We are going to return to the moon. He says, with a firm voice and then a flurry of flashes and activity from the audience arises, journalists starts raising their microphones before surging forward. He waves his hand and explains, about how the human lunar mission design is going to take place in the next few years.
Describing the moon as a place that is frozen, dusty and with interesting signs of water that is available in space. He highlights how water is like gold, how it has been a main motivation for going back to the Moon and how we are ready to go to space and what he’d like to do in space.
The mission statement is to begin the construction of a Moon Village, and because of the presence of water in the lunar south pole and the possibility to facilitate human space activities. In the year 2025 the international base at the lunar South Pole will allow for resource on permanent shadow craters for the next 30 years. It will run for initially 14 days to up to 180 day crew rotations.
A science journalist raises his hand and asks what kind of hardware will be needed? So the chief scientist reports calmly, we will need crew, cargo, payload with scientific equipment, consider kinds of transportation, orbits and also operations.
Someone else picked up on that and asked about the time line.
The Chief Scientist confidently provided an outline of the activities that will happen, showing a detailed diagram of steps A, B, C with functional analysis and used a box diagram with many small boxes to illustrate his points. These charts with acronyms drew the audience closer and future details of the mission elements.
Choices – he remarked, was what it was all really about.
From launches to transfers, to propulsion types, to habitation, power infrstructure, communications, to returning to home and what kinds of entry back to earth.
Now the audience was silent, listening intently. You could feel the excitement in the air, this really was happening.
This is a choice that humanity is going to make. We are going launch heavy cargo on this commercial vehicle, and this is one mission design, there is also another one…highlighting it over a power point illustrating the possibilities on a mission design ‘tree.’
What are the chances of success?
What are the risk variables?
With so many options, how do we know it is a good one?
Start with the physics, he says, don’t ignore the rules.
The audience laughes at this. Look at options that gives solutions, too big to launch. Like solving a puzzle, he illustrates how things may or may not come together and limits options with disconnects, because it doesn’t work because it violates a rule of logic or physics.
For example if we go to South Pole and they are fixed in state, they are in the orbit. Because of the orbit we go further further away from earth and so we only have a minimum entry return every 14 days, which means any mission duration other than that get’s left out because the physics does not work.
So we look at the big picture and figure out what to keep and what to leave out.
Another lady with large glasses poses a question, what about space debris?
Yes, that is a huge problem he replies. We’re not looking to bring anything we do not need. He shows a chart of the things marked off that they are not going to take.
He illustrates the choices he’s made and goes through one option and starts his lecture on rocket science.
One of the first thing you need to understand is rocket science – how much energy do you need to go from earth to space? Like a magician unvealing his next magic trick, he changes slides and shows a detailed analysis of the distances needed to travel from LEO/S, LEO/E, LEO/P, HEO/M, GEO/E, LPN, LPF, LLO, LSB, LPE, DSE
Space Station Orbit
Equitaorial 300km orbit
Geosynchronomous altitude in moon’s orbital plane
Geosynchronomous Earth Orbit
Then we put in those distances in the rocket equation, pulling out chalk and he starts marking on the blackboard…
A moment in the scene like Goodwill Hunting, the Chief Scientist, starts doing the maths, starting at the top left corner of the board, he works his way right, then down and the audience like watching a Wimbledon maths, sit in silence as the shift their heads from left to right.
After what seemed like 15 minutes, he makes a mark on the board, and goes here this is the reasonable figure.
Before catching his breathe, he then goes on on talks about the vehicle mass estimate and starts another equation of initial human vehicle dry mass estimate, going through the figures in his head this time.
We also need a lander. So we try to make it as light as possible because of time frame that we spend in it, so for the puroses of this exercise, he provides an approximate figure and continues doing the calculations.
Finally he ends with a guestimate and states that it will be refined in future design iterations with propulsions, design margins, data volume, data rates, power.
We have everything we need……..he says confidently, to make it happen.
The audience roar in applause and you can hear it echoing through the hall.
It’s happening….it’s happening
By Helen Tung
In celebration of UNISPACE50+, celebrating 50 years of space
Inspired by lecture by John F. Collony of NASA, Knowledge Services
With credits to Chris Welch, Professor on Astronautics and Space Engineering at ISU
Jeff Hoffman, Professor of the Practice, Director, Man Vehicle Lab
Angie Burkley and Todd Mosher