Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

SoylentNews is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop. Only 12 submissions in the queue.
posted by janrinok on Friday April 20 2018, @06:12PM   Printer-friendly
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

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (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]!

        --
        La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
    • (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.

      --
      This sig for rent.
    • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Friday April 20 2018, @10:42PM

      by requerdanos (5997) 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.

    --
    This sig for rent.
    • (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) 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) 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]

              --
              [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

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

                  --
                  [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
                  • (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) 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) 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.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (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

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

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

              --
              [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday April 21 2018, @05:38PM (3 children)

      by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge 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.

      --
      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (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.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (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) Subscriber Badge 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.)

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
  • (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?

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (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.

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
        • (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

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

    by bradley13 (3053) 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.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (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"?

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (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.
(1)