Successful Orion Test Brings NASA Closer to Moon, Mars Missions


July 2, 2019

RELEASE 19-054


Ascent Abort-2 successfully launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Credits: NASA

NASA successfully demonstrated Tuesday the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.

During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.

The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.

“We’re building the most powerful rocket in the world to send astronauts to the Moon in the Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this exploration system designed to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we’ll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent.”

Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module. Credits: NASA

The tower-like abort structure consists of two parts: the fairing assembly, which is a shell composed of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, air flow and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments; and the launch abort tower, which includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor. The system is built specifically for deep space missions and to ride on NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“Launching into space is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of going to the Moon,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This test mimicked some of the most challenging conditions Orion will ever face should an emergency develop during the ascent phase of flight. Today, the team demonstrated our abort capabilities under these demanding conditions and put us one huge step closer to the first Artemis flight carrying people to the Moon.”

NASA was able to accelerate the test schedule and lower costs by simplifying the test spacecraft and eliminating parachutes and related systems. NASA already qualified the parachute system for crewed flights through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and eight qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.

Engineers are making progress building and testing the Orion spacecraft for Artemis 1, the first uncrewed mission with the SLS rocket – an integrated system traveling thousands of miles beyond the Moon – and for Artemis 2, the first mission with astronauts.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are preparing to attach the Orion crew and service modules before testing at the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, later this year. The crew module for Artemis 2 is being outfitted with thousands of elements – from bolts and strain gauges to parachutes and propulsion lines.

The agency recently reached major milestones for the SLS rocket, assembling four of the five parts that make up the massive core stage that will launch Artemis 1 and delivering the four engines that will be integrated into the core stage, along with the engine section, later this summer. When completed, the entire core stage will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since manufacturing the Saturn V stages for NASA’s Apollo lunar missions in the 1960s.

Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the SLS and Gateway, that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Artemis program, the next American Moon walkers will depart Earth aboard Orion and begin a new era of exploration.

Learn more about Orion at:

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit:


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
charles nelson
July 3, 2019 3:36 am

Yes…I managed to get as far as my garden gate today….this has brought my trip to Antarctica that much closer!

Paul Stevens
July 3, 2019 4:01 am

One wonders what would have happened if NASA had carried on with lunar activities instead of ending the Apollo program. There was no real goal other than reaching the moon. 40 years of potential advance lost. Maybe they just didn’t have the technology. Landing a person on the moon may have happened 20 years too soon.

Reply to  Paul Stevens
July 3, 2019 6:45 am

I can tell you what would have happened. Sooner rather than later a terrible accident would have happened claiming the lives of the astronauts involved. Since there was no clear goal, that would have put a long moratorium to space missions, similar to what happened to the space shuttle. Apollo 13 was already a close call. And after all, we still haven’t found anything outside that makes it worth for us to go personally.

Reply to  Javier
July 3, 2019 10:36 am

Javier, it is imperative that we quickly disabuse the general public of the concept that spaceflight is safe, or that ANY exploration that humans have ever attempted was safe. “Safe” being a relative term. You’ll discover very little about the outside world from your couch, although you may be entertained by the discoveries of others.
A quick history survey will attest to this. Magellan never circumnavigated the globe. He died in transit. What risk is too great for exploration? For many, certainly not death.
As of 2018, there have been 18 astronaut and cosmonaut fatalities during spaceflight. Apollo only claimed 3 (and they weren’t even flying). We lost 7 with Challenger, and 7 more with Columbia.
There are numerous other fatalities that occurred during training (altitude chamber mishap, etc.)

As to your personal reasons for not exploring, is because we haven’t found anything yet? Isn’t that the purpose of exploring to find out what you don’t know?”

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 11:47 am

One word: Robotics

We didn’t have that in the 1960’s. We’ve had rovers soft-land Mars and running around on the surface for over 15 years now.
The Mars 2020 rover, which arrives at Mars in 2021, will collect rock and soil samples and store them for future return to Earth. But thus far, no plan has solidified on how, or even if, those samples will be returned.
But a Mars robotic sample return (MSR) mission engineering and planning is already well underway.

Adding a 3 or 4 humans to an 800 day interplanetary mission to Mars to get a few dozen kilos of Mars dirt and rocks is just a colossal, stupid waste of resources.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 12:20 pm

Robotics has its uses and history as well. We sent several robotic probes to the moon before we sent any men.
However, I will disagree on the capabilities of robot surveyors. A well trained geologist will outperform any current robot. A geologist will not spend 3 weeks observing a rock that he can quickly discern has less interest than the boulder sitting 3 feet away.
The best robots we have today are still less intelligent than your average scientist.

There is a further tacit reason why we conduct manned space missions and why we even attempt to analyze the data robots can collect. Because the purpose is to allow humans to fly through space to get to these places we’ve explored. If all we want to do is watch travelogues for robots we have SciFi for that.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 4, 2019 12:49 am

The orion system looks like an essential space faring capability able to envisage manned trips beyond low earth orbit. While I agree that space exploration is an excellent application for robots, I admire the USA for developing this manned capability.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 12:44 pm

I didn’t say we shouldn’t explore, but what is the rationale to send people? They take up lots of space and weight, requiring lots of life support systems with built in redundancy and in exchange they produce excrements. They make everything a lot more expensive and complicated.

Let’s just develop better AIs that can respond in real time. Humans are not fit for the purpose of space exploration. Robots are far superior.

William Astley
Reply to  Javier
July 3, 2019 2:51 pm

I total agree send robots. And do not be cheer leader for silly wastes of money.

Why go to Mars? No atmosphere. No water. Deadly radiation. What is the prize that is worth trying to solve problems which are impossible to solve with current physics/science.

A Mars colony is impossible as Mars does not have a magnetic field to protect it from cosmic and solar radiation.

Reducing the transit time to Mars, from roughly 3 years including the 500-day forced wait on Mars, requires an advanced propulsion system.

But again, why bother? What is the prize to go to Mars.

As there is no physically realistic solution to the radiation problem without a real breakthrough spending money on manned space flight is a waste of money and killing animals with radiation to find out how the Mars astronauts might die or get sick (diarrhea is a problem as the bacteria in the gut are killed by the constant radiation.) is …

Except from Scientific American article:

The perils of cosmic rays pose severe, perhaps insurmountable, hurdles to human spaceflight to Mars and beyond
By Eugene N. Parker

In a report published last August, they estimated that Mars astronauts would receive a dose of more than 80 rems a year.

By comparison, the legal dose limit for nuclear power plant workers in the U.S. is five rems a year. One in 10 male astronauts would eventually die from cancer, and one in six women (because of their greater vulnerability to breast cancer). What is more, the heavy nuclei could cause cataracts and brain damage. (To be sure, these numbers are highly uncertain.)

The galaxy is pervaded with fast-moving particles that can rip apart DNA and other molecules. Here at the surface of Earth, we are well protected from this cosmic radiation by the air mass overhead.

Astronauts in near equatorial orbits are shielded by the planet’s magnetic field.

But those who make long voyages away from Earth will suffer serious health consequences.

■ A spherical shell of water or plastic could protect space travelers, but it would take a total mass of at least 400 tons— beyond the capacity of heavy-lift rockets.

A superconducting magnet would repel cosmic particles and weigh an estimated nine tons, but that is still too much, and the magnetic field itself would pose health risks.

No other proposed scheme is even vaguely realistic.

Michael S. Kelly, LS BSA, Ret
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 10:21 pm

A friend and colleague of mine, Rand Simberg, wrote an excellent book on the subject of space safety entitled Safe is Not an Option. His argument is, in essence, that the reason that safety is the first priority in NASA-style human space travel is that human space travel isn’t important. It was in the Apollo days (to show our superiority over the Soviets), but government-backed human space travel is no longer important.

Private space travel is important, and will continue to become more so. But the government need not fund it.

Reply to  Paul Stevens
July 3, 2019 7:53 am

All too often one focuses on the objective and misses the true advancements and unspoken goals. The main purpose of the missions, “the goal”, was to learn what it takes to accomplish these tasks and to see if we could actually accomplish the feat. If one blinkers their vision to assume the only goal of attending university is to receive a diploma that misses the entire learning process, and the journey itself.

During the Apollo program so much unknown technology had to be invented from nothing to achieve even fabrication materials. We had, and still have, very limited knowledge of our moon.
How might have history unwound if we had discovered extremely valuable minerals on the moon? Well we did, it’s just that their value is only now becoming profitable to consider extracting.
The fact that individuals like Bezos and Musk are creating viable space ventures is only possible due to what has been already accomplished. Not just talked about, but actually accomplished.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Isaac Newton

Pat Frank
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 10:36 am

I remember requests by entrepreneurs during the late 1990’s or so, to take possession of the large fuel tanks left in orbit by the space shuttle.

Some people apparently wanted to convert those tanks into hotels, for low-orbit vacations. NASA said no.

Here’s a BBC story on the idea:

I always regretted NASA’s lack of interest in, or cooperation with, that venture. It seemed a great opportunity and means to move into space.

Reply to  Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 11:56 am

The problem is that the large External Tank (ETs, the big orange foam colored cylinder) does not reach Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and falls into the Atlantic ocean. It would require significant additional propellant, propulsive and guidance systems to park the ETs into stable LEO. Then there is the on orbit accessibility issue. The have no docking mechanism, no grappling fixtures…the list goes on.
And…if you want to change orbits that’s another thing completely. It far less expensive to build an new rocket and launch it where you want it than significantly alter the orbital inclination of an existing object.
Its a nice sentiment until you actually consider the rocket engineering that would be necessary to provide this extra functionality. By the time you are finished it will not be the same vehicle.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 12:23 pm

I think most of the shuttle external fuel tanks went into the Indian Ocean, jettisoned over Africa.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 1:12 pm

You are correct I was thinking of the SRBs.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 3:53 pm

Still, if the companies wanted a try, I don’t see why NASA had to refuse letting them go ahead.

If they’d failed, no harm done except money spent (and maybe something learned). If they’d done something unexpected or innovative, so much the better.

But in any case, why not let them try?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 6:36 pm


Who would be liable when (not if) a chunk of that orbited tank re-entered and landed on someone?
They were destructively disintegrated in the Indian Ocean with a sub-orbital prescribed re-entry footprint to prevent any chunk surviving from hitting a land mass to high certainty.

NASA lawyers think about those problems. They are very real. The hardware is theirs, from birth to fiery death, as long as it has a NASA logo on it anywhere.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 8:32 pm

Joel, I’d suppose that if some company bought the tank, they’d assume the liability.

One may also suppose they might have had some plan to raise the orbit a bit.

I’m assuming here the request was legitimate and serious. If so, the relevant company would have their own lawyers and their own engineers. One would hope for a realistic plan.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 5:30 pm

“I remember requests by entrepreneurs during the late 1990’s or so, to take possession of the large fuel tanks left in orbit by the space shuttle.

Some people apparently wanted to convert those tanks into hotels, for low-orbit vacations. NASA said no.”

NASA at one time had a space station design that utlized the large orange External Tank (153 ft long and 27.5 ft in diameter).

About 1994 NASA asked for space station designs and they settled on three designs: Option A, Option B, and Option C. Two of the space station designs, Options A and B, were designed around using the space shuttle to carry habitation modules in the shuttle cargo bay to be delivered to orbit, and would require dozens of space shuttle launches and a lot of time to get everything involved in orbit.

The Option C space station design was designed around using the Space Shuttle’s ET as the main body of the space station. This would be accomplished by adding a habitation module (15 ft in diameter by 15 ft long) to the bottom of the ET before launch. The habitation module would include everything the space station would need in orbit such as thrusters and life support.

The space shuttle could have launched this configuration all by itself although it would have had to fly with an empty cargo bay in order to make orbit. Once in orbit, the ET space station would be able to move around on its own,

The ET space station would require a couple of more shuttle lauches to finish the space station. The second flight would bring up the solar panels. The third flight miscellaneous supplies.

Option C was billions of dollars cheaper than Options A and B, was much less complicated, and could be put in orbit using only a few shuttle launches whereas Options A and B required dozens of shuttle launches and years of contruction in orbit.

Had NASA administrator Dan Goldin had any sense he would have picked Option C, but he wasn’t interested in the fastest, cheapest way to develop the Earth/Moon/Mars system, instead he was interested in maximizing the use of the space shuttle and Options A and B fit that program so that’s what they went with.

We could have used three or four shuttle launches to put a huge ET space station in orbit (One ET had more volume than the International space station) at a cost of less than $10 billion. We could do this again and put up in orbit an ET space station that we could put in orbit around the Moon, say at a cost of $15 billion (the extra costs are for the propellants needed to move the ET space station to the Moon; and then we build a third ET space station and put this one around Mars for maybe $30 billion. All of those projects are cheaper than the $100+ billion the International Space Station ended up costing

So Golden could have maximized using the space shuttle and could have developed the Earth/Moon/Mars system at the same time, but Goldin had no vision and he stuck us in low-Earth orbit for 20 years.

Then NASA throws away a perfectly good heavy-lift capability in the space shuttle launch system and spends more billions building a new heavy-lift vehicle that wouldn’t be any more capable than the space shuttle launch system. Spinning their wheels!

NASA bureaucrats are accomplished at wasting money. Lack of vision keeps us Earthbound and poorer.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 4, 2019 4:52 am

I misstated the size of the habitat module on the Option C space station. It was to be 15 ft long and 27.5 ft in diameter, instead of 15 ft in diameter. I guess I was thinking about the diameter of space station modules carried inside the cargo bay (15 ft in diameter) when I wrote that.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 5, 2019 8:52 am

Thanks for the detailed outline Tom. It seems very credible.

Here is a run-down of the option history. Option C had some problems, and apparently the various international partners didn’t like it because of the inconvenience of having to re-design their contributions.

It also seems option C suffered from a short design and test schedule. It would have benefited from a more deliberate developmental program.

I also seem to recall that Dan Goldin was opposed to the space shuttle at first, but came around when the space station was proposed. He said something like, the shuttle is “just the truck” to accomplish the mission.

Wouldn’t it have been special, though, to have had a space station as a chain of external fuel tanks and habitation modules.

It seems to me you’re right. Such a station could be put in orbit around the moon or Mars relatively cheaply, and be waiting there for people to arrive.

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
July 3, 2019 5:06 am

NASA are relying on the fact that the US public are so gullible about “saving lives” that if they send someone on a one-way journey to Mars, the public bombarded with daily sob stories from the “survivors” on Mars will cough up the eye-watering amounts that are needed to bring them back.

But I have no doubt that if you calculate the value of a life at perhaps $1million each, then it’s far better to risk a few daft astronauts than take the money out of government spending which saves lives (like protecting from Hurricanes).

It’s all about jobs for the boys at NASA.

Of course, it was the same idiotic Goebbels propaganda intent that is behind the global temperature data distortion by NASA … unless the public see a “problem” how will NASA get all the stupid US politicians to pay the eye-watering amounts to pop satellites into space to measure the global temperature (then tell us they don’t work when they don’t get the temperature rise they fiddled down on earth).

NASA is the biggest con trick … it’s only benefit to society has been an endless stream of self-publicising space clippings that have enabled almost every sci-fi fiction since NASA started. So, yes if you’re a star trek, star wars, 2001 space odyssey, etc. fan, it has had real benefits … but to actual science? Really? It’s clear to me the money wasted on NASA and their endless begging bowl to the US would have been far better spent elsewhere.

And I wouldn’t care what the US were wasting their money on, except the global warming scam is now set to cost us all in the UK around £30,000 (government estimate) or £200,000 (my more realistic figure) and so I’, sick to death with ALL the propaganda lies coming out of NASA.

Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
July 3, 2019 6:49 am

If you are Scottish why do you care how the Americans spend their money

Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
July 3, 2019 10:39 am

I’m with you, Mike. One should always spend all available resources on making our lives safer. People should not be allowed to rock climb, parachute, or fly for that matter. Risking money on an investment is stupid, because there is no guaranteed return, so take that money and invest it in safety. You can never invest too much money in safety, as people are so clever at 1) ignoring warnings, and 2) circumventing any safety measures devised.

Exploration is always silly. We should grow up and live out our lives in our parents’ house, because going outside is filled with risk. I myself and covered all the interior walls with bubble wrap to ensure that I am safe in the event of a fall. Not that I’m likely to fall – I remain firmly seated in front of my computer all day and night so as to minimize the dangers associated with moving around.

There is always the danger of someone getting irritated and coming after me for the snarky comments I leave on the internet. Maybe someone should take my computer away from me.

Bryan A
Reply to  KaliforniaKook
July 3, 2019 12:26 pm

If you want to realize just how stupid people really are, just read the warning labels on things.
If it says:
Warning, do not take this internally…Some one did
Warning, not for consumption…Someone tried to eat it
Warning, do not use near water…Someone used it in the bathtub
Warning, not a flotation device…Someone drowned trying to float on it

For every warning message, there is a person that proved the need for it

Bryan A
Reply to  KaliforniaKook
July 3, 2019 12:29 pm

Do your walls have buttons?
My walls had buttons…But I ate them all

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  KaliforniaKook
July 3, 2019 12:48 pm

I’m all for billionaires like Bezos or Musk spending their money on whatever legacy schemes to deep space they can dream up.
But I say, “Just keep your hands off my wallet to pay for that folly of manned Mars missions.”

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
July 3, 2019 12:52 pm

You are correct in that much of the manned space flight activities of NASA is simply an expensive Jobs Program for engineers and scientists.

July 3, 2019 5:36 am

“The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent.”

Isn’t that nice…

How does this protect rocket riders from internal fires and explosions?
I doubt the launch vehicle sticks around long enough to protect returning spaceship riders from re-entry hazards.

Reply to  ATheoK
July 3, 2019 10:17 am

Which internal fires and explosions are you referring to?
The launch abort system is designed to safely extract the crew module, CM (where the astronauts sit) from any launch mishap. Mishaps are not only explosions, but also include trajectory failures (rockets flying wildly off course or tumbling). In such instances the launch vehicle will employ its launch destruct system (yes, they blow themselves up) to preclude the rocket from flying uncontrollably into populated areas (of course the launch abort system is fired first).
Think of launch abort system like an ejection system for a pilot of an aircraft, only this system ejects the entire cockpit (like the F-111) with the astronauts still strapped into their seats. It is designed to perform from 0/0 (zero speed and zero altitude) until no longer needed when, if not used, will jettison itself. The reason they did an inflight abort test was to assure the tractor rockets could safely distance the CM from a still fully firing launch vehicle. Static test firings have already proven its thrust, but the proof is in the pudding. There is far more to proving a system functionality than merely testing its components.
“’tis many a slip between cup and lip.”

Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 7:59 pm

The historical rocket accidents that actually killed America’s spacemen. Those are the fires and explosions to which I am referring.

Or are you claiming that NASA hid injuries and deaths from Americans?

Address the deadly effects first.
Address issues that send rockets off course or tumbling in the design and construction phases.
Address bad decisions by political animals by never allowing them to become managers in charge of people.

Reply to  ATheoK
July 4, 2019 12:18 pm

there was only one fire on the ground that killed people.There were no explosions inside the capsule.At the time the capsule was filled with 100% oxygen. Everything burns in pure oxygen. Now Nasa users a oxygen nitrogen atmosphere and fire proof materials. A internal fire now is not likely. There were no explosions inside the capsule.

July 3, 2019 5:36 am

I know they’ve tested the parachute system many times before but it seems a pity to waste an opportunity this time.

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
July 3, 2019 10:04 am

Alastair Brickell

My sources tell me, The parachute system was not ready so they pushed ahead with the test. Meeting milestones.

Reply to  Rotor
July 3, 2019 12:09 pm

That is often the case in flight test. Specific test objectives and schedules take priority. Other “nice-to-have” systems will be deleted if they jeopardize primary objectives. I am not specifically familiar with the program schedule to know the level of system integration of the parachute system. But, the parachute system has previously been successfully tested.
These test articles are expensive and the test procedures are expensive. There is often significant program pressure to reduce unnecessary costs and inclusion of costly nice-to-haves often does not make the cut.

July 3, 2019 5:39 am

The future is truly unknowable. In the 1970s we all thought that cities in space and colonies on the Moon would happen in just a few decades, like the Space:1999 TV series from 1975 with Martin Landau showed.

Now is the turn of a new generation. Let’s see what the future holds. I now believe the future of mankind is linked to the rest of Earth’s species and there is little for us outside the Earth.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Javier
July 3, 2019 10:39 am

Our future is in the stars, Javier.

Reply to  Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 12:39 pm

The meek shall inherit the Earth.
The brave shall inherit the stars.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 12:45 pm

In about 6 billion years when the SUn swels to red-giant phase and envelopes the Earth, all the earth’s surface will be cooked off and sent into space.
Then we’ll be in Space. for sure.

Until then, and unless someone breaks Einstein’s GR and develops FTL ships, we’re committed to live and die on this beautiful blue water orb in a perfect goldilocks zone in a quiet galactic neighborhood.

We can (and have) send out intersellar gold- and platinum-plated plaques to say we were here, like Ozymandius crying out to his glory.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 4:03 pm

I recall reading about a fix for the sun going red giant by having Ceres orbit between Jupiter and Earth, thereby transmitting Jupiter’s orbital energy. Earth slowly moves to a larger orbit.

Apparently it would only take one Ceres pass every 6000 years or so to do the job.

Moving Ceres, of course, would take some effort. But still. 🙂

On the other topic, and having thought about it, it seems to me the collectivists will inherit Earth, and the individualists (the only free thinkers by principle) will head out to the stars.

My older brother was working for Varian when that plaque went out, Joel. Apparently the engineers at NASA Ames thought the male figure needed some appropriate embellishment (I’m being discrete here). So, they made and installed an alternate.

Unfortunately, the managers found it on a final inspection, and required the original to be replaced. More’s the pity. 🙂

Reply to  Pat Frank
July 4, 2019 3:13 am

Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 at 4:03 pm

I’m pretty sure it was the female figure that was the problem, not the male.
The designers of the Pioneer plaque originally had a small vertical line in the centre just below the hips of the female figure to provide more anatomical realism between the two figures but prudish NASA directors (or maybe their political masters) deleted it. Maybe they just wanted ET to know just how stupid the human race is/was.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Pat Frank
July 4, 2019 9:04 am

My brother was pretty specific, Alastair. The improved male had an extension.

I’m not at all surprised by your story of the mannequinized female figure. Prudish managers projecting prudish space aliens.

Reply to  Pat Frank
July 3, 2019 12:46 pm

I don’t buy it.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Javier
July 3, 2019 4:06 pm

Two hundred years ago, Javier, people who thought like you would probably not have bought the idea that 500 people could be moved through the air at 39,000 feet and 550 mph.

Europe in 4 hr from Boston? Ha!

Technology always exceeds expectations.

Joel O’Bryan
July 3, 2019 5:41 am

Not a fan. The money being wasted on manned spaceflight beyond LEO, the cost – benefit just doesn’t work when we have robotics and AI now to explore the solar system and land on rocky surfaces in gravity wells.
I’d rather see the money spent instead on robotic missions and other actual science activities like replacements for STEREO A/B, a lander mission to Europa, and space-based telescopes.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 3, 2019 7:14 am

Given realities, any money “saved” will go to global warming or Muslim outreach or other useless PC proposals. All you are doing in effect is giving the Luddites a rationale.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 3, 2019 12:31 pm

Joel , robotic probes have their place as the vanguard of space exploration. Since we’ve had them, robots have always been the precursors of human arrival. But, they are just that, preliminary testers. Their purpose is to determine if it is possible (or even desirable) and what is necessary for humans to survive in those locations. The purpose of robotic probes is not to populate a planet with robots.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 1:18 pm

We have one historical example of human space exploration of another surface. And the state of computer robotics of the 1960’s and early 1970’s was non-existent. The Viking landers were cool, but no one had to consider how to get off Mars once they go there.

The current manned concepts for Mars requires a 400 day stay on the surface before a 200 day cruise phase return can be completed. That’s 400 days of food, water, and oxygen for 3 or 4 adults. Waste recycling, water recycling, oxygen generation from water, and most importantly copious electricity for heating due to -70 F night time temps. The electricity can come from solar, but you better hope there are no big dust storms that can last for months, as RTG’s are heavy, expensive, and don’t provide much power when you consider the heating needs and water cycling-atmosphere needs for a human habitat.

Then the crew needs to be on the surface for the entire time so that Mars’ limited atmosphere can provide additional radiation shielding from solar energetic particles and GCRs.

Manned Mars missions would be such a colossal waste of resources. And they will teach us nothing about Mars that we won’t already know by 2030 with all the robotic missions underway and those planned. And we’ll likely just kill the astronauts anyway with slow radiation poisoning, so the return vehicle will bring back corpses.

Tom in Denver
July 3, 2019 6:01 am

Perhaps if Obama hadn’t diverted NASA toward Global Warming projects, and programs to help Muslims feel good about their historical science development, we would never have gotten out of the orbital vehicle business in the first place. Instead of having to bum a ride from the Russians to get too and from the ISS.

July 3, 2019 6:55 am

Survivable, but – boy – does that look like a rough ride.

July 3, 2019 9:06 am

Just as a point of information. NASA’s budget is a whopping $20 Billion of the $4 Trillion federal budget. That’s .5%.

Walter Sobchak
July 3, 2019 9:07 am

Why is the government funding this project instead of funding SpaceX which is far ahead of the government project?

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
July 3, 2019 12:45 pm

The government funds these so that any knowledge learned is in the public domain and not some companies proprietary secret.
I personally have had patent applications shelved because no proprietary rights could be claimed for the inventions.
Mercenaries can be fast and inexpensive, but they are in it for themselves.

Steve S.
July 3, 2019 9:14 am

Between NASA GIS , the Challenger disaster, and the Columbia disaster, what would make anybody think that NASA can be trusted with human life? The administration has time and time again shown that, in their minds, politics takes precedence over safety. And with the way AI and robotics are being developed, what exactly would be the reason humans lives would need to be risked in any mission?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Steve S.
July 3, 2019 11:24 am

Which means that either NASA gets a massive increase to pay for the manned phases when they start, or something elsewhere in the NASA budget gets a hit.

Personally I’d like to see GISS defunded entirely and their money split between JPL and GSFC programs. But GISS budget is just chump change compared to sending out a deep space probe mission.
Still it would be a return to some sanity for NASA.

In the 1960’s computers could be trusted to land on the Moon, gather samples, and return to Earth. Robotics and computers just weren’t advanced enough to pull that off. Today, that is definitely not the case, after soft-landing and running rovers all over Mars surface for 15 years now.

It’ll be hard to let go of “manned Mars”, but the likely lethal radiation hazards and the high cost do not justify the risks for the limited science return from a manned mission versus a robotic sample return mission.

The Moon and Mars manned stuff needs to be completely shelved, keep going to the ISS until it is time to de-orbit that platform. And then reassess/re-justify the need for even manned LEO missions post-ISS. Continue with robotic missions beyond LEO.

Adding the human component so dramatically raises costs and risk. Not worth it when so many other good missions need funding. We’ll likely learn nothing about the Moon or Mars we didn’t already know, and we are quite likely to lose people trying. The damage to national psyche would be tremendous.

The day a robotic mission finds an obelisk on the far-side of the Moon or on Ganymede, then we can think about sending a real human to make contact. But until then, I see no justification.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 12:27 pm

In the 1960’s computers could **NOT** be trusted to land on the Moon…

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 4, 2019 3:19 am

Joel O’Bryan
July 3, 2019 at 12:27 pm

The Russians had unmanned sample return missions to the Moon in the early 1970’s.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 5:58 pm

“It’ll be hard to let go of “manned Mars”, but the likely lethal radiation hazards and the high cost do not justify the risks for the limited science return from a manned mission versus a robotic sample return mission.”

A one-meter-thick water ice envelope around habitation modules will solve the radiation problem in space.

Humans are going to Mars. It may not be by NASA people, but they are going. They think it is worth the risk and they have the money to pay for it.

I think there is no doubt that humans will be living and thriving in space within the next 50 years or sooner. Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire, is a student of Gerard O’Neill and he is going to put a human habitat in orbit as soon as he can.

Humans will have our own Dyson Sphere one of these days, imo.

J Mac
July 3, 2019 9:42 am

On May 10th, 1869, the last spike was driven at Promontory Point UT, joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways and creating the trans continental railroad spanning the United States of America. The steam powered locomotives and the electric telegraph that paralleled the rail route were technological leaps that forever changed transportation and communications as we know it. The western frontier was now easily accessible for commerce, direct communication, and human access.

Just one hundred years later, on July 16th 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched from Cape Canaveral on Apollo 11, riding atop the massive 3-stage Saturn V rocket and headed for a landing on the moon. At 4:17pm July 20, our nation received the radio message “The Eagle has landed!” The Lunar Lander, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, had safely landed on the moon. July 20th 1969, at 10:56pm, we watched Neil Armstrong on television as he stepped from the Lunar Lander onto lunar soil, declaring “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

Consider: A span of just one hundred years between steam engines and telegraph communications to watching the first landing of men on the moon on our home television sets! Both were huge technological leaps. Neither were merely ‘stunts’. Only stunted perspectives could arrive at that conclusion.

Humans need new frontiers to daunt and intimidate us. We need that challenge to drive us ever forward, developing the new technologies essential for exploring new frontiers. Without these challenges, our race will devolve into increasingly trivial navel lint gazing exercises that sap the human spirit and leave the soul in despair. Look about you. It’s right in front of you. Look at the major cities through small towns that are infested with drugs, disease, and ideology driven human devolution. People without a frontier to conquer are rudderless, casting about for a ’cause’ to support, squabbling over resources, and slowly losing their humanity to anything that will temporarily ease their lack of purpose and despair of soul.

We should be better than this. We must be better, if the human race is to not merely survive but prosper and thrive! We need new frontiers….

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  J Mac
July 3, 2019 12:37 pm

We know what is on Mars. Engineers and scientists at JPL running rovers see it everyday in HD technicolor, and get to drill and sample Mars rocks and look at dirt under a microspcope and heat it for gas evolution study.

There is zero reason to send humans to that lethal environment to have them die slow agonizing deaths 100 million miles from Earth. No one on Earth could do anything but listen over the radio link as they slowly take their last gasping breaths with lungs filling with blood and fluid from chronic, lethal radiation poisoning.

J Mac
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 2:55 pm

Re: “We know what is on Mars.”
We have traversed an exceedingly minute part of Mars with the exceedingly limited sampling/testing capabilities of our remote rovers. We have the barest glimpses of a minuscule bit of Mars, as a result. We know what is on Mars??? Talk about stunted perspectives!

Following that lilliputian leap of hubris, you argue with a sobbing emotional appeal the likes of PETA or WWF would be proud of. Pathetic.

Mankind is the an inquisitive and inventive species. We learned how to deal with the lethal environments of our home planet, not just surviving but thriving in the process. We will learn how to deal with the lethal environments off planet. A permanent return to the moon is the second toddling step we must take to learn, survive, and thrive ‘out there’.
It’s in our genes! It’s what we do!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  J Mac
July 3, 2019 6:10 pm

J Mac,

You simply don’t understand the environment any humans would be dealing with once outside of Earth’ geomagnetosphere.

Lethal interplanatary space radiation environments are not in our “genes.” It is a radiation environment which we have zero years of adaptation. Apollo managed it with short duration missions, under 10 days.

Curiosity rover has been on Mars now almost 7 years, operating continuously with its RTG power source, not needing to stop for the winter like the earlier rovers running on solar PV.
It has almost 13 miles on its odometer. And its still going, exploring, measuring, drilling.

NASA’s Insight mission also currently underway on the surface just deployed the thermal “heat spike” sensor called the Mole. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), aka the self-hammering mole is designed to dig down as much as 16 feet (5 meters) and take Mars’ temperature. Currently they are trying to get it to hammer dig its way through cohesive soil” that isn’t providing the friction needed for the bit to keep drilling. But they’ll figure it out.

Mar Opportunity Rover worked until last 10 Jun 2018, and had over 14 years navigating on the surface, and whopping total odometry of 28.06 miles!!
Its twin Spirit Rover, worked for 6 years, and an odometry of 4.8 miles in much more rugged terrain than Opportunity.

NASA JPL now has over 30 mobile rover-years on the surface of Mars under its belt, and over 45 miles of rover remote sensing. And that doesn’t count the stationary missions like Insight, Viking 1&2, and the Phoenix lander north polar mission.

But to put humans there:
Dealing with lethal radiation environments is done in some combination of 3 ways:

1. Sufficient Shielding,
2. Limiting exposure time, and lifetime limits.
3. Keeping the humans out entirely and using remote controlled devices.

RTG-powered Curiosity Rover is the ultimate example of #3. The human drivers sit safely in a Pasadena control room, sipping coffee in short sleeve shirt. Sending out long command sequences and 5 to 20 minutes typically for the video to come back of what the rover did.

Any humans on Mars surface will need to limit their time outside of the shelter due to radiation concerns, so spending many hours to walk or drive more than a few miles would be very risky for NASA to allow. And by the mid-2030’s when the mission might go, we’ll know a lot about Mars from the robotic missions. It is quite unlikely sending humans there would add anything objectively useful to understanding of Mars.

We could do 20-30 of these robotic missions and even a few sample return missions for the price tag of a single manned mission to Mars, if it can even be done. The money would be much better spent exploring the entire solar system with robotic missions for the cost of one manned Mars mission.

So going to Mars with people will not be about science. It will be about hubris, an emotion. That’s it. And the astronauts if they survive and return will likely be facing a seriously shortened life span due to steady irradiation of their heart and CNS by GCR relativistic particles.

J Mac
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 4, 2019 9:03 am

You simply don’t understand the human spirit. We will learn how to deal with the lethal environments off planet. A permanent return to the moon is the second toddling step we must take to learn, survive, and thrive ‘out there’. A manned Mars mission exceeds our current capabilities. ‘First you crawl. Then you walk. Finally, you learn to run.’ The moon, looming just beyond our ancestral cradle, is where we will learn to crawl and walk outside the protective geomagnetosphere of earth. It’s in our genes! It’s what we do!

As for your baseless assertion that I “simply don’t understand the environment any humans would be dealing with once outside of Earth’ geomagnetosphere.”, I’ll simply tell you you are wrong…. yet again. Ad hom attack – shame on you!

Reply to  J Mac
July 3, 2019 12:49 pm


Robert of Texas
July 3, 2019 10:08 am

Until and unless we solve the problems with radiation exposure, there is no real reason to send humans beyond the moon. We should be working on next generation robots instead.

The rocket is useful – we can send robot explorers further and faster (and heavier), bu the capsule is a waste of time and money. The orbiting space station is mostly a waste of money. It is so much cheaper to send machines in place of humans.

You can solve the gravity problem, just build a fat enough circular crew quarters and spin it. You can grow food, produce oxygen, recycle wastes and water. What we can’t do as yet is bring down radiation levels to an acceptable risk for long term space travel – until you solve that problem the rest is useless beyond the Moon.

It will require (at least) two things – thick shielding likely made of multiple layers of stuff, including ice-water, and a powerful magnetic field around the ship to try and redirect a lot of the particle radiation.

Another breakthrough would be to put people into a controllable coma for the trip, and seal them into a highly shielded room. Yep, they would be cooking when awake and outside the room, but the majority of the travel would be in the shielded room.

So yes, the capsule looks cool. But it isn’t really getting us closer to planetary travel, at least not safely.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
July 3, 2019 1:03 pm

Yes deep space radiation is an issue. So are all of the other items you listed. We currently cannot keep even an Earthbound eco-habitat operational, let alone one that doesn’t have gravity to keep things in place.
Artificial gravity from rotation leaves a lot to be yet resolved as well. The huge radial distances are needed to keep the rotational speeds low. With smaller structures you need very high rotational speeds and that leads to non-uniform gravity gradients measureable over the scale of the human body. When standing the gravity at your head would be less than at your feet (think amusement park ride inducing nausea) and the trajectory of falling object will be an arc.

As to radiation surrounding the crew quarters with about 18″ of water and polyethylene tanks will suffice to stop deep space radiation.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 6:30 pm

18″ water shielding = 500 kg/square meter (0.5 metric tonne) shielding. Crew and living quarters, assume 2 independent living space spheres 4 meters in diameter = 2 x 50 sq meters = 100 sm surface area.

100sm x 0.5 mt/sm – 50 tonnes of just the water shielding.

That’s 50 tonnes additional mass that would have to be accelerated out of low-Earth orbit on a Mars intercept, then decelerated on Mars arrival, and then accelerated again for the trip home.

You clearly have no idea how much chemical fuel for the thrust that would take just for the shielding.

And BTW, most radiation studies put the shielding necessary at around 1 full meter of water, or 1 mt/sm. So double your guess of 18″.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 7:56 pm

The water is the fuel too as Hydrogen/Oxygen. We just have to get extra water to space for the radiation protection, which I am surprised by now we are not blasting out ice bullets on chemical/electric rail guns out of a mountain tunnel bear the equator for cheap. Hitler had started building his proposed V-3 cannon which was really just a 150 mm 175 foot long long gun barrel with staged firing of accelerant. They were capable of firing shells up to 80 miles away and would have been pounding London from France with them if the war hadn’t ended sooner. A Canadian was also developing this for Saddam in Iraq when it was believed the Israeli’s assassinated him. This tech would be great for blasting out ice bullets or steel/aluminium ingots to space/orbit. Just don’t let the Gov’t do it or it will cost 10x as much.

Reply to  Earthling2
July 4, 2019 3:29 am

July 3, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Yes, McGill University in Montreal was involved with this when I was there in the 1960’s. called Project Martlet (or something similar). It used a huge gun (possibly ex Nazi WWII) operting in Barbados to get the equatorial orbital boost. I think they fired at least one shot and the gun is still there rusting away. It might have been very useful to get water into orbit.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 4, 2019 5:39 pm

“That’s 50 tonnes additional mass that would have to be accelerated out of low-Earth orbit on a Mars intercept, then decelerated on Mars arrival, and then accelerated again for the trip home.”

Or we could use Buzz Aldrin’s Mars Cycler design for travel between Earth and Mars. The Mars cycler is put into an orbit that intercepts both the Earth and Mars. Once put on this trafectory, the cycler will stay in this orbit without further need for large amounts of propellants.

As the Mars Cycler approaches Earth orbit, an orbital transfer vehicle meets it and transfers crews and equipment back and forth. Once the Mars Cycler reaches Mars orbit another orbital transfer vehicle will meet it and transfer the crew and equipment to where the Mars base is located.

If we wanted artificial gavity on the trip to and from Mars, then we would use two habitat modules for our Mars Cycler separated by a mile-long cable and the modules would orbit the center at a speed of one revolution per minute and this would produce artificial gravity (centrifugal force) in the habitation modules equivalent to the gravity on the surface of the Earth.

That configuration ought to cut down on propellant use between Earth and Mars and would keep people safe from space radiation and would keep their bodies from deteriorating due to exposure to microgravity for long periods of time.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Robert of Texas
July 3, 2019 6:04 pm

“Until and unless we solve the problems with radiation exposure, there is no real reason to send humans beyond the moon.”

Ths solution is to use water ice as a radiation shield. A one-meter-thick coating of water ice on the outside of a habitat module will keep people inside safe from space radiation.

We are talking additional weight here with using water ice, but that’s manageable.

Robert Goldman
July 3, 2019 11:29 am

I flatly do not believe there is any economic justification for sending a human to Mars. The notion we are going to start living there is a propaganda dream designed to separate taxpayers from their hard earned income.

This does not mean I see no value in space exploration. In fact, I believe the exact opposite. We should move the money to robotic exploration. This will allow far greater diversity in our efforts. How many moons are there begging to be studied right now? Who cares if there may have been life on Mars. There may be life elsewhere right now. Let’s go look. Let’s also build telescopes. I love telescopes.

To the folks who say only a human can properly explore, I ask what about all the claims of Ai and deep learning? Or is that all just a bunch of BS too?

Reply to  Robert Goldman
July 3, 2019 1:09 pm

Robert, why send robots at all? Since we are never going to go why should we care what is out there?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 1:31 pm

Harvesting asteroids for metals to return to Earth though is another story. No deep gravity well to deal with for retrieval. Robotics with nuclear powered ion-propulsion would be ideal to mine those, then use gravity-assist decelerations passes on Mars, Earth, and Venus to bring them back to 1 AU. Using robots you could take your time, like decades long asteroid mining missions.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
July 3, 2019 2:22 pm

Unless there is a really big need for scarce materials on earth the best use of the materials we harvest (mine?) from space will be to keep them in space to manufacture things there. Don’t send them down the gravity well to Earth only to need to lift them back up again.
Many years ago there was a movie about a mission to an asteroid made of pure sapphire. Even then I asked “Don’t we have sapphires on Earth?” The cost to return the gems to Earth would be more than the gems were worth on Earth. Most materials are worth more in space, where they are needed.

J Mac
Reply to  Rocketscientist
July 3, 2019 6:00 pm


Reply to  Robert Goldman
July 4, 2019 3:33 am

Robert Goldman
July 3, 2019 at 11:29 am

The justification is that we need to have a plan B in case an asteroid or comet is coming our way that we can’t deflect. There could be a nuclear war wiping us all out on the Earth.

If we have a breeding colony of humans on Mars at least the species will survive unlike the dinosaurs. In any case the technology spinoffs will be immense, not to mention the inspiration to our youth. We all need goals; the loftier the better.

July 3, 2019 1:57 pm

Mars is a truly inhospitable place. Atmosphere 99.4 % of the way to full vacuum. Like the moon program, a new generation of people in-the-know has forgotten the irrationality of the idea of space colonization as presently conceived, and won’t ‘get it’ until they see how much of GDP various people have spent on it so they can be public heroes.

July 3, 2019 4:20 pm

Moon: A gazillion dollars to see some grey dust, with nothing in it.
Mars: A gazillion bazillion dollars to see some red dust, with nothing in it.
Return on investment: Minus gajllion.
Practical use: a few photos, and some grey and red dust (which Nasa will manage to lose some of, believe it or not).
Danger factor: severely high.

Not all expeditions have the same practical value. Just ask any oil or mineral geologist.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  thingadonta
July 3, 2019 7:47 pm

It’s interesting how superficial people are, isn’t it? The Moon *looks* like grey dust, it doesn’t even *look* as Earth like as Mars does in photos, so therefore “grey dust” is all there is to the Moon, obviously, look there, just a whole continent sized object made of grey dust!

In reality, while it’s clearly pretty useless to think of going all the way to the Moon just for materials we can get far more practically here on Earth, there *is*quite a lot more to the Moon than meets the eye! Besides potentially mineable iron content, say, there is also quite good evidence for mineable water at the lunar poles, and likely other volatiles (nitrogen compounds, say, as well).

All good stuff, *if* you think there is some sort of future for ‘in space’ industry, maybe a market for lunar derived rocket fuels for boosting satellites around, say?

Reply to  David Blenkinsop
July 4, 2019 5:21 am

You’ve obviously never done any mining.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Thingadobta
July 7, 2019 2:35 am

I suppose I could always try to prove my great expertise to you by flying to the Moon tomorrow, so as to try to pan some water nuggets out of the bottom of Shackleton crater — or something.

Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?

Seriously, the Moon is a lot different than the Earth, there is no point at all in trying to drill a water well, say, and, any serious technology for extracting anything useful is going to be different than most of what we do here. Further, I see no guarantee that space industry will ever be big enough to really benefit from mining the moon, asteroids, etc. — *but*, something like that *may* happen eventually (space industry using ET materials, I mean).

(Hopefully the above caution is enough to cover the fact that I am off to the Moon tomorrow to get back to my regular job processing Lunar thorium for the Arcturians –
— Heigh Ho!)

July 3, 2019 4:44 pm

If we don’t put humans perpetually in space, and the current plan to return to the Moon with an alliance of countries, then the Chinese are most definitely going to do so, and in doing so, they will be at an advantage to taking over the good Earth and all us people on it. Then we are all going to have to learn Mandarin and how to eat with chop sticks, just like if the German Nazis had won WW2 we would all be speaking German now.

Seeing how the Chinese treat other people, including themselves and the way they trash the environment and other countries EEZ such as their 7 artificial island military bases in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), I am all for our civilization to take over outer space and ensure those barbarians are nowhere near the gates of outer space. Deny them entry to space if we have to, and I don’t care what it costs to ensure evil doesn’t take over the world. We are so lucky to have President Trump on that file, but even he may be too weak to arrest this long term menace that human kind faces. Whomever rules space long term will rule the Earth. And I for one would much rather it be a western alliance, than a red menace. This is really only the tip of the iceberg that this trade war is about.

Sky King
Reply to  Earthling2
July 3, 2019 9:03 pm

I live overlooking Subic Bay, so I am delighted to read someone correctly naming the bit of ocean out my window – The West Philippine Sea. You can but t-shirts here with that printed on the front.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Earthling2
July 4, 2019 5:05 am

“If we don’t put humans perpetually in space, and the current plan to return to the Moon with an alliance of countries, then the Chinese are most definitely going to do so, and in doing so, they will be at an advantage to taking over the good Earth and all us people on it.”

The Chinese have set themselves the goal of building a working Solar Power Satellite in orbit by the year 2030.

As far as I know, NASA is doing little or nothing with regard to solar power satellites. I guess we can buy our power in orbit from the Chinese. If they will sell it to us.

NASA needs to build a demonstration Solar Power Satellite, preferably before the Chinese do, and NASA needs to build an Orbital Transfer Vehicle that is capable of operating in orbits between the Earth and the Moon. Basic space development infrastructure. NASA needs to get busy developing the things humans will need to operate and do business in space.

Trump has taken the first step by declaring the U.S. is going back to the Moon.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 4, 2019 6:19 pm

Here is an idea for a NASA Solar Power Satellite:

NASA should get themselves a large balloon and cover the outside of the balloon with solar panels in a manner that allows the ballon to be folded up for launch. Thin-film solar cells might be a good choice for this kind of setup.

NASA can launch the balloon into an appropriate orbit and could use a few pounds of helium to inflate the balloon to full size, and then the U.S. will have a working Solar Power Satellite. There won’t be any need to aim this SPS at the Sun because half of it will always be illuminated no matter which way it turns.

That shouldn’t be that difficult to do. I haven’t kept up with developments in the thin-film solar cell area but my understanding is they have been improved over the years. And I suppose a clever person might be able to figure out how to attach conventional solar cells to the outside if that were necessary.

I just like the simplicity of this design.

There are a lot of space entreprenuers down on Earth thinking about how they can power the projects they have planned for orbit. I bet they would like to have an option to tap into a Solar Power Satellite.

A Solar Power Satellite could also be used to power vehicles and allow them to move around the Earth/Moon system. And if the Solar Power Satellite is big enough, it can be used to deflect dangerous asteriods

I read the other day where a study was done about using nuclear weapons to deflect an asteriod and the study found that even if the nuclear weapons broke the asteriod apart, the gravity of the asteriod would quickly reassemble the pieces, so a Solar Power Satellite may be our best bet at planetary defense.

NASA should get busy developing this technology.

Keith Sketchley
Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 4, 2019 7:33 pm

Abbott: “develop this technology.”
Geez. buddy, there are already dozens of solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbit send beams of microwave energy down to earth powering people’s television sets.

Here is a picture of what people put on their roofs to collect this power: comment image

Seems like you are trying to re-invent the wheel.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Tom Abbott
July 7, 2019 11:39 pm

Solar power beamed down from geosynchronous orbit does have the nice feature in principle that the power beamed down can be almost full time. Not so much need, then, for attaching super sized battery clusters, which is one of the “fails” for ground situated solar cells.

Unfortunately, the whole prospect of converting to microwaves, beaming inefficiencies, the sheer cost initially of operating in space, etc., all of that *still* doesn’t seem too encouraging for the near future economics of power satellites! If, as I think, Global Warming isn’t much of a problem, why not just frack some natural gas, burn it for power — why even think of going for a more expensive space based idea?

Here is a thought, what about just putting really big mirrors in geosynchronous orbit, or attached to quite long, free flying, “skyhook” cables that orbit earth synchronously? Make the mirrors big enough and you don’t have to be concerned with converting to microwaves in space (then reconverting to electrical power from the microwaves, etc). Just send light down where needed, say for urban nighttime lighting — or for saving crops in the fall in rural areas, where said crops are in danger of premature freezing in autumn. Also, what about all those poor ground based solar cells, stuck in the dark overnight? Our space based mirrors, or “solettas” could help keep ground based solar powered up as well?

Anyway, this is just a thought, as I’ve no doubt there would be some kind of advanced engineering needed, to say the least, to build space mirrors as light in mass as possible, and still give them the required structural soundness, controlability, etc.

J Mac
July 3, 2019 6:02 pm

Strategic thinking, in a comments list with very little of that. Nice!

sky king
July 3, 2019 8:59 pm

Good. Now put it on top of Falcon Heavy and let’s go. Cancel the booster for SLS. Costs $500 million per launch versus Falcon Heavy $100M. NASA is just a jobs program for NASA and Boeing. And when Spacex debugs Dragon then retire Orion.

Reply to  sky king
July 4, 2019 3:39 am

sky king
July 3, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Totally agree. However, why not retire Orion now as well as SLS, give some of the money to Musk and let him get on with Falcon Heavy and maybe BFR. To be fair maybe give some of the money to Bezos as well.

John Robertson
July 3, 2019 9:32 pm

All the above commenters are right.
There is no good reason to explore space, no need for such technology.
We will just huddle here at the bottom of this gravity well and wait for the asteroid to come to us.
Well sarc off.
I thought Orion was the tag reserved for the Nuclear Bomb powered rocket.
J Mac @9:42 am says it best.
We need a challenge.
As to the hard radiation problem,one stop gap would be to send Old men.
We have the skills and are well past our best before breeding days and reduced gravity would be a boon.
Those who worry about lives lost and explosive you drive on the freeway without a thought.
The one certain thing about life,is that it will kill you.

And as long as we huddle down here in the dirt,we know an asteroid will come, just not when and currently there is nothing we can do about it.
Funny how the Cult of Calamitous Climate can get so worked up over a weak conjecture concerning a trace gas,yet a real climate shattering,humankind extinquishing event like an asteroid.. Never mind.

July 4, 2019 5:31 am

Orion Project success!!!??? Nuclear propulsion!?

Oh… that… Well, that’s nice…. whatever…

Ernest Bush
July 4, 2019 10:09 am

By the time the Orion project makes it to the moon, colonists put there by Spacex will be waving as the craft descends.

Reply to  Ernest Bush
July 4, 2019 1:53 pm

Ernest Bush
July 4, 2019 at 10:09 am

Yes, along with their Chinese ?comrades. Only I doubt they will be waving.

Russ Wood
July 5, 2019 9:15 am

It’s odd that NASA is re-using the old ‘Orion’ name. The original Project Orion was a 1950’s idea for a spacecraft which used NUCLEAR BOMBS as fuel ( The idea being to build the spacecraft on top of a massive plate, with shock absorbers. Then set off a controlled (yeah, right) series of nuclear bombs under the plate. Larry Niven’s SF novel ‘Footfall’ used a clandestinely built ‘Orion’ to get into orbit and overcome an alien invasion. There was apparently a lot of work done on small nuclear bombs for this, and it’s all still classified.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights