the BFR. That will likely be the nail in the SLS coffin. After all, if the BFR can send 150-200 tonnes into LEO for less than .5B/launch, well, SLS will have a difficult time competing esp. since it will not be allowed to launch outside of NASA. IOW, it will never be able to lower its price the way that the BFR could do.

            • Matt

              Commercial to LEO is one thing, Rand. Commercial on an exploration mission is entirely different. The private sector doesn’t explore new turf unless there’s a profit to be made. Said it before a while back: NASA explores, Commercial exploits-and also supports exploration (say, if/when a fuel depot in orbit or at L2 becomes reality-a BIG if) But going to the lunar poles, or the far side? Or Mars? That’s NASA’s job-along with other space agencies.

        • DCSCA

          “If NASA personnel go to the moon, it will be by buying a ticket on a commercial vehicle.” predicts rand

          You’ve got it backwards, Rand. If commercial ever tries for Luna, they won’t get off the ground without the help and experience of NASA personel.

  • DCSCA

    Said NASA Administrator Bolden: “NASA does not have a human lunar mission in its portfolio and we are not planning for one.”

    And there we have the Peter Principle at work. Sorry, Charlie. It’s precisely this kind of rigid, jarheaded, bureaucratic lament that reinforces why you outta just retire– or get fired.

    Back in the day, before there was an Apollo; before JFK’s speech; back when there was Ike, Explorer, Echo and Sputniks; back when our missiles ‘always blew up’- there was this group of slide-rule jockey-type-smart-guy engineers types, part of what was called the STG, who WERE thinking about lunar exploration plans even without any budget or executive directives. Yes, making plans before directive ever came down from the CIC. And when it did- they were ready with plans in the portfolio to go to and hit the road to the moon race, running. Retire, Charlie. You’re not part of NASA’s future.

    “However both he and Obama will be gone in 2017 and a new policy will develop.” mused Mark.

    Yep. This president put space in the out box back in 2010 at KSC. He has no interest in space. And the goofy asteroid nonsense is just place holding for the green eye shade folks. HRC will change policy — and both Bolden and Obama will be retired.

    • Matt

      Concur. Obaama was against Constellation “because it was a Bush thing”: remember that from one of his campaign staffers?

      There are lunar missions in the planning stage-the DRMs (Design Reference Missions) for SLS include lunar missions from simple orbit all the way to sorties to the surface. The guys there are just waiitng for the political winds to shift (i.e. Bolden, that witch Garver, Dr. Holdren, and the President leaving office on 20 Jan 2017) to get the go-ahead to begin detailed planning and so forth.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        Why is gender namecalling like “witches”, whether aimed at NASA managers or not, allowed onto this site?

        • DCSCA

          Probably as it’s a more colorful and less degrading term than ‘lobbyist’ -which is pretty much all she has been.

          • Matt

            Quite. Just because Charlie Bolden has come out against going back to the Moon doesn’t mean NASA won’t in the future. Especially if this mission turns out to be unfeasible. It sounds like Obama’s trying to please the “asteroid first” folks (however few they may be at the agency) and those who want lunar missions (i.e. having a destination you can land and walk on, but don’t want to develop a big expensive lander).

            • JimNobles

              Matt said,
              “Just because Charlie Bolden has come out against going back to the Moon doesn’t mean NASA won’t in the future.”

              Charlie didn’t “come out against going back to the moon”. Charlie told it like it is. There are no plans for NASA to return to the moon. There is no money for NASA to return to the moon. It is not Charlie’s choice whether NASA returns to the moon or not.

              Can you people not even understand the simplest principles by which our government works? Did they not teach Civics when you were in school? Do you truly not understand how the money works in a situation like this?

              There’s probably people in other countries reading this who understand more about how our government works. This is embarrassing.

  • NeilShipley

    Sorry to add some gloom to the commercial space fans but commercial crew looks likely to now slip to end 2017! Lack of money cited. Fancy that!

    • JimNobles

      Neil said, “Sorry to add some gloom to the commercial space fans but commercial crew looks likely to now slip to end 2017! Lack of money cited.”

      Yeah, saw that coming. I’m hoping it will mainly affect just Dream Chaser and CST-100. Dragon has got a pretty good head-start on them and Elon isn’t one to slow down if he can figure out a way to keep the pace up. I suspect NASA will help him, openly or quietly, any way they can.

      • Ben Russell-Gough

        As I understand it, the problem isn’t development anymore; NASA may not have sufficient funds to deploy Commercial Crew. Add to that the scale-back of the asteroid mission described here and in the more recent article and I think we’re finally watching NASA retreating from any deep space ambitions and possibly even from human spaceflight.

        • JimNobles

          Ben said, “I think we’re finally watching NASA retreating from any deep space ambitions and possibly even from human spaceflight.”

          I can’t see NASA voluntarily retreating from HSF. I think if something like that happens it would be because congress forced it somehow. And I don’t see the politics of that working.

        • Malmesbury

          According to something I heard via a friend in the political line, the commercial crew cutbacks have caused a bit of a panic. But not in the way you might think.

          Apparently one of the firms involved intends to complete milestones and tell NASA “We will assume you are good for the money”. The problem is (according to my friend) is that this will mean that they will fly before Orion. Which is not wanted.

          Cue attempts behind the scenes to re-define the milestones, so that completing them without getting paid doesn’t count. Or something.

          • JimNobles

            Malmesbury said, “The problem is (according to my friend) is that this will mean that they will fly before Orion.”

            I don’t really understand that. Crewed Dragon was always on track to fly before crewed Orion. By quite a bit. Is your friend saying they want to hold Dragon back until after that boiler-plate dummy orion thing launches maybe in ’14?

            That doesn’t make much sense.

            • Malmesbury

              Space Politics…..

              What happens in 2016?

              What might happen if one or more commercial crew vehicles fly – manned – before then, and Orion still hasn’t flown?

              The original deal was that Orion would fly an unmanned test first. This was actually considered a compromise – some of the Orion supporters wanted to demand that Orion fly manned before CC. By slowing down CC!!

              • JimNobles

                This may just be wishful thinking on my part but I expect SpaceX to fly a non-NASA crew within 6 months of a successful LAS test. It may just be a couple of orbits but I expect it to happen. Expecially if Elon thinks politics is purposely trying to hold commercial crew back.

                While there are some in NASA who would not want something like that to happen there are many in NASA who probably would like to see it.

                So what I’m most interested in now is seeing when the LAS test takes place.

          • Neil Shipley

            I wonder just how deep his pockets are and willing to spend Elon is? He’s never really indicated a timeframe other than to say that he would spend the money to develop a crew vehicle but with NASA funding, it would reduce the timeline.
            Is he willing to spend additional money to stick to the current timelines irrespective of the level of NASA funding and would NASA agree to it? Seems like he would be ok within the current SAA until he got to the optional unfunded milestones. Pace would basically be up to him. NASA wouldn’t deliberately slow their partners down except through lack of funding.
            Then it becomes how much development does he have to do to satisfy FAA licencing as opposed to NASA. NASA’s only required for visits to the ISS.

            Another question that comes to mind is would Bigelow be prepared to forgo his multiple crew providers and settle on just say SpaceX if no one else was ready.
            Can’t see Boeing sticking more money in. They’ve already indicated difficulty with closing their business case, a problem SpaceX doesn’t face since their case is not simply about money.

      • JimNobles

        Another bad thing is that this could slow Bigelow down too. If he’s really not gonna start launching until he has two passenger launch providers then this will set him back as well.

        • JimNobles

          I just checked Bigelow’s site. They still have a bunch of job listings open. They just started hiring back a few months ago, right? I guess they are not panicking yet.

    • Guys, I got news for you: NO American astronaut will have been launched on board an American vehicle, to orbit, till clear up to Inauguration Day, January 2017! Commercial Crew is NOT up to the task of manned spaceflight, and so will NOT have a single manned LEO flight accomplished by then. THAT is my prediction.

  • mike shupp

    It strikes me as reasonable for people to talk about space programs and politics at a Space Politics website. There is a federal space agency after all and presumably the taxpayers should have some say about what it does. It isn’t likely to go away. You might reflect that many US citizens own guns and cabin cruisers and airplanes, but the national government still maintains an Army and Navy and Air Force, and now and then we Americans get to argue about how those organizations are employed.

    Hmmm?

  • DCSCA

    “Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden”

    The core problem facing NASA – as with all American HSF projects to date- is that it remains a reactive, not proactive policy, born out of a competition with the then Soviets in the Cold War- an era long over. And today, it is adrift- as it has been since Apollo.

    Back in 1986, just after the Challenger accident, Tom Wolfe, of ‘Right Stuff’ fame, rightly noted that NASA- that is, the United States- has never had a philosophy about HSF. That assertion remains valid today. Other nations with fledgling or established HSF ops have incorporated it into their national character. America has not. In fact, Wolfe noted that the only philosopher at NASA for HSF ops was Wernher von Braun. Perhaps Robert Goddard had a similar spark in his era– and his writings tend to reveal it- but introverted and shunned, he was largely ignored beyond the esoteric rocket community of his time.

    The United States is never going to lead in this field beyond its periods of sprints and stalls as long as its HSF policy reacts to the proactive, geo-political moves of others. HSF is a projection of political power, economic vigor and yes, national prestige. Exploratrion is far down the list as a viable motivation and nobody gets all that excited about it – partiularly in an era of austerity. It is a loss leader for projecting power on Earth. And in this era given the state of the technology, Earth-Moon space ops is the stage on which this will be played out by participating nations arounsd this planet.

    What Mars HSF advocates fail to grasp, is that the more sophisticated robots pepper the planet,and return minimal science and lots of red rocked, desert imagery, the more it nulls out any rationale for sending humans there at all in this period. Take a look at the population densities of similar places on Earth– like the Mojave Desert. Even with a supportive atmosphere and clusters of goodies for sustaining life at hand, it’s a pretty sparse place. Go fifty miles outside of Vegas and it might as well be Mars. Going to Mars ‘just to go there’ doesn’t cut it today any more than that rationale did for sending men to the moon in the ’60s. We sent men to the moon in a race to beat thr Soviets in a Cold War battle to project political and economic power on Earth– a basic fact the late Rocco Petrone often noted.

    Forget the expense– there’s no viable rationale for sending people to Mars today. And the robots keep reaffirming it. The United States has to develop a philosophy for human spaceflight ops first. Sagan had a pretty good rationale for space science probes, and even his battle for funding was uphill in his time. Commerical’s only rationale is to make a buck at it– and that small, limited market has low to no ROI in this era in LEO ops– let alone trips to Luna or forays to Mars.

    Getting people to the moon and back was hard. Go back and review the details. And it’s expensive. And political. Commercial isn’t going to change that and still make a buck at it.

    Rather than lamenting ‘no plans’ for going back to Luna, Bolden ought to be developing a sound rationale for American HSF ops.

    Re-visit the early 90s and review the Congressional Record and the vote battle just to save the space station. It could be that the short-term nature of American society and what Americans value in their lives simply is not the place where it will take root. Wolfe’s observations remain valid today. The Russian people have incorporated it into their national character. The PRC is doing it as well. And in spite of their successes in HSF, Americans have yet to do so.

    To the under 40 crowd, too bad you missed Apollo. Getting to the moon was a helluva ride. But in your lifetimes you’re not going back to the moon any time soon with shuttle era deadwood like Charlie running NASA nor with press releases from commercial wannabes who’ve flown nobody in LEO distracting yoi as well.

    • Matt

      Fully agree with the above.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      You’re arguing for the Moon and against Mars, because Mars is too barren.

      Really?

      • DCSCA

        “You’re arguing for the Moon and against Mars, because Mars is too barren. Really?”

        No. The pitch is to develop a rationale for HSF which the United States has not done and given the nature of American society, may never take root here. Really.

        The geo-political aspects of HSF make it a loss leader; it’s a projection of political power, economic vigor and national prestige on this planet and endeavors in this field are played out on the Earth- Moon stage in this era, given the state of the technology.

        If a rationale does take root, then Luna is a perfect proving ground to develop hardware and procedures as a precursor for pressing one out on a Mars mission over the next 75 years. You can get to Luna and back in a week. And any government installations there would be a worthy enterprise for commercial ventures to attempt to service. Mars is a two year stint and any expedition out to it will be essentially on its own and out of reach for support.

        But if the robots keep peppering the place, returning data and one day, Martian samples, a rationale for a manned mission out there in this era seems an increasingly harder case to make– especially in austere times. . Why go- if we know what it looks like, if we can analyze its soil, sniff its thin atmosphere, poke into its crust and eventually return samples. ‘Because it is there’ doesn’t cut it. So is the point to send people to colonize– or to pick up rocks. We’re a long way from colonizing places like that. Robots have made it clear we ain’t heading to Venus, or Mercury or Triton or Europa or a lot of the other rocks any time soon, either. Point is, Luna makes for a perfect proving ground as a precursor for long term HSF projects of scale– if a rationale for making the trip can be made. So far, there is none for Mars other than it is there.

        Creating a rationale- a philosophy for HSF is what is lacking in U.S. space efforts. Bolden ought to be working night and day on that rather than throwing up his hands in Peter Principle fashion.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “If a rationale does take root, then Luna is a perfect proving ground to develop hardware and procedures as a precursor for pressing one out on a Mars mission”

          You wrote that Mars is too barren to ever warrant a human space mission. Why do Mars testing on the Moon if there’s no point in ever going to Mars?

          Your argument is senseless.

          “You can get to Luna and back in a week… Mars is a two year stint”

          Which is one of many things that makes the Moon a lousy testing ground for Mars. The many orders of magnitude difference in distance means that lunar communications, operations, life support, propulsion, and systems life have little or no applicability to Mars missions.

          “Robots have made it clear we ain’t heading to Venus, or Mercury or Triton or Europa or a lot of the other rocks any time soon, either… So far, there is none for Mars other than it is there… Point is, Luna makes for a perfect proving ground as a precursor for long term HSF projects”

          More senselessness. If all these targets are a null set for human exploration, then there’s nothing that the Moon can serve as a “proving ground” for.

          Your argument doesn’t support lunar testing; it undercuts it.

          • A bunch of ludicrous Mars zealotry! Have you even given thought for future Lunar surface stays lasting substantially longer than the old Apollo J missions? Sure, we’ll fly a few sorties there, just to prove out our initial lunar lander equipment. All one has to do is stay on the Moon for a mere four days to exceed the longest Apollo stay. But consider Lunar stays of multiple weeks and/or multiple months. Such outpost-type missions will teach us tremendous things about life support, communications, propulsion systems, and further, all at cislunar distances; while the crew grapples with autonomy-of-action issues and handling the mission dealing with the brought-along supplies at-hand (or those provisions sent to the Moon on-board unmanned freighter-craft). The ISS actually makes for a “lousy” Mars precursor, when you really think about it! Just the detail of the space suits used in LEO: none of the Space Shuttle space suits would be suitable for use on a dusty, regolith setting. LEO-designed suits could not handle the gritty dust! Not to mention the further necessity of having dust-management equipment to deal with tracked-in dust inside the cabin modules. You Mars zealots ignore the Moon at the future astronauts’s peril!!

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “But consider Lunar stays of multiple weeks and/or multiple months. Such outpost-type missions will teach us tremendous things about life support, communications, propulsion systems, and further”

              No, they won’t. The thermal environment and gravitational gradient at the Moon are very different from Mars, making life support systems highly divergent. Communications with 20-minute time delays between Earth and Mars are radically different than communications with 2-second time delays between Earth and the Moon. (Not to mention the different power requirements due to the inverse-square law.) And you have to joking on propulsion. You apparently have no idea how much farther away Mars is. Here’s a website that illustrates the difference in a way that even you should be able to understand:

              http://www.distancetomars.com

              “The ISS actually makes for a ‘lousy’ Mars precursor”

              Where did I say that the ISS is a good Mars precursor?

              “none of the Space Shuttle space suits would be suitable for use on a dusty, regolith setting. LEO-designed suits could not handle the gritty dust! Not to mention the further necessity of having dust-management equipment to deal with tracked-in dust inside the cabin modules.”

              Lunar suits are equally useless for Mars operations. On the Moon, you have to protect against fine, jagged, machinery-jamming, and lung cancer-inducing microscopic particles in the regolith due to the lack of erosive processes. Mars has no such particles due to its erosive processes. But Mars does have a highly poisonous chemical called hexavalent chromium, which lunar suits are not going to protect against.

              “You Mars zealots ignore the Moon at the future astronauts’s peril!!”

              Depending on the local concentrations of hexavalent chromium, you could saturate an astronaut’s hemoglobin and kill them in a matter of minutes to tens of minutes if you put them in a lunar suit on Mars.

              “A bunch of ludicrous Mars zealotry!”

              I’m not a zealot for anything. I don’t care if the next target for human space exploration is the Moon, a Lagrange point, NEOs, Phobos/Deimos, or Mars.

              But it’s idiotic to claim that we need to go back to the Moon if we want to go to Mars. There are very few Mars technologies, systems, and operations that can be tested on the Moon. Earth environments like the artic regions and deep space trips like the one planned by Inspiration Mars are better analogs.

            • Matt

              Especially if it’s a far side landing-similar to what Jack Schmitt proposed for Apollo 17. Though it was rejected, that proposal should be dusted off and reexamined when lunar missions come back to the fore.

          • DCSCA

            Inaccuarate, dbn. You ignore context. My argument is to the core issue- the United States needs to develop a rationale for HSF. Everything flows from that and it maybe that American society simply is not a culture where it can take root. Recall, it was not Americans who lead the way in this field- it was the Soviets. And decades before that in rockerty, the Germans.

            The U.S. has never had a rationale for HSF beyond the short term, reactive policies implemented through projects of scale for projecting geo-political pand economic power. Rocco Petrone often noted this as a justification for HSF- and Apollo. That won’t work in thie era. Armstrong made an eloquent pitch some years back about expanding the human experience out into space but there are 7 billion humans and only 310 million of them are Americans. American has no claim to representing Man and hi pitch but it pretty much fell on deaf ears, just as Von Braun’s did decades earlier and Goddard’s decades before that.

            “Which is one of many things that makes the Moon a lousy testing ground for Mars.” says dbn.

            Better and more experienced minds than yours disagree. Given the state of the technology in this era, Luna is the logical stepping stone to perfect hardware, methods and procedures as both Kraft and Armstrong noted.

            If there is an affirmation for HSF by American society, given the state of the technology in this era, Luna makes for a better focus to perfect methods and procedures as well as hardware before launching out on a Martian expedition– but the greater point is, it may not even be worth the trip if the sophistication of the robots peppering the red planet return what a human expedition would only supplement. So the context of my argument remains quite valid. Just as Tom Wolfe noted back in 1986. Where is the rationale for HSF by the United Ststes? What is the philosophy behind it? Why go? Because it is there? To colonize? To plant a flag and project political power, economic vigor and national pretiege? On a red dot most Americans can’t find, let alone see in the night sky? There’s a remarkable image taken by one of the Martian rovers- Spirit or Opportunity, at Martian dusk, of Earth. It’s a tiny dot over the Martian horizon. An astronaut taking the same image decades later isn’t enough of a rationale for going. The fact that ‘man’ is ther isn’t enough of a rationale- because his machines have put him there ‘virtually’ already.

            Everything comes back to a rationale for HSF. Many of us accept it as inevitable but it is an overwhelming minority in our society. Our peole cheer the engineering triumphs, but yawn at the science and mostly cannot grasp any reason to justify the expense to go beyond flag waving. That has been the picture for fifty years.

            Articulate a rationale for HSF and plant it in the broader expanse of the American consciousness and everything will fall into place. Until that happens, it will be ‘fits and starts’ or decades more of ‘free drift’ or, as both Cernan and Armstrong noted while addressing Congress, it will simply fade away.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “Inaccuarate, dbn. You ignore context. My argument is to the core issue- the United States needs to develop a rationale for HSF.”

              Agreed. What rationale inevitably leads the US Government back to the Moon? What justification is there to spend tens to hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to put NASA astronauts back on the Moon?

              “Luna makes for a better focus to perfect methods and procedures as well as hardware before launching out on a Martian expedition”

              Prove it in technical terms. If we’re aiming for Mars and its 1/3rd g, thin atmosphere, moderated temperatures, chemically toxic soil, and 20-minute communications delays, what Mars technologies, systems, and operations are best tested using the Moon’s 1/6th g, vacuum, wide temperature extremes, physically dangerous regolith, and 2-second communications delay?

      • Matt

        It’s easier to sell a lunar mission than an asteroid mission: it’s something on most nights you can look up in the sky and see. Especially when NASA doesn’t even have a target asteroid-though in all fairness, the target may not have been discovered yet. But the lack of defined destinations and (tentative) deadlines has been a serious problem for this Administration, and expect Charlie Bolden to be grilled again-if not flayed alive) when he testifies on the Hill about this proposal.

    • I agree with DCSCA as well. Commercial Crew will NEVER lead America out of LEO! The government, NASA, has its place in this game manifestly. If you eliminate the government, and rely soley or mostly on the space entrepreneurs, you’re going to see nothing but stagnation & even more decades going around in circles.

  • JimNobles

    Well the good news in this is that Charlie has shown just how powerless and ineffective the Moonie lobby is. On this forum and others there doesn’t seem to be much of any reasonable negative reaction to his “NASA not going to the Moon” announcement. There are flakes and wackos and etc. posting a few negative things here and there but not even really very many of those. And it seems to be the usual suspects mainly.

    I am encouraged by that at least.

  • DCSCA

    “For a quick trip to the ISS, that would be more than adequate. In fact, just a scuba tank with air would do the job.” says Rand.

    This is an utterly absurd assertion, even for you. But then you are on record valuing the flight hardware over the crews that ride aboard it. Stay away from HSF. Your line of country is bad for it and echoees the corner-cutting philosophy of a profiteer, not a rocketeer. No doubt you’d have objected to adding seatbelts to cars in the ’60s and airbags in the ’80s as well.

    Spaceflight is “mercilessly unforgiving to human error” as John Glenn rightly and repeatedly has noted over the years. Your kind of thinking only adds to that level of risk. Apologies for any and all typos.

    • This is an utterly absurd assertion, even for you.

      No, it’s perfectly valid. What would have killed, or even harmed, anyone on board the Dragon to ISS, if they had food, air and water?

      Answer: Nothing.

      • pathfinder-01

        Just the G-forces if the crew were not properly restrained at splash down but food, water, and a life support system are not that hard in terms of technology. The sooner people move past HSF must alwasy equal NASA doing the whole mission the better.

      • windbourne

        Besides, the life support system with 7 for the dragon has already passed a 30 day test. So, not a big deal.

      • DCSCA

        No, it’s perfectly valid. What would have killed, or even harmed, anyone on board the Dragon to ISS, if they had food, air and water?” quips Rand.

        Except those qualifiers were not mentioned by Musk on Kimmel’s show, Rand. So let him prove it. Fly some one. And don’t forget to have the spaceman turned frogman suited up like Benjamin Braddock. Babbling about scuba gear and bean bag chairs do nothing to enhance the credibility of NewSpace. It’s simply sad. And clearly desperate.

        • JimNobles

          Sorry DCSCA, you are badly misrepresenting the truth. NewSpace, mainly in the form of SpaceX at this point, is the future of NASA HSF. SLS is in trouble. Orion is in trouble. But Dragon is hitting its marks and getting the job done. And I suspect the manned version of Dragon will fly on schedule as well.

          Sometimes you give the impression of a homeless guy who goes to the airport and stands at the big window overlooking the parked planes and yelling, “Prove to me that you can fly! Prove it to me now! Not when you are scheduled to fly but now! Prove it to me now!” But then the security guards come and help the homeless man find a better place to be.

          • DCSCA

            No Jim, it i NewSpace that is misrepresentin itself. It seeks parody throguh false equivalency and failes to even attempt to launch, orbit and return anybody. And bear in mind, when you decend into personal attacks, you simply reveal you have nothing left to support your position. And thatr is what it truly sorry. NewSpace needs street cred. fly somebody. Get ‘em up, around and down safely.

            • JimNobles

              DCSCA, I apologize for the homeless man story. After I posted it seemed like a bit much even though it made my point I think. SpaceX is on a schedule to fly manned Dragon. It’s a schedule they and NASA have worked out. Politics may mess with it a little bit but it’s still a schedule.

              When you keep insisting that they fly before they’re scheduled to what are you trying to prove? They’ll fly when it’s time.

              • DCSCA

                “I think. SpaceX is on a schedule to fly manned Dragon.” dreams Jim.

                Another press release. Its not. And by Musk’s own boastful words in February, a ‘stowaway’ could have ridden the cargo run. It’s just hype. In 2010 he boasted of crewed flights in 2013. That ain’t happening. Wake up ans smell the coffee, Jim.

  • Scott Bass

    Those were certainly the strongest words yet that any Lunar landing mission by the United States is DOA.
    I do believe that…. However things do change, in this case China will be the one to watch…. We might scoff if they do a landing or two and say been there done that, however if they build a base I think political pressure will build to have one too, no doubt at that point it may be a DOD program instead of a NASA one.

    Anyway as unexiciting as a asteroid mission may be… The capture and tow capability is definitely a capability worth developing

    • JimNobles

      Scott said, “Those were certainly the strongest words yet that any Lunar landing mission by the United States is DOA.”

      If you mean by that any plan for a manned Lunar landing by NASA is currently DOA I agree. But is that a surprise? Congress has signaled they are not interested in financing any NASA based Lunar exploration in the near future. That’s where the money would have to come from. NASA has bunches of plans for Lunar exploration but no way to pay for them. I don’t expect that to change after the next election cycle either.

      Thankfully we do have private entities who are interested in landing on the moon and doing things there. If they can ever get their acts together in regards to raising money then those folks are probably going to be next on the moon. Hopefully with NASA seeding them some money through COTS type contracting or other means. I can’t see Congress letting NASA put a lot of money into moon development by NASA might be able to slip a little bit through.

      I do believe that those people who think the next administration, whoever it is, will suddenly turn everything on its head and talk Congress into paying for a robust moon exploration effort have lost their grip on reality. Never say never, because miracles can happen, I guess. But it’s more a fanciful hope than a reasonable expectation in my opinion.

      • DCSCA

        If they can ever get their acts together in regards to raising money

        Guess what Jim, that hs been the problem of NewSpace from day one… that and advocates babbling about scuba gear and beanbag chairs for spaceflight ops– and that they fly nobody. The capital markets don’t see any profit or fast ROI in it. They do in oil wells.

  • ACG

    So Elon goes to Mars Only with Obama funny money and the pres gets some of that launderd back to elect more libs to push his agenda.Ok we put man on Mars then what ,no life there.Only thing gain is the technology used to sustain life to get there and back.who really wants to fund an astroid mission.

    • DCSCA

      So Elon goes to Mars Only with Obama funny money.” quips ACG.

      No. He goes to TV studios. and SXSW. and flies nobody. The only Mars this fella will ever go to in his life is Mars, Pennsylvania. And at GWU last week, David Stockman, the only Reagan budget guy who told the truth about the ‘voodoo economics’ of that era, took Musk to task by name and chided government selecting and financing firms like ‘Tesla’ and so on. Every dollar wasted subsidizing commercial in an era of flat budget siphons resources away from government space projects of scale. The monies wasted subsidizing commercial would buy a lot of seats on Soyuz for most of the decade to ferry U.S. astronauts up to the doomed ISS- a Cold War relic representing past planning and policy from an era long over that has failed to return anything close to justifying its $100 billion cost and multi-billion dollar annual operations expense. It does not fit into 21st century planning. Apologies for typos.

      • windbourne

        Stockman has spent all of 30 seconds on Elon Musk. And his issue was that Musk got .5B from the feds for Tesla. Of course, he missed the point that it was a LOAN, and not a subsidy. In addition, the big difference is that Musk is now paying back the loan. So as the payments come in, I think that Stockman will sing a different tune.

        More importantly, David Stockman has taken the current republican party esp in the house, to task for causing much of the issues today. As he has pointed out that they are playing political games rather than offering up viable compromises.

      • Well put, DCSCA! If America continues to avoid the Moon, it shall never reach Mars! There are just too many intricacies of planetary surface stays, that require that an intermediate goal be brought into the picture, to ensure the future success of a humans-to-interplanetary-space attempt. Right now, the Mars zealots have too much of the upper hand—–and THAT is demolishing the human quest for space, in the long run.

        • Matt

          Correct: What we’ll have to get in the new administration in 2017 is a commitment to a real Flexible Path: Lunar space-which includes L-Points, Lunar orbit, lunar landings (in time); along with NEOs, and Martian space-flyby, then orbit-with visits to the Martian moons, sample return via surface robotics, maybe teleoperation of a rover from orbit, then the big prize: humans on the Martian surface.

          Just my two cents, but this Administration has been anti-NASA since 2009. Not to mention that Mr. Obama voted against NASA when he was a Senator. And there’s no way he’ll go back on that. Not without antagonizing his base, who is all for “green” projects that deliver nothing (Solyndra, anyone?).

  • So Elon goes to Mars Only with Obama funny money and the pres gets some of that launderd back to elect more libs to push his agenda.

    How does that follow from anything anyone has written? (Hint: it doesn’t.)

  • Michael

    people cant see the big picture;

    NASA has become a department of Disney. There is no need for a real space program; entertainment is the key need for the (american) people. I tried visiting several NASA sites with a genuine interest in real space exploration; only to be confronted with childrens entertainment and disney like parks. NASA is not a serious space explorations organisation; for that we’ll have to go somewhere else; I don’t know where though…

    • Lyle Upson.

      i have a problem with the NASA website being aimed at school children. I find this pathetic and thus do not use NASA as a source of knowledge … can someone please please please point this out to NASA ???

  • Randy

    Fire this loser, and replace him with someone with vision.

    • Matt

      Agreed: and do you remember what Ed Crawley said at the Space Summit (read: preaching to the Choir) at the Cape back in 2010? He said that if you were president in 2035, and NASA came to you and said “We’re ready for the Mars landing” without having had any kind of extended surface operations on another planetary body, would YOU approve the mission without that kind of experience? Wait until ’17, when Obama, Bolden, Garver, and Holdren all go into retirement, and new blood comes in, with a change in direction. I’m not ruling out NEO missions-far from it, but to get ready for Mars, NASA has to return to the lunar surface at some point-and NO, hitching a ride with some commercial contractor isn’t part of that. Lunar missions come under exploration, not exploitation.

      • Absolutely correct, Matt. New manned Lunar surface stays are going to be needed, first. The Moon is the sole ‘baptism-of-fire’, in this war. There, we will learn & grapple with the nitty-gritty of deep space human exploration. Avoiding that step, is like the America of the 1960′s avoiding the intermediate Gemini project.

  • lakawak

    The asteroid mission is MUCH cooler, and has much more potential for technological advancement.

    • Neil Shipley

      So the only thing that a mission needs to be relevant is that it be ‘cool’. Heaven help us. And what ‘technological advancement’ might we all be having then?

      • windbourne

        Just the ability to move asteroids that are on their way to impact us. That would make us the first species on earth that is able to avoid death by asteroids.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          The 7m or less asteroid that will be moved by this mission is two to three orders of magnitude too small. It’s irrelevant. We need to be able to (detect and) move much, much larger asteroids to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs.

          • Neil Shipley

            In addition to DBN’s comment, there are a few other minor facts:

            1. The human race is currently racing to exploit as many resources as possible. These are non-renewable and once gone, they’re gone for good. In particular, fossil fuels;
            2. Conntinued expansion of population at an exponential rate and beyond the Earth’s ability to currently support;
            3. Continued pollution of earth and atmosphere such that breathing is becoming more and more difficult in many large cities, ground water and river contamination increasing.
            4. Minor fact of climate changing dramatically in some of the World’s most populated areas with more extreme weather events eg. insurance impacts as evidence
            5. Increasing land degradation through clearing.
            6. Political instability and the resulting violence.
            etc, etc.

            God, and we’re worrying about the possibility of a large asteroid potentially wiping us out. Might be a good thing for the Earth if it did.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              Even if you just restrict yourself to the limited realm of space threats, there are dangers with a much greater likelihood of causing severe economic damage than NEOs.

              With every 11-year solar cycle, we run the risk of extended electric grid shutdowns, GPS degredation, and communications disruptions if we can’t shut down transformers and satellites before CMEs hit Earth. And our best warning system, NASA’s ACE spacecraft at the Earth-Sun L1, is on its last legs. Replacing ACE should be a much higher federal funding priority than moving a 7-meter NEO non-threat.

              Same goes for orbital debris. We’ve reached the point that even if we never launch another object into Earth orbit, collisions between existing objects in orbit are going to have a cascading effect and create more debris faster than the Earth’s upper atmosphere will sweep it away. So we need to develop a technique for actively removing existing orbital debris. That should be a much higher priority for federal funding than developing a technique for corraling a 7-meter NEO non-threat.

  • Nick

    There’s no reason to travel to another planet or asteroid if the mission is net resources negative. That is, if it takes more resources to get there and back than we could harvest and bring back to earth or exploit there for a net gain to perhaps start a new colony, it’s an economic net loss.

    Going to the moon was neat and expedited the development of much technology, but there were no real resources to gain from going there.

  • raymundo dionicio

    How is Saturn V Mark II engines doing?

    :)

  • brian

    do you realize how much nasa contributes? every year they publish a BOOK the size of a dictionary of all the spinoff technology they created in a year. not to mention all the data and research you have ever heard about space, global warming, and so on have all come from them…. all this on a budget less than it takes to pay for air conditioning for the tent for our soldiers every year. everyone needs to stop complaining about nasa and start supporting one of the only good government programs we have. educate yourselves.

  • As I see it, unless Obama somehow gets to save face, he will not reverse his decision to bypass the Moon:
    – “Let me make one thing perfectly clear. When I said that we’ve already been to the Moon, I was talking about NASA’s civilian program. I wasn’t talking about commercial ventures. I’ve always been supportive of America’s commercial space companies and would be more than happy to help American commercial companies develop a cis-lunar transportation system. Then we can purchase transportation services to the Moon when they have a proven track record of safety”. Or something along those lines.

    Alternately, in three more years we’ll have a new president and another swing at getting America’s space program on the right track.

  • I could be wrong on this one guys, but didn’t Garver state that “we are going back to the moon” a few months ago at a conference? And now Bolden is saying we aren’t going back to the Moon. Isn’t that a bit counter-productive to have the Administrator and Deputy Administrator contradicting each other?

    • DCSCA

      “..didn’t Garver state that “we are going back to the moon” a few months ago at a conference?” notes Paul H.

      Yep– as long as it isn’t aboard a Griffin rocket. Go back and review a lot of her statements over the years as a lobbyist and in government– she cozied up to the Apollo poeple at pressers in 1999; in the late 80s, vowed a return to the moon but build a space station first Whatever gets a government contract, she’s for it. Garver is just an aerospace lobbyist, that’s all.

    • Matt

      That she did-at an AIAA conference in Pasadena. That speech is available at NASA’s web site.

    • Matt

      For Paul (and others): Lori Garver’s remarks at the AIAA 2012 Space Conference.

      http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/686375main_LG_AIAA_final.pdf

  • josh

    i don’t care. nasa isn’t going anywhere as long as sls is around, that’s for sure. when sls is dead maybe nasa can get serious about beo missions that involve the private sector to the maximum extent possible. that’s the only viable option anyway.

    • Correction: NASA is NOT going anywhere as long as the ISS is there to drain multiple billions of dollars annually. We could have sent this pointless leviathan to a de-orbit crash into the Pacific Ocean in the next two or three years. And been rid of it, to next focus on reaching cislunar space. But NO: Commercial Crew badly “needs” it as a pre-emplaced LEO target vehicle, so that they can fumble with hobby rockets for the next fifteen years. Complete with huge government stipends!

      • josh

        funny how you think the falcon 9, the most advanced and cost-effective launch vehicle in the world today, is a “hobby rocket”. like i said, you’re a comedian:)
        as for your “cislunar” dreams: not going to happen with nasa, no matter how many billions you throw at them, the disaster that was constellation proved that once and for all.

      • Neil Shipley

        Get a grip. How much is SLS draining from the NASA budget and how much is ISS costing? Just asking.

  • Lyle Upson.

    can someone please explain why the talk of dumping ISS into the ocean when so many many expensive gadgets have been attached ???

    • JimNobles

      Lyle asked,
      “can someone please explain why the talk of dumping ISS into the ocean when so many many expensive gadgets have been attached?”

      Some of the people here who believe the Moon is the only real destination in space also believe that other things like ISS and Commercial Crew and etc. are a waste because their budgets aren’t being spent on Moon stuff. So they want them all to go away because they think the money would then be automatically spent on fulfilling their moon dreams.

      They are a distinct minority.

  • NLM

    The asteroid idea is a plecebo for those who want to believe that we still have a manned space program. Truth is we are not going to an asteroid, Mars, or the Moon. Obama has set us on a course to wait, rest, and look behind ourselves while we watch other counties take the lead.

    • Neil Shipley

      Incorrect, that’s what Congress did when they mandated SLS and MPCV/Orion. The WH wanted investment in technology necessary to take the next steps toward exploration. A ‘monster’ rocket using legacy technolgy doesn’t do that.

      • Matt

        And the Administration didn’t “make the sale” for that strategy. The Administration’s mistakes were in that disaster known as the FY 11 Budget rollout, and they have never really recovered. Their biggest mistake was making a policy change (Cancelling Constellation) in a BUDGET ROLLOUT. Normally, when Administrations change policy-either their own or that of a previous one-there’s a policy speech, usually by a Cabinet member or even the President himself, the key members of Congress are informed (Committee chairs and ranking members, along with those whose interests are affected), then the budget rollout reflects the policy change. The Administration was seen as not caring about space (I personally think they don’t, but that’s just me), “outsourcing” to the private sector, not having destinations and deadlines for future exploration, and so on.

        The Administration was taken aback: they thought that with a Democratic-controlled Congress that their proposals would be warmly received, that any pushback-even from fellow Democrats-could be contained, and that the space community would be praising them to the skies for doing something “new, bold, and innovative.” Wrong on all counts. And it should be noted that opposition to the Administration was bipartisan. Both Democrats and Republicans were against that FY 11 Budget. Things were so bad that there was that “space summit” (read: preaching to the choir) and the President’s Space Policy Speech-and even that didn’t work. Congress-as is their perogrative-threw out the FY 11 Request and wrote their own. Which passed, and the President approved.

        • Agreed. But then multiple bad side-effects sprang from that eliminate-Constellation presidential decision. Bad effect #1: With the manned Lunar goal squashed, now what was the reason & purpose for building a Heavy-Lift rocket?? The full-up Ares 5 as earlier conceived, should’ve been built, linked up with the cislunar spacecraft & TLI stage that it was meant to carry. But after Obama demolished the Lunar plan, then some other cooks spoiled the broth, and now NASA is supposedly building an Ares-lite ,(probably an Ares 4), which has NO specific purpose. ‘Just build it, and they will come’ seems to be the tale now; implying that this new Heavy-Lift rocket won’t have the lift capability that was originally needed for going to the Moon. Worse still, the SLS, (a terrible name, by the way), is now being built as an any-purpose, please-all-people, one-size-fits-all, anything-that-we-can-possibly-imagine-putting-on-board-it rocket. This approach throws the actual use of it, into anarchy. The SLS is likely to go the way of the old Soviet Energia rocket: it’ll be flown just a couple of times & then quickly retired.

          • To Continue. BAD EFFECT #2: With the demise of Constellation, now what smaller rocket system was supposed to carry the Orion CEV to earth orbit?? (Whether for a deep-space-craft rendezvous OR just for mere LEO flight.) Even if they are thinking in terms of not using an Ares 1, to launch this capsule, I have seen no specified, replacement plans for what rocket will be used for its launch. Without a lunar lander & TLI stage, necessitating Heavy-Lift, there is a great void now, in how to link the Orion to the gigantic, multi-stage rocket as proposed. Is NASA to go back to launching both the manned capsule craft AND the deep-space cargo on the same launch vehicle? Will a transposition-&-docking procedure be needed, as on Apollo, in order to conduct new deep-space flights? Recall if you will, that on the post-Moon/ LEO Apollo missions, a Saturn 1-b rocket was used, for launching the three Skylab-bound crews & the ASTP-bound crew. The Skylab station itself was sent up on board a special, unmanned Saturn 5 launch.

            • pathfinder-01

              A Delta V rocket could carry Orion to LEO, ULA offered that.

              For a trip to deep space you would just need a refuelable transfer stage. That could be filled with mulitple flights with ease. About 3-4 Delta Heavies would be enough for a lunar mission or two falcon nines. Less if you do some technical development.

              Anyway what Obama wanted was Orion cancelled in favor of commercal crew then he offered it as an ISS lifeboat. A commercal heavy lift if needed would have been far cheaper than NASA could ever hope for but cheap equals less money to spread to the right districts……

              • Matt

                What he could’ve done, but didn’t, was offer the affected districts something like “Yes, we have to cancel Constellation, but your facilities and workforce won’t be idle. There are commercially derived rockets that will be available, and those facilities can be used as a second source for those rockets.” It satisfies concerns about retaining the workforce, ensures that the local businesses that depend on those workers (everything from shopping malls to mom-and-pops like cafes) won’t be affected, and it gives the existing rocket suppliers not just a second source, but they get revenue from the production licenses. And to satisfy the heavy-lift people-and this caveat is virtually a must-R&D on heavy lift would continue, but no decision on procurement until exact needs and capabilities are determined. For whatever reason, the Administration didn’t throw those bones, and the result is what we know now.

              • @Pathfinder-01 & Matt;….If a Delta rocket of suitable size could be used in lieu of an ARES 1, to launch the Orion craft, THAT would sound like a viable alternative to me. I also like the idea of utilizing a non-’Commercial’ rocket. I fully admit it: I have zero, zilch, nada confidence in the New Space providers! Those entrepreneurs will get us SO trapped in LEO! NASA will be wedded to LEO stations for decades to come, if the government puts all its trust in them. But aside from my biases, I STILL believe that a Heavy-Lift rocket will subsequently be needed, if the United States is ever to get serious about cis-lunar/deep space manned ventures. I agree, that in full absence now, of a specific & definable mission plan, NASA could afford to delay building a particular Heavy-Lift; as the cargo parameters are yet unknown. After all, did the Saturn 5 & the Saturn 1-B get built WITHOUT any thought to what it was intended to carry?? (That is, in the total absence of any Lunar plan & Lunar vehicles??) Which brings me to BAD EFFECT #3, (to Constellation’s demise); The termination of the Space Shuttle rocket production lines. The facilities & the workforce were basically layed-off. All that engineering & industrial expertise was cast into the wind. Plus, the proposed Ares family of rockets were to have been derived largely from the Shuttle’s launch systems. Evolutionary incarnations like the Side-Mount cargo scheme, that might’ve had deep space applications have gone down the chute, apparently.

              • What he could’ve done, but didn’t, was offer the affected districts something like “Yes, we have to cancel Constellation, but your facilities and workforce won’t be idle. There are commercially derived rockets that will be available, and those facilities can be used as a second source for those rockets.”

                …For whatever reason, the Administration didn’t throw those bones, and the result is what we know now.

                Perhaps because it wasn’t an administration bone to throw? The White House doesn’t decide where commercial companies are going to build their rockets. That’s a big advantage of having rockets built commercially.

  • Robert Clark

    The reason why the Constellation program was canceled was because of the high cost. The current administration remains hostile to manned lunar landing missions because of the idea it has to be high cost like Constellation and like Apollo.
    However, a plan for a low cost mission has been known since the early 1990′s:

    Encyclopedia Astronautica.
    Early Lunar Access.
    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/earccess.htm

    This would require only 50 mT to LEO if using a small capsule of ca. 3 mT size instead of the quite large Orion. This could be done by the SLS by its first launch in 2017 at a 70 mT to LEO capacity.
    Actually internal NASA estimates put the payload capacity of that first SLS launch in 2017 as significantly above 70 mT. In that case, we could use the Orion as the crew capsule from Earth to lunar orbit, with a smaller crew module such as the SEV for the lunar landing.

    Bob Clark

  • Madhu Thangavelu

    Anyone who says we are not going back to the Moon is not following common sense, let alone good, proven engineering sense. The first destination on any architecture beyond low Earth orbit is the Moon. Why ? …because as countless independent committees have said(besides every single NASA recommendation document out there – except this new wave of asteroid lovers)have clearly noted that the Moon as the next destination provides the ideal location to simulate and shakedown vehicles and systems headed to destinations further out. However, it seems really weird to me, that the Orion capsule is in development, the SLS too, but there is no lander ! No lander in development ! Several architectures seem to dodge this important element that is needed for surface operations. One silly reason that asteroids have been bounced around as target is because “we don’t need a lander” Truly, this type of rationale or architectures derived therof will fetch an F, even in any common sense graduate studio !
    It might be that we have no budget for a lander, but then someone somewhere has to realize that if we are going “somewhere” we better have all the elements in the architecture. Look at Apollo. If we had gone to the Moon without a lander, what would we have done ? …throw stones from orbit and return ?…..these things are beyond the best education that engineering can offer, these types of programmatic issues and questions are best answered in the policy of nations dept. Again look at Apollo, the missions could even be seen as a series of simulations of ever increasing complexity…the hallmark of good engineering of complex systems….because without hard data flowing back, good engineers cannot build anything of value, let alone push the envelope, from set after set of powerpoint charts…which is what we have been doing…..for a long, long time.

    • Nice post. A manned lunar mission is doable by going small:

      Encyclopedia Astronautica.
      Early Lunar Access.
      http://www.astronautix.com/craft/earccess.htm

      Bob Clark

    • @Madhu Thangavelu & Robert Clark;….NASA does indeed need a lander vehicle, for the Moon, and eventually other worlds. The Flexible Path people are fools to believe that the building of a lander is some kind of burden, to be avoided forever. Fools, they are, I tell you! A Mars lander would be ten-thousand times more difficult to build & develop compared to a Moon lander! If we are to be such wimps that we can’t create a 21st century lunar lander craft—-both manned & unmanned variants—-then we might as well just stop talking about humankind ever reaching the Red Planet…ever! In any case, the idea of mounting advancer Moon missions, & making them viable, near-term, by going smaller, is an idea that gets floated around. It has some merit. Maybe we can use less-than-Heavy-Lift, medium-type rockets, and simply do more launches to get all the cargo elements launched to space. (With either multiple flight steps and/or rendezvouses of vehicles; either EOR or LOR.) Maybe, it could be done. But I have NO faith in Commercial Crew doing it! It would definitely have to be a government project, from the get-go.

    • Dargo

      Good point Madhu. Still, you and the others, I believe are missing the main point:Propulsion system. In my opinion, until they will design a new kind of propulsive system, allot more powerful allot smaller and using a new kind energy and propulsive principle, I honestly, do not see any viable future for ANY space research mission. The today’s propulsion systems in use,are based on a more than 400 years principle, remember!?

  •  
    Posey Reintroduces REAL Space Act to Return Astronauts to Moon.
    Marcia S. Smith
    Posted: 10-Apr-2013
    Updated: 10-Apr-2013 01:29 PM
    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/posey-reintroduces-real-space-act-to-return-astronauts-to-moon
     
    Bipartisan Legislation Sets NASA’s Focus on the Moon.
    Washington, Apr 10.

    Specifically, the REAL Space Act directs NASA to plan to return to the Moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence there as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations within our solar system. The legislation also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the United States’ preeminence in space, and underscores the necessity of preserving America’s independent access to space.

    http://posey.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=327243

     

    A return to the Moon by 2022 would make it by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program.

     
    Bob Clark

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