Sorry for the delay in getting started, but I’ve had a busy week dealing with ISDC 2007 issues and prepping for the Boy Scout Space Exploration merit badge clinic that NSS of North Texas helped with this last weekend. Now that’s all over and done with (except for the homework assignments due on the 30th), and I can take a moment to talk space here in the Selenian Boondocks.
Let’s start with the Planetary Society report that came out in June: “Extending Human Presence into the Solar System”, which was co-led by Michael Griffin, our new NASA administrator. One of the earliest sections is: “Destinations for the Space Exploration Enterprise”. Not surprisingly, the report notes that “The ultimate ‘where’ for the 21st century is Mars.” [So they say…]
What is surprising is the destinations nearest Earth. The Moon gets two paragraphs, and it is noted “The closest is the Moon, which many consider to be the best first destination for a human space exploration enterprise eventually leading to Mars.”
The report then goes on to spend six paragraphs touting the second Sun-Earth Libration point (SEL-2) as the next logical destination. The reason given is that this is the likely station for the James Webb Space Telescope, and is on the border of Earth’s gravitational sphere of influence.
Interesting, but not really useful, as we already know that both SEL-1 (where SOHO is, and Genesis was, stationed), and SEL-2 are linked to the first Earth-Moon libration point (EML-1), and Genesis came home to Earth by passing through the EML-1 region.
Really, a better architecture is to set up shop at EML-1 and service intruments at BOTH SEL-1 and SEL-2. The delta-V required to bring them back is on the order of 10s of meters per second, so it’s not a significant requirement. EML-1 also offers a lot of other advantages, like constant access to anywhere on the Moon and cheap delta-V access to GEO.
As for other destinations of interest closer to Earth, how about GEO? There are billions and billions of dollars in assets up there, but since they’re not Mars-related they may have slipped below the radar.
I see a lot of talk of “commercialization” by NASA on the web, but it’s not really clear what that means, an important point given NASA’s pathetic track record in that regard. Probably the most interesting thing for me from the reports from the RttM conference is that Caterpillar showed up, in spite of having their contract to study regolith-moving equipment cancelled recently by NASA.
Also interesting this last week was the Lunar Commerce Roundtable posting the presentations of a recent secret meeting in Dallas. Now wouldn’t it be nice if NASA posted all of their background material on these “Space Exploration Architectures” they’re whipping up in back rooms and trickling out to us in dribs and drabs?