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Moon Space Science

Countries Considering Circumlunar Flight From ISS 170

FleaPlus writes "The BBC reports that the space agencies of Europe, Russia, and the US are in (very) preliminary discussions about a potential collaborative mission where astronauts would assemble a small spacecraft at the ISS, then fly it around the Moon and back. This is somewhat similar to previously-proposed commercial missions, with many elements adapted from spacecraft systems already in existence. This would also be a testbed for eventual asteroid and Mars missions, which would likely require modules to be launched on multiple rockets and assembled in space."
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Countries Considering Circumlunar Flight From ISS

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  • BREAKING NEWS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @04:57PM (#33876054) Homepage Journal
    Real World aspirations approaching within 50 years of Science Fiction dreams.

    You Have Been Warned!

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @04:58PM (#33876060) Homepage

    Well, I guess it's not exactly the same. Given the collaborative international nature of the effort, I can guarantee that it'll take five times as long to get going as Apollo, cost ten times as much (mostly in pork), and it'll be nobody's fault when it fails. Except maybe the French.

  • Have $100 million? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:02PM (#33876116) Homepage

    Here, get yourself a ride [] (those are people cooperating on almost all private spaceflights so far); also in Soyuz, it would seem - only apt, considering how it was the first spacecraft to carry macroscopic life (turtles) beyond LEO (around the Moon) and return it safely, on a Zond 5 mission.

    Funny how, out of both sides involved in Lunar Race, it is Russia who now has few decades of experience with a spacecraft essentially capable of beyond-LEO operation.

  • by mdm-adph ( 1030332 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:05PM (#33876140)

    ...we should've been doing YEARS AGO.

    Thank you and have a nice day.

  • shuttlecraft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oceanplexian ( 807998 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:06PM (#33876162) Homepage
    I wonder why they went with the plan to have the craft return to earth? It makes more sense to me to have a reusable "shuttlecraft" that ferried
    astronauts from the ISS to lunar orbit and back.
  • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:13PM (#33876230) Homepage

    We routinely do refueling on orbit "for decades now" - ISS, earlier Mir and Salyut stations, all refueled by visiting Progress spacecraft (which have provisions for fuel transfer in their docking collar)

    (but Shuttle would be really a bad choice for such mission - around 70 tons of dead weight, thermal shielding probably ill-suited for a possibility of direct reentry on return)

  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:15PM (#33876260)

    Am I the only one who thinks that this could have been done 30 years ago with multiple shuttle launches. I know, I know, the shuttle engines are designed to perform multiple long burns without being inspected and rebuilt but come on, orbital refueling just seems like the kind of thing we should have been doing for decades now. I guess we haven't done much for manned (and therefor time critical) long range missions since Apollo but still, this seems like it's some pretty low hanging fruit as far as space exploration technology is concerned.

    I know you're just highlighting the point, but you really shouldn't act so surprised. Sadly, everything we do in space is low-hanging fruit. We've done some amazing stuff with telescopes and things launched out into space, but as far as human exploration... not much has been done in the last 40 years. We could have easily had a manned outpost on Mars already, but it would have taken a lot of money, a lot of risk (with likely some tragic deaths along the way - more so than what we've had) and least likely of all, the cooperation from one political administration to the next.

    That's the biggest problem at NASA - one president says "The last president had no vision - lets go to mars!" and then the next president says "The last president was spending like crazy. We can't afford to go to mars!" and then it repeats every 8 years or so.

    If we had had a concerted and continuous effort to explore space, we could have filled out the inner solar system by now.

    But would have taken trillions of dollars, and a level of agreement that we've simply never had.

    Thats why I'm so excited about privatization of space exploration - a corporation has a real vested interest in getting something done. Unlike politicians.

    Hopefully the billionaires of the world will take us places no government has. THAT is what I'm looking forward to.

    Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has said he'd like to retire on mars. That's likely a little far-fetched, but he's more likely to make that happen than NASA. (well, technically his fortune is pretty small in comparison to some other people, but lets say Tesla does really well...)

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:23PM (#33876354) Journal
    lol except people in the USA will blame the French no matter what, apparently.
  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:33PM (#33876496) Homepage Journal
    Using a Earth-orbiting space station is exactly what von Braun recommended sixty years ago before you idiots turned it into a mad dash to "beat the commies". Then we would have had some real space infrastructure for our investment instead of several disposable programs with nothing left to show when they were over.
  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot AT castlesteelstone DOT us> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:38PM (#33876536) Homepage Journal

    We could have easily had a manned outpost on Mars already, but ...

    But there's ZERO profit in it. Go on and name a period of human exploration of Earth, and all of them have one thing in common: profit.

  • Re:BREAKING NEWS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:40PM (#33876560)

    Also: "what the hell took you so long"?


  • Re:BREAKING NEWS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:43PM (#33876594) Homepage Journal


    Given that governments are, to date, the only entities that have done so much as put human beings in LEO -- to say nothing of sending them to the Moon -- you're going to have do some fancy dancing to make the case that government is what's stopping us from achieving science fiction dreams.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:46PM (#33876630)

    2. WTF were you thinking?

    Probably, "I can't believe they're making us risk all these lives so that we can haul the shuttle engines back to earth and reuse them" Followed closely by "the damn SSMEs are going to be such maintenance hogs we'd be better off ditching them in the ocean anyway".

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:49PM (#33876656) Homepage Journal

    But people will blame the USA no matter what.

    As long as there are large numbers of Americans who are unable to acknowledge that the USA is ever at fault for anything, or ever less than the best at everything, you have to expect a certain amount of reaction.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:53PM (#33876706) Homepage

    Heck, it is launched by a rocket from R-7 lineage. A family which carried all Soviet and Russian manned missions to date, starting with Yuri Gagarin. Which launched Sputnik. And was the first operational ICBM (not very practical in its first role; but...sort of competing space agency says it is "The most reliable ... the most frequently used launch vehicle in the world" [])

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:55PM (#33876720) Homepage Journal

    Apollo was a technological dead-end. The Shuttle was a technological dead end. On the other hand Soyuz did what it needed to do and had a design that could be adapted effectively while cutting costs.

    Apollo also did what it needed to do, and while it cost more than contemporary Soyuz designs, it also had to do a hell of a lot more than Soyuz or any other spacecraft has ever done. The reason it was a dead end was political, not technological. The Shuttle, I'll grant you, although I'll note that the early designs for a reusable people-launcher made a lot of sense; it was when they tried to combine it with a heavy-lift system that things went to hell.

    We could have kept turning out Saturn V's assembly-line style and even without incorporating all the improvements we could have made over the last 40 years, we'd still be ahead of where we are now, for less money.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:13PM (#33876868) Journal

    The big problem with using the ISS to do this type of mission is that the ISS is in the wrong orbital plane to easily launch flights to the moon. While it's not impossible to fly from the ISS it will be far more costly(in terms of fuel) to do so.

    I've been looking all over, but can't find a good figure of just how much more costly (in terms of fuel) it would be to get from the ISS's orbit to do a lunar flyby. Are we talking about a few percent more delta-v required, an order of magnitude, or somewhere in-between?

    All I've been able to find is that it's apparently "cheaper" to get to lunar polar orbit from the ISS's inclination.

  • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:14PM (#33876900) Journal

    True, but such knee-jerk reactions of blaming us for everything don't help fix the issue.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:24PM (#33876982) Homepage Journal
    Despite what you and some others want everyone to believe, there are quite a few people in this world that do stuff for things other than profit. One of the (maybe) advantages of the increasing poverty-wealth gap is that some individuals who are able to accumulate an enormous amount of money (think Musk, Branson) are able to do things for reasons other than profit. These things may include (if all goes according to Musk's plan) space exploration. It wouldn't surprise me, in the least that some Billionaires out there do things just for the hell of it. This isn't exactly a first in history. Look at the pyramids in Egypt, or most of the ancient wonders of the world. The extraordinarily rich dumped their life savings into what was, essentially, a giant penis waving contest. The only difference today is that big building's don't suffice for bragging rights anymore. So Musk and Branson and Bigelow said they want to up the bar and start a penis-waving competition over getting to various places in space first. One way or another, such adventures will spin off technologies and knowledge that, unless it is lost entirely, will benefit mankind overall. Personally, I'm okay with that.
  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:28PM (#33877034) Homepage Journal
    One other big difference in this case is that they are talking about using an on-orbit space station as a staging ground for a mission. That is a huge step in terms of mission cycle and design. There is a very large difference between using big rockets to get from Earth to a destination, and using smaller rockets to get from Earth, to an intermittent way point, to your final destination. If a mission like this was executed well, and yielded good, reliable, cheap results, there could be a movement to develop on-orbit assembly infrastructure and on-orbit mission staging resources to a large degree. Such a paradigm shift in mission architecture would definitely represent a historic landmark in mankind's endeavors into space.
  • Re:Wow! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:30PM (#33877058)

    The Trieste was part of a United States Navy project during the late 50's, when the US had a strong vested interest in developing better submersible technology for it's expanding fleet of nuclear submarines.

    So to amend the grandparent, there are TWO reasons why any real exploration is done: profit and military gain. The fact is, exploration takes a huge investment and enormous risks, and the only times in human history it has been done was because there was something to gain by it, be it profit or power.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:36PM (#33877114)

    Umm. Not with the Shuttle. The engines are badly designed for zero-G. They have never been fired in orbit for a reason. (Also, the Shuttle could not have survived re-entry from a lunar return. It gets real ugly trying to cut the velocity from a vehicle returning from that far out.)

    But, you could have done with with some basic assembly. The technology has been there for years. The last real innovation was the TransHab module.

    There are some real technical issues to deal with when discussing ISS though. It is in a very bad orbital plane for lunar missions. There are much better orbits. I am cynical here. I think the reality is that ISS really does not have much of a purpose outside of justifying Shuttle budgets.

  • Re:BREAKING NEWS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:16PM (#33877534) Homepage Journal


    Given that governments are, to date, the only entities that have done so much as put human beings in LEO -- to say nothing of sending them to the Moon -- you're going to have do some fancy dancing to make the case that government is what's stopping us from achieving science fiction dreams.

    Ok then, specifically: Government

    • Inertia
    • excessive beurocracy
    • incompetence
    • lack of foresight
    • ADHD
    • Piss Poor Planning

    <cue fancy-dancing> Compare how long (and how much money) it took "the government" to be waving men-in-space vs insert-random-commercial-entity in the recent x-prize race(s).

    Yeah Yeah Yeah you can rabbit on about "standing on the shoulders of giants" but today the biggest current roadblock to the successful leveraging of "outerspace" for the betterment of humankind is "The Government".

    The *amazing achievements* in reaching the moon were *personally instigated by some dude who has been dead for many years now*. ONE (count'em folks, ONE) president made a significant committment to OuterSpace.

    everything done since then is a pale shadow of a once bright future.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:26PM (#33878508)

    you have to expect a certain amount of reaction.

    Exactly. The paradigm has shifted over generations. As long the U.S. only gets reactions, instead of actions from its fellow nations, *and* foots the bill in the process... There will always be a large percentage of it's citizens that could care less about your meaningless lack of contribution to what we do so well. Now fuck off.
    (sarcasm intended, don't take it personally - i was going to post as myself but i'm a capitalistic karma whore)

  • by jebblue ( 1160883 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:01PM (#33879096)
    Now you're talking. Find out what is possible beyond useful experiments in science, can we build (or at least assemble) a vehicle on the ISS and deploy it on a mission, get her and the crew back safely and see what was learned from this pragmatic exercise.
  • Re:BREAKING NEWS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:28PM (#33879228)
    Ok, lets see here NASA has a yearly operating budget of US$17.6 billion, to compare that, Sir Richard Branson has a net worth of about 4.6 billion USD. So, lets see here: $17.6 billion a year with:

    A) Billions of dollars in taxpayer funded R&D that are inaccessible to private companies because they are classified.

    B) Several spacecraft

    C) The ability to use a lot of military technology

    D) A guaranteed revenue source from US taxpayers

    E) NASA had almost unlimited funding during the height of the cold war

    Private companies have none of these advantages and yet they've managed to do a lot more on a lot less of a budget.

    We've paid for a shitload of R&D that will never be realized because A) NASA has decided not to pursue it and B) It is considered classified so private enterprise can't use it.

    Dollar for dollar, private enterprise accomplishes worlds more of progress than any government space agency has. Want private enterprise to go to the moon? Give them $170 billion (cost of Apollo missions adjusted for inflation) and I'm sure we could get beyond a few spaceflights to the moon.

    The only advantage government has compared to the private sector is that no matter what they can steal -- I mean, acquire, enough money to fund their programs.

"You stay here, Audrey -- this is between me and the vegetable!" -- Seymour, from _Little Shop Of Horrors_