Author Topic: Asteroid Redirect Mission to lay the technology foundations for deep space  (Read 53360 times)

Offline sdsds

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"not going extinct" has compelling practical applications.

Yes, and if the asteroid redirect mission were going to -- you know -- actually redirect an asteroid, it would be ever more compelling! But returning a boulder from an asteroid, while it might meet the science objectives, wouldn't help so much on the "not going extinct" front.
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Offline arachnitect

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"not going extinct" has compelling practical applications.

Yes, and if the asteroid redirect mission were going to -- you know -- actually redirect an asteroid, it would be ever more compelling! But returning a boulder from an asteroid, while it might meet the science objectives, wouldn't help so much on the "not going extinct" front.

Bagging a whole asteroid would make a snappier headline, but that approach ("Option A") is challenging to scale up to planetary defense size.

ARRM would be a chance to try Ion Beam or Gravity Tractor deflection at a meaningful scale. Operating a multi ton spacecraft with 30 meter solar arrays in close proximity to an asteroid is going to be a learning experience no matter what happens. We don't actually have much experience operating close to small bodies, and those few experiences haven't gone entirely well.

Offline RocketGoBoom

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"not going extinct" has compelling practical applications.

Yes, and if the asteroid redirect mission were going to -- you know -- actually redirect an asteroid, it would be ever more compelling! But returning a boulder from an asteroid, while it might meet the science objectives, wouldn't help so much on the "not going extinct" front.

Learning the mechanics of moving a boulder in space is very practical. Applying those same lessons to a much larger object in the future, if such an object were on a course to impact Earth, seems worthwhile. If it is early enough, it would only take a small nudge to avoid an impact.

So generally I support the concept of ARM.

However the secondary mission of having humans visit the astroid while it orbits the moon, that mission seems useless to me. That is just an excuse to give Orion and SLS a mission.

Offline QuantumG

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However the secondary mission of having humans visit the astroid while it orbits the moon, that mission seems useless to me. That is just an excuse to give Orion and SLS a mission.

You're supposed to imagine astronauts flying to Mars in an Orion with a habitation module attached and visiting Phobos or Deimos. Kinda like Apollo 10.
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Offline sdsds

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Bagging a whole asteroid would make a snappier headline, but that approach ("Option A") is challenging to scale up to planetary defense size.

ARRM would be a chance to try Ion Beam or Gravity Tractor deflection at a meaningful scale.

Fair enough. If either of these deflection techniques were tested in an "Option B" mission it would be more than mildly interesting. Perhaps I am too cynical in thinking that deflection would be de-scoped before the actual mission was launched....
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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Bagging a whole asteroid would make a snappier headline, but that approach ("Option A") is challenging to scale up to planetary defense size.

ARRM would be a chance to try Ion Beam or Gravity Tractor deflection at a meaningful scale.

Fair enough. If either of these deflection techniques were tested in an "Option B" mission it would be more than mildly interesting. Perhaps I am too cynical in thinking that deflection would be de-scoped before the actual mission was launched....

NASA can change where ARRM puts its rock after the SEP is launched.

As for deflecting the main asteroid I suspect the navigator will find he is dealing with a 'curved ball'. This is an extreme example of the old cricket cheat of cutting a chunk off the ball so it spins in a weird way. This helped the bowler and hindered the batsman. The mathematical models may have to allow for this.

The manned part of the mission could be down graded to a robotic sample gathering mission. Or used to test the Phobos transfer vehicle and lander.

Offline Hop_David

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"not going extinct" has compelling practical applications.

Yes, and if the asteroid redirect mission were going to -- you know -- actually redirect an asteroid, it would be ever more compelling! But returning a boulder from an asteroid, while it might meet the science objectives, wouldn't help so much on the "not going extinct" front.

Bagging a whole asteroid would make a snappier headline, but that approach ("Option A") is challenging to scale up to planetary defense size.

ARRM would be a chance to try Ion Beam or Gravity Tractor deflection at a meaningful scale. Operating a multi ton spacecraft with 30 meter solar arrays in close proximity to an asteroid is going to be a learning experience no matter what happens. We don't actually have much experience operating close to small bodies, and those few experiences haven't gone entirely well.

How often do Chicxulub sized rocks hit? Every 75 million years or so?

How often do Tunguska or Chelyabinsk sized rocks hit? Well, those two were about a century apart.

City killing rocks are a more immediate concern than dino killers.

The vehicle proposed in the Keck Report could park a 500 tonne rock in lunar orbit. It was estimated the delta V budget would be around .2 km/s.

However deflecting an asteroid could take much less delta V than parking it. Especially if a potential impactor is detected a few years prior to impact.

It's my opinion that an SEP vehicle similar to one described in the Keck Report could deflect a city killer.

Offline Blackstar

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Satellite-Servicing Test Could Replace Asteroid Mission
Aviation Week & Space Technology
Frank Morring, Jr.
Fri, 2016-02-12 04:00

The $19 billion election-year NASA budget request includes $130 million for a robotic satellite-servicing experiment that could demonstrate some of the exploration technologies intended for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which lacks support in the Republican-controlled Congress.

That potential alternate mission, known as Restore-L, would use robotic and other technology originally conceived for ARM to test in-space satellite servicing on an old Landsat spacecraft. With a new administration on the horizon, Restore-L offers another way to validate capabilities seen as necessary for eventual human exploration at Mars, including solar electric propulsion (SEP).

The asteroid mission evolved from President Barack Obama’s 2010 call for a human landing on an asteroid in 2025 into a planned attempt to pluck a large boulder from a near-Earth asteroid and return it to lunar orbit for study by astronauts arriving in an Orion capsule launched on the heavy-lift Space Launch System. NASA and the White House continue to push ARM as an integrated way to exercise the spacecraft and technologies needed for human missions to Mars.

But the robotic portion of ARM—the SEP-driven spacecraft that would collect the asteroid sample—has not received any funding from Congress, where Republicans overseeing the space program consider it an ill-conceived sideshow that would slow human exploration.

Offline Robotbeat

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Is the astroid return mission dead ? It makes sense that it will be killed next year.
Nobody is really enthusiastic about it.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/nasas-asteroid-mission-isnt-deadyet/

Quote
After studying the problem, NASA engineers concluded they didn’t have the tools or the budget to mount a human mission to an asteroid. They couldn’t even come close to the 2025 date. So NASA kludged a solution that became known as the asteroid retrieval mission, or ARM.

Under this plan the agency would send a robotic spacecraft out into the Solar System, grab an SUV-sized boulder off the surface of an asteroid, and bring it back to the vicinity of the Moon. Astronauts would then visit it in 2025. Technically, this still met Obama’s goal. But it was an unhappy solution for most involved, and it wasn’t clear how this brought the agency much closer to its ultimate destination of Mars.

Ars reached out to one space industry veteran who listened to Radzanowski’s presentation for clarification. This politically connected analyst, who did not want to damage his reputation with NASA, offered a blunt explanation for Radzanowski’s asteroid comments: “Oh come on, these poor guys are just trying to get through one more budget release with a shred of dignity intact knowing it’s all in the crapper next year.”

That seems an all too realistic possibility. Congress has been lukewarm in its support of the asteroid mission, at best. Many scientists who study asteroids have said it doesn’t contribute much to their field of work. And it doesn’t seem likely a new president will embrace a “near-term” mission that won’t be completed during his or her administration.

One former senior NASA official who has retained contacts within the agency’s Washington DC headquarters said NASA is unlikely to go to bat for the asteroid mission with the next president. “Nobody believes in the ARM mission,” this source told Ars. “When the boss says go make this happen, you have to jump. That’s part of the deal. But deep in their hearts, is anybody really sold on ARM? I don’t think so.”
Dumb article.

1) demonstrates enhanced gravity tractor technique and overall maneuvering around an asteroid
2) demonstrates SEP
3) demonstrates techniques for extraction of significant amounts of asteroid material
4) allows high amount of sample return, orders of magnitude more than other missions (which by themselves cost a lot of money). This doesn't make it a substitute for Osiris-Rex, but definitely would be helpful.
5) puts a big rock in lunar orbit, a perfect low-latency testbed for real asteroid mining, significantly accelerating the capability to mine asteroids
6) is a heck of a lot better than just a crewed mission to an empty point in space
7) Potentially the vehicle could be reused again for commercial uses
8) Could work for Phobos or Deimos, too. Perhaps even the same vehicle. This would allow Phobos/Deimos ISRU and a perfect stepping stone to Mars.

ARM is a good idea, and it has gotten even better since it started. It's one idea that people don't like because it's new and they didn't anticipate it, so they find no actual reason why it's a bad idea, just making appeals to popularity. It's no one's old hobby horse, like the Moon and Mars are.

My /personal/ view is that I'm sold on it, and I work at NASA. I count as an "anybody." So that "former senior NASA official" (which sounds like Griffin?) is demonstrably wrong.
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Offline Robotbeat

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BTW, I've seen a proposal to use enhanced impactors using the ARM vehicle to deflect objects much faster than a gravity tractor could, i.e. it could even deflect some comets. This just goes to show how powerful being able to harness mass already in space is.

ARM is a radical idea, the first truly /spacefaring/ idea that I've really seen get significant traction at NASA. I'm not surprised that Congress doesn't care for it, because it doesn't actually guarantee either SLS or Orion.
« Last Edit: 02/13/2016 12:09 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Proponent

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I think the robotic aspects of ARM are pretty cool.  But the idea of dragging a rock halfway across the solar system robotically and then sending a crew to cover the last 400,000 km seems daft.  It does make some sense, however, if you're operating under the dual constraints of 1) having to use Orion/SLS for something, while 2) not having the budget for landers and the other in-space elements needed for serious lunar or Martian exploration.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Is the astroid return mission dead ? It makes sense that it will be killed next year.
Nobody is really enthusiastic about it.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/nasas-asteroid-mission-isnt-deadyet/

Quote
After studying the problem, NASA engineers concluded they didn’t have the tools or the budget to mount a human mission to an asteroid. They couldn’t even come close to the 2025 date. So NASA kludged a solution that became known as the asteroid retrieval mission, or ARM.

Under this plan the agency would send a robotic spacecraft out into the Solar System, grab an SUV-sized boulder off the surface of an asteroid, and bring it back to the vicinity of the Moon. Astronauts would then visit it in 2025. Technically, this still met Obama’s goal. But it was an unhappy solution for most involved, and it wasn’t clear how this brought the agency much closer to its ultimate destination of Mars.

Ars reached out to one space industry veteran who listened to Radzanowski’s presentation for clarification. This politically connected analyst, who did not want to damage his reputation with NASA, offered a blunt explanation for Radzanowski’s asteroid comments: “Oh come on, these poor guys are just trying to get through one more budget release with a shred of dignity intact knowing it’s all in the crapper next year.”

That seems an all too realistic possibility. Congress has been lukewarm in its support of the asteroid mission, at best. Many scientists who study asteroids have said it doesn’t contribute much to their field of work. And it doesn’t seem likely a new president will embrace a “near-term” mission that won’t be completed during his or her administration.

One former senior NASA official who has retained contacts within the agency’s Washington DC headquarters said NASA is unlikely to go to bat for the asteroid mission with the next president. “Nobody believes in the ARM mission,” this source told Ars. “When the boss says go make this happen, you have to jump. That’s part of the deal. But deep in their hearts, is anybody really sold on ARM? I don’t think so.”
Dumb article.

1) demonstrates enhanced gravity tractor technique and overall maneuvering around an asteroid
2) demonstrates SEP
3) demonstrates techniques for extraction of significant amounts of asteroid material
4) allows high amount of sample return, orders of magnitude more than other missions (which by themselves cost a lot of money). This doesn't make it a substitute for Osiris-Rex, but definitely would be helpful.
5) puts a big rock in lunar orbit, a perfect low-latency testbed for real asteroid mining, significantly accelerating the capability to mine asteroids
6) is a heck of a lot better than just a crewed mission to an empty point in space
7) Potentially the vehicle could be reused again for commercial uses
8) Could work for Phobos or Deimos, too. Perhaps even the same vehicle. This would allow Phobos/Deimos ISRU and a perfect stepping stone to Mars.

ARM is a good idea, and it has gotten even better since it started. It's one idea that people don't like because it's new and they didn't anticipate it, so they find no actual reason why it's a bad idea, just making appeals to popularity. It's no one's old hobby horse, like the Moon and Mars are.

My /personal/ view is that I'm sold on it, and I work at NASA. I count as an "anybody." So that "former senior NASA official" (which sounds like Griffin?) is demonstrably wrong.

I totally agree with Robotbeat.  In addition, I will add that you can quote two people out of, what, several thousand, and make it sound like they represent the views of the entire body of NASA engineers.  It's euphemistically called advocacy journalism; it doesn't try to present a reflection of the truth, it presents tailored "facts" and quotes, often out of context, to try and push a specific agenda.

It's an easy trap to fall into as a journalist -- you think "Well, I just know this is a really bad idea, so I'll find me a few people who agree with me and quote them as saying it's a bad idea."  Before you know it, you're ignoring a vast majority of voices that disagree with your position, and ignoring real facts as well, in order to push your agenda.

Sounds to me like the Ars reporter who wrote that article was determined that ARM is a bad idea and that SLS is a bad idea, so he/she was going to write an article that proves it, in spite of the many voices and facts that disagree with him/her...
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Offline zubenelgenubi

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Good thoughts, Robotbeat and Doug.

A thought re: "advocacy journalism"
Way back in the days of vibrant newspaper journalism, most American cities and even large towns had a minimum of 2 daily newspapers.  One was probably a morning-distribution newspaper, and the other would be an evening-distribution newspaper.  One newspaper's editorial staff would be generally aligned with the Democratic party, and the other with the Republicans.

(Example: Dayton, Ohio's Journal-Herald and Dayton Daily News)

A household interested in "fair and balanced coverage," and with sufficient funds to carry 2 newspaper subscriptions, would subscribe to both newspapers.  One could be read in the morning, and the other in the evening.

The "advocacy journalism" of either paper would likely be countered by similar journalism from the other.  The reader could synthesize his or her understanding from the input of both newspapers.

We need more "space journalism."  So much journalism today is "advocacy journalism" (agitprop).

With more space journalism, then even if one space journalist can't refrain from writing advocacy articles, at least there's a better chance of another space journalist, reporting on the same topic, providing counter-advocacy.

Then, the intelligent, interested reader can better synthesize a fuller understanding.

(Does this make sense?)
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Dumb article.

1) demonstrates enhanced gravity tractor technique and overall maneuvering around an asteroid
2) demonstrates SEP
3) demonstrates techniques for extraction of significant amounts of asteroid material
4) allows high amount of sample return, orders of magnitude more than other missions (which by themselves cost a lot of money). This doesn't make it a substitute for Osiris-Rex, but definitely would be helpful.
5) puts a big rock in lunar orbit, a perfect low-latency testbed for real asteroid mining, significantly accelerating the capability to mine asteroids
6) is a heck of a lot better than just a crewed mission to an empty point in space
7) Potentially the vehicle could be reused again for commercial uses
8.) Could work for Phobos or Deimos, too. Perhaps even the same vehicle. This would allow Phobos/Deimos ISRU and a perfect stepping stone to Mars.

1)  Do we need this to go to Mars?
2)  But there other ways to demonstrate SEP
3)  Is extraction of significant amounts of asteroid material needed by NASA to get to Mars?
4)  Is sample return needed by NASA to get to Mars?
5)  Can't this be done by NASA contracting with the private sector?  I.E. why NASA?
6)  This is a low bar, and one that only applies to the SLS and Orion - which aren't needed anyways.
7)  Admirable, but is it likely?  And would this be an official goal?
8.)  OK, this sound like it supports NASA's goal for Mars.

I guess my overall point is that NASA doesn't have the time or money to do too many things, and if NASA's goal is Mars then the ARM sounds like a distraction from that goal.

Quote
ARM is a good idea, and it has gotten even better since it started. It's one idea that people don't like because it's new and they didn't anticipate it, so they find no actual reason why it's a bad idea, just making appeals to popularity. It's no one's old hobby horse, like the Moon and Mars are.

I don't see it that way.  When it was announced, the first thing that came to mind was that this was a mission proposed to create a need for the SLS and the Orion, and the justification was that it satisfied Obama's goal for reaching an asteroid in the mid-2020's - which it obviously doesn't do.

Plus, regardless if it's not a previously owned idea, due to the fact that both houses of Congress are Republican controlled, and that the goal of the Republican leadership is to give Obama as few "wins" as possible, it was never going to be seriously considered.  The only thing it has going for it is that it uses the SLS and the Orion, which desperately need some form of justification, but so far not even that has helped it.

Quote
My /personal/ view is that I'm sold on it, and I work at NASA. I count as an "anybody." So that "former senior NASA official" (which sounds like Griffin?) is demonstrably wrong.

It does develop new technologies, and it is a challenging goal.  No doubt about that.  But if NASA's #1 HSF goal is Mars, then the ARM is not on the critical path for that.  Not sure how you change that perception...
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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{snip}
It does develop new technologies, and it is a challenging goal.  No doubt about that.  But if NASA's #1 HSF goal is Mars, then the ARM is not on the critical path for that.  Not sure how you change that perception...

ARM may not be on the Mars critical path but SEP carrying cargo to Mars orbit is.

Offline redliox

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It does develop new technologies, and it is a challenging goal.  No doubt about that.  But if NASA's #1 HSF goal is Mars, then the ARM is not on the critical path for that.  Not sure how you change that perception...
8) Could work for Phobos or Deimos, too. Perhaps even the same vehicle. This would allow Phobos/Deimos ISRU and a perfect stepping stone to Mars.

ARM is a good idea, and it has gotten even better since it started. It's one idea that people don't like because it's new and they didn't anticipate it, so they find no actual reason why it's a bad idea, just making appeals to popularity. It's no one's old hobby horse, like the Moon and Mars are.

My /personal/ view is that I'm sold on it, and I work at NASA. I count as an "anybody." So that "former senior NASA official" (which sounds like Griffin?) is demonstrably wrong.

It wasn't exactly the best marriage of ideas, although the idea to demonstrate large-scale SEP is the steadfast useful aspect.  The asteroid idea was meant to test a human flight, but apparently most NEOs don't align with Earth half as conveniently as Mars...so the thought of a crewed asteroid expedition died first.  :(  However, I do believe the best idea is to reroute it to Phobos like the NAC suggested; Bolden is just bound by law to follow Obama's asteroid idea.

I think the robotic aspects of ARM are pretty cool.  But the idea of dragging a rock halfway across the solar system robotically and then sending a crew to cover the last 400,000 km seems daft.  It does make some sense, however, if you're operating under the dual constraints of 1) having to use Orion/SLS for something, while 2) not having the budget for landers and the other in-space elements needed for serious lunar or Martian exploration.

I agree for the most part with your statement Pro, I just disagree on ARM being the best idea even under improvised conditions.  Still as I implied earlier, there's a chance something could be salvaged from it once administrations change.  Getting a piece of Phobos, especially if coated in Martian dust, would be worthwhile scientifically whereas with asteroids, to quote Obama's slightly infamous speech, "We've already been there."  (Hayabusha 1 & 2, NEAR, Osiris-REX...Philae if you count comets)

1)  Do we need this to go to Mars?
2)  But there other ways to demonstrate SEP
3)  Is extraction of significant amounts of asteroid material needed by NASA to get to Mars?
4)  Is sample return needed by NASA to get to Mars?
5)  Can't this be done by NASA contracting with the private sector?  I.E. why NASA?
6)  This is a low bar, and one that only applies to the SLS and Orion - which aren't needed anyways.
7)  Admirable, but is it likely?  And would this be an official goal?

1) Maybe; the "yes" factor in the sense that some prototype hardware inevitably needs to be sent ahead; ARM could test similar crew hardware in Mars orbit.
2) Maybe; but something substantially bigger than the average probe probe needs to be sent to demonstrate and flying all the way to Mars and back would fully remove doubts on its capability.
3) No; if Phobos/Deimos are used instead they could verify ISRU possibilities but if there's to be fuel extracted, Mars is the best option.
4) No
5) Yes, at least for ARM; exception being life support and rad-shielding which NASA ought to share if it has any edge over commercial hardware.
6) Maybe; the whole thing is debatable but best way to settle is to see how the first two Falcon Heavies fly in regards to SLS vs commercial; commercial's disadvantage is it's optimized for short, cheap, & sweet wheres NASA is expensive yet far-reaching.
7) Maybe favoring no; ARM needs to reroute itself to Mars to prove its worth.
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In the end, this whole mission is like the episode of MASH where Fr. Mulcahey spent the whole summer growing corn so the base could have corn on the cob, and the chef turned it into creamed corn.  Sending humans on a months-long mission to to an asteroid became sending humans on a days-long mission to a rock from an asteroid, because there's no money to develop deep-space hardware for people.

The engineers/managers did the best they could to have something better than Apollo 8 remixed, and this IS probably the best SLS can do without billions of dollars and a decade or so to develop a deep-space hab/etc.

If NASA has to do this-- and without this mission, SLS may just get cancelled, because there will be no need for humans on it until 2030+-- I'd rather have the rock come from one of Mars' moons, so at least there will be some connection with a long-term goal.  It's cheap Mars sample return, as there must be bits of Mars dust on both moons, swept up after impacts on Mars.

But I'm completely disillusioned by this whole episode.  Heartbroken isn't far from the truth.
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Offline Robotbeat

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If Somehow SpaceX or whoever solves the Mars transport problem with MCT, ARM is one of the few somewhat HSF-related things that would still make sense.

It's not about Mars alone. It's also about protecting Earth while preparing and testing to go to Mars. This is a perfectly valid reason for doing it. But for some reason, people are blinded by the idea of something having more than one legitimate goal. It's the same thing you see when people are all "Why just trash Earth and go to space?"
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Offline Robotbeat

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ARM didn't start as just a way to find something to do with SLS. MAYBE that's why it got traction (unsure of that), but that has never been the actual justification for it.
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Online jgoldader

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ARM didn't start as just a way to find something to do with SLS. MAYBE that's why it got traction (unsure of that), but that has never been the actual justification for it.

Oh, agreed.  The Europa mission is very similar, but is finding a lot less resistance.  (Whether JPL can pull it off in the next 6-ish years with no bent metal yet is the only major question.). In both cases, ARM and Europa, there are scientifically worthy goals, but I don't know that either (especially ARM with a billion-dollar-plus price tag, just for the robotic part, yes?) would have survived the selection process and gained funding without being pulled forward by SLS.
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