The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee has released its summary report. The Committee has been looking at what early human exploration options may be available to the U.S. They previously had talked about an exploration path that would allow the flexibility to go to NEOs. This architecture, referred to as the Flexible Path, is one of the options talked about in their summary report. Here are some selections from the summary report related to the "Flexible Path" architecture:
There is a third possible path for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, which the Committee calls the Flexible Path. On this path, humans would visit sites never visited before and extend our knowledge of how to operate in space—while traveling greater and greater distances from Earth. Successive missions would visit: lunar orbit; the Lagrange points (special points in space that are important sites for scientific observations and the future space transportation infrastructure); near-Earth objects (asteroids that cross the Earth’s path); and orbit around Mars. Most interestingly, humans could rendezvous with a moon of Mars, then coordinate with or control robots on the Martian surface.
The Flexible Path represents a different type of exploration strategy. We would learn how to live and work in space, to visit small bodies, and to work with robotic probes on the planetary surface. It would provide the public and other stakeholders with a series of interesting “firsts” to keep them engaged and supportive. Most important, because the path is flexible, it would allow many different options as exploration progresses, including a return to the Moon’s surface, or a continuation to the surface of Mars.
The Committee finds that both Moon First and Flexible Path are viable exploration strategies. It also finds that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive; before traveling to Mars, we might be well served to both extend our presence in free space and gain experience working on the lunar surface.
All variants of Option 5 begin exploration along the flexible path in the early 2020s, with lunar fly-bys, visits to Lagrange points and near-Earth objects and Mars fly-bys occurring at a rate of about one major event per year, and possible rendezvous with Mars’s moons or human lunar return by the mid to late 2020s.
Link: Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Summary Report (PDF)
Link: Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee
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.
08 September 2009
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