NASA

Bolden: the path to Mars requires commercial crew and SLS, but not the Moon

In a keynote address Monday at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, NASA administrator Charles Bolden made the case that, if NASA is to achieve the president’s goal of sending humans to at least the vicinity of Mars by the 2030s, it has to follow the approach NASA is currently using, including development of both commercial crew vehicles and the Space Launch System (SLS), and without making a stop along the way at the Moon.

As he has done in several other recent appearances, Bolden made an argument for fully funding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in fiscal year 2014: $821 million in the administration’s budget proposal. “That is critical. That is the critical first step” for the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program, he said. Getting past that “initial hurdle of getting full funding for commercial crew” will eventually free up funding for use in technology development for later human missions beyond orbit, once the commercial providers enter service, he added later.

Bolden also argued that development of SLS was essential to NASA’s exploration plans, provided it was a phased approach that started, as NASA currently plans, with a vehicle that can place 70 metric tons into low Earth orbit, followed by later versions that will eventually be capable of putting up to 130 metric tons into LEO. He warned against any effort to start immediately with a 130-ton version of SLS. “What happens if we are forced to go right to a 130-metric-ton vehicle is that we are perilously along the way to what happened with Constellation, where we have a very robust launch vehicle and no money, no assets, to develop the other systems that allow us to explore,” he said.

Bolden, though, rejected the idea that the SLS could be replaced with alternative architectures that use smaller launch vehicles and orbiting propellant depots. “The number of launches required to support a human mission to Mars begins to make it very difficult and decreases the probability of success of those missions” if EELV-class rockets are used instead, he said. If NASA waited on the development of alternative rockets and propellant depots, “we won’t get to an asteroid in 2021 and we definitely won’t get to Mars in the 2030s, in my estimation.”

Bolden also discussed NASA’s plans for an asteroid retrieval mission, which he argued was essential in developing technologies needed for later human Mars missions. “Every single moment of our time and every single dollar of our assets must be dedicated to developing those technologies that allow us to go beyond low Earth orbit,” he said. “The President and Congress—most in Congress—have decided that we should be the leaders in going places that humans have never been before, and thus we decided on an asteroid strategy.”

“Moon, asteroid, Mars, are not either/ors. Humans will again return to the lunar surface. There is no question in my mind,” he said. However, with limited resources available, NASA can’t afford to go back to the Moon now, and Bolden said that any attempt to redirect NASA’s human spaceflight plans back there would keep NASA from achieving its Mars goals. “If we starting straying from our path and going to an alternative plan, where we decide we’re going to go back to the Moon and spend a little time developing the technologies and the systems we need, we’re doomed. We will not get to Mars in the 2030s, if ever, to be quite honest.”

296 comments to Bolden: the path to Mars requires commercial crew and SLS, but not the Moon

  • JimNobles

    I wonder what Charlie is going to say in about six months when Bigelow shows up at his door with a plan for a dirt-cheap lunar base using Bigelow modules and mainly other commercial equipment. Will it be a non-starter? If so, why did they sign the SAA with Bigelow to start with?

  • DCSCA

    “NASA can’t afford to go back to the Moon now,” and Bolden said “that any attempt to redirect NASA’s human spaceflight plans back there would keep NASA from achieving its Mars goals.”

    Sorry, Charlie. NASA can’t afford not to go back to the Moon. Unless the United States plans to surrender the visible political and economic high ground around Planet Earth to other nations hungry to hallmark this century as theirs.

    The easiest element of Obama’s pitch as tossed by Bolden to cancel is the one with the longest lead time- that being the ‘vicinity of Mars’ plans which will get shelved as soon as Mr. Obama’s second term is done. And as we’ve seen in other recent legislative tussles, Mr. Obama isn’t one to get into the clinches and do political battle for significant legislation beyond speech giving for legislation he supports let alone white paper projects much further down the agenda, or something as obviously unimportant to him as HSF. Like all good jarheads, Mr. Bolden is dutifully saluting the CIC and following orders trying to defend an indefensible position.

    There will be no Project Lasso to rope and brand an asteroid in some odd space rodeo. And there will be no HSF initiative by the United States to Mars in the 2030′s. Particularly if the rovers and robots keep getting better, returning more data, remain relatively inexpensive and SRMs eventally fly.

    Because there’s no rationale for HSF in the 21st century by the United States yet articulated and sold to the people who will have to pay for it. This must be established. Everything else flows from it.

    A loop of the Red Planet on a ‘wave the flag run’ or a ‘flags and footprints’ trip is increasingly less likely given the expense of a manned trip out there and the increasing sophistication of imagery and data much cheaper robots are returning in an era of flat budgets.

    Luna is closer. Has been visited briefly and barely explored. And has resources waiting to be discovered and exploited.

    The next logical step outward is a return to Luna, establish a permanent facility for exploration and exploitation purposes, develop the systems, procedures and technologies for long stay off planet habitation; perfect cis-lunar ops as a ‘bridge between worlds’ then apply that knowledge and experience to a manned Martian expedition– if the robots report it is even worth the trip . That is your space program for the next 75-100 years, Charklie. Not lassoing asteroids or looping the Martian loop.

    Unlike easy-to-splash LEO space stations, a permanent lunar facility, established by government(s) and serviced in tandem w/commercial ventures would be much harder to walk away from, yet close enough to be both an economic, scientific and political beneficial to participating nations while projecting geo-political and economic power on Earth. And Luna can be seen by everybody around the world. A loop around a planet millions of miles away decades off that few people on Earth can even find in the night sky is simply a waste of resources in this era. No, Charlie. No, Mr. President. Luna is the place to go. To stay. Leave Mars to the robots.

    ““If we starting straying from our path and going to an alternative plan, where we decide we’re going to go back to the Moon and spend a little time developing the technologies and the systems we need, we’re doomed. We will not get to Mars in the 2030s, if ever, to be quite honest.””

    When you’re on the Peter Principle path, Charlie, you stop and ask for directions. “Doomed” says ‘C3PO Charlie? “We?” You mean you– or that is, Mr. Obama’s plans (or is it really Holdren’s, Charlie.) In case you don’t realize it, Mr. O’s space plans, such as they are, are doomed as of January 21, 2017. .And by the way, Charlie, we have gotten to Mars. Several times. The images are red. The data is real. And the place has all the appeal of a July day at noon in the Mojave Desert. And when we send people there, they usually go to a casino. So when the PRC launches out toward Luna in the not to distant future, and claims the biggest visible object in our night sky as theirs to work on this century, we’ll be comforted to know that Charlie B. and B. Obama told us that one day we might loop a planet we can’t even see.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA opined:

      Luna is closer. Has been visited briefly and barely explored. And has resources waiting to be discovered and exploited.

      Resource exploitation is the job of private industry, not the taxpayer.

      a permanent lunar facility, established by government(s) and serviced in tandem w/commercial ventures would be much harder to walk away from

      Is that you standard? That the only way to justify doing something is to make it too HARD not to do it? What an odd philosophy.

      By contrast, the Flexible Path method would justify doing something because it has become EASY enough to do it. That it doesn’t take an act of Congress to do it.

      In any case, I guess you’re pretty ignorant about how our Congress works, but they are OK with canceling things, even after $Billions have been invested. Your little lunartic outpost wouldn’t be any different – I mean, whose Congressional district would the cancellation affect? Newt’s? ;-)

    • JimNobles

      If we are going to have any kind of facility on the moon or anything large scale in space at all it is going to have to be based upon something besides politics. The American public is quite fickle about such things. You might get them excited about something in the beginning but it probably won’t last. They bore easily.

      I know some long for the days when we as a nation were fully behind such endeavors and supported them with our national spirit but I would like to point out a couple of things. First, even during Apollo the American public wasn’t fully behind the endeavor. And two, I’m not at all confident that someone could actually get the American public behind and supporting something like a moon base. I don’t think they really give a damn. Some would but probably no where near enough of them to keep it going.

      I think if something like a moon base is going to work it needs to have something else going for it. Probably something commercial. That’s the only way I think it has a chance of being sustained. And that’s certainly not even a guarentee.

      And, as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t want NASA to be turned into some sort of Moon Development Agency. That is not their charter. They are not really psychologically fit for it and they would probably suck at it. Plus they (and we) would have to deal with all the politics that would come along with that situation. Let private industry develop the Moon if it is developable. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

    • MrEarl

      Well said DCSCA. Most on this site are just too short sighted to see that.

      • common sense

        Oh come on, you an do better than to agree with DCSCA!!!

        Long time no see.

        How’s the job going?

        • MrEarl

          I know he goes off the rails every now and then but you have to give credit where it’s due.
          Using the moon to expand our presence in the solar system, using the strengths of both government and commercial enterprises is far better than than building a a 130 ton lift monster to do a Mars fly-by and letting commercial ventures flail around trying to get to the moon.
          Come on, lasso a space rock and bring it to CIS-lunar space is just silly. Sounds like the “scheme of the month”.
          Flexible path is fine once we establish a real presence in CIS-lunar space but not as an initial plan.

          The job’s ok. It’s with the Archives. All I can say for their IT infrastructure is, God help us! :-)

          • common sense

            He goes off the rails pretty much all the time…

            As you know I don’t agree with the SLS of any form for any mission since it is not properly funded, it only is a waste of resources. The pseudo asteroid mission only is a make up mission for said montrosity rocket and… surprise, suprise… I don’t agree with that either ;) At least in the way it is being presented for now. We’ll see.

            Glad to read the job is going well, it is not a good season for jobs so enjoy it.

    • “NASA can’t afford not to go back to the Moon. Unless the United States plans to surrender the visible political and economic high ground around Planet Earth to other nations hungry to hallmark this century as theirs.”

      Those ‘nations’ will proceed to do whatever they think is in their best interest, regardless of what we do or do not do. Some people here are eager to see this as another race, because history has warped them into believing that it’s teh only way for these things to happen. Those ‘nations’ likely don’t. Just being perceived as ‘in the game’ and having some sort of parity, is more important than being ‘first.’ This isn’t the 1960′s where arrival order mattered. The Soviets/Russians didn’t push on, because it was easier to insist they were never in a race, than to come in second…and many in the West bought that sham.

      Today, especially to a place where anyone else will forever logically be ‘second,’ it’s more a matter of doing it right, than doing it fast. And any US timetable won’t change that.

      “Unlike easy-to-splash LEO space stations, a permanent lunar facility, established by government(s) and serviced in tandem w/commercial ventures would be much harder to walk away from…”

      Really? Government facilities on Earth get shut down all the time, even after having put serious resources into them (the SCSC comes to mind). You’re obviously antsy to shut one down in LEO, yourself. Being in another gravity well doesn’t make it immune, as long as public money supports it. We’ve walked away from the Moon before, it can be done again by anyone.

    • @DCSCA;…Very well put! Flexible Path has been an utter catastrophe to the endeavor of manned spaceflight!! All this ludicrous & cowardish phobia against building a lander craft….I mean, a MERE lander vehicle! What on earth is wrong with these people?! Whoa nelly! Now they seem to be prepared to erase the far-deep space asteroid expedition, in favor of hauling the gigantic charcoal lug and emplacing it—-ta da ta da ta da:—–in low lunar orbit!! As if the only way to make going to lunar orbit be interesting again is by dragging an NEO over there. AS if the Moon, in and of itself doesn’t merit further exploration, but a meteor boulder put there, does. Is THIS what Obama’s bungling with the space program has come to?? Bringing his asteroid-reaching finish line over to the Moon’s vicinity, and only going there to investigate the meteor up-close, in a deep space environment?? Ha ha!! Why not just drag the darned thing to LEO, instead? Or are they just a little afraid of accidentally crashing their meteor boulder on planet Earth, and causing a havoc??

      • Coastal Ron

        Chris Castro moaned:

        All this ludicrous & cowardish phobia against building a lander craft

        Is that what you think? That they are “afraid” of a lander?

        Or, and I’m just spitballing here – NO ONE WANTS TO GO BACK TO THE MOON.

        Unless you live under a rock (and I don’t put that past you), our nation is focused on things other than your fantasy needs. National security, healthcare, immigration, debt, etc. It’s been in the news…

        • I appreciate your opinions Ron, but I respectfully disagree. I believe that almost everyone does want us to return to the Moon. And the only ones who don’t are operating under the (very common) misapprehension that such a return would be hugely expensive, a completely understandable misperception considering Apollo and Constellation.
          However, I believe even among those opposed to a return to the Moon their opinion would change if, given a ca. $1,000 per pound price point for the Falcon Heavy, such missions could be mounted for less than $200 million per flight.

          I can say confidently say there is virtually no support for the asteroid mission. Even Buzz Aldrin is uninterested. This is a very unusual scenario, perhaps one that never happened before, that even among space advocates, a NASA proposed human spaceflight project has no support.

          Bob Clark

          • Coastal Ron

            Robert Clark said:

            I believe that almost everyone does want us to return to the Moon.

            Everyone I talk to about “space”, even those friends of mine that are technology geeks, don’t have “space” on their personal radar. The Moon, Mars, the ISS – it just doesn’t register in their daily lives.

            In order to say “almost everyone does want us to return to the Moon”, that would have to mean that people are actively talking about the need to return to the Moon. But they aren’t. What evidence do you have to back up your claim?

            And the only ones who don’t are operating under the (very common) misapprehension that such a return would be hugely expensive, a completely understandable misperception considering Apollo and Constellation.

            If 100% of your sample size shows something, I think that’s significant. And let’s not forget that Bush 41 also did a study into returning to the Moon, and the estimate was so expensive it was quickly shelved.

            Even if we use commercial transportation – which is not a NASA option right now – then there still isn’t an ROI for returning to the Moon. What is the “Why?” that makes returning to the Moon more important than preparing to go on to Mars?

            I can say confidently say there is virtually no support for the asteroid mission.

            If your poll is the same one that showed “almost everyone” wants us to return to the Moon, then I’m not convinced. I would agree that in comparison to all the other ideas floating around, it’s not the most compelling. But the real question is whether it’s useful, and I think it would be in the context of testing out our technology & techniques for our eventual goal of getting to Mars. And it looks like you missed me (and many others) in your poll.

            • Robert Clark

              I’m basing that on the fact that the public is much more interested in human spaceflight than robotic flights. Imagine then the reaction of the public to an announcement that a manned lunar flight could be mounted at costs in the range of what NASA typically spends on its lowest cost robotic probes, ca. $200 million?
              An important fact that needs to be kept in mind is that return to the Moon proponents do not want to do this as another flags and footprints mission. It’s to begin the process of what all space advocates want of permanent colonization of other destinations off Earth. And a very important off shoot of it is that it makes flights to other outer space destinations much easier by being able to provide virtually unlimited propellant that does not need to be lofted from Earths deep, and expensive, gravity well.
              The public would be excited by the knowledge that such relatively low cost Moon flights would for the purpose of setting up colonies as a stepping stone to colonies on Mars and other locations in space.

              Bob Clark

              • Coastal Ron

                Robert Clark said:

                I’m basing that on the fact that the public is much more interested in human spaceflight than robotic flights.

                Assuming you might be right, that would still be a matter of 1% interested in robotic flights, and 2% for human.

                There is not a lot of “support” for either. For instance, I poll my friends occasionally (all middle-class folk), and spaceflight is not even on their radar.

                Imagine then the reaction of the public to an announcement that a manned lunar flight could be mounted at costs in the range of what NASA typically spends on its lowest cost robotic probes, ca. $200 million?

                I think most of the reactions would be along the line of “why are we spending $200M to go somewhere we’ve already been?”.

                If you give people the choice between spending $200M on something they will never experience, or on something that directly affects them like better roads, more teachers, paying down the debt, or something directly related to local jobs, then spaceflight will lose. Big time.

              • common sense

                “I’m basing that on the fact that the public is much more interested in human spaceflight than robotic flights. ”

                Tiresome…

                Reality is a tough mistress but if you stray off of it what are your chances to make what you want to see happen????

                http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-57489660-235/viewers-opted-for-the-web-over-tv-to-watch-curiositys-landing/

                “According to Mashable, more than 3.2 million people viewed the nail-biting descent nicknamed “seven minutes of terror” via Ustream’s live streaming platform on Sunday night.”

                http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/08/space.shuttle/index.html

                “As many as a million people may have witnessed the historic moment, including some who were at Kennedy Space Center three decades ago for the first shuttle lift off.”

          • common sense

            “I believe that almost everyone does want us to return to the Moon. ”

            I agree! In my office almost everyone want us to return to the Moon! Of course we are just the two of us but I think it is significant. By extrapolation I can tell that probably more than 50% of the people in the US want to return to the Moon. Sometimes I even dream of people with placards outside my office with “Back to the Moon Today!”, “Mars is the right choice for the US”, etc. That must, MUST say something.

            Oh well.

          • ” And the only ones who don’t are operating under the (very common) misapprehension that such a return would be hugely expensive…”

            Agreed, but unfortunately, that is most of the lay public.

            • Robert Clark

              Unfortunately, it’s also the opinion of those forming our space policy. The misconception that any return to the Moon has to be a $100 billion project is THE reason why NASA discounts any such return. In fact it can be two orders of magnitude cheaper than that simply by going *small*.

              Bob Clark

              • Coastal Ron

                Robert Clark said:

                The misconception that any return to the Moon has to be a $100 billion project is THE reason why NASA discounts any such return.

                You forget that it’s NASA that is coming up with those estimates.

                And NASA doesn’t decide what it wants to do, the President and Congress does. If the President and Congress want to spend $100B going back to the Moon, then NASA would be more than happy to oblige.

                In fact it can be two orders of magnitude cheaper than that simply by going *small*.

                While I think that there can be significant cost reductions if things like commodity transportation and fuel depots are used. However, you are saying that we could do what Constellation wanted to do for $1B, and I think you are off by a magnitude. Just the transportation is going to cost $1B, and you would still need to develop all the new hardware, and that’s not cheap.

                For instance, I’ve costed out a an EML-1/2 station, and even a simple one costs out around $10B, and that includes one year of constant occupation after construction. And I assumed reusing existing ISS module designs, and current commercial transportation. Space is not cheap.

                I think you need to revisit your assumptions.

          • Lyle Upson.

            actually, I like the idea of and am very interested in, the lasso mission … I also accept that USA govt wants their SLS, so I will not be whinging, rather hoping the public model is useful, which is likely

        • @Coastal Ron & his May 9th, 10:48 am comment;…..Yes, it is clear how afraid they are about building a lander! (‘They’ being the Flexible Path-ers & the Mars zealots & those who want the Moon ignored in favor of “other destinations”.) Since you don’t actually ‘land’ on an NEO, nor a Lagrange point, presumedly neglecting to build a lander effectively quashes any thought of a manned Lunar return. But the mad avoidance to develop a new lander vehicle does put you in a quandary, because it closes off ever dealing with a dusty planet-surface environment, and prevents getting experience dealing with the nitty-gritty of all that.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            Yes, it is clear how afraid they are about building a lander!

            Even when the Moon was an official goal (i.e. Constellation), there was no money to build a lunar lander until sometime in the 2020′s.

            As of now, because Congress has mandated that NASA build the SLS, there is no money to build a lunar lander at all – there is no money to build ANY payload for the SLS.

            Money Chris – if you keep avoiding the heart of the issue, you will continue to be disappointed…

            • @Coastal Ron,…If a lunar lander would not have been ready until the 2020′s, at least Constellation could have reached the Moon’s surface prior to 2030. THAT prospect—-and by no means was this a certainty, just some anti-Moon people’s opinion—-would NOT have bothered me much. The hobby rocketeers are all set to WASTE just about that same amount of time futzing around in LEO with their commercial exploits anyway!! I’d rather see the American flag re-planted at a seventh in-the-history-of-the-world successful lunar landing at a new site, than to see the nation STILL fooling around in LEO with a supposedly ‘bigger & better’ space station!!

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                The hobby rocketeers…

                If you’re going to diss commerce, then you have an even bigger problem than NASA not going to the Moon. NASA doesn’t get enough money to do everything – in case you hadn’t realize that yet…

                I’d rather see the American flag re-planted at a seventh in-the-history-of-the-world successful lunar landing at a new site, than to see the nation STILL fooling around in LEO with a supposedly ‘bigger & better’ space station!

                You have your opinion, and that’s fine. Why don’t you spend some of your OWN money to make your dreams come true?

                And if you’re not willing to risk your own money like Elon Musk did, then STOP YOUR WHINING!!

  • RockyMtnSpace

    The current administration’s HSF plans just don’t pass the sniff test. Bolden’s argument that fully funding commercial crew is critical to enable development of BEO technologies is disingenuous. If the main impediment to achieving HSF goals to Mars is the funding needed for these technologies, end the $3B+ annual operating cost of ISS. That not only frees up that money for NASA to use on technology development, but frees up the $800M+ per year of support to commercial crew. If that approach is not palatable, and the ISS is truly a critical research facility, bid out the operations cost to a commercial entity on a “for profit” basis. That approach would quickly determine, through free-market forces, whether the ISS has any real research or manufacturing value or not. The commercial entity can easily go find the cheapest ride to the ISS for resupply and crew delivery, whether it be SpaceX, Orbital, Roscosmos, or anyone else independent of the politics in Washington.

    • “If the main impediment to achieving HSF goals to Mars is the funding needed for these technologies, end the $3B+ annual operating cost of ISS.”
      Correction, should be:
      “If the main impediment to achieving HSF goals to Mars is the funding needed for these technologies, end the $2B annual development cost of SLS.”
      Evidently Bolden is being purposely kept in the dark by upper level agency executives about NASA’s own study that says SLS is unnecessary for deep space exploration as well as other industry and university studies that say likewise.

      • JimNobles

        -
        Evidently Bolden is being purposely kept in the dark by upper level agency executives about NASA’s own study that says SLS is unnecessary for deep space exploration as well as other industry and university studies that say likewise.

        I doubt he’s in the dark about the situation. I suspect he’s just following his orders to best support this unholy compromise that keeps CC, SLS, and MPCV going.

    • Coastal Ron

      RockyMtnSpace said:

      If the main impediment to achieving HSF goals to Mars is the funding needed for these technologies, end the $3B+ annual operating cost of ISS.

      Except that they only way we’ll be able to figure out how to survive a trip to Mars is by using the ISS to solve those problems.

      Or do you imagine we’ll just “figure them out” on our way to Mars?

      The ISS is the least costliest platform, in the least costliest place, to work out the solutions to the problems that will kill or debilitate our future explorers.

      And commercial services, not government owned ones, are the least costliest way to support that research.

      The further and further we push out into space, the more intertwined the solutions are with the architecture we use. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right architecture now, since that drives our costs for at least a generation, if not more.

      And in case you haven’t noticed, money is everything. Choose wisely.

      • RockyMtnSpace

        “Except that they only way we’ll be able to figure out how to survive a trip to Mars is by using the ISS to solve those problems.”

        Not really. The two major threats to survival for a trip to Mars is radiation and long-term weightlessness. You don’t need the ISS or humans to address the radiation issue. The radiation environment is well known, the options for shielding are well known, and humans make for poor radiation monitors. It is an engineering challenge, not a scientific research topic.

        But I do agree that the impacts of long-term weightlessness are not well characterized and humans are needed as guinea pigs in this case. But the ISS is not “the least costliest platform, in the least costliest place, to work out the solutions to the problems that will kill or debilitate our future explorers.” It comes down to time at altitude and the annual operating costs of the ISS are huge. A better solution is to conduct that research in a Bigalow habitat for a fraction of the cost of ISS. Or are you against commercial space and only believe that a Govt.-run hotel in space is the way to go?

        “The further and further we push out into space, the more intertwined the solutions are with the architecture we use. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right architecture now …”

        Wow, what an enlightening statement of the obvious. Thanks for sharing that little nugget of wisdom as it would never have occurred to me that the solutions to solving life threatening space travel actually have to be a part of the architecture designed to accomplish that space travel. You are certainly wise beyond your years! So given the context of the discussion, namely the use or abandonment of the ISS, I surmise that you see the ISS as the “right architecture”. In that respect, I have to disagree.

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          The radiation environment is well known, the options for shielding are well known

          But untested.

          A better solution is to conduct that research in a Bigalow habitat for a fraction of the cost of ISS.

          How much would it cost? I am a numbers type of guy, so it helps if you can provide some sort of realistic estimate.

          Or are you against commercial space and only believe that a Govt.-run hotel in space is the way to go?

          Apparently you don’t know my viewpoints. No worries. But suffice it to say I like having alternatives, and I like competition. Plus my goal is to increase our presence out into space, not reduce it.

          Describe how we would transition from what we have to what you think would be better.

          I surmise that you see the ISS as the “right architecture”. In that respect, I have to disagree.

          Disagreeing is easy. Describing a better alternative is harder. What do you suggest?

          For me, I think modular construction (with solid or inflatable structures) like we did with the ISS is adequate for our current and near-term space occupation and exploration needs. Plus our commercial launch companies can satisfy our launch needs with the government having to build their own rocket.

  • Charlie is right about one thing … If Congress starts changing NASA’s direction again, it will only add to the confusion.

    Report after report have heaped gobs of blame on Congress for failing to stick with a direction and provide adequate funding. Now we have House Space Subcommittee chair Rep. Steve Palazzo exploiting his position to propose redirecting NASA from Mars back to the Moon, just to create more jobs in his district at Stennis Space Center.

    These porkers really don’t care if NASA ever goes anywhere, so long as the taxpayer dollars keep flowing to their districts and states.

    I think most folks tend to overlook that this is an authorization year. The budget is one thing, but the authorization bill sets the roadmap for the next few years. The porkers will be fighting each other to see whose district gets the most pork. No one is looking out for commercial space, other than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Chaka Fattah and Sen. Bill Nelson. They’re still outnumbered. Nelson orchestrated the grand compromise in 2010 — guaranteed pork with SLS in exchange for saving ISS/commercial space — but now that commercial space is successful these politicians realize just how dangerous NewSpace can be to their pork.

    It’s not going to be pretty later this year.

    • Malmesbury

      Hence the anger when certain parties realised that CC companies are planning on doing milestones before NASA has the money. A commercial crew vehicle doing an orbital test before 2016 is unacceptable to alot of er…. stake holders.

      • Malmesbury wrote:

        Hence the anger when certain parties realised that CC companies are planning on doing milestones before NASA has the money. A commercial crew vehicle doing an orbital test before 2016 is unacceptable to alot of er…. stake holders.

        Last night at a meeting we had a guest speaker from the NASA commercial crew office. I videotaped and will upload to YouTube once it’s edited.

        I asked if funding constrains the pace at which NASA would certify the companies, e.g. if SpaceX decides to put in more of their own money so they can be certified by 2015, would NASA do so or do they have to slow down to a pace that matches their funding. The speaker said that if the companies put in their own money to speed things up, then NASA will go along. He suggested that might be one advantage of the competition, in that if one company thinks that to get the certification and contract they’ll pony up more money to speed things up, they might do so.

        Given that SpaceX is privately owned, that might give them the edge since Elon Musk seems inclined towards certification by 2015.

    • DCSCA

      “No one is looking out for commercial space, other than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Chaka Fattah and Sen. Bill Nelson.” weeps Stephen.

      Poor baby. Stephen doesn’t like the rough and tumble, survival of the fittest nature of the free market he keeps championing that his ‘commercial’ ventures are created to serve. Seems you’re discovering trickle down often means somebody gets trickled on.

      • Matt

        Nelson’s not that supportive of Commercial Crew, remember? Though largely, I do agree with DCSCA’s point.

        As for lunar return, we’ll have to go back to the lunar regolith to get ready for Mars. All poor Charlie Bolden’s doing is what he’s told to do. Mainly because this President thinks that just because we landed six times from 1969-72, we don’t need to go back (his “Been there, done that,” remark). Wrong. And even the Augustine Panel realized that to get back to Mars, we need to learn planetary surface operations in a space environment. Using Mars-like terrain on Earth is good, but it’s no substitute for a vaccum and radiation environment…Which means lunar return. IF this Administration won’t consider it, the next one will.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘What happens if we are forced to go right to a 130-metric-ton vehicle is that we are perilously along the way to what happened with Constellation, where we have a very robust launch vehicle and no money, no assets, to develop the other systems that allow us to explore,’ [Bolden] said.”

    This is the situation with SLS regardless of what tonnage it comes in at. Even under much more optimistic scenarios than the existing budget, NASA’s own planning documents (see slide #8) state that there is no funding to develop “In-Space Elements” until “NET [No Earlier Than] 2030″ using SLS and MPCV:

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

    Is Bolden really this clueless? Do any of his staff even bother to brief him on budgets and cost estimates? Or is he just lying through his teeth?

    “‘The number of launches required to support a human mission to Mars begins to make it very difficult and decreases the probability of success of those missions’ if EELV-class rockets are used instead, he said.”

    This is a total strawman. No one is proposing to use “EELV-class” (25-ton and less) launch vehicles for human Mars landings. Even the Inspiration Mars Foundation, which is pursuing a much less aggressive human Mars flyby, has baselined Falcon Heavy (50-ton and more) launch vehicles:

    http://tinyurl.com/d3clwnn

    “If NASA waited on the development of alternative rockets and propellant depots, ‘we won’t get to an asteroid in 2021 and we definitely won’t get to Mars in the 2030s, in my estimation.’”

    Don’t wait on them, Charlie. Procure them. That’s what you’re doing with commercial cargo and crew. Cancel SLS and procure much less costly HLVs sooner.

    ULA has costed the development of a 70-ton EELV Phase 2 launch vehicle at $2.3 billion plus inflation:

    http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/EELVPhase2_2010.pdf

    Using the figures in the NASA budget planning document above, that’s a savings of $7.1 to $9.4 billion over the 70-ton SLS Block I through its first uncrewed flight.

    It’s a savings of $12.2 to $12.7 billion over the 70-ton SLS Block I through its first crewed flight.

    That’s $7.1 billion to $12.7 billion that could be made available for building “systems that allow us to explore”.

    SpaceX has costed the development of a 150-ton Falcon Superheavy launch vehicle at $2.5 billion:

    http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html

    Using the figures in the NASA budget planning document above, that’s a savings of $19.9 to $20.8 billion over the 130-ton SLS Block II through its first flight.

    That’s $19.9 billion to $20.8 billion that could be made available for building “systems that allow us to explore”.

    • Malmesbury

      Coded words… Do you really expect the head of NASA to go up to Shelby & Co. and start chanting “Fight, Fight, Fight…..”

      What he is saying is that the whole thing is broken – pretty sharp words for the political world really.

  • He must love Robert Zubrin.

    Bob Clark

  • Hiram

    It would seem that the issue here is what I would call the “promise” of Mars colonization and settlement. If the idea is to colonize Mars, or at least to send a large number of people there continuously, then the need for in-space (or at least lunar) resource development is pretty much inescapable. If, however, Mars is about just getting there, leaving flags and footprints, much as we did for the Moon with Apollo, and perhaps establishing property rights by keeping it minimally inhabited, it really isn’t. Of course, national priorities for the former have never been established, and those for the latter have only been somewhat implicit. That is, it is national policy only that we “expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit”. There are many ways to achieve that without setting up off-world infrastructure and logistics for resource development. A couple of people on Mars for a few years at a time doesn’t need it.

    So the issue of how much we need the Moon for Mars really is connected with what, exactly, we want to do on Mars once we get there.

    • common sense

      “then the need for in-space (or at least lunar) resource development is pretty much inescapable.”

      Now I don’t understand that statement.

      Can you please elaborate – specifically why “lunar” resource development are “inescapable”?

      • Guest

        Let’s see, it’s closer, cheaper, warmer, colder, there is more continuous sunlight, communications are direct, and everyone can participate. That’s just for starters. Plus we now have a credible model for direct two stage to surface flights capable of delivering large amounts of usable infrastructure which can leverage all of its unique astrophysical characteristics and properties. Plus it doesn’t require people up front, that’s just one of the wonderful side effects of its development and exploitation.

        The moon does not escape from the problems of Earth, it just confronts them head on.

        • Coastal Ron

          Guest said:

          Let’s see, it’s closer, cheaper, warmer, colder…

          Um, warmer, colder? Is that really an attribute? And wouldn’t that really be “beyond boiling hot, and freezing-ass cold”?

          …and everyone can participate.

          Oh good, you don’t need to wait for the government then. For a second there I thought you were going to say that Congress needed to fund something.

          Good luck in your endeavors, and do write. OK?

          • Guest

            Warmer as in areas with periods of direct continuous sunlight at 1 au and colder as in areas of perpetual darkness at 38 K. Do try to keep up.

            I thought you were going to say that Congress needed to fund something.

            The government is already funding something. I just happened to be opposed to them funding something that self destructs after the first 10 minutes of flight and used for a mission that for all practical purposes is unnecessary. Boots on Mars and retrieving an asteroid they have no means to detect with a spacecraft that doesn’t exist, at the expense of vastly cheaper and more valuable asteroid detection and lunar polar regolith examination come to mind.

            • Coastal Ron

              Guest said:

              Do try to keep up.

              Indeed. If what you described isn’t “beyond boiling hot, and freezing-ass cold”, I don’t what it would be. Do try to keep up.

              …at the expense of vastly cheaper and more valuable asteroid detection and lunar polar regolith examination come to mind.

              Private entities are already pursuing the asteroid detection stuff, both for the good of all and for profit. Since Congress is balking at the $100M NASA is seeking to get their efforts going, and NASA has already committed to using help from commercial companies, I wouldn’t expect too much pork funding from Congress.

              And though you may not think much of Bolden’s declaration that the Moon is not a current destination, just remember that in the 40 years after Apollo no one has been able to sustain an effort to return to the Moon with public money.

              I suggest you glean something from that information…

              • Guest

                Indeed. If what you described isn’t “beyond boiling hot, and freezing-ass cold”, I don’t what it would be.

                That’s a feature not a bug. The moon radiates as a black body.

                Private entities are already pursuing the asteroid detection stuff

                I’d rather not leave something as vitally important as global security up the the private sector, thank you very much, since they are doing such a heckava job with the carbon catastrophe and outright carbocide.

              • Coastal Ron

                Guest said:

                I’d rather not leave something as vitally important as global security up the the private sector

                What “global security”? Who are we securing the Moon against?

                And if we do need to secure the Moon, we won’t do it with a bunch of eggheads and rock kickers – we’ll use the Department of Defense.

                Are you making up reasons because you don’t have any real ones?

        • common sense

          “Let’s see, it’s closer, cheaper, warmer, colder, there is more continuous sunlight, communications are direct, and everyone can participate.”

          Another pile of garbage. So in order to permanently go to a world whose conditions are vastly different you MUST first go to the Moon? In order to understand the difficulty with comms you need to go to a place where there is none? And who is “everyone”? You?

          “That’s just for starters.”

          Well your starters explain a lot actually, that is for sure.

          “Plus we now have a credible model for direct two stage to surface flights capable of delivering large amounts of usable infrastructure which can leverage all of its unique astrophysical characteristics and properties.”

          Wow. If this is how you write proposals… What direct two stage to surface model are you talking about???? In what way delivering something to the surface of the Moon will help do the same on Mars?

          “Plus it doesn’t require people up front, that’s just one of the wonderful side effects of its development and exploitation.”

          Why would Mars need anyone – if I were to attempt to follow your twisted logic?

          “The moon does not escape from the problems of Earth, it just confronts them head on.”

          Are you a fiction author? “The moon does not escape from the problems of Earth, it just confronts them head on.” Wonder how long you had to think this one through… On occasion let us know what problems you are referring to… Please.

          • Guest

            So in order to permanently go to a world whose conditions are vastly different you MUST first go to the Moon?

            I never said anything about going to Mars, we’re just stacking them up and taking a good close look at what is what. Mars is way ahead in my schema as it has two weird small moons. I like Ceres a lot as well. There are quite a few weird large carbonaceous bodies and some interesting stainless steel ones too.

            What direct two stage to surface model are you talking about????

            I got it was a question after the first question mark. The one I recently proposed, enabled by efficient crossfeeding methane boosters. I just scoped out a whole slew of possible landing sites right in my back yard. Oops, there goes the space cadet secret! Loose lips sink ships! A stitch in time saves F9s!

            • common sense

              You know it is getting tiresome now.

              I responded to that statement “If the idea is to colonize Mars, or at least to send a large number of people there continuously, then the need for in-space (or at least lunar) resource development is pretty much inescapable.” And you responded to my response.

              I’ll try. Slowly. “if the idea is to colonize Mars… then the need for in-space (or at least lunar) resource development is pretty much inescapable.” So yes we are talking about going to Mars. At least in this sub-thread.

              Congratulations! I now officially declare you “funny troll”. Not so funny but. Yes I can do that I am “common sense”. And I am almighty.

              • Guest

                Let me try it again as well. You can do many orders of magnitude more spacey things many orders of magnitude faster on the moon than you can on Mars. So yeah, from a technological and logistical point of view, the moon first is inevitable. The only people pushing for Mars first besides Elon Musk are the same people that rabidly supports the SLS and MPCV. And Mr. Musk isn’t even pushing Mars first, he’s pushing reliability. That should tell you something. I’m merely pushing the realistic plan of reusability first, lunar poles first, using unmanned hydrogen cores as lunar surface infrastructure and two stage to the lunar polar surface using legacy engines and commercially available reusable boosters from SpaceX – because it’s what we have, it’s what we can afford, and it’s what we have to do first by obvious reasoning. It helps that congress demanded funding it and the president signed, what I can’t figure out is how NASA and Boeing screwed up the design. These people are seriously delusional, just like you, if you think any of this is going to happen using conventional EELVs and LEO assembly.

              • common sense

                I think I will now leave our exchange at that. You win.

                Never mind what I think or my delusion and make sure you mention you can do a lot of “spacey” things in your proposals. It will most certainly help you.

                Anywho.

              • Guest

                Well if you can’t afford payloads and you can’t afford any missions then you had better figure out something to do with the big rocket because it’s all you’ll ever have. It’s amazing what you can do with a big rocket sitting on the pole of the moon if you put your mind to it.

                I’m more interested in knowing what schoolchildren and crowds of space hungry civilians and ordinary people on the street want to do with it once it is in place and generating many kilowatts of power for robots. NASA had their chance and they blow it with a rocket that self destructs after the first 10 minutes of flight. I don’t think that’s what most people are going to find amusing in the next five years.

    • Coastal Ron

      Hiram said:

      If the idea is to colonize Mars…

      No one in our government has stated that it is.

      …or at least to send a large number of people there continuously…

      That hasn’t been explicitly stated either, but I think everyone thinks this at least would be the real goal.

      …then the need for in-space (or at least lunar) resource development is pretty much inescapable.

      That’s an economic question that can’t be answered at this time, nor does it need to be.

      We have a pretty much endless supply of everything we need for space exploration here on Earth, the only question is what does it cost to move it to where it’s needed? THAT will drive the need for ISRU, the desire to lower our costs.

      We probably have a decade or more to look at alternatives, of which the easiest is to lower the cost of launching mass to space from Earth. And SpaceX is already leading the way there.

      No need to spend time or money on something that is not yet a constraint.

      • Hiram

        You just restated what I said about priorities. That’s the dilemma about Mars. Human space flight advocates are desperate to shove off and go there en masse, but the nation has never formally decided doing that doing that is important.

        “I think everyone thinks this at least would be the real goal.”

        Which means absolutely nothing. If it’s the real goal, then let’s see it in legislation, or national space policy. It’s not there yet. Evidently everyone does not think what you say they do. I don’t.

        As to why lunar resource development is inescapable for large numbers of trips to Mars, it’s pretty simple. Once you have the infrastructure developed to refine, process, and distribute water (and perhaps other raw materials) up there, getting that stuff from the Moon is a lot cheaper than getting it from Earth. That’s just physics. You can’t argue with that. These are old arguments. But if you don’t have lots and lots of trips to Mars, you’ll never recoup the investment in infrastructure, and that infrastructure is going to be VERY VERY expensive. I don’t know if we’re talking about moving a town, or moving a civilization, but if we’re just sending a couple of people, Earth resources are just dandy. Well, nothing is inescapable if money is no object.

        Did you have in mind some more economical away to get very large quantities of stuff with which to ship humans into cis-lunar space?

        • common sense

          “As to why lunar resource development is inescapable for large numbers of trips to Mars, it’s pretty simple. Once you have the infrastructure developed to refine, process, and distribute water (and perhaps other raw materials) up there, getting that stuff from the Moon is a lot cheaper than getting it from Earth.”

          Well that is a very thin argument.

          “That’s just physics.”

          Physics is not everything.

          “You can’t argue with that.”

          Duh? Why not? Make a case and demonstrate what you say is true. I haven’t seen any such thing. Why would you go to the Moon to develop ISRU there instead of directly to Mars? You maybe thinking fuel depots but there is no need to extract water on the Moon to do any of that.

          “These are old arguments. But if you don’t have lots and lots of trips to Mars, you’ll never recoup the investment in infrastructure, and that infrastructure is going to be VERY VERY expensive. I don’t know if we’re talking about moving a town, or moving a civilization, but if we’re just sending a couple of people, Earth resources are just dandy. Well, nothing is inescapable if money is no object.”

          Well in essence you have to run the trade study to see where it becomes affordable if not profitable to do what you say. And I don’t know that there is any such study out there.

          So you only expressed an opinion which is okay but don’t make it a fact. That’d be nice.

        • Coastal Ron

          Hiram said:

          If it’s the real goal, then let’s see it in legislation, or national space policy.

          Our government is not ready for that yet. Going to Mars is still one of those aspirations, but not anywhere near on the horizon. A successful Inspiration Mars likely won’t change that either, since NASA would want to go to Mars in the NASA way, and that means a whole lot of infrastructure that it doesn’t have.

          It’s not there yet. Evidently everyone does not think what you say they do.

          That’s why I said “I think” – it’s only an aspiration at this point, and no one is ready to commit. I’m sorry if you are a binary person, and this type of fuzziness on the part of everyone doesn’t compute.

          Once you have the infrastructure developed to refine, process, and distribute water (and perhaps other raw materials) up there, getting that stuff from the Moon is a lot cheaper than getting it from Earth. That’s just physics.

          Physics doesn’t play a part in this – money does. How much will it take to put all that infrastructure in place? According to the Spudis/Lavoie proposal, it would have been $88B in 2010 dollars. For $88B, without any price breaks for volume purchases, I can put close to 34,375mt of water in LEO using Falcon Heavy. But if we siphon off some of that money to build SEP tugs to move that water to EML-1/2, and a little more to build a processing plant to break down the water into LH2 & LOX, then that’s likely to be more than 20,000mt of fuel.

          And if SpaceX did lower prices for volume purchases, and was able to perfect some form of reusability, then that number would likely double.

          You always have to be looking at what the alternatives are, especially if there is a free market involved – which I’m sure we all hope is the case.

          Well, nothing is inescapable if money is no object.

          Which is what a lot of people think about lunar ISRU. Instead of mandating the answer, all we need to do is have NASA put their needs out for bid, and let the free market determine the best supply source. Maybe it will be the Moon, maybe Earth. Maybe an asteroid if the fuel is needed for a trip to Mars.

          In any case, where to get fuel for a trip to Mars is like #99 on the list of things we need to address first. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Well it is a political statement, but not a factual one:

    “Constellation, where we have a very robust launch vehicle and no money, no assets, to develop the other systems that allow us to explore,”

    The first thing to go is language.

    ATK’s Ares 1 launcher, which the Administrator refers to as “Constellation”, was not “robust”. And the Ares 1′s cost overruns were not the reason there was no money for manned flight to Mars, which Administrator Bolden refers to “explore”, the fact is that there is not sufficient money for manned flight to Mars, and will not be, as the general public does not want to pay for it.

    I know that the manned Mars enthusiasts will quote their own poll, but in the real world of dollars and not talk there has been no manned Mars plan ever funded in the US.

    • Neil Shipley

      And there still isn’t one.

      • NeilShipley

        Actually, on second thought, I’ll retract and say that there are indeed several.

        IP is definitely being funded in its initial stages. So it seems is Mars One. And before either of those was Elon Musk who is on the public record as saying that he started SpaceX with the intention of facilitating the human species along the road to being a multi-planetary species, Mars being the first step.

        So EP, I think my examples give lie to the idea of there being no funded Mars manned mission. There just isn’t a NASA or U.S. government funded one.

        Cheers

        • E.P. Grondine

          One by one, Neil –

          “Desperation Mars” has no hope of meeting its launch window. Mars One is the same kind of pipe dream.

          Musk has publicly stated that he will need government funding for manned Mars flight. That ias IF his medium heavy launcher works.

          NASA has SLS, which looks like it should work. The problem until the second version of it somes out is that it will be too expensive to use.

          Given the effects of the Ares 1 fiasco, and the current budget constraints, I think that this current mission is a balanced program and about the best that can be done. Of course, I’d like to see CAPS built immediately on the Moon, but unlike the manned Mars flight enthusiasts, I do not intend to throw a tantrum or whine about it.

          If the budget is reduced, then the situation changes.

          • Neil Shipley

            E.P. One by one.
            IP no hope. Well that’s unsubstantiated. We don’t know that yet
            Musk has publicly stated… When and where please?
            SLS should work. Read the latest GAO report. Looking more unlikely every day.
            Current mission balanced. BS, please excuse but is.

            There is no money for any of the other hardware required for it. NASA is failing big time with its large HSF projects. The GAO report was less than complimentary regarding MPCV and SLS both of which have considerable technical, schedule and cost issues. If you want further evidence, check out Cx and JWST. NASA is not learning anything from past projects.

            Reducing the budget will have about the same impact as increasing it. The money will be spent or otherwise and nothing will come of it because, at least for SLS, it’s about jobs.

            Therefore you have to look to commercial for any real progress in HSF and exploration. NASA has no reason, public or government support for going there.

  • The Moon is the key to establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.

    The delta-v requirements for a rocket traveling from LEO to high Mars orbit is approximately 5.2 km/s. The delta-v requirements for a rocket traveling from a Lagrange point gateway to high Mars orbit is less than 2km/s.

    Providing the rocket fuel and mass shielding (water) from Earth to LEO for the Mars journey requires a delta-v of approximately 9 to 10 km/s. Providing the rocket fuel from the Moon to a Lagrange point gateway for the Mars journey requires a delta-v of less than 2.6 km/s. Plus, a lunar tanker would probably be a reusable vehicle which could reduce cost substantially more.

    Additionally, the same regolith shielded outpost habs on the surface of the Moon could probably be used on Mars and on the moons of Mars. And we’re going to need to have people continuously occupying such habs on the Moon for stints as long as one to four years, IMO, if we are to see how well humans and the habitats themselves would fare being on the surface of an airless low gravity world for a few years before returning to Earth.

    A permanent human presence on the lunar surface coupled with the production and export lunar water resources to the Earth-Moon Lagrange points are the key to getting to Mars quickly and permanently, IMO.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The Moon is the key to establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.”

      This assumes that savings from your grade-school delta-v sums translate into savings in dollars. Without a lot more testing and experience, it’s folly to assume that the costs of establishing and operating a lunar mining operation would be substantially less than the costs of just launching the equivalent of that mine’s output from Earth. And that assumes that ETO and in-space transportation costs remain unchanged for decades to come — also a very bad assumption.

      “Additionally, the same regolith shielded outpost habs on the surface of the Moon could probably be used on Mars and on the moons of Mars.”

      Another very bad assumption given the radically different structural, thermal, and life support requirements on the Moon and Mars.

      “And we’re going to need to have people continuously occupying such habs on the Moon for stints as long as one to four years, IMO, if we are to see how well humans and the habitats themselves would fare being on the surface of an airless low gravity world for a few years before returning to Earth.”

      Hint #1: Mars is not “airless”.

      Hint #2: The gravitational gradient on Mars is twice that of the Moon.

      Hint #3: The solar constant on Mars is less than half that on the Moon.

      Hint #4: Operations a couple seconds of light-time from Earth are radically different from operations 20-odd minutes from Earth.

      Hint #5: The Moon and Mars have radically different toxins.

      “A permanent human presence on the lunar surface coupled with the production and export lunar water resources to the Earth-Moon Lagrange points are the key to getting to Mars quickly and permanently, IMO.”

      Your opinion is poorly informed and worthless.

    • Hiram

      ““The Moon is the key to establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.”

      No it isn’t. If you want to keep a half dozen people there, and swap people out every few years, it most certainly isn’t the key to anything. Permanent human presence could mean one astronaut who decides to go and stay.

      But as I said, the Moon probably is the key to transplanting a town, or maybe a Gingrichian Moon colony there. Not that we should do that …

    • Robert Clark

      Well said, Marcel. The whole basis of this debate rests on the idea any return to the Moon has to be expensive. It doesn’t. A big reason why the Constellation program had to be so big and expensive is because of the huge lunar lander it mandated, the 45 mT(!) Altair.
      In fact it can be done at a third of that weight. If so, then the mission can be done with just two launches of the Delta IV Heavy, Ariane V, or Atlas V (with side boosters) plus a man-rated launcher for the crew to LEO, or by a single launch of the Falcon Heavy.
      NASA should commission some studies on how low cost a return to the Moon can be done by going small rather than humongous, as with Constellation. In fact at least one study has been done dating from the early ’90′s:

      Early Lunar Access – Encyclopedia Astronautica.

      American manned lunar base. Study 1993. Early Lunar Access (ELA) was a “cheaperfasterbetter” manned lunar mission study, carried out by General Dynamics in 1992-93.
      It was intended as a joint US-European pathfinder for NASA’s more capable 4-man First Lunar Outpost (FLO). The project tried to reduce total costs by a factor of ten compared with Apollo, by utilizing existing launch vehicles rather than developing a large Saturn V-class rocket.

      http://www.astronautix.com/craft/earccess.htm

      And IF the Falcon Heavy really does reach the $1,000 per pound price, then it could be done two orders of magnitude more cheaply than Apollo, or Constellation.
      NASA could palliate the critics who want a return to the Moon by requesting such studies. Since currently NASA has no plans to return to the Moon, it could be presented as intended to promote commercial flights beyond LEO. Actually, it is important that such studies be done just so that NASA has a valid assessment of cost vs. benefits of returning to the Moon in order to support further manned flights to interplanetary destinations.

      Bob Clark

      • Coastal Ron

        Robert Clark said:

        NASA should commission some studies on how low cost a return to the Moon can be done by going small rather than humongous, as with Constellation.

        NASA already did studies, and according to Michael Griffin’s NASA, existing commercial alternatives were too small, and the Delta IV Heavy had black zones that ruled it out for carrying humans. Of course all of that was wrong, and what Michael Griffin did should have been looked at for violations of the law, but it gets worse.

        When Congress agreed to cancel the Constellation program, it was Michael Griffin who was advising Congress that we still needed an HLV, and that Congress should mandate one made from Constellation and Shuttle components. Seeing a steady stream of jobs in their states, a few key politicians agreed and that’s how we ended up with the unaffordable SLS.

        And also remember that Congress has the power to create commissions, so it’s not like they are interested in less costly exploration architectures. They are not.

        The people that currently run NASA (President Obama and Charles Bolden) didn’t want an HLV, but Obama agreed to it as part of the compromise that cancelled Constellation, saved the ISS, and created the Commercial Crew program. And that’s how we got to where we are today.

        Oh, and a more recent (and I think better) study for you to consider is ULA’s “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009“. I’m surprised you weren’t aware of it.

        • Oh, and a more recent (and I think better) study for you to consider is ULA’s “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009“. I’m surprised you weren’t aware of it.

          Yes I have seen it. It’s no longer at that link. It’s available here:

          A Commercially Based Lunar Architecture.
          AIAA 2009-6567
          Frank Zegler, Bernard F. Kutter, Jon Barr
          United Launch Alliance
          http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/AffordableExplorationArchitecture2009.pdf

          A couple of things I like about that report is that it advocates a commercial approach to the return to the Moon and that it advocates making use of propellant depots.
          Unfortunately it’s based on using the Orion space capsule and the Altair lander. The Orion is 4 times as big as it needs to be and the Altair 3 times as big. So this report was not based on the concept of going small. In fact, reading Table 2 I estimate in the range of 200 metric tons required to LEO for the crewed mission, quite expensive even if using the Delta Heavy IV instead of a new heavy lift launcher.

          Bob Clark

          • Coastal Ron

            Robert Clark said:

            It’s no longer at that link.

            Thank’s for fixing that. I goofed on the link.

            Unfortunately it’s based on using the Orion space capsule and the Altair lander.

            You’re getting hung up on names.

            For Orion, they just assumed that it would be available, so they assumed using it. You can swap it out with a replacement pretty easily since it’s just a people mover.

            As for the Altair, you are confusing the NASA proposed Altair solution with what ULA is called “Altair”, which is actually their ACES platform.

            So this report was not based on the concept of going small.

            The proposal was based on using what we have, and what we don’t have that can be created from what we have. And the key to that was their proposed ACES family of vehicles (which are based on their Centaur upper stage), and on using existing launchers.

            In fact, reading Table 2 I estimate in the range of 200 metric tons required to LEO for the crewed mission, quite expensive even if using the Delta Heavy IV instead of a new heavy lift launcher.

            Quite expensive compared to what? And keep in mind that if the transportation architecture is open, then costs will fall as less expensive transportation comes online.

            For instance, I would hope that we would use a mix of launchers, with Falcon Heavy the least expensive, and no doubt Delta IV Heavy as the most expensive. But competition and product evolution should drive down the average cost over time.

            • The size of the launcher is dictated by what payload it needs to lift and where it needs to send it to. The large Orion-type capsule and large Altair-type lander that needed to be sent all the way to the Moon means you need either a large launcher of very many small launchers. Even if using the Delta IV Heavy, 200 metric tons to LEO is quite expensive.
              The point is you don’t need the capsule or the lander to be that large.

              Bob Clark

              • Coastal Ron

                Robert Clark said:

                The large Orion-type capsule and large Altair-type lander that needed to be sent all the way to the Moon means you need either a large launcher of very many small launchers.

                Yep. And that is the divide today – existing vs HLV’s.

                I’m not sure why you are hung up on the name “Altair”. ULA used it because that was what NASA was using, but if you want to be accurate ULA’s lander would more accurately be called “ACES-derived”. It did not in any way resemble the popular images of what NASA’s Altair was supposed to be.

                Even if using the Delta IV Heavy, 200 metric tons to LEO is quite expensive.

                A free market for delivering propellant would lower those costs pretty fast. For instance, Falcon Heavy would be a great propellant lifter.

                The point is you don’t need the capsule or the lander to be that large.

                I never said that, and even pointed out that the Orion could be easily replaced.

                My philosophy is to use what you have as much as you can where it makes sense, and only develop what you really have to have. If the Orion was already developed, and the production costs were low enough, then maybe sending it up on a Delta IV Heavy or Falcon Heavy would make sense. But all capsules are pretty much destined to be relegated to lifeboat service on real space-only transports.

  • guestagain

    I guess that Bolden no longer feels that Orion/MPCV is critical. Sounds like he is ready to throw in the towel and replace Orion/MPCV with one of the commercial capsules. No doubt its been embarrassing for him to continue to support the mega-billion Orion effort and see little progress while the millions of dollars Dragon and CST efforts continue with both half a decade ahead of Orion.

    • Coastal Ron

      guestagain said:

      I guess that Bolden no longer feels that Orion/MPCV is critical. Sounds like he is ready to throw in the towel and replace Orion/MPCV with one of the commercial capsules.

      I think you need to reread what he said. He is not equating Commercial Crew to the MPCV, he wants Commercial Crew so that NASA can lower it’s operating costs for LEO. And he needs to lower costs so that he can afford the SLS/MPCV exploration architecture.

      Personally I think the SLS/MPCV exploration architecture is unaffordable in every way within NASA’s current budget profile, and we’d have to get rid of both before we could retool to a new exploration architecture that utilizes far more commercial transportation.

  • amightywind

    America, do you really consider Bolden to be your space architect. I didn’t think so. Therein lies the reason NASA is so feckless. With these yahoos fighting a return to the moon has become a point of pride, as has stringing along 3 commercial crew vendors none of which have sufficient funding to complete their mission. The interregnum of American spaceflight will continue to the end of Obama’s disastrous term. Will the country ever recover?

    • josh

      elon musk is america’s space architect. and no, the us will not recover any time soon from the presidency of gwb.

      • DCSCA

        “elon musk is america’s space architect.”

        Except he’s not. Musk not flown anybody.

        • Malmesbury

          Neither have you.

          Orion hasn’t flown at all. Tick, Tock…..

          • common sense

            I hope he is not on the Orion team!!! Could explain a lot but still…

          • DCSCA

            NASA has flown people. Governments have flown people. For half a century. Musk- not so much- in fact not at all. Thank you for playing, Mal.

            • Malmesbury

              NASA have been trying to develop a new manned system since the Shuttle started flying. 30 years. Result – no completed systems. Tick, Tock.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA whined:

              NASA has flown people. Governments have flown people.

              Apparently you predict the future by looking to the past and saying “if no one has ever done it, it can’t be done!”

              It’s a good thing we don’t have more people like you… ;-)

        • Guest

          Space is filled with things that are not people, DC. In the future actual people are going to be a very tiny fraction of ‘stuff in space’. The people anxious to get this thing moving are the aluminum and metals and polymer people. Not because they want to mine space, but because they want to send their products there in large quantities, and they know if they ever run out of raw materials, they’re good.

        • josh

          but he will. nasa most likeyl won’t fly anybody ever again.

      • amightywind

        Musk is a fraud.

        • Guest

          Just say that to yourself the next time you use PayPal.

        • josh

          the frauds are certain people in congress and companies feeding at the government trough while producing nothing of value, i.e. atk, lockmart etc. musk is a genius and visionary. and yes, he is the only real space architect america has today.

        • Mader

          Sooo… he faked 5 launches of Delta II-class rocket. Crafty one, eh?

          Oh wait, you didn’t meant this literally. Just a generic menaningless insult.

        • @Almighty Wind,& his May 8th, 8:11 am Comment;….Musk IS a fraud, and so IS the entire troop of hobby rocketeers!! The American government is getting flim-flamed over their deluded promises!! Eliminate the Orion craft just to let the hobbyists take center stage?? Leave the nation with no other man-rated space vehicles except for theirs?? Pump further billions of bucks trying to prop up the Commercial Crew companies, at the full expense of any other major space projects?? Is THIS what New Space expects the government to do—-just completely ‘get out of the way’??! All this adds up to the prospect of a far worse quagmire, than the Space Shuttle program was!! It’ll be apparent by say, the year 2030….

        • JimNobles

          -
          Musk is a fraud.

          When you say stupid stuff like that you diminish yourself.

    • @AW;…..An Interregnum it will be indeed! American manned spaceflight is now in its most sharpest lull! This ‘hiatus’ will last at least till the end of the Low Earth Orbit President’s second term. Maybe even till the year 2020. The country won’t have its own astronaut-launching space capability before then. An enormous tragedy, brought on by the Flexible Path people!

      • Yes, it will remain in its sharpest lull as long as SLS is still being worked on.

        • @RB;….We need a Heavy-Lift rocket! The Commercial Crew solutions will NOT cut it! I agree to an extent, that the SLS as it stands, is a mistake: we shouldn’t be blindly building a giant rocket without specifically given parameters, of the modules and earth-escape stage that it will actually carry. The SLS—-again, I really hate that name—-seems like it’s going to be an Ares-lite, which won’t have the full power nor capacity of the originally conceived Ares 5; and hence, will be too weak to use for Lunar flight applications. Unless the cislunar plan now calls for much smaller space-crafts: A shrunken Orion & Altair, and/or having the components launched in three or four distinct launches to LEO parking orbit, instead of Constellation’s two launches. Sure, three or four different launches could be invoked, and the lunar orbiter, lander, & departure rocket stage could be rendezvoused in orbit, just the same (maybe even in low lunar orbit, like in the Golden Spike idea). But the flight plan complications multiply, with each additional launch and/or flight. I am firmly convinced that some form of Saturn 5-type of Heavy-Lift rocket muscle is what America has needed all along!!

          • @Chris

            Even if we need a heavy lift rocket, SLS is damn close to being the worst one we could have chosen. Read the Booz-Allen-Hamilton report and then THINK so that you will quit making such ignorant comments.

            Both ULA and SpaceX gave quotes to NASA for HLV’s that would have more payload capacity than SLS Block 2 (140 metric tons and 150 metric tons versus Block 2′s 130). They could also be developed cheaper ($5.5 billion and $2.5 billion respectively) and sooner than SLS Block 2.

            SLS is really just a religion to you not a seriously thought out solution, as it is for every one of you SLS huggers I have encountered. You just believe it is the best thing without logical rational reasons. Again, Tinkerbell, just because you believe in something does not make it true. If real world conditions won’t allow it, no amount of belief on your part will make a difference. Grow up.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            We need a Heavy-Lift rocket!

            Where are the customers for an HLV?

            There certainly aren’t any commercial customers for an HLV, so that only leaves the government.

            And have you seen Congress rushing to fund a constant stream of HLV-sized missions? No.

            Until there is a predictable and constant need for an HLV, building an HLV (i.e. the SLS) and then letting it sit around for years is a waste. A $30B+ waste.

            Someday I hope we have a need to move increasingly larger amounts of mass to space, but we’re a long way from both needing that, and being able to afford it.

            • JimNobles

              -
              “We need a Heavy-Lift rocket!”

              Where are the customers for an HLV?

              There certainly aren’t any commercial customers for an HLV, so that only leaves the government.

              Just for clarification: Musk says he needs a heavy lifter to invade Mars. He even intends to build one. Bigelow needs a heavy lifter for his biggest modules if he is ever going to sell any. So there are certainly commercial outfits that are making noises like they need a heavy lifter.

              Some parts of NASA think they need a heavy lifter for giant telescopes. I think that’s B.S. but they apparently believe it. So there may indeed be entities that would and could us a heavy lifter if one was available and affordable. (SLS being neither.)

              • Coastal Ron

                JimNobles said:

                Just for clarification: Musk says he needs a heavy lifter to invade Mars. He even intends to build one.

                Musk is not NASA. If Musk wants to build his own rocket (without taxpayer money of course) then that’s up to him. My comments are specifically about NASA and NASA’s needs, which are taxpayer funded.

                Bigelow needs a heavy lifter for his biggest modules if he is ever going to sell any.

                Yes, the epitomous BA 2100 concept module. Two things about that – 1) like concept cars that never go into production, the BA 2100 is meant to be “forward looking” (i.e. promotion), and 2) he won’t sell any until there is a need for a significant amount of people and mass in space, and when that time FINALLY arrives, then maybe an HLV will also be needed. The transportation market can decide that when that time finally arrives.

                Some parts of NASA think they need a heavy lifter for giant telescopes.

                Ask them to show you the money for a “giant telescope”.

                Some day we may indeed have a need for moving much larger sized and much larger mass payloads to space. I hope that day comes during my lifetime.

                However we’re not there yet. Not even close. Even if the SLS were to magically appear as a operational rocket today, NASA’s current budget does not allow full use of the SLS (2-3 launches/year) along with the money to operate all that hardware.

                We have this HUGE mismatch between ability (i.e. money) and desire (ooh, I want a BFR!).

          • JimNobles

            -
            I am firmly convinced that some form of Saturn 5-type of Heavy-Lift rocket muscle is what America has needed all along!

            Chris, the Falcon Heavy can lift in two flights what Saturn V could lift. And at about $300 million a launch. And the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for the Falcon Heavy development, at least not more than they’ve already paid for their share of the F9 development.

            Is this not a good deal? Can we not work with this? Do we really need to wait for a super heavy lifter which, mainly due to politics, may never materialize? What is the problem here?

            • @Jim Nobles,…..Commercial Space IS costing the taxpayer. Government subsidies have to come from somewhere. But the real bad thing with the space entrepreneurs is that their ambitions take us nowhere but Low Earth Orbit! Their very reason-to-be relies totally on a government-built station, the ISS, without which they’d have no mission. They’ll never allow the ISS project to ever end, and hence the country gets wedded permanently to LEO, and nothing more. Again, it is true how we should NOT be building the SLS, until we have specific cargo module parameters, but the same could be said about the commercial company-built ‘Falcon Heavy’: What in heaven’s name is it being constructed for?? New Space hasn’t got a game plan for Beyond-LEO exploits; merely the creation of ‘space taxis’ to the ISS. I for one, fully resent the sacrifice of Project Constellation at the altar of Commercial Space! The slaying of the Return-to-the-Moon goal, just to grant these commercial companies exclusive center stage has been a thoroughly horrible thing!

              • JimNobles

                -
                But the real bad thing with the space entrepreneurs is that their ambitions take us nowhere but Low Earth Orbit!

                Well, that’s a clear and obvious falsehood. Musk’s goal is Mars and has been from the beginning. Bigelow’s goal is a Moon base and has been from the beginning. Well, actually Bigelow’s original goal was a vessel traversing the distance between the Earth and the Moon. An actual “Cruise Ship”. Are you really this uninformed about what’s going on? Seriously? You are a space enthusiast, correct?

                Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is indeed designed to be an Earth to LEO taxi and little else but that doesn’t mean that’s all they want to do. It just means that’s all that particular design is good for. Boeing, the makers of CST-100, have been coming up with plans to return to the Moon since… forever. They actually started that movement, long before any of the other commercial players even existed.

                It’s difficult to believe you could be this wrong or misinformed about what these companies intend to do. Not if you have been paying even a little bit of attention to space issues for the last twenty years. Did you just get interested in space relatively lately?

                They’ll never allow the ISS project to ever end, and hence the country gets wedded permanently to LEO, and nothing more.

                So let us address your fears. The people who take space seriously know that orbital facilities are part of the path forward. Not only will ISS be kept flying as long as it possibly can but others will probably join it. It is an expensive facility to operate but commercial cargo and crew can help bring that cost down a little bit. ISS was the world’s first attempt at an international space station of that size and it’s a bit of an expensive white elephant as many first-attempts might turn out to be. But the damn thing cost $100 Billion dollars to get up there and no one in the right mind is going to splash it until we’ve got everything out of it we possibly can. That would be insane. I fully expect the obital facilities to come to be much less expensive to create and operate. The exception to that would be if the government plans and builds them since, as everyone know, they can do very little inexpensively.

                New Space hasn’t got a game plan for Beyond-LEO exploits; merely the creation of ‘space taxis’ to the ISS.

                That’s bologna and we’ve addressed it.

                I for one, fully resent the sacrifice of Project Constellation at the altar of Commercial Space! The slaying of the Return-to-the-Moon goal, just to grant these commercial companies exclusive center stage has been a thoroughly horrible thing!

                Constellation got cancelled because it was a dog of a program. Way over cost, schedule slipping, problems with the tech. Notice how easy it was to cancel. I think that if even one of the problems listed in the previous sentence had not been there Constellation might have had a chance to survive. At least a while longer than it did.

                Constellation was not cancelled to make way for commercial cargo and crew. Constellation was cancelled because it was crap. But we were definitely lucky that commercial cargo and crew was starting up and waiting in the wings so that we now have an actual chance at a manned space program that might survive.

                Imagine if, after Constellation was cancelled, all we had was the hope that someday SLS might come online. A program that shares many of the same problems that Constellation had. Congress isn’t funding SLS at a level to get it going in a reasonable timeline, they are just funding it at a level to keep it alive enough to keep the paychecks flowing into their districts. Even if they took all money from commercial crew and took all money from ISS most of it probably wouldn’t go to SLS. Congress doesn’t work like that. SLS might get a little of the money but I doubt it would be enough to make much of a difference. And in the mean time we’d have no space program at all.

                I don’t think you are a space enthusiast at all since you seem entirely clueless about what’s going on in that arena. I think you may be someone who’s got emotional problems involving a big rocket program and the Moon and this is blinding you to reality. If you have any capacity for reasonable sober thought left you need to sit back and think about this whole thing for awhile. You need to decide if you want a space program that’s going somewhere or not. Because right now it looks like our best chance for a space program that’s going somewhere leads right through commercial. And not through Congress.

              • Dave Hall

                But the real bad thing with the space entrepreneurs is that their ambitions take us nowhere but Low Earth Orbit!

                Well, that’s just plain incorrect. Elon Musk has made clear that his ambition is to reach Mars in 12-15 years. I’d say that was fanstastical if it were not for the wealth he is creating with Tesla (the stock price has recently doubled thanks to their first profitable quarter). In a decade he may just be in a position to fund a first mission philantropically. Better than fiction.

              • Dave Hall

                @JimNobles

                Chris Castro said: But the real bad thing with the space entrepreneurs is that their ambitions take us nowhere but Low Earth Orbit!

                Well, that’s a clear and obvious falsehood.

                My near identical response was a fluke. No intention to be rude or anything.

              • Guys, logic is not Chris’s strong suit. He just doesn’t get that SLS will never be finished, so wanting that when he desires to go to the Moon is just stupid. He doesn’t understand that lowering costs to LEO will lead to lowering costs to go to the Moon (since just getting to LEO is now a large part of the cost). When launch costs get low enough to where some organization can also afford to both build a lander and send it to the moon with passengers, Americans will return to the Moon. It just may not be NASA. But Chris would rather dream impossible dreams than accept a reality where going back to the Moon is done any other way than the way he wants.

              • Ameriman

                Commercial Space IS costing the taxpayer.
                ====== =
                The entire 12 flight SpaceX supply contract cost less than a single Nasa shuttle flight.

      • Coastal Ron

        Chris Castro whined:

        American manned spaceflight is now in its most sharpest lull!

        How odd. We’ve had American’s constantly in space now for 12. 5 years – a record – and you say we are in a lull?

        You do realize that the U.S. went for years without ANY humans in space? And that during the Apollo program, the longest we would have anyone in space was for like 12 days? 12 DAYS!

        Apparently you have a HUGE blind spot. Or you are trying to redefine “manned spaceflight”.

        • @CR;….During the extraordinary Apollo program, we were sending astronauts to explore & survey another world: the Moon. The silly game of LEO space stations hadn’t taken root, so naturally, there were gaps of time between the deep space expeditions. But these were tactical and entirely tolerable gaps in time, because what we were doing then was so much more profound! Just ‘being in space’, that is mere LEO, is all we are doing today. Just blandly going around in circles, some 200 miles up; trying to figure out just why it is that zero g is bad for the human body. And if all this NONSENSE about building Lagrange point stations comes to pass, then we can waste another twenty years trying to determine why deep space is hazardous to the human physique!

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            Talk to von Braun about his desire to build LEO space stations.

            If the goal is to have a permanent presence in space (which I think it is), then LEO space stations are part of that.

            Maybe think our goal is to just speed away from Earth, bounce around on some other planetary surface, and bingo back to Earth? What a waste.

            Just blandly going around in circles, some 200 miles up; trying to figure out just why it is that zero g is bad for the human body.

            Well I guess statements like that confirm that you don’t want to expand humanity out into space, you are just fine with “Flags & Footprint” type missions.

            Sorry Chris, but your vision of the future is the one that is not worthwhile.

            • @Coastal Ron;….I for one, have NO interest in going to space just to be in space. I would rather GO SOMEPLACE. Low Earth Orbit, and simply floating around weightless inside of a giant aluminum can does NOT interest me! I would NOT spend $500 to fly a junket on board the ISS! When I think about space travel & the glory of it, I always think about going to an actual destination, so if I were a billionaire, I’d just spend some of my millions traveling to places on Earth. That is, until Lunar tourism would enter the picture. But of course, tourism will NOT arrive on that scene, until some Earthian nation does the infrastructure planting that is needed to make it viable. Flexible Path’s rabid avoidance of having to build a lunar lander, will totally prevent that from ever happening! You CANNOT emplace base modules on the Moon, if you don’t build a lander vehicle!

              • “You CANNOT emplace base modules on the Moon, if you don’t build a lander vehicle!”
                And you can’t build a lander vehicle when the launcher costs so much that there is not the money to build the lander. See my last comment prior to this one.

              • Guest

                You can if the launcher is the lander. That would require, however, that the launch not self destruct immediately after reaching orbit, like SLS.

              • I would rather GO SOMEPLACE. Low Earth Orbit, and simply floating around weightless inside of a giant aluminum can does NOT interest me!

                You’ve obviously confused us with people who care what interests you. We don’t, regardless of how many exclamation marks and capital letters you use.

              • JimNobles

                -
                You CANNOT emplace base modules on the Moon, if you don’t build a lander vehicle!

                Bigelow’s plan is to mostly assemble his module based moon base in orbit and then fly to whole thing to the moon and land it there in one piece. I’m serious.

                Some people might say that’s cRaZy. But I won’t say that ’cause I’m not a module based flying moon base specialist. But that’s the way he wants to do it.

              • A M Swallow

                Landing a Moon base assembled in space.

                Bigelow BA330 modules weigh ~20 tonnes plus the mass of the propulsion units. So the Moon base will mass more than 3 * 20 = 60+ tonne. We do not have heavy lunar lander with payloads in to 70 – 80 tonne range.

                A normal inspace propulsion unit will have neither the thrust to land heavy items on the Moon nor the the 10:1 throttling required. Since there are few customers for the heavy lander Bigelow will have an expensive development task to pay for.

        • Ameriman

          We’ve had American’s constantly in space now for 12. 5 years – a record – and you say we are in a lull?
          ===
          Ron

          The Mercury/Gemini/Apollo astronauts risked their lives to ‘push the envelope’… advance space science, technology, exploration…

          Space Shuttle and ISS ‘astros’ are spam-in-the-can joyriding human cannonballs… flagpole sitters costing taxpayres over $1 billion per… risking their lives in a Nasa jobs program, with near zero return of space science, exploration, technology… doing what robot craft could do better for 10 times less money…. in the case of the Shuttle, hauling freight up and garbage back.

  • It’s not just a question of getting to Mars but repeatedly returning to Mars for many years thereafter until a permanent Mars base is able to largely supply itself and thereby relieve the costs of having so many launches to resupply the base. Just how many people honestly believe that we’re going to see NASA’s budget maintained at least at the current level for four or so decades given the Baby Boomers and ongoing deficits?

    Rather, we need to greatly reduce the mission costs of going to Mars before we start going. We also need to learn how to live off-Earth in a long-term manner. Both of these challenges can be addressed in the near-term by establishing a permanent base on the Moon as part of a lunar ice-mining operation. In addition to giving us experience living and working productively on another world, the ice would give us in-space propellant which would reduce the mass required to be launched from Earth. The SLS wouldn’t have to be as large and we may be able to include commercially-viable launchers such as Falcon Heavy in the architecture.

    Finally, given all of the elements in lunar ice and regolith, the Moon is a legitimate destination for settlement in its own right.

    • common sense

      ” The SLS wouldn’t have to be as large and we may be able to include commercially-viable launchers such as Falcon Heavy in the architecture.”

      The SLS will not be built. So start thinking a lot more how to this without SLS. Did you read the GAO report? Further, do you build the settlements before SLS or after SLS? I fail to understand the logic here again.

      “Finally, given all of the elements in lunar ice and regolith, the Moon is a legitimate destination for settlement in its own right.”

      I don’t agree with this statement as such. However if it were to be true then this will happen with private companies, not the government.

    • Coastal Ron

      DougSpace said:

      It’s not just a question of getting to Mars but repeatedly returning to Mars for many years thereafter until a permanent Mars base is able to largely supply itself and thereby relieve the costs of having so many launches to resupply the base.

      Self-sufficiency is definitely a goal, but in reality it will take generations to get anywhere close to happening.

      If Mars had an environment like Earth’s, and we didn’t need any technology to survive, then maybe we could do it within a lifetime – assuming you don’t mind living in very primitive conditions.

      But Mars is a very hostile place to live, and it will take all of our technology to survive there. For instance, making gaskets is very challenging, involving molded, extruded and woven parts of synthetic and natural material, and you need a whole host of workers with a variety of skills to make them. And that’s just one of many critical parts.

      Mars will be relying on Earth heavily for a long time, which is why we need to lower the cost for transportation as quickly as possible.

    • Robert Clark

      Good points.

      Bob Clark

  • josh

    the path to mars requires spacex. even commercial crew is optional. sls is a roadblock on the way to mars.

    • Matt

      The commercial sector is not a one-size fits all to the HSF issue. The “Commercial Uber Alles” track is politically DOA, and it would never make it out of any Committee on The Hill. That’s political reality.

  • Matt

    One other thing to my previous comment: Ed Crawley said it himself at that “space summit” back at the Cape. “Do you want to be President in the 2030s and approve a Mars landing without any experience in working on a planetary surface? Conversely, would you approve a Mars mission without experience in deep space flight?” Augustine pointed out that the two are not mutually exclusive. And it doesn’t have to be a pure NASA mission: work with current international partners, such as ESA, JAXA, etc.

    • common sense

      I already said that but do you realize the same situation in the 60s when Kennedy said we’re going to the Moon and some one had said the same thing to him, you know, “Do you want to be President in the 2030s and approve a Mars landing without any experience in working on a planetary surface? “.

      Seems to me that for y’all space cadets it should be a reminder of times when people actually dared. And as far as I know they had no experience with Moon landings. Yet they made it.

      So stop whining for crying out loud and do something with all those billions. And no, a $1billion effing stupid sub-orbital flight of an idiotic SRB does not count.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said (again):

      One other thing to my previous comment: Ed Crawley said it himself at that “space summit” back at the Cape….

      Matt, enough with the “Ed Crawley” stuff. Lasted I looked, no one voted for him during the last election cycle, either for national, state or local positions.

      And, lasted I looked, he was not part of the leadership at NASA.

      I’m sure he’s a bright guy, and is quite knowledgeable, but so are lots of other people. Lots of great ideas out there, but unless you can build consensus around them, they are only ideas and opinions.

      • Matt

        If you’re not willing to listen to a Member of the Augustine Panel-which a lot of folks here at the time took as Holy Writ, then who are you willing to listen to? Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver are only doing what this POTUS told them to do. Though Garver herself has said at the AIAA symposium last fall in Pasadena that lunar return is on the agenda. Ed Crawley would make a better NASA chief than Bolden (or that witch Garver for that matter): he “made the sale.” No one from this Administration hasn’t, IMHO.

        Again, Ron, answer the question: would you want to commit to a Mars mission with ZERO experience working on a planetary surface in a space environment? Or, conversely, a Mars mission with extensive lunar missions but no deep-space flying. As Augustine said, the two are NOT mutually exclusive-and I do recall you saying the same thing about the time of that so-called “space summit.” It’s more likely that we’ll have to wait until 20 Jan 2017 to have a more NASA-friendly Administration, sad to say.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          If you’re not willing to listen to a Member of the Augustine Panel…

          The panel was made up of a number of people, from different backgrounds, and it is the consensus – their areas of agreement – that matters most, not necessarily the opinions of just one of them.

          would you want to commit to a Mars mission with ZERO experience working on a planetary surface in a space environment?

          Yes. But what you consider “a Mars mission” may be different than what I see as most likely happening.

          There are many types of Mars missions that NASA will be doing before we commit to landing humans on the surface to Mars, such as setting up a permanent LEO station, and visiting the Phobos or Deimos. And no, we don’t need to go to Earth’s Moon before we visit one of the Mars moons.

          For our Moon to be on the critical path, there has to be a clear ROI. The Moon is so different from Mars in so many ways, that it’s hard to think of anything that we HAVE to do on the Moon before going to Mars.

          But remember Matt, I think the private sector has more reason to visit the Moon than NASA does, so while NASA may be spending it’s money on a Mars mission (and not returning to the Moon), private individuals and companies will likely be going to the Moon. If they make it low cost enough for NASA, then I would expect NASA (or some part of the U.S. Government) would take advantage of that. But I don’t think NASA has to be the entity that returns to the Moon first.

          It’s more likely that we’ll have to wait until 20 Jan 2017 to have a more NASA-friendly Administration

          You wouldn’t have had that with a Romney administration, and there is no reason to think the next President will be any different. Most of us that are pro-commerical think that Obama has done a much better job that his predecessor (i.e. He Who Must Not Be Named), and I think those that are pro-science (i.e. ISS supporters) would agree too. That leaves just the lunartics and government porkers… ;-)

          • Matt

            I beg to differ. You are entitled to your opinion, but I strongly suggest a look again at Augustine, especially pp. 41-45. Have a look at this passage on p. 44:

            Exploration along the Flexible
            Path would not likely complete
            our preparation for the exploration
            of Mars. At some point
            we would likely need to gain
            more experience landing and
            working on an extra-terrestrial
            planetary surface. This could
            be done on the Moon with specialized
            lunar systems, or with
            systems designed for Mars (as
            discussed above in the Mars
            First option). Alternatively,
            we could practice autonomous
            landings of large systems on
            Mars, in coordination with science
            programs

            It may not occur to this Administration, and this NASA chief, but want to bet that whoever’s in charge of NASA after this Administration leaves office realizes that in order to prep for Mars, lunar return-even if it’s just to test hardware and surface procedures, is necessary. Again, from Augustine, on p. 45:

            The Moon First and Flexible Path destinations are not mutually
            exclusive; before traveling to Mars, we will probably
            both extend our presence in free space and work on the lunar
            surface. For example, if we had had explorers on the Moon
            for a decade, but never more than three days from Earth,
            would we easily commit to a mission that took our astronauts
            away for three years? This seems unlikely. Likewise,
            if we had worked in space for a decade, would we commit
            to landing on a planet 180 days away without practice? This
            seems equally unlikely.

            Even you, Ron, back in ’10 and early ’11, admitted that it wasn’t “Moon first or Mars”, and that the two were not mutually exclusive.

          • @Coastal Ron;…..You said:”…it’s hard to think of anything that we have to do on the Moon before going to Mars”. I fervently disagree! (a.) How about the building of robust life support systems, which can operate for multi-months-long stretches without regular resupply from Earth? Lunar outpost expeditions would have to employ much more reliable & stronger life support gear, than the ISS now gets by with, since frequent resupply flights would not be feasible nor desirable. (b.) How about experience dealing with deep space radiation conditions? Lunar base modules would have to be ready to face the possibility of coping with a solar flare event as well as higher doses of regular cosmic rays, as compared to the ISS, which is semi-protected by the Van Allen belts of the ionosphere. Some kind of solar storm shelter in the base module would need to be readily available, and the data of just how effective it was for protecting the crew, will be valuable in terms of constructing future far-deep space ones, for interplanetary-bound crews. (c.) Then, there is the need for experience in the unmanned landing of large cargo modules, to the destination planet, ahead of sending the crewmen. Almost all proposed Mars plans call for the ahead-of-the-crew sending & landing of Mars outpost equipment, habitation modules, & even the later-to-be-used ascent vehicle. A manned Lunar program interlude, will see the introduction of an unmanned/automated lander variant, which will emplace Moon base structures & equipment, in advance of a later-arriving crew. THIS will give us much-needed experience with doing all that, upon a world, three-days voyaging time away. THIS has never been done before, & will be an important milestone, for future planet-surface operations.

            • Robert Clark

              Well said. Another key technology to test on the Moon is automated production of propellant from the abundant ice known to be on the Moon and on Mars.
              The total mass that needs to be sent from Earth would be much smaller if the return propellant could be produced on Mars.

              Bob Clark

              • Matt

                Agreed: even Augustine, when discussing Mars first and FlexPath, admtted in their report that some in-space testing of technologies prior to a Mars landing is needed.

                I again refer you guys to pp. 41-45 of the Augustine Panel’s report, where it specifically mentions that FlexPath (with Mars as the ultimate destination), and lunar return are not mutually exclusive. Though the respective environments are different, getting systems needed for Mars (or the Martian Moons) time in a space environment to see if they’ll work is a must. The same goes for crewed operations: whether it’s a Martian Moon, or Mars proper, we’ll need to get experience living and working in a planetary space environment prior to committing to the Mars surface. All the Mars analogues on Earth, while useful for training and testing of hardware, don’t give you the final exam: how does it work in space? The place to find out is only 240,000 miles away.

              • @Robert Clark;…Yes, indeedee! An automated production plant for propellants & other resource processing would be a major step. It could even be just visited intermittently by astronaut crews, & tended mainly by robots. The astronauts would set it into motion & do periodic maintainance, plus do more extended visits to harvest the resource chemicals, and secure them for their eventual use. This could be for the bases on the Moon and/or for the rocket engines on board the second generation lander modules.

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                Yes, indeedee! An automated production plant for propellants & other resource processing would be a major step.

                Such things don’t even exist here on Earth, and the Moon is a far more harsh and unknown environment.

                Are you connected to reality at all?

            • Coastal Ron

              Chris Castro said:

              How about the building of robust life support systems, which can operate for multi-months-long stretches without regular resupply from Earth?

              While you may think that all we need to survive off Earth is water, that isn’t true.

              So no matter how much water you find and process on the Moon, you still need regular shipments from Earth. And in fact, water is the not the largest amount of mass that we would need to ship to the Moon, so you are not addressing the real reasons for why it costs so much to sustain humans off of Earth.

              But you still haven’t addressed how a robust life support system for the Moon is EXACTLY what we would use for Mars. Because it isn’t.

              And just for processing water in situ, do you know how much equipment is needed? And how much support staff is needed? I think it’s funny when people think that brand new equipment working in environments we’ve never worked before will work perfectly the first time.

              We have the same challenge for Mars, which is why I think that any effort to live off-world will require a massive effort. Massive. And if we are locked into a very expensive government-owned, government-run transportation system, then it won’t happen.

              Money is what has stopped us from returning to the Moon Chris, not anything else. If you ignore that fact, then you’ll never get back there.

              • Reply to Coastal Ron;….You say:”I think it’s funny when people think that brand new equipment working in environments we’ve never worked before will work perfectly the first time”. EXACTLY, MY FRIEND!!! Bingo! This is precisely what the Mars enthusiasts fail to take into account, with their ‘onto Mars directly’ mantra. Can you imagine some critical component to the life support system failing or breaking down in the midst of your 2 & 1/2 year-long Red Planet trek??! Or a failure of the Mars ascent vehicle’s propulsive engine, on the way to its use? Or bigger-than-thought-out troubles with the designated surface space suits, OR the dust management systems in the habitat modules?? COME ON BOYS: LET’S TEST OUT THE STRENGTH OF OUR EQUIPMENT, ON THE MOON FIRST!!!

              • common sense

                COME ON BOYS. LET’S NOT.

                Whatever.

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                Can you imagine some critical component to the life support system failing or breaking down in the midst of your 2 & 1/2 year-long Red Planet trek?

                Since that is a space environment, not a planetary one, testing it on the ISS makes sense. Come to think of it, that’s EXACTLY what the ECLSS on the ISS is doing – doing testing for future long-duration space flights. I guess there is a reason to go round and round in circles, huh?

                Or a failure of the Mars ascent vehicle’s propulsive engine, on the way to its use?

                We’re already doing that with our robotic missions to Mars. Notice how they have been getting larger and larger? They are testing out different landing techniques for planets that have partial atmospheres – which the Moon DOESN’T HAVE.

                You also apparently think that we’ll go straight to Mars and land people before we start landing equipment. If we’re doing a “Flags & Footprints” type mission, maybe you would do that. But if we’re going there to stay, and to build up our presence, then we’ll be sending lots of large payloads to the surface of Mars before any humans set down.

                …OR the dust management systems in the habitat modules…

                The dust on the Moon and Mars are completely different, both in composition and in the dangers they present. The Moon is not a good analog, Mars is. And you run into the same “test before going” issues by going to the Moon. Life is not perfect, but going to the Moon does not necessarily help us get to the Mars.

  • @Dark Blue Nine: “Hint #1: Mars is not “airless”.

    You cannot breath pure CO2. Please!

    “Hint #2: The gravitational gradient on Mars is twice that of the Moon.”

    Exactly. If the human body can remain healthy within a 1/6 gravity that it can certainly remain healthy under the higher gravity of Mars.

    “Hint #3: The solar constant on Mars is less than half that on the Moon.”

    Exactly. If a habitat can protect humans from radiation on the Moon that it can certainly protect humans on Mars where they’ll have to endure less radiation exposure.

    “Hint #4: Operations a couple seconds of light-time from Earth are radically different from operations 20-odd minutes from Earth.”

    We’re probably not going to able to land humans on Mars safely without a the presence of at least a dozen or more humans in Martian orbit. So the establishment of a permanent space station and outpost on Deimos and Phobos will probably precede any permanent human landings and outpost on the martian surface.

    “Hint #5: The Moon and Mars have radically different toxins.”

    The best way to resolve both is by sinterring the outpost area.

    “Your opinion is poorly informed and worthless.”

    Actually, ignorant comments like that pretty much reveals your low level of encephalization and intelligence. Keep it up:-)You could be the missing australopithicine I’ve been looking for:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “You cannot breath pure CO2. Please!”

      “Airless” means devoid of air, not devoid of oxygen.

      Moreover, carbon dioxide becomes breathable oxygen with something as simple as a plant.

      Your ignorance of basic English vocabulary and secondary school biology is impressive.

      “If the human body can remain healthy within a 1/6 gravity that it can certainly remain healthy under the higher gravity of Mars.”

      Based on what evidence? There is no data indicating that gravitational effects on human biology scale linearly.

      I’ve never met anyone who converted fairy tales into science with such ease.

      “If a habitat can protect humans from radiation on the Moon that it can certainly protect humans on Mars where they’ll have to endure less radiation exposure.”

      The solar constant has nothing to do with the dangers of coronal mass ejections.

      Your ignorance of secondary school physics is right up there with your ignorance of chemistry.

      “We’re probably not going to able to land humans on Mars safely without a the presence of at least a dozen or more humans in Martian orbit.”

      Right, because the seven successful robotic landings on Mars to date all had a top-secret, dozen-strong crew in orbit directing them…

      Is your witlessness inherited or chemically induced? If it’s the latter, what are you smoking, taking, or injecting?

      “The best way to resolve both is by sinterring the outpost area.”

      Hexavalent chromium in the Martian atmosphere can’t be fixed by sintering.

      Your ignorance on major issues in planetary exploration is boundless.

      “Actually, ignorant comments like that pretty much reveals your low level of encephalization and intelligence. Keep it up:-)You could be the missing australopithicine I’ve been looking for:-)”

      It’s spelled “Australopithecine”, and they had about 40 I.Q. points on an orangutan like you.

      Actually, I take that back. I saw a demonstration of orangutan tool use this weekend. You’re definitely _not_ up to the challenge.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi DBN -

        While I have heard about microscopic glass shards similar to abestos on the Moon, I have not heard about the hexavalent chromium on Mars – do tell.

    • @Marcel F. Williams;….Very smartly put. If the regolith toxins are different on the Moon versus Mars, then still, dealing with & grappling with the Lunar ones will be a valuable pre-Mars exercise. The mitigating/protective dust management equipment that will be used on lunar surface missions, will yield important data on just how to later build similar systems on a Red Planet mission. Plus, the space suits for Moon expeditions will have to cope with multi-week/multi-month long repeat exposures to a gritty-dirt environment. Cleaning them out and/or vacuuming them out, will conceivably be needed. All of this has relevant bearings upon designing the space-suits for future Mars-bound astronauts. Bypassing/avoiding the Moon in favor of Mars, will be calamitous & even suicidal to the spacemen who’ll be going.

    • JimNobles

      -
      We’re probably not going to able to land humans on Mars safely without a the presence of at least a dozen or more humans in Martian orbit.

      Why does it take a dozen or more people in orbit to land humans on Mars (or anywhere else)? Not that I’m against sending larger crews to other places but what makes it necessary?

  • Hiram: “No it isn’t. If you want to keep a half dozen people there, and swap people out every few years, it most certainly isn’t the key to anything. Permanent human presence could mean one astronaut who decides to go and stay.”

    Yes it is! We need to know how well humans can cope physically and psychologically living amongst only a few individuals on another world for a few years. And doing it on a world that’s only a few days away is a lot safer than trying to find out on Mars.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      We need to know how well humans can cope physically and psychologically living amongst only a few individuals on another world for a few years.

      We can do a lot of that here by sending the prospective Mars members to live in Antarctica or some other isolated place as part of their training. And we’re already learning about small teams working in isolation on the ISS – something I think you forget.

      But really what solves the issue you bring up is numbers – sending an ever increasing amount of people so that the likelihood of that type of situation goes down. But this is just part of the risk of going far away from Earth, so it will never go away, nor any of the other dangers that are far more likely to come up.

      The way I see the best way to proceed is to send small fleets, and first set up a permanent space station in orbit around Mars. We’ll need a transportation node anyways for people coming and going from the surface of Mars, and that will just be part of our buildup.

      Keep in mind that if we’re going to Mars to stay, then there will have to be a large amount of infrastructure that we will have to set up if we are going to be able to afford such a venture, and that’s where the Aldrin “cycler” comes in. Whether it ends up being the best method of moving people between Mars and Earth is unknown, but we’ll need something that minimizes transit time while using the least amount of energy (and energy = money).

      If people want to stop at the Moon on their ways to Mars, great. But it’s not necessary.

  • common sense: “The SLS will not be built.”

    Yeah. We know. Boeing can’t build rockets anymore. Only Space X can:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • NeilShipley

      Boeing will do whatever they can to keep the pork flowing to their shareholders. For them, it’s not about actually getting anything completed.
      Read the report. I reckon we’ll be lucky to see Orion (now 5,000lbs overweight) or JWST ( technical, schedule, cost, and weight issues) flying. SLS preliminary but budget delays pushing the 1st crewed flight to at least 2021. Based on past history, you can add anywhere from 2 to 10 years to that estimate.
      Your absolutely right. Only SpaceX has been able to develop and fly new space vehicles and continue to develop them. E.g. F9 v1.1, FH, Dragon, Dragon2, Merlin engines, Grasshopper, GH2.
      NASA mostly a great big fail.
      Sucks for some but there you have it.

    • common sense

      What an idiotic comment. Did I ever say Boeing *cannot* build a rocket?

      But enlighten me how you build a rocket with no money?

      I am sure you know.

      • Ameriman

        Did I ever say Boeing *cannot* build a rocket?
        But enlighten me how you build a rocket with no money?
        ==== ==
        While Nasa (and Boeing) were blowing $20 billion on the failed/cancelled constellation, SpaceX produced vastly superior boosters/capsules for only $300 million…

        Nasa is shoveling more earmarked pork to SLS/Orion this year to ‘big space’ legacy shuttle suppliers…than it has in total to SpaceX.. including the 12 flight resupply mission..
        So SpaceX is punished for it’s brilliant success… and Nasa and it’s pork recipients are rewarded for incompetence/waste.

    • josh

      that’s pretty much correct. boeing or lockmart certainly can’t build rockets in a timely and economical fashion under far guidelines. sls is a disaster so far.

      • common sense

        No josh you are wrong.

        The latest example of what Boeing can do in the “clear” is X-37. It should tell you and every one else that shuttle heritage is well and prospering. Just not for human space flight.

        Boeing has a lot of talented people. Just like the other defense contractors. BUT they have to work within the environment that the government gives them… And that environment does not promote creativity not effectiveness.

    • @Earth to Planet Marcel

      Are you really that dense? Nobody is saying Boeing can’t build rockets anymore. Neither is anybody saying only SpaceX can. All we are saying is a rocket (in this case SLS) can’t be built using 1970′s tech at a budget Congress would be willing to give Boeing.

      Take a reality pill and call me in the morning.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Poor Charlie must have trouble sleeping at night for being forced to say such foolish things (about the moon that is.) I too am interested in what Bigelow comes up. NASA is already developing two parts of a return to the moon architecture with the Orion and the SLS. Bigelow could provide the habitats. Someone else (Armadillo? Masten?) could provide the lander.

    • Coastal Ron

      Mark R. Whittington said:

      Bigelow could provide the habitats. Someone else (Armadillo? Masten?) could provide the lander.

      And STILL NASA wouldn’t be able to afford to use the SLS.

      You keep missing the point – an SLS-sized exploration architecture is beyond NASA’s ability to fund and sustain.

      And once you put people someplace to stay (like the Moon), you have to spend part of your budget on support, and that’s what all the SLS supporters don’t like about the ISS – that it costs money to keep people in space. Yep, and those costs don’t go away, they only accumulate.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        A myth. SLS is thus far on budget and on schedule.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “SLS is thus far on budget and on schedule.”

          A myth.

          The 2010 NASA Authorization Act set 2016 as the schedule for the first, uncrewed test flight of SLS. It’s now 2017.

          Per the 2013 GAO report on NASA large projects:

          “An independent assessment of initial budget estimates for the SLS program found them to be inadequate for the development of program baselines and stated that reserves are insufficient.”

          http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-207SP

          As usual, your ignorance exceeds your grasp.

    • DCSCA

      More intriguing is the way- or rather ‘the pattern’- in which Bolden keeps going out of his way to vigorously deny any U.S. lunar plans. A NASA administrator all but kissing off the moon- Earth’s nearest and biggest neighbor in space… ‘he doth protest too much.’ Almost as if he has been ordered to signal it very publicly that America has left Luna open to others in this century. There’s more behind this policy than meets the ears and eyes.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA opined:

        More intriguing is the way- or rather ‘the pattern’- in which Bolden keeps going out of his way to vigorously deny any U.S. lunar plans.

        Maybe because people like you are so far into denial he has to say it more than once?

        There’s more behind this policy than meets the ears and eyes.

        Yes, the Moon – “been there, done that”. Mars, “haven’t been there”.

        That pretty much sums it up.

        Do you want me to spell it s l o w e r for you?

        • Matt

          “Been there, done that” means that there shouldn’t have been more explorers following Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, or Kit Carson. Apollo only scratched the surface (literally) when it comes to lunar exploration.

          I do agree with Mark on this. The (alternative) road to Mars involves stopping at the Moon, even if it’s just sorties to test hardware prior to an actual Mars mission. And speaking personally, I, for one, would rather have the first human to walk on the Moon since Gene Cernan be an American. Not a Russian, ChiCom, or whoever. An American. National Pride still counts, even in the space business.

          • Then you should be against SLS, because we can’t go back to the Moon on a rocket that won’t be completed.

            • Matt

              Watch the hearing, Rick? Congress isn’t happy with the level of funds that NASA has requested for SLS.

              Again, I have no problem with the private sector, under NASA contract, handling the LEO mission, provided they can do it safely. So far, Space X and Orbital have ISS cargo and demonstration flights under their respective belts, and hat’s off to them. But as for BEO destinations, whether they’re L-Points, the Lunar surface, NEOs, and Mars proper? That’s NASA’s job, in cooperation with international partners (ESA, JAXA, Canadian Space Agency, etc.). And you can bet that if there is a confirmed Chinese Lunar Landing program under way, whatever this Administration wants goes out the window and it’s back to the lunar surface. Another space race might be what’s needed here.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                Congress isn’t happy with the level of funds that NASA has requested for SLS.

                Whether “Congress” is happy with what ANY administration requests is immaterial, since Congress is the one that writes the budget laws.

                I have no problem with the private sector, under NASA contract, handling the LEO mission, provided they can do it safely.

                Yet you don’t have the same reservations about NASA? Remember NASA lost 40% of their Shuttle fleet. Those that assume that NASA is somehow “special”, and “better than everyone else” are quite wrong.

                When was the last time NASA built a rocket? In fact they never have, it’s always been the private sector.

                But as for BEO destinations, whether they’re L-Points, the Lunar surface, NEOs, and Mars proper? That’s NASA’s job

                You assert that, but try finding that in NASA’s charter. You can’t.

                And that’s because it’s a figment of your imagination.

              • What the hearing showed was the members of the Committee weren’t happy with the level of SLS funds requested, not the majority of Congress.

                And why spend extra money to do the things SLS is claimed to be capable of when we could do it sooner, safer and for much less money with alternatives according to NASA’s own studies and also studies done by industry and university? Why keep griping about lack of funds to do space exploration when there is no need to for those extra funds if we go about it the right way?

                Blindly wishing for it to be different won’t get it done. But you think it can just because you believe, Tinkerbell. Personally I don’t “believe in fairies”, even though I liked Peter Pan as a child. But I’m grown up now.

        • @ Coastal Ron;…. Low Earth Orbit: been there, done that!! LEO stations: been there, done that!!

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            Low Earth Orbit: been there, done that!! LEO stations: been there, done that!

            Going to work, been there, done that!!!

            Yet I assume you still do it every day, right? Like the millions of other workers?

            LEO is just a place of work, with lots of real estate that could be populated, and the ISS occupies part of that real estate.

            Get a life Chris.

            • @CR;….Space exploration is much more than doing something major and then never doing it again, just because you have! This rabid avoidance of dealing with the Moon, lunar landers & lunar-type space-suits is going to do us a lot of long-run damage in terms of our future ability to grapple with planetary surfaces. Flexible Path is an enormous mistake! I can’t understand, for the life of me, how Luna can be declared forbidden ground to astronauts, yet missions to Mars, Phobos, & NEOs are considered viable options!! Trust me, if Flexible Path continues to be the name of the game, all that phobic avoidance of dealing with the Moon is going to come back to haunt us in profound & unpredictable ways, in the future, when we mount any actual manned interplanetary flight!

              • Again, Chris. Part of the reason we haven’t been back to the Moon or any place else in deep space is because the cost of getting to LEO has been so high. You have to get to LEO before you can get anywhere else. Cut costs to LEO and we will be better able to afford to go to all those great deep space destinations. Quit living in an unrealistic dream world.

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                I can’t understand, for the life of me, how Luna can be declared forbidden ground to astronauts…

                That’s because it hasn’t. Duh!

                All Obama and Bolden have said is that it’s not the next place they want NASA to go.

                There are no laws saying you can’t go to the Moon Chris, so GO! Nothing stopping you – GO ALREADY!!!

                I suggest signing up with Golden Spike, since they look like they are the most likely to return to the Moon first.

                So stop your whining, pull out your checkbook, and get ready to GO!!!

                And if you can’t afford it, then apparently you didn’t want it enough, huh? ;-)

              • Matt

                Chris, have faith. Once 20 Jan 2017 comes, we’ll have a new Administration that will hopefully be more open to NASA going back to the Lunar Surface. Remember that this President’s been hostile to NASA ever since the ’08 campaign. And his voting record in the Senate prior to that bears that out: he voted against NASA appropriations both times. Just because Obama and Bolden are against it (more likely Obama, and Bolden is just doing what he’s been told to do, regardless of any personal preferences), doesn’t mean that NASA will never return to the lunar surface. Sorry, Ron, just with Space X, I’ll believe Golden Spike when I see hardware built, tested, and flown.

              • Bob

                Matt says: “And his voting record in the Senate prior to that bears that out: he voted against NASA appropriations both times.”

                References, please.

              • JimNobles

                -
                Matt said, Once 20 Jan 2017 comes, we’ll have a new Administration that will hopefully be more open to NASA going back to the Lunar Surface.

                I’d be curious to know who you think may run for President, from either party, that would turn NASA back into a Moon focused agency? Especially one that thinks SLS is a must.

    • A M Swallow

      The second Project Morpheus small lander flew on May 1st. NASA may be able to get 1/3 ton to the Moon’s surface. This is sufficient for a rover to find raw materials.

      A manned lander would have to be bigger, something like 5 tonne. The same way Falcon 1 grew to Falcon 9 this lander could grow.

      • Robert Clark

        I like how you’re thinking of small landers but how are you getting a manned lander down to 5 metric tons?

        Bob Clark

        • Neil Shipley

          Try page 1 Bob.

        • A M Swallow

          The MMSEV weights about 5 tonnes including consumables and crew.
          The 5 tonne is payload and does not include the mass of the lander.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Exploration_Vehicle

          The ascent stage could be the lander refuel with the MMSEV acting as the cabin. The ascent propellant will need delivering by its own lander(s). If the astronauts stay on the Moon for more than a few days extra supplies will also have to be delivered, possibly in advance.

          • OK, I do like the idea of using the SEV for the crew capsule of a lunar lander. For the lander propulsive stage we could use a Centaur upper stage modified to be able land horizontally. ULA has done studies on this called the Dual Thrust Axis Lander (DTAL):

            Robust Lunar Exploration Using an Efficient Lunar
            Lander Derived from Existing Upper Stages.
            AIAA 2009-6566
            Bernard F. Kutter, Frank Zegler, Jon Barr, Tim Bulk, Brian Pitchford
            United Launch Alliance
            http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/DualThrustAxisLander%28DTAL%292009.pdf

            It might even be possible to use a half-size Centaur stage, resulting in a smaller rocket required for the launch.

            Bob Clark

        • A M Swallow

          The Morpheus engine can be throttled, has an Isp 321s and 5,000lb-f. Work out the number you need and associated fuel tank size.

    • Neil Shipley

      Mark. NASA won’t be able to provide even SLS and I doubt that MPCV will fly now given the GAO report. I thought you’d read it!

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Also, the Washington Post notes that strictly speaking under official Obama space policy, we aren’t going to Mars by the 2030s anyway. All it calls for is an orbital mission. Charlie needs to explain that one.

    • Neil Shipley

      Charlie also needs to read and comprehend the GAO report. Perhaps he should actually request regular updates on the programs since he doesn’t appear to be aware of the issues currently facing them.

      • Malmesbury

        He is aware – it is just that he is not officially aware. But he knows unofficially. The reason that he is only aware unofficially is that the champions of SLS /Orion in the Senate & Congress don’t want him to be aware (officially). If he was officially aware he would have to tell them (officially) what they know unofficially. This would mean that they would know – officially. Which would be problematic, since they would then know things that they don’t want to know.

        In politics, never tell a politician something he knows but doesn’t want to know.

        • common sense

          I believe this is true.

          • Malmesbury

            I’m surprised that more here don’t understand this – the current program (SLS, Orion, CC etc) for NASA is a laboriously architected compromise.

            Bolden has two choices –

            a) Support all the current programs, while uttering some coded comments or criticisms. This is what he is doing

            b) Attack part of the compromise – go to war with Congress.

            • common sense

              “I’m surprised that more here don’t understand this ”

              I believe some here are fully aware of that, just venting frustration.

              Others… Well. They want a big rocket. To them reality is an inconvenience.

            • common sense

              By the way. What you are describing often applies in any organization when any one is confronted with purse holders. Especially those who reluctantly fund a program of any sort. The officially official and unofficially official stuff I mean. I saw it and I was not in congress… ;)

    • josh

      you need to get it through your head that nasa longterm planning is pretty much irrelevant at this point. spacex will get us to mars, not nasa.

  • Mader

    And here we go again.

    For me, situation is simple. Learn to crawl before walk. Learn to walk before run. We have to return to Moon first, this time permanently.

    The bigger difference is between difficulty of flying to Moon and flying to Mars, the bigger is gain from going to Moon first, even in face of dissimilarity of Mars and Moon environment. And I’m talking about direct benefits.
    Indirect benefits (for example, general technological progress needed or setup of Earth-Moon infrastructure, that could be used later for cheaper Mars missions) are way larger.

    Going to Mars first in current state (economic, technological etc) is suicidal insanity.

    • NeilShipley

      Apparently not for Elon Musk. He only wants to go to Mars. Mind you, I don’t think he’d object to someone doing the Moon first but that’s highly unlikely at the moment.

      • Mader

        I know what Musk want. It is not same as what he will achieve in reality. He will never retire on Mars. He was born too early.

        • Guest

          I love it when people use the term ‘never’ in such a definitive manner. Almost as amusing as the phrase ‘zero evidence’.

          • Neil Shipley

            Agreed. I remember when people used to scoff at Elon and say that he’d never get a vehicle off the ground. Who knows what he’s going to achieve.

          • Mader

            I love people that like their wishful thinking. Mindless cheering for someone that announces “I will retire on Mars” is pathetic.

            • Neil Shipley

              No one is “mindlessly cheering”. What we’re looking at is what he has actually achieved over the last 10 years or so with 3 real companies one of which is developing, building and flying real hardware. Not some vapourware powerpoint presentations.

              • Mader

                I am NOT denying what he did.

                I’m saying that flying to Mars is very hard, so Musk have no hope for Martian retirement before end of his life. In fact, I would be amazed to have any human footprint on Mars by any means in his lifetime.

                Musk is not Messiah and it is not Second Coming, folks. No miracles will happen, only grueling work. Get over it.

              • JimNobles

                -
                No miracles will happen, only grueling work. Get over it.

                No miracles are necessary. The basic technology exists. What matters is marshalling the resources and the will. I don’t know if he will make it but he thinks he can and that’s what counts.

                Note that the question is not whether you could do it. It is not whether I could do it. The question is whether Musk can do it.

  • Bolden:

    He warned against any effort to start immediately with a 130-ton version of SLS. “What happens if we are forced to go right to a 130-metric-ton vehicle is that we are perilously along the way to what happened with Constellation, where we have a very robust launch vehicle and no money, no assets, to develop the other systems that allow us to explore,” he said.

    It doesn’t have to be 130 mT to get significantly better payload to orbit than just the 70 mT now envisioned. I’m not opposed to the SLS eventhough I am a supporter of commercial space.
    What I don’t like about SLS is the limitations they are putting on its capability. It’s supposed to be shuttle derived yet they are reverting back to pre-shuttle, 1960′s era alloys for tanks.
    In later versions of the ET tank, NASA saved 25% in tank weight by using aluminum-lithium alloy. Yet, for the SLS they are going back to the heavier alloy first used on the ET, which dates back to 1960′s technology.
    For the SRB’s, they are upgrading to five segments for the SLS. And the SSME engines to be used have seen significant upgrades over the ones initially on the shuttle. Yet for the SLS tank they are going backwards.
    In addition to using more advanced currently available lightweight alloys for the tanks, they should also make use of composites for other structural members. Composites have been in use for decades now in aerospace and are well understood. A heavy structure on the ET tank was the intertank, which supports the weight of the oxygen tank above the hydrogen tank. In fact it weighed even more than the entire oxygen tank. But composites are already used for the intertank on the Delta IV core. Doing this also on the SLS could result in significant weight saving in the tank.
    By making these weight saving changes using already well understood methods, the payload for the first version of the SLS to launch in 2017 could get to ca. 100 mT. This would put it well within the capability of performing a manned lunar landing mission.

    Bob Clark

    • NeilShipley

      What I don’t like is the inability of NASA to meet budgets and schedules for its flagship missions. SLS is now scheduled to fly crewed no earlier than 2021 with MPCV. MPCV is 5000lbs design weight, has heat shield technical issues (a mature technology rating), pressure vessel cracking and they don’t even have a flight-ready test article. JWST has a confidence level at this late stage of development of just 66%, running late and over budget.
      Is it any wonder many believe NASA is not capable of delivering.

      • common sense

        ““Do you want to be President in the 2030s and approve a Mars landing without any experience in working on a planetary surface? ”

        Neil, it is not all NASA’s fault. Budget must be commensurate with the ongoing effort. A typical budget for an aerospace vehicle is not a flat line. It is some some sort of a bell. It initially ramps up and tops in the early years and then decreases to a more flat line.

        Forget the axes and the title on this pic but the budget should look something like this

        http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/NASA_Budget_By_Year_Wide.png

        When you have a flat budget things are put on hold while others try to catch up. During that time those who don’t do work may just move on to other things or you have to pay them doing nothing… For example. Systems wait for other systems to be ready… It’s a mess.

        Hope this helps.

        • common sense

          Forget the “quote”… Nothing to do with the topic… Oh well.

        • Guest

          Neil, it is not all NASA’s fault. Budget must be commensurate with the ongoing effort.

          That’s ridiculous. When the budget isn’t there, you don’t attempt to do things that require more budget, you DECLINE OR RESIGN. This is ALL NASA’S FAULT. They are designing and building a monster rocket that immediately self destructs.

          It’s the decadal astronomical community’s fault for ordering a 10 billion dollar second generation space telescope to look at pretty pictures of faraway galaxies when they can’t even spot an asteroid that could hit their freaking research center or map out the surfaces of the poles of the moon. Major fail there dontcha know.

          • common sense

            Please don’t waste my time with moronic comments. You have no idea how to work a proper aerospace program neither do you know what to do if you were given the money. And NASA does not decide its budget nor its programs (especially those enforce by law by Congress) which goes to show how little you understand how things work for NASA.

            • Guest

              Please don’t waste my time with moronic comments.

              In other words, shut up. QED.

              Fat chance, that.

            • Malmesbury

              I would think if fair to say that something better can be done with the existing budget.

              For example, you can use a flat budget to do development and operations – done right, the sum of the two can be quite flat….

              • common sense

                “I would think if fair to say that something better can be done with the existing budget.”

                I will not disagree with that.

                BUT.

                Congress mandated NASA to build this SLS monstrosity and continue the failing MPCV.

                So in actuality the point is moot.

                I think that given the opportunity NASA would gladly dump SLS, fund Commercial Crew, and unfortunately probably carry on with MPCV. Which is a bad mistake since Dragon for one will soon have all the necessary capabilities to go BEO it’s just a matter of… money. But at least Dragon is today flying and accumulating data and… Well you get the picture.

                Again it is not a matter of budget only. Look given $15 billion you can have Ares-1X or???? See what I mean?

            • Neil Shipley

              Hi CS. Yes I understand all about project management, budgets, ‘s’ curves and the like. I understand also, NASAs’ budget issues and I also understand how they’re managing them. They basically have wriggle room on cost, time or quality and it appears that time is the only variable that they can change without de-scoping. They’re ‘s’ curve is getting flatter and flatter.

          • “This is ALL NASA’S FAULT. They are designing and building a monster rocket that immediately self destructs.”

            Oh, you mean the monster rocket they neither asked for, nor drew up the specifications for, nor write the checks for?

            • Guest

              Well if someone gave me three billion a year to build a monster rocket using legacy engine assets then I would make sure it’s the best damn reusable monster rocket ever to leave a launch pad on Earth.

              Not a rocket that self destructs after 10 minutes. A total screw job of the American public by NASA.

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert Clark said:

      What I don’t like about SLS is the limitations they are putting on its capability. It’s supposed to be shuttle derived yet they are reverting back to pre-shuttle, 1960′s era alloys for tanks.

      Two things you are not taking into account.

      1. The SLS is a jobs program, meant to continue the Shuttle/Constellation contractor force, not necessarily to build a useful rocket.

      2. NASA isn’t getting enough funding for the SLS, so it is making design choices that may not make complete sense for what the SLS is supposed to do, but make complete sense in consideration of the prime reason the SLS exists (see #1).

      • Robert Clark

        Good point in that first point. But politically, economically we may need the SLS in the short term while we make the transition to commercial space.

        Bob Clark

        • Neil Shipley

          Well no because SLS won’t be available in the ‘short term’.

          FH is due to fly in 2014. Commercial crew sometime 2016/17.

          SLS/MPCV first crewed flight 2021. You see, 2021 is not short-term and that’s the earliest not allowing for the notorious NASA flagship program slippages and cost overruns. The GAO report shows the problems they’re running into with MPCV after how much work, and SLS even at this preliminary stage.

          Besides, when you look at it, commercial space is already here by virtue of satellites and ISS CRS.

          • Robert Clark

            Yes, but the key point is we are paying the big aerospace companies and supporting the NASA centers during that time – even if the SLS were never to be fielded, however cynical that may sound.
            I personally believe the SLS will at least make that first flight in 2017; it has too much support by Congress and the current administration to be cancelled before then. I agree it is questionable beyond that. That’s why I think NASA should be working on maximizing the capability of the SLS now, for that 2017 launch.
            There is virtually no support among the public, Congress, space advocates, and even NASA’s own ranks, aside from the administrators, for the asteroid mission. But if it were to be announced at the time of the SLS first launch in 2017 that it has the capability of returning us to the Moon at minimal additional cost beyond that of the SLS itself, then there would be a tremendous groundswell of support among all those segments.
            Ironically then, the high cost of the SLS itself may be beneficial in that regard.

            Bob Clark

            • Neil Shipley

              Check Cx if you don’t think that it can be cancelled.

              • Robert Clark

                That was during a change of administrations. Not the same administration.

                Bob Clark

            • Neil Shipley

              Also if you continue to build Cx and MPCV, then you’ve no money for other essential hardware or R&D, e.g. lander, service module, and so on. SLS is just a launch vehicle, it isn’t actually going to go to the Moon, just throw other hardware that way.

            • Coastal Ron

              Robert Clark said:

              There is virtually no support among the public, Congress, space advocates, and even NASA’s own ranks, aside from the administrators, for the asteroid mission.

              That is a false comparison. The public doesn’t vote on any space issue or destination. Did they vote on the Shuttle? The ISS? Constellation? No. In fact, public enthusiasm for doing anything in space waxes and wanes quite a bit, and typically the public only shows support for things that have already been in the works for a long time – they are reactionary, not proactive and engaged.

              As to the rest, it’s up to the Administration to make the case for what they think is best for NASA in the long term. So far they haven’t made a strong case for either going to an asteroid, or fetching one and then visiting it closer by.

              However I always saw the goal of visiting an asteroid as proving out our ability to operate beyond the Moon, and visiting an asteroid would be a good way to show the public that we could. If the goal is Mars, then this makes a lot of sense, and it’s part of the “Flexible Path” philosophy.

              I see no reason to fetch an asteroid and bring it to the Moon to study. That plan seems to be one pushed by Senator “SLS” Nelson as a way to give the first manned SLS mission something to do. It only makes sense if you are trying to find useful things for the SLS to do. So far there are none.

            • Neil Shipley

              No that was Congress that cancelled Cx, not the WH.

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert Clark said:

          But politically, economically we may need the SLS in the short term while we make the transition to commercial space.

          I don’t see how that would work. As long as the SLS is the POR, Congress will mandate it’s use, especially if there isn’t much of it to do. What incentive would Congress have to let NASA compete it’s needs?

          Plus, the SLS essentially mandates an SLS-sized architecture, and it would take a new commercial launcher to compete with the SLS. No one is going to build a rocket to compete with a government rocket. Period.

          With the SLS around, there won’t be a “transition to commercial space”, not by the government in any case.

          • No one is going to build a rocket to compete with a government rocket. Period.

            SpaceX is attempting to do that with the Falcon Heavy. As far as I know that will be completely privately funded. It will be interesting to find out what will be the development cost for that compared to the SLS. Dollars to donuts it will be orders (plural) of magnitude cheaper.
            The scuttlebutt on NasaSpaceFlight.com is that SpaceX plans a 650,000 lbs. thrust methane-fueled engine for an even larger launcher than the Falcon Heavy. This is intended for Elon’s thrust towards Mars. Since NASA has shown no interest in SpaceX’s proposal to build a HLV for them instead of the SLS, this new launcher as well likely will be privately funded.

            Bob Clark

            • Coastal Ron

              Robert Clark said:

              SpaceX is attempting to do that with the Falcon Heavy.

              No they are not. SpaceX is not trying to compete with NASA for NASA HLV payloads. Where do you get that idea?

              Falcon Heavy, which can deliver 12mt of payload to GTO, is competing against Delta IV Heavy (13mt to GTO), Ariane 5 (10mt to GTO) and Proton (~7mt to GTO).

              As far as I know that will be completely privately funded.

              Unless you know of some secret government contract that SpaceX has for developing Falcon Heavy, Falcon Heavy is indeed 100% internally funded by SpaceX.

              It will be interesting to find out what will be the development cost for that compared to the SLS. Dollars to donuts it will be orders (plural) of magnitude cheaper.

              Even if the SLS cost $1, the $0 cost Falcon Heavy would be infinitely less expensive.

              But the Falcon Heavy is not a direct replacement for the SLS, and I have stated many times that I wouldn’t want to build an exploration system on any unique launch system. I advocate to build exploration architecture that can utilize a wide variety of launchers, so that means 5m diameter max hardware weighing no more than 20mt.

              For reference, the U.S. portion of the ISS was built from modules that weighed no more than 16mt. The Russian segment does have 20mt modules, and Russia plans to add at least one more 20mt addition as early as next year – I don’t think people realize that the ISS is continuing to be expanded…

              The scuttlebutt on NasaSpaceFlight.com is that SpaceX plans a 650,000 lbs. thrust methane-fueled engine for an even larger launcher than the Falcon Heavy.

              You don’t have to rely on rumors, SpaceX has stated as much. It’s called Raptor.

              Since NASA has shown no interest in SpaceX’s proposal to build a HLV for them instead of the SLS, this new launcher as well likely will be privately funded.

              Don’t bet on SpaceX building an HLV anytime soon. Musk has a long term plan, but he’s pretty good about not building something until he knows he needs it. And until there is a need to move significantly more mass to orbit than what we’re doing now, he won’t be building an HLV.

              • Actually, the Raptor is a smaller upper stage. The larger methane engine being speculating upon is for a first stage engine to replace the Merlin engines now used.

                Bob Clark

              • Coastal Ron

                The article mentioned that Raptor may now be a family of engines…

                But really, this is kind of like arguing about how big the mythical Altair lander was.

                For planning purposes, I only take into account what currently exists and what has been officially announced. Too many unknowns for anything else.

                As the new capabilities become available (or at least more predictable), then we can update plans accordingly.

              • JimNobles

                -
                Don’t bet on SpaceX building an HLV anytime soon. Musk has a long term plan, but he’s pretty good about not building something until he knows he needs it. And until there is a need to move significantly more mass to orbit than what we’re doing now, he won’t be building an HLV.

                Some more rumors about Musk’s Super Heavy Lifter: it’s apparently referred to as “MCT” (whatever that means)and may be as much as ten years away. On the other hand Elon is still saying he thinks he can put someone on Mars within 10-15 years. Make of that what you will…

              • Coastal Ron

                JimNobles said:

                On the other hand Elon is still saying he thinks he can put someone on Mars within 10-15 years. Make of that what you will…

                What he uses to reach Mars within 10-15 years is not likely to be the same as what he uses to colonize and retire on Mars.

                Musk has shown that he’s always thinking two steps ahead of what he shows publicly, and that means any assumption based on today’s hardware will not be accurate.

    • Malmesbury

      The most comic aspect concerning the change in material is that the jigs, tools etc for external tank production are entirely setup for AlLi. All the workers are skilled up for that material.

      Going back to Al is quite possibly higher risk….

      • JimNobles

        -
        The most comic aspect concerning the change in material is that the jigs, tools etc for external tank production are entirely setup for AlLi. All the workers are skilled up for that material.

        Maybe the change has to do with the new load paths. Although I may have read somewhere that it was about cost savings, not sure about that though.

        Maybe the heavier alloy is better for handling the inline loads than the lighter alloy? Otherwise, I agree it doesn’t make much sense.

        • Coastal Ron

          JimNobles said:

          Maybe the change has to do with the new load paths. Although I may have read somewhere that it was about cost savings, not sure about that though.

          When you’re talking about that much material, cost is significant. Add to that the additional work it takes for machining and welding Al-Li versus something more standard like the 6061 variety of aluminum (Mg & Si alloys) or 2024 (Cu alloy).

          At this point NASA doesn’t need to eek out every ounce of possible performance in their design, so using the heavier materials saves money.

    • BRC

      Might that issue that’s causing NASA to go back to the older heavier materials in the structures, like the intertank, is that the “newer” & weight-saving” materials that was last used were acceptable for things like holding the LO2 tank up, and making this disposable ET less a burden to the Shuttle back then.

      But all that newer lighter material was developed for that aforementioned purpose and that purpose only (and despite its cylindrical shape, structurally it was designed for a sidemounted payload (a.k.a., Shuttle). It might not be so strong in handling significant In-Lne loading, via massive payload tonnage laying directly on top of said LO2 tank, and compounded at lift-off with even more massive thrust directly applied at its base. Just wondering…

      • Coastal Ron

        BRC said:

        But all that newer lighter material was developed for that aforementioned purpose and that purpose only (and despite its cylindrical shape, structurally it was designed for a sidemounted payload (a.k.a., Shuttle).

        IIRC, NASA is not using Al-Li alloys on the SLS because of cost, not strength issues per se. It is a better material, and it’s used in lots of aircraft and rockets, but it is more costly than standard alloys. You have to do a trade study to see whether it’s required, and for now apparently it’s not.

        Most of my experience in the past has been with copper and silicon alloys of Aluminum (2024 & 6061), and from what I can see the Al-Li alloy is harder to work with. Using the less expensive alloys, though weighing more, would likely be much easier to work with for welding and bending.

        Weight is not much of a concern at this point since they don’t have any projected uses for the SLS beyond shooting the MPCV around the Moon, and future SLS versions can upgrade to Al-Li. There are far more serious issues to worry about with the SLS than what they are making it out of…

  • Zanderdad

    This is most probably hopelessly niave so apologies in advance but if Nasa’s is prevented from following a consistent strategy of exploration because it is constantly under attack from senators and congressmen defending their pork, is it not possible to re-structure the game by consolidating NASA bases and removing many states from having a direct interest?

    Obviously this would cause pain in the areas subject to closure but in the long term would the reduction in competing constituency interest not increase the chances of the government adopting a more rational or at least national approach? I guess the question comes from the same kind of place as those who have argued in the past that placing NASA under the auspices of the Dept of Defence might isolate them from short term pressures. Just a thought.

    • is it not possible to re-structure the game by consolidating NASA bases and removing many states from having a direct interest?

      No. Not politically.

      I guess the question comes from the same kind of place as those who have argued in the past that placing NASA under the auspices of the Dept of Defence might isolate them from short term pressures.

      That makes no sense, either, and will never happen. No one advocates it except the loon DCSCA.

    • common sense

      “placing NASA under the auspices of the Dept of Defence might isolate them from short term pressures”

      Okay look. NASA is a civilian agency. Period. But think about this for a minute. If it were to be put under the DoD most of its activities will move to the dark if not black world and then what? Do you think the DoD is all about STEM and informing the public? Do you think the DoD has any interest in exploring the moons of Jupiter? Flying people??? Do you think that NASA scientists would work for the DoD (well some do directly or indirectly but that is another story).

      NASA already has plenty enough work with the DoD.

      So I will respectfully suggest you think before you suggest this kind of things.

      Why don’t we put the Department of Education under the auspices of the DoD then? Idiots would no longer be able to cut its budget.

      Hope this helps.

  • Zanderdad

    Another thing I don’t really understand is why budgets for every department have to be voted for on an annual basis. Can’t they do it bi-annually or once in mid-term and one 6 months after an election? ESA seem to set their budgets for 5 years which gives them time to develop their plans over a consistent path. There seems to be an almost constant round of budget talks which provides both Houses with countless opportunities to meddle.

    • ESA seem to set their budgets for 5 years which gives them time to develop their plans over a consistent path.

      We have this pesky thing called a “Constitution,” that requires Congress to budget annually, and disallows any Congress from obligating expenditures by a future one.

      • Monty

        The Constitutional limits to Congressional spending are a good thing, and even then sometimes they don’t work as intended.

        Still, it’s a canard to suggest that our government can’t do long time-horizon space projects: the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo series covered more than a decade and four different Administrations. (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.) The key was giving Congress a reason to keep the funding spigots open, and we had one then: competition with the USSR. Both Democrats and Republicans felt strongly enough about it to keep funding the programs.

        But space has always been a tough sell, and NASA’s inability to execute on complex projects like ISS, Hubble, JWST, Orion/Constellation, and the Shuttle program do not inspire confidence. There’s little evidence that NASA would be able to execute on an incredibly complex manned project even if they had ten times the funding they have now. NASA is hidebound, risk-averse, and a slave to bureaucracy and political infighting. People tend to forget that the Apollo era happened when NASA was still in its infancy, and staffed with young engineers, rocket-jockeys, and DC outsiders. NASA is now fully instutionalized, and exists mainly as an aerospace-welfare program meant to provide jobs to favored constituencies.

        It’s a tossup as to whether we’ll ever see the SLS fly. The first Block 0 test flight is supposed to be in 2017, but I think that’s unlikely to happen for a variety of reasons. Funding is going to be scarce because America’s economy isn’t likely to improve much. SpaceX can probably get the Falcon 9/Dragon stack man-rated within a year or two — technically, it already is — and thus removes the need for a NASA ISS transport. And NASA is unlikely to be able to sell anyone on deeper-space manned missions until a justification can be found for doing them.

        This is the core of why I think the private sector is going to have to drive near-earth space exploration for the foreseeable future. The profit motive is what’s going to drive space exploration, not some abstract ideal of “adventure” or “the human spirit”. Give people a reason to go into space, and they’ll go there. Resource-extraction is historically the main driver for exploration, and I think that’s going to be true with space exploration as well. And this is why I think it’s wiser to invest in asteroid-mining technology: it doesn’t require much new technology, it can be done mostly with robots, it has the potential for excellent ROI in the (relatively) near-term, and it’s a great way to build infrastructure for later human expansion. Companies like SpaceX, Orbital, Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries, and others can do what NASA can’t for the simple reason that they have a reason to go to space: profit.

        • common sense

          Nice to read some reasonable thinking. Well done.

        • Monty

          This is not to say that I don’t want to go back to the moon at some point. I do, very much. But the moon presents problems that near-earth asteroids don’t, beginning with a much deeper gravity well. Near-earth asteroids are energetically cheaper to get to and work with than the moon, both in terms of ingress and egress. They are also far easier to exploit for resources since the ones we are interested in have the good stuff — water-bearing minerals, metals, etc. — homogeneously present in their masses, as opposed to differentiated in a massive body like the moon. (The “good stuff” is present right on top of most asteroids, whereas on the moon, we’d have to dig for it just like we do on Earth.)

          I’m thinking like an investor, and as an investor, I’m looking at far better near-term profit from near-earth asteroids than from any moon-based project.

          The key is “infrastructure”. Setting up a robust source of raw materials is a critical first step in opening the way to extended human presence in space. That means having water, breathable air, fuel, and building materials readily at hand. If we have to bring all that stuff with us from Earth, we’re never going to make longer trips cost-effective.

          • common sense

            I understand. And I would like to go to the Moon and Mars and everywhere else. BUT trying to grasp reality will help us further in our goals rather than putting our heads in the sand and pretending all is fine.

            And those opposed to commercial efforts are ruining, or trying to ruin, the opportunities to actually do get there.

            My personal priority is to lower cost to orbit, near or distant. If we cannot all form of exploration even private efforts are moot. For the private sector to operate there must be a reasonable expectation for profit. Not because they will abuse their power (they might) but because they run a business that employs people and require infrastructure. Without profit how do you get the best of people and infrastructure? Well you just can’t.

            “If we have to bring all that stuff with us from Earth, we’re never going to make longer trips cost-effective.’

            Well. Again. Today it is less expensive to bring it from Earth. That should say something. So let’s lower the cost of launch and retrieval. Focus the savings on building an infrastructure that will not only help the private sector but promote it such that it becomes self-sustainable. Doing otherwise will eventually see the demise of exploration. The other side of this coin is though that if there is no profit to be made then exploration will die anyway.

            The only rationale that might save the whole thing I can think of is species preservation but as we recently saw, nobody really cares, neither the climate change deniers nor the impact hazard deniers, nor any one else since it does not affect them (or so they think).

            • Neil Shipley

              CS wrote: “… For the private sector to operate there must be a reasonable expectation for profit. Not because they will abuse their power (they might) but because they run a business that employs people and require infrastructure. Without profit how do you get the best of people and infrastructure? Well you just can’t.”

              This is the strategy being adopted by SpaceX. Create a business that provides services for profit. Not gouging but a reasonable return that provides enough for the company to invest in further R&D that is on their strategic pathway. So we see the development pathway as F1, Kestral, Merlin, F9, Dragon cargo, leading to further development F9 v1.1, FH, F9R, Grasshopper, Raptor, MCT.

              Interestingly enough, self-preservation in the form of species preservation is the public stance that Elon has taken. As you say, probably the only one that at this point, makes sense at least to some.
              Cheers.

        • Ameriman

          The profit motive is what’s going to drive space exploration, not some abstract ideal of “adventure” or “the human spirit”.
          == == ==
          History couldn’t disagree more.
          ‘profit’ didn’t drive the Wright brothers to Kitty Hawk.. human spirit did.
          ‘profit’ didn’t drive Lindberg or the men who backed/funded the Spirit of St Louis.. Human Spirit did.
          American private enterprise developed Aviation.. and 50 years after the Wright Brothers, tens of thousands of Americans flew worldwide affordably..

          But our corrupt, greedy, parasitic Federal Govt has monopolized US space flight… and 50 years after John Glenn, only a couple hundred Govt selected Americans have flown in space, at over $1 billion taxpayer $s each…

          Human spirit, free enterprise drives us forward… Govt is the corrupt, greedy, incompetent force holding us back.

    • amightywind

      The problem with that thinking is when a new political majority comes to power they will want to change things. The will of the people should not be stymied by unelected bureaucrats in the name of stability.

      • Monty

        The “will of the people”, regarding space exploration, is that they don’t care. At all. For the vast majority of Americans, NASA is a relic of the Cold War. The science missions excite space geeks like me and almost nobody else. The manned missions to the ISS seem bereft of point or purpose. If we put NASA’s funding up for a popular vote tomorrow, NASA would be defunct the day after.

        Space exploration is incredibly difficult, very expensive, and doesn’t provide any obvious near-term benefit for humans. American and Russian space programs were only begun at all because of the military development of the ICBM. Civilian space exploration was a by-product of military development. But now that military development of rockets and spacecraft is nearly nil, the air has gone out of the balloon to a great degree. The ISS was the first big post-Cold War space project, and it is a colossally expensive albatross that has never come close to justifying the money spent on it.

        If you want to have a large, taxpayer-funded space program, the government needs to explain to taxpayers why they’re spending all that money. And “science” and “exploration” and “human spirit” aren’t going to do it, not in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and near-permanent economic morbidity.

        • Hiram

          “The will of the people” is what needs to be considered here, and you’re exactly right. The will of the people is not represented by the folks who hang out here, and pronouncements about their will by individuals here should be taken with a very big grain of salt. The will of the people may well be that they don’t care. Human space flight advocates talk about human space flight being our destiny, and exploration being in the human DNA. I don’t believe that myself, but what I do believe is the will of the people (at least our people) is to be found in formal national space policy and congressional legislation. To the extent that the White House and Congress are clueless about what makes space exploration a national priority, we have only ourselves to blame.

          As to unelected bureaucrats, those folks work for elected bureaucrats. Their plans are signed off on, and funded by elected bureaucrats. Got a problem with that?

        • amightywind

          The will of the people may well be that they don’t care.

          Don’t care? According to whom? Many a tyrant has usurped the God given rights of people whom he perceives “not to care.” Not in my country.

          The ISS was the first big post-Cold War space project, and it is a colossally expensive albatross that has never come close to justifying the money spent on it.

          We agree on that.

          • Hiram

            “May well be” means that I don’t know. My point is that you sure don’t either. We’re not just talking about your country or your own “God given rights”. We’re talking about the country that you share with everyone else, and the God given rights that come with that sharing. According to whom? Lets try our elected representatives, the formal space policy that they produce on our behalf, and the dollars they offer to support it. Compared to the Apollo days, we have elected representatives who neither have solid rationale for space exploration, nor the bucks to pretend to do it.

            As to the ISS being a colossally expensive albatross, it’s really a colossally expensive project that was more affordable than the more colossally expensive alternatives.

        • Ameriman

          Space exploration is incredibly difficult, very expensive,
          ====== =
          It is for bloated, top-heavy, incompetent, pork driven Nasa…

          Not so hard for innovative, efficient, spirited American private enterprise like SpaceX.

    • “ESA seem to set their budgets for 5 years which gives them time to develop their plans over a consistent path.”

      The flip side of that, is that you’d be obliged to fund out a bad program to the bitter end…

  • common sense

    “To the extent that the White House and Congress are clueless about what makes space exploration a national priority, we have only ourselves to blame.”

    Very true and very sad state of the affairs.

  • DougSpace

    Common Sense, I see two HSF tracks.  There is the public-private approach which would focus on the Moon because there is a potential market there for resources (such as ice-derived propellant) and then there is the path to Mars which would have no commercial value for quite some time.  NASA is committed to Mars and is coming out with more and more ideas for steps for the SLS along the way.  If SLS isn’t built then I guess there would have to be an architecture that assembled a mission using many smaller launches and assembly.

    I have not seen the GAO report.  I’ll have to look that up.

    > do you build the settlements before SLS or after SLS?

     There are two settlement destinations – the Moon and Mars.  I believe the Moon can be initially settled with Falcon Heavy alone.  Mars would be later and could benefit by a bigger rocket.  Whoch would come first, a minimalist permanent lunar base or a manned Mars mission?  My guess would be that, if we did the Lunar COTS approach, the 12 FH launches to the Moon would probably be completed before the first manned Mars landing.  But it might be close.

    See the spreadsheet in the appendix of my document at CisLunarOne.com.

    • common sense

      I do not see why you think private space cannot be part of a Mars mission. They are actually getting ready for one as I am sure you know Dennis Tito suggested. In addition they may very well be commissioned by the government on any such mission via SAA or procurement or whatever method of choice when appropriate.

      Same for the Moon. Moon is somewhat easier to get there and to communicate but that’s about it.

      The GAO report is linked here http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-207SP

      Yes a Lunar COTS makes a lot of sense and the same for Mars. The activities maybe serial or concurrent. But the thing most impending these two activities are SLS and MPCV since they are swallowing all resources.

      Now. Public-Private partnerships is the only real way for the future of human exploration. Eventually becoming private alone if a market develops.

      Public only will not work ever again unless a major event triggers it again like the Cold War. Something that would have immediate and dramatic consequences on our way of life. Just like raining nukes.

      But the fact of the matter is that neither SLS nor MPCV is properly funded and they will eventually disappear. It would be nice for once that we do not put all our eggs in the same basket.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “If SLS isn’t built then I guess there would have to be an architecture that assembled a mission using many smaller launches and assembly.”

      Any human Mars landing and return architecture will require lots of launches and in-space assembly. Even the smallest architectures using the largest launchers need a double-digit number of launches to get just one crew to and from Mars. For example, this recent “Austere Human Mission to Mars” architecture out of JPL requires twelve (12) launches of the old Ares V:

      trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/41432/1/09-3135.pdf‎

      Before it was cancelled, Ares V was suppossed to throw 188 metric tons to LEO. With SLS Block II performance notionally at 130 metric tons, this same architecture would require eighteen-plus (18+) launches of SLS.

      “I have not seen the GAO report. I’ll have to look that up.”

      Here’s the link to the report:

      http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-276SP

      SLS isn’t in as bad a shape as MPCV, but the project is definitely not where it needs to be and the lack of progress trending in a very bad direction. Some excerpts:

      p. 32-33: “the preliminary cost estimates of SLS only extend through the first non-crewed flight in 2017, plus 3 months of data analysis. This estimate does not include costs for the first crewed flight of the same vehicle type of the SLS in 2021, nor does it include costs associated with substantial development for future flights of other variants of the launch vehicle.”

      p. 63: “In November 2012, NASA produced a preliminary estimate of $7.65 to $8.59 billion for the 70 metric ton version of SLS. This is not a life cycle cost estimate, however, because it only covers the first non-crewed launch date in December 2017, plus three months of data analysis. This estimate does not include costs for the first crewed flight of the same vehicle type of the SLS in 2021, nor does it include costs associated with substantial development for future flights of other variants of the launch vehicle.”

      p. 63: “Project officials are still assessing whether existing, or heritage hardware, can meet performance requirements without modifications. For example, project officials will not know if the shuttle-era RS-25 engines as currently designed can meet SLS’s performance requirements without significant modifications until the engine preliminary design review.”

      p. 63: “The project is working with NASA officials to determine what human safety requirements will be required for SLS and whether the existing SLS design will meet those requirements. For example, the project is currently evaluting options for a propulsion stage that is designed to provide additional power to push the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle spacecraft into deep space. The project is also concluding a study on whether an existing propulsion stage could meet human rating and performance requirements, or would require additional design modifications.”

      p. 63: “Project officials told us that development of SLS components continue under modified undefinitized contracts awarded under the Constellation program’s Ares project. Project officials reported that the SLS work conducted under these contracts remains within the scope of the Ares prime contracts, however the contracts need to be modified to be in line with the design requirements and flight objectives of the SLS project.”

      In short, three years into the SLS project, NASA doesn’t know what SLS will cost beyond its first launch, they don’t know if the SSMEs and upper stage can meet NASA’s own human rating requirements, and they have not updated the deliverables on the old Ares contracts that SLS is being built under.

      But aside from requirements, costs, and contracts, everything is going great.

      • Any human Mars landing and return architecture will require lots of launches and in-space assembly. Even the smallest architectures using the largest launchers need a double-digit number of launches to get just one crew to and from Mars. For example, this recent “Austere Human Mission to Mars” architecture out of JPL requires twelve (12) launches of the old Ares V:

        trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/41432/1/09-3135.pdf‎

        Before it was cancelled, Ares V was suppossed to throw 188 metric tons to LEO. With SLS Block II performance notionally at 130 metric tons, this same architecture would require eighteen-plus (18+) launches of SLS.

        Thanks for that. For a rocket, 90% of the mass is just propellant. This is a key reason why Moon-first proponents want us to go to the Moon first to set up the infrastructure needed for lunar-derived-propellant orbital depots. Imagine reducing that number of launches for a Mars mission by a factor of 10 by getting instead the propellant from orbiting depots. Even more than this, imagine the propellant available at LEO or L2 is virtually free and unlimited. Then you could have a Mars mission, using chemical propulsion only, that could take only 30 days or even less rather than the 6 to 8 months currently envisioned. This majorly improves the viability of such a mission.
        The main reason why some Mars advocates such as Robert Zubrin are against this is because of the idea any return to the Moon has to be hugely expensive, such as the Constellation program. That it is why it is important to keep in mind that low cost missions, an order of magnitude cheaper than Apollo, are doable now simply by choosing to go small, such as “Early Lunar Access”.

        Bob Clark

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “This is a key reason why Moon-first proponents want us to go to the Moon first to set up the infrastructure needed for lunar-derived-propellant orbital depots. Imagine reducing that number of launches for a Mars mission by a factor of 10 by getting instead the propellant from orbiting depots.”

          Sure, it would be great. But imagine how many launches from Earth will be required to set up and operate that lunar propellant extraction infrastructure. The costs of developing such an infrastructure start in the high tens of billions of dollars. Unless you have a solid commitment to send tens of human missions to Mars for decades to come, you’re better off just doing more Earth launches, even if your hands are tied by inefficient, one billion dollar HLV launches like SLS.

          “The main reason why some Mars advocates such as Robert Zubrin are against this is because of the idea any return to the Moon has to be hugely expensive, such as the Constellation program. That it is why it is important to keep in mind that low cost missions, an order of magnitude cheaper than Apollo, are doable now simply by choosing to go small, such as ‘Early Lunar Access’.”

          You’re comparing cherries to watermelons.

          I agree that lunar return — roughly replicating what Apollo did or a little more — doesn’t have to cost many tens of billions of dollars. As Golden Spike has shown, you can get humans visiting the Moon again for a billion or two.

          But Apollo didn’t set up and operate a lunar propellant extraction infrastructure and ship propellant back to LEO or a Lagrange Point. As Paul Spudis has shown, the costs of that do start in the high tens of billions of dollars. And in that respect, Zubrin is right that a the costs of setting up a lunar propellant operation (not just some lunar visits) are a major detour for a human Mars mission that could mostly be paid for with that same pile of money. And even that assumes that lunar ice is present in reasonably extractable forms and concentrations, something that has yet to be ground truthed.

          There are reasons to go back to the Moon, but Mars ain’t one of them.

  • DougSpace

    Costal Ron said…
    > Mars will be relying on Earth heavily for a long time, which is why we need to lower the cost for transportation as quickly as possible.

    I would absolutely agree with the need to lower transportation costs.  There are different ways of doing this.  I have my hopes pinned on a partially reusable (lateral boosters) FH and lunar ice-derived propellant.  Between the two, we would be getting to the equivalent of about $600/kg to LEO.

    The purpose of ISRU is to reduce the amount needed to be launched from Earth.  But really, the purpose of full self-sufficiency is to ensure the survival of humanity by having a free-standing colony.  

    But I would urge us all to think about seeking that from a minimalist standpoint rather than presuming that we need a whole society of tens of thousands.  

    With this in mind, for example, we may design equipment with different technology to make it easier to be reproduced.  For example, not all gaskets need to be weaved.  There are solid gaskets (or so Wikipedia tells me).  Alternately, a single lunar lander launched on a FH could land 9 tonnes of gaskets at once.  That many gaskets might last the base for hundreds of years until they replicated Earth’s process for making weaved gaskets.

    • common sense

      “With this in mind, for example, we may design equipment with different technology to make it easier to be reproduced. ”

      Please remember that the WH FY11 increased budget was about designing new technologies to support exploration. That our dear Congress refused and imposed SLS and MPCV.

      So in the current state of the affair there is no such thing being budgeted. Only SLS and MPCV nonsense.

    • Coastal Ron

      DougSpace said:

      The purpose of ISRU is to reduce the amount needed to be launched from Earth.

      I agree that at some point it will be economically viable to rely on ISRU, but I think that should be a market decision, not a government one. If the government or private sector have a need, it should be up to the suppliers to determine the best source of supply.

      But really, the purpose of full self-sufficiency is to ensure the survival of humanity by having a free-standing colony.

      I don’t disagree. I just think it will take many generations to get close.

      Don’t know if you saw the news story about cannibalism at the Jamestown settlement back during the winter of 1609, but they didn’t have to worry about oxygen, water, or any number of things that we take for granted here on Earth. Self-sufficiency is definitely the goal, but I think it is a long, long ways off.

      For example, not all gaskets need to be weaved. There are solid gaskets (or so Wikipedia tells me).

      The point is that there are a large variety of gaskets that will be needed depending on their application (water, vacuum, heat, pressure, etc.), and if you follow the supply chain back to the raw material, it is pretty long and complicated. And each of those steps takes complicated machinery that has to be built and maintained – and then the support systems for those people, and on and on.

      Alternately, a single lunar lander launched on a FH could land 9 tonnes of gaskets at once.

      If your community is growing, and your equipment is evolving, you wouldn’t want a hundred years of any finished good.

      The likely steps will be 1) send assembled and tested equipment, 2) send replacement assemblies, 3) send replacement parts, 4) send processed raw material to make parts as needed. After that you move on to making your own equipment and finding sources of local supply to make your own parts.

      I remember the challenge I had keeping our machine building shop operational back in the early 80′s, and we were near large cities.

      It’s going to take a while. If you don’t believe me, try making copper piping at home from raw material…

  • DougSpace

    Matt,

    > IF this Administration won’t consider it, the next one will.

    I would hope that what this Administration meant is that we will not be seeing a NASA astronaut leading the way doing another flag plant on the Moon for the reason that they’ve said.

    However, us not being able to send astronauts to the lunar surface when there’s resources and potentially property to be had is something that this Administration is being hammered on and will continue to be hammered on. I hope that they’ll be interested in a face-saving way out of their situation.

    My approach would be to say, “OK, continue the government / international path to Mars with various steps aline the way. But follow-up the currently successful public-private program with Lunar COTS programs. Any NASA astronauts going to the Moon might be taking commercial landers and staying at a commercial mining base. They would use that setting to prepare for Mars”.

    LunarCOTS.com

    • common sense

      See Doug this is the typical living in denial we read all around “> IF this Administration won’t consider it, the next one will.”

      What was Romney’s reaction again to a lunar mission?

      How can anyone expect another administration will support our pipe dreams? This WH at least initially tried to increase the NASA budget unlike what most those pipe dreamers are chanting here and elsewhere. The fact of the matter it is Congress that decreased the NASA budget, they are those who vote on that, not the WH. Period.

    • Hiram

      If there is commercial mining on the Moon, it will be largely telerobotic from Earth. Commercial mining right now is done telerobotically, and even on the Earth it is quite cost effective. Yeah, who’s going to fix the robots!? Well, either they’ll be fixed telerobotically, or the robots will be expendable. The value of humans on the Moon to fix robots is vastly overrated in this day and age. That’s value, as in functionality per unit cost. Keeping humans on the Moon to fix bulldozers is an awesomely expensive prospect.

      In fact, investment in lunar mining that develops sophisticated telerobotic capabilities will be of huge value in terrestrial mining. Investment in lunar mining that requires humans won’t. By the same token, such telerobotic lunar mining capitalizes strongly on terrestrial efforts. It’s win-win game.

      To the extent that time delays are a problem, the work will be done from a habitat in lunar orbit, where power is plentiful, it never gets cold, and survival strategies proven on ISS can be brought to bear.

    • Matt

      And using the Moon as a proving ground for Mars, IMHO, counts as exploration. That is NASA’s job. Not some private contractor, who, despite the successes of both Space X and Orbital, have yet to fly a human crew anywhere. The “commercial to the moon” approach, unless it’s NASA leasing a vehicle, won’t get congressional approval. Congress writes the checks, people, and if Congress doesn’t like your proposal, no dinero. Simple as that.

      • common sense

        “And using the Moon as a proving ground for Mars, IMHO, counts as exploration.”

        Well your opinion is at best ill informed. My suggestion is get to learn how to run at least part of an exploration program and its associated requirements.

        “despite the successes of both Space X and Orbital, have yet to fly a human crew anywhere.”

        Oh great now. Is that you DCSCA?

        ” The “commercial to the moon” approach, unless it’s NASA leasing a vehicle, won’t get congressional approval. ”

        Wow you must be an authority on the US laws and Constitution. So if Bigelow wants to put a habitat on the Moon with a SpaceX LV Congress will have to approve? I can’t wait to see that happen actually so I truly hope you are right.

        “Congress writes the checks, people, and if Congress doesn’t like your proposal, no dinero.”

        They also print dollars when in need. They vote budget for which they blame every other person under the sun. Great.

        “Simple as that.”

        Well yeah! You’re right here. Simple is the way I would describe it too.

      • Monty

        Commercial missions to the moon don’t need Congressional approval unless they’re financed through the public sector. A totally privately-funded moon mission might face certain legal obstacles (property rights, mining rights, etc.) but they won’t need an act of Congress to do anything. That’s NASA’s burden, and a heavy one it is. And it’s one of the major reasons why NASA hasn’t been able to do anything significant with manned space missions since Apollo. What one Congress gives, another takes away. What one President likes, his successor hates.

        “Exploration” may be NASA’s purported mission, but its real mission is to provide aerospace jobs on the ground in certain congressional districts. And absent some major reforms (which aren’t likely any time soon), that’s going to continue to be the case. If you want to see men on the moon any time in the near future, private industry and not NASA is your best bet.

        • A M Swallow

          Earth to LEO is no longer exploration, it is now the commute to work. Time NASA built a transfer vehicle and landers so it can go some exploration.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        That [exploration] is NASA’s job.

        It is one of NASA’s “jobs”. However NASA does not have a monopoly on exploration, and I think that’s something you have a hard time with Matt.

        We’ve been exploring for millennia without NASA, and if the costs to access space keep dropping, that means we can continue that trend.

        Not some private contractor, who, despite the successes of both Space X and Orbital, have yet to fly a human crew anywhere.

        That’s kind of a fake barrier, isn’t it? Especially since it’s been “private contractors” that have built all of NASA’s hardware, and “private contractors” that pretty much ran the Shuttle program. And since American “private contractors” have access to NASA’s knowledge base, and can hire away any NASA personnel that have unique talents, nothing is beyond the private sector.

        The key difference continues to be cost, in that the U.S. Government can throw money at solutions far better than the private sector can, but the private sector is better at finding out if there is a business case for doing something long-term. And if we can’t make a business case out of space long-term, in one way or the other, then we shouldn’t be there.

        Congress writes the checks…

        And those checks are getting smaller and smaller. Remember that Matt…

        • Matt

          Oh? When NASA’s budget is relatively flat….

          The “Commercial uber Alles” approach will not fly (politically). To the members of the relevant Congressional Committees, having NASA “fly commercial” to the Moon is about as popular as hitching a ride with the Chinese. It ain’t gonna happen. Now, if NASA teams up with international partners and the private sector (read: Bigelow), for a lunar outpost, I have no problem with that. Keep in mind that the Private Sector won’t explore unless they think there’s money to be made either by doing so, or if they can find exploitable resources. Private entities won’t explore out of the goodness of their heart.

          • Coastal Ron

            Matt said:

            The “Commercial uber Alles” approach will not fly (politically).

            Matt, the NASA-doing-it-alone method is not working. What happened to Constellation? Why are so many people concerned about the lack of funding for the SLS?

            Commercial launch is an industry that will always be here, and that’s because it provides a needed service. Whether NASA is a customer or not, it will always exist.

            However the converse of that is not true. It is not guaranteed that NASA will be able to afford to build the SLS, nor is there any guarantee that Congress will EVER provide enough funding to fully use the SLS.

            So there are two options right now.

            1. Smaller rockets that are available now and far more cost effective.

            2. A much larger rocket with an uncertain development future, and an uncertain future of being affordable to use.

            To the members of the relevant Congressional Committees, having NASA “fly commercial” to the Moon is about as popular as hitching a ride with the Chinese.

            You don’t understand Congress. As long as their districts/states get their money, they would indeed do business with China. Look at how much money Russia will be getting instead of American companies for transporting crew to the ISS!

            It ain’t gonna happen.

            It’s all about the money Matt. NASA doesn’t get enough to do what you want it to do. If NASA is to get out into space, the only affordable way forward is to use commercial transportation.

            As to “who” does what, I really don’t care. You seem pretty adamant that NASA get all the glory, but as we expand out into space, NASA will become less and less relevant. And that’s because NASA doesn’t get enough money.

            It’s all about the money Matt.

            • Matt

              And keep in mind that the age of austerity won’t last forever. Not to mention that using an EELV-based strategy-with an as yet unproved addition (propellant depot) is also not politically popular. This board’s supposed to be about the politics of space, and as long as NASA has to get Congressional approval for their operations, they have to please the politicians. Also remember this: there’s only ONE member of the House Sci/Tech committee that’s in favor of the Commercial/EELV/Depot approach: and that’s Rohrabacher. And the committee listens to him, but he winds up voting for SLS/Orion anyway. Congress isn’t a rubber stamp (especially with a GOP-held House), so expecting blanket Congressional approval is a wasted effort.

              Now, if in his speech at the Cape (probably the last time we’ll hear from this POTUS on Space issues), Mr. Obama had thrown a bone to those affected by CxP’s cancellation, while continuing research on heavy-lift-which, btw, Ron, you yourself admitted at the time was something needed for Mars, that NASA would use an EELV-based strategy, but those firms affected by cancellation would be second-source suppliers (preserving workforce and infrastructure). Would that have passed Congressional muster-even in a Democratically-controlled Congress at the time? We’ll never know.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                And keep in mind that the age of austerity won’t last forever.

                The current budget situation is not the problem – apparently you are not aware of NASA’s budget trend over the last few decades?

                NASA’s budget, as a percentage of the total federal budget, hasn’t been this low since 1960. This isn’t a recent trend, but one that’s been going on for decades.

                Without some spark, what I would call a “National Imperative” to reverse that trend, the trend will continue. And I see nothing on the horizon to reverse this trend.

                Now, if in his speech at the Cape…

                You continue to ignore reality on this – regardless what Obama said, once the cancellation of Constellation was agreed to, Senator Shelby was not going to let jobs leave Alabama, Senator Hutchison was not going to let jobs leave Texas, and Senator Nelson was fighting to salvage jobs in Florida. The SLS was not a surprise. A disappointment sure, but not a surprise.

                …btw, Ron, you yourself admitted at the time was something needed for Mars

                Nope, you remember wrong.

                I think we’ll need larger capacity to orbit in the future, but I think we can initially do Mars using what we have. If we need something larger, the commercial launch providers will step up and build larger capacity. But under NO conditions does the U.S. Government have to own and operate their own HLV.

                …but those firms affected by cancellation would be second-source suppliers…

                I remember having a DoD representative come see me as we were ramping up the nation for the first Gulf War – they wanted to understand how we would support DoD’s needs during time of war. I ran operations for our company, and I’m quite knowledgeable about supply chain issues. What you propose is artificial, and potentially illegal under federal procurement laws. And it’s not needed in our broad-based aerospace industry.

    • Matt

      That might cut it politically, especially if it’s done in partnership with what Bigelos has in mind: a commercial lunar outpost-but set up in partnership with NASA and other space agencies. Or, if the Global Exploration Roadmap being discussed among NASA and the other ISS partners comes to the conclusion that going to Mars requires hitting the lunar surface prior to a Mars landing, then they could save face.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        …then they could save face.

        Not sure who “they” are.

        Definitely not politicians, since there is nothing they feel they have done wrong.

        And definitely not anyone in the commercial space, since it’s not up to them to prove anything – they only care about servicing their customers.

        So I’m not sure who needs to save face…

        • Matt

          When I mean “they” I mean this Administration: specifically, Bolden and Garver at NASA, and Dr. Holdren, the Presidential Science Advisor. And Ron: you finally showed your colors: “Commercial Uber Alles.” Which puts you in the league of Congressman Rohrabacher-who, again, if he was Chair of the House Sci/Tech Committee, would be in a position to impact NASA policy. Fortunately, he’s not.

          Again, Ron, there is big difference between what is technically feasible (A strategy similar to the ULA Report-and yes, I’ve read it; it’s very well done, and lays things out in a way that a lay person can understand), and what is politically feasible (Orion+ Heavy Lift). Expecting the pro-Constellation congresscritters (spread across 30+ states, given contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, etc.) to go away quietly was naive and unrealistic. Equally unrealistic was that Congress would rubber-stamp the FY 11 Budget proposal (as some here wanted, as did the Planetary Society, Bill Nye, and a number of others). They didn’t, and the President, for whatever reason, chose not to expend the political capital to get it passed, even in the amended form after 15 Apr 2010. Instead, members of both houses, in a bipartisan manner, came up with their own authorization bill and appropriations, which is their constitutional perogrative. And the President signed it.

  • Hiram

    No, but I’ve been reading Heinlein. I admire Rachael Lief.

    • Neil Shipley

      Recommend ‘Moon’. It’s a low budget but intelligent movie for the most part and relevant to the discussion regarding Lunar ISRU.

  • DougSpace

    Costal Ron said:

    “I agree that at some point it will be economically viable to rely on ISRU, but I think that should be a market decision, not a government one”. 

    As long as there is a government HSF track then I think that it is in the government’s interest to facilitate the development of commercial support in order to reduce its future financial burden (e.g. COTS, CRS, CCDev, Lunar COTS, etc).  ISRU will reduce costs of the government program as soon as it is available.  But the goal of government support is to get the companies past the initial funding hump and then stand back as much as possible and become just one of several customers.

    “I don’t disagree. I just think it will take many generations to get close”.

    You may be right but I hope you’re wrong.  The longer it takes to achieve that, the longer the human species has no insurance policy.

    “cannibalism at the Jamestown settlement back during the winter of 1609″

    It was a particularly bad winter.  We ought to have a fully fueled return craft ready before sending anyone and there would be some period of time in which scheduled resupply missions would keep the base going while the base masters more and more of the essential technologies.  We wouldn’t drop people off and then leave them to themselves.

    “follow the supply chain back to the raw material, it is pretty long and complicated”

    In the 1950s they had functioning rocket engines, cars, submarines, etc despite not having access to all of the types of materials we have now.  The many materials and the many supply chains give us better options.  In an initial self-sustaining colony you use less efficient but simpler designs specifically with the goal of reproducibility.

    “If your community is growing, and your equipment is evolving, you wouldn’t want a hundred years of any finished good”.

    The goal isn’t a large, complicated society with evolving technology.  The initial goal is as simple as possible closed-loop base using a finite set of pieces of equipment.  Once the base is self-sustaining then the evolution of technology can begin to increase the efficiencies and improved standard of living.

    “The likely steps will be…”

    Certainly your set of steps is the likely path.  But different parts would simultaneously be at different stages.

    Since the goal is to achieve self-sufficiency ASAP, I would wonder if it were possible to produce metals from regolith early on that would be good enough to produce the bulky parts.

    “It’s going to take a while. If you don’t believe me, try making copper piping at home from raw material”

    Ummm…how about we do a really good job at recycling our copper?  Hehe!

    • Coastal Ron

      DougSpace said:

      ISRU will reduce costs of the government program as soon as it is available.

      That is an unproven assertion. ISRU is the least costliest when the demand is closest to the supply, so lunar ISRU for water may in fact make sense for use on the Moon. Once you start moving further from the point of demand, then you start competing with other supply sources. Even though Earth has a higher gravity gradient, it is likely to be the least expensive place to launch rockets from for a long time, so lunar ISRU may not be the least costliest place to source fuel for a trip to Mars.

      Bottom line is that until we have a need, speculating about the best sources of supply is a guess.

      The goal isn’t a large, complicated society with evolving technology.

      You say that, but complicated technology exists for a reason – it makes life a whole lot easier. That will be the case on Mars too.

      Certainly your set of steps is the likely path. But different parts would simultaneously be at different stages.

      I agree.

      Since the goal is to achieve self-sufficiency ASAP, I would wonder if it were possible to produce metals from regolith early on that would be good enough to produce the bulky parts.

      So much of our ability to process metals requires large amounts of reactants and various gases. That’s why I suggested making copper at home to see how hard it is to do.

      how about we do a really good job at recycling our copper?

      It been estimated that 80% of all copper that has been mined is still in use today, yet we still operate large copper mines to produce even more. The challenge is not in recycling copper, it’s in producing enough of it for an expanding civilization.

  • Robert Clark

    Reality is a tough mistress but if you stray off of it what are your chances to make what you want to see happen????
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-57489660-235/viewers-opted-for-the-web-over-tv-to-watch-curiositys-landing/
    “According to Mashable, more than 3.2 million people viewed the nail-biting descent nicknamed “seven minutes of terror” via Ustream’s live streaming platform on Sunday night.”

    And if had been manned flight most of the TV’s in the world would have been tuned in to see it.

    Bob Clark

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert Clark said:

      And if had been manned flight most of the TV’s in the world would have been tuned in to see it.

      Maybe you’re not aware, but we have a space station in Low Earth Orbit, and it’s been occupied continuously by U.S. personnel for the last 12.5 years.

      The news media is even aware of it, as stories like this one show.

      People are aware that we have a space station, and similarly they are aware of our robotic explorers on Mars.

      But if you open up your windows, or go for a walk in crowded places, you won’t hear a hue and cry for more human space exploration. Or even more robotic exploration. Not from the average masses out there. Those of us that are space enthusiasts want more, and likely most that are in the fields connected to STEM, but I don’t see much from anywhere else.

      People aren’t “tuned in to see it”, it’s just part of the news stream, competing with all the other important and unimportant stuff.

      • Robert Clark

        Maybe you’re not aware, but we have a space station in Low Earth Orbit, and it’s been occupied continuously by U.S. personnel for the last 12.5 years.
        The news media is even aware of it, as stories like this one show.
        People are aware that we have a space station, and similarly they are aware of our robotic explorers on Mars.

        And if the ISS was just an unmanned satellite there would be even less interest in it. It is because it is manned that there is any interest in it at all.

        Bob Clark

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert Clark said:

          And if the ISS was just an unmanned satellite there would be even less interest in it. It is because it is manned that there is any interest in it at all.

          Well there wouldn’t be any activity if it was unmanned, and there wouldn’t have been any need to put up a 450mt structure. It is that large because we have people on it.

          As far as news coverage, keep in mind that people and entities get news coverage all the time for many reasons, both good and bad. The ISS is part of that news stream, but that’s not a justification for either the ISS or spaceflight in general. If there aren’t any stories about the ISS, they just fill in with other equally interesting stories (like cicadas in North Carolina).

          Therefore, what we do in space should have a reason that goes beyond news worthiness, that it accomplishes something useful.

    • common sense

      Oh come on. I gave you two significant examples of the last flight of the Space shuttle and that of landing a darn rover on Mars. There is no comparison in number of people who viewed either. It does not even come close.

      But there is something which is significant and you would be well advised to understand. Even 3 million people out of how many people in the US??? Or even on Earth???? I give you 10 million people if you want.

      You are the one who said people were most interested in human space flight.

      It is not true. Period.

      People are not even interested in anything space.

      Compare these two examples with this http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/media/content/nearly-378-million-people-watched-obama-inauguration-how-many-watched-outside-home
      And even that is pretty low score considering the significance of his election and assuming over 100 million voters in the US (http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/)

      So in the end it would be highly beneficial that you understand that 1) Apollo days are long gone, 2) the only way to interest the public is to involve the public.

      Involving the public does not come from broadcasting nice pics or videos.

      Involving the public means they become actively involved with space and that starts with the private sector since it will finally and eventually and possibly affect their day-to-day lives. And even that is a (very) long shot.

      • Robert Clark

        Involving the public means they become actively involved with space and that starts with the private sector since it will finally and eventually and possibly affect their day-to-day lives. And even that is a (very) long shot.

        On that we agree strongly.

        Bob Clark

        • common sense

          So if you agree then why do you (seem to) refer to the past? And keep trying to bring back the good ol’ days? Because in the days of Apollo the public was merely a spectator.

          Or did I misunderstand you?

          • Robert Clark

            So if you agree then why do you (seem to) refer to the past? And keep trying to bring back the good ol’ days? Because in the days of Apollo the public was merely a spectator..
            Or did I misunderstand you?

            Completely. I am a strong supporter of commercial space. My opinion is it will become the predominate means of producing new launchers/spacecraft going forward. The savings in development costs as proven by SpaceX and now by Orbital Sciences will become impossible to ignore.

            Bob Clark

  • Robert Clark

    The discussion of public support for spaceflight led me to look up surveys on the issue. Here’s one from 2003:

    Public Opinion Polls and Perceptions of US Human Spaceflight.
    Space Policy 19 (2003) 163–175.
    http://www.academia.edu/179045/_Public_Opinion_Polls_and_Perceptions_of_US_Human_Spaceflight_

    Fig. 5 goes only up to year 1995 on the question of support of manned Moon flights and gives it in the range of 45%.
    Another table shows there is greater support for manned flights than robotic flights.

    Bob Clark

  • Robert Clark

    While I think that there can be significant cost reductions if things like commodity transportation and fuel depots are used. However, you are saying that we could do what Constellation wanted to do for $1B, and I think you are off by a magnitude. Just the transportation is going to cost $1B, and you would still need to develop all the new hardware, and that’s not cheap.

    Remember that estimate is based on assuming the Falcon Heavy really does reach the $1,000 per pound price point.

    Bob Clark

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert Clark said:

      Remember that estimate is based on assuming the Falcon Heavy really does reach the $1,000 per pound price point.

      Since SpaceX is already advertising that Falcon Heavy can put 117,000 of mass to LEO for $1,094/lb, that is the figure I used in my calculations. That being the case, transportation is less than $1B of the total cost of the EML-1/2 station I costed out.

      The station hardware itself was at least $4B, possibly more depending on the hardware choices. DDT&E, program overhead and operational costs make up the rest, plus a management reserve for all those pesky “unknowns”.

      I think you need to revisit your estimates.

      • Robert Clark

        Perhaps the difference in estimates is coming from your more extensive program with an L1/L2 station. I’m following the “Early Lunar Access” proposal of setting up a smaller lunar surface outpost by launching smaller spacecraft/cargo to the lunar surface:

        Lunar Base Studies in the 1990s
        1993: Early Lunar Access (ELA)
        by Marcus Lindroos
        http://www.nss.org/settlement/moon/ELA.html

        This would have landed 8.5 metric tons to the lunar surface on each of 4 flights, for a total of 34 mT. I estimate a Falcon Heavy can land 12 mT to the lunar surface using efficient Centaur upper stages. This would take then 3 Falcon Heavy flights, for a total launch cost to LEO of ca. $360 million. There would be extra cost for the Centaur upper stages but we can make them reusable to save on that cost.

        Since these upper stages are already existing that would reduce development cost for adapting them for the lunar mission. The main modifications would be for the lander stage, needing a sunshade for the longer trip to minimize boil off, thrusters for horizontal landing, and landing legs.

        Bob Clark

        • A M Swallow

          Robert Clark wrote

          Since these upper stages are already existing that would reduce development cost for adapting them for the lunar mission. The main modifications would be for the lander stage, needing a sunshade for the longer trip to minimize boil off, thrusters for horizontal landing, and landing legs.

          I wonder how Masten are getting on with XEUS.

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert Clark said:

          Perhaps the difference in estimates is coming from your more extensive program with an L1/L2 station. I’m following the “Early Lunar Access” proposal of setting up a smaller lunar surface outpost by launching smaller spacecraft/cargo to the lunar surface

          That proposal talks about a 21-day stay, so this more of a “Flags & Footprints” type of trip. And it said repeating it would cost $2B each time. That’s not a good model to follow. I think you should change over the ULA proposal, which is more up to date, utilizes the latest technologies, and is intended for sustaining a permanent presence.

          This would take then 3 Falcon Heavy flights, for a total launch cost to LEO of ca. $360 million.

          You do realize that SpaceX publishes their prices on their website? You don’t have to guess what the price is – the latest price is $128M, so the actual amount would be $384M.

          There would be extra cost for the Centaur upper stages but we can make them reusable to save on that cost.

          ULA, who builds and operates the Centaur, is proposing evolving it into the Advanced Common Evolved Stage (ACES) family. Yet another reason you should stop using that old proposal and focus on the ULA one.

          Still, you still need to send enough such vehicles to space, and you have to send fuel to depots to support them, so we’ll need upper stages for a while.

          The main modifications would be for the lander stage, needing a sunshade for the longer trip to minimize boil off, thrusters for horizontal landing, and landing legs.

          I’m beginning to think that you really didn’t read the ULA proposal – it covers all of this stuff, and more. Plus they have already delineated how many flights it would take to get mass down to the surface of the Moon, and how to rotate crews. All you have to do is plug in prices to get a operational budget.

          But it won’t be the $1B you think it should be…

          • We’re not disagreeing that ULA has presented a good model to follow for conducting lunar return missions without requiring an expensive new heavy lift launcher. Note though this proposal was written in 2009 before Constellation was cancelled in 2010 so it is still using the Orion and Altair crew modules in its architecture. For instance the Orion capsule it mentions has a dry mass of 8 metric tons, the same mass of the current Orion. This is 4 times larger than it needs to be.
            There are several good features to their proposal. They use commercial launchers and note their architecture is flexible enough to incorporate other lower cost commercial launchers that may come online by then. This would be especially important for lofting the large amount of propellant needed to LEO by using, for instance, the Falcon Heavy.
            It also uses propellant depots at LEO and L2. They note the L2 depot has the advantage of reducing the boiloff that would occur at LEO from the thermal flux from the Earth. The L2 depot would also be useful, they mention, for missions to Mars and other planets.
            I also like the fact their lunar base would be occupied year round.

            However, because they are using such large crew modules and landers there is a large amount of mass that needs to be transported to LEO. From the report:

            ——————————————————-
            Table 3. Year 1 Summary of Operations Lunar Operations.
            Depot Launches 2 Propellant Flux thru LEO Depot 355t
            LEO Tanker Launches 13 Propellant Flux thru L2 Depot 170t
            L2 Tanker Launches 4 Cargo Mass on Lunar Surface 40t
            Altair Cargo Launches 2 Propellant Mass to Lunar Surface 3.5t
            Altair- Crew Launches 1 All-Up Altairs at L2 1
            Spare Altair Ascenders at L2 1
            Total ACES stages 22 Total Mass to LEO 738t
            Total SRM’s 65 Total Propellant to LEO 549t
            Total RS68 27 Lunar Touchdowns 2
            Total RL10 88 Ascender Launches to L2 1
            Total RD180 13 Storage days on Surface >12
            Solar Power on Surface 30kW
            ——————————————-

            Lunar Operations – Year 2.
            With the way to the moon paved with propellants, cargo and vehicles, Year 2 commences crewed operations on the lunar surface. Figure 14 shows the timeline and Table 4 summarizes the system state at years end. The scenario modeled had an aggressive pace to attempt to stress the transport architecture. By spreading the tasks across multiple launcher types and launch complexes this ambitious approach was
            readily supported.

            Initial crewed missions have 120 day stay durations and overlap by approximately 10 days with the newly arrived crew. The intent was to have continuous human occupation of the lunar base once it was established. This allows maintenance to be done on the increasingly complex life support and scientific equipment on the lunar surface. It is never left unattended. This leverages one of the most powerful attributes of a human crew- the ability to rapidly address contingencies with minimal preplanning.

            This large mass of 738 metric tons to LEO is before even the crew are launched in Year 2. For Year 2, the total mass to LEO needed grows to 933 mT. It’s unclear if they mean this is the amount just for Year 2 or if it is the total for both years. If it is just for one year, then in Year 3 it grows to 1,011 mT, which would mean a total of 2,682 mT to LEO over three years.

            The Early Lunar Access(ELA) proposal as described in 1993 used the space shuttle and Titan IV since they were available at the time. These were both expensive launchers. With the Falcon Heavy, the costs would be significantly less.
            It could be done with two Centaur upper stages for the in-space stages. But ULA has written about upgrading the Centaur to a 40 mT propellant size, as with the ACES, while using various weight saving methods to bring the mass ratio up from the current 10 to 1, to 20 to 1. This is very important because such a stage could serve as a single in-space stage to carry a Dragon-size capsule all the way from LEO to the lunar surface and back again. Such a stage then could be the much desired shuttle from LEO to the Moon.
            The ELA plan would also transport a lunar outpost to the lunar surface. This could serve as a year round base if continually resupplied. We can estimate the resupply rate from what is delivered to the ISS yearly.
            The Progress spacecraft had been used as the primary supply ship for the ISS for years, though it is now supplemented by the ESA’s ATV and the JAXA H-II, and will be by the Dragon and Cygnus in the upcoming years. The Progress could deliver 2,600 kg cargo for a maximum of 4 times a year to the ISS, for a total of 10,400 kg per year. Actually the crew consumables are less than this since a large portion of the cargo is fuel for station keeping.
            Note then the Falcon Heavy can send 12 mT to the lunar surface for launch cost less than $200 million, so could be used for the resupply missions.

            Bob Clark

            • Coastal Ron

              Robert Clark said:

              …so it is still using the Orion and Altair crew modules in its architecture.

              Orion, yes. Altair, no.

              The ULA version of Altair is not the design that NASA had been using in powerpoint presentations. NASA’s was an upsized Apollo lander.

              I’ve pointed this out before, but apparently you get stuck on names instead of looking at what the hardware actually is. For instance, did you even look at Figure 4 in the ULA proposal?

              For instance the Orion capsule it mentions has a dry mass of 8 metric tons, the same mass of the current Orion. This is 4 times larger than it needs to be.

              As I also pointed out before, yes, ULA did assume that what was around would be used, but capsules can be changed out quite easily. Again, you are hung up on names too much.

              As to “4 times larger than it needs to be”, apparently the SpaceX Dragon would be 2X larger than it needs to be, since it has a dry mass of 4.2mt.

              Somehow your calculator always seem to be off by a factor or multiple… ;-)

              However, because they are using such large crew modules and landers there is a large amount of mass that needs to be transported to LEO.

              If you read the study, part of that mass is to put in place assets that are reusable.

              I think what you’re missing is that this is not a disposable hardware architecture like the one you had been citing, plus this is for a permanent presence while yours was only a 21 day stay. It’s not an apples-apples comparison.

              This is very important because such a stage could serve as a single in-space stage to carry a Dragon-size capsule all the way from LEO to the lunar surface and back again.

              Seriously? You would send capsules to the surface of the Moon? Waste fuel on moving an unneeded heat shield to the surface of an airless world and back up the gravity gradient? Why does that make sense?

              Go look at Figure 4 on the ULA proposal, because they use something better. More evidence that you didn’t really understand the concept they proposed.

              The Progress spacecraft had been used as the primary supply ship for the ISS for years

              No, you are forgetting the Shuttle. The Progress is too small (in a number of ways) to support a National Laboratory facility in LEO like the ISS.

  • Robert Clark

    Fig. 4 in the ULA report shows a lander using an ACES 41 stage. With the dry mass of the stage and the crew module, that would put it above the 45 mT mass of NASA’s Altair.
    While the ULA architecture has much to recommend it, it is far too big: 1,671 metric tons to LEO by the time the crew arrives in the second year.
    In this time of budget restrictions the benefits of going small are clear. Here is a smaller, lower cost proposal for a Moon base:

    Costs of an International Lunar Base.
    Johannes Weppler, Vincent Sabathier, and Ashley Bander September 23, 2009
    Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
    http://csis.org/publication/costs-international-lunar-base

    The proposal, from 2009, uses the Ares V or similar heavy lift launcher to get its cost estimates in the tens of billions of dollars range. But if done instead by the Falcon Heavy, that would be a large reduction launch costs.
    It also uses the Orion and Altair. These could be replaced by smaller crew modules also resulting in greatly reduced cost.
    The plan would require 17.6 mT delivered to the lunar surface per year in supplies. This could be done by 1.5 launches of the Falcon Heavy per year, i.e., 3 launches every 2 years. This would be less than $300 million per year.

    Bob Clark

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert Clark said:

      While the ULA architecture has much to recommend it, it is far too big: 1,671 metric tons to LEO by the time the crew arrives in the second year.

      That’s because you keep comparing it to missions that are temporary visits, and the ULA proposal is for a permanent presence. Apples and mangoes so to speak.

      Something else to keep in mind, is that the study you cite REQUIRES an HLV that does not exist. And it too uses the Orion, which you claim is 4X too big.

      The proposal, from 2009, uses the Ares V or similar heavy lift launcher to get its cost estimates in the tens of billions of dollars range.

      If you want to talk cost, and you want to use a mythical launcher, then you need to add in the DDT&E costs to build the mythical launcher. TINSTAAFL

  • You are a very smart person!Hello.This post was extremely remarkable, especially because I was searching for thoughts on this topic last Sunday.watch

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