NASA weighing risk of adding crew to megarocket's first flight

February 24, 2017 by Marcia Dunn
This image made available on Feb. 15, 2017 by NASA shows an artist's concept of the launch of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule. On Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, NASA said it is weighing the risk of adding astronauts to the first flight of its new megarocket. (NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center via AP)

NASA is weighing the risk of adding astronauts to the first flight of its new megarocket, designed to eventually send crews to Mars.

The space agency's human exploration chief said Friday that his boss and the Trump administration asked for the feasibility study. The objective is to see what it would take to speed up a manned mission; under the current plan, astronauts wouldn't climb aboard until 2021— at best.

The Space Launch System, known as SLS, will be the most powerful rocket when it flies.

NASA is shooting for an unmanned test flight for late next year. Putting people on board would delay the mission and require extra money. The space agency's William Gerstenmaier said if adding astronauts postpones the first flight beyond 2019, it would probably be better to stick with the original plan.

Under that plan, Gerstenmaier said, nearly three years are needed between an unmanned flight test and a crewed mission to make launch platform changes at Kennedy Space Center.

"We recognize this will be an increased risk" to put astronauts on the initial flight, Gerstenmaier said.

Astronauts are taking part in the study, which will weigh the extra risk against the benefits.

On Thursday, an independent safety panel cautioned that NASA needs a compelling reason to put astronauts on the initial flight, given the risk. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel was formed in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts in a countdown test 50 years ago last month.

The capsule that will carry the astronauts—NASA's new Orion—already has flown on a space demo. Containing memorabilia and toys but no people, the capsule was launched into an extremely long orbit of Earth in 2014 by a Delta IV rocket, and splashed down into the Pacific.

NASA normally prefers testing rockets without people, although for the inaugural space shuttle flight in 1981, two pilots were on board. A small crew of two also is planned for the 2021 SLS mission, which could fly to the vicinity of the moon.

An inaugural flight with astronauts would grab more attention. But Gerstenmaier said the public aspect won't be taken into consideration.

"There are pros and cons both ways, and it's hard to judge that (public) aspect," he told reporters. "But I look at it more kind of matter-of-factly. What do I gain technically by putting crew on?"

NASA expects to issue its report in about a month.

Explore further: European space agency to help NASA take humans beyond moon

More information: NASA: www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/index.html

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davejg77
4 / 5 (5) Feb 24, 2017
It looks like the old tried and true Saturn V with the shuttle's solid rocket boosters strapped to it. In other words, pretty much off the shelf technology. Why so slow in development?
And please, use the original asbestos putty to protect the o-rings in the boosters.
Shootist
not rated yet Feb 24, 2017
learned nothing from Feynman.

pacman7331
1 / 5 (3) Feb 24, 2017
Comon guys. You don't get any techinical advantage from a manned flight vs unmanned. You just don't make the stupid mistake of leaving the human race behind on your one ticket to Mars.
BigD
2.7 / 5 (7) Feb 24, 2017
Glad to see the interest in manned flight beyond LEO. The timeframes are ridiculous--keep a lot of govt employees (and contractors) jobs secure. I predict this will all seem soooo embarrassing when SpaceX does it first.

I heard new admin is thinking of going to the moon in parallel with Mars, but quicker. Good. There is a lot of pent up commercial interest in space (tourism, mfg, mining, services...) that needs to get going.
Osiris1
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 24, 2017
Not too smart to put people on a rocket that has never flown before!! If the idea is to garner publicity and thereby maybe public support, then think of how outstandingly BAD it would look if our first flight of this bird causes two or three or more astronauts to 'buy the farm'. That said, this bird's capsule, the Orion/appolo, does have a getaway rocket on its top that can be used. Just in case. Hate to have to test this on the very first flight.
sailorjw
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2017
The current planned mission to Mars, if it is a one way ticket, is ill advised - a stunt and a waste of time. Instead, build an interplanetary vessel (orbit-to-orbit mother ship) in orbit, including a manned lander for the Mars landing with return to orbit capability. Now you would have something.
stevemds0210
1 / 5 (11) Feb 24, 2017
NASA will NEVER send another person into space.
misterbee
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 24, 2017
No problem landing on the moon the first time ever with a manned crew and then taking off again and repeating five more times. Put some people on that baby and let her rip. Pack some sandwiches and fly right through those darn Van Allen Belts just like all the other times......or was that the Van Halen belts?
Shootist
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2017
NASA will NEVER send another person into space.


You are wrong about that, I think.

Of course in a sane world, Trump would give LEO to the USAF and deep space to the US Navy.
mikeherman200
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
The space capsule looks like Apollo scaled up about 25%. The booster looks like the shuttle. 50 years of progress?
marianna1776
1 / 5 (9) Feb 25, 2017
N.A.S.A. is the biggest ripoff except for Obama and the rest of the politicians that have been fleecing this country since the Kennedy days.
Frosted Flake
5 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2017
Okay. I read the first paragraph, cum sentence. I can tell you right now. The risks are not acceptable. At best it's a publicity stunt. At worst it's Apollo 1. They knew damn well, and so do we.
rrrander
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
Build Project Orion before North Korea or China does. Because then it'll be too late. Enough with this pathetic 1000 year old chemical rocket junk.
ProudBaldAmerican
1 / 5 (5) Feb 25, 2017
NASA's resources need to be refocused onto SPACE and Air craft development...and off of social re-engineering services, websites, and 'educational' programs.

There are plenty of other entities that can fulfill the later requirements off of tax payer's money.
BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (1) Feb 25, 2017
The NASA boosters are 1 shot devices which cost more than the comparable SpaceX design, which is re-usable. Orion's control interface is a ghastly heavy mistake and should be compressed into an iPhone app to run everything by SpaceX. SpaceX's Dragon is almost as bad. Cancel Orion and turn everything over to SpaceX for starters.
Tethered bubble suits would keep hands free inside a workspace without need for seating. Inflate bubble suits, the ship/capsule after space is reached w/Bigelow.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
It looks like the old tried and true Saturn V with the shuttle's solid rocket boosters strapped to it.
Not really. It looks more like a Delta due to those boosters, and furthermore it's not a staged rocket like a Saturn V; the Saturn V was actually three rockets, the SI-C with five F-1 engines, the S-II with five J-2 engines, and the S-IVB with a single J-2. On top of this was placed the LEM and the CSM.

The SLS is more like the Space Shuttle: one big stage with two boosters. Above that is Orion. It's a completely different class of design, much less expensive and complex than a Saturn V. Its design is informed by the Space Shuttle, and even uses the same kind of boosters and the same engines, RS-25s, that were used on it.

In other words, pretty much off the shelf technology.
Or then again maybe not so much. On Earth.

Why so slow in development?
Reliability.
EyeNStein
5 / 5 (5) Feb 25, 2017
What would the crew be doing while they are up there?
How much extra would it cost, and what delay would it cost?
What would be the cost to NASA's aspirations, and timetable, of a deadly failure?

Could a crewless ISS resupply mission be flown as a useful test for an ISS crew exchange mission?
NASA needs to be back putting men in space, but not regardless of costs, human, financial or common sense.
socialmisfit
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
Why start adding people to rockets now? NASA should do what they did with the Challenger and just send the sucker up sans astroNOTS.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Feb 25, 2017
N.A.S.A. is the biggest ripoff
? Perhaps but 'NASA' is a military agency. Its missions are all primarily strategic in nature. Recon is a military operation. This is no different than the columbus or Magellan expeditions.

Once bridgeheads are established and perimeters secured (re low earth orbit) then development can be turned over to private concerns like cecil rhodes or elon musk.

The whole reason for the shuttle program is that it provided a flexible and secure way of delivering spysats, weapons, and outpost components to orbit while providing the opportunity to launch and land whenever and wherever it wanted.

The Vandenburg launch site is on an air force base. Its facilities were all blast and EMP-hardened. It cost billions and was never used.

The shuttle program was never safe or practical. It was ended prematurely when its robotic successor the X37B assumed the mission.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2017
"The space agency's human exploration chief said Friday that his boss and the Trump"

-and what the Trump wants, the Trump gets.
What would the crew be doing while they are up there?
I dunno what did the first shuttle test flight crews do? What is the crew supposed to do during the first SLS manned flight?

Eliminating the unmanned test makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons. The sooner the better.
timothy_kall
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2017
"Do or Do Not, there is no try" Yoda
tekram
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 25, 2017
' his boss and the Trump administration asked for the feasibility study'

This rocket is the ultimate phallic symbol for Donald Trump, the short-fingered vulgarian. All NASA has to do is paint it gold and paint a huge Trump name on it and NASA's budget will be set for the next 8 years.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
Not gold. Orange.

That's why he likes it.
Roderick
4 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
The first test of a new rocket should be unmanned. Sorry, Trump nut cases. Common sense dictates that you don't unnecessary risks.
Solon
1 / 5 (6) Feb 25, 2017
"NASA will NEVER send another person into space."

Certainly not a civilian, the first ones up there would say "Hey, I can't see any stars!"

From Apollo cislunar EVA transcripts:
219 37 05 Mattingly (EVA): I'm really surprised I don't see any stars.
219 37 07 Young (onboard): Charlie's only said 25 times it's black out there.
219 37 11 Duke (onboard): What?
219 37 12 Young (onboard): You've only said that 25 times. (Laughter)
219 37 14 Duke (onboard): (Garble) see (garble) (laughter).
219 37 15 Young (onboard): It really must be black out there! (Laughter)
219 37 17 Duke (onboard): It's really black! (Laughter)

Anyone thinking of a one-way trip to Mars should go out and have a good look at the stars before they go, they will never see them as bright and beautiful again.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2017
The first test of a new rocket should be unmanned. Sorry, Trump nut cases. Common sense dictates that you don't unnecessary risks
The study will most likely show that, like the first shuttle flight, there are no unnecessary risks.

Or maybe you think the entire concept of people in space is an unnecessary risk?
Anyone thinking of a one-way trip to Mars should go out and have a good look at the stars before they go, they will never see them as bright and beautiful again
Maybe they could turn out the cabin lights before they look?

Martians should be able to see plenty of stars at night without earthshine or moonshine.

Hey - wheres martian manhunter and all those other martians supposed to live? Perhaps they are all 900 ft tall with translucent heads and pronated (inside joke).

DC is, was, and always will be lame.
Alan_J_Perrick
Feb 25, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Solon
1 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
"Martians should be able to see plenty of stars at night without earthshine or moonshine."

Yeah, just like those stunning astrophotography images from the Mars rovers?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
"Martians should be able to see plenty of stars at night without earthshine or moonshine."

Yeah, just like those stunning astrophotography images from the Mars rovers?
Uh theyre not designed to see stars. But curiosity has indeed seen stars.
Solon
1 / 5 (5) Feb 25, 2017
"Uh theyre not designed to see stars. But curiosity has indeed seen stars."

You can design a camera NOT to see things? My old 2MP digital sees stars just fine, where's the ones from Curiosity?
DrMordrid
5 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2017
Sounds like NASA's ASAP safety board isn't impressed...

http://spacenews....-launch/
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 25, 2017
Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.
I'm racist against orange people.

/sarcasm
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2017
You can design a camera NOT to see things? My old 2MP digital sees stars just fine, where's the ones from Curiosity?
Well heres an article that explains it in ways i think you can understand.
http://www.dailys...ty-rover
unrealone1
not rated yet Feb 26, 2017
Don't they have to go to the moon first?
gkam
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 26, 2017
I agree with Trump, and insist he get the honor of the first ride.
Uncle Ira
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 26, 2017
Anti-Whites agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.


I can see why the Anti-Whites have you on the run. Hopefully they will catch you really soon..

gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 26, 2017
"Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White."
-------------------------------

No, it refers to immature and bigoted behavior, from folk with no character.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (8) Feb 26, 2017
Anti-Whites agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.


Well. SOMEONE forgot their meds, today...
Can we get back to talking about manned space flight, now?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 26, 2017
Well. SOMEONE forgot their meds, today...
Can we get back to talking about manned space flight, now?
Sure. Did you know that melanin protects against radiation which makes swarthy peoples better astronauts for mars trips?

Anyone from spain or below.
Estevan57
5 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2017
' his boss and the Trump administration asked for the feasibility study'

This rocket is the ultimate phallic symbol for Donald Trump, the short-fingered vulgarian. All NASA has to do is paint it gold and paint a huge Trump name on it and NASA's budget will be set for the next 8 years.


I couldn't possibly agree with this statement more. Cheers.
GaryB
5 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2017
People say there is a RACE problem.


Who exactly are these "People"? Always a general statement to set up a false straw man...

People say the only solution to the RACE problem is if ALL and ONLY White countries "assimilate," i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.


Who exactly is saying this? I've never heard it except from some fringe people ... that includes you.

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against White people, Anti-Whites agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.


No, you are more like some dupe who has too little information and believes things too easily w/o actually understanding anything. For example, if there is a "genocide" (really??) against White people, where is this happening? Because there has never been more white people in human history and they have never been so well off. So, start from this statement that is so clearly false, and look at other wrong beliefs you may hold.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2017
Well. SOMEONE forgot their meds, today...
Can we get back to talking about manned space flight, now?
Sure. Did you know that melanin protects against radiation which makes swarthy peoples better astronauts for mars trips?

Anyone from spain or below.

Good one, Otto...:-)
As to the FIRST test flight being manned - would be strictly a PR move.
Anything after? Hell,yeah! That's what the whole space flight thing is about. Get it working on sufficient enough scale that the REST of us have a shot at it...
And quit dawdling...
And GaryB - ya fell for that stupid troll bait.
Back to the topic, man! Focus!
GaryB
5 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2017
The last time we did this, President Reagan blew up the space shuttle by causing them to launch pre-maturely so that he could have a nice backdrop to his state of the union speech.

Trump already sent a military operation in his first week that Obama rejected that killed dozens of innocent civilians, got an American killed and yielded nothing but a cover-your-ass press release while Trump walked away from the situation room to tweet. This is a bad idea.
GaryB
4.6 / 5 (10) Feb 26, 2017
N.A.S.A. is the biggest ripoff except for Obama and the rest of the politicians that have been fleecing this country since the Kennedy days.


Yeah man, what's NASA done for us ... other than the microchip industry? Oh and GPS? And telecommunications? And huge improvements in aircraft safety?? And more efficient land use, agriculture and natural resource mapping? And new materials used all over??? And soon a private space industry lead by America???? And advances in solar power?

I mean, besides the above and the intent of humanity to explore everything, what has it done????
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Feb 26, 2017
N.A.S.A. is the biggest ripoff except for Obama and the rest of the politicians that have been fleecing this country since the Kennedy days.


Yeah man, what's NASA done for us ... other than the microchip industry? Oh and GPS? And telecommunications? And huge improvements in aircraft safety?? And more efficient land use, agriculture and natural resource mapping? And new materials used all over??? And soon a private space industry lead by America???? And advances in solar power?

I mean, besides the above and the intent of humanity to explore everything, what has it done????

You forgot Teflon and Velcro...:-)
And, while I agree with your prior missive on Trump...
I mean, generally, I come here to get away from that crap....
savvys84
1 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2017
relax nasa only has to do a feasibility study, which means extra funding and some extra jobs. Im available Lol
EnsignFlandry
not rated yet Feb 27, 2017
The last time we did this, President Reagan blew up the space shuttle by causing them to launch pre-maturely so that he could have a nice backdrop to his state of the union speech.

Trump already sent a military operation in his first week that Obama rejected that killed dozens of innocent civilians, got an American killed and yielded nothing but a cover-your-ass press release while Trump walked away from the situation room to tweet. This is a bad idea.


Obama did not reject it, he delayed it. I wondered how long it would take for politics to enter this site. Not long.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Feb 27, 2017
Politics led this thread, with Trump telling NASA he wants to put people on that first flight, and it is not for scientific reasons.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2017
Forget politics for a moment, I love this idea. In fact, more than just "weighing the value proposition," they should commit to making it happen. Is it so crazy for two people to risk their lives to restart the manned exploration of space beyond LEO again? I'd wager most of the astronaut corp would jump at the opportunity. It also makes sense to hold NASA's feet to fire on this. As you may know, with no firm goals in mind they don't even know what it would cost to complete the work on Orion! President Kennedy knew going to the moon was risky too, but he said "that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills." Well NASA needs a "stretch goal" so it will be forced to start applying those considerable "energies and skills." People will jump at the chance to do something risky and real, and the public will notice. If we really want to go to Mars in this century, we need to re-learn the lessons of Apollo and be bold.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Feb 27, 2017
You be bold. I remember Apollo 1.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Feb 27, 2017
You be bold. I remember Apollo 1.

Guess that's why they wouldn't ask George to participate...
He prob'ly taught a class on it somewhere...
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Feb 28, 2017
Want one? Just ask.

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