Next 3Mars Society Switzerland
The Senate Science & Transportation Committee wants to start developping the HLV right now!
The content of the future US Space exploration policy evolves slowly but in the right way, even though nothing is yet definitively set. The 2011 budget approval process, opened by President Obama on Feb 2nd, just overcame a new hurdle, with success,i.e. the finalizing by the specialized committee of both chambers of Congress, of the bill which will be submitted to their vote. This is the second good news after the first one which came from president Obama himself when, on the 15th of April, he eventually named Mars as the destination of his space policy. In effect the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (in charge of preparing the vote of NASA budget) did not follow the recommendation of President Obama to delay till 2015 the development of the Heavy Lift Launcher Vehicle (“HLV”) but proposed to start such development immediately.
Image of ARES V, The HLV which was drafted within the now defunct Constellation Program. It is not known whether the new HLV requested by the Senate Committee would look like it but, if its development starts now, it could only be structured with a chemical propulsion engine and therefore belong to the same family of launchers. Crédit NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
This is very important as, without any HLV, capable of putting on Low Earth Orbit (“LEO”) some 70 to 100 metric tons, there is no possible inhabited flights beyond LEO. In a public letter dated July 19th, the Mars Society hails this very positive initiative of the Senate Committee which, by the way, is an answer to its intense lobbying during these past months. This being said, in the same letter, Robert Zubrin puts forward his complementary request regarding the flight equipments which should go with the heavy launcher to make it fit for a real space exploration program. Quote: “...HLV capability, while necessary, is by itself insufficient for a productive human space exploration program. We also need a coherent set of flight hardware elements for the HLV to lift. President Obama has called for NASA to make a mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025 its proximate goal, as a milestone towards a human mission to Mars by mid century. These goals are good, but the schedule is unnecessarily slow and costly. “A mission to a near Earth asteroid requires four primary flight elements: a crew reentry capsule, a space habitation module, an upper stage capable of throwing the capsule/hab combination on an Earth-escape trajectory, and an HLV to lift the lot to low Earth orbit. Under the Senate Committee’s provisions, work on the capsule and the HLV are now funded. The upper stage should also be included within the HLV program, just as the S-IVB was in the Saturn V development. The hab module development, incorporating life support, power, and deep space maneuver systems should be funded as soon as possible. “If this is done, there is no reason why NASA cannot perform a human mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2016, instead of 2025. Furthermore, with the development of two additional primary flight systems, specifically a Mars entry descent and landing system module, and a Mars ascent vehicle, NASA will possess the complete set of primary flight hardware systems needed to send human missions to Mars. Approached in this manner, we could have our first human explorers on Mars by 2020, instead of 2040 or 2050. “Since the NASA human spaceflight program costs on the order of $10 billion per year, whether it goes anywhere or not, such an acceleration of the agency’s schedule promises to save the taxpayers $200 to $300 billion. It would thus be extremely wasteful, and in fact fiscally irresponsible, to stretch out the program timeline through sequential rather than parallel development of its necessary flight elements." Unquote. It cannot be expressed more properly! NASA needs to start, within the same yearly budget envelope, the developing of both the HLV and its flight equipment. Let us be consistent and efficient! Pierre Brisson
4Feasibility of inhabited flights to Mars
7 1 9 2 8 6 10 11 12