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NASA's New Mission to the Moon

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the to-the-moon-alice dept.

Moon 283

mattnyc99 writes "Popular Mechanics has a new, in-depth preview of NASA's Orion spacecraft, tracking the complex challenges facing the engineers of the CEV (which NASA chief Michael Griffin called 'Apollo on steroids') as America shifts its focus away from the Space Shuttle and back toward returning to the moon by 2020. After yesterday's long op-ed in the New York Times concerning NASA's about-face, Popular Mechanic's interview with Buzz Aldrin and podcast with Transterrestrial.com's Rand Simberg raise perhaps the most pressing questions here: Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? And will we actually stay there?"

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Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100012)

no

Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100018)

Yes.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1)

RyatNrrd (662756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100050)

What for? Surely this is just another presidential exercise in sticking it to the Commies?

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (4, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100226)

What for? Surely this is just another presidential exercise in sticking it to the Commies?

True, but there are other benefits. Learning how to colonize space would be a biggie in my book. Besides, if we can't go to the moon, we don't stand a chance at going to Mars, Europa, Titan, or possibly beyond our solar system. The moon is the first step.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (4, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100962)

The moon is the first step.

Why? Colonizing the moon is a drastically different undertaking from colonizing Mars. The moon is essentially a vacuum. It's cold. It has no useful resources to speak of (and no, He3 won't be useful any time soon). 1/6th Earth's gravity. And it's fairly close.

Meanwhile, Mars has water. And abundance of minerals. A thin atmosphere containing useful gases. A surface temperature that actually breaks the freezing point occasionally. Double the gravity of the moon. And it's so far away that getting there has proved to be a surprisingly difficult undertaking.

Honestly, the idea that colonization of the Moon will tell use anything useful about colonizing Mars is, frankly, silly. The methods that would be used for the two projects are *completely* different. Meanwhile, we can't even build a self-contained biosphere on *Earth*! Maybe we should try tackling that drastically simpler task before we start planning Moon bases.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101186)

Honestly, the idea that colonization of the Moon will tell use anything useful about colonizing Mars is, frankly, silly.


Firstly, unless you're a Phd wielding scientist with experience in a field related to astronautics, you should chose your words more carefully. Plenty of folks with a decent background say that there is much to be gained by making the moon an intermediate step.

Secondly, you're a Canadian, so I do not see why it concerns you. If anything you should be happy that we're not looking at using the bucks on weapons systems development (assuming that this ever sees the light of day).

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101214)

>The moon is the first step.

I thought it was the giant leap...? But don't quote me on that.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (2, Interesting)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100778)

What for?


I made this for Mars, but I think it still answers the question [wellingtongrey.net] .

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100078)

Though there is a certain precision and clarity to your brevity, a reason why would be helpful for the discussion. Something like: "We're messing shit up so bad here that we need a lifeboat", or "I personally would like to see what it's like to have the hiccups in low gravity". That's all.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (5, Interesting)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100278)

Lol. Many, many reasons.

Yes, there's the lifeboat argument.

There's doing research and rehearsals for manned exploration further out. I certainly wouldn't want to venture to Mars or the asteroids without technology tested a little closer to home first.

Raw materials -- He3 (as fusion fuel) is one possibility. As a source for raw materials (silicon, aluminum, etc) for building solar powersats is another.

Astronomical research -- lunar farside is the best place in the solar system for radio telescopes, it's shielded from Earth's noise. It's also a pretty good place for telescopes at all other wavelengths, especially if there's a manned base to swap out instruments, repair cameras, etc.

A frontier. People need one, even if only a few actually pioneer it. Earth will go crazy even faster without one.

Whole books have been written on "why", a Slashdot comment isn't going to do it justice.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100822)

Yet another reason is mutually assured destruction sans fallout or germs. Someone will want to use the Moon as a base for retaliatory kinetic weapons. It wouldn't take much to launch and aim some very large rocks.... While they might take days to arrive, they could nonetheless be extremely destructive upon arrival.

Hence NASA's recent removal of "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement. And possibly China's recent satellite posturing last month, just a couple of days before Bush's address and "space race" announcements.

-- IANA conspiracy theorist, but I play one on TV.

But if one side can't hit back... (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100882)

Then it's not really all that mutual, now, is it?

Re:But if one side can't hit back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101144)

You wouldn't want to use it as a first strike weapon because people would see it coming and wipe you out before it arrived. This would only be useful as a retaliatory device - if we are hit, we hit back even after we're dead.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101022)

I'm personally more interested in seeing how far I can spit in low grav.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101330)

Funny, I was just wondering how large I could pee my name in the lunar "snow".

Is the lunar surface the better investment? (3, Insightful)

maggard (5579) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101208)

Yes, there's the lifeboat argument.

Even under the most dire/optimistic scenarios a lunar facility isn't gonna be much of a viable 'lifeboat' for generations yet. Indeed if things go seriously awry it's probably the most untenable place to be for any calamity except a fast-acting/highly-virulent/fatal terrestrial biohazard, and then you'd likely just get to live somewhat longer and die a premature death of a different cause. After a terrestrial catastrophe a lunar facility likely won't contribute much to future generations but an interesting monument. Rather a planet of 6 billion with a huge biosphere has so much more in the way of odd nooks & corners for refugees & resources.

There's doing research and rehearsals for manned exploration further out. I certainly wouldn't want to venture to Mars or the asteroids without technology tested a little closer to home first.

Except a lunar facility is going to be markedly different then anything space-based. Significant gravity, a surface, 2 week bright/dark cycles, huge dust & debris issues; except for lack of atmosphere they're almost entirely different problem sets. A space station is certainly the better R&D environment for spacefaring development. As to Martian R&D Earth as good, and substantially cheaper/more-amenable venue then the moon offers.

Raw materials -- He3 (as fusion fuel) is one possibility. As a source for raw materials (silicon, aluminum, etc) for building solar powersats is another.

Except that asteroids are probably a far better materials supply source and can be got roboticly, with their materials easier separated, refined, and then sent on to Earth in space then from the moon. Furthermore while He3 is promising we've yet to achieve fusion that could take advantage of it and those power sats would probably do as good a job with less complexity then a lunar-fueled terrestrial fusion system anyhow.

>Astronomical research -- lunar farside is the best place in the solar system for radio telescopes, it's shielded from Earth's noise. It's also a pretty good place for telescopes at all other wavelengths, especially if there's a manned base to swap out instruments, repair cameras, etc.

Except any manned base is going to be fouling up the local environment and require far more support then just installing spares & alternatives for everything. Again, the moon is good, space is likely better.

A frontier. People need one, even if only a few actually pioneer it. Earth will go crazy even faster without one.

Because the moon is the only possible frontier? Not our oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, arctic & antarctic regions? Not more abstract frontiers like science, technology, sociology, psychology, diplomacy, etc.?

I'm honestly not trying to be contrarian but your reasons strike me more as rationalizations. Nearly all could be done better/cheaper using unmanned systems or directly in space. I'd hate to see a lunar base become another dead end like our hopelesly compromised space station, doing expensive science of minimal import or quality.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (2, Interesting)

bware (148533) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101342)

We don't have viable breakeven fusion. We're not likely to get it anytime soon. Maybe in 20 years - same as they said 20 years ago, and 20 years before that. It's not as though He-3 or lack thereof is what's stopping us from having breakeven fusion reactors. Using a mythical fuel for a mythical fusion reactor as a reason to go to the moon makes your argument sound, well, mythical. Spending trillions of dollars to stockpile the mythical fuel for the mythical day in the future that it might be needed is crazy. If it's there, it'll still be there when (if) it's needed. Do we even know that it's there? Can you point me to peer-reviewed research?

And the lunar surface is, for many reasons, a much worse place than space for telescopes of all sorts. Huge temperature extremes, not the most stable environment, lack of pointing control, you lose 50% of your observing time because your telescope is looking sunward and you have to have RPGs because the other 50% of the time you lose your solar power. We don't use a lot of RPGs, they're a pain in the butt. Heavy, expensive, launch issues, radiation issues, reliability issues and it's difficult to get as much power as you get from a solar panel. Solar power is easier and more reliable. I've worked on a couple of projects where, just for fun and to forestall objections we weren't being forward-thinking enough, we ran trades of a moon site. Space won. Putting stuff on the moon isn't any less expensive than putting it at L2 and L2 is better for a lot of other reasons.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (-1, Flamebait)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100304)

The fed gov't has a lot of extra money and they need a rat hole to pour it down.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (2, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100646)

so give it to people who are willing to work for it rather than some crappy rat hole like welfare. I'd much rather support engineers than drug addicts. With the best answer to me being "Don't fucking take my money in the first place!!!"

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100450)

LOL, I love how a contentless post like this gets modded up insightful. Insightful how? You haven't listed any good reasons why returning to the moon is worth it. You haven't even provided references to books, websites, or other resources which cover the topic.

Frankly, it sounds to me like just another round of pork from a President and party that has been damaged by the Iraq war. After all, much of the Republican base is located in states with NASA facilities (California and Maryland excepted).

Besides, the plan is so long-term that I'll be very surprised if it survives the next three Presidential terms.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100810)

LOL, I love how a contentless post like this gets modded up insightful. Insightful how? You haven't listed any good reasons why returning to the moon is worth it.
How about this...it's better than giving the money to defense contractors for more stealth bombers.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101086)

It gets modded 'insightful' because people are either not reading or choosing to ignore the moderator guidelines and because parent chimed in second.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (2, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100454)

...though, methinks that this whole "return to the moon" wouldn't even have been brought up had the Chinese not boasted about what they hope to accomplish.

Re:Is it worth going back to the lunar surface? (2, Insightful)

lhbtubajon (469284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100976)

In that case, I hope the Chinese boast more often about big, hairy, audacious space goals.

Of course, we've have just microwaves for too long (1)

Umbrel (1040414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100572)

We got the transistor on Roswell, but we wanted more gadgets so we wen't for more and we only got the cellphone... It's time to go for the next big new tech.

I for one welcome our new time-space-warping overlords.

Good question (3, Insightful)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100030)

Will we go back to stay? not if it's for science only, IMHO it will take private companies to make space travel, including exploting the moon for it's resources, to make this 'permanent'. NASA has no where in it's mandate to do anything except research.

Re:Good question (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100098)

NASA has no where in it's mandate to do anything except research.

NASA's mandate, overt or not, is also to help the Department of Defense fulfill its goals in space.

Re:Good question (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100138)

Can't forget NASA's role in providing subsidies to the defense industry.

Re:Good question (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100486)

Which is its only true mandate, whether it's on the PR materials or not.

Not that that's necessarily a bad idea...it's just not a very pretty idea.

Re:Good question (1)

DestroyAllZombies (896198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100798)

Gee, since the Defense Department has a budget orders of magnitude higher than NASA, I don't think the government needs any help subsidizing defense.

Re:Good question (4, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100114)

True enough, but there's plenty of research to do on the lunar surface.

Some directly related to habitation of the Moon and exploration of Mars -- long duration life support, techniques for harvesting lunar resources, etc, -- and some of the more "pure research" category. Lunar farside is probably one of the most radio-quiet places in the solar system, with 2000 miles of rock shielding it from Earth, so it'd be great for radiotelescopes, for example.

Also a good place for doing large scale experiments that might have, uh, adverse environmental impact if something goes wrong.

Re:Good question (1)

zyl0x (987342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100544)

I wouldn't exactly imply that the Moon would be safer for certain experiments. The last thing we would want to do, would be to alter it in any way. Tidal forces are very important to our planet's ecosystems. Also, the Moon may not be as "structurally sound" as the Earth. We don't know nearly as much about it as we do the Earth. It would be a bad idea to make those kinds of assumptions.

Re:Good question (4, Interesting)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100814)

OK, so we shouldn't be testing things that could end up with a grey goo on the moon any more then on earth. We shouldn't try to build a bomb that could crack a world. But it really takes an effort to destroy a big rock in space in any meaningful way. What about experiments with bacteria and viruses that could (if we mess up *and* they escape) could kill everyone, or fusion power or exotic elements and crap like that? What if you wanted to use a virus to kill cancer but you weren't sure if it could easily mutate and kill regular cells as well. A nice place like the moon could prevent accidental genocide while you did some long term tests.

The nice thing about the moon is that if accidentally release a huge cloud of radiation we just get a green moon instead of a black moon when it isn't lit by the sun, whereas on earth we would have hundreds of miles of radioactive wasteland that could otherwise be a nice place to live. I mean it would still kinda suck long term if we teraformed the moon (in the long term), but it would still not be nearly as bad as on earth.

Re:Good question (1)

dasmoo (1052358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101142)

3400KMs thanks, they're going the smart way and using metric on this one.

Re:Good question (0, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101172)

there's plenty of research to do on the lunar surface.

Great, we spend 100's of billions of dollars so a team of yahoos can wander around a sterile rock saying "Boy, THAT rock looks interesting! Oooohh, look at THIS dust!" Aren't there about 10,000 or so research projects here on earth we could fund with that money instead--research that might produce a cure for cancer or a radical new desalinization method, instead of just "An Examination of Geological Strata in Quadrant G:5, Tranquility Basin" a paper by Dr. Roland R. Dipsitz?

-Eric

No Good Reasons (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101244)

Outside of obvious military motives, there is no worthwhile reason to go back to the moon in this way. think about it.

2020: robotics will be much further along. Probes and robots are better and cheaper than humans and the case only gets stronger with time.

BioSphere: a failed project in habitation. More work along these lines would be a better use of money. The low gravity issues can largely be tested remotely if need be. Building a spinning space module for the space station for testing moon gravity would be cheaper.

Resources: power or material transport is an issue. robots have been encroaching on manufacturing for some time... Long term changes in mass are an issue; it may sound nuts but mankind is short sighted and willfully underestimates its' impact. One thing could be the slight change could alter a Meteor's path altering the odds of impact.

How about we look into how to cheapen space transport? (elevator?) How about we look into energy transport for space based solar power? How about we look at some clever Meteor defense plans or space JUNK?

Re:Good question (2, Insightful)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100244)

The government pays pioneers to open up frontiers that are then exploited by commercial entities. It's been this way for thousands of years. Why should it change now?

Re:Good question (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100802)

My point exactly, except we need the commercial entities to settle the frontiers. Next few years we will know with more certainty what resources we can use. I think there needs to be a clarification. There's been an expectation that NASA will lead us to a permanent moon-base and then colonies on Mars. From the average persons point of view this implies that they will get a chance to actually go at some point. From NASA's point of view it's just another place to do research, with no desire to ship more people into space than is neccessary. Most planetary scientist would love to just use robotic missions and dump the whole manned space program. From their point they see no purpose in it. The two views are in conflict and this is why so many people are disillusioned with NASA. If we truely want permanent colonies and bases and access for the average Joe, we need to take what NASA's learned and have private enterprise take it from their, much like what SpaceX and several others are doing.

NASA's mandate (2, Informative)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100998)

NASA has no where in it's mandate to do anything except research.

I would say that NASA's mandate, as a government agency, is whatever the people democratically choose for it to do. More tangibly, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 [nasa.gov] , which founded NASA, declares:

(1) plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;
(2) arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations;
(3) provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof;
(4) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space; and
(5) encourage and provide for Federal Government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the Federal Government.

Plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities is rather open to interpretation, but exploration has always been considered an element of this. Actually, this does not counter your research point, because research involves both exploration and the development of necessary infrastructure (such as a moon base) to support it. I could detail some of the 100+ research proposals NASA has for the moon, but I'll leave it for another post

Number 3 and 4 are very relevant to your post, and also very clearly supported in the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which guides much of the current development work. NASA is very open to cooperating with other friendly nations and private industry to use the systems they're developing to land additional payloads on the moon.

As far as how a permanent stay would pan out, since the article doesn't detail it, the Constellation program would conduct a handfull of missions up to two weeks in length to points of interest. One of these will likely be an already identified crater rim near one of the poles that receives almost constant sunlight. The constant sunlight simplifies many things.

NASA would then conduct several follow up missions to the same site, each one bringing more equipment. The proposed design for the lander makes the return stage as small as possible, which maximizes the amount of hardware left behind. Being modular, the lander could also fly missions to land several tons of cargo without a crew, such as prefabricated laboratories.

After 4 or 5 missions to the same location, there would be sufficient resources on the surface to support a permanent crew. From there NASA could conduct research that may really jumpstart commerical development, such as in situ resource utilization and low gravity excavation and health effects.

by 2020, we should be on Mars (1)

mhx (772916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100038)

who cares about the MOON!

we smoke while we flip the bird (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100140)

who cares about the MOON!

The boston police?

Race is over (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100052)

The space race is over, and America won. Now America should race to end poverty.

Re:Race is over (1)

RyatNrrd (662756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100090)

Damn straight. Why have the biggest economy in the world if you're just going to blast all the money into space, to no better end than to do something that's already been done (conspiracy theories aside)?

Re:Race is over (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100328)

Damn straight. Why have the biggest economy in the world if you're just going to blast all the money into space, to no better end than to do something that's already been done (conspiracy theories aside)?


OK, I'll bite. Because one day we WILL use up the resources on this planet...and by the looks of things, that day is not that far in the future.

True, it won't happen tomorrow, or even for a number of generations, but guess what. We won't just suddenly have the ability to colonize another planet. We need to start someplace, sometime. Why not do it now? There is no advantage in waiting...the advantage in starting it now is that it will be done sooner. So what if we never see the fruits of our labor? Not like it won't be the first time in history that has happend...

Not Necessarily (2, Insightful)

ricree (969643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100428)

We need to start someplace, sometime. Why not do it now? There is no advantage in waiting...the advantage in starting it now is that it will be done sooner.
Not necessarily. If we wait a few decades, we may very well be significantly more advanced in the technological prerequisites necessary for this sort of mission. For example, imagine if we had tried to do the Appolo missions during the 20's. I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case. I honestly don't know enough about the technology involved to really chime in on whether or not this is true. I just want to point out that it isn't necessarily true that starting another trip to the moon right now will necessarily be the best thing we could do to work towards long term space expansion.

Re:Not Necessarily (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100512)

One could argue that by setting a goal and actively pursuing it, we will be more inclined to advance technology to the point of making it easier...

Hell, we've done that with every single war this country has been in, why not do it with helping to ensure the future survival of our entire species?

Re:Race is over (1)

rahrens (939941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100384)

Hmmm, blasting money into space...

Sounds interesting. Will we blast it using great big Saturns with tons of cash in each load, or could we use smaller payloads and larger denominations? What orbit will we put it in, and can we assume a rate of return for when we go pick it back up in 50 years?

Sorry, but blasting money into space is a stupid way to put it. Money spent on any endeavor by government gets spent right here on earth and goes right back into the economy. There may be BETTER ways to spend it, but nobody ever orbited cash in the space program. One can also look at the many spin-offs in technology we take for granted today as additional benefits.

Plus, if we can eventually off load enough people into extra-planetary habitats, maybe in a hundred years or two we can hope to begin to safeguard ourselves from planetary disaster causing extinction. The sooner we start learning how to do that, the sooner our species is safe from that particular kind of extinction.

Re:Race is over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101336)

The sooner we start learning how to do that, the sooner our species is safe from that particular kind of extinction.

This does seem to be something that certain people want. I used to want it. Then I realized how many Republicans there are in the world and I'm not so sure.

Anyway, there is a high probability that this desire to avoid extinction is merely a by-product of evolution. There is no fundamental reason why humanity should or should not go extinct.

Once AI is developed (probably sometime within the next thousand years), people will be able to augment their intelligence enough to realize that their existence has no purpose and that they satisfy any of their evolution based desires in a virtual reality. Maybe someone has an evolution based pleasure from eating - they create a virtual reality where all they do for the lifetime of the universe is eat.

Of course, it is also extremely likely that each individual consciousness will be linked into a collective consciousness. Maybe the collective consciousness will have a desire to create offspring. If this is the case, the collective consciousness can put itself in a virtual reality where it can produce an infinite number of offspring (maybe even "colonize" other planets with its offspring - if that's what its into). The thing is, if all you're doing is satisfying evolution based desires then it doesn't matter if you satisfy them in the real world or in a virtual world (as long as you can't distinguish which world you're in).

Maybe that's already happened. That would explain the Fermi paradox.

Anyway, my point is: do what you want. Just don't assume there's any purpose to it.

Re:Race is over (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100418)

if you're just going to blast all the money into space

Really? So, when the tens of thousands of people that would make this happen cash their paychecks, that money is launched into space? I'm betting that at least some of them actually buy houses, send their kids to college, invest in things, and maybe even start businesses. Or even if all they do is go home and play Halo and order pizza... that's still seeing the money pumped right into the good ol' terrestrial economy.

Re:Race is over (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100436)

Far better to "waste" the money on space exploration than to subsidize poverty.

Re:Race is over (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101108)

Far better to "waste" the money on space exploration than to subsidize poverty.

Fundamentally, the reasons for spending money on space exploration are the same as the reasons for spending money on poverty: it's something that certain people want.

The implicit part of your argument is that what you want is somehow more important than what other people want. I'm guessing that you would argue that it is primarily poor people who would benefit from spending money on poverty and that it is therefore primarily poor people who are in favor of spending money on poverty. The people who favor spending money on poverty are therefore motivated by selfish considerations and their desires are therefore less valid.

It's not clear to me, though, that your desire to spend money on space exploration is any less selfish than another person's desire to spend money on space exploration.

There's another possibility here, too. Maybe you acknowledge that human suffering brought about by poverty is a more pressing concern than whatever satisfaction would be gained from space exploration. In this case, your argument may be that people who suffer as a result of poverty deserve to suffer. Even if this is true in certain cases, it is obviously not true in many other cases (e.g. young children).

A final argument you might have would be that spending money on space exploration will do more to alleviate poverty than spending money on poverty. Personally, I believe that humanity can achieve the goals it sets for itself and that it is much less likely to achieve goals that it does not set for itself. Certainly that's true about space exploration. If the USA does not set a goal of putting a base on the moon then it is unlikely that the USA will put a base on the moon. I see no reason that the goal of alleviating poverty is fundamentally different than the goal of putting a base on the moon.

Re:Race is over (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100208)

Wow, you know that sounds familiar [wikipedia.org] . I wonder if it would work.

Re:Race is over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100276)

Yeah, let's fatten up the poor so we can then take up the banner of ending heart disease and the other side effects of obesity. Great idea. I applaud you.

Re:Race is over (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100324)

President Johnson had a war on poverty. Poverty won.

Yes! (3, Interesting)

LatexBendyMan (989778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100062)

If we went back to the moon, I assume NASA's plan to would be to discover water so eventually the moon could be a docking station for trips to mars!

Re:Yes! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100202)

Modern space ships don't have to be docked in water.

Wasn't sure if you knew that or not.

They fly around in the sky.

Re:Yes! (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100322)

If I had mod-points, I'd mod you up! Thanks for the laugh! :)

        -dZ.

Well, (1)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100070)

Mabye?

it's a joke, people (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100082)

Is it worth going back to the lunar surface?

What do you mean "going back"? That assumes we were there a first time.

Re:it's a joke, people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100640)

Mooninites did 9/11!

Updated Technology (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100092)

The initial estimates are that this time around the mission is going to be far less expensive. One NASA official, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "CGI has really matured to a point where shooting a return to the moon is now viable. Instead of a sandy soundstage we'll simply have our guys in front of a greenscreen. In fact, some of the more optimistic estimates posit that by 2020 we won't even need live bodies in the studio."

Re:Updated Technology (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100918)

The initial estimates are that this time around the mission is going to be far less expensive. One NASA official, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "CGI has really matured to a point where shooting a return to the moon is now viable. Instead of a sandy soundstage we'll simply have our guys in front of a greenscreen. In fact, some of the more optimistic estimates posit that by 2020 we won't even need live bodies in the studio."

Just grab the guys that film the Star Trek TV shows, B5, the Star Wars movies, and the other popular space scifi shows and have them film a series that pretends to go out into space, build up space resources, and explore other planets. Why pay NASA as much as we do when we'd rather watch NASA space opera porn? Heck, let's just build a mock up space station, stick it full of cameras and have people pretend to be in space and do space experiments for a few years. You can just green screen the spacy background pics.

Old technology but not forgotten (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100194)

Even in this marvelous age of whiz bang doodads and fancy flashing lights and such, Buzz recommends Orion astronauts still take a sextant with them. I wonder if a roll of duct tape might be prudent as well.

Re:Old technology but not forgotten (4, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100360)

I wonder if a roll of duct tape might be prudent as well.

Absolutely. Duct tape was essential to saving Apollo 13, when they had to rig an adapter for the square CM lithium hydroxide canisters to the circular LM canister ports. (CM and LM were built by different contractors, each with their own design for lithium hydroxide (part of the CO2 scrubbing system) canisters.)

Also comes in handy for keeping stuff from drifting around if there's no Velcro handy. Standard equipment on every Shuttle mission.

Re:Old technology but not forgotten (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100536)

I don't leave my house without duct tape. The flat-pack stuff is awesome.

If I could get flat-pack gaffer tape, I could take over the universe.

Yikes. (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100294)

the CEV (which NASA chief Michael Griffin called 'Apollo on steroids')
So Orion will grow boobs and beat up its girlfriend?

Re:Yikes. (2, Informative)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100828)

So Orion will grow boobs and beat up its girlfriend?

and we'll all laugh about its shrunken rocket.

It's also a dress rehearsal for Mars... (4, Insightful)

jpellino (202698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100332)

As the folks at Goddard expained it during the Moon Math student competition, "When you go camping, isn't it a good idea to try setting up the campsite in your backyard first, 600 inches away, so you can try out everything, or run back in the house if you forgot your flashlight, make sure you remember to bring everything, and *THEN* go camping for real to somewhere 600 miles away?"

That's a largely non-obvious reason for using the same basic vehicle for both mission sets.

Reversal of opinion in the internet age (3, Insightful)

heroine (1220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100342)

Funny how after 30 years of listening to people say "when will we go back and who will that be?" now people are saying "Is it worth going back to the lunar surface?" How did this reversal of thinking happen?

We have a lot more information than the last 3 moon attempts. Time was the only answer you could know about right and wrong was what you could think of on your own based on what you saw in the sky and how much spare cash you had.

Now the answers for everything are downloadable. You don't need to come up with your own answers because the internet has the answers for you. The change in where our information comes from has changed our opinions.

Re:Reversal of opinion in the internet age (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100474)

Now the answers for everything are downloadable. You don't need to come up with your own answers because the internet has the answers for you. The change in where our information comes from has changed our opinions.

The problem is someone has to put those answers on the internet in the first place. Information doesn't magically appear on the internet, the grunt work still has to be done. Hopefully people would realize that...

Re:Reversal of opinion in the internet age (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100710)

the grunt work still has to be done.

which is has, repeatedly and thoroughly, thus the results are now so common and well-agreed upon that they're easily available on the Internet.

With apologies to Kennedy: (3, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100344)

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and leaving him safely there."

Re:With apologies to Kennedy: (3, Funny)

JazzLad (935151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101104)

Safely or no, what kind of country are we that we can't even send our president to the moon?

Apollo was a Good Design (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100422)

The original capsule was remarkably resilient and well-protected. I'm glad to see they're reusing the design and not trying for something brand new. If Burt Rutan wants to have new systems, he can finance them himself.

Re:Apollo was a Good Design (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101262)

Well, except for a fire and an explosion related to a design flaw that was in every command module from Apollo 1-13, I guess it was ok.

Before someone calls this a waste (4, Informative)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100498)

I agree completely with Prof. Hawking--We need to establish life outside of Earth.

Deep space scientific observation is nice, but until we have a self-sustaining colony off of earth, manned space technology should be our #1 priority.

Re:Before someone calls this a waste (2, Interesting)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100936)

Why not focus on robotic colonization instead? It's not like we'll be able to create colonies that would be useful without earth for many decades, so why not focus on building self sustaining colonies that _dont'_ contain people. In my mind it's breaking down a very hard problem into smaller, more managable ones. There aren't any compelling reasons (or at least few) to try and build a moonbase AND try and make it self-sustaining AND try and make it inhabitable all at once. We've seen the obvious benefits of unmanned craft in deep space exploration, so why not keep that in mind when we set up an installation at the moon? And anyway, in terms of trickle down tech, the advances in robotics would be HUGE. So one thing at time people.

Re:Before someone calls this a waste (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101018)

Ask Professor Hawking is he's willing to pay for it, then. Because, at least here in the U.S., many of us taxpayers are sick of footing the bill for these baby boomer fantasies while adding to an already out-of-control national debt.

-Eric

Re:Before someone calls this a waste (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101184)

manned space technology should be our #1 priority.

Is space technology more important than feeding the poor? Curing cancer and AIDS? Switching to renewable energy sources? World-fracking-peace?


Lets first get our stuff together on this rock before we go out and spread the blessings of humanity to other rocks. Who knows, we might even become worth saving.

Re:Before someone calls this a waste (2, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101276)

Is space technology more important than feeding the poor? Curing cancer and AIDS? Switching to renewable energy sources? World-fracking-peace?

Yes, yes, and yes. The problems you mention have no chance of destroying all life in the universe (to our knowledge). Keeping all life on one planet does have that chance.

Life itself is more important that starving orphans. There, I said it.

Price Tags (2, Interesting)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100534)

FTFA

it's hard to see the pitfalls so far ahead, but I worry that once we establish a base on the moon, we might get bogged down there.

I thought for the moment there, is he was talking back some foolhardy contemporary military adventure.

I wonder what he meant by this, how could we get "bogged" down on the moon?

Aside: Anybody know what the ROM price tag for an established moon based is compared to say the price tag for the Iraqi war?

To get bogged down... (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100844)

would require a bog.

If there's a bog, there's water.

If there's water, there's oxygen.

If there's oxygen, then Dan Quayle could breathe there.

Saturn V... (3, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100542)

There's an interesting article [nytimes.com] on what the space program could've look like if the Saturn V rocket program wasn't cancelled. The new program will be just a shadow in comparison.

Sextant? (2, Funny)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100548)

Can somebody better acquainted with the mechanics of sending a vehicle to the Moon and back please explain why Buzz Aldrin recommends taking a sextant? Or does the tried and tested technology to be used this time involve lashing the Captain to the aerial to take the latitude while the crew pile on the solar sails?

Re:Sextant? (2, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100848)

near-worse-case backup, i would imagine.

in the event that the navigation computers fail or you lose power or something, you could presumablely use the sextant, a chronometer (a common wristwatch is likely accurate enough), known astronomical constants, proper charts and a bit of math to figure out where you are and how to get where you're going.

or maybe i'm thinking too much and it's just for good luck or something.

Re-Entry 'skipping' (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100604)

From TFA:

"A skip re-entry is riskier," Lockheed's Johns concedes. "The Apollo traditionalists worry about it." The Russians performed a couple of successful skip re-entries with their unmanned Zond moon probes in the late 1960s, however.

 
They also had a couple of failures - and the failures/sucesses were dotted pretty evenly across the attempts. Zond was a percursor to a Soviet attempt to perform an Apollo 8 flyby to steal NASA's thunder - in fact, it was the Zond tests that lead to Apollo 8 being a lunar mission rather than a high earth orbit mission so as to steal the Russians thunder!
 
Before the budget cuts of 65/66 and the Fire, NASA planned on as many as *6* manned flights in LEO and an indeterminate number of lunar flights before committing to a landing attempt. Those budget cuts, the time lost after the fire, and the growing realization that the Soviets might be able to trump them forced their hand.
 
So much for the myth of Apollo-era NASA being the brave and bold agency they are so often portrayed as of late. Until forced, they were just as conservative as they are today.

Honest question (2, Insightful)

jdcool88 (954991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100610)

Would it be worthwhile to launch space missions from a lunar base? It would seem to me that because of the lower gravity you would need less power to reach escape velocity - or am I incorrect in this? That could be one potential bonus of going back to the moon.

Where's the creativity? (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100674)

Funny that they're using upgrade tech. Feeling like the 60's again. Their even reusing the name [wikipedia.org] .

I can't wait until we get the current generation of engineers out and replaced with some younger engineers and some fresh ideas.

Iceland vs New York City. (3, Interesting)

J05H (5625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100726)

The Moon is like Iceland - easier to get to from Europe but there's not much there besides scenery. The Mars system (Mars, Phobos, Deimos) are New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. I guess this makes Mars-Earth L1 the Hudson River?

The resources to build an entire civilization exist on/around Mars. The moon is a fossil world.

We can learn some from Luna, and probably take the first steps to colonization there, but the real action is going to be on Mars. There is a lot of planet-specific engineering that needs to be done for either location. Lunar spacesuits won't work on Mars, there will be huge differences in sealing technology and energy generation (you can burn silane as internal combustion on Mars, for instance). We can learn as much in high orbit or at a NEO about colonizing Mars as we can on the Moon. Almost all technical development for any near-term colonization is going to be developed on Earth, though.

If I had several Billion $$ right now, I'd commision a Russian-Bigelow spacecraft for a human mission to Phobos or Deimos. This is the ideal target for early development, energetically close to Earth, resource rich and within telepresence range of Mars. We can mine water and ship it back to LEO using technology we have now, or nearly. Russian companies have decades worth of human habitat experience, Bigelow would provide the main living space, custom tools purchased from best providers. The project would mine water and provide realtime control for robots throughout cis-Mars.

Space Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100784)

I never knew Popular Mechanics was such a space power.

L5 (3, Insightful)

derniers (792431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100790)

building a colony at a Lagrangian point makes a lot more sense than going to the moon especially as a way station to Mars http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point [wikipedia.org]

One more benefit: Science Fiction Resurrection (4, Interesting)

Boron55 (1060136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100830)

This could be considered slightly offtopic, but I would add one more benefit of NASA Moon mission: the resurrection of public interest in space science (in general) and Space Science Fiction (in particular). Did you notice that during recent decades the theme of science fiction shifted significantly from space exploration plots to fantasy and alternative history? As a big fan of space science fiction, I feel my favourite trend is neglected. The reason is obvious - the whole space research both in USA and Russia/Europe fell into stagnation and public interest was lost. Remember how excited the science fiction writers were about space technology back in 60s? They were expecting humans to fly around solar system by 2000 and to distant stars in the beginning of this new century. Where are their hopes? Ruined. Now I really hope NASA mission will bring back the long-forgotten public excitement about space exploration, and the science fiction will once again picture the starships instead of dragons and elves. I hope.

ZEN: The Moment Is Passed (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100888)

We were supposed have moonbase Alpha on the moon BEFORE 1999 so that the moon could get ripped out of Earth's orbit. It's too late now.

Water is soft, Dirt is hard (1)

allscan (1030606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100894)

NASA is dumb if they think so. If this is the case, say I jump from the Golden Gate bridge, the water will be nice and soft when I get down there right? Wrong. When you approach terminal velocity and make contact with water, it doesn't have time to "move" out of the way. In essence, you are hitting concrete.

So How Long Until (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101016)

. . . Al Gore and his vegan neo-luddite worshippers are screaming we're destroying the Moon's delicate ecological balance?

2020, we should be on Mars, not the Moon! (1)

MrJerryNormandinSir (197432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101040)

When I was a kid in Jr. High School..... 1978, NASA claimed they'd launch a Mars mission by 2013. Instead
they built a shuttle and sunk all sorts of money into OLD technology. Let face it, they didn't innovate. I would have loved to
see a spacecraft that took off like a jet. So imagine, instead of a rocket liftoff you take off like a jet, accelerate into space.
Instead it's a gliding brick that' soon to be retired. Now a manned Moon mission is deemed a worthy trip again? If we were to
tunnel into the moon and build a moonbase where we could launch a spacecraft that was powered by a nuclear reaction.. man that
would be cool. I doubt I'd see a manned Mars mission in my lifetime.

2020?!? (1)

lys1123 (461567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101054)

How much do you want to bet there is already a Virgin Megastore there by the time NASA makes it back?

"If we can put a man on the Moon, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18101148)

why can't we put a man with AIDS on the Moon? And pretty soon, we can put everyone with AIDS on the Moon." — Sarah Silverman

what a difference 40 years makes (2, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101270)

The idea of landing a man on the moon was initial conceived in 1960. Kennedy made his famous speech in 1961. By 1969, NASA had launched and recovered Apollo 11.

Flash forward to 2007. Presumably, we know how to get to the moon, since we've done it before. Computing and aerospace technology have both advanced considerably in the intervening 46 years. But now, instead of getting there in less than 10 years, they want to take 13?

Something is seriously wrong with this situation.
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