|LEHIGH VALLEY SPACE FRONTIER
|THE PUBLIC VOICE
ON THE CUTTING
EDGE OF THE
|BACK TO THE MOON?
|Too many years have passed for me to still be the last man to
have left his footprints on the Moon. I believe with all my heart that
somewhere out there is a young boy or girl with indomitable will
and courage who will lift that dubious distinction from my shoulders
and take us back where we belong. Let us give that dream a
chance." - Captain Eugene A. Cernan --- Commander of Apollo 17
|More than 14,603 days have gone by since the last American man
(Eugene Cernan with his companion Harrison Schmidt) walked on the
Moon in 1972! Since then, space enthusiasts awaited with much
anticipation new programs designed to get us back to the Moon and
beyond. Unfortunately, for the past 40 years our political leaders have
spoken with a forked tongue when it came to manned missions beyond
Low Earth Orbit. As it happened, for one reason or the other, manned
programs designed to take us back to the Moon were constantly re-
designed by every successive occupant of the White House since
Richard Nixon... And of course, the most recent program in
development, George W. Bush's Constellation systems Program which
had promised return to the Moon as early as 2020 has seemingly
suffered the same fate.
Which caused former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to lament:
"If Obama does cancel the Constellation program, it leaves NASA and
the nation with no program, no plan and no commitment to any human
spaceflight program beyond that of today.
The original Bush plan, of course, was to return to the moon by 2020;
unfortunately, the project was underfunded to the point where this might
not have happened untill 2030. And what’s more, decision-makers said
there wasn’t enough money to do both the moon and keep the ISS
project going. It had to be one or the other, and let’s face it: the
advantage was to the ISS because it was already out there in space,
working like a charm, and the moon R&D was still working on a rocket
to replace the one we used in the 60s.
Consequently, the Obama Administration decided putting $6 billion into
extending the life of the ISS and at the same time encouraging private
spaceflight to develop a new support system for the ISS ...But until
these private spaceflight companies developed this new support
system NASA needed to purchase an additional $753 Million in
transportation services from the Russian Federal Space agency or $63
million per seat to and from the International Space Station on the
|Beyond NASA ...
The era of private spaceflight has broke new ground with the first test launch of the new
Falcon 9 rocket by the company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which hopes to
use the booster to fly its Dragon spaceship on space station trips. And with NASA's space
shuttles retiring this year, SpaceX is not alone in the bid to launch cargo and astronauts into
NASA has tapped SpaceX and another company Virginia's Orbital Sciences to build
unmanned cargo ships to stock up the International Space Station after its final two shuttle
missions fly later this year. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is poised to make its first test flight this
After that, the agency plans to modify the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule as a
space station lifeboat. Aerospace juggernaut Boeing is also hoping to compete for
commercial crew capabilities.
| Bigelow Aerospace
Company: Bigelow Aerospace
Spaceship Name: Sundancer and BA-330
Founder(s): Robert Bigelow
Backing: $180 million of his personal fortune as owner of the Budget Suites of
America hotel chain.
Location: North Las Vegas, Nevada
Launched the Business: 1999
Plans to Launch into Space: 2015
Number of Passengers: Sundancer to support crews of 3, BA-330 to support
Bigelow Aerospace has been paving new ground in inflatable spacecraft and already
launched two mini-space station prototypes, called Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. The
company's larger Sundancer and BA-330 vehicles are expected to serve as space
stations, not capsules. Additionally, company founder Robert Bigelow has set his
sights on developing a private moon base using the inflatable technology.
Since Bigelow Aerospace does not have rockets or spacecraft to reach its space
stations, the company has been working closely with Boeing on potential crew
Boeing received $18 million from NASA this year to support development of its own
| NASA Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program
On May 24, 2011, NASA announced the start of a program to develop a Multi-Purpose
Crew Vehicle (MPCV) capable of transporting astronauts to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and
beyond. Rather than constituting something dramatically new, the MPCV is
fundamentally a reinstatement of the previously descoped Orion project, restoring the
system’s ability to carry crews to and from orbit.
The Mars Society welcomes this restoration of capability, as the prior downgrade of
Orion to a down-only capsule “lifeboat” system saved very little money while
destroying most of the system’s value. In implementing the MPCV effort, NASA needs
to pay special attention to constraining its schedule and cost, as the purpose of the
program must be to deliver an effective flight system in a timely fashion.
That said, the restoration of the Orion program should not be used as an excuse to
cut NASA financial support for the alternative capsule systems being developed by
various commercial providers. The potential value of this modestly-funded effort has
now been made apparent by the rapid progress of the SpaceX Dragon, which has
already conducted its first successful flight test. Clearly, such highly cost-effective
investments should not be abandoned.
Rather than relying upon any one system for transporting crew or cargo to and from
orbit, the policy of NASA should be to foster the greatest possible diversity of both
space launch and crew capsule systems available for its own use and that of others.
While a variety of launch vehicles do currently exist, with the imminent retirement of
the space shuttle fleet, the Russian Soyuz will soon hold a monopoly on crew
transport to and from orbit.
NASA should seek to amend this situation through effective support for the
development of competing American crew transport systems, and welcome the
entrance into the human spaceflight arena of potential additional alternatives from
Europe or other international players as well. This policy should be held firmly, as
clarity on this issue is essential if commercial companies are to attract funding from
Increasing the number of options for access to space will help reduce the costs for
LEO operations by encouraging competition. This in turn will reduce the costs of
Mars exploration, while creating a robust set of technical alternatives that will help
ensure the success of humanity’s effort to reach the Red Planet.
NASA launches largest-ever Mars rover
The one-ton, car-size Curiosity rocketed from
Kennedy Space Center on Saturday November 26,
2011. The vehicle is on a mission to determine
whether life could have existed on Mars.
Commenting on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launch, Dr. Robert
Zubrin, Mars Society President, said, "The MSL is another great step
forward for NASA's brilliantly successful Mars exploration program. It
shows the value of a program that moves ahead as an ongoing
campaign, with ever better rovers and orbiters, working together and
supporting each other as combined forces.
It is ironic that, even as we celebrate this launch, the Obama’s
administration OMB is trying to abort the program by attempting to
cancel the Mars missions planned for 2016 and 2018. This must not be
allowed to happen. MSL should not be the final act of the Mars program,
but the opening of a new age of even greater achievements in space
exploration, leading up to and including the human exploration and
settlement of the Red Planet."
SPACE BASED SOLAR POWER ADVOCATED
The National Space Society (NSS) and SPACE Canada held a press
conference on November 14, 2011 at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C to announce the findings of a ground-breaking space
solar power study conducted by the International Academy of
Astronautics (IAA) under the leadership of John Mankins, a 25-year
NASA veteran and expert on space solar power. The video of the press
conference is available on the NSS website.
NSS SOLAR POWER PRESS CONFERENCE
The IAA's three-year, ten-nation study, Space Solar Power -- The First
International Assessment of Space Solar Power: Opportunities, Issues
and Potential Pathways Forward, confirms the possible readiness of
using space solar power technology within the decade.
Gary Barnhard, the Executive Director of NSS stated "The IAA report
lays out the case quite clearly. Space Solar Power is one of the potential
key elements in meeting the growing and evolving electrical energy
demand of the United States and the world. Space Solar Power is not a
panacea, nor is it engineering fantasy. Space Solar Power is a complex
systems engineering and economics problem that entails learning how
to build the most valuable system(s) and when to do so in order to best
meet electrical energy needs. Space Solar Power is an option we can
make real and in doing so help provide for a positive future for
"With space solar power technology, energy can be collected from
space and transmitted wirelessly anywhere in the world," explained
Mark Hopkins, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National
Space Society. "This technology could be the answer to our energy
crisis. We look forward to sharing the results of the IAA's study, and
exploring the potential that space solar power has for creating
thousands of green energy jobs," he said.
Collecting solar energy to convert to electricity is not a new concept.
However, there are significant advantages to space solar power
compared to ground solar power. Solar energy in space is seven times
greater per unit area than on the ground. The collection of solar space
energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, thus
avoiding the need for expensive energy storage.
Mr. Hopkins added, "Our dependence on crude oil is simply
unsustainable, and other energy sources can be costly and harmful to
the environment. As a continuous source of energy, space solar power
is a potential cost-effective and environmentally superior energy
|Back to the Moon