Author Topic: NASA’s Flexible Path evaluation of 2025 human mission to visit an asteroid  (Read 58323 times)

Offline wannamoonbase

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If your going to spend 6 months going somewhere, go to mars.  It has water, and atmosphere and gravity.  bumping around an asteriod in nearly zero G is going to have lots of problems associate with it.

It be neat but not worth doing more than once, ever.
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Offline vt_hokie

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Hard to get excited about the remote possibility of such a mission 15 years down the line.  Way too long from now - we need to do more sooner.

Offline Lambda-4

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If your going to spend 6 months going somewhere, go to mars.  It has water, and atmosphere and gravity.  bumping around an asteriod in nearly zero G is going to have lots of problems associate with it.

Only that you can't go to Mars and come back in 6 months with current technology.

Offline Lambda-4

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  Only that you can't go to Mars and come back in 6 months with current technology.

a fly by  and orbit of Mars in one year total its not that difficult i think..
on iss and mir crew can live for that time ..

Opposition class, chemical propulsion based Mars missions (flyby or short orbital) require about 450 days. 6 months = 180 days.

Offline ChrisSpaceCH

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a fly by  and orbit of Mars in one year total its not that difficult i think..
on iss and mir crew can live for that time ..

This is not comparable at all. The radiation as well as psychological difficulties of a Mars flight are orders of magnitude higher than ISS operations.

Simply put, we have no experience at all in prolonged human beyond-LEO space operations. Apollo doesn't count, since no mission lasted longer than 2 weeks and went out of sight of Earth.

So, if we actually want to do manned BEO exploration, we essentially have to start from scratch. And then, obviously, the best way forward is with small steps. Something along these lines:
- manned lunar flyby (6 days)
- manned lunar orbit (30 days), with the opportunity of a quick abort anytime
- GEO construction site (60-70 days, quick abort possible)
- NEO flight I (150 days)
- NEO flight II (300 days)
- Mars orbit / Phobos (basically NEO-like) flight (450 days)

Timeframe: at least 25 years. If there's money for a lander, then we can also do some lunar landings somewhere in there, but that's not a priority (since it's "been there, done that" anyway). As for Mars landings... I think expecting any human footprint on Mars before the second half of this century is unrealistic. Besides, Mars won't run away, and, like I said, is of little relevance to us on Earth (unlike NEOs).

« Last Edit: 01/10/2010 01:56 PM by ChrisSpaceCH »

Offline Bill White

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Yes, I know Orion has to be developed and built.

But I don't see this NEO Asteroid visit being any less costly than return moon landing.

This asteroid lander/long term hab module isn't going to be less costly than Altair.

Wasn't the main point about Flex Path was reduced cost?

A quote from the original piece:

Quote
“Apart from unique human-enabled science – including return of macroscopic samples and in situ conduct of subsurface active seismology – that could occur, human NEO missions offer two special benefits that support Flexible Path objectives:

“They have the ‘lowest price of entry’ of any human exploration missions to natural bodies. Trip times range from a few months up to Mars-class, and thus can drive development and qualification of long-lived, deep-space human systems and propulsion. Yet they do not require landers, ascent vehicles, or full-up roving mobility systems or surface infrastructure.

This asteroid lander/long term hab module isn't going to be less costly than Altair.

Whether this statement is true appears to be one of several "decision points" for the route forward.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2010 02:03 PM by Bill White »
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Offline robertross

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I choose Mars.

Why choose Mars? What's this obsession with Mars? What's on Mars? We've sent several robotic probes to Mars and haven't found anything. Why go to Mars?

What do you mean they didn't find anything? Were you hoping to find palm trees or little green men? They found plenty, and brought back fantastic data. Just because they didn't find things YOU were hoping for, doesn't discourrage the effort.

We seem tuned into this idea that we need to find THAT MAJOR discovery, and then send out additional missions to back up the data or find additional discoveries. Mars may lock its secrets up so tight, it might take a 6-month manned expedition to unlock it. It might not have any MAJOR discoveries, just lots of neat resources we could use to survive one day if we choose to live there.

But yea, on your other points, Mars is too expensive to jump at right now. We also need to learn a whole lot more, including about urselves, before we can tackle such 'ginormous' missions.
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Offline robertross

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Very good article Chris. :)

I like seeing the option of an Atlas V Heavy. There might be a way to push the development of commercial there, maybe even a parallel with ISS cargo re-supply/return. I also like the ISS being used to help this cause. Can anyone say Bigelow? Great opportunity to have a separate module attached for long-term testing, much like the Antarctic and Mars 500-day experiments.

Great science opportunities. A good way to develop many of the instruments (science and technology) that would be common to lunar operations, and for the eventual trip to Mars (note I say eventual). ;)



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Offline robertross

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a fly by  and orbit of Mars in one year total its not that difficult i think..
on iss and mir crew can live for that time ..

This is not comparable at all. The radiation as well as psychological difficulties of a Mars flight are orders of magnitude higher than ISS operations.

Simply put, we have no experience at all in prolonged human beyond-LEO space operations. Apollo doesn't count, since no mission lasted longer than 2 weeks and went out of sight of Earth.

So, if we actually want to do manned BEO exploration, we essentially have to start from scratch. And then, obviously, the best way forward is with small steps. Something along these lines:
- manned lunar flyby (6 days)
- manned lunar orbit (30 days), with the opportunity of a quick abort anytime
- GEO construction site (60-70 days, quick abort possible)
- NEO flight I (150 days)
- NEO flight II (300 days)
- Mars orbit / Phobos (basically NEO-like) flight (450 days)

Timeframe: at least 25 years. If there's money for a lander, then we can also do some lunar landings somewhere in there, but that's not a priority (since it's "been there, done that" anyway). As for Mars landings... I think expecting any human footprint on Mars before the second half of this century is unrealistic. Besides, Mars won't run away, and, like I said, is of little relevance to us on Earth (unlike NEOs).



Very well-rounded post.
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Offline Nascent Ascent

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Quote
This asteroid lander/long term hab module isn't going to be less costly than Altair.

Whether this statement is true appears to be one of several "decision points" for the route forward.


Bill,

Considering that some upfront work has already been done on Altair, I just don't see how an asteroid bumper-lander and a hab module for six months would be significantly less costly than just to complete the Altair.

I think asteroid visits perhaps for the next 20 years would be fine mission for robotic probes.  These could be small and relatively inexpensive and could easily include sample returns.  The small gravity well makes these objects ideal for tiny probes in varying configurations.

Let's finish what we started with the Moon.  Go back and establish a long-term manned presence.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2010 02:48 PM by Nascent Ascent »
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Offline marcus79

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The basic idea is quite good in terms of both the NEO science itself and in building up a capacity for visiting Phobos and Deimos. For the people worrying so much about time scales, I think the almost 30 years of Shuttle operations prove you can sustain a single program for quite a long time. I see no difference if ISS ops gradually evolve in Flexible Path ops.

No reason for the Hab to be as expensive as Altair with its massive propulsion system. I do wonder however how Orion is going to move about since it depended on Altair for lunar orbit insertion. Anybody having some knowledge as to how they are planning to deal with that?

Online Ben the Space Brit

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To save time and prevent multi-posting, I'm going to post my responses here in one post.

Well, three prototypes for possible habs are in orbit right now.

We call them space stations.

Three prototypes? I know of only two: The ISS and Bigelow's Genesis-II.  Unless China has already launched Tiangong-1, that is.

The ISS is really the wrong paradigm for a transit hab vehicle.  I think that the Russian Salut-6-class (also used for Mir and ISS) is a good idea, as are the Transhab systems being developed by Bigelow.  I understand that there are certain advantages to carbon composite hulls over metal hulls when dealing with high-energy radiation too.

What would my idea solution be? Probably something not dissimilar to the BA-330 Nautilus.  Alternately something based on the ATV with a wider semi-rigid composite hab cylinder and maybe an EVA airlock too.

Just for the record, I know that Lockheed have been promoting an Orion/OrionLab combination with a 'cargo' Orion to act as a hab space for long-haul missions.  I don't know how realistic that is.

But I don't see this NEO Asteroid visit being any less costly than return moon landing.

This asteroid lander/long term hab module isn't going to be less costly than Altair.

Well... Maybe and maybe not.  That I leave in the hands of those who know more about the subject than I. 

FWIW, though, a Flexible Path hab/lab module wouldn't necessarily need a propulsion system of its own or the landing hardware and avionics.  There may be some savings from that.  Remember also that the hab module could possibly be utilised for many different missions including lunar orbiter, EML lab and even flyby missions for the inner planets.  However, it is worth remembering that there will be mission equipment such as sensors for the encounter and surface experiment packages.

Remember that an asteroid 'lander' is something of a misomner.  The Orion's RCS system will be able to handle the ascent on many NEOs, which have only theoretical levels of gravity.  If anything, the engineering would be more like that of an orbit-to-orbit cargo tug which needs to dock with a large object that does not have a docking interface.

It could end up cheaper.

Hard to get excited about the remote possibility of such a mission 15 years down the line.  Way too long from now - we need to do more sooner.

Absolutely.  The objective should be to have the first missions as soon after ISS retirement as possible.  2020 at the earliest, IMHO, with the first Orion free-return lunar fly-arounds (to test Orion's systems in the BEO environment) to happen as soon as their is an LV capable of performing TOI (maybe as early as 2016-18). 

The longer the program takes to show results, the more likely a funding cut due to loss of interest becomes.  The only way around this is to start doing scientifically-dubiouis but press-worthy 'milestone' missions as soon as possible.  The obvious first ones would be the first Orion lunar free-return fly-around, followed by an Apollo-8-style lunar orbiter, possibly including an EML-to-LLO transfer.

I am personally a fan of the idea of a 'Moonlab' at EML-1.  This allow NASA (and its international partners) to develop experience in BEO flight (and life-support technologies) without getting too far from Earth if there are problems.  It also gives a fairly easy-to-reach destination for multiple flights for those years when there are no departure windows to more distant destinations available.

I'm sure that mmjieri will thank me for mentioning this: An EML-1 lab would also be in range of commercial crew and cargo vehicles launched by F-9H- or EELV-class LVs.

Opposition class, chemical propulsion based Mars missions (flyby or short orbital) require about 450 days. 6 months = 180 days.

Correct. 

On the other hand a conjunction-class chemical mission is 180 days (6 months) outbound, eighteen months on the surface and 180 days back.  That's a total of 900 day mission duration with an enormous amount of science possible on the Martian surface, whilst the opposition-class allows you just 30 days in LMO and even less on the surface; literally not worth the investment in the transfer vehicle (IMHO, anyway).  Conjunction-class also offers a shorter free-return abort orbit (2 years) and does't require the technically-challenging Venus flyby.

No reason for the Hab to be as expensive as Altair with its massive propulsion system. I do wonder however how Orion is going to move about since it depended on Altair for lunar orbit insertion. Anybody having some knowledge as to how they are planning to deal with that?

The simplest way to handle this would be to retain the EDS for as long as possible and use it for the orbit matching burns (it would be somewhat exaggerated to call it an 'orbital insertion' burn).  I know that NASA has been thinking of using a Node/Centaur combo for the GEO construction mission.  Maybe a version of Centaur, or maybe the ACES-41 four-engine Centaur evolution, could be used as a deep space propulsion module.
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Offline William Barton

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The basic idea is quite good in terms of both the NEO science itself and in building up a capacity for visiting Phobos and Deimos. For the people worrying so much about time scales, I think the almost 30 years of Shuttle operations prove you can sustain a single program for quite a long time. I see no difference if ISS ops gradually evolve in Flexible Path ops.

No reason for the Hab to be as expensive as Altair with its massive propulsion system. I do wonder however how Orion is going to move about since it depended on Altair for lunar orbit insertion. Anybody having some knowledge as to how they are planning to deal with that?

I think if the gap between ASTP and STS-1 had been 15+ years, it *would* have been cancelled. As it is, in the 15 years SSF/ISS took from inception to first-chunk in orbit, it came close to cancellation a number of times:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1440/1

I'd say ISS shows you have to be lucky, if you can't be quick.

I liked the dual-Orion NEO idea. Orion does have quite a bit of its own deltaV, since it has to do TEI from LLO, and I imagine that's what they're planning to use. I think an Orion-derived hab/airlock would provide valuable redundancy/lifeboat capability as well.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2010 07:46 PM by William Barton »

Offline Nascent Ascent

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If you could do the NEO thing with 2 Orions and no new hab module and lander-bumper module then I would go for it.

Two Orions with 3 astronauts for 6 months might be doable in terms of consumables and living space.

Maybe you could have a small trunk/airlock as well. 

Get close to the NEO...shoot tethers into the thing and do a series of spacewalks.
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Offline robertross

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To save time and prevent multi-posting, I'm going to post my responses here in one post.


But I don't see this NEO Asteroid visit being any less costly than return moon landing.

This asteroid lander/long term hab module isn't going to be less costly than Altair.

Well... Maybe and maybe not.  That I leave in the hands of those who know more about the subject than I. 

FWIW, though, a Flexible Path hab/lab module wouldn't necessarily need a propulsion system of its own or the landing hardware and avionics.  There may be some savings from that.  Remember also that the hab module could possibly be utilised for many different missions including lunar orbiter, EML lab and even flyby missions for the inner planets.  However, it is worth remembering that there will be mission equipment such as sensors for the encounter and surface experiment packages.

Remember that an asteroid 'lander' is something of a misnomer.  The Orion's RCS system will be able to handle the ascent on many NEOs, which have only theoretical levels of gravity.  If anything, the engineering would be more like that of an orbit-to-orbit cargo tug which needs to dock with a large object that does not have a docking interface.

It could end up cheaper.

I'll double up my response as well and post with yours.  :)

That's my taken on it too. The Orion can perform much of the propulsion/station keeping, with the exception of the EDS, which we would need anyway for lunar/other ops.

So this hab module would be in between the EDS and Orion service module. Any lander that you brought along could be added on a 'side port' to the hab module. This was on Chris' last article. The lander doesn't need to be pressurized either, it could even be teleoperated, maybe for the first one or two. A pressurized lander for the moon is expensive because it incorporates all the features of a hab module/ascent-descent propulsion module/station keeping module all in one. The lunar rover was a tag-along for Apollo too, and we won't be roving on any NEO. Any space/mass available would be for scientific hardware.

It's an interesting objective (if chosen), which seems more and more likely.
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Offline robertross

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If you could do the NEO thing with 2 Orions and no new hab module and lander-bumper module then I would go for it.

Two Orions with 3 astronauts for 6 months might be doable in terms of consumables and living space.

Maybe you could have a small trunk/airlock as well. 

Get close to the NEO...shoot tethers into the thing and do a series of spacewalks.

I don't know if I would go for it, because I don't think it's needed. The hab module just needs to have many of the components of a pre-exisiting ISS module, much like Zvezda.
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Offline Downix

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To save time and prevent multi-posting, I'm going to post my responses here in one post.

Well, three prototypes for possible habs are in orbit right now.

We call them space stations.

Three prototypes? I know of only two: The ISS and Bigelow's Genesis-II.  Unless China has already launched Tiangong-1, that is.

The ISS is really the wrong paradigm for a transit hab vehicle.  I think that the Russian Salut-6-class (also used for Mir and ISS) is a good idea, as are the Transhab systems being developed by Bigelow.  I understand that there are certain advantages to carbon composite hulls over metal hulls when dealing with high-energy radiation too.

What would my idea solution be? Probably something not dissimilar to the BA-330 Nautilus.  Alternately something based on the ATV with a wider semi-rigid composite hab cylinder and maybe an EVA airlock too.

Just for the record, I know that Lockheed have been promoting an Orion/OrionLab combination with a 'cargo' Orion to act as a hab space for long-haul missions.  I don't know how realistic that is.

Bigelow has two in orbit, Genesis I and II.  And while the paradigm is not perfect, the concept is similar enough to learn from, and to build off of.
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Offline robertross

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If you could do the NEO thing with 2 Orions and no new hab module and lander-bumper module then I would go for it.

Two Orions with 3 astronauts for 6 months might be doable in terms of consumables and living space.

Maybe you could have a small trunk/airlock as well. 

Get close to the NEO...shoot tethers into the thing and do a series of spacewalks.

I don't know if I would go for it, because I don't think it's needed. The hab module just needs to have many of the components of a pre-exisiting ISS module, much like Zvezda.

Wow, I just realized that Russia wants to go to asteroids as well. Maybe this could be a colaborative effort with the US providing the Orion & lander, with Russia providing the 'hab module'. Interesting. Has some merit (though I doubt the US would want colaboration on a mission like this...maybe the bigger missions like moon & Mars).
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Offline SpacexULA

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If your going to spend 6 months going somewhere, go to mars.  It has water, and atmosphere and gravity.  bumping around an asteriod in nearly zero G is going to have lots of problems associate with it.

It be neat but not worth doing more than once, ever.

Gravity wells are a B.

There is GREAT science to be done in Antartica, The north pole, Mariana Trench, and the top of Everest, but it doesn't get done.  The reason is REAL science is done with an eye to maximize gain of knowledge.

More science can be done on Mars than on a NEO, but if a Mars mission costs 2-3 times as much, it need 2-3 times the science.  I just don't think Moon and Mars missions live up to this standard.

In the very least the techniques used in a NEO mission would be IDENTICAL to the techniques used in the rescue of a failed Mars/Moon mission.
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Offline Nascent Ascent

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If you could do the NEO thing with 2 Orions and no new hab module and lander-bumper module then I would go for it.

Two Orions with 3 astronauts for 6 months might be doable in terms of consumables and living space.

Maybe you could have a small trunk/airlock as well. 

Get close to the NEO...shoot tethers into the thing and do a series of spacewalks.

I don't know if I would go for it, because I don't think it's needed. The hab module just needs to have many of the components of a pre-exisiting ISS module, much like Zvezda.


I like the idea of two Orions for redundancy.  Even if you had a hab module two Orions make sense.  The Orions could attach to the hab module at opposite ends.  Six months is a long time.

Oh, and they should put back the toilet for sure!
« Last Edit: 01/10/2010 04:04 PM by Nascent Ascent »
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