May 29, 2020

11.06.11: ARGOSY: The Solar System Now?

Nautilus-X, one of the ideas for manned solar system exploration! (Credit: NASA).

Some fascinating papers have come our way via the Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest that I thought I’d share with you, the space-mongering public. As the shuttle program comes to an end, there’s this sort of unspoken dread out there that NASA & America are turning away from manned spaceflight. Sure, the astronauts will still maintain a presence aboard the ISS and interesting science will occur, but what we’d really like to see is some of our species out there, exploring farther afield in an incremental manner envisioned after Apollo. As a little moral boost, the aforementioned paper talks about the really interesting stuff, i.e. the “hows” and “whens”.  The study, entitled Human Missions Throughout the Outer Solar System: Requirements and Implementations, is co-authored by Ralph McNutt, Jerry Horsewood, and Douglas Fiehler and lays a ground work for the manned exploration of the outer solar system over the next century. This works hand-in-hand with the concept known as ARGOSY, or the Architecture for Going to the Outer Solar System. I particularly like how this study doesn’t back away from hard data, such as price tags, timelines, and the technological breakthroughs required in such an undertaking. Chief problems such as long term radiation exposure and precedents set aboard the International Space Station and long term stays in the Antarctic are also compared. Should we go? A manned Grand Tour of the outer Solar System (complete with landings in some choice spots) would capture the imagination of Joe-public like no mission since Apollo. We ain’t gettin’ any younger; it’s time to put fresh boot prints on some new worlds. Let see in 2050, I’ll be…

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