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Charles Bolden  (Source: nasa.gov)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden doesn't see the point of another trip to the moon

There seems to be some differences in opinion around NASA concerning whether the goal of human space exploration should be to land on an asteroid or take another trip to the moon.

The Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board held a meeting in Washington last week, where the topic of asteroid vs. moon took place.

Al Carnesale of UCLA said there wasn't much enthusiasm for an asteroid landing since its initial announcement. It's been almost three years since President Barack Obama officially released plans to land on an asteroid by 2025. 

“Since it was announced, there was less enthusiasm for it among the community broadly,” said Carnesale. “The more we learn about it, the more we hear about it, people seem less enthusiastic about it.”
 
“There’s a great deal of enthusiasm, almost everywhere, for the Moon. I think there might be, if no one has to swallow their pride and swallow their words, and you can change the asteroid mission a little bit… it might be possible to move towards something that might be more of a consensus.”

However, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden disagrees. He said that NASA will gladly participate if another nation agrees to lead a human lunar landing, but NASA will not plan one of its own. 

“They all have dreams of putting human on the Moon,” said Bolden. “I have told every head of agency of every partner agency that if you assume the lead in a human lunar mission, NASA will be a part of that. NASA wants to be a participant.”
 
“NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission. NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.”

Bolden believes NASA should stick to the plan of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030. 

“We intend to do that, and we think it can be done," said Bolden. 

Source: Space Politics



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RE: International Moon Base?
By boeush on 4/9/2013 4:45:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The fact that private companies are doing it at all is pretty awesome.
?? ULA is a private conglomerate. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences -- are all private companies. Have been launching stuff for decades. The only thing that's new today is a couple of new entrants for orbital launches, and some suborbital launch development. None of it fundamentally new; all of it using same-old chemical propulsion, staged rocketry, single-use hardware, and per-launch price tags well into 8 figures at a minimum.

Yes, there may be some marginal cost reductions. But what we really need is not minor tweaks, but orders of magnitude. Private industry will never deliver that, because to develop it you need a lot of basic research and a willingness to take on huge R&D risks with very low probability of profit or even any chance of breaking even.
quote:
As far as the lunar/asteroid mining goes, you may think its a Ponzi, but it has enough weight that pop-sci has addressed it in a few articles.
Oh gee, yeah, there's a weighty economic argument for ya. Right up there with flying cars and artificial brains...
quote:
You seem to be focused on just the launch.
Because that's only the key that unlocks everything else. Otherwise it's like ignoring the fundamental technology that would enable you to cross the ocean, and focusing instead on technology for construction of colonies after you got there. It doesn't matter if you've imagineered it all out on a pretty sketchpad, when you still have no way of actually getting there (at least, not without bankrupting your patrons, quite likely killing all the would-be colonists in the process, and even if you succeed, stranding them there with no affordable, sustainable resupply link -- or worse, bringing them right back and patting yourself on the shoulder for imprinting some footsteps and planting a flag while all the more productive science and tech development grinds to a halt in service of your insane budgets.)


RE: International Moon Base?
By Manch on 4/10/2013 9:25:09 AM , Rating: 2
What about SpaceX? They've broken into the monopoly the ULA had on USAF contracts because they are cheaper. They are attemping to address the reusability aspect. I'd argue that private industry and competition will drive down prices, and lead to the innovation you desire because they have to answer to their investors. The government has no inkling of give a fuq about the amount of money they throw at the monopolies they are in bed with.

I'm not saying mining the moon or an asteroid is going to happen tomorrow but as technology progresses, it will become a reality. Theres gold in them hills son, and people will want to dig it out.


RE: International Moon Base?
By boeush on 4/10/2013 6:59:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What about SpaceX? They've broken into the monopoly the ULA had on USAF contracts because they are cheaper.
True, but those are incremental improvements. Fundamentally, there is not much in their tech that's really all new.
quote:
They are attemping to address the reusability aspect.
Yes, but their concepts are not very fail-safe (e.g. the grasshopper), and fundamentally won't result in a whole lot of reusability (after a couple of launches, the hardware will still need to be scrapped, and it seems that it will need a significant rebuild even after a single launch -- similar to what happened with the Space Shuttle.) Accounting for reduced launch performance due to extra weight/complexity involved with additional subsystems to enable reusability as they've designed it, and accounting for extra inspections, processing, and retrofitting between flights, how much they will really save if anything, remains a major question.
quote:
I'd argue that private industry and competition will drive down prices, and lead to the innovation you desire because they have to answer to their investors.
Competition does drive down prices, to a point. But again, private industry is nothing new here. Our entire space program was always built on top of private industry. And as for answering to investors, the first and primary duty -- BY LAW -- of any public company is to maximize returns for the shareholders. At any cost. This takes precedence over everything else, including innovation. That means R&D budgets, and generally all costs, tend to be cut in highly competitive markets. Consequently, private industry only tends to pursue the kind of R&D where the goal and the pathway to reach it are so well defined that they can be pre-specified in detail on a project schedule, and all costs estimated with confidence up-front. That means the private industry's main area of expertise is in essence tinkering with the status quo, incrementally evolving it by optimizing on the margins. Breakthrough technology development of the type that changes paradigms, is not a strong suit of private companies.
quote:
The government has no inkling of give a fuq about the amount of money they throw at the monopolies they are in bed with.
Government being in bed with monopolies is not a problem that will be solved by the likes of SpaceX. What's the difference in the end, whether government winds up in bed with SpaceX vs. in bed with Boeing? Going from open-ended cost-plus contracts to up-front competitive bidding is definitely an improvement, but SpaceX is not the reason for it; this would have happened even if no new players entered the market -- it was a government initiative aimed at cost containment, not one fostered by private industry who were perfectly happy to extract ridiculous profit margins from the hide of the taxpayer.

But when it comes to fundamental research and breakthrough technologies, nothing can replace the role played by government agencies and academic institutions dedicated to such things. It is no coincidence that hotbeds of innovation and technology startup incubators always cluster around major universities and government research labs (e.g. Silicon Valley owes its existence to the confluence of Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF, UCSC, and Lawrence Livermore National Labs -- all clustered within just a couple of dozen miles from each other.)

In a similar vein, what NASA should be doing is not working on useless colonization projects, but pushing fundamental technology that no private enterprise would pursue. For instance: (culled from today's headlines)

http://www.livescience.com/28553-quantum-entanglem...
http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/04/04/rocket-p...


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