NASA

Bolden: asteroid redirect mission not going to “save the planet”

In the last couple of months, NASA has appeared to put a greater emphasis on the role its overall asteroid initiative, including the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), could play in planetary defense. However, in a meeting last week, NASA administrator Charles Bolden appears to play down the role the mission could play in planetary defense or science.

“I don’t like saying we’re going to save the planet, for example,” Bolden said in a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on July 31 in Washington. “At some point, that may be done, but that’s not—we’re not in a position that we should be saying, ‘Fund the asteroid initiative and we’re going to save the planet.’”

He also deemphasized the role of science in the proposed mission to redirect an asteroid into a “distant retrograde” lunar orbit to then be visited by a crewed Orion spacecraft. “We should not be saying that this is going to benefit science. It is not a science mission,” he said. He said that the mission would accomplish some science, including by astronauts bringing back samples of the asteroid, “but it should not be characterized, or we should not try to characterize it, as a major science initiative.” What the asteroid mission will do for planetary science, he concluded, was “peanuts.”

Instead, the asteroid initiative was designed to advance long-term human space exploration in a time when the budget doesn’t exist for human missions to the Moon. “When I weigh the cost benefit of going back to the lunar surface in a limited budget environment, and going to Mars, I would rather take what little money I have upfront and advance the technologies we’re going to need” to do Mars missions, he said. He cited as one example the development of solar electric propulsion, something he said isn’t needed for a human return to the Moon but is useful for Mars and other deep space missions.

That downplaying of the role of the ARM for science or planetary defense aligns with the findings from last month’s meeting of NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) in Washington. Referring to the ARM as the ARRM (Asteroid Redirect and Return Mission), the SBAG found it wanting both in science and planetary defense.

“ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return,” the SBAG found. “Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost… Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate.”

The SBAG also noted that since the mission would focus on redirecting an object no more than 10 meters across (although there is some discussion of visiting a larger asteroid and plucking a smaller boulder off it), “ARRM has limited relevance to planetary defense.” In addition, the group cited concerns about technical, cost and schedule risks, as well as poorly defined mission objectives.

With regards to schedule, one interesting item came up during the NAC meeting. Previously, NASA had talked about redirecting an asteroid to provide a destination for the first crewed SLS/Orion mission, designated Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), planned for launch in 2021. One challenge has been, though, finding a target that, even in the most optimistic scenarios for the development of the robotic ARM spacecraft, could be put into te designed distant retrograde orbit by 2021. In a briefing about the initiative at the NAC meeting, NASA’s Michele Gates said “our current concepts are looking at either EM-3 or EM-4″ for the Orion mission to the asteroid. That would likely push out the mission into the mid-2020s, given the expected cadence of at least two years between SLS/Orion flights.

196 comments to Bolden: asteroid redirect mission not going to “save the planet”

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “… we’re not in a position that we should be saying, ‘Fund the asteroid initiative and we’re going to save the planet.”

    It’s amazing it took Bolden half-a-year to figure this out. How dense can NASA’s leadership be?

    Just last month, Bolden wrote (or at least signed) an op-ed for the Hill newspaper that argued for ARM because:

    “It is hard to imagine anything more beneficial to humankind than protecting our planet from a dangerous asteroid that could strike Earth with devastating force, something we don’t currently have the ability to do.”

    http://64.147.104.60/special-reports-archive/1541-innovation-a-intellectual-property-july-2013/309987-the-asteroid-mission-why-we-choose-to-go

    It was apparent to anyone with common sense that this was a lie when the budget rolled out. I’m glad someone finally talked some sense into Bolden, but the NASA Administrator should never have been justifying ARM on the grounds of planetary defense in the first place.

    “‘When I weigh the cost benefit of going back to the lunar surface in a limited budget environment, and going to Mars, I would rather take what little money I have upfront and advance the technologies we’re going to need’ to do Mars missions, he said. He cited as one example the development of solar electric propulsion, something he said isn’t needed for a human return to the Moon but is useful for Mars and other deep space missions.”

    If the only purpose of the $2.6 billion ARM mission is to demonstrate high-power electric propulsion — and redirecting an asteroid won’t contribute to planetary defense or science — then drop the pieces of the mission that redirect an asteroid and just fly the propulsion system. It’s a technology demonstration mission that could be done for low hundreds of millions of dollars. It doesn’t need any justification beyond that, and weighing it down with other goals will just drive cost and risk to the point of cancellation.

    (Not that NASA’s Space Technology Directorate is actually capable of following through on a significant flight demonstration, but that’s another issue.)

    • If the only purpose of the $2.6 billion ARM mission is to demonstrate high-power electric propulsion — and redirecting an asteroid won’t contribute to planetary defense or science — then drop the pieces of the mission that redirect an asteroid and just fly the propulsion system. It’s a technology demonstration mission that could be done for low hundreds of millions of dollars. It doesn’t need any justification beyond that, and weighing it down with other goals will just drive cost and risk to the point of cancellation.

      That’s what happened to JIMO — it was both an X-vehicle to test high-risk technologies, and a Jupiter mission. It would have made a lot more sense to just start testing components on the ground in a high-radiation environment, and do a small-scale nuclear reactor with at least two different kinds of electrical conversion (e.g., combined Brayton cycle, and thermo-electric) and fly it for a few years in space to determine the reliability. Don’t try to prove out new tech on an actual mission.

    • Mars rover confirms dangers of space radiation.
      Future manned missions to Mars will need internal shielding and advanced propulsion systems to shorten transit times, minimizing exposure to space radiation, scientists say.
      by William Harwood May 30, 2013 3:06 PM PDT

      Chris Moore, deputy director of advanced exploration systems at NASA headquarters, said shorter transit times and improved shielding will be needed to protect future deep space crews.
      “To get really fast trip times to cut down on radiation exposure we’d probably need nuclear thermal propulsion, and we’re working with the U.S. Department of Energy to look at various types of fuel elements for these rockets,” Moore said.
      “But it’s a long-range technology development activity and it will probably be many years before that is ready. But it is part of our design reference mission architecture for sending humans to Mars…. That could probably cut the (one-way) trip time down to around 180 days.”

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57586958-76/mars-rover-confirms-dangers-of-space-radiation/

      An expensive and far off development using nuclear propulsion that is already controversial and would still only make the travel time 6 months(!)
      This is a big reason why I argue for getting the propellant from the Moon. Then we would have virtually unlimited amount of propellant to drastically cut the travel time – no new, expensive, (potentially) dangerous, far off propulsion systems required. In fact an all-hydrogen Saturn V size vehicle launched from low lunar orbit or L2 could make the Mars trip in two weeks.

      Then a manned Mars mission is simply dependent on setting up a propellant production base on the Moon. Since as I argue manned/cargo lunar flights can be done at costs of a few hundred million per flight, making multiple flights per year possible, constructing such as base and therefore mounting a Mars mission can be done in less than a decade.

      Bob Clark

  • RockyMtnSpace

    “It’s amazing it took Bolden half-a-year to figure this out. How dense can NASA’s leadership be?”

    Now that Lori is leaving, it appears to have become a little less so. Perhaps unmuzzled by his Deputy and her water-carrying for the Admin, Charlie can now begin to express his own mind a little freer. Sadly, it is likely too little, too late. But I would agree, if the goal is to fly a SEP system, then design and fly one. It doesn’t need to go anywhere specific, it just needs time of operation in space. If nothing else, put a hi-res camera on it and send it on a flyby of Phobos/Deimos. And by all means, compete the mission in the private sector. Directed missions to JPL (MSL) or Goddard (JWST) will almost assuredly result in a bloated, overbudget, underperforming waste of a program.

  • Coastal Ron

    “When I weigh the cost benefit of going back to the lunar surface in a limited budget environment, and going to Mars, I would rather take what little money I have upfront and advance the technologies we’re going to need” to do Mars missions, he [Bolden] said.

    The right overall goal, but the wrong approach. And now with science out of the picture for the NEO, there is no real reason to bring it back towards Earth. Spend the money that would have gone towards retrieving the asteroid and put that towards the technologies we need for traveling beyond the orbit of the Moon.

    NASA’s Michele Gates said “our current concepts are looking at either EM-3 or EM-4″ for the Orion mission to the asteroid.

    I would have found it hard to believe that NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) wouldn’t have raised lots of red flags for such an ambitious mission for the first flight of humans on the SLS/MPCV.

    It is truly unbelievable how lax NASA appears to be about safety and testing when they talk about using the SLS and MPCV. For instance, the EM-2 would be the first time an operational MPCV would be flown, the first time crew would be flown, and the first time any type of ESA provided Service Module would be flown, and there they were trying to figure out how to send it on an operational mission beyond the Moon. All I can think is that the abhorrently high cost of SLS/MPCV is forcing them to skip common sense testing – testing that they make the same industry that is building the SLS/MPCV do on their own vehicles.

    • Egad

      the technologies we need for traveling beyond the orbit of the Moon

      In the spirit of helpfulness, I suggest working toward development and, most important, demonstration of long-duration autonomous life support in an independent habitat module. NASA could probably make a start of that at ISS, though the currently-unaffordable Lagrange station would be cooler.

      either EM-3 or EM-4

      Let us remember that, under NASA’s currently revealed (and highly notional) schedule, EM-3 and EM-4 will be the first to fly on “105-tonne” versions of SLS. Advanced boosters and maybe a new upper stage to supplant iCPS are planned, for modest values of “planned.”

      • There’s nothing unaffordable about a Lagrange station. You could develop and sustain it for less than the budget of SLS.

        • Egad

          There’s nothing unaffordable about a Lagrange station. You could develop and sustain it for less than the budget of SLS.

          For values of “you” not including “NASA”, that’s undoubtedly right. But NASA has been coerced into doing SLS and NASA officials have said that they like ARRM because they think it will avoid the expense of doing other things, like Lagrange stations and/or long-duration habitats.

    • Well said. If you run the numbers, that Delta IV Heavy test of the Orion next year can actually carry it on a full circumlunar flight, not just to 3,600 miles out as currently planned. This would be a fuller test of its capabilities.
      Then we could use instead the first flight of the SLS in 2017 as a lunar landing test flight:

      Budget Moon Flights: Ariane 5 as SLS upper stage.
      http://exoscientist.blogspot.com/2013/07/budget-moon-flights-ariane-5-as-sls.html

      Bob Clark

  • Hiram

    Yea verily. It’s about time that Bolden showed some honest admission that the association of planetary defense with ARRM was just crap. Sort of like saying that since tides are important, we need to land humans on the Moon because, well, it makes tides! I have to agree that this admission is likely coupled to Lori Garver’s departure, as Ms. Garver had been a flag carrier for asteroid missions, no doubt based on Obama’s off-the-cuff one-time endorsement of such a strategy. This is just another example of the policy marketing and strategic rollout failures of this NASA.

    I do find it a pity that in admitting this, Bolden didn’t also point out that the associated bumpup of asteroid detection budgets IS in the interest of planetary defense. That’s the one part of ARRM that had anything to do with planetary defense and could in fact save the world.

    Also, as noted, if Bolden wants such a mission to demonstrate SEP technology, then it hardly requires human spaceflight of any kind to do so. If you want to demonstrate SEP with an otherwise meaningless mission, then there are plenty of meaningless mission opportunities available that don’t involve finding the right asteroid in the right place at the right time.

    I have to say that the fault here is pretty clear. It isn’t Bolden, and it wasn’t Garver. At root, it’s the President, who can’t give NASA a real goal, and who hasn’t obviously even thought about the agency for many years. We are building an Orion, and I guess an SLS, and the President has offered zero big picture guidance about what we should be doing with them. The default big picture so far is like a blindfolded John Wayne carrying heat with a Smith & Wesson 500 strapped to his waist. Or maybe a one-shot monster chambered for a .600 Nitro Express. This isn’t going to end well.

    • Coastal Ron

      Hiram said:

      At root, it’s the President, who can’t give NASA a real goal, and who hasn’t obviously even thought about the agency for many years. We are building an Orion, and I guess an SLS, and the President has offered zero big picture guidance about what we should be doing with them.

      Presidents know they have limited time to influence government. Obama pushed his vision for NASA in FY11 budget proposal, and he did accomplish quite a bit – cancelled Constellation, extended the ISS, and created Commercial Crew. Pretty fundamental.

      Since then not so much, but then that could be based on his appraisal of the Congress he is working with. For instance, within his own party in the Senate the lead Senator for space related stuff (Sen. Nelson) lined up on the side of the SLS, and the Republican’s the control the House are more likely to automatically vote against anything Obama proposes, no matter how good or logical it sounds.

      Given that political landscape, and everything else on his plate, his administration may have just decided to not spend more than 0.5% of his political capital on NASA.

      I continue to think that this ARM/ARRM proposal is an attempt to find a use for the SLS, but that for whatever reason it was broached publicly far before it had matured. The only reason I can think of for such a rushed approach is that it was because of pressure from Congress (i.e. like Nelson) to try and find something – ANYTHING – to keep the SLS out of the budget cut crosshairs.

      Anyways, back to “a real goal”. The President already proffered his “real goal” for NASA in the FY11 budget, and that was to build back up NASA’s technology cupboard, which is acknowledged to be bare. NASA isn’t prepared to do much of anything beyond LEO, and this ARM/ARRM proposal shows that. Congress didn’t want to fund that, and there is no upcoming changes to Congress that will change that, so Obama is likely just focused on supporting the ISS and Commercial Crew and letting the rest settle out on it’s own. Congress owns the SLS, so he’s letting them determine it’s fate.

      My $0.02

    • Vladislaw

      And after President Obama gives a real clear goal … like his first NASA budget request that had 6 billion over 5 years timeline for commerical space. Aahhh I forget .. what did the republican house say? The Senate porkonauts?

      The idea that if THIS President would only lay out clear goals .. gosh .. then everybody would see the light and jump on board is ignoring the political landscape.

      • Hiram

        “The idea that if THIS President would only lay out clear goals .. gosh .. then everybody would see the light and jump on board is ignoring the political landscape.”

        If only it were so. But instead, by NOT offering any clear goals, everybody is jumping on different boards, and not significantly contributing to any political landscape. Leadership isn’t about necessarily getting what you want, but about driving the conversation.

        No, $6B for commercial space wasn’t any kind of vision. It’s a great idea for policy implementation, but the big picture, of the policy to be implemented, it creates in my mind is commercial space CEOs sitting fat and happy, and throwing large chunks of stuff into space. That’s not a vision.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hiram –

      I coherent delusional framework simply ignores facts that confict with it.

      The original asteroid mission came from the DPT studies of the late 90′s.

      Lori Garver did not come up with ARRM, and neither did Lou Friedman.

      As far as SLS/Orion’s first mission goes, it is likely to be sending up a crew to fix the Ed Weiler Space Telescope. ATK is responsible for the Next Gen’s truss structure, after all.

  • vulture4

    Agree with above. Bolden admits the ARM isn’t for science. Then he doesn’t explain what it is for. It is an intriguing idea that gets people launched on the SLS, but that’s about it.

    • Fred Willett

      The only trips we have made beyond LEO are to the moon at a maximum length of 8-14 days. And once, I think from memory of 17 days.
      It makes sense before you put all your eggs into a trip of 500 plus days (Mars) you practice with some medium length missions. 30, 60 and maybe 120 days beyond LEO.
      OK.
      So where can you go between here and Mars on short to medium length missions?
      So there’s your reason for the ARM right there.

  • Daddy

    This is just the beginning of NASA’s recovery… Without Lori trying to make sense of Obama’s incompetent space policy, Bolden can talk honestly about what these silly objectives really are…. Bolden has finally called it what it is — going to an asteroid is the only thing we can do without adequate funding, and we may as well just try to get some technology and mission rehearsal in over the next couple of decades until someone with some real vision is leading this nation’s space policy.

    • josh

      lol, if you are waiting for congress or the white house to “lead” nasa and provide the funding to back it up you’re gonna wait forever. the real visionary is already out there and hard at work to get us to mars: elon musk.

      • Daddy

        I must agree with your cynicism about the White House and Congress….What is truly disappointing is the level of public ignorance… They are just as satisfied with good computer generated imagery in a high budget sci-fi film as doing it for real.

        As far as Elon… I admire his vision, yes. But I am disappointed with his dismissal of the hard truth about what it takes to do the job right. Space ain’t easy. If it was, there would be a lot more folks doing it.

        • Jim Nobles

          I try to keep up with what Elon says about space and I don’t remember him making any such dismissal. Are you refering to some actual remarks he made? Or are you just stretching to find something uncomplimentary to say?

        • Vladislaw

          Elon Musk has said just the opposite. MANY times. He stated it repeatedly with the Falcon 1 launches. He has also said he is standing on the shoulders of a lot of NASA personal.

          • DCSCA

            “Elon Musk has said just the opposite. MANY times. He stated it repeatedly with the Falcon 1 launches. He has also said he is standing on the shoulders of a lot of NASA personal.”

            What he ‘says’ is up for ridicule these days. “The Daily Show” skewered Musk Wednesday night.

    • Fred Willett

      until someone with some real vision is leading this nation’s space policy.
      Or some money.

    • Vladislaw

      If SLS and Orion are NASA “recovering” then you are off base. President Bush, in his 2004, “Vision for Space Exploration” laid out where he wanted NASA going.

      From the VSE:

      “Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station; and Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required,”

      “For cargo transport to the Space Station after 2010, NASA will rely on existing or new commercial cargo transport systems, as well as international partner cargo transport systems. NASA does not plan to develop new launch vehicle capabilities”

      “In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews.”

      “NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles.”

      NASA is not recovering because it is still the same. The only thing that has been recovered is the usual suspects fighting to keep NASA the same ole’ same ole’ pork generator for congressional districts.

      Where are the fuel depots? The new nuclear power and propulsion? Modular designs, building reusable vehicles and assembling them in space?

  • Hiram

    “Given that political landscape, and everything else on his plate, his administration may have just decided to not spend more than 0.5% of his political capital on NASA.”

    I agree of much of what you say here, and in this quoted statement in particular.

    If the real goal is technology development, however, Obama hasn’t devoted any political capital at all on it. It would be nice to at least have some sort of Presidential “vision” that tells the nation where NASA technology development might get us. He has not done that. Yes, he did manage to kill Constellation, which was utterly deserved, but by not investing in a substitute, he allowed the dregs of Constellation (Orion, HLV) to morph and survive. At least with Constellation, those dregs had a purpose. Now they don’t.

    So where we were was an implementation strategy that had a vision and goals, but which was unaffordable. Now we have an implementation strategy without long range vision and goals that might barely be affordable. Are we better off now? Not really clear.

    While Charlie Bolden has been unable to give the President any strategic advice he’s been able to get excited about, no one in his or her right mind would want to be NASA Administrator right now. Let’s hope that Charlie can stick it out, and keep the seat warm, until the path gets clearer.

    • Coastal Ron

      Hiram said:

      If the real goal is technology development, however, Obama hasn’t devoted any political capital at all on it.

      Probably true. Think back though, when he proposed the FY11 budget that had the technology development, the whole conversation was about canceling Constellation, and no one really wanted to talk about anything else. That happens in politics.

      It would be nice to at least have some sort of Presidential “vision” that tells the nation where NASA technology development might get us.

      He did that.

      But you have to have an audience that cares, and though we space enthusiasts do, we are by far in the minority. Science and infrastructure are not “sexy” topics, and that is what developing technology for space exploration is primarily about.

      Congress certainly has shown they don’t care, both from Republican standpoint of not liking anything Obama does, and from a space standpoint where they only care about the flow of money to certain states and districts.

      As to a “vision”, waiting for such a thing is like waiting for a leprechaun to show up with a pot of gold. Better to have a good long-term plan that makes the most of a scarce budget and market. For instance, SpaceX has a long-term plan that makes use of reusability, even though they acknowledge it may not be perfected. Still, without reusability they still are the lowest cost launch provider, and the most innovative one. Focused, simple goals.

      As NASA is the product of politics, what it does is dependent on how well the politicians want to work together and with others, and right now that isn’t happening. And it won’t, regardless who the President is.

      • Hiram

        “He did that.”

        Reference please? I don’t recall such a thing happening. Speech? Press conference? He might have waved his hands about propulsion, and going farther than we’ve ever gone before, but he sure never zeroed in on some image of future success.

        “As NASA is the product of politics, what it does is dependent on how well the politicians want to work together and with others, and right now that isn’t happening. And it won’t, regardless who the President is.”

        I think what you’re saying is that vision and goals that require real leadership. Obama considers the political ground game one that won’t encourage that leadership. So why is any leadership on that front worth any effort? Probably correct. But I still blame NASA’s problems largely on Obama, even if he couldn’t do much about it.

        ” Better to have a good long-term plan that makes the most of a scarce budget and market.”

        In my book, “vision” is the rationale for a long term plan. You want a long term plan without rationale? Sheesh.

        • Coastal Ron

          Hiram said:

          Reference please?

          President Obama’s Speech at Kennedy, on April 4, 2010.

          He might have waved his hands about propulsion, and going farther than we’ve ever gone before, but he sure never zeroed in on some image of future success.

          As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

          I saw the speech as laying out a new direction for NASA and what we were doing in space, and I thought it was the right direction. And I don’t think it was supposed to be a roadmap, but a foundation for what we needed to do space exploration long term. It would have been better than what we have today, that’s for sure.

          I think what you’re saying is that vision and goals that require real leadership.

          What is “real leadership”? If you mean getting agreement, then in reality that ends up happening regardless if anything inspiring comes out of the process or not. For instance, I have no doubt that a budget agreement will happen for NASA sometime this year – if it results in NASA’s budget getting slashed, is that “real leadership”?

          But if you’re talking getting Congress to agree with what the President wants for NASA, you have to get the stakeholders to agree to a change, and that requires motivations that I don’t think exist today.

          For instance, what would motivate Senator Shelby to stop supporting the SLS? And Senator Nelson? And do they even have the same motivations that would respond to the same alternatives?

          Then you have to take into account the lobbyists that are supporting the status quo – what are their motivations, and what will allow them to change?

          Pretty messy.

          In my book, “vision” is the rationale for a long term plan.

          The word “vision” comes with a lot of baggage, especially for space stuff. I tend to use the word “goal”, but I guess it depends on the audience.

          The key though is to make sure we understand what each other mean when we use “vision” and “goal”.

          • Hiram

            “I saw the speech as laying out a new direction for NASA and what we were doing in space, and I thought it was the right direction. And I don’t think it was supposed to be a roadmap, but a foundation for what we needed to do space exploration long term.”

            You got that right. It was a direction. I agree that it’s the right direction. But a direction isn’t a picture of what we’re trying to achieve. He mentioned asteroids, and he mentioned the Mars. Did he mention WHY asteroids and Mars? Did he mention HOW our world will be better if we can reach asteroids and Mars?

            No, that speech was not visionary, and let’s not argue semantics about the definition of that word. The speech was a good speech, but a pedestrian one nonetheless.

            What I mean by leadership, which is what I think most people define as leadership, is putting an attractive and achievable image in the minds of the taxpayer. It’s a compelling image, and one that puts all the activities that are needed to implement it in context. If that image is an extension of our nation onto the martian regolith, then that’s a strong one. If it’s about capitalizing on all those solid gold asteroids out there, then that could be compelling, if you believe in solid gold asteroids. But if it’s about building an Orion and SLS that will let us “go farther”, that’s kind of lame. Farther where? Farther why? Let’s look at what he said about SLS in particular …

            a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems, and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there.

            That’s it. That’s what SLS means to him. It’s about reaching deep space and transforming where we can go and when we can get there. Do you see a picture? I don’t. He doesn’t have one.

            A leader has an idea that people want to follow. It’s an idea that can be handed off to the next leader. It’s policy that becomes a cultural mandate.

            A goal is different than a vision. A vision is the big picture. A goal is something that you need to attain to get there. The first flight of SLS is a goal. But that first flight hardly rates as a vision.

            So this is what NASA has to work with. It’s a speech about directions, and perhaps a destination or two, without rationale behind them. Let’s be very honest. JFK’s vision for Apollo wasn’t exploring space. It was about beating the technological crap out of the USSR. That was a vision that people could see.

            • Coastal Ron

              Hiram said:

              He mentioned asteroids, and he mentioned the Mars. Did he mention WHY asteroids and Mars? Did he mention HOW our world will be better if we can reach asteroids and Mars?

              Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember that Bush did the equivalent for the VSE.

              Are you asking something of Obama that every other President in the NASA era has provided? Or is this something new that you feel every President going forward should be providing?

              What I mean by leadership, which is what I think most people define as leadership, is putting an attractive and achievable image in the minds of the taxpayer.

              I’ve stated this before – I don’t look to politicians for inspiration. Sure, maybe a few have been inspiring for various reasons, but in general I don’t care what they say, only what they do. For me, based on what we went through with Bush 43, I was hoping Obama would at least be an average President, and I think he has been.

              And I don’t think most citizens really care about what we’re doing in space, and I do try to bring up the subject with people I know… then their eyes glaze over and they change the subject. Remember the polls on the Apollo program were not positive through the program, so it’s not like the public HAS to be on board.

              But for space enthusiasts, we feel there is value in going to Mars and mining asteroids someday, but realistically that is a long way off. So for us when Presidents talk about going to Mars, we understand the value, but no matter what a President says most of the electorate won’t, and won’t care. It’s too esoteric for them, as well as too far in the future.

              A goal is different than a vision. A vision is the big picture.

              What would you have had him say?

              So this is what NASA has to work with. It’s a speech about directions, and perhaps a destination or two, without rationale behind them.

              Hey, welcome to the 21st century. We have massive deficits, global conflicts, societal inequities, and a fractured political divide that is only getting more fractured.

              Besides, only the people writing the checks (i.e. Congress) need to buy into what a President wants – everyone else is superfluous.

              • Hiram

                “Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember that Bush did the equivalent for the VSE.”

                Bush at least took the trouble to come up with a VSE, and one of the powerful takeaways from that (as articulated by Bush’s OSTP head John Marbuger), was to bring the solar system into mankind’s sphere of economic influence. That’s a powerful big-picture concept. The idea of ISS as a potent tool for diplomacy was also, in it’s time, a powerful big-picture concept. A simplistic way of looking at that (see below) is for the Administration to hand a bone to NASA that will allow it to “get it’s swagger back”. Swagger doesn’t come from launching a really really big rocket. It comes from launching a really really big idea.

                “So for us when Presidents talk about going to Mars, we understand the value, but no matter what a President says most of the electorate won’t, and won’t care.”

                Precisely. That’s the whole point. This isn’t about leadership of space advocates. It’s about leadership of the nation.

                “What would you have had him say?”

                You ask this several times, in several ways. My simple answer would be that I’d like to have him say something that measures up to the criteria I described. If you’re asking me to be a speechwriter or policy pundit for him, I’d have to decline. Powerful big-picture concepts are for him and his very smart advisers to figure out. It’s not a matter of getting a space advocate to write words, but a matter for a policy team to come up with a consensus-credible statement of how space exploration meets national needs. If his space policy team can’t do this, then one has to rethink the whole premise of space exploration. Maybe we’re at that point now.

              • Vladislaw

                I disagree, I thought the VSE laid it out pretty plainly. Exploration, be it the moon, asteroids or Mars was for scientific, inspiration, security, and bringing the inner solar system into our economic sphere of activity.

                “The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.”

                “It expands scientific discovery and the search for habitable environments and life by advancing human and robotic capabilities across multiple worlds.”

                “It seeks to establish a sustainable and flexible approach to exploration by pursuing compelling questions, developing breakthrough technologies, leveraging space resources, and making smart decisions about ongoing programs. It will help drive critical national technologies in power, computing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, communications, networking, robotics, and materials. It will start exciting new programs now to inspire the next generation of explorers.”

              • Powerful big-picture concepts are for him and his very smart advisers to figure out.

                His what? Assumes facts not in evidence.

              • Justin Kugler

                It’s amazing how quickly the Flagship Technology Demonstrations plan has been forgotten.

          • DCSCA

            I saw the speech as laying out a new direction for NASA and what we were doing in space…”

            Except it wasn’t. It was clearly derived and delivered based on staff recommendations from a white paper penned by staff to shelve a Bush era ninitative underfunded and porly managed in the face of a fiscal meltdown. Obama simply put space in the out box in 2010 and moved on to more pressing matters on the national agenda. He has no interest in space.

      • Congress certainly has shown they don’t care, both from Republican standpoint of not liking anything Obama does,…

        As an indication of the fact that so much in politics is dependent on point of view, one could also argue Democrats support everything Obama proposes, even ones which are unwise, such as ARM.

        Bob Clark

        • Jim Nobles

          I think saying Obama proposed ARM is stretching it a little bit. I doubt he cares what mission NASA chose to present when Congess demanded a mission for their giant pork rocket. I doubt he cares even now.

          NASA knows Congress isn’t going to allocate funds for a Moon program or any other “project of scale” so they made up a cheap mission but one that might give them some of the BEO experience they feel they need.

          I think some people don’t like ARM is because they want a Moon program instead. Well I’m sorry, it’s not happening. Not with these bozos in Congress. And not with SLS, the damn thing is just going to cost too much to build and operate. I’m sorry but you folks need to learn some basic economics and apply that to the situation. And I’m pretty sure a new President isn’t going to change the situation that much. Money will still be tight and SLS will still be a sober Space Cadet’s nightmare.

          There’s a 50 ton lifter due to come online within the next couple of years and the development has already been paid for. There’s a mad millionaire who wants to put his habitats on the moon and has already spent nearly a half of billion dollars developing them. that’s nearly half of a Moon program already there. And the “We Must Go Back To The Moon” crowd aren’t all over that and fighting to see those assets used? Maybe the “Back To The Moon” crowd are really just a “We Mainly Just Want To Argue About Going Back To The Moon” crowd.

          Think about it folks, do you want results or is something else your motivation?

          Laters…

    • While Charlie Bolden has been unable to give the President any strategic advice he’s been able to get excited about, no one in his or her right mind would want to be NASA Administrator right now.

      Actually, I’d do it. I wouldn’t last very long, but I’d have a good time for a few weeks, and raise a lot of hell.

      • Coastal Ron

        Rand Simberg said:

        I wouldn’t last very long, but I’d have a good time for a few weeks, and raise a lot of hell.

        A little “shock and awe” would be a good thing. And it would an opportunity to change the direction of discussion. Too bad it won’t happen…

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    It was never meant to save the planet… Attempt to save SLS maybe…

  • Jim Nobles

    Since I believe the primary point of ARM was to give SLS and Orion an actual mission and reason to exist I am perversely pleased to see SLS supporters talk it down so enthusiastically. Forgive me I think you guys are your own worst enemies.

    • Coastal Ron

      Jim Nobles said:

      Forgive me I think you guys are your own worst enemies.

      I know, right? It’s like they just want the SLS to be a museum piece.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Floating around at EML2 for a few weeks with a small rock (assuming one can be captured – there are real issues with the concept) wasn’t the mission most SLS supporters were visualising when they gave the project their support.

  • James

    As much as SLS and Orion MCPV were hoisted on NASA/Obama by the Congress, Bolden, is no dope – he sees that SLS/Orion, if cancelled, would be the death knell to an Agency he has poured his emotions into (Has anyone not yet seen Bolden cry in one of his speeches about how great NASA and it’s employees are???) . Given there is no money to really do any BEO exploration, and hence no justification for SLS/Orion, ARM emerged as a cheap ‘mission’ for the SLS/Orion,,,to save it from the tea party hacks in Congress who will eventually have them cancelled w/o a mission.

    IMHO of course.

    Agree with all the above posts…great thread.

    • josh

      i don’t know. how exactly do we know that bolden is no dope? he hasn’t done anything at nasa that would inspire confidence in his leadership abilities.

    • Justin Kugler

      Bunk. MPCV/SLS would just be the latest in a long history of canceled next-generation HSF programs.

      • James

        Yes. The difference now is that there is no Shuttle Program flying while those other HSF programs were cancelled (OSP, VentureStar, etc.) Therevwas always “Shuttlebto keep NASA’ alive. But not so now. Cancel SLS/MPCV and u shut down MSFC. KSC Stennis, and a big chunk of JSC. Bolden knows this …so he needs to justify SLS/MPCV. Or else NASA crumbles on his watch. Something I am sure his ego would not appreciate

  • josh

    so bolden admitted that sls is precluding nasa from doing anything useful in space. got it.

  • Derek

    I still see the ARM mission as justifiable from the standpoint of building infrastructure in space, which is the only way we’ll get anywhere past LEO, but without the science objectives, what’s the point of sending astronauts?

    So build that craft, net that rock, put it in lunar orbit, and hand it over to PRI and DSI as a playground to.test their business models. Put them on a path towards netting their own rocks so they can fuel further missions. Making space pay is justifiable, just not for a human mission…

    • Fred Willett

      The real reason for beyond LEO is to find out how bad the radiation environment really is for long missions. Remember the maximum Apollo mission was a couple of weeks. A sorta dash to the moon and back and ignore the radiation because the astronauts weren’t out there long enough to matter.
      Some researchers are saying doing that on the way to Mars is not an option. Some, like Zubrin, say “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.” Either way we really need to know before we send anyone on a 500 day trip.

      • @Fred Willet;….Isn’t THAT the truth?! The Mars zealots get into such delusions about just how easy this is all going to be. Apollo simply lucked out & dodged the bullet of a solar flare occuring during one of its Moon expeditions. Short dashes Moonward & back will be the basic story, during the first few sortie landing missions, plus any previously sent-out test flights around the Moon, to prove the spacecraft’s viability. But when we get to the stage of multi-week/multi-month outpost expeditions, we are bound to encounter some flaric solar activity, and hence be safely prepared. Unmannedly flown & landed lunar modules, (sent over in-advance of the crews, as base habitats), would ideally be either pre-equipped with radiation sheilding OR be capable of being modified on the surface with a regolith-filler, using a hollowed-out hull section around the designated storm shelter annex. The experiences of lunar astronauts, having to contend with this situation, will be an eye-opening guidepost for the development of such systems destined for interplanetary space treks. In short: NASA must deal with the Moon first!

        • By the way, Fred W.;….Can you imagine how awkward & embarrasing it will be to the United States, IF CHINA WERE TO DEAL WITH BUILDING LUNAR SURFACE, RADIATION PROTECTION SYSTEMS FIRST??! Imagine the day that Chinese spacemen get through a lunar fortnight, when an actual solar flare hits, and its base modules are the ones from which the first storm shelter viability data comes??! All the while America is engaged in the pointless & stupid ARM stunt.
          I would say, that after China returns those men safely to Earth, subsequent to them surviving a solar flare event on the Moon, that that country will’ve made a major technological leap ahead of us, in terms of being able to reliably commit its spacemen to long-duration cis-lunar/lunar stays/deep space journeys.

      • The real reason for beyond LEO is to find out how bad the radiation environment really is for long missions.

        I’m pretty sure that deep-space missions have had radiation detectors for years.

        • Fred Willett

          True, but did any test radiation mitigation technologies or should we do a Zubrin and just hope?

          • That’s a separate issue. I was just pointing out that we already know how bad it is.

            • Fred Willett

              Then I wasn’t clear. Sorry.
              It’s sorta like the studies that are being done on the ISS in re weightlessness. They’re all really good from a knowledge POV but a simple engineering solution exists that side steps the whole problem. i.e. the centrifuge.
              To that extent I have some sympathy for Mr Zubrin in that it’s better to be trying and fixing than sitting and studying.
              The real issue is where the balance should be between the gungho and the ultra cautious.
              Currently NASA is too cautious.

              • Hiram

                “The real reason for beyond LEO is to find out how bad the radiation environment really is for long missions.”

                Wait, it’s being said here that the reason to send humans beyond LEO is to see how bad the radiation environment is? Even if we had no rad sensors at all out there (and in fact we have loads), why in the WORLD would you want to send up a human as a sensor? Gee, we probably should send humans up beyond LEO to see if there is any air to breathe there. If they asphyxiate and don’t come back alive, they’ll be posthumous heroes for having established that the vacuum of space extends beyond LEO.

                Oh, and we have a pretty good understanding of how the human body responds to various amounts of radiation.

                This is a natural extension of the dumb arguments we hear about what you really need people to do in space.

        • Vladislaw

          The recent mission to mars had radiation detectors on it. The article I read (which I can’t find now-think it was parabolic arc) stated that this was the first time that a detector was in a shielded place and that the shielding for the craft blocked more than they had anticipated.

      • Vladislaw

        Found the links for that new radiation data:

        This is from the journal Science:
        Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory
        “These data provide insights into the radiation hazards that would be associated with a human mission to Mars. We report measurements of the radiation dose, dose equivalent, and linear energy transfer spectra. The dose equivalent for even the shortest round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding is found to be 0.66 ± 0.12 sievert. “

        Business Insider had an article that broke it down:

        “The Mars Curiosity rover’s 253-day journey to Mars, between November 2011 and August 2012, served as dry run for when the first humans are launched into deep space inside a protected vehicle.

        The one-ton rover was carried to Mars inside a spacecraft that acted as a partial radiation shield. A toaster-size instrument placed inside the belly of the spacecraft — which simulates where astronauts would be sitting during their own Mars-bound journey — was used to measure the amount of deep-space radiation penetrating the interior of the spacecraft. Previously, radiation predictions had been made using unshielded instruments. This is a major advance.

        The new report found that the amount of radiation an astronaut would experience on the trips to and from Mars would “represent a large fraction of his or her career accepted lifetime limit,” according to a statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

        Radiation exposure is measured in units of Sievert. Some agencies use 1 Sievert as a standard reference for what astronauts can handle as a career limit. This dose is associated with a 5% excess risk of fatal cancer, according to NASA. NASA currently draws the line at a 3% excess risk.

        Based on the data from the Curiosity’s trip, the dose equivalent for even the shortest manned round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding was found to be 0.66 Sievert, or 0.00018 Sievert a day, the report notes.”

        This wasn’t even a full shield designed for it so it looks like radiation will not be the mission killer that a lot of people think it will be. A a trip will give you about a 3% – 5% increase in the risk for cancer. How many would be willing to take that risk for a shot at mars?

        The lines would endless.

        • Egad

          The dose equivalent for even the shortest round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding is found to be 0.66 ± 0.12 sievert.

          For us old guys, it’s useful to remember that a sievert is more or less the same as 100 rem. 78 rem over a year or two is nothing to sneeze at and would be detectable in lab work, but not disabling. The long-term cancer risk is a somewhat separate question.

          • Vladislaw

            Agreed, but it is not the showstopper that some like to claim and there would be no shortage of people that would accept that amount of risk.

            • NASA would have to then change its own requirements of what is acceptable radiation risk.
              But the point of the matter it doesn’t IF it had lunar-derived propellant depots in hand. Using current chemical propulsion the virtually unlimited propellant that would provide would mean we could cut the travel time to weeks rather than months.

              Bob Cllark

  • A_M_Swallow

    ARM is 3 missions.

    1. Find/detect Near Earth Objects (NEO) -> part of planetary defense.

    2. Catch and divert a small asteroid -> practice mission for planetary defense. Real defense needs a bigger craft to divert a large asteroid into a safe solar orbit.

    3. Retrieving part of an asteroid -> science mission using the resources we have. The resources includes the asteroid, Orion, SLS and astronauts.

    There are alternative ways of doing each part. We can even do 2 of the 3.

  • Robert G Oler

    The problem of course is that there is no mission period for an agency that takes tens of billions to do what should take billions or less.. the Sout Pole programs really don’t have that many PR moments but then again they are not consuming 3 billion a year going nowhere either

    The superpower era is over and with it a reason for large scale 300 billion plus missions( or even 20) billion missions RGO

  • This opinion column in Florida Today by journalist John Kelly may be of interest:

    “NASA Needs Its Swagger Back”

    NASA needs someone who starts the game over. It needs someone who can take the billions the space agency gets, set audacious goals and priorities, and build a team of leaders to get after it.

    The departure of Lori Garver this week from the space agency is disappointing because she was one of the people trying to break NASA’s mold, change it from within, and champion innovative projects such as the commercial cargo and crew ventures.

    But it is not a one person job. It’s a complete reprogramming of the agency’s leadership.

    • Fred Willett

      It’s doubtful NASA can ever get it’s swagger back.
      The swagger came from being the only game in town. They had a huge budget (relatively speaking) and were doing things others could only dream of.
      Today not so much.
      The space economy is nearly 20 times the NASA budget and growing gang busters. NASA’s budget is shrinking.
      I don’t mean to say NASA is dead. Certainly not. They still do amazing stuff. Curiosity, and so on. But small business decisions (eg Planetary Resources) are going to increasingly change the landscape (spacescape) in ways that NASA no longer can.

      • Fred Willett wrote:

        The swagger came from being the only game in town. They had a huge budget (relatively speaking) and were doing things others could only dream of.

        Today not so much.

        I tend to think you’re right.

        I know where John Kelly is coming from, but I don’t think a different administrator would make any difference. Look at all the different administrators we’ve had over the decades, from bean counters to astronauts to engineers. None of them could change Congress’ porking ways.

        John overlooks that Congress vets and approves the administrator, and the deputy administrator. They’re not going to approve someone who gets in their face and tells them off. A cardinal rule in politics is that you never bite the hand that feeds you.

        When Charlie and Lori had their nomination hearings — you can watch it on C-SPAN’s video library — many of the questions from the senators were about protecting pork for their states. An administrator who says, “Your space center needs to close because we don’t have a need for it” won’t get out of the room alive.

        • DCSCA

          When Charlie and Lori had their nomination hearings — you can watch it on C-SPAN’s video library — many of the questions from the senators were about protecting pork for their states. An administrator who says, “Your space center needs to close because we don’t have a need for it” won’t get out of the room alive.” notes Stephen.
          Which is precisely why Presdient Hillary Clinton won’t nominate Garver for the spot– particularly after Garver’s porker comments. Garver quit. End of story. Four years from now, there wil lbe somebody else better rqualified and cleaner in the mix for HRC to nominate for the spot. And the political realities will have changedas well. NBut not Ms. Garver’s histiry. She quit. .

    • DCSCA

      “NASA needs someone who starts the game over. It needs someone who can take the billions the space agency gets, set audacious goals and priorities, and build a team of leaders to get after it.’

      Wrong. It’s not the job of NASA to set the goals onr policy. but carry out accomplsihing them out as directed by the WH– or in the absense of leadership from same- Congress. Space policy is NOT NASA’s decision to may. It is thir responsibility to attempt to carry it out. And to request/expect sufficient resources to do it.

      “The departure of Lori Garver this week from the space agency is disappointing because she was one of the people trying to break NASA’s mold.”

      Wrong. In fact, over Garver’s 20 plus year history of meddling in spacial issues, she has helped deflect and derail a return to Luna. Twice. Advocated the ‘aerospace WPA project’ as the late Deke SLayton called it, known as the ISS, trapping US HSF in LEO, going in corcles, no where, fast. Burdened the space agency with a useless orbiting zxombie, designed to meet Cold War political issues from the late 20th century now an expensive and useless burned to NASA well into the 21st Century. And most significantly, Garver has demonstrated something the best of NASA’s management never did – at least until after accomplishing their assigned tasks: quit. Quitters are never missed.

      • @DCSCA;….Your assessment is right on the money! The ISS is a dead-end leviathan, which goes on flushing-down-the-toilet loads of billions of dollars, which if it was de-orbited sooner rather than later, would then clear up the space program budget, for finally developing a new cis-lunar/lunar transport vehicle system. Again, while NASA seems primed to getting caught in the hauling-of-an-asteroid-boulder scheme, China might just decide to press forward, with its own Lunar expeditions, replete of base modules capable of surviving solar flare events, with taikonaut crews on board, on multi-week/multi-month stays. The Chinese could very well be the first nation with a surface-base radiation-storm-shelter, which is put to the test, in protecting a crew, beyond Earth’s ionosphere. Imagine how dumb we-as-a-nation would look, sending a crew all-the-way-out to Lunar distance merely to reach an asteroidal boulder-block, at the same time China acheives THAT milestone?!

        • Neil Shipley

          What makes you so sure that the ISS money, were it to be splashed, would be used for developing new vehicles?
          I’d lay odds that it would be absorbed by the SLS/MPCV jobs program. Just a thought.
          Congress isn’t interested in the Chinese and what they might or might not be doing. They’re more interested in how they can justify their positions through jobs.

        • Justin Kugler

          I heard the exact same argument when I worked on Constellation and it’s just as tone deaf now as it was then.

          I’ve heard Congressional staff members say, point blank, that we are going to fly the Station and squeeze every bit of usefulness out of it for as long as NASA says it is safe to do so.

          China is building a station in LEO for the exact same reasons we did: prestige, engineering expertise, and exploration research capability. They are in no rush, either.

          I was once told a great story once about the US delegation that visited China during Griffin’s tenure. During a brief respite where the government minders weren’t in the room, the Chinese officials desperately asked the US group how we were so successful at getting our politicians to keep funding our space program.

          In other words… you’re spinning a fairy tale, Chris.

        • Vladislaw

          After flying humans for a decade china has finally flown more humans than a SINGLE shuttle mission. Ya .. china is moving at lightning speed there chris.

          • Neil Shipley

            Yes and if NASA can hold their course then the U.S. will have at least one space vehicle capable of taking 7 people to and from LEO. Chinese can do 3 at a time. Do they have plans to build a vehicle for more?

      • DCSCA, LorI might not have really quit. If you get your wish and Hillary is elected Hillary might appont Lori to be Space Czar and Lori might triumphantly reenter space politics as the shining star she probably really is.

        • DCSCA’s repetitive cluelessness is hilarious. It’s convinced that Hillary is going to be very pro-space/pro-NASA, when her most likely pick for NASA administrator would be Lori Garver.

        • DCSCA

          “LorI might not have really quit.” spins Jim.

          Except she did.

          And given HRC’s personal interest in spaceflight, she is aware of the need for a qualified administrator in the family of Webb, or Paine, which Garver is clearly and most decidely not.

          • I don’t know… I don’t think Hillary thinks the way you think she thinks. As I heard it Lori was working for Hillary until Obama got the nomination then after the election joined the transition team with Hillary’s blessing.

            I have a feeling Ms. Garver will reurn. That would be good for America but bad for Dino-space.

        • Justin Kugler

          Lori doesn’t do anything without thinking about it. This move gives her plenty of time to re-position for the next administration, whether on the inside or out. I seriously doubt this is the last we’ve seen of her in the space community.

          • DCSCA

            “I seriously doubt this is the last we’ve seen of her in the space community.” notes Justin.

            Think again. Her record is of meddlnig in spacial matters for over two decades resulting in inhibiting a teturn to Luun. Twice. And lobbying contracting for the orbiting zombie, the ‘aerospace WPA project’ known as the ISS, a Cold War relic from the 20th century that has no relevence to 21st century space planning and has trapped US space policy in LEO for decades. now she has called Congress a bunch of porkers and pulled Palin and quit on the job. Space advocacy doesn’t need quitters.

            Don’t kid yourself. NewSpacers best lick their wounds and look for a fresh champion to plant in government.

            • Justin Kugler

              I am immensely grateful for my time outside of the space community because it has given me perspective and insight that seem to be so sorely lacking by many of our advocates.

              There is little Lori can do to change the status quo in the current political environment. Taking another job where she can be more effective and build a broader network isn’t even comparable to a sitting governor resigning in the middle of an elected term to evade ethics inquiries.

            • Robert G Oler

              Think again. Her record is of meddlnig in spacial matters for over two decades resulting in inhibiting a teturn to Luun. Twice. And lobbying contracting for the orbiting zombie, the ‘aerospace WPA project’ known as the”

              I love all the HRC speculation because in politics a sure thing today is toast tomorrow…but these comments are to me amazingly one dimensional thinking.

              Garver is very well positioned if there is either a HRC run in 16 and an HRC Presidency in17… The latter of which I am not sure I want…and in large measure it is because it is hard to know which Hillary would show up. The two paths open for her are amazingly different…she could continue the legacy of moderate progressivism coupled with some deference to political corporatism…or not. she would be in almost a Ronald Reagan position of her last job late in life taking over the ship of state as it tottered in large measure toward floundering …and she could really reinvent government as Reagan did..

              In any event it is hard to imagine that a return to the moon as a function of policy ie just returning with no other real reason for doing it…would be a part of her space direction There is no evidence of it from her or the FOHs all we have is someone constantly saying that eith nothing to back it upmmRGO

        • Daddy

          Nobles, SHE IS GONE!!! Hillary is too smart to rehire this political lightning rod and no one else is pining for her to return.

          • Jim Nobles

            I think Lori will be back. Unless she had to step away for health reasons or something like that. (We hope not!)

            I think she’ll be back and will be in the thick of the fight. I’m looking forward to it.

          • Robert G Oler

            well now I don’t know that your analysis is all that bright I suspect if there is a Clinton 45 And I hope not, Garver has a future in that administration RGO

          • DCSCA

            “Nobles, SHE IS GONE!!! Hillary is too smart to rehire this political lightning rod and no one else is pining for her to return.” notes Daddy.

            Right. The bridge has been burned.

            • Jim Nobles

              No, I doubt it has. Let’s face it the odds are she’ll return. And rise up and be more powerful than before.

              Maybe the first base on the Moon, a commercial base, will be named “Garver Station”, I think that would be fitting.

              • Daddy

                Why, oh why would anyone name anything on the Moon after Garver… She is no doubt the one who fed Obama the line, “been there, done that,” when he delivered his infamous “Screw you” speech to NASA at KSC in April 2010.

                GONE!!! Bank on it…

              • Jim Nobles

                Sorry, I don’t think so. She didn’t have the look of someone who was quitting. She had the look of someone going on vacation or something like that.

                I expect her to be back and fighting the good fight before all that long. Probably with a nice tan.

              • She is no doubt the one who fed Obama the line, “been there, done that,” when he delivered his infamous “Screw you” speech to NASA at KSC in April 2010.

                Only a moron unfamiliar with her would believe that.

              • Daddy

                “Only a moron unfamiliar with her would believe that.”

                Who writes Obama’s space policy speeches? Obviously not Bolden. Perhaps Holdren? There’s another moron. Perhaps Buzz Aldrin? There’s a delusional alcoholic. Does Simberg really know Lori???? Swoon!!!

              • Jim Nobles

                “Does Simberg really know Lori???? Swoon!!!”

                Only a moron unfamiliar with Rand would believe that.

                :)

              • Justin Kugler

                The scuttlebutt has always been that the President went extemporaneous after talking with Buzz on the plane on the way to KSC. It’s never been suggested that Lori wrote that line before.

    • James

      At 55 years old, it will take a near death experience for NASA to ‘see the light’, and get its swagger back.

      Not holding my breath. I have more faith in the dysfunction and persistence of the NASA/OMB/WH/Congressional quad to keep NASA going in the useless direction its headed.

      Too bad too, because there are a lot of well meaning people trapped in this system…

    • Robert G Oler

      NASA cannot come back to its young self as long as coming back is viewed in the model of another Apollo RGO

      • DCSCA

        NASA cannot come back to its young self as long as coming back is viewed in the model of another Apollo RGO

        Only NewSpace advocates keep insisting that ‘Apollo-redux’ is on the table. It’s a red herring.

        • Justin Kugler

          Griffin himself called Constellation “Apollo on steroids” (and, let’s be honest, SLS and MPCV are the remnants of that effort) and Neil deGrasse Tyson has lamented what he calls the “necrophilia” for Apollo for years.

          It’s not just NewSpace advocates. The same thinking even pervades how Congress thinks NASA is going to eventually, in the far off future, get to Mars.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA said:

          Only NewSpace advocates keep insisting that ‘Apollo-redux’ is on the table.

          As long as you keep insisting that “government projects of scale” are the only way to return to the Moon, or do any sort of space exploration, you will be rightly described as using Apollo-type thinking.

          And if you had any way of understanding the value of money, you’d see that NASA doesn’t get enough money for “government projects of scale”, and that Congress could care less about doing anything with the over-blown rocket hardware they are saddling NASA with.

        • Robert G Oler

          There is no reason, “on the table” to return to the Moon except just to do it…that is being advanced…all such reasons when brought forward are subject to mocking RGO

  • Lori Garver’s July 26 speech at NewSpace 2013 is now on YouTube at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMx6RyMY6tg

  • DougSpace

    “When I weigh the cost benefit of going back to the lunar surface in a limited budget environment, and going to Mars, I would rather take what little money I have upfront and advance the technologies we’re going to need”

    Return-to-the-Moon was not what was unaffordable, it was the Altair (boosted on an Ares V) that was unaffordable. Big, big difference.

    Lunar return needs to be outsourced to private companies using the now proven SAA approach. Yes, so long as we have the SLS shoehorned into the budget it is a “limited budget environment”. But even within that environment, NASA has been able to progress by helping private companies start mastering cargo and soon crew to LEO. After that, the next logical step could be a Lunar COTS program to help private companies develop their own lunar landers, surface, and cis-lunar operations.

    The focus of these discussions is Mars as the ultimate goal. I have no problem with that. But, if done correctly, we can have the Moon too, and a cis-lunar transportation system which enables everything else. LunarCOTS.com.

  • DougSpace

    Myself and others have long argued here and elsewhere that neither the humans-to-asteroids nor the ARRM could be justified on the basis of science or planetary defense. So I am pleased to see official NASA coming around to acknowledging this reality.

    I believe that the SBAG report had a whole lot to do with it. I wish it didn’t need to take an official group like that to change NASA’s mind but rather that there would be advisors smart enough to recognize the facts and so direct NASA in such a way that they would not get into these awkward situations where they have to find a face-saving way of redirecting themselves.

    None-the-less, NASA still has ARRM in the picture. Why? I believe that it follows logically after you have committed yourself to the SLS. It would be logically, obviously problematic to build the SLS and then use it how? in the empty space between here and Mars? Do you go directly to Deimos after your initial manned test launches? That’s too gutsy and dangerous. Do you keep the SLS largely idle for years while the radiation studies are being done just outside the Van Allen belts? No, the space community, the public, and their representatives would find that unacceptable.

    So, you look for every possible, apparently significant mission that you can find. EML1 – check. EML-2 with teleoperations on the back side if the Moon – check. ARRM to give the astronauts a tangible object near Earth – check. Visiting an asteroid at distance – check. Phobos / Deimos – check. Having avoided the costs of a lunar lander and waited until after the MPCV and HLV are developed, then you can develop the Martian lander and you start achieving your long-term goal.

    None of this is particularly nefarious. I can understand why the Administration would want to arrange for exciting missions to give the SLS some sense of necessity.

    Likewise, Congress not wanting to see our national capacity (and jobs) to build and launch a HLV lost, forced the SLS onto the Administration. The Administration recognized that the legislature had the votes, acquiesced. Everything else has played itself out as one would expect.

    Although understandable, it is unfortunate that a more rational path was not taken. We are being locked into decades of inefficient spending with little sustainable capacity building, and the decent likelihood of cancellation and, hence, money wasted and yet another round of hand-wringing.

    None-the-less there is hope. Even with just a 5% sliver of NASA’s budget for commercial development, NASA can develop a cis-lunar transportation system which will enable the national program by increasing the SLS payload BLEO, will silence us critics who say that the Moon’s value should not be ignored, and also make our national space aspirations more secure by lowering costs and providing a destination to develop surface experience and a location for a legitimate permanent base and settlement.

    • Coastal Ron

      DougSpace said:

      None of this is particularly nefarious. I can understand why the Administration would want to arrange for exciting missions to give the SLS some sense of necessity.

      I’m not so sure it was the Administration was behind the ARRM. As I’ve said before, Senator Nelson made the announcement about this mission proposal first, and though the Administration is backing it, I’m not sure it was their idea. Regardless whose idea, it’s not going anywhere, which isn’t a good sign for the SLS.

      Speaking of sending the MPCV beyond LEO, SpaceX just updated the GTO rating for Falcon Heavy, and now it can put 21.2 mt (46,738 lb) to GTO. And as a reminder, 21.2 mt is about the mass of the MPCV with it’s Service Module.

      Now that’s not enough to get the MPCV all the way to the Moon, but the MPCV is not going to be doing anything interesting by itself, so add another launch for a mission module, and a 3rd one (launched earlier) for an EDS. Those three launches would cost $405M, or about 25% the cost of one SLS launch. Assemble in LEO, and away they go. All that transportation for a fraction of what it will cost for an SLS.

      That kind of cost disparity is going to become more and more apparent going forward, and though the members of Congress that wanted the SLS will ignore that, but some others in Congress will notice. For those that do notice, it will raise questions, and if the need for the SLS gets to a debate, even in back rooms, I think that’s when it will become apparent that the $30B+ government rocket won’t have much to do. I look forward to that debate occurring.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Bolden is just saying out law what most people knew all along. The asteroid mission is only happening because it’s cheap, not that it returns any benefit. And it looks like the schedule is slipping. If NASA is to “get its swagger back” it needs to be allowed to do something worth swaggering about, like go back to the moon.

    • I do not want NASA to go back to th moon. Or at least I don’t want NASA to lead the effort or be turned into some sort of Moon Development Agency. First of all Congress will never give them enough money to do a proper job of it. Secondly, it’s not government’s job to develop new lands. It’s government’s job to help and encourage private enterprise to develop new lands. At least in this country that’s the way we do it.

      Fifty years ago NASA proved we could go to the Moon and they demonstrated one way to do it. Then, as if to drive the point home, they did it five more times.

      People who keep on insisting that we have a soviet style Moon program just don’t get what America is all about. They may not be truly comfortable in free society with free markets and opportunities. But they need to understand this, we have no reason at all to believe that the government will ever give anyone enough money to develop the Moon or anyplace else. That kind of money only exists in the private sector and that’s where it will have to come from.
      As I see it, that’s ground truth. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so but it is.

      • Hiram

        Well put. “Moon Development Agency” — I like that. Sounds like an HUD project. Put subdivisions in hard places. If the government can make a credible statement about why humans on the Moon is of national value, and putting humans on the Moon is something that no one else can do, then have at it. If on the other hand putting humans back on the Moon doesn’t offer clear value, and if those who think it might have value have the tools to do it, then keep governmental hands off of it.

        But that’s correct, that ARRM seems to have value because it’s cheap, and it returns little benefit, so the value equation comes out looking sorta neutral. But putting humans back on the Moon gives us a pathetically antique sort of swagger. Putting humans back on the Moon has zero value. Having humans actually do something of value on the Moon might. We have yet to figure out what that might be, that humans could do there, that cannot be accomplished telerobotically.

      • DCSCA

        “I do not want NASA to go back to th moon.” says Jim.

        Then you are not a spaceflight advocate.

        “Fifty years ago NASA proved we could go to the Moon and they demonstrated one way to do it.” muses Jim.

        In fact, 44 years ago NASA demonstrated that government, industry and academia could work together and successfully manage reaching Luna w/humans in just 8 fiscal years (ahead of schedule and under projected budget BTW) from the date of commitment to same. They did it because it was motivated by political gain, not fiscal gain and were willing, and capable, of accepting technical and fiscal risks private enterprised firms, reporting to BoDs and stockholders would balk at. That;s wgy governments do it. In fact, a ‘Lunar Development Agency’ is a helluva good idea.

        • Hiram

          “They did it because it was motivated by political gain, not fiscal gain and were willing, and capable, of accepting technical and fiscal risks private enterprised firms, reporting to BoDs and stockholders would balk at.”

          They also had a budget that was 5.5% of the federal budget. Ten times what the current agency has, and is likely to get. I’d say it was motivated by rolling in dough, shoveled at them by an Administration and Congress that were desperate to prove that our rockets were better than theirs. Yep, that’s how governments do it. You say the Apollo program was UNDER projected budget? Heh heh. I guess the lesson is that with a $50B agency, we might even save a few bucks. Ahh, economy.

          Isn’t it wonderful how rolling in dough makes anything you do look good?

          Oh, by the way, if contemporary commercial players had $50B/year to play with, they’d absolutely leave the government coughing in the dust. No contest. The SpaceX stockholders would also be delighted, if there were any by then. There aren’t now.

          • Jim Nobles

            Yeah, give Musk 10 billion and give Bigelow 10 billion and we’d have a base on the Moon and boots on Mars in 10 years.

          • DCSCA

            “Oh, by the way, if contemporary commercial players had $50B/year to play with, they’d absolutely leave the government coughing in the dust.” whines Hiram.

            Obly if they could sell their business model to the private capital markets– which remains wary of a low to no ROI proposal and invest capital where there’s a faster and more lucrative ROI to make– like oil and gas exploration.

            Of course, it isn’t ‘play’– as you call it– in the first place, and pitching it as such, being the hobbyists they are– tends to keep the investor classes skeptical. Try pitching Curiosity to McDonalds, Google or Apple for sponsorship and you’d get laughed out of the boardroom. Amazon’s Bezos might take the meeting for the giggle. He likes to laugh you know.

            And as you likely are aware, a large percentage of Apollo era expenditures were invested in simply constructing the infrastructure to get the program flying. Those numbers are easy to source– and are a legacy asset commercial doesn’t really have to deal with- (for instance, Space X leases Florida facilities revamped w/government financing as it is.) But what you keep confirming is that commercial is unable to sell its business model to the private capital markets– which remains wary and skeptical of a low to no ROI ‘enterprise.’ So it tries to sucker the taxpayers for financing denied in the private setor– clinging to a faux- and dooomed to a Pacific grave=- market to service. And taxpayers in general- and key Congressional players in particular- are wise to it. try getting your Martian probes sponsored by the corporate class -rather than subsidized by taxpayers you’ll learn a hard lesson fast.

            • Jim Nobles

              Space is a business. Some people are good at business and some are not. When Elon started SpaceX he was a millionaire and now they say he’s a billionaire. Welcome to the future.

          • They also had a budget that was 5.5% of the federal budget. Ten times what the current agency has, and is likely to get. I’d say it was motivated by rolling in dough, shoveled at them by an Administration and Congress that were desperate to prove that our rockets were better than theirs.

            To put in perspective how truly huge that proportion was during the Apollo years, that would actually be like NASA having a budget of $180 billion now – that’s EVERY year.
            Heck, we’d probably have manned missions to both Jupiter and Saturn for that.

            Bob Clark

    • Gregori

      It doesn’t have the money to do the Moon under any realistic situation. Get with the program.

      • Guest

        If that’s the case then it’s NASA job to reduce the cost of these operations, as for instance, reusable launch vehicles. Wky all this othre crap? And furthermore, it is EXACTLY Charlie’s job to save the world, and since he can’t or wont admit that, or do that, then it will have to be somebody else’s job.

        • Coastal Ron

          Guest said:

          If that’s the case then it’s NASA job to reduce the cost of these operations, as for instance, reusable launch vehicles.

          Show us in NASA’s charter where that is so? What is in NASA’s charter is helping U.S. industry to do those things, but helping U.S. industry is far different than taking the lead for reducing costs.

          And besides the obvious limitations NASA has because of pork-driven funding that could care less about efficiency and costs, NASA is not staffed to undertake such an effort – it’s not part of their skill set.

          And furthermore, it is EXACTLY Charlie’s job to save the world…

          No it’s not. Stop making up new requirements for NASA.

          If you think NASA is supposed to “save the world”, then show us that requirement in the NASA charter.

          But I can save you the trouble. It’s not there.

          • Guest

            Show us in NASA’s charter where that is so?

            It’s not, but there are multiple serious almost catastrophic external and internal exigencies that only a fool would claim don’t exist, not recognize, ignore, or not confront them head on with everything in the available or anticipated toolkit. I happen to think Charlie is one of those people by the evidence.

          • Coastal Ron

            Guest said:

            It’s not, but there are multiple serious almost catastrophic external and internal exigencies that only a fool would claim don’t exist, not recognize, ignore, or not confront them head on with everything in the available or anticipated toolkit.

            Well then Earth is populated with a world of fools, since no nation seems to be worried about a problem that hasn’t manifested itself.

            Is there another dinosaur killer out there? Likely. Will it hit in our lifetime? Not likely. That’s about as far as people think, especially your politicians.

            I happen to think Charlie is one of those people by the evidence.

            You can think all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that unless the President and Congress give General Bolden such an explicit task to carry out, he’s not involved.

            Maybe you should study up how your government does and doesn’t work…

            • Guest

              Maybe you should study up how your government does and doesn’t work…

              I’m more interested in how planets and species work and what they do and don’t do. Sorry, I guess it just goes with the territory. I’m just trying to get the giant reusable heavy lift launch vehicle going. I’m just working with what I got, that works.

              I’m not going to waste my time and energy on the parts that demonstrably don’t work.

    • amightywind

      Why the left has turned against the lunar mission I’ll never know. Even to the point of wasting all of our time with this absurd asteroid lasso plan. The moon is the obvious target for US exploration, resources, political expansion. Has been, will be.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        Why the left has turned against the lunar mission I’ll never know.

        That’s because “the left” hasn’t. What “lunar mission” has been proposed, priced, and presented? Why take into consideration a supposed “proposal” that clearly is not even half-baked?

        How much is it supposed to cost, and what is the ROI?

      • vulture4

        Representing the left, I actually agree. We’d be glad to go to the moon. Just not with a rocket that costs $10 billion to launch.

        The asteroid retrieval mission was simply a response to Congress when they demanded NASA provide missions for the SLS when there was no money for actual landers or other payloads. In reality cost makes this mission impractical as well, and the science can be done much less expensively with robotics.

        • @vulture4,…..The ARM project is totally pointless! A silly frivolity brought up only because the Flexible Path people now know deep in their bones that a human interplanetary flight to an asteroid plainly isn’t feasible, with all of the technological unknowns. So their ‘solution’: why not just bring in the ‘finish line’ of reaching an NEO to cislunar distance? Look out, boys—–we’ll haul & tow the darned boulder rock to a high lunar parking orbit—–then & only then will we finally have ‘something to do’ way out there! Yeah, yeah, so we’re supposed to ignore the Moon and pretend it doesn’t even exist anymore; while emplacing a boulder block right next to it?! The whole wacko scheme makes zilch-nada sense, to me! If they’d rather act as if the Moon wasn’t there, why not just drag the darned asteroid-rock to LEO, and retrieve it there? Oh wait, I forgot: they’re scared of accidentally guiding it to a crash-landing, on Earth! (Hey, maybe the Lagrange point which is poles-opposite to Luna, might be a safer bet: you all could avoid having to even see the Moon from up close, then….)

          • Jim Nobles

            Chris, get a grip. ARM is just the cheapest mission NASA could think of when Congress commanded them to find a mission for SLS. NASA knows Congress isn’t going to give them the money for a Moon mission that means anything.

            I’m not excited about ARM either. Hardly anyone seems to be. But you guys that keep hollering about a “return to the moon” need to figure out how to pay for it. And splashing the ISS isn’t the answer for reasons that have been addressed over and over again in this forum.

            • Hiram

              Exactly right about the inanity of ARM. But also about ARM being the cheapest feet-on-rocks mission NASA could think of, once Congress commanded them to find one. I have to wonder if, in Bolden’s dreams, he’s hoping that Congress will refuse to fund ARM. That will take a lot of inane rationale off his shoulders.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro said:

            A silly frivolity brought up only because the Flexible Path people now know deep in their bones that a human interplanetary flight to an asteroid plainly isn’t feasible, with all of the technological unknowns.

            Golly, Chris. We have unknowns to deal with?

            Oh gee, then we better shut down NASA, since NASA has no idea how to deal with “unknowns”, right? ;-)

            What a maroon!

            • @Coastal Ron,….The Gemini project of the mid-60′s was just the kind of intermediate program, that was supposed to grapple with the technological unknowns. Imagine if NASA at that time had just proceeded to Apollo straight after Mercury? The gap in technological milestones that needed to be acheived, in the great divide of moving from mere LEO flight onto cis-lunar flight, would’ve made the subsequent larger goal much too impossible. The Mars zealots are making an enormous mistake in thinking that the Moon has no place in their far-off plans! I see a second round of Moon expeditions has the prime prerequisite to Mars ones. A renewed & more technologically extensive manned Lunar program would be the perfect intermediate, Gemini-type of project, that would meet all the goals of making a later Mars effort a viable reality. If only people could be patient about when that Red Planet land-fall will take place! Just bear with us, thru a ten-year manned Lunar effort first! THIS will do everybody a lot of long-term good!

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                I see a second round of Moon expeditions has the prime prerequisite to Mars ones.

                It was already stated in testimony to Congress that going to the Moon is not a prerequisite to going to Mars, and likely would be a distraction.

                You and others have offered no evidence that would change that. Sorry.

          • Vladislaw

            The flexible path was mentioned three times in the vision for space exploration, I didn’t hear you deriding the flexible path when President Bush signed off on it.

            • @Vladislaw,…..Perhaps that was because the Constellation project had a primary focus on returning men to the Moon. If there were concrete plans for crewed Moon flights at this time, and a clear focus on accomplishing that goal, then I would have no arguments with some side-bar, sub-project of using the same hardware to send astronauts to 3753 Cruithne, somewhere in-between expeditions, (preferably after the phase of the sortie missions, maybe prior to the outpost mission phase). But nothing like this is happening! Flexible Path has had an awful infamy, in being synonymous with ignoring the Moon. FP basically means that we go all ‘places’, everywhere, every possible direction in space, at the same time—–except Luna. THAT is the problem, I have with it!
              Now, come to think of it, provided that the Moon is not excluded as a destination, the quasi-satellite Cruithne, might just be a fairly okay compromise that I could have with the Flexible Path people. Only on the condition of renewed manned Lunar flights, complete with the full Orion & Altair types of craft, and all the full plans for farther-advanced outpost variants——-I could give my blessing to a side-project objective of sending a lunar-experienced/lunar proven spacecraft to visit Cruithne during one of its close approaches to the Earth. This quasi-satellite would probably make a good “flying-close-to” target.

              • Vladislaw

                You couldn’t be more wrong. The tools that were absolutely essential to flexible path were gutted and funds for those tools were shuffled off to pay for Ares 1.

                Space based craft, of modular design, constructed in space, that were reusable and refueled at a depot was what the VSE was all about. Constellation in no way shape or form was going to sustainable. That word, sustainable, was littered all through the VSE. It also EXPRESSLY stated that the apollo model of a big rocket, was the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the VSE proposed on how to get to the moon in a sustainable fashion.

                Flexible path means “gas n’ go” from IN SPACE … modeled after EVERY SINGLE form of transportation used by humans.

                One enormous rocket that cost billions splashed into the ocean is NOT sustainable. You have to get over that apollo mindset. Do we throw away cars after every trip? Throw away boats? Do splash a boeing 747 after every flight? Trains? Submarines? Aircraft Carriers?

                Come on Chris .. you are better than that. We have to move foreward of fuel handling in space. We deliever fuel to the ISS on almost every trip. There is no reason not to have multiple launchers putting up fuel and then reusable earth departure stage gases up pushes your vehicle to the moon, lagrange point, etc.

              • Vladislaw

                And Chris, that is the oldest congressional tactic in the book, you get rid of the o’keefe, bring in griffin, have griffin defund everything that was in the vse about flexible path. THEN say ..

                ” But nothing like this is happening! Flexible Path has had an awful infamy, in being synonymous with ignoring the Moon. FP basically means that we go all ‘places’, everywhere, every possible direction in space, at the same time—–except Luna. THAT is the problem”

                well of course flexible path won’t work… all the tools needed to actually MAKE IT WORK, were gutted and defunded. Fund it .. build the fuel depot and Nautilus-X start doing to some gas and go trips to lagrange points and lunar orbit… once there is traffic .. Bigelow will have a station there in a new york minute.

              • Vladislaw

                Not in a 100 years will NASA every have a big enough budget to carry the water for the entire country for space travel. It is time the Nation leverages commercial money too. Look at how much more that can be done in space once capital starts flooding in. Think about it.. no Henry Fords for space travel, No Hitons for hotels in space. Think about all the commercial transportation innovations that have taken place in shipping, trains, airplanes, automobiles and the inventors. As a Nation we systematically allowed to be put in place, a transportation system that would be denied to the absolute strength of our capitalist system. Free enterprise has dictated the advancement of all transportation systems. And when the government becomes the “engineer” like say of amtrak .. well the trains don’t run on time. Lets harness that entreprenuial spirit that built our Nation and apply it to the space transportation industry and get it out of the hands of senators and their idea of a Senate Launch System.

              • -I could give my blessing

                Who cares what ignorant hysterics give or don’t give their blessing to?

    • Robert G Oler

      and why would that change things? RGO

    • Neil Shipley

      How exactly is that going to happen with SLS and MPCV eating NASA’s budget? Please explain.

  • Jim Nobles

    Amightywind, as vulture4 pointed out, lt’s not the mission, it’s the money. We could start a serious Moon program as soon as the Falcon Heavy comes online since it will lift twice what shuttle did at much lesser cost. But NASA can’t afford to develop the other equipment. Not enough money. So if we get even half the money that’s spent on SLS, which honestly isn’t necessary for a Moon program, we could use that money to finance Moon mission hardware. IMHO SLS is a huge misuse of taxpayer funds at this point in our space program.

    • amightywind

      Its not the money, its the allocation of funds. Half of what NASA does, including earth sciences and ISS, are utterly pointless and without measurable return.

      • Jim Nobles

        So what would you have happen? Splash ISS now thus terminating the U.S. human space program and the infant commercial space industry? In hopes that SLS will survive the budget battles to come and put Americans back into space possibly a decade or more down the road? In your hopes what exactly do you wish would happen?

        • amightywind

          Yes. I’d say that is a popular opinion in congress and is likely to come to pass with the next GOP administration.

          • Jim Nobles

            I’m sorry, I don’t think what you hope for will happen. I expect commercial will get stronger as it continues to make progress. I expect SLS to get weaker as people come to understand its limitations and problems more fully. I don’t think government is going to dump American human spaceflight in hopes of starting it up later. There are a few nutjobs in government but not enough to do that kind of damage.

            • DCSCA

              “I’m sorry, I don’t think what you hope for will happen. I expect commercial will get stronger as it continues to make progress.” muses Jim.

              History suggests otherwise.

              Over the 80-plus year history of modern rocketry, every time the opportunity for the private sector to take the lead in this field presented itself, they balked, chiefyl due to the largesss of capital requirements and the minimal ROI and let the government carry the fiscal and technicall risks. Spaceflight- HSF that is- is an instrument of politics in this era. IT is political sciecne, not rocket science, that fuels it.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA opined:

                Over the 80-plus year history of modern rocketry, every time the opportunity for the private sector to take the lead in this field presented itself, they balked…

                Not doing something when there is no profit motive is a smart thing. But you say “modern rocketry”, and that is where the private sector is doing well, especially your buddy Elon Musk of SpaceX fame. We can also lump ULA into that, since Boeing and Lockheed Martin may operate a money-gouging monopoly, but it is a private sector money-gouging monopoly.

                However what you really mean is that you continue to insist the equivalent of driving your car forward by only using the rear view mirror as guidance. That we can only do in the future what has been done in the past. Some more of your other backward thinking compatriots said:

                “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

                “Do not bother to sell your gas shares. The electric light has no future.” —Professor John Henry Pepper, Victorian-era celebrity scientist, sometime in the 1870s

                “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943. “The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most,” IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959.

                It is the government that has no more need to be an Earth-to-LEO transportation provider, and the SLS is showing how bad of an idea it is for the government to try. I mean really, launching once every FOUR YEARS? Why bother?

              • Hiram

                “History suggests otherwise.”

                Could say the same about the 80-plus year history of information processing equipment. Gosh, remember Eniac in 1945? It was a federally (and quietly) funded project carried out at Penn. The very idea of a commercial venture coming in and making a computer better than the government could make is just blasphemous! I’ll bet Eniac could even have had a spell-checker. History does a pretty good job of suggesting.

                Or air transport. There’s another good one.

                Of course, Robert Goddard tried to take the lead in his field, but was quashed by the federal rocket program.

                It may be the HSF is an instrument of politics because no one can quite figure out what to do with it. It takes politics to fund things that you don’t quite know what to do with.

              • Vladislaw

                “Over the 80-plus year history of modern rocketry, every time the opportunity for the private sector to take the lead in this field presented itself, they balked,”

                Really? They balked? When did congress pass legislation allowing for astronaut farmers to launch their own rockets? Show me the congressional voting on the passage of this legislation. Show me the FAA documents that they had all the commercial regulations in place, show me the congressional documents where the FAA was ordered to set up commercial space operations. Show me congressional records for when the liablity regime was put in place, 80 years ago, 50 years ago for commercial human spaceflight.

                Show where a president signed off on commerical human space flight 80 years ago, 50, 30….

                show me where the military gave a green light for commercial astronaut farmers launching rockets .. show me the congressional reports where this was discussed and put in place 80 years ago…

                sheesh .. you are a broken record on this .. where in reality land .. where the rest of us live.. know that commercial space has never had any leg to stand on from any congress or president until VERY recently.

                And all the legislation needed is STILL not all in place for routine commercial orbital spaceflight.

          • Justin Kugler

            You haven’t a clue. I’ve repeatedly heard from staffers that Congress intends to continue ISS operations until NASA determines it is no longer safe to do so.

            • DCSCA

              “I’ve repeatedly heard from staffers that Congress intends to continue ISS operations until NASA determines it is no longer safe to do so.” notes Justin.

              AKA “an aerospace WPA project” as the late Deke Slayton rightly labeled it.

              • Justin Kugler

                Deke was wrong. We need the ISS to understand fundamental questions about long-duration spaceflight and microgravity science to maintain our foothold in space and establish the baseline knowledge necessary to develop space-based industries.

  • A_M_Swallow

    The technology NASA needs next is life support that lasts several weeks that can easily be built into different types of vehicles. The pre-protype vehicles are under development.

    • Vladislaw

      Politicians will not want to give up on it while the Russians are still there. We would rather see Russia abandon it first. I think that is why we pay them so much .. keep them in the game.

      • amightywind

        Your President would be the the first one to admit that cooperation with Russia in space has been an utter failure. They are a very bad actor in the world and getting worse. The sooner we get them out of our space program the better.

        • Vladislaw

          I am willing to make a prediction .. once Bigelow is flying .. NASA will become an anchor tenant at the new station.

          • amightywind

            Let us hope so. They would get the same results (very little) for much less cost. The true value for Bigelow is in space tourism.

            • Vladislaw

              I believe his bigger market will be governments in the early operations. Why? Because governments have bigger check books. There are about 38 countries that could be running a full up space program with a minimum of 1 person in space at all times for under 200 million a year.

              You have to understand. Bigelow wants to be in the leasing business. It would be up to an entreprenuer to lease space on a Bigelow facility and set up a hotel, or a research center or, or,

          • Jim Nobles

            In the joint interview with Bigelow Gerst laid out what NASA hopes to do concerning ISS. They want to extend it past 2020 with Commercial gradually taking over responsibility for it until NASA has just a minimal presence, just doing the type of research NASA needs for deep space stuff. After ISS is gone NASA would lease space on a commercial facility if necessary. But NASA has no intention of staying in the operatng a spacestation business.

            He also said NASA wasn’t going to be operating a Moon base either. They are also gong to leave that to commercial.

            Now, if they had a bunch more money they might feel differently but they don’t and so that’s the plan.

            • Jim Nobles wrote:

              In the joint interview with Bigelow Gerst laid out what NASA hopes to do concerning ISS. They want to extend it past 2020 with Commercial gradually taking over responsibility for it until NASA has just a minimal presence, just doing the type of research NASA needs for deep space stuff. After ISS is gone NASA would lease space on a commercial facility if necessary. But NASA has no intention of staying in the operatng a spacestation business.

              Another factor to consider is that CASIS manages the U.S. National Lab on the ISS for NASA. By 2020, CASIS may have matured to the point that they take responsibility for U.S. interests on the station. Justin Kugler can chime in if you’re out there.

              And for those who claim the ISS has no value, here’s an article I wrote July 31 documenting five medical discoveries thanks to microgravity research that are already on the market, or headed for clinical trials:

              “I’m a Doctor, Not an Astronaut”

              I’m going to talk with the principal investigator on the Hepatitis-C treatment in the next day or two.

              • Justin Kugler

                That was the long term vision that was laid out when I worked in the National Lab Office, Stephen.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          The sooner we get them out of our space program the better.

          Which is what Obama started back in 2009 with the Commercial Crew program.

          With or without the ISS in LEO, there will still be a need for travel to LEO, and with Russia being the only provider we have ceded the world travel market to LEO to Russia and Putin.

          How you can willingly let this happen is hard to believe.

    • pathfinder-01

      Small point life support systems that last weeks are things for a long duration spacecraft like say a hab or a space station. The kind of life support a spacecraft has will depend on just what kind of craft it is and the requirements it will have. i.e. It is sort of like heating systems. A natural gas powered furnace is a great way to heat an house but not a good way to heat a car.

      • A_M_Swallow

        Long duration spacecraft include Mars Transfer Vehicles, spacestations, habitat cabins for other inspace machines, Moon bases, Mars bases and surface rovers that are used for more than a couple of days.

        Within 4 years CCDev will have got us back to LEO. Bigelow or ISS type modules can be used to build the outside of habitats. Mighty Eagle and Project Morpheus will produce small cargo landers. Let off the leash they may produce large cargo landers. Control cabins can count as cargo (payload).

        Time to develop the life support people need. We cannot afford to repeat this for each different type of vehicle.

  • John Malkin

    amightywind
    August 13, 2013 at 9:59 am · Reply
    Yes. I’d say that is a popular opinion in congress and is likely to come to pass with the next GOP administration.

    I seem to remember this prediction last election. I doubt there would be much change in NASA policy with either party in the Executive branch. It would need a big change in the committees. SLS being an example of the power of committee.

    Japan and ESA are also part of ISS and they have spent a substantial amount of money on the program. ISS could be extended well beyond 2020 if we can get large spare parts to it. And launching a large Bigelow module would show the ability to get those parts in space. I think ISS should remain NASA’s space tech development platform. I would be willing to bet if ISS was terminated the money wouldn’t all go back to NASA anyway.

    • Hiram

      “I would be willing to bet if ISS was terminated the money wouldn’t all go back to NASA anyway.”

      That’s an important point that the “going around in circles” jokers can’t seem to admit. It’s not as if $3B of ISS will roll right into a lunar base. The ISS as a “space tech development platform” seems exactly right. Once we splash ISS, is that platform going to be on the Moon? If not, where? If I want a space development platform, I want it going around in circles close to me, instead of going around in circles far away from me. Let’s face it. If you want geopolitical power from technology superiority, splashing a space development platform isn’t the way to get it. If you want to encourage commercial space development, splashing their early-term destination isn’t going to help much either.

  • Vladislaw

    When it does reach the end .. I would sure like to see it canabilized as much as possible to bring back parts etc for testing and life cycle analysis .. or better yet .. auction it off. Maybe some of the guts can be shipped over to a bigelow station .. rather than splashing everything.

    • Coastal Ron

      Vladislaw said:

      When it does reach the end .. I would sure like to see it canabilized as much as possible to bring back parts etc for testing and life cycle analysis .. or better yet .. auction it off.

      When the time comes, I too hope someone takes it over. It will be a little complicated, since it’s an amalgam of different owners. However a consortium could bid for it, and by that time there will be enough commercial capabilities to support it without government help.

      Considering that NASA would have to pay to deorbit the ISS, giving it away to a U.S. entity would make a lot of financial sense.

      However I’d be surprised if it isn’t extended beyond 2020.

      • Coastal Ron wrote:

        However I’d be surprised if it isn’t extended beyond 2020.

        Several NASA executives have stated in recent weeks that it’s time to start planning that decision. They want to continue. They need Congress to buy in by 2015 so they can plan accordingly. Partner nations won’t commit unless Congress commits.

        About a year ago when Charlie Bolden was here, he made an off-the-cuff comment implying NASA post-2020 might want to commercialize the ISS so it moves on to Beyond Earth Orbit activities. Commercial ISS is on the orbital horizon.

        • Vladislaw

          If that is the case, wouldn’t that decision still have to be decided by 2015 and debated in congress?

          • Vladislaw wrote:

            If that is the case, wouldn’t that decision still have to be decided by 2015 and debated in congress?

            Yes. I’d think it would move forward in next year’s budget process, or perhaps the next authorization cycle.

            Of course, like the asteroid initiative, it will be seriously ugly because all the porkers will be circling to divide up ISS funding to send to their districts.

  • guest

    AT the time that Constellation was established, a bunch of people were up in arms that Shuttle was too dangerous and useless and besides we needed to go to a destination. That was the origin of Orion (aka MPCV). So they threw Shuttle under the proverbial bus, killed it, put the Shuttles into museums, and began to build a destination system which NASA quickly determined (but not fast enough to save Shuttle or build a launch system based on it)was unaffordable.

    Now of course with Orion and SLS they will have a sort of half of a destination system. Still no prospect for the remainder of the system.

    Based on the Apollo 13 experience, I would say that half a system is too dangerous to fly to lunar or asteroidal distances. In the case of Apollo they had a back up spacecraft aboard until all of the CSM systems had been shown to be in good order. They were on a free-return until then.

    The sole exception of course was Apollo 8, which was a chancy mission designed and defined because NASA leaders felt that if they did not launch that mission at that time, then the Russians would launch a Zond with a cosmonaut on a Proton on a circumlunar flight (which they’d already done unmanned and it was partially successful) and forever after there would be a debate about who made it to the moon first.

    Why would someone think that with Orion it was now OK to fly an Orion to an asteroid? Would it make sense from any standpoint? Science, safety….

    You might make a case that its a test flight for a later lunar or planetary mission that involves a mission module or a lander that provides a back-up; but those missions would not happen for many years-perhaps another decade or two after the CSM alone mission.

    So you come right back to the same question of why would you fly a test flight with a safety critical system especially if by the time you got ready to do the real mission it would be a generation later, there would have to be significant new systems upgrades, there would have been a large turnover of people and experience….makes no sense. NASA continues to waste money on a senseless plan. How many tens of billions of $$ do you think they will waste before someone comes to their senses? Maybe no one actually reads the history books?

    • Coastal Ron

      guest said:

      AT the time that Constellation was established, a bunch of people were up in arms that Shuttle was too dangerous and useless and besides we needed to go to a destination. That was the origin of Orion (aka MPCV). So they threw Shuttle under the proverbial bus, killed it, put the Shuttles into museums, and began to build a destination system which NASA quickly determined (but not fast enough to save Shuttle or build a launch system based on it)was unaffordable.

      Your timeline is so off that it’s not worth debating or discussing anything else you wrote. Pretty much it’s ignorant of any facts.

      For instance, Constellation was started while the Shuttles were still flying, not after they were sent to museums in 2011. In fact, Constellation was cancelled before the Shuttle fleet was retired. See what I mean by your timeline being off?

      Not only that, but it wasn’t NASA that determined that the Constellation program was unaffordable, it was the Augustine Commission.

      How many tens of billions of $$ do you think they will waste before someone comes to their senses? Maybe no one actually reads the history books?

      Well we know that you certainly don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t have wasted so much time with that first paragraph.

      And you keep forgetting who is pushing for the SLS – Congress. So there is your answer, Congress does not really care about wasting money if it benefits their constituents (whomever they may be).

  • DCSCA

    “Of course, Robert Goddard tried to take the lead in his field, but was quashed by the federal rocket program.” sdpiuns Hiram.

    Inaccurate.

    Goddard was starved for private sectored financing, save stipends thanks to Guggenheim through Lindbergh’s interest. American government interest in rocketry in Goddard’s time was minimal compared to Germany. In fact, the German government had a standing order for all of Goddard’s patents and it was the German military which financed von Braun when private capital dried up for their rocket clubs, Hiram.

  • Bill L

    Sorry Coastal-you are off base. I don’t think guest meant to give a specific timeline and as he/she said shutting down Shuttle was exactly the Constellation cronies rationale for supporting and needing Orion. Guest’s statements are quite accurate.Today we hear of the shortsighted ideas people have to shut down ISS. With that you’ll all wind up with nothing at all.

  • Coastal Ron

    Bill L said:

    shutting down Shuttle was exactly the Constellation cronies rationale for supporting and needing Orion.

    The Shuttle was a dangerous system, and that is what the CAIB said. That was the reason for shutting down, plus the fact that there was nothing left for it to do once the ISS was construction complete for the U.S.

    As to Constellation, it was a botched implementation of the VSE by Griffin, but separate from the Shuttle decisions.

    • vulture4

      What the CAIB actually said was that Shuttle COULD continue to fly safely until a replacement system for human spaceflight was operational. They assumed the replacement system would be the Orbital Space Plane, a concept that was essentially the same as the current Commercial Crew proposals. They stated that the replacement system should be designed solely for human access to low earth orbit, because a vehicle with more ambitious goals (i.e. BEO human spaceflight) would certainly fail because the nation was not willing to provide the money it would require.

      • @Vulture4,….Sure, the Shuttle could have been extended to fly, at a decelerated flight rate, for perhaps another half-decade. But recall, that it was the expectation of the Orion crew capsule being available soon, plus the idea that Constellation was soon to replace it, (as the major manned program), that drove the Shuttle early-termination decision. Sadly, after February/April 2010, all that got blown to bits, by the Obama administration.
        They eliminated the Moon as a goal. In that sudden swoop, now you had no motive to ever build a lander vehicle. With no Altair craft on the horizon, you now had nothing driving the development of all those critical planetary-faring, new technologies: the kinds of stuff that the Mars enthusiasts want to see spring into existence. Space suits durable enough to withstand planetary dust; radiation-protection for the translunar craft/lander modules/base modules, that could withstand a solar flare event; just to name two items on that list. Imagine if the Chinese develop all or some of those needed new technologies—–via a manned Moon program of their own? They’ll have the first lunar-landing modules, in use, since the Apollo days, of any nation on earth. Meanwhile, all we’re going to do by the mid-2020′s is fly in formation with a boulder-sized NEO rock, artificially retrieved & emplaced into a lunar orbit, as our prime beyond-LEO activity! Which nation would you suppose is farther ahead in the space race, of acheivement, at that point?! China or the U.S.?

        • Justin Kugler

          You are either ignorant or lying. Lunar work had been descoped from our activities and we were directed to focus on the ISS as the primary mission for Orion even before President Obama took office because of a lack of resources. Technology development was also dramatically cut by Griffin to focus NASA’s exploration resources on Ares I and Orion.

      • DCSCA

        “What the CAIB actually said was that Shuttle COULD continue to fly safely until a replacement system for human spaceflight was operational.”

        Yeah but the caveat included recertification and that would have been cost-prohibitive for a system wthat was essentiually 1970s technology- even with system upgrades. In this fiscal environment it wasn’t a cost-effective proposal. Shuttle was costing as much as the equivalent rocketry from the ’60s to operate and the whole point of it was to bring those costs into line through reuseability. Shuttle followed Concorde into the museums for similar reasons- the economics clipped their wings. Problem is, shelving shutt;e w/o a replacement system further along left a gap that borders on generational. That didn’t have to be- the failure was managerial and political, not technical. But that’s the nature of American space efforts anyway- always reactive, not proactive.

  • DCSCA

    “Deke [Slayton] was wrong.” says Justin.

    Except he wasn’t.

    And his experience along with the messy history of the station project reinforces that fact.

  • moon bucket

    Bolden should say it again and again. This is the mission unless you pony up money. Congress needs to fund a mission or you get make work. Period.

    • Guest

      Well many feel the ‘mission’ should be reusability whether it be heavy life moon and mars ships or just LEO and GEO. That shouldn’t take any ponying up. NASA has just plain screwed up.

  • It was already stated in testimony to Congress that going to the Moon is not a prerequisite to going to Mars, and likely would be a distraction.
    You and others have offered no evidence that would change that. Sorry.

    This is probably the only time Ron says someone stating something in Congressional testimony means it has to be right. Does that also apply to Congressman?
    By NASA’s own radiation limits, if launching from Earth NASA will have to come up with new, expensive, likely nuclear, propulsion systems to get us to Mars in a short flight time. That would be an expensive, long term, and far off development to complete.
    On the other hand by investing in the infrastructure of lunar propellant depots we could have flights to Mars of weeks duration rather than months with existing chemical propulsion and moreover they could also be used for getting to other destinations such as asteroids, whether for exploration or profit.
    What’s preventing this is the mental block NASA has that: Return to the Moon = $100 billion Constellation program. But the fact of the matter is what was driving the huge size and cost of Constellation was having a huge lander in the Altair at 45 metric tons. But this is provably unnecessary for a return to the Moon by the simple fact that this is three times the size of the Apollo lunar lander.
    Imagine how much smaller, and cheaper, your launcher could be if it only had to carry 1/3rd that mass to the Moon. It could probably be done by launcher(s) sending just 60 mT to LEO. Then you have a wide variety of launch combinations that could do it, including even the first interim version of the SLS in 2017.
    When you tack on the fact that the required propulsive stages already exist so you don’t have the expensive development costs of Apollo, such a program of sending multiple flights to the Moon can be done orders of magnitude more cheaply than Constellation.

    Bob Clark

    • @Robert Clark,….Sure, maybe the lunar lander could be made smaller, but you wouldn’t want it to be way-too-small, either, going to the other extreme. The lunar lander has to be at least somewhat larger than the old Apollo LM, because our overall goal with this second round of lunar flights is a much more extensive one.
      After the first few sorties to prove the hardware—–and there’s nothing wrong with going through a transient, sortie mission phase, as long as we eventually move beyond it——we’ll need a sizable-enough lander in order to design an unmanned cargo-transport variant, so that a base module can be sent Moonward ahead of the designated crew; hence expanding & lengthening our manned surface operations. One idea would be to reduce the crew size from four to the three of the Apollo days, with the idea that on the Outpost-type fortnight-or-more span expeditions, we’ll be able to send the whole crew down to the surface, leaving the Orion (or whichever) orbiter craft, untended in low lunar orbit, to be reached by the crew later. This capability of leaving an orbiting spacecraft alone & on automatic, and have a landing party rendezvous with it again in its parking orbit, from another planet, has also NEVER been tried before on an actual deep space mission. Just goes to show you just how much we really need to learn before sending astronauts into interplanetary space!

      Another easily overlooked parameter of a manned lunar mission, with two distinct spacecrafts, is that when you arrive in low lunar orbit: which one of the vehicles is going to decelerate the combined stack, to fire the engine for the LOI?? In the Constellation flight-plan, this was going to be the Altair lander——quite different from Apollo’s scheme of using the CSM orbiter. There are variations & alternatives for LOR, of course: like sending the lander unmanned, ahead of the crew, & parking it in lunar orbit; to be rendezvoused with the crewed orbiter vehicle, some days later. Hence, further reducing the amount of mass your launching-from-earth rockets would have to carry, at any given launch. However you’d do it, the task of ferrying lunar orbiter & lander modules, is definitely an affordable task, which NASA CAN DO, on a credible, any-given-year budget. I do not miss your overall point.

      • Vladislaw

        NASA doesn’t need to design ANY of the variants. All they have to say is “we want to land 4 people on luna from a station based at an EM lagrange point .. how much per seat?”

        “we need to land X amount of cargo on the moon, 4 times per year … how much?”

        THAT is the way our space agency SHOULD be working .. the tech for the moon is DECADES old .. all NASA needs to do is publish a request for bids and let commercial figure out ALL THE REST.

      • Vladislaw

        Does NASA design trains that delivers goods for them? 18 wheelers? Ships? Pickups?

        Why is this ALWAYS so different when it comes to space … after 50 freakin years!

        want cargo on the moon? get a bid .. just like EVERY item NASA orders on earth… just get a freakin bid for it.

      • pathfinder-01

        Not really. There are some reasons for a heavier Lander (Apollo’s wasn’t very safe by modern standards…you could literally punch a hole in it.) but if you want longer missions the smart move is to preposition supplies and the hab and you don’t need to have the manned lander and the cargo lander have the same design. Or design a Lander capable of holding 2 weeks’ worth of supplies (Altair) or even the Apollo LM cargo variant that would have needed two manned Saturn V launches in the 60ies.

        The bigger the Lander the more expensive it will be and you can design a Lander that is built to land cargo only and could be lofted via something like a Delta or an Atlas and sent straight to the moon or sent via ballistic trajectories or sent via solar electric propulsion. The slow boat methods increase the amount of mass that can be landed. The only thing a lunar crew needs (besides solving the darned radiation problem) is supplies like food, water, oxygen and perhaps some repair parts.
        And at the cost of Apollo, constellation or even SLS you never can get past the sortie phase. Heck at the cost of both Constellation and SLS you can’t even get to the sortie phase. This is why commercial space is so important. It splits the costs over more parties than just NASA esp. the cost to launch.

        As for an unmanned docking in BEO, ah we do it all the time at the ISS (Progress) and ATV. Did it to board to the ISS and every space station ever launched, doing it in BEO is no different than doing it in LEO. The only difference is that a failed docking could lead to loss of crew but that is the same risk as the Apollo mission.

        Here is one way you could do lunar missions. Design a Lander more in line with Apollo (very short mission say only able to support a crew 3-7 days but able to be stored or supported via ground equipment longer). Send ahead supplies say solar panels and extra batteries for power, food, water, spare parts to enable longer missions. This is how space stations work. You don’t launch the crew with all the supplies needed for the mission and use specialized cargo craft like Progress, Dragon, Cygnus, HTV, and ATV extend the life of the mission. Spadis figures that Delta could land about 8MT on the moon; 8MT is enough to support a crew for at least a month or two.
        A smarter move might be to leave your earth return vehicle at L1 or L2 so that you don’t have phasing issues and can leave the moon at anytime vs. LLO.

        Apollo was a political stunt, but stunts do not make for expansion of humanity into space. Just a rail was needed to settle the west so is commercial launch and capabilities needed for humanity to go further into space.Without it all you can do is expensive stunts, and NASA does not even have the budget to do that.

        • @pathfinder-01,…I agree that the new lunar lander must be a heck of a lot more stronger & durable, than the Apollo one was. I also believe firmly that it should be larger, because this time the lunar stays will be longer. Even if a freight-only variant is to do most of the mission extending, in terms of increased provisions, you’d still need a robust & durable crew-landing vehicle, to cope with the unexpected, and to last long-enough as the crew’s prime habitation, to be able to reach the outpost module, and serve as their return ferry, back to lunar orbit. Hence, the sortie span of time for a lunar lander to be viable, as a stand-alone occupied module, has to be at least somewhat longer than the old Apollo one.
          Speculation here, but perhaps the prime crew-lander can be designed to last at least a week on the Moon. A week & a half or two, would be even better, but that might be just about the upper limit; (that this lander would be set for use as the sole habitation). Anything beyond a fortnight stay, presumedly would call for the addition of a cargo-only, one-way lander—–which could double as a longer-duration surface habitat; (unless these two functions were split up between two, one-way cargo-landers). However the basic module-landing scheme goes, I miss not your point, that planting lunar crews for outpost-type/outpost-length expeditions, need not be any more complicated than the manner in which current LEO station crews are being supplied & sent.

  • pathfinder-01

    Or you could simply land close to a habitation module that could be reused and put the lunar lander into wait mode . Another idea in the 80ies was Chariot which was a mobile pressurized moon rover that doubled as habitat. There are multiple ways to solve this problem than either Cxp or Apollo.

    I think designing a moon lander as an moon base is at best primitive and at worse more difficult than it should be. In general the smaller and lighter something is, the easier it will be to land it or launch it. Making it big enough to support a crew for two weeks all by itself can cause a lot of problems.

    • Neil Shipley

      Agreed. Lunar landers, in fact any lander should be just that, a vehicle to provide transport to and from a habitation module. Making them do more adds complexity and risk and consequently cost.

  • Neil Shipley

    In addition, there’s no reason why they have to be solid and heavy for transporting people or cargo. They just need to be able to do the job. You don’t need to make a lifeboat out of them.

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