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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."

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 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.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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