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posted by martyb on Wednesday November 08, @09:07PM   Printer-friendly

Trump space adviser: Blue Origin and SpaceX rockets aren't really commercial: Scott Pace likens heavy-lift rockets to aircraft carriers.

In recent months, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, Scott Pace, has worked assiduously behind the scenes to develop a formal space policy for the Trump administration. In a rare interview, published Monday in Scientific American, Pace elaborated on some of the policy decisions he has been helping to make.

In the interview, Pace explained why the Trump administration has chosen to focus on the Moon first for human exploration while relegating Mars to becoming a "horizon goal," effectively putting human missions to the Red Planet decades into the future. Mars was too ambitious, Pace said, and such a goal would have precluded meaningful involvement from the burgeoning US commercial sector as well as international partners. Specific plans for how NASA will return to the Moon should become more concrete within the next year, he added.

In response to a question about privately developed, heavy-lift boosters, the executive secretary also reiterated his skepticism that such "commercial" rockets developed by Blue Origin and SpaceX could compete with the government's Space Launch System rocket, which is likely to make its maiden flight in 2020. "Heavy-lift rockets are strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers," Pace said. "There are some people who have talked about buying heavy-lift as a service as opposed to owning and operating, in which case the government would, of course, have to continue to own the intellectual properties so it wasn't hostage to any one contractor. One could imagine this but, in general, building a heavy-lift rocket is no more 'commercial' than building an aircraft carrier with private contractors would be."

I thought flying non-reusable pork rockets was about the money, not strategy. SpaceX is set to launch Falcon Heavy for the first time no earlier than December 29. It will have over 90% of the low Earth orbit capacity as the initial version of the SLS (63.8 metric tons vs. 70).

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
U.S. Air Force Will Eventually Launch Using SpaceX's Reused Rockets


Original Submission

Related Stories

Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019 5 comments

The first launch of the SLS has slipped again:

NASA has decided it must delay the maiden flight of its Space Launch System rocket, presently scheduled for November 2018, until at least early 2019. This decision was widely expected due to several problems with the rocket, Orion spacecraft, and ground launch systems. The delay was confirmed in a letter from a NASA official released Thursday by the US Government Accountability Office.

The Falcon Heavy will be able to deliver payloads that are similar to what SLS Block 1 can carry:

In its maiden flight configuration, named Block 1, the heavy-lifter will be able to haul up to 77 tons (70 metric tons) of cargo to low Earth orbit, more than double the capacity of the most powerful launcher flying today — United Launch Alliance's Delta 4-Heavy. The Block 1 version of SLS will fly with an upper stage propelled by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, based on the Delta 4's second stage.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, scheduled to make its first flight later this year, will come in just shy of the SLS Block 1's capacity if the commercial space company gave up recovering its booster stages.

NASA plans to introduce a bigger four-engine second stage on the EM-2 launch, a configuration of the SLS named Block 1B.

GAO report.


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First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned 9 comments

The first SLS flight, around the moon, will not include a crew.

The first flight of NASA's next-generation heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is now scheduled for 2019 and will not include a human crew, agency officials said today (May 12).

As of 2016, NASA had planned for the SLS' first flight to take place in 2018, without a crew on board. But the transition team that the Trump administration sent to the agency earlier this year asked for an internal evaluation of the possibility of launching a crew atop the SLS inside the agency's Orion space capsule.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a news conference today that, based on the results of this internal evaluation, a crewed flight would be "technically feasible," but the agency will proceed with its initial plan to make the rocket's first flight uncrewed.

[...] SLS' first flight will be called Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule (which has already made one uncrewed test flight, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket) on a roughly three-week trip around the moon. The first crewed flight, EM-2, was originally scheduled to follow in 2021.

Source:NASA Won't Fly Astronauts On 1st Orion-SLS Test Flight Around the Moon
Also at:
NASA Study Warns Against Putting Crew On Huge Rocket's First Flight
NASA Denies Trump's Request to Send Astronauts Past the Moon on New Rocket

Previously: SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists Around the Moon in 2018
Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019

SpaceX might beat SLS to the moon with humans.


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Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA 9 comments

Commercial space companies want NASA to expand the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. SpaceX's senior vice president for global business and government affairs called for the COTS program to be extended to deep space activities:

Commercial space companies today (July 13) urged legislators to extend NASA's successful public-private partnerships for International Space Station transportation to future programs, including human missions to Mars.

NASA already is working with six firms to develop prototype habitats that would augment the agency's multibillion-dollar Orion capsule and Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. NASA has said it intends to use the system to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

[...] Technologies that SpaceX would be interested in developing in partnership with NASA include heavy-cargo missions to Mars, deep-space communications systems, and demonstrations of vertical takeoff and landing on the moon, Hughes said.

Getting spacecraft like the Interplanetary Spaceship to Mars will probably require SpaceX to dip into the NASA coffers yet again:

This proposal was foreshadowed last year in Guadalajara, Mexico. At the International Astronautical Congress there, Musk presented a sketch of the architecture needed to lower the cost of transit to Mars enough to make colonization feasible. His top-line cost of $10 billion, however, is likely out of reach for SpaceX in the near term—without the help of a big-pocketed government. "There's a lot of people in the private sector who are interested in helping fund a base on Mars, and perhaps there will be interest on the government sector side to do that," Musk said last fall.

Also at Ars Technica and LA Times (broader article about the economics of heavy launch capabilities).


Original Submission

U.S. Air Force Will Eventually Launch Using SpaceX's Reused Rockets 27 comments

The head of the U.S. Air Force Space Command is "completely committed" to launching future missions using reused SpaceX rockets, following certification of the reused boosters for military use:

The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk as the military looks to drive down costs. It would be "absolutely foolish" not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which bring such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. "Jay" Raymond said in an interview Monday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly."

[...] The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."

SpaceX's has just added a secretive "Zuma" mission no earlier than November 10th.

Here is a recent Reddit AmA about SpaceX's "BFR" (writeup and another one).


Original Submission

Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX 43 comments

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.

#SLS2020

Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News


Original Submission

Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST 16 comments

A Trump administration budget proposal would cancel NASA's flagship-class Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) as well as several Earth science related telescopes, as it focuses on the Space Launch System, Orion, and sending astronauts to an orbital space station around the Moon:

The Trump administration has released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 and put dozens of federal programs on the chopping block, including a brand-new NASA space telescope that scientists say would provide the biggest picture of the universe yet, with the same sparkling clarity as the Hubble Space Telescope. The proposal, released Monday, recommends eliminating the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), citing "higher priorities" at NASA and the cost of the new telescope.

"Given competing priorities at NASA, and budget constraints, developing another large space telescope immediately after completing the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is not a priority for the administration," the proposal states. "The budget proposes to terminate WFIRST and redirect existing funds to other priorities of the science community, including completed astrophysics missions and research."

Although the Trump administration wants to end funding of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, it envisions private companies picking up the slack:

"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," according to a draft summary of NASA's ISS Transition Report required by Congress in the agency's 2017 Authorization Act.

Leaning Tower of NASA 32 comments

NASA's nearly billion-dollar mobile launcher tower for the Space Launch System (SLS) is leaning, and may be discarded after a single use:

[The "mobile launcher" component] supports the testing and servicing of the massive SLS rocket, as well as moving it to the launch pad and providing a platform from which it will launch.

According to a new report in NASASpaceflight.com, the expensive tower is "leaning" and "bending." For now, NASA says, the lean is not sufficient enough to require corrective action, but it is developing contingency plans in case the lean angle becomes steeper.

These defects raise concerns about the longevity of the launch tower and increase the likelihood that NASA will seek additional funding to build a second one. In fact, it is entirely possible that the launch tower may serve only for the maiden flight of the SLS rocket in 2020 and then be cast aside. This would represent a significant waste of resources by the space agency.

[...] [From] the tower's inception in 2009, NASA will have spent $912 million on the mobile launcher it may use for just a single launch of the SLS rocket. Moreover, the agency will have required eight years to modify a launch tower it built in two years.

The second mobile launcher, intended for larger versions of the SLS, will cost about $300 million (if not more).

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?


Original Submission

NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines 19 comments

NASA could use an engine developed by Blue Origin instead of the four RL-10 engines currently used by the Space Launch System (SLS):

[One] problem with legacy hardware, built by traditional contractors such as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is that it's expensive. And while NASA has not released per-flight estimates of the expendable SLS rocket's cost, conservative estimates peg it at $1.5 to $2.5 billion per launch. The cost is so high that it effectively precludes more than one to two SLS launches per year.

[...] [The RL-10] engines, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are also costly. (Ars understands that NASA paid an average of $17 million for each RL-10 engine for the maiden Exploration Upper Stage vehicle). So in October, to power the EUS, the space agency issued a request for information to the aerospace community for "a low cost drop-in replacement engine to minimize program cost." According to the document, the initial set of four engines would be needed in mid-2023 to prepare for the third flight of the SLS rocket, known as Exploration Mission-3.

Then, after an extension of the deadline for responses beyond mid-November, NASA revised the RFI on December 1. The revised document no longer seeks a "drop-in replacement" for the RL-10 engine, rather it asks for a "low-cost replacement engine." Although this seems like a subtle change, sources within the aerospace industry indicated to Ars that it is significant. According to NASA, it was done to increase the number of responses.

[...] That would probably include Blue Origin's BE-3U engine, which the company plans to use for its upper stage on the New Glenn heavy lift rocket. This is a modified version of the BE-3 engine that powers the New Shepard rocket, which has now flown successfully seven times. Blue Origin has previously marketed the BE-3U to Orbital ATK for its Next Generation Launch System, which is looking for an upper stage engine. A single BE-3U provides about 120,000 pounds of thrust, which exceeds the 100,000 pounds of thrust provided by four RL-10 engines.

Just cancel SLS and give that money to SpaceX, Blue Origin, or anybody willing to launch competitively.

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Wednesday November 08, @09:14PM (4 children)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday November 08, @09:14PM (#594240)

    I've been saying for a long time that going straight to Mars was a dumb idea, and that we should focus on building some infrastructure on the Moon first and start figuring out how to build stuff in space, to mine asteroids and the Moon, etc. Now we've found what looks like a giant lava tube on the Moon, which would be perfect for building a lunar colony inside. Going straight to Mars just doesn't make any sense when we haven't even sent humans past LEO in 40 years.

    Yeah, not sending humans to Mars for a few decades seems disappointing, but too bad: we should have been doing this other stuff decades ago so we could be ready for a Mars mission now.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @09:34PM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @09:34PM (#594245) Journal

      I have no problem with kicking the can on Mars. SLS is a pile of crap though. It was crap a year ago, and today, after SpaceX has made reusable rocket landings routine and boring, it is ultra crap. Falcon Heavy will pretty much fulfill what SLS Block 1 can do, and SpaceX may even pump out a Falcon Heavy successor before SLS can be ramped up to lift its heaviest payloads.

      Falcon Heavy could just barely launch this year. Musk has hedged on the chances of a successful first test - that could be manipulation on his part. After we see how the maiden flight goes we can speculate a bit more on the future of the SLS.

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      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by DannyB on Wednesday November 08, @10:06PM (2 children)

        by DannyB (5839) on Wednesday November 08, @10:06PM (#594261)

        One of the problems with SLS is not so much a technical problem. It is simply TOO EXPENSIVE to fly. If NASA can only afford one flight per year -- or less -- then you don't get to do very many missions. And the ones you do are very expensive.

        SLS is a pile of crap. And that is not intended as a slight to who I am sure are many fine people working on the technology of SLS. It is congress that has ruined SLS.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by NewNic on Wednesday November 08, @10:58PM

          by NewNic (6420) on Wednesday November 08, @10:58PM (#594292) Journal

          I am quite sure that SLS is very effective at its primary mission.

          The problem is that its primary mission is distributing pork to the states of various politicians.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday November 09, @10:49PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday November 09, @10:49PM (#594898)

          Agreed, just because you work on a pork project does not make you a bad person, it's economic reality: pork is all that's on the menu for lots of NASA contractors.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by turgid on Wednesday November 08, @09:20PM (12 children)

    by turgid (4318) on Wednesday November 08, @09:20PM (#594242) Journal

    Mars is too ambitious?

    It will always be too ambitious if you never make a start.

    The "start" should be learning how to get to Mars and back reliably using (initially) un-crewed vehicles.

    The first few should deliver parts for a space station to orbit Mars, and some vehicles to go from the Mars space station to the surface.

    The first few of those should be one-way with a soft landing to provide basic shelters/stores on the surface.

    Next, a few launches from the surface back up to the Mars space station should be tried out.

    More modules/components should be coming from Earth all the time to add to the Mars space station, more landing vehicles, fuel supplies etc.

    At least one of the test launches from the Mars surface should bring samples which can be sent back to Earth on one of the return flights.

    When the infrastructure looks reasonably reliable, some people should go, land on Mars, explore for a bit and come home to Earth.

    Obviously, this will take decades. The technology will have to be developed and refined. It will be expensive, but spread over decades, it might make it feasible.

    I'd like the Human Race's first visit to Mars be a peaceful, dignified, safe, scientific exploration mission, not a crazy one-way suicide "colonisation" mission as envisaged by the Great Profit Musk.

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    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @09:56PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @09:56PM (#594257) Journal

      I'd like the Human Race's first visit to Mars be a peaceful, dignified, safe, scientific exploration mission, not a crazy one-way suicide "colonisation" mission as envisaged by the Great Profit Musk.

      We live in a Post-Dignity world. A Musky sex cult colony would be a great way to populate Mars. #DieOnMars.

      From what I can tell, NASA has not committed to landing on Mars in the 2030s [soylentnews.org]. A Martian space station in the 2030s: possible but not certain yet. Boots on the ground? Not unless the plans change, which they could if China tries to take the lead (Russia's space program has had some failures lately and China has more money to blow and lots of superpower ambition).

      So when you have Musky talking about a 2020s landing (sure, the date will slip, but whatever), and advertising payload-to-Mars on its site [spacex.com], it's looking like he could succeed and beat NASA to Mars. The reusable rockets alone are going to do so much for SpaceX. Can they make a human-rated craft and a successor to Falcon Heavy before 2030? We'll see. The next couple of years should give us a better picture of the company's chances; SpaceX will be launching Falcon Heavy, and has promised to send two human customers on a Moon orbit (REAL SPACE TOURISM).

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      • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Thursday November 09, @12:11AM

        by JNCF (4317) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @12:11AM (#594315) Journal

        A Musky sex cult colony would be a great way to populate Mars.

        I miss Musky Troll.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Wednesday November 08, @10:15PM

      by DannyB (5839) on Wednesday November 08, @10:15PM (#594269)

      Of those Mars surface missions you mention. I would estimate that a first priority is to land where there is definitely water. (Or find it if that location is unknown.)

      Then erecting solar panels is more important than shelters. Considering robotic missions need less shelter.

      Once you have water and plenty of energy, produce fuel on the surface of mars to prove that 19th century chemistry still works.

      Produce and accumulate fuel to be used for a return to earth. During this time erect shelters for humans. In the meantime, an empty earth return vehicle should be fueled. At this point, you have a good scenario for humans to arrive, have shelter, power, water, and a return to earth.

      But it all starts with a lot of robotics.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by arslan on Wednesday November 08, @10:38PM (2 children)

      by arslan (3462) on Wednesday November 08, @10:38PM (#594281)

      Going to the moon first and later Mars isn't a valid start to ultimately getting to Mars? It is just a different approach.

      Having a base it the moon also allows other activities than a hopping point to Mars. The moon itself have lots to be discovered (and ahem exploited), we can target other terrestrial objects, etc. All can potentially be done as different initiatives in parallel to getting to Mars.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @10:46PM

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @10:46PM (#594285) Journal

        I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with the Moon-then-Mars approach. Reaching Mars with a tiny crew is not a matter of life and death for our country. Letting SpaceX or China get there first is not a death blow. Waiting and delaying will allow us to work out the details of better propulsion systems, better shielding, and could allow the use of a cheaper rocket than the SLS. However, due to NASA's budget constraints, a Moon-first approach will definitely delay the "Journey to Mars" (and only a Mars orbit or space station is in the works at this time). So if your goal is to get to Mars as fast as humanly possible (see Buzz Aldrin [soylentnews.org]), you would not see the need for a lunar space station or base.

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      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday November 09, @04:36PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Thursday November 09, @04:36PM (#594687)

        I agree with you.

        However, there is a very good reason our politicians are all of a sudden interested in going back to the moon. Even though we lost interest decades ago.

        Other nations are going there even if we are not. We need to get there and stake our claim! America First. All you other non-white heathens take what's left. I think that is the real motive, even if not stated.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @12:31AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @12:31AM (#594319)

      I'd like the Human Race's first visit to Mars be a peaceful, dignified, safe, scientific exploration mission, not a crazy one-way suicide "colonisation" mission as envisaged by the Great Profit Musk.

      Then we're never going to get there.

      The simple, unfortunate fact of the matter is that space is basically an infinite ocean of certain death for squishy critters such as ourselves, evolved only to a relatively constrained environment. Short of filling it with some sort of acid or antimatter or outright setting it on fire (however one could manage that), it's hard to think of an environment better suited to killing us. Plus, the long-term health problems that current astronauts often have, even in our well-developed, relatively safe ships, illustrate just how little we know about how this whole thing works, in terms of not only space, but our bodies and even our equipment and technology. The radiation alone is a terrible risk, and many other physiological systems suffer, e.g. the heart and eyes. All of that is in low-Earth orbit where people can be evacuated back if there is an emergency, on the assumption that we know enough to do anything to help them in the first place (and considering the aforementioned health problems popping up, I don't think we're anywhere near there yet).

      And we as a society are hyper-sensitive to space related deaths. To chart the planet people went on voyages that lasted multiple years and a large part of the crew was almost expected to die of simple problems, assuming the ship was ever heard from again. In the 1980s, 7 people got blown to bits and we stopped all manned space exploration for years, with a repeat performance in the 2000s. And most, if not all, of those people knew full well that every time they heard that countdown reach zero that their demise might be coming in seconds. These were people who fought and studied and clawed tooth and nail for one of those seats on what they fully well knew could well be the world's most expensive coffin. One could say that this was something of an exception for Challenger, at least in some cases, given how deluded the PR was as to how "safe" the space shuttle was, but considering one of the four abort modes developed for the shuttle was basically considered Russian Roulette with all loaded chambers, and John Young himself refused to fly that abort mode to test it out, that should give you an indication of how dangerous they all knew it to be.

      If we are going to get anywhere with space exploration, people are going to die. A lot of people. And if we don't get over this grim, but inescapable, fact, then we're going to go extinct long before we make it to another planet, let alone another star. Vaguely gesturing towards our "vast technological progress," as some might want to rely on (which is actually grimly reminiscent of the hallucinations that Mars One relies on, when you think about it) only brings to mind such projects as the Titanic, purported to be an unsinkable ship.

      It is possible that one day space travel will be as clean, quick, and safe as in many works of science fiction. That day is not today and will almost certainly not be within any of our lifetimes. But that day will be never if we are so afraid to take risks that we turn away droves of volunteers. And space exploration by robots, while still capable of some practical tasks (e.g. mining), is of far less value when trying to determine how to survive long-term in this relatively hostile universe. The Earth won't remain inhabitable forever, even if humans manage to continue to survive and maintain technology on Earth for many thousands of years to come.

      As a final note, while I am advocating taking risks in space, I think that it's probably best to work more on the Moon than Mars at this point. Considering the horrid technical problems there are with setting up a long-term manned presence on the Moon, and it's only a few days away, Mars really would be a suicide trip at this point, and AFAIK there have been quite a few high-level engineers that are quite pessimistic of an attempt with our current technology. While we need to accept that there are going to be a lot of casualties in space exploration, considering just how grim the situation is with current technology, it's foolhardy to try at this point. Realistic acceptance of high, even extreme, levels of risk is different than actually throwing lives and billions upon billions of dollars into the toilet.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday November 09, @01:07AM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday November 09, @01:07AM (#594330) Journal

        Some points:

        1. Drugs and exercise can mitigate some of the effects of microgravity. Sure, staying 1 year or more in microgravity sucks, but the individual isn't crippled for life on return to Earth. As for the radiation risks, IIRC NASA is looking to not exceed something like +3% cancer risk for a journey to and from Mars. Their acceptable risk levels are conservative, our ships could be built with better shielding, and the radiation risks are just overblown.
        2. Government has dominated space travel since the beginning of the Space Age. As space funding rapidly died down after the Moon landing/end of the First Space Race, NASA's failures and deaths hit the agency much harder, making it much more risk-averse. Musk on the other hand has stated the same harsh [theregister.co.uk] truth [theverge.com] as you have: people will need to be prepared to die to make space colonization successful. Obviously, Musk and Bezos have to show that they are at least not rushing human-rated rockets, but people will certainly die en route or on Mars if many thousands of colonists are being sent. Anyway, the commercial pioneers are indicating that they will tell people to expect death on Mars, and it is not hard to find people who will accept this (at least while they are still excited).
        3. Robots are an obvious choice to do some of the heavy lifting in advance. They can be sent on cheaper, slower rockets/ships and don't require life support or much radiation shielding. If we want to live on Mars or the Moon, we should aim for colonies with no need for resupply. That will involve digging, processing icy rock into water, growing plants, and beginning simple manufacturing of useful stuff like plastics, or at least building materials like lunar/Martian "concrete". Having buildings and greenhouses prepared in advance would make colonization that much easier.
        4. The Moon is clearly a better destination than Mars. It has less than half the gravity of Mars, but the short travel time should more than compensate for that and the 0.1654g should be a lot healthier than microgravity. Solar power is more efficient on the Moon than the Earth (I believe it is +27% [popsci.com]) and much better than on Mars [pveducation.org] (although Jupiter and beyond are the real losers). If you have a medical emergency on the Moon and you can stabilize the afflicted person, getting them back to Earth is very easy. With Mars, you might as well not even try. The Moon can act as training wheels for space colonization.
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        • (Score: 2) by dry on Thursday November 09, @05:33AM

          by dry (223) on Thursday November 09, @05:33AM (#594453)

          A couple of points,

          If we want to live on Mars or the Moon, we should aim for colonies with no need for resupply. That will involve digging, processing icy rock into water, growing plants, and beginning simple manufacturing of useful stuff like plastics, or at least building materials like lunar/Martian "concrete". Having buildings and greenhouses prepared in advance would make colonization that much easier.

          My understanding is that the Moon is missing some vital elements needed for life and therefore colonies with no need for resupply are basically impossible. Looking quickly, I see that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Moon#Elemental_composition [wikipedia.org] mentions that carbon and nitrogen are almost non-existant with only deposits from the solar wind. Be pretty hard to have a self supporting colony without carbon and nitrogen. Pretty sure there are other elements that we need that are in short supply on the Moon.

          Solar power is more efficient on the Moon than the Earth (I believe it is +27% [popsci.com]) and much better than on Mars [pveducation.org]

          Don't forget the long nights, something like 330 hours of dark. Possibly the poles could be a workaround but the poles look very rugged. I'd assume that flat areas will be needed for space ports. The need for large fairly flat areas for landing multiple space craft will also be an issue with all colonies including on Mars. Those lava tubes may not be in the most accessible locations.

      • (Score: 2) by turgid on Thursday November 09, @09:23PM

        by turgid (4318) on Thursday November 09, @09:23PM (#594844) Journal

        If we are going to get anywhere with space exploration, people are going to die. A lot of people.

        Not necessarily.

        considering just how grim the situation is with current technology, it's foolhardy to try at this point.

        Correct. We need to gradually improve our technology, and the way to do that is to use it for real missions. Automation is pretty advanced these days. There's no reason to put people in harm's way before the major problems have been ironed out. What is important is to start testing with human-rated gear from the outset, not as an afterthought in 30 years time...

        --
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    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday November 09, @12:58AM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday November 09, @12:58AM (#594327) Journal

      Well I'd be happy with either.

      Too bad we're gonna get neither.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 09, @04:10AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @04:10AM (#594415) Journal

      When the infrastructure looks reasonably reliable, some people should go, land on Mars, explore for a bit and come home to Earth.

      We do that just fine with robots already.

      For any given period of intended work, you will get much more out of rovers than any human, and the smarter you make them an the larger their numbers the more work they can do. for less money.

      SLS can deliver a lot of robots. So can any of the others.

      But nobody has gotten anything off of mars yet.
      Wings are useless, so landing is probably going to be some form of rocket slam.
      And relaunch is going to be a LOT harder than on the moon.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday November 08, @09:31PM (6 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 08, @09:31PM (#594244) Journal
    I know a fast way to make Mars somewhat less ambitious and get rid of a strategic national liability at the same time. Way too many people are enamored of big rockets that are too expensive for actual use.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @09:37PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @09:37PM (#594247) Journal

      They should just axe the entire SLS program, and split the money between SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, and some smaller players (giving it all to SpaceX would be more effective, but politically impossible). But the SLS is hard pork and it will be eaten. Maybe if the first SLS rocket in 2019 just explodes on the launch pad, it could be made to happen.

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      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday November 08, @10:17PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Wednesday November 08, @10:17PM (#594270)

        Sadly, I have to agree that an SLS explosion on the pad of its maiden flight would be the best way to kill SLS and more effectively spend taxpayer money on commercial launch providers that are far more efficient.

        But what would actually happen is that congress would double down on SLS.

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 09, @04:28AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @04:28AM (#594423) Journal

        It can be made to happen, but you better not be anywhere near it if it does, because being the first to suggest it makes you the first suspect.

        Still for just brute strength lifting capability, SLS is salvageable even if it can't return to the pad. (And who says it can't be modified to do so)? Musk is now working on Stage 2 return.

        We probably don't need 4 heavy lift launchers SLS, SpaceX, Blue, and what ever the Russian's are launching at that time.

        Why not put some big bucks in Runway to orbit solutions?

        --
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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @09:38PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @09:38PM (#594249) Journal
  • (Score: 2, Informative) by idiot_king on Wednesday November 08, @09:42PM (4 children)

    by idiot_king (6587) on Wednesday November 08, @09:42PM (#594254)

    The goal with Trump and his team is never the end game. It's all about hype, and thus votes. Which they're starting to lose.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @09:57PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @09:57PM (#594258)

      It's all about hype, and thus votes. Which [Trump and his team are] starting to lose.

      I saw some rumblings along those lines on moon matrix feed. Do you think they're setting us up for another crushing disappointment in November 2018?

      At the very least, if we don't get Hillary again in 2020, I'm going to call it now: they'll run Diane Feinstein for president, and then everybody will be wondering yet again why Trump won.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM (#594264) Journal

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_elections,_2018 [wikipedia.org]

        Democrats have 23 seats up for election, as well as 2 independents who caucus with Democrats. Republicans only have 8 seats up.

        Those facts alone should be enough to dampen expectations of big gains for the Dems in 2018. And of course, the House will remain solidly under Republican control because Republicans pulled off a highly successful gerrymandering maneuver years ago.

        A Democratic Presidential candidate could easily lose to Trump in 2020. The progressive and mainstream wings (you can suggest your own names) of the Democratic party are clashing since the mainstream and boring candidate Hillary Clinton was such an utter loser. I heard this week that Clinton's chances of running again have been burnt to a crisp by Donna Brazile. The day after Trump won, I figured Clinton would not run in 2020. Anyway, now there is an annointed one-sized power vacuum and the fight to fill it could get ugly. Trump will probably face some primary challengers too, but he would have to do much worse than he is currently to lose to a Cruz.

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      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM (1 child)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM (#594265)

        Well the Dems did pretty good yesterday. We'll see if, as a party, they smarten up enough in 2020 to actually win the big election. Feinstein is 84 years old now; she'd be 87 in 2020. The idea that she'd run for President seems pretty ridiculous. Lots of people were saying Bernie's too old, and he's comparatively young at "only" 76 (75 when he ran last year), 8 years younger than her.

        The danger is they'll pick some boring, establishment, no-charisma loser like Kaine in 2020. That probably would cause them to lose. Hopefully they won't be that stupid, but I guess we'll see. Remember, the voters have much of the responsibility here since they choose the nominee in the Primaries, and while they were kinda rigged as detailed by Brazile, the choice was ultimately made by the voters. (The party really should have overridden the process at the last minute and replaced Hillary with Bernie, after seeing how unpopular she was, but the voters did pick her.) If we actually get Hillary running again in 2020, I'll be at a loss for words. That level of stupidity is something you just can't talk to. I like to think the DNC won't be that stupid again (remember, there've been a bunch of changes in its leadership since then), but you never know.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @06:40PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @06:40PM (#594755)

          Consider the Virginia governor.

          That's a blue state. It already had a democrat for the governor. There is no gain to be had from a successful defense.

          It wasn't even a big win. The win was smaller than Hillary's win, suggesting that the state is now less blue that it was before.

          The only thing of note is psychological: the democrats ended an off-season losing streak in which they's lost 8 out of 8 special elections

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @09:52PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @09:52PM (#594256)

    If heavy-lift rockets are such strategic national assets, then how have we been doing without them for decades? And now all of a sudden we need full government control? The claim is at the level of stupidity you'd expect from Team Trump.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Wednesday November 08, @10:00PM (5 children)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday November 08, @10:00PM (#594260)

      This stupidity isn't unique to Trump. Obama had a lot of stupidity too; after all, his administration is the one that pushed pork-barrel SLS and Mars-first. Every administration in modern history has been pretty stupid about how space exploration should be conducted. At least this administration is putting the brakes on this dumb Mars-first idea and pushing for Moon missions. Once we figure out how to have people living on the Moon, *then* we can start thinking about sending them to Mars. You have to walk before you can run.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @10:06PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @10:06PM (#594262)

        We did go to the Moon first. In 1969.

        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM (2 children)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday November 08, @10:09PM (#594266)

          We never stayed overnight. If you can't even do that, you have no business going to Mars.

          • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday November 08, @10:20PM (1 child)

            by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday November 08, @10:20PM (#594274)

            landed at 20:17:40 UTC on Sunday July 20 with about 25 seconds of fuel left.[5]

            The schedule for the mission called for the astronauts to follow the landing with a five-hour sleep period as they had been awake since early morning. However, they elected to forgo the sleep period and begin the preparations for the EVA early, thinking that they would be unable to sleep.

            After about seven hours of rest, the crew was awakened by Houston to prepare for the return flight. Two and a half hours later, at 17:54 UTC, they lifted off

            After more than 21½ total hours on the lunar surface

            They were scheduled to sleep twice while on the moon, and 21.5 hours is pretty close to 24...

            --
            "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
            • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Wednesday November 08, @10:44PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 08, @10:44PM (#594282) Journal
              Grishnakh is likely speaking of lunar night, which is a bit rougher than its terrestrial counterpart. It can get down to -173 C [space.com]. That's a little above the temperatures required to liquefy oxygen or nitrogen at one atmosphere. You need to have a heat and energy source for roughly two weeks in order to survive.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Thursday November 09, @01:13AM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday November 09, @01:13AM (#594333) Journal

        This stupidity isn't unique to Trump. Obama had a lot of stupidity too; /i

        Yes.

        You can't change a space agency's mission every 8 (or 4) years and expect anything to actually get done. All presidents seem to do it.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Wednesday November 08, @10:32PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 08, @10:32PM (#594279) Journal
      I agree with Grishnakh's reply. But it goes back well before any recent administrations. We've been hearing similar things about the importance of launch infrastructure since the development of and rationalization for the Space Shuttle (which kicked off this particular flavor of foolishness).

      It should give us pause to wonder why NASA, an organization which has failed to come up with a replacement for the Shuttle over the past 30 years (the SLS is at least the fourth failed system to come out of NASA attempts at replacing the Shuttle) and which already has access to a variety of useful and reliable commercially launched vehicles at a low fraction of the price, should be tasked with developing the SLS?
    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 09, @04:45AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @04:45AM (#594434) Journal

      If heavy-lift rockets are such strategic national assets, then how have we been doing without them for decades?

      You may have noticed that the Russians pretty well OWN the ISS by default. We've been buying launch slots from them.
      That's what you do when you export your space program.

      When SLS was started, there was no reason to believe that Musk or Bezos would continue their programs, each of those companies were one disaster in a populated area from disappearing forever.

      And ULA was just another version of the Russians - buying Russian engines, even while holding a license (but no expertise) to build them.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @10:10PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, @10:10PM (#594267)

    If the advisor had said that Mars was a great goal to work on immediately, everyone (and by "everyone" I mean news networks and people who spend most of their time on the internet) would have instead talked about how unrealistic it is and how Trump and his team are just so removed from reality.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday November 08, @10:17PM

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday November 08, @10:17PM (#594271) Journal

      You know that 2035 is the Mars date. We gotta get to Mars by 2035! But NASA has NO PLANS to land on Mars in the 2030s [soylentnews.org]. It is talking about a Martian space station around that time, after a lunar version in the 2020s.

      It's SpaceX or bust if you want to get to Mars anytime soon. Even China doesn't have firm plans to beat NASA to Mars, so SpaceX could avert a space race if it actually meets its aggressive targets. At the very least, SpaceX is currently advertising payload to Mars [spacex.com] using either the proven Falcon 9 or the upcoming Falcon Heavy.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by crafoo on Wednesday November 08, @11:10PM (4 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Wednesday November 08, @11:10PM (#594297)

    Really disappointed with everyone here. No difficult technical and scientific achievement looks easy from the start. You're looking up at a mountain. No person can possibly climb that! But we can. If we were not a nation of lazy pussies.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @01:01AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @01:01AM (#594328)

      Wish I could mod the parent up as insightful.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 09, @04:55AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @04:55AM (#594439) Journal

      If we were not a nation of lazy pussies.

      Yeah, it all began with that feckless Goddard. If he was half the man we thought he was, HE could have been the first man to walk on the moon.

      And those 13th century Chinese clowns wasting rockets on the mongols for pete sake!!!

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday November 09, @06:11AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09, @06:11AM (#594463) Journal

      To keep on the metaphor, it is silly to decide to try climbing Mount Everest next year if all you've done yet is to walk up the local hills. Aim for the north face of the Eiger first.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Wednesday November 08, @11:15PM (1 child)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 08, @11:15PM (#594299) Journal
    Pace never said a thing about what the SLS would be used for. This is a typical argument from capability. We'll get this awesome tool with all these capabilities, but not mention a single real world use for that tool.

    The reason why is that there isn't a goal of the US that requires the SLS in any form. The far cheaper costs of commercial launch means that it's better to shoehorn spacecraft and other mission payloads onto commercial launchers rather than develop a specialized launcher that via its development and fixed costs, pulls immense funding away from such missions and still costs more per launch.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @09:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @09:53AM (#594550)

      This. Basically, you need to get something back. We need to see some plan for profit in value of substance, capability, or knowledge which would be attained as consequence of lifting more mass in one go up from the bottom of our gravity well. First, we have to know the answers to these questions:

      Are we going to sustain our business in space for foreseeable future? In other words, will we need to place equipment and/or humans up in the Earth's orbit and/or other celestial bodies?
      If yes, can we cut our costs and losses doing that, by investing into space-located space equipment construction industry?
      If yes, can we cut our costs and losses doing that, by investing into space-located raw materials (and perhaps recyclable refuse and leftovers) retrieval and processing?
      If yes to either of last two, do we need nearby human placement and oversight at sites where these actions will take place?
      If yes to that last one, do we need permanent settlements to support that human presence?

      If we do all that, will it still be cost effective for our initial goals and primary needs related to space? It seems that without rising demand for space-originated materials or services at adequate price points, this whole chain will not be able to support itself. It would be naive to think that any human extraterrestrial settlement within Solar system would become completely self-sufficient anytime soon, so any aspiring settlement must produce value for the Earth to be able to sustain itself through trade, and it means that they have to have something for bargaining. Before that something is determined, there is no proper and sane incentive for establishing them.

  • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Thursday November 09, @03:33PM

    by RamiK (1813) on Thursday November 09, @03:33PM (#594633)

    What's next? Would Trump build his own cement factories and ports for the wall and aircraft carriers too since the production chain of "strategic national assets" should be owned by the government? Going to Mars is a waste of time and resources so I'll give him that much. But sticking to that SLS abomination over vendor-lock patent concerns is pure nonsense. If a contractor is giving them trouble they're free to appropriate their patents and release them to the public in the same way they evict a man from his house to pave a road following eminent domain precedents. Strategic national assets fall well within the public interests so just reimburse the patent holders for their R&D costs and current revenues and be done with it.

    --
    compiling...
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @03:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, @03:48PM (#594650)

    We choose to go to the Moon! ... We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are easier than getting to Mars

    - Trump

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday November 09, @11:11PM

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday November 09, @11:11PM (#594906) Journal

    SLS managers rally the troops to avoid EM-1 slip into 2020 [nasaspaceflight.com]

    Waste that money!

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10, @12:35AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10, @12:35AM (#594938)

    Every administration will and has had a different goal. We can't keep cancelling and un-cancelling plans for every change of president or election cycle. Set a longer-term goal and stick with it.

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