We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

So why not rename it CV?

Those of you who follow space will be aware the cornerstone of the ‘Moon, Mars and Beyond’ program which NASA has been tasked to impliment is a new vehicle. The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is in many ways a return to the Apollo era but does have many useful features, not the least of which is putting the travellers on top. This avoids foam strike problems and at the same time allows the use of proven-in-anger escape tower technology.

It is still a rather old design. Nonetheless it had some features which those of us in the space community apploauded. The biggest win of all was the use of Methane-LOX propulsion. When I read a late draft of the new system plan, this was the single item I found exciting. M-LOX meant someone was serious about going off Earth to stay. It meant someone had read and understood what Bob Zubrin has being saying (perhaps yelling from the prayer town would be a better description) for nearly two decades. You see, M-LOX can be manufactured while sitting on the surface of Mars. The gases of the Martian atmosphere are all you need to manufacture it using a more than century old indstrial process. If you are going to Mars and going to stay, this is the fuel you will use.

That must be why NASA is dropping it although the external excuse is:

Any costs associated with accelerating the five-segmented booster and modified J-2 development programs will be offset in part by dropping plans to develop a liquid-methane fueled engine for the CEV, Hecker said. “From a budget standpoint, it came up as a wash,” he said. “We’re not asking for more dollars.”

NASA is dropping the most important thing they are doing in order to speed up a return to the Moon which will probably be done privately by 2025 anyway.

You may disagree with NASA doing anything at all, but whatever you may desire, they are there. They are a fact of life in the space game. It is much preferable for us to see them waste taxpayer money on something that is at least marginally useful to private sector space ventures.

You can read more discussion on this issue at On-Line Ad Astra, a publication of the National Space Society.

Please excuse any errors as my glasses disapeared whilst transiting Toronto Airport last Thursday and I am writing this by squinting at the screen…

12 comments to So why not rename it CV?

  • Julian Morrison

    Meh, when NASA gets to Mars, they’ll be by paying a private spaceline to ship them freight. They simply don’t have the budget! Only turning a profit from Mars will make going and returning sustainable.

    Profit would also do something else important: define the mission. NASA missions have fluffy undefined parameters like “study geology”, “look for life”, “wave a flag”, “build a base”. It’s impossible to trim a mission down to the bare essentials unless you know what it’s for, what it must do, or fail. Only a mission thus trimmed will be budgetable.

    I think there’s this belief that the first people to land on Mars should do science. That seems to be the NASA idea. I disagree. Science is for when there’s a self-sufficent colony whose surplus can support layabouts poking at rocks. The first people to make a serious go of living on Mars will be doing it because they have a specific something to gain, and no time for pansying around in search of exobacteria!

  • Biggles

    How do you get hold of Lox on Mars?

  • Dale Amon

    The original scenario was that you brought along some hydrogen to kick off the Sabatier process which uses hydrogen and the Martian atmospheric CO2 to generate water and Methane; then you electrrollize the water to get back part of you hydrogen and store the O2 portion.

    With current knowledge of the amounts and areas of Mars with a fair amount of water frozen at shallow depths, you just start the reaction by electrolizing local water into H2 and 02 and then go into the Sabatier cycles from there.

    There is no fancy chemstry here. It’s all been done on an industrial scale on Earth since the 19th century.

  • RobtE

    How do you get hold of Lox on Mars?

    From a Martian deli?

  • Daveon

    For Mars, I’m more concerned about power generation on the scae you’d need to run more than just an Antartic style outpost.

    I’m also waiting to find out what exactly it is people will have to “gain” from Mars outside of a scientific perspective. The Asteroids are a much better commercial bet than flying all that way to sit at the bottom of, an albeit it lower, gravity well.

    Mars could make a potential colony, but I am trying to think of a reason private enterprise is going to set up a colony and failing.

  • Dale Amon

    Ultimately people will go off to Mars because it is wild and empty and the wind blows free.

  • They wouldn’t call it a CV because the American Military already uses that as the designation for a naval Aircraft Carrier. We are rapidly running out of acronyms.

  • For Mars, I’m more concerned about power generation on the scae you’d need to run more than just an Antartic style outpost.

    You need a nuclear power plant, basically.

  • Dale Amon

    Exactly. There are no realistic Mars settlement scenarios that do not include nuclear power.

  • mike

    “Ultimately people will go off to Mars because it is wild and empty and the wind blows free.”

    That’s just daft and certainly false. If that was what people were after they’d go to Stockton-on-Tees.

    Sensible people will go to Mars so they can say to themselves, “shit I’m on Mars!”, but some Chinese Marxists may eventually want to go to make sure the Red Planet stays red.

  • Julian Morrison

    Ah Stockton-on-Tees. No, the only thing wild and empty there is the minds of the populace, and the only thing that blows free is the trash.

    However, as an inhospitable environment, it may well be a close match for Mars. You can probably breathe the air, but I wouldn’t advise trying.

  • Daveon

    Yes – you do need nuclear power, but that’s far easier to say than necessarily delivery.

    As with life support, you can build portable, self-contained modules which will provide the necessary power etc… to pre-defined numbers. The problem is scalability.

    If we’re to have anything more than an Antartic style “occupation”, and I think that certainly needs to be the case, we’ll need ways around this stuff. I’m not sure there are any simple solutions which can be done at the moment without national style levels of investment.