Exploration: September 2015 Archives

Can Hollywood save NASA?, Washington Post

"NASA is having something of a moment. "The Martian" debuts this week to huge expectations: starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, the $100-million-plus film highlights not only the ingenuity and pluck of those who would go to the stars, but also the bureaucratic stumbling blocks facing our spacefarers at home."

The Martian is a great movie, but it sends the wrong message about our happy little journey to Mars, Houston Chronicle

"What I'm concerned about is the way in which a mission to Mars is portrayed in the book and film. It looks a lot like an Apollo mission to Mars, and in 2015 that's a problem. From outward appearances, almost all of the hardware is NASA hardware. All of the important decisions are made by NASA people. There isn't a whiff of commercial space in the film. Not a SpaceX, nor even a Boeing. It's all NASA. (Not that NASA isn't great. It is.)"

Keith's note: One on hand "The Martian" shows how NASA people can do almost anything when they put their minds to it. On the other hand it shows that even a future NASA is plagued by seemingly inescapable bureaucratic inertia. This strange duality was inherent in "Apollo 13" set nearly half a century ago - and seems to be what people expect will exist at NASA decades from now. Its almost as if one person at NASA can't excel at something without having someone down the hall doing something stupid. The time span between "Apollo 13" and "The Martian" is some 60 or so years. I'm not sure what to think about an agency that still can't find a better way to do things after 60 years. Its as if no one can imagine a future NASA different than the NASA of today - or yesterday.

40-50-60 years and NASA can't fix itself? I am not sure it will be around when this movie is supposed to happen. Is this any way to explore the solar system? No ... after 19.5 years of ranting online about this, I still don't have an answer.

Do any of you?

Keith's note: The result of the closed door Humans Orbiting Mars report has been released. According to this report missions to Mars only orbit the planet by 2033. Crews would control robots on the surface. If there's enough money then the report suggests a landing in 2039 but they'd only stay on the surface for 24 days. Long duration missions on the surface of Mars would not start until 2043 a decade after NASA's current (but unfunded) plans. All of the missions in this report require hardware that has not been designed or budgeted for (just like NASA). NASA will be required to walk away from ISS in 2024 so as to free up money for Mars - and the report assumes that human spaceflight budgets will be flat with growth for inflation for several decades. This plan puts humans on Mars a quarter of a century away.

NASA is already challenged to mount a program that takes 20 years - Planetary Society wants to stretch that even further - indeed, in their plan serious surface expeditions would have to wait nearly 30 years. Of course there's always the magic unicorn of foreign partners, commercial donations, or other sources of money (not spelled out) which might pop up and make things happen earlier - or maybe not. Oh yes: this plan makes no mention of the two year slip in launching the first crewed Orion mission which should push everything to the right by a year or two.

In summary the Planetary Society has taken NASA's various plans, thrown them up in the air, rearranged the pieces and tried to do things on the cheap. The net result is an unrealistic delay in getting humans to the surface based on hardware that is not even budgeted for by NASA. I am trying to picture how Congress is going to fund a program for 20 years that almost puts humans on Mars.

Yesterday the Planetary Society posted an article on the Mars water news which included this gem: "This is one of many reasons I'm glad that The Planetary Society is advocating an orbit-first approach to human exploration. If we keep our filthy meatbag bodies in space and tele-operate sterile robots on the surface, we'll avoid irreversible contamination of Mars -- and obfuscation of the answer to the question of whether we're alone in the solar system -- for a little while longer. Maybe just long enough for robots to taste Martian water or discover Martian life."

It is quite obvious that the Planetary Society would be quite happy if it took longer to put humans on Mars than NASA and others would like it to take since "Filthy meatbag bodies" don't belong on Mars - if at all possible.

Destination Phobos: 'Humans Orbiting Mars' report goes public, Geekwire

"Critics, including NASA Watch's Keith Cowing, say the Planetary Society's "orbit-first" blueprint is too timid and relies on hardware that NASA has not yet budgeted for. "I am trying to picture how Congress is going to fund a program for 20 years that almost puts humans on Mars," Cowing wrote on Tuesday. [Planetary Society's Casey] Dreier, however, was doubtful that a more accelerated schedule would draw enough political support. "It'd be great if we could do it in 10 years," he said. "But that will take a lot of money over not a lot of years, and I don't see any pathway to making that happen."

- Planetary Society Does Not Want Humans on Mars, earlier post
- Not Everyone Wants To Be The Martian, earlier post

Mars Needs Money

Toronto Film Review:'The Martian', Variety

"But instead of trying to scare people off space travel, Scott and company recombine these elements in hopes of inspiring a generation for whom the moon landing and shuttle missions are now ancient history, practically nostalgia, while the American space program sits mothballed. While not propaganda per se, the film seeks to galvanize (rather than terrorize) those who might shape the future."

The Martian Review, ComingSoon.net

"Ridley Scott's return to space may defy credibility at times, but it's a joyous and triumphant tribute to science and the space program that's consistently entertaining, which should allow it to be a substantial crowdpleaser."

Ridley Scott's The Martian Is Sublime, Sophisticated Entertainment

"If you are worried about heading to space again with Ridley Scott after the grim, muddled Prometheus, fear not. His new space yarn, The Martian, based on the science-heavy novel by Andy Weir, is a pure delight, a tense survival tale leavened by an abundance of geeky wit and an array of fine actors at their snappy best. It's the first Ridley Scott picture in a long time that feels energized by its scope and ambition rather than buried under it."

Keith's note: Positive reviews. Lots of cross-over promotion videos and advertisements too. And NASA is engaged. Should be a great movie. But ... there are still no comments from Explore Mars (or any other space advocacy organizations) as to how the movie is going to increase NASA's budget. Of course, the space advocacy groups will all argue as to how such imaginary money should be spent since none of them agree with NASA or each other as to how humans should travel to Mars and what they should do there. Maybe the movie will inspire a new generation of space advocates that will actually do the things needed to go to Mars instead of just talking about doing them decade after decade after decade.

Space Advocates Think A Movie Will Send Humans to Mars. If Only., earlier post

Mars, national infrastructure, and dispelling myths, OP Ed, Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, The Hill

"In addition to inflated perceptions of cost, some believe that when budgets for space missions are proposed, this constitutes entirely new spending (on top of the current NASA budget projections). In reality, the majority of mission budgets come from funds already projected within the NASA budget - it's mostly a decision of how we decide to use these NASA funds. This fall presents an ideal opportunity to engage the candidates. Mars exploration will be a hot topic as a result of the upcoming film adaption of Andrew Weir's novel, The Martian, that will arrive in theaters and generate a lot of discussion on the real prospects of human missions to Mars. Later in October, NASA will be presenting a workshop to select ten potential landing sites for human missions to Mars. The workshop is an important milestone for advocates of human exploration of Mars and will help connect the science fiction film, The Martian, with a very real potential future."

Keith's note: Yawn, these space advocates still hope that a Hollywood movie will shift the political calculus when it comes to sending humans to Mars. I most fervently wish them good luck in this regard. I'd love to see it happen. Alas, over the course of the past half century of space exploration and space movies this has yet to happen.

They also repeat the perennial space advocate complaint that "the general public and many policymakers have a vastly inflated perspective of the cost of human space exploration." OK Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, can you tell us what your Humans to Mars Mission would cost - total amount and yearly run out? Can you also summarize the processes whereby the taxpaying public can be assured that cost overruns ala SLS, ISS, Shuttle, Mars Curiosity, will not occur? Oh yes - please show me where I can find details of the NASA budget increases that resulted from the blockbusters "Gravity" and "Interstellar". You can post your details in the comments section. Sometimes the problem with the cost of sending humans to Mars is not a large scary number rather its that no one comes up with the same large scary number - nor the source of the money required for *any* humans to Mars scenario.

Space advocates never explain why the remaining 99.99999% of the people who will pay for the humans to Mars thing should want to do so - especially when there are things that people see as being more relevant/important to themselves and their families. As Alan Ladwig recently noted NSF NIH gets budget increases - more than NASA - but no one makes movies about them.

- Space Movies Do Not Drive Space Policy, earlier post
- Space Advocacy By Space Advocates Is A Failure, earlier post
- Why Worry About Public Support For NASA If It Really Doesn't Matter?, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit: So Far, Nothing But Crickets, earlier post
- Hollow Promises From Stealthy Inept Space Advocacy Organizations, earlier post
- Humans to Mars Summit: Wayne Hale Tells it Like it is, earlier post



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

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