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Moon NASA Space Science

Apollo Veteran: Skip Asteroid, Go To the Moon 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the left-his-jacket-there dept.
astroengine writes "It's 40 years to the day that the final mission to the moon launched. Discovery News speaks with Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt about where he thinks the Earth's only satellite came from and why he thinks a NASA manned asteroid mission is a mistake. 'I think an asteroid is a diversion,' said Schmitt. 'If the ultimate goal is to get to Mars, you have a satellite only three days away that has a great deal of science as well as resources. The science of the moon has just been scratched. We've hardly explored the moon.'" The National Research Council came out with a report a few days ago which found that the inability for the U.S. to find a consensus on where to go is damaging its ability to get there. Bill Nye spoke about the issue, saying, "I believe, as a country, we want to move NASA from [being] an engineering organization to a science organization, and this is going to take years, decades. Now, through investment, we have companies emerging that are exploring space on their own and will ultimately lower the cost of access to low-Earth orbit, which will free up NASA to go to these new and exciting places."
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Apollo Veteran: Skip Asteroid, Go To the Moon

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  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:53AM (#42214483) Homepage Journal

    "Alice, yer not going to an asteroid, but to the Moon!

    • Re:Ralph says (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:14AM (#42215095) Homepage Journal

      By 2020, and it's a private venture. [newsday.com]

      A team of former NASA executives will fly you to the moon in an out-of-this-world commercial venture combining the wizardry of Apollo and the marketing of Apple.

      For a mere $1.5 billion, the business is offering countries the chance to send two people to the moon and back, either for research or national prestige. And if you are an individual with that kind of money to spare, you too can go the moon for a couple days.

  • by Phrogman (80473) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:56AM (#42214503) Homepage

    out of the defense budget, and go do both. The US is already the dominate military power on the planet, bar none, so I am sure they could trim the military budget by a tiny percentage without anyone who doesn't wear a brass hat noticing. Whats the saying? "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon your talking real money?"
    Its nice to think that private enterprise will provide the means to get there (for whatever values of "there") but although its happening, its not happening overnight. NASA needs to continue doing it all themselves until business is established in orbit - otherwise we waste a few decades waiting for it. As well, think of all the scientific discoveries we might make during this moon mission series. The last one turned out pretty well didn't it?

    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:19AM (#42214645)

      Politically speaking, about the only way to do that would be to get the defense contractors on board (since they all but own Congress outright). Unless Congress puts Northrop Grumman in charge of building the craft, Blackwater (or whatever they're calling themselves this week) in charge of moon security, and KBR in charge of moon logistics, you can forget diverting any money from defense.

      • by Phrogman (80473)

        And you can just bet that those contractors are giving the military the "best" deal they could too, not padding it any way. Trim those costs down a tad then :P
        As for Blackwater, I am just fine if all of their employees get shipped to the moon - one way :) (I don't believe in private armies)

        • by kimvette (919543)

          > (I don't believe in private armies)

          Believe in them or not, they are allowed under the second amendment.

          • Don't we all love to assign misspent money to our favourite cause? And they worked so damn hard for their misbegotten windfall. Suck it up DoD. We going to space. Cry babies.

            > (I don't believe in private armies)
            Believe in them or not, they are allowed under the second amendment.

            A mall cop by any other name is still a mall cop, and the credibility gap endures.

            It strikes me that space exploration is not the highest priority when your home planet has a burgeoning fever unless you're the sort of person p

      • by alen (225700) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:36AM (#42214779)

        and who is going to build these spaceships? Toyota?

        The defense contractors were the ones who built apollo. Northrom Grumman built the moon lander outside of NYC

        • Yep. The Lunar module was built by Grumman (way before Northrop got involved with them) on Long Island, and the Command and Service modules were built by North American Aviation in Downey, CA. NAA was taken over by Rockwell, and eventually became part of Boeing.

          The Saturn V rocket was built by Boeing, NAA, and Douglas, with the guidance computer being built by IBM.

          • by Zordak (123132)

            Yep. The Lunar module was built by Grumman (way before Northrop got involved with them)

            And Grumman subcontracted the rockets on the LEM to TRW. So when you see the Grumman weenie on "Apollo 13" whining about how the LEM rockets weren't designed to fire and cold soak, fire and cold soak, but it worked out fine anyway, it's because TRW made awesome rockets that were better than they needed to be.

            Then Northrop and Grumman merged, then I worked for TRW and was really proud of working for the company that made the awesome better-than-they-needed-to-be rockets instead of the company with the whiny

            • IIRC, Gene Kranz and a couple others from Mission Control have stated that the CYA guy from Grumman was a cinematic invention by Ron Howard. And that Grumman actually distinguished themselves quite well during the mission.

              They damned well better have, considering the towing bill they sent NAA:

              http://everything2.com/title/Apollo+13+towing+bill [everything2.com]

        • by mfnickster (182520) on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:39PM (#42217223)

          > and who is going to build these spaceships? Toyota?

          I heard that Nissan put a Pathfinder on Mars.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        Or, we can just stop being the world's police force, keep our defense budget up (note: I said defense, not police budget expenditures), and put those savings toward NASA. Additionally we can pull hundreds of billions in foreign aid and put that into our domestic scientific, engineering, and manufacturing base instead. Or, how about this: axe federal spending, slash taxes, and let the people keep their money, and allow unfettered private companies to develop this stuff commercially? I'm sure there are many w

        • by number6x (626555)

          "Additionally we can pull hundreds of billions in foreign aid and put that into our domestic scientific, engineering, and manufacturing base instead. "

          It might be hard to pull a few hundreds of billions out of foreign aid because our total foreign aid is about $52B a year. That includes "military" foreign aid.

          That's for 2011, and it is about $4B greater than 2010. Unless we added another $48B or so in foreign aid in the last year, it is going to be hard to trim $100B from a $52B budget.

          Even trimming $100

          • by cusco (717999)
            And a third of that is required to go to Israel. When polling companies ask Fox new watchers what percentage of the Federal budget went to foreign aid the reply is in the "20-30%" range.

            Even trimming $100B from a $683B Military budget might be hard.

            Especially when the people controlling that budget have unlimited access to snipers...
      • Defense contractors--at least with respect to hardware--are on board, they have and are NASA's primary contractors. Lockheed, ATK, Boeing, etc.. I really don't think they would care much at all what they're put to work on building. Most Republicans and a large chunk of Democrats in Congress along with their emotionally charged, "put a boot int their a**" constituents would rather see the M.I.C. put to work "making us safe", which is more accurately read, "making weapons and putting craters in the middle-
    • by Hatta (162192)

      The US would still be the world's dominant military power if we cut the defense budget in half. We should do this, and give it all to science.

      • How about we just cut the budget 10% across the board for starters? With $16.3 Trillion in debt (and growing), we need to stop wasting money.

        The whole "take from this and give to that" doesn't work long term. Back in 1972 when Project Apollo was canceled, the excuse was that we were "spending too much money in space". (Think about that for a minute -- I'm pretty sure all the money was actually spent on this planet.) Ultimately, the "why spend money in space when we have hungry people on Earth" crowd won out

      • by cusco (717999)
        The Pentagon budget could be cut by 80% and we would still have the world's largest military budget. It could be cut by 70% and we would still be spending twice what the second highest-spending country (China) does. Awe-inspiring, isn't it?
    • by Artraze (600366) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:36AM (#42214777)

      > The US is already the dominate military power on the planet, bar none, so I am sure they could trim the military budget by a tiny percentage

      I'm not really disagreeing, but I do think there's an important point people overlook when discussing things like this: Military dominance is all about spending. It's quite like a bleeding edge computer. You spend thousands on the best of the best, and in a year's time anyone could have the same setup from a quarter the price. You're then either with the Joes or spending more to stay on top. You can't really step back and say 'okay, we spent enough'; it's literally an arms race and staying ahead is expensive.

      > Its nice to think that private enterprise will provide the means to get there (for whatever values of "there") but although its happening, its not happening overnight.

      I'd point out that NASA isn't exactly doing anything overnight either. As long as it's taking for private enterprise to enter the game, they seem to be moving faster once they're in it. Honestly, I wouldn't be too surprised if the next exploration mission is privately funded at this point.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        The US also spends so much because it's allies do a fair amount of freeloading. The US spends so much on the military that countries friendly to it can spend less since they count on US power making up the difference. That means that the US military budget as a ratio to the rest of the world is even higher (not only does the US spend a lot, other parts of the world spend less than they would if the US wasn't doing so). Heck even unfriendly (to the US) nations benefit from the US military keeping things like

        • by Zeromous (668365)

          Freeloading ? What a load of crap.

          More like America coming over to your house and ordering fiber to your door and then paying for it. Then America gets hungry and orders pizza for all your friends at the now burgeoning LAN party. Give me a break.

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            Do you really think that, say, Australia's military budget wouldn't have been higher if it wasn't under the US's nuclear umbrella?

            But I already said that the US doesn't do that because it is trying to be nice - it derives benefits from it. Two paragraphs was too much for you to read?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        You can't really step back and say 'okay, we spent enough'; it's literally an arms race and staying ahead is expensive.

        We can because we have nukes. No-one will invade us because we can nuke them. We still need a military to defend our borders from small scale invasions like the Falklands in the 80s, and to participate in peacekeeping etc. But we don't need a massive military with a fleet of ships and planes and hundreds of thousands of men.

        Or at least we wouldn't if we didn't keep starting wars, but that's a need of our own making.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Security and defense is not just about large scale deterrence. There are smaller level threats out there that, over the long term, are extremely dangerous, but which there is no way you could justify using a nuclear weapon on civilian centers to solve.

          Take for instance religious extremists. On one hand, if they are sincere, they think they can win any engagement because God is on their side. The confidence it gives you is like having a working missile defense system without actually to actually build one

    • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Friday December 07, 2012 @01:14PM (#42217667)

      The US is already the dominate military power on the planet, bar none

      I know I'm not going to be terribly popular with what I'm about to say but I think it bares saying anyway. The power of a nation's military is not in its present inventory of weapons. They are here one day and blow to bits the next. The power of a nation's military is in its manufacturing capability and the ability to maintain the supply of raw goods to them in a time of war. All of these high-tech weapons are nothing but a flash in the pan if they cannot be replaced at the pace at which they are consumed, or faster. Bleeding edge, billion dollar bombers are worthless if there's no fuel to get them into the air. Blueprints for matchless weapons are worthless if manufacturing capacity cannot supply but a trickle to a rapidly depleting inventory. A gun without bullets becomes peer to a steel pipe in the hands of the person that wields it.

      Now tell me, who has the largest and most rapidly expanding manufacturing and logistics capability in the world? It sure as hell isn't the US. Take a random sample of the objects presently surrounding you and look at their "made in" label. Notice a theme? What oil field does your fuel come from? There are strong odds against it being Texas.

  • I'm not sure there's any difficulties finding that consensus: People tell me where to go all the time!

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:06AM (#42214555) Homepage

    The ugly reality is that our society has shifted toward one focused on inward spending and care, not outward focus and exploration. This was inevitable with the radical demographics change that has happened in the last 15 years as the Baby Boomers, who are something like 1:1.5 with Generation X and Millennial put together got to the point where they need to start retiring. Aging societies become inward focused, with the focus being on domestic spending, not "young activities" like exploring new frontiers at tax payers expenses.

    An elderly relative of mine was complaining about the cost overruns on the F35, and I pointed out to them that the whole federal R&D budget across all departments was likely less than the $112B in Medicare fraud that the OIG for Medicare uncovered about six months to a year ago. Many of those overruns aren't even "fraud" but rather are caused by things like different government "stakeholders" coming in at the 11th hour to add new requirements on projects (IIRC, the F35 was almost done, and the USMC nearly killed it by demanding that they get their VTOL piece come hell or high water even though it was ready for NATO naval forces).

    It was disheartening for them to hear the plain and simple truth: we are an aging society that is cannibalizing its stored wealth to lavish retirement and health care benefits on the older citizens. It is absolutely true that we don't have money anymore for foreign wars and big military adventures. It's also true that at present budget projections we won't have a budget for NASA, the NSF, federal law enforcement, the US highway system, education subsidies and anything else that doesn't revolve around pure entitlement spending for the massive waves of retirees hitting and about to hit the system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We've always known that the population was aging, and that the baby boomers were going to need the services they already paid for. It's been planned, and we've been paying in to it so we could feel as though we'd be taken care of in our retirement. With our own money.

      If the government can't get their financial act together, then it shouldn't affect the people who pay their own way. It's got to come from other places.

      • With what money??! The money that went toward Social Security has long been spent and replaced with IOUs in the form of Treasury bonds. This nation is fucked!

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      We just need to combine these two things.
      Space exploration using oldsters. Problem solved.

      • by khallow (566160)
        It's not that crazy. Space activities, especially deep space activities, come with some degree of radiation exposure which can lead to cancer and other illnesses down the road. An older person won't be as affected as a younger person because they tend to die of something else first.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Hey, I'll go!!!

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      If it is between space and keeping old people from dying, space is going to lose, every time. It's pretty stupid of you to frame it this way [wikipedia.org].

      Well, unless, of course, you don't give a fuck about space and just want to sneak your personal wharrgarbl into a thread that has nothing to do with it.

    • by medcalf (68293)
      The way out is inevitable: default. I don't mean default on the debt, but default on the promises made to seniors. Effectively, what happened in that the people who are seniors now or about to become so, promised themselves (back when they were younger) that their children and grandchildren would pay them benefits premised on a rate of growth of both population and wealth that simply did not occur. Since the economic and human foundation does not exist for paying off those promises, they will not be paid of
    • What you're saying is that the Baby Boomers' lives were used up making the rich richer, and have a lot less wealth for themselves to show for their enriching the rich... The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. When the employees make the companies rich, but the employees themselves see little increase in wealth proportionately, this means the wealth at the top has been leached from not just the employees, but also the public at large as customers. I see articles about Facebook, GM, Apple,

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      we are an aging society that is cannibalizing its stored wealth to lavish retirement and health care benefits on the older citizens

      LAVISH retirements and health care benefits?? If I had to live on SS alone I would be in dire poverty, and anyone who lives on SS alone is dirt poor. LAVASH health care? If that were true, AARP wouldn't be selling medicare suppliment insurance.

      Lavish, my ass. Compared to civilized nations like Sweden and Norway and Germany, the benefits geezers get are disgustingly niggling.

  • forget going back to the moon as the purpose of NASA is to drive the development and use of new technology, which means the asteroid is the better choice. Heck it even gets us a foothold in space as the best way to build the vessel for that mission is in LEO (low earth orbit). Expand the god damn ISS into a proper space station folks and lets get working.

  • Moonopoly (Score:5, Funny)

    by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:51AM (#42214897)

    Skip Asteroid, Go To the Moon

    Do not pass the LaGrange point, do not collect $2bn.

  • Just gear up and go to Mars, better yet concentrate and figuring out how to build the Fastest damn spaceship possible, something that can reach .5 the speed of light or faster, load some people on board for a one way trip and aim it at a nearby star. Lets stop wasting time looking at blurry pictures through telescopes and just get out there and see what we find.

    • by dkf (304284)

      better yet concentrate and figuring out how to build the Fastest damn spaceship possible, something that can reach .5 the speed of light or faster,

      Were you planning on fueling that with magic pixie dust? Seriously, accelerating large masses to those sorts of speeds, even in space where there's greatly reduced friction, is significantly beyond what we can do now. Going to the moon, or Mars, or even anywhere else in solar system, is simple by comparison.

      Of course, if we ever figure it out then we can and should go to the stars, but it really isn't what you'd call a sane short-term or even medium-term plan. It requires the existence of things that we've

  • Let's put a data center on the moon and get the whole world in on the project much as with the international space station.

  • For different reasons- one wants to shrink government, the other focus on social problems. Unfortunately since both agree on the result, there will be continuing pressure to shrink.
  • ....of AND!

    Why is it an either/or? Theres a lot of people and a lot of space to expand into. Asteroid mining means collecting resources, already in space. In the short term, it will take a lot of resources to grab and start, but long term, every ton of iron prepared and used in space, is a ton of iron that doesn't have to be lifted out of our gravity well to get out there.

    Clearly, the moon, as a huge satelite that already exists....hell yes. Lets get a colony up there already.

    I always find it amusing all th

  • ...somewhere different. Plus, an asteroid gives us practice for visiting Phobos or Deimos.

  • It doesn't really matter anyway. Vague "mission plans" that reach 20 years into the future are just elaborate ways of saying that you don't really want to go anywhere.
  • The problem is that the neo-cons have attempted to override him and are pushing NASA into being a jobs bill. O wants to get private space going. Once going, NASA will work with them, while getting us to asteroids and then mars. But does that mean that the moon is dead? Nope. It is INTENDED that private space will go to the moon.

    So, why do I bring up the neo-cons? Because they want to waste money on Constellation, and now on the SLS., all while working hard to kill off private space. Throwing money at the

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