NASA and Bigelow Aerospace Sign Lunar Base Deal
April 23, 2013 9:44 AM
Pair will be tasked with baking designs for mankind's first extra-terran outpost
A staple of science fiction for nearly a century, mankind has long dreamt of colonizing the moon. Now those dreams could be a bit closer to reality thanks to an enterprising entrepreneur. He's paired with America's space agency to develop plans for a moon base -- and he's doing it for free to start.
I. Big Science Comes and Goes
Man first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. High on the competitive thrill of the Cold War, the U.S. spent nearly $130B USD in today's money ($25.4B USD back in 1973) to send six manned missions to the moon. The intention was to eventually create a permanent outpost, but by the mid-1970s the U.S. government had shuttered those plans.
Frustrated by close calls and enervated by an easing of Cold War tensions, the U.S. would drop its dreams of lunar colonization, occasionally toying with them in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead it focused its efforts on Earth orbit shuttle missions.
Nearly a decade ago, in January 2004, President George W. Bush called on
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) to launch a new wave of lunar exploration, establishing a permanent presence on Earth's rocky satellite.
Nine years ago President Bush called on the U.S. to colonize the Moon. [Image Source: EPA]
In a speech he
Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the cost of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy and thus far less cost.
[The moon] contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration -- human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.
He claimed that NASA could return to the moon for $12B USD by 2020. But as the years have rolled on, that figure
looked increasingly unrealistic
-- both historically and in terms of NASA's current budgetary and brainpower shortages. Experts recently estimated a return trip to the moon would
cost around $145B USD
II. Lunar Plans Stall Under Obama
President Bush's successor, President Barack Obama has made the goal of a lunar landing in the near future seem even less likely. He's
shifted focus from the Moon mission
to a more ambitious goal -- a Mars landing. At the same time he
retired the Shuttle Program in 2011
, turning to
commercial contractors like SpaceX
to provide for NASA's future
manned and unmanned space transportation needs
NASA's budget has been on a downward tilt. [Image Source: NASA]
And NASA's budget continued to slide as Congress looked to
sacrifice space exploration and other science programs
sustain the pork payouts
they owed the folks who got them elected: in 2010 the average cost of a successful U.S. House run was ~$1.4M USD, and ~$8.9M USD for the U.S. Senate [
] and a recent
University of Kansas
School of Business
[PDF] indicates that for every dollar donated to a federal candidate by special interest they "owe" that entity roughly $240 USD in taxpayer-funded payouts.
Under President Obama a smaller NASA has refocused on commercial partnerships.
[Image Source: SpaceX]
Amid that climate, there seems to be little hope for big science at NASA, and organization with little in the way of well-heeled lobbyists or silver-tongued sponsors.
III. Bigelow Looks to Salvage Mankind's Colonization Hopes
And yet the goal of a lunar base still creeps on in NASA's dark age. The agency is today looking to private contractors to potentially allow it to establish a lunar base on a budget.
Bigelow's Moon base will likely use inflatable modules. [Image Source: Bigelow Aerospace]
This week, David Weaver, NASA Associate Administrator, announced that it would conduct an "initial planning phase" study with
with the intent of developing a design for a lunar outpost.
As part of our broader commercial space strategy, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to foster ideas about how the private sector can contribute to future human missions.
This will provide important information on possible ways to expand our exploration capabilities in partnership with the private sector. The agency is intensely focused on a bold mission to identify, relocate and explore an asteroid with American astronauts by 2025 — all as we prepare for an even more ambitious human mission to Mars in the 2030s. NASA has no plans for a human mission to the moon.
Bigelow Aerospace shares many similarities to SpaceX. The Las Vegas-based company was founded in 1998 by a Robert Bigelow, who made his wealth off of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain he owned managed. The company's trademark is low-cost inflatable spacecraft made from high-tech materials.
IV. A Rising Star of the Commercial Spaceflight Industry
In January 2013, Bigelow scored its biggest hit yet, winning a
$17.8M USD contract to develop and build an inflatable expansion
for the International Space Station. The ISS, which launched in 1998, will
deorbit and be sent to the ocean
around 2020 according to recent remarks from the deputy head of Russia's Roskosmos space agency, Vitaly Davydov.
While NASA isn't paying Bigelow Aerospace anything for this initial phase lunar study, Robert Bigelow
doesn't seem too bothered
by that. After all, the space entrepreneur says he's been carrying out crude preliminary phase planning sessions about a moon base for years now.
According to Mr. Bigelow, the initial phase study will take about 100 days. He's already making plans for a second phase 120-day study, which could snage some funding from NASA.
The initial phase of the study will take 100 days. [Image Source: Bigelow Aerospace]
Bigelow Aerospace's Moon shot will likely make use of inflatable modules -- possibly from repurposed launch vehicles.
Space Industry News
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
After $84M USD Payout, House Passes "Big Brother Writ" CISPA
April 19, 2013, 10:02 AM
NASA Gives Bigelow Aerospace $17.8M for Expandable ISS Module
January 14, 2013, 12:12 PM
The End of Big Science: America's Top Particle Accelerator to Shut Down
September 29, 2011, 2:29 PM
International Space Station to Deorbit After 2020
July 27, 2011, 10:15 AM
Space Shuttle Atlantis Arrives Home Safely, Marks End of 30-Year Space Shuttle Program
July 21, 2011, 9:21 AM
PIQ ROBOTTM reveals its new artificial intelligence software
November 29, 2016, 12:59 AM
One more time - Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone Around the World
November 24, 2016, 4:00 AM
Google’s Smart Contact Lens Project gets halted for 2016
November 20, 2016, 7:00 AM
Cell Research Study shows African Americans have greater immune response to infection
November 10, 2016, 1:00 AM
UTHealth Clinical Trial Shows Progress Using Stem Cells to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury
November 8, 2016, 1:00 AM
Uber Partners with Circulation to Pilot Program Connecting Transportation and Digital Health Care
November 6, 2016, 5:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
How Apple watch Series 2 differ from the S1
February 18, 2017, 5:37 AM
February 17, 2017, 6:01 AM
Samsung Notebook 9 vs Acer Aspire S 13
February 17, 2017, 7:23 AM
Seagate FireCuda – 2TB of Fast Gaming Solid State Hybrid Drive Storage
February 6, 2017, 8:24 AM
Comparison: NuVision vs Kindle Fire HD
February 18, 2017, 6:25 AM
Latest Blog Posts
AMD and More
Feb 24, 2017, 5:55 AM
Feb 23, 2017, 6:30 AM
Feb 21, 2017, 6:12 AM
Here is how startups are helping new parents in raising children
Feb 20, 2017, 6:45 AM
Around the World
Feb 18, 2017, 5:48 AM
News of Future
Feb 17, 2017, 6:30 AM
Amazon parachutes May Float Packages to Customers
Feb 16, 2017, 8:00 AM
Now you Can Watch Facebook on Your TV
Feb 15, 2017, 7:42 AM
Feb 14, 2017, 5:36 AM
Razer Blade Stealth – Little Kaby Lake Powerhouse
Feb 13, 2017, 7:50 AM
Android 7.0 Nougat 7.0 Update Bring Less Battery Life for Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge
Feb 12, 2017, 7:45 AM
Apple iPhone 8 – OLED Display & Wireless Charging
Feb 11, 2017, 8:09 AM
Feb 10, 2017, 6:15 AM
Feb 9, 2017, 6:00 AM
Eye catching news
Feb 8, 2017, 6:16 AM
Some World News
Feb 7, 2017, 6:15 AM
Feb 6, 2017, 10:11 AM
Feb 5, 2017, 7:27 AM
Notes and News
Feb 4, 2017, 5:53 AM
Feb 3, 2017, 5:30 AM
Feb 2, 2017, 7:00 AM
News Around The World.
Feb 1, 2017, 7:20 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2017 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information