Pence Proposes Landing Astronauts on Moon by 2024

Mike Pence

During a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump Administration is committed to landing astronauts at the south pole of the moon by 2024.

Pence essentially moved up the deadline by four years from 2028. He also talked about establishing a permanent base on the lunar surface before going on to send astronauts to Mars.

Pence said that if NASA’s current contractors can’t achieve that goal, they will use commercial providers. That’s essentially a shot across the bow of Boeing, which is the primary contractor for the Space Launch System (SLS).

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine just said that he is confident the space agency can launch SLS with an Orion capsule to go around the moon by the end of 2020.

NASA has been reevaluating the planned launch date of June 2020. Published reports say that Boeing had recently told Bridenstine and other NASA officials that the launch date could slip until November 2021.

NASA subsequently started a review to determine whether the Orion spacecraft and a booster stage could be launched on separate commercial boosters. One the vehicles were docked in Earth orbit, Orion would fly around the moon before returning to an ocean splashdown.

There have not been a lot of details on precisely how NASA plans to achieve this goal within five years. I guess we’ll find out in the days and weeks ahead.

  • duheagle

    They’d be selling them to NASA just as Blue would be selling its notional landers. We were, after all, positing a NASA-led mission here.

    But, just as SpaceX will soon be able to do its own Moon missions without any real help from NASA, Blue isn’t so very far behind either. If Blue wanted to do such a thing, it could finish up that bi-conic capsule design they were working on a few years back early in the CC program as well as adapt NS for a lander and launch both with New Glenn.

  • gunsandrockets

    What is your source? Post a link.

  • duheagle

    Seems to me it’s Pence who’s doing the telling these days.

  • passinglurker

    you can google (dm-1 “kilograms”, or dm-1 “kg” ought to do the trick). like I said every source that covered DM-1 and gave a mass listed this mass.

    how about you post a link to orion’s dry mass? all I can find is an old constellation pdf that lists the capsule at 8.7tons…

  • duheagle

    Landing on the Moon is easy. 1/6 G. No atmosphere. Landing on Mars is what’s hard.

    And Starship is not designed for one-way service to anywhere, Mars included.

    If it actually takes until 2023 for Dear Moon, I’ll be surprised. I think it will prove possible much sooner. But even if it takes until 2023 to do a fly-by, I don’t see how that makes a 2024 landing out of reach.

  • duheagle

    I think he can. I even think he will before the notional 2024 Moon landing by the usual suspects/revised program of record can get properly started – after the end of house-to-house resistance. But I think the government ought to make the offer anyway. Elon can always turn it down. Even without a federal dime, I think SpaceX can take those mooks in AL without even working up a proper sweat.

  • duheagle

    I didn’t say SpaceX needed funding, I said it ought to be offered.

    It remains to be seen whether or not we can cancel failed programs. I’d like something resembling the program I outlined to be formally written down and signed into law, but I think things might well work out more as less that way even if nothing like that is done. I don’t think NASA, its contractors and the entire program of record have a prayer of beating SpaceX to the Moon by 2024 – especially given that I think SpaceX is going to be there even earlier.

  • gunsandrockets
  • duheagle

    Don’t laugh toolong. You might miss some things.

  • Jeff Smith

    Capsule size is fine already. Just give the SM larger tanks and then you can grow the EUS to compensate.

    No huge snowball effect. It’ll work fine.

  • gunsandrockets

    I’ve been googling. I found nothing you spoke of.

  • duheagle

    I certainly wouldn’t object to simply putting a stake through SLS, Orion and MSFC right now. I just think it would be politically easier to do if they had one last heavily spotlit chance to show what doddering incompetents they are. As for ULA, Bigelow and Blue Origin, I’m kinda indifferent to ULA at this point and like Bigelow and Blue. And if any one, or any combination of them or others wanted to pursue a third track of this challenge, I’d be delighted. I just think there’s probably little chance of that happening and that all three firms could make some decent money as supporting players in the revised program of record by contributing some tech the SLS-Orion crowd lacks and can’t quickly acquire elsewhere.

  • gunsandrockets

    To flyby the moon with a minimal payload, should be easy for Starship. But to land on the moon, and then return to land on the Earth? That’s 4.6 km/s more delta-V than a lunar flyby mission. That’s going to take multiple Starship tankers to refuel your lunar landing Starship before it departs Earth orbit. That means a fleet of two to six Starships and Super Heavies to do one lunar landing mission.

    Because it isn’t easy to land on the Moon and then return to Earth. It’s hard. It is Saturn V + LOR hard.

    And yes, going to Mars is easier than the Moon. Sure, the Moon has lower gravity, but the atmosphere of Mars lets you bleed off velocity when landing at Mars. Because of aerobraking, the one way cost from LEO to the Martian surface is about 4 km/s delta-V worth of propellant. One way from LEO to the lunar surface is about 5.5 km/s delta-V worth of propellant. And we know how cruel the rocket equation is when it comes to more delta-V.

    And yes, Starship is designed for one way flights between Earth and Mars. Starship can’t do a two way flight from Earth to Mars to Earth, because it doesn’t have enough propellant to return from Mars. Starship must first refuel on Mars before it can return to Earth.

    Sure Starship might go to other destinations other than Mars. But Starship is specialized for the Earth-Mars trip. And once SpaceX has built up the minimal capacity to land at Mars, why wouldn’t they go to Mars first instead of the Moon?

  • passinglurker

    Fortunately in the intervening time I managed to trace it back to the source.

    https://twitter.com/StephenClark1/status/1101504286192742400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1101504286192742400&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fforum.nasaspaceflight.com%2Findex.php%3Ftopic%3D47095.160

    If we take 3 tons as propellant then we are looking at a little over 8 metric tons dry vs a little over 10 tons dry for orion so as I originally estimated the difference between the two with roughly equal dv, and freeflight time is going to be about 2 pounds. meaning FH still comes up shy and trying to stretch the FUS would undo the existic crew access arm placement.

    Of course Orion suffers from a case of “spacetruck” not only is it a crew taxi but it also was meant to ferry modules and logistics to ARM/gateway so 3.5 weeks freeflight and 1,200dv might be a bit excessive in a world where we can have a seperate commercial launch handle the snacks and modules for a station or lander. In that case if we pare it down to two weeks of life support and a more optimal dv budget we’d have something on par in capability to federation and we can reasonably assume also on par in terms of mass which should be within FH’s capability to push through TLI. Shame musk gave up on grey dragon and manned FH.

  • Jeff Smith

    If you mean the calcium loss due to zero-g for the water reclamation system, that would only apply if Orion is going to HAVE a water reclamation system… which I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. These early flights will all be 2-4 weeks and done, all the stuff is consumable.

  • Jeff Smith

    Would you be ok with Bridenstine just cutting out Green Run testing and going straight to launch? Cuz that’s the most likely option. If that is what happens, then Shelby, et al. won’t really care: as long as the rocket is SLS, they’ll be fine.

    Same thing happened with Apollo. Von Braun and Marshall are VERY conservative in their engineering approach and they always have LOTS of testing. Mueller went to All Up Testing and got Apollo to the Moon on time.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    MMGA! Making the Moon Great Again!

  • Jeff Smith

    Wouldn’t one of the options be funding for an SLS with ALL the factory options? I’m sure there’s more that one politician that could get behind that!

    🙂

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I agree, plus the lack of leadership from the Obama Admin.

  • gunsandrockets

    But what if the landing site is scouted out ahead of time by a small robotic lander?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see live video of the manned landing from the perspective of the lunar surface?

    ;-D

  • Paul_Scutts

    If everything goes according to script, GAR, I agree. Regards, Paul.

  • redneck

    Somehow, I think a well surveyed site will be at least as easy as a pitching barge. And send several unmanned supply ships first of course

  • ThomasLMatula

    It is easy to be conservative when you have endless taxpayer money to burn through. But those days are ending and Marshall better adapt if it wants to be part of the future of space flight.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Many reasons like planetary protection, launch windows, lack of commercial customers…

    But it doesn’t matter, Elon Musk has already accepted the challenge on Twitter and indicated they will give it a shot. The Race is on.

  • Bulldog

    Hi Jeff,
    Yes, I would be good with all up testing. If you think about how much is known about the SLS system such as the SSME’s being well characterized, SRB’s being shuttle derived, tank being shuttle derived, etc., we should have a very solid knowledge base to work from to solve any issues that arise from an all up test. That coupled with the fact that instrumentation today is vastly superior that of 50+ years ago, we should be able to capture a very rich data set for any anomalies the vehicle experiences. Granted, there is additional risk, but I think given significant past experience with key vehicle components and the ability to gather deep flight data the risk is acceptable.

    Best,
    Bulldog

  • Jeff Smith

    Don’t get me wrong, I TOTALLY agree with everything you just said – for the EXACT same reasons.

    I just don’t want anyone thinking the admin is gonna kill SLS and fund “insert your favorite other rocket here”. The way they’re gonna do it is the same way they did it on Apollo: swap qualification “by test” for qual “by analysis” – a totally legitimate decision as long as you know what you’re signing up for. We should also keep in mind the reason you CAN accelerate Marshall’s schedule on S-V or SLS is that the engineering was fundamentally sound to begin with. Compare all the Marshall designs (Redstone, S-I, S-V, Shuttle, SLS, etc.) to say an N-1, you can accelerate sound/conservative designs, but you’d have to test the HECK out of N-1 before you could put people on board.

    When you buy a rocket from any of these places (SpaceX, ULA, MSFC, Energia, Kistler, etc.), you’re really buying their engineering PROCESS. Don’t go to the VW dealership and expect to come home with a Ferarri – and vice versa.

  • Not Invented Here

    Why do you want Kestrels? It’s Kerolox, the last thing you want on a Moon mission. For quirk & dirty SpaceX lander, just use SuperDraco, storable hypergolic fuel is your friend. Bonus point being it’s already human rated.

  • Not Invented Here

    What are you talking about? “All Up Testing” is not about skipping ground tests, All Up Testing meant you launch live first/second/third stages together in the first launch, SLS is already planning to do this, All Up Testing is pretty much standard industry practice for new launch vehicles anyway.

    What you’re suggesting is skipping a critical ground testing step: Static fire of the first stage. Apollo never did this, they did the exact opposite, they have a test stage just for static firing tests, and many test fires were carried out. Each production Saturn V stage also went through static fire tests, just like what SpaceX is doing for their Falcon.

    The Soviet tried skipping ground tests on their N-1, it didn’t work out too well for them.

  • redneck

    I thought I replied earlier it don’t see it A surveyed site should be simpler than a pitching barge. A few cargo flights first for test survey, and site prep residual prop to refuel the returning lander

  • Robert G. Oler

    silly…we have probes all over the solar system…

  • Robert G. Oler

    if you cannot cancel failed programs then new programs are not going to come along…you dont say “wow lets have a internal race”…its pointless

    SpaceX will need a lot of federal funding if they are ever going to fly Star whatever that farce is named

  • Robert G. Oler

    it doesnt matter there is not enough money or political support to do both. people act like this “thing” Trump has said is going to get political support…I doubt it does even in the GOP

  • Robert G. Oler

    lol

  • Jeff Smith

    You’re correct. That is how Apollo applied the concept of choosing which tests to combine and which to separate to reduce risk and meet schedule. SLS is going to apply that same concept in a different way by having decades of experience on the individual components and so skipping the intermediate integrated tests in favor of a complete system test. In both cases they are applying the concept of being selective about which tests to perform to reduce risk to an acceptable level while still meeting schedule. Same concept, different application.

  • Jeff Smith

    I go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, NASA could have gone from Shuttle to a Shuttle/Energia in like 5 years (let’s be honest, that’s what A-V/SLS/Jupiter IS). They could have been flying that and Orion years ago and then have an upgrade plan to extend the boosters, core, upper stage, etc….

    The problem NASA always gets into is the funding cycle, “oh, you’ve successfully flown a rocket? Development is OVER and it’s QUALIFIED, no more money for you!”

    So do you getting SOMETHING flying soon, or do you try to get your wishlist? (that new friction stir welded core is incredible, but its development has been EXPENSIVE)

    Clearly, we know which one NASA/Boeing chose. I wish we lived in a world where Congressional funding worked more like a normal business: demonstrate an initial capability with GUARENTEED future funding to get the features you really want. If I could have my cake/eat it too, that’s what I’d choose, but I’m not sure it woulda worked out that way in the real world.

  • Jeff2Space

    People can do so much more on the spot than a remote controlled probe can do. Look at the miles traveled by crewed lunar rovers versus remote controlled lunar rovers. Also look at the amount of samples collected and returned from the moon versus all remote controlled sample return missions. Sure crewed missions cost more, but they can also do more on the spot.

  • Jeff2Space

    NASA had a lot to do with Constellation, particularly Administrator Mike Griffin picking Ares I, Ares V, and CEV as the “transportation architecture”. Congress is responsible for creating SLS as a replacement for Constellation.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Wishes and dreams and optimistic declarations of hope are nice to contemplate at face value, but reality has the last word. .
    Reminds me that optimism is wanting things to turn out good without evidence, pessimism is trying to claim things turn out bad without evidence, reality however is always based on evidence and fact, and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Vladislaw

    SLS won’t go to the moon and Orion would not puts boots on the ground. I have been watching and listening to Bridenstein at the house and no mention of landers ..

  • Vladislaw

    Instead of the four engines and core hold down test. The Administrator just said that each engine would be tested separately first and then launched.

  • Vladislaw

    And Brindenstien just said at the house subcommittee meeting MARS is STILL the MAIN focus for NASA .. I Have been beating this dead horse for years.. NASA wants Mars regardless of whatever lip service it pays for Luna.

  • Vladislaw

    and at today’s house subcomittee meeting he said MARS is STILL the MAIN focus for NASA. He also cleared up that we are not going to there to live permanently .. we are going to visit and learn to use resources.. he stressed sustainably … not for a lunar base

  • ThomasLMatula

    LOL Still stuck in the Old Space mindset. The Wright Brothers will never fly their plane unless the Smithsonian sponsors them…

  • ThomasLMatula

    NASA does not consider it safe for a propulsive landing, which is why the Dragon2 had to switch to parachutes and land in the ocean.

  • Vladislaw

    ” the course President Obama put NASA on with his speech in 2010 was the wrong one.”

    I laugh my a$$ off every time you post that drivel. The budget proposal for that speech was deemed “dead on arrival” by Both republican House and Senate. Republicans freakin’ signed PLEDGES if President Obama proposed it they would AUTOMATICALLY be against it and vote no.. This screw ball notion you have that all President Obama had to do was propose something and Mitch McConnell was going to be on board for it is pure BS.

    Tell me what from that speech/budget did the republicans endorse? The 6 billion increase over five years? The fuel depots? The new engines to replace the russian engines? The technologies he proposed funding for? NONE OF IT was funded .. so you are once against just spewing BS.

    The two people trump picked to head up the NASA transition was Gingrich and Walker… what did those two have to say about President Obama’s budget proposal?

    GINGRICH & WALKER: Obama’s brave reboot for NASA

    “By – The Washington Times – Friday, February 12, 2010

    ANALYSIS/OPINION:

    Despite the shrieks you might have heard from a few special interests, the Obama administration’s budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserves strong approval from Republicans. The 2011 spending plan for the space agency does what is obvious to anyone who cares about man’s future in space and what presidential commissions have been recommending for nearly a decade.”

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/12/obamas-brave-reboot-for-nasa/

    You and your revisionist history is laughable.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8b59913eb5abbe945c47b1552ebd7eb432a835f9ad52c1d4418453cf26845fc5.jpg