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Back to the Moon 312

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the momentum-a-political-problem-also dept.
starexplorer2001 writes "Space.com is reporting that NASA's planned trip back to the Moon isn't without a significant amount of science and technological innovation. Simply 'sponging off Apollo' won't do it. Among the issues: safer human spaceflight, lunar ice, sustainability, robotic scouting missions and more. This won't be easy."
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Back to the Moon

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  • Say what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:30PM (#15346128)
    We can't just use 60s technology to get there? I'm shocked!
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:36PM (#15346173)
      > We can't just use 60s technology to get there? I'm shocked!

      60s technology you want, 60s technology you shall get!

      You're going to the moon, Alice!
      (POW! Right in the kisser!) Hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana...

      • by Rei (128717)
        We're whalers on the moon, We carry a harpoon, But there ain't no whales, So we tell our tall tale, And sing our whaling tune!
    • They should still have the sets around somewhere, and I think today's CGI is FAR better than what they had in the 60s! On a more serious note, I saw a report several years ago, showing that for every $1 paid into NASA, $9 came back into the economy by way of R&D advances, and taking those advances to market. Not to mention, the amount of cutting-edge medical knowlege and equipment that has come from the space program. It is very dumb, not to fund bleeding edge technology to go to the Moon, Mars, and
    • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:09PM (#15346449) Homepage
      Well... the thing is, yes, technology has advanced. It hasn't advanced by the leaps and bounds that we would like it to have advanced by, however, and that is the crux of the problem. The Apollo program cost $135B in modern dollars. Even if we consider the overall effect of technology advancements to have doubled our access to space for the same dollar, the concept of a lunar base will require at least double the landing and liftoff payload (in addition to regular trips). Probably much more. It'll take serious money. [spacedaily.com]

      The public tolerates out of control spending on wars because the rhetoric is so heated on it - it's either an abomination or essential to the survival of our way of life, depending on which side you listen to. The level of discourse for space missions just isn't that extreme, and so people look a lot closer at the financial aspect. Apollo-level funding just isn't politically realistic. That's why they're stretching this out over the long run. The longer it takes, the less blatant it is that we're spending as much money as we are on this single program.

      Lastly, something that I should mention: CEV design is not going well [spacedaily.com] 2 [spacedaily.com]. I agree with Jeff Bell, who's been very critical [spacedaily.com] of the whole proposal.
  • Why Then Not Now? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foundme (897346) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:32PM (#15346147) Homepage
    I bet this question has been asked many times, but here goes:

    Why was it possible to go to the moon in '69 but not possible now even using the same old technology? Has the moon/earth/atmostphere/space changed?
    • by masklinn (823351) <slashdot@org.masklinn@net> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:39PM (#15346185)

      From the top of my head:

      • Safety, in '69 it was an adventure, costs didn't really matter, it was a first, and lives and comfort could be somewhat disregarded. Not so today, especially with the recent Space Shuttle issues.
      • Public drive, in the 60s it was Being On The Moon Before The Red Plague. Doesn't sell anymore, unless you can sell Go Back On The Moon Before China Goes There For The First Time. And you won't sell that one.
      • Return on Investment. The initial Apollo yielded very interresting scientific results, but not much else, it's main point was beating the soviets in the space race and putting the USA at the top. Future lunar missions will have to bring much more, and not only to scientists.

      In a word, it's not that it's impossible to go to the moon now, but that it's inacceptable.

      • ...lives and comfort could be somewhat disregarded...

        Holy crap!. If they're throwing millions at zero-G recliners, I want my taxes back right now.
      • by dmp123 (547038) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:08PM (#15346440)
        > In a word, it's not that it's impossible to go to the moon now, but that it's inacceptable.

        Me fail english? That's unpossible!

      • You left out the obvious nemesis in this day and age. The Bush Administration has evidence that terrorists plan to land on the moon.

        We must not let the terrorists complete their evil plans to build a moonbase known as Moon Unit Zappa!
      • Maybe I'm wrong but didn't the US get ICBMS out of the Apollo Program?
        • Re:Why Then Not Now? (Score:3, Informative)

          by imemyself (757318)
          No, in fact the second generation of the Mercury program (Mercury Atlas) was based off of the Atlas ballistic missile. And after that, Gemini was based off of the Titan ballistic missile. Apollo of course came next, and AFAIK no major sections of the Saturn rocket were based off of any ICBM designs.
    • by monkaduck (902823) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:42PM (#15346217)
      In short, it's all about politics. The actual physics have never changed; it's just a matter of the government giving NASA the money (which IIRC was only .04 cents/federal tax dollar for Apollo)and the clearance to do a moon shot. Back then Vietnam killed off the last two Apollo missions, and now it'll be The War On Terror and Balanced Budgets that has made it hard for us to do any realistic shot at the Moon or Mars. Quite sad, really.
    • You can do whatever the hell you want if you do it the way NASA did it in the 1960s-- enough money solves everything. I don't believe NASA can realistically afford to replicate the 1960s effort. Whatever they do will probably have to achieve a massive improvement in cost efficiency while simultaneously guaranteeing no fatalities or the program will be shelved for years.
    • by BlueStraggler (765543) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:05AM (#15348610)

      Why was it possible to go to the moon in '69 but not possible now even using the same old technology? Has the moon/earth/atmostphere/space changed?

      A little thing called "lost technologies". It is entirely possible to forget how to do things.

      A goodly portion of the knowledge encapsulated in any serious technological endeavour cannot be captured in blueprints and technical documents. It exists in the heads of the engineers, scientists, and astronauts who actually do the stuff. Going back to the original documents will give us a head start in re-learning how to do it, but not much more than that. If you don't have a teacher that actually knows how to do it, you are in the same position as someone learning how to speak Ancient Egyptian, given nothing but walls of hieroglyphics. It is possible to deduce some semblance of meaning, but it's frightfully hard to actually learn how to do it.

      The primary problem is that the senior NASA engineers in 1969 are mostly dead now. They did not have any apprentices whom they could mentor in the arcane business of placing men on celestial bodies, and no young masters in that art grew up in their footsteps applying their own clever insights to refine the art further. The entire business was pretty much forgotten, and now we are back where we started, albeit with some hieroglyphics that we could spend some time trying to decode if we had to.

      At Cape Canaveral, there is a complete Saturn V launcher on display at the Visitor's Centre. This is like the Great Pyramid of space missions -- a complete, working example of a device to put men on the moon. Unfortunately, they chose to lay the rocket on its side, which it was never designed to do. So structurally, the device was completely destroyed and is now useless, having even lost much of its value as an engineering archive.

      So in many respects, we simply have to start over, and re-learn what we already knew.

      • by rhendershot (46429)

        They did not have any apprentices whom they could mentor in the arcane business of placing men on celestial bodies

        We still know how to put a complicated technological device into orbit and how to include humans in that. We still know how to find the point of breakaway orbit to accomplish putting that object in places outside of Earth orbit. We still know how to manage the health of those humans and how to return them to Earth.

        I get your point, but I don't think the situation is as dire as you prese

  • Back? (Score:2, Funny)

    by timshea (257474) *
    You mean we actually went to the moon before?
    • You mean we actually went to the moon before?

      Yep. And we planted a flag, which is still there, flapping in the breeze from the studio's unusually strong AC units.

      And this time, we'll try not to paint the black crosses on the film before we take the pictures.
    • Just like the Vietnam war, the moon landing is fading from history into modern day mythology. Something about "he who forgets the past..."

      The Vietnam war was still being fought in my lifetime. I can't say the same thing about an Apollo moon landing.

    • Re:Back? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Epistax (544591)
      Imagine the graphics. How many years before Doom was that?
  • by uncoveror (570620) <webmaster@uncove ... om minus painter> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:35PM (#15346162) Homepage
    Bush wants us to go back to the moon so Red China won't be able to control all the green cheese. [uncoveror.com]
  • by anim8 (109631) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:39PM (#15346187)

    "The Apollo program cost $25 billion, equivalent to about $125 billion in today's dollars."

    [Source: http://www.waltercunningham.com/op_ed_0204.htm%5D [waltercunningham.com]
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:47PM (#15346258) Homepage Journal
    We're doing this to lay down a sustainable infrastructure for continued unmanned and manned spaceflight.

    We don't have the industrial setup to make new 60's gear - and doing so would be unsafe and unwise.

    This is like building shipyards - so we can build ships.

    Properly done - and I have some doubts about the CEVs basis in design - this will allow for much more access to space.
  • by Quick Sick Nick (822060) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:53PM (#15346315)
    You guys are COMPLETELY forgetting about space oil!
  • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:55PM (#15346329)
    The reason we won't use Apollo Hardware is because we want to do much more then land 2 guys on the moon for more then a week. The ultimate goal is to build a moon base and use that as practice for a Mars base. In order to do that you need to bring more stuff to the moon and be able to keep your service module in orbit unmanned for up to 6 months at a time. This isn't all that hard. But currently NASA is working with its current budget so things won't get really rolling until Space Station is built and shuttle retires. Those two programs ending will free up almost $10B a year for NASA. That is plenty of money to do a slow gradual build up to a moon base.
  • I'll bet all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are ready to join up with the moon landing conspiracy theorists to form the new conspiracy brotherhood.

    We should all welcome our new conspiratorial overlords!

    -h-
  • I have a question - once we get there, how are we supposed to get Bush back? :P
    • Why not send all of Congress and federal justices along with Bush, and start over with a clean slate while you're at it? They want the moon? Let's give them the moon, on a one-way trip. :)

      One can dream. . .
    • *Ahem* you presuppose that we would actually want him back...
  • Bout Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truckaxle (883149) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:05PM (#15346420) Homepage
    Life needs to find a way off this gravity well before the next "great extinction". For better or worse that burden falls on us, homo sapiens sapiens. People view earth as some permantent hospitable sustaining womb and that "we should just solve our problems here on earth first" before venturing out.

    The truth is we will never solve our problems here and geological and life history tells a story with several instances of wide spread extinction of species. Life has come a long long long way and if our puny existance has any meaning at all it is spread self-aware intelligent life beyond our little neighborhood.

    There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling...let us go....
    • The thing about the great extinction is that, in every case, a species survives to make its own branch in the evolutionary tree. While I am a firm believer in space colonization, I have no doubt that humans are smart enough to survive a mass extinction without space travel.
    • Re:Bout Time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Larthallor (623891) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @10:22PM (#15347729)
      In the last 500 million years of life, not one of the "great extinctions" even came close to turning the Earth into a dry, frozen world with little or no atmosphere. And yet, you seem to think that putting people on just such worlds (the Moon, Mars) are going to help? That makes zero sense.

      First things first, the liklihood of a catastrophe large enough to wipe out humanity is geologically small. The most likely forms for such catastrophe would be man-made, such as nuclear or biological war and even these aren't likely to wipe out humanity by themselves. We can afford to wait a very long time for technology to make colonies cheaper and more practical.

      Second, for the forseeable future, any Lunar or Martian colonies will be dependent on a healthy Earth to supply them. If Earth gets wiped out, these colonies are all dead within a generation. It will take a great while before we have the technological and financial ability to create truly self-sufficient colonies on Mars and even longer to do so on the Moon. In the meantime, you're wasting your survival money.

      Third, any disaster that could threaten an unprotected humanity here on Earth could be better (and much more cheaply) survived by building self-contained shelters/cities here on Earth. If you really want to prevent a calamity from wiping out humanity, it is much easier and cheaper to build Terran colonies than Martian ones.

      Here on Earth, a Terran colony would only have to be self-contained until the conditions improved enough to go outside again. Even if that is 50-100 years, it's much better than on Mars or the Moon, where it is never going to get better. A more realistic scenario would have a staged recovery on Earth, with full self-containment only necessary for a short period of time, if at all. Maybe you would only have to be entirely self-contained for 5 years, after which you could start to pull in filtered air and water from the surface while you continue to shelter in the colony. That's not possible anywhere else in the Solar System.

      Let's review what Earth would offer would-be survivalists only months after an asteroid strike of the proportions that wiped out the dinosaurs:

      1. Ideal gravity
      2. Ideal atmosphere
      3. Abundant liquid water
      4. Ideal soil conditions
      5. Ideal temperature
      6. Ideal Solar flux
      7. Zero travel costs

      The rest of the Solar System is a very inhospitible place to live, let alone raise children and flourish. Even an Earth ruined by war, global warming, or impact is literally a "hospitable sustaining womb" relative to any other place in the Solar System and can not be beat. It may not help you get to see Mars in your lifetime, but the best place to escape a catastrophe on Earth is Earth.
      • Re:Bout Time (Score:4, Interesting)

        by khallow (566160) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @12:39AM (#15348316)
        While you have the best form of this argument I've seen, it still sucks. First things first, the liklihood of a catastrophe large enough to wipe out humanity is geologically small. The most likely forms for such catastrophe would be man-made, such as nuclear or biological war and even these aren't likely to wipe out humanity by themselves. We can afford to wait a very long time for technology to make colonies cheaper and more practical.

        I don't see why we should gamble that nuclear or biological war won't wipe out the human race. Your assurances are after all worthless. And even if humanity can survive any such event doesn't mean that all cultures will.

        Also, there are other types of human catastrophes. For example, a stagnant global government (particularly something along the lines of a "hydraulic empire" [wikipedia.org] might be stable on geological time scales. Runaway global warming is another potential threat.

        Second, for the forseeable future, any Lunar or Martian colonies will be dependent on a healthy Earth to supply them. If Earth gets wiped out, these colonies are all dead within a generation. It will take a great while before we have the technological and financial ability to create truly self-sufficient colonies on Mars and even longer to do so on the Moon. In the meantime, you're wasting your survival money.

        As I see it, you seem to think now is not a good time, but some hypothetical future will be a good time. What's the criteria you're using here?

        There will be a period of dependency no matter when the colony is started. We don't even know how much gravity a human needs, Mars and the Moon might not be inhabitable by us in our current forms. But we won't know until we try. Therefore, it isn't a good reason to *delay* the creation of a colony. After all, the sooner we get started, the sooner we understand just what is needed, the sooner a colony is established, and the sooner it will become self-reliant.

        And once a colony is self-reliant, your whole argument is irrelevant.

        Third, any disaster that could threaten an unprotected humanity here on Earth could be better (and much more cheaply) survived by building self-contained shelters/cities here on Earth. If you really want to prevent a calamity from wiping out humanity, it is much easier and cheaper to build Terran colonies than Martian ones.

        As I noted before, there are disasters (like stagnant world governments stable on geological time scales) that can only be avoided by not being on Earth.

        Here on Earth, a Terran colony would only have to be self-contained until the conditions improved enough to go outside again. Even if that is 50-100 years, it's much better than on Mars or the Moon, where it is never going to get better. A more realistic scenario would have a staged recovery on Earth, with full self-containment only necessary for a short period of time, if at all. Maybe you would only have to be entirely self-contained for 5 years, after which you could start to pull in filtered air and water from the surface while you continue to shelter in the colony. That's not possible anywhere else in the Solar System.

        But it doesn't need to be anywhere near as good as Earth on Mars or the Moon. Let me add that an Earth-based self-contained colony has little value outside of disaster insurance while space colonies will be able to provide a considerable supply of scientific data and adaptation to extreme environments even if nothing else. Frankly, I think most industry will end up in space. There's no ecology to destroy there and plenty of mass, energy, and space for making things.

        Earth will likely remain a better place for humans to live than anywhere else in the Solar System, but it need not stay that way.

        The rest of the Solar System is a very inhospitible place to live, let alone raise children and flourish. Even an Earth ruined by war, global warming, or impact is literally a "hospitable s

  • H to O? (Score:2, Funny)

    by siwelwerd (869956)
    FTA: Then theres the question of the "H factor" that is, whether or not hydrogen in the form of lunar ice is tucked away within Sun shy areas at the Moons poles. If present and accounted for in such a state, thats a nifty resource to convert to oxygen and fuel.

    Turning hydrogen into oxygen would be a nifty trick...

  • by ystar (898731) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:18PM (#15346542)
    We have to beat the terrorists to the moon!
  • Sponging?!? (Score:4, Funny)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:58PM (#15346829)
    "sponging off Apollo"

    Damn you, Slashdot! Now I'm picturing some strange Greek Hentai stuff. *goes to stab out eyes*
  • by Newt-dog (528340)
    You have to remember that back in the 1960's....

    You could buy a new car for $2,500.
    Most people didn't wear seat belts, and most cars didn't have them.
    Most cars didn't come with air conditioning, if at all.
    Gas cost around .27 a gallon.
    Most people watched the moon walk on a black & white TV.
    Calculators were big and expensive ($500.) and did the basic stuff.
    The total electric house was the "house of the future".

    I don't think that it would be possible to use the old 1960's technology to get to th

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:44PM (#15347174) Homepage
    I've read quite a few stories and books from the '30s, '40s and '50s about first trips to the Moon. Some of them are well thought out and tried to get everything right. All of them had their own take on it and tried to predict something nobody had ever mentioned before. The one thing they never predicted is that after a handful of trips we'd turn our back on the Moon for over forty years, but that's what actually happened.

    Jerry Pournelle likes to say that he always hoped he'd live to see the first trip to the Moon, but he never expected to see the last one. It's about time we started exploring the Universe again!

    • I read those stories too, years ago, and another common feature of them was that they all expected it wouldn't cost as much as it did. Heinlein, for example, expected one incredibly rich guy to bankrupt himself to do it. Others seemed to think that it would be knocked up in the back yard by some really smart mechanically-inclined boy not at all unlike the average reader of Astounding magazine.

      According to another post in this thread, the total cost in 2006 dollars was $125 billion. That's about four times

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"

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