Explore Mars Issues Report with Findings & Recommendations

The Humans to Mars Report 2017

Explore Mars, Inc.
Full Report (PDF)

Findings

  • The wide range of architectures for the exploration of Mars and the credibility of the institutions and companies producing them demonstrate both the wide interest in Mars exploration and the positive opinions of the viability of current technology to achieve it.
  • Mars exploration architectures must consider and address affordability, including how the architecture will return appropriate value to its stakeholders, as a fundamental requirement for credibility.
  • Sustainability is also a fundamental requirement and will be driven by, besides affordability, international and commercial partnerships. To effectively engage these partners, clear consideration of their contributions and objectives must be made.
  • A well-defined set of accepted scientific objectives will anchor coordination between the human spaceflight and science communities and ensure the widest possible support for human exploration of Mars.
  • Timely identification of strategic knowledge gaps and a robust technology demonstration program is needed to mature systems for Mars explorations. Testing systems at the International Space Station and in cislunar space would provide valuable operations experience for Mars systems.
  • Robotic reconnaissance of Mars from orbit and on the surface is needed to finalize selection of landing sites and inform technology development and system design.
  • The ongoing discussion and development of systems and architectures for deep space exploration is valuable with each idea contributing new perspectives and possibilities. Architecture choices must be rational and transparent to maximize participation. Open and wide ranging discussion will produce the strongest possible Mars architecture.
  • Mars is achievable.

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Sounding Rocket Mission May 16 Providing Real-World Test for New Technologies

Photo caption: SubTec7 payload undergoes final testing and evaluation at Wallops. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — New rocket and spacecraft technology can be tested on the ground, such as in labs.  However, in some cases a new technology needs to be flight tested to see how it performs in the “real-world” environment.

A NASA sounding rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 16 will provide the flight testing needed for 24 experiments and new technologies.

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SpaceX Weighing Sending 2 Red Dragon Missions to Mars in 2020

Red Dragon enters Mars atmosphere. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said on Tuesday that SpaceX plans to launch two Red Dragon missions to Mars during the 2020 launch window.

“Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX,” Green said during an appearance at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC.

The Red Dragon is a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft SpaceX uses to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX will send these automated vehicles to the surface as a precursor to human missions it wants to fly in the 2020’s.

SpaceX has announced that it will send a Red Dragon to the surface in 2020.  However, Elon Musk’s company has said nothing publicly about a second spacecraft. Red Dragons are designed to perform automated descent, entry and landings on the martian surface.

SpaceX had planned to launch the first Red Dragon mission in 2018. However, the effort was pushed back two years due to the company’s other commitments, which include commercial cargo and crew missions for NASA and a backed up launch manifest caused, in part, by two Falcon 9 failures.

The inaugural flight test of the Falcon Heavy booster that will launch the Red Dragon spacecraft has also been delayed for more than four years. That test is currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2017.

NASA is providing about $30 million in in-kind support for the first Red Dragon flight in exchange for entry data. The space agency’s support includes trajectory analysis and tracking and communications via the Deep Space Network.

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DiBello: Florida Faces Possible Shortage of Aerospace Talent

Space Florida President Frank DiBello
Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Florida’s success in drawing companies such as Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and OneWeb to the Space Coast could create a shortage of aerospace talent in the future, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello said on Tuesday.

“I would even go so far as to say that this is the area I am most worried about for our aerospace future,” DiBello told several hundred guests at a National Space Club Florida Committee meeting in Cape Canaveral….

The Space Coast, anchored by the civil and military and space programs at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, has long been a hub for skilled aerospace workers.

And new companies had a ready supply to draw from after the retirement of NASA’s shuttle program in 2011 resulted in roughly 8,000 layoffs of contractors.

But looking ahead, DiBello said Florida does not produce enough aerospace-related degrees and lags a dozen states in attracting federal funding for space-related research, metrics that need to improve.

A source on the Space Coast recently told Parabolic Arc that NASA’s exploration ground system program, which is developing supporting infrastructure for the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, has been impacted by workers taking positions with Blue Origin, which is building a rocket production facility nearby and modifying a launch pad at Cape Canaveral.
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NASA Receives 12 Proposals for Solar System Exploration Missions


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has received and is reviewing 12 proposals for future unmanned solar system exploration. The proposed missions of discovery – submitted under NASA’s New Frontiers program – will undergo scientific and technical review over the next seven months. The goal is to select a mission for flight in about two years, with launch in the mid-2020s.

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Has NASA Decided to Put Crew on First SLS Flight?

If this is true, it will be only the second time in history that a crew has flown on on the first flight of a launch vehicle.

The only other time was the space shuttle — and they had to do it. There was no way to fly the space shuttle without a crew. As the book “Into the Black” shows, that mission came close to disaster during launch due to a shock wave that bounced off the pad and damaged the forward connector between the shuttle and the external tank. The force also nearly damaged the tail flap.

Yes, the Orion spacecraft will have an abort system. But still, it is very risky to put a crew on the very first flight of a brand new booster. Other human launch vehicles were tested separately and with spacecraft before any crews were placed on board.

Another concern is the Orion spacecraft, whose only flight test lacked crucial equipment such as the service module and life support.

The flight might come off just fine. But, I fear that NASA’s concern about keeping the program funded, and Donald Trump’s desire for some space spectacular to boost his re-election chances, could combine to produce something very unfortunate.

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Coming Soon: CubeSats with Frickin’ Laser Beams

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

Laser communications systems have become the next big thing in spacecraft design, promising improved communications. And now NASA is looking to put them on CubeSats.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking sources of compact laser transmitters that could be placed on one of these small satellites for a future technology demonstration space flight mission.

“Goddard is developing a CUBESat spacecraft with science mission payload for a multiple unit CUBESat spacecraft that will generate >1 Gbit/day science data at distances up to 0.5 Astronomical Units (AU). Reference 1 gives a notional CUBESat laser communications system concept,” the center said in the RFI.

“The purpose of this RFI is to solicit specific capability information from industry on master- oscillator power-amplifier (MOPA) laser communication transmitter technologies. This will be used for a cost, schedule and technical assessment to assist with preparing for a possible near-future NASA CUBESat spacecraft technology demonstration,” the RFI adds.

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SOFIA Confirms Nearby Planetary System is Similar to Our Own

Artist’s illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. The similarity of the structure of the Epsilon Eridani system to our solar system is remarkable, although Epsilon Eridani is much younger than our sun. SOFIA observations confirmed the existence of the asteroid belt adjacent to the orbit of the Jovian planet. (Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

PALMDALE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

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Astrobotic to Develop CubeRover Standard for Planetary Surface Mobility

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH, May 4, 2017 (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA to develop CubeRover, a class of 2-kg rover platforms capable of small-scale science and exploration on planetary surfaces. The team will design a CubeRover capable of evaluating lunar lander ejecta and characterizing surface mobility. CubeRover will establish a new standard for small-scale surface-deployable science and exploration platforms.

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AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
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Commercial Crew Spacecraft Will Offer a Quick Escape from Station


By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

New, American-made spacecraft flying to the International Space Station will play a big role in bringing resident crews back home to Earth, but their missions also include the ability to provide the orbiting laboratory with a temporary shelter in case of an emergency in space, or even a safe ride back to Earth with short notice.

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Orbital ATK Tests Orion Escape Motor

DULLES, Va. (Orbital ATK PR) — Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced today that it has completed another milestone in the development of the Attitude Control Motor (ACM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS). Members of the NASA and Lockheed Martin team were on hand to witness the successful ACM test, which demonstrated the motor’s power to steer the LAS during a mission-abort scenario.

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NASA Seeks Information on Commercial Moon Missions

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)

NASA has issued a request for information (RFI) about commercial missions capable of carrying NASA payloads to the lunar surface.

“The requirement is to provide a commercial launch and landing service on existing or forthcoming FAA licensed commercial missions to the lunar surface for NASA primary payloads, NASA secondary payloads, or NASA hosted payloads, with the potential to also procure data from any commercial lunar surface missions and/or return payloads or samples to the Earth,” the RFI states.

“NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon,” the request adds.

Currently, the only known FAA-licensed commercial mission to the lunar surface will be conducted by Moon Express. The company plans to launch a lander and hopper to the moon this year in an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize.

Synergy Moon, an international team with U.S. members, has a contract to launch its mission to the moon later this year on an Interorbital Systems rocket off the California coast.

Astrobotic, which recently dropped out of the competition, has said it still plans to launch a rover to the moon. However, it will not do so by the end of 2017, which is a requirement to compete in the prize.

SpaceX has announced plans to send two people around the moon in a modified Dragon spacecraft. The company has said nothing about landing anything on the surface, but it’s possible the mission’s booster, Falcon Heavy, could include secondary payloads.

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Altius Space Machines DogTags Project Selected for NASA Funding

We’ve all heard of dogtags for dogs and for soldiers. But, for space robots?

That’s what Jonathan Goff’s Altius Space Machines will begin developing with NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I funding. The contract is worth $125,000 over six months.

Altius’s dogtags are lightweight, passive robotic interfaces that could be attached to habitat structures and objects. Examples of structures include human-tended deep space habitats and commercial manufacturing facilities in Easrth orbit that wouldn’t be permanently staffed.

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NASA’s Resource Prospector Rover to Search for Lunar Volatiles

The Resource Prospector prototype searches for a buried sample tube at the Johnson Space Center rock yard in August 2015. (Credit: NASA)

While competitors in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize are rushing to launch small rovers and hoppers to the moon by the end of the year to replicate what the Soviets achieved in the 1970’s, NASA has been quietly working on a much more capable vehicle designed to take lunar exploration to the next level.

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