NASA, Other, White House

Asteroid mitigation, malaise, and property rights

As previously noted here, Friday’s relatively close (cosmically speaking) flyby of asteroid 1998 QE2 provided NASA and the Obama Administration an opportunity to promote the agency’s asteroid initiative, including plans for an asteroid retrieval mission. That outreach did achieve one benchmark of effectiveness: the asteroid flyby made it into Friday’s White House press briefing, when a reporter asked deputy press secretary Josh Ernest if President Obama had been briefed on the flyby:

Q Josh, your website says you’re hosting a discussion this afternoon about this asteroid that’s going to be passing fairly close to Earth today. Has the President been briefed about the asteroid?

MR. EARNEST: It’s my understanding that scientists have concluded that the asteroid poses no threat to Planet Earth. I never really thought I’d be standing up here saying that. (Laughter.) But I guess I am. So since it doesn’t pose a threat to Planet Earth, I’m not sure it necessitated a briefing to the President.

The discussion the reporter referred to was the “We the Geeks” Google+ hangout held Friday afternoon that featured, among others, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, and hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. The announcement of the discussion noted that the administration’s 2014 budget proposal “calls for increased efforts by NASA to detect and mitigate potentially hazardous asteroids,” which the reporter then pressed Earnest about:

Q Does the President have any views about spending more resources on what your website calls “hazard mitigation” in respect to asteroids?

MR. EARNEST: I’m not aware of that reference. I know that the President does believe that scientific exploration and that the study of these kinds of asteroids is a worthwhile endeavor. And certainly we’re taking advantage of the opportunity — maybe there’s a spike in interest in the asteroid to facilitate a discussion on matters related to space. So it should be an interesting discussion. I would encourage you to tune in if you’re interested. But I don’t know — I’m not aware of any details related to hazard mitigation.

Meanwhile, that asteroid initiative is the subject, in part, of the cover story of the latest issue of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, featuring a cartoon of a spacesuited President Obama planting an American flag—or, at least, attempting to plant a flag—on an asteroid. “Obama’s Asteroid”, by P. J. O’Rourke, sees the proposal as the latest evidence of the “decline of NASA” since the glory days of the 1960s, when even then it was a challenge to develop a compelling rationale for spaceflight. “President Obama’s space entree is the same serving of vagaries, hold the pizzazz” as a half-century ago, he concludes.

O’Rourke is not moved by arguments for going to an asteroid for the sake of planetary defense. “Threat? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk,” he writes. “Opportunity? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.”

While O’Rourke is not enthused about asteroid missions, even for the sake of protecting the Earth, a more positive view of the administration’s asteroid initiative comes from Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. In an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, DiBello describes the various scientific and technical benefits of an asteroid retrieval mission. “[I]t will result in more launches, and sooner, of American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit,” he writes, “and it shrewdly taps into a growing public and scientific interest in near-Earth objects and planetary defense.”

DiBello also brings up another issue, though: property rights in space. Before private investment in space “can begin returning profits, paying taxes, and generating American jobs, the sticky issue of property rights in space will need to be addressed,” he writes. “This asteroid strategy enables this issue to come to the attention of the international community sooner rather than later. If the U.S., or a consortium of nations under our leadership, moves an asteroid from one location to another, how is it not now our property?” Space lawyers may have their own opinions, though…

98 comments to Asteroid mitigation, malaise, and property rights

  • Anne Spudis

    Alongside the DiBello op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel was “Return to moon will better advance planetary missions” an op-ed by Paul Spudis.

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-front-burner-asteroid-mission-con-20130530,0,7668859.story

    • Robert Clark

      Well said.

      Bob Clark

    • As usual, Dr. Spudis fails to tell us how he will pay for his Apollo rerun. Entering the lunar gravity well will cost tens of billions of dollars more than an asteroid mission. Check, please.

      Besides, we have a lot of gathering evidence that by year’s end a formal alliance will be announced between Golden Spike, SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace to create a commercial option that will be far cheaper, safer and faster than Dr. Spudis’ proposal. Why should the government compete with the private sector to provide a service? If I’m flying from Orlando to Houston, I’ll do it on a commercial airliner, not sit around waiting for the government to figure out how to build one on time and on budget using taxpayer dollars that dribble out over years, if not decades.

      • DCSCA

        “As usual, Dr. Spudis fails to tell us how he will pay for his Apollo rerun.” spins Stephen.

        The only person on this forum who has posted any notion of an ‘Apollo rerun’ is you. And bsides, the government can borrow moniey now virtually interest free for projects of scale, for infrastructure projects that generate good paying jobs– be they building literal bridges in Minnesota or figurative bridges between Earth and Luna. The next logical step outward is Luna, not LEO. Nor NEO asteroid grabs. LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where fast.

        • Whether or not Luna is the next logical step, the way you say you want it done (with SLS) is a fairy tale. I for one, am not saying that Luna is not the next step, just that the next Americans to do go there probably won’t be from NASA. I am not necessarily talking about Golden Spike, though I wish them luck. NASA will have no choice but to focus its attention elsewhere as long as SLS is wasting billions.

      • @Stephen C. Smith,….Why do you New Spacers continue with THIS misrepresentation on the facts?! Project Constellation was never just going to be “an Apollo rerun”. It would’ve merely BEGUN resembling Apollo and then it would’ve moved on beyond what that program had acheived. With that said, once again, where does all this venom against returning to the Moon with astronauts come from?! Just look at LEO: Whenever a space station project gets concluded, what is it that usually gets done right after? Yeah, that’s right: yet ANOTHER space station gets launched into orbit. And then ANOTHER and ANOTHER. When the ISS finally gets to see its splashdown, come 2030 or whenever, you all know darn well what’s going to follow: an ISS-2! It appalls me just how many times the LEO space station concept gets re-hashed again & again, not a word of complaint from anybody. But as soon as you mention a possible manned Lunar Return, you get nothing but verbal venom spewed! What in heaven’s name is wrong with the bulk of the space community?! Do we all really want to wake up every ten or fifteen years and find that the day is STILL Groundhog Day, and that it never changes?! LEO ad infinitum?! Is THAT what we all want out of our space future?!

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro said:

          Project Constellation was never just going to be “an Apollo rerun”.

          Actually, the phrase that Michael Griffin used was “Apollo on steroids”.

          To me it wasn’t the choice to return to the Moon that was uninspiring, but the disposable architecture that Griffin chose. That meant that every mission would have had to take up everything it needed, and left nothing behind. Just like Apollo. What a waste of money!

          And you keep forgetting Chris that the Constellation program didn’t even have enough money to do it’s four lunar landings, so how was it supposed to move on to some other destination? Except for the two rockets (which were the most expensive in history), none of the Moon hardware would have been useful for moving on to asteroids or Mars.

          • There was nothing actually wrong with that: expendable spacecraft. Whatever got the ball rolling with new manned deep spaceflight! If we have to wait for “fully reusable” lunar orbiter/lander craft, well, we will probably be waiting for another twenty years or so! Besides, the first Mars or asteroid piloted flights will most likely use single-use hardware as well!
            As for your “nothing left behind” argument: it’s a falsehood! Once the Orion/Altair series of flights had reached a point, where longer lunar stays were to be started—–& by the way, there’s NOTHING WRONG with a few sortie missions, if only just to test out the landing modules’ hardware; was not the Space Shuttle launched on about four different occasions for “test flights” which lasted about two or so days each, before being declared “operational”, afterwards?——an unmanned version of the Altair L-SAM was to have been introduced, and sent onto landings ahead of a crew. This just-cargo/habitation module variant, would’ve gone a long way towards proving the viability of other future uncrewed, unmannedly-sent-ahead-lander craft. Many of the dramatic, but as-yet unproven, technological steps that the Zubrinites want to do on Mars. Also, an unmanned version of the Altair lander, would’ve proven an ideal possible rescue vehicle for a lunarly stranded crew, if that would happen. Furthermore, who’s to say that the descent stages of the L-SAM could not come to some minor cargo-landing use, with some ingenuity, just like the old Apollo landers transported the Lunar Rover vehicle? Perhaps a next crew could be sent, for a pinpoint landing (just like Apollo 12 to the Surveyer) to just next to a previously landed craft, to re-use any emplaced surface assets, such as a lunar car/lunar hopper-vehicle/outpost equipment.

            • The above commentary was a response to Coastal Ron, on his June 4th/11:35 am Comment, by the way.

            • The argument of Moon versus Mars is essentially irrelevant. American’s will return to the Moon first before Mars (simply because it is closer and more economical with current boosters and is something private concerns can accomplish with their more economically efficient hardware). However, it will be done without SLS because SLS won’t be finished (even if it had a greatly increased budget: see Booz-Allen-Hamilton). As long as the current political conditions prevail, arguing for NASA to return to the Moon is just plain a silly fantasy.

              We’re going back to the Moon, probably within a decade, with or without NASA. It would just happen faster without SLS if at least a fraction of SLS’s budget was applied by NASA to do it with more practical hardware.

              Also, arguing for Mars versus the Moon is unproductive. Mars will be gotten to in an evolutionary process as our capabilities evolve. But people will go to the Moon first, with or without NASA. Keeping up that discussion just gives the SLS crowd a somewhat reasonable argument with which to validate their fantasy; that is, the Moon is easier to get to. What they fail to see is you can’t get there with something that will never fly.

            • Coastal Ron

              Chris Castro said:

              There was nothing actually wrong with that: expendable spacecraft. Whatever got the ball rolling with new manned deep spaceflight! If we have to wait for “fully reusable” lunar orbiter/lander craft, well, we will probably be waiting for another twenty years or so!

              The difference Chris is that one is an affordable exploration architecture (i.e. reusable), and the other isn’t (i.e. expendable).

              Do you buy a new car every time your current one runs out of gas? Does an airline replace their aircraft after every flight? That would be pretty stupid, right? But that’s the way that Michael Griffin thought we should do space exploration.

              And as for how long, keep in mind that the Constellation program was going to take over 20 years to develop a purely expendable system, so please keep that in mind. Besides, it wouldn’t have taken another 20 years to create a reusable architecture, as there are many that have already been proposed that use near-term technologies. United Space Alliance (ULA) published their version back in 2009 (Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009) and NASA proposed the Nautilus-X.

              It’s odd that you are against reusable exploration systems, since they allow for far more flights than expendable ones, and more assets in space. And with more and more assets in space, someone will be more likely to return to the Moon than if we only have infrequent expendable assets.

              Or to put it more simply, we’ll get back to the Moon far more quickly with a reusable space architecture than we will relying on expendable ones like the SLS and MPCV.

              You are the one that is holding up going back to the Moon Chris. You.

              • common sense

                Trade studies show when reusability is cost effective. Of course one of the parameter is flight rate. But reusability is not necessarily what makes an architecture affordable. In the long run maybe, possibly. But it should not be an obstacle. And of course it is not. The cost of Constellation was not so much associated with reusability but rather with Shuttle. Using the Shuttle infrastructure is what makes the whole thing unaffordable even though it may have been the political thing to do. Another thing that ruined Constellation was the poor understanding of the requirements. Yet again the CEV was going to be the next do-it-all vehicle. Poor mission planning and poor understanding of the requirements mostly sank Constellation.

                Let’s assume for a minute they wanted to make Constellation work, they should have used a smaller capsule that actually fit on an SRB, use SRBs for the HLV. That would have – possibly – left money to build an EDS and a lunar lander. And also not worry about ISS access since it was going to be done with COTS. But idiocy required that we had to have a gigantic capsule while what is important really is a properly sized SM and EDS with possible orbit docking of some sort for a couple of capsules.

                Anyway…

                But this is water under the bridge – to nowhere.

              • Coastal Ron

                common sense said:

                Trade studies show when reusability is cost effective. Of course one of the parameter is flight rate. But reusability is not necessarily what makes an architecture affordable.

                I look at it from a transportation perspective, which for space exploration is the vast majority of the cost (the actual “exploration equipment is pretty minimal at this point). And for the Constellation program, the vast amount of the budget was for just getting payload to lunar orbit – and 100% of that was expendable.

                If instead they focused their budget on reusable transportation systems, then even if it took longer to get the entire system in place, it would have been far less expensive to keep it going.

                I’ve talk before about is, where we need to break travel to the Moon down into a number of distinct segments.

                1. Earth to LEO – Commercial Crew and Cargo are good enough designs for this, and SpaceX is working on implementing partial reusability to lower the costs even more.

                2. LEO to EML-1/2 (and 4/5) & back to LEO – probably the most challenging segment, since it is either an fuel-intensive system, or one that uses aerobraking. This is definitely the key for opening up access to other planets, since we won’t want to land on them every time we go, but just enter LEO.

                3. EML-1/2 to lunar surface – since the Moon is airless, this should be pretty easy. Just a matter of determining the types of engine configurations that work best (one big central engine, an array of smaller engines, etc.).

                4. EML-4/5 to BEO and back to EML-4/5 – this will be the next big challenge after #2.

                Just as laying railroad track opened up the west for settlement and commerce, so would a defined and reusable transportation system that gets us out to EML1–5 region.

                And what Chris doesn’t understand, is that once we’re in the vicinity of the Moon, people will want to go there – for many reasons. And not just the U.S. Government.

                And I want U.S. companies to be the ones that operate this transportation system, because …. well, you know, not to sugarcoat it, but because I’m a capitalist at heart, and a U.S. citizen.

              • common sense

                “I look at it from a transportation perspective, which for space exploration is the vast majority of the cost (the actual “exploration equipment is pretty minimal at this point). And for the Constellation program, the vast amount of the budget was for just getting payload to lunar orbit – and 100% of that was expendable.”

                I believe Lice Cycle Cost is hat you are referring to. Then again it all depends on the requirements. The VSE as far as I can recall did not call for settlements, or exploitation. Regardless, the enormous expense, once again, was to make Constellation a Shuttle follow up. Even though I believe it might have worked (remember we are talking NASA HSF, not US HSF) politically at least. It was totally unrealistic to start with…

                Now you have laid out your own version of HSF but I surmise that you did not run any specific trade studies to actually show that this is a feasible option. Again you have to have a mission and associated requirements. If the goal is space exploration the solution space is so vast that anything can do including Constellation. Now if you start saying it has to be done under $10B then Constellation is of course out of the picture but we still haven’t created the proper requirements.

                I think a good example of that is the Spudis $88B plan. What are the $88B based upon? If they are following the usual NASA approach I am almost 100% certain that you can triple or even possibly decuple the cost, e.g. Constellation.

                The main reason why commercial may in the end be successful is that they have a limited budget to work with and have to make profit to survive, hence becoming self-sustaining. Does it have to be reusable? I don’t think so at all.

                if the goal is the settlement of planetary bodies first in our Solar System and then outside of it then some form of reusability will be necessary. But assume that tomorrow “warp-drive” is available, once you are light years away from Earth and settle on a distant planet, what is the point of reusable? How do you define reusable? The idea associated with reusability is that you eventually come back to Earth.

              • Coastal Ron

                common sense said:

                I believe Lice Cycle Cost is hat you are referring to. Then again it all depends on the requirements.

                Not so much life cycle as operational costs.

                And the reason I divide up the transportation segments is because they each have distinct challenges, and they can each up upgraded without affecting the others. Each can also be run by different organizations, and each can also have multiple providers. It’s not the only way to run a transportation system, but I think it’s the least expensive initially.

                Now you have laid out your own version of HSF but I surmise that you did not run any specific trade studies to actually show that this is a feasible option.

                We did. My team (i.e. me, myself, and I) have worked tirelessly on this… ;-)

                I did pattern this off of the ULA “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009″ study, so it’s not like I am the only one that has thought of it. And if you look at history, transportation systems between transportation nodes have been very instrumental in opening up frontiers.

                I think a good example of that is the Spudis $88B plan.

                I disagree. I like the way he builds up the robotic exploration assets on the Moon, but otherwise his assumptions for what comes after that are pretty unrealistic. Somehow he goes from mining water to creating a “cis-lunar transportation system”, and ignores whether sourcing water from the Moon is competitive with other sources.

                How do you define reusable? The idea associated with reusability is that you eventually come back to Earth.

                Again, we only have to look into our history to see that whenever new frontiers have been opened, they stay connected.

                As to reusability, over at NewSpace Watch Clark Lindsey wrote a short piece (behind their paywall now) about the challenges of creating a reusable launch system. My thought is that reusable launch systems don’t affect or change the behavior of the satellite launch market for quite a while, but they can affect the crew & cargo market. For instance, if NASA only has to pay $20M to send someone to the ISS instead of the $70.6 Russia is charging, they might send up more people on short trips (I’ll leave the details for another post).

                Bottom line though is that we haven’t been able to demonstrate that expendable transportation systems dramatically change the economics of getting humans to LEO and beyond, and I think reusable systems will do that. Unfortunately Congress doesn’t care about lowering costs, so I realize this is just wishful thinking for now…

              • common sense

                I stand by my comments…

                Yes I am that flexible ;)

              • Coastal Ron

                common sense said:

                Yes I am that flexible

                Which is something I’ve always admired about you…

      • @Stephen C. Smith, on his June 2nd/12:18 pm comment,….The Lunar gravity well is a good & necessary evil, in the game of pursuing a CHALLENGING deep space goal! The asteroidal next-to-zero-g situation leads astronauts into a big morass of problems. You cannot stand, walk, or drive upon an NEO surface. No one even knows just how solid such as surface would be. Would there be sink-holes and/or other hard-to-predict hazards there?? Furthermore, all this IGNORANT talk about a Lunar Return being a mere Apollo Redux, and then these same people having NO problem at all with an ISS Redux——well that just shows where your vapid, dimwitted space priorities are! Why, oh why, is the solution to our lack of deep space travel experience always more & further activities in LEO?! How many more decades are you willing to toss into the fire, just merry-go-rounding in LEO?!

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro said:

          The asteroidal next-to-zero-g situation leads astronauts into a big morass of problems. You cannot stand, walk, or drive upon an NEO surface.

          So what! That’s not the goal of going to an asteroid, especially one that small enough to be captured and dragged around by our puny abilities. How many times do you have to be told that?

          Furthermore, all this IGNORANT talk about a Lunar Return being a mere Apollo Redux…

          Talk to former NASA Administrator (and Constellation architect) Michael Griffin – he is the one that coined the phrase “Apollo on steroids”.

          …and then these same people having NO problem at all with an ISS Redux

          We could have put the ISS in orbit around the Moon or at one of the Lagrange points, would that have made a difference to you? I doubt it.

          It was put in Earth LEO because that is the closest place to do zero-G research in space. Earth LEO wasn’t the goal, zero-G research in space was.

          It’s amazing you don’t understand this.

    • Coastal Ron

      Anne Spudis said:

      Alongside the DiBello op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel was … an op-ed by Paul Spudis.

      Do you only post here so you can announce where we can find the latest Paul Spudis articles?

      • Anne Spudis

        I try to use my time wisely.

        • Coastal Ron

          Anne Spudis said:

          I try to use my time wisely.

          As we all try to do. But let’s be honest, your posts are not about you adding your thoughts to the topics at hand, but instead you’re just doing PR for Paul. I doubt Paul would appreciate it if someone did the same on one of his blogs…

    • DCSCA

      “Once we’ve created the capability to begin provisioning ourselves off-planet, we’ll have the ability to go to the planets — not simply Mars, but to anywhere in the solar system.” notes Spudis.

      That about sums it up.

      If the ‘ultimate goal’ is Mars (as opposed to Andromeda, or God’s living room, etc.,) then the immediate future is Luna. Not LEO, nor NEO asteroid grabs. As the late Neil Armstrong noted in his 2010 Congressional testimony, ” [Luna] leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to be explored…” To be explored and exploited. Luna is the next logical step outward.

      Establishing a permanent presence on Luna– an installation from which to explore and exploit discoveries waiting to be found. A facility financed by participating nation(s) and serviced (aka ‘provisioned’) by government(s) and commercial participants. An outpost on a celestial body easily seen around the world, projecting the economic vigor and political reach of participating nations on Earth. Given the state of the technologies, the economics and politics of this era, it is simply the next logical step outward. And is a worthy and challenging enterprise; building a ‘bridge between worlds’ as it were.

      Developing the hardware, methods and procedures in cis-lunar space for long-stay, off-planet ops builds the confidence and infrastructure necessary to eventually press on outward to Mars, if the robots even deem it worth the trip. Leave the Red Planet to the rovers for now, which is showing it self to be an excellent proving ground for long-distance robotic development. That’s your space program= your projects of scale- for the next 75-100 years. And make no mistake, it will take that long, if not longer. We’re already 40 years beyond the last Apollo landing.

      • Again, a pipe dream as long as SLS is touted as the way to do it.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA opined:

        A facility financed by participating nation(s) and serviced (aka ‘provisioned’) by government(s) and commercial participants.

        Funny how you whine and complain about “43 cents of every dollar we borrow from China”, EXCEPT when it’s for your favorite destination. Oink, oink DCSCA.

        Given the state of the technologies, the economics and politics of this era, it is simply the next logical step outward.

        Not even close.

        The technologies for a government-led effort don’t exist, mainly because NASA is instead being forced to build a $30B gigantic rocket with nothing to put on top of it. Even the $8B capsule that is supposed to fly on it is 20% too heavy, which means the parachutes will shred when it comes back down to Earth with humans onboard.

        And in case you missed it, the economics of the situation are that NASA has no money to use for developing ANY of the things that would be needed for such a venture. Oh, and Congress is SHRINKING NASA’s budget these days, not increasing it.

        For the politics, there is only the normal local political type, and none of it could care less about the Moon. Even internationally no one has any serious efforts for reaching the Moon, much less setting up an outpost there. Only the U.S. has the technology and industrial base to support such a venture, and our Congress has already been burned on that one, and quickly shut it down.

        As usual, you are out of touch with the situation.

  • Hiram

    There was that comsat cruising over the state of Maryland. So the Press Secty says, let us suppose …

    “It’s my understanding that flight controllers concluded have concluded that the satellite poses no threat to the White House. I never really thought I’d be standing up here saying that. (Laughter.) But I guess I am. So since it doesn’t pose a threat to the White House, I’m not sure it necessitated a briefing to the President. “

    Smart guys, there in the White House.

    “DiBello describes the various scientific and technical benefits of an asteroid retrieval mission. “[I]t will result in more launches, and sooner, of American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit,” he writes, “and it shrewdly taps into a growing public and scientific interest in near-Earth objects and planetary defense.”

    Oh really? But why don’t you actually describe those scientific and technical benefits? To the extent there actually are any that are worth the cost. More launches of humans and shrewd tapping of pubic interest sure don’t serve those benefits. What a load of @#$%^&*(. In fact, his main argument seems to be that “this asteroid strategy is truly exciting, meaningful and just flat cool.” I’m not sure what makes the coolness flat, but I’ll take his word for it. It somehow sounds appropriate.

    As to O’Rourke’s op-ed, well-said. With regard to humans and asteroids, the comment he overheard at NSS was brilliant – “To boldly go where no man has ever shown much interest in going.” But, but, it’s flat cool!!

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi Hiram –

      “But why don’t you actually describe those scientific and technical benefits? To the extent there actually are any that are worth the cost.”

      Very large numbers of lives.

      • Hiram

        I don’t believe DiBello said anything about lives. Were that an important benefit, his messaging was totally incompetent to leave that out. I don’t think he’s THAT incompetent, as the retrieval part of ARM isn’t going to save any lives, either directly or indirectly.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hiram –

          You have to find them before you can move them.

          • Hiram

            That’s correct, but you don’t need to move them. I said that THE RETRIEVAL PART isn’t going to save any lives. Read, comprehend.

            • E.P. Grondine

              Hi Hiram –

              I think I understand you well enough – you are looking for any rationalization available to avoid doing what needs to be done.

              Here’s the facts: While the detection budget was $5 million, Ed Weiler low balled a “$2,000″ million space telescope for cosmological research. That detection budget remained at $5 million while the cost “over runs” on the space telescope for cosmological research grew $4,000 million. The bduget for detection went up $15 million, and now to $35 million, while the “over run” on the space telescope went up another $2,000 million. Say around $8,000 million total, just construction, not including launch or any operating costs.

              I know those numbers are rough, but its late at night and I am tired, but they are sufficient to illustrate the point. If you’d like to provide us with more exact numbers, that would be excellent.

              Then we’ll move on to THE RETRIEVAL PART, your next rationalization.

              • Hiram

                You aren’t making any sense. I agree that you have to find them before you move them. But you don’t need to move them. What “needs to be done” is FINDING them. Not moving them. That was my point.

                Ed Weiler was right, I guess, in that no lives were lost because of his decision. Good job, Ed!

                I agree that we ought to spend more on threat detection, but Congress hasn’t shown a lot of interest in it. Certainly not on the scale of certain “cosmological research” telescopes you’re talking about. Certainly not on the scale of large LEO habitats either. Impact threat detection is a profoundly low priority to Congress, and George Brown didn’t change that much. That’s sad, but we’d better get over it. If we killed off JWST, SLS, and ISS, do you really honestly think that money is going to go into impact detection? Get real.

                Case closed.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi Hiram –

                “Ed Weiler was right, I guess, in that no lives were lost because of his decision.”

                Not yet, at least, and hopefully never.
                But I think you’re thanking the wrong the wrong person for that particular blessing, as well as the fatality free warning at Chelyabinsk.

                “I agree that we ought to spend more on threat detection”

                Glad to hear that, Hiram.

                “but Congress hasn’t shown a lot of interest in it. Certainly not on the scale of certain “cosmological research” telescopes you’re talking about. Certainly not on the scale of large LEO habitats either. Impact threat detection is a profoundly low priority to Congress, and George Brown didn’t change that much.”

                Hiram, of ourse you meant to say that Griffin’s contempt for the Congress’s instructions did not change their interest in NASA handling this problem for the nation.

                Hiram, to handle an impactor you have to
                1) find it, and
                2) get a payload to it.

                The current mission develops the technology necessary to accomplish both of those goals within the current budget. And it will give a great deal of the information necessary for determining the proper payloads as well.

  • Coastal Ron

    I like the following observation by P. J. O’Rourke in the The Weekly Standard article:

    But, of course, NASA is a political instrument. And our political system does not seem to be able to figure out what NASA is instrumental for.

    As long as politics is the guiding force at NASA, and there is no overriding political need for NASA outside of jobs (i.e. no “space race”), then there should be no hope of a clear, consistent, and long-term plan for NASA’s HSF exploration efforts.

    That is why it falls upon the space community to stop it’s internecine squabbling, and gather around a plan (or plans) that our politicians will then steal and claim as their own (it’s only natural, so why fight it).

    If people want government money for getting beyond LEO, that is going to be the only way to get it. And NASA currently can’t get beyond LEO as long as the SLS is sucking all the exploration money out of it’s budget.

  • amightywind

    O’Rourke is not moved by arguments for going to an asteroid for the sake of planetary defense. “Threat? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk,” he writes. “Opportunity? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.”

    A point I’ve made repeatedly. The Russians control 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass (a notion I find abhorrent). The asteroid hazard is primarily theirs. Let them pay for it. We should not distort the purpose of the American space program to mitigate Russian risk.

    I hope Paul Spudis has a prominent role in the next administration in NASA’s recover from the malaise. Like the IRS, NASA needs a deep cleaning of political rot.

    • Fred Willett

      That’s a novel notion. Asteroids only fall on Russia. Let them deal with it.
      Can you please explain what it is about the rest of the world that actively protects us from asteroids?

      • Mader

        He is just relic of Cold War. Considering his nick and his various comments, he seems to be as much stereotypical american redneck as it is physically possible, almost to point of self-parody.

        • Ben Russell-Gough

          I’ve long thought that AW is some kind of actor playing a role to ‘heat up’ the board if a thread goes stale; I have a hard time imagining that such a person really exists.

          • amightywind

            Yes, I exist. I am one voice of a great silent majority on space issues. Sad that you hurl insults but don’t refute my reasoned argument.

            • common sense

              ” I am one voice of a great silent majority on space issues.”

              How big is the silent majority? I mean beside you.

              “Sad that you hurl insults but don’t refute my reasoned argument.”

              “Reasoned”???? Really??? Darn. For minute I thought the argument was totally irrational. You know as if we could ban asteroids from the US or something like that.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Good Morning, AW –

      “Alas, the only launch capabilities about which I have any technical knowledge involve golf clubs…

      “I got to meet Gen. Shelton because I serve on the Space Foundation’s board of directors, although my only qualification for doing so is a kind of clownish enthusiasm about outer space.

      “Over the years I have tried to fulfill my civic duty, aiding in the functions of various worthy organizations, this magazine for example.

      “Somebody has to tie the balloon animals.”

      And even though they generally wear face paint, big red noses and oversize white suits with colorful accents, apparently someone has to point out the clowns to some of the less gifted children here. It appears that particular civic duty has fallen to me.

      Not only does O’Rourke not know anything about launchers, he knows nothing about the impact hazard. That said, he is a very good clown.

    • Hiram

      This is actually a very good point. Asteroid impact mitigation is in many respects about species-protection, not nation-protection. But Congress isn’t going to lift a finger to protect the species. Their job, as they see it, is to protect us, their constituents, and all we stand for. Now, by the same token, to them, human spaceflight isn’t about species survival, it’s about survival of our nation. I have to assume this is why many in Congress are antsy about international collaboration in human space flight. Because if human spaceflight is about human survival, Americans are the humans that they see as needing to survive.

      The argument of species survival won’t go very far in those hallowed halls. Of course, the Congressional abhorrence of global climate change mitigation is similarly based.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi Hiram –

        The Congress is acting in the nation’s interest.

        Somewhere around 95% of the people living in North America died from impact around 13,000 years ago.

        There have been large numbers of fatalities in North America due to impact since then.

        If you have not been following the effects of the Fukushima tsuanmi and meltdown, we live in an interdependent world. It will do no good for us if we loose partners.

        It will do no good for us if we loose counties or states either.

        • Hiram

          The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, proposed in 2007, has largely been discredited. Recent studies show no large scale effects on the population of native Americans at that time, 13,000 years ago. You should read up.

          That’s not to say that impacts couldn’t be a threat to our nation, but as pointed out by the OP, impact mitigation helps “them” more than it helps us. Seems important to me, but that makes it of lesser importance to Congress.

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Hiram –

            “The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, proposed in 2007, has largely been discredited. Recent studies show no large scale effects on the population of native Americans at that time, 13,000 years ago. You should read up.”

            And aren’t we a source of misinformation, now aren’t we? Well, everyithing you just wrote about the Holocene Start Impact Event is just plain wrong.

            A full collection of the refereed papers of this “debate” may be found at http://cosmictusk.com,
            along with plenty of nice color pictures of the impactite strata for the less gifted among us.

  • Stephen C. Smith:”As usual, Dr. Spudis fails to tell us how he will pay for his Apollo rerun.”

    If you’ve read any of the articles by Dr. Spudis then you’d know that he’s no advocating an Apollo Redux.

    But there should be plenty of money for a lunar outpost program by the early 2020s since funding for the ISS and the Commercial crew programs should be over and the development cost for the basic SLS and MPCV programs should be over. That should give NASA nearly $7 billion a year for a lunar outpost program that utilizes lunar resources to reduce recurring cost.

    There are no private commercial services to the Moon. What are you talking about???

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      But there should be plenty of money for a lunar outpost program by the early 2020s …

      Marcel, you keep using general numbers, and the point that Stephen was making is that just saying there should be plenty of money doesn’t cut it, you need to provide specific details to show how any venture will be funded.

      Where the government gets really wasteful with money is when there is an inadequately defined goal, and so far all the plans for going back to the Moon are inadequately defined in what their goals are. For instance, sure water from the Moon might be nice, but there are economic alternatives that are ignored, and ignoring less expensive alternatives is a bad idea.

      Even the goal of going to Mars is still mostly undefined, and it doesn’t merit significant money either. Sure it’s the assumption that we want to go there, and we’re spending lots of money critiquing Mars using robotic explorers. But we’re aways away from committing to a human mission to there.

      Actually, beyond the current ISS activity to learn how to live and work (and survive) in space, HSF in general lacks a well defined goal or purpose. We have to address that.

      • The Spudis and Lavoie lunar water outpost plan is pretty darn specific. And utilizes both the current private launch architecture and future vehicles that should be simple to develop.

        But the US needs people on the ground to fully access the precious water, hydrocarbon, and possible nitrogen resources at the lunar poles. By mid century, an industrialized Moon could be part of the Earth’s productive economic realm with its low gravity well and oxygen, water, and hydrocarbon resources.

        We also need to find out if a hypogravity environment is deleterious to human health and reproduction. And we also need to find out if there are any psychological effects being away from Earth for several years.

        Marcel F. Williams

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          The Spudis and Lavoie lunar water outpost plan is pretty darn specific.

          It is a solution looking for a problem. What is the business case? How does it stack up against the alternatives?

          WAY too many unknowns to merit serious consideration.

          We also need to find out if a hypogravity environment is deleterious to human health and reproduction.

          Living and working on the Moon is important if we want to learn how to live and work on the Moon. But it doesn’t relate to living and working on Mars – not at all.

          • @Coastal Ron,…..Why does everything have to relate to Mars or else it’s considered rubbish?!?! The physiological effects of hypo-gravity to be studied & found out about on the Moon, will have a direct future applications payoff for any and all interplanetary ventures. In case you didn’t know, MOST of the Outer Planets’ satellites are rather Moon-sized. Future manned trips to the Jupiterian & Saturnian moons will benefit tremendously from expanded Lunar operations. (The Inner Planet Mercury, the spherical/near-spherical planetoids Ceres, Vesta, & Pallas, are also quite Moon-like). The no-easy-task of keeping astronauts alive & well for multi-week/multi-month spans of time on Luna, has strong bearings in all future deep space ventures throughout the Solar System. Let’s recognize that! The Moon is the nearest planet-wide laboratory upon which to investigate all the health threats that loom beyond the Earthian Ionosphere.

            • Coastal Ron

              Chris Castro said:

              The physiological effects of hypo-gravity to be studied & found out about on the Moon…

              And since the Moon has 1/2 the gravity of Mars, those results won’t be applicable to what we’ll experience on Mars.

              The goal is Mars Chris because it’s more habitable than Mars, and for those that want to make our species multi-planetary, and protect us from being wiped out, the best place to do that is somewhere far, far away from Earth.

              We will inhabit the Moon, but I think it’s future is to be a gigantic strip mining colony, and not some sort of replacement for South Florida. And really Chris, why would you want to have your kid born on an airless moon, when your homeland is just a 3-day journey away? Get a grip.

              The Moon is the nearest planet-wide laboratory upon which to investigate all the health threats that loom beyond the Earthian Ionosphere.

              No, that would be the region of space around and beyond the Moon. Being on the Moon has some advantages, but lots of disadvantages too (i.e. dust, logistics, micro-gravity, etc.) if the goal is to do detection.

              • @Coastal Ron,….Any multi-week/multi-month lunar surface expedition is in an ideal place to study the health effects involved in a far-deep-space interplanetary mission! First off, the radiation environment, with regard to possible solar flares & regular cosmic rays, is virtually the same. (Sure, the lunar planetoid bulk will shield the crew from the below direction, but all radioactivity coming from above & around will match that coming from all directions in interplanetary space.) The machinery of life-support will need to be just as robust and readily-maintainable, as if the crew were on a Red Planet expedition, for whatever extensive span of time they were based out there, on Luna. The machinery for electric power will also be taken for a shakedown cruise on any Lunar stay journey, the time stretch of which it’ll have to prove its worth, for any deeper space applications that there are.

              • Chris, the argument of Moon versus Mars is irrelevant for either side of the debate. For the reasons, see my other comment: http://www.spacepolitics.com/2013/06/02/asteroid-mitigation-malaise-and-property-rights/#comment-416805

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                Any multi-week/multi-month lunar surface expedition is in an ideal place to study the health effects involved in a far-deep-space interplanetary mission!

                What a ridiculous statement. If we need to work out the challenges of reaching Mars, the best place to do that is in space, not on the Moon. You are adding complexity to a problem (i.e. getting to Mars & back safely) that isn’t needed.

                Traveling great distances in open space is a requirement if we want to become a spacefaring nation, and it’s required if we want to explore anywhere beyond our Moon.

                The Moon is an easy place to reach compared with going beyond the Moon – we’re been there, done that, many times. And as Rick points out, people will return there.

                But the acknowledged goal is Mars, and first big step is learning how to traverse open space successfully and safely. We can’t do that sitting on the Moon, we have to do that by evolving our spacecraft by doing tests in space.

                No one believes you when you say the Moon is a one-for-one substitute for open space, so stop sounding idiotic.

        • Hiram

          The Spudis-Lavoie plan doesn’t start with “people on the ground”. It starts with telerobots operated by people on the Earth (well, yep, they’re on the ground), which is actually pretty smart. In fact, a lot of resource development, to the extent there are resources worth developing, can be done that way. Establishing the effects of hypogravity wasn’t important enough to keep supporting the ISS centrifuge. Why should we send folks to the Moon to establish them? As to psychological separation effects, just put people in a trailer for a few years and lock the door.

          But their whole plan is based on a premise of using those resources to colonize the solar system. Spudis is absolutely right about that goal being better served by a lunar return than by an asteroid visit. But that goal has simply never been established as a national one. It’s Spudis’ goal, but it isn’t a national goal. So he’s just blowin’ smoke. Paul, you would do yourself a great service if you could get Congress, or the Administration, to SAY that settling the solar system is a national priority. If we have a consensus about that, I’ll follow you humbly as you march forward holding the flag.

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Hiram –

            Keeping the citizens of this country alive and prosperous is not only a national goal, its their goal as well.

            • Hiram

              Isn’t it a wonder, then, that our elected leaders won’t say that colonizing the solar system is a way to keep our country alive and prosperous?

              I’ll tell you one thing. You put a human settlement on Mars in the name of our country, and it’ll very likely culturally diverge from us. That’s a lesson of history. Much in the same way than human settlements in the new world culturally diverged from countries that made those settlements. The way to keep a country alive isn’t to build a far-away settlement.

              In fact, I’m pretty certain that the first Martian settlers will be as little beholden as possible to the countries that put them there. It’s going to be their world, and their culture in the long run.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi Hiram –

                The myth of an Earth-like Mars once again, this time recycled with the Congress learning a lesson from the British experience in North America.

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      There are no private commercial services to the Moon. What are you talking about?

      You haven’t heard of Golden Spike?

      Like any company addressing an ill-defined market with high technology hurtles, they may not make it. But what they show is that there are entrepreneurs who are pushing further and further out into space, trying to see if they CAN make a business case out of sending humans to space.

      If you think of yourself as a human space exploration advocate, then you should be supporting such efforts. You don’t have to send them your money, but you should be cheering them on, since any success they make along the way will ultimately make it easier for everyone that follows, including NASA.

  • Golden Spike is no more of an entrepreneurial venture than climbing Mount Everest. Its just a stunt.

    What private industry needs to know is:

    1. Is the Moon’s low gravity environment harmful to human health and reproduction. That requires outpost that can house people for several months and for several years.

    2. How much water and carbon and nitrogen is contained at the lunar poles and how easy will it be to access these resources for air, drinking, fuel, and growing food and industrial processing.

    3. Can the lunar dust problem be mitigated or eliminated

    4. Can lunar regolith cheaply and adequately deal with the deleterious effects of cosmic radiation and major solar events

    5. Will the US government allow private companies to ability to exploit lunar resources within the rules of the UN Outer Space Treaty and what compensation will private companies or the US government have to pay to other governments in order to exploit an extraterrestrial world that’s legally the property of all of the people of the Earth.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      Golden Spike is no more of an entrepreneurial venture than climbing Mount Everest. Its just a stunt.

      A stunt is a one time thing, and not a business. Golden Spike is doing tourism, which is a business, and they want to do it on a regular basis.

      This is kind of a funny argument from you, since you advocate that the U.S. Taxpayer should be footing the bill for a lottery to send people to space. Here we have the private sector taking all the risks, and you diss it. How interesting.

      What private industry needs to know is:

      1. This work is being done on the ISS for zero-G, so private industry doesn’t need to do it. Not unless people like you succeed in ending the science on the ISS by ending it’s mission too early.

      2. This is an economic endeavor that private industry can fund on it’s own. We have mining companies that know how to do this.

      3. This is a problem, but it’s only a problem for those that are going to be staying on the Moon. Let them work out the solutions.

      4.. Same as #3 above.

      5. The U.S. Government only controls what leaves from it’s domain. If there is money to made though, Congress will support it (and tax it). As to how it gets taxed, there are precedents for how that should be done (import tax, consumption tax, licensing, etc.). Most of this gets worked out after it becomes a issue, not before the money starts flowing.

      All of this is still too far down the road, and none of it is a justification for the U.S. Taxpayer footing the bill for going back to the Moon.

      • Coastal Ron wrote:

        Golden Spike is doing tourism, which is a business, and they want to do it on a regular basis.

        Actually, Golden Spike is doing a lot more than adventure tourism.

        This article last week in i4 Business has a lengthy interview with Golden Spike founder Alan Stern. To quote from the article:

        The company plans to begin test flights in 2017, with lunar landings to take place in either 2019 or 2020. The expeditions will be marketed to governmental agencies, companies and individuals in the U.S. with a big emphasis on targeting foreign countries for the purposes of science, commerce, tourism, entertainment and education.

        “What we’re doing is making it possible for countries that don’t have space programs to have one,” Stern said. “It’s a turnkey service. It’s rather like, in the airline business, most countries don’t build their own airliners, but they can form an airline and buy from Boeing or Airbus.

        We also have Bigelow Aerospace, which according to this recent NASASpaceflight.com article is preparing its next-generation habitats for use as lunar landers and habitats. To quote from the article:

        In making this point, Bigelow identified his company’s own BA-330 inflatable spacehab modules. “In our case, with the BA-330, there is no investment by NASA in that architecture and that spacecraft.

        “And that goes for other iterations of other hardware. The future, next generation of the 330 is the Olympus (the BA-2100), and there will be no R&D cost to NASA if they use that spacecraft either.”

        The bottom line is there is simply no reason for the government to spend tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars on developing lunar landing and colony technology. The private sector is already doing it.

        Dr. Spudis wants the government to compete with its own private sector.

        • James

          Golden Spike/ Dr. Alan Stern, recognize that NASA no longer has budget, nor the technical or programmatic acumen to ‘go exploring’ anymore Like many an entrepreneur, they, Dr. Stern and his ilk, see potential profit in doing the technical and programmatic work, at a much cheaper price point than NASA ever could’ and then selling ‘exploration services’ to NASA.

          They are making it possible for countries that don’t have a space program, to buy one – on the cheap; and sadly, that includes the United States, as NASA can’t get out of it’s own way, what with the anchor of Congress pulling it down into the nether regions of oblivion and irrelevance.

          • Coastal Ron

            James said:

            They are making it possible for countries that don’t have a space program, to buy one – on the cheap; and sadly, that includes the United States…

            Yep, as both you and Stephen have pointed out.

            And this is not a bad thing, anymore than it is for a child to start surpassing their parents in ability. It’s also the only way we’ll expand humanity out into space, because NASA’s meager budget certainly can’t do it.

            • Coastal Ron wrote:

              And this is not a bad thing, anymore than it is for a child to start surpassing their parents in ability. It’s also the only way we’ll expand humanity out into space, because NASA’s meager budget certainly can’t do it.

              This is the essential point that the Moon advocates keep missing.

              NASA has already done it. Forty-four years ago. NASA’s purpose according to its 1958 charter is to be an aerospace R&D agency, passing along that new technology to other government agencies (e.g. DOD) and the private sector.

              As Charlie Bolden keeps telling people over and over, there’s no reason for NASA as a government agency to turn back the clock. The private sector has stepped up to the plate. The March agreement between NASA and Bigelow is the evidence. Some people seem to think it’s an abomination if any other vehicle other than one with a NASA logo touches a grain of lunar soil. Nonsense. The point is to get people on the lunar surface, to establish permanent colonies. Golden Spike with a Falcon Heavy launcher, a Bigelow habitat, and their lunar lander vetted by Northrup Grumman will do it.

              I suppose that, if it’ll make the Moon advocates happy, we can go in the NASA gift shop, buy a NASA meatball sticker for ten bucks, and stick it on the side of the Golden Spike lander. I’ll even contribute the $10 bill myself, just to shut them up.

              Asteroids are in humanity’s future. They are the next big natural resource, and lots of it is out there awaiting future consumption.

              A number of private companies are ready to do lunar missions. None are capable of doing asteroids. Two just entered the game — Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries — but they’ll look to partner with NASA to develop the technology. Again, that was the point of the Bigelow agreement — the private sector will tell NASA what technology they will need, NASA will figure it out, and pass it along to the private sector.

              Just as intended in 1958.

              By the way, Bigelow’s Vectran technology began with NASA in the late 1990s. When Congress cancelled the program, Bigelow licensed it. It’s a clear example of how this new arrangement will work, and how it will grow the U.S. economy.

              • Monty

                NASA has already done it. Forty-four years ago.

                This is a silly thing to say. NASA’s effort of forty years ago was done with technology and industrial resources they can’t even duplicate now, and many of the lessons learned then have either been totally lost or forgotten as the old guys have left and died off. NASA couldn’t duplicate that feat now, even if they wanted to. (Which is why I suspect they’re making a virtue of necessity by claiming they don’t want to go there anyhow.)

                NASA’s goal with the moon landing was not R&D; it was a geopolitical effort to embarrass the Russians and assert US technological supremacy. It had no other real purpose. Science certainly wasn’t the main objective. (An actual scientist didn’t make it to the moon until Harrison Schmitt went on Apollo 17, and he was both the first and the last). It contributed almost nothing to the advancement of private-sector space exploration. The technology of the Apollo effort was mostly thrown out when the STS design got underway. If NASA was supposed to act as an R&D lab for the private-sector space industry, they’ve done a pretty lousy job at providing sustainable designs for the exploration and exploitation of space.

                Also, NASA explored far less than 1% of the moon’s surface, so to say that they’ve “been there and done that” is ridiculous on its face. That’s like going to the Newark airport and saying you’ve seen all of America. Orbital mapping only tells you so much — we’ve mapped the earth from orbit as well, but the old girl still finds new ways to surprise us.

                I do find hope in the recent NASA moves to partner with private companies like SpaceX, Orbital, and Bigelow, though. I hope the effort produces something more than thick reports and press releases that no one will read.

              • Coastal Ron

                Monty said:

                NASA’s effort of forty years ago was done with technology and industrial resources they can’t even duplicate now…

                That is an ignorant statement.

                My background is in manufacturing operations, and I know of no technology from the 60′s that can’t be duplicated today.

                …and many of the lessons learned then have either been totally lost or forgotten as the old guys have left and died off.

                Yet built a 450mt space station in orbit, where we have kept Americans continuously on station for time span of over 12 years. I don’t think we’ve regressed since the 60′s, it looks like we’re progressed.

                NASA couldn’t duplicate that feat now, even if they wanted to.

                Oh now you’re being just plain silly. We’ve always been able to return to the Moon, the only thing that stopped us has been the lack of enough money from Congress.

                If you disagree, then please tell us all the technology marvels from the 60′s that we can’t duplicate today that have been stopping us.

                And in case you haven’t noticed, instead of a government agency, we have companies that are working on returning to the Moon, which should be a source of joy for every space enthusiast.

                I think Golden Spike has a better chance of landing someone on the Moon next than NASA does, but only because Golden Spike is more likely to find the appropriate funding for such a venture, not because they have developed some secret technology or something. The technology exists, one only needs to the money to use it.

                If NASA was supposed to act as an R&D lab for the private-sector space industry, they’ve done a pretty lousy job at providing sustainable designs for the exploration and exploitation of space.

                The only sensible thing you have written. And that continues today, since Congress is forcing NASA to build a rocket that no company needs, using technology that doesn’t advance the needs of our aerospace industry.

    • Fred Willett

      A simple analysis of getting resources somewhere on orbit shows the following.
      Sourcing lunar resources (any kind) = Earth Launcher + infrastructure + lunar lander.
      Sourcing asteroid resources (any kind) = Earth Launcher + infrastructure.
      Sourcing earth resources = Earth launcher.
      So. currently it’s far cheaper to get resources directly from earth, gravity well or no.
      Later on the Launcher from earth falls out of the equation. When that happens and the costs of infrastructure fall low enough then asteroids will have an advantage because lunar costs will always have to factor in the cost of a lander which asteroids don’t.
      Lunar resources, of course, will always have an advantage in one market. i.e. On the moon.

      • Fred Willett

        One other point I forgot to mention.
        Reusability.
        The lower launch costs fall the greater advantage there is in using earth’s resources. The longer it takes for ISRU to pay off.

      • Coastal Ron

        Fred Willett said:

        Lunar resources, of course, will always have an advantage in one market. i.e. On the moon.

        Not necessarily initially, but that will be the greatest source of demand for lunar ISRU.

        The lower launch costs fall the greater advantage there is in using earth’s resources. The longer it takes for ISRU to pay off.

        Yep. And that is why the reason for ISRU has to be based on economics, not “delta-v” or how close the Moon is the some random point in space.

        Even then the economics of the business case for ISRU can change far quicker than the ability to start operations, so no matter who funds the ISRU operations, they could be obsolete or unprofitable before they ever attain full production. This happens on Earth all the time, which is why it’s foolish to try and wager $88B+ on a venture (the Spudis/Lavoie plan) that will take 17 years of everything going right to become minimally useful.

        The risk is not proportional to the need, especially since today there is ZERO need for the ability to refuel in space.

        And here is the ironic thing – if Obama would have gotten what he wanted in the FY11 NASA budget, it would have included funding for in-space refueling technology, and THAT might have finally lead to a need for fuel from the Moon. But instead Congress used those funds for a non-refuelable, non-reusable, non-needed HLV, which Paul Spudis supports… how funny is that? ;-)

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “the administration’s 2014 budget proposal ‘calls for increased efforts by NASA to detect and mitigate potentially hazardous asteroids,’”

    “Q Does the President have any views about spending more resources on what your website calls ‘hazard mitigation’ in respect to asteroids?

    MR. EARNEST: I’m not aware of that reference… I’m not aware of any details related to hazard mitigation.”

    Well, at least one member of the Administration is speaking truthfully about the asteroid initiative having no relevance to mitigating the threat of hazardous NEOs…

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi DBN –

      If you look at the briefing, Earnest repeatedly assured the press that there is nothing that the Administration knows about that is headed our way.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    O’Rourke uses the civil space program to make a larger point about government and where its focus is and should be. But his editorial is otherwise little more than a generic rah-rah for the civil space program and his fanboy participation in the National Space Symposium. His quote from one of the Symposium participants about the asteroid initiative — “To boldly go where no man has ever shown much interest in going” — is cute and funny. But O’Rourke’s editorial contains little substantive critique of the asteroid initiative or civil space policy in general.

    Unlike O’Rourke, DiBello’s editorial focuses solely on the asteroid initiative. But it’s wildly inaccurate in a couple places, and DiBello should know better since unlike O’Rourke, DiBello has a long history in the space sector and runs Florida’s commercial spaceport interests.

    For example, DiBello claims:

    “NASA in general and Kennedy Space Center in particular have long pursued the technology to use the resources available beyond Earth. Developing the capability to use what the solar system provides is a challenge that will excite seasoned engineers and young minds alike. This project does that in a most profound way.”

    This statement is profoundly wrong. The asteroid initiative does nothing with regard to the use of solar system resources. There is no funding set aside in the initiative for developing the necessary technologies. There are no plans for any resource extraction or utilization experiments on the redirected asteroid. And the asteroid itself will likely be the wrong kind of asteroid upon which to conduct those experiments. The nascent asteroid mining industry wants to mine carbonaceous chondrites:

    “The company’s [Planetary Resources] goal is to identify those asteroids suitable for mining by the end of the decade, executives said… The most valuable ones appear to be the carbonaceous condrite asteroids which have water and loose rock which would not be difficult to collect. Water would be extracted by heating up mud and separating the water, said Thomas Jones, a NASA veteran and one of the company’s advisers.”

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57420110-76/planetary-resources-seeks-to-mine-asteroids-riches/

    But, as NASA’s CFO repeatedly stated in the FY14 budget rollout, to keep prices down, NASA does not plan to redirect a carbonaceous chondrite:

    “… the Keck study published a figure of $2.6 billion. We do not think at this point that it [ARM] will be that expensive for two reasons… And also, because the Keck study was very particular about what kind of asteroid it wanted to go get, and it was focused on carbonaceous chondrites, which are actually a little farther away than a lot of other asteroids, and so it would take you longer to go get—on average longer to go get it, so the program would be longer.”

    In fact, NASA’s CFO even states:

    “I can tell you that the mining aspect of it has not been first and foremost in our thoughts in developing the overall initiative and the Asteroid Mission itself.”

    DiBello also makes inaccurate statements about the technologies involved:

    “This asteroid strategy will require much of this nation’s technical brain trust and industrial base. It will demand new technology with serious and long-term applications”

    ARM requires only two new technologies: a high-power electric propulsion system and an inflatable grappling system for amorphorous space objects. These subsystems will certainly help keep Aerojet and ILC Dover fully employed, but they will in no way engage a large “industrial base” or “brain trust”. These two technologies do have serious and long-term applications for split-sprint deep space architectures, orbital debris removal, and anti-satellite operations. But the ARM mission, as expensive as it is, doesn’t test these technologies in those applications.

    DiBello even gets basic facts wrong:

    “it [ARM] will result in more launches, and sooner, of American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit”

    This is simply untrue. NASA is not adding any SLS/MPCV missions to visit the redirected asteroid. Instead, the 2021 SLS/MPCV circumlunar mission already planned will spend about eight or so hours at the redirected asteroid. There are no other SLS/MPCV missions planned after that.

    • Egad

      This is simply untrue. NASA is not adding any SLS/MPCV missions to visit the redirected asteroid. Instead, the 2021 SLS/MPCV circumlunar mission already planned will spend about eight or so hours at the redirected asteroid. There are no other SLS/MPCV missions planned after that.

      To be fair, NASA has indicated that crewed missions will fly in 2023 and 2025 as EM-3 and EM-4. Other than saying that they will use the upgraded “105-tonne” version of SLS, NASA has given absolutely no indication of what specific missions they are to carry out. Given the way things have gone so far, it seems unlikely that NASA actually has missions planned for them at this point.

  • A M Swallow

    Property Rights. From the Outer Space Treaty

    Article VIII

    … Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. …

    http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/SpaceLaw/gares/html/gares_21_2222.html

    You will have to convince the lawyers that moving the asteroid counts as launching it into space.

    • Malmesbury

      Putting a bag around an asteroid does have the following interesting effect – to get to the asteroid, you now have to go through the bag. A third party doing so without your consent would be breaking the existing treaty…

      Ownership of the asteroid would become a moot point – only the owner of the spacecraft which had bagged it can access it….

    • Monty

      It also depends on whether an asteroid is considered a celestial body or as chattel property. It would probably end up depending on how big the asteroid is.

      • Coastal Ron

        Usually the only way to know for sure how laws and treaties are interpreted is to force the interpretation of them by taking action of some sort.

        Once an entity of some sort starts mining somewhere off Earth, that will likely cause some sort of legal action.

        And once a different entity tries to muscle in on what the first entity has done, that will cause some other sort of reaction, legal or ???

  • Fred Willett

    The only certainty about the legal position of future activities in space is that there is going to be a lot of rich space lawyers.

  • DCSCA

    As expected, Project Lasso is now moving into the orbit of the lampooners. The mission is as dead as Apollo 13′s service module.

    The Standard’s O’Rourke is using it as another slam against most things government and all things Obama. Nothing new there from that crowd in that rag, However, Jake does make a few key omissions in peppering criticisms of JFK.

    Of course, PJ slaps the New Frontier w/o actually naming it. Cold War context is everything w/JFK, Jake, and there was nothing ‘confusing’ about the 5/25/61 address in the context of those times. It presents several fundamental ‘whys’ O’Rourke conveniently overlooks — the lunar challenge coming at the end of a very well crafted presentation BTW. And in the line before the commitment to the moon, JFK says this: “We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.” That’s a pretty good ‘why’ among other whys in Cold War times and not surprisingly, avoided by O’Rourke.

    And this there was this: “Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take.”

    And this: “For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last.”

    O’Rourke is just wrong about the whys.

    “The fellow who directs them [NASA] is no slouch either. NASA administrator Charles Bolden is a Naval Academy grad, retired Marine Corps general, former test pilot and astronaut, and has a graduate degree in science.” gushes O’Rourke. Which does not necessarily translate into savvy management skills as administrator of the civil space agency in Washington, as O’Rourks should well know. One of O’Rourke’s long time targets had a similarly well credentialed resume yet demonstrated less than stellar executive skills at the highest level of government– a fellow named Carter. PJ should reacquaint himself with the Peter Principle. Might learn something. Then again, might not, for as we’ve seen through several election cycles, right wingers tend to learn the hard way these days.

    “…the cancellation of President George W. Bush’s Constellation Program with its majestic Ares rocket able to propel democracy-building to Mars.” royals PJ.

    As usual, PJ’s political spin betrays a blissful, if not sinister ignorance. Heard Ares called a lot of things– but never ‘majestic.’ Saturn V was majestic. Ares was a lousy rocket, O’Rourke, and nobody blames the hapless Dubya for it, as he had less interest in space than Obama– while everybody blames Dubya’s choice (or was it really Chaney’s) for administrator, Mike Griffin.

    “Space has always been confusing to politics…” dreams O’Rourke.

    Except it’s not. ‘Space’ has been a child of politics, born and nurtured by one political evil and raised through adolescence by another evil empire well into the maturity of middle age. Over the past 85 year history of modern rocketry, spaceflight- or ‘space’ as PJ likes to call it, has been a geo-political strategy, wearing many guises, used to project political power and economic influence on Earth. .

    O’Rourke’s spin to avoid placing the Kennedy initiatives within the context of the times they were proposed is typical political spin. And of course, his criticism should really be focused on LBJ, not JFK, who was dead before Gemini, let alone Apollo, ever got off the ground. It’s too bad PJ didn’t spend as much time researching Right icon Barry Goldwater’s foolish dismissal of Apollo in his infamous Cow Palace acceptance speech– a line lost in the smoke of more fiery rhetoric.

    Perhaps the most amusing irony on O’Rourke’s June beach piece on Obama is his pitch on ‘private enterprised’ space initiatives in a publication that has failed to make any money itself and is propped up by Rupert Murdoch. Of course, PJ avoids mentioning, private space firms have failed to launch, orbit and ‘safely return’ anybody from LEO while governments have been routinely doing it for over half a century. Hope the check clears, PJ. That should make everything jake with you. PJ O’Rourke has about as much relevance to discussion of 21st century spaceflight ops as Dr. Zachary Smith. Oh, the pain.

    Apologies for any and all typos.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi DCSCA –

      “Ares was a lousy rocket, O’Rourke, and nobody blames the hapless Dubya for it, as he had less interest in space than Obama– while everybody blames Dubya’s choice (or was it really Chaney’s) for administrator, Mike Griffin.”

      Here with around $8-10 Billion and say 7 years gone, we still do not know the roots of the Ares fiasco.

      • Fred Willett

        We could tale a good guess.
        The SRB’s already existed. It seemed like a good idea to just take an all ready existing SRB, slap a capsule on top and with minimal work hey presto you’ve got Ares 1.
        Unfortunately it turned out not to be as easy as that.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi Fred –

          Yep. But then how did that idea then make it through NASA, goven the known combustion oscillation problems of large solid grains?

  • “Of course, PJ avoids mentioning, private space firms have failed to launch, orbit and ‘safely return’ anybody from LEO while governments have been routinely doing it for over half a century. Hope the check clears, PJ.
    The same is true of SLS. But again, at least private space firms have at least put something into orbit and returned it. More than can be said of either Ares 1 or SLS, despite billions being spent on each of them. Remember SLS is supposed to do at least one unmanned launch before it carries crew and its a long way from doing that and probably never will achieve even that accomplishment that you dismiss so easily. Dream on little broomstick cowboy.

  • mike shupp

    The sun is shining, and I have a kitten on my lap purring.

    And Rick Boozer will now give us a comment on what a lousy booster the SLS will be.

    This is getting tiresome.

    • common sense

      SLS is a lousy booster and Rick has every right of reminding us of this utter wasteful nonsense. You might as well take the cat for a walk and close the computer. What is your contribution here?

    • Monty

      I don’t think the SLS is a lousy booster. It might be, but we won’t know for a few years yet. The problem with the SLS is that it has no point. It has no job to do, no place to go, no mission to perform, and no sustainable budget profile. It’s eating up a large chunk of NASA’s budget to no very good purpose. It’s an answer to a question no one asked.

      • Coastal Ron

        Monty said:

        I don’t think the SLS is a lousy booster. It might be, but we won’t know for a few years yet. The problem with the SLS is that it has no point.

        Well I see it as the same thing.

        No doubt that given enough money it could be built to fly, and to accomplish all of it’s design goals. Whether it’s worth the money we’re paying for it is the point of debate.

        However, as of now, since it has no known uses, and we don’t know how expensive it will eventually be (and already it’s too expensive), it is definitely a lousy use of U.S. Taxpayer money. Unless the goal is to be a pure jobs program, in which case it’s meeting it’s goals… ;-)

      • Neil Shipley

        Sorry, it’s a lousy launch vehicle simply because it relies on legacy systems resulting in extreme cost and nothing that will ever fly.

        But it’s a great booster in that it’s providing ongoing employment for lots of people.

  • Das Boese

    “Threat? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk,” he writes. “Opportunity? Destruction of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.”

    Whoever writes a sentence like that has just given up any pretense of being taken seriously by anyone with a shred of decency.

    The constant barrage of this sort of rhetorical splash damage in their ideological crusade against Obama and “liberals” are why most of the world sees US conservatives as unsympathetic, ignorant, primitive bullies.

  • Miya

    At the end of the day, all this talk of “Do we go to the Moon?”, “Do we go to Mars?”, “Do we go to an asteroid?” is irrelevant.

    Congress has proven time and time again over the last two decades that it’s simply not interested and not invested in seriously funding any kind of ambitious manned space program.

    Until that attitude changes it doesn’t matter much WHAT our destination is – the Moon may as well be Alpha Centauri as far as NASA’s manned program is concerned.

    • Coastal Ron

      Miya said:

      Congress has proven time and time again over the last two decades that it’s simply not interested and not invested in seriously funding any kind of ambitious manned space program.

      Well said.

    • Neil Shipley

      Disheartening to the fans but unfortunately all to true. Let’s hope that those organisations and individuals who are interested and prepared to invest resources can keep up the momentum.

  • Robert Clark

    The National Research Council is soliciting input from the public about what direction NASA should take regarding human spaceflight:

    NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs Input.
    Posted by Marc Boucher Posted June 4, 2013 8:30 AM

    The National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight Needs is
    looking for input from communities interested in human exploration. The deadline for
    submissions is July 9.

    http://spaceref.com/exploration/nrc-committee-on-human-spaceflight-needs-input.html

    Now’s the time to let YOUR vision for space be heard!

    Bob Clark

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