Bridenstine Weighs in Favor of Lunar Development

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

In a Dec. 29 blog post titled, Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calls for the United States to focus on the economic and strategic benefits of the moon.

Bridenstine is reported to be a leading candidate for the position of NASA administrator in the Trump Administration. The space agency is focused on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s. However, the new administration might refocus NASA on returning astronauts to the moon.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post.

Utilizing propellant and materials on the Moon is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system.  A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization.  The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars.  Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion are close to being developed and will start testing in 2018.  This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the moon to begin the cis-lunar economy.  With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well…this time, to stay.

There are other economic benefits to a permanent presence on the moon.  We should pioneer the utilization of lunar oxides for in situ additive manufacturing (3-D printing) to sustain and develop lunar operations.  If economical, we should pioneer the extraction of highly valuable platinum group metals and the ability to transport them back to earth.  The United States government should play a part in retiring risk for these endeavors with the intent to privatize and empower commercial companies to sustain the cis-lunar economy.  This could fundamentally alter the economic balance of power on Earth.

As the cis-lunar economy develops, competition for locations on the Moon (the poles) and lunar resources is inevitable.  The Chinese currently have landers and rovers on the Moon.  The United States does not.  Very soon, the Chinese will be the first of humanity to explore the far side of the Moon and place robots at the poles.  As my friend Congressman Bill Posey says, “They are not going there to collect rocks.”

[….]

The first launch of the Space Launch System is less than two years away.  In 2021, we will use the Orion capsule to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the 1970s.  Commercial launch vehicles are maturing and commercial deep space habitats are currently in development.  A renewed focus on utilizing the Moon can help further these advancements.  The choices we make now can forever make America the preeminent spacefaring nation.

Bridenstine also wrote a blog post on Nov. 7 titled, This is Our Sputnik Moment, that covered a lot of the same material. It is worth a look as well.

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  • windbourne

    The moon by and of itself, does nothing to help. In fact building up to get resources is a complete lunacy. where it makes sense is that many nations and companies want to go to the moon and will pay for it.
    Basically, the moon becomes an economic step for new space because many flights will be needed and it will be constant.

  • Vladislaw

    Oh wait.. this was about 4+ months ago .. I do not know the specs both ..

  • Vladislaw

    John wrote: “Unless they want to modify the S2 for direct to GEO insertions or there is a sudden major clamoring for 8mt to mars I don’t see why SpaceX needs it for anything other than their Red Dragon missions”

    SpaceX Gets an Air Force Funding Infusion for Raptor Engine

    “Under the contract, SpaceX’s will develop a Raptor prototype for use as an upper stage on the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

    SpaceX is contributing $67.3 million under the jointly funded $100 million program. The Air Force could contribute a total $61.4 million if it exercises additional options. SpaceX’s total contribution would be $122.8 million if the government exercises all its options. Total contributions by both parties could total $184.2 million.”

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/01/18/spacex-air-force-funding-infusion-raptor-engine/

    I believe Air Force wants that Second stage beefed up for the Falcon Heavy. The AF could then launch two of their biggest at a time for peanuts compared to Boeing and the Delta Heavy?

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    That’s an interesting topic, obviously I would agree the AF would love to have a replacement for the D-IVH with a launch cost at about 25-30% of the Delta heavy. But can the raptor perform that role?

    It’s thrust is about 3x greater than the MVac, which is great because the MVac is considerably underpowered for those size payloads. Can SpaceX get enough methalox propellant in a ~5m diameter tank without extending the length too much?

  • Vladislaw

    I do not believe they can stretch it .. the thinness ratio is like almost 20:1 .. They would get more performance but they would have to consider a wider S2. Wonder if they could goto 6 meters if they made the factory in florida so they would have have to deal with road or rail?

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    I agree, they might be able to scrap the partial pressure support on the new S2 and go with a full structural support to allow for more stretching of the S2, shouldn’t affect the beefed up core or beefed up interstage.

    Building these expendable S2s on the west coast would mean barge shipment to KSC or vice versa for East coast facility so you’re limiting yourself there. But the larger diameter would be awesome for expanded payload fairings!

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    It’s been a while but you might be right I do remember reading 60mt somewhere long ago. Maybe that 45mt is three RTLS stages and the 53mt is two RTLS and one barge