This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

19 January 2008

Scott Hubbard and Others to Discuss Alternative NASA Vision

This Aviation Week article discusses something I have thought about recently. As the next presidential election occurs, there will be opportunities for a revaluation of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), which is so closely tied to the current President Bush. It seems Scott Hubbard is bringing people together to discuss an alternative approach of using Orion and Ares I/V hardware for asteroid and observatory missions in preparation for future Mars missions. We will see where this goes. I have issues with the article since the recent NASA humans to NEO study was very poor in identifying near term opportunities for human missions (something the study seemed to gloss over in my opinion).

I also have some comments on the quotation given my Mike Griffin in the article on non-Moon human exploration destinations for the near term. Here is his quote and my quick comments:

"A large portion of the scientific community in the U.S. also prefers Mars over the Moon," he [NASA Administrator Mike Griffin] acknowledged. But "interest in the Moon is driven by goals in addition to and beyond the requirements of the science community. It is driven by the imperatives that ensue from a commitment to become a spacefaring society, not primarily by scientific objectives, though such objectives do indeed constitute a part of the overall rationale."

I would argue that the ultimate goals for a spacefaring civilization are colonization, resource extraction, and protection. In my opinion, asteroid missions and Mars missions meet our spacefaring objectives more comprehensively versus lunar missions. Update on 22 Jan 2008: I believe the previous statement because I fear a lunar outpost in the late 2020s will become like the ISS of today: a facility that once constructed will be abandoned. This is what the ISS will become once it is "relatively" complete by space shuttle retirement in 2010. By then it most likley will only have a few years of "operational" life left. I believe any lunar base attempt, given current mindsets, will be abandoned once we say that we have accomplished our decadal human exploration of the moon and are ready for Mars. What happens to any moonbase we have developed and the $100-$150B it took to make it? Should we not just go ahead to the ultimate destination. Previously, I was a "moon" person and thought we should go back to the moon before Mars. But as I see how NASA as a government entity is actually attempting to do it, I an becoming more skeptical that it will accomplished in the manner laid out in terms of capability, cost, or schedule.

Other selections from the article...

Top U.S. planetary scientists, several astronauts and former NASA division directors will meet privately at Stanford University on Feb. 12-13 to define these sweeping changes to the NASA/Bush administration Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).

Abandoning the Bush lunar base concept in favor of manned asteroid landings could also lead to much earlier manned flights to Mars orbit, where astronauts could land on the moons Phobos or Deimos.

Their goals for a new array of missions also include sending astronauts to Lagrangian points, 1 million mi. from Earth, where the Earth's and Sun's gravity cancel each other out and spacecraft such as replacements for the Hubble Space Telescope could be parked and serviced much like Hubble.

Numerous planetary managers told Aviation Week & Space Technology they now fear a manned Moon base and even shorter sorties to the Moon will bog down the space program for decades and inhibit, rather than facilitate, manned Mars operations--the ultimate goal of both the Bush and alternative visions. The first lunar sortie would be flown by about 2020 under the Bush plan.

If alternative-vision planners have their way, the mission could instead be flown to an asteroid in about 2025.

Some basic asteroid mission design work--part of it volunteer--using the CEV hardware is already underway at the Johnson Space Center (AW&ST Sept. 25, 2006, p. 21). Other, more in-depth and long-standing manned asteroid analysis is underway under International Astronautical Assn. and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum sponsorship.

Scott Hubbard, consulting professor in the Stanford Aeronautics and Astronautics Dept., conceived the reassessment meeting. Hubbard was previously the director of NASA Ames Research Center and, before that, NASA Mars program director. "We have planned this invitation-only workshop to elicit frank and open discussion about the future of the 'vision' as the administration changes," he says.

"Space Leaders Work To Replace Lunar Base With Manned Asteroid Missions"
18 January 2008
Craig Covault

Link: Article

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