NASA has revealed that the Trump administration want to send astronauts around the Moon during the first testing of the Orion Capsule.
NASA says that the mission might well be possible, although the data will dictate whether they embark on a manned mission to leave low orbit for the first time since 1972.
NASA are currently investigating the possibilities and have been asked to provide a feasibility report to the President. The first test flights were set for 2018 and were due to be unmanned, although the President and his team, in search of a win, have asked that the mission is manned by up to 4 NASA astronauts.
Officials announced on Saturday that they are looking into the possibilities and highlighting the possible dangers. They have already given a list of ‘needs’ to the President, including funding for hardware and test that they say is pivotal to any manned mission. NASA originally penned the first manned missions for around 2021, taking off from the historical launch complex at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The original unmanned mission was scheduled for around 2021 and would launch on top of the much-lauded SLS, or Space Launch System, which has had several problems of its own including expenses. The mission would have lasted 22 days and taken the capsule around 275,000 miles. The main aim was to test its readiness and ability to safely transport humans.
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Missions Directorate, has suggested that the plans haven’t yet changed until the data shows otherwise, although manned missions aren’t impossible in 2018.
“We aren’t really changing our stance on what Em-1 is, we’re probably still getting it ready to fly by 2018. Overall, we’re still on the baseline plan of Em-1 first, and then Em-2, but this study lets us look at what things we would want to add and what things we would want to change to add crew to the vehicle.’
William Hill is the deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development in Washington and reveled that talks had taken place between NASA and the government regarding speeding up of manned missions. He spoke at a press conference on Friday and announced that early discussions were positive and that accelerating the manned mission schedule wouldn’t take a great deal of extra work. The mission could give Trump a huge boost in public opinion, should the mission be successful.
NASA acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, has instructed the decision makers within the department to speed up the schedule and get man beyond low Earth orbit.
“The SLS and Orion missions, coupled with record levels of private investment in space, will help put NASA and America in a position to unlock the mysteries of space and to ensure this nation’s world preeminence in exploring the cosmos.”
Lightfoot sent a memo to NASA employees and announced the intention of the President and his administration:
Related to that, I have asked Bill Gerstenmaier to initiate a study to assess the feasibility of adding a crew to Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion. I know the challenges associated with such a proposition, like reviewing the technical feasibility, additional resources needed, and clearly the extra work would require a different launch date. That said, I also want to hear about the opportunities it could present to accelerate the effort of the first crewed flight and what it would take to accomplish that first step of pushing humans farther into space. The SLS and ORION missions, coupled with those promised from record levels of private investment in space, will help put NASA and America in a position to unlock those mysteries and to ensure this nation’s world preeminence in exploring the cosmos.
There has been a lot of speculation in the public discourse about NASA being pulled in two directions – what has come before and what we want to do now. At NASA, this is an “and” proposition, not an “or.” To get where we want to go, we need to work with the companies represented at the SLS and ORION suppliers conference AND those industry partners that work with us in other areas across the country – all of whom have the long-term view on this work. We must work with everyone to secure our leadership in space – and we will.
The Manned Mission:
The original plan for the historic manned mission is built around a multi-translunar injection, or MTLI, which includes a free return trajectory from the moon. The Orion will circle the Earth twice whilst firing up its engines to boost speed and then it will loop the Moon and head back to Earth. Before the second orbit, the upper stage will complete a burn and get the Orion into a highly elliptical orbit.
The mission is to create an enormous figure 8 and use the Moons gravitational force to bring the capsule home. The capsule will visit the far side of the Moon and travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon, which averages 230,000 miles away from the Earth. To get a perspective of how far this is, the International Space Station travels at around 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.
This isn’t a whimsical impulse decision from the President. The decision to accelerate the manned launches of the Orion Capsule is an important step in proving the SLS is a worthy mode of getting people into space. Opponents of the SLS and Orion project have whined and complained for a long time about the cost of the project and its underwhelming schedule. Obviously they want to get the rocket right, but we actually want to use it within our lifetimes. Some in congress and fed up with spending billions every year and having little in terms of progress on manned exploration. They want to go back to the Moon, which if these missions in 2018 are successful, could be done in a second trump term, or even at the end of his first. Crack the Moon and we get to Mars.