Beyond the Cusp

December 12, 2016

How Bad do Americans Want to be First in Space?

 

It has been a while since NASA and space have been much of a news item. With the cancellation of the Space Shuttle, which really did not go into SPACE Space, NASA has kind of fallen by the wayside. President Obama had set the target as Mars, an Asteroid, but definitely not the Moon; as we have “Been there, Done that.” Well, right about now being capable of getting American Astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) using an American rocket of any sort would be a step in the right direction. Many of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering where did this idea stem from. Well, I read that NASA has a plan for a space station, all American this time would be nice, in Moon orbit from which to go Mars, Moon, Asteroids, just about anywhere. They want to use this station to test some theoretical shielding systems which should protect against radiation. Yes, radiation, a real set of shields like real science fiction spaceships have. They want to power the station for correcting the orbit with, wait for it, electronic drive systems. Can you say Ion Drivers? I knew you could. Their plans reach into the 2030’s but I bet Americans do not want the race to place an orbiting station in Moon orbit or a real underground Moon Base to be anywhere near or close to the Chinese who claim they will have a Moon base by the early to mid-2030’s. My bet is knowing that the Chinese, yes, the Chinese building on American and Russian know-how, are screaming at their monitors about now, “What’s the holdup?” Well, the usual, funding.

 

Let’s talk NASA funding. Anybody have an idea on the percentage of the budget NASA used to go to the Moon, assist with building the ISS, the entire Shuttle fleet? Not the actual cost in dollars as that is too relative, the percentage? Was it 10%, 15%, 20%? Too low or too high? Well, believe it or not too high so let’s try under 10%. Was it 8%, 5%, 3%, how low would we need to go? Perhaps we should first figure out what it would be worth for the United States to build a Space Wheel with central hub serving as a dock for building any size ship for any destination desired with the ability to tow Asteroids for the metals, ceramics, gold, silver and any other necessary materials including enough water to power the entire venture and transmit power back to fixed Earth stations from space? All of this with a proper Moon Base with the vast majority of the base safely underground protected from Asteroid and Meteor strikes and the Space Wheel and Moon Base entrances all self-sealing from anything smaller than decent rock size holes and a system of lasers, both pulsed and pulse types for differing requirements which automatically fire to destroy larger or even down to as small as an inch projectiles keeping them from striking the sensitive areas where people can even live. A Space Wheel spinning at the correct speed would give five or six levels of near Earth gravity and the central hub could be used for zero gravity manufacturing which allows for perfect crystals and electronics and electronic miniaturization with precisions not possible on Earth due to gravity of the situation. Any ship build from workers based on the Space Wheel could use smaller grabber craft with ion drivers and a pulse driver to assist in gaining return velocity and stopping for fetching Asteroids for materials and resources which would pay for everything in time and give the Earth needed resources of precious metals and who knows what else would be discovered. It all is a dream but would you be willing to invest 3% or maybe, dare we suggest, 5% of the budget set aside just like military spending for NASA and other space related activities by private enterprises which could be subsidized just like General Electric, Chrysler, General Motors and the Banks but actually accomplishing something. This could be done in style at 5% of budget as NASA has rarely cleared 1% of budget.

 

Space Station Double Wheel from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke 2001 A Space Odyssey

Space Station Double Wheel
from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke
2001 A Space Odyssey

 

You are amazed now, right? Well, there is a reason they always told you how many billions of dollars were “wasted” on NASA and Space things, never going to Mars or propulsion systems for interstellar exploration, or a Moon Base and Space Wheel. No, it was space junk or wasted on space with nothing to show for it. Well, at less than 1% of the budget and often floating around ¾% of the budget, yes, that is 0.75% of the budget, what did you expect, miracles? Well, considering their budget you did get miracles like first men on the Moon, only people to land on the Moon, and with some effort it could be first woman on the Moon, first whatever you choose on the Moon, first Mom to Mars, first family born in space, at 5% of budget we bet NASA could wow the world again. Of course there would be one other item, NASA should be returned to their parent, the Air Force with a General running the show so as to keep things real, just a suggestion as NASA has done some boneheaded things such as crashing a Mars probe because somebody did not transfer the European specifications from meters to feet and thus the speed was grossly underestimated and BOOM! Well, no boom as Mars atmosphere would only transmit a loud clap, yes a series of loud rapid claps as it crashed into Mars way too fast for survival. We all know that many missions NASA had launched were for the Military or the CIA or other even more clandestine agencies so why not quit hiding the link and make it official, the American Military is running the space program and be done with it. Still, 5% or even 3% would seem like they hit the Lottery at NASA and the Military could now put their “black ops space items” onto NASA missions with far less argument, not that NASA ever said no that we know about, nor would we ever know such things or talk about them if we did. Alright, enough with the paranoia and back to Earth or at least Earth bound orbits.

 

Image of NASA Space Vehicle Concept Ship

Image of NASA Space Vehicle Concept Ship

 

The above picture depicts a NASA prototype of the Orion space vehicles. These would sit upon the new heavy lift rocket systems with smaller support more likely contracted out to Space X, Axiom Space, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic or any of the literally dozens of other venture space companies. These other space companies could also place their own experiments or modules onto the Moon Base or Space Wheel as long as they would meet certain specifications as it helps if the seals fit tightly and do not leak because they were made to the wrong size. There could even be an additional wheel with set asides for such projects which required livable requirements with Earth gravity and add on space to the Space Doc built to orbit within workable distance from the Space Wheel central hub unit for anything requiring zero gravity and possibly everything inbetween using the service legs of the wheel. The hardest part, as proven by the landing on the Moon in under a decade starting from more rocket failures at launch with some of the most spectacular and impressive explosions in the early 1960s and the Moon in July 1969, America can do whatever they wish in space if only they commit to do whatever they want in space.

 

There are always those who do not believe that the Human Race must conquer space and claim it is all a waste of money. These people can be vocal while the dreamers are often the quiet sort leaving their noise for cheering launches trying to out shout the deep rumbling grumble of the first stage rocket and boosters. The supporters of active and daring space development programs, despite knowing that the ultimate fruits are not going to materialize in their lifetimes, are committed and hope to make such developments as a driver for interstellar missions become a reality before their grandchildren’s, or to be bolder, children’s lives end. The obvious secret about such grand ventures is that the sooner we, as a people, begin to venture towards these goals, the sooner we will overcome the difficulties we will encounter. NASA has developed a projected mission profile for the initial Orion Mission (see below). Their claim is they may, if all proceeds as well as expected, to have the craft orbit the Moon instead of a single trip around using a free return gravity driven return orbit just in case their craft has problems as they intend for it to return to Earth. All we can say is, “Decent start, now what?”

 

NASA Orion Flight Trajectories Including Lunar Orbits

NASA Orion Flight Trajectories Including Lunar Orbits

 

Now for our dreaming part of this article. We would like to see a spaceport launch facility built in the Negev Desert and for an ambitious Israeli space program built near the 31o Latitude (see map below). While 31o Latitude is somewhat too far north for optimum, but when your country is slightly smaller than New Jersey with largely populated northern half and a more sparsely populated southern desert, then this is perfect for a spaceport launch facility. Israel definitely has more than sufficient technological sophistication for an advanced space program and such a facility would free Israel from dependence upon other nations to launch communications and special satellites and doing so without having to proclaim their launches to the world unless required by treaties. Israel partnering with the United States on certain missions and reserving space on the space wheel for Israeli modules would be one more economical approach and building an Israel space wheel, likely smaller with a higher rotation speed, would be beyond any expectation. Israel having an operating launch facility could also allow other nations to utilize and launch from the spaceport in order to defray costs. Even a partnership with a dependable and consistent ally would be beneficial. Israel reaching into space would also serve to be deterrent to military ventures against Israel especially should Israel launch sufficient spy and mapping satellites as such craft would give early warning capability to Israel allowing early responses which could allay an attack. The secret to forging a well-ordered peaceful planet is the need to control all the high ground, that being space, and that could be something within the reach of Israel. There also exists another reason that Israel should build a spaceport capable of multiple launches in rapid succession possibly as many as six to ten rockets in a single day and perhaps a dozen to a dozen and a half per week and far more than any probable need would arise per month. Such a launch schedule potential would make Israel a preferable launch platform than Europeans or Russians currently possess or are even likely to possess. This capability would make Israel a space center which the developed space-faring world who could come to depend upon Israel thus making Israel even more intertwined with the world and thus having even greater impetus for good relations with all. As we stated, this is our dream space where we fantasize and paint pretty pictures of the future and perhaps also to work to plant a seed, an idea which grows until it has a life of its own. Once that stage is reached more than half the battle has been won. As stated above, the most difficult time is getting the idea accepted and started, once there your dream has a great potential to be realized. Israel in space, almost sounds like a Mel Brooks comedy (see video below map).

 

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

 

 

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September 21, 2016

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Falling Down

 

China has finally confirmed suspicions that their Tiangong-1 Space Station will fall from orbit at some point in 2017. The lack of any specific date, location or other normative information about how, where and why the space station will return to Earth or whether any parts are expected to reach the ground or even where any reentry might occur further reinforces the rumors that there is a problem with the station and the Chinese no longer are controlling its movements. The rumors started when the station was recently decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts were returned home early without any replacements being sent to the station. This had initiated the belief that the Chinese space station was damaged in some way but the fact that they are unsure as to where, when and not controlling how the rather large satellite space station would be reentering the atmosphere and whether the entire station will burn up in the atmosphere does present at least a small threat of landing on land and potential for it striking a populated area. Perhaps it is going to pay, well, at least give some a chance at immortality should they find themselves underneath the falling remnants of the Tiangong-1 Space Station.

 

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

 

The Chinese have been utilizing the Tiangong-1 Space Station for approximately the last five years. The similarities between the United States Skylab and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station are startling. Skylab remained in orbit for six years and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station is predicted to make it approximately five years. Both stations were deserted and left lifeless at the mercy of nature simply waiting for gravity to work its unavoidable result. It remains to be seen if the crash of the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station will strike an inhabited area, the center of one of the Earth’s oceans or what we usually describe as the middle of nowhere. Skylab caused minimal damage falling in one of those middle of nowheres, namely the Australian Outback and the oceans around Australia and northward into the Pacific Ocean. For now we can only guess as to where Tiangong-1 Space Station will come to Earth. One thing which we need to remember is that Skylab was an early space station made from a part of a Saturn-V rocket booster modified with floor platforms built inside (see montage below). Skylab was never planned on being a permanent station and in consideration of costs there were no thrust boosters which had the power to allow for making a planned reentry. There were orientation thrusters which could have reduced the station speed bringing it to earth faster, but that would have probably led to larger pieces reaching the ground. Modern satellites are required to have a reentry system and a plan for bringing it down over water and choosing an angle of entry which will allow for the maximum amount of the orbiter to burn up in the atmosphere. Yes, ending a satellites life is rocket science. What one wonders is why they do not use the Hollywood method for satellite removal and fire the rockets sending the satellite either into the sun or out towards Jupiter or simply out of the solar system. Perhaps the out of the solar system would need to understand the gravity of such a solution while aiming for the sun or Jupiter is using the gravity of the situation.

 

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory on the third and final mission, known as Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory
on the third and final mission, known as
Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the
building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

 

There should not be any great fears as over two thirds of the planet is covered with water and large areas of the land are sparsely populated. For those who live in large cities and have been convinced by the eco-fanatics that there are no open areas left on the Earth may we suggest you search for pictures of the steppes in Russia, anywhere in northern Africa and the Sahara Desert or the great plains of the United States, particularly in Nebraska or any of the numerous rain forests anywhere from Washington state to the Amazon. When the United States lost control of their primitive space station Skylab on July 11, 1979, and the seventy-seven ton orbiter rained down on the Thornton farm and house in the Australian Outback, another place of sparse population; that, it turns out, was very fortunate as there was one large section which did reach the ground largely intact, the station’s oxygen tank as well as there were numerous smaller pieces including a smaller oxygen tank, a set of nitrogen tanks which powered the attitude thrusters, a refrigeration unit, and a structural ring from the outer hatch piece which is labeled “Airlock/Danger.”

 

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

 

Skylab is one of the few NASA satellites which had pieces strike the Earth which they made little effort to claim and collect the debris. There was a $400.00 littering fine assessed by the town of Esperance, Australia submitted to NASA which was never paid; but there was also a $10,000.00 reward to be awarded to the first person to turn in a piece of the satellite at the offices of the San Francisco Examiner provided it was done within seventy-two hours (three days) from the reentry of Skylab which was awarded to seventeen year old Stan Thorton from Esperance. Hopefully the paper made a large deal as they probably doubted anybody in Australia would have heard of the offer, let alone fly to San Francisco to claim the prize. Hopefully Stan had a nice vacation in San Francisco paid for in mid trip by the San Francisco Examiner. Must have been nice and well-played Mr. Thorton.

 

The Russians also has their own space station named Mir. Mir was launched in two stages on February 20, 1986 and April 23, 1996. It finally crashed to the Earth on March 23, 2001. Mir was brought back under a controlled system of three steps using a booster attached to the station. The explanation can be read here. Today we have the International Space Station (ISS) which was a collaborative effort of the European Space Agency, Russia’s Roscosmos, Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (see symbols below). The ISS is presumed to be a long term station expected to serve on into the future and has been slowly added to over the years. How long it remains of use will depend upon planning with a mix of luck as a disastrous collision with any of the following: space debris, meteor, asteroid, comet or other natural space projectile; would be a disaster. The ISS has been an extravagantly expensive project and the cost was the likely reason we did not start building the double wheel luxurious space station like the one seen at the beginning of the movie “2001.” Perhaps some day such a station will be built and it will likely say Sheraton Space Hotel at the docking station. We may as well face it that private monies will be what conquers space and initially only the wealthy will be able to afford space vacations and the rest of us will have to find employment to get into space, and the work will be as dangerous as it will be strenuous. Much of this future will not be happening in most of our lifetimes unless the miracles expected in biology in the coming near term are true and readily accessible to the average person. Otherwise we can only dream of our exciting vacation on one of the moons of Saturn.

 

Space Agencies of the International Space Station Top Row Main Agencies Second Row Member European Agencies

Space Agencies of the International Space Station
Top Row Main Agencies
Second Row Member European Agencies

 

International Space Station

International Space Station

 

The ISS has delivered some exciting discoveries, most intentional and some simple accidents happened upon through the actions of everyday life aboard the station. One example of an inadvertent discovery has been told of when astronaut Donald R. Pettit mixed salt, sugar, and coffee grounds in an inflated plastic bag and the different small pieces clumped rather than simply floating independently proving the theory of accretion as a vital and necessary stage for planetary formation. The discovery resulted from Pettit playing around on a Saturday morning only to have Stanley G. Love, whose training in planetary science involved asteroids and collisions, working spacecraft communications in Mission Control in Houston, Texas, who immediately realized the implications of this simplistic, gee-whiz demonstration. “Don!” Love exclaimed, “Do you realize you’ve just solved the middle stage of planetary accretion?”

 

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May 20, 2014

Beware Russian Revenge and the Space Station

Unfortunately for President Obama, the Russians utilized an actual and effective response to the weak and ineffective sanctions placed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis by the United States. Where President Obama laid sanction freezing accounts and financial dealings on a number of Russian oligarchs who are reputedly close to Russian President Putin, the institutions he placed such sanctions on had little if any dealings and no accounts or holdings of the Russian targets of the economic sanctions. Then the Obama administration announced further sanctions in the form of travel restrictions on Russian government and industry officials including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The Russians responded by placing a freeze on selling RD-180 rocket engines manufactured by NPO Energomash to the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (JLA). Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin went further and appeared to take great glee announcing in addition to the refusal to sell the vitally necessary rocket engines to JLA that additionally Russia simply “doesn’t plan to continue cooperation” with the United States on the International Space Station after 2020 and added a suggestion where he stated, “I propose that the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline.” This likely has set JLA scrambling seeking a new rocket engine provider otherwise they are either out of business or need to immediately set to work on design and development of an in house produced rocket engine. Such an endeavor would be costly, time consuming but also would have the advantage of providing a United States source for the future removing any reliance on outside the border dependence.

 

There will be those who will attempt to blame this entire fiasco on Elon Musk and SpaceX as Mr. Musk testified before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee a few months back in hearings over whether or not to open up bidding to provide launch vehicles for United States military and special satellite and payload launches instead of the current practice of simply holding closed bid allowing only JLA to present bids. The blame game will point to the testimony given by Mr. Musk that there was a serious deficiency and risk taking single source bids and especially from JLA as they were completely dependent on Russian provided rocket engines for their main Atlas V booster and rocket systems. We can definitely expect the Senators from Washington State, home to Boeing, and Maryland, home of Lockheed Martin, to protest the loudest and bring as much scorn as humanly possible, or Senatorially as they are of a special breed apart, on Elon Musk. This will be another instance of the old guard, established with near monopoly control of an industry blaming every hardship and difficulty on the upstart new kid on the block in an effort to vilify them out of contention in a desperate attempt to retain their monopoly and cash cow, which in this case pays them with American tax payer’s money. The American spirit that the small guy has an equal chance to the gold ring and if he plays it straight and fair he is presumably guaranteed an equal access to any government contract. I just love American sloganeering about equality and other such, especially when it pertains to the little guy or start-up companies having equal footing when it comes to competing for government contracts like the government isn’t a fully vested partner with so many of these major and established companies. There will be those with what will be the greatest act of indignation of severe distress and harm caused by this disruptive attempt to disrupt the United States space program which has operated so efficiently and smoothly that any bumps or wrenches in the machinery must be prevented at all costs. Then will come the finger pointing at Elon Musk and SpaceX spouting viscous vindictive invectives impugning his person and his company with special emphasis on how opening up the bidding on launching of military and special satellites and payloads will increase costs, make these launches far more risk susceptible, and threaten secrecy and require added onerous requirements when assembling such satellites and payloads. Then there will be the references to the important history and dependable service of the rockets provided throughout the history of the United States space program and raising questions of the intelligence in rocking the boat at this point. Basically the argument will be to deny that competition might force improvements and added efficiency and eventual greater potential for savings by allowing more competition, after all, it would be un-American to snub the established and longstanding standard efforts of JLA in providing the needs of the space program over the decades since the initial challenge to reach the Moon with an astronaut and return them safely to Earth. We may even get to see President Kennedy’s speech challenging the United States as a nation to go to the moon before the end of the decade.

 

The interesting item which applies to this as inclusively as possible is the warning from President Dwight David Eisenhower who as the commanding General over the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II was more than qualified to have the specific knowledge, stated in his farewell address on January 17, 1961 stating, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” The sole item that President Eisenhower might have gotten wrong is that the symbiotic relationship between the Federal Government and so many of the top established industry leading corporations, financial institutions, information technology companies, automobile manufacturers and companies throughout the full spectrum where government largess and corporate welfare provide so many of these institutions are almost completely dependent on the government for their profits and not solely with the military. As with so many warnings, this warning too went pretty much unheeded until it was too late and the problem had become institutionalized and intrinsically intertwined not only with numerous government agencies and departments but also with the politicians in Congress and the White House. Nowhere is this more true than the space agency both civilian and NASA. Hopefully the American people will demand that these bids to provide launch capabilities be opened to all companies for bids as this was the manner that many of the greatest advancements which made much of human space exploration possible came through completely open application methods where NASA placed a requirement out offering a prize for the person or company which came up with the best and most complete solution. This was essential in the development of much of the spacesuit designs, the Moon buggy and numerous other items which contributed to the race to the Moon’s success. It worked well then and I bet it would work today and some of the sources of the best solutions will be people who simply amaze the world and come out of their garage with the best space glove or whatever is required. Let the competitions begin and let’s be amazed.

 

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