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Space Science

The Case for the Moon 641

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-need-more-rocks dept.
apsmith writes "Continuing the flurry of recent hearings on the future of humans in space, a Senate committee on Thursday heard testimony in favor of a return to the Moon. Former senator and moon-walker Harrison Schmitt and physicist David Criswell see the lunar surface as an immense energy resource, just waiting to be tapped. Astronomer Roger Angel sees the lunar south pole as the ideal astronomical observatory, with locations for telescopes 100 times better than anything we've done so far. And geologist Paul Spudis sees a lot of unfinished business on the Moon, to develop it as the "feedstock of an industrial space infrastructure." TransOrbital also sent written testimony."
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The Case for the Moon

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  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by diersing (679767) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:01PM (#7416824)
    I'm not a space nut, but why did NASA stop going to the moon in the first place? Its been a couple decades since our last moon landing, no?
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KD5YPT (714783) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:03PM (#7416850) Journal
      There was no incentive in going back. One, they're not given enough funding to develop the moon. And two, the reaching of the moon at that time only have one purpose, to show the Soviets that we are better then them during the cold war
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kacp (188529) * on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:19PM (#7416998)
        So, just replace Soviets with Chinese.

        Bingo, insta-moon purpose for today!
        • Forget about energy, resources, or research.

          You know everyone just wants to be able to get laid in zero G!

          hell, maybe we should have mentioned this back when clinton was still president....
        • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pipingguy (566974) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:28PM (#7419431) Homepage
          So, just replace Soviets with Chinese. Bingo, insta-moon purpose for today!

          Yes, but that would mean replacing inbred/ingrown paper-pushers with real doers and those that put their cojones on the line.

          Ain't gonna happen due to existing politics and aversion to risk. The American population (it seems/we are told) values gain without loss these days. No surprise, really, everyone is living off what was done in WW2, the "greatest generation".
    • by Dukeofshadows (607689) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:15PM (#7416964) Journal
      After the final lunar landings in 1972, NASA and the nation were at a crossroads. We landed on the moon but this was partially to make sure the Russians did not do so first. With the "Great Society" in the works and Vietnam still raging, the space program was put on the back burner in favor or funding for social programs and military expenditures. Russia never went to the moon and it looks to be at least until 2010 before China might try, thus there was no political incentive to sacrifice pork projects or "social" programs in favor of expanded space projects.

      Though the Space Shuttle was supposed to reduce space travel costs dramatically and allow for low-cost LEO (Low Earth Orbit) launches, the costs proved so much greater than expected that NASA spends most of its budget maintaining the aging fleet and is hard-pressed to spare the cash for developing new launch vehicles. It was thought that space stations launched via space shuttle would be used as waystations to revisit the moon, but as the shuttles cost so much to move around, that plan became bunk fairly quickly.

      We must return to the moon. Its natural vacuum and near-constant illuminated surface allow for massive energy and chemical manufacturing. Deadly plagues and other research requiring isolation could be done easily on our moon with minimal fear of contaminating the earth should their projects go awry. Telescopes on the far side of the moon would give us a new view of the universe uninterrupted by light (and for SETI et. al not so many electronic signals interfereing). If nothing else, the He-3 and solar resources could eventually help reduce our dependence on limited fossil fuels to run our economy. Some of the readers remember the OPEC crisis and no one wants those conditions to return. Finally, the moon serves as a waypoint to exploration of Mars and the Asteroid Belt, both of which contain abundant resources that could satiate our world's demands for resources far beyond the lifetimes of anyone reading this.

      I'd like to hear from people who do not want to go back to the moon. Most of the soical programs they advocate funding in place of space exploration have their own difficulties, but maybe there are other reasons they have which get little/no attention.
      • And what are those other reasons that don't get attention which people have for not going to the moon?

        The only one I can think of is the perception that there's nothing interesting about the moon, that it's just a big rock.
      • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:30PM (#7417074)
        near-constant illuminated surface allow for massive energy and chemical manufacturing...... .... Telescopes on the far side of the moon would give us a new view of the universe uninterrupted by light

        The moon has a 29.5 day cycle meaning that places on the moon experience about 15 days of daylight and about 15 days of night. The far side of the moon gets just as much (and just as little) sunlight as the near side. Only radio telescopes would see a big advantage on the farside by using the moon to block the Earth's noisy radio chatter.

        Its a minor point, but it does have implications for what you can do on the moon and the special engineering challenges of the environment (e.g., storing 15 days of solar power).
        • I think you would still see a massive advantage on the dark side of the moon for conventional telescopes. It's much better than earth due to the lack of atmoshpere. Compared to "our" side of the moon you won't have the earth hanging in the sky annoyingly... I'm not sure whether and how much difference this would make, but i imagine it would reduce noise quite a lot, no?

          Ponxx
          • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:04PM (#7417400)
            Compared to "our" side of the moon you won't have the earth hanging in the sky annoyingly

            Yes, it does have some disadvantages, but not much. It is true that a nearside observatory would have the issue of Earthshine. This would definitely block a small part of the sky (nearly fixed from the moon's frame of reference, but moving in a galactic frame of reference). And you would probably need to add some features to the telescope design to reduce light scattering. But with no atmosphere to scatter the Earthshine, you would not have the level of light pollution that the moon currently imposes on Earth-bound astronomers.

            The big ugly for moon-based optical astronomy would be the 15 days of sunlight that occur in most settings. The best options that I am aware of would put telescopes in craters at each of the moons poles. The crater walls would block sun and Earthshine and the environment would be delightfully chilly for easy use of low-noise detectors.
        • by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:29PM (#7417630) Homepage Journal
          Build a railway around the moon and have the telescope mounted on a train that makes one revolution of the planet every 29.5 of your puny Earth days.

          That way you really could have something on the "dark side of the moon".

      • near-constant illuminated surface
        Telescopes on the far side of the moon would give us a new view of the universe uninterrupted by light
        You do realize that the Sun does shine on the far side of the Moon, don't you? Just because we can't see it from here doesn't meen it is dark all the time. The lunar day is a lot longer than 24 hours, but the Moon still has day and night.
      • "Telescopes on the far side of the moon would give us a new view of the universe uninterrupted by light (and for SETI et. al not so many electronic signals interfereing).
        There really is no dark side of the Moon... Matter of fact, it's all dark. --Obligatory Pink Floyd Quote
      • Im curious about something. I can see how energy gathering would be easier on the moon, but how would that help us on earth? What means would be used to transfer that energy over here, where it can be used?
        • I believe it's possible to beam power via microwave transmission. Google gives a various number of articles on the subject...

      • We must return to the moon. Its natural vacuum and near-constant illuminated surface allow for massive energy and chemical manufacturing. Deadly plagues and other research requiring isolation could be done easily on our moon with minimal fear of contaminating the earth should their projects go awry. Telescopes on the far side of the moon would give us a new view of the universe uninterrupted by light (and for SETI et. al not so many electronic signals interfereing). If nothing else, the He-3 and solar resou
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cebu (161017) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:16PM (#7416966)
      I believe the relavent quotation would be:
      "There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain. Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

      We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
      --John F. Kennedy

      Going to the moon didn't really make much sense in terms of cost/benefit at the time, but if nothing more, it was quite symbolic of the age. Going to the moon, was in many ways, a direct response to the Soviet space program. It had some similar goals as the recent Chinnese launch -- much of the reason for going to the moon was to demonstrate the US' technological, scientific, and economic strength.

      From a more idealistic perspective, it was because the US was given the dream, and challenge, of going to the moon.

      John F. Kennedy,
      Address at Rice University on the Space Effort,
      September 12, 1962:

      President Pitzer, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Congressman Thomas, Senator Wiley, and Congressman Miller, Mr. Webb. Mr. Bell, scientists, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

      I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief. I am delighted to be here and I'm particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.

      We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

      Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation's own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far out-strip our collective comprehension.

      No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man's recorded history in a time span of but a half century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only 5 years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than 2 years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than 2 months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

      Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

      This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

      So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to
      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

        The only thing I can think to say after reading that again is What the fuck are we waiting for?

        Its the 21st century and we're tooling with 20-40 year old equipment and dreams. SPACE IS STILL THERE! I'm literally getting pysically angry at this squandered future.
    • by t0ny (590331)
      I'm not a space nut, but why did NASA stop going to the moon in the first place? Its been a couple decades since our last moon landing, no?

      The are afraid of the big monolith there...

  • by confused one (671304) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:02PM (#7416839)
    I've always liked that argument

    Each in due time. Start with the Moon and Mars. Eventually we'll (personally) explore the whole galaxy...

    • by GigsVT (208848)
      Do you realize how large the galaxy is compared to our solar system?

      Eventually we'll (personally) explore the whole galaxy...

      If by eventually, you mean 100,000 years, and by personally, you mean people living 100,000 years from now.

      And that's only if we manage to travel at the speed of light!
  • I agree (Score:2, Funny)

    by Transient0 (175617)
    This persecution of the moon must stop.

    Even the combined historical damage of tides, werewolves and lunacy cannot justify our behaviour towards our misunderstood neighbor.

    Let us hear its case.
  • ...the end of the moon?

    Or was that bluetooth? Er...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sure, no problem. Just run a power line from there to here.
  • by lfourrier (209630) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:07PM (#7416881)
    ...folowing by USSR was bad new for US space science.
    Send a chinese in space, and all of a sudden, space is interesting.

    Can americans be rulled without an official enemy ?
    • by axxackall (579006) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:36PM (#7417128) Homepage Journal
      Can americans be rulled without an official enemy ?

      Nope. That's the major difference between americans and sheeps:

      • Sheeps need the leader;
      • Americans need the leader AND the enemy.
      If you don't like it then come to live in Europe - somehow they manage to live without an enemy AND without a leader too.
      • by Atzanteol (99067) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:49PM (#7417883) Homepage
        Yes, because Europe has never had any enemies. Nope, no-siree! Well, except for those two World Wars. But until then nothing! Just peace! Oh, but there were the romans, and galls, and crusades, and Napoleon, and Hrm.. But at least the English and French have always gotten along! Except for those hundred years wars...

        But at least there have been no big wars within the last 50 years and everybody now loves each other! That's right. I went there. Silly Americans. Why can't they see Europe as the land of peace and tranquility that it is? It's so much nicer being pretentious euro-trash.

        (Oh, and 'sheep' *is* plural, no 's' needed).
    • We have always been at War with East-Asia...

      That reminds me... I need lottery tickets!

  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:07PM (#7416884)
    This doesn't have anything to do with China's manned space mission, does it? I mean, now that China's got a man up in space (albeit temporarily), the USA wants its domination of space back?
    • by nucal (561664) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:15PM (#7416956)
      This doesn't have anything to do with China's manned space mission, does it?

      Why not? Competition is a good thing - competing with the USSR helped the US get to the moon in less than a decade. Competition from Craig Venter/Celera pushed the NIH to finish sequencing the human genome in half the projected time.

      Without competition, the government will just lumber along, chewing up money and then maybe or maybe not get to a useful endpoint. External competition helps government agencies become much more goal-oriented.

    • Not really. It does have everything to do with NASA trying to explain to Congress why we need a manned space program in the first place.
  • Another idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Empiric (675968) * on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:08PM (#7416889) Homepage
    I feel that most of the advantages mentioned for another moon project would also apply to a large expanse of oceanfront property I've had my eye on near Cancun, given a sufficient level of government support. I even have a white paper detailing the implementation, at a far reduced cost. Oh, and the command center would be *so* sweet...

    (A libertarian with karma to burn... whaddya expect...?)
  • Would a space elevator make local trips that bit more reasonable? Yeah it might be possible to build that 100x telescope, but how the heck to get it up there?

    Couple that with cheap(er) commercial space traffic and these projects become more likely. I see no reason why we can't be fiscally savvy and explore space at the same time.
    • Including Moon missions, Mars missions, asteroid belt missions - in fact, if you get a space elevator most of the Solar System becomes your oyster. However, nobody has demonstrated a macroscopic-size sample of a material that is strong enough to make a space elevator, let alone the ability to churn out thousands of tonnes of the stuff.

      IMHO, throwing some money at nanotube research is a very good investment, considering the myriad applications. However, designing your entire space program around a technology that may never be possible seems overly risky.

  • The moon is just itching for a theme park [tvtome.com].
  • Next Step (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mookielock (722111) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:10PM (#7416903)
    The moon is the next logical step for humanity. Why? Because its close, mainly. A permanant base on the moon will allow us to reach the rest of the solar system easier. There are tons of resoures that can be tapped on the moon, helium-3, for instance. Once we are on the moon, Mars, Jupiter's moons, and the asteroid belt would seem like reasonable destinations for humanity. We are so rapidly using up our resources here on earth, that is no alternatives are found, we will be doomed. Sure the costs and teh risks are astronomical (no pun intended), but the rewards should surely outweigh any such cost. The trick will be finding someone to foot the bill in order to get started.
    • Enlighten me. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kevlar (13509) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:29PM (#7417070)
      What exists on the Moon that cannot be found or created at a price tag magnitudes lower on the Earth?
      When we talk about going to the Moon, we're talking about Billions of dollars. That being said, I'm a _HUGE_ space and astronomy nut, but I do not see how going there will improve anything other than our nationalism. Perhaps it may help open the way for future cost effective space travel, BUT we are by no means anywhere near the point where we can justify the govt subsidizing such expenditures because the gains are VERY far away.

      Yes, space gave us Tang and Velcro but putting Shuttles into orbit and people on the Moon have not cured _any_ diseases. I would *love* to see Americans on the Moon again and I'd even be willing to help front the bill, BUT the Country does not consider this important.
      • > That being said, I'm a _HUGE_ space and astronomy nut, but I do not see how going there
        > will improve anything other than our nationalism.

        The one thing I hope it wouldn't increase is "nationalism". I'm not sure a project on the scale of colonising the moon would be feasible for a single nation, with the possible exception of China where no-one is going to complain about the excessive spending...

        Ponxx
  • Roger Angel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BaronCarlos (34713) <slashdotNO@SPAMgeekbrigade.com> on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:10PM (#7416906)
    Probably one of my favorite Astronomy Professors at the University of Arizona. He's never satisfied with the status quo. I know of other projects he's spearheaded, and he is always pushing the envelope of Astronomical Engineering.

    Ideas like "faster" mirrors for sky surveys (and asteroid watching) - where the limitation is that the mirror would gather so much information at once, its too fast for modern computers to process, and modern busses to transport.

    This is just one more example of ideas he's been dotting over.
  • At first I thought this was an article about the moon ejecting huge LUNAR FLARES at Earth. Whew.
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:11PM (#7416916)
    C'mon man - the cheese. What about the cheese. Geez.
  • We really went to the moon the first time?
  • stupidity (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:11PM (#7416919) Homepage
    Beaming power all the way from the moon is one of the most stupid ideas I've heard. If you want solar energy that badly, you can mine the moon for materials but the most logical place for the solar collectors is Earth orbit. You'd get an order of magnitude better efficiency by not transmitting power over such an enormous distance.

    But the article is facetious from the start; they claim the "only" way to keep up with power demand is through solar power. Whatever happened to nuclear? Reactors would easily cover any power demands for the next few centuries -- the next few millennia, if we ever get over the stupid dislike for breeder reactors.
  • by kippy (416183) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:13PM (#7416942)
    Mars is where we need to go. I agree that NASA does need some goal if they are ever going to do anything useful again but if they're going to set a goal, it should at least set a potentially habitable planet as a goal with the Moon as a sub goal or a proof of concept.

    Robert Zubrin [pioneerastro.com], president of Pioneer Astronautics [pioneerastro.com] and founder of the Mars Society [marssociety.org] has called for the mobilization [marssociety.org] of Mars exploration proponents to write their representatives on the future of post-Columbia NASA. From his announcement: 'This debate will play out over the next six months, and the result could determine the future of the American space program in our generation. Now is the time when anyone who cherishes hopes for a spacefaring future for humanity must step forward and speak up.'

    This is happening alongside the recent [marssociety.org] testimony [msnbc.com] Zubrin gave to the full Senate Commerce Committee on Oct 29th (audio [nw.net] files [nw.net] here [nw.net] and the .pdf [marssociety.org]) and the proposed Bill [house.gov] from Congressman Nick Lampson [house.gov] TX to restore Mars as a goal and put NASA on a schedule. Here [marssociety.org] are [marssociety.org] a [marssociety.org] few [marssociety.org] sample [marssociety.org] letters [marssociety.org] if you want to write your congressman [capwiz.com].
  • by Drog (114101) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:13PM (#7416943) Homepage
    For anyone interested, this story's author, apsmith, also wrote a longer, more detailed version of this story entitled "Politicians Catch The Space Bug", available here [sciscoop.com]. It's an excellent read.

  • "The Case for Mars", which makes the arguement that we should ignore the moon and instead head on out to the fourth planet.

    His arguements:
    1) In terms of energy, it's easier to go to Mars from LEO than the moon. (Takes longer, though.)
    2) Mars is a more interesting destination: because it has an atmosphere, a lot of engineering obstacles are solved because you can do all sorts of nifty engineering tricks to steal resources from the air.
    3) The moon is dead, and has always been dead. Mars, on the other hand, perhaps even once supported life. With effort on our part, perhaps it could again.

    Anyways, go to the Mars Direct [nw.net] site.

    -Brett
  • by herrvinny (698679) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:16PM (#7416968)
    We definitely need a moonbase. It's going to get very expensive if we keep on launching probes from Earth. Imagine how much fuel you're wasting just to get something up to escape velocity. If we build a moonbase, and use that as an assembly/construction point, then we can dedicate that much more money to better sensor arrays, cameras, etc.

    Not to mention, a moonbase is better than a space station because a space station has to correct it's orbit every so often, there's so much garbage in the space close to Earth, etc. At least the moon is a stable platform where we can build stuff on. Hell, perhaps we can find a cave or something and build laboratories inside that. That way, even if a rogue object hits the moon, the labs will be relatively safe.

    We can also build better telescopes. Imagine a telescope on the moon. A scope on Earth has to contend with the irregularities of the atmosphere, etc. But a moon telescope, forget it. Clear view all the way to Andromeda.

    What happened to all the dreams back in the 1970's? Wasn't there all sorts of notions about how soon man was going to have massive bases on the moon, etc? Now fast forward to 2003, oops sorry, no go.
    • What happened to all the dreams back in the 1970's?

      I think they were tempered by double digit inflation and interest rates, grafitti, and the overall destruction of our cities. Those were the dark days.
  • Like selling an acre of Lunar terrain for $29.95 [buylandonthemoon.com].

    I just hope it doesn't turn into 4-1-9 Lunar scam spam.

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:18PM (#7416983)
    .....is well put at this website [revisionism.nl].
  • Seeing as how China won in the enemy tryouts, maybe we are back to a mini cold war? I mean now that we have a new enemy?

    Hot dog! It'll be just like to good ole days except we're trading partners too.
  • Why would you want to have a base on the moon? The moon is at the bottom of a gravity well. It takes energy to get down and energy to climb back out. And all the time you are at the bottom of the well, random space rocks are being accellerated at you without the benefit of an atmosphere to afford you some protection.

  • by re-geeked (113937) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:31PM (#7417091)
    here [senate.gov]

    I've always thought the Moon would be a great place for a telescope, and he lays it all out in detail, including:

    • The Shackleton crater near the south pole is so deep it never gets sunlight.
    • Its rim, however, gets continual sunlight, so would be perfect for a solar-powered base
    • The ice cap provides lots of water for drinking and hydrolyzing into air(O2) and fuel(h2)
    • As a start, you could build a spinning-liquid telescope that points straight up, perfect for deep-field observation
    • Later on, you could build a huge optical scope, or even cover the whole crater with an interferometric array
    • nearby is one of the oldest, most geologically interesting craters on the moon

    He does miss one trick, which is that the moon itself provides the stiff structure required for long-baseline interferometry, which would be necessary to image planets around other stars.

    It's really nice to see this idea wrapped up in a neat package.

  • Well, the MPAA & RIAA haven't quite covered that area with lawyers yet.

    Might as well cover the moon before someone sets up a big movie & mp3 site, right? :P
  • 87 Billion? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Camel Pilot (78781)
    How far would $87 Billion gone towards development of a research outpost on the Moon?

    I wish we had leaders that are looking up and beyond and not try to right personal vendettes at the expense or our future.

    And BTW If deficits are o.k., which is what I have been hearing lately, why not go into hock for something for something with vision and with real lasting value.

  • where else could we put the giant frickin' laser?
  • by Linux_ho (205887) on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:39PM (#7417151) Homepage
    When NASA was preparing for the Apollo Project, it took the astronauts to a Navajo reservation in Arizona for training. One day, a Navajo elder and his son came across the space crew walking among the rocks.

    The elder, who spoke only Navajo, asked a question. His son translated for the NASA people: "What are these guys in the big suits doing?"

    One of the astronauts said that they were practicing for a trip to the moon. When his son relayed this comment the Navajo elder got all excited and asked if it would be possible to give to the astronauts a message to deliver to the moon.

    Recognizing a promotional opportunity when he saw one, a NASA official accompanying the astronauts said, "Why certainly!" and told an underling to get a tape recorder. The Navajo elder's comments into the microphone were brief. The NASA official asked the son if he would translate what his father had said. The son listened to the recording and laughed uproariously. But he refused to translate.

    So the NASA people took the tape to a nearby Navajo village and played it for other members of the tribe. They too laughed long and loudly but also refused to translate the elder's message to the moon. Finally, an official government translator was summoned. After he finally stopped laughing the translator relayed the message: "Watch out for these assholes. They have come to steal your land."
    • When Apollo Mission Astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" statement, but followed it by several remarks, including the usual COM traffic between him, the other astronauts, and Mission Control. Before he re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

      Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut. However, upon checking, [they found] there was
  • How long before the neocons see opportunities to "create wealth" (feh!) by making underground living spaces on the moon and nuke it to pieces. Anyone see the latest version of the Time Machine?
  • About solar power beamed down from the moon...

    Holy Crap!

    Hope their aim is good...

    Interestingly, Sim City has had power plants like this in the game for several years. I thought they were just pipe-dreaming ;)

    But seriously.. I am failing to understand the difference in output between lunar collection and terrestrial collection.

    Sure i understand things like clouds and nighttime will render terrestrial collection of solar energy. But on earth, don't we also require vast square miles of solar collectors
  • Meh - Not worth it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fenris2001 (210117) <fenris@n m t .edu> on Friday November 07, 2003 @12:55PM (#7417316)
    The Moon is just not worth it in terms of energy and materials - if you want solar collectors, a better place for them is in HEEO (highly elliptic Earth orbit), which experiences 99% sunshine, versus 50% for a location on the lunar surface. Add to that the difficulty in breaking down the highly oxidized lunar regolith, and the transporting the equipment to do so to the Moon, and you have one very expensive mining operation.

    The Moon may be useful as a platform for observatories (both optical and radio), but it's important to recognize that those are not commercially viable enterprises.

    Now, if you want to build things in space (solar collectors, colonies, etc), the best place to go looking for materials is the NEOs (Near Earth objects) that pass close to the Earth on a regular basis. About half of the NEOs out there are main belt asteriods that have had their orbits perturbed by Jupiter. The other half are extinct comets that have been pulled into short-term orbits and had all the ice in the first few meters of their surface removed. Between these two, you have everything you need: metals, organics, water, clays, salts, etc. All things that the Moon is severely lacking in. It has been remarked upon that the slag left over from processing the average NEO would be worht more than regolith.
  • by argoff (142580) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:05PM (#7417406)
    First off, the air pressure, gravity, sunlight, and temperature in the upper atmosphere on venus is very close to earth's. It also has a ton of carbon based chemichals for sustained life and oxygen in such an environment could be easially extracted. If fact it is the closest in the solar system to earth.

    Even though the upper atmosphere is mostly sulfuric acid, dealing with that is a lot easier than dealing with the vacume of space, lack of gravity, extreme tempurature shifts and almost complete lack of extra hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. A slightly pressurized oxygen baloon could easially float on it's own weight and sustain large city complexes, and if it leaked it could be fixed in due time and wouldn't immediately kill everybody.

    But most importantly - life on venus would be self sustainable because there are loads of natural resources and absolutely no shortage of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and a variety of other elements. (not in raw form of course)

  • by Qrlx (258924) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:09PM (#7417439) Homepage Journal
    Earth First! (We can mine the other planets later.)

    Seriously, has anyone given any thought to NOT fucking with the moon? I'm reminded of that episode of The Tick, where Chairface Chippendale carves his name into the moon with a giant laser.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:11PM (#7417457) Homepage Journal
    Returning to the Moon should be our next step.

    NO! NO! Mars is a much better place to go. The Moon is a pile of dead rock!

    We need SSTO.

    NO! NO! SSTO is too difficult and expensive! Expendables can do the job more cheaply until we've developed better technology.

    Capsules are stupid, you have little control over your landing area.

    Winged spacecraft are stupid! Wings are dead weight on the way up.

    Coming down on rockets (Delta Clipper) is stupid. You have to carry your landing fuel up, and then down, again.

    No concensus whatsoever. As a result, we either do NOTHING, or we do things halfway, and then change direction, which is WORSE.

    IMHO, one thing the space station has taught us is that building and running a space station is HARD. If there's ONE piece of value we should get out of the ISS, it's how the heck we can do it BETTER, if we can just get a Next Time.
  • camping trips (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bob_jenkins (144606) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:36PM (#7417711) Homepage Journal
    We're not a presence in space because we can only go on camping trips there, and there's not much useful you can do on a camping trip other than take pictures of yourself among the beautiful scenery.

    It's not enough to do camping trips. It's not enough to have an outpost that is continually restocked from home. It's not enough to have a self-supporting village out there. What is needed is a colony out there with the ability to build more colonies. Once we have a that, we can fill the space between the planets in the solar system. The reason to do that is to have more grandchildren.

    We don't have the technology to build a self-supporting village, much less a colony that can build new colonies. The moon can give us raw materials, but I doubt that its gravity is enough to prevent long-term bone loss and muscle atrophy in humans. We should look into rotating structures for how to live in space. And we need to work on closed biosystems. We've made good progress on solar cells, computers, and robots in recent decades, which definitely helps.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:41PM (#7417789)
    Lets face it, its sunset for the US manned space program. Huge, bloated projects like the $90 billion Space Station, that might not even be completed. then endless introspection when there is an accident.

    China has an efficient, working space program. They've cloned, and modernized the Soyuez, which is a much more cost-effective space vehicle than the space shuttle. And China has a national spirit for science. Its not like the US and Europe when leftists endlessly whine about hazards of progress and diversion of funds from social needs. And the US in a new Vietnam, an interminable war in Iraq and sinkhole for any economic surplus for science.

    "Ruguo nimen yao fangwen yuhuan, bixu xuexi Zhongwen!"
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Friday November 07, 2003 @01:50PM (#7417898) Homepage Journal
    Look kids, Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown started the California Space Institute at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla so he could have a California Space Program -- and that's where Criswell came up with his proposals for lunar energy. I actually worked for Criswell for a little while -- nice guy -- creative guy -- but really those who believe politicians should have any hand in these deliberations are profoundly confused about how stupid politicians are when it comes to deciding which technologies to fund.

    The issue here is not whether Criswell's moonbeam project is the right project to pursue with public funds.

    The issue is whether congress should be trying to buy off the technologists of the US, who are being outsourced into oblivion, with another sham space program -- especially when private efforts are starting to pick up steam on their own.

    Just let NASA die a natural death.

  • by Shafe (72598) on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:01PM (#7418611) Homepage
    Mars should be the ultimate destination for the next 15 years, but the moon should be a launchpad. Set up a small outpost on the moon and expand it from that point to a tiny village until it becomes the biggest extraterrestrial city in the solar system (that we know of). The resources of the moon are invaluable in our world's future, for its demanding energy requirements can easily be met by He-3 fusion and beamed solar electricity.

    He-3 is worth $4 billion/ton and there are over a million tons of it. That's $4 quadrillion dollars (yes, quadrillion). Not to mention the lower cost of solar array deployment and relatively easy delivery.

    Let's not forget that the number of graduates in the science and math areas DOUBLED during the 1960's because people were inspired to study hard and do something amazing with their lives. For the past thirty years we've been inspired by "ancient" technologies of Apollo, including computers with CPUs slower than that in my PDA.

    I would argue that the space program is what made America the technological epicenter that it is today, and a return to the moon and Mars would only rejuvenate interest in the sciences. I know it worked for me, and hell I have to watch Apollo 13 every few months to remind myself!

    Let's just see what the nation's reaction is when a new NASA direction is declared. Also, the American MER landers are arriving this January, and from what I learned in my interview with lead scientist Steve Squyres, it's going to be quite a show. Get ready for the next space race, and America ought to take the lead. Why? I think it's in our nation's collective blood. America is a nation of pioneers and was founded as one, and there's a whole lot of universe left to explore.

    Furthermore, I want my damn Millenium Falcon!
  • by MikeDawg (721537) on Saturday November 08, 2003 @12:02AM (#7422525) Homepage Journal

    I wonder who would own the moon in the case that scientist actually found a strong resource that would be invaluable here on Earth, or something along those lines. Every country that has a space program would head on up there and try to stake their claim at the moon, and even countries that didn't previously have a space program would probably develop one if there was a valuable resource on the moon to be gathered.

    Which brings me back to my original question, who would own the moon?

  • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Saturday November 08, 2003 @07:49AM (#7423478)
    It seems to me that many of the same Slashdotters ranting and raving against environmentalists, energy conservation, and solar power here on earth also are ardent proponents of colonizing the moon and the planets.

    Why is solar power good if it is a light second away but bad if it is in much more accessible places like the Sahara desert? Why not first deploy solar power stations in the Sahara and then figure out how to do it on the moon?

    And how do you think people are going to manage to live on the moon, where everything needs to be recycled, when we can't even manage to even keep our resource needs from growing disproportionately, let alone live in balance, here on earth?

    I think manned space exploration is a waste of money and time. But perhaps there is one good thing that would come out of it: a lot of people would finally begin to understand what environmentalists have been saying all along.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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