Historical recapitulation

Not that it repeats:

A SpaceX rocket ship blasted off from Florida on Thursday morning carrying a billionaire e-commerce executive and three less-wealthy private citizens he chose to join him in the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.

But the rhyme gets faster, dunnit?

Without looking it up the gap between the Gemini (??) hops and into actual orbit was rather larger, wasn’t it?

28 thoughts on “Historical recapitulation”

  1. The first US missions were Mercury. Gemini was with two astronauts.

    First manned hop was 5th May 1961, first manned orbit 20th Feb 1962.

  2. It wasn’t, really. There were 2 sub-orbital human flights on Redstone rockets – Alan Shephard on 5/5/61 and Gus Grissom on 21/7/61. Then John Glenn went orbital on an Atlas on 20/2/62. The Gemini program was to test docking amongst other stuff and the first manned flight was in 1965.

    Perhaps we’ll get a SpaceX space station eventually. The other contenders for private manned orbital flight seem to be quite far behind.

  3. Perhaps we’ll get a SpaceX space station eventually. The other contenders for private manned orbital flight seem to be quite far behind.

    Can’t see it anytime soon as it would put SpaceX into competition with NASA, which given the contracts Musk has is a no go. Musk isn’t going to upset the apple cart until at least after he’s had at least one Mars shot.

    Bezos might try it, if he can get his flying dildo orbital, having a destination not controlled by NASA bureaucrats is going to be the next obvious step in the space tourism stakes, which is where Bezos seems to be headed. Musk, as we know, has a different agenda.

  4. mgh vs 0.5mv(squared)
    Getting ‘up’ into space is only about 5% of the deltaV of getting into orbit, and this for rocket propulsion which is exponentialy harder.

    If Bezoz’s unfortunately shaped creation is doing suborbital hops, it’s a whole new ball game to achieve orbit.

    The early Mercury suborbitals used a Redstone, which was really just an American-built V2.
    Later orbital ones used Atlas, an ICBM.

    I wonder if Musk will offer a 2 week trip to the moon, to watch Nasa’s ‘Artemis’ mission launched on the Space Pork System? He could certainly offer a cracking camera ship!

    Must go re-read Ben Bova…

  5. Musk seems to be pursuing a sensible commercial strategy. He’s selling a lift to orbit service for anyone wants to pay for it. No doubt, if he thinks there’s a commercial case for a SpaceX space station he’ll put one up. Importantly, he’ll have the capability to put one up.

  6. I’d imagine the next priority is to get some sort orbital truck/tug up avoids the necessity of the expending of deltaV lifting straight from surface to higher orbits. If the trip time isn’t critical, the deltaV for the orbit change could be provided by electric propulsion which has an ISP much higher than chemical fuels. Basically the capability would vastly reduce the amount of mass needed to be sent to LEO.

  7. I wonder if Musk will offer a 2 week trip to the moon, to watch Nasa’s ‘Artemis’ mission launched on the Space Pork System? He could certainly offer a cracking camera ship!

    Nah. If he’s got any sense he’ll let NASA lead the way and wave the flag (although which flag it will be I have no idea) so that they get all the Ground breaking “Returning to the Moon with tits and diversity” woo.

    Then when it’s no longer a distraction he might start doing lunar stuff if he thinks it will provide an income or act as a better testbed for a Mars Gateway platform.

    One thing that might work to his advantage is essentially a space assembly station where he can throw lots of modules up for temporary docking prior to assembly into a larger modular space ship. Something akin to the Ares shuttle doing space only transit between the orbit of Earth and the Orbit of Mars with all planetary journeys being done by Starship.

    That would allow Starship to do its thing while providing more breathing room, solar storm refuge, etc. in a larger craft that has no landing capability.

  8. In Wernher von Braun’s 1953 fictional work “Mars Project: A Technical Tale”, the man who brings humans to Mars is called “Elon”.

    Not sure whether this is a self-fulfilling destiny or not.

  9. I doubt Musk will be waiting for SLS to do anything – that would be like waiting for Godot.

    The SLS is a white elephant. It’s the biggest thing they could build based upon 50 year old tech, but it provides a backup for SpaceX and throws a bone to the defence contractors involved in the United Launch Alliance to keep them on board. I understand why NASA, the Pentagon and Washington DC needed the SLS, but it’s mostly politics, corruption and bureaucracy, not space technology.

    Elon is doing his thing and feeding from “The Beast” when it seems safe and prudent to do so, but he’s also ensuring that he has his own independent capability and an agenda that doesn’t distract from NASA’s. The only exception is Mars which NASA doesn’t think he’ll reach and if he does it will be a nightmare to make the disaster of the Roanoke Colony sound like a walk in the park.

    I’m sure NASA would want to do the first landing on Mars if Elon looks like making it happen and for the sake of his NASA support up to that point he might well do so. I can’t see the petrified ninnies of NASA doing it without Elon, simply because they have neither the vision nor the balls to do so.

    After that first “footprint, photographs and flags” landing is a different matter and I doubt whether Elon can successfully deliver a meaningful and long lasting colony on Mars with expected and continuous interference from Washington DC, so at some point he’ll have to find a more politically neutral home for his launch system than the good ole’ US of A.

    Maybe on one of those disputed islands off the coast of Singapore.

  10. My bet is on Musk trying to park modular fuel tanks up in LEO as the next step up.

    Because the one thing that he does not need to do is to lift the whole package up in one go out of our gravity well, now that he’s got the trick of re-using first stages down and his engines are becoming more and more reliable.

    If anyone can pull off stabdardised orbital assembly, it’ll be him.

  11. Sure, but there’s no point in just having them floating around. Ideally you need to get them to doc with some kind of superstructure with a grid-type matrix for astronauts to hang onto so that you can do complex modular assembly in orbit. It might be possible with robotics, but makes more sense to pile up a bunch of modular assemblies, minimally docked and then send up an assembly team to put them together and then another, separate flight team later.

    That way you can build a far larger spacecraft that isn’t designed for atmospheric use in orbit and only when ready in orbit and were on an approach to Mars, do the launch. Having some kind of emergency rescue platform in orbit makes a lot of sense, especially if you’ve got a flow of much smaller craft flowing between Earth and Mars that might suffer failure on the journey.

    Rather than risk a journey through Earth/Mars atmosphere with a damaged ship (as we did with the Colombia shuttle), just move everyone off to the rescue platform, land the craft autonomously (if it doesn’t crash) and then send up the spare to complete the journey.

    Rather dependent upon having at least one flight ready emergency craft at both Earth (or Earth orbit) and Mars (or Mars orbit). Not exactly rocket science though…well, apart from the rockets, obviously…

  12. This isn’t a SpaceX launch in the same way that the Blue Origin and Virgin launches were.

    They sold the flight to Shift4, which doesn’t make it much different from the tourists who bought seats on Soyuz from Space Adventures in the 2000s – eight flights, carrying seven people (Charles Simonyi went twice).

    BO and Virgin are selling tickets as a business model. SpaceX are selling flights – some to NASA and others commercially.

    And SpaceX had already launched this twice with NASA astronauts on, so this is just a bonus for them, not their core business.

  13. BO and Virgin are selling tickets as a business model. SpaceX are selling flights

    If there’s a difference in their (other than wholesale vs retail), I’m not seeing it. I would have thought that by selling tickets directly both Virgin and Blue Origin (aka Dildo Airlines) could improve their margin by cutting out the middle man. Unless SpaceX have sold multiple flights with exclusivity for upfront money to Shift4, but that’s just swapping margin for money now.

  14. When are we going to get away from all the constant velocity nonsense? Constant thrust would get you to Mars in a week with time for breakfast.

  15. When are we going to get away from all the constant velocity nonsense? Constant thrust would get you to Mars in a week with time for breakfast.

    Sure, but you’d go sailing past it at a rate of knots to make Newton blush (but not Einstein probably). If you’re going to do “constant thrust” then you need to start braking when you’re about 48% of the way (give or take the gravitational pull of Mars).

    No doubt NickM could give us a better answer, since he’s the resident astrophysicist of this particular corner of the Interwebz.

  16. JG: Yup. That’s in all the ‘cross the galaxy’ sci-fi too.

    As for Mars. The first trip may well be one-way, and there will be takers for that. Probably not Matt Damon though…

  17. I’m not sure if Musk is actually interested in going to Mars or if it’s just promo bullshit. Either way he’ll be very interested in getting someone else to pay for it.

  18. I recall it’s been made clear that the first Mars trip will be one way and likely short lived though that hasn’t stopped people wanting to go

    For a good example of thrust options the book Saturn Run where US and China race to an artefact discovered near Saturn is interesting…one went Big Bang and coast and the other small and constant. The authors used some NASA software to model the orbits/trajectories to make sure they fit the storyline

  19. If Musk is serious about Mars colonisation, he needs 4 types of vehicles. An ascender/descender to earth orbit. That already in the inventory. A craft in an Earth/Mars Hohmann transfer orbit capable of sustaining a crew for 9 months. An orbital transfer vehicle capable of deltaV changes between earth orbit to Hohmann transfer velocities & Mars orbit to Hohmann transfer velocities. A Mars orbit to surface descender/ascender. The Earth/Mars vehicle is a cycler completing one solar orbit in around 18 months. The only fuel it uses are for orbit corrections. The transfer vehicle is a passenger/cargo vehicle capable of accelerating to the Hohmann orbit velocity from Earth orbit & decelerating to Mars orbit at the other end. And the reverse in the other direction. There would probably be several in the inventory. One attached to the Earth/Mars cycler going out, another on the return. At least one in orbit at each end. That combination gives least mass to accelerate at all stages of the missions. The cycler can be a large vehicle suitable for a large crew with adequate radiation shielding. It’s only accelerated once Reprovisioning can be done via the transfers at each half orbit.

  20. It’s the principal of the thing rather than the details. I think what I read on the subject talked about doing orbit changes during closest planetary approaches, minimising reaction mass requirement by utilising the Oberth effect. There’s also powered pseudo-orbits utilising low but constant thrust electric propulsion that require very little deltaV. The main advantage is that one’s only expending the deltaV to get a large mass up to velocity once. And a lot of that could come from gravity assist manoeuvres. Big problem’s the amount of time it would to set it up because the mission calender’s set by orbital dynamics. The less energy you want to expend the longer it takes.

  21. Must admit I’ve always liked Heinlein’s ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.’ Obviously based on the colonisation of Oz.

    I’ve always felt that the UK should copy Bob’s idea. You could annex part of Mars, and then deport illegal immigrants to the Martian territories. Thus you wouldn’t be wickedly dumping them back in their horrid homelands.

    I’d guess you’d only have to do this once or twice. The rest’d then avoid awful England like the plague—-oops covid.

  22. I wonder how much money will be made in space?
    Will Gold mining in space cause a collapse in the gold price.
    Will some precious minerals collapse in price due to the mining of them in space?
    What will be the financial consequences of space exploration and space mining?

  23. Joey.

    I’d argue that this depends on prior investment. Thinking of Oz, for example, the price of imprisoning a convict in the hulks was about half of that needed to keep him alive in Oz.

    But once the investment had been made in the first settlement, it became profitable to send wool home to the UK. All of those with influence naturally did their best to have convict servants assigned to them, and to be given grants of land.

    And eventually gold was discovered in Oz. The tale I heard was that the bureaucracy had ignored previous talk because that might have disrupted the administration of the colony. It was only when the discoveries in California made it fashionable that a push was made. In actual fact of course, the only thing that interested the UK parliament was the cost of the colony. Anything which lessened that was welcome.

    So once the space race started, it became profitable to send up communications and weather satellites. I’m sure if one of the Mars rovers discovered gold, it wouldn’t be worth mining now. But if a colony was established, it might be worth their while to provide some way of paying for essential imports. One imagines the convicts in space suits wielding their picks and shovels!!

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