Buzz Aldrin’s Mission to Mars, A Book Review


I am reading the new book Mission to Mars, My Vision for Space Exploration, by Buzz Aldrin.  The book is a very good read, and for those of us who know Buzz, it is pretty much as we expect and have heard from Buzz for years.  There is some good information in the book and it is hoped that this will help to stimulate discussion on the subject.  Following is my blow by blow review of the book while I read it….

The book opens with Buzz and president Obama on Air Force 1 headed to Florida for Obama’s one major speech on space.  If you are a Mars or a Lunar advocate the speech was not satisfying as the focus of the speech was away from the Moon, but not to Mars, rather to an asteroid mission for humans.  Those of us who know some of the inner workings understand that this is because there is no budget for any lander, lunar or otherwise.

Buzz does help to perpetuate the common myth and wrong interpretation of the Augustine 2008 commission that the Bush plan for the Vision for Space Exploration which morphed into the Constellation program was underfunded (p94).  You have to look no farther than the NASA Concept Exploration and Refinement (CE&R) contracts of 2005 to see the original plans did not require this level of funding.  In searching, I find it amazing that you cannot find the CE&R contract reports online easily anymore.  However, this AIAA paper goes into some of the issues regarding how architecture choices drive the cost.  The Constellation program that came after the departure of Bush’s handpicked leader (Sean O’Keefe), requiring multiple heavy lift vehicles and a Battlestar Galactica style lunar lander that killed the program and this must be repeated every time the Bush “unaffordable” myth is trotted out.

Buzz opens with a call for something that I completely agree with, which is his Aldrin cycler design.  The Aldrin cycler is a true spaceship that continuously operates in space, cycling between the Earth and the Moon or the Earth and Mars.  While others came up with this as well Buzz has done the heavy lifting to put this concept out over the last 20-30 years.  He makes a great quote here… (p37)

Long ago the sound barrier was penetrated and tamed.  Now we need to break through the reusability barricade, one that has been perpetuated, in my view, by the greed of government bureaucracy and corporate industry…

The problem is that he is relying on these same people and on positive political forces to set up a sustained vision for Mars colonization by humans.  Our politicians today are for the most part incapable of understanding the value of this all important vision that Buzz and the rest of us have in this area.

Where I disagree with him, as he knows, is in his blunt evaluation that the Moon should be some part of an international camping trip where we bring all of the countries of the world together.  He uses the Antarctic research sites as his analogs frequently but the fact of the matter is that this internationalism does not work even there.  While there is a lot of cooperation, each nation has its own facility.  Even on ISS the Japanese consider their Kibo module to be sovereign Japanese territory.  What makes me crazy is that Buzz says this… (p89)

…In short, our celestial neighbor in gravitational lock, the moon, can be tapped to help create a sustainable economic, industrial, and science generating expansion into space…

YES!, however Buzz wants to hand it off to the rest of the world?  Inconceivable!

Buzz Basics in Technology

Buzz has a laundry list of technologies that are a good start for Mars.

Aerocapture, which is using the atmosphere of planet to slow a spacecraft down.

Radiation protection,  we don’t want to fry the humans, which is going to get more difficult with the coming extremely low solar activity over the next decades.

Life support, self evident yep and trying it out on ISS makes perfect sense…

Redundant Systems, absolutely, as well as advanced diagnostics and repair!

Inflatable structures, a good thing to have but possibly distracting

Landing systems, absolutely as gravity sucks and takes a lot of fuel as well as precision navigation for landing as he states.

However, this for Mars this is far more about the mission there than actually staying there.  To add to his list.

Energy Systems, the life and death of developing Mars is how much electrical and thermal energy is available.

In Situ Resources, that this keeps getting left off the list is inconceivable!

In Situ Manufacturing, this is what turns a science project into mankind’s second home.

Robotics, mankind’s ultimate force multiplier for off planet civilization.

Buzz goes on to talk about some initial flights to Mars and some interesting information that I did not know, which is that the Martian moon Deimos has ten months a year in sunlight.  This helps in the beginning with solar power.  Buzz has some interesting graphics related to his plans in the color plates but unfortunately you need a magnifying glass to read them.  I found a link on his site to at least one of them though.

Homesteading the Red Planet

I absolutely love the idea that Mars exploration and development by humans be a one way affair.  After first hearing about this idea a few years ago I have grown to completely embrace it as a core value myself for Mars.  Finally on page 174 Buzz mentions the word ISRU, without which colonizing Mars is a fools errand.  In a very interesting observation Buzz recounts that that Bruce Mackenzie’s team at the Mars Foundation has investigated making plastics like ethylene, derived from the atmosphere of Mars along with hydrogen.  That is very interesting (p181).

Buzz talks about Bob Zubrin’s Mars Direct architecture (p184) which I very much like as well as the use of in-situ resources starts in the beginning and is a core value, rather than something that comes later.  This page is also where I get irked in that Buzz just offhandedly states (from Mars Direct) that;

In the first year of implementation, and Earth return vehicle is launched to Mars, arriving six months later.  Upon landing on the surface, a rover is deployed that contains the nuclear reactors necessary to generate rocket fuel for the return trip.

This is another version of “then a miracle occurs” which so irks me so much when the development of Mars is discussed.

Thoughts

As a fellow space architect I really like Buzz’s book.  It does not go much farther than other books of the genre but since it is written by one of the surviving 12 Apollo surface astronauts it carries his significant weight behind it.  I have always admired Buzz over the years for his single minded dedication to teaching the world of the continuing value of the human exploration and development of space.  While he and I disagree on what the initial target should be we share a common goal.  I know that this book is written for the general reader and that details are to be left for interactions with stakeholders and politicians.  However, I must discuss one final lament about the book.

What is needed now is a practical roadmap to getting to Mars and colonizing it in a sustainable manner.  It is quite clear that unless a miracle occurs our current generation of political leadership does not think far enough ahead to understand the macro-societial benefits that Buzz talks about.  This is tragic in that in microcosm the development of the Moon or Mars fits within a macrocosm of discussion related to our own terrestrial civilization.  The problem of colonizing and building a sustainable Martian civilization has many commonalities with building a sustainable planetary civilization here on the Earth.

The first and most important resource for Mars or the Earth is energy.  This is glossed over for Mars (just deploy the reactors!) or misunderstood here on the Earth (green fixations that solar panels and wind turbines can power a planetary civilization of 9  billion people).  An in depth discussion of the Energy required to support a prosperous colony of 50, 100, or a thousand people on Mars is desperately required as it will start to bring clarity to Martian development as well as sustainable development here on the Earth.  We need a discussion of how a manufacturing infrastructure would be set up on Mars as without it homesteading Mars is impossible.  Then an examination in detail of what we know about the resources and how they would be developed.  In the end this is why I advocate the Moon in that in my opinion it is the combination of lunar and martian industrialization that are going to be the critical advances that help us to build a sustainable and prosperous planetary civilization here on the Earth.

Buzz I salute you for your book and that it opens the door for a new generation to learn about Mars and why it is important.  However, like Moses at Rephidim where Aaron and Hur had to hold up his arms in order for the children of Israel to win a fight, we need to hold his arms up and help to flesh out the vision presented.  There have been so many crucial advances in the past five years in the areas of robotics, 3D printing/manufacturing, and computer resources that simply must be integrated into our planning for Mars and the Moon.  Time for another book I guess!

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32 Responses to Buzz Aldrin’s Mission to Mars, A Book Review

  1. Mordanicus says:

    Cyclers are indeed a good idea. However, I think you are too quick to dismiss Asteroid missions. Asteroids are the treasure chests of our Solar System, since they contain all kind of mineral resources. Because their small gravity, it’s easy to lift resources from them. Mars for instance has an escape velocity of half that of Earth, so lifting something from Mars will cost a significant amount of energy.

    A truly sustainable Space based society should be involved with Asteroid mining.

    • denniswingo says:

      Mordanicus

      I am actually in favor of all of the above. I seriously doubt that there will ever be any resource imports from Mars to the Earth for the reasons that you state. To me the Moon will be the manufacturing hub of the inner solar system for space hardware. Mars will be the second anchor of a solar system spanning civilization that helps to enable asteroid mining as if you have Mars and the Earth as as places to buy and sell things, the orbital dynamics of asteroid mining become much easier.

  2. Hop David says:

    There’s at least a chance that asteroid mining can be profitable. If so, that might provide a market for lunar volatiles.

    Spudis seems to think there’s sheets of ice two meters thick at the Lunar cold traps. If this is true, the moon might become an important source of propellant and life support consumables. If not, I don’t see any incentive sufficient to motivate the investment needed for lunar infrastructure.

    Without asteroid mining an underpants fairy step is needed to establish economies on either moon or Mars.

    Even with profitable asteroid mining, I don’t see much use for Mars. Phobos and Deimos would be better gateways to the main belt.

    • denniswingo says:

      I disagree. The fact is that the largest source of asteroidal materials in near Earth space off the planet is on the Moon. This is a simple fact of impact dynamics. Thus on the Moon there will be a much wider diversity of asteroidal materials. Also, you can use telepresence for surface prospecting and as a force multiplier for human operations. It is my strong opinion that lunar mining and industrial development is a necessary precursor to asteroidal mining. I would add that without a Mars colony asteroidal mining will be much more expensive. This is based on revisit times between bodies as if you factor Mars in, the revisit time becomes shorter and thus Mars becomes a resupply base and a consumer of asteroid derived mining products.

      • Hop David says:

        Barringer searched for a meteoritic ore body in Arizona’s Meteor Crater. But it was blasted into smithereens. Generally asteroids striking the moon will be scattered far and wide. The scattered fragments of asteroids with high PGM concentrates will be well mixed with silicate and carbonaceous scattered fragments. I don’t see prospects for rich ore bodies.

        Then there’s the extra delta V for descending and ascending the moon’s gravity well.

        Planetary Resources wants to park rocks in lunar orbit. A rock in lunar orbit would be just as amenable to mining with telerobots as the moon.

        By “revisit times” you mean how frequently launch windows open? If so, you seem to be assuming building and launching spacecraft from Mars. Which presupposes an advanced manufacturing and industrial infra structure on Mars. How will such an infrastructure be built? Again, you seem to be assuming an intermediate Underpants Fairy step.

        • denniswingo says:

          I know about the Barringer crater and the impact there. You should read the history and the papers by the hydrocode modelers on the impact velocity of that body and how much was left.

          If you really want to understand the subject of low velocity impactors, read my book, “Moonrush” where I have a chapter on that specific subject.

          The minimum impact velocity of an object on the Moon is 3.6 km/sec. A metal meteorite laughs at any impact below about 10 km/sec. Look at the velocity distribution curve of impactors on the Moon, Mars, and Earth. Almost ALL mining of metals here on the earth are derived from impactors dating to the late bombardment period. Do a little research on the Sudbury impact, the Veredfort impact, and the Stillwater complex in Montana.

          The extra dV for descending and ascending the lunar gravity well is a trivial problem compared to the 2 year cycle times to asteroids. Do you have any idea of how much dV it requires to move an asteroid into lunar orbit? If you don’t know what a revisit time is then you need to research the subject and not extrapolate a strawman answer to knock down before understanding what it means. What revisit means that if I set up a resource extraction project on an asteroid, the minimum first trip time to do any real work is two years. Then revisit time is how long is it before that same asteroid is in a position to be reached with the same energy that it took to reach it the first time. You will be surprised at how long it can be.

          For some research, google these terms.

          Low Velocity impactors
          Jay Melosh
          Metal asteroid impacts
          Metal meteorites on Mars

          You want to really dig into it go read Acta Astronautica from the late 1960’s and early 70’s when they were assaying the meteoric metal content in the lunar samples brought back. The regolith in the highlands area is up to 1% meteoric nickel iron and that was just from a few Apollo samples at the Apollo 16 landing site.

          • “Almost ALL mining of metals here on earth are derived from impactors dating to the late bombardment period”

            I recall a mining engineer telling me good copper deposits tend to be along ridges where tectonic plates meet. My recollection is reinforced by quick Googling: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dynamic/tectonics.html So far as I know, not much plate tectonics is going on at the moon. Nor does the moon have hydrologic processes that concentrate ore bodies.

            On the other hand many asteroids are fragments of differentiated bodies. They come from magma layers comparable to the source of rich ore bodies here on earth.

            Quoting John Lewis, “Basically, there are many meteorites known in which the PGM content is around 100 ppm, and some with PGM contents as high as 200 ppm. An excellent PGM ore body on Earth (Norilsk, Homestake, Sudbury, the Vreedefort sturucture in South Africa) may contain 5 to 10 ppm of PGMs. They also tend to be known asteroid impact sites. ”

            So 5 to 10 ppm PGM at impact sites vs some asteroids with 100 to 200 ppm.

            “The extra dV for descending and ascending the lunar gravity well is a trivial problem compared to the 2 year cycle times to asteroids.”

            For a rock parked in lunar orbit, trip times as well as launch window frequency would be on the order of days or weeks.

            Saying the extra delta V is trivial is only wishful thinking. When I see a reusable lunar lander/ascent vehicle, I’ll take that notion more seriously.

            “Do you have any idea of how much dV it requires to move an asteroid into lunar orbit?”

            For the most accessible asteroids it takes .2 km/s or less to move the asteroid from a heliocentric to a lunar orbit.

            “The regolith in the highlands area is up to 1% meteoric nickel iron”

            1% meteoritic nickel iron! Sorry, investors will need better than that to motivate building lunar infrastructure.

            “For some research, google these terms. Low Velocity impactors Jay Melosh Metal asteroid impacts Metal meteorites on Mars”

            Mars as well as earth have an atmosphere. Terminal velocity for a small meteorite is quite low. So it’s possible for small meteorites to remain intact when striking the surface at a low terminal velocity.

            With the moon, minimum impact velocity is around 3.6 km/s, as you say. This would be a tiny fraction, though. Most strike at 10s of km/s.

            • denniswingo says:

              Science moves on. This is from 2011

              http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907132044.htm

              For the most accessible asteroids it takes .2 km/s or less to move the asteroid from a heliocentric to a lunar orbit.

              Times the mass of the object. a 100,000 ton rock to move 200 m/s is quite a lot of impulse, more than several hundred lunar landings.

              Saying the extra delta V is trivial is only wishful thinking. When I see a reusable lunar lander/ascent vehicle, I’ll take that notion more seriously.

              The RL-10 is a great basis of a reusable Lunar lander. Now I am not for the battlestar galactica approach (known as Altair), but to say that a reusable lunar lander is harder than moving a 100,000 ton rock into lunar orbit is sheer fantasy.

              Mars as well as earth have an atmosphere.

              Mars Atmosphere is like the Earth’s at 100,000 feet. Yes small meteorites get through that don’t on the Earth but they really don’t get slowed down much, that much has been shown from recent observations of the Martian surface.

              Most strike at 10s of km/s.

              No, they don’t. The peak of the gaussian curve for lunar impacts is between 14.1-16 km/sec. Only comets and high inclination rocks hit at over 20 km/sec on the Moon. Look it up in my book, which is from several scientific sources.

              • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907132044.htm

                Which reads in part “The impacting meteorites were stirred into Earth’s mantle by gigantic convection processes. ” Nothing in that article contradicts what I wrote. Nor does it contradict Lewis’ observation that asteroids can have ore deposits much richer than possible meteoritic ore deposits such as Sudbury.

                “Times the mass of the object. a 100,000 ton rock …”

                No. More like 500 tonnes. Please read http://www.kiss.caltech.edu/study/asteroid/asteroid_final_report.pdf

                “to move 200 m/s is quite a lot of impulse,”

                Chris Lewicki (of Planetary Resources and co-author of the Keck report I point to above) suggests using Hall thrusters with exhaust velocity around 30 km/s. With the moon’s gravity well you’d need chemical rockets. The best chemical exhaust velocity is around 4.4 km/s for hydrogen lox.

                The writers of the Keck paper suggest around 14 tonnes of Xenon. The fetching vehicle they propose could be launched on an Atlas.

                “Mars Atmosphere is like the Earth’s at 100,000 feet. Yes small meteorites get through that don’t on the Earth but they really don’t get slowed down much, that much has been shown from recent observations of the Martian surface.”

                The Mars metal meteorite near the heat shield is about the size of a basket ball. A radius of about .15 meters. Assuming .02 kg/meter^3 atmospheric density, 7000 kg/meter^3 meteorite density, gravity of 3.7 meters/sec^2 and a drag coefficient of .82 I get a terminal velocity of about .8 km/s

                “No, they don’t. The peak of the gaussian curve for lunar impacts is between 14.1-16 km/sec. Only comets and high inclination rocks hit at over 20 km/sec on the Moon.”

                See fig. 3 on tope of page 7 of this pdf: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0907.3010v2.pdf

              • denniswingo says:

                I don’t think you quite read the report. The fuel required for a .170 km/sec for that mission is 7.7 metric tons of Xenon, along with another 1.6 tons to get there. Ten tons of Xenon costs $12 million dollars.

                The entire cost of this mission is estimated at $2.6 billion dollars and to take 6-10 years to execute the flight operations part.

                That is not a way to run a business.

                As for the paper, interesting. I think his numbers may be off and he admits this when taking about the asymmetry in impacts…

                This argument predicts the existence of a hitherto unseen population of slow objects whose he- liocentric orbits are close to the Earth–Moon system. We make a rough estimate of the unseen popu- lation as follows. The best-fit sinusoid to the observational lunar crater asymmetry is consistent with an impactor population with average lunar impact velocity of 10–12 km/s (Morota & Furumoto, 2003). Consider an impactor population having a similar shape of the impact velocity distribution function as the simulated NEAs (Fig. 3a) but with ⟨vimp⟩ = 10–12 km/s rather than the ∼22 km/s that we found in our dynamical model based on the known NEAs. In such a population, the frac- tion of slow objects would be roughly 50% more than the fraction of slow objects in the currently known population of NEAs; here we define “slow” NEAs as those having potential lunar impact velocity < 12 km/s; such objects would be nearly coorbiting with Earth. In other words, our rough estimate of the actual slow NEA population is ∼ 50% more than the known slow NEAs.

                Neukom has lower numbers. Reference…

                G. Neukum et al, Crater Production and Cratering Chronology for Mercury, Mercury: Space Environment, Surface, and Interior, 2001 (8027.pdf)

                Thus in your referenced paper there could be observational bias of the NEA’s in the sample as well, as what we know about the number discovered so far is that we are no where near discovering a good fraction of them and the slower moving objects will be more difficult to identify. So I would not use your referenced paper as a definitive source ESPECIALLY as the community is counting on the existing numbers to get the number of objects that are slow enough in relation to the Moon and Earth to capture. Can’t have it both ways my friend.

                There are also a couple of problems in the Keck paper itself. There is no way that the solar array can be tiled 85 degrees off axis and still get 38 kw worth of power. Also, if they are only using TRL-6 hardware (from their requirements), they forgot to develop a set of slip rings and an actuator that can handle 25 kW power per wing. Their numbers for the wiring look low as well but that is a small factor.

                As I said 7.7 tons of propellant is a LOT of impulse. At $2.7 billion for a flight this is far more of a science experiment than a mission to make money.

                Even if that object has 500 grams/ton of platinum it is only worth $35m dollars at a 1,000 start mass.

                I am a fan of asteroidal mining but to make claims like you are does not make sense.

      • Mordanicus says:

        The largest source of asteroidal material in Near Earth space is not the Moon, it are the Near Earth Asteroids. There are a few hundreds of them, and they are easier to reach than the Moon because the require a lower delta V and thus less energy. Only round trip time would be longer. You might see my post: http://republicoflagrangia.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/forget-the-moon-start-with-the-near-earth-asteroids/

        • denniswingo says:

          Your article is a series of assertions that does not take into account the full spectrum of systems engineering required to access and process these resources. For example.

          Not only are NEAs easier to reach, they also contain abroader spectrum of resources. If space colonists could use NEA resources,

          This is simply an incorrect statement. While as an aggregate there is a broader spectrum of resources from NEA’s, each NEA is highly likely to be extremely homogeneous with the exception of the rubble piles but small rubble piles don’t exist due to the lack of enough gravitational attraction to hold the rubble together. It is a fact of remote sensing and from the Apollo samples that there is a wide diversity of resources on the Moon.

          If you look at the dV to return these objects into near earth space within any reasonable time period you will find that they far exceed that of a lunar landing and take off. The Keck study had a return dV of .170 km/sec but it used over seven metric tons of Xenon and 6 years to do it. That hardly closes a business case.

          I am a 100% advocate of NEA mining but to assert that it is easier to do so ignores the reality of that object we see in the sky every night.

          • Hop David says:

            “The Keck study had a return dV of .170 km/sec but it used over seven metric tons of Xenon and 6 years to do it.”

            See figure 19 on page 43. Around 7 tonnes of xenon can return a 1000 tonne rock.

            “That hardly closes a business case.”

            7 tonnes of xenon certainly doesn’t break the case. Cost of propellant is tiny compared to hardware.

            6 years is a long time. It may take more than a lifetime to realize ROI. However that hasn’t deterred people like Sergei Brin. Most of Planetary Resources investors are already richer than MIdas. I believe they invest in PR more to leave a legacy than make a quick buck.

          • Mordanicus says:

            The Moon certainly contains a wide diversity of resources, mainly all kind of usefull metals. However, the Moon lacks significant deposits of carbon and nitrogen, which are important for supporting life. Hydrogen used to be on the list of resources the Moon lacked, but we know now that there is at least some ice on the Moon, although the question is how much; more research is definitely needed.

            It depends on what you mean with a reasonable time. If you are thinking in the order of days or weeks, then yes, the Moon is a more attractive place to start mining. However, if you see a 8 to 24 month period reasonable, then NEA mining becomes more attractive.

            The specific dV requirements are dependent on specific Near Earth Objects, so they may vary. I will look at the Keck study when time permits.

            Yes, NEA are likely to be more homogenous. Exploiting them would give serious challenges, however this shouldn’t problematic. The Sun provides enough cheap energy to do the job.

            The Moon certainly has its value, however we should be careful not to overestimate its value.

            • Hop David says:

              The LCROSS ejecta seemed to indicate there’s carbon and nitrogen as well as hydrogen in the lunar cold traps. We have yet to send prospector rovers to the polar craters but it’s my guess they have an abundance of CHON.

            • denniswingo says:

              The Moon certainly contains a wide diversity of resources, mainly all kind of usefull metals. However, the Moon lacks significant deposits of carbon and nitrogen, which are important for supporting life. Hydrogen used to be on the list of resources the Moon lacked, but we know now that there is at least some ice on the Moon, although the question is how much; more research is definitely needed.

              As David said, LCROSS data indicates carbon and nitrogen.

              It depends on what you mean with a reasonable time. If you are thinking in the order of days or weeks, then yes, the Moon is a more attractive place to start mining. However, if you see a 8 to 24 month period reasonable, then NEA mining becomes more attractive.

              NEA’s are attractive, I want to emphasize that I am not in opposition to mining asteroids. The issue is where do we start? What infrastructure is needed? How do you handle the long revisit times to the same body? If you go through the list, what you will see is that the Moon offers and amazing array of positive benefits to start out. Then the resources of the Moon enable a much more robust infrastructure to support asteroid mining which also supports Martina colonization…

              It is the gestalt that I am trying to get across. It is NOT an issue of either or, Mars, Moon, Asteroids, each is as important to the other as the legs of a three legged stool…

              • Hop David says:

                Everyone’s pushing their versions of one legged stools. The result isn’t hard to predict. We’ll continue to topple over.

                Zubrin is the most successful one legged stool advocate. He was doubtless doing a victory dance during Obama’s BTDT speech. But what has Zubrin actually accomplished? He’s has postponed mankind’s entry into space by decades, possibly forever.

                And Spudis is selling his one legged stool. Deja Vu, Zudis, errrr…. Spubrin is attacking asteroid retrieval as a distraction from Moon Direct. And I see you joining the chorus at Spudis’ blog. Though I give you credit for supporting SEP development.

                Spudis is acquainted with J. S. Lewis. I’m sure he knows about Planetary Resources. In an honest article he would have noted the retrieval mission could aid Planetary Resources’ efforts to exploit asteroids. I searched his “Where, Why and How?” and no mention of PR. He wishes to convey the notion that asteroid retrieval is a pointless publicity stunt. And an honest and complete article wouldn’t serve that goal.

                Eric Berger writes about the Planetary Resources Arkyd Kick Starter. Based on Golden Spike’s dismal Kick Starter failure, Berger speculated the public wouldn’t support the Arkyd fund raiser. Happily Berger’s wrong, the Arkyd Kick Starter is enjoying enthusiastic public support. I hope Spubrin will reconsider and cease his bridge burning efforts.

  3. Hop David says:

    “I don’t think you quite read the report.”

    I don’t think you quite read my reply.

    “The fuel required for a .170 km/sec for that mission is 7.7 metric tons of Xenon, along with another 1.6 tons to get there. Ten tons of Xenon costs $12 million dollars.”

    I admit misremembering 14 tonnes as suggested amount of Xenon. Reviewing page 29 I see it’s 12.9 tonnes. However, your 10 tonnes is further off.

    About a third of that 12.9 tonnes is for the spiral out of LEO to heliocentric transfer orbit.

    $12 million isn’t a huge amount.

    “The entire cost of this mission is estimated at $2.6 billion dollars and to take 6-10 years to execute the flight operations part.”

    If you look at pages 40 and 41 you will see about half of that is DDT&E (Design Development Testing and Evaluation). As more fetching vehicles are made, the development expense is amortized over more units, costs of making these and launching from earth’s surface will approach 1.3 billion.

    Moreover, Hall thrusters are very durable. It is possible a single fetching vehicle could be used to fetch multiple rocks.

    “So I would not use your referenced paper as a definitive source ESPECIALLY as the community is counting on the existing numbers to get the number of objects that are slow enough in relation to the Moon and Earth to capture. ”

    Needles in a haystack. While rocks are in heliocentric orbits, they are widely separated needles. When they impact the moon, they become needles in a hay stack. The low velocity NEAs will be much easier to find in heliocentric orbits than when plunged into an immense hay stack.

    “Even if that object has 500 grams/ton of platinum”

    The first commodity Planetary Resources hopes to mine isn’t platinum. It’s water.

    http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/usage/

    So long as we have 10 to 16 km/s delta V budgets, reusable vehicles are unlikely. A propellant source high on the slopes of earth’s gravity well would break the exponent in Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation.

    http://hopsblog-hop.blogspot.com/2012/08/mf-is-mofo-tyranny-of-rocket-equation_21.html

    Breaking the rocket equation makes economical space flight possible. Which is a prerequisite for asteroid mining.

    You might ask what good hydrogen and oxygen does for a Hall Thruster that uses xenon. A chemical EDS (Earth Departure Stage) could eliminate the need for a 2.2 year spiral out of LEO. Eliminating that spiral would also boost xenon available for moving asteroids by 50%.

    A chemical ferry could also bring xenon to rock fetchers that have returned to the earth moon neighborhood and are ready to depart for another rock.

    Given a water rich 500 tonne carbonaceous, there might be 100 tonnes of water in the hydrated clays. Maybe enough to help some, but a thriving asteroid mining company would need a lot more. There are volatiles in the lunar cold traps. Some believe there’s 600 million tonnes of water ice in the form of 2 meter sheets.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Mini-RF/multimedia/feature_ice_like_deposits.html

    If this is true, the moon would be a far richer source of propellant than the occasional ball of hydrated clays.

    As I’ve said, the asteroid miners could become a major consumer of lunar resources.

    If there’s a perceived need for lunar resources, there’s a better chance lunar landers will come to pass.

    “I am a fan of asteroidal mining”

    And yet you trot out the same tired straw men that are used against asteroid mining:
    1) The 100,000 tonne rock (at least you’re not using Tom Murphy’s kilometer sized rock)
    2) Given present costs of space transportation, asteroid resources aren’t profitable (which demolishes the notion of ROI on lunar resources as well).

    Actual fans of asteroid mining will have read the Keck paper as well as PR’s goals. PR isn’t talking about retrieving 100,000 tonne rocks. And they acknowledge we need to reduce the cost of space flight to realize a profit.

    • denniswingo says:

      Given a water rich 500 tonne carbonaceous, there might be 100 tonnes of water in the hydrated clays. Maybe enough to help some, but a thriving asteroid mining company would need a lot more. There are volatiles in the lunar cold traps. Some believe there’s 600 million tonnes of water ice in the form of 2 meter sheets.

      I don’t believe the numbers are that high for the hydrated clays. Do you have a source for that?

      I am slightly more pessimistic on the lunar water as well but the key is how to profitably extract that water.

      And yet you trot out the same tired straw men that are used against asteroid mining:
      1) The 100,000 tonne rock (at least you’re not using Tom Murphy’s kilometer sized rock)
      2) Given present costs of space transportation, asteroid resources aren’t profitable (which demolishes the notion of ROI on lunar resources as well).

      Actual fans of asteroid mining will have read the Keck paper as well as PR’s goals. PR isn’t talking about retrieving 100,000 tonne rocks. And they acknowledge we need to reduce the cost of space flight to realize a profit.

      Horsepucky. I know PR’s goals much better than you do and I did not talk about 100,000 ton rocks. I did not talk about the cost of transportation. I talked about the time/cost of money, which is a completely different animal.

      Also, this is what I said over on Spudis Blog….


      Why in the hell does it have to be a fight between them? Why is it that some people simply cannot grasp that it is ALL OF THE ABOVE. What I wrote about above is WHAT TO DO ON MARS, not what the ultimate goal of a spacefaring civilization is.

      Space advocates are their own worst enemies, arguing this or that destination while getting pissed on as a bunch of loons by the rest of the world. You are arguing between whether you want to drive a Ford or a Chevy when the issue is building a continent wide interstate highway system that supports ALL vehicles.

      GET IT?

      Its called an integrated system. Mars is part of that system, the Moon is part of that system, the asteroids are part of that system, free space habitats are ALL PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM.

      • “Horsepucky. I know PR’s goals much better than you do and I did not talk about 100,000 ton rocks.”

        Yes, you did. Here’s what you wrote earlier:

        “Times the mass of the object. a 100,000 ton rock to move 200 m/s is quite a lot of impulse, more than several hundred lunar landings.”

        100,000 ton rocks are out of the picture. Not only because of what’s doable but because of safety issues as discussed on page 15 of the Keck report. If you know PR’s goals so well, why did you use that red herring? I call your self proclaimed expertise horse pucky.

        However, I’ll give you credit for your post in Where Why and How?. I take back what I said. You’re not part of Spubrins’ one legged stool chorus.

      • “I don’t believe the numbers are that high for the hydrated clays. Do you have a source for that?”

        Quick Googling gives

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonaceous_chondrite

        which mentions 3% to 22% water for CM and CI groups. The article cites
        Norton, O. Richard (2002). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Meteorites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 121–124.

        • denniswingo says:

          That is a pretty wide range and only a very few of them have water in the upper realm of those numbers. Read in detail the book “Resources of Near Earth Space” edited by Dr. John Lewis for more details.

          You are talking about a small fraction of a small fraction of bodies and the majority of those are Apollo or Armor types. The ones most likely to have low dV’s are Atens.

          100,000 ton rocks are out of the picture. Not only because of what’s doable but because of safety issues as discussed on page 15 of the Keck report. If you know PR’s goals so well, why did you use that red herring? I call your self proclaimed expertise horse pucky.

          A 100,000 ton rock is simply not doable at this time and to state that there is any possibility is simply out of school completely. PR’s goals are to operate with bigger rocks, you simply cannot make any money with the smaller ones as they want to bring them back and crash them in Australia. I think that it would be much easier to get water in other ways.

          Mining water implies an infrastructure in place to use that water, something that does not exist now. That costs money. Without an integrated plan for inner solar system development there is no market for the water.

          You keep going farther and farther afield. Do you have any idea how much what you are talking about is going to cost? What is its market? Without more than arm waving, you are well, arm waving.

          • Hop David says:

            “A 100,000 ton rock is simply not doable at this time”

            Um…. That’s what I said. It’s not doable. And also it’s not safe (as mentioned on page 15 of the Keck report).

            YOU are the source of this notion. Bringing back a 100,000 tonne rock isn’t my idea but your straw man. A spectacularly stupid straw man, I might add.

            Blog Author Note

            Attack deleted

            You will get NO FURTHER consideration by using that tone in an exchange on this blog. You either act and write as an adult, or not at all here.

            This is your only warning.

  4. billgamesh says:

    “Without an integrated plan for inner solar system development there is no market for the water.”

    Hello Dennis, my first time on your blog;

    I am skeptical of your plan; “Its called an integrated system. Mars is part of that system, the Moon is part of that system, the asteroids are part of that system, free space habitats are ALL PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM.”
    I like you refering to yourself as a “space architect.” I guess that is what I am also. Not that I agree with many of your talking points- but we do agree on some things.

    I do not believe Mars or asteroids are part of a viable integrated system- not for a long time to come anyway. I do not think LEO is any part of such a system either- except perhaps as a single orbit checkout for an EDS as in Apollo.

    I am looking forward to bringing you around to my way of thinking. Consider my main points please;

    There is no cheap, resuability is a myth, LEO is a dead end, there is no substitute for a HLV with hydrogen upper stages, cosmic radiation shielding is square one (and Moonwater is that shielding), chemical propulsion for interplanetary travel is worthless (and the Moon is where we go nuclear), planetary protection and survival colonies are justification for a Moon base (with Criswell’s Lunar Solar Power and Parkin’s beam propulsion as ultimate goals).

    Regards, Gary Church

  5. billgamesh says:

    This is what I posted on Spudis’ blog and I wonder how much of it you agree with Dennis.

    Make no mistake- the ice on the Moon is the resource that enables the exploration and colonization of the solar system. Even if cryogenic shuttles fly up from lunar underground bases and bring back down cargo from lunar orbit, there will still be a need for hypergolic propellants. Any large manned geo-stationary platforms will mass thousands of tons- including the Moon water they will use for radiation shielding- and these quasi-spaceships will require both cryogenic and storable propellants for their launch from the Moon and insertion into geostationary Earth orbit. These cislunar stations that could provide telecomm services far more efficiently than current networks, are really just spaceships without nuclear engines.

    It is these nuclear engines that can be assembled, tested, and launched on missions outside the Earth’s magnetosphere from the Moon that enable interplanetary travel.

    So the people that want to go to Mars should understand the Moon is the way to get there. Bypassing the Moon means shielding and propulsion become extremely difficult problems while using the ice for shielding and the lunar location as a staging point for nuclear operations will insure success.

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