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House Committee Chairman Encourages NASA To Send Crew Flyby Mars in 2021

Should We Send A Crew To Flyby Mars?  

  1. 1. Should We Send A Crew To Flyby Mars?

    • Yes, Totally!
      95
    • Yes, But Should Delay (Probably not going to work, 2021 is the launch window)
      20
    • No, Too Risky (And think of the poor planetary scientists!)
      17
    • Unrelated/I Don't Care (Let America run its own affairs)
      3


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Hrmm. It's a tricky one. A flyby seems unsatisfying in a way (not least to the astronauts involved), but interplanetary flight is a hell of a thing, and forcing the development of the essential stuff required for further missions is probably a good thing. If they aren't doing a free-return perhaps a visit to phobos would be in order as well?

It might not be too hard to "piggyback" a small probe for Phobos on this mission. Plus, having a crewed vehicle so close by would mean that they could act as mission control for the probe, with nearly real-time control.

Actually... this is starting to sound pretty clever, somebody send this to NASA!

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I'll remain patient on this one. Most of the time, someone in the government announces a grand new mission, and it gets discarded a few months later.

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I feel like there is no benefit to a manned flyby versus an unmanned flyby, other than the PR boost. If you're going to commit a crew to such a long flight, you might as well land them there so they can do SCIENCE on the surface.

This exactly. While a voyage to fly past Mars and Venus would certainly get attention, if there's little scientific value there's no point committing 2-3 people to an excruciatingly long voyage.

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I'll remain patient on this one. Most of the time, someone in the government announces a grand new mission, and it gets discarded a few months later.

This isn't even an announcement, it's one guy in congress. There's very little support in congress, there's none from the president, and there's not even real support in NASA. It's close to a miracle it didn't drop completely off of everybody's radar the moment Tito realised he hadn't got a chance doing it privately.

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The amount of new science might be small, but the engineering value of the journey would be immense.

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The amount of new science might be small, but the engineering value of the journey would be immense.

What engineering value? You could learn exactly as much by leaving the spacecraft in earth orbit for the same length of time. Even the radiation would be pretty much the same if it was at sufficient altitude.

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As stated several times during the conference, this is also a issue of national pride. Congress is feeling the pressure from the President and the wide public to maintain its space leadership and get to Mars first than let China do it. It's quite interesting as to how after the Chang'e 3 landed, NASA was given a bigger budget and Congress starts to pressure NASA to "rush" the SLS and have it in service earlier. This may end in another space race, I'm not sure.

"Bread and Games" may have something to do with it, distract the population from internal problems (failing economy, increasing government coercion and abuse of power, etc. etc. by giving them a spectacle to look at.

Better a space race than a foreign war (of which the US already has one ongoing anyway) someone may be thinking.

It's been done since the Roman era at the very least (though they didn't try for a space race literally of course).

The US Public has feelin of suspicion and negavity towards the Chinese government and many of my friends think of it as a oppressive communist regime.

And they'd be right to think so. US government drawing attention away from itself by declaring a foreign enemy helps them a lot, see above as to why.

However, on a funner fact, several representatives and people at the hearing have admitted that they have greater political ambitions. One of the scientists (Same one who wants to explore moons of Jupiter) is on the books for potential nomination as NASA director.

Sounds quite plausible, up and down the line in the group of proponents, down the the chairman him/herself. Playing Santa with other peoples' money in order to get a nicer job is always a popular game among politicians, especially near election time.

Anyways, I personally believe that this is not about science, but about the technology.

And you'd be wrong. Some people believed Apollo was about the science, and for some people it was. But for the decision makers, those that decided what the mission would look like, when it would fly, who would fly it, etc. etc. it was 100% politics and this one would be no different.

Apollo got some scientific instruments on the later missions so NASA and congress could redirect money from other programs to keep it going past the date it had stopped having political significance as a program, but that was a side show, not the main thing, and everyone involved knew it.

Even if it does fail, we still have a nice deep space outpost orbiting a Lagrange point.

And one we can't get to as the mission hardware will have been ordered destroyed, as the mission hardware for Apollo was, for political reasons (no doubt someone will come up with an excuse, a new single stage to orbit reusable vehicle comes to mind, can't have a far cheaper throwaway rocket sitting in the production lines that can compete with it and launch for half the cost per pound).

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What engineering value? You could learn exactly as much by leaving the spacecraft in earth orbit for the same length of time. Even the radiation would be pretty much the same if it was at sufficient altitude.

I'm thinking mainly of the life support system. We've never flown a system designed to keep people alive in deep space.

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I'm thinking mainly of the life support system. We've never flown a system designed to keep people alive in deep space.

Why would that be any different from a system designed to keep people alive in MEO?

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Why would that be any different from a system designed to keep people alive in MEO?

MEO can still be replenished. If possible you'd certainly want to test it in Earth orbit before chancing your hand at an interplanetary mission. But the stated goal is to develop and validate tech capable of making interplanetary journeys. Testing a subset of the systems required for a landing by doing a flyby would be a good way to simplify the problem (thereby reducing risk) while still fully validating some the most safety critical systems.

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This isn't even an announcement, it's one guy in congress. There's very little support in congress, there's none from the president, and there's not even real support in NASA. It's close to a miracle it didn't drop completely off of everybody's radar the moment Tito realised he hadn't got a chance doing it privately.

Very little?

There was a reason this was a full committee hearing, not a subcommittee hearing. More than one person testifed, and more than several Congressmen proclaimed their support for this mission. It's much, much more than that. NASA itself has a movement going for a manned Mars flyby by 2021, and I hope it will prevail. The President himself has yet to release a statement, don't be so quick to judge.

I'm actually thinkign this has a legitimate chance to get off the ground.

And personally, this is just me, but I would rather live in a nation with a corrupt government, increasing poverty, and tons of issues and controversies with an successful space program than a utopian society that has given up on space exploration. It may be Bread and Circuses, but its well worth the cost.

@Kryten. I'll guess you dislike beyond-LEO manned spaceflight :P

Edited by NASAFanboy

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It might not be too hard to "piggyback" a small probe for Phobos on this mission. Plus, having a crewed vehicle so close by would mean that they could act as mission control for the probe, with nearly real-time control.

Actually... this is starting to sound pretty clever, somebody send this to NASA!

It's been proposed already. I'm not putting out new ideas here :P Phobos is attractive for a number of reasons (and it's a shame the Russians botched Phobos-Grunt. That information would really come in handy in making a better argument either way):

-Easy to land on (duh)

-A rubble pile (probably) which means you could bury a habitat easily with minimal hardware.

-Potential for ISRU (use it as a propellant depot) rather than carting stuff up from Mars' gigantic gravity well.

-A good base to carry out unmanned operations on Mars' surface--Curiousity moves so very slowly in large part because the humans in the loop are so far away. You could probably get a rover moving a respectable fraction of 1 MPH (I know it sounds trivial but it'd be a huge improvement over what we have now) if you had a human less than a few light seconds away.

-Use established hardware for visiting very small space rocks (probably) since we should have some practice.

-A phobos lander is essentially a big MMU (if that) whereas a Mars lander/return vehicle is immense with all the associated penalties to ship design of carrying said extra weight using crappy chemical engines.

So in certain regards, Phobos may actually be a better Mars base than Mars.

Edited by Sauron

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It's been proposed already. I'm not putting out new ideas here :P Phobos is attractive for a number of reasons (and it's a shame the Russians botched Phobos-Grunt. That information would really come in handy in making a better argument either way):

-Easy to land on (duh)

-A rubble pile (probably) which means you could bury a habitat easily with minimal hardware.

-Potential for ISRU (use it as a propellant depot) rather than carting stuff up from Mars' gigantic gravity well.

-A good base to carry out unmanned operations on Mars' surface--Curiousity moves so very slowly in large part because the humans in the loop are so far away. You could probably get a rover moving a respectable fraction of 1 MPH (I know it sounds trivial but it'd be a huge improvement over what we have now) if you had a human less than a few light seconds away.

-Use established hardware for visiting very small space rocks (probably) since we should have some practice.

-A phobos lander is essentially a big MMU (if that) whereas a Mars lander/return vehicle is immense with all the associated penalties to ship design of carrying said extra weight using crappy chemical engines.

So in certain regards, Phobos may actually be a better Mars base than Mars.

Not only that, but in 2020, the new NASA rover is being considered as a component for a sample return mission.

The crew could swing by Mars, pick up the sample, release the Phobos lander, control operations on Mars, then swing out. There is much science to be gained from this.

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MEO can still be replenished.

You're missing the point. We're talking a real test of long-term life-support here; it's not like there's something forcing us to send up replenishment flights if the craft is close enough to do so. The only real difference in that scenario was if something went wrong with the life-support system, people wouldn't inevitably die.

Very little?There was a reason this was a full committee hearing, not a subcommittee hearing. More than one person testifed, and more than several Congressmen proclaimed their support for this mission.

Missions don't run on proclamations of support. There's little inclination in congress of anyone being willing to actually fund such a mission.

Not only that, but in 2020, the new NASA rover is being considered as a component for a sample return mission.

The crew could swing by Mars, pick up the sample, release the Phobos lander, control operations on Mars, then swing out. There is much science to be gained from this.

You can't just 'pick up' or 'drop off' something from a flyby trajectory. We're talking relative velocities in the multiple km/second range here.

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We could smack something into Phobos, might be interesting. But we could do that without people being there.

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You're missing the point. We're talking a real test of long-term life-support here; it's not like there's something forcing us to send up replenishment flights if the craft is close enough to do so. The only real difference in that scenario was if something went wrong with the life-support system, people wouldn't inevitably die.

Missions don't run on proclamations of support. There's little inclination in congress of anyone being willing to actually fund such a mission.

You can't just 'pick up' or 'drop off' something from a flyby trajectory. We're talking relative velocities in the multiple km/second range here.

Little inclination?

What do you call the 80 million in premiliary work for the Europa probe? Or the budget deal that allocated more funding for NASA than was originally asked? For the fact that Congress passed a bill to prevent future presidents from canceling the SLS/Orion?

That's progress. Congress is softening up to Spaceflight, and several members of Congress have admitted to having a genuine interest in space travel. Come on, it's a freaking body of 435 educated people with university degrees, at least one or two should have a true interest in NASA. However, it is Beig turned into another political slugfest with alot of Democrats rallying behind it and a lot of Republicans still demanding a moonbase, obviously still sore from the death of Constellation.

I have no idea otherwise about how NASA will "pick up" the sample (But it's been suggested) , but they could attach a small probe to the space craft and eject it when in range of Phobos.

Take a leap of faith or two.

It's a new start for Congress. They wouldn't have been doing this twenty years ago, would they?

.

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Has anyone speculated on what kind of craft would be used for this?

Would it be a scaled down MTV/Copernicus type vehicle, or perhaps something closer to a scaled up Deep Space Habitat:

ISS-Derived_Deep_Space_Habitat_with_CPS.jpg

Also, will this require the use of an NTR or could it be done with a chemical rocket?

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If it's 2021, you're looking at block I SLS. Forget hab modules; it'd barely be able to put Orion alone on a flyby trajectory.

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If it's 2021, you're looking at block I SLS. Forget hab modules; it'd barely be able to put Orion alone on a flyby trajectory.

Which is why putting it at 2021 will make the SLS Blocks avaliable earlier with more funding.

However, that funding will have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere will likely be Planetary Science.

But the EML-2 outpost can be launched with a Block I cargo rocket, atleast, thats what Boeing says.

@jfull: It is possible with chemical rockets.

Edited by NASAFanboy

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And personally, this is just me, but I would rather live in a nation with a corrupt government, increasing poverty, and tons of issues and controversies with an successful space program than a utopian society that has given up on space exploration. It may be Bread and Circuses, but its well worth the cost.

I find this hilariously ironic in that the point of a utopian society, if you live in one, is that you don't need these programs to keep "advancing"  and even if you wanted to do so anyway, you should have the resources at hand if it's truly a perfect society as is the definition of utopia. Basically, you're only interested in spectacle and the feeling of supporting something you think is so great  I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering your name.

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I find this hilariously ironic in that the point of a utopian society, if you live in one, is that you don't need these programs to keep "advancing"  and even if you wanted to do so anyway, you should have the resources at hand if it's truly a perfect society as is the definition of utopia. Basically, you're only interested in spectacle and the feeling of supporting something you think is so great  I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering your name.

No, my point was that it is better to live in a society with issues but that will keep advancing science, because that society will get somewhere someday, than a utopian society without internal issues but suppresses science actively, becuase that society will just fail someday inevitably.

I suck at making analogies.

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No, my point was that it is better to live in a society with issues but that will keep advancing science, because that society will get somewhere someday, than a utopian society without internal issues but suppresses science actively, becuase that society will just fail someday inevitably.

I suck at making analogies.

True enough, I guess. But then what happens when the troubled society inevitably fails as well?

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Let's ignore that the planetary budget wouldn't cover even a fraction of that for now, and pretend your proposal could come to fruition. So, we've got the very first flight of a new rocket model, with at least one entirely unflown engine, lofting a hastily-developed hab module and a spacecraft that has never flown crewed before on a mission of a duration no closed eclss system has ever acheived, so some astronauts can see Mars out of a window for maybe an hour. And for that all that's been lost are all of the Mars probes returning real science that'd be likely to be operational at that point. Does that really seem like a good idea to you?

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Let's ignore that the planetary budget wouldn't cover even a fraction of that for now, and pretend your proposal could come to fruition. So, we've got the very first flight of a new rocket model, with at least one entirely unflown engine, lofting a hastily-developed hab module and a spacecraft that has never flown crewed before on a mission of a duration no closed eclss system has ever acheived, so some astronauts can see Mars out of a window for maybe an hour. And for that all that's been lost are all of the Mars probes returning real science that'd be likely to be operational at that point. Does that really seem like a good idea to you?

Sometimes you can't really get any further with an argument, especially if all parties involved have clear-set views. This pretty much happens on most of the threads here. Why not just stop repeating yourselves and let everyone have their own views? Discussion is great, but too often it degenerates into something almost like squabbling.

Also Kryten, not singling you out or aiming to cause offence, but your post was kinda a good example...

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