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Space Science

Worldwide Focus On Going To The Moon 271

MojoT writes "There's an interesting piece over at Space.com regarding the current renewed interest in returning to the Moon. Quoting: 'Earth's scuffed up and trampled Moon is once again targeted for high- tech visitors. Robotic spacecraft from several nations, as well as NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, will be first to chalk up lunar return mileage.'"
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Worldwide Focus On Going To The Moon

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  • asteriods (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xannik ( 534808 )
    why spend more on the moon? put more funding into asteriod detection so we can save our asses! :-)
    • The moon is a lot better place to search for asteroids. There is no atmosphere to complicate matters, no light polition from cities, and lower gravity to support bigger telescopes if need be.
    • by leonbrooks ( 8043 ) <SentByMSBlast-No ... .brooks.fdns.net> on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:31AM (#4325231) Homepage
      Item: India can (has) put a tonne into geosynchronous orbit or 3 tonnes into LEO for $12M, about the same cost (according to this article) as getting one DoD microsatellite to the moon as a hitchhiker.

      Item: A shuttle launch costs about $300M, representing 29 tonnes to LEO for roughly $11M/t

      Conclusion: India can loft cargo for roughly 1/3 the price of the Shuttle.

      Item: An unmanned return Moon mission (also ex the article) costs about $600M.

      Conclusion: Estimating roughly half of this cost to be launch, if India did the launches, the missions would cost $400 apiece.

      Item: The cost of putting up a space elevator has been set at $10G; a space elevator would drop launch costs (measured against the Shuttle) about a hundredfold (ie, to roughly $100k/t).

      Conclusion: This would, in theory, involve a single Shuttle launch, making the $200M saving realised by having India loft it probably not worthwhile against the added complexity of a segmented load and the added flexibility of a Shuttle.

      Conclusion: If instead of America doing 18 return Moon missions for $10G (or 25 missions if India lofted them), they were to put up a space elevator for $10G, they would achieve payback before the 40th mission. This is on return automated Moon missions alone. DoD could probably then toss cans at the moon for under $5M apiece.

      Speculation: The additional space infrastructure which an elevator implies would probably hasten payback. The availablility of cheap ($100/kg, compare that with the price of, say, caviar - vs $10,000/kg now) steadily deliverable supplies would even further reduce the cost of manned missions. Payback from other items like solar power satellites (to say nothing of the reduction in pollution etc) would probably make an elevator worthwhile anyway.

      Summary: leave the moon alone for a decade. Put up an elevator instead. Then you can have all the moon you want for a fraction of the price.
      • Nitpick: The technology to actually build a space elevator does not exist at this time; and will not exist for hundreds of years.

        • Wrong. (Score:2, Informative)

          by leonbrooks ( 8043 )
          The technology to actually build a space elevator does not exist at this time; and will not exist for hundreds of years.

          think again [highliftsystems.com] [warning: this link points to a huge PowerPoint file].

      • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <[robert.merkel] [at] [benambra.org]> on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @01:45AM (#4325469) Homepage
        Item: The cost of putting up a space elevator has been set at $10G; a space elevator would drop launch costs (measured against the Shuttle) about a hundredfold (ie, to roughly $100k/t).

        Fact: the materials to build the space elevator don't exist yet. Carbon nanotube composites might, but nobody has yet demonstrated one, let alone demonstrated that the material can be produced in quantity and at a realistic cost. Until they are, and the exact properties of the proposed material are known, estimates of the cost and timeframe of a space elevator is just speculating.

        Until those nanotube composites become a lot closer to availability, abandoning conventional exploration on the grounds that a space elevator might at some uncertain future time make space travel much cheaper is silly.

      • Conclusion: Estimating roughly half of this cost to be launch, if India did the launches, the missions would cost $400 apiece.

        The shuttle is not the only US launch system and as the moon mission is unmanned it is likely that they would use a cheaper alternative in their costing.
    • Why go to the moon if there's an asteroid headed our way? When our poorly-planned Armegeddon-style drill team fails, we'll need to find new living arrangements.
  • by Burgundy Advocate ( 313960 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:33PM (#4324881) Homepage
    Hell yeah. Just what we need.

    A frickin' Moon Base!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:36PM (#4324904)
    Which raises an interesting question.. when will countries start claiming territory on the moon?
    • by kryonD ( 163018 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:48PM (#4324990) Homepage Journal
      Which raises an interesting question.. when will countries start claiming territory on the moon?


      The U.N. has specifically declared space to be "the province of all Mankind" [unvienna.org]. Since all of the space capable nations are members of the U.N., my answer would be not anytime soon.
      • Idealism has its place. Standing in front of rampant commercialism would mean that it's place will shortly be a very thin blot on the landscape. Esoteric UN pronouncements sound good, so let's hear about the reality, whall we?
        • The reality is (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Goonie ( 8651 )
          that until there are exploitable economic resources, and permanent residents there, it's not an issue. When people try to economically exploit the moon, it will become an issue then and will be settled by normal political means (ie international treaties, popular movements, shady underhanded deals, wars...).
      • I hate to make a political comment, as political discussions tend to get ugly, but with all the ignoring of the UN Bush has been doing (saying we'll attack Iraq with or without the UN's blessing), I don't think that he would be too Loathe to ignore that.
      • The Moon treaty, iirc, was not ratified by the US Congress.

        The Outerspace Treaty we signed with the Soviets has exit clauses...just like the ABM Treaty did.

        Guess what we did there? heh heh heh.

      • I brought this issue up in an article I submitted - but was rejected by the editors.

        You are correct in that space has been deemed "The province of all Mankind" - however these are flawed human beings we are talking about here.

        The problems we will see with going into space is claims to resources - and the protection of those claims. At this point it is set to be that only the companies that can pay off big governments, or are run by big governments - will be "allowed" access rights to resources.

        There was an article talking about how mars might be the wild west of the future [enn.com] (it is very short - but you can extrapolate in your head) which brings up interesting points about how territories will be handled. this article [theherald.co.uk] is much longer on the same subject. It says "MAN'S conquest of the planets could become a Wild West in space if privately funded expeditions are the first to open up the final frontier, experts claimed yesterday." this is *absolute* crap - its a scare tactic, this thinking will lead to such things as "UN space territories and resources allocation commitee" or some such thing.

        Although it might sound good on paper to have some body who is responsible for handing out deeds to land and resource rights on other-than-earth bodies, the problems with a commitee of any sort like this is that their interests will be heavily biased by the corporations and governments that already have huge financial weight over world economies and UN budgets today. This means that the likely industry to aggressively go after domination of space resource rights would be the oil industry.

        They know that fossil fuels will run out someday... and they have shit loads of money and political might. Just look at the top levels of american government - every single one off them is a corrupt oil puppet.

        I think that things should be done now to ensure that the resources in space are not "owned" by any company - or "licensed" to some company for a rediculous amount of time like 150 years....

    • Go to this link to buy an acre on the moon! [moonproperty.net]
  • by I_am_Rambi ( 536614 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:36PM (#4324905) Homepage
    Man always wondered if the moon was made out of cheese.
    In 1969 man landed on the moon, and found out it was not cheese.
    Since then, no one has returned.
    Behold the power of cheese.

    Are we now going back to double check our findings?
  • What is the going rate for a trip to the moon these days? Anyone know of a good travel agent that hook me up?
  • Sagan is beaming with delight in his grave.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Conspiracy theorists [moonmovie.com] say the Van Allen radiation belts pose a serious threat to human life and suggest that as one piece of reasoning that the moon trip in 1969 was faked.

    Forget that. But do any of you physics/biology-knowledgeable folks care to comment on the truth/falsity of whether Van Allen radiation is a serious risk/challenge for a moon trip today?
    • Yes. After millions of years of stability, the Van Allen belts changed dramatically during the middle and late 70's. This was of course due to the false "gas crisis", in which less gasoline was being used than normal for that time.

      Previously, the Van Allen belts were no quite as strong as they are now, thus enabling the original moon missions.
    • The Van Allen belts are only a danger if you stay in them for a long time. IIRC the Apollo astronauts were only in the belts for about 2 hours, not nearly enough to have any detrimental effect. If you sat in them for two weeks you'd have problems.

      It's like getting X-rays - you're fine if done in moderation. :-)
    • For a good debunking to that publicity-seeking video-selling moon conspiracy theorist, check out this. [uab.edu]

      --LP
    • This webpage [caltech.edu] from Cal Tech shows various relevant calculations of Van Allen radiation that suggest the dosage during the 1.5 hours of passage of the belts would be about 2 rem, about 100x less than an often-fatal dose.

      --LP
    • by kyletinsley ( 575229 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:43AM (#4325272) Homepage
      Conspiracy theorists say the Van Allen radiation belts pose a serious threat to human life and suggest that as one piece of reasoning that the moon trip in 1969 was faked.

      Radiation causes damage to an organism's cells based on the probability of it interacting with molecules in your body. You can get the same risk of negative effects by sitting in heavy radiation for a short period of time, or by sitting in light radation for a very long period of time.

      (Which is you always encounter a seemingly contradictory situation when you have X-rays done at a doctor's office: the medical personnel always tell you that the amount of radiation you'll be recieving is not enough to hurt you... then they put a lead shield over your nuts and walk into the next room before they turn the thing on! The amount of radiation being sent IS very small, and so it has a very small chance of hurting you, but if they stayed in the room and were exposed to it multiple times a day every day for years in a row, it would be the same as recieving a heavy dose once or twice. They cover your gonads because although the risk is very small, it's not zero, and a mutation in your nuts is far more catastrophic to your ability to survive and pass on your genes than it would be in any other random cell in your body.)

      The radiation in the Van Allen belts is more than a human body would normally experience on Earth. So I guess if you were for some reason spacewalking out there all day, you'd not be feeling too well. However, the astronauts are never just sitting around there playing zero-G frisbee with each other. They are always travelling thru it at very fast speeds (and so are not exposed for very long), and they are also riding in a SPACESHIP, which blocks some of it out. Some will still get thru, but not enough to be sterlizing anything. I've seen some people do calculations and figure that at the speed the Apollo astronauts were travelling through it, they would absorb about 1-2 rems. You don't start seeing symptoms of radiation poisoning until you get near 25 rems.

      If you rode a subway thru the Van Allen belts for 45 mins every day for years on your commute to work, then yeah, you're going to see some premature cancer popping up, regardless of whether or not the bum next to you is blowing secondhand smoke in your face. But astronauts travelling thru it for about 2 hours once up and once back are not going to be turned into microwave popcorn or anything.

    • Without the Van Allen radiation belts...

      Van Allen's radiation pants would fall down.

      (Yeah, it's off topic, but it had to be said).

      -- Terry
  • by Adam9 ( 93947 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:38PM (#4324919) Journal
    Well.. if Russia makes going into outer space a favorite vacation trip.. why not make the moon a favorite vacation spot?
    • Hell I'd go to the moon, its probably the only place left where you can escape modern advertising. Now thats what I really need in a vacation.
      • Oh don't worry, I'm sure the shuttle you'll ride on your way up there will have Britney Spears and Pepsi plastered all over it. Think about it.. who would watch a shuttle launch to the Moon? Everyone. Who watched it in 1969? Everyone. How much could NASA get from advertisers?
    • Becuase, the tan you get on your vacation will never go away.

      I can just imagine Barney's words on the training video.

      "Okay kiddies, if you hear the 'Solar Flare Alarm', swallow the big yellow pill right away. That way you'll die quickly, instead of hours of fits of convulsions, and liquids oozing out of every orifice, before you finally snap your own spine. Have a wonderful trip!"
  • by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <be&eclec,tk> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:39PM (#4324924) Homepage Journal
    ... This time when setting up the soundstage, add a little color, hell maybe even have them pixar guys whip up a couple of "aliens" ... because we all know that going to the moon and aliens are part of a governmental conspiracy ... And that the moon is just part of a "Death Star" with a giant "Laser" ... next you'll tell me there's plans to go to mars, I would argue that mars doesn't even exist!
  • I would much rather see tax dollars spent on further mars research, nuclear propulsion, seti... than I would on another moon mission. Unless I can go, in which case. wooo. on a side note, this site www.mactoons.net, is really cool. it seems to be updated everyday with a new drawing and a new poem/thought.
  • by Xafloc ( 48004 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:41PM (#4324937) Homepage
    I for one would like to see a return trip be it robot or human, just to put all the conspiracy theories to rest. I have no opinion either way, but if it were proven that it never happened, imagine what it would do to NASAs reputation. That would be one nasty "prank" to play on someone.

    I for one, doubt that it could be a hoax, but at the same time, would love some hard evidence to hush up the theorists.

    Hopefully a non US sponsered trip will be planned so that there will be no bias.
    • The only way that they'll believe you is if you take them there yourself, and then remove their masks. And I wouldn't guarantee that they'll believe it then. (Though it solves the problem either way.)
    • Wrong. Obviously the people who go back are part of the conspiracy and either aren't really going or are going to doctor the data they collect to show fake images of the Apollo landing sites.

      The conspiracy theorists are wrong. Apollo really happened. For them to be right requires to many highly intelligent, principled people involved in the missions to be either conned or coerced into lying. Not to mention the fact that the fakery would have had to fool the Russians, who at the time would have just loved to expose America's triumph as a fake and who undoubtedly tracked the position of the radio signals from the Apollo craft precisely.

    • :: I for one, doubt that it could be a hoax, but at the same time, would love some hard evidence to hush up the theorists.

      Apparently you VASTLY underestimate those same conspiracy theorists.
    • To say the moon landing trip nuts will ever be satisified is like saying the JFK assasination nutballs will every be satisified. But, at any rate, for anybody who has the slightest inclination to believe these nutballs here is a link to Phil Blait's badastronomy page on the moon landing 'hoax': Here [badastronomy.com].

      And, just for shits and jiggles, here is a link about Buzz Aldrin punching a man who did an ambush interview claiming he never landed on the moon here [badastronomy.com], or for you lazy people here is the summary:

      It certainly did with Buzz Aldrin. Mr. Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, was ambushed by Mr. Sibrel with the Bible trick. On September 9, 2002, Mr. Sibrel jumped out at Mr. Aldrin with the Bible, daring him to swear on it. told Mr. Sibrel to go away repeatedly, and even asked for the police. When Mr. Sibrel physically blocked his path, Mr. Aldrin (who is 72, 5'10" and 160 pounds) punched Mr. Sibrel (37, 6"2" and 250 pounds) in the face.
    • Give me a break! Anyone with access to a reasonably powerful telescope can see signs that people were there.

      Go down to your local observatory and take a look at the junk.

      While you're there, you can point it at Mars, and see the ancient Mt Rushmore that the aliens built.
    • I for one would like to see a return trip be it robot or human, just to put all the conspiracy theories to rest.

      You mean like the retro-reflectors we've been bouncing LIDAR pulses off of since the day we put them there? You can probably perform the same experiment yourself with a hobbyist's telescope and a few hundred dollars' worth of other equipment.

      Also, now that optical interferometric telescopes with baselines of 1000+ feet are coming online, we're almost at a point where we can image the equipment we left there directly from Earth. This would be both a nifty test of the telescopes and a great publicity stunt.

      Or wait for whatever the next mapping mission is to send back pictures, but anyone denying Apollo would just as readily deny that the mapping satellites were sent.

      I have no opinion either way

      Um, in the face of the vast body of evidence, most of which I haven't even touched on, how can you have "no opinion" on whether humans set foot on the moon? Or am I just misparsing your statement at this ungodly hour of the morning?
    • I'd deliberately cause a bunch of fake-looking stuff to occur on camera. Just for fun.
    • Anybody wilth freshman physics, and knowledge of photography can see that all the "evidence" that the moon was fakes is based on ignorance, and 'religous' ferver.

      AS a correct, they are not theorist, they are morons.
  • Come on. We went to the moon. We Drove a car around on the moon. We played golf on the moon. I think we've done everything pracical we can with that useless rock. And looking from the Conspiracy angle, this wouldn't have anything to do with China planning on going to the moon would it.
  • But which moon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jonman_d ( 465049 ) <(nemilar) (at) (optonline.net)> on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:44PM (#4324957) Homepage Journal
    But which [slashdot.org] moon [slashdot.org]? ;-)

    Personally, I want to see who's the first to land on our SECOND moon. IIRC, the third was proven to be space junk?
    • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:56PM (#4325019) Journal
      (overheard in a pub)

      Man1: I wonder if we're goin' to the first moon or the second moon.
      Man2: WHAT second moon? You're drunk.
      Man1: No, I read it on Slashdot. Slashdot says there's a second moon. There might even be a third.
      Man2: (drags man1 out through the back door and points at the sky) What is that?
      Man1: The moon.
      Man2: Do ya see any other moons up there?
      Man1: No.
      Man2: But you're going to believe there are a bunch of other moons because some crackhead Web site told you so? (man1 looks perplexed, but doesn't say anything, so man2 grabs his drink and guzzles it) Come on, let's go to a nudie bar. There's lotsa moonin' there, but no more drinking for you!

    • After claiming that Earth had a second moon that was bounced around by the earth's, moon's, and sun's gravity in a complicated horseshoe-shaped orbit, the BBC pointed to my web site for reference. Zoom, traffic shot up from 740 visits a day to 20,000. It's back down to about normal now.

      That's neat. Before the web there was a firm distinction between what was published and what was not. Published work could only reference published work. Getting something published took a huge effort. No longer.

      (No, Cruithne is not a moon, its orbit is a simple ellipse around the sun, but its orbit is in a 1::1 resonance with earth. Nothing like misinformation to capture the imagination. Also, the BBC really should have pointed to Paul Wiegert's site instead.)
  • Narrator: The moon. For several years, she has fascinated many. But will man ever walk on her fertile surface? Democratic hopeful Adlai Stevenson says so.

    Stevenson: I have no objection to man walking on the moon.

    Narrator: By 1964, experts say man will have established twelve colonies on the moon, ideal for family vacations. Once there, you'll weigh only a small percentage of what you weigh on Earth... Slow down, tubby! You're not on the moon yet!

    The moon belongs to America, and anxiously awaits the arrival of our astro-men. Will you be among them?

  • duh (Score:2, Funny)

    by martinflack ( 107386 )
    Of course NASA wants to get a robot up there. It'll be on an important mission...

    It's got to go stick a flag in the ground and stamp out some fake footprints.
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:47PM (#4324984) Journal
    All the planned new attention -- close-up picture sessions, hits by pinpricking penetrators, radar sweeps of the cratered terrain, and even snag-and-bag rock collecting by automated machinery -- puts the Moon back on the exploration map
    So we may yet uncover that weird black monolith under the Moon's surface. I had assumed that NASA already discovered it, but chose to tell us the Moon was a boring, desolate place to divert our interest while they put together a mission to Jupiter. I'm still disappointed that we're behind schedule, but maybe now someone will release an MP3 of the freaky music the monolith emits.
    • (* So we may yet uncover that weird black monolith under the Moon's surface. I had assumed that NASA already discovered it, but chose to tell us the Moon was a boring, desolate place to divert our interest... *)

      Monoliths *are* boring.

      "Interesting" would be alien chicks with 6 breasts and an attraction to geeks.
    • desolate place to divert our interest while they put together a mission to Jupiter.


      The mission to Jupiter will be interesting. First of all the gravity is much stronger than the Earth's. Second, there are contant lightning storms throughout the entire planet like nothing we see on earth. Then there's the fact that the surface of Jupiter isn't even solid.

      So I suppose, after decades of technological improvements, we COULD get someone there, but what then?

      "That's one small step for... AGGHHHHAAHHHH!"
      • The mission to Jupiter will be interesting. First of all the gravity is much stronger than the Earth's. Second, there are contant lightning storms throughout the entire planet like nothing we see on earth. Then there's the fact that the surface of Jupiter isn't even solid. So I suppose, after decades of technological improvements, we COULD get someone there, but what then?
        This is why those of us who cannot contribute to the technology that will enable us to get there must spend the intervening years tracking down spammers. Then when we are ready to launch the mission, we send them all the following message:

        Congratulations! You have been chosen to be an explorer on NASA's maiden voyage to Jupiter. All expenses paid!

        Then we stick them in a ship run by WindowsXP, DRM and Trusted Computing hardware ("It looks like you're trying to replicate a sandwich. Your replicator is secure. To unlock it, please register by calling..."). If they ever do reach Jupiter, they'll be flattened and we'll be free of spam. I really put way too much thought into this.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @11:56PM (#4325022) Journal

    Ban the burial of *any* holy people on the moon. I don't want to risk another future "holy land" fight up there.

    Even say a nutball who claims to be Jesus II. If he dies up there, send his fricken ashes back to Earth.
  • "...spacecraft from several nations, as well as NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, will be first to chalk up lunar return..."

    Actually, only one of those spacecraft will be first. The others will lay claim to terms like 'second', 'third' and so on. In fact there are many words that are intended just for the possibility that there will several, one after the other.

    Though it's nice to see a wave of missions that have the look of gearing up for future utilisation. Hope something comes of it.

  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:08AM (#4325098) Homepage Journal
    Well I am in favour of humans returning to the moon. Society has put so many resources into making space travel more reliable and cheaper than it was over 30 years ago, so the true cost to society isn't nearly as much as the ney-sayers claim it is. If they are looking to feed the hungry, then they can take the money from the industries that truely don't benefit mankind, like the tobacco industry, and leave our space programs to improve our knowledge of the universe.
    The possibilites of a new moon shot are endless. Everything from corporate sponsorship [put your ad on the Moon first...], to scientific, to personal interest. We can have telescopes that are unhindered by earth's atmosphere, and studies done on how we can construct a successful colony on another world. We would be foolish to try first on Mars, where the chance of rescue, or delivering supplies is a pain in the butt.
    Best of all, another Moon race might make people excited about space exploration again. Enterprise is great, but it is hard to imagine us ever developing warp, much less walking on the moon again when governments are setting a Mars exploration mission before a Moon one.
  • by Chaltek ( 610920 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:16AM (#4325147) Homepage
    NASA claims to have learned [space.com] from its mistakes in the 1998 Mars failures, but if we start talking about sending people far away (like the moon), we'd better make sure things are really fixed.

    No quick bailout from the moon like they have on the ISS in case something goes wrong.
    • Well, I think that the Mars failures can be attributed to the "spend less in less time to send more missions" models. Whenever such a boneheaded tactic is implemented you can expect a high degree of failure.
      • Actually I think the Mars failures where:
        A: statistically expected. MOST Mars missions from the US, Russia or anyone have failed
        B: Simple, stupid mistakes.

        Overall, once the missions ended unsuccessfully everyone went in to CYA and "point the finger" mode. What we got was a set of issues that cused the least funding loss, and was the easiest to 'fix'.
  • With all this interest in returning to the moon, don't waste another minute - buy an acre of land there! [moonproperty.net]

    and if you believe that... i've got some land on the moon to sell you... err...

  • Eraser (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:24AM (#4325190)
    It's about freaking time. The moon is a great place to do all sorts of stuff and it is just sitting there a few days trip from us. For thirty years no one has done anything about it. There's been no refining of technologies to get us there, the Saturn project was pretty much scrapped and the last rockets were used to send Skylab up.

    If we'd kept with the game plan we could have had at least a semi-permenent base on the Moon which I think is a bit more useful than the craptacular ISS we've been wasting money on. If anything a large radio interferometer array on the far side would have a pretty damn clear view of the entire microwave spectrum, and not the relatively small window available in the New Mexico desert. H2 is a good SETI frequency by all guesses but there's plenty of other frequencies that ought to be searched as well. It makes sense a spacefaring culture would send signal on a frequency that proves they've managed to get off their Earth-like world (outside the H2 band).

    The same goes for optical telescopes, you don't have the problem of atmospheric drag or ionizing influence on your imaging system. The Hubble is a great system but a couple smaller systems on the Lunar surface wouldn't be too shabby of a setup. They could be a combination stellar/solar observatories. They spend two weeks observing the stars while they're shaded and two weeks watching the Sun.

    Human habitation isn't needed to use the Moon for reseach, a couple of automated systems would do nicely. That's my opinion. So nyeh.
    • What I don't understand is why NASA hasn't tried a quick flyby using a shuttle. I mean once you're outside the atmosphere moving from Earth orbit to the moon is easy. Why not just rig some extra fuel for a shuttle and in the bay it could hold a lander of some kind.

      And for the adventurous I guess we could envision some means for the shuttle itself to land. That just might be me fantasising though, what with how fragile the tiles are supposed to be.

      • > What I don't understand is why NASA hasn't tried a quick flyby using a shuttle. I mean once you're outside the atmosphere moving from Earth orbit to the moon is easy. Why not just rig some extra fuel for a shuttle and in the bay it could hold a lander of some kind.

        I can answer this, having done the calculations just last week. The shuttle, fully loaded, could drag into low Earth orbit the Apollo versions of the Command Module and a Lunar Module. You'd need a second shuttle flight to bring up an Apollo version of the service module (this thing is heavy when fully fueled). Ok, so two shuttle flights give you everything? Nope, you also need two thirds of the Saturn V's third stage to get the rest into an Lunar injection orbit. And that is the equivalent payload of six more suttle flights.

        So if you were to try this for real, you'd have to launch seven Titan rockets (equivalent payload of the Shuttle, but a bit cheaper and un-manned) with the high-risk fueled components, dock them all in LEO, then launch a Shuttle with the two crewed modules, dock, transfer the crew, and start your mission. A masive undertaking.

        Most people don't realise just how astonishingly powerful the Saturn V rocket was. We don't have anything like that anymore.

        • >Most people don't realise just how
          >astonishingly powerful the Saturn V
          >rocket was. We don't have anything
          >like that anymore.

          We don't, but the Russians do.

          • Re:Eraser (Score:3, Informative)

            We don't, but the Russians do.

            Bzzzt. Thank you for playing. Energia (which isn't even being built anymore) didn't even have the throw-weight of an Saturn V, and it's the biggest rocket the Russians have ever successfully launched. Compared to the Saturn, it's an Estes kit. It can't put the mass into LEO that the Saturn put into Translunar orbit.

            Energia: LEO Payload: 34,000 kg. to: 200 km Orbit. Liftoff Thrust: 1,633,160 kgf. Total Mass: 1,022,800 kg. Core Diameter: 7.7 m. Total Length: 24.0 m. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 80.00 million. in 1985 unit dollars.

            Saturn V: LEO Payload: 118,000 kg. to: 185 km Orbit. at: 28.0 degrees. Payload: 47,000 kg. to a: Translunar trajectory. Liftoff Thrust: 3,440,310 kgf. Total Mass: 3,038,500 kg. Core Diameter: 10.1 m. Total Length: 102.0 m. Development Cost $: 7,439.60 million. in 1966 average dollars. Launch Price $: 431.00 million. in 1967 price dollars.

            Source [astronautix.com]

  • by Dan Crash ( 22904 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @12:58AM (#4325319) Journal
    While I'm all for anything that gets the human race back in space, the Moon shouldn't be our first destination. It's gotta be Mars.

    The Moon is a harsh environment (some would say mistress), and colonies there will likely never be able to support themselves with native resources alone. Surface temps on the Moon are scorching, water is nearly impossible to find (despite the optimistic tone of the article), there's no atmosphere to speak of, there's a lack of important metals, and the nights are two weeks long. Lunar industry and colonists will probably always need help from Earth just to stay alive.

    But not Mars. Mars has water, soil, sunlight, 25 hour days, and summer daytime temps that reach almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit [nasa.gov]. And did I mention the sunsets [nasa.gov]?

    Our frenzy for space exploration, and our willingness to fund it, seems to come and go in waves. What happens when the current wave passes? Do we want a stranded lunar outpost which will rely on Earth for most of its supplies, or do we want a Martian community which can largely sustain itself when we start pinching pennies again? It's the difference between colonizing Virginia or Antarctica. We really ought to make our money count.
    • NASA does not have many people left with actual experience for manned missions to an extra terrestrial body, including a landing and takeoff. Why would we invest in what is a long shot, when we have a moon shot staring at us every night. The factors in Mars' favour you listed are certainly worth considering, but it is not practical yet. We can do lots on the moon to get much needed experience for this generation, and hopefully carry that over to Mars. We can set up telescopes on the Moon, and explore for water. We don't have to have a colony to start out with. Cripes, humans haven't set foot on a solid object we didn't create, in more than 24 years. Why start with distant Mars, to re-learn the ropes?
      • Learning the Ropes (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dan Crash ( 22904 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @01:48AM (#4325478) Journal
        Why start with distant Mars, to re-learn the ropes?

        The Moon and Mars are two vastly different environments, and the skills of colonizing these environments probably won't have much overlap.

        Our goals on both will be very different. Going to the Moon won't teach us how build greenhouses from Martian elements, for instance, because natural light greenhouses aren't a part of Moon colonization. Looking for water ice hidden in deep crater shadows is a skill we'll try to perfect on the Moon, but on Mars we'll be drilling to find water. We'll learn different things from each environment, and we'll need different skills for each environment, so I think the argument that we should explore the Moon first so we'll be ready for Mars is based on a false premise. You could just as well say the reverse.

        But don't get me wrong! There are lots of good reasons to colonize the Moon, too, including using it as a base for astronomy, or even better, for lunar solar power which can be beamed back to Earth via microwave.

        If I thought we could do both simultaneously, I'd be for it. But my hunch, based on history, is that the winner takes all. And I don't think lunar exploration is politically financially sustainable. Since a Martian colony could reasonably be expected to support themselves, while a lunar colony can't, I've gotta support putting our energies into Mars first.

        If anything, I think the argument works in reverse: if we have a sustained colony on Mars, we're going to be constantly being brought back into thinking about space and its possibilities, but if we have a lunar colony that goes bust, we'll be much more likely to ignore those possibilities, the same way we have been for the past 30-odd years.
        • Since a Martian colony could reasonably be expected to support themselves, while a lunar colony can't

          Here's the crux of your argument. Unfortunately you stated it without support.

          With the possible exception of adequate hydrogen, the moon contains all of the bulky materials we'd need to sustain life, plus ample power in the form of sunlight (as mentioned, the polar regions are in almost continuous sunlight).

          Mars is really just as harsh as the moon to humans; the atmosphere is too thin and composed of the wrong stuff to be very helpful, it still gets way too cold, and there are also the dust storms to contend with.

          Seems to me that the only reason a Martian colony would be expected to support themselves is because Earth couldn't afford to support them. I don't see that there's anything about Mars that makes it inherently friendlier to colonization. Looking far enough into the future, you could argue that it may be possible to transform Mars in to a habitable planet (melt the polar caps to thicken the atmosphere, bioengineer some sort of plants that can survive the radiation, temperatures and low pressures to convert that CO2 to O2, etc.), but a colony would seem to be a prerequisite to that sort of undertaking.

    • Lunar industry and colonists will probably always need help from Earth just to stay alive.

      And this is exactly why the Moon will probably be the destination for a permanent settlement and Mars will not. Do you really think any earthbound government is going to be stupid enough to allow the formation of an independent colony of people, especially in space (where they would be in a position to throw big rocks at the earth -- not something that could necessarily be done by humans on Mars, but certainly something that could be done by inhabitants of the asteroid belt)?

      Governments are interested in control more than anything else. A colony on the Moon would be much easier to control than one on Mars, if only because the government on Earth could threaten to cut off the flow of mandatory supplies to the Moon colony if necessary.

      • And this is exactly why the Moon will probably be the destination for a permanent settlement and Mars will not.

        One of the things the Moon has going against it is that it's in a militarily strategic position. Colonization of the Moon by any one nation (or its affiliated corporations) necessarily creates political ramifications back home on Earth. Mars isn't immune from these ramifications, but it's much less politically contentious, since its strategic position is essentially meaningless back here.
    • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @01:59AM (#4325530)
      Our frenzy for space exploration, and our willingness to fund it, seems to come and go in waves. What happens when the current wave passes? Do we want a stranded lunar outpost which will rely on Earth for most of its supplies, or do we want a Martian community which can largely sustain itself when we start pinching pennies again? It's the difference between colonizing Virginia or Antarctica. We really ought to make our money count.

      The difference in this case is that Antarctica is close enough for us to send help if a disaster strikes and to set up regular supply lines, but Virginia is about as far away as the moon by comparison.

      The ideal scheme for lunar colonization is to have one (or more) permanent stations in LEO acting as supply depots, one (or more) permanent stations in low Lunar orbit acting as supply depots, and a transfer network of ion tugs shuttling material back and for in a regular schedule. The lunar-orbit stations have the equipment to do a rescue or resupply or anything else needed on the ground, and if anything happens on the stations, the next ion tug will be by in half a day or so.

      The lunar environment isn't hospitable, but it's no worse than space. Underground is better, as it's shielded and temperature-regulated. If a space station can operate on a more or less closed material cycle for months, so can a lunar colony.

      The moon is a great place for manufacturing facilities. Its crust is aluminosilicates; you'd be amazed at how much of really large spacecraft or space station can be built out of aluminum and glass fiber cables. Launch of refined materials requires one twentieth the energy of an Earth launch, with no atmosphere to get in the way of launches on tangents, making things like magnetic launching feasible.

      In short, I think the moon is an easy, relatively safe, and lucrative place to colonize, and should be colonized first.
      • Supply lines (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dan Crash ( 22904 )
        The difference in this case is that Antarctica is close enough for us to send help if a disaster strikes and to set up regular supply lines...

        This mentality is exactly why Mars ought to be colonized first. We can't count on having the political or economic will to support regular supply lines indefinitely. The political and economic climates on Earth change rapidly. What happens when the political winds have shifted, and the Moon isn't pulling its economic weight? We cut back. Maybe, like the Russians did with Mir, we end up abandoning our investments altogether, after we've damaged them through lack of continuous maintenance.

        Colonizing Mars brings with it a different mindset and different possibilities. It brings with it the mindset of self-reliance instead of trade reliance, for example. And it brings with it the possibility that even when we fail to maintain our political will, Martian colonization can survive and even grow with minimal intervention from us for long periods of time.

        We had the chance to colonize the Moon once before, and we blew it. We couldn't maintain the momentum. Let's not allow ourselves to make the same mistakes again.
    • by sunspot42 ( 455706 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:36AM (#4326063)
      >The Moon is a harsh environment, and colonies
      >there will likely never be able to support
      >themselves with native resources alone.

      We simply don't know that. There's strong evidence for water ice at the lunar poles, and there may be other sources of hydrogen elsewhere on the moon (for example, underground ice or hydrogen-rich gasses). Since there's plenty of oxygen in the lunar crust, it's entirely possible the moon has all the materials it would take to manufacture air and water for the support of thousands - or even millions - of colonists.

      >Surface temps on the Moon are scorching,

      Portions of the lunar surface are in constant shadow. They're always extremely cold, and we have plenty of experience building structures for use in space that are well-insulated from the cold. Indeed, most of our spacecraft have issues with radiating waste heat, especially manned platforms with all their electronic and mechanical equipment, so being in permanent shadow would be ideal for them. It also gets around the need to deal with wide extremes in temperature - going from broiling hot to freezing cold as day turns to night.

      Some of these shadowed spots are close to areas in almost permanent sunlight too, making it possible to run a power cable from an always-lit solar panel to an always-shaded colony.

      >there's no atmosphere to speak of

      The atmosphere on Mars is so thin it might as well not be there, either. It provides virtually no protection from the hard radiation environment of space, the solar wind, or solar UV, x-rays or gamma rays. It's comprised mostly of carbon dioxide too, which is certainly not a resource humans living in a sealed space colony would need - we produce enough of it ourselves, thank you very much. You'd die in either location after a minute or so on the surface unprotected.

      >there's a lack of important metals

      For a space colony? Which metals? The moon is iron poor, but is rich in titanium and aluminum, both extremely useful if you're trying to build spaceships. And how much metal do you need on the moon? Structures can be impossibly delicate by earth standards, since the force of gravity is so low. Or better yet, kill two birds with one stone and burrow underground or live in natural caves. Gets around having to use much metal to build your habitat, and provides you with shelter from the radiation and temperature extremes on the surface.

      >and the nights are two weeks long.

      There are portions of the lunar surface near the poles where the sun shines almost continuously. Colonies that require continuous sunlight could be setup there. Colonies in other locations could easily survive off of fuel cells or, better yet, nuclear reactors. As the moon is rich in helium 3, lunar colonies might also be able to take advantage of nuclear fusion.

      Quite frankly, if we can't build a self-sustaining lunar base, a self-sustaining Martian base is an impossibility. The cost of launching men, equipment and materials to Mars is many times greater than the cost of launching them to the moon, and a Mars base would be far too distant to rely on mother Earth for support in the event of trouble. It would take them a lot of fuel just to get back home again if something went seriously wrong, and months of travel time. With the moon, a small amount of fuel could get unlucky colonists back to earth (or possibly no fuel at all if we build a magnetic rail launch system).

      We don't even know the exact composition of the Martian surface yet. It's possibly loaded with highly toxic peroxides that would pose a significant contamination risk for Martian colonists and their equipment. Lunar dust presents some mechanical issues, but at least we know it's not highly toxic and corrosive. Likewise, Martian ice could also be contaminated with corrosive toxins. Would be a bitch to get something like 350 million kilometers from earth only to discover Martian ice corrodes your oxygen manufacturing and water purification equipment until it's worthless.

      And what are Mars colonists going to do for power? Solar panels will be that much less effective twice as far from the sun as they'd be on the moon, and would have to contend with getting covered with Martian dust over time. What happens to their power supply when one of those global Martian storms whips up the dust and blocks out some of the sunlight for weeks on end? And if temperature extremes are a problem for a lunar colony, they'll be just as much a problem for a Mars colony - it plunges to more than 100 degrees below zero centigrade on Mars at night, after reaching as high as 17 degrees during the day.

      I say perfect the technologies needed for space colonization somewhere close by like the moon before spending hundreds of billions sending people to live on Mars. I'd much rather we make the inevitable mistakes for less money somewhere close enough that evacuation or rescue becomes feasible.
    • People who talk about self-sufficiency on Mars and being able to do without supplies from Earth are either (1) living in a dream world where closed economies like Albania or North Korea are wildly successful or (2) talking about colonies of millions of people. Take a look at the data in the US Economic Census [census.gov] and you'll see the scope of manufacturing, agricultural production, industry, and services required to have a fully functioning modern economy. Or perhaps you think you could live on Mars with the technology of a 15th century feudal village?
  • You know what I would like to see done with some of those? just one out of ten even: Rather than sending it to the moon, You pack this tiny space ship with spoors of sulphur & heat loving bacteria, point them at venus, and let them go! Have it break up into smaller packets when it gets close, burning that last of it's fuel as a brake before doing so, then having each packet deploy several sets of chutes on the way down, an start releasing the spores once a certain altitude is reached. If even one strain of these microbes is able to survive in the harsh enviroment of Venus, our first terraformaion project will have begun. Sulphur will be slowly leeched out of the atmosphere, and 02 will slowly begin to ocur more often. In a few thousand years, if we have managed to not kill ourselves, we might be able to start sending in other bacteria, and maybe even lichen. Of course, the moe strains we start off with, and the more often we send them, the more likely they are to take hold and start doing work for us. Now there's an idea for colanization.. we find a suitable planet hat has no life, we just start sending packets in waves designed to auto-deploy, while we continue to fill our solar system. Whn we want to go fill up those other planets, we start building Generation Ships. By the tme humans get there, baceria & plantlife should have made the planet at least close to hospitable. Of course, my ideas require looking out or the good of our species of incredibly long periods of time that we will not live to see. I'm jus a True Survivalist: I want my desendants to be prosperous and continue to have kids forever.
  • by vik ( 17857 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @03:05AM (#4325724) Homepage Journal
    Funny how the article doesn't even mention the only company to yet have actually got permission from the US Government to launch to the moon, TransOrbital Inc. [transorbital.net]

    Vik :v)
    • TransOrbital didn't said any representatives to the next steps meeting at Los Alamos, so they get no mention. The odd way these things work in the space business (everybody ignores everybody else unless they're staring you in the face).
  • First, an obligatory link to Robert Zubrin's books The Case For Mars [amazon.com] and Entering Space [amazon.com]. Sure, he has an agenda, but he presents some compelling facts about why the moon isn't that hot of an idea.

    Secondly, I have, big surprise, lost faith with NASA (largely due to reading the above two books). The description of the cost plus accounting used by government contractors alone is enough to realize why we aren't, at least, watching The Mars Colony Channel on TV.

    The best hope for opening up space is commercial exploitation or prize money. What if the government (any government) said, we have $20 billion sitting in a trust fund. The first company to send a manned crew to the moon (or mars) and back gets the money and an exclusive contract with the government?

    The second best hope is that China, Japan, India, the EU, or any combination of the above starts kicking our butt and making money in space. They've already shown that they can launch satellites cheaper. When there is a Chinese space hotel or a Japanese moonbase (and especially if they are making money), there will be a new "space race". When someone makes a suborbital jet and FedEx realizes they can send packages from North America to China in a couple of hours and the Concorde crowd realizes that a few $K more will let them orbit around the earth on their business and pleasure trips (and each trip drops off a few rocket assisted satellites while they are 100 miles or so up), then we should be seeing some real effort being put into planetary exploration and colonization.

    Actually, the best hope is that all of that Middle East oil money goes into the funding of the Islamic State of Luna. That would get the Americans off their ass and into space.

    We are right at the 100 year anniversary of the first airplane flight and flying is now ubiquitous and commonplace. We are at the 40 year anniversary of manned space flight and there hasn't been that much improvement. Yeah, the shuttle is cool, but the fleet is old and it is waaay too expensive.
  • Now we can rescue the Lonely Astronaut [twistedmojo.com]!

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