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Moon NASA Space Science

Russia Talks Moon Base With NASA, ESA 197

milbournosphere writes "Russia and NASA are reportedly in talks to create a base on the Moon. They're looking to create either a facility on the Moon itself or a permanent space station in orbit around the moon. 'We don't want man to just step on the Moon,' agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview with Vesti FM radio station. 'Today, we know enough about it. We know that there is water in its polar areas,' he added. 'We are now discussing how to begin [the Moon's] exploration with NASA and the European Space Agency.'"
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Russia Talks Moon Base With NASA, ESA

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  • Twenty years later than it should have been on the table.

    We should have had a base up there for years - an ideal place to serve as a jumping off point for science elsewhere in the solar system, even if the Moon itself is "barren".

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @06:50PM (#38798921)

    With a moon base you have access to that water they mention, and perhaps enough sunlight to actually grow food (although the water seems to be in the wrong place for this). You have shelter by digging into the moon itself, and enough free raw materials to extract an atmosphere, make building materials, etc. You don't have to bring everything from earth. You have gravity as well, which makes for more comfortable living and building. None of that is available in moon orbit.

    Although an orbiting moon base makes for a quicker return to earth vicinity, the value of "quick" makes it a fairly meaningless advantage. There is no point in putting a base in moon orbit unless you intend to frequently visit the moon surface. At which time you encounter the assent problem, the same problem you have with a moon base.

    The major problem of a moon base, or simply visiting the moon, is the problem of fuel expenditures for lift off. For all the Buck Rogers si-fi we've written, we still can't carry enough fuel to get out of sight. Any system we have for getting off of the surface amounts to a zero-backup, Hail Mary. There is no plan B.

    We (barely) got out of the moon program without the horror of stranding people there. Until a more realistic system for getting off the moon is built, putting a base there is just a disaster waiting to happen with our current technology.

    Maybe it would be easier to build the often talked about space elevator on the moon.

  • by NReitzel ( 77941 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @06:56PM (#38798985) Homepage

    I would think that the fastest (timeline) to having a large presence in orbit around the moon would be to boost ISS to lunar orbit, or possibly (stability?) a figure-8 orbit around earth and moon. That gives us a large, stable presence, in a relatively short time frame. ISS is nice, but it's not really doing anything super useful in LEO.

    One of the reasons that the US doesn't have the supercollider and CERN does is that they reused all their old equipment. We had similar equipage, the Tevatron, but no, SSC had to be all brand new, and ended up being so great it was never built.

    We have a large, manned habitat, already in orbit. Use it.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:04PM (#38799059)

    Most likely you'd be shipping tanks of hydrogen and oxygen and mixing them on the Moon. You don't get any savings in terms of mass, but you get a huge savings in space. The food you'd almost certainly be shipping in and would probably come in some sort of highly concentrated form delivered by unmanned craft.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:14PM (#38799161)

    Most likely you'd be shipping tanks of hydrogen and oxygen and mixing them on the Moon. You don't get any savings in terms of mass, but you get a huge savings in space.

    Umm, no.

    H2O density is 1.0 kg/l.

    LH2/LOX density, in the ratio required to make water (8 kg LOX per kg LH2) is about 0.42 kg/l.

    So you use over twice as much space, as opposed to getting "a huge savings".

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:36PM (#38799485) Homepage

    Dear libertarians and rationalists who think manned space missions are a waste of money because robots can do the job cheaper...

    I think it's important to distinguish between at least two sets of people on this News for Nerds site who oppose manned missions and favour robotic probes instead. On one hand, perhaps there are people who aren't inclined to dream, see no romantic vision in man expanding into the cosmos, and may make a good argument that mankind can have a bold future without ever living the planet.

    On the other hand, there's people who have read Ray Kurzweil's conjectures/ravings in The Singularity is Near [] and other books. This crowd doesn't lack dreams of humanity spreading through the galaxy. Rather, they might simply say that we should wait a few decades or a century until human beings will have supposedly overcome biological limitations that hamper spaceflight: radiation exposure, need for certain sustenance, limited lifespans that would force unrealistic generational starship designs, etc . That is, such people may figure that human beings will eventually be robotic probes, and once the two are the same, then we can really begin with longterm space exploration that is more than just a stunt.

  • Re: Proper Plan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:05PM (#38799735)

    tl;dr: Robots first, mine the asteroids for building materials.

    The proper plan is to start mining Near Earth Asteroids for supplies. Why NEO's? They take less velocity to reach than the Moon's surface for some of them, and all of the velocity can be done with highly efficient electric thrusters. The Moon is physically closer, but distance is not what costs in space, it's velocity and fuel. Haul back surface dust and rocks from your chosen asteroid with a solar powered tug, and have the extraction equipment in Earth orbit. Why here? it's close enough to be remote controlled by humans on the ground. Depending which asteroid and it's composition you can get: metals, glass, oxygen, fuel for more mining trips, carbon, silicon for solar panels, even water in some of them. Also sheer bulk rock gives you radiation shielding.

    Once you learn to extract useful stuff, and build up a supply, you use that to build a habitat, including a greenhouse using the glass for windows and carbon to feed the plants. *Then* you start sending people. Until then you send the minimum crew you can get away with, possibly zero. With people up there and their life support taken care of long term, you can start building space elevators in Earth orbit and Lunar orbit out of the carbon you extract. Not the sci-fi one at Earth that goes all the way to the ground, that takes materials we can't make yet. You can reach 30% of the way to the ground in velocity terms at Earth, and all the way on the Moon, cause it's smaller. 30% in velocity means 50% in energy for a vehicle starting from the ground. You can now build single stage to orbit vehicles easily. At the moon you don't need vehicles at all as far as propulsion, just a pressure cabin. Now you can send people all the way from Earth to the Moon at reasonable cost. You can also send habitat parts made in orbit down to the Moon, and start building up your infrastructure there.

    We already know a lot about mining and manufacturing on Earth. The main thing we have to learn is how to do it remotely, and possibly in zero gee (you can always spin things if you need gravity).

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:52PM (#38800105)

    Oxygen is abundant on the moon in the rocks. You can make lots of water just by shipping in hydrogen and combining it with local oxygen. You could even make some power in the process.

  • Re:Why the moon? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @12:07AM (#38801269)

        Moving Earth-life into space is the reason Nature evolved big-brained variants of itself. Every single nook & cranny of the planet that can possibly sustain life, does. It is Nature's fundamental way to grow and expand, but there is nowhere else for It to go. It is everywhere It can be. For It to reach beyond its gravitational limits, It (out of necessity) had to evolve intelligence capable of figuring out how to free Itself from this limitation.
        In a nutshell, space habitation is what we were made to do; there is nothing else more important. I don't understand how we got lost along the way, but it probably has to do with the complications of intelligence.

The universe is an island, surrounded by whatever it is that surrounds universes.