In 1988, when Lyndon LaRouche proposed a 40 year project to build a science city on Mars, the imperial minions and stuck-in-the-mud pundits attempted to use the proposal as the basis for their ultimate derision: “Why he’s so crazy, he even wants to build a city on Mars!”
The class of professional liars are a bit quieter these days on this topic. While still considerably behind the timetable laid out by LaRouche, the tempo of developments moving in the direction he outlined is rapidly accelerating across a broad front of technologies and capabilities necessary for Mars colonization. You can see an updated overview of the Krafft Ehricke/Lyndon LaRouche Mars Project here.
In the last few weeks, major announcements and accomplishments have been made in several areas: new space stations, the new lunar lander, nuclear powered rockets, fusion power, winged flight on Mars and demonstrated extraction of Oxygen from Martian CO2 atmosphere.
An artist’s conception of the 2018 version of the Starship separating from the Superheavy. Credit: CC/SpaceX
Of great importance for the long term, was NASA’s unexpected selection of a modified SpaceX Starship to be the sole NASA Human Landing System (HLS) lunar lander. In the 3-way final competition, the SpaceX proposal was given the least NASA funding for initial development, was seen by many observers to be far outside the scope of NASA’s expectations and requirements, and so unconventional as to seem to be only a nominal contender.
To some degree or other, every group or institution is afflicted with the “Not Invented Here” syndrome (NIH)—a tendency to overlook, bypass or disregard the ideas, concepts, and proposals from outside the group or institution, a tendency to stick with the “known, trusted and proven.” Last week, NASA once again overcame the NIH syndrome and revolutionized itself by awarding SpaceX the HLS contract.
In effect, NASA adopted the SpaceX space program (with important modifications) as its own.
In its long term consequences for civilization, this decision ranks with the decision to finally allow the outsider team of Wernher von Braun to launch America’s first satellite—a decision which led to the team’s successful development of the Saturn family of rockets for the Apollo Project. It ranks with the Trump administration’s adoption of at least the initial aspects of Lyndon LaRouche’s Mars colonization proposal.
As if to punctuate the importance of this decision, just days later the SpaceX Starship SN15 prototype made the very first successful landing using the “bellyflop/last minute flip to vertical landing maneuver.” It will be relaunched soon. In the next months, a complete Starship/Superheavy combination will attempt its first circumnavigation of the Earth.
There is a fundamental distinction between gradual improvement—evolution, tweaks, and modifications—as compared to revolutionary transformation. Of the other two competing designs for the HLS, one faced a severe weight problem which threatened to prevent accomplishment of the minimal task of taking 2 astronauts to the lunar surface for extended stays, the other appeared to just reach the NASA minimum requirements—at great cost and with minimal opportunity for growth to sustain even the initial phase of building a Moon base—not to mention Krafft Ehricke’s vision of the lunar city he called Selenopolis. You can find more background on SpaceX here.
Since 2016, when SpaceX founder, CEO, CTO, and primary owner, Elon Musk first announced his plan for what is now known as the Starship/Superheavy fully rapidly reusable interplanetary spacecraft, people have asked, “Do we really have 2 space programs aiming at sending people to Mars? —one private and one public?” Now the two plans are becoming one; a dissonance is resolving into a fugue.
The Starship-derived HLS will have the capability to deliver, not just astronauts and their immediate requirements, but heavy power, construction, mining, and manufacturing equipment to build a human base or settlement on the Moon capable of multiple contributions to the Mars Project.
Of course, there are risks and challenges associated with the new HLS design. The HLS design is predicated upon the successful development of the complete SpaceX Starship/Superheavy system. The HLS will require a Superheavy (the fully reusable fly-back first stage of the system) launch to put it into Earth orbit and will require a cadence of perhaps six or more Superheavy/Starship tanker launches to fuel up the HLS for its lunar operations. Such large scale refueling in Earth orbit has never been attempted before. Now the fact that this is all coming under the oversight and helping hand of NASA lends greater confidence that the combination between the young innovative SpaceX team and the institutional experience of the space agency’s team will result in overall success. Enthusiasm must always be tempered by reason.
For example, the stated goal of SpaceX to use the Starship to directly send people to colonize Mars will not work, as presently conceived. After months of travel in microgravity and high radiation conditions, the crew arriving on Mars would be in no condition to do much work. However, the Starship technology, teamed with fission or fusion rocket technology coming from NASA and other sources, could deliver strong and healthy people to Mars in a relatively short travel time.
The Low Earth Orbit Economic Platform
You may hardly give it a thought, but for over 20 years now, people from many nations and institutions have been continuously living and working above your head in the International Space Station (ISS). At the time of this writing, there are 11 astronauts from 4 nations working there—transported there by 2 NASA/SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and one Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft docked there.
The ISS was begun as an expensive Research and Development project. The decades have been put to good use. On the one hand, we have tested many pilot projects which demonstrated the fantastic possibilities of the industrialization of Low Earth Orbit; on the other hand, we have been developing improved systems by which to supply and crew the ISS. The multi-decade continuous demand for moving crews, supplies and experimental apparatus to and from the ISS has provided the demand for cheaper, simpler transportation to orbit and the incentive to invest in developing better systems. Many designs have sought to achieve some degree of robust rapid reusability as a way of lowering both the monetary cost and, most importantly, the physical effort of delivering people and payload to orbit.
For example, the recent NASA/SpaceX Crew 2 mission was launched using a previously flown spacecraft and first stage. Similarly, the reusable NASA/Boeing Starliner human spacecraft will begin operations to the ISS this year. The Starliner’s intended main launch system, the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur (yes, the latest version of Krafft Ehricke’s liquid Hydrogen/Oxygen engine) rocket will also fly this year. The Vulcan Centaur will perfect a technology whereby the first stage engines are ejected from the body of the first stage and captured in mid-air by a helicopter for reuse.
Next year, the robotic version of the reusable, winged Sierra Nevada Dreamchaser will begin cargo operations to the ISS. Soon thereafter, a manned version will debut.
So far, SpaceX has accomplished the most in the effort to lower the cost-to-orbit. This year it is scheduled to launch its Falcon 9 rocket system more than 40 times (including one more Crew Dragon flight). Then there are hundreds of other startups, from China to Europe to the U.S., seeking to replicate and possibly go beyond what SpaceX has done—build a small, cheap satellite launcher with a unique capability and go from there.
It is important to note here that many of the startups—the ones started by people who are not already wealthy enough to hazard their own money—rely upon “Venture Capitalists” (VCs) to fund their initial operations until products are successfully built and sold and the startup becomes profitable.
There may be altruistic exceptions, but generally the VCs maintain a different final goal from the interests of the entrepreneur/production people who create startups. The entrepreneur typically is intent upon creating a new product which solves a problem for potential customers. The VC is generally intent upon gaining equity and, eventually, a controlling interest in the firm—either in order to sell the firm as soon as it becomes recognized as having a significantly increased value, or in the case of those with a longer investment horizon, holding on to control of the firm for the long term. The VC is also likely to demand medium-term financial returns and to undermine investment in the research which will likely have a longer payoff horizon.
In this way, the long arm of the Anglo-Dutch imperial financial system reaches down to grab a stranglehold on the productive system. Despite scientific/entrepreneurial progress being funded by VCs, the present speculative financial system remains a vulnerability which must be removed—something solved at the deepest level by Lyndon LaRouche’s Four Laws for the Economic Recovery of the United States.
The American System, or credit system approach outlined by LaRouche, replaces VC funding with national-bank-issued long term, low interest credit to be released to entrepreneurs through the period of product development up to the point of final attainment of profitability. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation under Jesse Jones demonstrated how this works on a large scale. Under the credit system, the entrepreneur/engineer/production people maintain their control over the firm and can be free to start work on a next generation product—even as they are just beginning to produce and market their first-generation product. We really need that LaRouche/Hamiltonian credit system in order to accelerate the Mars project.
Despite the obstacles, the cost of reaching low Earth orbit is coming down to the point that companies and wealthy individuals can charter flights. As early as this year, Jared Isaacman and 3 other private persons will be launched on the first all-private manned orbital flight aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. Next year, SpaceX will launch an all-private flight to the ISS for Axiom Space, which will be adding its own commercial modules to the ISS before creating its own private space station for space manufacturing and microgravity-related research.
Harmony of Heaven, core module of the Chinese space station in the clean room of the Wenchang Launch Center prior to launch. Credit: CC/China News
An artist's conception of Sierra Nevada's station announced in March. The station is serviced here by 3 of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spaceplanes which offer gentle runway landings instead of parachute landings. Credit: SNC Corp. with permission of Kimberly Schwandt
The long-term future of the ISS is not yet clear, but you should expect that it will probably be retired before the end of the decade. There will be a transition to many, probably smaller, and more specialized stations. Besides the aforementioned Axiom station, there will be many more. The China National Space Agency (CNSA) has just orbited the core module, Harmony of Heaven, of its new space station. It will be joined by other modules and completed over the next 2 years. Roscosmos, the primary partner of NASA in the ISS, is already working on a new station. Sierra Nevada several weeks ago announced its plan to build a space station featuring inflatable modules using the technology which has been undergoing long duration testing on the ISS.
There may be even more specialized space stations built as operations in orbit become more affordable, more routine, and Earth orbit becomes a more generalized platform for unique and important economic activities.
Lunar Gateway with Orion spacecraft. Credit: NASA
Then there is the Lunar Gateway. NASA, with some of its ISS partners, is building a small man-tended station in lunar orbit. It will serve as a depot for connections between spacecraft flying between Earth orbit and lunar orbit, and those spacecraft flying from lunar orbit down to the lunar surface.
The prospect of even more radically reduced cost of access to Earth orbit is tied to the successful full development of the SpaceX Starship/Superheavy system we mentioned earlier. This system will be rapidly and completely reusable—as well as offering Saturn V-class, 100 ton, payload-to-orbit capability. It is intended to completely replace the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Crew Dragon systems.
Developing the Moon
This fall, the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) will make its first flight sending an unmanned Orion spacecraft around the Moon (Artemis I). This flight will prove the safety and integration of the entire SLS/Orion system. Artemis II will be the first crewed SLS/Orion flight and will fly around the Moon.
The Orion spacecraft of Artemis III will dock with the lunar orbiting station known as the Gateway. Waiting at the Gateway for the lunar landing crew, will be the reusable HLS lander. At least 2 astronauts will fly the HLS down to the surface of the lunar South pole area for an extended stay. From that point onward, the potentials are boundless.
The heavy cargo capability and reusability of the HLS could be used to set up a permanent base and initial mining capability. Extracted water, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Helium 3 could be exported back to the stations in Earth orbit for far less than such provisions could be launched upward from the surface of the Earth. Later, simple foods such as vegetables and fish grown on the Moon could be exported back to feed astronauts on Earth-orbiting stations. Still later, the base could export lunar metals—such as aluminum and titanium.
Many nations, companies, universities, etc. will be involved in this lunar development, but so far 2 very important nations are not: Russia and China.
Roscosmos and CNSA have just announced the creation of a separate “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in Moon orbit with possible involvement of other countries, international organizations and other international partners . . . designed to carry out multidisciplinary and multipurpose research activities, including the exploration and use of the Moon, lunar observations, fundamental research experiments and technology verification with the possibility of long-term unmanned operation with the prospect of ensuring human presence,” to be known as the International Scientific Lunar Station (ISLS).
Both Roscosmos and CNSA are developing deep space human spacecraft capable of trips to lunar orbit. Roscosmos will launch a robotic lunar lander this year and CNSA plans a robotic lunar mission very soon to bring back lunar regolith samples from the far side of the Moon. But even though Roscosmos just renewed its space exploration agreement with NASA for another decade, Russia and China will not agree to be put into a relationship in which independence, mutual respect, and trust, is replaced with outrageous lying and bullying!
The Big Stink
This brings us to the smelly part of this report. Nearly every astronaut would tell you that we should all be going to the Moon and Mars together. The attitude of the astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts was probably best captured in this quotation:
“From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ ” —Edgar Mitchell, 6th man to walk on the Moon
The ISLS project is intended to be open to all nations and institutions who wish to participate. However, the centuries long dirty operations of the multi-faceted British Empire—aimed at both destroying every other great power and simultaneously putting every other great power at each other’s throats—have been escalated to a fever pitch of lies in the United States in recent years. Even Roscosmos, which has had a long and very good relationship with NASA, is finding it very difficult to operate in the environment in which Russia is given the “LaRouche treatment” (long term persecution and slanders). The bigger the lie the better. Lies become bases for conflicts, regime change operations, etc.
China is coming in for the same treatment on top of the pre-existing U.S. Congressional ban on cooperation between NASA and any Chinese space institution. If we are to successfully develop the Moon and Mars, once again the outsiders must be brought in, and the lies and bullying must stop.
Bear in mind that this “Wurlitzer” of propaganda is the same which has nearly shut down NASA completely several times in the past, and is currently moving generally to shut down industry and agriculture to kill off the humans in order to save the Earth! If you are a captive of the prevailing lies, you might even think that the 95% CO2 atmosphere of Mars is a grave threat to the red planet’s future! It must be the result of all of those NASA landers and rovers which have abused the poor planet over recent decades!
Finally on this topic, we must not allow the British Empire to define our activity and mission in space. The Empire and its Wurlitzer have been allowed to define the Apollo program as a stunt—a competition over who would get listed in its Guinness Book of World Records. Once the stunt was accomplished there was no reason to go any further. So, former President Obama could just say, “Been there. Done that.”—as he moved to nearly destroy NASA.
We are not playing by the rules of the Empire. With a few dramatic exceptions, this is and will be a process of sustained and focused work which mostly appears mundane but which results in lifting mankind to a new platform of multiplanetary development and a new more generalized prosperity for all.
The Power of Reason
In reality, the Mars Project can only be accomplished with the focused efforts of a reasoning society as a whole—and individuals with insight and the discipline to overcome impediments along the way. The object is to rapidly supersede each technology with a better—what is sometimes called technological attrition. Each new technology raises the bar of the possible—raises the platform which underlies all economic activity and the living conditions of society. More “tried and true” methods will have to be overthrown, more outsiders with better ideas will have to be brought in—because we still do not even know how we will get people to Mars in good health. As former NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine had observed, “We need hundreds of more Elon Musks.” Who knows where we will find them?
The space program becomes the crucible in which the economy and the citizenry are uplifted. To succeed in becoming multiplanetary we must get out from under the Wurlitzer of continuous electronic inundation of the “outrage of the moment,” and especially the Big Lies of the moment. Socratic reasoned thought about the future must replace instant emotional reaction and gratification. Entertain the thought, “I have a sudden urge to . . . .” while on Mars and it could be the cause of your death and the deaths of your compatriots.
Problems, Problems . . . . And Some Solutions?
The Starship/Superheavy system promises some very big advances in capabilities, but fundamentally we need very dense high intensity power sources able to give continuous acceleration or deceleration over long time intervals.
Besides the Artemis Project directly, some other important initiatives of the Trump administration have continued over into the new administration. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) “has awarded contracts for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. The goal of the DRACO program is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit in 2025." While this is a defense project, the NTP technology promises to roughly double the output per kilogram of propellant as compared to a chemical rocket. In this technology, a nuclear fission process is used to heat a gas to very high temperature and velocity out a nozzle to produce thrust.
NTP powered freighters, whose fission systems could last for many years, could be refueled by propellant gas extracted from the Moon or Mars, and continuously shuttle back and forth between the planets. In that regard, the first in-situ extraction of resources from another heavenly body occurred recently when the Mars Oxygen In-situ Experiment (MOXIE) aboard the Mars Perseverance rover successfully extracted significant quantities of Oxygen from the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere.
Meanwhile, NASA itself, in cooperation with the Department of Energy, is reviewing responses from industry before letting initial contracts, this summer, for work on an NTP rocket design. While this project is initially targeted around NTP technology, it also looks toward development of Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP). Electric propulsion https://larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2019/eirv46n22-20190607/10-18_4622.pdf]) uses electromagnetic acceleration of ionized propellant out the rocket nozzle (instead of heat-based acceleration created by combustion or nuclear heating).
Electric propulsion (also known as ion thrust) could multiply the output per kilogram of propellant by roughly eight times as compared to chemical combustion. However electric propulsion systems have a low thrust-to-weight ratio. In other words, electric propulsion is excellent for continuous low thrust propulsion over a long time and distance, but it does not have the power to impart powerful short bursts such as would be needed for maneuvering into Mars orbit from a high speed long distance flight. An NEP system would need to be combined with a separate high thrust-to-weight-ratio system for such maneuvering. Or, we could create a hybrid design which would allow a nuclear power source to shift between NTP or NEP mode. Depending upon how the engineering and other factors shake out, NASA is aiming for an NTP, NEP, or hybrid NTP/NEP powered human flight to Mars in 2039.
An artist's conception of the Lunar Gateway's Power and Propulsion Element firing its 50 kilowatts of electric thrusters. Credit: NASA
In the largest scale usage of electric propulsion so far, the Lunar Gateway will use a fifty kilowatt solar powered electric propulsion system to allow it to slowly change orbits to facilitate landings anywhere on the Lunar surface.
There has been significant progress on the fusion front also. In February, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) produced a report calling for aggressive action to build a U.S. pilot fusion power plant as soon as 2035. That was preceded last December, by a Department of Energy Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee (FESAC) report outlining a ten year perspective of increased work on magnetic fusion technologies which will be tied to solving the people-to-Mars problem. These technologies are no longer off in the far distance. Productive fusion devices can be built today. Lyndon LaRouche always specified the power density of fusion-based rocketry and power systems as the key to his Mars colonization proposal.
Mars and Beyond
Of course the big interplanetary news has been the February arrival at Mars of three new robotic vehicles, the UAE’s Al-Amal (Hope) orbiter, the CNSA Tianwen 1 orbiter, lander, and Zhurong rover; and the NASA Perseverance rover with its Ingenuity helicopter.
In February, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, honored the Emirati Hope team of more than 200 engineers. Some of the young engineering team who were referred to as "the wealth of our nation" are seen socially distanced in the background. Credit: Government of Dubai Media Office
The very young team of 200 engineers at the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) put together a very impressive international team to create Hope—the first Martian satellite devoted to developing an understanding of the complete Martian weather system. The story of the Hope mission demonstrates the way in which the Moon/Mars project, as a whole, is becoming unstoppable. The Hope mission began with a desire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE, a desire to make a significant contribution to science and humanity in general, and a desire to show fellow Emiratis, fellow Arabian people, and the world in general, what some young Arabian people could accomplish—if given the opportunity.
The MBRSC team consulted with the NASA-led Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (an international group which coordinates Mars research and identifies gaps in knowledge). The identified need for better understanding of Martian weather led the team to pick three instruments which, from a high orbit would be able to get a global overview of planetary weather patterns, atmospheric layers, etc. The orbiter itself was put together in Colorado by a joint team from MBRSC and the University of Colorado, Boulder, with support from the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley. The weather satellite was launched from Japan on a Japanese rocket. Additional support came from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
One way or the other, we are going to Mars together!
You have probably already heard about the flights of NASA’s tiny Ingenuity helicopter on Mars paving the way for later winged mobility on a larger scale there. We already spoke of Perseverance’s MOXIE experiment producing Oxygen from ambient CO2. Other highlights of the Perseverance mission will be the continuing search for more evidence of life and the collection of tubes of regolith to be eventually picked up and flown back to Earth by a European Space Agency sample return mission.
First color image of the Martian surface taken by the Zhurong rover from atop its carrier/lander. Credit: CNSA
You have probably also heard about CNSA’s first interplanetary flight—the Tianwen-1 mission, and the successful landing of its Zhurong rover atop its carrier-lander. This mission has proven out the CNSA deep space communications and control systems and landing technique for the lander/Zhurong rover. Overall, it is a very complex and impressive mission of observations and regolith collection for a later sample return mission.
These three new missions join another 7 orbiters, landers, and rovers which continue to send back the data which will inform the scientific hypotheses which will minimize the technical risks associated with the first human explorations and later settlement.
Finally, I apologize to all nations, institutions and individuals who are working on important space projects which I have not mentioned here. I cannot mention everything, nor do I even know everything ongoing! Human activity in space is becoming a tidal wave! For example, we must take note of the planned launch of the James Webb Telescope in late October. This telescope is intended to show us imagery of the Universe far, far beyond what has been provided by the Hubble Space Telescope. If it works, it may have an even bigger effect upon our view of Creation than did Hubble.
Overcoming the Political Risk
It is sort of the standing joke among the people working on nuclear-based rocketry that far beyond the difficulties associated with materials and engineering, the big hurdle is to get through the bureaucratic regulatory hurdles which, at least until the Trump administration, had been politically designed to be impossible barriers.
Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine rightly identified the greatest risk to the Moon/Mars development program as “political risk.” In other words, scientifically and technically, we know that we could develop quite a thriving, productive base on the Moon, which could gradually develop into Krafft Ehricke’s city, Selenopolis. Although the much more difficult Mars case still requires many revolutionary developments, we know that we are just on the cusp of making the breakthroughs which will allow human exploration and settlement there also. But what about the decades-long drive to shut down space exploration initiated by the British Tavistock Institute beginning during the time of the buildup of the Apollo project?
Bridenstine worked very hard to build bipartisan Congressional support for the Artemis program. Importantly, he insisted that no other part of the NASA budget could be cut to pay for Artemis; the tried-and-true imperial divide and conquer strategy could not be used to work destruction from within.
So far, the incoming NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, has indicated his intent to continue the Artemis project—including the 2024 target date for the Artemis III mission which includes the first human landing on the Moon since 1972. However, the tentacles of the British Empire reaching down into Washington and aiming to shut down nuclear power, coal, oil, natural gas, animal husbandry, the American Dream, and the dream of industrialization of the world as a whole, cannot be expected to ignore NASA much longer.
A Bright Future
Nonetheless, the future prospects for the human colonization of deep space are much better than they have ever been. In part this is because of imperial overreach. The bubble economy is in crisis. The five year coup d’etat against the Trump administration and the direct assault upon the livelihoods and living conditions of the American people have led to an unprecedented resistance.
However, NASA’s primary ally against the political risk, is the growing space activity of other nations, particularly China, Russia, and India, but also increasingly smaller and smaller economies such as the UAE. With the exception of the extreme cases, even some ideologically blinded and corruption-compromised Congressmen cannot fail to see the contrast between increasing capabilities being demonstrated especially by China, versus the politically correct ideological insanity of threatening war while shutting down the physical economy. The cost of attempted obedience to royal whim grows by the day.
The Universe does not recognize royal alternate realities. Physics and physical economy do not respond to royal decrees. The attempt to return to “ye goode olde Dark Ages”—where ignorance, short lives, obedience, and poverty secured royal happiness—will crash and burn. Leibniz and LaRouche were right: we do live in the best of all possible worlds and we will develop the knowledge to terraform new worlds of places like Mars where all of that CO2 will be put to good use feeding crops and forests. Do your part to expose and ridicule to oblivion the imperial warmongers and liars. Success depends upon weaving all of the many separate national and private space programs into a harmonious fugue. We shall do it together. And, in the process, we shall bring the human family into a New Paradigm of harmonious rapid development beyond our imaginations today.