Orion, SLS Development Continues to Take Shape for Inaugural Late 2018 Launch

An SLS Block 1 launch vehicle hoists an Orion spacecraft from KSC's Pad 39B, with the VAB in the distance. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

An SLS Block 1 launch vehicle hoists an Orion spacecraft from KSC’s Pad 39B, with the VAB in the distance. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

It seems as if we’re galloping toward the end of 2016, and we’re getting closer by the day to the “dawn” of a new U.S. launch vehicle and human-rated spacecraft. In a little over two years, NASA’s next “giant leap”—Exploration Mission 1 (EM1)—is aimed for a launch from Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Pad 39B. While two years may seem like a long time, much must take place before the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle and its Orion crew capsule (integrated with a European Space Agency-built service module) are ready to leave Earth’s orbit for a flight 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back.

On the SLS front, NASA continues to prepare KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for the next-generation launch vehicle, while the massive core stage comes together at the space agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. Meanwhile, the Orion crew capsule to be used for EM-1 received its essential heat shield. NASA is also preparing to test the ESA-built service module, and recovery processes after splashdown are also being practiced at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.

VAB Receives Modifications for SLS, While Core Stage Comes Together at Michoud

KSC’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which was built during the mid-1960s for Apollo lunar missions, also supported the Skylab and shuttle programs. As we approach the 2020s, it now is en route to supporting SLS/Orion. NASA announced that the second half of the “D” level work platforms (D north) for the SLS launch vehicle were installed by a heavy-lift crane inside High Bay 3 of the VAB on Sept. 9. These platforms are the seventh of 10 levels of work platforms meant to provide machinery and workers with access to the heavy-lift rocket prior to EM-1. NASA stated that these modifications have been overseen by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. The SLS modifications to the VAB are now well over halfway complete.

From NASA: "A heavy-lift crane lowers the second half of the D-level work platforms, D north, for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, into position Sept. 9 for installation in High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida." Photo Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

From NASA: “A heavy-lift crane lowers the second half of the D-level work platforms, D north, for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, into position Sept. 9 for installation in High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.” Photo Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

It was also announced that welding was completed on the 130-foot-tall liquid hydrogen tank that will be utilized for EM-1 in late 2018. At present time, the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage is meticulously being put together by engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. NASA stated that at the facility’s Vertical Assembly Center, many of the core stage’s elements are being welded. In addition to the large hydrogen tank, the forward skirt, liquid oxygen tank, and engine section are also being welded at Michoud; another component, the intertank, is being fabricated there as well. The Boeing Company is the core stage’s prime contractor.

The SLS’s mammoth core stage will carry 2.3 million pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which will in turn fuel four RS-25 engines, the same type of engine that powered the space shuttles reliably for 30 years. Together, this combination makes for a lot of power, and a lot of stresses.

To make sure they can take the pressure, the “wet” fuel-bearing sections of the rocket will undergo rigorous tests (such as hydrostatic and pneumatic testing) to be proven flight ready. “Dry” structures (such as avionics, cameras, computers, and assorted electronics) will be added, along with all-important orange-colored insulation so the rocket can withstand the extreme cold of liquid fuel temperatures, and the intense heat of launch. Joan Funk, SLS core stage lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., likened the process to “building a house.” She related, “With the massive, welded elements coming off the Vertical Assembly Center at Michoud, we’ve laid the foundation, framed the walls and put up the roof. The big items are in place. Now it’s time to get to work on the inside.”

From NASA: "Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen -- which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit." Photo Credit: NASA/Michoud/Eric Bordelon

From NASA: “Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen — which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit.” Photo Credit: NASA/Michoud/Eric Bordelon

Following work at Michoud, the core stage will travel by barge to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for further testing and a hot fire test called a “green run,” in which the rocket’s engines are fired at nearly full power attached to the core stage. Once these milestones are completed, the core stage will head to KSC’s newly-modified VAB for its maiden voyage. The next destination? Into space.

Orion Update: Heat Shield, ESA’s Service Module, and Recovery Tests

While SLS continues to take shape, the Orion crew capsule to be used for EM-1 received a special delivery in August: its essential heat shield, which was transported via NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft to KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). Following its arrival, the still-boxed shield was taken to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at the space center, where it was uncrated and placed on a stand. The 16.4-foot-wide heat shield was built by Lockheed Martin, Orion’s prime contractor, and the NASA Orion team at the company’s facility in Denver, Colo.

The structure of the first Orion spacecraft destined to fly atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in late 2018 on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) arrived at the agency's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida Feb. 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The structure of the first Orion spacecraft destined to fly atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in late 2018 on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida Feb. 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

NASA stated that the heat shield for EM-1 will have some differences from the one flown on EFT-1, Orion’s first test flight, which took place in December 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle. The space agency emphasized that this time around, blocks of Avcoat (an ablative thermal substance) will be bonded to the shield; during EFT-1, the substance was filled into honeycomb cell structures. Of course, instrumentation will be attached to the spacecraft to give engineers an idea of how the heat shield responds to a high-energy reentry coming back from a deep space destination.

From NASA: "Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians assist as a crane lifts the Orion heat shield for Exploration Mission 1 away from the base of its shipping container. The heat shield arrived aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility, managed and operated by Space Florida, from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility near Denver. The Orion spacecraft will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on EM-1, an uncrewed test flight, in 2018." Photo Credit: Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

From NASA: “Inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians assist as a crane lifts the Orion heat shield for Exploration Mission 1 away from the base of its shipping container. The heat shield arrived aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility, managed and operated by Space Florida, from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility near Denver. The Orion spacecraft will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on EM-1, an uncrewed test flight, in 2018.” Photo Credit: Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

NASA also stated that in spring 2017, propulsion qualification testing for Orion’s European Service Module will take place at its White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M. According to the space agency, the propulsion qualification module to be tested contains “flight-like test units of the engine, propellant systems, and propulsion control units.” The module is currently being built by ESA’s contractor, Airbus Defence and Space.

Another important facet of the Orion program involves recovery. For the first time since the mid-1970s, humans will splashdown under parachutes in the ocean following space missions. This is a far cry from the shuttle days, when crews could merely walk down a flight of stairs following a spaceflight. To be prepared, NASA is already practicing at-sea recovery operations. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, a group of U.S. Navy divers, Coast Guard rescue swimmers, and U.S. Air Force pararescuemen utilized an Orion capsule mockup for practice purposes at Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston.

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While the VAB modifications and the SLS core stage continue to come together, the Orion crew capsule also is meeting vital milestones in order to make its next journey. EM-1, currently scheduled to launch in October 2018, will see the Orion crew capsule integrated with its European Service Module making a flight aboard a Block I SLS launch vehicle. Its next journey will take it well beyond the Moon and back, exposing the spacecraft and heat shield to high forces and temperatures (of up to approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit). This mission will be another crucial stepping stone as NASA prepares to send humans further into deep space than ever before, to destinations such as Mars, our closest planetary neighbor.

From ESA: "Proposal for a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle-Service Module (MPCV-SM)." Orion's European service module will fly on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in late 2018. Image Credit: ESA-D. Ducros

From ESA: “Proposal for a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle-Service Module (MPCV-SM).” Orion’s European service module will fly on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in late 2018. Image Credit: ESA-D. Ducros

From NASA: "A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen and Coast Guard rescue swimmers practice Orion underway recovery techniques in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Sept. 21, 2016." Photo Credit: NASA/Radislav Sinyak

From NASA: “A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen and Coast Guard rescue swimmers practice Orion underway recovery techniques in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Sept. 21, 2016.” Photo Credit: NASA/Radislav Sinyak

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33 comments to Orion, SLS Development Continues to Take Shape for Inaugural Late 2018 Launch

  • James

    “This mission will be another crucial stepping stone as NASA prepares to send humans further into deep space than ever before, to destinations such as Mars, our closest planetary neighbor.”

    Really?

    Where is the budget or the in depth national political commitment for such high risk and costly “destinations such as Mars”?

    Lots of questions remain and, despite the ‘Mars Soon and Cheaply’ hype, there are few real answers and pragmatic plans.

    “On the international front, there appears to be continued enthusiasm for a mission to the
    Moon.”28 Recently, Jan Woerner, the Director General of the European Space Agency, proposed
    the development of an international Moon ‘village’ as a next step for international human exploration efforts.29 Additionally, Roscosmos Energia announced plans for a human mission to the lunar surface in 2029.30”

    And, “As Congress begins planning for the first budget year under a different President, there are several issues under consideration and outstanding questions, among them:

    How can Congress provide a better constancy of purpose for NASA’s human exploration program so that it does not endure another costly cancelation as the Constellation Program and other, previous NASA programs?

    What are the most important skills, technologies, and processes necessary for future Mars missions and how should the development of these elements be phased?

    What advantages and disadvantages are there of missions to the Moon or asteroids or other destinations?

    How do NASA’s plans for future human exploration missions affect the United States’ relationships with international partners?

    How should NASA incorporate international participation as well as commercial and philanthropically-funded programs in its human spaceflight plans and programs beyond low Earth orbit?”

    From: U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on NASA’s Human Exploration Proposals
    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    At: https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-20160203-SD001.pdf

    Maybe the international Orion and American SLS are actually headed first to the Moon:

    “It is more a necessity than a desire, Crawford says. Before we head to Mars – or any other faraway body – humans must learn how to thrive in dusty, high radiation environments. ‘To send people to Mars you have to be very confident in all aspects of the technology,’ he says. ‘Going to the moon is risky too, but the advantage of learning and trialling all this stuff on the moon is that if something goes wrong, you can bring people back. The moon is only three days away. Abort options exist.’”

    From: ‘Is a moon village the next step for space exploration?
    ESA’s chief thinks so
    Could an outpost on the moon be the next logical step towards the know-how and infrastructure we need to head into the farther reaches of the solar system?’
    By Ian Sample Science editor
    At: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/23/is-a-moon-village-the-next-step-for-space-exploration-esas-chief-thinks-so

    • Gray Roger

      No lander. No Mars transfer vehicle. Orion isn’t going to Mars. Orion isn’t going to the moon. The historic service structures at Pad 39B were destroyed for more adventures in LEO and at best cis-lunar space.

  • Tom's drinking game

    The SLS is a Moon rocket and always has been.

    • Gray Roger

      No rocket is a Moon rocket without a lander.

      • Tom's drinking game

        Apollo 8

      • James

        Affordable robotic missions to both low Lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon are quite doable and scientifically productive ways to discover potentially useful ISRU resources.

        “ISRU simply means that you make stuff you need in space from resources available in space. At current levels of development, such stuff would largely consist of high-mass, low-information materials, such as propellant and shielding. By reducing the amount of mass launched from the Earth through the use of ISRU techniques, we would save many billions of dollars of our limited space budget. So why aren’t we hearing more about this?”

        From: ‘Risky Business: ISRU and the Critical Path to Mars’ By Paul Spudis June 21, 2013

        “Lunar Prospector is the third mission selected by NASA for full development and construction as part of the Discovery Program. At a cost of $62.8 million, the 19-month mission was designed for a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon, including mapping of surface composition and possible polar ice deposits, measurements of magnetic and gravity fields, and study of lunar outgassing events. The mission ended July 31, 1999, when the orbiter was deliberately crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole after the presence of water ice was successfully detected.”

        And, “Data from the mission allowed the construction of a detailed map of the surface composition of the Moon, and helped to improve understanding of the origin, evolution, current state, and resources of the Moon.”

        From: ‘Lunar Prospector’ Wikipedia At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Prospector

      • James

        The useful resources of the Moon are undeniable and their existence provides the logical basis for why many nations are focused initially on doing robotic Lunar missions.

        “The results from the LCROSS impact experiment, in which a Centaur upper stage was crashed into a dark area near the Moon’s south pole, demonstrated that not only is water present in quantity, but there are other volatiles there as well, including methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and some simple organic compounds. On the basis of their observed abundance, all of these substances are probably derived from comets that over geological time have hit the Moon and are preserved in the permanently shadowed, cold areas near the poles.”

        From: ‘Risky Business: ISRU and the Critical Path to Mars’ By Paul Spudis June 21, 2013
        At: http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/risky-business-isru-and-the-critical-path-to-mars/

        “Our first needs, therefore, are to understand what we have, what is the physical and chemical state of the resource, how it varies in concentration and location (at meter- to kilometer-scales), and what kind of processing the resource will require. For most space resources, we know virtually none of these things. Thus, the first steps will likely involve specialized robotic missions designed to gather and report this strategic knowledge. In terrestrial mining, this phase is called prospecting and involves not simply reporting a result (e.g., yes, water ice exists at the poles of the Moon) but rounding out this affirmative with detailed information on ice distribution, states and accessibility (e.g., ice is found in this crater, three meters thick at 50 percent concentration).”

        From: ‘Lunar Resources: Beyond the Fringe
        A recent meeting in London suggests that more people are coming to accept the idea of using space resources.’ By Paul D. Spudis April 25, 2016
        At: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/lunar-resources-beyond-fringe-180958896/#a81IpT8eBkoBuYOV.99

    • James

      NASA folks cannot publicly talk about using the SLS and Orion for enabling Lunar surface missions until after the elections. Unfortunately, the President either cannot understand basic space science or his highly partisan political goals are far more important than America’s national security and economic growth from developing Cislunar Space.

      If you want read and think about the Moon and developing Cislunar Space:

      “Run — don’t walk — to your nearest bookstore!

      It’s now been five months since my book The Value of the Moon was published and I am happy to report that it has been well received. Let us hope that more people see the value of lunar return and the development of cislunar space as time goes on.”

      From: ‘Book Review Roundup’ September 21, 2016 by Paul Spudis
      At: http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/

  • James

    There are lots of potential Lunar Landers.

    Ask Blue Origin to please ‘fatten up’ its New Shepard reusable hydrolox launch system, and not to detach the landing capsule from the launcher and we could get a quite useful reusable Lunar Lander.

    “The New Shepard reusable launch system is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL),[1] suborbital manned rocket that is being developed by Blue Origin as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism.”
    From: ‘New Shepard’ at: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Shepard

    Ask Blue Origin to please shorten its New Glenn orbital launch vehicle’s first stage and remove some engines to get a big Lunar Lander.
    See: ‘New Glenn’ at: Wikipedia

    Ask China to please build a large Lunar Lander based on their current lander.

    “Chang’e 3 (pronunciation: /tʃæŋˈʌ/; simplified Chinese: 嫦娥三号; traditional Chinese: 嫦娥三號; pinyin: Cháng’é sān hào) is an unmanned lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), incorporating a robotic lander and China’s first lunar rover. It was launched in December 2013 as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.”
    From: ‘Chang’e 3’ at: Wikipedia

    Ask Japan to please build a large Lunar Lander based on their current work with:

    “Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is a lunar lander being developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Unlike lunar landers of the past which have landed “where it is easy to land”, SLIM will land “where it is wanted to land”.[3] As of 2016, the probe is planned to be launched in 2019.[2][4]”
    From: ‘Smart Lander for Investigating Moon’ at: Wikipedia

    Ask Moon Express to please develop a large Lander from its nifty small Lunar Lander.

    “Moon Express, or MoonEx, is an American privately held early stage company formed by a group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize, and ultimately mining the Moon for natural resources of economic value.[1][2]”

    And, “In October 2015, Moon Express announced a launch contract with Rocket Lab to launch three Moon Express robotic spacecraft to land on the Moon, with two launches manifested in 2017, utilizing an Electron launch vehicle.[17]”

    And, “In June 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration approved plans for a mission to deliver a commercial package to the moon in late 2017.[18][19]”
    From: ‘Moon Express’ at: Wikipedia

    Ask Rocket Lab to please turn its Electron launch vehicle’s first stage into a Lunar Lander.

    This is potentially a really interesting and useful possibility because of the propellant flexibility options for the Rutherford rocket engines that power the Electron launcher.

    “Rutherford is a liquid propellant rocket engine, designed in New Zealand by Rocket Lab. It uses LOX and kerosene as propellants and is the first flight-ready engine to use the electric pump feed cycle. It will be used on the company’s own rocket, Electron.

    And, “It produces 22,000 N (5,000 lbf) and has a specific impulse of 327 s (3.21 km/s).[1][2]”
    From: ‘Rutherford (rocket engine)’ at: Wikipedia

    Ask India to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask North Korea to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask South Korea to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask Iran to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask Italy to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask Russia to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask Britain to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask South Africa to build a Lunar Lander in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Ask groups of nations to work together to build Lunar Landers in exchange for Orion rides to the Moon.

    Everyone is going to the Moon, and will be doing hop missions across the Lunar surface, so everyone may want to have a Lunar Lander…

    We could get several quite reliable Large Lunar Landers if a smart President understood the value of the Moon to reduce the risks and costs of both developing Cislunar Space and flying beyond Cislunar Space human and robotic missions.

    No smart President = No Large Lunar Landers for NASA SLS and International Orion missions to the Moon to tap its many resources and opportunities.

    No smart President = Other nations go to the Moon to tap its resources without NASA and America, and the USA becomes a second rate or third rate power in Cislunar Space. And if America cannot lead in developing Cislunar Space it is unlikely any nation is going to be eager to do extremely risky and costly human missions to Mars and Ceres with America.

    • Gray Roger

      There are lots of potential landers.

      Ask NASA to design a lander.
      Ask NASA to contract the design of a lander to American workers.
      Ask he who must not be named to fly us to the moon with rockets and landers that are sitting idle between Earth-Mar transfer windows.
      Ask Santa for a sleigh and magic reindeer that will take us to the moon without even needing space suits.

      There are a lot of things we could ask for. In the meantime we have a rocket and a capsule but no lander.

      • James

        Gray Roger –

        “In the meantime we have a rocket and a capsule but no lander.”

        Nonetheless, other nations remain focused on the Moon. Presidents with very limited understanding of the value of the Moon come and go. Eventually, we will again have a President that understands the importance of tapping Lunar resources to dramatically lower the risks and costs of human and robotic spaceflights.

        Consider:

        “Reluctant to identify a viable path forward, U.S. space policy continues adrift while yet another country has identified the Moon as a target of value and set out on a course of action. The (South) Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) plans to send an orbiting spacecraft to the Moon in late 2018. In addition to carrying scientific and technological experiments, KARI is offering a portion of their payload space to foreign investigators. By doing so, they’ve increased the possibility of obtaining new strategic information critical to the ultimate success of a permanent return to the Moon.”

        From: ‘South Korea’s 2018 Lunar Mission
        Another nation joins the international movement to the Moon.’
        By Paul D. Spudis September 26, 2016
        At: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/korea-plans-lunar-mission-2018-180960588/#rC8Mg24ZhmAEcQ9R.99

        “What if we could get some (or a lot) of what we need not from Earth, but from space? Provisioning missions in space—beyond Earth’s deep gravity well—would lower the cost of spaceflight by establishing greater operational independence from Earth for humans beyond LEO. Which brings us to the third major way to lower costs—use space resources.”

        And, “It’s time to accept and embrace the reality that we must obtain and use the abundant material resources of space. The Moon, asteroids and planets all offer material resources, the most valuable of which is water.”

        From: “Lowering the Cost of Human Spaceflight’
        By Paul D. Spudis September 12, 2016
        At: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/lowering-cost-human-spaceflight-180960420/#qM66LATzYxbEckmU.99

        Gray Roger, instead of thinking “In the meantime we have a rocket and a capsule but no lander”, perhaps we should smile and say, “Soon we’ll have a Lunar mission capable SLS rocket and International Orion spaceship. Now, we just need some Lunar Landers and a President who understands the value of the Moon.”

  • Gary

    It takes longer to build an SLS stage than it does an aircraft carrier, and it ain’t a complex bird. Slow roast pork at its finest.

    • James

      Well, was the President the one who has tried his best to ‘slow roll’ the SLS while pumping scarce tax dollars into the greedy pockets of a billionaire wanna be Martian?

      Was the ‘slow roll’ of the SLS because his wanna be Martian ‘political friend’ wants NASA to instead fund his private super heavy Mars mission launcher?

      Nah!

      Who speaks with more logic, former NASA leaders who used to claim the Moon is the logical next step for humans or the current NASA leaders who have been busy giving big contract money to the President’s billionaire friend who ‘needs’ the money for colonizing Mars real soon?

      And what do the Europeans think about the benefits of the Moon versus NASA’s strange fixation on assigning billions of dollars in contracts and valuable national space mission assets to a billionaire wannabe Martian ‘political friend’ of the President?

      “While Nasa remains fixated on sending people to Mars – a challenge of daunting technical difficulty – ESA under Woerner sees the moon as the obvious next venture for a long time to come. The ‘village’ he has in mind is a diverse community of public and private organisations that work on the moon together.”

      From: ‘Is a moon village the next step for space exploration? ESA’s chief thinks so
      Could an outpost on the moon be the next logical step towards the know-how and infrastructure we need to head into the farther reaches of the solar system?’
      By Ian Sample Science editor
      At: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/23/is-a-moon-village-the-next-step-for-space-exploration-esas-chief-thinks-so

      I’ve always wondered if it is easier, and much cheaper, to legally corrupt a President than it is to legally corrupt all of Congress. It seems odd that I no longer wonder about that question.

      Was NASA’s affordable humans on the Moon Constellation Program cancelled so the new President would be able to gain more control over who got the prize pieces of NASA’s budget for much more costly, complicated, and risky Deep Space missions to colonize Mars?

      Nah! Who would be so incredibly crass and foolish?

      Is NASA now off on much more costly and risky human missions to far distant Mars simply so that our highly partisan President will forever have an extremely grateful billionaire ‘political friend’?

      Nah! Well…

      If legal corruption is now at the core of why NASA no longer sees the Moon as valuable for reducing the risks and costs of human missions in Cislunar Space, does that mean the real and long-term national security benefits of a strong NASA presence on the Moon and across the rest of Cislunar Space have been ignored by some foolish folks who care more about making money, or receiving campaign donations, than they do about America?

      “‘It’s the worst of all possible worlds,’ says Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine who was Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. ‘There’s been a dramatic increase in the money going into the system, and a dramatic decline in transparency.'”

      And, “Such cozy relationships between rich capitalists and the nation’s policymakers are the essence of the problem, Mitchell says: ‘The corruption is that the trust of the American people in their representative and in the political process, that trust has been severed. It doesn’t exist any more.’ Few voters would argue with that.”

      From: ‘This is what Washington corruption really looks like’
      By Rick Newman September 20, 2016
      At: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/this-is-what-washington-corruption-really-looks-like-234628230.html

  • James

    “Why the Moon before Mars?

    “The Moon is a natural first step,” explains Philip Metzger, a physicist at NASA Kennedy Space Center. ‘It’s nearby. We can practice living, working and doing science there before taking longer and riskier trips to Mars.'”

    And, “The Moon is also a good testing ground for what mission planners call ‘in-situ resource utilization’ (ISRU)–a.k.a. ‘living off the land.’ Astronauts on Mars are going to want to mine certain raw materials locally: oxygen for breathing, water for drinking and rocket fuel (essentially hydrogen and oxygen) for the journey home. ‘We can try this on the Moon first,’ says Metzger.”

    And, “Lunar ice, on the other hand, is localized near the Moon’s north and south poles deep inside craters where the Sun never shines, according to similar data from Lunar Prospector and Clementine, two spacecraft that mapped the Moon in the mid-1990s.”

    And, “If this ice could be excavated, thawed out and broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen … Voila! Instant supplies.”

    And, “Testing all this technology on the Moon, which is only 2 or 3 days away from Earth, is going to be much easier than testing it on Mars, six months away.”

    From: ‘En route to Mars, the Moon
    Why colonize the Moon before going to Mars? NASA scientists give their reasons.’
    March 18, 2005
    At: http://science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/18mar_moonfirst/

    Is building a ‘deep and lasting’ ‘political friendship’ with a billionaire wannabe Martian a much more important goal than Americans going to the Moon with the Europeans, Japanese, Russians, Chinese, and a whole lot of folks from other nations?

    Mars is going to be super risky and cost a lot more than the Moon to develop, right?

    But these are times of abundance, zero national debt, and strong trust in the frugal wisdom of the President. NASA has tons of money to continue to ‘give’ to the President’s billionaire wannabe Martian ‘political friend’ to fund his Super Duper Enormous launcher and colony on Mars, right?

    Of course, the President gains a deep ‘political friend’, but what does America gain from ignoring the Lunar ISRU goals of nations that want to set up a colony on the Moon to exploit its water and other resources?

    Yep! They’ll go to the Moon and do ISRU without us. And if they can do Lunar ISRU without America’s leadership and help, maybe they’ll also conclude they really don’t need America’s leadership here on the Home Planet.

    Boy, that would be embarrassing!

  • James

    “The European Space Agency has outlined its vision for what lunar exploration could be in the future in a new video released onto the internet today. It comes in the wake of a decision to look into collaborating with the Russians over sending a lander to the Moon’s south pole.”

    From: ‘Esa favours moon not Mars for next crewed mission A new video from the European Space Agency talks about an international effort to return humans to the moon as a stepping stone for future crewed missions’
    By Stuart Clark January 20, 2015
    At: https://www.theguardian.com/science/across-the-universe/2015/jan/20/esa-favours-moon-not-mars-for-next-manned-mission

    Yikes! Maybe those ESA folks don’t really need us to get to the Moon!

    • Gray Roger

      Maybe we can ask them for one of their landers.

      • Gary Church

        Maybe one of those test landers they used on Apollo 8. Gray Roger is clueless.

      • James

        Gray Roger –

        Getting supplies to the Moon could be done by:

        “Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for planetary missions. It was founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon professor Red Whittaker and his associates, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize.[1] The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

        From: ‘Astrobotic Technology’ at: Wikipedia

        “Peregrine offers mission flexibility with a 30 to 265 kilogram payload capacity. This enables secondary flights on several different launch vehicles. The lander will be powered with an Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion system featuring next generation space engine technology.”

        From: ‘DHL and Airbus Defence and Space Support Astrobotic to Develop Lunar Delivery Service’ Press Release Berlin 06/02/2016 At: http://www.dhl.com/en/press/releases/releases_2016/all/dhl_and_airbus_defence_and_space_support_astrobotic_to_develop_lunar_delivery_service.html

        And we actually do know how to build a Lunar Lander and an unused example is still available and could be copied and modified as needed.

        “The Apollo Lunar Module (LM), originally designated the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the US Apollo program by Grumman Aircraft to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and back. Designed for lunar orbit rendezvous, it consisted of an ascent stage and descent stage, and was ferried to lunar orbit by its companion Command and Service Module (CSM), a separate spacecraft of approximately twice its mass, which also took the astronauts home to Earth.”

        And, “The Apollo LM Truck (also known as Lunar Payload Module) was a stand-alone LM descent stage intended to deliver up to 11,000 pounds (5.0 t) of payload to the Moon for an unmanned landing. This technique was intended to deliver equipment and supplies to a permanent manned lunar base.”

        From: ‘Apollo Lunar Module’ at Wikipedia

        Also:

        “The museum’s 8,650-pound, nearly 23-foot tall lander, LM-2 (shorthand for Lunar Excursion Module), was a test-vehicle, but a previous test of LM-1 aboard Apollo 5 in 1968 went off without a hitch. LM-2 remained earthbound and came to the museum in 1971.

        From: ‘Apollo Lunar Module Gets a Facelift’ By Megan Gambino June 22, 2009
        At: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/apollo-lunar-module-gets-a-facelift-9766003/?no-ist

        See:

        ‘Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft’
        By Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson
        Published as NASA Special Publication-4205 in the NASA History Series, 1979.’

        The only real issue we have is for pragmatic international leadership from a President that wants to tap Lunar resources to reduce the risks and costs of ongoing Cislunar Space development and future human missions to Mars and Ceres.

        • James

          Getting supplies and Lunar resource exploration robots to the Lunar surface may also be done by South Korea’s KSLV-II.

          “The KARI plans to complete developing the KSLV-II for a test launch by the end of 2017. It also eyes a lunar exploration by 2020. The space launch vehicle will comprise four 75-ton engines, with a first-stage rocket to reach the thrust of around 300 tons.”

          From: “KSLV-II – Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2”
          At: http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/world/rok/kslv-2.htm

          “Further improvements will be added after the success of KSLV-2 program, such as replacing the current engine configurations into 85 or 95 ton force and increasing specific impulse. The 75 ton force engine is designed to be reused, just like the Merlin 1D engine.”

          And, “KSLV-2 is planned to be used in South Korea’s Moon exploration mission to send orbiters and landers to the moon. KSLV-2 will be South Korea’s first rocket to enter the launch vehicle service market. KSLV-2’s launch cost will be approximately $30 million, offering cheap launch service for South-East Asian countries.”

          From: ‘KSLV-2’ Wikipedia

          Also:

          “Lane served as President Clinton’s science advisor from 1998 to 2001. And although it may not be widely known in aerospace circles, Lane is now serving as an informal advisor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign on the topics of science and technology, including space policy.”

          From: ‘Here’s why a Clinton administration might pivot NASA back to the Moon
          During comments in Houston, Neal Lane says the Moon is a good testbed.’
          By Eric Berger 10/4/2016
          At: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/heres-why-the-clinton-administration-might-pivot-nasa-back-to-the-moon/

          Lots of folks are headed to the Moon with, or without, NASA and America.

          • James

            Abstract

            “A lunar landing mission using a newly developing launch vehicle in Korea was conceptually designed. Korea planned to develop a new three-stage-to-orbit launch system, Korea Space Launch Vehicle 2. If KSLV-2 is successfully developed before 2018, Korea will examine the possibility of sending a lunar orbiter in 2020 and a lunar lander in 2025. In the present study, a 1200N H2O2/Kerosene bi-propellant thruster with the pressurized feed system was considered as the propulsion system of the upper stage which was used to trans-lunar injection, and the lunar lander. Based on the proposed specifications of KSLV-2, the mass budgets of the upper stage and the lunar lander were estimated when the parking orbit was a circular low earth orbit an altitude of 300 km and inclination angle of 81°. Two trans-lunar injection methods, direct transfer method and phasing loop method, were compared in determining masses. 3 degree-of-freedom orbit trajectory calculations were performed for the purpose using Satellite Tool Kit/Astrogator. The target landing site in both cases was the South Pole of the Moon. It was found that using KSLV-2, the possible dry mass of the lunar lander was about 170 kg. It was also found that 2.5 phasing loop is the optimal phasing loop method when lunar landing mission is conducted using KSLV-2, although the direct transfer method is easier to achieve the mission goal.”

            From:
            ‘Conceptual Design of a Lunar Landing Mission Using Korea Space Launch Vehicle 2’
            By Yongjun Moon, Tae Seong Jang, Chul Park, and Sejin Kwon
            49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition 4 – 7 January 2011, Orlando, Florida
            At: http://enu.kz/repository/2011/AIAA-2011-332.pdf

            These Korean folks are thinking seriously about visiting the Moon with a lander. And that is great!

            Now what are we planning on doing with the SLS super heavy launcher and International Orion spaceship?

            Staying “Lost in Space”?

            Oh no!

            We space cadets aren’t tired enough yet of being jerked around by a nonscientific President and his highly partisan agenda to gain a billionaire as his eternally grateful ‘political friend’? That’s too bad and so sad!

            Oh well. Don’t cry. Don’t worry. Other folks and their robots are going to the Moon!

            “On Monday night, during an event at Rice University in Houston titled Lost in Space, a physicist named Neal Lane offered comments in favor of a return to the Moon. ‘Today there’s a lot of international interest in having a presence on the Moon,’ Lane said. ‘I think we don’t want to look down from lunar orbit and watch China and India and Europe and other parts of the world starting to establish missions there, even if they’re small ones, while we’re going around and around.'”

            From: ‘Here’s why a Clinton administration might pivot NASA back to the Moon
            During comments in Houston, Neal Lane says the Moon is a good testbed.’
            By Eric Berger 10/4/2016
            At: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/heres-why-the-clinton-administration-might-pivot-nasa-back-to-the-moon/

  • James

    In case some folks missed it:

    “Sources report that a substantial portion of the contractor staff working for the SLS safety contractor at NASA MSFC QD34 want out and are asking for reassignment to other programs. Many are openly looking for new jobs elsewhere. The prime contractor has been told by NASA MSFC management that if anyone leaves SLS safety support without permission or by other than NASA-directed termination that the incumbent contractor risks not receiving consideration during the contract re-competition next year.”

    And, “SLS safety risks under development are being deleted. People are scared to come forward with issues.”

    From: ‘SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update)’
    By Keith Cowing on September 29, 2016
    At: http://www.nasawatch.com/

  • Jeff Wright

    You get problems with any project. Cowing hates SLS and is hardly an unbiased source of information.
    When Bill Nye supported SLS at the last–he turned on Bill Nye.

    • Joe

      Jeff,

      Bill Nye (Mr. Robots Uber Alles) supported SLS.

      Seriously, when did that happen?

      • James

        Gray Roger, Jeff, and Joe –

        An individual’s ideas sometimes change as a result of new information.

        Maybe some of the Home Planet’s supporters of robots now realize that exploration and mining machines on the nearby Moon can be readily controlled by humans and computers on Earth in near real time and thus dramatically improve the efficiency of such robots over what can be accomplished with large lags in communication times for similar robots on far distant Mars or asteroids.

        Perhaps some folks have recently read ‘The Value of the Moon’ by Paul Spudis and have wisely concluded we need Lunar resources to help reduce the high risks and costs of human spaceflight.

        “COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The European Space agency is pressing forward in its plans to set up a permanent human outpost on the moon.

        This envisioned ‘moon village,’ a product of international collaboration between spacefaring nations, will be a base for science, business, mining and even tourism, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), said here during the 32nd Space Symposium earlier this month.”

        From: “Europe Aiming for International ‘Moon Village'” By Leonard David April 26, 2016
        At: http://www.space.com/32695-moon-colony-european-space-agency.html

        Some Americans, including politicians, could be beginning to appreciate the real and needed positive international leadership opportunities offered by the SLS 1B, with each of its twin SRBs putting over 3,600,000 lbs. of thrust and its large and mission flexible Exploration Upper Stage, or EUS, that can help enable useful human and robotic Lunar surface exploration and resource tapping missions.

        And we are building the International Orion spaceship with the Europeans who want to go to the Moon, right?

        For lovers of super large rockets, a possible future growth option for an evolved SLS could be Pyrios boosters:

        “Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Dynetics proposed a liquid-fueled booster named ‘Pyrios’.[46] The booster would use two F-1B engines which together would deliver a maximum thrust of 16,000 kN (3,600,000 lbf) total, and be able to continuously throttle down to a minimum of 12,000 kN (2,600,000 lbf).”

        And, “Estimates in 2012 indicated that the Pyrios booster could increase Block 2 low-Earth orbit payload to 150 t, 20 t more than the baseline.[49]”

        From: ‘Space Launch System’ Wikipedia
        At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System

        Or one can envision an evolved SLS with reusable 5.5 meter diameter and much higher Isp SRBs and an even larger EUS.

        Five advanced reusable 5.5 meter diameter SRB boosters for an evolved SLS might be doable and quite useful in dramatically increasing its payload to LEO. It would launch with much more than 20 millions lbs of thrust.

        Some large rocket loving folks might also envision the SLS evolving to have two, or even as many as five, reusable first stages of the New Glenn launcher as boosters.

        Each reusable New Glenn based 7 meters in diameter booster would have seven BE-4s for a total of around 3,850,000 lbs. of thrust.

        With five such reusable New Glenn first stage boosters the SLS could lift-off with over 20,800,000 lbs. of thrust.

        See: ‘New Glenn’ at: Wikipedia

        Some new Super Heavy launch pads at sites 39C and 39D would also be useful.

        Our SLS 1B should open the door to lots of useful options for exploration and developing resources on the Moon and in the rest of Cislunar Space and beyond.

        If a larger launcher is eventually needed for human and robotic spaceflight missions, the core, with it highly efficient hydrolox RS-25 rocket engines, of the SLS 1B launcher offers many potential growth options for evolving into a much larger and more capable launch vehicle.

  • James

    Lest the inside the beltway Washington, D.C. politicians forget, (if they have simply been too busy or confused watching our current bizarre ‘Lost In Space NASA Misadventure’ due to our President’s unwillingness to follow through on revising the bipartisan supported Lunar return space policy because he falsely believed or claimed that NASA going to the Moon was a former Republican president’s space policy and he being a highly partisan Democrat had to do something different), Russia could provide some real leadership in helping the Europeans and everyone else, excluding the ongoing Lost In Space NASA, get to the Moon’s surface.

    Russia, working alone or along with India, China, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Egypt, Iran, Europe, the UN, or other political entities, is fully capable of building new Lunar Landers to get folks to and from the European proposed International ‘Moon Village.

    Why and how?

    Russia inherited human Lunar Landers and their technology from the former Soviet Union.

    “The LK (Russian: ЛК, from Russian: Лунный корабль – Lunniy Korabl, ‘lunar ship’, official name: ’11F94′) was a piloted lunar lander developed in the 1960s as a part of the Soviet attempts at human exploration of the Moon. Its role was analogous to the American Apollo Lunar Module (LM). Several LK articles were flown without crew in Earth orbit, but no LK ever reached the Moon.”

    And, “All four LKs were launched with the Soyuz-L rocket. The first flight imitated the planned working cycle of the Block E rocket block. The third and fourth flights were intended to test the LK’s behavior under several flight anomalies. All flights went well, and the LK was considered ready for manned flight.”

    And:
    “It had a different landing profile
    It was lighter at only 1/3 the mass of the LM
    Initially the LK was to have carried a single cosmonaut. A later variant would have a two-man crew; the LM carried two
    It had no docking tunnel like the LM’s; the cosmonaut would space walk from the LOK (Soyuz 7K-L3) Command Ship to the LK and back.
    To leave lunar orbit and begin descent, the LK used the same braking stage, the Blok D, which put the LK-Soyuz stack into lunar orbit; the LM used its landing stage engine (later Apollo missions also used the SPS engine to help deorbit the LM)
    The final deceleration, from a velocity of 100 m/s at an altitude of 4 km above the lunar surface, was done with a Block E stage, capable of multiple restarts. This allowed the same Block to also serve as the ascent stage to return the LK to lunar orbit; the LM’s landing stage had a dedicated engine for landing.
    For better performance, LK Block E engines used turbopumps to provide them with fuel components. Solid charges were used for quick activation of the pumps that limited the number of ignitions.
    After landing the LK landing gear structure was designed to serve as a mini-launch complex for the upper stage’s lift-off; the Apollo LM used its descent stage in the same fashion.
    The LK Block E had both primary and reserve engines allowing for reassurance of ascent; the Apollo LM lifted off with a single ascent engine, and had no backup or reserve but was designed for simplicity and reliability allowing for optimal assurance of ascent. A failure of the LM ascent engine would guarantee a critical mission failure.[1]”

    And, “There are five remaining LK in various stages of completion.”

    From: ‘LK (spacecraft)’ Wikipedia
    At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LK_(spacecraft)

    If “A later variant would have a two-man crew”, then perhaps a newer variant could even have a three or four-person crew.

    In any case, the one person Russian Lander, and the two-person Russian “variant” might work out just fine for flying the initial robotic and human missions from Lunar orbit to the European proposed International ‘Moon Village’.

    Note:
    “Although never flown, the planned — and discontinued — joint Russian/ESA ACTS missions to the Moon, planned as a response to NASA’s Project Constellation, would have seen the resurrection, somewhat, of the 7K-LOK spacecraft, but with the current Soyuz TMA hardware (solar panels, docking & transfer system, etc.) being used.”

    From: ‘Soyuz 7K-LOK’ at: Wikipedia

    “However a new president will invariably review the state of human spaceflight. And in such a calculus, the Moon might prove an inviting target for both scientific and political reasons, especially after the US House of Representatives has already indicated that it favors revisiting NASA’s Journey to Mars and reconsidering the Moon as an interim destination.”

    From: From: ‘Here’s why a Clinton administration might pivot NASA back to the Moon
    During comments in Houston, Neal Lane says the Moon is a good testbed.’
    By Eric Berger 10/4/2016
    At: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/heres-why-the-clinton-administration-might-pivot-nasa-back-to-the-moon/

    The Moon has lots of useful resources and opportunities.

    Ditch the President’s highly partisan ‘Lost in Space’ policy and head off to the affordable and useful Moon as soon as sagely and safely possible.

  • James

    “Although I can’t describe this revelation as gratifying because of the damage it’s caused, it is good to see a member of the Augustine committee confirm what many of us in the space community had long suspected, but could not prove – that the decision to terminate NASA’s human lunar return was not driven by technical or programmatic considerations, but rather by base and petulant political calculation and desire. It is unfortunate that it took so long for a member of the Augustine committee to publicly share this information. This knowledge would have been valuable to those members of Congress who were trying to save the VSE in the critical budget years of 2010 and 2011. If these facts had come to light then, we might have had a more positive resolution of the conflict. Now, as some of us predicted at the time, our human spaceflight program has been decimated and we are left with NASA’s Potemkin Village-like “#JourneytoMars” and the science-fiction fantasies of Elon Musk.”

    ‘Lost in Space or Thrown Away? – Revisiting the 2009 Augustine Committee Report’
    By Paul Spudis October 7, 2016
    At: http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/lost-in-space-or-thrown-away-revisiting-the-2009-augustine-committee-report/

    Yikes! Too much uncomfortable political truth for the space confused inside the beltway folks, and space cadets everywhere, to grasp!

    Maybe we don’t need another highly partisan and biased type of Augustine committee to tell us what to think, and instead we just need to start thinking about using Lunar resources and building Lunar Landers and try to see what other nations are willing to do to help build the European proposed International ‘Moon Village’.

    Yep, I do hope other nations just smile and are polite enough to not mention “that the decision to terminate NASA’s human lunar return was not driven by technical or programmatic considerations, but rather by base and petulant political calculation and desire” because that would be a bit too honest for us American space cadets to accept. Truth is hard. We Americans usually prefer political baloney sandwiches.

    Oh well, whatever, egg and cheese sandwiches will be fine. Let’s just get it in gear and haul everyone, including lots of robots, to the International ‘Moon Village’ and start mining Lunar resources.

    And Thank you Paul Spudis! We all owe you!

  • James

    Of course if NASA’s leadership continues on their ongoing foolish quest to further enrich the President’s billionaire ‘political friend’ Elon Musk by subsidizing his costly and high risk Mars missions, wiser folks from around the world will be heading off to the nearby Moon to tap its many resources.

    It looks like there will be another large Lunar mission launcher, besides the SLS, that could enable Lunar Landers to haul lots of folks to the surface of our nearby neighbor.

    “The LM-5, which will fly this year, can carry up to 25 tons in payload to low earth orbit. But the LM-9, nearly six times as large and twice as tall, can boost 140 tons, enough for a single launch to carry a multiple person lunar landing team.”

    And, “Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin, deputy commander of the manned space program, announced that China would land a man on the moon in the next 15-20 years. Chinese authorities also announced their intention to launch a robotic Mars mission in 2020, complete with orbiter, lander and rover, along with a possible Martian soil sample return by 2030.”

    And, “In addition to China National Space Agency (CNSA) concepts exploring using three heavy Long March 5 rockets to launch pieces of a manned lunar mission for terrestrial orbital assembly, China is beginning development of the super heavy Long March 9 (LM-9) rocket. With a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) payload of 140 tons (50 tons for a trans lunar injection trajectory), the LM-9 is in the same weight class as the American Saturn V and Space Launch System.”

    From: ‘China Aims for Humanity’s Return to the Moon in the 2030s It’s Official’
    By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer May 5, 2016
    At: http://www.popsci.com/china-aims-for-humanitys-return-to-moon-in-2030s

    Well, NASA pays Russia to launch our astronauts to the International Space Station in LEO, so paying Russia, China, India, South Korea, North Korea, Iran, Europe, or Japan for rides to get our astronauts, geologists, tourists, and business folks to the Lunar surface would just be a continuation of the fumbling, politically partisan, and “stupid” space policy forming process that cancelled the NASA Constellation program’s human lunar return and implemented instead our ongoing and ill conceived inability to launch NASA astronauts to LEO with an American launcher and in an American spacecraft while boasting that we are headed to Mars Soon and Cheaply Too.

    Maybe managing NASA is for any President far too much of an intellectual burden or temptation for ‘legal’ corruption from the highly politically partisan folks in the White House.

    Perhaps Congress could come up with a much better system of managing NASA or for providing consistent critical national space goals that even a corrupt or incompetent President couldn’t override or circumvent in order to benefit one of his or her ‘political friends’.

    Time will tell.

    The word “stupid” is from:

    ‘Here’s why a Clinton administration might pivot NASA back to the Moon
    During comments in Houston, Neal Lane says the Moon is a good testbed.’
    By Eric Berger 10/4/2016
    At: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/10/heres-why-the-clinton-administration-might-pivot-nasa-back-to-the-moon/