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NASA's Cashflow Problem Puts Moon Trip In Doubt 357

krou writes "According to the Guardian, the Augustine panel is going to declare that there is simply no money to go back to the moon, and the next-generation Ares I rocket is likely to be scrapped unless there is more funding. The $81B Constellation Program's long-term goal of putting a human on Mars is almost certainly not going to be possible by the middle of the century. The options outlined by the panel for the future of NASA 'are to extend the working life of the aging space shuttle fleet beyond next year's scheduled retirement until 2015, while developing a cheaper transport to the moon; pressing ahead with Constellation as quickly as existing funding allows; or creating a new, larger rocket that would allow exploration of the solar system while bypassing the moon.' All of this means that NASA won't be back on the moon before the end of the next decade as hoped, 'or even leaving lower Earth orbit for at least another two decades.' Another result of the monetary black hole is that they don't have the '$300m to expand a network of telescopes and meet the government's target of identifying, by 2020, at least 90% of the giant space rocks that pose a threat to Earth.'"
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NASA's Cashflow Problem Puts Moon Trip In Doubt

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  • Sure they do! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:16PM (#29067781)

    It's in Congress' collective pockets. And going towards fruitless things like corporate bailouts.

  • Screw it!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Trupix ( 853338 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:17PM (#29067797)
    NASA is gonna die, and our only hope is Privately funded space travel... Or the singularity to solve all our problems...
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:21PM (#29067853)

    We're in the middle of a recession that's one of the longest on record. They're projecting that the budget they have now will be the same fifty years from now, and everyone panics over this? Oh please. Just wait until the Chinese start firing rockets into space with people on them and design their own Apollo program. I bet legislators will look between the couch cushions then and find the spare cash they need to one-up them. I've never credited Congress with an abundance of brains, but pride? Oh, they got that in spades.

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:22PM (#29067879)

    There never seems to be enough money for something as fundamentally important and immensely valuable to the human race as space exploration. But apparently there's always a bottomless pit of wealth for bailouts, to help grow government bureaucracy and expand what in many ways are entitlement programs.

  • Scare mongering (Score:4, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:24PM (#29067915) Homepage Journal

    Keep all the little, boring projects that the public doesn't care about in the budget and then threaten that unless you get more money, then you won't be able to do the big, visible ones.

    It's one of the oldest budgeting tricks in the book and somebody should be handing NASA's chief his ass for pulling such a stunt.

  • NASA Benifits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m0s3m8n ( 1335861 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#29067953)
    No matter your political leanings, it is hard to argue that NASA does not provide a great return on investment. But with our myopic tendencies (Congress and Business) no one has the balls to invest what is needed to continue long-term success.
  • Re:Scare mongering (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:28PM (#29067963) Journal

    Keep all the little, boring projects that the public doesn't care about in the budget and then threaten that unless you get more money, then you won't be able to do the big, visible ones.

    Yeah, the public schools do that too. They let repairs go when they could have been fixed, but buy new uniforms for the football team and send the band to Disney, then they want a millage passed to do repairs.

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:28PM (#29067979)

    I'm going to have to disagree. NASA could survive, but only by doing something relatively radical that actually makes space exploration make sense. At a minimum that means setting up an orbital refueling system, with disposable heavy lifters to bring up fuel and other equipment, relaunchable shuttles to ferry people up and down, and ships that never re-enter the atmosphere but are refueled and stocked in orbit.

    Alternatively, NASA could dust off the theoretical nuclear rockets (the closed cycle ones, not the ones that rely on detonating thousands of nuclear bombs) that they had started developing back in the 60's. Or they could start serious research on a non-rocket launch system. A space elevator is probably out of reach right now, but a hypersonic sky-hook, a launch loop, or a laser propulsion system is probably within our technology level (or soon will be).

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:28PM (#29067981) Homepage Journal

    Look around. Do you see private companies lining up to fund Moon travel?

    Believe me, if Boeing or General Electric or United Airlines (those seem like the most obvious candidates off the top of my head; I'm sure there are many others) thought there was a profit in it, they'd be lobbying like mad for whatever regulatory changes would be necessary, and simultaneously developing well-publicized plans. Instead we have the absurdly misnamed "Virgin Galactic" planning suborbital hops at some point in the unspecified future -- and as much money as the Branson empire represents, the truth is that when it comes to projects of this scale, Virgin Everything is a bit player.

    Yes, eventually the technology will improve to the point that corporate investors will see a short-term profit potential, and at that point the dollars will start flowing in. But it is going to take massive government investment to get us there. As long as the US is dragging its feet, we'd better hope that the EU or Russia or China can step up, because otherwise we are just not going to see people on the Moon again in our lifetimes.

  • by Un pobre guey ( 593801 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:31PM (#29068023) Homepage
    How hard is it to see that manned space flight inhibits space exploration? What does physical human presence on a spacecraft do that can't be done by remotely controlled or autonomous robotics? Why spend billions upon billions of dollars to provide food, water, atmosphere, heat, radiation protection, cabin space, lighting, and excrement processing when these are entirely tangential to any compelling mission? Almost the entirety of productive and scientifically valuable space exploration of the past half century has been performed by machines.

    The "get off this rock" crowd is a magical-religious cult, not a serious proponent of realistic, feasible, affordable, desirable, or even specific projects. Manned colonization of the cosmos is, at the present time and likely for centuries to come, no different from a belief in an afterlife filled with saints, virgins, and angelic personages. It is not real. If you want inspiration, stick to anime.
  • by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:33PM (#29068059)
    You just won't like the solution. From TFA:

    The agency needs about $300m to expand a network of telescopes and meet the government's target of identifying, by 2020, at least 90% of the giant space rocks that pose a threat to Earth. Congress has not come up with the money and is unlikely to, according to the National Academy of Science.

    There is no advantage to detecting an incoming impactor if you do not have the means to prevent its impact. Having less time before large scale annihilation may serve the public better. But when it does hit (don't say if if you mean when), the loss of tax revenue will cause more damage to the budget than the space budget would have.

    A microgram of prevention is worth a metric tonne of cure.

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:36PM (#29068097)

    Not true. The US isn't the only country with space technology. I predict the Chinese will be the next to land men on the moon, and Mars, and everything after that. They'll probably work with the Russians, and maybe some US engineers will head over there too to help out after realizing everything here is going to pot.

    While the USA is busy squandering its leading position in the world, China is working hard on becoming #1.

  • Re:It seems to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:40PM (#29068153)

    We can't stop the stupid thing.

    That depends wildly on how much warning we have. If we spot it two months, or even two years before it gets here, you're probably right. Even then, small rocks are more common than big ones so it would be statistically likely that an evacuation could be done, possibly saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

    If we spot a rock, even a big one, 30 or 40 years out, we have the technology already to make a difference. Enough nukes detonated all on one side will ablate material off the surface and produce thrust, changing the rocks orbit by a little bit. Luckily, even a minuscule change in direction will produce a significant change in position 30 years down the line.

    The really interesting thing is if a rock is detected that will hit in 10-15 years. At that point, it is less likely for our current technology to be fully effective. We'd end up with a crash program that would make Apollo look like chump change. I could even imagine NASA dusting off the old Orion nuclear pulse propulsion ideas if the whole world were at stake; after all, what's a few hundred nukes being detonating in the atmosphere compared human extinction.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:40PM (#29068173)

    Our manned space program has been on a budget that amounts to just enough to keep limping along in LEO, but not enough to do anything useful for the last thirty years. And honestly, we don't care about what the Chinese do. We don't need an excuse to develop nuclear capability anymore. We aren't in a battle of ideologies where allowing the Russians to be better than us in anything would be a "win for communism". If the Chinese put a man on the moon we'll say good "job catching up", and then do nothing.

    Congress doesn't have the decisiveness to kill the manned space program altogether nor the will to spend what is genuinely needed to kick start a colonization effort. So we continue with uninspired mediocrity. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this will change any time soon.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:43PM (#29068221) Journal
    Just a tip - don't be partisan in your posts. Both parties spend spend spend, and have done so with reckless abandon since WWII. This is the check book republic.

    Here, do this the next time your party is in charge: Take your income tax bill and write a check for double that. Because at our rate of spending, we only tax for half our expenditures. It doesn't matter who is in charge.

    It us unfortunate that we have come full circle and now have taxation without representation. Our children and our kids have no representation in congress, yet they get to inherit our bills.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:46PM (#29068279)

    Please don't toss out "Iraq". That old throw away line was childish during Bush's years and just as tired now. Iraq had no bearing either.

    Sometime between the time Clinton left office and Obama entered office the Federal budget surplus disappeared.

    Now where did it go? Hrm?

    Secondly, the national debt went from 6 trillion in 2001 to 10 trillion in 2008? (I'm rounding up)

    Now where did that money go? It could have been useful to have when the economy collapsed in 2008?

    Keep in mind the President had veto power and up until 2006 a majority in the house and senate so anything that got approved for spending crossed his desk.

    I'm saying this as a person who support conservative government fiances in time of plenty and who donated to Ron Paul. As it is... 8 years is a long time to be in charge. Anything we have to deal with today was because of that.

    And don't say Clinton is at fault either because he had 8 years to undo any problems he had caused if such is the reason.

  • by NewbieProgrammerMan ( 558327 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:48PM (#29068315)

    Congress won't do anything serious until it's blatantly obvious--even to Joe SixPack--that there's a space race again and we're losing. It has to be portrayable as a crisis of epic proportions, so they can rush in to save American pride with some epic spending.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @01:58PM (#29068469)

    Because it certainly has not had any impact on the orgy of irresponsible spending of President Obama and his fellow Democrats.

    Context failure on line 1: Orgies not related to root topic "Moon Trip".
    Parsing failure on line 1: "President Obama" is not inherited from the class "Democrats".

    Face it, it isn't because we "DON'T" have the money its because NASA != votes.

    Illegal operand on line 3: !=; Class "Organization" cannot be compared with class "Citizen".
    Compiler warning: All caps statement does not need added quotations for emphasis.
    I/O: /projects/moon_trip/John_F_Kennedy.h include file missing.

    Please don't toss out "Iraq". That old throw away line was childish during Bush's years and just as tired now. Iraq had no bearing either.

    Compiler warning: Iraq.h included but not used.
    Compiler warning: George_Bush.h included but not used.

    It is no more difficult than that. There is no conspiracy.

    Compiler warning: Illuminati.h contains errors and was not included.

    This not because of Iraq/Afghanistan. This is not because of a bloated defense budget.

    Compiler warning: Iraq.h alread declared.
    File I/O error: Afghanistan.h not found.
    File I/O error: Function bloat() included multiple times in budget/defense.h
    Compiler warning: budget/defense.h required for NASA.c

    It simply is because NASA does not generate votes or control and as such does not qualify for a President or Congress not interested in science.

    Parsing failure on line 9: "Control" declared without operand.
    Parsing failure on line 9: if/then branch always returns false.
    Parsing failure on line 9: Class "NASA" not inherited from "Voter".

    Please don't confuse a President who TALKS about being for science, just understand the science politicians support is the science that polls well.

    Parsing failure on line 10: "President" cannot be confused by members of the class "Voter."
    Parsing failure on line 10: "science politicians" is ambiguous. Add an apostrophe to politicians or prefix statement with a linking verb.
    Parsing failure on line 10: "polls well" is ambiguous. Did you mean "does well in the polls" ?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:00PM (#29068493) Homepage

    The future of space belongs to a country willing to use nuclear propulsion. [] Chemical rockets are a dead end. They haven't improved much in forty years, and the limits of that technology have been nearly reached.

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:07PM (#29068607) Homepage Journal


    With a nuclear rocket you don't have to send fuel and oxidizer up - you only have to send propellant.

    And, as soon as you establish a viable transport network, you can get your propellant on much lower-gravity bodies. One could land on a comet, get a lot of water out of it and use part of the collected water to get back to the fuel station.

  • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:17PM (#29068765)

    Anyone who implies Dubya is a conservative is lying out their teeth.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:27PM (#29068913) Homepage Journal
    The government has made it abundantly clear that it understands and cares little for scientific progress. It doesn't matter whether you lean left, right, or upside-down, the fact of the matter is that neither Congress, nor recent Presidents, have serious desires to see progress made in scientific realms for purely progressive reasons. As other slashdotters have pointed out numerous times, there is an enormous list of spin-off benefits that come from manned-exploration of space. Not only that, but direct benefits such as a progression of the human species beyond its own world are a payoff in and of themselves. Politicians don't care. If something won't result directly in votes, money, or power for politicians, then there is little chance that thing, be it a movement, a field, or an ideology, will get any serious backing from the legislative or executive branches.

    This can also be seen in the Green movement, for example. Rather than fund or seriously investigate truly sustainable energy sources such as breeder reactors and fusion research, the government wants to hop on a trendy bandwagon (votes) that involves the more inefficient methods of solar and wind energy production and the costly subsidization of corn-based bio-fuels (money). We can, and should, therefore kiss off serious government spending towards goals like space exploration. True development and innovation will come in this field through privately funded space organizations and governments of other countries.

    Companies like Bigelow Aerospace will work to make space accessible to the civilian population. Companies like Orbital and SpaceX will continue to try to reduce the cost/kg to LEO until space is affordable and accessible. Universities will continue to inspire engineering and science students to work on space-related projects just for the sake of doing 'something totally awesome' such as the Cubesat project. This will, in turn, provide a place of invention and learning. Other governments such as Japan, Russia, the UK, and the EU in general will lobby harder to have more say and dabbling in international space endeavors such as the ISS. Slowly, unfortunately, I think we will see NASA start to sputter and stagnate over the next few decades.

    All I have to say to NASA is, "Thank you for all of the inspiration and hard work you put into paving the road to space for us." That organization put decades of hard work and research into opening up a whole new universe (literally) to us as a species. NASA, at its height, embodied the peak of the American 'can-do' spirit and gumption. It very much did make heroes of many dreamers and it should forever be remembered as an organization that truly inspired and captured the minds and dreams of thousands of people. The human race owes NASA a great debt for this and this alone. Sadly, however, I fear this organization is going to lose much of its former glory under the suffocating chokehold of egoistic and, frankly, stupid politicians.
  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:35PM (#29069005) Journal

    nobody seriously objects because nobody seriously believes the space elevator could be built anyway

  • Re:It seems to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @02:43PM (#29069095) Journal

    Why exactly are we going to the moon again? ... How about we use that other launch platform we have.. you know, earth

    Because the moon is a very large bunch of ore in a MUCH shallower gravity well. For any construction for use in space that is of sufficient mass to make building and operating mines, some processing facilities, and a catapult on the moon cost-effective for a step in manufacturing its compaonents, it's the logical way to cut costs and/or boost profits.

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:10PM (#29069433) Homepage Journal

    Please don't toss out "Iraq". That old throw away line was childish during Bush's years and just as tired now. Iraq had no bearing either.

    A throw-away line for a throw-away war.

    You know, once upon a time, we had a presidential candidate who is very gung-ho about science. He even won most of the votes. I suppose that invalidates your conclusion.

    You need to recognize that there are very specific segments of the population who are actively hostile to science, and pandering to them using words they can understand is what gets their votes. Their weight in the polls dumbs down everything for all of us.

  • Re:Why, yes, I do. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:31PM (#29069721) Homepage

    For starters, it's a LOT cheaper to mine, refine, and launch material for space-based industry on the Moon than on the Earth.

    You are missing a smiley here :-) It is definitely cheaper to launch stuff from the Moon if you have a cat-a-pult [] already. But where do you see metal ores on the Moon? Some refining processes require amazing quantities of energy, water, oxygen [] and other very specific ingredients that I'd be amazed if they just sit on the surface. And how do you "spiral out" a construction of a steel mill that weighs a few million tons and measures power in gigawatts? It can't be built without all the supporting industries being already in place.

    Mining on Earth is already dangerous and difficult even though we don't need to do it in spacesuits. On the Moon the vacuum will be a major killer because an accident that on Earth leaves you with a minor wound will puncture your spacesuit and you'll be dead as a mummy before anyone can pull you to safety. There are all kinds of costs and dangers associated with Moon mining and refining, and it is absurd to suggest that they can be done there cheaper than on Earth (unless we terraform Moon or Earth.)

    All the talk about cybernetic mining machines is just talk until I see a herd of them here, on Earth, mining something useful (like Uranium ore) completely autonomously and with minimum maintenance. If you need a spare part it will cost $50 million per delivery. Let's see how that helps to make Moon mining cheaper.

    In my personal opinion, humankind will not get anywhere until a new propulsion method is discovered. Chemical rockets barely can lift a handful of people onto LEO. Nuclear rockets using something like water as reaction mass may be usable, but water is precious in space. Physics research does not go any faster if a Moon colony is set up (unless you expect to find some ET cache of knowledge.) NASA funding would be better spent on basic science, and whatever remains can be used to send cheap but resilient robots to neighboring planets. This is similar to space travel - a ship sent 100 years later will overtake the ship sent earlier earlier because it will move faster due to advances in propulsion methods.

  • Re:It seems to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:02PM (#29070171) Homepage

    But I don't believe you have the technology to prove said rock is going to hit the Earth in 30-40 years ; even small inaccuracies in orbital measurements and simulation could cause massive variation in the predicted position decades later.

    We have demonstrated techniques for simulation of accurate orbits out to 50 Myr [] so I think even a few hundred years we can do for accurate collision calculations.
    The biggest issue then is the orbital determination of the impactor. We use radar for orbit determination and we are very good at it: http://impact.arc.nasa.go/news_detail.cfm?ID=132 [arc.nasa.go] The article gives an example of measuring Yarkovsky effect on a 1/2 km asteroid, which changed it's orbit by 15 km over 12 years of observation.
    I can not give a site, but I would estimate that inside of 6 months we can plot an important orbit to a few centimeters, and if we expect impact inside of 30 years we can predict the time to within 1 minute, which would locate the impact on Earth to within a few tens of km.

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:03PM (#29070193) Journal

    What would keep the elevator from instantly vaporizing due to electrical arcing the moment it's installed?

    you can't discharge the entire ionosphere by running a wire into it. It's not a big metal-foil plate, it's a very diffuse plasma.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:08PM (#29070243)

    Because the earth won't stay all perfectly habitable forever? If you don't care about the extinction of life, that's fine, but some of us actually look into the FUTURE, past the current, living generation.

  • Re:NASA Benifits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:15PM (#29070367)

    Why did Europe dump so much into the exploration and conquest of the New World? Where was the even remotely near term ROI on that? It was expensive as hell and the first couple generations of Europeans didn't see a drop. However, run the calendar on a while longer and you'll notice a good many things: vast improvements in ship logistics, short haul and trans-oceanic; establishment of mineral and other natural resource mining/harvesting on distant shores to replace increasingly scarce resources locally; establishment of trading partners who provided many things the likes of which never dreamed; etc. etc.

    In the short term there's very little to gain if focused solely on economics. But those of us who advocate for NASA, and our presence in space particularly with regard to a human presence aren't thinking purely about economics for the short-term but in the spirit of adventure, of a sense of pride in accomplishment of that which seems impossible. Kennedy might have had ulterior motives in the moon program, but the American people, even people of the world took great encouragement, pride and joy the day Neal Armstrong stepped foot on the Moon. The Apollo program was something a nation could look to for inspiration and common purpose under a banner of peace during a time when threat of nuclear holocaust and the Vietnam were so very real.

    In the long-term just as the New World was to the Europeans, space is a vast treasure trove of resources and riches but exponentially more so waiting for us to step off this rock we call Earth. We don't have all the needed technology, that which we do have is expensive. But as with anything the further we persevere the more we know, the more we can do, and the easier and cheaper we can do it. When are we going to stop saying we can't and start taking the necessary first steps so that we can? How many times has NASA had the financial rug pulled out from underneath them causing their programs and projects to collapse from a removal of funding mid-way through. Why do we have to keep going through the same cycle again and again of spending money to partially complete but never finish? Consider what we could have accomplished if even a fourth of such projects were funded through to completion.

  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:38PM (#29070667)

    As long as the human race is confined to this rock it will eventually go the way of the dodo. From a species preservation point of view it is immanently logical that the human race needs to aquire a foothold on another planet. That is why such well known raving lunatics like Stephen Hawking are very much in favor of a Mars colony [].

  • Re:Screw it!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:00AM (#29073781)

    > I think that exploring space is really kind of pointless of boring compared to all
    > the earth based science and engineering one could do with the same amount of money.

    You're forgetting the #1 reason it's important: Terrestrial asteroid impact. Right now, if a Chixilub-like asteroid hits anywhere on earth, it's likely to instantly set back human civilization and technology by AT LEAST a hundred years -- if we're lucky, and most humans aren't actually killed, and some anti-technology religious zealots don't end up in charge during the aftermath.

    We'll have the benefit of knowing that things like digital audio, magnetic levitation, and antiviral/antibiotic drugs are possible, but if every semiconductor on Earth were destroyed by the EMP from a large asteroid event, it would be YEARS -- probably a decade or more -- until someone like Intel had the ability to make a 500MHz Pentium III, let alone a 3GHz quadcore i7. And that's the best, most wildly-optimistic scenario imaginable. A really bad impact event *could* conceivably send the few humans left back to the technological sophistication of the ancient Romans. Or worse. Set back food production and medical treatment far enough to kill off just about everyone older than 40 or so who survives the initial event within 5-10 years (from things people routinely survive NOW... appendicitis, pneumonia, first heart attacks, breast & testicular cancer, diabetes, etc), and massively thin out the ranks of everyone alive, period, and the seeds of civilization's rebirth might not live long enough to reboot it after the worst of the aftermath is over 5-10 years down the road. To someone born After Impact, with 95% of the Pre-Impact adult population dead, a TV and DVD player literally WOULD be magic if he or she actually saw one in operation.

    Ergo, our Lunar and/or Martian insurance policy. Assuming they were able to become self-sufficient enough to survive the loss of their terrestrial supply chain, our technology would survive, and eventually make it back to Earth. Knowing human nature, they'd probably wait a hundred years, go back to "stone-age level" Earth, tell the humans they found that they're gods (possibly wearing funny masks and outfits, just to drive home the point), and enslave them... er, well, let's not dwell on that. The important thing is that with a little luck, if a "bad, but not planet-killing bad" event happened, there would hopefully be enough semiconductors and backed-up digital libraries on the Moon &/| Mars to recover within a few years.

Loose bits sink chips.