August 31, 2010

Constellation Rocket Booster Built and Tested!

As the axe prepares to fall on human space exploration, another element in the Constellation program which could take us to the Moon, Mars and beyond passes a critical test. The new 5-segment solid rocket booster which will power Aires I and V passed a full firing test with flying colors!

Watch the video, cheer for American technology, and call Congress to save Constellation so we can go to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

August 26, 2010

VP: "This is a Chance to Do Something Big!" OK, How About Going to Mars Then?

In a Time Magazine interview regarding stimulus spending, Vice President Biden proclaimed "This is a chance to do something big, man!",8599,2013683,00.html

The First Landing on Mars
(Credit NASA)

Mr. Vice President, there will be nothing bigger in this century than the first human landing on Mars and the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon. And you can make it happen.  A bold, vibrant space program will relaunch America's leadership in high technology and save and create a great many jobs.

Please act now to save the Space Shuttles, build Constellation, and honor JFK's legacy with a bold space program to go to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. Not decades from now, but within 10-15 years.

That's "something big!"

August 25, 2010

CEO of Intel Warns U.S. Tech Leadership Endangered

Intel's CEO Paul Otellini issued a warning this week that government policies are endangering American technological leadership, and that, "the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here.";1n

President Obama's cancellation of human space exploration will accelerate our decline, and it awards a head start of one or two entire decades to China, Russia and others to take over human space exploration. They, not us will be the nations to benefit from the resulting investments and jobs. China's recent announements that they will go to the Moon by 2017, have their heavy lift rocket completed by 2014, and launch next year the first module of their own space station is proof the rest of the world won't wait--they are seizing the power, jobs, investments, and even the national prestige while we plan to go to sleep for decades.

Technological leadership is something which must be continually rebuilt, and with a bold, vibrant U.S. space program we can regain the competitive edge.  Without; we may end up as the country to whom the new great powers in the world will outsource their cheap manual labor.

The Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration calls on the President and Congress to adopt a bold "in this decade" plan to return to the Moon and go to Mars, and in the process rebuild our technological leadership.

Please call and write your Members of Congress (202-224-3121) and all House and Senate candidates, as well as the White House (202-456-1111) with this vital message. The "next big thing" could be invented while preparing for the first human landing on Mars.

August 23, 2010

Mars Exploration Technology Benefits Everyone on Earth

When discussing the space program, you may sometimes hear that it is "a waste of money," that we should "spend the money here where it can do some good," or even that "we can't afford it." What many people may not be aware of is the fantastic number of "spinoffs," or technology developed for space missions which has practical and valuable uses in our daily lives. This is why space exploration is an investment in everyone's future.

The microelectronics and computers which we depend upon today for example were developed in part by the need to miniaturize electronics for the Apollo mission. Those over a certain age will remember bulky tube radios as well as the smaller transistor radios which replaced them. It was the absolute necessity to make small computers for the space program which greatly accelerated this development.

Dust Covering Mars Rover Spirit's
Solar Panels
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Here's an excellent example of a technology designed for Mars which benefits solar energy production on Earth; self-cleaning solar panels. The fine dust on Mars can greatly reduce the efficiency of the solar panels which power rovers and other landers. Dust on Earth-bound solar installations suffer the same problem. Without rigging bulky windshield wipers, how would you solve this problem?

Working with NASA, Malay Mazumder, invented the way to do the job at Boston University:

As with microelectronics, while it would be useful to have self-cleaning solar panels on earth, alternatives are workable if time and energy consuming, such as spraying water on them. A hundred million miles from humanity, that option doesn't exist, and this necessity is what drove the demand to create self-cleaning panels. Perhaps this technology would have been developed sometime soon without the absolute need for use on Mars--or perhaps not.  Result: more efficient solar generation on Earth!

Here's another: radar technology developed to locate subsurface water on Mars will now be used to find water deep under the deserts on earth!

Now imagine the demand to create an almost closed ecosystem to support Moon and Mars colonists for months and years at a time, and you get an idea of how this demand may benefit the environment on Earth.

Space exploration is indeed an investment which will be paid back many times over in technological advances to improve our lives and clean up the environment. We can't afford not to invest in space exploration.

August 14, 2010

Watch How Constellation Will Take Us to the Moon, Mars and Beyond

For people unfamiliar with the Constellation system, and the ways it can take us to the Moon and Mars, it is useful to watch this video prepared by NASA.

The Administration intends to kill the program, ending perhaps for decades the goal of Americans returning to the Moon and making history by landing on Mars. Congress may save it or save a smaller, less-capable version; but we need the full program. Watch what Constellation can do and contact Congress to build the full Constellation system now.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel; watch our videos and share with your friends. We offer some special NASA films which illustrate important aspects of human space exploration.

August 11, 2010

John Glenn: Save the Space Shuttle

John Glenn (NASA Photo)
John Glenn--the first American to orbit the Earth; U.S. Senator; Shuttle Astronaut; and exemplar of the meaning of "the Right Stuff" has a powerful message which Congress must take to heart.
  • Congress must not kill the Space Shuttle program.
  • Build the Constellation system.
  • Go to Mars.
One of the most important points made by Sen. Glenn is that the Space Shuttles are NOT worn out or unsafe.

The fact is that the Shuttle Orbiters were each designed for 100 launches, and none have exceeded 38 launches. To throw them away is to waste America's resources at a time when we need them most and to endanger the Space Station. Further, the shuttles have been constantly updated and improved over the years, and most importantly, the factors which caused the loss of the two Shuttles have been addressed. The solid booster rockets were redesigned, and careful inspection on each mission can spot any damaged or missing tiles.

More can and should be done to improve Shuttle safety; for example the new X-37, a NASA micro-shuttle given to the USAF, has far more durable tiles and composites, ( and a refit with such materials would advance safety. Replacing the solid rockets with safer liquid boosters has been proposed over the years. While the materials to repair tiles on orbit existed since 1980, it was not until after the Columbia tragedy that repair kits were installed on each Shuttle.

Read the "right stuff;" read John Glenn's report on why the shuttles must be kept in operation, as well as many other critical recommendations:

August 10, 2010

Use the Shuttles as (Medium) Heavy Lift--and Get to Mars by 2018

Proposed Shuttle-C
Launch (NASA)
The Space Shuttle system is medium-heavy lift. We have it today!  It could launch everything needed to take us to the Moon, Mars and beyond; just as it launched everything for the ISS. It would take more launches than with Constellation, but it could be done.

The ideal way to use this existing resource would be to build the planned Shuttle-C or Shuttle-Derived Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, which would be an unmanned cargo carrier with rockets on it, attached to the existing Shuttle external tank and booters in place of the Orbiter. This would greatly increase payload size and weight. This would be the fast-and-cheap interim solution to the Constellation. Neil Armstrong supported this concept in his May 2010 statement to Congress:

Constellation is essential to space exploration because it is "real" heavy lift, but there are zero reasons not to build, and have ready to launch in perhaps two or three years, the Shuttle-C cargo-carrier; and to use it to launch cargo ships to Mars starting with the excellent launch window of 2016.

A few unmanned cargo missions to Mars in 2016 to land the habitation modules, power systems, water-to-fuel plant, and to place 3 communications satellites into Martian orbit would allow for a very well-equipped human mission to Mars at the most optimum (shortest transit time) launch window in 2018.  Such Shuttle-C launches would eliminate the need to modify the existing Shuttle launch pads, saving more time and money. Shuttle-C could launch 3 times the payload of the Shuttle+Orbiter system; 170,000 pounds. Constellation will lift 309,000 pounds--that's why we need it; but until it is ready we should not sit and do nothing. The Mars landing mission would be launched in 2018 using the then-completed Constellation.

Shuttle-C could also take us to the Moon, as it can launch the Moon lander and habitation modules. In either scenario, crew would be transported to the assembled Moon or Mars spaceships/transfer vehicles by regular Shuttle Orbiter flights. Note that the Shuttle Orbiters were designed to last for 100 launches, and none have exceeded 38 launches.

It is a criminal waste of America's resources to scrap the shuttles and to ignore the dirt-cheap Shuttle-C concept; thus needlessly delaying missions to Mars and the Moon.

Congress is urged to authorize the continuation of the shuttle program, to build Shuttle-C cargo pods and to use it to launch payloads for the initial Moon and Mars missions while Constellation is being built. We can land Americans on Mars in 2018!

Proposed Shuttle-C
on Orbit (NASA)
Wikipedia's page on the Shuttle HLV:

More Info:
More Info:

August 6, 2010

Game-Changer: Elon Musk, Space-X and Private Heavy Lift?

The players in private orbital rockets have largely focused on smaller rockets to ferry crew and cargo to the space station and launch satellites. Now, Elon Musk's Space X has discussed developing heavy lift rockets (Falcon X and XX) in the Saturn V class with an eye to running cargo to Mars!
Space X's site:

Courtesy Space X
F9 Rocket
Beyond the advantages of having heavy lift for human space exploration, there are sound business reasons to invest in heavy lift. Space X could offer satellite manufacturers greater payload capacity than NASA, Russian, China and Ariane can currently offer, resulting, for example, in a new generations of larger and more powerful communications satellites, or for launching multiple satellites from one launch.

For Mars, this would be a gamechanger, for it would strip one key weapon from those who seek to kill the space program--never building the rockets. No rockets--no missions. The charade worked for decades, but now the gig may be up.

In analysing this, the danger is in reading too little into it. For if the White House and Congress continue to drag their feet and pretend Mars can wait, then Mr. Musk and other wealthy space supporters could just pool their money, sell sponsorships for the rest, paint "Just Do It!" on the spaceship (for $100 million in advertising) and put together an entirely privately financed mission to Mars!

So how might NASA react? To prove their relevance, they may feel greater pressure to push for funding to actually go to the Moon and Mars. And the White House, robbed of their lie that Mars is only possible in 2035, may be forced to have a change of heart. Congress may also see the light and get serious. None would want to not be part of this! Yes, they can try to regulate-to-death private spaceflight and go back to planning missions to nowhere, so we must keep up the pressure on Congress.

So maybe we can indeed re-cast JFK's vision, and go to the Moon and the asteroids in THIS decade and to Mars very soon afterwards--NASA, Space-X and other private companies could put together a more exciting space program over the next decade than would be possible with either singly. I'll bet we'll see more private ventures developing technology for space exploration.

Now more than ever do we need to put the pressure on Congress to adopt a bold space progam.

Private heavy lift: any more proof needed that America is still great?

Update 8/10/10: Space X backtracked after this announcement, stating this concept was more of an idea discussed at Space X than an planned or actual project. Perhaps the mere discussion of private heavy lift will create sufficient interest from satellite manufacturers to make it worth building. Go ahead and do it, build real heavy lift and step up the pressure to go to the Moon and Mars.

August 4, 2010

Mars by 1981 or 1995!

The technological challenges in going to Mars are great, but not so great that we couldn't have gone there many times by now. Indeed, NASA's plans at the time of the Moon landing were to land on Mars in the early 1980's. And they well could have done so!

Read a summary of Werner von Braun's 1969 plan to land on Mars in 1982--and a 50-person base by 1989!

Politics, not technology, robbed us of our future in space. This time, we must not let politics rob us again of a bold, exciting future of space exploration; one which will help rebuild our economy and provide high-tech jobs and investments for decades to come. Any plan for reaching Mars by 2035 is a "mission to nowhere," and come 2035 the talk will be for a mission to Mars may be by 2069--a century from Apollo 11.

Further, the US is not the only player in space, and the first to Mars and other destinations takes not just the credit for the accomplishment, but most importantly, takes the leadership in technology and thus job and economic growth for a generation or more. The Moon mission secured America's place as the undisputed technological leader in the world--let's not surrender and become the follower; a nation thus declining in wealth to second-rate status.

I urge you to read the linked article about the "Is nuclear propulsion really necessary/Mars in 1995" study. It describes a 1980-1981 plan by Dr. B. C. Parkinson to land on Mars and even to swing by Venus on the return trip to reduce return time. Yes, we could have gone to Mars in 1995, using largely existing technology and hardware circa 1980. We could do an even better job of it today; and in less time too.
Paper description:

That was a bold and innovative plan in 1980, particularly using the Venus return--risky without superior radiation shielding. Given three decades of advances since, it should be considered a mild plan today. This, however is exactly the sort of research we need to use today to create an even better Mars expedition in even less time--and to show sceptics who say it can't be done for decades.

There have been decades of research on how to design Mars and other deep-space missions, and much is completely applicable to today. The basic requirements for the mission haven't changed since Werner von Braun's first plans, and orbital mechanics hasn't changed either. Advances in technology only make the job easier. Compiling and publishing such data for Members of Congress and other decision makers could assist in the goal; let's not waste this collective knowledge. No need to spend years re-inventing the wheel, but to just add in later advances to existing workable technology and science, and to do it.

Selected Mars Mission Plans; the first is most recent:
This 2009 study shows how to go to Mars by 2019 and the Moon by 2017
Manned mission to Mars in 2019, A Proposal for the Augustine Commission July 27, 2009 by Henri Tapani Heinonen. The author specifically addresses the folly of waiting until the 2030's.

A 1997 detailed study for a Mars mission by 2007-2014
Human Exploration of Mars: The Reference Mission of the NASA Mars Exploration Study Team
Stephen J. Hoffman, Editor, David I. Kaplan, Editor, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, July 1997  NASA Special Publication 6107

June 1998 Update to above: Reference Mission Version 3.0 Addendum to the Human Exploration of Mars: The Reference Mission of the NASA, Mars Exploration Study Team, Bret G. Drake, editor, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Mission to Mars, How to Get People There and Back With Nuclear Energy by an MIT team, 2003 Nuclear propulsion can speed up the voyage considerably and reduce rediation exposure; and free us from the narrow 26-month minimum-power launch windows. 
Here's an innovative though risky plan to take us to Mars quickly and cheaply:
Three Shuttles To Mars by Michael J. Coppi. Why just retire them to museums? This 2009 plan sends out our three space shuttles on the Mars trip, including one which would end up landed on Mars. While impractical due to it's risks, it is mentioned here because it shows the many possible ways to Mars--and the incredible but untapped capabilities of the Shuttles. Not mentioned in this plan is the fact that the shuttles in theory might have at any time been used to go to the Moon, with a lander in the payload bay and by attaching a suitable external fuel tank at the ISS.

NASA's 2009 ReferenceMission to Mars:
Here is a NASA report giving brief summaries of 50 studies for Mars missions:
Humans to Mars, Fifty Years of Mission Planning, 1950–2000 by David S. F. Portree

335 Moon and Mars Mission Plans, compiled by David Portree:
Dr. Werner von Braun's 1965 article on manned Mars mission by 1986:
When Will We Land on Mars? Popular Science article from before Apollo! The technology may be outdated, but the concept of the basics needed for a Mars mission has not changed much.

Wikipedia has compiled information on many Mars Mission plans:

Analysis of an unmanned Mars Sample Return mission. Return Martian soil

Mars Expedition Images: What would a Mars mission look like? Beautiful artist's renderings from Jack Frassanito in 1997 will take you there. Let's together make what's pictured here into reality.
Ever get the idea that human missions to Mars have been "studied to death," and that it's time to "just do it?"

Please forward to us any research papers and plans you may be aware of so we may include them in research compilations for members of Congress, the media and others. Who has copies of detailed plans from NASA's Apollo-era Mars mission and or other plans/studies/diagrams/blueprints for manned space exploration, space industrialization?

Simply, it is not true that we must wait until 2035 or later to reach Mars. Nuclear, ion or other technologies will eventually shorten the travel time to weeks--such would be valuable and would be used at the start or as soon as practical; but if not practical for the first missions, that should not dictate delays or it will not ever happen. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries did not wait for steamships, GPS navigation or Boeing 747s to explore the world. No; they went in spite of the many risks, long voyages and great hardships, and we too should boldly explore space--now!

August 3, 2010

Support the Senate Bill--Now

At present there are two legislative proposals regarding the space program. The House and Senate bills, plus the Administration's request.  Of these, the Senate bill is more favorable to the goal of keeping alive the shuttles and heavy lift until we can build public support for a bold "in this decade" plan to go to Mars, the Moon and the asteroids.

So call your Senators supporting the NASA Appropriation bill--call right away as the Senate will likely vote anytime in the next couple days. Please also call your Representative in support of the Senate bill, not the worse House bill. Thank you.

August 1, 2010

Scrap Shuttles = Endanger ISS

The news today (August 1, 2010) is that the ammonia-coolant cooling system on the space station has partially failed due to a failed pump. With traditional "right stuff" skill and creativity, there is little doubt it can be quickly repaired, but it exposes the criminal folly in scrapping the space shuttles.

Ammonia Tank in Shuttle
Update on EVAs to repair the cooling system:

Here's the gory details: should the cooling system ever spring a leak, delivering the 1,800 pound replacement ammonia tank (ATA) would almost certainly require the capabilities of the space shuttle. The weight is OK for Progress, but not the size. Other system failures can only be supplied by shuttle missions, such as replacing the huge solar or cooling radiator panels. Please read the linked article about micrometeorid damage to the radiator panels:

The astronauts and mission control want to send the 780 pound pump back to Earth so it can be inspected to find out why it failed. But the final two shuttles are totally filled up for the return trip and won't be able to return it. Progress can't return it; the shuttle is the only way to return the pump.

What else could fail on the ISS which requires the shuttles to deliver or return? Probably a dangerously long list of items.

That's the reality of it. Scrap the shuttles and you spin the roulette wheel that some failure won't happen which can only be fixed using the resources of the shuttles and their cargo/return capability.

Congress: Save the Shuttles. Cancel the layoff notices immediately. Resume building the fuel tanks and solid boosters. Fly the shuttles at some minimal rate to ensure their continued launch capability until new heavy lift is available. Or wait until a preventable failure destroys America's 100 billion dollar investment in our future. That would be a crime of unbelievable magnitude.