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Commercial Space and Near-Earth Asteroids: . Status Report. The Problem: NASA has spent hundreds of $B without increasing humanity’s access to space .

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Commercial Space and Near-Earth Asteroids:

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the problem nasa has spent hundreds of b without increasing humanity s access to space
The Problem: NASA has spent hundreds of $B without increasing humanity’s access to space
  • NASA’s predecessor agency, NACA, over 40 years helped create the largest aviation industry in the world that was competitive and allowed vastly increased numbers of humans to travel by air, changing the world.
        • 50 years ago, about 2 dozen humans/yr into space;
        • Now, hundreds of billions of dollars later, about 2 dozen humans/yr into space, at vastly increased costs.
obama space policy a major change
Obama Space Policy a major change
  • NASA to help jump start whole new competitive commercial space industries, like NACA did in creating aviation industry, to allow more and more humans to go into space.
  • Declared as policy: Both unmanned cargo (trucking) and human (taxi service) transportation to and from Low-Earth Orbit (ie, ISS, shuttle-type orbits) are to be handed over to new commercial space industries; and government will purchase their services.
  • Leaving NASA free, instead of operating shuttles and other rockets, to concentrate on going where no one has gone before.
  • New Obama focus: near-earth asteroids
  • Increasingly expensive, and failing, Constellation program to return to the moon cancelled – a courageous and correct decision.
  • Obama asked for an increase in NASA’s budget, to go along with his NASA reform agenda.
what is commercial space
What is “Commercial Space”?
  • It is about turning what should be routine space operations, such as travel to and from low-earth orbit, over to the private sector, just like air travel et al is the province of the private sector on Earth.
  • We already have one such industry operating successfully: communications satellites.
  • It is about jump-starting other new, American-led commercial space industries whose services other nations wanting to get into space can purchase; and increase services at lowering costs for everyone.
  • NASA is using innovative partnerships within industry wherein NASA only pays part of the development of these new industries – and only when industry meets agreed-upon success milestones.
  • Key issue: Many in the Old Guard, Big Aerospace community oppose these innovations and want know change; and their lobbying is successfully controlling Congress and scaling back the Obama initiatives – but not cancelling them outright.
  • What commercial space is not:
  • It is not America abandoning human space travel – just the opposite, it is about ever expanding the human presence, including the human economy, into space.
commercial crew creating an american led commercial space transportation industry
“Commercial Crew” – Creating an American-led commercial space transportation industry
  • Starting with ‘space taxi’ service to and from ISS – as well as commercial space stations being built.
  • Several American competitors: SpacEx, Sierra Nevada (mini-space shuttle), Boeing (capsule design)
  • Designers say their vehicles can be expanded to go to moon, Mars, near-earth asteroids.
  • BUT… bucks, no Buck Rodgers:
  • Commercial Crew Program, led by Kennedy Space Center in Florida: “The top risk is inadequate funding -- it is not clear that the budget that is currently available will support commercial crew transport to the (space station) by 2016,” NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
  • Congress, under pressure from Old Aerospace, only proposing to fund 60& of program – or less.
Commercial spaceports are planned – or being built now – from which commercial rockets or spaceplanes can operate
  • Florida – in operation
  • Virginia – in operation (M.A.R.S.- Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport)
  • California – existing (Mojave),

being built (Vandenberg)

  • Alaska – in operation
  • New Mexico – nearing completion,

“SpacePort America”, Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson) etc.

  • Outside U.S.: Curacao; probably Northern Europe
commercial space isn t just about the travelling it s about where you are going to
Commercial space isn’t just about the travelling – it’s about where you are going to
  • Bigelow private space station serviced by Boeing private space taxi:
commercial space what about the moon
Commercial Space: What about the Moon?
  • The Google Lunar X-Prize is offering a total of $30m to the private entity that can: land on the moon, and move around at least 500 m with HD video beamed back.
  • In addition: NASA is now offering to private entities up to an additional $30m to provide data on going to the moon that NASA could use; ie a ‘data purchase”
  • All told: $60m available- right now- to whoever can meet the above criteria
  • NEXT: NASA thinking of offering an additional ‘data purchase’ prize, to any company that can go to the moon and demonstrate production of:
  • Lunar derived oxygen
  • Lunar derived water.
why we should be interested in near earth asteroids
Why we should be interested in near-Earth asteroids….
  • Impacts of NEA’s have happened in the past – including in the 20th century – and will happen in the future.
  • It is NOT a question of “If”, it’s a question of “When…..”
  • Impacts are the only major planetary catastrophe that can be prevented
  • NEAs are the most likely source of resources – water, rocket fuel, oxygen, metals – for expanding humanity and humanity’s economy into space
    • E.g. the smallest known metallic asteroids contain more metal than has been mined on Earth in the entire history of the human race.
what are the three rules for protecting earth from near earth asteroids
What are the Three Rules for Protecting Earth from Near-Earth Asteroids?
  • #1: Find them early.
  • #2: Find them early.
  • Protecting Earth from impacts is possibly the only Earth disaster we can prevent – if we………….
protecting the earth from near earth asteroids
Protecting the Earth from Near-Earth Asteroids
  • Past couple of years generally good news
    • Congressional requirement has been met; ie

90% of ‘the big ones’ (>1 km) have been found.

Meaning: Chances of an ELE – w/o warning – have decreased.

(1998 order by the US Congress to identify 90% of NEOs larger than 1 kilometre across by the end of 2008)

    • in 1950 less than 50 asteroids of all sizes known; today we're discovering 3000/month.

New goal: 2005, Congress asked NASA to extend the search down to objects 140 metres across, which can wreak havoc on smaller regions of the Earth, by 2020.

Other good news:

    • First Earth-orbit satellite is now looking for NEO’s: “NEO-Wise” satellite.
other good news cont d
Other good news , cont’d
  • Additionally, some Earth-based telescopes are being modified to look for NEOs:
    • in Hawaii
    • Also:

We’ve got the first President, ever, who without being prompted told the head of NASA he wanted to take protecting Earth from NEOs more seriously.

other neo news
Other NEO News
  • Congress in 2007 required next Administration to: decide which agency was in charge of finding NEOs; and, decide which agency is in charge of then defending (‘mitigating’) against ‘incomings’.

- Obama Adm. Diddesignate NASA as agency for finding them; but,

- like predecessors, still has not put anyone in charge of ‘mitigating’ incomings when (not if) they are found.

Just as importantly, any decision to protect Earth against an incoming requiresinternational coordination ー which is not in place or agreed upon yet.

other space issues
Other space issues
  • probabilities of space debris collisions "turning against us"; need to start thinking about debris removal