It's Official: Constellation Cancelled, No NASA Return to Moon; Shift Towards Private Space February 1, 2010Posted by Nick Azer in : Constellation, NASA, Norm Augustine, Obama, SpaceX, U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, Vision for Space Exploration , 7comments
With the release of its 2011 budget proposal, the Obama administration has concurrently announced, in no uncertain terms, that the current NASA Constellation program is cancelled.
“The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration…” -Official White House website, 2011 Budget fact Sheet
The fact sheet goes on to explain the new direction focusing on private space, including some significant funds:
- $1.2 billion for transformative research in exploration technology that will involve NASA, private industry, and academia, sparking spin-off technologies and potentially entire new industries
- $500 million to contract with industry to provide astronaut transportation to the ISS, reducing the sole reliance on foreign crew transports and catalyzing new businesses and significant new jobs.
“Entire new industries”, “catalyzing new businesses” and jobs…As hinted at in his campaign space plan (and by his initial Commerce Secretary appointment of NM Gov. Bill Richardson), Obama clearly believes in the economic potential of an industry-focused NASA. Note that the ISS contract mentioned there is already awarded—SpaceX just needs to prove its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are human-ready for the option to vest, and both Orbital and SpaceX are already the new ISS cargo suppliers.
What does this mean for moon colonization? It means that NASA itself won’t be landing anyone on the moon.
There is a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ out there about how there won’t be humans on the Moon anytime soon, which is a false assertion—the Chinese program is full-steam-ahead, and if private space can be trusted with the ISS contracts at this early stage, then they’re on a course to be putting men on the Moon before long; perhaps even before NASA would have landed men anyways.
Americans will be on the Moon again soon; they’ll just have to hitch a ride with a company or an international effort to get there. And the U.S. will remain a major lunar player, with many private companies and Google Lunar X PRIZE efforts being American.
The fact sheet doesn’t say anything about new human exploration options, such as the ‘Flexible Path‘ suggested by the Augustine panel, so word remains to be seen regarding that, and whether NASA will shift to a manned asteroid mission or mission to Mars’ moons.
Augustine Panel, NASA, U.S. Human Space Flight Committee, Vision for Space Exploration , add a comment
The site is notable for an array of savvy, unexpected interactive features:
- Submit comments or suggestions to the committee;
- A “Submit a question, get an answer” feature with a public voting system for question priority. So far, two “Top” questions have been answered (Update: significantly more answered questions can be found here), with others duking it out in the voting below to join them;
- An official Twitter feed (@NASA_HSF);
- Open public discussion of selected panel topics;
- An official Flickr gallery (where the image above of Dr. Leroy Chiao is from)’;
- A blog-esque news updates page;
- An RSS feed; and
- A method of emailing documents to the committee (email link).
The site also has other handy information, like detailed bios of each of the panel members.
It’s wonderful to have such a level of interaction available with this panel—we can all become a part of the process :) And I was excited by just Dr. Chiao’s open call for comments; this is a whole another level of participation compared to that. So check it out, jump into the topics discussions, and get voting on the good questions ;)
Picture of the Week: Peek-A-Boo August 8, 2008Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Picture of the Week, selenodesy, Selenology, Vision for Space Exploration , add a comment
That is a picture of a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mockup, with the Narrow Angle Camera being looked at by a team member identified as ‘Cathy’ (which, looking at the team’s members, is probably the Deputy Project Manager Catherine Peddie).
The LRO is the first major mission of the Vision for Space Exploration era of NASA, with an expected launch of February 27, 2009. It’s mission is largely one of documentation, with a more in-depth look at the selenology and selenodesy of the moon in preparation for the set-up of colonies there before 2030 or so. In addition to what will assuredly be lots of neat, pretty pictures, the LRO will send back valuable information about radiation, water, and other key environmental elements that may or may not be present on the moon.
Magnetic Attraction July 22, 2008Posted by Nick Azer in : Constellation, Helium-3, hoax theories, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, radiation, Vision for Space Exploration , add a comment
One concern that gets voiced about lunar colonization is the levels of radiation colonists could be exposed to, and how much of a threat that is (and whether there is sufficient methods of protection against it).
“We really need to know more about the radiation environment on the Moon, especially if people will be staying there for more than just a few days.”
-Harlan Spence, astronomy professor at Boston University
Mapping out and investigating the levels of radiation is one the central goals of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, the first tentpole mission of the landmark Vision for Space Exploration/Constellation era.
Various remedies and shields have been suggested, including isolated magnetic fields (like Reiner Gamma, pictured above; these are speculated to be a result of crater- and other ejecta), spherical man-made shields (pictured below), and even the Earth itself.
I personally trust in human ingenuity to come up with something, and the lack of effects on the Apollo astronauts seems promising (though many seem to think that indicates the whole Apollo landing was actually a hoax). At the very least, the commercial motivation for a company to come up with something that could enable colonization (and therefore utilization of groundbreaking resources) could eventually (or very quickly) become too strong to be ignored.
To cap, here’s a segment on the subject from a NASA video (Destination Tomorrow), courtesy of Youtube: