- NASA Watch
- January 31, 2023
It Takes More Than Hype To Get To Mars
Empty Promises On NASA’s Road to Mars, SpaceRef
“These days you can’t seem to go anywhere in the Internet without seeing #JourneyToMars slapped on Tweets about, well, everything that NASA does – regardless of how it is actually related to sending humans to Mars. Its in press release titles, on posters, YouTube videos. NASA is all about the “Journey To Mars” these days and its marketing campaign reflects a concerted effort to make you truly believe that this is happening – except … it is not.”
It’s all pretty much hype. If they decide to go to Mars after ISS ends its mission, they’ll start doing most of the preliminary stuff then. Right now, it doesn’t seem like they have much of a budget for anything beyond just the schedule of in-house experiments at the ISS, SLS, and Commercial Crew.
I mean, what can they do with no additional funding from Congress – hell, with funding cuts? Nothing, unless they want to end the ISS mission early.
Find a way to get SLS canceled and replace it with projects like fuel depots……
I don’t get the fuel depot thing
Don’t we need something to refuel?
Also a rocket to place the depots in space
And using conventuals fuel rockets to get to Mars just ain’t gonna cut it. Need nuclear, Vasimir or something similar
The LEO depot allows smaller launch vehicles to provide 70%+ of mass for all NASA missions: propellant. Increasing the flight rate reduces $/kg to orbit as more fixed costs are spread over more flights. Since the US and world has excess launch capacity and too many capsules (too much capacity and not enough payload), ~3B/yr can be shifted to mission hardware and technology development. Depots/gas stations placed at L2 and Mars allow Electric Propulsion tugs to preposition cargo and propellant efficiently (less IMLEO) and allow the crew to travel the distance in a shorter time to help address crew health issues. Crew will need conventional LH2 to reduce the trip time. With lower launch costs, a commercial satellite market will likely emerge. Even Boeing understands Depots and Amplification Factor for transfer to GEO and beyond. To re-use vehicles on-orbit, they need to be refueled–it all starts with a gas station in space.
A little quote
from muomega0s The next big future link
Because most of the mass necessary to get to the moon is propellant (though Boeing would never say so), a space gas station might even eliminate the need for a heavy-lift launcher altogether, increasing the launch rate of smaller, cheaper vehicles, which in turn could cut costs for getting to the moon and, eventually, Mars.
So how does SLS fit into the plan to go to Mars again?
I don’t think is does lol
Au contraire, mon frere. SLS is essential to any plan to go to Mars.
Why? Because the House Appropriations Committee says so, in their Committee Report
(Senate Appropriations also says nice things about SLS and Mars in their Report, but don’t go quite so far as their House Colleagues in predefining it as essential in a mandated NASA post-EM2 exploration plan.)
And, whoops, I just spotted this while searching those facts – the CJS (NASA) FY’16 Appropriations bill** now waiting for the Senate’s attention amends USC 51-701 to say
“It shall be the policy of the United States to use the Space Launch System for purposes that require a human presence directly to cis-lunar space and the regions of space beyond low-Earth orbit.”
(** actually HR 2262 the SPACE Act – I was searching the wrong .pdf.)
IOW, if this passes unamended, if NASA goes to Mars it *must* use SLS.
51-701 used to be about Shuttle policy and was relatively harmless. Hah. Not any more. I just knew they had to be hiding something sneaky in there again – thanks for provoking me to go back and catch it.
Honored Sir 🙂
There’s a scene in one of Peter Hamilton’s books where some snarky private citizens are on Mars, greeting NASA’s ‘First Man on Mars’ and generally confusing the issue.
OK, so Hamilton’s travel to Mars is SF at its finest (and worth reading), but the point remains the same: it is entirely possible that Mr. Musk will be on Mars first.
I’m not sure “entirely possible” is correct, I think “highly probable” is a better way of putting it, ever since the days of Apollo NASA has been saying “tomorrow we go to Mars”, always tomorrow, that’s the problem, not money, not technology, both of these are red herrings and excuses, the money required is far, far less than NASA has wasted on aborted projects since Apollo and the technology is certainly not unachievable it just needs a concerted effort to make sensible decisions and develop what we already know into flight ready technology. Sadly NASA is so hobbled by politics both internal and external that this has never and will never be possible and we are now at the stage where there is literally no point in believing that NASA can actually come up with a plan that without a massive injection of both government cash and political support can hope to beat the likes of Space X who without the political hobbling and with a clear and determined leadership are making very steady and measurable progress towards Mars.
Whoops, I was looking at the wrong .pdf. That’s not in the CJS Appropriations, it’s in HR 2262, the SPACE Act. A nasty Easter Egg either way…
“This presentation “Propellant Depot Requirements Study – Status Report – HAT Technical Interchange Meeting – July 21, 2011” is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could. “
IMHO Commercial Crew is part of the Mars effort. It is how NASA’s astronauts will get to the Mars Transfer Vehicle waiting in LEO.
Where was this stated?
Logic. The proposed Mars Transfer Vehicles are too massive for even the SLS to launch in one piece so they will need assembling in space. Within 2 years of the first Commercial Crew capsule docking with the ISS the capsules will be NASA’s standard way of sending astronauts to LEO.
Orion is heavy and has nothing to do at Mars so it is not leaving Earth orbit. Dragon and CST-100 are considerably cheaper so in about 20 years time NASA will use its standard way of getting to LEO for the Mars missions.
Your logic may not be congruent with the logic of NASA folks planning an actual manned Mars mission, so at this point we’ll just have to settle for the fact that there is no public announced official plan to use commercial crew to shuttle crew to a Mars transfer vehicle, no matter how much sense that might make.
20-30 years gives plenty of time for the plans to change.
Forgive me but hasn’t NASA been 20 or 30 years away from Mars since Apollo?
It’s more accurate to say that the funding needed for NASA to go to Mars has always been 20 to 30 years away…
When Shuttle was cancelled the time to Mars got longer.
The clock does not start until NASA begins developing Mars transfer vehicles, landers, rovers and habitats.
Not to be too much of a cynic, but NASA is planning a proposed Mars misison. There is no way to predict whether it will become an actual Mars mission. SLS/Orion was designed to execute a lunar landing mission similar to Apollo with only one or two launches. The 28-day endurance of the Orion was chosen specifically for this. IMO Andrew is correct that once on-orbit assembly is needed there is no absolute constraint on launch vehicle size or payload and the most cost-effective vehicle should be chosen. Similarly, if the habitat and entry vehicle are separate modules, the entry vehicle only needs a few hours endurance.
The fact that NASA is conducting an organized “Mars Hype” effort is obvious. An obvious question is why. Any serious Mars efforts (Technology development) by NASA are clearly being deliberately starved by Congress, who is giving all of any funds that might possibly be used to physically prepare for Mars missions in any meaningful way to the SLS, which cannot possibly support Mars missions. NASA then has to turn around and use its “Mars Hype” to support the SLS. I would not want to be a NASA person right now.
In spite of the sad lack of physical progress, the thinking about physical Mars missions is progressing, led by some of NASA’s alphabet soup of internal organizations. Recently, NASA’s Human Architecture Team (HAT) has just switched support for deceleration of manned spacecraft at Mars from impractically large parachutes (which have a tendency to rip on deployment) to Supersonic Retro-propulsion(SRP). Vehicles still could use attached decelerators to slow to low supersonic speeds, like the one recently tested near Hawaii.
Now, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group has also decided that detailed studies of the Mars atmosphere are a high priority. This information would make both single pass aero-capture at Mars and also SRP much more manageable, safer and predictable.
There is also more discussion about a real cis-lunar gateway with actual propellant depots at some point near the Moon and the possible production of fuel for Mars at a lunar polar base.
These advances in thinking are significant and real. It is to be hoped that some of these same internal agencies will work on getting decisions on some of the major questions like micro-gravity or rotating habitats, etc. There is no way to know when physical progress on Mars by NASA will resume if ever, but if it does, we will have a better understanding of how to actually do it.
At least in human space flight, I no longer think NASA has much credibility or integrity.
The last big ‘successful’ project was the design and assembly of ISS. The design and manufacturing was done by NASA people in the early 1990s and most of those people are now long retired or dead. The assembly of ISS was done mainly with the use of Shuttle-another now defunct NASA project. That was done years ago.
The utilization of ISS, which is the next step, has yet to prove successful. Interesting that despite the full up nature of the ISS configuration, capability, and organization, the use of ISS is hampered by the NASA organizational bureaucracy, documentation, processes, and poor or nonexistent public information.
The Mars hype effort is great, but in a few years, once it has run its course, what will we be left with? Nothing.
Telling lies always gets you in trouble.