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Science-Technology
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Title: What the SpaceX Success Means for the Moon, Mars, and More
Source: Weekly Standard
URL Source: http://www.weeklystandard.com/what- ... -mars-and-more/article/2011632
Published: Feb 16, 2018
Author: Robert Zubrin
Post Date: 2018-02-17 04:07:23 by Tooconservative
Keywords: None
Views: 128
Comments: 11

On February 6, 2018, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy took flight, demonstrating a capacity to lift 60 tons to low Earth orbit while playfully sending a Tesla Roadster on a trajectory that will take it beyond the orbit of Mars. To add to the coup, two of the Falcon’s three booster stages flew back to land gracefully together at the Cape, while the third barely missed pulling off a recovery landing on a drone ship stationed downrange.

Elon Musk, my favorite African-American.

To understand how extraordinary this accomplishment was, let us recall that in 2009, the Obama administration’s blue-ribbon review committee headed former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine declared that NASA's Moon program had to be cancelled, because the development of the necessary heavy lift booster would take 12 years and 36 billion dollars.

SpaceX has now done that, in half the time and at a thirtieth of the cost. And, to cap it all, the launch vehicle is three quarters reusable.

This is a revolution. The naysayers have been completely refuted.

The Moon is now within reach. Mars is now within reach.

Some may object that the Falcon Heavy, while delivering double to triple the payload to orbit of the competing Delta and Atlas launch systems at one-sixth the per-kilogram price, is still inadequate to support human missions to the Moon or Mars. They are mistaken. While the Falcon’s 60-ton lift capability is only half that of the Saturn V we used to send astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s, it is enough. A rocket that can lift 60 tons to orbit can deliver payloads of 12 tons to the lunar surface, which is sufficient to build a Moon base in modular fashion. If it were up to me, I would send a habitat module and a large solar power system to a highland near the Moon’s South Pole where they would always be in sunlight. From there, the station could beam power for over 100 kilometers, allowing astronauts to access deposits of ice captured in nearby permanently-shadowed craters. The water obtained could be electrolyzed to make rocket propellant, providing astronauts with the means to visit most of the Moon using hydrogen/oxygen rocket-propelled flight vehicles for transportation.

Small human Mars exploration missions with two-person crews could be mounted using three Falcon Heavy launches per mission. Two of these would be used to send an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) to Mars orbit and an ascent vehicle to the surface. The ascent vehicle would make its methane/oxygen propellant out of Mars atmospheric CO2 and permafrost using well-understood chemistry. Once this is done, the third Falcon would be used to send the crew to Mars in their hab module. The crew would land near the ascent vehicle, using their flight hab as their base for a year and a half, after which they would ascend to rendezvous with the ERV that would take them home.

This is just the beginning. SpaceX is developing the means to allow them to refuel the booster second stage after it reaches orbit. Once this technology is in hand, the Falcon’s payload to the Moon or Mars will triple, giving it a capability one and a half times greater than the Saturn V. With such a system, the entire inner solar system will be wide open to exploration and development.

The possibilities abound. A reusable rocket system that can send 60 tons to orbit can also send 60 tons from New York to Sydney in less than an hour. For comparison, a Boeing 737 has an empty weight of 45 tons. If the Falcon Heavy or a successor two-stage launch system can be made fully reusable, then an entirely new market for space launch can be created, one involving not 100 or so launches per year, as is currently the case, but hundreds per day. Such a market would drive a radical cheapening of space technology, finally making possible all the dreams of space tourism, industrialization, and colonization that have been within view but out of reach since the dawn of the space age.

But what was shown last Tuesday was not merely the power of the Falcon Heavy, as useful and important as that might be. What was shown was the power of human creativity and entrepreneurial initiative. They said it couldn’t be done. SpaceX has shown that it could. Others will now enter the game.

The moment is at hand to open the space frontier. America should seize the time.

Dr. Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society (www.marssociety.org). An updated edition of his book, The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must was recently published by The Free Press.


Poster Comment:

If nothing else, it's a good excuse to post some space pron.

(7 images)

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#1. To: Tooconservative (#0) (Edited)

Please let us have some perspective here, there are problems to solve that arn't just getting off the Earth and whizzing around the Solar system at the giddy speed of 50,000 km/hr, it that were possible. Radiation is a very big problem, low gravity is a very big problem, vulnerability of the space craft to such things as mass solar emissions, debris, asteroids of various size, cometry debris, not to mention habitation for any period in vacuum or near vacuum. A recent film called Mars demonstrated effectively what might happen if the second landing was even a little off, and the recent launch demonstrated effectively how easy it is the miss the intended target

paraclete  posted on  2018-02-17   7:52:11 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: paraclete (#1)

vulnerability of the space craft to such things as mass solar emissions, debris, asteroids of various size, cometry debris,

Not a problem. We can just spend several trillion dollars on a yellow ribbon from earth to where ever we are going and each object can stay on the correct side of the ribbon. Usually this works on earth.

I do not go to church every time the doors are opened, but I love Jesus Christ. I am only human and fail Him daily. I believe Jesus is the Son of God, was born of a virgin, was crucified on a cross, died for my sins and rose from the dead and that He loves us dearly, and is faithful to forgive us of our sins. But He says that if you deny me in front of your friends I will deny you in front of my Father. Can I get an Amen!

U don't know me  posted on  2018-02-17   8:53:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative (#0)

If it were up to me, I would send a habitat module and a large solar power system to a highland near the Moon’s South Pole where they would always be in sunlight.

If it were up to me, I would send a habitat module and a compact nuclear power plant to anywhere on the Moon I wanted. Go where the water is, not the Sun.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-02-17   10:02:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: misterwhite (#3)

Go where the water is, not the Sun.

I think they'll go solar. A big enough nuke plant would cost more than solar.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-17   14:40:19 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: U don't know me (#2)

We can just spend several trillion dollars on a yellow ribbon from earth to where ever we are going

so you recommend following the yellow brick road, Dorothy. That's appropriate, since these plans are as much a fair tale as the Wizard of Oz

paraclete  posted on  2018-02-17   17:16:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: Tooconservative (#0)

That photo of a Tesla roadster with what looks like an astronaut driving it off into the solar system HAS to be the coolest thing I have ever seen.

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-17   20:02:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: sneakypete (#6)

Great cross-promotion. Elon's big rocket launching Elon's own sports car, both of which were built by him.

He's got kind of an ego on him.     : )

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-17   23:29:20 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: Tooconservative (#7)

Great cross-promotion. Elon's big rocket launching Elon's own sports car, both of which were built by him.

He's got kind of an ego on him. : )

Yeah,but that's what has got him to where he is now.

Besides being the coolest wall poster in history,it has to be the most brilliant piece of advertising in history. After all,what's it going to take to top that?

BTW,from what little I have read about the guy,he's not someone I would like to be friends with,but you have to admire his drive.

I will admit I like him more now that he has rubbed NASA's PC nose in their own Martian dirt,though. So much for "It can't be done unless you give us hundreds of billions of dollars,and even then it would take until after we are all retired for it to be tested and approved!"

I am also impressed by launching the rockets and having 2 out of three of them land vertical at their launch sites. How can anyone NOT be impressed with that?

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-18   5:58:07 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: Tooconservative (#4)

I think they'll go solar. A big enough nuke plant would cost more than solar.

If the purpose of a lunar mission is to stage the way to Mars, they'd better start practicing with nuclear.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-02-18   10:09:01 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#10. To: Tooconservative (#0)

The possibilities abound. A reusable rocket system that can send 60 tons to orbit can also send 60 tons from New York to Sydney in less than an hour. For comparison, a Boeing 737 has an empty weight of 45 tons. If the Falcon Heavy or a successor two-stage launch system can be made fully reusable, then an entirely new market for space launch can be created, one involving not 100 or so launches per year, as is currently the case, but hundreds per day. Such a market would drive a radical cheapening of space technology, finally making possible all the dreams of space tourism, industrialization, and colonization that have been within view but out of reach since the dawn of the space age.

Indeed --- the possibilities abound. Once the moon is established as a base, the asteroid belt, with its unlimited riches, will be open to capitalist entrepreneurs.

The possibilities abound. --- As long as we keep govt OUT of the space race...

tpaine  posted on  2018-02-19   19:16:04 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#11. To: U don't know me (#2)

We can just spend several trillion dollars on a yellow ribbon

and tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, but stay on the bus because you won't be stopping at Mars

paraclete  posted on  2018-02-20   18:41:44 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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