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Race To Space: Exploration, Commercial or Tourist Driven?


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Posted on Sep 4, 2009 8:32:30 AM PDT
Marilyn, Scott Parazynski is a former Shuttle astronaut, not Apollo 11. Scott Parazynski retired in March of this year.

The Apollo 11 astronauts were named Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2009 11:01:35 AM PDT
Hi Martin, thanks!
1) I thought possibly about the 'stress' of moving the ISS before posting, but have never seen any data on that. They DO move the station periodically, so it must be able to withstand some amount of stress. The would probably have to make the solar panels sturdier, I would guess.

2) Assuming we are going back to the moon, you still need rockets powerful enough to push something to the moon. Maybe since the station is so much bigger, we don't have something suitable in plan?

3) If I remember correctly, a Lunar cycler would come around every 13 or 14 days. If they really needed to go more often (or contingency if you miss), how about more cyclers?

4) Re. at perigee the cyclers being higher than current shuttle/soyuz capability. UGH! I hadn't thought about that! Nothing is simple. I guess that's why they call it "rocket science"!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2009 11:23:02 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

"1) I thought possibly about the 'stress' of moving the ISS before posting, but have never seen any data on that. They DO move the station periodically, so it must be able to withstand some amount of stress. The would probably have to make the solar panels sturdier, I would guess."

They move it, but not by a very great deal; to push it into a lunar cycler trajectory could be done very slowly with constant gentle thrust, but this would mean the station would be out of range of shuttle/soyuz for a considerable time.

It's not really designed to take an engine to push it to the sort of trajectory that would be needed. The ISS would make a fine basis for a near Earth station for doing other things, but someone has to pay.

I wonder: if NASA abandon their modules, could the other contributors claim salvage rights if they can keep it a going concern? How would that play out in international law and relations?

"2) Assuming we are going back to the moon, you still need rockets powerful enough to push something to the moon. Maybe since the station is so much bigger, we don't have something suitable in plan?"

VASIMR would be suitable, when it becomes operational. Some of the larger interplanetary probes have been sent on their way by rocket boosters and there's no reason why an existing booster couldn't be carried into orbit as an upper stage - but then there's the stress factor.

"3) If I remember correctly, a Lunar cycler would come around every 13 or 14 days. If they really needed to go more often (or contingency if you miss), how about more cyclers?"

Expense?

Multiple cyclers wouldn't help the crew of a crippled station.

For a single cycler the problem is the crew are stuck aboard for the orbital period, and in an emergency they have no means of an early return to Earth. Apollo 13 was able to make a relatively 'quick' return to Earth four days after the disaster and they were 'lucky'; a cycler could be two weeks from recovery, and even if it carried a 'life boat' (not a craft, but a life capsule where they could shelter until close enough to Earth to detach and rendezvous with a rescue craft), the crew might be stuck for a long time in a small confined space. The fate of six or more people trapped in a damaged station beyond rescue would not play well with the media.

"4) Re. at perigee the cyclers being higher than current shuttle/soyuz capability. UGH! I hadn't thought about that! Nothing is simple. I guess that's why they call it "rocket science"!"

This is why all the excitement of private enterprise leading to Moon or asteroid mining is premature: getting to LEO is very expensive, and once you get there the costs of maintenance and support are (if you'll forgive the pun) astronomical.

We need an efficient spaceplane or alternative way to LEO...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2009 5:27:31 PM PDT
Hi Sailor!

Thanks for the correction. That's the way he was identified in the article I took the quote from.

Hi Bob!

The latest out of NASA, is that the proposed moon flights have been cancelled, due to budget restraints. But nextbigfuture reports that the Russian Space Agency is talking to NASA about combining their respective budgets for a joint, manned mission to Mars.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2009 9:22:21 PM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
Got a better world?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2009 12:59:02 AM PDT
Good point. As of right now, no, I don't.

Maybe we really do live in the best of all possible worlds.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2009 5:25:37 PM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
The world is spectacular. It's the people that are lacking.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2009 6:39:51 PM PDT
Touché, good sir.

Posted on Sep 9, 2009 11:30:48 AM PDT
To anyone still following this thread, you may want to check out erode.evsc.virginia.edu

This University of Virginia site offers their research results for "fluvial geomorphology and landform evolution on Mars".

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2009 1:46:25 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Which is relevant how?

Another FASCINATING M.M. link! :D

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2009 2:14:28 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Ronald,

"Which is relevant how?"

I'd hazard that M.M. is referring to the fact that "a long time ago" Mars had free water, and is thus a suitable venue for brave space pioneers and settlers. Unfortunately, the planet is now a very harsh bleak alien environment, and any settlement would be hard, expensive and fraught with peril (no chance of rescue before it was too late).

M.M. might find references to Martian life in "Life on a Young Planet - the first three billion years of evolution on Earth" by Andrew Knoll of interest, but she blocks our posts, and it would mean reading a... book.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2009 2:40:53 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
True, so true.

I gotta tell you, though, I'm really glad I stopped blocking her.

Otherwise I would miss gems like "Hi Sailor!" :D

Posted on Sep 13, 2009 3:57:33 PM PDT
In the name of both moons, I will punish you!

But it'll cost extra.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2009 7:59:17 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Wait ... I only mooned here once. ?!?

OH! Moons of Marsoom! Sorry, gotcha!

Um ... how much extra? ;)

Posted on Sep 13, 2009 9:46:44 PM PDT
I'll have to check the exchange rate. ^_~

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2009 2:18:09 PM PDT
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "What they should be doing, is finding mighty-morph type fuels and building engines around them!"
Actually, they HAVE been doing exactly that since the V-2, powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX). The Saturn V (moon rocket) is a DIRECT descendant of the V-2. The LOX and liquid hydrogen used in the Space Shuttle is a result of such on-going research.

One measure of the efficiency of a propellant is specific impulse, which represents the impulse (change in momentum) per unit of propellant. The higher the specific impulse, the less propellant is needed to gain a given amount of momentum. Specific impulse is a useful value to compare engines, much like "miles per gallon" or "litres per kilometre" is used for cars. A propulsion method with a higher specific impulse is more propellant-efficient.

Much research since WWII has been in trying to find fuels with a higher and higher specific impulse. The highest specific impulse for a chemical propellant ever test-fired in a rocket engine was lithium, fluorine, and hydrogen (a tripropellant): 542 seconds (5320 m/s). However, this combination is impractical.

Nuclear thermal rocket engines differ from conventional rocket engines in that thrust is created strictly through thermodynamic phenomena, with no chemical reaction. The nuclear rocket typically operates by passing hydrogen gas through a superheated nuclear core. Testing in the 1960s yielded specific impulses of about 850 seconds (8340 m/s), about twice that of the Space Shuttle engines.

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_impulse

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2009 9:10:51 PM PDT
Hi folks,
The nasa.gov site has posted a summary of the Augustine committee recommendations on the future of manned space flight. You can read the 12 page PDF at http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/384767main_SUMMARY%20REPORT%20-%20FINAL.pdf

They have an interesting option called the "Flexible Path" which includes "lunar fly-bys, visits to Lagrange points and near-Earth objects and Mars fly-bys occurring at a rate of about one major event per year, and possible rendezvous with Mars's moons or human lunar return by the mid to late 2020s." So we may be seeing NASA do fly-by's of the Moon and Mars before we see any landings on either.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2009 4:58:31 AM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
Current fusion research and development could very well lead to excellent interplanetary space ship engines. Once those things work. They should have ridiculous output.

Posted on Sep 15, 2009 8:57:54 AM PDT
When it comes to interplanetary travel, I'm rather fond of Orion (the original nuke concept), laser-pushed light sails, and recently, the nuclear salt water rocket.

Solar or fission or fusion, a mass-driver using industrial waste for propellant is a pretty good bet. Probably liquid oxygen for propellant.

Posted on Sep 17, 2009 9:57:06 AM PDT
To anyone still following this thread, the 9/15/09 edition of nextbigfuture.com has an article titled "Lunar Lander, Space Elevator and Space Towers Progress". All three R&D projects have seen some significant advancement, and are scheduling the next level of tests.

Posted on Sep 18, 2009 8:16:00 AM PDT
To anyone still following this thread, there was a fascinating article in Reuters.com (Science Section) on 9/17/09, titled "More Space Business Beckons for Private Transporters".

It discusses how we will start paying the Russians $50 million a seat sometime this year, to ferry NASA astronauts to the Space Station. Yet "Exploration Technologies" (Space X), which already has NASA contracts, can fly our astronauts to the Space Station for only $20 million/seat, using their craft (the Dragon) and crew.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2009 10:16:29 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Yet "Exploration Technologies" (Space X), which already has NASA contracts, can fly our astronauts to the Space Station for only $20 million/seat, using their craft (the Dragon) and crew."

The inconvenient fact being that Dragon has not yet flown a test flight, either as a cargo or personnel capsule and its launch rocket, Falcon 9 hasn't been launched yet and is still undergoing engine testing...

Rely on a proven Russian launcher, or an untested vehicle with its first test flight scheduled for 2010...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2009 2:44:13 PM PDT
Wraith Lord says:
"A smallish asteroid taking out a major city might do the trick. I nominate Denver or Seattle."

Hell, I nominate Washington DC, so we can all feel better and restart with new leaders!

Posted on Sep 25, 2009 6:33:35 AM PDT
A few tidbits, for anyone still following this thread:

virgingalactic.com has articles following Branson's new space-tourism company. From the progress on their "spaceport" in New Mexico, to their new Abu Dabai investment partner, to the latest tests on their space-bound craft.

Scientists have confirmed, as of this morning, that the moon has water. LOTS of water. Does this make the moon more likely to be visited or mined sooner than anticipated?

Posted on Oct 1, 2009 12:10:02 PM PDT
To anyone still following this discussion, you might want to check out an article in today's (10/1/09) Boston Globe. In their Home/Business section is an article titled "Space Viewed as a Frontier for Business".

Boston just hosted this year's "Space Investment Summit". Some of the companies making presentations to get investment money, were "XCOR", which specializes in rockets into space and back to Earth without orbiting. And "Celestic", which flies ashes of the departed into space.
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