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IsThereAnyHopeForAMoonBase_

IsThereAnyHopeForAMoonBase_

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Published by gpduf
NASA has lost all records on how to find the moon and return. Where did the billions spent on America's Apollo program really go?
NASA has lost all records on how to find the moon and return. Where did the billions spent on America's Apollo program really go?

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Published by: gpduf on Sep 02, 2014
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09/04/2014

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AUGUST SEPTEMBER 2014www.nexusmagazine.comNEXUS 37
ince NASA's Constellation Program (CxP), intended to return humansto the Moon by 2020, was cancelled in 2010, there has been noshortage of professional views as to what should happen next.Nevertheless, development work on systems to fly beyond low Earthorbit (LEO) has continued without interruption, with the main targetremaining the same: to resurrect technologies that were allegedly availableback in the late 1960s. So, the key aspects of the current strategy defined in the NASA  Authorization Act of 2010 are unsurprising: to develop a heavy-launch vehicleand a module for the crew, capable of the safe return from space trips beyondLEO. Doesn't this simply mean a rocket analogous to the Saturn V launchvehicle and a capsule similar to the Apollo Command Module (CM)?However, the CxP plan to return to the Moon was not the first of its kind. An historical review (Arch. Study, 2005) pointed to a number of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) task forces which, since atleast 1989, had been assembled periodically in order to formulate the nextviable Moon mission.  A permanent base on the Moon had seemed to be the most logical andattractive goal, bearing in mind the apparent success of the Apollo program.Had the planned road maps of the early 1990s been realised within a span ofsome 15 years, in all probability a functioning inhabited outpost would havebeen developed on the Moon by now.The most recent of the human spaceflight projects, the CxP again plannedat last to get to the Moon. Until its cancellation in 2010, the project hadachieved remarkable progress in planning, design and early development at acost of around US$10 billion. Yet, on 15 April 2010, President Obama—speaking to scientists, astronauts and policymakers—finally denounced theCxP. Instead of a program to return to the Moon, he outlined the plan forNASA: "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars andreturn them safely to Earth," the President said. "And a landing on Mars willfollow. And I expect to be around to see it." (Pres. Speech, 2010) Obviously, this totally new strategy means no landings, either on the Moonor on Mars, for at least some 20 years from 2010. So then, what is the majorproblem with landing on the Moon? What does it really mean in terms oftechnology and logistical challenges to repeat a feat which, according to therecord, was confidently completed many times, more than 40 years ago? The answer can be found in recent US government and NASA documents. Any such mission is a complex chain of essential operations, all of which haveto be accomplished safely. It is sufficient for one or two links in the chain tobe unreliable to make a Moon return deadly dangerous, and the missionbecomes absolutely impossible when just one link is incomplete. Such linkswere actually acknowledged by NASA.
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NASA documents on the now-defunctConstellationProgram for a returnto the Moon by 2020reveal startlingevidence that theagency is still actuallyunable to send amanned mission to the Moon. It’s as if nothing hasbeen learned from the Apollo missions and until recently criticism was taboo.
by Phil Kouts
© June 2014Email: philkuts@gmail.com
S
 
Heat Shield of the Command Module
One crucial link in any mission to the Moon requires thatthe return capsule be equipped with an effective andreliable heat shield. In particular, it was literally
the
vitalelement in the construction of each Apollo CM. Thisessential protection was necessary for re-entry into theEarth's atmosphere on lunar return. The CM hits andenters the Earth's atmosphere at the re-entry speed of 11.2kilometres per second (escape velocity value).Development of such a high-specification shield musthave been a significant scientific and technologicalchallenge—especially in the mid-1960s—due to thecomplex technical requirements.  According to the chronology, the first successful use ofthe Apollo heat shield with a crew on board the CM was inDecember 1968 during the return of Apollo 8 from thejourney around the Moon. After that, all Apollo missionsreportedly completed perfect landings and no problem hasever been highlighted or discussed. However, the Architecture Study for the CxP reveals thatNASA now does have a problem with the thermalprotection material: "A Thermal Protection System (TPS)requires materials specifically designed to manageaerothermal heating (heat flux, dynamic pressure)experienced during hypersonic entry, for both nominal andabort scenarios… Only ablators can meet maximumrequirements; they are designed to sacrifice mass underextreme heating efficiently and reliably… The Apolloablative TPS (AVCOAT–5061) no longer exists.Qualification of new or replacement materials will requireextensive analysis and testing." (Arch. Study, 2005, p. 629) The essential requirement of a CM returning to Earthwith its crew is to protect the module against enormousheat at deceleration from the high re-entry speed to adescent speed appropriate for parachutes to be deployed. At entry into the atmosphere, the protective material hasto withstand around 2,700 °C compared to the lowertemperature of approximately 1,600 °C at which the SpaceShuttle's shield operates. (NASA News, 2006) This subject has remained in the background for over 40years but is now revealed as an outstanding problem. Worse still, it is perhaps a problem that has never beenresolved satisfactorily. In a 2008 report by the USGovernment Accountability Office (GAO), the admission iseven more startling than the one made three years earlier:"[A]ccording to the Orion program executive the OrionProject originally intended to use the heat shield from the Apollo program as a fallback technology for the Orionthermal protection system, but was unable to recreate the Apollo material." (GAO, 2008, p. 6) The report clarifies:"Furthermore, heat shield design features required by theOrion, namely the size, have never been proven and mustbe developed." (GAO, 2008, p. 11)The importance of a reliable and effective heat shieldcannot be overstated. The availability of a proper heatshield was absolutely critical for the safe return of all the Apollo crews. NASA's admission that the agency cannotnow recreate the thermal shield of a return module isabsolutely astounding. Such an admission could only becompared to an inconceivable statement that, for example, American military officials admit that after using armouredsteel in their tanks during World War II, some 40 years laterthey don't have the technology at hand to developarmoured steel and have great difficulty in reproducingsuch steel despite the previous experience during the war.The GAO report concludes: "With respect to Orion'sthermal protection system, facilities available from the Apollo era for testing large-scale heat shields no longerexist." (GAO, 2008, p. 14) Eighteen months later, possibly to soften the shockingrevelation regarding the absence of aneffective heat shield made in its firstreport, the GAO provides clarification:"NASA is using an ablative materialderived from the substance used in the Apollo program. After somedifficulties, NASA was successful inrecreating the material. Because ituses a framework with manyhoneycomb-shaped cells, each ofwhich must be individually filledwithout voids or imperfections, it maybe difficult to repeatedly manufactureto consistent standards.  According to program officials,during the Apollo program the cellswere filled by hand. The contractorplans to automate the process for theOrion Thermal Protection System, butthis capability is still beingdeveloped." (GAO, 2009, p. 11) Doesthis help to convince the public that
38• NEXUSwww.nexusmagazine.com AUGUST SEPTEMBER 2014Apollo 14 Command Module, allegedly returned from the Moon and now housed at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. (Source: Phil Kouts)
 
the problem is only one of small operations versus largeoperations and thus has been resolved?  As recently as the end of 2012, it was announced that theOrion capsule is to be tested for a medium (around 8.9kilometres per second) re-entry speed at expectedtemperatures of up to 2,200 °C. (Orion Factsheet, 2012)This approach is entirely reasonable if NASA intends toinvestigate re-entry thermal conditions step by step,having had no preliminary experience. Again, it is evidentthat there is no reliance whatsoever on the claimedaccomplishments of the Apollo program.
Re-entry into the Earth’s Atmosphere
 Another crucial link in the successful chain of operationsis the choice of landing trajectory. The re-entry profile inparticular determines critical requirements for the thermalshield. According to NASA, the Apollo systems performeda "direct entry", i.e., that which is along the simplest,shortest trajectory. But this choice carries with it thepenalty of maximum atmosphereresistance—resulting in maxi-mum heat for the landingcapsule and maximum gravi-tational deceleration overload forthe crew in the module. Anothertechnique known as "skip entry"seems now to be preferred forreturning crew modules from theMoon. A skip entry meansentering the Earth's atmospherewith a longer gliding path and asoft bouncing on the Earth'satmosphere, which allows thelanding capsule to experience less heat and, at the sametime, far less gravitational overload. NASA has reviewed trajectories for returning to Earthfrom the Moon and concludes that compared to thoseused during Apollo, the new concept should beimplemented: "…it is recommended that NASA utilizeskip-entry guidance on the lunar return trajectories. Theskip-entry lunar return technique provides an approach forreturning crew to a single…landing site anytime during alunar month. The Apollo-style direct-entry techniquerequires water or land recovery over a wide range oflatitudes." (Arch. Study, 2005, p. 39)  A wide range of latitudes would normally mean a fewdegrees on the globe, which in turn would mean a largeterritory a few hundred kilometres across, which is in linewith theoretical estimates for direct entry. Strangelyenough, to say that Apollo-style direct entry requires alarge territory entirely contradicts the historical recordsregarding the Apollo CM splashdowns that were regularlyaccomplished within a short distance from the recoveryaircraft carriers. Typical splashdown miss distances of justa few kilometres were recorded for each Apollo missionrecovery—which should make the current recovery teamsvery envious, as they presently pick up astronautsreturning from the International Space Station (ISS) interritories dozens of kilometres across. As a matter of fact,by mentioning "a wide range of latitudes", the modernNASA research teams denounced the declaredachievement of the Apollo program in using the direct-entry technique. Today, NASA teams actually have todevelop a precise landing technique which was apparentlyavailable in the late 1960s. It is worthwhile noting that in the period ofapproximately three years since late 2009—the time of the Augustine Study—to the end of 2012, the developmentswith the Orion capsule were focused on its completion fortrips to and safe return from the ISS, which, of course, isonly stationed in LEO where the capsule would notexperience the same extreme conditions as would be thecase with flights returning from the Moon.
Radiation beyond Low Earth Orbit
Regarding the radiation limits for travelling beyond LEO:"NASA relies on externalguidance from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) andthe National Council onRadiation Protection andMeasurements (NCRP) for estab-lishing dose limits. Due to thelack of data and knowledge, theNAS and NCRP recom-mendedthat radiation limits forexploration missions could notbe determined until new sciencedata and knowledge [were]obtained." (Arch. Study, 2005, p.109) The next year, in swift response to NASA's request, theNCRP produced a report with a title to puzzle anunprepared reader: "Information Needed to MakeRadiation Protection Recommendations for SpaceMissions Beyond Low-Earth Orbit". (NCRP, 2006) By this,the NCRP admits that there is no substantial informationavailable on cosmic radiation beyond LEO, including dataon lunar surface radiation, despite the allegedachievements of Apollo. The Augustine Committee quotes another report, thistime from the National Research Council (NRC, 2008),which largely confirms the problem: "Lack of knowledgeabout the biological effects of and responses to spaceradiation is the single most important factor limiting theprediction of radiation risk associated with human spaceexploration." (Augustine, 2009, p. 100)The National Academy of Sciences needed some rawinformation just to be able to start working on thoserecommendations. Of course, some data should havebeen readily available to the American scientificcommunity over the 40 years since the Apollo program. Common sense tells us that information regardingradiation effects on the Moon, if such information exists at
AUGUST SEPTEMBER 2014www.nexusmagazine.comNEXUS 39
…by mentioning
a wide range of latitudes
,the modern NASA researchteams denounced thedeclared achievement of theApollo program in using thedirect-entry technique.

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