Author Topic: Potential NASA return to Luna  (Read 9712 times)

Offline redliox

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Potential NASA return to Luna
« on: 11/13/2016 08:28 AM »
The current President-Elect, while his intentions with NASA are tentative for the moment, there is one subtle trend noticeable thus far: he appears to be recruiting people with ties to lunar interest, including through Newt Gingrich who favored the Moon before.  While this might just be a matter of party favoritism and otherwise politics, it could be part of a trend that moves toward returning to the Moon.

On the off chance this proves to be true, I'm establishing this thread specifically to report future NASA activity in Cis-Lunar space or the Lunar surface.  In the case of ESA, continue to mention news in this thread http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37464.0, otherwise if it involves cooperation with NASA and a lunar return, place it here.

Review what is known about the upcoming administration here:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41593.0
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41597.0
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39678.0


Notice how I'm not mentioning the President-Elect's name; I'm doing this initially to establish that this thread isn't going to drudge into his ethics, life, or politics; he's the US President plain-and-simple (I didn't vote for him but even I'm working to accept the fact).

Again, place focus on upcoming news late 2016 onwards (i.e. purely current/future activity) regarding NASA in Cis-Lunar space: be it SLS, Orion, stations/outpost in proximity to Luna, ect.
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Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #1 on: 11/13/2016 05:48 PM »
Thanks for the thread.

From the information currently available, the emphasis is probably in this order:

BEO HSF, HSF, Commercial (competition), public/private partnerships, International cooperation, Cis-Lunar, Lunar return, reduction of costs of access to space, space technology

This order is based on the order in which the items are mentioned which is a good indicator of order of importance.

But specifically the details are missing as to what it means for specific programs other than for commercial crew, commercial cargo and ISS. The three mentioned seems to have gained in level of importance.

With BEO HSF being mentioed first may be a good thing or bad for SLS/Orion depending on how much importance is placed on Commercial, public/private partnerships, and reduction of costs of access to space. But  emphasis on Cis-Lunar and Lunar return is a positive for SLS/Orion since it is currently the closet hardware to maturity that can be used for those goals.

For hardware still required for meeting the Cis-Lunar and Lunar Return the commercial and public/private partnerships (PPP) will likely be these programs direction. Expect that more emphasis on competition and PPP even for the DSH program will be the norm over past sole source and fully NASA directed/managed.

Expect more business case (benefits/costs) to be used by the new administration. Remember part of the costs are the delays in schedule due to starting over vs using a program that is closing in on final form even if it costs more fiscally/yr. The weighting factors to be used are unknown so no real conclusions can be made for SLS/Orion other than it is a very expensive program but without an existing replacement program for the stated goals. If a viable replacement program with close to the same schedule were to suddenly show up then SLS/Orion "days would be numbered". Some would say that program is the SpaceX ITS but they still need to get to the same place that SLS/Orion has already passed, the equivalent to the CDR milestone (ITS could be said to have just passed PDR and is in the technology system/sub-system prototyping and design phase).

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #2 on: 11/14/2016 04:43 AM »
I was thinking how NASA returning to the Moon could be done without increasing NASA's budget. The answer might be to continue the SLS and Orion programs, keeping Congress happy. International partners could supply the other elements. For example Russia could send its own LM using its Angara A5V launch vehicle to Lunar orbit, where it would dock with Orion. This saves the US from an extra SLS launch. Japan could develop a small Lunar habitat. ESA's contribution would be the Orion Service Module. For the first landing, perhaps a US astronaut and Russian cosmonaut step on the surface together at the same time. Of course, there are lots of other possibilities.
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Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #3 on: 11/14/2016 05:07 AM »
Yes; or ask a Europe/JAXA/Russian consortium to supply the equivalent of a 'Lunar Soyuz/Progress' - that is, a craft that could send either crew or cargo down to the Lunar surface. Crew vehicle is for Ascent/Descent and Cargo just one way as down-mass. With 2x launches of the proposed Angara A5V 30+plus ton class vehicle - since there will be no heavy A7 version - a departure stage and the Lander could rendezvous and dock in LEO then depart for the Moon. The intention would be to design the Lander to have enough delta v to insert itself into a Lunar parking orbit and have plenty propellants for descent/ascent later. A Block 1B SLS could then send an Orion and insert it into Lunar orbit near the Lander. Such procedures may certainly become necessary one day for non-Elon Mars missions.

Essentially, a 3x launch mission architecture. In time, Commercial space companies could compete for cargo contracts to establish a supply line to a small Lunar outpost, as commercial cargo does for the ISS now. Not a 'Lunar Surface ISS' - more of a 'Lunar Salyut' or Mir.
« Last Edit: 11/14/2016 05:13 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline Oli

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #4 on: 11/14/2016 06:31 AM »
« Last Edit: 11/14/2016 06:34 AM by Oli »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #5 on: 11/14/2016 08:37 AM »
Came across this a while ago:

http://www.globalspaceexploration.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/GER-Near-term-Mission-Scenario-final.pdf

Ideally one of the SLS launches ie descent stage and refuelling is carried out by multiple LVs eg 1 x Angara 5, 1 x Ariane 6, 1x H3. This way mission costs are shared across the agencies. Would allow for 1 to 2 missions a years. Their may also be a cargo missions delivering crew rovers to moon.

Offline redliox

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #6 on: 11/28/2016 09:32 PM »
Reiterating a few things from the 'Should NASA refocus on returning to the Moon?' thread, but only because it's relevant to one route NASA may take as the (near) future unfolds.

jongoff posted this link which may be relevant to a route with 'minimal' NASA involvement: http://selenianboondocks.com/2016/11/random-thoughts-throwing-the-moon-a-bone/

The summary of said article is that if the Moon becomes the primary goal of NASA, it might end up becoming botched as many think Constellation/SLS/Orion have become.  Instead of resurrecting the Constellation's LSAM lander, a route that could be taken would be delivering one-way cargo landers...except that said landers would be either commercial or a side-project within NASA.  The fear is the more in-house NASA insists it be, the more convoluted and subject to politics it becomes.  As both the delayed development of Orion and Constellation's failure both testify, this is sadly true.

Many already believe NASA may take a supporting role in lunar exploration, starting with a lunar space station (call it DSH, whatever; they haven't even defined WHERE they'll put it except 'near the Moon somewhere').  The station's role would have a dual purpose:
1) International staging point for lunar visits (landing an obvious example)
2) Spearheading the Mars Transport Vehicle's needs and design

Taken further, but without consuming NASA's entire budget, could be developing a lunar lander...except it could be small and purely cargo/robotic.  Like the station's role, its function is supportive.  No crew to coddle, no overwhelming concerns aside from landing or surviving the lunar night (if it's function is long-term).  Compared to LSAM, which died with most of Constellation (sans Orion naturally), this would be small.  Bear in mind, this comes from the selenianboondocks article, not off the top of my own head, although I do agree it is more likely NASA could develop a cargo lander as opposed to a full-fledged lunar one.  Likewise, it would emphasize to its partners, being supportive, including on the lunar surface.

Eventually there will be a crewed lander to the Moon but, even if Mars is taken out of the equation, this may not come to fruition as NASA also has to launch, assemble, and babysit a lunar space station simultaneously; as I explained earlier a support-cargo lander might be as far as it can stretch its means.  Outside of a commercial route and indeed assuming the international community wants to be more proactive in lunar visits, here is how I rank the other space fairing nations in ability to send crews to the Moon (with their own landers furthermore):

1) China - While not fully experienced, their slow-but-steady approach clearly eyes the Moon
2) ESA - Given they pulled off the ATVs they could manage vessels in deep space sans reentry needs, but not infinitely funded
3) Russia - Experienced but woefully under-budgeted and held up mainly by hot air
4) Japan - Very little experience, very little budget so most likely only to follow behind other nations' leads

This route would basically be the 'Lunar Support Route.'  NASA presumably would be either very low budgeted or still chiefly focused on Mars by the incoming administration, to the point where it could managed a crewed lunar space station but not a crewed lander; the cargo lander being the best compromise to grant the USA/NASA some involvement in a Lunar Village.
« Last Edit: 11/28/2016 09:36 PM by redliox »
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Offline TakeOff

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #7 on: 01/08/2017 01:45 PM »
Came across this a while ago:

http://www.globalspaceexploration.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/GER-Near-term-Mission-Scenario-final.pdf
I wonder about two things in that design.

First. Reusing an asset twice reduces the reducible part of the costs for it by 50%. Using it a fifth time reduces the shared cost by only 5% compared to using it four times. Is more than two or three reuses really economically motivated?

Second. Why 28 day stay on the Moon? Wouldn't it be a big step to go beyond a full Lunar day, 14 days, within which one has constant Solar power supply and similar temperature environment?
« Last Edit: 01/08/2017 01:46 PM by TakeOff »

Offline AncientU

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #8 on: 01/08/2017 07:47 PM »
Came across this a while ago:

http://www.globalspaceexploration.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/GER-Near-term-Mission-Scenario-final.pdf
I wonder about two things in that design.

First. Reusing an asset twice reduces the reducible part of the costs for it by 50%. Using it a fifth time reduces the shared cost by only 5% compared to using it four times. Is more than two or three reuses really economically motivated?

Second. Why 28 day stay on the Moon? Wouldn't it be a big step to go beyond a full Lunar day, 14 days, within which one has constant Solar power supply and similar temperature environment?

Reuse an indefinite number of times is a mental shift we'll need to make if we're serious about exploration.  Staying 'over night' on the Moon is another.  Time to put on those big boy pants... or stay in the cradle.
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Online Eric Hedman

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #9 on: 01/26/2017 05:51 AM »
ESA Director General Jan Wörner speaks on 2017 plans including the Moon village concept:

http://www.dw.com/en/esa-looks-ahead-at-2017-and-beyond/av-37213912

Offline wannamoonbase

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #10 on: 01/26/2017 05:00 PM »
Reuse an indefinite number of times is a mental shift we'll need to make if we're serious about exploration.  Staying 'over night' on the Moon is another.  Time to put on those big boy pants... or stay in the cradle.

I buy a pair of those pants.

I like the Lunar village concept, I think that could be expanded over time to be really meaningful.  Development of a closed loop life-support system.  Using hydroponics for O2 and food production, resource extraction from the regolith, robotic technology development.

There are plenty of reasons to go to the Moon over Mars.  If I was trying to sell this to an administration I'd try to emphasize that the space programs strong point has been driving technology development.  The current technologies that can use help in developing are advanced robotics, AI and reuseable rocket technology.

Developing the ability to create O2, useful metal from regolith with a mostly automated process plant, even a small one, is a game changer.  Imagine if we could 3D print solar cells, structures and pressure vessels for cryogenic liquid and gas storage on the moon with materials extracted there?
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Offline jongoff

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #11 on: 01/26/2017 08:29 PM »
Came across this a while ago:

http://www.globalspaceexploration.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/GER-Near-term-Mission-Scenario-final.pdf
I wonder about two things in that design.

First. Reusing an asset twice reduces the reducible part of the costs for it by 50%. Using it a fifth time reduces the shared cost by only 5% compared to using it four times. Is more than two or three reuses really economically motivated?

Second. Why 28 day stay on the Moon? Wouldn't it be a big step to go beyond a full Lunar day, 14 days, within which one has constant Solar power supply and similar temperature environment?

Reuse an indefinite number of times is a mental shift we'll need to make if we're serious about exploration.  Staying 'over night' on the Moon is another.  Time to put on those big boy pants... or stay in the cradle.

I think there's a place for "lunar campouts", they just should be missions that launch and return from one or more lunar villages using refuelable lunar landers and crews who are sent on multiple sorties. With lots of robotic minions--can't forget the minions...

~Jon

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #12 on: 01/27/2017 10:25 AM »
If we start robotic exploration of lunar polar ice now and follow up with extraction. Then by time we are ready to do human landings in mid 2020s the landers could be refuelled on surface.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #13 on: 01/27/2017 02:37 PM »
Then by the mid-2020s, we'll have a ground test prototype built and a launch for the robotic miners set for 2030...
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Online KelvinZero

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #14 on: 01/28/2017 11:53 AM »
I think there's a place for "lunar campouts", they just should be missions that launch and return from one or more lunar villages using refuelable lunar landers and crews who are sent on multiple sorties. With lots of robotic minions--can't forget the minions...
I would like to get human-scale rovers there long before humans. There is so much scouting they could do before people even arrive, and then they can also be used when people arrive, and you get all that confidence with your lander and all that infrastructure in place.

Hoppers could allow some more science but to me the interesting exploration happens on wheels. Im not too fussed if humans only stuck to a 100km area around the poles if it had all the necessary ingredients to get on with human activities.

How plausible would it be for a rover to travel much further than that? 5000km could get you anywhere, one way. 10,000 km for a full circumnavigation. It is plausible you could travel fast enough to stay in sunlight. There was a Geoffrey Landis (I think) short story about someone running around the moon in sunlight the whole way.

If we did want to land humans at different locations perhaps a wagon-train of rovers could get there first, make sure there is genuinely enough of interest to justify people and place supplies of course.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #15 on: 01/28/2017 03:05 PM »
Whether humans exploration uses rovers, hoppers or landers, a spare lander based at DSH would provide a means of rescue that is half a day away.
« Last Edit: 01/28/2017 03:09 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline MikeAtkinson

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #16 on: 01/28/2017 08:03 PM »

How plausible would it be for a rover to travel much further than that? 5000km could get you anywhere, one way. 10,000 km for a full circumnavigation. It is plausible you could travel fast enough to stay in sunlight. There was a Geoffrey Landis (I think) short story about someone running around the moon in sunlight the whole way.

An interesting story,but she (I think it was a she) did not take the optimum route. The terminator  moves across the surface slower towards the pole, so going north or south would have meant she would have had to run slower, even if the distance was longer.

The same principle can be used for a rover traveling from the north to south poles. Start at one and move towards the equator keeping on the morning terminator. Then when the terminator is moving faster than the rover speed, dash over the equator until you reach the evening terminator, then follow that to the other pole.

Using such a technique, the average speed of the rover can be quite low, and yet the rover remain in sunlight the entire time. Bases at both poles and a long distance rover can thus cover the entire moon.

Online KelvinZero

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #17 on: 01/28/2017 08:55 PM »
An interesting story,but she (I think it was a she) did not take the optimum route. The terminator  moves across the surface slower towards the pole
Ah, here it is. The short story itself also seems to be online for free but I could not find a good direct link.
Wikipedia article
Yeah I remember thinking that. A circumnavigation is 10,000km, but Walking to a pole and back is at most 5000km and of course less if you are not right on the equator.

The on topic bit is that I think long distance moderately fast roving should be a big part of any lunar plans, right from the start, before even sending people. It would be a paradigm shift from Curiosity and planetary exploration so far but several factors make it more practical. You are going to send that large, fast rover anyway for your crew. Teleoperation to the moon has less than a 3 second lag. Self driving car software is becoming a thing.

Solar power might also be practical. There is more power than at Mars and also it is 24hour, if you do this trick of staying in the light.

I wonder how well a tesla would do on the moon  ;)
« Last Edit: 01/29/2017 03:30 AM by Lar »

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #18 on: 01/29/2017 03:10 AM »
{snip}
Solar power might also be practical. There is more power than at Mars and also it is 24hour, if you do this trick of staying in the light.

How much power do we need to keep a stationary manned rover warm with life support for 2 weeks?
Only the wheels are in contact with the ground. Post BEAM the radiation shielding can be a heat insulator.

Offline MikeAtkinson

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Re: Potential NASA return to Luna
« Reply #19 on: 01/29/2017 07:39 AM »
{snip}
Solar power might also be practical. There is more power than at Mars and also it is 24hour, if you do this trick of staying in the light.

How much power do we need to keep a stationary manned rover warm with life support for 2 weeks?
Only the wheels are in contact with the ground. Post BEAM the radiation shielding can be a heat insulator.

It is in continuous sun for 2 weeks, the problem is keeping the rover cool, not warm.

Actual power requirements depends on rover size, crew number and what else it is expected to do (pull a trailer, science equipment, etc.). In the order of 10 kW is needed for 45 km/h for a relatively small long distance rover.