Congress, NASA, Other

Asteroid scientists vent their concerns about ARM

At first glance, planetary scientists who study asteroids might seem to be obvious supporters of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) plans. It would, after all, redirect a small near Earth asteroid (NEA) into lunar orbit, where astronauts would visit it and return perhaps many kilograms of samples. In fact, though, many planetary scientists have expressed skepticism, or even outright opposition, to ARM, worried that the mission might turn into a boondoggle that, if cancelled, could hurt other asteroid projects.

Those arguments were front in center last week at a meeting of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), a NASA-chartered advisory group, in Washington. The middle day of the three-day meeting, Wednesday, was devoted to discussion about ARM, with NASA officials and other scientists among those speaking. And it featured some of the strongest criticism yet of the ARM by the scientific community.

“I think ARM is a stunt,” said Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at MIT, in a presentation at the SBAG meeting devoted to criticism of the proposed mission. “A stunt kind of gets handed to you at the top, and there’s nothing underneath to support it.” That’s in contrast, he argued, to the process for selecting science missions, which are supported by rigorous science and compelling questions that only a space mission can answer.

Binzel urged scientists to “just say no” to ARM. “I think that ARM is a one-and-done stunt, and if we get behind this in any way, it’s going to irreparably damage small body exploration.”

While he was opposed to ARM, Binzel was not opposed to human exploration of NEAs. Instead, he advocated human missions to NEAs in “native” (that is, not redirected) orbits. That means building up capabilities in cislunar space while performing surveys to identify NEA targets that would be not much more difficult to reach for later human missions than an asteroid captured into lunar orbit. Such a mission, he said, “is on the true path to Mars.”

Binzel brought up his criticism of ARM at the SBAG meeting because the group may be asked to officially weigh in on the proposed mission. The NASA authorization bill passed by the House in June, HR 4412, includes a provision requiring a “complete assessment” by SBAG “of how the proposed mission is in the strategic interests of the United States in space exploration.” The Senate, which has not been nearly as critical of ARM as the House, has yet to introduce its version of an authorization bill.

Other attendees of the meeting also expressed reservations about ARM and the agency’s overall Asteroid Initiative during presentations by NASA officials earlier in the day. “It just seems like this logical disconnect to me,” said SBAG chair Nancy Chabot of the Applied Physics Lab, trying to reconcile NASA’s stated interest in searching for hazardous NEAs with the relatively limited funding it’s allocating for such searches as part of the initiative. “I guess there’s just a lot of us in the community who are confused by the overall strategy of the agency.”

Some at the meeting worried that a potential cancellation of ARM by a future administration could adversely affect asteroid science in general. “There are groups of people who believe that ARM is associated with the current White House” and could be cancelled by the next, said Tom Statler of the University of Maryland and Ohio University. “If it so happens that ARM gets pushed aside because it was the product of the previous administration, there is a risk that the rest of asteroid science could be collateral damage simply because, in the minds of most people, ARM equals asteroid stuff.”

Others struggled to see the connection between ARM and human exploration of Mars. “What the agency has not articulated is how we’re magically go from cislunar space missions of about a month in duration to anything greater,” said Brent Barbee of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “If this is all you’re going to do in the mid-2020s,” he said of ARM, “then it’s not very credible to talk about humans on Mars in the early to mid 2030s.”

“If we were to start this from a clean sheet and do it in a logical manner, I think every one involved with this would do it differently than how it’s being done right now,” acknowledged NASA’s Lindley Johnson. ARM, he said, did allow NASA to double funding for NASA’s Near Earth Object search program, from $20 to $40 million. “We do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

The SBAG meeting ended without any formal findings or questions about ARM, although Chabot said those are being developed by the group’s steering committee. Some worried that a lack of consensus could result in findings that could make SBAG appear neutral on the issue, which Chabot, as chair of SBAG, acknowledged as the meeting drew to a close on Thursday. “A lot of people do not feel neutral about this,” she said.

The criticism of ARM by SBAG meeting attendees, as well as comments made at a separate meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) held at the same time, as reported by SpacePolicyOnline.com, caught the attention of the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA ‘runs the risk of squandering precious national resources’ if they move forward with ARM,” Smith said in a statement released by the committee on Friday. “For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA’s technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously.”

151 comments to Asteroid scientists vent their concerns about ARM

  • E.P. Grondine

    “While he was opposed to ARM, Binzel was not opposed to human exploration of NEAs. Instead, he advocated human missions to NEAs in “native” (that is, not redirected) orbits. That means building up capabilities in cislunar space while performing surveys to identify NEA targets that would be not much more difficult to reach for later human missions than an asteroid captured into lunar orbit. Such a mission, he said, “is on the true path to Mars.””

    Jeff, houldn’t your headline read, “Asteroid Scientists Recommend Changes to ARM”?

    • Jeff Foust

      I respectfully disagree, sir. Many of the meeting’s participants don’t want to change ARM, they don’t want NASA to fly it at all.

      • Hiram

        That’s exactly right. ARM is the “Asteroid Redirect Mission”. If you’re sending humans to asteroids in their native orbits, you aren’t redirecting anything. Please remember that ARM, formally, doesn’t involve humans. ARM is about redirecting asteroids. The ARCM (Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission) is the human part that is duct-taped onto ARM. The question is whether in the interest of science or human spaceflight we need to be bagging any small rocks.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi Hiram –

          “The question is whether in the interest of science or
          human spaceflight we need to be bagging any small rocks.”

          Actually, the question is whether it is in the interest of the people of the US to be bagging any small rocks.

          What NASA’s space science clients want or what the manned Mars flight enthusiasts want is irrelevant. They do not have enough votes to get tax money.

      • E.P. Grondine

        “Many of the meeting’s participants don’t want to change ARM, they don’t want NASA to fly it at all.”

        “Many of the meeting’s participants” I was not there, but I suppose those are the people you talked with.

    • Andrew Swallow

      To get to an asteroid in its “native” orbit a Mars Transfer Vehicle is probably needed instead of Orion. Since NASA has not started building the prototype transfer vehicle yet that mission is many years away.

  • E.P. Grondine

    NASA’s Lindley Johnson. ARM, he said, did allow NASA to double funding for NASA’s Near Earth Object search program, from $20 to $40 million. “We do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

    Lindley, where the hell are the Hubble IR images of 73P’s debris stream from its most recent pass?

    Why the hell are you still begging for money for the NEO search, instead of just telling them how much it needs?

    “Chabot of the Applied Physics Lab, trying to reconcile NASA’s stated interest in searching for hazardous NEAs with the relatively limited funding it’s allocating for such searches as part of the initiative.”

  • E.P. Grondine

    “That’s in contrast, (Binzel) argued, to the process for selecting science missions, which are supported by rigorous science and compelling questions that only a space mission can answer.”

    Actually, in the real world that is not how NASA allocates science money. NASA has “science” clients who it services.

    • Hiram

      “NASA has “science” clients who it services.”

      And the “science” clients it services (which include a whole lot of NASA civil service scientists, by the way), have made the point very clearly in their recent Decadal report that such activity is not consistent with the best rigorous science, and at least scientifically is not a particularly compelling mission. By the way, for any NASA science mission, the science community gets only a small fraction of the total mission cost.

      Let’s be clear. Redirecting an asteroid can have huge planetary protection value, but doing it by bagging one small and non-threatening one doesn’t really teach us anything we need to know to protect the Earth. If ARM was recast as a mission to land a propulsion module on a large asteroid, and divert it out of its native orbit, that would be a magnificent achievement. Oh, astronauts need to step on a rock? Well really, just ship up a rock on an SLS and have humans touch it. In fact, a big rock is pretty much the only payload that we’re going to be able to afford while we’re trying to prop up SLS.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Yeah, when I saw that Decadal Report I was pretty amazed at who they had decided were impact experts. Same goes for the NRC report, which Dwayne Day chaired.

        “but doing it by bagging one small and non-threatening one doesn’t really teach us anything we need to know to protect the Earth.”

        You have to find them before you can bag them. This statement is pretty indicative of your knowledge about finding threatening NEOs.

        • Hiram

          “You have to find them before you can bag them. This statement is pretty indicative of your knowledge about finding threatening NEOs.”

          My knowledge of finding threatening NEOs is at least as great as yours, and probably more. That statement is pretty indicative of your cluelessness. Yes, you do have to find them, and Binzel properly said that was the very highest priority. But once you find them, there is absolutely no need to bag them.

        • Andrew Swallow

          To move an asteroid containing rouble you have to use a gravity tug, bag or gigantic wall. A Wall only allows the asteroid’s pitch or its yaw to be changed at a time, where as a bag can change both simultaneously.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine said:

    Jeff, houldn’t your headline read, “Asteroid Scientists Recommend Changes to ARM”?

    I think the title is accurate, since there are no simple changes NASA could make to the ARM to go from visiting a captured asteroid in lunar orbit versus sending humans out to visit one in situ.

    For the amount of money we would spend to grab an asteroid, maneuver it to the vicinity of the Moon, and then send astronauts out to it for a short visit, we could create a much more capable robotic system to do the science being proposed.

    But the goal of ARM is to find a use for the SLS, not because there is a huge interest in asteroids. And Obama’s original desire to visit asteroids is because that requires the technology and ability to roam far from Earth, which is training for eventually reaching Mars.

    I think it was Senator Nelson and SLS supporters within NASA that came up with this idea to lasso an asteroid and use the stunted Orion/MPCV to get people to it, and I think it’s amusing how little support this SLS-oriented plan has gotten from SLS supporters. Every time they complain about it they are making the case to cancel the SLS – which couldn’t come soon enough for those of us that support real space exploration.

    • Henry Vanderbilt

      Yes. I agree with the guy who wants us to go out and visit asteroids in place, but that’s a non-starter as an ARM substitute, since SLS/Orion aren’t going to be able to do more than spend a couple weeks going roughly as far as the Moon and back. ARM is very much designed to justify SLS/Orion by fetching a plausible place to go in close enough so SLS/Orion can actually get there.

    • E.P. Grondine

      HI CR –

      “which couldn’t come soon enough for those of us that support real space exploration.”

      So what do you yourself define as “real space exploration”?

      • Coastal Ron

        E.P. Grondine said:

        So what do you yourself define as “real space exploration”?

        Well to start, if NASA is tied to doing all space exploration with the SLS, then it’s not going to be able to afford to do much – which means they will be superficial missions, not substantive (i.e. real) ones.

        That’s what I meant.

      • Hiram

        “So what do you yourself define as ‘real space exploration’?”

        Good question. With regard to small bodies, I’d say Rosetta and OSIRIS-REx. Well, geez, REX stands for “Regolith Explorer”. Nothing unreal about that exploration.

        As to justifying Orion by going to a plausible place, why not GEO? Why not low lunar orbit? Plausibility in the name of rocks. That’s how “plausibility” is defined here. Pretty abysmal. What Binzel is saying is that to go visit NEOs in their native orbits requires better hardware. So let’s just make that better hardware, instead of using the poorly performing Orion hardware to do something meaningless. Yep, Orion was once going to be capable of visiting NEOs in their native orbits. Once up on a time.

        I need to buy myself a bicycle that will let me explore the other side of town. No, the other side of town isn’t that interesting, but hey, it’s a plausible destination that a bicycle can actually get to!

      • Vladislaw

        First I would define the type of exploration you are refering to. Space exploration is, by definition, exploring SPACE.

        Traveling THROUGH space and landing on Luna to explore it is not space exploration. That is lunar exploration, as is landing on Mars to do Martian exploration or landing on asteroids to do asteroid exploration.

        For me, exploring space is just that, traveling between points not the destination itself. What America needs to explore lagrange points and orbital destinations is a gas n’ go, reusable space vehicle and fuel stations. Once we have the vehicle we can do road trips where we want and not get bogged down in another gravity well until that time we have reliable transportation.

  • James

    NRC, SAG, SBAG, all saying the same thing. ARM is a stunt, dumbs down NASA, and is a political maneuver to have Obama appear to keep his word about MARS in the 2030′s

    And all are saying SLS makes no sense

    SLS and ARM, and continued flat budgets, and an extraordinary lack of anything resembling leadership is going to really hurt NASA and could be the final nail in its coffin.

    These are reputable well respected scientists, Titans of the aerospace community! And the like.

    • Fred Willett

      Obama tried to provide leadership. The message from Augustine was clear. Big rockets preclude exploration.
      Obama tried to put in place a “let’s develop new technologies” strategy.
      Congress decided they’d rather have the big rocket than do exploration.
      Do you really think Obama ought to have wasted political capital fighting congress over NASA? Really?
      ARM is the best we can do with what we’ve got.
      Suck it up.

  • Hiram

    “Sore [Some] at the meeting worried that a potential cancellation of ARM by a future administration could adversely affect asteroid science in general.”

    That would be the case if ARM is really perceived as being about science. But it’s not. Bolden has already vociferously admitted that, to NASA, ARM isn’t about planetary protection. Now he just has to take the next step and say that, no, it really isn’t about science either. If it were a stepping stone to Mars, that wouldn’t need science or planetary protection as rationale. But it isn’t even that.

    • Fred Willett

      Right or wrong ARM is about HSF. Scientists think any mission ought to be about the science.
      They just want to ride shotgun, not in the back seat.

      • Hiram

        “Scientists think any mission ought to be about the science.”

        Nope. Bad misread. HEOMD *wants* ARM to be about science, and is asking SBAG to justify it on the basis of science. (Because, well, they don’t have any other good rationale.) But yes, ARM is about human spaceflight. If HEOMD wants to do ARM on the basis of human spaceflight, the small bodies science community need not be involved at all. SBAG isn’t trying to make ARM be all about the science. See this from the SBAG report …

        “In January 2014, the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) Robotic Concept Integration Team (RCIT) engaged the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) community by presenting a list of tasks for which input was requested. In response, a SBAG ARM Special Action Team (SAT) was assembled to address the task list items.”

  • In the wacko world of those Republicans that support socialism and pork beyond the atmosphere, anyone opposing ARM is a good guy because their words can be used to support the fictitious work of lunar/Mars missions that SLS doesn’t leave enough money to support.

    Time to call in Larry Niven’s ARMs to straighten out things. :-)

  • Nothing wrong with the deposition of meteoroids at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points for future exploitation for oxygen, water, fuel, and radiation mass shielding. But it would be a lot faster, cheaper, and easier to provide such resources from the lunar surface than from meteoroids– at least until light sail technology has matured.

    ARM has nothing to do with the SLS or getting to Mars. But the Obama administration probably already knows this. This is just another ruse by the administration to set the SLS up to be unsustainable and stop NASA from returning to the Moon– which should be the primary focus of the SLS.

    Marcel

    • Hiram

      Actually, there is plenty wrong with deposition of rocks at EM L1/L2. Those orbits aren’t stable. One needs stationkeeping to keep things there, and large rocks need a LOT of stationkeeping propulsion to do it. That’s a good way to produce a risk that a big rock will hit the Earth, by putting a poorly controlled rock there. That’s exactly why for ARM, the rock is being brought into an SDRO, which is highly stable, and not an EM Lagrange point. Once it’s there, at the SDRO, and we lose interest in it (as we most certainly will), it won’t do bad stuff if we ignore it.

      ARM has nothing to SLS? What planet do you live on? ARM is all about SLS. It’s all about giving SLS something to do. As to ARM having nothing to do with going to Mars, going into deep space for an extended period of time has something to do with Mars, but there are FAR better ways to learn about it without caressing rocks.

      But yet, that’s an interesting point, that ARM could be a way of feeding SLS in a way that would leave it unsustainable. Never thought of that.

      • “Actually, there is plenty wrong with deposition of rocks at EM L1/L2. Those orbits aren’t stable.”

        You shouldn’t deposit meteoroids at EML1 or EML2. They should be deposited at EML4 or EML5 where they can remain in relatively stable halo orbits for several million years!

        The SLS already has plenty of things to do– if NASA is allowed to do them:

        1. Placing large commercial space stations at LEO: Bigelow’s Olympus BA-2100 would be an excellent test payload for the earliest SLS launches that will still use the old SSMEs. This would provide the emerging commercial crew companies with a large and spacious private destination to LEO much cheaper than the multiple launch and assembly of small modules aboard a Delta IV heavy. The BA-2100 should also be large enough to accommodate an internal hypergravity centrifuge to help to mitigate the deleterious effects of a microgravity environment on the human body.

        2. Placing large habitats at EML1 also equipped with internal hypergravity centrifuges. Such habitats would also require at least 100 tonnes or more of water shielding (depending how much of the pressurized habitat area you want to shield) to protect astronauts from major solar events while also reducing cosmic radiation exposure to less than 25 Rem per year during solar minimum conditions (these would also be the requirements needed for interplanetary journeys to Mars). Delivering the water alone would require at least three SLS launches to EML1. Expanding the shielded area within a habitat would require more SLS water launches– until lunar or meteoroid water is available.

        3. Of course, a lunar outpost and water mining and Lagrange point fuel depot program would probably require at least two to four SLS launches per year over a five to ten year period.

        4. The deployment of reusable interplanetary vehicles operating between the Earth-Moon Lagrange points and Mars orbit would require an SLS launch to an Earth-Moon Lagrange point for fueling from lunar resources. The deployment of the reusable habitat module for an interplanetary journey would also need to deployed at one of the Lagrange points.

        5. The deployment of large telescopes within cis-lunar space has also been proposed.

        So there’s clearly no shortage of uses for the SLS if an administration really wants to utilize the $8 billion a year in human spaceflight related funding for the SLS and beyond LEO missions.

        Marcel

        • Vladislaw

          1) Bigelow Aerospace would go broke trying to pay for a SLS launch vehicle. Unless you are suggesting the taxpayers pay for it and give to BA for free.

          2) From the OIG, GAO, CBO, Booz Allen and NASA’s own figures Congress is refusing to fund SLS and the schedule is already moving to the right. Congress has not voted to fund anything other than an Orion and that is going to cost 16.5 billion just to develop. Where is the funding going to come from to both design, develope and build those habitats and to services them once they are in place?

          3) Congress has refused to fund anything for the moon, landers, EDS’s, Return vehicles, lunar habitats, where is the funding going to come from? Don’t say the ISS, that funding is tied with our international obligations, it isn’t going anywhere.

          4) They could get funding for a single fuel depot and the 6 billion dollar Nautilus-X test vehicle. Congress is not interested in reusable once it is built the jobs are gone, they want big and disposable.

          5) The James Webb is a two decade nightmare that will end costing 10 billion. They would have to starting funding a space telescope 2 billion a year for the next 10 years for a SLS sized optical scope. MINIMUM.

          There is clearly a shortage of funding sources from Congress for anything you are proposing.

          • “would go broke trying to pay for a SLS launch vehicle”

            Bigelow probably wouldn’t have to pay for the SLS launch since NASA needs to test the SLS vehicle a few times anyway. Bigelow would only have to pay for the production of the Olympus BA-2100. In exchange, NASA could make a deal with Bigelow to allow them to exclusively rent the Olympus space station for for 30 to 60 days every year. The other 10 months out of the year, Bigelow could rent out to space tourist.

            Congress wants to go to the Moon. Its the Obama administration that doesn’t want to go to the Moon. President Obama said it pretty bluntly in a speech to NASA personal!

            So Congress is not going to increase the NASA budget for President that is hostile to a lunar return. I hope funding for a lunar program and specifically a reusable lunar lander will start once a new Congress is in office in 2015, after President Obama is the lamest of lame ducks. But I suspect that many in Congress, especially Democrats, simply want to wait until President Obama is out of office in 2017 to begin funding for a lunar program. A single stage reusable lunar lander shouldn’t cost more than $1 to 1.5 billion a year to fund over the course of six to eight years, starting in the year 2016.

            The Orion program cost less than $1.1 billion a year. These funds probably should have been used to develop a reusable lunar vehicle which could have also been used as a reusable orbital transfer vehicle between LEO and EML1. But since Obama cancelled the lunar program, Congress adopted the DIRECT scenario which would have still required an Orion for future lunar missions.

            There may not even be an ISS after 2020 if relations between Russia and the US continues to deteriorate. NASA needs to move away from the ISS program ASAP.

            Marcel

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              Congress wants to go to the Moon.

              Absolutely false.

              At best you can say that a few individuals in Congress have expressed interest in the U.S. going back to the Moon, but NONE have written legislation to fund such a venture.

              Its the Obama administration that doesn’t want to go to the Moon.

              Obama didn’t want the SLS either, but Congress did. See how this works? If Congress really did want NASA to return to the Moon then they would be writing that into the NASA funding laws… but they aren’t, so the simple fact is that “Congress” does not in fact want us to return to the Moon.

            • Marcel F. Williams: Bigelow probably wouldn’t have to pay for the SLS launch since NASA needs to test the SLS vehicle a few times anyway.

              Which would take a customer away from a rocket company that could actually make money and thus make real progress toward making HSF routine. Not very “free market,” is it?

              As for the lunar surface, with the money the United States has and is willing to spend on HSF, there will be no return to the lunar surface as long as SLS is eating more than a third of that money. If, however, the SLS money were freed up for actual payloads, and (discounting SpaceX for the moment) launched on Delta-IV Heavies that don’t need to be developed, we could have a human presence on Earth’s moon in relatively short order.

              Don’t forget that COTS / CCiCap, with government spending in total of less than SLS spends in a single year, have given us two brand spanking new medium class launch vehicles, two cargo capsules, and three human transports nearing the end of their development. And, that’s all spent on the hard part of space exploration: getting to orbit in the first place. Spent wisely, the SLS money could buy us a lot of deep space capability for exploration.

              – Donald

            • Vladislaw

              “In exchange, NASA could make a deal with Bigelow to allow them to exclusively rent the Olympus space station for for 30 to 60 days every year. The other 10 months out of the year, ”

              Bigelow is leasing 110 cublic meters for 25 million. In order to pay for a SLS launch NASA would need the entire habitat for over a year in order to pay off one single launch. That wouldn’t close the business case. Bigelow would just wait for SpaceX’s heavy lift. It would have real world prices, not the insanity of Congressional pork prices.

            • Vladislaw

              Marcel wrote:

              ‘A single stage reusable lunar lander shouldn’t cost more than $1 to 1.5 billion a year to fund over the course of six to eight years, starting in the year 2016.

              The Orion program cost less than $1.1 billion a year.”

              This is why so many refer to you as clueless. You toss around these numbers that are insanely high as if you are refering to taking some money out of your piggy bank.

              Orion cost less than 1.1 BILLION per YEAR .. The OIG said it is on a tragectory of costing 16.5 BILLION, just to develop. Insanity on a bun.

              A lunar lander .. gosh what a bargin at ONLY 1.5 BILLION over 8 yars or 12 BILLION dollars .. again .. insanity on a bun. Those numbers are not sustainable, not realistic, never going to pass the republican house… EVER.

        • Hiram

          “You shouldn’t deposit meteoroids at EML1 or EML2. They should be deposited at EML4 or EML5 where they can remain in relatively stable halo orbits for several million years!”

          Whooeee. No one has talked about L4 and L5 for a generation. That was Gerard O’Neill, and his cities in the sky. Of course, no one has talked about them because they’re a LONG way away from both the Earth and the Moon. So you can “deposit” rocks there. But just don’t count on easy withdrawls.

          “The SLS already has plenty of things to do– if NASA is allowed to do them”

          What you mean, of course, is if NASA is allowed to pay for them. Hypergravity centrifuges? 100 tons of water shielding? Lunar outpost? Reusable interplanetary vehicles operating between the Earth-Moon Lagrange points and Mars orbit? Of course, Joe taxpayer has plenty of things to do with his money, if only he’s allowed to keep it.

          “The deployment of large telescopes within cis-lunar space has also been proposed.”

          Actually no. There have been suggestions for large telescopes to be deployed to Earth-Sun L2 (as per JWST), and returned to cis-lunar space (EM L1 or L2 in particular), but there have been no serious proposals to deploy large telescopes in cis-lunar space.

          • Dick Eagleson

            they’re a LONG way away from both the Earth and the Moon.

            That’s true of Earth-Sun L4 and L5 points, but the Earth-Moon L4 and L5 points are the same distance from Earth as the Moon is.

            • Hiram

              Read what I said.

              “they’re a LONG way away from both the Earth and the Moon”

              I don’t care that they’re as far away from the Earth as the Moon is. You seem to care.

              Earth-Moon L1 and L2 are 70,000km away from the Moon. That’s about 20% of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Earth-Moon L4 and L5 are more than twice that distance from the Moon. They are the same distance from the Earth as the Moon. The Moon is a long ways from the Earth. Get it?

              • Dick Eagleson

                E-M L1 and L2 are 170,000 and 310,000 miles from Earth, respectively. They’re not far away.

                E-M L4 and L5 are the same 240,000 miles from Earth as the Moon is. All three are far away.

                Got it.

                Distance and time required to cover said distance is important in space travel, but delta-V requirements are more so, especially when entering and exiting gravity wells is involved. In delta-V terms, all four LaGrange points are quite a bit closer to Earth than is the surface of the Moon.

        • Dick Eagleson

          I’ll endorse all of Vladislaw’s points.

          In addition:

          1. I believe it would be a violation of the Commercial Space Act for NASA to undercut a commercial provider by offering free or below-cost services. Also, the mass of a BA2100 seems to be a bit iffy. If it comes in at the lower end of the range of values I’ve seen (Wikipedia) – 65-70 tonnes – a Block 1 SLS with Centaur upper stage (70 tonnes LEO lift capacity) might, just barely, get it to LEO. If it comes in at, or close to, the upper end of these estimates – 100 tonnes – then even with an Exploration Upper Stage (4 RL-10′s) a Block 1 SLS (93 tonnes LEO lift capacity) won’t do the job. As all advanced components for SLS Block 2 have already been cancelled to keep Block 1 going, that would put SLS permanently out of the running. It would also put Falcon Heavy out of the running. For low or intermediate potential BA2100 masses, though, a Falcon Heavy with a more powerful upper stage would work, cost more than an order of magnitude less than SLS and likely be available years sooner. Since NASA has dibs on the first two or three SLS Block 1′s for tests and the first manned mission of Orion, it would be at least 2023, and most probably later, before an SLS could be made available for a notional BA2100 deployment anyway. SpaceX will almost certainly have its Raptor-based, single-core BFR flying well before this. It would be able to lift more to LEO than even the miscarried SLS BLock 2. If SpaceX has a triple-core Heavy version of the Raptor-based BFR flying by then also, that could lift an entire multi-BA2100 station into LEO at a whack. Either of these future SpaceX BFR’s would still be way cheaper than SLS and reusable as well.

          2. As NASA has no budget for EML1 stations, these would have to be Bigelow units and the same caveats as in the previous paragraph would still apply. It’s interesting that a Raptor-based SpaceX BFR Heavy might have enough lift capacity (500+ tonnes to LEO) to be able to put both a BA2100 and your posited water shielding mass up as a unit on a single mission.

          3. Even if one entirely ignores cost issues, no future program had better require more than two SLS missions per year because two per year is said to be the maximum production rate possible for SLS core stages at Michoud. The long-term production rate currently being contemplated is only a quarter of that – one core every two years.

          4. Your proposed missions may well come to pass, but if they do, Falcon Heavies and/or future SpaceX BFR’s will be employed to do them. SLS will be too expensive and, for many such missions, too weak.

          5. Again, SLS is too expensive and too production-limited to be a likely choice for such telescope deployments. MSFC did a study some years ago of using the then-in-the-works Ares 5 to place one or more space telescopes with 8-meter monolithic primary mirrors into LEO and other places. Such an instrument might be deployable on a future enhanced Falcon Heavy, but would certainly be deployable on a Raptor-based BFR. These commercial rockets will be vastly cheaper and more available than SLS, and they’d be reusable.

          You are correct that there is no shortage of good mission ideas. But there is a decidedly finite supply of NASA money. SLS is so expensive that its use, in the face of much cheaper alternatives, will not be justifiable.

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      This is just another ruse by the administration to set the SLS up to be unsustainable and stop NASA from returning to the Moon– which should be the primary focus of the SLS.

      There are lots of people that think they know what the SLS should be doing, but that was not the intent of the legislators that created the SLS – they created because it kept and created jobs in the right political districts.

      However those same legislators really don’t have enough interest in space exploration to put their support behind increasing NASA budget in order to use the SLS. Maybe they thought the President would do it, but since the President just got done canceling a prior unsustainable space program (i.e. Constellation), does anyone really expect him to support another unsustainable space program (i.e. the SLS and Orion/MPCV)?

      The ARM was as far as he was willing to go, and that was only because Senator Nelson would be the political backer of it. You don’t see Shelby stepping up to advocate for SLS missions, now do you? He got the jobs, so if anyone cancels the SLS it’s not his fault, and it’s not his job to keep the program going, especially since he likely only has one more election he has to win.

      So would Obama mind if the SLS and Orion got killed off and NASA was able to focus on the technology development he originally proposed? That answer should be self evident…

      • “There are lots of people that think they know what the SLS should be doing, but that was not the intent of the legislators that created the SLS – they created because it kept and created jobs in the right political districts.”

        The Federal legislators wrote their intent for the SLS in the legislation. The Obama administration was required– by law– to report to Congress on how the SLS would be utilized in the near future within cis-lunar space. Congress was obviously still trying to corner the the administration into having no choice but to utilize the SLS for returning to the lunar surface.

        At first the Obama administration simply ignored this part of the legislation. But eventually they adopted the ARM idea as a way to obey Congressional cis-lunar legislation while still avoiding returning to the lunar surface which Obama has expressed extreme hostility towards.

        Marcel

        • Vladislaw

          Congress does not need the President to forward any ideas, they didn’t need the President to forward the SLS in the first place, he was against it, they appropriated funding anyway. Congress could do the exact same thing for a EDS, Lunar Lander or a lunar habitat. They refuse to fund these items. They didn’t fund them under CONstellation they are not funding them under SLS.

          • The SLS was something the President claimed that he already wanted. His budget proposed studying future heavy lift vehicles for another five years. Congress didn’t see the logic in that. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans supported the development of the SLS. Of, course, its pretty obvious now that Obama’s support for a heavy lift vehicle was a ruse which probably many in Congress already suspected.

            The Constellation program didn’t need additional Congressional funding. It was already being funded at $3.4 billion a year during the first year Obama was in office. Additional funding for the Constellation program was to come from the cancellation of the Shuttle program ($3 billion a year) and the ISS program ($2 billion a year).

            President Obama decided to allow the Space Shuttle program to end while continuing the ISS program.

            Marcel

            • “The SLS was something the President claimed that he already wanted.”
              A lie, Marcel. The original proposal was for an HLV, but the decision to use Shuttle-derived tech was made by Congress; therefore, to say the President “already wanted” SLS is disingenuous.

              As Lori Garver (then deputy administrator of NASA) said, SLS was forced on the administration as a quid pro quo to get Commercial Crew.

            • Vladislaw

              “President Obama decided to allow the Space Shuttle program to end while continuing the ISS program.”

              Ya right, the production lines started shutting down the minute they had enough space parts to finish the flight manifest. As Wayne Hale said the space shuttle was dead by 2008 and congress would NEVER have funded the billions needed to start up the production lines again and years before the first flight.

              AGAIN you try and push outright lies.

            • Vladislaw

              “His budget proposed studying future heavy lift vehicles for another five years. ”

              No his budget proposed building the engines first along with a lot the tech we would need. Don’t build the rocket before you have other tech first. He wanted it competed not build by the usual suspects at cost plus and sole sourced left over contracts from CONstellation.

        • NASA is avoiding a return to the lunar surface because Congress hasn’t approved a lunar mission, or funded the necessary hardware for it (e.g., a lander). It would rather spend billions on an unneeded rocket.

    • “This is just another ruse by the administration to set the SLS up to be unsustainable.”
      How naive. SLS is doing a remarkable job of being unsustainable by its very nature, regardless of whatever use anyone might claim they have for it. No need for anybody “to set the SLS up”.

      • Hiram

        “No need for anybody ‘to set the SLS up’.

        Yeah, that’s exactly right. SLS doesn’t need any help being unsustainable.

      • “How naive. SLS is doing a remarkable job of being unsustainable by its very nature, regardless of whatever use anyone might claim they have for it. No need for anybody “to set the SLS up”.”

        Yeah. That’s why Congress, Boeing, China, Russia, and even Elon Musk all want a super heavy lift vehicle:-)

        Marcel

        • Yeah, but not one using hyper-expensive shuttle tech and innappropriate contracting methods.

          I’m not against HLVs, just one particular one that is holding my country back from getting the tech it needs to go back to the Moon and beyond.

          • Developing a heavy lift vehicle at less than $1.5 billion a year is not overly expensive, IMO. And President Obama has forbidden NASA to return to the Moon.

            Marcel

            • Yeah, developing a heavy lift vehicle at less than $1.5 billion a year would not be overly expensive, if it could be developed in a reasonable of amount of time and we could afford to operate frequently. But SLS will do neither of those things.

              That is my point, we could develop maybe even two HLVs fairly soon with that money. Just not SLS. Take a reality pill.

              P.S. Just because Obama says the government is not going to fund a return to Moon doesn’t mean some Americans are not going to do it. It would be faster if the government helped, but if NASA doesn’t help it will happen anyway. But you will keep the blinders on.

            • Developing a heavy lift vehicle at less than $1.5 billion a year is not overly expensive, IMO.

              Well, your opinion is foolish. One could be developed for a lot less, a lot sooner, if it didn’t have all the political constraints on it that SLS does.

        • Vladislaw

          Ya right .. Elon Musk is going to spend 16.5 BILLION for a 4 person DISPOSABLE, water landing capsule and then spend 50 BILLION for a 130 ton heavy lift. That will cost over 3 billion a launch and only launch once every other year.

          Yup that is EXACTLY what Elon Musk wants.

          Oh wait .. Elon said it could cost 2.5 billion for a 150 ton launch vehicle at 300mil per launch.

          If you can not understand how freaking STAGGERING the difference is in those numbers and what we NOT funding because of those insane costs you truely are delusional.

          Why you would not want NASA to spend 2.5 billion and be done with it and then start building actual space hardware is beyond me.

          • Since I’m not a proponent of the Orion vehicle, I wouldn’t disagree with you that its wasteful. I believe the Constellation philosophy of using a heavy lift vehicle as a cargo vehicle rather than as a crew vehicle was the correct one.

            But Obama could have easily put forth a scenario for using a heavy lift vehicle in concert with Commercial Crew vehicles for returning humans to the Moon as suggested by his Augustine Commission. Instead the President showed extreme hostility towards any lunar return.

            Marcel

            • Jim Nobles

              But Obama could have easily put forth a scenario for using a heavy lift vehicle in concert with Commercial Crew vehicles for returning humans to the Moon as suggested by his Augustine Commission. Instead the President showed extreme hostility towards any lunar return.

              The President doesn’t want to go to the moon using SLS. Neither do I. Neither do most Americans. Neither do most people in Congress, if they did they’d introduce legislation about it.

              Blaming Obama for no Moon program is ridiculous. If he proposed such a thing Congress would laugh him off the stage.

              There are some space enthusiasts who want to return to the Moon using SLS. They are a minority and are too few to cause it to happen. They aren’t intellectually savvy enough to understand why it isn’t happening to they pick boogeymen to blame it on. They are embarrassing, the make other space enthusiasts look stupid.

            • Vladislaw

              “Instead the President showed extreme hostility towards any lunar return. ”

              Again more outright lies. Show me the video or other whitehouse papers that show this EXTREME hostility.

        • Hiram

          “Yeah. That’s why Congress, Boeing, China, Russia, and even Elon Musk all want a super heavy lift vehicle:-)”

          Wow. Clueless. Boeing wants a super heavy lift vehicle (and the more expensive the better), because they’ll get paid to build it. China and Russia want one because, well, because we seem to want one. Elon Musk wants one because he can build one for a reasonable price.

          Have you considered doing standup …?

          • Vladislaw

            Like the United States, Russia did have a heavy lift for the Buran. Like the United States, Russia found it cost to much and canceled it.

          • E.P. Grondine

            “Boeing wants a super heavy lift vehicle (and the more expensive the better), because they’ll get paid to build it. China and Russia want one because, well, because we seem to want one. Elon Musk wants one because he can build one for a reasonable price.”

            That pretty well sums up a part of what has been going on.

            But China is likely to focus on a fly-back re-usable first stage in its next round of development, and not on a Heavy.

            Russia finally has Angara ready to fly, and I expect that they will probably follow the same path to a re-usable.

            I did like the comment on “sucking it up”.

    • Dick Eagleson

      This is just another ruse by the administration to set the SLS up to be unsustainable and stop NASA from returning to the Moon– which should be the primary focus of the SLS.

      I’m with Rick on SLS’s inherent unsustainability; no additional administration deviousness required. The SLS program keeps sucking up more and more money to build smaller and smaller “big” rockets. For the Nth time: no lander, no advanced boosters, no high-energy upper stage, no money equals no Moon mission for SLS. Your perverse, persistent, pathetic presumption that this porcine project is ever going to the Moon passeth all understanding.

      • SLS beyond LEO rocket funding is less than $1.5 billion a year out of a human spaceflight related budget of around $8 billion a year.

        Its the ISS $3 billion a year– perpetual mission LEO– that’s hurting NASA’s beyond LEO program.

        Marcel

        • Yes, but why increase the budget for SLS when that $1.5 billion a year is enough to do what SLS is touted to but do it sooner and better?

          Some of us care more for our country’s future in space than a blind loyalty to an old way of doing things.

        • Vladislaw

          1.5 billion a year for how long? How much has already been burned through? SpaceX said 2.5 billion … That is ONE YEAR of funding for SLS.Orion!

          • Space X says a lot of things but still has great difficulty getting its birds in the air on a frequent basis. Maybe Space X should focus on fulling its promises to its paying customers instead trying to sue the Federal government in order to get more access to tax payer dollars:-(

            Marcel

            • Who says we’re only talking about SpaceX?

            • As for fulfilling promises, SpaceX is doing a Hell of lot better than SLS as exemplified by the GAO report and comments from NASA’s own advisory council. What a weird alternate reality you live in.

              Marcel, other people can counter your B.S. here. I’ll leave it up to them, since the most important thing I can do is get the truth out the general public.

            • Vladislaw

              You are correct SpaceX says a lot of things, but then, so do you Marcel, history is showing us who’s words are more inline with reality.

              So you do not believe SpaceX could do a heavy lift for 2.5 billion? How much would you tack on to that? 25%? Still cheaper than SLS.

              50%? Still cheaper than SLS.
              100%? Still cheaper than SLS.
              200%? Still cheaper than SLS.

              SpaceX could screw the pooch by over 200%, three times their original bid and it would still be 10′s of billions cheaper than SLS.

            • Neil

              SpaceX just launched their 4th flight for this year and only 2.5 hours late successfully delivering the Asiasat 8 to orbit. Guess they’re getting over their ‘great’ difficulties. They have another Asiasat 6 later this month, only about 20 days after their previous launch. On track for around 8 launches this year. So far, Falcon 9 is 11 for 11 for primary payloads and only on one flight was a secondary payload placed in a lower orbit but it was a test flight and insurance paid up.
              Still believing your own bs Marcel.
              Cheers.

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              Space X says a lot of things but still has great difficulty getting its birds in the air on a frequent basis.

              That may be your perception, but the reality is far different. Per our own Stephen C. Smith who did the number crunching for his blog article For the Record Books:

              The just-under-22-days [SpaceX] turnaround is a modern-era (2000 – present) record for shortest turnaround of a CCAFS pad to launch again. The previous record holder? SpaceX, earlier this year — 34 days between SES-8 on December 3, 2013 and Thaicom 6 on January 6, 2014.

              So it’s impossible to be having such supposed “great difficulty” when in fact they are setting modern records for their frequency of launches.

        • Vladislaw

          Ya just think 1.5 billion would pay for 5 flights from a commercial provider of heavy lift. Or 11 flights of the Falcon Heavy or 583 tons. Think about that marcel, every year of SLS has cost america 583 tons of space hardware into LEO or luna.

        • I much agree with Marcel Williams, that the 3 Billion dollars per year on the ISS’s never-ending, repeat-over-and-over-again-the-same-old-thing LEO mission, is holding NASA back, from ever getting on with the grander things. The ISS should be ended by 2020! Then all those pointlessly wasted federal budget billions could be alloted towards a new manned Moon program, that we could also invite international participation in.

          The anti-Moon faction is so fond of criticizing a human lunar return as a “repetitive” activity. But exactly what has the REPEATED emplacing of station crews on board the ISS been, all this time? Think about it: an astronaut team gets sent up, on a Soyuz spacecraft; they stay there for about 5-6 months; they get ready to leave; another team gets sent up to replace them at the same time juncture, starting their 5-6 month stint, while the earlier-sent crew departs back to Earth; 5-6 months later the same kind of crew exchange happens again; wash & repeat!

          Further, before ANY of you tell me that the ISS represents long duration space travel, and is therefore “more worthwhile”——–may I remind you: of the 60-something LEO space sorties flown by the Space Shuttle, prior to it achieving any sort of rendezvous with a station or any flight involving the constructing of one. The NASA of the 1980′s & 90′s clearly considered THOSE space missions to be entirely worthy of flying. Even though each of them lasted less than two weeks.

          Hence, I see NO problem with a short set of manned Lunar sorties, lasting 10-12 days, at the beginning of our flight manifest, in order to test-fly our new vehicles. Perhaps just a tetrad or pentad of such missions will be needed. We’d then move onto much longer outpost-type missions, as soon as a cargo-only lunar lander variant could be brought into service. The fortnight-or-less time duration for the regular crew-carrying lander, would be necessary to provide for a reliable ferry vehicle, for reaching any pre-arranged outpost camp or intermittently-occupied base.

          In any case, my main point here, aside from any proposed flight-plan details, is that if the Space Shuttle could fly all those sortie missions for its first 15 years of flying, and if the ISS can keep right on having those 6 month-long station stays, from the time that it came into operation about 15 years ago, that there should NOT now be all this heavy resistance to building new lunar orbiting & landing vehicles which would INITIALLY be designed to function for sortie spans of time——–inevitably ways of pushing farther & expanding the scope of those first duration times, will be found & developed———just like Apollo was increased in its capacity, from the landing stay time of Apollo 11 up to the final three “J” class missions, over the span of years that it flew.

          • Chris Castro: see NO problem with a short set of manned Lunar sorties, lasting 10-12 days, at the beginning of our flight manifest, in order to test-fly our new vehicles.

            Neither do I, but you don’t need SLS for that: ignoring SpaceX, existing Delta-IV Heavies will do just fine.

            However, the ISS achieves several important things for our long-term future in space. 1). It is conducting experiments, and gathering practical data, on things like recycling water, growing plants for food, operations and logistics in near space, recovering from unexpected problems (e.g., water in spacesuit helmet, the safety of which was improved with a remarkably low tech solution developed on the Space Station, a snorkel) — just general practice at surviving and living in a microgravity environment. This experience will be far more critical than, say, any further information about the Martian surface in enabling astronauts to survive the journey to Mars and back, or to anywhere else involving long transportation times. The problem is that we have great experience developing new rockets, but far too little experience surviving in space. We need the latter a lot more than we need the former. 2). The ISS provides a near-term market for cargo and transport, enabling the partially commercialized development of cheaper transportation to orbit. Quick sorties to orbit or Earth’s moon will not, by themselves, provide that market, though a lunar base supporting a lunar COTS could. Cheaper transportation is a prerequisite for doing anything in space, and the ISS is buying down a lot of the risk in achieving that, and as I have argued elsewhere (Why the Space Station Must Trump Exploration), that makes maintaining the ISS the single most important project we need. 3). The ISS buys us funding. It is now considered infrastructure, politically, which has tremendous political resilience. (Note in proof, the congressionally mandated designation of the ISS as a national laboratory.) The ISS is indirectly funding COTS and CCiCap (as well as a number of non-commercial launchers and spacecraft) by providing a reason for them to exist. If the ISS is abandoned, in today’s political environment, that funding will unlikely to go to lunar sorties, but will probably disappear from the space program or be eaten up by projects that employ a lot of people but are otherwise useless like the SLS. Funding for commercializing transportation will disappear with the ISS.

            – Donald

            • I personally have many doubts about the Commercial Space route, for America’s space development. Hence, I may be biased against it. I despised how Commercial Crew became the prime beneficiary of Project Constellation’s demise. What’s more, not only does the nation now lack a short-run potential for getting back to the Moon & deep space, but it’s looking clearly like Commercial Crew has been a losing team to put our support to. It’s obvious to anyone observing, that NO manned flights are on the horizon, coming from these corporations; and that their reason-for-being has been squarely the ISS. Just how many more years & decades can NASA waste merely flying around in circles, 200 miles up?

              By the way, lunar sorties, and the vehicles that could carry them out, would be fully adequate for Moonbase missions, because all you’d really need would be to get your astronaut crew to the outpost site & back to Earth afterwards. Both the landers & the orbiters can be put into a semi-inactive mode, with minimal use of resources, during the main landing stay time, in which the crew would be stationed at the outpost/base. So a lunar orbiter & lander that had an active-mission time duration of two weeks or less, would be entirely adequate for such outpost-type missions.

              In any case, in short, I see the continuing ISS project & the commercial space establishment that depends on it, as being the major obstacles to the United States doing greater things in space. I fully predict that NO American astronaut will leave LEO, in this century, while the ISS goes on flying.

              • Dick Eagleson

                I personally have many doubts about the Commercial Space route, for America’s space development.

                Why? Commercial space has delivered two cargo vehicles and associated launchers for trivial total development budgets, one of which is about to demonstrate practical reusability. It’s well along in delivering two, possibly three, vehicles for manned LEO crew transfer missions, also reusable. Bigelow is three years away from putting up its first private LEO space station. The first privately financed heavy lifter will fly next year. What exactly is your problem with all this? Me? I thinks it’s about to rain soup.

                Hence, I may be biased against it.

                It would seem so. Again, why? Because it’s private? And commercial? Or because you’re not in charge? Help me out here. I’m baffled.

                I despised how Commercial Crew became the prime beneficiary of Project Constellation’s demise.

                SLS, Orion and their contractors (all the same ones as Constellation) became the primary beneficiaries of Constellation’s demise. SLS is, in effect, a cut-down, weak-sister version of Constellation with Commercial Crew substituting for the amputated Ares I.

                But SLS fits within NASA’s actual budget instead of Constellation’s unsupportable budget, even if just barely. Combined, SLS and Orion still suck up over $3 billion a year. Commercial Cargo/Crew has never gotten more than a fifth of that, usually a lot less.

                In a very real sense, Constellation never did die, it just changed its name and trimmed its sails enough to fit within the money actually available. It did so even at the cost of being compromised so much, and still so expensive, as to be unusable for much of anything should it ever actually get built. Commercial Crew, despite constantly facing attempted fiscal raids on its modest budget by pork-crazed Congresscritters has progressed to the brink of doing what Ares I was never gong to do – provide cheap, reliable crew transport to and from LEO.

                What’s more, not only does the nation now lack a short-run potential for getting back to the Moon & deep space,

                Constellation wasn’t ever going to be any kind of solution to this lack. At the time it was cancelled, its projected completion date was receding faster than one year per year. The Moon wasn’t getting closer, it was getting steadily further away.

                SLS is no better. Constellation wouldn’t have been Moon-capable until sometime in the 2030′s, if ever. SLS, with its still-slipping every-other-year flight schedule and mingy lift capability will be no more capable of supporting a manned return to the Moon. The only way the U.S. is getting back to the Moon is by leveraging commercial space capabilities due to be available over the next two or three years – mainly the SpaceX Falcon Heavy and the Bigelow BA330 hab module.

                but it’s looking clearly like Commercial Crew has been a losing team to put our support to.

                Your definition of “clearly” sure differs from mine. I’ve got one bad eye, but I can still see that commercial space represents our only hope of a return to the Moon or any chance at going to Mars within my actuarially-plausible remaining lifetime. What the heck are you seeing that persuades you otherwise?

                It’s obvious to anyone observing, that NO manned flights are on the horizon, coming from these corporations;

                SpaceX has scheduled a pad abort test of Dragon V2 for November 2014 and an in-flight abort test for January 2015. Unmanned orbital tests will follow in 2015 and a first manned orbital test may fly in 2016. Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is currently scheduled to fly to orbit, unmanned, for the first time in November 2016 with initial manned tests in 2017 – assuming the Atlas V rocket it is booked to use is still available by then.

                and that their reason-for-being has been squarely the ISS.

                That’s NASA’s reason for paying them to develop their vehicles. But ISS is hardly the major future market for such services. Bigelow plans to have his first 12-person LEO station on orbit by 2017. He figures to change out crews four to six times per year. Compared to ISS, even this first Bigelow station is going to generate way more crew launch business than ISS. And Bigelow isn’t going to stop at one station in LEO.

                Just how many more years & decades can NASA waste merely flying around in circles, 200 miles up?

                I would like to see less thumb-twiddling, fewer PR stunts and more research addressing critical unknowns that must be nailed down before large numbers of humans can live, long-term in space or on other planetary surfaces. But I see no particular upper limit on how long a LEO station can be useful. Just because a space station doesn’t “go anywhere” doesn’t make it useless. A train station doesn’t go anywhere either, but it still serves a useful purpose and can do so for decades.

                By the way, lunar sorties, and the vehicles that could carry them out, would be fully adequate for Moonbase missions…

                I’m inclined to agree. But no such vehicles will be forthcoming from a NASA whose budget is so heavily bogarted by Orion/SLS. What I can see is Luna-bound crews going to and from LEO in Dream Chasers and Dragon V2′s. Next, they board lunar transport cyclers made from a propulsion module and a Bigelow hab module. The propulsion module could be an adapted commercial upper stage – that from a Falcon 9, for example – or a purpose-built unit employing major commercially-sourced components such as engines.

                This same propulsion module could be used, unmanned, to transport landers of various types between LEO and lunar orbit. It could also be used, again unmanned, to transport propellant for the landers.

                Propellant depots – again, either purpose-built or adapted from commercially available upper stages – could be placed in LEO, in lunar orbit and at other points in cis-lunar space to fuel both the propulsion modules and the landers.

                Once routine human travel to LEO and back and hab modules like Bigelow’s BA330 are real-world catalog items, outfits like Golden Spike or others who wish to prospect for lunar water or pursue other forms of ISRU on the Moon, would pay SpaceX, Bigelow and others to develop the additional bits needed to make Earth-to-Luna a progressively more heavily-traveled route.

                I think this vision is reasonably congruent with your own. So I don’t get why you’re so frothingly hostile to commercial space companies. NASA is plainly never going to do any of this, yet you sit in your corner flinging spitwads at the only people who are both willing and able to realize your dream. I don’t get it.

                Go to the Moon. Live in the statist “space program” past. Choose one. But only by choosing the first option will you actually ever get where you want to go.

                In any case, in short, I see the continuing ISS project & the commercial space establishment that depends on it, as being the major obstacles to the United States doing greater things in space.

                Quite the contrary. It’s the moribund government space establishment, especially the greedy and short-sighted fools in Congress, who stand athwart your desired path. Commercial space companies are the only ones who are ever going to accomplish what needs to be done for a low enough price to make it possible.

                I fully predict that NO American astronaut will leave LEO, in this century, while the ISS goes on flying.

                So, if the ISS last until 2100, no American Astronauts beyond LEO? As a gambler you have huge balls but no card sense.

                I’ll make you a counter-prediction. I predict the first American “astronauts” to leave LEO will be employees of some outfit that, shortly after, will be flying rich tourists on Apollo 8-style excursions around the Moon. I think the first such all-employee run will take place in 2020 or 2021. They’ll use a Bigelow-based cycler with a propulsion module and LEO propellant depot they paid SpaceX or Blue Origin – or some scrappy, hungry even newer outfit like Firefly or Rocket Labs – to design and build for a few tens of millions and launch to orbit on a pair of Falcon Heavies. Tickets will cost in the $30 to 50 million range – at first.

                After that, things should roll pretty fast. The explorers and water miners and tunnelers and hoteliers and card sharps and loose women won’t be far behind. I’m sure there will be hookers in Luna City while I’m still above ground.

              • Dick Eagleson: The only way the U.S. is getting back to the Moon is by leveraging commercial space capabilities due to be available over the next two or three years – mainly the SpaceX Falcon Heavy and the Bigelow BA330 hab module.

                Bravo!!! I think you’re a little too positive on SLS; a little too negative about the ISS’s need until Bigelow actually flies and that, even then, two markets are better than one; and I think you’re a little too optimistic on how fast the commercial guys can get to Earth’s moon, but only by a few years; and whether they will do so without a government market — but all that’s quibbling. I agree with you so close to 100% it doesn’t matter.

                – Donald

              • Dick Eagleson

                Thanks for the kind words, Donald. I think you are correct that we differ very little on space-related matters, though I chuckle a bit at the notion that I am in any way “positive” about SLS. Just to make things crystal clear, I think SLS, and Orion, should be nailed to a cross, disemboweled, beheaded and set on fire. After that I think we should get rough! :)

                My attitude toward ISS is probably best characterized as being “on the bubble.” A truly unconscionable amount of time has been wasted these past two decades doing unjustifiable high school science fair-level stuff up there when a full court press on closed loop environmental systems, physical and magnetic/electrostatic radiation shielding and fractional gravity research on human physiology was needed from the start. Still, the thing is there. Useful research could, in principle, be aggressively pursued at ISS starting anytime.

                I’m not optimistic that will ever happen so long as NASA is the landlord, but ISS has at least been the hook upon which the crucial CRS and CCDev efforts have been hung so its continued existence will, in the longer view, be justified by that alone even if it never otherwise lives up to its considerable potential in other arenas.

                Given the recent renewal of traditional Russian aggression, the future of the ISS is more problematical than ever. Should the Russians actually move to detach their modules in 2020, or earlier, I favor letting them go and rebuilding ISS as a research facility more directly targeted at the program of inquiry outlined above.

                Failing that, we should detach and salvage some of ISS’s more massive components, such as the solar arrays and the radiator system, for reuse on another, Bigelow-based, station and de-orbit what remains. If NASA does decide to finally grow a pair and rebuild ISS for a post-Russian future, they will certainly need to make use of Falcon Heavy to put up new hab modules and other outsize bits of required new infrastructure. SLS – assuming it has somehow survived to that point – will be too budget- and production capacity-constrained to do the necessary work.

                Whatever befalls, I certainly welcome whatever incremental business ISS can provide to the nascent crew launch services industry, and for as long as ISS is otherwise justifiable. But I still see that market as inevitably dominated, on the customer side, by Bigelow as soon as he gets his first station up and running in LEO.

                As for the rest of my “vision” – though I think that’s a bit too grandiose a term for what seems to me a straightforward exercise in extrapolation from recent and current events – I base it on the fundamental truth that SpaceX is proceeding with its agenda at a minimum of four times the “velocity” with which NASA and other legacy space players, such as ULA, are desultorily pursuing their own chaotic and incoherent mix of warring priorities. That multiplier might easily be five, six or even more.

                In the case of ULA, in particular, the ratio is effectively near infinite as ULA seems to be standing completely still at the moment. Hint to ULA: that light you see up ahead isn’t the end of the tunnel, it’s the headlight of a Russian locomotive with its throttle wide open and a wrench hung from the boiler’s relief valve.

                As noted, all that is required to do repeatable Apollo 8-style close-up lunar orbit junkets is to establish a LEO propellant depot, then mate some kind of refuelable, reusable transfer stage to a Bigelow BA330 and go. A Falcon 9 2nd stage, modified slightly to be in-space refuelable, would probably work, but the single engine isn’t optimal from a fault-tolerance standpoint and might even be too much boost for passenger comfort. Something purpose-built with a cluster of smaller engines sourced from XCOR, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic or some other NewSpace player would likely be better. This stage and a propellant depot deployable to LEO and/or lunar orbit would be the major custom bits needed to enable frequent and comparatively cheap lunar excursions.

                Rich tourists would go first. Later, other interested parties would fund one or more types of lunar lander and arrange for landings and lunar surface expeditions. Soon after that it would be lunar ISRU, construction of Luna City and – lest we forget – hookers in space.

                Fun times ahead, Donald. Fun times ahead.

              • Dick, I’ve been out of town, but FYI, I did read your thoughtful analysis. Thanks!

    • But the Obama administration probably already knows this. This is just another ruse by the administration to set the SLS up to be unsustainable

      It was Congress that did that, not the Obama administration.

  • Andrew Swallow

    ARM belongs in a new part of NASA the Planetary Defence Directorate.

    • Hiram

      “ARM belongs in a new part of NASA the Planetary Defence Directorate.”

      See this from http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/future-of-nasas-human-spaceflight-program-dominates-nac-meeting .

      During questioning about those bullets, Bolden quickly chimed in to say that planetary defense is NOT a goal of ARM. It is a goal of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, which NASA is funding at $7 million in FY2014, he said, but not of ARM. He acknowledged that because NASA is doing both ARM and the Grand Challenge, there is a lot of confusion. “We need to get that confusion out of it. We are not saving the planet,” he exclaimed.

      Charlie’s smart enough to understand that. Too bad a lot of others aren’t. Besides, those who spell it “defence” probably needn’t be making pronouncements about NASA policy.

      Planetary defense is important, but ARM isn’t doing it.

  • common sense

    The ARM is a very unlikely event with possibly devastating consequences.

    Reminds me of something…

  • E.P. Grondine

    “It just seems like this logical disconnect to me,” said SBAG chair Nancy Chabot of the Applied Physics Lab, trying to reconcile NASA’s stated interest in searching for hazardous NEAs with the relatively limited funding it’s allocating for such searches as part of the initiative. “I guess there’s just a lot of us in the community who are confused by the overall strategy of the agency.”

    The operative part of Cahbot’s statement:

    “trying to reconcile NASA’s stated interest in searching for hazardous NEAs with the relatively limited funding it’s allocating for such searches as part of the initiative.”

  • James

    How ironic that Bolden et al see ARM as saving NASA HSF , making it the key next step to Mars and key use for SLS, when in reality the continuing embrace of ARM is going to sink NASA HSF

    Sure, there will be some jobs in certain districts, but in the long run NASA HSF is unaffordable, and the combined anchors of SLS and ARM are the iceberg to the Titanic that is NASA HSF

  • amightywind

    “There are groups of people who believe that ARM is associated with the current White House”

    It is, purely. No one from the asteroid community hatched that crazy idea. It was Obama’s Silicon Valley buddies thinking outside of the box. Way outside. A turn over of political is imminent. Obama’s rats are scurrying for the exits before the reprisals start.

    • Vladislaw

      you obviously didn’t read the Keck study .. man it is full of … good ideas.

      http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/docs/KISS-asteroid_final_report1.pdf

      Gosh just look:

      “The ACR mission concept offers an affordable, intermediate performance goal that could maintain momentum toward deep space expeditions and reduce programmatic risk. It would support human deepspace exploration in the following six ways: First, the ACR mission could partially fulfill the role of a robotic precursor, yet provide far more information about asteroid structure, composition, and mechanical properties through the extensive field investigation it would enable. The mission would increase greatly our ability to perform complex scientific and flight operations around NEAs, well beyond levels contemplated by currently planned robotic missions. For example, the ACR mission would require mastery of autonomous proximity operations around a small body, part of a skill set that is directly applicable to a wide variety of beyond- LEO missions. A NEA retrieval mission – if conducted promptly – could feed experience and hardware forward into plans for a series of human NEA expeditions in deep space. The risk reduction and hardware validation obtained via a retrieval mission would aid subsequent human exploration planning. This gain in capability would build confidence in and reduces the risk of the first human mission to a NEA.

      Second, by making available hundreds of tons of asteroidal material within the Earth-Moon system, ACR mission concept would enable astronaut visits that would take only a few weeks, not the half a year or more required for even the most accessible NEA targets. Compared to a deep-space NEA mission, a “local” visit to the captured ACR object would enable the crew to spend a much higher fraction of their mission time actually working at the object. Such a “local asteroid” mission would clearly be a bridge between LEO operations and full-fledged deep-space NEA expeditions. The shorter duration would also reduce significantly the radiation hazard facing the crew.

      Third, the ACR mission concept would put bulk asteroidal material within reach of Earth-Moon L2 (EM L2) facilities and transport systems, now being evaluated by NASA as a waypoint to lunar, asteroid, and Mars system destinations. Visits from the L2 outpost to this small captured asteroid would be an attractive sortie option for astronaut crews, providing opportunities for sample return, in-depth scientific examination, and demonstration of resource processing methods. The ACR mission would enhance the scientific, operational, and economic value of establishing a human-tended outpost at EML2.”

      I mean come on .. aren’t you already reaching for your checkbook to fund this?

  • ARM’s practical application is in developing technologies to redirect asteroids that would cause wide spread damage if they impacted earth.

    In that sense, ARM is the highest priority most practical mission NASA has ever undertaken and President Obama’s vision for what the agency can really do to benefit humanity most prescient.

    • Hiram

      “ARM’s practical application is in developing technologies to redirect asteroids that would cause wide spread damage if they impacted earth.”

      Blatantly false. Delusional, in fact. Bagging asteroids is under no circumstances a technology that one could use to redirect truly threatening asteroids. Sure, large SEPs, if well proven, can push large things. But you don’t need to push a rock in a bag to validate that capability. If you really wanted to develop a technology that would save the Earth, bag the bag, and invest in AR&D of an SEP with a sizeable asteroid.

      As noted above, Charlie Boldin himself says that ARM is “not about saving the planet”. Whyever do you guys not believe him? He’s pretty exasperated about the idea that ARM is about planetary protection.

      In that sense, ARM is the most misrepresented mission NASA has ever undertaken, and Charlie knows it.

      • Andrew Swallow

        Planetary protection is a UN program. The USA is only one of the countries involved. The difference is that NASA is the only organisation that can do more than look.

      • Andrew Swallow

        If you really wanted to develop a technology that would save the Earth, bag the bag, and invest in AR&D of an SEP with a sizeable asteroid.

        That was a silly and unprofessional thing to say.

        They are going for a small asteroid because mishandling a large asteroid that results in death would be seen as malpractice.

        The SEP needs an AR&D writing that can handle a payload whose COG is not in the centre.

        Since NEO can be a loose pile of rubble it has to be put into something. The practical alternative to a bag is a box.

        • pathfinder_01

          Nope, if all you wanted to do is protect the planet you just need to move the asteroid in an way to prevent an collision. They are going small because it is the only thing they can do.

        • Hiram

          “They are going for a small asteroid because mishandling a large asteroid that results in death would be seen as malpractice.”

          Um, how did “death” come into this discussion? Mishandling a large asteroid results in death? As in “oops, we redirected it toward the Earth”? Of course, the advantage is that with a small asteroid, you don’t take that risk, but you sure don’t learn what you need to know.

          You think an asteroid in a bag necessarily has its COG at the center of the bag? Holy smokes. Please don’t preach about dynamics if you don’t understand it. Putting a bag around a rock in no way controls its COG.

          What’s “AR&D writing”? Automated rendezvous and docking is a capability that we need to establish to connect an SEP to a dangerous asteroid. That SEP needs to have vectorable propulsion that can mitigate rotation, and send the asteroid where we want to send it. If the NEO is a loose pile of rubble, what you put in the bag isn’t going to have any well defined COG.

          That was a silly and unprofessional thing for you to say. All of it.

          • Andrew Swallow

            Current spacecraft have their COG in the centre. The asteroid will be the exception.

            Software is written. AR&D systems contain software.

  • Brian Swiderski

    I guess not much has changed in the scientific community’s attitude since the days of Apollo. Quite a few planetary scientists were not very enthusiastic about it, to say the least. They tended to have a very Malthusian view of the program, like if it weren’t there then somehow all those billions would go into unmanned science probes rather than just evaporating from the space sector altogether (as they did when Apollo was cancelled).

    They were not very understanding of how politics works, and apparently still are not. While there are legitimate arguments to be had about the details of ARM, they need to get it through their very brilliant skulls that the choice is not between ARM and a fleet of new unmanned probes, or between ARM and some radically different manned mission, but between ARM and nothing.

    Congress will not fund a human Mars mission yet, Dead Stop.
    Congress will not fund a manned return to the lunar surface yet, Dead Stop.
    Congress may fund ARM, and that’s the best we’re going to get right now.
    If it succeeds, then it is at least a new milestone in human spaceflight, and an actual accomplishment with potentially breathtaking imagery to get the public excited again.

    Remember, many scientists derided Apollo as a “stunt” too, and it was, but a stunt can achieve a lot more than face value.

    I know it’s hard to see the big picture when your mind is buried in details, and especially hard to understand how society works outside one’s own little professional subculture, but it’s kind of ludicrous that these critics apparently learned nothing from the history of manned space exploration.

    Their myopia and naysaying may not have played much role in cancelling Apollo and following it up with a lame Frankenstein’s monster of a crippled LEO cargo truck, but one would think they would have learned something from that experience. Learned something about not blindly following the logic of negativity and chronic under-ambition.

    The scientific community has always been pretty dubious about the “value” of human spaceflight (as if it were not obviously an end in itself), so let’s not overemphasize the credibility of its attitude toward ARM.

    • Hiram

      “I guess not much has changed in the scientific community’s attitude since the days of Apollo.”

      Misstep. The small body community is not criticizing ARM. If pigs want to fly, let ‘em fly (on their own budget). The small body community was asked to assemble science justification for ARM, and were largely unable to do so. That’s what is being said here.

      I know it’s hard to see the big picture when your mind is devoted to human space flight, and especially hard to understand how society works outside one’s own little subculture, but it’s kind of ludicrous that these expert scientists are being criticized about what makes good science.

      Look, Binzel himself said that he would have been delighted if ARM went after asteroids in their native orbits. He has nothing against HSF. In his presentation, he also specifically referred to the scientific importance of Apollo. But he was making the case that ARM ain’t Apollo.

      Please try to avoid silly screeds about scientists. It isn’t constructive.

      • Brian Swiderski

        “The small body community was asked to assemble science justification for ARM, and were largely unable to do so.”

        That’s not what I’m seeing. What I see is that they could imagine better scientific missions, and based on zero-sum logic some of them have decided that they cannot support this one as a result.

        “but it’s kind of ludicrous that these expert scientists are being criticized about what makes good science.”

        And if ARM were primarily a science mission rather than an HSF capabilities development mission, that would be a valid criticism. But the scientists weren’t asked whether ARM was a good science mission – they were asked what science could be extracted from it as an added bonus. Not exactly a subtle distinction, so some of the reactions are just non-germane.

        Look, Binzel himself said that he would have been delighted if ARM went after asteroids in their native orbits.

        And since Congress isn’t considering funding such a mission, that opinion means exactly nothing.

        • Hiram

          “That’s not what I’m seeing. What I see is that they could imagine better scientific missions, and based on zero-sum logic some of them have decided that they cannot support this one as a result.”

          What are you smoking? The HEOMD Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) Robotic Concept Integration Team (RCIT) asked the SBAG constitute a ARM Special Action Team. This team was tasked with specific questions which were about (1) science, (2) planetary defense, and (3) resource utilization. For science, the SAT (see their draft report) says explicitly —

          “In particular, the finding from the SBAG 9 meeting in July 2013 as related to planetary science states: “While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-REx, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission). Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate.” The SBAG ARM SAT continues to support this and other previous SBAG findings.”

          You need it spelled out more clearly?

          With regard to planetary defense, the proposed ARM options do not meet needs relevant to planetary defense.

          With regard to resource utilization, potential resources are identified, by the need to send humans to get them is not established.

          I think the zero sum logic here is that you don’t want to accept the facts that are in front of you. ARM is a dandy mission, but not for science, planetary defense, and probably resource utilization. You can make up other dandy rationale (something for SLS to do soon, “inspiration”, swell pictures), but at least the SBAG is pretty clear about these three.

          “And since Congress isn’t considering funding such a mission, that opinion means exactly nothing.”

          Re visiting asteroids in their native orbits, that’s true. Take a hint, Congress is very much not enthused about this ARM idea of bagging a random tiny one and visiting it in cis-lunar space. So ARM is beginning to look like the exactly nothing that I’m saying it is. If ARM is declared unsupportable, you can bet that NASA will be thinking hard about how humans could visit asteroids in their native orbits, and come up with a plan worth presenting to Congress to consider. Yep, it’ll take more than one Orion and one SLS to do it, but if NASA has any ambitions about Mars, and takes any pride in defensible scientific rationale, it’s going to be easy by comparision. Binzel was specific about how human space flight could yield productive small body science. Take that as a real challenge. Not the fake challenge of building a major mission that won’t yield such productive small body science.

          • Brian Swiderski

            In other words, like I said, ARM is primarily an HSF capabilities development mission and the science will mainly be opportunistic. How is that a meaningful criticism of the mission? You might as well attack the Air Force for not doing enough agricultural research.

            With regard to planetary defense, the proposed ARM options do not meet needs relevant to planetary defense.

            Let’s see now…they have to find and characterize an asteroid in a desired (or undesired) orbit. Clearly totally useless to planetary defense, right? Then send a probe to capture and redirect it, which is also obviously of no value whatsoever to planetary defense…ugh. You’re starting to sound like a Monty Python skit.

            With regard to resource utilization, potential resources are identified, by the need to send humans to get them is not established.

            And if this mission were being funded by Planetary Resources Inc. as part of an economic strategy, that would matter. But, for the umpteenth time, it’s an HSF capabilities development mission. So either you understand the purpose of human spaceflight or you don’t.

            You can make up other dandy rationale (something for SLS to do soon, “inspiration”, swell pictures), but at least the SBAG is pretty clear about these three.

            Uh huh, “dandy.” So basically you’re against human spaceflight. Thanks for making that clear.

            Take a hint, Congress is very much not enthused about this ARM idea of bagging a random tiny one and visiting it in cis-lunar space.

            They’re not enthused about doing anything that hasn’t already been done before, and wouldn’t even consider much that has been done before, but ARM is the one BEO human spaceflight concept mission they’re even remotely considering.

            If ARM is declared unsupportable, you can bet that NASA will be thinking hard about how humans could visit asteroids in their native orbits, and come up with a plan worth presenting to Congress to consider.

            Right. If Congress won’t foot the bill for the cheapest possible BEO mission with a destination, then surely they would spring for one that costs twice or three times as much to satisfy scientists – because we all know how much the wise, enlightened Creationists making these decisions love science, don’t we? The only way these clowns would fund a native-orbit mission after turning down ARM is if you convinced them Jesus was on the asteroid.

    • Hiram

      “Congress may fund ARM, and that’s the best we’re going to get right now.
      If it succeeds, then it is at least a new milestone in human spaceflight, and an actual accomplishment with potentially breathtaking imagery to get the public excited again. ”

      Bagging a small boulder becomes a “milestone”? Maybe you meant “millstone”? After all, it’s about grindingly pathetic rationale. The best we’re going to get right now is an embarrassment? So let’s forge ahead and do it! Ah, so it’s all about breathtaking imagery? The vacant rationale of ARM, it is true, takes our breath away. We can get pictures of that! The public, of course, will be “excited” when they find out how little return ARM actually produced. You know, stories will be written about it, and it’s not going to look good. Maybe the public will get more than exited. Maybe they’ll get properly livid.

      • Brian Swiderski

        Bagging a small boulder becomes a “milestone”?

        It’s a frigging asteroid flying through space, billions of years old, brought back to the vicinity of the Moon and investigated by humans in space. How could you possibly be obtuse enough to pooh-pooh that as “bagging a small boulder”? Apollo was just “prancing around on a dead rock.” Lewis and Clark were just “camping in the boonies.” Jesus.

        The best we’re going to get right now is an embarrassment? So let’s forge ahead and do it!

        No, let’s do nothing. Let’s not even try. In fact, let’s do the opposite of try. Let’s dismantle all of our launch pads and erase NASA from history lest it perpetrate the unimaginable horror of accomplishing things that don’t measure up to your fantasies.

        The public, of course, will be “excited” when they find out how little return ARM actually produced.

        Why do we even need exploration at all when we have Nostradamus in our midst? We don’t need space telescopes – you can just tell us in advance what we would find and then we can skip the hassle. Same with human spaceflight: Let’s not actually do anything – let’s just consult you about what you know for a fact would yield the maximum return, and then just skip the entire development process. The world must be a very boring place to one with such omniscience.

        • Hey, Brian, it’s nice to have at least one person here on my side. I agree with every one of your arguments. Although Hiram is correct about many of the scientific limitations, alternatives to ARM are not on the political table and ARM could do significant science “on the side” (and, potentially, resource development). It is the primary driver right now for high energy SEP development. In the wider sense, I agree with Gerstenmaier approach of trying to develop technology like SEP that is useful for the wider space community, that would also buy down risk for future missions to Mars and elsewhere. In today’s political environment, that is probably the only way to achieve the concensus and low funding requirements to move forward, however slowly.

          – Donald

          • Brian Swiderski

            Thank you for stating the reality so clearly. I just can’t fathom the recklessness and unreasoning of some of these anti-ARM comments.

            It’s as if they believe if they get ARM canceled, that they’ll get the money for their own desired projects, and that’s just not how politics works.

            They can perhaps have an effect on shaping the exact details of the mission, but not by sabotaging the political foundations needed to fund it at all.

            Their two choices are ARM or nothing, and I can’t imagine the depths of petulance it would take for someone to prefer nothing – i.e., deny the entire world the first human spaceflight milestone in nearly half a century – just because they feel like their fantasies aren’t being represented.

        • Hiram

          “How could you possibly be obtuse enough to pooh-pooh that as “bagging a small boulder”?

          You could put a frigging bag over an astronaut. Does that make you feel better? It would accomplish about the same goals. HSF involvement, operations in deep space, no real science or planetary protection output. GREAT photo op. What’s not to like?

          “Let’s dismantle all of our launch pads and erase NASA from history lest it perpetrate the unimaginable horror of accomplishing things that don’t measure up to your fantasies.”

          Gee, take your pills. I’m talking about doing something useful with HSF, and you’re talking about dismantling it? That doesn’t really seem advisable.

          “Why do we even need exploration at all when we have Nostradamus in our midst?”

          Be careful here. Exploration is, in the fundamental definition, examining and investigating unknown regions. It is not, NOT, defined as human space flight. You can explore in the lab, you can explore at a computer console. You can explore with tools that put your presence elsewhere. HEOMD has defined “exploration” as HSF, and you’ve evidently fallen for it, lock, stock and barrel.

          The world must be a very boring place where one can examine and investigate space only with a helmet.

          • Hiram: <i"Exploration is, in the fundamental definition, examining and investigating unknown regions.

            Strictly true, but “exploration” as you are using it is different from what most people mean by the word. As usually understood, it is divided into “reconnaissance” and “science,” with the former leading to the latter. What we are doing is giving us a wonderful big-picture outline of the structure of the Solar System (recannissance), but it is not leading to understanding in any detailed sense (“scientific exploration.”) (For example, in about a decade of effort, the Mars rovers have shown us that there was standing and running water on Mars at some undetermined date in the past. They have not shown us how that water got there, why it is gone, and if any life once existed in it, nor are they likely to in any reasonable period of time: reconnaissance versus science. In any reasonable definition, outside of Apollo and just possibly the Mars rovers (with great inefficiency), most of what we have done is basic reconnaissance, not exploration. We don’t even have absolute dates for most of the places we’ve sent our mechanical ambassadores, which is or should be the sine qua non of “exploration.”

            – Donald

            • Hiram

              “Strictly true, but “exploration” as you are using it is different from what most people mean by the word.”

              Oh, you buy the exploration=HSF line from HEOMD too, eh? Lock, stock and barrel. Sorry to break it to you, but NO space scientist would claim that what they were doing isn’t exploration. Are we really going to argue about whether science is exploration?

              So, um, Curiosity is doing “reconassiance” but not science? Lot of planetary scientists will be surprised to hear that.

              I guess, to you, “doing science” is picking up rocks and fondling them looking for life. We can make robotic surrogates that do exactly that. These would be controlled entirely by humans. The humans would be doing it remotely. They’re just not doing it with their own fingers. MER and Curiosity weren’t designed to “look for life” explicitly, with microscopes and chemical tests. But they could have been. It sure scares you, doesn’t it, that surrogate hands and feet can be electronically attached to a human brain. I call it “flesh worship”.

              “We don’t even have absolute dates for most of the places we’ve sent our mechanical ambassadores, which is or should be the sine qua non of “exploration.”

              Absolute dates? Whatever does that mean, and how does an astronaut establish an absolute date? The sine qua non of “exploration” is determining dates? Who knew? Maybe the astronaut caries a pocket watch?

              You’re trying to talk science, without having a real science background. Not pretty.

              • Hiriam: We can make robotic surrogates that do exactly that.

                Nobody, and I mean nobody, who has actually picked up rocks and fondled them actually believes that, whatever they say to Congress while trying to get funding for rovers. That is why every mission sent to Mars since Viking’s abject failure (which should be informative, but apparently isn’t) is advertised as designed to find conditions under which life could have existed, not life itself, let alone fossil life (which is a lot harder to find than extant life). Even Squires says the ultimate goal must be human missions. (True, the Europeans are building a rover to find life, but we’ll see how that turns out: I expect abject failure to illuminate the question in any way, much like Viking.)

                MER and Curiosity weren’t designed to “look for life” explicitly, with microscopes and chemical tests

                Exactly.

                Absolute dates? Whatever does that mean, and how does an astronaut establish an absolute date? The sine qua non of “exploration” is determining dates? Who knew? Maybe the astronaut caries a pocket watch?

                You are happy to call everyone else who disagrees with you ignorant, or at least uninformed, but this demonstrates your profound ignorance of how geological and paleontological sciences work. If you don’t know the date a surface was modified, you know essentially nothing. You cannot determine the absolute sequence of events, you can only make educated guesses with relative sequences based on (in the Solar System) crater counts (which in turn are based on absolute dates determined for exactly one body in one corner of the Solar System, and thus are almost certainly oversimplifications, at best, and probably wrong). If you don’t know the dates, you don’t know when (for a local example) the dinosaurs died off and you then cannot tie them to a meteor impact or volcanic explosions, or to anything else. All you know is that the dinosaurs are no longer here, which is not terribly informative.

                It is no accident that one of the primary — and possibly the primary — questions in modern planetary science is exactly when various elements of the great bombardment took place. That is because the great bombardment is what drove just about everything in the early development of planetary surfaces, and strongly influenced later development. And, the development of planetary surfaces is what set up the conditions for life.

                Without dates, you have no idea whether the formation of life was tied to the late bombardment, or could have happened before or after or many times.

                Without dates, you cannot address the problem of whether life on Earth originated on Mars, or any Martian life on Earth, or elsewhere in both cases. (Though samples of life would probably also answer the question.)

                Supposing you found life, without dates you cannot assess its evolutionary history.

                Without dates, you cannot know if the streambed found on Mars was allowed by a thicker atmosphere, or was allowed by a special condition (e.g., short-term — tens of thousands of years — heating generated in an impact). You also need the dates of what lies under the stream bed (where did the water come from and where did it go?) and over the stream bed (why is water no longer there?)

                And so on. And, if you read the literature (as I do), scientists do in fact have no idea about any of these questions. They are speculating with next-to-negligible data. You are letting your unreasoning hatred of this particular project influence your otherwise intelligent arguments.

                And, why is ARM an either / or project in any case. If nothing else, ARM (in the broader sense) is cheap compared to what we waste on the SLS or most other human-related hardware. Spending this relatively small amount over a few years does little or nothing to delay visiting an asteroid in its native environment, and actually could do a lot to justify technology (better space suits, anyone?) and operations (nobody has approached a small body in mocrogravity; it’s something we’d better know something about before we try to do it far from Earth), and reduce the risks of doing the latter. This whole debate is ridiculous, and I suspect a great deal of the heat is generated in politics that has little or nothing to do with HSF or asteroid science.

                – Donald

            • pathfinder_01

              They have not shown us how that water got there, why it is gone, and if any life once existed in it, nor are they likely to in any reasonable period of time: reconnaissance versus science. In any reasonable definition, outside of Apollo and just possibly the Mars rovers (with great inefficiency), most of what we have done is basic reconnaissance, not exploration. We don’t even have absolute dates for most of the places we’ve sent our mechanical ambassadores, which is or should be the sine qua non of “exploration.”

              Water on Venus, Earth and Mars likely got there the same way. The inner planets are made up of similar material. It is just that they evolved differently. As for why the water is gone, that is due to lack of volcanic activity. On Earth ground water eventually comes out in volcanic eruptions and as Mar’s core cooled it’s magnetic field grew weak and is now pretty much non-existent without an magnetic field the solar wind will strip an planet of it’s atmosphere. As atmospheric pressure drops water is unable to remain in liquid form.

              As for life it is hard enough to find evidence of life on Earth much esp. fossil bacteria (which is most likely the only life form that arose). It is hard to find life when you are not exactly sure what you should be looking for.

              • Pathfinder: As for life it is hard enough to find evidence of life on Earth much esp. fossil bacteria (which is most likely the only life form that arose).

                Exactly.

                It is hard to find life when you are not exactly sure what you should be looking for.

                However, it is (probably) a lot easier than finding fossils. You’d start by looking for out-of-equilibrium chemistry, the best example of which is the oxygen in our own atmosphere which could not exist in its free form for any length of time without life.

                As for the rest, these are big paintbrush answers — reconnaissance — which, I agree, can be provided by automated missions. If that’s all we want to know, fine. It’s the details — where did the specific water in that stream that Curiosity found come from and go to and did anything live in it — that require human scientists able to efficiently “fondle” rocks.

                – Donald

              • pathfinder_01

                Again the trouble is that life esp. primitive life does not require oxygen. In fact the gas would be an toxin until life evolved means of surviving it. There are lots of chemicals that could point to life or just be an freak of local chemistry.

                Nope, don’t need humans to find where that water came and went from. Mapping could do that. Did anything live in it, again would be hard to know because we don’t know what to look for either with rover or with human eye. On Earth there are plenty of examples of living things, but as there is nothing obviously alive on Mars today, it is hard to know what is or is not an fossil.

            • Vladislaw

              Donald wrote:

              As usually understood, it is divided into “reconnaissance” and “science,” with the former leading to the latter.

              Exploration

              “Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery of information or resources. Exploration occurs in all non-sessile animal species, including humans. In human history, its most dramatic rise was during the Age of Discovery when European explorers sailed and charted much of the rest of the world, largely in a pursuit of material wealth. Since then, major explorations after the Age of Discovery have occurred for reasons mostly aimed at information discovery.

              In scientific research, exploration is one of three purposes of empirical research (the other two being description and explanation). The term is commonly used metaphorically. For example, an individual may speak of exploring the Internet”

              For me it is the first two, you explore for information or resources. In today’s world most R&D involved in “exploration” has at the end result wealth generation in one form or another.

              • Vladislaw: you explore for information or resources. In today’s world most R&D involved in “exploration” has at the end result wealth generation in one form or another.

                I agree, which is why COTS and the like are so important, to start that ball rolling in space by reducing costs and providing greater capacity when something beyond comsats that makes money is found.

                However, planetary science is funded without much wealth generation being an immediate, or even a long-term, goal. That both reflects well on our species, and sharply limits exploration’s scope. If detailed planetary exploration could be shown to make money, all the automation versus human quibbling would quickly go by the wayside, and we’d have human geologists on (for example) Mars in a figurative fortnight!

                – Donald

          • Brian Swiderski

            The world must be a very boring place where one can examine and investigate space only with a helmet.

            It’s not a science mission, so your attempt to judge it on the criteria of a science mission is just gibberish. It’s a mission to expand human spaceflight capabilities that will do some science as an ancillary benefit. Your judgment of whether that benefit would be greater with a dedicated science mission is irrelevant because, once again, this is not a science mission so the science value is secondary to the HSF value. What about that fact do you not understand?

            If you’re just against HSF in principle, then there’s nothing to talk about because you would have been against Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo on exactly the same basis. If that’s the case, then your underlying values have no credit, so your arguments are bankrupt.

            • pathfinder_01

              I don’t think he is against HSF. The problem is that there isn’t much science at all as an ancillary benefit. This isn’t like Hubble where at least Hubble was better than any ground based telescope at launch. Sure it isn’t in the best orbit but still it is better.

              Here the Science is being majorly compromised. Is the result I got because the NEO is normally like this or is it that way because it has hung around in lunar orbit for a few months or years? The moving process is also suspect. This isn’t an carefully selected and packaged sample sent back to Earth. This is an man handled rocked dragged into lunar orbit. This isn’t an rock selected for scientific value and accessibility. It is strictly selected for accessibility.

              There are things humans or robots can do at an NEO but dragging an NEO to the moon just to allow astronauts to get to it does not make good science.

        • pathfinder_01

          “It’s a frigging asteroid flying through space, billions of years old, brought back to the vicinity of the Moon and investigated by humans in space. ”

          That is the problem. There is no reason to do this. We can analyze rocks and determine their composition without moving them. We could bring samples back to earth automatically, but here we are dragging an asteroid to lunar orbit just because? This isn’t like mapping the moon and getting basic info on it prior to Apollo. There simply is no value to moving the thing. It does not push manned spaceflight because we don’t develop the technology to get farther from the earth. It does not help small bodies because you are tampering with an asteroid and not observing it as it is.It is like moving an body at an crime science before the police have arrived(important evidence could be lost.).

          ” Lewis and Clark were just “camping in the boonies.” Jesus.”

          If Lewis and Clark were alive today they could take advantage of drone technology and satellite mapping and so on. You might still need people to meet the tribes but we are advanced enough that we don’t need humans to do everything.

          As for launch pads as much as I like and support HSF, in terms of spaceflight right now it is the tale wagging the dog. Loss of HSF wouldn’t do near as much damage economically as loss of things like communication’s satellites, weather satellites, spy satellites, resource mapping satellite, and GPS. The shuttle went down for 2 years twice and we hardly noticed…can you imagine GPS being down for 2 hours? HSF has not reached that level of importance and won’t if it does not grow beyond stunts.

          • Egad

            in terms of spaceflight right now it is the tale wagging the dog

            I like that, and could even hope that the idea of the narrative/tale driving the reality of HSF could be true. However, what’s doing much of the driving at the moment is technowelfare for a handful of states.

          • Vladislaw

            Pathfinder wrote:

            “That is the problem. There is no reason to do this. We can analyze rocks and determine their composition without moving them. We could bring samples back to earth automatically, but here we are dragging an asteroid to lunar orbit just because?”

            I believe you are kinda missing the point Brian is trying to make.
            There is no reason to do SLS, it is unsustainable but congress is insisting and it going forward.

            If you are stuck with the ugly girl at the dance you might as well dance with her.

            SLS is the reality going forward, congress is only going to toss a few peanuts at it for any mission. If you take landings off table and you take any destination past Luna off the table there are VERY few options left. I believe that is what Brian is trying to point out. If the only thing congress will fund is ARM .. might as well learn the texas two step.

            • pathfinder_01

              My view is they might as well Cancel SLS all together. There is no Value in it.

              • Vladislaw

                I agree with you, the sooner those funds can go towards actual hardware the better. It will take a different makeup in the house and senate where space states lose senority.

          • Pathfinder: There simply is no value to moving the thing.

            If that is so, why are scientists so hot and bothered about moving a few samples of Mars to earth? Wouldn’t it be far better, likewise, to examine these samples “in their native environment?” Aren’t both cases a simple matter of, if you can’t afford to go there, bring it here? How can it be simultaneously true that moving a few tiny samples of Mars to Earth (at great expense and unlikely to contain microfossils) is the single highest priority, while moving a sample of an asteroid (for similar purposes and at relatively low cost) is of no use whatsoever? Sure, examining anything in its native environment is better, but that does not mean there is no value in the latter. Also, one sample of an asteroid gives you samples of many asteroids (see my article in Space News referenced here before).

            (For the record, I think a Mars sample return is scientifically next to a complete waste of money. The sample will be so limited — and we already have a much broader range of Martian samples from different areas amd eras from Antarctica — that what we will find even with terrestrial instrumentation is little better than we can get with Curiosity and Opportunity clones in different parts of the planet. Far better to fly that low cost aerogel flythrough of the upper atmosphere, collecting dust from all quadrants of the planet and thus far more likely to contain a microfossil, and invest our pennies reducing the costs of spaceflight for everyone enough to send a real scientific expedition to Mars, or at least to PhD, at reasonable cost.)

            – Donald

            • pathfinder_01

              The difference is that the samples on Mars would be well characterized before they were sent back to earth. Their location, chemistry of rocks near them, chemistry of soil before transit would be established. They would then be sent DIRECTLY to Earth.

              In the ARM mission none of that happens. The whole asteroid is captured not just an part of it. The asteroid is selected because of ease of capture, not scientific value. No survey of NEOs is performed to see how this asteroid is like or dislike others. The thing is moved, but NOT sent directly to Earth. It hangs out around the moon. It is’t carefully sealed up(it is tumbled in an bag) and you want to get science out of that?

              Also on Earth micro fossils are not found in the atmosphere, they are found in rock and dust isn’t the best place to find them nor would you have any idea of WHERE the thing lived even if you found it. Knowing what sort of environment an organism lived in is kinda important both for finding additional samples and for figuring out how it lived. That is why they would search rock preferable rock found where water was once present.

              • pathfinder_01

                Anyway if you want to get some scientific value you would perform an survey of NEO or perform some sampling of an particular NEO then carefully select an sample and send it directly back to Earth. Moving the whole rock does none of that.

                If you astronauts had been sent to the rock or an robot to the rock an core sample could be taken but if you move the rock you risk tumbling it and that would just get rid of any layers.

          • Brian Swiderski

            It does not push manned spaceflight because we don’t develop the technology to get farther from the earth.

            Yes, it does. Orion is a BEO spacecraft, and futhermore, ARM would allow NASA to explore human operations near small bodies. And since the practical experience of “small” bodies scales up even to things the size of Phobos, it most definitely will mean something to future human activities.

            It does not help small bodies because you are tampering with an asteroid and not observing it as it is.

            The vast majority of what mankind ends up doing with small bodies will involve “tampering.” If you want pristine observations that are in no way affected by the observer, send a probe. But if Congress won’t pay for that probe, they won’t pay for it whether or not they agree to ARM, so obstructing ARM in support of a probe is just idiotic.

            If Lewis and Clark were alive today they could take advantage of drone technology and satellite mapping and so on.

            And then do what with the information? Sit around in Connecticut passively observing the frontier on computer monitors while some other, more centrally motivated society colonizes it?

            Loss of HSF wouldn’t do near as much damage economically as loss of things like communication’s satellites, weather satellites, spy satellites, resource mapping satellite, and GPS. The shuttle went down for 2 years twice and we hardly noticed…can you imagine GPS being down for 2 hours? HSF has not reached that level of importance and won’t if it does not grow beyond stunts.

            You really don’t get it.

            • pathfinder_01

              Please, Orion can only support an crew 21 days. It is not built to handle reentry velocities from either an Mars mission or an NEO mission that is why they are so limited. The R/D funds to build something that could go farther or do more got ate with attempting to keep the shuttle workforce employed. As for operations near an small body, trust me anything that is going to be moved isn’t going to even be on the scale of Phobos. The rock would be less than 10 meters in diameter, the size of a small bolder. The size of something you might use for landscaping. Phobos is roughly 11KM in diameter. I would think that objects that I could possibly fit into a trailer and tow with my car are rather different that objects that I could hike around.

              Congress pays for probes all the time. Right not an mission called DAWN is exploring vesta. OSIRIS-Rex is another planned mission to an small body(to be launched in 2016). And there was the deep impact and Stardust. On the international front there is/was Rosetta and Hayabusa.

              “And then do what with the information? Sit around in Connecticut passively observing the frontier on computer monitors while some other, more centrally motivated society colonizes it?”

              The reason why we send probes to different planets and bodies in the solar system isn’t just because we plan to send humans but also to learn how the universe works and apply that knowledge. A good example would be the Voyager probes to Jupiter. Jupiter’s atmosphere was far more turbulent and complex than expected. Our theories about winds and storms was insufficient to explain it. New theories and models were built and with that knowledge projection of the track of a hurricane was improved. We had all these expectations that the moons of Jupiter would be dead worlds like our own moon, but then IO was more volcanically active than the Earth. IO is an good model of how the early earth might have worked and so there is lots of interest in that moon(the Earth’s lava is cooler than what flows on IO but it was once just as hot.).

              Current technology will not support colonization of anything due to cost. Until that cost drops there isn’t much reason to send humans and Government backed programs designed to keep employment high are not good ways to reduce the cost of access to space.

              As for the comment about GPS. That is the point. HSF hasn’t gotten as important as unmanned spaceflight. I would like it to be but stunts do not make it work. A long time ago there were all sorts of aeronautical stunts in airplanes and we still have air shows but flight has proven itself important and useful for oh so many reasons. HSF has not reached that point yet and never will if the focus is just on stunts.

              • Vladislaw

                I agree with most of what you wrote but you took it a bit past reality with this:

                “The rock would be less than 10 meters in diameter, the size of a small bolder. The size of something you might use for landscaping. Phobos is roughly 11KM in diameter. I would think that objects that I could possibly fit into a trailer and tow with my car”

                16′ is considered a wide load and calls for special transport, 10 meters or 33′ wide would be a very serious load to move around. Granite weighs 2.75 tons per cubic meter. A 10 meter asteroid would contain 4188 cubic meters or 11,517 tons, over 23 milllion pounds. Not something you are going to haul around with a car. Granted if they grabbed a 1-2 meter rock it would be a different story.

    • Pathfinder_01

      The trouble is that by moving the asteroid, you get rid of much of it’s science value. Layers of material could get jumbled. The bag itself could contaminate. Before Apollo landed there were lot of missions that returned science about the moon and mapped it. In this case there is nothing like that. Apollo was an stunt and the shuttle was an attempt to make something useful out of it(an space truck in theory is useful…just that particular one was an bad idea.).

      Human spaceflight can have value, it is just that this isn’t an place where it does.

      • Hiram

        Well said. Bagging a rubble-pile asteroid (as we’re told ALL rubble piles need to be packaged) will just confuse any geological context. But more importantly, ARM is a recipe for contamination. Nearby thruster outflow, suit waste dumps, and even outgassing from very recently launched hardware will end up making samples sub-optimal.

        I won’t call Apollo a stunt. Well, maybe it was a stunt, but it had enormous science return.

      • Brian Swiderski

        A lot of folks around here seem to have an ideological belief that mankind exists to serve science and not the other way around. I.e., that human spaceflight has to justify itself on a scientific basis. It doesn’t. It is meaningful unto itself. The only reason we send out space probes anywhere is in anticipation of the day, hopefully soon, when we follow them.

        Anyone who doesn’t understand this really has nothing to offer this discussion, because ARM is a human spaceflight development mission, so if you’re not on board with the basic assumptions of HSF then the proper argument for that is to advocate for cancelling NASA HSF altogether, not utilize false premises and fallacies to attack specific HSF missions.

        • Brian: that human spaceflight has to justify itself on a scientific basis. It doesn’t. It is meaningful unto itself

          Guilty as charged, but I also agree with this statement. However, agreeing with it does not mean that people should concede the scientific ground entirely to robots, as some have been all too willing to do. Robots can do some things well. Detailed Geology (as opposed to initial mapping and surveys) and Paleontology, especially in a finite period of time, are not amongst them, nor are they likely to be in the foreseeable future — which is why the most experienced scientists implicitly concede the point by designing their rovers to find general conditions, and not life itself or exactly when water flowed down that stream that Curiosity found.

          Yes, ARM is a human development mission, and there are better ways to get (most of) the science, and science should not be ARM’s primary justification. I fully agree with all of those statement. But that does not mean that it would be scientifically useless. Since it is abundantly clear now that ARM has enough political opposition to ensure it never flies, I agree this argument is academic, but Brian is also correct that there is no human development project on the horizon that would replace it and also do something scientifically useful, however small that usefulness may be.

          – Donald

        • Vladislaw

          Brian Swiderski wrote:

          A lot of folks around here seem to have an ideological belief that mankind exists to serve science and not the other way around. I.e., that human spaceflight has to justify itself on a scientific basis.

          I believe for most commentors it is about mankind’s tax dollars and bang for the buck.

          It is meaningful unto itself. The only reason we send out space probes anywhere is in anticipation of the day, hopefully soon, when we follow them.

          I agree that is meaningful in itself, because I have always felt and advocated that spaceflight is nothing more than another transportation system. I believe funding for it should be divorced from science. Did trains and rails have to show a science return? Did/do scientists utilize trains? Did auto’s, fossil fuels, roadways have to show a science return? Do scientists utilize them?

          Spaceflight is just another form of transportation that should get funding just on that alone. We do not need to know what ever organization, agency, corporation, or individual is going to do on their utilization of that transportation, the reasons will be as varied as it is for every other form of transportation.

          so if you’re not on board with the basic assumptions of HSF then the proper argument for that is to advocate for cancelling NASA HSF altogether, not utilize false premises and fallacies to attack specific HSF missions

          Here again, for most people it is about the bang for the buck how much return for how much is spent.

  • josh

    @windy

    The next president will be another Democrat your silly revenge fantasies notwithstanding.
    Weren’t you the one looking forward to a President Palin or President Perry? Lmfao!

  • Robert Clark

    So not even NASA’s own advisory council (NAC) likes the asteroid retrieval mission.

    But in point of fact NASA CAN afford to go to the Moon, and to Mars, and even to near Earth asteroids. How? By following an approach NASA itself has proven to be successful – commercial space. Both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences were able to cut 90%(!) off the costs for both launchers and space capsules in NASA’s commercial cargo program. That’s four separate systems able to show a factor of ten drop in development costs. That is NOT a coincidence.

    Remarkably we can still do the beyond low Earth orbit (BEO) missions even using the SLS and Orion. The reason is the extra systems such as a planetary or lunar lander developed commercially will be so low cost compared to the SLS and Orion, that they will add only minimally to the amounts already being spent on the SLS and Orion anyway. That’s in contrast to the state of affairs with the old approach that would be so costly that it would not allow any missions to be attempted after the SLS is completed.

    NASA head Charles Bolden lamented that he didn’t have “leaders” at NASA:

    “Marcia Smith @SpcPlcyOnline · Jul 30
    Bolden, asked what worries him: I need to help my leadership team become better leaders. There are managers, and leaders. I need leaders.”
    https://twitter.com/SpcPlcyOnl

    NASA’s management needs to step up and make the recommendations to the White House and its science and technology advisory office not the other way around. They should stop just parroting back to those in the White House that advise the President on science and technology policy about how great the ARM is and acknowledge that nobody likes the asteroid retrieval mission.

    The White House and Congress were successfully able to compromise to get the SLS and commercial cargo and crew programs. NASA’s leadership should take the lead and promote a compromise that further mission elements will be undertaken with the commercial space approach.

    Note then that both supporters of the SLS and of commercial space would be happy since both would be used to accomplish missions that *everybody* wants. That’s what you call successful compromise.

    Bob Clark

    • Pathfinder_01

      SLS and Orion already bust the budget. An launcher with a flight rate of every other year or maybe once a year isn’t going to move manned spaceflight any bit forward. Augustine figured that BEO flight was not affordable without an increase in NASA’s budget commercially bought rocket or not. Nobody wanted to increase NASA’s budget and no body wanted those shuttle jobs to disappear and so you have NASA attempting to do an HLV with an Shuttle budget.

      • Its not so much a problem with SLS or Orion but a problem in estimating the budget. The people who underestimated the budget should be fired.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          Its not so much a problem with SLS or Orion but a problem in estimating the budget.

          If you’ve only got a 5 lb bag, your options are limited for fitting in 10 lbs of “stuff”.

          The SLS is too expensive to use, not only by itself, but also when you consider how much has to be spent on developing and building the missions and payloads needed to fully utilize the capabilities of an HLV. We really don’t need an HLV for at least another decade, maybe more.

        • common sense

          How do you fire your friends in Congress?

          You should know that Congress decides the budget they allocate to NASA, don’t you?

          Next election maybe?

          Oh well.

          • No, but they don’t do project planning.

            • Coastal Ron

              And they haven’t asked for any specific “project planning” to be done for any specific destinations.

              Heck, they didn’t even ask NASA what kind of technology should be used to build a modern rocket, which is how we ended up with 20th century technology to build a supposed 21st century rocket.

    • James

      NASA head Charles Bolden lamented that he didn’t have “leaders” at NASA:

      I assume Bolden is also referring to himself in this statement. Having talked w other senior executives within NASA, Bolden is not alone in his Lamentations.

      The culture at NASA is to manage. Not lead. Leaders get excommunicated because they often see a future that is outside the status quo, but the existing mindset quickly kills them off as the leaders vision is threatening to the establishment

  • Robert Clark

    That link to the Space Policy Online twitter account should be:

    https://twitter.com/SpcPlcyOnline/status/494547723144556545

    Bob Clark

    • common sense

      Never going to happen.

      Managers are selected by managers. A leader among managers is a threat to the other managers and/or worse an unknown. For a leader to be selected s/he would have to look like a manager until selected and then “tada” change into a leader.

      And. Leaders would threaten Congress as well. They are not looking for a leader. They are looking for people to follow their “lead”.

      Nope. Not going to happen.

      Here: http://www.ted.com/speakers/simon_sinek

  • E.P. Grondine

    I see a lot of theorizing without facts.

    We could have had DIRECT for $3 billion.

    Instead we had the ARES 1.

    We do not know in detail how that came about –

    In other words, Griffin’s thinking and architectures –

    And absolutely no space historian or journalist has the guts to take on the task of looking into that…

  • common sense

    Funny how the more things change the more they stay the same…

    Unbelievable nonsense in this thread by usual and new actors.

    Poor NASA.

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/06/30/nasas-problem-with-farmers-the-committee-and-tinkerbells/

  • E.P. Grondine

    How NASA’s science goals are really determined:

    “The primary goal the science community laid out for the 2020 rover was to enable the efficient selection of the most compelling sample set possible – so compelling that Congress will spend the additional few billions of dollars for missions to retrieve and return them to Earth.”

    Of course, this particular process is susceptible to very sudden changes.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “Another criticism is that NASA does a poor job of explaining why it is pursuing ARM. Williams used a chart with several bullets, one of which pointed to ARM’s role in demonstrating techniques that could be used to defend Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids — planetary defense. During questioning about those bullets, Bolden quickly chimed in to say that planetary defense is NOT a goal of ARM.”

    “Persistent” questioning by who? And why was it persistent?

    What the hell did they expect Bolden to say, “Well, we may have an asteroid the size of Texas headed our way, but we don’t know for sure yet.”?

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