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B NASA's Mars Plan May Include a Yearlong Mission to the Moon

  1. May 11, 2017 #1
    A group of astronauts may spend a year in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s as part of NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, agency officials said today (May 9).

    Greg Williams, NASA's deputy associate administrator for policy and plans in the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, spoke today at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington D.C. and provided a detailed look at the first two phases of NASA's current plan to send humans to Mars.

    The agency recently announced that its Mars plan now includes building a "deep-space gateway" around the moon to serve as a testing ground for operations and technology that will be required for those Red Planet missions, Williams said. Eventually, the lunar presence would also serve as a launching point for the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars, he added. The yearlong crewed mission around the moon in 2027 is one of the major future milestones of the current plan. [Red Planet or Bust: 5 Crewed Mars Mission Ideas]

    Before that yearlong lunar mission, however, there would be at least five missions, four of them crewed, to deliver hardware, such as a crew habitat, Williams said during his presentation. The last piece of delivered hardware would be the actual Deep Space Transport vehicle that would later be used to carry a crew to Mars, he said.

    Read more here: http://www.space.com/36781-nasa-yearlong-crew-moon-mission-ahead-of-mars.html
     
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  3. May 12, 2017 #2

    Chronos

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    This appears to be a sensible approach to debug a manned mars mission. Much of the mission critical technology is only embryonic, or yet to be conceived. It would be homicidal hubris to attempt a multiyear deep space mission without rigorous proof of concept testing. You may as well christen the launch vehicle Hearse I, the lander Ossuary, and hire Morgan Freeman to recite 'the coffin has landed' for the grand finale. Would you rather be on the moon or mars when you discover technical issues exist?
     
  4. May 15, 2017 #3
    Some people are willing to risk life in order to achieve something no one else has. Are you willing to risk death in order to accomplish something that has already been done? Think of the footage on CNN. "Astronauts plant potato in orbit", "potato sprouts in lunar orbit", "mashed taters eaten in orbit", "tater molecules digested by astronauts composted and recycled". The "small steps" do not usually create the excitement of "giant leaps". "Starving on the way to mars" sounds more heroic than "failed to grow potato near earth". People would stop work and watch a landing on mars.

    My impression is that the rocket design will be the same for a lot of possible missions. Is more likely to get public support if we keep talking about landing a colony. The habitats will be almost the same too.
     
  5. May 16, 2017 #4
    Almost no technology for Mars (or Moon) missions is undergoing R&D.
    What a surprise!

    Whoa? How come? It's not like critics of Constellation-nee-SLS were pointing out for at least the last decade how terminally stupid the whole program is: billions upon billions are pouring into a poorly designed, extremely costly launch vehicle, no money is left to finance other components of a Mars (or Moon) mission, but somehow management was not bothered by this stark fact, not in the least.

    Let's ask Captain Obvious what this means? It means that SLS program is a pork barrel, its a job program pushed by certain Congressmen to keep fat juicy contracts in their states. The end result was actually not important. The program became the thing unto itself.
     
  6. May 16, 2017 #5
    Unfortunately I think there's 0 reason to have any faith in NASA's ideas here. The big reason for this is the SLS. That program is not about pushing space forward, but about pushing Boeing/Lockheeds profit margins forward on the back of the taxpayer. Even though it's relatively simple iteractive technology, it is progressing at a glacial pace. We went from JFK's space speech in 1962 to putting a man on the moon in 1969 - 7 years later. The SLS began in 2010, and have now pushed back the timeframe to the first first completely unmanned lunar flyby to 2019 - 9 years later.

    If the SLS is ever completed, it'll be too expensive to ever fly. They're "aiming" for a cost of about half a billion dollars per launch. Now keep in mind that's just the cost of the launch - and doesn't even touch the R&D of what's actually being launched. That's more than 5% of NASA's entire annual budget just on the cost of a launch. I mean this is some serious head-in-the-sand style project management. It's just not realistic. In my opinion NASA is fully aware it's not realistic, but also know that if they don't play ball with the congressional pork that they risk severe budget cuts to their projects that are actually going somewhere.

    It's clear private industry, and I expect SpaceX, are our path to becoming a multiplanetary species. I think something some people here fail to realize is that there are people, perfectly educated and competent, who are willing to tolerate extreme risk so long as it comes with a reasonable chance of success for something as important as this. There are already countless unsung heroes. Theodore Freeman, Charles Bassett, Elliot See, Clifton Williams, Michael Adams, Robert Lawrence, and of course Roger Chaffee/Virgil Grissom/Edward White are astronauts that were killed in the line of duty just between 1964-1967 as we rushed towards getting a man on the moon. They all knew there were great risks in what they were doing, and it didn't deter a single one in the least. Far from roughnecks they were all highly educated and even more highly skilled. And they were willing to risk it all for the sake of trying advance humanity, and even just their country.

    And the goal there was far less relevant than the one today. The space race did advance humanity but most readily acknowledged that it was really just a glorified dick measuring context under the pretext that whichever country's dick is bigger must have the better sociopolitical system. Colonizing Mars, by contrast, is about starting what will be a nonstop expansion once it's proven viable. And it will never ever be completely safe or even 'very' safe. The first crew that goes over there should expect there's a very real chance that will be their final flight. Much like anybody that sailed west with Columbus would have expected that there was a very good chance that would be their final voyage.
     
  7. May 18, 2017 #6

    sophiecentaur

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    That's entirely up to them.
    Personally, I would not want to 'invest' any of my (or mine, as a taxpayer) money in a project that involved anyone with that sort of emotional and mental profile. You need to Conceive a project that will not inherently involve death and that stands a pretty good chance of the crew returning safely - and, of course, succeeding scientifically. The crew need to have the attitude that they are dedicated to the job, want to survive and to get home in one piece. Any other attitude is very suspect. For a start, how much could you rely on someone with that attitude to feel protective about their other crew members? And if the whole crew had that attitude, what sort of a circus could you expect in the event of a minor disagreement about breakfast cereal?
    And there's the other consideration. We have a duty of care for people like that and should not give them the opportunity to show off by killing themselves. It's a really stupid concept, once you give it a second thought.
     
  8. May 18, 2017 #7

    sophiecentaur

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    There is not the remotest comparison between sailing the atlantic and going to Mars. Getting to America from Europe was an incremental thing and both crew and passengers were ignorant and exploited by agents who supplied them with dodgy ships and supplies (expecting never to see them again). The Vikings and others go there in stages by island hopping around the North route. They used known and established technology and, in any case, the attitude to life was different. (I hope we would consider that we have progressed since the 'off with his head' mentality of a thousand years ago). I mentioned 'duty of care' above and that was something that the ancients tended not to consider.
     
  9. May 18, 2017 #8

    PeroK

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    As far as I understand it, SpaceX will already have established the city of Muskville on Mars while Nasa is still flying round the moon!
     
  10. May 18, 2017 #9

    sophiecentaur

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    Hmm. Let's see, shall we? I just hope no one has to die just to prove a point here.
     
  11. May 18, 2017 #10

    russ_watters

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    [thread cleaned-up...please stay on topic]
    I'm late to this party, but:
    What possible value could there be in doing such proof of concept testing in lunar orbit vs Earth orbit? I mean, setting aside the fact that according to the diagram, the moon is halfway to Mars. :rolleyes:
     
  12. May 19, 2017 at 8:37 AM #11

    sophiecentaur

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    Psychology perhaps? Perhaps an even higher Earth orbit could prepare the crew for greater isolation.
     
  13. May 19, 2017 at 5:41 PM #12

    Chronos

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    Learning how to sustain an operational moon base is just one of many conceivable benefits. It's less a question of what we can do there that can't be done on the ISS, than one of scale.
     
  14. May 19, 2017 at 6:35 PM #13
    Low earth orbit is not subjected to the same cosmic rays. Could they fly an orbit around the moon and come back similar to Apollo 13?
     
  15. May 19, 2017 at 6:43 PM #14

    mfb

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    DSG is significantly smaller than the ISS, and you could put an independent station in Low Earth Orbit. Docking it to the ISS would be optional.

    Advantages of DSG close to the Moon:

    You can test radiation damage similar to interplanetary missions - but you can use a dummy with radiation sensors for that, you don't need humans.

    DSG has a thermal environment more similar to interplanetary trips as it doesn't receive notable infrared radiation from the Earth (unlike the ISS), but it is well-known how to take the difference into account.

    DSG -> Mars needs a lower delta_v.

    You can sell it as "we are further away from Earth already" - this looks like the main motivation.

    Disadvantages:

    Launching everything to the Moon needs much larger rockets or smaller (more) modules. This is a huge factor for everything that doesn't go to Mars, but it is important even for the parts that do. LEO -> DSG -> Mars needs much more fuel than a more direct LEO -> Mars. There is a weird political twist here. Existing rockets could launch the DSG components to LEO, but not to Moon. If you want to build it around Moon with the planned module masses, you need the SLS, the most expensive rocket ever built planned to build (at 2 to 5 billion USD per launch depending on launch frequency - you get half its payload for 0.1 billion at SpaceX). Instead of admitting that the system is ridiculously expensive, the DSG mission design seems to be manufactured specifically to justify the SLS.

    In an emergency, reaching Earth takes longer. Sure, much better than on a Mars mission, but there you cannot avoid it. For DSG, you can.
     
  16. May 20, 2017 at 1:43 AM #15

    Chronos

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    Perhaps you are overlooking the possibility of utilizing lunar resources for materials and components. It is true sole reliance on earth for supplies offers no real economy, but, learning what is available and how to utilize is a vital part of the mission. Obviously, a mars base wholly dependent on supplies from earth is not a sustainable model.
     
  17. May 20, 2017 at 4:36 AM #16

    sophiecentaur

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    That would be an extremely long shot and you would need some extended prospecting operations on the Moon to prove the utility of that idea.
    The composition of the Moon's surface is very different from Earth's, due to the absence of water and CO2 in its formation. Extracting the manned materials would involve a whole new technology (industrial scale) which couldn't rely on unlimited quantities of Carbon, Oxygen and Water that are available on Earth. Not impossible, maybe but not just a matter of doing the same things up there as down here. I think it could be of more interest as a project in itself than as a stepping stone for Mars.
    People seem reluctant to see just how different everything is when you're off-Earth. It's obvious that human chemistry needs a lot of support out there but other chemical processes would also need most ingredients supplied from Earth. Every ingredient is 'rare' in Space. 'Mining' is only a fraction of the effort needed to produce a bar of some exotic metal. We have to be prepared to take this very slowly and to avoid the costly mistakes that have been made down here. (Costearth X 100)
     
  18. May 20, 2017 at 8:45 AM #17

    mfb

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    The participating countries don't plan anything like that.
    They studied it, and decided it wouldn't be practical on the timescale discussed.
     
  19. May 21, 2017 at 1:07 AM #18

    Chronos

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    The apparent lack of planning does not inspire any sense of noble virtue. NASA studies suggest an earth reliant mars base is not even remotely sustainable without an ISRU. It only makes sense to field test the ISRU on a moon base. Success would offer additional resources to utilize. Just a modest water supply might be enough to shift mars mission prospects from dubious to doable.
     
  20. May 21, 2017 at 4:57 AM #19

    mfb

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    NASA studied it. And I trust their studies more than comments on internet forums.
    Water on Mars exists in different places (and in much larger quantity) than water on Moon. I'm not sure how much you could learn on Moon.
     
  21. May 21, 2017 at 8:05 AM #20

    sophiecentaur

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    And there are other things on Mars that you don't find on the Moon - like some sort of atmosphere and more Earth-like minerals.
    It is an awkward situation though. Moon is handier but not much use and Mars is much more expensive to reach and to return from but would probably have stuff we could use. Countless robotic missions needed before a Mars mission with humans. The robots have to find a really suitable site and prove it's viable.
     
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