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NASA EDGE Nominated for Best Video Podcast

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment
11.16.09

NASA EDGE Nominated for ‘Best Video Podcast’ in the 5th Annual Podcast Awards!

›› Vote Now for NASA EDGE!

NASA EDGE

Vote now for NASA EDGE, Best Video Podcast at www.podcastawards.com!

NASA EDGE continues their unprecedented, unscripted journey through the world of video podcasting with their very first award nomination. This is no small accomplishment considering that only two and half years ago, they weren’t sure that they would find an audience.

Well, they have. Almost three years and 3.2 million downloads later, NASA EDGE is now recognized in the company of such internet greats and fellow nominees as “Buzz out Loud,” “Diggnation” and “Filmriot” just to name a few.

In fact, the 5th Annual Podcast Awards, managed by Podcast Connect Inc., mentioned on their Web site that this year’s competition received more than 321,000 nominations for over 3,500 different shows.

Be sure to vote for NASA EDGE

You can vote once a day from November 13 to November 30, 2009 by visiting www.podcastawards.com. NASA EDGE is listed in the “Best Video Podcast” category with nine other video podcasts.

If you’re already a fan of NASA EDGE, please vote for them. If you haven’t seen or heard of NASA EDGE, visit their home page at www.nasa.gov/nasaedge and download any or all of their 46 video podcasts. You will not be disappointed.

NASA EDGE Co-Host and outsider Blair Allen

NASA EDGE Co-host, Blair Allen

What is NASA EDGE?

NASA EDGE is different. Unscripted and unpredictable, NASA EDGE takes a unique look in and around the greatest space program on the planet. They have hosted the Great Moonbuggy Race, examined NASA spinoff technology at the X Games, followed the Desert-RATS with an unconventional set of duct tape boots, coined the term Magnetospherence and even made an appearance on ESPN’s nationally syndicated “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show.

Check out their latest Vodcast, which added a new wrinkle. In October they covered NASA’s historic Ares I-X Flight Demonstration live on the Web. That show featured the entire broadcast team and an attempt at defining and redefining ‘triboelectrification.’

Of course, NASA EDGE isn’t just a video podcast. If you have questions, comments or thoughts about NASA or NASA EDGE, you can friend them on facebook and ask questions, chat or check out some exclusive facebook videos.

Or if you just want to keep up with their latest shows or activities you can follow them on twitter (@NASA_EDGE).

If all goes well, you’ll hear from them the second they win their very first award!

Smiles and Memories: A Final ‘Goodbye’ to the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment

It was a grand finale of sorts, a celebration that revisited the 78-year history of the Full-Scale Tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel in Oct. 1930

Click to enlarge

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel’s huge exterior from the Little Back River in October 1930.

 

Credit: NASA

Engineers mingled with mayors. Alumni mingled with a new generation of NASA. Recollections mingled with respect.

“Many times it is referred to as ‘the’ Langley Wind Tunnel,” said Joe Chambers, author and former tunnel branch head, who spoke to a standing room-only crowd at Langley’s Reid Conference Center. In fact, it was only one of dozens of wind tunnels at NASA Langley.

A slideshow of the tunnel’s history shown through photographs and quotes included music from the decades of the tunnel’s operation. It set the ambiance for the ceremony that marked the official “goodbye.” Demolition of the 30-by-60-foot tunnel is expected to begin early next year.

“We did 796 tests in this facility,” said Chambers.

Chambers explained that the vision for a tunnel that would be 60 feet (18.3 m) across, 30 feet (9.1 m) high and with capabilities of speed surpassing 100 miles per hour (161 kph) started as a model in 1929. That model was under construction by 1930 and dedicated in 1931. It was built for $980,000.

As ideas arose, the tunnel evolved. In 1939, wooden blades replaced the original metal ones. “Those blades are the same blades that are in the tunnel today,” Chambers said. Applause erupted.

Clyde McLemore (R) offered his experiences as Dan Murri (L) guided guests

Click to enlarge

After a celebratory reception, some of the employees and alumni who worked in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel gathered in front of the Reid Conference Center.

 

Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

During the years of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the tunnel attracted pioneers and luminaries like Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Glenn Curtiss and Howard Hughes.

“When NASA was formed, the facility changed and began to develop space ideas,” Chambers said. Modern times called for modern upgrades. Chambers noted the addition of a flight control computer.

And according to Chambers, the wind tunnel was producing more than just critical test results for improved flight — it produced four NASA Center Directors. “There is no other wind tunnel or organization that provided four center directors to the agency,” he said.

It also produced memories.

Gorden Helsel, mayor of Poquoson, Va., stared forward at the slideshow. “It’s a landmark to this area,” he said. “To a lot of folks out here, it’s like losing an old friend.”

He glanced over at the F-22 model. “I flew in one of those,” Helsel said. “I spent 45 minutes in the air and was glad to get back on the ground.” It was an experience made possible through testing at the full-scale tunnel.

Long Yip worked in the tunnel from 1977 to 1990. “I remember opening a textbook on aeronautics and the first thing I saw was the Full Scale Tunnel. I never imagined I would work there,” he said.

Bob Huston began working at the tunnel in 1958. He recalled a time when one of his tests was interrupted by testing for Neil Armstrong and the lunar lander. “The test I was working on was delayed for six months,” he said. In hindsight, Huston didn’t mind so much.

A group of employees who worked in the Full-Scale Tunnel

Click to enlarge

Clyde McLemore (R) offered his personal experiences as Dan Murri (L) guided guest throughout different areas of the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel. “If I get anything wrong, you all can let me know,” Murri respectfully said to the alumni that were present on the tour.

 

Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Following the reception, many guests chose to revisit the tunnel located on the Langley Air Force Base side of NASA Langley. When attending alumni spoke up during a tour, the crowd circled and listened.

Clyde McLemore who worked there from 1947 to 1980, described a time when workers used slide rules, calculators and computers.

“When you say ‘computers’ — you are talking about a person?” asked Dan Murri as he led guests throughout the tunnel.

“Yes, it was a girl we called a computer,” McLemore responded with a smile.

The group continued on through the curvy turbulence vanes and across a walkway. It was the same walkway that Cameron Diaz walked on for a scene in the movie, “The Box,” which is set to be released nationwide on Nov. 6.

At the next halt, McLemore looked up at a wooden propeller that stood about three stories tall. “The nose cone and tail cone were mine,” he said.

“You designed those?” Murri asked.

“Yes,” McLemore responded.

For many on the tour, the tunnel was being seen through the eyes of the alumni. And for the alumni, the tunnel was being seen through their younger selves.

//

Alumni and guests tour the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel.

Huston smiled at the tunnel’s interior. He pointed to specific areas and recalled a funny story or a test that took place there. “Even when we worked extra hours during the war, it didn’t matter much. It was still a fun place to work,” he said.

The facility survived nearly eight decades. Its memory and history will survive much longer and so will its results. Tests conducted there include all of the World War II aircrafts, the P-51 aircraft, the Mercury entry capsule, submarines and NASCAR vehicles, to name a few.

The Langley Full-Scale Tunnel is being preserved virtually at:

http://gis.larc.nasa.gov/documents/643/historic/WebApp.html

This Month in Exploration – November

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Visit “This Month in Exploration” every month to find out how aviation and space exploration have changed throughout the years, improving life for humans on Earth and in space. While reflecting on the events that led to NASA’s formation and its rich history of accomplishments, “This Month in Exploration” will reveal where the agency is leading us — to the moon, Mars and beyond.

The Wright Military Flyer.

The Wright military flyer. Credit: NASA 100 Years Ago

November 3, 1909: Lt. George C. Sweet became the first naval officer to fly in the Wright airplane during the military trials of the Wright Flyer at College Park, Md. On the same day, Dr. William H. Greene set a passenger-carrying record at Morris Park, N.Y. A. Leo Stevens, an aviation pioneer in his own right, and two others rode as passengers for short flights in the Greene biplane.

90 Years Ago

November 12, 1919: Ross MacPherson Smith commenced his historic, 11,500-mile intercontinental flight in a British Vickers-Vimy heavy bomber aircraft in Heston, London. He completed the trip at Port Darwin, Australia on December 10, 1919 and was knighted for his efforts.

80 Years Ago

November 28-29, 1929: Commander Richard E. Byrd made the first flight over the South Pole in a Ford trimotor piloted by Bernt Balchen and two American pilots. During this first expedition to Antarctica, Byrd established a base he named Little America that was located on the Bay of Whales.

The Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket research aircraft.

The Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket research aircraft (front). Credit: NASA 75 Years Ago

November 18, 1934: The United States Navy issued a contract to the Northrop Corporation for the XBT-1: a two-seat scout and 1,000-pound dive bomber. The aircraft was the first prototype in a sequence that led to the SBD Dauntless series of dive bombers used throughout World War II.

60 Years Ago

November 22, 1949: The Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, a research plane, exceeded the speed of sound at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. It was powered by both a Westinghouse J-34 turbojet engine and a Reaction Motors rocket motor.

50 Years Ago

November 4, 1959: NASA launched a second LJ-1A rocket (nicknamed Little Joe) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. to test the Mercury escape system under severe dynamic pressure. The launch vehicle functioned perfectly, but the escape rocket ignited ten seconds too late.

November 11-22, 1959: The United States contributed 10 rocket firings to an internationally coordinated program of rocket sounds of the upper atmosphere sponsored by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

45 Years Ago

November 28, 1964: NASA launched the Mars explorer Mariner 4 spacecraft at 9:22 a.m. EST from the Eastern Space and Missile Center. The first successful mission to Mars, it encountered the planet on July 14, 1965.

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40 Years Ago

November 14, 1969: NASA launched Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission, at 11:22 a.m. EST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Station, Fla. Astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, and Alan L. Bean were aboard. The event was witnessed by Richard Nixon, the first U.S. President to attend the launch of a manned space flight.

30 Years Ago

November 21, 1979: The Eastern Space and Missile Center hosted the launch of the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Satellites DSCS II-13 and 14.

25 Years Ago

November 8, 1984: NASA launched the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-51A) from Kennedy Space Center at 7:15 a.m. EST. The satellites TELESAT-H (ANIK) and SYNCOM IV-I (also known as LEASAT-1) were deployed, while disabled satellites PALAPA-B2 and WESTAR-VI were retrieved. The mission marked the first retrieval and return of two disabled communications satellites. The mission duration was 7 days, 23 hours, 44 minutes

20 Years Ago

November 18, 1989: NASA launched the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE ) at 6:34 a.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base. This satellite was designed to measure diffuse infrared and microwave radiation from the early universe. COBE determined the temperature of the cosmic microwave background — essentially the afterglow of the big bang.

Image from the moon during Apollo 12 mission.

Image from the moon during the Apollo 12 mission. Credit: NASA 15 Years Ago

November 3, 1994: NASA launched Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-66) at 11:59 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center. The primary payload was the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Sciences – 3 (ATLAS-03), which measured and studied the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. The mission duration was 10 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes.

10 Years Ago

November 26, 1999: NASA’s Galileo spacecraft completed a historic flyby of Jupiter’s moon, Io. Through Galileo’s instruments, scientists determined that some of the volcanoes located on Io are hotter than any on Earth.

Five Years Ago

November 12, 2004: NASA’s X-43A research vehicle set a new world speed record by a jet-powered aircraft when it traveled at Mach 10 – nearly 7,000 miles per hour. The X-43A’s air-breathing scramjet engine has no moving parts. The aircraft is part of NASA’s Hyper-X Program

Present Day

November 16, 2009: Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) will launch from Kennedy Space Center to deliver components including two gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the International Space Station’s robotic arm.

2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won’t End?

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Scenes from the upcoming film 2012. Courtesy Columbia Pictures.

Scenes from the motion picture “2012.” Courtesy Columbia Pictures. Remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know. It will, however, be another winter solstice.

Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Below, NASA Scientists answer several questions that we’re frequently asked regarding 2012.

Question (Q): Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
Answer (A): Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.

Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?
A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?
A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

Q: Could a phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.

“There apparently is a great deal of interest in celestial bodies, and their locations and trajectories at the end of the calendar year 2012. Now, I for one love a good book or movie as much as the next guy. But the stuff flying around through cyberspace, TV and the movies is not based on science. There is even a fake NASA news release out there…”
– Don Yeomans, NASA senior research scientist
Q: Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?
A: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.

Q: What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?
A: A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-shift to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.

The Blue Marble: Next GenerationEarth, as seen in the Blue Marble: Next Generation collection of images, showing the color of the planet’s surface in high resolution. This image shows South America from September 2004. Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?
A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.

Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of pending doomsday?
A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.

NASA Sets STS-129 Prelaunch Events and Countdown Details

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — News conferences, events and operating hours for the news center at NASA’s
Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are set for the upcoming launch of space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle’s STS-129 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to lift off at 2:28 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 16.

129

A NASA blog will update the countdown beginning Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. Originating from Kennedy, the blog is the definitive Internet source for information leading up to launch. During the mission, visitors to NASA’s shuttle Web site can read about the crew’s progress and watch the mission’s three spacewalks live. As Atlantis’ flight concludes, the NASA blog will detail the spacecraft’s return to Earth. For NASA’s launch blog and continuous mission updates, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

The NASA News Twitter feed will be updated throughout the shuttle launch countdown, mission and landing. To follow, visit: http://www.twitter.com/nasa

Two STS-129 astronauts are tweeting about their pre-launch preparation and are expected to provide updates to their Twitter accounts during the shuttle mission. Bobby Satcher, an orthopedic surgeon, can be followed at: http://www.twitter.com/Astro_Bones and http://www.twitter.com/ZeroG_MD. The latter account focuses on a discussion of medical issues for space exploration.

His crewmate Leland Melvin can be followed at: http://www.twitter.com/Astro_Flow

Detailed lists of countdown milestones, news briefing times and participants, and hours of operation for Kennedy’s news center and media credentialing office are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/news

For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Source : spaceref.com

NASA Blog: Constellation: Managers reevaluating Ares I-Y flight test

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

ares

Constellation program managers agreed to reevaluate the proposed Ares I-Y flight test during an Oct. 30 Control Board and plan to take the decision up the ladder to management at NASA Headquarters soon. The decision could result in the removal of the Ares I-Y flight from the manifest in order to better align test flights with evolving program objectives.

As part of the program’s ongoing review of its ground and flight test strategy, managers evaluated the flight test plan and decided that the Ares I-Y flight fell too late in the vehicle development phase to provide useful information and lacks key elements to make it a true validation of the flight vehicle’s systems.

Originally, the I-Y test was defined as an incremental “placeholder” and planned for 2012. It was to be a suborbital flight to test a five-segment booster, a flight production upper stage — without a J-2X engine — a functional command module and launch abort system and a simulated encapsulated service module.

By fall 2008, program managers were already looking at changing direction for the Ares I-Y test to improve the overall program’s chances of flying a full test vehicle by 2014. Now, with the Constellation Program nearing its preliminary design review and with maturing vehicles and systems, managers agree the I-Y test objectives can be achieved through other tests already in the manifest.

For example, the ascent abort test for Orion’s Launch Abort System can be incorporated into abort tests planned at White Sands Missile Range in 2012 and 2013 and on the first Orion flight in 2014. The ascent test will document the performance of the LAS in the event control of the launch vehicle is lost after first stage separation.

Removing the Ares I-Y flight test eliminates a unique vehicle configuration that must be designed and managed separately from the objective designs of Ares and Orion. It allows the team to focus on achieving a first launch of a thoroughly verified system and represents a tightening of the program as a function of its maturation that will ultimately save money needed for other tests.

“It simply does not fit where we are headed,” said Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager and chairman of the Control Board. “The test vehicle was intended to meet evolving needs but the current configuration is too different from what the program requires to certify the Ares/Orion vehicle systems.”

The current Constellation manifest shows the Ares I-Y flight test scheduled in March 2014, just a year out from the proposed first crewed flight Orion 2, planned in 2015.

Managers are also considering other options including a flight test that would fly in 2012 or 2013 that would have revised flight test objectives to better support vehicle development.

Source : spaceref.com

Beyond Augustine II

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Context and Background

LANDERBERTH-A

In August of this year I wrote a missive concerning what happens after the Augustine report is released. Well, now that has happened, so what is next? The overall impression is that they did a good job technically in coming up with options and laying out the rational for the options. The concern is not there, the question is does this report provide to the president and NASA a viable path forward? In a curious move, the commission took a big risk and basically rejected one of the central directives from the White House (3d in the Scope and Objectives) which was:

Fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

Basically the Augustine Commission has thrown down the gauntlet in challenging the Obama administration and congress to put up $3 billion dollars in “real purchasing power” (which according to their graph is considerably more than a simple $3 billion increase) or without this you can basically forget exploration. While this conclusion may be debatable, it is commendable in its boldness. Will this strategy work? With a president and congress preoccupied with much larger and more contentious debates, no one knows. The president has indicated strong support technology in general and reasonable support for NASA in particular. In his instructions to Charles Bolden, the new administrator to “give us a space program to make the nation proud”, there may be the support from the Whitehouse for such an increase. Even if they get that, will the options presented by the Augustine commission lead to such a program?

There is much to be commended in this risky strategy if the goal is truly worthy. An indication of this is embodied in the statement of the ultimate goal of American space exploration that is outlined in the Executive Summary first page:

The Committee concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system.

Now this is something worth working toward!

It is amazing to me as a long time space advocate that for over three decades we seemed to have forgotten this, substituting in its stead vague and uninspiring goals related to science and “inspiration”. In the 1960’s and 70’s it was simply assumed that we were on a course to make this happen. Many movies and television programs of the era all had this as either as an underlying theme or as an aside even in teen love flicks. When Gerard K. O’Neil came out with his NASA study and the book “High Frontier”, it spawned a public movement for opening the space frontier for all mankind that was the seedling for today’s “New Space” movement for commercial human space exploration. The fact that this has returned as a theme in a mainstream report to the president is a good omen that should be latched upon by NASA in going forward to “make the nation proud” in the words of the president.

How to get there is of course the question.

The Augustine Report Findings

In the end, what the Augustine report boils down to in regards to future exploration architectures, is a choice between what the report calls the Ares V Lite (which in reality is the original ESAS Ares V), and the JSC proposed Shuttle Side Mount vehicle. The current “Program of Record” as it is referred to in the report is not considered a viable path forward due to the extremely high costs involved in its development phase, something that many knowledgeable people pointed out as far back as when it was originally unveiled.

As it pertains to destinations or outcomes, the choice is really between what the Augustine Report calls “Moon First” or “Flexible Path”. Mars is out of the picture due to the extreme expense of any viable Martian exploration architecture. The Moon First architecture is further subdivided into three variants. There is the lunar base, the lunar global (extended sorties to a limited number of sites), and sorties. The committee focused on the Lunar Global and Lunar Base scenarios and curiously stated that both variants would cost about the same. Which is only true if you limit the scope of activities at the base.

The Flexible Path is an interesting concept, though some wags call it “look but don’t touch”, that has multiple destinations, including free space locations such as the Earth/Sun libration points.
The committee in developing their options for the launch architecture rightly focused on lifecycle costs in differentiating between the Ares V light and the Shuttle Side Mount launcher. A very interesting and more than likely true observation made by the committee is that no matter which launch vehicle is chosen, the current NASA human spaceflight fixed cost structure will be the same. The committee found that the development costs for the Shuttle Side Mount would be less, which many of us have noted, due to the fact that the Solid Rocket Motors, External Tank, and even the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) boat tail (where the engines are mounted) would be essentially identical to the current shuttle. It would be quicker to field as well. However, they also found that the recurring costs would be higher due to the extremely high cost of the SSME. On the Ares V side, it was found that while the development costs would be higher, the overall lifecycle costs would be lower due to the lower recurring cost of the vehicle. However, there are assumptions built into these findings that could change going forward.

Launch Vehicle Lifecycle Costs Vs Architecture Life Cycle Costs, the Key to Success

With the commission zeroing in on lifecycle costs, one is driven to understand what they mean when applying that term to each architecture as well as each launch vehicle choice. It should be granted, that for some of the missions chosen, that the committee’s findings related to the lower costs of the Ares V lite vs the Shuttle Side Mount are correct. Missions to a libration point, a NEO, Lunar Orbit or Mars orbit or even Lunar Surface Sorties would all be cheaper using the Ares V as there is little that can be done to more efficiently carry out those missions. However, this does not apply to the Moon First lunar base.

The reasoning is as follows: The Shuttle Side Mount Moon First scenario in 5C has two crewed (3 Shuttle Side Mount (SSME’s) per crew) and two heavy lift cargo flights. But why dos there have to be heavy lift cargo flights? The key finding was that for the Shuttle Side Mount that SSME cost dominate the recurring costs, to wit:

With two crew and two cargo missions per year, this would require eight to ten launches of the Shuttle-derived launcher, each with three or four SSMEs or derivatives, for a total of24 to 40 of the Shuttle engines being used, with a resulting high recurring cost. (page 93 of the report)

If you can cut the number of cargo flights from heavy lift to zero and take a page from the Flexible Path’s call for a lighter lunar lander a radical shift occurs. If you had a lunar base, you could actually use a much lighter lander just to ferry crew from lunar orbit to the surface and back. If you were able to do this, the lunar mission itself could possibly be dropped to two Shuttle Side Mounts per crew and four vehicles per year. This would be further enabled by In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), which could proceed from private enterprise to enable the government to explore further and more cost effectively.

If the government chose to locate a base at a lunar pole (preferably the north to enable the maximum amount of surface exploration), and explore outward from there, caches of food, fuel, and other consumables could be staged. There are definite driving paths from the north polar region Peary Crater permanently lit zones down to Mare Frigoris, which then liberates a ground expedition to easily traverse the entire nearside Mare region. Much of the lunar farside terrain in the north is less onerous than in the south as well. Supplies could be emplaced by commercial landers who would use precision guidance to land their payloads, or the supplies could be carried overland by groups paid to do so. How much would the science value be raised and value given to the government by extending their scientific exploration potential. The government could incentivise this market in the same manner as COTS.

This is the beauty of the Moon, it is now within the possible grasp of private enterprise. Instead of launch opportunities once every two years, there is one available every two weeks. Today we have the Delta IV, Atlas V, the upcoming Falcon 9 as well as our international partners who could provide supplies, crews, and other hardware to extend the value of lunar exploration. There is even a plan to uprate the Ariane V to as much as 20 tons to trans lunar injection orbit. There are all kinds of deals that can be struck that would completely swing the cost benefit ratio to this type of architecture. This is something that the flexible path, no matter how scientifically interesting it might be, can provide. Though some of the first product from lunar oxygen production should be to enable a robust NEO mission.

As far as cargo’s go, there are not really that many cargo’s that require the full capability of any of the heavy lifters. For those that do, they could be split between EELV heavy launchers. If a heavy reliance on ISRU were implemented, the number of large Earth integrated payloads would be dramatically reduced.

Augustine and The Issue of In Situ Resources

Anyone who has read the Augustine report is struck is struck by the fact that ISRU, while mentioned, is left out of the near term technology opportunities. Some of this is due to the inertia of only choosing “proven” technologies. This is one thing that we do that is not like we did in the Apollo era, but that we can fix easily. On the earth we have thousands of years worth of experience in mining and processing minerals, making oxygen and metals from lunar rock is but an extension of this. I was very pleased at the ingenuity of the winning team from the lunar regolith challenge at Moffett field in October of this year.

The winner’s robot moved over 500 kilograms (1100 pounds) of simulated regolith in 30 minutes. On the Moon, digging regolith, moving it, processing it, storing the products are all part of what must be learned but the centennial prize actually brought several teams worth of developers into thinking about the problem who built hardware and tested it under the pressure of competition. This machine in some evolved form, will be input side of the ISRU process and even one metric ton per hour of materials processed would lead to amazing results, especially if the output included metals such as iron, aluminum, magnesium, and silicon.

The bottom line is that with very little monetary incentive from NASA in the form of the prizes, some teams have developed quite a bank of human capital and operational experience in these areas. In NASA’s technology roadmap, if ISRU is made a centerpiece of the reason for the lunar base, then it can be applied soon and possibly from private entrants. Larger prizes for larger aspects of exploration could achieve similar results. These prizes, if large enough, could be a significant economic stimulator. The prize for processing a ton of lunar regolith into usable propellant and metallic products must be high enough to encourage participants but should also be enough under the government’s cost to make it cost beneficial to the taxpayers. This could help accelerate the development of this technology to bring it to a much higher technology readiness level, faster than other methods as it widens the pool of interested parties beyond the aerospace companies that normally get larger development contracts. A billion dollars? Two billion? That would be an amazingly cheap price to pay to crash through this exploration debilitating barrier.

Looking Ahead

ISRU, commercial transportation, and the ease of the integration of the international partners is the game changer that makes Moon First a slam dunk win. With ISRU you very soon get the flexible path as ISRU derived propellants could be transported to the Earth/Sun L2 libration point to await the arrival of the human crews. The same thing could be done with propellants to a NEO. If this type of creative architecture were adopted, then the Shuttle Side Mount would be clearly the winner. A lower development cost today, and a restrained number of launches would limit the recurring costs. With the lower development costs, funds could be found to design a lightweight lunar lander. There have been some interesting forays into human lunar lander design that could change everything and dramatically bring down the cost of building, launching, and reusing them. If you were to reuse a human lunar lander with ISUR provided water just once, you would save over a billion dollars per year in architecture recurring costs.

Going beyond simply reusing a lander, if you were able to use an ISRU process that makes metals such as iron or aluminum (lots of aluminum near the poles as well as iron), you can build buildings, you can build the chassis of heavy equipment as well as other mobile systems, basically most of the heavy stuff that goes into a system on the Earth is eliminated. With large interior structures food can be grown, people can live and move around, and the beginnings of tourism could happen.

There are a plethora of things that can be done if ISRU become centric to your efforts and not an afterthought reserved to some magical future time. We have amazing capabilities these days in robotic systems thanks to smarter and smarter computers. Lets apply those capabilities to the Moon. In this type of architecture the things sent up from the Earth change. No longer needing to build compete systems on the ground, the emphasis becomes sending parts up and completed subsystems. This would change the entire way that payloads are handled. Something akin to the standard sea cargo container, designed around EELV class vehicles would provide an inexpensive means to multiply the effectiveness of a lunar base and our ability to explore the Moon.

Conclusions

I am utterly convinced that the above lunar base scenario or something even better is doable under the same $3 billion plus guidance that Augustine used. The ISRU development is far less difficult than those who have not deeply studied the issue know. It is not easy, but the benefits are so obvious, that to exclude it, is to castrate your exploration effort. If you keep shuttle flying in a minimum mode of twice per year till 2015 and supply sufficient funding, the Shuttle Side Mount could easily be flying by the end of the Shuttle era. This would mitigate any loss of corporate knowledge and expertise from the current shuttle workforce. This is a critical, yet underappreciated advantage that the Side Mount design has.

Keeping the station flying till 2020 will help accelerate the lunar return if the station is used as a way station for at least cargo destined for the Moon. With a lightweight lander that shuttles between lunar orbit and the base, could be built and tested far faster than the lunar lander that Altair is today. With commercial enterprise as part of the critical path, as well as bringing the critical ISRU development in, not only would the president be proud, all of us could look up in amazement at how rapidly the growth of a lunar base would lead to future exploration. The Moon is our second beachhead in the sky after ISS. The Moon is next after ISS, with a truly flexible path to Mars and beyond awaiting.

Source:spaceref.com