Devon Island Expedition

Devon Island Expedition
This blog features educational updates on my Devon Island Expedition of July 14-20, 2007. Other sites:,

Monday, June 1, 2009

Augustine Human Space Flight Review Commission

Today, I was named as a member to the Augustine Commission. We have been tasked to develop options for the next NASA Administrator (Congratulations on your nomination, Charlie Bolden!) and the White House.

I have my ideas, some of which have been expressed in this blog. But, I have an open mind and have never thought that i knew it all, about anything. So, let me know what you think! Where should America's manned space program go? How can we do it within the proscribed budget?

Leroy Chiao


Iraq War Historiography said...

About a year ago Stephen Hawking said humanity has to embrace space exploration, if only to ensure its long-term survival. Hawking is right. Mother Nature is like our own mothers in many ways; she looks after us and tolerates our mistakes. But like our own mothers, Mother Nature has her limits. Eventually we'll have to leave this planet, so let's continue to explore, while space flight is still fresh in our minds. The U.S. can't take forever starting the Constellation Program, Americans have a short attention span, and will forget why we fly in space. Let's finish Alpha, then head to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Matt Wronkiewicz said...

You've got a tough job ahead of you. NASA is hobbled by inefficiency and an inflexible workforce. On top of that, they shot themselves in the foot with ESAS by discounting commercial space transportation and on-orbit assembly and refueling. NASA could be so much more effective as a facilitator for private enterprise in space and a developer of advanced technologies. I'd like to see more innovative programs like COTS, Centennial Challenges, and Project Prometheus. But, I'm just an outside observer. You've seen how NASA works from the inside, and you have worked outside NASA on private human spaceflight. I think that makes your presence on the commission particularly valuable. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I think You should press for more step-by-step approach.

I really don't want to write how I think Ares I would be a disaster for NASA, but It's hard to go by without noticing that it's the main cause of problems for whole program.

Because of problems associated with it, we have Orion capsule reduced in size, then to a crew of four tops and with significant reduction of backup systems. It's obvious that the problem exists within Ares I design and it's maximum payload capability, still being lowered due to various technical problems within it's design. Current Orion design is a result of that reduction.

At this point it would seem that anything - Atlas 5H, Delta IVH or Jupiter - would be better than Ares I.

I believe that that's why we can hear there is some debate about Ares I-Y. The question if that second test will happen might be answered with data gathered by Ares I-X. If they'll suggest further reduction in max payload, then I suspect scrub is in order.

I don't think NASA can afford to further reduce the size of Orion, just to make it fit Ares I. I believe it already went too far (four person craft cannot act as safety capsule for the whole crew of ISS for instance). Not to mention that reduced redundancy impacts projected reliability.

What I could propose would be a more step-by-step apprach, instead of runnnig concurrent programs.

First NASA should focus on LEO only - designing man-rated rocket and capsule.

When it's complete, then and only then NASA could start working on a capsule variant to be used in long duration flights. When finished it would give the capability of launching NEO rendezvous and circumlunar flights, when provided with EDS carried on second rocket (same type).

After that step is finished, only then work on heavy lifter and lunar lander would commence.

Such approach would most likely reduce the gap between shuttle flights and Constellation. However launching the Moon mission would probably have to be rescheduled to later date.

This is just the Constellation program.

NASA should also put some effort in designing a relatively lightweight, short duration flight vehicle, capable of docking to ISS and working as a carrier of experiments both ways. This way ISS could perform scientific missions like SpaceLabs mounted on shuttles and bring results back to Earth after two to three weeks.

One way to achieve that would be by COTS, but other ways are possible too.

Yes, that implies I believe it's time for shuttles to be put off-duty. They're pretty expensive way to deliver people to ISS. They role as transport ferries is also going to end with Progress, ATV, HTV and Dragon taking on that role.

The only thing left for them and not being possible for other systems would be service missions. But those are hardly to come by, since there won't be anything serviceable in orbit for them.

Well, that's my three cents.

P.S. Politicians would hate that, as I imagine Congress would too. Maybe that's because some of them are more interested in keeping jobs for people working on shuttle hardware than in actually building a worthy, new space transportation system.

Beth Stephens Beck said...

Congrats on you new Augustine Commission gig!!! We do so many great things at NASA, yet we're grown into a self-protective risk-averse culture through the last 15 or so years. I hope you will examine and reward good thinking and good thinkers -- those who encourage open debate and transparent decision-making. When employees fear speaking out, we'll never make it to the far reaches of the cosmos as a human race. I've posted some thoughts on leadership, culture and change: I look forward to your next journey (review of human spaceflight) with great anticipation! :)

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on this subject are already fairly widely known and published, but just in case you missed them, the directory of white papers and proposals is at the URL : New Direction in Human Space Flight is the unfinished Augustine review committee recommendations, which will essentially just be a recasting of my NASA 'JSC-COTS-2'.

Interested parties may watch the paper develop in real time, mindful that hurricane season has just begun and I'm working an extensive impact crater hypothesis.

RayGun said...

Clearly NASA (Mike Griffin) cooked the books to get Ares. Please give the alternatives a fair and level playing field and let the best most affordable launcher win.

jaguar7676 said...
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jaguar7676 said...

I am not and engineer or a scientist, I am an acquisition professional and everyday that goes by that NASA has not made a decision on which vehicle or concept the taxpayer is spending millions of dollars. We are upgrading our launch facilities and ground support equipment without having a firm DAC for ARES's configuration (which is changing daily). Shuttle and Constellation are constantly fighting each other for resource turnover now that Shuttle will fly its remaining manifest no matter how long that takes (regardless of delays due to mechanical failures such as the sensors). This agency needs a firm decision on where we are going and it needs to be committed to that decision. The one thing I firmly believe is that Mike Griffin was so personally involved with the Ares concept that he refused to accept anything but his own concept. Please make the right decision and good luck!

Nick said...

I see both further international cooperation and an enhanced role for the private sector (see: ISS resupply) as having multifaceted advantages:

Int'l cooperation will make eventual governance of the Moon a lot less contentious, so that could reap huge long-term benefits; and an engaged private sector could help both NASA and the economy at home (as Obama himself noted in his campaign space plan). A lot of 'win-win' in both cases.


One element of Constellation that has nagged me for a while: the name "Ares".

I understand the 'Mars' connection, but it seems odd to me to have the rocket carrying human colonists to new frontiers be named after the god of 'bloodshed' and 'war'---two things you seriously don't want for a colony! :) Might as well name the lunar base 'Roanoke' or 'The Alamo'.

The parralels of this oncoming era to America's expansion to the west and its initial colonization---Columbus/Vinland, Lewis+Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, the railroads---are many, so I think that could be a great thing to bring into the naming. "Mayflower" or something similar could be a, ah...'friendlier' name for the Ares, etc. ;)

Ron said...

First thing I would recommend is to resist the pressure that is around the LV's, Ares has a lot of sunk costs however if it is still cheaper and necessary to switch to another LV then please do so (alot of the work done on Ares can be transferred after all) Also the same for Boeing/Lockheed/ULA for EEELV. The big thing I see is that independent reviews of studies/options would be a good idea. For example, Huntsville did not believe the Centaur team about mass/fraction and performance so a lower number was used while evaluating a manned Atlas V, yet the Centaur team uses their own data for every flight of an Atlas V including LRO! That is not to say Huntsville is pruposely deceiving anyone, simply that they have been out of the upperstage designing work for more than 40 years!

Anonymous said...

I read the previous posts and could not see anything better to say. In the medium to long term, the moon should be the objective. To fulfill our destiny as space explorers, the moon represents the best and most economical way to learn how to use the materials there, to prepare in an environment not overly hostile how to deal with various problems, technical and human.

Eric the student said...
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Eric the student said...

Hello Leroy Chiao;

Im an undergraduate engineering student in south florida and have found the DIRECT teams Exploration Alternative to be very convincing and hope you will take the time to investigate that option and thier proposals.;all

Goodluck to you on the commission and may the best solution and course of action be found and adopted at NASA going foward.

- Eric Rivera

BenRG said...

Dear Professor Chiao,

Congratulations on your appointment to the HSF Review Commission. Although I am not an American citizen, I consider myself a supporter of manned spaceflight and am a great supporter of efforts to increase the human presence in space.

I strongly recommend a close examination of the DIRECT 3.0 proposals, recently unveiled at the ISDC 2009 conference.

The basic concept, turning Shuttle heritage technology into an 'in-line' launch vehicle, is intuitatively sound on technical, schedule and budgetary grounds. The DIRECT 3.0 proposals essentially involve turning the existing space shuttle ET, SSME and RSRMs into two in-line NLS-style launchers, known as the Jupiter-130 and the Jupiter-246. As well as saving the enormous amount of money being required to develop what are essentially two all-new LVs (the Ares-I and Ares-V), it also, by retaining the current 8.4m-diameter tank used by the the shuttle, reduces the amount of infrastrucre changes at KSC and MAF required to construct, operate and support the system.

As well as massively shortening the timeline for Orion IOC and FOC, the DIRECT proposals also allow for the most optimistic date for return-to-the-Moon to be pulled back to 2017.

Amongst the other advantages of the DIRECT 3.0 system are that it allows for heavy maintenance and logistical support for the ISS even after shuttle retirement. This capability makes an extension of ISS utilisation to 2020 a practical proposition.

As well as being fully lunar outpost-ready, the DIRECT 3.0 proposals are also easily adaptable for future NEO encounter and other beyond-Earth/Moon missions.

You can get a lot more information about these designs at the DIRECT team's website You can also interact directly with some of the team and participate in discussions on the proposals at

I do not suggeset that the DIRECT proposals are in any way a panacea. However, it is my humble opinion (one of an enthusiastic amateur rather than a professional), that they are most worthy of condition and will meet the many challenges, scientific, technical and even political, that currently face human space flight.

It is my sincere hope that you and your colleagues in the review commission will be able to find a way to save NASA's human spaceflight program from the current morass of schedule slips and budget overruns that are slowly cripping the Ares development programs.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Russell-Gough

Ray said...

I think the ESAS-derived launch architecture has taken NASA far away from the Vision for Space Exploration. The VSE focused on:

- central goals of economic, security, and science benefits
- done in the context of major commercial and international participation
- major efforts in lunar robotic precursors, R&D, innovation, ISRU, etc
- no NASA astronaut launch vehicle (acquire that) (possibly a NASA HLV)
- sustainable and affordable

The VSE was made by the previous administration, but I'd suggest that the central points of the VSE match the Obama Administration's goals even more closely.

As far as destinations are concerned, I don't have a big preference. Starting at the Moon is fine if it's done in the right way (see above - eg: major commercial participation, where those commercial vendors can use the same systems for other useful purposes). NEOs, Phobos/Deimos, Mars, Lagrange points - they're all fine with me. LEO/GEO is fine, too, if it's done the right way (there's plenty of commerce and infrastructure waiting to be built there). Iv'e seen ideas that start with telerobotics and build from there - such incremental advances that are achievable make a lot of sense to me.

Unknown said...

Utilizing lunar resources would allow much grander spaceflight capabilities than we're currently capable of.

We should build infrastructure to acquire lunar oxygen. This could be done robitically, but using more dexterous robots controlled in near-real-time from Earth.

To bring oxygen from the lunar surface to LEO would require reusable lunar surface-to-orbit vehicles, and solar electric tugs.

We could start by building the "tugs", because they could serve multiple roles while the lunar vehicle is built.

Hydrogen fuel for the landers could be sent towards the Moon using the save infrastructure.

We these capabilities in place, an unmanned spaceplane RLV would give us the ability to bring lunar metals back to Earth in bulk.

If its done a very large scale, it would be economical.

This is all much more boring than Mars, but would put us in a situation where we could perform much grander Mars missions than are on the cards now.

I also wonder if solar-electric tugs with very high delta-v, operating in LEO, could perform plane changes on satellites to bring them to ISS for servicing.

ISS has an airlock, robotic arms, and with Dragon & Cygnus capsules, we will soon have infrastructure to regularly send unpressurized cargo such as parts for satellites.

This would restore some of our satellite servicing capabilities that we abandoned due to Shuttle safety concerns.

Unknown said...

Let's go to Mars using a propellant depot that is filled via commercial and international agreements.
Let NASA become a space business incubator.

Unknown said...

Earth is a finite resource which is threatened by Man and by Nature. Already, we are experiencing impacts resulting from the depletion of natural resources, and impacts of our existence on Earth’s biosphere. No matter how we conserve, the Earth’s natural resources will continue to be depleted. Once the cup is empty, it cannot be refilled.

We stand at a fork in the road. Do we continue on the path we have been following, or do we take the one less traveled; the path that leads Humanity on its first true steps from the cradle of Earth out into the Universe. If the United States and NASA are to lead Humanity down that bold, new path, then NASA must spark another guiding light, illuminating a path leading to the future. Just as they did from Apollo, new generations will find THEIR paths illuminated by that same light. They will carry that torch forward, continuing to light a path for successive generations that will follow. The path forward is generational and on-going. Of course, the technological developments made along the way will be applied to benefit those who remain at Home, but those inspired by the light will forever look outward.

I believe that NASA, as it is currently structured cannot do this. Politics, infighting amongst the NASA centers and a serious lack of open, objective and trustworthy management across the agency at all levels have tarnished NASA’s reputation, its capabilities and its vision both internally and externally.

A sustainable vision for NASA must have, at its core, q simple, straightforward goal unencumbered by political rhetoric. The Space Act of 1958 states, “…that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.” That goal should be the centerpiece of everything that NASA does.

If NASA is to “benefit all Mankind”, it should be challenged to insure the sustainability of this planet for the benefit of the human race. For example, NASA should focus its skills on energy independence, applying technologies developed for space exploration to benefit Earth. Solar energy systems (passive systems and dynamic systems), nuclear systems, fuel cell systems are examples of such technologies that, properly applied and deployed, could give us the energy independence we seek.

NASA must also assure the survival of the human species by beginning the process of moving Humanity off this planet. Science fiction? No. Something achievable in the near future? No. But if the process is not started now, given the technical hurdles that will have to be overcome (many of which we probably don’t even fully appreciate yet) the human race will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Starting one program and ending it only to be able to fund another, does not define a sustainable program of exploration which will begin the expansion of Humanity into the solar system. A truly sustainable vision for space exploration is one that combines the strengths of NASA, the other space agencies in the world, the commercial space industry and academia in a true partnership that goes beyond contractual or political agreements.

NASA funding should be increased to permit the agency to fund the activities outlined above. Given the magnitude of the federal budget, even a fourfold increase in NASA funding should frighten no one. With the increased funding, NASA would be providing new, high-tech jobs, both in the Government and the private sector. The United States needs these high tech jobs to reinvigorate interest in science and engineering. NASA, focused in such a way, would be a beacon of opportunity for this country, employing thousands of individuals across the country, funding small businesses to develop new technologies, inspiring science and engineering education, and inspiring the country the way it did during the Apollo program.

SlashRick said...

1. permanent manned presence in space.
2. permanent manned presence on the moon.
3. permanent manned presence on mars.

Rick Sterling said...

Dear Leroy, I recommend that the Augustine Committee take a very serious look at the Direct 3 Launcher System. Direct 3 uses one Jupiter Launcher instead of two Ares Rockets(Ares 1 & 5). As a result, it saves many billions of dollars over the present system. It also will prevent almost all of the job losses that will occur when the shuttle program stops in 2010. It is safer and will allow much earlier manned flight to the Moon & Mars. One of the main reasons it is safer is that many of the safety features removed from the Orion spacecraft due to Ares 1 problems can now be put back in the spacecraft due to the much larger paylods that can be lifted with Jupiter rockets. Finally , it should be noted that the Direct 3-Jupiter Launch System was originally developed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. That design has recently ben improved by the Constellation & NASA contractor staff who are working privately on the Direct 3 System. I strongly recommend that you study this very inovative launcher by going to

Unknown said...

Hello, my name is John and I'm a PhD candidate at Waikato University in New Zealand. I've been a big fan of space exploration since I was a little kid, both manned and unmanned. I may not be an American, but I care about NASA’s manned spaceflight programme as do many others.

Over the last few years as ESAS has begun to be implemented I have felt myself becoming progressively more concerned over the future of manned spaceflight. Admittedly, from outside it is particularly difficult to have a clear view of why everything has progressed in the manner it has. I am very aware that NASA is subject to internal pressures from different centres, in addition to pressure from certain prominent Congressman and that there are strong parallels between now and the 70s, when shuttle was seen as the only way to sustain manned spaceflight, among other factors.

The most major concerns I have are as follows
1. The Ares I/V architecture barely closes. As a result designers have been forced to make Ares V progressively larger and larger (e.g. >=5.5 seg SRMs, >=6 RS-68s (possibly regen)). This is because of inadequate margin, and as other factors (such as the diminishing ISP of the J2-X) come into play, more margin will be needed. The 1.5 architecture was known at the time of ESAS to have little margin compared to a 2 launch architecture. This makes the development costs of Ares V a very nasty proposition -- in addition to worsening LOM stats. It is very well known that inadequate mass margins result in massive cost increases, e.g. the Apollo LEM Scrape programme to lower mass.
2. I feel that the architecture is not cost efficient, for starters it requires the production of two rather disparate vehicles. While I am sure that NASA has done the most it possibly could have under it's rather large financial constraints to maximise commonality, I personally feel that the extra development required to produce Ares V, and the resulting extra cost means that we (the human race) will not be leaving the confines of LEO for a long time.

I must confess to have a bias towards using EELVs to close the gap and using Direct 3.0/Jupiter (2 4 seg SRBs/4 SSMEs on lower stage/6 Rl-10s on the upper stage) for any exploration missions. I only wish that decision had been made several years ago. Despite any claims to the contrary, their architecture does close and does obay the laws of physics.

I understand that no-one can change NASA in a day, and that the time when Direct/Jupiter 3.0 was viable may have passed. All I ask is that you retain an open mind and give it a fair hearing without prejudice. While I understand that NASA may have no choice due to inertia and the associated political costs, I firmly believe that it is (or, perhaps sadly, was) the best chance for human exploration of the moon within my lifetime. Once we have lost our heavy lifter (the shuttle stack) we will not get it back.

goflight001 said...

Exploration. Science. Life on other planets? Eurpoa. Mars. Longer and longer duration flights. Habitats on moon/mars. Space elevators. Space tourism.

telex said...

NASA should be on bleeding edge of technology and frontiers, not in launch operations. So, act as incubator for commercial vendors of services to LEO, GEO and further out, and also work as technology incubator.

There are gazillions of space launch and reentry related technologies that should be tested, prototypes flown etc. NACA used to do similar research for aeronautics, NASA sometimes did that with lean and efficient programs that tried one thing at the time ( like lifting body research from M2-F1 up to HL-10, DC-X and so on )
Aerospike engines, persipration cooling during reentry, metallic TPS etc. Commercial vendors do not have resources to invest in such fundamental research, but they could make these technologies available at low cost once proven by prototypes.

I guess this boils down to : NO NASA-operated launch vehicles, period. Tech demos, prototypes, yes please, but no plans for operational vehicles, ever.

If access to far frontiers is desired, like going to moon or mars or asteroids, then design the architecture around existing launch capability.

Support prizes, lend hand to ventures like Google Lunar X-Prize.

Take serious first steps to actually start living off the planet, meaning gearing up ISRU technologies ( robotic precursors at first ) in the cheapest most accesible place, which has any resources to speak of. Work with industry partners to develop initial technology.

Solar power beaming from space and in space? Either prove or disprove whether it fundamentally can work, quantify the difficulties of implementing this.

Help put up the first propellant depots, first at LEO.

NASA would seem to have its work cut out for it, but it does very little of it right now.

John Kavanagh said...

Thanks for asking for ideas, Mr. Chiao!

The goal for the civil space program must be to open up the solar system for development and settlement. In short, the U.S. government shall expand the economic sphere of the United States beyond Earth orbit so that America can harness extra-terrestrial scientific and natural resources. In contrast with today's approach, the civil space program shall not just approach space as a domain only for a handful of civil servants to briefly travel to. Rather, the space program shall blaze a trail with an open architecture that leverages and nurtures the key strengths of the commercial and educational space sectors so that some day soon average Americans can travel to, work in and benefit from affordable access to space.

John Kavanagh said...
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cosmo said...

I think it's great that you seek input from the public. I'm from Germany but I have had an interest in the US space program for many years.

I think you shold press fro heavy involvement of the private sector. COTS D would cost a small fraction of the projected cost of the Ares system and would drastically shorten the gap. SpaceX has demonstrated that they can deliver, they have already met most of the milestones in the exsiting agreements and NASA's engineers see no problems with their plans for manned flights. What really matters is the cost difference: Even if SpaceX's estimates are off by a factor of ten (if they had to spend ten times as much as they currently plan for) they would still be ten times cheaper than Ares 1/Orion! Think about it, it makes all the difference.
As for the overall goal, I think it should be Mars (maybe with precursor mission to NEOs). For that NASA will probably need a heavy lifter but maybe something like Jupiter or Shuttle C makes more sense than Ares V (less modifications needed to existing hardware/infrastructure).

I wish you the best of luck and I hope you can make a difference. If there are no changes than NASA will fail.

Cozmicray said...

Robotics -- in deep space and in LEO -- tele-robotics -We are really behind in this area. DEXTRE on ISS not being utilized -- Robotic missions to repair satellites -- EVA repairs without threat of human peril. Perfectly acceptable for a robot to bring back a piece of Mars. We really should be doing this as one earth based cooperating/sharing spacefares, not just US space cadets.

Bay Area Houston said...

FOCUS! Focus on Orion with the end goal of servicing the Space Station. Put the Moon and Mars on hold until this is accomplished. Then move to the next goal, either the Moon or Mars.

We cannot afford to fund the new vehicle, the station, the trip to the moon, and to Mars all the same time. It doesn't make any cents.

Do one thing RIGHT.jr

Unknown said...

Presently, NASA stifles the aerospace industry instead of fostering it. Return NASA to its NACA roots and do whatever else is necessary to force the US Government to unfetter our aerospace companies.

Freedom can be disconcerting, but if we are destined to explore space, NASA is not the vehicle that will do it.

William said...

First off, Ares I is a terrible, terrible rocket. The only good thing about it is that it's a really neat design. Cool, but completely impractical.

Anyways, I think NASA should help stimulate the commercial space sector, perhaps by developing new, cheaper propulsion technologies. Space flight currently is expensive as hell, making the prospect of space colonies (and other science fiction wet dreams :P) seem really far away.

Densher said...

The future of space exploration lies in the visions and aspirations of todays high school and college students. A great majority of our current aerospace workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years. Therefore, if seems appropriate to poll the high school and college students to see what direction NASA should be heading in regard to human space exploration.

Densher said...

As for near-term decisions, it is inconceivable to assume that the Soyoz and Progress are the only sufficient transport vehicles to ISS. A thorough review of the life expectancy of their large support units might reveal that larger vehicles may be required in the near term. The only vehicle capable of large transport is the Space Shuttle. Therefore, these vehicles should be retained until a replacement capable of carrying large units is available.

what said...

Astronaut Leroy Chiao: your blog appears to have excellent content.

Can I say the below:

1) "Ambition" is the reason everyone gets up in the morning. Without ambition we sleep in, don't eat or drink, and die. The same goes for civilizations and organizations, because such things are not but groups of people.

2) "Curiosity" is the driving force behind science. Every experiment is done to learn something. But it is also a driving force of every animal. Even adult humans reach out and touch things they've never touched before. And the bird without parents learned to fly because it experimented with the tools it was given.

3) Ambition and curiosity are innate, natural, instinctive human traits. We don't have to "think" to wonder what that sound behind us was and turn around. We don't have to "think" about our motivation for getting up and going about our daily routine.

.:) Since part of a person's time is dedicated to these things, isn't part of the civilization or organization dedicated to these things as well? To attempt ambitious goals? To learn the unknown?

People wonder why shuttle launches aren't a big deal for people. The answer is that they are in fact routine. Human instincts are basic and novelty is powerful. TV and movie companies know how to manipulate people to keep their attention. NASA cannot compete with them on this so either NASA has to outsource their media work, and/or NASA has to attempt new interesting goals constantly. Doing apollo again is not interesting. And why doesn't NASA have a mission to give away video for anyone to profit from? Where is the ISS reality TV show made by private companies not contracted to do so? Ever watch PBS Carrier?

If you agree with what I've said then your next step is planning what to do. And you do it with little limit on what you can attempt. You limit yourself in the doing, not the planning.

Lunar base in the side of a crater. Mining and refining equipment. Automatic fuel transfer to orbital depot. VTVL craft for getting on and off the moon and mars, fueled by moon resources. Solar stations for powering NEO, SETI, etc arrays on the dark side. Lunar elevator. Stations at lagrangian points. Centrifugal artificial gravity life experiment. Lifting body to shuttle people on and off earth. Martian science station with drilling capability. Inter-planetary centrifugal ferry-colony fueled and radiation shielded by moon resources.

All of that is possible with modern technology, right? And there exists more than we can imagine, right? So the faster we travel down this road we can see, the faster we can see new unimaginable paths to take.

The leadership and inspiration of many comes from the top. NASA has not had a compelling mission because it has not been given one. I think the compelling mission is clear.

Only when you know where you are going can you decide how to get there. Limit the distance you travel, not the distance you can travel.

PS: Capitalism is a powerful system. The government cannot beat the private industry on an even playing field. NASA needs to build what private industry cannot or will not.

Federal government in fact exists to do for the people what smaller organizations of people cannot do for themselves. Smaller organizations include rocket building companies.

PPS: Space is too big for any one country. Every country should be invited to participate, including China. The first step might be an international competition to design and test-build the lifting body shuttle with international docking and rocket mating standards. Why? The result will be simple and cheap and successful because economists agree that globalization (global free market competition) produces more and better goods.

And have some humility. There have never been more productive international space agencies. Someone them are doing things better than NASA.

The complacent are replaced. And hubris kills.

Donald said...

Please advocate for more involvement of the American people in the US space program and the engagement of American people towards a continued growth in international collaboration. Ask the new Administrator to persuade all NASA employees to visit 3 classrooms/year (yes, put in their performance plans!). Students like contact and contact makes a difference. Human spaceflight in a vacuum is meaningless. Use it to change lives. Don't start from zero - use what we have and move forward.

Jon Goff said...

Dr Chiao,
You're probably going to be swamped by suggestions, so I'll keep mine short:

-higher percentage of exploration money should be spent on funding R&T work for space capabilities that lower the cost and increase capabilities of future missions (propellant depots, tugs, aerobraking/aerocapture work, space nuclear power, etc)

-commercial participation in beyond-LEO operations should be encouraged at the earliest possible date. Things like COTS for cargo, people, and eventually propellants should be emphasized. Commercial involvement should not be an afterthought.

I could think of other advice, but those two are probably the most important.

~Jonathan Goff

Gary Miles said...

The key to establishing a spacefaring society is developing a space-based infrastructure which includes permanent LEO satellites, fuel depots, LaGrange satellites and a permanent lunar base. Such infrastructure will help drive greater commercial investments into developing cheaper LEO luanch systems and transfer systems. A manned mission to Mars should be the eventual goal.

The concept of separate crew and cargo launchers as espoused in the ESAS is fundamentally sound and creates multiple mission capabilites that can further human space flight, science, and commercial interest. NASA should continue to develop Ares I/Orion and Ares V to resolve the technical issues just as such issues plagued the Saturn V/Apollo module in the 1960s. The naysayers frequently like to propose their own ideas for launch systems, but do not like to admit that those systems have technological hurdles as well.

The strongest message that the Augustine Panel could send is to Congress. Congress needs to recognize that NASA is woefully underfunded and its budget falls far short of the funding necessary to achieve successful goals. A budget of $22 - $23 billion would be appropriate in terms of today's inflation and would be barely above 1% of the federal budget. We are not talking a massive funding increase here. I frequent Daily Kos, a website devoted to liberals and progressives, where a weekly poll on NASA funding has consistently shown an average support of 65 - 70% for a NASA budget at least 2% of federal budget. And this is from a liberal website. So Congress will find that there is strong support for a modest increase NASA's funding.

Good luck with your work on the review panel. All the members of the panel appear to have a great deal of integrity and extensive experience with human spaceflight. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment on your blog.

Unknown said...

NASA needs to advance two ends- (1) get out of the business of space operations, which consumes close to 50% of its budget; and (2) focus on the Global Exploration Strategy as the way forward for the Space Exploration Policy.

For (1), NASA should look at human rating, with launch guarantees, the Delta IV/Atlas V, and leveraging COTS with more funding for commercial LEO support for ISS.

For (2), NASA should put forward an "ISS 2.0 model" for a human return to the Moon and the establishment there of an International Lunar Base.

Eligar Sadeh, Ph.D.
Astroconsulting International

winkhome said...

Keeping it simple - one word or so - DIRECT V3.0! I think you and the panel are more than capable to figure out the rest of it.

Best of luck and please do a good job - which includes making sure something comes of all of this!

Dale Winke - Boise, ID

KDC said...

Frankly, I have my doubts about the Constellation program. Solid rockets are difficult to make, contain some pretty nasty chemicals, the Orion capsule is overweight, liftoff drift, etc. There's vibration problems so now they've added big springs. I mean really this just looks like a Kludge of bad ideas....

I think NASA needs to revisit the idea of upgrading existing unmanned launchers or explore the idea of Direct "Jupiter" type vehicles.

Unknown said...

The replacement of the Shuttle is paramount, Jupiter fits the short term solution while the development of the next generation series continues (what that is must be agreed upon, if it's Constellation fine if something else fine too) but let's give sufficient time frames to provide appropriate solutions to long term goals, not piece meal solutions to short sided views.

Mike said...

Congratulations on your appointment Leroy.

I currently work as an engineer on the space shuttle program and have my opinions on what has been done and what should be done.

First, the current devlopment of Ares 1 and Ares 5 is not what was suggested in ESAS. While significant money has been spent on this development, it's not logical to continue to spend money on something that is not meeting, technical, cost or schedule milestones.

Second, the whole "1.5 launch architecture" makes no sense to me. You, better than most, understand there is no such thing as a 0.5 launch. With the current designs, we will have two seperate launch vehicles, with two seperate supply chains, two different sets of opreating procedures, two different but large groups of sustaining engineering, etc. The operations costs for such will be much larger than anticpated and will make the true goals of CxP unsustainable.

What I believe we need is to leverage the launch vehicle from as much existing hardware as possible to do the job. One where many of the components are flying and a true flight history can be gained from them. In addition, the costs of using these certainly minimizes development costs while being able to project operational costs with much higher confidence.

If such a launch vehicle was chosen, two launches may still be required but at least the mass to orbit can be spread out more equally and you have one common launch vehicle, one set of common facilities, etc.

In my opinion, the last 4 years have focused entirely too much on the launch vehicles that will only take us on the first 200 miles of this journey. It is our duty to make sure this effort can be affordable and sustainable. The lack of performance from Ares 1 has caused many issues for Orion, which in fact should only be a systems integration project because there is nothing to very little that actually needs to be developed.

Finally, due to the focus on the current architecture, "the gap" has done nothing but grow. From a progromatic standpoint, that should tell us we're doing something wrong right there. There are launch vehicles that have been studied for decades (NLS and now something like the Jupiter) that could provide much better synergy between the SSP and CxP. In today's economic climate that would seem to make perfect sense, to use what you have or is available to get the job done.

On a personal note, I wish you and the rest of the commission the best of luck. I'm in my early 30's and have a young faimily. Space flight is something I have wanted to do my entire life and it has been an honor to work on the SSP. I never saw Apollo, inherited orbiter but really want my career to involve going beyond LEO. With the current approach, I don't see how that is possible with approximately 6-7 years between shuttle completion and the first launch of Ares/Orion. I am very concerned that if and when it does fly it will not be "safe, simple and soon" as advertised and this nation will be left with less capability than we have now and no money left to fund anything else.

winkhome said...

Being mindful that "short-term" given current and future budgets could realistically be a LONG time. We need solutions and recommendations we can live and grow with regardless of the term.

Leroy Chiao said...

Dear All,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments to date. I promise to do my best to read all of your contributions as they come in!

Leroy Chiao

Dave said...

As a long time (55 years) observer of space exploration, I add my support to the Direct 3.0 comments posted so far.

As one old pilot said, "if it looks right, it is right".

Dave Fischer, PhD

Brian Bernhard said...

While I agree with the goals of Gerard O'Neill, his goals are a bit too long term.
It is my belief that the resources of the moon and asteroid belt are needed in order to solve terrestrial problems, primarily energy problems. Establishing a permanently manned facility on the surface of the Moon is also one of the fundamental keys towards opening up the rest of the solar system for human expansion, commercialization and industrialization. I agree with Denis Wingo, he has the right idea for the right reasons.
In order to support permanent and expanding lunar facilities and operations an Earth/Lunar space transportation system is needed in order to lower the cost and improve the safety of trans-lunar transportation. One possible architecture for a trans lunar space transportation system ( lunar rail road ) is an combination of LEO space station, lunar orbital station, station to station transfer vehicles, Earth to LEO transfer vehicles and lunar orbit to lunar surface transfer vehicles. The stations will serve as logistics way points providing facilities for orbital assembly, maintenance, supplies and operations, including propellant storage and distribution.
This transportation system will provide a conduit for moving material and supplies to the moon and lunar resources back to the earth.

The over all operational requirements for the Earth to LEO transfer vehicles and LEO space station should be based on the requirements of the lunar transportation system, and lunar surface operations.

Lee Jay said...

I think HSF should be about two main things - exploration and technology development. I support the need for heavy lift because I believe getting out of LEO will require it if we're not going to send dozens of lighter vehicles to a fuel depot for each mission. I support minimizing cost, both development and recurring, and preserving what we have now seems the best approach to doing that. The shuttle stack works well as do EELVs. Use the EELVs for all missions their capacity can support, and use a modified shuttle stack for heavy lift. DIRECT seems like the method that preserves the most, costs the least, and provides the most capability. Having launchers from OSC and SpaceX in the smaller regime combined with EELV heavies in the middle (25 tons) and DIRECT at 70-110 tons seems like it offers a great deal of flexibility for supporting ISS and beyond-LEO HSF missions without having to spend 30-50 billion on developing two dissimilar launchers (Ares) that destroy most of the existing ground infrastructure.

whabbear said...

Leroy: We need a manned space exploration policy that seamlessly integrates the near-term return to the moon activities with a longer-term vision that puts humans on the surface of Mars. We need to stop all the vacillating about the role of the Moon in this, the way the Planetary Society and others have been doing.

How? I advocate what some others have been suggesting recently, which is that the Mars missions are one-way only. Our first expedition should be one in which the astronauts become settlers and live out the rest of their days on the Red Planet. I've seen cost savings of up to 80% by taking that approach.

But that means, we need a concentrated, sustained engineering test and development cycle to develop and mature surface habitats, ISRU technologies, and closed-loop energy and ecological systems, to produce a reliable infrastructure that enables long-term or permanent human presence on other worlds.

The place to perform this antecedent activity is the moon.

Doug said...



Philip Metschan said...

In a nutshell DIRECT v3

BenRG's comments are right on the money. Congratulations on your appointment and I wish you all the best in this most challenging and important of endeavors.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad that the Augustine Commission has been formed to review the human space flight program. I know you will do your best to recommend a path for NASA that is viable and robust.

Direct v3 seems like the culmination of hard work from people who want NASA to succeed. I hope you reach a position expediantly as our ability to change course decreases as time passes.

Whatever your conclusions, you have my support.

Todd Martin said...

Thank you Leroy for the opportunity to comment!

1. I support CxP since we have already devoted time and money into the program. If we switch to another design, I fear longer delays and more costs.
2. I support a permanent manned presence on the moon. That commitment would require infrastructure which in turn would ultimately lower the cost of doing business in space.
3. Insist that the rocket support the desired payload requirements. Compromising on requirements leads to longer design cycles, higher costs, less capability, and conflict between design teams.

Neil Fraser said...

There are a lot of opinions here about what the next step should be (COTS, man-rate EELV, drop Ares I, Direct 2.0, etc). But please learn from history and look at all the started and cancelled NASA projects: Dynasoar, Apollo 18+, Skylab B, MOL, X-30 NASP, X-33 Venture Star, X-34, X-38 CRV, SS Freedom, Space Exploration Initiative and countless unmanned projects.

We seem to have an attention-deficit disorder which creates a trail of unfinished projects and wasted opportunities. Good luck trying to turn this ship around.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Congratulations Dr. Chiao and thanks for the opportunity that you're giving us to express our views on the future of our space program.

My views are pretty simple. We don't need another lunar sortie program (Constellation). We already did that. It was called Apollo!

We need a Moon base: a permanently and continuously growing manned lunar facility.

NASA should have established a permanent Moon base back in the 1980's. If we had, we'd probably already have a permanent base on Mars by this time and would probably be on the way towards exploiting the natural resources of our solar system.

But if we're going to build a base on the Moon, we're going to need heavy lift capability again. That's why the development of the Ares V needs to be NASA's number one priority.

The Ares V should enable us to easily land 15 to 20 tonnes on the lunar surface per launch. Remote controlled robotic machines could then assemble and shield (with lunar soil) the lunar facility. Astronauts could then be sent to a moon base that is already assembled and ready to accommodate them.

Lunar astronauts need to stay at the lunar facility at least 1 or 2 years at a time. We need to know if humans can remain healthy under a 1/6 hypogravity environment over a sustained period of time. We also need to know if we can economically exploit the lunar regolith for oxygen and grow food at the lunar facility.

Continuously roving solar powered robots could be used to explore the entire surface of the Moon bringing back rocks and soil to the lunar base for return to Earth. This would be a lot cheaper and safer that some manned multiple sortie program.

A permanent lunar base would also be an important symbol of hope for Americans and for the world. In less than a decade, people could look up at the Moon and know that the human species has now expanded its civilization to our nearest celestial neighbor in the sky!

Unknown said...

Dr. Chiao, I hope that you and the commission recommends that NASA continue to fly crews (albeit on a safer vehicle than shuttle) and establish a heavy-lift vehicle for exploration.

The gap may be ugly, but pressing "RESET" 4 years into a program - a program that is answering to the policy mandated and fitting within the allotted budget profile (albeit at the expense of schedule) - that will both fly crews safer and reestablish a U.S. heavy-lift capability just seems really ugly.

It is my hope that Constellation is funded properly and that funding is maintained until we put boots on Mars or a NEO.

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Regarding the future of US human spaceflight, my preference is along the lines set up previously. First, go to the moon, then Mars or asteroids. If we decide to go to Mars or an asteroid, I'm afraid it will become like Apollo, a one shot deal. By going to the moon, we could learn how to live self sufficiently and without being able to go back to earth immediately in case of trouble.

Mark said...

First of all, congratulations on your appointment. You've taken on a very difficult but important job.

About two years ago I wrote some detailed policy ideas about how to further the dream of opening up the space frontier. Those can be found here:

Instead of arguing for this rocket idea or that, I'd like the panel to consider broader policy initiatives than just having NASA do this or stop doing that or change something else. We should get away from the notion that NASA is the sole instrument for furthering national goals in space. It's an important agency, but it is still a government agncy with all that implies. I would suggest consideration of such things as tax breaks for commercial space efforts, more prize competitions, property rights on other worlds such as the Moon, ITAR reform, and other measures designed to expand the participation of privat business in space.

Unknown said...

Ironically Ares I is going through same road that Venture Star travelled long time ago.

And You might think that NASA learns from mistakes...

Mike2 said...

If the commission finds show-stopper problems with the current programs, then recommend a fix. But *only* if they are real show-stoppers. If they are not show-stoppers, then don't revamp the current (Cx) program.

NASA has had an incredible series of stops and starts with every program since Shuttle as each new administration or administrator came in and put their "spin" on what they thought we should be doing, hence resetting spaceflight back to square one and wasting a heck of a lot of effort. Only do a program reset if *absolutely necessary* because of show-stoppers. Better is the enemy of good enough. Program changes = program waste.

The best output of the Augustine commission would be to "stay the course" with Constellation (maybe adjust schedules if they are unrealistic within the budget envelope, since they were set politically) and simultaneously keep side-activities for less-reliable backups (commercial) and high risk alternatives (new propulsion technologies). There are lots of good suggestions on this forum for such alternatives which should be side activities. But don't put those poor NASA guys though another politically motivated or "my idea is better than yours" course change. The budget can't afford it, and man's expansion into space can't afford such a setback either.

Scott said...


Thanks for taking the time to listen to folks' opinions; here are my thoughts.

NASA's most immediate Human Spaceflight related issue is the requirement to reach LEO and service the ISS. The prospect of buying rides to orbit from our Russian friends until 2015 (or longer) is simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that there are off-the-shelf alternatives available to close the US human spaceflight gap.

Despite what the ESAS authors would have you believe, human-rating the EELV(s) would be an obvious and relatively simple solution to near-term LEO access. John Glenn rode an Atlas on America's first trip to orbit. There's no technical reason that, with proper engineering diligence, the descendants of Glenn's Atlas D couldn't launch today's generations of astronauts.

Here are some timelines to consider: It took about 2 1/2 years to convert LC-41 from Titan IV configuration to Atlas V and launch the first EELV. It took roughly half that time to convert SLC-3E from Atlas II to Atlas V. With lots of hard work and dedication, LC-39B could be converted to a human-rated Atlas V pad in something similar to those 2time periods. Were NASA to pour significant resources into accelerating the development of the Orion spacecraft, in parallel to the launch pad conversion effort, the 5-year human spaceflight gap could easily be cut in half.

After addressing the short-term spaceflight issue, the next logical step, from this engineer's perspective, would be to develop a heavy lift capability. From what I've read, both the Direct and Ares V vehicles can adequately support the lunar and planetary missions. The decision as to which of those 2 vehicles should be developed should be based solely on technical, cost and schedule considerations.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read this, and best wishes to you and the Augustine Commission.

Anonymous said...

One thing we learn in the aerospace biz is that systems are around for a long time (DC-3, B-52, Shuttle). So it is important not to let the tail wag the dog, i.e. don't let short term cost savings drive your decisions. If we use the next system for 50 years, what is the 50 year life cycle cost?
So I am strongly in favor of a parallel launcher technology program that looks at systems besides vertical rockets to lower launch costs. Specific impulse is a key, and Ares I is a step backwards. Please look at other systems, including horizontal takeoff.

Bob Steinke said...

My suggestion relates to the following objective from the comission charter:

3.c) stimulating commercial space flight capability

Please interpret this objective to mean that NASA should create infrastructure to enable access to space for private citizens, companies, and non-governmental organizations; not just NASA astronauts.

We don't judge the success of the interstate highway system by how many miles are driven by department of transportation employees. Likewise, the goal of commercial space flight should be to enable non-governmental use of space, not just governmental use of space with contractor built hardware.

aji said...

Hello Leroy
Congratulations on your appointment to review a very important topic

Please find some reading material:
The above is Baseline for CxP and its mission to explore.

Please refer to the documents below for a better understanding of what might be necessary.

No, we do not have all the answers, NASA however ignores this fact.

Best wishes and keep in mind what is need to conduct the truly difficult mission to explore the solar system with Humans.

Kt Top Dad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kt Top Dad said...

This is a post to other posters on this blog and in this community.

I would like to point out that the "sunk cost fallacy" keeps appearing in this discussion. To argue that NASA must continue with the Ares I/V vehicles because "so much money" has been spent to-date is an argument that is emotionally appealing, but logically weak.

The argument that we must continue along the Ares path because we’ve spent so much money and time on it is flawed in two basic ways. Not all of the money that’s been spent will be “wasted” if NASA chooses to pursue another LV architecture. Of the money that has been spent and that only applies to the Ares architecture, “staying the course” may not be the best way to make best use of the experience and material that’s been gained for that money.

"Don't throw good money after bad" is an adage that may apply here. If, after considering all of the options on the table, the best way forward in terms of cost, time and capability is the Ares, then that’s the program we should move forward with. However, zero weight should be given to the money spent to-date on the program – that’s yesterday’s news. Everything that has been spent has gotten us to where we are. Now we must decide how to get to where we want to go from our current position.

A large part of the resources (money, man-hours, design work, etc.) that have been spent to-date will apply to more programs than just the Ares. Mr. Griffin pointedly stated more than once that one of his primary goals as head of NASA was to regain the institutional knowledge/skills for actually developing a launch system. That experience applies to *any* LV that NASA develops from this point forward. Basically, a *large* portion of the money spent to-date will be just as applicable to EELV-based Orion delivery solutions, Jupiter-based solutions or COTS-based solutions.

ISS Flight Software Engineer

Paul Breed said...

Find a way to make the competitive commercial market work to solve the problem. An on-orbit assembly with commercial LOX deliveries would be a good start.

Taking 1% of the budget and applying it to a market creation or prize/effort for the high risk new space companies would go along way to doing this.

Just adding a 5M 1kg orbital barely LEO RLV prize to the centennial challenges would be a good low cost start.

Paul March said...


Thanks much for taking the time to read thru all our posts. That said being a space cadet for 62 years now and working at JSC as an electrical engineer in the Space Shuttle, ISS and Project Orion programs, NASA needs to modify its current ESAS course back to the original intent of President Bush’s January 14, 2004 Moon, Mars and Beyond speech. We need to utilize what we have in hand right now to minimize the gap between the Space Shuttle retirement and the first operational flight of its replacement, which still includes for the next few months at least the Space Shuttle production facilities, and the International Space Station (ISS) and DoD EELV Atlas-V and Delta-IV space launchers.

In the near term, use the already flying EELV’s to launch the Orion crew capsule into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), use the existing Space Shuttle components such as the LOX/Hydrogen SSMEs, 4-segment SRBs and 8.4m diameter External Tank (ET) tooling to build a medium/heavy lift (50-to-100 metric tons) launcher system optimized for a 2-flight architecture that can take us back to the Moon, as exemplified by the Direct 3.0 Jupiter design studies that can be used to also service the ISS. Next help establish a set of fueling depots in LEO and the Lagrange points that are built and install by commercial vendors with NASA as their anchor tenant. And as the final near-term program we need to fully utilize the ISS to answer the physiological questions surrounding deep space acclamation of the human body to the space environment over months to years. The biggest question to be answered in my view for this venue is what is the minimum gee loading a human needs to keep the body’s muscles, bones, immune system AND male and female reproductive systems in good operating condition, for we already know that long term zero gee flight is NOT a healthy proposition for either sex. If this takes adding a large scale variable speed (0-to-0.5 gee) centrifuge to the ISS that astronauts can live and work in, so be it, but until we know what the minimum long term gee loading is for humans we can’t make rational plans for putting human outposts or colonies on the Moon, Mars or Beyond.

For the long term NASA needs to get out of the space launch business and just buy its LEO cargo needs from commercial freight services at first, and then cargo services to the Moon when a viable commercial market exits for the Earth-Moon environment. That one change in its operating mode will allow it to put the bulk of its resources where it should have been doing so all along. That being performing the research and development of the new sciences and technologies needed to make deep spaceflight affordable, much faster, and safer than current rocket technology will ever allow. Using that newly developed set of propulsion, power and environmental technologies, it should build a family of new deep space X-vehicles that will show the commercial folks how it can be done and then get out of the way and let the commercial folks do it for them. With that new space fleet we can then seriously consider establishing crewed outposts anywhere in the solar system where our political, scientific, and/or commercial interests dictated.

Meanwhile NASA should continue its good support of robotic missions throughout our solar system while we continue the development and operation of deep space telescopes that can look for other Earths around other stars in our galaxy. Other star systems where our great or great-great grandchildren may be able to go to live during the next century.

Buck said...

Cost is everything. If it costs too much to build the Shuttle follow-on, we'll have too few vehicles to do anything useful. If it costs too much to launch, we'll be hamstrung by the cost to launch a pound to orbit.

It's probably time for a commercial launch facility. Someone motivated by profit to compete with ESA and Russia to get payloads in orbit.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on joining the panel!

Some ideas (hardly original):

- Turn over LEO and ISS to the private sector (including EELV as well as SpaceX). It's now within their reach.

- Come up with a better humans-beyond-LEO architecture. Ares I is too small and duplicates EELV capability. Ares V is too much too soon - too costly to fly often.

Maybe a mid-size booster closer to DIRECT's for heavier lifting. If we really must lob crewed capsules into LEO by themselves, then use EELVs.

- Focus on flying more and engineering less. That's not a KSC vs. Marshall bias. It's just getting more bang for taxpayer buck.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

I have a ton of comments, actually, but if I were to stick with just one, I'd like to say that what prevents us from getting anything accomplished is too many changes in direction. I just wish that NASA would pick a direction and stick with it long enough to actually fly hardware instead of announcing programs with great fanfare, doing engineering analysis for two or three years, and then cancelling the program (without fanfare) before anything flies.

I'm just getting tired of Brownian motion.

Ryan McCabe said...

Your Q: Where should America's manned spacecraft go? How can we do it within the proscribed budget?

My A:

We should have the capability to go anywhere in the Inner Solar System by 2030. Landing a manned crew on Mars by this deadline would effectively demonstrate this capability. Lunar sorties and visits to NEOs between 2020-2030 would be excellent stepping stones.

These goals are affordable within today's budget if we make efficient use of the space infastructure we have today. It is absurd that it will cost upwards of $20 billion for the Ares I + Orion combo. The key to efficient and low-cost space programs are to minimize labor requirements. NASA needs to be an exploration program and not a jobs program.

But ultimately, if we want to create more useful opportunities in space for private industry, NASA must receive more funding.

Danny Deger said...

Hi Leroy,

This is Danny Deger. You may remember me. I was a control/prop instructor from 1990 to 1995. I was the Entry Guy.

I was knee deep in OSP and early CxP. I know what I am talking about from first hand experience.

Look at man rating a Delta IV Heavy or having ULA complete the Atlas V Heavy. Both would make fine vehicles to take Orion into LEO. The ESAS was heavily biased toward the stick and at the time the human rating requirements required many changes to an EELV. Now the human rating requirements are such that it will not take a lot of work to man rate one.

For heavy lift, go ahead and use boosters that use 4 segment SRBs. 8.4 meter tank, and SSMEs.

Doing all of this will save a LOT of money that will be used to develop the Ares I and V under the current plan.

Before you decide to continue to develop the Ares I, take a long hard look at thrust oscillation. I think it has lots of problems still. Also consider that if the mitigation system fails, Ares I can kill the crew.

Last, keep in mind that Ares I and V are NASA's designs. Expect NASA to be heavily biased toward their design (for example the NASA analysis of Ares I LOC is seriously flawed). I recommend talking directly to ULA on EELVs and there is a team of NASA engineers developing a booster called "Direct" you can contact to look at a heavy lifter without nearly the development effort of Ares V.

Good luck to you and the rest of the Commission.

Danny Deger

Colin Doughan said...

With Apollo, Kennedy jumped America over the river. Although grand, we forgot to build the bridge for others to follow. Let's not make that mistake again. Whatever you recommend, promote infrastructure development. Ask yourself this question, When the Government eventually cancels whatever ESAS becomes, will others be able to follow? Help America build the bridge to the heavens. Congrats on the appointment!

Colin Doughan said...

A few Infrastructure Ideas:
-ISS Resuply
-Lunar COTS (start now)
-Orbital Assembly

matt808 said...

There is already a lot of input here, so I will attempt to keep it short.

1. Ban NASA from conducting LEO launches.

This would require LEO access to be acquired commercially, bolstering the private sector. NASA is competing with the private sector by developing Ares rockets and this is not the best way to apply government resources. The path to LEO has been blazed, NASA's job is done here. I know this would seem controversial in the case of human space flight, but it has to happen some time. Why not now, during a natural time of change? Feel free to move on!

This would also free up development budget to develop the spacecraft that will be launched to LEO via commercial carriers and for the next item.

2. Focus NASA on building infrastructure in space.

If NASA is focused on investing in infrastructure in space that leads us beyond LEO, it will do more to blaze a trail to the Moon and beyond than anything else. Things like orbital refueling stations, systems to ferry between LEO and GEO, or LEO and lunar insertion orbit, in-situ resource utilization, space based solar power. Build stuff that stays in space. Build stuff that gets used over and over again. Build stuff that can be self sustaining. The mission/sortie mindset needs to be replaced with something more like a railway or highway system with their support infrastructure. You can start simple, but this would represent a huge leap, but it is a necessity if we want to go beyond the Moon.

Rick Boozer said...

As others have said in their posts, Ares I and V are too costly to develop and fly. Direct may be somewhat cheaper to develop, but not a lot cheaper to operate than Ares V.

NASA has a lot of experience with in-orbit assembly with ISS that they are ignoring. The reason why ISS took so long to build was not because assembly in orbit is overly difficult, it took so long principally because of the Russians financial problems early on. Once an ISS module reached orbit, it was added to the station quickly and easily. Given these facts, using existing launch vehicles to incrementally construct a modular interplanetary exploration vehicle along with an in-orbit fuel depot would be considerably less expensive to operate than either Ares V or Direct.

Neil Fraser said...

rboozer, ISS could have been lifted with two launches of a Shuttle-C, Ares V or Saturn V. As opposed to ten years of round the clock shuttle/proton launches (and counting). Do not underestimate the awesome power of heavy lift. We had it in the 1960s. We threw it away.

Phil Smith said...

I support using the EELV (Atlas 5 and Delta 4) for use in human spaceflight. I think Ares should be scuttled and DIRECT is not as as good an option. We have already invested in these vehicles and they are indeed capable of handling our plans to go to orbit, near Earth asteroids and the Moon.


According to my assessment of the NASA budget projections and numbers from DIRECT's "Rebuttal of NASA’s October 2007 DIRECT 2.0 Analysis Findings" (May 18, 2009), the Ares program will cost about $35.8 billion to develop. This does not include operational costs.

According to the DIRECT rebuttal, its Jupiter vehicle program would cost about $15.6 billion to develop. Much cheaper, and therefore a better deal.

However, according to a report released in April 2009 by The Aerospace Corporation, development for Orion capsules launch aboard an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELVs, the Atlas 5 and Delta 4), the total development cost would be even less. About $1.45 billion would be needed, mostly to modify launch pads and other infrastructure. I could not find cost analysis for payload adapters and the addition of certain redundant systems, but those costs can be expected to be less that the $15.6 billion for Jupiter.

So, from a budget standpoint, the EELV-Orion option looks better. Other reasons EELV is a good option for human spaceflight:
--Proven flight systems.
--Vehicles can be used for military and commercial payloads.
--To realize full potential of EELV investment, launch frequency must go up. This can happen if NASA uses these for human spaceflight.
--Flexibility - variants of each EELV can be employed for different missions, increasing efficiencies.
--Use of EELV encourages on-orbit assembly, instead of using a single vehicle (like Jupiter or Ares 5) to launch a complete system. The former is valuable experience for working in space.
--NASA can and should procure EELVs commercially.
--In at least some accident scenarios, if an Atlas 5 fails, a Delta 4 can still be used while an investigation takes place and vice-versa.

Philip Metschan said...

Phil Smith

Well thought out but whether anyone wants to address it or not an "all EELV" solution would be nothing short of a complete decimation of the NASA manned spaceflight workforce and therefore is a political non-starter. Unless of course you believe the only financials worth worrying about are the cost of hardware, and that manned spaceflight is free from political considerations.

Not attempting to dispute your logical conclusion but let's be honest there is more to this issue than just the LV to consider

Ray said...

Here are some resources that may be useful:


by Dave Masten of Masten Space Systems


The Once and Future Moon by Dr. Paul Spudis - This is essential reading for a return to the Moon. If we're going to go to the expense of returning to the Moon, sorties will not be worth it. Dr. Spudis describes the type of approach we need to make the big effort pay off.


Commenter (now Major Tom) in blogs such as Space Politics is critical of ESAS, but also very much on target in my opinion. I'd check some of those comments.


What I'd like to point out with this one is in the comments. "sc220" describes an approach to human space exploration that starts with an emphasis on telerobotics and exploration to multiple orbital destinations. Just search for "sc220" in the linked post. (My comments there are under "red"). I find this to be a quite interesting approach with a lot of advantages, although I have no problem with the VSE/lunar start if done correctly (putting much more emphasis on commercial rather than cost-plus space, economic/science/security/other benefits to the taxpayer, and international participation, as the VSE intended).


This is the Planetary Society Roadmap with a path from Lagrange Point satellite servicing to NEOs to Mars, with less emphasis on the Moon. They also want more Earth observations. I see 2 flaws in this Roadmap. First, it doesn't emphasize commercial participation (or at least it doesn't explain how to bring in commercial participation - I think it offers opportunities for it though). Second, it doesn't tie the Earth observations to the human spaceflight missions. The place I think the Planetary Society roadmap should start is satellite servicing of Earth observation satellites in LEO, then GEO, then go to L-points, making a connected and logical whole out of these 2 Roadmap strands. Satellite servicing is tempting because of the huge potential for commercial participation - tugs, refueling, point-to-point spacecraft, etc, allowing NASA to move outward.

Beyond these links, I'd like to also make a few notes:

- One of the important hoped-for events in human spaceflight is the beginning of commercial reusable suborbital rockets. These won't get you to the Moon or Mars directly, but I think they hold a great deal of promise at multiple levels. It seems within the scope of the Commission to consider NASA use of these vehicles in a ticket-purchasing arrangement for numerous purposes.

- ISS support is important, as well as making ISS the ultimate success by encouraging commercial space stations and labs (eg: Bigelow, DragonLab) to complement and follow it. In addition to COTS A-D being crucial, additional support would be good there, even if it slows the exploration side down a bit. One concept that deserves a closer look is a cost-effective micro-reentry craft to take small samples from space stations to Earth for frequent analysis in labs on Earth.

- The original VSE, the Aldridge Commission, and the HSF Review Commission's charter all emphasize commercial space, sustainability, and affordability. There's a reason for that, and many would agree that the current ESAS approach doesn't live up to these requirements.

RangerPL said...

I think that DIRECT v3 is the best way to go. The first Ares I launch has already been pushed back far enough and Ares V may become the victim of spending cuts. Further, it requires rebuilding many of the Shuttle facilities, something that will cost further cash. The DIRECT launch vehicles can be built out of parts already manufactured for the Shuttle program and requires fewer infrastructural changes. DIRECT will come sooner, be safer and more economic. I think there shouldn't be much debate over this.

Moose said...

-For basic return-to-LEO, speed and affordability are the key. To me, that says "buy EELVs." Ares I is not the villain it's being made out to be, it's just redundant when there are existing boosters to be had.

-The Manned space program's short-term destination doesn't matter as much as it's long-term ability to go beyond that destination. The problem with Apollo was that it was only good at putting people on the Moon, STS could only put people or hardware in LEO. We need an open-ended architecture, with the flexibility to go beyond without requiring yet another start from scratch. Ares V draws a great deal of ire over it's cost, but it would be the last booster we need to design for 50+ years. You know as well as anyone that asking humans to to live in a >30mt capsule for long term is a tall order, Ares V can make it so they nobody has to. Ares V's up-front cost now pales in comparison to doing something else and trying to do a new HLV later.

Alan said...

Congratulations on your appointment to the Augustine Commission, with such expertise on this commission I would expect new and innovative solutions to the issues that plague the sustainability of manned space policy. While I support the basic premise on which the VSE is based I do not understand how we can sustain the policy when the manned, orbital space flight sector is not generating revenues independent of government funded programs.

I also fail to understand why we have taken a technological step backward in launch architecture with the Aries designs. While the space shuttle did not meet the targets originally established in 1972, it was a great first step. I feel that reusable spacecraft & launch vehicles remain the only viable option for reducing launch cost over the long term. I believe we should take what we have learned from the space shuttle design, both good and bad, and begin designing the next generation reusable spacecraft. I base my belief on the fact that short of a major breakthrough in physics, chemical rockets will remain the only practical method for reaching space in the foreseeable future. While expendable rocket will cost less in the short term, reusable spacecraft will be an important tool in reducing cost in the long term and allow us to keep our competitive edge over the competition.

Thank you for the opportunity to post opinions on your website and I wish you and the rest of the commission the best of luck.

Unknown said...

Reconsider using EELV based approaches. After all they played a major role in NASA's own OSP program under O'Keefe/Steidle, and preliminary designs/studies for manned launches were done finding both Delta4 and Atlas5 applicable.

They are both currently operational vehicles with quite a few flights under their belts, used by such demanding cusomers as DOD, NRO and multi-billion dollar NASA science payloads. Why not for NASA human exploration? In fact, I'm surprised it wasn't the first choice for Orion's LV to begin with. Seems like an obvious route in retrospect.

Tnanks for consideration.

mmajeski said...

Dr. Chiao,

First off, congratulations on being appointed to the panel! I am glad that NASA's exploration plans are being reviewed, as many have already said, things have gotten quite out of hand.

I will keep my suggestion short, as it has already been echoed on here several times. I feel the Direct 3.0 architecture is the best way forward.

I hope the panel considers Direct, as well as any other alternatives in its studies. Many have been wishing for a fair and balanced review for a long while.


Mike Majeski

Phil said...

Our highest priority should be developing a reliable, inexpensive means to achieve low Earth orbit. We could do this by restarting the X-33 and building a ramp assist system. This Web site describes the concept in detail:

(I have no ulterior motive; it's a great site but I did not produce it.)

Unknown said...

I want the direction to be outward. I would prefer Mars which is what I suggested to the 1st Augustine commission. But anywhere beyond LEO would be fine. I also do not think the Shuttle should not be retired until we have something better to replace it. It just lacks common sense the way we are just throwing it away while we look at a 5+ year gap. It you have a truck company and you want to upgrade your fleet. You do not park your trucks and pay a taxi company to carry your loads while you wait 5 years to get your own taxi's. Yes it will cost more to keep flying while you develope your next vehicle. That is the way it is with any business while developing a new product. Thanks for your time and best wishes.

Mark Adler said...

Dear Dr. Chiao,

Thanks for asking.

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the little things. What is the right launch architecture to replace the Space Shuttle? What do we do with Space Station? Do we go to the Moon? To Mars? To Asteroids? On what schedule? On what budget? Etc., etc.

I would urge you to at least initially step back from all that. The real questions in my mind are: What is the role of human space flight in the broad national agenda? How do we realistically (emphasis on realistically) expect human space flight to impact us as a species in the next, say, one hundred years? Where do we want to be as a country and as a planet with respect to human space flight one hundred years from now? What is the role of NASA as a governmental agency and other governments to enable that vision? What is the role of private enterprise?

Those are really hard questions. But answers to those questions, however they are arrived at, will provide a solid grounding from which to derive an architecture for the NASA of the next twenty years.

Here are some of my opinions on the guiding principles. First and foremost, NASA is an applied research organization, whose purpose is to take on risk that private enterprise will not. The model in my mind is NASA's predecessor, NACA, which successfully pushed the envelope of atmospheric flight. Private industry followed and benefited, and in fact still benefits from those efforts. NASA should always be pushing the limits. NASA should never be trying to build a "routine" capability. Long before it is even close to being routine, NASA should be taking the next step, the next risk. That is what is absolutely required to both keep the unique workforce at NASA engaged, and for the taxpayer to see value in NASA.

Second, to be realistic about the expectations of human activity beyond Earth. There is a tremendous amount of passion out there for the human expansion into space, which is encouraging, but is accompanied by wildly optimistic claims of how we will make money in space from mining resources (Helium 3 is a favorite), to colonization when we learn how to "live off the land" (where "the land" is silicate dirt with no atmosphere). It is extremely difficult to build a business case for these sorts of things without assuming orders of magnitude decreases in launch costs. The only realistic profit application of human space flight that I'm aware of is tourism. Which brings me to my third principle.

Third, NASA should be developing successive generations of launch technologies to lower cost and increase reliability. They should be doing it often, e.g. once every eight to ten years. After NASA flew the Space Shuttle for about five years, they should have figured out what was wrong with it with respect to cost and reliability, and started immediately on Space Shuttle 2.0. By now we would be about to deploy Space Shuttle 4.0. Perhaps private industry would have picked up on Space Shuttle 2.0 or 3.0 and started using it for commercial applications. We should have done this instead of what we did, which was to first try to make everyone a Space Shuttle 1.0 customer, and failing that, creating our own, enormous Space Shuttle 1.0 customer called the Space Station. I don't know what Space Shuttle 3.0 or 4.0 would look like, but I bet it would look very different from 1.0, much more reliable and safe, more reusable, and with much lower operational costs. All of this should be treated as a continuing flight test program, where the objective is not to build space stations or go to the Moon, but instead to develop and refine our ability to get into orbit and to return. This by itself would justify the existence of NASA by enabling and enhancing space tourism much as NACA did for air travel. Tourism is perhaps our only shot at getting the sheer volume of human space access required to really reduce cost.

[continued in a following comment -- there is a 4096 character limit]

Mark Adler said...

[continued from a previous comment]

Fourth, scientific applications of human space flight should be done by NASA, but it must be guided by scientists and measured in terms of real scientific progress through peer-review. These activities would not use the flight test vehicles, but rather the vehicles deployed by private industry for commercial and defense applications. Just like the robotic side of NASA, which relies on the commercial launch market.

Fifth, sending people to destinations in space is not an end in itself, and should not be promoted as such. The world has moved on since Apollo, and the ability to impress other nations with our space flight muscles has worn a little thin. Soon everyone will be doing it. Sending people to space stations, to the Moon, asteroids, or Mars for scientific reasons would be the job of NASA, but only after comparing the relative scientific return per dollar of alternatives, such as robotic missions. Sending people to such destinations for commercial return should be left to private industry. If a good business case can be made for a particular destination, then again NASA should step up to do the applied research to make those destinations accessible with ever increasing reliability and affordability. If we want to do the Everest thing (we climb it just because it's there, and in fact only because it's there -- there is no commercial or scientific application of Everest other than tourism), then it will have to be when the cost is down to the level of funding comparable to or at least within an order of magnitude of those sorts of expeditions. If we can't find a good scientific or business reason to send people to Mars, then it will have to wait until it is cheap enough to be funded by National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Or some insanely rich person.

Sixth, we should not assume that the colonization of space is inevitable and imminent and base our strategy on that. I have yet to see Antarctica colonized, even though it has abundant pressurized gaseous oxygen and frozen water. Outposts in Antarctica are limited to science and tourism and have been for decades. I can imagine that will be the case for the Moon for a very long time. As much as I'd like to see humans establish an ability to survive off of the Earth with complete and total independence as a form of species insurance, that could be centuries away. This best thing we can do now to make that an eventual possibility is to lower the cost of access to space, and to understand first how to live on Earth in a sustainable way. We've got a long way to go on the latter.

So those are my suggested principles. As I understand the charter of the Augustine panel, your focus is human space flight, so I have not addressed the other missions of NASA. Briefly, I believe that the aeronautics side should continue in the spirit of NACA to do the enabling and risky applied research in atmospheric flight. I believe that the science side should continue to do outstanding (peer-reviewed) Earth, planetary, and astrophysics science missions in space. I believe that NASA should continue to perform and fund applied research in those areas that enable new robotic and human capabilities in space.

I wish you and your panel the best of luck with your difficult task.

David said...

Thank you for asking this question and opening it up to hear other people's ideas. I think it's important that this process be open to the ideas of the public. The more open the Augustine Commission is, the more the public will trust the decision that is made. All I want is for the right decision to be made and then for our government to support that decision fully. Below is something I wrote to the President through his transition webpage:

Funding AND supporting NASA can help meet 2 of the main agenda items listed on President Obama's transition web page: Revitalizing the Economy and Renewing American Global Leadership

We can not be left behind in space. We must continue to push new frontiers and when we have paved the way we should pass it on to private companies who will continue the work and create new jobs and industries. Companies like Scaled Composites and SpaceX are beginning to "settle" on that frontier that NASA first reached in the 60s.
Now NASA must push beyond LEO and continue our expansion into space. We need to go to the moon and beyond. India and China both have solid plans to send men to the moon by 2020 and the Europeans and Russians have their own moon goals as well. In the 60s and 70s we sent men to the moon and it seemed that there was nothing that could hold back American ingenuity and innovation. The world looked at us in awe. We must not lose this global leadership.

Sending people to the moon would help revitalize our economy because it will create many new jobs to help support this undertaking. We will need all types of people to help build, design, and manage a manned space exploration program to the moon. In addition to that, the space infrastructure that would be created to set up permanent moon bases should also help in the reduction of costs to reach Earth orbit. Low costs can also lead to the creation of 100% green power sources like Space Solar Power Satellites. All that leads to even more economic revitalization.

Also, if you look at it from a longer term perspective, when moon bases become more common private corporations will start to pick up where NASA has left off. Why should private corporations go to the moon? Well the moon seems to have huge amounts of He-3 under its surface, and on Earth this isotope is very rare. It is hoped that one day this will be used as a fusion power source. How useful can He-3 be for life here on Earth? 25 tons of it (which could be carried back on just one space round trip) can power the entire U.S. for one year. With this amount we could replace all fuels that we pay for essentially making the helium 3 worth about $3 billion per ton.

In terms of inspiration I can't think of anything more inspiring than continually trying to do the impossible. As JFK once said:
"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?...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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. "

In this country we constantly complain about the state of our education and our lack of a new generation of scientists and engineers, but why should our students strive to achieve these careers? Yes, we have many challenges in medicine and energy, and I agree that these are very important and they can be inspiring to many, but exploration and new discoveries are what have pushed the boundaries of human imagination. In ancient times people looked at far away mountains and oceans and wondered what was beyond. They wondered and then they worked to find out and in the process pushed mankind forward. If you wanted to know what their goal was they just needed to point to that nearest mountaintop or to the ocean. Today, we can look to the sky and point to the moon.

James said...

In order to retain critical skills in the short term, I recommend the STS program be extended, at least until it looks like a viable successor (whatever that may be) is built and has been proven to be flight worthy. In other words, let's not terminate the only viable space transportation system we have until we know for certain that there will be a replacement. Let's not have a gap, or at least let's not have a large gap. STS is safer than it has ever been and continues to complete outstanding missions (i.e. HST servicing among others).

The most obvious next step beyond LEO is the moon. Let's grasp the low hanging fruit and develop an infrastruture there that will be useful for advancing our civilization on Earth and helping us learn to live in deep space.

I feel that going back to the capsule architecture is a step in the wrong direction. I am disgusted by the thought of all the engine hardware that will be thown away every mission. Surely we can do better. I would recommend a lifting body style vehicle instead of a capsule. After all we have all the infrastructure already in place for a vehicle that can make a runway landing.

Longer term, after establishing ourselves on the moon with a permanently crewed research facility, branching out to the near earth asteroids and on to Mars is the next necessary step.

So to sum up, my recommendations are:

1. Extend STS until follow on system is clearly ready

2. Ditch the capsule architecture in favor of a lifting body to land horizontally on the SLF

3. Establish a permanent human presence on the lunar surface

4. Begin crewed exploration of near earth objects and Mars once our permanent lunar presence is established

5. Also, provide support to fledgling commercial space initiatives (space tourism and other commericial ventures)

Thank you for giving us this forum to provide our input.

Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Chiao,

I'm sure the panel will consider not only what to do but how to do it. You will remember that the previous Augustine panel recommended the FFRDC model for all NASA centers. This was not implemented, of course. You have been a civil servant, and are now a non-civil servant. Will you please consider whether the FFRDC approach is still an important objective?


Darrell Jan

David W said...

Dr. Chiao,


To gain support from and excite the U.S. citizenry and the world community, NASA should focus on solutions to our energy problems.

We are nearing or at peak production of oil as well as natural gas. Our energy supply is unlikely to meet demand in the near future. There is only so much that we can drill cheaply and easily. When we have to pump deep wells and multiple wells for smaller cavities, the energy invested nears the energy returned.

This is a national and world wide issue. Oil is used not only for gasoline, roads, tires, paints, resins, and plastics, but also in pesticides and fertilizers. Less than healthy soil requires the latter. Food is shipped way beyond local communities again using oil.

NASA should lead the way with applications of existing alternative energy applications such as solar, fuel cell and nuclear. NASA should also consider experimental, outside-the-box energy experiments such as the tethered satellite and space base solar arrays. I'm sure much smarter scientists have other ideas. My point is to focus NASA's brains and expertise on solving energy problems. This will benefit every United States citizen and ought to show that NASA is wisely using taxpayers' money.

Congratulations on your appointment. That you ask for our input shows your leadership and humility. Thank you.


Ginny K. said...

We should proceed with heavy lifter type launch capability like Ares in the short term. We would be well served to do missions to near earth asteroids on a regular basis. Much easier to do without the need for complex landers like those that would be needed for Mars and the Moon. We could learn a tremendous amount about the objects and experiment with ways to alter their trajectories.

Moon Mars Beyond said...

I agree completely with Geoffrey A. Landis astute comment that it is critical at this juncture for NASA to stay with one course. Architectures and plans have to be realized for exploration to proceed, otherwise we may as well outsource human spaceflight to Paramount Pictures.

Good luck Astronaut Chiao!

rmanafrauens said...

It seems very odd to me that NASA finds the Soyuz launch and reentry systems to be of satisfactory reliability to continue to fly US astronauts for 5+ years. Yes there is a long demonstrated history of success/luck, but certainly NASA is not able to directly monitor design and manufacturing details to the level that NASA holds even unmanned launches of US rockets.

The debate about the relative Loss Of Crew numbers between Ares 1and EELV are academic exersises in statistics. The focus should be on NASA and industry collaboration on robust system design, component and integrated testing, and production quality through disciplined process. It really comes down to what it will cost to develop and maintain the chosen system to these high standards.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to contribute.

Doug said...

This is a post from an interested citizen, interested since waking up early to watch the Mercury flights when I was in Jr. High. It seems to me the Space Exploration policy set out in 2004 has things about right. It tells NASA, an organization pretty good at working miracles, to go work miracles. In short order NASA set out to fulfill policy with technical initiatives to build the Consellation hardware. As with any policy initiative however there are important sticking points. These are usually about money and time. When the money is unstable time and technical capability slip. Then political support dries up and another initiative dies. That would be a shame in this case. There is a lot of promise here. I hope the Augustine Commision really looks closely at money, not just sources but utilization, allocation and efficiencies.
On the hardware side the game changer is the Ares V. Imagine what our space program would look like if we had 3 Saturn V's a year to use over the last 30 years. Creating an Ares V program that would give us that kind of capability for the next 30 years could be the basis of extraordinary acheivements.
There will always be arguments about this contract or that design but I think the truth of it is that we are poised for great things. I look forward to reading your report.

Unknown said...

I disagree that NASA should be focusing on Energy Solutions- that's a job for the Department of Energy even if it is a space based solution.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Chiao; I understand you're looking at a future direction for the U.S. space program. Without wanting to sound glib, I'd say that direction is 'OUT THERE!'

The U.S. should NOT be spending -- literally -- decades and billions of dollars more to ONLY go to Low Earth Orbit. Although there's still much valuable work to be done in LEO, in my view, Earth-orbital missions *only* can lead to a sort of mediocrity in the long term.

I know there are many financial and technical challenges ahead for NASA, but the Constellation Program's Ares 1 & V launcher designs and operational architecture are deemed unaffordable by a lot of people a lot smarter than I.

I contend this opinion is *not* exactly true: it's not that the U.S. can't afford huge boosters like the Ares V - it just *chooses not to*. Because nearly 40 years ago, the U.S. virtually junked its Heavy-Lift capability when the Saturn V was cancelled. I urge you and your Augustine colleagues to underline the fact that if the Shuttle-based infrastructure is discarded too, the U.S. would be making the same big mistake TWICE. I urge you all to consider more "pure", pragmatic and sensible Shuttle-derived designs, such as the 'Jupiter-Direct' concept or a relatively-quick and adequate 'Shuttle-C' analogue. Also, I.S.R.U. technology needs to be aggressively pursued, otherwise interplanetary missions could end up being dubbed expensive 'flags & footprints' stunts.

I strongly believe that the Lunar Program should be maintained: Mankind is FAR from finished with the Moon yet. And It is a world in its own right - virtually a planet. The U.S. needs to rebuild its Interplanetary Travel capability and start doing things that are worthy of this still-young, 21st Century. A lunar Outpost is pretty neat, but "extended sorties" (14-28 days) would give a lot of science for less cost than a full lunar base. Perhaps a "Dual-Altair Lander" concept could suffice. By Dual-Lander I mean one Altair has an enlarged "Cabin Module" in place of an Ascent Stage, the other is the arriving crew of 4 who live and work out of the Cabin Module for 14-to-28 days. Make the Cabin Modules re-usable for 3-to-5 missions and deploy a chain of them across the best Lunar landing sites, both near AND farside.

If we can live and work on the Moon - or even get there at all - we should be able to live and work anywhere in the Solar system. But I also strongly urge a philosophy of not treating the Moon as an end to itself: Mars Awaits.

Asteroids: valuable and fascinating destinations but I think the public would get bored quickly with visiting "little rocks in the sky".

Currently, as many may know, the U.S. Space budget is only about 0.06% percent of the overall Federal Budget. If this figure could be grown to an eventual full 1% percent, along with Private Industry partnership, then virtual miracles could occur for a fair price. If taxpayer space-spending could be pegged at a permanent 1% percent rate, during good economic times and bad, the U.S. would get a fair number of missions for a fair, fixed price.


Mars is indeed a worthier goal than the Moon, but right now when it is so hard to *ONLY* go to LEO let alone anywhere else, Mars seems a bit unrealistic in that context.

Finally: even though the world has challenges, some dire - ask yourselves -- Do we want to live in a world and confront all its problems but have *NO* space programs? Or do we want to take on those problems but also be - literally - reaching for the stars as we do so?

Ray said...

Here are some important excerpts from the Vision for Space Exploration. It's a new Presidential Administration, but they strike me as even more relevant today after the Vision for Space Exploration was replaced with the ESAS approach.

"The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program."

Note: the ESAS approach delays all of these goals until well after the government transportation system is built (i.e. decades). We might as well say they have been cancelled, since they depend on speculative reform of politicians and NASA policy in a far-future decade.

"Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service"

A later VSE phrase makes it clear what "acquire" means, and it isn't for NASA to "develop a vehicle" like Ares 1:

"NASA could decide to develop or acquire a heavy lift vehicle"

"NASA will begin its lunar testbed program with a series of robotic missions. The first, an orbiter to confirm and map lunar resources in detail, will launch in 2008. A robotic landing will follow in 2009 to begin demonstrating capabilities for sustainable exploration of the solar system. Additional missions, potentially up to one a year, are planned to demonstrate new capabilities such as robotic networks, reusable planetary landing and launch systems, pre-positioned propellants, and resource extraction."

Note that this lunar robotic exploration and astronaut preparation plan is much more ambitious than the current robotic plan after the ESAS hyper-reduction of the VSE to "building NASA rockets to get to the Moon" ... and there are whole sections of the VSE on other robotic exploration efforts that have been postponed or cancelled.

"Use lunar exploration activities to further science, and to develop and test new approaches, technologies, and systems, including use of lunar and other space resources, to support sustained human space exploration to Mars and other destinations"

That doesn't sound like Apollo with a few extras, or like sorties ...

"NASA does not plan to develop new launch vehicle capabilities except where critical NASA needs—such as heavy lift—are not met by commercial or military systems. Depending on future human mission designs, NASA could decide to develop or acquire a heavy lift vehicle later this decade."

That part of the VSE is directly violated by Ares 1.

"In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles. … Other breakthrough technologies, such as nuclear power and propulsion, optical communications, and potential use of space resources, will be demonstrated as part of robotic exploration missions. The challenges of designing these systems will accelerate the development of fundamental technologies that are critical not only to NASA, but also to the Nation’s economic and national security."

This is very different from ESAS.

"Many of the technical challenges that NASA will face in the coming years will require innovative solutions. ... One way that NASA plans to do this is through a series of Centennial Challenges. ... NASA plans to establish prizes for specific accomplishments that advance solar system exploration and other NASA goals."

Yet since ESAS, NASA Centennial Challenges has only gotten $4M/year in the Administration budget proposals, and $0 in actual funding.

Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Chiao,

These comments are solely my personal opinions.

It is difficult for me to identify mission objectives for the Constellation program that are commensurate with the cost of the program, which is extremely high.

Only a decade ago the ISS and Shuttle were to be used for decades of practical R&D in LEO, and the principal focus of NASA future programs was in developing enabling technologies that would lower the cost of human spaceflight through a new generation of fully reusable spacecraft. The Constellation program has shifted the focus to using legacy hardware to perform near-term manned lunar missions.

Objectives I have heard to justify Constellation:

"We need to expand into the universe."
However, the cost of maintaining a permanent lunar base on the moon with this technology appears unsustainable.
"We need to beat the Chinese."
China has no possible motive for a race; if they lose they will look incompetent, if they win they will irritate their largest customer. And to beat them we would have to borrow the money from them. Moreover, to equate the relationship between the US and the USSR in 1963 to the relationship between the US and China today is facile. China is rapidly becoming our largest trading partner.

Technology development:
"We need to go to the moon to go to Mars."
I am not aware that Congress has suggested that human flight to Mars in the near future is a critical national objective, at the costs required by heritage technology, when we can't even afford a permanent lunar base.

Lunar geology could be done less expensively with automated systems, radiotelescopes on the lunar farside actually have little advantage over terrestrial installations.

Commercial benefits:
Helium-3, if it is ever really usable for fusion, can probably be produced on earth by the fusion-evaporation process more cheaply than it can be transported from the moon. The benefits of medical "spin-off" are limited and could more cheaply have been achieved with direct grants for that purpose.

To summarize, Constellation's practical goals seem limited and poorly defined, and it appears unlikely that public support will be sufficient to sustain the program. There are many tasks of greater practical value to the nation in aviation, the environment, energy, communications and medicine that NASA could perform with these resources. In human spaceflight, NASA should perhaps develop practical reusable launch vehicles and show that it can do useful work with ISS before they abandon LEO and ask for money to send humans to Mars.

Anonymous said...

1. All spacecraft, mission hardware, and designes should be contracted out through a bidding process. No more in house equipment.

2. This seems far out, but adoption of the Orion Drive.

Grant said...

Two thoughts to ponder for the commission:
1) I have heard many complain that we're going back to the moon when Mars holds more inspiration. One, I believe that the difficulty of the operational aspects of expeditionary missions are way underestimated and there are HIGHLY useful lessons that can be learned from the moon--lessons that will prevent a disaster if not learned prior to attempting Mars. Second, I feel that leaping to Mars gives too little inspiration to those on the ground for too many years. It will be 15 years (optimistically) before we start seeing missions relevant to the goal. With the moon, the reward is comes more quickly. Sure asteroids may also be nice, but I would see that as an extention of Moon capability.
2) One problem with Mars and the asteroids is that the common person cannot look up and SEE the asteroid or Mars (the latter if they know where to look they can, but a point of light is not 'real' to non-astronomy persons). The commission should not underestimate the value of the American Public being able to look up and imagine those people walking on the moon, flying around it and flying back and forth. It makes it REAL to them. Otherwise, the space program is just a high-tech video game where what their seeing is just as real as "star trek" movies...without the action.

Speedo said...

NASA needs to engage the public in a collaborative manner. NASA's budget could be better used by creating opportunities for private space ventures to be successful. While potential space faring organizations may have different goals, NASA could use its expertise and resources to lead efforts in mutually beneficial areas. Perhaps in the future NASA will not have astronauts at all, but will rather provide research and engineering advice to a much broader space faring public. The goal should be to make space travel accessible to mankind.

Josh B said...

I think we need to make human space flight so important to the people of the United States--not to mention the world--that to do anything BUT expand into space is economically and culturally unthinkable. Whether this is to be done by NASA or the private sector (or, probably, both) I do not know, but this cannot be a publicity stunt by any means. Asteroid mining, food and medicine production, energy collection, industrialization of space, regular "blue collar" workers living and working in space...we have to make it so that space is just another place to go to work.

As terrible as that sounds, I doubt that it will significantly remove any level of wonder that space generates. We can go to the Grand Canyon from anywhere in the country in less than a day, and stand on its lip and gaze in wonder at the majesty of nature. We can certainly do the same thing with space.

I am not an expert (yet), so I will leave the details to those with experience, but this is something that, in my opinion, has to happen.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Chiao,

(I will break this up into Parts 1 and 2 and 3, as the blog does not take it all…)

Part I

I would like to offer a perspective that comes from many years experience addressing the questions that will face the Augustine committee. As you go about the task ahead of you there will be many offerings ranging from solutions to broad strokes, from justifications to problem statements. I would like to offer just some ingredients, some thoughts that I believe define this moment.

A first thought is that NASA’s role in Human Space Flight must be expressed by the committee. This will sound trivial, as if everyone knows what NASA is supposed to be about, what NASA’s mission is? In practice there is a large chasm between a NASA that explores on its own versus a NASA that wants to enable and grow access to space for many. Your fellow committee member, Jeff Greason, hinted at this divide when he recently spoke about the nature of our space enterprise, as being both public and private. Having contractors is not the same as growing a private sector or enabling an industry over time to stand on its own. One is called buying. The other is called investing. One uses seed corn. The other is seed corn.

A NASA that wants to assist in making human access to space more affordable, safer and routine is not necessarily the same NASA that wants to spend limited resources on its own specific exploration solution. Our previous NASA administrator once said, as regards a question about low-cost access to space, that this was a goal for “another generation”, not ours. NASA can act as an enabler, trying to stir the creation of new markets and transports, as the Federal government did with airports, airlines and airplane manufacturers. NASA can also act unilaterally, as if the mission was a destination, the Moon or Mars, devoid of any consideration of how that enterprise will create the knowledge necessary for others’ to head out to the frontier.

My thought for the committee here is about balance. A small amount of funds for encouraging the development of low cost access to space, through commercialization initiatives such as COTS, as well as a healthy dose of in-house initiatives oriented around low-cost systems, will be loudly complained about by existing programs (or perhaps behind closed doors). That small amount of funding, in the range of a few-hundred million a year, will mean little to the success or failure of these larger programs. Yet a statement of support accepting NASA’s broader “enabling” mission, for it is what we are ultimately about even as expressed in the act that created NASA, may mean all the difference in the future for expanding human access to space. The ultimate reserve is “plan B”, slow and steady, somewhere in the background.

This comes to the second thought. Once again this thought is about balance. In the big scheme of things I believe the NASA budget will see tremendous pressure in the future. Any committee member will have their own ideas about how constrained or how manageable the NASA budget will be for many years to come. From these ideas more specific budget numbers for human space flight, and possible paths, will naturally flow. Committee members may never hear anything about Medicare, an aging baby-boom generation, or interest on the debt. It is easy for those of us in the business to make all sorts of recommendations defending what NASA does, trying to justify a larger piece of the federal budget. Balance, though, has nothing to do with either a dire financial outlook or one where NASA does get those budgets planned back in 2005. A perspective that seeks balance asks - what are the parts of the NASA that we want regardless of funding? The rest is tactical. On this note much balance was lost in 2005 and more seems headed to being lost in the future.

Part 2 follows…

Anonymous said...

Continued, Zapata, Part 2

After 2005 space research and development was essentially decimated. Once half the budget in the range of a billion dollars was taken, the other half of the R&D community was told “see what just happened to those other guys”. Today Space R&D is an indentured servant of Cx, working at best some development and applications that may reach as far as a lunar lander or a habitat, none truly R&D. Balance would once again create (or restore) an R&D arm in NASA that would work an assortment of truly long term technologies. Low cost access to space has already been mentioned. Other areas that offer a path to opening the space frontier must be explored, from hypersonics and advanced propulsion, to materials, from reusable systems to improved manufacturing, from space solar power to breakthrough, affordable solar cells. In any structure this R&D would feed development the most promising work so as to mature those technologies even further.

This brings up the third thought - space systems development. Your committee will be inundated with information. Suffice it to say that if you dig down enough you’ll find that once Orion Ares I and Ares V and Altair are flying, by Constellations own estimates, we will have a recurring yearly cost of about twice the Shuttle’s current cost. Mathematically this would seem impossible? NASA’s budget was only to grow at some low assumed inflation? How did one component “double”? It’s because the entire organization that develops these systems is enlisted to day-to-day operations once the systems are flying. Hence, we will see the decimating of NASA’s development capability in the long term. This has happened before as the Shuttle’s recurring production and operations in the 80’s and 90’s combined with a “non-recurring” but continuous need for fixes, upgrades and mods to divert funding for over a decade from all the future systems that were originally planned after the Shuttle first flew. Hence no Mars, which was planned post-Shuttle, and a space station delayed nearly two decades from what was planned before Shuttle first flew.

“Freed-up” future space systems development funds must be planned hand-in-hand with any future space transportation systems production and operations funds profile. A continuous space systems R&D and new development capability at critical mass funding levels is necessary to enter a virtuous cycle in which improved space system technology and capability enable future recurring space transportation systems that are increasingly affordable, safe and productive. More than funding levels alone, it is the continuous aspect of R&D and new development that must be emphasized. Space systems improvement capabilities can not be consumed or morphed into day-to-day space transport production and operations ever again, as happened with the Shuttle – and as is planned again for Constellation.

Again, this is not an observation assumed or calculated by just anyone, this observation comes from looking at Constellations own estimates for the future.

Part 3 follows…

Anonymous said...

Continued, Zapata, Part 3

Lastly, the International Space Station. It may take a while for the committee to figure out what to say about the station after 2016? Some may not see why anything has to be said at all. This can just be left to a few kind words about its potential and that it should operate as long as it can. I will provide another perspective with more urgency.

The Constellation program assumed 3 years ago that the ISS would be de-orbited in 2016. Those years, 2016 to 2020, Constellation would have nearly $10 Billion dollars available for Lunar development, primarily the Ares V and the Altair lunar lander. Regardless of congressional expressions about seeing to an ISS until 2020 these funds have not been taken out of the Constellation budget expectations. “Special Appropriations” are mentioned or “assumptions” made that Constellation will not be affected by the life of the ISS and its budget as its life extends. This is a dangerous game. We are developing a culture of vultures.

No human space flight enterprise can safely operate a system when a sister-project passes its days thinking how nice it would be if Grandma passed away and left that $2 Billion a year inheritance. This can not be tolerated. This began with a previous administrator calling the ISS a “mistake” (and Shuttle) and the whispers in Constellation continue. Somehow a habitat on the Moon is obviously of more value that one in orbit. And so the culture will devolve.

The committee can firmly end this unproductive denial by stating that the station stays till some year at least (such as 2020) and that the NASA top line will not adjust. Rather, that other programs must adjust. These are the facts on the ground. To linger this question and kick it down the road with recommendations to look at life extension, special appropriations or such is to foster a culture inside an enterprise where the lions in one project look upon another as the zebra. This is unsafe. It will create the sort of neglect that is asking for a station to operate lacking the full support of those back home in corporate. And this is asking for trouble.

These are my thoughts. Will NASA accept its mission to enable routine, affordable, safe access to space? Will there be balance in NASA again; even if that means Constellation has fewer funds for the system to follow Shuttle? Will R&D once again be true R&D focused on long term advances in space systems, including safety and affordability, or will it be reserve for a specific architecture and project? Will future development exist post-Constellation or will it be turned to day-to-day production and operations of a transport? Will the ISS issue be met square on?

I humbly submit these thoughts for your consideration.

Edgar Zapata

ASGSB_ED said...

Dr. Chiao thank you for giving everyone the opportunity to express their opinion. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this.

So where should America’s manned space program go? I would like to introduce a different perspective in addressing this question. In my life, I am fortunate. I have a healthy family, a nice home, a good car to take the kids back and forth to their activities, a steady income, a retirement savings account, and college fund accounts, so why should I care about manned space? What has manned space flight done for me, what can it do for my children, what can it do for those who are not as fortunate as me? Though these questions sound centric, my point is that the manned U.S. space program needs to become relevant to Americans in a positive and peaceful way. Whatever “go” is defined to be, the journey needs to be more than the work done by 15 NASA centers, facilities and in-situ contractors. The manned space program needs to serve this country by inspiring and creating future U.S. engineers and researchers; it needs to stimulate innovative solutions by using academia and industry and translate those solutions to the American people; and it needs to “seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space”. I apologize these are not specific answers, but I contend if you start with a set of basic premises that reflect the agency’s purpose, a manned space program that serves this country will evolve. One thing for sure, it is not the program that is currently implemented today, leadership has been relinquished in so many areas that NASA needs it own recovery plan.

Lastly – how can it be done within the prescribed budget? It can’t - if program implementation remains status quo. NASA was tasked with a vehicle build program with little to no new money since 2004, and the agency suffers from this budget dilemma. Priorities are set by NASA and reset by the federal Congress. It is a schizophrenic funding process. Multi-year funding needs to be considered, similar to ESA’s ministerial council.

Unknown said...

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there.

Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked”.

President John F. Kennedy at Rice University, September 12th, 1962

Forty-eight years ago president John Fitzgerald Kennedy affirmed our nation’s commitment to putting a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s in the most stirring and inspiring speech ever given by any American president concerning our national space goals. In his “We Choose to go to the Moon” speech he asserted the need for the United States to lay claim to a firm leadership position in the new frontier of space and that the U.S. should "do it right and do it first before this decade is out.” The young American president linked our nation’s commitment to the exploration of space to our long term national political and strategic goals during our Cold War battle against the forces of international communism.

Now nearly five decades later we must reassess and reaffirm this nation’s commitment to the high frontier of space and link that commitment to the present political realities we face as a nation in the post 9/11 world. Our present national space objectives must reflect and address our current short and long range national security concerns. And, in order to do this we must choose to return to the Moon and do the other things and state clearly what those other things are precisely.

Yes space is there, the Moon and the planets are still there but, we as a nation are not quite out there yet. Our national space goals should be directed towards forging a spacefaring nation clearly committed to not just getting there but, maintaining a permanent human presence there, and stating concretely why we must be first.

The Cold War is not quite over yet. As a nation we face new adversaries and with some of our old adversaries old habits diehard. Communism and tyranny have not gone away and we face many new dangers in this new millennium. Our national space program must address these dangers and help us attain new long term national and economic security objectives.

We can no longer remain a nation held captive by our political and ideological foes by solely relying on strategic mineral and energy resources controlled by nations and despotic regimes that neither share our democratic values nor our love for individual human liberty.

The space program must prove itself to be "economical sustainable and politically justifiable". A return to the Moon with the aim of developing its vast mineral and energy wealth will provide the corner stone in creating a space program fully geared to help the United States and the Free World confront and meet the challenges of the political, economic, environmental and strategic realities of the 21st century.

So the time has come for the United States to return to the Moon – this time to stay.

Brian said...

Leroy - congrats on being named to the Augustine review commission! You do indeed have a tough job ahead of you. My humble contribution to your efforts is merely to offer you some advice related to paradigms.

Regarding the Mars component of the VSE, don't be blinded by current NASA paradigms. The Mars DRMs offer one view of Mars exploration, but they are based upon several government-centric assumptions. Using other assumptions, human Mars exploration and settlement could be done in half the time and with 10x less up-front investment.

I'll be presenting one such alternate paradigm (SoM) at the upcoming Mars Society conference in DC. If you can't attend for obvious reasons, contact me directly at my SwRI office and I'll give you the short & simple version.

Another interesting paradigm to research is the MarsForLess proposal of Grant Bonin (a Canadian aerospace engineer).

So there's two free bits of advice, hopefully worth far more than what you paid. ;)

Again, good luck on the commission!

Unknown said...

Congrats Sir, for your participation to the committee!

Thank you so much for the opportunity you gave me to express my thoughts in way and to address you as a distinguish astronaut to such an important decision process.
Talking from a cybernetic perspective,
We have to start correlate orders of magnitude from physics combined with orders of magnitude from the biological evolution we are witnessing in Astrobiology and Astrochemistry , and might this would be already a big Alchemy quest process for Nasa as we approaching to dealing with Life in Space.
That means, a new taxonomy projection and classification direction concerning the evolution of life, not in space but from space as well.. And by this we might be surprise a lot about the formations and the possibilities of new knowledge that we have to deal forming life and destinies to other planets in a control manner system for mission explorations.
In a while, it would be not enough to use our satellites as monitoring eyes in every kind of accuracy of the EM spectrum, but also and how we are going to act by distance in a satellite manner, for life construction and reconstruction, and element recombination’s, especially for terra forming to other planets. We have the gene technologies and the wavelength knowledge to evolution life progress as we wanted in a way. And this would be having also a big positive implication to Earth Agriculture.
Yes, it is time from now, to re orient present Earth sciences and departments serving our Big Questions for Life in a manner of leading for excellence not preserving life but also accelerating in a appropriate forms for cases in each planet we want to cultivate for the human mankind, while in parallel we strive for really advanced propulsion systems, so to make not only our astronauts more comfortable in space flight but also to ease the way they will stay on the planet that will visit upon their mission. We need open minds cross fields, beyond budget classifications that can pass over this framework to a viable scenario of exploration in a broader sense of purpose from the beginning. And to make all the necessary accommodations and appendences inside our Universities for more, to create soldiers of the universe in legacy families that really want to build a nation space culture as we want to share this dream as a community and as a country, because these are the communities of the future that they colonize the planets of tomorrow. And for this, we need spirits; good spirits, to drive and “ dimensionize” the nation into its physical projection, to the future. And that is What NASA means by its name.
I am living outside US, and from a kid I was so moved hearing NASA’s every step into space, makes me all the time proud for all of us. We do make already careful and sure steps in space exploration, with all the advancements and the constrains we did facing, but wait a minute , is this NASA?, and please let me say that we are not going to be the carriers of the others nor we are going to lose our mind for accuracy monitoring and modeling, but it is time to put back our ingenuity to rigor the nation to lead by Exotic dreams that comes to reality, with outstanding propulsion breakthroughs, and finding new concepts to Sending our data back to space to seed life, for our life!

Thank you so much for your time.


Unknown said...

Start by developing the Earth-Moon nuclear tug based transportation system and Moon-based automated refueling operation. Transportation system will include locally fueled shuttles from moon to lunar orbit and back, nuclear tugs for LEO-LMO transfers and Earth-LEO next-gen transportation system. No HUGE vehicles where possible. This system will first serve for extensive lunar geological survey program, and to maintain the lunar experiments laboratory bases, where ISRU, living off the ground, biosphere and space life science R&D will take place. Use all the above as the base to begin real "land development" on the moon and to begin human grading the transportation system, and to prepare ground for commercial and government development of the Moon, with the goal of self-sufficient operations. You can start with a science and technology base and a luxury hotel :) And the next step would be to establish on the Moon the infrastructure, based on local resources, to build and launch the spacecraft that would take humanity further beyond - launching from the Moon is much easier and simpler then from Earth. This would complete the process of establishing the Moon as humanity's gateway into space.

Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Chiao,

Thanks so much for being willing to listen.

I have seen both the Shuttle and D-IV processing flows from one end to the other. If an interim capability to LEO is needed, the best alternative is modifying the existing Delta pad at Cx-37 for crew access. This wouldn't be difficult, basically just a new swingarm for crew access and a faster elevator for the FUT. If a higher flight rate is needed, there is even room for a second pad at CX-37.

Modifying LC-39, as CxP intends, requires maintaining the entire VAB infrastructure, MLPs and crawlers, and makes no sense when the existing D-IV infrastructure is a very efficient clean-sheet design and can do the entire job at a tiny fraction of the manpower and cost, and of course is already operational.

For heavy lift, years before CxP Boeing Delta proposed notional designs all the way up to 100MT to LEO, and the larger boosters are all liquid fuel; large solids have considerably higher operational costs, particularly for prelaunch processing, although this is not appreciated in the current CxP plans. I have been unable to even find something as simple as a realistic cost analysis that supports recovering the Ares SRB.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the new assignment, and many thanks for offering us an opportunity to make recommendations. I wish you and your colleagues well in helping put human space flight on a more productive and sustainable course.

I recommend that the committee take a serious look at new strategies for human spaceflight, not just solutions at the extremes (i.e., following the 20th Century Moon/Mars/Beyond paradigm, or gutting human spaceflight altogether). Perhaps something new can come out of taking a hard look at the biggest challenges facing both human and robotic spaceflight, and finding solutions from there. For human spaceflight, it is cost, driven by complexity and the high degree of reliability required for crew operations. This is exacerbated in systems that process large amounts of power (i.e., launch and ascent/descent vehicles) or comprise many independently functioning elements (e.g., ISS assembly, Constellation architecture). For robotic missions, it is also cost, but this is primarily driven by the demand for increasing autonomy and robustness required for independent operation.

One solution that has received some interest recently would abstain from placing humans on the surfaces of the Moon, Mars and planetary bodies with large gravity wells, at least in the near-term. The emphasis would instead focus on deploying crews of scientists into orbit or the vicinity of planetary bodies. From this vantage point, the science teams would conduct extensive exploration of the surface using telerobots and remotely controlled systems. By eliminating the sometimes significant communications latency/delay with Earth (up to 40-minute round-trip with Mars), teleoperation would give scientists real-time control of rovers, aerobots and other sophisticated instruments, thus greatly expanding the scientific return at these destinations. Upon completion of a mission, the crews would return to Earth, and with appropriate maintenance and outfitting in LEO, the spacecraft could be reused for later missions. This approach to exploration is akin to how modern-day oceanographers in submersibles use telerobots to explore inaccessible regions of the ocean.

The main advantage is that the propulsive energies required to go to many destinations within the inner solar system, such as Mars orbit, Lagrange points, near Earth asteroids and even Venus orbit, are quite similar. This means that a single interplanetary vehicle design could be used for missions to a variety of destinations. Such a strategy would also enable human exploration beyond LEO without the onerous development of ascent/descent vehicles and infrastructure for crew surface operations. It would also greatly expand scientific return at these destinations by allowing more real time control of robotic elements, and would provide a much easier way of doing sample return through telerobotic collection, rendezvous and docking. An added benefit is the prevention of forward and backward contamination with the Earth environment.

Thanks again, and best of luck!

austin said...

While at NASA HQ working on the Global Exploration Strategy (GES), I created Mindmaps of all the NASA governing documents. We used these to trace the 181 GES Objectives that we and our international partners developed back through NASA Strategic Plans to the governing needs, goals and objectives that Congress and the President(s) established for the Agency. While replanning Exploration under ESAS and the LAT, the Agency took ownership of 40 of the GES objectives. Since your efforts looks like a new, broader look at what GES, ESAS and LAT did, you might want to look at the maps I created. I am not sure if anyone took over my work when I retired ten months ago, but I would be willing to send you copies of what I have if you are interested.

FieldLines said...

Personally, I believe that the spirit of failure is missing in all of these efforts. So much is being channeled into how to succeed at the first try that everyone has forgotten that failure is a prerequisite for success.

Are we too afraid to fail enough such that we succeed?

"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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone..." JFK, 1962

I hope that the Commission keeps this in mind when reviewing the potential approaches to achieving the dream of exploration.

William Barton said...

Assuming NASA is able to solve the HLLV-within-budget issue...

I suggest a trip to a NEO as soon as possible as a latter-day version of Apollo 8, which could be done as soon as the HLLV (Ares IV, or Jupiter 246) and Orion are ready.

When Altair is ready, I suggest doing cargo-landed rovers analogous to the Apollo MoLab concept, rather than a permanently manned moonbase. I think more lunar science and exploration will be done that way.

Set up a man-tended "base camp" on Phobos, from which semi-resuable (refuellable) landers can descend to multiple research sites on Mars, again with surface rovers for exploration. If a crew is going to spend years coming and going, and perhaps years on the surface, they might as well stay a long time and get a lot done. It's cheaper to ship supplies to Mars and leave the people there.

Eventually, I would send expeditions to main belt asteroids, the Jovian Trojans, and Jupiter's moon Callisto.

That would keep us busy for a long time, and could be done within an essentially flat budget.

Unknown said...

I just have to say a lot of the comments preceding mine are talking about setting up bases on Phobos or developing entirely new ways of travel. These are nice, but I don't think they should be the focus of the commission. We have to GET to space first before we want to think fo what to do there.

Lets focus on the vehicles that will get us there, get them built with expediance first.

Rick Boozer said...

“rboozer, ISS could have been lifted with two launches of a Shuttle-C, Ares V or Saturn V. As opposed to ten years of round the clock shuttle/proton launches (and counting).”

Using the three boosters mentioned above would cost an estimated 2 to 4 billion dollars per flight. The two launches you mentioned would be anywhere from 4 billion to 8 billion dollars. Even if it took ten launches of the Falcon 9 heavy, at the currently quoted price of $78 million dollars per launch, it would only be $780 million in total launch costs!

Yes, it took “ten years” mainly caused by delays due to Russian economic woes, as I had already stated in my previous post. I also said that once a module reached orbit, adding it to the station was relatively fast and easy.

I don’t "under estimate the power of heavy lift". I remember the awesome power of the Saturn V from my youth. But I want this country to build an economically sustainable space infrastructure so we can go back to the moon to stay. Using any of the three Shuttle C, Direct or Ares V boosters will cause us to lose this capability for the same reason we lost it before: we won’t be able to afford it.

Unknown said...

Please DO NOT allow NASA to make the same mistake with Constellation that they made with ISS. NASA should be required to stick to the original requirements of the CEV: 6 crew to ISS and 4 to the Moon, this should NOT be downsized and tailored to fit an unworkable launch vehicle. NASA should not be funded to proceed with Lunar Exploration until a clearly defined goal for a Lunar return with return on investment (ROI) is established. Furthermore, the technology for accomplishing the Lunar Goal should be funded and developed prior to returning astronauts to the Moon (He3 technology, Lunar Base technology, regenerable systems, sustained life support, etc.).....So we do not have another ISS situation: eventual disenchantment with the mission and abandonment of the science goals in favor of simply completing the "can". There is no reason to return to the Moon solely to perform geology or to perform any mission that can be performed with unmanned spacecraft. We need a sustainable presence, a lunar base and a real mission that drives technology and human presence in space forward.

Rob said...

While I would love the opportunity to sit on this commission and shape the course of human space flight, I cannot say I envy you, for the task ahead is daunting. I appreciate that you have asked for the public's opinion on this matter and hope you take our inputs seriously. As you can see from all the posts, we are passionate about the space program and long for an inspiring vision from NASA that will take us into the glorious future we all imagine. Actually, our imaginations are part of the problem. We all see on television and in movies what space travel could be in the future. But those dreams have to compete with the political realities of our time. All too often, those realities fall far short of our dreams. But that doesn't have to be the case. The Apollo Program was an extension of a political objective - beat the commies - but it still managed to inspire us. NASA's plan for the future of human space flight needs to be bold and exciting enough to inspire America as well as fit into today's political realities. Current political discourse centers around "stimulus packages", "rebuilding America", and "retraining workers for the new economy". Well, why not a massive stimulus package for NASA which will employ tens of thousands of high-tech workers and pour billions of dollars into local economies. Many commentators have written about the economic and societial impacts of the Apollo Program; how it created jobs, inspired a generation of scientists and engineers, and sparked the development of dozens of new technologies. What could be better for our country right now than that? It's time to stop penny-pinching with NASA and open up the Treasury for a bailout that will have real impact. Tell me, what is the better investment; bailing out an ailing auto company to save some blue-collar union jobs, or creating tens of thousands of new, high-tech jobs in order to design and build permanent bases on the Moon and Mars? One will be a footnote in history, the other, history itself. Make no mistake, the decisions of this commision will determine the course of American History.

Joe said...

Someone seriously involved in human spaceflight who is a notable visionary and is experienced in living long term in space needs to carry the banner for promoting artificial gravity experiments on small manageable animals and eventually on humans in our existing space laboratory, the ISS. It’s a laboratory! Use it for what it is. Find a way to safely extend human presence in space. We may need to safely keep people in space longer than 6 months to maintain the ISS while the ground figures out how to change out the crews with a fresh crew after a highly potential mishap occurs in sending change-out crews to the ISS. It can be done with the current skills and knowledge of what steps to take to make this happen. The equipment design is within the realm of our current technology. The space in the ISS needed to conduct such an experiment exists. It’s just a matter of properly managing priorities with other life experiments competing for this valuable and available space. Simply remove 4 opposing racks and Viola! There is your space to conduct artificial gravity experiments. Simply design the device such that the crew can escape through that area in an emergency. We start by writing and analyzing requirements for this equipment to meet current ISS operational and safety constraints which are quite extensive but not impossible to meet. A device can be built such that very little angular momentum is transferred to the ISS structure while the device spins. If we discover how much artificial gravity it takes to stop bone loss, people currently living 6 months in space can use this concept to their advantage IF they truly want to stay in space longer than the current 6 month limit. Ask yourself, would you rather get paid for a job on the ground practicing what to do in space or in space doing what you do in space? Finding the cure for bone loss using obvious methods of ultimately and safely spinning people in a zero-G space laboratory will someday truly extend human presence in space. The current method of changing out the bone depleted crews with fresh crews with fresh bones to deplete is extremely more costly and risky than spinning existing crews the recommended amount during their exercise periods on a daily basis. This does not interfere with the time devoted to operating and maintaining the ISS since it is done in conjunction with their exercise periods, i.e., something they are required to do each day anyway. Start with rats to validate the concept of spinning living beings in a relatively small centrifuge while keeping their heads still every day for 1 month, then 3 months, then 6 months. Compare bone density measurements with a control group of rats exposed only to zero-G during the same time duration of each experiment phase. Once the rat phase is completed, we start a rhesus monkey phase. Animals have already been in space, so keeping them clean and healthy should not be such a big deal. Animals offer unique companionship as well and their presence would contribute to the psychological health of the crews taking good care of them. After that, we should have enough knowledge to attempt a human phase of artificial gravity experiments on our existing space laboratory. Waiting to find this answer using outpost crews on the surface of the moon is far more risky and unlikely to happen than using space facilities within relatively easy reach to ground facilities on earth in case a medical emergency related to broken bones or kidney stones. We put crews on the moon without first knowing this bone loss cure is putting those crews at great health risk in the most remote habitable areas known to man. It’s like sending someone to the top of Mount Everest to study what happens when you jump rope up there.

Ray said...

Here are the qualities I'd look for in a new approach to spaceflight:

- as a central, all-pervasive goal, encourages the U.S. commercial space industry in the short (development phase) and long (operations phase) terms to grow in numbers and types of services offered
- affordable and financially sustainable
- works hand-in-hand with NASA robotic efforts, rather than siphoning funding from these efforts
- encourages, in the short and long term, development of space infrastructure that is useful for more purposes than the NASA human spaceflight program
- reaches useful milestones in a "politically reasonable" amount of time
- aligns with national policy objectives and solves widely-recognized nationally important problems (like security, economic strength, medicine/health, environment, energy, education, etc)
- is robust in the sense that a failure or delay in 1 part of the effort doesn't bring the whole thing to a halt
- strengthens NASA's Earth observation national priorities by enabling funding for the Decadal Survey missions, OCO 2, DSCVR launch, Venture-class missions, and related Planetary Science and Heliophysics missions, and by enabling human spaceflight support of this national priority (perhaps via ISS, reusable commercial suborbital RLVs, satellite servicing, and ultimately comparative planetology)
- enables funding for a variety of NASA efforts to be restored, such as robotic and space station science, general NASA R&D, Centennial Challenges, New Millinium, and X-Planes.
- enables funding of a vigorous series of science, engineering, and ISRU robotic precursors to the destination (or if the destination is, say, L1-satellite servicing, enables funding for the satellite serviceability side)

Ray said...

George's post on telerobotics is esstentially the same as the one I linked to by "sc220" (in several comments at NASA Watch). I don't find a need to change the VSE's destination as long as we do the VSE the way it was intended (major commercial and international participation, ISRU, and nationally-important benefits like science, security, and economics). However, if we do decide to change the destination, focusing on telerobotics rather than surface landings is a quite interesting way to do it, and to avoid or postpone a lot of problems. It makes a number of destinations reachable. It also dovetails nicely with other ideas, such as the Planetary Society Roadmap, Hubble-style satellite servicing and related space infrastructure development, and extending current ISS operations. If there's hestiation about the current destination, this approach seems worth a close look.

Brent Andrew Hawker said...

The United States, as a nation and leader of the Free World, needs to be the gaurdian of the Lunar Future. The last thing I want to see on a full moon is a future Chinese Territory and have to have that countries approved visa for future visits, explorations and permission for development.

By our leadership we will make sure the Lunar Future will be a free and democratic society. Sure, we will invite other nations to participate, but through U.S. leadership we will ensure it is a just system for future resource development. It may look like a large rock in the sky at the moment, but as soon as commercial development finds a way to make money there, it becomes real estate. The question will be who gets to control the distribution of the best sites, who decides future taxation of resources, etc.

We have a unique situation that we have not seen for couple hundred years, and history is about to repeat itself. We need to claim this stepping stone now, and the Liberation points, then Mars. It must be with bold U.S. leadership to ensure a democratic future. The investments we make now do not just effect the next couple of decades, but the next several hundred years.

For a fraction of what we are now spending on bailouts, we could have a very aggressive infrastructure on the Moon, then on to Mars. NASA must lead the way, then get out of the way, and let private companies find a way to make money and spur further development. Once lunar surface operations can be economically self-sustaining, then NASA can concentrate on Mars and beyond.

As Ronald Reagan said in his speech to console a grieving nation during the space shuttle Challenger tragedy; “The Future Belongs to the Brave, not the Faint Hearted “ Now’s the time to be brave, there will only be one opportunity for Lunar Leadership, we need to make it ours.

The United States, as a nation and leader of the Free World, needs to be the gaurdian of the Lunar Future. The last thing I want to see on a full moon is a future Chinese Territory and have to have that countries approved visa for future visits, explorations and permission for development.

There is a reason why God put us in the position of being the first nation there. By our leadership we will make sure the Lunar Future will be a free and democratic society. Sure, we will invite other nations to participate, but through U.S. leadership we will ensure it is a just system for future resource development. It may look like a large rock in the sky at the moment, but as soon as commercial development finds a way to make money there, it becomes real estate. The question will be who gets to control the distribution of the best sites, what countries real estate law's example will future developers follow? Who decides future taxation of lunar resources? etc.

We have a unique situation that we have not seen for couple hundred years, and history is about to repeat itself. We need to claim this stepping stone now, then Liberation points, (I still have a copy of the earlier Augustine Commission's report after Challenger, then Mars. I for one do not want a Red Moon Rising. We can do it with international participation, but it must be with bold U.S. leadership for a democratic future. The investments we make now do not just effect the next couple of decades, but the next several hundred years.

For a fraction of what we are now spending on bailouts, we could have a very aggressive infrastructure on the Moon, then on to Mars. NASA must lead the way, then get out of the way, and let private companies find a way to make money and spur further development. Once lunar surface operations can be economically self-sustaining, then NASA can concentrate on Mars and beyond.

As Ronald Reagan said in his speech to console a grieving nation during the space shuttle Challenger tragedy; “The Future Belongs to the Brave, not the Faint Hearted “ Now’s the time to be brave, there will only be one opportunity for Lunar Leadership, we need to make it ours.

Paul Spudis said...

Recently, Les Lyle's NAS committee asked for public input on strategic direction for the space program, in 600 words or less. This is what I submitted:

"The U.S. space program must serve national scientific, economic and security interests. Science has been well served by the space program and space exploration has revolutionized understanding of the universe and our place in it. Commercial opportunities in space have followed paths blazed by government, including launch services and operations in LEO to GEO Earth orbit. The next goal should be to expand the extent and capability of human “reach” beyond this zone first into cislunar and then into interplanetary space.

The ultimate object in space is to go anywhere, at any time, with whatever capabilities needed to do any task or objective. This ability is still far away; current spaceflight opportunities are mass and energy limited and will always be so if everything needed in space must be lifted from the deep gravity well of Earth’s surface. To create greater capability, the resources of space must be harnessed to build, extend and operate a transportation system in space. The initial goal is to create a permanent infrastructure that can routinely access the entire volume of cislunar space (where all current space assets reside) with machines and people. As capabilities grow with time, such a system would be extended to interplanetary space.

To this end, the goal for next couple of decades should be to learn the skills and acquire the technologies needed to use the material and energy resources of space and to access, inhabit and work productively on the surfaces of extraterrestrial bodies. The Moon is the first target for research and use. It is both a school and a laboratory to learn how to get to, live on and explore other worlds. This task requires extended (ultimately, permanent) presence on the Moon with both machines and people.

Reconnaissance to explore, map and characterize work and habitat sites on the Moon can be done with robots and teleoperated machines. Demonstration experiments should be conducted to explore resource extraction techniques and processes, handling of materials, and create expanded capabilities and to emplace assets prior to human arrival. People will extend these capabilities and use the new infrastructure to understand the trade-offs, paybacks, difficulties and choke points of various resource extraction options. Humans will learn how to emplace, operate, maintain and expand planetary surface habitats.

A permanent human presence on the Moon creates new and exciting scientific opportunities. The Moon is a complex, miniature planetary body and preserves both its own history and – uniquely – Earth’s early history. The Moon records the output and history of our Sun and high-energy galactic particles for the last 4 billion years. Its surface environment enables the construction and emplacement of unique observational systems that can map in unprecedented detail the Earth and its environment, the local space neighborhood and the universe beyond.

To become a true spacefaring nation, the “umbilical cord” of space logistics must be cut to create a permanent, flexible and extensible transportation and habitation infrastructure beyond low Earth orbit. It is a difficult task, appropriate for government technical and financial support. It will open up the frontier of space for many and varied purposes, the fundamental objective of American space policy."

More HERE .

Unknown said...

Kill Constellation, throw some of the $2.5bn-$3bn, (about 1/3) a year that would free up to the New Space like Space X, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow, Blue Origin XCOR, , Masten etc to build reasonably priced LEO infrastructure. Use the rest to invest in advanced space tech, good RLV tech, VASIMIR, magsails, advanced ion engines, to develop sustaiable beyond LEO capability

Unknown said...

Dr. Chiao,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my thoughts.

I am a Physical Scientist with more than 30 years of experience conducting research and analyzing scientific issues, and I have worked at times on efforts related to aviation and spacecraft. My analysis and opinions follow:

• I understand NASA’s choice of an Apollo type capsule, Orion, for a return to earth vehicle. There is a lot of experience with this design and a blunt surface has been proven effective for ballistic returns from deep space. Also, it fits with the budget issues faced by NASA. However, the selection of this design was a great disappointment for me. My studies over the last 30 years indicated to me that a lifting body design would provide the crew with greater flexibility in the launch environment, during reentry, and landing. Lockheed Martian submitted to NASA a reasonable initial design; however, it was clear that the design had a number of issues that required significant engineering to solve. One short coming of that design was the parachute landing. The capability to land on a runway or on large areas like Edwards or the facilities in New Mexico can greatly simplify recovery and refitting costs.

• Ares I – From the very beginning it was clear that the proposed launch vehicle for Orion, Ares I, did not have the capability to safely launch the originally design spacecraft, and NASA immediately changed the design to a five segment solid rocket booster from the original four segments booster. Following this move NASA began the, still continuing, process of removing safety and performance capabilities from the Orion in order to reduce mass so that the underpowered launch vehicle has a chance to safely launch the spacecraft. Things eliminated from Orion: 1) the capabilities of the Orion Service Module were reduced which included changes to the original fuel and life support systems; 2) the diameter and internal human occupied space of Orion was reduced; 3) the protective skins were removed from the exterior of the Service Module; 4) the option for landing on land with airbags was eliminated which greatly reduces the safety for returning crew; and the latest major change is 5) reduction of the crew from six to four. This again reflects on issues associated with projected poor performance of the launch vehicle, Ares I, as well as the inability of the designed parachute system to safely land the spacecraft and crew.

These points do not include other critical issues with Ares I such as the dangerous first stage vibration problems at burnout which added mass back to the booster requiring more mass reductions and capability of the Orion spacecraft.
Simply, Ares I is a bad design.

• Ares V – My evaluation of Ares V is that this proposed vehicle is clearly the type of launch vehicle needed for humans to conduct operations well beyond earth orbit. In addition, it can easily provide heavy lift capabilities for low earth orbit and geostationary orbit operations.

What is the solution to the Ares I and Orion dilemma?

Proposed Options:

• Stop work on the Ares I.
• Replace all practical mass related capabilities, such as crew number back to six, safety systems, in-space operational capabilities, and land landing option back into the Orion spacecraft and Service Module.
• Evaluate the lift and safety issues with substituting Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles such as Delta IV and Atlas V. It is possible that they will have problems with mass associated with the refitted fully functional Orion and Service Module. If the EELV’s can do the job begin engineering to make it possible. If the EELV’s can not do the job….
• Evaluate the use of Direct, Jupiter 120. My basic analysis is that this system or and improved system of this design should have the capability to do the job of safely launching the Orion spacecraft and Service Module into low earth orbit. My evaluation indicates that this launch system will not have a mass problem with the fully designed Orion spacecraft and Service Module.

J. R. Lawson

J05H said...

Leroy -

My recommendations - focus on the spirit of the VSE instead of the ESAS implementation - namely to open the Inner Solar System to human economic development.

For NASA specifically that would mean promoting and purchasing commercial LEO access and focusing on deep-space craft instead of rehashing the "first mile". Engage in human and robotic pathfinder missions, help/encourage the establishment of base camps at L1, Lunar and Mars orbit, etc to enable expeditions and create safe havens.

Architecture-wise this would mean medium-lift approach to development. With on-orbit assembly and propellant depots this is not an issue as none of the proposed Constellation-type hardware is far outside the throw-weight of existing rockets. This also nicely meshes with the current glut of capacity in all rocket lines - whereas the Ares plan creates two new rockets that have only one customer (and one of which competes directly w/ existing products). Modular on-orbit assembly means propellant and components can come from any source, be connected in mission-specific configurations and deployed.

Best of luck on the commission!

Skyjim said...

Dr. Chiao,

Congratulations on your appointment, and thank you for inviting input!

I join others here in strongly urging a serious look at the type of shuttle-derived architecture advanced by the Direct team, in particular the latest Direct 3.0 architecture.

Whatever NASA wishes to do must be attainable in the the political context of federal budget realities. I believe Direct 3.0 is an example of good politics being the art of the possible. It makes maximum use of existing systems and, very importantly, existing infrastructure and workforce, requires no scratch development of new engines to put Orion into LEO for ISS suport, provides plenty of mass margin for the Orion team, and multiple, straightforward upgrade paths for true heavy-lift cargo vehicles WITHOUT a complete second vehicle development program needed to return to the Moon and beyond. An added benefit is superior compatibility with near-term thoughts about additional STS flights, a compromise measure I think you will be hearing about. While I don't advocate shuttle extension, it may be a way to enlarge the constituency for Constellation via Direct - and the politics matter.

I hate to think this of my beloved NASA, but I believe the current Ares I/V architecture to be politically unrealistic, operationally duplicative of some existing capabilities, and unsustainable from a budgetary standpoint. Could it work? Of course - but I am almost certain that it will cost more than the nation is willing to pay in both time and funds.

Likely outcome of the current path looks to me to be a reduced-capability Orion on Ares I, and NO ARES V for the foreseeable future.

The most disturbing aspect of current planning is what I fear is a "Circle the wagons" mentality at NASA which refuses to consider alternatives. A cynic might see the urgency to convert facilities and tooling to Ares configuration as an attempt to obstruct shuttle-derived alternatives via a scorched earth policy. If I, a lifelong proponent of human spaceflight, feel this way, how does the general public feel they are being served?

Why the cynicism? I spent 14 years on SSME at Rocketdyne, and have a fair amount of familiarity with that system. I must confess that my "truth" antennae started twitching the moment I saw the initial Aries I design with an air-lit SSME. A ground-start design isn't trivial to repackage as an air-start, either in engineering OR mass budget. The design was sold as making maximum use of STS hardware, which I considered a worthy goal. I set aside my uneasiness until it was announced that air-start SSME was being abandoned, and along with it, the 4 segment SRB.

At that point, I felt that I'd been "had", and there was something dishonest or unrealistic about the initial configuration. Either interpretation is deeply disquieting to me. To be blunt, at that point I lost faith in the people making the configuration choices.

Nothing I've seen since then has improved my outlook. Thrust oscillation's severity was a SURPRISE? We have to abandon land recovery and spend the next 2 or 3 decades paying for a recovery fleet? We must reduce crew capability to four? As a bonus, we're also way behind schedule and over budget, and there are truly disturbing things being leaked about alleged lack of rigor in the design review process? Sorry, gents, but there seems to be something wrong here!

I think we can do better. I think this Commission can save NASA from some bad choices by considering alternatives as dispassionately as possible. We're all depending on you and the rest of the Commission - thank you for serving!

what said...

FYI Leroy, here is STS-127 being asked about the Augustine Commission:

Basically he says we need to get out of LEO and do new things.

I asked my 70 year-old neighbor what motivated regular americans to support doing that in the 60s. He said going to orbit was a military goal because of the Soviets. But that the moon shot was a discrete mission. He said people supported going to the moon simply because a charismatic president said "we will do this thing that has never been done." With a smile he said "and when americans get a fire lit under them, look out." This 70-something year old doctor of biology and retired navy officer and professor has no real interest in space, so I think his answer is the right one. People supported the moon shot because a president inspired them with an ambitious goal. Inspired a nation.

That is the missing link. NASA can't give the people a mission. Only the president has the power (the influence and attention of america) required to send the country on a mission like that. Leadership came from the top.

So when people ask how NASA can become like it was in the past.. It's not up to NASA. Another president has to do what Kennedy did. And in fact what Bush and other presidents did, except with wars.

Obama needs to be given an ambitious, almost-impossible 10 year mission that is the next step in human space exploration. A step humans can later leap from, like we can leap from Apollo. And by god Obama might make it so!

Unknown said...

I would like to add some additional comments that expand on the comments of sc220, Ray/red and my own. Shifting to an emphasis on telerobotically augmented piloted missions could also satisfy many of the goals embraced by the traditional exploration community. Following are steps that could do this:

1) Terminate Ares I, and proceed with development of an Orion+EELV Shuttle replacement. (Call it Ares II to allow NASA Marshall and the University of Alabama to save face.) Step up development of Ares V or another heavy lift equivalent (Ares VI?).

2) Consider orbital missions of the Moon as a way of enhancing exploration of the surface. It may be possible to use two Ares II rockets in tandem to do this – one launches the Orion CM and SM, while the other launches an upper stage (e.g., self-inserted Centaur, separate upper stage) with no payload. The two assemblies rendezvous, and the upper stage provides the TLI burn. This approach of human orbital missions and intensive telerobotic exploration could last for some time.

3) The development of a crew-rated lunar descent/ascent spacecraft could proceed at a more deliberate pace, depending on scientific, commercial and international interest. Perhaps it would be delayed for some time if telerobotically conducted science, in-situ resource demos, contstruction prove successful. It is conceivable that an entire propellant plant and system of habitats could be established before the first humans venture back to the lunar surface.

4) In the meantime, proceed with development of a Piloted Transfer Vehicle for missions to other low gravity well destinations, along the lines described before.

This is probably one of many options that should be considered. The important thing is that we must challenge the idea deploying people right away at the final destination. It is costly and fails to recognize the incredible value offered by robotics. It seems as if everyone in the world except NASA, i.e., DOD (UAVs, robotic tanks), NSF, police forces, oceanographers, appreciates this fact.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment!

Art Scheuermann said...

NASA needs to be guided by a national policy that is promoting commercial access to space for cargo and crew transport to LEO. NASA has become so trapped by focusing on LEO access and servicing the ISS that the goal of exploration is being lost. As someone who works on Constellation, it is very disappointing to see the Lunar/Mar design feature being dropped piece by piece to reduce the cost so we can try and hold the the schedule of a 4 year gap for LEO access to ISS. I fear that the design changes needed after Orion flys to restore the exploration capability will be too costly to do when the politicians insist on a LEO capability infrastructure that doesn't reduce jobs. If we don't reduce the jobs, then all the money goes for LEO access with nothing left for exploration again.

It would seem to me that a national policy that motivates commercial investment to provide the LEO access would free NASA up to focus on exploration beyond LEO.

It's a tough paradigm shift but I don't believe we will ever go back to the Moon or on to Mars until we have a reliable commercial service for launch and re-entry and an exploration vehicle assembled in orbit.

Joe said...

How about a miniature shortened shuttle? We already have the design. Just shrink it to fit and fix the tile problem. The goal for future rockets and manned spacecraft shall change from one shot launches with everything included to one that maximizes crew and crew safety, while minimizing cargo and one unmanned heavy cargo vehicle that has the capability of docking to whatever it wants after it safely achieves orbit. In reality, you only need enough cargo to sustain the crew until the heavier unmanned cargo spacecraft comes to dock with it or visa-versa. Heavy cargo can always be launched on unmanned rockets as it has been down this way hundreds of times in the past. The only risk in launching heavy unmanned cargo relative to launching heavy cargo accompanied by people is the cost of the heavy cargo. If you first launch the heavy unmanned cargo spacecraft and lose it, you only lose the cargo and the rocket. The crewed launch is postponed until another heavy unmanned cargo spacecraft is launched. The risk to people for an unmanned cargo spacecraft is practically zero. The size of the rocket doesn't matter. It’s the cost per pound launched into low earth orbit. True, the cost increases with two launches doing the same thing as one launch but the risk to human lives is the biggest driver in the decision to fund launches into space. NASA is already using this strategy with 6 vehicles including commercial that access the ISS. Imagine a small shuttle with a cargo module docked to it in its payload bay. It looks clunky, but it works in space. We should plan to launch crews to autonomously or manually rendezvous with previously launched unmanned heavy cargo spacecraft. This docked configuration will then travel to the ISS or someday to the Moon using crews onboard this assembled spacecraft. The return trip from the ISS leaves the cargo module or takes the assembled spacecraft safely away, the disposable section is undocked and deorbited and the crewed spacecraft flies safely back and lands on a runway. If the wings break apart on re-entry, the crew has the option of detaching from an uncontrollable vehicle and guiding the parachutes into the ocean much like current capabilities with small aircraft. Going back to an Apollo era nominal strategy of a capsule splashing down and recovered is a step backward in the normal progression of space exploration. They only did it this way to save weight for a million mile journey and put our heroic Apollo astronauts at extreme risk every step of the way. It does not have to be this way. We know how to do it safer. We choose to do it safer. An abort during ascent replaces the need to return to the runway with a rocket jettisoning system similar to the Crew Exploration Vehicle that detaches the entire crew compartment from the winged cargo compartment. It lands nose first with parachutes in the ocean. Landing in an ocean should only be attempted due to an abort. During an abort, all bets are off other than saving lives. Just get the crew on the surface safely. If their ballistic trajectory takes them over a Trans-Atlantic continent when the last engine fails, it should be a simple matter to plan this abort mission to safely land at another available abort landing site on another continent. The reason you need a detachable crew cabin intact abort capability is to avoid the most dangerous intact abort mode that the Space Shuttle is capable of flying, i.e., the Return To Launch Site (RTLS) Abort Mode. The other reason to use it is so the crew can abort into the ocean while sitting on the launch pad. With a splashdown only capsule, you put your crew in great danger when all engines suddenly fail during ascent in a ballistic trajectory that ends on land. People who think blindly say you address all possible aborts after you have solidified a nominal design. These people are blinded by the money involved. If you design for a nominal mission, then you are limiting yourself upfront on the real flight capabilities. It’s like being given a pair of cement shoes to swim with before you have learned to swim.

telex said...

Whatever the conclusions of the Commission, please make a clear statement supply reasoning, if NASA should be designing and operating launch vehicles.
Everything else follows from that.

C W Magee said...

Dear Dr. Chiao,
Congratulations on being chosen for this panel, and thank you for asking for our opinions. I think that the various proponents of specific systems have had plenty to say above, so here are some general suggestions:

Try to make sure that anything new that is developed has the widest possible applications, in terms of exploration, science, and potential private sector opportunity. Development is expensive and time consuming, so it would be great if the brains of tomorrow can find some brilliant new use of the next architecture because we had the foresight to make it flexible.

Don't let any one project get so expensive that it sucks the life out of other programs. If you remember the 80's, the development of the space shuttle inadvertently caused a decade long gap in robotic planetary science. Please don't let that happen again. If NASA can play to its strengths, it get more results.

Look for programs which can take advantage of incremental technological improvements. If the future brings us a smaller computer, a better solar panel, or a safer re-entry vehicle, or a more efficient engine, can we incorporate these into the overall program?

In the next few years, astronomers will probably discover terrestrial planets around other stars. In order to make intelligent deductions about these worlds, we will need to gain a better understanding of the inner planets of our own solar system. An approach that allows the human and robotic exploration of all our inner planets will be vital for understanding not only the planets we can land on, but those in the galaxy around us.

Jen said...

NASA is (or should be) in the business of exploration and doing things that have never been done before. Once assembly of the International Space Station is complete, I think NASA should manage science programs onboard while contracting out ISS operations to commercial companies. This would free up NASA resources for what the agency does best: exploration.

In my opinion, we should set landing humans on Mars (and returning them safely) as our primary goal and develop an agency-wide plan that will get us there, then figure out what vehicle will work best. I am 30 years old, and I hope we will achieve this goal within my lifetime. Let's not wait 100 years after man first landed on the moon to land on another heavenly body.

Of course, money is always the issue. Where are we going to get extra funding for an ambitious exploration agenda? Let's face it, NASA will never be a high a priority as, say, bailing out the automakers. Rather than waiting for Congress to make all the appropriations, NASA should look for ways to cut costs and raise funds. One major cost-saving step would be to combine NASA centers to eliminate duplication of expertise. NASA is not a jobs program; the agency should only employ the workers needed to accomplish its mission. Need revenue? I can think of lots of companies that would love to advertise on rockets or TV broadcasts. The sky's the limit!

In short, I would like to tell the Augustine Commission as well as the White House that NASA will achieve great things if the political support is there. You will find the nation's young scientists and engineers eager to meet the challenge!

BobM said...

Greetings, Dr. Chiao. (This is a nasawatch-duplicate posting, just to cover the bases.)

Thanks for taking everyone's inputs.

All that I can suggest is to be careful to avoid tunnel vision, latching on to this or that particular milestone or destination and then picking a singular system to fit the singular requirement.

Keep thinking long-term, sustainable, evolutionary space exploration and development bent on eventually reaching across the entire solar system.

I personally like the idea of the govt focusing its limited resources on pushing the key leveraging technologies that will enable long-term, far-ranging operations in space: nuclear propulsion & power, aerobraking, ISRU, tethers, closed-loop ECLSS, etc. The govt could execute specific missions as testbeds, then let industry follow behind. Spending bucks on re-inventing launch vehicles just seems wrongheaded to me, especially since we've perfected rndz/docking and in-space assembly (enabling the use of smaller launchers) and we have viable LVs already in the stable.

Good luck! Hope the meetings stay exciting.

Kathy said...

Hello from Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers!

I am neither astrophysicist, nor engineer. My background is nursing and biology. NASA and the concept of space travel are dear to me, having followed since the day I heard Sputnik was in orbit! Many moons ago, as they say!

My thought is that we must stay on task. Choose a capable lifter that is going to do the job and let's get to the moon.

There is much to be learned there, including mining resources, manufacturing, international participation and cooperation, governing, crop production, dealing with the physiological effects of microgravity and living, for all practical purposes, in a container.

At this point, all of man's many space accomplishments are not unlike an infant pulling itself up off the floor for the first time. We have got to learn to walk out there first.

Let's stay focused and do our job well. Choose a CAPABLE lifter, and let's get on our way.

Congratulations on your appointment. I wish you all the best.

Q said...

Good Day;

Drop Ares 1. SRB unsafe as sole manned launch vehicle and have other launch difficulty. DIRECT Jupiter 120 / 232 have a better path to greater launch capacity. Migrate away from SRB to Liquid boosters. SRB are dirty. Eventually move to fly-back liquid boosters. NASA must fully support ISS by keeping a full crew on board at all times. Sometime in the future NASA will have to go back to a winged return vehicle.
A noticeable part of space flight and NASA is image. The image of astronauts returning to earth on parachutes will always conjure up thoughts of pilots using emergency equipment. This will not excite the public to support manned space flight or NASA. The fly-back booster will help. Only a winged return vehicle will regain some of the Shuttle’s enthusiasm.
This is a critical time for manned space flight and NASA. There must be as little lose as can be helped. A slow and steady progression towards greater general launch capacity and, more importantly, safe manned launched capacity.

Good luck.

John Y said...

The private sector is not barred from space, it is just, simply put, very difficult to get there. NASA has accomplished much in getting humans into space. The fountain of medical and electronic technology that has spilled from human space flight efforts is almost as substantial as putting a human in space.

I believe that having a goal in exploration is important. I also think that reaching Mars is a fantastic goal to have. Along the way we will gather enough medical technology to understand how to support humans in transit in a closed system on a scale never before perceived

As much as I am in support of lofty goals, focusing on colonization of space at this point in time is not a realistic or achievable mark to set. I would be thrilled with a 10 year plan to make it to Mars.


Dear Human Spaceflight Review Panel Members:

For the support of the CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN, please consider the following options.

I. NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program Budget

All NASA’s science program shall support the human space flight program. Any science program which does not support the human space flight shall be transferred from NASA’s Space Science to NSF’s program and from NASA’s Earth Science program to NOAA, EPA or DOE.
The ratio of the NASA’s human space flight program budget to the NASA’s science program budget shall be 80/20 from 2010 on to protect the spaceborne life and the future lunar human’s life and to protect the NASA’s mainstream goal. The human spaceflight goal is the new world for mankind in this great 21st century.
The NASA’s budget for the human spaceflight shall allocate to STS 15% (2 flights per year), to ISS 15%, and to VSE- Return to the Moon 70% in the period of 2010-2015, then 100% to VSE from the year 2015 on.

II. The Change Options:

1) The NASA’s STS program shall complete the retirement in 2015. Each STS’s Orbiter was designed for 100 flights, as of today none of them over 50 flights yet. New Direct 3.0 would be the backup to the Orbiter in the period of 2013-2015.
2) The International Space Station (ISS) program shall complete the retirement in 2015. Let commercial company continues the operation.
3) The transportation vehicle for the Return to the Moon shall be designed as a single booster for each flight mission to the Moon as the good Saturn program did in the 1960s.
4) The NASA’s new Return to the Moon architecture shall cover the new human flight systems and the new lunar base for NASA and the worldwide space agency and commercial partners.
5) The second human wave return to the Moon shall be set before 2020.

III. Benefits of the Human Spaceflight Program:

Benefits of the Second Human Wave Lunar Exploration:
New world for mankind
New economics
New business
New industry
New careers and work
New house and home
New hotel and spaceport
Lunar science research on-site
New Earth observatory on the surface of the Moon and can be repaired by human over there
New space observatory on the surface of the Moon and can be repaired by human over there
New space systems
Tourist travel
New foundation for the Mars trip

God bless you. God bless human spaceflight.

Best wishes to you all.

H. S. Chen

Robert said...

A couple of quick thoughts:

1. The Ares I vs. EELV discussion is full of hidden agendas. Either rocket system CAN put people in orbit. Period. Anything suggested to the contrary is spin.

2. The REAL problem with the lunar architecture has nothing to do with this rocket or that rocket, one manifest or another. It is purpose. We don't have a real reason to go back to the Moon. In my opinion we have a lunar program because President Bush needed something uplifiting to say after the Columbia accident. NASA then generated a document of hundreds of scientific objectives related to the Moon but didn't commit to any of them, probably for fear of picking the objective with the least followers and making enemies of the ones not picked. We just spent orders of magnitude greater than the lunar program in Iraq and in the bailouts. Money isn't a problem. We have way more than we need. What we don't have is a compelling justification to use that money in space. We need to take Obama's national priorities (I suggest Energy in particular) and map it to lunar activity that would have a transformational impact on the nation and the world. That's the only way we should go back to the Moon. Geology isn't going to cut it and Mars isn't going to cut it.

Kelly Starks said...

I used to work in MOD in the shuttle program, then on station and at HQ, until I moved on from NASA programs in the mid ‘90’s. I came back for most of last year, and was writing system requirement specs for parts of the Orion. All during that time what echoed through most everyone on the team in various ways was how much less Orion and Aries was compared to shuttle. Black bitter humor of PM’s and system architects chiding folks to not try to design things to the safety and quality standards they had used for shuttle and ISS or other customers. Or frustrated humor of trying to toughen things up enough to survive the Aries-I’s abuse. Explanations of how EVA's and repairs, and other things that were normal design considerations for their other manned space systems, weren’t to be worried about since they weren’t required for Orion. Line engineers really hoping Dragon or something else cuts Orion out of the market so no one will ever need to fly on what they were building. And the general displeasure of working to build something that in all ways is inferior to the 1970’s era shuttle.

Apollo on steroids was seen and pitched as a retrospective reflight of Apollo, which inexplicably was expected to excite this generation as much as Apollo and the space race did their grandparents. But Apollo was replaced by shuttle, which was seen as a first step to make space safe and routine. Now NASA is effectively saying that that was a silly goal and we should just be happy with flags and foot prints, and space as a spectacle. If even NASA can’t see space as of value to develop and go to, human space flight as worth developing and moving forward, why should the public care about it? If a half century after Von Braun at NASA sketched out the Apollo capsules, all NASA can think of or pull of is redeveloping the same old concept, what value is NASA to the world or history?

At this point, I’m sick enough about this I’d push to just refurb the shuttles for another decade or so. Maybe refit them and rework the configuration into what they were suppose to be in the first place. Fly the shuttle based LEO to Lunar surface and back craft out of the shuttle bays as the lunar return craft rather the Altair on a mega Aries-V. At least the shuttle deployed lunar Landers were recoverable and reusable. If NASA can’t manage that, after laughingly failed to even think of moving forward – drop return to the moon and all NASA manned launches. Buy flights from Russia or SpaceX or whoever, and lay-off NASA manned space employee base. If we can’t do better then this 40 years after Apollo NASA and its employees don’t deserve a job.

Kelly Starks

On June 4th the orlando sentinel reported
...Constellation's development costs are now projected at more than $40 billion through 2015, up from $28 billion in 2006....

This is higher then NASA projected cost to build a new fleet of fully reusable shuttles.

RayGun said...

After reading all these comments I'd like to say my favorite two are from Mike @ June 2, 2009 8:42 AM and Kelly Starks @ June 6, 2009 6:31 PM. My recommendation would be to put Kelly Starks in front of your committee and listen carefully to what she is saying. She had more common sense in four paragraphs than I've seen out of Mike griffin's time at NASA.

Bill Tandy said...

Dr. Chiao,
My perspective comes as a 30 year old structural engineer working for a mid-sized aerospace company. I do not have an agenda other than wanting to contribute to a meaningful project that pushes humanity out from earth. In broad strokes my thoughts are:

1. I don’t particularly care whether we go to the moon, Mars, asteroids, or even LEO satellite repair as long as we do it with both humans and robots. I would happily sign up to work any of the above projects. They’re all inspirational and they all contribute to the bottom line of developing the technology we need to do more in the future. I view heated arguments pushing for one over the other as petty, egotistical and ultimately destructive. In my humble opinion it’s like winning the lottery and tearing your family apart arguing about how you want to spend the money.

2. NASA is probably not realistically capable of developing its own launch vehicle on time and within 3x its budget. From my perspective NASA and the large aerospace companies are filled with "system engineers" who have questionable technical abilities. They usually mean well, but ultimately they cannot deliver on the grand visions and they compensate by being risk adverse to the point of counter productivity. These are good people and I would be proud to call many of them my friends and neighbors given the opportunity, but as long as they're supported in government jobs and in big corporations we will continue to flounder.

3. Ares I seems like it should be killed off. I’m a nobody and I don't pretend to know everything, but I have yet to meet a single engineer from any discipline from any organization working directly on the project that fully believes in it. I want to believe, but all the first hand negativity is disheartening. Also, as far as I can tell from my humble viewpoint, it doesn't provide anything worth its cost and there are systems either available or nearly available that will do things cheaper than the government.

4. I strongly support commercial development based on NASA research. However, encouraging commercial development will only work if we don’t drag them down with all the overhead that comes with working with the government. My take on government contracts is “you are what you eat”. From my view at the bottom of the pile it seems that the big companies have become government like in their inability to perform efficiently in part because their money comes primarily from government and they have to jump through too many red tape covered hoops. Again, there are lots of fantastic people involved so my views are of the system and not of the people who turn the crank.

5. “Cost Plus” government contracts should be discontinued. In my experience, whatever theoretical advantages they provide are marginalized by gross abuses that have contributed to an upwelling of questionable talent. I could share stories for hours and I am certain I am not alone in this regard.

There is always more to discuss on complicated subjects such the one you have been tasked with. I envy your opportunity to hear all of these viewpoints and to work with your colleagues to fairly weigh the benefits of the various directions!


NASA’s budget needs the CHANGE WE BELIEVE IN as shown in the following options in section III:

I. The US Science Budget as of 2009:

NSF $6.9 B, NOAA $4.6 B, NIH $ 0.78 B, and NASA Sciences $4.4 B

Total Science Budget $16.68 B

II. NASA Human Space Flight Budget as of 2009:

Exploration $3.7 B, STS and ISS $5.8 B

Total Human Spaceflight $9.5B

III. Change WE Can Believe IN from 2015:

NASA’s Human Spaceflight budget shall be $12 B for the Return to the Moon.

NASA’s sciences budget shall be $3.0 B and $1.5 B for space sciences to support the return to the Moon and $1.5 B for earth sciences to support the return to the Moon. Any science program which does not support the return to the Moon shall be transferred to the NSF or to NOAA.


The new human spaceflight budget shall protect the spaceborne life and the future human life on the surface of the Moon.

H. S. Chen
Author of the “Human Space Exploration”

Daniel Sterling Sample said...

Leroy, I am championing the Space Shuttle because it hasn't even begun to demonstrate the many ways it can be utilized in space. The Augustine Commission could determine the fate of the Space Shuttle. I would like to have your support. Please visit: and get a feel of what I am trying to accomplish. Ultimately, the Space Shuttle will become a working prototype for a much larger, much more elegant spacecraft that will carry us to Mars. I am getting the entire proposal out to as many members of the Augustine Commission as I am able, but also to General Holden, Dr. John Holdren and perhaps even to President Obama. All I am presenting is just one way that the Space Shuttle could be used, but on the immediate horizon, we must first save her from a premature demise. I would be happy to Email you the complete Patent Pending. I also believe that the Orion/Constellation Program is redundant and will undoubtedly turn into a money trap for the American taxpayer. Are you with me? Dan

bwhitman said...

The US has spent the last 30 years building infrastructure to provide reasonably reliable human access to LEO. Current plans are to demolish all of that, with no US human access to space for 6 or more years.

Direct (Jupiter) would provide plenty of payload capacity for Orion, versatility, uses 95% of the existing infrastructure (as the directive was written), and allows us to continue launching Shuttles until the capsule and second stage are ready. Jupiter would give us payload capacity for the lunar lander.

With Constellation, and some parts of Direct, we are building throwaway rockets. Haven't we progressed enough to design reusable Spacecraft and Launch Vehicles? The Shuttle is greatly reusable--yes it reqires an army for maintenance, but it requires an army to manufacture throwaway rockets and spacecraft--just a different place and another state's economy. Pay me here or pay me there, the money will be spent. There are many pathways leading to the moon, with Direct and Constellation among them. Direct provides logical continuance, not the usual start/stop, build it all over again, mentality.

Rick Boozer said...

"With Constellation, and some parts of Direct, we are building throwaway rockets. Haven't we progressed enough to design reusable Spacecraft and Launch Vehicles?"

One flaw in bwhitman's argument involves reusability. Though the SpaceX Falcon IX will not be reusable in its earlier flights, SpaceX plans to gradually develop the ability to recover the first stage of Falcon IX and then develop the ability to recover the second stage. Go to the SpaceX website for details.

I'm not an employee of SpaceX, Boeing, Lock-Mart, or ULA. Nor do I have any connection to any of these companies (I'm a retired software engineer who is currently finishing my Master of Astronomy degree in astrophysics). There have been analyses done by Boeing and others that show several different existing boosters can do the job more economically with in-orbit assembly of a translunar vehicle, even without reusability.

Rick Boozer said...

An addendum to my previous post. SpaceX now only briefly mentions reusability on on this page of their website: Company

But the CEO of the company, Elon Musk, goes into his Falcon 9 reusability plans in detail on this web page:
Elon Musk, CEO, CTO and Founder, SpaceX
and also spoke extensively about it on at the ISDC 2009 conference on June 3:
Elon Musk’s ISDC 2009 Keynote

TrueBlueWitt said...

Dr. Chiao. Congratulations on being selected to the Augustine Commission. I'm very happy to see an independant review of the current HSF direction. I am not a huge fan of going back to the moon(unless it's more than flags & footprints). My passion is to see Man land on Mars in my lifetime(even NEO would be good start). I'm a 43yr Old Noise & Vibes Engineer working for GM(for how long.. who knows).. I've always had a great passion for Space. I was just old enough to see Apollo Moon landings. I don't want to see Constellation go the way of Apollo.. Which is what I fear will happen given the schedule/mission risk of Ares-I and the exhorbitant development and flight costs projected for the ever burgeoning and inflexible(limited cargo volume) Ares-V.

Please seriously look at more affordable alternatives.

After over a year following DIRECT's development on the forums at I'm convinced DIRECT 3.0(SSME based core with RL10/RL60/J-2X powered US for beyond LEO missions) is extremely mission flexible and probably the most sustainable alternative. seems crazy that the "comments" field at ( do not accept special characters.. if "/" or "(" or "-" are considered special? Hard enough to put down everything in 500 words.

Thanks for making this Blog available and taking time to read our opinions.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Chiao,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Augustine Commission's important work. I would like to make three main points:

(1) I believe human space exploration should be an international endeavour. In this context I would like to draw the Committee's attention to the Global Exploration Strategy document, signed by 14 space agencies (including NASA) in 2007. This document is available at:

It provides an outstanding framework for international space cooperation in the twenty-first century, and I would urge the Committee to do all that it can to develop NASA's future contributions to space exploration within the context of this global strategy.

(2) I would like to stress the scientific importance of human lunar exploration, as set out in the recent US NRC document on the Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon:

The Moon still has much to tell us about the early history of the solar system and the evolution of terrestrial planets, and much of this rich geological record will only be accessible given a renewed human presence on the lunar surface (it is simply not the case that most of this work can be done robotically). A more detailed development of the scientific case for human lunar exploration, based on contributions to an ESA study in 2003, can be found at

(3) While Mars is also an important scientific target that will ultimately benefit from a
human presence, the Moon is an obvious place to develop much of the technology and operational experience which will ultimately be required for human Mars missions.

I would therefore recommend consideration of a two-pronged exploration strategy, whereby a robotic exploration of Mars is pursued in parallel with a development of an (international) human spaceflight infrastructure on the Moon. There may then be a realistic chance that, sometime before mid-century, the latter will have developed the human spaceflight expertise, and the former the detailed knowledge of
the Martian environment, to make human missions to Mars both scientifically worthwhile and technically feasible. A short paper which develops these ideas in the context of ESA's Aurora programme is available at

Good luck with your deliberations,

Ian Crawford
Birkbeck College, UK

TrueBlueWitt said...

Dr Chaio, I just saw an article on the Web that claimed that D-IV Heavy could lift Orion(, but it would need a new heavier US(4 x RL10 or 1 J-2X) to do so..

That does not correspond well with the info I've seen.. Most of the data out there suggests the current D-IV US is sufficient once the cores switch from RS-68 to RS-68A.

If this report from Aerospace Corp crosses in front of the committee please ask a couple questions:

1) Which RS-68s where assumed to be on the core stage.

2) Is current US with RS-68A sufficient for ISS Orion?

3) Is the new US really only needed for the heavier "lunar" Orion?

4) Besides J-2X what excactly could be "carried" from Ares-I to Ares-V.. (certainly NOT the solids)


Ray said...

Ian Crawford: "(2) I would like to stress the scientific importance of human lunar exploration, as set out in the recent US NRC document on the Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon:"

I've set up a site that has a number of what I consider to be important background documents, including the one mentioned above, at

I hope this proves to be useful. I also include some comments that may contradict NASA's current plans, but I imagine you'll get plenty of input on keeping things the way they are during public meetings in DC, Huntsville, and Cape Canaveral.

TrueBlueWitt: "Dr Chaio, I just saw an article on the Web that claimed that D-IV Heavy could lift Orion..."

Clark Lindsey points to some interesting speculations on this study here:


Personally the details about particular trade-offs (eg: Delta IV vs. Ares 1) aren't of concern to me. I could take or leave any particular piece of Constellation or commercial hardware. I just want to see the committee make recommendations that NASA follows that will actually shrink the ISS gap, encourage commercial spaceflight (i.e. NASA using private spaceflight services with customers beyond NASA ... not cost-plus contracts) considerably more than NASA now does, fits the budget, and does meaningful space exploration and development.

Ginny K. said...

I was watching the Commission on NASA TV today and noted you were asking about who the people behind Jupiter were. I hope that isn't going to affect your decision about it. It looks to be an outstanding system and I'd be willing to bet that you could talk to the right people either privately or that they'd come forward if they knew their idea was being seriously considered. It really does seem to be the most effective system on many levels.

Ginny K. said...

Was checking up on all the launch systems out there and recalled my favorite canceled system - Venture Star.
Reading this really makes me furious.

Unknown said...

THANK YOU for your comments. I have read every one. Your inputs are valued.

Leroy Chiao

what said...

Thank you, Leroy.

I see now that the real benefit of the commission is its ability to recommend to President Obama the start of a new vision for space exploration. And I mean the real vision, not the papers.

International cooperation. Free market encouragement.

Biological testing so we know how to live in space. Robotic exploration so we know where to go. Advanced R&D so we have the best technology when we go.

And the most salient point: New lofty goals that only NASA can achieve. A new free-world space race has crept up on us, and NASA must play to its strengths to keep at the head of the pack.

NASA has done things that no other organization could do. But times have changed, and other organizations are much more capable now than in the past. So NASA must re-focus on what they do best: *what no one else can do!*

Thank you Leroy and friends!!!

PS: It is a sin if video and minutes of the public hearing was not kept. (nothing here ) The HD coverage of STS-125 was amazing at /nasatelevision/ on youtube. I'm still expecting the same thing from /hsf/.

Gaetano Marano said...

now and in the next weeks, you'll find dozens good and rational suggestions for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee in my new ghostNASA article:

Dave said...

Dear Dr. Chiao:

With regard to your question to the Direct 3.0 group, "Who are you guys", there are 9 folks out front publicly, including Steve, Ross and Chuck, and another 60+ engineers and PhD folk from NASA and the aerospace industry who have devoted their evenings and weekends for the past three years to bring the SDLV concept to its present state.

While they did not invent the concept (NLS explored the concept all the way through a PDR review), the Direct 3.0 group has revised and refined the concept, fulfilling the 2005 congressional mandate to use the STS hardware to create a sustainable American HSF program.

I have been particularly impressed by the robust mission profiles developed and published by Direct 3.0. Their concept encourages the US EELV industry, private American enterprise like SpaceX as well as international partners to participate. NASA is not the sole player.

Best wishes,

Dave Fischer, PhD


Dear Committee Members:

The international cooperation is one of the key elements for the NASA’s 2020 Return to the Moon. The following cooperation phases are for you consideration.

Phase I of the NASA’s international cooperation on the lunar base or lunar village.
Partnership: 1) NASA, 2) ESA, 3) Russian, 4) Japan, 5) Canada.
Cooperation program funding starting date: 2015.
Reason: Partner’s budget and program readiness in 2015.
Partner’s module at the lunar base date: 2020-2025.

Phase II of the NASA’s international cooperation on the lunar base or lunar village.
Partnership: 1) China*, 2) India, 3) Korea, 4) Others.
Cooperation program funding starting date: 2020.
Reason: Partner’s budget and program readiness in 2020.
Partner’s module at the lunar base date: 2025-2030.
*The White House policy change is required.

The cooperation in human space exploration between the nations has been developed based on mutual benefits of collaboration. Lunar and Mars exploration and settlement human space exploration ventures of this century may prove too expensive for any one nation to handle. International teaming can be required to meet these mission requirements. It is very important to promote international cooperation activities which can enhance the security and welfare of mankind.

Thank you very much for your great review.

what said...

Once you go to a propellant depot architecture, you could launch all of the actual dry hardware from the ESAS architecture on two existing or near-term EELV Heavies, and then the rest of your launches you really don’t care about launcher reliability. Basically with a propellant depot architecture, you can keep the number of mission-critical rendezvous and docking opportunities to the same number as ESAS, while greatly increasing performance, reducing cost, and stimulating the private launch industry.

Like Space Tugs, propellant depots are an idea whose time has come.

Danny Deger said...


In answer to your question, "Who are you guys?", I am one. I am retired and can speak my mind, but many of the others are currently working inside Exploration and can not. It is one thing for John Shannon to speak about an alternative and quite something else for a GS-12/13 engineer to speak out.

Take a long hard look at Trust Oscillation on Ares I. It is apparently not going very well. The shuttle data taken recently have brought the mass dampers into doubt and the springs at the interstage may cause problems in the bending mode. And yes, CxP will try and hide facts from you. They asked me to join this process during ESAS in the summer of '05 and I refused. Needless to say, my career went nowhere after that.


Please consider the following sections to your July 28 Committee Public Meeting agenda:

I. Budget review of the NASA’s human spaceflight systems (Past and the Status from 2010-2015):

1) Apollo program budget and the lessons learned.
2) STS program budget and the lessons learned.
3) ISS program budget and the lessons learned.

II. Budget review of the HSF R & D programs (2010-2020):
1) Orion 4-crew budget.
2) Orion 6-crew budget.
3) ARES I for ISS 4- crew budget.
4) ARES I for ISS and Return to the Moon 6- crew budget.
5) ARES V for Return to the Moon 6- crew, lunar lander, and EDS budget.
6) ARES V for Return to the Moon cargo, lunar lander, and EDS budget.
7) DIRECT for ISS budget.
8) DIRECT for Return to the Moon budget (crew transportation).
9) DIRECT for Return to the Moon budget (cargo transportation).
10) Delta V etc. budget.
11) Others.

III. Budget review of the Lunar Base Stay Planning (2020-2030):
1) NASA’s lunar base budget.
2) NASA’s transportation vehicle for the base elements, lunar lander, and EDS budget.
3) Partner’s lunar base budget (ESA, Russian, Japan, etc.).
4) Partner’s transportation vehicle for the base elements, lunar lander, and EDS budget (ESA, Russian, Japan, etc.).
5) Commercial company lunar base budget.

Ben Joshua said...

It is becoming clear that Ares I/V is facing worsening budgetary constraints, rising development costs, technical shortcomings and mission shrink. Let it go.

Post-Shuttle LEO Capability can be achieved by fully funding COTS-D. Orbital Sciences, SpaceDev and SpaceX orbital craft offer complementary and evolutionary LEO access, with the eventual reduced cost of re-usability features.

Jupiter Direct is a team of NASA and contractor engineers and analysts devoting personal time to a better HLV.

With COTS-D assuring reasonably quick LEO transport, Jupiter Direct development can proceed on a realistically budget-paced schedule, and be geared for activities beyond LEO and possibly second generation orbital station components.