Author Topic: Exploration concepts and principles?  (Read 54821 times)

Offline CNYMike

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Exploration concepts and principles?
« on: 04/27/2013 04:33 PM »
Although I suppose I could be considered "moon first," I was wondering if there is a more productive way to think about this than just feeding the ongoing cage match between various fiefdoms (Moon vs. elsewehere, SLS vs everyone online, etc).

So I'm wondering if, at least as an intellectual exercise, start with this principle: our BEO missions should be to bodies and regions that we can visit repeatedly.  I say "regions" because I don't see a point to visiting one asteroid one time, and I don't know if anyone asteroid would be worth visiting again and again.  But routine access to NEA orbits to study and tag passign asteroids, that would make more sense.  And so the NEA region would make the list, along with the Moon, Mars, other planets and Cruithne.

Just a thought.



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Offline Robert Thompson

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #1 on: 04/27/2013 07:21 PM »
How little (time + cost) can you spend for one kilogram of water as far from Earth as can still engage, and stretch, but not outrun, commercial HSF partnership? Like at EML2. You can of course spend forever obtaining cut-rate water. You can of course waste anything but time to slog through deep gravity wells in quick succession. High ground is tactical. Low ground is strategic. We have good ideas which is the high ground. Which is the low ground?

Online QuantumG

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #2 on: 04/27/2013 10:35 PM »
Nothing first.

Everything everywhere ASAP.

If you think that's beyond NASA's budget, you're right.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Online KelvinZero

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #3 on: 04/28/2013 01:21 AM »
First of all, by NASA and exploration I think 99% of us think HSF, not space science or earth science.

I don't think HSF is really about exploration, nor should it be about shooting clowns from cannons. Here are two popular definitions I think are closer to the mark:

Expand earth's economic sphere.
Space settlement.

I don't think these are quite right either though. The first implies we are doing it for the good of humanity, which implies not viable commercial activities in their own right. To focus just on space settlement would imply, for example, turning our back on SSP if it turned out it could only be done efficiently robotically, and that the goal was purely altruistic because most of us wont benefit from space settlement except in very indirect ways.

Here is the best I could come up with:

To open new frontiers to commercial activity.

This still isn't quite right. Some frontiers are not relevant to NASA. On the other hand some frontiers I think should be relevant but are ignored because of the underlying political assumption that the real purpose for HSF is to create missions for certain launchers. For example I think developing teleoperated mining technology for the ocean floor, or technology for self-sufficient communities living entirely separate from our biosphere should be entirely within HSF's domain.

Although from some respects it is a piddly small goal (and yes I would really love a moon base) the asteroid capture mission is not that bad to me.

It lets us practice all the things we should be practicing: robust life support away from earth, long term missons in deep space environments, EVAs to actually interact with materials not sent up from earth, ISRU even if the first uses may just be for shielding. Also as noted in the OP we could visit the location regularly, have a small base there and practice all those skills.

With these sorts of skills you can think about visiting practically any rock in the solarsystem but perhaps it isnt NASA's job to do so. If you are going to spend a lot more money and not specifically to master extra skills then probably your motive should be commercial by that point. NASA would just have solved all the problems.

Offline Nathan

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #4 on: 04/28/2013 01:54 AM »
To profit from space
Either intellectually or monetarily or both.
Need the latter in order to do the former.
Given finite cash, if we want to go to Mars then we should go to Mars.

Offline Lar

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #5 on: 04/28/2013 04:38 AM »
Nothing first.

Everything everywhere ASAP.

If you think that's beyond NASA's budget, you're right.


It is. Nevertheless it's the right strategy. Don't focus on one objective as a project, focus on multiple objectives of opportunity as they arise.

NASA cannot do this, I think. Private Enterprise can. But will it? It's my fervent hope it will.... \\ which makes me a fan boi. However, I am rational enough to realise it may not come out the way I hope.
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Offline DarkenedOne

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #6 on: 04/28/2013 02:12 PM »
First of all, by NASA and exploration I think 99% of us think HSF, not space science or earth science.

I don't think HSF is really about exploration, nor should it be about shooting clowns from cannons. Here are two popular definitions I think are closer to the mark:

Expand earth's economic sphere.
Space settlement.

I don't think these are quite right either though. The first implies we are doing it for the good of humanity, which implies not viable commercial activities in their own right. To focus just on space settlement would imply, for example, turning our back on SSP if it turned out it could only be done efficiently robotically, and that the goal was purely altruistic because most of us wont benefit from space settlement except in very indirect ways.

Here is the best I could come up with:

To open new frontiers to commercial activity.

This still isn't quite right. Some frontiers are not relevant to NASA. On the other hand some frontiers I think should be relevant but are ignored because of the underlying political assumption that the real purpose for HSF is to create missions for certain launchers. For example I think developing teleoperated mining technology for the ocean floor, or technology for self-sufficient communities living entirely separate from our biosphere should be entirely within HSF's domain.

Although from some respects it is a piddly small goal (and yes I would really love a moon base) the asteroid capture mission is not that bad to me.

It lets us practice all the things we should be practicing: robust life support away from earth, long term missons in deep space environments, EVAs to actually interact with materials not sent up from earth, ISRU even if the first uses may just be for shielding. Also as noted in the OP we could visit the location regularly, have a small base there and practice all those skills.

With these sorts of skills you can think about visiting practically any rock in the solarsystem but perhaps it isnt NASA's job to do so. If you are going to spend a lot more money and not specifically to master extra skills then probably your motive should be commercial by that point. NASA would just have solved all the problems.


In order to choose the proper path one must first choose the destination.  Ultimately I think it is the destination that ultimately divides the whole new space and old space people. 

Fact of the matter is that if you are only interested in an Apollo style mission where you send a few guys to the moon, plant a flag, "explore" for a few days, and then leave and cancel the program than the old space approach is viable.

If the objective is to have a permanent lunar or Mars base than we have to think about more than just getting there.  We have to consider how are we going to sustain, maintain, and even extend a human presence on the moon or Mars or both for many decades given budget limitations. 

Offline Lar

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #7 on: 04/28/2013 03:58 PM »
If the objective is to have a permanent lunar or Mars base than we have to think about more than just getting there.  We have to consider how are we going to sustain, maintain, and even extend a human presence on the moon or Mars or both for many decades given budget limitations. 

This.
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #8 on: 04/28/2013 05:57 PM »
If the objective is to have a permanent lunar or Mars base than we have to think about more than just getting there.  We have to consider how are we going to sustain, maintain, and even extend a human presence on the moon or Mars or both for many decades given budget limitations. 

This.

Huh?  Even Jim probably wouldn't understand that response!
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline rcoppola

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #9 on: 04/28/2013 07:40 PM »
You know, I am really starting to re-think things.

I've gotten so into the weeds on the tech, the politics, the budgets, the personalities, the destinations, etc., that I feel like I lost the forest for the trees.

So focussed on the how, I forget about the why. Explorations, investigations, discoveries, both large and small is what we do, it's who we are, it's who we have always been. The results of which have been both enlightening and horrific.

Looking back over many millennia, it is the explorative journey as much if not more then the destination that has provided spiritual meaning and earthly treasure.

Now certainly, initial destinations and the environments you'll go through to reach them, provide guidance on how to actual make the journey, what will be needed, what won't and what we don't know either way.

But to me, true exploration is destination agnostic. Meaning, destinations are transitory. We rarely end up where we first set out to be. And as such, we unlock the truest, purest form of exploration. The idea of being other-then.

So for me, the only viable and most effective way to enable this, is to construct the equivalent of an ISS sized ship and send her and her crew on their way to be other-then.
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Offline aero

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #10 on: 04/28/2013 08:28 PM »
In other words, "Go where no one has gone before," Trekies will like that.
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Offline Lar

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #11 on: 04/28/2013 08:40 PM »
If the objective is to have a permanent lunar or Mars base than we have to think about more than just getting there.  We have to consider how are we going to sustain, maintain, and even extend a human presence on the moon or Mars or both for many decades given budget limitations. 

This.

Huh?  Even Jim probably wouldn't understand that response!

? Seemed obvious to me... you want a base, not just a flag? Just getting there (and back) is the smaller part of the problem. You have to sustain and maintain (live off the land, not off supplies from earth) and extend (solve ISRU ... raw materials-feedstocks-machinery-equipment) and it is not a project, it's a many decade process.

If that's not what was meant then never mind. :) But that's how I read it.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline gbaikie

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #12 on: 04/28/2013 09:15 PM »
Although I suppose I could be considered "moon first," I was wondering if there is a more productive way to think about this than just feeding the ongoing cage match between various fiefdoms (Moon vs. elsewehere, SLS vs everyone online, etc).

So I'm wondering if, at least as an intellectual exercise, start with this principle: our BEO missions should be to bodies and regions that we can visit repeatedly.  I say "regions" because I don't see a point to visiting one asteroid one time, and I don't know if anyone asteroid would be worth visiting again and again.  But routine access to NEA orbits to study and tag passign asteroids, that would make more sense.  And so the NEA region would make the list, along with the Moon, Mars, other planets and Cruithne.

Just a thought.


We explore to find opportunity. Is there some place better to farm. Is there some place better to mine gold.
At the moment, space is better high ground.
So decades ago we explored space and found that what's niffy about it, is a location of high ground. So from space we can see all of earth and can relay communications to all parts of Earth- it's value it's a very high elevation, that can "created"  with orbiting satellites.
And there is a hundred billion satellite market. And you have GPS which uses signals beamed from a few satellites, which allows you to know where you are on Earth. And of course knowing where enemy and your soldiers are is invaluable ability.

The only question is can the space environment be more useful than it is today. There obvious ways space *could be* more useful.
The space environment has potential of harvesting solar energy on a vast scale. Space can provide unlimited energy [electrical] for a human population exceeding 10 billion.
The problem with space environment providing unlimited energy is it costs too much to ship solar panels from Earth. It costs about 10 to 20 times too much.
The cost of shipping solar panels to space is a major controlling factor.
If shipping stuff into space was 10 to 20 times cheaper, one has possibility of selling power at a competitive price. Or it might be worth it.
If costs to shipping to space was 100 times cheaper, it would not question of whether or not it would worth the effort [profitable].

But 100 time cheaper is less than $50 per lb. Or it cost about this much for the rocket fuel- and currently rocket fuel is cheap, as rocket fuel is mostly about buying liquid oxygen and liquid oxygen is cheap.
So some believe that with chemical rockets it might be possible to get cost down to $100 per lb of payload, but less than $50 per lb with chemical rockets has far few people imagining this is possible.

One could say that shipping solar panel from Earth into Space is not going to happen soon.
But one can not rule it out in distance future. Or probably not going to ship solar panel from Earth to space to harvest energy for people on Earth within 50 years. Though people in the 1940's were not imagining there would communication satellites in the 1970's. Or anyone going to the Moon. So maybe safer to say we know no path at the moment of shipping solar panel at low enough cost.

Though we know that if rocket fuel on the Moon was cheap enough [10 times or less the cost of rocket fuel on Earth] you could ship stuff off the Moon for few times more than cost of the rocket fuel- so less than $50 per lb. And it's possible ship stuff off the Moon less than $1 per lb.
So if solar panel were made on the Moon, one ship them at much lower cost. Which means instead electrical costs getting at competitive price,
one might be able to get to point if the price of electrical power on Earth being 1/10th of current prices. And of course no pollution or consuming
earth resources for this electrical energy. With such lower costs, for electrical power all forms of energy on Earth become cheaper- so no problem with a shortage of energy in the future.
But there are bigger consequences then merely having cheaper electricity
on Earth, by having cheap electricity in space you transform "everything".
Or the jump from before the 20th century to present day of airplanes, computers, electrically powered homes, indoor plumbing, ect, would dwarfed by this kind of transformation- the full extent it is mind boggling.

So it seems the path forward is lower the cost of chemical energy [rocket fuel] and/or electrical power in space. And if you could commercial mine water in space, that would be going in that direction.
To split the water you need electricity, and you need lots of this rocket fuel in space and one can charge a very high price for it. Or paying 1000 times the price of rocket fuel on earth, is cheap in space, and hundreds of tons of rocket fuel per year is needed in space. And if rocket fuel were available in space- more rocket fuel would be used in space.

But one doesn't need to be in a hurry to lower the price of rocket fuel in space- in free market, all people will really worry about is the price falling too quickly. It a given price will fall- price will down, up, sideways, but over long term they will crash in prices.
So we don't need price controls on rocket fuel in space- nor are any price controls, save perhaps in time of war, needed.
Edit: Nor do we need monopolies. And in case were unaware, NASA mining or making rockets is worse than a monopoly.


« Last Edit: 04/28/2013 09:29 PM by gbaikie »

Offline CNYMike

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #13 on: 05/06/2013 05:21 AM »
Thanks for the replies, guys.
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Offline RigelFive

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #14 on: 05/06/2013 08:51 AM »
There just isn't enough going on with our biggest object within our solar system.  We need to go to the sun.

Perhaps there is a somethin somethin that we could capture in closer proximity using an Aldrin cycler orbit.  Anti particles?  Lets grab something for an energy solution that you just cannot get from LEO.

Solar trajectories could be used to manipulate space time experiments.  That has to be worth something. 



Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #15 on: 05/06/2013 01:45 PM »
Nothing first.

Everything everywhere ASAP.

If you think that's beyond NASA's budget, you're right.


Sadly, I agree. 
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #16 on: 05/06/2013 01:51 PM »
Nothing first.

Everything everywhere ASAP.

If you think that's beyond NASA's budget, you're right.


It is. Nevertheless it's the right strategy. Don't focus on one objective as a project, focus on multiple objectives of opportunity as they arise.

NASA cannot do this, I think. Private Enterprise can. But will it? It's my fervent hope it will.... \\ which makes me a fan boi. However, I am rational enough to realise it may not come out the way I hope.

Unfortunately, the only "objectives" which "will arise", are those NEO's which have not yet been spotted.

There's just a handful of objectives: Stations, ring or otherwise, at LEO or the L-points; lunar polar base; martian human landing.

The official talk about taking advantage of "objectives of opportunity" is marketing bling, and devoid of practicable meaning.

It seems clear that NASA will continue to putz away its resources on study after study, and that unmanned drones are the only things that will be flying or landing anywhere, anytime soon.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #17 on: 05/06/2013 01:56 PM »
You know, I am really starting to re-think things.

I've gotten so into the weeds on the tech, the politics, the budgets, the personalities, the destinations, etc., that I feel like I lost the forest for the trees.

So focussed on the how, I forget about the why.

Good for you for admitting this.  I keep harping on the why, but my voice is drowned out by the authoritarian voices in the "weeds" that you list.

Pretty good post overall.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #18 on: 05/06/2013 02:01 PM »
If the objective is to have a permanent lunar or Mars base than we have to think about more than just getting there.  We have to consider how are we going to sustain, maintain, and even extend a human presence on the moon or Mars or both for many decades given budget limitations. 

This.

Huh?  Even Jim probably wouldn't understand that response!

? Seemed obvious to me... you want a base, not just a flag? Just getting there (and back) is the smaller part of the problem. You have to sustain and maintain (live off the land, not off supplies from earth) and extend (solve ISRU ... raw materials-feedstocks-machinery-equipment) and it is not a project, it's a many decade process.

If that's not what was meant then never mind. :) But that's how I read it.

Got it!

"This", being the objectives of which he spoke.  I am a fan of brevity, but sometimes I don't get it.  As ususal.

Anyhow, DO is correct on this principle, I'd say.  We should go back to the Moon to stay, and use it as a springboard for Mars.  However, the USG has no need of such a sustained effort, and it will not be done.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline CNYMike

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Re: Exploration concepts and principles?
« Reply #19 on: 05/06/2013 03:01 PM »
.... We should go back to the Moon to stay, and use it as a springboard for Mars .....

I agree.

Quote
..... However, the USG has no need of such a sustained effort, and it will not be done.

I think the US government faces a very fundamental problem, and that is mixed feelings by the US public.  We don't want to stop doing it, but we don't want to make it a priority either.  Case in point: On the one hand, people mourned the "end of an era" when the Shuttle was retired.  Then only a few months later, Newt Gingrich was mercilessly ridiculed for calling for a Moon base by  2020.  "The shuttle not flying; too bad.  But a base on the Moon?  That's crazy talk!"  Never mind how many households have little dish antennas aimed at satellites or use GPS regualarly.  Making HSF a priority has a giggle factor that it hasn't lost after 50 years.  That's why when you go to whitehouse.gov and click on "issues," "space" is not on the list.

Until that somehow changes, we're stuck where we are, lost in the weeds over how to do something with no clear idea of how to do it.  I don't know how to do it.  But "big rocket v. small rockets" is kinf of acadmemic until that does.
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