I will post proof on my facebook https://www.facebook.com/RonGaran Twitter: https://twitter.com/Astro_Ron and G+ https://plus.google.com/+RonGaran pages. I want to discuss with you where the next destination for human space exploration should be

Comments: 5795 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

caraboam2372 karma

I'd like to see some sort of permanent structure on the moon.

danielravennest2273 karma

Talking about destinations assumes a mission orientation, and I think this is the wrong approach. Instead, I think NASA should think in terms of high leverage technologies and capabilities. Forgive my language, but designing new missions with the same crappy technology will not get you far in a limited budget environment. These two areas are the ones I think are most important:


Chemical rockets reached their technical limits 50 years ago when the first Centaur LOX/LH2 engine was developed. Later cryogenic engines have not improved significantly because there is no more energy in the fuel to use. At best you can get marginal improvements. The only way to get radical improvements is to stop using chemical rockets as the main method to travel in space. I will mention a few candidates, but the main point is move away from a technology that has reached a dead end.

One candidate is to use air-breathing engines up to around Mach 5. There are various engine cycles that could be used, but the important thing is by using oxygen from outside the vehicle, you can get about three times the fuel energy/kilogram as with LOX/LH2. Above Mach 5 the increased drag and heating makes it better to use rockets, so air-breathing propulsion is mainly useful for a first stage.

Another candidate is electric propulsion. Ion and plasma thrusters already have demonstrated 6-10 times the exhaust velocity of cryogenic engines, and solar panels to power them have doubled in efficiency in the last decade. They should receive a lot more attention than they are.

The Supply Chain

Bringing everything from Earth is ultimately too expensive and unsustainable. We should put a lot more emphasis on extracting resources wherever we are, establishing a production base, and making products like structural elements, fuel, food, and other things you need for long term operations. Modern computers and networking makes it possible to do a lot of the work by remote control. So we can put the robots to work preparing for when the humans arrive, and to assist us once we get there.

Some of this technology is getting worked on, but far too little effort is going into it, and I have not seen a real integrated systems approach to the supply problem. For example, if you extract fuel for a plasma thruster from asteroid materials, and use part of that fuel to bring back the next load of raw rock, it becomes self-sustaining. But you don't discover that synergy if you look at materials processing and propulsion in isolation. You need to look at them as an integrated process where each supports the other.

-- Sincerely,

Dani Eder

Formerly with Boeing's Space Systems Division, now writing a book on space systems engineering and doing conceptual design of future projects

[EDIT] For those who asked Mr. Garan to reply, he did, here, but it's kinda lost in the thousands of other comments:


RonGaran10 karma

Dani, I do not disagree with anything you've said here. Great insights! I'm looking forward to reading your book, ron

gbheron191793 karma

Honestly? The next destination for NASA should be Elementary, Middle, and High-Schools across the country.

I can't imagine that you and your colleagues don't LOVE what you do for a living. If you took some of that passion to the classrooms of soon-to-be voters and got them excited about the possibilities of the space-program you would do more to ensure the future of NASA than anything else I can think of.

P.S. Thank you for what you do - if I could do any one thing in my life it would be travel to Low Earth Orbit.

P.P.S. Please check out www.reddit.com/r/KerbalSpaceProgram ... we will love you to death over there. Mention my name if you want to be a king maker.

RonGaran1241 karma

The day after the 1st Space Shuttle landed I went to my academic advisor and asked how I can start taking more math and science courses. I completely changed my academic studies. This is an example of how the space program can inspire students to STEM courses and to academic excellence (not that I had academic excellence). Our world (the US in particular) has a huge shortage of students graduating with the technical skills required in a world of rapid technological advancement. The space program is a positive motivator to correct this trend

ILikeToBakeCupcakes1780 karma

Back to the moon, get our shit together, go to Mars.

RonGaran1477 karma

I like it - short and to the point

NuclearWookie1666 karma

I think you guys (or someone) should mine the moon. If you tunnel down you'll get ample radiation shielding for free and if you process the raw materials you can build spaceships that can go faster since they won't have to contend with the stronger gravity of Earth or any atmosphere at launch.

If it was designed so that the cities on the moon formed a smiley face or an ejaculating penis when seen from Earth it would be even better.

RonGaran1031 karma

amen brother (or sister)!

Cojir0691 karma

I think NASA should build a real life Death Star, basically an artificial moon/space station but with weapons that could blast any asteroids that get a little too close to Earth.

Also it needs to have all exhaust ports covered, you know... just in case.

RonGaran743 karma

Only problem is when you blast an asteroid you really only multiply the number of places on the Earth that are going to get hit - there are much better ways to deal with asteroids The B612 foundation is working on some of those http://b612foundation.org/

Pyrao630 karma

Some more international co-operation. We have so many agencies around the world. I think as soon as we start thinking as ourselves as citizens of Earth and not nations then progress in space will advance much more. Also a manned mission to Mars would be cool, I'd like to see a permanent settlement set up there or the moon like the prototypes drawn up in the 70's.

RonGaran687 karma

Agree! - the 15 nations that built and operate the International Space Station are a shinning example of international cooperation. I believe the single most important reason why our planet still faces so many critical problems despite our ample technology and resources is our inability to effectively collaborate on a global scale

cold_toast579 karma

This is off topic, but could you describe what it was like going out on your first spacewalk?

RonGaran1412 karma

Part of my brain said, "This is an amazingly beautiful experience" - another part said, "Yeah, it's beautiful but it's not real" since on my 1st spacewalk I had no experience base to compare it to, part of me couldn't accept it was real

Thehealeroftri507 karma

Perhaps we could land on the sun next?

RonGaran1849 karma

we would have to go at night though - ba dump dump

ryanmcapple458 karma


RonGaran797 karma

I think it's possible to do whatever we set our minds to. We are only limited by our imagination and our will to act

[deleted]393 karma


RonGaran665 karma

I agree that exploration of our oceans is also critically important - Unfortunately, we are at great risk of losing the world's only undersea laboratory "Aquarius" http://aquarius.uncw.edu/ due to lack of funding

Mx-yz-pt-lk371 karma

Mars. Unless I'm missing something.

RonGaran478 karma

I think Mars is an obvious destination - but should it be next?

jamisonglory349 karma

what about space elevator? is it just fairy tale?

RonGaran497 karma

It is theoretically possible but at present not operationally practical or feasible

SunkenBugg322 karma

If I'm buying snow tires should I change all 4 or just the front or back 2?

RonGaran430 karma

4 wheel drive or 2?

SunkenBugg239 karma

4 wheel

RonGaran315 karma

Get all 4 unless you live in Houston

ARjules309 karma

Of course, I would say that we should go back to the moon then to Mars. But I think to do that, we have to get the public informed as to how it could benefit them and excited them about it. How to do that is another issue entirely.

RonGaran463 karma

This reddit is one way - you can all help get the word out too

benwyn305 karma

What would be your favorite planet to visit? and Why?

RonGaran777 karma

Probably Mars - it's the closest and @SarcasticRover is there

pkoni286 karma

snoop lion started a new trend. Now people doing AMA's are asking redditors questions.

RonGaran459 karma

Oh man - I thought I was being a trend setter

Helvetica2012255 karma

1: If you guys are taking names, I will HAPPILY be the first man to die on Mars. If I understand this correctly, the radiation should kill me within a couple of months (if several years on board a ship doesn't already destroy human bone density and make me a straw-man).

2: OCEANS! We have mapped out something like 3% of Earth's oceans! Who knows what sort of cool biological breakthroughs will result from discovery of life that HAS NOT BEEN AFFECTED BY THE SUN FOR HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS!

3: Lightsabers.

RonGaran293 karma

  1. Be careful what you ask for
  2. I agree it's critically important to explore our oceans. Unfortunately we may lose funding for the world's only undersea laboratory "Aquarius" http://aquarius.uncw.edu/
  3. Uh OK?

RonGaran241 karma

I'm going to call it a night - I will pick back up as soon as I can and address as many comments as I can. Thanks for all the great comments. I think this is a very important discussion and I'd like to keep it going if you're game

__fubar__230 karma

I think NASA should also focus on a new PR campaign to revitalize and encourage the public to support funding for space exploration. Some people need to realize how important NASA has been to furthering technology in our world. It's so much more than pure exploration. Just because we have been to the moon [example] doesn't mean we have nothing to gain from establishing infrastructure there. The technological, medical, and even economical benefits to the future of humans is immeasurable. Everyone should be stoked on this!!!

RonGaran163 karma

I think we need people with your insights to help us get the word out. Help us get everyone excited about our space programs and help us explain why space exploration and research being conducted onboard the ISS is so critically important to the future of all of humanity

PaxMalum212 karma

One of Jupiter's moons!

RonGaran608 karma

All but Europa - we're not allowed to go there! - obviously

Turnip199194 karma

Why, in your opinion, should we explore space?

Also, if you were the first man to set foot on another planet, what would your first words be?

RonGaran585 karma

We should explore space because if the dinosaurs had a space program they'd still be here I'm not sure what my first words on another planet would be - but I'd probably have a long time on the way to think of something smart and witty

nirgalbunny178 karma

Pick a near-Earth asteroid like Nereus or Cruithne. Have an astronaut (carefully) walk around the entire object, publicize "first astronauts to circumnavigate another world on foot"

RonGaran299 karma

Maybe we could hold an "Ironman" competition

one_dead_saint152 karma

how long do you think it will be until space travel becomes affordable to most everyone?

RonGaran265 karma

Excellent question - I wish I knew - I think it's possible in our lifetimes

Kensin144 karma

We need a ship that will support long term habitation in space. I don't think we'll see faster than light travel before our planet becomes too crowded or messed up to sustain us all. We're already searching for other worlds that support life, but I have a feeling we're going to need a ship that can sustain a decent sized population for several generations if humanity is ever going to get there.

RonGaran416 karma

Have you seen Wall-E?

The_Evil_Within135 karma


RonGaran326 karma

I agree it is critically important to explore Mars. I'm not sure if we should attempt to go there directly or use the Moon as a stepping stone. There are strong arguments both ways. I lean into the go to the Moon first camp but I would say I'm a Moon First Lunatic

inverse_infidel116 karma

Would it be a good idea to try and set up a permanent base on the moon? If only to prove it's possible before setting out further afield.

RonGaran181 karma

I personally think we should establish a permanent outpost on the moon. Here's why: http://www.universetoday.com/61256/astronaut-explains-why-we-should-return-to-the-moon/

ImaPiratelol116 karma

I wish Nasa could grant me the ability to not be horrible at math so I could graduate with a degree worthy of working at Nasa. >_<

RonGaran178 karma

The space program could use all kinds of help - not all of it requires being great at math

stonepickaxe108 karma

Let's explore Titan.

RonGaran122 karma

OK but why Titan before anything else?

mmss106 karma

I desperately want the warp drive research to be fruitful. What's the general feeling around NASA - pipe dream, or within our lifetime?

RonGaran158 karma

I think the first step is to get beyond chemical propulsion - I think that will be a reality within the next decade. Warp drive is another story - can't answer that one

penguinland105 karma

To be honest, I think NASA is doing fine on the exploration front. If I were to change something, it would be to make the American public aware of all the amazing things that have come out of NASA. I know far too many people who think NASA is a waste of money because they don't produce anything useful (and then they get surprised when I reply that NASA really does make stuff that they use every day).

Any chance of having some kind of PR campaign to get the word out? You guys have the facts behind you; just tell people about them more! I suspect your budget would be slashed less often if people understood that investments in NASA have paid for themselves many times over in the commercial success of stuff they invented.

RonGaran162 karma

We have done a horrible (an understatement) job telling the success story of our space program. Since the beginning of social media and platforms like reddit, I have seen a slight positive change in our ability to tell the story. Everyone can help us get the word out. One of the places I use to tell the story is http://www.fragileoasis.org/

ScorpionsSpear98 karma

I'd love to see something start here on Earth. How about more funding for you guys and NASA!

RonGaran72 karma

Thank you!

mythopoeia88 karma

Make a colony on the moon

RonGaran102 karma

I second that!

wishiwasonmaui84 karma

Has there been any discussion about a manned mission to an asteroid? I think that would be awesome.

RonGaran219 karma

Yes there has been a great deal of discussion about a manned mission to an asteroid - One interesting scenario has us bring the asteroid to us (or near us) The trick is making sure we don't inadvertently slam it into the Earth - not good

Poop292980 karma

What's it like way up in space? What are the best memories you have had?

RonGaran391 karma

My best memories are simply looking back at our beautiful planet. Since I was up there for 6 months, I was able to watch the seasons change from space. It really appeared as if we are all riding through the universe together on a living breathing organism

Frajer74 karma

I think ultimately regular people should be able to go to space if they don't have 20 million dollars

RonGaran109 karma

I couldn't agree more - I truly believe the more people who have an opportunity to see our beautiful planet from space, the better off we will all be

guywithfro62 karma

I am an engineering student, and my friend and I want to become astronauts. What advice can you give us in the pursuit of this goal? Thanks!

RonGaran115 karma

Study Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, pick a career you truly love and be the very best you can be at it

kuddles59 karma

With the discoveries of water on Mercury, it would be really interesting to land rovers on it for further analysis. Do you see something like this happening in the near future?

RonGaran68 karma

I'm not sure - but I hope so. The more we understand about our own backyard (our solar system) the better off we will all be

efinke9654 karma

Alpha Centauri. Lets get a look at that earth like planet.

RonGaran109 karma

We may have to take some intermediate steps first

brrose47 karma


one_dead_saint43 karma

i read a great article about what it would take for a manned mission to alpha cent. a and b. what are you're thoughts on manned missions to other solar systems?

RonGaran120 karma

We need to figure out a way to go much faster

wardy_1238 karma

manned exploration of mars its realistic and a big achievement

RonGaran60 karma

I think Mars is an obvious destination - but should it be next?

froggerk36 karma


RonGaran52 karma

Me neither

evan24830 karma

What was your first thoughts when you experinced weightlessness, and seeing space for the first time?

RonGaran63 karma

I felt very grateful for being given that experience and I felt a huge responsibility to share the experience with as many people as I can as best I can

thedeadlybutter28 karma

Do you see Asteroid mining becoming a new major industry when its more researched / developed?

RonGaran29 karma

I do but I think it's won't be a reality anytime soon - not at least until we can get launch costs down

temujin123426 karma

Send robots to other parts of the solar system. The USSR sent craft to Venus, let's get better images and data with modern technology. It would be interesting to see many of the planets and moons up close.

RonGaran42 karma

We do have a pretty robust robotic exploration program. In my opinion, we should expand our robotic missions and also look for way to collaborate between robotic and human exploration. By doing that we would enable great synergies

princeahleefabulous21 karma

I think we need to focus efforts on developing more practical ways of reaching orbit before we start setting sights on manned missions to mars. We don't even have the funding to return to the moon much less another planet. What do you think about privatization of NASA so that big money investors can become a part of it?

RonGaran45 karma

I agree we need to vastly improve our ability to reach Earth orbit. I think commercial space will make great strides and will help provide more cost effective launch capability. We also do not have to launch everything we will need to explore from Earth. There's water on the Moon that can be made into rocket fuel. There's enough to launch 1 space shuttle sized vehicle everyday for decades

bluemaster5114 karma

Faster and more efficient ways of travel, so we CAN have the ability for human space exploration.

Also, Cryogenic Freezing.

RonGaran28 karma

There's no doubt we need better propulsion systems to enable us to get to places faster - I'm not a big fan of cryogenic freezing however