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Comment Re:The first two launches will take place in 2017 (Score 2) 69

I dunno... Bob Richards has been in the Space biz for a long time, and probably has a good eye for TRL's. But even if Rocket Lab isn't ready by 2017, MoonEx might be able to find an alternate launch provider. Remember, there's a fairly good chance that SpaceX could turn the entire launch market upside-down in a few weeks, if/when (fingers crossed) they "stick the landing" on their next F9 launch. In any case, I don't think MoonEx's chances of winning the GLXP will be limited by Rocket Lab's schedule, there are other options available.

Comment Re: An interesting option (Score 1) 148

Extreme cold is not the show-stopper here, we've been dealing with that for decades already. Sustainability is the goal, and even that is a "soft" target. Any serious colonization effort, such as Musk is proposing, will send many tons of fresh supplies at every launch opportunity, giving the colonists a buffer toward self reliance.

Do we know how to grow food in a greenhouse? Check.
Do we know how to recycle the vast majority of air and water in a closed system like ISS? Check.
Do we know how to build machines that can operate on Mars over the long term? Check.

I'm all in favor of doing a test run in a "forbidding" environment here on Earth first, but it doesn't have to be extremely cold, extremely hot would work just as well. And it has the benefit of being more analogous to a likely Mars settlement location, since we'd never choose the poles, given their crazy seasonal highs and lows in solar input.

And as for the OP's notion of going to Phobos first... again, what's the point? All of the problems you raise will only be worse on Phobos.

(BTW, the GP to this post is also mine, I just wasn't logged in at the time, which is why it came out as AC.)

Comment Re:Natural space station (Score 4, Interesting) 148

I saw Robert Zubrin talk at a recent conference (via YouTube) and he said the delta-V between Phobos's orbit and the orbits you'd want to use for landing on Mars is very costly, making it an unnecessary and wasteful detour on the way to our real destination. The only reason you'd go there would be to tele-robotically build your Mars base before you land, and Phobos would provide radiation shielding for that long process.

OTOH, building your base would go a lot quicker if done by astronauts on the surface, and radiation shielding wouldn't be that hard to improvise with Martian regolith. Granted, you would probably get less shielding that way than you would on Phobos, but you'd have far less effects from long-term microgravity too, so... pick your poison.

Zubrin's point is, if your long-term goal is to have a colony on Phobos, then go to Phobos. If your goal is a colony on Mars, just go there and do that.

Comment Re:House loses most staunch Democrat (Score 1) 404

I understand all that, my question is why announce it now? Is he trying to "bury the story" under the Papal news cycle? (Fat chance!) I suspect he'll pitch it more as a "come to Jesus" moment, inspired by the Pope. Not that it matters much, he's leaving in any case. I'm just curious to see how it plays out.

Comment Re:House loses most staunch Democrat (Score 2) 404

I'm slightly intrigued by the proximity of this announcement to the Papal visit. I know Boehner's said he wanted to quit last time, but only stayed on because Cantor got the boot. And the hardliners in his own party have been circling like wolves to unseat him as Speaker. But is there a chance that he was wavering on this decision, and something about the Pope's visit prompted him to get off the fence?

Comment Re:Slashdotted already? (Score 2) 146

Reminds me of the Chinese typewriters they had back in the 80s. They had a couple thousand characters on the "keyboard" which were physically picked up and stamped on the page. It took months of training just to get started... years to get proficient. Life for Chinese speakers got a LOT easier once computers became ubiquitous. But even then, there were different competing input methods and encoding schemes... It didn't really get solved until Unicode started living up to the hype back in the mid-noughties. Nowadays, it's about as easy as you could ask for.

Comment Re: The answer is... (Score 1) 211

Do not count on SpaceX being successful with their landing

Doesn't matter if they land the booster on this flight or the next (etc.) they are clearly making progress toward that goal,and will reach it soon enough. And I agree, Bigelow will shift into gear as soon as a reliable, affordable man-rated launch system is available.

But keep in mind, SpaceX's quote of $20m per seat is based on the throw-away-booster cost model. The minute you start reusing boosters, that model will change. We don't know how much yet, because we don't know how many times you can reuse a booster. But assuming it's at least 10x per airframe, that will probably get you into single-digit territory.

The next few years are going to be very interesting.

Comment Re: The answer is... (Score 3, Interesting) 211

I stand corrected, thanks. In any case, the point remains that Bigelow is ready and waiting to launch the "next" space station, and that wait will be over in a couple of years. I think the vast majority of people out there are unaware of how radically different the launch market will be in just a few years from now. Very likely, in about six weeks, SpaceX will "stick the landing" of the booster stage on their next launch. That historic event will bring an order-or-magnitude drop in the cost of getting to space. And that will change everything.

Right now, the "market price" for a ride to LEO is about $70 million per person, and hardly anyone can afford it. But what happens when it's $7 million? There's going to be a waiting list for bunks at the Bigelow Orbital Hotel & Resort, and the "space economy" will be off and running.

The Google Lunar X-Prize will be happening around the same time, opening the moon to private exploration and exploitation. Planetery Resources and Deep Space Industries are also gearing up for their role in that new economy. I think this tipping point is going to happen much more rapidly than most people appreciate.

Comment Re:The answer is... (Score 2) 211

Bob Bigelow. He's the guy whose company is sending an inflatable module to the ISS later this year. They already have a proof-of-concept module in orbit, and would already have launched their much bigger BA330, but there's currently no rocket powerful enough to loft it. But the upcoming SpaceX Falcon Heavy will be powerful enough, and that should be flying by this time next year.

Their plan is to rent space in the BA330 to countries and/or companies that want to do something in microgravity, but can't afford to launch a whole station themselves. When the Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 are man-rated (ca. 2017), the cost of getting humans to LEO will plummet, making this a very attractive option for many entities that currently would never dream of such ventures.

Comment Re:sweet ... (Score 1) 57

We'll have the tech to get people there before this NASA proposal ever gets off the ground. The Google Lunar X-Prize will be there in a couple of years, anyway (with robots). And once SpaceX gets the Dragon-2 flying, I reckon it would be possible to rig some way to take 2 or 3 people (instead of 7) on a round-trip mission to the lunar surface. (I haven't seen any good data on this... it might require a separate descent stage a-la Apollo. Anybody know?)

All I know is, there are a lot of very smart people doing a lot of work right now in the private sector. The entire launch market will be radically different by the time they're talking about flying this mission.

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics