Monday, May 10, 2010

Once Upon A Time In Heaven: Roundup

Heavy-lift, alive but knee-capped.

In his April 15 speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., U.S. President Barack Obama said the space agency would spend the next *five years* studying new technologies and materials before settling on a heavy-lift rocket design. But NASA documents and comments from agency officials suggest the White House already has a design firmly in mind.

The document was revised between May 3 and 5 to eliminate a particularly foolish fuel constraint. Spaceref has the modified request.

Summary: We're going to take five years to reinvent Ares V, and God knows how long to actually build, test and the fly the damned thing...if at all.

Nothing of interest from the ISS.

Summary. People woke up, ate breakfast, popped pills, vlogged, and tightened bolts.

Ice and chemicals on 24 Themis:

Scientists using a NASA funded telescope have detected water-ice and carbon-based organic compounds on the surface of an asteroid. The cold hard facts of the discovery of the frosty mixture on one of the asteroid belt's largest occupants, suggests that some asteroids, along with their celestial brethren, comets, were the water carriers for a primordial Earth. The research is published in today's issue of the journal Nature.

"For a long time the thinking was that you couldn't find a cup's worth of water in the entire asteroid belt," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Today we know you not only could quench your thirst, but you just might be able to fill up every pool on Earth – and then some."

Outstanding. Now how about finding a similar near Earth asteroid that we can actually use?

Another conservative drinks the Flexible Path kool-aid:

We free-marketers know that the free market can make improvements, cut costs, and make innovations based on the actions of the competitive marketplace. Manned space flight as conducted by NASA over the last fifty years had none of this. As a result, we have a 35-year-old design (shuttle) that flies very little and is increasingly accident-prone. In the 35 years from the Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903 to 1938, we went from the Wright Flier to the B-17. Why hasn't there been similar progress in manned space flight? The answer is that it has been a government monopoly for fifty years.

We're coming up on the 25th anniversary of the Commercial Space Launch Act, we've grown a quarter trillion dollar industry that has all but run out of excuses to launch satellites, and we were moving towards commericial transport to the ISS *five years* ago. The problem isn't government sponsored manned space flight--which is the only reason anyone's up there in the first place. It's that government manned spaceflight has *no* direction whatsoever. Flexible Path is just the first time a White House has had the balls to come out and say it.

Colin Doughan has a blog, interviews Alan Wasser on property rights in space:

Sending astronauts to the Space Station will be the first revenue stream for private space development. The second revenue stream will be space tourists, starting with the very rich, of course, but expanding as soon as possible to an ever widening segment of the public.

Unfortunately, however, those and all other currently identified revenue streams added together aren't enough to attract real venture capitalists, only enough to attract rich philanthropists.

Interesting. So, how do you get to your new lunar homestead?

Paul Spudis on lunar water:

A significant amount of water at the poles of the Moon is present, with many billions of metric tonnes at each pole (detailed estimates of the water reserves are in progress). Such an amount is more than enough to support both permanent, sustainable human presence on the Moon and for export to cislunar space.

We *know* we can live on the moon. We've got good reason to believe we can industrialize the Moon. So why do we have a space policy that isn't focused on getting us back there as soon as practically possible?