26 thoughts on “Seeing The Potential”

  1. NASA has concluded it can ise low enrched uranium reactors on the Moon, because they’re not as heavy as previously believed. So far, no one’s noticed Starship could land them on the Moon 50 at a time.

    1. Heck, using 1950’s technology the US put PM-3A at McMurdo in Antarctica. The size limitations was that it must be capable of being delivered exclusively by C-130 Hercules aircraft (it was ultimately mostly delivered by ship.) Broken down, it had to fit into 30’x8.5’x8.5′ modules having an individual mass of no more than 30k pounds. Even with no improvements, that would be no more than a handful trips fully loaded. Given what we know today, NASA should be able to spec something much smaller.

      1. I would think the radiative cooling system would be the bulkiest item (by volume) in a lunar design.

  2. And yet the other day I read an article about the soon to be launched (later this month I believe) James Webb telescope saying to wit; “to far away for astronauts to reach”. It would be reachable with Starship especially with orbital refueling; it is only about 1 million miles from earth. Much closer than Musk’s Mars colonization goal. I understand the Webb telescope unlike Hubble wasn’t designed to be serviced/repaired but still.


      1. The idiots pushed the launch back to Dec 24, Christmas Eve. I bet they have a range safety scrub because of an airspace violation by a flying sleigh.

    1. It is kind of amazing how all the astronomy nerds are pumping up JWST and not mentioning how horribly the program has performed. They portray any latest delay as a mere aberration rather than the latest in a long line of failures.

      1. I am more excited about: Vera C. Rubin Observatory:
        “Site construction began on April 14, 2015, with first light for the engineering camera expected in October 2022 and full survey operations not beginning before October 2023, due to COVID-related schedule delays. LSST data will become fully public after two years.”

        “Particular scientific goals of the LSST include:
        Studying dark energy and dark matter by measuring weak gravitational lensing, baryon acoustic oscillations, and photometry of type Ia supernovae, all as a function of redshift.

        Mapping small objects in the Solar System, particularly near-Earth asteroids and Kuiper belt objects. LSST is expected to increase the number of cataloged objects by a factor of 10–100. It will also help with the search for the hypothesized Planet Nine.

        Detecting transient astronomical events including novae, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, quasar variability, and gravitational lensing, and providing prompt event notifications to facilitate follow-up.

        Mapping the Milky Way.”

        I like the looking for space rocks and mapping the Milky Way

      1. Any spacecraft that attempted to approach JWST would probably contaminate the optics with thruster spew. The HST can close its flap to prevent that from happening.

  3. Starship is the most exciting as it way to land large payloads on Mars.
    Not too long ago, getting more 1 ton of payload on the Mars surface was a “problem”.
    The other big aspect is a way to refuel in orbit.
    Getting to point refueling on Moon and Mars is refueling somewhere other than LEO.
    On the topic of wondering what Martians are going to with their time on Mars. One thing they could is make telescopes and launch them into space.
    A question related launch stuff from Mars, is do need a payload fairing. With The Moon you don’t, so you can launch huge volumes. With Mars you have some atmosphere, but you launch things a lot differently thru Mars atmosphere as compared to Earth atmosphere.
    With Earth, you need high gee loads to get into orbit, but such high gee loads launch Mars is not unnecessary, but it’s a bad idea {there no advantage} to have same gee loads as we must use with any rocket launch from Earth surface.
    Or what does Max Q mean in regards to Mars?

    1. “…high gee loads launch Mars is not unnecessary, but it’s a bad idea”
      I meant: …high gee loads with rockets launched from Mars is not just, unnecessary, but it’s a bad idea…

      Mars one can optimize rocket to launch from Mars, it seems highest gees might be as high as around 2 gees, but you could option have it non optimized {use more rocket fuel} and have less “maximum dynamic pressure” and less gee load. And then not much different than as compared to launching from the Moon.

      1. Mars atmosphere has a much higher scale height than that of Earth, which is one of the reasons aerobraking works there, despite the attenuation. It’d be the same on the way back up, but I suspect gravity losses would be dominant, rather than drag. Gravity is 2x lunar.

        1. At “sea level” on Mars the air density is about .02 kg per cubic meter.
          On earth at 25,000 meters air density is .04 kg per cubic meter.
          Max Q on Earth is about 13 km
          10 km on Earth is 0.4135 kg per cubic meter
          15 km in Earth is 0.1948 kg per cubic meter
          You still have the barrier of speed of sound on Mars:
          “Mars has a lower speed of sound, around 540 mph (~240 meters per second), compared to about 760 mph (~340 meters per second) on Earth.”
          The air molecules move slower on Mars, due a more dense CO2 molecule- and it’s cold, but thin air will not carry sound very far, and it does seem like a sonic boom could not break windows like they can do on Earth. I would guess not as sharp sounding.

          With Earth rockets blast off at around 6 m/s/s, as one has overcome earth gravity of 9.8 m/s/s, so 9.8 + 6 .
          With Mars a rocket start 10 m/s/s minus the Mars gravity of 3.71 [10 – 3.71 = 6.29 m/s/s.
          And don’t have go vertical, so you weigh less than at rest on Earth.
          6.5 in 240 second = 1,560 m/s [3,481.92 mph] and go 187,200 meters so +15 km elevation at say 45 degree angle, and then lower to say 30 degrees {I am not rocket scientist] so still climbing and air density probably less than .01 kg per cubic meter or less than Earth at 30 km elevation. And it seems one have less air drag compared to getting pass Max Q on Earth with any rocket [so around 100 m/s]. But might get enough air flow, get lift. But air drag is somewhere what airplane gets, but only in atmosphere for minutes unlike airplane flying for hours on Earth.
          But in terms lower acceleration, maybe one could use wings- I wasn’t thinking of that. And wings might be good landing again. Runway speeds for landing would be crazy, so landing would probably involve going less than stall speed and then maybe landing on your tail.
          Of course, I want lakes on Mars, so maybe land on lake.

          1. Max Q is based on the acceleration profile through the atmosphere. Rockets that accelerate quickly will reach Max Q at a lower altitude than those that accelerate more slowly. When a SpaceX launch follows a normal profile, it reaches Max Q shortly after passing Mach 1 about 70 seconds after launch. I heard the Max Q callout on an Atlas 551 launch at about 37 seconds after liftoff. I can only imagine how quickly an old Sprint ABM hit Max Q while pulling hundreds of Gs, but it was likely within a few seconds after launch.

  4. It’s almost as if SLS is irrelevant. If Dr. Heldmann’s bosses see this, she might be in for a stern talking to. Not holding the proper line at all.

  5. I’m of the opinion that once Starship flies a few times that NASA will declare Starship to be SLS Mark II and all will be right in the world.

  6. It seems the Starship will need to be involve with getting crew on the Moon as quickly as possible- or the longer it takes to get Starship to deliver any kind of payload to orbit the longer it will take to get crew to the lunar surface. It is expected that Starship will be launched in the early part of 2022 with high confidence it will reach orbit, gaining data or certainty about future launches in which in it will attempted to recover the second stage.
    Rather than recovery of second stage, the recovery of first stage will be critical to be able use the Starship; to use Starship for lunar mission.
    Though there also matter of whether starship even reaches orbit, then ongoing issue of will it make orbit with larger payloads.
    It seems longest delay, will depend upon whether Starship reaches orbit with its launch in early 2022. If successful, then successful recovery of first stage, will determine how fast Starship can be ready for lunar program.
    And then in addition we got the refueling in LEO.
    Which would done first, using Starship to launch satellites or refueling in LEO. It seems launching satellites will be done first.
    So, after test launch, one does test launch to recover both stages, and then next launch does satellites. It seems one could test refueling in LEO in beginning of 2023, which could be done for the “dearMoon project” and it seems if that done before summer of 2023, that would speed up the lunar program and/or private citizens might land on the Moon before NASA does.

  7. When there are towns on Mars, could Martian launch say 10
    JWST type telescopes per year for decades?

    It seems important Starship payload to Mars could be 100 ton of portland cement.

    If had rocket in LEO and same rocket on the Moon, which can send more payload to Mars. And/or which get into Mars orbit faster?

  8. If the Saturn 5 production had been left open there would have been much better planetary probes way back then.

    1. Von Braun’s final book “New Wolrds” talked a lot about that. There are lots of OldSpace types who claim that Saturn was “unsustainably expensive,” but they’re full of beans. A stage and a half S1C derivitive (recovering the 4 outer engines by parachute) would have outperformed the eventual Shuttle on payload and cost. Even if parachute recovery failed, it’d already been proven immersion in seawater for a few hours did little harm, so it would have been as reusable as Merlin 1D. It’s also true the F-1s and J-2s would have evolved over time.

  9. Please delete the Facebook tag off of any urls you post (it comes after the ? in the url)…stick it to the man!

  10. “Starship removes the mass and volume constraints traditionally blamed for the expense of space exploration. ”

    The constraints are still there, they are just different. Min/Max wont be going away but there are now more opportunities for people not to focus on it as much. As evidence, the high cost of nearly all the suggestions from the author.

    Rather than bombard the planets, I’d create constellations of satellites over them and their moons first. It would likely be easier to design classes of satellites that could be sent all over but with more similarities than planetary robots would. Along with that, a fleet of satellites in the asteroid belt.

    In the spirit of beginning to understand how things will change, what wasn’t covered in the two links is the ability for schools and interest groups to develop payloads. Is it cool that some crusty pale nerds and their nerdlings will be able to construct big satellites or planet conquering robotic armies? Sure, if you are into that. But it will also be much easier for your local school district to send things up as well. That means there will also be clubs that do the same thing. That also means Greenpeace can send up their own whale monitoring satellites to track whales, direct their navy to attack whaling vessels, and conduct ASAT missions to temporarily blind their targets.

    I think the club one will end up being big. Lots of people like to build things in general and once there is a spark placed in these various pre-existing interests, people will band together to launch all kinds of missions. It would make a great YouTube channel(s). What if Scott Manley’s Patreon members built and launched something? But really, the opportunity exists to draw people in who are not currently into space but enjoy making things. What would Alec Steele make?

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