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NASA Moon Space

NASA Plan to Return to the Moon 531

sjoeboo writes "NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion during the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018. The U.S. space agency now expects to roll out its lunar exploration plan to key Congressional committees on Friday and to the broader public through a news conference on Monday."
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NASA Plan to Return to the Moon

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  • What a waste (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:54PM (#13568361)
    They have no reason for going to the moon. At least Apollo had a reason, the space race against the evil commies, but this time, not even that much. No doubt we'll go there a few times and stop again.

    Moon colonies would be great, from a science fiction point of view, but without an actual practical reason that involves real colonists with real practical uses, this new moon plan will be just another short sighted waste of time and money. I'd rather that money was spent on technology that had actual uses for most people. Don't preach to me about spin-offs. There would be just as many spin-offs from orbital hotels or quiet and environmentally friendly hypersonic transports or practical electric cars with batteries to go 500 miles.
  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:55PM (#13568381) Homepage Journal
    Just watch. All this will be brought to nothing by the unmanned space flight mafia. It's just too attractive politically to push for unmanned space flight where there are no risks. We're slowly becoming a race of cowards when it comes to exploring new frontiers.
  • by crymeph0 ( 682581 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:00PM (#13568439)
    Say what you will about Bush, he deserves a lot of it (and I even voted for him), but emphasizing manned space exploration will pay off big-time for general space science in the long run.

    If we can get launch costs down (the best way to do that short of a miracle breakthrough is frequent launches) and a *productive* human outpost that is capable of 'living off the land', we'll get amazing robots assembled in space that don't have these severe mass limitations we get down here. If you can assemble your rocket engine from lunar materials, of course you can build a whiz-bang robot explorer.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:06PM (#13568517)
    > NASA briefed senior White House officials Wednesday on its plan to spend $100 billion and the next 12 years building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018.

    Read between the lines.

    Not "to get to the moon". Not "to put humans back on the moon". But "building the spacecraft and rockets it needs to".

    In 2018, NASA will have spent $100B (or about $8-10B a year, probably around half to 3/4 of its bugdet). At the end of that timeframe, NASA will have contracted out the design and production of a new spacecraft, and some new rockets.

    That's it. There's no lunar mission in there. There probably isn't even the planning for a lunar mission in there.

    Most likely, the new spacecraft and rockets will either continue to fly into low earth orbit to service the white elephant known as ISS.

    To blue-sky for a minute - the timeframe from 2018 to 2024 will be used for planning a lunar mission. The mission will be funded for the timeframe from 2018-2030. By which time, the spacecraft and rockets developed around 2015 will be obsolete scrap.

    We're going to divert a lot of funds that could be used for science (which might be OK if we were going somewhere), but the fact of the matter is - just like 30 years ago, unless you count the contracts that'll get farmed out to every Congressional district, we're not going anywhere.

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:10PM (#13568580) Homepage Journal
    The Saturn V plans are not lost, but the rocket effectively is. The Saturn V was built with heavy industry, electronics, and computer technology that simply doesn't exist anymore. To update the existing rocket would make less sense than simply building a new one.

    (Side Note: Someone once mentioned that the Saturn V's electronics were designed to cope with the electronic lag in transmissions by sending commands early. If the same design were followed in an update, the rocket would destroy itself because those early commands would be transmitted instantanously. Who knows how many more of these gotchas are in the design?)

    NASA has the right plan here. The Space Shuttle engines are more powerful than the Saturn V ever was. By reusing the technology, NASA can build something better than the Saturn V in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Re:2018?! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:17PM (#13568660)
    But... we don't have the technology to make it there anymore. The blueprints and institutional knowledge developed in the sixties are gone. Google 'lost knowledge apollo' for some references.
  • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:27PM (#13568778)
    Didn't Intuit mail every member of Congress a free copy of Quicken maybe ~10 years ago?

    Possibly we should convince them to grow this program to include the Executive branch, and to every newly elected or appointed official.
  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) < minus caffeine> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:29PM (#13568798)
    "Bush's administration has done a reasonable job of making sure that we are on a viable track to returning to the moon and reaching Mars. My hope is that the next President who shows up doesn't dive in and try to change everything."

    Or completely cancel it like what the fresh-at-the-time Clinton Administration did to Project Prometheus, which the current Bush Administration thankfully restarted.

  • Re:What a waste (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:30PM (#13568809)
    I'd rather that money was spent on technology that had actual uses for most people.

    Like getting to live on the moon?
  • Re:What a waste (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wikdwarlock ( 570969 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:35PM (#13568867) Homepage
    The most clear benefit of a moon colony is that it's orders of magnitude easier than a martian colony. Should we have ignored the Wright brothers because they couldn't build a supersonic stealth bomber with fricking lasers on it? No. We need to take preliminary steps to reach some goals. Learning how to let people live on a planet(oid) other than Earth is of great engineering and scientific value.
  • Pie in the Sky (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:42PM (#13568932) Homepage Journal
    We don't have another $100B. For anything.

    I wish we did, I want the US to go back to the Moon, especially to leverage all our science, engineering and indisputably pioneering investments. Before other, more ambitious (and less complacent) countries, like China, get up there first. And then, for example, set up giant solar power stations with technology we developed in the USA, from rocketry to photovoltaics. Solar power we'll have to buy with more money we haven't got.

    But we've already spent that money. A $300B Lunar/Solar energy platform would make the US a lot safer than the terrorist cesspool we've created in Iraq. A lot more prosperous than the $TRILLIONS in taxes we're cutting on the rich, who don't seem interested in putting Americans on the Moon - not while they're staying rich enough selling us $12:barrel oil for $70.

    Here's an idea: we recoup some of those unprecedented profits from American oil companies, that are underwritten by so much American expenses (dollars and military lives, just to get started). We reinvest them in the government space program to install American energy facilities on the Moon. Whoever and whenever we do that, American or otherwise, the American "oil" companies are going to wind up owning the business anyway. We might as well get ahead of the curve, and keep more for Americans. And get it done faster, so the rest of us without our own oil company don't have to suffer through $10:gallon gas before we finally are forced to do it.
  • by n6kuy ( 172098 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:45PM (#13568980)
    I mean, way back in the 60s it only took 9 years, and look at how technology has advanced since then!

    Geez! What's wrong with these NASA scientists these days?
  • by fsh ( 751959 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:47PM (#13568994)
    Burt Rutan? Never. There's no way he could raise the scratch necessary for such a huge undertaking.

    The Chinese [] are certainly interested in putting men on the moon, however, as is JAXA [].

    The ESA [] , on the other hand, is looking to go directly to Mars.

    We could do this in a short time frame again, but the projects that we're competing against, namely the Chinese, Japanese, and European, are all operating under longer timescales, making ours the most likely to finish first. Also, the current Lunar exploration budget has been designed to require very little in the way of extra funding. They're cutting out other programs that cost losts of money (read Space Shuttle, ISS, and some exploration missions), but the overall budget is very similar.

    For these two reasons, it seems liekly that this will actually work, and that we will land men on the moon again in the very near future.

  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#13569124) Journal

    The purpose of the space program was to show that we were going to be the uber-advanced space age society that would ultimately win the cold war. The space program was a pageant put on for the sake of countries sitting on the fence between dealing with the Soviets and dealing with the USA.

    There is no such war now. If anything we've thrown in that towel since we now have no trouble trading outright with the worlds largest oppresor of people ... CHINA.

    We don't have to compete with China in this regard. We pretty much figured out that getting OFF the planet is so freakin expensive that you'll bankrupt youselves by doing it too much.

    Yes there are resources in space. But there aren't any that are economic to harvest. Space travel is a money pit.

    Now if we can get a space elevator online, that might change some of the economics. Getting OFF the planet (and returning) is really the biggest hurdle. I would rather put NASA money into develpment of techologies and materials that a space elevator would require.

    In the interim, the "to the moon" plan is OK with it's phase one orbital service vehicle that makes a trip to the moon more like riding a taxi cab instead of a freight train (shuttle).

  • let NASA design it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by somers96 ( 646354 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:02PM (#13569139)
    why not buy some high-lift spacecraft from the Russian? It would take NASA 15 years to design a failure-prone spacecraft based on the 1970's designs. We lost the NASA engineers that could produce anything do to age, The present Politically-correct design-persons would screw up a "shit-sandwich"
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:39PM (#13569475) Homepage Journal
    Got evidence? Because last I knew, the Prometheus was still chugging along. []

    What you may be thinking about is that the JIMO mission was cut [] in favor of testing the Prometheus technologies prior to assigning the device to an expensive scientific mission.

    But don't let me get in the way of a perfectly offensive rant.
  • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @06:35PM (#13571048)
    "This is in addition to an already strong economy, which showed little signs of weaking after Katrina"

    Define strong economy?

    - U.S. national debt is about to cross the $8 trillion mark

    - The U.S. annual current-account deficit [] (trade deficit, budget deficit, etc) for 2005 was heading towards the $800 billion mark, tack on another $100 billion of deficit spending on Katrina maybe it will hit $900 billion. It was %6.4 of GDP in Q1 probably way worse in Q3 now post Katrina. Note from the chart, how the current-account deficit spiked under Reagan and George W.

    - Oil companies are making record profits and I'm sure their results alone are bouying economic numbers though they are sucking the life out of the rest of the economy to get it.

    A key point is a "strong economy" doesn't operate with staggering trade deficits or borrow massive amounts of money from other countries.

    George W. is creating synthetic prosperity:

    - Slash taxes for the wealthy
    - Dramatically increase government spending
    - Borrow vast amounts of money to make up the difference
    - Import vast quantities of cheap Chinese goods which means Americans spend less and get more (only problem is all the money they spend is going to China not to American jobs).

    All the borrowed money George W. is pumping in to the economy creates the appearance of growth. If the government pours hundreds of billions in to the economy though defense spending, medicare "reform" spending and drug benefits, incentives to energy companies(while oil companies are making money at record levels), $250 billion plus in the new highway bill to build bridges in Alaska to nowhere and massively increase farm subsidies.

    The Bush administration has passed one massive federal spending program after another to artificially pump the economy. The rebuild the Gulf bill will just be the next in line. The return to the Moon and Mars is chump change by comparison. Sure the U.S. can afford $10 billion a year for that, it can't afford the hundreds of billions its squandering elsewhere.

    You want to create phenomenal 10% growth in GDP, just borrow $1 trillion dollars and pump it in to a $10 trillion economy through government spending. The problem is the wheels fall off as soon as foreign countries stop buying your debt, the debt servicing kills youm and you are mortgaging the future for easy prosperity today.
  • by doktoromni ( 839179 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @06:49PM (#13571193)
    Yes, I think that filthy rich nerds will be there before 2018, making all this NASA plan pointless. And probably a private Moon trip will cost 100 million, not 100 *billion* dollars. Perhaps NASA will even give it up and start to contract the private sector to deliver their astronauts and probes. Or so I hope.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 15, 2005 @08:47PM (#13572052)
    The only problem that I have with all this is the use of the SRB as a basis for a man-rated space launcher.
    Actually, the SRB is safer than an all-liquid fuel booster. The only problem that ever occured in actual use was the o-ring failure. The explosion was caused by the liquid fuel exploding. If the SRB was by itself and the same failure occurred, it would actually cause the SRB to burn slower. With a SRB you eliminate a catastrophic explosion.

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