Congress, NASA, Other

Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing

When multimillionaire and one-time space tourist Dennis Tito announced Inspiration Mars early this year, it was billed as a non-profit venture, funded via philanthropy, to send two people on a 501-day Mars flyby mission that would launch in early January 2018. Tito said he planned to fund the mission primarily through donations; they were open to selling some data collected during the mission to NASA, but that was, at that time, the only kind of funding they were seeking from the space agency.

Less than nine months later, Tito and Inspiration Mars have changed course. In a report summary released yesterday, timed with testimony given by Tito before a hearing of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, Inspiration Mars rolled out an alternative plan that relies on a public-private partnership with NASA that makes use of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and a modified Orion spacecraft, as well as commercial crew transportation systems. It would also rely primarily on NASA funding to make the mission possible. This proposal would, in effect, reshape national space policy, with a very short period for Congress and the White House to endorse this approach in order to meet its launch window.

“The way that we’re proposing this is that this is a NASA mission with a philanthropic partner contributing to the mission,” said Inspiration Mars Foundation program manager Taber MacCallum in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “This has to be, first and foremost, a NASA mission.”

MacCallum said that the shift in focus was driven by two factors. One was that the commercial systems they studied to do the mission “really didn’t come in with the kind of margins that gave us a good feeling about the risk associated with that.” The other was their growing confidence that the SLS could do the job. “It’s a good thing the SLS is being developed,” he said. “We really came around to independently validating the need for SLS. I didn’t frankly start off as an SLS supporter in this, and I came around to being one.”

The report summary itself does not go into great details about costs, other than Inspiration Mars expects the need for several hundred million dollars in additional NASA funding, primarily to accelerate development of the Dual Use Upper Stage (DUUS) for the SLS. That upper stage, needed to send the Inspiration Mars “Vehicle Stack” from low Earth orbit onto a Mars flyby trajectory, is currently not slated by NASA to be ready until the early 2020s. In his Congressional testimony, Tito indicated that up to $700 million in additional NASA funding—about $100–200 million per year over several years—would be needed to develop the DUUS and other elements, with Inspiration Mars providing on the order of $300 million.

To maintain schedule to achieve their planned mission—the spacecraft would have to depart in a window that opens Christmas Eve 2017 and closes less than two weeks later—Tito said they would need to get a commitment of support from Congress and the White House in the immediate future. “We have just a couple of months to get some signals that would indicate serious interest developing,” Tito said in the media teleconference. He and MacCallum said they have bene in touch with Congress and White House officials; on the latter, “we have had good discussions so far,” MacCallum said. Tito said later that an unnamed member of Congress would introduce a bill “in the next week or two” about the mission, but declined to name that member or members, or the contents of the bill.

NASA, though, doesn’t seem to be on board in support of that mission at the moment. “The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them,” NASA spokesman David Weaver said in a statement provided to media. “However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop.”

NASA could, of course, be directed to support that mission by Congress and the White House, but there was no clear enthusiasm for the concept among members of the House Science Committee at yesterday’s hearing, some of whom were wary of Tito’s request for federal dollars. “Are you suggesting that the mission couldn’t be undertaken without additional NASA funding?” asked Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the space subcommittee. “Right now, I don’t see a lot of evidence that money is available,” Tito responded.

Inspiration Mars is already developing a fallback plan if support from the federal government doesn’t materialize in time for their late-2017 mission plan. Tito and MacCallum discussed an alternative trajectory for a 2021 mission that, while 88 days longer than the original plan, would include flybys of both Mars and Venus. Tito in particular said he was convinced someone would attempt that mission, claiming that Russia was planning to revive the long-retired Energia heavy-lift rocket for just such a mission (he admitted that he had no evidence to support such a proposal but “it seems pretty obvious to me.”)

“Why not move this mission to the here and now and now wait until the 2030s?” he asked in his Congressional testimony. Waiting until 2021, he warned, means that “another country, almost surely China, will have seen our missed opportunity and taken the lead themselves. May I offer a frank word to the subcommittee: the United States will carry out a flyby mission or we will watch as others do it. If America is every going to do a flyby mission of Mars, we’re going to have to do it in 2018.”

63 comments to Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing

  • amightywind

    I can’t believe what I’m reading. What is it about becoming a rich guy that makes them want to run their own space program? Nice idea. *Plonk*. Another word for public-private partnership is cronyism. Sorry Dennis. We already got plenty in NASA.

    The astronauts would be pretty gamy after 501 days in Orion. I’d hate to be the frogman who opened the hatch after the mission.

  • Hiram

    This pivot was entirely predictable. NASA’s and the congressional reaction to this will be all-telling. Inspiration Mars is a stunt. It brings nothing back but pictures of Mars which, by the way, we already have plenty of. It’s a really cool stunt, which is where the “huge desire” comes from, but nothing more than that. If federal dollars are committed to this project, that would pretty much underscore what human spaceflight is all about in this nation. The competitive edge that Inspiration Mars says it would preserve is the ability to pull off big stunts. Apollo was a stunt, but to JFK it was a profoundly useful stunt. Apollo certainly was NOT “to build U.S. popular interest in space exploration”. No way. That’s what Tito called the goal of Inspiration Mars.

    BTW, if China sees our missed opportunity to do this big stunt, and wants to do it themselves, I guess that’s no big deal to me.

    It’s interesting to contrast this particular commercial effort with that of other commercial efforts that focus on new generation launcher development in the near term. The real heroes of space exploration are going to be the latter, not the former.

  • Guest

    The real heroes of space exploration are going to be …

    If you are still thinking in terms of ‘heros of space exploration’ then you aren’t even in the game. Your thinking is entirely out of scope with reality, sorry. That statement is the most succinct elucidation of dysfunction here that I can think of.

    • Hiram

      “If you are still thinking in terms of ‘heros of space exploration’ then you aren’t even in the game.”

      Well, I was thinking it when I wrote it. What exactly is your problem with it? The only dysfunction here is your unexplained (but quite succinct!) criticism.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Tito may have originally been thinking that SpaceX would be very supportive of this venture, but I would guess that Musk was not going to support it any further than being a supplier. And while the Falcon Heavy will likely be ready in time to support this mission, extra Dragon Crew vehicles may not be available at that time, and certainly not a modified one that this mission would require.

    Because of that, the only other near-term U.S. alternative was NASA for hardware, and if you’re going to do that, you have to use both the SLS and MPCV.

    The SLS was intended for such a mission, but they are going to have to usurp a test flight in order to do this. The Orion/MPCV was not yet planned to be used for a Mars return mission, and wasn’t planned to be ready for humans until 2019 at the earliest. With the lack of overall funding NASA has, I’m not sure anyone could depend on this happening.

    Tito is pretty smart though, and he may be thinking that he can get SLS/MPCV backers in Congress to push this through, especially since the SLS needs to be seen as being needed soon (Something, Anything!!), otherwise it’s going to be viewed as vulnerable to cancellation.

    I like the idea of using the Cygnus though, and kudos to Orbital Sciences for getting included in this. I doubt it will happen, but this is a good PR boost for Orbital Sciences.

  • Coastal Ron

    If you look at the study, they call for a Orion Pathfinder Earth Reentry Pod (ERP), which would have a different heatshield than the current Orion. From the study:

    The third major area of continued study is the reentry speed and associated heating. As stated above the reentry speed of the ERP will be greater than any other man-made object. Given the significance of the reentry concern an RSAA was put in place with Ames Research Center (ARC) early in the study to address the vehicle shapes, entry trajectories and thermal protection system (TPS) materials that would be required to safely bring the crew back to Earth.

    ARC recommended the use of phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA) as the TPS material for the IM ERP heat shield.

    The Orion uses an AVCOAT heatshield, which SpaceX uses their version of PICA called PICA-X, which they think is good enough for Mars return.

    They don’t say who will build the Earth Reentry Pod, but my guess would be that it wouldn’t be through NASA, but could use some leftover NASA assets. Maybe the composite Orion shell that ATK built?

    Still, I think the chances of this happening are pretty slim. Nice concept, but I don’t think we’re there yet on cost.

  • common sense

    If I had to choose between ARM and Inspiration Mars for a NASA mission I say go for Mars. ARM is just plain stupid and useless. Inspiration Mars not much better but it will speak better to the public rather than visiting an inconsequential rock brought back to near Earth.

    My suggestion though is to make Inspiration Mars something independent and have NASA support but not NASA rockets that will never see the day of light. Nor will Orion. As an Orion with PICA??? It was proposed early in the CEV and rejected by NASA… So now they will change it back after tons of cash invested in the new AVCOAT? Yeah it’s going to happen.

    And. Why use an improbable Orion hen Dragon is ready and has the proper TPS. It remains to be seen TPS on Dragon is good enough but at least it’s flying and PICA has been tested for much higher reentry velocity reentry. There are unknowns though with the PICA as it is on Dragon to sustain Mars return velocity.

    Send an uncrewed mission to Mars first and check all is good. Then send a crewed mission if all is okay.

    Yeah and make it a private endeavor. Nonprofit is okay if they can get the funds.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    There are two takeaways here.
    First, once again, a private businessman has his hand out for government money to finance his space project. Thus far the idea of a purely commercial space program is largely a myth.
    Second, a businessman who knows something about engineering and physics has concluded that he needs the heavy lift Space Launch System to conduct a beyond LEO mission. Take that SLS haters.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Second, a businessman who knows something about engineering and physics has concluded that he needs the heavy lift Space Launch System to conduct a beyond LEO mission.”

      Another lie, as usual. Nowhere in his testimony or analyses does Tito or the Inspiration Mars team state that.

      Given the huge programmatic risk introduced by putting all the mission hardware up on SLS’s first launch, it’s almost certain that Tito has been forced into using SLS by a lack of private fundraising (he’s only promising $300M, not the original $1B) and/or a lack of access to the Falcon Heavy from Musk/SpaceX (the previous baseline for the mission).

      In fact, the Inspiration Mars report goes into great length about all the shortcomings of SLS and MPCV for this mission:

      “Unfortunately, the Primary team’s evaluation of the SLS-Orion option uncovered many technical challenges. First, while the Orion spacecraft is being designed to perform a wide variety of mission scenarios, many aspects of the IM mission fall outside of that design envelope. One of
      these critical areas was the reentry speed. Orion’s missions only require reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 11.2 km/sec, whereas the special IM trajectory would have the spacecraft reentering at speeds near 14.2 km/sec. While this is only a 27% increase in reentry speed, the physics of atmospheric heating produce heat loads that are several times greater. To survive the Orion spacecraft would need a new, thicker, heavier heat shield along with a strict
      mass limit that is difficult to achieve given the fixed geometry of the Orion crew module. Additionally, the specialized ECLSS needed for the 501 day mission and the amount of food and water required for the crew increases the launch mass of the Orion capsule to the point where a
      safe launch abort is perhaps no longer possible. With respect to SLS, the current program plan calls for the near-term development of an upper stage that is not capable of the producing the throw mass required for Inspiration Mars… Lastly, using SLS and Orion for IM would mean that people would be on board for the very first launch of the SLS rocket. The Inspiration Mars Advisory Board determined that this brought risks that were inconsistent with the safety goals established for the project. As a result, the combined use of SLS and Orion to perform Inspiration Mars
      mission was dropped from further consideration.”

      To make up for these shortcomings, Inspiration Mars requires the development of new versions of SLS and MPCV. They’re not even the same vehicles. And then those new versions of SLS and MPCV have to supplemented with a separate commercial crew launch. The architecture is a kludge because SLS and MPCV as NASA is currently pursuing them can’t do the Mars job. The changes required by the Inspiration Mars report are a critique of the current SLS/MPCV designs, not an endorsement.

      “Take that SLS haters.”

      What a mature and thoughtful comment.

      • common sense

        Interestingly a heavier heat shield might be better for aerodynamics and worse for heating – ballistic coefficient. As usual if a vehicle does not have the correct requirements we end up with a kludge that may, or not, work. No one actually knows anymore what were the design requirements for Orion. What a mess.

        Musk is in this business to make money. I am not sure he would agree to “give away” a launch/launch vehicle, especially if it would delay paying customers.

        It’s funny that there is an expression such as “SLS haters” here and elsewhere but there is no “commercial haters” on the pro-commercial side. What does it say about those backing SLS/MPCV?

        Oh well.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        You haven’t actually demonstrated that I was lying. In fact quite the opposite. But I expected nothing less from the SLS hate crowd.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “You haven’t actually demonstrated that I was lying.”

          You are lying. You wrote:

          “a businessman who knows something about engineering and physics has concluded that he needs the heavy lift Space Launch System to conduct a beyond LEO mission”

          That’s a lie. Nowhere in Tito’s testimony or the Inspiration Mars study report do he or they “conclude” that the “Space Launch System” is required to “conduct a beyond LEO [sic] mission”. For you to prove that you’re not lying, you need to find, directly quote from, and link to this statement in Tito’s or Inspiration Mars’ materials. Good luck with that. It doesn’t exist.

          In fact, if you were actually capable of reading and comprehending written or technical materials like the Inspiration Mars report, it’s clear that they’re not interested in NASA’s SLS (or MPCV). Tito and Inspiration Mars want to make major changes to both vehicles. I’ll cite from the Inspiration Mars report again:

          “Unfortunately, the Primary team’s evaluation of the SLS-Orion option uncovered many technical challenges. First, while the Orion spacecraft is being designed to perform a wide variety of mission scenarios, many aspects of the IM mission fall outside of that design envelope. One of these critical areas was the reentry speed. Orion’s missions only require reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 11.2 km/sec, whereas the special IM trajectory would have the spacecraft reentering at speeds near 14.2 km/sec. While this is only a 27% increase in reentry speed, the physics of atmospheric heating produce heat loads that are several times greater. To survive the Orion spacecraft would need a new, thicker, heavier heat shield along with a strict mass limit that is difficult to achieve given the fixed geometry of the Orion crew module. Additionally, the specialized ECLSS needed for the 501 day mission and the amount of food and water required for the crew increases the launch mass of the Orion capsule to the point where a safe launch abort is perhaps no longer possible. With respect to SLS, the current program plan calls for the near-term development of an upper stage that is not capable of the producing the throw mass required for Inspiration Mars… Lastly, using SLS and Orion for IM would mean that people would be on board for the very first launch of the SLS rocket. The Inspiration Mars Advisory Board determined that this brought risks that were inconsistent with the safety goals established for the project. As a result, the combined use of SLS and Orion to perform Inspiration Mars mission was dropped from further consideration.”

          The Inspiration Mars report is an indictment of SLS and MPCV’s shortfalls for Mars missions. If NASA’s versions of these vehicles can’t support a lousy two-man Mars circumnavigation mission today without major changes like (yet a third) new upper stage and a new heat shield, then they have no hope of ever supporting human Mars landings without more billions of dollars and years of changes, overruns, and schedule slippage.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “But I expected nothing less from the SLS hate crowd.”

          Yet more labeling entire groups of people without knowing them or understanding their arguments such that you can correctly differentiate and characterize them.

          My, what an enlightened poster you are.

      • Crash Davis

        “The changes required by the Inspiration Mars report are a critique of the current SLS/MPCV designs, not an endorsement.”

        Wrong, ignorant, patently false and completely nonsensical.

        The IM report completely justifies the use of SLS as “the SLS rocket with the only launch vehicle with enough throw mass for the job.” This cannot be any clearer, even to a 5th grader.

        Without the SLS, the mission would require propellant transfer technology and complex on-orbit refueling (which doesn’t exist) and multiple launches and unneeded complexity. The jugheads who propose believing commercial vehicles can undertake human exploration missions have been completely depantsed as living in a delusional, non-existent world. This means you DBN, Ron, Oler, Simberg etc.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “The IM report completely justifies the use of SLS as ‘the SLS rocket with the only launch vehicle with enough throw mass for the job.’”

          First, your sentence is nonsensical. “SLS as ‘the SLS rocket…”? Learn English. If you can’t write a cogent argument, then don’t post.

          Second, nowhere does the report make that statement. You’re just making it up. You’re spreading the exact same lie as Whittington.

          In fact, the report explicitly states that:

          “With respect to SLS, the current program plan calls for the near-term development of an upper stage that is not capable of the producing the throw mass required for Inspiration Mars”

          The report as written actually says the exact opposite of your claim. The report plainly states that SLS doesn’t have the performance needed to execute even a lousy 2-person Mars circumnavigation mission. It then argues that the taxpayer should cough up another $700 million in changes to SLS (at a minimum) if NASA wants to do the Inspiration Mars mission.

          It’s a sick joke. The taxpayer is being charged a couple tens of billions of dollars so NASA can screw up SLS requirements so badly that the HLV can’t even support a lousy Apollo 8 mission for Mars without a former JPL employee with deep pockets showing them that the Emperor has no pants and that the agency is going to have to go back to the taxpayer for even more money.

          “This cannot be any clearer, even to a 5th grader.”

          I know a 2nd grader who would actually read this report and try to comprehend it before jumping to conclusions and spreading lies the way you did.

          “Without the SLS, the mission would require propellant transfer technology… (which doesn’t exist)”

          Propellant transfer is used all the time today. Long-term cryogenic storage has not been tested in space. The original Inspiration Mars baseline relied on the former, not the latter. Either learn the difference or don’t comment on technical subjects out of your depth.

          “The jugheads… This means you DBN, Ron, Oler, Simberg etc.”

          Way to jump into the ad hominem attacks, you lying, illiterate, non-technical idiot.

          “and multiple launches”

          So does the SLS architecture in the Inspiration Mars report, brainiac.

          Oy vey… the architecture in the Inspiration Mars report relies on multiple launches because SLS is too unreliable for crew transport. Even after the taxpayer coughs up another $700 million to make SLS capable of supporting the Mars circumnavigation mission, the architecture will still have to rely on a commercial crew crutch.

          Given that you didn’t even realize or understand that Inspiration Mars still has to rely on multiple launches, even with SLS, I have to ask, are you for real?

          Are you really so ignorant and lazy that you did not bother to read the Inspiration Mars report? Or Tito’s testimony? Or any of the related news articles? Or even any of the pretty handouts that accompanied Tito’s testimony or the Inspiration Mars report?

          Or are you really just so dumb that you never comprehended this point after looking at these materials?

          Please, I really have to know.

          • Crash Davis

            “Second, nowhere does the report make that statement. You’re just making it up. You’re spreading the exact same lie as Whittington.”

            You are hilarious and completely incompetent. This is fun.

            “2.4 Mission Operations

            The IM Vehicle Stack would be lifted into LEO by the SLS rocket with the DUUS, the only launch vehicle with enough throw mass for the job.”

            You obviously did not read the report or understand it. What launch vehicle is shown in Concept of Operations? Everything else you write is simple diversion to this fact.

            Continue on with your diversions. Do you have an occupation?

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “The IM Vehicle Stack would be lifted into LEO by the SLS rocket with the DUUS”

              You do understand that DUUS doesn’t exist, right? That’s it’s not being pursued or is even approved for any SLS launch on the manifest, right?

              Adding DUUS and modifying SLS for it requires at least another $700 million on top of the billions taxpayers have already had to cough up.

              Again, are you really this ignorant of the topic you’re talking about or are you just that dumb? I’d still like to know.

              “You obviously did not read the report or understand it.”

              I read the part that plainly states:

              “With respect to SLS, the current program plan calls for the near-term development of an upper stage that is not capable of the producing the throw mass required for Inspiration Mars”

              What part of that don’t you understand?

              “What launch vehicle is shown in Concept of Operations?”

              It’s not the HLV that NASA is pursuing, and according to a spokesman, NASA doesn’t want to fund it:

              “The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them.”

              Same goes for the White House, according to NASAWatch:

              “Administration sources add that it would be incorrect to state that Administration supports the Inspiration Mars mission as a ‘NASA mission’ requiring NASA funds or hardware.”

              “Everything else you write is simple diversion to this fact.”

              It’s not a fact. It’s a lie. Conflating the existing SLS design (such as it is) with a HLV that uses an untested and unbuilt upper stage that neither NASA nor the White House want to fund is Tinkerbell space policy at its worst.

              “Do you have an occupation?”

              I’ve managed federal space programs for almost two decades now. What are your credentials, Tinkerbell?

              • Crash Davis

                “I’ve managed federal space programs for almost two decades now.”

                Another complete fabrication, or probably you wish to manage space programs ala George Costanza always wanted to be an architect on Seinfeld. The only program you managed was your older brother’s Estes model rocket. Any competent manager would know about basic physics and the rocket equation.

                I’ll leave you with this quote from Taber McCallum from Inspiration Mars:

                http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24633-ambitious-mars-joyride-cannot-succeed-without-nasa.html#.Uo_WWLa1ceb

                The turnaround has taken some getting used to for the members of Inspiration Mars. “We thought we could do this philanthropically and be outside of the government,” says McCallum. “But we found ourselves saying yeah, you’ve gotta use the SLS to go to Mars! Wow, NASA was right! How do you like them apples?”

                and this:

                http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/tito-now-wants-nasa-funding-for-inspiration-mars-heres-nasas-response

                “In his testimony Wednesday and a new report describing his plan, Tito concedes that he needs NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) now under development. SLS is currently scheduled to make its first test launch in 2017.”

                Game, set, and match. Ba-bye.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Another complete fabrication, or probably you wish to manage space programs ala George Costanza always wanted to be an architect on Seinfeld. The only program you managed was your older brother’s Estes model rocket.”

                Oh for Christ’s sake…

                I had to point out to you that your argument against multiple launches was a stupid one because the option you were arguing for used multiple launches.

                And now you’re arguing that I’m lacking in launch expertise? You can’t even tell the difference between one and two, you gibbering idiot. My 1st grade nephew has a better grasp of the math and physics underpinning rocketry than you. Strike that. My pre-K niece can compare two numbers better than you.

                “Any competent manager would know about basic physics and the rocket equation.”

                I’m not the idiot who still doesn’t realize, after it’s been pointed out to him several times, that the HLV that Inspiration Mars wants is not the same HLV that NASA is pursuing under the SLS project. I’m not requiring you to know basic physics and the rocket equation. Any pre-K kid who can compare two numbers could understand that SLS as NASA is pursuing it doesn’t have the necessary throw weight, and that Tito is asking for a different HLV. And as you have repeatedly demonstrated, an idiot of your caliber can’t even compare two numbers.

                “I’ll leave you with this quote from Taber McCallum”

                Verbal quotes (probably taken out of context or misquoted by the reporter) in a popular science rag don’t trump what Taber wrote in black and white in his own report. To repeat, for the third time, that is:

                “Unfortunately, the Primary team’s evaluation of the SLS-Orion option uncovered many technical challenges. First, while the Orion spacecraft is being designed to perform a wide variety of mission scenarios, many aspects of the IM mission fall outside of that design envelope. One of these critical areas was the reentry speed. Orion’s missions only require reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 11.2 km/sec, whereas the special IM trajectory would have the spacecraft reentering at speeds near 14.2 km/sec. While this is only a 27% increase in reentry speed, the physics of atmospheric heating produce heat loads that are several times greater. To survive the Orion spacecraft would need a new, thicker, heavier heat shield along with a strict mass limit that is difficult to achieve given the fixed geometry of the Orion crew module. Additionally, the specialized ECLSS needed for the 501 day mission and the amount of food and water required for the crew increases the launch mass of the Orion capsule to the point where a safe launch abort is perhaps no longer possible. With respect to SLS, the current program plan calls for the near-term development of an upper stage that is not capable of the producing the throw mass required for Inspiration Mars… Lastly, using SLS and Orion for IM would mean that people would be on board for the very first launch of the SLS rocket. The Inspiration Mars Advisory Board determined that this brought risks that were inconsistent with the safety goals established for the project. As a result, the combined use of SLS and Orion to perform Inspiration Mars mission was dropped from further consideration.”

                Try actually reading and comprehending this before grasping at your next straw.

                “and this”

                I already quoted from Marcia’s blog entry in one of my earlier posts, numbskull. If you bothered to actually read and comprehend her whole entry (or just the part that I had quoted earlier), you’d understand that NASA is refusing to fund the HLV that Tito wants.

                “Game, set, and match. Ba-bye.”

                Good riddance. Have fun working on your math fundamentals during that tennis match. You need the practice.

                Idiot.

      • amightywind

        I credit Dennis Tito for coming to the rational conclusion that Musk’s unicorns will not get us to Mars.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “I credit Dennis Tito for coming to the rational conclusion that Musk’s unicorns will not get us to Mars.”

          At the top of this thread, you derided Tito as another “rich guy” who wants “to run their own space program”.

          So which is it? Are you for the rich guys? Or against them? Or only some of them?

          Let us know when your supposed ultra-conservative, Tea Party-esque political mind figures it out.

          Yet another ignorant, hypocritical idiot…

      • Crash Davis

        “The changes required by the Inspiration Mars report are a critique of the current SLS/MPCV designs, not an endorsement.”

        Wrong, ignorant, patently false, and completely disillusioned.

        The IM report completely justifies the use of SLS as “the SLS rocket with the only launch vehicle with enough throw mass for the job.” This cannot be any clearer.

        Without the SLS, the mission would require propellant transfer technology and complex on-orbit refueling (which doesn’t exist) and multiple launches and unneeded complexity. The posters who propose believing commercial vehicles can undertake human exploration missions have been completely depantsed as living in a delusional, non-existent world. This means you DBN, Ron, Oler, Simberg etc.

    • Coastal Ron

      Mark R. Whittington said:

      First, once again, a private businessman has his hand out for government money to finance his space project. Thus far the idea of a purely commercial space program is largely a myth.

      You make it seem like he’ll be making tons of money off of this, whereas you forget that he is footing the bill for all of the research and studies that they are doing to see if this is even possible.

      Plus, is there is anything that is truly “American Exceptionalism”, it would be that entrepreneurs take the lead on proposing new things, and have the ability to get people to follow them. Tito is asking the U.S. Government to follow, if they want. No one is forcing politicians to do this, but it would be something that politicians have done before.

      And our history is littered with similar ventures that have been partially financed by the government but were risky.

      I don’t think anyone in Congress will sponsor this and get it funded, but I don’t blame Dennis Tito for trying. I guess you blame people for trying, huh?

      • Hiram

        “And our history is littered with similar ventures that have been partially financed by the government but were risky.”

        I think this is a matter of how you define “American exceptionalism”. Some people define it to mean what the U.S. government does. To me, a red-blooded American commercial firm should be able to demonstrate American exceptionalism, in the greater capitalistic spirit, and if the federal government needs to help, that’s just a matter of whether that exceptionalism, and federal investment in it, serves a national need.

        FWIW, at least the Falcon 9 has a big American flag emblazoned on the side of it. Sure, that Falcon 9 also shows off SpaceX exceptionalism, but let’s give ‘em credit where credit is due.

    • Hiram

      “Second, a businessman who knows something about engineering and physics has concluded that he needs the heavy lift Space Launch System to conduct a beyond LEO mission.”

      I think it’s different. It’s a very smart businessman who knows something about market forces who realizes that SLS is being built without any identified user base. That businessman is business-savvy enough to know that NASA is going to be *desperate* to find users for it. Maybe users that can pay for a piece of one. Betcha that businessman is out to make a killing on the HLV market. I think he might get a really good deal. What that businessman buyer needs is a seller that is desperate to sell. Ah, the power of commercial space, bringing capitalism to human space flight.

      • Nom de plume

        Hiram, I think you’re right in that Tito is appealing to some in Congress and some NASA Centers who know they need a mission for SLS/MPCV in order to avoid the fate of Constellation. Other politicians are egotistical enough to think they have enough clout to keep it afloat w/o identifying a mission/payload. Tito said that an unnamed member of congress will introduce a bill. Doubtful that a single member of the House would introduce it, given that the SLS stakeholders from TX & AL usually work in concert. I don’t see any political damage for them to support it, though given the budget problems, low priority.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Inspiration Mars now suffers from at least a handful of showstoppers:

    1) Accelerating DUUS development by six years.

    2) Equipping and testing an MPCV variant with a higher temp heatshield when it’s already 5K lbs. overweight for landing.

    3) NASA funding for 1) & 2). Tito estimates DUUS acceleration alone at $700M and fails to budget for the MPCV variant.

    4) NASA funding for a Cygnus-based habitat using ISS ECLSS if Tito’s $300M won’t cover all of it.

    5) Betting all this hardware on first launch of a new HLV

    6) Assuming SLS can stick to its December 2017 test in the face of sequestration.

    7) DUUS propellant storage technology if the SLS and commercial crew launches can’t be aligned.

    Given all this, the architecture with three commercial launches is much less risky, although I’m not sure a 2017 Mars circumnavigation mission was ever in the cards given the lack of schedule margin. I’d back off to Tito’s 2021 opportunity with a Venus flyby, which would allow a lot of the technical and programmatic uncertainties and choices to shake themselves out. Regardless, some sort of human deep space endurance mission like this will be needed someday.

    • Hiram

      “Regardless, some sort of human deep space endurance mission like this will be needed someday.”

      This is true, but the recipe for such a mission is that one has to be outside of LEO for a long time. One doesn’t have to go to Mars to do it. A habitat in cis-lunar space, perhaps in a Lagrange point orbit or DRO would serve the need very well. One can engineer the comm to simulate delays that you’d get from large distances. That habitat can then be used as a real test-bed for deep space operation that would benefit real exploratory missions to Mars in the future. As with ISS, it can evolve as we learn from it. But the purpose such a habitat doesn’t serve is as a stunt.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “One doesn’t have to go to Mars to do it.”

        Yes and no. Between propulsion, operations with a 20-minute time lag, and Earth reentry at high speeds (and maybe even the psychology of being so far from Earth without rescue), sitting in a can at an EML point for a Mars mission-equivalent time period doesn’t get the job done. I don’t have anything against an EML station per se, but if our aim is at Mars, there’s more that we have to do. The beauty of the original Inspiration Mars mission was that it checked a lot of those boxes (not just one or two) at very low cost.

        • Hiram

          “Yes and no.”

          Fair points. Now, the propulsion you’d need to send a small can to Mars has little relevance to what you’d need for a real Mars exploration expedition. As I said, the time lag could be simulated. Earth reentry speed is, however, something that is hard to simulate with cis-lunar trajectories, but you don’t need to go to Mars to do it. As to the psychology of danger, I’d rather do a mission that would help decrease the danger than prove that people can keep themselves sane while exposed to it. While IM checks those boxes, there are other, simpler, ways to check them.

          I find it more satisfying to look for the best ways to check the boxes that need to be checked, rather than accepting that one particular concept happens to check them.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “I find it more satisfying to look for the best ways to check the boxes that need to be checked, rather than accepting that one particular concept happens to check them.”

            Fair enough. We could argue all-up parallel systems testing versus serial subsystem testing till we’re blue in the face. Both have been proven valid by history.

      • @Hiram,….You said:”One doesn’t have to go to Mars to do it.” BINGO! One could go to the Moon instead, and spend just about the same 501 days-worth of time there! All this silly talk about Lagrange point stations, really irks me!! Just WHAT have you all got against a manned Lunar return, anyway?! Expanded Lunar surface & orbital operations are exactly what is needed for proving the viability of interplanetary spacecraft! The Moon would be the most ideal test-bed, for working thru all of the “showstoppers” involved in this would-be circumnavigation fly-by of either Mars or Venus. Let’s get on with it, men!

        • Hiram

          “Just WHAT have you all got against a manned Lunar return, anyway?!”

          Mostly that it is just really expensive. Landing craft, surface habitats, surface power, etc. etc. If there is something to do down there that offers value at that cost, then go for it. But validating deep space endurance isn’t it.

          “Expanded Lunar surface & orbital operations are exactly what is needed for proving the viability of interplanetary spacecraft!”

          Uh, no, lunar surface operations aren’t needed for proving the viability of interplanetary spacecraft in getting from point A to point B. I don’t need dust in my pressure seals to validate deep space endurance, especially for a Mars flyby.

          One doesn’t have to go to Bermuda to do it either, but I suppose it might be nice.

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro said:

          Just WHAT have you all got against a manned Lunar return, anyway?

          Well, you do have to remember that we’ve already been there. And since you have been so much against being in one place very long (i.e. the ISS in LEO), why in the world would you want to go back to a place that we’ve already been?

          We already know how to get to the Moon, land safely, and return safely – what more is there to learn? And why is it important? Quantify it.

          And if the acknowledged goal is Mars, then as many experts have already testified to Congress about, stopping off at the Moon doesn’t get us to Mars any quicker, and likely will slow us down.

          So the problem here Chris is that you have to explain why the U.S. Taxpayer should pay $100B (and likely more) to do something that is a repeat of what we’ve done 50 years ago. Other than picking up more grey rocks, what else did you have in mind?

          • @Coastal Ron,….Indeed I am opposed to NASA’s continuing hovering in LEO. NOTHING good comes out of it! If they stretch the ISS all the way to the year 2030, just what further benefits will come from that? EVEN MORE ZERO-G RESEARCH?!?!
            Come on, gentlemen: Don’t we want to figure out how the human body copes with low-but-substantial gravity, such as that on the Moon’s surface? Nobody has ever even been in a large & spacious cabin or habitation room, upon the Lunar surface. How would actual walking come about, indoors without bulky spacesuits? How would water faucets & shower faucets work, in that low gravity? (Or, alternately, if the lavatories would use a bathtub, the fluid dynamics of a tub filled with water would be different, with a crewperson inside it.) What about the way toilets would operate? The flushing of a toilet that would be able to utilize the low gravity, & the accompanying piping & plumbing, would certainly present unique design challenges also. These various water systems would be much better investigated, on how they’d work, on the Moon first, ahead of Mars.

            • Hiram

              “Come on, gentlemen: Don’t we want to figure out how …”

              I think we’ve figured out how the human body walks on the Moon’s surface. Those who walked there never expressed any questions about it. But you want us to go the Moon to prove out water faucets, bathtubs, and toilets? We should spend $100B to put a habitat on the Moon so we can learn how to design lunar sewage systems?

              You’ve just provided a jaw dropping example of bankrupt rationale for lunar return. I’d like to believe there are important things that humans can do on the Moon. I haven’t yet figured out exactly what those might be. But I can now add to my list of things that sure aren’t important to do on the Moon. Continuing in that spirit, we should work fervently to figure out how cakes rise on the Moon, and let’s not forget about whether humans can eat or sleep or sneeze on the Moon. Seriously, all our work in LEO is never going to tell us those things.

              • @Hiram,….Of course lunar sewage systems aren’t the only reason to go back! Very funny! But the entire technological exercise of constructing a lander or base module which could endure the full rigors of deep space, upon the Moon’s surface, or in Lunar orbit, would yield a tremendous engineering masterwork. Remember how, after sending the Gemini spacecraft on LEO missions lasting 10 or 12 days, how the NASA engineers THEN felt confident about how the new Apollo spacecraft would do, in its endurance-time for the later circumlunar missions. Manned interplanetary flight is going to need some firm test-bedding, priorly. And I do NOT mean any more safe & easy waltzes within the Earth’s ionosphere!

              • Hiram

                “Of course lunar sewage systems aren’t the only reason to go back! Very funny!”

                Don’t look at me. You’re the one who proposed it, amazingly enough. I’m still shaking my head. But I did think it was very funny.

                “But the entire technological exercise of constructing a lander or base module which could endure the full rigors of deep space, upon the Moon’s surface, or in Lunar orbit, would yield a tremendous engineering masterwork.”

                Who’s arguing with that? Not me. The achievement of constructing a large capable habitat in LEO is a tremendous engineering masterwork as well. “Rigors of deep space”? Oh, as in radiation protection? What else? Umm, same vacuum, same sunlight. Not too much else that distinguishes deep space from LEO. Loneliness, maybe?

                “Manned interplanetary flight is going to need some firm test-bedding, priorly. And I do NOT mean any more safe & easy waltzes within the Earth’s ionosphere!”

                Whoopsie. You’re saying LEO is within the Earth’s ionosphere? Really? Oh my. I don’t even know of anyone who is “waltzing within the Earth’s ionosphere”. As such, the ionosphere is really is a new frontier, however. Maybe we should work on that instead of deep space or LEO! We could explore sewage systems in the ionosphere, no?

                Now, our work in LEO is “safe and easy” only because we’ve practiced it so much. We achieved some confidence in it, and we continue to achieve more. As to priorly test bedding, that’s exactly what’s going on in LEO. Oh, so now it’s that we’ve got to be “upon the Moon’s surface, or in lunar orbit”? This is from a guy who can’t stomach Lagrange points? Lagrange points are 50,000 km over the Moon. But maybe you want circles, right? Make up your mind.

                I think you need to take a break, read an elementary science book, and give your exclamation points and your ardor a rest.

              • @Hiram;…..The Earthian Ionosphere is roughly between 53 miles & 370 miles up. So yeah, those are the altitudes where just about every LEO-only crewed space mission has ever flown. From December 1972 onwards, to the present day.
                By the way, I merely bring up Lunar orbit, & a manned spacecraft capable of reaching there & “hovering” there, as important elements to future Moon landing operations. Certainly orbiting the Moon is NOT an end point, but a specific leg of the journey. Under a lunar orbit rendezvous flight plan, the astronauts will need their main trans-lunar vehicle put into a parking orbit, say, 70 miles above the surface, either left attended by a crew person or not attended—-with nobody left on board—-for the duration of the surface landing. The designing of such a vehicle, particularly being capable of orbiting the Moon without a crew & then re-boarded for the Earth-return, would have strong significance for future orbiter-with-specialized-lander expeditions to other planets. Such a spacecraft, the technological descendant of the old Apollo Command & Service Module (CSM), would play a major role in the new Moon program. Plus, it’d be the model for such an analogous craft, used in the future Mars-reaching program.
                It is true, I have disdain toward the idea of a Lagrange point station, because the rationale behind it, and the basic result, is identical to the ISS project: our astronauts do nothing more than “reach space” just for that to be the final & only “destination”.

              • Hiram

                “The Earthian Ionosphere is roughly between 53 miles & 370 miles up.”

                Formally, yes, I figured you’d say that. But the F-layer, which is the highest layer, doesn’t really reach to the ISS, except by extrapolation. The effects of the atmosphere at that altitude are really very small, and aren’t relevant to test-bedding for deeper space.

                “…the basic result, is identical to the ISS project: our astronauts do nothing more than ‘reach space’ just for that to be the final & only ‘destination’.

                As to “reaching space”, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. You, on the other hand, seem to need to reach rocks (that happen to be in space) I’ll try to read your motivation into that. I have to guess what you’re after is resources that can be derived from those rocks, or maybe a place to hammer in fenceposts. Such resources might be handy for delivering materiel further in the solar system, but the rationale for doing that is hardly obvious.

                Are you really suggesting that ISS is considered a “final & only ‘destination’”? I can’t imagine who considers that to be the the case. As to your disdain of reaching space, that disdain doesn’t figure well with our use of free space right now, and the way that facilities in free space have revolutionized our communication, navigation and surveillance industry and benefited mankind. That was where we reached space and harvested from it. No rocks involved.

                A technological descendent of the Apollo CSM doesn’t have a lot of relevance to a serious Mars trip. The living volume is just too small. But what would have a lot of relevance to it is a real habitat module, perhaps stationed in lunar orbit, or a Lagrange point. Actually, landing on the Earth has a lot more relevance to landing on Mars than landing on the Moon, because EDL through an atmosphere changes the problem entirely.

          • Mader Levap

            “Well, you do have to remember that we’ve already been there.”
            According to this logic, we do not need to go robotically to Mars either. Been there with Vikings, done that, why fly anything anymore there?

            Or going to Mars more than once using Apollo-like stunt to place flag and make bootprints on red sand. Once we do it, it will became “Been there, done that, why fly anyone anymore there.”.

            In conclusion, “been there, done that” argument is one of the most retarded arguments against flying to Moon (or anywhere really) that I know.

            • Coastal Ron

              Mader Levap said:

              In conclusion, “been there, done that” argument is one of the most retarded arguments against flying to Moon (or anywhere really) that I know.

              Unless it is used to find out EXACTLY why someone is arguing we should return.

              As far as I can tell, most of the Lunar-tics that post here want to go back to the Moon for undefined reasons. So until they define them in such a way that just about anyone can understand the need to spend $100B+ of taxpayer money, saying we’ve already sent and returned 12 people to the surface of the Moon is correct. We HAVE been there.

              Have NOT sent humans to the surface of Mars though, or kept humans out beyond the orbit of the Moon for long periods of time. So if money is a precious commodity, I’d rather spend it doing something new than on something that we’ve already “been there, done that”.

              • Mader Levap

                (…)saying we’ve already sent and returned 12 people to the surface of the Moon is correct. We HAVE been there.
                So if money is a precious commodity, I’d rather spend it doing something new than on something that we’ve already “been there, done that”.

                Then, do you agree that coming to Moon for other goal than repeat of flags&bootprints is not “been there, done that”?

              • Coastal Ron

                Coastal Ron said:

                Then, do you agree that coming to Moon for other goal than repeat of flags&bootprints is not “been there, done that”?

                Depends on the goal. If the goal is just to extend the amount of time we’re there from 3 days to 30 days, but we’re still just hopping around picking up gray rocks, then no, I don’t think that changes much.

                The Apollo program retired a lot of risk in getting humans to the surface of the Moon and back again safely.

                But no one has yet to identify a major reason for us to return to the Moon with humans, and not really much reason for the U.S. Government to return with robotic systems.

                Until you and other Moon advocates can come up with a compelling reason for why the U.S. Taxpayer should pay $100B+ to go back to a place we’ve already been to, then the overriding reason for why we’re not going back is because “we’ve been there already”.

                Sorry if that hurts your feelings, but that’s reality.

            • @Mader Revap,….Right on, brother! I totally agree with you, on this! True exploration has ALWAYS meant going back to where you’ve gone before, and increasing & expanding upon your capabilities when you do it. Just look at how Antarctic exploration & eventual base occupation went, there. Consider just how the the American West went from the modest survey visits by Lewis & Clark, to the inevitably repeating & retreading overland treks of those who followed. If LEO can be visited literally hundreds of times——the Space Shuttle alone, waltzed thru there 135 times, for three whole decades, each mission doing a full repeat of a manned LEO sortie——what then, could possibly be the problem, with launching a second-generation of manned Moon landings—–a noble enterprise that’ll lead to surface bases??

              • Coastal Ron

                Chris Castro said:

                True exploration has ALWAYS meant going back to where you’ve gone before, and increasing & expanding upon your capabilities when you do it.

                You are confusing Exploration with Exploitation. Exploitation is the expansion part, where we dig in to find out what is available and what can be exploited.

                From a NASA perspective, which is biased towards solving technical issues for exploration, they already developed the blueprint for getting to the Moon and returning safely. They validated that a number of times – you know, “been there, done that”.

                And again, the acknowledged exploration goal is Mars, not the Moon. So if we’re going to Mars, we need to be figuring out the technical solutions for surviving in zero-g for long periods of time with lots of radiation. The Moon is not the right place for that, and is acknowledged to be a distraction – if the goal is Mars.

                NASA’s role with the Moon should now be the same as it is for our aviation industry – as a technical resource, but not the lead in implemented solutions.

    • Given all this, the architecture with three commercial launches is much less risky, although I’m not sure a 2017 Mars circumnavigation mission was ever in the cards given the lack of schedule margin. I’d back off to Tito’s 2021 opportunity with a Venus flyby, which would allow a lot of the technical and programmatic uncertainties and choices to shake themselves out.

      They might have been able to pull off the 2017 mission if they could have gotten access to Falcon Heavies. I’m guessing that SpaceX didn’t want to give them any until they get over the Commercial Crew hump, because they didn’t want to be seen as upsetting the SLS applecart until then. I’ll have a piece up today or this weekend at PJMedia about this.

      So, yes, their best bet is now 2021, when the politics will be different and the technology more mature.

  • Gregori

    F**king knew it.

  • MrEarl

    Inspiration Mars is only a stunt. It contributs very, very little tword advancing this nations / mankinds quest to be a space fairing species.

    Move on Denis. If you want to make a mark in space, throw some funding in SNC Dream Chaser way.

  • sch220

    The fact that they are soliciting NASA and government support is a BAD sign. If I am not mistaken, their original proposal was to do this on their own. Obviously, things have changed, and they are reconsidering their “independent” position. This is too bad.

  • Vladislaw

    It is my understanding that the second seat was sold for the lunar flyby, 150 mil per seat. What would be a reasonable price to expect for a couple seats for a Martian flyby? 200 million? Could you do a flyby with two astronauts and 4 passengers for 800 million?

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