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Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Build Mars Lander 258

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the up-up-and-away dept.
Lord_Slepnir writes "Lockheed Martin has won a contract to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle that will eventually take humans to the moon and then on to Mars. This vehicle will hopefully also replace the aging space shuttle fleet. According to NASA the vehicle will have manned missions by 2014 and moon missions by no later by 2020."
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Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Build Mars Lander

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  • great (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:09PM (#16020164) Homepage
    Lockheed Martin has won a contract to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle that will eventually take humans to the moon

    Great, the US will finally make it to the moon.
    • Re:great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:15PM (#16020200)
      clever truncation of the sentence. The point is we are finally getting back into real exploration. If we have to make some runs to the moon to get to mars, then fine. I think it is great that we are getting back into the manned exploration of the solar system. I think that most of us that remember the 60's and 70's thought we would be well past the point we are at now.
      • Re:great (Score:5, Informative)

        by oringo (848629) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:04PM (#16020508)
        I recently listened to a NASA workshop on the difficulties of landing human on Mars. It basically come down to this:

        1. To land human on Mars, the current landing vehicles for MER and MSL are too small. We need to deliver at least 200t-300t's of payload.
        2. The atmosphere on Mars is too thin to use aero-braking, i.e. can't land like space shuttle on earth.
        3. The Mars gravity is too great to have moon-like landing, i.e. reverse propulsion.

        I don't mean to sound too pessimistic, but with today's technology, chance of successful human mission is very small. We need a technology breakthrough in order to land something that big on Mars. Two possibilities:

        1. Parachute that can stand hyper-sonic speed wind. Or,
        2. Learn how to fly rockets backwards with sidewinds potentially 5x-10x stronger than that of Hurricane Katrina.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by HAKdragon (193605)
          Your number 1 probably addresses this, but does that also include the ability to relaunch? If we land people on Mars, we're (probably) going to need to bring them back. It seems like a logistical nightmare right now. Not only do we have to make sure that conditions for launch on a foreign planet are good, but also we would (presumabley - I'm no rocket scientist) have to have some sort of launch pad from which to take off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by G-funk (22712)
          If we're not expecting people to go to the moon until 2020 (WTF?), we've got a helluva long time before they get to mars. Start sending useful crap up there now, and land it all in more-or-less the same place. You know, send up some nuclear batteries, tools, building material, vitamin and nutrient supplements for people and plants, seeds, maybe some water and tinned beans or something. Anything that can be sent now with today's technology, and will last 20 or 30 years before it's needed on mars. And get tod
        • by unixj (555953) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:12PM (#16021471)
          This is a myth. We only need to send 6 tons of liquid hydrogen and a small reactor. In a 2-step process you can use this to create 108 tons of fuel.

          1. CO2 (from atmosphere) + 4 H2 (from Earth) -> CH4 (rocket fuel) + 2 H20
          2. 2 H20 (from 1) -> 2 H2 (feed back into 1) + O2 (oxygen for rocket fuel)

          You fly to Mars with just enough fuel to get you there, create your own fuel from the Martian atmosphere, and fly back. To make things less risky, we send the first one unmanned, so there's a return vehicle on the surface of Mars all fueled up when humans arrive.

          The 300 tons is only if you insist on bringing the fuel for your return journey along with you.

          This is clearly described in The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin. Surprised more people haven't read that.

          • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sploff (681023)
            Zubrin's very well-written book makes a compelling argument that a bit of cleverness and rational analysis would go a lot farther than the "drive your truck to Mars" approach (perfect "feel good" weekend read). As far as I remember, Zubrin was one of the people who got the possibility of going to Mars on the media radar. He also founded the Mars Society [marssociety.org].
            • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

              by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:32AM (#16022080) Homepage
              Zubrin's very well-written book makes a compelling argument that a bit of cleverness and rational analysis would go a lot farther than the "drive your truck to Mars" approach (perfect "feel good" weekend read).

               
              The problem is - Zubrin's cleverness and and ability at analysis is matched by his overconfidence in the products thereof. He has a strong tendency to treat his ideas as if they were simple solutions with no real development needed, ready for deployment fairly easily - when the truth is that they are anything but. His Nuclear Salt Water Rocket [wikipedia.org] for example has never been modeled, and only examined on the theoretical level at the grossest of scales. Yet he, and his disciples, treat it as if it were mature technology ready for use with only a few tweaks. The same is true of his scheme for producing fuel in situ on Mars. No developmental work has been done, and very little basic research - yet he argues it convincingly enough that many people assume (as does the poster you are replying to) that its a 'done deal'.
               
                The Case for Mars *is* a feel good read - but that's about all it is. It's much close to fiction than reality. The 'truck driver' schemes keep coming up - because they are (in the main) something that can be accomplished by working within the bounds of existing or near term technologies (the GP vastly overstates the case), while Zubrin's are almost completely undeveloped and are at or beyond the bleeding edge.
          • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:20AM (#16022026) Homepage
            This is a myth. We only need to send 6 tons of liquid hydrogen and a small reactor. In a 2-step process you can use this to create 108 tons of fuel. You fly to Mars with just enough fuel to get you there, create your own fuel from the Martian atmosphere, and fly back. To make things less risky, we send the first one unmanned, so there's a return vehicle on the surface of Mars all fueled up when humans arrive.
            And now, as Paul Harvey says, for the rest of the story. The part Zubrin and his cabal won't tell you...
             
            This process has never been tested beyond the laboratory workbench. There are a large number of very significant hurdles to getting such a system operational on the Martian surface. Among them - insulation; Mars has enough atmosphere that MLI won't work, and this means large, bulky and difficult to handle tanks for receiving the output product. Another is filtering the input feed (to get rid of the atmospheric dust), as well as keeping the filters themselves clean. Etc... Etc... No obvious showstoppers I admit, but some very definite steep hurdles.
             
             
            This is clearly described in The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin. Surprised more people haven't read that.

            Many people have read The Case For Mars - many of those have gradually come to understand how much of that book is smokescreens, handwaving, and wishful thinking. Robert Zubrin has a very bad habit of assuming that coming up with clever schemes means that implementation is a simple straightforward thing - even when they represent quantum leaps over existing technologies.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by unixj (555953)

              This process has never been tested beyond the laboratory workbench. There are a large number of very significant hurdles to getting such a system operational on the Martian surface. Among them - insulation; Mars has enough atmosphere that MLI won't work, and this means large, bulky and difficult to handle tanks for receiving the output product. Another is filtering the input feed (to get rid of the atmospheric dust), as well as keeping the filters themselves clean. Etc... Etc... No obvious showstoppers I a

          • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:24AM (#16022041)
            How much Hydrogen could be collected on the way?
            • by unixj (555953) on Friday September 01, 2006 @03:27AM (#16022411)
              How much Hydrogen could be collected on the way?

              Much less than the amount of CH4 the astronauts produce along the way.

              Back of envelope calculation

              • Density of H atoms in solar system ~ 1 atom/cm^3
              • Distance Earth to Mars ~ 1 AU = 23000 Earth radii = 23000 * 6400 km = 10^13 cm
              • Area swept by spacecraft ~ 100 m^2 = 10^8 cm^2
              • Volume swept by spacecraft = 10^21 cm^3
              • Number of H atoms = 10^21
              • Avogadro's constant = 10^24
              • Number of H atoms in moles = 0.001
              Mass of H atoms = 0.001 grams
          • The other thing that was interesting about producing fuel on Mars is that it could be completed by automated systems before any manned missions even blast off from Earth.
        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Because of course we never made anyting land on mars...
          If I recall correctly, the probes sent there used aero-braking, parachutes, and, for pathfinder, big airbags.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Soft (266615)

          To land human on Mars, the current landing vehicles for MER and MSL are too small. We need to deliver at least 200t-300t's of payload.

          Other have replied: with in-situ resource utilization, a lot can be saved on payload.

          The atmosphere on Mars is too thin to use aero-braking, i.e. can't land like space shuttle on earth.

          Do you mean aerobraking (which is quite possible, probes have done it) or horizontal landing (for which the atmosphere is indeed too thin, but a parachute can be used after aerobrakin

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FireFury03 (653718)
          2. The atmosphere on Mars is too thin to use aero-braking, i.e. can't land like space shuttle on earth.

          But there _is_ an atmosphere, it just means that aero-braking will take a lot longer (ok, so even if you have to do a few orbits at a very low altitude (25Km or something?), does that really matter?)

          2. Learn how to fly rockets backwards with sidewinds potentially 5x-10x stronger than that of Hurricane Katrina.

          Seems contradictory with the above statement - if the atmosphere is too thin to pose any significa
      • by Columcille (88542) *
        Technology is certainly not where the old predictions had anticipated. Where is my flying car!
      • by reporter (666905) on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:09AM (#16021741) Homepage
        In order to colonize space, we must be able to travel on a human-time scale. Otherwise, we are trapped in our solar system. In fact, we are effectively confined to the region between Venus and Mars: traveling from Earth to Mars takes about 6 months. Forget about going to the next galaxy.

        The only way out of this dilemma is to look for phenomenon that goes beyond our current understanding of physics. One possibility [newscientistspace.com] is the new model (of physics) developed by Burkhard Heim. He postulated additional dimensions beyond the 4 known ones: 3 spatial dimensions plus time. Using these additional dimensions, he rewrote general relativity in a quantum framework.

        From this model, Heim developed a theory that enabled physicists to accurately calculate the masses of the fundamental particles. Unfortunately, this theory is the only part (of his work) that has been peer-reviewed in a journal.

        Is the rest of his theory true? If it is true, it would have incredible ramifications. It means that we can build a hyperdrive to power a spacecraft to mars in about 3 hours. The hyperdrive would shove the spacecraft into a strange place which is outside of our standard universe of 4 dimensions; in that strange place, the speed of light is much faster than that in our universe. The hyperdrive would then push the spacecraft along one of those additional dimensions (beyond the basic 4 dimensions), powering the spacecraft towards Mars along that other worldly dimension.

        The American military thinks that Heim's model is valid and is actually attempting to build a prototype of the hyperdrive.

    • by Lord Prox (521892)
      The article is very misleading. This is for the Orion [wikipedia.org] CEV vehicle. This is NOT a lander. This is not for the moon. This is not for Mars. This is a orbital taxi. 4-6 crew members to orbit. ISS transfer.

      I am thankful that it looks like NASA is serious, and is reciving funding that it needs and has an aggressive schedule to meet the EOL deadline for the shullte program.



      Place a curse on the RIAA and MPAA [i-curse.com]
      • What fantasy world are you living on? NASA didn't get any more (significant) funding for this. They're cutting programs left and right to try to pay for this. Unmanned space science in America is about to be a thing of the past.
    • by Nahor (41537)

      Great, the US will finally make it to the moon.

      Don't bet one it. Given Lockheed Martin's track record [slashdot.org], they will be attacked by aliens without even them knowing:

      • the aliens will be able to spy on all the communication with Earth to know when best to attack because of unshielded cables
      • they will be able to approach without detection becuse at a temperature of about 0 Kelvin, there is no way the Orion's FLIR will work
      • then they will be able to get into the control cockpit without resistance because of the s
  • I hope it doesn't have to work below -5 F or need cameras on the side or require secure communications...
  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:11PM (#16020180) Homepage Journal
    ...those firms that lost the bid were awarded the Uranus probe contract.
  • by virtuald (996377) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:13PM (#16020194) Homepage Journal
    Anyone notice that with less technology, it takes 10 years to get to the moon. But with more technology, it takes 2 decades. Hmm...

    Of course yes, there is a whole different social reason to go there and whatever, and times have changed..

    • by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:20PM (#16020243) Homepage
      1. This system is of a much larger scale than the old one.
      2. The relative budget is much, much smaller - 18B vs 135B (in 2006 dollars).
      3. Space technology has not advanced as quickly as most people think it did or assume that it should. New structural alloys tend to only offer marginal improvements or cost reductions, and chemical fuels are already pretty stressed. Those being the dominant elements in rocket performance, plus the low number of new systems developed each year to the point of testing, plus political/economic pressure leading to frequent abandoning of projects mid-development or the use of craft that justly should be considered prototypes as workhorses, cause only slow downward price trends.

      Does answer your questions?
      • by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:24PM (#16020267) Homepage
        Correction: 18B$ is the price that craft development is predicted to rise to, not the entire program, which is $104B. Still, we're trying to do such a massive program on the cheap.
      • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:35PM (#16020333) Journal
        Two more things,
        1. Greater concerns for safty
        2. Goal isn't just to land on the moon, but create a system where moon landing, and moon bases are commonplace.
      • by mangu (126918) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:02PM (#16020497)
        I agree with you, except that in (3) we do have some structural materials that are significantly better, for instance carbon fiber, that weren't used at all in Apollo, AFAIK. Also, the vast advances in electronics means that we have better control systems with less mass in the hardware. Other than that, we are still stuck with basically the same fuels and same metal alloys that we had in Apollo.


        After all, we are still flying the same 747 aircraft that we had in 1970, our spacecraft shouldn't be much different either.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rei (128717)
          Well, carbon fiber is a mixed bag. It's not leaps and bounds better than lithium aluminum, but it is a better material in most respects. On the other hand, it's more expensive to fabricate structures, especially large structures, out of carbon fibre. Thus, you're losing out on the price advantage in exchange for getting slightly better performance.

          We already had some impressive carbon materials in the 60s, like carbon-carbon. They're cheaper now, but not that much cheaper. The problem is fabrication: y
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I've got a question, naiive though it may be. Came from thinking about the diamond straw discussions around the nanotech Jetson's car project, but has no relationship either to the Jetsons' car or nanotech -- ah well, that's associative thinking for you...

            How much of the fuel load of an orbital booster is spent getting the rocket the first ten feet off the ground? The first hundred? Could some bloody big spring (or compressed air actuators of some sort) underneath the launch pad compensate for even a few

    • by saskboy (600063) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:23PM (#16020260) Homepage Journal
      Times sure HAVE changed. What used to be a time filled with heroes that inspired a generation of space travellers, has now become a time where going to a space station is a big deal, or looking at yet more pictures of Mars on the Internet. They are impressive feats, but not something that children think is really unusual and the stuff from movies and comics. I don't think there are as many people interested in seeing humans expand into space, and that's a shame. One only has to look at the volunteers at NASA's launches for evidence [abandonedstuff.com].
      Lockheed Martin is a company with no human scruples, and is responsible for the wrecks out patrolling the US coast now with inferior designs. I'm sure most Slashdotters saw the Lockheed Martin contractor turned Whistleblower concerning YouTube videos condemning the company and Homeland Insecurity's blind eye to his list of ship problems.
      • As the Navy is also turning a blind eye, it makes me think its more of an issue of the Navy wanting to cut corners and Lockheed unwilling to tell them no. Lockheed makes many high quality planes and other vehicles. No reason to think they can't succed at this.. IF we keep politics out of it and don't think the media and NASA won't look this thing over carefully.
      • by nebaz (453974)
        If you ever watch old Sci-Fi, the Twilight Zone, for example, people used to think about having habitable planets within a reasonable distance, etc. Now that we have seen that this is not the case, people might have less interest in space. If we literally have to bring everything with us, it certainly isn't feasible (yet) to have something like a colony that could be used to repopulate the earth if it gets blown up. I realize that any progress in that direction needs to start somewhere, but I can see the
        • by saskboy (600063)
          The average person may not understand how valuable it is to have human DNA continued off the planet earth, but governments should be looking that far into the future. If we sit back and wait, major developments in travel might happen, but more likely we'll just find ourselves scrambling without enough time when the killer war, bug, or rock hits us hard.
        • by M0b1u5 (569472)
          Why would you want to re-populate the Earth if it blew up?
      • by ipfwadm (12995) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:38PM (#16021596) Homepage
        It's a theory of mine that the lack of interest in space exploration is at least partially due to light pollution obscuring our view of the night sky. Whenever I find myself in a really dark place (and living in the northeast US, such places are hard to come by) I always look up in wonder. I can just lie down and stare up at the stars for hours. Looking at the hazy glow of the Milky Way, watching satellites go by and shooting stars streaking across the sky... it's hard to not be interested in finding out more about what's up there. But in many cities it's hard to even see the Big Dipper. It's not surprising people have no interest in space when many of them don't have a connection to it anymore.
    • by misleb (129952) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:28PM (#16020296)
      Going to Mars isn't exactly trivial, ya know. I think a lot of people (especially slashdotters) vastly underestimate the resources it takes to make a safe trip to space... particularly outside of Earth orbit. For one thing, Mars has a lot more gravity than the Moon, so landing there and then taking off again become much more complicated.

      Look how much time and effort goes into just a Mars probe. How many of them have actually made it? Now, add in life support and a return vehicle and you have a pretty daunting task ahead of you.
      • Agreed (Score:3, Interesting)

        by iamlucky13 (795185)
        A very good comment. Considering a manned Mars mission in light of what it took to get to the moon the first time, what it takes to get an unmanned mission one-way to Mars, and how many pounds of groceries I buy each week to feed just myself (a Mars mission would be at least 3 people for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years), I'm skeptical that even the Mars Direct is feasible, and there's quite a few engineers familiar with spacecraft design pushing the Mars Direct architecture.

        In a world where you can run
      • The problem as I see it isn't so much the cost of getting there then getting back. That just needs propulsion, and we humans have been blowing things up for a long time, and getting better at it daily. The problem is gravity, or rather the lack of it.

        I mean, food, we can deal with that, algae pods fed by raw elements floating around. Air, water, no problems, what we can't pull from a comet and launch to the destination of our choice, we can recycle to the Nth degree. Energy, the sun is blazing with the s

      • Rubbish - sending people to Mars is not terribly tricky.

        It's getting them back that is hard/expensive.

        That's why I don't think we should even be worried about getting them back.

        Just start sending people, and worry about getting them back later - if ever. I mean, you'd have no shortage of people willing to leave Earth now, without any guarantee of ever getting back.

        By the time you figured out how to get people back form Mars, it'd have a population of a couple of thousand people, and most probably be a self
        • Nice idea. Now think of the worst case scenarios, and go read Lord of the Flies again.

          It might work in an ideal world, but I think the odds of people maintaining civility are rather small. At best the first settlers would be setting themselves up as rulers over those coming later, and at worst, it would be temporary insanity before death.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:25PM (#16020271)
    "NASA told the contractors to build a capsule that looks just like Apollo"

    Extra points were awarded to Lockheed for their proposal to use vacuum tubes.
    • "NASA told the contractors to build a capsule that looks just like Apollo"

      If you've watched the movie Stranded- you'd recognize the Orion. Perhaps the design idea has been kicking around NASA and the producers knew abot it, but...well...they're identical in proportions and appearance.

  • At first glance, and with recent reports of NASA trying to bring old technology out of mothballs, I really thought this could be the same Project Orion researched in the 50's that relied on dropping nuclear bomblets out the ass end of a rocket to propel it forward, with a giant shock absorber to smoothe out the propulsion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nucle a r_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

    Too bad it's not. I mean, if it was, it would never make it off the ground anyway with all the nuclear fear in the world, bu
    • I still wonder if it's a viable means of propulsion outside Earth? Say, to get from Orbit to Mars and back. I know folks are worried about getting the bomblets up there in the first place, but there's gotta be a way of taking the materials up and assembling them up there.
  • Radiation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:39PM (#16020351) Journal
    Both solar flares and cosmic radiation are serious (and potentially deadly) barriers to space exploration. Near the earth things aren't too bad, but a journey to Mars presents a serious problem. See this [spacedaily.com].


    Last I heard, there were no practical ways to deal with radiation in space.

    Does this mean NASA doesn't consider radiation to be a problem, or think it has a workable solution? Is so, what is it? And isn't it irresponsible to begin contracting if they don't have a solution?

    • by cyclone96 (129449)

      Does this mean NASA doesn't consider radiation to be a problem, or think it has a workable solution? Is so, what is it? And isn't it irresponsible to begin contracting if they don't have a solution?


      Well, remember that the Orion capsule is intended to be the primary transport to low earth orbit and the moon, not Mars. Orion is part of a long term Mars plan, but it would likely be only the ship the crew would use for launch and return, the long haul Mars transport craft would be something else.

      In fact, the M
      • I heard shielding really doesn't work. The most effective shielding is hydrogen (for technical reasons I don't understand), probably in the form of water. But it takes like 10 m (33 feet) of water to provide a decent shield - way too much to carry into space.
        • by Jeremi (14640)
          But it takes like 10 m (33 feet) of water to provide a decent shield - way too much to carry into space.


          I think step #1 ought to be to develop a way to carry huge quantities of mass into orbit. Once you're able to do that, everything else becomes easy. Without that, everything is difficult or impossible. Space Elevator, anyone?

    • Radiation is definitely something to be concerned about. Who knows what "fantastic" changes might occur to the DNA of four astronauts caught in an onslaught of comsmic rays. How will they cope and what will they do with their new-found powers. Be sure to pick up ISSUE #2.
    • by GooberToo (74388)
      This is exactly why NASA generally puts forward, the most likely candidates for a mission to Mars is their older crews. The logic being, older crews, should they actually develop cancer, will miss out on less of their lifespan. Likewise, it's possible the older guys may simply die of old age before cancer becomes a significant risk. Now, how much of that is NASA "cooler" talk or reality, I don't know. Just the same, I've read it in many different places over the years.

      Te long of the short is, we just do
    • Both solar flares and cosmic radiation are serious (and potentially deadly) barriers to space exploration. Near the earth things aren't too bad, but a journey to Mars presents a serious problem.

      Last I heard, there were no practical ways to deal with radiation in space.

      You must have last heard back in the 50's or so.

      Does this mean NASA doesn't consider radiation to be a problem, or think it has a workable solution? Is so, what is it?

      The solution has been known for decades - provide

    • by jeffsenter (95083)
      Both solar flares and cosmic radiation are serious (and potentially deadly) barriers to space exploration. Near the earth things aren't too bad, but a journey to Mars presents a serious problem.

      Last I heard, there were no practical ways to deal with radiation in space.


      This post is misleading and somewhat inaccurate. Radiation is a bit of a problem in interplanetary space such as between the Earth and Mars, but it is nowhere near the killer show-stopping problem it is made out to be. The Case for Mars
  • This phrase is in there twice" 1)"described by NASA's chief as "Apollo on steroids"" then later , 2) "in the words of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, "Apollo on steroids.""

    c'mon, /. I can understand having editorial probs, such is the site, but CNN?? c'mon guys, hire a real editor, it's not like you can't afford it!
  • Funny, Lockheed Martin seems to be in the news [slashdot.org] quite a lot of late.
  • Umm, why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by janolder (536297) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:53PM (#16020450) Homepage
    Now somebody just has to explain to me why we'd want to go to the moon again, especially with humans.

    Considering that GW Bush's "vision" of human space exploration of the moon is crowding out much more productive and waaaay less expensive robotic exploration and even basic research at home, I'm even less convinced this is the right way forward. We could also consider the source, but we wouldn't want to get distracted by other failed visionary projects (such as democratizing the middle east by attacking Iraq) when evaluating a plan on its merits.

    Certainly, human exploration is much more flashy and is the only type of exploration that captures the imagination of the average population. But what can we possibly learn from doing yet another moon mission? If you're looking to explore the universe, more systems like Hubble will do fine. If you're looking to explore the solar system, robotic probes go farther for a lot less. If you're looking for a microgravity environment, the ISS will do fine. If you're looking for a launch platform to Mars, the ISS or - for that matter - any old orbit around earth is much closer to home (read inexpensive).

    Perhaps I'm missing. If so, I'd be happy to hear about it.

    • No kidding.


      Robotic exploration could be done at a fraction of the cost of human exploration. Keeping people alive and returning them to earth is a very difficult proposition.

      Of course, it doesn't quite have the romance. My attitude, however, is screw the romance - we could achieve far more, far faster, and at far less cost with robots.

      Human settlement, of course, requires humans. But we're a long way from that.

    • Certainly, human exploration is much more flashy and is the only type of exploration that captures the imagination of the average population. But what can we possibly learn from doing yet another moon mission? If you're looking to explore the universe, more systems like Hubble will do fine. If you're looking to explore the solar system, robotic probes go farther for a lot less. If you're looking for a microgravity environment, the ISS will do fine. If you're looking for a launch platform to Mars, the ISS or

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vanyel (28049) *
      That assumes mere scientific exploration of remote worlds is the entire goal. We will learn a considerable amount about living and working on those remote worlds by starting on the moon, which is relatively close by. Even the science on remote worlds will advance faster once you have an actual lab with humans on site where you can adapt to what you find on the fly. And once the technology is bootstrapped by these leaders, the rest of us will be able to follow. As with all tech toys, it will start out ex
    • Re:Umm, why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:10PM (#16020823)
      This is the age old debate that killed the Apollo program in the 1970's. People asked the same basic question, "Why spend all this money to go to the moon. We've been there done that. We have starving people still on earth and wars and other bad things we could solve." There is also a voice withing the scientific community, most notably comming from Carl Sagan, that robots can do it faster, cheaper, and arguably better.

      If NASA went totally robotic, yes they may learn things, but public interest and their budget to do such missions would shrink as a few nerdy folks in the bowls of mission control would actually care.

      Case in point: the current mars rovers that are STILL going around Mars. Spirit and Oppertunity have been wildly sucessful way beyond their initial expectation, yet when was the last time you heard a news report about how well the mission as gone? The arguement goes, the less the public sees pretty pictures (like from hubble) or having people fly the missions, the less the public cares. The less the public cares, the more funds go else where to other things and missions continue to scale back.

      Frankly, NASA's $15B budget is meager considering they are one of the few outfits that spends money on Basic Research. Basic research is what yields new technologys that help keep the economy going and improves daily life. It's thinks like that that yielded us many of the devices we use every day. I'm not going to go into them all, but you can read other posts about it.

      Here is my arguement.

      Fact: If humanity is going to survive, we have to get off this rock.

      Also, given the times, sending people to the moon and mars is something that could be used to rally people together. Let's face it, there is a lot of bad things on the horizon. Militant Islam is going to be a problem until enough brave men stand up instead of doing nothing. (I'm sorry, but there are some things going on now that rhymes, as Mark Twain would say, with what happened in the 1930's.) Also you have new global economic battlelines being drawn between the US, EU, and China. With all that going on, reaching for the stars is something, if sold to the people, could turn things around.

      Then there is this: if not us, who? The Chinese? Frankly the Chinese would be the type to land on the moon and start mining for resources and say: "Screw the moon treaty, what are you going to do about it?" The Europeans? So far they've had no interest in doing so... If the US gets back to the moon and keeps the mentality of using it for exploration and scientific purpose, it continues a presenant that is hard to break politically.


      • If NASA went totally robotic, yes they may learn things, but public interest and their budget to do such missions would shrink as a few nerdy folks in the bowls of mission control would actually care.


        That's exactly what happened with the manned Apollo missions. That's what will happen with the Orion project in it's present form.
      • Comparing costs (Score:3, Interesting)

        by guet (525509)
        Frankly the Chinese would be the type to land on the moon and start mining for resources and say: "Screw the moon treaty, what are you going to do about it?"

        Most of the rest of the world would say this of the current United States attitude. A better attitude would be to launch a cooperative project with other space agencies, as NASA has been doing in the past.

        If NASA went totally robotic, yes they may learn things, but public interest and their budget to do such missions would shrink as a few nerdy folks
    • Robots are a poor substitute for people

      Robotic systems are good for finding what you expect; to find what you *DON'T* expect usually takes human judgment. Lofting one planetologist on a one way flight to Mars with some lab equipment and a small set of hand tools recognizable to a geologist or rock hound on Earth would probably yield more data than all of the robotic Mars probes we have, or could ever, get to Mars.

      Just like the information we got from the moon by sending people to putter around there, and t
      • by Jeremi (14640)
        Robots are a poor substitute for people

        On Earth, that's very true. In space, people are a poor substitute for robots. People require pressurized cabins, oxygen, water, food, exercise, entertainment, and so on... and worst of all, they aren't considered expendable, so every mission has to be a round trip (you personally may disagree with that, but it's the political reality nevertheless). That means that including humans as part of the equipment drives up the cost by three or four orders of magnitude. Su

  • by FleaPlus (6935) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:00PM (#16020483) Journal
    The title of this story is wrong -- Lockheed Martin just won the contract for the Orion Crew & Service Module (CSM). The CSM is the party which will transport astronauts around in space, and land them back on Earth. The actual lunar lander, the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM), hasn't had its contract awarded yet, to say nothing of a "Mars Lander."

    Of course, all this is rather confusing. I follow space news more closely than most, and I often get confused myself. Fortunately, Wikipedia's article on Project Constellation [wikipedia.org] (the overall architecture) has a nice overview of what all the pieces are and how they fit together.

    That said, I really wish that NASA would spend this money on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems [space.com] program instead, accomplishing the same objectives in a more cost-effective manner. With COTS, companies only get paid if they succeed. NASA will instead be spending $3.9 billion (assuming there aren't cost overruns) just to get a capsule, while giving a total of $500 million (split between 2 companies) to COTS in order to get both rockets and capsules. To top it off, the COTS vehicles are scheduled to be completed years before the Lockheed Martin capsule is ready.

    The Space Frontier Foundation has an interesting whitepaper [space-frontier.org] arguing for why COTS should get they money instead of the Orion program.
    • by Keebler71 (520908) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:33PM (#16021572) Journal
      That said, I really wish that NASA would spend this money on the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program instead, accomplishing the same objectives in a more cost-effective manner. With COTS, companies only get paid if they succeed. NASA will instead be spending $3.9 billion (assuming there aren't cost overruns) just to get a capsule, while giving a total of $500 million (split between 2 companies) to COTS in order to get both rockets and capsules. To top it off, the COTS vehicles are scheduled to be completed years before the Lockheed Martin capsule is ready.

      You are articulating many of the misconceptions about COTS that have been brought up recently in the space news. First off, it is completely unfair to compare COTS with CEV. CEV is being designed to support lunar and Mars missions. The delta-V, life support, habitable volume and TPS requirements are not even comparable to those for the COTS missions. Also, the $500M is only for a demonstration of cargo transportation capability - the crew transportation demonstration will not commence until one of the particpants has demonstrated pressurized cargo deliver and return and will be funded seperately

      Second, COTS was underfunded on purpose. NASA wants out of the space transportation buisness and instead wants to be able to allocate its resources toward exploration while paying commercial providers for cheap, safe, reliable access to LEO. The problem is that there is no provider for such services. The goals of COTS is to facilitate the creation of a market for commercial space transportation and to then call upon these services to meet our ISS crew and cargo requirements. Completely funding one of these ventures would be "buisness as usual" - just with a different upstart partner. By only partially funding them, NASA is effectively forcing them to have a strong financing plan. Investors and venture capitalists will only put their dollars into companies with strong buisness plans - presumably ones that:

      • have potential for growth (read: aren't reliant on NASA)
      • turn a profit
      If NASA can jump-start such a space transporation market with this COTS seed money, then they will be but one of many customers in a growing market (of both customers and providers). Bigger market - more missions - more payloads and research on orbit - cheaper cost/kg. Science wins, industry wins, NASA wins, the taxpayers win.

      In the early part of the last century, the postal service played a similiar role in creating the aviation infrastructure necessary to eventually support a commercial air transportation service market.

      • Very well stated. I don't think NASA could have done a better job.
      • by Soft (266615)

        First off, it is completely unfair to compare COTS with CEV. CEV is being designed to support lunar and Mars missions. The delta-V, life support, habitable volume and TPS requirements are not even comparable to those for the COTS missions.

        That's CEV block 2. Block 1 is aimed at the ISS; according to the whitepaper that the parent post cites, NASA's approach of developing the two as being based on the same vehicle is leading to a false sense of urgency and poor design decisions.

        Second, COTS was under

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      Yeah, but then Lockheed won't get it's requisite amount of pork, and what fun is that?
  • So who's up for tagging this one "youtube"?

  • An early version of Northrop Grumman built the Apollo lunar lander. Companies bought by Boeing built the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury capsules, and Skylab and the space shuttle.

    "NASA decided to do something different and go with a company that has not been in manned space before, sort of spreading the wealth and making sure they've got two contractors that know the manned space business"


    I don't know about you, but doesn't this scream cost overruns?

    If I am going to the moon, I would like to have a company wh
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by DerekLyons (302214)
      If I am going to the moon, I would like to have a company who has a history of building manned spacecraft.

      You are pretty much stuck on this rock then - because there isn't such a company in existence today. *Nobody* has any current experience in designing manned spacecraft. Even the Russians limit themselves to modest modification to their existing craft - it will be very interesting to see how Kliper plays out (assuming it ever gets built).
  • Please note that all this wonderous stuff happens in the next administration's budget.

    NASA and space exploration is all about money, worse yet, NASA is just another beaurocratic organization of the federal government.

    However, if some idiot says "lets go to the moon, so then we can get to Mars" then NASA will agree just to get the possible money to go do the job.

    Why good god do we need to go land on an interim planet (um... dwarf planet? moon? gotta go see if the moon qualifies as a moon anymore, ever since
  • What I don't understand is why they just do not build a modular 'space bus' from uploaded sections using todays heavy lift vehicle's. Then use the current Soyus/Progress system to transfer crew/fuel/supplies/equipment back and forth. With the occasional new module again using the current heavy lift stuff. That way your missions would not be constrained by how much a single heavy launch vehicle could get off the ground. Not only that but the entire program would be sped up and be international in scope w

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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