Exploration: August 2009 Archives

New Ways To The Moon

Behind Moon Travel Goal, Big Talk and Little Money, NY Times

"Forty years after it first landed men on the Moon, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has little chance of repeating that accomplishment by the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Five years after NASA was given a goal of returning to the Moon by 2020, the agency is arriving at an uncomfortable realization -- that the American human spaceflight program might not accomplish anything new anytime soon. "Unless the president is willing to step up and take a bold step like President Kennedy did, the manned spaceflight program is going to go in the ditch," said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida."

Beyond Augustine, Dennis Wingo

"The Augustine commission, in its last public meeting in Washington delivered a stunning blow to NASA in finding that the program of record, (the current architecture) was not affordable, giving the FY2010 run out of the NASA budget. At first, this was a cause for consternation for many of us, thinking that a repeat of 1993 and the retreat from exploration is on the way. However, I don't think that this has to be the case as the president seems to be supportive of exploration beyond low earth orbit, just not overly generous with the checkbook. This is ok, and maybe this dose of reality from the commission can begin a new thought process for space exploration. In fact, it may be that the Augustine commission, by being this honest about the course that we are on may finally lead to some progress in exploration."

Orion Has Other Uses

Dual Orion capsules studied for manned asteroid missions, SpaceflightNow

"A manned asteroid mission using two Orion spacecraft, docked nose-to-nose to form a 50-ton deep space vehicle, is being studied by Lockheed Martin Space Systems as an alternative to resumption of U.S. lunar landing missions. The Orion asteroid mission concept is being unveiled just as the Presidential committee reviewing U.S. human space flight is citing asteroid missions after 2020 as a less costly alternative to NASA's proposed lunar landing infrastructure."

Lockheed Martin video

Why Is Mars So Hard?

Why is human Mars exploration so surprisingly hard?, Jim Oberg, Space Review

"As space policy experts mull over alternative strategies for astronaut exploration of the solar system, possibly including human flight to Mars, the recently-concluded fortieth anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing inspire one specific question: what's taken so long? In the heady days of the Apollo triumphs, even the "pessimistic" forecasts imagined it might take as long as twenty years to get astronauts to Mars. Optimistic schedules put the first footsteps on the Red Planet--another "giant leap for mankind"--as early as 1982."

Keith's note: Sources report that the LRO team has assembled a series of polar images into a mosaic but they are refusing to release these mosaics - or the images - to interested parties - or to the public.

VSE: Just Send Money

NASA Panel Grapples With Cost of Space Plans, NY Times

"Unable to fit anything into the official budget, Dr. Ride and her colleagues tried to see how various programs would fit into an "unconstrained budget," which would be allowed to overshoot it by up to $3 billion a year, then grow with inflation. The best fit in that case was something called "Deep Space," which would involve flybys of asteroids, the Moon or Mars and other interesting places in deep space, but not necessarily landing on the Moon or Mars. Under that plan, Dr. Ride reported, there could be missions every other year in the 2020s past asteroids and Mars and even a landing on the Moon by 2029 or 2030."

NASA's Trajectory Unrealistic, Panel Says, Washington Post

"Moreover, the current strategy involves retiring the space shuttle in 2010 and replacing it with the new Ares I rocket and the Orion crew capsule, which NASA hopes would be ready to take astronauts to low Earth orbit in 2016. During the long gap in NASA's human spaceflight ability, American astronauts would have to hitch rides into space on Russian rockets. The awkward plan has been seen as a budgetary necessity, with shuttle program money flowing into the new Constellation program that features the new space hardware that could eventually put astronauts on the lunar surface. The committee has chewed over a basic paradox in the plan, which is that, even if everything went smoothly, the new rocket would not be able to get astronauts to low Earth orbit until just about the time that the space station would be fireballing its way back to Earth."

Welcome To The Recession, NASA, Free Space, Discovery Channel

"A tedious final public meeting of the board reviewing the country's human space program concluded with a sobering assessment of the future, at least for those wishing to see American flags on other bodies in the solar system. To put it bluntly: It ain't gonna happen in our lifetimes without a big boost in NASA's budget. That's not to say there's not a silver lining, a couple actually. First off, we're likely to make our international partners very happy because the only program that looks robust and viable for the foreseeable future is the International Space Station. For the most part, the Human Space Flight Review panel seems to favor extending its planned lifetime to at least 2020."

Exploration plan doesn't fit in current budget, panel says, Spaceflight Now

"A presidential panel wrapping up a review of options for future U.S. manned space flight operations delivered a grim assessment today, showing NASA's current plan to retire the shuttle, finish the space station and return to the moon by the early 2020s is not even remotely feasible without a significant restoration of previously cut funding. In the absence of a major spending increase, "our view is that it will be difficult with the current budget to do anything that's terribly inspiring in the human spaceflight area," said Norman Augustine, chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee."

NASA Budget Threatens Manned Missions, Group Says, Wall Street Journal

"Current budget constraints confronting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration make it virtually impossible to sustain manned missions to the Moon, Mars or further into space in coming decades, a blue-ribbon study group is expected to tell the White House. The findings mean the Obama administration, which created the commission, faces a stark test of its commitment to pursue expensive human space exploration efforts despite ballooning federal deficits."

Presidential panel says NASA's manned-space future is bleak, Orlando Sentinel

"We haven't found a scenario that includes exploration that's viable," said former astronaut Sally Ride, one of 10 committee members who have until Aug. 31 to present President Barack Obama with future options for NASA. Panel chairman Norm Augustine, the retired CEO of Lockheed Martin, said NASA is the victim of both budget cuts and technical problems with its Constellation program of new rockets and capsules that are supposed to return humans to the moon. "The money available has declined considerably since the program began," he said. "On the other hand, the Constellation program has proven to be more difficult than it was thought to be."

Losing Sight of the Vision

Two Views of The Vision, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"Marburger described a split between NASA and the White House during formulation of the Vision. NASA (led by former Administrator Sean O'Keefe, Chief Scientist John Grunsfeld and an internal study group within the agency) wanted a manned Mars mission (as it has for the last 50 years) while the White House (led by Marburger, his OSTP colleagues and some members of the National Security Council) called for a new direction and orientation of the space program. They favored a return to the Moon with the "mission" of radically changing the rules of spaceflight."

Playing With Moon Rocks and Duct Tape at the Dinner Table

"This evening I was prowling through pictures taken during the current Expedition aboard the International Space Station when I came across a picture of astronauts and a Moon rock. The photo was taken on 21 July 2009 and shows portions of the combined Expedition 20 and STS-127 crews gathered around the dinner table while Mike Barratt holds a Moon rock. This was hauntingly familiar.

While Scott Parazynski was at Everest Base Camp in April he spoke with Barratt twice by satellite phone - once, on his birthday before I arrived, and a second time, the day after I arrived, when a group of JSC trekkers stopped by for a visit. Unbeknownst to the JSC trekkers (or the rest of Everest Base Camp and Mike Barratt for that matter) I had a piece of plastic containing four small Apollo 11 moon rocks in my chest pocket. By coincidence, Unbeknownst to Scott and I, Mike Barratt had another Apollo 11 Moon rock (albeit a bigger one) with him on the ISS, having been delivered by STS-119 only a few days before.

It's Time to Get Serious About Our 40 Year Old Dream

"It's time to find out if humans can permanently live and work in space, according to an article written by Mark Sykes and published today in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona's morning newspaper. "This has never been a part of U.S. space policy, despite a long history of public relations implying the opposite," Sykes says. Sykes, CEO and director of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, has a poster hanging in his office that shows astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon next to an American flag. The caption reads: "Remember your dreams THEN of NOW." When that photo was taken in 1969, Americans believed they would lead the way into space and by 2009 people would be working in well-established colonies on the Moon and Mars and even in space habitats, Sykes said. Instead, after hundreds of billions of dollars spent and the loss of many lives in our human space-flight endeavors, NASA has announced plans to abandon and de-orbit its only platform in space -- the International Space Station. The orbiting platform will be scuttled in 2016, only five years after its completion."

Next Step or No Step, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"The Moon can be reached with existing launch assets; although NASA is currently bogged down in a debate about rocket development, the real issues are how you go back to the Moon and what you do there. The Moon offers the material and energy resources to develop the technology and skills necessary for sustained, long duration capability in space. ... Mars First advocates worry about getting "stuck on the Moon." In fact, it is their obsession for Mars that has kept us in low Earth orbit for the last 40 years. By relentlessly pushing for a space goal that is well out of our technical and fiscal reach, they have gotten an undesired (but not unexpected) result: stasis. There is no choice. You use the Moon or you get nothing. Right now, Mars is a bridge too far - we need the stepping-stone of our Moon to reach it."

Upcoming Debate: Returning to the Moon, Economist

"This house believes that NASA should not send humans back to the moon. This debate will happen online, and starts on August 4th 2009. You can sign up for email alerts to be notified when this debate begins."

- Defending the motion: Michael N. Gold, Director, Washington, D.C. Area Office, Bigelow Aerospace
- Against the motion: Gregg Maryniak, Director, James S. McDonnell Planetarium and VP, Energy and Aerospace, Saint Louis Science Centre

It's time for NASA to get back on track, editorial, Walt Cunningham, Houston Chronicle

"The so-called benefits of establishing an outpost on the moon are ephemeral and will be quite costly. Outposts on the moon are what I call "Mars Lite" -- going beyond earth orbit, while avoiding commitment to the next real milestone of human exploration -- Mars. Claims of mining Helium 3, prospecting for water, and rehearsing for Mars are not compelling reasons for returning to the moon. A lunar outpost diversion will cost at least $150 billion and carry with it the potential of becoming a financial swamp that could delay our exploration of Mars indefinitely."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from August 2009.

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