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Dan Adamo, Sunday, 6-7-15 June 6, 2015

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Dan Adamo, Sunday, 6-7-15


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Guest:  Dan Adamo.  Topics: Mars human spaceflight, robotic exploration, space policy, heavy lift economics, and much more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed back Dan Adamo to the show for this 2 hour 36 minute comprehensive discussion regarding HSF to Mars, the Second Mars Affordability and Sustainability Workshop report and much more.  During the first segment of our program, Dan started out by telling us the process used to engage him reviewing said report and writing his critique of it which is on The Space Show blog (https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com). Topics discussed in this segment included the use of Low Latency Telepresence (LLT) as compared to High Latency Telepresence (HLT), the absence of human factors and aerospace medical personnel in attendance and said issues missing from the workshop report.  Dan said the key missing information included radiation as well as microgravity concerns.  Dan then questioned the existence of a compelling rational for humans going to Mars.  This became a recurring discussion topic throughout today’s program.  Space settlement came up & so did a possible space race with China.  The subject of a rescue mission came up but there was a detailed rescue mission discussion near the end of the program in the second segment.  Dan was asked about the minimum crew size to operate an LLT program from Deimos or in orbit around Mars.  Several emails were sent in including one by Dr. Jurist addressing high acceleration upon return from Mars.  Dan then suggested the stepping stone approach, starting with cis-lunar space.  Doug sent in questions about heavy lift versus using already large commercial rockets.  Dan and Doug discussed this, then later in the second segment, Doug asked more questions on this topic.  For now they talked about going to Deimos with a Falcon Heavy.  Dan pointed out the need for many more launches and rendezvous missions as compared to one or two SLS type rocket launch.  He questioned if we can’t afford SLS launches, how do we afford even more launches and rendezvous missions.  Marshal emailed us wanting to know about the possibility of lava tube plans .  BJohn asked this guest about a possible Mars cycler & then we moved to the second segment.

In the second segment, I asked Dan what he thought the impact on space policy might be vis a vis the workshop being discussed on this program.  Don’t miss his reply.  Doug asked a question inquiring if for the same cost it would take to send humans to either Deimos or to the Martian surface, one could send many high-latency rovers to multiple locations far from each other to give the rovers many chances to discover evidence for life in different types of places?  This brought us several exchanges comparing LLT with HLT, heavy lift versus smaller rockets and more.  Doug and Dan has several exchanges during this segment, especially when the topic of rescue missions came up.  Ted in Boston asked about the rational for going to Mars, referenced the recent program with Dr. Zubrin, and the payoff or benefits for a human Mars mission.  Dan had much to say about this so don’t miss it.  John from Ft. Worth called to say we were not yet technically ready for Mars and we should use the stepping stone method and focus in cis-lunar development and exploration.  As an example, Dan & John talked about the need to know the actual gravity RX for humans. Dan said we should have a short arm centrifuge on the ISS helping to figure this out but that there was no policy to do that.  We turned to the topic of rescue and I told listeners what I found out about who pays for rescues when I did some quick and dirty research on this a few weeks ago.  The issue of rescue and how it might happen on a Mars mission or even in cis-lunar space came up with many listener emails including several by Doug putting forth various rescue scenarios.  For the most part, since we have no launch on demand, no rockets, pads or hardware sitting around ready to be used at a moments notice and we have to contend with launch windows, it does not seem feasible that a Mars rescue mission could be implemented, possibly not even a lunar rescue mission.  Doug suggested a scenario where multiple ships left for Mars at the same time and then if one got in trouble, the others could rescue the problem ship.  Dan talked about the physics and mass of what would be needed to do that. You decide if it might be feasible for such a rescue scenario to be implemented. Let us know your thoughts on the blog.  If the rescue party is already on Mars, rescue will be unlikely given the state of the art today.  Michael Listner suggested the absence of a realistic rescue plan may hinder the issuing of a launch license.  In his closing comments, Dan focused on the workshop critique saying that the sponsors would have been better served if participation had been opened up and had including human factors and aerospace medicine professionals.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog.  You can reach Dan Adamo through me.



1. J Fincannon - June 16, 2015

Dr. Adamo wanted reasons for landing people on Mars.

One possible perspective on this could be that humans offer sensory data collection that may not be available from robots. Even though you can load a robot with sensors and perhaps eventually develop some form of sensor fusion, (some) humans (perhaps) have an intuitive sensory capability that could be useful. I know that the paradigm science establishment would not give this the time of day, but some people seem to be “lucky” in finding things. How they do it is unclear, but it is useful. I have seen examples where these “gifted” people can somehow find fossils with very little effort. The thing is that Mars covers alot of area and the use of intuitive capabilities might guide exploration quicker than having to send robots to cover every square foot.

The other possibility for people “needing” to walk on Mars could be the intrinsic desire to spread life. Just as people have children, mainly through an instinctual need, there is perhaps a deeper, instinctive need for life to spread. So, walking on Mars enables not only the feeling of spreading life but also, by carrying Earth microbes there, actually implements it.

J FIncannon - June 25, 2015

To clarify, humans (not robots) experience serendipity and a number of other things (most of which violate established scientific paradigms) that can be helpful if walking around on Mars. Robots cannot do this, regardless of how many sensors you hook up to them.

2. J Fincannon - June 16, 2015

Dr. L stated that when explorers went out in the olden days, no rescue parties were sent out. I recalled the most famous of these rescue parties. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin's_lost_expedition which was a polar exploration mission.

“After two years had passed with no word from Franklin, public concern grew and Lady Franklin—as well as members of Parliament and British newspapers—urged the Admiralty to send a search party.”

Actually many ships searched for Franklin, at least one had to be rescued itself.

Another polar expedition rescue happened for this mission to reach the North Pole … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziegler_Polar_Expedition
“With the knowledge that rescue ships would be eventually sent to them, the expedition remained hopeful, though expedition leaders struggled to keep them in high spirits”

3. Mark - June 12, 2015

I like science fiction fine, but I never take fiction into account when talking about reality. We are talking reality, not gibes, right?
How is Venus better than Mars? Gravity and shielding are there, but no surface, no ores, no water in the clouds, no visibility, potential lightning in the clouds, danger of those acidic clouds, hellish temperatures and pressures below, maybe unknown organisms in the clouds (fanciful). It would be nice to have a floating cloud city, but how could it ever be self-sustaining without Earth?
Asteroid Belt is fine, too, but how is radiation there better than on Mars, where there is a whole planet and underground to shield you? If you bury underground on an asteroid, you are fine, how about lack of gravity there?
Moon is great, but even less gravity than Mars, no shielding even from thin Martian atmosphere unless underground.
Sooner or later we are have to take our chances and go somewhere and maybe the place that seems best is Mars. I don’t believe it for a moment that people think Mars is best because of science fiction. That is nonsense. There is a lot of fiction about asteroids, too.
How about radiation count on the surface of Mars.
Doesn’t the definition of acute radiation sickness include enough radiation in a short amount of time to cause ilness? How come they didn’t get acute rad sickness on Moon missions lasting two weeks? Let’s exclude flares for a moment. How is Mars worse than the Moon? The Moon has no atmosphere.
How about those radiation counts from MSL? Are they high enough to prevent people from conducting excursions? Again, they did it on the Moon, and if they didn’t get anything acute there, it means that apart from flares, which you could maybe warn against, how is Mars worse long-term? Is it really? Or is Zubrin right and maybe his estimates http://spacenews.com/35865curiositys-radiation-results/#.UcGzcvm1F8E are right too?

Dan Adamo - June 12, 2015

What you’re advertising as “reality” borders on sci-fi in my opinion. On what global survey of Venus assets do you base your contention that it has “no surface, no ores”? Conversely, how can you be certain Mars offers more of economic value? We need to do a lot more robotic exploring off-Earth before we can establish profitable pioneering with any confidence and sustainability out there.

Your assertion that “Mars seems best”, presumably for human pioneering/settlement, is unsupported by facts. We have no idea if humans can adapt to and successfully reproduce at 38% Earth gravity. At least on small bodies, we could hope to rotate human habitats and achieve the unknown human gravity prescription for multi-generation pioneering. On Mars, pioneers will be fighting millions or billions of years of terrestrial evolution in trying to adapt. That’s a lot of genetic inertia to overcome.

If you’re referring to Apollo missions in citing evidence of the Moon’s benign radiation environment, the experience of 3 lunar EVAs totaling perhaps 24 hours is on a completely different scale from a conjunction-class mission with a 500-day sojourn in the vicinity of Mars. For such a mission, surface habitats and daily EVAs will violate NASA’s current radiation exposure limits, and would require rookie geezer astronauts be assigned to manage cancer risks. Even Dr. Zubrin doesn’t extrapolate Apollo’s daily EVA schedule to 500 days. He looks to ISS for his radiation exposure baseline, where one or two EVAs are typically conducted during a 6-month crew duty cycle.

Fictional fantasies are fine for getting that 1% inspiration for off-Earth pioneering. But 50 years into the Space Age, it’s time to get real with the 99% perspiration of exploration. I recommend a measured, incremental approach to sending humans beyond low Earth orbit. Why do we “have to take our chances and go somewhere” like Mars before 2040? I’m still searching for the compelling reasons.

Mark - June 14, 2015

I know this discussion has probably moved on, and Dan Adamo might not see it anymore, but I just wanted to clarify a few things.

By “no ores” on Venus I meant that it’s so hard to get down to the surface in those temperatures and pressures. Hey, I’d be very glad to see more probes to Venus, let alone a city/base.

I agree with Dan on Mars gravity and I personally wouldn’t want to risk a longer stay than one mission without prior experimentation on some space station, preferably with animals first. Same with reproduction, I don’t disagree at all.

I think we might disagree whether it’s worth to send a human crew before let’s say 2030. Whether the risk of Martian gravity and radiation is worth it. If we did some partial gravity experiments, found out .38 is OK for 1.5 years, same for radiation, are longer excursions on the surface possible (maybe with drugs), if not can you conduct EVAs so as to minimize exposure. I think Dan thinks that I’d like us to rush in unprepared. I don’t want us to rush in unprepared.
I want us to get preparations and experiments done on a resonably unmeandering timeline and just go if possible.

I meant there was no acute radiation sickness on Apollo, but I treated spacecraft time and EVA time as one. My mistake, I think. Still CSM and LEM did not have elaborate shielding. Their bodies handled the doses. Would a human body handle similar doses over time, meaning would they accumulate, or would the body self-repair and be fine?

And I’m no fan of radiation.

And I want to say to Dan that I’d be perfectly glad if civilized human beings were on Luna. What is annoying is endless discussion, no experiments that move us forward, no action.

But as Mark Twain said it’s a terrible death to be talked to death, so I’ll shut up now, and it’s my last comment here.

4. Mark - June 11, 2015

I must have been looking at Matt’s posts too much because I had posted under his name. The previous post mentioning “The Martian” should be by Mark.

5. Matt - June 11, 2015

I think Dan Adamo mighht be overestimating the usefulness of low-latency telerobotics on the surface of Mars. The rovers generally drive for short periods, stop often to examine objects of scientific interests, take some measurements, drive a short hop, stop to take photos, conduct an experiment, drive, etc.

Rinse, repeat. Etc.

There might not be much value for scientists to race around tens of kilometers every day without stopping to look around. And having a huge team operating on Earth beats a couple of astronauts, even with astrobiology and geology training, on a Martian moon. The whole low-latency human mission to Deimos doesn’t seem like a good trade when there are multiple high-latency robots on the other side of the equation.

Complexity of a manned/crewed mission almost to Mars just to drive around rovers on the surface? Even if there is logic to it, just imagine politicians/public reaction. Why in blazes didn’t they go all the way in?

One and sort of mystical answer to why Mars with humans is worth it is it’s good for the human spirit, apart from everything else. Sorry to have stolen it from Apollo 15, but it’s true. .38 Martian gravity is definitely not ideal, but if they can survive for a year on ISS without basd effect (we’ll see), then they can be fine on Mars with enough exercise; walk for twenty miles a day, or jump up and down with some weights/rocks and they mighht be in shape. How will we find out if it’s possible to live there if don’t try it? SpaceX mighqt figure out how to conduct a mission long before NASA, and I don’t think they would put a rotating space station into orbit for a couple of years to find out the effects of Martian gravity first?

So, no NASA rescue, no “Martian” style survival on the Red Planet? Am I the only one, who doesn’t buy the story very much, and I know it’s only a story. No gigantic dust storm with lots of powerr possible on Mars. Why not kill all crewmen, but Watney on impact? Parachute malfunction, thrusters misfire, three people dead, he left alone; two crewmembers left in return craft in orbit? No imagination there.
We rip apart Mars One, rightfully so, but we think that one guy could survive on Mars on duct tape? Yeah, right. Wonder what that MIT team thinks of that.

Did you notice in “The Martian” trailer Matt Daemon moves like he would in Earth gravity? Eh. And I did not appreciate a Hollywoodish jab at Neil Armstrong, to say the least.

Dan Adamo - June 11, 2015

Regarding LLT’s usefulness (and productivity) there’s plenty of empirical evidence to support my claims in Earth-bound applications of this technology to telesurgery, mining, undersea operations, and warfare. The high-latency telepresence (HLT) being conducted on Mars by Opportunity and Curiosity wasn’t chosen in favor of LLT alternatives, let me assure you. The point is, LLT-enabled Mars explorers can “race around tens of kilometers every day” if they choose, or they can loiter at a point of interest they’re much less likely to miss than in a HLT mode if they choose. When these LLT explorers chose to loiter, they can examine objects of interest or conduct drilling operations in virtual real time rather than the arduous “rinse, repeat” process you appear to favor.

Your tacit acceptance of Mars as a survivable environment for humans based on year-long weightless experience (already accomplished aboard “Mir”) defies logic. Walking 20 miles a day on Mars will produce little more than a case of acute radiation sickness. Particularly if the aim is to pioneer in space (a mission NASA is using to justify landing humans on Mars), there may be far better off-Earth destinations closer to home. But we don’t know where to pioneer yet because we haven’t explored off-Earth enough to know where humans can put down multi-generational roots and turn a profit.

Your “good for the human spirit” answer and Mars-or-bust mentality don’t pass my filter for compelling rationale justifying the expense and risk of putting humans on the surface. IMHO, you’re a victim of more than a century of sci-fi fantasy and poorly-informed research circa 1955. In my youth, I got spun up by all this and Apollo Moon landings too. Long-term, it got us some neat technology, but that could have been achieved by other means. Fifty years later, people have yet to make a living in space other than with robotic proxies like communication satellites.

J Fincannon - June 12, 2015

A nice paper on human missions to the orbits of Mars and Venus that feature direct robotic exploration of the planets’ surfaces via teleoperation from orbit.

J Fincannon - June 12, 2015

“Why in blazes didn’t they go all the way in?”

1) To reduce or eliminate the possibility of contaminating possible extant Martian life with our microbes.
2) To eliminate the possibility of infection of astronauts by Martian life (can we at least land animals first on Mars, unlike what we did on the Moon and I consider that irresponsible, to observe if they can survive being exposed to as yet unidentified Mars life?)

6. DougSpace - June 9, 2015

> We don’t know of anything that’s going to hit us and wipe out civilization.

The probability of an impactor wiping out civilization is quite small. But…

“The Future of Humanity Institute believes that human extinction is more likely to result from anthropogenic causes than natural causes”. Wiki – Global Catastrophic Risk.

Think biotech, self-replicating chemicals, nanotech, and accelerating AI. It seems likely that these technologies will mature before the end of this century and will thereby give individuals of uncertain mental stability incredible power that could be used for harm.

B John - June 9, 2015

That’s a misplaced concern. In order to do anything of significance today one has to engage millions of people in a global industry. It is not up to the mind of one single individual. Even during WW2 the world population kept increasing exponentially. Society is powerless against its underlying biology. We can’t even increase global temperature although we burn all fossil fuels we find! We are geocentric or rather homocentric because we love the phantasies of our brains. Nature at large doesn’t care at all about that though.

DougSpace - June 12, 2015

Industries create high technologies which then empower individuals. This is of particular concern when those technologies could be self-replicating or accelerating in nature. Take for example the biomedical industry believing that, for the advancement of medicine, we should create “bioprinters” where one can copy and paste DNA sequences on a computer and then click the print button and a desktop machine produces an organism with that DNA sequence. It seems likely that individuals will have access to this capability before the end of this century. It is conceivable that a single individual will one day be able to sequence organisms, identify and extract genes for toxins and then insert them into the genome of an organism which easily spreads from individual to individual.

7. DougSpace - June 9, 2015

> Where’s the profit motive for going to Mars? Where’s the unobtainium?

I don’t hear anyone suggesting that there is a mineral ore on the surface of Mars worth shipping back to Earth. Any “inventor’s colony” could be just as productive on Earth without having to spend the large sums of money to move to Mars. So Dan is correct, there is no unobtainium on Mars. I think that we can stop looking for it.

None-the-less, in the near-term, humans on the surface of Mars would be an adventure “worthy of a great nation”. National pride is the reason why it seems like everyone else wants to send their astronauts to the lunar surface. It is perhaps the main reason why administrations and NASA wish to go to Mars with boots on the ground. This goes well beyond the science that they could do. If we could do a lot more science for the same price telerobotically this wouldn’t satisfy those who want to see another Apollo in their lifetime. We can justly criticize this motivation but we shouldn’t ignore it because it is perhaps THE dominant reason why people want to go to Mars. For us it may not be sufficient but for them it is. Otherwise, why are there so many people who want to go to the Martian surface?

Now, having said this, for the long-term, what’s the reason to STAY on Mars? After you do the flags-and-footprints thing, do we leave Mars alone for another 40 years? Where’s the market at that time for going and staying on Mars?

Elon’s business model is the same as for those ship owners during the period of immigration to America. The ship owners don’t care about the motivation of their passengers. They are happy making a profit selling tickets. But, if no one has a reason to go then no tickets will be sold. Just ask around; I have. How many people would like to go to Mars if they had the wherewithal to do so? It’s a certain percent. But why? What’s their motivation? Basically it comes down to this, “It would be so cool to retire there”! Is this rational? Not necessarily. But there’s a market for many irrational things.

There are many retirement cities. They don’t produce ore. They don’t have factories. They don’t invent things. They’re basically non-productive. But they own homes, employ help, etc. So, they’ve earned their life savings elsewhere and have chosen to live in the retirement city because they want to. Same thing with Mars. Then eventually they start selling each others pizza, insurance, hair styling, etc. Initially the help will be very expensive until the transportation costs comes down. But rich people can afford it.

J Fincannon - June 12, 2015

While there may not be any elements or materials worth “shipping back to Earth”, if Mars life is found and it has valuable properties, then it may be worth returning to a safe location off Earth (maybe lunar orbit) for study and utilization.

8. The Space Show - June 9, 2015

Doug: Yikes!!!! Did I create a monster? OMG!!! How many more out there can look to me for turning them into a bona fide space cadet? Should I go into hiding?

Doc Space (in hiding – you will never find me & I can continue the show from the bunker so to speak).

Michael J. Listner - June 10, 2015

I’m hiding too.

9. Matt - June 8, 2015

This was an interesting show. Thank you, Mr. Adamo for introducing a more realistic view into manned deep space mission discussion at the space show.

10. DougSpace - June 8, 2015

QuantumG estimates that the Falcon Heavy could deliver 13,546 kg to EML1.


The dry mass of the Dragon capsule is 4,200 kg.

13,546 kg vs 4,200 kg. That’s quite a bit of margins for return propellant and other orbital maneuvers.

So, for a rescue mission in cis-lunar space, it may not require multiple Falcon Heavy launches.

Still, it would seem to me that, given Mars’s gravity well, a HLV may still be necessary for Mars surface missions.

Dan Adamo - June 8, 2015

The Apollo 8 Command-Service Module (CSM) had a mass over 63,500 kg at TLI. This is a real world spacecraft capable of getting into and out of low lunar orbit with a crew of 3. It could also perform a rendezvous to rescue 2 of the crew if they became stranded in a lower orbit aboard the Lunar Module (which Apollo 8 didn’t carry). In low Earth orbit pre-TLI, the Apollo 8 Saturn IV-B and Apollo spacecraft had a total mass of 127,481 kg. This is what I call a realistic single-launch human rescue capability for cislunar space. The SpaceX website claims Falcon Heavy can place 53,000 kg into orbit. You’d need at least two such launches to get a stripped CSM to the Moon. In a time-critical cislunar rescue scenario, waiting for good launch weather, rendezvous, docking, assembly, and pre-TLI checkout might still be in progress as the stranded crew perished.

Matt - June 8, 2015

A small correction: Your stated mass of 63,500 kg at TLI (exactly 65,092 kg; 63,500 kg refers to S-IVB cut-off) includes the empty S-IV- stage. Injected Apollo 17 S/C mass (service module, capsule and lunar module) was”only” 48,607 kg.

Matt - June 9, 2015

Correction: “S-IV-B-stage”

Dan Adamo - June 9, 2015

I just checked my data source, and the CSM mass I cited was in units of lbm. Converting it to metric, I obtain 28,800 kg. Apollo 8’s Saturn IV-B mass at TLI ignition (inert structure plus propellant without payload mass) was 84,500 kg. The pre-TLI total mass in LEO of 127,481 kg was correctly stated. See Orloff and Harland, “Apollo: The Definitive Sourcebook” for details.

Matt - June 9, 2015

I checked data in NASA’ data bases and mission reports. I found the following exact numbers for Apollo 17 (as example):

Combined S/C and S-IVB-stage at moment of parking orbit insertion (your total mass): 139,158 kg (from A17 mission report).

Mass of same vehicle at second cut-off (equals nearly TLI): 65,156 kg (65,092 kg for TLI some seconds later).

Lunar module mass: 16,447 kg
Command and service module: 30,362 kg
Total A 17 spacecraft mass: 46,809 kg (sorry for number switch above)

[Empty S-IV-B stage + Instrument unit + conical spacecraft adapter: 15,200 kg (not counted propellant losses and residual at cut-off, maybe 2 tons).]

Matt - June 9, 2015

It is known that Saturn-V was able to inject as a 3-stage version 120 tons to LEO (performancewise) and as a 2-stage version about 80 tons to LEO (see Skylab). However, I do not a investigation about structural issues of a 120 ton payload on the launch vehicle and its third stage.

Matt - June 9, 2015

Correction: “do not know” …

Dan Adamo - June 9, 2015

My analysis of Apollo 17 Saturn V performance using “Apollo: The Definitive Sourcebook” data is an initial mass in LEO of 140,344 kg (including 16,448 kg for LM, 30,364 kg for CSM, and many other items). Why then is SLS touted as the most powerful and capable rocket ever built? Even its most evolved paper design is only capable of delivering 130,000 kg to an elliptical orbit with a negative perigee height. Apollo 17 delivered a mass near 140 metric tons to a circular orbit whose height was 167 km in the real world.

Matt - June 9, 2015

You have devide between real (pure) payload (which does not include final stage masses and propellant reserves and residuals) and the all masses, which reach orbit (incl. stage). As I mentioned below, Saturn-V payload cap. mass to LEO was 120 tons (pure) payload, whereas it is not cleare if 3.stage can handle this payload size (I did not search for study of this topic).

The 139 or 140 tons injected in LEO includes also the 3.stage (about 92 tons at this moment, from which are about 15,2 tons inert stage mass, which cannot count as payload to LEO, as well as 3.stage propellant residuals and resserves). As I said, payload capability of Saturn V as 3-stage config is (139 tons-15,2 tons -3 tons)= about 120 tons. The demonstrated Saturn-V in a .stage config. is 80 tons.

Matt - June 9, 2015

This 139/140 tons from Apollo 17 included also 15.3 tons composed of S-IV-B stage structural mass, the concial S/C adapter, the famous instrumentation unit and about 3 tons of propellant reserves and residuals.

Dan Adamo - June 11, 2015

So, what do the 130 metric tons associated with the evolved SLS mean? What do you mean by “real (pure) payload”?

Answers to these questions are subjective and mission-dependent. For example, the payload mass fraction of a Space Shuttle (what was reconfigured in the payload bay for each mission) was on the order of 10% of the Orbiter’s total mass in low Earth orbit (LEO). But the Orbiter’s gross mass in LEO was on the order of 100 metric tons. That additional mass included wings and landing gear enabling runway landings virtually anywhere in the world. Did the wings and landing gear not contribute to Space Shuttle capability?

This is why I argue for counting every gram of mass delivered to a stable LEO when proposing an objective launch vehicle performance standard. See my white paper on this topic at http://spaceenterpriseinstitute.org/2014/12/an-objective-launch-vehicle-performance-standard/.

11. jimjxr - June 8, 2015

It’s strange to hear so much discussion on the rescue mission, NASA flew the space shuttle for more than 10 years without a rescue plan, I don’t see why a Mars mission must have a rescue plan. As I understand it, for every manned system and every mission, there is a probability of Loss of Crew (LOC), this number is calculated and if it’s low enough, then the mission goes ahead. For space shuttle, the LOC number across the entire lifetime is about 1/90, Soyuz has a similar number. For Constellation and later Commercial Crew, NASA is aiming to reduce this number to 1/270. So for a future Mars mission, there would also be a LOC number, and the mission will be designed to reduce this number below a certain threshold, that’s it.

B John - June 8, 2015

Shuttle and Apollo didn’t have any rescue plans. That’s how much safer LEO and Lunar is compared to deep space like Mars. Not at all! 18 orbital astronauts of all nations have perished, out of 500+. All of them were killed in Earth’ atmosphere (debatable about three cosmonauts in 1971 who might have perished earlier in their descent process from LEO). None of them died in deep space. None of them died from radiation or space-ray brain-madness or going loony because they suddenly “felt lonely” or any of that other trash nonsense conspiracy theories which are propagated by some failed space medicine “experts” without any data or working theory.
Wiki link about the actual dangers with spaceflight: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spaceflight-related_accidents_and_incidents

The problem and its solution is mechanical, not medical.

Dan Adamo - June 8, 2015

Perhaps no astronauts have died in deep space because only 9*3 = 27 astronauts have been there. Thanks to self-rescue and a good deal of luck, 3 of those 27 narrowly averted death on Apollo 13. I know first-hand that Shuttle had extensive rescue plans. For missions to ISS, these included loitering at ISS if a Shuttle was unable to return to Earth while a rescue mission was prepared. For a Shuttle unable to return to Earth or carry out its intended ISS rendezvous, a procedure called Joint Underspeed Recovery (JURe) was developed to lower the ISS orbit until rendezvous could be achieved. And then, for missions like HST repair not involving the ISS, a second Shuttle was prepared to launch on short notice and rescue the repair crew if it became stranded. Similar pad flow processing supporting rescue by a second Apollo spacecraft was implemented for all 3 Skylab crew launches.

B John - June 9, 2015

Yes. Or maybe not.
Lack of knowledge is just another argument for doing it in order to find out. Exploration is per definition the doing of things we don’t know about. The medicine people live in a completely different part of reality, they are very bad advisers when it comes to achieving exploration results.

DougSpace - June 8, 2015

I think that we should use some common sense. Certain situations are more amenable to rescue than others. We’re reaching a point with multiple providers to LEO such that I think that we may be able to consider rescue options there — perhaps presumably like on the high seas where there’s an obligation for different nations to rescue a distressed ship. We might consider something for cis-lunar and lunar surface operations. Using an architecture using Falcons could help because SpaceX is getting to the point where they could have cores available for emergencies. Mars is way harder to mount a rescue mission so, unless someone has a smart idea of how to do it then I think that we should accept the risk while taking what measures we can to reduce it. Mars One on the other hand is a real problem in this respect…but since I don’t expect to ever see it happen, I don’t think about it much.

Dan Adamo - June 8, 2015

I wish it was all that simple. LOC probabilities are fraught with uncertainties and cannot account for unknown unknowns such as management blindsiding technical experts and launching outside the certified flight envelope or granting waivers to permit flying through debris fields. That’s why responsible human spaceflight owes each crew some kind of prompt, independently launched rescue capability. A strategy aiding some rescue scenarios would also provide the stranded crew a safe haven giving the rescue spacecraft more time to reach them. If rescue capability is ignored and a stranded crew perishes, the ensuing investigation will ask why. In the case of remote interplanetary destinations with launch opportunities months or years apart, omitting rescue may be permissible (particularly if all concerned agree to that up front). But cislunar destinations have daily launch opportunities. Before the court of public opinion, it would be hard to defend not having launch-on-need capability to rescue a stranded crew only 3 days away.

jimjxr - June 9, 2015

1. The point is you have to approach safety from a system engineering point of view and trade off the resources spent on rescue plan to other means of enhancing safety. It’s not obvious that a rescue would always be the best way to ensure a low LOC number. For example if analysis shows in potential LOC events crew would be killed instantly, then there’s no point to plan for rescue, instead the resources could be better used to lower the probability of the event itself.
2. Unknown unknowns: These can be reduced by doing unmanned test flights, preferably a lot of them. Here is where a cheap reusable system would be very helpful, since you can afford to do many tests on different boundary conditions. The test data would be used to refine your model and make the LOC calculation more accurate. Of course the first dozen manned flights should also be classified as test flights, this should be communicated to the public clearly.
3. Public opinion: These can be changed if you stop pretending space is safe, and explain the danger to public in an honest manner. Lack of a rescue is completely acceptable if you explain the matter clearly, after all many of the public flies on jetliners which not only lack a rescue plan in the air, it also lacks an in-flight escape ability, but the public accepts it as a matter of fact, despite losing hundreds of people every year to crashes.

12. Michael J. Listner - June 7, 2015

I want to commend Dr. Livingston and Mr. Adamo for an informative and excellent program. While Mr. Adamo’s viewpoints certainly clash with those of Mars proponents and are polar to those of Dr. Zubrin, the reality is that both perspectives have excellent points. We need to recognize that in order to fulfill the vision of creating a space-faring civilization we must to be willing to consider all viewpoints whether we agree with them or not because somewhere in-between are the answers we all seeking. Kudos to Dr, Livingston and One Giant Leap Foundation for providing a forum where the differing viewpoints can be heard.

B John - June 8, 2015

No. We just need to consider the doable viewpoints.

Michael J. Listner - June 8, 2015

What’s “doable” is subjective.

DougSpace - June 8, 2015

Is doable subjective? Sort of yes, sort of no. Some things are obviously more doable than others to the honest and informed. For example, reaching LEO is easier than reaching Alpha Centauri. But there are many areas where informed people can have honest disagreements such as radiation protection to Mars.

DougSpace - June 8, 2015

Agreed. The Space Show is perhaps the best space forum. David brings a lot of people with different views and we the listeners get to listen and decide for ourselves. Keep up the good work & thanks for all that you do David.

B John - June 9, 2015

Indeed! And not only as a forum for current issues, but the archive is also a gold mine when one is interested in something particular. Especially concerning how things have changed during the last decade+. David’s long written descriptions of each episode makes it all very searchable.

There are dozens of space bloggers/podcasters out there, but they are all preaching their own favorite pet and repeat the beaten space news from last week as infotainment. Their archives will never be revisited by anyone. David is a real classical journalist. Very rare today.

Matt - June 9, 2015

I proposed already to Dr. Livingston that some students could use the archive to prepare master or doctoral theses about specific topics as discussed and judged from different positions.

DougSpace - June 9, 2015

Yes. I feel like I’ve gotten some level of education by listening to the archives. David may not want to claim credit, but a large part of what I am as a space advocate comes from comparing views from different people in the archives.

Matt - June 9, 2015

I cannot believe it that you just started three ago being a “space-cadet”.

13. The Space Show - June 6, 2015

I would have thought anyone going to The Space Show blog would know the schedule of our programs. Sunday is 12-1:30 PM PDT. Always unless noted otherwise for a webinar or something special.

James.L - June 6, 2015

Sorry about that. It’s been a while since I try to catch the show live. I want to try to catch it live tomorrow since I have been following Mr. Adamo’s work.

14. James.L - June 6, 2015

Is there a time for this particular live show. Thanks.

B John - June 7, 2015

James.L The schedule for the shows is available here, and it is weekly regular with few exceptions:

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