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NASA Planning Lunar Mining Tests, Other New Tech

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the quick-look-busy dept.

NASA 79

FleaPlus writes "NASA has released the initial details on its ETDD (Enabling Technology Development and Demonstrations) program to 'develop and demonstrate the technologies needed to reduce cost and expand the capability of future space exploration activities.' The ETDD program is initially planning on funding small-scale demonstrations in five technology areas: in-situ resource utilization (with a robotic lunar resource extraction mission in 2015), high-power electric propulsion, autonomous precision landing (building on the success of the Lunar Lander Challenge), human-robotic collaboration (2011/2012), and fission power systems. More info on NASA's larger-scale Flagship Technology Demonstrations (FTD) program is expected in the coming month."

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79 comments

Can't we do this for the coal mines? (2, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202098)

And maybe save a few lives besides? Sounds worth the cost, no?

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (3, Insightful)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202170)

Worth it to the people who would die? Absolutely. Worth it to shareholders? Hardly.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202734)

And maybe not even to the people who die. A life does in fact have a monetary value. One way to estimate the number is to see how much extra pay someone demands to do a more dangerous job. Note that this number is the value chosen by the workers themselves. You don't have to become an Alaskan crab fisherman. For the modern US, the number comes out to something like $5 million.

http://web.mit.edu/costa/www/risk10.pdf

Economists use other measures as well, such as the amount of money government spends on highway improvements to reduce safety and so on. The value is not infinite, and not just a value determined by some imaginary heartless, greedy, remote shareholders.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204172)

Very interesting - however you would only get accurate results in terms of monetary value from this if there was > full employment. Also you have to take into account that humans are not rational decision makers and probably would underestimate the danger (i.e. we dont estimate long term, small chance dangers very well - we usually just ignore them rather than take them into account).

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32207906)

however you would only get accurate results in terms of monetary value from this if there was > full employment.

You get accurate results as long as the workers can choose.

Also you have to take into account that humans are not rational decision makers and probably would underestimate the danger

It doesn't matter. They make a choice that we can quantify.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#32211046)

You get accurate results as long as the workers can choose.

You're ignoring parent's point. He gives the reason why you DON'T get accurate numbers when the workers can choose -- namely, that the workers are not able to accurately estimate risk.

You'd only get accurate numbers from free choice if (1) the choice is made with complete knowledge by the chooser and (2) the chooser makes the choice completely rationally.

Neither of these conditions are true, which is why the number is not accurate.

It doesn't matter. They make a choice that we can quantify.

Sure we can quantify the choice... but your point seems to be that the accuracy of that quantification is meaningless? Any numbers, even bad numbers, are better than no numbers?

Seriously? You advocate using numbers we know are bad just because those numbers exist?

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32219298)

You're ignoring parent's point. He gives the reason why you DON'T get accurate numbers when the workers can choose -- namely, that the workers are not able to accurately estimate risk.

You're right. But I'm ignoring it because the point is irrelevant. It doesn't matter, if the workers are rational decision makers or not. Their preferences can be quantified when you look at groups of people.

Sure we can quantify the choice... but your point seems to be that the accuracy of that quantification is meaningless? Any numbers, even bad numbers, are better than no numbers?

What do you think these numbers are used for? I'm not using them to estimate what you value death at, but rather society as a whole. For the latter, they are accurate enough to be relevant.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 3 years ago | (#32206548)

It is worth it for the shareholders because they lose even more money if the miners go on strike.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#32207008)

Share Holders do not necessarily associate mortality with their investments; because it would be to distracting. But what if a mining company did start using automated solutions? What if the energy source was renewable, then a corporation could apply for an government grant. Coal mining would not be the only industry affected, consider the planting of a tree and its care and feeding. Any raw material can be obtained in any environment and the only issue would be in determining scrap value. Simulations of such operations can be done anywhere. Such operations could easily be networked so that coming to the office would be, occasional. What is truly amazing to consider is the lack of perception, and aggressiveness by the Board of Directors.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202194)

Just replace the miners with niggers. Then if the mine collapses nothing of value will be lost.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202324)

And maybe save a few lives besides? Sounds worth the cost, no?

No, it isn't. Otherwise it'd be done already. The problem is that human labor isn't that expensive and you'd have to put a huge amount of money in to develop a completely automated system. No coal mine will have either the incentive or the assets to do such a project.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32203236)

Wrong human labour might be cheap but robotic mining is still extremely efficient when geology allows. .. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longwall_mining

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (2, Interesting)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202532)

Maybe. We won't know until after it has been developed.

Personally, I think this is exactly something that NASA should be doing. NASA is about pushing the envelope, and this is just as good an envelope to push as any.

This sort of bleeding edge technology development is expensive and wasteful, so it only makes sense for the government to be doing it. Which isn't a bash against government (well, it sorta is), as that is what I want the government to do. Leave making money to the people.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202612)

When robots can climb, operate for eight hours in damp and mostly-dark conditions, and do elaborate things with ropes...sure.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32204230)

When robots can climb, operate for eight hours in damp and mostly-dark conditions, and do elaborate things with ropes...sure.

So you want robots that operate in brothels?

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202666)

No one cares about a few hundred coal miners' lives; we have billions of people that can replace them. Future space development is way more important.

If they found effective ways to mine the moon, we could carve out moonbases, the lunar soil is like 90% silicon and could be manufactured into cheap solar panels with all this new tech they've been working on with thin panels and such. They could build massive solar farms on the moon that would be unaffected by weather (because there is none); meaning they would hardly ever need maintenance. I dunno how solar wind would effect them though. The main thing to worry about would be getting enough water and implementing rigorous recycling policies to ensure that everything is reclaimed. Moon based experiments are vital to future space colony development.

Forget your coal miners. We should be developing alternative energy instead of making people dig in dangerous mines and burning fossil fuels. Then it wouldn't even be a problem.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32204882)

The moon does have weather that can cause problems.
 
Solar wind isn't stopped by an atmosphere and so reaches the surface where it does unexpected things. As the moon progresses in its orbit the angle of solar wind reaching the surface changes and different levels of charge build up around ridges and crater edges, making high voltage patches that can electrostatically lift dust. Anything you leave on the moon long term does get covered in dust, and it's horrible scratchy stuff that's difficult to clean.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 3 years ago | (#32207516)

As far as weather goes, every Earth-August there is an asteroid-monsoon season on the Moon, when it rains tiny little rocks. Transparent umbrella technology that lets the sunlight through but bounces the hail coming at you (or your solar panels), with 11 km/s, does that exist? Made of moon-based-materials? You're talking heck of a titanium springs and heavy gauge artillery proof aluminum-oxynitride-like shields. I don't think anything can take 11 km/s, other than an atmosphere that burns it all up. One wonders how come none of the GPS/TV satellites get hit, or the ISS. Is it only a matter of time, or the chances of getting hit by an asteroid are that much smaller than getting hit by lightning down on Earth? Well, if I count the shooting stars, and the number of lightnings, lightnigs do occur more frequently. In fact anyone walking outside in broad dayling in August risks getting killed by a falling asteroid that didn't get sufficiently buned/vaporized by the atmosphere. But the chances are indeed less than getting hit by lightning, at least down on Earth, for the post-combusted, falling all the way to the surface, meteroids..

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202842)

No, because coal mines are temporary, short and have very little scientific value.

If we have a robot-operated moon base, it makes getting a constant human presence on the moon a lot easier. With a coal mine it might last 20-30 years before the coal runs out. The more efficient the workers, the more supply and the less value the mine has on earth. Robotic lunar workers could help build a moon-base for human occupants, create infrastructure using the natural resources of the moon, and allow for a lot of science to be carried out.

It would be a financially disastrous move for the coal mine owners, and adds nothing to scientific knowledge. On the other hand, a moon base can provide valuable minerals and vast scientific knowledge and eventually tourism.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204878)

Keep in mind that any near-term robotic lunar resource extraction is going to be much more analogous to surface mining [wikipedia.org], rather than the underground mining [wikipedia.org] which is responsible for the deaths which we've been reading about in the news. Lunar resources like water ice are going to be on or close to the surface, so no complex tunneling will be involved.

Re:Can't we do this for the coal mines? (1)

Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) | more than 3 years ago | (#32207628)

If Kennedy hadn't gotten his way, it would be humans doing some of the work, not robots. We would be living on the moon... or even Mars. But no. Kennedy had to do things that scared us out of space for years on end, killing nearly all progress.

*yawn* (0, Troll)

esseffe (1203628) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202154)

these are the holdover missions that NASA will have to be content with until there is an administration that is serious about space exploration. i'll be excited when they start planning to set up manned space stations on the moon.

Re:*yawn* (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202198)

As if I, or the rest of the slashdot readers really care about when you''ll be excited?

Re:*yawn* (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202344)

these are the holdover missions that NASA will have to be content with until there is an administration that is serious about space exploration.

Even if this is a stealth attempt by Obama to kill off manned spaceflight, it still means that he's more serious about space exploration than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson.

Re:*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202870)

Funny you should make that comparison, I recently heard someone, rather older than myself, compare obama to LBJ. From his tone of voice I inferred that it was not meant as a compliment.

Re:*yawn* (1, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205826)

Funny you should make that comparison, I recently heard someone, rather older than myself, compare obama to LBJ.

One thing that is obvious is that Obama is no LBJ. LBJ wouldn't have let Congress get out of hand. But I think some of Obama's problems come from not having influence over Congress and its leaders.

Mod parent up (3, Insightful)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203428)

  If we don't have an active and funded unmanned space exploration mission, we can't do manned missions. Sending manned missions ahead without investigating the environment that people are going to have to deal with is tantamount to sending them on suicide missions.

  It's not "either or" it's "do both at the same time" and if we spend too much on manned we won't have anything to spend on the unmanned that should precede them.

  Of course we aren't spending enough on either, but that's because we have a lot of two and four year shortsighted idiots running our country. Reelection and quarterly profits are more important to them (and to many of the sheeples) than actually doing anything about the future is.

SB

Re:Mod parent up (2, Interesting)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203880)

If we don't have an active and funded unmanned space exploration mission, we can't do manned missions. Sending manned missions ahead without investigating the environment that people are going to have to deal with is tantamount to sending them on suicide missions.

Yeah, but suicide missions in space!

Seriously, the problem is that while you can't have a manned mission without an unmanned science program, not only can you have an unmanned program without a manned one, but a decent unmanned program renders your manned program unnecessary.

This is what annoys me about NASA's patronising pretending-to-be-doing-science on the ISS. (And before that, the shuttle.) The ISS's one and only purpose is to practice having people in space, not researching, practising. Take assembly. NASA's astronauts are now so well trained at zero-g assembly/repair, they pulled 12hr EVA shifts on the last Hubble repair mission. That's scary-good.

The manned space program should only ever be judged by how well it advances the manned space program. That's it. Not growing tadpoles, or crystals. Not collecting rocks. Not searching for fossils on Mars. If you don't care about advancing manned spaceflight, then there is no other reason to fund it.

By that standard. Constellation was crap. Even if it was fully funded, even if it worked, it had no long-term potential. The unnamed Obama plan is better. If it works, we have commercial manned LEO flight, orbital fuel depot technology, plus a general-purpose long duration ship capable of getting to an asteroid (and hence anywhere in the inner solar system.) It gives a future administration the tools to say, yes, return to the moon. You'd only need a lunar lander. The rest is built. That's a cheap mission.

And if it doesn't work, we're no worse off than with the Constellation plan.

Re:*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32203932)

he isnt trying to kill manned spacecraft rightout, he is killing this bullshit GNDN conduit of a program

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=GNDN

Re:*yawn* (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202504)

You probably don't know very much about space exploration do you? All the fluffy expensive bull shit like the ISS and manned space travel actually produce very little that will help space exploration. This is the one thing that will possibly provide humanity with usable resources from space, and make travel and construction in space a reality instead of a one-off dick measuring contest between super powers.

Re:*yawn* (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203210)

Anything we do in space teaches us something. The reason is that we live on earth, and space is not the earth. We might think we can extrapolate, but we can't. We tend to make big mistakes when we think we can.

Large masses are few and far between in space. Therefore to get anywhere we are probably going to looking at a series of space stations. The nice thing about this moon mining idea is that it may give the raw materials we need to build space stations, without falling to the 60's idea that the goal is to live on the moon. That is like flying cars. A neat idea, but what we really want are hover craft.

Re:*yawn* (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205866)

That is like flying cars. A neat idea, but what we really want are hover craft.

That analogy is broken since we really don't want either. We really want fast point to point transportation (well, we might also want something we can bling up, but that's the primary desire). Neither flying cars nor hovercraft can deliver that to us today.

Re:*yawn* (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 3 years ago | (#32208700)

Don't presume to speak for everyone. Some of us really DO want to live on the moon. And no, I don't want flying cars or hovercrafts.

Re:*yawn* (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32208716)

I'm with Stephen Baxter on this--mining near Earth asteroids is where it's at. Easier than the Moon, with quicker pay-offs. Supposedly, the raw materials we could get from just one metallic asteroid would be enough seriously upset the world-wide market for many sought-after metals and minerals.

Most of space is more like the surface of an asteroid than it is like the surface of the Moon.

Re:*yawn* (0, Flamebait)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203496)

  Yeah, having an actual space station, where humans live in space for long periods of time, and do things like construction (building the ISS), research wrt living conditions(learning about micrograv and it's effects on the human body) and much more, no, that doesn't teach us anything about space exploration, it's just a dick contest - against who, exactly? The ISS was planned before the Cold War,built after it was over, and now you are arguing against maintaining it because it's a dick waving contest against... who?

  Post something constructive, otherwise shut the fuck up and get out of the way, asshat anon. I just can't BELIEVE the parent was modded insightful. I guess inflammatory rhetoric trumps reality and logic on slashdot, at least with some moderators. I know I certainly don't waste my moderator points on ignorant drivel like the parent posted.

SB

Re:*yawn* (2, Interesting)

cycleflight (1811074) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203620)

Do you realize that this is essentially a renamed department from Constellation? Yeah, that manned space program. Did you know that the stuff they are and will be working on is just like the stuff they were working on for Constellation, except now, it doesn't have a defined mission. Try designing a system and mission optimized system (to make it fun optimize it for anything you like) and send me your optimized design before you have any specific requirements.

Re:*yawn* (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32207966)

Do you realize that this is essentially a renamed department from Constellation?

Not true. The reason is because Obama is proposing to end Ares I. Everything currently running in Constellation revolves around that choice for a launcher. Orion is designed to fly on that rocket (and I think, cynically perhaps, that it was originally designed to be just a bit too heavy to fly on the Delta IV Heavy). The choice of heavy lift vehicle, Ares V just so happens to require Ares I development in order to be cost effective. That's virtually all of the current or already planned technology development in Constellation.

Re:*yawn* (1)

cycleflight (1811074) | more than 3 years ago | (#32242612)

While the requirements that drives ETDP (the current project that will evolve into ETDD) are based on the Constellation rocket stack (Ares I&V, Orion, Ares), the test readiness level of the technologies explored by this department are 3-6. That means taking something from a "this is reasonably feasible" phase to a "with minor tweaking you could shove this on a rocket" phase. ETDP and ETDD don't develop flight hardware, they develop potential solutions that end up getting turned into flight hardware. Ares I and Ares IV have a minor role in the technology development for Constellation, honestly. "Virtually all of the current or already planned technology" seems unlikely, as the work currently being done from ETDP, at least on the thermal side, does not involve Ares whatsoever. My primary disagreement with the original parent was the assertion that finally work like this is getting done, when in fact it's been getting done, and during a program that the original poster seems to think was hindering this progress. Furthermore, the requirements driving the actual flight hardware on Orion and Ares give a realistic "go-by" for the ETDP and ETDD work, as well as highlighting the technologies and areas where development is most beneficial. In tech dev. it's a good thing to have a working article up and running nearby, because it gives good insight into what does and doesn't currently work well.

Re:*yawn* (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32247844)

Alternately, you could look at where the money is getting spent in Constellation. Looking around, I see that ETDP funding was being cut [nap.edu] in 2009 and operating well below desired funding levels. That indicates to me that it wasn't a serious part of the Constellation program. In comparison, Ares I development along with Orion (and other associated systems like a launch abort system) has apparently consumed somewhere around $10 billion dollars since 2005. For example, the Ares I-X test alone probably outspent ETDP spending in 2009 by more than 50% (400 million dollars supposedly for the test versus 250 million dollars for the ETDP program).

Re:*yawn* (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202514)

You mean like this administration?
They have given more money to NASA and killed a boondoggle that was wasting what little money NASA had.

Re:*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202526)

I'd say that setting up the basics for automated prospecting, the ability to extract resources at ALL, and transportation of supplies all count as pretty awesome precursors for a moon base. Once they figure out how to extract resources and play with them in a controllable and reliable fashion, and put a couple of solid nuclear generators up there, I think we'll see a similar headline: "NASA planning lunar base dome construction tests, seeking technology to harvest building materials from regolith and glass it in situ to create an airtight environment, in a mission expected to launch in 2020".

Re:*yawn* (1, Troll)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202962)

No you won't. People don't solve complex problems never before attempted or tried just because. They solve complex problems and do things never attempted before in pursuit of a goal. These are effectively research grants, the way you keep the money flowing is say "we're working on it, but for that key next step we will need more funding for next year."

Also there is a reason we should put people in SPACE, the reason is because we are a group of explorers and doers. Once we remove the challenging parts, we'll be neither.

I'll let you in on something all you Obama cocksuckers don't understand. This nation is declining, it is not going to be a great nation where people who work hard wish to come. It will fail to lead the world in things like Space or Medicine (both of which our Congress and President have trashed).

We're replacing the explorers and visionaries who discovered and defined the world with egotistical intellectuals, who mistakenly think they understand the real world. The best way to expand and increase the cost effectiveness of NASA is convert it to a goal driven agency. Don't pay to research or study something. Instead setup prizes like the X-Prize or Google's Android challenges to motivate everyday Americans, small business startups, Universities, etc. to solve challenges. Send a rocket to the moon get X million. Put a Satellite in orbit of the moon get Y million, send a crew to circle the moon get Z million, etc. Then we the tax payers only pay for success and we only pay the winning scientists (or garage engineers). But with this current NASA funding joke, we will get the bill with no results.

mistakenly thinking they understand (3, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203330)

> egotistical intellectuals, who mistakenly think they understand
> the real world.

You want national leaders with no ego? Lose your own, then run for office.

And if intellectuals bother you, you're in the wrong place.

As to "mistakenly thinking they understand the real world", how do you know you understand it better? Do you have broader experience? A better advisory staff? More resources? Greater access to NASA?

I agree with you on the X-Prize approach. You have good points in there, but they can get drowned in the ranting and hyperbole.

Re:mistakenly thinking they understand (1)

anarche (1525323) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203534)

And if intellectuals bother you, you're in the wrong place.

I assume you mean "the internet" and not slashdot

Re:*yawn* (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204692)

Maybe if Bush put some of that money he spent tripling the military's budget on NASA we wouldn't have to bitch about missions going way over budget or something not working (because we could afford more than a few primary experiments).

Re:*yawn* (2, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204860)

The best way to expand and increase the cost effectiveness of NASA is convert it to a goal driven agency. Don't pay to research or study something. Instead setup prizes like the X-Prize or Google's Android challenges to motivate everyday Americans, small business startups, Universities, etc. to solve challenges. Send a rocket to the moon get X million. Put a Satellite in orbit of the moon get Y million, send a crew to circle the moon get Z million, etc. Then we the tax payers only pay for success and we only pay the winning scientists (or garage engineers).

You may want to read through NASA's new plans. From the Space Technology section of the new budget:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/428439main_Space_technology.pdf [nasa.gov]

The Centennial Challenges program seeks innovative solutions to technical problems that can drive progress in aerospace technology of value to NASA's missions in space operations, science, exploration and aeronautics. Beginning in FY 2011, Centennial Challenge activities associated with the Innovative Partnerships Program are transferred to the Space Technology Program. Centennial Challenges encourage the participation of independent teams, individual inventors, student groups and private companies of all sizes in aerospace research and development, and seek to find the most innovative solutions to technical challenges through competition and cooperation. NASA's original seven prize challenges have been successful in encouraging broad participation by innovators across our nation and across generations. Many of these technical challenges also have direct relevance to national and global needs such as energy and transportation.

Prize programs encourage diverse participation and multiple solution paths. A measure of diversity is seen in the geographic distribution of participants (from Hawaii to Maine) that reaches far beyond the locales of the NASA Centers and major aerospace industries. The participating teams have included individual inventors, small startup companies, and university students and professors. An example of multiple solution paths was seen in the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge. NASA can typically afford one or two working prototypes in a development program but at this Challenge event, over twenty different working prototypes were demonstrated for the NASA technologists. All of these prototypes were developed at no cost to the government. For three years of competitions with dozens of teams investing tens of thousands of hours, NASA spent only $750,000 in prize money.

The return on investment with prizes is exceptionally high as NASA expends no funds unless the accomplishment is demonstrated. NASA provides only the prize money and the administration of the competitions is done at no cost to NASA by non-profit allied organizations. For the Lunar Lander Challenge, twelve private teams spent nearly 70,000 hours and the equivalent of $12 million trying to win $2 million in prize money. Prizes also focus public attention on NASA programs and generate interest in science and engineering. Live webcasts of Centennial Challenge competitions attract thousands of viewers across the nation and around the world. The 2009 Power Beaming completion resulted in over 100 news articles and web features. Prizes also create new businesses and new partners for NASA. The winner of the 2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge started a new business to manufacture pressure suit gloves. Armadillo Aerospace began a partnership with NASA related to the reusable rocket engine that they developed for the Lunar Lander Challenge, and they also sell the engine commercially.

In selecting topics for prize competitions, NASA consults widely within and outside of the Federal Government. The $10 million per year FY 2011 request for Centennial Challenges will allow NASA to pursue new and more ambitious prize competitions. Topics for future challenges that are under consideration include revolutionary energy storage systems, solar and other renewable energy technologies, laser communications, demonstrating near-Earth object survey and deflection strategies, innovative approaches to improving the safety and efficiency of aviation systems including Next Generation Aeronautics efforts, closed-loop life support and other resource recycling techniques, and low-cost access to space. Annual funding for Centennial Challenges allows new prizes to be announced, addressing additional technology challenges that can benefit from the innovation of the Citizen inventor.

Perfect (4, Interesting)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202192)

lunar mining: Cheapest way to build a moonbase. Just keep tunneling and put several seals to keep air in. There is no point in going to the moon, or anywhere else, if we don't have a cheap mining unit to get resources and build a base. Otherwise it' was a wasted trip. Powerful electric propulsion and fission power plant: Excellent way to overcome the limits of of carrying fuel up the gravity well all of the time. Great way to re-use the ship you build out of it from mars so you can get a ferry going every few weeks. I'm not going to keep the lovefest going for the other ones, but I definitely think this is a change for the better.

Re:Perfect (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203260)

http://www.niac.usra.edu/files/studies/final_report/428Boston.pdf [usra.edu]

One of the best studies done on extraterrestrial cave habitation. Reports like this are one of the reasons why it was such a travesty that Griffin shut down NIAC, just to raid their budget for Constellation.

Re:Perfect (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204906)

One of the best studies done on extraterrestrial cave habitation. Reports like this are one of the reasons why it was such a travesty that Griffin shut down NIAC, just to raid their budget for Constellation.

Not sure if you already knew this, but NASA is actually planning on restarting the NIAC under its new plans:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/428439main_Space_technology.pdf [nasa.gov]

Responsive the NRC report, Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for
Advanced Concepts (2009), the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts (NIAC) will be re-established
as a project within the Early Stage Innovation Program. The project is formulated as a two-phase,
low TRL activity, focused upon conceptual studies of visionary approaches addressing long-term
NASA strategic goals. The first phase of NIAC will fund a competed set of conceptual studies and
systems analyses that investigate how technology innovations will enable NASA's future missions
and extend its goals. Second Phase NIAC proposals will further develop successful Phase I
proposals and work to transition the key technical advances into projects within the Game Changing
Technology Program.

NIAC will serve as an incubator for bringing new technologies into future aerospace endeavors. By
supporting innovative and visionary concepts aimed a decade or more into the future, NIAC-funded
research significantly impacts the Agency's future missions as well as its roadmaps for future
science, discovery and exploration. As a low-TRL early phase activity, NIAC will serve as a visible
and recognized entry point for innovators and researchers who will enable future NASA missions and
goals. ...

Misleading: nuclear is excluded (5, Informative)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202252)

According to the RFI at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=34056 [spaceref.com] nuclear propulsion is excluded unless it is used solely for heat generation or as a power source for electric propulsion. Thus, some of the most promising nuclear technologies for rocket propulsion such as micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission are excluded.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (3, Informative)

SECProto (790283) | more than 3 years ago | (#32202988)

using nuclear as a electricity source for larger propulsion systems (ie, higher than the small ion drives currently using RTG) would be a huge step up. whenever they launch VASIMR to the station, it will only be able to fire for short bursts, because the huge solar arrays on the station cannot power it continuously. If a similar system used nuclear electricity to drive it, it could fire continuously and be a viable propulsion system.

on the other hand, using "micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission" would probably produce spectabulous Isp, but it would need years (decades? this is government after all..) of research before an actual construction proposal would arise. Far too distant to be a major selling point of any budget proposal.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (3, Interesting)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203300)

I cannot say for sure, but I do not believe that an inertial confinement system is decades away. In fact, there was a-lot of research into such systems during the 1960s. It was abandoned during the 70s when nuclear energy for space became politically untenable, but then it was picked up again during the 90s. During the late 90s it very abruptly stopped - or went dark. (Perhaps it was successful...)

In any case, it turns out that the energy required to compress fissile pellets (the size of a grain of sand) to critical density for fission requires particle beam equipment the size of a refrigerator - i.e., very achievable. The engineering challenges then are not related to creating fission, but rather to managing the high temperature plasmas to produce usable thrust without damaging the system. These engineering challenges are very similar to the challenges that VASIMIR has, and so if they can be solved for VASIMIR one would expect that they could be solved for a fission-powered system. I believe that the plasma temperatures for a micro pulse fission system (using water as a propellant mass source) are similar to those for VASIMIR, but I cannot say for sure.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (1)

Palpatine_li (1547707) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203360)

Project Orion definitely works. It just need a remote launching site like the Bikini Atol.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205890)

Or beyond Earth orbit. I think it'll be a long time before a rocket based on nuclear power is allowed to launch payloads from Earth's surface. Such a design will most likely be tried somewhere else first.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (2, Interesting)

blurryrunner (524305) | more than 3 years ago | (#32203686)

micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission

You say that like you didn't just make it up. ;)

br/

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32203884)

GP is either confused or trolling.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 3 years ago | (#32212174)

For a propulsion system to transport large payloads with short transit times between different planetary orbits: a deuterium fusion bomb propulsion system is proposed where a thermonuclear detonation wave is ignited in a small cylindrical assembly of deuterium with a gigavolt-multimegampere proton beam, drawn from the magnetically insulated spacecraft acting in the ultrahigh ultrahigh adj. Exceedingly high: an ultrahigh vacuum. vacuum of space as a gigavolt capacitor. other linky [thefreelibrary.com]. This could be science fiction for all I know but it sure sounds like a blast ;-)

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#32204826)

According to the RFI at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=34056 [spaceref.com] nuclear propulsion is excluded unless it is used solely for heat generation or as a power source for electric propulsion. Thus, some of the most promising nuclear technologies for rocket propulsion such as micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission are excluded.

Keep in mind that the ETDD program (the one mentioned in the summary) is specifically intended for tech which has already attained a mid-level TRL (Technology Readiness Level [wikipedia.org]) and needs to be developed/tested to a higher-level TRL so it can be used in missions. Things like "micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission," while they have a great potential benefit, are of a relatively low TRL and hence fall under the scope of the newly-announced Space Technology Program [spacepolicyonline.com], particularly the Early-Stage Innovation and Game Changing Technology sub-programs.

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205768)

Thanks for this clarification.

I wonder if some of the more promising long term technologies are covered under a different initiative?

Re:Misleading: nuclear is excluded (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32206012)

According to the RFI at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=34056 [spaceref.com] nuclear propulsion is excluded unless it is used solely for heat generation or as a power source for electric propulsion. Thus, some of the most promising nuclear technologies for rocket propulsion such as micro pellet inertial confinement compression-induced fission are excluded.

There's two questions to ask here. First, is there a role for such propulsion in near future space activities? I'd have to say "no". Most of our transportation overhead is going from Earth to orbit, something which nuclear won't help with, just due to environmental and safety concerns, until it's been proven somewhere else first (namely somewhere in space). You'll need infrastructure there to support such tests IMHO, which makes it a second generation project. Also, you need to do something with the remains of the rocket (another second generation project).

Second, is there an advantage to using these other nuclear technologies? I don't see a big advantage to using nuclear pulse or nuclear thermal rockets over nuclear electric propulsion in space aside from applications where high thrust is desired (like wringing a little more out of the Oberth effect [wikipedia.org]) or when you scale up to huge payloads. Heat radiation is a big issue in space and nuclear reactors would suffer from it as much as anything else (power only scales as the surface area of the vehicle due to this restriction). Nuclear thermal transfers that heat to the exhaust while nuclear pulse dumps that heat (and the rest of the products of the pulse detonation) to space directly. That makes them better technologies for large, relatively high acceleration vehicles.

Screw manned, this is what we need. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202412)

Put the robots up there, and once they have things running maube we could send people for brownie points. I would nut if they announced a plan to explore NEO's for mining feasibility.

Can't WAIT for NASA to meet Officer Friendly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32202650)

Officer Friendly, of the Universe, should keep NASA on planet Earth from touching
my Reptilian Moonbase. What's your name

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff_htCkRaQM [youtube.com]

I SAID, What's your name boa? [youtube.com]

Please be careful (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205166)

and avoid oil spills on the moon. We just jammed up gulf of Mexico, avoid covering with tar palus Putredinis [fourmilab.ch]

Re:Please be careful (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 3 years ago | (#32205618)

There's no oil on the moon!

They might create a dust spill or something, maybe a water or helium-3 spill.

That being said, us being humans I'm sure we'll find a way to make a horrible mess of the moon, even if it is just dust and rocks.

Re:Please be careful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32208906)

It seems that sense of humor evaporates faster than helium-3.

Lunar Lander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32207010)

I was pretty good at this back in '80-'81...

The moon is the door to the solar system. (1)

Dollyknot (216765) | more than 3 years ago | (#32218444)

The high cost to the human race's colonisation of space is caused by the complexity and danger of reaching and leaving escape velocity within the earth's atmosphere.

The Space Shuttle turned out to be an expensive and dangerous white elephant, the reason the Shuttle was so expensive is, because of its complexity with millions of different manufactured parts, and the need to cover it with bathroom tiles.

There is another route, we can reach the edge of space no problem Burt Rutan proved this with Space Ship one, when he won the 'X' prize by reaching over 100 km twice in one week.

Yes the Shuttle was 'reusable' but in name only. They could not have turned that around in a week.

What NASA should be doing is creating rocket fuel on the moon, there is lots of water on the moon, use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen which makes very good rocket fuel.

Use the rocket fuel to fuel a space tug, use the space tug to accelerate and decelerate Space Ship one, to and from escape velocity in the safety of a vacuum.

Once we can accelerate and decelerate space craft with rocket fuel that is obtained from out of the earth's gravity well, space travel becomes cheaper by many orders of magnitude, ok the capital cost would be very high, but once the systems are in place, the number of human beings, living in space increases exponentially. A good example for the way high capital cost projects work is the Panama canal.

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