Space Exploration Alliance Blitz 2015

Register Here

[br]The Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) will be holding its annual grassroots visit to Congress, known as the “Legislative Blitz”, in Washington, D.C. from Sunday, February 22 to Tuesday, February 24, 2015. With unprecedented budgetary pressures facing the legislative and executive branches of government, it is uncertain which path our nation’s leaders will take with respect to our nation’s space program. More than ever before, it is absolutely critical that the voices of the space advocacy community be heard in this debate. Come join space advocates from around the country to let Congress know that there is strong constituent support for an ambitious space program. [br]
The Space Exploration Alliance is a collaboration of leading non-profit organizations that advocate for the exploration and development of outer space, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Explore Mars, Inc., Federation of Galaxy Explorers, Moon Society, Mars Society, National Society of Black Engineers, National Space Society, The Planetary Society, Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation, and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
(Please note that registration for this event closes on February 1, 2015. Due to scheduling requirements, we regret that we will be unable to accommodate any requests to register after that date.)

For more information, please contact Rick Zucker at [email protected]


Explore Mars: Timidity in a nation is no way to thrive

By Chris Carberry

Special to the Mercury News

POSTED:   09/03/2013 11:13:46 AM PDT

I’m reminded of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt in which he said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

At the time, this reflected the boldness and the daring of the nation. Sadly, our nation currently seems to exist more in that gray twilight than as a nation willing to dare mighty things. When did we become so timid? When did we stop taking risks?

Risk-taking has been a defining characteristic of American culture, but in recent decades our willingness to accept risk has diminished dramatically.

This is particularly noticeable in our government-sponsored space program. The United States has not voyaged beyond low Earth orbit since 1972, when we stopped going to the moon. There are many reasons for this, including changing political motivations and budgetary concerns, but our unwillingness to accept a reasonable level of risk has stymied efforts to start an ambitious program that would lead to Mars — despite the fact that accepting this risk would almost certainly produce dramatic rewards for our nation.

Space exploration, specifically the Apollo program, has been a massive enabler for the technological advances and space-related technology that have seamlessly permeated our lives. Some of the greatest assets that came from Apollo were the many people inspired by that mission. Many of the greatest innovators in Silicon Valley consider themselves “children of Apollo.” In addition to the massive impact that space technology has had on the computer and communications revolution of the past few decades, these individuals — the intellectual capital of space exploration — transformed the world and continue to do so because they were inspired by Apollo.

If you speak to science teachers around the country, they will tell you that space is still one of the most effective topics to get kids excited about science and mathematics.

The space program was not developed primarily to be a diplomatic tool, but it has been one of the best ambassadors of American culture and technological prowess. No matter what the prevailing views of American policy are, people throughout the world still look at NASA with admiration. They often develop an emotional ownership of NASA that no other national space program can rival. The United States remains the leader of the International Space Station partnership, and our international partners want us to lead international missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Psychology and national morale are often dismissed as legitimate rationales to invest in the space program, but they shouldn’t be. One of the greatest drivers of our economy is based on our national psychology: our national morale. We have convinced ourselves that we are in decline and that we can’t do great missions anymore. America used to represent a world of limitless possibilities. Now we represent a world of limitless excuses. This does not need to be the case.

We are hungry to be shown that our country is still capable of great achievements. Our political, bureaucratic, and budgetary quagmire has become so complicated that a human mission to Mars may actually be one of the easiest and most affordable options to pull us out of our doldrums. It is time for us to “dare mighty things” once again. Undoubtedly, sending humans to Mars by the early 2030s would be one of the most “glorious triumphs” that humanity ever achieved.

Chris Carberry is executive director and co-founder of Explore Mars. He wrote this for this newspaper.

One Year of Curiosity – Are We Any Closer to Sending Humans to Mars?

Chris Carberry

Executive Director and co-founder, Explore Mars

Posted: 08/05/2013 3:16 pm

One year ago, the world watched as the Curiosity rover was lowered to the Martian surface in one of the most spectacular engineering feats ever attempted. People assembled for special landing parties all around the globe; hundreds of people gathered after 1:00 a.m. in Times Square in New York to view the coverage of the landing on the jumbotron; and millions more viewed online. Since then, Curiosity has been sending back amazing data – providing solid evidence that Mars was once had suitable conditions to sustain life as well as providing amazing images with unprecedented resolution – and the mission has really only just begun.

Curiosity reminded us what we can be and what we can achieve as a nation. No other nation currently has the capacity to match that technological achievement. The public outpouring of excitement and support was clear and reenergized the question – When will we be sending humans to Mars? The public is hungry for a mission like this. Earlier this year, a scientific national public opinion poll was commissioned by Explore Mars, Inc., The Boeing Co., and Phillips and Co. that showed overwhelming support for human missions to Mars. Indeed, it showed that seventy one percent (71%) of Americans believe that we will land on Mars by 2033. From a technological perspective, this is an achievable goal, but budgetary obstacles and governmental indecision are preventing any major progress toward this goal.

Nobody can argue that we have significant budgetary challenges. Sequestration has impacted every federal agency. Despite this, we need to find a way to adequately invest in programs that can stimulate innovation, technology, and science. At less than half of one percent of the federal budget, NASA is not a major contributor to our budgetary woes, but it has a tremendous capacity to stimulate our economic growth. We’re not even coming close to utilizing this potential. We’re just shrinking NASA. No positive argument can be made for starving NASA to the point where it is unable to get anything done. That is certainly not a responsible way to utilize taxpayer funds. NASA is supposed to push the envelope of exploration and technology. It is not supposed to be merely a jobs program. We will waste some of the most talented people in the world as well as the potential for that agency to stimulate innovation, inspiration, and discovery – all of which are vital to American competitiveness.

However, if we want to send humans to Mars by the early 2030s, we can’t do it with the model that we used for reaching the Moon. We will need more efficient ways of moving forward and to design architectures that can be accomplished with the assumption that NASA will receive flat funding for the foreseeable future. Partnerships with industry/commercial entities and well as international partnerships are essential – and in fact, there are a number of mission architecture plans designed by major players in the space community that could get us to Mars in the next couple of decades within a challenging budgetary environment, but that message doesn’t seem to be getting through.

We are wasting the talent and passion at NASA and the broader space community. Our aerospace engineers and planetary scientists desperately want to send crews to Mars. Our international partners want us to lead an international mission to Mars. While our elected representatives can’t agree on a strategy for getting us there, they now seem to agree that Mars should be the primary goal. And, the American people are strongly in favor human missions to Mars. Rather than making constant excuses for why we can’t go, we need to collectively quote President Obama and say, “Yes we can!” and begin to plan one of the most significant programs in human history.

Chris Carberry is Executive Director of Explore Mars, Inc.


The above article was published in the Huffington Post of August 5, 2013

Why Space Architecture Matters If You Want to Go to Mars

R. Joseph Cassady

Member of the Board, ExploreMars; Executive Director, Advanced Programs Engineering at Aerojet – Rocketdyne[br]

Posted: 07/26/2013 1:05 pm[br][br]

Mars is a destination that seems inevitable for human exploration. We have seen a number of intriguing signs from our series of robotic probes that Mars was once a very different world than it is today. Still, even cold and dry though it now is, it remains a place where humans can go and exist with only some help from life support systems. However, the sheer distances involved, coupled with the combination of moderately strong gravity and a very thin atmosphere make Mars a challenging place to get to. That is why the mission architecture selected does matter.[br]

To understand this idea better, consider this analogy. Suppose you want to go on a vacation trip to a distant place on Earth, let’s say…Bora-Bora. There are a number of different ways you can go, depending on what matters most. If you want to get there really fast, you could pay a Russian fighter pilot to fly you there in a MiG, but you are going to have to pack really light. Just a toothbrush and a bathing suit and maybe one pair of sandals plus what you are wearing. If you want to have a few more wardrobe options and maybe some additional haircare items, sunscreen, and snacks from home that you just can’t live without, you’re out of luck on the fighter jet! In that case, you still can take a scheduled airline flight. Checked bags will cost you plenty, but you can pack enough stuff to get by reasonably well for several days to several weeks. Of course, it takes a bit longer to get there. Instead of hours it might take you a good day before you can sink your toes in the sand and relax with that Mai-Tai.

Now consider if you really had to take everything you needed with you, like your food and something to cook it on, water to drink, a scooter to get around on, etc – in addition to your clothes and toiletries – well you’re gonna need a bigger boat. Probably a tramp steamer is your best bet. The problem with this is it will take several weeks before you reach your vacation paradise. Given that we live in the age of instant gratification, nobody really wants to wait that long to get there. So you are more likely to try a different solution. You’ll crate up your stuff, your food, and big tanks of water and you’ll send it on its way a month ahead. You can pack oodles of stuff that way and it is (relative to the airlines baggage fees) cheap to get it there on the boat. Meanwhile, you cool your heels for a couple of weeks, load MP3s and movies onto your tablet, and book a flight that gets you (and a few personal items that you can’t be without) there within a day.

Now, of course, Mars is much, much further away than Bora-Bora. And we definitely need to take everything that we are going to need (including air to breathe by the way) with us. That adds up to a whole lot of stuff. Stuff like rovers and tools and extra spacesuits. Water and air and underwear. It all has one thing in common – mass. Well, mass and volume, but for this discussion we care about mass. And that’s because it all starts out right here on the surface of the good old planet Earth. Earth has gravity and gravity wants to make it difficult for all that mass to leave the planet. That means we need to build big rockets. But even with those big rockets, it still takes a lot of extra push to get from the Earth to Mars. Robert Heinlein, the excellent science fiction writer, was reputed to have once said, “get your ship into low Earth orbit and you are halfway to anywhere in the solar system.” It seems that lots of people believe in this truism. It turns out that lots of people are wrong.

Even for the ubiquitous GEO comsats that circle the globe today, half of the mass that gets lifted into Earth orbit is propellant that has to be used to raise the satellite to its final orbit. Make your destination the moon and you need even more propellant. The mighty Saturn V weighed 6.5 million pounds at liftoff. 99,270 pounds of this reached the moon. Even that was partly propellant because you still have to get off the moon and back to Earth. Therefore, the actual mass fraction of useful stuff to propellant you need just to get there is something like 1.5%. For Mars, it is even less because it takes more propellant to get there and back. When you consider it costs about $10,000 for every pound lifted to orbit that makes it expensive. Kinda like those airline baggage fees.

So coming back to the Bora-Bora vacation analogy, it is clear that something like the slow boat for all the supplies coupled with a (relatively speaking) speedy vehicle for the crew is the right way to go. NASA is looking carefully at this now. Technologies such as advanced solar power and electric propulsion are maturing rapidly and provide a very good way to send the majority of the cargo to destinations beyond LEO with high efficiency. By using this approach, a whole lot of propellant mass can be saved. And that propellant mass costs just as much to launch as the useful mass does.

So that ties back to the real reason that how we go to Mars matters. Careful selection of an architecture — with the recognition that in-space propulsion has a significant impact on the mission cost — can easily reduce the cost by a factor of two or more. And that gets down to the real reason architecture matters. We won’t go to Mars until we can get the cost estimates down to where the accountants with the green eyeshades in places like the Office of Management and Budget don’t faint when they see them. We need an affordable plan. An architecture that considers separate crew and cargo transportation, launch and in-space transportation, and the potential for using resources that can be found on Mars such as carbon dioxide and water not only saves money, it also sets up a long-term logistics pipeline that makes future missions easier. And that is good because if we choose to go, we need to go to stay.

Mr. Cassady is a Member of the Board of ExploreMars. His day job is Executive Director, Advanced Programs Engineering at Aerojet — Rocketdyne. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer.


The above article was published in the Huffington Post of July 26, 2013.

Why We Can’t Send Humans to Mars Yet (And How We’ll Fix That)

6:30 AM
Image: A human spacecraft and supplies in orbit around Mars. NASA/John Frassanito and Associates