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NASA Mulling Earth-Moon L2 Point for Mars Staging Station 186

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the my-religion's-in-space dept.
jamstar7 writes "From the article: 'NASA is reportedly mulling the construction of a floating Moon base that would serve as a launching site for manned missions to Mars and other destinations more distant than any humans have traveled to so far. The Orlando Sentinel reported over the weekend that the proposed outpost, called a "gateway spacecraft," would support "a small astronaut crew and function as a staging area for future missions to the moon and Mars."' This is actually a good idea, using the Moon as a staging base for exploring the cosmos. Once we build manufacturing capability there, why not build spacecraft there? We can build bigger, more spacious craft so as to not lock up future astronauts in a closet for months or years at a time." Moon base isn't quite accurate: it would be a space station at the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point about 60000 km from the surface of the dark side of the moon.
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NASA Mulling Earth-Moon L2 Point for Mars Staging Station

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  • Dark side, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pmontra (738736) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @06:10AM (#41461713) Homepage
    Dark side as in "never receives the light of the Sun"? The Pink Floyd are still casting a dark shadow on astronomy beliefs ;-)
  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @08:34AM (#41462547) Journal

    Why don't we add lunar resource acquisition as spinoff applied research?

    With a smaller gravity well than Earth - it could be the future of space based colonization.

    This would probably then add to research that could go towards colonizing extraterrestrial bodies.

  • by jamstar7 (694492) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:20AM (#41462997)

    Yes, why not build spacecraft there? Because we don't have a trillion dollars to spare? That might be it.

    Another good reason is because we don't have any metal or fuel or supplies or people or vendors or communication infrastructure or USPS addressing locations or anything other than moon dust and nothingness on the moon.


    How many times must it be pointed out that back before Columbus sailed to the Americas, there were no Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or Apple stores in the area now known as the United States? Wasn't a lot of anything except a lot of forest.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:51AM (#41463389)

    1) Money isn't actually used up when we build things. The money goes into the hands of the people who build them, the people who create the materials in them, etc. None of the money will actually leave the planet.

    2) I'd rather spend a trillion dollars doing this than spend a trillion dollars fighting wars we don't need to fight.

  • by Yobgod Ababua (68687) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @10:31AM (#41463907)

    "Wasn't a lot of anything except a lot of forest."

    So only...
    Old growth trees (extremenly valuable at the time for shipbuilding).
    Vast tracts of untilled arable land.
    "Easily displaced" indiginents.

    Not to mention the coal and oil deposits discovered later.

    We know a lot more about what's on the moon than Columbus (or the Spaniards) did about North America, but what we know is that it's not all that.
    The moon, sadly, is kind of crappy resource-wise. It is, on the other hand, really handy for causing tides, which helped a lot of life proliferate down here, so go moon! (but don't necessarily go TO the moon)

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @01:38PM (#41466235)

    No, there's many other improvements too; any ship you build on Earth would have to withstand severe stresses in being launched out of the atmosphere. With a ship assembled in space, you don't have this problem; only the smaller assemblies need to withstand such stress, and that's much easier and cheaper. You don't have to build the ship to be as robust in this case.

    The other big improvement is that if you have some space-based or lunar-based infrastructure, you can mine the moon or asteroids for materials to build your ships, instead of mining it on earth's surface in someone's backyard, and then lifting it out of the gravity well. Yes, developing that infrastructure is by no means trivial, but once it's in place, it'll pay for itself over time.

  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @03:39PM (#41467971) Journal

    To turn regolith and rock into simple building supplies suitable for micro-g and airless environ, you need...considerably more.

    Exactly. You need a whole infrastructure to support all that stuff and to support itself.

    See, this is my minor gripe. Everybody's all about exploring. "We need to put astronauts on Mars! They'll accomplish more in a year than 50 years of Mars probes!" But, to me, this is just more of a circus.

    I'd rather see us return to the Moon to stay. That means figuring out how to stay there without getting supplies every month. There's water which we can drink. There's water which we can turn into oxygen. Not sure about the nitrogen part. What will be needed to create a habitat? Above ground? Below ground? Inflatable? Solid? Some combination of the four? How will we handle electricity? Solar? Nuclear? Some combination of the two?

    Can we add water to lunar soil and grow stuff in it? [] How will various tasty earth animals react to 1/6th G. Hell, how will human beings react to 1/6 G? Will we have more/less/the same problems we have with zero G? How can we turn lunar ores into useful metal which we could then use to build stuff?

    These are all answerable questions. There's no unobtainium necessary to do any of this stuff. You build up the infrastructure on the Moon. It may take 50 years. But, in 50 years, I'd rather look up at the Moon and see a community. I think that would be much better than some flag sitting among a pile of junk on Mars.

  • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @04:33PM (#41468963) Journal

    Most of what we consider "high tech" actually came out of WWII and the Space Race. We're in the last stages now of ideas and technologies that were originated to solve those goals. Now we need new goals.

    Basic research is of course needed, but if there is no place to focus it, mankind will get bored of it. It's like making national parks but not allowing people to go to them by either telling us we're not allowed to sully their pristine nature or just plain pricing the costs to visit them too high for the average person . Eventually people will forget about the flora and fauna there and not give a shit if some toad or owl goes extinct. Out of sight, out of mind. (Sorry, no car metaphor.)

    The same applies for basic research (for the most part). If people can't see it being applied somewhere eventually, they won't give a rat's ass whether funding is cut for it or not. That is what is happening now. To combat this we NEED some place to apply at least some of what we learn in a spectacular way. Then people, average people, the ones who actually pay for most of the research, can actually see some of what they are getting for the money, and how cool that stuff is; and how it is worth it. Even if only a small part is used in a new space race, it will be enough to help pull funding through for all the less glamorous areas of research.

    Stop thinking rationally if you want others to pay for your stuff. They'll only do it if they get something out of it. Directly. In the U.S., national pride is huge. The more you can help fuel that, the more money people will give you. Build a space station. A real space station, not just some "let's stick our toe in the water and do a bit of research" space station. Less of a lab, and more of a one that gives meaning to the word 'station', much like train station, and begins to make space travel routine. Use the research to create that in turn to create whole new technological ecosystems (much like the Apollo series did), and help keep people interested in science so they'll pay for more. The economic benefit (if it isn't offshored by some cynical self serving idiot) is that America will have technology to sell to the rest of the world that it doesn't yet have. This in turn fuels a healthy economy which can then afford to finance basic research. But only if the economic benefits STAY in the country.

    Cool sells. Space stations are cool. A nerd in some back lab is cool to many technology lovers, but even then, not all. And certainly not to most of the rest of society. Proof? People pay billions for spoiled sports stars to make millions entertaining them. This gives society a place to vent its anxieties and aggressions (even vicariously). And it is labelled cool and spectacular because it allows those human emotions in full force. Face it, some guy writing equations at a desk, or dolling out solutions from a pipette is pretty dull and boring in comparison. The science that excites is big rocket ships, robots, and risk. Give the crowds what they want, give them Orange Flavoured Tang and Space Opera [] and they will love you. Give them the spectator sport of science. Then you can pay for basic research. There is a grain of truth even in satire. In this case it is more like a boulder.

  • by Lucractius (649116) <{Lucractius} {at} {}> on Thursday September 27, 2012 @01:57AM (#41474521) Journal

    Which could be done really cheaply.
    Comsats are pretty much off the shelf these days, and GEO comsats are already hardened to more radiation due to their increased height. Further hardening might not be necessary depending on the design and capabilities.

    I still dont know why we havent built a Lunar comms and navigation satellite constellation. It would be trivially within the budget of a number of nations, companies, and could have even been incorporated into the budget of several large science missions. This doesnt need to be an irridium scale network of dozens and dozens of satellites, continuous coverage could be accomplished with just 6 sattelites like the small and cheap (by satellite standards) SN-100s from Sierra Nevada in order to keep the weight down since the lunar orbit boost would cost even more. But since they are small enough to be secondary payloads they could be bunched together on a single booster and sent to the moon together to cut down on launch costs as much as possible. And thats before exploring options like using hall effect thrusters like the SMART-1 mission did and getting to the moon the long slow way to be even more efficient for launch costs.

No hardware designer should be allowed to produce any piece of hardware until three software guys have signed off for it. -- Andy Tanenbaum