Humans and Robots — Again

I continue my musings on this perennial topic (and its relevance to the recent Presidential announcement) in a new post at Air & Space.  Comment here, if desired.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, Philosophy of science, planetary exploration, space policy, space technology | 15 Comments

Take a Step on Another World

I have a new piece up at Air & Space on what it will be like to live and work on the Moon.  Comments welcome.

Posted in Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, space policy, space technology | 11 Comments

Are Humans Needed on the Moon?

Apollo 17 LM Pilot and professional geologist Jack Schmitt examines a boulder at the Taurus-Littrow landing site, December, 1972

During my recent appearance on The Space Show, a caller questioned the need for people on the Moon. If teleoperated robots can be used to mine resources, manufacture useful products, and set up a lunar outpost, as I have proposed, why do we even need people on the Moon? The caller’s question touches once again on the age-old argument about the transport and support of humans in outer-space, where their presence is both mass- and power-intensive and thus, more costly. But we shortchange humanity if we fall into the trap of believing that a human presence on the Moon (or in space in general) is either not necessary or that it is only required for making repairs, or for updating equipment.

Now that returning to the Moon is in the news, “Why send humans into space at all?” will be asked, again, as it lies at the heart of a very old debate and battle about space. It is the same question that spawned the 2014 Congressionally mandated study by the National Academy of Sciences. That effort posed two “enduring questions”: How far can humans go and what can they accomplish when they get there? But how can anyone truly know the answers to those questions or make sweeping pronouncements about them? Fortunately, because we’ve had 50 years of human space missions, we have demonstrable evidence about the “usefulness” and promise of humans living and working in space.

In December, we’ll celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission of 1972 – the first (and so far, only) mission to fly a professional geologist to the Moon – Lunar Module Pilot Jack Schmitt. The Apollo 17 landing site was a complex, multiple objectives site whose complete and thorough understanding and characterization was not likely within the allotted 3-days there. Nonetheless, Apollo 17 crewmembers Commander Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt traversed and explored the Taurus-Littrow valley “from one end to the other” (as Gene would say from the Moon), and where they made several significant discoveries. They found highland rocks of extreme antiquity, almost as old as the Moon itself (4.6 billion years). They sampled large boulders that represented the remnants of ancient collisions that created the large, circular mare basins more than 3.9 billion years ago. They discovered orange and black soil at Shorty crater, which later was found to be composed of tiny beads of glass created when lava generated 100s of km deep within the lunar interior erupted and sprayed into space and fell back to the surface. And they collected pieces of material thrown out from one of the youngest large craters on the Moon, Tycho, more than 2200 km distant and whose impact occurred “only” 100 million years ago. Eight hundred and forty pounds of lunar rock and soil samples were returned to Earth by American astronauts over six lunar missions. These samples have given a tangible, invaluable context to scientists studying the Moon remotely, for over 48 years.

Could autonomous machines or those under remote control have carried out this complete and thorough exploration of a complex geologic landing site? Most scientists involved in the Apollo program would argue that machines could not have accomplished what the Apollo 17 crew managed to do. Certainly, scientists studying Mars via rovers have often wished that a thinking, walking and talking human could replace that machine. Productive geological fieldwork requires more than the ability to make measurements and pick up rocks – it is important to sample the right rocks, but also to put visual and mental data into a conceptual framework that guides the geologist toward reconstructing the history and processes of a planet. Of course, “grab samples” can be informative when the site is geologically simple and the rocks have a clear context. An example of this might be collecting samples from the youngest lava flow on the Moon. A scoop of fresh regolith from such a site would most certainly contain chips of lava from that flow, allowing for the determination of its composition, age and the nature of its source region. But complex areas, where comprehensive studies demand a real time, in-depth, working knowledge of complicated geologic “mixes,” require humans who can recognize and mentally process what they see before them.

Fieldwork is a complex discipline, whereby an experienced geologist maps an area and chooses samples – not just rocks picked up at random, but rather carefully chosen – significant and representative samples that inform us about process and history. In any natural setting, literally billions of bits of data could be collected. And that’s what a machine does – it collects data. A human field scientist also collects data, but they also are able to high-grade it by collecting only the most significant and relevant data. It takes extensive study, then training and experience in the field, to be able to recognize the significant and distinguish it from the trivial – to see the big picture. We often remark on the Mars Exploration Rovers for their accomplishments, yet for all the data collected, we still cannot draw a simple geologic cross-section of those landing sites, and we still do not know the origin of many of the rocks at the site (igneous or sedimentary). A human geologist would have obtained this important information after a few hours of fieldwork. The mass- and power-intensive humans give a big return on their investment.

In addition to fieldwork, humans possess other qualities that machines do not. The ability of people to recognize, diagnose and solve equipment malfunctions has been proven time and again throughout the history of the space program. The Apollo 17 crew not only explored the valley of Taurus-Littrow, they also deployed an experiment package that required careful installation and alignment. They fabricated and replaced the fender of their lunar rover by using the famous stand-by of all terrestrial repairmen, duct tape and plastic maps (if the rover fender had not been replaced, the dust kicked up by the rover wheels would have soon coated all electronic equipment, leading to overheating and termination of the surface exploration). During the Skylab program (1973), repair work by the crew saved the crippled space station after it was damaged during launch. Literally heroic efforts by Pete Conrad and his crewmates Paul Weitz and Joe Kerwin allowed not only habitation of the overheated Skylab, which was then used by two subsequent crews, but literally saved the entire program. When it was discovered after launch that the mirror of the Hubble Telescope had been ground incorrectly, the crew of Shuttle Mission STS-61 were sent on a mission to put corrective lens on the telescope, again saving the entire program. The assembly and numerous repairs and maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS) require the use of both human and robotic assets to complete, without which the program certainly would not have survived. And this new era in space spawned an explosion of engineers and scientists, and dominated our culture with space movies, architecture, fashion and technology.

Fortunately for humanity, people are required in space to do what only people can do (while also dreaming up new things to do and new ways to do them) – tasks requiring experience and knowledge guided by reasoned judgment and imagination. The ability to act and then learn from such action is critical. People will always innovate solutions for seemingly intractable problems that may arise. A combination of fine-scale manual dexterity and expert, informed knowledge and the ability to react, creates an ease of capabilities in space unachievable by machines alone. The template created during the assembly of the ISS – in which people using robotic machines assembled a complex spacecraft in orbit – is the most likely and productive path for future space activity of all kinds.

Do we need people on the Moon? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Humans bring unique capabilities that are needed to accomplish new things – unknowable things, things that will enhance our lives on Earth. Studies that conclude that only robots should conduct space and surface operations – as people require protective equipment and habitats – is shortsighted and harmful to a vibrant, intelligent, and inquisitive society. Both humans, and the machines they create to assist them, are required for success in this grand adventure.

Posted in Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, Philosophy of science, planetary exploration, space policy, space technology | 23 Comments

Jack Schmitt’s Lunar Memories

The famous night launch of the Saturn V carrying the Apollo 17 spacecraft on December 7, 2017

Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot and Geologist Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt has posted a new item on his web site: the beginning of a reminiscence of his historic flight, which departed for the Moon 44 years and 11 months ago today (December 7, 1972).  Although only one chapter is posted so far, it is a great read, describing the busy last month of training, simulation and constant work before the launch of an Apollo crew.  I urge readers of this blog to visit his site and enjoy Chapter 4 – Thirty Days and Counting…  I eagerly look forward to the next installment.

On a related note, my good friend Bill Mellberg, who passed away this year, wrote an essay recalling his attendance at the launch of Apollo 17 (which includes a guest appearance by Wernher von Braun).  Bill’s essay can be found at Jack’s web site, HERE.

Posted in Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, space technology, Space transportation | 4 Comments

Why We Go To The Moon – A Mission Statement

I have a new blog post up at Air & Space on the need for a “mission statement” for our return to the lunar surface.  I advocated this during the VSE days, but lost that argument.  I believe this to be an important issue — previous NASA efforts at lunar return were marked by confusion and aimlessness.  Please comment, if you feel so inclined.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, Philosophy of science, space policy, space technology, Space transportation | 17 Comments

Flight of the Space Turkey

The new Orion spacecraft — Cadillac or Edsel?

Throwing a wrench into NASA’s engine of progress may not have been the intent of Vice President Pence’s first meeting of the National Space Council with his announcement that a human return to the lunar surface is the new direction for America’s human spaceflight program. But a wrench it was and will remain until pieces of the formerly touted “Journey to Mars” – the heavy lift SLS launch vehicle, the Orion spacecraft, and a relatively recent addition, the Deep Space Gateway (DSG, a small human-tended space station in a distant orbit around the Moon) – are reimagined and torqued into the new strategic direction.

Much venom has been hurled at the SLS launch vehicle, largely on the grounds of its alleged cost and its origins as a “government rocket” (i.e., “pork”). But heavy lift launch capability is extremely useful for the emplacement of a substantial cislunar infrastructure. Heavy lift permits the launch of large and/or multiple vehicles and facilities all at one time, and that makes the coordination of their arrival and assembly at a selected trans-LEO destination easier. The core SLS vehicle delivers 70-80 metric tones to LEO, more than enough to put about 10 tones on the lunar surface, or 15-20 tones into low lunar orbit. In addition, a large rocket also offers a large shroud diameter; volume can actually be more critical than throw mass for large architecture pieces like big landers and habitat elements. Technically, the SLS is a good fit for any future lunar return architecture.

The main argument against the SLS is its cost, but current estimates of $1-2 billion per launch are based primarily on the low projected flight rate planned by the previous program of record, which called for very few missions. A faster pace of a lunar surface return could bring these costs down, although they would still be in the range of multi-hundreds of millions of dollars per flight. If the long-promised and long-awaited commercial heavy lift vehicle eventually emerges, this estimate of cost – and the choice of a heavy lift launch vehicle – should be re-evaluated (but not until then).

The Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is an idea that comes from a variety of architectural studies that looked at the use of a staging node placed beyond LEO – well outside of Earth’s gravity well, for a human Mars mission. Initially focused on the Earth-Moon Lagrange Points, subsequent studies converged on something called a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit, a complex path around the Moon that is relatively stable (requiring little orbital maintenance propulsion). The orbit selected for initial study is quite far from the Moon, up to 70,000 km distant. While this distance may make a good staging orbit for a departing Mars mission, it cannot easily support missions to low lunar orbit or to the lunar surface – the new strategic direction (delta-v to the surface from this orbit is near lunar escape velocity, ~2400 m/s).

In our published architectures (Spudis-Lavoie – Using the resources of the Moon to create a permanent, cislunar space faring system (2011) and Lavoie-Spudis – The Purpose of Human Spaceflight and a Lunar Architecture to Explore the Potential of Resource Utilization (2016), a propellant depot/transfer node is placed in low lunar orbit to keep the lunar lander transport a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle, making the lander completely reusable. Moving the node point to the Earth-Moon L-1 point costs roughly an extra 800 m/s in delta-v. Our lander design is already challenged with the requirement of re-usability (mostly propulsion system concerns: multi-start use lifetime, with little to no maintenance) and by having an engine-out capability to provide reasonable abort scenarios. Other design considerations include extreme temperature variations (thermal cycles) and parts fatigue, which results in higher subsystem mass than a single-use lander. All of these factors lead us to place the depot/node at the lowest reasonable point in orbit around the Moon, ~100 km circular. Orbital maintenance is on the order of 500 m/s/yr, which is achievable for the depot. After initial operations, the depot/node can change its orbit to a more advantageous one should future lander designs prove more capable.

Properly reconfigured, the DSG could serve as a low lunar orbit habitat-depot-node. This would require re-thinking its mission (fuel depot in addition to habitat) and its thermal design, because low lunar orbit can be quite warm on the daytime side of the Moon. The “lumpiness” of the uneven lunar gravity field (mascons) makes low orbits unstable and considerable propulsion is necessary to maintain it. However, we now have lunar gravity maps of extraordinary quality that reveal “frozen orbits” – ones where virtually no orbital maintenance is required (the currently operating LRO spacecraft is in such a frozen orbit). Use of these orbits would need to be traded against accessibility and lander energy cost, but in any event, a propellant depot would possess more than adequate propulsion for orbital maintenance. Finally, and most importantly, a station in low lunar orbit is well placed to support operations in space and on the lunar surface.

If both the SLS and the DSG could be adapted to the requirements of lunar surface return, what about Orion? Consider this: Orion was originally conceived as a component of the Constellation spaceflight system; it was designed to transport people to and from the Moon in a manner similar to the Apollo spacecraft. In short, this was a mission launched “all up” from Earth, with pieces discarded after use along the way. In the case of Constellation, two vehicles, Ares I and V, would launch the Orion and the Altair and transfer stage, respectively. The two vehicles would dock in low Earth orbit and depart for the Moon. Burning into lunar orbit, the crew would transfer to the Altair lunar lander and descend and land on the Moon for a period of a couple of weeks. After exploration of the landing site, the crew would ascend to the orbiting Orion and transfer into it for their journey home. The Orion spacecraft would discard its service module and re-enter the atmosphere at near-escape velocity, splashing down in the ocean for recovery. At each step in the above mission sequence, parts are discarded and not reused, requiring high levels of funding and leaving little, if any, hardware in space as legacy infrastructure.

When the Constellation program was cancelled in 2010, Orion was the only piece preserved, largely because at the time, it was the only spacecraft capable of sending American astronauts into space. However, without its Altair lander, Orion was no longer a lunar spacecraft system. It instead became a vehicle whose only purpose is to send crew into trans-LEO space and allow them to return to Earth with aero-thermal entry. It can support a crew of four, for periods of a couple of weeks, but cannot last much longer. It is for this reason that the ill-conceived Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) concept was born – designed to give Orion someplace to go and something to do. Despite the fact that the ARM was nearly worthless scientifically and operationally, it was a mission configured to the capabilities of the Orion spacecraft. To support this scaled back mission profile, the current edition of the Service Module for the Orion (built by the Europeans) is smaller than the previous edition under Constellation. Unfortunately, that also means that the Orion can get into (but cannot then get out of) low lunar orbit, taking from Orion what little value it had for a possible lunar mission.

Where does that leave things as NASA contemplates lunar return? We currently have three pieces of space hardware, each configured to support a vaguely defined series of missions to deep cislunar space. The SLS can be adapted to transport all the pieces we need to establish and operate an outpost on the Moon. The Deep Space Gateway can be modified to operate in low lunar orbit, making it a possible staging node for trips to and from the Moon’s surface. But that still leaves us with Orion. True enough, crew members leaving the Moon will need a way to return to Earth, but if a permanent outpost is established there, we need to develop a reusable system that transports crew and cargo to and from low Earth orbit on a recurring basis (a reusable cislunar transfer stage). Such a vehicle would fire a rocket to accelerate out of LEO into a translunar trajectory. Approaching the Moon, it could burn into and out of low lunar orbit, delivering crew and supplies to be transferred into the lunar lander vehicle. On the way home, rather than direct entry and landing on Earth, it would aerobrake (i.e., use Earth’s atmosphere to slow the vehicle from escape velocity to orbital velocity) into Earth orbit and rendezvous with a transfer node in LEO. Here the crew would transfer to a commercial vehicle for return to Earth. All of these systems have been envisioned, at least conceptually, by a variety of published architectures over the last decade.

But can Orion be repurposed? In contrast to most informed opinion, I believe that of the three major human spaceflight pieces described here, Orion is the one that is the least useful and most likely to vanish. This should not be too surprising, considering that it is an orphaned, smaller piece of a larger system designed to return people to the Moon. Yet work continues on Orion, heedless of any possible change in mission – and has done so throughout the last 8 years as its mission gradually morphed from Moon-Mars spacecraft, to an asteroid spacecraft, to a “Space Station in Deep Space” spacecraft. This bureaucratic resilience suggests that setting Orion aside is a nonstarter – contractors and Congressional advocates may insist on its continuation, in a manner similar to the SLS “lobby,” which assured continuity of that development program.

Ideally, one would design a return to the Moon using a clean sheet, focusing on early robotic presence and a series of newly imagined, modular, reusable space-based human assets. However, we do not live in that world. So the question is how to “MacGyver” what we have to get what we need. Listed in order of decreasing usefulness, SLS, DSG and Orion can all be used in a lunar return. The SLS provides us a way to get large, heavy payloads to the Moon. The DSG, while not currently configured to support lunar surface activities, could be modified to do so without too much re-design. The Orion could be used for early human flights to the DSG – establishing a human presence near the Moon, while robots would do much of the early resource prospecting and processing work on the surface. After human return to the lunar surface, Orion could be docked at the DSG and serve as a “lifeboat” vehicle in the event that emergency circumstances require the outpost crew return quickly to Earth.

From Super-Apollo to crew assured-return vehicle – a diminished ending to a once-noble vehicle development? Possibly. It depends on your point of view. As it currently exists, Orion is not a particularly useful spacecraft. But if we use it to help establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, it will have served a noble purpose indeed.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, space industry, space policy, space technology, Space transportation | 26 Comments

A Pioneering NASA Administrator

I have new post up at Air & Space discussing the “Pioneering Doctrine” devised by Rep. Jim Bridenstine as part of his American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA).  Although not yet a passed law, this doctrine is informative about his thinking on the rationale and strategic objectives of our national space program.  Comment here if desired.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, planetary exploration, space industry, space policy, space technology, Space transportation | 15 Comments

Thoughts on the Job of NASA Administrator

NASA administrators, past and future. What makes a good one?

The White House announcement of the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R- OK) for NASA Administrator drew some immediate and rather surprising (to me, anyway) reactions. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), whose state is critically involved in America’s space program, both questioned Bridenstine’s appointment. Sen. Nelson believes the space agency needs “a space professional” to run it; Sen. Rubio put forth that the job of NASA Administrator has traditionally been non-political, arguing that appointing a politician to the job will work towards destroying the bipartisan goodwill he claims the space program has traditionally enjoyed.

Let us examine some of these contentions and consider what qualities a “good” NASA Administrator must have. One of the first things to recognize about the job is that the Administrator is appointed by the President and therefore, works for the President. The heads of federal agencies do not set policy – they implement it. That said, it is true that NASA Administrators tend to have a bit more influence on policy than most other agencies, but mostly because as representatives of a technical entity, they deal with issues in which other administration officials are not expected to be conversant. The newly reconstituted National Space Council chaired by Vice President Pence will oversee our national space policy and it will set no policy path that does not have the full approval of the President.

The NASA Administrator’s job is to keep the agency running and funded while at the same time, implementing specific policy directions given by the President. Does such a job description require a “space professional” as Senator Nelson claims? Since its inception, NASA has had eleven administrators (I exclude from this discussion the “acting administrators” because these people held the job for shorter times as caretakers until a permanent administrator could be named). Past administrators have had a wide variety of expertise, backgrounds and temperaments, yet some common threads emerge. Glennan, Paine, Beggs, Goldin and Griffin were all engineers by training but each had considerable executive experience in industry and government. Fletcher and Frosch had degrees in physics, but their work experience was almost entirely as engineers and managers. O’Keefe was trained as a naval engineer, but became a career government bureaucrat; when he took over the reins at NASA, he famously described himself as a “bean-counter” (which was exactly what the then-disastrous International Space Station program needed).

Jim Webb was a former Marine Corps Reserve pilot, a lawyer, a federal bureaucrat and arguably, the greatest administrator NASA ever had. True enough, during the Apollo program, Webb was provided with abundant resources to carry out his mission, but one should note he was also given a monumental task, one that could have easily turned into a complete disaster – and indeed, with the Apollo 1 fire, almost did. Webb was a powerhouse of management competence, a guy who knew his technical limitations and was secure enough to seek and obtain solid advice from competent engineers like George Low and Robert Gilruth. But just as importantly, Webb could explain problems and progress to members of the Executive and the Congress – key people needed to approve the resources and political backing to complete the job. Webb kept the Apollo funding flowing and he completed the assigned task. The glorious NASA that exists in the mind of the public is largely the creation of Jim Webb and the people he hired during the 1960s.

The last two NASA Administrators, Richard Truly and Charles Bolden – both pilots and former astronauts – arguably were unsuited for the Administrator’s job.  Truly is a former Shuttle astronaut who held the reins at NASA during the first half of the George H. W. Bush administration, a critical period in the history of the agency that was undergoing a major crisis of confidence in both its human and robotic spaceflight programs. The Shuttle was flying again after the long post-Challenger hiatus, but little progress had been made on Space Station Freedom, the principal program for future human spaceflight. The robotic program was equally troubled – the Mars Observer spacecraft had been mysteriously lost and the Hubble Space Telescope was found to have been launched with “blurred vision,” caused by an incorrectly ground main mirror.

But Truly’s biggest failure (which led to his sacking) was foot-dragging on President Bush’s Space Exploration Initiative, an attempt to set into motion a new strategic direction for the civil space program by returning to the Moon and undertaking a mission to Mars. Truly disliked the idea, mostly because he saw it as destroying his beloved Shuttle program and he thought that the agency was incapable of the added work, given its problems with Space Station Freedom. The tepid agency response to Bush’s bold space initiative infuriated the President, who fired Truly and replaced him with Dan Goldin (whose reign then proceeded to create new idiocies to replace those perpetrated by Truly).

Charles Bolden faithfully executed the policy path desired by President Obama and his Presidential Science Advisor, John Holdren – the unilateral cancellation of the Vision for Space Exploration (a “bipartisan” space policy if there ever was one) and set a Potemkin Village “Mission to Mars” in its place. So, in a strict bureaucratic sense, Bolden might be considered a “good administrator” in that he faithfully implemented the policy of the President he served. But what remains of the once-glorious agency after eight years of Bolden is almost too painful to contemplate. With the Shuttle retired, we have no American means to get astronauts to and from a space station that we largely paid for and built. Plans for future human missions beyond LEO are meaningless and inconsequential “make work” projects with little value and no lasting spacefaring legacy. Bolden actively promoted the fraudulent “Mission to Mars” mythology created within the agency, a policy that prevented the Congress and the public from knowing they had lost what was once (and was still being) taken for granted – a robust space program that was going somewhere and doing something significant.

So the job that Jim Bridenstine takes on (Senate willing) is anything but a cakewalk. A Bridenstine-led NASA should carefully re-assemble a competent technical base at NASA – replace the lost core of engineering excellence that has died, left or retired over the past decade. The new Administrator will oversee the forthcoming transition to “commercial crew” in which industry will provide transportation to and from the ISS for American astronauts. Most importantly, the new administrator will guide the agency into a new direction for human spaceflight beyond LEO.

That new direction may come very soon. The Space Council meets this month for the first time. Assuming that sanity prevails, both the fake “Mission to Mars” and the gimmicky “cislunar proving ground” ideas will be dropped. What’s required now is a sustained, incremental approach to spaceflight beyond LEO, an architecture culminating in a return to the Moon and the processing of its resources to fuel a permanent space-based transportation system. His published writings clearly indicate how intricately Jim Bridenstine understands these needs. Through his sponsorship of the American Space Renaissance Act, Bridenstine has demonstrated not only a clear, long-range vision, but also a deep technical understanding of and interest in what is required and what is possible for America’s civil space program.

I welcome the nomination of Jim Bridenstine for the job of NASA Administrator – far from being “a partisan pick,” he is an inspired choice. Once confirmed, Bridenstine will knowingly walk into an incredibly difficult situation, one with significant pitfalls and detours along the way, yet he has done his homework. He understands the situation and knows what needs to be done. A “politician?” Certainly. Who better to speak to members of the Congress in an understandable manner about the needs of the agency? Politics is the means by which Americans conduct public business. To put it another way, what agency head in Washington is not a politician at some level? Not a “space professional”? Jim Bridenstine has demonstrated through his background, writings and speeches that he fully understands what our national space agency needs and what should be required from our space program. I contend that Jim Bridenstine understands these things much better than many of the “space professionals” I deal with on a daily basis.

To Senators Rubio and Nelson: Do you want a meaningful, productive and successful national space program? If so, you will support the President’s nomination of Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator. However, if you are content with the debilitating and pointless status quo – the stagnation and withering of NASA – then it is understandable that you might want someone other than Jim Bridenstine at the helm. That is the choice at hand.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, Lunar Science, space policy, Space transportation | 18 Comments

Eclipse Happens

I have a new post up over at Air & Space discussing the upcoming total solar eclipse, mainly as a vehicle to proselytize for lunar return.  Enjoy the spectacle next Monday!

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, space industry, space policy, space technology, Space transportation | 7 Comments

A Timely and Excellent Production: Destination Moon

A new documentary about lunar return from CuriosityStream

The internet video streaming channel CuriosityStream has released a documentary about a return to the Moon produced by Chris Haws.  The five-part, hour-long production nicely outlines the rationale and approach for going back to the Moon to find, develop and use its resources.

I was asked to participate in this production, where I discuss the aspects of lunar return on camera. I am very pleased with the final product.  The graphics are very well done.

You can preview the five parts at the CuriosityStream web site:

Chapter 1: A Matter of Gravity

Chapter 2: Water – The Big Question

Chapter 3: From Outpost to Colony

Chapter 4: Surviving……And Thriving?

Chapter 5: Mars Direct or Moon First

A separate review of the series can be found HERE.

While I received no financial benefit from the production, it certainly advances my own (and others’) firm belief in the value of the Moon to humanity’s future in space.

Posted in Lunar development, Lunar exploration, space policy, space technology, Space transportation | 18 Comments