Archive for the ‘Moon Base Mission’ category

BACK TO THE MOON – Together

April 15, 2011

The multi-lingual calls to return to the Moon shown in the above image are just a few samples of the many other national languages all calling for a revisit to lovely Luna. Well Russia is gearing up for it, China too and one must ask, why this nationalistic attitude when we could all work together? We could be combining scientific and technological brilliance with shared costs to create the second greatest International Space Station: The Moon.

Yes, everyone wants to go to Mars too, but a second International Space Station located on the Moon would be a significant step forward in the bolstering of an already international climate for joint space exploration programs. The diplomatic breakthroughs in putting this joint effort into being would also be an incredible leap forward toward global peace. It would also be a definite enhancement of humankind‘s continuation on this planet and beyond. In other words we learn to live and work together, thereby living longer and reaching further into space. Seems like an awfully good idea.

This big event would most likely be a joint activity of both governmental and commercial programs all joined together for a common goal. The sharing of technological expertises as well as the sharing of the ongoing costs for such programs mandates a global consortium. There is no question that we can do it. The only question is will we even try?

It is natural for humankind to be competitive, but it is also natural for us to come together and succeed jointly. History certifies this fact. So, lets make history again. There are already solid, cooperative links between many of the space-faring nations. We should use those as the  foundation upon which to build the WILR – the World Institute for Lunar Research. The biggest step is for each space-faring nation to give up the desire to be “first” and instead accept a joint “first place” for all humankind.  In other words a world full of heroes, with an international flag implanted on the Moon’s surface. When we accomplish this we will ensure that not one single astronaut/cosmonaut that has visited space ever did so for naught.

Now is the time, while all space-faring nations are scrambling to keep some level of space exploration alive. Sub-dividing that effort nation by nation is a starvation diet. If we come together our joint efforts will both survive and prosper.

Let’s do it! Давайте сделаем это! Faisons-le! चलो यह करते हैं! Hebu kufanya hivyo!

HEADER IMAGE: NASA image of astronaut Bruce McCandless II who performed the first independent space walk.

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DRIVE OUT THE “HO HUMS”:Send In The Explorers

November 26, 2010

Right now, for so many of us, the future has the look of a scattered picture puzzle with lots of missing pieces. Oh yeah, we have been here before and have survived. One of the keys of our past survivals was the abundant view of a promising new future. We were able to dream and hope and thus our struggles, though painful, held promise and actually moved us forward. Well, we need such a set of views now. Most importantly, we need to send in more than clowns. We need to send in explorers to give us realistic dreams and hopes for our future. This has always worked for all humankind and it can work now.

Lo and behold, there is just such an exploratory rescue on the horizon! The aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin Corporation has announced its plans to launch an exploratory mission to the dark side of the Moon. Now as a space exploration venture by a leading member of the private sector, this is spectacular. In our opinion to make it even more spectacular and scientifically promising we would like to see this project become a joint effort by Lockheed-Martin and NASA.

Oh yes, we hear the grind, buzz and rattle of the government budget hackers as they get ready to launch another warning rant about the high cost of space exploration. We also hear the doors slam of the White House science advisory staff who have already exhausted their limited imagination. These reactions ignore the truly realistic economic stimulus for both the private sector and the legion of space exploration specialists stuck hopelessly on idle. On top of this is the incredible benefit of an awesome, exciting and stimulating space exploration effort. It reawakens both public and media interest and support. “Ho Hums” begin running out the door.

The working relationship between NASA and Lockheed-Martin is time-tested in the cauldron of our historically successful shuttle and International Space Station missions. Adding NASA into the new Moon project adds an immense and hungry public interest as well as shared funding and technology support. For Lockheed-Martin, as the prime, this is a significant boost to an already ambitious and inspiring plan. For NASA it is a new experience as second fiddle, but within a famous symphony orchestra with a  global performance ahead. Everybody can be winners. Everybody in this case are the key players, as well as a global population of space exploration enthusiasts.

“Make It So!” This classic order from the realm of the Star Trek series is most fitting for our joint venture recommendation. This phrase should become the motto for the launch of this joint space program. It should also be the shout that echoes throughout the halls of Congress and the White House. In making it so, our politicians stand to rise in eminence by boosting our economy, by boosting opportunities for the jobless and by projecting a glimmering view of humankind’s future in space exploration.

Dare we not “Make It So?”

CREDITS:

Broken puzzle image courtesy of  “smh” on Great House Fliggerty at:http://bit.ly/gdAQSs

Header image courtesy of Lockheed-Martin, and  POPSCI 

SAILING THE CELESTIAL SEA – A Reprise.

October 9, 2010

This is a reprise of and earlier editorial blog which seems very relevant to today’s times.

Yes, we have celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the science of modern astronomy and the telescope, but we are also celebrating our bold steps across the threshold of the space sciences. We have stopped crawling and are now considering our next real steps into the space environment. We should reflect and rejoice.

As spectacular as our accomplishments have been they are furtive when compared to where we shall be going. Like youngsters taking their first steps, we need to be mindful of that parental warning: “Don’t Rush It.

What’s Ahead? In the “mid-distant” future, manned space exploration will be limited to this solar system.  Now, that is not a bad thing.  Not only are we going to find important answers to how life develops on planets, but we are also going to learn about the entire process of planet and solar system formation.  Yes, man will land on Mars, and probably one or more of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.  We will also explore the asteroid belt and actually develop mining operations on some of them.  None of these activities are overnight events.  We are talking trilllions of dollars and millions of hours for the design and development of efficient and safe space exploration systems. All of this is incredibly healthy for we Earthlings both financially and intellectually.

Going Deep Into Space: Well, what about deep space?  Is the Kepler Mission a waste of time and money? The answer should be obvious, it certainly is not.  Our exploration of deep space is going to not just blossom it is going to explode when we finally find life bearing exoplanetary systems.  There will be that dreamed of and prized “first contact.” It will be entirely and uniquely robotic, and will remain that way for a long, long time. Don’t despair, the kind of contact I am talking about will represent almost unimaginable breakthroughs in robot design. It is time to use the science-fiction concept of cyborgs to understand this process.

A New Improved HAL: With apologies to that legion of science fiction writers, I predict we completely discard those ideas of a “pasted” together man and machine cyborg.  In reality we will develop totally safe and sane “Hal-like” robots that are directly, intimately linked to a specially selected and trained astronaut team. The team are astronauts because they are in space, but not deep space.  They reside in a satellite complex located in, for example, the L1 or L2 orbital points around the Sun. These astronauts are the command, control and communication unit for the robot team in deep space.  This is necessary to escape the communication and control barrier of the Earths atmosphere. It also allows the full usage of an expanded Deep Space Network (the key space communications network).

To listen to what the robot team in the image above are playing, you may click here.

How that program will work is the topic for another My Celestia article.  The image on the left above is simply an example of a real robot team that was developed by Toyota as a demonstration.  Are they playing music?  Yes they are.  Are they playing in a coordinated manner?  Yes they are.  So, in this respect it is a very limited example of the kind of robotics we will develop for our deep space visits.  We can venture this. The robot team will operate on the most advancedneural network artificial intelligence that, like HAL, is very human and beyond in its capabilities and response to the ET environment they are visiting.

The Bottom Line: There is always a bottom line and in this case to bring this multiple space exploration program into reality there needs to be some big, big changes.  First the NASA team needs to become a full-fledged NASA-Industrial Complex.  Don’t let that frighten you.  This coordinated activity is the only way we are going to really get out there properly, safely and soon. For this to happen, NASA needs to get its act together.  Please, they have done marvelous, amazing and courageous things in their history, but now they have stepped into a much bigger role that needs an entirely new program and fiscal management paradigm

The above is not going to be an easy process, and there are many out there who rather shoot NASA down than realize that NASA and its industrial/scientific partners are one of the key elements of both our growth and future stability.  Space is the next (not the last) frontier and we are a nation that has built itself on our exploring past frontiers.  It has worked well, and this time we stand to move humankind far more forward and beneficially than has ever been done before. Most importantly, the new partnership is an international one that is far more comprehensive than the ones NASA has now.  This extends the growth and stability factor around the world.  In short, it spells FUTURE.

Now, who among us wants to deny the future?  Come aboard and let’s go sailing. The universe awaits us.

IMAGE CREDITS:  Robots: Toyota Corporation and REUTERS May 4, 2008

Astrophoto: Waddell Robey/Slooh.com 2008


NO FAIL EXPLORATIONS

September 4, 2010

In general, throughout humankind’s history the only explorations that have drawn and kept our attention are those that are great successes. Certainly, there have been many of them, and each has moved humankind forward in our evolution. Some of the failed expeditions did grab our attention because we came to closely identify with the explorers. This is certainly the case in all of NASA’s many expeditions, of which, thankfully, there have only been  limited failures.

Most exploration programs and the people who are involved are bold and very courageous. This basic ethic should not change. Now that we are nearing the challenges and opportunities to explore more of our solar system, missions that involve astronauts need to concentrate on factors that enhance success of each mission. That is right, “we emphasize the positive”..[to]..” eliminate the negative.”

Part of the emphasis process is to design missions that allow the exploration team to assess their new environments and to progress in an orderly, highly scientific manner. Let’s take everyone’s favorite expedition; putting humans on Mars. Well we will do that, but to do it successfully and with a high degree of new discoveries we should consider a step by step approach. No, these would not be baby steps. Each sub-mission, if you wish, would be directly related to the key mission of landing astronauts on Mars.

In two related blogs, we present ideas and viewpoints that directly deal with both spacecraft and astronaut well-being such as the effects of weightlessness.  The concept of a “built-in-LEO” spacecraft/space-station we have proven with the ISS, and to expand upon that would be one of those sub-mission steps. This would be particularly true if the new spacecraft/space-station was a blend of the ISS and the super shuttle we previously discussed in the “spacecraft” link above.

Another and related sub-mission step would be the inclusion in the spacecraft design provisions of an antigravity module that would address the need to protect the crew from exposure to long duration weightlessness. This same design challenge should and would be expected to address the issue of strong cosmic radiation on both crew and equipment.

Considering just the sub-missions above, we can easily envision the creation of a true spaceship that, in essence, becomes an exploration vessel in the same tradition as its centuries earlier seagoing exploration vessels. In this concept, the combo super-shuttle and spaceship design becomes our operations base whether the target is Mars, the Moon, or one of the other planetary bodies.  This concept was presented earlier is a related blog series (Parts 1-5) OF ASTEROIDS AND ASTROBOTS.

We accomplish in these primary sub-mission the creation of both the concept of a spaceship exploration vessel and the development of an exploration strategy that uses our super-shuttle space-station as the base of all our exploratory operations.  No longer does each mission have to be launched, expensively, from Earth. Only crews and supplies are launched in regular scheduled supply missions by commercial space contractors. Additionally, our exploratory vessel becomes a temporary space-station that orbits a target planetary body during a long-term and extensive robotic and human study of the planet. Mission durations will be extensive because crews will spend more time within the spaceship than on the planetary body thus reducing exposure to hazardous conditions.

Spacecraft Docking At Space-station

Successive sub-mission steps are performed, as required, to set up the temporary, orbiting space-station base at a selected solar system site. Additionally, excursions by both robots and astronauts onto the planetary body include more sub-mission steps. Importantly no efforts are made to establish a permanent base on a planet until the first full-length exploration mission has been completed and data and research results fully evaluated. One expected exception will be the creation of a permanent International Lunar Research Park as envisioned by The Moon Society.

So, is this concept really an assurance of a no-fail exploration policy? What it does is represent a planned best effort to emphasize the positive and to reduce the known impact of hazardous conditions. The aim is safe, extended exploratory missions that are highly productive. In all cases, failures can occur, but the concept is to anticipate them and to significantly reduce their impact when they do happen.  This is not a new concept. This very anticipatory operations plan dates all the way back to history’s earliest exploration missions. We, today, are just modernizing that policy and making it more effective and productive.  We want all of our exploration projects to be beneficial to and remembered by all humankind.

CREDITS:

Jupiter and two moons:  Astrophotograph by the author.

Image of spacecraft docking with space-station. Courtesy cohga.net, Flickr, http://bit.ly/ck9S63

BEEN THERE DONE THAT AND THE EXPLORATION ETHIC.

July 16, 2010

Where would we be if after Lewis and Clark’s path-setting exploratory expedition we had simply said “okay, we’ve been there and done that”? Instead their Federally supported efforts threw open the doors to the glorious opportunities of this great nation.  To this day, scientists continue to explore diverse areas of the continent we call home.

As we have learned, all our exploratory efforts are neither successful nor life sparing.  The price in human life is always high, but we also respectfully honor the benefits those sacrifices have provided us.  We simply cannot afford to be shy about revisiting exploration sites that on a first visit may have yielded only slight returns. The Apollo missions to the Moon were important “first steps”, but they remain as brave teasers that should be egging us on to look further and deeper into our Moon.

Yes, we must also explore the planet Mars for many important reasons, but what we learn from our Moon beforehand can both improve how we learn from Mars, and insure that we go ahead with a clearer understanding of the processes that formed all of our planetary neighbors.  Lewis and Clark had the advantage of the local knowledge and wisdom of their  guides, especially Sacajawea and Touissant Charbonneau.  They did not let the advice of those two esteemed aides go unnoticed, and we will be quite remiss if we do not take advantage of our first explorations of our Moon and the advice of its first explorers.

The history of the explorations of Antarctica is filled with acts of great courage and great scientific achievement.  Those explorations are still going on and with each one we gain a new understanding of our home planet and of planet formation and evolution.  The microbiologists with their super microscopes drill down into the very depths of life on this planet and continue to be both amazed and enriched by the diversity and resilience of many life forms that we will never see or meet.  If Louis Pasteur had clapped his hands, did a little dance, and after his many discoveries had announced that we have been there and done that and closed shop, where would we be in today’s bio-sciences? Most likely someone else would have picked up the ball, but at the price of relearning what Pasteur had already established.

There are important geo-biological and geophysical messages still waiting to be read on planet Earth.  There are also tons of similar messages waiting to be read on our Moon.  What we are learning and can learn from these two sources will enable us to more fully understand how our solar system evolved and most importantly what happened to Mars and the tenuous life it once supported.  So, in my opinion our first and most important step toward Mars, is a next and fuller set of steps back to our Moon.  Like Lewis and Clark we will be opening new doors of discovery and explanation in our effort to understand all that surrounds us and beyond.

CREDIT:

Lewis and Clark in canoes:  Image from the National Archives.

The Incredible Explorabots: Space Pioneers

June 22, 2010

Artist concept of the Spirit/Opportunity type rovers.

The decision to begin our exploration of Mars by landing robotic rovers on that planet opened the door to an entirely new form of serious scientific exploration. If we include the many spacecraft such as Cassini, Chandra, Corot, Kepler, WISE, as well as the great Voyager pair, then programmed, automated, and intuitive investigations of our solar system and beyond announce that humankind has entered a new era.

Yes, human exploration is important and will expand and explain the results of our explorabot discoveries, but the expanded application of robotics allows us to be very selective and very safe in our decisions about human exploration beyond this planet. When we send in the astronauts they are responding to discoveries more than exploring.  As such they gather data that will help in the explanation of what has been found and how it relates to the formation of our solar system.

In response to an ever-increasing flow of discoveries human teams will arrive to actually construct operational bases from which to conduct their studies.  I suggest the first effort on this scale will be to our Moon.  Yes, we have been there, but we have not done all “that.” What we discover and explain on our Moon will be vital to our understanding of all aspects of our solar system’s evolution.  By looking close to home we will certainly find answers that apply throughout the system.  The experience we gain on the Moon and Mars helps us to improve our next set of explorabots and also to begin the planning for eventual human landings on Mars and other planetary bodies in our solar family.

It is so easy to presume that our explorabots are just a snap of engineering and scientific skill.  They are far more that just a snap.  They represent some of the most innovative, imaginative and functionally incredible designs ever produced. They are our powerful exploratory tools.  In our planning we must make certain that explorabots are the front-runners in all our exploration plans, including any return to the Moon.  When astronauts set foot, again, on our Moon it will be less in wonder and more a structured investigation of specific discoveries produced by both rovers and orbiting spacecraft.  This will be the beginning of the foundation of a Moon Base which will serve as an excellent training site for future human explorations, but also as the focal point for all our future exploration missions to our planetary neighbors.

The legacy of Spirit and Opportunity as well as their orbiting cohorts, Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter set the pattern for our future robotic exploration of our solar system.  The gifted and dedicated members of the NASA/JPL team are looking way into the future in their plans for a variety of exploratory vehicles (rovers and spacecraft) that will begin those early exploratory efforts before we send in the astronauts.  To learn more about those plans and their associated explorabot designs please visit this site.