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Back To the Moon — In Four Years 292

Posted by Soulskill
from the sign-me-up dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "Gene Grush, a former division chief at NASA Johnson, has written a series of articles on how the U.S. can return to the Moon in four years. He says not only can we land there, but we can actually build a base on the Moon as well. How is this feasible? A public/private partnership between NASA and a private space company. Quoting: 'The biggest obstacle is the lack of a rocket, called a super heavy launch vehicle, to lift it off the planet. NASA is working on one, called the Space Launch System, but the agency is constrained by its budget and the likelihood of it flying in that time frame is slim. But there’s an interim solution: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will have its maiden flight this year and can supposedly launch up to 53 metric tons into orbit.'

'[I]f NASA makes lowering launch costs its highest priority, escaping the bonds that hold us to Earth will be financially feasible. We don’t do this by controlling the design so much as the frequency -- we are the customer, after all.' 'The development of a lunar base could be a catalyst for lowering our launch cost to space and accelerating the development of automation and robotics. ... If America doesn’t step up to the plate, China’s ambitions for the moon may establish it as the “go-to” nation for space exploration. Many nations of the world privately say they want the moon to be the next step in space exploration -- but they can’t get there on their own. They need a technically savvy and resourceful country to lead.'"
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Back To the Moon — In Four Years

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  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:01AM (#46543385) Homepage Journal

    I won't claim that NASA isn't serving as a conduit between the dollar printing engine and SpaceX and providing some land facilities, but aside from that, NASA hasn't been able to get back to the moon in 40 years. Assuming there's a good reason to do so (H3 is good enough for me, even if it's a bit soon) SpaceX can conceivably raise the funds on their own and find a jurisdiction friendly to their launch requirements. Even if NASA weren't interested, SpaceX would still get to the moon in relatively short order - even if only as a testbed for Mars landings.

    • by smaddox (928261) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:56AM (#46543915)

      I'm assuming you meant He3, but it is worthless without a working fusion reactor, of which we have none. The only value of a lunar base would be as an intermediate port for assembling large ships for longer journeys. Well, that and you could make some badass telescopes on the dark side.

      • It'll work just fine in baloons though.
      • by multi io (640409)

        Well, that and you could make some badass telescopes on the dark side.

        You mean on the far site.

        • Would it not work better in permanently dark craters at the poles?

        • Well, that and you could make some badass telescopes on the dark side.

          You mean on the far site.

          Or perhaps he means in a crater near one of the poles, like Shackleton crater [wikipedia.org]. These are known as "craters of eternal darkness," by the way, which obviously sounds way cooler than "the dark side of the Moon."

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Don't forget fuel depot - I believe there are at least a handful of scientifically vetted plans for mining and refining chemical fuel on the Moon, which could then be delivered to Earth or Lunar orbit for a fraction of the cost of fuel lifted from the Earth' surface, enabling far more sophisticated orbital space programs, even if we were never to go beyond Earth's local space.

        And for longer-range flights there's the fact that the vast mass of the material leaving Earth's orbit would be fuel, so reducing the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VortexCortex (1117377)

      Assuming there's a good reason to do

      A moon base means learning how to survive without a magnetosphere.

      You are now aware that we are over 500000 years OVERDUE for our magnetosphere to falter, disappear, and be rebuilt in the opposing polarity. Saving the fucking world should be enough reason for any sentient race to seek self sustaining off-world colonization. In fact, if ending the assured threat of extinction by making sure all your eggs aren't in one basket isn't your #1 priority as a species, then are you really sentient, or just a bunc

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        Trying to get governments to fund a measure that is that kind of VERY long-term is difficult when so many are facing much more immediate problems. It's sort of like the heat-death of the universe. Sure, we know it's coming, but my kids need to eat TODAY.

      • A moon base means learning how to survive without a magnetosphere.

        Except that we already know how to do that: use shielding.

        What we don't know how to do is deal with the social and economic consequences. But a moon base would provide no useful information for that.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        magnetosphere to falter, disappear, and be rebuilt in the opposing polarity

        It will not disappear - it will become more complex and less effective at blocking solar radiation. But that shouldn't matter to those of us on the ground, since we have the atmosphere to protect us. The folks in the space station might have a problem, however.

      • Anyone who doesn't realize we don't have the tech to build a self sustaining off-world colony... is an idiot. We can't even build a closed loop ECLSS that will keep a handful of people in O2 indefinitely without outside support - let alone all the other infrastructure of an industrial society. We barely have a handle on the known unknowns. And given the example of terrestrial colonies, it's not at all clear it's even possible to build a fully self supporting colony. (And for a lunar colony, unlike terre

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:35PM (#46544315)

      He3 is fuel for reactors we don't even know how to build yet. The moon is a very useful place to have a base scientifically (Great for astronomy in all bands) but commercially, not much use. There's no money in it. The ore isn't good enough to pay for the cost of getting it, communications and earth science are better done in more-affordable earth orbit, it's too far to transmit power. It could serve as a good waypoint for longer journeys, manufacturing fuel in the shallow gravity well, but there's no commercial possibility further out either. Lofty dreams of colonising space don't pay the bills.

      We'll probably still be saying that when the meteor hits.

    • by JeffAtl (1737988)

      NASA hasn't been able to get back to the moon in 40 years

      It's not like NASA has been trying to get back to the moon and has been failing. NASA hasn't been back to the moon in 40 years due to political reasons, not technical ones.

  • by adric22 (413850) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:03AM (#46543405) Homepage

    You know just 1% of our military budget diverted to NASA could do amazing things.. imagine if we diverted half of that budget!

    • by deathcloset (626704) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:25AM (#46543591) Journal
      By slashing the US military budget like that we could quickly and easily build a moon base which along with our country would quickly and easily be taken over by another country's military.

      ;) oh I kid.

      But honestly, what do you think would happen if the US military were suddenly defunded? Do you think the other countries would be like - good for them! We don't need militaries any more any how and certainly not a single one of us big countries with our current militaries would ever dream of using our forces again the US, even as defenseless as they are right now with all their resources and food and two coastlines and pop music...

      All snarkiness aside, I agree with your sentiment and wish we had interplanetary spacecraft and bases on more than one moon :( - almost even at the risk of the US's national security...almost.

      And I almost actually believe that even if the US military were to shrink hugely that we would not be attacked, because I don't think the average citizen in a non-us western country would want to attack/invade another civilized country. No, not the people, but the governments of those countries (governments are things which function almost like independent living entities themselves seemingly making their own decisions) are what there is to be concerned about.

      Yes, civilized countries maintaining huge military powers is just the way it is right now. In the future when countries don't have militaries anymore I'm sure we will look back on our time the same way we look at the american old west: we will understand that the environment of the time required that everyone carry a pistol, and that the harshness of the climate (ecological, financial and social) resulted in far more altercations than would seem reasonable - but they will understand.

      And they will probably make a ton of movies about our time too.

      And they will probably watch them on their fancy-dancy moon bases.

      whatever. good for them.

      ;)
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Governments are a reflection of the people.

        Most people refuse to believe this because their evil is just on a smaller scale. There are actually countries that aren't greedy and don't think the only way to survive is to grab as much as possible.

      • by Patch86 (1465427) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:21PM (#46544169)

        The US military budget is the same as the next 10 biggest national military budgets put together. Yes, that includes China- and 9 more. Put together. And that's forgetting the fact that the US military isn't just the military of the US- it includes all of the NATO forces (which is fully 5 of the top 10 spenders, and 23 other non-top-10 members), as well as functionally close allies like Japan and South Korea (numbers 5 and 12 in the "top spending" rankings).

        The US would be in no great danger if it lopped 5% off of it's military budget. You could cut the budget in half and it would still be larger than numbers 2 and 3 (China and Russia) put together. Again, not even counting NATO.

        To put figures on it- the Apollo programme was estimated to have costed $109 billion in 2010 dollar (accounting for inflation). That's for the full 15 year or so programme. The US was estimated to have spent $682 billion in 2013 on the military. So to pay for the entire Apollo programme all over again, you would only need to divert roughly 1.2% of the annual military budget each year.

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:41PM (#46544399)

        The US military budget is huge. Plus they can't be attacked, for they have nuclear weapons. If China invades and come close to looking like they might win, no more major Chinese cities.

        A huge slash in military spending won't threaten the US directly. It will lessen their force projection abilities - their power to invade somewhere like Afganistan and Iraq. The threat of the US doing that is enough to keep some countries in line - it's the reason Israel hasn't been invaded, and why North Korea hasn't done more than sabre-rattling against the south. Consider it the 'Pax Americana' - the various oppressive dictators of the world know they are free to oppress their own people, but start invading their neighbors and there will be an American bomb* coming through the palace roof. Except for Russia, for obvious reasons.

        *With 'Made in China' written on it.

        • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:50PM (#46544497)

          You don't need to slash the military budget to fund NASA. What you need to do is give NASA a budget of the amount they currently have, and let NASA choose how to allocate it. Let them pick the research, technology and contractors, and just give them a general mandate of scientific exploration of the solar system, and maybe a secondary one of "advance manned space flight".

          Currently they have the ridiculous situation where congressmen pick the projects, and somehow wind up picking the technologies (solid fuel boosters are *clearly* the best choice, because they're made in my district you see!).

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:59PM (#46544647) Homepage Journal

        But honestly, what do you think would happen if the US military were suddenly defunded?

        A lot of bullshit pork contracts would have their fat trimmed, we'd murder less people for profit, or both.

    • by mlts (1038732)

      Funding a new moon shot and colony would make a new economic boom. The last Space Age gave us a lot of useful items. Another moon race, this time with tech from this decade instead of 1960s technology may bring about a lot of useful side projects.

      At the minimum, it would bring a renaissance to both embedded programming and computer development in general (mainly because there is no room for error, and shipping an "early alpha" as release code just won't cut it.) It might even result in software developme

    • by tomhath (637240)
      NASA == Military. You can't separate them, just shuffle money around to hide actual costs.
    • You know just 1% of our military budget diverted to NASA could do amazing things.. imagine if we diverted half of that budget!

      To put that in perspective, you're talking about diverting about $5 billion from military spending, which would increase NASA's budget by about a quarter. If they put it all toward space stuff, it's an even larger increase. Check out the NASA 2015 budget request summary [nasa.gov]. No, seriously, check it out, it's actually a really interesting document with pictures, details, and progress of all of their programs.

      Whenever people talk about cutting or diverting budgets, it usually means shaking up and losing jobs,

  • The moon is a symbol, but there's no *practical* reason to go there, establish a base, a colony, or a really good restaurant. Near earth orbital stations, in contrast, might be developed profitably for power stations, zero G manufacturing of exotic materials, ubiquitous satellite-based internet, and so on.

    The focus on the moon and Mars is just cold war era, retro silliness. We have limited resources to throw at space. This is the time to throw them at something that will give us some return.

    • The moon is rich in valuable resources (water: hydrogen, oxygen) that are hard to find elsewhere in Earth orbit. These resources are much cheaper (in an asymptotic sense) to get from the moon than from Earth due to the weaker gravity. The moon will be a practical location for a base for as long as demand for fuel, air, and water in Earth orbit remains high.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        It's a lot easier to get water from earth, then it is to launch a rocket to the moon, gather up sparsely distributed water or elements that make up water, and get it back to earth. Even desalination of sea water would be many times more efficient than going to the moon to get water. There's a lot of water on earth, the problem is that it's badly distributed.

        I would say that it's entirely likely that the amount of water you could get from a single rocket trip to the moon, would be less than that which yo
        • It takes roughly an order of magnitude more energy to get water into space from the Earth than it does from the moon.

          I said "in an asymptotic sense". If you're not familiar with asymptotic analysis, then the response you were looking for was "*whoosh*". Nobody's talking about a single rocket trip to the moon.
        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Your reading comprehension needs work.

          Or are you so used to setting up strawmen and burning them that you got carried away?

        • by Bengie (1121981)
          I assume this is a bad attempt at trolling, but we don't need to bring water to Earth, we want water as fuel for space ships and if that fuels is easier to get from the Moon, then it'll lower costs.

          Step1) Launch ship into space
          Step2) Refuel from the Moon
          Step3) To infinity and beyond!
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      The moon consists of a large amount of helium 3, a wonderful fuel source that can easily be used to go pretty much everywhere else in the solar system.

      Most current space ships have to lift the fuel out of the earth's gravity well, which means they have practically none left to go anywhere at speed. instead they drift along without any engine providing thrust.

      So yes there ARE practical reasons to go to the moon.

      P.S. Your argument itself is flawed. People said the same thing about the Louisiana purch

      • Helium 3 *might* be useful if fusion research goes the way that many people expect it to. But considering that a lot of those same people expected us to have a useful fusion reactor by 1990, I don't put a ton of stock into their opinions.

        You might have missed it in the newspapers, but people went to the moon repeatedly in the late 60s and early 70s. They brought back a ton of rocks for analysis. That analysis showed that the moon contained a bunch of worthless rocks that were very similar to the worthles

      • The moon consists of a large amount of helium 3

        Well... relatively. It would still take processing hundreds of tons of lunar rock to get useful amounts of He3, which in turn means hundreds of tons of equipment, fuel, etc, especially since you're going to want lots and lots of the stuff, not just a sample.

        a wonderful fuel source that can easily be used to go pretty much everywhere else in the solar system.

        Easily? You know we do have He3 here on Earth right and we still aren't at the point of firing up a fusion reactor with it. Granted, if there were a large and steady supply it would certainly lead to more research into He3 reactors (right now He3 rea

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Unless I'm much mistaken, helium-3 is useful only for nuclear fusion. As controllable cold fusion is *still* "40 years away", and as hot fusion (aka nuclear warheads) are still banned in space under international law (and of unproven use as a propulsion method anyway), then there's still no reason to go to the moon (yet).

        IF we ever get cold fusion working, and IF the method of cold fusion we get working could usefully use helium-3, and IF mining the stuff from the moon is cheaper than making use of earth-bo

    • by gclef (96311)

      Agree. The moon's dust problem alone makes it problematic. I'd argue for L4 or L5 before the moon. There's still some dust at L4 & L5, but the sheer amount of it is much lower, and the gravity well to get there (and leave again) is much lower. It's not as inpsiring to say "we're on L4!", but it's also a first-person-gets-it kinda situation...you can have multiple moon bases, but really only one at L4 or L5.

    • I agree with you on the most part as long as we are thinking of things in the sense of economic/investment value.

      Think of anything really and ask yourself whether it makes more sense to build/do such in space or down in another gravity well.

      But for raw science, I would hope that we start deploying (very) large telescopes on the far side of the moon.

    • by KDN (3283) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:45AM (#46543767)
      No reason to go? Exploration, research, challenges and opportunities and technical advances that we can't even begin to articulate. We have not even begun to explore the moon. More men accompanied Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World than have landed on the moon. Even without men we can send dozens of missions to help iron out the details of new propulsion systems like ion or hall or vascimar. We can develop and deploy robotic probes with a far faster turn around time (and less need to gold plate everything) by doing the development on the moon instead of Mars. We can see the long term radiation effects on materials once they are outside of Earth's protective magnetic field. Put even a small observatory on the far side of the moon and you open up huge opportunities shielded from all the transmitters on Earth, and outside of Earth's atmosphere. I would put several at different spots to enable long baseline measurements as well as lessen the expense of triple redundant systems in case of failure.

      H

      And lastly, give this generation something to shoot for. Something other than the newest Angry Birds or social media app. Something to shoot for, to make history, to inspire a new generation like JFK's speech on going to the moon. It will happen. The question is, will they speak Chinese or American?

    • ... We have limited resources to throw at space. This is the time to throw them at something that will give us some return.

      We have limited resources to throw at space because we have limited resources down here - but I know a place with ~limitless resources and it's called space. True, it's full of mostly nothing, but where there is something there tends to be a whooooooole lot of something.

      What's on the moon anyhow? Rocks? Are you sure that's all? We can't really be sure unless we look.

    • The moon is a symbol, but there's no *practical* reason to go there, establish a base, a colony, or a really good restaurant.

      Colonies are the reason. We need to get some of our eggs out of this Earth-shaped basket. Having a colony in Earth orbit is the easiest place to start, and the Moon is the easiest place in Earth orbit. It has gravity, so there's no need to tether everything like there is on ISS, and it has ground, which is a good source of building materials and momentum. Digging out a decently-sized lunar colony (robotically, or course) would be far easier than crafting the same size colony in free space.

      Near earth orbital stations, in contrast, might be developed profitably for power stations, zero G manufacturing of exotic materials, ubiquitous satellite-based internet, and so on.

      These are all shor

    • This is the time to throw them at something that will give us some return.

      Did you brush your teeth with toothpaste? How about have some clean sanitized water from the tap or to bathe in? Look, I can run down a list of hundreds of other NASA creations that benefit all of the world in your every day lives, but I don't have the time. Google exists. Stop being a fucking idiot.

    • The moon is a symbol, but there's no *practical* reason to go there, establish a base, a colony, or a really good restaurant. Near earth orbital stations, in contrast, might be developed profitably for power stations, zero G manufacturing of exotic materials, ubiquitous satellite-based internet, and so on.

      The focus on the moon and Mars is just cold war era, retro silliness. We have limited resources to throw at space. This is the time to throw them at something that will give us some return.

      It's relatively close, placing a colony underground is cheap and easy radiation protection, the presence of gravity will reduce the amount of required exercise (and avoid the other issues with zero-g environments), it would be inspiring in ways that robotic explorers are not, and it will provide us with experience extracting resources from and growing food on other planets, which is critical for humans to become a space-faring species. And this is something we can do with today's technology. Sure, at some

    • by bored (40072)

      Uh, the moon has significant quantities of iron, water, and radioactive isotopes. All in a significantly smaller gravity well than the earth.

      Those are the raw materials for creating a sustainable environment outside of the earth. A fission based robotic/industrial base on the moon would be the ideal location to build the structural elements and fuel for future large scale space projects (space stations, interplanetary expeditions/etc).

      Then you only have to boost fairly lightweight items out of the earths gr

      • So, I'm sure that you'll have no problem coming up with a single concrete example where it's cheaper and easier to do this on, or from the moon, rather than Earth....

        One. Just one real example.

  • Wouldn't a collaboration between ESA NASA JPL CSPA Roscosmos be more fruitful? Space race is so last century. - Folken
  • by dacarr (562277) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:06AM (#46543437) Homepage Journal
    Look, this is great and all, but if I see some ugly polyester costumes, 1970s hair, and giant pneumatic tubes that carry people to and fro on that base, i'm going to seriously consider researching sustainable and well-lit subterranean shelter to ride out the impending lunar nuclear disaster.
    • Evolution saith: you are where you are.

      Your environment shapes your evolution. Humans have the ability to live in more environments than any other complex lifeform - and some environments that even the simple lifeforms can't live in (virtual worlds for example). If you live subterranean, you become subterranean.

      Maybe that's ok: whatever works is another of evolution's favorite sayings. After all, subterranean life has some real advantages: the naked mole rat doesn't get cancer and lives for a very
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:10AM (#46543463)

    It's not the fuel that's expensive, it's the thing you put it in. And that rocket has to function perfectly, 100% of the time, across a giant temperature, pressure and acceleration gradient. And it has to be "man-rated," in other words, made survivable in case of a failed launch and prepared for atmospheric re-entry, which are some of the most extreme conditions known to mankind. Most of the costs that are being complained about are due to the absolutely necessary safety culture built into the manufacturing of these vehicles, stacked on top of amortized R&D (hint: SpaceX didn't need to do nearly as much R&D as they did to get the Saturn V off the ground).

  • I'm working my ass off just to support my family. I already can't afford to save up for my kids' college, and our medical bills are extensive.

    Ask my how much I want to be taxed to send someone to the moon right now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And yet you're fine spending a hundred times more on defense budget?

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Facts:

      1) A trip to the moon costs about $150 million dollars. (http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/45399-how-much-would-it-cost-to-go-to-the-moon-and-live-there-as-a-civilian/)

      2) There are over 300 million people in the US today.

      Conclusions: Either

      a) You are woefully uniformed economically which probably explains why you can't afford to save for your kids college.

      b) You realize a mission to the moon would cost you about 50cents but are so cheap you won't spend it.

      or most likely c) You are the kind of

      • Kickstarter raised $10M for a wristwatch.

        Perhaps $150M isn't out of reach?
      • And just to provide even more perspective: A trip to the moon costs $150 million. The US military budget for 2014 is $526.6 billion. So a moon trip is 0.02% of the military's budget. Or, if we divide the military's budget into 365*24 chunks to get an hourly budget, the moon trip would cost a mere 2.5 hours of the military's budget. Even if we doubled this an used 5 hours of military budget-time it would be a bargain.

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        A trip to the moon costs about $150 million dollars

        Considering that a typical space shuttle launch to LEO ran about $600-$700 million, I would *SERIOUSLY* question those figures.

    • Solution: have your kids pay for college themselves (grants, scholarships, loans), and reallocate those funds towards sending people to the moon.

      Also, advocating for single-payer healthcare might solve your medical bills problem.

      Perhaps an expansion of social welfare programs might alleviate the burden of supporting your family as well.

      Somehow, I don't think these are the answers you wanted to hear.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      So why did you have kids you can't afford and why is that our problem?
      • So why did you have kids you can't afford and why is that our problem?

        So it's only valid to have kids so long as we can afford an unnecessary moonshot?

        • If your kids are fifty cents away from starvation, I'd argue that the "unnecessary moonshot" isn't the reason why you can't afford them.
    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      I'm in a similar boat to you but I still support spending money on the space program over a lot of the other garbage on which our government spends money.

    • I'm in the same situation and yet I'd love to have more of my tax dollars put to use in getting people to the Moon (and all the scientific and engineering accomplishments that doing this would entail) and less of my tax dollars put to use in buying new bombers, missiles, and the like. Even if the first Moon trip was 90% PR and 10% science (having the astronauts "live tweeting" from their suits somehow, live HD feeds streaming in online, etc), it would be a better use than Yet-Another-Device-To-Kill-Lots-Of

    • Ask your what how much? But seriously. Your problems with medical bills could be solved if you lived in a country with socialized medicine. I've met people like you, bitch about the government and taxes and "ObamaCare" while you're bankrupted by our ridiculous medical system and screwed by our low wages and jobs exported to India. Somehow, more republican stuff is the answer! If you had even read the summary you'd realize they are trying to do more with what they have by way of a private partnership an
    • by Bengie (1121981)
      Why should we care about your kids going to college when people in Africa are starving? If you stop everything to wait until something is finished, they'll never get anything done. 80/20 rule for life!
    • by bored (40072)

      Ask my how much I want to be taxed to send someone to the moon right now.

      Its really more about priorities. The USA has effectively prioritized all forms of police state activities above basic infrastructure, science and other investments in the country. Rather our local governments are going broke maintaining police force/population ratios which have no bearing on crime rates, and our federal government hasn't seen a "homeland security" project they didn't have to buy into. Be that massive aircraft carriers

  • Savvy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:17AM (#46543519) Homepage

    "They need a technically savvy and resourceful country to lead."

    That leaves us (USA) out, sadly. Unless it can pull in advertising revenue, it ain't happening. I hope China does well with their moon exploration.

    • So putting an SUV sized rover on Mars does not require technical savvy or resourcefulness?

    • Well, "Lead" and "technically savvy" doesn't mean "doing the actual building." We're quite good giving money to china for building stuff. That SORTA fits the bill. What better way to complete the transition from the US being the superpower to China being the superpower than to build a base on the moon? We'll go into debt to them having them build it, then we'll give them the United States with the serfs, in order to pay off the debt. Meanwhile all the billionaires will take up residence in the moonbase
    • Unless it can pull in advertising revenue, it ain't happening.

      It could definitely pull in advertising revenue. Just send a black guy, and use the slogan "BLACK to the Moon!".

  • NASA is working on one, called the Space Launch System, but the agency is constrained by its budget

    Maybe, if the National Aeronautics and Space Administration focused on the actual Aeronautics and Space, without venturing into things like Muslim outreach [realclearpolitics.com] (to, and I quote: "help them feel good about their historic contribution to science") and research of industrial civilizations [theguardian.com] (collapse inevitable), they could scrape a few more bucks and deliver the rocket before Russia (or China) do...

    • NASA is working on one, called the Space Launch System, but the agency is constrained by its budget

      Maybe, if the National Aeronautics and Space Administration focused on the actual Aeronautics and Space, without venturing into things like Muslim outreach [realclearpolitics.com] (to, and I quote: "help them feel good about their historic contribution to science") and research of industrial civilizations [theguardian.com] (collapse inevitable), they could scrape a few more bucks and deliver the rocket before Russia (or China) do...

      You seriously think those things even begin to dent the budget of NASA? Your rant is more about criticizing the damn liberals and their GUBMINT than it is about any serious problem with NASA. If you really want to see NASA accomplish things, get congress the hell out of their business and stop letting every new administration pull new mandates out of their asses. Or, push more support for the COTS programs, that produce far better results at far less cost, thanks to free market economics which work so well

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:41AM (#46543739) Journal

    "three- or four-day notice of a missile strike off the moon"

    Sorry but I really doubt that the moon is a useful military platform. As he mentions, you would get a three or four day notice of an attack; on the other hand an ICBM launched from a nuclear sub on a depressed trajectory has a flight time measured in MINUTES. The cost (and difficulty, and danger) of lugging a nuclear tipped missile (capable of crossing cislunar space) all the way to the moon (and maintaining it and protecting it against solar flares, cosmic rays, temperature extremes, and meteorites) would be enormous. His own estimates contend it would cost $300M just to put 8 tons on the lunar surface. Presumably the missiles wouldn't just lie around on the surface but would have to be dug in (excavation equipment, power requirements). And don't even solid fueled ICBMs need regular topping up of some critical elements? (batteries need to be replaced, tritium in nuclear triggers decays). So a supply chain stretching to EARTH must be maintained or the value of this deterrent (there's no way it could be used for a first strike, even today we've imaged the entire lunar surface to a meter resolution) goes away.

    Unless he's proposing that the Chinese build an entire lunar colony with the industrial capacity to build robust launch systems, this is wildly impractical. On the other hand if the Chinese can manage to put a serious industrial infrastructure (creating solid fuels from lunar dust? mining uranium ore?) on the moon in a few decades then the U.S. will have a lot more to worry about than getting nuked by china. (Nuclear Bombs are the only practical weapon for something costing this much, "rods from god" are great when compared to chemical explosives but with E=MC2 a nuclear warhead has millions of times more energy per kg).

    It would be great to see NASA use Space X's Falcon heavy instead of their own heavy lift launcher which seems like a huge waste of taxpayer money (and that's if it even gets built). Unfortunately, after reading his outlandish (jingoistic?) fears about China, I have to question the rest of his reasoning. No wonder why Fox News is publishing this.

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      Sorry but I really doubt that the moon is a useful military platform. As he mentions, you would get a three or four day notice of an attack; on the other hand an ICBM launched from a nuclear sub on a depressed trajectory has a flight time measured in MINUTES. The cost (and difficulty, and danger) of lugging a nuclear tipped missile (capable of crossing cislunar space) all the way to the moon (and maintaining it and protecting it against solar flares, cosmic rays, temperature extremes, and meteorites) would be enormous.

      Turn in your nerd card, as you obviously don't understand that Sherlock can easily launch moon boulders into ballistic trajectories whose CEP is sufficiently small to wreak havoc on Earth cities.

      • Turn in your nerd card, as you obviously don't understand that Sherlock can easily launch moon boulders into ballistic trajectories whose CEP is sufficiently small to wreak havoc on Earth cities.

        Mycroft, not Sherlock. Accompanied by a demand for forfeiting a nerd card, that was particularly sad.

      • by wisebabo (638845)

        Shit, I just lost my comments I was typing up so I'll just summarize what I was writing. If you do a little research (KE=1/2mv2, escape velocity = 25,000mph) you'll see that the energy dropped by a boulder from the moon still doesn't compare to that of an equivalent mass of nuclear weapons by about 1-2 orders of magnitude (I looked up the Trident missile warheads as a reference). (Also hardened warheads are much better at getting through the atmosphere intact than rocks: see Chelyabinsk which was a 50 ton

  • This is just pork-grabbing move to pull in more money for the Rocket To Nowhere (Space Launch System or SLS) and continue to rob the Science Directorate of funds it needs for real science missions such as the Europa mission or Mars Sample Return. Going back to the moon is just a stunt to continue pointless manned missions.
  • It was the Grail mission to study gravity anomalies. It was a successful and cheap and scientifically meaningful mission, unlike the proposed manned pork-laden mission.
  • I'm normally one to scoff at privatization of things like space exploration, but frankly finding the best ways to lower costs is precisely the kind of thing the private sector does best. Let 30 little companies work on the problem. There's plenty of a market in satellite launches to finance this. The ones with ideas that don't pan out will go belly-up, and the one or two that hit on good solutions will survive. There's no possible way a single organization (eg: NASA) can do that job properly.

    NASA needs to

  • I thought this discussion would be full of people denying we ever went to the moon. I guess my brother doesn't read /.

  • by paiute (550198) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:30PM (#46544273)
    NASA announced today a competition to find the best epitaphs to go on the tombstones of future astronauts. Current frontrunners are YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR and THIS MEMORIAL ALSO PURCHASED FROM THE LOWEST BIDDER.
  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:12PM (#46544751)

    Back to the Moon in 4 years.

    Back to the Moon and back, 17 years.

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