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#1 2017-11-25 20:11:28

EdwardHeisler
Member
Registered: 2017-09-20
Posts: 313

Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

Keeping the Focus on Mars
by Hubbard Scott
Editor-in-Chief
New Space. November 2017

My purpose in this editorial is to explain as clearly as I can why I think human exploration as well as robotic science and the space entrepreneur must maintain a focus on the exploration of Mars.

In my lifetime, I have heard four Administrations present a major space exploration initiative. Vice President Pence's recent statements are the latest. To date, the only promise that has become reality was President Kennedy's speech in 1961, where he committed the nation to sending a man to the Moon before the end of the decade and returning him safely.1,2 It is well worth noting that to achieve JFK's vision required about $200 billion (in today's money) and a budget profile that peaked at 4% of the Federal budget.*

Then there came George H.W. Bush in 1989 and his Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) that promised a return to the Moon (with human astronauts) and then on to Mars. After a now infamous 90-day study, Bush 41's plan was pronounced dead on arrival at the Congress due to a rumored (but never published) ∼$500 billion price tag.

George W. Bush made a Kennedy-like proclamation with his talk at NASA headquarters in 2004 that unveiled the so-called Constellation program that would, yes, return U.S. astronauts to the Moon and then on to Mars. (I was in the room as a NASA Center Director for that talk. When a group of us senior folks took a look at the budget assumptions, we were dumbfounded by the math. The plan did not look executable even in 2004.)

Constellation was reviewed by a blue-ribbon committee in 2009, which found the program would require multi-year increases adding about $3B to NASA's annual budget.3 That path was declared unsustainable and replaced by a much more modest NASA in-house program (Space Launch System plus the Orion capsule) and the beginning of what became the Commercial Cargo and Crew Programs.
President Obama tried his hand at a presidential space statement in 2010 in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center. (I was also present for that talk but now as a Stanford faculty member.) This time the Administration avoided the Moon and proclaimed that U.S. astronauts would dock with an asteroid and then eventually go on to Mars. Obama's speech caused NASA to produce two outcomes: one was the ill-fated Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) that never enjoyed the support of Congress, the science community, or even NASA's own Advisory Council.4 The other result was a NASA Journey to Mars that was constructed in a series of phases that would retire risk and eventually get humans to Mars in the 2030s. The most recent Journey to Mars approach adopted an approach to orbit Mars with humans first, then land in a subsequent mission. That plan was championed by a paper published in this journal5 and a workshop I co-chaired.6 While NASA's Journey was not highly detailed, most of us in the Mars community thought it built on a reasonable set of assumptions and might be contained within a plausible budget if appetites were limited.

Very recently, in October 2017, the new Administration, through Vice President Pence, has announced both to the resurrected Space Council and in an Op-Ed that NASA should study a plan for “human missions to the moon” as a “stepping-stone” for later human missions to Mars.7,8 Pence also called for a “full review” of commercial space regulations to identify areas that can be streamlined.
In the narrative thus far, you should have noticed a trend: these human space-flight initiatives ultimately required large amounts of funding to be successful, but except for Apollo, that funding never appeared and the program was canceled. So, we must ask, what are the risks and rewards of Pence's proposed path?

During the Augustine review, one of the “budget busters” of the Constellation plan was the cost of developing a full human-rated lunar landing system plus infrastructure in addition to new launch vehicles.† Clearly, a major cost risk in Pence's plan will be the same. By adding human surface lunar missions, one of two things will likely happen: the new costs will push back the Journey to Mars to some date much further in the future than 2033 or some other part of NASA will be cut to make up the difference.

There may be other ways to mitigate the cost risk: adding international partners, adopting a minimum lunar plan such as the minimum Mars approach, or perhaps using some acquisition strategy such as the Commercial Cargo Program. Pence's statements did not explicitly suggest these possibilities, although a subsequent message from Acting Administrator Lightfoot clarifies: “Specifically, NASA has been directed to develop a plan for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.”9 In my opinion, asking for a realistic cost assessment of this new plan should be clearly demanded by all stakeholders, including the public.

What are the benefits of making lunar surface exploration part of the future NASA plan? In my view, the only unambiguous value is perceived U.S. leadership. The European Space Agency (ESA), as articulated by Jan Woener, the Director of ESA, has for several years been calling for a “Moon Village.”10 The Chinese have publicized plans to send humans to the Moon and have already landed a robotic mission in 2013. I can imagine a politically sensitive Administration desiring to counter the claims of the Chinese, even at the expense of delaying the real prize—exploring Mars.

The Moon is scientifically much less diverse and interesting than Mars. For example, no one claims that life could have originated on the Moon—unlike Mars. The technologies needed for landing and living on an airless body like the Moon are quite different from Mars. Lunar technologies will have limited benefit to future Mars exploration. Finally, some claim that the Moon's resources, especially water ice, can be exploited for future exploration. In general, the Moon is extremely dry. There are data from previous missions to suggest that there may be more abundant water ice trapped at the poles of the Moon, but getting there and mining in temperatures nearing absolute zero will prove very challenging and expensive. By comparison, Mars has water in much greater concentrations distributed more broadly across the planet.

In the meantime, NASA's science organization is moving ahead with planning for what some have long considered the Holy Grail of planetary science: a Mars Sample Return mission. The first leg of the Mars Sample Return campaign is well into development: the Mars 2020 mission with its sample caching hardware. The other two elements of the return—collecting the sample tubes and sending them back to Earth—are now being openly discussed.11 These carefully selected samples hold the promise of giving us an answer to whether life ever emerged on Mars. This is a truly profound question.

As described above, there are now the beginnings of some well thought out affordable humans to Mars plans. And last but certainly not least, the door appears open for commercial and entrepreneurial entities to engage in the deep space program. Elon Musk's vision for going to Mars first stated in 2016 and recently updated12,13 holds out the potential for drastically reducing the cost of transport to Mars. This issue of New Space contains the details of how Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO) would create a Mars Base Camp.

I strongly advocate completing the Mars Sample Return. That initiative alone will show continued U.S. leadership and perhaps provide answers to the most fundamental questions humans ask: “Are we alone?” I also believe that any future human exploration plan must keep moving toward Mars for all the reasons described earlier. And if even part of the SpaceX or LMCO Mars plans are executable, these innovators can play a critical role as well.

To end up where I began: from almost any perspective, Mars is the goal for human and scientific exploration. As taxpayers and citizens, we must challenge this Administration to demonstrate how including a human lunar surface program and in parallel continuing the Journey to Mars will be affordable and sustainable. These are very exciting times for space exploration and must not be derailed by an abrupt shift in direction.

REFERENCES

1. JM Logsdon. 2011. John F. Kennedy and The Race to the Moon. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2. JM Logsdon. 2015. After Apollo? Richard Nixon and the American Space Program. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
3. NR Augustine, WM Austin, C. Chyba et al. 2009. Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee: Seeking A Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of A Great Nation. Washington, D.C.: NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/396093main_HSF … Report.pdf Accessed October 8, 2017.
4. R Lightfoot. 2013. Asteroid Redirect Mission. Mission Formulation Review Results and Status. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/file … AGGED2.pdf Accessed October 8, 2017.
5. H Price, J Baker, F Naderi. 2015. A Minimal Architecture for Human Journeys to Mars. New Space 3(2): 73–81.
6. The Humans Orbiting Mars Workshop. www.planetary.org/multimedia/video/the-space-advocate/the-humans-orbiting-mars-workshop.html Accessed October 8, 2017.
7. M. Pence America Will Return to the Moon—and Go Beyond. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-wi … 1507158341 Accessed October 8, 2017.
8. K Chang. Space Council Chooses the Moon as Trump Administration Priority. The New York Times. October 5, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/scie … pence.html Accessed October 8, 2017.
9. NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy for Future American Leadership in Space. October 5, 2017. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa … dership-in Accessed October 8, 2017.
10. J Foust. Space Agency Heads See the Moon on the Path to Mars. Space News. April 5, 2017. http://spacenews.com/space-agency-heads … h-to-mars/ Accessed October 8, 2017.
11. TH Zurbuchen. Presentation August 28–30, 2017. Review of Progress Toward Implementing the Decadal Survey Vision and Voyages for Planetary Sciences. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. http://sites.nationalacademies.org/ssb/ … ssb_177619 Accessed October 8, 2017.
12. E Musk. 2017. Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species. New Space 5(2): 46–61.
13. E Musk. Becoming a Multiplanet Species. International Astronautical Conference. September 29, 2017. Adelaide, Australia.

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/1 … .29012.gsh

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#2 2017-11-25 21:45:47

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,923

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

Yes each was a grand dream laid out on paper with no supporting funding with a Nasa that was content to build billion dollar robotic missions and telescopes willing to forget about its past human mission success. The one thing that some people dreamed of was to go to space as a person and not as an advanced trained Astronaut but as a common person wanting to stake a claim.

Space X if given funds like Nasa has to bank roll the continuing SLS / Orion they could be on target for the coming aniversary dates for the return to the moon...

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#3 2017-11-26 10:38:14

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,912

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

Politicians. NASA. Both need a serious wakeup call. They are asleep at the switch.

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#4 2017-11-26 10:46:46

EdwardHeisler
Member
Registered: 2017-09-20
Posts: 313

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

Oldfart1939 wrote:

Politicians. NASA. Both need a serious wakeup call. They are asleep at the switch.

With few exceptions they are wide awake and completely uninterested in the unprofitable scientific exploration of Mars.

They are very interested in profit making Moon ventures that can enrich them and the militarization of space. 

And that's about it.

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#5 2017-11-26 10:48:21

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,912

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

I wanted my previous post/comment as a stand alone, not tempered by my subsequent statements. When I accuse both the political entities AND those at NASA, they seem to have established , if not a symbiotic relationship, or in the least a hand-in-glove one, all I see is a workfare system similar to other government/private style partnerships: WORKFARE. The NASA budget seems to be mainly wasted by keeping this massive army of staffers concentrated on the ISS, space telescopes, and unmanned probes/rovers that consume lots of money. Maybe the money they receive is simply spread too thin on a myriad of projects--each of which is minimally or seriously under funded. Sort of like trying to paint the garage with a single bucket of paint. The SLS system keeps consuming tons of $$$, and the service date keeps on slipping. That $$$ tossed to Elon and SpaceX might actually ACCOMPLISH  something. Heaven forbid, say the Old Space Favored Contractors. Please excuse the underlying bitterness in my comments, but I've been a proponent of Mars exploration since 1952 when Wernher von Braun had the big splash in Collier's Magazine.

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#6 2017-11-26 19:13:37

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,912

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

I'm not so sure that EdwardH is correct. That approach would actually require the OldSpace group to actually accomplish something. As it stands now, with the cost-plus contracts, they don't have to really do anything other than burn up taxpayer dollars.

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#7 2017-11-27 02:05:53

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

Yep, the politicians have been happy to see quasi-corrupt pork barrel politics dominate NASA. Big tech and construction firms have seen NASA as a kind of financial comfort blanket, and have no real interest in the goals.  Then NASA, in as much as it is still a rational, functioning organisation, has itself been captured by a multiplicity of science lobbies. 

I used to think NASA should be split into (a) a science-based research organisation and (b) a Moon-Mars colonisation corporation.

But now I think it might be dangerous to have a NASA style organisation involved in (b) - might kill it stone dead. Better to let Space X get on with it, because they really believe in the idea of transplanting humanity on to another planet.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#8 2017-11-27 19:22:43

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,923

Re: Keeping the Focus on Mars: New Space Editorial November 2017

http://nasawatch.com/archives/2017/11/m … scott.html

Keith's note: Former NASA "Mars Czar" and Planetary Society Mars advocate Scott Hubbard clearly thinks that there is no value in going back to the Moon.

Reviving the lost Apollo moon missions — with or without our government

moonlanding_nasa_0.jpg?itok=u8KjUaI3

One of the tragedies of the Apollo program occurred when the last three missions to the moon were cancelled, despite the fact that the hardware for those lunar landings had already been built. Apollo 20 was cancelled in January 1970. Eight months later, Apollo 18 and Apollo 19 were also cancelled. Thus, the last human mission to the moon so far was Apollo 17 in December 1972.

The places that these lost Apollo missions to the moon could have visited were visually spectacular and scientifically interesting. NASA planners were looking at sending a lunar module into a high-impact crater such as Tycho or Copernicus. These craters each contain a central peak thrown up because of asteroids striking the lunar surface eons ago. Much could have been learned about the birth and evolution of the early solar system.

The six Apollo missions to the moon that did occur are still yielding knowledge as new analytical tools have been created that were not imagined when the Apollo missions were first undertaken. Think of how much more might have been discovered had Apollos 18, 19 and 20 flown.

The current push to return to the moon is not dependent on any one government or even on government at all. The first astronaut to see Tycho, the Marius Hills, Tsiolkovsky Crater, or the lunar South Pole will not necessarily be American or even an employee of any nation-state. Someone is going to figure out how to make voyages to the moon both inexpensive and profitable.

Lets go Space x its time to do what Nasa did not finish....

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