by Edward Ellegood
Florida Space Development Council
October 26, 2016

 

The Next President Will Take Power with Significant Space Decisions Looming

At the upper edge of the atmosphere, where the sky kisses outer space, a few molecules of nitrogen and oxygen bounce around. If we consider the presidential election as playing out at the surface of the Earth, amid a thick atmosphere of invective and accusation, it is not a stretch to say the relative importance of space policy lies somewhere near the edge of space, bouncing around inconsequentially, like these stray molecules. Even so, the next president of the United States will have the ability, if not the desire, to shape the future of America’s civil space programs—especially with major decision points on the horizon, including the privatization of spaceflight and the details of where humans should go beyond low-Earth orbit. For this reason, we’re going to look at what changes a new president might make and what attitudes each candidate has had toward space. — Ars Technica

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Opinion: How To Colonize Mars

Within a month, the aspiration to send humans to Mars seems to have reached a new level of media exposure. First Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin disclosed its plan to build the New Glenn, a rocket with the potential to send humans into space. Then SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presented his vision of how we could shuttle to and from Mars within a couple of decades. And two weeks later, President Obama wrote an op-ed calling for America to set its sights on sending humans to Mars by the 2030s with the ambition of remaining there for an extended time. While coming from different angles, both Musk and Obama emphasized the need for a public-private partnership to achieve these ambitious goals. Musk’s main objective is to make the trip to Mars affordable for as many people as possible. His hypothesis is that if one can bring the cost down to the median cost of a house in the U.S.—$200,000—then there will be a critical mass of people who can afford and are willing to go. In order to reach that affordability threshold, he believes government money will be needed along the way, hence the need for a public-private partnership. — Aviation Week

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Orbital ATK Looks Deeper Into Space Following Successful Launch

Orbital ATK is no doubt celebrating — and breathing a sigh of relief — following its first successful launch of its Antares rocket since that same brand of rocket exploded seconds after takeoff two years ago. But Orbital ATK isn’t viewing this as moment of redemption, but rather as an opportunity to position its signature space vehicles for future deep-space missions. Following these commercial cargo launches, Orbital ATK wants to sell NASA on its cislunar space habitats. These space habitats would essentially be modified Cygnus vehicles that go beyond its current mission of delivering cargo in low-earth orbit — about 250 miles out — to the International Space Station, all the way out into cislunar space — the region comprising the Moon’s orbit. — Washington Business Journal

 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw Neil Armstrong step on the Moon nearly 50 years ago and the moment changed his life. Now, as the head of one of the robust online retailers in the world, Bezos says that space is the next frontier, a new internet if you will, that is desperately lacking in infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. Bezos said the sole purpose of his rocket venture Blue Origin is to build out the same kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon enjoyed in 1995 with the early internet. “Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry,”Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. “Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space.” Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there’s also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. “We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost.”  — The Verge

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New Chinese Company Set Up to Develop Space Economy

The commercialization of rocket launches will boost the industry by bringing space tourism income and attracting private investment, experts said. ChinaRocket Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country’s largest developer of ballistic missiles and carrier rockets, was established on Wednesday, marking the commercialization of China’s space industry. “Chinese commercial space enterprises are lagging behind the global market due to lack of complete production chain in the commercial space industry and experience in commercial space activities like space tourism,” Li Hong, president of the academy, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Commercializing rocket launches will help develop the industry as many private companies will be interested in the sector,” said Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Science of Peking University. Jiao said the establishment of the company signals that State-controlled space industry is stepping into ordinary people’s daily life. — Global Times

 

Enabling a Mars Settlement Strategy with the Hercules Reusable Mars Lander
by John Strickland

Two key driving constraints have led NASA’s design community to mission and architecture solutions that are more Apollo-like than settlement or colonization driven. One constraint is the mandate to utilize NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) as the workhorse to get humans beyond low-Earth orbit. The projected cost of SLS, combined with anticipated flat budget profiles, means that the maximum number of annual flights of SLS will be limited to two per year (or three in a “surge” year). Another constraint, based on direction from the White House, is to send humans to orbit Mars and return safely by the mid-2030s, with a landing on Mars to follow. NASA subsequently set the goal for achieving the first human landing on Mars by the late 2030s.

To architect Mars mission scenarios with a limited launch cadence and still target a first human landing in the late 2030s, the design community is motivated to maximize the useful payload mass delivered to Mars to support each human mission. The rocket equation shows that staging is a great way to maximize payload for a given launch system capacity. The end result is that the transportation architecture is largely performance driven, relying on expendable, multistage systems, including the Mars lander and the two-stage Mars ascent vehicle. This results in a “boots-on-Mars” or “flags-and-footprints” as the best case mission scenario—a Mars super-sortie, defined as a mission measured in months-to-years, employing only those systems and provisions required to support a single crew. Subsequent missions would attempt to leverage assets or infrastructure from previous missions to eventually evolve to a permanent base.  — Space Review

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Oregon L5 Builds NSS Moon Base in Cyberspace

Early NSS chapter Oregon L5 Society first became involved in Second Life by building a lunar lava tube exhibit at NASA CoLab, a “Sim” run by NASA Ames Research Center. Wanting to establish a foothold in the largest user-created VR platform on Earth, NSS committed to buy and maintain a region or “Sim” in Second Life and appointed Oregon L5, through their Research Team to manage it. When Ames’ funding dried up and they left Second Life, NSS was able to preserve CoLab’s award-winning “NASA Library and Archive” built by professional archivist Shannon Bohle ( SL “Archivist Llewellyn”). Over the years the simple virtual lava tube has become a deep lunar lava tube base, currently being rebuilt with improved virtual materials. The previous surface base is still open to the public at altitude above the “ground.”  Further up, there is a partial “Earth-Moon L1 Base” with a pressurized, water-shielded lunar-glass sphere, the “Space BALLroom,” where they hold meetings and educational, socio-cultural, and space-related public events.  — Oregon L5