Exploration: May 2017 Archives

Trump wants NASA to send humans to Mars pronto -- by his second term 'at worst', Washington Post

"TRUMP: "Tell me: Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?"

WHITSON: "Well, I think as your bill directed, it'll be approximately in the 2030s. As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we've ever been away from this planet. "So, unfortunately space flight takes a lot of time and money so getting there will require some international cooperation to get the - it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing."

TRUMP: "Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?"

WHITSON: "We'll do our best."

Keith's note: The Humans to Mars Summit is underway this week in Washington DC. You can watch sessions live at https://livestream.com/viewnow/HumansToMars2017. The Twitter hashtag is #HumansToMars

Keith's note: Last night there was a panel at the Humans To Mars Summit about risk and exploration. The panel was moderated by Leonard David and consisted of NAI Director Penny Boston, former astronaut and SMD AA John Grunsfeld, former Google space lead Tiffany Montague, and NASA SMD's Rick Davis. At one point the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium that John and I put together back in 2004 was mentioned. The proceedings are online for free download here. I am currently writing two books - one on Astrobiology expeditions and the other as a follow-up to the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium (and another we did in 2007 at LSU).

For both of my books I have been amassing information on what risks people have taken (on expeditions in space and elsewhere) and how they have been called upon to take these risks. Specifically, I have been focusing on this question: "Would you be willing to deliberately risk your life to discover evidence of life on another world?". Along with that question I'm wondering "Will NASA astronauts bound for Mars be asked to sign waivers with regard to risk as part of overall risk evaluations and informed consent? Will they only be allowed to go if they specifically agree to accept these risks?".

At one point last night John said this:

Clearly this issue is part of the overall risk assessment that astronauts make albeit somewhat personalized and ad hoc. By coincidence John was in orbit in May 2009 taking care of Hubble while another astronaut, Scott Parazynski, did his own risk analysis as he summitted Mt. Everest. I was 2-3 linear miles away from Scott doing education and public outreach for his climb at base camp recovering from an illness that left me with some permanent damage. So ... I think about this topic a lot. As the notion of NASA sending humans to Mars starts to get serious, many more people will need to be thinking along these lines. Matt Damon got back OK in "The Martian". But that was a movie.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago when Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. space endurance record. People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regularly waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Accepting even a small increase in risk be it from radiation, weightlessness, or surface hazards on Mars can have a significant impact on mission design i.e. cost and schedule. Right now cost and schedule are the biggest risk to going to Mars in the first place.

Thoughts?

Passage To Mars

Review: Passage To Mars, SpaceRef

"Passage to Mars" is a documentary about a bunch of guys who try to drive across a large frozen stretch of the Northwest Passage. They attempt this feat (in part) as an analog for long distance traverses people will one day attempt on Mars. This film depicts important lessons that are often far more relevant for the actual human exploration of Mars than anything NASA itself is doing right now. This unprecedented adventure, planned to last a few weeks ended up becoming a three-year epic odyssey of hope, fear and survival. The goal of the expedition was to use a specially-outfitted Humvee named the "Okarian" across 2,000 miles of sea ice. Their ultimate goal: to drive to Haughton Crater on Devon Island - the location of a NASA-funded research base where scientists and engineers learn how to live on and explore Mars."

Keith's note: I was on a panel tonight with Penny Boston, Leonard David, and Pascal Lee at the Human to Mars Summit after a screening of the documentary "Passage to Mars" which features the exploits of the team responsible for the Haughton Mars Project on Devon Island. If you have not seen this film you can get it on iTunes and Amazon.

NASA: Lunar Surface Cargo Transportation Services Request for Information (RFI), NASA

"NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon. Such delivery services need to be consistent with the National Space Transportation Policy (NSTP). The NSTP requires U.S. Government primary and secondary payloads to use U.S.-manufactured launch vehicles. "Hosted payloads" that meet the hosted payload definition within the National Space Transportation Policy can fly as part of a mission using a foreign launch vehicle. As a first step, NASA is interested in assessing the availability of payload transit and delivery services from Earth to the Lunar surface as early as Fiscal Year 2018 and through the next decade. This approach offers NASA the potential to simultaneously address critical strategic objectives related to exploration, science, and technology demonstration using commercially provided domestic space services and hardware."


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