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posted by CoolHand on Monday April 17 2017, @04:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the future-vision dept.

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.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @07:48PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 17 2017, @07:48PM (#495450)

    They've managed to do this with exactly $0 of public funding dedicated towards this purpose.

    They've managed nothing so far but to announce the goal. Also, they expect the "adventurers" to pay a lot of money for the "privilege".

    Maybe they haven't taken in any money for this specific purpose, but they have some large contracts, some from public funds, that can cover a lot of personnel and facility overhead as well.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday April 17 2017, @09:18PM (1 child)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 17 2017, @09:18PM (#495507) Journal

    SpaceX is not taking in public money to develop some of its grand goals. It is doing that with it's own profits. Now those profits are in large part from NASA contracts. But those are commercial contracts for services in exchange for money. It's not like NASA is paying for development or construction work. Also in part those profits funding the grandiose plans come from other commercial launch services customers. Iridium, for example, has, what is it, I think eight more launches scheduled with SpaceX?

    As for doing nothing but announcing goals, I would say that SpaceX landing a booster stage isn't exactly nothing. ULA said it was impossible. The Russians said it was a fantasy. Elon Musk said he wasn't even sure if they would ever be able to do it. And SpaceX failed the first several attempts. It was looking like it might not be possible. And then they succeeded at landing. Then landing on a drone ship. Then more successful landings until it's almost routine.

    I also wouldn't call re-launching a booster with the same nine engines to be exactly nothing either. On an orbital booster. Nobody else has done that. And only one other company has done re-use, with a non-orbital booster.

    I find SpaceX's 3D printed Draco engines to be impressive.

    I am interested in the Dragon 2 capsule SpaceX has developed. Also when they tested its launch abort system (Draco engines).

    I wouldn't say SpaceX has done nothing but announce. If you go further back in time, it wasn't even clear if their Falcon 9 was going to work at all. They took a huge risk. Almost failed.

    But I think the lesson is this.

    When you set out to do something bold, innovative and challenging. Something that you, yourself, are not even sure can be made to work. The risk is high. The task is difficult.

    The important point is that you might possibly fail.

    Therefore, you should not ever try. Ever. Just don't bother.

    This message brought to you by SpaceX's competitors.

    Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Monday April 17 2017, @09:26PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Monday April 17 2017, @09:26PM (#495514) Journal

      I think the take home of SpaceX is that solid engineering, bold goals and good corporate culture is perhaps more important than the most money. I would almost bet that any no-say, can't do, paper wending bureaucrat have hard time at SpaceX, in fact they won't even let them inside their doors.

      Almost like IBM vs Apple, Microsoft vs Free OS etc.