August 7, 2020

The Mars Helicopter!

Here's another exciting element of the Perseverance Mars rover--the Mars helicopter, named Ingenuity. That's right, there will be a real drone-sized helicopter onboard the rover. It's an experiment for larger ones on future missions, so it will do short flights for as long as it lasts, perhaps just one flight, perhaps several.

It can scout ahead for the rover's travels, take photos of the rover for troubleshooting, create wonderful panoramas, and swoop down to photograph interesting features.

Because the atmosphere on Mars is about 1/100th of Earth's atmosphere, the blades will spin incredibly fast.

Expect more helicopters on future Mars landers.

August 1, 2020

The Mars Microphone!


Following a picture-perfect launch, NASA's Perseverance rover is on the way to Mars--scheduled to land next February. One really cool thing onboard is a pair of microphones.

Yes! You'll be able to listen to the landing, the winds of Mars, and the sounds of the rover as it moves.

From NASA:
SuperCam can listen for about 3.5 minutes at a time while performing science observations. This gives the rover the chance to hear the sounds of Mars, such as the high-pitched sound of sand grains over the surface, the wind whistling around the rover mast, and low-pitched howls of dust devils passing by. The microphone also records sounds of Perseverance using its arm, coring rocks, and the wheels crunching against the surface. The rover may hear the other instruments, internal mechanisms, and hear when we drop off the sample tubes. In some cases, sound can help the team diagnose the health of the rover's internal mechanisms or instruments.
Learn more:
https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/microphones/


Photo credit: NASA

July 29, 2020

Space Week! Mars Rover Launches, SpaceX Astronauts Return


NASA's new rover, "Perseverance," launches July 30 at 7:50 AM EDT, and the two astronauts launched on SpaceX's new crew rocket will return to Earth on August 1 at 7:34 PM EDT.

You can watch both at NASA.gov/NTV.

Perseverance will have 3-D cameras for awesome views of Mars, and especially important, it will collect soil samples that will in coming years be returned to Earth in a separate mission.

Learn more about this exciting mission:
nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-invites-public-to-share-excitement-of-mars-2020-perseverance-rover-launch

The return of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley ends the succeful mission that returned American astronaut to space on American rockets for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles.

Learn more: nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-provide-coverage-of-astronauts-return-from-space-station-on-spacex-commercial 


Photo credits: NASA

July 20, 2020

Apollo at 51, Moon in 2024

Today, July 20, 2020, we remember and honor the hundreds of thousands of Americans who made Apollo a reality, as well as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins who brought the ultimate success to the mission.

Today, we're back on the road pioneered by the Apollo generation, with NASA's Project Artemis targeting 2024 for sending the first woman and next man to the Moon. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has slashed bureaucracy and brought in tremendous participation and ownership by commercial space to accelerate the program dramatically enough to make 2024 feasible.

One lesson of Apollo was that all problems are surmountable given the willpower. We invented from scratch everything needed to land and survive on the moon. Today we have the technology so all that's needed is just the willpower to put it together, and especially, the willpower by Congress to offer full support.

On this anniversary, you can help Congress provide the necessary support, because if we fail, the return to the Moon will be again delayed forever, and China would take that as an invitation to claim the south pole as their territory.  Here's how to help:

Please call your members of Congress in support for the president’s NASA budget request. 202-224-3121

Important tip: Do NOT leave a message with the receptionist--that counts for nothing. 

Instead, ask for the name of the “LA” or Legislative Assistant” who handles science and NASA. Get their email, and send a message. That’s the person who briefs their boss on NASA. State your case concisely and ask for full support of the president’s budget request, and full support for Artemis by 2024.  If you don’t get a reply, keep sending the email—staff get hundreds of emails a day, so yours will often get lost in the flood.

Set up a virtual meeting, better yet, request a meeting with the Member when they are in the district or state, or attend a Virtual Town Hall.

You can also call the members of the House Science Committee and the House Space Subcommittee.

Then, if you have contacts in space-related companies and advocacy organizations, ask them to take action as well—their voices will be louder than yours alone.

These simple steps can help secure safe access to the Moon for all mankind; to fulfill the hope expressed in the plaque Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left on the Moon fifty years ago.

Thank you very much.

(Image courtesy NASA)

June 11, 2020

America is BACK ! SpaceX Launch America



Astronauts Bob Behnken & Doug Hurley
Credit: SpaceX/Ashish Sharma
Demo 2 Launch Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Docking with ISS 
Credit: NASA

Arrival at ISS
Credit: NASA Bill Stafford

America is BACK! After a picture-perfect launch and docking with the International Space Station, our 'right stuff' astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, entered the International Space Station on May 31. This historic launch of the first crewed commercial SpaceX rocket marked the first time since 2011 that we could send our astronauts to space on American rockets.

The return of American astronauts on American rockets with the SpaceX crew Dragon launch is vital for several reasons.

1. America is no longer reliant on access to space exclusively on Russian rockets. For nine years our access to space was entirely reliant on Russian rockets, with no backup capabilities in case of accidents. While we wish them well, Russia's non-military space program has been imploding over the past couple decades, and their program is plagued with poor quality control--alarmingly including an apparently intentionally-caused leak in a Soyuz spacecraft. In spite of spending great sums on a new launch complex at Vostochny within Russian territory--Baikonur is in Kazakhstan, Vostochny has yet to see a crewed or Progress launch, and plans for a new generation of human-rated rockets and spacecraft have never advanced. Sadly, Russia is opposing commercial development in space by refusing to sign the Artemis Accords, which lay out the rule of law for the future in space.

2. Redundant launch capability with SpaceX and next year Boeing. America learned the hard way with the two space shuttle accidents that single-sourced launch platforms can ground our space program.

We were lucky that there have been no crew launch accidents with Soyuz. However, in 2011, the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration presented a paper to NASA on alternatives to decrewing ISS when a Soyuz Progress launch failed. Because the crewed Soyuz used the same second stage as Progress, all crew launches were cancelled. This resulted in three astronaut leaving ISS without replacements, and ISS was in danger of being entirely decrewed for the first time since 2000. Just weeks before the return flight of the remaining three crew, Soyuz was cleared for return to flight, and a new crew arrived at ISS. Two different launch platforms are essential to continuous access to space.

3. Great boost to America's worldwide stature, and beating China. Nothing says American exceptionalism and worldwide leadership than being able to lunch astronauts and soon paying travelers on our own rockets. China is planning to build a small space station beginning this year, but their space program is a military-run non-commercial program. America is setting the example for new private industries and opportunities in space.

4. Creation of a commercial crew market. This may be remembered as the most important result from commercial crew. We will see paid voyages to orbit and to ISS soon, which allows scientists, universities, countries without space programs, filmmakers, industrialists, entrepreneurs and tourists to reach orbit. Companies including Bigelow Aerospace have designed space habitats and laboratories, which will now have a market of people and industry able to reach orbit for commercial and tourist purposes. NASA has agreed to let actor Tom Cruise film a movie on ISS.

5. Dragon and Boeing's Starliner can both seat four people in ISS configuration, one more than Soyuz. and they could be configured for up to seven. The fourth seat will often be used by NASA to fly an additional crew member from one of our ISS partners. This will increase the frequency our partners will be able to go to ISS--space diplomacy, and NASA is also allowing private individuals to buy the extra seat and stay on ISS for a short time.

6. Increased public attention, thus support, for our space program including returning to the moon by 2024. The media has largely refused to cover the exciting news of returning to the Moon by 2024 (The Washington Post, for example put 51 stories ahead of the initial March 2019 announcement--the exciting news was buried on page A-24), however the SpaceX launch was covered extensively by the media, drawing millions to learn more about NASA's programs including Artemis. This gets people enthusiastic and will build support in Congress as well.

7. President Trump leadership highlighted in returning American space exploration--while the commercial crew was in progress before 2017, America wouldn't be returning to the Moon in this decade or going to Mars but for his leadership.

May 27, 2020

New Launch Date: May 30




Today, two veteran NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, boarded their Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Falcon 9 was fueled and readied for launch, spectators in the region and millions around the world eagerly waited the launch, the President and Vice President were in attendance. All eyes were on the rocket and the countdown clock. The countdown proceeded.

All systems were "go for launch," but the weather was doubtful. The ground crew waited until the very last minute, hoping that clouds and weather would clear.

But the weather didn't move out soon enough. Ground control jokingly asked "could you give us ten more minutes," but they knew that was impossible, and the historic launch of American astronauts flying on American rockets was 'scrubbed' until Saturday, May 30.

Safety is always number one, and launches are frequently delayed for weather or equipment issues. You want everything exactly right.

Some may be curious why the launch wasn't just delayed until the storm moved away. The simple answer is that for many launches, and especially for launches to a moving target like the International Space Station, the "launch window" can be only a few minutes wide or even "instantaneous," meaning that the launch must happen right at a specific moment. 

Had they launched just a few minutes later, the space station, orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour, would have traveled beyond the intended rendezvous point and required too much fuel to catch up to it once in orbit.

Our astronauts will reach the space station soon, and SpaceX and Boeing will before too long, begin taking tourists and scientists on commercial flights, whether to ISS or just to orbit, and one day, to commercial hotels and labs in orbit.


May 21, 2020

Countdown to Americans on American Rockets!


Meet Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both experienced NASA space shuttle astronauts will launch to the International Space Station on May 27, heralding the return of American astronauts flying on American rockets, rather than the Russian Soyuz.

You'll want to watch this moment in history! If you are in Florida, you'll see the marvelous 'rockets red glare' rise to the heavens at 4:33 p.m. EDT, and watch online at www.NASA.gov/NTV, with coverage starting about an hour beforehand. Near the Kennedy Space Center, here's the best viewing locations.

Learn more about this incredible mission at NASA and SpaceX.

If the launch is delayed, such as for technical or weather issues, the launch may be rescheduled for the next day or when issues have been corrected.

America is in a new space race with China, and regaining our own crew launch capability is vital for strategic reasons. China intends to dominate space in the same way they are planning and attempting to do in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and even Taiwan, and their goals include declaring 'vertical sovereignty' where no satellites, space stations etc. could fly in orbit over China, and to similarly declare ownership of the only area of the Moon suitable for long-term habitation, the water-ice-rich south pole.

President Trump has restored our return to the moon by 2024, which I advised the Trump campaign and White House was essential, which will not only help secure access to the Moon by the free world, but also spark a tremendous birth and growth of commercial and tourist enterprises on the Moon, as well as giving us the experience needed to go to Mars in the 2030s.

Additionally, President Trump and NASA have written the "Artemis Accords," which all free nations should agree to and which will be required of all our space exploration partners. These accords represent the establishment of the rule of law in space, with rules to protect private enterprise and property in space and on the Moon and Mars.

Because of Democrat obstructionism in the House of Representatives (and the possibility a Democrat president could again cancel the return to the Moon--and award the high frontier to China's rule), it is vital to keep lobbying the House Science committee to keep the Artemis lunar program on schedule for 2024 and to not enact a NASA authorization or appropriation with poison pills and cuts to derail our progress and the essential timetable.

The Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration has been meeting with Congress this year on these urgent priorities, often explaining the largely-unreported strategic aspects of our civilian and commercial space programs.

The future of access and commercialization of orbital space and the Moon must belong to all, not just China.

(Photo credit SpaceX)


April 24, 2020

Americans on American Rockets! Coming in May!

A SpaceX Dragon Ready for Launch (Credit SaveMannedSpace.com)
At last, American astronauts will return to the International Space Station on American rockets for the first time since 2011. SpaceX has scheduled their first crewed test launch for May 27, from the historic Apollo 11 launch complex 39-A, in their new Crew Dragon spacecraft.

A Falcon 9 Preparing
for Launch
The mission will carry two veteran NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both of whom flew on shuttle flights, and they are expected to stay on ISS for two or more months. This will be the final test launch, and following this, SpaceX and soon, Boeing will do regular crew launches with a full crew to the space station.

This "Demo-2" mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station.

Once operational, there will often be a Russian or international partner aboard our crew launches, as well as an American on some Soyuz launches. Also, there will often be four or more American and partner astronauts aboard ISS, raising the full crew to possibly seven or eight.

Additionally, NASA will allow private individuals to buy a seat on NASA launches, kicking off a new era of commercial space travel. Expect wealthy individuals to buy seats and some weeks aboard ISS, as well as astronauts from countries unable to afford a space program of their own, who would carry out experiments in space. NASA recently awarded a contract to build a crew habitat module for ISS, to allow several commercial crew to stay onboard and out of the way of the scientific spaces on ISS. 

March 18, 2020

Gateway's Gone, Now to the Moon for Real!

NASA is cancelling the "Gateway," which mandated that journeys to the Moon would have to make a complex rendezvous to the gateway, then use a three-stage lander to do a complex landing. Returns would have to adhere to a seven-day return window, making emergency returns impossible.

Thank God it's cancelled, or at least postponed!

The gateway was initiated as an Obama boondoggle to pretend we were returning to the moon while never landing, and I always called it "spectator seating to watch China colonize the moon," and recommended to White House officials in early 2017 that they must scrap or delay it, and to return to the Moon by 2024.

At last, it's off the books for the 2024 landing. This increases the chances of actually landing the first woman and next man on the moon by '24, and using far safer and simpler rendezvous. Go Artemis!

The contract awards for landers had been delayed before this announcement, and now bidders can design far simpler, cheaper and safer systems that can be built more quickly. Because the gateway is off the books for the 2024 landing, it is essentially dead, as the landers will now be designed for more direct Apollo-like missions.

This is one more bold step that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is taking to assure that we can return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024, and to establish a permanent base by 2028. Thank you.

February 25, 2020

The Stakes for Space Exploration - NASA Authorization Bill

The stakes couldn't be higher for America's future in space as Congress debates the House of Representative's version of the NASA authorization bill, H.R. 5666.

Americans fully support a bold return to space exploration, and NASA is partnering with commercial partners to return to the moon by 2024--and build a permanent base using "in-situ resources" by 2028. Then, with lessons learned on the Moon, we will safely go to Mars by about 2033.

Regrettably, the House bill would push the return to the Moon to 2028--effectively ceding control of the most valuable region on the Moon to China, and losing, perhaps for another decade, the momentum and public enthusiasm that was sparked by setting 2024 as the exciting landing date.

Additionally, the bill would forbid NASA-commercial partnerships for lunar landers, eliminate plans to build a base on the Moon and prohibit developing "in-situ resource utilization," or mining water and minerals to 'live off the land' in a sustainable way.

Each of these prohibitions alone would delay the ability to conduct safe missions to Mars by a decade or more--to the 2040s or even 2050s, which would be a tragic loss of American leadership in space. Each effectively cedes the critical south pole region to China, where the water ice will support humanity for centuries, and cripples commercial space ventures.

China intends to be on the Moon in the mid-2020s, specifically to build a permanent base on the south pole, mine minerals and water, and deny access to all others, as in the South China Sea, where they violate the Law of the Sea Treaty every day.

Would China really claim the south lunar pole?

Consider this. The head of China's lunar program, Ye Peijian, compared the Moon and Mars to islands they are trying to illegally seize in the South and East China Seas in an ominous 2017 interview:
“The universe is like the ocean, the moon is like the Diaoyu Islands, and Mars is like Huangyan Island.”
The "Diaoyu Islands" are in fact Japan's sovereign Senkaku Islands.

"Huangyan Island" is in fact the Philippines’ sovereign Scarborough Shoal, which China seized and completely militarized in violation of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

China sometimes openly telegraphs its intentions to scare adversaries, and the "universe" quote is designed to scare nations to cede without effort the lunar south pole or more to Chinese control.

Indeed, if China expects us to believe they wouldn't seize the south pole, they are setting a poor example in the South China Sea. 

Yes, there is a space race with China--whether or not we join their race, and the stakes in this century are not just 'bragging rights' but control of the strategically-important south pole. By denying commercial enterprises and other countries from having access to the vital water-ice in south lunar pole craters, development of the moon will only be by China.

To recap, the House NASA Authorization bill would force a delay to returning to the Moon until 2028 or later, which would be after China lands their astronauts on the south pole--ceding control to Beijing.

What should Congress do? Already many Democratic and Republican members are hearing from all sectors of the space economy with the demand that they amend the bill to remove these dangerous prohibitions. A committee markup is planned for mid-March, which may address many of these concerns.

Failing to remove these restrictions, there might be no authorization bill for the year, or perhaps some compromise as late as December.

It is better to pass no authorization than to pass one that will cripple our return to the Moon and pathway to Mars, and cede the Moon to China.

Please share this, and call or email your members of Congress at 202-224-3121, asking that the House bill, H.R. 5666 be corrected--or defeated. www.House.gov www.Senate.gov 

February 18, 2020

How to Lobby Congress and Candidates for the Moon and Mars

Promoting the Space Program to Decision Makers:

In this election year, there’s two valuable actions you can take to build support in Congress and the White House for America’s future in space, including returning to the moon in 2024 and landing on Mars by 2033.

TALK TO CANDIDATES AND CAMPAIGNS:

The first is to take advantage of the easy access to candidates and incumbents for Congress and President during the campaign season.

Ignore politics and let’s use this year to engage all the candidates to out-compete each other in their support for a bold space program.

Presidential candidates are travelling the country and speaking at events—some large and some small. The small events can be an excellent opportunity to actually talk to the candidates and their senior advisors.

At a huge event, you won’t meet the candidate or staff unless you know someone, but you can make them know you are there in a friendly and positive way. One way is to wear your pro-space shirts and caps. Maybe you’ll want to bring a sign or banner with “Moon by 2024” or Mars 2033!” on it, though many large events will have security rules forbidding banners and sign poles.

You can hold up signs on public property outside the campaign event with signs asking the candidate to support plans for the Moon and Mars. That may be photographed by the media.

Note that protesting in any way will just get you ousted and will result in the opposite effect from what you want.

For House and Senate campaigns, go to campaign events for both parties and you’ll have a good chance to talk to the incumbents and new candidates as well as their senior staff about your space priorities.

Call, email and message all presidential and congressional candidates in support of Moon 2024 and Mars 2033. Visit their local campaign headquarters and talk to their staff. Ask for the candidate’s statements and positions on the space program and commercial space. If they don’t have one, suggest they create a statement—or even offer to write one.

Every campaign has Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The candidate might not read it or personally send messages, but staff will certainly relay your message if it sounds useful and is constructive, or at least a summary of it if many people send similar messages. You can also retweet useful information to candidates.

Then get all your friends and contacts to do the same.

Everything seems political today, but space must not be so if we are to realize our dreams. Both Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses have all inspired and funded our greatest space accomplishments, from JFK’s “we will go to the Moon in this decade” to building the space shuttles and the International Space Station, and now Artemis to the Moon and Mars.

Together we will reach the Moon and Mars. Together we will build colonies. Together we will build an interstellar spacecraft – and one day humanity will reach the stars. But not if we squabble and refuse to be part of this or that way of getting there, or refuse to support a plan from the “other party” because it’s not exactly your plan or you don’t want any particular person to get the credit.
Together, and only together can we reach the moon by 2024 and Mars in the 2030s.

LOBBYING CONGRESS:

Here’s a primer on how to meet or talk with your members of Congress and their top staff.

Why would you want to meet with your legislators? Perhaps to support specific legislation, goals or budgets. Or perhaps you want to judge or inspire their support for returning to the Moon and landing on Mars.
Here’s how to make your visits, calls and letters more effective, as well as the efforts of the advocacy organizations you support. What a Member or staffer is hoping or needs to hear from you might be very different from what you expect or think are vital points.

For example, early in the year is “appropriations season,” where you can request a greater budget for NASA than requested by the president, and you can present a letter in support of the same. That’s also the time to talk to the committee staff who write the NASA authorization bills about your priorities.  --CONTINUED --