Your Chance to Weigh in on NASA’s Future Destinations

Where do you think NASA’s next destination should be in space? Asteroid? The Moon? Mars? The Planetary Society is hosting an interactive Ustream chat where you can put in your 2 cents.

“Tell us where you want to go in space!” said Bill Nye (the Science Guy) who will soon become the Planetary Society’s new executive director. Nye and Louis Friedman, the Society’s current executive director, will host the live chat – titled “The New NASA Plan – Destinations” — on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm U.S. Pacific Time (5:00 pm EDT, 21:00 GMT).
“We want a lively debate!” said Friedman, who urges anyone to join the discussion.

The Planetary Society has been actively encouraging discussion of the new plan proposed for NASA, a plan that would entail a major shift in NASA’s human spaceflight program. The Society leadership feels that it is vital that public interest be represented in discussing issues that will change the course of the US space program for decades to come.

The new NASA plan for human spaceflight focuses on technologies and milestones that will advance human space flight out of Earth orbit and into the solar system. Mars may be the ultimate goal, but the path for humans to set foot on the Red Planet is flexible, to be determined step-by-step.

The Planetary Society plans to continue to hold webcasts on topics such as the deep space rocket, use of commercial launch vehicles, and robotic precursor missions.

Those wishing to participate in the Ustream chat room or to ask questions will need to set up a free account with Ustream prior to the start of the event. The New NASA Plan — Destinations will also be archived on Ustream for later viewing.

22 Replies to “Your Chance to Weigh in on NASA’s Future Destinations”

  1. Titan, Enceladus and Europa utilizing robotic landers. I realize the expense involved, but a guy can dream!

  2. What about making a single manned lunar lander that would serve as a basis for a much larger Martian one (this way we can at least have a “return” mission to the moon)?

  3. I agree with Sili. Uranus and Neptune. Every other planet has had its orbiter (Mercury is about to have its own orbiter too).
    So go Uranus and Neptune! I’d go for Neptune first if we had to make a choice, because, hey: Triton, man!

  4. Since we are talking manned missions here, and Lagrange points are both dull and can be surveyed robotically, I would go for an NEO.

    And that is pretty much what we can do with current technology, unless we want to pay for the Moon again. Until new technology or a better LEO market emerges (say, tourism), a couple of those types of missions would sit well.

  5. 1. Let the commercial industry take over the glorified space bus the shuttle turned out to be. Maybe if space tourism is popular, there might even be a lunar base to visit some day!

    2. Lets make new manned goals (if the money is there). Mars sounds good. However, if not, forget Manned missions altogether, and go for the bang-for-buck robotic science.

    3. Lets get orbiters for Uranus and Neptune. We need to augment them with HDTV cameras so the average Joe (like me!) can enjoy what sights there are to offer.

    4. Also lets get to some of those interesting outer-planet moons and put rovers where the action is (again with HD cameras!)

    5. Lets get more other-Earth searches going. Lets find a selection of these planets.

    6. Make hubble’s replacement good enough to directly image other-earths. If the cost is high, make it an international mission perhaps on the scale of the ISS with the challenge marketed like the Apollo missions. It would likely need to be a truly revolutionary (and massive) machine.

    7. Finally, NASA’s ultimate long term goal should be to lay the foundation for whatever tech is needed to travel to these distant worlds.

    That’s what I would like to see from NASA.


  6. Another thought,

    Maybe I feel NASA is only trying to relieve past glories, but a new lunar mission doesn’t excite me in the least bit.

    Asteroids and NEO orbits also seem very pointless and dull. For the first I imagine a drill and the word “industry” for the latter, I imagine the company Hilton and the word “commercial.”

    If neither of these options sound all that attractive, where should NASA boldy go?

    The first thing that might pop into my mind is Mars. Yet Is Mars really all that interesting? Lets face it, Mars is a desert. Sure there is the argument that scienctific knowledge and resource extraction are both reasons for going to Mars. However, These manned missions are always more about prestige and photo-ops then actual science (in the public’s perception). Anyhow, I’m sure robotics can be a more cost-effective means of accomplishing the science and other Martian projects. At the end of the day the public will have footed a trillion dollar bill, just to get a couple poses of a guy in a space suit, on a desert.

    After thinking about it, An urber-expensive Mars mission just doesn’t seem to make economic sense. The knowledge gained through a Manned Mars mission probably could be had elsewhere, and for cheaper.

    I say skip the manned missions altogether until we have a destination worth going too. The commercial industry may play in NEO eventually, this should be satisfaction enough for most of us.

    One day we will look to new Earths for a worthwhile destination. The survival and advancement of our species may depend on it. In the meantime, lets put our money and effort into more rewarding ventures.


  7. While I ultimately want a permanent human presence on the moon have to I agree with Torbjorn. NEO for a manned mission. The scientific and commercial benefits are likely to be very impressive. A series of ultra modern, ultra quick robotic missions should head out to Neptune and Uranus and the Kuiper Belt.

  8. More Cassini Like missions.

    Lets map the Solar system, and really, we need to put satellites into stable orbits around each major planet and moon. Do the kind of high resolution mapping that we are doing on Luna and Mars now.

    The fact is that we know very little about whats out there. Just small tantalizing glimpses.

    But we also need to be able to get there quicker, and if they are to be in stable orbits they will need to spend a lot of energy decelerating.

    So Propulsion systems of a magnitude way above our present capabilities are fundamental.

    The second direction I would personally love to see, is habitat building. And by that I wish to say that tin cans in space are not the way to go.

    I would love to see Spherical Magnetic aquacultures in stable orbits experimented with.

    Think of it as Model planet building.
    A magnetic core placed in a bubble of pressurized water set in space and populated by bio-engineered life. ‘

    Or: Magnetic Fishtanks in Space. 🙂

    If humans are ever going to live up there we need to create arcologies, and they need to be self sustaining ecosystems.

    Despite the fact that we are land creatures, our survival on this planet is wholly dependent on the Ocean and the hydrological cycle.

    Thus the suggestion to start with water as a base for an ecosystem.

    Let life do its stuff. The final aim is to have City States in complimentary orbits to earth in the form of self sustaining habitats.

    Yeah I know, I’m dreaming. 🙂


  9. I think it was proven during the whole Colbert period. NASA isn’t really interested in what we think.
    …and then, it only takes a badly informed President to really screw things up in Houston.

    I think I’ll head back to the Cassini web site and hope the same individuals who made this decision win out for the future.

  10. Here is what should happen.

    Two New Agencies

    One dealing with manned space flight.
    The other with robotic missions.

    They each receive equal funding, about 1% of the US annual budget EACH, take it from military budget.

    The manned space flight agency should set itself the goal of landing a people on Mars by 2020, secondary goals such as NEO landing, moon bases, Venus flybys, an outer system mission.

    The robotic missions agency should set itself similar huge goals, Lander and atmospheric craft for all the planets and many of the asteroids.
    Communication craft for all planets, mini nuke power plants as well as RTGs. An interstellar mission. A multitude of telescopes and earth science missions, public access orbital telescopes. Experimental missions.

    Each agency can work for the other, manned missions being requested for telescope and satellite repair, comm sats and robotic craft to assist the manned missions.

    It would employ huge amounts of people and stimulate technology and industry in the entire country. But I’ve said this all before to the Planetary Society and none of this is ever
    going to happen.

  11. 1. Orbiters around Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto

    2. A space probe floating in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

  12. Land a lightweight inflatable packed with science gear on one of Titan’s deeper and wetter methane lakes. No involved wheels, drive train, suspension etc. No heavy lift launch vehicle required.

  13. Well, LTA’s (A = atmosphere in this case) are being considered for mars. Okay, I’m leaving.

  14. I think we should go back to the Moon… set up a base using robotics and telepresence control. Explore for water and take a look at the newly found volcanic tubes as possible habitat locations. The water ice can be electrolyzed into breathable air and fuel for Mars and NEO object missions. One step at a time… even if they are only baby steps.

  15. THE GURU@Bill Nye – Mr. Science Guy!!!
    You already know what path NASA should take….
    Let’s get to the Moon so we can finish what we started and explore what we’ve discovered there in the past decade. We’ve learned more about the Moon in the past ten years than we did in the ALL the Apollo landings (arguably)…

    There is a ton of new opportunities available for science and future exploration – like practice getting to Mars!!!!

    We really need to brush up on our TRUE space travel skills, I think we have the zero “g” floating around the planet thing down pretty good. 40 years is a boat load of time between actual travel in Space, not to mention the journey to Mars or an asteroid itself is over 100 times longer and a thousand times more difficult.
    Beyond the Moon travel is not something we can afford to be “rusty” at. We need to prepare for the long journey and THINK REALISTICALLY!!
    We should at the very least find out what the Moon has available in the form of Earth-Moon relationship and history, materials like the water ice that we know is there, the exotic metals, and most of all – the PERFECT ENVIRONMENT FOR DEEP SPACE TELESCOPES!!!!!!

  16. To Spoodle58. Those dreams will happen one day never fear but unfortunately not in our lifetimes. Twin agencies is a very good idea and they may even get a couple of the ideas up and running – planetary/asteroid landers, multiple telscopes perhaps – but not many of the manned projects which is a shame. We should think big even if we only achieve small because if we don’t raise our sights we’ll get nowhere.

  17. @Paul Eaton-Jones – “Those dreams will happen one day never fear but unfortunately not in our lifetimes.”

    Am not so sure about this statement because.. if we were to find a way to use He3 for controlled fusion and find quantities of it on the moon. If we were to find volcanic tubes suitable for habitation on Luna and Mars. If we were to find evidence of useful elements in the lunar soils beyond He3 and H20 and the vast amounts of Titanium, then? If we were to confirm evidence of biological activity on Mars. If we were to find a way to create ultra energetic plasma’s suitable for rocket propulsion (See He3), perhaps as a result of ongoing Russian plasma experiments aboard the ISS? then there COULD be a ‘gold rush’ in space exploration exceeding our current expectations… or at least hopefully there will be~ I for one am very optimistic that there will be major scientific breakthroughs in the next decade! I expect to live for at least another twenty years(?), and as you well know, a LOT can happen in 20 years! Including a SETI breakthru! HO!

  18. Addendum – What an exciting time to be alive! So much in the way of promise and possibilities for humanity! That is, if some Butt Nugget doesn’t ‘pull the trigger’…

  19. That is sooo true! (can’t waste time worrying about all the “Butt Nuggets out there)
    If there were an economical reason to mine the Moon for anything, like H3, we would be landing on it in a year.
    Growing up I thought “WOW we are on the Moon, we will be on Mars in 20 years for SURE!!” Now I will be happy to achieve anything and everything we can about our Solar System and Space, manned or not. It is the greatest time to be a Space and Science fanatic, but we have lost a lot of major milestones due to duplication and politics by not clarifying a real goal – like the Apollo program did. If we would team up with all the other countries for an Apollo type goal, imagine that for a second.

    Then again, could ALL the “Butt Nuggets” keep their fingers out of their own Aholes long enough to achieve an Apollo type goal?
    We are probably better off accomplishing as many mini-goals as possible……… After all- it’s all about the science anyway.

  20. I’m still sort of hopeful that many of the projects discussed here WILL make beyond the ‘thought experiment’ stage but I too was filled with excitement at the prospect of a permanently manned lunar presence by the late 1970’s and a man on Mars by the mid 80’s. In fact I believe the proposed time-line of events in 1969 had plans for a manned martian base by 1984!! Even with the usual slip-backs we should have been there by the mid-90’s. That’s why space-nuts of my age [55] feel so bloody angry and have a real sense of betrayal. Rant over for now.

  21. I think we should concentrate on finding LIFE. Where in the solar system are we most likely to find life. What could be more important?

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