This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.
Exploration

Everyone Is Going Back To The Moon. But Mars? Not So Much.

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
October 3, 2018
Filed under
Everyone Is Going Back To The Moon. But Mars? Not So Much.

Lockheed Martin Reveals New Human Lunar Lander Concept, Lockheed Martin
“Today, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany, Lockheed Martin experts revealed the company’s crewed lunar lander concept and showed how the reusable lander aligns with NASA’s lunar Gateway and future Mars missions.”
“Let’s go to the Moon” is key focus at IAC 2018, Blue Origin
“Moving heavy industry from Earth into space is at the core of Blue Origin’s mission. The future will be better for our children – and our children’s children – if we use space to benefit life on Earth and enable millions of people to live and work in space. The next logical step in this path is a return to the Moon. To do this we need reusable access to the lunar surface and its resources. We’re in the conceptual design phase of a large lunar lander that will provide that access called Blue Moon.”
Russia and China Want to Build a Base on the Moon Together, Newsweek
“Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corp. and the former deputy defense minister, said that the Russian and Chinese space programs were considering working jointly to establish a lunar station. As Russia prepares to meet its 2021 deadline for the country’s first unmanned lunar mission, a growing relationship with China has presented new opportunities as Moscow’s ties to the U.S. continue to worsen.”
Agreement with Israel Space Agency for Commercial Lunar Cooperation, NASA
“NASA has signed an agreement with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) to cooperatively utilize the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s commercial lunar mission, expected to land on the Moon in 2019.”
Moon Express Signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Space Agency
“Under the agreement, the CSA and Moon Express will explore the possibilities of using Moon Express lunar orbiter and lander systems for potential CSA payloads and will promote possibilities for collaboration between Moon Express and the Canadian space industry and academia.”
NASA Administrator Highlights ‘Moon to Mars’ Events Across Agency Oct. 24, NASA
“During these events, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will speak at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at noon EDT, spotlighting NASA’s new Moon to Mars approach for human space exploration. He’ll discuss the agency’s plans to lead a sustainable return to the Moon, which includes the integration of U.S. companies and international partners, with the aim to use the Moon as a proving ground for the ultimate goal – sending astronauts to Mars.”

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

72 responses to “Everyone Is Going Back To The Moon. But Mars? Not So Much.”

  1. Vladislaw says:
    0
    0

    “By operating from the Gateway, the lander can access virtually any part of the lunar surface. “The nice thing about having an on-orbit refuelable system that doesn’t require in situ resource utilization on the surface initially is that you can do sortie missions sustainably,” said Lockheed Martin’s Rob Chambers.”

    https://spacenews.com/lockh

    • fcrary says:
      0
      0

      Another joy from the LMA white paper is, “only LOX/LH2 provides the performance required for a single stage lunar lander
      operating from the Gateway orbit, where the round trip
      ∆V is in excess of 5000 m/s.” While true, for a round trip without in situ refueling on the surface, that does make me wonder how ideal the Gateway orbit is for supporting lunar landings. Other possibilities aren’t a whole lot better (maybe 4 km/s while still being high enough for a stable orbit), but a 20% hit on delta v is a big deal.

      The white paper also describes a very large vehicle, 22 tonnes dry and 62 tonnes wet. In comparison, the Apollo Lunar Modules (the larger J series) were 4.9 tonnes dry and 16.4 tonnes wet. I think I agree with argument that hydrogen and oxygen is the only option which allows “easy” in situ refueling on the lunar surface. But it might be a better idea to do this in stages. A smaller, less capable lander, to establish in situ fuel production, followed by a larger, more capable lander which did not need enough fuel for a round trip.

      • Terry Stetler says:
        0
        0

        Or….. go fuel-rich and land more than 4 ugly bags of mostly water + 1 ton of MRE’s.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.c

      • Daniel Woodard says:
        0
        0

        Or do the fuel production wih a robotic lander using storable propellants or LOX/Methane, which are much easier to keep in a liquid state than LH2. But what is the program cost? Who is the customer? How will this be sustainable economically? If the lander is going to produce LH2, what equipment will be needed?

      • Christopher James Huff says:
        0
        0

        The oxygen substantially outmasses the fuel it’s burned with, whether you’re using LH2, LCH4, or RP-1. If the craft lands carrying its launch fuel and only loads up with the needed oxygen on the surface (being something you don’t even need ice to get), it can get much of the benefit of a full propellant refueling.

        • fcrary says:
          0
          0

          I also had an idea about shipping polypropylene. It’s one of the most hydrogen-rich substances around (after hydrogen itself), easily storable, and it’s quite useful in certain sorts of radiation shielding for that reason (mixing high and low Z materials.) What about using it as radiation shielding on the trip out and then using it as stock to supply hydrogen at the destination? That does, I think, work better for Mars than the Moon, and for one-way colonization than two-way trips, but there might be some benefits to the idea.

          • Christopher James Huff says:
            0
            0

            The locations being looked at for landing on Mars have plentiful supplies of ice. There’s no need to haul more than a token amount of hydrogen to Mars, it’d be far more effective to devote the same mass to equipment for collecting it.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            “The locations being looked at for landing on Mars have plentiful supplies of ice.”

            By whom? NASA? SpaceX? The Mars Society? The old Case for Mars conferences and the Mars Underground? Some random people with no funding?

            Have those people considered the disadvantages of landing at high latitudes? That’s the only place where we really know near-surface ice is available. You are writing as if there were a real, solid plan to go to Mars, which is already in a fairly mature state of development. That isn’t the case.

  2. George Purcell says:
    0
    0

    I love how things are based on “Orion heritage”!

    • fcrary says:
      0
      0

      Yea, but you’d be surprised how often people claim future heritage. We can’t do it now, but we’re figuring it out for this other project, and by the time we need it for this project, it will have flight-proven heritage. Actually, almost all claims of heritage are dubious in one way or another.

  3. ThomasLMatula says:
    0
    0

    Looks like even the Moons of Mars are in fashion.

    http://global.jaxa.jp/press

    Joint Statement with Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and
    German Aerospace Center (DLR) regarding Martian Moons eXploration

    • Matthew Black says:
      0
      0

      Phobos and Deimos would be worthy goals to do after the Gateway; if that ever actually gets built.

      • ThomasLMatula says:
        0
        0

        Yes, a base on one of them would be the ideal location to direct and guide the exploration of Mars. It would allow operators to control robots on the surface in near-real time with VR technology to prepare the way for human explorers. Once humans are on the surface they would provide the support needed for exploration and research.

        • Christopher James Huff says:
          0
          0

          That’s completely backwards. They’re effectively small asteroids, microgravity rubble piles. We have no experience at all with such environments, and the radiation and debris hazards would be much worse than those on the surface. On top of that, they’re harder to reach.

          Craft capable of aerobraking can reach the surface of Mars more easily than they could reach the moons. Once there, they have probably the easiest ISRU processes in the solar system apart from Earth for producing propellant that can be used for return or for trips to the moons for developing techniques for dealing with asteroids.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            “Craft capable of aerobraking can reach the surface of Mars more easily than they could reach the moons.”

            Actually, the moons of Mars are easier to get to than the surface. First, you mean aerocapture, not aerobraking. Aerocapture means going all the way from a solar orbit to a Mars orbit in one pass. Aerobraking is about using many passes, after getting into orbit, to reduce the altitude and eccentricity of the orbit.

            Aerocapture to a minimum capture orbit is less technically demanding than going directly to the surface. Once in a minimum capture orbit, aerobraking can get you to a good approach orbit to the moons, with near zero propellent consumption.

            I also think you are understating the possibilities of in situ resources on Phobos and Deimos. Water, even in the form of hydrated minerals, may be relatively easy to get, and that hydrogen is critical. For oxygen and carbon, or even nitrogen and argon, the atmosphere of Mars provides an easier source. But once you have to start digging and processing of solid, raw materials, the difference between Mars and its moons isn’t obviously different.

          • Christopher James Huff says:
            0
            0

            Microgravity is a pretty damn obvious difference, and you’ll have to dig and handle far more material to get the same amount of water from hydrated minerals. We can work on Mars much like we can on Earth, Phobos and Deimos would require completely new equipment and techniques. Combined with the surface of Mars being easier to access and far more hospitable, it makes sense to use Mars as the base of operations for trips to the moons.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            As I said, the surface of Mars is not more accessible than Phobos or Deimos. If you disagree, please refute that statement rather than repeating your claim to the contrary.

            For water on the surface of Mars, unless you are at high latitudes, it looks like you’re limited to extraction from the atmosphere. On the one hand, I like the use gaseous in situ resources. Maybe I’m lazy, but running a pump and compressor strikes me as easier than digging. But the water abundance in the martian atmosphere is low, and getting water that way would be painfully inefficient and production rates would be low. After that, you’re back to digging.

            When it comes to digging, doing it in microgravity is definitely different from doing so on a planetary surface. But different and harder aren’t the same.

            To be honest, the real drawback with Phobos and Deimos is that they aren’t much in the way of a destination. I can see someone wanting to climb the Olympus escarpment, or settle in Hellas, but the moons of Mars are basically just big rocks. Those moons just make, in my opinion, a good place to fuel up and change planes (well, spacecraft) on the way to a more interesting destination. I could say the same of many cities on Earth, but that would offend the people who live there.

          • Christopher James Huff says:
            0
            0

            The surface of Mars is accessible with 600-800 m/s of landing delta-v, as shown by the various Red Dragon studies. SpaceX showed a landing trajectory for the 2017 BFS that used a bit less than 1 km/s for landing. You’re not doing aerocapture, circularizing, and performing rendezvous with one of the moons for less, and that’s aside from the difficulty of producing propellant on the moons, which apart from being microgravity rubble piles, have shown no evidence of containing volatiles.

            Water ice on Mars is not limited to high latitudes, it is present down to the equator, and there’s a lot of it in temperate latitudes. SpaceX is looking at Arcadia Planitia, at 47 deg N, where SHARAD has spotted subsurface ice sheets tens of meters thick under a shallow covering of regolith. Deuteronilus Mensae, Phlegra Montes and Utopia Planitia are also of interest, but less likely to have suitable terrain for landing…but perhaps a good location could be found, or they could be reached and a landing site prepared. They’re all in temperate latitudes.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            Getting to Phobos would require more like 1800 m/s, but those landing numbers you quote also assume a huge delta-v from direct atmospheric entry. That’s actually more demanding than aerocapture to orbit and gradual aerobraking. Sufficiently more demanding that I think going to Phobos would be easier. Now that I think about it, aerocapture and electric propulsion would get you to Phobos for under 2.1 km/s, and with the higher specific impulse that would be much easier.

            In terms of water on Mars, SHARAD has not found low latitude, near-surface ice. Nor has MARSIS. They have observed a near, but sub-, surface layer which reflects radar. The idea that this is due to ice (permafrost) is a theory and an interpretation. People do terrestrial, space-based resource prospecting all the time. This sort of data tells them where to send a field party. They don’t buy the land/mineral rights and start investing in facilities and hardware until they have actual proof of the deposits.

        • fcrary says:
          0
          0

          All good reasons, but I find the possibility of water on Phobos or Deimos very intriguing. If present (which seems likely, although not necessarily in easily extractable forms), you’ve got an orbital refueling station with an almost unlimited bottomless tank. Add a transshipping facility, perhaps between ships to Mars using electric propulsion and atmospheric entry and landing boats, and there are some attractive prospects on the moons of Mars.

  4. Saturn1300 says:
    0
    0

    I think it is ridiculous for some country in the world not to do the Inspiration Mars mission. Use old astronauts. I have read that all men may have prostrate cancer. The new radiation amounts that has just came out may change the IM figures, but if they can do the work needed, that is good enough. I had medical radiation for colon cancer in 2001. They said I might get sick. I did not. I did through up with chemo. That is a long time ago and I am still here and in good shape. The radiation may have kept me from getting prostrate cancer. Bob Cabana wants to go into space again. I would not be surprised if he would not like to represent the Human race on a Mars flyby. I see a lot of people dying in there 70s, so why not? A lot more interesting than cis-lunar space in 10 years. When IM can be done in 2 years. But as a Senator told NASA: You never listen to anyone. (Markey?)
    The Allies of WW2 could have used a SRB to launch a Spy-Weather sat in the 1920,30’s to maybe stop the war from starting or at least have the Pearl Harbor battle be at sea. They owe us one. They saved the world, but they may have been able to do a lot more. Spotting hurricanes would have been nice also.

    • Zed_WEASEL says:
      0
      0

      All you need is one old astronaut or cosmonaut making a request with the CTO of a certain company in Hawthorne that they want to carry out Dennis Tito’s idea of a free return flyby of Mars before the Mars Colonial flotilla lite off around 2024. Someone should test ride the Mars Spacediver first.

      • Saturn1300 says:
        0
        0

        I don’t think so. Someone has to pay for it. Musk could have sent Space Man on this mission. Maybe there is a good reason he did not do so. I have not read why he did not . I keep trying to get someone to do it, but no luck so far.

        • Zed_WEASEL says:
          0
          0

          No one have to pay for this flight. They should do at least one test flyby flight to Mars before planting on Mars. It is a matter if there is a few volunteer spacediver caretakers aboard or not. The problem will likely be too many volunteers.

        • Michael Spencer says:
          0
          0

          I can think of a very good reason: nobody wants dead astronauts. what we want is a safe way to Mars. With MTV, of course.

          And while it is true that Mr. Musk has stated over and over that some are likely to die, it is a PR disaster.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            Somehow, someone has to solve this problem. Fatal accidents could very well be a PR disaster. But that isn’t inevitable. Fatal accidents in rock climbing and any sort of “adventure tourism” prove this. Just today, the BBC reported a man died while working on a fishing trawler, when they pulled up a sea snake by accident and he was bitten. The world is full of occupational and recreational fatalities. We rarely abandon professions or hobbies as a result.

            When it comes to interplanetary travel, yes, it is dangerous. Yes, there will be fatal accidents. And, yes, even if we keep the harm from low gravity, or free fall, and radiation to a minimum, they aren’t going to be good for people’s long-term health. But, somehow, we need to get the message across that this does not make spaceflight special. Otherwise, a major PR disaster is inevitable.

          • Saturn1300 says:
            0
            0

            A lot of people die on Star Trek. They just throw them overboard. Need 2 or 3 crew so that they could push the body out the hatch. They might be able to do like the Klingons and tie the body on the outside and bring it home. Artificial gravity would make it harder. So some fuel would have to be used to stop the rotation. A woman could come over from their capsule to help. Of course men and women in separate capsules so there would not be any hanky panky. Just pull on the tether.

    • Tim Sassoon says:
      0
      0

      I think it’s ridiculous and dangerous to send humans at all, with so little knowledge of a likely Mars biosphere. We could be introducing fungi to a world with just bacteria, and as we did in 1492, return later to a very different world than the one we first encountered. IMHO orbital real time telepresence robotics would be cheaper, faster, and more effective. Don’t send things down the gravity well that you want to get back up!

      • Michael Spencer says:
        0
        0

        True but at least we got pineapples out of the deal.

        • fcrary says:
          0
          0

          Pineapples? A friend of mine often asks people what Italian food was like before 1492. No tomatoes, no potatoes, no…

          Seriously, I sometimes wonder how much this concern over biological contamination is natural. Species do migrate from one place to another, and often to the detriment of the species at that other place. That’s completely natural, and actually it’s probably important for a healthy biosphere. Why does human involvement in the transport process make that unnatural? We would certainly may want to avoid it for scientific reasons (to study the preexisting species) or for practical reasons (we don’t need to import pests which will eat our crops, let’s say ants.) But raising this to a moral or ethical level, rather than a practical one, may not make sense. After all, an ice age isn’t immoral or unethical when if creates a land bridge from Asia to Australia.

  5. Michael Spencer says:
    0
    0

    It’s like the whole space world doesn’t want to see the man behind the curtain.

    They go ahead, all of them, developing new and very pricey throwaway rockets while ignoring a very clear future where boosters are reusable. It’s the definition of ‘inertia’.

    And similarly, Old Think ignores a very simple concept: eschew the lander idea by building an actual “rocket ship” capable of landing, refueling, and then taking off; one that can deliver very large and already formed habitats, or whatever is needed. And is actually comfortable and amenitized.

    Meanwhile, all the other kids are back in Kansas, playing with Legos.

    • rb1957 says:
      0
      0

      you mean like Falcon does ?

      I’d thought this was at least one reason for landing rockets.

    • fcrary says:
      0
      0

      If you can manage it direct landing may be a good idea. But BFR isn’t far enough along for me to be convinced. In any case, BFR can not refuel using lunar resources. The engines burn methane, and that means carbon. Based on the available data, that’s only present in lunar regolith in trace quantities.

      And, even though I’m inclined towards an orbital station and a specialized landing vehicle, the LMA concept isn’t it. The whole point of a specialized lander is to _not_ take unnecessary mass up and down, back and forth. I haven’t checked the optimal trajectories from Gateway, but the drop time is between 1.5 and 85 hours from there to the surface (given the very eccentric orbit, and departing at periapsis or apoapsis.) You don’t need crew accommodations for 14 days for that trip. Crowing them in to the extent of an economy seat on a modern airline (1.5 hours) or something like an Apollo capsule (85 hours) would be fine.

      The habitat and supplies for a two week stay on the Moon could be dropped separately on a one-way trip. Yes, you’d need a different one per site, but if the plan is to eventually use propellent produced in situ, you’re going to be tied to the site with the water/hydrogen/oxygen plant. Or you could leave the habitat on its landing stage, refuel, and take it on a ballistic hop to different places. Even hopping back and forth to a fixed source of in situ propellent would be more efficient than flying it all the way back to the Gateway orbit every time.

      • Michael Spencer says:
        0
        0

        “BFR isn’t far enough along for me to be convinced. In any case, BFR can not refuel using lunar resources”

        BFR is a lot further along than SLS – ok, party that’s based on track records.

        But as I’ve said elsewhere, refueling in situ is a pipe dream. The tech just isn’t there. And as long as you are using Terran fuel, why not use methane, and gain the benefits of BFR?

        • fcrary says:
          0
          0

          Actually, I honestly don’t think we know which is closer to launch, BFR or SLS. SLS has a poor track record, when it comes to budget and the pace of progress. You are right about that. But we also get to hear about more of their problems. Things like the paraffin a subcontractor left in the plumbing make the news when it comes to SLS. SpaceX, as a private company, doesn’t offer the same visibility. They could have equally significant problems, and we’d never know.

          • Michael Spencer says:
            0
            0

            Comparing BFR and SLS is like comparing a VW Bug and a Greyhound Bus. More properly compare the booster stage of each, ad what’s left over?

            The capabilities are dramatically different. SLS can expendably push things around. BFR brings them to the doorstep, refuels, and takes off. Comfortably.

            No tin cans.

          • Daniel Woodard says:
            0
            0

            BFR is a good design, but the real question is. as always, who are the customers and what are they willing to pay? For launch from the lunar surface an electromagnetic accelerator pointed toward L5 might be attractive.

          • ThomasLMatula says:
            0
            0

            First consider all of the existing firms with satellites that need rides that will gladly pay less for using the BFR.

            Then you have Elon Musk’s Starlink as a customer for it.

            Then the new users, like the DearMoon mission, that will emerge when the ability to fly is available.

            And let’s not forget all the nations that are not able to afford a space program, who, for a few million, could send their nationals around the Moon and gain bragging rights over nations like Russia and China (Maybe NASA?) who are no where close to having that capability with their own rockets. And probably won’t buy rides on BFS because of their egos.

            And then there are the missions to recover and return the ISS to Earth. Or to reassemble it in a better orbit.

            And then let’s not forget the possibility of using it to clean up space by tracking down and returning the hundreds, (thousands?) of old satellites to Earth.

            Really, if it makes its performances goal of $10 million a flight there are many marketing opportunities for it.

            Or to put it another way… “Mr. Ford, everyone has a horse and buggy, so who will buy your Model T automobile?”

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            You’re putting it a little harshly when you talk about countries wanting bragging rights by sending astronauts around the Moon (or where ever.) Doing first rate scientific research, of almost any sort, can be good for a country’s economy. The direct benefits have been discussed. But it’s also a matter of having foreign students enrolling in your universities (instead of your own nationals going overseas for college), attracting high tech industry and investments, etc.

            Relative to current launch costs, or the cost of a country developing their own launch vehicles, scientists are cheap. So are space-based instruments, if you aren’t desperately trying to maximize capability and minimize mass. If SpaceX can get payload up on the cheap, they would be a very cost-effective solution.

  6. Tom Mazowiesky says:
    0
    0

    I read through the LockMart description and was surprised about the use of LH2/LO2 as the propellant mix. If this is the only ride back home, I’d rather have a hypergolic fuel/oxidizer mix. When I push the button, the engines really have to light.

    Maybe using a separate ship that lands the equipment and a smaller ‘moon shuttle’ to land and launch the softies would be more reliable and better able to land heavy loads. The LH2/LO2 fuel mix could be used for the equipment carrier (delivery van) and the hypergolics for the smaller shuttle vehicle.

    • Christopher James Huff says:
      0
      0

      It’s got 4 engines, and may not need all of them to launch. And if they’re not stupid, there will be more than one lander.

      Smaller isn’t inherently safer. A single well-tested big lander has more mass to devote to safety and redundancy, and more payload for equipment and supplies in case something does go wrong.

      • fcrary says:
        0
        0

        Only having one lander might be stupid, but the paper did make a big deal about operating out of the Gateway station. Does the current Gateway design have what it takes to host more than one lander? That implies fuel tankage, storage space and docking ports. Actually, does the current Gateway design have what it takes to host _one_ lander?

        • Christopher James Huff says:
          0
          0

          It doesn’t, they talk about using a separate station to perform those tasks.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            Which is ironic, considering all the text they devote to saying Gateway is critical… My nasty, cynical nature is starting to see this less as engineering and more as LMA positioning itself as a player and scoring some points by complementing the funding agency’s plans.

          • Christopher James Huff says:
            0
            0

            Yeah, Gateway is not only not critical, it could be trivially replaced by doing cargo and personnel transfer at the refueling station, which could be placed in a closer lunar orbit optimized for the ground sites being visited, getting more out of the propellant delivered to it and taking better advantage of lunar propellant.

          • Daniel Woodard says:
            0
            0

            Or building a station at L5 and using an electromagnetic accelerator to getthere from the moon, or developing a reusable shuttle that would operate directly between a LEO station and the lunar surface, if lifting the fuel from Earth can become less expensive with the BFR.

    • Zed_WEASEL says:
      0
      0

      The LM Moon lander is basically a precursor for their Mars lander along with a Orion capsule as crew habitat stuck on top. It is a LEGO space vehicle concept.

    • fcrary says:
      0
      0

      The paper mentions using the RL-10 (well, four RL-10s), although they also say there are other options. The RL-10 has a good reputation for reliability. As an upper stage, it does have to work or you have a launch failure, not a launch delay. It’s also restartable, which it had better be for this application. My problem, assuming I did the math right and can trust specs. from Wikipedia, is that they would only be good for four trips by this lunar lander. I get about a 500 second burn time (round trip) and it looks like the RL-10 hasn’t demonstrated a lifetime over 700 to 2000 seconds (depending on the version.)

      As far as splitting hardware and people, and using a smaller vehicle for the people, I agree, but for different reasons. I don’t see a good option other than hydrogen and oxygen. The round trip delta v is large, and the argument for refueling with in situ material convinces me. The in situ resource on the Moon is water, and that means hydrogen and oxygen. The idea of a production plant for hypergolic fuels on the Moon is a very long term prospect… Even if the necessary raw materials were available.

      • Michael Spencer says:
        0
        0

        The idea for any sort of in situ fuels is a very long term prospect…in the short term O2/H2 will come from Terra, and if that’s the case, might as well ship methane in a BFR and get all the other benefits.

        It’s easy to talk about splitting water. But as many have mentioned here before, and at considerable length, we aren’t even close to the technologies needed for any sort of lunar ‘mining’. We haven’t even proven the resource, let alone develop the kind of heavy machinery needed to lug around the ice nor clean it nor the energy to fraction it. Neither can we store the product though at least that appears easier (and as some have pointed out, H2 is difficult to store, even on the moon).

        So many hurdles. In the meanwhile certainly cheaper to use Earth fuels, negating the landers, and making possible delivery of the kind of mass that will be needed and is very far outing SLS capability.

        • fcrary says:
          0
          0

          The difficulties in using in situ resources are relative. For turning ice-bearing regolith into liquid hydrogen and oxygen, the process is fairly simple and known. Heat the regolith to evaporate off the water, condense it, electrolyze it (which can be as simple as a high school chemistry demonstration) and condense it. It wouldn’t take more than a few years and a few tens of millions to build a machine that took in regolith with a 5% water abundance and electricity, and produced liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Finding and digging up that regolith are an issue, as are production rates and efficiencies, but those are straight-forward, solvable problems. And we do know the water is there. The recent Chandrayaan results are particular encouraging: Near surface (within a millimeter) water abundances of up to 30%, localized with ~300 meter resolution.

          In contrast, producing complex and volatile chemicals like hypergolic fuel requires a much larger number of steps, potentially a chemical plant on par with an oil refinery, and the necessary ingredients are known to be very rare on the Moon. I’m not saying turning regolith into liquid oxygen and hydrogen is easy, but I can imagine an operating pilot plant within a decade. I can’t say the same for hypergolic fuels.

          • Michael Spencer says:
            0
            0

            So, just outfit a big Cat D9 for lunar operations?

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            Sure, why not. Fuchs and Hillary used modified farm tractors for the 1958 Commonwealth Trans-antarctic Expedition. A D9 probably wouldn’t be the optimal design, but giving it a try would be cheap and we could learn what the optimal design is by trial and error.

            When I said I could imagine a pilot plant in operation within a decade, I did mean a pilot plant. That 40 tonnes of hydrogen and oxygen the LMA lander would need per trip takes digging up a trench about 2 x 2 x 100 yards in size, assuming 5% water abundance. A D9 ought to be able to handle that. (And, yes, I did just described strip mining the Moon. That might be an esthetically bad idea. I don’t think I’ve every heard that discussed in the context of in situ planetary resources…)

          • Daniel Woodard says:
            0
            0

            Power requirements for both electrolysis and cryocooling are significant as is the production and storage equipment mass and the maintenance and logistical requirements. This is not to say it is infeasible at some point, but i cannot see ISRU as the initial strategy for building a lunar base, there are too many unknowns.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            I’d say that differently. Using in situ resources shouldn’t be part of the initial strategy for expeditions. But it could be the entire purpose for an initial base. The LMA concept involves two-week stays, and I think that’s a reasonable choice (you don’t have to design for lunar night.) Missions of that duration, possibly supplemented by unmanned landings of equipment, could permit enough prospecting and experimenting. Then the following base (which could be the first permanent one) could be be developed assuming in situ resources.

            Arguably, in situ resources are enough of a cost savings that this would be necessary. Until more transient expeditions have made the use of in situ resources possible and practical, a permanent base may not be affordable. You’re quite correct that next manned landing isn’t going to be using lunar propellent to fly home. But they may produce a few hundred kilos of oxygen to test out the process.

          • Michael Spencer says:
            0
            0

            I think you are on to something here: an actual reason to establish a base – I mean a reason that can be explained, and justified, to non-space geeks.

            And that reason would be to prove lunar resources. The 2-week plan makes this even more powerful.

          • ThomasLMatula says:
            0
            0

            It uses diesel and requires an atmosphere to work in. No, if you are going for Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS), here is one option. You could deliver in a single BFS flights.

            https://www.youtube.com/wat

            And it is already designed to be remote controlled, so little upgrading would be needed. 🙂

            Yes, the mining industry is ready for the Moon, all they need is the transportation to reach it, and a market to serve.

  7. rb1957 says:
    0
    0

    from the Newsweek article …
    “As Russia prepares to meet its 2021 deadline for the country’s first unmanned lunar mission, …” … really, what of their ’70s Lunokhod ??

    • fcrary says:
      0
      0

      Technically, Newsweek can claim they are correct. The
      The Lunokhod rovers were build, launched and operated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, not the Russian Federation. It’s a fine point, but some non-Russian Soviets contributed. I suspect some Ukrainians and Kazakhs would object to calling Lunokhod a “Russian” mission.

  8. fcrary says:
    0
    0

    Something else about this concept occurred to me. It is based on the idea of that the lander can refuel, and at least initially, will do so at the Gateway station. As the paper describes, that means developing the capabilities to store and transfer liquid hydrogen and oxygen in orbit. But that would negate a large part of the justification for SLS and super-heavy lift launch vehicles. If we’re going to develop on-orbit propellent storage and transfer, why not do it first and rely on multiple flights of smaller (“just” heavy lift) launch vehicles like the Falcon Heavy? Or on-orbit refueling and super-heavy lift launch vehicles and direct landings?

    By the way, unless and until in situ lunar propellent is available, the concept does require hauling 40 tonnes of propellent up from Earth, for every expedition. Fortunately, they talk about space tugs and other options. If they were counting on SLS, that would take two SLS launches per expedition (probably even for a Block 1B.) That would really make me wonder about the authors.

    • Christopher James Huff says:
      0
      0

      Not at the Gateway, at another station, followed by a detour to the Gateway to pick up whatever needs to be delivered to the surface.

      Of course, you could put the refueling depot in an orbit optimized for the surface locations being supplied. And then you could deliver the supplies and personnel there to be transferred to the surface, and eliminate that detour to the Gateway…all you need is something with slightly more propulsive capabilities than Orion. You could even deliver supplies, personnel, and propellant in one tanker/transport craft that will go home afterward, carrying personnel/mass to Earth.

    • Brian_M2525 says:
      0
      0

      When you start talking about sending up multiple fuel transport missions from earth and orbitng tugs and maneuvering vehicle’s, now you are right back to he mid-70s idea of a space transportation system, of which Shuttle was the fist step. So the entire sytm that they ditched starting with Crippen as Progam Manger and most recently ten years ago with shutting down Shuttle, is exactly what they are now thinking about all over again. NASAs problems is lac of strategy and lack of any long term plan. They trashed yesterday exactly what they now need for tomorrow. Not only are they lousy at technical management they have zero club how to lead a program.

      • fcrary says:
        0
        0

        It’s more like going back to the 1960s ideas of von Braun or the 1930s ideas of the Berlin rocket club. That’s because the idea of significant space-based infrastructure makes sense, and those people were fairly smart. The real problem with the Space Shuttle and with NASA’s approach from the mid 1970s on, is that it was not about an evolutionary approach working towards viable infrastructure. The Shuttle (and ISS) were regarded as the end product, not a step towards learning how to build what we actually want or need.

        • Daniel Woodard says:
          0
          0

          The Shuttle was a radical design that was finalized and set in stone without a single flight of a prototype through the full flight profile. Consequently multiple failure modes were unanticipated and, even when they became apparent, could not be resolved.

          The BFR has esentially the same design goals as the original Shuttle (two stage, fully reusable, liquid fueled) but is based on a much simpler evolutionary design and is capable of unmanned testing and modificaiton before the initial flight and following the identification of any unanticipated failure modes.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            In addition, I doubt anyone at SpaceX views BFR as a final product, any more than they viewed the Falcon 9 v.1.0 as a final product. Although the later Shuttle orbiters were improvements over Columbia, the difference was on par with the Falcon 9 v.1.0 and v.1.1. SpaceX has gone through five versions of the Falcon 9 in twelve years, and now plans to start over with a new design (having taken the old one as far as it can go.)

          • Michael Spencer says:
            0
            0

            By ‘new design’ are you referring to BFR? Or other Falcon version (haven’t heard)?

            I’m reminded of a recent piece in AviationWeek.com, which points out how rarely Boeing or anyone else really initiates a clean sheet airplane.

          • fcrary says:
            0
            0

            BFR is the “new design” I was referring to. From everything I’ve seen, it has little heritage from the Falcon 9. SpaceX certainly learned quite a bit from developing Falcon, and I’m sure they are applying that to BFR. But BFR looks like a very different design, not a Falcon 9 Block 6.

            As far as clear sheet designs go, I think that’s to be expected for aircraft. It’s a fairly mature technology, and at that point, fine tuning existing designs can be as valuable as starting over from scratch. I don’t think we can say the same thing about rockets (or in the case of the Shuttle, spaceplanes.)

  9. Nick K says:
    0
    0

    Based on NASA’s last decade, this is so far off no one will even start on a lander for another decade. And besides, if Lockheed is busy building an Orion every year, the lander goes to the next contractor, most likely Boeing. BFR looks like it could be ready a lot sooner. I’m not sure the government or NASA should be in the human exploration business; they have not been good at it since they were at war in the 1960s. And the government surely should not be in the colonization business.

    • Saturn1300 says:
      0
      0

      NACA and L-M were not any good at space before WW2 either. I think I have stumbled on the biggest blunder in history. They made all of those 5″ rockets, but they could not think to make a big SRM and put a spy -weather sat in orbit? They did not have the A-bomb but hi explosive may have scared Hitler. If a B-29 could carry an A-bomb, then a big enough SRB could drop it anywhere in the world, even if it was called Big Boy. Maybe all those people thought that a rocket would not work in space because it did not have air to push against. As I. Newton said: For every action there is an opposite and equal action. Or Objects will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. (1600?) Like a 2m lb. SRB. It has only taken me 50 years to figure this out. They could have put a crewed Spy Sat in orbit. Not much different than a 2 place recon P-38. The Pentagon probably knows all this and has it under Super Secret classified. Read quick. Keith will probably remove this.

      • Michael Spencer says:
        0
        0

        They developed exactly what you describe out at Area 51, but it was scrubbed by Big Oil.

      • ThomasLMatula says:
        0
        0

        The technology for pouring the large engines needed for the SRBs, and Minuteman Missiles, didn’t exist before the late1950’s. It is why the first generation of ICBMs were all liquid fueled.

  10. Robert Rice says:
    0
    0

    Everyone? Mars not so much? Better call Musk….he never got the memo.