Monday, January 30, 2017

"Good Night, Moon"

The waxing crescent

1.9 day old moon

4.1 percent lit

"Who ever said the moon was the end goal?"

January 27, 2017
By Paul D. Spudis
...Still, (click here) new journeys beyond ISS and low Earth orbit (LEO) were always in the agency’s crosshairs. The idea that Mars should be the next goal came out of Wernher von Braun’s original vision, or rather, a misunderstanding of that vision. Von Braun advocated a systematic, incremental approach to human spaceflight—Earth-to-orbit, space station, Moon tug, and then a Mars spacecraft. But that incremental approach was abandoned with Apollo. Our journey to the Moon was conducted in an emergency mode due to national priorities and security concerns that dictated operations. Thus, technical problems were not systematically studied and considered—they were just bludgeoned into compliance with cash.
Attempts to resurrect an Apollo mode of operation for Mars is inappropriate and has actually hindered our advancement in spacefaring activities for decades. The current NASA budget is about 0.5 percent of the annual federal budget, less than 10 percent of the peak funding level available during Apollo. Given our mounting federal debt and pressing national needs, it’s almost certain there will be no significant budget increases for space in the foreseeable future.
The idea that we can go to Mars using the same template that we used to go to the Moon 50 years ago is ridiculous. It is simply not possible to load up a single rocket, launch and go, discarding pieces along the way. A human Mars mission requires hundreds of tons of equipment and fuel in space, all delivered, assembled and timed to be ready for use at the precise moment every 26 months when a departure window to the red planet opens. The NASA architecture for a human mission to Mars was made in 2009 and has not been revised; it uses several pieces that are unlikely to materialize, to say the least (e.g., a nuclear thermal rocket departure stage). And we still do not know how to land there with a reasonable level of safety. In contrast, several feasible and affordable plans already exist for a return to the Moon using existing technology....