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AIAA Space Exploration Conference Underway

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
December 5, 2006

Editor’s note: The event opened this morning with a lavish (and no doubt expensive) series of videos, a children’s choir (of volunteers), and a military colorguard.

Coverage continues below.

Shana Dale is now speaking. Talking about the development of the ESAS, international cooperation, etc. Six themes: 1. The moon is a foothold to further exploration. 2. it is a unique laboratory. 3. It is an opportunity to have sustained human presence 4. expanding Earth’s economic sphere. 5. international collaboration on the moon will enhance collective security, and 6. a vibrant exploration program will engage and inspire the public.

NASA’s architecture is an open one – which can be added to by others. 1. We see the moon as an outpost – not a brief visit. 2. We will send robotic trailblazers to find the best location for a human base 3. We are aiming for the lunar poles for a variety of reasons – including power availability and perhaps water.

She went on to talk about continuing international participation, COTS, encouraging economic participation in the VSE, and ways to free up funds to increase NASA’s exploration budget.

Using the analogy of the so called “sod busters” who settled much of the U.S. West, she turned the phrase to be “regolith busters” and spoke of how, like the sod busters, lunar settlers may well hoist regolith atop their homes. In this case to shield against radiation and meteorites.

“We will provide the initial architecture. After that the door is wide open.”

The moderator (an aerospace executive) is trying to get the audience laughing – but showing that this skill was not one listed on his resume.

Rex Geveden is now chairing a panel on NASA’s annual report. This is simply a recitation of every press release issued thus far this year.

“We need to justify (every day) that we should be entrusted with this Vision.” Geveden noted. “We keep our credibility by completing the tasks at hand.”

“We have to think in multi-decade and multigenerational terms.”

Colleen Hartman is now speaking and is going to try and explain how science fits into the VSE. Again, more press release regurgitations and some uncooperative Powerpoint.

Bill Gertsenmeier is now speaking. Talking about how ISS is about more than something that needs to be completed – but also that it is part of how the VSE will be implemented.

COTS – a way to encourage more commercial activity and less government oversight.

Replacement for TDRSS – and development of a comm system around the moon and then at Mars.

When completed, ISS will weight 390 metric tons – about the same mass as a mission to Mars.

Talked about handing off launch pads, test stands, and control rooms to ESMD.

Lisa Porter is now speaking and will explain how a shrinking aeronautics budget is a good thing.

She says that aeronautics must benefit a broad community and not just special interests – and that NASA will not perform research that would be better performed at other agencies.

She envisions that aeronautics will make important contributions to the VSE. She noted the contribution of aeronautics during the gap filler event during STS-114.

Scott Horowitz is now talking. While all of the other speakers thus far today wore business attire, Horowitz is wearing his trademark astronaut corps polo shirt (red).

He noted “Whatever we develop will eventually be handed over to SOMD to operate.”

Need to understand effect of space on humans, need to test new technologies.

Immediate goal is to get Orion flying no later than 2014 (when it would become operational). Announced yesterday that the plan is to build an outpost on the Moon and to have humans living there by 2020.

made a decision to further integrate Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles. A single J2X engine on Ares I upper stage will also be used on EDS (Earth Departure Stage). RS-68-b (new engines) will power the first stage of the Ares V.

Now that we are going to be “base centric” on the Moon we are now driven to how to get the most material on the surface to build up capability.

“Its is very important that we recover the first stage of the Ares I so we can inspect it and assure quality of performance.”

“We are 28 months from a full Ares I launch”.

Rex Geveden is now fielding questions.

Question to Colleen Hartman about putting science into exploration. “Griffin has made it clear that science is not the driver.” She said. There are many exciting things we can do – we need to stay connected to the community so that we optimize well. Science will be along for the ride.”

Question for Gerstenmeier for ISS resupply post-shuttle. “Well do our best to preposition supplies aboard ISS. We will do some procurement associated with COTS – actually purchase a service to supply ISS after 2010. ATV will fly in June/July 07 – it will be a key item post 2010. Also will see HTV coming on line.”

Question to Rex Geveden about commerce. He mentioned Red Planet Capital Fund -” that is the primary place where we are doing some of our more innovative activities”. COTS is being run out of ESMD – but the entry point for COTS is via IPP – Innovative Partnership Program.

Question to Horowitz – how do you plan to do things with cuts in technology investment. “The only way you can do this with a fixed budget is to work tightly with technology development group. We are concentrating our technologies on the things that are absolutely needed- we have a smaller but much more focused technology portfolio.”

Question to Horowitz: NASA says that it is using SRB because is it human rated – yet changes in the Ares I make it a new vehicle. Is it time to move to EELV? Horowitz jumped back emphatically: “The short answer is NO. We looked at 20,000 combinations. The prime Ares I issue is safe flight to LEO. That is the simplest rocket that has the throw capacity. You need a rocket with 50K lbs of lift – that limits you. If you look at EELV – they have that capability – but they are more complex rockets.

Question for Horowitz: use of Ares V post moon. “Yes – it has 125 metric ton launch capacity – what we need for Mars.

When will LSAM development begin? Pre-Phase A studies have already begun. We are getting started nice and early.

Question to Gerstenmeier – definition of what ISS “complete” is constantly changing. I think it is wrong to talk about station being complete- as long as it is providing a value to the research community we should use it. When it is no longer useful. I think it is inappropriate to say that there is an assembly complete configuration. Would that be a failure? I would say not necessarily so. We may learn more about assembly being stopped somewhere than would be gained by completing it.


Back from break. Horowitz is the chair.

“We need to work together as one world as we extend human presence off the Earth and away from Low Earth Orbit. We were lacking a cohesive goal until we got the VSE. We understand the task we have been asked to do.”

Horowitz is going over a laundry list of accomplishments.

Horowitz mentioned that ESMD will be taking a relook at the Mars Design Reference Missions.

Now showing a glitzy PR video showing the things needed to get back to the moon.

“We’re creating history here, folks. This is generational. This is a multigenerational endeavor – it is not about beating someone to some place. What we do here today will inspire the next generation of space explorers.”

In closing, Horowitz played a piece of exploration imagery produced under Sean O’Keefe and Craig Steidle. Here. It is really a wonderful video.

Now we are being shown the finalists for a NASA podcast contest. I wish they had done a little more advanced promotion about this (otherwise) wonderful idea.

Bill Gerstenmeier is now chairing a panel with reps from USA, Boeing, SOMD, and ESMD.

USA’s rep showed a painting of what everyone thought the shuttle would be like in the 70’s and a photo of how it actually operates today i.e. not like an airline at all. Emphasis was on better vehicle design commensurate with how it will be operated.

Horowitz says if we do not consider operability as we design these things we are gong to be stuck. We cannot afford shuttle-like operations if we are going to operate things for generations to come.

Horowitz is now going through the process where they started with a Saturn V and a Shuttle and ended up with Ares I and Ares V.

Mike Hawes from SOMD is speaking. Showing charts that speak of continual iteration of developing new systems and then handing them off to the operators such that the developers can go off and develop more things. We need a ‘healthy tension” between ESMD (developers) and (SOMD) operators. We need to bring people who know how to operate these things into the new projects.

We did a SRM firing in Utah. SOMD and ESMD both had test objectives. SOMD wanted night firing to work on cameras. The tank on this shuttle mission has slightly different metal due to changes in manufacturing.

We have two ESMD/SOMD forums at HQ – “Gerstowitz” – forums. We are providing AlLi ingots from Shuttle to ESMD development teams.

Transition is not how we go out of business. Rather, it is a transition to a new way of doing business. These new systems have to be more operable. That is the only way to do it. They need to be more affordable so that you have the budget wedge to move on.


John Obon from Boeing is now speaking – talking about what it is like to be a developer and how they support operators.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.