SpaceX’s Private Lunar Mission in Work for Last Two Years; Other Opportunities on Horizon

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, center, and Sunita “Suni” Williams sit inside a Crew Dragon mockup during an evaluation visit for the Crew Dragon spacecraft at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters. Photo Credit: SpaceX

When SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed Monday an audacious plan to deliver a pair of private citizens “on a trip around the Moon” in the fall of 2018, the impact was immense and immediate. Coming only days after NASA announced the onset of a study to potentially add a crew to its long-awaited Exploration Mission (EM)-1, the unfolding first quarter of 2017 seems stamped with a renewed vigor on both private and governmental levels to once again venture beyond low-Earth orbit with humans. If SpaceX meets its self-imposed target of a flight late next year, it will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, which saw NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circumnavigate the Moon way back in December 1968.

However, in recent comments provided to AmericaSpace, SpaceX revealed that its plans for the lunar voyage have been under consideration for at least the past two years. More intriguingly, “additional requests” for other private flights were also made, with Monday’s announced mission “and at least one more” having emerged relatively recently. It remains to be seen what the nature of these potential missions will be and SpaceX are presently keeping tight-lipped about whether they will voyage to low-Earth orbit or beyond.

Since the formation of SpaceX, way back in May 2002, Mr. Musk has made no secret of his intent to deliver humans into deep space, colonizing Mars and other destinations in the Solar System. As part of this architecture, SpaceX has focused on reusability technologies: most visibly the capability to return spent first stages of its Falcon 9 booster to soft landings on either the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans or on solid ground at Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Having thus far brought eight Falcon 9 first stages safely back to Earth between December 2015 and February 2017, SpaceX now stands ready to re-use one of them on an upcoming flight in March to deliver the SES-10 communications satellite to orbit.

A long-term partner with NASA, SpaceX was one of two commercial entities to support the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) effort to deliver cargo and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). Following the signing of the inaugural CRS agreements, back in December 2008, SpaceX also won a $2.6 billion share of the Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, which will see its Crew Dragon (or “Dragon 2”) spacecraft deliver astronauts to the ISS on a rotating basis, thereby helping to eliminate NASA’s uneasy reliance on the Russian Soyuz vehicles.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is prepared for the critical Pad Abort Test in early 2015. Photo Credit: SpaceX

However, as outlined last year by AmericaSpace’s Mike Killian, ongoing technical issues forced SpaceX to postpone an unpiloted and piloted test flight of the Crew Dragon to the ISS, with the former now scheduled to fly no sooner than November 2017 and the latter no earlier than May 2018. When these “certification” missions have been completed, SpaceX will receive the green light to push ahead with six “operational” Post-Certification Missions (PCMs) to the space station. The first two PCM awards were issued in November 2015 and July 2016, followed by four more in January 2017. The timeline for when these PCMs will take place remains in flux, although has recently indicated that they may begin as soon as September 2018.

In SpaceX’s press release on its website, it was noted that the passenger-carrying lunar flight of a Crew Dragon will not take place until both the unpiloted and piloted test flights have been completed and the PCMs are underway. “Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA,” it was stressed, “SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth.” The close proximity of the first ISS-bound PCM in September 2018 and the proposed end-of-year lunar voyage raise concerns that both dates may slip to the right. Already, SpaceX’s bold plan to send an unpiloted Crew Dragon vehicle to Mars as soon as 2018 has already moved to no sooner than 2020, despite only being announced last year.

Aside from the readiness of the spacecraft to carry humans, the status of SpaceX’s home-grown Falcon Heavy rocket remains equally uncertain, with a tentative target of summer 2017 for its maiden flight. The Heavy—which comprises three Falcon 9 boosters, one serving as a central core, side-mounted to two others—was intended by SpaceX from the outset to be capable of delivering humans to the Moon and Mars. With a total propulsive yield from its 27 Merlin 1D+ engines of more than 5.1 million pounds (2.3 million kg) at liftoff, the three cores and a single Merlin 1D+ engine on the second stage carry the potential to deliver 35,000 pounds (16,000 kg) of payload across cislunar space to the Moon. And if all goes well, the Heavy will position the Crew Dragon for the first Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) of a human-carrying vehicle in 46 years.

Originally targeted to conduct its first flight in the 2013 timeframe, the Falcon Heavy has met with significant delay, not least after the failures of a pair of Falcon 9 vehicles in flight in June 2015 and on the launch pad in September 2016. Last December, SpaceX shared images of a Falcon Heavy “interstage”—a key structural component between the first and second stages—under construction. Current plans call for the Falcon Heavy to undertake an initial test flight this summer, followed by a mission carrying the Space Test Program (STP)-2 mixed payload in support of the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) certification process for future national security customers. This will be followed by Saudi Arabia’s heavyweight Arabsat-6A communications satellite in 2018. Several other potential commercial customers originally signed up for Falcon Heavy launches, but subsequently moved to alternate vehicles: Intelsat will now fly one of its birds on a standard Falcon 9 and Inmarsat will ride Europe’s Ariane 5 later this year.

The Falcon Heavy is targeted for its maiden voyage later in 2017. Image Credit: SpaceX

With this in mind, the passenger-carrying lunar flight may wind up as only the third or fourth voyage of the Heavy…and may also prove to be its very first foray into space with a human crew. No details have yet been forthcoming from SpaceX as to exactly how many missions of the new booster will be required before it can be entrusted with humans; nor, indeed, have any details emerged about the specific engineering or procedural hurdles still to be overcome in the human-rating process of the Heavy. “We are working on the safety plan, but it will be founded on what we have learned by being certified to fly EELV and Crew missions for NASA,” SpaceX told AmericaSpace on Tuesday. “Falcon Heavy is made of the same building blocks as Falcon 9, though there are some obvious differences that need to get looked at and readied to fly crew.”

Of course, the Saturn V—currently the most powerful rocket ever to attain operational service—flew with humans on only its third flight. However, this situation came about principally in response to CIA reports that the Soviet Union was close to achieving its own piloted circumlunar mission and must be seen in the political context of its time. Having been flown in November 1967 and April 1968, with mixed results, an audacious plan was hurriedly set in motion to deliver men to lunar orbit on Apollo 8. A few months later, in December 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first emissaries of Earth to travel to our closest celestial neighbor, kicking off an ambitious salvo of Saturn V flights which triumphantly planted American boots on the Moon in July 1969 and by December 1972 had seen 12 men leave their footprints in the lunar dust.

Tantalizingly, SpaceX also hinted that other related missions have been on the horizon for some length of time. “We had been approached over two years ago to do something like this,” AmericaSpace was told. “A few additional requests over the same period and then this opportunity (and at least one more) came quite recently.” At present, is not known who approached SpaceX—whether individuals or organizations, and whether private or governmental—and the nature of the “additional requests” and the “at least one more” mission remain to be seen. Also unclear is the potential destinations and objectives of these additional flights.

In Monday’s announcement, Mr. Musk noted two fare-paying passengers aboard the lunar flight, but did not indicate the presence or absence of additional dedicated pilots on the crew. It is believed that the Crew Dragon will operate autonomously—in essence flying a figure-8 circumlunar voyage on a “free-return” trajectory—and it was highlighted that the passengers will undergo health and fitness checks and begin “initial training” later in 2017. As-yet unnamed, these passengers have paid “a significant deposit” for this opportunity. If the mission reaches fruition, they will become the 25th and 26th humans to cross the 240,000-mile (370,000 km) gulf of cislunar space to reach the Moon.


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  1. Correction: They will be the 28th and 29th humans to cross the 240,000 mile gulf. Earlier travelers were three-man crews on Apollos 8, 10, 11,12,13,14,15,16, and 17.

  2. Allen, only 24 individuals have traveled to the Moon. Three of those individuals (Lovell, Young and Cernan) did so twice.

  3. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. With private money paying for it, there is no question of taking from some other agency or program in order to finance it. I look forward to a time that proposing one mission is not an attack on the budget of another mission.

    If SpaceX can deliver, then they are in a position to offer more services to private, commercial, and government entities. It would also add credibility to the plans of Blue Origin, ULA, and other private players to deliver even more. I want to see a competition on how much can be delivered to customers by many companies that doesn’t involve fighting over portions of the NASA budget.

  4. For both short-term and long-term benefits, adding some risk reduction might be extremely valuable for everyone.

    Fly the Dragon 2 spacecraft to the Moon on nearly the same trajectory and at the same time and date as EM-2.

    “EM-2 is a single-launch mission of a Space Launch System Block IB with an Exploration Upper Stage, lunar Block 1 Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), and a payload insertion of 50.7 t. It is to be an eight-day mission with a crew of four astronauts, sent on a free return trajectory around the Moon.[8]”

    From: ‘Exploration Mission 2’ Wikipedia

    The EM-2 International Orion spaceflight will be risky.

    The Dragon 2 spacecraft mission headed to the Moon will also be risky.

    The Dragon 2 might serve as a ‘backup ride home role’ for the EM-2 International Orion and vice-versa.

    By planning to fly both missions to possibly back each other up, perhaps some of their real and significantly high risks might be reduced for all the folks headed to the Moon.

    We absolutely need to get private space missions to the Lunar surface to find and tap resources and industrialize the Moon. NASA/SLS/International Orion heading down the Lunar private missions path together with SpaceX/Blue Origin/Orbital ATK/and other folks should be a great idea and doing it soon is better than doing it much later.

    Look for win-win options.

    Whenever possible, try to fly SLS/International Orion missions on Lunar free return trajectories, or to low Lunar orbits, with whatever other spacecraft that are also headed out of LEO towards the Moon.

    We need to regularly fly SLS/International Orion Lunar surface missions and finding ways to reduce the risks of those critical missions always needs to be a very high priority.

    If we are serious about industrializing all of Cislunar Space, we need many spacecraft types to provide essential dissimilar redundancy in our Cislunar Space Transportation System to get lots of us to the ISS, Lunar orbit, and the Moon’s surface.

    And tapping Lunar resources and industrializing the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space needs serious and sustained cooperation via NASA/SLS/International Orion missions with lots of different companies and nations.

    So if it is doable and wise, do a dual EM-2 International Orion and Dragon 2 mission around the Moon.

    And yes:

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard P Feynman.

    • Another significant risk reduction strategy for the SpaceX Dragon 2 Lunar mission, and for the EM-2 International Orion Lunar spaceflight, might be to fly those missions while docked to a Russian Lunar Lander.

      Remember Apollo 13?

      “Because the fuel cells generated the Command/Service Module’s electrical power by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water, when oxygen tank 1 ran dry, the remaining fuel cell finally shut down, leaving the craft on the Command Module’s limited-duration battery power and water. The crew was forced to shut down the CM completely to save this for re-entry, and to power up the LM to use as a “lifeboat.”[16] This situation had been suggested during an earlier training simulation, but had not been considered a likely scenario.[17] Without the LM, the accident would certainly have been fatal.[18]”

      From: Apollo 13 Wikipedia


      “The nearly 20-ton spacecraft superficially resembles the famous Eagle lunar module, which delivered Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, but the new Russian design is currently tailored for a smaller, cheaper Angara-5V rocket rather than a giant Moon rocket, like NASA’s Saturn V from the Apollo era.”

      From: Revealed: ‘Russia’s Crewed Lunar Lander For the first time since the end of the Moon Race, Russian engineers have quietly begun working on a lunar lander capable of carrying cosmonauts to the Moon.’ By Anatoly Zak Feb 3, 2016

      • 1) The Russian lunar lander is, on all evidence, years away from being ready for test flight;
        2) Adding the lander does mean adding 20 tons, and therefore a lot more delta-v. The SLS Ib with the EUS might be able to handle that, but Falcon Heavy would not. Not without a second flight.

        • OK. Add a second Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy or Angara A5V flight.

          “The SLS Ib with the EUS might be able to handle that”

          Great! Let’s make it happen!

          Note: A partial propellant load on the Russian Lander should make it quite a bit lighter and might be sufficient for a Lunar test non-landing mission where most of the time the Lander is docked to the International Orion and yet could still be useful for any emergencies somewhat similar to Apollo 13.

          Also, Blue Origin’s Blue Moon Lander might become available…

          • “Great! Let’s make it happen!”

            Honestly, the best thing to do with the SLS – and Orion – is to cancel it.

            That would free up at least three billion per year to develop mission hardware.

            If a lander is wanted, and wanted soon, a better bet would be something like Jonathan Goff’s idea for a ACES/Xeus adaptation, or even to see what could be done with Bezos’s Blue Moon lander proposal. Waiting for the Russians is waiting for a ship that’s just not gonna come in, I’m afraid. Roscosmos has fallen on hard (budgetary) times.

            • “Honestly, the best thing to do with the SLS – and Orion – is to cancel it.”

              “Honestly, the best thing to do with the SLS – and Orion – is to” use that system as it is intended to be used in getting international folks to the Moon. There is nothing in the world equal to what the International Orion and SLS combination offers and maybe there won’t be for another decade or two or three.

              Some folks in America and around the world want to go to the Moon with the international Cislunar Space transportation system we are currently building and some powerful and greedy folks want to gut what little remains of NASA and America’s human spaceflight capability simply so that they can make a billion or trillion dollars.

              Yep, fast talking billionaire snake oil sellers rule and endlessly grab tax dollars and American assets, and America and the world gets zip. That is an old rip-off story. Buy a President, grab tax dollars, and sell out America because offshoring everything is ultimately the best deal for the folks with money. What a steal and what a deal for the Silicon Valley billionaires!

              ‘Forget actual commercial spaceflight, we billionaires need and demand all of NASA’s human spaceflight budget!’

              “Roscosmos has fallen on hard (budgetary) times.” And so has Russia. And so have we Americans.

              Now we can ‘encourage’ more hard times in Russia and America or we can think of something better to do.

              It would be useful if some folks with money could see the real wisdom of a partnership with Roscosmos to actually get it in gear to build:

              Revealed: ‘Russia’s Crewed Lunar Lander For the first time since the end of the Moon Race, Russian engineers have quietly begun working on a lunar lander capable of carrying cosmonauts to the Moon.’ By Anatoly Zak Feb 3, 2016

              Or we can continue to rachet up the Obama foreign policy foolishness against the people that did most of the fighting and had the most casaulties in the struggle against Nazi Germany in WW II.

              “According to Russian government figures, USSR losses within postwar borders now stand at 26.6 million.[4][5] In August 2009 the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) researchers estimated Poland’s dead at between 5.6 and 5.8 million.[6] Historian Rüdiger Overmans of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office published a study in 2000 that estimated the German military dead and missing at 5.3 million, including 900,000 men conscripted from outside of Germany’s 1937 borders, in Austria, and in east-central Europe.[7][8][9] The People’s Republic of China puts its war dead at 20 million,[10] while the Japanese government puts its casualties due to the war at 3.1 million[11]”

              From: ‘World War II casualties’ Wikipedia

              “Victoria Jane Nuland (born 1961) was the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State.[2] She holds the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest diplomatic rank in the United States Foreign Service.[3]”

              And, “In the recording, Nuland makes an obscene reference to the European Union.[19] After discussing Ukrainian opposition figures Nuland states that she prefers the United Nations as mediator, instead of the European Union, adding “Fuck the EU”, and Pyatt responds, “Oh, exactly ….”[14][20]”

              From: ‘Victoria Nuland’ Wikipedia

              Sometimes the greed of billionaires and their political hacks makes them quite ignorant of history and unable to see the obvious consequences of really bad political and diplomatic choices.

              • Hello James,

                1) “There is nothing in the world equal to what the International Orion and SLS combination offers and maybe there won’t be for another decade or two or three.”

                The thing is: we don’t NEED anything equal to what Orion and SLS provide. There’s no payloads even conceptualized (let alone built) for SLS. Why do we need 70mT to LEO? We have nothing to fly on it.

                Falcon Heavy is rated for 54mT to low earth orbit, and that’s before the Block 5 upgrade later this year; perhaps it rates out over 60mT. Blue Origin’s New Glenn is obviously more embryonic (though its engine is now in full testing) but promises something similar in its two stage configuration. So why not build the payloads to the launchers already on the market? Perhaps you have to do an extra launch over what you would with SLS, but so what? Falcon Heavy at last will have a decent cadence – whereas SLS can’t launch more than one flight per year, tops.

                And that’s the problem: SLS is simply too expensive for NASA to operate. It cannot afford to develop and operate SLS while at the same time building mission hardware for it.

                Yes, it means having to do business with dot-com billionaires. But if they can deliver – and so far, SpaceX has – does it really matter? You work with them on fixed cost SAA contracts rather than cost-plus FAR contracts – they only get paid if they deliver. Which is what happens with SpaceX and Orbital ATK and Boeing’s CST-100 work now.

                2) ““Roscosmos has fallen on hard (budgetary) times.” And so has Russia. And so have we Americans.”

                I disagree, actually. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more exciting time for space in the U.S.. We’re finally developing a real commercial space industry, and finally starting to lower the cost to orbit.

                The U.S. government will spend $19 billion (exclusive of what private industry is spending separately, which is also substantial) on space this year. That’s more than Russia ($2 billion), ESA and China put together. We’re spending a lot money; we’re just not spending all of it very wisely.

                • “There is nothing in the world equal to what the International Orion and SLS combination offers and maybe there won’t be for another decade or two or three.” -James

                  “The thing is: we don’t NEED anything equal to what Orion and SLS provide. There’s no payloads even conceptualized (let alone built) for SLS. Why do we need 70mT to LEO? We have nothing to fly on it.
                  Falcon Heavy is rated for 54mT to low earth orbit, and that’s before the Block 5 upgrade later this year; perhaps it rates out over 60mT.” -Richard M

                  Blue Origin sees it quite differently than you do. And Blue Origin apparently seems willing to spend Jeff Bezos’s money to get done what they want to do on the Moon, including supporting NASA led SLS/International Orion Lunar surface missions.

                  Note that the SLS can evolve into a launch system capable of putting 150 metric tons in LEO.

                  And isn’t it funny how Blue Origin, unlike the ‘trillion of dollars for Mars colony baloney’ spouting SpaceX, expects to do serious Lunar mission rocketry largely without digging into or taking over NASA’s human spaceflight budget or trying to kill off the SLS and International Orion Lunar mission transportation system?

                  “New Glenn 3-stage Low Earth orbit 70” “metric tons”

                  And, “Block 1B has a baseline of 105 metric tons (116 short tons). The proposed Block 2 will have lift capacity of 130 metric tons (140 short tons), which is similar to that of the Saturn V.[11][18]”

                  And, “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). The F-1B would be derived from the F-1 engine, which powered the first stage of the Saturn V. It would have been easier to assemble, with fewer parts and a simplified design,[47] while providing improved efficiency and a thrust increase of 110 kN (25,000 lbf).[48] 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]”

                  Quotes from: ‘Space Launch System’ Wikipedia

                  Some folks need to quit eating all that super expensive Mars colony baloney from SpaceX and focus instead on the real expectations and needs of the Home Planet and the many business opportunities offered by the nearby Moon.

              • “And that’s the problem: SLS is simply too expensive for NASA to operate. It cannot afford to develop and operate SLS while at the same time building mission hardware for it.”


                The SLS launch costs are determined largely by how often it flies. Fly any huge launcher infrequently and costs go up. Deciding to fly the SLS/International Orion system infrequently was, and remains, a highly partisan political decision that can be changed.

                The slow roll underfunding attack against the International Orion and SLS Lunar transportation system needed to explore for and exploit the resources of the Moon seems to have been led by a foolish President who didn’t want to fund any human space exploration and certainly not NASA led international Lunar resource exploration missions that might include Russia and didn’t seem to provide enough money to his Silicon Valley political friends who he apparently wanted to help bankroll the Democratic Party.

                Silicon Valley billionaires went well over 90% in their support of the Democratic presidential candidate in the last election. That Democratic candidate apparently had a ‘wonderful’ history of selling political access to those folks with lots of money.

                If you politically want to provide a subsidized government jobs program to poor old California, you blindly support SpaceX which has been receiving government subsidies and major technology transfers right from the beginning. Whatever SpaceX is, it isn’t a business in the commonly used sense of the word.

                The International Orion and SLS Lunar transportation system offers risk reduction, technical, and diplomatic mission options that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which is a much smaller, more complex, and highly US government subsidized and supported launcher owned by very political billionaires, is unlikely to ever provide.

                Kill the SLS and International Orion Lunar mission system and Europe and many nations across the world will most likely correctly decide that their Lunar resource finding and tapping interests can be more reliably served by partnering with nations other than SpaceX’s easily manipulated America.

                Europe, India, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Canada and many more potential SLS/International Orion Lunar mission system partners offer far more fiscal and technical support and extremely useful political and diplomatic opportunities than the best exotic wet dream ideas of a bunch of Silicon Valley billionaires with a long history of selling us ‘leaky’ junk software, services, and computer and cell-phone technology that can be easily exploited against us by every criminal hacker,rascal, and spy on the Home Planet.

                Perhaps whoever trusts such Silicon Valley snake oil sellers is a fool or has simply blindly bought into highly partisan Democratic Party and/or anti-Russia politics…

                International politics is what got to the Moon with Apollo, not flimsy nonscientific arguments to support an overly complex and highly partisan billionaire club Rube Goldberg launcher that is supposedly aimed at multi-trillion dollar Mars colonization or whatever snake oil destination or other fantasy that is to be ‘sold’ to the public this week or next month by Elon Musk.

                “Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways, giving rise to the term Rube Goldberg machines for any similar gadget or process. Goldberg received many honors in his lifetime, including a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning in 1948 and the Banshees’ Silver Lady Award in 1959.[1]”

                From: ‘Rube Goldberg’ Wikipedia

                • “The SLS launch costs are determined largely by how often it flies.”

                  And how often SLS flies is dependent on how fast its components can be built. And Michoud can only make one core per year. If you want to increase that to more than one core, you are going to need a major increase of workforce over the 2,500 employees there now. And that will not come cheaply.

                  For 15 years of development, SLS and Orion will cost a total of $43 billion – and deliver exactly 3 capsules and 2 rockets (with first manned flight not until 2023, according to GAO). And NASA will have no mission hardware to put on it after that first crewed test flight is done. Contrast that with the $12 billion spent over 7 years for 42(!) Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew missions (via SpaceX, Orbital/ATK, Boeing and Sierra Nevada) to ISS.

                  “Deciding to fly the SLS/International Orion system infrequently was, and remains, a highly partisan political decision that can be changed.”

                  Where is the money going to come from to launch SLS as much as it would take to really make a major drop in per launch costs? Where will the money come from for the mission hardware? NASA has been on a roughly static budget since the 1970’s (a minor surge to build Endeavour to replace the Challenger in 1988-91 aside). There’s no support in either party for any significant increases in NASA funding. That’s been consistent regardless of who has been in the White House.

                  If it’s corporate welfare we’re worried about, the top of the suspects list is Boeing and Lockmart, who are building this system on traditional cost-plus FAR contracts. There’s no restrain on cost overruns. They can just bill NASA for those. And that doesn’t even start to count the massive NASA overhead for oversight. How is Boeing not an even greater corporate welfare recipient than SpaceX, Sierra Nevada or Orbital ATK? How is Lockheed Martin not a bigger corporate welfare recipient?

                  Why is corporate welfare better if it goes to Huntsville, Michoud and Denver instead of Hawthorne and McGregor? Because those are in states that voted for Trump? (Also note: Most people working in aerospace in Huntsville didn’t vote for Trump, either).

                  P.S. Why in the name of God would we want to partner with North Korea on anything, let alone something that could risk transfer of ballistic missile and advanced avionics technology to the DPRK? For that matter why would we want to do the same with China, very arguably our #1 strategic rival?

                • “P.S. Why in the name of God would we want to partner with North Korea on anything, let alone something that could risk transfer of ballistic missile and advanced avionics technology to the DPRK? For that matter why would we want to do the same with China, very arguably our #1 strategic rival?” -Richard M

                  All the backdoor bugging holes, deliberately designed by billionaire owned Silicon Valley companies, means our software, cell-phones, computers, car technology, and TVs are exposed to continual spying and hacking from every geek spy in the world and there probably isn’t much “risk” anymore of transferring “ballistic missile and advanced avionics technology to the DPRK”.

                  Yep, the brilliant Silicon Valley billionaire folks and their ‘spy hole’ filled products helped spies everywhere get that information long ago… And to ensure the ‘zero safety’ of our advanced technology the CIA has now brilliantly managed to leak its best spying tools to the world’s hackers and spies…

                  Maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about the real but manageable risks of doing Lunar missions with the DPRK and instead should worry about trusting the politicized and bloated CIA and its ‘spy hole’ creating billionaire Silicon Valley buddies to do what they should do and not do foolish things that they shouldn’t do…

                  Partisan politics is the controlling factor on how many SLS/International Orion Lunar mission flights occur. More internationally and business supported flights equals lower mission costs. Blue Origin or Russia might want to build some useful Landers for International Orion and SLS system flights. Time will tell.

                  “Why is corporate welfare better if it goes to Huntsville, Michoud and Denver instead of Hawthorne and McGregor? Because those are in states that voted for Trump? (Also note: Most people working in aerospace in Huntsville didn’t vote for Trump, either).” -Richard M

                  Why does SpaceX worry so much about killing off the SLS/International Orion?

                  If SpaceX is obviously the best “corporate welfare” launcher deal in the USA and will have zillions of Mars mission paying customers, why the desperate need to shut down the SLS and International Orion Lunar mission system, suck up NASA’s human spaceflight budget, and destroy the many diplomatic, political, and business opportunities of NASA led Lunar missions?

                  NASA represents America. The SLS and International Orion Lunar mission system represents Europe and America and potentially many other countries.

                  SpaceX, owned by billionaires, represents secret government deals with unreliable Silicon Valley billionaire folks who promote their narrow Mars fantasies and the political interests of raising Silicon Valley money for the Democratic Party which has become our great Neocon anti-Russia bastion. Sometimes it is embarrassing for me to remain a Democrat.

                  “During January 2009, at the end of President George W. Bush’s second term in office, Jonathan Clarke, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, proposed the following as the ‘main characteristics of neoconservatism’: ‘a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms’, a ‘low tolerance for diplomacy’, a ‘readiness to use military force’, and ‘emphasis on US unilateral action’, a ‘disdain for multilateral organizations’ and a ‘focus on the Middle East’.”

                  And, “During July 2008 Joe Klein wrote in Time that today’s neoconservatives are more interested in confronting enemies than in cultivating friends. He questioned the sincerity of neoconservative interest in exporting democracy and freedom, saying, “Neoconservatism in foreign policy is best described as unilateral bellicosity cloaked in the utopian rhetoric of freedom and democracy.’”

                  From: Neoconservatism’ Wikipedia

                  Why are the American taxpayers supposed to support spending trillions of dollars for far distant Mars colonies in order to further enrich Silcon Valley billionaires and have NASA ignore the resources, and the enabling of business opportunities, of the nearby Moon? I must of somehow missed that ‘wonderful Mars Now explanation’.

                  It would be useful if SpaceX could do launches without trying to claim NASA’s budget in order to try to force feed Elon Musk’s bizarre trillions of dollars Mars colonies fantasies to the American taxpayers.

                  Nahhhh, that would be asking far too much of SpaceX/Elon Musk who have been getting lovely government subsidies and significant and valuable NASA technology transfers from the beginning of that company.

                  Yep, billionaire Elon Musk is the government subsidy King of modern America.

                  Funny how Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos can do spaceflights and want to do NASA led Lunar surface resource tapping missions ns without any big government subsidies, isn’t it?

                  But Elon Musk isn’t laughing, is he? Nope. Maybe he’s too busy whining about not getting billions or trillions of taxpayer dollars for his foolish and nonscientific Mars fantasies…

                  • “Why does SpaceX worry so much about killing off the SLS/International Orion?”

                    Well, I don’t know if they really worry about it. If they do, they’re smart enough not to say so, given that NASA remains SpaceX’s biggest customer.

                    I worry about killing it off, because it’s a white elephant that’s a bleeding waste of my tax money – and yours. It’s actually inhibiting us from doing any exploration or development of space beyond low Earth orbit.

                    I do not much care who carries payloads or transports crew for NASA to do HSF exploratory missions, so long as it is safe, reliable and as cost effective as possible – and is American. If that’s Boeing/LockMart on Apollo-style cost-plus FAR contracts, so be it. If it’s SpaceX, so be it. If it’s Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, so be it. If it’s Boeing on a SAA contract, so be it. If it’s Sierra Nevada or Orbital ATK, so be it. I don’t care if they make a profit off it, so long as they deliver. God knows Boeing and LockMart have made handsome profits off working with NASA.

                    But it’s become quite obvious that the first option on that list is not cost effective. 41 billion mortal dollars – and we’re still five years from a manned mission using this architecture. Where’s the money coming from to actually operate this thing when it is done, James?

              • Yep, blindly support SpaceX to help ‘take care’ of poor old California…


                “It is a state of a perfect set of laws – at least in the minds of those wedded to the legislative pursuit of social justice. Under the one-party Democrat rules, spending on fairness tops $100 billion every year. Meanwhile, the basic infrastructure of the state, so necessary for the economy long and short term, is collapsing.”

                And, “California leads the nation in poverty when cost of living is factored into the equation.”

                From: ‘California: The Physical Collapse Of A Social State’
                By Tom Del Beccaro 2/22/2017

                Real inclusiveness means a growing and strong economy that produces enough jobs for everyone who wants to be economically productive. Without the jobs for all voters, complex economic and social arrangements tend to go downhill and crash and burn pretty fast.

                “Today, our long-term weak economic growth is exchanging that positive economic competition, which produced enormous prosperity, with a corrosive social competition between social strata, based on political power and divisive redistribution.

                We can and must turn this around.”

                From: ‘Our Corrosive Social Competition And What Trump Must Do About it’
                By Thomas Del Beccaro 12/8/2016

                • “Yep, blindly support SpaceX to help ‘take care’ of poor old California…”

                  SpaceX does employ people in Texas and Florida too, you know…

                  And SpaceX is not the only Commercial Crew/Commercial Cargo contractor, either – nor the only New Space firm developing super heavy launchers.

        • Perhaps Orbital ATK’s Stick Heavy launcher would be available for launching Landers.

          “‘The intention is that this will be a new family of launchers developed and qualified as a public-private partnership with joint Air Force and industry investment, and available for satellite launches as early as 2020,’ said John Steinmeyer, director of strategy and business development for Orbital ATK’s launch vehicle division.”

          From: ‘Details of Orbital ATK’s proposed heavy launcher revealed’ By Stephen Clark 5/27/17

          Or maybe the Russian Lander could be launched on a Long March 5.

          “Payload to TLI 8,000 kg (18,000 lb)”

          And, “When the production facility is completed in 2012, it would be capable of a maximum output of thirty CZ-5s annually. As of July 2012, development of the 1,200 kN thrust LOX/kerosene engine was test fired.[5][7] New photos of CZ-5 and of its tests were released in March 2015.[8]”

          From: ‘Long March 5’ Wikipedia

          Or maybe a Proton-M launcher would work if the Russian Lander had only a small partial propellant load for a non-landing test mission.

          And of course the New Glenn might work too…

          “The New Glenn is a privately funded orbital launch vehicle in development by Blue Origin. It is expected to make its initial test launch prior to 2020.”

          From: ‘New Glenn’ at Wikipedia

          Imagine the New Glenn if Blue Origin decided to add two of the SLS’s SRBs to the first stage… Wow!

          Dual SLS launches would work, but maybe a former anti-space President gave away Launchpad 39A to his Silicon Valley political friends… Who knows?

          We could build a new pad and call it Launchpad 39D and do a dual SLS launch with Launchpad 39B.

          Yep, that sure would solve the Lander launching issue!

  5. John I am missing the part where NASA is funding this SpaceX Tourist Trip around the Moon.

    Suddenly everybody is interested in going to the Moon…Because that is where the Treasure is…The support systems created and utilized on the Moon will be worth billions in revenue for adoption on Earth. This is the reason that the Obama administration never wanted to go back to the moon. He did not want to upset his Corporate bosses who are not interested in competition only colluding and monopolies…

    • Here, Tracy. Let me help you adjust the straps on your tinfoil hat. It seems to have slid down over your eyes…

      I must have missed the memo on the multi-billion-dollar market for Earth-based life support systems in high-radiation vacuum environments. Why, just last week, I was was saying to my wife that we really ought to pump the air out of the basement and store open vats of nuclear waste down there. Just the thing to keep us warm and toasty on those cold winter nights!

      Whatever that mysterious market is, it apparently is presently dominated by colluding corporate monopolies (sorry, Colluding Corporate Monopolies®) in ‘cahoots’ with former president Obama. Because, you know, with a name like that, he must have been up to no good.

      • Peter,
        No nuclear batteries or reactors will be allowed on the moon only Solar Power…Those systems will have to be robust to stand up to the vacuum of space. large scale production of high efficiency solar cells and battery systems will dramatically lower the cost. This will allow for complete off grid systems on earth providing for the end of distributed power which will give way to a large scale robotic based civilization on Earth that will free all men from the shackles of the elites…

        • “A Cold War-era liquid-fueled reactor design could transform thorium — a radioactive waste from mining — into a practically limitless energy source.

          US engineers proved such a system works during the 1960s. However, the military canceled the project and it was nearly forgotten.”

          From: ‘A forgotten war technology could safely power Earth for millions of years. Here’s why we aren’t using it’ By Dave Mosher Feb. 25, 2017

        • “There are many advantages to applying photofission for nuclear pulsed space propulsion. Photofission has been demonstrated by readily available sources, such as natural uranium isotopes, lead, and thorium [13] [14]. As opposed to a difficult to regulate neutron flux, photofission is controlled based on the activation of the ultra-intense laser, which can also be remote to the propulsion system [2].”

          From: ‘Project New Orion: Pulsed Nuclear Space Propulsion Using Photofission Activated by Ultra-Intense Laser’ By Robert LeMoyne and Timothy Mastroianni

          And yes, there are valuable deposits of “thorium” on the Moon.

          “The Compton–Belkovich Thorium Anomaly is a hotspot (volcanic complex) on the Moon. It is on the far side of the Moon and was found by a gamma-ray spectrometer in 1998.[1] It is an area of concentrated thorium, a radioactive element.[2]”

          And, “The estimated thorium concentration reaches 5.3 µg/g (5.3 micrograms per gram) while the surrounding highland basalts only contain between 0 and 2 µg/g. Compared to the Earth’s thorium concentration of 0.06 µg/g, the Compton–Belkovich’s is very high.[4]”

          From: ‘Compton–Belkovich Thorium Anomaly’ Wikipedia

          Yep, thorium and possible related rare earth elememts at the Compton–Belkovich Thorium Anomaly could end up becoming quite valuable and useful.

        • for Tracy the Troll:

          “No nuclear batteries or reactors will be allowed on the moon”

          Except for the RTGs left by Apollo, then there’s the small matter of that nuclear fusion reactor constantly burning in the daytime Lunar sky.

          • SE Jones

            Weren’t those RTG’s left by …The USA? Remember the Moon cannot be controlled or exclusively controlled by “Governments” only “Private Institutions” on an a permanent basis per the Moon Treaty 1967. The Sun is controlled by “GOD” not man…

      • Peter Smith –

        “Here,” Peter. “Let me help you adjust the straps on your tinfoil hat. It seems to have slid down over your eyes” and you cannot see or understand much. But don’t worry too much because you apparently share the lack of vision, highly partisan politics, and empty rhetoric of “former president Obama”.

        “Five teams are now left to fight it out for the X Prize. In order to win, they need to launch an uncrewed spacecraft to the lunar surface before the end of the year, land, move 500 meters, and beam high-definition videos and photos back to Earth before anyone else.

        While more than a dozen teams started off in the competition, it’s now down to SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, TeamIndus, and HAKUTO (which are from Israel, the United States, international, India, and Japan respectively).”

        And, “The Indian Space Research Organization is in the process of testing its second moon-bound spacecraft expected to launch in 2018.

        The new mission, named Chandrayaan 2, should include a lander, rover and orbiter which will be responsible for conducting science on the lunar surface and beaming back data to scientists on Earth.”

        And, “Jeff Bezos—the founder of and the private spaceflight company Blue Origin—has a dream that one day millions of Earthlings will live and work in space.

        And now, apparently that means he wants some folks to live and work on the moon.”

        From: ‘These are the moon missions you should get excited about right now’ By Miriam Kramer

        “Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon as well as a rocket company called Blue Origin, wants to colonize the moon.”

        And, “But to make Blue Origin’s moon colonization scheme possible, Davenport wrote, the company said it must to pair up with the space agency.”

        From: ‘Jeff Bezos has a secret plan to colonize the moon — starting with package deliveries’
        By Dave Mosher Business Insider March 3, 2017

        “Ouyang Ziyuan, a geologist and chemical cosmologist, was among the first to advocate the exploitation not only of known lunar reserves of metals such as titanium, but also of helium-3, an ideal fuel for future nuclear fusion power plants. He currently serves as the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.”

        And, “Chang’e 3, which includes a lander and rover, was launched on 1 December 2013 and successfully soft-landed on the Moon on 14 December 2013. It will be followed by a sample return mission, Chang’e 5, scheduled for 2017.[7]

        As indicated by the official insignia, the shape of a calligraphic nascent lunar crescent with two human footprints at its center reminiscent of the Chinese character 月 for ″moon″, the ultimate objective of the program is to pave the way for a manned mission to the Moon. Such a mission may occur in 2025–2030.[8]”

        From: ‘Chinese Lunar Exploration Program’ Wikipedia

        Perhaps none are so blind as those who don’t want to see.

        • James,
          Yes you are correct the Moon would be an excellent location for nuclear batteries or reactors for utilization. However Putting a Nuclear system on the moon might allow certain nefarious interests to create a dirty nasty weapon to rain down on certain parts of Earth, cites, countries etc…Especially when you consider these are limited to Private interests on the Moon… Not governments per the Moon Treaty 1967…

          So because of “Security Concerns” the soon to be announced “Lunar Security Council” or what ever name they come up will be controlled by the nations of the UN Security Council will “govern” activity on the Moon until such a time that that there are enough people on the Moon to govern themselves. This will be measured in decades..50 to 100 years.

          • Tracy the Troll –

            “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, about a Lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth. The novel expresses and discusses libertarian ideals. It is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the moon.[1]”

            And, “When Mike launches rocks at sparsely populated locations on Earth, warnings are released to the press detailing the times and locations of the bombings—but disbelieving people, as well as people on religious pilgrimages, travel to the sites and die. As a result, public opinion turns against the fledgling nation.

            A second attack destroys Mike’s original catapult, but the Loonies have built a secondary smaller one in a secret location, and with Mannie acting as its on-site commander, the Loonies continue to attack Earth until it concedes Luna’s independence.”

            From: ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress’ Wikipedia

            One way or another, governments will need to carefully control or monitor Nukes and Catapults everywhere in the Solar System.

      • Peter,
        Oh no its not Barack Hussain Obama’s name that I am concerned about …Its the fact that he had absolutely no executive experience or skills from either the public or private sectors or accomplishments in the Senate or did he come from a known family with any of these involvements to be qualified as President of the United States. He has been a puppet for large corporate interests and the International Banking Consortium.

        • Tracy the Troll –

          “Representative Steve King, R-Iowa, told the New York Times on Tuesday that he believes in the existence of a ‘deep state’ attempting to undermine President Trump’s administration.

          ‘We are talking about the emergence of a deep state led by Barack Obama, and that is something that we should prevent,’ King told the Times.

          And, “King added that Trump ‘needs to purge the leftists within the administration that are holdovers from the Obama administration, because it appears that they are undermining his administration and his chances of success.'”

          From: “GOP representative: Trump should ‘purge’ White House” By Gabby Kaufman

          ‘Drain the Swamp’ and tap the Moon’s resources ASAP!

          • James,
            How in the world is Obama or anyone else able to operate without the consent and approval of the security agencies? This is like living in an episode of the Twilight Zone….

            • Our security agencies are supposed to work for America and follow our laws.

              When some American security agencies start ignoring the Constitution, defending their turf, ignoring, or deceiving, or spying on Congressional oversight folks and their staff, or blindly following the stupid, shallow, and bat crazy ignorant whims of Presidents, and in general not seriously defending and protecting the security of computers and phones of Americans and our companies so as to make their spying/security tasks, and the work of many cyber criminals, super easy, those security agencies end up being de facto and de jure beyond the moral codes of human society and thus become viewed as clearly dangerous to Americans and also to the good folks of the world.

              If the CIA or NSA were to magically disappear tomorrow, America would most likely survive and devise a new agency with perhaps more honest and trustworthy leaders.

              For now, obviously some American security agencies need to start seriously cleaning their own houses by quickly finding and vigorously prosecuting leakers and any of the political insider folks who promote an agency or contractor culture of supporting politically motivated and power seeking leakers.

              Some American security agencies need quit digging their ‘lack of public trust holes’ any deeper than they already are and begin to do exactly what they should be doing without any political games and always acting in an appropriate manner so they don’t look or act like rogue security agencies following stupid or bizarre or highly partisan political agendas.

              All American security agencies need to be known as de facto and de jure strong advocates of following the moral codes of America to reliably defend and protect the Constitutional rights of our citizens and the legal rights of folks all around the Home Planet.

              American security agencies need to carefully not add to the problems of the folks on the Home Planet, and instead need to consistently be seen and accepted as modern, intelligent, nonpolitical, and fair problem solvers that almost everyone in America can and should logically respect and trust.

              Most members of America’s security agencies want to do what is proper and correct, but they need smart and tough leadership to ensure that their work is consistently done in a secure, serious, thoughtful, high-quality, nonpolitical, and Constitutional manner.

              No secret kangaroo court or security agency leader or agent can be allowed to operate in a manner ‘above and beyond’ the checks and balances of our Constitution, the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President.

              If the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President fail in their duties and any of our security agencies is led by a partisan political hack or strange power hungry individual that refuses to respect our Constitutional privacy rights, you may continue to feel like you are “living in an episode of the Twilight Zone….”

            • “Government sources told Reuters that investigators were focusing on CIA contractors as the likely source of the documents that detail the agency’s ability to covertly turn smartphones — and even some TVs — into listening devices, and possibly hack computerized vehicles for assassinations.

              A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee said it was seeking confirmation on when the CIA found out it had lost control of the material, noting: ‘If it’s true that the CIA knew about it since the end of last year . . . we should have been informed.’

              In a Twitter post, WikiLeaks claimed the ‘Year Zero’ information it released Tuesday represented ‘less than 1%’ of a massive archive it has code-named ‘Vault 7.'”

              FroM; ‘FBI wants to know how long CIA knew about security breach’
              By Bruce Golding and Daniel Halper March 8, 2017

              • James,
                I am no longer sure that that the US Federal Government survives this Data Dump. Maybe that is the purpose all along. Several groups have been calling for a One World Government. Perhaps this is all being done with the intention to create just such an event that will produce a One World Government. It seems to me that we have witnessed first hand the in depth level of corruption that exits between Government, MSM, DNC, RNC and Global Corporate Interests… What say you?

                • Bloated and incompetent bureaucracies exist everywhere and “calling for a One World Government” is close to one the worst ideas I’ve ever heard of.

                  Political power brokers getting into bed with the wealthy folks have throughout history often created serious problems, so our current situation is not an entirely new issue to be dealt with.

                  I’ve long been a supporter of the Democratic Party, however it is now off on a trip deep into la-la land under money and power corrupted incompetent leaders. Republicans have their own obvious problems.

                  The “depth level of corruption that” exists “between Government, MSM, DNC, RNC and Global Corporate Interests” would completely and ruthlessly run “a One World Government” and create a nightmare world that would put Tracy the Troll into a prison, or do much worse, for the crime of asking too many questions and not believing and professing blind allegiance to utter nonsense.

                  Under “a One World Government” someone like me, with my long history of a complete lack of faith in the rich and powerful, would have to be quite lucky and excellent at hiding to get to his 16th birthday.

                  Let’s keep the American Constitution and national government that we have and get much more serious about making sure it is doing what it is supposed to do and not doing what it shouldn’t be doing. Get the big money interests out of our national politics.

                  Repeatedly cutting the Federal Government’s bloated budget might be an effective tool in reducing or getting rid of the Democratic Party’s politicization of our national bureaucracy.

                  The CIA and other security agencies need to be kept far away from secret deals with Silicon Valley billionaires and other similarly powerful economic interests that can come up with brilliant ways to make money while screwing up our economy, national security, the Internet, and world.

                  The CIA has also lost credibility because it cannot be trusted to keep secure its own most sensitive secrets or proactively protect Americans and American businesses from national and international cyber criminals, spies from everywhere, organized crime gangs, terrorists, other nefarious schemers, and our incredibly short-sighted and highly politically partisan most recent former President who apparently believes nasty folks should have easy and close access to all Americans.

                  Build and carefully patrol the wall.

                  Historians and other curious folks will perhaps eventually explore all the long and short term unpleasant consequences of our politically partisan recent President’s choices and his support of sanctuary cities, the CIA’s promotion of commercial software with numerous illegal backdoor access options, and diverse drone strikes against both known and unknown individuals.

                  The previous President’s bloated and poorly managed CIA, and its poorly vetted and managed contractors, leaks badly and is a politicized swamp in need of extensive draining.

                  Time will tell if President Trump will drain and clean up that particularly deep swamp…

        • Maybe NASA would have more money to spend on Lunar missions if Uncle Sam wasn’t so busy spying on everyone…

          “WASHINGTON (AP) — WikiLeaks on Tuesday published thousands of documents purportedly taken from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, a dramatic release that appears to expose intimate details of America’s cyberespionage toolkit.

          It was not immediately clear how WikiLeaks obtained the information, which included more than 8,700 documents and files. The CIA tools, if authentic, could undermine the confidence that consumers have in the safety and security of their computers, mobile devices and even smart TVs.”

          From: ‘WikiLeaks publishes CIA trove alleging wide scale hacking’
          By RAPHAEL SATTER and JACK GILLUM Associated Press March 8, 2017

          “The term ‘deep state,’ which is relatively new to American politics, has been used to describe a permanent military, intelligence and law-enforcement bureaucracy manipulating government policies in secret.”

          From: “GOP representative: Trump should ‘purge’ White House” By Gabby Kaufman

          President Trump needs to tame and tightly leash the ugly elephants that are fighting dirty under the carpet.

          ‘Drain the deep state swamp’ and get us to the Moon ASAP!

          • James,
            Remember the Podesta Wikileaks dump that showed the collusion between the Clinton Foundation, The DNC, The State Department and the Media….Then Rubio comes their aid saying the GOP should completely ignore this information because it could just as easily be the GOP Colluding with the same…The Singularity can’t get here quick enough!

    • Tracy the Troll –

      “Suddenly everybody is interested in going to the Moon…Because that is where the Treasure is…”


      And, since the US taxpayer has been directly and indirectly subsidizing SpaceX one way or another right from the beginning of the company, it is time we start to get something really useful in return for our investments.

      “Blue Origin’s New Shepard Team is the winner of Aviation Week’s 60th Annual Space Laureate. New Shepard is only the first step in fulfilling Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos’ vision of using ever larger reusable rockets to send an entire economy into Earth orbit and beyond.”

      From: ‘Bezos: In Future, Heavy Manufacturing Will Take Place in Space’
      Mar 3, 2017 Aviation Week & Space Technology

      “A robotic lunar lander capable of delivering as much as 10,000 lb. of cargo to a permanent outpost on the rim of the Moon’s polar Shackleton Crater could make its first flight by July 2020,”

      From: ‘Blue Origin Developing 10,000-lb. Lunar Polar Lander’
      Mar 3, 2017 Frank Morring, Jr. | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

      Dragon 2/Lunar Landers/etc. formation flying, or docking, with the International Orion for Lunar spaceflights could be a useful risk reduction technique with win-win benefits for everyone.

    • Why are space cadets smiling?

      “Last year, Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its suborbital rocket, the New Shepard, five times within less than a year, flying just past the 62-mile edge of space and then landing vertically on a landing pad at the company’s West Texas facility.”

      And, “That same technology could be used to land the Blue Moon vehicle on the lunar surface, the company said. Its white paper shows what looks like a modified New Shepard rocket, standing on the moon with an American flag, a NASA logo and Blue Origin’s feather symbol.”

      And, “‘Blue Moon is all about cost-effective delivery of mass to the surface of the Moon,’ Bezos wrote. ‘Any credible first lunar settlement will require that capability.'”

      From: “An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon” By Christian Davenport March 2, 2017


      Formation flying, or docked flying, International Orion Lunar missions with a Dragon 2 or “Blue Moon” lander should be doable and useful…

      Let’s make Lunar resource tapping and industrialization the official policy of the Home Planet.

      • “This morning, CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted out two pictures of the finished engine, noting that two more fully assembled BE-4s will be ready soon.”

        And, “Seven BE-4s will be used as the main engines for Blue Origin’s next big rocket — called the New Glenn.”

        And, “The United Launch Alliance (ULA) also plans to use the BE-4 in a new rocket the company is building called the Vulcan.”

        From: ‘Jeff Bezos shows off Blue Origin’s new rocket engine, fully assembled for the first time Say hello to the BE-4’ By Loren Grush March 6, 2017

        It seems like everybody is getting ready to go to the Moon and tap its resources.

        • James,
          I just can’t get that excited yet with Blue Origin because they are operating at the suborbital level…I mean won’t they also have to go through a period of explosion after explosion to get their orbital systems consistently successful?

  6. It would be really nice of Elon were able to focus on the things that people are paying him billions of dollars to do. Spaceflight has just rescheduled the launches of 89 secondary satellites that were supposed to have flown on a Falcon 9 in late 2015 because launch of the main payload has been delayed about two years.

    He keeps adding new missions to the manifest that are very complicated like human lunar missions and Red Dragon. I can’t recall the last time he really mentioned or showed much enthusiasm for Crew Dragon before now. His mind and focus always seems elsewhere, whether it’s deep space missions or this tunneling thing he’s been ruminating on lately.

    Sure, the lunar mission will be done after commercial crew finally gets running. But, now the lunar mission has been (a) announced publicly and (b) given an absurdly optimistic launch date. The thing about Musk is that he tends to hold people to launch dates even long after it’s clear they absolutely can’t be met.

  7. This also helps get folks minds off the ITS tank rupture:

    One of the better comments:
    Looks like it separated right along the seam.

    I am going to interpret this as being a bad result for the test, since it failed in longitudinal stress, rather than hoop stress. A hoop stress failure will typically indicate that the vessel was efficiently designed, since longitudinal stresses are usually lower than hoop stresses. This is applicable to metallic pressure vessels, which is what my experience is in. It is also possible it was intended to fail along the seam, but usually, a good seam/weld will be designed to be a little stronger than the bulk material.

    On the other hand–we saw from Mythbusters last night the raw power of metal and pressure-feds:

    My advice.

    Mr. Musk–give up on ITS. Push UAE for funding–build Sea Dragon in Mobile AL so Shelby can be your friend too.

    We have a shipyard:!1s0x889a4fe695b94537:0xd4f97251e4007a86!2m19!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i20!16m13!1b1!2m2!1m1!1e1!2m2!1m1!1e3!2m2!1m1!1e5!2m2!1m1!1e4!3m1!7e115!4s!5sAustal+shipyard+mobile+-+Google+Search&imagekey=!1e1!2s

    We have steel:

    We have Airbus

    Ofter to put a mosque on Mars as the first building on Mars. Get with Breakthrough Starshot. Have that Russian billionaire do the same with Sevmash and build Sea Dragons instead of Boomers. Forget lasers, just large concentrating lens-with lots of surface area–so as to use the sun’s energy instead of superlasers.

    Forget Texas

    We’re hungry here in Alabama–help us help you

    • Jeff Wright –

      “Mr. Musk–give up on ITS. Push UAE” and the world “for funding–build Sea Dragon in Mobile AL so Shelby can be your friend too.”


      “Forget” Mars and Ceres human missions until we can build big Orion Nuclear pulse powered spaceships on the Moon.

      Big nuke pulse Orion spaceships are good for having a serious deep space Earth defense against NEOs, massive GCR shielded and artificial gravity habs, building colonies everywhere in the Solar System and readjusting the orbits of comets to impact the Moon and the polar regions of Mars to begin the process of creating thick Lunar and Martian atmospheres.


      • build big Orion Nuclear pulse powered spaceships on the Moon

        are you a child? I mean really, are you an 8 year old who just knows how to copy & paste?

        • As “an 8 year old” I was busy building my first rocket.

          In honor of that built from scratch rocket that I successfully launched in the spring of 1961, I’ll “copy & paste” this:

          “China is developing an advanced new spaceship capable of both flying in low-Earth orbit and landing on the moon, according to state media, in another bold step for a space program that equaled the U.S. in number of rocket launches last year.

          The newspaper Science and Technology Daily cited spaceship engineer Zhang Bainian as saying the new craft would be recoverable and have room for multiple astronauts. While no other details were given in the Tuesday report, Zhang raised as a comparison the Orion spacecraft being developed by NASA and the European Space Agency.”

          From: ‘Report: China developing advanced lunar mission spaceship’
          By The Associated Press BEIJING — Mar 9, 2017

          “The Obama administration made two critical errors. It had not consulted with Congress or anyone else when it developed its plans to kill Constellation. The White House also blatantly pulled a bureaucratic dodge that was apparent even to a first-term member of the House from the sticks. To kill a popular program, one studies it to death. Nowhere in the Obama plan was there a commitment to send astronauts anywhere. Clearly, the White House had no intention of doing space exploration. President Obama had expressed an antipathy to American exceptionalism, and nothing speaks to that quality than American astronauts exploring other worlds.”

          From: ‘How Barack Obama ruined NASA space exploration’
          By Mark R. Whittington 03/08/17

      • Yikes! How can it be so? Everyone wants to go to the Moon, even SpaceX!

        “Everyone has set sights on the moon. Last week SpaceX announced plans to launch two paying customers in a Dragon spacecraft around the moon by 2020; NASA is planning to test its Orion spacecraft with a crewed lunar flight; ESA Director General Jan Woerner has laid out a vision of a ‘lunar village’; and China, India and Japan are all eyeing the moon for orbiters and rovers in the coming years. Now Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin wants in on the moon party, too.”

        And, “The Blue Moon spacecraft will be designed to launch on multiple rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, and even SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Blue Origin hopes to achieve first flight of the Blue Moon spacecraft on an outside party’s rocket while it continues to develop the New Glenn heavy lift rocket.”

        From: Blue Origin Teases Cargo Spaceship for a Moon Base By Jay Bennett
        Popular Mechanics March 8, 2017

    • SpaceX might be able to upgrade its ITS launch vehicle for heavy payloads for Lunar missions by adding an SRB or a Sea Launch Dragon based stage under its planned first stage that has 42 Raptor rocket engines and a thrust of 29,000,000 lbs of thrust at sea level and 31,0000,000 lbs of thrust in a vacuum.

      See: ‘ITS launch vehicle’ Wikipedia

      “The Sea Dragon was a 1962 design study for a two-stage sea-launched orbital super heavy-lift launch vehicle.”

      “The first stage was to be powered by a single enormous 80,000,000 pounds-force (360 MN) thrust engine burning RP-1 and LOX (liquid oxygen).”

      From: Sea Dragon (rocket) Wikipedia

      “ATK proposed an advanced SRB nicknamed ‘Dark Knight’. This booster would switch from a steel case to one made of lighter composite material, use a more energetic propellant, and reduce the number of segments from five to four.[44] It would deliver over 20,000 kN (4,500,000 lbf) maximum thrust and weigh 790,000 kg (1,750,000 lb) at ignition. According to ATK, the advanced booster would be 40% less expensive than the Shuttle-derived five-segment SRB.”

      From: Space Launch System Wikipedia

      Note that a cluster of 18 Dark Knights would have 81,000,000 lbs of thrust at launch which is even more than the Sea Dragon.

      Such an 18 Dark Knights clustered super stage might be much simpler than the currently planned ITS first stage with its 42 Raptor rocket engines and might be useful for enabling a wide variety of Lunar and Cislunar missions. If additional thrust is needed, add more Dark Knights.

      It sure would be interesting and fun to see the Interplanetary Spaceship landing lots of cargo and people on the Moon.

      • Or better yet, land the Interplanetary Spaceship directly on top of a built on the Moon Orion Nuclear Pulse Engine System and bolt the two together and voilà we would have a real spaceship capable of fast trips anywhere in our Solar System.

        Yep, we would have to add lots of big bags of Lunar iron pellets to the Interplanetary Spaceship for effective Galactic Cosmic Radiation shielding… but that should be quite doable.

  8. “Now that Trump is in office, Bigelow says the new administration is moving forward with a realistic space exploration plan that focuses on the Moon, rather than Mars.”

    And, “‘Finally, we have someone practically engaged in the conversation here,’ he said Friday, during an interview with Ars. ‘The prior administration excluded the Moon, but that was really unrealistic. With Mars, there are issues with cost, and more. The Moon offers by far the most practical target in the near term, and of course the Moon has a far superior business case at the current time than asteroids or Mars.'”

    From: ‘The Trump administration has unleashed a lunar gold rush’ By Eric Berger 3/4/2017

    Yikes! The “prior administration” was “unrealistic”. What a nice way to say the highly politically partisan prior administration actively promoted a nonscientific ‘lost in space’ policy for NASA’s future human spaceflight missions and completely ignored “a far superior business case” in a foolish attempt to spend NASA’s budget on its political friends.

    OK. Politeness is good. Three cheers for polite businessman Robert Bigelow!

    It would also be polite, fair, and good for dissimilar launcher redundancy for NASA, the Air Force, and NRO to encourage the return of ‘The Stick’ and thus gain a far less complex and perhaps a more reliable and much faster ‘fast response’ launch competitor for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.


    “Orbital ATK, CRS-2, and the return of ‘The Stick'” by Jeffrey Smith November 7, 2016

    • “Given all these questions and unknowns, how real is this circumlunar flight? I suggest that as with many other New Space public relations extravaganzas, this ‘mission’ should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Like its big brother NASA and their imaginary ‘Journey to Mars,’ New Space effectively uses the media to shape perceptions. In today’s society, press releases are covered as real accomplishments. You don’t actually have to do anything in space – you simply have to announce that you are going to do it. Increasingly, space has become the realm of the pseudo-event – a space theater reminiscent of P.T. Barnum.”

      From: ‘A Commercial Human Flight to the Moon?’ By Paul Spudis March 1, 2017

      “The idea is to begin preparing now for a future in which the material trapped in the Sun’s vicinity is available for incorporation into our way of life.

      Given the expense of climbing out of Earth’s gravity well, the natural course of space development begins with objects trapped in Earth orbit, including the Moon, followed by objects trapped in solar orbits near the Earth’s, and then extending opportunistically to other destinations.”

      From: Speech by OSTP Director John Marburger to the 44th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium
      Status Report From: Office of Science and Technology Policy March 20, 2006

      Humans are going to the Moon to tap its many resources, and that is the real deal that even SpaceX, one way or another, is beginning to publicly embrace.

  9. As to the critically large and ever increasing diplomatic value of International Orion and SLS system flights with Russian Landers to the Moon, it is useful to understand exactly where we are now in our deteriorating relationship.

    “The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal.”

    And, “The combination of this lack of Russian situational awareness, dangerously short warning times, high-readiness alert postures, and the increasing US strike capacity has created a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation.

    When viewed in the alarming context of deteriorating political relations between Russia and the West, and the threats and counter-threats that are now becoming the norm for both sides in this evolving standoff, it may well be that the danger of an accident leading to nuclear war is as high now as it was in periods of peak crisis during the Cold War.”

    From: ‘How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze’
    By M. Kristensen,Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol March 1, 2017

  10. “Between the spring of 1969 and the fall of 1970, the Paine-Keldysh correspondence had set the stage for serious discussions on developing compatible equipment and flight procedures. Tom Paine thought that cooperation in space was an important and timely idea and pushed for talks in furtherance of that goal – and he got them. Paine’s success with the Soviet officials was vastly different from the experiences that had spanned the preceding twelve years.”

    From: ‘SP-4209 The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Chapter 4
    Mission to Moscow’ By Edward Clinton Ezell and Linda Neuman Ezell

    Perhaps the opportunities of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean participation in a Soyuz ISS or a Shenzhou, or Dragon 2, mission to China’s upcoming new space station and an EM-2 International Orion-Soyuz or Orion-Dragon 2 spacecraft mission around the Moon could also play useful roles in beginning the normalization of relations between the America and North Korea and inviting that nation’s participation in developing the Moon and Cislunar Space.

    North Korean rockets could make money launching commercial satellites.

    ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Blue Origin could offer to land lots of North Korean robotic rovers on the Moon and conduct joint resource exploration missions.

    Yep, exploring and industrializing the Moon and accelerating the development of Cislunar Space offers lots of useful win-win options for everyone.

    Note: ‘North Korea’s Strategic Threat’

  11. American/North Korean/International Dragon 2, Soyuz, Shenzhou, and CST-100 missions to China’s space station and ISS might be a lot easier to do soon than would be the case for joint Orion/Dragon 2, Orion/CST-100, Orion/Soyuz, and Orion/Shenzhou missions around the Moon.

    “China is building a rival to the International Space Station (ISS) and plans on sharing its accomplishment with fellow UN member states. They hope to help developing countries kick-start their space programs.

    The project, estimated to be operational around 2022, was presented by Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), at the United Nations’ 59th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Affairs (COPUOS) in Vienna last week.”

    From: ‘China future space station up for sharing with other countries’ June 22, 2016

  12. Hell Ben,

    Late to this discussion, but a niggle on Apollo 8:

    “However, this situation came about principally in response to CIA reports that the Soviet Union was close to achieving its own piloted circumlunar mission and must be seen in the political context of its time.”

    To date, however, the principals at NASA responsible for the Apollo 8 decision have denied that progress with the Soviet Zond program had anything to do with the decision to make Apollo 8 a lunar orbit flight. The only evidence available for such a claim has come from the Apollo 8 crew himself, based on Borman’s testimony recounting his initial meeting with Deke Slayton.

    Dwayne Day at The Space Review has spent years trying to track down more proof to substantiate Borman’s claim, but to date has come up with very little. As he noted last spring:

    “Up to now, the only evidence that intelligence information about the Soviets sending astronauts around the Moon prompted NASA to take the risky move and send Apollo 8 there first were claims made by the Apollo 8 crew. Extensive reviews of NASA records did not support this claim. In fact, there is considerable evidence that NASA officials made the decision primarily because the Lunar Module for the flight would not be ready and there was little point to flying Apollo 8 on any other mission—sending it around the Moon was bold, but it was also logical.” (Link: )

    Of course, it cannot be completely ruled out. But I think that adverting to such a motivation has to be qualified by the state of the evidence, which almost comprehensively points to the delays of the readiness in the LM, and the 1970 deadline for a landing – rather than the risk of a Soviet circumlunar flight by early 1969.

Vandenberg Atlas-V Lofts NRO-79 Ocean Surveillance Satellites

‘Certainly Not Supposed to Happen’: Remembering the Trailblazing Mission of Apollo 9 (Part 1)