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The Not-So-Great Compromise: Robotic Precursor Missions

24 Aug 2010, 01:04 UTC
The Not-So-Great Compromise: Robotic Precursor Missions
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In spite of the view held in some circles that "all we need is a good map", robotic precursor missions are essential if we are going to rocky destinations like the Moon, NEOs, Mars moons, or Mars, especially if we want to do so in an affordable, safe, and productive manner. We certainly do need a good map, and in fact we need many kinds of good maps. We also need much more than maps from robotic precursor missions. Example jobs for robotic precursor missions include assessing hazards to astronauts, measuring local resources, practicing use of those resources, performing various other technology demonstration tests, and evaluating potential locations for astronauts.Let's compare the Administration and Senate Authorization proposals in terms of robotic precursor missions. Figures are in millions of dollars:FY----Administration----Senate2011..125...............1002012..506...............1002013..699...............1002014..7972015..923If we extend the Authorization Committee's pattern to FY2015, we see that there is a 6-fold difference: about $3,000M in the Administration budget compared to $500M in the Senate budget.Ouch.NASA presented some early ideas on what they would like to do with a well-funded robotic precursor mission line. In May, during an exploration workshop, the FY 2011 Exploration Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM) Point of Departure Plans (PDF) included:a series of main robotic ...

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