The boy should do a surprise visit to area 51 he ought to find a few new ideas there.
Brobdingnagian US aerospace firm Boeing has more or less openly condemned the revised Obama plan for the US space programme, under which no decision on a heavy-lift rocket will be taken until 2015. The space megacorp seems worried at the close relationship between the President and upstart startup rocket firm SpaceX. Elon Musk …
The biggest problem I see with "Boots on Mars" is finding fuel on Mars to bring them back or just carrying enough from the start to cover the insertion/recovery.
Packing enough fuel to escape lunar gravity was do-able, however Mars has an escape velocity of twice the Moon, so much larger fuel tank required. Not to mention much larger initial boost from Earth and the increased fuel and life support required to get there and back in the first place.
...using recycled Shuttle technology to achieve it.
Musk is right: Constellation isn't a "solution". It's just pork-barrel politics.
We've been launching glorified roman candles into space for decades now; there's no reason at all why NASA should be building more of these itself at massive expense when even Top Gear can build one to launch a bloody car as a stunt.
If NASA can just buy launchers off the shelf, it massively reduces the costs of such missions over the long term, and also makes other space exploration (and exploitation) missions more viable.
Let NASA focus on the bit that gets people from Earth orbit to Mars orbit—and back again—without killing anyone. That's the hard part.
Beside, there's nothing to stop Boeing going into the private space launcher sector themselves. They certainly have the experience.
"We've been launching glorified roman candles into space for decades now; there's no reason at all why NASA should be building more of these itself at massive expense when even Top Gear can build one to launch a bloody car as a stunt."
Yeah, erm, there's a bit of a difference between punting a 500kg Reliant Robin 500ft in the air and putting a 100,000kg Orbiter into orbit y'know. But I did chortle at the comparison :-)
First, "now largely-cancelled "Constellation" programme" - wanna bet? Wait till Sen. Shelby gets finished; BO doesn't stand a chance.
Second, Musk is building the equivalent of a Redstone rocket, circa late 1950's, hardly new technology. Actually, his competitor, Orbital has a much better solution using the Russian NK-33's, probably the most advanced engines extant.
Third, Griffin's solution represents a reasonable compromise given the constrains he was under. As was pointed out by the Augustine committee;. And well managed to boot!
And finally fourth, BO's plan has no goal (destination), no plan to achieve the non-existent goal, and no schedule. From an engineering point-of-view, it's a plan to NOWHERE. Unless you're simply trying to kill off the manned space program. More simply put, it's buffoonery !
"First, "now largely-cancelled "Constellation" programme" - wanna bet? Wait till Sen. Shelby gets finished; BO doesn't stand a chance."
That would be Richard Craig Shelby, Senator for Alabama. The one who *opposed* bailouts for major banks and the 3 big US auto makers. Funny how things change when the fat cats are on your porch. Personally I agreed with his stance on both. NASA (It's MSFC which is in his state) should *not* be a special case.
"Second, Musk is building the equivalent of a Redstone rocket, circa late 1950's, hardly new technology. Actually, his competitor, Orbital has a much better solution using the Russian NK-33's, probably the most advanced engines extant."
Performance wise perhaps not. Both SpaceX and OSC have the objective of delivering to a *price*, not a performance standard. Spacex *make* their engines (and their whole vehicle) in the US to a design which is newer and with processes that are better than any major competitor. for c$250m they have developed 2 launchers, carried out 4 launches and finally succeeded in orbiting a payload, from an experience base of *zero*.
The NK33's are *very* high performance but their is no *production* line to make more of them (and it seems no plans to set one up). They got the butt end of the COTS money *after* Rocketplane Kistler failed to get matching funding from private sources but are talking about both a capsule *and* a new launcher. (BTW NASA were *very* supportive of the ex-NASA staffed Kistler operation. Despite that they still managed to spend c$950m in VC and get *no* flight vehicle constructed. This may have put outside investors off).
It's also interesting that OSC whose core background is *all* in solid fueled launchers (with an optional storable fuel 4th stage) opted for the much safer LOX/RP1 propellant combo.
"Third, Griffin's solution represents a reasonable compromise given the constrains he was under. As was pointed out by the Augustine committee;. And well managed to boot!"
IIRC Augustine also said they were substantially under funded and in effect Congress should either put up or shut up. Obama has chosen to shut up the Ares project.
"From an engineering point-of-view, it's a plan to NOWHERE."
Historically it may interest you to know the F1, which powered the Saturn's, was developed without *any* planned launch vehicle or mission either. NASA (on its formation) inherited the programme from the air force.
As for goals figuring out what it takes to dock with a Near Earth Object seems a pretty clear goal. Closed cycle life support likewise seems *essential* for long duration space travel and is *not* something that launch vehicle providers will have much interest in .
"Unless you're simply trying to kill off the manned space program. "
Only if you believe the credo of "There shall't be no programme but NASA's. We are the way, the truth and the light. we will show you space, but it is *far* too dangerous for ordinary people to go there"
Any viable mission to Mars must have one or more supply depots on the planet. This depot must have the materials to create a launch facility, fuel storage and either facilities to manufacture fuel from domestic components or we need to drop fuel to be centrally stored.
At that point, any landing will be able to return the person(s) landed. This material would need to be dropped in stages over time in roughly the same area (within 10 x 10 km area). This would also require the tools, transports, robotic assistants, etc to collect and build all this.
Some assembly required, eh?
Funny, I explained this one at the weekend in a comment to the article on ther Sabatier reactor that has been sent to ISS. In case you missed it here is a copy of the salient bits;
>Sending this to the space station may have a secondary agenda for the future exploration of Mars.
Interestingly this has been suggested as a means of producing rocket fuel and other resources on Mars (ref: "The Case for Mars", Robert Zubrin). The plan calls for an Earth return vehicle being sent to Mars ahead of the crewed landers by about two years. The return vehicle would carry with it a few tonnes of Liquid Hydrogen which is reacted with CO2 from the Martian atmosphere after landing to produce Methane and water (which is split back to H2 and O2, H2 being fed into the reaction again and the O2 stored). This way the lander manufactures the propellants for the return trip before the the astronauts are sent to Mars. With no need to take the return propellants with them them the crewed vehicle is much less massive and can built and launched much more easily than a completely self contained mission.
Note also that this technique also can provide the basic living requirements of O2 and water for the astronauts on Mars.
This can also be further extended if a ready supply of water ice can be found close to the landing site, thus allowing more H2 to be produced.
Zubrin has called this "living off the land" with respect to Mars and sees it as a "game changing" concept for human exploration of Mars and eventual colonization. It has been seriously suggested that this technique be trialed by using it to fuel a unmanned Martian sample return mission.
Anyone interested in finding more search for "Mars Direct" in a good search engine near you.
As I said before - look up Mars Direct
"The biggest problem I see with "Boots on Mars" is finding fuel on Mars to bring them back or just carrying enough from the start to cover the insertion/recovery."
Not so. NASA have run various Mars mission plans over the decades. The problem is the *cost* of building the hardware needed to hold the propellant (and stopping it from boiling off, given NASA's obsession with Hydrogen).
Zubrin's Mars Direct mission breakthrough was the idea of making the return journeys fuel out of materials on the Martian surface. The "problem" you described was solved at least a decade ago.
Zubrin's preferred approach was to split CO2 (about 99% of the Martian atmosphere) into O2 and CO (carbon monoxide). CO has not been used as rocket fuel before but *most* engineering problems could have been worked out on the ground. NASA's last go round ditched CO in favour of methane (CH4) with the H brought from Earth.
The problem with insitu propellant production is that the energy needs are pretty great and best handled by a nuclear reactor, with *all* the ongoing trouble deploying such a unit (from the PR aspect, fairly compact 100Kw sized reactors have been built) that entails.
""I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before," said Obama."
I can but assume the conspiracy theorists are starting already. Along the lines of Obama really cancelling the moon mission because they'd have to admit they were really starting from scratch, and they'd have to deploy a secret robot mission first to put the fake footprints on the surface before deploying the "real" mission.
Letting in the small guys to build lift vehicles is better for the US government in the long run. It may slow down the NASA's jaunt to Mars in the short term, but governments are useless (by and large) at running any sort of project like this without hemorrhaging large amounts of cash and time. Commercial companies can do it better as they can't afford to do this.
By letting the small guys in and to catch up to Boeing, Obama is being very shrewd. In 20 years time he's counting on there being a thriving commercial market place for lift vehicles and all the benefits of driving down costs that that brings. This is opposed to the government backed near-monopoly that Boeing have enjoyed so far where they can more or less dictate the price and know that if they don't deliver on time the best that the administration could do was cancel the project or fine them - both of which would have been factored in to the original cost estimate. I know this: been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Ever wondered why government projects always seem to cost so much more than anything done in private industry?
Plus, what's the betting the top dogs at Boeing are all friends of the former Bush administration? If I was Obama I'd be looking to reallocate as much money away from such big businesses as possible, just because I would never be sure how much of that business was won on merit or favour.
"It certainly seems a little harsh to say that President Obama is "backing away" from space exploration"
Why? It took him over a year to announce that resupplying the ISS would be done by SpaceX, etc, and that Constellation would be axed. Even though the first was the purpose of COTS, and Constellation was all about leaving Earth orbit. If he really had something this ambitious, why not announce it weeks ago? It smacks of something hastily cobbled together after the initial outcry.
Boeing should try and compete on merit with the smaller companies and develop a commercially viable lifter that they can then sell/run for NASA.
But it seems they actually just want to suckle on the Goverment teat and have no interest in furthering Space exploration. Bunch of whining pussies.
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At this time, yeah - Mars isn't so realistic. OTOH, give about 50 years and a concerted effort at it, then Mars could be rather doable as a permanent colony of sorts.
That said, the biggest prize isn't to get people living on Mars, but to make getting off Earth cheap enough so that people can live almost anywhere (Mars, the Moon, or use the Moon to generate building material for orbiting space colonies, etc).
Short-term, this is no solution at all, but long-term, it can be eventually rigged (say, a century or so away) so that the majority of population growth is happening somewhere that isn't Earth.
Problem is, you have to start small, then keep at it. Don't just put some footprints on the place then crawl back home - make it so that footprints are as common there as they are here.
"but long-term, it can be eventually rigged (say, a century or so away) so that the majority of population growth is happening somewhere that isn't Earth"
Yeah, right !
Totally artificial living spaces, no atmosphere, cold, weak gravity - muscle & bone atrophy. Slow communications. All sounds so feasible and really, really desirable.
Around 500 years back, we stumbled across this vast place which, to most intelligentsia, only offered exotic diseases, hostile natives, starvation, slow communications*, cold, prisoners and societal rejects for neighbors, and no real safe place to be outside fortified walls. Oh, and it took a metric sh!tload of work just to get the basics (food, water, shelter) taken care of. Yet somehow the Western Hemisphere got colonized in spite of that. Took about 350-400 years to get the job (mostly) done, but it got done anyway.
* way slower than radio contact could ever get. We're talking messages taking months at a go here, with no guarantee of even making it during certain stormy times of year.
For most folks, yeah - it is a crap prospect. Most of the middle and upper class folk in Europe thought the same way about the Americas back in the 16th century (and many of their descendants still do). After all, why give up something cozy when you don't have to?
OTOH, for those willing to put the work into it, the possibilities and potential are boundless.
(Pirate flag, because there was a lot of that going on too, back in the day).
"the possibilities and potential are boundless."
I'd say they were totally constrained. The analogy with the Americas is meaningless even though it was a magnificent struggle & great achievement.
They were on the same planet, same atmosphere, same gravity - human physiology hasn't sig. changed in >10000 years. Even on Earth it takes a special kind of person to tough it out in Antarctica for 6 months ( at least you can go outside sometimes and go home when you've had enough) and that sounds easy compared to Mars, let alone anywhere else. The only serious anywhere else would be some moons but they look worse than Mars.
Terraforming Mars is quite a bit easier than terraforming our Moon.
In both cases we would have to do an exhaustive search for current life.
(Yeah, the moon? Certainly.)
The Snail Darter problem has to be eliminated first.
But get that major expense out of the way and the rest is pretty easy.
Run a comet into the SOB.
This works for both the Moon and Mars, heat of impact warms the surface pretty well and the mass of ice and such starts to provide an atmosphere.
Actually, you need two.
(this is where it starts to become complicated.)
You really need to keep your terraforming target in orbit.
You can run all kinds of junk shots into Jupiter or Saturn but now we are talking small, light planets; balance the shots.
I mean, we can actually (sometime in the far future) terraform Luna but we don't want to be Mooned.
... to ask for new lifting technologies, but almost all development is evolutionary, not revolutionary!
The computer your using right now is an evolution of the Colossus code breaking machines, and before that you could almost draw a direct line to the Abacus' of ancient Greece and beyond. Theres nothing that Revoltuionary about it...
Politicians always seem to want revolutionary answers to problems... and we all know theres only one good type of revolution, something thats long overdue in this part of town...
"The computer your using right now is an evolution of the Colossus code breaking machines, and before that you could almost draw a direct line to the Abacus' of ancient Greece and beyond. Theres nothing that Revoltuionary about it..."
Spoken like someone with no knowledge of either the history of technology or hardware implementation.
We could start with the idea of stored program control itself (colossus was hard wired. No decision making ability) then the progress from relays through valves, transistors and finally into monolithic (as opposed to say the small hybrids used in the Apollo computer) ICs.
BTW the Apollo computer really *did* deliver the power of an IBM mainframe (a 704 IIRC) in a 90lb package. 32Kilo Instructions Per Second. That's a pocket calculator performance. Compare to a modern 3Ghz PC motherboard.
That's an improvement of 1:100000 in speed and a mass reduction (conservatively) of 20:1.
Most people *would* consider such improvements revolutionary.
However the position is different in rockets and gas turbines. Thrust to weight has gone from 5.3 in the early 50s to better than 10:1 for jet engines. the NK 33s have around 100:1 T/W. The SSME leads the pack in Hydrogen/Oxygen at c59:1 (that's takeoff thrust to mass. Since the whole *point* of using the high pressure staged combustion cycles is to allow sea level operation that is the one that counts).
There is the *possible* revolution of "Power MEMS" which may yet give rocket engine arrays with T/W of 1000:1. keeping that T/Wonce the piping and pumps are included is *not* going to be trivial.
Outside of computers improvements of 10:1 *are* viewed as revolutionary. Such an improvement (by the use of microwaves or DC electricity to the mold) shifted the use of powered metallurgy from a lab/high value part manufacturing method to (in principle) a routine industrial manufacturing process.
There is *much* scope for revolutionary savings in space operations and maintenance costs. No one (IMHO) has *ever* worked backward from "we will build a vehicle to launch x units of mass with a price to orbit of yy units of cash. What do we need to *make* that happen?"
To laymen it is believed that *only* a revolution in technology can deliver the goals at a price that can be afforded. To anyone whose looked at this it is a delusion that leads to a self fulfilling prophecy. Inspired leadership of a small competent team implementing an aggressive (but within the state of the art. The state of practice in the space engineering field is a *long* way behind the state of the art) design *can* achieve performance that will *seem* revolutionary
Can it be done *inside* NASA is another question.
Any commercial company only makes these types of statements when something is affecting their bottom line. If Boeing was too cuddly, lazy and expensive in the past then this is just the reaction that they will have towards more competition.
Anyway, one small piece of the military-industrial complex just got vaporized, lets have a round!
Boeing is a partner in Launch Alliance with its Delta V Heavy rocket. The whole thing has been a disaster as it is much more expensive than non-US rockets and has pretty much only survived thanks to the largesse of the government buying Deltas for space probes and classified missions.
If other American companies come into the marketplace for government launches, Delta V might not be able to compete there either. Which would leave Boeing pretty much out of the space business.
"The whole thing has been a disaster as it is much more expensive than non-US rockets and has pretty much only survived thanks to the largesse of the government buying Deltas for space probes and classified missions."
Yes & no. The USAF funded EELV programme (Delta IV & Atlas V) have probably *lowered* the cost of USAF access to space *relative* to their previous generation of launchers.
It was expected this would be good enough to be competitive on the international launch market, giving US companies the option of a US payload launched on a US launcher at an affordable price, avoiding the massive ITAR paperwork
Unfortunately payload volumes have gone down and while the EELVs are cheaper than their predecessors they are not *that* cheap relative to the rest of the world (except perhaps the OSC Pegasus.
This has driven a merger between the launcher bits of Boeing and Lockmart to form United Launch Alliance and Uncle Sam paying out *billions* of dollars basically to keep the production lines and launch pads ticking over to ensure "Assured access to space."
A strategy *designed* to retain competition has created an effective heavy lift monopoly for US Govt launches.
US taxpayers should be concerned about that much control in the hands of 1 organisation.
Posted Monday 19th April 2010 13:47 GMT
"The biggest problem I see with "Boots on Mars" is finding fuel on Mars to bring them back or just carrying enough from the start to cover the insertion/recovery."
Why does it have to be a return trip first time around?
Sure, send the data back by all means but the personnel don't have to return.
Hell, if i had (*), say, terminal cancer or Aids i would be more than glad to go.
(*) Assuming a healthy and useful lifespan of more than 9 months.
That's not a bad idea, from a pragmatic point of view. The reason it can't be done, though, is because it would be a public relations nightmare. Remember all the fuss about Terri Schiavo? Can you imagine how much bigger the outcry would be about "sentencing to death" ('cos that's how it would be sensationalised) a group of people who still had all their faculties? Especially doing it in service of that black magic "science" that much of the US population seems to think is only a few steps removed from Satanism?
It's a clever idea that might work if the US had a higher proportion of rational people, but while half their population is still mentally stuck in the dark ages it'll never be accepted.
Time is against you.
1. It takes time to train a person up
2. A terminal illness is not quite the predictable thing you imagine it to be.
I would agree with you, there would probably be people who would jump at the opportunity. I can't say I would because I would have better things to do but there you go.
Maybe something more like the Dirty Dozen or something, eh? But then again, would you gamble on a situation like that as well?
Now isn't the time to be spunking huge piles of cash on grandiose schemes, especially not ones dreamt up one hot Texas afternoon by your predecessor. Better to have a rethink, and do some domestic political bitchslapping while you're at it. Once the megarecession is over, assuming it does have an end, start spunking the green like a good 'un.
"Obama's crushed everyone by killing off the whole manned spaceflight programme, "
He asking NASA to return to its origins. Funding and developing technology which the US aerospace industry can exploit to maintain its leadership. This is what NASA's predecessor the NACA did and it worked pretty well for IIRC about 40 years. BTW the F1 engine that powered the Saturns was *not* designed to a mission or vehicle either. Its "mission" was "Let's build the biggest rocket engine we can so we can find out what the development problems are and if we can do it." Result. Huge but reliable engines can be built but combustion instability is a bitch.
He asked NASA to stop insisting on needing a vehicle designed *solely* for their needs and the taxpayers expense and presuming that *only* government con-tractors could build a vehicle which is safe enough for their astronauts (despite the fact Shuttle in fact does *not* meet man rating requirements and AFAIK neither would Aeries 1, in a way Falcon 9 does).
For decades MSFC has forced *every* other part of NASA swallow its costs on ISS (and Space Station Freedom, and Space Station Alpha and Shuttle) like some monstrous cockoo. If the people involved *really* cared they might pay more attention to things like cost management and control.
..of SpaceX looks like a Russian launch pad. They can't afford a smooth surface and have ponds of water on it.
Taking into account the excellent Russian Launch Record, this company MUST be successful.
Seriously, I don't understand why they don't just build the proven SATURN V design of that nice SS SturmbannFührer and Director of a US space center, Wernher von Braun. The Nazi-designed Rocket only uses Kerosense and Hydrogen and all the bugs are out.
According to Wikipedia, it can lift 47 tons into a lunar orbit !
and from the tone of his voice you could just tell he wasn't happy about it the first time and certainly doesn't want it happening again on his watch.
No, I'm not being overly harsh. We heard the same sorts of rhetoric from the same sorts of losers the first time around. Difference was we didn't have a complete loser as head of state.
"Now isn't the time to be spunking huge piles of cash on grandiose schemes...Once the megarecession is over, assuming it does have an end, start spunking the green like a good 'un."
I agree. And so does Obama, apparently. The Constellation money was being spent right now, but its been cancelled. The billions on research for a Mars program were described in the furture tense, and no dates were specified. Presumably, therefore, that won't be until there's some spare money to spend (if, as you say, there ever is).
He could have rubber stamped the unimaginative 'Apollo on steroids' approach, letting it carry on rolling like a good little pork barrel for the usual suspects. Equally, he could have drew back completely and gone for the dull, limited approach of robots only (I'm looking at the British space effort for the last 20 or so years).
Instead, he's chosen to give NASA and the usual aeronautical suspects a wake up call by opening up the field to all comers. The US space effort might actually innovate - something NASA and co have been unwilling/unable to do since the early 80's. Maybe ESA could learn a lesson or two.
Go to Columbia - they have fuel down there that'll take you as high as you want. You don't even need a vehicle......
So, I posted "I wonder where will be Obama's Dallas". Let me elucidate for those who inferred their own spectacularly paranoid meaning.
I *DID* mean: If Obama goes around pissing off the high and mighty as he is doing, and in the same way JFK did, then what are the chances he might likewise end up getting assassinated?
I did NOT, repeat DID NOT mean: I hope someone kills Barack Obama.
A space elevator would make me very very happy. We don't yet have the materials science to make it happen, though, or the working-in-space experience. Although it sounds crazy, I think we are probably closer to being able to achieve a space fountain than an elevator. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_fountain)
Of course, either a fountain or elevator would be incredibly dangerous to a massive number of people if it ever went wrong, though, so I'm not sure I'd trust the usual government idea of contracting it out to the lowest bidder.
"It's all a bullshit Lazarus act " Exactly. I don't have any ties to Boeing and neither does anyone I know so its not about that. I do have a lot of friends and relatives that work here in Florida and in California in the space industry.
This doesn't have anything to do with Big corporation Boeing versus little guys. This is about an entire population of people working for the better part of a decade to make something happen and then have this useless piece of garbage come in and trash it because "He doesn't want Republicans to get credit for something". What a petty @$$hole. Meanwhile what about the decade of effort we just put out? No doubt when Republicans come back they are going to trash what $hit-for-brains did, and to be honest I hope they do.
This is why America can't accomplish anything in space: A space program takes long term commitment and Republicans and Democrats don't want to give each other credit for anything, so they keep bashing NASA back and forth like a pinball.
The whole of US history is littered with political conspiracies but they are usually about self enrichment rather than idealism. It's payola that kills American innovation and by that I mean accepting an inducement to favour the poorer argument. If the argument stood on its own it would need no inducement to carry it through so it must be up against a better rival. Do that too often and you get stuck with the richest but worst companies taking the lead.
Does that sound familiar?
""It's all a bullshit Lazarus act " Exactly. I don't have any ties to Boeing and neither does anyone I know so its not about that. I do have a lot of friends and relatives that work here in Florida and in California in the space industry."
So just lots of friends who work in this industry, but not for Boeing.
Personally I can understand the frustration of spending a long time on something to have it be canceled. However it was very much the NASA/Big Aerospace solution to the problem. Right down to the bait and switches done by NASA. It was nicknamed "The Shaft" for a reason.
The fact that it has taken so *long* to get to a even a fairly basic trial launch of just a first stage with a weighted but dummy 2nd stage suggests an organisation with either a *deeply* depleted knowledge base or a *deep* lack of confidence in its skills.
The experience of outside companies that have hired ex-NASA staff for their start-up ventures has not exactly been positive either. Kistler loosing $950m springs to mind.
So a bunch of people are either going to be laid off, re-assigned or have to re-locate somewhere to keep their jobs.
People have a tendency to identify themselves with the goals of a project. They take its cancellation like a death in the family. In which case they should have a wake, a period of mourning and move on with their lives.
Welcome to life in the US aerospace industry.
Mine's the one with a copy of Lister & DeMarco's "Peopleware" which has a lot to say about project management, why teams work, why they don't and what happens when projects end for various reasons.
Even Eisenhower was warning us 60 years ago about the military industrial complex. Its very profitable these days being a death by phallic shaped objects merchant. I love it when we these more political than competent organizations (gee Boeing Airbus how is the schedule and price on those big fancy jets and boy those Eye of Saurons on border sure worked out well) lose out on any pork. Nothing like %80 of the initial budget of a big project going to worthless bureaucratic management so by the time the engineers get involved it is not possible to for the project to succeed.
I agree with Obama. The revisit-the-moon logic was stupid. Space stations are where-its-at for the next decade. The new-capsule for LEO-insertion was usable, but the Ares manned-booster was too-little-too-late (and too-expensive). The USA doesn't have the kind of money-in-the-bank to bankroll a 20X-100X uptick in NASA manned-activity now. We DO need to reduce military and civilian spending for a decade to pay down the horrible situation we are in today.
Getting to Mars requires interplanetary rockets that are nowhere-in-sight. Current technologies could probably get a crew there in ~1.3 years (Mars/Moon distance ratio=55M/.238M, 3 days transit for Apollo, a little faster now). Martian blastoff would have to be 4-10 months later (or else the flight-time will be much-longer). The return flight would also be 1.3 years. The whole thing would take 3-3.5 years end-to-end.
WAAAAY too long and waaaaay too expensive. We can get there with good planning (which we haven't had for a decade or two, or three).
I think the attitude of the Americans will change drastically once China or India start to venture to the moon. Can you foresee the hoo-ha when China replaces the US flag where Eagle landed with a Chinese one? And brings back the original to China to display in one of their museums?
Suddenly I think there would be a massive Kennedy-esque 'Mars inside a decade' drive from the US with whatever funding it takes.
Nothing in space is stationary. For Mars you can use the planet's gravity and atmosphere (yes, it has a little) to pull you into an orbit so you don't have to use engines to stop, and you have more choices for angles so you can go on walkabout and return to Earth without waiting for the Earth to come back into the right orbital position. The asteroids? No. Once you get to the asteroids you have to stop relative to the asteroids using engines because there's no gravity, no atmosphere - and using inertial damping by colliding with asteroids would be traumatic and potentially cause undesired secondary effects. The asteroids are dancing a peculiar dance we still don't understand and it's dangerous territory. As you match orbit to your desired asteroid the Earth spins merrily away, and you'll have to catch it the next time around. It's a minimum 16 month trip barring some innovation in drive technology I haven't heard about.
Not that it matters. For amount of money we're talking about here nobody in the US is going to build anything that leaves the atmosphere. I we're talking about the same level of investment for design costs as the Boeing 787, and that doesn't even reach low Earth orbit. The timescale is too long also. By the time this comes to a workable plan we'll need the permission of Russia, China and India to leave Earth orbit anyway and the Mars landing team will need local work permits and valid passports.
I am not an Obama basher by any means - I really do like the guy and I'm glad he's president. But on this issue he's spinning a story. Today he's taking the trouble to tell it well because when he drew a big red X on NASA's budget he discovered that manned space exploration has a constituency too. Somewhere in there I'm sure the NSA briefed him on the value of the USA space engineering team, and how if they can't pursue manned US spaceflight like they want to, they might be persuaded to help Pakistan with their cruise missile problem.
Go or don't go. Don't waste billions of taxpayer dollars pretending to try. If we're just going to pretend, give the budget to James Cameron and ask him to generate some good simulated visuals. If we're going to pretend, then let's pretend WELL. Don't pretend the next time the parties switch power - and they always do - that this long term plan won't again be devalued and scrapped in favor of "a new vision that will work this time - we promise!"
Ask Bruce Willis. Bit of cgi here, flag waving there, bob's your uncle.
Same thing with mars. They could probably get some decent footage from "Mission to Mars" or "Red Planet"
I don't know why Obama doesn't want to do the Moon again. After all, looking at hollywood sometimes, you'd think that remakes were all the rage...
Whatever it is, the thing here to have is lots of flag waving.
Which did you like more? Armageddon or Deep Impact. I'm convinced Bruce Willis saved the world and therefore owns Chuck Norris and Vin Diesel put together.
Neither U.S. nor anybody else will make a manned Mars visit, until the silly taboo against using nuclear power in space (real reactors, not weak RTG:s as on many probes) is broken.
For this reason, I'm betting on China or Russia getting there first, as their space agencies aren't as hindered by public opinion...
"1) VASIMR runs off of electromagnetics and plasma, not nukes (though it could use nuclear power to run it all, I suppose)."
I think you'll find that like various other charged particle drive systems it runs off *electricity*. It's *not* a fusion drive by a *long* stretch of the imagination. Nuclear, solar and beamed microwave could all supply the power.
"2) What you're looking for is likely NERVA, and most recently Prometheus (begun in 2003)."
Nuclear thermal (note 2 separate words in that order) of which NERVA was one design have *very* poor thrust weight ratios by rocket engine standards (c1.1 to 1. Isp in the 7-900 range. A good conventional lox/kerosene engine can get 100:1. Nuclear engines are still a way from a flight weight design, while their Isp is better (but not much more than twice) that of a LOX/LH2 engine. Ion and plasma drives hit Isp's of 2000s and above. Some are promising 20 000s.
Nuclear thermal is starting to look like a bit of a dead end. Its Isp is better than chemical systems (but not *that* much better. BTW the record for chemical Isp is about 576s, using the insanely dangerous fluorine/sodium/hydrogen tri-propellant). "Energetic materials" like monotomic hydrogen are promising energy levels in this ball park as well. The materials and maintenance problems for nuclear thermal are still formidable (The temperature ranges, -253-+2000c are the same as chemical rockets but the heating mostly takes place by conduction between the -253c H2 and the c2000c reactor coolant channels. Can you say thermal stress?)
"Neither U.S. nor anybody else will make a manned Mars visit, until the silly taboo against using nuclear power in space (real reactors, not weak RTG:s as on many probes) is broken."
Nuclear is *the* elephant in the room. It opens up a *lot* of options in terms of engines (mostly as an electricity supply rather than as a direct drive NERVA type unit) and surface support. It's not just the power levels than can provide, its the life expectancy.
Without it mission planning is tricky. solar thermal and PV might work on the moon, but what about the 2 week nights? Mars sunlight is less than 1/4 that on Earth. Martian windmills maybe?
so whose going to be the elephant man?
Executive has their secretary help write a scathing rebuke. They try to invoke a sense of national pride and generally make it seem like its a huge loss for the American people. But in reality boeing is pissed because a president isn't playing their version of ball. How long before you see "lobbyists" whispering in senator ears about how terrible this is for american goals.
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