Jan 07 2011

NASA Comments on Phobos and “Space Sustainability”

Published by at 11:56 pm under Wave Guide 7: NASA Programs

This interesting Comment by Dave Huntsman of NASA is in reference to my Space News (9/6/10) commentary on “Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China”.

Dave Huntsman has 35 years with NASA, including 10 years as a Senior Executive, and is with the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA HQ in Washington, D.C.

Dave Huntsman
2011/01/07 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).

My Reply follows:
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 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,

One response so far

One Response to “NASA Comments on Phobos and “Space Sustainability””

  1. Dave Huntsmanon 08 Jan 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I concur. I don’t think I’ve wanted a joint Russian/Chinese Communist Party endeavor to succeed so much ever before.

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