Photo Credit: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates
Boeing is proposing a radical redesign for NASA’s planned return to the moon. Their proposal is both faster and cheaper than the current plan of record:
NASA’s current mission plan calls for the Ares V to send the new lunar lander and its payload into Earth orbit. Once there, Ares V would not only have to dock with the Orion crew vehicle (launched separately on the Ares I rocket) but also restart and provide the initial burn to send the assembled system into a trajectory toward the moon.
Boeing’s alternative would combine the Orion rendezvous with a pitstop for gas, allowing the Ares V to lift off from Earth with a much larger payload—and an empty lander. Boeing says this would allow NASA to deliver about three times as much mass to the lunar surface, and over fifteen times as much payload. What’s more, Ares V could then send the lander-Orion package all the way to lunar orbit with full tanks, rather than NASA’s current plan to use extra propellant in slowing down before soft landing.
I think that NASA as it exists today is an anachronism. When it comes to doing things fast and cheap, entrepreneurs will always beat out government bureaucracies.
Transient Lunar Phenomena (aka TLP) are bursts of light on the lunar surface whose origins have been a mystery for nearly four centuries since their discovery. But now an astronomer reckons he has the answer – these optical flashes could be the result of gas eruptions on the Moon. [SlashDot]
Some dissent in the ranks at NASA; the man who led the development of the Apollo lunar module has come out in vocal opposition to plans to use explorations of the Moon as a test-bed for eventual manned missions to Mars; instead, he argues for full exploitation of the ISS and further robotic missions to the Red Planet.
Arguments of this type are ten a penny in space politics, which is a landscape of conflicting ideologies; Moon versus Mars, robotic missions versus human missions, and so on. An essay at The Space Review argues that these conflicts are “zero-sum games”, and a waste of energy and resources that could be better expended by the different groups working together toward common goals. Human nature being fundamentally factional, I’m not going to hold my breath just yet. [Image by jurvetson]