Elon Musk’s Plans for Mars

From CBS This Morning: 2-minute video after 30-second advertisement.

Transcript after about 40 seconds:

“We’ve got to restore American ability to transport astronauts with domestic vehicles, and that’s what we hope to do in about two years.

“The next step beyond that is to maybe send people beyond low Earth orbit to a loop around the Moon, possibly land on the Moon — although I’m not super interested in the Moon personally because obviously we’ve done that and we know we can — but maybe just to prove the capability.

“Then we need to develop a much larger vehicle which would be sort of what I call a large colonial transport system. This would really be — we’re talking about rockets on a scale, a bigger scale than has ever been done before, that make the Apollo Moon rocket look small. And they would have to launch very frequently as well.

“That’s what’s needed in order to send millions of people and millions of tons of cargo to Mars, which is the minimum level to have a self-sustaining civilization on Mars.

“We might be able to complete that [rocket] in about 10 or 12 years, and hopefully the first people we’d send to Mars would be around the middle of the next decade.”

Space Settlements Represent Hope for Humankind

The National Space Society (NSS) offers a comparison of its vision for space settlement to that promoted by many dystopian science fiction movies of today.  NSS has supported the concept of rotating space settlements in orbit or deep space since the epochal publication by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill of his seminal article on space colonies in Physics Today (1974).

Since those days, concepts of democracy and egalitarian societies have been integral to our vision. A goal of NSS is the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization with people living and working in space. We believe in democracy to build and operate space settlements, whether in space, on the Moon, on Mars, or even on planets around other stars.

A large part of the space movement today is founded on improving life on Earth by creating an ability to operate in space. This includes the ability to divert threatening asteroids, detect solar outbursts that could destroy our electrical grid, and build solar power collection/transmission satellites that could produce huge amounts of carbon free energy in space for use on Earth, enriching all of humankind. In fact, an early justification for building space settlements was to house the labor force needed to build the solar power satellites that would provide a global solar power source to all nations, helping to prevent the ecological and economic collapse and chaos depicted in many dystopian movies of today. NSS believes that we are making the future every day and that we want to build a hopeful future.

NSS is happy that space settlements are beginning to appear in popular culture such as the recent motion picture Elysium.  NSS applauds the cinematic skill that resulted in the depiction of the physical appearance and operation of a rotating orbital space settlement. While NSS accepts that a conflict is fairly fundamental to a good story, we would like movie viewers to keep in mind that the tyrannical government depicted in the movie does not represent the path of humans in space envisioned by the NSS and its thousands of members.

Newly Illustrated Versions of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement Now Available

A newly illustrated version of the National Space Society publication Milestones to Space Settlement: An NSS Roadmap is now available in three new formats from nss.org/roadmap:

(1) A free downloadable PDF edition [6 MB]

(2) a free online full-screen flip-book edition

(3) a quality full-color magazine-style printed edition for $9.95 (think Father’s Day?)

Some new and striking art work appears for the first time in these new editions of the NSS Roadmap. Let these artists show you some of the possible paths to space development and settlement. These new editions provide additional ways to read and distribute this material to help promote the NSS Vision.

The NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement discusses milestones to be reached for the settlement of four destinations: the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and orbital space settlements. The Roadmap takes no stand on which may or should come first but supports all four destinations.

As originally announced in Ad Astra magazine, this Roadmap was adopted by the NSS Board of Directors in 2012, updating the original NSS Roadmap published in 2000. On May 24th the 2013 International Space Development Conference will feature a Roadmap Track and Press Conference about the Roadmap.

Free copy of O'Neill's "The High Frontier" (until April 23)

The Space Studies Institute is offering a free electronic copy of Professor Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier through Tuesday April 23.  It’s a Kindle edition, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. There is a free Kindle app to read it on computers, tablets, and smartphones. An Amazon account is required (also free).

In his classic 1977 book The High Frontier, O’Neill mapped out a straightforward, manifestly doable path to putting humans into space permanently and sustainably, using current-day material and know-how. His message is key to the NSS Vision of “People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”

Free Kindle apps:

Free High Frontier Kindle edition:

Due to the nature of the Amazon international download servers, the exact time of the end of the free offer cannot be guaranteed. Regular price for the new Kindle edition of the book is $6.99.

Update: 4700 free Kindle editions were downloaded by the time the offer ended.

NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement Student Art Contest

The National Space Society (NSS) is looking for student artists to create illustrations for the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Submitted artwork should realistically illustrate at least one of the Milestones in the Roadmap document.

All students at any grade level between the ages of 10 and 25 are eligible. Submitted artwork is intended to be used by NSS to promote a future of humans living and working in space and may be used on the NSS website, Ad Astra magazine, and/or a future calendar.

The due date is April 22, 2013. More information.

Life in outer space? 37-year-old NASA project depicts how leading minds of the time dreamed about colonizing space

The New York Daily News published this story on December 13, 2012.

The story quotes two National Space Society Directors: Mark Hopkins and Al Globus.

“Amazing artwork from the 1970s shows scientists’ vision of creating settlements in space. They got most of it right, say experts. But funding for the massive endeavor remains a large hurdle.”

Read the story at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/amazing-1970s-artwork-envisions-colonized-space-article-1.1219511

See higher resolution versions of all the art work on the NSS website: http://www.nss.org/settlement/nasa/70sArt/art.html

Image: Cutaway view of the Stanford Torus space settlement design for 10,000 inhabitants. From Space Settlements: A Design Study, NASA SP-413 (1977), online at http://www.nss.org/settlement/nasa/75SummerStudy/Design.html.

Paths to Space Settlement

The latest paper in the NSS Journal of Space Settlement is “Paths to Space Settlement” by Al Globus.


A number of firms are developing commercial sub-orbital launch vehicles to carry tourists into space. Let’s assume they attract many customers and become profitable. The next, much more difficult, step is to develop orbital tourist vehicles and space hotels to go with them. These hotels will require maids, cooks, waiters, concierges and so forth, some of whom may decide to stay, becoming the first permanent residents in space. A luxury hotel plus good medical facilities could provide low-g living for wealthy disabled individuals where wheelchairs and walkers are unnecessary.

In the meantime, humanity could choose to solve, once and for all, our energy and global warming problems by developing space solar power. To supply a substantial fraction of civilization’s 15 TW energy consumption would require an extremely large number of launches, the ability to build extremely large structures in orbit, and eventually tapping the Moon and Near Earth Objects (NEOs) for materials to avoid the environmental cost of mining, manufacturing, and launch from Earth.

The first step towards NEO mining is to locate them. As a large fraction, roughly 30%, of these will eventually impact Earth, locating and characterizing the NEO population is essential for planetary defense. Furthermore, it would be prudent to deflect a representative set of non-dangerous NEOs to insure that we know how to do it should a NEO on an imminent collision course with Earth be found. A representative set would include at least one of each major type of NEO since these have different physical properties and thus may require different deflection techniques. This would give orbital space settlement designers a known source of materials and the means to move them if necessary.

If these paths are taken, each step of which is justified in its own right, humanity will have excellent launch, small orbital living facilities, the ability to build large objects in orbit, and access to extra-terrestrial materials — most of what is needed to realize Gerard O’Neill’s orbital space settlement vision. At that point, some extremely wealthy individuals may build themselves a small orbital habitat so they live only with like-minded individuals. The first, and most difficult, orbital space settlement will be built.

These are paths to space settlement.

Full paper.

Moon Mines: Visionary or Senseless?

Editorial by Al Globus, December 2011

Do lunar mines make sense? The answer depends on what you want to do in space. If what you want is something close to what we have now: a booming commercial communication satellite business and government programs for science and exploration, then no. Lunar mines built entirely with tax dollars are expensive and unnecessary. On the other hand, if you see further than a few years ahead, if you see civilization, humanity, and Life itself expanding into space, if you see large scale industrialization, commercialization and settlement of space, then lunar mines are of enormous importance. The interesting thing is, the second vision will probably cost the taxpayer a lot less and deliver much greater value to the people of Earth.

First, let us consider what lunar mines can supply a growing civilization in space:

1) Shielding mass. Our atmosphere protects us from the intense radiation in space. For those who seek to spend long periods in space, particularly beyond Earth’s protective magnetic field, radiation shielding is a must. To mimic the atmosphere, roughly 10 tons/square-meter is necessary. The Moon is ideally situated to supply these bulk materials.

2) Rocket propellant. Today’s rockets are propelled by chemical reactions. The highest performance propellant is hydrogen and oxygen, which combine to produce water and the energy and thrust necessary to travel in space. Most of the weight, roughly 90%, of this propellant is oxygen. The Moon has very large quantities of oxygen tied up in surface materials.

3) Water. A great deal of money is spent today bringing water to the International Space Station (ISS). The same oxygen that supplies most of the mass for rocket propellant can be used to make water. There are also large quantities of water in the craters at the lunar poles where the Sun never shines.

4) Metals. Lunar materials returned by the Apollo astronauts contain large quantities of titanium, aluminum, iron and other metals. These metals can supply materials for large space structures, including habitats.

5) Silicon. Silicon and metals from the Moon could be used to build the space segment of Space Solar Power (SSP) systems. These satellites would gather energy in space and transmit it wirelessly to the ground. If successfully developed, SSP could supply massive quantities of clean energy to Earth for literally billions of years. A recent paper published in the NSS Space Settlement Journal [A Contemporary Analysis of the O’Neill – Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction. Peter A. Curreri and Michael K. Detweiler. December 2011.] suggests that using lunar materials for the SSP satellites requires more up-front capital than ground launch but begins generating profits much sooner.

6) He-3. Over billions of years the solar wind has implanted He-3, an isotope that is particularly well suited to fusion power, into lunar surface materials. This could be mined, brought to Earth, and used in future fusion power plants.

Thus, a vigorous lunar mining system could be part of a system to deliver energy to Earth, build large structures in space, and even provide radiation protection, water and oxygen to those who want to spend significant time in orbit. Developing lunar mines will be an enormous effort and would cost huge amounts of taxpayer money if it were done the same way Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS were developed. Fortunately, there is another way.

In the 1960s the U.S. government provided modest subsidies to start up the communication satellite business. Today, communication satellites are a $250 billion/year global business producing yearly tax revenue far greater than the subsidies.

The U.S. government is currently providing subsidies to help develop private, commercial launch vehicles. The cargo versions are almost complete. Two launchers, one of which has flown, were developed at a small fraction of the usual cost for government launcher programs. The human launch versions are being developed by the commercial crew program, which was budgeted for $6 billion and scheduled to develop two or three vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the ISS by 2015. [The budget for the first year was cut from $850 million to $406 million. This is expected to delay the first flight by a year or two.] By contrast, the all-government Space Launch System (SLS) is not scheduled to fly astronauts until 2021 and is estimated cost $40 billion to develop. Although the SLS is much larger, variants of the commercial vehicles may approach or even exceed SLS performance sooner and at much less cost. [The first SLS version is expected to place up to 70 tons into Low Earth Orbit (LEO); a later version may lift up to 130 tons. The Falcon Heavy, due to launch in late 2012, is expected to place up to 50 tons in LEO. SpaceX has also proposed a larger version of the Falcon that could lift 150 tons to LEO; it is projected to take five years to develop at a total cost of $2.5 billion.]

Thus, the evidence suggests that reorienting our space program to support commercialization and industrialization of space, as opposed to 100% government missions, may produce far greater results at much less cost. Lunar mining could be a major component of such space industrialization. There is already at least one commercial company that intends to mine the Moon. Perhaps we should support it.

NSS Space Settlement Journal

The NSS Space Settlement Journal has commenced publication this month, beginning with two new papers:

A Contemporary Analysis of the O’Neill – Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction by Peter A. Curreri, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Michael K. Detweiler, Amadeus Consulting

Abstract: Solar Power Satellites, SPS, is a technology that promises unlimited energy free from chemical pollution and green house gas emissions. First expounded by Peter Glaser in 1969, the economic viability was in doubt primarily due to Earth launch costs. Concurrently Gerard O’Neill demonstrated that using 1970’s technologies, SPS could be economically viable if space based materials and labor were utilized, but only after large investments in in-space infrastructure. More recently the O’Neill – Glaser model was reevaluated finding that optimization of space worker habitat size results in substantially improved economics. This paper compares the optimized O’Neill – Glaser economic model with that of Earth launched SPS for the classical electrical power scenario and for the more ambitious scenario to arrest global climate change. The conclusion is that for the energy levels necessary to mitigate global increases in CO2, Earth launched SPS are not economically viable (even with more advanced technologies and more optimistic decreases in launch costs), however with this increase in energy demand the space derived SPS become even more economically compelling and in addition enhance human survival probabilities by enabling a substantial human population to live in space.

The Space Grid: Sun-synchronous orbiting SBSP Satellites with Equatorial orbiting Reflector Satellites for Earth and Space Energy by Royce Jones

Abstract: The development of an economically viable space-based solar power (SBSP) system is critical to the Earth’s future and for future space development. PowerSat technology is also critical to supporting sustainable private and government space ventures, including space lift, space exploration and space infrastructure development. Such a system would greatly expand the need for space lift capability from small reusable launch vehicles for SBSP satellite maintenance to large expendable launch vehicles for deploying GW class SBSP satellites into orbit. The technology needed for SBSP is also needed for in-space solar electric transportation systems needed for space colonization as the technology is the same. The hope has been that gradual improvement in photovoltaic or other technologies such as thermal systems would solve the mass to orbit problem for SBSP systems. However, this in itself does not appear sufficient to make SBSP economically viable. This paper presents a new architectural option for SBSP using a Sun -synchronous orbit (SS-O), wireless power transmission (WPT) and a space power relay (SPR). This new concept is called The Space Grid. The Space Grid relies on the use of two separate satellite constellations. The power satellite (PowerSat) constellation is placed in SS-O dusk to dawn orbit at 800km and has access to constant sunlight and is used to produce the power. The Equatorial reflector satellite (ReflectorSat) constellation is in a 4,000km equatorial orbit and is used to distribute the power to the rectenna on the Earth’s surface. The power is produced by the PowerSats in SS-O and beamed to the ReflectorSats in equatorial orbit and then bounced to the rectenna on the ground. This combination allows for the production and distribution of power to the Earth’s surface without the problems normally associated with non-Geostationary (GEO) PowerSat concepts and without having to place the PowerSats in GEO. The Space Grid reduces the mass of a PowerSat transmitter by approximately 67% by moving it closer then past GEO concepts and allows for higher power levels and therefore much smaller (60%) and less costly rectenna on the ground and reduces the minimum size from 5GW to only 2GW allowing quicker deployment of space energy to solve the Earth’s energy problems. WPT transmission could be microwave or laser but for this paper microwave will be used for easier comparison with past concepts.

The NSS Space Settlement Journal is an online, high-quality, peer-reviewed journal. NASA Liaison for the Journal is Simon “Pete” Worden, NASA Ames Research Center. Editors of the Journal are:

Al Globus, San Jose State University, Editor in Chief
Fred Becker, National Space Society
Anita Gale, International Space Settlement Design Competition
Peter Garretson, National Space Society
Mark Hopkins, National Space Society
John Lewis, University of Arizona
Scott Pace, George Washington University
Joseph Palaia, 4Frontiers Corporation

See Call for Papers if you are interested in contributing to the Journal.

Is an Earth Trojan Asteroid the Logical Target for the "Flexible Path"?

Trojan Asteroid 2010 TK7
Asteroid 2010 TK7 is circled in green.
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA
Scientists using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have discovered the first Trojan Asteroid in Earth orbit. Trojans orbit at a location in front of or behind a planet known as a Lagrange Point.

A video of the asteroid and its orbit at the Lagrange point can be found here.

Martin Connors of Athabasca University in Canada is the lead author of a new paper on the discovery in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature.

Connors notes that:

These asteroids dwell mostly in the daylight, making them very hard to see. But we finally found one, because the object has an unusual orbit that takes it farther away from the sun than what is typical for Trojans. WISE was a game-changer, giving us a point of view difficult to have at Earth’s surface.

TK7 is roughly 300 meters in diameter and traces a complex motion around SEL-4 (Sun Earth Lagrange point 4). The asteroid’s orbit is stable for at least the next 100 years and is currently about 80 million kilometers from the Earth. In that time, it is expected to come no closer that 24 million kilometers.

The obvious question is whether this is the logical destination for NASA’s Flexible Path manned asteroid mission? The Lagrange 4 point (SEL-4) is a logical way station on the Solar System exploration highway. Other NEO asteroids that have been identified as possible targets are few and much more difficult to reach and return than an asteroid located directly at SEL-4 would be. An asteroid located there could well be the target of opportunity that opens manned exploration of the Solar System in an “easy” mode. Unfortunately, Asteroid 2010 TK7 would not serve as such a target because it travels in an eccentric orbit around SEL-4 so far above and below the plane of Earth’s orbit that it would require very large amounts of fuel to reach.

NEOWISE is the program for searching the WISE database for Near Earth Objects (NEO), as well as other asteroids in the Solar System.The NEOWISE project observed more than 155,000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and more than 500 NEOs, discovering 132 that were previously unknown.