July 5, 2005

CAPRICORN TWO:

NASA's Moon Plans Shift into High Gear (Brian Berger, 7/04/05, Space News)

NASA is set to begin rolling out the results of a landmark space exploration architecture study that calls for building an Apollo-like astronaut capsule and conducting up to six lunar sorties per year using rocket hardware derived from the space shuttle.

Sixty days in the making, the Exploration Systems Architecture Study will go a long way toward defining the approach and the hardware NASA will use to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020, and eventually go on to Mars.

That hardware includes the so-called Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and the rockets that will be needed to loft both the CEV and huge amounts of cargo that will be needed to establish a sustainable astronaut presence on the lunar surface.

Long before being named NASA administrator this spring, Mike Griffin was on the record saying that he thought the United States ought to take maximum advantage of existing space shuttle hardware and infrastructure in building the new launchers. [...]

[N]ASA gave a small group of outside experts an update on the Exploration Systems Architecture Study the week of June 27 and, according to a Washington-based source who had been briefed in turn, laid out a lunar exploration architecture that includes as many as six flights a year to the Moon.

According to this source, key elements of the lunar exploration architecture are coming into focus. For example:

* The CEV would be a reusable capsule capable of carrying four passengers to the Moon.

* NASA would use a three-person version of the CEV capsule to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station three times a year.

* An unmanned version of the CEV would be used as a cargo carrier, conducting three space station resupply missions a year.

* Both the CEV launcher and the heavy-lifter would be shuttle-derived and cost about $3 billion a year once in service.

* The CEV would launch atop a single solid-rocket booster whose design is virtually the same as those that help lift the space shuttle off the launch pad.

* The heavy-lift vehicle initially would be sized to lift 100 metric tons into orbit for Moon missions but could evolve to loft 120 metric tons for Mars missions. [...]

ATK Thiokol, the Magna, Utah-based company that builds the solid-rocket boosters, has been touting shuttle-derived solutions for NASA’s exploration needs.

“It’s safe, it’s simple and it’s soon,” said former NASA astronaut Scott Horowitz, ATK Thiokol’s director of exploration space transportation. “That has been the mantra since the astronaut office first looked at this problem after the Columbia accident.”

Horowitz has been making the rounds in Washington in recent weeks briefing congressional staffers and news media on shuttle-derived launcher designs. In an interview with Space News, he estimated development costs for a human-rated CEV launch vehicle based on the shuttle solid rocket booster at $1 billion to $1.5 billion, a figure that does not include the CEV itself.

“Probably NASA could spend $200 [million] to $300 million a year and this thing could be sitting on the pad by 2010 and ready to put people on top,” Horowitz said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at July 5, 2005 9:14 PM
Comments

Probably NASA could spend [...] $300 million a year and this thing could be sitting on the pad by 2010..."

Since Americans already spend $ 500 million a year downloading novelty cellphone ringers, failure to develop and deploy the Crew Exploration Vehicle and CEV launch vehicle would be damning.

On the other hand, as my brother recently remarked concerning extreme science, after I'd used the same comparison: "When your cellphone plays Total Eclipse of the Heart, you know your wife is calling. When you spend $ 20 billion on the Supercollider, you don't know what you're getting."

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 6, 2005 3:07 AM

What's the point of going to the moon again?

It's been done.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 6, 2005 5:40 AM

Establishing Moonbases is practice for the Mars missions.

Further, it's practice for extending human dominion to the entire solar system, which may well be necessary for human survival someday.

The bottom line is that some humans, perhaps most, are content to eat, sleep, and excrete.
Others are driven to strive.

In the end, it may all be dust in the wind, but I think not. After all, we'd still be huddling in caves if not for the second type.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 6, 2005 7:19 AM

Ali:

To stay.

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2005 8:05 AM

We still have nowhere near the tech required for colonisation of space by humans.

I doubt we'd learn much that we didn't know already.

This just smells of a PR exercise.

Michael: A lo of what drove exploration of the globe was the prospect of a pot of gold at the end of the journey. Space travel will always be a minor concern until there's serious money-making opportunities.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 6, 2005 9:17 AM

I doubt we'd learn much that we didn't know already.

Do you know how many times throughout human history that those words have been uttered in error ? ;}

We do, in fact, have the tech required to colonize space, and the Moon, although possibly not Mars, yet.

The pot o' gold awaiting us in space is larger than all of Earth's riches exploited and capitalized upon so far, combined.

Unlimited energy.
Unknown but theoretically massive quantities of natural mineral resources.
A safe place to locate dangerous or polluting industries.
Life extending and quality of life enhancing low or zero gravity for the seniors.
The entertainment aspects of low or zero g, both as participants and as spectators.
The stars.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 6, 2005 10:30 AM

We aren't going to learn much, except about what kind of people we are.

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2005 11:09 AM

of course there is no military value to controlling space...ahem.

Posted by: cjm at July 6, 2005 11:17 AM

"We aren't going to learn much, except about what kind of people we are."

Which is reason enough.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 6, 2005 1:27 PM

The Capricorn I mission was "faked", OJ, what does your title imply?

Posted by: Dave W. at July 6, 2005 2:22 PM

Dave:

Exactly that.

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2005 2:28 PM
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