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Moon Space

China's First Lunar Satellite Sends Back Pictures 144

Fantastic Lad writes "Chinese leaders hailed images sent back from the country's first lunar satellite on Monday, saying they showed their nation had thrust itself into the front ranks of global technological powers. China plans to launch its third manned rocket, Shenzhou VII, into space in October 2008 and may send an astronaut on a space walk, a Shanghai paper said. But a space official downplayed plans to put a man on the moon."There are no plans at the moment to send anyone on to the moon. I've heard of foreign reports which say China will put a man on the moon by 2020, but I don't know of such a plan," said Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration. "Please don't give us any more pressure. But I'm confident one day we'll put an astronaut on the moon," he told a news conference."
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China's First Lunar Satellite Sends Back Pictures

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  • Despite politics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU ( 810740 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:49AM (#21479579)
    Congradulations! Science has no political boundaries. I just hope they are willing to share their results, much like we and the ESA has.
  • by AsnFkr ( 545033 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:21PM (#21479999) Homepage Journal
    1. Building public hype to go *back* to the moon is much harder than building hype to be the first to ever go.

    2. No cold war. We are not currently afraid of another countries technological abilities, so we have no need to showboat ours. This was a big issue with both Congress and the public in the 60's.

    3. The general public isn't interested in patriotism unless it has to do with winning a war or putting a yellow ribbon magnet on their cars next to the Dale Earnhardt memorial. And even then, most people nowadays seem to hate the current war.

    4. The benefits of space development are not 100% crystal clear to the general public.

    5. The first time we went to the moon that was 100% (or very close to) NASA's only objective. This means they had a larger percentage of their funding to throw in that direction. Now they have many other projects that need funding as well. In other to continue to operate these other operations it's a bit of a trade off in the time it will take to develop the new equipment for another moon shot.
  • by Mindwarp ( 15738 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:38PM (#21481933) Homepage Journal
    "once out of the earth's gravity well, it is the same diff to get to one place or another"

    A journey of a few days vs. a journey of a few weeks (insanely optimistic) to eighteen months (far more realistic.) If one of your success criteria is having live astronauts at the end of the trip then I'm putting my money on the latter being the one that's orders of magnitude harder.

    "to land on mars, we can use the atmosphere to slow down the craft"

    (a) Mars' atmosphere is very thin, (b) its gravity is far higher than the moon, (c) the crew capsule /landing module for any Mars mission will be far larger than that required for a Moon mission (it's got to contend with the fact that there IS an atmosphere for a start), and (d) entry speed for a Mars mission is massively higher than a Moon landing due to the fact that you have to be going so much faster just to get to Mars in any 'reasonable' time frame.

    Handling a Mars orbital insertion and landing is hugely more technically challenging than a Moon landing for all of those reasons, and more. The science and engineering behind designing parachutes that could slow a capsule down to landing speeds alone is daunting. Don't forget that due to (a) they have to be enormous compared to parachutes used on the Earth, and they have to open in such a way that the mechanical stresses don't tear them or turn the capsule occupants into paté.

    The Moon is easy in comparison. There's no atmosphere to worry about so the lander was delicate and above all light, and the Moon's gravity is low enough that you can gently touch down using just a single moderately powered descent engine.
  • by Mindwarp ( 15738 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:09PM (#21483991) Homepage Journal
    Oh, I agree with you entirely. There are three methods currently in use for slowing spaceships down, but unfortunately they all have their own quite serious down-sides.

    The most common is atmospheric breaking, but as mentioned before that has issues with how thing Mars' atmosphere is, how heavy the entry vehicle has to be due to the stresses involved and the added weight of the chutes and heat shield, and how difficult it is considering the extreme speeds involved in a Mars insertion.

    You can use orbital dynamics to slow yourself down. This is typically done on missions to the outer planets, but unfortunately takes much longer than a direct insert due to the additional orbits and manouvers needed to complete deceleration. This is a big problem for any manned mission.

    Finally you can just flip your ship 180 degrees and fire the main engines in a deceleration burn. This is effective, but means that you have to take twice as much fuel with you as you'd otherwise need. This is a BIG issue for any future Mars missions, as we don't yet know how we're going to drag the bare minimum of what we need over that distance and time period.

    It's a very interesting set of engineering problems that we still need to solve for Mars missions. I hope that we keep working at them until we find solutions.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.