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Moon Space

What If the Apollo Program Had Continued? 389

proslack writes "The die had been cast years before Apollo 11 had even reached the moon. In the late 1960s, the Vietnam war was straining US finances. A fatal fire on the Apollo launch pad in January 1967 had blotted NASA's copybook. The Soviet moon effort seemed to be going nowhere. In the budget debates during the summer of 1967, Congress refused NASA's request to fund an extended moon programme. What if things had been different that summer? Suppose Congress had granted NASA's wish, then fast-forward 40-odd years..." A nice little what-if sort of story that makes sorta nostalgic for a non-existent present.
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What If the Apollo Program Had Continued?

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  • What if Kennedy had set a lesser goal, such as orbiting the moon?

    The Russians quite probably could have achieved with with Soyuz-based technology. We "know" this, sorta, because recently someone proposed putting a Soyuz capsule around the moon [] for a rich billionaire with $100m to spare.

    Now you're in the situation where both superpowers are orbiting the moon, which makes it a military race. You can drop stuff easily from lunar orbit down to the earth, so both powers have to remain there.

    Assuming we hadn't ended up dead (this is a high risk alternate history) I suspect we'd be a lot further along in space travel and technology now.


  • by flowsnake ( 1051494 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @12:43PM (#28718703)

    What if Kennedy had set a lesser goal, such as orbiting the moon?

    The Russians quite probably could have achieved with with Soyuz-based technology. We "know" this, sorta, because recently someone proposed putting a Soyuz capsule around the moon [] for a rich billionaire with $100m to spare.

    The Soviets did have the Luna programme [] - including Luna 10, the first artificial satellite of the moon. Interestingly, they focussed on robot exploration of the moon and remote collection of samples - probably closer in principle to the methods that will be used for future exploration of other planets in our solar system than manned flights.

  • 8) SALT II would have long been abandoned and Earth would be surrounded by nuke armed stations.
    9) No Cruise missiles. Why build a Mosquito when an Elephant would be cheaper.

    Read up on the Revolt of the Admirals [] sometime. There's a good reason why we have cruise missiles and not nukes. It's not for want of orbital platforms.

  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:07PM (#28719073) Homepage

    We still haven't established what happens long-term in low-gravity. We know that zero-g is not someplace you could live forever. Is lunar gravity sufficient? We don't actually know. And it's one thing to follow the science fiction cliche that the martians and moonies couldn't adapt to Earth gravity anymore.... it's another thing if the first moonie baby is horribly disfigured.

    We don't even know if, were you to raise ten generations of rats in a 1-g centerfuge and ten generations on Earth if the centerfuge rats would be healthy by comparison.

    Helium-3 is also present on Earth. You can buy it by the tank. If just getting access to Helium-3 was enough to make fusion possible, we'd at least have one pilot reactor that was able to produce a decent sized net energy gain.

    There was a significant concern inside of NASA that our flawless luck of moon launches would run out. What if we had done a few more missions and 19 left us with dead astronauts on the moon when the LM couldn't lift off? Do you think we'd have continued at that point? Remember, there could have been one more moon landing with the hardware we had but NASA didn't want to launch it.

    The problem is, cutting off the Apollo program in favor of the Space Shuttle made fairly good sense at the time and awful sense in retrospect. Even a fool can predict the past.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:10PM (#28719113)
    Kind silly spending $100B on something that only lasts 6 years.
  • Re:Bad news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:15PM (#28719195)

    You must be retarded. It is precisely because of MAD and *intellect* and communication (UN is the forum there) that nuclear war was averted. If all you do is rely on "god" and your animal instinct, then hell, this is exactly what is driving suicide bombers to blow themselves up. Their beliefs in afterlife and lack of consciousness and the entire thing about the-end-justifies-the-means that they are so reckless and dangerous. If USSR was anywhere as fanaticisized as Middle East, there would have been nuclear war in the 50s not to mention 70s.

    The Cuban missile crisis averted war precisely because,
        1. Kennedy agreed to remove missiles from border of USSR in Turkey - USSR got it a major concession for not deploying nukes in Cuba.
        2. A political officer on board of a russian sub denied retaliation for US surface ship dropping depth charges at the blockade.

    All this was precisely because of *intellect* and not stupid "animal instinct". Animal instinct is the retards on board of that US ship that started dropping depth charges. If it wasn't for the unnamed political officer to stop the "animal instinct" of captain to retaliate, the world today would most likely not include myself.

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:24PM (#28719323) Homepage

    What? In 1969 Vietnam had been "won" already. If not for the US Congress deciding to pull the plug the whole fall of Saigon thing wouldn't have happened. But the most important thing is that the money for Vietnam was already spent. The remaining six years until the fall of Saigon was the US pulling out and telling the NVA to come back and be friends with their brothers in the South.

    Too bad they didn't get the message amd decided that a brother that disagreed with them about politics was better off dead.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:31PM (#28719461)

    Soviet Russia was not just socialism. Limited socialism has been in place in much of Europe for years. And while I wouldn't trade our unemployment rate for theirs (even now), they are hardly in some kind of a Soviet-style decline.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:35PM (#28719527)

    By artificial gravity, I assume you mean using rotation to produce centrifugal force? I just don't see that being likely until we have a more efficient way than rockets to get material into space, or possible until we have a way to mine and refine metal from space.

    Human physiology limits you to 2 RPM, any higher than this and motion sickness becomes very common. That means that to get a full G of apparent gravity, you need a station with a radius of nearly 225 meters. Obviously, you could probably make do with less than a full G. How much less while still maintaining muscle mass and bone density is an unanswered question so far. If a half G is enough, you're in a much better situation, the radius would only have to be 110 meters. If you don't care about everyone not getting motion sickness you could probably up the RPMs to 4, getting the radius down to 28 meters. Of course, that means that your head will be under 10% less force than your feet, which I imagine might take some getting used to.

  • Re:I'm sceptical. (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:45PM (#28719733)

    So is the earth (it is the 7th most abundant metal). Titanium is expensive because it is expensive to refine. Wikipedia indicates that more titanium dioxide is produced than titanium metal (the dioxide is used as a white pigment) and that current reserves are on the order of about 120 years of current production: []

  • Re:I'm sceptical. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 16, 2009 @01:53PM (#28719839)

    If you change that to nothing worth shipping back to the surface of Earth. he's completley right. It IS conceivable that if you wanted to build something really big in Earth orbit, it would be cheaper to get the materials from the Moon. But you'd need to be building enough that it made sense to buid a factory in Earth orbit (or on the Moon) to make it. And our current orbital infrastructure isn't even close.

  • !Tang (Score:4, Informative)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Thursday July 16, 2009 @02:06PM (#28720031)
  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:11PM (#28721055)

    Much of the rest of the world is incapable of providing good basic health care. Good is the key word here.

    I've got family in Portugal, France and England who will tell you socialized health care is shit. I've got in-laws in Taiwan who have similar problems although it isn't quite as bad as Europe.

    Everything people say about waiting lists, not treating those deemed not worth the expense, lack of good doctors and all the rest are true. Every couple of months I hear a story of something that directly effected a family member.

    One of the most recent being my uncle, in Portugal, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer. If he waited for the government program he'd be sitting around 6 months. His doctor strongly recommended he pay out of his own pocket and get the treatment immediately. That's what he did. So explain to me again the point of government health care?

    In France, my family there, 3 uncles and 2 aunts all married with families, have private insurance because the government keeps cutting back. They tell us they're moving towards a US style health care system because the government simply can't afford to support their current system. They're no happy about it, but they're even less happy with the crap the government is offering.

    Taiwan's system isn't as bad, but it's suffering from overuse. When I was there it cost US$2 to see a doctor. What here someone would take Tylenol for there they'd be at the doctor. So what happens? Everyone gets a crappy, rushed 3 minute visit where the doctor asks the patient to describe the symptoms. You're lucky if they even take your blood pressure. They make a few assumptions and then type up some stuff on their computer and send you on your way with packs of several pills, one for each potential symptom. Although the government prohibits this, a lot of doctors try to encourage their patients to visit them at their private practices. The patients pay more and its out of pocket, but the promise is that they'll get a more thorough checkup.

    One of the examples within the United States which politicians have trumpeted as a model for the entire country is MassHealth. Here's another piece of garbage where just recently they dropped coverage for legal immigrants because of budget shortfalls. My sister in law works at a hospital in the state and has many stories of abuse.

    And that brings me to another problem, which is that people want this but expect it to be free. I know someone who's brother originally lived out of state, but moved in with her sister in MA temporarily in order to take advantage of the system because of something he got diagnosed with. It was great for him that the residents of the state got to pay for his treatment.

    Americans tend to suffer from the grass is greener syndrome. I'm not suggesting that there aren't problems with the American system, because there are. But the solution sure has hell isn't to turn things into a big, government controlled mess that they won't be able to run efficiently and can't even afford.

    I believe that limited socialism and very limited welfare are necessary. Without some regulations a small group of individuals manage to turn a free market into a restrictive one, actually the same happens with too much regulation, but that's another story. So I'm not naive to the needs of a nation. But Europe is a case study in the failure of excessive socialism, unfortunately too many Americans are blind to that fact. Of course, I can give examples until I'm blue in the face and some people still wont be convinced.

    I don't think there's any possible way the Apollo program would ever survive to day. If it hadn't been cut in 1967 it would have been cut sometime later. There are too many small-minded people, in my opinion, who can't see the forest for the trees. They have a hard time imagining for envisioning why such ambitious projects are ultimately better for the country, and humanity in general than wasteful, overblown social programs. Of course, the social programs guarantee power to the politicians.

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:25PM (#28721245)
    The Saturn V could lift more than double the shuttle's cargo capacity (maybe triple, it's been a while since I researched this) and achieve escape velocity at the same time.

    The SRBs are actually shaped internally to REDUCE thrust during flight to prevent overstressing of the Shuttle hardware.

    The Saturn V boosters were detuned as well.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:36PM (#28721401)

    IIRC, the Soviets did provide NK with MiG fighters and other military equipment. They didn't support them to the great extent that China did though.

  • by Brass Cannon ( 882254 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:08PM (#28722755)
    ...but this post requires a response.

    First if you think that what we've had in the last 40 years even remotely resembles unchecked capitalism you should try starting your own business (as I have). And no, I don't mean IT consulting. I mean a business that actually makes a product. Government is everywhere. Regulations, taxes, insurance, audits, min wage, overtime, unemployment tax, etc. They interfere at every turn and have driven manufacturing away. What they haven't driven out, they are taking over. The USA could do with a few decades of unchecked capitalism. By unchecked I mean no interference & no bailouts.

    You say the markets are not rationale? They are far more rationale than the state. The state that is now propping up a failed automobile industry that the market would have fixed or done away with years ago. Check your premises.

    As for health care... You mention people in South America with better health care. Bunk. In 2006 alone, Bush signed a foreign aid bill that sent $20.6B to South America. TANSTAAFL.

    You have no right to health care or a job or a living wage or a house. You have no right to the fruits of someone else's (doctors & nurses) labor. You have the right to your life, your liberty and to pursue happiness, not to actually be happy. That's up to you.

    I can think of no one who said it better than Ayn Rand. Yes, Ayn Rand. People quote it because it's relevant. Criticize it when you've read it.

    From Atlas Shrugged...

    "I quit when medicine was placed under state control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill?

    That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun.

    I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.

    I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything - except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the "welfare" of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only "to serve".

    That a man who is willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards - never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy.

    I have often wondered at the smugness with which they assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind - yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands?

    Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors their system will now produce.

    Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it - and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."

    Atlas Shrugged, 1957
    Book 3, "A is A"

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"