Exploration: May 2013 Archives

Mars is Hard

The private road to Mars, The Space Review

"Mars is hard.

That's the message that NASA and others in the space community have hammered into the public for years. It is, they argue, difficult enough to send a spacecraft to Mars, and even harder to land one there, a message clearly communicated by the "Seven Minutes of Terror" video released by NASA before the (successful) landing of the rover Curiosity last summer. Try to do the same with people--a task requiring larger spacecraft with life support systems, among other challenges--and the difficultly multiplies exponentially.

That extreme level of difficulty, and corresponding implied extreme expense, has led to the conclusion that only a government, or a coalition of governments, can send humans to Mars. It's also been a long-term goal: President George W. Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration featured human missions to Mars at an unspecified date after a 2020 return to the Moon, while President Barack Obama in 2010 called for a human mission to orbit Mars in the mid-2030s and a landing to follow presumably shortly thereafter."

"Where, Why and How?" - Concerns of the House Subcommittee on Space, Paul Spudis

"I found that there is confusion and even some anger on the Hill over President Obama's decision to abandon the Moon as the near-term goal of human spaceflight. Additionally, there is widespread puzzlement about the newly minted, asteroid retrieval concept - whether it will accomplish any scientific benefits, if it will prepare us for human missions beyond LEO, and what societal value it may or may not have. The question before the committee was how we might best move forward in space. As the discussion proceeded, it was patently clear that we desperately need a guiding vision with a strategic direction, one that constantly, incrementally and cost effectively creates and extends our space capabilities. It requires a plan with abundant milestones, intermediate in time and money, which will move humans beyond low Earth orbit."

Where Do We Go Next In Space?, Earlier post

NASA Asteroid Initiative Call for Ideas

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announces a public forum to provide a status on the agency's asteroid initiative planning and to encourage feedback and ideas from the global community and the public."

Target NEO 2 Workshop

"Explore and address the technical issues regarding the identification and characterization of a target required to support the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM).

NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG 9) Meeting

"As a consequence of new rules for NASA meeting support, the SBAG9 meeting will be held in Washington, DC, at a location TBD, on July 10-11, immediately following the Target NEO 2 Workshop."

Defending That Whole Go-to-Asteroid Thing, earlier post

NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot defends asteroid mission in Alabama visit, Huntsville Times

"NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot knows about the debate over where America should go next in space while it develops the technologies needed for a Mars landing. Should astronauts go back to the moon and build a base there, visit an asteroid, or simply go somewhere else in the space between Earth and the moon? On a visit to Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center to see Orion space capsule hardware in development, Lightfoot nodded when asked if he was familiar with the debate over destinations held during a congressional hearing Tuesday afternoon."

- Where Do We Go Next In Space?, earlier post
- NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources, earlier post

Keith's note: The Future In-Space Operations Working Group (FISOWG), overtly run by NASA civil servants, using NASA resources (their paid work time), discusses lots of interesting things. A lot of their stuff is vastly more interesting than the dumbed down drivel PAO often releases. But no one knows that FISO exists - except for an elite few who want to keep things secret - as stealth telecons. As such, the people (many of them NASA employees) who run FISO telecons seem to be clueless as to several important issues - where their websites point, who owns the intellectual content, and who is qualified to listen in on the presentations.

This is the latest presentation from the FISO telecon: "Environmental Control and Life Support Systems: Current Status and Future Development" by Robert Bagdigian & Robyn Carrasquillo NASA MSFC

According to FISO "The content of these FISOWG telecon presentations are considered the intellectual property of the person who gave that presentation." I'm sorry but NASA charts, with NASA.gov on them produced by two people openly identified as NASA employees regarding topics they are paid as civil servants to produce, is in the public domain. To state otherwise is outright deception and is contrary to agency policy. The NASA presenters do not own this material. The taxpayers who paid for it are the ones who own it.

One of the goofiest things that Dan Webster and Harley Thronson at FISO have posted is this: "Presentations, papers, visualizations, and graphics produces by the FISOWG and collaborators were archived here -- http://www.futureinspaceoperations.com/ , when Jack Frassanito ran the site for us. But he's retired as of a few months ago, and he seems to have let the site go. But do go there to help with physical attractiveness! Except it's not our advice anymore. Keith Cowing seems to like it, though ..."

I have to imagine that neither Harley Thronson or Dan Lester have never actually visited this website. Why do they point to it? If you go to http://www.futureinspaceoperations.com/ it redirects to http://futureinspaceoperations.com/ which currently has a top posting "Skin Lightening Options For Those On A Budget" So, Harley and Dan: is skin lightening a FISO topic these days? I see no FISO presentations posted at this website. Are you that lazy - that you can't fix a bad link?

Moreover they state this absurd caveat: "Note: This is NOT a public telecon. You may share this link only with qualified participants." This is just elitist nonsense - the sort of stuff written by people who do not understand who pays the bills. When NASA employees discuss their work it should be made available to anyone who is interested in listening. Everyone is a "qualified participant". Also, if this is not a "pubilc telecon" then why is all the dial-in info available on a publicly accessible website? The FISO policy regarding access to their telecons flies in the face of Open Data and transparency policies established by the White House for all agencies - including NASA.

- Future In-Space Operations (FISO): a working group and community engagement, Space Review
- Stealth Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecons, earlier post
- This Week's Stealth Future In-Space Operations Working Group Telecons, earlier post

Subcommittee Examines Next Steps for U.S. Human Space Exploration

"A human mission to Mars is not attainable without significant scientific, technological, and operational progress and preparation. One or more interim destinations have often been suggested as the logical path for developing and demonstrating those capabilities needed in advance of the more distant and risky venture of sending humans to Mars. An interim destination could also serve as an important focal point and organizing mechanism for the human exploration program, as well as providing a vision and inspiring goal for the nation's future in space. Over past Administrations and the current Administration, the goal for an interim destination has changed."

Witnesses Debate Strategic Stepping Stones to Mars
"There are several compelling reasons for using the Moon as a training ground to prepare for more complex missions. Landing on the Moon would develop technical capabilities for landing on and launching from a large celestial body, something NASA has not done for more than four decades. Establishing a semi-permanent or permanent presence on the Moon would give astronauts an opportunity to work and live in an environment radically different from Earth."

Prepared statements: Witnesses: Douglas Cooke, Steven Squyres, Paul Spudis, Louis Friedman

Prepared statements: members: Rep. Steven Palazzo,
Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnsons

Keith's note: I'll be a guest on HuffPost Live: What Would A Colony On Mars Look Like? at 2:30 pm EDT

"American astronaut Buzz Aldrin says the U.S. and NASA should focus on establishing a permanent colony on Mars by 2040. How likely is a future that include humans actually living on Mars? Should we be allocating our resources to this endeavor?"

Planetary Scientists Casting Doubt on Feasibility of Plan to Corral Asteroid, Science (paywall - sorry)

"Asteroid scientists are also a bit miffed that NASA left them out of its planning. They had heard presentations on the concept, but "we just couldn't take it seriously," [Mark] Sykes says. By early February, after realizing that NASA was indeed taking it seriously, he offered headquarters the services of its Small Bodies Assessment Group to help evaluate the idea. He got no response. NASA's Green says that "this is just the start. We will get them more involved." Although it falls outside their expertise, asteroid scientists have one more complaint about NASA's latest plan. The whole point of astronauts going to an asteroid had been to gain experience for long-duration missions far from home, such as a trip to Mars. But "if you bring the asteroid to the astronauts instead of the other way around," Harris says, "you really aren't sending humans into deep space, or for that matter cutting any new ground over ... circling the Earth in the [International Space Station]." So other missions would be needed to gain the necessary deep-space expertise."

Meet the thousands of people ready to die on Mars, Ars Technica

"By now, Mars One has proven that there are sufficient number of people who don't need to know any technical details for about the potential chance to live on Mars. Tens of thousands have plunked down cash to throw their would-be astronaut helmets into the ring without needing virtually any concrete information. But should space travel push come to reality entertainment shove, aren't applicants at least a little afraid of--how to put this delicately--either a fiery space death or a frigid Martian death?"

78,000 sign up for one-way mission to Mars

"Just two weeks into the nineteen week application period, more than seventy-eight thousand people have applied to the Mars One astronaut selection program in the hope of becoming a Mars settler in 2023. Mars One has received applications from over 120 countries. Most applications come from USA (17324), followed by China (10241), United Kingdom (3581), Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and India."

Keith's note: Looks like Mars One has eclipsed both Golden Spike and Inspiration Mars in terms of fundraising: 78,000 applications - ~$2 million in application fees.

Humans to Mars Summit (H2M)

"How can we land humans on Mars by 2030? Join us at the Humans to Mars Summit (H2M) to learn ways in which this can happen. Co-sponsored by Explore Mars and the George Washington University Space Policy Institute, H2M will be held on May 6-8, 2013 at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, DC. H2M will be a comprehensive Mars exploration conference to address the major technical, scientific, and policy related challenges that need to be overcome to send humans to Mars by 2030."


Watch H2M live at Mars.TV

Exploring a possible mission to Mars, Washington post

"The Obama administration's 2010 "National Space Policy of the United States of America" requires the NASA administrator to set "far-reaching exploration milestones," including: "By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth." So, taken literally, the policy does not call for NASA to put astronauts on the surface of the fourth rock from the sun. They'd go to Mars, take a close look from orbit, perhaps rendezvous with one of the small Martian moons, and come zooming home."

Charlie Bolden Intends To Press President Obama on Mars Mission Mandate for NASA, earlier post

"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."

Is Charlie Bolden's Shoe Pounding Moment Approaching? (Update)

"There is no mention of an Administration committment to a human mission to Mars in the NASA FY 2014 Budget. Either Charlie Bolden never pounded his shoe at the White House - or (more likely) they were not listening when he did."



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