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NASA's "Solomon's Choice"

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  • NASA's "Solomon's Choice"

    Space exploration and the supporting policy has long been an interest of mine. Far from just the gee-wiz factor, or even jingoistic purposes, I believe the exploration and expansion into space is essential to the health and well being of mankind.


    1) The threat of natural space-borne threats, asteroids and comets, requires us to survey, explore, tinker with, and ultimately learn to manipulate the orbits of these celestial bodies to prevent a catastrophic impact with the Earth that threaten civilization as we know it. Other threats from solar flares and gamma ray bursts can only be detected far enough in advance to preserve our lives and livelihoods by space-borne assets, and endured by a species not limited to a single planet. Even Earth-borne natural disasters can devastate a global civilization. which would be alleviated by inhabiting more than one world, and a self-sufficient arm of humanity could in turn offer aid.
    2) The exploitation of celestial resources could greatly reduce the environmental damage of mining to the unique biosphere of the Earth. Rare and difficult to exploit resources on the Earth can be found in space, and developing the means to get them will greatly improve our quality of life.
    3) Learning how to live in space will dramatically improve our ability to live on Earth. Living in space requires us to either learn how to create a self-sustaining biosphere, assisted by mechanical means, in which we are an important part, or, as is presently the case, regular resupply from a local biosphere, Earth. The ability to create such a biosphere on the personal and family level will not only dramatically alter our social and economic reality for the better, but preserve the natural one as well.
    4) A frontier is essential for the health of human culture. Humanity, an inherently conflicted species, without an external threat or challenge, will begin to war with itself. The conquest of space is a safe and productive channel for that energy, providing a place and means for humans to reach their fullest potential in mortality without stepping on each others toes.

    NASA was founded, philosophically, for the purpose of furthering these goals, and has been phenomenally successful in expanding our knowledge of the universe and pushing the technological envelope on Earth. In practice however, one could say they the only frontier that NASA can not conquer is Washington DC. Born in the dark days of the Cold War as the spearhead of America's technological prowess, despite its altruistic aims, it has always been wielded as an instrument to further other geopolitical goals. Apollo was designed for the sole purpose of beating the Soviets to the Moon. The Space Shuttle was a tragic design compromise between exploration and defense priorities. The International Space Station was welfare for former Soviet rocket scientists. And now, the various and discombobulated rocket and spacecraft programs are little more than pork to be distributed among Congressional allies. As the weight of socialism continues squeeze already meager funds out of an agency what is widely recognized the most worthwhile thing our government does, some difficult decisions about its future have to be made.

    Dennis Wingo: There is a story in the Old Testament that illustrates wisdom - the wisdom of King Solomon. Solomon was the king of Israel and had been proclaimed to be the wisest man in the world. The story begins with two women who lived in a house together. Each of them had a child. The first mother gave birth three days before the second one did.

    At some point, the second mother apparently rolled over on her child and suffocated it. When she woke up in the middle of the night and realized what she had done, she took her dead son and swapped it with the first mother's son. When the first mother confronted the second with what she had done, the second mother denied it.

    The women brought the matter before Solomon, who was the ultimate judge of such things in those days. Upon hearing this story, Solomon had a simple solution: "Bring me a sword" he commanded. Solomon then said "Divide the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other". The first woman, whose child it was said "O my lord, give her the living child and please don't kill it". The second woman said "let it be neither mine or yours, but divide it". The king answered and said "give her (the first woman) the living child and in no wise kill it: she is the mother".

    So ... What does this have to do with NASA?
    I would invite everyone to read the commentary linked to. I think it does a great job at explaining the dilemma, and explores a range of options. In short, NASA's two major manned spaceflight projects, the on-going operation of the International Space Station (ISS), and the development of the Space Launch System (SLS)and Orion spacecraft for beyond Earth orbit exploration, are threatened by a shrinking budget. So much so that even the bright spots of the agency, the successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, the subsequent Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, and even the continuing operations of its veteran probes could be curtailed or ended. We could, and are, going on all day in other threads about our national priorities, so my point here is not so much to discuss how much money NASA should get, but what it should spend the money it has on, and what it can get for its money. Our money.

    There is also a good series of articles on NASA's current status at the Washington Post.... 1. NASA's Mission Improbable... 2. The Sky's. The Limits... 3. Which Way to Space?

    The problem with the ISS is that its getting old. Yes, it was just declared "completed" a couple of years ago, though there are other components planned for it. It is being continuously resupplied by a fleet of international spacecraft, including the American Dragon and Cygnus cargo craft, the Russian Progress-M, and periodic visits by the European ATV and Japanese HTV cargo carriers. It is manned by multiple Russian Soyuz-M capsules. Even so, the first component was launched in 1998. It was built to fit, in the Shuttle bay, one piece at the time. If anything it is a giant $100 Billion example of how not to build a space station, though the on-orbit assembly experience will certainly be useful. And while it is capable of micro-gravity laboratory research in a variety of fields, it is not capable of applied sciences in a way that would be applicable to beyond Earth orbit missions. It is not capable of productive agricultural research that would provide astronauts with fresh food on the way to Mars. It is not capable of testing active radiation shielding that will be invaluable for sustained interplanetary travel. It is not capable of variable gravity research that is essential to maintain astronaut health to and from places with less gravity than Earth. Of course it inherently can't engage in in-situ resource utilization that would enable us to build things out of materials we find where ever we go. Further, you really can't perform on orbit assembly of large spacecraft there, and its in the wrong orbit to hold components for future missions. And we now have to choose whether to extend it's mission past 2020, to as late at 2032.

    The SLS is a relic of the canceled Constellation Program, preserved by bi-partisan coalition of Senators from states with major NASA centers to get reelected. So blatant was the political motivation, it has been called the "Senate Launch System". It is a Shuttle-derived design, using upgraded solid rocket boosters and shuttle main engines strapped to a modified shuttle external tank core. When complete, it would be a capable rocket, but until its done and flying, the development costs prevent us from developing actual mission hardware. And in order to have a functioning rocket system, you need to have trained personnel building and assembling them. You can just lay them off for a couple years while you develop payload. With this institutional cost, there isn't enough money to do both. Exacerbating the problem is the Orion "Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle". The capsules biggest selling point is that it is capable of beyond Earth orbit flight, which basically means its heat shield is capable of high velocity direct reentries from interplanetary destinations, and the life supports systems are a little stronger. The trouble is, its a capsule, its only really useful for the first and last 10 minutes of a mission. Furthermore, it has a habitable volume of less than ten cubic meters. Your not going to send anyone on a long duration space mission in something that small, so once again, we are create something that will require spending more time and money on something else in order to use what we are already spending time and money we don't have on. This is puzzling because we are also contracting out resupply missions to the ISS, and urging a number of companies to develop manned spacecraft that, when combines with a transit habitat that would actually go somewhere beyond cis-lunar space, would be largely redundant to Orion. Clearly, something has to give.

    And what does NASA want to do with that hardware? Perhaps a better question is what have they been told to do. With the cancellation of the Constellation program, which would have returned us to the moon and built a base there, Obama redirected us to explore an asteroid, as practice to a Mars orbit or a Phobos/Deimos mission, in preparation for an eventual landing, somewhere in the mid-2030's. In addition, there are numerous other proposed uses for the SLS/Orion system, ranging from large outer solar system planetary probes, to Mars sample return landers, to large telescopes, and wet workshop space stations. But again, we don't have any money for anything other than the rocket. You might call it a "rocket to nowhere". NASA privately recognized this, and floated the idea to MOVE an asteroid to Lunar orbit, there it could be visited just a stock SLS/Orion stack. It, however, does nothing to prepare us for a Mars mission. And there's little money to put together something that will move a small asteroid to lunar orbit.

    The main linked article indicates a serious choice that has to be made. There is not enough room in the budget for both continued ISS operations past 2020, and SLS/Orion. One of them has to get the axe. The article proposes extending the ISS lifespan to 2032, and using technologies derived from it, the fruits of the COTS/CCDev programs, and certain subsystems from the Orion development to begin development of exploration hardware from the nearly $4 Billion saved annually from canceling the SLS/Orion program.

    I ask, why not kill both?

    As indicated, the ISS, without an addition, does little to support our long term exploration goals. And given the progress of Commercial space offerings, we are already on the cusp of having all the supporting infrastructure we need to support an extensive exploration program.

    We have commercially available launchers (tons to low Earth orbit {LEO}, price), including the Falcon 9 (15tons, $55M), and soon, the Falcon Heavy (58tons, $140M). Also there are competing offerings from the United Space Alliance (a joint Lockheed-Boeing monopoly) in the Delta IV (10-25tons, ~$175M), and the Atlas V (22tons, $225M). There is also the frankenrocket Antares (5.5tons, ?). Also available is the tried and true Centaur cryogenic upper stage. SpaceX is also working on the methane fueled Raptor upper stage. A methane is particularly useful on Mars, where water, atmosphere CO2, and a little bit of power, and you got yourself methane rocket fuel.

    SpaceX is also doing something not seen since the days of Buck Rogers, vertical takeoff and landing. In effort to further cut its already considerably lower launch costs, SpaceX is developing a reusable Falcon 9 first stage, which is also intended to be used on all three cores of it's Falcon Heavy. It's Grasshopper technology demonstrator has already performed helicopter style take offs and landings, and a new version is preparing to do even higher altitudes and supersonic flights. On the other end of the flight, they are also practicing controlled descents on its boosters. The Grasshopper technology, I believe, has direct potential for a non-atmospheric lander. Combined the Raptor, whose methane fuel does not need to be stored cryogenically like traditional H2/O2 engines, I see everything we need for a reusable lunar lander.

    We have means of resupplying orbital assets thanks to the COTS program in the form of the Cygnus (2-4tons up, $238M), and the Dragon CRS (6+tons up & down, $133M).

    The CCDev program is also starting to bear fruit, enabling access to LEO and reentry). The DragonRider (7, $140M), based on the above Dragon CRS, needs only a launch abort system (LAS), and a pad test should occur by the end of the year, and should be fully man rated by 2016. SpaceX is also planning an upgraded model with landing struts, enabling it to use that same LAS to do powered landings back to the launch site. Also looking promising are the spaceplanes X-47C "Flying Twinkie" (6), and the Sierra Nevada "Dreamchaser" (7, 2016), and the Boeing CST-100 (7).

    There are great advances on the habitat end as well. Bigelow Aerospace invested in some abandoned NASA technology, the TransHab inflatable habitat. Now Bigelow is preparing to launch the BA 330 “Nautilus” module. The 330 stands for 330m3 of habitable volume, with dimensions of 9.5m in length, and 6.7m in diameter, in a 20ton package. Its also module independent, with its own power and life support systems. For reference the, entire ISS has a habitable volume of 837m3. I can't find it now, but I'm seen prices of about $100m, but lets say $200m.
    Stay the course... continue both ISS and SLS/Orion Programs
    Sink the Station... focus on the SLS/Orion Program
    Vote the Senate Launch System out... Focus on the ISS and Commercial offerings
    Launch the Free Market... Focus just on payload
    Last edited by Commodore; 11-27-2013, 11:09 PM.

  • #2
    Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

    ...who new there was a limit of 17000 characters per post?

    For just a taste, I believe we could completely replace the the ISS and staff it before its currently scheduled deorbit date of 2020. Consider the price of 3 BA 330 modules (lets say $600M). Add the price of a pair of Falcon Heavy launchers ($150M x2) and the price of a DragonRider launch ($150). It may or may not need it, but lets assume it needs some docking nodes and other accessories. Your still coming in at about $1.5B for hardware that is already developed. Or less than half the annual exploration budget cost of a little under $4b.

    NASA is aware of the potential, and is working on concepts to open up exploration. One such example is the Nautilus-X.

    All in all, I believe that we can accomplish great things in space just using these simple building blocks that I've mentioned. We can certainly do far more with the funding allocated for space exploration than we are, if we are actually willing to use these commercially available resources, and focus our R&D resources on mission specific hardware. And I'll get into more detail on what I think we can accomplish, and what we should be accomplishing. But I need to hit the hay, and would like to get your thoughts. What direction should NASA take?


    • #3
      Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

      Developments at NASA and in the Congress put this dilemma in focus.

      Are the Days of NASA's Science Flagship Missions Over?

      NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had a tough message for the space science community today forget about flagship missions, theyre not affordable these days. At the very same time on Capitol Hill, however, the chairman of one of NASAs key committees was expressing enthusiasm about a mission to Europa unquestionably a flagship mission. The disconnect could not be more stark.

      Flagship missions are NASAs most expensive (over $1 billion) and risky space science missions, but offer exceptional scientific payoff.

      Bolden stopped by the NASA Advisory Councils (NACs) Science Committee this morning during a break in a meeting of his Strategic Management Council, composed of NASA leaders at Headquarters and its 10 centers around the country. By happenstance, his arrival interrupted a briefing on lessons learned from one of NASAs most recent flagship missions the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) with its Curiosity rover. Though Curiosity is a tremendous technological, scientific and public relations success, it was two years late and significantly over budget.

      Boldens message to the NAC Science Committee was unambiguous: We have to stop thinking about flagship missions. The budget doesnt support that. Bolden went on to explain that he and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan have talked about the importance of cadence, flying more, less expensive types of missions. Noting that the science community has many interest groups and his job is "to find a way to be able to satisfy" them all, he said "increasing the cadence, letting them fly more, although smaller" missions is "an answer" though "it may not be the answer." Trying to win approval for flagship missions would mean eternal battles with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), he said.
      Turning SLS and Orion into Entitlements (Update: Webb Too)

      According to a release issued today:"The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved three bills with bipartisan support. ... Prior to debate on a fourth bill [H.R. 3625] offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), the Committee recessed subject to the call of the Chair. Chairman Smith indicated that he expects the Committee to reconvene to consider the bill next week."
      Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is going to join the party and will introduce an amendment to give the Webb Space Telescope the same protection against cancellation as SLS and Orion would get under this bill. Think of all the large contracts that will soon be voided and what this means for the way in which NASA engages in contracting for future programs - to say nothing of the contingencies that won't be in place in case a program runs into trouble - and the decreased flexibility the agency will have to manage its finances.
      Rep. Brooks is submitting an amendment that says "Page 5, line 6, insert "If the Administration terminates a covered program for the convenience of the Government, then the Administration is responsible for payment of all termination liability costs." after "such prime contracts." In other words, the government accepts all the responsibility and lets the SLS and Orion prime contractors off the hook when it comes to termination costs. This bill only affects the prime contractors. None of the subcontractors get anything out of it i.e. ATK, Aerojet etc. Indeed, they are left holding the bag as far as their potential termination costs are concerned. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government.
      If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. Here's an excerpt:
      Originally posted by H.R. 3625
      (2) While the Space Launch System and the Orion programs, currently under development, have made significant progress, they have not been funded at levels authorized, and as a result congressionally authorized milestones will be delayed by several years.[/I]
      (3) In addition, contractors are currently holding program funding, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to cover the potential termination liability should the Government choose to terminate a program for convenience. As a result, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are unavailable for meaningful work on these programs.

      (a) GENERAL RULE. Termination liability costs for a covered program shall be provided only pursuant to this section.

      (b) PROHIBITION ON RESERVING FUNDS. The Administrator may not reserve funds from amounts appropriated for a covered program, and shall direct prime contractors not to reserve funds, for potential termination liability costs with respect to a covered program.

      (c) INTENT OF CONGRESS. It is the intent of Congress that funds authorized to be appropriated for covered programs be applied in meeting established technical goals and schedule milestones.

      (d) VOID CONTRACTUAL PROVISIONS. Any provision in a prime contract entered into before the date of enactment of this Act that provides for the payment of termination liability costs through any means other than as provided in this section is hereby declared to be void and unenforceable.

      (1) TERMINATION FOR CONVENIENCE. The Administrator may not initiate termination for the convenience of the Government of a prime contract on a covered program unless such program termination is authorized or required by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this Act."


      • #4
        Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

        In the mean time...

        The Chinese have begun their most ambitious lunar mission to date, following the successful launch their Long March 3B rocket carrying the Change-3 probe and Yutu lunar rover. Launch was on schedule at 17:30 UTC on Sunday, taking place from the LC2 Launch Complex at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
        Chinese Moon Mission:

        The Change-3 mission is the second phase of Chinas lunar program, a program that includes orbiting, landing and sample return ambitions. It is aiming to follow the successes of the Change-1 and Change-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.

        The Change-3 mission couples a lander and the rover, advancing Chinas exploration ambitions exponentially. With a launch mass of 3,780 kg, the lander is equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to power the lunar operations during the three-month mission. The energy will be used to power the scientific payload of seven instruments and cameras. The main instrument is the Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope. This will be used to observe galaxies and other celestial objects.

        The lunar rover, named Yutu, will explore the lunar surface after departing the lander. Yutu is equipped with a solar panel to power the vehicle during the lunar day on a three month mission. During this time, Yutu will explore a three square kilometer area, travelling a maximum distance of 10 km from the landing point. Yutu will be capable of real time video transmission, while it will be able to to dig and perform simple analysis of soil samples. It carries a radar unit on its belly that allows for the first direct measurement of the structure and depth of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 meters. The unit will also investigate the lunar crust structure down to depth of several hundred meters. The rover also sports an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer.

        China has designs on the Moon. It should be noted that though there are vast amounts of mineral resources on the moon, the one resource needed to support the manpower to extract those resources is water. And water is found in a limited number of permanently shadowed craters on the north and south poles. If we want to be able to do anything on the Moon we need to claim those first via occupation.

        The Chinese of course, are not terribly careful with their spacecraft....

        SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Two houses in China were damaged by falling pieces of a rocket launched on Monday, prompting calls for an insurance scheme to cover future damage from the country's ambitious space program, the China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday. No casualties were reported after the successful launch of China's first moon rover, Chang'e-3, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan, but debris from the launch hurtled into a village in neighboring Hunan province.

        A photograph in the newspaper showed a farmer standing by a desk-sized chunk of the rocket that had apparently smashed through his wooden roof. "Suppose the rocket wreckage hit a person; what would the authorities do?" the paper quoted Ren Zili, a professor of insurance laws at Beihang University, as saying. One person whose home was damaged received 10,800 yuan ($1,800) as compensation and the other received 5,200 yuan, it said. Ren called for a program to handle compensation in such cases, rather than dealing with each on an individual basis.

        More than 180,000 residents of Sichuan and Hunan were relocated before the launch of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe, the paper said. The number of launches has climbed to as many as 20 each year, Zhang Jianheng, deputy general manager with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Cooperation, told the official Xinhua news agency.
        I would also suggest not licking the debris.


        • #5
          Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

          Good topic. The big problem that I thnk many have is what's the return? That is to say; investing a bunch of money doesn't guarantee anything.

          (I should say, that I agree with you except for the manifest destiny thing. I'm for just doing it, because when you dig a hole, pretty soon you hit water).

          China may have designs on the moon, but they ain't gonna get anything that we haven't found. So let'em go for it. Personally, I think that we should go for Io. It has water and the could have life. That's where I think our priorites should lie: finding new life.


          • #6
            Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

            Sadly, the only return we will get with the SLS/Orion combo are extorted votes for certain Congresscritters.

            Which is not to say that there will not be a need for a heavy lift launcher. We've just picked the least economical way to do it. You have to use a booster and engines that are used for more than just your heavy lifter, that is where the SLS goes wrong. They are using Shuttle derived solid rocket boosters and a reverse engineered Shuttle main engines that have no commercial appeal. If they where to use handful of cross-linked Falcon 9 or Atlas Vs strapped to an external tank with a stock second stage in the aft cargo carrier configuration and the payload on top we could get all the heavy lift capability we would need, plus a vast amount of spare volume to keep the inflatables industry honest, without breaking the bank. We don't need it to get started, but thats the only real missing link to get us firmly established. From there we can effectively test the close-loop life support systems, active electromagnetic shielding, advanced propulsion, and ISRU systems we will need everywhere else.

            The Moon is the shipyard of the Earth. In-situ resource utilization will allow anyone up there to build anything they want up, and control cis-lunar space. IF they have the water to support the manpower to do the building. It's just a matter of who gets there first. This isn't merely a question of flags and footprints.

            Life elsewhere is a forgone conclusion, what isn't a forgone conclusion is our quality of life, which is a product of how we use the resources at our disposal, including those within our solar system. The biggest impediment would actually be a random microbe here or there, because people will sympathize with it. At least let us get established in our own system before we get thrust into interstellar politics.

            When it comes to destinations, for now we have to start with what is close and useful. The Moon has vast amounts of mineral resources and plenty of water to get us started. Venus is our next closest destination, and though we can't land on the surface with our current technology, the atmosphere is thick enough to make a breathable atmosphere a lifting gas, so a well designed habitat will float like an airship at an altitude where the gravity and temperatures are reasonable, the pressure is livable and one could go outside with just an oxygen mask. The real draw here is the vast amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with are lacking most everywhere else in the inner solar system. When we figure out carbon nanotubes, all that carbon locked in the CO2 could also be a useful building material, and entire floating cities are possible. Mars of course is our best overall colonization target, with reasonable gravity, abundant water and mineral deposits, and the atmosphere to support fuel production. Mercury has a little water and vast heavy mineral deposits and enough solar energy to be useful for industrial purposes. I think Ceres is the key to all of it, because of it's near limitless supply of cryogenic fuels, and its proximity to the vast mineral resources of the asteroid belt.

            If you set up a system of trade between these five (ok, 6 if you include Earth and it's essential biological contribution) worlds, each supplying its own specialty, we can establish thriving colonies anywhere we want.

            The outer solar system is equally interesting. Each planet is essentially it's own solar system with its family of moons and could be self sufficient pretty quickly with the right technology.

            It would be a lot of fun to get a submarine into the oceans of Europa I think you where referring to. First we are going to need to get some active electromagnetic shielding on whatever we put down, the magnetosphere of Jupiter puts out enough radiation to be deadly to both men and electronics. NASA put together a plan a decade back to figure out what it would take to explore Europa remotely from Callisto, a nearby moon that is outside of Jupiter's magnetosphere.

            What we really need is a solid set of goals.

            2015: Restore American access to low Earth Orbit (Dragon, Dreamchaser, ect)
            2019: 1st Lunar Return Sortie for the 50th anniversary of the 1st landing
            2020: Replace ISS with inflatable/wet workshop station
            2025: Building on the above sorties, establish permanent lunar base and stations at L1/2 points
            2030: Land on Mars, build a base, establish a regular cycling habitat adding additional inhabitants every launch opportunity
            2040: Establish locally teleoperated ISRU bases on Ceres and Mercury
            2050: Establish atmospheric bases floating above Venus
            2060: Establish self sufficient colony on Callisto, exploring the other moons of Jupiter by the end of the century
            2070: Establish self sufficient colony on Titan, exploring the other moons of Saturn by the end of the century
            2080: Establish self sufficient colony on Titania, exploring the other moons of Uranus by the end of the century
            2090: Establish self sufficient colony on Triton, exploring the other moons of Neptune by the end of the century
            2100: Establish robotic ISRU outposts on select Kuiper Belt worlds in strategic orbits to enable access to the rest of the Kuiper Belt


            • #7
              Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

              I like your set of goals alot. Problem: You are missing a few.
              1st: Attain fusion power at a stable level.
              2nd: build a craft robust enough to GET you to jupiter while creating an engine that will get you there, AND cryostasis unless the engine you make is some form of FTL (which for the record I would be MORE than ok with. I would have a video of that thing in action instead of viagra when I got old)
              3rd: Build a space program of WORKERS not doctorates. Yes you're going to NEED some doctorates, but you're going to need cheap muscle that isn't irreplaceable because space is fucking dangerous and the belts/moons you wanna visit are more so. There is going to be a REALLY HIGH mortality rate.
              You can do 2 and 3 together, but number 1 is first. ANything other than servicing satellites in LEO etc is pretty much a waste of money until you get number 1 2 and 3 all together.

              YOu ever read john ringos "live free or die"? Its about humans getting into space by bootstrapping from outdated alien tech that they trade to us for Maple syrup which is like cocaine for them. (maple syrup was chosen becuase it only grows in a small area, there is a logistically limited amount, it is run by a VERY insular community with a hatred for gov regulation, and its PLANTS which you can't drop rocks on the area surrounding to get people to do your bidding.) You'll like it or I'll eat my hat.


              • #8
                Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                Originally posted by reality View Post
                I like your set of goals alot. Problem: You are missing a few.
                1st: Attain fusion power at a stable level.
                2nd: build a craft robust enough to GET you to jupiter while creating an engine that will get you there, AND cryostasis unless the engine you make is some form of FTL (which for the record I would be MORE than ok with. I would have a video of that thing in action instead of viagra when I got old)
                3rd: Build a space program of WORKERS not doctorates. Yes you're going to NEED some doctorates, but you're going to need cheap muscle that isn't irreplaceable because space is fucking dangerous and the belts/moons you wanna visit are more so. There is going to be a REALLY HIGH mortality rate.
                You can do 2 and 3 together, but number 1 is first. ANything other than servicing satellites in LEO etc is pretty much a waste of money until you get number 1 2 and 3 all together.
                My aim was more about destination goals, but you are absolutely right, those are among the technology milestones we need to hit our destination targets. A Mars mission is pretty much the outer threshold of what can be reasonable done with existing chemical propulsion, and we pay a big price for it. In fact nuclear power for the vessel itself is very useful in other areas such as agriculture and active electromagnetic shielding. But for anything further than Mars its an absolute necessity. It maybe harder politically than it is technically. Thats why regular operation in cis-lunar space is essential. Doing final assembly and lighting of a NTR at a Lunar L2 station 37,000 miles on the other side of the moon would be a lot easier to sell.

                Its also true that we have never really built a true "spaceship", as defined as a craft designed to travel through space. The closest we have is the ISS, but that was not designed in a way to endure the flexing that would be required to propel it at high speeds or interact with alien atmospheres in a way that would allow us to aerobrake into a stable orbit without burning large amounts of fuel. We also haven't designed a spacecraft to self sufficiently support a human biosphere for extended period of time, or protect it from the hostile radiation environment of interplanetary space. There is also the question of reusing the habitats on the surface, if you've read Kim Stanley Robinson's fantastic Red Mars (the other two are just as good, but more focused on astropolitics), thats kind of what I am picturing, particularly in the latter half of the century in the outer solar system, where even with fast rockets, journeys are apt to last multiple years and missions are likely to be "open ended", meaning the crew probably will not be planning to return to Earth. The initial transit craft will be large, and will be disassembled in orbit, landed, and reassembled on the surface. Follow-up craft are likely to be smaller and faster, because they can resupply upon arrival.

                There does need to be a decidedly "blue-collar" approach. While much of the machinery used to construct things will certainly be teleoperated, someone is still going to need to maintain those machines. And any colonization effort that doesn't involve families is going to meet a dead end. That automatically opens up a host of domestic labor duties.

                Originally posted by reality View Post
                YOu ever read john ringos "live free or die"? Its about humans getting into space by bootstrapping from outdated alien tech that they trade to us for Maple syrup which is like cocaine for them. (maple syrup was chosen becuase it only grows in a small area, there is a logistically limited amount, it is run by a VERY insular community with a hatred for gov regulation, and its PLANTS which you can't drop rocks on the area surrounding to get people to do your bidding.) You'll like it or I'll eat my hat.
                I will add it to the list.


                • #9
                  Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                  Here's how I would do it: Take MOST of nasa's budget (leave the whole tracking possible world killers section fully funded. in fact, give them more money) and most of those scientists and engineers and have them come up with fusion. Patent it and sell it to private corps and govs. use the revenue and goodwill generated by that, and the existing budget, and start work on a craft, propulsion system, and life support system built around the new power system. Sell that as well. THEN start whipping up the manifest destiny frenzy and just ride the wave where it takes you.


                  • #10
                    Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                    There is plenty we can do even without a NTR, which probably requires less work than one would expect. If we pour our efforts into the Moon, it will hit its stride with plenty of time to hit other goals. If fact, lunar operations will provide the other pieces of the puzzle.

                    In the mean time, the politicians are getting theirs...

                    House Committee Approves Bill To Shield Big NASA Programs from Cancellation

                    WASHINGTON — The House Science Committee on Dec. 11 approved a bill that would require NASA to obtain legislative permission to cancel some of its most expensive human spaceflight and science programs, while at the same time allowing contractors for these programs to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funding.
                    The bill, H.R. 3625, was introduced Dec. 2 by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. It had 15 co-sponsors, including five Democrats, as of Dec. 11. The proposal was approved by a voice vote and now heads to the House floor.
                    The bill’s provisions apply to the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the international space station, and the James Webb Space Telescope.
                    Should the bill become law, NASA would lose the ability to unilaterally terminate these programs — something federal agencies are typically allowed to do. It would also give these programs leeway to tap into the so-called termination liability funds that contractors set aside to cover any expenses that arise if the government cancels their programs. For the missions covered under H.R. 3625, these set-asides total hundreds of millions of dollars, which could be used for development if the bill passes.


                    • #11
                      Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                      We need to rework the tax code to include something like this:

                      Publication 535 (2012), Business Expenses

                      Then investment would flow...

                      'If you want more of something subsidize it.'


                      • #12
                        Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                        Certainly companies need to see a profit for us to get into space. Pitch them mars. You can get there and build a functioning colony? It's yours. Boom spaceward ho!


                        • #13
                          Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                          In order to sell the benefit of exploiting the resources of Space to companies, those resources have to produce a product that can be sold on Earth.


                          • #14
                            Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                            Originally posted by Commodore View Post
                            In order to sell the benefit of exploiting the resources of Space to companies, those resources have to produce a product that can be sold on Earth.
                            YOu can own the whole planet is pretty tempting. Think of all those people that would rather they were nobility etc. They could set mars up in fine style total recall style.
                            Or you could pitch all those heavy metals in the asteroid belt. Personally I'd go with "get there and own your own little fiefdom".


                            • #15
                              Re: NASA's &quot;Solomon's Choice&quot;

                              Sounds like a social experiment too volatile to keep in a pressurized habitat.

                              In the mean time, the ISS continues to show it's age...
                              ISS suffers external coolant loop issue – contingency spacewalks planned

                              December 11, 2013 by Pete Harding --The International Space Station (ISS) is currently experiencing an issue with one of its two external ammonia coolant loops, with one loop operating much too cold due to the apparent failure of an ammonia temperature control valve. The issue, if not resolved via other means, could result in several spacewalks being required in the immediate future.
                              Valve issue:

                              The coolant issue relates to a component known as a Flow Control Valve (FCV), which regulates the temperature of ammonia coolant in the ISS’ external cooling loops by mixing cool ammonia exiting the radiators with warm ammonia that has bypassed the radiators. Early indications are that the FCV in the loop A coolant system is not closing properly, which is likely to be causing too much cool ammonia to enter into the cooling loop, which in turn has caused the loop A system to operate at a temperature which is much too low for normal operation.
                              Future options:
                              Ultimately, if the FCV issue cannot be resolved, then it will have to be replaced. However, since the FCV resides inside the PCVP, and since the PCVP resides inside the PM, this will mean that the entire loop A PM will need to be Removed & Replaced (R&Rd) via an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA).The loop A PM was only R&Rd fairly recently in space station terms, after the previous unit failed in August 2010.

                              That R&R turned out to be a mammoth three EVA task by spacewalkers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, due to some very troublesome ammonia Quick Disconnect (QD) lines. Thus, the PM currently experiencing issues has been in service for just over three years, after being launched to the ISS on STS-121 in 2006. The procedure to R&R a PM involves disconnecting four fluid QDs as well as electrical connectors, then driving four bolts to uncouple the old unit from its home, which in the case of the loop A PM is inside the Starboard 1 (S1) Truss.

                              The reverse procedure then needs to be completed to install a spare unit, with the failed unit then being stowed outside the ISS.Thanks to NASA’s strategy to pre-position spares outside the ISS for the post-Shuttle era, there are currently three spare PMs outside the ISS – one located on External Stowage Platform-3 (ESP-3) on the Starboard side of the ISS, which was launched on STS-127 in July 2009.
                              Another PM is located on ExPrESS Logistics Carrier-1 (ELC-1) on the Port side of the ISS, and was launched on STS-129 in November 2009, and the third spare PM is located on ELC-2 on the Starboard side of the ISS, and was again launched on STS-129. It is likely that the spare PM on ESP-3 would be utilised, as it is the oldest unit and is close to the location of the loop A PM on the S1 Truss.

                              Should EVAs be required – as is now expected – the EVA crew would likely consist of NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who arrived at the ISS in September, and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, who arrived at the ISS in November. Additionally, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata would also be able to perform an EVA if required.

                              But lets keep it up there until 2028. What could possibly go wrong.