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NASA Moon Space

NASA Plan to Return to the Moon 531

sjoeboo writes "NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion during the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018. The U.S. space agency now expects to roll out its lunar exploration plan to key Congressional committees on Friday and to the broader public through a news conference on Monday."
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NASA Plan to Return to the Moon

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  • Update on Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:50PM (#13568309) Homepage Journal
    Just to be clear, this isn't new news. The CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) program has been designed from the beginning with orbital, trans-lunar, and lunar landing phases. What this article is about is an update on those existing plans. The bright side to this is that NASA is making real progress on the CEV program as opposed to making it a "miracle technology" that just need money poured into it as they have been so guilty of in the past. (Not that the CEV program doesn't need money. They need LOTS of money.)

    The big changes since the inception of the program have been:

    • The death of the Orbital Space Plane [] idea, and the birth of the CEV concept.
    • The plan to use less expensive and potentially reusable capsule technology instead of today's combined engine/habitat technology.
    • The death of the "Spiral" plan of development. Griffin has made it clear to congress that he plans to trim the fat and do this in whatever way makes sense, not according to a military development schedule.
    • As a result of the abandoning of the spiral plan, NASA believes that they can have the Orbital phase hardware completed by 2008 instead of 2011.
    • A great deal of research is being done on the use of Nuclear Engines for the later trans-Mars phase.

    IMHO, Bush's administration has done a reasonable job of making sure that we are on a viable track to returning to the moon and reaching Mars. My hope is that the next President who shows up doesn't dive in and try to change everything. The plan is good. It only needs some nursemaiding, not micromanagement from on high. Thankfully there's a great deal of pressure to replace the Space Shuttle, so the future President may be willing to just let NASA do their job.

    (FYI, Wikipedia has been keeping extremely good track of CEV Development [] as it happens. While Wikipedia is not a news source, this particular article is a good place to go for the latest status of the project.)
  • by fsh ( 751959 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:03PM (#13568483)
    Here's a link to NASA's 2004 Budgetary Analysis [], done about a year ago (there should be a new one out sometime soon).

    If you look about halfway down, you'll see that the budget of the CEV is far outweighed by NASA's other activities, as well as being less than the amount budgeted for the Space Shuttle.

  • Re:2018?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:04PM (#13568499) Homepage Journal
    i'm pretty sure they could do that, with money, if they wanted.

    but what good would rushing do? they've already been there multiple times. i wouldn't care as much about getting there as to i would about what technology they develope to get there(and perhaps _stay_ there) this time around.

    and I'd bet you 200$ that rutan won't make it to there in that time either(chinese could, they got the resources but i'm not so sure about them willing to spend that much to get there just for the sake of getting there).
  • Re:Mars on hold... (Score:3, Informative)

    by fsh ( 751959 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:06PM (#13568529)
    Bush's Vision for Space Exploration [] never gave a date for going to Mars. He said the Moon by 2020, and then Mars, well, sometime after that.
  • Re:Modern technology (Score:5, Informative)

    by fsh ( 751959 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:08PM (#13568565)
    Nah, it's more like modern budgeting. We're simply not willing to put 3-5% of the federal budget behind such a program, like we did with Apollo. NASA *as a whole* now comprises less than 1% of the federal budget.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:33PM (#13568849) Homepage Journal
    The death of the "Spiral" plan of development.

    I had to look up the term, so I'll save someone else the trouble to describe what spiral plan is. (info from Wikipedia)

    Spiral One (CEV Earth Orbit Capability)
    Spiral Two (Extended Lunar Exploration)
    Spiral Three (Long Duration Lunar Exploration)
    Spiral Four (Crew Transportation System Mars Flyby)
    Spiral Five (Human Mars Surface Campaign)

    Basically it's a progressive development of the basic vehicle into 5 different vehicles with different and increasing capabilities. It comes from the military development experience.

    The proposal to eliminate this phased approach comes up because the military development experience doesn't appear to match NASA's requirements and procedures. There are steps in there that are probably unnecessary (spiral 2 and 4). The phases do not necessarily build on each other.

    The new plan abandons spirals entirely, in favor of blocks and stages. If that sentence elicits a 'WTF' from you, just read on:

    Stage I, Block I is a LEO vehicle for taking over space station construction from the Shuttle.
    Stage II, Block II is an interplanetary vehicle built in the same shape as the Block I vehicle. That vehicle will be able to fly to the moon, Mars, La Grange points, and so forth.
    Stage III, no block, are lander modules that will work on the moon, mars, or both, with the Block II spacecraft.

    So, it turns out that despite the screwey naming of the stages and blocks, the plan is actually quite a bit different that the spiral plan described. Maybe Wikipedia has just confused these Stages and Blocks a bit.

    The only problem that I have with all this is the use of the SRB as a basis for a man-rated space launcher. That's a big WTF to me, and I really wish they'd go with an all-liquid fuel booster.
  • Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:13PM (#13569232)
    > if NASA could do it within a decade in the 1960s, why can't they do it within a decade now?

    They probably could, but why should they?

    What pressing reason is there to divert a large portion of NASA's money and manpower to rushing out a lunar vehicle? What would be gained by doing it in 9 years instead of 13? What terrible thing will happen because of that extra 4 years? Why is doing it faster important for anything other than appeasing complainers? There might be a good reason, but nobody's presented it yet.

    This isn't a question of "why can't NASA do this"---it's a question of "why would NASA want to do this?"

    Remember how space exploration works: "faster, better, cheaper - choose two."

    (Right now, it's slated to be cheaper [] ---0.8% of one year's GDP vs. 8-13%---and better []; if you want to swap out "cheaper" for "faster", you'll need to convince someone why it's worth the money. If you want to swap out "better" for "faster", well, just build a really, really big slingshot...)

  • by Armchair Dissident ( 557503 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:52PM (#13569586) Homepage
    You say Fascist, I say Communist. You say "brutal", I say "brutal". Once a government gets to a certain point semantics doesn't really help the oppressed. Shall we just agree on the term "brutal and oppressive" ?
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:13PM (#13569794) Homepage Journal
    Cripes. Read your own link!

    are part of the story which led to the cancellation of JIMO, the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

    JIMO != Prometheus. JIMO is the name of the mission, Prometheus is the project to produce the technology that would have been used by JIMO.

    This is NOT news. The JIMO mission was always considered risky and overly ambitious. Everyone loved the technology, but questioned the merits of sending it out so early. There were so much talk about scaling back the Prometheus project, that it came as no surprise when JIMO was finally cancelled in May. (As you can see from the second link I posted.)

    There has been nothing "quiet" about the whole affair. It's been broadcast from the highest mountains, because many people feel that Prometheus is critical to a future in Nuclear Space Technology. As to the MTO, it can get in line. The next Mars rover went through a massive redesign as well, after the existing rovers proved to be so successful. The new rover was supposed to have unlimited range thanks to RTG power, but now it's looking like it will again have Solar Panels to contend with.
  • by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:31PM (#13569953) Homepage
    SSMEs more powerful? I think not.

    F-1: 1,500,000 lbf
    SSME: 400,000 lbf

    More efficient, sure. Isp = 452 sec for the SSME, and something like 260 sec for the F-1. But the shuttle engines are most certainly not more powerful.
  • by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Friday September 16, 2005 @01:38AM (#13573498) Homepage Journal
    We need to get off this rock, and every decade we lapse into introversion is a decade later that man's history of exploitation of the solar system is delayed.

    The major benefits I can see are:

    - ensure survival against earth killer asteroid hitting in say the next 2 centuries

    - increase pressure and funding to build independent robotic mining and factories

    - draw minds and effort away from fragmented religion, and towards a unified goal of conquering space

    - exploit space-based power generation and develop better water extraction and conservation technologies, reducing pressures to start oil wars and water wars

    - get advanced physics research off the planet's surface as soon as possible. One possibile reason for the lack of alien contact is that nature holds a booby trap (or a jackpot) that most cultures hit by accident and everything goes boom. We are already close to primordial densities in particle physics and if it is possible to use advanced space-based resources to quickly and cheaply (say with a self-organizing robotic factory) build a ring in space or on the moon that would be excellent.

    - add low-noise observatories on the moon. Currently we are just starting to observe in very noisy RF bands for example.

    - develop unified educational program based on integrated science and exploratory culture. A free course of study for any child on the planet, instilling a citizen of the world sense of identity, respect and practical knowledge of science, an imperative to stride beyond man's history of intolerance and enter the next phase of our civilization, develop emotional intelligence, and in general train people so that we can achieve 10 times more efficient exploitation of the world's human resources, with 10 times better health and welfare for the world, and international collaboration to develop key technologies more quickly. Sure there is more to this but obviously there is still demagoguery, genocide, famine, disaster, and demonization in the 21st century. We need to get beyond it and work together.

    Many of these things can be done on the planet. But the fact is, our societies are still pretty uncivilized and we need a common project to bind politicians and peoples around the world toward the same goal. It seems that broad, continued, well funded efforts for space science and every connected area - including advances in biotech, robotics, and education for example - could be a spark that begins humanity on exponential growth and saves us from nuclear races and preoccupation with trade deficits and resource starvation. People need to have something to work towards, and we need to provide great salaries and lionize people who go into these fields and go to space.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen