Archive for October, 2010

Buzz Aldrin’s Rocket Experience

Monday, October 25th, 2010

We Need a ‘Space Taxi’ – By Buzz Aldrin for redOrbit

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Most people are familiar with the space shuttle as the current primary means for NASA to carry astronauts into space. However as the final flights of this complex and impressive machine are prepared, the design of the next space transportation system is being debated. The original purpose of the space shuttle was to be a convenient way to launch large payloads and crew into space. By reusing parts of the system and flying often, the cost of launches would be reduced. But the complexity of the shuttle and risk associated with carrying crew and cargo together prevented it from achieving this goal of reducing launch costs. That is why I believe the next vehicle we use to bring astronauts to and from space should be a dedicated space taxi.

This vehicle would be much smaller than the space shuttle. It could launch a crew of six to eight people by sitting on top of an existing expendable launch vehicle. After delivering crew to the ISS, or other transfer stations for deep space missions, the vehicle is able to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land back at or near the launch site. This vehicle will operate at a fraction of the cost of both the space shuttle and the proposed Orion capsule.

Water recoveries are expensive and introduce risk to the astronauts. In addition, dropping these complicated machines into salt water makes it very difficult to create hardware that is reusable. Looking at the “reusable” solid rocket boosters that are currently recovered from the ocean, we know that this is a complicated procedure that requires stripping components down to bare metal. This is not the sort of design that makes for a launch system we can turn around and launch again on a weekly basis in a cost-effective manner. Rather than returning to the “Apollo on steroids” philosophy, a space taxi will land either on a runway or vertically (using airbags or propulsion) to minimize the time and work required to prepare for the next launch.

A specialized crew transportation vehicle as I’ve described above is not a new idea. In fact NASA already spent about a billion dollars over seven years developing one. The HL-20 was a NASA Langley space taxi concept for the original Space Station Freedom. However after partnering with Russia on the ISS, the Soyuz was selected as the vehicle of choice for its significant heritage and strong safety record. The HL-20 concept was at a high level of development but unfortunately work was stopped before flying a complete prototype. Now, the concept has been taken up by a private company.

Another option is a vertically descending capsule that is designed to return to land. This is a difficult task compared to a water landing because of the difficulty of having a soft landing. However the benefit of creating a system that really is reusable and allows for a high flight rate will outweigh these extra propulsion or airbag systems.

Without the space shuttle, we must invest in a reusable crew vehicle – a “space taxi” – to establish a reliable and cost effective space transportation system into Earth orbit. Reducing cost and risk burdens where possible is essential to a sustainable spaceflight infrastructure. The image of the space shuttle has become an icon representing the great achievements we’ve made in space. It has carried our astronaut heroes for the past few decades. Let’s invest in a vehicle that will be able to carry many more people into space and increase our capabilities in a way that will make space accessible to the next generation of explorers of the solar system.

Since retiring from NASA and the Air Force, Col. Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure America’s continued leadership in human space exploration. He devised a master plan for missions to Mars – the “Aldrin Mars Cycler” – a spacecraft transportation system with perpetual cycling orbits between Earth and Mars. Dr. Aldrin has received three US patents for his rocket systems and schematics.

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Read the Original Article at redOrbit

Buzz Aldrin Dreams of Mars

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Picture a sign post next to a remote building: Last gas for the next 50 million miles. A second sign sits beneath it, clarifying the location: Next stop, Mars.

Last week, President Obama signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which charts the space agency’s trajectory and will shape the nation’s science, aerospace and information technology development for decades to come. And the moon is not a key factor in the plan.

“I just have to say pretty bluntly — we’ve been there before,” Obama told reporters in April when critics first argued that the moon should not be sidelined. “There’s a lot more space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do,” he said.

You’ll hear nothing but agreement from Buzz Aldrin — the second man to step on the moon (but the first to leave, he jokes). Aldrin argues that while putting Americans back on the moon is misguided, our lunar sibling is still important for the next big project NASA will tackle: Mars.

“A unified space exploration policy is what is needed for the U.S.,” Aldrin told

Aldrin believes NASA should move in stages toward a manned mission to Mars — and ultimately colonization on or near the Red Planet — by building outer space fuel stations and industrializing the moon. NASA has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars researching such projects, he noted, an investment that should be utilized — as recommended by Norm Augustine, former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board and chairman of the Review of the U.S. Space Flight Plans Committee.

“The U.S. has the most experience in the world, of any nation, in dealing with the moon,” he told “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that flexibility is needed here.”

Aldrin endorses the formation of an International Lunar Development Corporation to begin commercial enterprises on the moon. And a broad collation of governments — Russia, China, India, the U.S., and others — should form this quasigovernmental organization, which would help private enterprises capitalize on the lunar resources. Together, these nations can build that lunar gas station.

“Who should send up the propellant? China, India, Europe. We’re going to Mars, we need propellant. And we could buy propellant from them at our moon gas station,” he told Vanity Fair in June.

There are real commercial activities that private enterprises could develop on the moon as well: Helium 3 can be mined, and heavy metal meteorites could be a source of rare earth metals. And the presence of water ice would make great rocket fuel — and rocket fuel is gets us to Mars. Aldrin thinks that base could form part of a transportation infrastructure that would enable us to get to near Earth objects such as asteroids, Martian moon Phobos, even Mars itself and beyond.

The space legend, who is launching a new think tank called U.S.S. Enterprise — which stands for Unified, Strategic, Space Enterprise — believes NASA should think about all of the planets for the most efficient travel across the solar system. And a key item for America should be a permanent base on Phobos.

“Every twenty-six months, there’s a window of going to Mars that may last for about a month or so. It just so happens that there’s an opportunity to put a habitat on Mars in the fall of 2022,” he told Vanity Fair. “In the spring of 2025, I send a crew and they stay for a year and a half, and then I bring them back. I send another crew in ‘27 and then I bring them back. I send another crew there in ‘29, and they stay. And then in ‘31 I send six more people, three to one of the moons of Mars and three directly to Mars, and now I’ve got nine people there. I can add six every twenty-six months,” he said.

The ultimate goal: a permanent presence on Mars, enabled by a system of spacecraft that cycle from Earth to Mars and back. A permanent habitation served by a permanent transportation system.

In this dream, a lunar base is useful, but merely a means to an end, Aldrin told

“For decades, we’ve been misdefining our transitional space programs,” Aldrin said. “A vision like in the early days of the space race showing the logical progression from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo is what is needed today to show why we need to go to Mars — and how we will get there.”

Read the Original Article at

Obama has better space plan, Aldrin

Monday, October 11th, 2010

US President Barack Obama’s new space program embraces technological advances and is an improvement on the former administration’s plan to return to the moon, US moonwalker Buzz Aldrin said.

Dr Aldrin was speaking in Sydney on Tuesday after coming out in April in support of President Obama’s program, which controversially scrapped former President George W Bush’s plan to return US astronauts to the moon by 2020.

“Do you know how long it takes to build a rocket? A long time and it’s expensive and there are a lot of people working on it,” the second man to walk on the moon in 1969 told reporters.

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Since 2005, the US government has spent $US9 billion ($A9.3 billion) on the program.

“The manner in which it was implemented turned out to be so over-budget, over-scheduled and going back to the moon just did not satisfy the advances in technology and the opportunities that we had.”

Dr Aldrin, who will be guest of honour at the Australian Geographic Society Awards on Wednesday in Sydney, said he was disappointed there wasn’t more support for President Obama’s space policy.

The policy includes funding for radically new space technologies and a manned spacecraft orbit around Mars within the next three decades.

Those opposed to the cancellation of the program included the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

“I feel like a great future does await us or does await the society that decides to take advantage of the technology that has advanced,” Dr Aldrin said.

“There are major shiftings of economies throughout the world because of the lower cost of labour and the increases of technology and communications.”

Dr Aldrin said he was pleased to be be attending the award ceremony in Sydney, where never-before-seen video footage of the Apollo 11 moonwalk discovered in Australia will be shown.

The footage of mission commander Neil Armstrong descending the ladder of the lunar module will be among highlights of the historic 1969 moonwalk to be shown at the awards.

Other footage to be shown includes digitally remastered images of man’s first step on the moon surface, Dr Aldrin’s descent of the ladder, the reading of the plaque and the raising of the US flag.

Read the Original Article at The Age.