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US Plans Lunar Motel 355

OffTheLip writes "The US is planning to build a permanent lunar base which will support future visits to Mars. The living conditions on the moon presents a variety of challenges from medical to construction. Contingency planning would be critical but some feel the challenges presented on the moon will be less than Mars. The moon is closer to Earth, the atmosphere is less harsh and, unlike Mars, water does not exist. Is this the start of the next space race?"
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US Plans Lunar Motel

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  • Space Race (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarthChris ( 960471 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:35PM (#14998661)
    "...Is this the start of the next space race?"

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all work together instead of wasting billions on competing?
    Of course, that's not gonna happen any time soon.

  • Re:Atmosphere? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:40PM (#14998686)
    The moon has atmosphere now?

    Actually it does; a very, very thin one.... which, I guess, is how it is in some bizzare way, less harsh.
  • by Ardanwen ( 746930 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:44PM (#14998704)
    I was also thinking. How come having water on a planet makes things more difficult. I know life on earth (70% water surface) is tough ;), but based on that last sentence, I'd say mars is the better place to be.
  • The US is planning to build a permanent lunar base which will support future visits to Mars.

    Nothing is "permanent" that doesn't pay for itself. I'm sure everyone thought in 1969 that we were permanently on the moon, but it didn't quite work out that way, did it?

    It's like Magellan. You send them off, and maybe they come back, maybe they don't,

    Magellan et al were looking for PROFIT. They weren't risking their lives for the hell of it.

  • Re:Space Race (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:01PM (#14998792) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all work together instead of wasting billions on competing?

    Didn't we try that with the International Space Station? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember that "all working together" only really worked until such time as the question of who was going to pay for all of this working together came up, at which point the Russians wound up sticking America with the bill for most of the Russian contribution, then started renting stays on the ISS to wealthy millionaires.

    Now, the ESA and Japan and whatnot seem to be a lot more responsible about their portions of the project-- hell, maybe more responsible than NASA even-- but maybe we can say there's some downsides to collaboration when we're talking about multi-year public projects that cost many billions of dollars, downsides that don't exist when we're talking about I dunno world diplomacy. The heads of governments and even corporations change from time to time, and when (as with the ISS or a lunar base) the benefits of the project are indirect, every time this happens there is a risk of the new leadership going "wait... why are we paying for this again?". The more countries or entities you have involved, the more chances you wind up with for this risk to come to pass...
  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:09PM (#14998840)
    I agree with both you and the parent comment. Competition is healthy, but working together could save a bundle. How about agreeing on a few standards, such as the size and shape of airlocks, so that different countries' vessels could dock with each other? That would allow easier cooperation, while preserving the competitive environment. It would also allow private companies like SpaceX to interoperate with everyone else in the game.

    Maybe somebody at NASA will write an RFC...


  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:15PM (#14998866)
    I guess I understand the pull of putting people on places that seem hard to get to, but we should realize that all this brings us is the gratification of human vanity. Very little else gets done.

    Meanwhile, we're becoming dramatically better at robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and long-distance communication. What we can do in 2020 that we couldn't do in 1968 is to send good, smart and relatively cheap robots to the moon, and actually have them build something useful.

    If we don't have to worry about human safety and frailty, we can get big projects done for relatively little money. I'm talking about satellite-steered bulldozers, a nice big nuclear powerplant, and a real industrial-scale mining operation. We don't need humans to be there, the moon is close enough for fly-by-wire with reasonable ping times. Sure, once our robots build a reasonably shielded and equipped hotel, we can launch people who can say "been there". But let's first figure out what our goals are and then make sure we're acting to fulfill our goals! I'm almost sure that we're better served by some serious robots than by astronauts on the Moon.

  • by maxdamage ( 615250 ) * on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:47PM (#14999004) Journal
    That and corrosion damage. On the moon you would not have to worry about the base rusting.
  • Re:Space Race (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BengalsUF ( 145009 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:48PM (#14999010)
    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all work together instead of wasting billions on competing?

    No, it would not. Competition breeds innovation. Non-competition breeds bureaucracy.
  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:54PM (#14999031) Homepage
    Actually, small stuff tends to accumulate in L4 and L5 positions. There may well be a fair amount of dust, sand and pebbles there. We won't know for sure until we send something there to take a look.
  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @04:30PM (#14999168) Homepage
    Ah, but convection doesn't work, so you increase the possibility of any fluxes not properly floating to the top. You also have to wory about the flux evaporating and causing the solder to be propelled away from the workpiece. Also, some soldering and welding processes are designed to work inside the atmosphere, others are designed to work outside of the atmosphere.

    But, no, nothing on the ISS is being welded in space. It is sent up in large chunks and is bolted together, often times with motorized screws so that the astronauts just have to manuver the pieces towards each other and then command the berthing mechanism to grip. They have been doing some limited soldering experiments in the ISS, but never as repair work, just as tests for eventually doing repair work.

    The biggest problem is that a spacewalk takes too much effort to set up. You have to plan it out. You have to pre-breathe oxygen. You have to replace all of the relevant consumables. The people doing them are scientists, not bridge workers.

    You can only get so far with merely bolting stuff together. Eventually, you need to start doing fabrication work. Sure, it's easier to send up 1 ton of easy-to-fab raw materials, but it's even easier to grab a 100 ton iron asteroid and not bother calling back to Earth at all. :) Remember that some of the iron asteroids are basicly steel with sufficent levels of purity that you could slice 'em up with a cutter and use them as building materials with nay but a quick metalurgical assay.

    Some things will be much much easier in space. Ovens for example. A nice parabolic reflector to focus the sun's heat on a lump of metal can be made out of aluminised mylar and (titanium) chickenwire. You can use a refractory blowpipe to blow a bubble out of the lump once it's melted. Taking this to a logical extension, I could see large structures being manufactured using something akin to a glassblower's lathe.

    But the problem is, on both the how-do-we-repair-things-and-build-new-things-in-sp ace front and the how-much-gravity-do-we-need-to-not-die-young-in-sp ace front, we've done... ehrm... almost nothing since the 60s.
  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @08:08PM (#14999866)
    I'll believe this when I see it. More and more I think that under this administration NASA is a PR flack that cancels anything practical, but spins dazzling visions of the future (as long as there isn't any budget requirement).

    You must be young. This has been going on for as long as I can remember. NASA has done the groundwork for at least seven or eight systems since it became clear the shuttle would never live up to its billing in the early 1980s. They never happen because the shuttle employs 20,000 people, and while the next program, whatever it is, may employ the same number of people, they won't be the same people in the same congressional districts.

    Look at CEV. Instead of using cheaper, lower performance (but certainly adequate) boosters, the current plan is to use SSME. Why? So all the current shuttle workers can work on the next project, and the same contractors can stay on the gravy train working under the same NASA project managers. Without that CEV would never happen either.

    NASA has become an agency all about self-preservation. It doesn't matter who's in Congress or the White House, the first priority of any established bureaucracy is to grow. Sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle [] calls it "Pournelle's iron law of bureaucracy: Those whose interests are in furthering the organization rather than its goals always get in charge of any bureaucracy."

    NASA has done some good work in the past, and until very recently NASA made progress with robotics and even scramjets. But the manned space program is the one that's easiest to sell to the public, so it's become "the monster that ate the budget". Over the next few years manned spaceflight will become the only thing NASA does.

    Unfortunately, real progress will have to happen under the USAF as black projects the bureaucrats at NASA don't know about, and thus can't kill.

  • We need a quantum leap in technology. I've been in meetings where people won't bite the bullet and replace things with something much better, and instead, try and continue to tweak what's there. That's the situation we've got with Mars and beyond.

    Right now, Mars is a folly. Other than "because it's there" there's little reason to go, and the current technology means huge times and costs (carrying a years food, dealing with issues like someone getting seriously ill a month into the mission, taking 2 years out of your life). If we look at the great human journeys, the drivers were far more than "because it's there". Columbus sailed the atlantic seeking a short trade route, the space race was about cold war propaganda.

    FTL and the like are the next thing, what we should be putting research money into. It's the only way we will find a planet with a genuine possibility of colonization or other life.

    If we track the first 50 years of manned air travel, mostly outside of governments, we went from people experimenting, to having scheduled air trips. The massive advances that took place were because of individual experimentation and profit motives. Space has gone nowhere. The state-of-the-art is the shuttle and the Soyuz, both 20+ year old technologies that put very few extra people into space than they did 20 years ago (and maybe less). We need the Bransons of this world to get competitive space travel going, something that will create innovation.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:02AM (#15001981)
    "They weren't risking their lives for the hell of it"

    I doubt any astronaut would word it like that tho... damn those people and their sense of adventure, if only they could be boring too

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury