Author Topic: Possible cost-reduction possibilities for the NASA portions of MSR  (Read 103464 times)

Offline edzieba

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Given the scientific consensus that Earth life cannot survive on Martian surface
No such consensus exists. Areas on the Martian surface, and particularly the subsurface, exist within the survival environmental range of extremophiles observed on Earth.
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For the samples collected by Mars 2020, the sample tube is sealed, so it can't be contaminated.
Samples do not enter the sealed tubes via teleportation from a distance, nor do the sample tubes teleport into the return capsule. An object needs to approach the sample site and move the samples into the tubes, before then sealing the tubes, then transport the tubes to the return vehicle and install them, all requiring physical proximity and direct handling.

Sample contamination is not an issue just for looking for microbes: contaminated samples affect other measurements such as sample composition, isotopic analysis, etc. And since we do not live on CSI-world and cannot wave a contaminant-detecting lamp over samples and have contaminants helpfully light up, just the potential[/i[ for contamination is sufficient to greatly reduce the scientific value of a sample, as conclusions drawn from it would not be guaranteed to actually be based on accurate data.

Offline MickQ

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Given the scientific consensus that Earth life cannot survive on Martian surface
No such consensus exists. Areas on the Martian surface, and particularly the subsurface, exist within the survival environmental range of extremophiles observed on Earth.
Quote
For the samples collected by Mars 2020, the sample tube is sealed, so it can't be contaminated.
Samples do not enter the sealed tubes via teleportation from a distance, nor do the sample tubes teleport into the return capsule. An object needs to approach the sample site and move the samples into the tubes, before then sealing the tubes, then transport the tubes to the return vehicle and install them, all requiring physical proximity and direct handling.

Sample contamination is not an issue just for looking for microbes: contaminated samples affect other measurements such as sample composition, isotopic analysis, etc. And since we do not live on CSI-world and cannot wave a contaminant-detecting lamp over samples and have contaminants helpfully light up, just the potential[/i[ for contamination is sufficient to greatly reduce the scientific value of a sample, as conclusions drawn from it would not be guaranteed to actually be based on accurate data.

As I understand it, the purpose of MSR is to collect the sample tubes ALREADY THERE and return them to Earth.

This reference to teleportation and sample contamination is both irrelevant and childish.

Offline thespacecow

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Given the scientific consensus that Earth life cannot survive on Martian surface
No such consensus exists. Areas on the Martian surface, and particularly the subsurface, exist within the survival environmental range of extremophiles observed on Earth.

Yes, it does exist, at least for much of Martian surface. In fact I don't think we know a single area on the surface that meets all the conditions for life. There're some areas that they're not certain if the conditions can be met, these are classified as special regions just to be safe.

And we're not talking about subsurface here, Starship would land on the surface, it won't drill into the subsurface in a MSR mission.



Quote from: edzieba
Quote
For the samples collected by Mars 2020, the sample tube is sealed, so it can't be contaminated.
Samples do not enter the sealed tubes via teleportation from a distance, nor do the sample tubes teleport into the return capsule. An object needs to approach the sample site and move the samples into the tubes, before then sealing the tubes, then transport the tubes to the return vehicle and install them, all requiring physical proximity and direct handling.

These are samples collected by Mars 2020 rover years before MSR is even launched, so no teleportation necessary.

As for getting the tubes to return vehicle, again since the tubes are sealed, handling by a dirty "object" is not an issue as long as the seal is not broken. You could also put the tubes into a clean secondary container using a clean robotic arm, just to be safe. This is not that hard, especially if you can use on site sterilization using UV.



Quote from: edzieba
Sample contamination is not an issue just for looking for microbes: contaminated samples affect other measurements such as sample composition, isotopic analysis, etc. And since we do not live on CSI-world and cannot wave a contaminant-detecting lamp over samples and have contaminants helpfully light up, just the potential[/i[ for contamination is sufficient to greatly reduce the scientific value of a sample, as conclusions drawn from it would not be guaranteed to actually be based on accurate data.

Not sure what you're trying to argue here. We collect rock samples all the time here on Earth, without the heavy cleaning protocol used by planetary protection, it works fine. Same goes for the Moon rocks collected by US/Russia/China.

As for conclusions may be ambiguous, that's perfectly fine, since you'll have a stream of future samples flying back to Earth once human missions start, you can fine tune the collection protocol to remove any ambiguities next time. That's how science works, iteratively, you're not going to get a firm conclusion from a single observation anyways. And with Starship, the next time is not several decades in the future, it's merely 2 years.
« Last Edit: 04/13/2024 03:34 pm by thespacecow »

Offline TheRadicalModerate

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OK, now that the MIRT has finished work and reported:

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¯\_(ツ)_/¯

...what does this change?

Somebody asked a question in the press conference about what this meant for ERO, and the answer was less than a full-throated statement of support for its continuation.  It wasn't a full-throated condemnation of it, either.  It was perfectly acceptable NASA bureaucratese, which is to be expected.

Note that this is already out:

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1779947903093776406

Five years seems very silly, but it looks like SpaceX will at least be answering the RFI.

Offline deadman1204

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Given the scientific consensus that Earth life cannot survive on Martian surface
No such consensus exists. Areas on the Martian surface, and particularly the subsurface, exist within the survival environmental range of extremophiles observed on Earth.

Yes, it does exist, at least for much of Martian surface. In fact I don't think we know a single area on the surface that meets all the conditions for life. There're some areas that they're not certain if the conditions can be met, these are classified as special regions just to be safe.

Please give us links and evidence for this full scientific consensus...



Quote from: edzieba
Sample contamination is not an issue just for looking for microbes: contaminated samples affect other measurements such as sample composition, isotopic analysis, etc. And since we do not live on CSI-world and cannot wave a contaminant-detecting lamp over samples and have contaminants helpfully light up, just the potential[/i[ for contamination is sufficient to greatly reduce the scientific value of a sample, as conclusions drawn from it would not be guaranteed to actually be based on accurate data.

Not sure what you're trying to argue here. We collect rock samples all the time here on Earth, without the heavy cleaning protocol used by planetary protection, it works fine. Same goes for the Moon rocks collected by US/Russia/China.
It doesn't appear that you are aware of the goals of keeping samples clean and unconaminated. The protection protocals are about an awful lot more than whole/live bacteria. Samples on earth/moon are not valid comparisons.
Earth is full of earth life (no suprise). The moon is known to be quite sterile, and no one outside of the newspapers expected to find anything - the apollo11 quarentine was tabloid theater.

We don't know what will be on mars - looking at chemistry, evidence of past life, ect. Contamination of earth stuff (far more than live bacteria) will render much of the samples useless. By "earth stuff" I mean looking at isotopic ratios, protein fragments and other bits of organic molecules, examining isomer distribution, all sorts of things.
All of these examinations could be rendered undoable without the introduction of a living bacteria from earth. Just dust and junk brought along.

Offline VSECOTSPE

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1. Given the scientific consensus that Earth life cannot survive on Martian surface

There’s no such consensus, which is why all landers currently have to meet Cat IV.  For example, there are exposed cliffs sides and sides of craters at Mars where underground water (probably mixed with lots of carbon dioxide and salts) intermittently “weep” like tears down the cliffs and craters starting from where the water layer is exposed.  We use the Atacama Desert on Earth as an analog for these environments, and Earth microbes live there.  So we don’t want Earth contaminants and bioagents anywhere near those Martian water systems until we know what is in them. 

There’s intermittent methane releases into the Martian atmosphere, a chemical that is usually associated with biological processes.  Again, we don’t want Earth contaminants and bioagents anywhere near those production sites until we know what is driving them.

Some day, someone will pose the question, “Hey, I want to put my crew or a big lander that I can’t build in a clean room on Mars — where can it go?”  And NASA’s planetary protection office will say, “Your crew or big lander can go here, here, or here, but not there, there, or there.”  That’s how this problem will be solved.  It won’t be solved by hand waving away serious planetary protection concerns for the entire planet of Mars.

We do it all the time to protect scientifically valuable and fragile locations on Earth.  It’s not a big deal.

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Also in case of Starship, it's exterior would be cooked during re-entry anyway, so it's not really dirty.

The surfaces of thermal protection systems are cooked so other systems don’t get cooked on reentry.  So by definition, some exposed areas of a reentry vehicle don’t get cooked.  Earth bioagents and contaminants can hitch a ride on, for example, engine plumbing well leeward of the reentry shock.

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2. For the samples collected by Mars 2020, the sample tube is sealed, so it can't be contaminated.

MSR requires at least two levels of isolation.  Specifically, the sample return capsule containing the sample tubes must also be sealed.

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Option A: Send a clean rover to collect the samples in order to avoid contamination, this can be done by seal a cleaned rover inside a cleaned cargo bay of Starship.

In theory, but the advantages of such an architecture could disappear depending on the size of the exclusion zone around Jezero for such big, dirty landers, and we just don’t know that yet.  Someone would have to propose such a solution and get NASA’s planetary protection office to weigh in.  There might be a lot of back-and-forth if and when that happens.

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Option B: Just collect the sample knowing it may be contaminated, because even a contaminated Mars sample which cannot be used for astrobiology study is valuable. Dr. Lee gave an estimate of $2~4B (cost of one or two Curiosity rovers) for the worth of a Mars sample without living Martian life in it, so MSR is still worth doing even if you only return sterilized samples, as long as it's cheap enough.

Again, the issue is not just about sending tardigrades to Mars or the Andromeda Strain to Earth.  If investigators can’t be confident that a particular chemical or microscopic rock formation came only from Mars and not Earth, then they’re stuck with the same kind of samples that they can already get from Mars meteorites on Earth.  Spending $10B or $2B or whatever to expensively recreate ALH84001 would be boneheaded.  The planetary community isn’t going to do that.

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This has been discussed extensively on this forum and elsewhere: You do not need ISRU to enable Starship to return from Mars. Just land with enough propellant to go back up to LMO, then refuel at LMO to return to Earth.

That’s arguably as complex as deriving methane from the Martian atmosphere.  Now we’re sending two Starships to Mars, one of which has to maintain a propellant depot for a couple years in different thermal environments and at much farther distances than planned by SX in Earth orbit.  And now we’re also conducting a rendezvous and docking and large propellant transfer between two Starships in Mars orbit with 20-40 minute time lags in comms.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but unlike a solid rocket motor that we know works now, this scheme will have to be demonstrated and practiced before putting it in the critical path for MSR.  And AFAIK, unlike surface propellant production, this scheme isn’t part of any SX baseline for Mars ops.  KISS principle.  Just use the solid rocket.

If 10-20 years from now, SX is running this kind of operation at Mars, then yes, leverage it.  But MSR needs a decision now, not a decade or two from now.

Offline VSECOTSPE

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...what does this change?

The devil will be in the details of tomorrow’s RFP and any subsequent Q&A between NASA and industry.  Does the RFP/Q&A say stick to our existing planetary protection guidelines or is there room for proposals that don’t?  Does the RFP/Q&A say assume the existing European hardware contribution or is there room for proposals that don’t?  Can proposers make contributions to offset costs?  Can APL, whose Space Dept is run by the dean of Mars reentry (Bobby Braun) propose or team, or is this really limited to industry and NASA centers?   Etc.  The more degrees of freedom that proposers have, the more likely NASA can find a solution that fits the budget.

How HLS turned out may be an instructive example.  There were three proposals, only one of which was affordable because it leveraged a huge, existing, internally funded effort (SX Starship).  The others were many billions more/too expensive.  Given that NASA is trying to knock $4B to $6B off the cost of MSR, that may be the only kind of solution that works here, too.   Whether AA Fox’s comments at the press conference about using heritage systems is consistent with that, I’m not so sure.  Again, it will become clearer as solicitation details emerge.

Partnering will also be interesting, as it always is.  The emergents who are trying to build cheaper landers these days that Zurbuchen wanted to push for this probably can’t do the rest of the mission.  But SX rarely partners, and it’s not clear traditional primes can get the other costs down so much.

Interesting that this is emerging under Nelson’s watch.  This is his first big parley into competition.  He’s apparently willing to go the competition route on the agency’s biggest/most critical programs except lunar crew transport, which remains sole-sourced to the Orion/SLS gang.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2024 12:25 pm by VSECOTSPE »

Offline TheRadicalModerate

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The devil will be in the details of tomorrow’s RFP and any subsequent Q&A between NASA and industry. 

It's an RFI, isn't it?  I suspect we have to wait for the goodies until Industry Day.
« Last Edit: 04/16/2024 04:33 am by TheRadicalModerate »

Offline VSECOTSPE

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No, they’re going straight to a study RFP.

Offline AnalogMan

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Rapid Mission Design Studies for Mars Sample Return
Notice ID NNH24ZDA001N-RASMSR24
Original Published Date: Apr 16, 2024 07:29 am EDT

https://sam.gov/opp/5945e9f464bd444daf45859054542011/view

Description

On or after the publication date of this SAM.gov notice, the full, final text will be available for download from the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) at https://nspires.nasaprs.com by searching on number NNH24ZDA001N-RASMSR24 or via the direct link provided.

The attached PDF file entitled “RASMSR24email” is a copy of an email NSPIRES sent to Science Mission Directorate List Serv subscribers and includes other important dates including an industry day or bidders virtual conference.  After downloading and carefully reading the full solicitation from NSPIRES, by email only address questions (or other comments) with a subject line to read “RASMSR” to the listed point(s) of contact.

C.26 Rapid Mission Design Studies for Mars Sample Return:
https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary.do?solId={BB8B4EA2-C11B-259D-65E7-E0ADFA57CE11}

The above link has other documents associated with this announcement.

(copy of email, proposal & industry day details attached)
« Last Edit: 04/16/2024 01:23 pm by AnalogMan »

Offline edzieba

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A proposal may, but is not required to, propose to study a mission design that
incorporates elements of NASA’s MSR Program or NASA’s Artemis Program as
Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) (see Section 3.6).
• The mission design may, but is not required to, incorporate only one (or a few)
new elements and use NASA’s reference mission design for the rest. As the
Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) design and mass drives mission complexity and
cost, NASA is particularly interested in studies that include or describe a smaller
MAV or an alternative to a MAV.
• The mission design may, but is not required to, incorporate one or more NASA
elements of NASA’s reference mission design into the proposed mission design
as GFE.
The mission design may, but is not required to, incorporate one or more ESA
elements of NASA’s reference mission design, the ESA Earth Return Orbiter
(ERO) or the ESA Sample Transfer Arm (STA), into the proposed mission design
as GFE. The mission design may, but is not required to, incorporate an ESA
element of a previous mission design, the ESA Sample Fetch Rover (SFR), into
the proposed mission design as GFE.
Export control regulations, Export
Administration Regulations (EAR) and/or International Traffic in Arms
Regulations (ITAR) as applicable, must be complied with.
• The mission design may, but is not required to, incorporate one or more NASA
elements of the Artemis Program into the proposed mission design as GFE.
Quote
3.3 Calculating Total Cost to NASA of a Mission Design
One of the metrics for mission design value (see Section 3.4) is the total cost to NASA
to implement the mission that results in the safe return to Earth of scientifically selected
samples. Studies will provide the basis-of-estimate for any non-GFE in the mission
design. NASA will add the costs associated with any proposed GFE to calculate the
total cost to NASA. There will be no cost attributed to the total cost to NASA for the
provision of ESA-provided element(s).
That certainly seems to tilt the scales in favour of certain mission architectures, with both total and annual costs being factors in evaluating proposals.

Offline matthewkantar

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This will upset some folk here, but this feels like NASA pushing the easy button, ie SpaceX. How times have changed.

Offline deadman1204

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This will upset some folk here, but this feels like NASA pushing the easy button, ie SpaceX. How times have changed.
SpaceX has no easy button. If they did, there would be an answer for why spaceX didn't go to mars in 2018, 2020, 2020, and 2024 like musk continually promised.

Offline TheRadicalModerate

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The planetary protection requirements possibly have some wiggle-room in them:

Quote
The mission design must meet the NASA requirements for backward planetary
protection
as stated in NPR 8715.24, “Planetary Protection Provisions for Robotic
Extraterrestrial Missions,” and NASA STD 8719.27, “Implementing Planetary
Protection Requirements for Space Flight.”

There's no explicit mention of forward protection (against Mars being contaminated by Earth).  However, both of the referenced documents cover forward protection.

I think this ambiguity would allow bidders to consider using the NASEM recommendations instead of the COSPAR ones.  I'm not sure how NASA would grade such a proposal, but it wouldn't get thrown out outright.



Here comes the "let's use Starship for everything, including landing!" part of the post.  There are three big problems such an architecture would have to overcome:

1) It would have to assume the NASEM recommendations for PP, and there would have to be an area classifiable as Category II near enough to Jezero for something to hike overland and meet Perseverance, wherever it ends up.  There's the area west of the Jezero crater rim, which Perseverance's team would like it to reach eventually, which might qualify as Cat II, but the proposal would now have to include a fairly hardy rover to meet Perseverance wherever it ended up.

2) This is the opposite of stuff with flight heritage.  Landings on Mars in the required timeframe aren't guaranteed, even if the PP issues for doing them can be ironed out.  However, a failed landing isn't the end of the world; just send another Starship to the same area, or even send two, landing a few km apart.

3) A single Starship would need to be refueled before it could return to an Earth transfer orbit.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be refueled using ISRU prop, or even that it has to be refueled on the surface.  A Starship v2 has plenty of prop to be able to return to LMO once it's collected the samples.  The question is what happens then.  Two possibilities:

a) There's an expendable tanker waiting in LMO, which refuels the Starship that comes up from the surface.

b) There's a separate "Earth return Starship", which takes custody of the samples and does the TEI.

Option #a has the nice property that there's no awkward transfer of the samples.  But if the option #b earth return Starship is a StarKicker, it needs less prop delivered to LEO before the mission, and it has a nice, simple, almost-foolproof way of releasing the EEV.

No clue whether NASA would be willing to reclassify area west of the crater rim as Cat II, nor how much international shrieking and gnashing of teeth would be involved.  I've been a staunch proponent of the US staying completely aligned with the COSPAR guidelines, but maybe relying on the PPIRB and NASEM would leave the US with its soft power intact.

The alternative Starship architecture is the one where the StarKicker propulsively inserts into LMO, deploys a Big, Clean, Generic Mars Lander, waits for some kind of MAV to return samples to LMO, and returns them to TEI, where the EEV separates at the appropriate time.  This is substantially lower risk and has no international implications (other than removing the ERO from ESA's purview).  But it requires somebody to design and implement the BCGML--and prove that it's sufficiently low risk.

Offline vjkane

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“ However, a failed landing isn't the end of the world; just send another Starship to the same area, or even send two, landing a few km apart.”

You would want to have very high confidence that the return flight will work. Can’t easily replace the samples

Offline TheRadicalModerate

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“ However, a failed landing isn't the end of the world; just send another Starship to the same area, or even send two, landing a few km apart.”

You would want to have very high confidence that the return flight will work. Can’t easily replace the samples

Yes, but that's something for which there will be some flight heritage, from HLS.  It's not a perfect analogue, unless the HLS landing thrusters can be scaled up.  But it's also something that can be tested before committing to loading the samples for ascent.

If you've got a Cat II area within driving range, you can have a pretty substantial graveyard of dead Starships before going for the real thing.

I'm mostly playing Devil's Advocate on this architecture.  But the StarKicker + BCGML seems like a real possibility--especially if SpaceX can partner with somebody to develop the BCGML.

Offline ulm_atms

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This will upset some folk here, but this feels like NASA pushing the easy button, ie SpaceX. How times have changed.
SpaceX has no easy button. If they did, there would be an answer for why spaceX didn't go to mars in 2018, 2020, 2020, and 2024 like musk continually promised.
Compared to NASA they sure do.

Offline DanClemmensen

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This will upset some folk here, but this feels like NASA pushing the easy button, ie SpaceX. How times have changed.
SpaceX has no easy button. If they did, there would be an answer for why spaceX didn't go to mars in 2018, 2020, 2020, and 2024 like musk continually promised.
SpaceX' record for missing dates appears to be better than the rest of the space community, including NASA (Artemis), Blue Origin (New Glenn), ULA (Vulcan), and Boeing (Starliner). Do you have a counter-example? As of now, I have higher confidence in the Starship schedule than in just pretty much any alternative.

Offline deltaV

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The planetary protection requirements possibly have some wiggle-room in them:

The document you quoted is inconsistent - section 3.1 implies there are no forward planetary protection requirements and section 3.5 implies that there are. Hopefully someone will ask about this at the industry day next Monday.

Offline TheRadicalModerate

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The planetary protection requirements possibly have some wiggle-room in them:

The document you quoted is inconsistent - section 3.1 implies there are no forward planetary protection requirements and section 3.5 implies that there are. Hopefully someone will ask about this at the industry day next Monday.

I actually think 3.5 reinforces the general "make us an offer" implication.  It says, "Discussion of proposed plans for addressing planetary protection requirements, both backward and forward..."  Unlike 3.1's specific callout of backward requirements, with references, it makes no attempt to describe what the requirements actually are--it just instructs the proposal to include a plan.

I don't think there's much doubt that NASA would be happy to reclassify some martian areas to Cat II, if they could drag COSPAR along, kicking and screaming.  They have two major studies to provide justification, and I'm sure they'd like SpaceX to do as much work on Mars as possible.  (I'm also sure that they're afraid of what Elon might do if planetary protection slows down Starship's ability to try martian landings.)

That said, they would much prefer to stay harmonized with COSPAR, because it's better diplomatically.  So they'd probably like to find a way to twist COSPAR's arm; a few proposals and studies might go a certain distance to applying the necessary leverage.

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