The National Geographic Society’s “Mars” – Nova Fabula

Which version of the EDL of the human Mars spacecraft (Musk ITS at top; NGS Mars at bottom) is fact and which is fiction? Sorry, trick question – they are both fictional.

Which version of the EDL of the human Mars spacecraft (Musk ITS at top; NGS Mars at bottom) is fact and which is fiction? Sorry, trick question – they are both fictional.

For me, a child of the Sixties, the National Geographic Society (NGS, or “Society”) provided an amazing window into the wonderful world of discovery. Founded in 1888, the Society has produced an enormous catalogue of books, TV programs and movies. Nine months after its inception, the now iconic National Geographic monthly hit the stands. For well over one hundred years, in issue after issue, the publication with the familiar yellow square graphic has taken eager readers to far away places, exotic locales and alien worlds – making the unknown interesting and accessible through the Society’s magnificent photography and artwork. Occasionally, a fold out map detailing the feature story is tucked between its pages. The Society’s map of the Moon is one of the best available. While I knew National Geographic through years of enjoying its publications and programs, I remained unaware of the Society’s history of controversies. My knowledge about science and history (and its telling) is much broader today.

During its 128-year history, the Society has sponsored expeditions to remote corners of the globe, including Richard Peary’s 1909 attempt at the North Pole. When Dr. Frederick Cook announced in 1909 that he had attained the pole the previous year, the Society began a campaign of disparagement of Cook’s claim in favor of its own sponsored Peary expedition. Cook’s credibility had been previously questioned by the revelation of a member of his climbing team that his ascent of Mt. McKinley in 1906 had been fabricated. Thus, the NGS felt unassailable in their support of Peary’s claim that denied the priority of Cook’s claim. The campaign to give Peary credit for being first to reach the North Pole succeeded with an act of Congress that declared his claim valid (the vote was not unanimous). A re-examination of the published and unpublished evidence by arctic expert Wally Herbert in 1989 concluded that most likely, neither Peary nor Cook reached the pole. The NGS still supports Peary’s claim of priority.

The Society repeated this pattern of high profile, unquestioning support for their sponsored expeditions with Richard Byrd’s 1926 claim to have been the first person to fly over the North Pole. His claim was questioned, most notably by Bernt Balchen, the Norwegian polar aviator who later piloted Byrd’s aircraft on its first flight over the South Pole. Balchen was present at Byrd’s departure for the North Pole and had timed the length of the flight. On the basis of the known performance of the Fokker Tri-motor aircraft, Balchen concluded that Byrd must have turned around well short of the pole. Once again, the NGS stepped forward with a massive propaganda campaign to support Byrd’s claim.

This sort of no-holds-barred advocacy by the National Geographic Society’s isn’t some relic of bygone days either. For many years now, the NGS has promoted the idea of catastrophic climate change, most recently illustrated by the publication in their latest atlas of a blatantly incorrect map of the North Polar ice cap, a map where the Arctic basin appears to be mostly ice-free (the NGS understands well the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words). In fact, satellite data show there has been little change in the extent of the polar cap since the publication of the Society’s 1971 map. Global, catastrophic, human-caused climate change is a politically correct, fashionable topic that has permeated all thinking and policy. The NGS has thrown its lot in with the sky-is-falling-and-we’re-all-doomed crowd. Everything has become politicized and science is no exception.

Which brings us to National Geographic’s current massive propaganda campaign, the Mars project. This combination documentary/drama is somewhat reminiscent of Walt Disney’s 1955 Tomorrowland television series about the conquest of space, which also introduced space visionary Wernher von Braun to the American public. Like its predecessor, Mars seeks to educate and enthuse the public in the belief that human missions to the Red Planet lie just around the corner. Toward that end, Mars is a pull-out-all-the-stops, Hollywood mega-production, featuring the talents of the renowned Director/Producer of the movie Apollo 13, Ron Howard.

This new series is officially set to premiere on November 17, 2016. However, Episode 1, Novo Mundo (The New World) is available for streaming on the web and the Society has created a massive, multi-page web site to promote the show. In addition to their dramatized version of a fictional first human mission to Mars, the series includes sound bites and interviews with numerous space experts proclaiming the imminence of the era of Mars flight. Needless to say, a variety of Mars advocates are heavily immersed and invested in the promotion of this show, including most notably NASA (whose own “Journey to Mars” remains as much in the realm of fiction as the NGS television series) and SpaceX’s CEO and “Chief Designer” Elon Musk, the architect of an “Interplanetary Transport System” that he envisions will enable mass human migration to Mars.

SpaceX and its various activities are showcased prominently in Mars with story-moving references and clips. So, not too unexpectedly, the spacecraft chosen for the Mars series bears a remarkable resemblance to the futuristic animated video of a SpaceX Interplanetary Crew Transport System that Elon Musk released during his recent, highly promoted International Astronautical Congress (IAC) speech. After a decelerating aerothermal entry into the martian atmosphere, the vehicle pitches around for a propulsive braking burn onto an upright, vertically precarious landing. From the discussion in the “documentary” portion of the first episode, including clips of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage landings, the casual viewer is left with the false impression that this “Entry-Descent-Landing” problem has been solved. This is far from the case. To date, landing on Mars has proven to be extremely problematic and more often than not, attempts have been unsuccessful.

Not shown in series’ intermingling of fact and fiction are the many outstanding problems and questions about a human mission to Mars. Interestingly, the opening episode doesn’t include the launch of mission pieces, the ship’s assembly and fueling in space, the departure of the Mars mission, nor are we given a window into their subsequent months of boredom and peril during the 6-9 month journey to Mars. That the crew risks exposure to several lifetime limits worth of radiation is alluded to, but nothing is revealed about how this hazard is to be addressed and mitigated. In the accompanying interviews and short films, the series’ producers note that the focus of the film is deliberately put on activities to be undertaken on Mars – on establishing a human foothold on the “Novo Mundo.” In the opening episode, the possible ill effects of radiation and solar UV exposure, toxic soil chemistry, and the numbing cold in the near-vacuum of the martian surface are lightly skipped over or set aside.

One of the more contrived aspects of the first episode is its depiction of the programmatic structure of the mission – the postulated creation of an “International Mars Science Foundation,” a politically correct, multi-cultural organization directed by a council of administrators and bureaucrats, convening at a round table (no doubt to indicate the universal equality of their status). A placard placed in front of each seated bureaucrat suggests that they represent the world’s space agencies (I saw JAXA on one of them). Presumably, either the world has banded together to finance this venture or Elon’s reusable spaceships have made Mars voyaging a trivial expenditure. Considering that none of the SpaceX Mars architecture pieces have gotten within 2000 miles of any launch site, this series is more Nova Fabula (new fable) than Novo Mundo.

In fact, this whole exercise is more akin to a worship service for the Mars faithful than it is a serious science and engineering documentary bent on sketching out a future for space travel. No identifiable rationale or motivation is given for this journey – more “on a hope and a prayer” than actual engineering and science. The short “Why Mars?” featurette on the NGS web site repeats the usual smorgasbord of platitudes – “because it’s there,” “human destiny,” “search for life” – but none of these reasons are unique to a human Mars mission. Why Mars and why “next” are two questions that go unanswered. It is simply assumed that viewers will agree with the premise of the producers (and the series’ contributing experts) that Mars is the “obvious” next destination in space, making those who believe differently unfashionably out of touch and probably “anti-science.”

This promoted fable – that Mars represents “humanity’s destiny” – takes a still very far-away vision, and through the use of spectacular imagery and propaganda, attempts to sell it to a public accustomed to instant gratification and thus programmed to “believe.” This suits many in positions of power. Hyping the romance of a human Mars mission keeps the public (not to mention a highly compliant and ignorant media) from asking tough questions of their leaders and their space agency: “How are you going to get to Mars?” “What will you do when you get there?” “Why this, to the exclusion of all else?” “Is there a more efficient way?” “What is the payback for those who will foot the bill?” Perhaps these questions will be addressed in future episodes, but somehow I doubt it.

Regardless of how the facts evolve and emerge over the next 20 years, since the National Geographic Society has chosen to sell the idea of a Novo Mundo, its sizable institutional resources will aggressively launch and sustain a multimedia campaign to promote this Novae Fabula. The fictional Mars mission portrayed here is said to occur in 2033 – that’s only 16 years away. Here’s my prediction for what will actually occur in 2033: the powers-that-be then will predict that a human mission to Mars will take place “within the next two decades.”

This entry was posted in planetary exploration, space policy, space technology, Space transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The National Geographic Society’s “Mars” – Nova Fabula

  1. Michael Wright says:

    I saw the preview of this program, the mix of design concepts with clips from fictional movies pretty much affirmed my thinking Mars mission is a fantasy. I should read all the books and articles which I haven’t. I kind left that to Spudis and others, however, in terms of hardware I only see Dragon2 and Falcon Heavy as occasional release of photos showing mockups and engineering prototypes. I see nothing of habitat modules or a solid plan of action. In terms of plans, none of us really know what is SpaceX business plans, we only get snippets from Musk’s media briefings. Like all private companies, their business plans are highly guarded proprietary secrets so we will only get whatever that is released. So far, no insiders have leaked info unlike governments.

    Interesting mention of NGS controversies, I’ve heard a little but not much. I do remember finding the 1960s issue with Joe Walker’s article on the X15. Totally amazed they actually had a plane that flew into “space” where pilot needs to wear a spacesuit, need to have RCS as control surfaces have no effect, and re-entry heating. Plus the really nice photos.

  2. Joe says:

    Interesting review of the NGS’s history. Also used to read their magazine as a kid and never had any idea of the controversies.

    In addition to the problems already listed there is the whole issue of the ITS technical readiness level.

    The ITS being ready to support Mars missions in 2033 (Musk has actually said 2024) is the usual bag of overly optimistic (to put it politely) bravo sierra.

    On occasion Musk has slipped up and admitted that there need to be whole new metal alloys developed for the actual Raptor engines to have the performance claimed for them and that new materials are also required for the LOX Tanks. Then, of course, he will “change his mind” and say they have decided that basic materials research and development will not be needed.

    There is nothing wrong with an organization setting extremely difficult goals but, assuming these currently non-existent materials can be developed at all the idea that they will be in use on a flight vehicle in less that 8 years is delusional.

    • billgamesh says:

      “-Musk has slipped up and admitted that there need to be whole new metal alloys developed for the actual Raptor engines to have the performance claimed for them-”

      The public is largely unaware that watered down versions of the sci-fi staples wishalloy and unobtainium actually exist in scandium alloys and Americium 242. The problem is that both are unbelievably expensive. The scandium alloys might actually be close to being practical for very small assemblies but large items such as turbopump innards would cost astronomical sums. Large scale Americium fuel production would require an entire new trillion dollar nuclear industry be built almost from scratch. This possible unobtanium fueled fission fragment wishalloy engine could never be used in the atmosphere or even in the Earth’s magnetosphere. It would work for a deep space version of a bizjet taking the uber-rich to and from their Musktown pleasure palaces on Mars.

      There is no cheap.

    • Grand Lunar says:

      Excellent points you make, Joe.

      This is the first I heard of new alloys needed for the Raptor engines.
      Seems odd it would need new alloys, given that LH2/LOX engines could be converted to run on CH4/LOX (as far as I know).

      I wonder what will happen if SpaceX has another Falcon 9 explode.
      What promises will Musk try to sell then?

      • Joe says:

        Here is a reference to SpaceX and new alloys work.

        The issues with the Raptor engines are not the type of fuel but the chamber pressures/temperatures and pump speeds to achieve the performance levels required to do what Musk is claiming and having the vehicles be (as Musk claims they will be) reusable 1,000 times. Musk has since disavowed the new alloy requirements (in a Redditt interview).

        However keep in mind that the ITS (as described in Musk’s pitch) amount to a booster about 3 times the size of the Saturn 5 with performance characteristics almost as stringent as an SSTO. Then a second stage big enough to carry 100 people to Mars with similar performance characteristics (and carry them in comfort, Musk has talked about a 0-G sports facility and restaurants/theaters – sounds like a luxury cruise ship). So the disavowal seems questionable at best.

        The issues with the cryogenic tankage involves the storage of “sub-chilled” CH4/LOX for the months long periods for the transit to/from Mars. Note that SpaceX cannot keep “sub-chilled” LOX in the proper temperature range for longer than 30 minutes on the Falcon 9 and are then having safety issues. Remains to be seen how Musk will try to arm wave that challenge away.

        So I am not misunderstood, I am not saying that the described performance characteristics are necessarily impossible to achieve but they are far from assured. If they are ever achieved it will be with a long term R and D program completely incompatible with promising an operational vehicle by 2024 or even 2033.

        Then, of course, you move on to all the other things about Musk’s scenario that do not make sense.

        “I wonder what will happen if SpaceX has another Falcon 9 explode.
        What promises will Musk try to sell then?”

        If past were to be prologue, he might abandon the Falcon 9 (as he did the Falcon 1), claim the Falcon 9 was always just a test program for the ITS and claim to be moving on to concentrate on ITS development (complete with requests for more government subsidies for his “commercial” projects). Sad thing is SpaceX internet groupies would actually buy this bravo sierra.

        • Grand Lunar says:

          Many thanks for the info.

          Amazing how much of the ITS seems far fetched when one takes a real technical look at it.
          Just one of many aspects that are glossed over in the Nat Geo presentation.

          The biggest bravo sierra, IMHO, is the “starship luxurious” design that is pursued.

  3. billgamesh says:

    “The NGS has thrown its lot in with the sky-is-falling-and-we’re-all-doomed crowd. Everything has become politicized and science is no exception.”

    I am not a sports fan so I have nothing to talk about there. No heroes in team sports. However Mike Tyson was my hero… till he was convicted of rape. Freeman Dyson remains one of my heroes even though he is one of the few scientists skeptical about climate change. The problem for me is that climate change connects directly to my space advocacy.

    Is it possible that climate change is a scam? Sure. I believe anything is possible after 911. I tend to see the skeptics as biased ideologically, having convinced themselves they would be violating some personal code or principle if they were to become part of the show. As I said, climate change connects directly to my space advocacy- so I might as well be up front about my bias. Oh yes, I am totally biased toward the climate change crowd because the only possible cure is to be found in space. Specifically, the only possible cure for climate change is building space solar power stations using lunar resources.

    The saving grace is that space solar power stands by itself without pandering to the sky-is-falling-and-we’re-all-doomed crowd. So in a perfect world it would be a win/win situation for the skeptics and the believers to support a space solar power industry.

    Sadly, it is not a perfect world and instead of following Gerard K. O’Neill the majority of the unwashed masses are leaning toward Elon Musk and his NewSpace agenda.
    The worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. Worse than both shuttle disasters.

  4. billgamesh says:

    “This promoted fable – that Mars represents “humanity’s destiny” – takes a still very far-away vision, and through the use of spectacular imagery and propaganda, attempts to sell it to a public accustomed to instant gratification and thus programmed to “believe.”

    Incredibly frustrating the subject of such a media effort is not O’Neill’s version of space colonization but instead what he and his students ruled out early on as being what not to do.

    The gravity and radiation human beings evolved over millions of years to thrive in is the basic prerequisite that is not going to change. Living underground will take care of the radiation problem but there is not enough gravity. Martians would debilitate and probably not be able to return to Earth. Without enough solar energy or fossil fuels they would be energy poor, living in a hole, and praying their nuclear reactors keep working.

    Earth would be all they dream of and they would curse whoever or whatever brought them to Mars.

    • Joe says:

      “Incredibly frustrating the subject of such a media effort is not O’Neill’s version of space colonization but instead what he and his students ruled out early on as being what not to do.”

      For what it is worth the other internet billionaire with his own rocket company (Jeff Bezos – Blue Origin) is pushing exactly that “version of space colonization”.

      • billgamesh says:

        My Amazon prime account is helping him launch his sub-orbital tourist hobby and I am not happy about that. His rocket engines are in the wrong thrust range, and he is a space clown. He talks a good game but talk is…well, there is no cheap.

        I have commented several times that if those two would switch from trying to build an LEO tourist empire for the uber-rich to building lunar landers I would immediately become a NewSpace advocate. As you well know, for what it’s worth, I presently consider Musk the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. Bezos is not far behind.

        The first missing piece of the puzzle is that pressure-fed reusable booster originally specified for the shuttle. Both of them failed the genius test by not going to that all-important piece of hardware first. That failure is proof enough for me that they are working a scam.

  5. Grand Lunar says:

    Loved the caption for the picture here.

    Upon seeing the promo for this series, I felt a sense of dread (nothing to do with the Martian moon, BTW).
    I dreaded the garbage likely to be spewed out, leading to people ignore better choices for the future of spaceflight.

    The ending sentence describes the case perfectly.
    I wish to supplement the prediction of what 2033 will be like:

    Mars will remain the destination of the future, but not the present.
    Meanwhile, the Moon’s resources will go ignored.
    Billions will go to SpaceX so they can make more Power Points.
    Someone will claim the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in a decade.

    And the band plays on….

    • James says:

      Grand Lunar –

      “China has now set its sights on development of the Long March-9, a super-heavy lift rocket in the class of the Apollo program’s Saturn V rocket. This powerful rocket likely remains about 15 years from its debut and is projected to have a payload-to-LEO capacity of at least 130 metric tons and a payload-to-LTO capacity of at least 50 metric tons.”

      From: ‘China now has a rocket that can land taikonauts on the Moon’
      By Eric Berger 11/9/2016

      “Half a century after the US and the USSR raced to the Moon, a Russian cosmonaut might make it to the moon on American hardware. She might find herself looking down at the lunar surface a few hundred miles below through the window of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Such an unexpected development could result from recent negotiations between NASA officials and their partners in the International Space Station.”

      From: ‘Why NASA May Ferry the First Cosmonaut to the Moon
      The big space agencies are planning their next project together—a human outpost that orbits the moon.’
      By Anatoly Zak Nov 7, 2016

      China is going to the Moon to tap its resources, and many other useful opportunities, and so is everyone else.

      President Trump will focus on the business benefits of developing the Moon’s resources.

      ‘The times they are a changing.’

      We humans, and our robots, need some Lunar Landers ASAP.

  6. oldAtlas_Eguy says:

    As far as the new alloy required for the Raptor engine it has been solved and was included in the prototype recently test-fired at full operational pressure with little if any wear from high pressure hot oxygen rich preburn. So the limiting factor for the engines success is now behind them. The next issue is the tank weight. That is yet to be solved but is under testing. That technology may be the biggest limiter to the whole project. If the dry weights are too high then the costs go way up for the amount of payload delivered to Mars surface.

    ITS tech is not all solved but SpaceX is making significant progress. A look at NASA’s progress and it shows that NASA’s tech studies have only minor progress toward a Mars mission capability. In fact the primary technology (hyper-sonic retro propulsion) for getting large payloads landed on Mars was done by SpaxeX not NASA.

    SpaceX has laid out a program with schedules and tech goals. NASA has a wish list.

    It is correct to say that it is not a forgone conclusion that SpaceX will send anything to Mars but they are actually designing hardware to do so, whether their design will actually work or not. Compared to everyone else which are still at the small probe level. SpaceX must gain experience with Mars. Something even countries have tried and failed at many times with few successes.

    The primary obstacle to Mars has never been technology but funding. And that may slow or even halt SpaceX ‘s attempt.

    • Joe says:

      “As far as the new alloy required for the Raptor engine it has been solved and was included in the prototype recently test-fired at full operational pressure with little if any wear from high pressure hot oxygen rich preburn.”

      Do you have a link to a technical source detailing that assertion?

      Saw (and referenced) the Musk Redditt interview where he said they test fired an engine, but no reference seemed to be made to any new alloy/alloys being involved; rather that the test “proved” no new materials were required. Sorry just do not buy that.

      As far as “praising” SpaceX by saying NASA is doing even less in a practical sense to advance a possible Mars mission, you will get no argument here; but that is setting the bar excruciatingly low as NASA is doing virtually nothing at all. That was one of the points of the article.

  7. billgamesh says:

    “The primary obstacle to Mars has never been technology but funding.”

    Nobody is going anywhere Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) without 14 feet of water shielding which equates to a couple thousand tons for a bare minimum size long duration crew compartment. This figure provokes shock, outrage, and automatic denial, but cosmic radiation is what it is.

    Guess what the only practical propulsion system for pushing such mass is?
    I will give you a hint: it uses hydrogen bombs.
    The only place to both acquire thousands of tons of water and assemble, test, and launch such a nuclear mission is the Moon. And…if you build such true spaceships then Mars becomes the destination to bypass in favor of the ocean moons of the gas giants.

    In other words, Mars is a dead end.

    Just as much a dead end as the soon-to-die-of-old-age space station to nowhere and Absurd Retrieval Mission. SpaceX might actually finally become involved in space exploration if they were to build robot lunar landers instead of hobby rockets. As it stands they are out of the human space flight business after blowing up twice- and the Air Force is not any more likely to risk a billion dollar spy satellite than NASA is going to get away with flying any of their people on a falcon.

    “And that may slow or even halt SpaceX ‘s attempt.”

  8. James says:

    billgamesh –

    Exploring the Moon and tapping its resources are currently the most realistic destination and plan.

    Humans need to reduce the high risks and costs of spaceflights.

    Given our current and near-term technology and national and international space agency budgets, going to the Moon and industrializing it to produce large space based solar power satellites and benefit everyone on Earth is both doable and useful.

    Extremely large Orion nuclear pulse type of spaceships can eventually be built at and launched from Lunar bases and should be considered as one of the many useful opportunities offered by the Moon. Such huge and super capable spaceships could explore everywhere in our Solar System, including the very useful Ceres and other asteroids.

    As for effective shielding for high energy and dangerous Galactic Cosmic Rays there are lots of different options including:

    “Graded-Z shielding is a laminate of several materials with different Z values (atomic numbers) designed to protect against ionizing radiation. Compared to single-material shielding, the same mass of graded-Z shielding has been shown to reduce electron penetration over 60%.[8] It is commonly used in satellite-based particle detectors, offering several benefits:

    protection from radiation damage
    reduction of background noise for detectors
    lower mass compared to single-material shielding

    Designs vary, but typically involve a gradient from high-Z (usually tantalum) through successively lower-Z elements such as tin, steel, and copper, usually ending with aluminium. Sometimes even lighter materials such as polypropylene or boron carbide are used. [9][10]

    In a typical graded-Z shield, the high-Z layer effectively scatters protons and electrons. It also absorbs gamma rays, which produces X-ray fluorescence. Each subsequent layer absorbs the X-ray fluorescence of the previous material, eventually reducing the energy to a suitable level. Each decrease in energy produces bremsstrahlung and Auger electrons, which are below the detector’s energy threshold. Some designs also include an outer layer of aluminium, which may simply be the skin of the satellite.”

    From: ‘Radiation protection’ Wikipedia

    • billgamesh says:

      Yes James, you have been commenting about radiation shielding quite often- but you don’t seem to fully understand the nature of the heavy nuclei component of galactic cosmic radiation. There are no convoluted fancy tricks that can solve this problem. Only mass and distance will work- and water is the most utilitarian and best choice for this shielding. K.I.S.S.

      “Such huge and super capable spaceships could explore everywhere in our Solar System-”

      Nuclear Pulse propulsion has a question attached to it- “What is the payback for those who will foot the bill?”

      The answer is first to lift large amounts of water off the surface of the Moon that will enable replacement of the GEO satellite junkyard by human crewed platforms. And second to push spaceships that will replace the trillion dollar fleets of replacement subs, bombers, and missiles that will soon be required to maintain the strategic nuclear deterrent. Those spaceships can also defend the Earth against asteroid and comet impacts.

  9. James says:

    And maybe, with a little bit of luck, this ‘impossibility’ could help us industrialize the Moon:

    From: ‘Impossible Spaceship Engine Called “EmDrive” Actually Works, Leaked NASA Report Reveals’
    By Will Sabel Courtney The Drive November 8, 2016

    And to help out the SLS/Orion with Lunar missions over the next five to 10 decades, we will soon have the New Glenn.

    “New Glenn is described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket.”

    And, “The first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 methane/oxygen engines—designed and manufactured by Blue Origin—producing 17,000 kN (3,800,000 lbf) of liftoff thrust.”

    From: ‘New Glenn’ Wikipedia

    Please tell the National Geographic Society to forget about human Mars missions for now.

    We are actually headed to the Moon to tap its diverse resources.

    And if we are really talking seriously about our ISRU future on the Moon, do not forget:

    “Long March 9
    Long March 9[18] (LM-9, CZ-9, or Changzheng 9, Chinese: 长征九号) is a Chinese super-heavy carrier rocket that is currently in study. It is planned for a maximum payload capacity of at least 130,000 kg[19] to LEO or at least 50,000 kg to Lunar Transfer Orbit.[20] Its first flight is expected in 2025 in preparation for a manned lunar landing in 2029.[citation needed] If produced, it would be classified as a Super Heavy lift launch vehicle along with the American Saturn V and unsuccessful Soviet N1; and the Space Launch System and Falcon Heavy currently under development in the United States.”

    From: ‘Long March (rocket family)’ at: Wikipedia

    And of course, the Next Generation Launcher might be quite reliable, efficient, and fast at getting urgently needed supplies to the Moon.

    “Next Generation Launcher is a launch vehicle concept proposed by Orbital ATK as an EELV replacement program intended for national security and commercial satellites.”

    …”Next Generational Launcher consists of Space Shuttle-derived solid stages with a cyrogenic upper stage provide by Blue Origin.[1] It is intended to be launched from Kennedy Space Center LC-39B or Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-2.[2]”

    From: ‘Next Generation Launcher’ at: Wikipedia

    We’ll need some really big gardens and farms on the Moon. Where are those Lunar lava tube geologists going to explore next?

    Maybe President Trump will build some vacation resorts on the Moon.

    Yep! That sounds pretty good to me! We all could use a good long vacation on the Moon…

    Now what about those ASAP Lunar robots and Landers?

    • billgamesh says:

      Regarding Trump:

      The best case scenario is the National Space Council looks into the pernicious influence of the NewSpace movement and decides to drop the commercial cargo and crew programs and also shut down that hole in LEO that billions of dollars are disappearing into. Along with splashing the space station to nowhere they might as well dump the Absurd Retrieval Mission and the J2M in the trashcan where they belong.

      Going back to the Moon is the only logical path for Human Space Flight.
      Let’s make America great again.

Comments are closed.