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posted by martyb on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the To-the-Moon,-Alice!-To-the-Moon! dept.

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

Related Stories

Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again? 78 comments

NASA seems hell bent to go to Mars, but can't afford to on its own.
Its international partners have no stomach for that — they would would rather return to our moon and build a base there for further exploration.

Doesn't going back to the moon make more sense? Build a base on the moon, and use its low gravity and possible water at the poles as propellant for further space exploration?

Why not the moon first?

http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/7/11868840/moon-return-journey-to-mars-nasa-congress-space-policy

Links:
From NASA itself, in 2008: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/series/moon/why_go_back.html
The all-knowing, ever-trustworthy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_the_Moon


Original Submission

How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently 56 comments

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

NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars 42 comments

http://www.space.com/36270-nasa-deep-space-gateway-moon-orbit.html

It looks like NASA's stepping-stone to Mars will be a miniature space station in lunar orbit rather than a chunk of captured asteroid.

The agency plans to build an astronaut-tended "deep space gateway" in orbit around the moon during the first few missions of the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, which are scheduled to fly together for the first time in late 2018, NASA officials said.

"I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C, said in a statement. [Red Planet or Bust: 5 Crewed Mars Mission Ideas]

"The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system," Gerstenmaier added.

One of those "other destinations" is Mars. NASA is working to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s, as directed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. For the last few years, the agency's envisioned "Journey to Mars" campaign has included the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an effort to pluck a boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and drag the rock to lunar orbit, where it could be visited by astronauts aboard Orion.

But ARM's future looks bleak; President Donald Trump provided no money for the mission in his proposed 2018 federal budget, which the White House released earlier this month.

Also see:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/deep-space-gateway-to-open-opportunities-for-distant-destinations

http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a25872/nasa-cis-lunar-orbit/

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/sep/index.html


Original Submission

NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station 14 comments

The U.S. and Russia will work together to develop a space station orbiting the Moon. Canada, Japan, and the ESA have also expressed interest in the project:

At this year's International Astronautical Congress, NASA and Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, signed a joint statement expressing their intent to work collaboratively toward the development of a space station further out from Earth, orbiting the Moon, as a staging point for both lunar surface exploration and deeper space science.

This is part of NASA's expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called "deep space gateway" concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.

Let's hope that the station, if built, becomes a refueling station that can store and distribute fuel produced on the Moon.

Deep Space Gateway. Also at The Guardian.

Previously: NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
Scientists Scout Sub-Surface Settlement Sites on the Moon and Mars


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

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

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's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station 43 comments

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets

Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket.

[...] In response, Gerstenmaier pointed Hale and other members of the advisory committee—composed of external aerospace experts who provide non-binding advice to the space agency—to a chart he had shown earlier in the presentation. This chart showed the payload capacity of the Space Launch System in various configurations in terms of mass sent to the Moon. "It's a lot smaller than any of those," Gerstenmaier said, referring to the Falcon Heavy's payload capacity to TLI, or "trans-lunar injection," which effectively means the amount of mass that can be broken out of low-Earth orbit and sent into a lunar trajectory. In the chart, the SLS Block 1 rocket has a TLI capacity of 26 metric tons. (The chart also contains the more advanced Block 2 version of the SLS, with a capacity of 45 tons. However, this rocket is at least a decade away, and it will require billions of dollars more to design and develop.)

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy TLI capacity is unknown, but estimated to be somewhere between 18 and 22 tons (between the known payloads of 16.8 tons to Mars and 26.7 tons to geostationary orbit).

Does the SLS need to launch more than 18 tons to TLI? No. All of the currently planned components of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway) have a mass of 10 tons or less due to flying alongside a crewed Orion capsule rather than by themselves. Only by 2027's Exploration Mission 6 would NASA launch more massive payloads, by which time SpaceX's BFR could take 150 tons to TLI or even Mars when using in-orbit refueling.

Related: 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
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?
President Trump Praises Falcon Heavy, Diminishes NASA's SLS Effort


Original Submission

Space Policy Directive-3 Calls for U.S. to Manage Space Debris 10 comments

NASA Administrator expresses support for Space Policy Directive-3

With the threat of space debris destroying satellites, crewed spacecraft and even the International Space Station increasing, processes have been initiated to help alleviate and prevent this threat. NASA's new Administrator Jim Bridenstine made several statements about the new Space Policy Directive-3, which was signed by President Trump. During the June 18, 2018, meeting of the National Space Council, Trump signed SPD-3, which directs the U.S. to lead the management of space traffic and mitigate the effects of space debris.

[...] This comes less than a month after the signing of SPD-2, which called for the reform of the United States' commercial space regulatory framework. Additionally, SPD-1 was signed in December 2017, which instructed NASA to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon with the eventual goal of human flights to Mars.

[...] One of the main features of SPD-3 is the management of space debris. It calls for the U.S. to utilize government and commercial technologies to track and monitor debris and set new guidelines for satellite for satellite design and operation.

Additionally, it calls for the update of the U.S. government's Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices, which currently states that spacecraft and upper stages should be designed to eliminate or minimize debris released during normal operations. Additionally, any debris larger than five millimeters that is expected to remain in orbit for more than 25 years is to be justified on the basis of cost and mission requirements.

NASA Administrator statement.

Related: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon
Jeff Bezos Details Moon Settlement Ambitions in Interview


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

Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway 8 comments

Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is a planned space station in lunar orbit. The U.S. and Russia signed an agreement last year to work on the station's development. Now Russia has created an engineering department inside the RKK Energia space corporation in order to plan the nation's lunar exploration, including a possible manned landing:

Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.

Although the US saw the primary goal of the DSG as a springboard for missions to Mars, NASA's international partners, including Russia, have been pushing the idea of exploring the Moon first. On the Russian side, RKK Energia led key engineering studies into the design of the DSG and participated in negotiations with NASA on sharing responsibilities for the project.

To coordinate various technical aspects of lunar exploration, the head of RKK Energia Vladimir Solntsev signed an order late last year to form Center No. 23Ts, which would report directly to him. According to a document seen by Ars Technica, the group will be responsible for developing long-term plans for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface, as well as for implementing proposals for international cooperation in lunar missions. This is a clear signal that NASA might soon have a new liaison in Russia for all things related to the DSG. The same group will also take care of all the relevant domestic interactions between RKK Energia and its subcontractors.

Unlike the ISS, the DSG should not require any orbital boost burns and could reach any altitude above the Moon using ion thrusters.

Here are two op-eds from last year about the Deep Space Gateway:

Terry Virts: The Deep Space Gateway would shackle human exploration, not enable it

John Thornton: The Deep Space Gateway as a cislunar port

Related articles:


Original Submission

NASA's Acting Administrator to Retire as Nominee Impasse Continues 21 comments

NASA's acting administrator, Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., has announced that he will retire on April 30. The U.S. Senate has not yet voted on confirming Jim Bridenstine as a permanent replacement:

[...] In September, President Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, to be the next administrator. But the Senate has yet to vote to confirm Mr. Bridenstine.

All 49 Democrats in the Senate appear unified in opposition, in part because Mr. Bridenstine gave a speech disparaging climate change several years ago. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has also expressed doubts about Mr. Bridenstine.

The space agency's No. 2 position, deputy administrator, is vacant. The Trump administration has yet to nominate anyone. Steve Jurczyk, formerly the associate administrator for space technology, was named in late February as a temporary fill-in for Mr. Lightfoot's previous job, associate administrator. NASA is also lacking a chief of staff.

[...] Mr. Lightfoot's 406 days as acting administrator is by far the longest NASA has operated without a permanent leader, eclipsing the 176 days that passed at the start of the Obama administration before Mr. Bolden was confirmed.

Previously: President Trump Nominates Congressman Jim Bridenstine to Lead NASA

Related: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1


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


Original Submission

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?' "

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:38PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:38PM (#608949)

    NASA's main mission isn't space exploration, it's making Muslims feel good! Trump is just so wrong about everything.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/05/nasa-chief-frontier-better-relations-muslims.html [foxnews.com]

    • (Score: 2, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:40PM (#608951)

      *facepalm*

    • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:03PM (2 children)

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:03PM (#609224) Homepage Journal

      Believe me, we are working very hard on improving our relations with the Muslim world. In many ways. Through our friends in Israel, our friends in Saudi Arabia, by ending the lottery system (a Chuck Schumer beauty) and CHAIN MIGRATION, and with our military. We need our military, it's gotta be PERFECTO. So yesterday I signed what they call the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, complicated thing, it's not complicated. It's money, $700 billion, for our military.

      The NDAA increases the size of the American Armed Forces for the first time in seven years, and it provides our military service members with their largest pay increase in eight years. It authorizes funding for our continued campaign to OBLITERATE ISIS. The previous administration founded ISIS, literally founded ISIS. As you know, we've won in Syria, we've won in Iraq. But they spread to other areas and we're getting them as fast as they spread.

      The NDAA approves missile defense capabilities as we continue our campaign to create maximum pressure on LITTLE ROCKET MAN, on the vile dictatorship in North Korea. We're working very diligently on that -- building up forces. We'll see how it all turns out. It's a very bad situation -- a situation that should have been handled long ago by other administrations.

      Believe me, we really appreciate the OVERWHELMING bipartisan support from all of our friends in Congress. And I thank my TERRIFIC warriors. Brand new, beautiful equipment is on its way -- the best you've ever had by far. We make the best in the world, and you're going to have it.

      Now Congress must finish the job by eliminating the defense SEQUESTER and passing a clean appropriations bill. I think it's going to happen. At this time of grave global threats, I urge OBSTRUCTIONIST Dems in Congress to drop their shutdown threats and send clean funding and a clean funding bill to my desk that fully funds our great military. Protecting our country should always be a bipartisan issue, just like yesterday's legislation. 🇺🇸

      --
      #StopTheBias [twitter.com]
  • (Score: 5, Troll) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:47PM (12 children)

    by c0lo (156) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:47PM (#608954)

    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 policy also ends NASA's existing effort to send humans to an asteroid.

    Trump, a lunatic first, martial second, strives to not be a meteoric appearance.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by MostCynical on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:28PM (5 children)

      by MostCynical (2589) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:28PM (#608976)

      "...organize government, private enterprise.."

      So, more money for Boeing?

      --
      tau = 300. Greek circles must have been weird.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by curunir_wolf on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:32PM (3 children)

        by curunir_wolf (4772) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:32PM (#608983)

        Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos both have private space programs.

        Boeing, not so much.

        --
        I am a crackpot
        • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:00PM

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:00PM (#608997) Journal

          The United Launch Alliance (Boeing + Lockheed Martin) have Atlas V and Delta rockets. Some of ULA's payloads have been commercial.

          Although ULA certainly are scumbags who have [soylentnews.org] shit-talked [floridatoday.com] SpaceX [soylentnews.org] frequently in recent years, they see the writing on the wall. They will be building reusable or partially-reusable [wikipedia.org] rockets if they want to remain in the industry.

          What's the criteria for having a "private space program"? SpaceX have taken NASA/USG/Air Force money to develop their technology, not counting money paid for flights. The U.S. just got a much better return on their investment in SpaceX than they have with ULA. And if we kill SLS and divert more money to SpaceX, we will see real progress on Mars.

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        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:14AM (1 child)

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:14AM (#609153) Homepage
          Boeing may have primarily governmental customers for their space work (but by no means exclusively, have you never heard of the private company /Intelsat/?), that's irrelevant - they are *private enterprise*, which was the criterion mentioned.
          --
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          • (Score: 3, Informative) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:45PM

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:45PM (#609260)

            We need to put the 'mental' back into 'governmental'.

            Make Mental Grate Again

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      • (Score: 3, Funny) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:12PM

        by c0lo (156) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:12PM (#609003)

        Well, I reckon he got scared of losing the pork barrel race in the competition with ARSE [spaceaustralia.com.au]

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:15PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:15PM (#609006)

      Humourless idiots got mod points today and desperately try to fall back into being pointless.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:31PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:31PM (#609011) Journal

        Correction: Humourless idiots get mod points every day.

        *BLARES DENK MEEMS* [youtube.com]

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        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:43PM

          by c0lo (156) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:43PM (#609015)

          It's a constant struggle, yes.

          (grin)

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:46PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:46PM (#609261)

        Humourless idiots got mod points today and desperately try to fall back into being pointless.

        I am not humorless!

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    • (Score: 1) by Sulla on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:27AM

      by Sulla (5173) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:27AM (#609024) Journal

      Good call, now that Trump likes space I don't like it either.

      --
      "I'd rather take a political risk for peace rather than risk peace in pursuit of politics" - President Donald J. Trump
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:07PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:07PM (#609303)

      Trump found a way to moon the world.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by requerdanos on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:49PM (3 children)

    by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:49PM (#608956) Journal

    We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:16PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:16PM (#608970)

      Go on, read the whole speach, you can find it online. External enemies, in war, in a space race, whatever, always serve to distract from internal trouble. It was true then, it's been true since, and it's true today, with this announcement.

      Kennedy's moon speech was a carefully crafted work of propaganda - kudos to his speech writer(s?). It works on me today, half a century later, even though I *know* it is propaganda. If I ever have to give a motivational speech, I know where to steal from!

      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:56AM

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:56AM (#609033) Journal

        Go on, read the whole speach, you can find it online.

        I have, many times. I was born in 1969, too young to hear the speech, but I grew up against the backdrop of moon landings being "normal."

        [It's a] carefully crafted work of propaganda [that] works on me today, half a century later, even though I *know* it is propaganda.

        Same effect here. At the end, he doesn't say we are going to "achieve" the goal, or "reach" the goal; he says we're going to "win." But it still gives me goosebumps to hear it and know that the Apollo program came out of it.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by krishnoid on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:29PM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:29PM (#608979)

      s/go to the moon/build the wall/

      Also, this is actually the first time we're going to the moon [space.com], right?

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by captain_nifty on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:52PM (38 children)

    by captain_nifty (4252) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:52PM (#608959)

    If congress isn't messing with their funding by earmarking it for their constituents, we have a new executive every 4-8 years giving them new long term plans.

    You can't have effective long term planning, when the plans constantly change in the relative short term.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:00PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:00PM (#608966)

      The directive should call for putting a Congressman on the Moon by 2018 elections, and all Congressmen by 2020.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:38PM (2 children)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:38PM (#608986) Journal

        We can at least put them all out of house... Cheaper and quicker than firing them off into space. Of course we could make it suborbital, with no heat shield. Would that be too cruel [youtube.com]?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:07AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:07AM (#609120)

          We can at least put them all out of house... Cheaper and quicker than firing them off into space.

          Really? I wouldn't be so sure, it didn't seem to work all that well so far.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:41AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:41AM (#609050)
        Well, they're mostly a bunch of lunatics in any case. And while we're at it, send the lunatic-in-chief there as well.
    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:07PM (1 child)

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:07PM (#608968) Journal

      While that is true, the space race was initiated by a president that was only active for 2 years after the pledge. What really motivated the Space Race wasn't Congress or a consistent President. It was the fact that America as a whole was pitted against Russia/USSR as a whole during the entirety of the Space Race. The current "Space Race" is more of a private economic affair. While Mr. Musk has tons of money, he would be burning it, if there wasn't some economic factor that allowed him to do what he has done with SpaceX.

      --
      "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Psalm 116:11
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:34PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:34PM (#608984)

        We had a persistent, steady and formidable opponent.

        Today, we've got Silicon valley startups and Kiwi-tech for competition. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Rocket Lab, but... it hardly inspires middle America to forego a cost-of-living increase in their Social Security checks.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:21PM (30 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:21PM (#608972) Journal

      A lot of NASA's cheaper unmanned missions have proceeded as planned (and they were planned over many years). Even expensive boondoggles like the JWST are pretty secure in their funding. Congress does interfere a little bit, such as the mandated mission to Europa, but it's not too bad.

      It's manned spaceflight that has been a mess, and not entirely because our goals are muddled and change from one Administration to another. We had the expensive Space Shuttle and then reliance on the Russians, with years of activity in LEO but not beyond. And maybe it is a good thing for us not to be locked into any particular plan. The Space Launch System is a huge money waster and its maiden flight is likely being delayed until 2020. SpaceX has accomplished a lot using a relatively small amount of funding from NASA. If Falcon Heavy is successful and partially reusable and SpaceX turns its sights towards the Interplanetary Transport System and Mars, we could reach a point where cancelling the in-progress SLS pork project and diverting funds (somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion) to SpaceX is a much smarter move. Falcon Heavy will deliver a similar though slightly smaller payload to LEO as SLS Block 1, at less than 20% of the cost.

      I think we could easily see the cost of SLS flights reaching $750 million instead of $500 million, and Falcon Heavy declining to the current cost of a Falcon 9 flight due to reusable stages. In which case, SpaceX could get a Falcon Heavy payload (with the caveat of a lower mass due to reusable mode) at around 8% of the cost of an SLS flight which wastes rocket stages by design.

      Will Congress kill the SLS pork rocket? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how much success SpaceX and other commercial launchers have in the meantime, and how badly mismanaged the SLS becomes.

      The current official plan of returning to the Moon with some sort of undefined Mars exploration in the mid-late 2030s seems like it can survive subsequent administrations. There's talk of ISS-style cooperation [scmp.com] on a lunar orbital space station [soylentnews.org]. Russia [soylentnews.org], China [soylentnews.org], ESA [soylentnews.org], and JAXA [soylentnews.org] have all expressed a lot of interest in going to the Moon (even [soylentnews.org] India/ISRO [soylentnews.org]).

      It looks like we will see international cooperation on upcoming lunar exploration, partially due to the U.S. already achieving the manned landing there in 1969. And then SpaceX or another private company will make it to Mars first (SpaceX wants to send humans there in 2024, much earlier than any nation is planning to do it). That would stop the Mars race in its tracks. I think this scenario is good for the world.

      The humans-visiting-an-asteroid mission concept was pretty widely criticized. It would have been interesting, but Moon-then-Mars manned exploration is probably a better idea. So that Obama-era idea has been cleared away, but both administrations wanted eventual Mars exploration and I doubt subsequent administrations will veer away from that course.

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      • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:19PM (4 children)

        by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:19PM (#609007) Homepage Journal

        that's the keyword right there.

        SLS will NEVER be cancelled.

        --
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        • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:11AM (2 children)

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:11AM (#609020) Journal

          Newer batches of Congressmen (post-2010?) have been a lot less tolerant of sacred cows and pork spending.

          SLS could be cancelled. But it will require the confluence of incredible SpaceX success (let's see what happens with the Falcon Heavy maiden launch in January), Space Launch System failure (additional delays, failure on the launch pad, etc.), and public pressure to cancel SLS.

          Initially, Falcon Heavy will face off against SLS. But in a nightmare scenario for SLS, launches could be postponed another whole year or two. If SpaceX were to fly the successor to Falcon Heavy around the same time as initial flights of SLS, SLS might be too small to not fail.

          Currently planned:

          Falcon Heavy to LEO: 63,800 kg
          Falcon Heavy to GTO: 26,700 kg
          Falcon Heavy to Trans-Mars injection: 16,800 kg
          Falcon Heavy to Trans-lunar injection: 16,000 kg

          SLS Block 1 to LEO: 70,000 kg
          SLS Block 1A/1B to LEO: 105,000 kg
          SLS Block 1B to Trans-lunar injection: 39,200 kg
          SLS Block 2 to LEO: 130,000 kg

          SpaceX Big "Falcon" Rocket to LEO: 250,000 kg (expendable)
          BFR to LEO: 150,000 kg (reusable)

          Note that BFR is a scaled-down version of the previously planned Interplanetary Transport System. And they are hoping to fly it as soon as 2022, so pretty much concurrent to SLS flights. If the REUSABLE version of BFR offers more massive payloads than SLS Block 2 while SLS Block 1 is still being tested... that's a wrap, regardless of that sweet pork flavor.

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          • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:38PM (1 child)

            by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:38PM (#609254)

            Ah, "Falcon" is not what I thought the F in BFR stood for. Thanks for clearing that up.

            If we're fine with having One True Launch System, then going all in on the BFR is probably a good idea. But as a congressman recently said (can't remember which one), space launch systems are critical strategic resources like aircraft carriers. Whoever controls them controls the biggest source of military power and authority.

            We cannot allow that power and authority to belong to private corporations whose incentive is short-term profit rather than the long-term survival and prosperity of even a small but significant segment of humanity. So while the BFR is exciting, it's also extremely dangerous for the most advanced launch system to be controlled by an unaccountable, international, for-profit corporation.

            For our own sake, we need to make sure that either a) the US owns a more powerful launch system, even if it's more expensive, or b) nobody else (Russia, China, et al) can use the BFR without our approval.

            One plausible scenario we want to avoid is Chinese companies being compelled to sneak Chinese military assets into space on the BFR. As a private corporation, SpaceX would not have enough red tape to detect and prevent this even if they had the inclination to. The Chinese could leapfrog our military dominance and become the new leading world superpower this way.

            Of course, the reader is welcome to disagree with the premise that the US should remain the leading world superpower. But you can bet that nearly everyone in the US government agrees with it.

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            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:31PM

              by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:31PM (#609283) Journal

              Ah, "Falcon" is not what I thought the F in BFR stood for. Thanks for clearing that up.

              It's clearly a way for Daddy Musk to deflect criticism of putting profanity in the name of the rocket, by injecting some ambiguity into the initialism. This is the guy who wants to name his Tesla vehicles Models S, 3, X, Y in that order (here's someone getting triggered by it [theverge.com]). BFR might get renamed to something else closer to launch. Consider Big Falcon Rocket a way to keep the wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke alive until then.

              But as a congressman recently said (can't remember which one), space launch systems are critical strategic resources like aircraft carriers.

              There's really no indication that SpaceX is going to suddenly uproot and become a European or Chinese company. And in fact, it has deep roots here with various space launch facilities and ties to U.S.-based Tesla/etc.

              As I said in some comment somewhere, we can support other companies like the United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, Blue Origin, and Rocket Lab at the same time, at least by funding development of new rockets from those players if not necessarily purchasing launches. There will be bids for launches, but some more expensive launchers like ULA's will end up getting used simply for redundancy (since a SpaceX explosion would probably delay launches by a month or more).

              The guy you were thinking of is Scott Pace: Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset [soylentnews.org]

              His perspective is stupid. SLS is a fucking joke. If you axed SLS [nextbigfuture.com] and gave HALF of the future allocated money to SpaceX, you are going to get a much better outcome. Especially if the first SLS flights with payloads (remember that the maiden flight has been delayed [theverge.com], likely to late 2019 or 2020, and won't have a significant payload [wikipedia.org]) are facing off against Falcon Heavy or BFR. So 2022 for Europa Clipper and a manned flight to lunar orbit, if those aren't delayed as well. As planned, BFR would be able to carry payload with more mass than any iteration of SLS... in reusable mode! Expendable mode BFR from SpaceX would have nearly double the payload to LEO as SLS Block 2.

              When is SLS Block 2 planned to launch? 2029-2030. If SLS continues you will pay $4 billion a year for the program every year starting in 2019. Holy shit.

              For our own sake, we need to make sure that either a) the US owns a more powerful launch system, even if it's more expensive, or b) nobody else (Russia, China, et al) can use the BFR without our approval.

              SpaceX and ULA are already set to eliminate our reliance on Russia for manned launches.

              I don't agree that we need exclusivity. But if you wanted to set this up, there's a way to do it: revive Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). SpaceX downgraded from ITS to BFR this year due to economic realities. But if you want your powerful and exclusive launch system, you could give SpaceX 25-50% of the Space Launch System gravy train, and they could agree to give NASA exclusive access to ITS launches for a period of 10 or 20 years. Or give the U.S. government veto power over who gets to ride on it.

              We already established that BFR will peak at around twice the payload to LEO of SLS Block 2. What about the ITS plan from 2016 [wikipedia.org]?

              ITS: 300 tons to LEO in reusable mode, or 550 tons to LEO in expendable mode. Compared to 130 tons to LEO for SLS Block 2, which is always expendable. Fuck my ass.

              Finally, while SpaceX can work with China [arstechnica.com], note that SpaceX is already extremely wary of China, because Musky knows that China steals secrets on reflex:

              ELON MUSK: 'If We Published Patents, It Would Be Farcical' [businessinsider.com] (2012)

              "We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China," said Musk in the interview. "If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."

              And yet... [reddit.com]

              A new SpaceX? China developing system to recover, reuse space rockets [cnbc.com]

              https://cybersecurity.jobs/spacex/careers/?vs=26 [cybersecurity.jobs]

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        • (Score: 2, Informative) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:28AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:28AM (#609025) Journal
          Constellation got canceled and it even launched once, sort of. This stuff isn't as inevitable as it used to be.
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by stormwyrm on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:22PM

        by stormwyrm (717) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:22PM (#609010) Journal

        It's primarily thanks to Congress that NASA is in such an f-d up state these days. They control the purse strings on this as with everything else in the government, and a lot of the sad state that NASA is in today is thanks to them. What they did with the JWST [scienceblogs.com] is a case in point. It became an expensive boondoggle precisely because it was underfunded:

        In a nutshell, the government did an independent review in 2010, determined what was necessary to finish the job as cheaply and quickly as possible (an extra $1.4 billion, with $250 million extra in each of 2011 and 2012), didn’t do those things, and now lets NASA both take the blame and deal with the fallout as it’s faced with unavoidable cost overruns and delays.

        I imagine similar things might have happened with other NASA projects. NASA's administration has also made its share of mistakes but much of the blame also falls on a miserly US Congress.

        --
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      • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:32PM (14 children)

        by c0lo (156) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:32PM (#609012)

        There's talk of ISS-style cooperation [scmp.com] on a lunar orbital space station [soylentnews.org]. Russia [soylentnews.org], China [soylentnews.org],

        ISS-style cooperation excludes China [soylentnews.org], thanks to your congresskritters. Based on their mood (and interest), I can't exclude the same faith in relation with Russia - the only reason it doesn't happen immediately is because of Russians' still-needed liftoff capabilities.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:45PM

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:45PM (#609016) Journal

          The U.S., Russia, European Union, Japan, and Canada are the core ISS participants. Russia and Japan are likely to join the lunar space station project at this point.

          None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China

          Bilateral != multilateral, so it's not clear to me that China can't join in.

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        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:43AM (10 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:43AM (#609029) Journal

          ISS-style cooperation excludes China, thanks to your congresskritters.

          Thanks also to China's massive espionage program. Sorry, I too don't buy that China would act in good faith with a cooperative space project like the ISS.

          Based on their mood (and interest), I can't exclude the same faith in relation with Russia - the only reason it doesn't happen immediately is because of Russians' still-needed liftoff capabilities.

          Russia also runs a significant part of the ISS. Those sections simply can't be run without them.

          I'm not feeling the good faith effort from them either, but they got in on the ISS. Or NASA for that matter due both to continual Congressional interference with their budgets and some of the peculiar ways of NASA (spare no expense on safety, for example, until the costs compromise the mission or the contracts from the desired vendor, then suddenly no corner is too shallow to cut). Really, the only ones whom I would trust would be ESA and JAXA because they're already very dependent on successful cooperation with others and have demonstrated a reasonable level of trustworthiness and consistent attention to detail. Maybe the ISRO.

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:57AM (7 children)

            by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:57AM (#609034)

            ISS-style cooperation excludes China, thanks to your congresskritters.

            Thanks also to China's massive espionage program. Sorry, I too don't buy that China would act in good faith with a cooperative space project like the ISS.

            Funny how the Europeans don't have these problems [wikipedia.org]. There are a number of explanations possible; among them:
            - the Chinese respect the Europeans more (than US) and don't spy on them; *or*
            - the Europeans really see it as a collaboration rather than a competition, therefore there's no reasons for China to spy on them because the data is freely shared anyway.

            (Good faith, eh? Have you looked on your side as well?)

            • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:24AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:24AM (#609046)

              3. Europeans are fools. All their stuff is going to be swiped by the Chinese.

              4. Europeans have less-valuable technology, perhaps because it was already swiped, and they'd like an opportunity to swipe something from the Chinese. (good luck going up against the experts)

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:25AM (5 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:25AM (#609127) Journal

              Funny how the Europeans don't have these problems.

              Where's the evidence to support your assertion? The link didn't show anything relevant.

              • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:37AM (4 children)

                by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:37AM (#609130)

                Where's the evidence to support your assertion?

                Terminology: "problems" in this specific context is meant to be understood as "the European aren't bother to sever the collaboration with the Chinese in space R&D for reasons of possible Chinese espionage".

                As in: "I don't have any problems/issues with Chinese espionage, I simply don't care whether they do it or not, not enough to drop the collaboration with them the way US Congress did".

                I hope my comment becomes clearer now.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:02AM (3 children)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:02AM (#609137) Journal

                  Terminology: "problems" in this specific context is meant to be understood as "the European aren't bother to sever the collaboration with the Chinese in space R&D for reasons of possible Chinese espionage".

                  We'll see if that worked for them or was a stupid idea.

                  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:31AM (2 children)

                    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:31AM (#609140)

                    In your view, what's the worst that can happen?
                    The Chinese getting the technology and start producing it at lower prices? Cool, better prices for Europeans, less problems with 'Where'd we place the industry in countries with high population density?', a good foundation to discover so

                    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:33AM

                      by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @08:33AM (#609142)

                      (shitty virtual keyboard) the message should have continued with 'to discover something else'.

                    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:08PM

                      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:08PM (#609273) Journal

                      The Chinese getting the technology and start producing it at lower prices?

                      Yes, and the ESA gets to pay for the R&D.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:03PM (1 child)

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:03PM (#609246)

            Really, the only ones whom I would trust would be ESA and JAXA because they're already very dependent on successful cooperation with others and have demonstrated a reasonable level of trustworthiness and consistent attention to detail.

            They should just put JAXA in charge of everything, and other nations only need to contribute money and do work only as directed by JAXA. Just look at the trains in Japan for proof. Everything they do there works almost perfectly, so that when a train leaves 20 seconds early, they apologize profusely [bbc.com]. Only in a fantasy would you see that kind of attention to detail on an American subway system or Amtrak.

            The American train and subways systems are proof that things run by the American government are doomed to failure when things must be done exactly right, as in space travel (don't forget all the bridges that are falling down). And over in Europe, the fact that they can barely keep their union together shows that they can't really be trusted with anything important either. Russia's space program is looking like it's failing these days too, probably as a result of their massive economic problems (it doesn't help that most Russian men are alcoholics), and China can't even figure out how to have escalators which don't grind people up [cnn.com].

        • (Score: 2) by WalksOnDirt on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:08AM (1 child)

          by WalksOnDirt (5854) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:08AM (#609037) Journal
          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:16AM

            by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:16AM (#609039)

            Thanks. Sorry for the typo, was posting while traveling (by train, in case anyone is curious)

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:45AM (6 children)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:45AM (#609052) Journal

        If Falcon Heavy can be successfully landed and re-used, then why couldn't SLS be modified to do the same?

        If NASA bought that technology from SpaceX, (its not all that secret, and there is more than one such solution in existence), it might be worth the money, and save the design. Its too expensive to fly it as is.

        The whole idea that the final package has to go up on one rocket is just too much 1969 thinking. We built the ISS precisely to gain the experience so as to not need to do "one-rocket-missions" any more. There's no reason people should step foot on the moon without a ready and waiting habitat and return vehicle sitting there waiting for them.

        but Moon-then-Mars manned exploration is probably clearly a better idea.

        FIFY

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        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:13AM

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:13AM (#609054) Journal

          NASA should just buy launches from SpaceX, and maybe support ULA, Blue Origin, etc. to prevent a complete monopoly or stagnation (along with supporting smaller launchers like Rocket Lab, which could be launching tomorrow [spaceflightnow.com]).

          ULA's upcoming Vulcan [wikipedia.org] design is only intended to be partially reusable. Clearly, just knowing that reusability is an achievable goal is not enough for fully reusable rockets to be designed.

          Space Launch System is manufactured by Boeing/United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Are they the ones that would have to license SpaceX's technology? Will SpaceX sell their secrets to entrenched military industrial complex companies that have opposed [politico.com] and shit [soylentnews.org] talked [floridatoday.com] them [soylentnews.org] every step of the way?

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        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:20AM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:20AM (#609124) Journal

          If NASA bought that technology from SpaceX, (its not all that secret, and there is more than one such solution in existence), it might be worth the money, and save the design. Its too expensive to fly it as is.

          The problem is reusability only makes sense if you're launching in volume. For the Space Shuttle, that threshold was about 40 launches per year. I think SpaceX expects it to kick in at a somewhat lower launch rate, but still probably higher than today's 18+ launches this year. SLS is planned to launch every one to two years. It's not in the league where it is viable as an expendable vehicle, much less cover the additional overhead of reusability.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:11PM

            by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:11PM (#609305) Journal

            I'm a little conflicted about this:

            https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=17/11/30/0442222 [soylentnews.org]
            https://archive.fo/vh0Bb [archive.fo]

            After a decade of “What If” hypotheses concerning SpaceX, its European competitors now accept that the company may in fact be able to reduce costs by introducing previously flown Falcon 9 first stages into its business.

            Gerd Gruppe, a member of DLR’s executive board and responsible for DLR’s space program, said the agency has concluded that SpaceX is on the verge of realizing the savings it has promised from reusing first stages.

            “With 20 launches a year the Falcon 9 uses around 200 engines, and while their cost of refurbishment is unknown, we think SpaceX is well on the way to establishing a competitive system based on the reusability” of the rocket’s first stage, Gruppe said here Oct. 24 at the Space Tech Expo conference.

            But it doesn't seem to me that SpaceX has to reuse anywhere near 16-20 rockets to see a cost benefit:

            https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?noupdate=1&sid=18744&page=1&cid=486870#commentwrap [soylentnews.org]

            Are the discounts coming because it is experimental and risky for the customer? Or because SpaceX is ready to offer a better value? Either way, it seems like insurance companies are bullish [seattletimes.com] on the reusable rocket concept after seeing so many successfully landed boosters and a handful of commercially reused boosters.

            We could get a better indication of how well reusability is working for SpaceX after they fulfill their goal of reusing a booster within 24 hours (or let's say a week since launches are often delayed by days), and when SpaceX publishes permanently lower prices here [spacex.com] (perhaps indicating that you get a lower price only if you fly using reusable mode).

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:16PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:16PM (#609209)

          Reusability isn't something that can easily be worked in to a design after-the-fact. It's something that really needs to be planned from the start. If they're going to make the SLS reusable, they need to effectively start over (which, granted, would let them fix a lot of the stupid design choices they've made, but since those were more pork-driven than engineering-driven anyway it probably wouldn't help).

          I'm also not sure about the economics of trying to reuse solid fuel rockets (the SLS boosters). I suspect it wouldn't be worth it, leaving only the core stack as a possible cost saver. Better than nothing, but as long as the project is being driven by the pork it's pretty irrelevant.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:06PM

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:06PM (#609248)

            I'm also not sure about the economics of trying to reuse solid fuel rockets (the SLS boosters). I suspect it wouldn't be worth it, leaving only the core stack as a possible cost saver. Better than nothing, but as long as the project is being driven by the pork it's pretty irrelevant.

            I thought they did reuse the solid fuel rockets (SRBs) on the Space Shuttle, and that was decades ago. The SRBs would separate when they ran out of fuel, then deploy parachutes so they could be recovered.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:56PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:56PM (#609266)

          If Falcon Heavy can be successfully landed and re-used, then why couldn't SLS be modified to do the same?

          The second rule of Government Spending. Why recycle a used item when you can sell them a new one for five times as much?

          The first rule of Government Spending was cited in the movie Contact.

          It's like the opposite of the rules of acquisition?

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:40AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:40AM (#609159)

        ... and diverting funds (somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion) to SpaceX is a much smarter move.

        It is NEVER a good idea to push more money where no additional money is useful. Money is not time (except on a small subset of well-defined endeavors) , and I don't care that you've been told differently. There is equivalent of Amdahl's Law in research activities and it is also one of the causes for diminishing returns. If some research effort cannot be parallelized further, additional funding will get wasted or even hamper the progress by incurring new unnecessary problems. If state at any time happens to have a toxic amount of money surplus, it should just lower its debt thus preventing it from doing damage.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:41PM

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:41PM (#609195) Journal

          I didn't pull the $10 billion number out of thin air:

          https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/30/16384096/elon-musk-spacex-bfr-mars-rocket-development-business-demand [theverge.com]

          Musk made one thing very clear: SpaceX’s future is the BFR. The company is no longer going to put resources into improving its current line of Falcon 9 vehicles or its bigger, next-generation Falcon Heavy. Instead, all of the company’s research and development resources will go into creating the new monster rocket. “He can now use those same now-proven people who have built flight hardware to now redesign the spacecraft,” Charles Miller, president of NexGen Space LLC, a space consulting firm, and a former member of the Trump administration’s NASA transition team, tells The Verge.

          The revenue SpaceX currently receives from launching satellites and servicing the International Space Station will also go toward funding the development of the rocket, Musk said. Right now, business does seem to be good: SpaceX has a full manifest of customers, and the company significantly increased its launch frequency to 13 so far this year (up from eight last year). NASA is also paying SpaceX to send cargo, and soon astronauts, to the ISS.

          Whether this is enough to fund the $10 billion development of a new rocket is unclear, though. And we’ll likely never know for sure. “The launch business is notoriously secretive in terms of prices,” Brian Weeden, a space expert at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit that specializes in space security, tells The Verge. “Plus, the price of launching a satellite depends on how much you’re willing to pay, where you want to go — it depends on a lot of stuff.”

          It’s possible that SpaceX’s satellite business and NASA contracts are enough to fund the BFR’s development. But it’s likelier that the company will need additional funds — especially if Musk hopes to meet his “aspirational” deadline of sending the vehicle to the Red Planet by 2022. Private investment seems like an option. And another good source of money? The government.

          BFR is a scaled down version of the previous Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) plan. If NASA wanted ITS instead of BFR, we could come up with a different, presumably larger, number for that.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (#608973)

    The one thing we really ought to get is a lunar sample that isn't contaminated by air. All the sample return containers for Apollo leaked.

    We can do this with a robot. Probably the way to deal with air is to weld the container's lid shut.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:40PM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:40PM (#608987) Journal

      Or we could do the analysis on-site. Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 [wikipedia.org] rover can do that, although the Mars 2020 mission involves a possible sample return to Earth.

      Or do the analysis on-site with fleshbag astronauts. Beyond the orbital lunar space station plans, Japan [soylentnews.org] and Russia [soylentnews.org] seem interested in putting boots on the ground sometime in the 2030s. I don't know if there are any plans to ferry astronauts between the surface and lunar orbit.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:39PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:39PM (#609013)

        Or do the analysis on-site with fleshbag astronauts

        R U sure bodybag astronauts aren't a better deal?
        I hear Moon is deficient in carbon and nitrogen, this one thinks sending the US Congress and government there is a net plus all around.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:47PM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:47PM (#609017) Journal

          You don't want to send this guy [wikipedia.org] into space.

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:20AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:20AM (#609085)

            Nope, you don't. He'll just puke again, and again...

            from wiki

            The space sickness he experienced during the journey was so severe that a scale for space sickness was jokingly based on him, where "one Garn" is the highest possible level of sickness.[10] Some NASA astronauts who opposed the payload specialist program, such as Mike Mullane, believed that Garn's space sickness was evidence of the inappropriateness of flying people with little training.[7] Astronaut Charles F. Bolden, however, described Garn as "the ideal candidate to do it, because he was a veteran Navy combat pilot who had more flight hours than anyone in the Astronaut Office".[11]

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:21AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:21AM (#609055) Journal

      All the sample return containers for Apollo leaked.

      The didn't all leak, in fact its not clear that all of them have been opened. There are still small cylindrical sample return flasks that were still unopened as of 2010 [usra.edu].
      Most of the exposed samples were exposed on earth, when a glove box leaked, but by that time the samples had already been bagged.

      This MIGHT have mattered had some form of life had been found. But that wasn't the case, and there's no indication the leaking ALSRC affected the sample in any meaningful way, and certainly this alone would not justify building a lab on the moon or trying to do analyses in lunar atmosphere. The density of the atmosphere at the moon's surface is comparable to the density of the outermost fringes of Earth's atmosphere where the International Space Station orbits.

      If we intend to visit there, in person or via any type of probe, robot, or vehicle, there's no point in trying real hard to return totally un contaminated samples. We are going to contaminate an entire solar system body with our tools anyway.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:36AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:36AM (#609093)

      How do you weld the container's lid shut without oxygen?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:15AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:15AM (#609122)

        Vacuum welding? [wikipedia.org] There's a lot of vacuum :)

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:31PM (8 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:31PM (#608981)

    I seem to remember a similar proclamation from W... if Trump is lucky enough to stay out of a major military conflict, this might just get enough traction to launch a few guys.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:42PM (#608991)

      And then what? Collect some rocks. Take a photo of Earth. Hang out for a couple days. Maybe lose a couple astronauts on re-entry.

      -1 would not do again

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:18AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:18AM (#609123)

      if Trump is lucky enough to stay out of a major military conflict

      Does nuclear war with NK count as a major military conflict?

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:12PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:12PM (#609387)

        That would count, but I personally rate the saber rattling on both sides as unconvincing - unnerving, immature, and extremely worrying, but ultimately unconvincing that either would really follow through.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:58PM (4 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:58PM (#609268)

      Trump is a guy that can be Tweet baited into a major military conflict.

      To the surprise of his staff who won't find out about it until it is BREAKING NEWS !!!

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      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:15PM (3 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:15PM (#609390)

        I think you need to define major. I doubt he has the power and political support to do much more than send a few SEAL teams, or a couple of drone strikes per day... basically business as usual. If he tried to reinstate the draft and launch a ground assault on Kabul... that might not actually happen.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:13PM (2 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:13PM (#609432)

          I would define major as:

          * some action Trump could take
          * without his daycare minders noticing
          * that would start a conflict
          * which escalates into a major conflict
          * requiring major commitments of resources from the US and possibly other allies

          and if he's as 'clever' as I think . . .

          * escalates into a nuclear conflict

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          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:25PM (1 child)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:25PM (#609441)

            I have some amount of faith in his babysitters, a lot of them are the same crew that has been in place through Obama, Bush, and even before.

            Not saying he can't completely piss off the world with a tweet, or send a SEAL team or two on missions that are a very bad idea before he gets stopped, just that even the DPRK has babysitters who make sure their fearless leader's rhetoric doesn't translate into a "very bad thing" for themselves and their children.

            • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:36PM

              by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:36PM (#609446)

              I truly hope that is the case.

              I never would have thought it. The fact I have to hope for babysitters to do their jobs in preventing childish tantrums is not something I expected to ever see the United States devolve into.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:51PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:51PM (#608993)

    Asteroid mining, out. Conversion of Moon to a Death Star, begin. Now if only Trump only wanted some fricking sharks . . .

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:08PM (7 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:08PM (#609001) Journal

      The commercial asteroid mining ventures like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have little or no interest in sending humans to asteroids. In the near-term they want to send asteroid-prospecting satellites into orbit around Earth or asteroids. In the long-term they want to send spacecraft and robots to redirect and mine asteroids. Water found in asteroids could be used to refuel manned or unmanned spacecraft. I'm not sure what they will do with the metals. Would a human visit to an asteroid really have supported these goals?

      NASA's return to the Moon will likely involve a lot of cooperation with other nations:

      Russia and US will cooperate to build moon's first space station [theguardian.com]
      Japan moves ahead with plans to join U.S.-led project to build space station orbiting moon [japantimes.co.jp]

      So rather than a Death Star... an International Space Station in lunar orbit.

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      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:26AM (6 children)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:26AM (#609057) Journal

        Water is not a fuel.
        Metals can not be economically landed, and would have to be used in space very near to where they were found. There is no amount of voodoo economic theory were this makes sense.

        And please don't mention gravity wells, they don't change the economics one iota.

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        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:42AM

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:42AM (#609059) Journal

          http://theconversation.com/making-space-rocket-fuel-from-water-could-drive-a-power-revolution-on-earth-65854 [theconversation.com]

          It can be used to make a propellant. Which is still necessary so long as EmDrive is not real.

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        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:55AM

          by c0lo (156) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:55AM (#609063)

          Water is not a fuel.

          For now, you are right. For a nearish future, I wouldn't be so sure.

          Depends on your available energy. If you have enough of it, you can actually use water for, e.g., ionic rockets - you'll lose the dissociation energy for water about 900kJ/mol (only about half of it if you deal with a partial H/OH dissociation), but if you want (better said, "are able") to space-thug an ice asteroid, this will be a negligible to the amount necessary to modify its orbit. But at least you'll not scramble for special fuel.

          If you are capable to fuse hydrogen (even when explosively, like nuclear pulse propulsion [wikipedia.org]), then water does become fuel.

          Metals can not be economically landed

          On the other side, devastatingly...

        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:05AM (3 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:05AM (#609080)

          Of course it is - you just have to add energy to convert it into a more useful form, just like you do on Earth. Hydrogen and oxygen gas for example. Or hydrogen peroxide if you're feeling especially adventurous. Either way will burn beautifully and send your rockets wherever you want them. And either way you avoid shipping lots and lots of mass up from Earth for the explicit purpose of throwing it away. All you need is a refinery and a power source and you can make your fuel in space from local materials.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:55AM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:55AM (#609162)

            I know, but you should stop thinking like an Earthling landlubber. You don't need to spend energy to dissociate H2O just so that you could combine H2 and O2 again in a chemical reactor with a nozzle on one side. To much loss, both in separation and during recombination!

            In vacuum and small gradient gravity field, most efficient use of the energy you collect would be spending it on direct acceleration of matter using electromagnetic force.

            It makes sense to do H2+O2 rocketry down here where water is really abundant and generally not toxic to biosphere (I know, I know, the dreaded di-hydrogen-monoxide ...), but up there, really no.

            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:40PM

              by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:40PM (#609218)

              Depends on your specific goals - lots of maneuvers benefit from high thrust. Also, we don't currently have any reliable, field-tested ion drives suitable for moving large masses, though a few show promise in the lab. We also have some significant challenges in terms of developing a high-density power supply to drive them, not to mention a way to radiate the copious amounts of waste heat. I've heard counter-claims that the VASIMIR "39 days to Mars" claim would require a space-based nuclear reactor with an energy-to-mass ratio 100x higher than anything we've produced so far. Maybe we can pull that off, but I'm betting it takes at least a few more decades.

              Plus, in the mid-term as we're expanding into space, ion drives are extremely intricate, expensive pieces of equipment. Whereas chemical rockets can be as simple as a fuel tank and a nozzle - much easier to actually manufacture in space.

              I'll grant you that it's far from the most elegant or efficient solution, but it gets the job done quickly, simply, and cheaply. And fast, easy solutions will be make establishing a serious presence in space far more doable.

            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:38PM

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:38PM (#609255)

              You don't need to spend energy to dissociate H2O just so that you could combine H2 and O2 again in a chemical reactor with a nozzle on one side. To much loss, both in separation and during recombination!

              Losses aren't important in space: you have limitless solar energy up there, at least anywhere near Earth orbit (not so much in the outer system). You just have to collect it, which can take a little time, but water can make a good energy-dense energy storage form this way, by converting it to H2 and O2 over time with a power station.

              most efficient use of the energy you collect would be spending it on direct acceleration of matter using electromagnetic force.

              Ok, and where are you going to get something that can create that much electric power? There's plenty of sunlight, sure, but collecting that much (to get enough power for what you want to do) will require an enormous PV array, which really isn't feasible. That's why the idea is to use water: have a somewhat-enormous PV array in a fixed point near where you're mining H2O, and use that to slowly electrolyze the water to fuel, which you can then load onto small spacecraft so they can do whatever it is you want done with them, like transporting valuable metals around.

              Maybe before long, it'll make more sense to just use those enormous PV arrays to store electricity in batteries and power the spacecraft with ion engines, but we're not there yet. We have working H2/O2 rocket engines; we don't have ion engines capable of powering significant-sized spacecraft.

    • (Score: 2) by jimshatt on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:20PM (1 child)

      by jimshatt (978) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:20PM (#609008) Journal
      The moon can be mined for He-3. Maybe that's the reason?
  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:58PM (10 children)

    by turgid (4318) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:58PM (#608996) Journal

    Sorry, I'm thinking of the Eastern Bloc.

    Will the Great Profit Musk make it to the Moon before Fake President Pull-My-Finger of the People's Democratic Republic of America?

    And why isn't that nice Mr Putin n the race?

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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:13PM (9 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 12 2017, @11:13PM (#609005) Journal

      Looks like there isn't much of a race:

      Russia and US will cooperate to build moon's first space station [theguardian.com]
      Japan moves ahead with plans to join U.S.-led project to build space station orbiting moon [japantimes.co.jp]

      Now there are also plans for manned landings or surface bases, but any competition on the Moon looks pretty friendly to me.

      The Musky is more interested in Mars, but he will obviously offer lunar services since that is what the U.S. government will apparently be paying for in the 2020s:

      Elon Musk teases pictures of a SpaceX Moon base and Martian city [theverge.com]

      Not much more is known about these Moon base plans, but the idea alone is a big change for Musk’s vision. The SpaceX CEO has long been a staunch supporter of colonizing Mars and not the Moon. In a paper about his colonization plans [liebertpub.com], he wrote: “We could conceivably go to our Moon, and I actually have nothing against going to the Moon, but I think it is challenging to become multi-planetary on the Moon because it is much smaller than a planet.” Conceivably, Musk has changed his mind on that now.

      That may have to do with pressure from the Trump administration and the space community at large. Vice President Mike Pence has hinted that the new administration may call for a return to the Moon [youtube.com]. And numerous space agencies — including Russia, China, and the European Space Agency — are interested in missions to the Moon, as well as a number of companies from the private sector. By showcasing how his rocket could be used for a Moon mission, he may have an easier time selling the idea to potential customers.

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      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tftp on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:23AM (8 children)

        by tftp (806) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:23AM (#609022) Homepage
        A lunar colony is very expensive and risky. A martian colony is far beyond that. At this moment any martian project is pure vaporware. It was discussed here on SN that after a flight to Mars passengers will not remember their names. Colonization of Mars will require new robots and new space engines, along with launchpads that can take a bit of nuclear contamination. You cannot launch nuclear-powered ships from Earth orbit, but Moon's orbit might be OK. The crew capsule, protected from the engine's radiation, will also protect from space, and more effective engines will make the flight shorter. Going to Mars today is like trying to colonize America in rowboats.
        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:51AM (6 children)

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:51AM (#609031) Journal

          It was discussed here on SN that after a flight to Mars passengers will not remember their names.

          That's an exaggeration.

          Mars-Bound Astronauts Face Chronic Dementia Risk From Cosmic Ray Exposure [soylentnews.org]
          Mars-bound astronauts face chronic dementia risk from galactic cosmic ray exposure [uci.edu]

          Rodents (with less brain volume and skull thickness than humans) were bombarded with ionized particles. Mars-bound spacecraft will have shielding, more will be added if necessary, and the group that did the study is working on a solution for the "problem" they found:

          Preventive treatments offer some hope. Limoli’s group is working on pharmacological strategies involving compounds that scavenge free radicals and protect neurotransmission.

          We're not even talking about colonization yet. The SpaceX planned 2024 Mars landing would not result in a permanent colony. NASA's current (murky) plans call for a Martian orbiting space station in the 2030s, not a permanent ground colony.

          Sure, a shorter flight to Mars is better. The technology is in development:

          VASIMR Plasma Rocket to be Tested at 100 kW for 100 Continuous Hours [soylentnews.org]
          Will Mini Fusion Rockets Provide Spaceflight's Next Big Leap? [archive.is]
          NASA's Kilopower Project Testing a Nuclear Stirling Engine [soylentnews.org]

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:00PM (5 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:00PM (#609245)

            Mars and beyond will require us to do away with our bodies and reconstitute them on arrival.

            What is it to be human will change. Must change. Our bodies are to fragile.

            It isn’t just space and the journey. It is the planet too.

            Reducing us to mind stored in a new body would allow all the expensive shielding to be reduced to protecting individual boxes that house our minds.

            Robotic bodies (of various shapes and therefore uses) will get us through space. We can more easily space walk this way. Fix things outside the ship. Though I believe a ship which is biomechanical will be needed as it can self repair. Whether this is a nano hull or one we create with bacteria that survive in space I don’t know.

            We will need psychological training to deal with our new selves but I think what we are is what we think we are. So very possible to overcome these sense of self issues.

            Once we find a planet we can adjust our robotic bodies to the exploration of the planet. Gravity issues mostly. Hop to the surface. Test it. What lives there. Are there humanoids? Could we use their bodies to place our minds in or do we need to build our new bodies? More muscles? Less? Lungs able to breathe what? Skin able to resist what? What is the radiation level our new sun shines upon our new home?

            We never have needed our bodies. And space travel needs them far less.

            Also ask Mr Hawking if he will donate his mind. Course AI is already negating our limited intellect.

            Soon we could be the Egyptian Gods populating new worlds.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:37PM (2 children)

              by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:37PM (#609253) Journal

              Mars and beyond will require us to do away with our bodies and reconstitute them on arrival.

              What is it to be human will change. Must change. Our bodies are to fragile.

              Again, a complete exaggeration. You can go to Mars and come back, and you will have a slightly higher chance of getting cancer. Maybe a +5% chance. You might have a slightly higher chance of getting dementia years later. These could be fixed by nanobots and regenerative medicine, the same kinds of technologies desired for anti-aging on Earth. There will be no need for mind uploading or a new genetically engineered body for Earth-Mars travel. If you're worried about radiation and charged particles, just build a super-heavy launcher like Interplanetary Transport System that can move more mass to Mars, and then increase the mass of your shielding. Don't forget to pack your shit into the walls for additional shielding. All much cheaper and more straightforward than mind uploading and/or new bodies. Once you get to Mars, humans can live in underground or well-built aboveground structures that were prepared in advance by robots.

              Your biomechanical Zerg/Wraith ships might be what are required for interstellar travel where a particle hitting a ship moving at 0.1c can be very destructive. But not needed for solar system exploration, even to as far out as the hypothetical Planet Nine distance.

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              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:49PM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:49PM (#609263)

                No bodies. Simplicity is most important. It isn’t just protecting them. It is keeping them alive. Dealing with waste or food etc.

                Sure to mars it might be of no consequence but interstellar space travel is hard.

                Just look at how hard it is to keep the ISS up and working and stocked for just two decades.

                No bodies. They aren’t needed.

                • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:59PM

                  by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:59PM (#609270) Journal

                  For interstellar, sure, we can talk mind uploading. It will take a long time to come up with any good method of getting civilization to another star, long enough to work out the details of mind uploading and optional reconstitution in new bodies at the destination. Unless warp drives are realized first and physicists are not optimistic.

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            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:42PM

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:42PM (#609258)

              We will need psychological training to deal with our new selves but I think what we are is what we think we are. So very possible to overcome these sense of self issues.

              This reminds me of the Max Headroom episode where old people have their consciousnesses uploaded into a computer.

              "It's wonderful, isn't it?"

            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:43PM

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @04:43PM (#609259)

              Mars and beyond will require us to do away with our bodies and reconstitute them on arrival.
              What is it to be human will change. Must change. Our bodies are to fragile.

              Looking around at my fellow Americans, most of them really could use new bodies. Heck, most of them could stand to lose half their body weight in their existing bodies.

        • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:21AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:21AM (#609125)

          Going to Mars today is like trying to colonize America in rowboats.

          So, difficult, but possible? [wikipedia.org]

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