Exploration: September 2009 Archives

William Safire, Wall Street Journal

"In economic and foreign policy, as in fashion and music, the 1970s were largely a miserable decade. But out of that woeful time arose a generation of conservative giants in journalism and public life, among them the New York Times columnist William Safire, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 79."

In Event of Moon Disaster, WikiSource

"Presidential speech writer William Safire wrote a memo to White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman suggesting how the administration might react if Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stranded on the moon. The memo contained a draft speech intended to be read by President Richard Nixon.: "In Event of Moon Disaster"

Surface Restoration - Engineers restore high-resolution photos of the Moon, Technology Review (paid subscribers only)

"The images of the Moon's surface taken by five NASA Lunar Orbiter satellites in 1966 and 1967 are still among the most detailed ever made. The original analog data, beamed down to Earth to plan landing sites for the Apollo missions, was recorded on magentic tapes that collected dust for decades and were nearly discarded. Now a team of engineers at an abandoned McDonald's at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, CA is processing the data using restored and custom-built equipment, enabling a public that saw only snapshopts of these historic images to view them at their full resolution for the first time."

More on Moon Water

The Importance of Lunar Water, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"It has been a few days now since the public revelations concerning the results from Cassini, Deep Impact, and the Brown University Moon Mineralology Mapper (mcubed) hosted on the Indian Chandryaan lunar orbiter. There has been much discussion and debate, some of it heated, between those who think that these revelations change the arguments of lunar versus Martian exploration by humans. Those on the lunar side think that this will greatly lower the cost and increase the viability of lunar development, and those who think that the Moon is still a wasteland that should be bypassed on the road to Mars. Amusingly, in the same Science issue, an article about how much more water that there is on Mars was included and was seized upon as "proof" that Mars is a more compelling target of exploration. However, in this argument between the two camps, it seems that the most important point is being missed. If, after 40 years of off and on again remote sensing that is just now finding the magnitude and extent of the water, what else have we not found?"

Water, water everywhere..., Paul Spudis, AIr & Space

"The extreme dryness of the Moon is established scientific dogma. The study of Apollo rock and soil samples pretty much had convinced scientists that the Moon has no water. Because its surface is in a vacuum and experiences extreme temperature swings at the equator (from -150* to 100* C), the Moon was believed to have a bone dry surface. Moreover, minerals that make up the lunar rocks not only have no water, but crystallized in a very reducing, waterless environment, indicating no significant water at depth."

NASA Seeks Ideas for New Prize Challenges

"The Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington is offering an opportunity for the public to help shape the prize challenges the agency offers to America's future citizen-inventors. For the next six weeks, ideas for new Centennial Challenge prize competitions may be proposed for NASA's consideration. Creative ideas are sought from industry, colleges, universities, private organizations and the public. The ideas will be posted on the NASA Web site to stimulate additional creativity. Some selected proposals may be formulated into future prize competitions starting in 2010, pending availability of prize purse funding."

GAO Report Confirms that Funding Shortfalls Have Hurt NASA's Ability to Execute Its Constellation Program As Planned, House Science and Technology Committee

"Constellation has been underway for four years, and we have invested almost $8 billion in it to date. I am heartened that the review committee found the program to be sound and one that can be successfully implemented if given adequate resources in a timely manner. GAO's report provides a sobering indication of the negative impact that funding shortfalls can have on complex and technically difficult space flight programs like Constellation, no matter how dedicated and skillful the program's workforce is," added Gordon."

GAO Report: NASA Constellation Program Cost and Schedule Will Remain Uncertain Until a Sound Business Case Is Established

"NASA is still struggling to develop a solid business case--including firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time--needed to justify moving the Constellation program forward into the implementation phase. Gaps in the business case include

- significant technical and design challenges for the Orion and Ares I vehicles, such as limiting vibration during launch, eliminating the risk of hitting the launch tower during lift off, and reducing the mass of the Orion vehicle, represent considerable hurdles that must be overcome in order to meet safety and performance requirements; and

- a poorly phased funding plan that runs the risk of funding shortfalls in fiscal years 2009 through 2012, resulting in planned work not being completed to support schedules and milestones. This approach has limited NASA's ability to mitigate technical risks early in development and precludes the orderly ramp up of workforce and developmental activities."

GAO: NASA Faces Challenges Defining Scope and Costs of Space Shuttle Transition and Retirement, earlier post
GAO: Area I and Orion Project Risk and Key Indicators to Measure Progress, earlier post
GAO: Agency Has Taken Steps Toward Making Sound Investment Decisions for Ares I but Still Faces Challenging Knowledge Gaps, earlier post

"If God wanted man to become a space-faring species, He would have given man a Moon." - Krafft Ehricke

Go Boldly

Go Boldly: "The U.S. government is about to make critical decisions about the future of human spaceflight. Tell them how important space exploration is to you, the nation, and our future. Click Here. ....

About Us: We are a group of young professionals with a passion for space exploration. We hope you'll join us in showing your support for NASA and human spaceflight by sharing this website with your friends and family, and by contacting your elected representatives. Together, we can help ensure a strong future for NASA."

Moon Water News Stories

NASA Instruments Reveal Water Molecules on Lunar Surface

"NASA scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the moon. Instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small. Hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, also was found in the lunar soil. The findings were published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science."

New research shows water present across the moon's surface - It turns out the moon is a lot wetter than we ever thought, University of Tennessee Knoxville

"To some extent, we were fooled," said Taylor, a distinguished professor of earth and planetary sciences, who has studied the moon since the original Apollo missions. "Since the boxes leaked, we just assumed the water we found was from contamination with terrestrial air."

Brown Scientists Announce Finding of Water on the Moon

"Brown University scientists have made a major discovery: The moon has distinct signatures of water. The discovery came from a paper published in Science detailing findings from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA instrument aboard the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1. Carle Pieters, professor of geological sciences at Brown, is the principal investigator of the M3 instrument and the lead author of the Science paper."

Deep Impact Spacecraft Finds Clear Evidence of Water on Moon, University of Maryland

"Deep Impact was not designed to study the Moon, but for a famous 2005 mission in which it successfully knocked a hole in comet Tempel 1 to find out what was inside. Its data on lunar water were obtained as part of calibration opportunities that occurred during June 2009 and December 2007 flybys of the Earth and Moon needed to get adequate gravity boosts to travel on its EPOXI mission to a second comet, Hartley 2, which the spacecraft will encounter in November 2010."

NASA to Reveal New Scientific Findings About the Moon

"NASA will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss new science data from the moon collected during national and international space missions. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the briefing from the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, in Washington. For more information about NASA TV downlinks and streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv"

Keith's note: Curiously, while these missions (or instruments) are managed by SMD, no one from ESMD is on the panel of speakers. That's rather odd given the implications for supporting humans and human activities on the Moon blatantly inherent in this announcement - something Carlie Pieters saw fit to specifically mention in her paper.

Behind the scenes sources point to a slow motion tug of war between ESMD and SMD regarding the public presentation of these findings from Deep Impact (EPOXI), Cassini, and Chandrayaan-1. ESMD is very excited (with good reason) and views these findings as being enabling in nature for its interest in conducting human lunar surface operations - especially when it comes in situ resource utilization. SMD is not interested in that and instead (understandably) has an interest in the scientific aspects of this from the context of how the solar system is constructed.

What is lurking in the background, however, is a fear among the Mars crowd at NASA (led by Ed Weiler) that any discoveries of water or other things that would make the Moon out to be a more attractive place to visit (and stay) would also serve to detract from support for their focus on Mars. With Mars mission cost overruns already distorting SMD's planetary exploration budget, anything that shifts the focus away from Mars to the Moon is seen as a threat. The possibility that LCROSS may find water at the Moon's south pole has Weiler worried - while others are rejoicing at the prospect.

This is wonderful news and everyone in the space and exploration communities ought to be rejoicing. The Moon is even more useful than we previously thought - and it is only a few days away! Alas, anything that makes the Moon more interesting threatens Mars missions in the minds of the Mars crowd. This is unfortunate since they should see that anything that further enables visiting and utilizing the Moon enables Mars - and other destinations. Indeed, anyone who has built a strategy and rationale for going to Mars that is that fragile and susceptible enough to be threatened by news such as this has not built a good case to go to Mars in the first place.

Stay tuned - Machiavellian politics are at work.

WiFi On The Moon

NASA Solicitation: Microwave and Communications Systems Branch Surface Wireless Concepts

"NASA is currently developing an architecture and concept of operations for communications and tracking on the lunar surface or other small planetary bodies. Under the Constellation Program, there will be vehicles, habitats, science equipment, and EVA crewmembers on the lunar surface. There is a strong belief that long haul communications direct to Earth, or to a lunar relay satellite system, will be traditional point-to-point microwave links at S-Band or Ka-Band, and/or optical communication links. These will be implemented via "gateway nodes" on the lunar surface, such as a Ka-Band or optical transmitter on the Altair Lunar Lander. Short range communications between various entities and the gateway nodes needs to be implemented.

Using an international standard, such as something based on the IEEE 802.xx family, appears to be ideal for surface short range communications. For example, EVA crew members or science packages could be connected to Altair or a lunar rover via 802.16 or 802.11. Some systems will be fixed while others, such as EVA crew members and rovers, will be mobile. The network will need to support voice, data / telemetry, and multiple streams of standard and high definition video. The Constellation Program's communications architecture is IP based and that is expected to continue on the lunar surface."

Whatever architecture is developed should also be suitable for surface communications at other destinations in the solar system, such as on an asteroid or on a moon of Mars. With limited technology development funds, having a destination independent architecture is critical.

Desert RATS Update

Twitter: @KeithCowing I am going to attempt a live webcast of LER crew emerging at 3 pm PDT today @DESERT_RATS keep an eye on http://bit.ly/nxlvd

Desert RATS Video: Gopher's Eye View of LER Rollout

"The Lunar Electric Rover (LER) rolls out for its last day of a 14 day mission. NASA Edge and Challenger Center/OnOrbit personnel used their cameras to get a gopher's eye view of the rollout and provided color commentary afterward."

Desert RATS Video: Tour of a NASA Desert RATS Lunar Habitat Module

"Robert Howard from NASA JSC provides a tour of one of the mobile lunar habitat modules at NASA Desert RATS"

Desert RATS Video: Passing the Lunar Electric Rover on a Dusty Road in Arizona

"The Challenger Center/Green Trails Energy truck was hauling a LER cab back to Desert RATS base camp when it caught up with another LER making its way back to base camp."

NASA Desert RATS Video: Athlete Rover Wanders By Our Trailer

"The Challenger Center/Green Trails Energy Trailer is located on the road that enters Desert RATS base camp. As such we see all of what is coming and going. This afternoon, the Athlete rover wandered by, more or less on its own, stopped, and then moved on."

NASA Desert RATS Video: Following The Lunar Electric Rover

"The NASA Desert RATS Lunar Electric Rover heads out of base camp on its last traverse before the end of its 14 day mission"

NASA Desert RATS Video: Tools, tools, and more tools

"These shipping containers carry all of the tools and spare parts needed to keep the various Desert RATS rovers and robots in operation."

Photo Gallery: Day One at Desert RATS

"On 20 May 2009 astronaut Scott Parazynski became the first person to have both travelled in space and to stand atop the summit of Mt. Everest. From that vantage point he was able to view a stunning "orbital sunrise" - one not unlike what he had seen during his five space missions.

On his way up the mountain Parazynski managed to capture two GigaPan panoramas - stunningly huge images that are likely to be the highest images of their kind ever taken on the surface of the Earth.

This is a portion of the GigaPan panorama taken by Scott Parazynski at Mount Everest's Camp IV at 26,000 feet (7,924 meters) at approximately 10 am local time, May 19, 2009. The saddle between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world) is also known as theSouth Col can be seen. TheChallenger Center Everest team believes that this is the highest GigaPan image ever taken on the surface of the Earth."

Full story and images at onorbit.com

Summary Report of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee

"The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources. Space operations are among the most complex and unforgiving pursuits ever undertaken by humans. It really is rocket science. Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations. Such is the case today.

The nation is facing important decisions on the future of human spaceflight. Will we leave the close proximity of low-Earth orbit, where astronauts have circled since 1972, and explore the solar system, charting a path for the eventual expansion of human civilization into space? If so, how will we ensure that our exploration delivers the greatest benefit to the nation? Can we explore with reasonable assurances of human safety? And, can the nation marshal the resources to embark on the mission ...

... The Committee strongly believes it is time for NASA to reassume its crucial role of developing new technologies for space. Today, the alternatives available for exploration systems are severely limited because of the lack of a strategic investment in technology development in past decades. NASA now has an opportunity to develop a technology roadmap that is aligned with an exploration mission that will last for decades. If appropriately funded, a technology development program would re-engage the minds at American universities, in industry and within NASA. The investments should be designed to increase the capabilities and reduce the costs of future exploration. This will benefit human and robotic exploration, the commercial space community, and other U.S. government users."

NASA Internal Memo: Message from the NASA Administrator - Sept. 8, 2009

"In anticipation of the final report, we continue to work with OSTP and other representatives from the Executive Office of the President on our strategy to review and evaluate the options put forth by the committee. Ultimately, of course, the President will make the final decision."

NASA Invites Reporters to Observe Robotics Tests in Arizona Desert

"NASA will hold the annual Desert "RATS," or Research and Technology Studies, field test in the Arizona desert this fall, hosting a media day for journalists on Sept. 15. Desert RATS will help determine what technologies and capabilities will be needed when NASA takes future trips beyond Earth. The tests will include a simulated 14-day mission during which two crew members -- an astronaut and a geologist -- will live inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover. They will scout the test area for features of geological interest and conduct simulated moonwalks to collect samples."

Power Droids at Desert RATS, OnOrbit

"Green Trail Energy has partnered with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education to provide logistical and technical support for Education and Public Outreach (EPO) to be done at NASA's annual Desert RATS activity in Arizona this month. This activity is made possible by a Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Challenger Center. ... The GSW7000 portable power system, whose utilization is being donated to this activity by Green Trail Energy, can provide 2.4 KW of wind power and 4.4 KW of solar power. With its extendable 106 foot tower, it can also serve as a cell phone node and provide WiFi and WiMAX connectivity."

Power Droids Arrive at Desert RATS, OnOrbit

"Both the larger GSW7000 portable power system aka the "Power Droid" and a smaller Solar power/ communications trailer (the mini-Power Droid) arrived in Flagstaff today and ready for operations."

Astronauts reflect on their experiences, San Diego Union-Tribune

"We'll march on Washington, if that's what he wants us to do." Glynn Lunney, a leader in Mission Control during Apollo 13; he later oversaw the Space Shuttle program in its early years: "I like what they're doing at the moment with the Space Shuttle. But I gather there's a major review going on. There's a sense of being on hold. "We were incredibly fortunate to be personally part of the space program. The more I think about what we did in the '60s, it's hard to believe we landed on the moon. It's wonderful to reflect on. It feels good."

Museums ready to salute 'living legends', San Diego Union-Tribune

"I know we could do it, but we're not going to," said Alan Bean, an astronaut aboard Apollo 12 and the fourth man to walk on the moon. "I want to go, but I know I'm in the minority." The nation was driven in the 1960s by the desire to prove its superiority over the Soviets, Bean said. Without a similar motivation now, returning to the moon will be viewed by most Americans as too expensive. "Future generations will have to find a reason," he said. "There's just not a reason now."

Generation Mars

NASA ESMD Internal White Paper: Concept Proposal: Generation Mars

"NASA must remain the world leader in human spaceflight and lead humankind to prepare for missions to Mars. We are going to Mars because it is civilization's next major challenge. The Apollo generation had Gemini and Mercury--stepping stones that made the impossible possible. The generation born today is going to Mars; its stepping stones will be the ISS and other shorter-term destinations along the way. Some will be able to experience the journey first hand and many more will be able to experience it virtually. It is exciting, inspiring and what NASA should be doing."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO "Some of us became aware of the document today. As you might guess, a lot of people inside and outside the agency are suggesting ideas in anticipation of the Augustine Committee's final report. We consider this little more than a brainstorming exercise by its authors. NASA will do nothing to get in front of the Committee's work. Until the final report is delivered and we have had time to thoughtfully consider the options presented, it would be premature for anyone to present a path forward."

NASA Mars exploration study drafted, officials say it's not meant to influence Augustine Commission, Huntsville Times

"NASA managers have crafted a draft proposal that outlines a plan to skip going back to the moon and places the space agency on course to send astronauts to Mars."

NASA aims for a Mars landing in 30 years, Orlando Sentinel

"It is unknown who wrote the paper, although NASA officials acknowledged it came from inside the agency. The proposal was published Friday afternoon on NASAWatch.com from unknown authors inside of NASA's Exploration Mission directorate, the same NASA division that runs Constellation. Another uncertainty: whether there are competing white papers within the agency and how much power the authors wield within the agency. This could affect its chances of becoming real."

Space experts question proposed NASA Mars goal, Huntsville Times

"During public hearings, the Augustine panel has said repeatedly NASA probably will not receive a hefty budget increase, Cowing pointed out. "Supporters of space regularly have a problem translating their enthusiasm for space to the general public," he said. "The public has other issues they are concerned with. If you inelegantly explain this as just 'Give me more money,' then it will drop with a resonating thud. "NASA has to make a compelling case that anybody on the street will agree and say 'Give me some of that.'"

A Speech That I'd Like To See The Next President Deliver

"When the President announced NASA's new plans, he said that the Space Shuttle would be retired once the International Space Station would be completed. Within a short period of time, however, NASA reinterpreted that guidance and said that the shuttle will be retired on a certain date and that the resulting space station - however incomplete - would be "finished". At the same time, NASA began to speak of the space station, something it had fought to build for two decades, as something it would no longer need - and indeed, it would walk away from - just as it was capable of doing all of the things NASA had been claiming it would. Indeed, some at NASA referred to this marvel of engineering as a "mistake". ... The vision, once clear, had now become clouded. NASA also developed a bad case of attention deficit disorder. A scant 4 years after it was announced, NASA's new exploration mission was stuck in a sand bar when it should have been leaving port."

Keith's note: I first posted this in September 2008.


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

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