Author Topic: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best  (Read 8006 times)

Offline BackInAction

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"The hunter who chases two rabbits catches neither"

I've noticed in the past few years, many different mission proposals have been pitched to/from NASA for their flexible path.  These includes return to the moon, mission to asteroids, creating space vehicles (landers, rovers, in space vehicles, crew suits, etc), and the eventual mission to mars.  This seems like a lot of different objectives for an agency with a limited budget.  With that in mind, this seems to be the trend.  Too many people have too many ideas (which is fine) which get partially implemented (which is bad).  This leads to budget overruns, unreachable commitments, and eventually focus changes that phases all these projects out.

I'm starting to believe the best approach for a human focused NASA mission is a mission objective that is so basic and focused, addons/scope increase to the mission is nearly impossible.  This ensures that the first mission objective will have the highest probability of being completed.

Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return.  No landing, no in space vehicles beyond the hab, return module, and propulsion stage.  Just a basic focused mission.  I believe this would have the highest probability of success and the achievements gained in this focused mission could be applied to a followup focused mission (landing on Mars).

While I believe NASA should continue to run regular non-human missions regularly and continually (probe, telescope, rovers, etc), I believe for human missions, a more basic and focused approach is necessary as these seem to spin off into the most costly programs.

Anyone have any thoughts on this idea?

Offline Warren Platts

In reality, the only short-term project that's doable and that's more than a flyby around the Moon is going to be a mini-ISS at EML1 or EML2. From there you're halfway to the rest of the Solar System. Hopefully, they'll be working on cryogenic fuel transfer and storage at the same time.

With a Gateway Station and propellant depots, a lot of options open up, but the one immediately after the Gateway/depot that would really be both cool and enabling would be a major push to get rocket propellant from the Moon's surface. If we spent 10 or 20 years doing that, a Mars surface permanently manned research would be easier by an order of magnitude. Mars isn't going to happen any sooner than that anyways.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #2 on: 04/16/2012 05:20 pm »
In reality, the only short-term project that's doable and that's more than a flyby around the Moon is going to be a mini-ISS at EML1 or EML2. From there you're halfway to the rest of the Solar System. Hopefully, they'll be working on cryogenic fuel transfer and storage at the same time.

With a Gateway Station and propellant depots, a lot of options open up, but the one immediately after the Gateway/depot that would really be both cool and enabling would be a major push to get rocket propellant from the Moon's surface. If we spent 10 or 20 years doing that, a Mars surface permanently manned research would be easier by an order of magnitude. Mars isn't going to happen any sooner than that anyways.

Don't mean to nit-pick (as I think the above suggestions are very cool), but look what you did there:
1) New space station
2) Cryogenic fuel transfer and storage
3) Rocket propellant from the Moon's surface

This is the type of complexity I'm advocating AGAINST (even though I do appreciate the feedback and think they are good ideas!).  There are too many spin offs that end up bloating the cost.

Offline scienceguy

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #3 on: 04/16/2012 05:25 pm »
I agree that a focused humans-to-Mars program would be the best for NASA. This would work towards an eventual colony on Mars, and humans living on two planets would be worth the money.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #4 on: 04/16/2012 05:50 pm »
A quite small space station (we're talking about roughly one-tenth the size and mass of ISS) is a much different situation than another big space station like ISS. We effectively need to develop one anyway to get to Mars. The propulsion system (400kW) used to move it from LEO to a Lagrange point would be the same sort we'd need to push a small MTV (based on the gateway) from Lagrange to Mars orbit and back (1000kW), and at very least the same 400kW tug could be used for carrying cargo to Mars orbit (and also for preplacing surface elements with a lot lower IMLEO). The gateway also enables reuse of the Mars Transfer Vehicle.

Much better and less bloated than a Battlestar Galactica Mars DRM leaving straight from LEO, throwing the whole thing away every mission.
« Last Edit: 04/16/2012 05:51 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #5 on: 04/16/2012 05:55 pm »
The general public would not understand a mission that goes all the way to Mars and not land.  During planning the complexity would go through the roof.

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #6 on: 04/16/2012 05:57 pm »
A quite small space station (we're talking about roughly one-tenth the size and mass of ISS) is a much different situation than another big space station like ISS. We effectively need to develop one anyway to get to Mars. The propulsion system (400kW) used to move it from LEO to a Lagrange point would be the same sort we'd need to push a small MTV (based on the gateway) from Lagrange to Mars orbit and back (1000kW), and at very least the same 400kW tug could be used for carrying cargo to Mars orbit (and also for preplacing surface elements with a lot lower IMLEO). The gateway also enables reuse of the Mars Transfer Vehicle.

Much better and less bloated than a Battlestar Galactica Mars DRM leaving straight from LEO, throwing the whole thing away every mission.

Definitely agree it would be much smaller, but you're introducing more complexity and cost:
1) New space station, maintenance, and reserving missions
2) New propulsion system
3) New tug

And this all needs to be completed before the Mars departure/return vehicle is created!  Again, I think this is a cool idea, but it's getting away from the original mission of getting human to orbit Mars in the most focused way possible.

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #7 on: 04/16/2012 05:58 pm »
The general public would not understand a mission that goes all the way to Mars and not land.  During planning the complexity would go through the roof.

The general public does not understand why NASA is currently NOT at Mars already.  If it was explained to them that a focused block approach was the safest and cheapest way, they would understand.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #8 on: 04/16/2012 06:01 pm »
What they have not told you is they hope to get the moon mission people to build the spacestation and tug.

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #9 on: 04/16/2012 06:05 pm »
What they have not told you is they hope to get the moon mission people to build the spacestation and tug.

And out of which budget does that come?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #10 on: 04/16/2012 06:09 pm »
A quite small space station (we're talking about roughly one-tenth the size and mass of ISS) is a much different situation than another big space station like ISS. We effectively need to develop one anyway to get to Mars. The propulsion system (400kW) used to move it from LEO to a Lagrange point would be the same sort we'd need to push a small MTV (based on the gateway) from Lagrange to Mars orbit and back (1000kW), and at very least the same 400kW tug could be used for carrying cargo to Mars orbit (and also for preplacing surface elements with a lot lower IMLEO). The gateway also enables reuse of the Mars Transfer Vehicle.

Much better and less bloated than a Battlestar Galactica Mars DRM leaving straight from LEO, throwing the whole thing away every mission.

Definitely agree it would be much smaller, but you're introducing more complexity and cost:
1) New space station, maintenance, and reserving missions
2) New propulsion system
3) New tug

And this all needs to be completed before the Mars departure/return vehicle is created!  Again, I think this is a cool idea, but it's getting away from the original mission of getting human to orbit Mars in the most focused way possible.
Look, you're making the mistake that lack of napkin-sketch-level complexity translates into lack of operational complexity. A big mistake.

Was Gemini a distraction? Not at all. It enabled a far smaller Saturn V as opposed to direct-ascent.

If you look at Apollo, it seems very complex (or very simple, from the outside). Because getting to the Moon is a complicated task. Mars is around an order of magnitude higher complexity. By going with an architecture like I described (which isn't something I just made up, but is talked about in, for instance, this paper: http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Raftery_5-25-11/Raftery_5-25-11.pdf ), you can avoid having to assemble a big exploration stack in LEO, which has its own complications... You'd also have to do low-boiloff technology.

Because of the exponential nature of the rocket equation, it makes a lot of sense to use very high-Isp propulsion for missions where you can. It may appear to be more complicated initially on the napkin-level, but the IMLEO is so much lower that the overall complexity can be lessened, along with the total mission cost.
« Last Edit: 04/16/2012 06:10 pm by Robotbeat »
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline savuporo

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #11 on: 04/16/2012 06:13 pm »
Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return
But .. why ? Whats the value in that beyond claiming "we have done it" ?

If i had a family, with fairly limited resources, putting my grandpa on a plane to Sidney and flying him straight back so that the rest of the family can cheer him on, is NOT how i would spend my funds or energy.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #12 on: 04/16/2012 06:20 pm »
The goal would either require years in deep space (we don't have that experience, yet, and we'd need to test it out first in, for instance, a deep space gateway) or high-Isp propulsion (like the SEP tug).

The gateway (which wouldn't be permanently manned, just for test missions) is essentially a prototype for a Mars Transfer Vehicle. And the tug to get it to the Lagrange Point is essentially a prototype for the high-Isp propulsion needed for such a trip. It's not a distraction, it's a very lean way to go about developing the techniques and technology and experience needed for even a Mars orbital trip like you describe.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #13 on: 04/16/2012 06:28 pm »
A quite small space station (we're talking about roughly one-tenth the size and mass of ISS) is a much different situation than another big space station like ISS. We effectively need to develop one anyway to get to Mars. The propulsion system (400kW) used to move it from LEO to a Lagrange point would be the same sort we'd need to push a small MTV (based on the gateway) from Lagrange to Mars orbit and back (1000kW), and at very least the same 400kW tug could be used for carrying cargo to Mars orbit (and also for preplacing surface elements with a lot lower IMLEO). The gateway also enables reuse of the Mars Transfer Vehicle.

Much better and less bloated than a Battlestar Galactica Mars DRM leaving straight from LEO, throwing the whole thing away every mission.

Definitely agree it would be much smaller, but you're introducing more complexity and cost:
1) New space station, maintenance, and reserving missions
2) New propulsion system
3) New tug

And this all needs to be completed before the Mars departure/return vehicle is created!  Again, I think this is a cool idea, but it's getting away from the original mission of getting human to orbit Mars in the most focused way possible.
Look, you're making the mistake that lack of napkin-sketch-level complexity translates into lack of operational complexity. A big mistake.

Was Gemini a distraction? Not at all. It enabled a far smaller Saturn V as opposed to direct-ascent.

If you look at Apollo, it seems very complex (or very simple, from the outside). Because getting to the Moon is a complicated task. Mars is around an order of magnitude higher complexity. By going with an architecture like I described (which isn't something I just made up, but is talked about in, for instance, this paper: http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Raftery_5-25-11/Raftery_5-25-11.pdf ), you can avoid having to assemble a big exploration stack in LEO, which has its own complications... You'd also have to do low-boiloff technology.

Because of the exponential nature of the rocket equation, it makes a lot of sense to use very high-Isp propulsion for missions where you can. It may appear to be more complicated initially on the napkin-level, but the IMLEO is so much lower that the overall complexity can be lessened, along with the total mission cost.

Totally understood, but you are still adding complexity into an already complex equation and doing spin offs that are not directly NECESSARY for the mission.  These new pieces of mission hardware will not come free.  Even after they are paid for, just the cost of maintaining them would be high (look at ISS as example).

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #14 on: 04/16/2012 06:30 pm »
Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return
But .. why ? Whats the value in that beyond claiming "we have done it" ?

If i had a family, with fairly limited resources, putting my grandpa on a plane to Sidney and flying him straight back so that the rest of the family can cheer him on, is NOT how i would spend my funds or energy.

I don't understand your response, please clarify.

Offline scienceguy

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #15 on: 04/16/2012 06:30 pm »
Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return
But .. why ? Whats the value in that beyond claiming "we have done it" ?

If i had a family, with fairly limited resources, putting my grandpa on a plane to Sidney and flying him straight back so that the rest of the family can cheer him on, is NOT how i would spend my funds or energy.

Sure, there isn't much value in "we have done it", but what if some people stayed on Mars as a colony? Humans living on two planets? Wouldn't that be worth it?
e^(pi*i) = -1

Offline BackInAction

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #16 on: 04/16/2012 06:32 pm »
The goal would either require years in deep space (we don't have that experience, yet, and we'd need to test it out first in, for instance, a deep space gateway) or high-Isp propulsion (like the SEP tug).

The gateway (which wouldn't be permanently manned, just for test missions) is essentially a prototype for a Mars Transfer Vehicle. And the tug to get it to the Lagrange Point is essentially a prototype for the high-Isp propulsion needed for such a trip. It's not a distraction, it's a very lean way to go about developing the techniques and technology and experience needed for even a Mars orbital trip like you describe.

While this approach could definitely have merit (not arguing it doesn't!), but why not create the mission stack and test off that without incurring the costs and spinoff projects resulting from the above?

Offline savuporo

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #17 on: 04/16/2012 06:34 pm »
Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return
But .. why ? Whats the value in that beyond claiming "we have done it" ?

If i had a family, with fairly limited resources, putting my grandpa on a plane to Sidney and flying him straight back so that the rest of the family can cheer him on, is NOT how i would spend my funds or energy.

Sure, there isn't much value in "we have done it", but what if some people stayed on Mars as a colony? Humans living on two planets? Wouldn't that be worth it?
Thats not what was proposed here and it would have an entirely different complexity, and probably a completely different optimal approach for achieving the given end goal as well.

( and IMO, no, not worth it at this point )
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline scienceguy

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #18 on: 04/16/2012 06:39 pm »
Fair enough.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Basic and Focused Human Nasa Mission Objective Best
« Reply #19 on: 04/16/2012 06:43 pm »

Rather than the flexible path goal, I think NASA should have one mission in the short term (for Humans): Transport humans to orbit Mars and return
Anyone have any thoughts on this idea?


Why?  It has no real benefits.

A.  Why should NASA or the USA being going to Mars?
B.  The mission would be a waste.  Once you done it, it would be 5 years before being able to do the next step.

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