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Mars Exploration

Posted by: beancounter - Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:45 am
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Mars Exploration 
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Space Walker
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Post Mars Exploration   Posted on: Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:45 am
Hi all,
I've just finished reading Steve Squyres book 'Roving Mars, Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet'. This is the first book that I've read that provides some insight into the process used by NASA to identify and fund exploration projects and I've got to say that it just blew me away. Mind you, I'm sure there are others (please don't tell me about them as I'll end up blowing my library budget completely :lol: ).
I think one of the major points that comes through is that if you want to get any hardware in space, you have to be pretty fanatical and obsessive about it otherwise forget it.
I also found the descriptions of the different testing and acceptance processes facinating and above all the importance of what Steve calls 'margin' which can be built into budgets, hardware design, testing, and so on. He made the point that even now, after such a successful mission that's still going, there are a number of people who wont talk about any 'margin' that they may have been involved in :!: :!:
In addition, it's clear that although there were thorough efforts to eliminate various types of risk from the project, in the end, there had to be a certain acceptance that a level of risk was necessary otherwise you may as well stay on Earth.

Actually, in thinking back over the read, it's interesting that Steve has PI'd one of the most successful robotic expeditions ever mounted and yet he makes the point that a man could do in 5 minutes what it took one of his rovers to do in several 'Sols' or Martian days and that he can't wait until humans are there walking in the rover's tracks (not a quote as I can't remember the exact wording but it's along those lines). I've noticed that there appears to be a pretty clear distinction between those who believe that exploration should only be done by robots as opposed to those who think that human beings need to get out there and explore. Maybe this is just the way the media writes these things up. After all, a good stoush makes for a better story :!:

Anyway, I reckon it's a great read and well worth the effort.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 26, 2005 5:00 pm
Did he make any comments about how the limitations of Delta II had his hands tied?


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Post    Posted on: Thu Oct 27, 2005 1:56 am
Hi Plub',
No he didn't mention that at all. The major constraints identified in the project were budget cost and the payload weight. Payload weight had to do with the landing system ie. parachutes in terms of the space available to pack them into the lander and airbags capacity ie. initial impact and then abrasion resistance ie. when rolling across the terrain hence the need for a flat landing site. Now I guess that the weight and packing capacity constraints possibly are to do with the launch vehicle but he didn't specifically mention or even allude to this. He actually seemed quite taken with the Delta II as a vehicle but then he was concerned with the MER's and whether he could actually get them ready in time for the launch window. They actually had more problems with the MER's scientific payload than with the launch vehicle.
That said, one launch went off without a hitch however :lol: the second launch ran into problems that nearly derailed it entirely. You'd never guess but it was a cork delamination problem. The factory screwed up and improperly applied the cork that is used on the outside of the Delta as an insulator. Doesn't that sound familiar :shock: In the end, after scraping sections off and reglueing it a couple of times they flew without actually knowing whether the stuff would stick or not. The other incident was a sticky valve that occurred at T-4 minutes. They cycled the valve about 8 times and as it worked properly then they launched 30 minutes later than scheduled. Pretty close as apparently they could have scrubbed it entirely.

As I said, it's a good enjoyable read and there's actually quite a bit of technical stuff in there as well. About the only downside is that the book's only available over here in hardcover and pretty pricey $A56 or about $US42 at current exchange rates

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Post    Posted on: Thu Oct 27, 2005 6:29 pm
Well, the weight constraints were forced upon them by the Delta II. MRO was able to hold more fuel due to the Atlas.

I think his talk about "margin" was just a disguised way of saying "give us bigger launch vehicles" without alienating his heavy-lift bashing pals at JPL.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:37 pm
I think it could be safely said that ALL planetary exploration scientists dislike thier boosters. Ironic as it may be, it is true. I had the privilege once of attending a lecture given by the director of the Galileo mission, and he made several references to science which he was not able to do because of the restrictions of the launch vehicle, in that case STS... he actually expressed a preference for Atlas, if I remember correctly.

Given thier 'druthers, I expect most robotic mission guys would want to build thier 'bots and then design the booster around it, but they are also smart enough to know no sane rocket engineer would agree to it. But its just like anything else in government; you must always protect your own territory. The folks at JPL aren't opposed to Heavy Lift in concept, they just don't want to lose any more money to other programs, regardless of what those programs may be. Heavy Lift is simply the shiny object du jour.

Honestly, publi, you're starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist!


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:45 pm
It is not as if no larger rockets were available. I am sure cost was the main reason for using the Delta II and not something larger, like a Delta III or whatever.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:39 pm
SawSS1Jun21 wrote:
I think it could be safely said that ALL planetary exploration scientists dislike thier boosters. Ironic as it may be, it is true. I had the privilege once of attending a lecture given by the director of the Galileo mission, and he made several references to science which he was not able to do because of the restrictions of the launch vehicle, in that case STS... he actually expressed a preference for Atlas, if I remember correctly.

Given thier 'druthers, I expect most robotic mission guys would want to build thier 'bots and then design the booster around it, but they are also smart enough to know no sane rocket engineer would agree to it. But its just like anything else in government; you must always protect your own territory. The folks at JPL aren't opposed to Heavy Lift in concept, they just don't want to lose any more money to other programs, regardless of what those programs may be. Heavy Lift is simply the shiny object du jour.

Honestly, publi, you're starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist!


No, they just need to understand that rockets need to come first for a change. We have had all kinds of payloads, but the EELV was the last series of rockets made since how long? They may not like Griffin, now, but if we can get HLLV built--JPL will darn sure find payloads for it.

Like a REAL solar sail.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:49 pm
publiusr wrote:
Like a REAL solar sail.


Yeah, baby! Something about 300 KM on a side, attached to a 3-module habitat (what, about five times larger than ISS?) complete with full carbon, oxygen, and water cycles. A NERVA cluster to place it in the original interplanetary trajectory, and the sail to make course adjustments as it makes scores of trips between the orbits of Mars and Earth. Docking collars for six or eight CEV/Klipper class ships... A Mars liner!

Now you can send crews to mars on the CEV launcher, or Falcon IX, or the R-7plus; all you have to do is aquire interplanetary velocity for the body mass of the passengers because all the life-support is already in-transit... the Heavy-Lift enables the use of the smaller craft. Now you can put a base on Mars, instead of a tenuous two-season expedition. Take the time to really develop the in-situ resources, rotate crews of a couple dozen instead of four or five or six...

Ahh, well. Perhaps someday. In the interim, I look forward to the SDHLLV-centered manned interplanetary launch system, and I hope Russia and China and ESA keep pushing so the dopes in Congress have no choice but to keep funding the Space Exploration Initiative because the machines are accurately called probes... only HUMANS can be called explorers


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Post    Posted on: Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:05 pm
"the Heavy-Lift enables the use of the smaller craft. I hope Russia and China and ESA keep pushing so the dopes in Congress have no choice but to keep funding the Space Exploration Initiative because the machines are accurately called probes... only HUMANS can be called explorers"

Well said.


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