Exploration: May 2015 Archives

Science Drives NASA's Journey to Mars, NASA

"Repeat after me: Mars matters," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the auditorium of participants at the May 5, 2015 Humans to Mars Summit organized by the non-profit Explore Mars, Inc. "Mars matters!" everyone agreed. But why does Mars matter? "Because it's there' isn't good enough," stated Bolden. Luckily, summit presenters had a host of compelling reasons for humans to venture to Mars, ranging from political, economic, and at the forefront, scientific reasons."

Recent Space Poll: The Public is Not Always in Synch With Space Advocates, previous post

"The study also notes "Just over 4-in-10 (42%) Americans are in favor of the U.S. government spending billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids, while half (50%) oppose such an expenditure. There are no partisan differences in this opinion, although men (50%) are more supportive than women (36%) of funding this new program."

Keith's note: A rah rah speech to a pep rally of true believers is hardly the basis upon which to proclaim that going to Mars is "compelling" or that it "matters". Says who? Poll after poll show that while some of the American public is supportive not a majority of them are. Space advocates (and NASA Administrators) need to come up with real world reasons that make sense to the public to support space projects. 'Because we say so' is not going to work. Otherwise, spending billions of dollars and decades to send a couple of people to Mars when (fill in your favorite other thing to spend money on) is a more pressing and immediate concern to the public is going to win every single time.

- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, previous post
- Previous policy postings

NASA FISO Telecon: A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s

"Our Wednesday, May 20, Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon colloquium will host Mr. Hoppy Price (JPL) who will speak on "A Scenario for a Human Mission to Mars Orbit in the 2030s. As always, the colloquium will be at 3pm ET. And please note that there is a new dial-in number for the colloquium as NASA has migrated to a new service: TEL: 844 467 4685 PC: 442398"

Keith's note: If you go to NASA's Journey to Mars page there is no mention of this NASA-sponsored, openly-accessible telecon regarding a NASA study of how the agency might go to Mars. There is no mention of this telecon on NASA's calendar either - nor is there mention on NASA's Human Exploration and Operations home page, or NASA Goddard's home page (where telecon organizer Harley Thronson works), or on JPL's home page where presenter Hoppy Price works. Indeed, this NASA-funded JPL study apparently had a lot to do with the Planetary Society's recent stealth Mars workshop (note the agenda). Yet the Planetary Society is mum on this too.

Investing in Our Journey to Mars Posted on May 19, 2015 at 6:01 pm by Administrator Charles Bolden.

"This at a time when a new consensus is emerging around NASA's goal, timetable, and plan for sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016. Make no mistake: This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable."

Keith's note: "Sending American astronauts to Mars by 2016" Charlie? Really?

This is a screengrab of what the blog post originally looked like - NASA eventually changed the post to say "2030s".

Military pushes for emergency robots as skeptics worry about lethal uses, Washington Post

"Most of the [DARPA Robotics Challenge] entrants resemble humans, with two arms and two legs, and could be cast in Hollywood's next futuristic blockbuster. But there is also "CHIMP," developed by Carnegie Mellon University, a squat, long-armed machine that uses wheeled treads to get around. Another, named "RoboSimian," is a four-legged "ape-like" creature developed by NASA that, depending on how its limbs are situated, is also strikingly arachnid-like."

NASA Centennial Challenges Program: Space Robotics Challenge Request for information, NASA MSFC

"The robots involved as testbeds for the challenge would be both the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 humanoids, as examples of surface and in-space robots. ... The target platforms for this challenge are the Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 robots at NASA JSC. ... Valkyrie and Robonaut 2 platforms would be available for preparing for the final challenge. Robots would be accessible at NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA is currently seeking separate proposals for hosting Valkyrie robots around the country."

Keith's note: The next event is 5-6 June in Pomona, CA. There is no mention from NASA or JPL about Robosimian's participation in this event. JSC's Valkyrie robot is a no-show since it placed last in 2013 (they are not listed as a qualified team). Is JSC still funding Valkyrie? Is NASA HQ? The Centennial Challenges RFI seemingly speaks of Valkyrie as if it is still a viable ongoing/future program. But it is not clear who pays for it. What is JPL spending on Robosimian? Why is it not part of the Centennial Challenge effort along with Robonaut and Valkyrie? How are Valkyrie and Robosimian related to Robonaut? Does NASA actually have a coherent, focused robotics program or are various centers and directorates just doing whatever they want (because they can/lack of managerial guidance)? NASA spends all this money on these cool things, puts out a few flashy news things, and then they go silent about what they are doing. If you ask for a plan, they have none to offer and they just mumble #JourneyToMars and #YearInSpace.

If there is a strategy here, I do not see it.

Keith's update: I stand corrected NASA has posted 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps: Robotics and Autonomous Systems. I am not sure that a "roadmap" is a "strategy" or a formal "plan" - but this is NASA, so words like these are never clearly or consistently defined and are often used interchangeably. To my earlier point: if you search the document for the word "Valkyrie" you will see that this robot is not mentioned. Neither is "Robosimian". But "Robonaut" is mentioned several times. Not exactly an inclusive document that references all of what NASA is doing - and why.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JPL Rolls Out Robosimian While JSC Hides Valkyrie, earlier post

NASA Announces Journey to Mars Challenge, Seeks Public Input on Establishing Sustained Human Presence

"NASA is embarking on an ambitious journey to Mars and Tuesday announced a challenge inviting the public to write down their ideas, in detail, for developing the elements of space pioneering necessary to establish a continuous human presence on the Red Planet."

Keith's note: I was listening to WTOP radio around 11:15 am today when Scott Goldberg from ABC Radio came on as a guest. He was talking about NASA's recent call for the public to submit ideas for how to go to Mars. Goldberg wondered if there weren't enough rocket scientists already at NASA to work on this and that perhaps NASA was doing this to somehow keep the public momentum going while they battle for funds in Congress. (main points, rough paraphrase). It would seem that the PAO #JourneyToMars thing isn't fooling the news media much.

Keith's note: With regard to the Eagle Works EmDrive "warp core" research underway at JSC, NASA HQ PAO has told NASAWatch: "While conceptual research into novel propulsion methods by a team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston has created headlines, this is a small effort that has not yet shown any tangible results. NASA is not working on 'warp drive' technology. "However, the agency does fund very fundamental research as part of our advanced concepts and innovative investments that push the frontiers of science and engineering. This is part of what NASA does in exploring the unknown, and the agency is committed to and focused on the priorities and investments identified by the NASA Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan. "Through these investments, NASA will develop the capabilities necessary to send humans further into space than ever before."

- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive: Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post
- Ellen Ochoa's Warp Drive Gizmo, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- JSC's Strange Thruster Violates The Laws of Physics, earlier post

Humans to Mars Summit 2015 - Political Roundtable, Building Political Sustainability, SpaceRef Business

"While there were plenty of interesting sessions at the Humans to Mars Summit it was the political roundtable which brought home some of the key messages of the conference."

Keith's note: When I was growing up in the 1960s NASA said that they'd have humans on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. They did.
- NASA also said that they'd have humans on Mars by 1981. I would have been 26. Tick Tock.
- Now NASA says they might have humans on Mars by the mid-2030s when I will be in my mid-80s.
- NASA went from zero to humans on the Moon in less than 10 years.
- But humans on Mars takes an additional 60+ years?
- And we have not even sent humans back to the Moon?

- Charlie Bolden almost seems to be bragging these days when he proclaims "I have spent my life being '20 years away from Mars' now we're closer than that". He's just admitting how pathetic NASA has become in this regard. And he's so utterly clueless as to not even be embarrassed as he says these things.

- This has nothing to do with the White House or Congress. Rather, it has to do with NASA's ever-diminishing ability to translate its undeniably stellar, collective genius into clear-cut programs with timelines that can be met, budgets that can be (more or less) adhered to, and deliverables that can be delivered. To compound things, NASA has no idea how to explain what it does to the people who pay the bills. Pretty pictures only go so far.

These days NASA does less - with more. Not a good sign.

As the kids say #EpicFail

Report Released: The Humans to Mars Report 2015

The non-profit Explore Mars Inc. group today released its first annual Humans to Mars Report. According to Explore Mars the report "provides updates on challenges, plus progress in areas such as mission architecture design and development, scientific discoveries, policy, public perception, international cooperation and competition, and new private capabilities".

Marc's note: The report is not comprehensive but it does promise a website for ongoing updates and an annual report. We'll see what the website provides once it's launched and how it evolves before passing judgement. This isn't the first try for something like this, the Mars Society and other have tried.



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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from May 2015.

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