The New NASA Budget and “Hurrying” Back to the Moon

The new direction. This time, they got the emphasis right.

When new budgets are issued, our first instinct is to see how much we were allocated and then moan about why it isn’t enough. It’s no different with the new NASA budget, and so the predictable responses have started. Budgets are statements of intent and philosophy by administrations. They are changed and modified by Congress during the appropriations process, one that involves a good deal of give and take on both sides. In this case, NASA’s new budget affirms the White House’s intent to return to the Moon, specifically by creating a new program of lunar robotic missions in preparation for permanent human return.

Details are sparse, largely because NASA has no permanent Administrator at the moment and thus, no senior management team to devise an architecture for lunar return. The ridiculous delay in confirming Jim Bridenstine as the new Administrator greatly hinders the agency’s ability to prepare and present a coherent, logical rationale with their budget proposal. The current document is largely a placeholder, designed to indicate general intent rather than advocate any specific implementation. So any talk about the Administration not moving fast enough getting us back to the Moon is moot. We’ve wasted a lot of time and money starting lunar programs, only to have them killed before they could get started. This administration appears willing to try and get it right this time.

The biggest news seems to be President Trump’s desire to end U.S. financial support for the operation and use of the International Space Station by 2025. But rather than simply “pulling the plug” on the program as President Obama did to Project Constellation in 2010, the new plan calls for a “seamless transition” to commercial and/or international operation of the ISS by that date. Many are skeptical of the expression of such intent, but at least this issue has been given some serious thought.

The International Space Station (ISS/Station) – continuously operated and inhabited since November 2000 – was not intended to be an endless NASA program. Originally, a space station in low Earth orbit (LEO) was conceived as a stepping-stone to destinations in space beyond LEO. The original von Braun architecture was shuttle-station-Moon tug-Mars mission, done in that order. The logic of the von Braun plan was that each step into space enabled the next one. It was further envisioned that once emplaced, no asset would be abandoned, although left unanswered was exactly what entity would be financially responsible for an operational waypoint.

That stepping-stone concept was largely abandoned during the 1993 re-design of the ISS, when the station was planned for a 51.6° inclination orbit to accommodate launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Russian spaceport. Due to the difficulty of conducting cislunar voyages from this orbit, plans for a reusable space tug (orbital transfer vehicle) to be based at Station were dropped. The focus shifted from space transportation and exploration to materials science and the study of microgravity and human health in space. The use of Station as a transportation node for deep space missions was eliminated, effectively ending the manned “National Space Transportation System.” Thus, ISS became not a stepping-stone, but an end-point destination and it has served that role for the last 20 years. From that perspective alone, designation of the Moon as the next step is long overdue.

Beyond these considerations, commercialization of the ISS is the logical next step after initiation of the commercial cargo and commercial crew programs. When the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) was unveiled in 2004, some quarters immediately began planning an “exit strategy” for the proposed lunar base. So why is it now such a stretch to plan an exit strategy for the ISS? We have learned much about operations, assembly and maintenance of large systems and spacecraft, and about human health in microgravity. So in that sense, ISS has served some of its role as an exploration “stepping-stone.” We have demonstrated what humans and machines in space can do, and now it’s time to pass this phase on to commercial interests and focus on the logical, constructive next step – the Moon.

For space science, the new budget both giveth and taketh. In contrast to some hysteria, Earth science has not been decimated – continued mission development, launch and operations are supported to the tune of $1.78 billion. Four missions are terminated: three climate science missions in development and one operational spacecraft (DSCOVR). The latter has operated for the last three years and has already met its core mission goals. There has been much gnashing of teeth about the proposed termination of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the next generation space telescope. The astrophysics community must accept some responsibility for that, as the James Webb Space Telescope, originally to cost a little less than $2 billion and launch by 2011, now costs over $10 billion (and counting) and a has a launch scheduled for mid-2019, set a poor example of technical and managerial oversight. Lest you think that I unfairly pick on other sciences here, note that my field (planetary science) has its own white whale in the form of the Mars Sample Return (MSR), a mission whose cost would most certainly exceed $10 billion. The desirement of more than 30 years of studies, MSR is barely possible technically and has held questionable scientific value since the late 1980s, when we recognized that certain meteorites come from Mars. Still, the MSR is provided study money in the new budget.

Another criticism of the new budget is the vague timeline for lunar return. Here we must recall how the now cancelled Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), proposed by the last administration as a substitute for lunar return, not only flew in the face of bipartisan Congressional support for a sustained lunar return, but also consumed valuable time and money, thus delaying plans for a sustained space transportation system using the Moon’s resources. So any suggestion that we’re not moving back to the Moon fast enough with this budget is laughably inappropriate.

Possibly the most serious issue in terms of the new direction is the retention of the Deep Space Gateway (DSG), a program of questionable value for lunar return. This facility is a morphed version of ARM, designed to give the appearance of accomplishment on the “Journey to Mars”. With a need to give the new Orion spacecraft a destination it can reach, NASA plans to place the DSG in what is called a “rectilinear halo orbit” around the Moon. The DSG is thus both “in cislunar space” and “near the Moon,” with the current NASA management claiming that these properties mean that the DSG supports the Trump Administration’s goal of lunar return. In fact, both the location and configuration of the DSG make it irrelevant to that goal. The DSG orbit makes lunar surface access marginal and difficult – it is too far from the Moon, resulting in long transit times and large delta-v (energy) requirements to access the surface. The current strawman design for DSG is that of a “mini-me” ISS – a habitat module, a docking collar, and some solar arrays. We will learn nothing from this configuration that we do not already know from the ISS experience. So don’t blame new the budget for why we’re not “hurrying back” to the Moon.

That said, DSG could become a useful piece of a cislunar transportation infrastructure if it were moved closer to the Moon (a few hundred km high polar orbit). Placed there, it could serve as a transportation hub for a reusable lunar lander and the cislunar crew transport. Ultimately, it could become a lunar orbital propellant depot, with the ability to accept and distribute lunar products. Such a facility would become part of the permanent transportation infrastructure of cislunar space and play its important role in stimulating commercial space development

The new budget also proposes to eliminate NASA’s Office of Education and move that money to exploration efforts. Though widely criticized, I think this is actually a good move. NASA has spent untold millions for “education” over the years, although these efforts have not resulted in any noticeable increase in public support for space. And there are more unemployed aerospace engineers and scientists now than there are actually working in the field. The idea that NASA must have an Education Office to create the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students is ludicrous – the biggest influx of new technical people inspired by space exploration came during Apollo, when the agency’s outreach efforts were minimal and primitive in the extreme but we were flying to the Moon. I was one of those students and I didn’t need a NASA education program to get me excited about science and space. To inspire the next generation of STEM workers, we need to actually do inspiring things in human space exploration – real and ongoing missions that show there are actual roles and careers in space for their generation.

The good news is that the administration’s budget emphasizes the Moon as the goal. With limited funds in our national purse for discretionary spending, the amount allotted to NASA for space exploration shows this administration favors a strong national manned space program. We can always wish for more money. Perhaps now is the opportune time for NASA leadership to show that it can budget $20 billion a year into an incremental and sustainable return to the Moon.  With a return to the Moon, we can test the viability of lunar resources, science will flourish (e.g., astronomers will be able to see deeply back into time, sheltered from Earth’s noise on the Moon’s far side), and we will create a permanent spacefaring system, thereby, finally bringing the Moon and cislunar space into our economic sphere. It isn’t about “hurrying” somewhere, or the “size” of budgets, but seizing the opportunity to start and remain on a path that sees us reclaim our leadership role in space exploration and space development.

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15 Responses to The New NASA Budget and “Hurrying” Back to the Moon

  1. Mike Hilton says:

    BRAVO! I was ridiculed off of one website due to my assertion that NASA didn’t need an education program to “inspire” our youth or rally support for the Space Program. I was inspired in the sixties that we were actually going somewhere and exploring the moon and our retreat to low earth orbit was one of the most disheartening things that has occurred in my lifetime. The dirty little secret is that NASA “education” is only a means of funneling money into the vast and bloated government/ education complex. It’s way past time we actually go somewhere.

  2. nova9 says:

    I don’t think Trump has any real interest in space travel. But Vice President Pence, on the other hand, is clearly a certified ‘Space Cadette’. And Trump appears to have given Pence full reign in a matter that, again, he has very little interest in.

    So I tend to view the new lunar program as the Pence program.

    Propellant producing water depots are the keys to making human operations within cis-lunar space and beyond sustainable. So placing such depots at LEO and EML1 would make the most sense, IMO.

    And any microgravity habitat deployed beyond LEO should also be located at EML1. Such a deep space habitat should be as simple and cheap as possible and mostly used as a docking station for crewed vehicles operating between LEO and EML1 and landing vehicles operating between EML1 and the lunar surface. The DSH should also be adequately shielded against heavy nuclei and major solar events. A Bigelow BA-330 at EML1 would probably be all that NASA needs. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a large and spacious EUS propellant tank derived habitat there as a prelude to large EUS propellant tank derived habitats deployed to the lunar surface.

    I also think it will be critical for the administration to quickly initiate a lunar COTS program for cargo and crew landings on the lunar surface— funding a variety reusable LOX/LH2 vehicles such as the XEUS and MADV concepts.


    • gbaikie says:

      Propellant producing water depots are the keys to making human operations within cis-lunar space and beyond sustainable. So placing such depots at LEO and EML1 would make the most sense, IMO. ”

      Propellant production in space, should be commercial.
      NASA should make a depot in LEO [so not commercial but could lead to commercial
      depots. The NASA depot should focus on LOX only, and obviously get LOX from Earth.
      In terms of propellant production- Lunar water mining- it should be a commercial operation and it needs a commercial depot in Low lunar orbit- which start as a depot
      storing Lunar LOX, and may start with LH2 from Earth.

      In terms of what NASA should do, make LOX depot in LEO, do as it’s doing with robotic
      mission exploring lunar poles- related to finding minable lunar water. And robotic missions to the Moon [and other robotic mission, anywhere] could use the NASA LOX depot in LEO [and have Depot at correct inclination].
      The manned mission which follow- both Lunar and Mars, could also use LOX depot.
      Once start Mars program, one needs more depots, but still use depot in LEO. For Mars
      one have depot in EML1 [or EML2] and depots in Mars orbit- high orbit and low orbit- low mars and Mars L-2.
      But during NASA lunar program, NASA one just needs 1 depot in LEO- and all others could or should be commercial depots- or all NASA does is buy the rocket fuel it needs from the various location- EML1 and mars orbits. Or NASA needs rocket fuel when it’s needed- and not worried how it’s done- worried about price and on safe and on time delivery.

      • nova9 says:

        Much cheaper, safer, and simpler for private companies to export water from Earth to LEO and EML1 that to ship LH2. And it will be much simpler and cheaper to export water from the lunar surface to EML1 and eventually to Earth than LH2.

        Water is also valuable for producing air for habitats (as is done on the ISS) and space vehicles and as radiation shielding against heavy nuclei and major solar events. And, of course, water is used for washing, drinking, and food preparation in orbiting habitats.

        The first solar powered propellant producing water depot should probably be deployed by NASA, IMO, using an SLS EUS modified with the ULA’s IVF technology and Orbital ATKs solar array technology. This would give NASA the ability to store up to 128 tonnes of LOX/LH2 propellant plus perhaps about 200 tonnes of water. But NASA funding needs to be used to demonstrate that the solar powered manufacturing and storage of propellant in space and on the lunar surface can actually be done before private industry can take the economic risk of investing billions in such ventures.

        Since an excess of oxygen for propellant will be produced from the electrolysis of water, when reusable vehicles are initially deployed into orbit, they could also carry LH2 in their tanks to take advantage of the excess LOX supply.


      • gbaikie says:

        –nova9 says:
        February 16, 2018 at 9:37 pm

        Much cheaper, safer, and simpler for private companies to export water from Earth to LEO and EML1 that to ship LH2. And it will be much simpler and cheaper to export water from the lunar surface to EML1 and eventually to Earth than LH2.–

        I think you got to focus on where one can sell the most and at highest price for rocket fuel.
        Generally the more units you buy, the cheaper per unit one can get,
        or more you sell the cheaper you “can” sell each unit for.
        A basic problem of price of rockets, rocket fuel transferred from depot,
        or mining lunar water, is how much you can sell per day,week, month, year or whatever unit of time.
        Businesses focus on sales volume, Governments focus on controling the customer- if they are in business- and governments fail at business.
        And btw Congress would and does [and should] outlaw NASA selling anything.
        Anyhow the highest price of rocket fuel would be at the lunar surface, and highest volume of sales lunar rocket fuel would involve exporting lunar rocket fuel from a location on lunar surface.

        One can only become a trillionaire if you sell a lot of product. People wanting to make money want to sell a lot of product.
        But to just get out of the red, the problem of making lunar rocket fuel is getting enough rocket fuel sold per year and I would say roughly this is about 1000 tons per year.
        Or if you sell 1000 tons of rocket fuel at lunar surface- you sell it at lunar surface [unless you are greedy].
        So selling 1000 tons of lunar rocket fuel, doesn’t have occur within the first year or two, but one should have a path to 1000 tons per year within
        the first 5 years or so, Or getting to this amount within 10 years is probably too long and you will go bankrupt [unless you have billions of dollars you want to throw away- or lunar water mining is your charity. [though probably a better charity than other kinds of charities].
        Let’s assume doing this isn’t charity and it’s driven by a potential of profit [though fame and glory shouldn’t be ignore- or pencil pushers are mostly going to arrive late- or there is risks and it depends how capable you are- most probably will fail- hence the potential glory].
        So one is risking your and other peoples money- that game requires profit and enough reward for the risk

        Anyhow one could sell 1000 tons of rocket fuel at lunar surface if exporting lunar rocket fuel- one sell it to someone exporting it or you can do the exporting. Let’s pick first one. So someone want to buy 1000 tons of rocket fuel per year, and asks you how much will you sell it for. .
        Or question is how for 1000 tons of rocket fuel per year for a period of 5 years.
        I would say I need time before I can deliver 1000 tons per year and so when do you want to get the rocket fuel?. But other than when, I would say LOX is $1000 per kg and LH2 is $4000 per kg. And if want 6 tons of LOX with every ton of LH2 [a rocket fuel mixture], it’s about 857.15 tons of LOX and 142.85 tons of LH2, per year at 1000 tons
        142.85 tons of LH2 is $571,400,000:
        857.15 tons of LOX is $857,150,000
        Now, I give such prices though depends on when it’s wanted- or can’t deliver it before x time.
        And would prefer it at 100 tons per year, as could could deliver it sooner,
        and contract would probably have penalties for not delivering on time- less risk
        So want 100 ton and would plan make more than 100 and would want to sell at higher price to anyone else buying less than 100 tons per year.
        But If the 1000 or 100 ton per year buyer wants to be the only buyer of my rocket fuel- I would probably charge more. Though if wants 1000 tons
        per year and will buy it for 10 years and can only sell rocket fuel when I have more than 1000 tons per year- maybe a bit better price.

        Now with lunar water it seems it could much cheaper with such volumes of 1000 tons of water per year: 1000 divided by 365 day is 2.8 tons a day or something like mining and processing 30 tons of material in 24 hours or 2 tons per hour. Or lunar water mining require larger volume.
        And if buying 1000 tons of lunar water it’s about 500 per kg or 1/2 million per ton: 1000 tons = 500 million.
        Now some want to buy say 5000 tons of water per year, they could
        probably buy lunar water at less than $300 per kg. And they are a essentially a banker- low risk and little work and easy profit.
        and they could have contract of lunar water miner could sell to another
        party if they make more than 5000 ton per year. Or contract is 5000 tons per year for 5 year and/or total of 25000 tons- at fixed price- which if
        300 per kg [don’t think it could be cheaper- unless things change- there slabs of ice on the Moon or launch cost lower a lot.
        25000 times .3 million is 7.5 billion dollars. And banker sells at:
        25000 times .4 million is 10 billion- about 2 billion dollars profit in perhaps less than 5 years. And in beginning banker sells at say
        $500 per kg.
        So it’s strongly in banker interest to have lunar rocket fuel exported
        and lunar water exported as this allows lunar water sales at lunar surface.
        And having enough electrical energy to split the water, and secondarily
        to make into cryogenic rocket fuel is bottleneck in selling 25,000 tons water in time period of 5 to 10 years.
        If shipping say 100 tons of lunar water to orbit per year- that uses
        about 200 tons of lunar water.
        And shipping 100 tons of LOX also uses about 200 tons of water.
        [Hmm, it’s seems buying 5000 tons per year of water has too much risk-
        make it say 2500 tonnes and banker should still capture most of potential market within 10 years or more- though if having mars settlements within in this timeframe that’s different.].

        Now getting to point about LH2.
        If shipping say more than 100 tons of payload to lunar orbit per year,
        how much is the launch cost per kg to lunar orbit.
        Let’s assume FH at 150 million and can deliver 16.000 kg to low lunar orbit: $9375 per kg.
        Let’s say $10,000 per kg of LH2
        and say $9000 per kg of LOX
        LOX will be cheaper smaller volume, less boil off,
        Likewise water is also slightly cheaper

        Now claim that LOX should cheaper on the Moon as compared
        to LOX.
        With 9 kg of water, you get 8 kg of LOX and 1 kg of hydrogen.
        And rocket use 6 kg of LOX and 1 kg of hydrogen or if using
        water for rocket fuel, one will have 2 kg of LOX per 9 kg of water
        not used. Also it require more energy power to make cyrogenic
        LH2 as compared to LOX.
        LOX on Earth is about 10 cent per kg and LH2 is about $5 per kg.
        And cost difference is due in part to high energy cost to liquefy H2.
        So it’s not 50 times energy cost but say around 10 times the cost.
        ” Practical electrolysis (using a rotating electrolyser at 15 bar pressure) may consume 50 kilowatt-hours per kilogram (180 MJ/kg), and a further 15 kilowatt-hours (54 MJ) if the hydrogen is compressed for use in hydrogen cars”

        So if lunar electrical is $75 per Kw hour, splitting
        9 kg of water is $3750
        $3750 / 9 is $416.67 of electrical cost per kg of rocket fuel
        And required 15 kw hours to compress 1 kg of H2 to high pressure:
        75 times 15 = $1125 to make 1 kg of H2 into high pressure H2 or essentially LH2- if chilled- and lots of cold stuff to use.
        And about 1/10th of that price for 1 kg of LOX.
        So exporting from the Moon, one have surplus of LOX,
        it costs more to make LH2 and cost more to ship it.
        Plus H2 has many uses other than using it as rocket fuel.
        Plus 40% of surface mass of the Moon is oxygen-
        if you want Lunar iron, one could get oxygen from lunar iron
        oxides, giving more of surplus of O2.
        So if LOX is 1000 and LH2 is 4000= 6 O2 = 6000 + 1 H2 = 4000
        and 10000 /divided by 7 is $1428.57 per kg of rocket fuel
        And 1000 + $1428.57 gives cost of 2500 per kg at lunar orbit
        and H2 is 4000 + $1428.57 is 6500 per kg of LH2

        So if Earth shipping LH2 costs 10000 the difference is
        3500 per kg. And LOX which 9000 is difference of
        6500 per kg. Or roughly there is $3000 per kg more profit
        margin with LOX as compared to LH2.
        And if anyone wants lunar water in orbit, it’s $4000 per kg
        more profit.
        And only thing controlling price is competition and it’s about
        profits, not charity.
        This of course means the lunar rocket at lunar surface is very cheap-
        and having cheap rocket fuel makes people going to the Moon
        much less expensive. Or if lunar rocket was available at 10,000 kg
        at lunar surface it would half the cost of people going to Moon [and returning to earth].
        And with cheaper rocket fuel at surface one export material to earth- so pricy item like lunar sampes, PGM, maybe even gold or He-3.

        Eventually lunar rocket fuel will lower to less than 500 per kg and one ship to EmL-1, mars orbits and LEO.

    • jebowenag79 says:

      “I don’t think Trump has any real interest in space travel.”

      I agree. However, to be fair I think it must be said that, compared with the huge number of people and things that come to the attention of the Oval Office, space has always been just one small area among so many others, quite a few of perceived greater priority. The President, and other politicians, enjoy the photo ops, then go back to doing what they were doing. As space activities of all kinds increase, perhaps they will command a greater share of attention. And perhaps Mr. Pence will lead the way in this regard, but he, too has many other items on his desk.

      Still, one can hope. One thing we have in our favor is that going to the Moon is something we CAN actually do. “Journeying to Mars” is just a slogan and a series of posters, with no serious thought and research given to solving the problems.

    • jebowenag79 says:

      “I also think it will be critical for the administration to quickly initiate a lunar COTS program for cargo and crew landings on the lunar surface— funding a variety [of] reusable LOX/LH2 vehicles such as the XEUS and MADV concepts.”

      Exactly. This is the way to go forward, competitively, with each company retaining its own intellectual property, working to fixed payments for well understood milestones and, as Paul says, each leaving something of value at the end, incrementally building up substantial capability.

      Frankly, I find it maddening that we all found the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services concept to be so new and revolutionary. I can’t think of any other area of life where we would want to have fewer choices and pay whatever the sole contractor charges for the terribly late final result.

      In some areas, NASA is a monopsony, the only buyer in the world. You’d think this would put them in a great position, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The current reality is that NASA is so poor at large project management that the results it produces with its subcontractors, using the old methods, is horribly bloated. Those results, like Constellation or SLS, are so over budget, past deadlines that, ironic as it seems, they could have funded two or three entire design and development efforts—if done the right way, the COTS way.

      This is the way I would approach cislunar development. NASA is the customer. If they want a capability which does not require any new design, they just put out a request for bids. If they want something, say a propellant depot in low lunar orbit, they fund five companies to do studies and initial designs. They pick two or three good plans and fund them to operational status, with the companies providing some matching money of their own. Crucially, the selected firms are always aware that they can be replaced if they miss their milestones.

      I am well aware that just saying “COTS-like” doesn’t necessarily make it so, or guarantee success. One more pillar of the COTS approach is that the private companies invest their own money partly because they wish to sell their product to additional customers besides NASA. So besides delivering cargo to the ISS, SpaceX can go on to earn a quite decent share of the world launch market to LEO and GEO. Even Orbital ATK has a few commercial launches. It’s a win-win-win.

      My point is that I’m a little concerned that lunar COTS doesn’t seem to have any other customers besides NASA, not in the near term, and not in the price range the companies would need. (I know Moon Express, Astrobotic, Space IL, Team Indus and other would like to buy a ride to the Moon, but they don’t represent the big bucks like SES, Iridium, etc. have for GEO satellites.) Will this automatically doom lunar COTS? I don’t think so, but we need to think about it.

  3. Gary Church says:

    I believe there is one question that needs to be answered. Since we have a likely lander in the form of the Blue Moon….can the Falcon Heavy put a fully loaded lander in Low Lunar Orbit (LLO)?

    I ask this because just about every day some ridiculous article appears on my news feed claiming the SLS should be canceled because now the FH can do everything. In my view this is a really, really, bad situation. For several years I have commented when I am allowed that NewSpace is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. The last wrong turn was murdering Sidemount and now it appears another such event is at hand- and the Musk mob is trying so hard to decide what happens. Like Russians influencing elections, this kind of under-the-radar-social-media-manipulation is now the primary device used in brainwashing the public.

    The SLS is Sidemount in another form and will cost the same as the Shuttle program that ran for over 30 years. And 30 years of a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle launching 6 times a year is what is required to create a cislunar infrastructure.
    NewSpace interests are doing everything they can to do away with a space agency program in favor of their version….which is “hand it over to the entrepreneur.”

    And that means we will be going nowhere. The ISS is the perfect example of why. Nobody is going to take over the 4 billion dollar a year hole in LEO. Nobody is going to build a base on the Moon because it is what a nation would do and not what a corporation would.

    • Vladislaw says:

      Dr. Spudis wrote: “That said, DSG could become a useful piece of a cislunar transportation infrastructure if it were moved closer to the Moon (a few hundred km high polar orbit). Placed there, it could serve as a transportation hub for a reusable lunar lander and the cislunar crew transport. ”

      Why does it have to land cargo on Luna if it is not optimized to do that? But it can still put up a hell of a lot of cargo into LEO for under 100 million and could fly cargo and equipment to a station in low lunar orbit. Let commercial landers that are optimized for a lunar surface to LLO run take over.

      • Paul Spudis says:

        I didn’t say the DSG would land cargo on the Moon — I said it should be converted into a transport node between cislunar transfer spacecraft and lunar landers. I don’t care who builds them.

        The least useful configuration for the DSG is the one that is currently the baseline design.

  4. Joe says:

    Took a look at the “budget document” linked above. Like everyone I have ever encountered it defies logical analysis. All the words are on point but none of the numbers can be made to add up without risk of getting a head ache.

    That is probably (hopefully) as the article states due to the preliminary nature of the plan (NASA still need an administrator). None of the detailed assumptions that would support a more coherent set of details have yet been made.

    We will all have to wait to be told what those details may be.

  5. Gary Church says:

    “Placed there, it could serve as a transportation hub for a reusable lunar lander and the cislunar crew transport.”

    The Lunar Cycler fleet is in my view a best initial investment. Several of these, using a thousand tons or so of lunar water as cosmic ray shielding, would provide an essentially permanent “cislunar highway” between the Earth and the Moon. The half a dozen or so would go up in about ten years and have a service life of about ten years and so one would be recycled/re-purposed every couple years and be replaced with a new one.

    The prerequisite would be robot lunar ice harvesters to shuttle water up from the lunar surface and a wet workshop iteration of the SLS. A standard workshop could be used for the Cyclers, for subsequent LLO stations, and as crew compartments for spaceships.

  6. Mark R. Whittington says:

    There are a lot of good things is the budget proposal, mainly having to do with the commercial partnerships to start getting stuff on the moon. Pushing off the human return to the undetermined future is a bit of a problem for me. It suggests a lack of seriousness that could cause problems down the road, especially when the next president takes office. I would have preferred that a little extra money be spent to get a crewed lander sooner and support a lunar return before the end of the hypothetical second Trump term.

    • jebowenag79 says:

      Hey, Mark. You have a point. Developing capability just to have it but not use it seems a little pointless. However, from reading plans by Paul and others, that’s not what is intended.

      From my understanding, find the water. That is absolutely critical, first. Locate it, understand whether it is concentrated in small deposits or spread out over kilometers. Understand whether it is in lumps near the surface, crystals spread throughout a vertical column to a depth of X meters, or some combination. Is it in ice form, or is it hydrated into minerals? What other ices are there in usable amounts? My favorite is ammonia, because we need nitrogen and need to know up front if we can get at least some of it from polar craters.

      Then demonstrate we can effectively get at the water. Dig it, transport the ore, extract the water, pushing the concept up the TRL ladder.

      I am absolutely for humans on the Moon. But until the lunar economy gets going, human landings will seem very expensive. That’s why I don’t want to waste a landing on someplace without good water supplies. I want us to go—and stay, in one spot at first, building up genuine economic value.

      On the other hand, it is not too early for NASA to set the tone by setting only high level requirements and funding five studies for the lander you mentioned.

      Prospect. Demonstrate. Land people.

    • gbaikie says:

      “Mark R. Whittington says:
      February 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      There are a lot of good things is the budget proposal, mainly having to do with the commercial partnerships to start getting stuff on the moon. Pushing off the human return to the undetermined future is a bit of a problem for me. It suggests a lack of seriousness that could cause problems down the road, especially when the next president takes office.”

      It seems to me, that robotic exploration, could explore enough of lunar poles, that it’s enough to lower risks of commercial investment in lunar water mining. And I think one needs manned lunar exploration to do a better job of exploration.
      It seems to be disadvantage to robotic mission is they take too longer, or advantage manned mission is it gets more exploration done in shorter period of time. Plus since got to return crew to earth- crew mission can return lunar sample- and return lunar samples cheaper then robotic return of lunar samples- plus with manned,, get better sample return.
      And I think having robotic mission get to location before crew arrive is a good thing. Or see no value to idea of humans going someplace never gone to before Having something go before the crew, can also film the crew landing- and require and/or enable precise landing ability which needed if one has bases or mining operations on the Moon..
      What don’t want is false proof that the Moon lacks minable water- rather want a certainty
      of minable or non minable lunar water- and some idea variability of sites in terms the degree one site is more or less minable. And perhaps there are different ways to best mine lunar water depending on the site. So I think lots site looked at and some sites get more detailed look- and such detailed look would have crew go there- and bring back samples.

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