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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the to-the-moon-but-not-back? dept.

Howard Bloom has written a guest blog at Scientific American addressing the Trump Administration's plan to return to (orbit) the Moon. That mission would use the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, which have cost $18 billion through 2017 but are not expected to launch astronauts into space until around 2023. Bloom instead proposes using private industry to put a base on the Moon, using technology such as SpaceX's Falcon Heavy (estimated $135 million per launch vs. $500 million for the Space Launch System) and Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable habitat modules:

[NASA's acting administrator Robert] Lightfoot's problem lies in the two pieces of NASA equipment he wants to work with: a rocket that's too expensive to fly and is years from completion—the Space Launch System; and a capsule that's far from ready to carry humans—the Orion. Neither the SLS nor the Orion are able to land on the Moon. Let me repeat that. Once these pieces of super-expensive equipment reach the moon's vicinity, they cannot land.

Who is able to land on the lunar surface? Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow. Musk's rockets—the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy—are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready.

[...] In 2000, Bigelow purchased a technology that Congress had ordered NASA to abandon: inflatable habitats. For the last sixteen years Bigelow and his company, Bigelow Aerospace, have been advancing inflatable habitat technology. Inflatable technology lets you squeeze a housing unit into a small package, carry it by rocket to a space destination, then blow it up like a balloon. Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious—an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules. What's more, Bigelow has been developing a landing vehicle to bring his modules gently down to the Moon's surface.

[...] If NASA ditched the Space Launch System and the Orion, it would free up three billion dollars a year. That budget could speed the Moon-readiness of Bigelow's landing vehicles, not to mention SpaceX's Falcon rockets and could pay for lunar enhancements to manned Dragon 2 capsules. In fact, three billion dollars a year is far greater than what Bigelow and Musk would need. That budget would also allow NASA to bring Jeff Bezos into the race. And it would let NASA refocus its energy on earth-orbit and lunar-surface refueling stations...plus rovers, lunar construction equipment, and devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen. Not to mention machines to turn lunar dust and rock into building materials.

An organization that Howard Bloom founded, The Space Development Steering Committee, has been short one member recently (Edgar Mitchell).


Original Submission

Related Stories

2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration 56 comments

NASA is going back to the Moon, perhaps permanently, as seen in a new road map (image):

Four months after President Trump directed NASA to return to the Moon, the agency has presented a road map to meet the goals outlined in Space Policy Directive-1. The updated plan shifts focus from the previous "Journey to Mars" campaign back to the Moon, and—eventually—to the Red Planet.

"The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, in a release issued by the agency.

While the revamped plan may share the same destination as the Apollo program, NASA said it will approach the return in a more measured and sustainable manner. Unlike humanity's first trip to the Moon, the journey back will incorporate both commercial and international partners.

To achieve this, NASA has outlined four strategic goals:

  • Transition low-Earth orbit (LEO) human spaceflight activities to commercial operators.
  • Expand long-duration spaceflight activities to include lunar orbit.
  • Facilitate long-term robotic lunar exploration.
  • Use human exploration of the Moon as groundwork for eventual human missions to Mars and beyond.

This may be the best outcome for the space program. Let NASA focus on the Moon with an eye towards permanently stationing robots and humans there, and let SpaceX or someone else take the credit for a 2020s/early-2030s manned Mars landing. Then work on a permanent presence on Mars using cheaper rocket launches, faster propulsion technologies, better radiation shielding, hardier space potatoes, etc.

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1

Related:


Original Submission

SpaceX Picks Up New Customers for the Falcon Heavy 18 comments

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket seems to be a hit with satellite companies

When the Falcon Heavy rocket launched for the first time in February, some critics of the company wondered what exactly the rocket's purpose was. After all, the company's Falcon 9 rocket had become powerful enough that it could satisfy the needs of most commercial customers. One such critic even told me, "The Falcon Heavy is just a vanity project for Elon Musk."

[...] Last week, the Swedish satellite company Ovzon signed a deal for a Falcon Heavy launch as early as late 2020 for a geostationary satellite mission. And just on Thursday, ViaSat announced that it, too, had chosen the Falcon Heavy to launch one of its future ViaSat-3 satellite missions in the 2020 to 2022 timeframe.

[...] In explaining their rocket choice, both Ovzon and ViaSat cited the ability of the Falcon Heavy to deliver heavy payloads "direct"—or almost directly—to geostationary orbit, an altitude nearly 36,000km above the Earth's surface. Typically, rockets launching payloads bound for geostationary orbit drop their satellites into a "transfer" orbit, from which the satellite itself must spend time and propellant to reach the higher orbit. (More on these orbits can be found here).

[...] The demonstration flight of the Falcon Heavy apparently convinced not only the military of the rocket's direct-to-geo capability but satellite fleet operators as well. The Falcon Heavy rocket now seems nicely positioned to offer satellite companies relatively low-cost access to orbits they desire, with a minimum of time spent getting there in space.

See also: SpaceX heading to two to four Falcon Heavy paid launches per year

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Successful (Mostly)
SpaceX Confirms it Lost the Center Core of the Falcon Heavy
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway


Original Submission

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon 26 comments

NASA chief on Moon return: "This will not be Lucy and the football again"

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, a long-range commitment toward the human exploration of deep space, beginning with a return to the Moon. "Major parts of that policy went forward, but establishing permanence on the Moon was abandoned," Bridenstine said Tuesday. Then, in 2004, President George W. Bush announced a bold plan to send humans back to the Moon, where they would learn how to operate in deep space and then go on to Mars. This became the Constellation program. Again, major parts of that policy went forward, Bridenstine said. But NASA abandoned the drive back to the Moon.

Before the US Senate confirmed pilot and former congressman Bridenstine, the Trump administration announced a plan to send humans back to the Moon. "To many, this may sound similar to our previous attempts to get to the Moon," Bridenstine said Tuesday. "However, times have changed. This will not be Lucy and the football again."

How have times changed? During his brief address, Bridenstine listed several technologies that he believes have lowered the cost of a lunar return. These include the miniaturization of electronics that will allow for smaller robotic vehicles, the decreasing costs of launch, private investment in spaceflight, commercial interest in lunar resources, and new ways of government contracting. (Bridenstine did not mention the Space Launch System rocket or the Orion spacecraft).

The speech was only a few minutes long, so I wouldn't read too much into the absence of SLS/Orion. But it's no secret that BFR could deliver 150 metric tons to the Moon or Mars by using in-orbit refueling, vs. a lot less when using the expensive SLS.

Previously:

Related:


Original Submission

NASA Administrator Bridenstine Says It Won't Cost Much to Get Back to the Moon 29 comments

Going Back to the Moon Won't Break the Bank, NASA Chief Says

Sending humans back to the moon won't require a big Apollo-style budget boost, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. During the height of the Apollo program in the mid-1960s, NASA gobbled up about 4.5 percent of the federal budget. This massive influx of resources helped the space agency make good on President John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 promise to get astronauts to the moon, and safely home to Earth again, before the end of the decade. NASA's budget share now hovers around just 0.5 percent. But something in that range should be enough to mount crewed lunar missions in the next 10 years or so, as President Donald Trump has instructed NASA to do with his Space Policy Directive 1, Bridenstine told reporters yesterday (Aug. 30) here at NASA's Ames Research Center.

The key lies in not going it alone and continuing to get relatively modest but important financial bumps, he added. (Congress allocated over $20.7 billion to NASA in the 2018 omnibus spending bill — about $1.1 billion more than the agency got in the previous year's omnibus bill.)

"We now have more space agencies on the surface of the planet than we've ever had before. And even countries that don't have a space agency — they have space activities, and they want to partner with us on our return to the moon," Bridenstine said in response to a question from Space.com. "And, at the same time, we have a robust commercial marketplace of people that can provide us access that historically didn't exist," the NASA chief added. "So, between our international and commercial partners and our increased budget, I think we're going to be in good shape to accomplish the objectives of Space Policy Directive 1."

We're talking about the surface of the Moon, right? Not the mini-ISS in lunar orbit that would give the Space Launch System somewhere to go?

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration
NASA Cancels Lunar Rover
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon

Related: Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview


Original Submission

ESA Plans to Send Mining Equipment to the Moon 10 comments

The European Space Agency plans to start mining for natural resources on the moon

The European Space Agency plans to start mining for water and oxygen on the moon by 2025.

The agency announced Monday it has signed a 1-year contract with European aerospace company ArianeGroup to explore mining regolith, also known as lunar soil or moon dust.

Water and oxygen can be extracted from regolith, potentially making it easier for humans to spend time on the moon in the future, according to ArianeGroup. The research could also make it possible to produce rocket fuel on the moon, enabling future expeditions to go further into space, the aerospace company said.

[...] The mission would be a collaboration between aerospace scientists and technicians in France, Germany and Belgium. The project is now in the research phase, with scientists hoping to use an Ariane 64 rocket in coming years to send mining equipment to the moon.

Previously: New ESA Head Wörner: 'We Could Build All Kinds of Things with Moon Concrete'
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers


Original Submission

SpaceX Plans to Fly a Passenger Around the Moon Using BFR 14 comments

After a previously planned flight around the Moon using a Falcon Heavy fizzled out, SpaceX has announced that it will send a private passenger around the Moon using a BFR launch vehicle. More details will be announced on Monday:

On Thursday evening, without any advance notice, SpaceX tweeted that is had signed the world's "first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle." Moreover, the company promised to reveal "who's flying and why" on Monday, September 17. The announcement will take place at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

There were only two other clues—tweets from Elon Musk himself. Was the rendering of the Big Falcon Spaceship in SpaceX's tweet new? Yes, Musk said. And was he the passenger? In response to this, the founder of SpaceX simply tweeted a Japanese flag emoji. This would seem to be a strong clue that the passenger is from Japan. Or maybe Musk was enjoying the epic Seven Samurai movie at that moment.

By announcing this on Thursday, and waiting four days to provide more details, the company has set off a big guessing game as to who will fly. Of course that is an interesting question, but we have many other questions that we'd like to see answered before that. We've included some of those questions below, along with some wild and (slightly) informed guesses. Musk even answered one of them for us.

The design of the BFS has apparently changed to include three prominent fins and an underside heat shield.

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
SpaceX to Launch Five Times in April, Test BFR by 2019
SpaceX to Begin BFR Production at the Port of Los Angeles
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration


Original Submission

Bigelow Aerospace Forms New Company to Manage Space Stations, Announces Gigantic Inflatable Module 26 comments

Bigelow Aerospace has created a spinoff company that will manage its orbital space stations, and has announced plans for an inflatable module that would be even larger than the B330:

Bigelow Aerospace — the Las Vegas-based company manufacturing space habitats — is starting a spinoff venture aimed at managing any modules that the company deploys into space. Called Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), the new company will be responsible for selling Bigelow's habitats to customers, such as NASA, foreign countries, and other private companies. But first, BSO will try to figure out what kind of business exists exactly in lower Earth orbit, the area of space where the ISS currently resides.

Bigelow makes habitats designed to expand. The densely packed modules launch on a rocket and then inflate once in space, providing more overall volume for astronauts to roam around. The company already has one of its prototype habitats in orbit right now: the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, which has been attached to the International Space Station since 2016. The BEAM has proven that Bigelow's expandable habitat technology not only works, but also holds up well against the space environment.

Now, Bigelow is focusing on its next space station design: the B330. The habitat is so named since it will have 330 cubic meters (or nearly 12,000 cubic feet) of interior volume when expanded in space. That's about one-third the volume provided by the ISS. Bigelow hopes to launch two B330s as early as 2021, on top of the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets, and the company even has plans to put a B330 around the Moon. After that, Bigelow has bigger plans to create a single station with 2.4 times the entire pressurized volume of the ISS, the company announced today. Such a huge station will need to be constructed in an entirely new manufacturing facility that Bigelow plans to build — though the company hasn't decided on a location yet.

Bigelow's BEAM is currently attached to the ISS and has a volume of about 16 cubic meters, which has been described as that of "a large closet with padded white walls". The B330 will have 330 cubic meters of pressurized volume. The newly proposed module is called the BA 2100, or "Olympus", with 2,250 cubic meters of volume, compared to the ISS's total 931 cubic meters. The mass of the BA 2100 could range from 65 to 100 metric tons, likely requiring a super-heavy launcher such as the SLS Block 1B/2 or SpaceX's BFR.

Also at Space News, Motherboard, and Space.com.

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022


Original Submission

Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022 16 comments

In a move intended to align with the National Space Council's call for NASA to return to the Moon, the United Launch Alliance intends to launch a Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable module into low Earth orbit, and later boost it into lunar orbit using a rocket which can have propellant transferred to it from another rocket:

Bigelow Aerospace, a company devoted to manufacturing inflatable space habitats, says it's planning to put one of its modules into orbit around the Moon within the next five years. The module going to lunar space will be the B330, Bigelow's design concept for a standalone habitat that can function autonomously as a commercial space station. The plan is for the B330 to serve as something of a lunar depot, where private companies can test out new technologies, or where astronauts can stay to undergo training for deep space missions.

"Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars," Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said in a statement. "It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term."

To put the habitat in lunar orbit, Bigelow is looking to get a boost from the United Launch Alliance. The B330 is slated to launch on top of ULA's future rocket, the Vulcan, which is supposed to begin missions no earlier than 2019. The plan is for the Vulcan to loft the B330 into lower Earth orbit, where it will stay for one year to demonstrate that it works properly in space. During that time, Bigelow hopes to send supplies to the station and rotate crew members in and out every few months.

After that, it'll be time to send the module to the Moon. ULA will launch two more Vulcan rockets, leaving both of the vehicles' upper stages in orbit. Called ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, these stages can remain in space, propelling other spacecraft to farther out destinations. ULA plans to transfer all of the propellant from one ACES to the other, using the fully fueled stage to propel the B330 the rest of the way to lunar orbit.

The B330 is the giant version of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Previously: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon
Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base (could they be joined together?)
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station


Original Submission

President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1 100 comments

No more sending humans to an asteroid. We're going back to the Moon:

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities." The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

"The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," said President Trump. "It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints -- we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond."

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA's existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

President's remarks and White House release.

Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America's Human Space Exploration Program

Also at Reuters and New Scientist.

Previously: Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022


Original Submission

Site Update: The Next Episode 139 comments

Hi there. Martyb again with an update of our progress on issues arising from the site update. (The new comment grouping and display code was necessitated by huge server loads as well as long delays on constructing and returning highly-commented articles.)

First off, please accept my sincere thanks to all of you who made the time to comment in the prior stories and/or engaged us on the #dev channel on IRC. Really! Thank you for your passion and willingness to provide steps to reproduce and ideas for overcoming the issues that have been found.

ACs: If you access the site as an Anonymous Coward, be aware that we have NOT forgotten you. We are still trying to ascertain what features work best for the most people and are holding off changing (and rechanging and...) settings until we have a better idea of what to change those settings to be. So, please speak up on anything that you continue to find problematic and help guide us to making a choice that works the best for the most.

Scrolling Within a Comment: From what I saw in the reports from Monday, one of the key issues had to do with the scrolling within comments. We heard you. Oh, did we ever! Scrolling within comments was quickly removed and replaced by setting a limit on how long a comment could be submitted. This was especially problematic on mobiles and tablets.

Display Modes: Another of the often discussed issues had to do with "Display Mode." This can be set in your preferences (for logged-in users) and ad hoc when you load a story.

Display Mode - Defaults: If, prior to the release you had chosen "Flat", then you were transitioned to "Flat" (Doh!) If you had anything else as your selection for "Display Mode", you were transitioned to "Threaded-TOS". That mode was intended, as best as we were able to do using only CSS, to replicate the behavior previously supported by the old "Threaded" mode. You CAN change this. Many have reported that changing "Threaded-TOS" to "Threaded-TNG" and setting a lower value for "Breakthrough" (in this mode, "Threshold" is ignored) seemed to do the trick.

Display Mode - ad hoc setting: For the ad hoc case, just load the story as you normally would. Below the actual story text and before the comments is a set of controls. If you are having issues with the current default of "Threaded-TOS" click on that text and change it to "Threaded-TNG". if you find you have way too many icons to click in order to read comments, choose a smaller value for Breakthrough (-1 displays all; in this mode Threshold value is ignored).

Spoiler: Another popular topic of discussion was the way the new <spoiler> tag was implemented. We've heard you, but have not as yet decided on a course of action on how to update its functionality... Stay tuned!

*NEW* and/or Dimming: A surprising (to me at least) number of folks had issues with how we flagged old/new comments. For logged-in users, again go to the "Comments" tab of your "preferences" page, scroll down a little, and there are checkboxes that you can toggle:

Highlight New Comments [ ] Highlight new comments with *NEW* tag
Dim Read Comments [ ] Dim already read comments

Please give those a try and see if that works for you. Our first implementation of "Dimming" was a bit too strong for most folk's liking - this has been reduced so as to be less jarring. As for the "*NEW*" text, there were several positive comments that on mobile devices especially, one could quickly search for the text and rapidly navigate comments to find out what was new. There was a suggestion that uppercase-only looks like YELLING. Yes, it does. On the other hand, whatever text is selected for display has to be a reasonably unlikely string to appear in the normal course of reading comments. (False positives, anyone?)

There were some suggestions on changing the color of the comment title to flag it as new. This sounds pretty simple, but the devil is in the details. We have some in our community who are color-blind and others who have very limited vision, if any at all. For them, any color changes could be well nigh invisible. But it gets worse. On the "Homepage" tab of the "Preferences" page, there are currently 11 different themes that one can choose as your default. Setting a new comment to have a lighter (or darker) title bar would not work across all of those disparate themes.

Chevrons: And as for those chevrons that control the display of a single comment and of a comment tree, yes we heard you. Work is underway to see if we can replace those images with single/double plus/minus characters.

Penultimately, I would like to add a call-out to Paulej72 who took point yesterday (giving TheMightyBuzzard a well-deserved respite) and worked tirelessly into the night to address the issues that were raised.

Lastly, again many thanks to you, our community, who have guided us through this transition. Your feedback matters. We listen and for those who have been following along, I hope you can see the changes and the progress. We continue to strive to earn your trust and support. Thank you!

Dev Note: Currently there is an issue with Flat mode and viewing single comments such as https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?sid=18223&cid=472653. It just came to our attention and we will be working on it to fix it. This issue will cause you to get a server error. Workarounds are to either switch modes to anything other than Flat or avoid going to single comment views.

Continuation of:
Site Update 17_2
Comments Redux

Jeff Bezos Details Moon Settlement Ambitions in Interview 49 comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin are looking to partner with NASA and ESA to help create settlements on the Moon. However, he implied that he would fund development of such a project himself if governments don't:

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture will work with NASA as well as the European Space Agency to create a settlement on the moon. And even if Blue Origin can't strike public-private partnerships, Bezos will do what needs to be done to make it so, he said here at the International Space Development Conference on Friday night.

[...] To facilitate a return to the moon, Blue Origin has a lunar lander on the drawing boards that's designed to be capable of delivery 5 tons of payload to the lunar surface. That's hefty enough to be used for transporting people — and with enough support, it could start flying by the mid-2020s. Blue Origin has proposed building its Blue Moon lander under the terms of a public-private partnership with NASA. "By the way, we'll do that, even if NASA doesn't do it," Bezos said. "We'll do it eventually. We could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership."

[...] It's important to point out that moon settlement isn't just a NASA thing. Bezos told me he loves the European Space Agency's approach, known as the Moon Village. "The Moon Village concept has a nice property in that everybody basically just says, look, everybody builds their own lunar outpost, but let's do it close to each other. That way, if you need a cup of sugar, you can go over to the European Union lunar outpost and say, 'I got my powdered eggs, what have you got?' ... Obviously I'm being silly with the eggs, but there will be real things, like, 'Do you have some oxygen?' "

Here's Why NASA's Audacious Return to the Moon Just Might Work 42 comments

Here's why NASA's audacious return to the Moon just might work

Speaking in front of a high-fidelity model of the Apollo program's Lunar Module spacecraft, Vice President Mike Pence charged NASA with accelerating its Moon plans last week. Instead of 2028, Pence wanted boots on the ground four years earlier, before the end of 2024. This marked the rarest of all moments in spaceflight—a schedule moving left instead of to the right.

Understandably, the aerospace community greeted the announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many rocket builders, spaceship designers, flight controllers, and space buffs have seen this movie before. Both in 1989 and 2004, Republican administrations have announced ambitious Moon-then-Mars deep space plans only to see them die for lack of funding and White House backing.

And yet, this new proposal holds some promise. Pence, as well as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, have adopted a clear goal for the agency and promised enduring political support. Moreover, they have said the "end" matters more than the "means." This suggests that whatever rockets and spacecraft NASA uses to reach the Moon, the plan should be based on the best-available, most cost-effective technology. In short, they want to foster a healthy, open competition in the US aerospace industry to help NASA and America reach its goals.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:48AM (24 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:48AM (#472652) Homepage Journal

    And, do it now!

    Once again - at this point in time, a single cataclysmic event could make mankind extinct. We need to get off of this one, single rock that we live on, and populate the solar system. The more we spread out, the less likely that any single event could harm us significantly.

    Think of the children, for once. Think survival of the species.

    Let's get it done! The moon first, Mars next, then we'll look at the gas giant's moons.

    --
    Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59AM (9 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59AM (#472672)

      Whatever happened to the asteroid miners?

      --
      Україна не входить до складу Росії.
      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:40PM (8 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:40PM (#472788) Homepage Journal

        There's not much market for the miners, until there are some bases and/or cities located somewhere up there to use the stuff they mine. The miners are still needed, but the miners aren't going to be self sufficient. Someone needs to be willing to trade food, water, entertainment, and other essentials before the miners can really get going. In my mind, it's pretty well established that mining stuff to drop down the gravity well to the mud dwellers is a waste of time. If you're going to drop stuff down the well, you might as well shape it like a spear, and wipe out all the competition, then you can rule earth. That would be a lonely job - almost as lonely as mining asteroids.

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:51PM (7 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:51PM (#472815) Journal

          If you're going to drop stuff down the well, you might as well shape it like a spear, and wipe out all the competition, then you can rule earth. That would be a lonely job - almost as lonely as mining asteroids.

          Not seeing how that gets you food, water, entertainment, and other essentials.

          In my mind, it's pretty well established that mining stuff to drop down the gravity well to the mud dwellers is a waste of time.

          Mud dwellers are the only economic game in town right now. The asteroid mining would be to displace additional mass that would otherwise have to be lifted from Earth. But if you can drop something sufficiently valuable for a sufficiently cheap price, that too would count as something that isn't a waste of time.

          • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:16PM (3 children)

            by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:16PM (#472832) Homepage Journal

            "Not seeing how that gets you food, water, entertainment, and other essentials."

            When you've killed off the competition, and subdued the remaining population, you claim tribute. Water, liquour, food, women, wine, song, jewelry, whatever. No need to mine asteroids, if you can just conquer earth. Of course, when that cataclysmic event happens, then it's "Good night, mankind!'

            --
            Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59PM (2 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59PM (#472862) Journal

              When you've killed off the competition, and subdued the remaining population, you claim tribute. Water, liquour, food, women, wine, song, jewelry, whatever. No need to mine asteroids, if you can just conquer earth. Of course, when that cataclysmic event happens, then it's "Good night, mankind!'

              Ok, genius, how do you get that tribute up to your sky fortress now that you're whacked the infrastructure for moving stuff into space?

              • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:35PM (1 child)

                by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:35PM (#472893) Homepage Journal

                Transporters.

                Actually, you can probably come down and enjoy a life of ease after you've subdued the population.

                But, come on, man - I'm the guy pushing the idea of getting OUT THERE - the rest of this scenario is just so much bullshit. Let me out there, and I sure as hell don't want to come back. The only reason I would come back is, I can't make it. I'm not good enough, the tech isn't good enough, the support isn't good enough. Let me out there, and I'm gonna do my damnedest to make things work, so that I don't HAVE to come back.

                --
                Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM (#472919) Journal
                  Come on, Runaway. You break out the Ming the Merciless outfit *after* you get the death ray. Publicly speculating about all the tribute you're going to get once your "asteroid mining station" is operational is a bit premature.
          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:25PM (2 children)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:25PM (#472836)

            If I had rule of space, with sufficient resources to drop even one kiloton asteroid per month anywhere on Earth I wanted, I'm pretty sure I could negotiate all the luxury goods, entertainment and other things I wanted to be sent up to my crew. Just have to pass that self-sufficiency threshold so the mud dwellers don't negotiate by boycott of life-sustaining essentials in return.

            In all practicality, dropping nickel-iron asteroids containing sufficient amounts of interesting other elements (tantalum, iridium, gold, etc.) on a "mining target area" somewhere in a desert would be a pretty good alternative to mining the crust for the same things.

            --
            Україна не входить до складу Росії.
            • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:48PM (1 child)

              by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:48PM (#473028) Journal

              Just have to pass that self-sufficiency threshold so the mud dwellers don't negotiate by boycott of life-sustaining essentials in return.

              Or by sending poisoned foods. Or goods that gradually off-gas small but significant quantities of chemicals that will poison you / screw with your life support systems / corrode the seals on your airlocks. Or things that explode violently and unexpectedly. Or an enraged bobcat.
              Better hope your self-sufficient fare is as good as what the mud-dwellers are serving up, because that's all you'll ever dare to eat for the rest of your life.

              In all practicality, dropping nickel-iron asteroids containing sufficient amounts of interesting other elements (tantalum, iridium, gold, etc.) on a "mining target area" somewhere in a desert would be a pretty good alternative to mining the crust for the same things.

              How about a shaped projectile designed to blast a deep, narrow hole into the Earth's crust, allowing miners to reach deep deposits more efficiently? If the projectile itself was also made of useful materials, then bonus.

              • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:09PM

                by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:09PM (#473035)

                Shaping a projectile seems like a lot of work as compared to just applying some delta-V.

                And, there's no reason to be hostile with the mud side, we're up here to help, bring you valuable rocks, deflect ones that might land somewhere unpleasant. Just like nuke missile submarine crews, though, it probably would be a good idea to treat the rock-jockey crews as well as you can, don't want any disgruntled workers with that much potential destruction at their disposal.

                --
                Україна не входить до складу Росії.
    • (Score: 2, Flamebait) by davester666 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:16AM (13 children)

      by davester666 (155) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:16AM (#472676)

      No, given how we currently are behaving, the sooner our infestation has been eliminated from Earth and not spread anywhere else, the better.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:46AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:46AM (#472678)

        By all means. After you, Alphonse.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Sulla on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:58AM (8 children)

        by Sulla (5173) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:58AM (#472679) Journal

        Ah screw off. We are a virus and the number one goal of a virus is to get a new host before the old one dies. Eventually we will learn to live with our host but we need to live long enough to see the day. If you really think that way then off yourself and save x sqft of ice (recent article will give you the calculation).

        Every day we are becoming more sustainable, I personally don't think we are doing enough as a whole but I try and do my part. The more of a dick you are about it the less likely others are to comply. I just had to listen to my coworkers chew some guy out while we were on a vegas business trip for not storig his plastic and glass to reycle back in Oregon. Bet he will throw more away as a fuck you to the random out of staters that yelled at him.

        Baring the establishment Rs and Ds getting us into a nuclear exchange, we stand a chance at survival for ourselves and some of the organisms from this age.

        --
        Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:00PM (2 children)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:00PM (#472863)

          Baring the establishment Rs and Ds getting us into a nuclear exchange

          This is exactly what's going to happen. It's frankly amazing it hasn't happened already, but it'll happen before too long, especially now with Trump in charge.

          Oh well, we had a pretty good run.

          What we really need to do is build some monuments/archives, much like the golden record on the Voyager spacecraft but with much more data, to tell others about our extinct civilization so they can learn from our mistakes, and then send these monuments to the Moon, Mars, and some out of the solar system, in the hope that they'll eventually be discovered.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:10PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:10PM (#472925)

            I think a Putonium layer would be a nice complement to the Iridium layer to give future species something interesting to wonder about.

          • (Score: 2) by Sulla on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:41PM

            by Sulla (5173) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:41PM (#473024) Journal

            I think you mistake the one who is a Russian puppet and therefor unlikely to nuke Russia and the one who promised to bomb Iran and hold Russia accountable (read: ground war in Syria and Ukraine). Sorry to say but the asshole Trump was the safer choice on not having a nuclear exchange.

            --
            Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:13PM (4 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:13PM (#473036)

          Vegas business trip >> 20 years of not recycling a single thing you buy food in.

          Vegas itself is pretty obscene, resource wise, but the flights to-from, especially trans-oceanic ones, are the real resource hogs.

          Somebody should do an analysis: how much money does it cost to emit a ton of CO2 via various activities, I bet jet travel is the bargain basement CO2 emission method of modern life.

          --
          Україна не входить до складу Росії.
          • (Score: 2) by Sulla on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:19PM (1 child)

            by Sulla (5173) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @09:19PM (#473039) Journal

            It really is disgusting here. I was walking through the MGM and just seeing the shear amount of wasted capital. The resource drain (capital/environmental) caused by Vegas is outstanding. Just the water usage alone is a crime.

            --
            Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @11:24PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @11:24PM (#473110) Journal
              One of the reasons I've long supported dropping various federal regulations on gambling and investment. It creates abominations like this.
          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday March 01 2017, @03:35PM (1 child)

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday March 01 2017, @03:35PM (#473334)

            but the flights to-from, especially trans-oceanic ones, are the real resource hogs.

            Not that much. A single jet does consume a lot of fossil fuel, however if you add up how much fossil fuel it takes for each of those passengers to drive a 3-5000 pound vehicle on the road to that destination, it's much more. Modern passenger jets have very good person-mile-per-gallon numbers, much better than even hybrid cars. Granted, it'd probably be a lot better if everyone were taking a train, but compared to cars, jets are not bad, especially big jets traveling long distances. Cars are really much more wasteful in our society, because people don't fly *that* much, while they do drive a *lot*, and very rarely do they have multiple people in one car, plus they (these days) usually have much larger vehicles than they really need (big 20mpg SUVs and pickups). If you want to reduce carbon emissions, you'll do much better focusing on cars and SUVs than on jets.

            In addition, because airlines are so price-sensitive these days (unlike the 60s-70s), they've done all kinds of things to improve fuel efficiency: they've added "winglets", they've moved from 4-engine planes to planes with 2 bigger engines, they've reduced their flying speeds (LA-NYC used to be significantly faster in the 70s than now), they've shrunk the seat space to pack more people in, etc. Of course, people complain about the lack of seating space a lot, but it is more fuel-efficient and also reduces ticket prices. And when you think about prices in terms of energy (how much fuel does your airline ticket cost you?), when you look at today's prices and see that you can fly rather long distances cross-country for frequently less than it'd cost you for gasoline for that same trip by car, and a good part of that ticket price is also paying for the airport, the crew and staff and baggage handlers, the plane and its maintenance, and profit, it's pretty clear that you're using much less fuel on a plane than driving your 6000-pound SUV to get there. Of course, you'd emit less CO2 if you just sat at home, but if everyone sat at home all the time, we'd have rather boring lives.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday March 01 2017, @04:54PM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday March 01 2017, @04:54PM (#473385)

              I suppose that's akin to the argument that the Space Shuttle was the safest passenger vehicle ever created, per passenger mile traveled.

              I have "gas hog" cars, they average 20mpg, I could go out, buy new ones that get 30 or even 40mpg, but since - as a family of four, we only drive about 6000 miles per year total, more efficient cars won't help our family budget, or the environment due to the cost of buying/making the new cars.

              The environmental impact of the business trip to Vegas, or the vacation in Tahiti, isn't about the fuel efficiency per passenger mile, it's all about the number of people who make these cross-country and cross-ocean trips and the frequency with which they do so.

              So, perhaps a SUV does pollute more per passenger mile, but how about per dollar spent?

              --
              Україна не входить до складу Росії.
      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:46AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @08:46AM (#472700) Journal

        No, given how we currently are behaving, the sooner our infestation has been eliminated from Earth and not spread anywhere else, the better.

        How odd. You think there is value in not being "infested". But the truth is humans are the only game in town. The rest of the Solar System will only have value because we'll eventually be there to give it value.

      • (Score: 2) by Justin Case on Tuesday February 28 2017, @01:49PM

        by Justin Case (4239) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @01:49PM (#472771) Journal

        I trust you are volunteering to eliminate your own personal infestation of Earth first. In fact I encourage you to get going.

      • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:42PM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:42PM (#472789) Homepage Journal

        I've got to agree. Let's get together, and figure an angle to market this idea. SJW's should hop on rather quickly. Especially self-loathing heterosexual white male SJW's. The females can do the world a service by terminating themselves as well. Once they set the example, then all SJW's around the world will want to join them.

        Damn, man, you come up with some good ideas!!

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
  • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:52AM (2 children)

    ...using private industry to put a base on the Moon, using technology such as SpaceX's Falcon Heavy (estimated $135 million per launch vs. $500 million for the Space Launch System) and Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable habitat modules:

    I volunteer. When should I show up in Florida for the launch?

    --
    No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:28AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:28AM (#472663) Journal

      Just make sure you bring your own beer.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:25PM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:25PM (#472782) Homepage Journal

        That's silly. Just bring some yeast, and the makings for your favorite kind of beer. Don't forget the grow lights, and the seeds for whichever grain you're going to use. Get in on the ground floor of a new market for mankind's Nectar of the Gods.

        --
        Our first six presidents were educated men. Then, along came a Democrat.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Snotnose on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:54AM (8 children)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:54AM (#472655)

    You are trusting something coming out of Trump's mouth? The guy says whatever is on the top of his head at any given moment. He doesn't think. He doesn't ponder. He panders.

    Trump saying we're going to the moon is like Bush saying there are WMDs in Iraq.

    --
    I hate when I put something off to tomorrow, and tomorrow arrives.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:50AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:50AM (#472670)

    I, for one, welcome our Ebonics-speaking Ameri-lunar overlords.

    • (Score: 2) by Sulla on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:01AM

      by Sulla (5173) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:01AM (#472680) Journal

      At least until luna rocks us into submission

      --
      Ceterum censeo Sinae esse delendam
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:03PM (12 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:03PM (#472740)

    ... but do they also have plans on what to actually do there, once they are there? I mean, something long term goals. Building a base is not a long term goal, it's not like... "ok, it's build, lets get back to Earth... funding has run out".

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:40PM (4 children)

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:40PM (#472748) Journal

      ... but do they also have plans on what to actually do there, once they are there? I mean, something long term goals. Building a base is not a long term goal, it's not like... "ok, it's build, lets get back to Earth... funding has run out".

      Mmmm... something like a gated community for within which the 0.1-percenters can give a fuck-you safely to the world below?

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:53PM (2 children)

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:53PM (#472754) Journal

        Interesting concept. When you look at completely artificial billionaire playgrounds like Dubai built out of the desert, it almost starts to sound realistic. When you consider the "ridiculously tall tower" vanity projects found in such places it makes even more sense - imagine how big a tower you could build in lunar gravity!

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday February 28 2017, @01:09PM (1 child)

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @01:09PM (#472761) Journal

          Interesting concept.

          I was serious.
          Some extensions:
          a. a numbered-account bank out of any nation's jurisdiction
          b. headquarters for major corporations
          c. Steve Jobs mausoleum

          imagine how big a tower you could build in lunar gravity!

          Overlooking exactly what?
          On the other side, a lower gravity means a lower load on the beams supporting some underground compounds - easier to isolate and make air-tight, easier to lan... err., sorry, I mean to moonscape.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:29PM

            by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @02:29PM (#472785) Journal

            >>imagine how big a tower you could build in lunar gravity!
            >Overlooking exactly what?

            Anybody with less money than you. That's the whole point isn't it? Buy-to-let lunar real estate could be the next big bubble!

            1 - Persuade people to give you money to build apartments on the Moon. Tell them they can collect huge rents while the value of their investment rises.
            2 - Use cheap, abused, expendable labourers to build the properties, which will stand mostly empty for years.
            3 - Run away with all the money when the bubble pops.

            Like I said before, it's just a slightly dustier Dubai.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:52PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:52PM (#472905)

        One can only hope they try it. If the top 0.1% of the world goes Galt's Gulch on the moon, that leaves the rest of us down here with a *lot* more resources to divvy up.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:45PM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @12:45PM (#472749) Journal

      The primary mission should be to develop, implement and test technologies designed to reduce the base's dependence on resupply from Earth. As long as at least some of the technologies are successful, the costs to maintain the base will (hopefully) decrease year on year, making it an easier sell to the bean-counters. Obviously such technologies will be extremely useful in all future space endeavours. The secondary mission should be to investigate ways of expanding / improving the base with as little Earthly resources as possible. Once the base is well established, it could even become a target for tourists (very very rich tourists) which would help mitigate the costs.

      Eventually, someone will come up with funds for a Mars mission or find a big black obelisk in Tycho crater or something, in which case having a moon base established could be really handy. It would be an interesting turn of events to see a private space company like SpaceX paying NASA for services rendered (lunar ice delivered into Earth orbit, for example) for their Mars mission.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:02PM (5 children)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:02PM (#472865)

      No, when funding runs out, the base crew is simply stuck there. Just look at what happens when the Federal government shuts down over a funding fight. Going to a Moon base as an American astronaut would be suicidal lunacy; there's simply no way you can trust the political leadership to take care of you and make sure the mission succeeds.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:41PM (2 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:41PM (#472898) Journal

        Just look at what happens when the Federal government shuts down over a funding fight.

        You ignore both what gets shut down and for how long. If astronauts depend on a space flight for survival, Congress will find a way to fund it just to avoid the massive political hit. And if they don't need the flight right away, Congress will eventually fund it in a few weeks.

        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM (1 child)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM (#472920)

          If astronauts depend on a space flight for survival, Congress will find a way to fund it just to avoid the massive political hit.

          Maybe in the past, but I wouldn't trust this Congress to do that. We have a Congress and Administration now that want to completely gut all Federal spending and eliminate major agencies like the EPA, while massively ramping up military and nuclear weapon spending. At the same time, they're trying to repeal both ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion so that millions of people will be without healhcare coverage.

          More relevant, the last time they had a big government shutdown, people were hopping mad, but who did they blame? The Congresspeople who were obstructing because they wanted to repeal ObamaCare immediately, or the people who refused to allow that? They blamed the latter, who are now in power. These people aren't above letting some astronauts die so they can blame the other side.

          I'll say it again: putting your life in the hands of the US Congress is suicidal lunacy (pun intended BTW). The only way I'd risk my life in spaceflight is if I were being backed up by some sane government. This one isn't.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:15PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:15PM (#472931)

            A few astronauts here, a few 100k citizens there. Meh comes out in the wash.

            What we need to focus on is PROTECTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FROM TERRORISTS.

            Vote for me.

      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday March 01 2017, @09:37AM (1 child)

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday March 01 2017, @09:37AM (#473251) Journal

        Well, just make sure that from the moment the first astronaut touches down there is at least one return vehicle on the lunar surface at any given time, fully fuelled and ready to fly, with enough seats for everybody moonside. If the politicians pull the plug, the astronauts simply fly home when it suits them. I would have thought this would be SOP anyway.

        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday March 01 2017, @03:19PM

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday March 01 2017, @03:19PM (#473325)

          Well yes, that would make perfect sense. It'd probably cost a lot of money though (one craft large enough to evacuate ALL the personnel at the base would probably be fairly large; we're not talking about something that holds only 3 people here like the Apollo landers), and I seriously doubt that Congress would fund it. Instead, they'd only approve a much smaller craft that can hold a few people in case of medical emergency. So the base personnel would be drawing straws to see who goes back to Earth and who starves to death on the Moon when supplies run out.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by choose another one on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:25PM (3 children)

    by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:25PM (#472805)

    TFA has a spectacular fail in understanding the tech (or maybe I do):

    Musk's rockets—the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy—are built to take off and land.

    Umm... that's the first stage, built to land on earth to be reused, that bit that never gets near orbit let alone the moon. It also lands on a pre-prepared _flat_ landing pad, not an uneven rock-strewn lunar surface. It is also built to land in one g and one atm (lunar may be easier but may not). What is certain is that lunar landing will be very different, may therefore require new design of landing system and a whole new testing process as a result. It's like saying Virgin Galactic has moon landing capabilities because their White Knight first stage has landed successfully on earth.

    I am quite sure that SpaceX and Bigelow are probably a better bet for moon and Mars landing and habitats than SLS/Orion, but trying to persuade people by massively misrepresenting their current capabilities is just dumb.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:16PM (1 child)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:16PM (#472933)

      While you're right that the SpaceX first stages are indeed designed for landing in controlled conditions here on Earth after boosting the second stage, you're completely overblowing the difficulty of landing on the Moon. Let me spell it out for you:

      When have we been able to land rockets on Earth? Only very recently, in the mid 2010s, after many failed attempts.

      When have we been able to land rockets on the Moon? In 1969, on our very first attempt, using computing technology that's utterly primitive compared to today's.

      Clearly, landing a rocket on the Moon is child's play if we could do it with 1969 technology. Rock-strewn surfaces aren't a big problem: you just do what the Apollo missions did, and what modern helicopter pilots do, and use your eyes to look for a relatively smooth area to land in (the Apollo missions also had pre-selected general landing areas, using observational data from telescopes). In addition, you design the landing craft to have widely-spaced legs designed for landing on lunar soil; again, that's what Apollo did. From there, it's not that hard because 1) there's no atmosphere to get in the way and cause turbulence and 2) there's only 1/6g gravity so you don't need a lot of thrust to control your descent.

      may therefore require new design of landing system and a whole new testing process as a result. It's like saying Virgin Galactic has moon landing capabilities because their White Knight first stage has landed successfully on earth.

      This is such a bizarre thing for you to write. You're acting like we've never landed rocket-powered craft on the Moon before. We've done it many times, with a 100% success rate. It's been far more successful than many other feats in our history of spaceflight, meaning it obviously isn't that hard by comparison. If NASA could do it easily and successfully in 1969 with less computing power than a 1980s HP calculator, I fail to see how Virgin Galactic is going to have much of a problem with it now if they've managed to figure out how to land 1st-stage rockets on
      Earth, something NASA has *never* managed to do.

      • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Wednesday March 01 2017, @02:49PM

        by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 01 2017, @02:49PM (#473317)

        While you're right that the SpaceX first stages are indeed designed for landing in controlled conditions here on Earth after boosting the second stage, you're completely overblowing the difficulty of landing on the Moon.

        If that is the case, then why is Howard Bloom making such a big deal of the lack of moon landing capability in SLS/Orion? Either you're right and it's easy to build it (or transfer from a first-stage earth-lander system) in which case the lack of it is no problem, or it isn't.

        TFA is really saying why is NASA spending billions on Orion/SLS when it could spend less and get further with SpaceX/Bigelow/BlueOrigin etc. - but moon landing capability is completely irrelevant to that argument.

        When have we been able to land rockets on Earth? Only very recently, in the mid 2010s, after many failed attempts.

        How quickly we forget - Delta DCX was what 1993?, was that a failed attempt?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday February 28 2017, @07:46PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday February 28 2017, @07:46PM (#472990) Journal

      All or Most Future SpaceX Launches Will Use Reusable Boosters [soylentnews.org]

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_Heavy#Reusable_technology_development [wikipedia.org]

      Although not a part of the initial Falcon Heavy design, SpaceX is doing parallel development on a reusable rocket launching system that is intended to be extensible to the Falcon Heavy, recovering the boosters and core stage only.

      Early on, SpaceX had expressed hopes that all rocket stages would eventually be reusable.[42] While no efforts are currently dedicated toward return of Falcon upper stages, SpaceX has since demonstrated both land and sea recovery of the first stage of the Falcon 9 a number of times. This approach is particularly well suited to the Falcon Heavy where the two outer cores separate from the rocket much earlier in the flight profile, and are therefore both moving at a slower velocity at the initial separation event.[37] Since late 2013, every Falcon 9 first stage has been instrumented and equipped as a controlled descent test vehicle.

      SpaceX has indicated that the Falcon Heavy payload performance to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) will be reduced due to the addition of the reusable technology, but would fly at much lower launch price. With full reusability on all three booster cores, GTO payload will be 7,000 kg (15,000 lb). If only the two outside cores fly as reusable cores while the center core is expendable, GTO payload would be approximately 14,000 kg (31,000 lb).[43] "Falcon 9 will do satellites up to roughly 3.5 tonnes, with full reusability of the boost stage, and Falcon Heavy will do satellites up to 7 tonnes with full reusability of the all three boost stages," [Musk] said, referring to the three Falcon 9 booster cores that will comprise the Falcon Heavy's first stage. He also said Falcon Heavy could double its payload performance to GTO "if, for example, we went expendable on the center core."

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      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
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