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Missions to Mars: Is the Moon Really a Stepping Stone ?

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#1 Hum

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 14:38

The moon may be more of a stumbling block than a stepping stone on humanity's path to the Red Planet, one prominent researcher says.

The perceived need to develop lunar infrastructure and resources first could push a manned Mars mission far off into the future, said Harley Thronson, senior scientist for advanced concepts in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

And if putting boots on the Red Planet in the next few decades is indeed the top priority of the international human spaceflight community, then making a prolonged stopover on the moon beforehand runs counter to the spirit and history of exploration, he added.

 "In the 19th century, the American West was explored for decades by trappers, frontiersmen and occasional minimal expeditions sent by the central government," Thronson wrote in an essay in The Space Review, which was published online Aug. 5.

"Only later was the elaborate national infrastructure established to support sustained development of the West," Thronson continued. "In contrast, widely popular 'moon first, then Mars' architectures are a reverse of the historical experience of human exploration on Earth."

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#2 DocM

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 16:42

If Moon First means building an Exploration Gateway station at L2 (gravitational stability point over the far side of the Moon) where you could launch low-energy sorties OR full missions (including bases) to either the Moon or Mars they aren't mutually exclusive.

NASA has a plan for building a Gateway using mostly leftover ISS parts, and with fuel depots, orbital assembly, Falcon Heavy, Delta IV Heavy and an Atlas V Heavy you wouldn't need SLS to do it.

#3 +zhiVago

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 16:51

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the first hardest part is to launch a spaceship against the forces of gravity and the dense layers of the atmosphere.

 

Since the moon has a much weaker gravity compared to Earth and no atmosphere, launching a ship off of it would require less initial fuel.

 

However, I agree that the cost and delay in building such infrastructure on the moon may not be worth it.



#4 ILikeTobacco

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 17:01

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the first hardest part is to launch a spaceship against the forces of gravity and dense atmosphere.

 

Since the moon has a much weaker gravity compared to Earth and no atmosphere, launching a ship off of it would require less initial fuel.

 

However, I agree that the cost and delay in building such infrastructure on the moon may not be worth it.

Yes, but it ignores that to get the ship parts to the moon, you have to first launch them from Earth.



#5 DocM

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 18:09

Also, it depends on HOW much of the trip is done.

Example:

Rocket: Falcon Heavy
Payload to LEO: 53+ metric tons

To transit it to the Moon you have a few main methods that could be done in the relatively short term.

Direct to the Moon: bypassing LEO, that 53 tons drops to about 24 tons.

Direct to Mars: bypassing LEO, that 53 to s drops to about 14 tons.

Use a fuel depot to refuel the upper stage, or use an ION drive attached to the payload, and use either as an Earth Deperture Stage and you might get 40 tons to the moon and 25+ tons to Mars.

Now consider multiple launches of Falcon Heavy, an in-space only cruiser with an artificial gravity centrifuge (NASA'a NAUTILUS-X for example) and an Exploration Gateway. Assemble a 150-200 ton cruise (including cargo) at the Gateway, launch the crew on an FH to the Gateway and leave from there to Mars. You get to Mars with a formidable cargo & landers and the fuel needed is miniscule by comparison.

#6 fusi0n

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 18:12

Sure it does. 



#7 DocM

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 18:19

NAUTILUS-X via JPL

Picture%204_10.png

and the low-energy route from L2 is a well known trajectory - the whole reason why NASA, Boeing, Astrium, Mitsubishi, Honeywell, MDA etc. developed the Exploration Gateway idea.

http://www.nasa.gov/...ftery_Final.pdf