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Space Science

Should We Land on the Moon's Poles or Equator? 408

Cujo writes "There is at present a lively controversy about sites for a crewed lunar landing. Advocates for landing near the poles, possibly on a mountain, point out the advantages of much higher sunlight availability and possible water resources in nearby cold traps. However, there may be more interesting geology and better mineral resources near the better-explored equator. NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture report lays out some of the tradeoffs."
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Should We Land on the Moon's Poles or Equator?

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  • I know (Score:3, Funny)

    by johnnyb ( 4816 ) <> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @06:50PM (#14664307) Homepage
    Wherever it has the best/most cheese. Therefore, if the astronauts get stranded, they won't go hungry.
  • Contact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @06:55PM (#14664362)
    In the words of John Haddon, "Why build one, when you can build two for twice the price?" We should build two and target both the pole and the equator. Example: two mars landers. Good idea.

    Redundancy is always key and it is more efficient to built two highly probably successes than one extremely probably success.

    • I agree about doing both from the research perspective. We want to explore and set up operations on the whole moon, not just a corner of it.

      However, logistics becomes a problem. What if you're out of a crucial supply at the equator but the station at the pole has many of them. In order to transport the supplies you'd have to do a lot of work. Either build a rail line between the two, have astronauts/mooninites get in their buggies and meet half way, go across that huge expanse Lawrence of Arabia style a
  • Both (Score:2, Insightful)

    There should be a way to deliver (in the same mission)astronauts to the location that would deliver the most scientific benefit, and also deliver an instrument package to the other location. It is not rocket scie ... hmm, never mind.
  • by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:02PM (#14664437)
    ...when did the Poles get to the moon ahead of the Americans and why are we considering landing on them? Let's make it the equator and take second place. Go Poland!

    Huh? Oh.

  • Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:11PM (#14664517) Homepage Journal
    At first I thought this was an "Ask Slashdot" entry, at which point I thought, "I'm not sure I want to trust NASA with a shuttle program."
  • after all, if we've travelled all the way to the moon, we might as well get an Earthtan for all our trouble, and break out the Virgin Daquiris in their squeeze tetrapacks all round.

    Heck, we should think about making a Club Med on the Moon - we'll have lots of Lunar Tokens to buy water with - ok, dirty ice crystals from crevices, but the same concept.

    And we should put up a big neon sign that says "UFOs Land Here! Interplanetary Spaceport! Have your Binary Passports ready!"

    But whatever we do, let's just borro
  • So where is the best spot for the mass driver []? We need to get construction started on that.
  • Why Not Have Both? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jammerwoch ( 73739 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:17PM (#14664569) Homepage
    The polar circumfrence of the moon is ony about 3500 km, so any point from the equator to either pole is approximately a quarter of that, 875 km. The original lunar rovers used in the first lunar exploration had a top speed of just under 13 km/hr and very limited ranges, so they would obviously be unsuited to take a "lunar road trip." But it seems to me that we could build a vehicle that was more like a "lunar RV" that could make the trip. Say we improve rover speed to a modest 45 km/hr and assume we can't take a perfectly direct course to a it 900 km. So it would take 20 hours in your VW lunar rover. As long as they pack enough ganja and doritos, they should be fine. It seems that with the low gravity and cloudless skies, that kind of performance could be achieved with solar power, perhaps boosted by some chemical propulsion. It would have to be capable of carrying enough oxygen for the crew to survive for several days, but it seems like this would be possible.
  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @07:34PM (#14664691)
    In the Mythbusters interview, among other places, it has been suggested that the best way to counter the myth that the moon landing was faked is to go back to the moon and bring back something from the previous astronauts.

    I've always wondered why the hell we can't prove or disprove the moon landing myth by just pointing a friggin' telescope at it? I mean, if there is any such astronaut junk...couldn't the Hubble or even some small terrestrial telescope pick it out? There's no wind on the moon, so shouldn't the footprints and tire tracks still be visible? Did Neil Armstrong leave the flag planted or bring it back?

    Why have I never seen pictures of these features? We can see planets a brazilian light years away but we can't pick out a landing zone a few hundred thousand miles away? The pictures on don't appear to have any better resolution than my digital camera can produce.

    So maybe someone can answer this question for me. What prevents us from looking at the moon's surface with any sort of detail, and since the moon is our next big destination resort, why haven't we sent a probe to do the same kind of high-resolution imaging of the surface like we have for every other planet in our solar system? We might need to know where the best places are to build those hydrogen refineries or whatever.

    • In a word, Optics.

      And going to the moon and bringing something back would not counter any single argument. They will only say that put it there when we went to 'retrieve' it.

      All the so called 'evidence' that we didn't go and easily be counter with basic physics, and photography.

    • Why???

      how far away is the moon? very VERY far away.
      How big are the landers? very VERY small.

      How do I put that in terms you canunderstand?

      Ok. You 2 miles away from a wall. on the wall is an gnat I squished. now using the best telescope you can find on this planet I DARE you to resolve the ant let alone even find it's location.

      Optical resolution of our telescopes is far too low to resolve such detail. it's past the limits of our technology for magnification.

      Spy sattelites are really stinking close to the
    • Money. Plan and simple. It takes money to put satellites in orbit around the moon and to image it. Ground based systems that have the kind of resolution you want are busy looking at long distance objects. They can't focus on something as close as the moon. Why build a telescope that can only look at the moon?

      That said, NASA does have a satellite about to launch that will produce amazing high res pictures and topographical data of the moon in preperation of landers looking for ice and other goodies on the
    • I've always wondered why the hell we can't prove or disprove the moon landing myth by just pointing a friggin' telescope at it? I mean, if there is any such astronaut junk...couldn't the Hubble or even some small terrestrial telescope pick it out? There's no wind on the moon, so shouldn't the footprints and tire tracks still be visible? Did Neil Armstrong leave the flag planted or bring it back?

      It's a question of scale and resolving power. Current telescopes simply do not have the resolution to pick out obj
    • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:21PM (#14665161) Homepage
      it has been suggested that the best way to counter the myth that the moon landing was faked is to go back to the moon and bring back something

      Pete Conrad and Alan Bean did that on Apollo 12. They landed within sight and easy walking distance of Surveyor III, which had landed a few years earlier, and cut off and brought back part of the scoop arm and the TV camera. They're in the Smithsonian.

      Didn't convince anyone who wanted not to be convinced.

      Oh, and the Hubble's software won't let it be pointed anywhere near the Moon (or Sun, or Earth) without closing the "lens cap" (sun shield), so as to avoid burning out extremely sensitive instruments.

      However, with the right equipment you can bounce a laser off the laser retroreflector panels the Apollo missions left, and see that.
  • Can we just get BACK TO THE MOON ALREADY?!. Sheesh. Before I'm collecting social security, please?!

    Seriously. Rebuild the launch technology first, then follow it up with improvements and start planting bases and solar arrays and observatories like cigarette butts in the park.
  • We shouldn't even bother landing a crewed vehicle on the moon; been there, done that. It is a total waste of time, money, and resources. How about we spend the limited resource dollars available on doing useful science instead of some halfwit's recycled 1960's 'vision thing' (or more accurately, the 'aerospace industry welfare thing'). Either than, or just don't spend it at all and try closing the deficit.
  • Someone remind me why we're spending billions to go to the moon again? Is there any real reason other than a presidential mandate? Don't get me wrong -- I'm all in favor of the space program.. bigger, better, faster, and more -- but what's the point in targetting a barren rock covered in very static, highly abrasive [], and possibly toxic [] dust? Previous expeditions have suffered mechanical failures, seal leaks, etc. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, there's the little issue of all the craters. More speci
    • Dress rehearsal for Mars, without the issues added by the long trip times. The Moon's environment is less friendly but at least if something goes wrong the crew could be back in three days.
    • Your impact numbers are not directly comparable. The 70-150 impacts per year are for large impacts that are recordable by seismometer, i.e. objects 100 g to 1000 kg landing anywhere on the moons surface. The 1400 to 10,000 impacts per hour are for meteors that would be visible from one spot on the Moon's surface if it had an atmosphere, caused by metorites that are mostly microscopic or the size of sand grains.
  • The real question is can we get back to the moon at all? The US govt is likely to cut funding rather than increase it as the Hubbert Curve begins to bite.
  • Trick Question? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LifesABeach ( 234436 )
    Yes to the above questions. Just get humanities collective butt off this dirt ball. 30 years ago would have been a time to start...
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`moc.stiucricve' `ta' `ive'> on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:25PM (#14665208) Homepage
    The place where we landed last time on the moon - in some studio near or in Hollywood.
  • I would just aim for the middle and hope we hit it!
  • by Crispix ( 864691 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:49PM (#14665410)
    It's much easier to get back into orbit from the equator due to the moon's rotational speed. This is the same reason those floating satellite launch pads travel all the way to Earth's equator before launch.
  • whiners (Score:4, Informative)

    by raquor ( 947783 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @08:51PM (#14665432)
    This post is for those of you that think the space program is a waste of time: []

    Educate yourselves.
    For those of you that are too freakin lazy to go to the site here is a sample of what we get from the space program:
    1. Computer Technology - NASA Spinoffs
      • Advanced keyboards, Customer Service Software, Database Management System, Laser Surveying, Aircraft controls, Lightweight Compact Disc, Expert System Software, Microcomputers, and Design Graphics.
    2. Consumer/Home/Recreation - NASA Spinoffs
      • Dustbuster, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, cool sportswear, sports bras, hair styling appliances, fogless ski goggles, self-adjusting sunglasses, composite golf clubs, hang gliders, art preservation, and quartz crystal timing equipment.
    Now quit whining and go back to your boring job like the rest of us. Quit wasting your employers money here whining.
  • by boatboy ( 549643 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:15PM (#14665597) Homepage
    Should We Land on the Moon's Poles or Equator?
  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @09:37PM (#14665755) Journal
    Well, if you're talking about sending probes, I'd say do both (though I'd start with the mountains). I read the articles and the one that discusses the mountains makes some very good points about the habitability of the mountains.

    First, you get much more solar power by sitting up there. Second, you are always in communication with the Earth. Third is the possibility of water ice which--if confirmed--could supply water and oxygen to the base. This is the winner, in my book. Of course, if there is no water ice, then all bets are off.

    While the "manufacturing" possibilities are better at the equator, the first requirement to me is to get people to the moon and figure out how to keep them alive without having to ship everything they need from Earth. Once that's done, we can start thinking about other sites for doing other things. Heck, there might be a migration away from the poles if the hydrogen/oxygen potential of the rocks at the equator are realized. Though you'd probably still want that sunlight from the poles for power, that could be beamed via satellite eventually.
  • by bobbuck ( 675253 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2006 @10:48PM (#14666212)
    Rockets don't work in a vacuum because they don't have any air to push against. Therefore, you can't go to the moon. We have proof in the form of this venomous editoral from the New York Times: l []

  • Not worth it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by huge colin ( 528073 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:10AM (#14666723) Journal
    Being an astronaut sounds cool when you're 12 years old, but really, we shouldn't go back to the moon at all. People don't seem to understand how expensive it is to get humans to the surface and back safely. There is no conceivable way to make money (or even break even) by going there, so an economic argument is right out. There aren't any valuable or useful minerals there. Even if there were, it would cost a ridiculous amount of money to get significant quantities back to Earth. The moon isn't a good place for a base of any kind. It doesn't even have an atmosphere -- space junk will pulverize anything big that's there for a long period of time.

    The most valuable things you can get on the moon, we already have: nice pictures of Earth.

    Good idea: Going to the moon in 1969. It showed the Russians who was in charge.
    Bad idea: Going back. The moon is dusty, boring, and useless.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982