6) Remember, we're designing two different craft here. See Man-rated vs. non man-rated.
--- Paul 19:50, 5 February 2010 (UTC) No, No we're not. The distinction it too fine at this level of craft. Since we have to develop the manned vehicle anyways, and since it is no larger or more expensive in any way than the un-manned vehicles, they why go through the extra devel time and money? Part of the magic that will make this so much cheaper is saving development time and money, and economies of scale. An old manufacturing saw comes to mind here. "It costs as much to build a hundred as it costs to build two..."
GES 2/10 - There may be some differences in the actual layout of assorted vehicles. If we use the same tanks, engines and avionics, but vary the payload, we could get some radically differerent vehicles.
Consider the 'Baseline' vehicle in storage: Two clusters of tanks on each side of a payload/passenger bay. Multiple engines on the sides near the top. There was some discussion of having the engines for and aft as opposed to port and starboard. but....
Now consider using just one engine at the bottom of a few tanks. Land it horizontally with some small, light cold gas jets, and you have a lander with only a few kg of useful payload, but using a much smaller launch vehicle. It could be a nice demonstration of avionics, communication, navigation, propulsion, tankage, and in-space manoeuvring. This uses all 'Manned' components, but is far to small to carry a man.
7) (GES 2/10) Approach and landing: The surveyor spacecraft pretty much dropped where it was. Later missions would have had a radio homing system to put multiple vehicles down in close proximity but the program was cancelled since the Apollo missions were only a few years (months) away. The Apollo LM landers had pilots with active roles in the landing. They stood near a downward facing window and had a pretty good view of the area. They made corrections via optical sights in the window and keyboard entry into the flight computer, then used a joystick for the final actual landing. - 1) The bad news is that they flew most of the early landing (orbital breaking) flat on their backs with nothing to see but the stars above ! They said it was pretty disconcerting until the LM pitched over and they could see (and aim for) the lunar surface. - 2) Is a normal heads up strait in approach the best idea when aiming for a target ? A normal approach to an outpost will probably be pretty common, you are coming from the earth, which is always in the same place in the sky, so the approach vector should be fairly repeatable. Consider how a modern aircraft carrier is layed out with the diagonal landing deck. An over shoot doesn't wipe-out all the other stuff on the decks. A landing error ellipse is generally elongated along track due to errors in velocity from the whole braking manoeuvre.
Perhaps landing to the side of the outpost is a good plan. What if you landed sideways ? Think of a snowboard/skateboard/surfboard stance. you could see the ground throughout the entire mission and you could always see the outpost that you are trying to land close, but not to close, to. Other views like, on top, underneath, behind, or in front, seem to have more drawbacks.
-- Comments ? Ideas ? Is this just a crazy idea brought on by a lack of sleep ?