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Give NASA's SLS money to DARPA

24 Oct 2013, 16:16 UTC
Give NASA's SLS money to DARPA
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SLS is a dead endThe Space Launch System (SLS) is much like Apollo. Large, disposable rockets that will cost around $10 billion or more a launch. Like Apollo, it might be good for brief stays on another body -- plant a flag, leave some footprints and go home. But opening a new frontier? Building infra-structure for settlement requires a long, sustained effort. Transportation via $10 billion throw-away vehicles isn't sustainable.The need for better robotsTsiolkovsky's rocket equation mandates mass fractions that make reuse extremely difficult, if not impossible. So long as delta V budgets include the 9 km/s trip from earth's surface to LEO, we're probably stuck with disposable rocket ships. Extra-terrestrial propellant sources might break delta V budgets into smaller chunks. With smaller delta V budgets, mass fractions are large enough that economical, reusable vehicles are doable. As astronaut Don Pettit notes, extra-terrestrial propellant could free us from the the tyranny of the rocket equation.There are two possible sources of extra-terrestrial propellant: the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and the lunar cold traps. To mine these would take working in extreme temperatures, vacuum and radiation. Given how massive and expensive human habs are, we would want to minimize the human presence, ...

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