Archive for Pathfinder

Mars One “100.”

OlympusMons2

Of the Mars One volunteers selected in Round 3, several have been guests on Mars Pirate Radio. While I was surprised to discover that several of my guests weren’t picked, those who were interviewed on MPR and are now among the “100” include: Dan Carey, Cody Reeder, Dr. Elena Shateni, Carmen Paul, and Oscar Mathews. Two more, Dr. Lela Zucker and Sue Ann Pien were scheduled to participate in a group discussion, but Mars One closed the process to interviews before this could happen. Best wishes to all.

To those MPR guests who weren’t chosen, I can only say that there isn’t one among You that I wouldn’t be pleased to have at my side were I on the Mission.

http://dougturnbull.podbean.com/

A Review of THE PLUNDERING OF NASA: AN EXPOSE’ by R. D. Boozer

Front cover

Doug Turnbull’s review of “The Plundering of NASA: An Expose” by R. D. Boozer

 

I write science fiction stories, occasionally write non-fiction space science articles and have a weekly podcast called Mars Pirate Radio concerned with science, science fiction and the future. I also review books and movies.

The Plundering of NASA: an Expose’ by R. D. Boozer (Copyright 2013) is an exhaustive report on how pork barrel politics has diverted vital NASA funding away from cutting edge technological research into building, to borrow a term from space science writer, John Stickland, “a rocket to nowhere.” R. D. “Rick” Boozer is an astrophysicist who in addition to writing books and articles, hosts a blog called Astro Maven and a website called Singularity Scientific. Both are dedicated to putting forth the message that science can be fun.

In making his arguments, Boozer explodes a dozen or so commonly held myths about spaceflight. For example, myth number one: NASA needs a large budget increase for ambitious space exploration. Boozer examines this one carefully and demonstrates that NASA has plenty of money; but, he argues, because of political pressure much of it is being funneled into non-productive areas. In those categories, the biggest culprits are the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Spacecraft projects.  Another commonly held belief is that Space Stations and propellant depots require heavy lift vehicles of type proposed in the SLS program. Boozer points out that the critical factor in assembling large structures in low Earth orbit (LEO) is not the size or number of components. Assembling large structures out of many smaller components is a well established capability, as the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS) demonstrates. Instead, the cost per ton of placing the components into LEO is of paramount importance. Using this measure, SLS with its colossal development costs and huge per unit cost is the biggest loser to other less expensive lift systems. A third myth is that fuel depots in orbit are too expensive to operate, thus we need a huge rocket that doesn’t need refueling. Boozer crushes this one with the analogy of the in flight refueling techniques long employed by the Air Force and Navy as an alternative to building a few gigantically expensive aircraft capable of flying around the world on one tank of fuel.

As you may have gathered from the foregoing, the main brunt of Boozer’s criticism of NASA’s current agenda is directed toward the SLS and Orion Spacecraft projects. Like SLS, the Orion Spacecraft is still under development, existing only on engineer’s drawing boards. Designed to carry a four person crew, the Orion is only a little larger than the already operational Dragon Spacecraft developed by Space X. It primary claim to fame is that it will be deep space mission capable. But this claim is empty because any missions lasting more than a few days would have the astronauts crammed in the still tiny craft like “spam in a can” to quote Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. It’s bigger than Apollo or the Dragon, but not that much bigger. The Dragon is quite capable of doing its primary mission: ferrying astronauts and cargo to and from LEO, where the real deep spaceships can be assembled, vessels large enough to convey their crew comfortably and safely on long duration missions. Boozer proposes that NASA use the money he feels is being wasted on SLS/Orion instead to develop and build a spaceship such as the plasma powered Nautilus X, the outlines of a design of which have already been studies and created by the agency. The magneto plasma engine, invented by Franklin Chang-Diaz, could be used to propel such a craft and will be tested on board the ISS within a year or two.

He argues, I believe successfully, that SLS/Orion programs are superfluous and largely propelled by pork barrel politics. Boozer names—names, and identifies the congressmen and senators who are pushing programs that benefit their constituents and the aerospace companies that contribute to their campaigns, rather than further actual space exploration and extra terrestrial development. In making his argument, Boozer quotes noted astronauts, rocket scientists and other aerospace experts such as Buzz Aldrin, Chris Craft, John Strickland, Rand Simberg and Space X founder, Elon Musk, to name just a few.

As noted above, Boozer isn’t simply criticizing a program without proposing useful alternatives, however. He documents how the badly underfunded Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo programs have been much more efficient in producing results than the programs managed directly by NASA. These two programs encourage private companies to develop their own hardware by granting contracts to the firms with specific budgets and timeframes, as opposed to the open-ended “cost plus” contracts traditionally employed by NASA. What Boozer and many others both inside and outside NASA propose is the development of an infrastructure in space, either in (LEO) or possibly at the Lagrange Point known as L-2 located beyond the moon, for assembling, fueling and equipping deep space missions. Much of the equipment necessary for creating such an infrastructure already exists or will be operational in the very near future. Space X’s Falcon Heavy, which can lift 55 tons to LEO will be launched in 2014 and was developed entirely with private funds, while both the currently operational Atlas and Delta heavy lift systems are capable of placing 20 tons in LEO. The Dragon spacecraft has already flown an un-crewed cargo mission to the ISS and like the Falcon Heavy, was largely developed with private money.

Rick Boozer is not a bomb thrower. He carefully documents all of his assertions, oftentimes using NASA internal studies as well as external studies by entities such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Booze-Allen-Hamilton study of the SLS. This book is carefully sourced and will stand up to scholarly scrutiny. One very useful feature of his list of references is that each article or reference source cited in the main body of the book has a web address where the original document can be accessed. I highly recommend this fine book to anyone who is interested in space exploration and believes, as I do, that humanity’s next logical step is development and settlement off the Earth. This book is currently available at Amazon and other online retail outlets in both e-book and paperback formats.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUJklEiG0WY&list=HL1388112386&feature=mh_lolz

Mars Pirate Radio: Episode XXVI

Mihail Mateev

Doug Turnbull here at Mars Pirate Radio, the nexus of science, science fiction and the future. Tonight we have an interview with Mihail Mateev, the founder and President of The Mars society in Bulgaria. In addition we will have some space science updates and the next installment of Titus Andronicus Scott.

 

Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society and President of Pioneer Astronautics has joined the advisory board of Mars One, the Dutch based foundation that seeks to establish a permanent settlement on Mars in the next decade. To date, Mars One has had over 200,000 volunteers for their astronaut program. The mission architecture calls for the trips to the Red Planet to be one-way. On accepting the position on the board, Zubrin said:

Mars is the new world. Its settlement presents the challenge that will determine whether we remain confined to Earth, or can become a multiplanet spacefaring species, with a future made unbounded by our courage and creativity. Mars One has accepted that challenge. It is a daunting one, and the odds may well be against them. But if no one tries, no one will succeed. I’m proud to do what I can to help.”

http://www.mars-one.com/en/about-mars-one/advisers/2-mars-mission/506-dr-robert-zubrin

 

According to an October 15th Leonard David article in space.com, India’s first Mars bound spacecraft is set to launch late this month. The Indian Space Research Organization’s  Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe, will be carried aloft by the Indian made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The spacecraft is designed to photograph the Martian surface from orbit and search for signs of methane in the planet’s atmosphere, be it expelled by non-biological or microbial sources. The orbiter’s launch window opens on Oct. 28 and closes on Nov. 19, with the arrival at the Red Planet targeted for September 2014.

 

http://www.space.com/23204-india-mars-orbiter-mission.html

 

On October 15th I had an article posted in space.com positing that the planned 501 day Inspiration Mars circumnavigation mission could be flown using equipment that is already in service. Utilizing the Proton and Soyuz launch vehicles, the Mars vehicle would be assembled in low Earth Orbit and then injected into its Mars circumnavigation orbit by Russian built Briz-M propulsion units. The vehicle itself would consist of a Zvezda module similar to the one in use on the International Space Station and a Soyuz orbiter docked together. The mission is scheduled for 2018.

http://www.space.com/23208-existing-tech-can-take-humans-to-mars.html

Links to these articles are listed in the introduction of Episode XXVI.

And now, to our interview.

Mihail Mateev is the founder and first President of The Mars Society-Bulgaria. He has a Masters Degree in Engineering in the area of Telecommunication Technique and Technologies. Having grown up when the Soviet Union still held Eastern Europe as part of its empire, Mihail brings a perspective to the subject of human space flight that differs from that of most of us who grew up in the western democracies. He speaks English, Russian and Bulgarian. A written transcript of this interview will be posted in the “Podcast” portion of my website.

Interview;

Good evening Mihail

– Good evening, Doug!

 

-Tell us a bit about The Mars Society Bulgaria, what the organization does and what you do.

– Mars Society Bulgaria was founded in 2012. Our main aim is the younger generation – children and teenagers. Thus we pursue popular projects like translation of articles, we have done the translation of “The Mars Underground” 2007 with subtitles in Bulgarian.

 

One of our finished projects is a set of 2 maps – topomap and photomap – with size of 50 by 70 cm /19 by 27 inches/ – it is B2 size of paper, which we had distributed to most astronomical organizations /clubs, planetariums, observatories/ and some of public libraries. The rest of the print is available for donors for their donation. The toponyms are in Latin, the explanatory text is in Bulgarian. Even so, there is an American couple who bought a pair and put them framed on the wall of their home.

 

We have also a mechanical Mars Gravity Simulator (MaGraS). It is on paper only, as we need funding to make it.

 

Mars Society Bulgaria holds an annual literature competition for science-fiction short story and poem, too.

 

We have some other projects, which are not finished, and therefore we do not announce them too much.

 

My personal role in Mars Society Bulgaria… Well, I am the founder and its first President. It is my duty to participate whenever a journalist calls and asks for an interview, or if there is a Space related event – to go and to present Mars Society Bulgaria. I am also maintaining the website of the Society.

 

How did you get interested in space exploration and human space flight?

– I was raised in Communist Bulgaria. At that time the science fiction was one of the few areas, where some liberty of mind was possible.

 

In fact, as long as I remember, I’ve started with Tsiolkovskiy “On the Moon” and “Dreams for Earth and heaven”, where microgravity, reactive propulsion and closed ecosystems were examined, as well as Solar system, etc.

 

I am humbled to know that scientists from a global magnitude as von Braun and Korolyov had the same way in their life.

 

I become especially fascinated with the idea of closed ecosystems, therefore I am doing a theoretical research in aquaponics, which is combined growth of fish and plants in symbiosis. I will try to run a small system here, on Earth, and if it is successful, I will try to adapt it for microgravity and Martian gravity.

 

 

-Do you feel, as do I, that there is a future for humanity in populating and developing the solar system and how do you see that evolving in the near future?

– The curiosity and the spirit of discovery is laid down into the human being and I believe there are some people who are willing to go to a certain place just because it exists. For example – Mt. Everest, Mariana Trench, Moon, Mars… What is more – humanity had settled the Earth firstly on places, where the conditions are most favorable. With respect to the temperature Martian equator is a better place than some places on Earth, as Martian regolith temperature during the day reaches up to 30 degrees C. For example, the temperature on some Antarctic stations is – 40 to – 80 degrees C and people do live there.

 

So, everything is depending on the will of man and proper equipment. I strongly believe that gradually the humanity will settle the whole Solar system. Mars, for example, has total surface of all land area on Earth. Practically said, it is a second Earth in regard to the surface.

 

In order to settle down on Mars we should have develop technologies to maintain a regular and relatively inexpensive journeys to Mars and back. Then we would have the possibility to extract resources from the Main asteroid belt and to “Long live and prosper!”, as they say in Startrek. Then may be we would be able to visit and make outposts on Jovian moons, then the rest of the planets, and who knows, one day we may fly to Proxima Centauri, which is 4 light years away.

 

 

-Private ventures seem to be gradually displacing government financed space ventures. Is this the future of space development in your view?

– Yes, according to me the private enterprises would take over the governmental space program. If you want to have something sustainable on a long run, you have to make it profitable.

 

America was settled this way – with chapters from the British Crown, but the funding was private. My point of view is sooner than later the settlements would request their independence from Earth authorities and therefore it is best to have as less as possible governmental interference. New communities would be formed, with their own challenges, and that is why I strongly believe the role of national governments soon shall end and will be replaced by community councils of the settlements, which would be private ventures.

 

Something more – private sector and free market in space are would provide drop in the prices and boost of quality – something we already see if we compare SpaceX to NASA rockets. There was an article, which said NASA committee was elected to investigate how SpaceX did their Falcon rocket. The same committee said if NASA had to do it it would cost about 4 times more.

 

-I believe it is possible to begin planning and assembling the infrastructure materials for a Lunar or Mars settlement today, using equipment we currently posses, and assembling the missions in low Earth orbit the way we did with the ISS. What are your thoughts on this?

– It is possible to be done today, but it is impractical. Elon Musk from SpaceX is aiming to achieve price of USD 1000 per pound to LEO, which is USD 1000 for 0.5 kilograms in metric system. Current price is about USD 10,000 per pound.

 

I understand there are people of different age and some, which are with greater age, what to see things as soon as possible, but economics has its own pace. I would say if SpaceX achieve a reusable first stage of its Falcon rocket, then the prices would drop. What is more – we already saw a cargo delivery from Cignus of private company Orbital. The competition between private rocket companies would make prices to get low with a drop. I expect to see many more private players in this sector, so the near future is really bright. I am enjoying the first Sun beams of the rise already.

 

 

-In my books and stories, I postulate that the habitats and so forth for a Mars or Lunar settlement be constructed robotically before any human ever sets foot there. Do you agree or disagree and why?

– I am totally agree. Robots do not get tired, they do not need life support systems, they are remotely controllable and able to have some local autonomy. Plus, if they are supplied with energy, they can work non-stop around the clock.

 

3D printing revolution is already here, it is just starting to get more common day after day in spreading areas of application, habitats included.

 

The great benefit for Earth is if something is working on Moon or Mars, it would work for sure on Earth (well, if it is not specifically bounded to a less gravity).

 

-Right now it takes about 260 days to get to Mars using the economical, Hohman style orbit, during which passengers are subject to a barrage of high energy radiation. What do you think of the Aldrin Cycler as a mean of shortening the duration of missions?

– Aldrin Cyclers are a great idea of a great mind. Some of the outbound trips are just about 86 days Earth to Mars.

 

What we need is cheap access to LEO and strong business competition in order to secure low prices and great quality. We would need also redundancy reliability in automatics. The last article, written by Buzz Aldrin, had some extra intermediate vehicles to match the high speed of the Cycler. But what I saw is that it would become a transportation network. We need reliable access to LEO and beyond in order to secure that network.

 

 

-Along those lines, what do you see in the future of propulsion systems such as chemical, ion, nuclear, solar sail and other possibilities?

– Different propulsions are suitable for different aims. Ion propulsion is great on fuel consumption – it is very economic, but the acceleration is small and time is needed to achieve really usable speeds.

 

Until we handle nuclear waste reliably – for example – to burn it into the Sun – I would not use nuclear power. The fact the nuclear plant is dangerous even just as a device – just needs to go out of its optimal parameters to make a boom, makes me reluctant to accept it in any form. I am not environmentalist, but I do not want a Moon or Martian settlement to be erased just because of a nuclear failure. Of course, there are several types of nuclear batteries, which are somehow more secure, but nuclear propulsion is too dangerous for the crew on the ship plus Earth atmosphere, thus the whole Earth population if it is ignited in vicinity of Earth.

 

Solar sail is a great way for light equipment.

 

Chemical propulsion still has to offer a great way of transportation, which, combined with proper orbital trajectories can serve us for many years and decades ahead. For example, methane-liquid oxygen bi-propellant is very secure and clean fuel, which we still haven’t implemented on Earth, but it is quite possible to be implemented on Mars firstly, and then on Earth.

 

-I believe that private property rights are essential if we are to develop an extraterrestrial culture. What are your views on this?

– I believe that the political system as we know it – big governmental programs, big interfere of the government in the economics is a model, which soon shall be outdated. I think the community model is the future – people would live in one settlement because they are willing so, not because some bureaucrat/statist said so. The settlements need to be productive as much as they can, and feeding non-productive big government with money, collected by taxes or imposed fees is not the best way for surviving and thrive in such a community/society. If there would be any such need of people like this, they would be non-paid. For example as you and me are not being paid for what you do in Mars Pirate Radio, nor I am paid for running Mars Society Bulgaria. As long as I know the Swiss Parliament/Congress is also unpaid. May be this is the reason this country is has such an effective government and self-dependent people.

 

-On this subject, the so called “moon treaty” appears to prohibit ownership of extraterrestrial property. Should the USA and other space faring nations opt out of this treaty?

– I have been interviewed for Bulgarian National Radio on that matter. So called “Moon treaty” is not signed by any major Space faring nation, neither USA, nor Russia (also China, Japan, India, some European countries). So such nations do not have to opt out, as they have never signed it.

 

Moon treaty from 1979 is thought as a follow-up of Outer Space Treaty from 1967. The Moon treaty bans private or NGO ownership of any parcels on heavenly bodies and gives authorities to UN to rule.

 

Outer Space Treaty from 1967 rules out possibility to claim any extraterrestrial territory a sovereign national territory, but says nothing about private person ownership or a private consortium. Of course, in the midst of the Cold War no one could even imagine a real private ownership of any extraterrestrial plot of land.

 

Here comes the community system. If a community of settlers claim sovereign right over a territory, but not subdue to any nation on Earth, but something like a new nation in-situ, then it might work, especially if this community is self-sustainable and have knowledge or resources to trade.

 

Outer Space Treaty is built upon a frame of The Antarctic Treaty (also called Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)). It prohibits only nation to develop any national business in Antarctica. As a result, Antarctica is still a non-exploited land, contrary on the Arctic, where contracts have been drawn and the area is quite developed in regard to the resources, trade, etc.

 

So, if I can rephrase your question should USA opt out of Outer Space Treaty – yes, you should. For the sake of the future of humanity.

 

-Any other questions or topics you would like to discuss?

– I do not have any particular suggestions right now.

 

-How can our listeners learn more about The Mars Society Bulgaria and possibly contact you?

– Anyone who is willing to contact us may do it visiting www.MarsSociety.bg, and we are also on Facebook – we have a page Mars Society Bulgaria and a group Mars Society Bulgaria. Also we may be contacted directly by email info@MarsSociety.bg.

 

-Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.

– Thank you for the invitation! Long live and prosper!

 

 

Mars Now: Mission Possible

Inspiration Mars Mission

The means for missions to Mars, the moon and deep space are within current capabilities.

By assembling mission ships in low Earth orbit (LEO), it is possible to mount deep-space flights using existing equipment.

For the rest of this article, follow the link to Space.com

http://www.space.com/23208-existing-tech-can-take-humans-to-mars.html

Mid-Century Life on Mars

No. 1

 

 

Mid-Century Life on Mars

By Doug Turnbull

 

Sunday, August 31st marked the end of the application period for future astronauts hoping to catch a ride on a rocket to Mars. The project, known as Mars One, is a non-profit foundation established with the eventual goal of using existing transportation and other technologies to arrive at and settle on Mars. As a hard science fiction writer, I have spent some time attempting to envision what life might be like as a settler on Mars thirty-five years from now. If any of the three or four major private sector plans to travel to Mars come to fruition, we may well find out if my predictions are right.

To view the rest of this article. please go to:

http://www.space.com/22801-mid-century-life-on-mars.html

 

Episode XVI of Mars Pirate Radio

Episode XVI is online now. An interview with space law expert Dr. Edythe Weeks is featured.

http://dougturnbull.podbean.com/

Conference Call 10-13-12

The object that came within 58,000 miles of Earth

Only two participants: Stargazer NZ and Doug Turnbull

We discussed the near Earth asteroid 2012 TC4. Discussed earlier detection as well as methods of deflection of dangerous objects. We only had 10 days warning for this one. It was about 56 feet across.

We discussed terraforming and its application to Mars and Venus. Venus seems extremely impractical as one couldn’t really settle there until the job was done, while Mars could be settled today. Inoculating Mars with methane producing bacteria might be one way to do it. I am not a particular fan of terraforming.

Stargazer believes Mars is natural place for manufacturing for the space faring culture we see developing off the Earth in the future.

We discussed the “face on Mars” and the willingness of people to believe fantastic things about Mars. This doesn’t seem to transfer to other celestial bodies. I pointed out that all the SF written about Mars may be contributing to it.

No others joined the conversation on this day. Next call: Saturday October 27th at 11 AM EDT (15:00 UT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pathfinder

Pathfinder

Pathfinder hung in space about a mile behind and below the Mission Assembly Habitat. From the vantage point of the MAH, the ship appeared small and was a shining, roughly cylindrical shape, the details of a complex array of tanks and machinery that occupied the rear half of the structure just barely discernable from this distance. In reality, Pathfinder was over two hundred feet in length and twenty five feet in diameter. Fuel tanks, machinery, and the combustion chambers of its engine occupied the rear half of the craft, while the cylinder containing the crew quarters and the stack of five Orion II landing craft occupied the front half. The blue expanse of the central Pacific shone brightly in the background. Suddenly the view of the Hawaiian Islands at the rear of Pathfinder blurred as the gasses from its engines exhausted, and the ship began to move, quickly appearing to catch up and pass the space station. Cameras on board the MAH captured the event, tracking the ship’s progress. Pathfinder disappeared within a minute.

“Well, they’re on their way, Helen.” Bill looked at the wall mounted LED screen in his Houston office while he spoke to Helen on his phone. The screen was empty now except for the image of a small section of Earth in the lower left corner and a portion of a solar panel that intruded in the camera’s field of view.

“They took off like a bat outta Hell,” Helen said, excitement in her voice. “Their burn will last for another three minutes.”
“Then it’s eight and a half months to Mars. Are you sad, Helen?” Bill asked.

“A little, but happy, too: happy to be a part of it.”

“That’s how I am looking at it, too. Hector and the others are doing this for us, all eight billion of us, really. God’s speed, Hector!”

“You don’t believe in God, Bill,” she chided.

“I know, dear, but Hector does,” he responded quietly.