Video: Eric Anderson Urges National Conversation on Space

Eric Anderson wants a national conversation about the future of space exploration. It’s an interesting plea because Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich started exactly that a few weeks ago by announcing plans for a moon base by 2021. Mitt Romney, the candidate whom Anderson is advising, mocked the idea while proposing no alternatives of his own. The end result of that conversation was a SNL sketch called, “Newt Gingrich: Moon President.” That was good for Mitt, although it painted Newt and the broader space community that supports the goal as, if you’ll excuse the phrase, loony.

So, Anderson now wants to start a new national conversation. That might be easier to do if Romney had a strategy. Instead, he has merely described a process by which he would figure out his policy, which involves forming an advisory board that includes Anderson, Mike Griffin, Scott Pace and Eugene Cernan. In other words, Top. Men. That’s not much on which to base a national conversation. Perhaps Anderson will go into more detail in future videos.

 

  • Andy

    Once we start the conversation about America’s future in space, do we have to continue it in front of a picture of a Soyuz?

  • JohnHunt

    Whereas I agree that the time is ripe to establish space settlement as a priority, the thing which is really holding our influence back is that we space advocates are not united on a specific plan that we recommend. If even we are not agreed, how can we expect those with less interest than us to prioritize space settlement when the way forward is unclear?

    But let me be so bold as to suggest that there is a plan that will get enough space advocates behind it so that it will become a well supported plan.

    I would agree with Anderson that its goal is the permanent settlement of space. However we need to be realistic. We need at least billions (probably could get an initial base with about $12 billion) to accomplish that. The entity with that amount of money that could be spent on space is NASA. So our plan either needs to be in place of the SLS or be so inexpensive that it could continue where the CCDev leaves off. This is possible.

    A block purchase of a series of paired Falcon Heavies (about 12 pairs in total) enough to establish a basic lunar ice exploitation infrastructure and a 6-person base could be purchased over 8 years for about $3 billion total. COTS-like programs for the development of a lunar lander, orbital vehicles, and lunar surface assets would consume about another $4 billion. Add another $5 billion for facilities, operations, and contingencies.

    A lunar ice to LEO propellant infrastructure would have commercial value and so could draw private investment thereby keeping NASA’s costs contained.

    Some recognized leader within the space advocacy community needs to bring their fellow leaders on board with such a specific plan. This would get momentum and buzz going thereby drawing more of the lay advocates thereby achieving Anderson’s goal of mobilizing space advocates.

  • warshawski

    John, The problem is vested interest in Congress insisting on the pork of SLS, Anderson says nothing on this and that is telling along with the background shot of a Russian rocket. Until this vested interest is broken and the waste of SLS/MPCV is stopped NASA will continue to fly Russian.
    The cost per unit carried for larger systems is lower providing you have comparable per unit development costs. But for the SLS development cost low low estimate of $15 billion and a high launch rate of 3 per year for 5 years that requires a $1 billion amortisation of development costs per flight before operating costs. Compare this with SpaceX Falcon heavy which is in build for flight in 2012/2013 and the core has already flown as Falcon 9 it has a payload of 53 tons and has no government development cost and all up flight cost of $125 million. So you could launch 6360 tons to LEO orbit for just the low low estimate of the development of SLS let alone flight costs. Or another way it costs a minimum of $14,285 per kg in development costs alone not including launch costs to use SLS vs $2,358 per kg all up for Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy will fly sooner and has much lower technical risk than SLS as the core stage has already flown.
    Another issue is that the 70 tons or even possible future 130 tons is not enough for a single launch moon base or Mars Direct so it will need multiple launches to build a moon base or sufficiently large spacecraft for a Mars return mission. So there is no reason why a modular craft/base built of 70 ton modules could not be built of 50 ton modules especially if you have fuel depots so you can de-couple launching fuel from the spacecraft build critical path.
    While $3 billion per year is wasted on SLS/MPCV there is not enough money from Comercial Funding at only about $400M to develop and build the hardware needed and launch it.
    In summary to make a Mars mission or Moon base possible launch costs must be reduced and the only way to do that is to scrap SLS/MPCV and fund private space, initially SpaceX but open to any company that can be cost compeditive.