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Thread: NASA's moon exploration ambitions

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    NASA's moon exploration ambitions

    NASA still their sight on exploring the moon. They have not one but two proposed missions to explore it in 2017 and 2018. (I was surprised to find no reference to the missions in the forum).

    The reason for that could be in the last paragraph of the article - "Neither the Lunar Flashlight nor RPM projects have been approved by NASA yet, but if they are accepted, the knowledge could bring us closer to greater understanding the moon’s water resources—and what we might be able to do with them should we return."

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/sp...nned-missions/

    Two proposed missions would scour the moon’s upper crust for deposits of ice that may support moon bases.

    We may soon be one sip of water closer to living on the moon, at least if NASA’s plans pan out. The space agency has announced their intention to send two new missions to the moon to analyze and mine pockets of frozen water. The projects, nicknamed Lunar Flashlight and Resource Prospector Mission (RPM), will launch in late 2017 and 2018, respectively.
    Last edited by selvaarchi; 2015-Apr-27 at 05:14 AM.

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    To belabour the obvious: these are proposals only. If one or both is accepted to become an actual mission, that may be an indication that NASA still has hopes to continue Lunar exploration in a significant way (I hope they do).

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    I too hope that they do and the fact that they put in the time effort to come out with these proposals is a positive indication.
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    You'll have to forgive my scepticism, I've picked up the impression (perhaps wrongly) that the people writing the proposals are rather more free to follow their hearts and science than those who do the choosing - who must take into account the political and budgetary side of things.

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    I don't see this as an ambition. Sure; the articles are going to flower the story with ideas of manned landings and colonization, but there are absolutely no plans for this.
    What I see from this is just a continuation of lunar research. NASA has been doing this quite a bit as of late. They have launched 4 lunar missions in the last 6 years.

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    I do hope that NASA joins the moon exploration bonanza that will take place over the next 5 years. China and Russia have plans for up to 3 missions each. India, Japan and South Korea have in their plans to send a rover each and possible a orbiter each as well.

    http://www.ryot.org/south-korea-reve...orbiter/470621

    http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech...ext-five-years
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    I do hope that NASA joins the moon exploration bonanza that will take place over the next 5 years.
    What do you mean "join"?
    Just because NASA doesn't have a solid plan for a mission that LOOKS like the others, does not mean that they are not a member of the moon exploration community.

    They are part of the International Lunar Network project. They have the Lunar CATALYST Program.
    There are also other independent entities in the U.S. working on lunar projects too including distant hopes of manned landings. If they ever mature, I'm sure NASA will help them out.

    NASA'S not out, they just don't have the PR for lunar explorations that the others are pushing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    What do you mean "join"?
    Just because NASA doesn't have a solid plan for a mission that LOOKS like the others, does not mean that they are not a member of the moon exploration community.

    They are part of the International Lunar Network project. They have the Lunar CATALYST Program.
    There are also other independent entities in the U.S. working on lunar projects too including distant hopes of manned landings. If they ever mature, I'm sure NASA will help them out.

    NASA'S not out, they just don't have the PR for lunar explorations that the others are pushing.
    Don't have to get so upset. As I started the thread with a hope that NASA might have two missions to the moon in that period. The idea being that if more of the American public can point out to the US law makers that the US might be loosing out to the international parties exploring the moon, the more likely NASA might get the go ahead to carry out the two missions.

    I should have added Europe to the list as well.

    http://www.newsweek.com/europe-and-r...on-moon-290708
    Last edited by selvaarchi; 2015-Apr-27 at 11:44 PM.

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    Looks like the US has several more options on how to get to the moon and this also includes astronauts according to the article in the latest "The Space Review".

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2739/1

    Recently, the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger wrote an article that created some pushback from NASA. The article, titled “Quietly, NASA is reconsidering the moon as a destination,” claimed that NASA was considering a return to the Moon as a stepping stone for later human missions to Mars.

    “Despite a declaration from President Barack Obama that the moon is not a planned destination for American astronauts,” Berger wrote in the April 3 article, “senior NASA engineers have quietly begun reconsidering it as a staging point for an eventual mission to Mars.”

    Berger went on to state that William Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, believes the Moon has needed elements that could and should be processed to make a mission to Mars possible. “If propellant was available from the moon,” Berger quotes Gerstenmaier, “this could dramatically lower the mass needed from the Earth for a NASA Mars Mission.”

    Gerstenmaier is referring to a report from the National Research Council (NRC) published last summer that recommended taking this approach. The report stated, in part, “It was clear to the committee from its independent analysis of several pathways that a return to extended surface operations on the moon would make substantial contributions to a strategy ultimately aimed at landing people on Mars.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Looks like the US has several more options on how to get to the moon and this also includes astronauts according to the article in the latest "The Space Review".
    It's the same options they have had since Constellation started 10 years ago.

    The problem is the funding and approval. The latest administration put us an a different path than Moon to Mars. Perhaps the next administration will change yet again. The immediate concern is BEO spaceflight. From there, they have a direction, but no solid plans.

    While I think that using the moon as a technology testbed is valuable, I think that any plans to use it as a fuel source before going to Mars may set a Mars program back. It will take time for the research of lunar extraction and processing, and even more time and money to set up a production facility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Don't have to get so upset. As I started the thread with a hope that NASA might have two missions to the moon in that period.
    Not upset. It just sounds like you think the US has given up on the moon altogether. I'm pointing out that is not so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Not upset. It just sounds like you think the US has given up on the moon altogether. I'm pointing out that is not so.
    Not so but I forsee from 2017 it will be other countries that will be doing all the exploration on the moon. Unless there is a change of heart by members from Congress.

    The US has an opportunity in the next year or so to coordinate and lead an international effort to more systematically explore the moon and establish a moon base.
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    Systematically explore the moon yes I can see that, establish some permanant automated lunar science stations to do things like seismology and lunar exosphere studies, yes I can see that, but a Moon base? That's massive, and there's no clear call or political will for it.. Right now it's not clear if there'll even be an ISS replacement.

    One thign worth remembering is that there are some private ventures that might still make it to the Moon (mostly but not all as part of the Google lunar x prize I think)

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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    Systematically explore the moon yes I can see that, establish some permanant automated lunar science stations to do things like seismology and lunar exosphere studies, yes I can see that, but a Moon base? That's massive, and there's no clear call or political will for it.. Right now it's not clear if there'll even be an ISS replacement.

    One thign worth remembering is that there are some private ventures that might still make it to the Moon (mostly but not all as part of the Google lunar x prize I think)
    Just estimate how much ESA and the other 5 countries will be spending in total just for their rovers and orbitors. Most of that expense will be reinveting the wheel. If somehow we could get them to cooperate, just imagine how much more we can achive.

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    With a set of clear, universally agreed upon goals for space exploration worldwide, an unwavering political will that stood firm for the decades needed for technology development, and a budget that was out of the 'discretionary spending' box and protected to remain at least flat in real terms a NASA led space exploration coalition could have been putting boots on Mars in the 1990's. I do not doubt this.

    We don't have any of those things. My whole life those things have failed to happen. Barring exceptional circumstances like the ones that led to Apollo, all the evidence I have read, heard, seen, and experianced tells me that those things don't happen. I have no idea how to chamge any of the above.

    I sincerely apologise for being a downer here, but in my experiance the fastest way to ruin an exciting and intersting.... um... interest for oneself is to set expectations for it that are out of line with what the evidence suggests is likely to actually happen, so (with the very best of intentions and the most sincere of goodwill to anyone reading this and dreaming of seeing , say, a Mars landing or Lunar base) I'd warn anyone against it.
    Last edited by marsbug; 2015-Apr-28 at 04:42 PM.

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    Wow, on re-reading that was a downer of a post. Look, i'm nor saying don't hope, don't support, or don't write letters to you congressman/woman asking them to support. But don't set yourself up for a hugely demoralising fall - if lots of peole do that then space exploration may loose it's support base, and we'll have nothing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Just estimate how much ESA and the other 5 countries will be spending in total just for their rovers and orbitors. Most of that expense will be reinveting the wheel. If somehow we could get them to cooperate, just imagine how much more we can achive.
    Don't forget that spaceflight isn't just about the exploration. It's also about the national prestige and increasing and maintaining a domestic technological industry.

    So; while multi-national ventures are excellent ways to achieve scientific goals, it's not always going to happen that way.

    As far as re-inventing the wheel, I'm not really sure that's true either. Until some country can come up with a common lander and rover system, it's always going to be a custom job depending on the mission's goals and equipment needed and weight. This is something that NASA is working on with Mars and it's "sky crane" concept.
    It will probably stay this way until we have the big rockets that can send a meaty lander to the moon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Just estimate how much ESA and the other 5 countries will be spending in total just for their rovers and orbitors. Most of that expense will be reinveting the wheel. If somehow we could get them to cooperate, just imagine how much more we can achive.
    You seem to assume just because something has ESA or NASA stuck on it as a label that means its purely a European or US product. Curiosity is a US mars rover, whose imaging sensors were by a British company called E2V. Even when there's no official co-operation there's still rarely anything you could call a purely US, European, etc, project.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    With a set of clear, universally agreed upon goals for space exploration worldwide, an unwavering political will that stood firm for the decades needed for technology development, and a budget that was out of the 'discretionary spending' box and protected to remain at least flat in real terms a NASA led space exploration coalition could have been putting boots on Mars in the 1990's. I do not doubt this.

    We don't have any of those things. My whole life those things have failed to happen. Barring exceptional circumstances like the ones that led to Apollo, all the evidence I have read, heard, seen, and experianced tells me that those things don't happen. I have no idea how to chamge any of the above.

    I sincerely apologise for being a downer here, but in my experiance the fastest way to ruin an exciting and intersting.... um... interest for oneself is to set expectations for it that are out of line with what the evidence suggests is likely to actually happen, so (with the very best of intentions and the most sincere of goodwill to anyone reading this and dreaming of seeing , say, a Mars landing or Lunar base) I'd warn anyone against it.
    I am more optimistic now in the direction that space exploration is going. Up to the 70s it was really about 2 countries and the race between them and the pouring of "unlimited $$$" to win the race. Once that was over the excitement and support for space exploration went down hill.

    We have now entered another phase of space exploration with the number of serious players (ie those willing to put in the $$$) rapidly increasing. Just look at the list of players that hope to explore the moon in the next 5 years. I never thought I will be seeing that.

    Leading this push is China who are having a 60s feel about the way they are progressing with their space exploration ambitions. India is warming up but it will be at least another 5 years before their human space exploration takes off. Japan that has the capability is only in the last few years starting to up their exploration ambitions. Pleasantly surprised to see South Korea on the list of countries aiming for the moon in the next 5 years.

    So all in all can not wait for 2017 when most of the action will start to happen - this includes the US commercial companies and their contribution to space exploration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    Systematically explore the moon yes I can see that, establish some permanant automated lunar science stations to do things like seismology and lunar exosphere studies, yes I can see that, but a Moon base? That's massive, and there's no clear call or political will for it.. Right now it's not clear if there'll even be an ISS replacement.

    One thign worth remembering is that there are some private ventures that might still make it to the Moon (mostly but not all as part of the Google lunar x prize I think)
    There are two countries that are discussing a joint base on the moon already.

    http://sputniknews.com/world/20150428/1021463835.html

    Russia and China are currently in talks on inviting the latter to become one of the main partners in creating a lunar station, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday.
    "The question is being discussed with Roscosmos on bringing China in as the main partner in creating a lunar scientific station. We have told China of our plans on the possibility of creating a Russian national orbital station," Rogozin told journalists after a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in Eastern China.
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    To my mind it's not so much a case of 'discussing a base on the Moon already' as 'discussing a base on the Moon' or 'discussing a base on the Moon still'. Manned lunar bases have been under discussion between various potential partners my entire life too - they never get built. I think such discussions are a bit of a diversion for public support from other projects that might actually happen to be honest. Discussions are much more attractive than building probes, rovers, and seeking out international co-operation that will need to last across decades before goals are reached. Discussions make for PR friendly headlines and don't require costly, politically awkward, commitments and actually landing hardware on another world. Discussions can be quickly pushed aside by the next bit of news if convinient.

    I'll grant that China might actually pull it of though - their political system (while I'm not a fan in most respects) seems stable enough, wealthy enough, and has astrong enough need to prove itself against other nations to commit to long term projects that are largely matters of national prestige rather than tangiable near term need.

    It's said that a manned moon return is always ten years away, a manned mars landing always twenty. The first manned lunar orbit in the link you've posted is in 2025. So I'm still skeptical. Less so than I would be of a similar story about NASA, but still skeptical.

    Edit: [makes concerted effort not to be such a grumpy killjoy] While the above is still true, at least the discussion between these two powerful nations is a good sign that people in their space programs are seriously thinking and pushing for MSF progress. At the veryleast it all helps raise the public profile of space exploration generally.
    Last edited by marsbug; 2015-May-01 at 10:52 AM.

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    The incoming chief of ESA has gone on record as saying he would support a moon base as replacement for the ISS. NASA head has said the following

    " Although Mars is the ultimate destination for humanity, we mustn't forget that there are lots of other places in the solar system. And there are places where humans will go and must go," Bolden said. "A lot of our international partners are interested in lunar exploration."
    NASA views the moon as an interesting destination as well, he added.
    "We're going to spend a 10-year period of time between 2020 to 2030 in cis-lunar space," Bolden said, "trying to establish an infrastructure in lunar orbit from which we can help entrepreneurs, international partners and the like who want to get down to the surface of the moon."
    NASA "can't lead it," Bolden added. "But I hope you'll let me have at least one astronaut on the mission that goes down to the surface of the moon … because there is invaluable experience to be gained from doing that."

    http://m.space.com/29285-moon-base-e...ce-agency.html

    The incoming leader of the European Space Agency is keen on establishing an international base on the moon as a next-step outpost beyond the International Space Station (ISS).
    Johann-Dietrich Wörner expressed his enthusiasm for a moon colony at the Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium, a gathering of global, commercial, civil, military and "new space" experts that was held here from April 13 to April 16.
    "It seems to be appropriate to propose a permanent moon station as the successor of ISS," Wörner said. This station should be international, "meaning that the different actors can contribute with their respective competencies and interests."
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    The incoming chief of ESA has gone on record as saying he would support a moon base as replacement for the ISS.
    ESA will probably support any large scale project since they can't accomplish one by themselves. They don't have the budget for it.

    This article is nothing more than "talk". Was anything accomplished? Did anything change? The wording doesn't even say anything about priorities. It might as well have been a discussion about "if we can fit it in".

    When I see a budget for a base, or even just a landing, then I will take notice. As for now, this is just posturing for each groups ambitions and trying to get their piece of the pie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    ESA will probably support any large scale project since they can't accomplish one by themselves. They don't have the budget for it.

    This article is nothing more than "talk". Was anything accomplished? Did anything change? The wording doesn't even say anything about priorities. It might as well have been a discussion about "if we can fit it in".

    When I see a budget for a base, or even just a landing, then I will take notice. As for now, this is just posturing for each groups ambitions and trying to get their piece of the pie.
    Talk it may be, but I see it as a positive development. Sure there is no budgets for moon bases right now and I do not expect to see them until the early to mid 2020s.

    If 5 years ago I told you that at least 5 countries will have budgets for moon missions from 2017 to 2022 you would have told me to tell that to the marines. Yet here we are now with at least 4 countries spending real money now on their moon missions - the 4 does not include NASA or ESA or Russia.
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    Only RPM is worth pursuing, IMO. Whether they'll admit it, NASA is running against the wall in terms of what new ground it can break in lunar orbital missions. The short lifetime makes it doubly attractive from a funding standpoint, as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Talk it may be, but I see it as a positive development. Sure there is no budgets for moon bases right now and I do not expect to see them until the early to mid 2020s.

    If 5 years ago I told you that at least 5 countries will have budgets for moon missions from 2017 to 2022 you would have told me to tell that to the marines. Yet here we are now with at least 4 countries spending real money now on their moon missions - the 4 does not include NASA or ESA or Russia.
    Are you talking about manned missions, or are you trying to blur the issue with robotic probes. If it's probes, then you are putting words in my mouth.

    Nobody has a set budget or set plans for manned landings on the moon as yet. Many countries are sending robotic missions, but these are just precursors to manned flights.
    China and Russia are in talks. India has hopes. NASA funding can be fickle. ESA needs to partner with someone.
    Tell me what these 4 country's projects are that have real money for a manned landing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Are you talking about manned missions, or are you trying to blur the issue with robotic probes. If it's probes, then you are putting words in my mouth.

    Nobody has a set budget or set plans for manned landings on the moon as yet. Many countries are sending robotic missions, but these are just precursors to manned flights.
    China and Russia are in talks. India has hopes. NASA funding can be fickle. ESA needs to partner with someone.
    Tell me what these 4 country's projects are that have real money for a manned landing.
    They have to start with robotic missions before they go manned. would you have belived anyone 5 years ago there will be at least 4 other countries (excluding USA, ESA, and Russia ) planning to send rovers to the moon in the 2017 - 2021 time frame.
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    They have to start with robotic missions before they go manned. would you have belived anyone 5 years ago there will be at least 4 other countries (excluding USA, ESA, and Russia ) planning to send rovers to the moon in the 2017 - 2021 time frame.
    Robotic? Yes. In fact I would have expected a private venture to try to land something by now.

    As far as "before going manned", it doesn't matter. There are robotic missions all over the place without aims for a mooned landing. It's all part of space research and a natural step forward, but not an indication of commitment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Robotic? Yes. In fact I would have expected a private venture to try to land something by now.

    As far as "before going manned", it doesn't matter. There are robotic missions all over the place without aims for a mooned landing. It's all part of space research and a natural step forward, but not an indication of commitment.
    Surprised you should say that. India's Mars Orbiter and China’s Cheng'e 3/Yutu were both greeted as major technological achievements. In fact it was because of those achievements that Japan and South Korea have committed funds for their own moon rovers (did not want it to look like they were falling behind in technology )
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Surprised you should say that.
    I don't know why you say that. I've always maintained that spaceflight, whether manned or robotic just takes money, resources and commitment. If a country is willing to spend it, they are going to achieve it.

    It's when I hear all this grand talk about grand programs that are competing against each other and when I hear that the missions are an omen of more ambitious programs that I get skeptical. Governments can be fickle, so until I see actual programs, I just hear talk.

    Robotic moon landing is relatively simple in space terms. Technology today makes things a lot simpler. Even 50 years ago, the Surveyor program landed 5 (2 failures) for about $500M per lander in today's dollars. And that's with having to invent new techniques and technology. Although that doesn't mean I think these current achievements are trivial.

    It's human spaceflight that is the huge challenge. You can throw money away on failed robotic missions, but you can't with humans. Besides, a human commitment to space involves more than just a mission. We may still see some countries go for the flag and footprints missions, but anything more is going to be huge.

    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    India's Mars Orbiter and China’s Cheng'e 3/Yutu were both greeted as major technological achievements. In fact it was because of those achievements that Japan and South Korea have committed funds for their own moon rovers (did not want it to look like they were falling behind in technology )
    I never said that they weren't major achievements.

    How do you know that the drive was a fear of "falling behind"?
    I don't see a race here. I see maturing space programs and a drive for domestic capabilities. Why else would countries be cooperating with each other?

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