So according to NASA humans could be living on the moon, for long periods of time, before the end of the decade. So from more or less nothing to (pre-) colonization in about seven (or eight) years then. At least the moon is closer then Mars, but you are probably still borked if something goes wrong.
"We're going to be sending people down to the surface and they're going to be living on that surface and doing science," Mr Hu said."It's really going to be very important for us to learn a little bit beyond our Earth's orbit and then do a big step when we go to Mars."And the Artemis missions enable us to have a sustainable platform and transportation system that allows us to learn how to operate in that deep space environment."
"We're going to be sending people down to the surface and they're going to be living on that surface and doing science," Mr Hu said.
"It's really going to be very important for us to learn a little bit beyond our Earth's orbit and then do a big step when we go to Mars.
"And the Artemis missions enable us to have a sustainable platform and transportation system that allows us to learn how to operate in that deep space environment."
Big question then is -- if asked (or given the opportunity) would you go?
No one is going to be colonizing, or even living on the Moon based on the NASA rocket that costs $2 billion a pop and takes over a year to produce a single rocket.
Maybe Musk could do it, but the last I heard he was aiming for Mars (and without NASA's help).
Astronauts are motivated by achievements and career goals. They do not possess the pioneering will to create a homestead in a hostile environment. They will just check the box next to "walk on moon" and head home. That's the best we will get out of NASA.
Egotistical billionaires are entirely different.
I get that you're trying to be sarcastic, but well, it's quite true. Musk started from zero in 2002 and has built the top orbit launch platform in the world in 20 years. I don't buy the present claimed economics for the Spaceship launch stack, but it will put the SLS to shame.
Or more accurately, he hired people to build the top orbital launch platform.
So did a couple dozen other government agencies and businesses. Turns out you need more than that.
Isn't SpaceX supposed to be making the lander for Artemis (and getting it to lunar orbit)?
Yes, but that's a sideline for them. At the rate things are going, NASA will never make it far enough for an actual manned (personed?) landing to take place.
Yep. In fact I want to say NASA just recently commissioned a second Lunar Starship.
Fortunately NASA no longer seems to have any great attachment to SLS. It's the politically cancel-proof legacy of an era when there was no other viable options that was delayed into irrelevance, but it's mission list doesn't appear to be expanding beyond those originally laid out.
Meanwhile, NASA appears to be tentatively embracing Starship for their long term plans, while SLS's success means the orbital gateway missions at least can proceed despite the SpaceX delays. And that there will be a human-rated vehicle to get astronauts to lunar orbit. Starship's lack of an abort system means it will be unlikely to be crew rated on Earth any time soon - but on the moon there's not much point in an abort system - getting back to orbit is a long shot without an enormous amount of additional hardware, and getting safely to the surface without a return rocket leaves you just as dead, only with more time to say your goodbyes. At least until substantial surface infrastructure is in place.
Now lets just hope SpaceX can get their shit together to have a human-safe lunar lander in time for the 2025 mission. NASA may not be requiring an abort system - but if SpaceX's "move fast and break things" philosophy ends up killing the astronauts, the fallout could end the Artemis program and hand the moon to China.
SpaceX already has a safe, proven way of getting astronauts to/from the Earth: Falcon/Dragon. With the Moon lander, they will have everything else to do human Moon landing missions without NASA. They don't need SLS, and they certainly don't need the ridiculous orbital gateway (that exists only to make up for the shortcomings of SLS).
My understanding is that the Dragon is not a lunar capsule. Only an ISS and LEO capsule. I have no doubt SpaceX can design and build a lunar capsule.
Also Dragon cannot reboost the ISS. But Boeing's yet to fly Starliner is able to reboost the ISS. So the Russians have to reboost the ISS for now.
Only an ISS and LEO capsule. I have no doubt SpaceX can design and build a lunar capsule.
Only an ISS and LEO capsule. I have no doubt SpaceX can design and build a lunar capsule.
SpaceX is building the lunar "capsule". SpaceX can get astronauts into Earth orbit today, which is something NASA can't do. NASA is relying on SpaceX to build a manned vehicle to take astronauts between Lunar orbit and Lunar surface. The SpaceX moon lander has to successfully make it from Earth orbit to Lunar orbit for NASA to get astronauts on the Moon.
Are you really suggesting that the the SpaceX Lunar lander is capable of safely carrying astronauts in Lunar space, but not capable of carrying them between Earth and Lunar orbits???
I'm pretty sure Falcon/Dragon can't reach lunar orbit. Falcon Heavy easily could, but that's a whole additional ordeal of human-safe certification that SpaceX has no interest in wasting resources on. Especially not with them being way behind schedule on Lunar Starship - if they can't get that running in time the Artemis program could be screwed. They haven't even reached orbit yet, and only have two years to master both orbital refueling and landing on squishy, uneven surfaces - preferably without launching a bunch of lunar material into cislunar orbit where it would become a permanent navigation hazard, which is a realistic concern given Raptor exhaust speed.
The Lunar Gateway is going to be a lot more than just a transfer station - at a minimum it's the orbital base camp from which we'll scout out where to build a permanent lunar base, and a fallback position in case of a disaster early on. Though, granted, if Starship had been around when the Artemis program was conceived things would likely be very different, and a permanent space station might not be established until some time after a robust lunar base was in operation. Being able to land an entire space station on the surface and bring it back to orbit does change things, but you're still going to want orbital backup - though that could easily take the form of keeping one or more additional Starships in orbit in case they're needed. Even the Lunar model is likely to come it at under half-a-billion dollars each, a positive steal (the standard Starship is estimated to cost a quarter-billion without life support, landing gear, etc.)
Falcon/Dragon wouldn't need to reach lunar orbit.
SpaceX is already going to have to launch Lunar Starship, refuel it, and get it to the moon. Have Dragon transfer crew in LEO before it goes. Do the mission, come back to LEO, transfer back for landing.
SLS and Gateway have nothing to add to this equation.
Yeah, if the plan wasn't already in place before Starship was even a serious proposal, that might be the way to go. But "nimble" is not NASA's strong suit.
You still don't want to be shipping equipment back from the Moon to Earth orbit though - that's a ferociously expensive flight. Much better if you can leave it in lunar orbit for the next landing. At least until you decide where the base on the surface will be and start leaving it there.
I agree SLS is (mostly) useless - but as I already mentioned it's politically untouchable, at least until it completes it's pre-planned mission roster. No sense wasting complaints on it unless you're talking to NASA's future mission planners.
No sense wasting complaints on it unless you're talking to NASA's future mission planners.
At 4 billion a shot, I think it's worth complaining as widely as possible.
To what end? The senators forcing it to continue are using it to pull in the pork for their home districts and are unlikely to be voted out, which seems to be the only way SLS will be retired before the initial Artemis missions have flown.
I agree it's a travesty, but at this point everyone recognizes that - even NASA administrators are beginning to speak openly against it. But sanity and ethics have little place in politics.
the NASA rocket that costs $2 billion a pop
From what I've read, conservative estimates are $4+ billion a pop.
Musk says $2 Million for a Starship launch. Even if he's off by a factor of 100, and thus $200 Million per launch, that is less than 1/20 the cost of an SLS launch. For a substantial payload. Even multiple launches to put up support infrastructure is likely cheaper than SLS.
The only profitable "colony" on the moon will be the LunarMax prison
It will be interesting to see how Lunar Starship stacks up. It won't be able to return to Earth (no heat shielding), so it will get minimal servicing while operating in a much harsher environment. NASA's current plan seems to be a single use, though it sounds like they're starting to consider at least limited re-use.
And a normal Starship will likely be unsuitable for lunar landings, even with landing gear, since the Raptor exhaust velocity is over 50% greater than lunar escape velocity, and can thus kick debris into Earth orbit where it becomes a permanent hazard to everything in lunar space.
From what I've heard the manufacturing cost estimate for a basic orbital Starship is a quarter billion dollars - and the Lunar model is likely to be at least as expensive. Much better than the SLS, even with single-use, but that's a really low bar to cross. In fact, too low to really matter to realistic plans to develop the moon.
Even Musk is going to want to practice landing on undeveloped regolith, and NASA is paying them a huge amount of money (I want to say billions?) not just for a couple Lunar Starships, but also for the development and testing of the unsupported landing systems. Especially important now that they're trying to remove the landing system entirely from their initial orbital rockets.
Besides which, Musk's fortune can only do so much. Especially since it seems he just threw away a not inconsiderable portion on the Twitter debacle. And there's not really anyone else with money that's vocally interested in Mars colonization in the near future.
There's lots of demand for the moon though. From NASA and the other space agencies involved in Artemis, to China, to the many private companies looking to get in on the ground floor of in-situ resource utilization. Artemis is really just establishing a foothold - the moon is the stepping stone to the rest of the solar system: an "asteroid" 33x more massive than the entire asteroid belt combined, conveniently located just a few days away. It may not have the "easily" accessible rare metals we expect from smaller asteroids, but the lunar regolith is over 20% iron and aluminum, and 40% oxygen, and Sadoway's electrolytic magma refinery can already extract those with a minimum of moving parts. Setting the stage to develop collection, processing, and industrial infrastructure to the point that it can be deployed to the asteroid belt.