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Space

Space Exploration Act of 2002 254

orn writes "Rep. Lampson introduced a bill (pdf) (H.R. 4742) to the House on May 16th for a human space exploration initiative. I haven't heard a peep about it from the popular press, just a few articles on various space sites: SpaceRef's, the Planetary Society's, the Mars Society's. If you're interested in the sort of thing (and you live in the U.S.), contact your representative and let them know! While you're at it, figure out how to get the popular press aware of this..." On a related note is a story dicussing the controversy over whether the Moon should be developed, which seems a little premature to me.
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Space Exploration Act of 2002

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  • the simpsons clearly said in a movie shown to lisa's class "By 1959 man will have established 12 colonies on the moon, perfect for galactic vacations"
  • by CaffeineAddict2001 ( 518485 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:52PM (#3580252)
    We can get a cleanup crew to erase "CHA" off of it.
    • It's actually just 'HA'

      SPOON!
  • With its absence of atmosphere, temperature extremes and such, it would be prohibitively expensive to develop the moon. Furthermore, to transport building materials roughly 250,000 miles has to be difficult.

    For that matter, why don't we develop Antartica as well? At least it has an atmosphere, and in parts, some wildlife.
    • While going to Antartica would likely be more cost effective, and likely more feasible, let's face it...for a geek, it's just not as cool; and for the general public, it's not quite as awe-inspiring.
    • by LMCBoy ( 185365 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:58PM (#3580304) Homepage Journal
      Furthermore, to transport building materials roughly 250,000 miles has to be difficult.

      Of course. That's why they wouldn't transport building materials, they would use lunar materials.

      The Moon offers unique environmental characteristics (low gravity, extreme vacuum, abundant, reliable sunlight half the time, no seismic activity, no radio noise from Earth (on farside), and of course, tourism) that can be exploited in certain scientific and industrial applications. You wouldn't put a city there "just because", it would be done to take advantage of being on the moon.
    • But she's worth the trouble.

      As already stated - you don't transport construction materials there - just initial tools to use materials already present.

      Developing more of earth is constantly under fire. The moon may not be less expensive in the long run. Especially if you put some value on maintaining the atmosphere around earth. Apparently we are currently damaging it w/all of our current development.

      If nothing else it would be a good penal colony. (unless they revolt and sling rocks at us down the gravity well- nah! that could'nt happen!)

      .
    • Why develop the moon?

      That's kinda along the same lines as the question "Why pay high prices for all your long distance calls?". It's stupid and serves no real purpose, but people are going to end up doing it anyways
    • What temperature extremes? You realize there is no atmosphere on the moon, do you? This means the only means of heat exchange between objects is by radiation. With one layer of tin foil, you have 99% insulation.

      Building materials: the moon is rich in building materials, especially iron. You could process that with a solar oven. You can even extract oxygen from the moon's minerals. And once you have a permanent, nearly self-sufficient base (I think a time between supplies of one year is feasible), you can expand from there.

      Oh, and let's not forget the possible scientific insights we could gain. If you think the Hubble's images are great, imagine how much better pictures a six times bigger moon-based telescope could produce. Furthermore, a radio telescope on the far side of the moon would be shielded from earth's radio interference that greatly hinders radio astronomy today.

      Ah forget it, it's a stupid idea. Let's just sit on our asses and watch some more TV.

    • For that matter, why don't we develop Antartica as well? At least it has an atmosphere, and in parts, some wildlife.

      Yeah, those are good reasons not to.

      But given that one of the major potential resources of the Antarctic is oil, and given that the major consumer of oil and the home base of many oil companies is a country with little respect for treaties and a generally self-serving interpretation of "the interest of all mankind" [nsf.gov], it might be only a matter of time.

    • The Chinese government has expressed an interest in building a station on the Moon. That's about all that's needed, for U.S. pride to suddenly rediscover the competitive joys of space exploration. It's as if China had just launched Sputnik II. Expect NASA to suddenly get an influx of cash and a directive to "build a station on the Moon before China does (but don't tell anyone that's our your reason for the mission.)"

      From there it's just a matter of time.

      • I think China has bigger problems ahead - like the transition from autocracy to democracy, socialism to free markets. Remember the Russian space program? Now it is more capitalist than ours, going for money-making things like LEO space tourism, not nutty things like moonbases.
    • why don't we develop Antartica as well?

      Because if you plaster a giant blinking advertisement across Antartica, there is virtually nobody to see it.
  • Duplicate article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RevRigel ( 90335 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:54PM (#3580274)
    Here. [slashdot.org]
  • Not premature... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:55PM (#3580281) Homepage
    ...The time to declare the Moon a scientific preserve is BEFORE there are serious vested interests trying to develop it.

    We already have some litter and junk up there... it took less than thirty years for junk orbiting Earth to become a serious problem.

    I am sure there are corporations reading "The Man Who Sold The Moon" right now and wondering whether Heinlein's scheme for putting a visible corporate logon on the Moon is feasable.
    • <nods>

      Currently, the only people likely to get to the Moon in the next ten years, if anyone, are private (read: commercial) US space efforts and China. Even with this bill, I would hold my bets on NASA being able to establish a presence, but at least they have a greater chance of doing so if ordered to do so.
      • And what exactly is wrong with "Pepsi City" being built in the foothills of the "Taco Bell Mountains"? And being only a short moon-rover drive to Mao Tse Tung City?

        On second though, yeah, we need to get NASA off its ass...
    • they propose. Get a job and a life congress !!

      The amount of money you have proposed for
      mars research still has me laughing.

      China and others more serious about spending
      some money will see success.

      Secondly, NASA needs to get their brain engaged
      as I have never seen a bunch of comic physics
      applications for propulsion !

      As far as protecting the Moon or any other heavenly body away from Earth is unenforceable.

      Whomever develops the propulsion of tomorrow will
      be our master !!

  • the bill is silly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    the bill is just a political move designed to funnel money into Johnson space center.

    Sending humans to an asteroid is not a "logical step" before going to Mars. It's much harder to land on an asteroid than on Mars. It's just as hard or harder to get to an asteroid as Mars... plus, it's really hard to stop at an atseroid as you have little gravity to help you capture into orbit at an asteroid, at mars you have gravity and an atmosphere..

    Other things in this bill are silly too...

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a manned mission to Mars... but this bill is just a political trick, it specifies too many details designed to funnel money to the right places.
    • I suspect there are technical issues they can work out with more manned missions to the Moon, however, there are a number of others they can only really scratch the surface of. How do you answer issues like bone density being lost, or muscle mass being lost?

      It would really suck to be the first man to walk on Mars, get there, and step out on the surface, only to find your legs break under your own weight because they've become so weak after the long trip there.
      • > I suspect there are technical issues they can work out with more manned missions to the Moon, however, there are a number of others they can only really scratch the surface of. How do you answer issues like bone density being lost, or muscle mass being lost?

        The same way they've been addressing them for going on three decades now. Your comment about the first man on Mars not being able to walk is so inaccurate it's silly. Firstly, bone density loss and muscle atrophy are real problems in spacefaring, but they're long term problems, and a trip to Mars doesn't qualify as long term (although living on the Moon may present some of these problems, and living in an orbital station certainly can). More importantly, Simple physics and ship designs have made this whole problem moot. Design a ship with a rotating part (see "2001: a Space Odyssey" or "Mission to Mars" for good visual examples) and the people involved won't have to deal with low-grav-induced health problems, since the human body reacts the same way to inertia as it does to gravity.

        Also, if you really, really, really want to pick nits, your legs wouldn't need to be as strong on Mars to support you as they would on Earth, so even with some loss of bone mass you'd be doing fine. 8)

        Virg
  • What will make it happen is if there is money to be made by doing it. Otherwise no amount of lobbying and whining will make it happen.

    The old saying, show me the money... that's what'll work.

    And as for developing the moon? The first question that comes to mind is will the telco's have a flat rate for evening and weekend calls? Cuz I sure as hell ain't payin' $9.95 a minute to talk to my relatives on the moon, and I don't wanna sign up MCI MOON friends and family either...
    • If there is adequate public, scientific and political desire to get it done, it will be done. At this time, I would say there is little public and political desire for it, Mr. Lampson being a notable exception. There would, however, be money to be made by doing it. Unfortunately, that money is to be made by only the usual suspects: Boeing, Martin-Marietta (or whoever they are now) and the other common space contractors.

      Perhaps the "develop the moon" stuff is in response to China's recent announcement of intent to do just that. I think that, by itself, will (maybe has already) increase the political desire for this kind of thing. Personally, I desire it; both in the scientific sense and in the political/national pride sense. Now... is it practical? Nah. Is it going to be done in my lifetime? Hmmm, somehow I doubt it.

    • but the fun part would be ham radio operators.. Imagine the radio fun you'd have with a simple 12 element beam and 1500 watts on 2 meters.. Hell I'd bet you could make contact with an earth station for alot less power.. Moonbounce takes HIDEOUS amounts of power only because you're trying to reflect your signal off of that rock and back to the earth.. Hmmmmm.... Think of the number of contacts I could get in a month....
    • Disagree. The lunar missions, regardless of the actual reason they were pushed for in the 60's started the tech revolution, put the US at the very forefront, and held us there for thirty years.

      I've always thought the US should go back to the Moon for public relations, and go to Mars solely for the tech we'll have to develop to do it. That's what government spending is all about, don't forget.

      LV
  • by philthechill ( 316949 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:57PM (#3580300)

    That's just what we need, a bunch of money-hungry real-estate magnates cutting down all the trees on the moon and polluting all the pristine streams and rivers with their construction runoff.

    Not to mention all the wildlife that is displaced by this kind of thing. And why? I mean, sure, housing may be more affordable further out, but the commute is always worse...

    Phil

  • by donnacha ( 161610 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:57PM (#3580302) Homepage


    While you're at it, figure out how to get the popular press aware of this

    Easy: explain to journalists that, if space travel really takes off, they stand to bag some of the best press junkets ever.

  • Information from the Planetary Society is here [planetary.org] Also, the full text (not PDF) is here [spaceref.com] Also Florida Today has something here [flatoday.com] There's more, also. Just check Google.
  • If you were strong enough, do you think that a golf ball could escape the gravity of the moon? Does anybody know the math to that? How much force would need to be exerted on a golf ball at a 45degree angle to become free of the moons gravity?
  • great idea, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blablablastuff ( 577458 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:01PM (#3580329)
    The bill is a really good idea, unfortunately, it HAS to be kept quiet to succeed. Contact your representatives, yes Get your friends to contact their representatives, yes. Shout it from the rooftops, put it in the paper, get it on the nightly news, unfortunately, no. If the screaming whining masses find out there is a bill being proposed that actually involves spending money on something OTHER than doubling their welfare check, or throw the cash down some other bottemless pit of no-returns for society, all hell will break loose. To ensure the bill passes, make sure that your congressmen and women and vile creatures only hear heaps of praise and support for this.
    • When you go to testify before the Congress, do not go in your Star Trek uniforms like your parents did!

      They will not take you seriously unless you are wearing AUTHENTIC Star Wars gear. Make sure you keep those light sabers holstered too, that Capital security is pretty jumpy these days.
  • ...when my immediate reaction to hearing about a new, potentially very cool bill is to wonder how long it will be before the likes of Adam Schiff [slashdot.org] tacks on a digital rights management/copy protection rider.

    "Astronauts will turn to music and movies for diversion during long space flights... we must act now to prevent rampant IP theft on the space stations and deep space ships of the future!"

    Silly, I know... I don't normally wear a tinfoil hat, but nothing suprises me [slashdot.org] lately.
  • In most cases, unmanned exploration is cheaper, safer, and the better research tool.

    However, human missions in space are a lot more exciting to the non-science community, and when it comes to getting funding, Congress doesn't care as much about good science as it does about good publicity.

    So we underfund non-sexy stuff like supercolliders, oribiting telescopes, etc and yet we're always willing to dig deep to shoot John Glenn back up just for old times' sake.

    Well, there's really nothing sexy about John Glenn, but hopefully you get the point.
    • I agree that alot of good science is underfunded, but I don't think that manned missions are benefitting from it. I mean look at the space station, Congress is trimming billions from the program, as well as forcing them to scale back the number of shuttle launches a year. Add to that the fact that had funding stayed at levels from the mid 80s, a Mars mission would likely be already well under way. It just always seems like the first manned mars mission is like 15 years away. In the 80s they said we'd do it around the turn of the century, then in the 90s it was somewhere between 2005 and 2010. Now it looks like 2020. Well thats enough of my ranting.
    • Nothing caught this kid's imagination like seeing Armstrong and Aldrin hopping around on the moon, back in 1969. For that matter, not long before I was glued to the TV on Christmas Eve listening to the reading of Genesis. Nor does that mention the Mercury and Gemini flights.

      Maybe I'm not an astronaut, or a payload specialist, or anything like that. But doggonnit, I *AM* a professional in the technology industry! Reading science fiction as a kid, following NASA and Cousteau, and a general bent toward science, math, and machines led me that way.

      The greatest value out of NASA is to engage the imaginations of a new generation, and give them one more gentle nudge toward the technological professions. Robots just don't do that quite as well as people.
    • So let's not go and explore. Let's go and /stay/. Robots don't make good colonists, and telescopes are just dreamin' of it.

      We've got to get off this planet :-)
  • Staging area (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:06PM (#3580355) Homepage
    The Moon would make an excellent staging area for interplanetary trips.

    1) The low gravity offers tons of advantages, including a way to simulate, say, the gravity on a moon of Jupiter.

    2) The low gravity also allows boosters to be much smaller since they don't need to escape earth's atmosphere/gravity, and thus cheaper.

    3) You can build much bigger things in 1/6 G since you've got 1/6th of the forces to deal with.

    4) more volatile and thus more powerful fuels can be used because in the lack of an atmosphere, the threat of explosion is much, much lower.

    Just some thoughts.
    • Re:Staging area (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TonyZahn ( 534930 )
      You forgot one of the most important ones:

      You're right about a (relatively) big gravity well, just build your ship, get it started towards earth, an do a slingshot manuever to pick up some free speed.

    • 1/6 G is still a hassle compared with 0 G on a space station at a Earth/Moon Lagrange point. The Moon may have other advantages, but for the 4 points you list, space station is better.
      • the major problem is that it takes years of special training to do even basic manual labor in 0 G. You can ship a construction worker up to space to work in 1/6 G for a fraction of the training cost, I would think. Seems like 1/6 G would be easier for people who learned their trade on earth to adjust to. At least they can stand on something.
    • The Moon would make an excellent staging area for interplanetary trips.

      We should go to the Moon, but not for any of the reasons you listed.

      1) The low gravity offers tons of advantages, including a way to simulate, say, the gravity on a moon of Jupiter.

      We know enough about low-gravity environments that there's not much need to simulate them. If you're worried about training people, underwater on Earth or, better, a centrifuge in orbit would make much more sense.

      2) The low gravity also allows boosters to be much smaller since they don't need to escape earth's atmosphere/gravity, and thus cheaper.

      ...but you still have to fight the Moon's gravity, and you still have to get there in the first place. Terrestrial orbit is much, much better than the Moon in this regards.

      3) You can build much bigger things in 1/6 G since you've got 1/6th of the forces to deal with.

      You can build even bigger things in microgravity than you can on the Moon. Much, much bigger.

      4) more volatile and thus more powerful fuels can be used because in the lack of an atmosphere, the threat of explosion is much, much lower.

      Er...this is completely irrelevant. Volatile chemical fuels aren't a problem, now. You still wouldn't want them leaking on the Moon, so you've got the same engineering problems to deal with. You'll also need a reactant and reagent that you don't want to mix until you're ready...none of this is affected in the least by the lack of an atmosphere. Besides, we won't be using chemical propulsion for much longer--it's just waaay too expensive and inefficient. Ion drives and solar sails will probably drive intrastellar travel in coming decades. Eventually, I suspect we'll have some sort of fusion-powered photon drive like Niven's torchships--a very bright flashlight that uses the high velocity of light as exhaust instead of the puny velocity of hydrogen-oxygen reactions.

      The moon may be a good source of raw materials; it deserves extensive scientific research for the sake of the research; and the far side would make the ultimate near-Earth astronomical observation platform. Once we're (back) there, we'll undoubtedly discover lots more to make it a great place for humanity to have a permanent presence.

      But it'd make a damn poor staging area.

      b&

    • lack of an atmosphere, the threat of explosion is much, much lower.

      I would imagine the lack of an atmosphere would make an explosion magnitudes more catastrophic if one of these uncontrollable combustion processes did occur. Think of our dense atmosphere as a shield of mass and that also acts as a baffle.

      In space, a wall of a high speed massive plasma striking an object with nothing to baffle it on the other side might cause total destruction through a shearing effect. Also expect contact with the energy release to charge said object with resonant oscillations, which may exceed tensile strength of its structure and cause massive failure.

      An explosion with no atmosphere may be quite spectacular around man made structures. When a structure is built for lightweight conditions, it is already flimsy by our standards. There would be absolutely nothing left of it when the slightest mishap occurs.
      • I would imagine the lack of an atmosphere would make an explosion magnitudes more catastrophic if one of these uncontrollable combustion processes did occur.

        Quite the opposite. Without the air to transmit the shockkwave, explosions propagate as far as their reactants. Even nukes look tame when exploded in orbit (as tests have shown).

        If you go the other way, shockwaves iin water are really nasty - more medium means that they travel much farther. Tossing a concussion grenade in a pool is just asking for a large bodycount

    • The fuel on rockets used to put people into space is some of the weakest rocket fuel around, if I remember right. That's a GOOD THING. If we powered the Space Shuttle (or future equivalent) with something akin to the fuel on, say, a Sidewinder missile, the accelerations involved would probably give us problems with dead astronauts.

      Granted, there /is/ still room for increases in power. As a recent Slashdot article pointed out, the accelerations your normal Joe/Jane experiences on a rollercoaster are much greater than the kinds of forces astronauts have to deal with.
  • Frankly, even though we may be a little far off technologically, I think as a species a very important thing for us to do is set up a self-sustaining colony on mars. I know you'll say "fix your problems on earth too" but I think by then maybe it'll be too late. I'm not a paranoid guy or anything, but when you consider nuclear weapons, stellar objects, and now some people talk about self-replicated nanobots being a possible source of our doom, you should realize that we should have some sort of a backup solution. Think of it like backing up your hard drive. All this time we've been living here without any backups. A self-sustaining colony on Mars will probably cut the odds in ten of our entire species being wiped out in the next thousand years.
  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:10PM (#3580368)
    We can strip mine the other planets later

  • by anzha ( 138288 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:10PM (#3580372) Homepage Journal
    That is Bush Sr's Space Exploration Initiative? Bush Sr went to NASA and wanted to do something exciting in space. NASA came back with a hugely expensive proposal. Bush Sr *KNEW* it wouldn't get through Congress and only lukewarmly supported it. As predicted, Congress smacked NASA telling them 'uh uh no!'

    We all love the idea of space exploration and colonization (or at least most of us here at slashdot do), but NASA really needs to have some fiscal and technical responsibility in order to do this.

    re X-33: choosing the one with the niftiest tech and not one that had the best chances of success (MacDAC's proposal)

    X-34: forcing the FastTrac engine into the program and killing it that way when the engine fell behind schedule. X-38: where NASA designed the thing and then told the contractor's 'build this now' instead of simply saying, 'We have a requirement for a vehicle to do this, that and the other. Build one and we'll buy it.'

    ISS: NASA admits it doesn't have a handle on the costs here, not the least due to the fact that their accounting sucks rotten eggs.

    While I would LOVE to see the NASA's logo on the Mars lander and the ole Stars and Stripes planted on Martian surface, the new administrator ahs his work cut out for him already cleaning up NASA. Throwing more money at NASA RIGHT NOW might be a bad mistake. After we see whether or not NASA has been cleaned up, oh yes indeed, go for it.

    Before though might be a less than wise idea...

    • ISS: NASA admits it doesn't have a handle on the costs here, not the least due to the fact that their accounting sucks rotten eggs.


      It couldn't have anything to do with the fact the contractors working on parts for NASA don't have a clue / and or a milking NASA for every penny. e.g. BOEING a major contractor to the government / NASA for aerospace work openly admits that they don't know how much it costs to make one of their flagship products (the 747).

      The government is always trying to put more NASA work in the hands of private contractors so who should we blame for the cost overruns ???
      • I agree. Defense contractors seem to exist for leeching. :S I've worked for some and, uh, yeah. Small or large they seem to loooove to suck the govies dry. It seems to be one of the unintended consequences of McNamara's frickin stupid defense 'reforms'. Don't get me started about that man...

        Anyways, If I Were In Charge, I'd go and do take the concept of 'buy from the contractor' not 'pay the contractor to develop' (ideally) or shoot for funding smaller, more agile companies (ex Rotary Rocket, Pioneer Rocketplane, Kistler, ex Beal, etc).

        But, I am Not In Charge and nor do I look to be any time soon. so I'll just dink with my own pet rockets. ;)
      • who should we blame for the cost overruns ???

        How about the bozos who insist that all the private contracts be on a cost-plus basis? That is, however much the contractor spends, plus a guaranteed percent profit, is what the government will cover.

        Under those circumstances, contractors' engineers who suggest cheaper (or faster, since that means less billable hours) ways to do things tend to get fired because they are provably costing the company money (out of the percent profit at least, if not the base cost).
    • Can we please stop planting the American flag on the surface of something then proclaiming: "We came in peace for all mankind" (emphasis mine). The hypocrisy is unbearable.

      Any Moon/Mars mission would probably involve ESA, Japan, etc. Wouldn't the UN flag be more appropriate? I would hate to see a flag post planted on Mars with six flags on it.


  • I thought Slashdot was the popular press. I feel so misled.

  • by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:18PM (#3580410) Homepage
    While you're at it, figure out how to get the popular press aware of this...

    As opposed to /. of course....
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:22PM (#3580429) Homepage

    If you're interested in the sort of thing (and you live in the U.S.), contact your representative and let them know!


    Sure, reply & tell them NOT to consider the measure.

    First of all, look at the sponsors - almost all Lampson and a bunch of other Texans looking for a pile of cash ($50 mil next year & $200 mil in 2004, if you care to read the bill) to pour into Houston, Huntsville, Canaveral et al. I can smell the pork from here.

    Second, $250 mil is NOT sufficient to get us to the aims of the bill (orbit an asteroid, orbit mars, etc), so this is just the key opening the door to more expenditures. This also relies on the idea that, for whatever reason, we NEED bipeds making orbits around asteroids & Mars.

    Why? If anyone can tell me what in hell a human is going to do while orbiting an asteroid or Mars, other than look out the window and say "Cool" they win a cupie doll. I believe in sending up good satellites. I believe in innovative instrumentation. What I don't believe in is risking human life and probably tens of billions of dollars in toto for a damned boondoggle while we've got terrorists bombing buildings and one in six of us without health care.

    Between the stupidity in general of hurtling someone out to Mars to do things machines to do very well without him and the whif of ham drifting across the plains of Texas I'm completely against it. Looks like Houston wants to beef up the space program to make up for the loss of Enron.

    • troll alert

      You had me until
      while we've got terrorists bombing buildings

      Perhaps you should have including "wont someone think of the children!"

      But as you've been modded up:
      What I don't believe in is risking human life

      No ones asking you to go, there are many scientists, astronauts, entrepenurs, people with spirit, hell, Real Americans, that are more then willing to risk their lives in the same way their forefathers did when they fled europe.
      • Real Americans

        I differ from your opinion so I'm not a "Real" American? Now who's trolling.

        There are, quite simply, better places to put our money than needless manned space exploration. As it is now, there is nothing being done in space by a human that a machine cannot do. Nothing. We put people up there to make it look good. It's dangerous and a waste, and neither you nor I will leave the planet in our lifetimes, so put down the Star Trek comic book & get over it.

        Sending instruments & experiments into space that can operate automatically is exponentially cheaper and much safer. Should we have goals that include getting people living in space? That's a political question we all have opinions about. I'm just saying that if, for a mission or experiment, a human does not have to be sent, then do not send a human. That's not trolling and it's not cowardice. If you're being a good engineer and looking at costs & safety it's fucking common sense.

        • "Real Americans" are, IMO, the people with the pioneering spirit that founded the country hundereds of years ago.

          People (in general) couldnt give a damn about a robot going to another planet, they are much more interested in seeing other people walking arround on their TV's. The human aspect.

          Safty is not an issue, if someone dies in space, its not the end of the world. By stunting manned space flight's growth, we are spitting in the ashes of those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, challanger, apollo 1, a few russian missions.

          Perhaps you arent going off planet in your life time, but I've got at least another 50 years ahead of me, even now all it takes is a few million dollars (big lottery win) and you can go up to the ISS.

          If America is full of people like you, then thank god china is looking in to things.
  • After many and many stupid acts, this is an intelligent act. Space technology can always be applied down here on the surface, not talking about the experiments that can took place only in 0g.

    To show how far the technology can advance, imagine the advances in the fisiotherapeutics when a group of astronauts stays 9 months in 0g and then another 6 monthsin 1/3g and back 9 months in 0g again.

    Well, this is just an example. It's very important for the humanity, not just for US.

  • by cybrpnk2 ( 579066 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:26PM (#3580457) Homepage
    Everybody interested in this should read John Budzinski's [johnbudzinski.com] article of a few years ago on this topic. His optimism in this article sprung from the surprising turnaround in annual federal budgets from deficits to surpluses [ibert.org]. In the last years of the Clinton Administration the Government took in more than it spent for the first time since 1969 and actually looked like we would start paying off the Federal debt accumulated during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - a total of SIX TRILLION DOLLARS OF DEBT [federalbudget.com]. But hey, Dubya won, tax cuts passed, and now the US is back in deficit spending. Now the GOP has got bills in Congress to raise the debt ceiling and it's back to business as usual... Not many people remember that the real thing that made Apollo possible was a net federal SURPLUS in the treasury from the boom in the 1950s - we had to spend the money on SOMETHING, and part of what we spent it on was going to the moon. We also spent it on Vietnam, touched the tarbaby, and BANG we haven't seen a net federal surplus in the Treasury since. Currently we have a net Federal deficit of SIX TRILLION DOLLARS and it is going UP. With Social Security threatening bankruptcy in the 2020s or 2030s, we probably won't ever get back to a surplus in the Trasury for a very long time... This basic structural difference in the US Treasury from the 1960s and the 2000s is why any talk now of getting to Mars is just a sham. I get very depressed on this subject. During the late 1960s and early 1970s as a teen, it seemed the sky was the limit and it was VERY exciting. Now, as a middle aged man, I truly believe I will go to my grave without ever seeing humans on another world again. I truly feel sorry for those alive today that never have seen humans walking on other worlds for real, not in the movies, and have NO IDEA of the uplift to the heart and soul it brings...
    • First of all, the "federal surplus" was only a surplus when you counter Social Security taxes, which really should be accounted for separately...especially since it involves significant future unfunded liabilities.

      Second, there is this whole recession thing that flatlined Federal tax revenues at the $1.9 trillion level from FY 2000 to FY 2001, and may do the same thing for FY 2002. Previously, tax revenues were rising very quickly.
      • And since the skyrocketing federal tax revenues pre FY2000 were caused by skyrocketing personal wealth, which was caused by skyrocketing profits from stock investments, which was caused by skyrocketing .coms and tech, which was caused by people believing the hype about stocks -

        Maybe listening to the lies wasn't a bad idea afterall. Please, Enron, come back!! We miss you! Lie to us some more. Tell us we're pretty.
  • by Kphrak ( 230261 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:29PM (#3580472) Homepage
    As far as I can tell, the argument goes like this: "Let's see...we can move our pollution problems to a lifeless rock in outer space, learn more about life in space than we've ever known before, and advance the human race....or we can keep that lifeless rock looking purty and avoid all of the former. Hmmm, what to do?"

    I don't know about you, but I think the guy trying to preserve the "pristine environment" of space is completely off his rocker. Space is not pristine, and never has been. Space is dirty, cold, dead everywhere we've looked, and full of things that can destroy organic life.

    Human life, in any area, almost always alters the way things were before. If we have to, let's do our dirty work in space rather than here.
  • Lunar Mission? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xanthus ( 158940 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:29PM (#3580478) Homepage Journal
    I would be the first to get excited by a return to Lunar missions by NASA. The last mission to the lunar surface that I know of was in 1972. What have we done in 30 years? Well, we're building a orbiting station, we've sent a few unmanned probes out, placed a lovely telescope in orbit, near-countless satelites (incl. GPS), ...


    Following the link [utexas.edu] from the article verifies that humans have spent less than 96 hours on the Moon's surface. Lunar Missions? Yes! Colonization? Sadly, I think that's a bit premature. As long as we're realistic about our goals I believe we can sell the general public on them. It's so easy for naysayers to point out the problems from the past, why not set some realistic goals and then accomplish them?

  • Osama (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ericdano ( 113424 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:30PM (#3580485) Homepage
    Perhaps if we suggest that Osama Bin Laden was on the moon then the press would be interested. Or perhaps that there are Taliban there.

    They don't seem interested in space or anything productive nowadays. Crime, terror, or sex is what the media likes.

    • Perhaps if we suggest that Osama Bin Laden was on the moon then the press would be interested. Or perhaps that there are Taliban there.

      No, no, no. That would make the US administration interested. The press would be interested if the Archbishop of Tranquility Base were accused of child molesting, or if some celebrity got arrested there DLMWI (Driving the Lunar Module While Impaired), or if Elvis was spotted at the Harriman Center Piggly-Wiggly.

  • How minds change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:34PM (#3580506) Homepage

    When I was a youngster, I dreamed of zooming around in spaceships and meeting aliens.

    Then I turned into an Angry Young Man and felt that we must tread lightly in the cosmos, and not pollute and exploit other planets the way we've plundered terra.

    And then I started thinking about starting a family, and realised that as a human, my prime motivation is actually to make more humans. And then I thought about ice ages and planet-killer asteroid impacts (which are inevitable, not fantasy) and decided that we should say "Screw the fragile cosmos!", get our species' eggs out of our one fragile little basket and damn the cost in money and lives and ruined scientific study.

    Who knows what I'll think as an old man. But right now, I reckon we should declare open season on other planets and start terraforming now. Because when the next ice age or asteroid hits, it'll be way, way too late to start, and as we've already plundered all of the easily available fossil resources, we can pretty much forget bootstrapping ourselves back out of the stone age.

    Am I so very unusual in thinking that we should get real worried about these things now, while we've got the resources to do something about them?

    • hell yes. I usually consider myself a pacifist, but I can't help but thinking a cold war arms race to the moon with china would actually do all of humanity a great deal of good. as long as we can have the arms race without blowing ourselves up before we get on another planet.
      ---
    • I've been thinking about this "protect ourselves from disaster" idea for a while and am increasingly of the opinion that before we try to fling our eggs out to Mars, we should explore some quicker solutions.

      There are two areas we could build self-sustaining colonies on Earth that would be able to hunker down through just about anything, be it nuclear, cosmic or biological... under the sea and under the ground.

      If we had two or three underground towns and two or three undersea towns that could house 2,000 or 3,000 people each, you could perpetuate the species. Fuel cell technology could be helpful for running UV lights capable of growing enough food to support the town. Especially if we grow genetically engineered crops... The undersea towns could extract hydrogen and oxygen from the water for breathing and running the fuel cells.

      The Earth (even after a good sized asteroid strike) should still be a hell of a lot more hospitable than anywhere else in our solar system. The fact that we have a breathable atmosphere puts us WAY ahead of the game.

      I would just hate for us to get wiped out while trying to figure out how to overcome the obstacles of living on another planet...

        • I've been thinking about this "protect ourselves from disaster" idea for a while and am increasingly of the opinion that before we try to fling our eggs out to Mars, we should explore some quicker solutions.

        I like your ideas, but is there any reason we can't do both, plus a bunch of other stuff as well?

      • There are two areas we could build self-sustaining colonies on Earth that would be able to hunker down through just about anything, be it nuclear, cosmic or biological... under the sea and under the ground.

        Not to invoke the "T" word (Godwin's got a new law), but...

        If we have colonies on other planets, then it'll be harder for those whose goals are destruction to eliminate the colony.

        Underground or undersea, it's reachable with much less resources than having to escape the gravity well.

        Also, a space-based colony would have advanced warning -- "something just launched from Earth, let's take a good look and make sure it's not dangerous." The moon would have a couple hours to prepare; Mars would have months.

    • Am I so very unusual in thinking

      Hmmm... Actually, if you live in America: yes. You are unusual in thinking.
    • Raw material resources, perhaps. But how are we going to get up there? NASA's bungled every single attempt it's made to significantly reduce the cost of getting up there, and without that, ain't no terraformin' gonna happen. I'd almost say it's time to get NASA out of the way and/or reduce it to funding, without interference or controls (beyond verification of claims after the claims are made), private attempts to get to orbit and beyond. "Money to first X people to reach this milestone" type programs - say, $100,000, or even just $10,000, to anyone who can launch a sounding rocket to, say, a mile or so, with technology that could feasbly be scaled up to provide manned orbital (or beyond) access, would do so much for current efforts without really taking much out of their budget (though, granted, problem in who determines "feasably").
  • by Tazzy531 ( 456079 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:35PM (#3580513) Homepage
    It seems like this is the US reacting to China's Plan to create moonbases by 2010 [bbc.co.uk]. It would be a MAJOR setback for the US if the Chinese were able to do it before the Americans. I mean, the US, the most scientifically advanced country lost the moon to the chinese.

    But this brings up another problem. Who's jurisdiction does the moon fall under? It's just like legistlating the internet. Legistlators have to realize that just because there is a law doesn't mean that people will follow it. What they have to do instead is work with other nations and trying to come up with a consensus.
    • Who's jurisdiction does the moon fall under?

      There was an international treaty ratified by a number of countries back in the 70s, as the race to the moon waned. Bascially, these countries agreed that none of them would be able to lay claim to the moon. Can anyone tell us the name of this treaty? It was mentioned on slashdot about 3 months ago, which is where I learned of it. It basically treats the moon like international waters.

      My personal opinion is that this treaty is partly to blame for the distinct lack of interest most countries now have in the moon. What is interesting, of course, is that China never signed the treaty. So while the rest of the world sits around thinking, "why go, we can't claim it as our own and mine the resources" China is thinking "follow your treaty, while we take the moon for ourselves."

    • It's just like legistlating the internet. Legistlators have to realize that just because there is a law doesn't mean that people will follow it.

      Is it just me, or does anyone else think we've got enough laws?

      The 10 commandments appear to be almost enough laws.

      Why do we need more laws? In most cases, it appears to be "to protect/advance profitability."

      This is not right. But what can be done about it? It's like the drug war -- it's profitable both for law enforcement and law breakers (dealers, not users) -- so nobody wants to stop it, even if it destroys citizens' rights.

      Me, I'm glad that China has decided to take the moon. It gets the rest of us up off our butts. Especially as another response said -- China didn't sign the treaty making the moon unclaimable -- so they will make it theirs.

  • Space Colonies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by G. Waters ( 172392 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @02:00PM (#3580675)
    Why all the talk about colonizing planets when space colonies [nasa.gov] seem such a more elegant solution? (more info here [amazon.com] and here [amazon.com])

    Before modding this as troll, please read the argument [nasa.gov].

  • Minor quibble, but "if you live in the U.S. contact your representative" ought to be "if you can vote in the U.S. contact your representative". We expatriate Americans can still vote, if only in federal elections.
  • It's not too early to come up with laws that will preserve the moon. Better too early than too late. Hell, we already had one large fast food corporation that wanted to have a pair of golden arches orbiting space so that everyone on earth could see them. If someone seriously proposed that idea, what do you think they would do to the moon if no one stopped them??
  • resource sink (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DenOfEarth ( 162699 )
    the worries about the mooon being totally overdeveloped are, in my opinion, unfounded. The moon is geologically dead, and there may be trace amounts of water located on the surface somewhere, but any development that will be done there will be with resources coming from other locations (i.e. Earth, Mars) and by the time that technology is around that converts geologically dead moon into viable construction material, we'll have little problems with garbage as well.
  • Right now, our need to accomplish has been turned inward, and our businesses are eating their own seed corn (shoddier products, more layoffs, bigger bonuses), while everyone else is looking for constant distractions, like what's at Blockbuster on Friday.

    Working together to achieve something like landing on or colonizing the moon or another planet would only bring out the best in our society. Maybe all these highly technical people that our corporations seem to have no use for could contribute? Perhaps being a team player could be a positive goal instead of a cynical job "requirement."

    We could use the advances in energy, information technology, engineering, biology and chemistry right about now anyway.

    Hope is a powerful thing.
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday May 24, 2002 @03:26PM (#3581092)
    Human space travel is enormously expensive and yields little more scientific benefits than an equivalent robotic mission. And for the cost of sending a single man to Mars, we can send many unmanned, robotic probes, not just to Mars but to many planets and moons.

    Robotic probes would still lead to the development of better launch and propulsion systems, so even going the robotic path, we would acquire the capabilities that make manned space travel affordable. In the long run, the use of robotic probes would not hold back manned exploration very much, but it would yield much more scientific data in the short run.

  • by Tarindel ( 107177 )
    isn't even going to be enough to pay for all the digital watermarking cop-chips they're going to need on the A->D converters needed to get there...

    (re: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/05/23/235523 7&mode=thread&tid=97)

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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