The Trump-Pence Moon Plan

Thoughts from Newt. I would note that Boeing would never do SLS on a fixed-price basis.

[Monday-morning update]

Bob Zubrin’s thoughts (tl;dr: Can SLS and the Gateway). (And yes, the URL is misleading.)

[Monday-afternoon update]

The NASA administrator is openly considering going to the moon with a Falcon Heavy and ICPS.

Dick Shelby was unavailable for comment, though I’m sure he will. I’m also sure he’s regretting confirming Bridenstine.


59 thoughts on “The Trump-Pence Moon Plan”

  1. Granted, VPs often take the lead on space stuff, leading the Space Council, or whatever it is called. But I wonder, with Mr. Pence taking the vocal lead on this, if this will be part of his own presidential run in 2024 – always assuming 2020 goes their way. “Look, he made the spaceships run on time!”

    I’ve seen worse platforms.

    1. He is relentlessly attacked by the sciency left for being a Christian but maybe it would be a bonus for Americans who aren’t bigots.

      1. As a strong Christian, he may have had some unique reactions to the NASA briefing on the SLS development and launch schedule.

        NASA briefer: “Here is a chart of the SLS development history and milestones.”
        Pence: making notes “What’s that dark line over on the left?”
        NASA briefer: “That’s the KT boundary between the Cretaceous and the Tertiary periods, when the dinosaurs went extinct.”
        Pence: “So we’re over on the right.”
        NASA briefer: “Yes, now zooming in… next slide please… This is the Holocene epoch of the current Quaternary period. In the middle we see the transition from hunter-gathering to farming, while toward the right is the line covering SLS development.”
        Pence: “What’s the gray shaded area on the far right?”
        NASA briefer: “That area covers the range of projections of when the current Holocene interglacial might end. You’ll note that all the significant SLS development work is being done south of the line of furthest glacial advance in the Pleistocene, just in case we run into more delays.”
        Pence: “Now I’m a religious man, and perhaps I take the view that your entire development chart, from way before the KT boundary to the present, should actually compress into about 6,000 years. If that is the case, then you need to start flying SLS missions within, oh… Is next year too soon?”
        NASA briefer: “That would take a miracle.”
        Pence: “Indeed it would. Indeed it would. But I have faith that I can take one of Trump’s vetoes, wrap it around a moon rock, and slay this Goliath.”

        1. NASA briefer: “That’s the KT boundary between the Cretaceous and the Tertiary periods, when the dinosaurs went extinct.”

          That only makes sense. You’d want to do your rocket development between extinction events not during. It’d be insensitive. I’m glad that NASA paused a slight 66 million years so as not to slight the memory of the many fine Americans who died during that sad event.

    2. I’ve seen worse too – many times seen, and many times worse.

      If Pence can get bed-ridden NASA up and dancing as Veep, imagine what he might be able to do to the rest of the smug and torpid government as President.

    3. Could be worse, could be worse.

      Imagine the AOC platform of 2024… “I’ll get your car, my pretty, and your little cow too!”

  2. I both love and hate Pence’s proposal.

    The parts I love are about not being committed to any one contractor, and declaring that if commercial rockets are the way, we’ll buy commercial rockets.

    The part I hate is what’s not there; a reason why. I’ve seen nothing to say what the purpose would be, other than going back. A moon base? Prospecting for ISRU resources? The architecture has to be designed around purpose. A small bare-bones lander might be fine to put two people on the surface for a few hours, but useless for a useful landing.

    On the other hand, IF it works, there’s an architecture under development that would have massive capabilities. SpaceX’s BFR/Starship. It may also prove to be, potentially, the closest to being able to do the job. And Elon Musk did tweet something along the lines of it would be a good idea to do a lunar program on a payment-on-delivery basis.

    I wonder how many billion it would take to get BFR/Starship flying a little earlier and do some moon landings? Less than a single year’s SLS/Orion development? My guess is yes.

    1. The part I hate is what’s not there; a reason why.

      I pointed that out on Twitter at the time. I don’t think that Super-Heavy/Starship can be accelerated with money. He seems to be going as fast as he can.

      1. Over on Facebook (I think) I saw somebody assert that the Chinese lunar sample-return mission that’s currently underway, in order to return its moon-sample to earth, intends to perform a lunar-orbit rendezvous on the way back — which manifestly oughtn’t be necessary for simply returning a sample to earth — and thus appears to be a test of this facility for a future Chinese manned lunar expedition.

        Which makes me wonder: Perhaps Pence is concerned about arriving back on the moon in time to forestall Chinese occupation of, say, the lunar north pole — along with their possibly even levying a national claim onto the area?

        1. The current Chinese mission isn’t a sample return mission. That’s going to require the services of the Long March 5 which hasn’t flown since the failure of its second mission.

          LM5’s return-to-flight has continued to slip rightward and, until,it actually flies again, the only safe assumption is that China’s Moon plans are slipping to the right by one day per day until actual events demonstrate otherwise.

          As for the rest, the Chinese have made no secret of their plans to put their nationals on the Moon, but the schedule is mid-2030’s – assuming no major miscues in the interim. That being the case, it certainly makes sense to prove out as much of the prerequisite tech in advance of need as possible.

      2. You’re probably right, Rand, regarding Starship/BFR pace, though the lure of some paid missions to the Moon might help a little. We saw that with the “Dear Moon” lunar flyby cruse, which seemed to kick the program into high gear.

        If SpaceX were to be offered a preposterously huge amount of money, such as 1/4 the cost of an SLS launch, for putting a mission on the Moon, I think they might allocate a few more resources to the project.

        Plus, even if they squandered it all on stuffed plushy toys, it’d still be more useful than SLS. 🙂

        As for the glaring lack of a stated reason for the new Moon program, I’d have no problem with it if Gingrich is right, go back and stay. A moonbase would be a fantastic step. So too would prospecting missions. But as far as I can see, Pence said nothing. The tight timeframe makes me worry that what we’ll get is a tiny little lander with no real capability other than pointless flag and footprint missions. I hope I’m wrong.

      3. Worse, in any real world assessment, *any* government money will be attached to congressional controls. It is highly probable that such controls would slow SS/SH as much as it has Commercial Crew. As to reasons why, I *suspect* those are purposely being left out, because they relate to the twin uses of ISRU and logistical support for the oncoming Space Force, over the *very* long term, combined with points for perpetuating the current administration’s general policies beyond January 2025.

        The first is not politically profitable, while the second opens a new can of worms for getting the Space Force through Congress. I think that ISRU from the Moon is inferior to using an asteroid like 2016HO3, but asteroids were “a Democrat Project” and thus not politically useful in the present to Trump and Pence. It is my hope that once 2024 is out of the way that asteroids will be “back on the menu” for ISRU, even though privately funded. Getting resources out of the Moon’s deeper gravity well may be mooted as soon as Space Force is passed in whatever form it does so.

      4. With more funds they could hire a second team to start building the Super-Heavy prototype right away. Maybe even open a second (or third, or fourth) Raptor production line.

      5. You are right. But no one is developing the systems required for a lunar mission. Even if you have a launch vehicle without the surrounding mission architecture lunar landers, tugs, etc, you can’t do a proper mission.

        That was part of the reason why I liked the Red Dragon concept. You could use the Dragon capsule as a simple lander even if it was for robotic missions. Right now there is nothing for it.

        1. A Dragon capsule could likely land on the moon but it probably wouldn’t be able to take off. I’ve read that Blue Origin is working on a commercial lunar cargo lander. It’s supposed to be able to deliver about 4500 kg to the lunar surface. That’s a step in the right direction but certainly not a human lunar lander. If they started today, it’d be a push to get a human lander ready in 5 years. Perhaps SpaceX’s BFR (or whatever they’re calling it now) could do the job but it’s a long way from flying.
          As to your point, there are a host of things necessary to put humans on the moon. How long would it take to get spacesuits ready for lunar use? Who will do the work? If they’re planning on anything more than flags and footprints, they’re going to need a lot of things. AFAIK, none of those things are being developed as of right now.

    2. NASA has been pushing for a lunar village for a while now. As to what they would do there, I assume they would look at rocks, look for water and other resources, and do similar experiments as they do on ISS.

      They have a dual track of SLS/Orion/Gateway and a COTS type approach to prospecting with various rovers and landers they haven’t said much about yet. It looks like the SLS track could go away, or be modified to use commercial launchers.

      SH/S would make Gateway obsolete as a transfer stage but they would fit right in with the rest of stuff NASA wants to do. Will the prospecting part be far enough along for SH/S to take advantage? Will there be a market for different classes of launchers?

      Most importantly, when allowed to retain control over their products, what will private industry choose to do in cislunar space? It is largely unknowable just like we can’t predict what new products will be created in the future on Earth.

      1. A lunar base would be fantastic, as would prospecting missions, I’m just worried because I heard nothing mentioned regarding such things.

        I’m an opponent of the Gateway plan, because I can’t see the usefulness of it. Due to the orbit they have planned for it (distant elliptical retrograde) it’s a poor choice for supporting lunar surface missions, and for that matter much else. I darkly suspect the reason for it is pork – to give SLS something to do.

        Going with a COTS type program sounds good to me, assuming the landings are to useful purpose.

        On the other hand, another way of looking at it is that if all Pence’s Moon program does is spend a few billion plus kill SLS/Orion, it’s still a net gain because of the money it’d save.

        1. “Going with a COTS type program sounds good to me, assuming the landings are to useful purpose. ”

          Even if the landings themselves serve no purpose, they’d at least help develop a commercial path to the Moon, which would be available to anyone who did want to do something useful there. It doesn’t have to be like Apollo, where NASA developed the tech, then scrapped it a few years later.

  3. Looking back, we pretty much colonized North America for beaver pelts, but then came up with some other stuff to do, and now beaver pelts make up a relatively small fraction of the US economy. I imagine the settling the moon will likewise veer wildly from the initial justifications. The thing that puts lunar bases over the top will probably be something stupid like space golf or egg flipping contests. But along the way we will get a physiology data point for one sixth G to add to our two existing data points, 0 and 1 G.

    I think Pence might know that the NASA only approach, given its lackadaisical timeline and nebulous returns, is very vulnerable to cancellation by a future administration, especially one that reflects AOC or Bernie, who would cancel “white geek imperialist vanity projects” and make NASA focus on climate change or social inequality. For these lunar and other deep space projects to succeed, they need to include lots of private sector components that aren’t subject to political whims and don’t have to be justified to taxpayers as a roundabout way to invent Tang. If the public is enthralled with Elon doing crazy space missions, and if NASA can say “We’re the key part of supporting the private sector space plushies, so on to Mars!”, then it will be much harder to pull the plug on whatever their role is.

    1. Bernie and AOC wouldn’t cancel a lunar base. It is the perfect place to live out fantasies of having total control over the people who live there. It would also allow them to stop commerce from developing, a noble endeavor for any Marxist.

    2. “Looking back, we pretty much colonized North America for beaver pelts, ”

      Well and initially imagined hordes of gold. But this is a key point:

      There was a perceived economic benefit…..

      “but then came up with some other stuff to do, and now beaver pelts make up a relatively small fraction of the US economy.”

      But WITHOUT beaver pelts, you don’t bother in the first place.

      No beaver pelts, no Buck Rogers

  4. Here’s another Lunar development plan. Plant a habitat capable of supporting a dozen or so people on the surface complete with airlocks, rovers and surface suits. Rent available facilities to the highest bidder. Let the innovators and dreamers find a way to make the moon productive.

    If no takers, close it down with a for sale sign on it.

    1. –john hare
      March 31, 2019 At 5:02 AM
      Here’s another Lunar development plan. Plant a habitat capable of supporting a dozen or so people on the surface complete with airlocks, rovers and surface suits.–
      If you put habitat on Moon, do you want a view that include Earth.
      Most area on Near Side have a view of Earth.
      If you in middle of the Near Side, Earth is directly over head [and stays there]. If on Perimeter of Near Side [which include the Near Side part of Lunar polar regions] then the Earth will be hanging near the horizon. And if there are mountains on the horizon, they could completely block or partially block a view of Earth.
      Also the Earthshine is much brighter than Moonlight, and could shine fairly brightly upon the lunar landscape [at night].
      Perhaps a view could be Earth seemly perched in valley or over a distant mountain peak.
      So one could different types of views of Earth or not even having Earth visible in the sky.
      If night and Earth not visible in sky, how bright is the star light?
      Can star light illuminate the ground?

      Anyhow, it seems before puts a habitat somewhere, it might idea to scout out, the potential view which could be seen from the habitat and perhaps design the habitat, so crew might be able to easily enjoy it.

  5. Here is a quicker way to do it. Zero out NASA budget and put them in open competition for accomplishments. Take that 15 to 19 billion and award companies that actually accomplish something. In about the same time from NASA’s last flight to today, the early NASA developed, tested, flew to the moon, and brought the astronauts back alive. And on roughly the same amount of money. Now, they can’t even pull off a dual spacewalk they promised. No one at NASA has ever been out of LEO. No one at NASA has ever sent anyone out past LEO. All of the great men and women who accomplished Apollo are gone from the agency now. The lessons learned and expertise gained are lost to retirement homes and cemeteries. It’s time we quit looking at a bunch of pencil-pushing bureaucrats for leadership. It’s not rocket science we need. It’s engineering. Not social engineering, but real machinery engineering. Space flight companies could accomplish much more if they didn’t have to lift NASA dead weight on each launch.

        1. It’s not. It’s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and it has a broad portfolio. The lack of progress in human spaceflight is a function of the lack of perceived national importance of human spaceflight.

          1. –Rand Simberg
            March 31, 2019 At 11:09 AM
            It’s not. It’s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and it has a broad portfolio. The lack of progress in human spaceflight is a function of the lack of perceived national importance of human spaceflight.–

            Yes. But of course it’s wrong.
            There is a national importance of human spaceflight, but it’s not broadly seen/known.
            I would say one important reason, it’s not known is because NASA thinks it should build rockets and NASA builds rockets for Manned exploration and does not build rockets for robotic exploration [and, not saying I want NASA to build rockets for robotic exploration].

            I think the only kind rocket NASA should ever build is experimental rockets.
            But I don’t “have” any particular need for NASA to be building any kind of specific experimental rocket.
            But rather as general matter.
            And SLS is not anything like what I mean by an experimental rocket, whereas, the Shuttle could and should have seen as experimental rocket [and didn’t meet the expectations related why one should consider it as an experimental rocket and it was far late in the game in terms of canceling the experiment as “unworkable” or a failed experiment].

          2. “It’s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and it has a broad portfolio.”

            And in the NACA days that broad portfolio was a good one.

            ” The lack of progress in human spaceflight is a function of the lack of perceived national importance of human spaceflight.”

            That’s only one of the reasons for the lack of NASA progress in human spaceflight.

            The lack of PROGRESS in human space flight is that there was no incentive to go anywhere.

            A major event affecting “incentives” is that these days, human space flight is no longer JUST a rich national government game…now it can be a rich person’s game. This opens the range of “perceived intentions”. And “cuz I wanna” is all the incentive a rich person needs…if they live in a free society.

            Even so, there are no “beaver pelts” (h/t George) as yet. No econmic reason to go to the Moon or anywhere else.

            Note that where there IS economic incentive there’s tons of sats, comm sats, spy sats, for example.

            People are still reasoning from romance.

          3. I think people forget the progress in human spaceflight- NASA now allows private companies to dock with the government’s ISS.

          4. “I think people forget the progress in human spaceflight- NASA now allows private companies to dock with the government’s ISS.”

            Not a tremendous amount for 50 year’s time

          5. You will never discover the economic incentive without going.

            Human history and the cycle of discovery show us that creation, innovation, and discovery through serendipitous cross pollination happen but also can’t be predicted. It is the Unknown and humans have rational and irrational fears of the Unknown.

            Human history is also filled with examples of failure.

            The way to mitigate risk of the Unknown, is to take small calculated risks. NASA plans to take small calculated risks where their partners retain control of their products and this will allow for economies to develop as they are able and failures to not sink the rest of the activities.

          6. Do you see public opinion moving toward more accomplishment, or more of the same cost-plus type of machinery?

          7. I don’t see the public as caring much, one way or the other. That’s why we can continue to have a Potemkin space program, that benefits the politicians.

          8. “You will never discover the economic incentive without going. ”

            1) We’ve been there. m50 years later we still don’t have an economic incentive.

            2) You don’t have to send humans to figure out what is there.

  6. NASA might be able to get a Risk Reduction Phase RFI on the street by 2024 – maybe.

    This is such an obvious non-starter that I’m embarrassed for the Vice President.

  7. If nothing else, the Pence declaration has been fun anent all the long-time lefty critics of SLS’s glacial pace and serial schedule slippages suddenly decrying the new plans as reckless and dangerous chasing after “space spectaculars” for political reasons. How the heck these people avoid whiplash from such sudden alterations of vector is a wonder of the age.

    1. Space development advocates have been consistently against flags-and-footprints space spectaculars and have also been against SLS.

      They are against flags-and-footprints dead ends, as opposed to developing the means to better extend into space the full range of human activity, including heavy industry, science, exploration, and tourism.

      They are against SLS, as opposed to launchers which are sustainably affordable and which will actually be constructed.

      Their stance is consistent – there is no cause for whiplash here.

      Their stance is apolitical – there is nothing uniquely lefty or righty about their positions.

      Dick, when you talk about “these people” and “lefty critics”, who are you thinking of, and how are their positions any different from Rand Simberg’s position, when it comes to Pence’s declaration?

      1. Uh, a lot of people have been for cancelling SLS and going with SpaceX or whoever else can get us to the Moon faster and cheaper. Now that Pence is the avatar expressing their desires, they suddenly turn against the very thing they have been advocating for.

        You can’t read the comments they direct at the man and claim politics plays no role.

        I’ve noticed two things. The space nerd media, like other media, is terrible at informing people about what is going on when they aren’t engaged in outright distortions that fit their political goals. Also under the Trump administration, NASA hasn’t revealed their near term plan for the Moon as fast or in as great detail as people need to get a sense of what the future holds.

  8. Well, that last update was a major bombshell. Fly a moon mission on a Falcon Heavy with an Orion and a ULA cryogenic upper stage. As pointed out by the administrator and in the comments on the story, there are a few technical hitches to work out, such as the lack of LH2 infrastructure at pad 39A, vertical integration, etc.

    But to me, it’s perhaps more important that NASA essentially just told Elon that he gets to be NASA’s new Saturn V, or at least the Saturn 1B. That means money from NASA for a new Falcon Heavy role.

    At one point Elon has Tweeted that adding four boosters to a Falcon Heavy instead of just two should be quite simple, but that he had no reason to go there, as his focus was on BFR. My thought was that Elon would worry that any such move would be seen by NASA as a direct threat to SLS, since such a rocket would have a higher LEO payload capability than the SLS Block 2, and it would have no other purpose than to obsolete the SLS.

    But if NASA is willing to use FH for a lunar mission, maybe Musk will propose going all out with a five-booster FH to give them much greater capabilities, and far sooner than they’d expected.

    1. And that’s not all! Apparently NASA even considered a simple flyby for EM-1, because Falcon Heavy could do it, even without ICPS.

      Bridenstine is showing all kinds of willingness to buck conventional thinking to speed up progress. Holy smokes, he even said he favored a two man lunar lander!

    2. Falcon 9 is already “NASA’s” new Saturn IB. It puts up more payload when operated as all-expendable. Over two tons more.

      1. But, MfK, Falcon Heavy is what NASA would actually need to launch SLS Block-1 class payloads, and Falcon Heavy is just a powerpoint rocket, it doesn’t exist, so they sell me, unlike SLS, which is real.

  9. Regarding: Bob Zubrin’s thoughts.

    I thought he wanted to go to Mars.
    I think NASA should not mine lunar water and make rocket fuel.
    I think the private sector should [or could] mine lunar water and make rocket fuel.
    The private sector would mine lunar water and make rocket if it could be profitable to do this. And I don’t think the government should provide a subsidy in order to make it profitable.

    But I think the government should provide a subsidy in the sense of exploring the lunar polar region, to determine if and where are the better/best places to mine lunar water [in order to make rocket fuel from the water]. A armed with such data, investor can decide if they want to invest in such a business. And they might be able to build several companies which could be worth more than 20 billions [and in time, perhaps trillions of dollars [Amazon type companies of Space, in the sense that Amazon started by selling books].]

    And of course such data from lunar exploration would available to the world, or all investors of the world. Plus if other governments would mine lunar water as socialist project, they would free to choose that path. It should be noted that the governments of the world had the option of selling books online, and they chose not to take this option.

    Another US possible subsidy could be having space business pay less taxes. Or something like the zero tax idea which has discussed for decades.
    But I think the only subsidy would involve US government having NASA explore the lunar polar regions, then explore Mars.

    1. Zubrin’s Moon Direct, isn’t really direct. Instead it is EOR. In fact it is even more EOR than Apollo EOR, rocketing all the way home! Wernher von Braun would strongly approve;-D

    2. “The private sector would mine lunar water and make rocket if it could be profitable to do this.”

      Who would be the customers?

      The only ones I can think of are sovereign clients.

      1. –Richard M
        April 1, 2019 At 9:02 PM
        “The private sector would mine lunar water and make rocket if it could be profitable to do this.”

        Who would be the customers?–

        Well, that would be the hardest part.

        “The only ones I can think of are sovereign clients.”
        That is one possibility, but I think you will need more than sovereign clients.
        It will require a lot talent and luck, there could some failure at trying to do it.
        But I would think lunar tourists might be a customers.
        I think returning lunar samples to Earth could another.
        Precious metal groups from asteroid impactors, could be mineable if there is lunar rocket fuel available.
        But I think also have bootstrap type thing, having rocket fuel on lunar surface can make cheaper to do anything on Moon and can lower costs to get things to moon.
        There is no doubt you will be in the red in beginning years, and what would be doing is starting out with relatively low production of water and rocket fuel, and learning and increasing production per year [like doubling amounts produced- and needing every more demand [more customers] and roughly sovereign clients is not enough but could modest fraction of total demand. And roughly it seems to me you have to get to about 1000 tons of water sold per year.
        And during this time, one would have NASA exploring Mars, perhaps there will a need of Lunar LOX and/or Lunar water shipped to High earth and/or Mars orbit which could used for Mars exploration and later the potential of Mars settlements.
        But it seems at least 80% would be related to lunar activity rather than any Mars activity.
        But getting enough demand for the lunar water and lunar rocket fuel maded from the water, is the hard part.

        1. If I lifted 1,000 tons of water into LEO from Earth, I would not be able to sell it. Water from the moon does not make it more saleable.

          If you want something that you could get from the moon and sell, right now it is authentic moon rocks.

          1. –David S
            April 2, 2019 At 7:04 AM
            If I lifted 1,000 tons of water into LEO from Earth, I would not be able to sell it.–

            You should be able to sell 1000 tons of water in LEO for about $100 million. You might get more, perhaps as much twice that amount.
            And should able to sell 1000 tons of water in orbit around the Moon for at least $200 million, and on Lunar surface for about 500 million: 1/2 million per ton or $500 per kg.

            And the best deal would to buy 1000 tons of water in Lunar orbit/High earth orbit, or it might worth as much as say $600 million for 1000 tons [or more].

            But company which can mine and sell 1000 tons of lunar water per year is worth a lot more that 500 million dollar, the company should probably worth more than 10 billion dollars.
            NASA mining 1000 tons of lunar water per year, has no value. Or NASA can’t even sell lunar water- there laws saying it can’t do this. But even if remove this these laws [which would a bad idea] NASA still could not do this.
            And the years wasted trying to “privatize” a NASA mining operation would have negative value in all kind of various aspects.
            Or it’s globs of public money wasted and vast amounts of time wasted and enormous lost of opportunity costs not to mention the certainty of governmental corruption.

  10. I think the US government should make a program similar to this:
    – Fund Red Dragon i.e. the Dragon capsule with propulsive reentry.
    – Fund the development of a common lunar injection stage which can be used on the Delta IV Heavy or the Falcon Heavy.
    – Fund lunar robotic precursor missions to map the resources and sites in the moon most amenable for manned exploration.
    – Fund an orbital propellant depot and robotic vehicles to resupply it.
    – Fund a lunar telescope.
    – Create a program for developing technologies which allow the reduction of the mass footprint required for lunar activities. i.e. lunar ISRU.
    – Fund a manned lunar outpost.
    – Once the ISS is deorbited, fund a new smaller low orbit space station based around commercial components.

    1. I don’t think the US government should fund ANY of that.

      Let the market provide the funds for whichever is the best way to go.

      I would also like to see some competition for Space-X. I do not want to see all eggs into the Space-x basket. I would like to see other companies provide non-government funded ideas and capabilities.

      Don’t get me wrong – I like what Space-X is doing and I wish them all the success in the world. I think it’s marvelous. But I also like non-government competition…just to keep an edge on things and promote innovation.

  11. Zubrin doesn’t just say ditch Gateway and SLS, he’s also saying ditch Orion and ditch NRHO rendezvous, and use his “Moon Direct” architecture instead.

    1. Moon direct works if have rocket fuel available at lunar surface- or one could get from Earth surface to Lunar surface in about 12 hours, which is a lot better than taking days of farting around to get to lunar surface.

  12. Our brief visits haven’t enlightened us about all of the Moon’s mysteries. Also, you can’t have commerce on the Moon if no activity takes place there. Why rely on the spontaneous generation of activity on the Moon when we can just decide to go there and do things?

    Commerce isn’t the only reason to go the Moon, but commerce can arise through the effort.

    Consider this, money isn’t made by finding mineral deposits. Money is made by solving people’s problems at a price they are willing to pay and able to afford. Rather than looking for something to sell on the Moon, look at it as what problems can be solved for individuals and groups that want to go to the Moon.

    Their motivations are not important. What is important is if you can get them to pay you for solving a problem for them. It might not even be a problem they know about.

    The Moon is full of problems to solve, that may be its greatest resource, and more people, more problems.

  13. FWIW, looking into F9H capabilities to Luna about a year ago, a friend came up with something over twenty metric tons to TLI with an added single rl-10 hydrogen third stage. (That was with F9H boosters ocean-recovered, core expended.)

    Note that was NOT subbing a hydrogen stage for the F9H second stage – that turns out to buy you almost nothing to deep space destinations, as there’s not enough thrust in a practical LH2 2nd stage for how early in the flight it would have to take over.

    But an LH2 3rd stage, in effect part of the standard F9H’s payload, buys you quite a bit of extra mass delivered to Trans Lunar Injection and points farther out.

    Given more powerful Block 5 boosters on the F9H since then, given two RL-10 on the ICPS, and given expending all three F9H boosters (wasteful, but still cheap compared to an SLS) then it does all extrapolate to about 26 metric tons to TLI – just enough for a loaded Orion and service module. (Leaving aside for now all questions of larger shrouds and greater launch-loads on the F9R.)

    So yes, the SLS mafia should be nervous.

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