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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


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  • (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.

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

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> 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 [] could be built and launched for under $30 million (cost cap [] 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 [] (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 [], I get a cost inflation of 7.091 from 1972 to 2017. The GDP deflator [] 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.