NASA, Other

National Academies’ report endorses Mars goal for human spaceflight, but says more funding is needed

A report being released today by a committee of the National Research Council endorses Mars as a long-term “horizon” goal of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, but suggests that more funding, and perhaps a human return to the Moon, are necessary to achieve that goal.

The report, by the Committee on Human Spaceflight, is being released today, with a webcast of a public briefing on the report available at 11 am EDT at the committee’s website. That report concludes the US needs to decide what its long-term goal should be in human spaceflight, and design a program to meet that goal with some flexibility in the steps along the way to achieve it.

“A sustainable program of human deep space exploration must have an ultimate, ‘horizon’ goal that provides a long-term focus that is less likely to be disrupted by major technological failures and accidents along the way and the vagaries of the political process and economic scene,” the report concludes. Of the destinations achievable in the foreseeable future by human missions—the Moon, near Earth asteroids, the moons of Mars, and Mars—only Mars fits the bill, the committee concluded.

“Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration,” said committee co-chairman Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, in a statement accompanying the report. “All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal.”

A large section of the nearly 300-page report is devoted to examining mission architectures for future human space exploration, in particular those that lead to that horizon goal of humans on Mars. The report makes no specific recommendations about which pathway to pursue, but does suggest an “Enhanced Exploration” path, which includes missions to Earth-Moon L2, a near Earth asteroid in a “native” orbit, the suface of the Moon, and the moons of Mars before a landing on the surface of Mars would have a lower developmental risk than alternative scenarios, but would delay a human landing on Mars to perhaps as late as the 2050s.

The report was not as favorable towards the “ARM-to-Mars” approach, which follows the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) that NASA is currently planning straight to missions to the Martian moons and then the surface. That architecture, the committee found, has an “exceedingly high” development risk and long gaps between missions. “[W]ithout a considerable increase in HSF funding for NASA, the ARM-to-Mars pathway presents the prospect of a long period of technology development where NASA’s stakeholders do not see actual human explorations missions taking place,” the report stated, adding that such long gaps between missions are among “the most serious challenges to program sustainability” identified in the report. (A third mission architecture, which included missions to the surface of the Moon before going on to the Martian surface, tended to lie between the ARM and Enhanced Exploration scenarios in terms of schedule and risk.)

Another key conclusion of the report is that any set of missions to send humans to Mars wil require funding above what NASA is getting today. “As long as flat NASA human spaceflight budgets are continued, NASA will be unable to conduct any human space exploration programs beyond cislunar space,” the report states. “The only pathways that successfully land humans on the surface of Mars require spending to rise above inflation for an extended period.” The report suggests funding increases of about twice the rate of inflation, or about 5% per year, would be needed to carry out the proposed exploration architectures.

Other parts of the report, on more general aspects of human spaceflight, are not too surprising. The committee found no single, compelling rationale for human space exploration, arguing instead for a nix of “pragmatic” and “aspirational” goals, from national prestige to scientific discovery to survival of the species. Public interest about human spaceflight, the committee concluded, is “modest” at best. “Space exploration fares relatively poorly among the public compared to other spending priorities,” the report notes.

In the statement accompanying the report, the committee’s other co-chairman, Purdue University president and former governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, called on the government to provide long-term stability for the nation’s human space exploration program.

“Our committee concluded that any human exploration program will only succeed if it is appropriately funded and receives a sustained commitment on the part of those who govern our nation. That commitment cannot change direction election after election,” he said. “Our elected leaders are the critical enablers of the nation’s investment in human spaceflight, and only they can assure that the leadership, personnel, governance, and resources are in place in our human exploration program.”

However, given the history of changes in human spaceflight (documented in the report), along with relatively tepid public support, such long-term stability will be hard to come by.

89 comments to National Academies’ report endorses Mars goal for human spaceflight, but says more funding is needed

  • The moon is achievable in the near term. Mars is not. The focus must be the moon. God has blessed America with a huge natural satellite. Use it!

    • Jim Nobles

      No reason to believe that the government (mainly congress) is going to pay for meaningful missions to either the Moon or Mars. That’s why I wish the government money was all spent on the commercial guys. They want to build the equipment to go anywhere you want to go.

      I think the days of government run human space programs that do much of anything sustainable are pretty much over for now. The powers that be simply don’t want to spend the money to do it right. If I believed that government might actually pay for a sustainable program to develop the Moon I’d be behind it. But I don’t honestly believe that’s in the cards.

      Meanwhile Elon wants to invade Mars and is willing to sell his rockets to others in order to pay for it. Works for me. If you want an actual Moon program (and not just an Anti-Obama space program) it looks like SpaceX and Bigelow will be ready long, long before congress will decide to pay for one.

      • DCSCA

        “No reason to believe that the government (mainly congress) is going to pay for meaningful missions to either the Moon or Mars. That’s why I wish the government money was all spent on the commercial guys. They want to build the equipment to go anywhere you want to go.”

        The place for commercial to get financing is the private sector, not the US Treasury. If commercial cant sell its business plan to the capital markets, the taxpayers have no business financing it.

        “I think the days of government run human space programs that do much of anything sustainable are pretty much over for now.”

        That would be news to the PRC.

    • Utilizing lunar water for fuel and radiation shielding is actually the key to getting to Mars in an affordable and timely fashion.

      Marcel

      • Hiram

        “Utilizing lunar water for fuel and radiation shielding is actually the key to getting to Mars in an affordable and timely fashion.”

        Actually it is … once you have the lunar water, and the processing plant to separate the hydrogen. That will add lots of cost and lots of time.

      • Jim Nobles

        “Utilizing lunar water for fuel and radiation shielding is actually the key to getting to Mars in an affordable and timely fashion.”

        I’m sorry but I believe that statement is demonstrably false. If there was an industrial base already established on the Moon there might be some truth to it but there is not. I don’t believe any of the people or groups or companies that have their sights set on Mars are planning on waiting the years (Decades? A generation or more?) for an industrial base on the Moon to be established. Given the environment where the lunar ice is expected to be found we don’t even have a good idea how to extract it. No one knows how to construct machinery and equipment that will work well in those temperatures and in that electrical environment.

        Right now it looks like it will be a long time, if at all, until water can be lifted off the Moon for use in interplanetary space. With today’s declining launch costs it is far, far less expensive to ship it up from Earth.

        I think the “We Must Get Stuff From The Moon Before We Can Go To Mars” story is simply disinformation put out by Moon-first enthusiasts. To be fair I can remember a time when most people thought the Moon had to come first but times have changed. Technology has changed. People’s attitudes have changed.

        Right now there are people seriously working on getting to Mars and going to the Moon first doesn’t figure into their plans at all. Except for SpaceX who is willing to sell rocket rides to anyone interested in going to the Moon.

        We live in awesome times. But a lot of the older ideas just dropped away.

        • mike shupp

          Yeah, if you’re in a rush to plant a flag and footsteps on Mars, you don’t need a moonbase as long as you’ve got plenty of funding. But beyond that, if your actual goal is to establish human civilization across the solar system, wouldn’t it be wiser to learn how to do some manufacturing Out There, to produce food from locally grown crops, to have actual people rather than robots living on the Moon and other planets? Or should our greatest goal be putting up some YouTube videos and getting NASA an awesome number of followers on Facebook?

          Remember what the Academy’s saying: Despite this talk about “aspirations”, the audience for manned spaceflight is modest. The whole world isn’t watching, so if we’re going to continue paying the bills for spaceflight, we ought to do it right and get something to show for it that lasts.

          • Jim Nobles

            Speaking as a Space Cadet, there are plenty of good reasons to develop the Moon but using the lunar resources there to go to Mars is not one of them. The people who are working on getting to Mars are not waiting on the Moon people to start producing stuff that the Mars people might be able to use.

            I was a “Moon Next!” person until a couple of things happened. The first and most profound thing was when I sobered up and realized that government was not, absolutely was not going to pay for any meaningful manned lunar program. Those days appear to be gone forever.

            The second thing that happened was SpaceX. They are interested in Mars but they have no philosophical problems with people who are interested in the Moon and are more than willing to sell launches to them.

            So these two things gave me an entirely new outlook on the future of human spaceflight and caused me to modify my thinking about it. First of all I think people should stop complaining that Uncle Sam isn’t pointed in the direction they think it should be pointed towards in regard to space. Uncle Sam most likely isn’t going to pay for any type of meaningful human space effort anyway so why complain about it all the time? Instead why not support those people, companies, or other entities that actually are trying to go in the direction you think is most proper?

            • mike shupp

              ???? I thought the subject here was a GOVERNMENT-FINANCED study of goals for a GOVERNMENT-RUN manned space program.

              • Jim Nobles

                I don’t think is going to be a government-run manned space program of any real substance. I don’t think the government will pay for one.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “I don’t think is going to be a government-run manned space program of any real substance. I don’t think the government will pay for one.”

                Not if it requires annual 5 percent budget increases over multiple decades, administrations, and congresses, as this report claims. NASA’s budget is lucky to stay flat to inflationary over the long-run.

              • DCSCA

                “I don’t think is going to be a government-run manned space program of any real substance. I don’t think the government will pay for one.”

                If there’s a geo-political value to it, it will. as the PRC well knows.

        • DCSCA

          Right now there are people seriously working on getting to Mars and going to the Moon first doesn’t figure into their plans at all. Except for SpaceX who is willing to sell rocket rides to anyone interested in going to the Moon.

          And as Cernan said, they don’t know what they don’t know yet. NewSpace has flown nobody into and back from LEO safely. The only place they’re going to send people to is Mars, Pennsylvania. And when they kill a crew– and they WILL have a bad day one day should they ever actually fly somebody in orbital flight- the firm involved will be out of business PDO due to the very market forces it is trying to service.

          • Dick Eagleson

            Right now there are people seriously working on getting to Mars and going to the Moon first doesn’t figure into their plans at all. Except for SpaceX who is willing to sell rocket rides to anyone interested in going to the Moon.

            All true. Unfortunately, NASA is not numbered among those working seriously on Mars. I’d rate NASA’s chances of getting there just marginally above those of Mars One at the moment. And I give Mars One no realistic chance at all. NASA is, of course, barely pretending to work on anything Moon-related. An unfunded agreement with Bigelow seems the extent of their Moon-centric involvement.

            Ironically, SpaceX’s openness to carrying anyone who can meet their price to the Moon once Falcon Heavy is in service is far likelier to result in an American return to Luna – and far sooner – than anything Establishment Space is doing; or, as we see, mostly not doing. Perhaps Golden Spike will be SpaceX’s first lunar launch customer. Personally, I’d be more inclined to bet on Bigelow. But it could easily be some upstart dark horse too. I’m betting SpaceX will have booked some kind of pathfinder lunar landing mission onto its manifest before 2020 with execution to be accomplished in the 2022-23 timeframe. In other words, I expect SpaceX, starting from right now, to roughly equal the Apollo project’s elapsed time to get Americans to the Moon even without any formal announcement of a “program” to do so or anything much beyond a “Sure. Looks interesting. Write us a check and we’ll be glad to take you.” level of commitment. Elon & Co. will do, in an incidental way, what NASA can’t even do deliberately anymore.

            If you want to go to the Moon, you should be hoping SpaceX succeeds as big-time as I expect it to over the next few years. If, on the other hand, you only want to go to the Moon via SLS, say, then going to the Moon would not seem to be your primary agenda.

            And as Cernan said, they don’t know what they don’t know yet.

            True only for certain values of “they.” Mars One, for instance, certainly doesn’t seem to know much and shows no real interest in finding out. Doesn’t want to harsh the mellow I suppose. Unfortunately, even with having had almost two decades of opportunities to do so, NASA has also been, and remains, remarkably incurious and unserious about finding out a great deal of what we know we don’t yet know about long-term space-related human factors. Once again, it will probably be SpaceX and Bigelow who plow and seed the ground NASA has unaccountably left fallow all these wasted ISS years.

            As for Cernan, specifically, it is regrettable that most of the surviving Apollo-era astronauts seem to have fallen into this “Hey, you damn kids! Get off my lawn!” mentality where New Space is concerned. Elon has had a standing offer of a red-carpet tour and briefing for any of these guys who want to take him up on it. I believe the only one who ever has is Buzz Aldrin and he, of course, is notable for his absence from the list of space heroes who’ve been ignorantly bashing commercial space for its imaginary lapses and omissions. I really miss Pete Conrad at times like this. If he was still around I have no doubt he’d be busily ass-kicking his fustier erstwhile colleagues for their nay-saying while trying hard to promote himself some kind of Space Cowboys-like ride back into the black on a New Space vehicle.

            NewSpace has flown nobody into and back from LEO safely. The only place they’re going to send people to is Mars, Pennsylvania.

            The first part of that is true and will be right up until the moment it isn’t. In 18 to 24 months at most, you’re going to need a new song to sing.

            I don’t know why he’d want to, but Elon could certainly set a crew down in a Dragon V2 in Mars, Pennsylvania. “Anywhere on Earth like a helicopter” I believe he said at the unveiling last week.

            And when they kill a crew– and they WILL have a bad day one day should they ever actually fly somebody in orbital flight- the firm involved will be out of business PDO due to the very market forces it is trying to service.

            It’s always possible, but doesn’t look very probable. Generally, if a launcher is going to have failures, it has them early in its history. That was certainly true of, notably, Ariane 5 which had four failures in its first 14 missions. SpaceX had all of its failures, consecutively, on the initial trio of Falcon 1 missions followed by two successes. The F9 has been failure-free to-date. Statistically, there isn’t any valid reason to suppose the probability of a failure on any individual launch will increase over time and excellent reasons to suppose the opposite. SpaceX is at least as likely as ULA and Arianespace have been to-date to rack up an enviable future record of mission successes, unmanned and manned.

            As for the putative doom awaiting any crew launch company that loses people on a mission, I think the history of airlines is most relevant and shows that corporate demise is critically dependent on two factors. The first is tenure/track record. If you kill people on your first manned mission, you’re probably toast. The ValuJet crash in the Everglades killed ValuJet because it was a new airline. Single crashes have not killed more established airlines. An established airline can be killed by two or more crashes occurring in fairly close temporal proximity. That has happened to a few second-string airlines in Latin America and Africa. So if the maiden crew-delivery mission of Dragon V2 comes a cropper – or even any of the first few missions – SpaceX has a major problem. If such a thing doesn’t happen until the 50th or 100th mission, though, SpaceX will survive.

            Personally, I don’t see such a failure as at all likely given SpaceX’s track record to-date and their willingness to absorb schedule hits rather than risk launching with anything but a 100% green-lit vehicle. Then there’s the fact that, even should a Falcon 9 someday fail spectacularly, Dragon V2′s crew can survive a boost-phase misadventure at any point from launch up to and including orbital insertion. It would have to be a very bad day, indeed, for crew loss to occur even if a lot of other things went wrong. If you’re waiting for SpaceX to kill somebody, I suspect you may expire of natural causes before that happens.

        • DCSCA

          Right now there are people seriously working on getting to Mars”

          Who? NewSpacers? They have failed to even attempt to fly people into and back from LEO yet. You’re talking Mars. Hugh Dryden was talking Mars back in March… 1964. Fifty years ago, fella.

          • Dick Eagleson

            Elon Musk is working on going to Mars and he’s as serious as a heart attack. He’s not going tomorrow, but he’s going. As things stand, it’s entirely a matter of putting in the necessary time and doing the necessary work. That’ll be on the close order of 20 years, plus or minus. NASA isn’t going to do it any faster and neither are the Chinese. Frankly, the odds against SpaceX having gotten to the point it’s at now from a standing start in 12 years were hugely longer that the remaining risk that SpaceX won’t get to Mars starting from where they currently are.

            No, neither SpaceX nor any other NewSpace outfit have yet launched any people to LEO and gotten them back. But they haven’t failed either. That’s more than NASA can say. NASA has no more current capability to launch people to LEO than SpaceX does, because the next time they do it they will be using SpaceX’s hardware. Their last vehicle had no workable abort system and killed two whole crews. That’s what failure looks like. The Dragon V2 will be much safer when it flies – and it will fly.

            Despite repeatedly being proven wrong by successive facts put on the ground and in orbit, people such as yourself have been sneering at NewSpace in general, and SpaceX in particular, almost since its inception, arrogantly asserting that they can’t do this and they can’t do that and they can’t do the other thing. Then they do them anyway. Flying people to LEO they’ll do pretty soon. Flying people to Mars – not so soon. But they’ll get there just the same. Wise up.

            Another relevant note: Unlike the late, great Hugh Dryden, Elon Musk happens to be personally worth about 10 billion dollars, much of it recently minted. He’s going to be a lot richer by the time he waves goodbye to the first SpaceX Mars expedition. God bless the child that’s got his own.

  • josh

    Funding is sufficient. Just don’t waste the money on sls and orion. Instead start a fixed price milestone based program to develop the flight hardware for a humans to Mars project.

  • Mark Johnson

    Augustine 3. It seems a waste to file it. It might have combustible value but it seems a little too colorful even for that.

  • End the $3 billion ISS– mission to LEO program– and NASA will have plenty of money to establish permanent outpost on the Moon and Mars while also allow Commercial Crew companies easy access to both worlds.

    Marcel

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      End the $3 billion ISS– mission to LEO program– and NASA will have plenty of money…

      Read the report. The ISS is critical for finding out how humans are going to survive in space, and unless they can survive in space we don’t need any other the other stuff you talk about.

  • Hiram

    One of the two “enduring questions” in this report is “How far can humans go?” and their answer is, quite simply, Mars. That’s troublesome in many respects. Firstly it means that human spaceflight is over when humans go to Mars. Secondly, it presumes that humans can’t emplace footprints farther away, like Moons of Jupiter, nor can humans put human presence telerobotically on worlds that are otherwise completely inhospitable to human footprints (Mercury or Venus, for example).

    I’ve just skimmed it, but the report is pretty sad rationale-wise. It’s several hundred pages of words layering on old, tired, and unconvincing rationale. No breaking out of any boxes here.

    • reader

      Mitch Daniels specifically said “Absent a very fundamental change in the nation’s way of doing business, it is not realistic to believe that we can achieve the consensus goal of reaching Mars” – and then promptly goes on to say that we must reach Mars.

      The report itself however is the same old same old. Mars is the holy grail, even if there is no money to do it. Commercial sector is not a consideration or a factor. International cooperation is a must.

      Unsurprisingly this NASA funded report is tailor fit for what the customer wanted to hear anyway.

      • Coastal Ron

        reader said:

        The report itself however is the same old same old. Mars is the holy grail, even if there is no money to do it. Commercial sector is not a consideration or a factor.

        The committee used the NASA Mars DRM 5.0 as their point of reference, which assumes a government-owned HLV, and as you point out they did not consider commercial transportation alternatives.

        Given those base assumptions, no wonder what they came up with is still unaffordable…

      • Dark Blue Nine

        Daniels’ statements are more two-faced than that. From the press release:

        “The analysis does show that increasing NASA’s human spaceflight budget by 5 percent per year, for example, would enable pathways with viable mission frequency and greatly reduce technical, cost, and schedule risks.

        “’Our committee concluded that any human exploration program will only succeed if it is appropriately funded and receives a sustained commitment on the part of those who govern our nation.’”

        So the former White House Director of the Office of Management and _Budget_ under the Bush II Administration and a former Governor of Indiana known for balancing his states books honestly believes that NASA’s human space flight budget can and should earn five percent budget increases, year-after-year, for decades to come?

        Really, Mitch? Really?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    So the civil human space flight program has painted itself into a corner where it makes no sense to have a civil human space flight program unless its goal is to land humans on Mars. But the civil human space flight program is not pursuing and does not have a realistic, achievable approach to land humans on Mars. So the logical but unstated recommendation from this report is to terminate the civil human space flight program?

    Some key excerpts:

    “SLS is but one part of the technology that needs to be developed to enable even a return to the Moon, let alone human visits to near-Earth asteroids, or the vicinity or surface of Mars. And while national leadership has sustained operations in LEO, it seems disinclined to substantially increase the level of investment in human spaceflight. Thus, the HSF program faces a dilemma. Maintaining the ISS and developing SLS leave precious little budgetary maneuvering room to plan the next steps beyond LEO. However, the affordability analysis summarized above has shown that within currently projected HSF budgets, it will be decades before the next significant human spaceflight milestone, even with optimistic assumptions about costs, technology
    development, and programmatic stability.”

    “In fact, the cost of developing SLS and related systems (the Orion MPCV and the ground systems) are so high relative to the budget of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), the schedule has been stretched to accommodate available funding. As a result, the currently planned time between SLS launches is much greater than for past HSF programs: the first two SLS flights (EM-1 and EM-2) will be launched 4 years apart, in 2017 and 2021.”

    “In any case, the business case for developing SLS is weakened if the United States is not committed to a robust program of human exploration, very large robotic spacecraft, and/or other high-mass missions (such as large-scale optics).”

    • reader

      Much more telling :

      “For simplicity and consistency of presentation, the analysis in this report of
      all of the DRMs has presumed the use of SLS as the launch vehicle.”

      Not much of an analysis.

      • numbers_guy101

        Yes…it’s not much of a recommendation’s report when a committee is already told the acceptable answer.

      • DCSCA

        SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States in this century– just as the ISS was in the last when its genesis was first proposed as ‘Freedom’ by ronald Reagan in a SOTU speecj three decades ago. the ISS represents past planning from an era long over. Splash it and press on to BEO ops and on to Luna.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States in this century”

          A strategy to do what? To achieve what? What “geo-political” [sic] goals?

          “by ronald Reagan in a SOTU speecj three decades ago. the ISS represents past planning”

          Your statement represents past typing from decades ago before the invention of grammar and spell-checkers.

        • Dick Eagleson

          SLS isn’t any kind of “geo-political strategy”, it’s a straightforward instance of corrupt politics and “customary graft” that will result in no capability being achieved before its highly probable cancellation by a post-Obama administration in January 2017 or thereabouts.

          And, even if it somehow survives to at least prototype production, it’s never going to be capable of going to the Moon in a single-launch mission. Let’s examine the numerous reasons why all this is so.

          1) Payload. To roughly duplicate the Apollo Moon missions, you need to roughly equal the Saturn V’s lift capability. To do this, SLS needs to evolve to its Block 2 configuration. That isn’t going to happen. NASA has cancelled both the advanced boosters it needed and also the J-2X-based upper stage. Lacking both of these, the maximum payload of SLS will never exceed 93 tonnes to LEO, far short of the 130 tonnes needed to match Saturn V’s lunar throw weight.

          2) Production capacity/expense. The Michoud plant is said to be able to crank out, at most, two SLS cores per year when it’s fully set up. NASA, though, can’t afford to buy two SLS cores per year. Future NASA plans seem predicated on buying, at most, one SLS core every other year. A production facility operated at 25% of capacity is not efficient and provides little scope for riding a production experience learning curve to higher quality and lower cost over time. Also, given that none of said SLS cores are ever going to be part of a Block 2 configuration, even these putative NASA plans are problematical.

          3) Supply chain. The ESA is currently obligated to build two Orion service modules. After that, SLS can’t launch manned missions unless another source of service modules is arranged. NASA has made zero effort to do so as far as I can tell. Then there are the surplus Shuttle Main Engines SLS is supposed to use. I believe the inventory of usable engines is 16 or so. That’s enough for four SLS launches. After that, there are supposed to be cheaper, expendable versions of the SSME available. But I’m aware of no serious effort to advance this PowerPoint engine into an actual deliverable. Is Aerojet PWR working on the modified design? Are they arranging an updated production facility? Are subcontracts to legacy suppliers in the works? So far as I can determine, the answers to all of these questions is, basically, no.

          In sum, the SLS is a Potemkin Village designed to suck the maximum possible amount of NASA gelt out of the Congress and into favored pockets in favored districts so long as the charade can be maintained. I think even the reptilian Richard Shelby can probably see that the game will be up in, at most, three more years. That would certainly account for his aggressive pursuit of SLS budget increases and attempts to gut commercial crew in the current budget cycle – he knows the gravy train is heading for a downed bridge and he intends to slurp up every drop he can before this beast goes into the chasm. As for the conspicuous lack of attention to matters that would be needing it were SLS to actually be a long-term-viable proposition, well, the insiders know this is all really about loot and not space launch capability. Anything that reduces the former in favor of the latter is not a priority.

          You worship a false god, sir.

          • DCSCA

            SLS isn’t any kind of “geo-political strategy”,”

            Except it is. And the PRC knows it. That you do not understand geo-politics is more the pity.

            You might want to research the the development of the F-1– long before there was an Apollo project and a Saturn rocket to put them into.

            • Dick Eagleson

              I understand geopolitics just fine, thanks. That hasn’t made the Obama era especially pleasant to live through, mind you, but he too shall pass. And – not that it was his idea, particularly – but SLS shall pass with him.

              With the possible exception of inveigling the Chinese into wasting time and resources on Long March 9 or the cozening of the Russians into pursuing their own unneeded BFR – they really should have learned their lesson the first time with Buran – it’s hard to see what geo-political benefit might accrue to the U.S. from the SLS program. True, commies have an almost magpie-like tropism to pursue big, shiny objects, and another to ape we damned Yanks. Regrettably, SLS will almost certainly be cancelled before either the Russians or Chinese are anywhere near irretrievably down the road to BFR-dom. As soon as we dump SLS and Orion, I suspect the corresponding Russian and Chinese projects will get a comparable rethink.

              I know the F-1 originated in an Air Force Moon program that was transferred to NASA, then greatly accelerated and transmogrified after Kennedy’s “Moon speech.” Is there some particular “geo-political” significance to that you imagine I’m missing? Or is it that you imagine the geo-politics of the present day bear some relevant resemblance to those of the late 50′s and early 60′s? I don’t, by the way.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Once again the adults have imparted some inconvenient truths about space exploration that some of the new space kids are not going to like.

    • Justin Kugler

      Don’t think the same isn’t true for your camp, too.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        There are some things that are concerning. I happen to think the a lunar goal is worthy in and of itself and not just as a stepping stone to Mars. And seeking out China as a partner is a nonstarter so long as it is an imperialist human rights violator. Nevertheless the report represents a sober, realist assessment that faces hard truths and take them on.

        • Robert G. Oler

          the report is useless it shows a complete inability to break out of the Apollo mold which has doomed human space efforts for almost a century. It is yet another cry for more “big government” which the right wing is fond of in certain efforts RGO

          • Mark R. Whittington

            Wrong as usual. At most an adequately funded NASA would be medium government. It is currently puny government.

            • Robert G. Oler

              How far you have fallen Mark…big government is not a spending level it is a mindset where private competition is stifled or ignored and government contracts are allowed to exist no matter what they accomplish or dont accomplish. In your world now it is OK to spend billions a year on SLS and Orion because “its not a lot of money”…

              whereas some of us believe that this money could be used to foster a space industry where private companies compete to provide services and foster products which have some spin off into the private sector.

              You use to believe that. YOu cosigned (without writing) a piece for The Weekly Standard that said just that, which embraced the essence of what has become Commercial space.

              I still believe it. What happened to you?

              Robert G. Oler

          • amightywind

            What a canard. Food stamps is big government. Obamacare is big government. Lavishly spending the fruits of turbo capitalism on space exploration is the American way.

            • Robert G. Oler

              big government is where projects exist to simply maintain an industrial or other complex that is dependent on the government and cannot even attempt to support itself in the private market. this leads to F-35s and SLSs.

              And the fruits of turbo capitalism pay little of this. Under the GOP most corporations are part of that industrial complex hooked into the taxpayers pocket. This is why Shelby is crowing about his money for SLS

              You have become a supporter of big government. both you and Mark W.

              congratulations RGO

        • Justin Kugler

          We at least agree on your last sentence.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “I happen to think the a lunar goal is worthy in and of itself”

          Worthwhile because of what? To do what? What for?

          “Nevertheless the report represents a sober, realist assessment that faces hard truths and take them on.”

          No it’s not. The report claims that the only reason to have a civil human space flight program is to put boots on Mars. It then tells us that putting boots on Mars will require an annual five percent increase in the civil human space flight budget for decades to come. Nothing, not even cancer research and defense funding, gets those kinds of increases over that kind of timeframe.

          This report is a joke. It restricts the vision of human space flight to one narrow objective and then almost completely avoids the large and difficult cost savings and choices that are necessary to achieve that target in any realistic budget universe.

          • DCSCA

            ““I happen to think the a lunar goal is worthy in and of itself”

            Worthwhile because of what? To do what? What for?”

            HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy– it’s political science, not rocket science that fuels it.

            Human spaceflight in this era projects geo-political influence, economic vigor and technical prowess around the globe for the nation(s) that choose to do it. And it plays out on a stage with high visibility that demands performance with engineering excellence from all the actors. The bounties reaped by the participating nation(s) on Earth. That’s ‘what for.’ and that’s why government’s do it.

            It is space projects of scale that matter. Which is why, in the long run, short-sighted forays by deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists do not.

            HSF is, in effect, a loss leader in this era for projecting national power and nurturing a perception of leadership. That’s ‘what for.’ And in politics, perception is a reality. Which makes a drive to establishing a permanent foothold on Luna, seen around the world by all peoples in their evening skies, all the more imperative for the United States in this century.

            Commercial is welcome to come along for the ride– to supplement and service an exploration/exploitation outpost on Luna, established by governent(s)- as part of the grand plan to develop architecture, methods, hardware and procedures to eventually press on outward toward Mars. Which given the state of the technology today, is as far awy now as it was in the 1960s for HSF.

            The immediate goal is Luna. But commercial will never lead the way in establishing such a facility on their own. The largess of the capital requirements involved coupled w/t low to no ROI prevents it; the very parameters of the market commercial is trying to create and service. That’s why governments do it.

            Accordingly, as HSF is an exercise in projecting political power, the rationale for HSF by the United States government in the 21st century was made in the 20th century by President Kennedy. It is as valid today as it was in 1962:“We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”

            That’s “what for.”

            • Hiram

              “HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy– it’s political science, not rocket science that fuels it.”

              Keep your Apollo marionettes dancing.

              HSF was a compelling instrument of geopolitics when geopolitics had kids hiding under tables and families digging caves in their back yard. The threat was missles, and the country that demonstrated proficiency with missles had geopolitical power. That’s precisely what Apollo was for, and it demonstrated that power in spades. Apollo was a blazing success NOT because of the Moon, but because of what it showed us and the Soviets what we could do technologically, and with missles specifically.

              Of course, China on the Moon is like Sputnik. It goes overhead and reminds us of their presence. It reminds us, I guess, about how good their missles are. As if the constellation of Chinese satellites doesn’t already do that, and NO ONE CARES.

              With regard to geopolitics, HSF as a geopolitical tool is a fossil left over from the Cold War era. We have an agency that was built to serve that, now fossilized, political tool. It is the substantial NASA budget (not just HSF!) that gives importance to that effort now, not any real threat that is posed. Hence the National Academies report on HSF that desperately digs for relevance. We’re paying a lot because we once thought it was worth a lot. It really ought to be for something useful!

              Shooting people up to the Moon may exhibit vigor, but not really the kind of vigor that we need to show. Let’s have a multi-billion dollar plan to get everyone into gyms lifting weights. That’ll demonstrate vigor, no? Same thing.

              So the Cold War is over. Grow up. Get your head out of the ground.

              There is no such space-related threat that faces us these days, unless we’re dim enough to think that footprints on other worlds constitutes a threat. Yes, HSF is very much a loss leader. It’s something we sell to encourage people to buy things we really need them to buy.

              It could be more smartly considered that the globally connected internet poses serious technological threats to our nation and way of life. That a team of hackers (perhaps government funded) in China could take down a power plant in the U.S., or open a spillway at a dam is frightening. That threat has NOTHING to do with space, and it is very real. So as foreign nationals try to control our national assets, we’re building an SLS to convince them how good we are. So when they open a dam of ours or short out a power station, we’ll point to our (largely unaffordable) SLS, and say “Take that, vermin!”

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “HSF is an instrument of politics; a means of projecting national policy”

              Which “national policy” is that? “National policy” to do what? Achieve what goals?

              “Human spaceflight in this era projects geo-political influence”

              Who are we “influencing”? What are we “influencing” them to do? What “geo-political” [sic] goals are we trying to achieve?

              “The bounties reaped by the participating nation(s) on Earth.”

              What “bounties” and by which nations? What “bounties” have China and Russia “reaped” by starting or maintaining human space flight programs?

              “That’s ‘what for.’ and that’s why government’s do it.”

              Your post is bunch of gibberish that never answers the question. Oh, wait…

              “nurturing a perception of leadership. That’s ‘what for.’”

              Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to “nuture a perception of leadership”. Wow! Now that’s compelling! The human space flight program is really just one big corporate coaching seminar! Sign me up!

              Ugh… what a bunch of empty nonsense.

            • Dick Eagleson

              I don’t think “to impress the rubes” is going to fly as a rationale for human space flight. No one, for instance, is going to associate some expensive, government-centric effort to return to the Moon with “economic vigor” if the U.S. national economy remains mired in Great Depression 2.0. Electing more Republicans to undo the rampant expansion of statist meddling in the private economy that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration will result in a genuine restoration of economic vigor that requires no expensive PR distraction to put across. That’s looking a lot more achievable than a renewed Moon-centric space program from where I sit.

              It is space projects of scale that matter. Which is why, in the long run, short-sighted forays by deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists do not.

              Except that the scale of “forays” undertaken by those “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists” is on the upswing while that of the projects undertaken by NASA and Establishment Space keep shrinking. I think a fair case can be made now that the two curves have crossed. In five more years, the truth of this proposition will be unarguable.

              By that time, ULA will have collapsed; the Atlas V will be no more. NASA will have lost SLS and Orion. The ISS will either be on the way to imminent demise or, more likely, on a longer-term survival path that involves increasing private partnership with commercial firms to maintain and upgrade it. Trapped in its cost-plus, FAR-based Twilight Zone, NASA will devote increasing percentages of its flat or declining budgets to administrative reviews and other paper-shuffling exercises and steadily less to acquiring bent metal.

              SpaceX will have launched over 100 F9′s and a couple dozen FH’s, most of them fully reused. Stratolaunch will be a year into working down a healthy manifest. Orbital will have re-engineered Antares and been certified to launch low-end EELV payloads. Bigelow will have a station or two in LEO and will be taking over ISS incrementally. Someone will be in early talks with SpaceX, and maybe Bigelow as well, about a lunar mission.

              The largess of the capital requirements involved coupled w/t low to no ROI prevents it

              The obvious fix for this problem is to radically reduce the required “largess of capital requirements” by doing away with all the things government programs do that needlessly multiply the cost of anything space-related. That’s the main thing all those “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists” are accomplishing.

              The last big flurry of government-sponsored space effort yielded nothing that lasted. If a second one could somehow be ginned up in these much more straightened times, it would likely accomplish far less and also be quickly abandoned. Exporting manufactured notions of national greatness to the Hottentots of the world is not going to be a survivable rationale.

              A lasting human presence in space is going to require the long-term attention of visionary serial entrepreneurs; the patience of people who don’t require a short-term killing to stay alive or justify their efforts. Fortunately, we have such people. The fact that essentially all of them are Americans is an authentic measure of national greatness that no phony campaign of governmental chest-thumping and flags-and-footprints can hope to match.

              • Hiram

                “In five more years, the truth of this proposition will be unarguable.”

                Very nice assessment of what the space world will look like before long.

                I also agree that a lasting human presence in space will require more than instruments of geopolitics (or rocket science). It will, as you say, need visionary entrepreneurs, who are willing to buy dreams. That model is profoundly reflected in our economic history. The greatness of this country is, as you say, that we actually have such people. Yep, Apollo wasn’t based on visionary entrepreneurs, but the Apollo model is simply not sustainable, as it proved so clearly. The dream it was based on was upping the Soviets, NOT on “exploring” the Moon or creating a lasting human presence in space. When that box was checked, Apollo was done.

              • DCSCA

                “Electing more Republicans to undo the rampant expansion of statist meddling in the private economy that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration will result in a genuine restoration of economic vigor that requires no expensive PR distraction to put across.”

                Too funny. You best do your homework. Republicans in general and conservatives in particular oppose a vigorous space program and have since the dsys of LBJ and JFK– revisit Goldwater’s 1964 Cow Palace speech in which the grandfather of the modern conservative movement- the Republican party’s core value system today- opposed Apollo– a comment said but lost in the smoke from the more famed and fiery’ extremeism is no vice’ rhetoric in that acceptance speech. Or revist Nixon, who killed Apollo when the hardware for the last three lunar missions had already been purchased. A ‘republican’ so incipid, he recinded plans to dispatch the USS John F. Kennedy and sent the USS Hornet to recover Apollo 11, instead. And it was Reagan who poisnoed NASA with the silly idea off privatization which literally had disasterous results. Better still, revisit Mitt Romney’s “inspiring” ‘lets form a committee’ commentary to Florida voters in the last election cycle. Or you could try to cling to the Newt Gingrich, ‘Moon President’ other extreme pontifications. No sir. The last thing on Earth good for spaceflight is the conservative led, Republican Party of 2014. Sober up, Dick.

              • DCSCA

                That’s the main thing all those “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists” are accomplishing.

                They are accomplishing nothing. They hasve failed to even attempt to fly anybody into and back from LEO. Government have been taking that trisk and doing it for over half a century. And FYI, LEO is a ticket to no place, going in cu=ircles, no where, fast. If commercial ever does take the risk and do it- they’ll be following in the wake of Gagarin, Titov and Glenn from half a century ago. Nothing new in that. But it’s quaint. And going no where, fast.

              • Robert G. Oler

                Dick your

                Dick Eagleson
                June 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm · Reply

                well done….RGO

              • Dick Eagleson

                One of these things is not like the other. I was referring to reinvigorating the entire private U.S. economy that Obama’s team of commissars has badly hobbled these last five-plus years. I was not referring to any expansion of the NASA-led government “space program” which I would mostly not support in any case.

                Among the things a presumptively Republican next administration would need to do is abate Obama’s now-habitual trillion dollar annual deficits. NASA doesn’t stack up too cost-effectively. It has demonstrated it can get a lot more bang for its buck through COTS-type Space Act Agreements. It needs to do that pervasively. If it does, it can both contribute to eliminating deficit spending and still get more accomplished than it is on-track to do at present. It also needs to shed pointless and unaffordable nonsense like the SLS and Orion programs. Wouldn’t hurt to close some centers that have racked up records of profligacy, failure and mismanagement. I’d like to see both Goddard and Marshall gone just to name two particularly egregious offenders off the top of my head.

                I am cautiously optimistic that the Republicans might actually reform FAR and government procurement practices in general that have pointlessly bloated the costs of weapons systems and done the same to space systems as a sideshow. Republicans do care about national defense. Putting the DoD on a COTS-like footing would be transformative.

                Pointing out that Republican presidents and candidates have been indifferent or hostile to NASA is special pleading. Democratic presidents and candidates – including Obama – have been, if anything, even less enamored of government-led space efforts. As a candidate, Obama was for shutting NASA down entirely and transferring its budget to the Dept. of Education to fund STEM initiatives. He was utterly typical, in that respect, of every nationally prominent Democrat since LBJ left office. Neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton were conspicuous NASA fans. Fritz Mondale, of course, tried to kill Apollo long before Nixon. Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Hilary Clinton aren’t on anybody’s short list of possible NASA saviors either. The usual Democratic line is that the space program is a useless extravagance that should be flensed and rendered so that more transfer payments can be made to politically reliable demographics and/or more government employees can be hired and pay dues to the public employee unions who, in turn, kick back to the Party. Democrats love government except for the military and NASA which they view as pots of cash waiting to be looted for the greater glory of the administrative/welfare state.

                I am curious about the Reagan crack, though. What “privatization” do you imagine he did? He was responsible for putting some language about encouraging commercial space efforts into law, but I recall nothing of consequence coming of that on his watch. That being the case, I’m also mystified as to what “disastrous results” you attribute to him. Challenger blew up during Reagan’s tenure in office, but I have no idea how you would pin that on “privatization” or anything else Reagan allegedly did.

                Getting to your second reply, once again, the “deep-pocketed NewSpace hobbyists” (I suppose I should really start abbreviating that as “DPNSH” – pronounced “deep-nish”) have not failed to attempt to fly anyone, they simply haven’t reached the point in their development programs where they’re ready to try. When they are ready, they’ll do so and they will succeed. Remember, you heard it here first.

                Government has indeed been “taking that risk and doing it for over half a century.” Their record to date is not exactly stellar – 40% of the Shuttle fleet destroyed and 14 headstones erected in 135 flights. Beating that record isn’t going to be too difficult. But, hey, the new improved safety record for crew-to-LEO is also going to be the government’s new improved safety record too. Because, whaddayaknow, the government is going to be using the products of the allegedly perfidious DPNSHs to do all their crew hauling! How about them apples!

                As for the useful work remaining to be done in LEO, there’s plenty. Much of it is stuff NASA should have done over the previous existence of ISS, but better late than never. Without affordable, reliable transport to and from LEO and facilities there in which to do what needs doing it’s for sure we won’t be going anywhere else.

              • He was responsible for putting some language about encouraging commercial space efforts into law, but I recall nothing of consequence coming of that on his watch.

                Reagan was instrumental in passing the Commercial Space Launch Act, which regulatorily enabled the commercial launch industry. I wrote about it at the time of his death a decade ago.

              • Dick Eagleson

                To RGO: Thanks for the kind words.

                To Rand: Thanks for the clarification. I knew Reagan had laid down a framework for more commercial involvement, but NASA was still very much in the monkey-dominance mode of purveying FUD about every potential commercial space effort in those days. As with many Reagan initiatives, this one didn’t reach ripeness until after he left office. On balance, I guess I prefer that America have most of its first-class visionaries in the private sector, but it would be nice if we had at least one or two people of Reagan’s caliber left in politics to provide adult supervision.

              • Well, the other thing that Reagan did (as I note there) was to end commercial payloads on the Shuttle after Challenger, which opened the market for commercial launchers (though that wasn’t the reason he did it).

              • Dick Eagleson

                Thanks for the reminder. Damn, I miss that guy.

    • numbers_guy101

      I’m not seeing that-or maybe misinterpreting your comment?

      So an inconvenient truth per the report is NASA needs more budget (all the phrases about at least getting budgets going up with inflation, etc.) Also that even then these things will take time, and so on, infinite stakeholder patience, etc. How is that any more an inconvenient truth than saying the budget is not likely to go up apace to allow any of these reports SLS scenarios, or in general any business as usual scenarios, and that much more significant and fundamental change is required in NASA and it’s industry partners? Now that’s an inconvenient truth!

      The adults are the ones who see the inevitability of budgets being about what they are, barring crisis or wholly non-linear events, as far as the eye can see. Adults would be trying to figure out how to accomplish the development and exploration of space in time frames that are more relevant, within these budgets, even if that meant having to accept options other than SLS or having to change business as usual in very dramatic ways.

      When discussing fiscal matters, who would sound more adult if this was about paying rent, or making car payments, or paying bills? The person saying they don’t worry about this possibly never adding up, because they must live how they want? Or the person saying lets make sure it adds up, and here are the changes that are needed?

  • MattW

    I think I agree with the report summary, keeping in mind that they intentionally limited their scope to DRMs that use SLS. Mars is a reasonable long-term goal, but there isn’t enough money to get there ever, and there is insufficient support from the public to increase the budget. So basically we are screwed unless the costs of space transportation and operations drop drastically.

  • reader

    The report boils down to : NASA is the be all and end all of human spaceflight, NASA wants to go to Mars, and they want to do it with SLS, nothing else is relevant or important.
    They are unlikely to have money to do that but lets just go ahead anyway. Definition of insanity.

    • Justin Kugler

      That’s not what it says. Chapter 4 specifically points out that Falcon Heavy is a lower risk option than SLS if NASA is willing to accept more in-flight assembly.

      • We learned all we need to know about the negatives of in-flight assembly with ISS. This is the primary lesson learned from the shuttle era and why we have SLS. Skylab’s architecture made infinitely more sense.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          We learned all we need to know about the negatives of in-flight assembly with ISS.

          And the major negative was not to use government-owned transportation. Funny how you continue to ignore that.

          This is the primary lesson learned from the shuttle era and why we have SLS.

          SLS-sized payloads have their own issues, like lack of manufacturing, test and transportation infrastructure, and that the launch vehicles are far less proven than commercial launchers.

          For instance, a study published last year by the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group calculated that for a near-Earth asteroid mission commercial launchers would have a predicted reliability of 92% launch success versus 58% for a new HLLV (i.e. the SLS).

          The NRC committee did not look at real data relating to that, since they were told to assume using the SLS. In fact they did not look at commercial alternatives at all.

          Skylab’s architecture made infinitely more sense.

          If your goal is to launch a non-reusable aluminum enclosure with lots of empty space, then sure, Skylab is your model.

          However if you want to actually do work in space – which should be the goal – then no, Skylab is not the right model.

          • reader

            Skylab had a useful life of 2 years, MIR managed 15, ISS is scheduled for 20, minimum. Clearly, Skylab is the superior model.

        • reader

          We learned all we need to know about the negatives of in-flight assembly with ISS.

          Way to learn all the wrong lessons.

        • Hiram

          “We learned all we need to know about the negatives of in-flight assembly with ISS.”

          And what we learned was there weren’t many. That was indeed all we need to know. As pointed out, transportation made in-flight assembly of ISS expensive, but assembly of ISS, as an operational activity, was hugely successful. ISS is extant testimony that space assembly works. In fact, we’ve gotten highly skilled at it. This was a lesson in free-space operations that will pay off profusely in the future. It wasn’t a case where we put it together and said “Damn, we’re never going to put stuff together again!”

          Of course, we all know about putting all your eggs in one basket. That’s a lesson that shouldn’t be ignored.

        • Robert G. Oler

          what are those? RGO

      • reader

        It specifically did all of its DRM analysis based on SLS, which sort of renders a lot of the report moot – all of the critical path technologies change, costs and benefits change, etc.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        Actually that is not what it says. The report says that relying on smaller rockets might reduce reliability and the impact on costs is hard to determine.

        • Michael Kent

          Hard to determine? If we use existing launch vehicles instead of SLS we avoid the $38 billion development cost of the SLS.
          How hard is that?

        • libs0n

          Smaller rockets are reliable enough for crew, for national security missions, for keeping ISS provisioned over decades, for every probe NASA launches. They also have a reliability feature SLS does not: there’s more than one family of them, so if one develops problems there are backup options, not so with SLS. They have demonstrated launch records where SLS has none, they also fly at a much faster clip than SLS, and if a problem pops up it can be detected across a wider range of flights and fixed for the next missions. You can also build in fault tolerant options into the architecture by arranging enough fuel flights to cover contingencies. “Not as reliable” is a shallow smear.

  • Hiram

    From the report, in boldface …

    “Any defensible calculation of tangible, quantifiable benefits – spinoff technologies,attraction of talent to scientific careers, scientific knowledge, and so on – is unlikely to ever demonstrate a positive return on the massive investments required by human spaceflight.”

    This is actually echoed in several places. Kind of a remarkable admission. But then there is a long and somewhat slippery chapter near the end about why “value propositions” aren’t that useful. Human spaceflight is mostly useful, it seems, because of “inspiration”. Sheesh. That’s pricey inspiration!

    • Coastal Ron

      Hiram said:

      This is actually echoed in several places. Kind of a remarkable admission.

      Remarkably honest though, and luckily not sugar coated.

      And I think our experiences on the various space forums reinforces that since even ardent space supporters don’t agree on what the motivations should be, just that we feel a motivation to explore space.

      The same could be said for all the other science we do, in that we can’t always show a direct benefit before we start, and the payoffs may not show up for years or generations. Yet we still invest in science.

      If that’s the case, the real question becomes what measurable goals are we going to have, and how do we keep them funded? Which unfortunately gets us back to a lack of consensus.

      So interesting as it may be, this report may not actually produce much consensus, which should have been the real goal. Time will tell.

    • E.P. Grondine

      The ressponses serve as as Rorsarch tests clearly showing different space enthusiats desires.

      “Any defensible calculation of tangible, quantifiable benefits – spinoff technologies,attraction of talent to scientific careers, scientific knowledge, and so on – is unlikely to ever demonstrate a positive return on the massive investments required by human spaceflight.”

      This does not hold true for planetary defense from asteroid and comet impact.

      ARM is the first effort to tie manned spaceflight to planetary defense. After the $8 billion taken from the NASA budget for the Ares, it is a recovery attempt.

      ARM revives Goldin’s DPT architecture. ARM gives you systems for deep space travel.

      The key here is that ARM finances the NEO search, becuase every time money is spent on search the realization increases that the hazard is greater than previously estimated.

      Now your best impactor detection system is CAPS, which uses active detectors based on the Moon. CAPS gives you sustainable manned systems.

      My guess is that China will try for manned Moon in 2020-2025. While they still have to make that decision, given the budget for their architecture and national desires, my guess is it will be a go. If they do a larger station instead, then the decision will be 2025-2030.

      ARM is probably the best way to keep the tech base in place while reccovering from the Constellation fiasco.

      What is amazing to me is that none of you have thought about using SpaceX tech to match a Chinese Moon effort 2020-2025.

      As there is a back-contamination problem for manned Mars which needs to be cleared, 2035 looks likely.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Also, please excuse my typos – effect of my stroke, you know.

      • Dick Eagleson

        What is amazing to me is that none of you have thought about using SpaceX tech to match a Chinese Moon effort 2020-2025.

        Just want to call your attention to a couple of comments I made further up this thread, but later than your own comment. I think SpaceX will most probably have a paying customer for a lunar mission in the 2020-2025 timeframe.

        Agree with you about planetary defense, but the sustainable rationale for ARM and any other asteroid mission for that matter, is ISRU development. Nice that the two are complementary. I expect quite a bit of both SpaceX’s and Bigelow’s future BEO business to be asteroid resource-related.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DE –

          “Just want to call your attention to a couple of comments I made further up this thread, but later than your own comment. I think SpaceX will most probably have a paying customer for a lunar mission in the 2020-2025 timeframe.”

          Wow. Really?

          • Dick Eagleson

            Yeah, I think so. I’ll make the case. You tell me what you think.

            It might be for a lunar landing. If so, the likeliest candidate is Golden Spike. The main thing SpaceX couldn’t supply off-the-shelf to such a mission would be a purpose-built lunar lander. That’s mainly what Golden Spike intends to build on its own. Seems like a good fit.

            Bigelow is also a possible customer for a lunar landing. Robert Bigelow is definitely interested in putting a base on the Moon. He’s got the habs. He’ll need a vehicle to get them down. That could be self-developed in-house or contracted for from Masten, The Armadillo successor down in Dallas that, I think, is named Exos, or maybe even some new company based, perhaps, on a team that did work on the Google Lunar X-Prize.

            A non-landing lunar mission is, if anything, even likelier. The Russians just announced that they’re going to send a pair of tourists on an Apollo 8-like circumlunar cruise aboard a Soyuz before the end of this decade. Ticket price is a cool $150 million a pop and they claim to have two takers already lined up.

            I think SpaceX and Bigelow could team up with a third party to offer a much better experience at a lower price. Not that that’s a particularly formidable bar to get over. Soyuz is – how to say it nicely – snug for its maximum of three passengers. And it has no toilet. Doing Apollo 8 redux is about a week-long proposition. So all one has to beat is spending a week in a phone booth in a Depends. Looks quite doable.

            SpaceX could lift six tourists at a time in a Dragon V2 to a Bigelow hab with a NASA automated docking rig installed and offering both beaucoup elbow room and a commode. The pilot joins the tourists in the hab and leaves the Dragon V2 parked in LEO. Equipped with a suitable engine and tankage, the hab becomes a cislunar shuttle that gets TLI’ed, either loops around Luna once, or for the deluxe fee, enters lunar orbit for a time, then leaves the Moon, returns to LEO and all go back home on the parked Dragon V2.

            The Bigelow hab could be as big as a BA 330, but one of their smaller units would probably do. The “service module” could be a refuelable Falcon 9 upper stage, a refuelable version of someone else’s upper stage or a purpose-built unit based on any suitably fueled and sized engine out there. The hab and service module could make many trips to amortize the costs of their construction and launch.

            The propellant mass required to provide the total delta-V needed for each mission has to be gotten up to LEO too. That might be a good role for reusable F9′s nearing the ends of their service lives and on offer at bargain launch rates – maybe the $5 to $7 million a pop SpaceX execs have publicly suggested might be possible in a few years.

            One can easily see how it would likely be possible to charge, say, a third of the $150 milion per seat the Russians want and still make out pretty well. When new and working for NASA, Elon says the Dragon V2 will cost about $20 million a seat. Throw in an extra million and a half or two for each tourist’s pro rata share of a cheap fuel launch plus amortization of the shuttle hab and service module and it may well prove possible to come in well below $50 million a seat for such a ride. Maybe quite a bit below.

            Fun times ahead.

            • E.P. Grondine

              Hi DE -

              “You tell me what you think.”

              Thanks for that polite invitation, but oft times there are competing firms or competing states at work and I generally try to not intrude. Other times there is proprietary information or security information, and amazingly that continues to this day – some 9 years after my stroke.

              I think the enclosed RV from NASA Houston will be required. Landed masses of its components will be a defining constraint for a frame type lander.

              I think that the way to construct enclosed structures on the Moon (capital M always, just as when spelling “Mars”) will be to inflate a half dome, then cover it from the inside with concrete sprayed on internal strings mounted chordally.

              Those are the minimums for CAPS contruction, and that will be the goal by then, only several years from now.

              When China makes its manned Moon decision, it will be interesting to watch what its diplomatic course will be. China’s current rude behavior towards its neighbors is surprising, given what China itself experienced in the recent past.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Not sure what the “enclosed RV from Houston” is. Some kind of lunar hab?

                Shotcrete on the Moon is an interesting idea. An ISRU water capability would need to be established first, of course. Also, the chemistry would have to be within the ISRU envelope as well and quite different from terrestrial concrete given the lack of limestone on the Moon.

                When China makes its manned Moon decision, it will be interesting to watch what its diplomatic course will be.

                For several reasons. The main point of departure for all speculation about future scenarios vis-a-vis China is whether or not one assumes the future Chinese regime is a straightforward extrapolation of the current one or whether a sharp break occurs in the interim and the ruling Communists are deposed. I have formulated, only somewhat in jest, what I call my “Olympics + 9 Rule” for the downfall of totalitarian regimes, to wit:

                Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics in its capital, Berlin. Nazi Germany was defeated in war by 1945, nine years later.

                The Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Olympics in its capital, Moscow. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 starting the inexorable process of dissolution for the Soviet Union which took two more years to run to completion.

                The PRC hosted the 2008 Olympics in its capital, Beijing. The current regime should beware the next Year of the Rooster in 2017.

                All amateur Nostradamism aside, however, China is going to be an increasingly consequential player in space regardless of its internal political arrangements, while Russia will fade in importance as the 21st Century progresses. The Russians probably imagine themselves, as they typically do, to be the senior partner in the space-related alliance they recently announced with the PRC. I see a long series of future instances coming in which the Chinese will have opportunities to incrementally school the Russians on the contrary actual facts of their situation.

                China’s current rude behavior towards its neighbors is surprising, given what China itself experienced in the recent past.

                Not really. China is a “face” culture and grudges are eternal. Even a future non-Communist China is going to despise Japan. China’s attitude toward the rest of Asia is pretty well summed up as, “If you ain’t Chinese, then you ain’t shit.” China has been accustomed for centuries to being the big dog in its neighborhood and old habits die hard.

            • Jim Nobles

              “The “service module” could be a refuelable Falcon 9 upper stage, a refuelable version of someone else’s upper stage or a purpose-built unit based on any suitably fueled and sized engine out there.”

              Could they not leave the Dragon attached and use its super dracos? They would still have to lift propellant but maybe the extra plumbing needed might mass less than another engine. Maybe.

              Plus, they’d have a “lifeboat” with them. Someplace to go if the main hab lost pressure.

              Just a thought.

      • Hiram

        “This does not hold true for planetary defense from asteroid and comet impact.”

        Remember that this is a human spaceflight assessment committee. Yes, what they’re saying is that HSF has ZERO relevance to planetary defense, and they are precisely right.

        “ARM is the first effort to tie manned spaceflight to planetary defense.”

        It actually isn’t. NASA used these words originally, but it has realized that those words don’t make any sense. The latest NASA fact sheet on ACRM, which is the human spaceflight mission attached to the asteroid redirect mission (ARM) is available here.

        http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/756122main_Asteroid Redirect Mission Reference Concept Description.pdf

        OK, so where does it talk about planetary protection there? No, it doesn’t. So in NASA’s mind, ARM isn’t about planetary prtoection. Geez, get your facts straight.

        “Now your best impactor detection system is CAPS, which uses active detectors based on the Moon.”

        As an in-space asteroid surveillance concept (as opposed to a ground-based one), CAPS was smart. But the idea of putting telescopes on the Moon has been proven to be simply dumb. The Sun sets every two weeks, emplacement involves substantial propulsion and risk, and dust is a serious issue for optics. The idea of putting UV/optical/IR telescopes on the Moon was popular a decade or two ago, when we couldn’t conceive of having a stable telescope in space. But our telescopes in space (e.g. HST) are more stable now than any telescopes emplanted on the Earth. Actually, CAPS considered lunar basing as just one option, the other being in space. Of course, CAPS was proposed at the beginning of Constellation, so there were some political points to be gained by bringing up lunar basing then. No longer. A Sentinel-like system is the way to go.

        “ARM is probably the best way to keep the tech base in place while recovering from the Constellation fiasco.”

        Huh? Best among what choices? In fact, it’s a pretty crappy way to capitalize on the huge tech investment we’ve made in ISS, and habitat engineering. ARM is the best way to do it if there are no other choices. But there are.

        • Hiram

          Um, that’s why you shouldn’t put spaces in your web addresses. So just clip that whole line and put it in your browser in order to learn about ARCM.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi Hiram –

          “isn’t about planetary prtoection”

          You need to keep an eye on those typos.

          “As an in-space asteroid surveillance concept (as opposed to a ground-based one), CAPS was smart.”

          The engineers at Langley thought so. I did not think to much of their method of building it, their architecture, but then I had and have my own view.

          If there has been any change in the engineering and dettection technologies since their study, I am unaware of them.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi Hiram –

          You keep talking about passive systems and dust.

          I need to point out to you the pointing requirements, the data handling requirements, the data transmision requirements, and the power requirements. I think you can handle the rough maths.

          The same things hold for active detection systems.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “If they do a larger station instead, then the decision will be 2025-2030.”

    should read

    “If they do the larger station only, then the decision will be 2025-2030.”

  • I’ve never understood the negativity some of the commentators here have for commercial spaceflight companies. Particularly the oft-repeated “they will fly nobody”. How can one continue to say this in the face of contradictory evidence? Its is inevitable that private or corporate entities will launch a human into orbit (and soon).

    As long as COTS and CCDEV (CCiCAP) are developing vehicles for LEO, federal agencies like ESA and NASA can devote “in house” resources for BEO hardware. It’s that simple.

    • Jim Nobles

      ” Particularly the oft-repeated “they will fly nobody”. How can one continue to say this in the face of contradictory evidence?”

      Some people here are just hecklers and have little more to contribute. They need the attention.

    • Dick Eagleson

      You must understand that there are a lot of people employed in phoney-baloney pork-paid jobs, at NASA and elsewhere, who would have to find real work were COTS and commercial crew to succeed and become the NASA norm. As they have entirely too much time on their hands, and little to do with it, they come here – and other places – and heckle and troll and say silly things. I push back on general principles because idiocy unopposed tends to become idiocy triumphant in our current debased political environment. It’s also useful for others who generally share my views to see they are not alone when they pass this way. Doing my part to create a positive preference cascade.

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