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posted by janrinok on Friday April 20 2018, @06:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the refried-space-beans dept.

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

Related Stories

Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies 32 comments

A NASA scientist suggests that building a base on the moon would be feasible within a $10 billion budget, in a special issue of New Space focusing on the feasibility of lunar colonization:

What if I told you there's no reason we couldn't set up a small base on the moon by 2022 without breaking the bank? The endeavor would cost about $10 billion, which is cheaper than one U.S. aircraft carrier. Some of the greatest scientists and professionals in the space business already have a plan. NASA's Chris McKay, an astrobiologist, wrote about it in a special issue of the New Space journal, published just a few weeks ago.

Before we get into the details, let's ask ourselves: Why the moon? Although scientists (and NASA) don't find it all that exciting, the moon is a great starting point for further exploration. Furthermore, building a lunar base would provide us with the real-world experience that may prove invaluable for future projects on other planets like Mars, which NASA plans to reach by 2030. The main reason the moon is not a part of NASA's plan is simply because of the agency's crimped budget.

NASA's leaders say they can afford only one or the other: the moon or Mars. If McKay and his colleagues are correct, though, the U.S. government might be able to pull off both trips. All it takes is a change of perspective and ingenuity. "The big takeaway," McKay says, "is that new technologies, some of which have nothing to do with space — such as self-driving cars and waste-recycling toilets — are going to be incredibly useful in space, and are driving down the cost of a moon base to the point where it might be easy to do." The document outlines a series of innovations — already existing and in development — that work together toward the common goal of building the first permanent lunar base.

[cont..]

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

NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost 10 comments

According to Popular Mechanics, the Russians might finally reach the Moon... aboard an American-made Orion spacecraft en route to an internationally built and operated orbital lunar outpost:

During the past couple of years, American, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian officials quietly discussed a possible joint human space flight program after the retirement of the ISS. Although these five space agencies might not be on the same page as far as whether to go to the moon first or head straight to Mars, they're getting closer to an agreement that a human outpost in lunar orbit would be the necessary first step either way.

During the latest round of negotiations in Houston last month, the ISS partners narrowed down the list of potential modules that would comprise their periodically visited habitat. According to the provisional plan, four key pieces made the cut for the first phase of the assembly, which is penciled in to take place from 2023 to 2028 in lunar orbit: The spartan outpost will include the U.S.-European space tug, a Canadian robot arm, a pair of habitation modules from Europe and Japan, and an airlock module from Russia. This hardware would hitchhike on NASA's giant SLS rocket, along with the Orion crew vehicle at the top of each booster.


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

Private Company Plans to Bring Moon Rocks Back to Earth in Three Years 25 comments

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

After several years of secrecy, a company called Moon Express revealed the scope of its ambitions on Wednesday. And they are considerable. The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Moon Express says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. "We absolutely intend to make these samples available globally for scientific research, and make them available to collectors as well," said Bob Richards, one of the company's founders, in an interview with Ars.

Moon Express was founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which offered $20 million to the first privately funded team that lands a vehicle on the Moon, has it travel at least 500 meters, and transmits back high-definition images and video. The deadline for that prize is the end of 2017. While Moon Express says it has an outside chance to still claim the prize, its commercial ambitions now far exceed a simple, one-off lander.

At the center of the company's architecture is the the single stage MX-1 spacecraft that can deliver up to 30kg to the lunar surface. This vehicle is similar in size and shape to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, but a little bigger, Richards said. Launched inside a conventional rocket payload fairing, the MX-1 is powered by a single PECO rocket engine.

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

India and Japan to Collaborate on Lunar Lander and Sample Return Mission 4 comments

India, Japan working on lunar sample return mission

India plans to visit the moon a third time and also return, with Japan for company this time.

Their lander and rover mission will bring samples back from moon, the chiefs of the two space agencies said on Friday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have started to work out the contours of their joint trip — which will be the third for both countries.

They did not say when it would be sent. The plans are in the early stages: Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, A.S.Kiran Kumar, and JAXA president Naoki Okumura said the 'implementation arrangements' are likely be reached in a couple of months.

Related: Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030
Enter the Moon Cave
India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission Planned for 2018


Original Submission

President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1 100 comments

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

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

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

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

President's remarks and White House release.

Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America's Human Space Exploration Program

Also at Reuters and New Scientist.

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


Original Submission

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

Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved? 62 comments

Although Russia has plans to detach some of its modules from the International Space Station (ISS) in order to form the basis of a new space station, the majority of the ISS may be deorbited as soon as 2024 or 2028:

Over the course of six missions, the British-born Nasa astronaut has spent more than a year in space. Foale has flown in the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, lived on the Mir space station and commanded the International Space Station (ISS). He’s carried out four space walks, totalling almost 23 hours outside in both Russian and American spacesuits. These included an epic eight-hour spacewalk to upgrade the computer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

[...] A joint enterprise between the US, Russia, the European Space Agency (Esa), Japan and Canada, the ISS has now been continuously occupied since 2000. And, over that time, has increasingly come to justify its $100bn (£75bn) cost. [...] But the station's days are numbered. Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024. This means in just six years' time, the most expensive structure ever built will be pushed out of orbit by a Progress spacecraft to disintegrate over the Pacific. And the countdown clock is ticking. "Year by year, Russia is launching the fuel to fill up the tanks of the ISS service module to enable the space station to be deorbited," says Foale. "That's the current plan – I think it's a bad plan, a massive waste of a fantastic resource."

Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025 37 comments

A draft budget proposal would end support for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025. The U.S. was previously committed to operating at the ISS until 2024:

The Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025, according to a draft budget proposal reviewed by The Verge. Without the ISS, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans.

The draft may change before an official budget request is released on February 12th. However, two people familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge that the directive will be in the final proposal. We reached out to NASA for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Also at the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Five Key Findings From 15 Years of the International Space Station
Congress Ponders the Fate of the ISS after 2024
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
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?


Original Submission

25 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Selected for 2018 11 comments

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is funding another round of studies of space technology concepts, including shapeshifting robots that can adapt to multiple terrains, a small rover that can carry the bulky life equipment that an astronaut would normally carry on their back, a combined particle and laser beam for accelerating small payloads, space habitats constructed using fungal mycelium, a modular self-assembling space telescope with a large aperture, and a radioisotope positron propulsion system.

Some of the Phase 2 concepts that were selected for further study include a space telescope with a 1 kilometer aperture, a Triton "hopper", a harvester that can manufacture propellant from ice in order to launch a sample return, and a Mach Effect thruster.

Several of the proposals mention the goal of getting a space telescope to at least 548.7 AU away from the Sun to perform astronomy using the Sun as a gravitational lens. For example, the Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions could get a payload out to 550 AU in 15 years, although it would require a multi-hundred-megawatt phased-array laser.

Projects in Phase 1:

Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan's Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors
Aliakbar Aghamohammadi, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California

Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration
David Akin, University of Maryland, College Park

Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES)
Jeffrey Balcerski, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland

Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA)
Sigrid Close, Stanford University, California

On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris
Christine Hartzell, University of Maryland, College Park

Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration
Chang-kwon Kang, University of Alabama, Huntsville

Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)
John Kendra, Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia

PROCSIMA: Diffractionless Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions
Chris Limbach, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station

SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds
Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL

BALLET: Balloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain
Hari Nayar, JPL

Myco-Architecture off Planet: Growing Surface Structures at Destination
Lynn Rothscild, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey, Wichita State University, Kansas

Advanced Diffractive MetaFilm Sailcraft
Grover Swartzlander, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colorado

Radioisotope Positron Propulsion
Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, California

Phase 2 projects that were previously in Phase 1:

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion Concept
Robert Adams, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

A Breakthrough Propulsion Architecture for Interstellar Precursor Missions
John Brophy, JPL

Kilometer Space Telescope (KST)
Devon Crowe, Raytheon, El Segundo, California

Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots)
Jay McMahon, University of Colorado, Boulder

Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune's Captured Kuiper Belt Object
Steven Oleson, NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland

Spacecraft Scale Magnetospheric Protection from Galactic Cosmic Radiation
John Slough, MSNW, LLC, Redmond, Washington

Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission
Slava Turyshev, JPL

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra Resource, Littleton, Colorado

Mach Effect for in space propulsion: Interstellar mission
James Woodward, Space Studies Institute, Inc., Mojave, California


Original Submission

Lunar X Prize Could Continue Without Google, or Even the Prizes 5 comments

Although the Google Lunar X Prize ended without any teams landing rovers on the Moon, some teams still intended to complete the mission. Now the X Prize Foundation has announced that the competition will continue without prize money, although a new sponsor could change that:

Just a few days after the Google Lunar X Prize ended without a winner, the X Prize Foundation announced today that it's relaunching its competition to send a private spacecraft to the Moon. The competition will be "non-cash," meaning it won't have prize money for whichever team first completes its mission to the lunar surface — at least for now. The foundation is looking for a new sponsor that can replace Google and provide funding.

"We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for funding the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE between September 2007 and March 31st, 2018. While that competition is now over, there are at least five teams with launch contracts that hope to land on the Lunar surface in the next two years," Peter H. Diamandis, X Prize founder and executive chairman, said in a statement. "Because of this tremendous progress, and near-term potential, XPRIZE is now looking for our next visionary Title Sponsor who wants to put their logo on these teams and on the lunar surface."

One of the teams, Moon Express, had contracted with Rocket Lab to launch a payload to the Moon using an Electron rocket, but Rocket Lab only reached Earth orbit for the first time in January 2018.

Previously: Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission
Google Lunar XPrize Deadline Revised; New Prizes Available


Original Submission

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

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

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

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

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

SpaceX Brings on NASA's Former top Spaceflight Official as it Prepares to Launch First Astronauts 6 comments

SpaceX brings on NASA's former top spaceflight official as it prepares to launch first astronauts:

SpaceX is only a couple of months away from its first attempt at launching astronauts and the company has brought in one of the foremost experts in human spaceflight to help it do so successfully.

William Gerstenmaier, the former leader of NASA's human spaceflight program, has now begun working at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, people familiar with his hiring told CNBC. In his new role Gerstenmaier is reporting to SpaceX vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann, those people said, as the company prepares to begin launching astronauts.

A SpaceX spokesperson confirmed that Gerstenmaier is a consultant for the company's reliability engineering team.

Previously Gerstenmaier served as the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations for nearly 14 years. In total he had a four decade career with NASA, working on programs ranging from the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station. Gerstenmaier is widely considered one of the world's top specialists in flying humans in space, frequently testifying before Congress on the subject.

SpaceX has hired a key NASA official to help with human spaceflight:

SpaceX has confirmed that NASA's former chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, has joined the company as a consultant as it prepares to launch astronauts for the first time.

[...] He immediately brings credibility to the company's safety culture. Former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale, who now chairs the human spaceflight committee of NASA's Advisory Council, told Ars last summer, "Bill was recognized by everybody as being technically well-grounded and very astute. He was known to listen carefully and to make his judgments based on good technical reasons."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original Submission

China Will Focus on a Lunar Surface Station Rather than a Lunar Orbiting Station 17 comments

Chinese space official seems unimpressed with NASA's lunar gateway

This week, the European and Chinese space agencies held a workshop in Amsterdam to discuss cooperation between Europe and China on lunar science missions. The meeting comes as Europe seems increasingly content to work with China on spaceflight programs.

Although the meeting is not being streamed online, space systems designer and lunar exploration enthusiast Angeliki Kapoglou has been providing some coverage of the meeting via Twitter. Among the most interesting things she has shared are slides from a presentation by Pei Zhaoyu, who is deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration.

[...] Overall, Pei does not appear to be a fan of NASA's plan to build a deep space gateway, formally known as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, at a near-rectilinear halo orbit. Whereas NASA will focus its activities on this gateway away from the Moon, Pei said China will focus on a "lunar scientific research station."

[...] So far, NASA has yet to finalize commitments with Europe, Russia, or other International Space Station partners on contributions to the gateway. While European officials are interested, it seems like they may also be willing to go along with China if that country has a more direct plan to land humans on the Moon.

Related: NASA Could Scale Down First Manned Flight of the SLS
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration
This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway


Original Submission

New Head of Human Exploration at NASA Committed to Reaching the Moon by 2024 18 comments

After shocking leadership shakeup at NASA, new head of human exploration says moon 2024 is doable:

Less than 24 hours after being named head of human exploration at NASA, former astronaut Ken Bowersox said the agency is trying to speed up decision-making in its quest to reach the moon by 2024.

"The key is we need to fly when we're ready, but if we don't shoot for 2024 we have zero chance," Bowersox said Thursday at the American Astronautical Society's John Glenn Memorial Symposium. "Our attitude is to get as much of this going as we can — to move as fast as we can, as long as we can."

Bowersox' brief remarks in Cleveland follow the shocking announcement Wednesday night that Bill Gerstenmaier — a pillar in NASA's human exploration operations since 2005 — was out as the agency's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The announcement was made in a Wednesday email to NASA employees from Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "As you know, NASA has been given a bold challenge to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, with a focus on the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars," he wrote. "In an effort to meet this challenge, I have decided to make leadership changes." He then named Bowersox — a 62-year-old veteran of five space shuttle flights — as Gerstenmaier's replacement.

The decision — which surprised many in the space community — comes as NASA continues a years-long struggle to keep its human exploration plans on track. Projects such as the Space Launch System rocket being built to launch humans to the moon and the commercial crew program, meant to alleviate the country's reliance on Russia for transportation to the International Space Station, are years behind schedule.

See also: To the Moon and beyond

Related: 2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration
NASA Chief Says a Falcon Heavy Rocket Could Fly Humans to the Moon
Here's Why NASA's Audacious Return to the Moon Just Might Work
Lockheed Martin Proposes Streamlined Lunar Gateway for 2024 Manned Lunar Landing
Artemis: NASA to Receive $1.6 Billion for 2024 Manned Moon Landing
NASA Orders First Segment of Lunar Station for 2024 Artemis Moon Mission
Project Artemis: Return to the Moon to Cost Another $20-30 Billion


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: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Friday April 20 2018, @06:21PM (15 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Friday April 20 2018, @06:21PM (#669750) Homepage Journal

    The earths magnetic field protect us but the moon n has no magnetic field

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Friday April 20 2018, @06:32PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday April 20 2018, @06:32PM (#669753)

      Embrace the radiation, for the children of those who survive the mutations will be at the forefront of the new human space race!
      Space darwinism!

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Friday April 20 2018, @06:58PM (4 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @06:58PM (#669758) Journal

      The earths magnetic field protect us but the moon n has no magnetic field

      The Moon has dirt.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Friday April 20 2018, @07:01PM (5 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday April 20 2018, @07:01PM (#669762) Journal

      The LOP-G [wikipedia.org] will be exposed to just as much radiation as the Moon, and they will allow astronauts to live on it... for up to 21 days. Maybe that is insufficient and the project will be scrapped [thespacereview.com].

      You could land similar modules or Bigelow inflatable modules [wikipedia.org] which provide radiation protection equivalent to the ISS. They could create upgraded modules with more shielding mass, made launchable by SLS, BFR, or New Glenn.

      Finally, if we get serious about a lunar base, we could go underground, into a lava tube [soylentnews.org]. Or use a combination of tents + regolith walls [nss.org] in addition to the pressurized module.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by bob_super on Friday April 20 2018, @07:18PM (3 children)

        by bob_super (1357) on Friday April 20 2018, @07:18PM (#669774)

        > radiation protection equivalent to the ISS

        We do need more, given that ISS is protected by the Earth.
        Also, a moon base is in the sun continuously for 2 weeks, unless buried, followed by 2 weeks of extreme cold. The thermal inertia that helps protect your metals from degradation during 92-minute orbits will not be there.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by turgid on Friday April 20 2018, @08:01PM (2 children)

          by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @08:01PM (#669788) Journal

          I seem to remember Chris Hadfield stating that ISS astronauts get 100 mSv of radiation in 6 months on the ISS. When I worked in the British nuclear industry many years ago, the legal dose limit for radiation workers was 50 mSv a year, then reduced to 35 mSv/year. I worked in the industry for nearly 5 years, including working directly on a nuclear reactor. I got 1.5 mSv total occupational dose over that time (5 years). Natural background in that area was about 1 mSv/year. In some places it can be much higher.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20 2018, @09:00PM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20 2018, @09:00PM (#669813)

            Assuming bursts of extreme exposure, or maximum safe continuous explosure ever?

            It is possible the nuclear industry had lower limits to account for the possibility of risk of higher exposures, while the astronauts don't because radiation exposure is usually consistent/forecastable and leave more cushion as a result.

            The other possibility of course is that is simply an average safe value for astronauts based on practicality and that they limit missions based on that amount plus routine physicals to check for health effects.

            • (Score: 3, Interesting) by turgid on Friday April 20 2018, @09:24PM

              by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @09:24PM (#669818) Journal

              The mathematical models for risk to health from radiation exposure were pretty crude due to lack of data. Basically, at one end of the scale they had Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at the other end the general population subjected to natural background in various regions. They drew a straight line from zero to nuclear war and interpolated. As time went on and the science became better, people were better placed to consider questions such as yours. Sometimes a big dose of something like gamma rays isn't that bad. Neutrons are the nasty ones. You don't want to breath in or eat alphas or betas. I don't know what the current thinking is. We had a simple mantra: time, distance and shielding.

      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Friday April 20 2018, @08:18PM

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Friday April 20 2018, @08:18PM (#669799) Journal

        we could go underground, into a lava tube.

        Not me [wdfiles.com]!

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday April 20 2018, @07:28PM

      by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday April 20 2018, @07:28PM (#669777) Journal

      Build it underground [utk.edu] has been the plan for decades.

      --
      Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
    • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Friday April 20 2018, @10:42PM

      by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @10:42PM (#669833) Journal

      shield from solar radiation? ... the moon has no magnetic field

      There are many COTS products [quickshipmetals.com] [more here [aliexpress.com]] similar to those used previously on the moon [earthlink.net] that provide good shielding per unit of mass and per area.

      COTS [allacronyms.com] can mean a $3 hammer instead of a $3,426.51 hammer, for example. "Space Age Tech" for the future.

    • (Score: 2) by el_oscuro on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:14AM

      by el_oscuro (1711) on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:14AM (#670230)

      Dumb question: Would an electromagnetic field around the spaceship reduce the radiation?

      --
      SoylentNews is Bacon! [nueskes.com]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday April 20 2018, @07:31PM (17 children)

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday April 20 2018, @07:31PM (#669779) Journal

    We've been here before. [cnn.com] The real problem is any such plan will almost certainly outlive the term of the President proposing it. Then the next one will kill it.

    --
    Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday April 20 2018, @07:59PM (13 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday April 20 2018, @07:59PM (#669786) Journal

      Broadly speaking, Bush's plan was to use the Moon as a "stepping stone" to Mars by around 2020, using a new manned exploration vehicle. That fits the description of NASA's LOP-G and the Space Launch System. Obama replaced "lunar base" with a plan to visit an asteroid redirected into lunar orbit [nasa.gov], and that has been replaced with LOP-G, an ISS clone and "Gateway to Nowhere". It is assumed we will make our way to Mars in the 2030s. But the Moon First strategy has stuck around throughout the last decade and a half.

      The Moon will remain a target, because at the end of the day, the Moon is right there. It's relatively easy to get to, and you can get back without completely trashing the health of the astronauts. The cost of getting stuff to the Moon in the 2020s is going to decline dramatically, with players like SpaceX w/ BFR at the high end, and Rocket Lab at the bottom. Our current Mars plans are sketchy and target possibly a flyby or orbital mission in the 2030s. It's good that they are undefined, because we don't want to use SLS when BFR becomes available, and we still need to work on things like propulsion and nuclear Kilopower.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday April 20 2018, @08:10PM (12 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @08:10PM (#669795) Journal

        But the Moon First strategy has stuck around throughout the last decade and a half.

        The strategy might stick around in some vague, almost abstract form, but the accompanying plan will probably disappear without a trace in 2021.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by edIII on Friday April 20 2018, @08:25PM (11 children)

          by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @08:25PM (#669801)

          Why? It's a very reasonable idea. Operationally, it's much easier on the Moon simply because of distance. This is if we were initially developing seafaring technologies and decided to use Catalina island for the first couple of generations, then when we're more comfortable, visit Hawaii, and then maybe one day Tahiti.

          Mars sounds sexy and everything, but the Moon makes more sense for us to develop the technologies on. When we can reliably and routinely traverse the distance between the Earth and Moon, it will make getting to Mars and surviving substantially easier and more well understood. Additionally, whatever space vehicles we create on the Moon can reach lunar escape velocity a heck of a lot cheaper than Earth escape velocity. It has always made more sense to me to gain our confidence on the Moon, build our Mars vehicle in Lunar orbit, and then attempt the journey.

          The benefits of finishing R&D in Lunar orbit are of course far more sophisticated craft, with substantially more radiation shielding. What's it take to lift off a regolith wall into Lunar orbit?

          What are the cons to a Moon First strategy?

          --
          Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by requerdanos on Friday April 20 2018, @10:49PM

            by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @10:49PM (#669837) Journal

            Why? It's a very reasonable idea.

            In a word, politics.

            The current president of the United States of America as of this writing has made it a point, for example, to remove, undo, abolish, or otherwise handicap policies and plans of his predecessor of a different political party mostly because "not invented here." He isn't the first to do so.

            Maybe that's a good idea in some cases, maybe not. But the phenomenon means that long-range plans stand very little chance unless they are practically ignored and attract no attention.

            It's hard to stand still and be invisible while you are asking for *illions of dollars to leave the planet.

          • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Immerman on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:10AM (4 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:10AM (#669853)

            One of the biggest problems with the moon is that lunar dust is completely unweathered asteroid impact fragments. Basically so many statically-charged microscopic razor-blades just waiting to destroy air gaskets and any other moving surfaces they come in contact with.

            Another major problem is the fact that a lunar day is roughly 709 hours long, rendering solar power relatively ineffective for baseline usage - you'd need enough batteries to last ~15 days of darkness. So you pretty much have to jump straight to high-wattage, low-g nuclear reactors for power.

            Finally - the moon is severely lacking in two basic ecosystem resources that Mars has in abundance - CO2 and water. Given those you can pretty much grow your ecosystem as fast as you can make room for it to expand into, producing unlimited food, air, and cellulose (an incredibly useful and flexible building material - wood is extremely useful, especially with recent "superwood" processing developments, and nanocellulose is transparent, gas impermeable, and roughly as strong as aluminum) while needing to import or mine only nitrogen and trace elements (and there's plenty of nitrogen-bearing minerals on Mars). In comparison a moon base will be completely dependent on Earth to grow its ecosystem and replace any losses at least until a mature mining and chemical synthesis industry is in place.

            That said - a moon base also has a lot more to offer Earth than a Mars colony, which is really too far away to be useful for anything other than a doomsday ark. It's basically a size extra-large asteroid mining destination (coming in at 25x the combined mass of the asteroid belt), with enough gravity to be reasonably comfortable to those of us that evolved on Earth. And if the BFR lives up to it's design goals we should be able to land and return with a substantial payload within a few years, without having to refuel on the surface. That, combined with the much more modest radiation exposure en-route, makes the entire endeavor much more convenient. It lacks the industrial benefits of micro-G asteroid mining, but makes an excellent first step to developing the requisite technologies for vacuum industry, as well as being an excellent source for bulk materials for building orbital habitats and vehicles. (A modest asteroid captured in Earth or lunar orbit would be even better, but that's probably adding decades of orbital manipulation up front)

            So basically, the Moon makes for a wonderful space outpost, while Mars makes for a wonderful colony destination. Since it's roughly the same difficulty and expense to get to either destination, which is more appealing as a "first step" depends entirely on what your goals for getting off planet are. If you're looking to establish a long-term orbital resource for Earth, Moon all the way. If you want to see humanity meaningfully expand beyond Earth, then Mars is where it's at.

            As a long term Mars advocate, I've recently come around to thinking the Moon is a better starting point after all - in large part thanks to the revelation that the BFR should be able to make a round trip without refueling on the surface. That, plus the much shorter transit time, means that a single space ship & tanker combo can provide a MUCH larger supply chain to the Moon, as measured in kg/month. Which in turn means we can afford to experiment much more aggressively, and thus develop useful technologies far faster. If the long-term goal is to have a viable self-sustaining colony on Mars within a century, then spending the first decade or so of resources on developing the Moon seems likely to yield at least as large a long-term payoff for Mars.

            It would also be really nice if we arrived on Mars ready to make reliable self-contained ecosystems, minimizing our environmental impact, and thus greatly increasing our ability to locate native life, if it exists. There's no telling what scientific and technological payoffs may come of studying life that arose completely independently of our own - or has even just been evolving independently for millions or billions of years.

            It'd probably save some lives too - but colonization has always been paid for with the deaths of many early colonists. So long as they went into it with their eyes open, I see no problem with that.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday April 21 2018, @11:50PM (3 children)

              by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday April 21 2018, @11:50PM (#670192) Journal

              Another major problem is the fact that a lunar day is roughly 709 hours long, rendering solar power relatively ineffective for baseline usage - you'd need enough batteries to last ~15 days of darkness. So you pretty much have to jump straight to high-wattage, low-g nuclear reactors for power.

              NASA is making another Kilopower announcement on May 2:

              https://soylentnews.org/~takyon/journal/3160 [soylentnews.org]

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              [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:25PM (2 children)

                by Immerman (3985) on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:25PM (#670345)

                Unfortunately, as cool as kilopower is for small expeditions, it's almost completely unsuited to an actual outpost capable of delivering useful goods to orbit. You really want something in at least the megawatt range for that. 10kW would power your expedition rover and maybe a few telepresence robots beautifully - but even a small outpost would require hundreds of the suckers. Not that you *couldn't* do that to at least get things off the ground, it'd certainly offer some fault tolerance, but that's a lot of individual reactors to deal with.

                Heck, the ISS with its tiny handful of residents and low-power, completely non-industrial mission profile has around 100kW of power production. Even if all we did on the moon was produce rocket fuel for refueling satellites and interplanetary missions, we're going to need a LOT more than that. Especially if we're steadily building out the outpost to become increasingly useful and self-sustaining. I mean, even largely unprocessed moon-rubble would be a valuable commodity as orbital radiation shielding - but collecting it and launching it into orbit requires a lot of power. So does growing crops underground to recycle your biomass.

                Of course, there IS the possibility of harnessing comparatively light, cheap, and simple solar anyway - just operate the heavy industrial processes on a two weeks on/two weeks off cycle, which might actually nicely break up the monotony of living and working from an underground bunker in a seasonless wasteland. Or, you could use a percentage of the synthesized rocket fuel/oxidizer as your "battery" to power things through the night - but what will your efficiency losses be?

                • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:45PM (1 child)

                  by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:45PM (#670359) Journal

                  From "NASA's Kilopower Project Testing a Nuclear Stirling Engine" [soylentnews.org]:

                  Mason said the new technology could provide kilowatts of power and even be upgraded to provide hundreds of kilowatts or even megawatts of power. "We call it the Kilopower project because it gives us a near-term option to provide kilowatts for missions that previously were constrained to use less," Mason said. "But first things first, and our test program is the way to get started."

                  10 kW may not be enough, but 40-100 kW could be possible. Multiple units can be brought to the destination for increased power.

                  Pair that with battery systems to store the solar energy.

                  Or better yet, put solar panels at multiple locations, and run some power lines. Let's get a "power grid" on the Moon.

                  While there is no perpetual sunlight [nasa.gov] on the Moon, you can get up to 89% at the north pole, which could be good enough for a base or for your solar panel grid.

                  It's a safe bet that initial moon base(s) will not have much industrial output, even if they ought to, so Kilopower could be sufficient. In NASA's own words, "Kilopower could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond."

                  --
                  [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
                  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:31PM

                    by Immerman (3985) on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:31PM (#670371)

                    As I said, certainly you *could* stack them like cordwood to get enough power, but that's a lot of individual reactors to deal with.

                    They key words in your quote are "exploration missions".

                    There's minimal point in a lunar outpost for pure exploration missions - if we go to the immense expense of building an outpost, rather than just landing mobile "exploratory RVs" it should something useful with long term potential, both for the benefit of Earth's space program, and to practice and develop technologies for the much richer targets of Mars and the asteroids. And serve as a meaningful hub for more far-reaching lunar exploration.

                    And the benefits could be immense - it's a big dead rock in nearby space with enough gravity to be useful, and 25x the estimated combined mass of the asteroid belt. Admittedly without the asteroids' convenient material concentration or high surface-to-volume ratios, but rocket fuel and radiation shielding are going to be two of the most valuable bulk materials in orbit as we start to get serious about establishing a presence in space. And we pretty much have the technology to start producing those *now*, we just have to get a suitable outpost established on the moon. After all, it's not like we have to produce enough fuel and fuel Heinlein's Armada immediately - a comparative trickle of fuel would be more than sufficient to make much more capable exploratory missions to the outer solar system trivial (or alternatively, similarly capable using much cruder/heavier/cheaper technology) , as well as sending your lunar "RVs" on suborbital hops to whatever locations you want to study this month.

                    And since you'll be landing rockets on the moon regularly for supplies, you may as well be able to top off the tanks and haul a bunch of shielding and fuel into orbit on their return journey, instead of flying back basically empty. Pretty much the same expense either way, and it'd be nice to has some orbital research stations that don't require the residents to irradiate themselves as the cost of doing business. It'd certainly be nice to start distinguishing the health problems due to freefall from those due to radiation exposure and/or constantly traveling through the Earth's magnetic field at immense speed.

          • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:13AM (4 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:13AM (#669854) Journal

            Why? It's a very reasonable idea.

            I quite agree. But as requerdanos noted, it's not the technical aspects that are the problem, but the politics. In addition to the "not invented here" situation, we also have the problem that almost no one is actually interested in any sort of aggressive space exploration and development plan. Voters and politicians are typically disinterested except for national prestige, and contractors and researchers/engineers focused on funding and obtaining work/contracts. The result is a series of one-off technology development projects with little progress made in actual space activities.

            For example, should the James Webb Space Telescope successfully deploy, it is probable that the Hubble Space Telescope will be deorbited despite the relatively low cost of maintaining it. There is considerable national prestige in a new space telescope. There is almost no additional prestige from a second, old telescope nor any profit to the usual contractor supply chain. It'll be a fight to keep the Hubble active.

            For NASA's activities on the Moon, this effect has been glaring. The Moon was important to land people on the Moon six times, but not important enough to revisit the Moon except in passing for an additional two decades! Just look at the lunar missions [wikipedia.org] in Wikipedia. There are many dozens of missions to the Moon from 1958 to 1978 (the last lunar-focused mission by NASA was in 1973), by the US and the USSR, but nothing after that by anybody, not even a flyby (that includes spacecraft that merely use the Moon for a gravitational assist and do little to no observation of the Moon), till a Japanese mission in 1990. It's only with Clementine in 1994, that NASA returned to lunar-focused missions.

            That Wikipedia list gives you an idea of the scale of the problem. The dearth of lunar exploration and development is not just a NASA problem, it's a global problem. I don't think such can be solved by the nations of the world, because there are probably already a dozen or more countries that could mount successful lunar programs. They're just not interested.

            Instead, I think break-through will come when it gets cheap enough for a private effort to conduct their own lunar expeditions. Then suddenly the nations of the world will get interested in one-upping the private effort and each other. That's when real progress will happen.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:05AM (3 children)

              by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:05AM (#670195) Journal

              it is probable that the Hubble Space Telescope will be deorbited despite the relatively low cost of maintaining it. There is considerable national prestige in a new space telescope. There is almost no additional prestige from a second, old telescope nor any profit to the usual contractor supply chain. It'll be a fight to keep the Hubble active.

              There is plenty of scientific value left in it as long as it continues operating, it's still one of the largest aperture space telescopes, it's one of the best sources of PR for NASA, and it covers different wavelengths than JWST. Apparently, there are plans even under the current Administration to keep it running [wikipedia.org]:

              As of 2017, the Trump Administration is considering a proposal by the Sierra Nevada Corporation to use a manned version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft to service Hubble some time in the 2020s both as a continuation of its scientific capabilities and as insurance against any malfunctions in the to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope.

              Maybe manned Falcon 9 or BFR could be used. Or maybe even unmanned. Natural reentry is predicted for between 2028 and 2040, so we have a few years to figure this out.

              Instead, I think break-through will come when it gets cheap enough for a private effort to conduct their own lunar expeditions. Then suddenly the nations of the world will get interested in one-upping the private effort and each other. That's when real progress will happen.

              /me puts fanboi hat on:

              https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/01/spacex-bfr-150-top-target-should-be-moon-colonization.html [nextbigfuture.com]

              The Saturn V done as a cargo lander could deliver 17 tons down plus probably another 9 tons as a dry stage (Skylab sized living space pressure vessel plus scrap metal). But $400 million then dollars (probably over $2 billion today, using that figure as the dividend) to deliver 17 tons leads to $117,000 a kilogram– $117 million dollars a ton to the lunar surface!

              [...] But the 150 tons of LANDED cargo with the new Space X design, assuming $14 million per launch plus refueling tanker, yields a far more favorable $93 a kilo– ($93,000 a ton to the lunar surface!) That is 1258 times cheaper

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday April 22 2018, @01:59AM (2 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 22 2018, @01:59AM (#670221) Journal
                NextBigFuture is enthusiastic, but their numbers are off by at least an order of magnitude. They're not taking into account cost of propellant. It's not much relatively speaking, but enough to keep the price of 150 tons to the Moon far from $14 million.
                • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:22AM (1 child)

                  by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:22AM (#670232) Journal

                  Various estimates I've seen put the cost of propellant for 1 BFR launch at below $1 million. Double it to take into account using a BFR tanker to put 150 tons at any destination.

                  http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3343/1 [thespacereview.com]
                  https://www.quora.com/How-much-will-the-fuel-of-one-BFR-launch-cost [quora.com]

                  The order of magnitude doesn't change at all from fuel costs.

                  Even a more conservative estimate for a BFR launch price of $40 million (still less than Falcon 9) is less than an order of magnitude more than the aspirational $7 million.

                  At double that price for using tankers, NASA could get 1,875 tons, over 4x the mass of the ISS, to the Moon for $1 billion.

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                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday April 22 2018, @10:08AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 22 2018, @10:08AM (#670296) Journal

                    Various estimates I've seen put the cost of propellant for 1 BFR launch at below $1 million.

                    Looks like I need to revisit the economics. I didn't realize both how cheap methane was and the mass fraction of the BFR (due to the higher ISP of the methane engine combined with some assumptions that they'll be able to keep the dry mass of the vehicle down) which is in itself revolutionary.

                    That's a quite impressive mass fraction, if true - roughly 1400 mt vehicle fueled with 150 mt payload. The Falcon Heavy has the same launch mass (1420 mt [wikipedia.org], according to Wikipedia), but only puts about 40% as much into space (up to 64 mt in the non-reusable mode). The latter is typical of LOX/kerosene rocket vehicles.

                    Anyway, my calculation yields a liquid methane price that is in itself somewhere around $1 per kg (maybe as much as $2 per kg - converting from normal natural gas which is under $1 per kg currently to pure liquid methane has some cost, but it can't be that much) and a liquid oxygen cost which is way under $1 per kg (I've seen old estimates of $0.16 per kg which are probably not that far off). For 1100 mt, that means a cost under $1 million, if they can maintain the mass fraction.

                    This is more than just a big rocket, if they can manage to achieve the mass fraction above. I'm leaning towards betting against it. Methane is pretty fluffy and the ISP improvement is not that good. The Merlin 1D which uses kerosene/LOX has an ISP of 282 sec^-1 versus Raptor ISP of 330 sec^-1 - both at sea level - one atmosphere of external pressure. My math indicates that the Falcon Heavy has a dry mass (including payload, vehicle structure, rocket engines and propellant for returning the stages) of around 100 mt. Using the better ISP number only increases overall dry mass from 100 mt to 145 mt. I guess I'm missing something major.

                    But my take is that a 1400 mt vehicle with Raptor engines of the advertised performance, doesn't have enough propellant mass to put 150 mt up. Using the same one third mass as the non-reusable Falcon Heavy (yielding an overall dry mass of 200 mt), would put the rocket's actual fueled mass around 2000 mt. Still pretty cheap propellant-wise, assuming that they can meet that.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday April 20 2018, @07:59PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @07:59PM (#669787) Journal

      The real problem is any such plan will almost certainly outlive the term of the President proposing it. Then the next one will kill it.

      And as long as SLS continues to burn money, they won't have the funding for anything serious.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by requerdanos on Friday April 20 2018, @11:00PM

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @11:00PM (#669840) Journal

        SLS

        "Hey, I heard ever since men landed on the moon, the trend has been towards high-tech miniaturization."

        "Are you kidding? We're having a contest to see who can build the biggest, most expensive devices!"

        "Really? Where do you work?"

        "NASA. I'm a rocket scientist." *

        -------
        * Apologies to the 80s comedy film "Moving Violations [imdb.com]".

    • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by realDonaldTrump on Friday April 20 2018, @08:22PM

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Friday April 20 2018, @08:22PM (#669800) Homepage Journal

      So many countries have a President for life. China, Russia, many more. And it works great for them. #RepealThe22nd [twitter.com]

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday April 20 2018, @08:29PM (12 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 20 2018, @08:29PM (#669803) Journal

    Stepping stone to Mars is not a good reason to go back. As practice for Mars, yes, might be worth doing. But as I heard it put, to stop at the Moon on the way from Earth to Mars is like making a stop at Toronto on the way from New York City to London.

    While they're doing the flashy stuff the politicians want, perhaps the best reason to go back is to thoroughly explore the geology of the moon. Also the moon has a number of features making it a fairly good location for telescopes. Main trouble with telescopes on the Moon is that orbiting is better yet, and the effort to place a telescope on the Moon is always going to be greater than the effort to place a telescope in orbit.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Thexalon on Friday April 20 2018, @09:41PM (2 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Friday April 20 2018, @09:41PM (#669819)

      The real reason to return to the moon is to establish a penal colony which can later be taken over by libertarians and revolt against Earth rule.

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    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday April 20 2018, @11:51PM (4 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday April 20 2018, @11:51PM (#669849) Journal

      and the effort to place a telescope on the Moon is always going to be greater than the effort to place a telescope in orbit.

      A telescope could be constructed on the ground using materials found there.

      https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/09oct_liquidmirror [nasa.gov]

      A radio telescope is also desirable:

      https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428713-300-far-side-of-the-moon-offers-quiet-place-for-telescopes/ [newscientist.com]

      Then you have proposals like this for next-generation space telescopes:

      https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2018_Phase_I_Phase_II/Kilometer_Space_Telescope [nasa.gov]

      If you can make a telescope mirror out of cheap, light, foldable material, you could shoot for an aperture of 1,000 meters... or more

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      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:29AM (3 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:29AM (#669860)

        Materials are one thing - the high-tech industrial base to be able to do such incredibly precise work is quite another. The Hubble's primary mirror took around three years of work to produce, with easy access to all the resources they needed, and was STILL found to be flawed once it was in operation.

        Radio telescopes are more promising, as the mirror can be much cruder, but you still have the problem that you'd almost certainly want any lunar telescope to be located on the far side of the moon, while you'd want your early outposts to be on the near side.

        And of course, space telescopes still have the dramatic advantage of being able to point at one thing for a prolonged period of time, allowing much dimmer and finer details to be resolved, while Earth- or Moon-based telescopes are constantly rotating with their host planet.

        And if you can make a mirror out of cheap, light, foldable materials, you may as well do so on Earth - rather than first building the necessary industrial base on the Moon. Of course, once the industrial capacity is built out for other purposes, then it should be possible to launch a considerably larger space telescope from the moon using the same launch vehicle, so it may be worth re-visiting the idea.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:39AM (2 children)

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:39AM (#669865) Journal

          The Hubble's primary mirror took around three years of work to produce

          We need the equivalent of constructing mirrors out of saran wrap. Hubble's fuckup was fixed using corrective optics. Maybe it's better to make a less precise but huge 1000+ meter series of mirrors and just fix any aberrations using instruments. Remember, one idea for a future space telescope essentially uses a cloud of confetti/dust organized by lasers [rit.edu].

          NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program is funding the second phase of the “orbiting rainbows” project that attempts to combine space optics and “smart dust,” or autonomous robotic system technology. The smart dust is made of a photo-polymer, or a light-sensitive plastic, covered with a metallic coating.

          The photo-polymer with coating sounds like a thin and light alternative to carefully crafted mirrors, even if we can't do the smart dust w/ lasers concept yet.

          Also: Caltech Replaces Lenses With Ultra-Thin Optical Phased Array [soylentnews.org]

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          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:15AM (1 child)

            by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:15AM (#669878)

            Unfortunately, being able to produce half the required technology is exactly as useful as being unable to produce any of it. It's fun to speculate about long-term future possibilities, but making mostly unrelated resource-allocation decisions based on viable sounding ideas is generally a bad idea. Still waiting for those carbon fiber maglev flywheels that were supposed to replace batteries 20 years ago for electric cars and hospital backup power. Ditto the holographic computer storage that was just around the corner in the mid-90s.

            Not that I don't think such ideas are wonderful - for example I think spin-stabilized "mylar" (or better) parabolic orbital mirrors are a WONDERFUL idea - but one that will be incredibly useful for solar power long before they're refined enough to be a viable telescope mirror. It's a lot easier to say "fix any aberrations with instruments" than it is to actually do so. Heck, now that MIT supposedly has mass-producing graphene worked out, maybe we can put a few atoms worth of reflective coating on the stuff and spin it so hard the aberrations become predictable.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:28AM

              by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:28AM (#669883) Journal

              I didn't say it would happen soon. But people have to come up with these ideas before they can be made into a reality. NIAC [nasa.gov] is a good platform for that.

              LUVOIR [wikipedia.org] is in the pipeline and would probably have a 12 meter aperture.

              One good thing is that with new launchers like BFR, we can make bulkier (up to 150 ton) telescopes that use cheaper (not ultra lightweight) materials. This could allow bigger apertures and lower-than-JWST costs, with no magic space dust.

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    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday April 21 2018, @05:38PM (3 children)

      by HiThere (866) on Saturday April 21 2018, @05:38PM (#670119) Journal

      There's no place as good for a radio-telescope as the backside of the moon. Nearly total radio silence. And if you're going to put one there, you might as well put an optical telescope there too. Space, though, is probably better for an infra-red telescope, because all you need is a heat shield, there's no heat conduction. OTOH, you can get a lot of insulation against heat on the moon just by building the thing on insulating stilts.

      The other advantage of the moon is that you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position. This, though, may be counter-balanced because you are more limited in the directions you can look.

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      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:11AM

        by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:11AM (#670197) Journal

        The other advantage of the moon is that you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position. This, though, may be counter-balanced because you are more limited in the directions you can look.

        If the scheme can result in a big and cheap telescope, it's probably worth it. Kepler [wikipedia.org] got great results from looking at just 0.25% of the sky. The Hubble Deep Field [wikipedia.org] astounded the astronomical community by just focusing on a tiny "empty" piece of sky. Chances are we can find something interesting to point a darkside moon telescope at.

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      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:34PM (1 child)

        by Immerman (3985) on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:34PM (#670351)

        > you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position

        That's because, just like on Earth, you CAN'T hold your position. The best you can do is to set up the most incredibly smooth gearing system you can afford to compensate for the fact that the planet is steadily rotating. The moon spins 30 times slower, which would certainly improve things a lot, but it still means any really long exposures will be plagued by actuator jitter destroying the fine detail.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday April 22 2018, @07:48PM

          by HiThere (866) on Sunday April 22 2018, @07:48PM (#670455) Journal

          On the moon, as on Earth, you can hold your position quite well. Telescopes have been doing it with increasing precision for over a century. It *does* take a bit of mechanism, but the mechanism is already well developed. (Doing it in a vacuum, however, might throw in a few kinks.)

          But gyroscope failures are one of the major failure modes in space based telescopes.

          No if you mean the bodies on which the telescope reside rotate, that's true. And so what. It's even a bit of benefit, because it means you can cover more than half of the sky, if not all at the same time. It does, of course, add a bit of complexity, but it's a complexity that's been well developed over the centuries. And the moon rotates considerably slower than does the Earth, so longer exposures would be possible. (Probably over 14 days. And nobody has been taking photos with that kind of duration, not even Hubble, which could, if there weren't a lot of competition for access.)

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  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Friday April 20 2018, @09:49PM (4 children)

    by Gaaark (41) on Friday April 20 2018, @09:49PM (#669820) Journal

    I've been saying this for a few years: moon first, then Mars.
    Build a base on the moon and work out the kinks, then move on.

    I like this Trump guy: who is he again?

    --
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    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:47AM (2 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 21 2018, @12:47AM (#669866)

      Mars is *so* much easier for the crude ecosystem stuff though - unlimited water and CO2 on your doorstep is a HUGE advantage, giving you food, air, and building materials almost as fast as you can turn the last into more growing space (nanocellulose is incredible stuff - transparent, gas impermeable, and as strong as aluminum). Algae can breed REALLY quickly, and some are as much as 45% cellulose by weight.

      It wasn't until Musk's announcement that the BFR would be able to carry a substantial payload on a round trip to the Moon without refueling on the surface, that I began to come around. That simplifies and magnifies the early supply chain enough to overcome the near-total lack of accessible ecosystem resources. A self-sustaining moon colony would still be FAR more difficult to achieve, but even an Earth-dependent outpost would have far more to offer Earth (or at least Earth-based space programs), and the technologies developed along the way would mostly translate to an eventual Mars colony, while being able to be developed far more quickly thanks to the lower cost of the failures of more aggressive experimentation.

      Plus, the moon is much more amenable to space tourism, which is about as close to the stars as a nature-loving guy like myself cares to get. I might even be able to afford the trip sometime before I die. And all that easily-mined lunar regolith should also make for handy radiation shielding for orbital habitats decades before we can capture a fair-sized asteroid into orbit.

      • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:59AM (1 child)

        by Gaaark (41) on Saturday April 21 2018, @01:59AM (#669891) Journal

        I look at it as, if you go to Mars and have just one slip up, rescue is 6-9ish months away.

        Go to the moon, build a base, work out all the kinks, build a rocket on the moon and you're half way there: less fuel needed to launch from the moon (or lunar orbit).

        On Mars, on kink and you could be toast (whereas the moon is hours/days/weeks away, rather than months).

        (Plus, build a rocket on the moon and you are less likely to get structural stress failure or 'loose tiles' to feck your mission up).

        I just have the feeling i don't want to be first to Mars: i think they will die.

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        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 21 2018, @03:09AM

          by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 21 2018, @03:09AM (#669918)

          Nope - on Mars rescue is either waiting on the launch pad, or it's not coming. You need to refuel on the surface to take off - unless you have large fuel reserves but no rocket (why?) there'd be nothing Earth could do to help. Emergency resupply is 3-24 months away, depending on orbital alignment and how much your support base on Earth is willing to pay, but rescue is on you.

          And yeah, I suppose there's a few essential things that could go so wrong you couldn't fix them on your own, but not bad enough to keep you from surviving for a week. Probably a pretty short list though. Especially since it's mostly ecosystem failures that could kill you, and on Mars you've got all those raw materials to replace ecosystem as fast as your microbial bioslurry can breed - I would assume your "baseline" ecosystem would be microbial (with frozen backups) with more sophisticated/nonessential things growing in the resulting biomass - just like on Earth. Far more fault-tolerant that way.

          I really doubt we'll be building rockets on the moon though, not anytime in the next several decades anyway - you need a pretty sophisticated industrial base for that. At least for the sort of rocket that's efficient enough for interplanetary trips with a substantial payload. And it doesn't much matter where you launch from, you're going to want to refuel in orbit for an interplanetary voyage. Meanwhile, pretty much everything you're carrying is going to have to originate from Earth anyway as well - and landing on the moon and taking off again is going to be a lot riskier than just refueling from a couple more tankers in orbit. About the only thing the moon is likely to offer in the next several decades is fuel: hard to screw up, and can be made with equipment imported from Earth - unlike rockets where the manufacturing equipment tends to dramatically outweigh the rocket, especially since you need to produce the entire supply chain from local raw materials or it defeats the point.

          But yeah, the first few waves of Mars colonists are likely to have pretty high fatality rates. Moon colonists too for that matter, though maybe not quite as bad - at the very least there's a much better chance of medical evacuation for serious conditions. But that's pretty much always been the case for colonization - new locations bring new threats, and unless there's friendly natives willing to hold your hand through the adjustment period (and probably even then) a lot of people are going to die. (And if there *are* friendly natives, then it's not really colonization so much as immigration or conquest). That's why it's always the dreamers and malcontents in the first waves - those for whom the high likelyhood of an early grave is an acceptable price to pay for new horizons.

    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Sunday April 22 2018, @11:36AM

      by Bot (3902) on Sunday April 22 2018, @11:36AM (#670309) Journal

      and
      0. don't fsck the earth up

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  • (Score: 2) by bradley13 on Saturday April 21 2018, @07:27AM (2 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 21 2018, @07:27AM (#669997) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, but I don't believe anything coming out of NASA anymore. The organization has finally and completely succumbed to Pournelle's Iron Law. Any actual missions that get launched are purely incidental to the real goal of maintaining the bureaucracy. The costs of such missions have been (imho conservatively) estimated at 10x what they actually should cost. Meanwhile, they announce huge, ever-changing goals whose sole purpose is to ensure the flow of pork to the districts of the Congresscritters who vote on the NASA budget.

    The best thing to do would be to close down the whole organization and start over. Sadly, government has no incentive to be efficient, so that won't happen.

    --
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    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:16AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:16AM (#670198) Journal

      The costs of such missions have been (imho conservatively) estimated at 10x what they actually should cost.

      So TESS [wikipedia.org] could be built and launched for under $30 million (cost cap [space.com] is $200 million and launch cost is $87 million)? Yeah, I think even India would have trouble accomplishing that. Source for "10x"?

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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday April 22 2018, @11:16AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 22 2018, @11:16AM (#670303) Journal
        Why is that so hard to believe? Making TESS a secondary payload would have greatly reduced the cost of launch, particularly, if one launched them as four single optical element vehicles instead of as one vehicle with 4 elements. And while TESS may be relatively efficient use of funding, something like the James Webb Space Telescope clearly is not.

        Source for "10x"?

        A NASA group estimated [nasa.gov] (see appendix B) what NASA would price Falcon 9 development for and compared it to SpaceX's actual books. Result was a pricing of a cost plus contract for $4 billion versus actual SpaceX development costs (including all Falcon 1 development) of $390 million. Even before the usual cost inflation that happens when a cost plus contract meets reality, we have an order of magnitude difference.

        A big factor of that difference is in institutional bad estimates of cost inflation. For example, NASA uses a metric called the "New Start Inflation Index" for calculating how much prices have risen in aerospace projects. From this spreadsheet [nasa.gov], I get a cost inflation of 7.091 from 1972 to 2017. The GDP deflator [areppim.com] gives an inflation of 4.54 over the same time period. We have roughly 20% (logarithmic) of an order of magnitude increase in contract costs just from the choice of inflation index.

        The specification game is another way costs get pumped up. Rather than limited spacecraft that do a narrow job, we see spacecraft that cram lots of cutting edge tech and tricks, multiple purposes, sometimes exotic trajectories or environments, etc. The more you cram in, the more the costs of getting each feature to cooperate with each other feature.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:06AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 22 2018, @03:06AM (#670229) Journal
    While I don't have big expectations for NASA or its lunar ambitions, the 2020s will see serious change, especially if SpaceX's BFR works as advertised (subject to the usual modest schedule slips). This will bring the cost of any space activities down and open up a lot of possibilities.
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