back to article Remember that 2024 Moon thing? How about Mars in 2033? Authorization bill moots 2028 for more lunar footprints

There is every chance that Lucy is about to whip the football from Charlie Brown once again as a fresh NASA Authorization Bill was introduced with some significant changes to the infamous 2024 boots-on-Moon goal. The most eye-catching change (PDF) is that the first lunar landing could be pushed to 2028. A crew would then orbit …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

    It requires sustained political will, which is something hardly any country has these days.

    Space exploration will go forth with private companies, helmed by billionaires, because they are the only forces left that have the vision and the willpower to get things done.

    I personally doubt that NASA alone, on public funding, will ever get it done. NASA will be part of the trip, no doubt, but it is losing its position as leader. The question is, which billionaire is going to take point ?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

      It's not just vision - it's consistent vision.

      Musk isn't going to throw out all his plans eight years later because he had them eight years ago, and then rinse/repeat every few years.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

        Musk isn't going to throw out all his plans eight years later because he had them eight years ago, and then rinse/repeat every few years.

        I have this suspicion that Musk and company will get to the moon and possibly mars long before NASA does. Then we'll see Musk's folks welcoming the NASA's folks to the moon and showing them around.

    2. Gonzo wizard

      Re: Which billionaire is going to take point?

      On current form the smart money must be on Elon Musk. SpaceX are the only company regularly going into space with re-usable technology and a vision that far exceeds anything NASA, or any of the other competitors, has.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

      "Space exploration will go forth with private companies, helmed by billionaires, because they are the only forces left that have the vision and the willpower to get things done."

      Even billionaires can't keep paying for stuff like this without some sort of return. Even a long term goal of a self-sustaining off-world colony will take more than they have and decades of time, at least. Not forgetting that a lot of the priavte space industry is feeding of the Government Teat for much of it's finance. Doing government work cheaper than government can is only sustainable while governments are spending on space and their spends match what the private companies want to do.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

        Hence the goal to make launches as cheap, reliable and mundane as possible - widening the net for people who want to put satellites in orbit to improve profits. Also the purpose of starlink (I think that's that it's called) for the satellite internet business.

        Beyond that, if Musk can get his hands on either lunar or asteroid mining or becomes the defacto route to space for space mining hardware, then he has a license to print money, especially if he's able to pull off manned outposts on/orbiting the moon - Oxygen seems to be in ready supply within the regolith if you can extract it so there are possibilities for LOX refuelling at a minimum to reduce the mass getting lifted from Earth's gravity well and therefore potential for improving payload capacity on upper stages.

      2. Brangdon Bronze badge

        Re: Even billionaires can't keep paying for stuff like this

        Some estimates have SpaceX Starlink constellation bringing in $30B a year. That is a lot more than NASA's budget. Of course there will be costs, and eventually competition, but there should be plenty left over for Mars.

      3. JCitizen
        Go

        Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

        Just mining H3 from the Lunar soil, which has more than anywhere else ( supposedly); That could get fusion researchers excited enough to lend a hand to private venture. If all the present privateers worked together, they could get to the moon even faster! They might even want to build the world's ( or solar system's) first successful fusion reactor on the moon.

    4. Smooth Newt
      Happy

      Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

      Space exploration will go forth with private companies, helmed by billionaires, because they are the only forces left that have the vision and the willpower to get things done.

      I wouldn't be so sure. Apollo was a cold war propaganda exercise to demonstrate that the Americans were better than the Russians, particularly after the Russians had done so well with Sputnik and their manned flights, and the huge sums spent didn't have to show any commercial profit.

      It was hugely expensive. $100 billion in today's money, 400,000 people and a three thousand ton rocket just to put something with the crew carrying capacity of a portable toilet on the moon for a few days. If you want a profit then you will have to do much better than that. Even ten times cheaper, which might be conceivably possible with a lot of wishful thinking, it's still $10 billion for a portable toilet on the moon.

      But we are now seeing the start of a new period of arms races with the rise of China, and the general world destabilisation caused by Trump's mercurial and erratic foreign policy. I think we are entering a new period of countries lining up to perform phallic displays with rockets.

    5. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Getting to the Moon is no walk in the park

      "which is something hardly any country has these days"

      China does. India and Israel both seem to be gearing up for their respective second attempts. ESA and Japan both have plans, as do Russia.

      Pretty much ever country with space launch capability seem to be working on landing on the Moon, and several private companies too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getting to The Mood sounds exectly like our bug release cycle.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Getting to The Mood sounds like a jazz compilation album.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. FuzzyWuzzys
    Happy

    Private money

    The only way forward is private money...possibly Wayland-Yutani?

    1. Mike Richards

      Re: Private money

      Not if Lunar Industries can their hands on all that lovely He3 first - we're just waiting to clone Sam Rockwell a few times.

    2. John 104 Silver badge

      Re: Private money

      No way I'm traveling Wayland....

  4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Alien

    Oi watch where you are flying!

    *Time for the random Mysteron based comment because of the mention of Mars*

    We have a speed limit imposed up here ya know and don't even think of landing in my spot!

  5. Mo'Fo B'dass

    Are we there yet?

    If we get there in this decade (the moon) it won't be on a NASA rocket. Mars? Can't see the sense of sending a manned crew to Mars just to come back without landing. How long spent weightless? 6 months? A year? No, I think you'd need so spend some time on Mars before the return journey to build up those muscles and bones and you'd probably need an exoskeleton at that. When the 'nauts come back from long duration missions on the ISS they need people to lift them up and carry them around. Won't be anybody to do that on Mars and although the gravity is lower it could be a showstopper (without some frame or other). This could/should be tested on the Moon. So, if you want to get to Mars in a decent timescale then we'd better crack on with lunar missions. Develop a sustainable plan and stick to it. No more pork projects.

    Jeez, UK could develop a sustainable, manned space program for the money it's spending on a single train track (HS2) and if the yankees ain't got the stomach for it I think UK should.

    I'm sorry but it's been 50 years! Technology has improved exponentially since then, costs have fallen. It should be EASY to get to the moon by now. I'm rambling, I'm racked off. Where's my meds? Back in the sixties the yanks set themselves a target of 10 years to put boots on the moon. They succeeded. A monumental achievement. Why is now going to take another 10 years (we're not exactly going from a standing start are we?). I despair.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Are we there yet?

      Risk aversion.

      Back in the sixties they accepted the risk that people would die doing this pioneering exploration. These days they don't want to face that possibility.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Are we there yet?

      " It should be EASY to get to the moon by now. I'm rambling, I'm racked off. "

      Whilst technology has improved in many areas the physics is still the same. You still need to throw a large amount of mass at very high speed from the back of as light a weight structure as possible.

      Yes, the SpaceX chilled Kerosene and superchilled LOX does give a performance boost - but the fundamental costs of getting something to orbit, are still massive.

      SpaceX and BO are also pioneering the reusability of boosters, and possibly more. That is a significant change in cost, but the sheer amount of fuel required is always going to be costly.

      1. Mo'Fo B'dass

        Re: Are we there yet?

        yes, physics remains the same but the rockets are better, the computers are better, the materials are better, the KNOWLEDGE is better, the imaging is better. The technology is well established and not necessarily bleeding edge so risk is much reduced. In nearly all cases (probably all) its relatively cheaper requiring much less manpower then before. At the moment we are just making it harder for ourselves by dicking around. Get it done and keep doing it.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Are we there yet?

          They’re just not better enough. And, whilst we still use chemical fuels with gaseous expansion as a propulsive device... they never will be .

      2. ridley

        Re: Are we there yet?

        Nah, your space ship doesn't have to be light weight just go nuclear.

        Project Orion you know it makes sense.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Are we there yet?

          The best bit about project Orion was the consultation with Coca Cola about the dispensary mechanism which was expected to use the same technology and techniques as vending machines.

          1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

            Re: Are we there yet?

            So, the astronauts' main job will be to put coins in the slot and press buttons? What if a coin is rejected and they are a bit slow getting it out of the change drawer and putting it back in the slot? If an item gets stuck should they shake the rocket or buy another item in the hope of knocking down the stuck one?

            1. A Nother Handle
              Terminator

              Re: Are we there yet?

              Have you seen those new vending machines that take contactless payments? We just need a robot arm waving a credit card.

        2. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Are we there yet?

          Ah yes. A lot of people at the time said that old Bang-Bang would never be used until Earth was too poor and hungry to worry about fallout

      3. 96percentchimp

        Re: Are we there yet?

        As Musk frequently observes, the fuel isn't expensive, but throwing away rockets is very costly. Developing the hardware is the most expensive part, particularly if you want it to be reusable, because you'll have to iterate through several designs that you can't reuse to a useful degree.

        We've seen that with the Falcon 9/Heavy, which is just entering the commercially reusable stage of its development. SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy is at a much earlier stage in its development, but it will get there (even if not on Musk's ambitious timelines). SLS will never be a cost-effective platform, it just exists to siphon money from the state, because that's Boeing's business model.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Are we there yet?

          Define expensive... I don't think I could afford the fuel costs to put even just a kidney into orbit, let alone all of me onto another celestial body.

    3. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Are we there yet?

      I think you'd need so spend some time on Mars before the return journey to build up those muscles and bones and you'd probably need an exoskeleton

      Or the habitation section of the ship could be spun to provide gravity on the trip, if that's too tricky smaller centrifuges would be simple to provide - perhaps just the sleeping pods could be spun. Giving each astronaut 8 hours of gravity every day would be enough to maintain bone density.

      1. Gonzo wizard
        Meh

        Re: Giving each astronaut 8 hours of gravity every day would be enough to maintain bone density.

        And space sickness as they have to adjust once every 24 hours to weightlessness. That sounds like a very bad idea (as is starting and stopping something rotating - that's a big energy penalty right there).

        In any event you'll not generate anything like an earth-magnitude gravity so benefits will be minimal - and lack of gravity isn't the only issue that causes an astronaut's health to degrade over time.

      2. ridley

        Re: Are we there yet?

        For this to work the spun structure needs to be very large or at least a long way from the hub.

        If not then you are going to have real problems with different parts of your body experiencing different amounts of "g". I cannot remember the figure for the minimum radios needed but it is much bigger than you think.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Are we there yet?

          The difference in gravity experienced obviously depends on the distance between head and feet. We can minimize it by finding the shortest dwarf astronauts or just send small children

      3. Brangdon Bronze badge

        Re: centrifuge

        There's not much point spinning the astronauts just when they are lying down asleep. To benefit they need to be moving around, ideally exercising.

        SpaceX plan seems to be to make the journey fast. 4 months in microgravity, then straight down to the surface. Hanging around in orbit is harder than landing, and you are still exposed to microgravity and radiation, so you want to get down ASAP. The notion of an orbit-only mission makes no sense.

  6. 0laf Silver badge
    Alien

    I'm sure someone would sign up to a Mars orbit mission but what a shit deal. 12months in a tin can with a few days of a nice view. Added bonus of muscle atrophy, bone density loss and an increased cancer risk.

    If they're going to go and not land at least get them to do something useful in orbit. Set up a way station, poke around Phobos or Deimos. Mine for fuel, I dunno but not just a huge loop.

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge

      I dunno, if an out-and-back vehicle was re-usable, it could form the basis of supply missions.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        If you mean an orbit to orbit vehicle, then yes. But they still need to launch fuel tankers

      2. ridley

        You are Buzz Aldrin and I claim my $5

    2. Citizens untied

      Dont forget going blind...

  7. iron Silver badge

    > However, the bill also removes the Gateway... Shades of Apollo indeed and, despite the bill's brave words, not particularly sustainable.

    The Gateway would not make trips to the moon any more sustainable. In fact the Gateway is just a mill stone around NASA's neck that requires SLS and prevents them using far cheaper alternatives from SpaceX and others, makes it harder to get to the moon and won't really provide any useful facilities. A better solution would be a moon base (preferably called Alpha, just don't store nuclear waste there) which could explore the potential for lunar refueling and other technologies that would be useful for a trip to Mars.

  8. Def Silver badge
    Coat

    Langrangian point

    Is that near any of the Lagrangian points?

    Asking for a friend...

    1. Gonzo wizard
      Joke

      Re: Langrangian point

      Haven't you heard? It's a Lagrangian point with wireless gigabit ethernet.

  9. batfink Silver badge

    I note that the dates seem to match US Presidential Election cycles

    Hmmm. Donny announced 2024, clearly wanting boots back on the moon during his tenure. Does this announcement of 2028 mean that NASA have inadvertently leaked the fact that Donny will be around for a third term?

    Yes, yes, I know, constitutional restrictions etc. But I'm sure the Great American People will be right behind keeping their Glorious Leader for an extra term if asked nicely.

    1. Reg Reader 1 Bronze badge

      Re: I note that the dates seem to match US Presidential Election cycles

      but will Donny make his daughter heir or one of his sons?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I note that the dates seem to match US Presidential Election cycles

        I'm still hoping he will make his horse a senator, we need some smarter ones

  10. Gonzo wizard
    FAIL

    Um... cost and sustainability (of the mission, long term)

    SLS is a massive white (OK orange) elephant. Huge throw-away rockets that are little more than a Saturn 5 blueprint scaled up on the NASA photocopier. Everything used exactly once. A massive waste of money and unlikely to be sustainable for long, if they even manage a first moon landing at all.

    SpaceX and Elon Musk have it right. Aim super-high (BFR, multiple re-use) and if you don't make it you'll still achieve some remarkable things along the way. Ten years ago people would have laughed uncontrollably at the idea of a vertically launching rocket that parked itself back where it came from, to be used again and again. But here we are.

    Boeing may just be doing the bidding of their paymasters here but this throw-away approach will leave precious little by way of legacy once it is undoubtably cancelled due to cost escalation and diminishing returns.

    1. ridley

      Re: Um... cost and sustainability (of the mission, long term)

      What o don't get about SLS is using shuttle engines, sure you have some lying around but when you run out surely it is going to be a huge waste of money to remake fantastically advanced resubale engines in order to three them away.

      1. asphytxtc

        Re: Um... cost and sustainability (of the mission, long term)

        I believe they're developing the RS-25E (assume the E stands for "expendable") which should apparently be cheaper and simpler than the "fully reusable" versions..

        Still rubs me up the wrong way, but hey.. I guess it's SOME sort of cost saving ...

  11. Pete 2

    What will NASA find when it gets to Mars?

    Answer: SpaceX.

    It seems to me that NASA can only continue to get government funding for these remarkable feats / token gestures, if nobody else beats them to it. Once some other outfit achieves NASA's goal, they have no more reason to continue trying for it. And the politicians have no reason to spend more money on it, either.

    Just like happened between NASA and the Soviet space programme.

    1. Gonzo wizard

      Re: What will NASA find when it gets to Mars?

      I suspect NASA will end up partnering with SpaceX. Much as I admire Elon Musk's vision, he needs an awfully large pot of money to make it happen. NASA could not only contribute to the pot but help accelerate development on many fronts with the experience they can bring to bear. It makes an awful lot of sense for both parties, as long as politics isn't allowed to get in the way (I expect Boeing would make one hell of a fuss).

    2. tony2heads

      Re: What will NASA find when it gets to Mars?

      I would place a small side-bet on the Chinese.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Looking at Things from a Totally Different Perspective ...*

    It is wrong to not think, and for only NASA be assumed able to a Leading Space Operating System to Tempt and Attempt Mars Flight with Future Thoughts Toying with Ideas of Virgin Planet Colonisations. ....... for such are surely of an Alien Confection and Complexion with Shades of Roscosmos and JAXA, CNSA and UKSA and A.N.Others Embroiled in the Advanced IntelAIgent Mix when Enabled SMARTR Enabling?

    What sort of human plans for life on another planet? Anyone sane?

    :-) However, that is not to say they are not right whenever they acknowledge .... Jim Bridenstine, head of NASA, insisted that this would not be just another re-run of past NASA grand plans for human-tended deep space exploration ...... has morphed and tends Stealthy Sublime Experimentation in Quantum Communications Fields .......... with Other Wise Other Worldly Applications in Future Presentations for Current Deployment/MainStream Injection/Media Production/News Infection ....... for Beings/Future Existences of an Almighty Virtual Creation.

    All of that begs the question ....... why are the insane creating so much all alone if no one sane is prepared to tag along, although most probably rightly enough fearing for the loss of their own enlightening and exciting sanity is not an illogical reason for failing to embrace the myriad crazy opportunities easily made available ? :-)

    Yes, indeed. ...... Very Very Catch 22 that Protective Hurdle to Venerate and Adore/Worship and Server. "Tis a Worthy Kink and Throttle Point to Ensure Leveller Playing Fields on Hallowed Higher Grounds. :-) I Kid U Not.

    One cannot now say .... All have not been informed nor ill-advised. Proceed with All Due Care for Rapt Attention.

    * The Future Looking Back rather than the Present Looking Forward has Experience and Hindsight in Foresight its Glorious Pathfinder.

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Looking at Things from a Totally Different Perspective ...*

      Personally, I'm glad amanfrommars1 is here to give us an expert opinion.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Looking at Things from a Totally Different Perspective ...*

        But where is amanfrommoon1?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Looking at Things from a Totally Different Perspective ...*

          HEH, WHERE ARE MENFROMMOON?

    2. Tail Up

      Re: Looking at... ...Perspective ...*

      "most probably rightly enough fearing for the loss of their own enlightening and exciting sanity is not an illogical reason for failing to embrace the myriad crazy opportunities easily made available ? :-)"

      (-; shxp://https://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/reply/3961332

  13. Graham Jordan

    Space Force

    I'm sure if we got Katie Hopkins or some other two bit racist to ramble on about Iranian missiles on the moon, Trump would send the Space Force out in full... errr… force. Does military boots on the ground count as going back?

  14. WillCunningham

    *Dons tinfoil crown*

    How do we not have the technology to go back in a more efficient manner?

    I recently watched the Lunar Lander take off video for the first time and it looked like an empty can of Spam wrapped in aluminum being lifted by a string.

    Do they not make canned Spam anymore? Is there an undocumented string shortage?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge
      Coat

      It's hard to document the shortage when you can't string the words together.

  15. duhmb

    Are all the movies wrong?

    Every movie I see has Mars achieved via an orbit to orbit transfer. Am I missing something - Elon is not dumb, so is the construction of a transfer engine in orbit a no go for some reason?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Are all the movies wrong?

      There are no congressional districts in space and therefore no reason for NASA to build anything there

      1. duhmb

        Re: Are all the movies wrong?

        Face palm... Of course....

    2. Brangdon Bronze badge

      Re: Are all the movies wrong?

      We don't yet have the capability to construct much in Earth orbit. Musk is still learning how to build Starship on land, and he'll need it to get to orbit. Once Starship is operational, we can consider using it to build orbital platforms that may eventually be capable of heavy industry.

      The way to slow down heavy things on Mars is to use the atmosphere. That means going to Mars orbit is harder, because you have to dip in an out of it. It's easier to go direct to the surface. Also, Mars orbit is a hostile environment - worse than low Earth orbit because Mars doesn't have a magnetic field to deflect radiation. Worse than Mars surface because Mars atmosphere gives at least some protection, and the body of Mars itself cuts off half. The surface also avoids the problems of microgravity.

      Orbit to orbit may happen one day, but probably not for 30+ years.

  16. Pete4000uk

    Calling Mr Spoon

    Where is your baked bean tin ship?

  17. arctic_haze Silver badge

    At the current rate, NASA will return to the Moon during the lifetime of Jean Luc Picard in the 24th century.

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