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Headshot of Louis Friedman Astronaut Tom Jones

Our Pathway to Exploration Should Start with the Asteroid Redirect Mission

Posted by Louis D. Friedman and Tom Jones

30-06-2014 18:01 CDT

Topics: opinion, Space Policy, Future Mission Concepts, human spaceflight

Editor's note: this article was first published in The Space Review and is reproduced here with the authors' permission.

The National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight this month completed its two-year study—“Pathways to Exploration.” It found that “NASA can sustain a human space exploration program... but only when that program has elements that are built in a logical sequence, and when it can fund a frequency of flights sufficiently high to ensure the maintenance of proficiency...” (italics ours). Despite its rejection by the NRC Committee, we argue that the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is an affordable and logical first step in such a sequence. ARM is not only consistent with the NRC Committee’s own principles, but is also the only near- term initiative that can shape their recommendations into a sustainable human space exploration program. ARM would launch U.S. explorers into deep space beyond the Moon, and fits logically into an exploration program aimed at Mars.

To human exploration advocates like us, the NRC panel report at first seems welcome: an endorsement of NASA’s long-discussed humans-to-Mars goal. The Committee calls sending humans to Mars a “horizon goal,” one that U.S. efforts should continuously point to and advance toward. The Committee also provided some valuable guidelines on how to organize and conduct the human space program, but the practical implementation of those guidelines depends on today’s political, technical, and funding realities. Grappling with those space exploration realities is, unfortunately, an area where the Committee’s report falls short. It advises that NASA not embark on a deep space initiative until consensus on the specific exploration sequence has been reached, and funding is in hand to deliver the necessary technology. In our view, waiting to venture into deep space until the nation reaches a consensus on when and how to go to Mars—and until all required funds are deposited securely in a Mars “lockbox”—will ensure the nation remains stalled in low Earth orbit. Coupled with other “real-Earth” realities, such as ISS retirement in the mid-2020s, more delay could quite possibly end U.S. human space exploration altogether.

The last high-level review panel to review human space flight plans, the Obama Administration’s 2009 Augustine Committee, attempted to deal with budgetary and policy realities by introducing a “flexible path” toward Mars. That path recommended engaging, challenging milestones to be met as budget and real politics permit. Early, modest milestones would lead eventually to achieving a human presence on Mars.

The 2014 NRC Committee rejected the flexible path approach, restricting NASA’s efforts to technical objectives they felt were directly related to the Mars goal. But the NRC’s objectives are not always linked so directly to Mars. Worse, their pursuit is unlikely to garner enough public interest to sustain a decades-long push toward the horizon goal.

The key element of a successful deep space initiative must be sustainability—the ability to withstand the competing forces of Washington politics, competing space industry interests, and the rapidly shifting whims of public opinion. Sustaining a goal as grand and far-reaching as Mars is impossible without an overriding geopolitical rationale. Without a strong and long-lived rationale, government support over many decades will not materialize.

In the Space Age, we have seen just two successful examples of government support for human space exploration initiatives. Apollo was formulated and sustained as a Cold War initiative to demonstrate the superiority of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. The International Space Station was saved from cancelation only because it was recast as a program to engage and partially fund the post-Soviet, Russian aerospace complex, precluding weapons technology transfer to terrorist states.

Other attempts to win government support for human space exploration initiatives failed: The shuttle was approved by Nixon to avoid committing to any new space exploration goal; it later suffered from chronic funding shortfalls that reduced its capability. Space Station Freedom was initiated by Reagan to retain U.S. space leadership, but didn’t build momentum until it found its post-Soviet rationale under the Clinton administration. George H.W. Bush’s Space Exploration Initiative, to return to the Moon and go on to Mars, was dismissed by a skeptical Congress. The Moon-oriented Constellation program, proposed by the second President Bush, never received adequate funding. Its schedule slipped approximately two years annually until it was found to be “unsustainable” and cancelled by the Obama team. These failed programs had a common flaw: they all lacked a strong geopolitical rationale.

Similarly, there is today is no compelling geopolitical rationale for a human deep space push toward Mars. Lacking this essential ingredient, should the U.S. give up on its human space program? The answer is “No”: an existing geopolitical barrier fortunately prevents that sad choice. No sane American politician would announce today that “It’s time for our nation to abandon human spaceflight. Let other countries assume that mantle of technological excellence and carry that enterprise forward.” However, that assurance is not permanent. NASA and its supporters

should push to energize public interest for long-term human exploration of deep space. ARM is an attractive vehicle to start building that sustainable momentum

The NRC Committee thoughtfully provided guidance on how to construct a successful human space flight program: “NASA should:

  1. Commit to design, maintain, and pursue the execution of an exploration pathway beyond low Earth orbit toward a clear horizon goal...
  2. Engage international space agencies early in design and development...
  3. Define steps on the pathway that foster sustainability and maintain progress...
  4. Seek continuously to engage new partners that can solve technical and/or programmatic impediments...
  5. Create a risk mitigation plan to sustain the selected pathway when unforeseen technical or budgetary problems arise.
  6. Establish exploration pathway characteristics that maximize the overall scientific, cultural, economic, political, and inspirational benefits without sacrificing progress toward the long-term goal:
    a. The horizon and intermediate destinations have profound scientific, cultural, economic, inspirational, or geopolitical benefits that justify public investment;
    b. The sequence of missions and destinations permits stakeholders, including taxpayers, to see progress and develop confidence in NASA being able to execute the pathway;
    c. The pathway is characterized by logical feed-forward of technical capabilities;
    d. The pathway minimizes the use of dead-end mission elements that do not contribute to later destinations on the pathway;
    e. The pathway is affordable without incurring unacceptable development risk; and
    f. The pathway supports, in the context of available budget, an operational tempo that ensures retention of critical technical capability, proficiency of operators, and effective utilization of infrastructure.”

The Committee called these recommendations “pathway principles.” To win political and public support, proposed space initiatives should strive to incorporate as many of them as possible.

Indeed, we argue that NASA’s current Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is actually a timely implementation of several of the NRC’s 2014 recommendations. When the expedient Obama goal of sending astronauts to a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) by 2025 proved too ambitious to achieve in light of projected budgets, launch system performance, and deep space systems, NASA in essence adopted NRC recommendation V (above). The agency reduced risk by taking a smaller step, targeting the Orion and its SLS booster toward cislunar space rather than a solar-orbiting NEA.

NASA also anticipated NRC recommendation VI (a and b) by identifying an intermediate destination that has “profound scientific, cultural, economic, inspirational, or geopolitical benefits.” A small NEA, nudged into the Earth-Moon system by a low-cost, low-risk robotic mission, offers an early anchor for human activity beyond the Moon, providing opportunities for scientific exploration and astronaut operations in a deep-space environment. Detailed sampling and exploration of the asteroid can also demonstrate the commercial potential of asteroid resources, and accumulate some of the technical knowledge needed for deflecting Near-Earth Asteroids. These latter elements alone go far toward building public interest and investment in human deep space exploration.

We were disappointed in the NRC Committee’s failure to see the merits of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The panel apparently prefers that astronauts first repeat Apollo 8’s journey to an empty lunar orbit, or perhaps navigate to an Earth-Moon Lagrange point that lacks any infrastructure or physical presence. (We doubt the Committee advocates delaying another decade before astronauts venture beyond the International Space Station).

In dismissing the ARM concept, the panel argued that “the ARM robotic asteroid redirect vehicle is considered a dead-end mission element, as its SEP [solar electric propulsion] capabilities are not leveraged in future missions as currently envisioned.” The Committee favors nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) over SEP as the preferred Mars propulsion scheme. Here the NRC ignores both history and political reality. Since the last NERVA test firing on Jackass Flats in 1972, Mars planners have hoped for the return of NTP, but no NASA administration has ever come close to resurrecting the technology. Environmental and political obstacles to testing will probably preclude its development for the foreseeable future.

As promising as NTP technology is, NASA has shown no appetite to campaign for its development. Postponing deep-space ventures until NTP is space-ready ensures we’ll be waiting another fifty years. By contrast, powerful solar electric systems like those to be demonstrated by ARM can support human expeditions to Mars, carrying pre-positioned cargo, habitats, landers, and propellant stores while chemical systems enable high-speed astronaut sorties. Far from being a dead-end, SEP may be the key to enabling at least the first few Mars expeditions.

It is true that the Asteroid Redirect Mission need not be on the human pathway to Mars. NASA has proposed it to gain early operations experience in deep space, beyond the Moon. We could certainly just fly Orion to an empty lunar orbit, waiting until larger boosters, propellant depots, and more capable crew habitats are built before reaching for the asteroids (or any celestial body). We could also choose to repeat Apollo-style sorties to the lunar surface, necessitating an extensive, expensive, and lunar-specific infrastructure. We are excited by human lunar exploration, to be sure, but that path alone is unlikely to accelerate progress toward Mars.

By comparison, the Asteroid Redirect Mission achieves deep space operations experience much sooner, and at much lower cost. ARM would move U.S. astronauts beyond the Moon, creating opportunities to proceed farther into interplanetary space, toward Mars. First, ARM would extend human space flight to a lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit. Sorties into true interplanetary space to a Near-Earth asteroid would follow, preparing for journeys to the Mars system (perhaps landing on Phobos or Deimos). The Martian surface--the horizon goal—would then be clearly visible, and clearly achievable.

In parallel with ARM, we could pursue an affordable lunar exploration program. Using our proven robotic capabilities, we can support international partner efforts at the Moon, focusing on specific demonstrations that move us along the Mars pathway. Embrace the Moon, but don’t detour there, either.

NASA has in practice already adopted the best of the NRC recommendations and laid out a credible pathway to Mars. ARM’s near-term objectives should, because of their tighter focus and lower costs, prove more sustainable over the coming decade, building momentum for deep space sorties along the Mars path. ARM’s challenging and innovative operations around a small NEA or retrieved boulder, coupled with astronaut examinations of an ancient and potentially valuable object, may do much to restore near-term public interest in human space exploration. We won’t be repeating Apollo, but trying something new and different while keeping our vision trained on Mars.

To summarize, the NRC Committee report promulgated many sound principles and recommendations for progress in human space exploration, but in the end failed to propose a realistic, sustainable program. By the Committee’s own criteria, the NASA ARM concept is an attractive first step toward a long-range Mars program, and is the only NASA deep space venture that can be achieved within the decade. While other nations strive for a repeat of Apollo, we can in the same time frame send explorers thousands of km beyond the Moon, poised for expeditions to Near- Earth Asteroids and the Mars system.

Sustaining a decades-long effort to reach Mars will be an unprecedented challenge, requiring political leadership and the cultivation of long-term public support. ARM is an innovative means to develop support from policy makers and the public. It ensures continued U.S. leadership in space, and starts us visibly and quickly down the long road to Mars.

See other posts from June 2014


Or read more blog entries about: opinion, Space Policy, Future Mission Concepts, human spaceflight


Stephen: 07/01/2014 05:33 CDT

"we argue that the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is an affordable and logical first step in such a sequence.: It is rather hard to call the ARM a :"logical first step" when nobody (AFAIK) has yet decided whether the ARM is to be a one-off mission like Apollo-Soyuz or a series of missions that form part of a program of related missions such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab were. Until that decision happens we won't know whether subsequent steps will ALL be asteroid-redirect ones or whether other goals (like a trip to Mars) are integrated somewhere in there. "To human exploration advocates like us..." Too bad the Society was not more supportive of the Constellation program then. "In our view, waiting to venture into deep space until the nation reaches a consensus on when and how to go to Mars...will ensure the nation remains stalled in low Earth orbit." Excellent point! Too bad Constellation got canned then, eh? A program of regular or semi-regular missions to a manned lunar base would (just MHO) have provided a better foundation to build on for a Mars expedition than a single, ad hoc ARM, which (IIRC) would go into lunar orbit anyway. Yet if Constellation was canned because nobody was prepared to properly fund it, why would a program of Mars missions be any the MORE affordable? Unless, of course, NASA's Mars goals are simply to send a single, ad hoc let's-plant-some-boots-on-Mars mission. As a distinct from a whole program of Mars missions.

Stephen: 07/01/2014 06:08 CDT

"No sane American politician would announce today that “It’s time for our nation to abandon human spaceflight." Who needs a formal announcement? All that needs to happen is for the funding to stop; and why would America KEEP funding manned spaceflight after ISS ends if the only manned mission thereafter on NASA's schedule was a single ARM? A manned spaceflight programs take years if not decades to plan and set in motion. By ending Constellation and only proposing that lone ARM to replace it, it could be argued that the first step to demolishing NASA's manned spaceflight program has been taken. "We could also choose to repeat Apollo-style sorties to the lunar surface, necessitating an extensive, expensive, and lunar-specific infrastructure." If we're talking Apollo-style (rather than Constellation-style) sorties, then that is a strawman argument. Just exactly how much "extensive, expensive, and lunar-specific infrastructure." did Apollo leave on the Moon?

Stephen: 07/01/2014 11:00 CDT

"We are excited by human lunar exploration, to be sure, but that path alone is unlikely to accelerate progress toward Mars." Why this obsession with Mars? Is Mars the place where human exploration of the universe ends? The ultimate goal of (American) manned space exploration? Or is it that having already been to the Moon, humanity us now in the same jaded, been-there-done-that syndrome that now tends to characterise the attitude of many space enthusiasts to Earth orbit missions (like the ISS ones). They want to go somewhere new. Like Mars. So what happens when America DOES get to put a man (or woman) on the Red Planet and NASA starts planning Mars Mission 2 (or 3)? Will it again be a case of: (yawn!) been-there-done-that. Let's go somewhere new Like Titan. Will the descendants of those who complained about missing re-runs of I Love Lucy thanks to Apollo telecasts be destined to start complaining about missing re-runs of Game of Thrones? :-) Perhaps it's time for Americans to stop obsessing with getting to Mars and start planning a sustainable LONG-TERM program of manned exploration in which Mars is merely one of the objectives.

Stephen: 07/01/2014 11:28 CDT

"Sustaining a decades-long effort to reach Mars will be an unprecedented challenge, requiring political leadership and the cultivation of long-term public support." A fair point. Yet it is also a rather meaningless statement. Ever since America's space program began it has been at the mercy of the whims of Congress and the Executive branch, both funding-wise and leadership-wise. In particular, all-too-often a change in Administration has meant a change in direction. Or attempted change. JFK started it when he decided he wanted America's astronauts to go to the Moon instead of just circle the Earth. After him came Nixon, who decided America needed a reusable space shuttle. Then Reagan, who decided America needed a space station. Then the fIrst George Bush decided America needed to go to Mars (only to have Congress take one look at NASA's $100 billion shopping list and balk), and the 2nd George Bush, who decided America needed to go back to the Moon. Now there is Obama, who exercised his own political leadership by cancelling GW Bush's Moon-return plans but proposed no program to replace them. Merely a promise of a one-off ARM. What's the betting the next president will cancel the ARM for something else? IMHO, the LAST thing America's manned space program needs is MORE political leaders exercising their leadership skills If a Mars program is to survive multiple decades and multiple presidents those presidents will need to RESIST the urge to meddle otherwise, even if it ever gets to Mars, what happened to Apollo in the 1970s (and seems likely to happen to the ISS in the 2020s) will probably happen to a putative manned Mars exploration program down the track: a handful of missions, followed by closure of the program and a return to Earth, where decades will pass while America tries to decide where its astronauts are to go next.

Jonathan Ursin: 07/02/2014 12:27 CDT

I like the idea of landing on either Phobos or Deimos, easier...

aspaceman: 07/02/2014 07:35 CDT

Mars, the moon, the asteroid belt; The local neighbourhood. Our mission should not just to be leave earth, grab a couple bucks worth of nickel and iron, bring it back to earth, say "that wasn't financially effective" and give up. Moonbases, more earth space stations, mars orbiting stations and even a mars base, all make sense to be considered a single mission of explore and expand. The ARM project is the key to the success of this explore/expand mission. To "clean up" debris in between the planets instead of strip mining the moon and Mars could help set our tracks into a new way of living. One where economy driven rampages on planetary resources is obsolete. This is not a case of "how can we afford to pay for a never ending project" but "how can we build the seed for a new life", one where it's not just US or any other earth based organization funding it. A true, space oriented mission. Interplanetary independence. I think of it similar to the "new world". At first, some raids on gold, fish, and exotic furs (hard to imagine beavers were exotic, haha). Then, the land itself was the goal. The planets, the moons, the land, the SPACE.

Bob Ware: 07/03/2014 07:43 CDT

Others and myself have seen the end of the ambition and political will to sustain a meaningful program of exploration. To date there is nothing to show for human presence in space other than automated spacecraft missions. We need an Interplanetary Cruiser, not an APOLLO project ballistic vehicle design but we have seen government time after time not accomplish this. It is time now to grab this reality and get private enterprise, like Space-X, Orbital Sciences and Boeing for example to team up and build the Interplanetary Cruisers. Sure these would have to be built in space but we can do this. Also teaming up with other countries private sector, such as Japan, would help make this affordable for those companies. ISS was done at the gov't level so they tech. capability is there leaving the only hurdle would be to have the legal/political needless barriers removed so this can proceed unhindered. With an MVA (Mulitple Vehicle Adapter) capable of docking with an additional unit also, would be needed to assemble multiple Orion S/C together for a Mars mission. Building landers to dock for the cruise phase is a separate but mission breaking component. I suggested this quite a few months back so I'll not go into those details here. I suggested the flight test goal of landing on the asteroids Phobos and or Deimos which are conveniently at Mars.

Zorbonian: 07/04/2014 12:03 CDT

This is really kind of unbelievable. I was just thinking how jaded I have become with our "manned" space program and was just reading this blog, and was getting ready to post, but you beat me to it, Bob! I agree pretty much with most of the responses to this blog so far (especially the Interplanetary Cruisers, Bob), and would add something that is EXTREMELY important, but for some reason is constantly (and consistently) completely overlooked: We need ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY!!! No, not the "gravity plating" of Star Trek. Though that would be nice, it likely won't be for at least a century. What we do need NOW is a ship that has rotating living and working quarters within the structure, and for this to happen and be a reasonable facsimile of earth's gravitational pull, the "saucer section" would need to be approximately 2500 feet in diameter. No, this IS NOT impossible nor is it science fiction - especially with great alternatives to the currently expendable rockets.

Zorbonian: 07/04/2014 12:21 CDT

Elon Musk, Paul Allen, and others are working on means to get things to space more cheaply and reliably, and some with reusable rockets (as Elon Musk said, the fuel is cheap compared to building another rocket). I would, however, argue against the HUGE rockets that NASA and Elon Musk are testing, because the bigger they are, the harder they can crash. I would also argue against the - sorry to say it, but 'dumb idea' - of having a huge rocket start from the ground here on earth with a few people in it and head off to Mars. It is about as ridiculous as loading up a 15 foot row boat and heading off across the Pacific Ocean. Also, when I mention the "saucer section," of course, the rotating part does not need to be enclosed within a disc -- that would require an excessive amount of material to cover the shell. The rotating part could have radial spokes to the center, and the engine(s) could be offset from that - either from the top, bottom, or rear.

Zorbonian: 07/04/2014 12:40 CDT

How many people would something like this hold? It could easily hold several thousand - think along the lines of the recently decommissioned (in 2013) USS Enterprise (CVN-65, not 1701-D) that had a crew complement of about 4,500. But there would be much more room given a diameter of over 2,500 feet - and people would need more room to live somewhat comfortably for months at a time in space. Also, the Interplanetary Cruiser would be a ship of exploration - not a warship. When you realize the health consequences of living CONSTANTLY for months at a time in zero gravity - muscles atrophying, bone loss, premature aging, eyesight worsening, and just plain nausea to name a few - the fact that NASA (and anyone else, for that matter) is NOT thinking about artificial gravity makes me want to laugh (or cry). We might as well still be stuck in the mid-1960s (our manned space program isn't in reality that much further along).

Zorbonian: 07/04/2014 01:10 CDT

This greed and lack of vision by some in our government and some corporate leaders beyond the next fiscal quarter is very depressing. But it doesn't have to be that way, and it may be because people just don't know. We may be able to get the message out, and it might be easier than you think. Anyone who has a Twitter or Facebook account can contact Elon Musk and other private sector space industry people. If anyone would be open to the fact that we need artificial gravity if humans are to have a real presence in space, it might just be them. If enough people contacted Elon Musk or others, noting the health hazards of prolonged weightlessness and the need for an actual ship - built in space, with artificial gravity - that might be enough for them to consider mentioning it as a necessity for a trip to Mars or elsewhere. If people want to experience weightlessness, they can ride one of the spokes to the center of the gravity wheel.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 06:32 CDT

@Zorbonian 1) You make a good point about the need for artificial gravity on trips to Mars. However… "Gravity plating" is not likely to EVER be available, whether a century from now or a century of centuries from now. Those "gravity plates" of Star Trek etc defy all logic, never mind the known laws of physics! In particular, they only work in one direction. (For example, if you have three decks, A, B, and C, stacked one on top of te other the gravity plates for Deck B pull down people on Deck B towards the floor of Deck B, yet they do NOT seem to pull people on Deck C up toward the ceiling of Deck C--and thus the floor of Deck B--which logically they should be doing since gravitation pull all mass from ALL directions! 2) As for that 2500-foot "saucer section", you do realise that 2500 feet is the better part of half a mile? (With a surface area on just on side of about 3.9 million square feet or about 112 acres.) "It could easily hold several thousand - think along the lines of the recently decommissioned (in 2013) USS Enterprise (CVN-65,...) that had a crew complement of about 4,500." Aircraft carriers do not need to carry an 8-month supply of air, food, and water. (Aircraft carriers get their freshwater by desalinating seawater; and their food and other supplies can be flown or shipped in. None of those would apply to a trip to Mars.) Then there's the propellant that would be required to get such a huge structure out of Earth orbit into a Mars-bound trajectory and then into an orbit around Mars once it arrives.

Zorbonian: 07/05/2014 03:21 CDT

You make a valid point about the gravity plating, @Stephen. I have my doubts about that as well - I should have added "if ever" to the end of that sentence. Regarding the saucer section, in my second posting I mentioned that it would not need to be a "saucer" (like a disc) because it would require an excessive amount of material to cover the shell. But if we think about an "X" configuration, for example, with only 2 arcs (and only at the very outside - the rim) having living and working quarters, then this is doable. The entire surface area would not need to be covered. It would take a few hundred launches to get all the materials up there, but it is easily within the realm of possibility - especially with Space X's reusable rockets. There could possibly even be food grown on the ship (an arboretum, so to speak). If I recall, the ISS has about a 95% retrieval rate for their water. The ship could easily do the same, but probably better.

Zorbonian: 07/05/2014 03:55 CDT

About the engine – you are thinking a bit too "20th Century." Remember, we are in space now (built in space), so we won't need chemical rockets to “blast” us out of the atmosphere. There are a variety of other propulsion possibilities. Think of nuclear power used to provide the energy for any of several types of engines either currently available or in development. We won’t need “bursts” anymore - just a steady increase in velocity. Also, the ship would not land. There would be a small ship (or ships) - like the one that Space X has a prototype for that holds seven people - that would get people to the surface of a planet (in this case, about the only planet for people to land around here would probably be Mars). But the ship could also be used to deliver probes and other spacecraft to other planets or moons around the solar system.

Zorbonian: 07/05/2014 04:05 CDT

Don’t get me wrong - this won’t be cheap, and it won’t be built in a day (like Rome ;-) ), but if we don’t have artificial gravity as an integrated part of the design of a ship, we are deluding ourselves about our manned space program, and the human presence in space is, to me, anyway, nothing more than a farce. As they state on the website (some of the things on the website I agree with, other things are unrealistic) - paraphrasing: In the 1960s the United States spent 0.5% of our GNP each year for a decade to beat the Russians to the moon. So, how about if we spend 0.27% (a little over half that amount) of our GNP to build an actual ship that can get us around the solar system safely, reliably, and can be used like a ship should be (not for a one-time shot)? QUESTION: @Stephen, I noticed your post is over 1,000 characters - how did you get it to accept that? Is the "1000 character limit" not real?

Zorbonian: 07/05/2014 04:37 CDT

Sorry - I forgot about a lot of the moons around the solar system. Humans could land on those as well.

Torbj??rn Larsson: 07/05/2014 04:40 CDT

"more delay could quite possibly end U.S. human space exploration altogether." And why would that be bad? If the goal is space exploration, and now the rovers capture public support, maybe the rationale for human exploration has gone. And the haphazard, costly way that US space technology is developed, it would be sane to heed the NRC. Space exploration will benefit from cheaper robotic technology. (Actually there are science papers on that human exploration is cheaper due to faster and larger returns. But fully funded such exploration.) Same as US abandoned economic supremacy (will be the 2nd largest economy by year's end), it may have to abandon space supremacy. Meanwhile there are nations that for reasons of their own will continue human exploration. (Especially the soon-to-be the economic superpower again as in the 19th century, China.) "The answer is “No”: an existing geopolitical barrier fortunately prevents that sad choice. No sane American politician would announce today that “It’s time for our nation to abandon human spaceflight. Let other countries assume that mantle of technological excellence and carry that enterprise forward.”" So maybe we have to wait until China threatens to press ahead.

Torbj??rn Larsson: 07/05/2014 04:43 CDT

"we argue that NASA’s current Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is actually a timely implementation". Despite that it seems there are candidates for both kind of targets found now AFAIU, the new, cheaper and faster variant of "rock return" is the only timely one. It suits the SLS agenda. But it is also not adding much to the human exploration agenda. "or perhaps navigate to an Earth-Moon Lagrange point that lacks any infrastructure or physical presence." Those have physical presence, the L1/2 points have quasistable orbits, Who knows what intriguing dust collections can be found there? Much more explorative than the "stone sample" ARM. To sum up, the article accepts the SLS/Orion unsustainable agenda. And of course that is what must be done for political reasons. Else the most bang for the bucks would likely be using ISS technology to assemble BEO crafts, fuel stations, waystations and what have you. True exploration of how humans take to extended travel and space habitation is as close as the existing Delta IV (or the Proton, for cheapness) and an enhanced shielding Destiny module with a SEP drive.

Torbj??rn Larsson: 07/05/2014 04:55 CDT

@Stephen: The problem with ARM as now conceived is not that it is a "one off". (See my previous comment on the problem.) It is supposed to be a one time goal, it is an Augustine Flexible Path "stepping stone" to develop and test technology. If you are worried about BEO manned exploration, you can as well blame the Constellation, or rather the Shuttle, for the unsustainable economy. That is why Constellation was canned. What is "a sustainable LONG-TERM program"? NRC has shown that US has no such one re economical vs launch rate sustainability besides the ISS. And everyone including the Planetary Society now seems happy (or at least accepting) of that. @Zorbonian: Why would we need rotational pseudogravity? You don't give a rationale. (ISS has shown the reverse, and is going to start push the envelope as preparation for BEO visits.)

Stephen: 07/05/2014 09:44 CDT

@Zorbonian "But if we think about an "X" configuration, for example, with only 2 arcs (and only at the very outside - the rim) having living and working quarters, then this is doable." You mean wheel-shaped but with arcs at the 4 spokes rather than a full 360 degree torus. Ok, that sounds much better. But it would also hold far fewer than the thousands you seem to envisage. Unless these arcs are themselves to be very capacious in size. BTW, the "Discovery" of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame had an spinning section to generate artificial G but it was much more modest in size. (In fact it was small enough that it fitted right into the globe-like hull at the front!) Then there was the wheel-shaped space station Von Braun and Ley envisaged back in the '50s. Here's a pic: It would have been only about 250 feet across. In contrast, a 2500 foot structure seems more the sort you might find them building NEXT century. (Or maybe the one after that.) I doubt it anyone will be assembling anything that big in space THIS century. Not without a serious incentive to do so. The cost alone would be prohibitive, especially if all the bits & pieces have to come from Earth, which sits at the bottom of a large and expensively deep gravity well.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 09:51 CDT

@Zorbonian "It would take a few hundred launches to get all the materials up there, but it is easily within the realm of possibility" Perhaps, but thus only far the only large-scale structure assembled in space has been the ISS; and that took over a decade and a half to plan and over a decade to build. It also cost (as of 2010) about $150 billion! True, it was a one-off prototype; and such things always tend to be expensive. It was also assembled by humans. Doing the assembly robotically may allow your segmented wheel builders to make some cost savings , but it would still be a vastly expensive enterprise, and so one (if it is to make a profit for its financiers) that would probably need to charge its passengers ticket prices which could well reach into the tens of millions of dollars. "Think of nuclear power used to provide the energy for any of several types of engines either currently available or in development" AFAIK all forms of space propulsion rely on Newton's Third Law of Motion to get around. You shoot stuff out one end and it throws you forward in the opposite direction. Nuclear powered space travel will be no different. Nuclear power may provide the energy, but even it still needs something to shoot out the end of the rocket to propel a craft forward. "We won’t need “bursts” anymore - just a steady increase in velocity." That will still require propellant. We are not yet in the age of Star Trek where it is only necessary to load in the magic Dilithium crystals to get the Enterprise rocketing off at Warp factor nine! BTW, a "steady increase" would seem to imply ion propulsion, which is very low thrust. The Dawn space probe, for example, took about 14 months to reach Mars (for a gravity assist flyby). A crafted which needed to slow down would probably spin that out even further.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 10:02 CDT

@Zorbonian "There would be a small ship (or ships) - like the one that Space X has a prototype for that holds seven people - that would get people to the surface of a planet " A craft which could only hold 7 (or even 70) people would need to make an awful lot of runs to carry all the thousands of passengers you envisage, Moreover, each such flight would require propellant to get back out into space again. Or alternately, if they were one-shot craft (ie they could take you down but not up again) you would need a very large number of them to carry all the passengers. "But the ship could also be used to deliver probes and other spacecraft to other planets or moons around the solar system." You mean like a courier service? Are you envisaging this vessel of yours would (say) sail first to Mars, where it would drop off some colonists, before sailing on to (say) Callisto to drop off an unmanned probe, then only to Titan to drop off another probe before heading off to Triton? Even if celestial mechanics and your ship's onboard stores allowed such an circuitous odyssey, why would you use a such a vessel to delivered UNmanned space probes to (say) Titan whenit could just as easily carry a manned expedition there? "So, how about if we spend 0.27% (a little over half that amount) of our GNP to build an actual ship that can get us around the solar system safely, reliably, and can be used like a ship should be (not for a one-time shot)?" Quite apart from anything else, do you really think investing all your proverbial space eggs in a a single large (and very expensive) vessel would be a wise move? Should the US post office spend 0.27% of the US GNP on a single huge container ship which would sail around the world from one port to the next delivering US mail? As opposed to the current system which has multiple ships delivering mail; and even a few speedy aircraft.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 10:07 CDT

@Zorbonian "I noticed your post is over 1,000 characters" Are they? I have not been counting characters myself so I don't know how many I have been posting per post. "how did you get it to accept that? Is the "1000 character limit" not real?" Oh, there is definitely a limit. If I compose online using'a postage stamp-size editing window it won't let me post if I overstep the limit, while if I compose offline more than the limit my post gets truncated when I paste it into the window. \ That's why I've had to split this present post up, for example, even though it was originally a single lengthy post.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 11:08 CDT

@Torbj??rn Larsson "BEO"? That's a new acronym on me, but I assume you mean "Beyond Earth Orbit". "Else the most bang for the bucks would likely be using ISS technology to assemble BEO crafts, fuel stations, waystations and what have you." The ISS cost $150 billion and took 25 years to plan, build the parts, and assemble in Earth orbit. I doubt very much if the US will be doing anything that expensive again. At least any time soon. (Anything non-defence related at any rate.) It seems to be hard enough getting the money for a Mars Sample Return or Europa Orbiter mission out of them. The sort of project you envisage would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Who would pay for it? "It is supposed to be a one time goal, it is an Augustine Flexible Path "stepping stone" to develop and test technology." And then what? The production of more ornaments to decorate NASA lawns? If NASA has no programs in place to make use of that technology then what is the point? Planning manned missions takes decades. If the powers-that-be wait until the technology has been tested before announcing the program(s) that technology will be used in then by the time those program's missions actually eventuate all that technology will (probably) be obsolete, requiring more time and expense to upgrade it. That especially applies to computing technology. The ISS. for example, was conceived in the mid-1980s and assembly began in 1998, but no one would seriously consider using even 1998 computing technology today if they had any say about it, much less the mid-80s sort. In that context, I note that back in the 1960s they did not plan and test the Saturn V first and only THEN decide to send people to the Moon.

Stephen: 07/05/2014 11:13 CDT

@Torbj??rn Larsson "If you are worried about BEO manned exploration, you can as well blame the Constellation, or rather the Shuttle, for the unsustainable economy. That is why Constellation was canned." You do remember that the Shuttle got "canned" to help pay for Constellation? If there was not enough money in the piggy bank to pay for Constellation even then, then how is that Constellation's fault? Or the Shuttle's? That's like the four-year-old who blames her dolly for breaking mommy's fancy crystal glassware. :-) "Why would we need rotational pseudogravity?" I can answer that one for you: to help stave off bone loss and other detrimental physiological effects of prolonged zero-G, which, for those going on a long space journey to Mars, could well see them unable to walk once they arrived on the Red Planet.

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 11:58 CDT

I was reading about the bidding going on for the 2020 Olympics, and how none of the countries where the public has rights wanted the Olympics in their cities. And for good reason: the Olympic village often turns into a dilapidated ghost town. One of the few countries still in the running to host the Olympics was China. Why? Because the general public doesn't have many rights or a say in what happens in their cities - their government decides for them. From this viewpoint, that isn't such a bad idea - then our space program wouldn't be subject to the whims of each Presidency. To happen with our government, it would almost need to be a constitutional amendment that could NOT be changed from Presidency to Presidency, from Congress to Congress. President Kennedy quote at Rice University in ‘62, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Are we just going to continue to think of reasons why this CANNOT be done?

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 12:40 CDT

So, to answer a couple of questions: YES, it will be expensive. Think of maybe 6 times the cost of the ISS, perhaps more. But it will be a space ship, not a puny, overpriced space station where people are getting sick while they float around like pinatas. It will also be able to act as a space station and a space port. What we have now is not a space program - it is a joke. @Torbj??rn Larsson said, "And the haphazard, costly way that US space technology is developed, it would be..." Yes, VERY haphazard. And most of the time I am wondering "This is NASA and our space industry? What are they thinking?" With our current way of thinking, of course, this will never happen. What this needs is a concerted, focused effort to get this done. It will still probably take 20 years to build, but the work on this would need to be focused. Not the “Yeah, we’ll get around to it when we feel like it” kind of mentality that built the ISS.

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 01:06 CDT

With Space X’s reusable rockets and/or with Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, there could even be multiple launches in one day, at a FRACTION of current costs. Think about it: If this is done correctly and with NO CHANCE of the next Congress or President shutting it down, it would be an inspiration for an entire generation. At some point in the construction, at about 1/2 mile across, it would easily be visible in the sky. The inventions, innovation and technological advancement that would come out of a project of this magnitude would be enormous, and the benefits to humankind and to the economy would ultimately far outweigh the investment. @Stephen said, “Quite apart from anything else, do you really think investing all your proverbial space eggs in a a single large (and very expensive) vessel would be a wise move?” Why not? We put $150 billion into something like the ISS (yes, I am being sarcastic). How about investing in something that would be exponentially more useful?

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 01:39 CDT

And I don't think it should be considered as a "single" vessel - it will be more like a mothership. Regarding the engines: As I mentioned, there are several alternatives available and in development. They would require a fraction of the fuel that the current rockets use. And the size of the engine would be a factor in the thrust produced, and therefore, the time it takes to get from one location to another. Some estimates put a trip to Mars at as few as 90 days. One of these days I will put my design idea for the ship onto a website, but for now: Even at total living/working quarters at a fraction of the circumference of the "X" configuration - if the circumference would be around 7,850 ft, and we have around 2000 feet (1000 feet in each opposite arc, only at the rim) of enclosed space, let’s say 2 floors - possibly 3 floors - deep, it would easily be able to hold several thousand people comfortably, and have some large meeting and assembly rooms.

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 02:04 CDT

I am sorry to say it, but I am really embarrassed by our current space program (or ANY country’s space program, if they have one). We decide to do one thing, then we decide against it . . . then decide to do something else, then shut it down after having spent $$ billions. Do you think they knew exactly how to get to the moon in 1962? OF COURSE NOT - things were thought out and invented along the way. That is the way things happen: necessity. Even wartime (perhaps especially wartime) can create great strides in advancement. Some incredible inventions came out of World War II, and during the Cold War there were some brilliant ideas and inventions that came from both sides. President Kennedy essentially said, “Let’s do this -- figure it out.” And the rest is history. Are we (humans) ready to make history again? But this time, with a clearer vision of where we are going, and why we are doing it?

Zorbonian: 07/06/2014 02:37 CDT

My final point about the need for artificial gravity: Would you tell your child to take up smoking for a career? Sorry, that's not a good analogy - doesn't make much sense. How about this: Would you suggest to your child to become a coal miner? (much better analogy) Probably not, right? Why? Because of all the health issues involved! Likewise, I would not (with our current space program, anyway) suggest to my child that becoming an astronaut would be a good idea. We were not meant to be in a weightless environment for extended periods of time. It's just not healthy for us.

Bob Ware: 07/06/2014 05:42 CDT

@Stephen: “Quite apart from anything else, do you really think investing all your proverbial space eggs in a a single large (and very expensive) vessel would be a wise move?” - We would need more than 1 such spacecraft but for starters we build one. After the mission is underway we start on number 2. This Cruiser must have a rotational component and it must be able to carry at least a compliment of 100. Mission dependent, that count would vary. Thinking small in this design will give you failure. Whatever a Starship requires for life support is what we must build. We also need a large crew for psychological stability. A crew of 4 or 8 will not cut it. The 'they'll be so busy....' argument for small crews is not correct. 2 days of intense workloads without adequate downtime and interaction variability starts to break people down. A crew of 4 or 8 will fall apart because of the lack of variability in daily life. Even with live (or with time delay) feeds has the same limited effect because of the 4 or 8 human count on the spacecraft. A crew of 100 for a 3 year Mars mission has the better chance of succeeding given the velocity issues we have with current technology. An Interplanetary Cruiser (and more) is not putting ones eggs all in one basket. These cruisers can have the interior modified for specific missions: Mars, Lunar, Asteroids and wherever. Your concerns are valid and it is great that they were brought up. Z and I are more inline together than he and I are with you but we can merge together and make this work. If we can do this then so can private enterprise. It would be great if we could put something together and Dr. Friedman would agree to take it to a meeting with the heads of Space-X, Orbital Sciences and Boeing, for example, and let them take the proposal to their engineers and ask them to make this work.

Zorbonian: 07/07/2014 10:45 CDT

That's a great idea, BWare! Your crew size is better also - more reasonable, especially for the first ship. And it doesn't have to be an X configuration, How about a cylinder - for storage, zero gravity experiments, etc., and the engine at one end of it? Length could be determined, but let's say 1000 ft. Then, there could be two 2500 ft arms (1,250 ft extending out in opposite directions from the center), rotating at about 2 rpm in opposite directions, and at the ends of each of them would be the living/working quarters. There would be 4 "apartment buildings" - 1 at each end of each of the two arms - that would comfortably house 25-35 people each. This is doable, and takes considerably fewer materials than an X configuration with enclosed arcs at the end. It will take some degree of engineering, but we have the tech to do it - and have had for some time. So what do you say, Dr. Friedman? Doesn't this make more sense than spending money on bigger 20th century rockets?

Bob Ware: 07/08/2014 05:07 CDT

Z - That is another good approach. We can do this but we also need to keep the rotation to a minimum because of the effect of creep. I don't know about the fine points of expansion/contraction on graphite-epoxy. I have heard it doesn't expand/contract, but I don't know for sure. Regardless of that composites characteristics, designers will have to watch for it in the arms, on the rotation ring. In addition to that from a piloting perspective to exactly identical arms will have to rotate opposite each other for stability either on the Z or X axis. Perpendicular attachment to the Z axis is my preferred idea at this time. Entry into other portions of the spacecraft via the wheel axle would be as you & I discussed earlier in the Members Blogs a few years back. The type of attachment applies to your design, this blog, as to my wheel design back then. I like your idea also. Yours is the most current of the two design concepts. Yes it would be nice if Dr. Friedman would help by taking the lead on this or suggest someone, IE: Bill Nye, he's a former Boeing engineer, to lead the charge. It'll be super great if both would team up!

Bob Ware: 07/08/2014 05:24 CDT

The Z axis rotating (tumbling) cylinder design you mention is good and I have seen that one NASA TV also. It would be the easiest to build but hard to fly from a start/stop tumble, or Z axis rotation (energy budget related expenditures) so the S/C (spacecraft) can be excelled or braked as needed. In a rotation the COM dictates the burn criteria. Either way we can do this and we need to. My design or your design is the choice. We took the easiest and cheapest to implement designs, so lets build either design and get exploring! I do have another design that doesn't rotate but lets let that stay on hold until propulsion gets better.

Stephen: 07/09/2014 05:26 CDT

@Zorbonian Yesterday while surfing the Net I came across documentation for an old (early 1990s) NASA paper study you may find of interest because of the connection to your proposal for a a large manned interplanetary spacecraft one that might wander through the solar system. The study was for a program called "Project WISH" , where WISH="Wandering Interplanetary Space Harbor". As one abstract put it, the stated goal of the project was "the design of a space oasis to be used in the exploration of the solar system during the midtwenty-first century. This spacecraft, named Emerald City, is to conduct and provide support for missions to other planetary bodies with the purpose of exploration, scientific study, and colonization. It is to sustain a crew of between 500 and 1000 people at a time, and be capable of traveling from a nominal orbit to the planets in reasonably short flight times." The project went through (AFAIK) three phases over the course of several years, and some of the reports and other papers are available on and the Phase 2 report is on For example, this is the Phase 3 report:

Zorbonian: 07/09/2014 10:27 CDT

The longest Apollo mission was somewhere around 15 days, I think. No big deal. But if we wanted to stay in space, after the moon landings ended, I thought that the next logical step would be to start on either a space ship or a space station (either with artificial gravity). That did not happen, of course, and as the years went by and as we seemed to be getting even more off course, I wondered what went wrong? What happened to our vision for space exploration? You usually don't drive your house when you want to go on a voyage - you get into a small vehicle that arrives at the plane or ship (something that is assembled in a hangar or dry dock), so this blasting out of the atmosphere with all this weight each time - what is essentially the house - doesn't make sense. Especially since it’s NOT REALLY ENOUGH weight (meaning materials or supplies) for a voyage to another planet. Not to mention that the “house” is missing artificial gravity.

Zorbonian: 07/09/2014 10:59 CDT

To me, the only things the space station is good for now are 1) to test in zero G a scale model of a space ship design (built on earth, of course), and 2) to be a dry dock from which we start building the ship. Seriously, just about ANYWHERE artificial gravity is mentioned, it is noted that it "is considered desirable for long-term space travel or habitation, for ease of mobility, for in-space fluid management, and to avoid the adverse long-term health effects of weightlessness." Excerpt from: Video with astronaut Jeff Williams showing artificial gravity: So why does NASA have its head in buried in the sand? I really don’t want to believe it’s similar to the “make work” projects (you know, building miles of road into the Everglades that no one uses). So, “let’s build BIGGER rockets and blast them into space! And, they’re 1-time use, so we can keep on building them for EACH time!”

Zorbonian: 07/09/2014 11:32 CDT

BWare, you bring up some good points about the creep factor. Arms extending out might not be the best way to go without enough mass. I am thinking of another design that should work pretty well - both from the materials and safety aspects. No matter what, certain parts would have to be EXTREMELY reliable - kind of like when engineers build some things, they build it to withstand 3x whatever the maximum stress would be. LOL – we are in space, the ENTIRE thing better be extremely reliable. @Stephen I paged through that Emerald City document. Interesting configuration. Much is over my head, but I saw the programming code for some of the systems near the end. Anyway, good to know NASA has thought a teeny bit about artificial gravity. ;-) The city seems possible - a bit later. However, BWare’s idea for the first ship is better - keep the crew to probably around 100. I think I have decided to put the design(s) on a website, probably animated. It will hopefully be up in less than 2 months.

Ron Dickens: 07/10/2014 09:57 CDT

I'd be happy to see any manned missions underway. Each one will teach us a little more and keep the vall rolling, so to speak. Asteroids are great mining sites too, so they could provide raw materials, especially water, on site in space. Never say die.

Ron Dickens: 07/10/2014 09:58 CDT

ball rolling, that should be. Typos! Sheesh!

Bob Ware: 07/11/2014 10:04 CDT

Stephen - I had time to look at section 3 of the doc you linked. It looks as though Z's idea and is covered. They made some interesting engineering points about tank design. It looks as though the standard method of pressurization needs to be applied versus trying to impart rotational (IE: cent. force) to keep the fuel in a state of liquid vs vapor separation) is not the answer. Spherical tanks seem to be the best design from an engineering point of view. Not covered (only from what I was able to read today) was the idea of Z's X arcs in the Z axis center with a for and aft primary propulsion system on the Z axis. This would eliminate the unnecessary yawing or pitching stresses to align the engine for burns. On Z's arcs the outer layer could be the observation points for and aft. A raised bridge which could be retracted inward during flares, etc... would have the view over the engines and the rest of the spacecraft. The electrical track would have to work like a telescoping antenna so the bridge would not lose power. (just a thought) . Z - the NASA doc linked by Stephen covers a lot of your ideas from the engineering side (section 3). You're onto something. You suggested earlier putting something onto a website. May I suggest you do not do that but instead take ideas from the 3 of us and build it on your computer securely. Maybe after we have something then we could take it to someone to help us get it to the next level for a space vehicle company to at least look at. Or for that matter several companies. (most companies may take the idea, own it, then can it so no one, including the creator, can use it. If we leave it a TPS for protection we may be able to get someone interested in the spacecraft (again or for the first time).

Zorbonian: 07/22/2014 10:12 CDT

For several days I was not able to get beyond the first page of the blogs. I was able to click on the "2" at the bottom, but it would not allow me to go to the next page. I didn't know if further restrictions had been placed on the blog pages. You make some good points, BWare! When recalculating the time it would take to set up, it would be considerably longer than 2 months anyway, especially since I have another website (completely unrelated) that is beginning to get activity and needs more attention. For now I will keep it on my computer. Your retractable bridge idea sounds like it could work. We would also want wide-angle ultra-high def cameras all along the non-rotating perimeter. I may talk with a patent attorney about the design aspect, but if I do put it on a website, think along the lines of "we need artificial gravity." ;-)

Bob Ware: 07/25/2014 09:16 CDT

Z - AG!? Awe man! I just got into the joys of a lazy mans life finally without G and you tell me you're bringing it anyway! LOL!!!! Stay in touch on this. Maybe TPS will give you my e-mail. It's okay with me. I just don't want to publish it intentionally. Back online Monday.

Zorbonian: 07/27/2014 11:42 CDT

Hey BWare!, communicating by email would be cool. I'm not absolutely positive I will put it on a website - it's unsure at this point. But I did have an error in the diameter needed - it would be considerably smaller to achieve the 1G that would closely resemble gravity on earth - only about 1500 feet diameter. Here is a link to the calculations for this (it was on the build the enterprise website): You know, another good thing about having artificial gravity is that you could have the treadmills and all the other exercise equipment so working out would be just as easy as on earth.

Bob Ware: 07/27/2014 09:47 CDT

Hi Z - The view out the window would be awesome to say the least! The gravity bit is not really an engineering issue of crises but medically it is so we must do it.

Bob Ware: 07/27/2014 10:17 CDT

Z- That is an interesting link you provided. This comfort level needs to be viewed as a Bodily Adjustment and Ear Reaction focusing on that, BAER and not the personal comfort level view looked at. It looks as though (based upon those data sets) a level of 5.x will be the upper limit. Unfortunately clean/totally bare bulkheads (walls) are not possible. There needs to be for example, equipment, windows mounted there. That significantly adds to the problem. If this AG section could be left ONLY to crew quarters, then things would not be so bad from a mission perspective. Sickbay may actually benefit being here. Of course that should be up to a medical team to assess that. Does anyone else have ideas? We can't do this alone! Sure we'd like to! : )

Zorbonian: 08/02/2014 12:21 CDT

(This page is getting further and further away.) Well, try out this link:!btRXQE It looks like we will have to modify our understanding of the laws of physics. And this might just be the engine to get us to Mars quickly. Come on, people! It's time to build a REAL spacecraft in space. We need artificial gravity We need artificial gravity We need artificial gravity...

Zorbonian: 08/02/2014 12:32 CDT

Reading the article in my previous post about the EmDrive, it is interesting to note several things: 1) First developed in 2003 2) Chinese scientists developed their own version in 2009 and confirmed it 3) NASA confirms it in 2014 It's kind of sad, actually. NASA has become so conservative (or underfunded may be more appropriate) that another country took the first steps to actually verify it. Congratulations, China! (And, of course, to Roger Shawyer, the inventor.) TPS needs a blog system where we can discuss ideas such as this. I don't see enough of this on this new website.

Zorbonian: 08/02/2014 12:49 CDT

To qualify what I said: We need a blog system where we can discuss ideas such as the EmDrive.

Bob Ware: 08/03/2014 08:28 CDT

Hi Z - Thanks for great article! I'm glad it works! I had a discussion with a co-worker, Bill W. back in 2006 or so on an idea I had back in the late 90's. I never did write it down. Basically my idea was with a capture mechanism to return non-burned thrust into the engine to keep the push going on momentum. I was missing something so Bill laughed me off and I never mentioned it again to anyone. Unfortunately I did not know enough to figure out what I was missing and Shawyer figured it out on his own. Totally different than where I was thinking and he made it work. Congrats to him! Lets use it for our plan if we can!

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