Go, Orion! NASA set to launch spacecraft on first step toward manned flights to Mars




Augh! Why does that graphic show the rocket launching from Vandenburg AFB and splash down west of South America? Although it makes sense with that polar orbit the graphic shows.


Part of me is excited about this, but another part is saying ‘Just watch the GOP cut funding to NASA because it supports science and that’s evil’.


“Go, Orion! NASA set to launch spacecraft on first step toward manned flights to Mars” By my count this is our third or fourth “first step” towards a mission to Mars. Morel likely it’s Orion’s first step towards being shelved by Congress the next time the economy gets a little shaky.


Not especially relevant, but that’s per engine (and I think it’s a bit more than that, anyway), and A380 engines are a bit bigger.

Flight was scrubbed for the day, anyway?


You beat me to it.


Definitely buying into the NASA PR. Orion is not “designed to go to Mars.” It can carry only about 4 weeks of consumables for 4 people. It’s designed to get people into low earth orbit, where they can board something else that will spend a year traveling to and from Mars. Something that hasn’t been designed or built yet.

Hey! 1968 called and they want their rocket back, NASA!


Yeah, the same Republicans that funded the Space Transportation System (shuttle) - Nixon, the International Space Station (Reagan), the original Constellation program (Bush II). I think you meant the Democrats (Obama cancelled Constellation, Johnson cut funding for Gemini and Apollo, Carter downsized STS by 2 orbiters). You are completely naive if you think the Republicans cut anything remotely related to the military industrial complex. Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, etc. all make space craft, and missiles, ships, planes, etc.

Nice try on the political trolling though.


Why is there a launch window on this one? I get that missions to the moon or beyond need to wait until the planets line up, the earth is in the right part of its orbit around the sun, and what not, but this thing is only going up a few hundred (thousand?) kilometers. What are the parameters that defined the 2 hour, 39 minute launch window?

Maybe it’s something more prosaic and terrestrial, like local air travel clearances, or birds travelling back to their nests of an evening?


The problem is that unless NASA gets an increase in funding, Orion is going nowhere with humans. Maybe an orbit around the moon sure, but most certainly not to Mars.

NASA’s funding has been pretty flat over the past few years. That has been a bipartisan effort. So even if Republicans leave NASA’s current budget intact it wont be enough to have us on the path of a Mars mission by the 2030’s.


A few reasons probably. You want to launch when the conditions are best to monitor. That means when you have access to satellite communications (that are shared), when you can get the Navy to show up for recovery, when you can get a drone in the air to monitor splashdown, when the conditions are best so you can get as much data/footage as possible to learn as much as possible from a test mission.


Except NASA’s funding decreased with the beginning of the shuttle age. Thanks Nixon. Not only that, the shuttle program was probably a mistake in hindsight. Not sure why you even consider that a win. Going around in low earth orbit for 30 plus years set our space policy back.

The Space Station has been a waste of resources. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have a space station. I’m saying that we literally wasted billions of dollars before we even had a station to launch. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Clinton ISS might of never happened. Oh wait, I guess Clinton doesn’t fit into your neat little Republicans rule and Democrats drool rant?

Too bad, ISS happened because of Clinton more than Reagan when it comes to actually funding an actual space station and getting it off the ground.

The Constellation program wasn’t funded. That was part of the reason Obama cancelled it. It wasn’t going to do what it was suppose to do on the time table that it was suppose to, not without increasing NASA’s budget and you have you remember that this was during the recession/beginning of the Tea Party’s spending cut tunnel vision. Increasing NASA’s budget wasn’t going to happen.

Weird how you mention Johnson cutting NASA’s funding. Johnson was President from 1963 to 1969. NASA’s got its biggest budget during the Johnson administration.

1966 NASA’s Budget, percentage of budget 4.41%

Sure it was decreased again back down to 2 percent or so, but that’s probably because they had stopped building/researching Saturn V’s and spacecraft etc. All the more expensive stuff, so they could decrease the budget down to operating levels.

Is also weird again, how you mention Johnson cutting spending and yet don’t mention the massive cuts to spending by Nixon.

Then after the spending cuts that start with Nixon, you have 40 plus years of spending either staying the same or decreasing or increasing a little (Well, except for the early 90’s when NASA’s budget was briefly at 1 percent of the budget). Not enough to be a real win for either party if they’re trying to brag that they’re for funding NASA. If that was so, they’d increase NASA’s budget but neither party seems interested in doing that.


Sorry, I just can’t get excited about the possiblity of manned missions to Mars and beyond. NASA (and others, of course) have made so many advancements in robotic probes that manned travel makes no sense, scientifically or financially. We have cameras that can capture images that are indistinguishable from what you see through a window or helmet visor. Sensors can detect things well beyond human senses. Robotic labs work without the need for oxygen, food, water, or rest. They are cheap when compared to manned flight. It makes no sense (with the limits physics places on speed, mass, etc.) to send humans on such an expensive, risky and, when compared to robots, unproductive missions.

Craig Venter has proposed using robotic genetic sequencing on samples that have “life” and the genetic information (not the samples) can be sent to earth for researchers. What could a human astronaut accomplish? Can anyone offer a truly logical reason for manned travel to Mars?


Our Planet Needs Heroes


usually, it comes down to humans being able to improvise if a carefully constructed theoretical framework runs straight into practical reality


Be an hero. Take a one way trip to Mars.


Yeah, about that…


Very interesting. Thanks.


There are two reasons I can think of:

Current robots are not capable decision makers. They cannot keep the mission going autonomously. So humans try to control them via delayed radio links. The further away the robot is, the longer the delay, and the more difficult to effectively control. Sending humans and robots remedies this problem.

Another reason is the scientific study of the effects of space travel upon terrestrial life. All of the life we are certain of exists on (and in orbit of) this one planet, which is much riskier than spreading some of it out to more diverse environments.


For projects of limited scope, computers have been proven to be capable of autonomous decision making. That is, to “explore the atmosphere and terrain of mars” a robotic device would be superior to humans restricted to working in a space suit, etc. Mars rovers have already been incredibly productive. Opportunity has lasted over 10 years and has recovered from several problems that would have “killed” it, if not for some ability to act autonomously. But if you’re talking about turning a robot loose on the streets of New York, yes a human would be better able to cope and (hopefully) make better decisions than a robot (at least as of 2014!).

As far as the effects of space travel on the human body, we are well aware of the hazards (cosmic rays, radiation, extended weightlessness, meteors, etc.) and what we already know is enough to nix a manned flight, IF the goal is scientific research.

A huge amount of extra freight (e.g. air, food, fuel, etc., and not instruments and tools for research) is required for man to go to AND return from Mars. A minor problem could prove fatal for the astronauts. The primary goal would be to bring them back alive, and death(s) or stranding would make the mission a failure. Compare that to the “death” of a robot or failure to complete research–it would be a “glitch” in the overall program.

I find it curious that people believe we could colonize Mars–a super hostile place, versus getting our act together and addressing long term threats to life on earth. It’s like taking a car that needs some repairs and trading it for a complete junker that needs a top down rebuild!