Author Topic: Mars sample return  (Read 2716 times)

Offline vjkane

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Mars sample return
« on: 12/31/2017 03:36 PM »
With both NASA and China actively preparing the technology for a Mars sample return as early as the 2020s, this seems like a good new topic.

Popular Mechanics just published a nice, but non-technical, overview of both agencies plans and probable approaches.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a14506608/united-states-china-racing-first-sample-from-mars/

Online speedevil

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #1 on: 12/31/2017 03:50 PM »
With both NASA and China actively preparing the technology for a Mars sample return as early as the 2020s, this seems like a good new topic.

Popular Mechanics just published a nice, but non-technical, overview of both agencies plans and probable approaches.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a14506608/united-states-china-racing-first-sample-from-mars/

Somewhat amusing that commercial might get there first, and is unmentioned.
Do I think SpaceX is likely to get samples to earth in 2025 - well no.
Do I think NASA is - hell no.

And the Chinese program is predicated around a rocket not even slated for launch till 2025.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #2 on: 12/31/2017 03:51 PM »
It is an interesting time in the space transportation field, with state controlled agencies using incremental systems to try and do extremely difficult planetary exploration, and the private sector (i.e. SpaceX for now) working on a revolutionary system to try and do extremely difficult planetary exploration.

You hope for everyone to succeed, but if SpaceX succeeds then everyone else will look really out of date.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline SoTOP

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #3 on: 12/31/2017 10:05 PM »
You know something? There is a dedicated NASA effort to return samples from Mars. There are presentations and plans and all that. People doing real technology development. Hardware being tested.

But then I come to NSF and I see that you guys turn every discussion into SpaceX, and you know what? It shows how incredibly clueless you are about what is actually going on. And you don't even realize it. There's really no point in discussing it here, because you're all living in your little fantasy worlds.
So the difference between you and Spacex fanboys is that you live in NASA fantasy world? Because if we would be silly and take NASA Mars plans by heart, by the time NASA realistically would be ready to do sample return they should be landing people on Mars.

Offline UltraViolet9

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #4 on: 12/31/2017 10:18 PM »
There is a dedicated NASA effort to return samples from Mars. There are presentations and plans and all that. People doing real technology development. Hardware being tested.

NASA has worked Mars sample return presentations, plans, and technology development since the 1970s.  We should be realistic about NASA Mars sample return now.

There is currently no funded sample return mission at NASA.  OMB has opposed it so far.  Unlike Europa, there is no congressional champion.  Mars 2020 may do some caching.  But that is no guarantee that those caches will be deemed scientifically worthwhile to return to Earth.  Or, if the samples are deemed worthy, that the federal government will spend the billions of dollars necessary to bring them back.

In fact, NASA's Mars mission plans after 2020 are up in the air.  Jim Green himself has stated publicly that the previously planned 2022 orbiter is probably off the table.  Mission sequences after that are notional, undecided, and unfunded.  The FY17 budget request for the Mars program declines from almost $600 million to less than $300 million by FY21.  If that projection becomes reality, then there is no budget on the horizon for sample return.

I helped get the MERS mission, Mars Scouts, and subsequent program funded after the 98 mission failures.  I'm all for a good MSR mission after the past decade-plus of progress.  It is time.  But it's not clear that NASA has its act together on Mars like it did a decade or so ago.  And if it did, it's not clear that the agency's stakeholders are going to step up.

None of the above means that SpaceX is going to bring back a 3.5-billion year old, half-ton Mars boulder on a Red Dragon capsule.  (Of course not.)  But NASA needs a lot more than presentations, plans, and technology development if it's going to ever bring samples back from Mars.


Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #5 on: 12/31/2017 10:49 PM »
You know something? There is a dedicated NASA effort to return samples from Mars. There are presentations and plans and all that. People doing real technology development. Hardware being tested.

No doubt, but their plans still have a lot of TBD in them. Which is nothing unusual when an activity is not a major political priority, and there should be no doubt that given enough time and money that NASA can get samples back from Mars.

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But then I come to NSF and I see that you guys turn every discussion into SpaceX, and you know what? It shows how incredibly clueless you are about what is actually going on. And you don't even realize it. There's really no point in discussing it here, because you're all living in your little fantasy worlds.

These are interesting times.

Ten years ago if anyone had thought that Elon Musk would be proposing a massive rocket and spaceship to move 100 humans to Mars on each trip, that would have seemed to border on fantasy. But over the past ten years a lot has happened in the private aerospace field, and it's impossible to ignore that.

It now looks possible that SpaceX could get to Mars.

That's nothing against NASA, especially since NASA doesn't control it's own destiny.

But I think a lot of people would agree that we are no longer in the realm of fantasy when talking about SpaceX and Mars.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline vjkane

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #6 on: 01/01/2018 12:47 AM »
Ten years ago if anyone had thought that Elon Musk would be proposing a massive rocket and spaceship to move 100 humans to Mars on each trip, that would have seemed to border on fantasy. But over the past ten years a lot has happened in the private aerospace field, and it's impossible to ignore that.

It now looks possible that SpaceX could get to Mars.
Right now those plans exist on PowerPoint slides.  When they start cutting metal, running tests, learning from failures on their prototypes, I'll start to believe -- and add a decade.  Look at how much the Falcon Heavy has slipped because -- as Musk said -- it was harder than they had thought.  But they have hardware and so I believe they will bring it to flight.  We will see when their next plans reach this stage.

BTW, NASA has cut metal, run tests, and is learning on prototypes for the crucial components of its sample return. 

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #7 on: 01/01/2018 03:26 AM »
BTW, NASA has cut metal, run tests, and is learning on prototypes for the crucial components of its sample return.

Given the thread's title, may we get links to papers talking about these prototypes and their progress?  :)

China is obviously trying to become a rising star, and its Lunar program shows that.  Assuming China is dead serious (although I suspect they're going to be delayed), I think NASA needs to condense and accelerate its MSR program.
 The 2020 Mars Rover via NASA obviously is already underway, so some solid work on the return needs to be presented.  I'm not a fan of the orbital rendezvous method, but I know what I have seen of MSR stuff implies the MAV could be achievable with funds, although I hate to settle for low Mars orbit.  I'd rather see a direct return and bypass worrying about an orbiter screwing up on the pickup.

All the same, who can post stuff about what's known on Mars Ascent?  It's better to debate with something to go off.
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Offline su27k

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #8 on: 01/01/2018 04:23 AM »
Right now those plans exist on PowerPoint slides.  When they start cutting metal, running tests, learning from failures on their prototypes, I'll start to believe -- and add a decade.  Look at how much the Falcon Heavy has slipped because -- as Musk said -- it was harder than they had thought.  But they have hardware and so I believe they will bring it to flight.  We will see when their next plans reach this stage.

BTW, NASA has cut metal, run tests, and is learning on prototypes for the crucial components of its sample return.

Right now everybody's MSR plans are PowerPoint slides, some are also depending on PowerPoint rockets, so what's your point? BTW, SpaceX's PowerPoint to reality speed is faster than a decade, for Falcon 9 it's 5 years, for FH it's 7 years, and they have been cutting metal (and carbon fiber) and doing tests for crucial components of BFR for years.

But this whole SpaceX vs NASA regarding MSR is misleading, since SpaceX has no interest in MSR, nor do they want to compete with NASA on MSR. What SpaceX may provide is cheap transport of significant mass to Mars, either to TMI via FH or to surface via BFR, depending on how much risk you're willing to take. Would this affect MSR plans? I don't know, but it seems to me this is worth discussing instead of just dismissing as fantasy land.

Online speedevil

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #9 on: 01/01/2018 02:43 PM »
But this whole SpaceX vs NASA regarding MSR is misleading, since SpaceX has no interest in MSR, nor do they want to compete with NASA on MSR. What SpaceX may provide is cheap transport of significant mass to Mars, either to TMI via FH or to surface via BFR, depending on how much risk you're willing to take. Would this affect MSR plans? I don't know, but it seems to me this is worth discussing instead of just dismissing as fantasy land.

I should have expanded my post to what I thought it implied but maybe diddn't.

Even if a Mars sample return was funded in the next year after a successful sample-stow mission of Mars 2020 (around Nov 2020 at Mars), in 2021, it's hard seeing it likely to be launched in 5 years from then, or 2026.

It is at least plausible that before 2021, BFR/BFS will have demonstrated significant enough capability that it makes plans for returning five kilos (or whatever) to earth look utterly comical.

(If funded in 2021, and launched around 2026, earth return for a sample mission would be in 2028).

At the very least, barring total failure of BFR (say several pad and orbital reentry losses) at that time - 2021 - anyone funding such a mission would need to take a very careful look at risks and potential rewards of doing a one-off probe, or getting some tons of material back on a returning BFS.

In the context of mission costs like Mars 2020, ($2B) BFR can deliver payloads that are utterly game-changing, yet almost off the shelf in comparison to what's gone before.

Four pegasus rockets for earth return, rovers that are literally carefully chosen construction equipment with replaced wheels, with a dozen of them not one, ...

If you believe in ISRU, earth return gets rather better of course.

« Last Edit: 01/01/2018 03:05 PM by speedevil »

Offline vjkane

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #10 on: 01/01/2018 03:49 PM »
Even if a Mars sample return was funded in the next year after a successful sample-stow mission of Mars 2020 (around Nov 2020 at Mars), in 2021, it's hard seeing it likely to be launched in 5 years from then, or 2026.

It is at least plausible that before 2021, BFR/BFS will have demonstrated significant enough capability that it makes plans for returning five kilos (or whatever) to earth look utterly comical.

(If funded in 2021, and launched around 2026, earth return for a sample mission would be in 2028).

At the very least, barring total failure of BFR (say several pad and orbital reentry losses) at that time - 2021 - anyone funding such a mission would need to take a very careful look at risks and potential rewards of doing a one-off probe, or getting some tons of material back on a returning BFS.
NASA is thinking of flying in the mid-2020s, and so must commit to a launch vehicle early in that decades.

Mars scientists aren't looking to return tons of material.  They are looking to return carefully selected samples.  The 2020 rover will spend a couple of years or more going to explore locations to find and cache those samples.  Total returned mass is something like 30 sample cores with a total mass of <5 kg.  The goal is to sample specific types of geology that are expected to be rare, not mine a ton of soil and rocks from one place.  Think about how carefully terrestrial geologists hunt for the small locations on Earth that have rocks old enough to show conditions on Earth when life might have formed.  Rocks and soils that old on Mars are easy to find, but finding those the preserve specific conditions (such as signs of life or pre-biotic conditions) is tricky.  The 2020 instrument suite is tuned to analyzing potential samples locations at the scale of individual grains of soil and rock.

While the BFR might, without any delays due to design, testing, or flight, meet your schedule to become a qualified launch vehicle, there's also the matter of safe landing on Mars, ascent, and re-entry at Earth.  All are major challenges and all will require time.

Online speedevil

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #11 on: 01/01/2018 04:07 PM »
NASA is thinking of flying in the mid-2020s, and so must commit to a launch vehicle early in that decades.

NASA is also thinking of manned moon and mars missions, growing food in space, supersonic airliners, ...

Sometimes external events mean that these mostly unfunded proposals never proceed to actual funding in anything like their expected form from five years before.
See for example WFIRST after the unexpected mirror gift.

Online ccdengr

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #12 on: 01/01/2018 05:08 PM »
But then I come to NSF and I see that you guys turn every discussion into SpaceX...
I'd like to see the mods rigorously enforce a no-SpaceX policy on threads that clearly have nothing to do with SpaceX.  Although maybe it's just too late for that, and this site should quit pretending that it can serve as a forum for anything except SpaceX.

Offline raketa

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #13 on: 01/01/2018 06:02 PM »
But then I come to NSF and I see that you guys turn every discussion into SpaceX...
I'd like to see the mods rigorously enforce a no-SpaceX policy on threads that clearly have nothing to do with SpaceX.  Although maybe it's just too late for that, and this site should quit pretending that it can serve as a forum for anything except SpaceX.
This is the situation, SpaceX has and is building capabilities nobody is matching. Vulcan,NGL are still paper rockets.Even these paper rockets have less capability than Falcon 9H that will probably fly this month. Falcon 9H is an only rocket in next 5-10 years that will make possible to do Mars return sample.

Offline Negan

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #14 on: 01/01/2018 06:06 PM »
So what's NASA's current plan to get the samples back?
« Last Edit: 01/01/2018 06:09 PM by Negan »

Offline Bynaus

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #15 on: 01/01/2018 06:41 PM »
NASA's plan is essentially:

1) Cache samples with the next big rover
2) Send a surface mission to fetch those samples and bring them back to Mars orbit
3) Send an orbital mission to fetch the samples in Mars orbit, and return them to Earth
(potentially: 4) return the samples to a lunar orbit and fetch them with an Orion crew)

While I agree with "not everything is SpaceX", I also think that given their track record, the SpaceX plans should matter too because if they do succeed, the "canonical plan" (outlined above) might be quickly outdated and discarded. But the argument to keep a NASA-plan is similar to the SLS/BFR-case: as long as it isn't clear that SpaceX will succeed with their plans, its better to have a running NASA alternative.

The question then is whether this thread should be focussed on the running alternative (in which case a "no-SpaceX-policy" makes sense, except when it comes to launch vehicles) or whether all possible variants of MSR (including the one becoming possible once BFR flies) should be discussed. I'd advocate the former as it is just obvious that if SpaceX succeeds with a Mars-return-flight before NASA completes MSR, the discussion will be another one.

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #16 on: 01/01/2018 07:09 PM »
If you believe in ISRU, earth return gets rather better of course.

Personally I believe it should be attempted, as it would allow direct returns that the asteroid and comet missions have already done.  However in fairness, I would like to see a comparison against what's been developed and conceived thus far with the default rendezvous conception; previously people like Vankane and Blackstar have implied there's solid rocket or hypergolic methods sufficiently advanced enough to put samples into low Mars orbit.  Basically if it already exists, don't discredit it and see what it can do.

A compromise could be to develop a simpler ISRU setup that manufactures oxygen.  The 2020 rover is already flying a small fuel cell meant to demonstrate this.  It would be logical to fly the same technology, scaled up of course, once the rover shows its possible.  The only other question would be what hypergolics or hybrid setups can burn with actual oxygen for oxidizer as opposed to other propellants.
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Online Lar

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #17 on: 01/01/2018 07:12 PM »
(Mod)

NASA bashing is not welcome in this thread. NASA plans are what they are. Work is under way to realise them, but they are at the mercy of Congress to fund them all the way. Talk about the plans, the challenges, the chances for success, how they compare and contrast to the plans of others, but save the bashing.  Share links to what IS known instead.

SpaceX bashing is not welcome in this thread. SpaceX plans are what they are. Work is under way to realise them, (Metal is being bent, engines are under development)  but they are at the mercy of Murphy, and of their ability to fund them internally or find external sources.  Talk about the plans, the challenges, the chances for success, how they compare and contrast to the plans of others, but save the bashing. There are lots of threads here where interested readers can learn what is known and what is planned.

China bashing is not welcome in this thread. Chinese plans are what they are. We don't really know exactly what work is underway but learning more is interesting.  Talk about the plans, the challenges, the chances for success, how they compare and contrast to the plans of others, but save the bashing. Share links to what IS known instead.

(fan) For any organization to operate under the assumption that there is nothing happening elsewhere is foolish. For any organization to pin its chances for success on others without making provisions assuming no progress by anyone else is also foolish. We live in interesting time.  But squabbling is uninteresting.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2018 07:14 PM by Lar »
"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 redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #18 on: 01/01/2018 07:18 PM »
Thanks Lar  :)  We need this thread to focus on MSR.  A rocket is a rocket in the end.

Edit/Lar: singular.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2018 08:46 PM by Lar »
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Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #19 on: 01/01/2018 07:38 PM »
On the positive (but unexplored) side, here's a thought on how to deal with the generic case of sample return (not just Mars).

Structure a CRS-like program which bids out "return from on orbit somewhere", where each mission needs to start, be on station for a duration, and return in certain conditions. Offer a number of overlapping "slots" for N providers to bid on, and two to fly.

So there's always a return capacity present, and the providers are simply paid for the service, nothing else.

Obviously many vehicles already have the capabilities to do this in LEO already, and can be coaxed to cislunar, so why not take this to higher C3 and longer duration as well?

Then with that part spoken for and in place, 1/3 of the sample return capability is in place. And it would be lasting 2-4+ planetary oppositions, so if there was a failure to launch/hand-off it would be ready for the next try.

What screws up sample return is too many dependent parts provided by the same mission vendor. (Politics plays here too.)

Since there are soon to be many Mars capable LV platforms, extending the CRS concept to a BLEO logistics makes sense.

Offline vjkane

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #20 on: 01/01/2018 08:47 PM »
On the positive (but unexplored) side, here's a thought on how to deal with the generic case of sample return (not just Mars).

Structure a CRS-like program which bids out "return from on orbit somewhere", where each mission needs to start, be on station for a duration, and return in certain conditions. Offer a number of overlapping "slots" for N providers to bid on, and two to fly.
There are proposals for doing a number of lunar sample returns, and I could see this model working well there (nearby, multiple flights, etc.), especially if the samples are bulk samples gathered directly by an arm on the lander.  At least one credible design for a lunar bulk sampler would cost less than $850 M without the launch (the New Frontiers proposed lander).  With a bulk purchase, this would likely go down on a per flight basis.

With Mars, I'd believe this would be harder.  First, there's a need for a highly capable rover with very sensitive instruments to go find the right samples scattered across a fairly large landscape.  The scientific community rejected the concept of simply collecting bulk samples from the immediate landing site they are looking for very specific and usually rare geologic setting.  Hence the need for a highly capable rover.  The sampling mechanism and caching system are proving to be challenging to design.  Also, intelligently selecting those samples makes this a science mission, and I'm not aware of private companies with the proven expertise to run complex science operations of this nature.  In addition, Mars presents some problems in terms of storing fuels on the surface because of the cold.  One of the key breakthroughs that NASA believes would enable a Mars sample return next decade is a fuel type that can withstand that cold.

As I said, I think the technical capabilities of private companies to mount their own missions outside of NASA's R&D structures, have matured to the point where lunar missions are credible.  Mars appears to be too far away and too technically challenging at this point for it not be an R&D exercise and not to require extensive interaction with a science team.  The same could probably be said of comets at this point.

Probably the biggest challenge to this idea is that so far no government has been willing to fund a series of missions that could be built on an assembly line where the strengths of the private sector shine best.  With one-off missions, they are R&D efforts and NASA wants to work intensely with the industrial or agency labs doing the design and testing.  If you are committed to doing ten flights, one or two failures are acceptable.  If you are doing this once and Congress is watching, you want that one time to succeed.

Another challenge is that planetary missions including sample return missions are science driven and exploratory.  For Bennu, as an example, there will be over a year of studying the asteroid before taking a sample.  Would a CRS-like approach where the capabilities, design, and operation involve working with large and complex science teams?

All that said, I'd like to see the CRS approach tried, and I hope it is with the moon.

Online Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #21 on: 01/01/2018 10:50 PM »
On the positive (but unexplored) side, here's a thought on how to deal with the generic case of sample return (not just Mars).

Structure a CRS-like program which bids out "return from on orbit somewhere", where each mission needs to start, be on station for a duration, and return in certain conditions. Offer a number of overlapping "slots" for N providers to bid on, and two to fly.
There are proposals for doing a number of lunar sample returns, and I could see this model working well there (nearby, multiple flights, etc.), especially if the samples are bulk samples gathered directly by an arm on the lander.  At least one credible design for a lunar bulk sampler would cost less than $850 M without the launch (the New Frontiers proposed lander).  With a bulk purchase, this would likely go down on a per flight basis.
Agree that's the easiest to demonstrate functional autonomous capability.

And the benefits are easy to see and explain to governments, in the same way that CRS benefits as well - it takes logistics out of the equation of sample conveyance. Also, since mission scope is narrowed to conveying the samples to orbit, then the whole footprint to develop is shorter/quicker/more feasible.

And the growth for exploration craft is in "feeding" the logistics chain with more and varied means/places/bodies to sample.

Even companies that wish to "piggy back" the logistics chain might be able to scope missions to leverage the capability for return.

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With Mars, I'd believe this would be harder.  First, there's a need for a highly capable rover with very sensitive instruments to go find the right samples scattered across a fairly large landscape.  The scientific community rejected the concept of simply collecting bulk samples from the immediate landing site they are looking for very specific and usually rare geologic setting.  Hence the need for a highly capable rover.  The sampling mechanism and caching system are proving to be challenging to design.  Also, intelligently selecting those samples makes this a science mission, and I'm not aware of private companies with the proven expertise to run complex science operations of this nature.
There's a conflict between logistics and exploration SC.

Doesn't need to be, as those who build those exploration SC already have (as you point out) a hard enough task to get there, find/extract/assemble the samples.

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In addition, Mars presents some problems in terms of storing fuels on the surface because of the cold.  One of the key breakthroughs that NASA believes would enable a Mars sample return next decade is a fuel type that can withstand that cold.
Also having a capable, scale-able propulsion bus on orbit allows for lower propellant sizes/margin on sample launch and recovery.

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As I said, I think the technical capabilities of private companies to mount their own missions outside of NASA's R&D structures, have matured to the point where lunar missions are credible.  Mars appears to be too far away and too technically challenging at this point for it not be an R&D exercise and not to require extensive interaction with a science team.  The same could probably be said of comets at this point.
My point is about staging logistics through an evolvable common platform, likely with multiple mission capability, that for asteroids and lunar samples can be leveraged with commercial efforts.

All that would change as the logistics platform would extend to other solar system targets would be the propulsion, communications, power and duration of the vehicle.

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Probably the biggest challenge to this idea is that so far no government has been willing to fund a series of missions that could be built on an assembly line where the strengths of the private sector shine best.  With one-off missions, they are R&D efforts and NASA wants to work intensely with the industrial or agency labs doing the design and testing.  If you are committed to doing ten flights, one or two failures are acceptable.  If you are doing this once and Congress is watching, you want that one time to succeed.
But what if the CRS model bought a batch of  "regular flights" to Mars?

So lets say its a bus that delivers smallsats/cubesats/commsats/navsats every opposition to a planet, then maneuvers to multiple sample return intercepts over the course of years, and eventually returns with samples.

Your science product would be of broad number of on orbit experiments, likely pioneering surface/atmospheric/radiation capabilities/sensing, as well as refreshing communications assets that support larger missions flown directly to destinations on other LV concurrently.

If, like with Insight/Curiosity launch delays, these bulk launches would always fly and at least keep a stream of assets/payloads flowing as an insurance policy for the flagship missions to employ when they eventually made it to Mars.

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Another challenge is that planetary missions including sample return missions are science driven and exploratory.  For Bennu, as an example, there will be over a year of studying the asteroid before taking a sample.  Would a CRS-like approach where the capabilities, design, and operation involve working with large and complex science teams?
Perhaps an evolution of the concept would work as a prepackaged return vehicle, proven in LEO/cislunar/planetary uses, that either is separately launched or piggybacked on the launch as a non-integral part of the SC?

The key benefit that makes this work as a CRS-like approach is to employ the sample return as a service that is wholly detached from the science, except for the hand-off of the sample. The CRS-like SC for return has absolutely nothing to do other than logistics on demand for science, and all they focus on is refining the bus to handle the unique additional requirements (duration, props, distance from sun, radiation exposure, mission profile) to accomplish "there and back again".

For the science team it's a form of "divide and conquer" - they don't have to add all that's needed to do the logistics (and mission overhead/management) as it's someone else's expertise than keeps evolving. And since those logistics would be based on a routinely flown bus, always the best means being used/improved for the best economics/performance. Which means more focus on science and a better, increasing capacity return.

Quote
All that said, I'd like to see the CRS approach tried, and I hope it is with the moon.
Me too.

add:
Forgot to add that there's a tendency with MSR to squeeze development just a little bit more to accomplish it, and then fall short of anything achievable. If you will the "JWST disease".

What exploration SC have achieved phenomenally in the past two decades, and should continue to develop and achieve even more in successive decades, is at odds with something like logistical support in the "return" aspect IMHO.

Also too much rides on too few elements of resilient design. Since launch, rendezvous, and recovery are all high risk, plan that you'll need many shots to begin with. Also, since there's a successive dependency, you'll want more/multiple samples launched from the surface (highest risk), with a reused (possibly multi-caching)  on-orbit SC with excessive props to chase down / compensate for launch shortfall (with on-orbit backup to compensate for on orbit mortality losses).

Then there's the economic scaleability of employing/enhancing/refining the logistics SC on successively larger scoped missions - sample return is likely to be a key part of hundreds of future missions - why not develop that as a separate mission phase component.
« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 08:03 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #22 on: 01/01/2018 10:57 PM »
Reading into one study regarding hybrid rocket propulsion for MSR here:
http://web.stanford.edu/~cantwell/Recent_publications/Boiron_AIAA_2013-3899.pdf

A hybrid mentioned is paraffin wax and liquid oxygen.  Apparently at the right ratios it can get slightly higher than 360 seconds for specific impulse, nearly on par with methalox (not exceeding, but able to match its middle range).  It might even have a temperature tolerance able to handle at least the low if not middle latitudes of Mars.
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Online speedevil

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #23 on: 01/02/2018 01:39 AM »
There is also other interesting work being done - http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36629.msg1662576#msg1662576 - A 1kg Mars helicopter that could help lots with autonomous routing.

Greatly reduced landing costs from any vendor would utterly change designs, but may be some way out even for a 2026 launched sample return.



~1kg, ~220W, ~60cm coaxial rotor, ~3 minutes a day flight to ~100m altitude and several hundred meters traverse on integral solar.

It is unclear if this will fly on the Mars 2020 rover.
There are no further public releases after the video that I have found unfortunately. I contemplated mailing the PI, but diddn't go that far.

The above is interesting because it is almost off-the-shelf, and at the weight it is can almost be worth it if you avoid a several hundred meter traverse once. (with 2020 rover class propulsion)

« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 01:45 AM by speedevil »

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #24 on: 01/02/2018 04:56 AM »
~1kg, ~220W, ~60cm coaxial rotor, ~3 minutes a day flight to ~100m altitude and several hundred meters traverse on integral solar.

It is unclear if this will fly on the Mars 2020 rover.
There are no further public releases after the video that I have found unfortunately. I contemplated mailing the PI, but diddn't go that far.

The above is interesting because it is almost off-the-shelf, and at the weight it is can almost be worth it if you avoid a several hundred meter traverse once. (with 2020 rover class propulsion)

If it doesn't fly on 2020 I would think it'd be quite handy in scouting human landing sites.  Mentioning it here isn't exactly on topic, but it does assist in finding nearby rocks worth sampling so it has some relevance in the overall scheme.  The low kilogram weight would mean, if you have room to accommodate those blades (which look like they get folded in some), almost any landed mission could send out one drone if not more.

Because the 2020 Rover is going to end up dictating the MSR site (in order to obviously fetch the samples), has there been any word on the landing site selection?  It's been nearly a year since the final 3 were whittled down.  The rover itself is slowly being built, and while the other 2 elements of MSR are in debate it's the first link in the chain.
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Offline AegeanBlue

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #25 on: 01/02/2018 07:10 AM »
If you read Squyres' book about the MERs, he mentions the 2003 Mars Sample Return mission which was supposed to launch in 2003 and get samples back following a second launch with the return architecture in 2005. What I remember from Squyres' book and from the Ulivi and Harland book was that they would use a solid launcher which was developed by the US Navy in the 1960s in a classified project and could return a coconut size sample which would be capture on orbit by a French satellite. Alas the internet does not have a good writeup of that mission and what was learned from it before it was cancelled following the twin failures of 1999. This is the best of what Google could find:

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/slidesets/marslife/slide_38.html

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576500000850

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=5086

The current NASA plan shows up in several presentations on the web and has been discussed earlier. I have absolutely no idea what the SpaceX plan is supposed to be now that Red Dragon has been placed in the back burner following the cancellation of legs for the Crew Dragon. Would anyone like to propose a website or even a thread about the 2003/2005 NASA Mars Sample return, SpaceX current plan and the Chinese plan?

Offline jpo234

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #26 on: 01/02/2018 09:17 AM »


I have absolutely no idea what the SpaceX plan is supposed to be now that Red Dragon has been placed in the back burner following the cancellation of legs for the Crew Dragon. Would anyone like to propose a website or even a thread about the 2003/2005 NASA Mars Sample return, SpaceX current plan and the Chinese plan?

SpaceX's plan is right here: http://www.spacex.com/mars

You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Online speedevil

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #27 on: 01/02/2018 03:32 PM »
SpaceX's plan is right here: http://www.spacex.com/mars

It's really not.
They have stated goals for 2 BFS on mars in 2022, doing research on where ice and resources are, 4 more (2 with crew) in 2024, with that crew working on ISRU.
The implication is that they could do sample return perhaps sometime in 2026, with an actual geologist selecting the samples, but that plan is not at all fleshed out, and is so orthogonal to the goals they have that it's almost unaddressed.

There are plausible speculations that could be made - for example if they're going to do ice prospecting they want a rover for ground truth, and ... - but it's in much less detail than even the unfunded NASA proposals.

I really hope there are actually geologists on mars in 2026, but this schedule relies on so many things going right that considering more modest proposals with existing capabilities is also useful.

What might be done with a large payload on Mars, with NASA mission architecture, in the case that BFR mostly works (or new glenn) and is able to launch large payloads, but the funding is not there for SpaceXs martian ambitions is also interesting.

It is almost useless to speculate from the optimistic case for SpaceX, as once you get a geologist or ten out there with a capable car that they can drive around at insane speeds (curiosity has moved 10m/day) and return tons to earth, the question ceases to have much meaning.
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« Last Edit: 01/04/2018 06:01 AM by speedevil »

Offline RonM

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #28 on: 01/02/2018 04:11 PM »
I'm sure SpaceX would have a geologist on the first manned flight. Bringing back samples would be a good way to generate income, especially if government research will pay the bill.

Realistically, SpaceX is not landing a crew in 2024. BFS is an aerospace program and we all know there will be delays. So, we should get back to discussing other plans for a sample return just in case Elon is being overly optimistic again.

Offline Negan

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #29 on: 01/02/2018 04:26 PM »
Falcon 9H is an only rocket in next 5-10 years that will make possible to do Mars return sample.

It would certainly seem to allow a one launch architecture for the ERV and lander. I would also like to see what could happen if the 150 ton to LEO payload capability of BFR was utilized. BFR could have many, many launches under its belt by 2024. NASA might not trust BFR as a Mars lander by then, but launching into LEO should be well proven.

Edit: Subtracting the lander gives FH almost 13,000 kg for the ERV. Would there even be a need for SEP with that kind of capability?

Edit: Looks like NASA is looking at 2026 at the earliest for the lander.
« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 07:17 PM by Negan »

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #30 on: 01/02/2018 05:15 PM »
Reading into one study regarding hybrid rocket propulsion for MSR here:
http://web.stanford.edu/~cantwell/Recent_publications/Boiron_AIAA_2013-3899.pdf

A hybrid mentioned is paraffin wax and liquid oxygen.  Apparently at the right ratios it can get slightly higher than 360 seconds for specific impulse, nearly on par with methalox (not exceeding, but able to match its middle range).  It might even have a temperature tolerance able to handle at least the low if not middle latitudes of Mars.

Having only one stage would greatly simplify things and eliminate a failure mode.

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #31 on: 01/02/2018 07:56 PM »
Reading into one study regarding hybrid rocket propulsion for MSR here:
http://web.stanford.edu/~cantwell/Recent_publications/Boiron_AIAA_2013-3899.pdf

A hybrid mentioned is paraffin wax and liquid oxygen.  Apparently at the right ratios it can get slightly higher than 360 seconds for specific impulse, nearly on par with methalox (not exceeding, but able to match its middle range).  It might even have a temperature tolerance able to handle at least the low if not middle latitudes of Mars.

Having only one stage would greatly simplify things and eliminate a failure mode.

Yes and no.  You could say the trick is where you're sending the samples...

When entering orbit, you technically have to make 2 burns with each establishing the orbit's apoapsis and periapsis (farthest and closest points).  When you launch, you're establishing an initial apoapsis.  Once you reach that point, that is when you need to make the second burn to  establish the periapsis...otherwise by default it is back on the planet's surface.  This is why the space shuttle's OMS engines, Saturn V's third stage, and the majority of current second stages make additional burns well after launch...to circularize orbit and prevent an embarrassing crash on Earth; in the case of MSR we're talking about crashing back to Mars (and obviously risking ruining the samples).

Hypothetically, a large single stage could fire the samples directly away from Mars onto a path to Earth.  However you definitely need local propellant production to do this.  For the moment, we might be able to manufacture oxygen using the 2020 MOXIE experiment, otherwise it's a stretch.

If you have to settle for Mars orbit, like low orbit for the current MSR plans, 2 stages are best.  The first launches while the second circularizes the orbit in short, although most likely the second stage may help in ascent too depending how much oomph stage 1 gives.
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Offline Negan

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #32 on: 01/02/2018 10:03 PM »
I wonder if any of the costs have changed. From the documentation below, just the lander portion is over 3 billion (covers everything accept return from Mars orbit).

https://ia800300.us.archive.org/24/items/MarsSampleReturnLanderMissionConceptStudy/09_Mars-Sample-Return-Lander-Final.pdf
« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 10:04 PM by Negan »

Offline vjkane

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Re: Mars sample return
« Reply #33 on: 01/02/2018 10:14 PM »
I wonder if any of the costs have changed. From the documentation below, just the lander portion is over 3 billion (covers everything accept return from Mars orbit).

https://ia800300.us.archive.org/24/items/MarsSampleReturnLanderMissionConceptStudy/09_Mars-Sample-Return-Lander-Final.pdf
NASA has stated that they believe they have options that would lower costs both through different technology/design choices and through collaboration.  They have not released those.

Tags: Mars