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Moon NASA Space Science

What If the Apollo Program Never Happened? 756

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-happens-on-luna-stays-on-luna dept.
astroengine writes "In a recent debate, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he would like to beat the Chinese back to the moon. He has even been so bold as to propose setting up a manned base by 2020, driven by empowering private industry to take the initiative. It's ironic to hear moon travel still being debated 40 years after the last Apollo landing in 1972. Between then and now, NASA's small space shuttle fleet filled in for space travel, but astronauts could only venture as far a low earth orbit — at an altitude much lower than the early pioneers reached. If there were no Apollo crash program to beat the Soviets to the moon, would we have planned to go to the moon eventually? But this time with a commitment of staying? Or would we never go?"
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What If the Apollo Program Never Happened?

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  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:23PM (#38867855)

    It's clearly impossible for an optical telescope on the Earth to resolve any of the Apollo hardware on the Moon, since the best systems, using adaptive optics in the near-infrared, can resolve details of maybe 0.02 arcsec. A lunar lander of width 5 meters, at a distance of 382,000 km, subtends an angle of 0.003 arcsec. The Hubble Space Telescope isn't appreciably closer the Moon, and its best resolution is about 0.03 arcsec in the near-UV. Not good enough. In fact, out by a decimal place.

    About the best you're ever going to get without walking up to the hardware itself is such as you'll find in NASA image AS15-9377[P]. This shows a resolution of something like 15m/pixel - not enough to make out the hardware or its orientation, but enough to describe a low shadow thrown by the lander stage. And *that* was taken from low lunar orbit (Apollo 15 CSM).

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:23PM (#38867865) Journal

    Seriously, anyone complaining that fusion research doesn't get any funding hasn't seen the budget for ITER - the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Last I checked it was around 15 Billion dollars. That also isn't the only fusion research going on - there's the National Ignition Facility for one, and I think a couple others too.

  • by vleo (7933) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:24PM (#38867887) Homepage Journal

    Sergei Korolev is very popular (cult) figure in Russia and city next to Moscow is named after him. That's not exactly "largely forgotten".

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:53PM (#38868373)

    It's not a question of optical quality, it's a question of physics. You can not get an angular resolution better than sin [Theta]=1.220(lambda/D), where D is the primary diameter, Theta is the angular resolution, lambda is the wavelength used and 1.220 is the first zero of the Bessel function: this is used to resolve distance between two points. If the distance is less than sin[Theta] then the two points cannot be resolved (separated).

    For a spy satellite to be able to read newspaper headlines over your shoulder, even in LEO, would require a primary several km in diameter and it would require that far UV is not absorbed by Earth's atmosphere.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:07PM (#38868563)

    That was an alternate universe. In this universe, we don't meet the Vulcans, and we never progress as a species to interstellar travel.

    I need to figure out how to invent an interdimensional travel device like on "Sliders", so I can move to the alternate universe where humanity didn't turn into a bunch of losers like this one.

  • Re:Ironic? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Biff Stu (654099) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:30PM (#38868875)

    I'm sorry, but pendantic flair is an example of an oxymoron, not irony.

  • by NalosLayor (958307) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:36PM (#38868965)
    Are you joking? Iron makes up nearly 15% of the moon's crust, with local concentrations varying. The same goes for aluminum. The plurality of the atoms in regolith are silicon which is even MORE useful for making solar power satellites. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon#Surface_geology [wikipedia.org] (see the table on the right).

    As for the gravity well. Remember the saturn V? That was required to get men *to* the moon. Remember the small box at the bottom of the lunar lander? That was the rocket required to get men *back from* the moon -- with room to spare for a light truck, no less. The gravity well on the moon is much, much, much much smaller than that on earth. The technology used in linear motors on rollercoasters is more or less perfect for launching satellites from the moon, using the same type of solar panels you would be exporting as your power source.
  • by Marcika (1003625) on Monday January 30, 2012 @04:38PM (#38869009)
    That's 15 billion dollars over 30 years, with costs shared by all global powers and the US pitching in a 9% share.

    I.e. the US in all likelihood pays less than 50 million a year towards it. (Less than the cost of a single fighter jet per year, not a big sacrifice when you already have 3000...)

  • Re:Ironic? (Score:5, Informative)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Monday January 30, 2012 @05:28PM (#38869607) Journal

    And what's it called when your pedantic point is misspelled?

    That would be irony...

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