Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Countries Considering Circumlunar Flight From ISS

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the because-they-can dept.

Moon 170

FleaPlus writes "The BBC reports that the space agencies of Europe, Russia, and the US are in (very) preliminary discussions about a potential collaborative mission where astronauts would assemble a small spacecraft at the ISS, then fly it around the Moon and back. This is somewhat similar to previously-proposed commercial missions, with many elements adapted from spacecraft systems already in existence. This would also be a testbed for eventual asteroid and Mars missions, which would likely require modules to be launched on multiple rockets and assembled in space."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

first PISS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33875958)

on YOU

Re:first PISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876802)

I assure you, this wouldn't be the first time I've been pissed on ;)

Let's do this thing! (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33876002)

I think they should make it look like an awesome motorcycle, with flames painted on it and a kick-ass logo with a skull, spinners, and a lot of chrome--I mean a LOT of fucking chrome! And that shit should have hydraulics too, just a crazy lift kit...an INSANE lift kit!

Re:Let's do this thing! (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 4 years ago | (#33876322)

Pfff motorcycle... bah! It should be a 1960s Corvette like in the opening to Heavy Metal. [youtube.com]

Re:Let's do this thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876388)

Yessir! I've got the Heavy Metal soundtrack ripped and ready to go!!
 

Re:Let's do this thing! (1)

ooshna (1654125) | about 4 years ago | (#33876642)

No way I'm think more like the Scooty Puff Sr. [photobucket.com]

Re:Let's do this thing! (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 years ago | (#33877086)

Only if they play "Radar Rider" during launch.

Re:Let's do this thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876518)

A Delta 66 baby!

Re:Let's do this thing! (1)

c6gunner (950153) | about 4 years ago | (#33877012)

So .... something like this [youtube.com] ?

do it. (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 4 years ago | (#33876006)

do it now!

Re:do it. (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 4 years ago | (#33876086)

I'm not sure if you are joking, serious, or trying to be cute with a quote, or some combination of the above, but I agree with the literal interpretation.

It's a wonderful test to advance our abilities in space travel. And, if the test works, we could keep adding on to the module, and if we really want to do something interesting, have multiple fueling trips, for larger fuel capacities and better/faster flight times for different locations in the solar system.

Am I too optimistic if I find this *VERY* exciting?

FREAKIN' JENIUS ROCKET SURGEONS!!! (3, Insightful)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 years ago | (#33876496)

Using a Earth-orbiting space station is exactly what von Braun recommended sixty years ago before you idiots turned it into a mad dash to "beat the commies". Then we would have had some real space infrastructure for our investment instead of several disposable programs with nothing left to show when they were over.

Re:FREAKIN' JENIUS ROCKET SURGEONS!!! (1)

AshtangiMan (684031) | about 4 years ago | (#33876586)

Aside from the flaming I agree. The moon landings were not done from earth orbit, though they should have been because it would have been practice for other missions. As it was they were only practical for trips to the moon. Though we did learn a ton about spaceflight from them. I am excited at this news, hoping that it will come to fruition.

Re:FREAKIN' JENIUS ROCKET SURGEONS!!! (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#33876652)

Using a Earth-orbiting space station is exactly what von Braun recommended sixty years ago before you idiots turned it into a mad dash to "beat the commies".

Who, me?

I'd say we've got a hell of a lot to show for the space program. In an ideal world we should all be working together, but the fact is that humans are very competitive creatures. Without the one-upmanship between the Americans and Soviets it's very likely would have all done far, far less.

Re:FREAKIN' JENIUS ROCKET SURGEONS!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876994)

Using a Earth-orbiting space station is exactly what von Braun recommended sixty years ago before you idiots turned it into a mad dash to "beat the commies".

Who, me?

A name like "MaWeiTao" looks Asian, so it's a pretty good bet you're a fucking communist, so yes, you.

Re:FREAKIN' JENIUS ROCKET SURGEONS!!! (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 4 years ago | (#33876936)

The "Idiots" mad dash to beat the commies is what spurred great innovation and growth in the space industry. Once we won we gave up. That was the problem.

Wow! (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#33876048)

Am I the only one who thinks that this could have been done 30 years ago with multiple shuttle launches. I know, I know, the shuttle engines are designed to perform multiple long burns without being inspected and rebuilt but come on, orbital refueling just seems like the kind of thing we should have been doing for decades now. I guess we haven't done much for manned (and therefor time critical) long range missions since Apollo but still, this seems like it's some pretty low hanging fruit as far as space exploration technology is concerned.

Re:Wow! (1)

KillAllNazis (1904010) | about 4 years ago | (#33876184)

Hindsight is 20/20. If it's a low hanging fruit it's one that hasn't been reached yet.

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876230)

We routinely do refueling on orbit "for decades now" - ISS, earlier Mir and Salyut stations, all refueled by visiting Progress spacecraft (which have provisions for fuel transfer in their docking collar)

(but Shuttle would be really a bad choice for such mission - around 70 tons of dead weight, thermal shielding probably ill-suited for a possibility of direct reentry on return)

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

Facegarden (967477) | about 4 years ago | (#33876260)

Am I the only one who thinks that this could have been done 30 years ago with multiple shuttle launches. I know, I know, the shuttle engines are designed to perform multiple long burns without being inspected and rebuilt but come on, orbital refueling just seems like the kind of thing we should have been doing for decades now. I guess we haven't done much for manned (and therefor time critical) long range missions since Apollo but still, this seems like it's some pretty low hanging fruit as far as space exploration technology is concerned.

I know you're just highlighting the point, but you really shouldn't act so surprised. Sadly, everything we do in space is low-hanging fruit. We've done some amazing stuff with telescopes and things launched out into space, but as far as human exploration... not much has been done in the last 40 years. We could have easily had a manned outpost on Mars already, but it would have taken a lot of money, a lot of risk (with likely some tragic deaths along the way - more so than what we've had) and least likely of all, the cooperation from one political administration to the next.

That's the biggest problem at NASA - one president says "The last president had no vision - lets go to mars!" and then the next president says "The last president was spending like crazy. We can't afford to go to mars!" and then it repeats every 8 years or so.

If we had had a concerted and continuous effort to explore space, we could have filled out the inner solar system by now.

But would have taken trillions of dollars, and a level of agreement that we've simply never had.

Thats why I'm so excited about privatization of space exploration - a corporation has a real vested interest in getting something done. Unlike politicians.

Hopefully the billionaires of the world will take us places no government has. THAT is what I'm looking forward to.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has said he'd like to retire on mars. That's likely a little far-fetched, but he's more likely to make that happen than NASA. (well, technically his fortune is pretty small in comparison to some other people, but lets say Tesla does really well...)
-Taylor

Re:Wow! (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33876428)

Exactly, the problem is though, we need agreements that governments won't interfere with private spaceflights which is what will probably happen. Already billions of dollars have been spent on spacecraft, R&D and research that is locked up in government hands and even though we, the taxpayers have paid for it, we can't access it.

If the government would simply let citizens use what they have paid for, I think we'd see private spaceflight soar to new levels.

But until we have a sane foreign policy that maintained lasting alliances without either sacrificing the sovereignty of the country or its citizens, I don't think that will happen because rather than use diplomatic means we want to attack anyone who might get a nuke in the unsustainable idea that no one is going to develop that technology independently so the US's citizens get harmed.

Re:Wow! (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | about 4 years ago | (#33876536)

We could have easily had a manned outpost on Mars already, but ...

But there's ZERO profit in it. Go on and name a period of human exploration of Earth, and all of them have one thing in common: profit.

Re:Wow! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 years ago | (#33876648)

Go on and name a period of human exploration of Earth

No profit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathyscaphe_Trieste [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wow! (1)

corbettw (214229) | about 4 years ago | (#33877008)

So your rebuttal that profit is not, in fact, the prime motivator for periods of exploration is a stunt that only happened once and still hasn't been repeated? Interesting....

Re:Wow! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33877058)

The Trieste was part of a United States Navy project during the late 50's, when the US had a strong vested interest in developing better submersible technology for it's expanding fleet of nuclear submarines.

So to amend the grandparent, there are TWO reasons why any real exploration is done: profit and military gain. The fact is, exploration takes a huge investment and enormous risks, and the only times in human history it has been done was because there was something to gain by it, be it profit or power.

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33876982)

Despite what you and some others want everyone to believe, there are quite a few people in this world that do stuff for things other than profit. One of the (maybe) advantages of the increasing poverty-wealth gap is that some individuals who are able to accumulate an enormous amount of money (think Musk, Branson) are able to do things for reasons other than profit. These things may include (if all goes according to Musk's plan) space exploration. It wouldn't surprise me, in the least that some Billionaires out there do things just for the hell of it. This isn't exactly a first in history. Look at the pyramids in Egypt, or most of the ancient wonders of the world. The extraordinarily rich dumped their life savings into what was, essentially, a giant penis waving contest. The only difference today is that big building's don't suffice for bragging rights anymore. So Musk and Branson and Bigelow said they want to up the bar and start a penis-waving competition over getting to various places in space first. One way or another, such adventures will spin off technologies and knowledge that, unless it is lost entirely, will benefit mankind overall. Personally, I'm okay with that.

Re:Wow! (1)

maxume (22995) | about 4 years ago | (#33876546)

So you are somewhat realistic about it costing trillions of dollars to put a few dozen people on Mars.

Do you really see trillions of dollars of benefits from such a thing?

Re:Wow! (1)

Facegarden (967477) | about 4 years ago | (#33876694)

So you are somewhat realistic about it costing trillions of dollars to put a few dozen people on Mars.

Do you really see trillions of dollars of benefits from such a thing?

It depends. What else are you using the money for? War? Or feeding the poor?

If we spent trillions on space exploration, I imagine that the amount of new technology developed to do so could greatly improve the lives of many people on earth. At least, in the long run.

But its really hard to say, unfortunately. That would be a long debate, and I'd have to do some research to give you a good answer. For now, all I can say is that I think it would be a good thing.

-Taylor

Re:Wow! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33876314)

Or one real rocket launch.

I want to meet the man that decided to put the crew vehicle on the side of the stack and ask him two things.
1. Did you ever see a rocket launch before making that decision?
2. WTF were you thinking?

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33876630)

2. WTF were you thinking?

Probably, "I can't believe they're making us risk all these lives so that we can haul the shuttle engines back to earth and reuse them" Followed closely by "the damn SSMEs are going to be such maintenance hogs we'd be better off ditching them in the ocean anyway".

Re:Wow! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 4 years ago | (#33876316)

Apollo 11 was run from this perspective. Multiple launches (Apollo + Agena) docked in orbit to become the composite lunar spacecraft.

Re:Wow! (2, Informative)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | about 4 years ago | (#33876800)

Apollo 11 was run from this perspective. Multiple launches (Apollo + Agena) docked in orbit to become the composite lunar spacecraft.

This is incorrect. Each manned Apollo mission used a single Saturn V. (Except for the Apollo 7 test flight, which used a Saturn IB.) Orbital docking occurred between the command/service module and lunar module launched on the same rocket.

Agena boosters were modified to practice docking during the Gemini program, but had no direct involvement in Apollo.

Re:Wow! (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 years ago | (#33877118)

Just being nitpicky. Are you counting Skylab and ASTP as Apollo missions? Those used a Saturn 1B as well.

Re:Wow! (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 4 years ago | (#33877150)

Just being nitpicky. Are you counting Skylab and ASTP as Apollo missions? Those used a Saturn 1B as well.

Why would you infer that, since they never said only Apollo missions used Saturn 1B rockets?

Re:Wow! (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 4 years ago | (#33876440)

The shuttle engines turned out to be brittle things, and the initial overhaul/life design goals were missed by a lot. They are removed for inspection (partial disassembly!) after each mission. I don't know about other parts, but I know that the block II (redesigned) turbopumps had a 10 mission design overhaul period, I don't know how it turned out in practice.

Re:Wow! (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33876588)

The shuttle engines turned out to be brittle things, and the initial overhaul/life design goals were missed by a lot.

Early on they fixed the size / mounting / weight. But the shuttle continually got in danger of cancellation, so they added more and more promises, until it attempted to do everything for everyone. Which made it fat. Only way to get more thrust is crazy chamber pressure, approaching 3000 psi. Which requires crazy injection pressure to keep the injectors stable. Which results in turbopumps that only last "about one mission, plus or minus one".

Re:Wow! (1, Troll)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 4 years ago | (#33876516)

No, you can't just refuel a shuttle in orbit. I don't know if you've noticed, but the shuttle's tanks drop off the thing on its way up.

And even if it kept its tanks on it, it's not a station wagon. You don't just refuel it and turn the key. It is designed for one launch, from a big complicated tower, and then must be overhauled before launching again.

Re:Wow! (1)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33876700)

The OMS engines optimistically have a total delta-V, stock, of about 1/3 of a KM/s if their tanks are full (which they aren't, after circularizing orbit). You probably could top them off at great effort.

Unfortunately it takes about four times that delta V to get from low earth orbit to low lunar orbit. So you'd be better off shoving tanks into the cargo bay.

Big problem is absolutely everything else from navigation sensors, non-rad hard computers, cooling system, communication system, all of it would have to be gutted and redesigned. May as well start from scratch... which they're doing...

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876980)

You'd be better off getting some high-reliability main engines (with reduced thrust, and thus forcing the space-going orbiter to be launched to LEO essentially empty, then add the payload when you refuel on-orbit); since there is little drag above the altitude where the empty tank is dropped, keeping it attached and then fully or partially refilling it on-orbit is quite feasible.

IMO the biggest problem is that the SSME, as it made it into production, is the rocket equivalent of a smallblock V8 modified to make 1000hp. Sure, if you know what you're doing, you can get that power out of it -- once -- but you're not gonna take it on a road-trip.

That, and the fact that everyone, including me, can look up some numbers on wikipedia, toss out a hypothetical mission profile, and see if the delta-v's there. We're all rocket scientists these days, and that's definitely a good thing. But it does make it easy to underestimate the actual cost of developing that alternate mission profile, including all the risk assessment and mitigation, to the point where you can start ordering parts and modifications. The "overhead" engineering cost here is rather larger than the actual cost of modifying the bird, and that funding has to somehow be provided (with no guarantee that the answer won't be "sorry, can't do that in acceptable parameters") before we can commit to the mission. And in that sense, even if the orbiter needed nothing but an engine swap, you're right, we may as well start from scratch -- it's a lot easier to sell politicians a project to develop a new vehicle than a project (even if it were as low as half the cost) to develop a modification to an old vehicle.

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

rijrunner (263757) | about 4 years ago | (#33877114)

Umm. Not with the Shuttle. The engines are badly designed for zero-G. They have never been fired in orbit for a reason. (Also, the Shuttle could not have survived re-entry from a lunar return. It gets real ugly trying to cut the velocity from a vehicle returning from that far out.)

But, you could have done with with some basic assembly. The technology has been there for years. The last real innovation was the TransHab module.

There are some real technical issues to deal with when discussing ISS though. It is in a very bad orbital plane for lunar missions. There are much better orbits. I am cynical here. I think the reality is that ISS really does not have much of a purpose outside of justifying Shuttle budgets.

BREAKING NEWS (3, Insightful)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 4 years ago | (#33876054)

Real World aspirations approaching within 50 years of Science Fiction dreams.

You Have Been Warned!

Also: "WHAT THE HELL TOOK YOU SO LONG"?

Re:BREAKING NEWS (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33876560)

Also: "what the hell took you so long"?

Government.

Re:BREAKING NEWS (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 4 years ago | (#33876594)

Government.

Given that governments are, to date, the only entities that have done so much as put human beings in LEO -- to say nothing of sending them to the Moon -- you're going to have do some fancy dancing to make the case that government is what's stopping us from achieving science fiction dreams.

Re:BREAKING NEWS (1)

corbettw (214229) | about 4 years ago | (#33877018)

People got distracted with developing the flying car. Now that that's done, it's on to Mars!

Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#33876060)

Well, I guess it's not exactly the same. Given the collaborative international nature of the effort, I can guarantee that it'll take five times as long to get going as Apollo, cost ten times as much (mostly in pork), and it'll be nobody's fault when it fails. Except maybe the French.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (3, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 4 years ago | (#33876108)

[...] and it'll be nobody's fault when it fails. Except maybe the French.

But people will blame the USA no matter what.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876128)

And China will take all the credit if it succeeds.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#33876354)

lol except people in the USA will blame the French no matter what, apparently.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 4 years ago | (#33876656)

But people will blame the USA no matter what.

As long as there are large numbers of Americans who are unable to acknowledge that the USA is ever at fault for anything, or ever less than the best at everything, you have to expect a certain amount of reaction.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 4 years ago | (#33876900)

True, but such knee-jerk reactions of blaming us for everything don't help fix the issue.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 4 years ago | (#33876276)

Launching from space is different from doing from here. The people still must get up there, but once there, they could eventually do several trips, apart from the automated ones, and good part of the complexity/cost of getting to the moon/asteroids is mostly getting in orbit. And things could get interesting if asteroids can be mined to build new ships from materials from up there.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33876406)

Once you are in orbit you are half way to anywhere

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (2, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33876562)

Not if you have to change inclination like anything coming from the ISS would have to do.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33876810)

Not if you have to change inclination like anything coming from the ISS would have to do.

It depends. For example, I believe if you want to go into a lunar polar orbit, departing from the ISS's 51.6 degree inclination actually requires less propellant than if you were to depart from an equatorial orbit. If you want to go somewhere else that the ISS inclination is suboptimal for, all that means is that you need to carry up a little more propellant.

Re:Doing what we already did 40 years ago? Yawn. (4, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33877034)

One other big difference in this case is that they are talking about using an on-orbit space station as a staging ground for a mission. That is a huge step in terms of mission cycle and design. There is a very large difference between using big rockets to get from Earth to a destination, and using smaller rockets to get from Earth, to an intermittent way point, to your final destination. If a mission like this was executed well, and yielded good, reliable, cheap results, there could be a movement to develop on-orbit assembly infrastructure and on-orbit mission staging resources to a large degree. Such a paradigm shift in mission architecture would definitely represent a historic landmark in mankind's endeavors into space.

Let's rename ISS Utopia Planitia :) (1)

youn (1516637) | about 4 years ago | (#33876064)

definitely sounds cooler and more appropriate :)

Special Slashdot Memo #433223443 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876106)

Cue all the private space launch company fans.

There's only outfit that can do it.

That outfit is Energia [energia.ru]

Have fun.

Yours In Baikonur,
Kilgore T.

Re:Special Slashdot Memo #433223443 (1)

the linux geek (799780) | about 4 years ago | (#33876780)

Too bad Energia is actually owned by the Russian Federation government.

Special Slashdot Memo #42223443654399 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876828)

You stated:

>>Too bad Energia is actually owned by the Russian Federation government.

Ergo: Energia is NOT a private launch company.

Which was exactly my point. Thanks for your agreement.

K. T.

Have $100 million? (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876116)

Here, get yourself a ride [spaceadventures.com] (those are people cooperating on almost all private spaceflights so far); also in Soyuz, it would seem - only apt, considering how it was the first spacecraft to carry macroscopic life (turtles) beyond LEO (around the Moon) and return it safely, on a Zond 5 mission.

Funny how, out of both sides involved in Lunar Race, it is Russia who now has few decades of experience with a spacecraft essentially capable of beyond-LEO operation.

Re:Have $100 million? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33876514)

Well of course it is Russia. Unlike the US who seems to think that we're not subject to the laws of economics and can spend all we want in dead end projects thinking that deathtraps like the Shuttle can last for 30 some years, Russia doesn't have the cash to go out and design an all new untested spacecraft and has to make do with what they have.

Apollo was a technological dead-end. The Shuttle was a technological dead end. On the other hand Soyuz did what it needed to do and had a design that could be adapted effectively while cutting costs.

Re:Have $100 million? (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876706)

Heck, it is launched by a rocket from R-7 lineage. A family which carried all Soviet and Russian manned missions to date, starting with Yuri Gagarin. Which launched Sputnik. And was the first operational ICBM (not very practical in its first role; but...sort of competing space agency says it is "The most reliable ... the most frequently used launch vehicle in the world" [esa.int] )

Re:Have $100 million? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 4 years ago | (#33876720)

Apollo was a technological dead-end. The Shuttle was a technological dead end. On the other hand Soyuz did what it needed to do and had a design that could be adapted effectively while cutting costs.

Apollo also did what it needed to do, and while it cost more than contemporary Soyuz designs, it also had to do a hell of a lot more than Soyuz or any other spacecraft has ever done. The reason it was a dead end was political, not technological. The Shuttle, I'll grant you, although I'll note that the early designs for a reusable people-launcher made a lot of sense; it was when they tried to combine it with a heavy-lift system that things went to hell.

We could have kept turning out Saturn V's assembly-line style and even without incorporating all the improvements we could have made over the last 40 years, we'd still be ahead of where we are now, for less money.

This is something... (2, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | about 4 years ago | (#33876140)

...we should've been doing YEARS AGO.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Re:This is something... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33877088)

Well at least they are talking about it now, rather than proselytizing about some super-heavy-mega-lifter rocket like Congress has been for the last decade or so. It may have taken 30 years too long to get here, but at least it got here (or, it might, based on the article). I, for one, was (and still am, to some degree) afraid that mankind's crowning space achievement would be walking on his own moon and ending it at that. Developing the infrastructure for, and demonstrating the ability to use, on-orbit resources as a staging ground for missions into deep space would be a very important step in getting further from Earth than the moon.

shuttlecraft (3, Insightful)

Oceanplexian (807998) | about 4 years ago | (#33876162)

I wonder why they went with the plan to have the craft return to earth? It makes more sense to me to have a reusable "shuttlecraft" that ferried
astronauts from the ISS to lunar orbit and back.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

Chowderbags (847952) | about 4 years ago | (#33876248)

They probably want to have engineers tear it apart to see what kind of stresses it took and how well it holds up (both to space and to entering the atmosphere). Think of it as a prototype that they'll try to work the kinks out of.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

youn (1516637) | about 4 years ago | (#33876312)

I am speaking totally uninformed here but I suspect shuttles are good in theory but cost a lot more to operate for the same task. Also, it's easier to smash the darn thing in the ocean with parachutes than it is to slow it down to a halt, un orbit... probably requiring more energy/ fuel... therefore reducing the payload capacity... but I definitely have no expertise in the area so I'm speaking out of the blue

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33876332)

I wonder why they went with the plan to have the craft return to earth? It makes more sense to me to have a reusable "shuttlecraft" that ferried astronauts from the ISS to lunar orbit and back.

Maybe version 2, if there is one.

They're almost certainly going for a free return trajectory

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_return_trajectory [wikipedia.org]

Some of the Russian gear is so freaking tough, that they don't need to eject the service module or point the right way... So with a free return trajectory, after your initial orbit injection burn, you can, if necessary, completely power down the craft and you'll still end up back on earth. So if you're a bit nervous about your thruster rockets or inertial nav or whatever, no big deal. Essentially once the initial burn is complete, the astronauts are spam-in-a-can as far as "piloting" the craft is concerned.

In practice you always need to make a few minor correction burns, but they tend to be ridiculous, like single digit or less m/s delta V.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876584)

Don't exaggerate - while Soyuz is certainly tough (was meant for Moon return reentry after all), the two or so failures to detach service module were still close calls - and from more forgiving LEO, not from higher speeds of Lunar return.

Anyway, they will probably try to perform skip reentry to limit G forces - that's what Soyuz already did on at least some Zond missions.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876398)

To save fuel on the return leg, one would need to do quite a bit of aerobraking either way; much harder if the aim is not to reenter, but end up in an orbit which can take you back to ISS. With the stress of braking, it'll be probably much better for some time to take it all the way down at that point.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33876480)

I wonder why they went with the plan to have the craft return to earth? It makes more sense to me to have a reusable "shuttlecraft" that ferried astronauts from the ISS to lunar orbit and back.

You know that big rocket stage that sent Apollo to the Moon from Earth orbit? You'd need something about a quarter as large as that to brake an Apollo CSM-sized vehicle into orbit to dock with ISS, and then you'd need to launch that all the way to the Moon as well, meaning you'd need a much larger rocket stage to get you there. Or you'd need to aerobrake and hope your computer didn't screw up and send you into completely the wrong orbit.

To go from ISS to the Moon and back you'd need a far more efficient engine that current chemical rockets (ion, nuclear, etc).

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#33876638)

I wonder why they went with the plan to have the craft return to earth? It makes more sense to me to have a reusable "shuttlecraft" that ferried astronauts from the ISS to lunar orbit and back.

Because it takes an enormous amount of fuel to slow down into orbit. It also heavily constrains landing sites (already badly constrained or having high fuel requirements because of the idiotic choice of launch location) and heavily constrains return trajectories.
 
Launching to the moon from the ISS is already stupid enough, there's no need to compound the stupid by adding a requirement that it enter orbit and rendezvous with the ISS.

Re:shuttlecraft (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33877142)

One major reason that I can guess is detla-V requirements. Getting into a lunar orbit requires one helluva hard burn for your spacecraft. As you are returning from lunar orbit, you would have to repeat the same hard burn to drop from lunar transfer orbit back into LEO to rendezvous a second time with the ISS. These fuel costs could be constraining. If, instead, you decide to plunge back into the Earth atmosphere directly, you can just slap a much heavier-duty heat shield on your spacecraft and allow the atmosphere to do some braking for you, thus lowering the delta-v requirements for that second "slow-down" burn. That's why this mission would require an extra heat-shield be added to the Soyuz, if that's the craft they are talking about taking.

DARPA Challenge model is better... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876182)

the money would be better spent offering a prize to the first company or organization that can send a ship around the moon and back....

offer $100 million to the first to do it...$50 million to the second....
or make it $500 million to the first.... ...it will still be insanely cheaper than the governments funding it themselves...and the tech might actually get commercialized.

Re:DARPA Challenge model is better... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33876838)

the money would be better spent offering a prize to the first company or organization that can send a ship around the moon and back....

To offer prizes that large, NASA would need explicit approval from Congress. Good luck with that, especially when such efforts potentially compete with billion-dollar projects in politically-important congressional districts. Heck, NASA's been having difficulty just getting its $1M-$2M prizes funded.

imagine that (4, Funny)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 4 years ago | (#33876210)

using a space station as a station...in space!

The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (4, Interesting)

cheetah (9485) | about 4 years ago | (#33876236)

The big problem with using the ISS to do this type of mission is that the ISS is in the wrong orbital plane to easily launch flights to the moon. While it's not impossible to fly from the ISS it will be far more costly(in terms of fuel) to do so. Basically as long assembling the mission at the ISS is less costly than a single launch into the correct orbital plane this might be feasible.

Re:The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (4, Interesting)

profplump (309017) | about 4 years ago | (#33876352)

It's in the wrong orbit to do anything other than be reachable by launches from mainland Russia. It's not like no one ever thought of using the space station as a jumping-off point before, it's just that such ideas were made more or less impractical as soon as we decided to put the space station in this silly orbit.

Re:The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (3, Informative)

butalearner (1235200) | about 4 years ago | (#33876906)

It's in the wrong orbit to do anything other than be reachable by launches from mainland Russia. It's not like no one ever thought of using the space station as a jumping-off point before, it's just that such ideas were made more or less impractical as soon as we decided to put the space station in this silly orbit.

Of course, the fact that the goal was to be reachable by launches from Baikonur means it's not a silly orbit, considering inclination changes are the most expensive in terms of delta-v (and money, as a result).

Re:The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876490)

Orbit of ISS makes much less of a difference if you launch from Baikonur... launching from there would be less costly in any case.

Re:The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33876624)

Then we should sue the other one. wait, there isn't another one? well then maybe we should use the one we have to do this experiment.

Re:The ISS is in the wrong orbit for this! (2, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33876868)

The big problem with using the ISS to do this type of mission is that the ISS is in the wrong orbital plane to easily launch flights to the moon. While it's not impossible to fly from the ISS it will be far more costly(in terms of fuel) to do so.

I've been looking all over, but can't find a good figure of just how much more costly (in terms of fuel) it would be to get from the ISS's orbit to do a lunar flyby. Are we talking about a few percent more delta-v required, an order of magnitude, or somewhere in-between?

All I've been able to find is that it's apparently "cheaper" to get to lunar polar orbit from the ISS's inclination.

Send the whole thing! (2, Interesting)

ddrueding80 (1091191) | about 4 years ago | (#33876250)

Just send the whole ISS. Most of their experiments don't care where the station is, so long as it is space, and plenty of instruments are already onboard.

Re:Send the whole thing! (1)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33876414)

Just send the whole ISS. Most of their experiments don't care where the station is, so long as it is space, and plenty of instruments are already onboard.

However, the thermal/cooling system is designed around the idea of having half a hemisphere at roughly room/earth temperature... It'll get mighty cold up there rather quickly outside of low earth orbit. I wonder if the refrigerant system can survive a liquid slug, if it gets too cold. Knowing NASA, probably.

Re:Send the whole thing! (4, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33876454)

It's designed for quite safe LEO radiation environment, deep inside the magnetosphere of Earth.

Re:Send the whole thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876612)

Only thing though is moving it would be hellishly hard.
You'd have to anchor the entire station to itself from several locations so the thing doesn't break itself apart, unless you intend doing an extremely slow increase in distance over a long period.

And the main reason it is there is for radiation protection.
Any further out and it gets a bit riskier for the people on board.
Until we design a decent EM forcefield (current ones are... not ideal), or build a huge physical shield (not going to happen), ISS will have to stay put.

Re:Send the whole thing! (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33877022)

It isn't quite so bad - "normal" conditions beyond the Earth magnetosphere are perfectly manageable during daily activities. The issue are solar flares - just improve their detection & modeling, and have a radiation bunker (basically inside water and fuel tanks; doubling as a sleeping place, might as well minimize daily dosage). A thing for which ISS wasn't planned...

Re:Send the whole thing! (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | about 4 years ago | (#33876670)

Would the structure hold while being pushed out of Earth orbit?

Re:Send the whole thing! (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#33876746)

Just send the whole ISS. Most of their experiments don't care where the station is, so long as it is space, and plenty of instruments are already onboard.

But the ISS itself cares where it is... ISS isn't shielded to transit the Van Allen belts, and its thermal control isn't designed for lunar orbit. Nor is it structurally strong enough to take sufficient thrust to actually get it there in any reasonable time frame.

Re:Send the whole thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876754)

How did this get modded up as Interesting? Considering that there is a whole section on wiki dedicated to ISS's orbital mechanics (low earth orbit of all things) I doubt it could be retrofitted to go anywhere else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Orbit_control

Re:Send the whole thing! (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33877176)

I don't think the ISS was designed to protect against the radiation levels in the Van Allen belts. The Soyuz capsule, on the other hand, was designed for keeping things alive to and from the moon. Also, the ISS is a very heavy piece of equipment and the amount of fuel necessary to boost it into a trans-lunar orbit would be restrictive, to say the least.

But why go back to the ISS? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#33876284)

It costs a lot of fuel. About 4km/s of velocity change to match orbits with the ISS when you return from the moon, but if you can't do that burn then you have return to Earth so you need a heat shield anyway.

So yeah, maybe the ISS is a good place to integrate a vehicle like this but the best way seems to fly it around the moon then straight to Earth.

Re:But why go back to the ISS? (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33876400)

So yeah, maybe the ISS is a good place to integrate a vehicle like this but the best way seems to fly it around the moon then straight to Earth.

No, the inclination makes it a lousy place to go to the Moon from too. But using it is probably cheaper than building a construction shack in a sensible orbit if you're not planning to be going to the Moon on a regular basis.

Orbitally Dumb (2, Informative)

simonbp (412489) | about 4 years ago | (#33876816)

The ISS is in a 51 deg orbit (so the Russians can reach it from Kazakhstan), which is one the worst possible places to depart for the Moon from. Optimally, you want a transfer orbit coplanar with the Moon's orbit, which varies from 18-28 deg (depending of the time of year). This is because trajectory errors in coplanar orbits tend to cancel out, increasing safety, as well as reducing the mass of fuel required launch to the transfer orbit. So, either the ISS-launched mission does a very-expensive plane-change maneuver, or weighs more and is more unsafe than a conventionally launched mission. Either way, launching to the Moon (or any Lagrange Points) from the ISS is orbitally dumb.

BTW, the latitude of Kennedy Space Center is 28 deg, the furthest north it can be to optimally launch a mission to the Moon...

Re:Orbitally Dumb (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33876854)

Either way, launching to the Moon (or any Lagrange Points) from the ISS is orbitally dumb.

But if you have a choice between:

1. Spend $50,000,000,000 on building a new NASA heavy lifter and $2,000,000,000 per launch.
2. Spend $100,000,000 per launch sending each of a dozen components to ISS on existing smaller launchers, assemble them and then send the assembled spacecraft to the Moon.

Then ISS makes sense. Obviously launching those components to a new space station in a low inclination orbit would save money in the long term, but would add billions more up front.

Re:Orbitally Dumb (1)

simonbp (412489) | about 4 years ago | (#33877132)

No, that's not the choice. The Congress has just (with a supermajority from both parties) approved a new NASA that funds the Big New Rocket, partly because of jobs. So, if NASA is already building a rocket that can go to the Moon with two low-inclination launches, being redundant and going to ISS is both dumb and pointless. If you really want station-based exploration, it's probably cheaper to just build a new station at 23 deg...

Plus, I think you're vastly underestimating the cost to approve a new Visiting Vehicle for ISS. That's been nearly a third of Dragon and Cygnus costs so far, and they don't have massive propellant tanks.

Re:Orbitally Dumb (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33877180)

The ISS is in a 51 deg orbit (so the Russians can reach it from Kazakhstan), which is one the worst possible places to depart for the Moon from. Optimally, you want a transfer orbit coplanar with the Moon's orbit, which varies from 18-28 deg (depending of the time of year).

I've asked this question a couple other places but haven't gotten an answer yet: When you suboptimal, are we talking about a few percent, or more than that? If it's the former, while this is contrary to much of the way performance-obsessed agencies like NASA operate, suboptimal might still be good enough and simply a matter of launch more propellant.

Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33876892)

The next step should be a station in Lunar orbit. It doesn't have to be manned continuously, but it would be nice to have some spare parts and extra fuel there in case of trouble.

Building in orbit (1)

jjohnson (62583) | about 4 years ago | (#33877140)

Someone who knows more about orbital mechanics and the economics of launches, please correct me here:

The main issue with getting into space is the high cost in energy (and thus money) of getting out of the Earth's gravity well. The heavier the load, the more fuel is required; more fuel increases the weight, which requires more fuel still... eventually you hit a kind of maximum whereby you can't add enough energy in the form of fuel to overcome the weight of the total package.

Wouldn't it then be economically feasible to launch many small packages that get assembled at the ISS? A swarm deployment to orbit, of sorts?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?