The Best of Selenian Boondocks’ First 10 Years

June 16th this year was the 10 year anniversary of starting Selenian Boondocks. It’s been a great 10 years. We’ve had a lot of good contributors, including myself, Ken Murphy, Kirk Sorensen, and last but definitely not least, John Hare. We’ve discussed a lot of fun topics. We’ve even started, built, or perpetuated several space policy or technology memes. And we’ve had a lot of fun without taking ourselves too seriously along the way.

In celebration of this anniversary, we did a blog post a day over the past month. In a way that was unintentionally “meta”, this started out with me blogging up a storm, and then when my life got too busy for a few days (I’ve been on a family vacation in Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest), John Hare picked up the slack with several days of his blog posts.

Tonight I just wanted to post links to several of my favorite Selenian Boondocks posts or series from over the years. This is far from an exhaustive list, but these are the blog posts I think of the most when I think of what we’ve done over the years.

  • Orbital Access Methodologies: This was probably our most popular blog series, where I discussed a range of approaches for doing reusable launch vehicles, including Air-launched SSTOs (ala Dan DeLong’s Orbital Spaceplane), and a range of various TSTO options including “pop-up TSTO” (ala The Rocket Company or many of John Carmack’s old concepts), “glideback TSTO“, and my two current favorites: “Boostback TSTO” (similar to what SpaceX is trying to do with F9R, and what Masten, Blue Origin, and several others have looked at for reusable orbital vehicles), and “Air-Launched Glide-Forward TSTO” (first suggested to me by John Hare, and then expanded upon in my still uncompleted Boomerang TSTO RLV series).
  • Venus ISRU Series: This was another popular series, which is also unfinished. Venus just doesn’t get much love in space settlement circles, and this series was my attempt at trying to discuss the potential of Venus as a destination for human settlement. My favorite posts in this series were: this post where I describe what materials we have to work with, Venusian Rocket Floaties where I discuss the counterintuitive realization that most rockets would actually float like dirigibles in the Venusian atmosphere, these two posts describing ways of extracting and separating condenseable species and gas-phase species from the Venusian atmosphere, and one of my all-time favorite humor posts about Venusian Acid-Cooked Turkeys (thanks to George Turner for restoring some faith in the value of having a comments section).
  • xGRF (Variable Gravity Research Facility) Series: This was a series of posts discussing what I still think is the best approach to answering the question of how much gravity humans need to live and thrive. The first post describes the concept (initially conceived by coblogger Kirk Sorensen, while he was at NASA). The latter two posts describe ideas for how to implement this for less cost using commercial crew assets such as Dragon V2, and how to retire technical risk for the tether portions of the concept using a series of low-cost cubesats. I’ve been coming around to the idea that something like Cygnus might be a better platform–I think the key to making this happen though is finding some way to do this experiment for low 8-digit costs, leveraging ISS assets without unduly impeding other research on ISS.
  • RLV Markets: Another uncompleted series about different aspects of markets for low-cost RLVs, and how they might differ from the markets for ELVs.
  • My Top 10 Technologies for a Spacefaring Civilization I still agree pretty strongly with most of these items.

A few other more minor posts of mine that I think are still interesting (I could probably list 20-30 of these, but will only list a few):

Sorry if that list is almost entirely my own posts. John, Kirk and Ken have all done many great posts, I just have an easier time remembering my own posts. In the comments, I’d love to see recommendations for other good posts we’ve done, including ones done by John, Kirk, and Ken Murphy.

Looking forward to continuing interesting discussions during the second 10 years of Selenian Boondocks!

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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4 Responses to The Best of Selenian Boondocks’ First 10 Years

  1. Nathan Brooks says:

    Great stuff Jon.
    I actually expected you to do a post about the last ten years of New space. A review of its progress, how that progress compared to your expectations in 2005 etc.

    Another post you’d could also write is what you expect to come in the next 10 year. Perhaps these are still to come?

  2. ken anthony says:

    Just read and enjoyed your post on subeconomic resources which I missed the first time around and would like to point out a glaring omission which your post shares with every other on this topic. All seem to have the same perspective that a resource is only economic if it can be extracted for profit. Well, of course, you (and everyone else) says. I would like to point out the flaw in this perspective.

    Economics is always about alternatives, but also about where a decision is being made. For a remote resource to be economic it must compete with local resources including extraction and transportation. But economic is not just about point A. Point B has it’s own set of economic factors.

    Assume Antarctica to be point B. It has local resources, whatever they may be, but economically it’s better to send resources to the limited number of researchers there. The perspective being only economics at point A really counts. You gave factors that allow transitioning from sub economic to economic, but because of focusing on point A you missed one. Things at point B also make the transition when you INCREASE transportation costs.

    This has a huge impact on mars economics which most people seem to be blind to (because what’s in it for earth?) The answer is a vibrant mars economy will benefit the earth so the question should be, what’s in it for mars?

  3. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Interesting idea for a post! Unfortunately, that would probably be a pretty depressing post. Everything has taken far longer than I expected in 2005. I can’t think of anything that moved faster than I had thought then.


  4. Robert Clark says:

    In your top 10 list of key technologies for a spacefaring civilization, you mentioned orbital propellant depots. Their importance becomes even more apparent after an unexpected calculation I made. It’s really a quite simple calculation, but afterwards I was surprised to realize that with orbital propellant depots, manned interplanetary flights become scarcely more expensive than flights to LEO. That is, spaceflight to the Moon, Mars, Venus, asteroids could become as routine as flights to the ISS are now just by having propellant depots in place at departure and arrival points.

    For instance rather than the 1,000 metric tons(mT) estimated needed to be launched to LEO for a manned Mars mission, a single empty Falcon 9 first stage at ca. 15 mT dry mass could do ALL the propulsion stages by itself, when you have propellant depots at Earth orbit and Mars orbit. No huge, and hugely expensive, Mars Colonial Transport, SLS, or even Falcon Heavy required.

    And it’s not just the Falcon 9 first stage. It would also work for the first stages for the Atlas V, the Delta IV, the Ariane 5, the Soyuz, etc., with the empty stages lofted to orbit and refueled in orbit at both departure and arrival points. This means every space faring nation could do Mars missions for little more than currently used to send flights to the ISS.

    Here is the calculation the Falcon 9 first stage could do the round trip flight with orbital refueling:

    The Coming SSTO’s: Applications to interplanetary flight.

    This was focusing on single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicles but this is not a requirement. Any currently in use medium size launcher’s first stage would work. You would need though low cost propellant delivered to orbit. Fully reusable launchers bringing the price to orbit down to ca. $100 per kilo would do it.

    But it could also be done with the propellant obtained off-Earth. Some Mars advocates have been opposed to propellant depots since it was thought the propellant had to be obtained from the Moon, requiring giga-dollar expenditures. But it doesn’t have to be from the Moon. For instance there are near Earth comets that experience outgassing, as has been observed by the Rosetta spacecraft:

    Dust Whirls, Swirls and Twirls at Rosetta’s Comet.
    by BOB KING on MARCH 9, 2015

    In such a case, no landing or mining would be required. You would just collect the released H2O, and CO2, CO for hydrocarbon fuel, from orbit around the comet.

    Then the best destination for ARM may actually be a near Earth comet since a large proportion of its composition would be free water, that is, not bound water as in carbonates.

    Experts have expressed skepticism on how ARM helps with a Mars mission. But this might be a reason for ARM that would actually make a Mars mission even easy.

    Bob Clark

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