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Obama expects to be around to see man walk on Mars

The U.S. manned space flight programs were dealt a serious blow when Obama announced plans to go back to the moon were being shelved due to budget cuts and cost overruns. The budget cuts meant that the Constellation program would be cancelled.

The outcry against the President's plan was swift from space program supporters and NASA. Obama quickly began to take steps to alter his plans and called for the Orion crew module originally planned as the shuttle replacement to be scaled back and used as a lifeboat for the ISS. Obama had announced that he would talk about his plans for NASA and the space program in Florida earlier this week.

Obama has now aired his plans, clarifying some points and helping to dress wounds caused when he originally announced his plans for NASA. Obama's plan still calls for a scaled back Constellation program that would see the program continue, but only as a shadow of its former self. The changes still mean thousands in the space industry will be left jobless.

The shuttle fleet is set to retire this year with only three more scheduled flights remaining for the fleet with the last scheduled for September. Obama has promised additional funds to allow NASA padding if a launch has to be rescheduled due to weather. Some hope that the extra funds can instead be used to fund an extra mission.

Once the shuttle fleet is retired, getting astronauts to and from the ISS will be left to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $50 million per round trip.

Obama sees the future of U.S. space flight in the hands of private companies. Obama wants a new industry that will see private companies offering transportation services to NASA rather than the vehicles themselves.

Obama said, "The new plan is to harness our nation's unparalleled system of free enterprise (as we have done in all other modes of transport), to create far more reliable and affordable rockets."

The 
San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama foresees manned missions to near Earth asteroids and perhaps even Mars in his lifetime.

Obama said, "[By 2025 the U.S. will have a new spacecraft] designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space." He continued saying, "We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."

Obama said of a return trip to the moon, "We've been there before." Obama's plans for the space program still need the approval of Congress. Many lawmakers still plan to fight to keep the jobs that Obama's new budget will cut in their home districts. Obama's plans would see 2,500 jobs added in the Florida "Space Coast" by 2012. Thousands will still be unemployed due to the budget cuts.



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RE: Lost all faith
By porkpie on 4/16/2010 3:29:35 PM , Rating: 2
" but in the light of harsh budget realities it's not that bad."

What "harsh budget realities"? Obama has already increased government spending from three to 3.8 trillion dollars.

An extra $800,000,000,000 dollars each year, even assuming he doesn't increase it further -- and he can't give NASA a decent budget?

"Phobos would be an ideal base from which to telerobotically explore Mars"

Questionable, and irrelevant in any case. A mission to Phobos ONLY makes sense in context of a larger manned landing on Mars. A trip to do nothing but go to Phobos and return accomplishes nothing. Unless the trip leaves behind some form of permanent infrastructure or resources, its a wash.

And don't give me the "but we'll learn so much to help us for when we DO go back!" nonsense. You accomplish things by setting goals. There's nothing we don't already know about Phobos that would prevent us from doing a Mars landing as part of a single, unified mission. Worse, until we actually HAVE that plan, we don't even know what questions to ask about Phobos, which makes going there doubly pointless.


RE: Lost all faith
By maven81 on 4/16/2010 3:47:13 PM , Rating: 1
A mission to Phobos ONLY makes sense in context of a larger manned landing on Mars. A trip to do nothing but go to Phobos and return accomplishes nothing.

Developing the technology to get there is not an easy feat. You'd have to solve all the problems that come up in human deep space exploration, such as travel time/propulsion, radiation shielding, supplies etc. But you'd save some money by not having to come up with a sophisticated landing system designed to work in an atmosphere. You also wouldn't need much fuel for the return journey.
Now you might argue that going all the way there, to stop short of landing on the planet itself is odd... and maybe it is. But to say it accomplishes nothing? Nope. It develops the infrastructure needed to get there and back.


RE: Lost all faith
By porkpie on 4/16/2010 4:49:23 PM , Rating: 3
" Nope. It develops the infrastructure needed to get there and back."

No. We can get to Mars today without any basic research needed like we did in the Gemini days. There's a minor amount of engineering needed, and that's it. And we can do the engineering without actually making the trip.

95% of the money for a Phobos mission would simply be spent on actually building the hardware, launching it into orbit, and assembling for the mission. And we'd throw every bit of that hardware away after the mission. Most of it would simply be left on Phobos, never to be used again.


RE: Lost all faith
By maven81 on 4/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: Lost all faith
By porkpie on 4/16/2010 5:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
"if that was true, why is it that no one has gone back to the moon already? The logistics should be a lot easier."

Thank you for proving my point for me. Just because we went to the moon before doesn't mean the infrastructure is there or the logistics any easier.

The same would be even more true of a trip to Phobos. A trip there now won't make a second trip appreciably easier or less costly.

" Do you honestly believe that the operational cost for such a mission would be only 5% of the budget? "

Is English your second language? I'm saying the exact opposite. Operational costs are the part you throw away. Whatever we spend on operational costs for one mission isn't going to save us a penny for a future mission that's actually useful.

I suggest you take a deep breath and reread the thread. Perhaps you've forgotten what the debate is even about? A trip to Phobos isn't going to make a future Mars mission appreciably cheaper, easier, or faster to accomplish. The vast majority of that will be simply thrown away.


RE: Lost all faith
By maven81 on 4/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: Lost all faith
By randomly on 4/16/2010 7:56:26 PM , Rating: 2
Maven81 is actually correct. Your assumption that developmental costs are a minor cost aspect is wrong.

An easy example is the Apollo program

Year % of Federal Budget
1960 0.5%
1961 0.9%
1962 1.4%
1963 2.8%
1964 4.3%
1965 5.3%
1966 5.5%
1967 3.1%
1968 2.4% First manned Apollo mission
1969 2.1% First Moon Landing
1970 1.7%
1971 1.6%
1972 1.3% Last Moon Landing

Expenditures peaked several years before even the first Apollo flight. Developmental costs are often a dominant factor, not the ridiculous 5% you mention.


RE: Lost all faith
By porkpie on 4/16/2010 11:25:00 PM , Rating: 3
"An easy example is the Apollo program...Expenditures peaked several years before even the first Apollo flight."

Lol, did you actually type that? Did you forget that what people today call "the Apollo Program" was actually Mercury-Gemini-Apollo. The first Mercury flight was in 1961. The Saturn V we used to get to moon we began building in 1963 .

And we were spending vast sums on non-development items starting in 1959 -- oh, you know, little things like the Kennedy Space Center and the Houston Space Center, which jointly had some 200-odd buildings, one of which was, when built, the largest building in the entire world?

Did little facts like that just slip your mind?


RE: Lost all faith
By randomly on 4/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: Lost all faith
By porkpie on 4/17/2010 1:32:53 AM , Rating: 4
Fascinating how you managed to ignore the point.

- We began construction of buildings, facilities, and infrastructure STARTING in 1959
- We had our first launch in 1959
- We had our first man in space in 1961
- We began building the Sat V in 1963.

By 1965-66, when spending peaked, we had already been doing more than just designing rockets for over half a decade. The design part is the cheap part. It's actually building all that hardware that costs so much.

You seem to be very confused about the term "development costs". NASA's development estimate for Ares included not just design costs, but building operational hardware. Again, that's where the money is spent. Do you actually not realize that we have already conducted flight tests on Ares? Yes, real rockets, soaring to suborbital heights. You really think we were spending $40B just on paychecks to engineers? Good god, man -- THINK before you type.


RE: Lost all faith
By randomly on 4/17/2010 2:24:25 AM , Rating: 1
The one test flight of the Ares I-X rocket had almost none of the actual hardware other than maybe the avionics. None of the engines, nothing of the second stage, nothing of the capsule etc.

35 Billion for development costs and 12 years before the first flight. But you are unable to grasp that concept are you?

Your conjecture that development costs and timelines are a trivial part of a Mars mission is so obviously false that I'm not going to waste further time on the subject. It's clear your ego makes you incapable of ever acknowledge that you might be in error no matter how painfully obvious. I'm not interested in catering to your emotional needs since I believe I've already made my point clear enough to more rational readers.


RE: Lost all faith
By randomly on 4/16/2010 6:47:24 PM , Rating: 1
Sigh. This is just total baseless nonsense with so many misconceptions.

Nobody that actually studies missions to Mars thinks we are currently capable of sending men to mars and having them survive the trip.

Development costs are an enormous part of the mission costs. The development cost for Ares V would have been something like $35 Billion. That's before you launch a single rocket.

The development of a deep space vehicle for Phobos is applicable to any other deep space destination.

A Phobos mission would actually not leave anything on Phobos other than instrumentation. The entire deep space vehicle would leave Phobos for the return trip to earth.

It is pointless to discuss this if you won't at least do some actual research to find out what is and is not possible. You are just guessing without actually knowing anything about the subject and it's counter productive.


RE: Lost all faith
By JediJeb on 4/16/2010 6:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
I can see a point to this since it would be similar to the first Apollo missions where we only orbited the moon and didn't land. Those were to make sure we got things correct in how to get there and back. Before we send a manned flight there we really should send an unmanned one out and back, no landing but just to orbit and return. You have to do proof of concept type work even if only as a shakedown mission. At least if that goal is set right now, it would give us something to shoot for and a target deadline to hit. Second mission send a lander along and have it land, takeoff, dock then crew capsule return. Third could then be manned. Maybe even leave behind some supplies in orbit on the first two for when the manned mission arrives. But at least lets set some timelines and goals for this to get us motivated and working on it.


RE: Lost all faith
By randomly on 4/16/2010 6:29:11 PM , Rating: 1
The harsh budget reality is that no matter what Obama proposes in the way of budget increases there is not sufficient support in congress for a large increase, it's just not going to happen. It's not even sure that his current proposal of around 900 million a year increase will pass congress. Except for the states that directly benefit from NASA's budget such as Florida, Texas, and Alabama support for NASA in congress is tepid at best.

As fun as it may be to rant about the $800 Billion it doesn't change the fact that a large budget increase for NASA won't make it through Congress and whatever is planned for NASA has to work within that reality.

Your dismissal of a Phobos mission is typical of people who are ignorant of the operational, logistical, and scientific aspects of missions to Mars and is similar to where I started out when I first came across the subject. If you bother to research the topic in detail you'll begin to discover how much sense it actually makes.

A mission to Phobos is obviously a precursor mission to a landing on Mars. It would allow you to develop all the technologies needed for deep space missions. All the technologies developed for a Phobos mission would be needed for a future boots on Mars mission anyway. It would allow you to extensively explore possible Mars landing sites with Telerobotics. Sample return vehicles associated with the Mars telerobots would allow the astronauts to acquire Mars samples and analyze them to refine further exploration and sample returns. It would allow you to test out ISRU technologies (Phobos itself may be a significant ISRU resource for oxygen and propellants). ISRU technologies maybe essential to make a future boots on Mars mission possible. Unlike the moon landings it does not yet appear feasible to have a Mars lander that can abort to orbit. Once on your way down you are committed. Because of EDL mass limits multiple vehicles will have to be landed in one place to meet the logistics requirements of a boots on Mars mission. A habitat and a fueled return vehicle needs to be up and ready before astronauts land there, all that will probably need is best tested out and accomplished telerobotically from orbit. The mission complexity is just enormous. A first mission to Phobos is not only prudent it may be an essential step to a landing on Mars.

It would allow you to investigate and establish Phobos as a staging base for future Mars landings. Any long term manned orbit of Mars would best be spent on Phobos since at the bottom of a crater facing Mars (which at 9000km away fills 40 degrees across the sky) you gain an enormous amount of shielding from GCR which is otherwise so difficult to shield against and unmitigated would be fatal over a long duration mission.

The difference in mass, complexity, and cost between a mission to Phobos and a Mars landing are staggering. A Mars landing requires many times the total mission mass and an enormous increase in mission complexity, risk, and cost.

I can certainly understand the impatience in wanting to land on Mars now but the technical, logistical, and economic reality with our current level of technology and funding points to a Phobos mission as a more realistic goal in the nearer term.

What exactly do you expect to learn from a Mars landing that can't be learned via telerobotic exploration from Phobos with sample returns that is worth the order of magnitude increase in cost, complexity, risk, and delay in putting together such a mission?

Personally I would much rather see a mission to Phobos and telerobotic exploration of Mars than an attempt to land on Mars which will never realistically happen in my lifetime.

It's all well and good to wish for the moon, but it does no good if you can't afford it.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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