Artemis: October 2019 Archives

NASA shares details of lunar surface missions--and they're pretty cool

"One of the limitations on returning samples is the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts back from lunar orbit to Earth. Chavers said the Orion spacecraft does not have any designated space for a box of sample rocks taken from the lunar surface. "We just don't know what the capability will be," Chavers said of bringing rocks back to Earth inside Orion. This would seem to be an important detail to nail down."

Keith's note: There are times when I am convinced that NASA people are simply unaware that people are actually listening to what they say. The answer should have been "Of course we'll be bringing Moon rocks back. We're working on the exact mass/volume right now" - unless NASA is actually not planning to bring Moon rocks back to Earth - after spending tens of billions to go back to the Moon.

Rock Climbing Destination Seneca Rocks, West Virginia Viewed By A Climber In Space, SpaceRef

"Christina H Koch @Astro_Christina "The famous knife edge of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, from the @Space_Station. This rock formation is where I first learned traditional lead-style rock climbing and gained the confidence and teamwork skills that I continue to rely on every day."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, SpaceRef

"Bob was an astrobiologist before the word had even been coined. He was an adventurer and a jack of all trades. Among other things, he spent a lot of time diving under Antarctic ice and roaming the dry valleys of Antarctica with Chris McKay and Dale Andersen. ... Bob was an avid climber and mountaineer and we went rock climbing a bunch of times mostly in the immediate DC area. One trip in particular, to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, on a stunning day (1 September 1991 to be exact) is etched into my mind. It was such a classic rock climbing day."

From Cavewalking To Spacewalking, ESA

"It might not be obvious, but there are many similarities between working deep underground and in outer space. Just as with spacewalks, underground 'cavewalks' require safety tethering, 3D orientation, careful planning and teamwork. Cave explorers need to stay alert in an environment where they are deprived of natural light and every move is a step into the unknown. ESA's CAVES training course has been taking astronauts below Earth's surface and prepared them to work safely in an environment where the terrain, climate and climbing techniques pose high demands."

My Star Trek Episode at Everest, SpaceRef

"My job was to stay at Everest Base Camp (analogous to working aboard the space station/space shuttle - or an Apollo Command Module in lunar orbit) and relay news of Scott's climb (his EVA, if you will) while he ventured forth into the so-called "death zone" on Everest. His goal: being able to see an orbital sunrise - on Earth. Back home our mission support was provided by seasoned CNN journalist and almost-astronaut Miles O'Brien. Meanwhile another friend, astronaut John Grunsfeld (also a mountaineer) would spend several weeks in orbit fixing Hubble while Scott and I were at Everest."

Keith's note: If you look at Christina's photo you can see the ridge at Seneca Rocks that I climbed with my late friend Bob Wharton - from orbit. There's a ridge named after Bob on Mars - you can see that from orbit too. A piece of the Moon went to Everest with my friend Scott. It is now in orbit on the ISS with a piece of the summit of Everest. Christina sought out her rock climbing origins - from orbit.

The people who will visit other worlds will need skills not usually associated with astronauts. Some of the newer astronauts have them. Many of the Apollo astronauts had them. More astronauts with these skills are needed if NASA is truly going to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

For the past 30 years no American astronaut has needed any real exploration skills on ISS. They just pushed buttons and sometimes did EVAs. Exploring other worlds - in person - requires a skillset that is mostly absent at NASA.Yes, NASA did NEEMO and Desert RATS, but these things are done on a shoestring. Nothing akin to Apollo training is going on. Planning to explore other worlds in person also requires an expeditionary mindset that is also mostly absent - except for the people who drive robots from JPL. It would be wrong to repeat Apollo but it would be wise to emulate how they did it. They sent explorers to explore. Calling each new ISS crew another "expedition" has always baffled me since they just go in circles. They do not actually go anywhere.

Keith's update: By coincidence this came out onTuesday. Let me dial back my statement a bit about no one having expeditionary expertise.

NASA Administrator, Astronaut Candidate to Visit University of North Carolina

"As an undergraduate researcher - and later a master's student - in Marine Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cardman studied microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Cardman's field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho, and Hawaii. Cardman was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and reported for duty in August 2017. After completing her training, Cardman will be assigned technical duties in the NASA Astronaut Office while she awaits a flight assignment."

NASA should shed lesser priorities to achieve a 2024 moon landing, Op Ed, Doug Cooke

"NASA should focus major new development on an integrated lander/ascent vehicle launched on an SLS 1B. With Orion launched on a separate SLS, the lunar landing would be achieved with these two flights, and at most one commercial launch with additional fuel. This is a much simpler approach with a significantly higher probability of success."

Keith's note: On one hand Boeing consultant Doug Cooke wants to kill Gateway because it adds complexity and increases the number of points where a failure could derail the Moon 2024 thing. No argument there. He then goes on to push for the SLS variant that features Boeing's Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) - and requires more SLS flights. The net result is likely going to be a wash when it comes to cost. And given the SLS program's chronic inability to do anything on time or within budget, there are likely to be SLS and EUS issues that will also cause the 2024 deadline to be missed.

Or, NASA could adopt an open source, multi-path, modular approach relying on existing commercial launchers, and standard interfaces. And if you have to build SLS then use it as a cargo vehicle only. If a large effort is to be mounted on the Moon and cislunar space then propellant depots should be thrown into the mix. Relying on SLS in an architecture for sending Americans and cargo back to the Moon is, itself, the prime risk factor so long as it remains in the critical path - whether it is 2024 or 2028 that you are aiming for.

Its anyone's guess right now as to how the election will turn out. As we've all seen, when a new Administration arrives they have a strong tendency to fiddle with the previous Administration's space goals. Adopting flexibility in terms of launch vehicles and space assets is the best way to assure that something will survive a potential transition and put people on the Moon. But sticking with a program that is utterly reliant upon SLS - a program that gets more expensive and extends its target date with every passing day - is not the best way to assure that we'll be heading back to the Moon. And if this whole Moon thing is supposedly being done to get humans to Mars sooner, then the need to be more flexible and creative is underscored.

Then again Jeff and Elon may just make this whole NASA Moon/Mars thing moot.

Keith's note: This is a perfect example of so-called "soft power". This costs NASA virtually - literally - nothing. Having worked with folks in Nepal on things related to this, the mere visibility of the NASA logo and recognition by NASA is enticement enough to generate in-country resources and support. Done properly you can have a global awareness of what NASA is and does and spark interest in other nation's space efforts. And the cases where a country has no space activities, spur their development. One would hope that this becomes part of what NASA includes in its Artemis outreach activities - since the ultimate goal is to go there with other nations.

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, Earlier post

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? ... You would think that NASA would want to capitalize on such a potent branding strength. To be certain, they try. Due to Federal regulations the NASA logo cannot be used for commercial purposes or to imply any endorsement without formal approval by NASA. While this limits its use to some extent NASA is able to control its brand - something that is very important. But the one thing that you would think that NASA should be able to do i.e. use that logo in overt advertising and promotion, is banned by Federal law. Congress seems to think that NASA promotes itself too much. Yet they simultaneously chide NASA for not explaining itself better."

NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages

"For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions. "The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space," said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. "The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit."

NASA will award Boeing a cost-plus contract for up to 10 SLS rockets, Ars Technica

"If it seems remarkable that a government contractor would get a cost-plus contract to produce a rocket that it has had nearly a decade to learn how to build, and which has moved into production, and which is based on heritage technology--that's because it is. However, in their negotiations with NASA, companies like Boeing (and Lockheed Martin, which recently got a similar deal for the Orion spacecraft) know they have strong political backers. In the case of the SLS rocket, the Alabama delegation, which includes a Senator who effectively writes the agency's budget, has made it clear that funding the SLS rocket is his priority. So in this case, while NASA may not have necessarily wanted to give Boeing a cost-plus contract for SLS rockets for the next 15 years, it may have had little choice."

Keith's note: One small problem. The money for EUS (or an accelerated Artemis for that matter) is not there despite the forward leaning language that NASA , Boeing, and the Alabama delegation like to use. Just sayin' Indeed, if NASA had pushed the EUS earlier they could have avoided the whole Gateway thing. But NASA never does things logically.

- GAO Anticipates First SLS Launch Date In 2021, earlier post
- Today's Hearing on SLS, Orion, Artemis, earlier post
- NASA Admits That SLS Is A "Jobs Program". Wow. Who Knew?, earlier post
- GAO: Human Space Exploration: Persistent Delays and Cost Growth Reinforce Concerns over Management of Programs, earlier post
- More SLS postings

Chairman Serrano Statement at Hearing on NASA's Moon Landing Proposal

"Not even NASA's own leadership has enough confidence in the success and safety of advancing this timeline. NASA Acting Associate Administrator Bowersox, who is a former astronaut and here with us today, referred to the 2024 moon landing date as difficult to achieve in a House Science hearing last month, saying quote "I wouldn't bet my oldest child's birthday present or anything like that." Additionally, NASA's Manager for the Human Landing System, Lisa Watson-Morgan, was quoted in an article about the timing of the mission saying, quote: "This is a significant deviation for NASA and the government... all of this has to be done on the fast. It has to be done on the quick ... Typically, in the past, NASA is quite methodical ... which is good. We're going to have to have an abbreviated approach to getting to approval for industry standards for design and construction ... and how we're going to go off and implement this. So, this is a big paradigm shift, I would say, for the entire NASA community, too." Unquote. We cannot sacrifice quality just to be quick. We cannot sacrifice safety to be fast. And we cannot sacrifice other government programs just to please the President. Before asking for such a substantial additional investment, NASA needs to be prepared to state unequivocally which NASA missions will be delayed or even cancelled in the effort to come up with an additional $25 billion."

Budget leader says NASA's accelerated moon mission timeline unnecessary, Huston Chronicle

"And its for political reasons that the initiative could get stalled, said Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "Here we are, 14 months from (an election) and everyone is doing the classic thing we see here in Washington: It's time to start either waiting people out until after the election or now is the time to strike and get something in place before change happens," Cowing said. That's likely one of the reasons Serrano is OK with a 2028 moon mission, Cowing said, especially since NASA programs backed by the current administration are typically gutted by the incoming president after the election."

Keith's note: So when does the whole "open source" thing begin with regard to NASA's moon stuff?

NASA Invites Media to Events Highlighting Spacesuits for Moon to Mars

"Media are invited to NASA Headquarters in Washington Tuesday, Oct. 15 to get an up-close look at the next generation spacesuits the first woman and next man to explore the Moon will wear as part of the agency's Artemis program. The public event will take place at 2 p.m. EDT and feature NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who will host a demonstration with spacesuit engineers. The spacesuit demonstration will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center is issuing this sources sought synopsis as a means of conducting market research to identify parties having an interest in and the resources to support the requirement for Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services. The result of this market research will contribute to determining the method of procurement."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

"The purpose of this RFI is to inform industry of NASA's Exploration Space Suit requirements and to collect industry input on key parameters that will help develop future acquisition plans for procuring the production and evolution of space suits and supporting equipment such as EVA tools and vehicle interface hardware. This future procurement instrument will be referred to as the xEVA Production and Services Contract."

Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services

Oops. Some things are sort of secret right now.

Keith's note: I first published this two years ago. Yesterday both Jim Bridenstine and Elon Musk noted that they were not alive when humans walked on the Moon - so they do not have memories of that event. Alas, so much of how NASA has conveyed the importance of Artemis - and the way that the media describes it - seems to harken back to events that my fellow Baby Boomers and I resonate with. What is often neglected - and is therefore needed - as Bridenstine noted, is an effort to create new memories for a whole new generation for whom seeing people walking on the Moon is a novelty. Bridenstine and Musk also spoke in global terms with regard to the value and impact of seeing humans walk on another world- so I have added some global figures as well.

Keith's original 28 November 2017 note (update): There is a lot of talk these days about yet another pivot in America's civilian space policy. This time it is "back" to the Moon. Mars is not off the agenda - but it is not moving forward either. Personally I think we have unfinished business on the Moon and that creating a vibrant cis-lunar space infrastructure is the best way to enable humans to go to many places in the solar system - including Mars. Regardless of your stance on this issue, a common refrain about going back to the Moon - starting with President Obama is that "We've been there before".

Humans first reached the South Pole by an overland route in 1911/1912. While we visited the pole by plane in the intervening years, no one traversed Antarctica's surface again until 1958. 46 years between Antarctic polar traverses. Why did we go back to do something - again - in a similar way - to a place "we've been [to] before" after 46 years? Because there was still something of interest there - something we'd only had a fleeting exposure to - and we had developed new ways to traverse polar environments. James Cameron revisited the Challenger Deep in 2012 - after a human absence of 52 years. Why? See above. It is understandable that explorers seek to explore new places and not redo what has been done before. There is only so much funding and there are still so many places yet to be explored. But it is also not uncommon for explorers to revisit old, previously visited locations with new tools - and new mindsets.

Look at the stunning imagery Juno is sending back of Jupiter. Compare that to what we got from Galileo - and Voyager - and Pioneer. Why send yet another mission to the same destination unless, well, you have better tools - tools that enable the pursuit of ever greater exploration goals.

I was 15 when humans first walked on the Moon. The generations who have followed mine have never seen humans land and walk on the Moon. Indeed a lot of them seem to think it never happened. But American space policy is made by Baby Boomers (and older) population cohorts so we just operate on our own biases i.e. been there, done that.

Take a look at the chart below (Source: CIA based on UN data). More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including Administrator of NASA, the head of SpaceX, and the entire 2013 and 2017 NASA astronaut classes. If you look at the global chart (Source: CIA based on UN data) you will see that perhaps 2/3 of humanity was not alive. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years the number of people with no personal memory of humans walking on another world will increase at a rate of 15,000 an hour. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's billions of people waiting to see what I saw in 1969. Has anyone stopped to think of what the impact of this will be? We need to be thinking of this not in terms of Baby Boomer nostalgia but rather as a new adventure for billions.

Just sayin'



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This page is an archive of entries in the Artemis category from October 2019.

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