Sep 08 2010

Bruce’s Commentary is in Space News this Week

My Commentary, “Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China” appears in Space News this week (9/6/10). (See also The Articles.)

This piece follows-up on my decade space forecast of 6 months ago. I suggested that Russia and China may decide to expand their Phobos-Grunt experience (assuming it’s successful) into a joint manned Mars exploration initiative after 2015 focused initially on Phobos.

A few of my friends in the space business have interpreted this as a suggestion that we should bypass the Moon and head to Mars.

Two things: 1) I have always been very excited about the potential for expanding human civilization to Mars, but 2) my Space News piece does not advocate skipping the Moon.

The Moon is so close and has so much scientific, resource, and commercial potential that humans will want to develop it, near-term. But the smart road to Mars colonization does go through Phobos. And as the new International Space Age gains momentum after 2015, we may ebulliently decide to do both.

Thanks to Warren Ferster, Editor in Chief of Space News, for his interest in the Commentary, and also to Todd Windsor, Copy Chief of SN, for the cool look he gave it.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Bruce’s Commentary is in Space News this Week”

  1. Dr. Bruce Cordellon 08 Sep 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Author Comment In Response To
    Stu Walker
    walkerunit6@msn.com
    71.218.9.133 2010/09/08 at 12:57 pm

    Dear Bruce,

    I enjoyed your commentary in the Sept. 2010 Space News about Phobos.

    I am a former employee of LMA and Ball Aerospace. I had worked with Zubrin and Larry Adams in the past (1980’s) on Phase A studies and proposals to do low cost missions to Mars.

    I have also had the pleasure of working on most of the missions to Mars to date.
    I have worked on almost every Mars Mission since the ill-fated Mars Observer.

    My task was primarily Power Systems, Systems Integration/Engineering, Test Support Equipment and Some Mission Operations Support.

    My most recent/last effort at Ball was to lead a team to develop mission concepts for orbital debris removal/management.

    I am a 26 year aerospace veteran who took a layoff last year so I can take care of my aging Mother and start a consulting effort. I wrote a white paper study on a Moon base at Shakleton Crater for the DoE which featured wireless power transmission.

    It is commonly known that our Sun will grow and that we must, eventually, move away from Earth. I have been interested in terraforming Mars since the mid 1980′s.
    I have brought this topic up in passing a few times in the past and it seems to be taboo.

    I don’t know of any NASA funding to seriously look at in-situ technologies specifically for terraforming. I hear of fuel depot technology for a possible sample return or human support, but nothing on terraforming.

    Knowing that terraforming will take thousands of years, I wonder if it isn’t time we get moving? We have the technology.

    Are you aware of any efforts towards developing terraforming mission concepts or testing?

    Stu Walker
    Principal Consultant
    Dakota Ridge Technologies LLC
    walkerunit6@msn.com

    Hi Stu,

    Glad you liked my Space News Commentary and thanks for your message.
    Sounds like you’ve done a lot of exciting work!

    I’ve seen terraforming studies by Zubrin and Chris McKay at NASA-Ames and others but I’m not sure how they’re funded.

    You might also check in my blogroll under “International Space” for the Terraforming Info Pages of Martyn Fogg in the UK.

    Best regards,
    Bruce

  2. Dave Huntsmanon 07 Jan 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Bruce, just re-read your article as I’m being forced to clean out my office and am re-reading Space News’ before throwing them out. Good writeup.

    Within the agency we have a small but active group who tries to come up with non-standard ways of doing missions in a way that adds to space sustainability; to that end we’ve formed an Emerging Commercial Space Team with a couple of working groups, including a Beyond LEO/Lunar/NEO working group. I mention this in passing since your past work studying Phobos/NEO (I put them in the same category)-related propellant resource issues is something we tend to be interested in as well. We try to look at things with an eye towards making things economically sustainable, so that we can continue to go into space – to stay. In that, I agree that Phobos et al is much more on any type of critical path towards space sustainability than the surface of Mars is (not that going to Mars has never been far from my mind, either).

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for your comment.

    Coincidentally, today I had lunch in Orange County with Fred Singer who led our Phobos/Deimos Workshop at the Case for Mars III Conference in 1987.

    When I joined General Dynamics in the 1980s, I got very excited about the Mars system in terms of its potential for economic sustainability. My initial idea was to retrieve water from Phobos/Deimos to the Earth-Moon system for use in NASA and/or DoD Earth orbit missions, or even on the Moon (before we knew it had some water). Even that ambitious scenario looked good, and we were funded for a while by the GD Corporation (in addition to the San Diego Space Division).

    I think the success or failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission will be a near-term fork in the road for human spacelight beyond LEO. If Russia and China can pull it off, I think they will consider sending humans to Phobos as a key step in Mars colonization. Although Buzz Aldrin — a big Phobos fan — told me last summer that he’s not as convinced as I am about this, I think it’s likely Russia and China might be tempted to join with NASA (and others) in this great exploration after 2015.

    Best regards,
    Bruce

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