America In Space

Keith Cowing is pessimistic.

I’m not. NASA isn’t able to lead, but America will continue to.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of which…

Falcon Heavy On The Pad

Launch now NET Jnuary 15th, with static engine test on Saturday. That will be impressive by itself, even without a lift off. If it’s successful, chances of a successful launch go way up. I suspect the biggest uncertainty is plume interaction between the cores, and that will resolve it.

9 thoughts on “America In Space”

  1. I quit reading Cowing long ago. For a few years in the late 90’s, he was a voice for frustrated NASA insiders. Then he had his big flap with PAO, and it seemed somewhere in the process, a Disney like proposal was made in which he would be given access for toeing the line. Now this particular post may not be toeing the line, but I quit reading Cowing over a decade ago, and I have little knowledge what motivates him today.

    China is leading? China so far has launched a grand total 6 manned vehicles over a 13 year period with only 4 more planned over the next 6 years. I grant that is more than India has done, but I’m not claiming India is leading the way either. Both nations have suggested building individual multi module space stations, which was something NASA announced in the 80’s, designed in the 90’s, and finally flew in the 2000’s. Maybe China and India can be faster than that, but I don’t see such speed in their announced plans. Ok, China announced a goal to be on Mars by the end of 2020, but they mean an unmanned orbiter and rover. If that’s leading, then NASA has that lead sown up.

    Cowing is aware that there are many more sources for space news than his website?

  2. The Zuma launch has been postponed until Friday evening. I’ll be surprised if they do a static test on FH the next day. Monday seems more reasonable to give the personnel some rest.

  3. “Keith’s note: While NASA drags its feet with regard to the notion of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and/or Mars, nations like China and India are wasting no time taking the lead.”

    NASA doesn’t need a presence on the Moon. But NASA needs a presence on Mars to explore Mars.
    NASA needs to explore the lunar poles.
    Related to exploring lunar poles and Mars exploration is having
    an operational depot.
    NASA should have a lunar exploration program.
    The duration of this moon program should less than 10 years.
    Having a goal of lunar presence, would require a longer lunar exploration program.
    So less than 10 years and about a total cost of 40 billion- or average
    yearly cost of 4 billion which includes all things related to the lunar exploration program. Which are:
    SLS [unfortunately]
    Payloads and all stuff related to SLS [unfortunately]
    A LEO depot which can store and transfer LOX.
    Robotic lunar mission which would use LEO depot and
    explore lunar poles to find minable lunar water.
    In year 8, manned crew missions to lunar poles.
    Then transfer lunar crew to Mars crew missions.
    Mars exploration program begins when ISS yearly funding is
    less than 1/2 billion dollars per year.
    Mars robotic exploration can begin before the end of Lunar program.
    And early Mars robotic deals with establishing Mars base for future
    Mars crew.
    Mars crew begins as Lunar crew ends [less than 10 years]
    Mars crew goes to Mars surface. And one ramps up lot’s
    of Mars robotic exploration which will related to supplying base
    and doing exploration of Mar surface generally near Mars base.
    Purpose of base is find another place to have another base AND
    looking for sites which would viable locations for human settlements.
    Mars exploration program probably require + 2 decades. And total cost of +100 billion dollars.

  4. My beef with Nasawatch is how Keith and most of the commenters get their knickers in a twist about anything related to Trump. They get the vapors when anyone strays from CAGW orthodoxy and suggests that maybe, just maybe, NASA’s main purpose isn’t necessarily to ban fossil fuels in order to cool the planet by a few thousandths of a degree. They can’t recognize Lysenkoism when they see it.

    1. No, they can’t. I got banned over there with no warning or explanation, but I suspect the reason was my climate skepticism and right-wing politics. I can easily imagine that things have gotten even worse since Trump was elected. But I’ll content myself with imaginings only. Progressive echo chambers have no appeal when they’re read-only.

  5. Taking the lead isn’t the same as being in the lead. India and China are demonstrating capabilities with their Mars, Moon, and station missions. They aren’t the only ones that are expanding into space. There are a number of European and Arab countries that are also getting into the game.

    The next couple of years are going to be very entertaining. The USA and China are going to dramatically up their launch tempo. Things like the Google Lunar X-Prize contestants will be shipping off to the Moon. Countries will be sending missions to the Moon, Mars, and other places. And in the USA, the private sector will be putting the tools in place for even more companies to get involved.

    It is a grand competition between governments, organizations, companies, and individuals. Many of these groups and individuals are very skilled and will do well even if they don’t build their own launchers. But the USA has all of these groups participating while many of the contestants only have one or two.

    Cowing’s pessimism may be misplaced but he is right to point out the rising competition. We shouldn’t be complacent even with SpaceX and BO doing so well.

  6. I’m trying to figure out crew capability of the BFR ship to the mars surface?

    It has cabin volume for 240, but how many crew can it actually take to the surface of mars? I will assume life support equipment is sufficient given water? I use 8 kg per day for crew consumables w/o recycling (3 kg (includes 1 kg fresh) with water recycling.)

    Transit time of 3, 6 or 9 months. Faster requires less consumables. Crew personal cargo to surface of 500 or 1000 kg per crew.

    Also mass to LEO is 150 mt or 250 mt. Since it’s refueled in LEO I would think using the higher expendable payload value is acceptable (as long as delta-V is accounted for in transit times?) Although I’m just going to use the lower number to be conservative (actually I’ll use 150 for max cargo and ignore crew mass which I will consider part of the leeway.)

    I’m not sure how the 50 mt earth down payload translates to mars?

    Using 850 cubic meters of pressurized volume and cargo avg of one mt per cubic meter. Given a minimum of 8 m^3 per cargo+crew that already limits us to 105 crew. I’m guessing the actual max to be about 50 crew?

    Will do a spreadsheet and would like to compare it to what others get.

  7. “NASA isn’t able to lead, but America will continue to.”

    I think Keith’s difficulty is that he sees the two entities as more or less synonymous – not surprising given his background.

    And NASA is certainly a big part of the American space exploration puzzle, no question. But it’s also the most hobbled by politics, and that has been the case since Day One. If the agency has been in drift (robotic exploration largely aside, an area where it continues to lead the world), it’s been in drift since 1970, honestly. Now, however, we have a sustainable commercial space sector that is finally getting its legs – and it is not nearly as dependent on the vagaries of Capitol Hill.

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