The Astronomy Thread

Mudcrush Durtfeet

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Sure, tech can exist. Doesn't mean it is cheap. Plus some of the things proposed would have their own challenges in terms of how to process them without ready access to certain things, like water (since you need water for keeping people alive, and there is less of it, you dont want to waste it on manufacturing)

I don't see anyone actually setting up to do space industries as have been described. Studies, sure. Making the actual stuff for actual use? I haven't heard of any practial progress at this point. I mean, until there's actually a concrete way to get to the moon (or other mass in space), a company isn't going to find investors to pay for equipment for in-space mining and construction.

I certainly don't see any commercial venture paying 1B a launch for SLS cargo runs (assuming one was even available as they're planning at best one launch a year).

This just takes us back to SpaceX. They're the only way space mining or construction in a larger scale is going to happen in the not horribly distant future.

Now, if some commercial company has actually gotten a mission and rocket lined up to do these things, please post it here. But I suspect no one is actually putting money where their mouth is. :p
 
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Mudcrush Durtfeet

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I'm aware of the irony:

I go gung ho for SpaceX because of their many accomplishments: I get accused of being optimistic.
I point out the lack of progress on space mining and space construction due to the current expense of access to orbit: I'm a negative nancy.

I like to think I'm realistic. :)
 
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Kharzette

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I'll bet you could make some big ass silicon ingots in space. Maybe even speed up the process too.
 

Mudcrush Durtfeet

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Writing is on the wall. Sooner the SLS is abandoned the better.

Maybe when Starship is good to go. The powers that be seem pretty determined to do missions on SLS, _something_.

That reminds me, anyone know when they're going to launch the first SLS? If I recall, it's just going to be a 'test' mission and not really deliver any cargo or some such?
 
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Big Phoenix

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More problems for the Webb telescope;


Rolf Danner, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and chair of the American Astronomical Society’s committee on sexual orientation and gender minorities in astronomy told Nature: “It’s important to look at what happened and what the facts are, and then really ask ourselves — would we make that choice again?”
 

Tuco

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tbh if I was James Webb I'd rather be remembered for my work on Mercury/Gemini than a space telescope that's so delayed it's turning into an embarrassment.
 
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Tuco

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In an open letter to the NASA Administrator, Jeff Bezos offers to restore competition to the Human Landing System program by closing NASA’s near-term budgetary shortfall and producing a safe and sustainable lander that will return Americans to the surface of the Moon – this time to stay.


The Honorable Bill Nelson
Administrator
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
300 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20546


Dear Administrator Nelson:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth. We are convinced that, to advance America’s future in space, NASA must now quickly and assuredly return to the Moon. NASA has the opportunity to again inspire a whole new generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024.

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.”

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated. Launch vehicle flexibility is a massive overall risk reduction for both initial and sustaining operations. It decouples any risks associated with launch vehicle stand-downs and ensures competitive launch pricing in perpetuity. Again, NASA recognized this valuable feature when it stated that our design permitted “a launch approach that provides flexibility and minimizes risk. Blue Origin’s initial HLS mission requires only three commercial launches. This very low number...lowers the risk of mission failure due to launch anomalies. This risk is further reduced by the fact that Blue’s HLS elements are capable of interfacing with multiple commercial launch vehicles (CLVs), leaving Blue Origin with near-term options regarding choice of launch vehicle.”

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come. It also eliminated the benefits of utilizing the broad and capable supply base of the National Team (as opposed to funding the vertically-integrated SpaceX approach) and locks every trip to the Moon into 10+ Super Heavy/Starship launches just to get a single lander to the surface. By the Agency’s own admission, it bets our return to the Moon on a single solution of “immense complexity and heightened risk associated with the very high number of events necessary to execute the front end [with] risk of operational schedule delays.”

Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition. Competition will prevent any single source from having insurmountable leverage over NASA. Without competition, a short time into the contract, NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns. Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest.

In the past few weeks, the shortfalls of this single source selection have been recognized, and NASA has begun to solicit new lunar lander proposals. But, unfortunately, this new approach won’t create true competition because it is rushed, it is unfunded, and it provides a multi-year head-start to the one funded, single-source supplier. The Appendix N and LETS solicitations are just optical substitutes for the real competition that a second, simultaneous dissimilar lander development will provide. The Agency must act now to create the real competition it needs, and it should not repeat work already delivered and investments already made.

In April (prior to your confirmation as NASA administrator), only one HLS bidder, SpaceX, was offered the opportunity to revise their price and funding profile, leading to their selection. Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity. That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy. We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path. Our Appendix H HLS contract is still open and can be amended.

With that in mind and on behalf of the National Team, we formally offer the following for your consideration:

  • Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now. This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up.
  • Blue Origin will, at its own cost, contribute the development and launch of a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit of the lunar descent element to further retire development and schedule risks. This pathfinder mission is offered in addition to the baseline plan of performing a precursor uncrewed landing mission prior to risking any astronauts to the Moon. This contribution to the program is above and beyond the over $1B of corporate contribution cited in our Option A proposal that funds items such as our privately developed BE-7 lunar lander engine and indefinite storage of liquid hydrogen in space. All of these contributions are in addition to the $2B waiver of payments referenced above.
  • Finally, Blue Origin will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for this work, cover any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns.
I believe this mission is important. I am honored to offer these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so. NASA veered from its original dual-source acquisition strategy due to perceived near-term budgetary issues, and this offer removes that obstacle.

If NASA has different ideas about what would best facilitate getting back to true competition now, we are ready and willing to discuss them.

We have seen that there is strong, bi-partisan Congressional support for a second lander and for the Artemis Program in general. Along with that support, we believe this offer provides a strong foundation, both technically and fiscally, for the return of Americans to the Moon – this time to stay.

The National Team stands ready. All NASA needs to do is take advantage of this offer and amend the Appendix H contract we hold today.

Sincerely and with great respect,
 

Mudcrush Durtfeet

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I think you are just angry because you are pro-BO and can't stand to see someone call it as it is about them and SpaceX.

Your complaint was that I praise SpaceX while 'minimizing' Blue Origin (in comparison). I post a good reply to that, explaining my point very well and you move the goal posts and call me childish.

SpaceX >>> Blue Origin, fuck off until you have something meaningful to relate on this subject.

****

Back when SpaceX had 'just' done reusable boosters and none of the other stuff, I took what they said with a large grain of salt. They said they'd do the Falcon Heavy, they'd do manned transport to the space station, an internet constellation, a super heavy launcher. I was cautiously optimistic but didn't take any of this as something that was guaranteed to happen. A lot of companies have a lot of talk, but I wanted to see results.

Since that time SpaceX delivered (or is about to deliver). I give them the benefit of the doubt on their near term projects now and assume they'll accomplish their near term goals just like these previous things which did seem rather ambitious.

If BO makes progress, I'll preach their praises too. But things aren't looking too good. They don't have much in the way of customers, Amazon themselves passed them up. They've done a lot of talk, but all they've SHOWN is a sub orbital reusable manned rocket. So for now, they're well behind. After NASA passed on their lunar lander (spoiler: it needed complete redesign), they went and got congress to try to strong arm NASA to hire them anyway.

***

So, let me turn your attitude back on you. Why do you like BO over SpaceX?
Update: Now BO is trying to bribe NASA to give them a lunar lander contract, offering 2B of their own money on something that is potentially 8B of payment. What a deal. :-(
 
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Aaron

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The biggest hurdle to mining/manufacturing on the Moon is not technological, but political/legal. Who "owns" the moon? Who would "own" the things on the moon? Who gets to decide where countries/companies get to set up shop? What happens if two countries/companies want the same spot? These are all issues that need to be ironed out before large scale multi billion dollar investments can start.
 

Tholan

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The biggest hurdle to mining/manufacturing on the Moon is not technological, but political/legal. Who "owns" the moon? Who would "own" the things on the moon? Who gets to decide where countries/companies get to set up shop? What happens if two countries/companies want the same spot? These are all issues that need to be ironed out before large scale multi billion dollar investments can start.
If anything, 15'000 years of "modern" humanity can give us a clue : moon will belongs to the ones who claim it and has the capacity of defending its claim.

And I'm pretty sure there's a flag there already !
 

Ukerric

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If anything, 15'000 years of "modern" humanity can give us a clue : moon will belongs to the ones who claim it and has the capacity of defending its claim.

And I'm pretty sure there's a flag there already !
Fun bit: China is participatory to the Outer Space treaty (disallowing national claims on the Moon and the rest) because... Taiwan signed the treaty originally (and the PRC only ratified it, which means they considered the original signature "valid enough").
 

Tuco

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The biggest hurdle to mining/manufacturing on the Moon is not technological, but political/legal. Who "owns" the moon? Who would "own" the things on the moon? Who gets to decide where countries/companies get to set up shop? What happens if two countries/companies want the same spot? These are all issues that need to be ironed out before large scale multi billion dollar investments can start.
I don't know why you would think this. If the moon wasn't just a shithole in a smaller gravity well than earth we would be ignoring the political/legal questions you raise and addressing the economical/technological ones that far surpass them.