New Mars Forums

Official discussion forum of The Mars Society and MarsNews.com

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Announcement: As a reader of NewMars forum, we have opportunities for you to assist with technical discussions in several initiatives underway. NewMars needs volunteers with appropriate education, skills, talent, motivation and generosity of spirit as a highly valued member. Write to newmarsmember * gmail.com to tell us about your ability's to help contribute to NewMars and become a registered member.

#1 2015-01-08 22:41:46

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,445
Website

Space as inspiration

I'm watching the moving "Interstellar". It starts with a meeting of a parent with teachers. The teacher explains his child brought in an "old federal text book. We've replaced them with the corrected version. Explaining how the Apollo missions were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union."

I'm going to quote an email exchange between members of the club "Science Fiction Winnipeg":

Linda wrote:

I think that it would be better to send probes first every with the drive if it existed. Why send a ship unless you know that there   parameters for minimal human livability are met?

Natalie wrote:

It's been our go-to to send probes and rovers everywhere for a while now, and we're stagnating from it. We need another JFK to say we're gonna put some boots on the ground somewhere. Mars, Venus colony, whatever... But something real and publicly funded so everone symbolically owns a piece (but not the crowd-funded nonsense) and the economy and industry benefit. That would be awesome smile

Linda wrote:

No country just jumped into a capsule and went to the moon. It did take effort, time and research. Just as it is going to take time and planning to get to Mars. We don't risk valuable lives without trying to make the trip as safe as possible.

Natalie wrote:

This is true, Linda. But we didn't get to the moon by thinking in a piecemeal fashion. The end goal was the human presence there, the rest was steps along the way. We've stopped dreaming big, and that needs to change if we're ever going to get beyond the probe stage. JFK challenged an entire country to do something audacious, something many considered to be undoable. The result was not only did it get done, but that the economy, science, and the morale of the entire populace were changed along the way.

Ok. So which politician today has the guts to be as audacious as JFK? Who can inspire the world to the same optimism as we had during Apollo? The 1960s had race riots. America has them again today. The Cold War made today's differences with Russia appear puny. And yet, JFK created the Peace Corp, and most importantly Apollo. People still say "If we could put people on the Moon then..." The first creature in space was the dog "Dezik"; a suborbital flight by Russia in 1951. The first creature in orbit was "Laika" in 1957. The first all-transistor car radio was produced in 1955. These were the first manufactured transistors suitable for computers. We literally went from vacuum tubes to modern technology.

How do we inspire politicians to in turn inspire the public? How do we achieve the optimism of Apollo? We will always have challenges. We will always have limited resources. Opening new resources in space solves a lot of problems. It is not "useless machines" to again quote that movie.

Offline

#2 2015-01-09 22:23:54

Void
Member
Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,710

Re: Space as inspiration

It does not appear that anyone else will reply at this time so I will (Sorry about that smile)

I can only give you my perspective.  What I think I see and hear.

For a rhyme of Kennedy you would have to wait until 2054 according to the 4th turning.  (Sort of +/- so many years).  You cannot expect a repeat of history.

I am not as downbeat about what NASA does as the rest of the people here are.  I think like me they understand that their dead bodies will be put down most likely long before the heroics of Interstellar (Even within our solar system) can be possible.

But it is honorable to bear a cross for a cause which you believe is to be the benefit of the human race.  It is not our fault that they cannot focus on what is needed.  Their hormones, and their minds are crafted for the stone age, so for the most part most of them are massively outdated for what the universe requires.


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

Offline

#3 2015-01-09 22:42:36

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 21,683

Re: Space as inspiration

The power of the cold war propaganda machine was quite the driving force not to be second or last to do anything that would prove superiority....

Offline

#4 2015-01-10 08:44:21

Terraformer
Member
From: Logres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,353
Website

Re: Space as inspiration

How about, quit waiting for the government to do something, and do those things yourselves?

The most that has ever been crowdfunded to date has been $50 million. Okay, that's 2.5x the prize money for the Ansari X Prize. What sort of competitions could be run for those sums of money? Demonstrating an MCP suit that could be used for on orbit assembly? Building a system that can work for >500 days, building up a supply of propellent from a simulated Martian atmosphere using solar power? Developing a space launch system that can launch 100kg into LEO for under $10k per launch?

Or, you could try and locate a few dozen moderately wealthy believers, and fund a cheap spacelaunch system that way...

Once you have cheap access to LEO, everything falls into place. Once small groups can afford to launch their own probes (Martian Discoverer 6, sponsored by the village of Pagton Green), then you inspire people.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

Offline

#5 2015-01-10 15:05:36

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 21,683

Re: Space as inspiration

Is there any data on how long crowd funding does take to raise $50 million?
Create a list of what needs to be created and fund that list via piority for a mission.

Offline

#6 2015-01-10 21:32:22

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,445
Website

Re: Space as inspiration

We started the Mars Roadrunner project back when the Mars Society was young. One point in the Mars Society charter states:

Starting small, with hitchhiker payloads on government-funded missions, we intend to use the credibility such activities engenders to mobilize larger resources, further enabling private robotic missions and ultimately human exploration and settlement of Mars.

On the original Mars Society forum in 1999, we discussed sending something very small, but very quickly. I asked if we could send something directly, very small but not hitchhiking on a NASA Mars probe. We held a vote for the purpose, the majority voted for a weather balloon. The idea was then use an ion engine to spiral out of Earth orbit, use the Moon for gravity assist, then head directly to Mars. Yea, the Moon doesn't provide much, but every little bit helps. I mentioned the "ion spiral" idea to someone from the European Space Agency at a symposium; he thought it was a good idea so they used it for a European probe to the Moon. So spiral with an ion engine works. It's slow, but it works.

This was soon after Deep Space One, so I phoned NASA to see if I could get more information on the NSTAR ion engine. They had the lead engineer who designed NSTAR call me back. I described what I wanted to do. He said at that time NASA management had all the engine engineers at the Glenn Research Centre attend lectures by Russians on their Hall thruster. He was glad someone was interested in his work. So he sent me everything allowed for export out of the US. As he put it, everything short of the blue prints. My intention was to build a smaller version for our Mars Society probe.

I tried to rally volunteers; one electrical engineer who worked for Cisco designing power supplies for their equipment wanted to design the power supply for our ion engine. One individual who worked for a military contractor said his company had bid to provide the propellant tank for the Minuteman Missile, for the multiple re-entry vehicle bus. They didn't get the contract, but still had the design. Their design used a titanium tank that would coil upon itself as propellant was drained, effectively squeezing out propellant. That provides continuous pressure for a pressure fed engine.

I called NASA to ask if we could send a Getaway Special on the Shuttle. I talked directly with the director of the Small Shuttle Payloads Project. Getaway Special is up to 200 pounds, fits in a cylinder the size of an oil barrel, and tucked in a corner it the Shuttle cargo bay when they have a little extra room. One condition is the only participation by an astronaut is to press a "go" button to start the device. One option is a satellite deployment mechanism, but that takes some room. With that, your satellite can only be 150 pounds. The director said the price was $8,000 for a US educational institution, or $27,000 for everyone else. But that's if you go up and come down. If your probe is deployed and stays in orbit, then it's $2 million. He apologized profusely, didn't agree with this, but said that was orders by senior NASA management. They didn't want this to compete with commercial satellite launchers. If the probe is deployed in orbit, then it's called a Hitchhiker mission instead of Getaway Special. But he said if I get a NASA centre to sponsor the project, then we get a ride on the Shuttle for free. And he said with all my contacts, I would have no trouble getting that sponsorship. And he gave me the NASA form number that I need them to sign. I notice there are several NASA members on the Mars Society board of directors.

It turned out there were 3 other groups within the Mars Society at that time who wanted a balloon; I got them all to work together. The Spain chapter of the Mars Society was one of them; they wanted to design, build, and pay for the balloon itself.

Robert Zubrin and his company got a contract from JPL to design a balloon for Mars. It was pre-filled with liquid methanol, stored compressed in a hard shell container. The intent was when it was dangling on the parachute during atmospheric entry, the hard shell would separate and be discarded. Once exposed to the low pressure of Mars atmosphere, the methanol would boil, filling the balloon. His design was a black balloon so it would be heated by sunlight, a hot gas balloon for Mars. This was tested by carrying it under a stratospheric weather balloon to an altitude in Earth's atmosphere where the pressure and temperature is the same as Mars. When hanging beneath this weather balloon instead of a parachute, the shell was opened. The balloon deployed, it worked. So my argument was to use the same design.

I found a company in California that manufactures Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) space hardened electronics. So we had an electronics supplier. When I dated a lady who was an engineer for NASA, she got a job with Lockheed-Martin. She phoned me one day saying her boss at Lockheed-Martin asked her to phone me. To ask for a contact for COTS space hardened electronics. They had a contract for a satellite that needed COTS electronics. So I told her. That supplier is still in business, and updated their equipment.

At the time I was a senior software developer for a company that specialized in the QNX operating system. That's a high reliability real-time operating system for embedded systems. It's based on Unix. Their primary competition is VxWorks; another variant of Unix. I was told the vision system for CanadArm used QNX, and all NASA probes for years have used VxWorks. Spirit and Opportunity use VxWorks. So I can develop the software.

One Mars Society member in Australia was just completing his master degree in aerospace engineering. His specialty was heat shields and aeroshells. He wanted to design the aeroshell for our mission.

Then NASA released an "Announcement of Opportunity" (AO) for a contract to developed the next generation ion engine. And it was open to foreign organizations, but for-profit and not-for-profit. I thought this was a great opportunity to get funding. If I develop this ion engine for NASA, then I could use the tools to build a small engine for our Mars Society mission. That was my real agenda: Mars Roadrunner for the Mars Society. But the NASA AO required improving on the NSTAR ion engine. How could you possibly improve on that? They had a great design. But to get funding, I had to find a way to improve it. They wanted to improve engine life by reducing impact on engine parts. They wanted this to be the primary thruster for the New Horizons probe. And they wanted to improve specific impulse even further. I came up with a way, and submitted a "Notice Of Intent" (NOI). They liked my NOI; put me on their short list and sent the full proposal package. But when going through this I found fine print buried in the middle that said anyone outside the US wouldn't get paid. How can they claim it was open to a foreign organization if they don't get paid? But I didn't give up. I called the Canadian Space Agency to see if they would help. After all the help I got from NASA, I was surprised when the response was "How did you get this phone number?" It was in the phone book. So I went through my federal Member of Parliament, who got me in contact with the director of technology for the Canadian Space Agency. He claimed CSA is not interested in propulsion. Damn! So there was nothing I could do. When I didn't submit a final bid, a secretary from NASA phoned to ask where was my bid, that NASA was looking forward to it. I told her I it wasn't ready. She said they would have accepted a late bid. That's surprising, the Canadian government is very strict about that. They won't accept any late bids. In fact, for a year after that, NASA included a clause in all their contracts that they reserve the right to accept bids received after the deadline if NASA deems it in their best interest. When I described this to the lady I dated, the engineer, she said it was highly unusual for NASA to call a contractor. The only way that that would have happened is if the NASA administrator himself asked her to call me. At that time the administrator was Sean O'Keefe. He wanted ideas from individuals who were technically capable, but not traditional aerospace engineers. I guess I fit what he was looking for. But the bottom line is I can't do the work if I don't get paid.

Apparently the Canadian Space Agency wanted to know anyone submitting a bid. Ok, so I started attending CSA symposiums. (symposia?) I attended the 4th and 5th Canadian Space Exploration Workshops. Those workshops set priorities for the Canadian Space Agency. At the 5th, the president of CSA announced his intent to send a Canadian rover to Mars. Something about the size of Spirit or Opportunity, but all Canadian made. I was disappointed that I hadn't been contacted about propulsion for the carrier to deliver it to Mars. But I tried to establish business contacts to get that contract. However, Canadian Parliament didn't authorize funding.

With all this, I asked Dr. Robert Zubrin if he would make the Mars Roadrunner an official Mars Society project. We would need the name of the Mars Society if we were to get funding. Dr. Zubrin said no. He was concerned the project was not just professional aerospace engineers. This project included professional aerospace engineers, other engineers, and general members of the Mars Society who didn't have engineering certification but had skills. This was supposed to be a Mars Society project, so it would fit with the Mars Society philosophy. In his books, Robert Zubrin said Mars would allow anyone who had skills to do the work. Not just individuals who had certification from some self-proclaimed authority. So we followed that philosophy. But Dr. Zubrin wouldn't allow this project to be official because we had individuals who were not certified aerospace engineers. I tried to quietly point all this out, but he said no. I was disappointed. Without authorization as an official Mars Society project, how could we proceed? I stopped organizing it. Without me pushing the project forward, it fell apart. This was my only disagreement with Dr. Zubrin.

Then the Columbia disaster. After that, NASA announced no small explorers would be launched by Shuttle. So that killed our ride to space.

After Mars Roadrunner fell apart, the German chapter of the Mars Society decided to take up the idea of a Mars balloon. In 2003 they started the Archimedes Balloon project. But it was German members only, and restricted to professional aerospace engineers. They hoped to hitchhike on a European Space Agency launch. It's now 2015 and still hasn't happened.

That was our big plan for a non-government something. How do we do anything serious if Dr. Zubrin says no?

Last edited by RobertDyck (2015-01-11 12:29:20)

Offline

#7 2015-01-11 08:07:00

Terraformer
Member
From: Logres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,353
Website

Re: Space as inspiration

Ignore Zubrin? Not everything has to be done through the Mars Society...


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

Offline

#8 2015-01-11 10:00:46

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 21,683

Re: Space as inspiration

The same is true of waiting for Nasa to do it as well...

So how fast can crowding funding raise funds and what should these funds be used for in a prioritized list of needs for manned mission to anywhere at this point.

Offline

#9 2015-01-12 00:18:55

Mark Friedenbach
Member
From: Mountain View, CA
Registered: 2003-01-31
Posts: 325

Re: Space as inspiration

SpaceX is hiring.

Or if you think you have a better idea, we're in the midst of the best funding environment since the dot-com days.

Offline

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB