The recent U.S. committee [Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee] that is reviewing human space flight activities had a public meeting where some more detail about various architecture options were released. One option, called "flexible path", envisions developing a human space exploration architecture that bypasses initial surface exploration of the moon or Mars for capabilities for deep space transfer. Included in such an option would be human missions to NEOs. Selections from the New York Times article...
A subcommittee of the panel [Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee] studied several possibilities, including NASA’s current program to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, a more ambitious plan to skip the Moon and aim directly for Mars and what the members called the “flexible path,” which would avoid the “deep gravity wells” of the Moon and Mars, saving the time and cost of developing landers to carry astronauts to the surfaces of those bodies.
Edward F. Crawley, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who headed the subcommittee, said, “The flexible path essentially goes across stepping stones” of progressively longer, more challenging missions by which NASA would learn how to operate long missions in deep space.
A flyby of the moon might be followed by more distant trips to so-called Lagrange points, first to the location where the gravity of the Moon and the Earth gravity cancel each other out, then to where the gravity of the Earth and Sun cancel out. There could also be visits to asteroids or flybys of Mars leading to landings on one or both of the low-gravity moons of Deimos and Phobo
Link: New York Times article
Link: Flexible Path Discussion at NASASpaceFlight.com
Link: Discover Magazine Blog Post on Flexible Path
Link: NASA HSF Committee "Exploration Beyond LEO" document
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.
01 August 2009
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